Posts Tagged ‘war’

Foreign Policy Notes

Jose Rodriguez, CIA’s Chef de Torture, points out that torture isn’t really torture because the detainee can make the torture stop by talking. Drum protests:

if you think the CIA torture program was OK, presumably that means you wouldn’t be outraged if the same techniques were used on U.S. soldiers in order to extracinformation from them. Right? It can’t possibly be the case that it’s OK for us to do this stuff, but not for anyone else, can it?

Of course it can, because exceptionalism. Its all part of the America, FUCK YEAH! school of foreign policy. See Cheney et al. 

Also in foreign policy today: Hagel. I don’t know much about him, don’t know if he’d be a good SecDef, although the fact that he used his brain in regards to Iraq is promising. I presume Obama nominated him for a good reason and I also presume that GOP opposition to him has nothing to do with him because they would be saying the same shit regardless of who the nominee was because its what they do. So the nomination fights just seem like they should not merit anyone’s attention, theater critics excepted. 

But since this is apparently going to be the thing we’re doing for the next little while, can we please get it straight right off the bat that “I disagree with the actions of the Israeli government” does not equal “I hate Jews!”


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My immediate reaction? I don’t know. I’d say a draw. The winner tonight was everyone that watched baseball instead. The loser? America. We get more of the same from both of these folks. I’d say on balance that Obama did slightly better at pointing out Romney’s flip flopping than Romney did at selling it, but not by much. Their opinions on these issues are very similar. Or, at least, the Mitt Romney that showed up tonight’s positions are similar.

A tie, with a very slight tilt towards the President.

On substance, we actually did though get some important policy notes. First off, Mitt Romney absolutely wants to increase military spending by one trillion dollars. That’s not new. What is new is increasing foreign aid, and making Pakistani aid conditional on, something. We also got a specific budget cut number: 5% to domestic discretionary. And finally, not cutting food stamps.

For Obama, the most important part I think was that we will stand with Israel if they are attacked. A much more cautious, measured statement than Romney.

One final point. Iran with a nuke is so far from our biggest threat. The very idea of it is nearly laughable. Would it be a bad thing? Probably. Biggest threat? Please.

10:32 BREAKING: Mitt Romney won’t cut SNAP. And so deficit reduction gets farther and farther away. His policies are so increasingly absurd.

10:32 Romney: same stuff as usual

10:31 Obama: After a decade of war, we need to do some nation building at home.

10:29 Romney: the federal government didn’t hire our teachers. They really did. For better or worse, the federal government really did hire your teachers.

10:28 Romney just mentioned the same unemployed girl from Philly that he mentioned in the last debate.

10:28 Food stamps and unemployment!

10:26 Romney really did call for liquidating the auto industry. By calling for bankruptcy, that was the only choice. Private capital didn’t want to touch it, that’s why the government had to move in.

10 23: Imports from China: $37.3 billion. Exports to China: $8.6 billion. Balance: $28.7 billion.

10:20 An enormous trade imbalance with China? Is it so?

10:19 I don’t know about anyone else, but China bashing is getting really old.

10:17 Romney: Biggest future threat is a nuclear armed Iran.

10:15 Obama: Biggest future threat will continue to be terrorism.

10:14 On to China.

10:11 Drones. Romney 100% agrees. Ugh. This debate is depressing.

10:09 Yes, he just said Obama bin Laden

10:08 Obama: A history lesson and then jobs for Vets. This debate mostly seems like a draw right now.

10:06 Romney: Aid to Pakistan ought to be conditional on some benchmarks. That’s a pretty important policy point.

10:05 Romney: Hell yes, because this war is going awesomely!

10:04 Will we hold the 2014 deadline for withdrawing from Afghanistan? Also an excellent question.

10:03 Romney really needs to stop arguing about the rules.

10:01 So far I think Obama’s doing a decent job pointing out Romney’s flip flopping on this stuff, but for the most part I think everyone is just going to come away confused.

9:59 BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney can stop Israel from bombing Iran by the sheer force of his own awesomeness.

9:58 He should go to Pakistan. People could show him where missiles landed in their kids’ rooms there too. Of course those missiles have American flags on them.

