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Discussion: (29 comments)

  1. Benjamin Cole

    We spend about $1 trillion a year on the DoD, VA, DHS and intelligence agencies… $10 trillion to be sucked out of the productive private sector in the next 10 years…and AEI says that is not enough…that our military faces “risks”? I assume no one is clsiming there is a risk to our sovereignty?

    1. peter huessy, president of geostrategic analysis

      Mr Benjamin Cole thinks the money spent on our military is sucking resources from the private sector. While this is true of all government spending, he seems to have forgotten our constitutional requirement to provide for our common defense. Veterans have earned their retirement and health care–its what we have promised them over generations. The Department of Homeland Security includes the Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Nuclear Forensics. What part of the protection of our homeland would Mr. Cole like to eliminate? We should reform our intelligence agencies but they need to be much better not eliminated. As for the base defense budget of around $560 billion, pay and operations and maintenance have doubled in costs since 2000. We reduce that by eliminating end strength. While we have 200,000 soldiers overseas, when Eisenhower was President the number was 2 million. The acquisition and research and development accounts were deliberately starved in the 1990’s by being funded at 40% less than the required level to purchase the equipment called for in the Clinton administration’s eight defense budgets. After 1995, the Republican majority kept the acquisition holiday to less than it otherwise would be but it was serious. The last decade has shown some but not sufficient improvement. We still buy equipment at less than optimum numbers and we do not modernize much of what needs to be done such as infantry weapons as General Scales recently noted. The US military provides the enforcement of the diplomatic rules for the international community which are the basis for our shared prosperity in the industrialized west. We have allies in East Asia and Europe and here in the America’s which are part of that effort. Should we reform all that we can and save as many billions as possible? Yes. But that hardly connotes a security policy anymore than simply complaining that 15% of the Federal budget goes for national security compared to nearly 50% when John F. Kennedy became President. Our adversaries get to choose the time and place of their planned aggression unless they are deterred by the US and its allies. We cannot defeat our adversaries if we are not prepared to do so. We tried that in Korea, and we tried that again in the post-Vietnam era. Did we take terrorism seriously in the 1990’s when we were attacked over a dozen times in major terror attacks such as the World Trade Center in 1993 and the USS Cole in 2000? Even a formidable deterrent does not stop all conflicts or wars. But the history of the post World War II era has been that none of the great powers went to war against each other directly, especially not with nuclear weapons. The US, NATO and its East Asia allies were the critical link in that success story. Our military did their job in both Afghanistan and Iraq in record time. They were then asked to build some kind of vague democratic entity which was not their job nor their mission. That is not and was not the failure of the military but of their civilian bosses in the administration and Congress. However, US forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan soon and have already left Iraq. That will reduce defense spending another nearly $100 billion a year; that is on top of the $1.7 trillion cut from the defense base budget since 2009. President Reagan once said America was never attacked because it was too strong. Our weakness and the threat to our sovereignty is the $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities we have incurred over the next 50 years almost entirely in entitlements including a vastly disproportionate welfare state. The US government is scheduled to spend $44 trillion over the next 10 years and $65 trillion in the ten years after that. The defense base budget if it remains flat for that period of time–20 years– will come in at $10 trillion or less than 10% of our nation’s Federal expenditures. When compared to all government spending, including state, local and Federal spending, the defense budget comes in 5% of that 20 year total.

      1. Steve Owen

        Peter,

        Have you ever heard of a paragraph? What on earth were you thinking when you emitted this rant? It’s virtually impossible to parse. Whereas information on specifics abounds you have almost completely missed the point; the expression can’t see the wood for the trees springs to mind.

        American military spending is currently higher than almost any other nation’s, obviously in dollars but also as a percent of GDP (military spending including VA and other sources is a little over 800B, GDP is a little under 16T giving something over 5% and this ignores any debt interest). This places the onus on you to explain why this is necessary, what is so unique about America?

        There is an enormous human cost attached to the military actions the US has taken in the last twelve years, 1000s of civilian deaths including 100s of children and 1000s of US casualties, also there is a staggering financial cost. Reckless military aggression diminishes the nation in the eyes of the world. Far from projecting strength it breeds enmity; an enmity that endangers American safety as surely as any gun could, because it’s what guides the hand that wields it.

        The idea that we should compare the very high cost of military spending with the possible future cost of entitlements seems a little weak don’t you think? It’s like saying I may as well smoke because I might die in a car crash tomorrow. Entitlement spending should be controlled or it will spiral out of control, military spending is already out of control. What is more the military shows every symptom of government inefficiency at its worst: rampant wage/benefit inflation, staggering lack of fiscal accountability (the GAO was unable to even provide an opinion in 2010 due to “widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties and other limitations”), and a procurement process shrouded in secrecy and well understood to revolve around back room deal making and lobbying.

        You seem to be saying lets reduce spending tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. There will always be another Iraq or Afghanistan to meddle in and waste lives on, it’s the nature of politics if there isn’t an emergency make one!

        1. Peter Huessy

          The American military costs a great deal because we pay and train our soldiers better than any other country on earth. When taken into account the equivalent spending by China and Russia actually combined exceeds that of the United States. In that light the PRC is doubling its procurement of military equipment every 7 years; Russia is in the process of spending $775 billion in new equipment particularly its nuclear forces with which it hopes to bully its neighbors.
          Arbitrarily cutting defense by some 50% makes no more sense than cutting half the hospital staff because opportunistic infections have increased.
          Does the procurement system need a major overhaul? Yes it has since World War II.
          How does that define what our security interests are or are not?
          Defense spending is not out of control nor is it the reason for the debt we have today nor projected for the future.
          We should figure out what our defense needs are first then determine what we have to bring to the table to augment the capability of our allies and friends. That number is roughly our current base defense force spending today. Cutting it by 50% or any other made up number out of pique invites the kind of aggression we see by Iran, Syria, China and Russia all of which coincides with American withdrawal. The grabbing of Crimea is now the start of jungle diplomacy by a Russia that cannot stop its aggression for fear of being seen as having lost to the West. If we resist further Russian aggression we may put an end to Putin’s reign as godfather of Russia’s kleptocracy. Not doing so invites a new jungle law where aggression and armed force becomes the norm whether done openly or by stealth. Tragically how Putinism ends could also mean the collapse of Russia as no one will replace the old godfather until new rivals for power murder each other. What that means for Russia’s stockpile of thousands of nuclear weapons especially those that are mobile, small and easily transportable is anyone’s guess. But our failure to deter Putin in the first place has led us to the crossroads of two unpalatable futures. Further retreat into wishful thinking and the absence of hard security analysis will not bring peace to America nor security to our people and our friends.

          1. Steve Owen

            Peter,

            I’m going to reply to each point you make in turn, many are wrong, most are unsubstantiated and even more are just irrelevant non-sequeteurs.

            There is little evidence American soldiers are better trained than soldiers of other nations although there is ample evidence they are better payed, which hardly represents a bargain for the taxpayer.

            You mention that China and Russia combined spend more than the US, but the US plus it’s allies spends vastly more than the rest of the world combined. I find it almost funny that hawks like yourself label doves as isolationist when I can’t think of a more isolationist stance than the idea the US should on it’s own decide the fate of the world and be able to enforce it’s will without the consent of it’s allies. I also question your numbers because in 2012 combined Russian and Chinese spending was 156B according to the SIPRI military database even allowing for substantial increases since then this number is a long way short of the US at 800B. I take it your 775B Russian expenditure is a multi-year figure; please let’s try to keep this honest.

            Glad to hear you agree the procurement process needs overhaul, if even you and I can agree on this maybe that is where policy makers should start. I won’t hold my breath for that though. There is no spend larger than the military (most benefit spending is simply cash transfer with little opportunity for dealmaking), and there is no more influential lobby than the than the one that supports it.

            Defense spending certainly is out of control, and it has contributed massively to the national debt. Just because other spending is growing fast and also large is not even close to a justification. This is like a magician saying “look over there” as he lifts your wallet, please stop repeating it.

            Let’s look at the Crimea, I think it very clearly demonstrates the limitations of your approach. Do you think if the US spent twice as much or three times as much on defense it would have changed Russia’s actions? For all the nations military power the Russians just don’t care because not even the most hardline military advocates can’t see a workable military solution. The fact you can unthinkingly throw out the Crimea to support your case, when it so obviously demonstrates the limitations of military intervention shows you just aren’t thinking. I can only imagine what you are thinking when you say “figure out our defense needs”, is this a world where if the US military is sufficiently large and sufficiently intimidating the world quakes in it’s boots at bed time; what childish nonsense. NATO is more than a match for Putin’s aging war machine but it doesn’t seem to bother him.

            Let me know if you think I failed to address any of your points, I’d love to hear you talk about how you justify the cost in human terms of America’s military actions. The 1000s of civilian casualties and 100s are children killed. These are real people and particularly in the case of Iraq their deaths are a direct consequence of a war that was justified by lies. Do you remember Colin Powel’s presentation to the United Nations on weapons of mass destruction, I do. I remember clearly thinking, this guy is staking the reputation of a nation on this, he has to be telling the truth. We now know with certainty he was not. I have to wonder what forces were at work to subvert our politicians and leaders in this way.

            When I consider what the phrase “civilian casualties” really means I am deeply saddened. Because what it means is families sitting at home on streets like the one I live on in Westchester NY, with my three young children; it means a family like mine and a father like myself who wants nothing more than to work and live and watch his children grow getting his life ripped away from him. This might sound melodramatic but it is reality. Bad things happen in the world but the US taxpayer shouldn’t be the one bankrolling them. We don’t want to and we expect honesty from our politicians.

  2. Benjamin Cole

    Since 9/11, more than 180,000 Americans have been murdered…by drunk drivers.
    $1 trillion a year for the minute threats we face today is too much. AEI should conduct a study on how to obtain reasonable national security for for “only” $500 billion a year. As a taxpayer I make this request.

    1. Steve Owen

      Good point.

      I don’t hear any reply coming from our warmongering friends, where have you all gone?

  3. Steve Owen

    In the conventional division of left and right one thing I find baffling is the association of military aggression and nationalism with the policies of fiscal responsibility, free trade and individual liberty. The idea of an adequate deterrent appeals to everyone but military action clearly robs many people of their liberty, even their lives, costs a great deal and creates marvelous opportunities for the politically connected to snag fat government contracts.

    Nationalist thinking is not something I understand, and it’s a device I associate with the left. Free trade is an international phenomenon it brings us closer together and enriches us. A world without borders would lift millions if not billions of people out of poverty as they migrated from corrupt indolent regimes to well managed free markets, it would bring these people into an environment that allowed them to create wealth for themselves and for others. Surely for those who support free trade, freedom of movement is a natural corollary; it simply represents the freedom to sell our own labor to whomever and wherever we wish.

    The frame that encloses the modern welfare state deliberately excludes the majority of the world; if you ever doubted these programs are simply buying votes ask yourself what possible moral justification there could be for providing unearned benefits to low income Americans or Europeans while 100s of millions struggle to put food on the table in the developing world. It goes without saying that these programs don’t exist to strengthen the economy.

    Nationalism has to be the greatest wealth destroyer in the world today, second to none. It’s so firmly entrenched people can’t even see it. If you accept redistribution how could you think you’re arriving at an equitable distribution of wealth by redistributing simply within the borders of modern wealthy countries? If you believe in global free trade how could you exclude the single most valuable asset most people in the world possess, their own labor?

  4. peter huessy, president of geostrategic analysis

    Nothing I wrote in my explanation of the role of the US military and the necessary expenditures required to protect our security is wrong. Nor did I call anyone a warmonger or appeaser. I want to examine the issues raised in the latest posts.
    There is little evidence American soldiers are better trained than soldiers of other nations.
    This is patent nonsense. American soldiers are not only better paid, they are in fact better trained although O&M funding is being cut under sequestration pressures which is seriously harming readiness and creating greater dangers for our soldiers. The point I was making was this: if China and Russia, North Korea and Iran paid their soldiers what we do, and provided the same kind of support, their spending would be significantly greater than their published numbers.
    And in fact, just China and Russia combined would in fact exceed the US base defense budget. Further, China does not publish much of its acquisition numbers, its entire intelligence and nuclear costs.
    There is a claim out in the analysis community that the US spends more than the rest of the world combined. This came from a back of the envelope illiterate claim by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Let me be blunt. Cohen has no idea what he was talking about then and does not have any idea what he is talking about now.
    So the new claim that the US plus its allies spends vastly more than the rest of the world combined is now substituted for the US only, but even that is wrong. Similar to using a purchase parity formula, take the adversaries of freedom and take he size of their military. Pay and train them similar to the US or even NATO and their costs would exceed those of the US and its allies. The fact that China can do things on the cheap and that Russia has had serious problems developing a professional class officers corps does not mean the do not pose threats to the US and its allies.
    The idea that anyone is advocating the US either alone or in concert with others should decide the fate of the world is ludicrous. The Korean War was forced upon us by the invasion of the North Korean army along with their Chinese and Russian allies. Having failed at cross border warfare, the same coalition of goons decided to destroy the Republic of Vietnam through guerilla war and sabotage. By 1969, our military won the war having eliminated the Viet Cong. Congress then eliminated all support for South Vietnam in 1975 and through that country to the tender mercies of the North Vietnam tank armies. Two million people at a minimum perished as a result post 1975.
    SIPRI’s numbers are official numbers, and they are not adjusted for reality.
    The Russian acquisition number of $775 billion is huge compared to the US acquisition budget even adjusted for the multiyear basis—Russia pays less per unit for military equipment than does the US and as a percent of its official defense budget spending it is a very large modernization and buildup of forces, especially in its nuclear account.

