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Not Just about Drones

March 8, 2013 in Economics

Sen. Rand Paul made headlines (and created a storm on Twitter) with his near-13 hour filibuster of John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director. But as Cato scholar Julian Sanchez notes, at the heart of Paul’s filibuster was not whether the president will begin launching drone strikes on American soil. Rather, it was to draw attention to the apparent lack of meaningful limits on what the executive branch may do in the name of national security.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Sequester But a Scalpel for Bloated Military Budget

March 8, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Over the last decade the Republican Party put militarism before limited government. The Bush administration foolishly invaded Iraq. Presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney sounded even more extreme. GOP politicians denounced the coming budget sequester for reducing military as well as domestic outlays.

However, conservative Republicans are beginning to acknowledge that the Defense Department, too, wastes money. And that the U.S. must take drastic steps to reign in government spending, deficits, and debt. Explained Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11.”

No doubt, the sequester is a blunt, inefficient, arbitrary, even stupid way to cut outlays. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complained of the consequences “when managers are not given the flexibility and the opportunity and the tools to manage, with complete uncertainty as to what’s ahead.”

However, the results need not be disastrous, as some Pentagon officials claim. Simply allowing the Pentagon to transfer money among accounts would moderate the impact.

Moreover, the Defense Department is playing the usual Washington game of threatening to make ostentatiously unpopular reductions. Noted columnist George F. Will:

The Navy is saying it cannot find cuts to programs or deployments less essential than the [aircraft carrier USS] Truman deployment. The Navy’s participation in the political campaign to pressure Congress into unraveling the sequester is crude, obvious and shameful, and it should earn the Navy’s budget especially skeptical scrutiny by Congress.

Much money could be saved through better management, which would be warranted with or without the ongoing budget crisis. It is a scandal that the Pentagon’s books long have been essentially impossible to audit.

However, the far greater problem is over-ambitious DOD objectives. Defense is a core constitutional responsibility for the federal government, but that means protecting America, not the rest of the globe.

Congress should rethink American foreign policy. And then reduce outlays accordingly. Secretary Hagel understands, explaining that “The current strategy could not be met with the significantly diminished resources that sequester would impose,” meaning that the Defense Department would “need to revise” its approach.

Washington cannot forever afford to subsidize wealthy allies, remake failed societies, overthrow authoritarian regimes, rescue warring peoples, and promote geopolitical stability.”

The Pentagon budget is the price of America’s foreign policy. If Washington hopes to run the world, it must maintain a large and expensive military. That is why the U.S. accounts for close to half of the globe’s …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Seoul Threatens Pyongyang with American Force

March 8, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Politics has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in North Korea. One minute Great Successor Kim Jong-un is cavorting with American basketball great Dennis Rodman and telling President Barack Obama to call. Next the North Korean People’s Army is threatening to abandon the six-decade-old armistice and use “lighter and smaller nukes” against the United States and South Korea.

Of course, the North’s rhetorical barbs no longer sting, so long has Pyongyang relied on provocation and brinkmanship. Yet the latest outburst should remind American policymakers that the United States has different interests than South Korea regarding the Korean peninsula.

For decades Washington has played the dominant role in Korean affairs, yet America is an interloper, with no significant geopolitical stake in the Koreas. Washington’s initial forays more than century ago were essentially frivolous, as the emerging American republic sought to join the great imperial powers in Asia.

The defeat of Japan in World War II left the United States deeply involved in East Asia, including the Korean peninsula. Washington played its role badly and quickly found itself hopelessly entangled in the struggle between two antagonistic Korean states. The Cold War turned the peninsula into a global battleground, with the Demilitarized Zone becoming a celebrated boundary between totalitarian communism and the West. For years the Republic of Korea mattered more to the United States as a symbol than as a country.

After years of micromanaging South Korea’s defense, Washington should say no more.”

The end of the Cold War then dramatically reduced Washington’s stake in the Koreas. Americans have substantial family and business ties with the South, but none warrant military involvement in the peninsula. War between the two Koreas would be a tragedy that would unsettle the region, but not threaten U.S. security in any fundamental way. The mere fact that such a conflict would be highly undesirable does not mean that Washington must be prepared to intervene.

This is especially true since the intra-Korean balance has shifted dramatically. The ROK has raced past the North in virtually every measure of national power, while neither Beijing nor Moscow likely would intervene on the latter’s behalf in any conflict, especially if begun by Pyongyang. The great Korean anomaly is not Kim Jong-un’s Western fascinations, but Seoul’s failure to use its growing wealth to create a stronger military sufficient to deter the Kim family criminal enterprise that is otherwise known as …read more
Source: OP-EDS