Search This Blog

Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama's test: Bringing order to the national security policy process By Gordon Adams

Obama's test: Bringing order to the national security policy process

By Gordon Adams

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist| 26 January 2009

During the Bush administration, funding for the Defense Department, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security more or less doubled. But in all three cases, the goal of the budget increases wasn't to create functioning, efficient, and effective bureaucracies. Instead, it was to push a political agenda--at the cost of effective management. As a result, all three departments emerge from the last eight years less focused, less disciplined, and less effective.

Beyond the substantive need to change U.S. foreign and national security policy, the challenge the Obama administration now faces is how to restore focus, discipline, and balance to the institutions that shape and implement these policies. To do so, the new administration will need to focus diplomacy and foreign assistance on long-term strategic goals, rebalance the toolkit of statecraft, and bring coherence to a widely dispersed set of institutions.

There will be many ways to measure the new administration's progress on these fronts. For instance, at State and USAID, I'll be watching for the following:

* Will the administration--and namely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--create an institutionalized capability for strategic and budgetary planning, building on the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance that was established in 2006? Or will State continue to default to a culture that resists planning, reacts to events as they happen, and disperse the nascent planning capabilities now in place?
* Will the administration bring order and consolidation to the many civilian institutions of U.S. foreign policy across the government--from State to USAID to the Treasury Department to the Department of Agriculture and beyond? Or will it allow agencies to remain dispersed without developing a State or White House capacity to bring them together?
* Will the administration continue the Bush practice of seeking too little funding for foreign policy areas such as food aid and humanitarian relief, only to ask later for supplemental funds that ride on the back of Defense's "emergency" war funding request?
* Will the administration build a capacity based at USAID to conduct civilian operations overseas in contingency and fragile-state situations, rather than try to duplicate existing operational capabilities?
* Will the administration transform the foreign service so it brings in a new type of recruit who receives training throughout his or her career, is assigned across offices and agencies to learn the skills today's diplomats must have, and is rewarded with top diplomatic appointments? And will the administration make a concerted effort to increase the number of U.S. foreign-service officers?
* Will the administration revitalize and staff our public diplomacy, creating a more focused, autonomous capability to take Washington's message overseas?
* Will the administration build a strong development and foreign assistance capability within USAID and integrate development and long-term investment into the core missions of U.S. statecraft at the heart of State itself?
* Will the administration give State the authority it needs over U.S. security and foreign assistance, which State can plan in cooperation with Defense, but can also integrate into broader U.S. foreign policy and national security goals? Or will it continue to give Defense the responsibility for our overseas engagement, narrowing its strategic purpose, muddying the military mission, and putting a uniform face on overseas U.S. operations?

Ensuring that Defense and the military are properly balanced by strong, agile civilian institutions is a major priority. Therefore, reform must also take place at Defense. There, I'll be watching for the following changes:

* Will the administration bring order and discipline to the Defense budget process? Or will it continue to allow Defense to march toward a trillion dollar annual budget without setting priorities or making hard choices? (A side note: If the administration caves in on future budget plans laid out by the military, the defense budget would increase by another $70 billion or more in fiscal year 2010 and $450 billion over the next six years.)
* Will the administration link future defense budgets to plans that make clear choices about the role of military force in overall U.S. national security policy? Or will it buy every kind of force and piece of hardware that the services want for their endlessly expanding portfolio of missions?
* Will the administration halt Defense's eight-year tradition of loading up emergency funding requests for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with spending for non-war needs such as additional hardware and force restructuring? Or will "supplementals" continue to be used as piggy banks to fund defense programs undisciplined by the regular budget process?
* Will the administration ensure that Defense's new portfolio of authorities over security assistance and foreign assistance established during the Bush years are properly transitioned to State, retaining only those programs that are core to military missions? Or will it continue to expand Defense's missions into more nation-building, economic development, and public diplomacy?
* Will the administration make tough choices about future military hardware and weapons programs, canceling those that no longer fit with the core military missions of the twenty-first century?

As for Homeland Security, which suffers from internal chaos, a lack of strategic direction, and doesn't have responsibility for a fair part of overall U.S. investment in, ahem, homeland security, I'll be watching for the following:

* Will the administration create a true, high-level strategic planning and budgeting process? Or will the component parts of the department continue to plan their own priorities and budgets, to be stapled together at the top with no overarching strategic focus?
* Will the administration broaden the department's strategic focus from a myopic concern with terrorism to disaster prevention and resilient response? Or will fear of a terrorist attack, however unlikely, continue to provide the mechanism for organizing and selling the department's budget?

Most seriously, the capacity of the White House to strategically plan and oversee the operations of the executive branch has seriously eroded since 2000. It needs to be not only restored, but given a more focused mission of strategic planning and interagency oversight and integrated with budgetary planning. With this in mind, I'll be watching for the following at the White House:

* Will the administration transform the National Security Council (NSC) into an institution that has primary responsibility for shaping the president's national security strategy and policy priorities? Or will it leave policy definition and priority setting to disparate agencies without central coordination?
* Will the administration allow the NSC to institute and execute a formal national strategy review that sets priorities and, working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), leads to a guidance for agencies with regard to their responsibilities to execute those strategic priorities? Or will there be, as in the past, no real strategic direction or program and budget guidance from NSC and OMB to the agencies?
* In setting priorities, will the administration use the NSC strategically to focus on key problems such as failed states, energy independence, climate change, and the direction of development and foreign assistance policy?
* Will the administration task the NSC, along with OMB, to institutionalize processes for meshing planning and operations between agencies? Or will NSC's interagency process continue to be a mere collection point for what agencies are doing, with little coordination or priority setting?

Rebalancing, strengthening, and focusing the tools of U.S. statecraft may seem secondary to getting policy right in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan--to say nothing of counterterrorism operations and nonproliferation policy. But in the end, none of these policies can be pursued effectively without a clear, effective, and agile set of institutions and processes. The experience of the past eight years is ample demonstration of the need for reform. Now, I'll be watching to see if the Obama administration can successfully direct a positive turnaround.

Copyright © 2008 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.

Source URL (retrieved on 01/27/2009 - 03:26):

Bad Times: Worse Times in Store? Anthony T. Sullivan



Bad Times: Worse Times in Store?
Anthony T. Sullivan

Tanks, truces, talks and terror litter the unforgiving ground of the Middle East. Much of the detritus scattered by the war in Gaza is likely to be left in place, only to be reshuffled by the next storm. The long range forecast for the Levant remains grim, with the next tempest already predictable and expected later this year.

Hamas remains deeply entrenched in the Gaza Strip, and still enjoys substantial popular support, even though some of that support may stem more from fear of retribution by Hamas enforcers against dissenters. However, Arab sources confirm that Israel did succeed in delivering a huge blow to Hamas' military arm during the recent conflict. Although Hamas succeeded in continuing to fire missiles into Israel throughout the 22-day war, including 19 on the final day, it failed to inflict any major damage on Israeli ground forces operating in the Strip. Worse for Hamas, Israel demonstrated that it had learned from its defeat in Lebanon in 2006 how to fight both Hizbullah and Hamas. Hamas imitated Hizbullah's tactics of three years ago and the results were disastrous. Arab informants report that Hamas fighters attempted to operate through a maze of underground tunnels, emerging occasionally to fire off salvos of missiles, but Israel largely ignored the rocket launches and concentrated on slaughtering Hamas fighters underground using bunker-busting bombs. Certainly, it is now clear that Hamas stands largely alone in the Arab world. Once again, the Arab street did not rise, and Hamas received no meaningful support from any Arab government. At least in the short term, Israel may well have succeeded in changing the correlation of forces between the Jordan and the sea. The longer term, however, is an entirely different matter.

On the eve of the conflict, Hamas brutally foiled an attempted coup by the Palestinian Authority. As Hamas went underground, a group of some 50 Fatah operatives attempted to proclaim a new, pro PA government in the Gaza Strip. They totally misjudged how much active support Fatah had, or at least could deliver, in Gaza, although most observers do think that Fatah retains the allegiance of about one third of the Strip's population. In the event, Hamas immediately seized the PA operatives and summarily executed them all. Immediately after the coup's failure, Mahmud Abbas, Chairman of the PA, called for Hamas and all other Palestinian factions to meet and find a way to reorganize intra-Palestinian relationships on a cooperative basis. Hamas immediately rejected this initiative, viewing it as a second coup attempt in other garb.

Hamas paid a large military price at the very beginning of the war. The initial Israeli air raids targeted a graduating cadre of Hamas' Executive Force, made up of new members of its elite police department, all assembled in one place for a much postponed graduation ceremony. In an instant, some 300 Palestinians were killed and over a thousand wounded. Hamas is said to have received oblique "assurances" from Egypt that Israel would remain quiet were Hamas to proceed with the graduation ceremony. Why Hamas chose to believe the Egyptian assurances remains a mystery. Israel, not surprisingly, viewed the assembly as a strategic opportunity, and struck hard. This miscalculation by Hamas was perhaps even more spectacular than the one by Fatah, since Hamas was fully aware that Cairo detests it as an outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a potential threat to domestic stability in Egypt.