    I have been working now for 3 decades to overhaul the acquisition process. In just the past year we have been able to reduce by 50% a key modernization element of the nuclear deterrent through common partnership between the US Navy and the US Air Force.
    Means tested poverty programs are now in excess of $800 billion a year not including the state spending. They have been on a trajectory that will double such spending in less than a decade. Since 1965, the war on poverty at just the Federal level has spent $17 trillion in today’s dollars. Without such spending, millions of Americans would remain mired in poverty when the goal of the entire effort—as Sargent Shriver told me in a conversation we had when I worked for him in his Vice Presidential campaign in 1972—was to get people out of poverty and into a self-sufficient life. The opposite has occurred where we have a permanent underclass of people often trapped in poverty—in Maryland, you have to earn $22,000 in take home pay to equal the benefits one can get if on welfare. In New York it approaches $38,000. In the late 1990ss, Speaker Gingrich and a reluctant White House did agree on welfare reform that reduced the poverty roles by over 8 million folks. If you add in the state contribution for poverty programs you easily exceed $1.2 trillion annually.
    Since 2009, Congress and the administration have reduced defense spending by $300 billion, $175 billion, and $450 billion in 2009, 2010-1 and 2012-3. Another $550 billion comes out through sequestration. Another $60-70 billion a year will be cut out of the 0C0 accounts when we fully leave Afghanistan. These cuts however CANNOT be counted toward the sequester targets. In addition, pay and personnel accounts in the US Department of Defense cannot be cut under sequestration either, thus all the sequester cuts are coming from 0&M accounts and R&D and acquisition—cutting training, cutting our seed corn for new technologies and cutting the current inventory of capabilities. No other part of the government has undergone such reductions in funding.
    The US government is required by law to determine what its defense needs are; it may be that you see no reason to make such an assessment as your policy is to arbitrarily spend $500 billion annually, simply because its half of what you claim we spend on the “military”. But your number includes the Veterans administration and homeland security, one which provides no military capability and the other provides for domestic protection against a myriad of terror threats.
    Your proposal would end up with a defense base budget somewhere around $330-$350 billion annually—at the very best— which would decimate our capabilities and roughly cut our military forces by 60%. How that squares with meeting any anticipated obligations to provide for the common defense is beyond me but perhaps our colleague can share with us the magic plan he has for how such an expenditure would defend this country.
    If you believe Mr. Putin is not deterred by US or allied military capability at our current level of expenditures then he certainly will not be if you cut that capability by 50%. If as you say there is no military solution, well then deterrence does not work and we can actually simply get rid of all our military capability and as the late Senator Malcolm Wallop explained “We can instead rely upon prayer”.

    Mr. Putin may indeed not have stopped all of his “March Madness”. But in the absence of military preparedness by Ukraine, the Baltics and their allies—including the United States—he may indeed help himself to additional calves, sheep and other livestock in what is now the corral of free nations of Europe.
    A modicum of US and allied deployments and military assistance to the region including Ukraine and the Baltics would do much to persuade Putin to stop. Add to that real sanctions and dramatically enhanced gas and oil development and exports to Europe, and over a term of years a sound policy could be developed and we could bring back the credibility and leverage that American deterrent capability needs to have. But such diplomatic leverage flowing from credible military capability does not get recovered in days, weeks or months. Whether we have the time to recover is uncertain—if Putin does not launch an invasion of Ukraine or the Baltics, deterrence obviously did not work and Mr. Cole and Mr. Owen and his friends can decide to cut our defenses another 50% beyond even their current proposals. After all if defense does not matter, well, defense does not matter. Incantations and prayer would then become the coin of the realm.
    As for Iraq, let’s set the record straight. Mr. Butler, the head of UNSCOM, wrote a book in 2000 that said Iraq WMD were the worst threat facing the world. When asked, senior Clinton administration officials said the intelligence they faced in 2000 was no different than the assessment made by the Bush administration in 2002; in fact the Congressional passage of legislation in the latter part of the Clinton administration specifically called for the elimination of the Iraqi regime. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.
    Whatever one thinks of the rightness or wrongness of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, the numbers of civilians killed since then has almost entirely been a function of the terrorism largely perpetuated by Iran and Syria and their terror allies in Iraq as terrorist rat lines from both countries flowed into Iraq to kill Sunni and Shia alike and bring the country to civil war. The surge as it was called ended that. The subsequent precipitous withdrawal of US and allied forces may in the end throw away all gains that could have been obtained.
    None of this however necessarily gives us insight into what level of defense spending and capability should be maintained by the US into the future. But correcting the factual record is very important. We were throughout the 1990s at war with Iraq because Iraq was at war with its neighbors. We did not go looking for anything. And our military did its job of taking down the Hussein regime magnificently.
    Again, to arbitrarily cut the US security budget by 50% is not a policy nor is it sound analysis. It is pique masquerading as sound judgment. Whatever we as a country decide to do on matters of defense and national security we should do with our eyes open, with honest and sound analysis and without wishful thinking. In the post WWII, Korean and Vietnam wars and after the end of the Cold War, the US went on a procurement holiday in three of those periods—laid out in detail in my essay this spring about this neglect on Gatestone Institute entitled “The Great Waves of Neglect”.
    The US military and those of NATO and our allies in East Asia have largely kept the peace over the last three quarters of a century. No war has occurred between the great powers except the guerilla and terror war waged by the Soviet Union especially after the Korean War. But nuclear weapons never were used in anger, and sometimes this was a near thing such as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. As President Kennedy said, “My ICBMs were my ace in the hole”.
    Police forces give effect to the laws of a community. The military give effect to the rules and understandings that have given rise the current globalization and such major improvements in the human condition that has indeed led to greater prosperity in the world than at any other time in human history. We could of course go back to the jungle rules of 1914-1945 when 100 million people perished directly due to the two world wars. But since the end of WWII, the annual death rate from war has plummeted by over 99%. That period directly coincided with the rise of American military power, our economic opportunity and our diplomatic leadership, what Senator Mark Warner recently described as the three legs of the stool of American greatness.

    1. Steve Owen

      Peter,

      Thanks for your reply. I apologize for using the term warmonger, it was a flippant comment and probably not justified; but if you want to call me a peacemaker feel free. I do however disagree that the were not any inaccuracies in your post and with your central premise: that US military spending is justified (when in fact it is an outlier in both dollar terms and percent of GDP).

      To start, your claim that Russia and China spend more than the US is still false. Counting troops is obviously a very poor way to measure military strength, in many countries the military isn’t much more than a job creation scheme, so multiplying troop counts by US dollar salary and saying look we’re being out spent is pretty unconvincing. Even if you did something more reasonable and adjusted for purchasing power parity it’s a pretty weak analysis. The problem with adjusting for PPP is whereas some military expenses could reasonably be adjusted many cannot. For many large tickets in military spending there is global price for example raw materials (barring small variations based on mine locations etc), most high tech goods (some of these are actually more expensive in less developed regions) and other essential commodities such as oil and uranium. My claim that the US and it’s allies spends more than the rest of the world is based on published numbers in the SIPRI military database as I’ve already said, I’m certainly not quoting some guy from Ben and Jerry’s. I can only imagine you’re saying that to make me seem poorly informed; when I am actually correct and your assertion is at best very misleading.

      As to the claim SIPRI numbers are not adjusted for reality, you have a fair point, given the US number is 682B and we know this is well below the real spending (your claim that we shouldn’t include VA spending is pretty outrageous, health care and pensions are legitimate and significant compensation expenses, why would we just siphon it off and say it doesn’t count?). The question is are the non-US numbers that much more understated that the US number which excludes a large chunk of the US nuclear program (Energy Dept.), a lot of US compensation expense (VA) financing of foreign military sales (State Dept.) and other defense spending such as the Dept. of Homeland Security. Using SIPRI we see 682B for the US, over 300B combined for closely allied nations (UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, South Korea) compared with 166B for China and 91B for Russia. So the difference in favor of the US and its allies in very large even if the numbers are understated across the board.

      You claim US troops are the best trained in the world I ask for your evidence but you still provide none; you simply assert this is true for the second time. I was under the impression that many modern armies provide comparable if not superior training, examples being the UK (home of the SAS) and Israel (where national service allows the military to screen a large part of the population for recruitment). I’m not claiming these armies are superior overall as they don’t have nearly the scale or resources of the US but as far a rigor of training goes where is the evidence the US is the best? The US is certainly the most expensive and that is a matter of public record.

      As to the issue of US isolationism in the form of unilateral military action, you invite this conclusion because you are the one comparing the US military alone with the forces of two potential rivals combined. Surely a natural comparison would include US allies and compare to just one potential rival if the plan was to act in unison with our allies? Now you claim that conclusion is ludicrous but when you thought it would help justify US military spending you advocated it.

      For the record I’m not suggesting prayer as alternative to military spending as you and the late Senator Malcolm Wallop suggest, I’m asking you and other big military advocates to justify an oversize US military budget and clearly defining what I mean by that. Whereas most modern nations are spending around 3% of GDP on their military the US is spending over 5%; the US also spends vastly more in terms of dollars than any other nation which is possibly an even more relevant benchmark. You say “If you believe Mr. Putin is not deterred by US or allied military capability at our current level of expenditures then he certainly will not be if you cut that capability by 50%” but what I actually said is Putin has not been deterred from invading the Crimea by the US military and the evidence is plainly there for that. I believe the extent to which he would be deterred by a far smaller US military is exactly the same, and my logic is very simple. The Russian military is vastly inferior to the US military and even more inferior to the combined NATO military even if NATO military was far smaller this would still be the case. Putin knows what every observer can see (including the vast majority of Russians) the potential for disaster is huge but in this game of brinkmanship he has judged correctly that because of the large number of Russian nationals in Crimea and the large numbers of Russian forces already in-situ there he can get away with it politically.

      It’s pretty astonishing that you take issue over the Colin Powell speech, here’s a quote from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson who prepared the UN speech: “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others had decided to go to war with Iraq long before Colin Powell gave that presentation. … It added to the momentum of the war. … Frankly, we were all wrong. Was the intelligence politicized in addition to being wrong at its roots? Absolutely.”. We know for a fact the weapons weren’t there the only defense is incompetence or more accurately a willful ignorance, given the total cost of the war maybe a little more should and could have been spent on researching the justification. Mr Butler who you mention was himself opposed to the war and accused his own country’s prime minister of deceiving the public based on very similar statement to those made by president George Bush.

      The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in very large by anyones standards. The Lancet study puts the total at a little over 650,000 the majority of which were attributed to destruction of infrastructure in operation Iraqi Freedom, this destruction resulted in a unsanitary conditions, disruption of necessary supplies and a breakdown in general healthcare. Most studies put the number of violent civilian deaths at somewhere in the region of 50 to 100 thousand of which some will be attributed to terrorist activity. When it comes to destruction of infrastructure the ally bombardment is responsible for the vast majority and thus the vast bulk of civilian deaths in Iraq.

      I find it pretty amazing you’d bring up Vietnam when you are trying to justify military spending!

      1. Peter Huessy

        No matter how one tries to explain facts in the current debate over American security policy, apparently those unalterably opposed to the current defense spending will not be persuaded. Let me try however again to walk through the data.
        It was first asserted by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s, the founder of BENS, Business Executives for National Security, that the US spends more defense dollars than all other countries in the combined. He used what he called an “Oreo” lesson with each Oreo representing $25 billion in defense spending. He stacked Oreos up comparing the US, China, Russia, our allies, North Korea, showing the US with twice as many Oreos as everybody else combined. Then he swept away half the US Oreos exclaiming, see we still have enough. When I wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal pointing out the fraud in his analysis, Cohen tried to get me fired from my consulting position with IFPA.

        Cohen was trying to make it appear that the US had plenty of margin and that such expenditures could be safely cut in half and still provide the US its needed security.

        The assumption of course was that $1 of US defense spending buys the same as a $1 of spending by our adversaries. It doesn’t. That is because we take care of our soldiers far better than others.

        The fact that China and Russia have poorly trained troops or troops that are drafted and not professionally trained is immaterial. A dollar of spending in China buys far more than the equivalent in the US defense budget.

        Furthermore, the US is not defending just its homeland. Even if we do not wish to use the US military in various regions where our forces deter–such as in the Republic of Korea, in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, or in coastal Africa where we are dealing with pirates, oil smugglers and terrorists, the US has to have a presence in order to deal with a threat that emerges.

        We cannot simply have a constabulatory force located at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina and deploy it on demand–the bad guys get to vote and they may already be where we need to be. The alternative of course is to decide not to deter or defend such as in the Republic of Korea. If Mr. Owen so desires, well then say so. I know from taking with the former military adviser to the US delegation to the ongoing talks between the US and North Korea that a US withdrawal from the peninsula would trigger a North Korean invasion of the ROK as detailed by the testimony of the highest ranking defector ever from the North–the tutor of Kim Jong Il and father of the self reliant or doctrine of Juche.

        My colleague just says he does not like the current spending on defense. He then suggests we cut all security spending in half. But no logical strategy is laid out that justifies any particular level of spending. I have simply asked that we assess what our security needs are, have a rational debate about the same and therefore move to a security posture consistent with what we say we want to defend and protect.

        In short, saying the US spends more than another country means nothing. It matters what we deploy, what we have ready and what we can bring to the theater to defend out interests, allies and friends.

        My point was that although China and Russia spend what officially looks far less than the US, one must review what the PRC and Moscow can buy with those dollars. In addition, China hides a considerable amount of its defense budget and does not publish any numbers of what he fails to include in its official defense budgets. SIPRI publishes official Chinese data, true. But its still Chinese fairy tales.

        Under current sequestration, right now we have available one battalion in the Army ready to deploy. Under sequestration, our Navy will be smaller than it was prior to World War I–although dramatically more capable, the same Navy carrier, cruiser, frigate or submarine cannot be in the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf simultaneously, while our adversaries can indeed be in both places. Again it comes down to what do you think is worth defending–keeping the sea lines of trade and communication open and keeping allies safe from aggression. Our Air Force is now 28 years old per plane on average; when Reagan became President the number was less than half that after a decade of the hollow military. After sequestration the USAF will be the smallest in our history.

        This administration’s defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs have both said completing sequestration would not allow the US to meet anywhere near its current obligations let alone a diminished role in the world.

