Conservative Pundits are Outraged that Army Major Nidal Hasan has received approximately $278,000 since he allegedly shot dead more than a dozen Soldiers at Fort Hood more than three years ago. I wish they would reconsider their outrage, because this is what “presumption of innocence” means.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from the individual state legal codes in the sense that when you are accused of violating it, it is your employer who is going to determine your guilt. The normal criminal defendant can return to his job–or at least a job–while he awaits trial. It is not possible that a military defendant could be removed from the service before trial–for to do so would punish his pursuit of career advancement were he to be found not guilty. Furthermore, were defendants to be deprived of their livelihood while they awaited military trial by court martial, they would be deprived of their livelihood just by being accused.
To those conservatives who decry this condition, imagine this unfortunately all too plausible scenario:
A Coyote News reporter hot on the trail of a controversial secret Administration program to support rebels in a far-off land discovers classified documents that shows that those rebels are in fact terrorist affiliated and that the Department of State knew about it and still provided them with Stinger missiles. The Administration, afraid of the political fallout were the revelation to become known, charges the journalist as a co-conspirator in the leak. Were that Coyote News reporter subjected to a criminal justice system that denied him his paycheck while he awaited trial, the mere accusation of criminality could be used to subdue whistleblowers and to punish innocents.
Now sure, there is little doubt that Nidal Hasan is guilty of murdering his comrades. But we have a system that does not express guilt as shades of grey. You are or you are not guilty. And until a jury of your peers finds you guilty, you are presumed innocent.
Trust me, you do not want to live under a system where the yet-to-be-tried are considered to be mostly-guilty and are essentially treated as such. And trust me, you do not want to live under a government that has even more tools to freeze out those who speak out against it. In other words: $278,000 is a dirt cheap price for freedom.
Let me first stipulate that the best plan would contemplate cuts across the entire budget: to so-called entitlements as well as to defense and discretionary spending. (BTW, it’s all discretionary spending as no Congress can obligate a subsequent Congress to its laws.)
That being said, for all the sturm and drang over a paltry 2% cut that leaves 2013 budget still greater than was spent in 2012, the secquester isn’t that bad. Yes, the brunt of the cuts falls on defense. So? Quite frankly, it’s not nearly enough. And if there’s that much waste in DoD where I work, I’m sure I could find even more in the other departments.
Here’s the problem for those on both sides of the aisle. Nearly everybody to the right of Paul Krugman acknowledges that federal spending has to come down. But when it comes down to making actual cuts, it’s always going to be easier to find 51% support for any program than there it is to just make across-the-board cuts.In a perfect world, we would target entire agencies and programs for closure. (I propose a LIFO rule: last-in, first-out; first to go Obamacare, Homeland Security, Medicare Part D, then the Departments of Energy and Education . . . ) But we don’t live in a perfect world.
I’ve seen this drama play out in a small way at EUCOM where we tried to trim staff, but in doing so, actually added bodies. Cuts only came when they were mandated across the board. It’s just the nature of bureaucracy that every department, agency, or directorate can argue successfully for more, even while it recognizes the existence of excess across the entire enterprise.
So let sequestration happen. Who cares who gets the blame. If anything, I’m blaming Republicans for not making the sequester cut deeply enough.
Similar thoughts at NRO.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled with Obamacare that the federal government is limited in what it can mandate that the states legislate, I’d like to see one or more of the states lower the drinking age back to 18 this year. If you are old enough to vote and old enough to serve in the military, you should be old enough to buy a drink.
Still on the subject of alcohol, I’d like to to see more states join Washington’s lead and remove the mandatory second tier of alcohol distributors that serve as legally required monopolies that raise prices and reduce the selection available to the wine-buying public in the other 49 states.
Not that I would like to see continued violence in the Middle East, but since it is a near certainty anyway, I’d like to see it happen in 2013 without any hint that America will get even remotely involved.
I’d like to see no calls this year for any sort of extension to American involvement in Afghanistan.
I’d like to see Congress and the White House continue to be at loggerheads throughout all of 2013. Since every meaningful compromise in recent decades has resulted in higher taxes, greater spending, bigger debt, and diminished freedom, doing nothing is Washington’s best course of action.
I’d like to see the Department of Defense deal seriously with sequestration by eliminating commands, agencies, directorates, and staffs instead of reducing either the number or effectiveness of ships, wings, and brigades.
I’d also like to see DoD kill a few hideously expensive major weapons programs this year–especially the F-35.
I’d like to continue to see the collapse of the legacy broadcast and print media. CNN, NBC, Time, and the New York Times each have brands far larger than their real contemporary influence; it only follows that the economics of that untenable situation will catch up to them–hopefully in 2013.
I’d like to see 2013 produce no viral videos that spark any more line-dancing crazes. The Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, and the Macarena were each bad enough before Gangnam Style. Please, let’s not do this again. Ever.
And since I will have a college student in 2014, I’d like to see the higher education bubble burst in 2013.
