President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director. All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.
The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel. The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization. When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.
Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.
The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.
Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”
It’s the end of the world as we know it, right? I mean, the sequester has dominated the news for a while now. Over and over again, we’ve been told of the impending apocalypse that awaits us if we didn’t avert the automatic $85 billion in spending cuts that would automatically kick in.
Oh sure, the sequester isn’t really what it’s been presented as. Rather than draconian cuts, it’s more a case of cutting future growth, but let’s say we took Washington at its word on all of this? How could we cut $85 billion without losing the 170 million jobs Maxine Waters claimed it would destroy (despite there not being that many jobs in the entire country)?
Well, let’s start with assuming that the $85 billion in cuts had to start with this current fiscal year. That’s a lot of money to you and me, but as Washington goes, it’s not that big of a total.
In fact, we give $53.3 billion out in foreign aid each year. That’s over 62 percent of the sequester amount right there, and not a living soul in the United States would ever feel the pinch. After all, this money goes to other countries, many of whom don’t like us in any way, shape, or form. Honestly, this whole thing of giving money to other countries smacks of tribute given in the ancient world to buy peace. While I like the idea of no war, it doesn’t work.
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he will attempt to block Obama’s nominations of both John Brennan to CIA Director and Chuck Hagel to Defense Secretary over the Obama Administration’s failures in Benghazi. As it is Bob Schieffer’s job to “wring news out of his guests,” Graham, emerging as the new head of the Neocon Right, certainly obliged.
GRAHAM: “I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go for forward the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do? …What did he do that night? That’s not unfair. The families need to know. The American people need to know…”
SCHIEFFER: “But let me — I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?”
Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Beltway politicians like to pretend that smaller spending increases amount to spending “cuts.” As Dan Mitchell has pointed out numerous times (see here for one example), that’s baseline budgeting baloney. Now that the 2011 Budget Control Act’s spending caps are in place, politicians are making an even more ridiculous claim: the so-called “cuts” have already occurred.
The caps apply to spending over ten fiscal years – the last year being 2021. We are obviously not in the year 2021, so it’s impossible for the so-called “cuts” to have already been implemented. Yet here are two examples from a recent Politico article where politicians suggest that to be the case:
“There are people that think we need to cut more,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) acknowledged in an interview. McKeon said he’s been pushing back against budget hawks in the GOP conference by pointing to the nearly $600 billion in spending cuts that the Pentagon has already absorbed in recent years — and that’s before sequestration would even begin.
“I think there’s spending that can be taken out of all departments,” said freshman Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). “And I’ve talked to people from the Pentagon. There’s just areas that, yeah, we can pull back a little more, even though they did their $470 billion already. They said it hurt, but we possibly could.”
“To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic.” - Chuck Hagel
Based on media reports, President Barack Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel, who spent two terms in the United States Senate as a Republican from Nebraska, to serve as Secretary of Defense.
The nomination isn’t exactly surprising. It has long been thought that Obama would nominate Hagel. However, the road to confirmation in the Senate looks shaky as hawish Republicans seem to be preparing for a battle because they believe that Hagel is “anti-Israel,” a sentiment expressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday talk shows:
Republicans, in particular, have raised objections to statements by Mr. Hagel that they have described as dismissive of Israel and soft on Iran. Mr. Hagel once described pro-Israel lobbying groups as the “Jewish lobby.” He has insisted that he is a strong supporter of Israel.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he personally liked Mr. Hagel, but that he was “out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy.”
“This is an in-your-face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Mr. Graham said. “I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon — little if any — so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”
During his inauguration speech, President Obama vowed that his administration would be the most open and transparent in history. As an advocate of transparent government, I was relieved to hear it. Unfortunately President Obama is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle on that one.
You see, reporters have asked for the photograph of Osama bin Laden, taken after the operation that resulted in his head. Under the Freedom of Information Act, they have to release anything that’s not a threat to national security or related to personnel issues. While it is entirely possible that the DOD has classified the bin Laden pictures, it makes no sense as we all know they’re out there and what they’re a photograph of. This is a picture of a dead guy, not the blueprints to the F-117. The argument that it will anger muslims doesn’t really hold water either. The killing is what angers them, the photograph is a different matter entirely.
If this were an isolated incident, we could take this as simply being a disagreement. It’s not. Courtesy of Reason’s Hit&Run blog:
This wouldn’t be the first time a senior administration official had interefered in the FOIA process. The House Oversight Committee investigated the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year after a whistleblower revealed that Secretary Janet Napolitano’s inner circle was vetting FOIA requests. Among the revelations: A former Obama campaign worker (and a number of other political hires) had been tasked with reviewing information requests from conservative groups.
The Department of Defense released a study (you can read it below) yesterday showing that an overwhelming majority of American service members do not have a problem fighting alongside gays:
The Pentagon’s long-awaited report on gays in the military concludes that repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would present only a low risk to the armed forces’ ability to carry out their missions and that 70 percent of service members believe it would have little or no effect on their units.
According to the results of a survey sent to troops this summer and cited in the report, 69 percent of respondents said they had served with someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who did, 92 percent stated that their unit’s ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor, according to the report.
Combat units reported similar responses, with 89 percent of Army combat units and 84 percent of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians.
At the same time, the survey found that 30 percent of those surveyed overall — and between 40 and 60 percent of the Marine Corps — either expressed concern or predicted a negative reaction if Congress were to repeal the law.
Additionally, a new survey from Pew Research shows that 58% of Americans support eliminating the out-of-date policy; public support for allowing gays to serve in the military has been over 52% since 1992.
On the heels of the report on “right-wing extremism from the Department of Homeland Security, we find that the Department of Defense considers protests as a form of “low-level terrorism”:
A written exam administered by the Pentagon labels “protests” as a form of “low-level terrorism” — enraging civil liberties advocates and activist groups who say it shows blatant disregard of the First Amendment.
The written exam, given as part of Department of Defense employees’ routine training, includes a multiple-choice question that asks:
“Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?”
— Attacking the Pentagon
— Hate crimes against racial groups
The correct answer, according to the exam, is “Protests.”