        So the argument is clear–what level of spending meets our security needs? Steve Owen seems to think an arbitrary 50% less than today does the job without any supporting evidence except a claim Russia and China spend a lot less. But again, if that were true, so what?

        What is the threat China and Russia pose to America at whatever level of spending currently is being undertaken, especially in light of the huge modernization plans now underway by both countries, including double digit percent annual increases in defense spending–even though they both seriously understate their real levels of spending.

        As for training, every Chief of Staff and CNO of our armed forces has testified for the past decade that the US soldier is the best trained in the world. I went back and looked at three years of hearings–1977-8-9 and read testimony after testimony of the decline in training that occurred during the days of the hollow Army.

        Starting with the Reagan administration, we turned that around dramatically. In discussions with foreign military leaders, including some of the more than Using the metrics of training, operations and maintenance and the professional education of our men and women in the armed forces, that is entirely true, something I came to appreciate in my 20 years of consulting with the National Defense University Foundation where I raised over $8 million for our armed services folks professional education.

        Of course Owen like so many critics of our military comes back to Iraq as if that proves anything about what our current posture should be. It is a talisman that has now been substituted for Vietnam–another war we won but whose victory was thrown away.

        But facts matter; Butler wrote in 2000 that Saddam’s WMD were the gravest threat to the world. Did he cook the books? He hardly could be considered a Bush ally–the Presidential election had not been held.

        The Senate intelligence committee and its House counterpart both concluded that no books were cooked. No WMD intelligence was fudged and no analyst was pressured. That was the bipartisan conclusion of Congress.

        In fact the infamous Joe Wilson actually confirmed to the intelligence community that an agent of the Iraqi government had indeed sought to purchase yellow cake inn Niger.

        However, the rationale for the liberation was stated in 21 separate “findings” of which WMD was but one.

        But people wanted a narrative and not the facts and thus we get one serial fairy tale after another.

        As for the Lancet study, the ministry of health in Cuba puts out better material. The infrastructure in Iraq was a disaster long before the US arrived. It was in terrible disrepair. The civilian killings in Iraq were primarily tied to Iran, Libya and Syria connected terrorist groups using Iraq as a staging ground to attack American and allied forces and the new Iraqi government. I failed to find any Americans strapping suicide vests to their chests and blowing themselves up in crowded markets.

        The US rules of engagement were such that we deliberately avoiding taking down huge swaths of the Iraqi infrastructure both during the initial invasion and in the subsequent counter insurgency efforts.

        Propaganda from opponents of the Bush administration about the high infant death rates were first alleged in the 1990s, nearly a decade before the US liberation. In fact Secretary Albright acknowledged that infant mortality deaths went up during the sanctions and no fly zones between 1993-2000 but said it was worth it.

        The problem is the infant deaths did not go up according to data supplied to the US Population Division by the Iraqi government. And there was a diversion of health supplies and equipment but that was due to Saddam’s two sons stealing such supplies and selling the material on the black market. So how can infant death rate increases in the 1990s–even if true—be attributed to US military action starting in 2003?

        Yes indeed Veterans care costs can be attributed to current and past wars. But the funding buys no equipment, provides no research and development and does not pay for readiness. It does bring soldiers back into the service at an extraordinary rate given the miracles of modern medicine, something readily apparent when one visits the Navy Bethesda military hospital and talks with soldiers recovering from their battle wounds while serving in Afghanistan.

        If Owen would like to add in the expenditures of Russia and China for its veterans, we could compare apples to apples. But they do not. And our Veterans spending has but an indirect impact on our readiness.

        The US now spends roughly $550 billion on defense and that in the next fiscal year falls to just below $500 billion. The Overseas Contingency Operations budget pays largely for Afghanistan and other overseas counter terrorist operations but that $80-90 billion expenditure will quickly fall to $20 billion or so in the next few years.

        So it is $500 billion that is where we will be in fiscal year 2015 and in the subsequent 8 years another nearly $500 billion cumulatively comes out of defense.

        We went on a procurement holiday during the 1990’s, as we prematurely cashed in a Cold War ending peace dividend. Senator Nunn noted some time ago that between 1986-2000 the defense budget declined by over $1 trillion compared to a steady state budget at the 1986 level. As Kagan and Kagan wrote, it was 1993-2000 “While America Slept”.

        Current Federal budget reality is that we are projected to spend $3.95 trillion in FY2015 starting October 1, 2014. In 2025, that number will be $5.5 trillion using administration projections with $49 trillion being spent cumulatively, of which the defense base budget will be $5 trillion or 10% even if the defense base budget and OCO accounts stay at roughly $500 billion annually for the next decade.

        Every time in the past century when the US has withdrawn from the world and sharply cuts its defense budgets, the world has not become safer or more serene. In the 1970’s, at least 18 nations fell to communist subversion or fell to some form of totalitarianism, such as Iran.

        The Soviet leadership were convinced by the end of that decade that the correlation of forces has changed in the favor of Moscow–they invaded Afghanistan, then increased dramatically their support for terrorism including guerilla groups in such places as El Salvador, Angola, Nicaragua and Columbia. Terrorism was rampant in Europe as well.

        Defense spending is not the problem. It is the glue that keeps together the rules of the road and the guardrails upon which modern society rests.

        1. Steve Owen

          I’ve already replied below but when I read this I just have to point out how clearly you support everything I say. Please just think about this it will help you in the future:

          When you engage in hyperbole with someone determinedly presenting their case as clearly as they are able you undermine your own credibility, here are some examples:

          “We cannot simply have a constabulatory force located at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina and deploy it on demand”, I’m suggesting spending 3% of GDP, do you think this is a fair representation of my suggestion?

          “[By the end of the 70s] Terrorism was rampant in Europe”, again a ridiculous exaggeration that undermines your credibility. The main sources of terrorist activity in Europe prior to 9/11 were the IRA and the ETA, as you can see from table 1 in this report using data from the TWEED database http://www.sagepub.com/martin3study/articles/Engene.pdf, the majority of deaths are just two countries the UK (IRA) and Spain (ETA). While 3000 deaths for a continent over a 54 year period is tragic can it be described as rampant?

          “As for the Lancet study, the ministry of health in Cuba puts out better material”, this one has to be the best of them all. The Lancet is the second most influential medical journal in the world according to Journal Citation Reports (based on impact factor), there probably isn’t a Nobel Prize winner for medicine who hasn’t published in it. Maybe in the circles you move in it’s name is mud but objectively this couldn’t be further from the truth and you reveal the partizan nature of your thought leaders with this comment.

          Here are some other tips. If you want support your case use credible unbiased sources as far as possible. I think it’s great you finally came up with something to support your claim that US troops are the best trained in the world but it’s a shame you couldn’t do better than the Chief of Staff and CNO of those very same troops. I’m pretty sure the head of the Iraqi Republican Guard would have said the same thing about them, at least in public.

          You also seem convinced it’s reasonable to exclude VA expense because “the funding buys no equipment, provides no research and development and does not pay for readiness”. It is however part of the compensation expense for our troops, troops do add to our military readiness right? Following your line of reason there are a lot of things we should exclude, how about food, air conditioning, toilet paper, why not all the troop’s wages not just their pensions and healthcare benefits.

          You should also stop repeating yourself when your point has already been discredited, it just gives me a chance to repeat my rebuttal. You write “Butler wrote in 2000 that Saddam’s WMD were the gravest threat to the world”, but it’s public record that he opposed the Iraq war in 2003, claims his work was misrepresented and accused his own premier of lying to the public for saying the same things as Bush and Blair. If you can’t find a better source to support your case you shouldn’t say anything.

      2. Peter Huessy

        Time does not allow me to write a detailed review of the claim by Mr Owen that Russia and Putin are not deterred from committing aggression by US and NATO forces. The implication is that defense of any kind is unnecessary. Missing in such foolish sentiments is indeed common sense–by definition all conflict has not been deterred. And also all peace can be assumed to be the result of deterrence working.

        The timing of the Russian seizure of Crimea is critical as is an understanding of what Russian capabilities were employed. That is the subject of this excellent analysis from IHS.

        Also, for an excellent analysis of the pressing need for deterrence to be enhanced in the Eastern European theater and the potential consequence of a failure to do so, I highly recommend Matthew Kaminski’s excellent Wall Street Journal interview with the President of Estonia this weekend.

        Here is the piece on Russia and Crimea and the military capabilities used by Moscow in its aggression.

        Military Capabilities
        UPDATE: Analysis: Crimea intervention – The increasing sophistication of Russia’s military resurgence
        Tim Ripley, London and Bruce Jones, London – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly 01 April 2014

        Timeline of the Crimean crisis Source: IHS
        Late on 25 March, the last Ukrainian warship blockaded in its port on Crimea’s west coast surrendered to Russian forces, completing just over three weeks of operations to wrest the strategic peninsula from Kiev’s control.
        This whirlwind campaign seems to herald a new sophistication in how Russian commanders conduct military operations. The most distinctive feature of the Russian operation was its emphasis on economy of effort. Unlike previous interventions in Afghanistan in the Soviet era, or Chechnya and Georgia more recently, where Russian commanders relied on mass employment of tanks and artillery, the Crimea intervention featured fewer than 10,000 assault troops lined up against 16,000 Ukrainian military personnel. The heaviest fighting vehicle employed by the Russians against the Ukrainians was the wheeled BTR-80 armoured personnel carrier (APC). Once Russian troops had moved to blockade Ukrainian military personnel in their bases, psychological warfare, internet/media propaganda, intimidation, and bribery were their main weapons to undermine their opponents’ will to resist, rather than overwhelming firepower. Russian troops also displayed considerably discipline and patience during this phase. In addition, they appeared well equipped, boasting new personnel equipment, body armour, and light wheeled armoured vehicles.
        This novel approach was necessitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s need for the operation to be launched within a tight timeframe after the fall of the pro-Moscow regime in Kiev on 27 February. Although the operation may have been planned for many months, there was insufficient time to mobilise a larger force. Russian commanders had to make do with naval infantry from the Black Sea Fleet already based in Crimea, backed up by a couple of battalions of airborne troops and Spetsnaz commandos flown onto the peninsula. Economy of force also fitted the campaign’s political narrative: that this was a mission to protect Crimea’s Russian-speaking population rather than an invasion. In just over three weeks, the will of the Ukrainian forces in Crimea was broken and all 190 of their bases had surrendered with barely a shot being fired by their defenders. However, even if some Ukrainian heavy armour was present in Crimea, many of the Ukrainian forces were naval and administrative personnel rather than combat troops. Organised military resistance was never a serious prospect. Instead of achieving a simple military triumph on the battlefield, the Russian armed forces facilitated a political and psychological victory.
        What now?
        In the wake of his success, there has been intense speculation about President Putin’s future intentions. In his 18 March victory speech after the fall of Crimea, he laid out his underlying worldview. Russia’s loss of power and status at the end of the Cold War in 1989 was a deliberate, generational humiliation at the hands of the West – and a reason for hatred and apprehension. For the Russian president, Ukraine’s strategic importance to Russia is the key issue. In Putin’s view, Ukraine is the pivotal connector between East and West. Control of Ukraine means control of the Black Sea and unobstructed access to potentially sympathetic populations in central Europe and the Balkans – in nations such as Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Serbia – and the exercise of time honoured ‘pan-slavism’ with a view to greater integration. These strategic perspectives appear to have been largely lost to Western leaders.
        Ukraine is sufficiently important that in 2004, the last time a split from Russian control seemed likely, Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western opposition and Orange Revolution leader and later president, was nearly fatally poisoned and permanently disfigured by the use of dioxin. In any case, the Kremlin sees a ‘colour revolution’, heralding liberal democracy amongst Slavonic people, as threatening and utterly unacceptable. A significant effect of the Crimea campaign has been to further test NATO and EU resolve. Russian leaders tend to think in larger pictures than their Western counterparts. ‘Atlanticists’ are likely to consider individual nations or small groups of countries, threats to them, and their specific importance, without interconnecting them. Russian analysts evaluate – and have whole branches of study devoted to – the Black Sea-Baltic region as a strategic territory and subject in itself. Russia has generally controlled these areas between Russia proper and foreign countries, referred to in a wider context as the ‘near abroad’.
        Speculation has shifted to Moldova – and its adjacent, unrecognised Russian-speaking enclave of Transnistria or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) – as the next test of Western resolve in the face of possible intervention by Putin. A potential justification or pretext for a Russian incursion here is the small self-declared republic’s wish to become part of Russia and the disputed presence of a battalion of 400 Russian peace-keeping troops. On 25 March, Russia announced the start of territorial defence exercises in Transnistria, which Moldovan sources described to IHS Jane’s on the same day as of concern even if anticipated. Although part of NATO and the EU, the Baltic States are the northern end of the Black Sea-Baltic space and are vulnerable. The disapproving tone of some Russian rhetoric suggests they exist under sufferance.
        From the Russian Air Assault Division base at Pskov near the Latvian-Estonian border, forces could – from a near standing start – cut off Estonia from the rest of the EU in less than 40 minutes, according to a former Russian air assault division commander. The same could be done along the 80 km Polish-Lithuanian border, which runs between Belarus and the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. In both cases, one or all the Baltic States could be enclosed, controlled, and separated from the rest of Europe. In the Baltic, eastern Ukraine, and Moldova-Transnistria Russian military units are in place, available for further exploitation if President Putin so desires.
        This article, first published on 27 March, has been updated with new images.

        1. Steve Owen

          Peter, I get the impression you are so used to talking to people who agree with you you’ve forgotten how to justify your beliefs. For all your verbiage you present very little evidence. Whereas I repeatedly reference external sources and attempt to let the data speak for itself you simply assert your opinion repeatedly and occasionally take a swipe at my sources. To be convincing you need to present your own data, simply saying the same thing twice or three times doesn’t help you. In the cases where you have made verifiable assertions I have attempted to verify them and in several cases shown them to be false or misleading, for example:

          You claim Russia is spending 775B to modernize it’s army when we are discussing annual expenditures but this number is the total they intend to spend over many years; you leave it to me to correct this.

