Articles (Jan – Mar 2012)
Empires then and now
Paul Craig Roberts
March 26, 2012
Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire east into Germany was not the military prowess of Germanic tribes but Rome’s calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable resources.
The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed, because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.
In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. He describes the successes of the Romans, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Spanish in Peru, Napoleon in Italy, and the British in India and Kenya in extracting resources. To lower the cost of governing Kenya, the British instigated tribal consciousness and invented tribal customs that worked to British advantage.
Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.
America’s wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about?
The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.
The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the puppet government that Washington established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the country.
In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.
This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that the mission needed to be defined.
Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the expense of American citizens.
This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.
It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations. Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the American people are victims of the American empire.
© Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.
The Final Frontier
BY Gregory L. Schulte
February 9, 2011
Our new space strategy boldly goes where no U.S. policy has gone before.
The Department of Defense’s strategic approach to space must change. This is the message of the National Security Space Strategy recently approved by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
During the Cold War, space was the private reserve of the United States and Soviet Union. It was the “high frontier,” from which we could support national defense and power projection with near impunity. Space capabilities were essential to such strategic tasks as monitoring compliance with arms control treaties and providing early warning of nuclear attack.
Today, space capabilities support a much broader range of domestic and global needs. Space systems benefit the global economy, enhance our national security, strengthen international relationships, advance scientific discovery, and improve our way of life.
Many nations have recognized the benefits derived from space, and the United States increasingly shares the domain with more and more space-faring countries — both close allies, like France and Japan, and potential adversaries. And space is increasingly congested, competitive, and contested – challenges that we refer to as “the three C’s.”
U.S. policy must first adapt to increased congestion in space. There are over 1,100 active systems in orbit and an additional 21,000 pieces of debris littering the skies and posing a threat to our satellites. Radio frequency interference is also a concern, with more than 9,000 transponders relaying communications between spacecraft and the ground expected in orbit by 2015. Either radio interference or collision with a piece of debris could render a satellite useless, depriving military forces and national decision-makers of the information it collects and transmits.
Space is also the object of increased competition between nations …
$20M plutonium project at ORNL to support space program
By Frank Munger
March 30, 2012
Over the next two years, Oak Ridge National Laboratory will carry out a $20 million pilot project to demonstrate the lab’s ability to produce and process plutonium-238 for use in the space program.
Tim Powers, director of ORNL’s Non-Reactor Nuclear Facilities Division, said the technology demonstration will include development of neptunium-237 targets that will then be introduced into the High Flux Isotope Reactor to produce small amounts of Pu-238. Later, workers will remove the targets from the reactor core and process the radioactive materials in hot cells at the lab’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center, separating the Pu-238 from the neptunium and purifying the plutonium.
Powers said the ORNL program will support the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan to eventually produce 1½ to 2 kilograms of Pu-238 per year, using existing infrastructure within the DOE complex. For years, the U.S. has relied on purchases from Russia to supplement the inventory of the radioisotope for the space power program. There have been multiple proposals to re-establish a U.S.-based production program, none of which took hold.
According to Powers, very small amounts of neptunium will be introduced into the High Flux Isotope Reactor in the early stages of the demonstration project. Over time, some of the targets will be withdrawn for evaluation, while others will be left in the reactor core for longer irradiation periods, he said.
Pu-238 is a sister isotope to the plutonium-239 that’s used in nuclear weapons. It’s considered the optimum material for power sources — known as radioisotope thermoelectric generators or RTGs — on deep space missions.
The RTGs supply electricity to spacecraft that are too far from the sun to use solar panels. The heat generated by plutonium’s natural decay is converted to electricity, which then powers transmitters and other instruments. …
Pine Gap and the Australian Quake
The Intel Hub
By Zen Gardner
March 28, 2012
I just “happened” on this information while researching something else, as is so often the case. The infamous Pine Gap black op military information gathering installation turns out to be nowhere else but in central Australia right near the location of the recent rogue Australian 5.7 quake that shook so many up.
Weird? There’s more. …
This Amercian installation near the quake’s center is reported to have a 5 mile deep antenna going towards the earth’s core. Hmm. Earthquake depth: 10.7 km (6.6 miles).
This is reminiscent of the quakes caused by fracking drills in the U.S. If the earth is activating and the core and plates are moving, this type of deep earth technology is going to contribute in some way, shape or form. You can count on it. …
A US surveillance base smack dab in central Australia. Why? Now they can “legally” spy on US citizens, as well as anyone else they want. But this is only what they’re telling us. You know they’re up to a lot more than that there.
“The United States has three major bases in Australia. One is in South Australia (Nurranger, near Woomera, T.N.), another in New South Wales, and the third (and by far the largest) is located within about 230 km (143 miles) of the geographical center of the continent, not far to the west of Alice Springs (Northern Territory), at the foothills of the southern slopes of the MacDonnell Range. This base is completely underground, with barely visible entrances to the surface.
“This ‘Top Secret’ base is entirely financed by the United States Government, and is officially known as the Joint Defense Space Research Facility.”
US Human Rights Violations
By Eric Sommer
March 26, 2012
US media and political figures constantly attack China for alleged human rights violations, while conveniently turning a blind eye to human rights violations perpetrated by the United States in the name of its war on terror, for instance the use of torture at Abu Ghraib, the illegal detention of suspects at Guantanamo, the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of individuals from one state to another, and the unauthorized surveillance of citizens are just some the US’ well-documented human rights abuses.
