Archive for the National Security Category

Bill Whalen

 

To get a sense of what President Obama is up againstTuesday night when he makes the case for a military strike against Syria:

(1) The timing – giving a nationwide address hours and days later than he’d like. If the purpose were to rally a war-weary public and change votes in Congress, Sunday or Mondaywould have made more sense. But that would have pitted the most powerful man in America against America’s most powerful cartel: the National Football League, which owns TV’s prime time on Sunday and Monday evenings.

(2) The unsubtle irony of a man who sought the presidency with the promise of ending wars, perhaps starting us down the road to yet another. Only, it’s not a war. In Mr. Obama’s words: “Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope . . .” Mr. Obama wants to come across as a hawkish dove or a dovish hawk – sort of like a Yankees fan with a Boston accent.

(3) The backdrop. Should Mr. Obama give the big speech from the Oval Office, traditionally the home of epic presidential moments, he’ll be doing so in a setting that his former chief speechwriter believes is a lousy stage.

About that wordsmith: his name’s Jon Favreau and he left the Obama White House in May to strike it rich in Hollywood. Lately, he’s been attending White House meetings. So let’s assume he has a say in what the President says on Tuesday.

And exactly will that be – or, more to the point, what can he say that he already hasn’t said, and change what may be a serious setback to his last term in office?

Put yourself in the shoes of the White House rhetoric machine. For the past few days, fueled by copious amounts of Red Bull to Adderall to stay awake and Aaron Sorkin’s liberal fantasies to stay inspired, you’ve been searching for historical precedent – a past presidential means to justice Mr. Obama’s political end. Preferably, it’s a Democratic ex-president as you comrade in arms, as it were.

But here’s the problem: the past doesn’t make for good Syria prologue. Consider the words of these Democrats who rallied their country to arms:

Woodrow Wilson, War Message to Congress, 4/2/1917

“Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles . . .We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states.”

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Kori Schake

Today, Kori Schake, a Hoover fellow and an associate professor of international security studies at the United States Military Academy, testified at a hearing held by the U.S. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. The subject of the hearing was “Nonproliferation and Disarmament: What’s the Connection and What Does that Mean for U.S. Security and Obama Administration Policy?”

Schake opened her testimony with the statement:

“The question [Does reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal advance non-proliferation?] is enormously consequential, for if reductions in our arsenal cause threshold states to back away from proliferation, or states whose possession of nuclear weapons threatens the United States and its interests to relinquish their nuclear weapons, then reducing U.S. nuclear forces could increase our security.  There is, however, no evidence that reducing our nuclear deterrent has that effect.”

Read the full text of Schake’s prepared testimony below:

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Editor

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University has named university professor and Hoover Institution fellow Kiron Skinner as its adviser on national security policy. In this role, Skinner, a renowned expert in international relations, U.S. foreign policy and political strategy, will build on the growing and diverse network that Carnegie Mellon has with the national security community in Washington, D.C. — both inside and outside of government.

Read the full press release from Carnegie Mellon University here.

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Kori Schake

Democracy Grows Bolder in Iran

One of the most enduring assertions about Iran is that its people support the government’s determination to continue its nuclear programs.  This belief underlies our hesitance in preventing development of an Iranian bomb, and also constrains our options.  If in acting against this Iranian government we cause Iranians to rally around it, Iran could become even more dangerous, the time delayed when this government so damaging to Iranians themselves is finally brought down.

But is it true that Iranians en masse support their country continuing its nuclear programs, especially at the price in sanctions and international opprobrium they are currently paying?  We don’t actually know.  However, it appears Iranians are beginning to question this shibboleth, and their prods for the government to determine public attitudes may become an important means by which Iranians challenge their authoritarian government.

The Iranian political class seems to believe they are on solid ground in asserting the Iranian people consider nuclear energy a national right.  A 2010 RAND survey showed 97% of Iranians believe so (although only 32% supported developing nuclear weapons).

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Kori Schake

The Department of Defense’s reprogramming request — the appeal to Congress to allow  the Pentagon to move money among its accounts — reveals the Pentagon failed to anticipate $8 billion they have spent since the 2012 budget went into effect.  While that sounds like a lot, DOD has actually come within 1.2% of its anticipated needs, which is solid performance for any organization.  What is worrisome about the reprogramming request is not the overall number, but the needlessly inflicted $100 million every month we are paying because President Obama cannot bring himself to apologize to Pakistan for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Reprogramming is a rite of summer in the Pentagon budget, the Secretary asking the authorizing committees (Armed Services) and appropriating committees of the House and Senate for the latitude to readjust its spending.  Reprogramming does not add money to the budget, it reallocates already appropriated money to different uses.  It is not a means for implementing new policies; it shifts money between accounts to pay for agreed activities that prove costlier than predicted, identifying the lower priority activities that will have money taken.