At the start of the war, Hizbullah sources report, Hamas had some 150 Hizbullah military advisors and 300 Hizbullah-trained Palestinian refugees from Lebanon in Gaza City working with it. Furthermore, there were at least a few Iranian missile experts in Gaza, helping Hamas to assemble the rockets and to improve their accuracy and range. Teheran apparently succeeded in extricating these technicians during the last days of the fighting, fearing that they might be captured by the Israelis.

During the war, Hamas put on display its Hizbullah-supplied 122 mm. BM-21 rockets and larger, Iranian-made 240 mm. Fajr-3 missiles. The latter have a range of some 30 miles and early in the conflict succeeded in striking Beersheba and other relatively distant targets. Hamas is reported to have had some 40 al-Fajr missiles at the outbreak of the war. These projectiles arrived in Gaza from Syria, after being off-loaded from Syrian ships in Egypt and smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Corrupt or sympathetic Egyptian security officers, paid off by Iran, have long been facilitating Hamas' resupply. Bedouins in the Egyptian Sinai, especially the Gawarmas, have been playing a significant role in this trade. Hamas pays the Bedouins in cash, light arms, and drugs, which the Bedouins sell in the Egyptian black market. Discussions about hermetically sealing Hamas tunnels on the Rafah frontier ring somewhat hollow, given this history.

Hamas is well aware of Egypt's tacit collusion in its resupply of food as well as arms, even though the Egypt-Gaza frontier remains closed. In fact, during the war a split developed within Hamas as to whether or not the organization should use the issue of closure of the Egyptian border as a pressure point on Cairo to make Egypt more supportive of Hamas' terms for ending the conflict. In particular, Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahar clashed with his colleagues, arguing that Egypt should not be politically bludgeoned over the frontier closure because Cairo has long turned a blind eye to the flow of food, medicine, fuel and arms through the hundreds of tunnels that have riddled the border area.

Perhaps more significantly, a split occurred between the Hamas leadership in Gaza and in Damascus. The "realists" in Gaza, including Ismail Haniyyah and Mahmud al-Zahar who both desperately wanted an end to hostilities, found themselves pitted against the adamancy and defiance of Khalid Mishal in Damascus. Both Gazans are now said to be disaffected with Mishal and indeed with Iran with which Mishal has now linked his political future. Mishal is said to be expecting the "demise" of the Hamas leadership in Gaza. Into this void Mishal is reportedly planning to insert himself. Indeed, some now say that Mishal may well emerge as the future Palestinian leader, who will in his own person subsume and transcend what once was Hamas. Mishal is said to be planning to work with a "new Iran that will open up to the United States."

Elsewhere, storm clouds are again gathering over Lebanon. Now, it does seem that 2009 may well see a reprise of the Israeli-Hizbullah war of 2006.

A highly reliable military source in the Middle East reports that in late 2008 Israel officially designated Hizbullah as a "strategic enemy," and decided to "remove Hizbullah as a military movement during the first year of the Obama administration." This decision is said to be unrelated to anything that Israel might or might not do in connection with the Iranian nuclear program. Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have told French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his visit to Tel Aviv during the Gaza war that although Israel was fighting Hamas today it would be fighting Hizbullah in Lebanon tomorrow. Furthermore, France reportedly has informed the Lebanese government of what specific targets Israel will hit inside Lebanon during the new Israeli-Hizbullah war. Having labeled Lebanon an "Iranian post on the Mediterranean," Israel will reportedly destroy Lebanese infrastructure in its entirety (airports, harbors, warehouses, power and water plants, bridges, and highways), plus the Lebanese presidential palace, the headquarters of the prime minister, the residence of the speaker of the house, the parliament building, the banking area, and all Lebanese army bases. In other words, Israel will wage war during 2009 on all of Lebanon rather than just on Hizbullah. The sort of campaign that Israel conducted in the Gaza Strip will be expanded and imposed on all parts of its northern neighbor. As justification for any new campaign in Lebanon, Israel is likely to adduce the presence of Hizbullah military personnel in Gaza as evidence of the regional threat that Hizbullah now supposedly poses.

As for Hizbullah, Israel is apparently planning to destroy all of its missile systems and to pursue it as far as the northern Biqaa Valley. With Hizbullah shattered and Lebanon supposedly having "agreed to exit the Iranian alliance," the U.S. is said to be prepared to request the Arab Gulf States to pay the cost of the country's reconstruction. The expected tab: $20 billion.

Possible confirmation of this entire scenario is suggested by reports of CentCom Commander David Petraeus' visit to Beirut in early last December. During his brief stopover, General Petraeus is said to have "hinted" to Lebanese army commander Jean Qahwaji that Hizbullah's armament would "not be an issue" within a year after then President-elect Barack Obama moved into the White House. General Petraeus has also been quoted as stating that during the first year of President Obama's term the Middle East will "witness extremely significant developments." There would seem to be much food for thought here.

Hizbullah is well aware of these darkening skies. It is cognizant of Hamas' fate in Gaza, and is determined to do all in its power to deprive Israel of any pretext to launch a new war in Lebanon. Indeed, authoritative sources within the organization state that Hizbullah has decided not to attack Israel again. Rather, Hizbullah's increasing military arsenal is now focused exclusively on the Lebanese army, and its political focus is on matters largely Lebanese. As has been extensively discussed in previous issues of the Levant Monitor, the Lebanese army is and will remain Hizbullah's public enemy number one. Despite much discussion, any meaningful collaboration by Hizbullah with the Lebanese army to create a national front against Israel is most unlikely.

Hizbullah now fears that in any future war Israel will attempt to permanently alter the demography of south Lebanon. Israel is believed likely to try to clear the entire region of its population and make it a no go area in the future, possibly by sowing the entire area with a new harvest of cluster bombs. Any such scenario would be a disaster for Hizbullah, and indeed for all of Lebanon. But at the same time, and depending on exactly how any such war were to begin, it might undermine at least some of the support for Hizbullah among Lebanese Shiites. In any event, Hizbullah is now fully persuaded, according to a source within the organization, that any new war with Israel would produce not a "Divine victory," as in 2006, but rather a "Satanic tragedy."

Iran appears to agree with this assessment. During the Gaza war Teheran sent Ali Larijani, Shura Council Head, and Sa'id Jalili, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, to Damascus and Beirut to make sure that Hizbullah did not open a new front against Israel. Jalili met with Hizbullah head Hasan Nasrallah and Ahmad Jibril, commander of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Jalili wanted to make certain that Hizbullah and the PFLP-GC worked together to prevent any of the numerous Sunni Jihadists in Lebanon from provoking a wider conflict by firing missiles into northern Israel. Although a handful of missiles were fired from the Naqoura area toward Haifa, Israel barely responded and the danger of any immediate, wider conflict blew over. Iran made it abundantly clear to Hizbullah and the PFLP-GC that it would not authorize any party to get involved in the Gaza war from Lebanese territory. All this was not a difficult sell, since it was at least very much Hizbullah's own inclination.

Teheran's involvement in Lebanon contrasted sharply with its earlier advice to Hamas not to renew the truce with Israel. The purpose of this Janus-faced policy, Lebanese sources suggest, has been to persuade the United States that Iran is an indispensable regional actor, capable of provoking major problems if it chooses but at the same time able and willing to act as a stabilizing force far beyond its own frontiers. Teheran does seem to be open to a new beginning with the Obama administration, but only if its geostrategic interests are recognized and accommodated.

Any such accommodation will be difficult for the United States to accomplish. Most obviously, the Saudis are dead set against any warming of U.S.-Iranian relations. Worse, German intelligence recently uncovered a nascent Iranian intelligence operation featuring Lebanese Shiites recruited by Teheran to infiltrate and destabilize the heavily Shiite eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The plan was to organize these operatives into sleeper cells before unleashing them to assassinate or otherwise target Saudi officials. Teheran anticipated that the consequent campaign of Saudi repression against the Saudi Shiite community as a whole would destabilize the Kingdom. To help matters along, Iran is said to have planned an intensive anti-Saudi media campaign, fueled by massive demonstrations in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrein. This is not the sort of activity to foster any alteration of current American policy.

Lebanese sources report that cracking this one operation does not mean the collapse of Iranian plans to sabotage Saudi Arabia. All evidence suggests that Iranian intelligence has recruited many Shiites from Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq who for some time have been successfully slipping into Saudi Arabia. This surely is facilitated by the fact that the current atmosphere in the Arab world is strongly anti-Saudi. There is widespread public condemnation of the Kingdom, especially for its silence concerning the war in Gaza. Of course, this provides an ideal context for Iranian intelligence to work.

Clearly, an immediate and vigorous new approach by the Obama administration to longstanding Middle East problems is needed today more than ever.

The Devastation of Gaza: From Factories to Ice Cream By Tim McGirk

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
The Devastation of Gaza: From Factories to Ice Cream
By Tim McGirk / Gaza City Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
Damaged buildings on the Gaza Strip
Damaged buildings on the Gaza Strip
Abid Katib / Getty

Yaser Alwadeya wanders past a field strewn with the remnants of gaily painted ice cream carts, which were shredded by a blizzard of shrapnel. He enters the blackened innards of the Al Ameer factory, which once manufactured Gaza's tastiest ice cream and popsicles. Shaking his head, he says, "I can't figure out why the Israelis thought that Hamas had anything to do with ice cream."