And as important as rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion may be, these rights pale in significance beside the most fundamental of human rights, which is the right to live, with its corollary of security from actions or conditions which threaten life, such as military aggression, criminal acts, or similar threats that put people’s lives at risk.
With this in mind let’s compare China and the US, to see who is the real human rights violator.
US military forces have been responsible for thousands, possibly millions, of civilian deaths around the world in the past decade.
While there are no accurate figures for the civilian death toll in Iraq, household surveys have been conducted asking Iraqis to list the family members they have lost and the results then extrapolated to the total population to give a nationwide estimate.The prominent British medical journal, the Lancet, ran into a storm of controversy when it published an article by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore which extrapolated the results of a survey of a randomly chosen sample of 1,849 households to the total Iraqi population and estimated that there were 655,000 deaths between April 2003 and June 2006. Yet in 2007, the British polling firm Opinion Research Business surveyed 1,720 Iraqi adults and extrapolated a figure that was even higher – a “minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063” – Iraqi civilaians killed.
The independent UK-based research group, the Iraq Body Count, which only counts civilan deaths where there is documentary evidence, such as cross-checked media reports, hospital, and morgue records – which is likely to be the minority seeing as so few bodies are recovered – has a minimum civilian death toll of 105,753.
Nor is there a single figure for the overall number of civilians killed by the 10-year war in Afghanistan, but according to the latest report from the United Nations, 12,793 have been killed in just the past six years.
And these figures do not include those that have been injured in the two wars, nor those killed or injured by the US military in Pakistan and Libya.
It should be noted that none of these countries attacked -or have ever attacked – the US …
The U.S. military doesn’t know who is fit to fight
Stephen N. Xenakis
March 23, 2012
How good is the U.S. military at determining who is fit for battle?
Ten years into the war in Afghanistan, and after nearly nine years of war in Iraq, we know that the defining injuries of these conflicts for our service members include traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. We also understand that the all-volunteer force is stretched thin and that multiple deployments to combat zones are routine.
What military physicians don’t have a good sense of, however, is how to tell whether a combat veteran is still qualified for the battlefield. And the tragedy this month in Afghanistan, where Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, on his fourth combat tour, allegedly slaughtered 17 civilians and has been charged with murder, underscores the urgency of finding a better solution.
I have spent much of my career searching for one. As a psychiatrist who served from 1970 to 1998, I helped develop the Army’s programs in stress reduction, and I took on the issue as a retired Army brigadier general and the senior adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Soldiers are, of course, screened before and after deploying. But although this process involves multiple questionnaires and a review of medical records, it varies from base to base. No physiological tests are used, and soldiers may or may not see clinicians. Assessments are highly subjective and have been criticized for relying on self-reports. After all, soldiers may not be honest about their problems. If injured or unstable, they may be unable to deploy with teammates who rely on them or may face delays in going home. …
Space clutter a growing concern for Pentagon
Stars and Stripes
By Steven Beardsley
March 23, 2012
Space may be the final frontier, but it’s turning into a rough neighborhood — a limited number of Earth orbits increasingly crowded with satellites and littered with debris that can destroy valuable space assets.
Overcrowding in space is now a national security threat, experts say. U.S. Defense and State Department officials are grappling with the challenge of cleaning up the mess and encouraging “best practices” without compromising national defense.
In January, the Obama administration announced it would work with the European Union and other nations on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.
The plan has sparked debate in Washington, with critics charging that any such agreement, though nonbinding, would limit defense activities.
“Taken literally, the European Union code would interfere with our ability to develop antiballistic missile systems in space, test anti-satellite weapons and gather intelligence,” two officials with the George W. Bush administration, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and former Justice Department official John C. Yoo, wrote in an opinion piece published by The New York Times this month.
But Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said a code of conduct could greatly ease the Air Force’s ‘nigh impossible’ job of monitoring traffic in the 73 trillion cubic miles of space between the Earth’s surface and geosynchronous orbit altitude. It would also make distinguishing between friendly and potentially unfriendly launches easier.
“Creating transparency in how people operate would be useful to everyone,” he said. “Tell me before you maneuver, tell me before you’re going to launch, tell me if you’re going to create debris.”
Currently, more than 22,000 objects larger than four inches orbit the Earth, according to NASA. Many are catalogued, and closely monitored, but others aren’t. Hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris are equally capable of damaging orbital objects, the agency reports.
Meanwhile, more than 60 nations and government consortia have satellites in orbit, according to the State Department.
A 2011 report conducted by the National Research Council at the request of NASA and the White House concluded that the “tipping point” of orbital objects has already been reached.
The danger of such clutter has become more visible in recent years. Four of the eight known collisions among objects in orbit occurred since 2000, according to Securing the Skies, a 2010 report by researchers with the nonpartisan advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists.
In 2009, a deactivated Russian satellite collided with a working telecommunications satellite owned by the multinational Iridium corporation. The result was the loss of both satellites and the creation of thousands of pieces of space debris.
