« Protecting Soldiers is Number One(?) | Main | I Welcome My New Hilzoyian Overlords »

January 11, 2007

Comments

Von, solid.

"...Bush look frightened."

I look frightened right now because of WHAT he is frightened of. And what he is frightened of is the fate of only one person: a little boy who swaggered out of his depth into deep s--- with a ferocious undertow.

If there is a God, and Bush and the rest of the crew, who have used HIS name in vain these past years, talk to HER, I hope God, who makes a hash out of just about every instance ITS name is invoked, pulls their butts out of the fire just this once..

Because the butts of tens of millions of people here and abroad who just want to mind their own business are on the line.

And there had better be a big tax increase, just for the reparations.

Bush usually speaks with thhe patient/pissed off tone grownups use when stating the obvious to eight-year olds. I thought that hhe sounded less confidennt than usual last nighht but my take was that hhis hhandlers had coached him to use a less irritating tone.

Well put.

Nice post.

On the other hand, Sec. Rice may have finally said something stupider than anything her boss has ever said here.


Maybe he's frightened because he's starting a war with Iran - why else mention the Patriot missile batteries for neighboring countries, than to protect against Iranian retaliatory missile strikes?

You don't need Patriot missiles to defend against IEDs.

von: I agree completely, except for expanding the army.

And the rumors of war with Iran, from him, now, are -- well, scarily, not beyond belief. Though they should be.

Look up "vagaries" in the dictionary.


I think we'd be better off with a purge than a surge.

I'm sorry, call me a kneejerk leftie, but since everybody's falling all over each other to "increase the size of the army", I gotta ask -- to do what? This reeks of what liberal peaceniks are always accused of, throwing money at a problem.

The Pentagon is getting a helluva lotta money as it is. Add up all the money that we spend on what's laughably called "defense", and I think we're talking nearly a TRILLION dollars EVERY YEAR. And since our military and foreign policies have plainly worked so, so very well, the solution to our problem is, throwing even more money to the same institutions?!?!? This is complete madness.

Look, this terror problem is always going to be with us, but from day to day it presents an infinitesimal threat to each of us. And the best way to keep that puny menace at bay isn't another armored division or Stryker brigade (and it certainly isn't F-22's and Joint Strike Fighters). Police work and routine security precautions (e.g., coastal patrols off our shores) are the tools of choice here. And you know what might work best of all? If we had a foreign policy that reflected our best traditions (we have some mighty splendid ones), and didn't treat the entire goddam world as a sea of enemies.

Our military-centric "diplomacy" has really hit the wall. In simple cost-benefit terms, it's a big loser. It gives the incompetents and scoundrels who infest our political class vast opportunities to launch catastrophes. Worse even than that, it is destroying our republican (lowercase 'r') institutions and habits. So not one more nickel for the army, until somebody produces a cogent answer to the question, "What for?"

"Maybe he's frightened because he's starting a war with Iran"

Takes at least two for a war. Actions/provocations and responses.
A lot of little stuff can happen before the bigger stuff hits the fan and spackles the walls.
Wait and see.
...
Bush looked frightened during the Florida recount, in Ohio in 2004, and after meeting the Chinese leader. I don't think he frightens easily.

sgtlover- I generally agree with you about the spending. Basicly everything our military uses is efectively gold-plated. We need to cut corners on equipment.

My answer to your question though is: Universal Adulthood Conscription.

Now that a billion plus people hate our guts we're going to need it.

My answer to your question though is: Universal Adulthood Conscription.

I wouldn't revive the draft, but universal national service is an excellent idea, for a whole lot of reasons.

Errrmmm.... Speaking of service -- does it need to be said? Again, during his deer-in-the-headlights talk, Bush won't bring up even such minimal sacrifice as a tax to pay for his war.

Now that a billion plus people hate our guts we're going to need it.