          You claim Russia and China spend more than the US but it turns out you are simply saying they have more troops. Who in these modern times judges an army by it’s troop count? I had to lay out the far more reasonable notion of purchasing power parity for you at same time as I pointed out how flawed it was.

          You state “Whatever one thinks of the rightness or wrongness of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, the numbers of civilians killed since then has almost entirely been a function of the terrorism”, again a very disingenuous statement. Using well respected studies and consensus opinions I show you that the vast majority of civilian deaths in Iraq are attributable to actions of the US and its allies. Total deaths are 650,000 what a insanely large number! I find your claim that “the ministry of health in Cuba puts out better material [than the Lancet]” amusing but I urge you to check your facts. It’s one of oldest and best respected medical journals in the world, it’s only crime is it published material that you and your colleagues would rather it didn’t.

          You claim the US had all but won the war in Vietnam but the politicians backed out too soon. What a wonderfully naive assertion. The military’s best minds underestimated their opposition throughout the entire war, if it had ended at any point they would have held the opinion it was easily winnable from there if only they’d held the course. The US instituted a draft, it’s hard to imagine a more blatant disregard for individual liberty than to compel your own citizens to fight in a war many didn’t believe in, and of course in the end the war was still lost. But let’s not loose track of the bigger picture, the war was lost but what look at where Vietnam has ended up today? The scaremongering that motivated the war turned out to be completely misplaced.

          If you want to understand why so many informed people are against the wars people want to fight today you have to have a firm grasp of history. The US intelligence gathering machine has been wrong so many times, but has consistently provided analysis that supported military spending often with disastrous effects. Some examples:

          Collapse of the Soviet Union

          Until the very day before it happened the CIA had no clue the Soviet Union was about to collapse, hardly surprising when you consider how much military spending was dependent on continuation of the cold war.

          The Soviet War in Afghanistan

          CIA put together a multi billion dollar arms supply effort funneling weaponry to Afghan war lords in the 80s, including the supply of sophisticated Stinger missiles which later fell into terrorist hands. US arms created a militarized populace in Afghanistan fed through supply lines in northern Pakistan, a legacy we are obviously still struggling with today (see the excellent book Ghost Wars by Steve Coll for details).

          Iran: Operation Ajax.

          In what seemed like a complete success the CIA and MI6 co-ordinated a coup in Iran, placing the Shah in power. In retrospect we can see what a disaster this really was, if you were trying solidify anti-western sentiment you could hardly have done anything more effective. The regime lasted 26 years and was replaced by the Islamic Republic we are familiar with today.

          US military spending is supported by an enormous lobbying apparatus and military consultants like yourself are part of it. Is anyone paying people to say we don’t need to spend so much on the military? It’s a classic case of a well co-ordinated special interest group outmaneuvering the poorly organized taxpayers like myself who seldom have time to mount a sustained defense. I have a day job and I promise you it’s nothing to do with Washington. Frankly I’m amazed a full time military consultant like yourself presents such weak arguments, I suppose the advantage I have is the evidence supports my perspective while you have to devise convoluted points of view and half truths to support yours.

          US military spending is disproportionate to it’s needs. To support this I again point out it spends by far the largest dollar amount in the world and compared to it’s modern peers is also the largest spender as percentage of GDP, 5% vs are more normal 3%. Almost all developed nations are staunch allies, and true declared enemies are few, isolated and poor. The best the hawks like yourself can do is drum up paranoia about China and Russia, nations which might be ambivalent to the US but are long way from being openly hostile and still have vastly inferior militaries. Any actions they take aren’t because they think their armies are superior to the US and its allies; it’s because they recognize political reality: the cost of military action isn’t worth the gain except in small isolated instances where you can be sure the opposition won’t respond.

          The idea that we can work backwards from what we “need to do” and calculate the spend is just rhetoric, what we need to do is decided by politics and can’t be considered independently of what is possible, costs and the likely political scenarios. Today’s world isn’t the one of the cold war or before WWII, it’s more united, more interconnected and people are better informed of both the costs of war and the futility of it. Freedom and democracy have made enormous progress in the last 100 years, it creeps across the planet in fits and starts from the Arab Spring, to the fall of the Soviet Union, to the gradual process we’ve seen in China over the last 20 years. As it advances we become safer, richer and freer than ever before and none of this progress has stemmed from US military aggression but from a steady determined defense.

      3. Peter Huessy

        QDR First Principles
        Let’s see if we can conclude this discussion by going back to first principles. The AEI article by Mackenzie Eaglin and Roger Zakheim noted the QDR, or Quadrennial Defense Review, was an inadequate document in that it failed to spell out what US security interests needed to be defended. Here is what they wrote:
        “For years, many in Congress have lamented the gap between what the defense strategy is supposed to do and what is produced. [Chairman]McKeon’s missive highlighted some of the most common complaints about the QDR, including that the document was crafted to align with the administration’s budget and failed to look out 20 years. Instead of establishing a road map for defense programs for the next two decades, this and previous versions have been overly budget-driven, purposefully shortsighted and politically motivated.”
        What’s Right for America’s Defense?
        Mr. Owen wrote that all we need to do is spend 3% of our GDP on defense which would reduce our estimated defense expenditures by close to 67% (not the 50% I estimates earlier) as he includes veterans and homeland security in defining defense spending. We are never told why 3% is adequate or what security interests we need to defend and what interests are no longer worth defending. To justify this number, we are told America spends more than the rest of the world combined on defense and thus everything should be fine if we spend a lot less. I debunked that claim so Mr. Owen drops it and simply asks well why can’t we get along with 3%?
        In all respects Mr. Owen is wrong and Ms. Eaglin and Mr. Zakheim are right re: the QDR. The law of the land requires any administration to lay out our security needs and combine that with an estimate of what such defense should cost. The QDR as presented recently to Congress did not do the job.
        3% is an arbitrary number and it may or may not be adequate for our defenses. In today’s world, it would decimate our defenses and cripple our status as leader of the free world. Both General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Hagel, have so testified.
        Three percent by itself it says nothing about what security interests of the US are or are not to be protected. It says nothing about what we can expect from our allies. It does imply about $500 billion in defense spending. What would that purchase for our defense?
        What Does 3% Eliminate?
        From 3% of GDP or $500 billion, backing out $151 billion in Veterans costs and $46 billion in the Department of Homeland Defense (FY2014 spending) leaves the Department of Defense base budget with $303 billion, which is just enough to pay for military housing, military construction, and operations and maintenance but zero research, development, test and evaluation, zero acquisition or procurement of a single plane, tank, artillery piece, missile, bullet, armored vehicle, or ship, zero for our overseas contingency operations that currently support, for example, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen operations and zero for our entire intelligence establishment. One can move these numbers around, but however one wishes to do so, the budget proposed by Mr. Owen ends America’s role as leader of the free world and as a power that can protect its most vital interests.
        The Iraq Diversion
        Mr. Owen, unable to debate these points, then turns to the consequence of our liberation of Iraq, claiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqis perished because we destroyed that countries infrastructure, basing his assessment of studies done by a medical journal Lancet. Somehow we are meant to leap from that alleged fact to somehow taking at face value the idea that 3% of our GDP is all we need to spend on defense.
        But irrespective of the lack of any connection between the two, it is imperative that the actual history be laid on the table. Saddam Hussein repeatedly complained infant mortality and death rates for the Iraqis went up in the 1990’s, long before the liberation of Iraq by American and coalition forces in 2003.
        Here from the Iraqi mission to the UN:
        At Iraq’s U.N. mission Web site, information about the devastating effect sanctions are having upon Iraqi society is presented on a black background, “in mourning of the Iraqi children who are dying on a daily basis due to the continued imposition of the unjust sanctions on the people of Iraq.” According to the Web site, more than 84,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 died in 2001 — alleged casualties of the sanctions. Actual causes of death are not listed.
        In fact, health supplies were diverted under the Oil for Palaces program, as it was dubbed by General Tommy Franks, because Saddam’s murderous sons were diverting health supplies to the black market not because of the carelessness of the US military.
        As for the study by Lancet, claiming US forces in Iraq post 2003 had destroyed much of the infrastructure and caused tens of thousands of additional deaths among the Iraqi population, it was thoroughly debunked by subsequent careful analysis. If anything the US and coalition forces operated under rules of engagement which minimized the impact on the infrastructure even as terrorists from Iran and Syria went after the electrical supply, police forces and other elements of Iraqi civil society with literally thousands of attacks annually.
        For example, from Wikipedia: “The Lancet surveys are controversial because their mortality figures are higher than most other reports, including those of the Iraqi Health Ministry and the United Nations, as well as other household surveys such as the Iraq Living Conditions Survey and the Iraq Family Health Survey.”
        Exactly as I earlier claimed.
        Ambassador Butler’s Findings
        Mr. Owen still remains oblivious to the purpose of my citation of Mr. Butler’s 2000 book. It detailed that Saddam’s WMD were in Butler’s opinion, the single gravest threat to the West. Now he may have been wrong—that is not the point. But if he came to that conclusion fairly and honestly, which all accounts say he did, how is it that when the Bush administration came to exactly the same opinion, Mr. Owen was quick to charge the administration with cooking the books–which a joint intelligence committee of Congress determined was not true. I never used Butler’s findings as justification of moving against Iraq, but only to junk the malicious claim the Bush administration made-up the Iraqi WMD threat.

        Terrorism in the 1970’s?
        As for terrorism in the 1970’s, it was rampant as any analysis of the attacks throughout Europe and Latin America and the Middle East would show. Terrorism from El Salvador to Germany and Italy as well as Columbia–by the communist FMLN, Bader Meinhof gang, Red Brigades, Black September, the PLO, and the FARC were indeed rampant.
        Here is what one assessment said:
        “During the 1970s and early 1980s, Red Brigade terrorists committed more than 10,000 acts of political violence, killing over 400 people. This group’s most notorious act was the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, the former leader of Italy. His brutal killing ended whatever sympathy Italians had for the Red Brigades.”
        “From 1970 to 1979, the RAF killed 31 persons, injured about 100, took 163 hostages, and was responsible for 25 bombings. Among those killed were the attorney general of West Germany, the head of a national employer association, and several American soldiers stationed in West Germany.”
        “Over the past 25 years, terrorists have killed more than 3,000 persons in Northern Ireland. About 800 bombings have taken place. While most of the terrorism has occurred in Northern Ireland, bombings and other violent acts have also been carried out on the British mainland.”
        My own written and pictorial study done in 1993 for Senator Wallop (Bombs, Bridges and Buses) and related to Columbia and El Salvador, estimated some 300,000 civilians had been murdered in the civil wars in those two countries, instigated primarily by Communist terror and its pursuit of revolutionary violence, abetted by drug cartels and their patrons in Moscow, Havana and Managua. The FMLN specialized in planting land mines in the coffee plantations in El Salvador and bombing and burning buses. I remember in 1989 visiting hospitals in San Salvador filled with young children and women with limbs blown off from such land mines.
        At the end of the 1970’s, as that is the period I referenced in one of my earlier posts, Claire Sterling was finishing her book “The Terror Network: The Secret War of International Terrorism” which was subsequently published in 1981. A fuller review of Soviet support for terrorism was brought forward in the 1986 book “Hydra of Carnage: International Linkages of Terrorism”. Both highlighted what Sterling called the terrorism loosened upon the world by the Soviet empire and the threat it was to civilization.
        Coup in Iran?
        There was no coup in Iran. The Shah had the power to appoint the Prime Minister not the other way around. As Iran expert Claire Lopez has explained, Mohammed Mosaddegh was ruling by decree having dismissed parliament. He was jailing political opponents and moving rapidly toward dictatorship. He was making an alliance with Moscow and had simply expropriated vast energy and petroleum interests, illegal under international law. Get your facts straight.
        Afghanistan and Soviet Power
        The people that predicted the Soviet Union would collapse were indeed the senior members of the Reagan administration, especially the President himself. It also included Tom Reed and Judge Clark of the National Security Council and the director of the CIA Mr. Casey. That is why the administration early on put together a wide ranging campaign to bring the Soviet Union down. I suggest the interested reader review Warren Norquist’s article in Advances in Competitiveness Research, “How the United States Used Competition to Win the Cold War”, Vol. 10, No.1,

        In November 1982, President Reagan received a report from his NSC staff: “We must sustain our [effort] because in this decade the … combined weight [will] cause such stress on the [Soviet] system that it will implode.

        Norquist explained:

        “Until 1981, the United States competed mainly on its own side of the playing field. It was a good defensive effort called containment, but it avoided taking the competition into the Soviet side. The Reagan Administration changed the policy. It would undertake to ‘win the cold war’ by taking advantage of every Soviet weakness and every U.S. strength to force a change in the Soviet bloc system. After 23 months of effort, President Ronald Reagan received a report stating that ‘the combined weight of the burdens being created will cause the Soviet system to implode in this decade.'”

        Seeking a Real Assessment of America’s Security Needs
        One can argue that US security can be adequately protected by spending 1% of our GDP–if one wishes to put together an analysis of US security needs that takes only that level of resources. But arguing that a certain level of resources is somehow magically going to do the trick without any mention of those interests we wish to protect is nothing more than what my colleague Uzi Rubin, the father of Israeli missile defenses, calls “fortune cookie analysis”.
        As leader of the free world we have to protect interests that are threatened by more than one adversary in a myriad of geographic areas. Thus the Persian Gulf and the Korean peninsula and South China Sea both are critical zones of concern that need our presence–should we of course wish to keep the petroleum trade going and keep our Republic of Korea brothers and sisters free. We can of course give up either of these interests or both. Will politics inform our decision? Yes but so what? That is the nature of the constitutional system we live under. But an arbitrary conclusion of what we should spend based on nothing but a number pulled out of thin air gets us nowhere. If we follow such advice, however, liberty and freedom both will suffer. That is the choice before us.

