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TBR News December 9, 2012

Dec 09 2012

The Voice of the White House


            Washington, D.C., December 7, 2012: “Times change and we must change with them. Israel once had unquestioned and extensive clout with the American government. Much of this was due to the Jewish vote in this country, coupled with the power of the American print and other media, almost entirely in Jewish hands. But with the rapid loss of media power, due to swiftly shrinking readership and, in the case of television, viewers, that aspect of power has shrunk dramatically. When Netanyahu came to Washington recently, he had a private interview with Obama, during the course of which, Bibi demanded that the United States attack Iran and bomb Tehran flat. He also demanded that the United States carpet bomb all of southern Lebanon to destroy a large network of Hezbollah rocket sites that could blanked all of Israel with rockets. In both cases, Obama refused the request. Netanyahu then mentioned the forthcoming election and told the President that if he did not follow order, the Jews would vote against him and support Romney. This had no affect on Obama and when Bibi went to the Israeli Embassy, he called the President a ‘fucking nigger’ and other uncomplimentary things. What Bibi, and the Ambassador, did not know was that the Army has bugged the Embassy so that no phone call, no secret cable, no email and no conversation goes unrecorded. The upshot of this is that Israel finds itself on Obama’s short list of people to dump and it is rumored, in the intelligence community, that Bibi will soon be forced out in favor of someone less bombastic.”


More Voices Urge Obama to Rein In Netanyahu

December 6, 2012

by Jim Lobe



WASHINGTON, Dec 6 2012 (IPS) – Increasingly distressed over the possible consequences of Israel’s recent steps to punish the Palestinian Authority (PA) and consolidate its hold on the West Bank, a number of prominent voices here are urging President Barack Obama to exert real pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse course.


His government’s announcement that it will build 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and expedite planning for the development of the area known as E-1, the last undeveloped area that links the northern and southern parts of the West Bank, is seen here as a particularly damaging provocation both for Palestinians and the administration itself.


“Construction in E-1 would make it almost impossible to provide a future Palestinian state the contiguity it needs to be viable and cut it off from East Jerusalem,” warned Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now (APN), a Jewish peace group.


“Without a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel is doomed to become a bi-national state, which means an end to the Zionist vision of an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic,” she added in an appeal to Obama to “personally intervene with …Netanyahu and demand that his government reverse its decision.”


Hers was one of a number of voices urging the president to take much stronger action against the Israeli leader, who is also withholding from the PA more than 100 million dollars in desperately needed tax receipts in retaliation for its successful bid at the U.N. General Assembly late last month to gain “non-observer state status”.


Unlike several European countries, notably Britain, France, Spain, Denmark, and Sweden, the U.S., one of only nine countries – out of 188 – that voted against the PA’s diplomatic upgrade, has not yet formally protested Israel’s actions.


Indeed, its initial reaction to Israel’s announcements was relatively muted. Calling the moves “counter-productive” to the goal of resuming peace talks, the White House simply “urge(d) Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions…” After three days, the State Department released a statement noting that construction in the E-1 area would be “especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.” Obama himself has been mum on the issue.


The relative mildness of the U.S. response to date has suggested to many here that the president has no intention of taking on the Israeli leader in a renewed effort to get a peace accord, a goal he pursued with considerable earnestness in the first 18 months of his administration before essentially giving up pending the outcome of this year’s election.


Given the Israel lobby’s strength with both sides of the aisle in Congress, Obama may want to avoid more bruising battles in his second term with Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition is considered likely to win next month’s parliamentary elections, and his powerful supporters here.


He may wish instead to focus on domestic priorities, further reducing the U.S. “footprint” in the Greater Middle East, and consolidating his “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific.


Nonetheless, there is little love lost between Obama and the Israeli leader, who all but publicly endorsed Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, during the election campaign.


A hint of that bad blood surfaced this week amidst reports that, in a high-powered, off-the-record meeting with prominent Israelis and their U.S. supporters at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center last weekend, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who remains close to Obama, accused Netanyahu of having “repeatedly betrayed” the president.


Emanuel, currently the mayor of Chicago, singled out Israel’s latest moves against the PA, which he reportedly described as particularly galling, given Washington’s support for Israel during its brief war last month against Hamas in Gaza and its lonely opposition to the PA’s diplomatic upgrade at the U.N.


