TRUMP’S WEEK OF PERPLEXING OFF-THE-CUFF AND SCRIPTED REMARKS

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall


Via The New York Times

After spending the last two weeks hemming and hawing on immigration policy, Donald Trump shifted his campaign’s focus to a variety of foreign policy issues. From a townhall-style speech in Virginia Beach with retired general and supporter Mike Flynn and a proposal to buildup the military to his participation in NBC News’ Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday night, Trump’s lack of substance rhetoric was on full display. His dialogue was a combination of bypassing tough questions with lobbed criticisms, unrealistic policy proposals, and inane ramblings about Putin, ISIS, and high quality oil. Taken together, Trump’s statements half reveal and half conceal the soul within to badly quote a great poet. But if Americans really thought about all these rumblings and had any inkling of their import they would have cause for real fear for our country and the world.

However, when sifting through Trump’s comments, its easy to tell when the Republican presidential nominee is sticking to his scripted and evasive talking points and when the conversation goes off the rails. Its during these latter moments when a glimpse into Trump’s misinformed and flawed world view is revealed. Yet even his “scripted” utterances show a lack of understanding of how complex the international landscape is and that even his “experts” who wrote the texts, seem out of their depth and badly ruled by ideology and politics rather than sound judgement.

CONFUSING POLICY PROPOSALS

“I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point that’s embarrassing for our country,” (NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, September 7, 2016)

In an address in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Trump proposed a military build-up, set forth a new plan to deal with ISIS, and suggested he would avoid the previous administrations’ pitfalls of walking into armed conflicts in the Middle East. Trump’s proposed buildup would include raising US troop levels from 470,000 to 540,000 and modernizing 22 Navy Cruisers. Trump’s proposal painted a picture of America’s waning military might and the nominee referred to the philosophy “peace through strength” that late President Reagan embraced. In order to pay for this military expansion, Trump suggested that he would lift the ‘sequester’ defense spending caps made in 2011, while trimming the budget outside of the military through federal work force attrition, correcting government spending inefficiencies, and collecting billions of unpaid tax dollars.

Although this proposal was made to bolster Trump’s credentials with veteran voters, it has drawn fiscal concerns raised by independent budget estimators. The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budgets estimates that even with Trump’s proposed offsetting budget cuts, his military build-up would cost $150 billion over ten years. Dov Zakheim, a Pentagon top financial officer in the Bush 43 administration, states that “the whole thing is unrealistic … it’s a soundbite.”

Trump’s proposed increase in defense spending is a headscratcher when viewing his previous stances. He frequently takes potshots at military engagements supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Trump also cites the growing federal debt as a reason to withdraw military and financial support from our NATO and East Asian allies. If Trump has been running on a platform of reduced military presence abroad, shrewd negotiations, and a focus on domestic issues, this proposed defense build-up is an example of paying lip service to conservative military philosophy and an attempt to secure enlisted votes.

But it is more than even that, it is an irresponsible debt burden with no end and aimed at weakening our domestic security and risking massive confrontation abroad. Trump’s approach is at the expense of programs that would truly “Make America Great” like better education of our children, better affordable universal health care, solving our deteriorating infrastructure, funding higher education in State Schools of students that will contribute greatly to American progress, security, and productivity, and not least investment in preventive diplomacy and international institutions including strengthening peace making and keeping. These measures are the ones which truly address global challenges that are putting America and the world at risk like climate change, and spread of diseases, massive poverty, inequality, ethnic upheavals, and the many causes of the breeding ground for conflict and terrorism.

SCRIPTED SIDESTEPS

Numerous times this week Donald Trump has been pressed to give more information on his solutions to today’s issues and as a reflex he would respond with canned soundbites and deflecting to criticisms of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. During this week’s NBC Forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if his recent intelligence briefings taught him anything to reconsider his plan to defeat ISIS. His response was a brief dismissal of doubt in his secret plans and an attack on President Obama:

“ TRUMP: No, I didn’t learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly — when they call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason — what our experts said to do. “

These incoherent and confusing statements are meant to cover his own ignorance and possibly to mislead voters as to his real intentions. He clearly does not in fact have a coherent and effective plan to stop terrorism or other crises in our world. The reality is that there is no simple, not expensive and not risky “silver bullet” which will stop the many dangers and conflicts in our work including massive and mostly useless military hardware.  This is in contrast with President Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton, who time and time again have underlined the difficulty of setting right our fragile global system, its complexity, and the need for long-term perseverance, caution, wise diplomacy and strategic long-term purpose.

