Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Defense Buck for the Bang

In apparent response to Defense Secretary Robert Gates's complaint that the Air Force isn't providing Central Command with enough unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Navy is working on a developmental version of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) that it's calling the Naval Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS). What makes N-UCAS different and far more special than J-UCAS is that N-UCAS can operate from aircraft carriers, which the Navy has and the Air Force doesn't.

There's no special reason that any version of the UCAS needs to operate from an aircraft carrier, but the land based J-UCAS was cancelled and there's money in the pipeline to develop N-UCAS; so it's damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!

Gee Wizardry

Christian Lowe of makes N-UCAS sound way cool:
Imagine a Navy strike plane launching off the catapult as its carrier begins steaming out of its San Diego naval base. The jet refuels over Hawaii, then again over Guam; it gets updated targeting data from its mother ship 6,000 miles away and launches its strike on an enemy nuclear missile silo in East Asia — all in one sortie.
That's "just half" of what the N-UCAS could do, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a prestigious Washington D.C. defense think tank. “Because of its great range, persistence, and stealth, [N-UCAS] would be able to perform missions beyond the capabilities of manned aircraft, and enable US aircraft carriers to perform both their traditional missions better and to undertake completely new missions,” say CSBA's Tom Ehrhard and Bob Work in their June 18 report “Range, Persistence, Stealth and Networking: The Case for a Carrier-Based Unmanned Combat Air System.”

The problem with all N-UCAS's beautiful ugliness is that any airplane that can fly 6,000 miles from an aircraft carrier beginning to steam out of its naval base in San Diego can just as easily take off from the naval base in San Diego, which also happens to be a naval air station. If the jet can fly 6,000 miles refueled it can fly 12,000 miles refueled, which means it doesn't have to take off from San Diego. It can take off from Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri, where we already have bombers that can fly that far called B-2 Spirits that we paid about $2 billion apiece for and that haven't given us much return on investment yet other than crash in Guam on a routine flight. Plus, any jet bomber that can get updated targeting data from a mother ship half a world away can get the data directly from wherever the mother ship got its.

It seems baffling that a respected defense think tank like CSBA, what with all its smart people and resources, couldn't figure that out how dumb an idea N-UCAS is, until you consider that CSBA wasn't getting paid to analyze why the N-UCAS is a dumb idea. It's the same kind of deal with Northrop Grumman, the defense company that heads the N-UCAS demonstrator program which the Navy has continued to fund.

Northrop Grumman is also the world's only manufacturer of catapult aircraft carriers like the current Nimitz class, and any future class of carriers will be developed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman. If, eventually, someone starts getting the bright idea that the Navy doesn't need both N-UCAS and aircraft carriers, Northrop Grumman will drop N-UCAS like a radioactive potato. For now, though, N-UCAS is a moneymaker, so nobody at Northrop Grumman's going to look up its skirt.

“It is difficult to imagine that the program would be [cancelled or delayed] because it represents a great success story for Navy acquisition," an unnamed Northrop Grumman official told Lowe, "and more than $1 billion has been invested in this program." As of June 2007, the DoD planned to invest $1.8 billion in a multi-year demonstrator project. In August 2007 the Navy announced the X-47B as the winner of the UCAS demonstrator (UCAS-D) competition. The vehicle's first flight was tentatively scheduled for late 2008.

So $1 billion into the N-UCAS/UCAS-D project, its most tangible product is the 260-page report that CSBA wrote about it.

Piled Higher and Deeper

The CSBA report regurgitates the "four key national security challenges of the 21st century" identified in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review:
…defending the homeland in depth; fighting the Long War against radical extremists and defeating terrorist networks; preventing state and non-state actors from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction; and hedging against the rise of a power or powers capable of competing with the United States militarily.
Here's what all that militaristic gibberish means in real people talk:

"Defending the homeland in depth" is fighting vaguely rationalized wars halfway across the world that have nothing to do with defending America and seldom if ever advance America's national interests.

"Fighting the Long War against radical extremists" is sustaining a constant state of low-level conflict against Islamofabulism or some other suitable amorphous enemy for a virtual eternity.

Preventing other actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction mainly involves accusing those actors of having them when they don't (Iraq, Iran) and kissing up to them when they do (Korea).

Hedging against the rise of a peer military competitor involves spending a lot of money to equip ourselves for wars we'll never fight against adversaries who will never exist.

Facing these challenges, the CSBA report states, "will likely require future carrier task forces to stand off and fight from far greater distances than in the past," but as we've already illustrated, by the time the carrier is standing off yards from its pier, the carrier is no longer needed. Even if it were, standoff capability isn't necessary against terrorists--at least not the kind that extends from California to Kabul--so all the inference about needing N-UCAS to fight extremists is bull pluck.

That leaves us with "a rising China" as the N-UCAS's main justification. In a fight for the Taiwan, the CSBA report argues, the Chinese will focus on sinking U.S. carriers before they can get close enough for their aircraft to strike in the Taiwan Strait, hence the need for standoff range, but the carrier vs. naval base solution applies; the Chinese can't sink Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego.