Six months ago, I said this about Egypt:
” . . . continuing that level of American support to the military junta that has taken over the country risks an even worse outcome, as a circa-1979 Iranian Shah style backlash becomes increasingly likely. America is already culpable in the eyes of the Egyptian majority. Every passing day that we arm Egypt’s oppressors, we increase the inevitability that an anti-government revolution grows even more anti-Western.”
I’m reminded of that prediction when I see this BBC report about the Egyptian military rolling into the area of protests against the Egyptian president. Look at that video closely. The armored vehicles that you see are American made M60 tanks and American made M113 armored personnel carriers. That Egyptian military is American equipped and American trained, largely at American expense. This has the potential to be 1979 again.
In doing some housecleaning, I found this forgotten essay that I wrote in February and never got around to posting. With only a few changes for the sake of grammar, and clarity, here it is:
For the first time in over two years I’m afraid that Republicans could actually lose the race for the White House in 2012. Should they do so, especially in light of the enormous advantages they have over a dysfunctional Democratic Party in 2012 (high unemployment, stagnant growth, unpopular programs foisted upon the public, and an unlikable mob–OWS–as the face of liberal activism, just to name a few) it should disqualify the GOP from ever holding the presidency ever again. If the GOP loses the presidency, it will be the biggest victory of an outclassed mismatch since Aesop’s rabbit blew the race with the turtle.
So how could this be? Simple, there isn’t a candidate who can unite the opponents of Barack Obama. That alone would probably be enough to win in November.
Comparisons with Reagan, just as comparisons with FDR or JFK, almost never measure up. That’s not because those three men were supermen–they weren’t–but because in retrospect each of them is bigger now than they ever were at the time. Nonetheless, Reagan’s genius was in recognizing that politics is the art of addition, and not about subtraction or division. That is still true.
The most recent not-Romney is Rick Santorum. He is most closely associated with the “social conservative” wing of the Republican Party. This is an important member of the family of conservatism, but like its siblings–Fiscal, Defense, Libertine, and Law N. Order–none of the conservative brethren are capable of striking out on their own. Still, that’s what Santorum did, when he linked his opposition to the recent Obama decision to force abortificants upon churches to the canard of “birth control isn’t safe. That is the message of subtraction. It is a position that attracts none but the already converted. Even worse, it is a message so offensive to so many (not to mention, so factually incorrect) that it repels those who might otherwise be attracted to his position were it couched in different terms.
What I mean bythat is this: a Republican must unite the whole party around a simple message that resonates with all its wings. And that message is the same now as it was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan put all conservative factions under the banner of “Leave Us Alone.”
“Leave us Alone” applies to Catholics justifiably outraged by the government trampling upon their First Amendment rights. After all, even if you disagree with the Church’s religious position, you must admit, the First Amendment accords to all religions the right to be wrong, otherwise, the right is not a right at all if its only protection is to protect popular positions. Had Santorum cloaked his argument in “Leave Us Alone,” he would have acknowledged the freedom of churches to decide what medical procedures they would pay for, but would do so without appearing to compromise the right of people to choose to do otherwise with their own money. It is a message consistent with (or at least, not in opposition to) the other conservative brothers.
Rick Santorum is hardly the first to make this blunder. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman, each fell by failing to embrace a logically coherent message. The problem, I suspect, is that “Leave Us Alone,” or at least its implications, is not a message that any of the current Republican candidates really embrace. For if you truly wish to be left alone, it implies a reciprocal obligation to leave others alone as well. For defense conservatives that means that if you want others to leave America alone, you must let be those military threats that are non-existental in nature: Libya and the Taliban, for example. To the law and order conservative, it implies a level of tolerance to at least some of those activities, like prostitution and minor drug abuse, that are distasteful, but are not a threat to any but those who engage in them. To the fiscal conservative, “Leave Us Alone,” requires that we not fund any good ideas with public moneys, since, if they realy were ”good ideas,” they would find ample private funds.
You see, it’s not simply about “messaging” your support for or opposition to programs. It’s about actually believing your message and all its implications. And when you believe in your message, you are consistent with your message. If there is a Republican killer this year, consistency will be its name. That’s why it’s time to unite the Republican brand around the simple message of LEAVE US ALONE.
If the deal is $1.2 T in new taxes and new spending now in exchange for $400 B in cuts ten or more years away, then Republicans shouldn’t walk away from “fiscal cliff” negotiations. They should run.
The alternative is to just let sequestration take effect. The biggest hit is to the Department of Defense. And I can tell you that the hit won’t be nearly deep enough.*
*Usual caveat about this being my view and not DoD’s, blah, and blah.
Sara Hoyt: We’ve come to the end of cake
Read the whole thing.
Just as I predicted at the end of last year, Egypt continues to be a mess. (See #12.) The latest news is that the military leadership that stepped in last year “temporarily” in order to stabilize the country in the wake of the violent ”Arab Spring” ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, has now effectively voided this weekend’s democratic election of an islamist president, and seized supreme legislative power and veto authority over the new constitution. At this point there are no good outcomes possible in Egypt; only bad ones and worse ones.