Some believe the president may be waiting to take action until he resolves more-urgent business, notably averting the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the end of this month, then negotiating a bigger deficit deal early next year, and getting a new foreign-team up and running.


Others, including former President George W. Bush’s top Middle East aide and a staunch defender of Netanyahu, Elliott Abrams, believe Obama may be playing a double game by, on the one hand, muting U.S. displeasure with Israel while, on the other, encouraging Washington’s European allies to distance themselves from Israel – as they did during last week’s U.N. vote.


The decision by Germany, which has long defended the Jewish state’s actions in world forums, to abstain on the Palestinian vote, reportedly came as a particular shock. Indeed, the only European nation joining the U.S. in the lonely “no” column was the Czech Republic.


“The sense that the Netanyahu coalition can’t get along with Europe or the United States may hurt Netanyahu with Israeli voters – which is perhaps the precise objective of this entire effort,” Abrams wrote in National Review Online.


While such a strategy may indeed bear fruit, others insist that the stakes for the U.S. are too high to forgo more-assertive tactics toward Israel’s leadership, particularly as it has itself moved increasingly rightward. This is particularly true in light of the Arab Awakening and the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East.


“The clear trend is toward both greater religiosity and greater identification with the Palestinian cause,” noted Amb. Chas Freeman (ret.), a top U.S. Middle East specialist, in a recent lecture in which he also argued that Israel’s “mid-November assault on Gaza has simply re-inforced the regional view that Israel is an enemy with which it is impossible to peacefully co-exist” and that Israel’s land grabs were making a two-state solution increasingly improbable.


Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to former President Jimmy Carter, argued that Obama should seize back the initiative from the influence of the Israel lobby in Congress, stressing that he can overcome opposition there “if he stands firm for ‘the national interest’.”


Last week’s U.N. vote, he noted, “marks the nadir of the dramatically declined global respect for U.S. capability to cope with an issue that is morally troubling today and, in the long run, explosive.” The greatest opportunity for taking action, he added, would be in the first year of his second term.


Similarly, Paul Pillar, a career CIA analyst who also served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East from 2000 to 2005, called this week on his nationalinterest.org blog for Obama to treat Netanyahu much the same way as he is dealing with Republicans in Congress over the budget: “by taking his message campaign-style to the country.”


“His appeal over the heads of members of Congress is a recognition that the opposition party understands only the language of political force. But Mr. Obama also has had enough bitter and frustrating experience with Netanyahu to warrant reaching similar conclusions regarding dealing with Israel,” he wrote, noting that policy toward Israel has become “just as much a domestic issue as the budget,” particularly in light of the Israeli prime minister’s own interference in the U.S. elections.


Moreover, he noted, a very recent survey conducted by the Saban Center’s Shibley Telhami found that 62 percent of the Israeli Jewish electorate hold favourable opinions of Obama, suggesting that a “charm offensive” there by the U.S. president could yield dividends.



Collapse Of Antarctic Ice Sheet Would Likely Put Washington, D.C. Largely Underwater


University of Toronto and Oregon State University geophysicists have shown that should the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse and melt in a warming world – as many scientists are concerned it will – it is the coastlines of North America and of nations in the southern Indian Ocean that will face the greatest threats from rising sea levels.


The catastrophic increase in sea level, already projected to average between 16 and 17 feet around the world, would be almost 21 feet in such places as Washington, D.C., scientists say, putting it largely underwater. Many coastal areas would be devastated. Much of Southern Florida would disappear, according to researchers at Oregon State University


“There is widespread concern that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be prone to collapse, resulting in a rise in global sea levels,” says geophysicist Jerry X. Mitrovica, who, along with physics graduate student Natalya Gomez and Oregon State University geoscientist Peter Clark, are the authors of a new study to be published in the February 6 issue of the journal Science. “We’ve been able to calculate that not only will the rise in sea levels at most coastal sites be significantly higher than previously expected, but that the sea-level change will be highly variable around the globe,” adds Gomez.


