Monday, February 13, 2012

An Uncommon Defense

Although I’m a proponent of a strong national defense, I don’t regard the military budget as just another jobs bill. Many members of Congress view defense spending as an aspect of pork-barrel-as-usual, and vote accordingly. As a fiscal hawk, I oppose that frame of mind.


Under the current wave of budget cuts mandated by the Obama administration, the Defense Department has already taken a massive hit. Since Congress couldn’t agree on a budget, a new series of automatic cuts — known on the Hill as “sequestration” — is set to kick in. By the time the axe finishes falling, our national defense may see a further reduction of 18%.

If this were part of an across-the-board cut for the whole of the federal government, I wouldn’t raise a fuss. But it isn’t: the defense budget took a hugely disproportionate hit during the first round of cuts, so that by the time sequestration runs its course, our military will be gutted.

Social spending, however, is facing a much more modest reduction. Health and Human Services and the Department of the Interior are not taking as big a hit. And recent reports indicate that the budget for the Department of Homeland Security will actually be increased.

In effect, the president has drained the blood from our national defense and used it to give a transfusion to ACORN and the SEIU.

In other words, business as usual for the Obama White House.

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On February 1, 2012, the Center for Security Policy hosted a panel discussion and press conference in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, under the auspices of the Coalition for the Common Defense. The panel topic was “The Security and Economic Implications of Defense Spending Cuts”.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who serves on the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, was one of the panel participants. He spoke extensively about the danger posed by Iran, and the potential devastating effects of severe cuts in the military budget. Below are some excerpts from his remarks:

The Coalition for the Common Defense has just launched a new website with an extensive breakdown of the effect that reductions in the defense budget will have on localities throughout the country. According to a CSP press release:
With the President’s recent announcement of a new strategic direction for the defense of the United States and the impending release on February 13 of the 2013 defense budget, American communities need to prepare for the losses in jobs and revenues from defense budget cuts.

Panelists discussed the alarming effects of the administration’s proposed defense cuts on America’s ability to confront and defeat aggression in an increasingly dangerous world.

Additionally, the Center for Security Policy has rolled out a new educational resource, the “Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Reports,” with summary reports for all states and territories, and online reports that show the effects of defense cuts on states, counties, cities, business types (ethnic/minority/women/veteran), congressional districts, and industries.

The reports are part of a broader 2012 initiative, the Coalition for the Common Defense, to educate and engage the American public on the importance of maintaining a strong national defense.

At last week’s event, Frank Gaffney, the President of CSP, made a few remarks before introducing the Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Reports:

For more information, and to see the Defense Breakdown reports, visit the Coalition for the Common Defense.

Former congressman Fred Grandy, also of CSP, talked to KT McFarland on FOX News last week about the effect of the proposed defense cuts, as detailed in the Coalition for the Common Defense reports.

See for yourself: the Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Reports.

The information is the reports refers to both contractor location and the “place of performance” — that is, where the contract was carried out. The second set of reports is further subdivided by Weapon System, Product or Service, and Contracting Office, and broken out by city and county for each state.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading these videos. The original 28-minute video from CSP is here.


Chiu ChunLing said...

I'm actually disposed to regard the dismantling of the United States national military capabilities as being a positive development (though the probable expansion of DHS is certainly cause for concern, if not outrage).

My outlook on the issue of "the common defence" is heavily shaped by the emphasis that the Constitution places on restricting centralized military establishments in favor of reliance on the Militia, which was then understood to mean all the armed citizens organized under their own authority, outside of the direct control of or dependence on any organ of government.

Certainly the provision and maintenance of national navel forces is permitted by the Constitution, and there is only slight reference to the use of private vessels for military operations. The reverse situation applies to land forces, with the Militia being mentioned numerous times as essential to the defense of the nation while severe restrictions are placed on the maintenance of troops by any level of government.

And the fact that the Obama administration is seeking to dismantle the national military tells me some things that are good to know.