Lest you wonder how it is that CSBA can get away making big bucks for producing nonsense like the N-UCAS report, be informed that CSBA's president is national security guru Andrew Krepinevich. In September 2005, Dr. Krepinevich wrote the celebrated article in Foreign Affairs modestly titled "How to Win in Iraq." Dr. Krepinevich's "new approach" to win would take "a decade or longer" to succeed but was, he said, far superior to "stay the course" although he didn't actually describe how his new approach could achieve a better result than stay the course or whether it could achieve it any sooner. To put a fine point to it, Dr. Krepinevich's way to win in Iraq was every bit as exquisite a piece of humbug as the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review was and the N-UCAS/UCAS-D is.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at the The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bomber Obama

There may be such a thing as absolute truth, but evil is, without question, a relative commodity, especially when it comes to elections. I rejected Hillary Clinton as a suitable presidential candidate because of her penchant for kissing up to the neocons. She was going hook, line and sinker for their Iran narrative the same way she took the bait on Iraq. As president of the United States, John McCain would be the most dangerous human being in the history of civilization, so he made for an even worse candidate than Hillary.

On May 19, the (then) least of three evils made the most rational foreign policy statement uttered by a presidential candidate since World War II: "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela—these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us."

Perhaps more importantly, Barack Obama displayed a greater aptitude for the commander in chief job than McCain and Clinton combined when he said that Iran spends “one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.”

Indeed, who in his right mind would consider it a sign of weakness to listen to a nation that, to paraphrase former Central Command chief William Fallon, we could crush like ants if we needed to? McCain thinks it’s a sign of weakness, of course, but remember; the question stipulated "right mind," so "Gramps" doesn't count as a correct answer.

McCain returned fire, noting that his opponent's awareness of Iran's military insignificance shows "the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment." McCain's rant was pretty comical, in fact, up until the moment Obama made the mistake of taking him seriously and answered, “Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.”

That's the kind of remark that makes you wish Obama's foreign policy advisers would take him aside and tell him, "Don't say dumb stuff like that, huh?" Unfortunately, a couple of Obama's top foreign policy advisers have been saying some pretty dumb stuff themselves.

Bad Company

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is a pro-Israeli think tank founded in 1985 by Martin Indyk, a former research director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). High profile neoconservatives Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and James R. Woolsey serve on WINEP's advisory board.

WINEP's Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations recently released a report titled How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge. The report stated among other things that the U.S. and Israel should discuss policy options that include "preventive military action" against Iran.

Signatories to the report included, not surprisingly, McCain advisers Woolsey and Vin Weber. Obama supporters should find it disconcerting that the signatories also included two of their candidate's foreign policy experts: Tony Lake and Susan Rice.

For somebody who talks constantly of making a "change" in the way America plays with the rest of the world, Obama sure sounds at times like he's up to the same old shell game. Despite his often moderate, rational sounding statements about Iran, Obama seems to have accepted the neocons' Iran bashing nonsense from the outset of his presidential bid. In September 2004 he said that missile strikes might be a viable option to destroy nuclear sites in Iran. In March 2007, speaking to a pro-Israeli audience in Chicago, he called Iran "a threat to all of us." Now his proxies are agreeing that the U.S. and Israel should consider preemptive deterrence measures against Iran.

All this because of the wholly unsubstantiated neoconservative claims that Iran is arming and training Iraqi militias and has ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons. The Bush administration promised in January 2007 to provide proof of Iran's direct role in killing U.S. troops in Iraq. A year and a half later, it has yet to produce a stitch of credible evidence. The most compelling testimony we have that the Iranians ever pursued nuclear weapons is the recent National Intelligence Estimate that says they abandoned their program in the fall of 2003. Since Russia only started building Iran's first reactor in the fall of 2002, whatever nuclear weapons program Iran had must have been the kind of thing Spanky and Alfalfa could have slapped together in Darla's back yard over summer vacation.

So what in the wide world of sports, arts and sciences are two of Obama's key foreign affairs advisers doing at a conference with a neocon infested, AIPAC affiliated think tank and signing off on its Persian Peril policy?

If Club Obama plans to let Israel keep leading us around by the foreign policy tool, we might just as well hand the keys to McCain. With Gramps behind the wheel, there's at least a chance he'll doze off before he backs out of the driveway.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Boxing Up the Crazies

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different."

-- attributed to Benjamin Franklin

One problem with using the rational actor model to forecast what the George W. Bush administration may do next is that the model wasn’t designed to analyze people referred to as "the crazies in the basement." There is near universal agreement, for example, that for the U.S. to attack Iran would be the ultimate act of insanity. Unfortunately for us, the more insane any given course of action is, the more likely it is that the Cheney-centric Bush administration will pursue it.

The rational actor model is based on rational choice theory, which says that rational decisions are made through goal setting and value-maximization. Setting goals and maximizing values are excellent decision making tools, but using them to predict political behavior assumes, often erroneously, that we know the decision makers real goals and that they have the a value set similar to ours. The Bush crazies have never been candid about what they're up to, and it's a good bet that they don't value the same sorts of things that, say, Albert Schweitzer did.

Rather than try to guess what's gong on between their ears, we're better off observing what they have done and what they have said that gives away their ultimate aims.

Bill Kristol's infamous Project for the New American Century think tank wrote the neoconservative manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses in September 2000. From it we know that their desire was to increase America's military footprint in the Middle East in order to control the flow of the region's oil. Saddam Hussein was little more than a convenient excuse to establish a strategically superior central base of operations from which they could dominate the region with U.S. troops. The neocons knew that they'd need something on the order of a "new Pearl Harbor" to get the American public on board with their ambitions, but as things turned out, 9/11 gave them just the catalyst they needed.

We know that they manufactured a case that Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks and was actively pursing a weapons of mass destruction program, and the mainstream media, most notably the New York Times, helped Dick Cheney's White House Iraq Group and Donald Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans sell it to the American public.

We know that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ignored the advice of senior military leaders like Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki who told him we'd need more troops to make the Iraq invasion successful, he threatened to fire anyone who worked on plans for the post-hostilities phase of operations, and the rest has been a biblical scale blunder.