“Scientists are particularly worried about the ice sheet because it is largely marine-based, which means that the bedrock underneath most of the ice sits under sea level,” says Mitrovica, director of the Earth System Evolution Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “The West Antarctic is fringed by ice shelves which act to stabilize the ice sheet – these shelves are sensitive to global warming, and if they break up, the ice sheet will have a lot less impediment to collapse.” This concern was reinforced further in a recent study led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington that showed that the entire region is indeed warming.



Pentagon reportedly planning to double size of its worldwide spy network

More than 1,600 new Defense Department agents will collect intelligence and report findings to CIA, said to be overstretched


December 2, 2012

by Dominic Rushe in New York

The Guardian 


The US military plans to send hundreds more spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan that will more than double the size of its espionage network, it was reported Sunday.


The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon’s military intelligence unit, is aiming to recruit 1,600 intelligence “collectors” – up from the several hundred overseas agents it has employed in recent years, sources told The Washington Post.


Combined with the enormous growth in the CIA since 9/11 attacks, the recruitment drive will create an unprecedented spy network. “The stars have been aligning on this for a while,” an anonymous former senior US military official involved in planning the DIA transformation told the Post.


The news is likely to heighten concerns about the accountability of the US military’s clandestine programmes amid mounting concerns about the CIA-controlled drone programme.


The United Nations said last month that it intends to investigate civilian deaths from drone strikes. The US has refused to even acknowledge the existence of a drone programme in Pakistan. The US military is not subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA, creating yet more potential controversies.


With the US pulling out of Afghanistan and operations in Iraq winding down, government officials are looking to change the focus of the DIA away from battlefield intelligence and to concentrate on gathering intelligence on issues including Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons trades in North Korea and Iran, and the military build up in China.


“It’s the nature of the world we’re in,” said the senior defense official, who is involved in overseeing the changes at the DIA. “We just see a long-term era of change before things settle.”


The DIA’s new recruits would include military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But US officials told the Post that the growth will be driven a new generation of spies who will take their orders from the Department of Defense.


The DIA is increasingly recruiting civilians to fill out its ranks as it looks to place agents as academics and business executives in militarily sensitive positions overseas.


Officials said the sheer number of agents that the DIA is looking to recruit presents its own challenge as the agency may struggle to find enough overseas vacancies for its clandestine agents. “There are some definite challenges from a cover perspective,” a senior defense official said.


The news comes as the Obama administration faces growing criticism about its use of CIA drones to target enemies overseas. The drone programme will continue under the aegis of the CIA. The DIA agents will concentrate on military intelligence, tracking aircraft development for example, and will report findings to the CIA.


The recruitment drive comes after a decade of enormous growth period at the CIA following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Since the 9/11 attacks the CIA’s counterterrorism center has grown from 300 to over 2,000 agents.


But despite the hiring bonanza, officials said that the agency has become overstretched as its activities worldwide have broadened. Hundreds of military assignments are expected to be turned over to the newly arrived DIA operatives.


“The CIA doesn’t want to be looking for surface-to-air missiles in Libya” when it’s also under pressure to assess the opposition in Syria, a former high-ranking US military intelligence officer told The Post.


The plan does face opposition in Washington, where critics believe its terms are overly generous to the CIA. Turf wars broke out between the two intelligence agencies after previous efforts by the Pentagon to expand its intelligence role — particularly during Donald Rumsfeld’s time as defense secretary.


This time the project is being driven by former CIA agents including Michael Vickers, the top intelligence official at the Pentagon and a CIA veteran, and Leon Panetta, a former CIA director and the current secretary of the Defense Department.



Stirrings of Secession. Americans are already seceding from one anotherracially, culturally, politically.

November 29, 2012
by Patrick J. Buchanan 

            “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …”

            So begins the Declaration of Independence of the 13 colonies from the king and country to which they had given allegiance since the settlers first came to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.

            The declaration was signed by 56 angry old white guys who had had enough of what the Cousins were doing to them. In seceding from the mother country, these patriots put their lives, fortunes and honor on the line.

            Four score and five years later, 11 states invoked the same right “to dissolve the political bands” of the Union and form a new nation. After 620,000 had perished, the issue of a state’s right to secede was settled at Appomattox. If that right had existed, it no longer did.