Recently I discovered an excellent blog called "History Unfolding". Stop by when you get a chance. The author recently made a persuasive case that just as we cordoned off Soviet Communism, we can isolate ourselves pretty well from the most rabid elements of the Islamic world. Hell, not even the most hysteria-prone right-wing ignoramus believes that the legions of the phantasmagorical Caliphate are going to occupy the States, right?

I don't think of myself as a right winger, but I don't think we can really isolate ourselves from the world. A few moderism hating Arabs sure, but the Muslim world is another thing altogether especially if they get their act together a little.

Let's see...Rumsey was advised before the invasion that it would take 500,000 troops to maintain a semblance of peace once Sadam was dethroned. Now that the insurgency and civil was has had three years to fully bloom, 20,000 on top of the existing 130,000 is going to succeed.

the solution to our problem is, throwing even more money to the same institutions?!?!?

I certainly agree with this, not only for the military, for the host of other government institutions that have failed to show significant success.

everything our military uses is efectively gold-plated

And you base this on what, exactly, because I've been working with military equipment for almost two full decades now and I have yet to locate a 'gold-plated' system.

Andrew- Practicaly every thing you touch. One example would be the HMMWV. Designed to replace the jeep as basic transport for the army it proved the adage about camels being horses designed by committee. Just in the other thread you were talking about half a mil per troop carriers. The standard in much of the world is a FWD toyota truck with a .50 cal machine gun in back.

The standard in much of the world is a FWD toyota truck with a .50 cal machine gun in back.

And you get .50-cal-in-the-back-of-a-Toyota performance, too.

I'm not defending the Hummer as such, because I have next to no familiarity with its cost and capabilities, but I'd guess that the Hummer can do things that would leave a Toyota broken in a ditch. And if you're concerned with up-armoring Hummers, you're cutting yourself off at the knees, here.

As for other systems: engineering is expensive. Designing hardware to survive battlefield and transport conditions is expensive. You're talking the equivalent of using VW microbuses as troop transports: it'd be cheap, with a bonus that it would also suck.

As a side note: once upon a time, military hardware actually was gold-plated. It turns out that connectors tend to work better if they're coated with a thin layer of gold; they don't corrode and don't form that pesky high-resistance oxide layer.

Now that higher-end home and car audio connections are all gold-plated, though, we don't hear that objection nearly as much. Shocking, really, to see it referred to again. And odd from the get-go that anyone would object to spending a few dollars in plating to make a high-dollar system more reliable.

I suppose we could make do with pickup trucks with machineguns mounted in the back. And we could get rid of the body armor, too; that stuff is pricey, and most of the rest of the world makes do without it.

But I'm going to go out on a limb here and argue that, were President Bush to announce massive defense savings by trimming all those 'gold-plated systems,' there would be some objections.

This is a frustrating topic, because the sheer magnitude of the ratio of what we spend on our military to what the entire rest of the world spends on its military suggests strongly that we have to be overspending somewhere. On the other hand, I haven't got anything like the expertise to figure out where.

(I suspect, ignorantly, that we waste a hell of a lot of money on boondoggles like Star Wars, and that more, better supplied, troops and less military spending are compatible. But the most important word in that prior sentence is the third one.)

Liz,

Unfortunately, troops are pricey. I really need to continue my series on the military, but suffice it to say for now that I think we would be better off trimming our current force and splitting the savings between better training and equipment and actual savings (i.e., just not spending the money at all).

I guess, but it's my understanding that the difference between our military spending and that of any other country in the world is insanely greater than you'd think if it were a pure matter of 'who's supporting more troops'. Something seems amiss.

But I really don't know what I'm talking about in any detail.

I suspect you're right there. While the difference between what we pay our soldiers and what the rest of the world pays soldiers is significant, I'm sure there's lot of other stuff in the defense budget that could bear scrutiny.

As for the whole Star Wars conversation, well, there's not all that much there. MDA has a total budget of about $9 billion annually. The amount of that that goes to the ground-based interceptor system up in Alaska (as well as at other locations) is more like $2 billion, with the rest going to systems like Aegis and THAAD (and supporting surveillance and tracking radar systems) that don't really fall into the "Star Wars" mold. Those are more theater and fleet defense systems, with a completely different target set than the ground-based interceptor system that's got people so upset.