So they started over with Iran. The similarities between the run up to Iraq and the Iran foreplay are haunting: the Office of Special Plans has transformed into the Iranian Directorate, the administration is making wholly unsubstantiated allegations about Iran's arming of Iraqi militia groups and its nuclear intentions, and the mainstream media, most notably again the New York Times, are helping Cheney and his chamberlains sell the narrative to the American public. As historian and journalist Gareth Porter has noted, if the White House opts to attack Iran, it will have once again ignored the cautions of its senior military professionals.

It appears that they're about to commit a Ben Franklin-class act of insanity until you stop and recall their original stated objective, which was to establish a larger military footprint in the Middle East.

By early 2006 it was obvious to all but the Bush administration's most pathological followers that things had gone south in Iraq, and America was running out of patience with U.S. occupation of that country. It was time to come up with a winning strategy before public demand forced a withdrawal. But the possibility of actually winning also had its drawbacks—a "victory" in hand would make it as hard to justify maintaining a troops presence in Iraq as losing did.

Hence, when the new National Security Strategy rolled off Mr. Bush's desk in March 2006, it contained the proclamation: "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," and the bogey manufacturing commenced. Never mind that biggest "challenge" has an economy about half the size of Mexico's and a defense budget that's only 2.5 percent of its economy. No one has bothered mentioning those factoids, including and especially the New York Times.

As I've said in the past, truly diabolical strategies can succeed in many ways. The Cheney Gang has marketed the Iranian threat incredibly well. President McCain could have an easy time of maintaining major troop presence in Iraq for a hundred, a thousand, a million years, whatever it takes to contain the Persian Peril. The less obvious outcome of the Iran information campaign is that President Obama may have committed himself to maintaining a force presence in Iraq to counter the Iranian threat as well.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a spin off of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), recently published a report by its Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel relations that says the U.S. and Israel should discuss policy options that include "preventive military action" against Iran. Among the report's signatories were Tony Lake and Susan Rice, two of Barack Obama's key foreign policy advisers.

Then again, if AIPAC gets its way, Congress may declare war on Iran before either Gramps or Bomber jump in the left seat.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Newt the Impaler

"Vlad" Gingrich is molesting the Constitution in the name of national security again. This time he's on a tirade about the recent Supreme Court decision that grants prisoners held at young Mr. Bush's pleasure in Guantanamo the right to a habeas corpus hearing.

"This court decision is a disaster and it could cost us a city," Newt said on Face the Nation. Land o' Goshen. The only way this court decision could cost us a city is if it makes Newt's head explode. Driving Newt's noodle to critical mass would be the kind of disaster we need, but it would force us to make some difficult decisions. Losing New York City or Washington D.C. might be too high a price to pay to be permanently rid of Newt, but if we're talking, say, Minot, North Dakota, well…

I take that back. Minot's a lovely city and we have a strategically significant military base there. We'll blow Newt's noggin to smithereens in that chancre sore on the Potomac. Let's just make sure all the politicians are in town when we push the plunger.

All the President's Yes Men

Newt has a squadron of wingmen on this mission. Fellow vampire and dissenting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia calls the decision a "self-invited…incursion into military affairs."

I find it fascinating that a Supreme Court Justice would consider the high court's involvement in a constitutional matter an "incursion," or that the court "invited" itself to rule on a case brought to it by a plaintiff. As to interfering in military affairs, Scalia must be reading a different Constitution from the one the rest of us have available. Article III of the Constitution we peons have to make do with says that the Supreme Court's judicial power extends to all cases rising from the Constitution, and habeas corpus is most certainly a constitutional issue. The Constitution doesn't say anything about the military having a say in constitutional matters.

Lipstick neocon Lindsey Graham says the decision gives every member of al Qaeda "the same constitutional rights as an American citizen." Graham's a lawyer, and a reserve Air Force JAG officer to boot. He knows good and well that granting Guantanamo prisoners the habeas privilege does not give them the same rights American citizens have. If it did they could all move to South Carolina and vote Graham's happy wazoo out of office. More to the point, though, is that the Constitution treats habeas as a universal right, not as a privilege of U.S. citizenship. That's why it's mentioned in Article I instead of in the bill of rights.

Graham also says that thanks to the ruling, the decision as to who qualifies as an enemy combatant "is not going to be made by military personnel tribunals, trained in the matters of warfare, but that decision will be made by the most liberal judges the detainees can find." Gingrich echoed that sentiment on Face the Nation when he screeched that the decision will allow "any random nut case district judge, who has no knowledge of national security, to set the rules for terrorists." I'm not convinced there's a judge in the land who's a bigger nut case than Newt, but his and Lindsey's concerns can be easily addressed. Article III empowers the legislature to establish new courts. Congress could easily create a court with specific jurisdiction over enemy combatants much in the same way it made courts with jurisdiction over tax issues and military appeals, and the president can nominate judges to fill that court's benches who know a lot more about matters of warfare than Newt and Lindsey combined.

Judges like that won't be hard to find.

They Vant to Shed Your Blood

Newt was going for the throat on Face the Nation when he rolled out his main argument: "Five lawyers had decided that the Supreme Court counts more than the Congress and the president combined in national security" and had meddled in an affair "that ought to be a principled argument between McCain and Obama."

Will someone please invite this undead bag of pus to a garlic festival?

This wasn’t a national security issue, it was a constitutional issue, and even if it was a national security issue, Newt's biggest nut-case district judge is more qualified in matters of national security than George W. Bush is. Hell, all three of my dogs are better qualified to be commander in chief than Bush is; none of them have lost two wars.

