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Panetta: Two combat brigades to be withdrawn from Europe

January 14, 2012 

The realignment of U.S. military troops will mean a reduction of troops in Europe, but an increase in the Asia-Pacific region. This will pose a threat of military expansion in Hawaiʻi and countries in the Asia Pacific reigon.  But the military, corporate and political special interests that benefit from the military industrial complex in Hawaiʻi are celebrating these developments.

The Pacific Business News reported “Panetta’s announcement renews military optimism in Hawaii”:

Military contractors and top commanders may have even more reason to be excited about all the talk of increasing the focus of U.S. military might the Pacific — it could translate to new construction work and additional troops in Hawaii.

The reason for the optimism is Secretary of Defense Leon Panettaʻs statement Friday that the U.S. was withdrawing two combat brigades from Europe as part of the Pentagonʻs new military strategy.  The AP reported:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday the Army will withdraw two combat brigades from Europe as part of a broad reorienting of U.S. forces and instead rotate units in and out of the region, presumably from U.S. bases.

Panetta made the comment to a Defense Department news service whose representative was traveling with him to Fort Bliss.

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Last week, the Pentagon announced a new defense strategy to accommodate hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts over the coming decade. At the time, Panetta said that the military will get smaller and that its presence in Europe would “evolve.” But he declined then to discuss what that would mean for the long-standing U.S. presence in Europe.

A combat brigade typically consists of 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers.

The new Defense Guidance document: Cuts for the military, but humanity still hangs from a cross of iron.

January 6, 2012 

January 17, 2012 will mark the 51st anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhowerʻs famous farewell speech, in which he presciently warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.  Last year on the 50th anniversary of the speech, Andrew Bacevich wrote “The Tyranny of Defense Inc.,” an excellent reflection on the evolution of Eisenhowerʻs thinking and the costs of war and militarism.  Early in his presidency on April 16, 1953, Eisenhower delivered his other famous “Cross of Iron” speech to the Association of Newspaper Editors.  As Bacevich writes:

Separated in time by eight years, the two speeches are complementary: to consider them in combination is to discover their full importance. As bookends to Eisenhower’s presidency, they form a solemn meditation on the implications—economic, social, political, and moral—of militarizing America.

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“Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Eisenhowerʻs farewell speech sounded a grave warning after two terms witnessing and wrestling with the hyper-militarization of the U.S.:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Recently, the power and corrosive effect of the military-industrial complex has been on display in the political struggle to cut the military budget.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was poised to reveal a plan that would change U.S. military doctrine and reduce the size of the military:

In a shift of doctrine driven by fiscal reality and a deal last summer that kept the United States from defaulting on its debts, Mr. Panetta is expected to outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.

Instead, he will say that the military will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict, while also being able to “spoil” a second adversary’s ambitions in another part of the world while conducting a number of other smaller operations, like providing disaster relief or enforcing a no-flight zone.

Pentagon officials, in the meantime, are in final deliberations about potential cuts to virtually every important area of military spending: the nuclear arsenal, warships, combat aircraft, salaries, and retirement and health benefits. With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, Mr. Panetta is weighing how significantly to shrink America’s ground forces.

There is broad agreement on the left, right and center that $450 billion in cuts over a decade — the amount that the White House and Pentagon agreed to last summer — is acceptable. That is about 8 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget. But there is intense debate about an additional $500 billion in cuts that may have to be made if Congress follows through with deeper reductions.

Mr. Panetta and defense hawks say a reduction of $1 trillion, about 17 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget, would be ruinous to national security. Democrats and a few Republicans say that it would be painful but manageable; they add that there were steeper military cuts after the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

But government budget and accountability watchdog groups immediately criticized the proposals as being misleading and inadequate to meet the requirements of fiscal responsibility. The Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense issued a press release that stated “Panetta Ignoring More than $100 Billion in Potential Defense Savings”:

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reveals his strategy to “rebalance” defense priorities with decreasing funds tomorrow; he will likely miss several opportunities to cut wasteful spending from the bloated Pentagon budget.

That’s because the review only accounts for $450 billion in savings over the next decade as required by last year’s debt ceiling negotiations. But a recent report from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) found the federal government could save $586 billion over the same period by cutting unneeded weapons, reining in out-of-control private contracts, moving our nuclear arsenal to a post-Cold War footing, reforming the military health care system, and reducing the number of U.S. troops in Europe.