            What are we to make, then, of petitions from 25,000 citizens of each of seven Southern states—116,000 from Texas alone—to secede?

            While no one takes this movement as seriously as men took secession in 1861, the sentiments behind it ought not to be minimized. For they bespeak a bristling hostility to the federal government and a dislike bordering on detestation of some Americans for other Americans, as deep as it was on the day Beauregard’s guns fired on Fort Sumter.

            Our Pledge of Allegiance still speaks of “one nation under God, indivisible,” but that is far from the reality in the America of 2012.

            The social, cultural, moral and political revolutions of the 1960s, against which Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan inveighed to win their 49-state triumphs, have now captured half of the country.

            One America believes our history is a catalog of crimes against people of color, that women have an inviolable right to abortions, that condoms should be handed out to sexually active teens in schools where Darwinism should be taught as revealed truth, while Bibles, prayers and religious symbols should be permanently expelled.

            The other America sees all this as unpatriotic, godless and decadent.

            One America believes in equality of rights; the other demands equality of results brought about through the redistribution of income and wealth, affirmative action, racial and gender set-asides, and quotas.
One America believes in gun control; the other in gun rights.

            Now that Christmas and Easter have been expunged from public schools and the public square and the popular culture has been thoroughly de-Christianized, we Americans seem to have but one holy day of obligation that brings us all together: Super Bowl Sunday.

            Where one America divinizes diversity, the other seeks out our lost unity and community. Half the country pays no federal income taxes, but half depends on federal benefits.

            The occasions when we come together as one, as after 9/11 and during natural disasters such as Katrina and Sandy, seem few and farther between, and the resurrected unity rarely lasts.

            Could today’s America come together to build an interstate highway system or send astronauts to the moon, as we did just seven years after John Glenn first orbited the Earth?

             Environmentalists would have killed Ike’s highway system and the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, as today they seek to stop the fracking for oil and natural gas and block the Keystone XL pipeline.

 As for states seceding, however, is that really a solution to national disintegration? Tens of millions with Blue State mindsets live in Red State America, and vice versa. While folks in Texas may talk of seceding from the Union, folks in Austin talk of seceding from Texas.

            Yet we should take seriously what is behind this desire to separate and sever ties, for it mirrors what is happening across our civilization.

            The West is decomposing.

            British Tories seek to cut ties to the European Union. Scots want to leave Britain. Catalans vote to divorce from Spain, to which they have been wedded since the 15th century. Flemish talk of leaving Walloons behind in Belgium. Northern Europeans are weary of carrying their profligate southern brethren and muse about cutting Greece adrift and letting it float out into the Mediterranean.

            And Americans are already seceding from one another—ethnically, culturally, politically. Middle-class folks flee high-tax California, as Third World immigrants, legal and illegal, pour in to partake of the cornucopia of social welfare benefits the Golden Land dispenses.

            High-tax states like New York now send tens of thousands of pension checks to Empire State retirees in tax-free Florida. Communities of seniors are rising that look like replicas of the suburbs of the 1950s. People gravitate toward their own kind. Call it divorce, American-style.

            What author William Bishop called ” The Big Sort”—the sorting out of people by political beliefs—proceeds. Eighteen states have gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections. A similar number have gone Republican.

            “Can we all just get along?” asked Rodney King during the Los Angeles riot of 1992. Well, if we can’t, we can at least dwell apart.

            After all, it’s a big country.

Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his books State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, and Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? are available from Amazon.com



Donald Trump destroys Scotland



Greed and arrogance win when the mogul decides to build a golf course in an environmentally pristine location


August 3, 2012

by Mary Elizabeth Wiliams



 Nearly 30 years ago, director Bill Forsyth made a gentle comedy about a brash American tycoon’s attempt to gobble up a quaint Scottish town. The result was “Local Hero,” one of the great sleeper classics of modern cinema. So when, a generation later, a real Yankee big shot tried to muscle his way in to Aberdeenshire, on northeast Scotland’s most precious coastal land, there was no way it wasn’t going to be the stuff of another complicated, colorful tale. It just turned out to be a much, much rougher story.