Earlier this week, when asked by Mike Flynn on how he intends to combat the threat of ISIS, Trump proceeded to rant about the rise of Iran as a global power and the negotiating incompetence of Secretary of State John Kerry. As his event at Virginia Beach turned to his strategy to stop North Korean nuclear ambitions, Trump’s answer pivoted from passing responsibility on to China, to Air Force One landing at the G20 Summit. The lack of a red carpet staircase for President Obama was used as a tirade of failed leadership as concerns about North Korea were left unanswered.

Trump’s evasion continued on Wednesday night when asked about his positive comments towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Republican nominee defended his admiration of Putin’s leadership by citing an 82 percent approval rating and that “[Putin]’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader”. When Lauer listed the many questionable recent actions conducted by Russia, Trump asked “do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?”

The inability of Trump to speak ill of the Russian President is a perplexing phenomenon to political leaders on both sides of the aisle. Mrs. Clinton mused on Thursday that “it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him,” while current Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan reasserted his critical stance of Russia by calling Putin “an aggressor who does not share our interests”.

It seems unimaginable for the Presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties would go through such mental gymnastics to avoid criticizing a former KGB agent. However, when it comes to facing any levels of skepticism, it has become second-nature for Donald Trump to deflect and riposte against his political opponents.

DETOURS INTO NONSENSE

The most bizarre moments during Trump’s speaking events this week came from a crude narrative of the Iran-Iraq War and vivid descriptions of Middle East oil reserves. On Tuesday’s speaking event, Trump’s critique on the Iranian nuclear deal devolved into an argument of emerging Iranian dominance and reminiscence of a war from thirty years ago:

“We made them a power. And we also happen to have given them Iraq. I always say Iraq and Iran were very similar militarily. They’d fight fight fight and then they’d rest. They’d fight fight fight. And then Saddam Hussein would do the gas. And somebody else would do something else. And they’d rest.”

Later on, Trump would become fixated on the quality of oil in Iraq and Libya:

“Iraq has some of the greatest oil reserves anywhere in the world, and so Iran is going to get whatever ISIS doesn’t already have.”

“It’s a total disaster, Libya, right now. You know they have among the finest quality oils anywhere in the world? Their oil is so valuable, so good.”

Although some may think these strange comments are more expected of him at informal events such as campaign rallies, Trump echoed this sentiment atWednesday’s nationally televised forum when describing the dire costs of the war in Iraq:

“I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil….And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.”

Donald Trump’s assertion that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil reserves to pay for its ill-advised war may seem like a smart business move by the real-estate mogul, but from a foreign policy perspective it reeks of neo-colonialism. To suggest depriving a political fragile state of one of its few sources of income wouldn’t prevent the rise of violent extremist groups like ISIS, but rather swell their ranks with local young people who would have had even less economic and educational resources to make a regular living. The use of plundering as a tool of foreign policy would only increase anti-American sentiment among our adversaries and allies.

But it’s hard to see what’s scarier about this most recent turn in Trump’s campaign: his growing ease with using off-the-cuff remarks to mask his incompetence or his willingness to repeat such absurdities until one day they could become policies. These evasive responses, his lack of knowledge, and his off the cuff inclination to do the most dangerous things that make the world clearly less safe, indicate he is a man who should never have reached the position he has, much lest being the leader of the free world and Commander-in-Chief.
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See our “2016 Campaign” Section of extensive and up-to-date quotes by the candidates.

EAST ASIA SECURITY MEETING IN LONDON: ANXIETY GROWS IN REGION?

LONDON DATELINE

East Asia Security Meeting in London: Anxiety Grows in Region?
by
Harry C. Blaney III

On Thursday, November 14th Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) held an interesting meeting on “The Strategic Environment in East Asia.”   The question addressed was first an assessment  of the region’s key strategic issues and specifically the problem of North Korea, the relationship between China and America, and the strategic policy of the Japanese Prime Minister  Abe.  The second part of the meeting focused on the issue of the conflict over maritime conflict in the region especially in the South China Sea.

The perspectives were varied and the attendance of a strong contingent from Japan give the conference a good idea of the Japanese perspective and how that country viewed their security risks and their likely approach towards these risks.  The Japanese government representative and those from a key “think tank” the Institute of International Affairs, noted a number of likely Japanese new initiatives related to foreign and security policy as well as strengthening existing alliances. 