Article I, the part of the Constitution that establishes powers of the legislature, states: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

We're not in a state of rebellion and nobody's invading us, so Congress has no business putting its grubby paws on habeas. Article II doesn't let the president anywhere near habeas, and nowhere does the Constitution remotely suggest that habeas corpus is a matter for discussion, principled or otherwise, between presidential candidates.

You tend to think Newt is smart enough to know that he's talking garbage, and that his ideologue pals like Scalia and Graham do too. It's anybody's guess what really goes on between these yahooligans' ears, but it's telling that neoconservative crown prince John McCain considers the court ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country" yet says that the invasion of Iraq "was not a mistake."

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Keystone Kondi's Kwazy Kwestions

As the End of Bush Days draws near, the desperation and insanity of the administration and its neoconservative policies become more and more apparent. One of the most recent examples is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's address to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 3, where she once and for all crossed over to the dark side and swore fealty to Lord Cheney's quest to start a shooting war with Iran.

With Horse's Caboose Condi hitched onto the Cheney train, can Armageddon be far behind?

Smart Girl

Condi was never part of the administration's policy team. She was the smart professor gal from Stanford who Cheney and Don Rumsfeld brought aboard to tutor the Bush kid in things like geography and history that he should have learned before he graduated from Yale and Harvard but didn't. Making her National Security Adviser gave her an excuse to be in meetings where she could whisper answers in Bush's ear (which is how he graduated from Yale and Harvard). Sticking Condi in the job also guaranteed Dick and Don wouldn't have to put up with a pesky NSA who actually wanted to influence foreign policy. When the time came to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State, Condi was the perfect choice. They wouldn't have to cut her out of the decision loop they way they cut Powell out. Condi was never in the loop to begin with.

The Goebbels Brigade tried to make her seem like a real player on the world stage for a time. There was talk at one point of putting Condi up for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Rice 2008 urges John McCain to pick Condi as his running mate. At the "Run Condi Run" web site (, really) you can donate to the organization and buy McCain/Rice 2008 bumper stickers and even order a Condi bobble head doll.

Rumors surfaced in summer of 2007 that suggested Condi and Cheney were locking horns over Iran policy. By October of that year though, when she told Congress that Iran was America's "single greatest challenge," it was clear that she was still Uncle Dick's good little girl.

Good Girl

In her June 3, 2008 speech to AIPAC, Condi began her verbal assault on Iran with the standard neoconservative misquote of a remark made by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then she launched into a fabulist speculation on Iran's nuclear intentions.
Now, we hear Iran’s rulers say that they do not seek a nuclear weapon, only peaceful nuclear energy. Well, then why have they rejected the past offers from the international community for incentives, even cooperation on light water reactors? Why has Iran rejected, thus far, Russia’s offer of uranium enrichment in Russia? Why, as the IAEA’s most recent report shows, is Iran continuing to enrich uranium, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions? Why, as the IAEA also suggests, are parts of Iran’s nuclear program under the control of the Iranian military? And why is Iran continuing to deny international experts full access to its nuclear facilities? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s just hard to imagine that there are innocent answers to these questions. (Applause.)

It's even harder to imagine that we could have a Secretary of State who possesses the intellectual sophistication of a slow child, and yet we do. Ms. Rice seems wholly oblivious to the nature of the competition among today's political entities; the struggle for control of the kind of power it takes to run industries and to transport goods and to transform entire regions of the world.

The international maneuvering revolves around who will control how fast the last of the planet's oil gets used, and how much the rest of us have to pay for it, and who gets to direct the world's transition to alternate energy sources. Hence, the real political leverage Iran has to gain from its nuclear program will come from a viable energy industry, not nuclear weapons. Possessing nuclear weapons would amount to little more than painting a bull's eye on its back. Using one would be tantamount to self-genocide; the retaliation would be the virtual end of the Persian race.

The "past offers from the international community for incentives" regarding cooperation on light water reactors or uranium enrichment performed in another country all involve making Iran dependent on other nations—nations the U.S. can control—in order for its energy industry to function. That's like telling the Iranians they can have a farm as long as they grows their crops in Iowa and use John Deere tractors and American labor and let us keep the seeds for next year, and if they're good little sand tics we'll let them buy some of their own food from us.

We don’t need the IAEA report to "suggest" that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium. Iran isn't keeping it a secret; it has flat out told the whole world it's continuing to enrich uranium. As a party to the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has an "inalienable right" to pursue production of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. For the UN Security Council to have passed a resolution denying Iran of an inalienable right makes the Security Council in violation of the NPT and the resolution itself illegal, so someone please explain to me how Iran is "in violation" of an illegal resolution.

The IAEA report does not suggest that "parts of Iran’s nuclear program [are] under the control of the Iranian military." It says that Iran needs to "clarify procurement and R&D activities of military related institutes and companies that could be nuclear related." (Italics mine.) The distance between those two statements you could drive an armored division through. Military related industries are ideal for providing certain precision components for nuclear fuel refinery. Remember how those aluminum tubes Iraq was supposedly using for a uranium centrifuge turned out to be parts for artillery rockets?

The IAEA report states that in early April the Agency recently "requested Iran to provide, as a transparency measure, access to additional locations related, inter alia, to the manufacturing of centrifuges, R&D on uranium enrichment, and uranium mining and milling." That's all pretty innocent stuff related to the kind of uranium enrichment we already know Iran is doing. Less than two months later, when the report was released, Iran hadn't gotten back to the Agency about taking it to those additional locations. That's not surprising; this was hardly a pressing matter.

A first semester political science student at the most obscure community college in America has sufficient imagination to arrive at these "innocent" conclusions. Why doesn’t our Secretary of State?