The ice cream plant, which had been owned by Alwadeya's family for 55 years, was far from the only factory destroyed in Israel's 22-day assault on the Palestinian enclave. All along Gaza's factory row — which produced everything from biscuits to cement to wooden furniture — hardly a single building remains standing. It's as if a tsunami of fire had roared through Gaza's industrial district, leaving in its wake a tide of twisted metal and smashed buildings. (See pictures of Gaza digging out.)

Israeli war planners had vowed to destroy the "infrastructure of terror" in Gaza, but many Gazans — even those opposed to Hamas — believe the operation was directed against general infrastructure. It certainly demolished much of Gaza's economy and civil society.

The Israeli military targeted tunnels, arms caches, police stations and the hideouts of several Hamas military commanders. But Israeli attacks also destroyed more than 230 factories, according to the Palestinian Industries Federation. Nearly 50 schools and 23 mosques were damaged as well as scores of government buildings, including the Presidential Compound and the Assembly building, which Gazans saw as the symbolic foundation for an eventual Palestinian state.

"The Israelis want to keep us poor and ignorant," says Amar Hamad, chairman of the Palestinian Industries Federation. "Businessmen were the last layer of society who believed that prosperity would bring peace with Israel. Now they don't believe that."

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) says it chose its targets carefully, to minimize destruction to surrounding property and human lives. And the IDF accuses Hamas of putting ordinary Gazans in harm's way by firing rockets at Israel from within crowded neighborhoods. But several businessmen interviewed by TIME insist that no militants were taking refugee inside the factories bombed by Israel. "They're targeting factories to make us dependent on the Israeli economy," claims Hamad.

Gazans are also baffled as to why Israeli planes rocketed the American International School, an institution that served the sons and daughters of wealthy Palestinians and which, until recently, flew the U.S. flag. "Our students learned American geography and history," says Sharhabe el Alzaeem, a trustee. "We sent kids to Harvard and Yale." Asked if militants might have been using the grounds to fire rockets, Alzaeem retorted, "We had high walls and good security. Our guard asked if he could bring his family to stay with him because the school was safer than his neighborhood. Would he be sending for his family if there were militants running around inside the school?" The caretaker was killed when an Israeli aircraft fired several rockets at the facility, regarded as Gaza's finest school.

In addition, Gaza's housing stock took a hammering in the hostilities. Initial estimates of the Public Works Ministry point to more than 2,100 houses destroyed and another 45,000 left in need of major repairs. A key sewage plant, whose construction with international funding had the backing of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was also hit, causing nearly $200 million in damages. Maintenance experts say a crumbling wall around a sewage lake is now in danger of spilling tons of fetid waste into the streets and alleys of northern Gaza.

Total reconstruction costs for Gaza as a result of the three-week offensive are estimated by the United Nations to be more than $1.5 billion — but the channeling of reconstruction aid into the territory is a contentious political issue. Israel and some international donors are reluctant to send funds through Hamas, which governs Gaza, for fear of "legitimizing" the Islamists, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says. One Hamas spokesman told TIME that the group's primary concern was rebuilding Gaza from the rubble. "We want to rebuild houses, not our military capacity," he said. But other Hamas commanders said they would continue bringing weapons into Gaza to enable their "resistance" against Israel.

With the conflict unresolved, Israel is pressing for a continuation of the 18-month economic siege imposed on the 1.5 million people of Gaza by Israel, the U.S. and certain European and Arab allies. But John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, warned of the danger of keeping the crossings into Gaza closed for political reasons. "This isn't about keeping the people of Gaza alive on a drip of medicine and subsistence aid. That allows extremism to ferment in Gaza," he says. Indeed, with few factories left, there are no jobs, no ice cream and plenty of new recruits for Hamas.

See pictures of life under Hamas in Gaza.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama May Face 'Rebuff' from Europe on Military Step-Up in Afghanistan

Obama May Face 'Rebuff' from Europe on Military Step-Up in Afghanistan


Robert E. Hunter, Senior Adviser, RAND Corporation


Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor,

January 22, 2009

Robert HunterRobert E. Hunter, U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the Clinton administration, says despite U.S. calls for a stepped-up military role by European NATO members in Afghanistan, he thinks there will only be a "token response." He pointed to opinion surveys showing "there's not a single European country that wants to see more of its troops go to Afghanistan." The issue will be raised early by the Obama administration, Hunter says, "and if the United States pushes too hard on asking for new forces, it will lead to a rebuff, and at the beginning of an administration you don't want to be rebuffed."

President Barack Obama is expected to ask the Europeans very soon to increase their involvement in Afghanistan as part of a stepped-up military effort. What's the mood in Europe these days on helping out in Afghanistan?

Well, first, one has to understand that this issue is coming at us pretty quickly. Not only is there the NATO summit on April 2-4, the sixtieth anniversary summit, part in Strasbourg, France, and part in Kehl, Germany, but there is the annual Munich conference on security policy, which is on February to 6 to 8.

What will happen in Munich?

It used to be that during the Cold War, the U.S. secretary of defense would show up with his NATO counterparts and he would give them their marching orders for the next year. Now of course it's post-Cold War, but traditionally the secretary of defense shows up and makes a major speech. This is the moment, in my judgment, in which the United States has to lay out clearly its planning for Afghanistan and its expectations for the Europeans. Now, to get back to your question, there remain several countries that do share America's concern about what is happening in Afghanistan and of course of equal moment also in nearby Pakistan. The ones who've committed troops include Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, France, and some other countries like Estonia. And every NATO country, of course, has troops there.

Germany has a lot of troops, but they're not doing much, right?

They have about five thousand in the northern part of the country, and in fact Chancellor Angela Merkel has authorization to increase that by up to 1,500 from the current Bundestag [parliament]. That authorization is good until this autumn, but German troops are under what are called NATO "caveats," namely what troops are allowed to do and in particular what they aren't allowed to do and when they aren't allowed to do it. The Germans are heavily caveated. If there were troops fighting in the south and east who got in deep trouble, they could come to the rescue, but not in ordinary times.

President Obama has already said that he would increase the U.S. force commitment by about thirty thousand troops, which would be close to a doubling of the U.S. forces if you add those which are both with Operation Enduring Freedom, which was the original invasion force, and is under Central Command, and also the International Security Assistance Force [ISAF], the NATO-led operation, which is, ironically, under the European Command, insofar as Americans are involved in it. But at the same time, he has made clear, at least prior to being elected and prior to becoming president, that he would ask the Europeans for more help. In fact, in his speech in Berlin last summer, in front of the Victory Column, Sen. Obama said the only thing he would ask of the Europeans was more support in conflicts such as Afghanistan.

What will be the response?

Bottom line: There will be some token response to an appeal from the U.S. administration. But it will only be a token response. According to the polling data, there's not a single European country that wants to see more of its troops go to Afghanistan. In many of them, it is a question of how long they will continue to be involved. I rather suspect if the United States pushes too hard on asking for new forces, it will lead to a rebuff, and at the beginning of an administration you don't want to be rebuffed.

Even though there's all this goodwill for Obama?

Well, clearly there's extraordinarily goodwill for the new president, not just because he's different from the previous president, and also not just because he symbolizes what America has come to-farther than any European country, incidentally-in having someone who is not a traditional-looking member of the society leading it. There's also great hope because of the things Obama has said and the things he has stood for. He is seen as somebody who has the genuine capacity to lead in ways that Europeans find congenial.

Having said that, for these individual countries, asking them to do things their parliaments and people won't do, especially early on, is, I'm afraid, a nonstarter. It may well be later on that once the new administration does indeed forge a new partnership with allies, Obama can make a serious case for why Afghanistan is important, and then something might be possible, but I fear that unless the United States thinks very clearly about what it wants from the Europeans, we could have the administration start off in Europe with a negative.

What should we be asking for?

We do have to ask the Europeans to do more militarily. And in terms of getting numbers of people there and types of equipment, that can be even within the current caveats that do exist. Part of it is getting the right kind of equipment, particularly helicopters, into the country. But what I would do is focus on the total, corporate picture of what has to be done in Afghanistan and also in the tribal areas of Pakistan. As candidate Obama said over and over again, and General James L. Jones, Jr., the new national security adviser, has said, you have to see this in terms of what is now being called "smart power," something [Secretary of State nominee] Hillary Clinton focused on very much in her confirmation hearing. The military in Afghanistan can be the shield, the protector, but the sword, the real activity, has to be in three big areas: governance--much better governance on the part of the government in Kabul; reconstruction; and development. And that's going to be expensive. We and others have done some things on this but the result has been woefully inadequate so far.

Here's what I'd ask of the Europeans: "If you're not going to send the troops that are needed for the shield function, we collectively need a much greater European effort on governance, reconstruction, and development." In the compact on Afghanistan that was signed several years ago, where the United States took the lead effort in terms of many of the military parts, three European countries took responsibility for things happening in the country: the British on poppy eradication; the Germans on building up the national police; and the Italians on judicial reform. Admittedly, each of these countries were supposed to have help, but all three of these efforts have failed and failed abysmally. This is something that we have the right to expect the Europeans to do more about. After all, nobody mandated that NATO go to Afghanistan; each of these countries did it of their own free will. Similarly, I believe, it is time for the Europeans to appoint somebody of genuine stature to coordinate aid and development efforts. Last year, Lord Paddy Ashdown, who was the high commissioner in Bosnia, was appointed, and he was sent out to Afghanistan. He was not acceptable to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a variety of reasons, but they didn't appoint anyone else.