There appears to be a move towards altering the Japanese Constitution giving greater leeway for the Japanese government to undertake a more pro-active stance towards threats and future confrontations than is permitted by the strict “defense only” provisions in the constitution. Another question that will be coming up is what are the appropriate resources to allocate for their own defense forces. As with other nations there are limited funds and demands by sea, land, and air arms for added equipment and personnel.  Nor least, is the indication that they want to reinforce their alliance with the United States and to get European powers like the U.K. to be more supportive of their ocean jurisdictional claims. The key phrase was that the U.S.- Japan alliance is a “core policy.” In many ways it was an affirmation of President Obama’s initiative of the “pivot to Asia.” But an “assertive” Japan still posses other problems for actors in the region.

The focus of the Japanese experts was the recognition that their security landscape has some major rising risks which need to be better addressed than has been the case up-to-now. They saw North Korea as a key unsettling force with a growing stock of nuclear weapons and also they were concerned with their relations with South Korea, which has to be a key partner on any solution to the future of the Korean Peninsula conundrum.

Yet the uncertainty of the direction and behavior of North Korea was seen as a serious problem and danger. They saw the U.S. bases in Japan as essential for the defense of South Korea. Another disturbing element was cooperation between North Korea, Iran, Israel, perhaps others, in military and nuclear equipment and arms. The conclusion was that in the current negotiations, “time was on the North Korean side” thus there was urgency in finding a solution. 

From the South they saw the rise of China and its increased more capable military forces as well as the growth of a new nationalism and assertive and even dangerous behavior or confrontation in this maritime disputed area. One presenter showed a chart of the number and types of Chinese navel vessels and comparted them to weaker or smaller forces of other key nations in the Pacific including the U.S.

There was considerable discussion of how to make a bridge or rapprochement with China and find a way not only to find a solution to the South China Sea differences, but more importantly, over the long run to seek a more fundamental arrangement with China over the next decade seeking a peaceful and cooperative relationship. Several speakers said that economic ties would be key between the second and third largest global economies.

One issue that was raised was the concept of ‘the inevitable confrontation/war between the U.S. and China.” This is another myopic and ideological driven idea by the war hawks of the “Chicago School” and neo-cons in America and also fueled in China by some of its military. It is a concept that was rejected by one wise speaker and certainly by this writer and has the danger of being a “self-fulfilling” prophesy. It serves only those who make a living from conflict.

One question that was raised by this writer, was how could the collective nations of the Pacific region work in a better concerted way to point the path not only to a productive and peaceful regional and global role for China, but create key incentives for China to be a responsible partner and see a deep and lasting stake in collective security and prosperity for the whole region and a sense of joint interest in maintaining peace.

Frankly, the meeting only reinforced the need for a more concerted and focused effort by regional actors to see a common interests. But to do that it is necessary to get the North Korean threat resolved favorably as it is a systemic dangerous disruption to an area wide reconciliation and understanding. Also some accommodation on Taiwan by all sides, an acceptable deal perhaps on some kind of joint exploitation of resources in the South China Sea, and not least a major expansion of trade between all Pacific powers. Helpful would be an agreement of restraint on military/nuclear weapons growth and competition. 

What is interesting is that the Japanese have reorganized their national security decision making along the lines of the U.S. modal with even a process of policy papers called National Security Studies (NSS) much along lines established by Henry Kissinger for our NSC in the Nixon administration. But this is aimed for a whole new look at their security position and aimed at a more active security role in the region.

Not surprising, the Chinese have also just announced a reorganization of their own national security decision making machinery, making it more streamlined and tightknit. And it is clear that also they are having a major debate on their own future global role and new threat assessment. One would hope it will give the more calm and wiser heads more say over the militant military types that sometime have dominated the Chinese decision making in this area in the past.

But, America, as this blog has noted, is doing a “re-think” on both resources and strategic threats and options for a complex and changing environment. At the same time the British here in London carrying out a major re-examination of their strategic posture, force alignments, resources, and risks. The problem, as we will look at more in time here, is that it is being carried out when there is a forced major cut in funding which will necessitate some hard decision on personnel and equipment – not the wisest way to make strategic decisions, as we know in the U.S. with the Republican created “sequester”cuts. It is time for a more collective “re-think” rather than isolated limited studies as joint efforts, compatibility, and interoperability in tactics, communication, and training would help in a time of joint enforced “austerity” but a time of security uncertainty.

We welcome your comments!

