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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
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Jeff Danziger: Your Very Own Assault Weapon


Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jan 19, 2013, 08:30 AM (3 replies)

The Pentagon’s Frankensteins


The F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship are increasingly troubled, according to a new report.

The Pentagon’s Frankensteins
By Michael Auslin
January 18, 2013 4:00 A.M.

Despite a two-month reprieve from sequestration, the Pentagon is still bracing for severe budget cuts of up to half a trillion dollars, which will come on top of $487 billion already cut from its planned spending over the next ten years.

But money woes are not the only challenges facing the Department of Defense. A recent report from the military’s chief evaluation officer should set off alarms about how America buys complex weapons systems. In fact, the Pentagon is gambling a large chunk of the military’s future on weapons programs that are struggling.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was designed to replace the current fighters used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. For the first time, all three major air arms of the U.S. military would share a common platform, each using its own variant. Once the Obama administration had killed the stealthy F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter went from being its complement to being its replacement. The large number of F-35s expected to be built — approximately 2,400 across all three services — is meant to make up in quantity what the fighter lacked in quality compared with the F-22. Development of the F-35 has become the costliest procurement program in the Pentagon’s history, at $400 billion and growing.

The program has been hobbled by numerous delays. Last week, the Pentagon’s chief test and evaluation officer, David Gilmore, sent his annual report to Congress. In it, he underscored the program’s “lack of maturity” and noted numerous problems with the plane’s development. Among them were failures of its stealthy coating (which peels off during high-speed, high-altitude flights), problems with the weapons-bay doors, continuing difficulties with the lift fan on the Marines’ version, cracks in the Marines’ version, problems with radar-tracking for weapons use, issues with the refueling system, and ongoing delays in development of the flight helmet (which is supposed to integrate much of the data and avionics in a revolutionary manner). In addition, software development and testing is running behind schedule — for a plane that will have over 8 million lines of computer code.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 09:39 AM (2 replies)

Does the US Want Another Cold War?


Does the US Want Another Cold War?
The People's Daily, China
By Ren Weidong
Translated By Nathan Hsu
10 January 2013
Edited by Lau­ren Gerken


This region is the primary geopolitical battlefield on which the U.S. will seek to contain China. The U.S. is sparing no effort to lay the groundwork for a new Cold War here. Apart from the bolstering of old military allies, U.S. actions have also shown several new characteristics. The first is linking together, to the greatest extent possible, a united front against China. It has comprehensively strengthened its economic, political, and most especially its military relationship with Vietnam, improved relations with Myanmar, and thawed its long-frozen relationship with Laos. Secondly, it has constructed a spider web-like strategic framework around itself. Thirdly, it has both strengthened its front-line deployments and expanded its strategic depth. Illustrations of this are its encouragement of the development of Japanese military strength, deployment of littoral combat ships to Singapore, and the return to its naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Fourthly, it has begun to polarize the region economically. The U.S. has been a strong proponent of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP), which excludes China.

As the U.S. builds a new Cold War state of affairs in Asia and the Pacific, Japan's attitude has been the most supportive. It willingly serves as the pawn and strategic front line of the U.S., and has also interfered in every corner of the region, forming a strategic network. Clearly, the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Japan is a highly unified one regarding the containment of China. However, this is being done at the cost of sacrificing what was gained in the war against fascism, overturning the post-war order in Asia, and destroying the region's peaceful political foundation. This will inevitably result in severe regional turmoil.

The truth is that the majority of Asian-Pacific countries are opposed to a new Cold War. Against the overall backdrop of the U.S. seeking to start a new Cold War, countries like Japan are the extreme minority. Most countries in the region are unwilling to overtly pick sides, but try to use what leverage they have to implement balancing policies towards the great powers and create a strategic equilibrium, ultimately hoping to use this to increase their own security and gain more room for profit.

Of course, the situation is extremely complex, with opportunity and challenge juxtaposed. Asia is by no means the only strategic focus of the U.S., nor one which the U.S. will necessarily place above all others. Currently, the U.S. is in a situation where it cannot neglect any area, whether it be Europe, the Middle East, or Asia.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 07:08 AM (6 replies)

How did the Gates of Hell open in Vietnam?


How did the Gates of Hell open in Vietnam?
By Jonathan Schell
Jan 19, 2013


My angle of vision on these matters is a highly particular one. In early August 1967, I arrived in I Corps, the northernmost district of American military operations in what was then South Vietnam. I was there to report for the New Yorker on the "air war". The phrase was a misnomer. The Vietnamese foe, of course, had no assets in the air in the South, and so there was no "war" of that description.