This year’s reprogramming request totals $8.2 billion, which is pretty close to the mark in an overall defense profile of $703 billion for the year (this counts both the DOD baseline budget, as well as war funding, nuclear programs, and support to other agencies’ programs that are paid for by DOD but not strictly defense activities).  In general, reprogramming shows the professional competence of the Pentagon’s budget staff: they’re mighty good at their work to come within 1.2% of their spending plan, especially given the number of variables affecting their budget.

Also as usual, the changing cost of fuel is the main driver of reprogramming.  What the rest of us have experienced at the gas pump the Pentagon, as the world’s largest consumer of fuel, experiences to an even greater degree.  This is all business as usual.

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Editor

This week’s installment of Data Matters features data that shapes the thinking of Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Associate Professor of International Security Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Professor Schake points us to what she considers the best chart on worldwide defense spending, originally produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the definitive collector of national data on defense capabilities.

The chart in the lower right of the image below shows the magnitude of 2011 U.S. defense spending compared to the rest of the world. The bubble chart running across the top of the image puts that spending in perspective as a proportion of GDP.

Click on the image below to enlarge.

The takeaway is that our economic strength affects our national security, because while the U.S. accounts for 46% of all defense spending in the world, we have, to date, been able to make that national security commitment by spending a relatively modest percentage of our GDP, both historically (4% is well below our post-World War II average) or relative to other powerful countries. (European countries being the exceptions because they’re free-riding off our NATO commitment.) Robust economic growth enables us to maintain a strong national defense while minimizing the trade-offs we must make with other important national priorities.

It merits mentioning that IISS data is based on what countries report, and the Chinese figures are generally believed to be double their reported amount.

Kori Schake is a regular contributor to Advancing a Free Society. You can read her analysis of national security issues and foreign affairs here, and subscribe to her RSS feed here.

With Data Matters, we highlight data relevant to public policy that Hoover fellows are using in their research. We feature original data, data from another source that Hoover fellows are presenting in a new way, or data that fellows find helpful in shaping their own thinking. Visit the Data Matters archive here.

Sign up for the Advancing a Free Society RSS feed to follow our data stream.

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Kori Schake

Sunday’s Washington Post featured an extensive article titled “U.S. Sees Gains in Iran Intelligence,” that details efforts by American intelligence services to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program by both technical means and human agents.  Sources in the article describe U.S. drones flying undetected over Iran, the CIA working through countries in the region to place spies in Iran and connect to knowledgeable Iranians.  The tone of the article is self-assured, conveying the message that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.  It might more accurately be titled We Know What We’re Doing, under the Obama Administration’s byline.

The article is anonymously sourced by “seven current or former advisers on security policy who agreed to discuss U.S. options on Iran.”  Far from being a journalistic scoop of clandestine intelligence operations, the article should be read as a policy gambit by the Obama Administration.  They are attempting to discredit the need for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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Kori Schake

Back to the (Uncertain) Future

President Obama has not taken our country’s precarious debt situation seriously. When forced by Congress to revise his budget earlier this year, Defense was the only department targeted for cuts. Last summer’s Budget Control Act legislated further reductions for this year’s budget and portends even more significant cuts in the out years of the coming decade. Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently unveiled a sensible set of choices for the coming year, but unfortunately failed to account for hundreds of billions of dollars that still must be found under the terms of last summer’s legislation. Unless they provide a better blueprint for spending, across-the-board cuts will come into effect in January 2013. And, as Panetta himself has said, not just the budget choices but the entire Pentagon strategy would collapse with any further cuts.

In addition to producing a budget willfully ignorant of further cuts, the White House has avoided any serious discussion of the hazards of cutting spending this deeply. The president is trying to have it both ways, cutting defense while pretending there is no risk associated with the cuts. At his Pentagon press conference in January, Obama said that “yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know—the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.” But neither he nor Panetta has produced a plan that gives credence to the claim.

Continue reading Kori Schake…

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Fouad Ajami

The Arab Spring: What We Know Now

When the Arab spring began a year ago, the Western world was shocked. Liberty seemed to have bypassed the Arabs; they had seemed resigned to tyranny. But once unleashed, the upheaval knew no restraint, and there were both mayhem and promise in the streets of the Arab world. Since then, the rebellions have spawned a steady stream of punditry and conventional wisdom about the Arab spring—some of it vastly mistaken. Let’s explore what really fueled the uprisings.

Myth one: Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech helped inspire the Arab spring.

Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time of these rebellions, the Arab and Muslim romance with President Obama had long vanished. He had gone to Cairo in June 2009 promising a new American approach to the Arab-Muslim world. But embattled liberals in the Arab world (and in Iran) had already begun to see through him. While Obama pledged “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” Arabs saw the new American leader’s ease with the status quo.

Obama set out to repair America’s relations with Syria and Iran, and gave George W. Bush’s “diplomacy of freedom” a quick burial. “Ideology . . . is so yesterday,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly proclaimed in April 2009, identifying Bush’s assertive foreign policy as a thing of the past. As upheaval swept through Iran in the first summer of the Obama presidency, the self-styled bearer of a new American diplomacy ducked for cover.

Continue reading Fouad Ajami…

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