SHUTDOWN AND DEBT CRISIS: A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD

 

SHUTDOWN AND DEBT CRISIS: A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD

By Harry C. Blaney III

While the end of the current shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is now over it has NOT ended. It has simply been postponed. Further, while some have been writing that the Tea Party faction has been chastened, the first reading is that they are mad and have no intention of backing down on their absurd goals which will only hurt America and hurt the majority of Americans. Not least, however, is that they have severely damaged America’s global image and brought into question the full faith and credit of the United States. Our friends and allies are still worried and our adversaries are taking advantage of our dysfunction.

 The debt and shutdown fight uncovered and created added American vulnerabilities abroad. Other nations question more our reliability and soundness of our commitments. This includes in our negotiations of our new Atlantic and Pacific trade pacts, in pushing nations to do more against weapons of mass destruction, in our requests for help by other nations in reducing dangerous conflicts, and in cooperation to deal with our continued global economic and financial problems.

 The major problem of our current governmental and political dysfunction continues as long as a minority of a minority can halt all legislation and tie in knots efforts at reasonable negotiations and seriously addressing our challenges at home and abroad. No one can deny that having a strong domestic economy, growing employment, better education of our children, taking care of our aged and poor, and improving our science and technology, providing health for all citizens, and rebuilding of our decrepit infrastructure, are key to our continued progress and global leadership.

 Yet all of these goals the Republicans and especially the Tea Party faction are still opposed and so far they are backed by billionaire malevolent forces that seem more interested in keeping their billions than in moving the country forward. They also seem more interested in not addressing many of our key global interests like climate change, getting our national security balance and costs right, supporting arms control and non-proliferation, and least of all, helping the poorest nations and the growing gap between the very rich and the poor to change.

 America and Americans have a stark choice. We can either in these next three years help President Obama and our other leaders address our needs and our responsibilities at home and abroad or we can dither, decline, and become inured to the plight of our own people and their needs. And the Tea Party and many Republicans on the right would do the same to the growing danger signs abroad. They have no interest in addressing these issues despite a need at major a effort to rethink our national security instruments and policies and our international landscape.

 All this cries out for leadership, added resources and greater cooperation with other nations and in strengthening and reforming the United Nations and other international institutions to address better issues like environmental decay, health care, increasing our capability of stopping conflicts and genocide, slavery, terrorism, hunger and working to advance human rights and democracy. The Tea party would walk away from a functioning U.S. government and they would walk equally away from America acting as a force for a more decent world as well.

 So the struggle for America’s soul is not over. This was only the opening salvo and a great debate should ensue as to what America is about and what is our role in the 21st century to ensure we give to our children a safer more fair world so they don’t have to endure the stupidities that we have just gone through.

We welcome your comments!

REPUBLICAN HARM TO AMERICAN SECURITY ABROAD AND ECONOMY AT HOME NOW CLEARER

 REPUBLICAN HARM TO AMERICAN SECURITY ABROAD AND ECONOMY AT HOME NOW CLEARER

by

Harry C. Blaney

Yes, the Republicans in Congress are doing more harm to American national security and standing than the combination of North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia. None of the latter have been able to shut down the U.S. government or do as much destruction to America’s economy, financial standing, and world leadership. Now this group of “crazies” have undermined democracy by the government shutdown which along with the debt ceiling brings into question the “full faith and credit” of America.

Since my last post on this topic, my hope was that good sense might prevail, but no, the attack on America by the Tea Party (a.k.a. the Republicans since this extreme group now runs the entire Congressional party along with the far right big money people like the Koch brothers) continues. It becomes even more absurd and dangerous. Also every major American institution including mainline business and financial groups, and now the World Bank and European leaders have expressed alarm over the potential (even the likelihood) that American government will fail to carry out its most basic role and our bonds that are the “gold standard” of world credit will fall into default.

Our military and our diplomatic capacity has been eroded in serious ways. Key units are degraded in DOD, and in the Department of State and the CIA, key desks and functions are left with less than adequate staffing and capacity to respond to crises around the world. So much for the Republican false and hypocritical claim to be for a strong American defense and support our role as a global leader.

A key element of American power abroad is the respect of American purpose, values, and capacity and the soundness and growth of our economy. All of these are now threatened by both the shutdown and the looming default on our debt which is held around the world as a key reserve by many countries. They are also held by pensions funds, banks, and other key institutions at home and it is likely that the low interest rates that now prevail will be history if we default and the consequence will be what the Republican said they do not want…namely the increase in our debt levels as we pay much high rates for future bond offerings. We will all be poorer because of their blind “slash and burn” tactics. Stupid right! And cruel too!

