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What The Republican Budget Plans Tell Us About Republican Values

The Republicans want you to believe that they’re concerned about the deficit. Of course, that concern is a lie. They don’t care about the deficit. They only care about using the deficit as an excuse to pursue their extremist agenda. And the single most extreme part of it is their war on people. On workers. On women. On immigrants. On the environment that keeps us all healthy and alive. If they cared about the deficit itself, they’d have noticed that the previous three Republican presidents produced consecutively the largest deficits in human history, each outdoing his predecessor, and the most recent Republican president not merely shattering his father’s unprecedented standard, but actually having to destroy the federal surplus built by a Democratic president in order to do so. An impressive feat, by any measure. But when Republicans talk about deficits, you know they are lying. Republicans destroy surpluses and create record deficits. That’s the truth.

If Republicans cared about the deficit, they wouldn’t have held middle-class tax cuts hostage for a ransom of tax cuts for the very wealthy, tax cuts that the very wealthy do not need. Tax cuts for the wealthy that won’t create jobs or stimulate the economy. Tax cuts for the wealthy that added to the federal deficit, the same federal deficit Republicans now pretend to be so worried about that they need to slash and burn federal spending. Spending for such things as food assistance for low-income Americans, which Republicans want to cut even as they retain farm subsidies. Spending for such things as life-saving immunizations. Spending for such things as food and health assistance around the world, without which some 70,000 children could die. And not content to make Americans go hungry and die of preventable diseases, and for tens of thousands of children around the world to starve to death, rather than have the very wealthy pay more taxes, Republicans also have their “hearts” set on eliminating Medicare and eviscerating Medicaid. And they want to repeal the Obama health plan, even though doing so would make the deficit even worse.

Let’s not pretend that Republicans actually care about the deficit. If they did, their approach in addressing it would be responsible and humane. Republicans don’t care about the deficit. They only care about cutting government programs that help people in need. It’s part of their larger agenda of blatant class warfare. Republicans prefer that millions of people suffer, and that at least tens of thousands of people die, rather than that the very wealthy once again pay the taxes that eliminated the previous Republican deficits to create the previous Democratic surplus. Leave it to the mental health professionals to diagnose the psychology of such values. If anyone can afford mental health professionals, with states now also in budget crises thanks to the genius of tax cuts.

But lest you think that Republicans don’t have any spending priorities at all, keep in mind that they do want to use federal money, just so it is spent in pursuit of their Medieval social agenda. But that’s just relative pocket change. While Republicans seem actually to want for people in need to suffer and die, they also want to throw unfathomably budget-busting pallets of cash at their favorite budget sinkhole. As reported by Ryan Grim:

While media attention focuses on the cuts to government spending demanded by House Republicans and broadly accepted by Democrats, the Pentagon is poised to reap billions more in federal funds, according to sources close to the discussions. The confines of the budget negotiations established by the two parties results in a system where every extra dollar going to military spending ends up being offset by a dollar reduction in spending on domestic social programs.

Got that? It’s an actual tradeoff. Punish more people in need to free up more cash for the Pentagon. The Democrats actually proposed some reductions to the Pentagon budget, and in January Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen outlined plans for responsible Pentagon budget cuts:

“A major objective beyond creating monetary savings is to make this department less cumbersome, less top heavy and more agile and effective in the execution of its responsibilities,” Gates said. “My hope and expectation is that as a result of these changes over time, what had been a culture of endless money, where cost was rarely a consideration, will become a culture of savings and restraint.”

But Republicans know better than the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Grim:

Democrats and Republicans are now moving toward an agreement that would increase defense spending. But Democratic sources close to the talks said the Democrats’ spending recommendation remains roughly $2 billion shy of that of their Republican counterparts. A spokesman for the Senate spending panel declined to comment, citing ongoing talks. A spokesman for Senate Democratic leadership did not respond to requests for comment.

