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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "Pentagon"

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Sequestration: Our Military is Due for Downsizing

February 22, 2013 ·

Sequestration wouldn't gut military

This strange animal called sequestration is certainly wreaking havoc with our customary ideological boundaries. 

If you’re an advocate, Iike I am, for revamped federal priorities that shift resources from a bloated Pentagon budget toward neglected domestic priorities, your take on this animal can’t be simple. You say cutting everything indiscriminately is a bad way to run a government (this view is nearly universal). You oppose the cuts in the domestic budget that will leave us with fewer food safety inspectors, medical researchers, Head Start teachers, and airport baggage screeners on the job. But you can reel off long lists of ways to cut waste in the Pentagon budget to the levels prescribed by sequestration, and show that these cuts will leave us completely safe.

But you also know that the whole conversation is focused on the wrong topic. It’s past time to shift this conversation away from austerity and toward investment to create jobs, as clear majorities of voters said in November was what they wanted.

Now let’s look at the Washington Post’s blogger who says he writes “from a liberal perspective,” Greg Sargent. On Wednesday he went at the Republican position on sequestration, wielding a new report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. The report found that the single most important cause of increased income inequality in recent years is the favored tax treatment given to capital gains and stock dividends — i.e. what the rich have used to get richer.

The Democrats, as Sargent points out, want to change this, taxing the rich and using the proceeds to replace the sequester cuts. The Republicans want to stick with sequestration and keep this favored treatment for the rich.

But all of this puts the Republicans, says Sargent, in the position of “openly conceding that the sequester will gut the military.” It’s a concession that Sargent appears to be taking at face value. Or at least not calling into question.

Gut the military? That’s what the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been saying any chance they get. Sequestration would “invite aggression,” says lingering Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It will “put the nation at greater risk of coercion,” says the Joint Chiefs Chair, Martin Dempsey. When asked at a recent congressional hearing which nation might coerce us, though, he couldn’t say.

In fact, sequestration will not “gut” our military. Our military budget has nearly doubled since 2001. Sequestration would take it back to the level it was in 2007 — when we were still fighting two wars. Adjusted for inflation, it would leave that budget higher than its Cold War average — when we had an adversary that was spending roughly what we were on its military. Now, as Michael Cohen notes in The Guardian, the closest thing to a peer adversary we have is China, and we are spending more on research and development of new weapons than the Chinese are spending on their entire military. We spend more on our military, in fact, than the next 14 countries put together.

After the longest period of war in our history, we are due for a defense downsizing. Sequestration would create a shallower downsizing than any of the previous postwar periods since World War II. We can do this, and we should. We need the money for other things.

As sequestration threatens to confuse us all, let’s be sure to stay clear on that, at least.

Will Chuck Hagel's Appointment Actually Help the Anti-War Left?

January 8, 2013 ·

Phyllis Bennis wrote this blog post for The Nation.

Chuck Hagel isn’t anyone I’d pick to be in a position of power. He’s a conservative Republican, a military guy who volunteered to fight in Vietnam. According to Forbes magazine, during Hagel’s tenure in the Senate “he favored school prayer, missile defense and drilling in Alaska, while opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and limits on assault guns. He voted in favor of every defense authorization bill that came up during the dozen years he served, while opposing extension of Medicare benefits to prescription drugs. Such stances earned him a lifetime rating of 84 percent from the American Conservative Union.” Forbes, of course, thinks this is all great.

Me, not so much. But okay, we’re talking about Secretary of Defense, not someone responsible for domestic and social policy. Well, first of all, if I had to choose a secretary of defense, I’d start with someone who recognized that their first requirement would be to transform the US war machine from an aggressive into a defensive institution…something it’s never been before. If we assume it had to be a member of Congress, I’d start with Barbara Lee or Dennis Kucinich, not Chuck Hagel.

But that isn’t the choice we face. The alternatives to Hagel won’t be the heroic Oakland congresswoman or the committed defender of the Department of Peace, they’ll be military bureaucrats who have never said a word outside their respective boss’s talking point boxes.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about Hagel vs. anybody. This is about what President Obama is signaling by his nomination of Hagel as Secretary of Defense—and about the political forces arrayed against him.

Read the rest on The Nation's website.

Debate Club: Did the U.S. Withdraw from Iraq Too Soon?

January 24, 2012 ·

Far from being "too soon," the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq came more than eight years too late--and still, the war isn't over. This war should never have been launched, so it can't be ended soon enough.

U.S. soldiers killed The war was based on lies--remember the "weapons of mass destruction" that weren't there, the "links to 9/11" that never happened, the "mobile weapons laboratories" that didn't exist? Withdrawing troops now, after eight years of occupation, doesn't mean the U.S. achieved victory. It was a defeat for the U.S. and a disaster for the people of Iraq. A terrible dictator (who had been armed, paid, and backed by the U.S., we should not forget) was indeed overthrown. But Iraqis faced years without security, basic services, electricity--let alone democracy, human rights, or independence.

The U.S. war, following more than a decade of devastating U.S.-imposed economic sanctions, ravaged the infrastructure and social fabric of Iraq, leaving behind a broken country ruled by a corrupt sectarian government. For eight years, with up to 182,600 U.S. and allied troops occupying the country at any one time, Iraq was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and remains so today. That would still be the case if we had pulled out years ago, or if we waited another one, two, or 25 years.