        1. Steve Owen

          Peter,

          Before we get started let’s settle one thing, just because it’s so outrageous. In the post before last you said “As for the Lancet study, the ministry of health in Cuba puts out better material”, but now you reveal what you now mean by this was “The Lancet surveys are controversial because their mortality figures are higher than most other reports, including those of the Iraqi Health Ministry and the United Nations, as well as other household surveys such as the Iraq Living Conditions Survey and the Iraq Family Health Survey.” for which you cite wikipedia, then you deliver what I consider the punch line: “Exactly as I earlier claimed.”, I’m not sure it is exactly your earlier claim. Now you are improving because you’ve learnt to stop talking when you’re obviously wrong (the Lancet is indeed as I claimed one of the world’s best respected medical journals) and you have at least provided a reference even if it is wikipedia, not exactly a quality source particularly on partizan issues, but it is progress. Regarding the actual estimate, there are several sources that provide higher casualty rates than the Lancet study including the ORB poll which gives a figure of 1,033,000 but they aren’t as respected so I didn’t use them. Most of the studies that come out significantly lower do so because they are only estimating violent deaths I believe that is the case for the UN study mentioned in your wikipedia quote, generally these studies place that number somewhere around 100,000, as I already mentioned.

          You’d be a lot more believable if you didn’t keep changing tack. You first claimed “[By the end of the 70s] Terrorism was rampant in Europe”, but now you’ve started talking about Latin America and the Middle East as well, I suppose you want me to fact check those claims for you as well (you understand that saying ‘here’s what one assessment said’ isn’t a citation right?). Did you look at the link I sent you, that is what a citation looks like, I read that paper, found the data is uses, extracted the relevant information and then after all that wrote a concise summary including the name of the database the raw information comes from. That’s how you do it, so once more for your reference: The main sources of terrorist activity in Europe prior to 9/11 were the IRA and the ETA, as you can see from table 1 in this report using data from the TWEED database http://www.sagepub.com/martin3study/articles/Engene.pdf, the majority of deaths are just two countries the UK (IRA) and Spain (ETA). While 3000 deaths for a continent over a 54 year period is tragic can it be described as rampant? Can you see the difference between that and what you are doing, it’s a lot more work to do it my way isn’t it?

          Regarding your claim there was no coup in Iran, I’m a little surprised to hear you say that, even the CIA admit’s it, here’s a quote from the National Security Archive (but I guess you know a lot better than them): “American and British involvement in Mossadegh’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup,” and a reference to a piece on Reuters about declassified documents to support the claim http://rt.com/usa/iran-coup-cia-operation-647/

          Frankly it would be nice if you checked some of your claims for yourself, instead of just ranting.

          In your latest post you seem to be saying that without discussing the intimate details of the defense budget it’s not possible to have an opinion on where spending levels should be. I believe I am beginning to understanding your logic: large obvious truths don’t count because it’s only in the specific details of military budgeting that we can come to real truth, am I getting it now? But unfortunately this is an old trick; you hope to establish what is sometimes called a ‘tyranny of experts’ and as is usual in this case the vast majority of experts in this field will be members of your special interest group: lobbyists, members of the military or their consultants like yourself.

          My problem is I just don’t buy it and nor do a lot of people. I think so far I’ve provided you with some pretty good arguments; I’ve listened carefully to what you’ve said and responded, in fact I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m the one providing the real data and you are just stating your own opinions and quoting the opinions of other people in your special interest group and playing pretty loose with the facts as I pointed out in my previous two posts. There’s a big difference between this and say the way we do things in the scientific community.

          I, like you, think we should go back to the beginning. Here are some self evident truths. The US and it’s allies is spending vastly more than their credible enemies, I think you’ve finally accepted that. The costs of military conflict are so high in human terms, untended consequences and dollars that they should be avoided if at all possible. Even if the US and it’s allies spent less it would have just as an effective deterrent to the few credible threats that it and it’s allies face today. All this leads to the conclusion we can safely spend a lot less (like every other country in the world), the main problem is a very determined group of self-interested individuals who profit a great deal from the status quo. Their objective is to stir paranoia and distrust, establish themselves as the anointed experts and above all else keep the dollars flowing.

          Good luck Peter, I’m not going to have much time on my hands after this because I’m back to work on Monday. It’s been a pleasure, I hope you learnt something, I know I did.

  5. peter huessy, president of geostrategic analysis

    CORRECTED COMMENTS; PLEASE DISREGARD THE EARLIER POSTING
    Nothing I wrote in my explanation of the role of the US military and the necessary expenditures required to protect our security is wrong. Nor did I call anyone a warmonger or appeaser. I want to examine the issues raised in the latest posts.
    “It is claimed: “There is little evidence American soldiers are better trained than soldiers of other nations”.
    This is patent nonsense. American soldiers are not only better paid, they are in fact better trained although O&M funding is being cut under sequestration pressures which is seriously harming readiness and creating greater dangers for our soldiers. The point I was making was this: if China and Russia, North Korea and Iran paid their soldiers what we do, and provided the same kind of support, their spending would be significantly greater than their published numbers.
    And in fact, just China and Russia combined would in fact exceed the US base defense budget. Further, China does not publish much of its acquisition numbers, its entire intelligence and nuclear costs are not even included in their estimated defense expenditures.
    There is a claim out in the analysis community that the US spends more than the rest of the world combined. This came from a back of the envelope illiterate claim by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Let me be blunt. Cohen had no idea what he was talking about then and does not have any idea what he is talking about now.
    So the new claim that the US plus its allies spends vastly more than the rest of the world combined is now substituted for the US only, but even that is wrong. Similar to using a purchase parity formula in economic estimates of GDP standard of living, take the adversaries of freedom and take the size of their military. Pay and train them similar to the US or even NATO and their costs would exceed those of the US and its allies. The fact that China can do things on the cheap and that Russia has had serious problems developing a professional class officers corps does not mean the do not pose threats to the US and its allies.
    The idea that anyone is advocating the US either alone or in concert with others should decide the fate of the world is ludicrous. The Korean War was forced upon us by the invasion of the North Korean army along with their Chinese and Russian allies. Having failed at cross border warfare, the same coalition of goons decided to destroy the Republic of Vietnam through guerilla war and sabotage. By 1969, our military won the war having eliminated the Viet Cong and training the ARVN to take over more and more of the effort. Congress then eliminated all support for South Vietnam in 1975 and threw that country to the tender mercies of the North Vietnam tank armies. Two million people at a minimum perished as a result post 1975.
    SIPRI’s numbers are official numbers, and they are not adjusted for reality.
    The Russian acquisition number of $775 billion is huge compared to the US acquisition budget even adjusted for their multiyear basis—Russia pays less per unit for military equipment than does the US and as a percent of its official defense budget spending it is a very large modernization and buildup of forces, especially in its nuclear account.

    I have been working now for 3 decades to overhaul the acquisition process. In just the past year we have been able to reduce by 50% a key modernization element of the nuclear deterrent through common partnership between the US Navy and the US Air Force. The fact that the acquisition needs to be overhauled does not point in the direction of any particularly level of defense spending because that can be determined only by sound analysis—unless of course we just say “cut everything”.
    Means tested poverty programs are now in excess of $800 billion a year not including the state spending. If you add in the state contribution for poverty programs you easily exceed $1.2 trillion annually.
    They have been on a trajectory that will double such spending in less than a decade. Since 1965, the war on poverty at just the Federal level has spent $17 trillion in today’s dollars. Without such spending, millions of Americans would remain mired in poverty when the goal of the entire effort—as Sargent Shriver told me in a conversation we had when I worked for him in his Vice Presidential campaign in 1972—was to get people out of poverty and into a self-sufficient life.
    The opposite has occurred where we have a permanent underclass of people often trapped in poverty—in Maryland, you have to earn $22,000 in take home pay to equal the benefits one can get if on welfare. In New York it approaches $38,000. In the late 1990s, Speaker Gingrich and a reluctant White House did agree on welfare reform that reduced the poverty roles by over 8 million folks.
    Since 2009, Congress and the administration have reduced defense spending by $300 billion, $175 billion, and $450 billion in 2009, 2010-1 and 2012-3. Another $550 billion comes out through sequestration. Another $60-70 billion a year will be cut out of the 0C0 accounts when we fully leave Afghanistan. These OCO cuts however CANNOT be counted toward the sequester targets.
    In addition, pay and personnel accounts in the US Department of Defense cannot be cut under sequestration either, thus all the sequester cuts are coming from 0&M accounts and R&D and acquisition—cutting training, cutting our seed corn for new technologies and cutting the current inventory of capabilities. No other part of the government has undergone such reductions in funding.
    The US government is required by law to determine what its defense needs are; it may be that you see no reason to make such an assessment as your policy is to arbitrarily spend $500 billion annually, simply because its half of what you claim we spend on the “military”. But your number includes the Veterans administration and homeland security, one which provides no military capability and the other provides for domestic protection against a myriad of terror threats inside the country but hardly is a substitute for the military services.

    Your proposal would end up with a defense base budget somewhere around $330-$350 billion annually—at the very best— which would decimate our capabilities and roughly cut our military forces by 60%. Allies such as Japan and the Republic of Korea would be placed in jeopardy—Japan by Chinese aggression and the ROK by a menacing North. How that squares with meeting any anticipated obligations to provide for the common defense is beyond me but perhaps our colleague can share with us the magic plan he has for how such an expenditure would defend this country.
    If you believe Mr. Putin is not deterred by US or allied military capability at our current level of expenditures then he certainly will not be if you cut that capability by 50%. If as you say there is no military solution, well then deterrence does not work and we can actually simply get rid of all our military capability and as the late Senator Malcolm Wallop explained “We can instead rely upon prayer”.
    Mr. Putin may indeed not have stopped all of his “March Madness”. But in the absence of military preparedness by Ukraine, the Baltics and their allies—including the United States—he may indeed help himself to additional calves, sheep and other livestock in what is now still the corral of free nations of Europe.
    A modicum of US and allied deployments and military assistance to the region including Ukraine and the Baltics would do much to persuade Putin to stop. Add to that real sanctions and dramatically enhanced gas and oil development and exports to Europe, and over a term of years a sound policy could be developed and we could bring back the credibility and leverage that American deterrent capability needs to have.
    But such diplomatic leverage flowing from credible military capability does not get recovered in days, weeks or months. Whether we have the time to recover is uncertain—if Putin does launch an invasion of Ukraine or the Baltics, deterrence obviously did not work and Mr. Cole and Mr. Owen and his friends can decide to cut our defenses another 50% beyond even their current proposals. After all if defense does not matter, well, defense does not matter. Incantations and prayer would then become the coin of the realm.
    As for Iraq, let’s set the record straight. Mr. Butler, the head of UNSCOM, wrote a book in 2000 that said Iraq WMD were the worst threat facing the world. When asked, senior Clinton administration officials said the intelligence they faced in 2000 was no different than the assessment made by the Bush administration in 2002-3; in fact the Congressional passage of legislation in the latter part of the Clinton administration specifically called for the elimination of the Iraqi regime. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.
    Whatever one thinks of the rightness or wrongness of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, the numbers of civilians killed since then has almost entirely been a function of the terrorism largely perpetuated by Iran and Syria and their terror allies in Iraq as terrorist rat lines from both countries flowed into Iraq to kill Sunni and Shia alike and bring the country to civil war. The surge as it was called ended that. The subsequent precipitous withdrawal of US and allied forces may in the end throw away all gains that could have been obtained.
    None of this however necessarily gives us insight into what level of defense spending and capability should be maintained by the US into the future. But correcting the factual record is very important. We were throughout the 1990s at war with Iraq because Iraq was at war with its neighbors. We did not go looking for anything. And our military did its job of taking down the Hussein regime magnificently.
    Again, to arbitrarily cut the US security budget by 50% is not a policy nor is it sound analysis. It is pique masquerading as sound judgment. Whatever we as a country decide to do on matters of defense and national security we should do with our eyes open, with honest and sound analysis and without wishful thinking. In the post WWII, Korean and Vietnam wars and after the end of the Cold War, the US went on a procurement holiday—laid out in detail in my essay this spring about this neglect on Gatestone Institute entitled “The Great Waves of Neglect”.
    The US military and those of NATO and our allies in East Asia have largely kept the peace over the last three quarters of a century. No war has occurred between the great powers except the guerilla and terror war waged by the Soviet Union especially after the Korean War. Which was bloody and terrible but we not only survived we still ended the Soviet empire which Putin appears ready to try and put back together—in part. But in the past 69 years, nuclear weapons never were used in anger by the nuclear powers, and while sometimes this was a near thing such as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, deterrence did hold. As President Kennedy said, “My ICBMs were my ace in the hole”.
    Police forces give effect to the laws of a community. The military give effect to the rules and understandings of nations that have given rise—since WWII—to the current globalization and such major improvements in the human condition that has indeed led to greater prosperity in the world than at any other time in human history.
    We could of course go back to the jungle rules of 1914-1945 when 100 million people perished directly due to the two world wars. But since the end of WWII, the annual death rate from war has plummeted by over 99%. That period directly coincided with the rise of American military power, our economic opportunity and our diplomatic leadership, what one Senator recently described as the three legs of the stool of American greatness.

    1. Steve Owen

      Peter,

      As you can see I already posted my reply above, but I’ll shove it in again here.

      Thanks for your reply. I apologize for using the term warmonger, it was a flippant comment and probably not justified; but if you want to call me a peacemaker feel free. I do however disagree that the were not any inaccuracies in your post and with your central premise: that US military spending is justified (when in fact it is an outlier in both dollar terms and percent of GDP).

      To start, your claim that Russia and China spend more than the US is still false. Counting troops is obviously a very poor way to measure military strength, in many countries the military isn’t much more than a job creation scheme, so multiplying troop counts by US dollar salary and saying look we’re being out spent is pretty unconvincing. Even if you did something more reasonable and adjusted for purchasing power parity it’s a pretty weak analysis. The problem with adjusting for PPP is whereas some military expenses could reasonably be adjusted many cannot. For many large tickets in military spending there is global price for example raw materials (barring small variations based on mine locations etc), most high tech goods (some of these are actually more expensive in less developed regions) and other essential commodities such as oil and uranium. My claim that the US and it’s allies spends more than the rest of the world is based on published numbers in the SIPRI military database as I’ve already said, I’m certainly not quoting some guy from Ben and Jerry’s. I can only imagine you’re saying that to make me seem poorly informed; when I am actually correct and your assertion is at best very misleading.