There was only the unilateral bombardment of the land and people by the fantastic array of aircraft assembled by the United States in Vietnam. These ranged from the B-52, which laid down a pattern of destruction a mile long and several football fields wide; to fighter bombers capable of dropping, along with much else, 500-pound bombs and canisters of napalm; to the reconfigured DC-3 equipped with a cannon capable of firing 100 rounds per second; to the ubiquitous fleets of helicopters, large and small, that crowded the skies.

All this was abetted by continuous artillery fire into "free-fire" zones and naval bombardment from ships just off the coast.

By the time I arrived, the destruction of the villages in the region and the removal of their people to squalid refugee camps was approaching completion. (However, they often returned to their blasted villages, now subject to indiscriminate artillery fire.) Only a few pockets of villages survived. I witnessed the destruction of many of these in Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh provinces from the back seat of small Cessnas called Forward Air Control planes.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 06:42 AM (4 replies)

Burn, burn - Africa's Afghanistan


Burn, burn - Africa's Afghanistan
By Pepe Escobar
Jan 19, 2013

LONDON - One's got to love the sound of a Frenchman's Mirage 2000 fighter jet in the morning. Smells like... a delicious neo-colonial breakfast in Hollandaise sauce. Make it quagmire sauce.

Apparently, it's a no-brainer. Mali holds 15.8 million people - with a per capita gross domestic product of only around US$1,000 a year and average life expectancy of only 51 years - in a territory twice the size of France (per capital GDP $35,000 and upwards). Now almost two-thirds of this territory is occupied by heavily weaponized Islamist outfits. What next? Bomb, baby, bomb.

So welcome to the latest African war; Chad-based French Mirages and Gazelle helicopters, plus a smatter of France-based Rafales bombing evil Islamist jihadis in northern Mali. Business is good; French president Francois Hollande spent this past Tuesday in Abu Dhabi clinching the sale of up to 60 Rafales to that Gulf paragon of democracy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The formerly wimpy Hollande - now enjoying his "resolute", "determined", tough guy image reconversion - has cleverly sold all this as incinerating Islamists in the savannah before they take a one-way Bamako-Paris flight to bomb the Eiffel Tower.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 06:36 AM (3 replies)

Military suicides shouldn't be just another tragedy of war


Military suicides shouldn't be just another tragedy of war
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013

If every single day one U.S. soldier after another were being shot dead while deployed overseas, surely the American people wouldn't stand for it.

The situation is worse than that. Unofficial Pentagon figures, reported first by The Associated Press, show that, 349 active-duty service members took their own lives in 2012.

The military rate is lower than in the general population, but that's no consolation. Troop suicides, the most in 11 years of tracking, exceeded military deaths last year: 310 in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, Time magazine military writer Mark Thompson reported Tuesday.

The suicides are each unique but with common threads, he wrote: "The post-9/11 stress of military life is real, even if some of those in uniform have never been in a war zone."
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:17 AM (4 replies)

Juan Cole: Gun Murders vs. Terrorism by the Numbers


Gun Murders vs. Terrorism by the Numbers
Posted on 01/17/2013 by Juan

Number of Americans killed in domestic terrorist attacks, 2002-2011: 30

Number of Americans murdered by firearms, 2000-2011: 115,997

Cost of the War on Terror since 9/11: $5 trillion


In the combined [pdf] US and European Union statistics for 2010, percentage of terrorist attacks that occurred in the US: .008
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:42 AM (12 replies)

Drones: An Outlier in a Transparent Presidency


Drones: An Outlier in a Transparent Presidency
Sarah Holewinski
Posted: 01/16/2013 11:45 am

President Obama is quite literally writing his legacy on the use of force during his second term. According to media reports, the administration is codifying the hows and whys of its drone policy in a handbook. The assumption is that the United States will put into doctrine what it has already created in practice: new rules for a new global reality with a newish technology.

Leave aside for a minute the fact that there already exists a rulebook governing drone use, called international law. If the new rulebook clarifies some of the outstanding questions surrounding U.S. drone use, if its elements show an adherence to international laws (both in practice and in spirit), and if the whole of the rulebook considers the precedent it will set for the rest of the world, then this is an effort that should be welcomed, because the explanations about covert drone use coming from top officials have so far been less than explanatory (Jeh Johnson's recent remarks being the exception, though they're still short on detail).