Doctor Ditz

Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D. is part of a diplomacy machine that's designed not to work. Demanding Iran give up its uranium enrichment program as a precondition to direct diplomatic talks was a head fake. Cheney's neocons made Iran an offer it couldn't accept; that way they could say they tried diplomacy even though they really didn't.

The goal of the Bush regime's foreign policy is to promote conflict, not avoid it. The neoconservatives desire nothing more ardently than to create a second Cold War with our old adversaries Russia and China, whose client state Iran is assuming the role of Eastern Europe. Rounding out the lineup for round two, Venezuela is stepping in for Cuba and Iraq is substituting for West Germany.

The neo-communists won't engage us in an arms race this time around. They'll let us be the ones who pour national treasure down a sand dune on fantastic weapons that can't win the kinds of wars we fight until we're bankrupt. One commonly hears these days that we're playing checkers and the Russians and Chinese are playing chess. A more ironically apt analogy is that they have graduated to duplicate bridge while we continue to play war.

Even more ironic is that we won the first Cold War because our economic model was superior, but in the second Cold War we're likely to find that the neocoms have become better capitalists than we are.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Has Iran Stopped Nuking Its Wife?

Keystone Kondi is back in the news. This time she's helping her boss make boo noise about what the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) calls Iran's "relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons."

On January 8, speaking at an AIPAC conference, Condi said that the Iranians, "continue to inch closer to a nuclear weapon." This despite the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate finding (.pdf here) that stated, "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

Condi and AIPAC and the rest of the neoconservative universe have treated the November NIE the way it treats all inconvenient facts; they've ignored it. And once again, the mainstream media, most notably the New York Times, have been their willing partner in crime.

Our Gang

That the NIE even grants Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program at all sounds like the doings of nefarious manipulation. We've seen time and again the consequences of Dick Cheney's influence. When the Cheney Gang goes to work in Washington I can hear fibulas cracking clear down here in Virginia Beach.

I've said this again and again but it demands repeating: The Russians didn't begin building Iran's first reactor until fall of 2002. If Iran halted its weapons program in fall of 2003, it had to have been the kind of weapons program a couple of Revolutionary Guard colonels drew up on a bar napkin at the Fort Farsi officers' club. I can imagine that the program halted when a senior mullah—perhaps Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself—called the colonels in for a private chat and made it clear that they would drop their weapons project like a bad habit or go through life trying to function with hooks at the ends of their arms.

Whatever happened, Iran doesn't have an active nuclear weapons program now, but recognizing that reality doesn't serve the neoconservative agenda. Desperate to create a global villain on whom they can lay fault for the failure of their ideology, the Cheney-centric Bush administration bounces back and forth between blaming Iran for American casualties in Iraq and accusing it of wanting to blast Israel to smithereens and of planning to give terrorists a suitcase bomb that can blow up New York City. When one line of demonizing gets derailed, they switch to the other.

Little Rascals

The latest campaign to convince the world that Iran is directly responsible for killing American G.I.s in Iraq started running out of steam in early May when allegedly Iranian weapons captured in the Iraqi city of Karbala turned out not to have come from Iran, and Iranian weapons supposedly captured in Basra never materialized. Then on June 6, historian and journalist Gareth Porter demonstrated in Salon magazine that the main supplier of weapons to Iraqi militants is none other than General David "Pushups" Petraeus.

It was time for the Bush administration to switch back to the mushroom cloud meme. For ammunition, they reached for the May 26 report on Iran by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and for support they turned to their old propaganda ally from the Nigergate affair, the New York Times.

The NYT's May 27 headline read, "Atomic Monitor Signals Concern Over Iran’s Work," and the article, by Elaine Sciolino, was a compendium of distortions, out-of-context citations and bald faced fabulism. Sciolino's worst piece of dissembling was that the report "accused the Iranians of a willful lack of cooperation." The report said nothing of the kind.

Key statements in the report not cited by Sciolino include "All nuclear material at [Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant], as well as the cascade area, remains under Agency containment and surveillance" and "The results of the environmental samples taken at FEP and PFEP indicate that the plants have been operated as declared" and " The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

In addition, the IAEA report bears the distinct style of coerced language we've seen in U.S. intelligence reports since the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. There is little doubt that Cheney sideman John Bolton's main job at the UN was to bully everyone on the Security Council into parroting the neocons' Iran narrative. Bolton's successor Zalmay Khalilzad looks more presentable and has better social skills than Bolton, but who doesn't? Like Bolton, Khalilzad was a charter member of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century and is a Cheney liegeman, and he's up to no good at the UN. From the sound of things, the velvet knuckle diplomacy Khalilzad conducts in New York transmits directly to Vienna, where U.S. ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte consistently dittos the administration's propaganda on Iran's nuclear program.

Thus the IAEA's May 26 report gave the administration's spin merchants just enough wiggle room to exploit its concerns about yet unresolved issues, and Condi once again stepped up and did her part to foment fear and loathing of Iran.

In her June 3 AIPAC speech, she asked, "Why has Iran rejected, thus far, Russia’s offer of uranium enrichment in Russia?" and " Why…is Iran continuing to enrich uranium, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions?"

"It’s just hard to imagine that there are innocent answers to these questions," she said, which gives you a fairly accurate idea of just how atrophied Condi's imagination is.

The UN Non-Proliferation Treaty grants its signatories, who include both Iran and the United States, the "inalienable right" to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes. If Iran gives up its inalienable right to enrich uranium it will likely never get it back. If the Iranians accept an offer from Russia or the U.S. or anyone else to refine their nuclear fuel for them, they'll never have a truly independent energy industry. Having a nuclear energy industry in which you can't make your own fuel is like having an automobile industry in which you have to make your cars overseas and use overseas steel and overseas labor. All you can do with an auto industry like that is buy your own cars from somebody else.