As nations continue to rely on sensitive satellites, an accidental collision could easily be misunderstood as an attack, potentially sparking conflict, the authors of Securing our Skies argue. …
US military maps out green battlefield goals
By Shifra Mincer, EarthTechling
March 22, 2012
Unveiled last June, the U.S. military’s Operational Energy Strategy, “Energy for the Warfighter,” is a call for greater energy efficiency in military operations, something the Pentagon says will save money and lives.
Now the Department of Defense (DOD) is ready to turn these goals into reality, unveiling an implementation plan for the energy strategy, complete with seven specific targets and goals that will provide a roadmap its energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies across the military.
According to the DOD, department operations wound up consuming 5 billion gallons of fuel last year alone, at a cost of about $13 billion.
In Afghanistan, the military burns through about 50 million gallons of fuel a month and 70 percent of the total logistics movement is fuel or water. But the real costs of dependence on energy during wartime can also be measured in terms of lives lost whilst moving and guarding fuel on the battlefield. …
Why do we fight, Mr. Obama?
By TU Editorial Board
March 20, 2012
Our opinion: Events in Afghanistan in recent months raise fresh doubts about prospects for American success.
How many hostile signals will it take that we are no longer welcome in Afghanistan, even by supposed allies, before President Obama reconsiders his plan to keep America engaged in an increasingly futile war?
Mr. Obama needs to explain to the American people once again why we are there, why we have stayed long past the completion of the original mission, and why we should spend another two years there, if not more.
Increasingly, Americans are questioning if this remains a war we should be fighting, as Mr. Obama asserted during the 2008 campaign.
These days, it is difficult to tell friends from enemies in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of last week’s massacre of 16 Afghans, apparently by one American soldier who went on a shooting rampage, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked that U.S. troops be confined to major bases. That would effectively take them out of the counterinsurgency effort — a key to Mr. Obama’s strategy — and leave them doing…well, it’s not really clear what Mr. Karzai wants them to do. It seems that he’d like America to keep tens of thousands of soldiers in his country spending billions of dollars to prop up his economy and serving as a threat to a resurgent Taliban or even to al Qaida, but not much more.
To be sure, America hasn’t been winning hearts and minds lately. Before last week’s massacre, remember, there were angry demonstrations over the burning last month of several Korans at Bagram Air Field after the Muslim holy books — said to have been already defaced by prisoners who used them to send messages — were mistakenly thrown in with trash. The incident drew a rare apology from a U.S. president as Mr. Obama sought to avoid a violent backlash against American troops. …
RAF Lakenheath celebrates 20 years of the F-15E Strike Eagle
by Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
February 13, 2012
1992. “Melrose Place” and “Full House” were on the TV, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” was number one on the radio, “Aladdin” was playing in movie theaters, and President George H. W. Bush was in the White House.
And tucked away in a rural part of East Anglia, the first F-15E Strike Eagle touched down on the runway at RAF Lakenheath.
Fast forward to 2012 and the F-15E Strike Eagle is celebrating its 20th anniversary at the 48th Fighter Wing.
Master Sgt. Robert Griffith, 48th Operations Support Squadron unit deployment manager, then a young Airman working on the F-111 Aardvark, watched as the first F-15E landed.
“There was a lot of buzz. A lot of people here really wanted to see it because it’s something new, something exciting,” said Griffith.
The true difference was apparent the first time Griffith rode in the F-15E.
“I’ve had a taxi ride in an F-111 and F-15E, and it’s the difference between watching a black-and-white TV and color [TV],” said Griffith.
But the aircraft wasn’t the only thing that changed.
“The biggest thing I found was the mindset of the people,” said Griffith. “I’m not going to say the F-111 attracted old fogies here, but we had certain types of personalities until we brought in a completely new plane with new capabilities. It’s like they had something to prove. It was the new bad boy on the block. I love everything about what [this] type of aircraft can provide.”
The F-15E is a dual-role fighter, performing both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
For retired Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Mahoney, who served as an aircraft maintainer on both the F-111 and F-15E, the arrival of the new aircraft was bittersweet.
“It was very mixed for me; you had the excitement of the new jets coming in, but we were also losing an incredible war machine in the F-111,” he said.
RAF Lakenheath is the only U.S. Air Force base in Europe with F-15 capabilities.
“When a conflict arises we often think of the hot spot being in the Middle East and we’re the closest ones to the fight,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander. “It means Lakenheath has been called into these conflicts time and time again because of how quickly they can get to the fight and provide air power to NATO.”
Since its arrival at RAF Lakenheath, the F-15E has been involved in operations in Iraq, the Balkans, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.
“It means we’re very busy and people work very hard and there’s never a day of rest,” Orchard added. “The engineers did a fantastic job and the F-15s will last a lot longer than any of us expected.”
FY2013 budget cuts to impact U.S. Air Forces in Europe
by U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Public Affairs
February 17, 2012
The Air Force released its fiscal 2013 budget Feb. 13 and stressed the need for difficult budgetary cuts to meet the new defense strategy while maintaining the service’s agility, flexibility and readiness. These cuts include several impacts to force structure in Europe.
The Air Force is requesting $154.3 billion in the president’s 2013 budget, a reduction of five percent from the $162.5 billion the service received in fiscal 2012. The impact of this reduction to U.S. Air Forces in Europe will include the inactivation of the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base and the retirement of its 20 A-10 fighter aircraft. The Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy will also inactivate. More details on Air Force wide force structure changes and the impact to personnel will be announced in March. Both units will inactivate by the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
According to officials at U.S. European Command, the United States has an enduring interest in supporting peace, prosperity, unity and freedom in Europe, as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO. Despite the announced force structure changes, the U.S. will maintain a robust military presence in Europe.
Budget reductions affect the entire Department of Defense and according to Maj. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr., the deputy assistant secretary for budget, “The Air Force made some very difficult choices. But it was our priority to tightly align with the new strategy and also stay within the fiscal environment as a result of the realities we are facing economically.”
The Air Force Strategic Choices and Budget Priorities paper, released by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz on Jan. 27, calls for streamlining of the force, making it smaller and more efficient with care to not create a hollow force.
While the Air Force is working to adjust to a new strategic environment, the Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe emphasized the continuing importance of USAFE’s forward presence.
“Despite the changes to our force structure and budget, close cooperation with Europe remains key to our national security strategy, and USAFE is a major part of that,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “We are strategically located and provide critical capabilities to NATO, EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM. From mobility, to communications, to logistics, to command and control, to contingency response … USAFE remains vital.”
Under the Budget Control Act, the Department of Defense is required to reduce expenditures by $487 billion over the next 10 years with a reduction of $259 billion over the next five.
“It is worth noting that our budget has reduced by 12 percent in real terms since FY09,” Bolton said. “So we have seen a consistent trend of reductions in the budget.
“The Air Force budget portion of the Budget Control Act reductions over the next five years is $54 billion,” Bolton said.
The Air Force’s portion is not a result of simply dividing responsibility between the services. Instead, the budget amount is strategy driven, while maintaining a properly equipped force with the ability to deter, deny and defeat an opportunistic aggressor in a combined campaign anytime, anywhere, he added.
“The strategy requires a different force structure and different tools; the Air Force is realigning the total force to address the future,” Bolton said.
The service has drawn down many times in the past, but never as a nation still at war. Previous size reductions focused more on maintaining force structure, which left the Air Force with a hollow force, he said.
“It is really about balancing risk among the themes of force structure, readiness, modernization and taking care of our people,” Bolton said. “We have sized the force to the strategy within the fiscal constraints we are facing.”
The Air Force is looking at a nearly $3 billion reduction in procurement cost because the service divested and is purchasing less hardware. Also, there is a reduction of about $500 million in research, development, testing and evaluation, but the Air Force continued its focus on modernizing key components that will maintain the service’s technological edge, Bolton said.
“Funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and space remain a priority,” he added. “We will continue to develop programs in ISR ensuring we are supplying this skill set to the joint warfighter and coalition partners.”
According to Bolton, funding also remains in place for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter — the centerpiece for future modernization to be able to prevail in contested environments.
“Ensuring fiscal goals are met and fleet modernization continues are only half of the goal in the new strategy,” said Bolton. “Taking care of Airmen and their families is a key component and cannot get lost in talking of mere numbers.
“We are reducing the force by 9,900 Airmen, which will reduce the end strength of active duty, Guard and Reserve to around a 501,000 total force,” he said. “This allows us to appropriately size the force structure to the strategy and hardware we are going to have in the inventory.”
The Air Force is proposing a 1.7 percent military pay raise in fiscal 2013 and a 4.2 percent raise in basic allowance for housing and 3.4 percent raise in the basic allowance for subsistence as a continuing growth of compensation for service.
“We are budgeting more than $700 million for family programs including child and youth programs and child development centers,” Bolton said. “We will continue to take care of our folks; we just need to ensure it is being done efficiently under tighter fiscal constraints.”
Housing is a key ingredient to taking care of Airmen and the Air Force is close to reaching its goal of 53,000 privatized housing units force-wide with over 40,000 units in place and the remaining units to be ready in fiscal 2013.
“We’ve increased our family housing budget by $93 million and this will allow us to meet our goal,” Bolton said. “Completing this transition is important because we have found through privatization we are able to increase the quality of housing for our Airmen and their families.”
Looking back to the 2011 requirements — military action and support in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting NATO missions in Libya, along with humanitarian support to Japan following a major earthquake — Bolton reinforced the reach and responsibility placed on today’s Airmen and emphasized the importance of providing them the tools required for a versatile force.
“We will continue to do everything we can to provide them with the tools they need to continue to be the best Air Force in the world for decades to come,” Bolton said.
What the FY13 Budget means to USAFE
Commentary by Gen. Mark A. Welsh III
U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander
February 21, 2012
Since the first Gulf War, the U.S. has been engaged continuously in combat operations and U.S. Air Forces in Europe have played a critical role. Not only have we deployed thousands of our Airmen and assets, we have also served as an essential support platform enabling the long-term projection and sustainment of combat power throughout the U.S. Euprean Command, Central Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility. At the same time, NATO has increased both in size and scope of operations. Through all this, USAFE has steadily increased engagement and strengthened relations with our partners and Allies. We demonstrate the value of forward-based forces every day.
However, our challenges today are many and changing: a global economic slowdown, shrinking defense budgets, continuing operations in Afghanistan and the rise of missile threats to the U.S. and our allies. We’re also witnessing a significant transition in the command’s mission as we inactivate 17th Air Force and assume the role of air component to U.S. Africa Command in addition to our traditional role as the air component to U.S. European Command. We must meet these challenges head on to maintain our effectiveness and capabilities within a much larger area of responsibility.
Dealing with the same challenges on a global scale, the Department of Defense recently concluded a thorough review of our defense strategy and has begun a transition to a new approach that emphasizes future challenges, supports federal deficit reduction, and accounts for the declining costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operating within constrained budgets is simply a reality. On February 13, the President presented a proposed budget to Congress that reflects these strategic changes and reductions, and includes a reduction of about $8 billion, or about 5%, in FY13 for the Air Force. Over the next 10 years, the DoD will need to cut more than $487 billion; $54 billion will come from Air Force accounts. Further, within the next year, the Air Force will bring the Total Force end strength down by around 9,900 Airmen.
What do these reductions and strategy changes mean for USAFE?
For the DoD and the entire Air Force, all of this means a shift in focus and a change in how we do business. Our senior leaders, including the President, have determined that our national focus needs to emphasize Asia and the Middle East. However, the new strategy also calls for continued engagement in Europe and Africa. As recent operations in Libya proved, USAFE’s forward presence and close relationships within NATO and throughout our entire area of responsibility are of critical importance.
We must also target investments to ensure we have the resources to execute the missions of the future. We will be smaller, but we will be effective and well-trained. Let me be clear, even with these budget cuts, our military and our Air Force are by far the best resourced, best trained and best equipped in the world. We can and will adapt to the new paradigm. And as we always have in the past, we will meet these challenges head on.
Of course, changes to our strategic focus and reductions in Defense spending will change how USAFE looks in the future. The 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem will be inactivated as part of an overall reduction of five A-10 squadrons. In addition, the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano will be inactivated. While personnel reductions Air Force wide will often hit close to home, what that means for USAFE is still unclear.
However, this is not just about downsizing. It’s about adapting to a changing environment. As Ballistic Missile Defense becomes more critical, our investment and participation in Integrated Air and Missile Defense in theater is increasing. We are also taking a hard look at all of our installations to ensure we are operating efficiently at every location and that we are postured to support future operations. There are certainly more changes to come, but we will work through them all carefully and we will ensure our people are taken care of.
The bottom line: USAFE has been and will remain critical to our national defense strategy. We have an expanding mission in terms of geography and operations, and the new strategy will continue to draw heavily on our forces and our enduring capabilities — mobility access and throughput; communications throughput; logistical support and throughput; contingency response; and command and control in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Air Operations, ballistic missile defense, and humanitarian response. We will also continue to rely on and partner with our close friends and Allies, especially those who host our bases, personnel and families.
I know change is never fun, but it is necessary … it is an opportunity to get better at what we do and there is no doubt in my mind that we will. As we move into the future together, let me thank you for all you do to ensure freedom’s future.
“Losing” the World: American Decline in Perspective, Part 1
By Noam Chomsky
February 15, 2012
Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example. Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead. Right now, in fact.
At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops.
The prime target was South Vietnam. The aggression later spread to the North, then to the remote peasant society of northern Laos, and finally to rural Cambodia, which was bombed at the stunning level of all allied air operations in the Pacific region during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this, Henry Kissinger’s orders were being carried out-“anything that flies on anything that moves”-a call for genocide that is rare in the historical record. Little of this is remembered. Most was scarcely known beyond narrow circles of activists. …
When the war ended eight horrendous years later, mainstream opinion was divided between those who described the war as a “noble cause” that could have been won with more dedication, and at the opposite extreme, the critics, to whom it was “a mistake” that proved too costly. By 1977, President Carter aroused little notice when he explained that we owe Vietnam “no debt” because “the destruction was mutual.”
There are important lessons in all this for today, even apart from another reminder that only the weak and defeated are called to account for their crimes. …
The imperial way: American decline in perspective, part 2
January 15, 2012
The US’s presumed right to impose its will on the world, by force if necessary, has not changed. But its capacity to do so has.
In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the US and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as “the backyard”.
Even more serious would be the loss of the MENA countries – Middle East/North Africa – which have been regarded by planners since the 1940s as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”. Control of MENA energy reserves would yield “substantial control of the world”, in the words of the influential Roosevelt advisor AA Berle. …
The Arab Spring, another development of historic importance, might portend at least a partial “loss” of MENA. The US and its allies have tried hard to prevent that outcome – so far, with considerable success. Their policy towards the popular uprisings has kept closely to the standard guidelines: support the forces most amenable to US influence and control.
Favored dictators are supported as long as they can maintain control (as in the major oil states). When that is no longer possible, then discard them and try to restore the old regime as fully as possible (as in Tunisia and Egypt). The general pattern is familiar: Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, Mobutu, Suharto, and many others. …
US AFRICOM Reborn in Djibouti
Foreign policy Journal
by Thomas C. Mountain
February 15, 2012
The visit to Djibouti by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in late 2011 seems to be an omen foretelling the rebirth of the US African Command’s (AFRICOM) base in the Horn of Africa.
The USA has little choice really, now that the Bahraini people’s resistance to the western-backed Hamad regime has become firmly established and the USA’s continued use of their naval base in Bahrain becomes problematic.
The USA has already been expelled from Iraq, and with the Shia belt and its critical Saudi oil fields increasingly unstable, the USA has to take what it can get as close as possible to the Persian Gulf oil fields, and that leaves tiny, drought blighted Djibouti as the fall back position for the US military in the region.
Djibouti was first targeted for a major US military expansion in the years after 9/11, when AFRICOM was born.
No other African country with any strategic importance would let the USA have a major base on their territory, so Africa’s smallest country, Djibouti was made an offer it could not refuse, and thus began what came to be known as “Africom’s $6 Billion Fiasco in Djibouti”.
AFRICOM’s new base was envisioned as a modern, $6 billion facility, including upgraded port and air field facilities and it had already budgeted $2 billion for the first phase of expansion of Camp Lemonnier from 90 acres to 500 acres. This doesn’t include the airstrip expansion or the port facilities. …
The Joint Intelligence and Analysis Centre at Molesworth near Cambridge UK (US information)
The United States European Command Joint Intelligence Operations Center – Europe Analytic Center (JAC) at Royal Air Force Molesworth, United Kingdom is the primary European theater intelligence organization responsible for maintaining situational awareness for 51 countries spanning three land masses. Primary support is to U.S. warfighters, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and coalition partners. Support is provided by all-source, fused, timely and predictive intelligence. The JAC’s team of joint military service personnel, Department of Defense civilians, and civilian contractors is augmented by joint service reservists in five locations in the United States to provide 24 hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year support. The Motto is Semper Vigilans – Always Vigilant.
The United States Africa Command’s Intelligence and Knowledge Development Directorate-Molesworth at Royal Air Force Molesworth, United Kingdom in concert with Intelligence and Knowledge Development Directorate and U.S. Africa Command, both located in Stuttgart, Germany, along with other U.S. Government agencies and international partners provide primary African theater intelligence for knowledge development and situational awareness for the world’s second largest continent and its 53 countries to ensure sustained security engagement activities to promote a stable and secure environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.
US military intelligence: ‘Iran won’t start the war’
February 17, 2012
In a briefing over the escalating hostilities between the US and Iran, American intelligence officials say it is unlikely that Iran will initiate any military action against the United States.
If and when the US does launch a strike on Iran, however, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Speaking from Washington, DC this week, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess said an attack at the hands of Iran is unlikely, unless, of course, the US acts first. Burgess also added that, despite increased sanctions imposed by the US and a build up of American military forces surrounding the country, Iran is unlikely to halt the nuclear program that has become the cause of international concern.
“Iran today has the technical, scientific and industrial capability to eventually produce nuclear weapons. While international pressure against Iran has increased, including through sanctions, we assess that Tehran is not close to agreeing to abandoning its nuclear program,” Burgess said.
The United States and some of its allies insist that Iran is producing nuclear warheads; Iran says their research is working towards atomic energy, not nukes. As the US continues to come down on Iran for allegation of a weapons program, Burgess warns that Tehran shows no signs of terminating their efforts anytime soon.
If the US tries to terminate it themselves, however, there could be trouble.
“Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz at least temporarily, and may launch missiles against United States forces and our allies in the region if it is attacked,” Burgess explained this week to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“Iran could also attempt to employ terrorist surrogates worldwide. However, the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict,” the lieutenant general added.
With an Iran-initiated attack unlikely in the eyes of the American intelligence community, that gives the US an upper hand in deciding on a date to begin an assault of their own. …
Major European pullout could start in October
By Michelle Tan and Richard Sandza
January 22, 2012
As many as 10,000 soldiers – and as many as 25,000 dependents – are expected to withdraw from Europe as the U.S. juggles shrinking budgets and force reductions with maintaining strong relationships with its allies, officials said.
On Jan. 12, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that two brigade combat teams – instead of just one BCT as originally planned – will be withdrawn from Europe.
Panetta is quoted in a press release on the Defense Department website as saying two of the four BCTs that are permanently stationed in Europe will be replaced with rotational units, similar to the way Marines and Special Forces units staff their European requirements.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, would not go into detail regarding the withdrawal because the services are not allowed to comment on the president’s budget until it is released.
But he said senior Army leaders are “excited about the capabilities and the ability to do rotational forces into Europe.”
Details on how and when these rotational units will begin training in Europe are still being worked out, but Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, said he anticipates the rotations could be anywhere from three weeks to two months long. …
“We will continue to maintain our presence both in the Middle East and Asia,” the secretary said. “Yes, we’ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my experience, in any conflict you need to have the potential use of ground forces.”
“Getting the Army to deploy to areas conducting exercises providing, most of all, a partnership with countries in Latin America, Africa, other countries where we can show the flag” is important, Panetta said.
As the Army replaces the two brigade combat teams with rotational units, the Europeans actually will see more U.S. forces because the American forces in Europe have more often than not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Panetta said.
DoD officials have spoken to European leaders about the withdrawal, and they understand why the change will be good for the U.S. military and NATO allies, senior defense officials traveling with the secretary said. …
Missile Defense: Frequently Asked Questions
This site provide some nice introductory information about missile defense in plain English
- What is missile defense?
- Do we need missile defense?
- What kind of nuclear missile threats exist?
- What kind of missile defense systems exist???
- What does an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack look like???
- What is a tactical missile threat??
- Which countries can deliver a tactical nuclear attack? Who might be able to do so in the near future??
- Does tactical/short- and medium-range missile defense work??
- Does ICBM/long-range missile defense work??
- What is the Club-K missile system? Should it concern the United States??
- Who can deliver a nuclear threat??
- What are the ramifications of a tactical missile? A ballistic missile? A nuclear missile??
- Have there been efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons?
- What can the United States do to protect itself against tactical or long-range nuclear missiles??
- What views have recent administrations had regarding a national missile defense system??
- Why should I care??
- What can I do as an individual??
Want answers? Go to: www.intellectualtakeout.org
US Defense Strategic Review 2012: Global And Regional Implications – Analysis
By Dr. Subhash Kapila
January 20, 2012
United States President Obama on January 05, 2012 personally unveiled at the Pentagon the Defence Strategic Review 2012 “Sustaining United States Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defined”. …
The US Defence Strategic Review 2012 should therefore be viewed as a well-calibrated strategic blueprint for the 21st Century arrived after a perspective analysis of the global strategic challenges that are emerging to challenge US global leadership and US military superiority.
This Review also needs to be viewed as a United States ‘strategic declaratory policy’ that despite whatever steps are undertaken by the United States to cut down its defence expenditure and Forces Restructuring, it is determined to sustain its global leadership and military superiority even with revised military nuances.
Analytically the main thrust appears to focus on United States concerns to meet the emerging strategic threats from China and Iran both located at the opposite ends of the Asian strategic spectrum …
The underlying sub-text of the US strategic threat concerns revolves around China and Iran. China has made no efforts to hide its strategic concerns to challenge the unipolar domination of global power calculus by the United States. China exploited the strategic vacuum created in the last decade in Asia Pacific arising from US military distractions in Iraq and Afghanistan. …
Report Calls for Dispersing US Bases in Mideast
by John Reed
January 17, 2012
An influential Washington think-tank called Tuesday for the U.S. military to redraw its map of bases throughout the Middle East to keep out of range of new Iranian weapons that could threaten American troops.
In a new report, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments warned that Tehran’s investment in anti-ship and precision guided missiles designed to strike targets throughout the region, combined with sophisticated air defense systems, means that U.S. may have to shift its presence in the region in the coming decade.
The U.S. also needs to change the forces it deploys, the authors concluded. It should focus on trimming older, un-stealthy, short-range strike fighters in exchange for stealthier, long-range bombers and unmanned aircraft that can penetrate Iranian airspace to deliver knockout punches on hardened targets …
The Grim Implications of Obama’s New Defense Plan
by Joseph Gerson
Weekend Edition January 13-15, 2012
In early January the Obama Administration released the Pentagon’s new Guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. It is clearly designed less to cut U.S. military spending than to reorder Pentagon priorities to ensure full spectrum dominance (dominating any nation, anywhere, at any time, at any level of force) for the first decades of the 21st century. As President Obama himself said, after the near-doubling of military spending during the Bush era, the Guidance will slow the growth of military spending, “but…it will still grow:, in fact by 4% in the coming year.”
The new doctrine places China and Iran at the center of U.S. “security” concerns. It thus prioritizes expansion of U.S. war making capacities in Asia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans, by “rebalanc[ing] toward the Asia-Pacific region…empahsiz[ing] our existing alliances.” This means Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and now Australia and India as the U.S. “pivots” from Iraq and Afghanistan to the heartland of the 21st century global economy, Asia and the Pacific. The implications for Okinawa and Japan should be clear: Washington will be doing all that it can to ensure that Japan remains its unsinkable aircraft carrier, including pressing for construction of the new air base in Henoko.
Russia “remains important,” but the priorities are ensuring that China’s rise occurs within the post-WWII global systems dominated by the West and Japan. The Iran focus is to ensure that Tehran’s ambitions do not jeopardize the West’s neo-colonial control of Middle East oil essential to their economies and militaries.
China and Iran are thus the primary targets of: weapons systems to be developed; of expanded U.S. military alliances, bases, access agreements and an increased tempo of military exercises; as well as advanced cyber and space war capabilities. …
Where Did All That Space Debris Come From?
Scientific American – blog
By David Wright | January 14, 2012
Early in the Space Age, little thought was given to objects left in orbit as part of satellite launches. But as the number of those objects has grown, at first steadily and then very rapidly, through the 50-plus years since the launch of Sputnik, concerns about the polluted orbital sphere have grown accordingly. A series of notable events in recent years has focused attention on the problem.
Any human-made object in orbit that does not serve a useful purpose is considered debris. Common kinds of debris include satellites that have reached the end of their lives; the rocket stages used to place satellites in orbit; bolts and other objects released during satellite deployments (known as mission-related debris); and fragments from the intentional or accidental breakup of large objects. It also includes the rare failed spacecraft that has stalled in orbit, such as the Russian Phobos-Grunt probe, which was bound for a Martian moon but instead is expected to crash to Earth in the coming days.
Almost 1 In 3 U.S. Warplanes is a Robot
By Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman
January 9, 2012
… According to a new congressional report acquired by Danger Room, drones now account for 31 percent of all military aircraft.
To be fair, lots of those drones are tiny flying spies, like the Army’s Raven, that could never accommodate even the most diminutive pilot. (Specifically, the Army has 5,346 Ravens, making it the most numerous military drone by far.) But in 2005, only five percent of military aircraft were robots, a report by the Congressional Research Service notes. Barely seven years later, the military has 7,494 drones. Total number of old school, manned aircraft: 10,767 planes.
A small sliver of those nearly 7,500 drones gets all of the attention. The military owns 161 Predators – the iconic flying strike drone used over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere – and Reapers, the Predator’s bigger, better-armed brother. …
The drones are also getting safer. (To operate, that is; not for their targets below.) Drone crashes get a lot of attention; 38 Predators and Reapers have crashed in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far; most recently, Iran looks like it got ahold of an advanced, stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel. …
Read in full: www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/drone-report/
US overthrew Iran’s democracy 1953-1979, armed Iraq to invade 1980-1988, now lies for more war
by Carl Herman
January 8, 2012
“The focus of this article is to explore the vicious and unlawful history of US intervention in Iran’s government. It’s from my brief: War with Iraq and Afghanistan, rhetoric for war with Iran.”
In 1953, the United States CIA led by one of President Theodore Roosevelt’s grandsons, initiated a coup in Iran (Operation Ajax) to remove the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The Iranian government was understandably dissatisfied with the terms of its contract with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that allowed British interests to claim 85% of the oil profit from Iran. Iran voted to nationalize the oil industry in 1951 after the British declined to renegotiate the terms. The US-led coup was successful, and the royal monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, became virtual dictator. Fearing popular reprisal, Pahlavi’s government was supported by the CIA in creating the Iranian SAVAK, a vicious secret police for the Shah’s dictatorial government. We can only assume that the oil revenue sharing agreement with the Shah was acceptable to the US and UK.
Under the Eisenhower administration, the US cooperated with the Shah’s government for the development of Iranian nuclear energy through the “Atoms for Peace” program. President Ford agreed to US full cooperation to help Iran build about two dozen nuclear energy plants. When the Iranian people overthrew the Shah’s government in 1979, the US stopped cooperating. The US backed Iraq in their invasion of Iran in 1980 and throughout the war until 1988, seeking a more US-friendly Iranian government. The US provided Saddam Hussein with the chemical and biological weapons the W. Bush administration later used as justification for invading Iraq. Since 1979, the US has worked to prevent Iran having a nuclear energy program, even under the legal provisions of the NPT, and reneged on a multi-billion dollar contract to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran without refunding Iran’s money. …
How Two Wars in the Greater Middle East Revealed the Weakness of the Global Superpower
By Tom Engelhardt (Editor, TomDispatch.com)
January 3, 2011
It was to be the war that would establish empire as an American fact. It would result in a thousand-year Pax Americana. It was to be “mission accomplished” all the way. And then, of course, it wasn’t. And then, almost nine dismal years later, it was over (sorta).
It was the Iraq War, and we were the uninvited guests who didn’t want to go home. To the last second, despite President Obama’s repeated promise that all American troops were leaving, despite an agreement the Iraqi government had signed with George W. Bush’s administration in 2008, America’s military commanders continued to lobby and Washington continued to negotiate for 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain in-country as advisors and trainers.
Only when the Iraqis simply refused to guarantee those troops immunity from local law did the last Americans begin to cross the border into Kuwait. It was only then that our top officials began to hail the thing they had never wanted, the end of the American military presence in Iraq, as marking an era of “accomplishment.” They also began praising their own “decision” to leave as a triumph, and proclaimed that the troops were departing with — as the president put it — “their heads held high.”
In a final flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad, clearly meant for U.S. domestic consumption and well attended by the American press corps but not by Iraqi officials or the local media, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke glowingly of having achieved “ultimate success.” He assured the departing troops that they had been a “driving force for remarkable progress” and that they could proudly leave the country “secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history, free from tyranny and full of hope for prosperity and peace.” …
Of all the impractical wars a declining empire could fight, the Afghan one may be the most impractical of all. Hand it to the Soviet Union, at least its “bleeding wound” — the phrase Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave to its Afghan debacle of the 1980s — was conveniently next door. For the nearly 91,000 American troops now in that country, their 40,000 NATO counterparts, and thousands of private contractors, the supplies that make the war possible can only enter Afghanistan three ways: perhaps 20% come in by air at staggering expense; more than a third arrive by the shortest and cheapest route — through the Pakistani port of Karachi, by truck or train north, and then by truck across narrow mountain defiles; and perhaps 40% (only “non-lethal” supplies allowed) via the Northern Distribution Network (NDN).
The NDN was fully developed only beginning in 2009, when it belatedly became clear to Washington that Pakistan had a potential stranglehold on the American war effort. Involving at least 16 countries and just about every form of transport imaginable, the NDN is actually three routes, two of them via Russia, that funnel just about everything through the bottleneck of corrupt, autocratic Uzbekistan.
In other words, simply to fight its war, Washington has made itself dependent on the kindness of strangers — in this case, Pakistan and Russia. It’s one thing when a superpower or great power on the rise casts its lot with countries that may not be natural allies; it’s quite a different story when a declining power does so. Russian leaders are already making noises about the viability of the northern route if the U.S. continues to displease it on the placement of its prospective European missile defense system. …
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