First, it tells me what my gut and hope indicated already, that Obama cannot trust the majority of American military servicemen to support or execute his agenda of totalitarian subjugation of of the United States (the potential expansion of DHS, on the other hand...). This is more than a minor cause for having optimism about the potential for America to survive the coming economic collapse without being turned into a working military dictatorship. Obama's plans for imposing a police state are going to have to depend on the civilian enforcement agencies rather than having the might of the U.S. military behind them. And it isn't like Obama is in a good position to carry out a political purge and reduce the military in a way that leaves a hard core willing to implement his agenda. The deep cuts he's inflicting are offensive to the careerist military bureaucrats that are the main source of cooperation he's able to extract from the military establishment.

It also helps increase the receptiveness of those currently enmeshed in the consolidated national military paradigm to thinking about the common defense in terms of the form recommended by the Constitution (which they have sworn to support and defend).

And as the global economy slide into the abyss, the willingness of the United States to reduce its capability to project force across the globe reduces the risk of being drawn into a critical military conflict with China on unfavorable terms.

True, these observations are more of the "glass not entirely empty" variety. But in times like this, finding reasons for hope is the main antidote to despair.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

babs said...

The overwhelming bulk of commerce transports over the seas. Would you rather the Chinese control this commerce or the United States?
This is an honest question that I have asked myself many times.
The Europeans certainly couldn't do it so, who else?

Chiu ChunLing said...

I doubt that the Founding Fathers really considered the question of global navel dominance, but their answer is unambiguous in the Constitution...the size and mission of the national Navy is not anywhere limited, and Congress has full powers to regulate and enforce the law of the high seas.

This is why I made a point of distinguishing the navel forces from the land forces, as the Constitution does this and there are clear reasons for it.

Of course, I would rather that no single nation controlled all maritime commerce and law. But if there cannot be substantial agreement among several nations interested in a given set of lanes of commerce, then I would rather that the U.S. interests prevail to the extent possible. Unfortunately, the practical realities of modern war render many past ideas based on the range of land-based guns in the 18th century irrelevant. That is to say, the Chinese want their "territorial waters" to be defined more according to what they could interdict with cheap land-based cruise missiles...and contesting that untraditional (from the vantage of the West) assertion could be a losing proposition given that the Chinese really do seem to have ample supplies of the missiles in question.

While it is Constitutional to spend as much on the Navy as we can afford...we cannot any longer afford it and it would be imprudent to unilaterally attempt to enforce navel superiority within range of China-based cruise missiles if the Chinese should happen to object.

Not that I would object to finding some realistic way of countering Chinese assertions about their territorial waters enclosing the land area of so many other nations. But it would also be good to recognize that China doesn't have much capability of projecting navel power far beyond the reach of their land-based military, and thus we are not talking about ceding entirely all questions of maritime commerce.

Ultimately, there is something to be said for having an economy that can sustain itself without the absolute necessity of maritime commerce through militarily contested areas. Maintaining such an economy is one of the proper uses of the power to enact duties and imposts. If the viability of a trade route depends on providing military force to protect it, then the tariffs on trade through that route should reflect that.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Anonymous said...

"The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitan War or the Barbary Coast War, was the first of two wars fought between the United States and the Northwest African Berber Muslim states known collectively as the Barbary States. These were Tripoli and Algiers, which were quasi-independent entities nominally belonging to the Ottoman Empire, and (briefly) the independent Sultanate of Morocco."

"The war stemmed from the Barbary pirates’ attacks upon American merchant shipping in an attempt to extort ransom for the lives of captured sailors, and ultimately tribute from the United States to avoid further attacks, much like their standard operating procedure with the various European states.[1] Before the Treaty of Paris, which granted America’s independence from Great Britain, American shipping was protected by France during the Revolutionary years under the Treaty of Alliance (1778–83). Although the treaty does not mention the Barbary States in name, it refers to common enemies between both the U.S. and France, which would include the Barbary States or pirates in general. As such, piracy against American shipping only began to occur after the end of the American Revolution, when the U.S. government lost its protection under the Treaty of Alliance."