And since the UN resolution forbids Iran to pursue an inalienable right, is the resolution itself not illegal?

At the end of the day, all the scare talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons is a red herring. Today's global power struggle today is about who gets to squeeze the last dime out of the last drop of oil in the planet, and who controls how much the rest of us have to pay for whatever replaces oil as the new energy source.

If, when the last oil well coughs up dust, Iran has a viable nuclear industry and is a full partner in an axis of energy that includes Russia and China, then Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will be riding bicycles to work.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dysfunctional Blue Yonder

A June 7 New York Times editorial commended Defense Secretary Robert Gates for giving the ax to his Air Force secretary and chief of staff. According to the Times editors, Michael W. Wynn and General T. Michael Moseley were dismissed for "systemic problems in securing nuclear weapons and components, a primary Air Force responsibility." The Times called the move "absolutely necessary" and applauded Mr. Gates for "raising the bar at the Pentagon."

Gates had good reasons to fire his air service's top guns, but they went beyond the issues the Times discussed, and he may have raised the bar, but he hasn't raised it high enough yet.

His Air Force is an unmitigated cluster bomb.

Fail Safe?

The Air Force's most visible buffoonery has been its handling of nuclear weapons. Last year, a B-52 accidentally flew from North Dakota to Louisiana carrying nuclear armed cruise missiles. Then in March 2008 it was discovered that a year and a half earlier four nuclear warhead fuses were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan instead of helicopter batteries.

A Pentagon enquiry found a "pattern of poor performance" in the Air Force's handling of sensitive weapons, and concluded that the decline in standards had been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade.

Here we've been worried that terrorists might get a nuclear weapon from a Muslim country. Let's hope Pakistan has better control of its nukes than we do.

What's the Word?

Forgetting where they laid the nukes isn’t the only mushroom cloud hovering over the Air Force's head. General Moseley has been under scrutiny for his role in a defense contract scandal involving the Air Force's Thunderbirds flight demonstration team. A $50 million contract was awarded to Strategic Message Solutions to "jazz up" the Thunderbirds' air show. SMS, a company that barely existed when it won the contract in late 2005, was headed by a recently retired four-star general and a wealthy civilian pilot who had become chummy with Air Force brass and the Thunderbirds. A two-year Department of Defense inspector general investigation concluded that, "the December 2005 award to SMS was tainted with improper influence, irregular procurement practices, and preferential treatment." The SMS bid was twice as high as a competing bid.

Air Force Major General Stephen Goldfein, now vice director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, was a key culprit in the SMS shenanigans. Goldfein arranged for President Bush to record a testimonial for SMS in the White House Map Room that was included in the company's contract bid. The seven-member panel that selected the Thunderbird contract recipient caved when Goldfein told them, "I don't pick the winner, but if I did, I'd pick SMS." I think I would have caved too. In case you didn't know it, not every three-star general has the kind of clout it takes to get the president to do a commercial.

Yeah, a measly $50 million contract is chump change in the grand scheme of a defense budget that easily tops a half trillion dollars a year, but please keep in mind that SMS wasn't paid that kind of money to buy the Thunderbirds new airplanes, or even new airplane engines, or even to spray new paint on the airplanes. They were paid to "jazz up" the air show. I don't know how you'd manufacture $50 million worth of jazz, but you'd probably have to bring Miles Davis back from the dead just for starters.

What's the Price?

Michael Wynn isn't the first Bush administration Air Force Secretary to have the door hit him on the way out. In 2004 James G. Roche tasted shoe leather when he was found in violation of two military ethics rules related to a $30 billion air-to-air refueling program. Roche was lucky to only lose his job. Darleen Druyun, a former senior Air Force acquisitions official involved with the program, was sentenced to nine months in jail. The story behind the rent-a-tanker scandal is more convoluted than the official explanation of why we invaded Iraq. It's worth noting, though, that Druyun got busted for granting special favors to Boeing, which was one of the companies bidding on the tanker contract and with whom she was trying to get a job. The other company vying for the contract was Northrop Grumman, where Roche was once a senior executive.

Time passed. The $30 billion dope deal metastasized into a $40 billion dope deal that Boeing squealed bloody murder about when Northrop Grumman won it in February 2008. The forced resignations of Wynn and Moselely have given Boeing new hope that the Air Force will reconsider its tanker decision, so off we go again.

$1.4 Billion Twice?

The $40 billion tanker deal could further blossom into a $100 billion tanker deal, so we're talking serious money now, but we're still just talking about tankers, too. The real fraud, waste and abuse come into play when we start talking about combat aircraft.

Days before the winner of the tanker competition was announced in February, one of our B-2 Spirit stealth bombers managed to shoot itself down while taking off from Guam on a routine flight. "The Spirit of Kansas" was the first B-2 to crash in the platform's 15-year history.

By June, an Air Force investigation had determined that the crash was caused by "moisture in sensors." The Air Force also estimated the loss from the mishap at $1.4 billion. Heh. If B-2s only cost $1.4 billion apiece then a bottle of Coca Cola still costs a nickel. I'd be very surprised to learn that the lifetime cost of a B-2 is a penny less than $3 billion.

Secretary Gates has been critical of the Air Force for focusing on vaguely defined "future" threats and not paying enough attention to asymmetric adversaries like the ones we face in Iraq and Afghanistan. In apparent response to Gates's admonition, the Air Force has initiated a "black" program to develop the next generation stealth bomber, one that will feature a radar cross section one tenth the size of a mosquito and, presumably, moisture resistant sensors.