I don't think there's any appreciable funds being spent on space-based systems, anymore, and the boost-phase laser systems aren't being funded at very high levels, either.

I think Star Wars isn't nearly as huge of an effort as you seem to think it is.

See my repeated statements of ignorance; see also my identification of Star Wars-like boondoggles. I really don't purport to know what I'm talking about; just noting that the ratio of money in to forces out seems weird, and that expensive projects that don't produce much of any useful result, rather than overpaying for equipment that actually gets used, seems as if it might explain it.

But I really, really don't either have or claim to have any detailed knowledge.

It is really wierd, granted. Probably it's too much, which is hard for me to say considering that these are the same funds that keep me employed. But I'd say that some intelligent reprioritizing of funding based on threats we're actually likely to face might save low double-digit percentage of R&D money.

Right now we've got two kinds of missile defense systems that are fielded or in the process of being fielded that I think are sensible WRT current needs. The GBI system, though, I would have shyed away from emplacing at present. Don't even get me started on what-do-we-have-to-show-for-it conversation, though, because I've seen way too much of the why, and it's not an answer many are going to like. Imagine if we'd gone to the moon with the inconsistency of commitment that missile defense enjoys (so to speak); we still wouldn't have been there.

Whether that's a bad thing is another conversation, but an independent one.

And no, I'm not going to name names on what I think could be cut. I do think taking out earmarks could have a significant impact on the odd items in military expenditures, though, which...well, TPMmuckraker has the goods.

Von, if we're just staying in Iraq until they can put "the next strongman" in place, we should pull out now. That is not a goal worth sacrificing even one American life for.
It's not worth sacrificing Iraqis, too, but at this point I don't think it's possible to save them, other than by allowing a lot more of them to escape to the USA (which I'm in favor of--it's the least we can do).
"Not much there", Slarti? Saving $9 bill a year may be peanuts in terms of the overall budget but it's still $9 billion. NOT inconsequential.
And a lot of money disappears down a rat-hole simply because the military doesn't keep track of it all.
I do think we need a huge discussion on what and how and where our money should go and what sort of military we need. Some systems and equipment, as Andrew pointed out, are worthwhile, but certainly not all of them are (and, of course, some may be good but not affordable).
To put it another way, what exactly do we want our military to do? We've seen how occupying another nation strains us to the brink--is this a one-in-a-million fluke event, or should we structure our planning around the possibility of doing it again? Do we need more linguists? Grunts? MPs? Counter-insurgency specialists? And how do we find the money?

Second sglover. Beyond the cost of 90,000 more combat troops (marines and soldiers)... What are we planning to do with them?

We should be figuring out how to lighten our military footprint around the globe, not deepen it.

Rice may have finally said something stupider

Her comments about no plan "B" brought back unpleasant memories of Vietnam. As much as I try to realize there are differences, deja vu continues to show up.

Does anyone else think that Bush just may not finish out his term? Republicans are not exactly falling all over themselves to support the surge, and if things continue to worsen they face a disastrous 2008 election.

Is it possible Bush could come under heavy pressure to resign, with additional maneuvering to get someone other than Cheney (Lugar?) into the Oval Office?

Just a touch of wild pre-weekend speculation.

"Does anyone else think that Bush just may not finish out his term?"

Bernard, from your lips to God's ears.

Does anyone else think that Bush just may not finish out his term?

As much as I'd like to dream, I don't think Congress will go to the bother of actually impeaching him. Getting him to resign remains an interesting (mostly from a psychological perspective) operation, but how would you get Cheney to also then resign? Not to mention the precedent. It seems to me it's just too high a hill to climb.

on the cost of our military:

this is pure unadulterated speculation, where facts are available, so this needs to be taken with about a pound of salt, but I see two areas where the US military is dramatically different from the rest of the world, even on a per capita basis --

initial research and a deep strike navy / air force.