9:56 Israel has a sad because Obama didn’t stop by!

9:56 Mitt Romney has noted the passage of time. Glad he noticed.

9:55 Glad he’s defending against the apology tour schtick. It really is amazingly dumb.

9:54 Now the real Mitt is coming back. His foreign policy is “be tougher”.

9:51 Iran saw weakness in this administration? This administration has attacked Iran more than any other that we know of. Not saying that’s a good thing, but its true.

9:48 A seven point plan! We get two more points! Drink.

9:47 There is so very little difference between these two.

9:46 An absolutely crucial question. And note Obama’s answer. “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked”. I really, really, really hope he means that last bit.

9:43 It actually makes sense that our military is “smaller” than it was in WW2. Mostly because we can now do with a drone what it used to take a couple tank battalions and a month long carpet bombing campaign.

9:41 “Our budget isn’t driven by politics” Oh how I wish that were true.

9:38 Cut 5% of the discretionary budget excluding military. Not even close to a balanced budget. Not. Even. Close

9:37 Well, fuck it, education policy now! Mitt’s Kids ™ are smart! And Bipartisan! And, yet again, a promise to 25% of highschoolers of free tuition. How will you pay for it?

9:36 Seriously someone needs to check on the moderator.

9:35 Baseball is on, right?

9:34 Well, Greece is in fact a foreign country, so, I guess that counts?

9:34 Did someone kill the moderator?

9:33 Twelve Million New Jobs! Have you heard about my five point plan?

9:31 Why bother having a foreign policy debate? We’re on Detroit, energy, taxes, and the budget deficit, now.

9:29 “We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us down the road” Well, I agree. Luckily, we have the biggest military in the history of the world, and can single-handedly vaporize any country on Earth with relatively little effort, so I’d say we’re good on that.

9:27 In the same sentence Mitt Romney deplores the debt and promotes increasing military spending by $1 Trillion.

9:26 If I am correct here, Mitt Romney wants increased foreign aid, while Barack Obama says we shouldn’t spend money abroad while there is nation building to do here. Seriously: Which one is the democrat?

9:25 On young people in Egypt: “Their aspirations are the same as young people here”. Regardless of your views on foreign policy, this is a point that cannot be made enough.

9:22 “Would you go farther?” Excellent question. Romney is against military intervention, but pro-arms dealers. Which is what Obama thinks too.

9:20 Twenty minutes, hardly any disagreement thus far. That’s actually pretty depressing.

9:16 Romney’s strategy: use Syria to get to Iran, without arming Syria, via a council, while arming Syria, and…   fuck what was he talking about?

9:15 Wait I’m confused. Which one’s the democrat?

9:14 The Status of Forces agreement was from the Bush administration wasn’t it?

9:11 The 1980’s called, they want their foreign policy back.

9:09 Aaaaand Mitt just stated his support for increased foreign aid. Righteous Tea Party Anger? Anyone? Buhler?

9:08 Right Now Mitt Romney just threw Two Minutes Ago Mitt Romney under the bus.

9:07 It took less than 2 minutes for Mitt to entirely change his tune on Foreign Policy. “We can’t kill our way out of this mess” was a great line, but Romney’s solution to Iran is to start a war!

9:06 “We can’t kill our way out of this mess”. I agree! I wish Mitt Romney agreed.

9:04 Maybe none of the subjects tonight are going to be funny. Just saying.

9:02 Oh God is he really opening this with a nuke scare? This is going to be unbearable.

9:01 Brian Williams just said that “neither campaign expected to see themselves in a dead heat two weeks before the election.” I absolutely guarantee you that they expected exactly that.

8:55 Last one. Local NBC leading with a story about Vintage Wine Bar on 13th St in Philly. Its good, and you’ll need wine for this. Well played, NBC. You know the drill, hit refresh a lot.

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Just a couple quick, unrelated-ish thoughts this afternoon.