The modern-day creation of the drone -- an unmanned airplane supported by a massive network of remote operators -- is not the problem. It was only a matter of time before a sophisticated military found a way to take itself off the battlefield yet keep the ability to strike where and when it wishes. Used in specific military circumstances -- in a full-scale combat theater like Afghanistan, for example, and with solid intelligence feeding into precise targeting -- drones have the potential to minimize collateral damage.

Yet in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, the United States is using drones outside recognized combat theaters, with operations cloaked in secrecy. In these circumstances, good intelligence is dodgy, and there is little way to assess civilian harm post-strike. As a result, operators can't fully understand the negative impact of such strikes on the local population. Who is targeted, why, how and what civilian protection measures are put in place are unknown to anyone but a tight inner circle of policy makers -- an about-face for a president who pledged a transparent government in his first term. And Congress is following his lead, reviewing high-level targets but avoiding the tough questions about the program's protocols or its repercussions.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:18 AM (7 replies)

Navy’s $670 Million Fighting Ship Is ‘Not Expected to Be Survivable,’ Pentagon Says


The USS Freedom, the Navy’s first Littoral Combat Ship, sails toward Cleveland for a port visit, 2008.

Navy’s $670 Million Fighting Ship Is ‘Not Expected to Be Survivable,’ Pentagon Says
By Spencer Ackerman

In less than two months, the Navy will send the first of its newest class of fighting ships on its first major deployment overseas. Problem is, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, the Navy will be deploying the USS Freedom before knowing if the so-called Littoral Combat Ship can survive, um, combat. And what the Navy does know about the ship isn’t encouraging: Among other problems, its guns don’t work right.

That’s the judgment of J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, in an annual study sent to Congress on Friday and formally released Tuesday. Gilmore’s bottom line is that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is still “not expected to be survivable” in combat. His office will punt on conducting a “Total Ship Survivability Test” for the first two LCSes to give the Navy time to complete a “pre-trial damage scenario analysis.” In other words, the Freedom will head on its first big mission abroad — maritime policing and counter-piracy around Singapore — without passing a crucial exam.

The systems the LCSs will carry, from their weapons to their sensors, compound the problem. The helicopters scheduled to be aboard the ship can’t tow its mine-hunting sensors, so the Navy is going to rely on robots instead — only the robots won’t be ready for years. And the faster the ship goes, the less accurate its guns become.

In fairness, the point of operational testing is to uncover and flag flaws in the military’s expensive weapons systems. And first-in-class ships often have kinks that are worked out in later vessels. Plus, it’s not like the Navy is rushing the Freedom to fight World War III. The local pirates there would never be confused for a serious navy. But the flaws Gilmore identifies go to the some of the core missions behind LCS’ existence: to fight close to shore, at high speeds; and to clear minefields.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:28 AM (8 replies)

Brennan asked to show legal opinions behind drone killings


Brennan asked to show legal opinions behind drone killings
By Natasha Lennard
Monday, Jan 14, 2013 9:32 PM UTC

This month a federal judge defended the Obama administration’s right to keep secret the legal justifications for targeted drone killings. But a cadre of senators is pushing the issue again. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote a letter to John Brennan — nominee for CIA director, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, and central architect of U.S. drone warfare — asking to see the legal opinions and rules behind the targeted killing of U.S. citizens in counterterrorism efforts and demanding a list of countries where America is conducting shadow wars. Wyden wrote:


Wyden’s letter highlights the obfuscation surrounding intelligence decisions on assassinations, such that members of the Senate have struggled for more than a year just to learn about the reach of U.S. drone attacks. Wyden stresses in his letter that a “pattern is forming in which the executive branch is evading congressional oversight by simply not responding to congressional requests for information.”

At the beginning of this year, the New York Times lost a legal battle to force the U.S. government to disclose the legal justification for its targeted killings, including the late 2011 killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in separate strikes in Yemen. Wyden’s letter does not mention the al-Awlaki killings but his request for legal opinions regarding the targeting of U.S. citizens would presumably encompass the determinations over these controversial assassinations.

According to Glenn Greenwald on Twitter, Wyden’s letter suggests that a number of Democratic senators will actually interrogate Brennan when reviewing his CIA director nomination. Although, to be sure, regardless of his role overseeing Obama’s “disposition matrix” for targeted killing or past support for CIA torture programs, Brennan’s confirmation is a fait accompli.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jan 15, 2013, 08:32 AM (0 replies)
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