So the Pentagon itself says it doesn’t need more money, but not only are Democrats being pushed to give them more, the Republicans are insisting that the amount the Democrats are offering, and which the Pentagon says it doesn’t need, still isn’t enough! But it’s so important that we cut the deficit that we have to cut funding that feeds the hungry, prevents disease, and cares for the sick. And keep in mind that it’s not as if the Pentagon is anything remotely close to being underfunded. So what is it? Do Republicans think the answer to everything is to throw money at it? Do they have so little respect for the men and women in American uniform that they think they need such hardware overkill in order to protect the homeland? Are Republicans perpetually mired in a state of priapic adolescent arrested development, thinking the measure of their machismo is the size of their arsenal? Or is it just good old corporate welfare for the military industrial complex? Maybe it’s some combination of all of the above. But it’s a staggeringly irresponsible waste of resources that does nothing to enhance our national security.

As The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation made clear, the United States spends more than eight times as much on defense as does the next closest country, Russia. The United States spends more than twice as much as does the next major military presence, which is America’s combined NATO allies. And not that it will satisfy paranoid Republicans, but the United States spends more than three times as much as do imagined potential adversaries Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Venezuela combined. And for those particularly paranoid Republicans, the United States also spends more than 10 times as much as does that most sinister of all perpetual antagonists: France. And to put it in terms of actual budget and policy priorities, there is this concise explanation from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Between fiscal year 2001 (the last year for which appropriations levels were set under President Clinton) and fiscal year 2008, funding for domestic discretionary programs has been more constrained than any other area of the budget and has shrunk both as a share of the budget and as a share of the economy. In contrast, appropriations for defense and other security-related programs have increased more rapidly than any other area of the budget — even more rapidly than the costs of the “big three” entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Republicans don’t care about the budget. They are using the budget as an excuse and red herring to recast the very nature of the United States government, and the very nature of the United States. They don’t care if those in need suffer and die. They don’t care about jobs. They don’t care about a social safety net. They do care very much about protecting the very wealthy. They do care very much about wealthy corporations. And the one thing at which they want to throw truly unimaginable amounts of money is the military. This is a huge clue as to their mindset. Because when you stop and consider the consequences of causing more and more suffering and unrest among more and more people while at the same time ensuring that the military is much more powerful than any military anywhere needs be, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Republican values are not only inhuman and inhumane, they are dangerous and creepy.

By: Laurence Lewis, Daily Kos, April 10, 2011

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Consumers, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Health Care, Human Rights, Ideologues, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s First New War: The New Paradigm For Middle East Conflicts

As a fleet of French airplanes lacerated a column of Libyan army vehicles near Benghazi on Saturday, President Obama stuck to his prearranged schedule in Brazil, receiving whispered updates from his aides. Within three hours, more than 100 cruise missiles had hit two dozen targets in Libya. That’s just “the first phase,” William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

What he didn’t say: It’s the first phase of what will become Barack Obama’s first new war. By directing the military to hit targets inside Libya, the Obama administration is trying to strike an incredibly delicate balance between a strong disinclination to invade a Muslim country and their determined desire to avoid looking like they’re walking away from the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents.

When Muammar el-Qaddafi first struck back against protesters, Obama hoped that tough sanctions and material support to the opposition would be enough to force the dictator from power. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned him that a “no fly zone” would be ineffective and essentially commit the country to war. By Monday night, it was clear to Obama that this policy wasn’t working. Countries like Iran were getting the wrong message. The Libyan military was selectively testing the patience of the world by striking opposition strongholds. The opposition was pinned down in the port city of Benghazi, swelled by tens of thousands of refugees. Qaddafi kept using a phrase that stuck in Obama’s head: “no mercy.” And France, smarting from seeming to abandon Egyptians during their time of trouble, along with the U.K., were champing at the bit to use force. The Arab League had kicked Libya out and was closer to the French position. It risked its own legitimacy, already questioned by many in the region, if it didn’t side with the rebels.

On Tuesday, during a meeting of his national security team, Obama said he wanted a new policy. “Clearly, what we’re doing is not enough,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes kept by a participant. A “humanitarian disaster” was imminent unless something was done. He wanted more options.

Gates wanted to game out scenarios, knowing that any effective no-fly zone would necessitate a cascade of other military actions that would look a heck of a lot like an invasion, no matter how carefully it was done.

Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser and one of the gatekeepers of Obama’s foreign policy, was worried about the strategic implications of both allowing Qaddafi to succeed in retaking control of Benghazi as well as what would happen down the road in other countries if a successful military response ousted him from power with a minimum of bloodshed. Even the lightest military footprint would result in civilian casualties, he warned. Almost as inevitable would be the death of a coalition soldier or the downing of an airplane.