Director Anthony Baxter’s horrifying, frequently outrage-inspiring “You’ve Been Trumped” chronicles the true saga of what happened when Donald Trump — a man described in the film as “someone who just isn’t used to hearing ‘no’” — decided to build a golf resort in a territory so environmentally unique it’s been called the Amazon rain forest of Scotland. Suffice to say, things got ugly. Ugly like a Trump casino. As Baxter demonstrates with agonizing, unflinching clarity, the result was a community and a land that were literally rolled over in the name of corporate greed — and with the apparent blessing of the local authorities.


The series of unfortunate events that befalls the community when an irascible mogul comes to town can only be described as flat-out surreal. Where to even begin? There’s the way Trump’s application to build in the area – rejected on existing environmental limitations on the special scientific interest site — magically wins approval two years later. There’s the way he repeatedly and sneeringly refers to the put-upon Balmedie locals — in particular Michael Forbes, the feisty farmer who resolutely refused to sell him his property, as “disgusting pigs.” There’s the litany of nightmares the community endures as Trump and company plow their way through their world – having their water and their power cut off, having their property damaged and, for the kicker, then getting billed for the wreckage. There are the petty disputes over clearly defined property lines. There’s the heartbreaking footage of the area’s beautiful dunes, gone forever overnight, and the words of the scientist who calls the Trump development “a tragedy.” And, most jaw-droppingly of all, there’s the scene in which Baxter and his filmmaking partner get arrested by a gung-go police force, get their cameras confiscated, and spend a day in lockup — for simply walking around and asking questions.


Of course, the golden promise that Trump offered from the moment he swanned in on his private jet – that he would create thousands of local jobs, that he would drive tourism into the area — would be inarguably tempting to almost any small community. It’s not as if the Scottish authorities who abetted in a development project gone amok woke up one morning and thought, hey, let’s sabotage a bunch of people and screw over the environment! Instead, as Baxter weaves the story, it seems more likely they were merely seduced by a smooth-talking salesman who seemed to represent style and celebrity.


The film is told without narration but with an unmistakable voice. Baxter makes no bones about who the heroes and villains of his story are. (You probably wouldn’t have much ambivalence if you’d been thrown in jail too.) Trump is never shown as anything but a pompous, arrogant blowhard — a portrayal I suspect may not have been that challenging for Baxter to pull together. In contrast, the besieged townsfolk are a resilient, determined lot, a bunch of Davids getting everything within an inch of their homes getting torn up by the ultimate Goliath. Yet film should have a point of view. It should make a persuasive argument. And you know what? Show me an old lady who doesn’t have any water in her house because somebody built a road over her spring and I’ll say that if you think there are two sides to every story, you’re mental.


What makes “You’ve Been Trumped” so powerful is how sickeningly familiar it is. Watching it, you’ll likely find yourself wondering, astonished, “How could these guys get away with this?” — followed quickly by the memory of everything that’s happened in the global economy for the past several years. As one of Baxter’s boggled subjects says at one point, when it comes to land, “You don’t nakedly grab it.” Well, you don’t unless you can, right? And that’s the heart of the story right there – what happens when the grabbing gets naked. It’s an elegiac love letter to a very special part of the world, an inspiring portrait of a community’s fortitude, and a searing indictment of capitalism run riot.




Laptop Seizures by US Government Highlight 9/11-Era Climate of Fear


December 4, 2012

by Glenn Greenwald


Whenever I speak about the systematic abridgment of basic rights in the post-9/11 era, there is a point I try to make that is quite elusive yet, in my view, of unparalleled significance in understanding the implications of allowing this to happen. When a government is permitted to transgress the limits that have been imposed on its power (in the case of the US, imposed by the Constitution), the relationship between the government and the citizenry changes fundamentally


In a free society, those who wield political power fear those over whom the power is wielded: specifically, they harbor a healthy fear of what will happen to them if they abuse that power. But the hallmark of tyranny is that the opposite dynamic prevails: the citizenry fears its government because citizens know that there are no actual, meaningful limits on how power can be exercised. A nation in which liberties are systematically abused – in which limitations on state power are ignored without consequence – is one which gives rise to a climate of fear.