Initial research -- Developing stealth tech. from scratch was really expensive, I bet. But once the ideas are out there, copycatting is much easier.

Deep strike -- how many carrier groups does the rest of the world have put together. 2? 3? How many nations have an airforce that can strike literally any point on the globe?
zero?

Does anyone else think that Bush just may not finish out his term? Republicans are not exactly falling all over themselves to support the surge, and if things continue to worsen they face a disastrous 2008 election.

I don't know if it's likely, but I think it is very possible It's a lot more possible than Beltway whiz kids, trained to prognosticate all the way to next Tuesday, like to credit. Dems (justifiably) loathe the son of a bitch, so he's got no good will chips to call in from them. Possibly more important are the symptoms of severe buyer's remorse that career GOP politicians are displaying with ever more frequency and volume.

While the administration's got to stonewall (so many of its members are unindicted felons), it's not too much of a stretch to imagine impeachment-worthy evidence emerging from investigations that are only now getting started. With that in hand, and prodded by fear for their own political futures as well as sincere dismay about the scary incompetence of Krewe Bush, a coalition capable of unseating the administration could crystallize.

I know all the arguments about how difficult impeachment or forced resignation is, but I don't think there's any question that this is the most incompetent and dangerous government we've seen in at least a century. Dire circumstances can often surprise.

it's not too much of a stretch to imagine impeachment-worthy evidence emerging from investigations that are only now getting started.

I tend to doubt this, if only because enough of the upper-echelon Republican leadership has dirty hands. You'd either need a serious schism in the GOP or immediate revisionism on a scale we've never seen (essentially a complete 180 on their existing revisionist positions). The cognitive whiplash of the latter would be too risky to chance, IMO.

everything our military uses is efectively gold-plated

It's funny, I was just thinking about this yesterday.

A couple of years ago I did some work for the Marines at their base in Quantico. It's basically a training and education facility, rather than a boot camp.

The facilities were perfectly fine, in the same way that your average suburban junior high school campus is just fine. Cinder block and brick buildings, standard issue business furniture in the offices, linoleum floors. All perfectly serviceable, nothing fancy whatsoever.

This is completely consistent with other experiences I've had when doing work for other military clients.

The US military fields some very sophisticated weapon systems, which cost a lot to engineer, build, and support. As far as the facilities provided for the average, and even more than average, serviceperson, they are perfectly serviceable, and nothing more than that.

Thanks -

I don't think a steady drip of bad news would do it. It would take something like a dramatic worsening in Iraq, or possibly some sort of corruption scandal directly involving Bush.

Still, some Republican Senators want to be President, and a fair number are up for reelection in 2008. The "I put country above party" stance may have some appeal. Besides, there are probably some, think Trent Lott, who don't love Bush. One or two calls for resignation might snowball.

"Does anyone else think that Bush just may not finish out his term?"

I would give odds. Hey, cackling and waving my cane, I was around for Watergate and Nixon was one tough SOB. When the staff is crying and the press sneers during news conferences and Presidents of Albania and Lichtenstein look like they pity you and the wife is locked in her room with the dog, tv, and a bottle...

...you pull a Cincinnatus and understand the Union will persevere without you.

russell- Yeah I should have said equipment there, although working facilities sometimes quallify. The place I worked had an artificial hill shoveled over it to eliminate electronic emissions.

Slarti- I was aware of the usage of the word.

Andrew- See above. I don't want you going into combat without body armor, but I would like it if America could afford to equip a mass citizen army. Obvously we couldn't do that with the toys you get even if the Chinese were willing to lend us the money.

Lizardbreath- Basicly the problem is that our stuff is several times as good as what everyone else has but costs about 100 times as much, that more than the boondoggles is why the budget is so big.

short of a complete nervous breakdown, i just don't see "resigning" as something Bush would do. it's just not his personality - he's the kind of guy who seems like he'd enjoy fighting it out till the absolute end, no matter what kind of havoc the battle caused. stepping down in shame is not his style. no, i think we're stuck with him for another 2 years.

i just hope the rest of the world gives us a chance to redeem ourselves, after he's gone.

i just hope the rest of the world gives us a chance to redeem ourselves, after he's gone.