      As to the claim SIPRI numbers are not adjusted for reality, you have a fair point, given the US number is 682B and we know this is well below the real spending (your claim that we shouldn’t include VA spending is pretty outrageous, health care and pensions are legitimate and significant compensation expenses, why would we just siphon it off and say it doesn’t count?). The question is are the non-US numbers that much more understated that the US number which excludes a large chunk of the US nuclear program (Energy Dept.), a lot of US compensation expense (VA) financing of foreign military sales (State Dept.) and other defense spending such as the Dept. of Homeland Security. Using SIPRI we see 682B for the US, over 300B combined for closely allied nations (UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, South Korea) compared with 166B for China and 91B for Russia. So the difference in favor of the US and its allies in very large even if the numbers are understated across the board.

      You claim US troops are the best trained in the world I ask for your evidence but you still provide none; you simply assert this is true for the second time. I was under the impression that many modern armies provide comparable if not superior training, examples being the UK (home of the SAS) and Israel (where national service allows the military to screen a large part of the population for recruitment). I’m not claiming these armies are superior overall as they don’t have nearly the scale or resources of the US but as far a rigor of training goes where is the evidence the US is the best? The US is certainly the most expensive and that is a matter of public record.

      As to the issue of US isolationism in the form of unilateral military action, you invite this conclusion because you are the one comparing the US military alone with the forces of two potential rivals combined. Surely a natural comparison would include US allies and compare to just one potential rival if the plan was to act in unison with our allies? Now you claim that conclusion is ludicrous but when you thought it would help justify US military spending you advocated it.

      For the record I’m not suggesting prayer as alternative to military spending as you and the late Senator Malcolm Wallop suggest, I’m asking you and other big military advocates to justify an oversize US military budget and clearly defining what I mean by that. Whereas most modern nations are spending around 3% of GDP on their military the US is spending over 5%; the US also spends vastly more in terms of dollars than any other nation which is possibly an even more relevant benchmark. You say “If you believe Mr. Putin is not deterred by US or allied military capability at our current level of expenditures then he certainly will not be if you cut that capability by 50%” but what I actually said is Putin has not been deterred from invading the Crimea by the US military and the evidence is plainly there for that. I believe the extent to which he would be deterred by a far smaller US military is exactly the same, and my logic is very simple. The Russian military is vastly inferior to the US military and even more inferior to the combined NATO military even if NATO military was far smaller this would still be the case. Putin knows what every observer can see (including the vast majority of Russians) the potential for disaster is huge but in this game of brinkmanship he has judged correctly that because of the large number of Russian nationals in Crimea and the large numbers of Russian forces already in-situ there he can get away with it politically.

      It’s pretty astonishing that you take issue over the Colin Powell speech, here’s a quote from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson who prepared the UN speech: “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others had decided to go to war with Iraq long before Colin Powell gave that presentation. … It added to the momentum of the war. … Frankly, we were all wrong. Was the intelligence politicized in addition to being wrong at its roots? Absolutely.”. We know for a fact the weapons weren’t there the only defense is incompetence or more accurately a willful ignorance, given the total cost of the war maybe a little more should and could have been spent on researching the justification. Mr Butler who you mention was himself opposed to the war and accused his own country’s prime minister of deceiving the public based on very similar statement to those made by president George Bush.

      The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in very large by anyones standards. The Lancet study puts the total at a little over 650,000 the majority of which were attributed to destruction of infrastructure in operation Iraqi Freedom, this destruction resulted in a unsanitary conditions, disruption of necessary supplies and a breakdown in general healthcare. Most studies put the number of violent civilian deaths at somewhere in the region of 50 to 100 thousand of which some will be attributed to terrorist activity. When it comes to destruction of infrastructure the ally bombardment is responsible for the vast majority and thus the vast bulk of civilian deaths in Iraq.

      I find it pretty amazing you’d bring up Vietnam when you are trying to justify military spending!

      One point I realize I missed is again this repeated attempt to divert attention from the issue at hand: military spending by talking about entitlements. I think most people would agree entitlement spending is large and growing dangerously, I certainly think so; but this is still just a diversion, I think that is 100% clear as I’ve already said twice already! Even compared to entitlement spending military spending is very large, certainly large enough to make a big difference to the debt at the budget. Also although this senator you mention believes American greatness is 1/3rd military power a lot of people would disagree. America is a great country but for most people not due to it’s recent military exploits. WWII was undoubtedly a great moment for the nation and as much for what it did after it won the war. Rebuilding German and Japan and growing two staunch allies from bitter enemies was an example for the world and was one that humbled those who set the terms of peace after WWI, a peace that had the exact opposite effect and set the stage for another world conflict a few decades later.

      1. Steve Owen

        Peter,

        Just so you don’t miss it there’s an extra paragraph at the end of this repost that addresses a couple of points I missed in the first go.

  6. peter huessy, president of geostrategic analysis

    The central question at issue is what level of resources the US should put into its military and national security. Mr. Steve Owen can’t make the case for cutting funding in half, so he careens off the road of analysis into the ditch of blaming the alleged increase in mortality in Iraq post 2003 on the US military as if this has anything to do with the issue raised by the AEI analysis of the QDR.
    Well, the Lancet study to which he referenced was debunked by a wide ranging number of studies, most of which can be found simply by searching Al Gore’s wonderful internet. Wikipedia collected a whole series of such reports and put them together. Mr. Owens takes exception to this. However, the facts are clear—even the Iraqi government didn’t buy the Lancet estimates. Saddam Hussein had destroyed much of the Iraqi infrastructure on his own; the terrorist attacks in the post-2003 period were aimed specifically on the infrastructure. This made life miserable for ordinary Iraqis for sure. The mortality rates put out by the government and estimated by the UN included all deaths, form terrorist violence as well as malnutrition and disease. My point was two-fold: the claim of death rate increases was made long before the 2003 liberation of Iraq—in fact during the sanctions regime of the 1990s when no American forces were in Iraq. Our no fly zone over the northern portion of the country helped make the Kurdish regions actually very much better off economically than the rest of the country. Not a coincidence. The Lancet “study” was done to besmirch the reputation of the US military and the Bush administration.
    As for terrorist activity in Europe in the 1970s. Al Haig told me the times he was the target of an assassin’s bullet while serving of head of US forces in Europe and he described such terrorism as rampant in testimony before the US Congress.
    Clare Sterling’s book details the terrorism in Europe from the PLO, the Bader Meinhof gang, Black September and the Red Brigades.
    The IRA terrorism and that of endured by Spain were also in Europe last time I looked at a map. Mr. Owen does not think terrorism was rampant. Suit yourself sir.
    Again you missed the point of the review of terrorism: as the US drew down its military capability world-wide in the decade of the 1970’s, violence against the West and the rise of communist guerilla and terror groups rose dramatically. If Mr. Owen thinks there was no correlation he is free to think so. Withdrawal and retreat have consequences. I added the terrorism in our own hemisphere to underscore the extent of the threat facing America in the 1970’s when we were in retreat.
    Re: Iran, you are simply dead wrong, again. The National Security archives are hardly a credible source. The facts are clear: the Shah had the constitutional power to appoint the Prime Minister. The latter had suspended the constitution, dismissed Parliament and was ruling by decree—actions which were all unconstitutional. Expropriation of private property which was widespread was also illegal. The fact that a urban legend as grown up around the events in 1953 does not make the legend factual—it just proves the power of a desired narrative over the truth.
    If you really believe 3% of GDP is enough to fund the military in the United States, you might back it up with logic, analysis and facts. I have spent some 40 years in this business and have heard arguments such as those put forward by Mr. Owen throughout the period. But Mr. Owen, please do not presume to know what I do professionally. I am not a lobbyist nor have I ever been a lobbyist. And no Mr. Owen, when an analysis is done correctly, our adversaries spend more than we do when looked at in terms of purchasing power; and even if that were not the case, it’s irrelevant. We should spend what we need with a reasonable margin of error for insurance, period.
    If your argument is that military conflicts are costly, that certainly is sometimes not in dispute. There is of course the alternative which could be surrender. But again, so what is your point? If you dislike the way military force has been utilized historically, then your problem is with America’s civilian leadership, not our military capability.
    The point of a strong military is also to deter. In fact, that is the preference for every national security official I have ever worked with.
    Mr. Own seems to think that with a strong military more conflicts will be likely, and the corollary—a weaker and smaller military—will mean less conflict.
    There is no historical data to back this up. For example, in 1932, the US military spent $700 million, including veterans care and foreign military sales. In 1940, that number was also $700 million. Last time I looked the 1930’s saw both Germany and Japan start building their empires that cumulated in World War II and over 60 million dead.
    Finally, Mr. Owen says there are a “few credible threats”. What they are we are not told but its progress that finally we get such an admission. But the specific connection to Mr. Owen’s preferred level of defense funding is not made—it has been absent throughout this discussion.
    That brings us back to the beginning: that is exactly what the QDR is meant to do—lay out the threats today and what the projected threats might be over the next 20 years. That is so we as a country can fulfill our constitutional duty to “provide for the common defense”. AEI’s QDR analysis is a very good step in that direction.

    1. Steve Owen

      Peter,

      You are a consistent, I give you that much. Yet again you don’t read anything I write or address any thing I have said, you just bang the drum of your baseless paranoia. Also a small thing if you insist on calling me by a title it’s Dr Owen, not Mr, but Steve would do just as well. Maybe you can even find me on Al Gore’s internet just as I found you (I called you a military consultant not a lobbyist).

      You must be hoping a group of amnesiacs are reading this and they take everything you say in the context of your most recent statement alone (sudden insight: maybe that is what it’s like being you). Once more for the record: you claimed terrorism was “rampant” in Europe in the 70s as a justification for military spending, I provided you with numbers from the TWEED database showing European deaths due to terrorism averaged a little under 60 per year over the period 1950 to 2004. That is the bottom line for the size of the problem. I also point out most of these come from the IRA and ETA simply because it’s so self evident the US military had little or no impact on either of these organizations. Handling these problems was rightly left to the nations within which they operated and to international law enforcement. If you can do me the courtesy of just thinking about why that might be you might start to understand something about the limitations of military power.

      In one of your earlier tirades you said of US military spending “Will politics inform our decision? Yes but so what?”, a typically dismissive and thoughtless remark I’ve come to expect from you. What are the politics of war? They aren’t just the politics of the invader they are also the politics of the invaded. One thing I promise you is very few people will thank foreigners for sending an army to their country once the killing starts. This how a ‘victory’ turns into a defeat, which leads us to Iran.

      I’m not at all sure what point you are trying to make about Iran, that technically it was legal so it wasn’t a coup? It’s legality was at best dubious and you should look up the definition of “coup d’etat”. Just about everyone in the world considers it a coup, if the National Security archives aren’t credible to you how about your favorite wikipedia, check out the page on the “1953 Iranian coup d’état” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d'état#Execution_of_Operation_Ajax or maybe just read chapter 9 of Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner. I take it you don’t deny the CIA successfully conspired to overthrow the government of Iran, organized violent riots in which people died, payed off senior members of the military and organized direct para-military action by its agents? But regardless of your semantic side-stepping what is the real point? The CIA masterminded regime change, the new regime wasn’t a democracy and became a hated symbol of American hegemony. While the US backed leadership is long gone, chased out the country or killed, the hatred remains. Is any of this getting through?

      Also unlike you I actually follow up on your references you are wrong wikipedia has not “collected a whole series of reports” debunking the Lancet report, in fact like as your quote acknowledges some come in higher and they all support the explanation that the Lancet is higher than most primarily because it estimates all war related deaths, not just violent deaths which come in around 100k. Obviously you aren’t impressed by 100k but when there are 3k deaths over 60 years due to European terrorism that is just “rampant”. We should add another $100B to US military spending straight away right? I feel like I’m laboring the point but in all likelihood you will simply come back and say give me a list of threats and how much you would spend on them, if you can’t do that you don’t know anything and should shut up.

      Here again are my very plain and simple points. The US military is enormous, far larger than any other single nation’s. US allies make up the vast majority of the developed world and a very large chuck of the military spending outside of the US. The credible threats to the US and it’s allies are few none of them are existential and as discussed above there are even fewer of them that can be effectively addressed by military action anyway. There is no modern comparison to the rise of fascism or communism, in fact it’s clear that the world is steadily moving towards freedom and unity. The best people like yourself can do is stir paranoia, dissent and misinformation. The problems you use to justify military spending are not ones you can successfully address, that’s why I show you the examples above. I hope to move you to consciousness, but you simply cling ever more firmly to your dogma.