Now, the United Nations does have a representative there, a Norwegian diplomat, Ambassador Kai Eide, who was ambassador to NATO and is a very able person, but he's too junior. Unless they send somebody really of stature, like Tony Blair, you're not going to get the Europeans to respond.

"It may well be later on that once the new administration does indeed forge a new partnership with allies, Obama can make a serious case for why Afghanistan is important … but I fear that unless the United States thinks very clearly about what it wants from the Europeans, we could have the administration start off in Europe with a negative."

I get the sense from European and American newspapers that there's a general negative view of President Karzai these days, that his administration is corrupt, and he's inept. Yet he's running for reelection this spring.

There's no doubt that there is not a lot of confidence in Karzai. There are even supposedly members of his own family who are on the take when it comes to poppy production and the like. Recognizing, however, that Afghanistan is an amazingly complicated place, that competent central government has been the gross exception rather than the rule in that country, to say that somebody other than Karzai could do a better job is putting the wish ahead of what the facts are likely to be. My judgment is that you can try to nurture the government to have better governance, but there have to be a lot of resources. This is an expensive proposition, but it is a lot cheaper than spending blood in place of treasure. And no one has been sufficiently serious about it. The U.S. government actually has been more serious than others. This, of course, begins to beg the questions: one, the relative importance of Pakistan, and then also whether we need a new strategy.

Talk a bit about Pakistan policy.

My judgment is that it's not that we gave $10 billion, and it mostly went to the military, but that we didn't give $100 billion. We collectively also have to get very serious about economic efforts within Pakistan in general, and that's going to cost a lot. One idea I have is that we should be asking the oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf to be putting up major amounts of money both for Afghanistan and for Pakistan. The equation is fairly simple. Our oil money goes to these countries. Some of that money should go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially because the oil-producing states of the southern littorals, the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and around to Saudi Arabia, expect us to take care of their security. Well, let them start to do what we need. And I'm talking about $10, $20, $30 billion

Don't the Saudis contribute to Afghanistan?

Not much. The UAE sends about 350 special forces, but that's not what you need; you need their money for reconstruction and development.

There's been this recurring thought that perhaps there should be a negotiated deal getting the Taliban into the Afghan government.

One thing that is very much in play now, which has been advanced more by the British government, I believe, than anyone else is whether one should start trying to separate out, to the extent you can, deep concerns with al-Qaeda, the terrorists who have a global agenda, from the Taliban, which has political aspirations to an extent in the tribal areas of Pakistan and certainly in Afghanistan. As odious as the Taliban are, you have to remember that the United States played a very strong role in putting the Taliban into power in Afghanistan in the first place, and then had to sit by and watch this abysmal human rights record that they had. The British are already advancing the idea that maybe the Taliban could be allowed to have a significant role in governance, at least in part of Afghanistan. The Karzai government is already exploring the idea of trying to deal with what one might call "economic" Taliban, people who did it for the money.

Most European states didn't contribute to Afghanistan because they really cared, but for other reasons: One, they weren't prepared to do Iraq. Two, they didn't want to get crossed wires with the United States. Third, they want to be sure, given how much we care about it, that if there's another problem in Europe, they don't want the United States to turn a blind eye or turn its back on them because they didn't help in Afghanistan.

This is not seen in Europe as an allied effort; it's seen as an American effort that they're supporting, and that's a bad place to be. I wouldn't be at all surprised if in the next few months we see a real rethinking about the strategic importance of keeping the Taliban at arm's length as opposed to stepping up the fight against terrorism per se, and al-Qaeda in general, and also buttressing the Pakistani government to try to increase its crackdown in tribal areas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda Stratfor: January 26, 2009

Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda
Stratfor: January 26, 2009

By George Friedman

Washington's attention is now zeroing in on Afghanistan. There is talk of doubling U.S. forces there, and preparations are being made for another supply line into Afghanistan — this one running through the former Soviet Union — as an alternative or a supplement to the current Pakistani route. To free up more resources for Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq probably will be accelerated. And there is discussion about whether the Karzai government serves the purposes of the war in Afghanistan. In short, U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign promise to focus on Afghanistan seems to be taking shape.

We have discussed many aspects of the Afghan war in the past; it is now time to focus on the central issue. What are the strategic goals of the United States in Afghanistan? What resources will be devoted to this mission? What are the intentions and capabilities of the Taliban and others fighting the United States and its NATO allies? Most important, what is the relationship between the war against the Taliban and the war against al Qaeda? If the United States encounters difficulties in the war against the Taliban, will it still be able to contain not only al Qaeda but other terrorist groups? Does the United States need to succeed against the Taliban to be successful against transnational Islamist terrorists? And assuming that U.S. forces are built up in Afghanistan and that the supply problem through Pakistan is solved, are the defeat of Taliban and the disruption of al Qaeda likely?
Al Qaeda and U.S. Goals Post-9/11

The overarching goal of the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, has been to prevent further attacks by al Qaeda in the United States. Washington has used two means toward this end. One was defensive, aimed at increasing the difficulty of al Qaeda operatives to penetrate and operate within the United States. The second was to attack and destroy al Qaeda prime, the group around Osama bin Laden that organized and executed 9/11 and other attacks in Europe. It is this group — not other groups that call themselves al Qaeda but only are able to operate in the countries where they were formed — that was the target of the United States, because this was the group that had demonstrated the ability to launch intercontinental strikes.

Al Qaeda prime had its main headquarters in Afghanistan. It was not an Afghan group, but one drawn from multiple Islamic countries. It was in alliance with an Afghan group, the Taliban. The Taliban had won a civil war in Afghanistan, creating a coalition of support among tribes that had given the group control, direct or indirect, over most of the country. It is important to remember that al Qaeda was separate from the Taliban; the former was a multinational force, while the Taliban were an internal Afghan political power.

The United States has two strategic goals in Afghanistan. The first is to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda prime — the central command of al Qaeda — in Afghanistan. The second is to use Afghanistan as a base for destroying al Qaeda in Pakistan and to prevent the return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan.

To achieve these goals, Washington has sought to make Afghanistan inhospitable to al Qaeda. The United States forced the Taliban from Afghanistan's main cities and into the countryside, and established a new, anti-Taliban government in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai. Washington intended to deny al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan by unseating the Taliban government, creating a new pro-American government and then using Afghanistan as a base against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The United States succeeded in forcing the Taliban from power in the sense that in giving up the cities, the Taliban lost formal control of the country. To be more precise, early in the U.S. attack in 2001, the Taliban realized that the massed defense of Afghan cities was impossible in the face of American air power. The ability of U.S. B-52s to devastate any concentration of forces meant that the Taliban could not defend the cities, but had to withdraw, disperse and reform its units for combat on more favorable terms.

At this point, we must separate the fates of al Qaeda and the Taliban. During the Taliban retreat, al Qaeda had to retreat as well. Since the United States lacked sufficient force to destroy al Qaeda at Tora Bora, al Qaeda was able to retreat into northwestern Pakistan. There, it enjoys the advantages of terrain, superior tactical intelligence and support networks.

Even so, in nearly eight years of war, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have maintained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan. The United States has imposed attrition on al Qaeda, disrupting its command, control and communications and isolating it. In the process, the United States used one of al Qaeda's operational principles against it. To avoid penetration by hostile intelligence services, al Qaeda has not recruited new cadres for its primary unit. This makes it very difficult to develop intelligence on al Qaeda, but it also makes it impossible for al Qaeda to replace its losses. Thus, in a long war of attrition, every loss imposed on al Qaeda has been irreplaceable, and over time, al Qaeda prime declined dramatically in effectiveness — meaning it has been years since it has carried out an effective operation.

The situation was very different with the Taliban. The Taliban, it is essential to recall, won the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal despite Russian and Iranian support for its opponents. That means the Taliban have a great deal of support and a strong infrastructure, and, above all, they are resilient. After the group withdrew from Afghanistan's cities and lost formal power post-9/11, it still retained a great deal of informal influence — if not control — over large regions of Afghanistan and in areas across the border in Pakistan. Over the years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban have regrouped, rearmed and increased their operations in Afghanistan. And the conflict with the Taliban has now become a conventional guerrilla war.
The Taliban and the Guerrilla Warfare Challenge

The Taliban have forged relationships among many Afghan (and Pakistani) tribes. These tribes have been alienated by Karzai and the Americans, and far more important, they do not perceive the Americans and Karzai as potential winners in the Afghan conflict. They recall the Russian and British defeats. The tribes have long memories, and they know that foreigners don't stay very long. Betting on the United States and Karzai — when the United States has sent only 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and is struggling with the idea of sending another 30,000 troops — does not strike them as prudent. The United States is behaving like a power not planning to win; and, in any event, they would not be much impressed if the Americans were planning to win.

The tribes therefore do not want to get on the wrong side of the Taliban. That means they aid and shelter Taliban forces, and provide them intelligence on enemy movement and intentions. With its base camps and supply lines running from Pakistan, the Taliban are thus in a position to recruit, train and arm an increasingly large force.

The Taliban have the classic advantage of guerrillas operating in known terrain with a network of supporters: superior intelligence. They know where the Americans are, what the Americans are doing and when the Americans are going to strike. The Taliban declines combat on unfavorable terms and strikes when the Americans are weakest. The Americans, on the other hand, have the classic problem of counterinsurgency: They enjoy superior force and firepower, and can defeat anyone they can locate and pin down, but they lack intelligence. As much as technical intelligence from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites is useful, human intelligence is the only effective long-term solution to defeating an insurgency. In this, the Taliban have the advantage: They have been there longer, they are in more places and they are not going anywhere.

