Sunday, November 30, 2008

Great White Junta

by Jeff Huber

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen appears to be the most powerful man in the world. Americans elected a president who pledged to get U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months. Iraq's parliament, by a substantial majority, has ratified a security agreement that requires all American troops to be out of the country by the end of 2011, a deadline specifically "not governed by circumstances on the ground."

One might think the book is closed on the matter of U.S. occupation of Iraq, but no. Admiral Mullen says it's "theoretically possible" to change the agreement. "Three years is a long time," he says, and we will "continue to have discussions with them [the Iraqis] over time as conditions continue to evolve." In July, Mullen said that a deadline for a U.S. withdrawal would be "dangerous." Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has been asked to hang around for a year or so into the Obama regime, objected to the 16 month plan during the presidential campaign, and incoming National Security Adviser James L. Jones, a retired Marine four-star, said in 2007 that a deadline for our withdrawal from Iraq would be "against our national interest."

What do they call it again, when a country is run by its military?

Great White Junta

Obama won't be the first U.S. president to have his initiative to end a war opposed by an intransigent military establishment. Historian and journalist Gareth Porter reminds us that the warmongery of a previous American Century gave John F. Kennedy migraines over ending the Vietnam conflict. Unlike Obama, Kennedy had his top brass on board with his plan. In 1962, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and JCS chairman Maxwell Taylor both favored a timeline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965, but the commanders in Vietnam and the Pacific dug in their heels, and the rest, as they say, is blood down the gutter.

The most persistent symptom of insanity in the New American Century has been military leadership's relentless pursuit of military solutions when it knows good and well that none exist. In his September 2006 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Jones said, "I am convinced that the solution in Afghanistan is not a military one." In 2007, conversely, Jones said, "If we don't succeed in Afghanistan, you're sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated."

Jones illustrates the crux of the Pavlov's Dogs of War Syndrome. An old warfare adage says that no conflict is over until the loser stops fighting. While Jones and Mullen and Gates and the like understand that they can't win military victories, they can't stand the thought of being called losers, and as long as they keep fighting, they aren't losers. If these guys had their way, we'd still be winning in Vietnam.

Under the Influence

Dwight Eisenhower, the president who first entangled us in the Vietnam goat rope, also gave us the military industrial complex. He at least had the good grace, before he crawled off to the tar pit, to warn of us the "unwarranted influence" his monster would wield, saying in his 1961 presidential farewell speech that its "total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government."

More than 40 years later, the military industrial complex has expanded into an all engulfing confluence of Big War, Big Business, Big Message, Big Energy, Big Jesus, Big Money and Big Brother. Political careers and regional economies are wholly dependent on war, the costliest and least productive sector of the U.S. and world economies.

We spend more on arms than the rest of the world combined. Our nearest conceivable military competitors, Russia and China, spend a tenth or less as much on defense as we do. Our "no greater challenge" nation, Iran, has a defense budget less than one percent the size of ours. The terrorists have a defense budget you could hide under the dirt in a brain surgeon's fingernail.

The universally respected Rand Corporation says the best approach to defeating terrorism involves "a light U.S. military footprint or none at all." Nobody has a big enough fleet or air force to transport enough evildoers to invade and occupy us. Moreover, unnamed senior officials assure me that no one will be able to produce flying carpets in strategically significant numbers before the end of the next century, and that the Vulcans have decided against ever trusting us with their transporter technology. The evil ones can't get from there to here, so there's no need to fight them in either place.

Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons or a program to develop any, or a ballistic missile that can reach the United States, and even if they ever have both the nuclear weapon and the missile to deliver it with, the missile defense system we're developing to counter them will never work. If Iran or any other third world tin pan were to ever use a nuclear armed ballistic missile, the retaliation would amount to the end of that tin pan's existence, and the terrorists will develop suitcase nukes about the time they get their mitts on flying carpets and Vulcan transporters.

Political and military leaders throughout the world agree there are no military solutions to Iraq, or the Bananastans, or terrorism, or Sri Lanka, or the Congo, or Darfur, or Somalia, or South America, or the South Pole for that matter. In fact, there hasn't really been a military solution to the world's challenges since President Eisenhower was General Eisenhower.

And yet, the American warmongery continues to pursue counterproductive wars and newer and costlier means of blowing the smithereens out of Muslim weddings.

Obama says the "vision for change" comes from him. Given the makeup of his national security team, though, I fear there's a good chance he'll be gazing through a distorted lens, and it's a dead certainty that a fistful of neocons are meeting in the basement of some think tank these days cooking up 10,000 ways to pull the wool over the colored guy with the Arab name.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hillary, Rahm and Other Wild Turkeys

by Jeff Huber

This year I'm thankful Dick Cheney and the Bush administration haven't destroyed the whole world. Yet. I suspect young Mr. Bush has lost his enthusiasm for the project, but I'm concerned that the Dark Lord's little helpers will keep the fuse burning right up to the closing bell. We dodged an October surprise, but plenty can still happen between now and January 20. NORAD and the FAA better keep close tabs on Santa's sleigh come Christmas Eve, that's all I can say. We don't need no stinking 12/24.

