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Tue Dec 11, 2012, 08:26 AM

Barney Frank: The New Mandate on Defense

The New Mandate on Defense

No, it’s not to spend more—it’s to spend less, and liberals should not flinch from that position.

Barney Frank

There were so many encouraging signs for liberals in the election results this year that one of the most significant has been overlooked. For the first time in my memory, a Democratic candidate for President argued for less military spending against a Republican candidate who called for great increases—and the Democrat won <...> I have been greatly frustrated in the conversation about the need to do long-term deficit reduction by the extent to which establishment opinion focuses on “entitlements”—namely efforts to provide decent means of support for Americans in our retirement years—as a major cause of the deficit, and ignores the extremely large contribution made to this problem by military expenditures that are far beyond any rational assessment of our national security.

A Changed World

In the past few years, with President Obama having completed the withdrawal from Iraq, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and with the announcement of a plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 (too late, but an improvement over the open-ended commitment Obama inherited), it has become possible to get some political traction for our efforts to cut military spending. Because so much of that spending stems from overreach advocated by those who believe that America should be the enforcer of order everywhere in the world—and because we subsidize our wealthy European and Asian allies by providing a defense for them so they need not spend much on their own—there has been increasing conservative support for reining in the military budget...Earlier this year, for the first time that I can recall, a majority of the House of Representatives voted to reduce the military appropriation recommended by the House Appropriations Committee. The cut was only $1.1 billion—less than it should have been—but it was a decision that froze spending at the previous year’s level, and it passed by a vote of 247-167, with the support of both an overwhelming majority of Democrats (158-21) and a significant minority of Republicans (89-146).

Deficit reduction over the long term must include significant reductions in military spending along with tax increases on the very wealthy if we are to avoid devastating virtually everything we do to promote the quality of life at home. A realistic reassessment of our true national security needs would mean a military budget significantly lower not only than the one President Obama inherited, but that which he now proposes. That is, by next year, we no longer should be forced to spend additional funds—close to $200 billion a year at their peak—in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, we can reduce the base budget by approximately $1 trillion over a ten-year period (this includes the $487 billion reduction that President Obama proposed in early 2012) while maintaining more than enough military strength to fully protect our security and those of our allies that genuinely need help because they are too poor and weak in the face of powerful enemies. (Should the nation decide in a democratic way to go to war again, that would require an increase in the military budget, and I would hope, in taxation to pay for it.)

Getting the military budget down to that level—which would mean a reduction of about $250 billion from what it was in the first year of the Obama Administration—faced two obstacles at the beginning of this past year. First was the traditional political concern that the Republican presidential candidate would have an advantage over the Democrat on the question of who can better protect our national security. Fortunately, Obama understood that things have changed, and that the American people are ready for a reduction in military spending. Governor Romney, operating in the traditional conservative mode, missed it. One of the most important signs that the public was ready to support a rational—i.e., significantly reduced—military budget came during Clint Eastwood’s ramble at the Republican National Convention. One of the few coherent things he said in that memorable debate that he lost to a chair was that the President should have announced his willingness to pull out of Afghanistan altogether. This criticism of the President from an antiwar position elicited cheers from the Republican delegates.

- more -

http://www.democracyjournal.org/26/the-new-mandate-on-defense.php?page=all


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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 08:32 AM

1. Take care of our soldiers and veterans,

nix a lot of the new toys and other military hardware.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 08:42 AM

2. The arc of the British Empire and our own are depressingly similar....

Last edited Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:07 AM - Edit history (1)

Military enforced "stability" allows some to make much more money by exporting industry to cheaper labor markets....until the impoverishment of the Home Country forces the withdrawal of said military.

We're in our Gladstone era.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:20 AM

3. Tell me again why we need 200 bases around the world.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #3)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:22 AM

4. Tell me again why 80% of our military goes to protecting multinational corps that don't pay a dime

in US taxes to pay for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines that enable them to extract resources from less powerful people all over the world.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #4)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:58 AM

5. Where did you get the 80% figure, BlueStreak?

If you have a credible source, I'd like to use it when discussing the justification of major military spending cuts with my friends and relatives who never met a military spending hike they didn't like, while at the same time, keep harping about those entitlement programs that they argue are what's breaking the bank.

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Response to bulloney (Reply #5)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:05 AM

6. They're not "entitlement" programs, they're EARNED BENEFITS....

....maybe you should try making that point the next time you talk with your friends and relatives.

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Response to OldDem2012 (Reply #6)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:17 AM

8. OK, but back to my original question: Where did the 80% figure come from?

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Response to bulloney (Reply #8)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:15 PM

13. Just curious, but what do you think drives US Foreign Policy? What US interests are being....

....protected overseas by the US Military, if not those of our major multinational corporations?

How much of our military is actually assigned to protect the US coastline and the common borders with Mexico and Canada? How many bases do we maintain overseas and where? How many US fleets are operating in waters close to other countries as opposed to operating close to the US?

I could go on, but I think I've made my point.

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Response to OldDem2012 (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 14, 2012, 04:10 PM

15. I understand all of that OldDem.

I'm as fed up as anyone on how much the U.S. spends on military to protect things on behalf of multi-national corporations who should be footing the bill themselves.