There is no conceivable force the United States can deploy to pacify Afghanistan. A possible alternative is moving into Pakistan to cut the supply lines and destroy the Taliban's base camps. The problem is that if the Americans lack the troops to successfully operate in Afghanistan, it is even less likely they have the troops to operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States could use the Korean War example, taking responsibility for cutting the Taliban off from supplies and reinforcements from Pakistan, but that assumes that the Afghan government has an effective force motivated to engage and defeat the Taliban. The Afghan government doesn't.

The obvious American solution — or at least the best available solution — is to retreat to strategic Afghan points and cities and protect the Karzai regime. The problem here is that in Afghanistan, holding the cities doesn't give the key to the country; rather, holding the countryside gives the key to the cities. Moreover, a purely defensive posture opens the United States up to the Dien Bien Phu/Khe Sanh counterstrategy, in which guerrillas shift to positional warfare, isolate a base and try to overrun in it.

A purely defensive posture could create a stalemate, but nothing more. That stalemate could create the foundations for political negotiations, but if there is no threat to the enemy, the enemy has little reason to negotiate. Therefore, there must be strikes against Taliban concentrations. The problem is that the Taliban know that concentration is suicide, and so they work to deny the Americans valuable targets. The United States can exhaust itself attacking minor targets based on poor intelligence. It won't get anywhere.
U.S. Strategy in Light of al Qaeda's Diminution

From the beginning, the Karzai government has failed to take control of the countryside. Therefore, al Qaeda has had the option to redeploy into Afghanistan if it chose. It didn't because it is risk-averse. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a group that flies planes into buildings, but what it means is that the group's members are relatively few, so al Qaeda cannot risk operational failures. It thus keeps its powder dry and stays in hiding.

This then frames the U.S. strategic question. The United States has no intrinsic interest in the nature of the Afghan government. The United States is interested in making certain the Taliban do not provide sanctuary to al Qaeda prime. But it is not clear that al Qaeda prime is operational anymore. Some members remain, putting out videos now and then and trying to appear fearsome, but it would seem that U.S. operations have crippled al Qaeda.

So if the primary reason for fighting the Taliban is to keep al Qaeda prime from having a base of operations in Afghanistan, that reason might be moot now as al Qaeda appears to be wrecked. This is not to say that another Islamist terrorist group could not arise and develop the sophisticated methods and training of al Qaeda prime. But such a group could deploy many places, and in any case, obtaining the needed skills in moving money, holding covert meetings and the like is much harder than it looks — and with many intelligence services, including those in the Islamic world, on the lookout for this, recruitment would be hard.

It is therefore no longer clear that resisting the Taliban is essential for blocking al Qaeda: al Qaeda may simply no longer be there. (At this point, the burden of proof is on those who think al Qaeda remains operational.)

Two things emerge from this. First, the search for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups is an intelligence matter best left to the covert capabilities of U.S. intelligence and Special Operations Command. Defeating al Qaeda does not require tens of thousands of troops — it requires excellent intelligence and a special operations capability. That is true whether al Qaeda is in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Intelligence, covert forces and airstrikes are what is needed in this fight, and of the three, intelligence is the key.

Second, the current strategy in Afghanistan cannot secure Afghanistan, nor does it materially contribute to shutting down al Qaeda. Trying to hold some cities and strategic points with the number of troops currently under consideration is not an effective strategy to this end; the United States is already ceding large areas of Afghanistan to the Taliban that could serve as sanctuary for al Qaeda. Protecting the Karzai government and key cities is therefore not significantly contributing to the al Qaeda-suppression strategy.

In sum, the United States does not control enough of Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda sanctuary, can't control the border with Pakistan and lacks effective intelligence and troops for defeating the Taliban.

Logic argues, therefore, for the creation of a political process for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan coupled with a recommitment to intelligence operations against al Qaeda. Ultimately, the United States must protect itself from radical Islamists, but cannot create a united, pro-American Afghanistan. That would not happen even if the United States sent 500,000 troops there, which it doesn't have anyway.
A Tale of Two Surges

The U.S. strategy now appears to involve trying a surge, or sending in more troops and negotiating with the Taliban, mirroring the strategy used in Iraq. But the problem with that strategy is that the Taliban don't seem inclined to make concessions to the United States. The Taliban don't think the United States can win, and they know the United States won't stay. The Petraeus strategy is to inflict enough pain on the Taliban to cause them to rethink their position, which worked in Iraq. But it did not work in Vietnam. So long as the Taliban have resources flowing and can survive American attacks, they will calculate that they can outlast the Americans. This has been Afghan strategy for centuries, and it worked against the British and Russians.

If it works against the Americans, too, splitting the al Qaeda strategy from the Taliban strategy will be the inevitable outcome for the United States. In that case, the CIA will become the critical war fighter in the theater, while conventional forces will be withdrawn. It follows that Obama will need to think carefully about his approach to intelligence.

This is not an argument that al Qaeda is no longer a threat, although the threat appears diminished. Nor is it an argument that dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not a priority. Instead, it is an argument that the defeat of the Taliban under rationally anticipated circumstances is unlikely and that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan will be much more difficult and unlikely than the settlement was in Iraq — but that even so, a robust effort against Islamist terror groups must continue regardless of the outcome of the war with the Taliban.

Therefore, we expect that the United States will separate the two conflicts in response to these realities. This will mean that containing terrorists will not be dependent on defeating or holding out against the Taliban, holding Afghanistan's cities, or preserving the Karzai regime. We expect the United States to surge troops into Afghanistan, but in due course, the counterterrorist portion will diverge from the counter-Taliban portion. The counterterrorist portion will be maintained as an intense covert operation, while the overt operation will wind down over time. The Taliban ruling Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States, so long as intense counterterrorist operations continue there.

The cost of failure in Afghanistan is simply too high and the connection to counterterrorist activities too tenuous for the two strategies to be linked. And since the counterterror war is already distinct from conventional operations in much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, our forecast is not really that radical.

Monday, January 26, 2009

For Which It Stands: Saudi Arabia Analysis: Obama spoke to "the Muslim world," but he has much work to restore faith in U.S. Middle East policy Car



For Which It Stands: Saudi Arabia

Analysis: Obama spoke to "the Muslim world," but he has much work to restore faith in U.S. Middle East policy

Caryle Murphy

RIYADH — A Saudi friend recently asked me a difficult question.

Norah Al Hassawi was lamenting the horrible televised scenes of bloodshed and human misery in Gaza that have made her, and the rest of the Arab world, deeply depressed and angry in recent weeks.

"Americans are educated people," said Al Hassawi, an educator. "They can talk. What happened there? How come they can't see?"

What do I tell her? How do I explain why Americans have shown little interest in the death and destruction that their country's closest Middle Eastern ally, Israel, has inflicted on Gaza?

Shall I tell her that Americans are busy people? They are incurious about the rest of the world? They're bored by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? They are convinced by the argument that Israel's campaign was an act of self-defense against Hamas rockets? They're influenced by the Israeli lobby? Misinformed by the media?

At a loss for words, I did not reply to Al Hassawi. But newly sworn-in U.S. President Barack Obama seemed to be speaking to people like her in his Inaugural speech on Tuesday.

"To the Muslim world," he said "we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

The next day, Obama signaled that the Middle East would be on his front burner when he called three Arab leaders, as well as Israel's prime minister, to say hello from the Oval Office. And one of his first executive orders was to close the Guantanamo detention camp within a year.

Despite these goodwill gestures, the Obama administration faces a daunting task to convince a skeptical and angry Arab world that it is sincere about change in their part of the world.

After decades of disappointment in U.S. presidents, ordinary people are deeply cynical about such promises. If he wants to win their hearts and minds — the most crucial antidote to terrorism — Obama will have to address the most obvious, and important, political reality on the ground.

"People in the Arab and Islamic world care about one thing," said Ahmad Al Farraj, a political scientist in Riyadh. "And that is whether the United States is going to be fair when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

As anyone who's lived in the Middle East will tell you, people of this region are always saying they love Americans but hate U.S. foreign policy, regarded as unconditionally supportive of Israel at Arabs' expense. Washington's support for authoritarian Arab governments, and its lack of consistency in promoting democracy and human rights, are also major grievances among many Arabs. The outcome is a deep cynicism in this part of the world when America trumpets its ideals, even with oratory as eloquent and inspiring as the new president's.

Turki al Sudairy, president of the government-appointed Human Rights Commission, put it this way: "We love the American people. But when you look at how the policies are directed, we see something else, which has nothing to do with simple Americans' view of human rights."

For ordinary Americans, this willingness to separate them as individuals from their government's foreign policies is a fortunate bifurcation.

Unfortunately, it is one that Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk reject. The Al Qaeda master has argued that civilians living in Western democracies are legitimate targets for terrorist attacks precisely because they elect their governments and support them with their taxes. Thus, he contends, they are responsible for their governments' policies.

It's a very dangerous idea, and one that so far is not widely accepted in the Arab world.