This climate of fear, in turn, leads citizens to refrain from exercising their political rights, especially to refrain from posing meaningful challenges to government authority, because they know the government can act against them without real constraints. This is a more insidious and more effective form of tyranny than overt abridgment of rights: by inducing – intimidating – a citizenry into relinquishing their own rights out of fear, a state can maintain the illusion of freedom while barring any meaningful dissent from or challenge to its power. Here’s one four-minute video clip where I describe a personal example to illustrate how this pernicious fear climate operates; here’s another slightly longer video clip where I elaborate on this point more


This morning, the New York Times reports on the US government’s practice of targeting US dissidents – or those whom it believes to be engaging in dissent – with extremely invasive border searches, including seizing (and sometimes keeping for months) their laptops and other electronic data, all without any warrants. I’ve reported many times before on this practice and won’t repeat any of that here. Instead, I want to highlight several of the examples provided by the Times as it underscores so powerfully how this climate of fear functions:


“Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker and the recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship, estimates that she has been detained more than 40 times upon returning to the United States. She has been questioned for hours about her meetings abroad, her credit cards and notes have been copied, and after one trip her laptop, camera and cellphone were seized for 41 days.

“Ms. Poitras said these interrogations largely subsided after a Salon article describing her experiences was published in April, but she is editing her latest film in Europe to avoid crossing the border with her research and interviews. (The film, the third in a series about the war on terror, focuses on domestic surveillance.)

“‘I’m taking more and more extreme measures, to the point where I’m actually editing outside the country,’ she said.


Just think about that. In addition to the credentials listed by the Times, she produced a 2006 film that documented the actions and motives of anti-US insurgents in Iraq, one that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and then produced a second film on radicals in Yemen. She’s now working on an exposé of the US surveillance state and how domestically invasive it is, featuring a whistleblower, William Binney, who was an NSA official for 32 years (several months ago, the Times published an eight-minute preview clip of that extraordinary film, for which I was interviewed by Poitras).


So here is a highly accomplished documentarian who has produced two films and is working on a third – all of which, in one way or another, pose challenges to US policy. Despite the fact that she has never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime, she has been subjected to serial invasion and harassment by the US government – so much so that she is now afraid, quite rationally, of being in her own country while editing her film.


As she has conveyed to me for that article I wrote in April, Poitras is afraid to talk on a US telephone to anyone involved in her project, travel into her own country with any materials relating to her film work, or physically keep any of her unedited film on US soil. Does that sound like the behavior of a citizen and a filmmaker of a free country? Then there’s this, about another US citizen:

“Pascal Abidor, who is studying for his doctorate in Islamic studies, sued the government after he was handcuffed and detained at the border during an Amtrak trip from Montreal to New York. He was questioned and placed in a cell for several hours. His laptop was searched and kept for 11 days. . . .

“Mr. Abidor said he had also changed his travel patterns: because he is regularly detained at the border, he keeps little data on his laptop and rents a car when driving back to the United States from Canada, so he is not stranded waiting for the next train. Still, he said he experienced ‘a near panic attack’ every time he returned to the United States.

“‘I have not done anything illegal, nor have I tried to hide anything I’ve done,’ he said. ‘I’ve told them where I’ve traveled. I’m studying something that’s legal. I learned a language millions of people speak. I don’t understand how a variety of legal acts can lead to suspicion.'”


Abidor is a US citizen (he also holds French citizenship). His parents live in Brooklyn, and he was traveling to visit them the first time this happened. He has never been charged with any crime, nor notified that he is suspected of one. But, obviously for good reason, he is now petrified of traveling into his own country, refrains from flying or taking a train, and feels compelled to erase almost all data from his laptop – all because he is studying to be a scholar in Islamic studies and is learning Arabic. As he put it previously:

“As an American, I’ve always been taught that the Constitution protects me against unreasonable searches and seizures. But having my laptop searched and then confiscated for no reason at all made me question how much privacy we actually have. This has had an extreme chilling effect on my work, studies and private life – now I will have to go to untenable lengths to assure that my academic sources remain confidential and my personal dignity is maintained when I travel.”


Does that sound like a citizen and academic of a free country? Then there’s this example, perhaps the most amazing one from today’s Times article:
             “A laptop belonging to Lisa M. Wayne, a criminal defense lawyer, was searched after she returned from a trip to Mexico.