I'm thankful John McCain didn't win the presidential election. You hear some of the TV satire guys crying about what great material they'll miss out on without Gramps and Bering Strait Barbie in the White House, but I'm not complaining on that score. Joe Biden as vice president? Come on, he'll be better than having Chico Marx running around the West Wing (Getta you tootsie frootsie money quotes).

And Hillary as Secretary of State?


A Day at the Circus

I hear the Clintons will divide responsibility at State Department. Hillary will have administrative matters and Bill will have foreign affairs.

Did you know Hillary's appointment was a money saving move on Obama's part? Yeah, instead of having the Air Force haul her to summits all over the globe, she'll fly overseas on her private broom.

Obama plans to conduct stick and carrot diplomacy. Hillary's the stick. If foreign leaders won't do what Obama wants them to, he'll send Hillary to talk to them and she won't leave until they play ball.

Obama might have trouble getting Hillary to play ball with him. She certainly won't roll over for whomever winds up being Secretary of Defense like Condi did. Which is a good thing, come to think of it. And if she gets out of hand, Obama can sick his chief of staff on her. Now that will be a cat and dog in the bathroom situation, that will, Hillary and Rahm Emanuel. Grrroof! Mrowwwl! Tee-hee!

But that will be a good thing too, come to think of it: sort of like checks and balances. Remember those? Too bad Obama had to pick a lipstick Likudnik for a chief of staff, though. Rahm's an abrasive jerk too, but, come to think of it again, that's something you want in a chief of staff: a guy who's not afraid of losing any friends because he doesn't have any to begin with. Plus, Rahm's organized and he gets things done and he's a Democrat, so when you get down to it, he was Obama's only real choice for the chief of staff job. And who knows, Obama might be thinking that Rahm is the only Democrat who can tell AIPAC to go shtup itself. That might turn out to be Rahm's most valuable asset.

I'll tell you what would be funny: if Rahm told the new National Security Adviser, retired Marine General James L. Jones, to go shtup himself. Rahm might find himself wearing his tokhes for a hat.

Jones was a four-star in the Rumsfeld regime, which is cause for concern. His last job was head of U.S. European Command, a billet in which he dual-hatted as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. The Euros are our oldest and most familiar foreign relatives, though, so Jones's experience with them is a plus. And though he was a Bush leaguer, he wasn't a Petraeus class Bush leaguer. He said no the Central Command job, and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmanship, and he reportedly twice spurned an offer from Condi Rice to become her deputy at State. So he's got that going for him.

But Jones is also said to have been against a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, which at this point is code for "we should stay there forever." He's also big on beefing up the effort in the Bananastans, and has said, "If we don't succeed in Afghanistan, you're sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated."

It sounds like Jones buys into the mythos-based ethos that his buddy John McCain subscribes to, the one that says we know we can't win the war we're in militarily, but we can't afford to lose or the bad guys will make fun of us, which is the second worst fate possible.* We can't lose as long as we keep fighting, so we have to keep fighting even though we know we can't win. When people ask what we're trying to achieve by all this endless fighting, we tell them "success," and when they press us for what we mean by that, we talk out our hats until they leave us alone.

In that vein, it sounds like Dr. Rice has emerged as the leading candidate for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The good news: it's not Condi. The bad news: it's Susan. Susan Rice was a member of the other Clinton's National Security Council and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. As a senior foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign, Rice, along with fellow Obama wonk Tony Lake, put their names on a policy document produced by an AIPAC subsidiary that stated the U.S. and Israel should discuss "preventative military action" against Iran.

Put another way, Obama's presumptive nominee to the U.N. ambassadorship signed him up to continue the Bush Doctrine.

Audacity of Skepticism

I'm suspicious of anything that involves worship, and one of the few things I devoutly believe is that there's no greater sacrilege than deifying politicians. Every time I saw a flock of wool producing Democrats chanting "Yes we can" I wondered if they'd booked their flights to Guyana yet. I predict that those who expect Obama to be the first black Kennedy or the second coming of Lincoln will end up even more bitter, angry, disillusioned and high on dope than they already are.

As I said recently, the neocons have lost Congress and the White House, but they still own the narrative. Iran, though it has no nuclear weapons program and its defense budget is less than one percent the size of ours, the incoming regime appears poised to continue regarding it as a grave threat. That will be a grave error.

Iran is the reddest of the many herrings the neocons shoved up our noses. The challenge it poses is not a military one, but one of energy and economy. It's Iran's open pursuit of a nuclear energy industry, not it's non-existent pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, that threatens U.S. dominance in the Middle East and the rest of the world. If Iran, along with its Axis of Energy allies Russia, China, Venezuela and Libya, manage to wrest control of the global energy market away from Dick and Dubya's buds at Exxon Mobil and Shell, then the grand neocon misadventure in Arabia will have been for naught.