In the post-Gaza climate of anger with U.S. foreign policy, it is hard to believe that just a little over 50 years ago, the United States was beloved in the Middle East. That was the case when President Dwight Eisenhower forced Britain and Israel to reverse their invasion of Egypt.

Since then, the U.S. has gone steadily downhill in Arab esteem. For more than two decades, for example, it has tolerated the building of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in what is widely seen as a violation of international law.

These settlements, the road network connecting them, and the huge wall now separating the West Bank from Israel, have made a geographically viable Palestinian state nearly impossible.

The U.S.-led invasion and continuing presence in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and Washington's failure to demand a halt to Israel's 2006 air war against Hezbollah in Lebanon all deepened Arab disillusionment with the United States, sending its prestige and moral authority plummeting to historic lows in this region.

There is a palpable sentiment in the Arab world that America must return to practicing the universal ideals that it says it stands for, not just for America's sake, but for everyone else's sake too. If America doesn't live up to those ideals, this line of reasoning goes, then why should others bother with them?

This helps explain why Middle Eastern eyes are now on "Abu Hussein."

That's how some young Saudis refer to Obama, who doesn't really qualify for this Arabic-style nickname — "Father of Hussein" — because he has no son. Hussein is a male name meaning "handsome."

But it's an indication of the sense of ownership that some young Arabs felt about Obama that they gave him this endearment, using his middle name. His Kenyan heritage, brown skin, Muslim father, and Arabic middle name all suggested to them that he might be more sympathetic to Arab views than past U.S. presidents.

But in the still smoldering rubble of Gaza, those expectations are now on hold.

And sober voices warn that U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so embedded in the U.S. political system, particularly the U.S. Congress, that it won't change no matter who occupies the White House.

As a result, ambivalence seems to be trouncing hope right now.

"When I see him I think this man looks honest...that if he says he will do something, he will do it," Al Hassawi said of Obama.

"But on the other hand, it's not up to him. Yes, he is the president of America, but he's not running America alone. There is the Congress. There is the people…So I'm not very optimistic...because he's just a part of the whole picture. I know that it takes a very brave man to change things, and I'm not sure if Obama will be this brave man or not."

The Afghan Trap by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

The Afghan Trap
by Nikolas K. Gvosdev
The National Interest Online


One of the things President Obama is discovering and will discover over the next several weeks is the gap between policy conception and policy implementation. As former–Deputy National Security Advisor Robert Blackwill observed on these pages four years ago, "In policymaking, the White House can say what it wishes conceptually, but this must be translated into specific policies. Implementation is the orphan of public policy inquiry."

Obama has outlined an ambitious agenda for Afghanistan. The problem, however, is that no problem exists in isolation. Let's just take two complications on Afghanistan.

We want to encourage economic growth and development in the country. On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and India's Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee officially opened a new highway that links the Afghan town of Delaram in the southwestern province of Nimroz with the Iranian border town of Zaranj—which in turn connects to the port of Chabahar. India plans to use this new communications link to trade with Afghanistan (and with central Asia beyond). It is also a boon to the Afghan economy. It is a definite plus for any strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan—but it comes at a cost: India's actions weaken U.S. efforts to economically isolate Iran and pressure it over its nuclear program and support for terrorism. Conversely, any American action to shut this port and road link down would have adverse economic consequences for Afghanistan and complicate efforts to win away the local population from extremist elements.

We also want to deploy additional military forces into the country. Yet, the principal supply route for U.S. and NATO forces via Pakistan remains vulnerable to attack and disruption. On the same day as Karzai and Mukherjee were dedicating the new Delaram-Zaranj highway (which the United States is not in any position to use as an alternate route), Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, put the outlines of a deal on the table: if NATO restores full contacts with Russia severed after the fall 2008 Caucasus war, Russia would facilitate the "full transport" of NATO's nonmilitary cargoes across Russian territory to central Asia and thence into Afghanistan. The more sensitive issue of allowing the transit of military equipment might also be on the table. Yet is this a step the new administration could take—especially after Russia's recent spats with Georgia and Ukraine?

The trap the new president must avoid is assuming that Iran or Russia will accommodate the United States on Afghanistan because our experts assure him that "it is in their interests too"—because creating a situation in that country that Tehran or Moscow can live with is not equated with making the United States successful.

One would think that based on what he has said about the importance of Afghanistan, the calculus of improving the odds of success would lead him and his team to ignore Afghanistan's use of Iran as its outlet to the world (and India's own support of that project) and to restore the NATO-Russia relationship not as any reward to Moscow but because it serves U.S. strategic interests to have a new secure transport route into Afghanistan. But it is just as easy for the first to become a roadblock and the second to be stalled because they conflict with other policy objectives vis-à-vis Iran and Russia.

So we shall soon see how President Obama sets foreign-policy priorities and how they are conveyed through the apparatus.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a senior editor at The National Interest, is a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed in this essay are entirely his own.

On The Wrong Side by Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery


On The Wrong Side


OF ALL the beautiful phrases in Barack Obama's inauguration speech, these are the words that stuck in my mind: "You are on the wrong side of history."


He was talking about the tyrannical regimes of the world. But we, too, should ponder these words.

In the last few days I have heard a lot of declarations from Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert. And every time, these eight words came back to haunt me: "You are on the wrong side of history!"


Obama was speaking as a man of the 21st century. Our leaders speak the language of the 19th century. They resemble the dinosaurs which once terrorized their neighborhood and were quite unaware of the fact that their time had already passed.

DURING THE rousing celebrations, again and again the multicolored patchwork of the new president's family was mentioned.


All the preceding 43 presidents were white Protestants, except John Kennedy, who was a white Catholic. 38 of them were the descendants of immigrants from the British isles. Of the other five, three were of Dutch ancestry (Theodor and Franklin D. Roosevelt , as well as Martin van Buren) and two of German descent (Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.)


The face of Obama's family is quite different. The extended family includes whites and the descendents of black slaves, Africans from Kenya, Indonesians, Chinese from Canada, Christians, Muslims and even one Jew (a converted African-American). The two first names of the president himself, Barack Hussein, are Arabic.


This is the face of the new American nation – a mixture of races, religions, countries of origin and skin-colors, an open and diverse society, all of whose members are supposed to be equal and to identify themselves with the "founding fathers". The American Barack Hussein Obama, whose father was born in a Kenyan village, can speak with pride of "George Washington, the father of our nation", of the "American Revolution" (the war of independence against the British), and hold up the example of "our ancestors", who include both the white pioneers and the black slaves who "endured the lash of the whip". That is the perception of a modern nation, multi-cultural and multi-racial: a person joins it by acquiring citizenship, and from this moment on is the heir to all its history.


Israel is the product of the narrow nationalism of the 19th century, a nationalism that was closed and exclusive, based on race and ethnic origin, blood and earth. Israel is a "Jewish State", and a Jew is a person born Jewish or converted according to Jewish religious law (Halakha). Like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it is a state whose mental world is to a large extent conditioned by religion, race and ethnic origin.


When Ehud Barak speaks about the future, he speaks the language of past centuries, in terms of brute force and brutal threats, with armies providing the solution to all problems. That was also the language of George W. Bush who last week slinked out of Washington, a language that already sounds to the Western ear like an echo from the distant past.


The words of the new president are ringing in the air: "Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please." The key words were "humility and restraint".


Our leaders are now boasting about their part in the Gaza War, in which unbridled military force was unleashed intentionally against a civilian population, men, women and children, with the declared aim of "creating deterrence". In the era that began last Tuesday, such expressions can only arouse shudders.

BETWEEN Israel and the United States a gap has opened this week, a narrow gap, almost invisible – but it may widen into an abyss.


The first signs are small. In his inaugural speech, Obama proclaimed that "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and nonbelievers." Since when? Since when do the Muslims precede the Jews? What has happened to the "Judeo-Christian Heritage"? (A completely false term to start with, since Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity. For example: neither Judaism nor Islam supports the separation of religion and state.)


The very next morning, Obama phoned a number of Middle East leaders. He decided to make a quite unique gesture: placing the first call to Mahmoud Abbas, and only the next to Olmert. The Israeli media could not stomach that. Haaretz, for example, consciously falsified the record by writing - not once but twice in the same issue - that Obama had called "Olmert, Abbas, Mubarak and King Abdallah" (in that order).


Instead of the group of American Jews who had been in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Obama, on his very first day in office, appointed an Arab-American, George Mitchell, whose mother had come to America from Lebanon at age 18, and who himself, orphaned from his Irish father, was brought up in a Maronite Christian Lebanese family.


These are not good tidings for the Israeli leaders. For the last 42 years, they have pursued a policy of expansion, occupation and settlements in close cooperation with Washington. They have relied on unlimited American support, from the massive supply of money and arms to the use of the veto in the Security Council. This support was essential to their policy. This support may now be reaching its limits.

It will happen, of course, gradually. The pro-Israel lobby in Washington will continue to put the fear of God into Congress. A huge ship like the United States can change course only very slowly, in a gentle curve. But the turn-around started already on the first day of the Obama administration.


This could not have happened, if America itself had not changed. That is not a political change alone. It is a change in the world-view, in mental outlook, in values. A certain American myth, which is very similar to the Zionist myth, has been replaced by another American myth. Not by accident did Obama devote to this so large a part of his speech (in which, by the way, there was not a single word about the extermination of the Native Americans).