Of course, it's important that U.S. troops and Pentagon-paid contractors have been withdrawn. Indeed it's a huge victory for the U.S. and global anti-war movements who made it imperative for President Obama to enforce the U.S.-Iraq agreement requiring just that. But the U.S. war is not over. U.S. troops have left Iraq, but thousands are streaming into Kuwait and onto Navy ships cruising just "over the horizon." Maybe just a few hundred uniformed U.S. troops will be left in Iraq, but 15,000 or more State Department-paid mercenaries are pouring in, doing the same things--guarding the biggest-in-the-world U.S. embassy, training Iraqis to use the weapons we're still flooding the country with, "special operations"--that continue the instability. The contractors include some of the same armed men whose Pentagon-paid violence led to such outrage in the past. Americans may have forgotten, but Iraqis certainly remember.

It's already too late, but the whole U.S. war in Iraq, not only the presence of uniformed troops, needs to end completely. That includes ending the related wars--in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the drone wars in Yemen and Somalia and beyond, the threatened wars against Iran. Only then can we really claim we've "withdrawn from Iraq."

This post originally appeared on the U.S. News and World Report's "Debate Club." Vote for this and other posts by clicking here.

Cut Nine Military Programs, Save $77 Billion

July 21, 2011 ·

After weeks of negotiations military cuts seem to be on the table as reported in today's Washington Post. In case anyone in Congress is looking for a quick $77 billion in savings, we thought it would be good to list the proposed reductions to the 2012 fiscal year's military budget in the Unified Security Budget task force report that IPS released last month:


1. National Missile Defense: Cease further Missile Defense development but retain a basic technology program to determine if NMD is technically feasible, generating $3.6 billion in savings.

2. Virginia Class Submarine: Cancel production of the second SSN-744 Virginia Class submarine in FY2012 and in subsequent years, saving $2.41 billion in 2012 and $11.32 billion through 2016.

3. V-22 Osprey: Cancel the V-22 Osprey program for savings of $2.79 billion in FY2012.

4. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Cut the Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, and reduce procurement for Air Force version by half, saving $5.6 billion.

5. Personnel: Reduce the number of active-duty personnel stationed in Europe and Asia, allowing for savings of $6.5 billion in 2012.

6. Nuclear Forces: Reduce nuclear weapons arsenal to 292 deployed weapons and 19 in reserve and eliminate the Trident II nuclear missile, generating $21 billion in savings.

7. Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation: Reduce RDT&E across the board from $74.3 to $65.3 billion, saving $10 billion.

8. Force Structure: Cut two active component air wings, two carrier battle groups and their associated air wings from the Air Force for an annual savings of $8 billion.

9. Waste and Inefficiencies: Use waste and efficiency savings identified across the department to reduce the budget saving $20 billion.

The USB report showed that the Pentagon is spending billions in weapons that have no match around the world and which are unlikely to be used in combat in any strategic military engagement by the United States.

Will the military budget emerge from the ongoing spending reductions unscathed? Or, will someone take a stand and trim its fat?

Summer Doldrums and War Budgets

July 13, 2011 ·

The dog days of summer have socked in, with Washington’s heat and humidity made far worse by the hot air coming out of corporate board rooms and hearing rooms and White House and Capitol conference rooms, as DC’s powerful debate the budget crisis. One word, of course, largely unspoken: WAR. As in, the costs of:

  • The decade-long, disastrous war in Afghanistan - 98,000 U.S. troops and 100,000 U.S.-paid contractors at a cost of $122 billion just this year.
  • The continuing occupation of Iraq - 48,000 troops and administration pressure on Iraq to “request” they remain after the December 2011 deadline at a cost of $47 billion just this year.
  • The illegal and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan — killing as many as 2015 people since 2004, of whom less than 2% are militant leaders — at a cost of at least $258 million just for the drone strikes themselves.
  • The overall Pentagon budget (which does not count the cost of the actual wars) at a cost of $553 billion just this year.

That's just for starters. Seems like some of those here in DC so desperate to figure out how to explain to their constituents why there are no jobs, why they’re losing their homes, and why grandma’s Medicare is being cut should really be apologizing instead for continuing to wage illegal, useless wars at a cost of now trillions of dollars.

In the meantime, just a few updates.

The Transnational Institute, IPS’s sister institute in Amsterdam where I spend time each year with an extraordinary gathering of public scholars and activists from around the world, has started a great project of getting Spanish translations of TNI fellows’ books on-line for downloading and/or use in kindles/nooks/e-readers etc. It’s pretty cool - the first one is my book Challenging Empire: How People, Government, and the UN Defy U.s. Power, for which Danny Glover, the great activist-actor, wrote the foreword. You can download it here - and please send the link on to Spanish-speaking friends and colleagues.

Some of you will remember the great supporter and critic of the United Nations, Erskine Childers. He was one of the earliest defenders of the UN’s independence and integrity, a fierce fighter against U.S. domination of the institution, and one of my close friends and mentors. He died too early, in 1996, and a new book takes a new look at some of his key speeches, with contributions by a host of his friends and comrades. If you want to take a look at my commentary, it’s here, and you can find the entire book on-line here.

And while we fight budget wars and fight the erosion of our democracy here, democracy seems to be doing a lot better in other parts of the world. Below is my article on Turkey’s recent elections and its rising role as a major economic and democratic power in the Middle East and beyond, “Turkish Democracy Gives Rise to Turkish Power.”

Hope you’re having a good summer, keep up the fight to stop the wars and bring the war dollars home.

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