      1. Peter Huessy

        Mr. Owen is dumbfounded that I would dispute the characterization of the Shah’s return to power in Iran in 1953 as a “coup”. President Reagan once said the problem with liberals is all the things they believe that are not true. This is one of them.
        Owen believes in lots of fairy tales. That the US cocked the books on the threat from Iraq. Not true. That American military forces killed tens of thousands in a brutal invasion of Iraq. Not true. That the US military spends more than the rest of the world combined. Not true. That there are only a couple of threats facing America but not many that are amendable to “military solutions”. Not true.
        The left has filled their heads with such nonsense throughout political history. It is hard for them to tell fact from fiction. But the fictions are necessary to undergird their policy proposals that otherwise would make no sense. If you believe Roosevelt ended the great depression then of course you support all the crack pot ideas of his administration—and as Amity Shlaes recounts in her “The Forgotten Man” Roosevelt prolonged the Depression.
        If you believe the US was the cause of the rise of Islamic terrorism and totalitarianism–such as the Mullahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan, of course you can oppose doing anything about either. And write books blaming the US for 9-11 (See Stephen Kinzer’s “All the Shahs Men” where he blames America for the roots of Islamic terror). And the bad consequences of such a choice can of course be blamed on America all over again especially by the folks on the political left.
        The late television newsman Peter Jennings was asked whether America won the Gulf War in 1991. He replied “Only if we in the media say you did”. The ability to establish and hold narratives is indeed where the power of the drive-by media comes from. That is especially true on Iran and American security policy.
        I am writing about the 1953 period in a special essay for Frontiers of Freedom which will be published Monday, April 14, 2014 so I did not originally address this issue in my last posting.
        Suffice to say the Iranian constitution gives the power to the Shah to appoint the Prime Minister and even dismiss whoever holds that office. Monarchy in Iran was 2500 years old, starting with Cyrus the Great. It was imbedded in the constitution.
        The Iranian Prime Minister at the time, Mohammad Mosaddegh, had dismissed parliament, was ruling by decree, and had illegally expropriated the oil property of British and American companies. In short he was ruling against the constitution.
        Has this been described as a coup by the left? Of course it has. It fits wonderfully into the template of those who are quick to “always blame America”. And it has all the ghosts of liberal nightmares–an evil CIA, oil companies, a Marxist “popular leader” [to the left all Marxists are popular.]
        At the time, there was an assassination attempt on the Shah’s life (one of the reason’s he fled) and the Prime Minister was busy making nice-nice with the Soviet Union, seeking to establish their permanent influence in Iran and thus the Gulf region. OPEC was bad enough. If run by the Kremlin the entire post- WW II prosperity would have been in jeopardy.
        To the left the 1953 period gave them a chance to make-up their own history. Evil American CIA puts in power brutal dictator, kicking our popular ruler who was taking down the evil oil companies. What a great story–lets run with it. As for the Prime Minister’s flirtation with communism, well, let’s just ignore that because don’t we know the US started the Cold War–another liberal fairy tale.
        See for example the popular American historian at the University of Wisconsin, William Appleton Williams, who—borrowing from Al Gore’s amazing internet and Wikipedia– “maintained that the United States was more responsible for the Cold War than the Soviet Union.
        Williams argued that American politicians, fearful of a loss of markets in Europe, had exaggerated the threat of world domination from the Soviet Union. Amid much criticism, Williams made no moral distinction between the foreign policy of Joseph Stalin in Eastern Europe and the foreign policy of the United States in Latin America.”
        The testament to the truth, however, lies in the 70,000 dead in El Salvador from Soviet and Cuban terrorism and today, Russian state sponsored terrorism and 140,000 dead in Syria.

  7. peter huessy, president of geostrategic analysis

    The former Chief of Staff of the US Army writes here about the dangers of arbitrarily cutting the defense budget without adopting a security strategy first. http://www.defenseone.com/voices/gordon-sullivan/8503/

    1. Steve Owen

      Peter you do understand the concept of bias right? This is like asking the former CEO of GM whether the it was right to bail them out.

      Maybe we should ask Ronald McDonald if hamburgers are good for you?

  8. Peter Huessy

    Once again Mr. Owen can’t come up with a US military strategy to justify his support for a defense base budget of $350 billion, which is some $150 billion a year below the sequestration level projected by the Department of Defense.

    So to deflect attention from this glaring failure, he drops black smoke bombs across the analytical landscape in the hopes we will all be sufficiently distracted to forget what the original article by AEI was about and that was a similar failure by the administration to come up with a QDR–a Quadrennial Defense Review–that would lay out America’s security strategy for now and two decades into the future.
    Owen decides to once again bring up the British Lancet study that purportedly showed high rates of civilian deaths due to America’s ;liberation of Iraq in 2003. Own then also says that the Wikipedia reference on Al Gore’s wonderful internet did not have a significant number of references to the shoddy nature of the Lancet study.
    Well apart from its 104 references the site had a wealth of data showing how skewed the Lancet study was including the point I made which was Saddam Hussein and his friends in the media made the case over and over again that death rats especially to infants went p during the Clinton era (1993-2000) when defense spending declined markedly and when American forces were not even in Iraq, with the exception of enforcing a no fly zone. Ironically the Kurdish area which was more highly protected by the US military than any other part of Iraq had actual declines in mortality.
    Here some of the references to the Lancet study Owen failed to share with the AEI reader that are in the Wikipedia reference:

    (1)Steven E. Moore, who conducted survey research in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority and was an advisor to Paul Bremer for the International Republican Institute, ridiculed the Lancet study in an October 18, 2006 editorial in the Wall Street Journal. In a piece entitled, “655,000 War Dead? A bogus study on Iraq casualties”, Moore wrote, “I wouldn’t survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points. Neither would anyone else…”[62]
    (2) Fred Kaplan, writing for Slate, has criticized the pre-invasion death rate used in both the 2004 and 2006 Lancet surveys.
    In an October 29, 2004 article in Slate he wrote:
    “But there are two problems with this calculation. First, Daponte (who has studied Iraqi population figures for many years) questions the finding that prewar mortality was 5 deaths per 1,000. According to quite comprehensive data collected by the United Nations, Iraq’s mortality rate from 1980–85 was 8.1 per 1,000. From 1985–90, the years leading up to the 1991 Gulf War, the rate declined to 6.8 per 1,000. After ’91, the numbers are murkier, but clearly they went up. Whatever they were in 2002, they were almost certainly higher than 5 per 1,000.”
    (3) The 2000 BBC article reported that after the UN sanctions were imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, “They found that in south and central Iraq, infant mortality had risen to 108 per 1,000 between 1994 and 1999, while child mortality — covering those between one and five years — rocketed from 56 to 131 per 1,000.”
    (4) The 2000 BBC article also reported, “However, it found that infant and child mortality in the autonomous, mainly Kurd region in the North of the country, has actually fallen, perhaps reflecting the more favorable distribution of aid in that area.”
    (5) The “Iraq Family Health Survey” published in the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed 9,345 households across Iraq and estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) over the same period covered in the second Lancet survey by Burnham et al.[102] The NEJM article stated that the second Lancet survey “considerably overestimated the number of violent deaths and said the Lancet results were, “highly improbable, given the internal and external consistency of the data and the much larger sample size and quality-control measures taken in the implementation of the IFHS.”
    Ironically, none of this is relevant to what level of support we should give the US military. In addition, the terrorists from Iran and Syria and their internal Iraqi terror groups– made it a point to go after and specifically target the Iraqi infrastructure which they did in a big way which no doubt led to ill health and a rise in mortality–all of which was reflected in the UN and Iraqi government data but which was not related to the actions of US, allied and Iraqi forces to protect the people of Iraq.
    The second distraction of Mr. Owen is his view that terrorism in Europe in the 1970s was not sufficiently severe to warrant the US improving its military capability of dealing with the violence. Owen then makes the mistake of viewing terrorism in Northern Ireland, for example, as being simply the task of the British police forces.
    Well, Mr. Owen should inform himself where the weapons and support for the IRA came from. Libya sir is where the vast majority of the weapons came from. And from the Soviet Union to Libya in the first place. So too with the terror groups I previously listed in Europe–all Soviet funded and created.
    Terrorism from Bulgaria tried to kill the Pope; terrorism from the IRA tried to kill Prime Minister Thatcher. Both John Paul II and Thatcher were hated by Moscow and the Soviet Union was behind both assassination attempts, as they were via the terror group that attempted to kill America’s commanding General in Europe, Alexander Haig.
    As Claire Sterling, Livingston and other detailed the Soviets were the creators of most of the modern terrorism of the 10th century especially after the end of WW II. The study to which Owen referred was another politically motivated attempt to downplay the extent of terrorism. Many estimates of terror deaths exclude state sponsored terrorism which has the effect of not counting most terrorist caused deaths.
    In any case, if Owen thinks the terrorism of the 1970s was not sufficiently terrible to justify a response that included an increase in the military capability to go after and deter terror sponsoring states he is a little late to the party. Reagan won in 1980 and he did in part because Americans became weary of the march of Soviet terrorism from Indochina, to the European continent to Columbia and El Salvador and elsewhere in the world among our friends and allies.
    Just in case Owen missed it, Reagan used diplomatic, economic, political and military capabilities to take down the Soviet Union and with it their terrorist state entities. The American people in 1980 said “Enough” and in fact believed the terror threats in Europe and elsewhere were a manifestation of the “correlation of forces” turning against the US as the Soviets termed it.
    Tragically at the end of the Cold War we went on an extended holiday from history. As Kagan and Kagan explain in their “While-America-Sleeps-Self-Delusion, Military Weakness and the Threat to Peace” we failed to believe threats remained, most significantly Islam state terrorism, again sponsored and armed by rogue states such as Syria, Iran, China, Russian, Libya and others.
    Now there were those like Owen who asserted the Soviet Union had nothing to do with terrorism. Raymond Garthoff wrote such a book thjat also included the fairy tale that Gorbachev won the Cold War and Reagan prolonged it, that American and NATO military capability has little if anything to do with the end of the Cold War. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained in his 1996 book From the Shadows that Garthoff was totally out to lunch that in fact Soviet creation of terror groups (such as the PLO) was far more extensive than even President Reagan and CIA Director Casey believed.
    Terrorism today is primarily state sponsored–armed, assisted, funded and provided sanctuary by states such as Venezuela, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and armed and assisted by China and Russia.
    An entire panoply of capabilities is required to deal with such threats including nuclear forensics, protecting and running our space surveillance and reconnaissance duties including commercial and civil applications, protecting our sea lanes of commerce and communications from WMD trafficking, interdicted WMD on the high seas through the 100+ nation member the Proliferation Security initiative as well as various confederations or groups dealing with nuclear terrorist threats, missile defense, border security, drug interdiction aimed specifically at terror groups allied with drug cartels, air caps of our cities to prevent another 9-11; keeping open the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca; as well as the normal day to day deterrent capability of our US military stopping an invasion of the ROK by the DPRK, a move by Iran against the Gulf states or Chinese aggression against the territory of any of its neighbors, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

    Such capabilities requires the Navy, US Air Force, Army Special Forces, the Coast Guard, Homeland Security including the National Nuclear Detection Office, and US Space Command just to name a few. To say nothing of the extraordinary humanitarian support the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and other elements of our national security team play in the largest and most extensive humanitarian missions ever performed by any country in human history which go on all the time around the globe. All of which is paid for by our national security budget.
    Owen complains the US military is big, too big. Well yes sir it is big. But again, what’s your point? (Is it bigger than the rest of the world combined? No, that’s another fairy tale!)
    The question is what capability are we buying to deter and then to defend.
    It is a very big job being leader of the Free World.
    Pat Buchanan, Barney Frank and their friends apparently have given up on the Free World.
    While saying there is a huge decline in America’s sense of being able to shape world affairs, David Brooks of the New York Times admitted:
    “It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.”
    In the 1990s Congress argued whether the US–including our military–should help Columbia with the communist FARC drug dealers and terrorists. Critics said the US military had no capability in this area. They were wrong. Under President Uribe Columbia has nearly eliminated the FARC and its terror. A peaceful transition and election occurred. I remember asking Mr. Uribe at a rewards ceremony where he was honored what was the critical ingredient in his success. He told me right way without hesitation: the courage and capability of the US military.
    Yes politics will inform our decision as to what support to give our military. As I said before, that fact does not mean the decisions we make will be right or wrong. Its a fact of like that politics informs decisions made by our political leaders. But as I previously said, “So What?” That tells you nothing–it does not illuminate for you whether the decision politicians made is right or wrong.
    But we do know, that when America retreats the bag guys fill the vacuum left by our withdrawal. We have seen this before our eyes in Syria and Iraq. We know that undermining deterrence can and will lead to aggression as we saw in the 1970s when nearly a dozen and a half nations fell to communism or totalitarian rule starting with the fall of all of Indochina.
    And when we went to sleep in the 1990s.
    And as we are in serious danger of doing again today.
    Come up with a QDR plan Owen. Defend the strategy. Pair it with a budget. Maybe then you will have something to say

  9. Peter Huessy

    [Edited Edition of Final Comments]
    Once again Mr. Owen can’t come up with a US military strategy to justify his support for a defense base budget of $350 billion, which is some $150 billion a year below the sequestration level projected by the Department of Defense.
    So to deflect attention from this glaring failure, he drops black smoke bombs across the analytical landscape in the hopes we will all be sufficiently distracted to forget what the original article by AEI was about and that was a similar failure by the administration to come up with a QDR–a Quadrennial Defense Review–that would lay out America’s security strategy for now and two decades into the future.