The best strategy for ensuring America lands in a soft place in the brave new world order is to woo Iran. Unfortunately, Obama's prospective foreign policy team seems determined to continue pushing Iran into the arms of our competitors.

I voted for Obama because I'm convinced he's the most capable American politician to emerge on the national scene in my lifetime. So I'd like to think that he's aware of the issues I'm describing and is courting Iran with a tough love stratagem.

I'm hopeful that such is the case. If it isn't, though, I won't be disappointed (tee-hee).

*The worst fate possible is that everybody figures out we can't accomplish anything militarily anymore and slashes our budget to a stump.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shock and Awe and Flying Submarines

by Jeff Huber

Last spring my dog Shady and I were walking across the bridge over Pleasure House Creek when I heard a disturbance in the water. I looked down and saw a Great Blue Heron breaking the water's surface. The heron flicked the water from its wings, flapped them, and went flying down the creek about two feet above the surface.

Impressive, I thought. Boy, wouldn't the weapons procurement nimrods at the Pentagon like to get their mitts on technology that could do that?

Thus it was that I reacted with both amusement and horror to an email notice I received in October from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) offering federal grant money for "a feasibility study and experiments to prove out the possibility of making an aircraft that can maneuver underwater."

In other words, DARPA wants to pay someone to come up with a phony baloney argument that says it's possible to make a flying submarine.

DARPA has a budget of $3 billion. According to the specifications, previous attempts to come up with a flying submarine failed because "the design requirements for a submersible and an aircraft are diametrically opposed."

Yeah, the design requirements for an airplane and a submarine would be diametrically opposed, but with $3 billion to spread around, DARPA is sure to find someone who will tell them the requirements are identical. For that kind of money, they can find someone who will tell them it's possible to make a soup sandwich that tastes like filet mignon and will get you forty miles a gallon if you pour it into the gas tank of a Hummer.

Shock and Awe and Gizmos

If the Pentagon is willing to pay some gee wizard big bucks just to think out loud about a flying submarine, one would anticipate they'd expect the finished product to be able to shoot down an airliner full of evildoers, bomb a Muslim wedding and sink a pirate ship all in the same sortie, but no. It's a proposed new and expensive way to make old and expensive weaponry relevant again.

Actually, the flying submarine concept isn't all that new. The Soviets tried unsuccessfully to develop one during World War II, and yes, one has to wonder how they imagined that a flying submarine might help keep Hitler's tanks from rolling into Moscow. A defense contractor named Donald Reid supposedly built a flying submarine in the 1960s that actually submerged and flew. The U.S. Navy was considering how it might use a flying submarine at around that time, and the 60s TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured a flying submarine that would launch from the mother ship Seaview and whisk Admiral Nelson to his favorite go-go bar in Thailand, or something like that.

Time passed. In 2003 DARPA began a feasibility study of an albatross called the "Cormorant," a multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicle designed to be launched from the Trident missile tubes of Ohio class ballistic missile submarines that were once a cornerstone of the nuclear triad of the Cold War and are now looking for meaningful work. The Cormorant was envisioned to carry either short-range weapons or surveillance equipment.

DARPA calls the latest evolution of its flying submarine the Submersible Aircraft. The specs call for it to have a 1,000-nautical mile combat radius and to "be capable of transporting 8 operators, as well as all of their equipment, with a total cargo weight of 2000 pounds." We can safely assume the "8 operators" aren't expected to be Maryknoll missionaries delivering a ton of King James Bibles to a suburb of Tehran.

Crack Pottery

The Pentagon must stop its relentless pursuit of Jules Verne gizmology. The flying sub is one of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of crack pot weapons proposals that, once in the system, reemerge time and again to knock down the low hanging DARPA fruit.

Like nearly all of these humbug arms programs, the flying submarine offers nothing in the way of national security. It's Cub Scouts playing with G.I. Joe doll stuff, the kind of thing Fred and Robert Kagan might have fantasized about as kids when they took baths together: Wouldn’t it be neat-o if we could put a bunch of Navy frogmen wearing tight rubber suits into a flying submarine and shoot it out of a torpedo tube, and then have it fly to, like, Dr. No's secret island where the frogmen swim ashore and hook up with, like, Ursula Andress and her 7 twin sisters?

Like the vast majority of military industrial decoder ring programs, the flying submarine will most likely never come to fruition. It will simply resurface two or three times a decade and gobble up $3 billion here and $5 billion there until pretty soon it's gone through real money that nobody ever notices went missing.

If by some odd chance the flying submarine ever actually materializes, it will cost even more real money to produce and maintain, and it won't carry surveillance equipment or drop short-range ordnance or insert snake eaters into badlands appreciably better than anything we already have that serves those functions.

It won't win the war on terror, or deter a peer military competitor from emerging, or defeat Plan 9 from Outer Space.