The report, titled “Spending Less, Spending Smarter,” gives the Department of Defense (DoD) concrete ideas on how to strengthen our national security by cutting wasteful spending. You can find a copy of the report on the POGO and TCS websites.

On Thursday, President Obama released his new military guidance document “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”

The Washington Post reported:

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and other officials, announced a strategy shift towards Asia and said budget issues will require more restrained use of military force.

The U.S. military will steadily shrink the Army and Marine Corps, reduce forces in Europe and probably make further cuts to the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration said Thursday in a preview of how it intends to reshape the armed forces after a decade of war.The downsizing of the Pentagon, prompted by the country’s dire fiscal problems, means that the military will depend more on coalitions with allies and avoid the large-scale counterinsurgency and nation-building operations that have marked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the Pentagon will invest more heavily in Special Operations forces, which have a smaller footprint and require less money than conventional units, as well as drone aircraft and cybersecurity, defense officials said. The military will also shift its focus to Asia to counter China’s rising influence and North Korea’s unpredictability. Despite the end of the Iraq war, administration officials said they would keep a large presence in the Middle East, where tensions with Iran are worsening.

But these so-called cuts are not really a reduction:

Although Pentagon officials have portrayed those cuts as painful, Obama said the defense budget is still expected to increase slightly — at about the rate of inflation — each year for the next decade.

The cuts may not alleviate the pressures to expand bases in the Asia-Pacific region:

Obama insisted that any cuts to the military will not come at the expense of an expanding U.S. presence in Asia, which he dubbed a “critical region.” To pay for those increases, the strategy suggests a need for significant cuts to the size of U.S. military ground forces in Europe, which has been a major Army operation for decades.

Panetta also delivered a speech in which he underscored the shift in strategy to the Pacific.

The same day as Obamaʻs speech, military, business and political leaders attending the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii Military Partnership Luncheon, celebrated that the U.S. was committed to militarization of the Pacific.  As Chad Blair reported in the Civil Beat:

But Hawaii’s unique position smack in the middle of the Asia-Pacific theater likely guarantees that federal money will continue to flow to the islands. As Obama himself said in announcing the new defense strategy, “As I made clear in Australia, we will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region.”

The Pacific and its many rim countries cover a vast geographical region. But, as Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command made clear, there are only three locations for America to “project its power outward” — Japan, the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii.

“You are in a position of advantage and have a very bright future ahead of you,” said Darnell.

Recalling Eisenhowerʻs words from 1953,  “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Lines between intelligence and military functions becoming blurred

April 28, 2011 

The New York Times reports that President Obama will announce that Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, will replace Robert Gates has Secretary of Defense, and that General David Petreaus will become director of the CIA.   But this trend towards the blending of intelligence and military functions is moving into dangerous territory where it is increasingly unclear what legally constitutes war and who are lawful combatants under international law. It is a reflection of the U.S. empire as a permanent state of war.

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President Obama’s decision to send an intelligence chief to the Pentagon and a four-star general to the Central Intelligence Agency is the latest evidence of a significant shift over the past decade in how the United States fights its battles — the blurring of lines between soldiers and spies in secret American missions abroad.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama is expected to announce that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, will become secretary of defense, replacing Robert M. Gates, and that Gen. David H. Petraeus will return from Afghanistan to take Mr. Panetta’s job at the C.I.A., a move that is likely to continue this trend.

As C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta hastened the transformation of the spy agency into a paramilitary organization, overseeing a sharp escalation of the C.I.A.’s bombing campaign in Pakistan using armed drone aircraft, and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operatives in remote parts of Afghanistan.

General Petraeus, meanwhile, has aggressively pushed the military deeper into the C.I.A.’s turf, using Special Operations troops and private security contractors to conduct secret intelligence missions. As commander of the United States Central Command in September 2009, he also signed a classified order authorizing American Special Operations troops to collect intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places outside of traditional war zones.

The result is that American military and intelligence operatives are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other as they carry out classified operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Some members of Congress have complained that this new way of war allows for scant debate about the scope and scale of military operations. In fact, the American spy and military agencies operate in such secrecy now that it is often hard to come by specific information about the American role in major missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya and Yemen.

The operations have also created tension with important allies like Pakistan, while raising fresh questions about whether spies and soldiers deserve the same legal protections.

Officials acknowledge that the lines between soldiering and spying have blurred. “It’s really irrelevant whether you call it a covert action or a military special operation,” said Dennis C. Blair, a retired four-star admiral and a former director of national intelligence.  “I don’t really think there is any distinction.”

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