New Zealand is a nice place.

The facilities [at Quantico] were perfectly fine, in the same way that your average suburban junior high school campus is just fine. Cinder block and brick buildings, standard issue business furniture in the offices, linoleum floors. All perfectly serviceable, nothing fancy whatsoever.

Did you go the the PX? It's pretty damned good.

I talked with my son, an operations planner for the 4th brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, this afternoon - he couldn't tell me specifics, but from what he did say (and here i'm reading between the lines), they are looking at full brigade deployment within weeks - first or second week in march, at most.

(What he actually told me was, "I've got A word, but we are not yet allowed to share it." But they have put aside a scheduled National Training Center period in early march, which means they are deploying.

Point of information - since orders take literally weeks to filter down to his level, this means senior units have been preparing orders for at least three weeks. This means the Bush Administration knew what was going to happen at least by mid-December. I guess I knew it, but so much for Bush 'listening' to all sides, eh?)

And the plan? 75,000 soldiers (including the 16,000 man 'surge') will go into action in Baghdad (Sadr city) and at least 5,000 marines will go into Anbar province, all of them into actual heavy combat - the absolute worst kind of combat - they will be shot at by both sides of a civil war, never knowing who is friend or foe.

They are going with inadequate equipment (held together with spit and bailing wire), not properly prepared or trained, and with non-specific, completely inadequate mission orders.

Although i have admiration for General Petraeus, new commander of the Iraqi ground forces, he is being asked to perform a anti-insurrection miracle. (Let me make this clear, I hope and pray he can do it, with a minimum loss of life.)

But my suspicion is, they won't come home until President Bush is out of office.

So within four months, we will have every available combat unit in Baghdad or Anbar province. we will have abandoned Afganistan to the Taliban and Al-qaeda, leaving the true source of islamic terror in the world almost completely unfettered. Can you spell quagmire?

Our air force support is stretched to the limit, the planes without adequate parts or mechanics. And the Navy is being asked to deploy an aircraft carrier task force that is also not really ready to go.

We have spent 400 billion dollars to accomplish nothing but the sad hanging of a pathetic, rag-tag dictator.

And what will we do when this attempt fails? No one knows.

Today, Senator Hagel, a conservative republican, said that it will take 75 billion dollars to bring the military to position of full readiness. And that's only if we stopped combat operations today. Where will we be in two years? I shudder to think.

Even the Republicans are buffaloed - they know that Bush is destroying their party and their hopes, but they don't know what to do. In my opinion, we are being led by a mad man - completely wrapped in his ego, and no one knows how to stop him.

The question's been asked before, only now it's a generation later. 'Who gets to be the last man to die for a mistake?'

With the easy arrogance and careless grin gone, our commander-in-chief looked like an overprivileged, underperforming frat boy who had finally, at long last, been called to ask.

Congratulations, it only took you six years to realize the obvious.

And we should, after five years wasted, expand the military so that it can protect us.

Protect us from what?

Last time I checked, there was an Ocean to our east, one to our west, a small country to our north(30 million inhabitants) who is our largest trading partner and our ally and another country to our south who' s government is less than stable, who's economy is barely able to function with out our economic aid.

Because we will need it, and dearly.

For what?

All those nukes that we have produced over the last fifty years have cost us a pretty penny

A four-year study of newly declassified Pentagon documents, released yesterday by the Brookings Institute, looked at the expenditures of producing and deploying nuclear explosives over the past 5 1/2 decades with current spending on the arsenal at about $35 billion annually, or roughly 15 percent of the total defense budget.

Since the birth of the atomic weapons program in 1940, a total of $5.5 trillion was spent through 1996, the Washington think tank reports. That is 29 percent of all U.S. military spending and almost 11 percent of all government spending through the 52 years.