Leave it to the United States Air Force to pursue production of multi-billion dollar stealth bombers when our most pressing threats are pre-adolescent suicide bombers.

The Air Force also loves to argue that it needs more of its ridiculously expensive F-22 stealth fighters in order to maintain "the nation's global air dominance." This Air Force that claims to have global air dominance is the very same one that failed to defend its nation from an air raid that consisted of four commercial jets armed with box cutters.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Longest Day

64 years ago today, Allied forces invaded the coast of France and began the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. D-Day exemplified two kinds of courage. One is the kind of courage portrayed in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. The other is the type of courage General Dwight D. Eisenhower displayed when he drafted this memorandum prior to the invasion:
Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

It was Ike's intention that if the worst happened and Operation Overlord became the greatest military disaster in human history, he would shoulder the responsibility and America and the British Commonwealth could still rally behind Roosevelt and Churchill.

Today's troops have lived up to the extraordinary example their World War II predecessors set.

Lamentably, we can't say the same about today's generals and political leaders.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

McPandering to AIPAC

From the sound of things, when John McCain went to address the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 2, he took along his buddies Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham and a pair of kneepads. Senator McCain might as well have come right out and said that President McCain would make protecting Israel America's number one foreign policy objective come hell or Hezbollah. After all, isn't that our top foreign policy priority now? Why change losing strategies in midstream?

More of the McSame

McCain's AIPAC speech was likely the rhetorical template for the rest of his presidential bid: he demonized Iran, made up facts and promised things he can't deliver.

"Foremost in all our minds," he told an appreciative audience of Israel supporters, "is the threat posed by the regime in Tehran." John Boy knows how to play a home crowd, doesn't he?

McCain misquoted Iran's president twice, par for the course in any neocon speech. He spoke of "Tehran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons," blithely ignoring the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (.pdf here) that stated, "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." (I still contend that since the Russians only began work on Iran's first nuclear reactor in the fall of 2002, whatever nuclear weapons program they had must have been kind of thing the kids from South Park could build.)

McCain spoke of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as "a terrorist organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq." Then Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who was also a charter member of the infamous Project for the New American Century, promised to provide evidence of Iran's "meddling" in Iraq in January of 2007. The Bush administration has yet to provide any plausible evidence that any faction in Iran is arming or training Iraqi militants.

That's the neoconservative narrative on Iran, though, and McCain is sticking to it. McCain proposed additional measures against Iran, which he expanded on in a press release that appeared at his campaign web site the same day as his AIPAC speech.

One of his most interesting suggestions is "applying sanctions to restrict Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products."

Getting the rest of the world to voluntarily agree to not sell Iran gasoline is as likely as pigs pooping pineapples. President McCain might order a blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war even if the UN and or Congress sanctioned it (which they wouldn't), but a blockade wouldn't keep Russia or China or anyone else who wanted to make money (which would be a lot of people) from transporting gas into Iran overland. The pipeline already exists.

The other proposed measure that caught my eye was, "We will apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps." McCain is apparently talking about the resolution he and Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyle crammed down the Senate's throat that called for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to be designated a terrorist organization. I'd really like to know what American companies are doing business with the IRGC, and why McCain hasn't insisted on doing something about it until now. If McCain is talking about non-U.S. companies doing business with the IRGC, does he actually think they're subject to U.S. law? Could he possibly be that loopy?

I know. Silly question. Sorry.


One need look no further for evidence that McCain's supporters are as goofy as he is than the editorial National Review Online posted the day after McCain's AIPAC speech. NRO editors heartily endorse McCain's proposals for dealing with Iran. Of the "sanctions" on gasoline imports, they admit that, "In practice, this might well require blockading the Persian Gulf," and caution that "A blockade would likely be regarded by the mullahs as an act of war." Heh. It would be and act of war no matter how the mullahs regarded it.

NRO concedes that since an act of war against Iran could, like, uh, provoke a war with Iran, a blockade should be a measure of last resort, but they laud McCain for proposing measures with "teeth" and praise him for putting "the question of gasoline imports on the table" even though they already granted that attempting to limit Iran's gas imports will lead to war.

This is precisely the kind of thinking that got us in the mess we're in now, and the folks trying to convince us that this kind of thinking is the good kind of thinking are the same people who talked us into thinking invading Iraq was a good idea.

Rising neoconservative star Michael Goldfarb of Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard staff just signed aboard the McCain campaign as deputy communications director. Young Goldfarb will be joining an august body of war party luminaries. McCain's foreign policy advisers include Bill Kristol, Dick Armitage, Max Boot, Robert Kagan, Gary Schmitt and James Woolsey.

On the morning of June 4 I contacted McCain's press office by phone. Some kid, maybe Goldfarb, told me to submit my questions in writing via email, so I did. I asked how McCain expected to enforce limits on Iran's oil imports, and if he thought U.S. law applied to foreign companies, and if the McCain staff had consulted with the NRO staff on the June 3 editorial. As of the evening of June 5, I hadn't heard back.

Maybe I should have told them I was McCain's old pal Don Imus. Then again, now that Imus is on podcast or wherever he disappeared to, maybe they blow him off as well. It could be that new deputy communications director Goldfarb isn't quite on speed in his new job yet, but that isn't likely. Moving from Kristol's Weekly Standard staff to McCain's propaganda staff couldn't be much of a transition.

You'd think that a presidential campaign based on inspiring fear and hatred through a rhetorical logic that evokes an M.C. Escher print and that features a pliant buffoon at the top of the ticket with a supporting cast straight out of Springtime for Hitler wouldn't stand a chance.