It's time to take the flying submarine and parasite weapon legacies like it off life support and let them sink, crash, burn and die of natural causes.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Polish Missile Joke Revisited

by Jeff Huber

I revised this piece to more accurately reflect the flaws in the specific missile defense system we're proposing to deploy to Poland. Hopefully the essay is more coherent now and the new jokes are at least half as funny as the old ones.

This Polish missile defense system walks into a bar one afternoon and orders six shots of vodka and a beer. The bartender says, "How can you afford to get drunk in the middle of a business day?" and the Polish missile defense system says, "I don't work."

And lo it has come to pass that as the End of Bush Days draws near, Dick Cheney and the neocons are taking their last shot at instigating Cold War II by deploying a ballistic missile defense system that doesn't work to defend against ballistic missiles that don't work either.

President-elect Barack Obama doesn't seem sure whether he approves or not.

Crossing the Punch Line

In May 2008, the breakaway republic of Georgia threatened to invade the breakaway republic of Abkhazia for reasons that nobody cares about anymore. Russia began to build a military base in Abkhazia and Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze said war between Georgia and Russia could break out "tonight, tomorrow, anytime."

In August, Georgia invaded the breakaway republic Ossetia and Russia invaded Georgia. Georgia's Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia said he was surprised that war broke out between Georgia and Russia.

The Bush administration acted outraged and a thousand unnamed senior officials told the mainstream press how bad, bad, bad the Russians were being. Presidential candidate John McCain sent his wife Cindy to Georgia to give President Mikheil Saakashvili succor.

The fight was on, the fight was off; you couldn't tell if the Russians were coming or going.

We shoved a missile defense system down Poland's throat to get back at the Russians. When the Russians complained that the missile defense system is a threat to their security, we said the system's purpose is to defend North America and Western Europe from a ballistic missile attack by Iran—the same Iran whose ballistic missiles are something other than reliable and who might have an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach North America by 2015 but probably won't. (If they wanted an ICBM they could have had one in 2003.)

Russia retaliated by threatening to deploy the short range Iskander missile system to Baltic enclave Belarus that will "neutralize" the Polish ballistic missile defense system because the Iskander is only quasiballistic.

Remarkably, young Mr. Bush's pet gerbil seems to be the only player in this bumper car derby who has his head on straight. On November 14, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the missile defense deployment to Poland will be a "move backward" in European stability. Maybe Sarkozy finally came to his senses, or maybe it finally dawned on him that come January he'll have to start living in a new seat of power and it was time to stop kissing the old one.

The new seat of power sent mixed signals regarding his position on the Polish missile defense system. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's office claimed Obama had pledged to honor Bush's commitment to deploy the system during a phone conversation with Kaczynski. Then the Russians said that made them really cross with Obama, and after that Obama's foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said that Obama "supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

Now, I think that was a quasi-clever way of saying that Obama will deploy a missile defense system to Poland when hell freezes over, but there's no telling what's really going on in this horse manure opera.

On Saturday November 15, Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze announced on EuroNews Television that there were no Russian troops in South Ossetia when Georgia invaded, which is a complete reversal of the story the Bush administration has been pushing, and if true, it means that the Georgians were the bad guys in this scenario and not the Russians.

That's an embarrassing revelation: kind of like if we were to find out that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction either.

Faith Based Missile Defense

Ironically, the Bush administration is telling the truth about the Polish missile defense system, sort of. The intended deployment of 10 interceptor missiles is part of a shield designed to protect Western Europe and North America from intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by Iran--if Iran ever has any ICBMs that can reach North America--by shooting them down in midcourse. But contrary to the administration's claims, the Polish system could also intercept Russian ICBMs, which already exist. According to Dr. Richard L. Garwin, noted physicist and former member of the Defense Science Board and Donald Rumsfeld's Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, the missiles stationed in Poland "could surely intercept an [intermediate range ballistic missile] headed for Europe and in fact under many circumstances could intercept also ICBMs launched from Russia toward the United States.

It might be more accurate to say that the Polish system could intercept the Russian ICBMs that exist and the Iranian ICBMs that don't exist except that it won't because it can't.

Philip Coyle, who used to oversee weapons testing at the Pentagon and is now a specialist with the Center for Defense Information, told a congressional panel earlier this year that national missile defense "has become a theology in the United States, not a technology."

If anyone tells you that we proved we could shoot down ballistic missiles when we ostensibly bagged one of our own spy satellites in February 2008, never trust that person with anything you keep in your pants. As Dr. Garwin puts it, shooting down a low orbit satellite is "like shooting ducks in a pond."

Shooting down a ballistic missile is a lot harder due to rocket science my advanced degree in warmongering didn't prepare me to explain, but the main problem with the system we want to deploy to Poland is its inability to handle countermeasures.

Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), claims that the Polish missile defense system has been successfully tested against decoys. "There's a misconception that we cannot handle countermeasures," he says. "We cannot handle very complex countermeasures. I won't go into what that means, but there are things that an enemy can do to really try to confuse the system."

That's bull jargon for "we can handle test decoys but not the real ones."

