Richard Holbrooke's comments on reconciliation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, made during the recent Munich Security Conference, echoed earlier remarks by U.N. officials and American military commanders in Kabul that suggest that diplomacy might be coming alive on the Afghan front. This could be true despite, or in coordination with, a new NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan. For it to succeed, however, it has three enormous obstacles to overcome.
The tea-party crews don’t rail against Pentagon giveaways, nor do Massachusetts voters grumble about them. Unfettered Pentagon budgets pass in the tick-tock of a Washington clock and no one seems fazed when the Wall Street Journal reveals that military aides accompanying globe-hopping parties of congressional representatives regularly spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on snacks, drinks, and other “amenities” for them, even while, like some K Street lobbying outfit, promoting their newest weaponry. Think of it, in financial terms, as Pentagon peanuts shelled out for actual peanuts, and no one gives a damn. ... read more »
Actually, the president’s 2009 budget is way out of balance, throwing money at the military and on feared future terrorist threats while shortchanging the everyday security needs of the American people. The budget cuts homeland security grants to state and local governments by 48 percent — a whopping $2 billion. That includes a 79 percent cut in the largest state homeland security grant program, a 60 percent cut to firefighters, a 56 percent cut to transit security grants, and a 48 percent reduction to port security grants. Plus, the office that investigates waste, fraud and abuse in the Department of Homeland Security is being cut $7 million.
If the administration was really focused on homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security, with a proposed 6.8 percent budget increase, to more than $50 billion — would be able to adequately fund programs for first responders who are not only at the front lines of reacting to a disaster, but are at the first lines of prevention as well. The administration would also fund the dozens of other initiatives — from crime-prevention programs at the Department of Justice to youth programs at the Department of Education — that contribute to making our nation safer but whioh have been given the cold shoulder by conservative government.read more »
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is departing from the State Department on her own terms and with a formidable legacy intact. Given that Clinton, no matter what she decides about 2016, will undoubtedly remain an influential figure in American public life for years to come, one might have expected her long-time detractors, who have been trying for more than 20 years to trip her up, to land some solid blows to her widely admired reputation for leadership on the global stage. Instead, we've been treated to salvos that were silly, at best; and on the one potentially serious issue raised, the Fox News-initiated and Mitt Romney-fortified Benghazi craze, all the attacks fell flat.
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Ten years ago, Katharine Gun, then a 28-year-old British intelligence officer, saw an e-mailed memo from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that confirmed for her in black and white the already widespread suspicion that the U.S. and U.K. were about to launch war against Iraq on false pretenses. Doing what she could to head off what she considered, correctly, an illegal war of aggression, she printed a copy of the memo and arranged for a friend to give it to the London Observer. Those early months of 2003 were among the worst of times – and not just because the U.S. and U.K. leaders were perverting the post-World War II structure that those same nations designed to stop aggressive wars, but because the vast majority of U.S. and U.K. institutions including the major news organizations and the nations’ legislatures were failing miserably to provide any meaningful check or balance.read more »
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The upcoming presidential debate on foreign policy will undoubtedly feature warnings from Republican candidate Mitt Romney that defense spending cuts from the Obama administration will compromise the nation's ability to defend itself.
Written with Michael Winship.
Matt Sitton knew the war in Afghanistan was going badly. He knew it because he was fighting it. He could see for himself. Twenty-six years old, with a wife and child back home, Staff Sergeant Sitton was on his third combat tour there.
To those still wondering if Romney might be a kinder, gentler foreign policy president, think again:
Yesterday we noted that Mitt Romney, down in the polls after the convention, was throwing the kitchen sink at President Obama. Little did we know the kitchen sink would include -- on the anniversary of 9/11 -- one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out) incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign . Last night after 10:00 pm ET, Romney released a statement on the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya. After saying he was “outraged” by these attacks and the death of an American consulate worker, Romney said, “It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Yet after learning every piece of new information about those attacks, the Romney statement looks worse and worse -- and simply off-key. First, Romney was referring to a statement that the U.S. embassy in Egypt issued condemning the “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” But that embassy statement, which the White House has distanced itself from, was in reference to an anti-Islam movie and anti-Islam pastor Terry Jones, and it came out BEFORE the embassy attacks began. Then this morning, we learned that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and others died in one of the attacks.
He doubled down this morning, anyway: read more »
The author is the Director of Public Policy for POGO (Project On Government Oversight) read more »
I wrote a bit about the Chris Hayes flap over a Mother Jones earlier. I think he was perfectly respectful and thoughtful as always and that his point was well taken. But his apology opened up a new topic that I think is worth exploring.read more »
I can't tell you the number of focus groups I've watched and polls I read where the overwhelming opinion was that federal spending could be cut without any decrease in the quantity and quality of what the government does.
Hell...As I posted about in 2010, even the recommendation from the co-chairs of the Bowles-Simpson commission -- who definitely should have known better -- proposed a reduction in the number of federal employees and the number of consultants but, presumably based on the assumption that the government wouldn't have to stop doing anything it was already doing, didn't suggest any activity be eliminated.
That's why this story in The Washington Post from several days ago caught my eye. The Defense Department has decided that what since the 1950s has been an annual show for the public at Andrews Air Force Base (now officially Joint Base Andrews) in suburban Maryland will now be held every other year. The savings are projected to be $2.1 million a year. read more »
One year ago, the enemy that had haunted America for nearly a decade met his end in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to the United States because of President Obama's leadership and strong national security policies. Good intelligence practices and surgical counterterrorism operations enabled us to kill 20 of al Qaeda's top 30 leaders, including bin Laden. This is an accomplishment by any measure.
We have diminished al Qaeda's strength, so for the sake of our economic and national security, we should decrease our military presence and bring our troops home from Afghanistan as soon as is safely possible.
The American people agree. According to the latest New York Times/CBS poll, more than two-thirds of Americans think that the United States should no longer be at war in Afghanistan.