“Ms. Wayne said her main concern was the information about clients’ cases stored on her laptop: she is a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which is a co-plaintiff in the Abidor suit, along with the National Press Photographers Association. But at the time of the search, she was unaware of her rights and felt pressured to hand over her computer.

“‘It was very clear to me that the longer I objected or interrogated them, the longer I was going to be detained, and I had a connecting flight,’ she said. ‘It’s an intimidating experience. It was not consensual other than, you comply with the rules.'”


Even a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is sufficiently intimidated by these measures that she reacted only with paralysis and compliance: she just dutifully handed over her laptop to government agents to search through and copy at will. And it requires little prescience to understand the message being sent here to other lawyers or activists who challenge government policy: if someone in Wayne’s position can and will be subjected to these invasions, who won’t be?


Laptop seizures are far from the only tactic employed by the US government to put government opponents in a state of fear and thus deter others from engaging in similar dissident conduct. That is also the aim of measures such as the unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers; the prosecution of Muslim critics of US foreign policy for “material support of terrorism”, the targeted FBI entrapment and “preemptive prosecution” of US Muslims, NATO protesters, anarchist activists, and others with ideologies the US government dislikes; and – most of all – the ubiquitous surveillance state.


What makes this tactic particularly effective is that it will not affect those who have no interest in engaging in real dissent against the government. If you’re not a filmmaker who challenges the prevailing government narrative (Poitras), or a scholar trying to understand rather than demonize currents in the Muslim world (Abidor), or a lawyer involved in groups suing the US government for unconstitutional behavior (Wayne), or an activist advocating for WikiLeaks and working to protect online anonymity and thus thwart government spying and control of the internet (Jacob Appelbaum), or someone who supports Bradley Manning’s legal defense (David House), then you’re not going to be subjected to this sort of intimidation and rights-invasions, and it’s thus easy for you to simply assume that it does not exist.


In essence, the bargain offered by the state is as follows: if you meaningfully challenge what we’re doing, then we will subject you to harsh recriminations. But if you passively comply with what we want, refrain from challenging us, and acquiesce to our prevailing order, then you are “free” and will be left alone. The genius is that those who accept this bargain are easily convinced that repression does not exist in the US, that it only takes place in those Other Bad countries, because, as a reward for their compliant posture, they are not subjected to it.


But even in most of the worst tyrannies, those who are content with the status quo and who refrain from meaningfully challenging prevailing power systems are free of punishment. Rights exist to protect dissidents and those who challenge orthodoxies, not those who acquiesce to those orthodoxies or support state power; the latter group rarely needs any such protections. The effect, and intent, of this climate of fear is to force as many citizens as possible into the latter group.


The true measure of how free a society is how its dissidents are treated, not those who refrain from meaningful anti-government activism and dissent. To apply that metric to the US, just look at what the American citizens quoted in this Times article this morning are saying and doing.



Fears Confirmed: Domestic Drones ‘Fly Regularly’ in US Airspace


December 5, 2012

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

by Common Dreams


 Digital watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published several thousand pages of new drone license records on Wednesday confirming innumerable theorists’ fears: that drones “regularly fly” in “national airspace all around the country.”


 The records, which were obtained by way of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the group writes on their Deeplinks blog.  


According to the records, the Air Force has been testing out a variety of drones, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones to the larger Predator and Reaper models largely responsible for countless civilian and foreign military deaths.


 Breaking down the shocking capabilities of the various machines, Deeplinks writes that the technologies “takes surveillance to a whole new level.” They continue: 


According to a recent Gizmodo article, the Puma AE (“All Environment”) drone can land anywhere, “either in tight city streets or onto a water surface if the mission dictates, even after a near-vertical ‘deep stall’ final approach.” Another drone, Insitu’s ScanEagle, which the Air Force has flown near Virginia Beach, sports an “inertial-stabilized camera turret, [that] allows for the tracking of a target of interest for extended periods of time, even when the target is moving and the aircraft nose is seldom pointed at the target.” Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird, which the Air Force has flown near Victorville, California, is capable of staying in the air for 16-24 hours at a time and carries a gigapixel camera and a “Forester foliage-penetration radar” system designed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Perhaps the scariest is the technology carried by a Reaper drone the Air Force is flying near Lincoln, Nevada and in areas of California and Utah. This drone uses “Gorgon Stare” technology, which Wikipedia defines as “a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city.” This imagery “can then be analyzed by humans or an artificial intelligence, such as the Mind’s Eye project” being developed by DARPA.