As many commentators have said the President should and can not for the sake of our democracy give in those these extortions. He won the election, Americans voted for a Democratic Senate, and the truth is that more Democrats voted for members of the House of Representatives than Republicans. Only conniving redistricting of Congressional districts at the State legislative level gave them a majority, not the American people.

Already the Republicans have lied and violated their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution…namely the 14th Amendment that holds no one should question the U.S. debt, which includes the Congress. So they all don’t think the Constitution means anything against their narrow ideology and “dark money” money from the far right billionaires that support them. This is all being done in the name of preventing up to 30 million of our uninsured citizens having access to affordable health care!

We have become a near dysfunctional nation due to these few crazies. And those abroad wonder how this could have happen and they rightly fear its impact on the globe. Already the Russians and the Chinese mock us as unstable or unreliable.

President Obama has too often in the past made serious compromises with the Republicans….witness the sequester and their ugly and mindless cuts to good programs…..but always the GOP want more; to in effect disband and ruin our government and especially its capacity to help the “least among us” and our middle class which has lost ground, and to tear down our international responsibilities and capacity to defend our interests.

 

This is an historic testing time for America, as it was at the time of the Civil War. Can America remain a strong and powerful and good nation at home and abroad? It is also each citizen’s responsibility to understand the implications and to act to redress our madness.

The answer hopefully is that at some point a resolution will take place as the consequences for American society and economy will soon become apparent to a vast majority of our citizens and the Republicans will likely have to permit a vote in the House for a clean CR and even raise the debt level, hopefully until past the 2014 elections. The president needs to articulate even more strongly the consequences as do each of us as citizens.

We welcome your comments!

The Unbelievable and the Irresponsible: National Security and the Shutdown of Government

 

The Unbelievable and the Irresponsible: National Security and the Shutdown of Government

by

Harry C. Blaney III

Likely, within hours the Republicans in the House without some divine intervention or good sense will force the shutdown of government. This act will have severe impact on the American economy and far beyond. Its reach will include the international standing of our nation and our national security.

Our public servants will not be doing their good work and they will not be paid. Many key government services will ceased or curtailed. All this to prevent millions of Americans without insurance and therefore access to decent health care from having such access which every advanced nation on this earth affords.

There is a certain level of morals and good sense that any civilized nation and especially the “leader of the free world” should uphold to the world. But we are presenting the face of a spiteful, greedy, and dysfunctional party in control of the House of Representatives. It is one major political party which has gone crazy and mindless. It seems to want to damage in one act of crass hate our democratic government, our economy, and our national security.

Other nations are watching this madness. Our friends and allies are despairing and incredulous on how far we are falling. Our enemies and adversaries revel in and taking advantage of our self-induced wounding. Already the sequester has cost real jobs and ending it means adding over a million and half new jobs. But the Republicans have no interest in increasing employment or helping those without health care or are destitute.

The question must be asked who will do more damage to our nation and its security, the Republicans in the House and their anti-government financial backers and far right Tea Party anarchists or the likes of Iran, Russia, or China? None of the latter has been able to bring the American government down. But the House Republicans are about to do just that and do major damage to our nation simply by their mindless obstruction and ignoring their pledge to our Constitution, i.e. no one should question the full faith and credit of our nation.

We welcome your comments!

Science, Technology, and Social Science Research Underpins American Prosperity and National Security – Why Then Is It Under Attack?

Obama remarks at National Academy of SciencesAs everyone knows the sequester has been a disaster for American growth, its modernization, and its built and social infrastructure. It has killed needed jobs. It has made the poor poorer, and it has made the middle class languish. Let’s be clear, this is the doing of the Republicans in Congress….not the Democrats and not the President.  It can be repealed by a single sentence in a new law and a bit of common sense, decency, and patriotism by the Republicans and a very few conservative Democrats. It has especially impacted our scientific and technological base.  Don’t hold you breath however.  But remember it has huge implications for our national security and our ability to play a constructive role in world affairs. 

A subset of this madness is some recent acts by House Republicans to attack, not “socialism” or “Obama,” but quality academic science and technology. Yes, sadly there are some of this group that are “flat earth” types, who think the world was formed 10,000 or so years ago, some even, according to polls, think the sun goes around the earth, and many more think that global change is not happening or like a recent failed presidential candidate that humans have had no role in the warming of the earth or build up of CO2 and that we should not do anything about it!