But, when I'm in discussions, I like to attribute my talking points to sound sources in order for me to win the argument. I'm funny that way.

All I want to know is where did the 80% figure come from? Is it a credible figure from a credible source or did it get pulled out of someone's butt?

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Response to bulloney (Reply #5)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:36 AM

9. The U.S.

 

does not need all that military spending just to defend the United States. We are calling other things our interests, like nation building and spreading Democracy in places that never had it. Why should we pay for the army of Afghanistan and fight for them too? It has been ten to twelve years and our Generals, as well as the American media, claims these forces aren't even trained yet. Hell, it only took me 6-8 weeks to go through Basic training. And the mercenaries they are training, know how to fight better than some of our troops.

This installed President Karzai was one of the commanders of the groups fighting against the Taliban before the U.S. even invaded Afghanistan. These Generals, like Petraeus and McCrystal pulled the wool over the American peoples' faces and so are those in Government. Go back and see who assisted the U.S. when Afghanistan was originally invaded and the Taliban was kicked out. It was other Afghan fighting forces aligned with Karzai and a former leader that Bin Laden and the Taliban assasinated. So the idea these people are not trained and don't know how to fight is deceiving. The American public needs to start using some common sense. We need to get out of all these places and stop calling them our national interests. Especially with a country, that is the biggest nuclear power in the World. There is no country in the World can invade the U.S. and hold it.

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Response to bulloney (Reply #5)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:28 AM

12. You can derive this number.

I don't know if it is 70% or 80%to be precise, but it is certainly in that ballpark. I offer you two simple ways to get at that.

1) Compare what we spend to others. Why do we spend so much more? Is our geography particularly hard to defend? Actually, no. We have vast oceans on the east and west and friendly neighbors on the north and south. Maybe one could argue we should spend twice what the UK or France spends, but they are much closer to the biggest threats. If we spent double France or the UK, that would be about $200Bn a year. But we spend WAY more than that, and that isn't even counting the CIA budget that is secret and immense.



2) Look at HOW we use our military. When was the last time we employed our military to defend Americans in America? The Civil War, I guess. The Spanish-American war was somewhat close to home, but still was about imperialism and expansionism, largely for the benefit of a few wealthy people. I would stipulate that WWII was in defense of Americans and the existence of our country. But everything else in the last 100 years has mostly been for the benefit of the wealthy. And most recently, our force has mostly been used for the benefit of multinational corporations that have no particular connection to America and pay little or no taxes here. Why are we paying for that? Shell and BP want us to stabilize the big oil regions, they ought to pay for that.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #4)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 03:06 PM

14. Exactly

Although I have no idea if that 80% figure is real (let us know if you get back to this thread), the point you're making is correct. (edit to add that I hadn't seen your newer post above, which discusses the 80% figure, so never mind).

Our military is really "protecting", or "enabling", the global economy, at least the international trade aspects of it. Strange that, while many nations participate in this system, it's the U.S. taxpayer who gets stuck with the "defense" bill that apparently props up the whole system.

This defense burden is either unnecessary (my opinion), or is needed and its cost should be shared by all nations.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:13 AM

7. Drug rep vet.

Back when the first coffins were coming back from Iraq, I was at a doctors lunch sponsored by a drug company( I was filming a doc) anyway, the rep was a veteran from the Clinton era and was complaining about how far the military fell into disrepair during his years controlling the budget.

I pointed out:

A, we ramped back up pretty fast.
B, we were still the largest military.
and
C, Bush was not letting the returning coffins be viewed, which I argued was politically expedient for him, and disrespectful to the fallen.

He retorted that Bush was the one being respectful to which I quoted the relevant part of The Gettysburg Address. And that shut him up.

Please please, let's chop military spending.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:13 AM

10. When Mitch McConnell speaks of "entitlements," why is he entitled to have military bases in Kentucky

 

Is there no pork in his State that can be cut?

And why, exactly, is the Obama Administration totally disinterested in doing so?

If Obama is taking steps that will impoverish or further impoverish Blue States by following policies to continue to ship and maintain jobs in foreign countries, why can't he even say that he wants to transfer military bases from Red States to the Blue States?

Before anyone says that he is not taking steps that will impoverish Blue States, just look at what he has done. During his 2008 campaign, he said that revising NAFTA was a major plank in his campaign efforts. But after being elected, he then reneged on that. Then he subsequently signed three let's-send-even-more-jobs-to-foreign-countries "free trade" agreements. At the present time, his Administration is involved with the negotiations of the TPP (with the terms that are generally secret from even Congress) which will further benefit international corporations to the determent of what is left of the American middle-class.

It is time to start shutting down the military bases. Start with Mitch McConnell's State. Or at least start talking about it.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:15 AM

11. Poor American people have more pressing issues than defending other countries.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Fri Dec 14, 2012, 04:24 PM

16. Things have indeed changed and it's far past time to get this noose from around our neck.

 

Our military has not been about defending this nation for well over a century. If the corporations want the military to defend them, they can certainly afford to pay for it.

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