    Owen decides to once again bring up the British Lancet study that purportedly showed high rates of civilian deaths due to America’s liberation of Iraq in 2003. Own then also says that the Wikipedia reference on Al Gore’s wonderful internet did not have a significant number of references to the shoddy nature of the Lancet study.
    Well apart from its 104 references the site had a wealth of data showing how skewed the Lancet study was including the point I made which was Saddam Hussein and his friends in the media made the case over and over again that death rates especially to infants went up during the Clinton era (1993-2000) when defense spending declined markedly and when American forces were not even in Iraq, with the exception of enforcing a no fly zone. Ironically the Kurdish area which was more highly protected by the US military than any other part of Iraq had actual declines in mortality.
    Here some of the references to the Lancet study Owen failed to share with the AEI reader that are in the Wikipedia reference:
    (1)Steven E. Moore, who conducted survey research in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority and was an advisor to Paul Bremer for the International Republican Institute, ridiculed the Lancet study in an October 18, 2006 editorial in the Wall Street Journal. In a piece entitled, “655,000 War Dead? A bogus study on Iraq casualties”, Moore wrote, “I wouldn’t survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points. Neither would anyone else…”[62]
    (2) Fred Kaplan, writing for Slate, has criticized the pre-invasion death rate used in both the 2004 and 2006 Lancet surveys.
    In an October 29, 2004 article in Slate he wrote:
    “But there are two problems with this calculation. First, Daponte (who has studied Iraqi population figures for many years) questions the finding that prewar mortality was 5 deaths per 1,000. According to quite comprehensive data collected by the United Nations, Iraq’s mortality rate from 1980–85 was 8.1 per 1,000. From 1985–90, the years leading up to the 1991 Gulf War, the rate declined to 6.8 per 1,000. After ’91, the numbers are murkier, but clearly they went up. Whatever they were in 2002, they were almost certainly higher than 5 per 1,000.”
    (3) The 2000 BBC article reported that after the UN sanctions were imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, “They found that in south and central Iraq, infant mortality had risen to 108 per 1,000 between 1994 and 1999, while child mortality — covering those between one and five years — rocketed from 56 to 131 per 1,000.”
    (4) The 2000 BBC article also reported, “However, it found that infant and child mortality in the autonomous, mainly Kurd region in the North of the country, has actually fallen, perhaps reflecting the more favorable distribution of aid in that area.”
    (5) The “Iraq Family Health Survey” published in the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed 9,345 households across Iraq and estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) over the same period covered in the second Lancet survey by Burnham et al.[102] The NEJM article stated that the second Lancet survey “considerably overestimated the number of violent deaths and said the Lancet results were, “highly improbable, given the internal and external consistency of the data and the much larger sample size and quality-control measures taken in the implementation of the IFHS.”
    Ironically, none of this is relevant to what level of support we should give the US military. In addition, the terrorists from Iran and Syria and their internal Iraqi terror groups– made it a point to go after and specifically target the Iraqi infrastructure which they did in a big way which no doubt led to ill health and a rise in mortality–all of which was reflected in the UN and Iraqi government data but which was not related to the actions of US, allied and Iraqi forces to protect the people of Iraq.

    The second distraction of Mr. Owen is his view that terrorism in Europe in the 1970s was not sufficiently severe to warrant the US improving its military capability to deal with the violence. Owen then makes the mistake of viewing counter terrorism in Northern Ireland, for example, as being simply the task of the British police forces and not a military task.

    Well, Mr. Owen should inform himself where the weapons and support for the IRA came from.
    Libya sir is where the vast majority of the weapons came from. And from the Soviet Union to Libya in the first place. So too with the terror groups I previously listed in Europe–all Soviet funded and created.

    Terrorism from Bulgaria tried to kill the Pope; terrorism from the IRA tried to kill Prime Minister Thatcher. Both John Paul II and Thatcher were hated by Moscow and the Soviet Union was behind both assassination attempts, as they were via the terror group that attempted to kill America’s commanding General in Europe, Alexander Haig.

    As Claire Sterling, Livingston and other detailed the Soviets were the creators of most of the modern terrorism of the 10th century especially after the end of WW II.
    The study to which Owen referred on “deaths due to terrorism” was another politically motivated attempt to downplay the extent of terrorism. Many estimates of terror deaths exclude state sponsored terrorism which has the effect of not counting most terrorist caused deaths.

    In any case, if Owen thinks the terrorism of the 1970s was not sufficiently terrible to justify a response that included an increase in the military capability to go after and deter terror sponsoring states he is a little late to the party. Reagan won in 1980 and he did in part because Americans became weary of the march of Soviet terrorism from Indochina, to the European continent to Columbia and El Salvador and elsewhere in the world among our friends and allies.

    Just in case Owen missed it, Reagan used diplomatic, economic, political and military capabilities to take down the Soviet Union and with it their terrorist state entities. The American people in 1980 said “Enough” and in fact believed the terror threats in Europe and elsewhere were a manifestation of the “correlation of forces” turning against the US as the Soviets termed it.

    Tragically at the end of the Cold War we went on an extended holiday from history. As Kagan and Kagan explain in their book released in 2000, “While-America-Sleeps-Self-Delusion, Military Weakness and the Threat to Peace”, we failed to believe threats remained, most significantly Islam state terrorism, again sponsored and armed by rogue states such as Syria, Iran, China, Russian, Libya and others.
    Now there were those like Owen who asserted the Soviet Union had nothing to do with terrorism. Raymond Garthoff wrote such a book that also included the fairy tale that Gorbachev won the Cold War and Reagan prolonged it, that American and NATO military capability has little if anything to do with the end of the Cold War. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained in his 1996 book “From the Shadows”, Garthoff was totally out to lunch that in fact Soviet creation of terror groups (such as the PLO) was far more extensive than even President Reagan and CIA Director Casey believed.[Gates was tasked by Casey to put together a CIA analysis of the extent of Soviet sponsorship of terrorism which was not even within the purview of the Russian and Soviet related analysis at the agency at the time Reagan was elected].

    Terrorism today is primarily state sponsored–armed, assisted, funded and provided sanctuary by states such as Venezuela, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and armed and assisted by China and Russia.

    An entire panoply of capabilities is required to deal with such threats including nuclear forensics, protecting and running our space surveillance and reconnaissance duties including commercial and civil applications, protecting our sea lanes of commerce and communications from WMD trafficking, interdicted WMD on the high seas through the 100+ nation member the Proliferation Security initiative as well as various confederations or groups dealing with nuclear terrorist threats, missile defense, border security, drug interdiction aimed specifically at terror groups allied with drug cartels, air caps of our cities to prevent another 9-11; keeping open the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca; as well as the normal day to day deterrent capability of our US military stopping an invasion of the ROK by the DPRK, a move by Iran against the Gulf states or Chinese aggression against the territory of any of its neighbors, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
    Such capabilities requires the Navy, US Air Force, Army Special Forces, the Coast Guard, Homeland Security including the National Nuclear Detection Office, and US Space Command just to name a few. To say nothing of the extraordinary humanitarian support the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and other elements of our national security team play in the largest and most extensive humanitarian missions ever performed by any country in human history which go on all the time around the globe. All of which is paid for by our national security budget.
    Owen complains the US military is big, too big. Well yes sir it is big. But again, what’s your point? (Is it bigger than the rest of the world combined? No, that’s another fairy tale!)
    The question is what capability are we buying to deter and then to defend.

    It is a very big job being leader of the Free World.

    Pat Buchanan, Barney Frank and their friends apparently have given up on the Free World.
    While saying there is a huge decline in America’s sense of being able to shape world affairs,
    David Brooks of the New York Times admitted:
    “It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.”

    In the 1990s Congress argued whether the US–including our military–should help Columbia with the communist FARC drug dealers and terrorists. Critics said the US military had no capability in this area. They were wrong. Under President Uribe Columbia has nearly eliminated the FARC and its terror. A peaceful transition and election occurred. I remember asking Mr. Uribe at a rewards ceremony where he was honored what was the critical ingredient in his success. He told me right way without hesitation: the courage and capability of the US military.

    Yes politics will inform our decision as to what support to give our military. As I said before, that fact does not mean the decisions we make will be right or wrong. Its a fact of like that politics informs decisions made by our political leaders. But as I previously said, “So What?”
    That tells you nothing–it does not illuminate for you whether the decision politicians made is right or wrong.

    But we do know, that when America retreats the bag guys fill the vacuum left by our withdrawal.
    We have seen this before our eyes in Syria and Iraq. We know that undermining deterrence can and will lead to aggression as we saw in the 1970s when nearly a dozen and a half nations fell to communism or totalitarian rule starting with the fall of all of Indochina.

    And when we went to sleep in the 1990s.

    And as we are in serious danger of doing again today.

    Come up with a QDR plan Owen. Defend the strategy. Pair it with a budget. Maybe then you will have something to say

  10. Peter Huessy

    This issue of what happened in Iran in 1953 was raised by Mr. Owen as a US perpetuated coup and thus somehow justifying the Islamic totalitarianism arising in Iran since 1979. There was no coup. Here is my essay on Frontiers of Freedom this morning on exactly that subject:

    National Security Fairy Tales#2

    On December 3, 2007 the US intelligence community released an NIE or National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

    A month later, on January 1, 2008, “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror” by Stephen Kinzer was published.

    The first claimed the Iranians stopped their nuclear warhead work in 2003.

    The second claimed the American CIA planned a “coup” in 1953 in Iran which brought Shah Pahlavi back to power.

    The stories are critical to understand the inability of the US and its allies to successfully end the terrorist regime in Tehran and stop its nuclear ambitions.

    In late 2007 and early 2009, the drive-by media and their academic and Hollywood allies were determined to take “Iran” of the table in so far as the forthcoming 2008 Presidential elections. They did not want any unpleasant questions about taking down rogue regimes with nuclear weapons. Done that, did that.

    This required a false narrative, or fortune cookie analysis, to cook the books, so to speak, on what US policy should be on Iran.

    No nukes, no problem.

    Murderous regime, our fault.

    Conclusion: do nothing but well, negotiate.

    The 2007 NIE was bogus, but in asserting Iran no longer had a threatening nuclear weapons program, there would of course not be questions during the campaign about rogue states and weapons of mass destruction. Can’t have that.

    After all, we took down the regime of Saddam Hussein with the partial but important justification that he had chemical weapons and was determined to secure nuclear weapons. And his buddy Chemical Ali (Ali Hassan al-Majid) helped Osama Bin Laden with the development of chemical weapons according to a US Justice Department indictment of Al Qaeda for the 1998 African Embassy Bombings.

    No single NIE, says former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “Ever did more harm to US security interests and diplomatic efforts”.

    Why? The NIE was cleverly worded, saying nuclear warhead work was what ended, although implying that other nuclear activity, such as enrichment of nuclear weapons fuel, had also ended, which it had not. The headline fairy tale became the story–Iranian nuclear weapons program was no more.

    But the real clincher was Kinzer’s book. It served a parallel purpose as the NIE.

    In order to fully “seal the deal” on not intervening in Iranian affairs–whether economically or militarily–Kinzer had to lay out the fairy tale that the emergence of a violent, harsh Islamic regime in Tehran that killed Americans over Lockerbie, in Lebanon, in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the African embassies, Khobar Towers and even the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks– was all the fault of the United States.

    He made this bizarre connection with the claim that our support–along with the British–of restoring the 2500 year old monarchy [which started with Cyrus the Great] in Iran was a “coup”.

    And as such led to anger among the Iranian people and eventually would culminate in the revolution of 1979 some 56 years later and the emergence of “radical Islam” in the Gulf.

    On January 19, 1979, the Shah of Iran fled the country.

    On February 11, 1979, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established the revolutionary Islamic of Iran, with a constitution dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the United States and the further establishment of an Islamic totalitarian regime across the Middle East and the globe.

    Being “our fault”, a candidate for the Presidency could logically claim the Mullahs in Iran “served us right” so we simply had to learn to live with them. No action thus was required to deal with Iran. The issue was off the table. Mission accomplished.

    This is not just a narrative of just the left.

    For example, Congressman Ron Paul, running for President in 2012, said December 15, 2011 that Iran only wanted to destroy us because “we are bombing them”.

    Although the narrative of a coup is false, it remains popular among the low information folks. The ten reasons the 1979 revolution occurred and the 1953 restoration was not a coup. Let’s start with 1979.

    (10) The Shah granted women suffrage for which the Mullahs were outraged;
    (9) The Shah initiated a series of economic, social and political reforms that moved Iran miles away from ever becoming an Islamic state, outraging the mullahs further;
    (8) The Shah recognized Israel; (obviously not good!)
    (7) The Shah’s secular modernization led to conflicts with the clergy and the bazaari merchant class;
    (6) The Carter administration said Khomeini was “a saint” giving his return top-cover;
    (5) Academics like Richard Falk of Princeton said Khomeini was going to usher in democracy, giving him more top-cover;

    As for 1953…

    (4) The seizure by Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossaddegh of private oil resources was illegal, and a key reason he was displaced by the Shah but….
    (3) The left likes ripping off private property it seems—we know all privately owned oil companies are immoral–remember Maxine Water’s slip about wanting to nationalize all American oil companies–so what’s wrong with a little confiscation;
    (2) The murderous regime that followed in 1979 [marching 9 year old children through land mine fields for example) under the mullahs is apparently justified by the coup myth makers because the Shah in 1953 did not allow Mossaddegh to: (a) suspend the 1906 constitution (under article 46 the Shah had the sole power to hire and fire the Prime Minister); (b) bypass the Parliament and rule by decree; (c) imprison his opponents; (d) steal private oil resources; (e) invite the Tudeh party to operate freely in Iran; and (f) cozy up the Stalin, thereby raising the prospect of Soviet control over Gulf oil resources. In 1946, Moscow had made a grab for the Azeri regions of Iran which the Shah had stopped (what a killjoy!);

    And the number one reason there was NOT a coup:
    (1) The shah under the Iranian constitution legally dismissed the Prime Minister Mossaddegh…and yes with help from President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Churchill.

  11. Steve Owen

    Peter,

    I like everyone else stopped reading your drivel a long time ago.

    The idea you can deny there was a coup in Iran is laughable, even the CIA admits they did it!

    You are crazy, “American Greatness” and it’s ability to “lead the free world” has nothing at all to do with modern military spending. The playground bully isn’t great he is a bully.

    American military spending is out of touch with reality it senselessly consumes resources and the world would be just as safe without it.

    Nobody is reading your diatribes. You are delusional, paranoid but above all else you are extremely boring.

    1. Peter Huessy

      Mr. Owen,
      I will refrain from any personal comments in my reply to your posted note earlier this week.
      If you go to the CIA archives or to any reasonably stocked library, you will find that there was in fact no coup in Iran in 1953. I also checked and rechecked this point with one of the top Iranian experts in the country who also happens to be a 20+ year veteran of our intelligence community. The narrative of a coup allows critics of American security policy to ignore the Iranian threat to the region and to our country and place the blame conveniently on their political adversaries. Its a derivative of Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s refrain “They always blame America first”, except for that refrain is becoming “They only blame America”. If indeed Mr. Owen you no longer read my material, either you then made up entirely your recent post, or did in fact read my analysis and were compelled, for whatever reason, to illustrate that the only drivel is coming in fact from your unfortunate uninformed or should we say “low information” self.

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