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November 06, 2006

How to Really be "Strong" on National Security
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Marc brings up some points in his latest post that are worth looking into further. The problem, as he states it, is that "when it comes to pulling the lever…[the voters’] intuition is that they cannot trust liberals with their safety.” Fair enough.

He says that this is a problem of messaging rather than policy. He cites, for example, the “mistaken belief” that Democrats "aren’t sincere when they take strong positions on national security.” There are a couple concerns here: first of all, when someone like Harold Ford, Jr. comes out with an ad where he brags us that he “voted for the Patriot Act, five million in defense, and against amnesty for illegals,” I get both a little uncomfortable and a little suspicious. Ford’s unequivocal support for the Patriot Act seems to be more a function of his need to cater to relatively conservative Tennessee voters, rather than a function of his “belief” in a “strong” national security.

However, let’s say for argument's sake that Ford really does happen to love the Patriot Act. This is equally problematic, because while it may convey “strength” on national security, it doesn’t necessarily make us any more strong or secure in reality. I suppose the issue here is how we define “strength.” Progressives have to be very careful not to accept the current parameters of national security discourse as natural givens. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, certain provisions of the Patriot Act are blatantly antithetical to the rich civil liberties tradition of liberals, a tradition which animates us, defines us, and - one hopes - distinguishes us from modern-day conservatives.

The problem is that many Democrats fall into the trap of “overcompensation,” that, fearful of being painted as soft on security, we take public positions that appear contrived, because they are in fact contrived, a function of our obsession with polls and focus groups more than a function of deeply-held liberal values. And if there are, in fact, liberals/progressives out there who genuinely support the Patriot Act without reservation then it calls into serious question how exactly our liberal values inform our approach to national security.

Marc, what do you think?


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Well, I'm not Marc, but I do have an opinion or two.

First, the government has been successful in defining the parameters of "national security" in terms that benefit them and not the people. National security to the elite means keeping the electorate in fear in order to get more money for their corporate sponsors, even if (or especially if) it results in domestic repression. If the progressives were smart they would instead define "national security" in Contitutional terms: "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." That should translate (but hasn't, especially by the Contributors to Democracy Arsenal) into concerns for the people--their defense, their welfare and their liberty.

Second, in regards to the "common defense," it is a fact that the United States is not currently threatened by any foreign military force, yet we mindlessly spend a billion-and-a-half dollars daily on corporate welfare while calling it defense, and a further two billion a month on the failing occupation of two defenseless countries which were never a threat to us. It's all war, all the time, the rationale for which keeps changing. Most recently it's been a reaction to the proposed establishment of an Islamic Caliphate stretching from Southeat Asia to Spain (really).

Third, since the "defense" budget is now a primary factor in the economies of every US congressional district and thus subsidizes congressional members' campaigns, then there is no hope in sight of ever eliminating or even curtailing the worthless expenditures for "national security."

Fourth, the very existence of a huge military force means that we are tempted to use it, and often do. The "Albright Doctrine"--what good is the finest military force in the world if you're not prepared to use it?

Fifth, for those of us in the anti-war movement, we look with some trepidation upon the chance that the Congress might be controlled by the Democrats because they are even more beholden to The Lobby (AIPAC) then are the Republicans, and The Lobby is a primary instigator of the mess in the Middle East.

But wait, there's more! Just kidding--I'm not Marc so I'll stop there.

Don -

You say: "In regards to the 'common defense,' it is a fact that the United States is not currently threatened by any foreign military force." A nice lead-in that, I imagine, would make Chomsky proud.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Would you rather that the US not have a military at all? By how much exactly would you like to cut the Defense budget by?

Also, while you're at it, please substantiate this comment: "That should translate (but hasn't, especially by the Contributors to Democracy Arsenal) into concerns for the people--their defense, their welfare and their liberty."


We should have a military force stationed in the United States which provides for our defense. For particulars see the petition at our website or click on my name.

The Contributors to the website, it seems to me, are (1) acceptive of American world hegemony and/or (2) primarily concerned with how to sell American hegemony to the electorate. The sole emphasis is on marketing and not on the facts that average Americans are steadily becoming worse off while the elite becomes richer at their expense. That should be the main progresive message but isn't.

World federalism, I thought, was a basic tenet of this site and its sister sites, but is nowhere apparent. Instead we see the DLC/PPI/Truman program for US world hegemony which has been a proven loser for the American people (but not its corporations) as well as the rest of the world which hates us and suffers from our economic/military policies. What goes? A sellout?

Let's make sure that we vote for those who will fight to end poverty by addressing the Millennium Development Goals!!!

Rumsfeld trumps Chomsky:

"Well, clearly there's an emphasis on recognizing that the things that we face today are not conventional threats with large armies, navies and air forces, but more asymmetric or irregular threats, and we've been making those adjustments over the past four and a half years."

"This is a different world we're in today. It's unconventional instead of conventional; it's asymmetric instead of symmetric; it's irregular instead of regular; and it is so different for us that we need to get adjusted to it in this new century and learn to fight this battle as effectively as we were successful with respect to the Cold War."

"You know if you think about it normally one thinks of a war or a conflict of big armies and navies and air forces competing against each other. That's been the history. But that is something that is not taking place today."

"We're up against networks of people who operate in the shadows, who don't have nations to defend, who don't have bureaucracies to manage, people who are determined to reestablish a caliphate in this world and to take out moderate governments and to change the lives of free people."

"It's basically a struggle not between the West and Muslims. It's a struggle within the Muslim faith. There are a relatively small number of violent extremists and a very large number of moderates who do not believe in violent extremism in that faith."