First, ever since the first debate, national polls have shown a large surge for Romney and have typically come in at a tie or a slight Romney lead. Many have attributed this to Obama’s performance in the debate and I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but if I recall the debate was also the point at which pollsters began applying their “likely voter” screens. Obama has continued his lead among registered voters. So the headline numbers suddenly looked worse for Obama after the debate, but that includes the application of the likely voter screen. I don’t think the debate hurt nearly as much as people think in terms of actual support. Rather, it served to fire up Romney’s base and depress Obama’s, and that’s showing up in the likely voter numbers. This is a very close race. It was always going to be a very close race. The divergence between the likely and registered voter numbers makes me think that it’s all going to come down to get out the vote operations. 

Second, tonight’s debate. Public opinion is firmly on the President’s side. He ought to press the advantage. People want less defense spending and they want less wars. Romney wants to increase defense spending and go to war with Iran. Moderate Mitt will probably show up again tonight, and he may even try to turn away from those positions. Obama can’t let him. Also, I’ll try once again to live-blog it. Drink any time someone says “exceptionalism”, “Libya”, “terrorism”, “manipulator” or “leadership”. Actually just drink, because those are likely to be the only words used.  

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Kevin Drum highlights this little snippets of conversation that occurred between Obama and Gen. Petraeus back in 2009:

Inside the Oval Office, Obama asked Petraeus, “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?” “Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame,” Petraeus replied. “Good. No problem,” the president said. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?” “Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.

So there you go. I don’t really have anything to add, just wanted to point it out. It’s been much longer than 18 months, and we continue to face attacks from members of the ANA. We’ve already killed bin Laden, which was our excuse for going in in the first place. Not that the Afghanistan war had much of anything to do with that, but its always been used as a reason to stay. Can anyone articulate a good reason for us to continue fighting this war? Anyone? Bueller?

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Romney’s campaign is based on lies. Not truth bending or stretching, but total verifiable falsehoods. His two most effective campaign arcs have been “you didn’t build that” and the idea that the President has removed work requirements from welfare.

That these lies are so successful pisses me off. But that’s not the worst part! No the worst part is their habit of blaming Obama for the things they have done. The debt ceiling debacle? Obama’s fault! The debt itself? Obama’s fault! Failure of Bowles Simpson? Obama’s fault! Really, Obama is going to take your Medicare! Really, its the gays persecuting the good Christians by wanting to get married!

But back in the real world, the debt ceiling fight happened because republicans refused to give an inch, the largest drivers of debt are Bush era policies, the BS commission failed because not enough people voted for it (Paul Ryan among those voting against its recommendations), Paul Ryan proposes the exact same Medicare cuts, and on the last point just fuck you. That last point is one of the most offensive things I’ve encountered thus far in this campaign. It’s vile.

Lying in politics is one thing. But the entire basis of the campaign? These people have taken it to a new level. It’s disgusting.

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Cost of War in Iraq: $3 Trillion

Cost of Bush Tax Cuts: $1 Trillion

Cost of Curiosity Mars Rover: $2.5 Billion

Imagine what NASA could have done with that kind of funding. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was right, NASA inspires us to dream. Kids will see how JPL landed the rover and think “I want to do that!” Hell, that’s what I thought. But instead of properly funding NASA, we blow everything on pointless, dumb-ass wars and giveaways to campaign contributors. 

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There’s a lot of talk about the defense budget and upcoming sequester cuts right now. The Republicans want to cancel the defense half of the cuts entirely and make up for them by doubling the non-defense half.

Defense currently makes up about 20% of the federal budget. It was about 15% before we spent the last decade blowing up the middle east.

So my question is this: When can we cut defense spending? Ever? We raised it by 84% (!) over the past decade to fight two wars, but now that were almost done with those why can’t it go back down? If we keep it flat, then next time we fight a war it goes up again, and we get a ratcheting effect where it increases but never drops and pretty soon that’s the whole budget.

It’s natural to ramp up defense spending to mobilize for wars. It used to be natural to ramp it down afterwards.

Also keep in mind that, despite all the crying from the usual suspects, the pentagon will be just fine. Even with the full sequester, defense spending in 2013 will be higher in real terms than in 2006, the height of the war in Iraq.

Also, too, note that the Republicans will tell you government spending can’t create jobs. Until that government spending is on aircraft carriers, at which point their inner Keynesians come out, and we hear that even tiny cuts will lead to laying off half the defense industry, somehow.

Some sanity on this subject is sorely needed.

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