But it worked the last two times.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Y I H+8 Scott McClellan

Alas, irony. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino calling former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan “sad” is like McClellan calling Perino a “Bush administration whore.” They’re both right, but look who’s talking.

No, Scott didn’t really call Dana a Bush administration whore—not in public, anyway. Dana really did call Scott sad though, and she really is a Bush administration whore.

Dana should have taken it easy on Scott. He’s just the latest in a long line of former Bush liegemen who wrote books so they can make enough money to buy their way out of hell. Dana’s time will come. After her press secretary gig is over and people start calling her out for fibbing about the surge, she’ll get to dwelling on the fate of her immortal soul and boy, will her tune ever change.

Who’d have thought that when we looked back at the succession of Bush press secretaries, Scott McClellan would look like a hapless victim in comparison to his successors? After Scott came Tony Snow, the right wing’s prettiest ever master of silver tongued deviltry, and then Boopsie. We went from nice guy to nice hair to nice rack.

It sounds like nice guy’s new book says some not so nice things about everybody. Scotty reportedly says the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a “sophisticated political propaganda campaign."

Shock. Awe. Make a log entry.

Scotty also supposedly says in the book that the press he manipulated let itself be manipulated too easily. Again: alas, irony. Again: look who’s talking.

I suppose that to be fair to Scotty I should buy his book before I blast him for what his ghostwriter put in it, but I’m not about to buy the little ick-pray’s book. Scotty will have to finance his redemption without me, and it hardly looks like he needs my backing anyway. As of June 2 he had the number one selling book at, and Amazon won’t even have it in stock until June 21. The way things are going, more mouth breathers will buy Scotty’s book than voted for his mouth-breathing ex-boss twice.

I suppose the sins Scotty committed for the Bush administration were venial compared to say, Doug Feith’s, but we’re talking about some serious relative morality here. Every swinging neocon inside or outside of the Bush administration deserves the kind of justice that involves blindfolds and cigarettes. The fact that Scotty’s about to be rolling in dough and not rolling in the hay with a convicted serial killer named Tiny is far, far more fairness than he merits.

Scotty is not, of course, worth genuine hatred. Hating someone, I learned in Catholic grade school, involves fervently hoping that the person burns in perdition for all eternity. Those kinds of decisions are above our pay grade, so why get het up about who in the administration does or doesn’t continue to work for Dick Cheney in the afterlife?

High emotion wasted on these folks distracts us from the real issue we need wrap our arms around. Most of the neocons won’t go to hell: not because they can think tank their way past Saint Peter, but because they won’t die. They’ll just fade into the background until the sun goes down again, and believe you me, when the bad moon rises, they’ll be back. Heck, some of them are walking among us even now, blending in with decent society just like the Stepford Wives or the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the aliens from the God awful sci-fi flick with Rowdy Roddy Piper called They Live.

Disavow yourself of the notion that Newt Gingrich has retired to play the role of kindly elder statesman who just wants share his vast experience and help out his fellow Americans in any way he can. The guy’s Vlad Tepes. Just because he didn’t manage to grab all the GOP marbles when Fred Thompson dozed off doesn’t mean we’re safe from him. Take your eye off Newt for a second and he’ll be stalking playgrounds and handing out free Kool Aid to our kids.

The real problem with the likes of Scott McClellan and Doug Feith walking away from the Bush shipwreck not just Scot free but filthy rich sends an unmistakable signal to every potential young Republican in the country: You can be one of the unlimited power rangers and pull whatever illegal, unconstitutional shenanigans you want. All you have to do afterwards is say three Hail Maries, two Our Fathers, have some schmuck write a book for you and boom, the keys to the kingdom are yours on a silver platter.

Don’t imagine that Scooter Libby serves as any kind of deterrent. Scooter’s not swapping spit with a motorcycle enthusiast. Scooter’s doing rich white man’s time, and when he’s done doing it he’ll never have to do an honest day’s work again. The generous folks who paid for Scooter’s defense attorneys will make sure he draws a handsome honorarium as a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. To defray the expense of hiring him on to do nothing, the AEI can make Scooter share an office with John Bolton. They won’t get in each other’s way because neither of them will ever be there. They’ll be on the road, pounding the right wing lunatic lecture circuit, staying in good hotels and charging the single malt and B-girls to the running tab Bill Kristol keeps that Rupert Murdoch picks up for him.

No, Scooter’s not a bad example to the next generation of neocons; he’s a martyr, and if you have to make sacrifices like Scooter did when you grow up, darn the bad luck (heh).

Scooter and Scotty wannabes don’t have to look far for suitable mentors. Neocons have effectively infiltrated America’s institutions of higher learning. Newt has been a college guest lecturer for years. Doug Feith teaches at Columbia University. John Yoo, godfather of the plenary (absolute) executive powers theory, is a professor of law at University of California, Berkley. Bill Kristol is on the faculty at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Mackubin Thomas Owens, co-author of the neocon manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses, is an associate dean of academics at the U.S. Naval War College. Condoleeza Rice wants to go back to Stanford and teach political science, and Standford will probably lose funding if they don’t let her. Yes, Condi is, was and always will be useless as boobs on a billy goat, but in two years the freshmen at Standard won’t know that.

The neocons have taken their cue from the terrorists and the bugs from Starship Troopers; they’re reproducing faster than anyone can kill them off. We can expect the undead to lurk in the halls of power for the imaginable future, fellow citizens, and I for one have dire concerns that we won’t have enough Van Helsings to handle the caseload.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.