Dr. Garwin, who has infinitely less anxiety about getting his fourth star than Lieutenant General Obering does, says that against the countermeasures Iran is likely to put on any ICBM it might shoot at the U.S. "the defense is helpless." Garwin further states that, "Should a state be so misguided as to attempt to deliver nuclear weapons by ICBM, they could be guaranteed against intercept in midcourse by the use of appropriate countermeasures," and "Protecting the United States against attack by nuclear weapons or biological weapons is a failure and will remain so for the foreseeable future, so long as MDA attempts to carry it out by mid-course intercept."

On the other side of the firing line: ballistic missiles are deterrence weapons. So if Iran ever did have an ICBM that would reach the United States, and actually launched it and it actually flew here and actually blew up, it still wouldn’t have worked because we already would have done whatever the ballistic missile was supposed to stop us from doing. And then we'd lob about eight nukes back at them and bring the 6,000-year old Persian civilization to an abrupt end.

On young Mr. Bush's watch alone, we'll have tinkled away $63 billion on missile defense. That kind of money could have bought 30 B-2 stealth bombers, or eight Gerald R. Ford class nuclear aircraft carriers, or six more months of our woebegone war in Iraq, or an end to world hunger.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

President Elect Perplexes Pack of Puckered Persians

by Jeff Huber

"Obama from the Bullpen" discussed how the president-elect's edict that the U.S. will not keep permanent bases in Iraq helped avert Cold War II, but he has far to go to fix all of the foreign relations fiascos he's about to inherit. "Puckered Persians" addresses how Obama needs to handle the Iran piece of the puzzle.

The neocons may have lost the election but they still own the narrative. For nearly a decade they've repeated their message of messianic fear and loathing through Rupert Murdoch's Big Brother Broadcast and the compliant mainstream media over and over and over and over until that's what everybody says so it must be true.

One has to wonder, then, how much of the neocon line on Iran Barack Obama had swallowed when he said at his first post election press conference that, "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening."

Our intelligence services say that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in fall of 2003. I'm not convinced they ever had one at all, exactly. The Russians didn't start building Iran's first nuclear reactor until fall of 2002. It's hard to say how much of a nuclear weapons program they could have developed in a year starting from scratch, but it couldn't have amounted to the program my dogs have going on in the back yard.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has stated for years that it has not found evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has stated for years that it is not developing a nuclear weapon and has no intention to. The only people making boo noise about "Iran's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons" are knot heads repeating the disinformation propaganda that originated in Dick Cheney's Iran Directorate, a special task force designed to instigate war with Iran the same way Cheney's Office of Special Plans and the White House Iraq Group pulled the intelligence shake and bake and the media hoax that sold us on the invasion of Iraq.

And as historian and journalist Gareth Porter recently reported, those "smoking laptop" documents that the Cheney Gang claimed maybe kinda sorta indicated Iran has a nuclear weapons program were maybe kinda sorta forged.

Iran has ballistic missiles that maybe kinda sorta work and maybe kinda might reach Israel. But without nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles are just real expensive mortar rounds, even if you put bugs or gas in the nosecone.

Iran's conventional forces can't project power against Israel. Its army has never operated more than ten miles from its border, and that was in the only war Iran ever fought, one that Iraq started by invading Iran, by the way. (Iran never invaded anybody, which is a lot more than you can say for, um, Israel-yay.) Iran's antique air force would shoot itself down or run out of gas before it got halfway across the Persian Gulf, and its coast guard of a navy would sink of natural causes before it reached the Red Sea. Their navy might be able to close the Strait of Hormuz for a little while, but not to the extent that a barrel of oil would cost the same as a B-2 stealth bomber. They might be able to embarrass our Navy, if they get lucky. A torpedo up the prop locker of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier might put it out of action for the duration; we might even have to tow one of those behemoths all the way home. It's pretty near impossible to sink a carrier, though. The Klingons might be able to pull it off, but like Iran's nuclear weapons program, the Klingons don't actually exist.

Bush administration highfaluters, including General David Petraeus, have for almost two years accused Iran of arming and funding Iraqi militias, but they have yet to produce a shred of real evidence to back up their claims. Ironically, though, what Obama refers to as the "brilliant job" Petraeus has done in Iraq largely consisted of handing out guns and money to militias. Plus, by virtue of having brokered a peace deal between Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki and cleric and militia leader Muqtada al Sadr, Iran is primarily responsible for the reduced levels of violence in Iran that Petraeus gets credit for.

Less than 10 percent of is Iran is arable. The rest is mainly mountain and desert. Iran's population and infrastructure are gathered in eight major cities. If Iran ever were to acquire a nuclear weapon and put it in a ballistic missile and launch it at someone, the retaliation would effectively end the 6,000-year old Persian civilization in the course of an afternoon.

In a May speech in Montana, Obama said "Iran, they spend 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." Remarkably, in that same speech, he called Iran a "grave threat."

We might reasonably conclude that back in May, when he was still running against McCain, he was throwing a bone to the neocons and the Pavlov's dogs of war that still buy their agenda. But why is he making scary sounds about Iran now? Out of habit? Because it's a grand tradition for America's politicians to pander to its warmongers?