Let’s look at a couple of recent examples via actions in Congress by GOP members. The first is legislation being worked on by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the new chair of the House of Representatives Committee of Science. Its aim is to destroy the professional peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF). It would replace a system that has worked for decades and brought us superb research with new skewed funding criteria chosen politically by the right wingers in Congress. Further, it would also aim to establish a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by other federal science agencies. Their attack is especially aimed at social sciences including economics; a field they clearly know nothing about based on their pushing for policies that would draw us into a deep depression. 

The second insanity is led by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who last month successfully (where were the Democrats?) attached language to the 2013 spending bill that prohibits NSF from funding any science research for the rest of the fiscal year unless its director certifies that it pertains to economic development or national security.

The proposed bill would force NSF to adopt three criteria in judging every grant. It would require the NSF director to post on NSF’s Web site, prior to any award, a declaration that certifies the research is:

1) “… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science”

2) “… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large”

3) “… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”

NSF’s existing guidelines ask peer reviewers to consider the “intellectual merit” of a proposed research project as well as its “broader impacts” on the scientific community and society.

As another pernicious act Smith’s bill requires NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board, to monitor the director’s actions and issue a report in a year. It also asks Presidential Science Advisor Holdren’s office to tell Congress how the principles laid down in the legislation “may be implemented in other Federal science agencies.”

The top Democrat on the science committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), according to ScienceInsider, sent a strong message to Smith:

“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”

Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

Into this fray President Obama made a speech to the National Academy of Science (link to speech) defending the integrity of the scientific method and noting the importance of ensuring its resources, its independence, and taking on those that would insert their partisan ideology into our intellectual research and methods. 

When one thinks you have seen just about every crazy action one can imagine, the Republicans in Congress add to the foolishness and now aim to hurt our nation’s efforts to advance our knowledge, gain key insights, and encourage unbiased science and research. Our national security is based on our economic strength and on our advanced and growing Science & Technology research. Playing with it and aiming to thwart the non-political unbiased intellectual development of our society is dangerous and shortsighted.

Sequester and National Security: Will We Ever Learn?

National_Security_Agency_sealBattleships and other assets at sea, Air Force planes overseas, Marines on land and sea, and not least, diplomats abroad, many in dangerous posts, trying to ensure peace and security, American interests and our citizen’s well-being, along with aid workers helping to save children in danger and distress; you all now have less to work with in a still dangerous and unpredictable world. 

For the Department of State does it mean less security at Embassies? The Republicans in Congress were all over the administration about the attacks on Benghazi, but happy it seems, to put our entire diplomatic missions at threat because of possible cuts in security, intelligence gathering, and other security related programs? Hypocrisy by the crazy GOP in Congress is on high, at the cost of endangering our service people and diplomats abroad. So much for real moral acts and responsibility!

For the Department of defense it means a cut of some $46 billion and some 9.4% in FY 2013, but really an average of 13% excluding the protected military pay, over the next seven months. It also means likely unpaid furloughs for as many as 800,000 civilian workers due to no fault of their own.  Also delayed are deployments of our forces and a decreased maintenance on ships, planes and armor. Many experts think that this kind of cut is possible in our over funded military budget, but this is NOT the way to do it…….a scalpel to unneeded programs yes, not a meat clever to all despite their importance or need. As the Financial Times said today, “It is hardly an ideal moment to become a US defense secretary.”  Its editorial headline included the comment: “Chuck Hagel’s biggest problem will be Congress,” and I would concur with this insight. The FT calls for Congress to give discretion over where the cuts fall. To this I concur.

Congress left town yesterday and will hold an uneventful White House meeting after House Speaker Boehner made it clear that there would be no compromise on raising revenues. His Tea Party base was very happy to see the draconian cuts to our national security, diplomatic, and discretionary domestic budget that helps our poor and unemployed, so that the rich could enjoy their wealth even more fully.

In a larger perspective, it hurts our national security. This silly action by the Republicans has made both our friends and allies as well as our competitors and opponents wonder about our resilience, wisdom, and commitment. This is NOT good. At the moment when Secretary Kerry is trying abroad to solve or, at least improve numerous challenges in “danger” spots and to confront very intractable conflicts many, which require added resources, when there is much less in our “tool box” and less respect for our word and leadership, even while the U.S. undertakes new initiatives to solve, with our allies and friends, the key issues of the day.

Finally, the impact on domestic growth, unemployment, investment in science and technology, health care, and infrastructure will impact the fundamental basis of our national security, especially if the sequester continues for more than a few weeks.  So, hold your hats and reflect on the meaning of all of this.  

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!