It's been much too long since my last post. Amazing how busy the days get just keeping up with the myriad details associated with home, kids, church, etc. While absent from the blog, I've certainly kept tuned to the stream of reporting covering the dueling national political conventions, ever darker reports about Iran's nuclear program, Israel's brow-mopping angst about developments in its neighborhood, the relentless takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, China's increasingly testy relations with neighbors in the South China Sea, and the dismal economic news from both Europe and our own country. I'll be posting items specific to each of these and others but first I can't help but make a comment on the silliness that emanates from political conventions and campaigns in general. 'Context is everything' and context is wonderfully enabled by an awareness of history, i.e. memory of what preceded and led up to an event...which implies some amount of reading or involvement in the world so as to gain knowledge of events, their settings, and the issues in play. Lacking such context one can only take statements from politicians at face value and in so doing be remarkably unaware of whether or not there is any truth to them at all.
Take for example the 2012 Democratic National Platform, a gem of misdirection, half-truths, and imagined realities. Harsh? Not really. Here's just one example from the text to illustrate the theme of this post:
In our current fiscal environment, we must also make tough budgetary decisions across the board – and that includes within the defense budget. The Budget Control Act enacted by Congress last year, with the support of Republicans and Democrats alike, mandates reductions in federal spending, including defense spending. The administration has worked with Congress to make these decisions, which has been a strategy-driven process.
The authors of the Platform would have the American public believe that the BCA of 2011 was a well-considered effort by Congress and the Administration, one driven by a strategy that we are to assume was thoroughly crafted to account for the deliberate application of scarce resources (tax money) to achieve national objectives and which forces the hand of the Administration (and Congress) to implement such 'reductions'. The reality, of course, is that nothing could be further from the truth.
Let's consider that context of the BCA. In the summer of 2011, the country was on the brink of default and the national debt ceiling needed to be raised immediately. Budget deliberations between the Democrats and Republicans, between the House and Senate, and between Congress and the White House had stalled. In a last ditch attempt to preclude default, the Administration struck a deal with Republicans: set-up a joint/bipartisan committee (the Supercommittee) that would find 'savings' across the federal budget in return for agreement to raise the debt ceiling a little over $2 trillion (supposedly enough buffer to preclude Congress and the White House from having to deal with the issue again until after the 2012 election cycle). The 'poison pill' that would force the Supercommittee to act was a set of mandatory budget cuts that would total $1.2 trillion, split roughly equally between defense and non-defense spending. The thinking at that time was "surely no one will allow defense accounts to be cut a half-trillion dollars over the next ten years especially since DOD is already having to reduce spending by nearly a half-trillion dollars over that same period already!"
As it turned out, the White House pushed the Republicans too far on new taxes (see here) thereby spoiling a budget deal at the last minute, collapsing the work of the Supercommittee, and resulting in 'sequestration' - the automatic cuts mandated by the BCA and mentioned by the Democrats in their Platform.
So the reality is this: if 'strategy' appeared anywhere in the process it was a strategy of political maneuvering that preceded the BCA...maneuvering that failed and resulted in the "this will never actually happen' outcome: mandatory, indiscriminate, and entirely arbitrary cuts to the defense budget of a half-trillion dollars. To the extent 'bipartisanship' played a role in the BCA it was driven entirely by fear in both Democratic and Republican camps of what defaulting on our national debt would due to our national fiscal situation, economy, and reputation.
But this is the game played in Washington and one that permeates the Democratic National Platform, at least the portions on national defense and foreign policy that I've most closely read.
If you've time and interest, read through the Platform and compare what it asserts with what you know to be the case re global affairs, our eroding relationships with 'long time friends' like Israel, Germany, Japan and even the UK, the increasing assertiveness of China, Russia, and Iran, the methodical spread and entrenchment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other militant Islamist entities across the Middle East (the real fruit of the 'Arab Spring'), advances in the Iranian nuclear program, the slaughter of civilians in Syria and general unrest in the Middle East, the betrayal of Poland...the list goes on.
Our Air Force is flying some of the oldest aircraft on record and its current aircraft procurement plan equates to a 100-year replacement rate. Our Navy is the smallest since World War I and its 30-year shipbuilding plan is underfunded by 20% making it impossible to reach the objective of 310 ships for the entire duration of the 30-year plan. The Army and Marine Corps are faced with reset costs of $5.45 billion and $3.2 billion, respectively, for 2013 and they, like the other services, are awaiting the impact of sequestration (a further reduction of $50 billion across DOD for 2013).
The Democratic National Platform may assert that we're stronger than ever, that our alliances are as robust as ever, than our standing in the world has improved and as a result that advances in freedom and democracy are being seen in every region, but even a cursory glance at the actual evidence puts a lie to all of it.