Hillary Rodham Clinton said instability in Libya threatened to clip the democratic aspirations of its two neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. She was also worried about the message to Iran if the U.S. and its allies did nothing in Libya: America was so afraid of committing its military to protect Muslims and Arabs that it would allow virtually anything to happen.

The meeting broke up.

Donilon would take charge of a rapid-fire series of conference calls and meetings and would, by that night, bring to the president three new policy proposals, each of which would call for a mix of diplomatic, military and intelligence actions against Libya. Obama had dinner with his combat commanders, and solicited their input about what challenges the military would face. At 9 p.m. that night, he reconvened only his principals. (Clinton was represented by her deputy, James Steinberg.) Donilon laid out his proposals. After about an hour, the Situation Room had come to a rough consensus: a no fly zone wouldn’t work, but more words would not work either. Obama instructed his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, to inform the Security Council that France’s resolution, which called for a no fly zone and little else, was insufficient. He asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to turn into him by the next evening a Concept of Operation Plan, or CONPLAN, for a NATO-executed military campaign in Libya that would be assisted by Arab countries.

In closed session at the U.N., Rice laid out the U.S. position. The situation was urgent and dire. But the world had to know precisely what it would mean to keep Libyan troops from murdering their own citizens. Any resolution would have to include language authorizing strikes against Libyan military infrastructure on the ground to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. “We are not going to hide pooch,” Rice said in the meeting, according to a U.S. official. “We must be completely clear about what we are going to do and why.” And Arab countries must participate, she insisted, in some visible way, in the campaign. She proposed a number of amendments that added significant heft to the resolution.

For the next 24 hours, Clinton and Rice tag-teamed Arab countries and members of the Security Council. They argued that if nothing was done, despots and beleaguered leaders everywhere would vow never to repeat the “mistake” of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who yielded power without foreign military intervention. Iran, in particular, would find itself with an incentive to continue to spread its proxy forces to other countries and further repress its own citizens. And Rice has made the reinvigoration of the United Nations one of her prime goals as ambassador. The legitimacy of that body was at stake too, she argued.

On Wednesday, at about 6:30 p.m., Mullen and Donilon presented Obama with their CONPLAN for Libya. Its contents are mostly classified; an official said the air strikes on Saturday were one part of a larger campaign that includes a variety of overt and covert actions. Published reports suggest that U.K. special operations forces were secreted in the country, scouting out the battlefield in preparation for air strikes. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command moved several tactical air teams to a small base on Crete. In order to try and disguise their movements, the U.S. planes changed their call signs once they entered airspace over the Mediterranean, but commercial software that tracks their transponders revealed the shift, and word leaked out on Twitter. These teams would coordinate the air assault but are capable of parachuting into a region and directing them from the ground.

On Friday, the U.S. moved a Rivet Joint signals intelligence plane to Souda Air Base on a Greek Island, bearing the provocative call sign of “SNOOP 55.” Subs capable of launching Tomahawk missiles idled near Italy. The USS Florida, armed with more than 100 Tomahawks, moved into firing range. Twenty four hours after the U.S. introduced its amendments, it got its resolution, 10-0. Obama spoke with his counterparts in France and the UK and agreed that they’d give Qadaffi 24 hours to turn heel and retreat. If he didn’t, France would begin the bombardment.

It was important to the U.S. that Libyans and the world understand that this coalition of the willing was more than a U.S. rhetorical construct. An hour before bombing began Saturday, Clinton spoke to the press in Paris. Asked why military action was in America’s interest, she gave three reasons and implied a fourth. A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.

The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on. The new elements include the direct participation of the Arab world, the visible participation of U.S. allies, as well as a very specific set of military targets designed to forestall needless human suffering. Though the Libyan situation is quite unique – its military is nowhere near as strong as Iran’s is, for one thing – Obama hopes that a short, surgical, non-US-led campaign with no ground troops will satisfy Americans skeptical about military intervention and will not arouse the suspicions of Arabs and Muslims that the U.S. is attempting to influence indigenously growing democracies.

By: Marc Ambinder, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic, March 20, 2011

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Dictators, Foreign Policy, Libya, No Fly Zones, Obama, Qaddafi, United Nations, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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