The Gaza War, during which tens of millions of Americans saw the horrible carnage in the Strip (even if rigorous self-censorship cut out all but a tiny part), has hastened the process of drifting apart. Israel, the brave little sister, the loyal ally in Bush's "War on Terror", has turned into the violent Israel, the mad monster, which has no compassion for women and children, the wounded and the sick. And when winds like these are blowing, the Lobby loses height.


The leaders of official Israel do not notice it. They do not feel, as Obama put it in another context, that "the ground has shifted beneath them". They think that this is no more than a temporary political problem that can be set right with the help of the Lobby and the servile members of Congress.


Our leaders are still intoxicated with war and drunk with violence. They have re-phrased the famous saying of the Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz into: "War is but a continuation of an election campaign by other means." They compete with each other with vainglorious swagger for their share of the "credit". Tzipi Livni, who cannot compete with the men for the crown of warlord, tries to outdo them in toughness, in bellicosity, in hard-heartedness.


The most brutal is Ehud Barak. Once I called him a "peace criminal", because he brought about the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference and shattered the Israeli peace camp. Now I must call him a "war criminal", as the person who planned the Gaza War knowing that it would murder masses of civilians.


In his own eyes, and in the eyes of a large section of the public, this is a military operation which deserves all praise. His advisors also thought that it would bring him success in the elections. The Labor party, which had been the largest party in the Knesset for decades, had shrunk in the polls to 12, even 9 seats out of 120. With the help of the Gaza atrocity it has now gone up to 16 or so. That's not a landslide, and there's no guarantee that it will not sink again.


What was Barak's mistake? Very simply: every war helps the Right. War, by its very nature, arouses in the population the most primitive emotions – hate and fear, fear and hate. These are the emotions on which the Right has been riding for centuries. Even when it's the "Left" that starts a war, it's still the Right that profits from it. In a state of war, the population prefers an honest-to-goodness Rightist to a phony Leftist.


This is happening to Barak for the second time. When, in 2000, he spread the mantra "I have turned every stone on the way to peace, / I have made the Palestinians unprecedented offers, / They have rejected everything, / There is no one to talk with" - he succeeded not only in blowing the Left to smithereens, but also in paving the way for the ascent of Ariel Sharon in the 2001 elections. Now he is paving the way for Binyamin Netanyahu (hoping, quite openly, to become his minister of defense).


And not only for him. The real victor of the war is a man who had no part in it at all: Avigdor Liberman. His party, which in any normal country would be called fascist, is steadily rising in the polls. Why? Liberman looks and sounds like an Israeli Mussolini, he is an unbridled Arab-hater, a man of the most brutal force. Compared to him, even Netanyahu looks like a softie. A large part of the young generation, nurtured on years of occupation, killing and destruction, after two atrocious wars, considers him a worthy leader.


WHILE THE US has made a giant jump to the left, Israel is about to jump even further to the right.

Anyone who saw the millions milling around Washington on inauguration day knows that Obama was not speaking only for himself. He was expressing the aspirations of his people, the Zeitgeist.


Between the mental world of Obama and the mental world of Liberman and Netanyahu there is no bridge. Between Obama and Barak and Livni, too, there yawns an abyss. Post-election Israel may find itself on a collision course with post-election America.


Where are the American Jews? The overwhelming majority of them voted for Obama. They will be between the hammer and the anvil – between their government and their natural adherence to Israel. It is reasonable to assume that this will exert pressure from below on the "leaders" of American Jewry, who have incidentally never been elected by anyone, and on organizations like AIPAC. The sturdy stick, on which Israeli leaders are used to lean in times of trouble, may prove to be a broken reed.


Europe, too, is not untouched by the new winds. True, at the end of the war we saw the leaders of Europe – Sarkozy, Merkel, Browne and Zapatero – sitting like schoolchildren behind a desk in class, respectfully listening to the most loathsome arrogant posturing from Ehud Olmert, reciting his text after him. They seemed to approve the atrocities of the war, speaking of the Qassams and forgetting about the occupation, the blockade and the settlements. Probably they will not hang this picture on their office walls.


But during this war masses of Europeans poured into the streets to demonstrate against the horrible events. The same masses saluted Obama on the day of his inauguration.


This is the new world. Perhaps our leaders are now dreaming of the slogan: "Stop the world, I want to get off!" But there is no other world.


YES, WE ARE NOW on the wrong side of history.


Fortunately, there is also another Israel. It is not in the limelight, and its voice is heard only by those who listen out for it. This is a sane, rational Israel, with its face to the future, to progress and peace. In these coming elections, its voice will barely be heard, because all the old parties are standing with their two feet squarely in the world of yesterday.


But what has happened in the United States will have a profound influence on what happens in Israel. The huge majority of Israelis know that we cannot exist without close ties with the US. Obama is now the leader of the world, and we live in this world. When he promises to work "aggressively" for peace between us and the Palestinians, that is a marching order for us.


We want to be on the right side of history. That will take months or years, but I am sure that we shall get there. The time to start is now.

Anti-Arab sentiment swells among youth in aftermath of Gaza war

Anti-Arab sentiment swells among youth in aftermath of Gaza war


From Monday's Globe and Mail, Toronto

January 26, 2009

JERUSALEM — When the leader of Israel's religious-Zionist Meimad Party recently addressed a meeting of 800 high-school students in a Tel Aviv suburb, his words on the virtue of Israeli democracy for all its citizens were drowned out by student chants of "Death to the Arabs."

Not since the days of the now-illegal Kach party, and Baruch Goldstein killing 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron in 1994, has Rabbi Michael Melchior heard such anti-Arab sentiment.

But that sentiment is swelling, and the controversial former cabinet minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party are riding the wave. They have emerged as the biggest political winners from the recent war on Gaza. Their unequivocal anti-Arab policies have never been more popular.

It was Mr. Lieberman who led the recent campaign to have Israel's two Arab political parties banned from next month's Knesset election. He argued that their public criticism of Israel's assault on Hamas in Gaza constituted a disloyalty to the country as a Jewish and Zionist state.

Mr. Lieberman has long argued that all Arab Israelis should be made to swear an oath of loyalty to the country and, if they don't, they should lose their citizenship.

The country's highest court ruled in favour of the Arab parties, but not before the Knesset's central elections committee voted in favour of the ban. Even representatives of the mainstream Likud, Kadima and Labour parties cast ballots supporting the ban.

"The court has effectively given the Arab parties a licence to kill the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," Mr. Lieberman said, adding that his party would not give up the fight.

Besides loyalty oaths, his party wants to exchange Arab communities in Israel for Israeli settlements in the West Bank; it says that giving up any land in exchange for peace with Arab neighbours is "fundamentally flawed" and should not be pursued; and it argues that Jordan should be where Palestinians seek to create a state.

Public opinion surveys indicate that a growing number of Israelis support this approach; Yisrael Beitenu is poised to win 16 seats in the Feb. 10 vote (it currently has 11), as many seats as Labour might win.

More importantly, the party could be a coalition partner in an expected Likud government - something that would put Mr. Lieberman in a good position to promote his agenda.

"Yisrael Beitenu's rise, with its racist agenda, is a very dangerous trend in Israeli society," said Mohammad Darawshe, an Arab from the Israeli town of Nazereth who is co-director of the Abraham Fund, an organization that promotes co-operation among Israeli Arabs and Jews.

The anti-Arab trend is particularly strong among the young generation, Mr. Darawshe said. "In a poll conducted in May, more than 60 per cent of Jewish high-school kids say they want to control the political participation of Arabs in Israel; they're not ready to live in the same apartment building as Arab citizens; they don't like to hear the sound of Arabic language; and so on," he said. This racism "has to be taken seriously and dealt with seriously," Mr. Darawshe said, "as must separatism in the Arab community." A growing number of Israeli Arabs want to opt out of Israeli society, including boycotting elections, he said.

"Unfortunately, [the two trends] have common agendas; they feed off each other."

Even Foreign Minister and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni shocked many by saying that if people don't like what the government is doing "they can leave."

Overall, Israel's Arab population, while sympathetic to the plight of Gazans, is not particularly radicalized, certainly not as it was in the early days of the 2000-2004 Palestinian uprising. Yet, as Mr. Darawshe says, anti-Arab sentiment in the country has never been greater. The Lieberman party "ultimately seeks a direct clash with the Arab citizens in Israel" he said. And he worries that "there's no serious effort to stop it."

The 100 people at the Yisrael Beitenu rally for English-speaking voters Thursday night in Jerusalem certainly don't want to stop it. "It's the clarity of it that's so appealing," said Yona Triestman, a thirtysomething who works helping new immigrants settle in Israel. And the message certainly is straightforward. At the end of the night, Uzi Landau, a former Likud cabinet minister now running for Yisrael Beitenu, leaned forward and wagged his index finger at the audience. "There's just one thing you have to remember about our platform," he said, "just one thing to tell your friends: 'No loyalty, no citizenship.' "

Martyrs vs. Traitors myth gains currency in Gaza war's wake by Hussein Ibish

Martyrs vs. Traitors myth gains currency in Gaza war's wake

Hussein Ibish
The Chicago Tribune (Opinion)
January 25, 2009 - 12:00am,0,4432524.story

The conflict in Gaza has the potential of becoming a transformative political event in the Middle East that allows Islamists to capture the Arab political imagination for at least a generation. Along with familiar appeals to religious and cultural "authenticity," and dubious claims regarding good governance and democracy, Islamists are beginning to consolidate an exclusive claim to the most powerful Arab political symbols: Palestine and nationalism.