"But what we're in is a global war on terror. It is a struggle in the Muslim religion between a small number of violent extremists who are determined to behead people and kill people and force the world to see things the way they see things, to try to reestablish a caliphate in the world, to overthrow moderate Muslim nations, to attack Western values and Western behavior and Western culture. They're a small minority. The overwhelming numbers of people in that religion are moderate and they aren't extremist and they aren't terrorists."

"The president's budget request for the Department of Defense represents an increase over last year. It reflects what we should -- believe should be the country's national security priorities -- namely to help defend the United States of America and the American people and their interests, to give flexibility to commanders, to prepare for both conventional and unconventional or irregular warfare, and importantly, to work closely with partner nations to help them develop the capabilities needed to defeat terrorists within their borders, and to cooperate with us and other countries with respect to this global threat."

So let's all ask ourselves, in the light of Rumsfeld's statements, shouldn't we have a national security policy that's makes us more, not less, secure? Are we more or less secure with a policy that impoverishes the nation (and benefits China with seven hundred billions of our dollars), weakens our standard of living (our Constitutional "welfare"), diminishes our liberty (especially the elimination of habeas corpus) and makes our country reviled throughout the world?

We should seriously consider the question of whether the US political establishment is currently committed to perpetuating an anachronistic military policy, based on projecting power to remote corners of the globe which have little direct connection to the security of most Americans. Couldn't it be the case that the motives for that power projection are to protect the financial or other interests abroad of small minorities of Americans? Or even worse, that their only motivation is to protect vested domestic defense industry and government military spending interests?

Why does the US still have a global presence comparable to post-WWII and Cold War levels when there is no Cold War going on, and when the threats from foreign states are arguably much less significant than they were in the past?

Every overseas installation or instance of a US presence is in itself an area of vulnerability to attack, and also a potential source of blowback that comes from local resentment of and resistence to US power. If the issue is really national security, one has to ask in each case whether the marginal enhancements to our security that come from US presence abroad are sufficient to offset the risks to national security from blowback and the exposure of our forces.

Just to anticipate the usual straw man objections, no one is talking about "eliminatng our military" or pursuing a policy of "isolation".

We should consider the fact that "tough on national security" is sometimes just a euphemism for "friendly to defense-related economic interesrs." Was Duke Cunningham tough on national security, or a danger to it?

A day at the Pentagon.

Pentagon contracts announced November 2, 2006

* Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded on Nov. 1, 2006, a $299,867,679 fixed-price-incentive contract modification. This contract action will exercise an option for the production of Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS) Space Vehicle 4.
* Symetrics Industries, Melbourne, Fla., is being awarded a $67,352,765 firm-fixed-price contract. This action provides for production of ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system Line Replacement Units (LRUs) and shop replaceable units managed by Combat Electronic Systems Directorate at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
* Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corp., King of Prussia, Pa., was awarded on Nov. 1, 2006, a $49,900,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification. This contract modification issues an undefinitized contract action to accomplish a system design review in March 2007 and Key Decision Point B in June 2007.
* L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded on Nov. 1, 2006, a $42,103,207 firm-fixed-price contract modification. This action is exercising FY07 option for logistics support of the T-1A Aircraft at Vance, Columbia, Randolph, and Laughlin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station.
* Kaman Dayron, Orlando, Fla., is being awarded a $39,562,891 firm-fixed-price contract modification. This action provides for Joint Programmable Fuze (JPF) Systems, will include the FMU-152 fuze and FZU-5 initiator, with a quantity of 18,083.
* Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded on Nov. 1, 2006, a $30,000,000 cost-plus-award-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification. The contractor shall procure, implement, integrate and test a Dual Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit (MIMU)/Single Startracker configuration on Defense Meteorological Systems Group Flight 19 and Flight 20.
* DRS Sensors and Targeting Systems Inc., Dallas, Texas, is being awarded a $6,317,787 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This action will develop a 128X128 format hqCdTE Avalanche Photodiode (APD) Focal Plane Array (FPA) based Near-Mid Infrared Receiver (NMIR) receiver system.
* Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $5,667,769 firm-fixed-price contract modification. This action provides for Air Intercept Missile (AIM-120D) production transition.
* TW Metals, Inc., Carol Stream, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $45,000,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment for heat-treated and non-heat treated aluminum sheets, plate, and floor plate.
* SNC Telecommunications LLC, Washington, D.C., (Small Disadvantaged Business) is being awarded a maximum $23,820,000 firm fixed price contract for Aircrew combat coats and trousers for Army.
* Lean Quest, LLC, Huntington Beach, Calif., * is being awarded a maximum $7,341,086 firm fixed price contract for implementation of lean principles.
* L-3 Communications Corp., Arlington, Texas, is being awarded an $18,245,209 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-04-D-0110) to exercise an option for logistics support services for the Navy’s C-40A aircraft fleet.
* I E Pacific, Inc.*, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $12,500,000 firm-fixed-price contract for construction of a Special Operations Force (SOF) Military Operations on Urban Terrain Training (MOUT) Complex (Part A) at San Clemente Island.
* Coffman Specialties, Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded $10,885,000 for firm-fixed price Task Order 0004 under previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award construction contract (N68711-04-D-3036) for design and construction of two asphalt concrete test tracks at the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Nov. 2 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when an IED detonated near their vehicles.

Killed were:
Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, 40, of Mason City, Iowa, Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger, 40, of Garland, Texas, Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage, 28, of Modesto, Calif.

Finken and Gage were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. Kruger was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died of injuries suffered when an IED detonated near their vehicle Oct. 31 in Wygal Valley, Afghanistan.
Killed were:
Sgt. Charles J. McClain, 26, of Fort Riley, Kan. He later died in Asadabad, Afghanistan, Pfc. Alex Oceguera, 19, of San Bernardino, Calif.,
Sloan and Oceguera were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
McClain was assigned to the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

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