"The U.S. paid Algiers the ransom, and continued to pay up to $1 million per year over the next 15 years for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. Payments in ransom and tribute to the privateering states amounted to 20% of the U.S. government's annual revenues in 1800."

"On Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the new administration. (In 1800, Federal revenues totaled a little over $10 million.) Putting his long-held beliefs into practice, Jefferson refused the demand. Consequently, on May 10, 1801, the Pasha declared war on the U.S., not through any formal written documents but in the customary Barbary manner of cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate.[15] Algiers and Tunis did not follow their ally in Tripoli."

"...Jefferson sent a small force to the area to protect American ships and citizens against potential aggression, but insisted that he was 'unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.'"

Anonymous said...

"Although Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of armed American vessels to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli 'and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify.'"

"In 1802, in response to Jefferson's request for authority to deal with the pirates, Congress passed 'An act for the Protection of Commerce and seamen of the United States against the Tripolitan cruisers', authorizing the President to '…employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite… for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas.'[16] 'The statute authorized American ships to seize vessels belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, with the captured property distributed to those who brought the vessels into port.'"

"Wearied of the blockade and raids, and now under threat of a continued advance on Tripoli proper and a scheme to restore his deposed older brother Hamet Karamanli as ruler, Yussif Karamanli signed a treaty ending hostilities on June 10, 1805."

"In agreeing to pay a ransom of $60,000 for the American prisoners, the Jefferson administration drew a distinction between paying tribute and paying ransom. At the time, some argued that buying sailors out of slavery was a fair exchange to end the war."

"However, the more immediate problem of Barbary piracy was not fully settled. By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking American ships and seamen hostage. Distracted by the preludes to the War of 1812, the U.S. was unable to respond to the provocation until 1815, with the Second Barbary War, in which naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the U.S."

First Barbary War


Chiu ChunLing said...

The example of the Barbary wars, fought as they were close to the adoption of the Constitution and presided over by men both eminently qualified to interpret it and clearly dedicated to upholding it in every particular possible, do serve as a vital example for what exactly the Constitution means for similar situations today.

Unfortunately, the situation with respect to China is not similar to the situation with the pirates of the Mediterranean. While the Constitutional issues might not be far different, the pertinent military and geopolitical elements are a different matter entirely.

The exact best solution is difficult to know without access to specific intelligence information to which I (very rightly) am not privy. Given a certain set of conditions, the proper course would be to bolster the military capabilities of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (in roughly that order) by authorizing transfers of advanced military technology (certainly not for free, or even very much discounted). Given other, somewhat different (and, I fear, more probable) conditions, this would be a disastrous policy.

In either case, while the U.S. Navy should certainly continue to support security of commerce in the region, it would be incumbent on the major neighbors of China to make significant military contributions towards protecting their own commercial interests. How much trade could continue, and on what terms, would necessarily be dependent on the situation that could be thus maintained.

Commercial contact with China would necessarily be drastically curtailed in recognition of their evident design to subjugate the region and eventually deny the U.S. any substantial economic access to it. Continued sabotage of the balance of the U.S. economy should no longer be tolerated. Naturally, such moves would need to be combined with domestic policy best calculated to remove regulatory obstacles to economic growth in the U.S., particularly with regard to manufacturing and industry. If the U.S. economy seemed internally weak enough for a severe loss of international confidence in the dollar to be crippling, then an assertive stance would only encourage Beijing to precipitate such a crisis.

It isn't possible to have direct access to the data to be entirely sure of the exact situation, but I trust the evident assessment of the Chinese (as shown by their recent actions) far more than the various promises being made by the cowardly traitors who currently hold sway in American politics. The Chinese now probably hold nearly all the other trumps, even if the U.S. still holds the Ace and King of spades.

Chiu Chun-Ling.