I'm about fed up with that kind of bull plop. I voted for change, didn't you?

Next: the central front of the Second Cold War with the Axis of Energy.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama from the Bullpen

by Jeff Huber

Navy skippers immemorial wrote "He hit the deck running" on their new junior officers' fitness reports until the phrase became, well, ship-worn. You mean that the officer just checked aboard, seems eager, if a bit much so, has done a nice thing or two, but it's not time to recommend him either for your job or for immediate transfer to civilian command. In other words, it's an expression that sounds impressive but doesn't really mean anything, something common to at least 95 percent of Navy writing.

But the expression appears to mean something in the case of Barack Obama, whose orders just showed up on the message board, as we say in the NAV, and who doesn’t even check aboard for two more months. In the past week he's made three significant interrelated foreign policy moves that involve Iraq, Iran and Russia that have potential to look good, go bad or turn ugly, depending on how he follows up on them.

Cleaning Up the Mesopotamia

Obama's move on Iraq, as far as I can see, is all good, mostly. He has said that any bilateral agreement of the status of U.S. forces in Iraq has to be run through Congress, or deferred for the new administration so it can "negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.”

In one stroke, Obama has served notice that he will not sit by and watch the Bush administration dig an even deeper hole for him to climb out of, he's insisted on limiting executive power, and he's declared an end to the neoconservative agenda.

He's not only telling the warmongery that he won't stand for a slap job forces agreement in Iraq, but that he doesn't want to see any more wars started, most notably with Iran or Syria.

Some time ago, I don't know how far back, I wouldn't have expected even Bush to unilaterally stick his successor with a stink job treaty for a so-long-sucker present, but there's no doubt in my mind today that he'd do it in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it. To my thinking, any agreement on how we occupy Iraq amounts to a treaty, which the Constitution requires to be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. The administration's ambulance chasers would argue that when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, it sanctioned Bush to do whatever he wanted in Iraq from then until kingdom come without giving them so much as a courtesy reach around.

If Bush decided to ram a bad agreement down everyone's throat, Congress wouldn't likely grow a spine overnight and stand up to him, and challenging the agreement in the courts would take so long we might as well defer the matter to the next life.

Obama's insistence that the agreement be approved in some fashion or other by Congress more or less ties Bush's hands. Obama probably doesn't have any legal clout right now, but Bush is no doubt worried about his legacy, and maybe about a legal issue or two that might be lurking for him when the guy who owns the pardon wand isn't a Republican, and maybe, just maybe, he's starting to think there might be something to that "hell stuff" everybody talks about.

By insisting on congressional review of any bilateral agreement with Iraq, Obama has also sent a clear signal that he's not interested in duplicating Bush's "plenary powers" shenanigans, especially in light of recent revelations that in 2004, Bush authorized Donald Rumsfeld to start wars darn near wherever he wanted to, in some instances without even having to tell Bush about it.

Goodbye, Cruel Arab World

The neocon paper trail, specifically the Project for the New American Century's September 2000 manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses, makes it abundantly clear that the plan all along—before Colin Powell sold his soul at the UN, before 9/11, even before the Supreme Court made young Mr. Bush president—was to invade and permanently occupy Iraq. Geo-strategically, Iraq is the perfect military base of operations from which to physically bully the entire Middle East. Its central location allows for direct projection of land power into Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The rest of the region's countries are in reach of tactical air power from Iraq. Logistics wise, Iraq has sufficient sea access to sustain a major force indefinitely, and its flat terrain allows for nearly perfect interior lines of communication. No other country in the region comes close to filling the bill, including and especially Iran.

The neocons' objective, of course, was to control the flow of oil through the gulf. Make no mistake; control of the global energy market is the lebensraum of the Brave New World Order, and if you don't think our woebegone war on terror hasn't been conducted for the benefit of Dick and Dubya's Big Oil buddies, ask you self why, seven years and change into it, the world teeters on the brink of an economic Gotterdammerung but Exxon Mobil just broke its own record for the largest quarterly profit ever by a U.S. corporation.

Whether Obama's abandonment of the neocons' objectives for Iraq means he's showing Big Oil to the servants' door remains to be seen. Dropping out of the game for control of Middle East oil won't necessarily change bad energy habits home. To say we're addicted to Middle East oil is like saying someone is addicted to Colombian cocaine. If Obama is serious about allowing Big Oil to open its raincoat offshore and in ANWR, it doesn't seem like anyone interested in making money will be motivated to build a car that runs on spit and boogers.

But let's burn that fuel dump when we come to it. For now, it's heartening enough that Obama pulling the plug on Iraq has done something not too many folks are noticing: namely, he's cancelled the Second Cold War we were on the brink of entering into with Russia, China, Iran and the rest of the Axis of Energy.