Even the Republicans are buffaloed - they know that Bush is destroying their party and their hopes, but they don't know what to do. In my opinion, we are being led by a mad man - completely wrapped in his ego, and no one knows how to stop him.

Really, it's simple...

Impeach the bastard & his deputy and send them both to the Hague to face charges of Crimes against Humanity

Just for the record: You'd have to send them to Belgium or Germany I think. The ICC in the Hague only deals with parties that signed the treaty (and only for crimes commited *after* that date, and only for crimes not being investigated by the country of origin. Impeachment would probabely allready get them of the hook if they had signed a few years ago) and I the US would veto an international tribune...

Apart from the fact that the US actually has a law that allows them to invade the Hague, afaik without any further need for congressional approval. It is really nice to have the US as an ally.

(Somewhat) OT: This Grauniad article on the shifting focus and tactics of the Sunni insurgency is well worth checking out. Note the growing discontent with al-Qaida's US-centred approach to jihad.

So not one more nickel for the army, until somebody produces a cogent answer to the question, "What for?"

I actually think there are very good places for additional military spending to go. Better pay for low-ranking servicepeople, and/or support for their families. A return of something like the G.I. Bill, which I understand Webb has already introduced. Medical and psychological support for service people who are re-entering civilian life. Vocational training and job placement for service people re-entering civilian life.

Folks often give up a lot to serve. They really do deserve our support. I know you weren't arguing to the contrary, I just wanted to point out that some of the kinds of things I've mentioned are currently less well funded than they really ought to be.

On the topic of why the US spends so much on the military:

One thing is that we rely to a great degree on the technical excellence of our weapon systems as compared to other nations. We are committed to maintaining absolute and unchallengeable technical superiority, which is a very expensive proposition. I don't have a good sense of whether that is an effective strategy, cost wise or otherwise, but it is part of our strategy at the moment.

Another is that the procurement model is often based on custom, purpose-built goods provided through exclusive, single source contracts. For some things this is appropriate -- there is (thankfully) no civilian market for surface to air missiles. For other things -- basic operational software systems, general purpose electronics, some kinds of vehicles -- plain old off the shelf stuff would be fine, and a lot cheaper.

My answer to your question though is: Universal Adulthood Conscription.

I'm not sure if universal conscription is a good idea or not, but I do think that a purely professional army, drawn from a relatively small cross section of the population, is something to be concerned about.

Spreading the risk and personal cost associated with going to war across a broad base of the population is a very effective brake against military adventurism.

Did you go the the PX? It's pretty damned good.

No, I was there to support a computer-based training exercise. Never made it to the PX.

Thanks -

"For some things this is appropriate -- there is (thankfully) no civilian market for surface to air missiles."

? Actually, there's an extremely lucrative worldwide market for them.

It's not legal in many places, but that's entirely different from whether it's civilian.

Actually, there's an extremely lucrative worldwide market for them.

Quite so, and worth noting.

I guess my point was that, for things like SAMs, there is not the kind of broadly-based industrial and consumer market that there is for some other other things I mentioned.

That kind of general use commercial market allows manufacturers to spread the cost of production across a larger market than they can for more specialized items, which keeps the cost down.

this President -- with his unblemished record of hubris, error, and sheer stupidity -- has wholly lost my confidence.

With the easy arrogance and careless grin gone, our commander-in-chief looked like an overprivileged, underperforming frat boy who had finally, at long last, been called to ask.

The funny thing here is that all of the qualities von, correctly, ascribes to Bush -- the arrogance, the air of entitlement, the couldn't-care-less smirk, the lifelong inability to recognize or accept responsibility for mistakes, the proud, willful, know-nothing ignorance of issues crucial to his job, the inability to articulate a coherent thought in a plain English sentence, and the irritation and impatience with anyone who asks him to do so -- are exactly the things that so many of his supporters love him for.

I'm not talking about policy issues, I'm talking about the bizarre cult of personality that's grown up around Bush. They love him. He's their kind of guy.

I just don't know what to make of that.

Thanks -

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad