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Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Cutting The Largest Earmark, Or, McCain = War$, War$, And More War$
by: fake consultant
Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 18:07:34 PM CDT
( - promoted by mooncat)It’s time, Gentle Reader, that we address some of the disconnected thinking coming from the Republican side of the Presidential campaign...particularly the idea that we’re facing the “transcendent challenge of our time” from “radical Islamic extremism”.To defeat this enemy, the presumptive Republican nominee tells us, he will do whatever it takes...even maintaining an expensive military presence in at least two distant counties for many years to come—“why not a hundred?”, he has asked.Yet at the same time, he speaks of the $35 billion in earmarks he would eliminate from a $2 trillion budget hugely in deficit—and at the moment that appears to be the only spending cuts to which he will commit.Is it possible this whole obsession with earmarks is really what he thinks is the problem...and why won’t he address the largest earmark of all—the multi-trillion dollar cost of this war, the eventual “re-upping” of the worn out equipment, and the costs of the ensuing “eternal” occupation he supports?Oh, and did I mention the cost of the eventual wars with North Korea, Pakistan, Iran...and presumably China and Russia?
Just to make it interesting structurally, I’m going to work backwards through the introductory questions here we go: Who saw McCain with Chris Matthews at Villanova?For a moment near the end the conversation centered on what would be the “tipping point” for a President McCain to order an attack on Iran; eventually Matthews was able to get him to commit that the attack would likely occur when Iran became a “strategic danger” to the US.If that’s the standard for attack...well, who else meets the standard?Obviously North Korea would have to be on the list—they have nuclear weapons and a delivery system capable of reaching US targets today, they have participated in the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction through involvement with the A.Q. Khan network, and they clearly bear us ill will. Not to mention that other standard often cited: they participate in efforts to bully and destabilize both their southern neighbor and Japan, in an effort to garner greater influence in the region. Pakistan? The spread of Islamist influence through the country’s “CIA”, the ISS, is rampant. The A.Q. Khan network’s efforts to “sell” nuclear technology were likely facilitated by elements within the larger national government. They also have delivery systems, although they are unlikely to today reach the US.The influence of Islamist politicians is also growing daily. Waziristan, the North-West Frontier Province, and the Autonomous Tribal Areas are already becoming Taliban controlled states within Pakistan...and we see the inability of the Pakistani Army to establish control or authority in those areas.The death of Bhutto has removed the last important non-military opponent of Islamism from the national political stage, future elections will likely increase Islamist influence at every level of national government; and it’s entirely reasonable to foresee an election—or coup, or civil war--that makes Pakistan into a nation ruled by a Taliban-like government that possesses the “nuclear codes” required to trigger a massively destructive attack on the US. There is also a very real possibility that this will be the quickest route by which nuclear weapons will be exported to “terrorist” groups.The “transcendent challenge” theory suggests Pakistan could overnight become a strategic threat to the US, which begs the question: is McCain suggesting that in the case of Pakistan we should move to a “launch on election” posture?China? They currently possess hundreds of nuclear weapons and have the delivery systems to launch right into the US heartland. That’s pretty much the definition of a strategic threat, suggesting they would also have to be taken out.Of course, some might point out that the final element of a strategic threat is antipathy—the ill will another nation possesses toward yours.Which brings us to Russia. For more than 40 years it’s been well-known that they intend to “bury” us, thanks to Khrushchev’s United Nations “shoe pounding” incident. They possess not hundreds, but thousands of nuclear weapons—strategic and non-strategic—along with air-, sea-, and land-based delivery platforms, many of which are forward-based and capable of being put into action on orders from lower-echelon opposed to the US practice that a National Command Authority equivalent (an older term referring to what is essentially a Head of State, such as the US President) should be the only controlling authority.We have noted the recent “freezing” of US/Russian relations during the Putin Presidency years, and it now appears Putin intends to remain in charge as the new Russian Prime Minister--perhaps running again for President in four years. With no other political opposition and a huge desire on the part of the nation to return to its days of power and influence, it may be just a matter of time before they, too, return to the status of “strategic threat”...if they’re not there already.Shall we bomb them all together, Senator, or do you support a “war du jour” kind of approach? Moving on: is there any bigger earmark than a few good wars?The costs so far for Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated at more or less $2 trillion (or beyond, depending on whom you ask), with the better part of a trillion required in the future to replace the aircraft, ships, and rolling stock that are quickly wearing out from the current wars. An example is found in the B-52 bomber, which will have to be replaced at least 10 years sooner than we might have had to had we not fought this war. Other examples? The B-1 needs “life extension” (and if the A-10 isn’t quickly replaced it will, too), the F-22 and F-35 programs will need to be fully funded despite the fact that we don’t have the money, we are probably looking at having to replace an aircraft carrier or two...with their associated “battle groups” of support ships (also expect a move to expand the Navy to 330 or more ships, including a 14th or 15th aircraft carrier)...the KC-135 aircraft refueling tankers are being replaced...and of course, there’s the rolling stock. (Not yet in the budget conversation: the eventual replacement of two ancient but highly effective workhorses, the C-130 and A-10.) I won’t even discuss the state of the military helicopter fleet or the additional $100 billion or more (double that amount is reasonably possible) we’ll need for military space operations. Since we tend to “leapfrog”, rather than replace, costs for equipment go up even more quickly then they might otherwise.The Humvee is a perfect example...we’ll be replacing unarmored rigs with (more costly) armored vehicles, and many of the vehicles will be replaced by the far more protected (and far more expensive) MRAP. This happens over and over again—BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms—what the Army calls the “camouflage” clothing worn in combat) are improved and more costly as Gore-Tex has replaced cotton and helmets with cool cameras and night vision enhance a steel pot’s Kevlar cousin.As elements of the Future Force Warrior system come on-line the cost of outfitting a trooper will again jump upward—and as with all of this, the more war, the more you need to buy.One other huge, huge, huge expense I don’t hear McCain “straight talking” about: the medical care for those we sent to do our fighting...many of whom will need services for life.I never would have thought that a product called the ”Magic Jack” would be used in the field of telecommunications (such a waste of a great porn name)...and every time I think about what all these “military earmarks” are going to do to my wallet I feel like it’s McCain that’s hoping to pull the “Magic Jack” on us for the benefit of a military-industrial complex that a General he admires warned us about half a century ago.With that out of the way, a few words on today’s legislative earmarks:McCain tells us he would ban earmarks, which are budget items added to a bill in a manner that bypasses the normal Congressional committee and floor vote process. He cites money spent on a study of cattle DNA as the classic example of what’s wrong with the practice.He reports that this could lead to a savings of $35 billion or so, presumably impacting the current sad state of the Federal budget next year and going forward.Those who support earmarks point out that the monies are often used for appropriate government purposes, including restoring cuts in Homeland Security spending made by the current Administration’s budget proposals.Just a couple thoughts, Senator...and I’ll make it quick:--If you ban all earmarks through the current process by vetoing the bills in which they’re contained, won’t lawmakers just agree to pass each other’s “former earmarks” through a normal process that forces you to either convince someone to pass a “line item veto Amendment”—quickly...or renders your pledge moot?--Isn’t $35 billion just spit in a bucket compared to the absurd amount of deficit we are running today...and will be forever, if the “Bush tax cuts” are made permanent, as you propose?As Peggy Lee might say about your ideas: “Is That All There Is?”Think about it, sir: the biggest bite in this budget is either the Bush tax cuts of which you’re so...recently ... proud, or the crazy desire to pursue war to no good matter what the cost. So when you tell me the “transcendent challenge of our time” is war, war, and more war, I have to ask: wouldn’t the real “transcendent challenge “ for a McCain Administration that’s raising spending while cutting taxes be finding the money?Or will your Administration, just like the current one, seek to pass the “Magic Jack” on to the generations that are still here long after you’re not?My guess: we won’t be hearing a “straight talk” answer to that one anytime soon.

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