Few observers in the West evince a full understanding of the unprecedented cultural and political impact of Israel's attack on Gaza. The extraordinarily high civilian death toll and perceived helplessness of the victims, combined with atrocities such as the reported massacres at a UN school, and Israel's apparent use of phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas, paint the most enraging images Arab television audiences have witnessed.

Although Arab public opinion has been aroused by several other conflicts in recent decades, until now no hegemonic narrative has given coherent shape and political focus to this anger. During the Gaza war, we seem to have been witnessing the consolidation in most Arab media and political discourse of a coherent narrative that contains a prescription and a diagnosis: the Martyrs versus the Traitors.

In this mythology, the present Arab world is defined by a conflict between "the Martyrs," led by the Islamist movement and its allies, and "the Traitors," which include most if not all Arab governments, especially the Palestinian Authority, but also the governments in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The public, especially when it becomes swept up in violent conflict, is counted among the ranks of the Martyrs, but Islamist parties and militias are its vanguard.

Even if many in the West perceive Hamas to be fundamentally at fault in the conflict, questions of responsibility for initiating the fighting in the Arab political conversation have become an affront to the dead and injured. Every outrage simply adds further anger, a powerful form of political capital, to the Islamist account. They serve to identify ordinary people, and their basic interests, with the Islamist movement and underscore the righteous victimization of the Martyrs as a category.

What gives this narrative its unique appeal and danger is its obvious programmatic corollary: The Martyrs must defeat the Traitors, for the nationalistic cause in general, and for Palestine in particular. The Palestinian issue could become a decisive factor in internal power struggles within states throughout the Arab world, and prove the decisive legitimating factor in the frustrated efforts by Islamist groups in the Sunni Arab world to capture or inherit state power.

This narrative has been developing in Arab political discourse for many years and is based on long-standing resentments, but perceptions regarding the war in Gaza—skillfully managed from the outset by those pushing the Martyrs versus the Traitors mythology—could be sufficient to establish it as the defining Arab political narrative for the foreseeable future. Islamists are increasingly garnering support not only from the devout Muslim constituency, but also to an unprecedented degree from Arab nationalists in general, including many self-described secularists, leftists and Christians.

Whether this narrative becomes hegemonic will not be decided by the outcome of the war. It will instead rest upon the contrast between what is offered by Hamas' commitment to confrontation until victory versus the Palestinian Authority's policy of seeking a negotiated agreement with Israel.

Even death and devastation in Gaza, but in the guise of religiously and culturally authentic resistance, will be more appealing than stagnation, failure and apparent surrender in the West Bank. Avoiding this means not only moving immediately to improve the quality of life in the West Bank, but also securing a settlement freeze that constitutes significant political victories for those who wish to talk rather than fight.

The most significant battle will be waged in the upcoming 12 to 18 months, when Palestinians and other Arabs will be carefully drawing the contrast between the two approaches, especially with regard to nationalist goals.

If the Palestinian cause is permanently lost to the Islamist movement, theocratic reactionaries across the region could finally acquire the broad political legitimacy and nationalist credentials that might well enable them to begin to seriously threaten existing governments.

The United States and Israel must now choose which Palestinians, and indeed what kind of Arab world, they want to deal with: one in which forces of moderation have a fighting chance to rebuild political legitimacy and credibility, or one in which the political imagination is completely dominated by the myth of the Martyrs versus Traitors.

Questions for Secretary Gates: Part II

Questions for Secretary Gates: Part II

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday, January 27 on the f "challenges facing the Defense Department." Unavoidable questions that Gates will face will involve, not any problem - let alone reform - but instead the notion that spending more on the defense budget will help stimulate the economy. Heavily populated with habitual porkers, the committee is sure to witness Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) to seek more F-22s for Georgia, Susan Collins (R - ME) to look to fortify shipbuilding for Maine, and several others as well. Chambliss' F-22 and Collins' DDG-1000 do not help our defenses; they degrade them. The same counter-intuitive logic is true of economic stimulus. Spending more on complexities like the F-22 and DDG-1000 will not provide the economic stimulus sought. In fact, cutting, not expanding, the defense budget can result in real stimulus - but only if Congress does it right. A new commentary in the January 28 Janes' Defense Weekly provides my explanation.

The commentary can be found at Janes' website at, and it can be found at CDI's website at

It is also below.

Individuals interested in the contention that systems like the F-22 and the DDG-1000 degrade, not improve, our defenses may be interested to review portions of a new anthology, "America's Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress." Individual chapters and other materials can be found at

Commentary in Janes' follows:

Assist US Economy by Cutting Defence Budget

Janes' Defense Weekly

January 28, 2009

by Winslow T. Wheeler

As the economic news darkens in the United States, the ideas for stimulating new jobs get worse. A sure-fire way to advance deeper into recession is now being spread around: spend even more on the Department of Defense (DoD). Doing that will not generate new jobs effectively and it will perpetuate serious problems in the Pentagon. The newly inaugurated President Barack Obama would be well advised to go in precisely the opposite direction.

Harvard economist Professor Martin Feldstein has advocated in the Wall Street Journal (‘Defense Spending Would Be Great Stimulus’, 24 December 2008) the addition of USD30 billion or so to the Pentagon’s budget for the purpose of generating 300,000 new jobs. It is my assertion, however, that pushing the DoD as a jobs engine is a mistake.

With its huge overhead costs, glacial payout rates and ultra-high costs of materials, I believe the Pentagon can generate jobs by spending but neither as many nor as soon as is suggested.

A classic foible is Feldstein’s recommendation to surge the economy with “additional funding [that] would allow the [US] Air Force [USAF] to increase the production of fighter planes”. The USAF has two fighter aircraft in production: the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The F-22 has reached the end of approved production (with 183 units) but the air force would love at least 60 more. However, even if Congress appropriated today the USD11 billion needed for them, the work would not start until 2010: too late for the stimulus everyone agrees is needed now.

Feldstein thinks it can be otherwise. He is probably thinking of the Second World War model where production lines cranked out thousands of aircraft each month: as fast as the government could stuff money, materials and workers into the
assembly line.

The problem is that there is no such assembly line for the F-22. Although they are fabricated in a large facility where aircraft production hummed in bygone eras, F-22s are today hand-built, pre-Henry Ford style. Go to Lockheed Martin’s plant; you will find no detectable movement of aircraft out the door. Instead you will see virtually stationary aircraft and workers applying parts in a manner more evocative of hand-crafting. This ‘production rate’ generates one F-22 every 18 days or so.

The current rate for the F-35, now at the start of production, is even slower, although the USAF would like to get its rate up to a whopping 10 to 15 aircraft per month.

Why do we not just speed things up?

We can’t. The specialised materials that the F-22 requires must be purchased a year or two ahead of time and, with advance contracting and all the other regulations that exist today, the Pentagon’s bureaucracy is functionally incapable of
speeding production up anytime soon, if ever.

In fact, adding more F-22 production money will not increase the production rate or the total number of jobs involved. It will simply extend the current F-22 production rate of 20 aircraft per year into the future. Existing jobs will be saved but no new jobs will be created.

Note also that the USD11 billion that 60 more F-22s would gobble up is more than a third of the USD30 billion that Feldstein wants to give to the DoD. How he would create 300,000 new jobs with the rest of the money is a mystery. More F-22 spending would be a money surge for Lockheed Martin but not a jobs engine for the nation.

Even if one could speed up production of the other fighter, the JSF, it would be stupid to do so. The F-35 is just beginning the testing phase and it has been having some major problems, requiring design changes. That discovery process is far from over. The aircraft should be put into full production after, not before, all the needed modifications are identified.

Over-anxious to push things along much too quickly to permit a ‘fly before you buy’ strategy, the USAF has already scheduled the production of around 500 F-35s before testing is complete. Going even more quickly would make a bad
acquisition plan even worse.

Even other economists are sceptical about Feldstein’s numbers. An October 2007 paper from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that each USD1 billion spent on defence would generate 8,555 jobs, not the 10,000 calculated by Feldstein. Given the problems with the F-22 just discussed and the lack of jobs I believe it will generate, even this lower estimate sounds extremely optimistic.

More importantly, the same amount of money spent elsewhere would generate more jobs, often better ones, and it would do it faster. For example, according to the above study, USD1 billion in spending for mass transit would generate 19,795 jobs (131 per cent more than for the DoD) and in education would generate 17,687 jobs (107 per cent more) – and the hiring could start in early 2009.

In fact, if employment is the aim, it makes more sense to cut defence spending and use the money in programmes that do it better. As for the defence budget, less money offers the opportunity for reform – just what the doctor ordered. Despite high levels of spending, the combat formations of the services are smaller than at any point since 1946. Major equipment is, on average, older, and, according to key measurables, our forces are less ready to fight. The F-22 and F-35 programmes typify the broken system that fostered this decline. Real reform would do much more for national security than giving the Pentagon more money to spend poorly.

Winslow T Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, DC. He is the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

Winslow T. Wheeler
Straus Military Reform Project
Center for Defense Information
301 791-2397

CDI | 1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW | Washington, DC 20036 | US
Unsubscribe from future marketing messages from CDI
Email marketing delivered by Bronto