Next: From fissile to missile to epistle and back.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Neocon Bunker Hunker (Continued)

by Jeff Huber

Part I outlined the neocons' "resurgence" strategy. Part II discusses how Barack Obama may be steering us toward a neo-neoconservativism.

The Bush administration celebrated Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election by blowing away another Afghan wedding party. The airstrike, which came within hours of the election, killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others in Kandahar Province.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai held a press conference on Wednesday to congratulate Obama on his victory, and said that his first request of the new American president would be “to end the civilian casualties.” We've been bombing weddings in Afghanistan for over six years now, and the tactic clearly isn't working.

I'm rather hoping that Obama's foreign policy platform has room for an alternative to bombing weddings and other mainstays of the neocon tactics manual, but I'm not yet convinced that it does.

Know Your Limitations

Many factors led me to vote for Barack Obama; chief among them is that I assessed him to be the most capable person to run for president in my lifetime, and I was old enough to understand what I was seeing on TV when JFK took his oath of office.

Obama's much-publicized lack of foreign policy experience didn't bother me. In fact, I consider it more of an asset than a limitation. In the main, Americans can be proud of the influence their country has had on humanity. We save the world three times in the 20th century, winning two world wars and the Cold War. But anybody who claims credit for the last 15 years or so of U.S. foreign policy is an idiot because everybody responsible for our post-Soviet era goat grope deserves to be horse whipped.

So I was amused when John McCain's keepers found a running mate for him who actually understood less about foreign affairs than he does. I was dismayed, though, when Obama chose Joe Biden, a politician whose ego sucks up all the oxygen his brain should be getting. If Biden is Obama's foreign policy "equalizer," it's time to restock the fallout shelters. People like Joe don't say lots of stupid things into microphones because they forget to think before they open their mouths. People who say stupid things all the time are just plain stupid. The best way for Obama to exploit Joe Biden's foreign policy "expertise" is to gag him, truss him up, march him down to Dick Cheney's undisclosed location, shove him in, lock the door, melt the key, and have Northern Command maintain a heavily armed patrol on around the perimeter with rules of engagement that delineate any attempt on Biden's part to express an opinion as a hostile act.

Know Your Friends

Biden isn't the president elect's only foreign policy albatross. Obama didn’t draw his brain trust from the same tree that McCain plucked his off of, but apple and orange and pachyderm and ass alike, all those foreign policy wonks move in the same orbits.

One of their social functions this past year was thrown by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The occasion of this particular gala was a meeting of something WINEP calls the Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations. The Task Force released a report in August titled "How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge." Among the more alarming assertions of the report is that Israel and the U.S. should discuss taking "preventative military action" against Iran.

It's perhaps not too surprising that two of the signatories to the report were leading neocons and John McCain advisers Vin Weber and James Woolsey. It's more than a little disconcerting, though, that two of the other signatories were Obama advisers Tony Lake and Susan Rice.

It's downright alarming, in fact, that Obama let two of his advisers endorse a policy statement drawn up by proxies of any foreign country, much less Israel. The change the Obama administration needs to make first and foremost is to stop letting Israel lead us around by the foreign policy tool. If the Israelis insist that we guarantee to keep them absolutely, positively safe from the Muslim world then let them move to Utah and pay our taxes. I'm sure they'll find a way to handle the Mormons all on their own.

With Friends Like These…

So I reckon we can guess who advised Obama to say that Iran is "a grave threat." Obama needs an adviser who will remind him that Iran's defense budget is less than one percent of ours, and that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and that Iran's conventional forces cannot possibly project power across the distance that separates it and Israel, and that by brokering a cease fire between Muqtada al Sadr and Nuri al Maliki, Iran is as responsible as General David Petraeus, if not more so, for the reduced levels of violence in Iraq. Obama also needs an adviser who will point out that General Petraeus's "brilliant job" in Iraq amounted to doing what Petraeus consistently accused the Iranians of doing: handing out money and weapons to Iraqi militants.

And if President Obama ever gets annoyed with something stupid Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says, he needs an adviser to remind him how many stupid things his predecessor said over the course of eight years, and to remind him to make sure Joe Biden is still bound and gagged and guarded.

Obama needs an adviser who will nudge him the next time he says that he wants to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps because "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face," and remind him of the recent report from the Rand Corporation that concludes the best approach to combating terrorism is "a light U.S. military footprint or none at all."

When Obama says, "We must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world in order to defeat and deter conventional threats," he needs an advisor to tell him that America already spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined, and that the nearest things we have to military competitors, Russia and China, spend a tenth as much on defense as we do at most, and that if Obama continues to pay heed to advisers who talk like they're reading from the neocon play book, he'll find himself arming America into abject penury to repel an invasion from a force that exists somewhere beyond the Van Allen radiation belt.

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Neocon Bunker Hunker

by Jeff Huber

If you know neither your enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

-- Sun Tzu

It ain't over just because they've been voted out of power. Until January, young Mr. Bush is still commander in chief and Dick Cheney is still in charge. Surge architect Fred Kagan is putting the finishing touches on the "resurgence" strategy, and the neocons have two months left to do that voodoo that they do so well.