A relatively smooth transition of presidential power to Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidate who apparently secured the majority vote on Sunday, would give control of the largest country in the Arab World to an Islamist and anti-Western government that is sympathetic to al-Qaeda and highly belligerent toward Israel. Considering that Egypt and Israel fought four wars in the 25 years between 1948 and 1973, and that the now-reviled Hosni Mubarak led Egypt for the vast majority of the last 40 years of peace, and all signs coming out of Cairo point to a deteriorating situation with Israel. Given the already uncomfortable relationship between a nuclear Israel and a nearly nuclear Iran, it is easy to imagine a newly militant Egyptian government being just a hair trigger away from initiating a much wider conflagration. It is also easy to imagine that an al-Qaeda-sympathetic government with access to Egypt’s wealth and military, not to mention control of the Suez Canal, could provide a platform for a renewed worldwide projection of terrorism and terrorist weapons.
And what I just described is probably the best that we can hope for.
Egypt is America’s second largest beneficiary of foreign aid and one of the largest recipients of foreign military sales. Its military trains at all levels with the US military and it possesses some of our best equipment. It would be preposterous if America were even to consider to provide that level of support and assistance to a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government. On the other hand, continuing that level of American support to the military junta that has taken over the country risks an even worse outcome, as a circa-1979 Iranian Shah style backlash becomes increasingly likely. America is already culpable in the eyes of the Egyptian majority. Every passing day that we arm Egypt’s oppressors, we increase the inevitability that an anti-government revolution grows even more anti-Western. When the rebels take over the country (and they will) the US will get all of the bad outcomes listed above, and on top of that, even more of the blame. Furthermore, our support for an anti-popular regime complicates US efforts to resolve peacefully an analogous situation in nearby Syria, where Russia, Iran, and perhaps even China support a military dictatorship against a popular uprising. Hypocrisy will be the charge, and it will have merit.
My prescription will be anathema to career diplomats and also to military leaders who have bought into the idea that engagement and dialogue equate to success. It is to publicly tell Egypt’s military government that all foreign aid, military assistance, and military training will completely halt effective the end of this month. And that if after that date, Egypt wishes the resumption of any portion of American assistance, it will be contingent upon being able to demonstrate measurable results in achieving democratic rule, protection of human rights, cooperation with Israel, support of the free flow of trade through the Canal, and the suppression of terrorist activities. Failure to achieve any one of those objectives will result in no American assistance.
My recommendation is no less than to break a significant portion of the Camp David Accords, so it is not made lightly. However, the status quo is untenable and increasingly likely to blow up (hopefully only figuratively) in the face of Americans. When confronted with the choice of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” the best outcome is the one with the least damnation. And the only thing we have to look forward to as a result of continued engagement with Egypt, is even more damnation.
*These opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense.
Starting tomorrow I will be going on active duty for the next four months. That means that my posts will probably be less frequent and will certainly be less partisan. When I come back in September I will return with a fresh up-close perspective on the European economy, Middle East politics, and Defense Department waste, as well as the upcoming presidential election.
And if I’m real lucky, I’ll be able to talk with you about a book.
BTW, this might be a good opportunity to reiterate that whatever opinions you read on this site are mine alone and are not to be construed as the opinions of the Department of Defense.
| Category: Military
| Posted at: Friday, 11 May 2012
The leaking of details about the foiled underwear bomb plot was already troubling enough. Telling the enemy that you have a double agent in their midst, and in doing so, disclosing to them the identity of that agent, immediately shuts down that source and puts him and his family at risk. It also puts other sources on notice that they will not be protected.
I subscribe to this view of that earlier news:
“If this is not a deliberate disclosure done for an operational purpose, then it is a shocking example of a leak posing risks to highly sensitive and important work.”
Those were the words of British MP, Patrick Mercer, a lawmaker and a specialist in security matters. Unfortunately, the severity of leak just grew by orders of magnitude because we have just learned that the source is apparently a Brit. Yes, US personnel leaked the name of a British secret agent whose information was being shared with US intelligence agencies.
I can’t impress upon you enough just how tightly controlled are the names of sources. It is even more hush-hush when those sources are citizens and agents of foreign friendly governments.
We call it Five Eyes, and it refers to five nations who have a special reciprocal intelligence sharing arrangement: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Sharing provides greater opportunity to “connect the dots,” not to mention, it gives all member nations the ability to conserve resources as it reduces the duplication of effort. If the Five Eyes arrangement were to break down, an irreplaceable intelligence void would exist.
While all four countries enjoy an incredibly close relationship with the United States, there is no member whose contribution is as important as that of Great Britain. That’s because the Brits have more resources than the other three smaller Five Eye countries. They also have historical relationships around the globe with other nations where the United States would otherwise be blind.
If this report is correct, it is a big deal. And it is a big blow to US credibility in the eyes of our most important foreign military partner, bar none. Coming on the heels of the GSA and Secret Service hooker scandal (and of the three, this potentially is by far the biggest scandal), this calls into question the wisdom and/or judgment of U.S. leadership at the highest levels.
I sincerely hope that this was a deliberate leak done for operational reasons and with British concurrence, otherwise someone has committed a treasonous act.
*Note. I’m obligated to inform you that since I am an Army Reserve officer, this is only my opinion and does not represent the opinion of the Department of Defense.