A former professor of military history at West Point, Fred knows the components of a classic advance-to-the-rear maneuver: the main body backs down toward safe haven where it can regroup for the counter-offensive, leaving skirmishers in its wake to mine, booby trap, burn bridges and otherwise harass the advancing enemy.

Know Your Enemy

In the case of the neocons, safe haven amounts to a well established network of think tanks, academic citadels and media outlets. Among the scholars and fellows camped out at the American Enterprise Institute are Kagan, John Bolton, Lynne Cheney, David Frum, Newt Gingrich, Irving Kristol (Bill's dad and the "godfather of neoconservatism"), Richard Perle, Gary Schmitt, the completely despicable Paul Wolfowitz and the possibly even more despicable John Yoo. Midge Decter, Steve Forbes and Richard Scaife anchor the board of trustees at the Heritage Foundation; Bill Bennet and Ed Meese hang out there too. Meese, Condi Rice, John Abizaid, Tom Sowell and James Woolsey haunt the hallowed halls of Stanford for the Hoover Institution.

John Yoo, whose sophist interpretation of the president's constitutional powers made young Mr. Bush into a virtual deity, teaches law at the University of California, Berkley. Bill Kristol is on the faculty at Harvard's Kennedy school of Government, and Mackubin Thomas Owens, coauthor of the neocon manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses, is associate dean of academics at the U.S. Naval War College. Donald Kagan, father of Robert and Fred Kagan, is a professor of history at Yale. Condi will doubtless reclaim her chair at Stanford, even if she has to step over the corpses of half the student body and faculty to get to it.

Noted Cheney chamberlain and dumbest freaking guy on the planet Doug Feith finally got the boot from his visiting professor gig at Georgetown University, but don't shed a single crocodile tear for him. He'll be joining Norm Podhoretz and a host of other B-list Likudniks at the Hudson Institute.

Rupert Murdoch has ensured the warmongers will always have a balcony and a megaphone handy. Bill Kristol and collaborator Robert Kagan (Fred's brother) are well established at the Weekly Standard, and Kristol is now a fixture at the feckless New York Times. Charles Krauthammer holds down the fort at the other "liberal" bastion, the Washington Post. Max Boot has a long-standing relationship with the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. Ralph Peters and Newt are columnists with the right wing New York Post; Cal Thomas and Suzanne Fields write for the equally laughable Washington Times.

That's just the tip of the print media iceberg. Add the broadcast sewage from talk radio and FOX News to the mix and, great Caesar's ghost, it's a wonder there's a sentient being left in America.

So don’t worry that those poor neocons won't have two nickels to rub together or a place to rest their wicked heads. They have silk-lined coffins stashed all over the place.

As strategists, the neocons are no Sun Tzu. For all the damage they've managed to do, they did darn little in the way of detailed planning for it. In fact, one can hardly call them strategists at all. What grand scheme they have amounts to a simple tactic, similar to ice hockey's "dump and chase" offense, where your fling the puck into the other guy's end, fight for it in the corner, and try to slide it out to a teammate open in front of the other guy's net. No skilled maneuvers, no coordinated efforts, no sophistication, and nothing remotely creative. The only talents required are speed, brute strength and persistence, all of which the neocons, like all bullies, have an unlimited supply.

If the tactic doesn't work, oh well. You back check and live to dump and chase another day. Or, as Chairman Mao dictated, "Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again."

Know Yourself

As the latest shenanigans in Syria and Pakistan confirm, the warmongery intends to drill the puck as deep into eternal war territory as it can while it still controls play. Obama may not be able to exert much influence on their behavior, but he needs to straighten out a few closets in his own house before he takes on the job of straightening out the abject disarray young Mr. Bush leaves behind.

In an April 2007 Washington Post column, Robert Kagan wrote that, "Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism."

Kagan went on to directly quote Obama, writing, "He wants the American military to 'stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar,' and he believes that 'the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face.' He wants to ensure that we continue to have 'the strongest, best-equipped military in the world.'"

"Obama never once says that military force should be used only as a last resort," Kagan gloated. "Rather, he insists that 'no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary,' not only 'to protect ourselves . . . when we are attacked,' but also to protect 'our vital interests' when they are 'imminently threatened.' That's known as preemptive military action." (Italics mine.)

"This is a left-liberal foreign policy?" Kagan taunted. "Ask Noam Chomsky the next time you see him."

Come election time, Obama might have stiff-armed jibes made by a leading neocon over a year and a half before, but he did just the opposite. When the Republican National Committee ran a deceptive ad in the military-centric Norfolk, Virginia market accusing Obama of planning to cut defense spending by 25 percent, Obama shot back with an ad that quoted the 2007 Kagan article, bringing specific attention to Kagan's observation that Obama wants to expand the military to "fight terrorism."

If that's Obama's idea of change we can believe in, I believe we just rejected Johnny McDitto and voted in Sam O'Same-o.

Next: Know Your Friends

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.