Arctic lost record snow and ice last year as data shows changing climate

Findings from US science agency Noaa suggest widespread and irreversible changes because of a warming climate


December 5, 2012

by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent



            The Arctic  lost more snow and sea ice between October 2011 and August 2012 than any year other on record, a premier US science agency reported on Wednesday , delivering the fullest picture to date of a region in the throes of rapid, system-wide change.


The Arctic lost record snow cover and sea ice last year – even though air temperatures were not unusually high.


By the end of August, several weeks before the end of the summer melt season, Arctic sea ice had retreated to its smallest extent since satellite records began in 1979.


In Greenland, virtually the entire ice sheet – 97% – sustained some degree of thawing during a period of a few days in July, including on some of the highest peaks.


Meanwhile, blooms of algae sprouted beneath the permanent sea ice in the middle of the Arctic ocean, feeding off the sunlight filtering through melt pools.


The report cites a massive bloom of phytoplankton beneath the Chukchi sea ice stretching for more than 60 miles, as well as algae blooms near melt holes in the central Arctic.


On land, shrubs are spreading across the lower Arctic because of a longer growing season, but other tundra plant types – such as moss and lichen – are declining. The change in vegetation is also creating favourable conditions for wildfires, the report said.


In northern Europe, the Arctic fox is heading towards extinction because of the advance of the red fox.


The findings, prepared by a team of 140 scientists overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), suggest widespread changes in the Arctic, because of a warming climate. The changes are unlikely to be reversible.


“What we have is a body of evidence that the Arctic is changing in significant ways and throughout the system,” Martin Jeffries, a co-editor of the 2012 report and an Arctic science advisor to the Office of Naval Research, said. “It is system-wide and these changes feed on each other.”


It is also unlikely the Arctic will recover in the near future, he said. Those changes, in the form of retreating summer sea ice and snow cover, in turn make the region even more vulnerable, exposing more of it to the sun’s rays, Jeffries warned.


“As the sea ice and snow cover retreat, we’re losing bright, highly reflective surfaces, and increasing the area of darker surfaces – both land and ocean – exposed to sunlight. This increases the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting –a self-reinforcing cycle.”


The report, an annual exercise by Noaa since 2006, was presented at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.


It further consolidates the growing body of evidence that climate change has exacted significant effects on the Arctic. Some of those changes are already altering political calculations – with Russia, Canada and America trying to stake their claims to the vast oil and mineral potential of an Arctic that could be entirely free of summer sea-ice within a matter of years.


The gloomiest scientists say that summer sea ice could be entirely gone within the decade, other predictions stretch to mid-century for an “ice-diminished” Arctic.


“What it seems now is that even if we have a modest increase in greenhouse gases that that gets amplified in the Arctic,” said James Overland, a Noaa oceanographer. “We are going to continue to see an increase in all of these changes at least for the next few decades.”


Jason Box, a polar researcher at Ohio State University who oversaw the Greenland portion of the report, told the meeting the widespread melting last summer could signal a climate tipping point.


“In 2012 Greenland crossed a threshold where for the first time we saw complete surface melting at the highest elevations in what we used to call the dry snow zone,” he told reporters at the AGU. “As Greenland crosses the threshold and starts really melting in the upper elevations it really won’t recover from that unless the climate cools significantly for an extended period of time which doesn’t seem very likely.”


The Barack Obama Story (Updated)
How a Community Organizer and Constitutional Law Professor Became a Robot President

by Tom Engelhardt


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500


Dear President Obama,


Nothing you don’t know, but let me just say it: the world’s a weird place. In my younger years, I might have said “crazy,” but that was back when I thought being crazy was a cool thing and only regretted I wasn’t.


I mean, do you ever think about how you ended up where you are? And I’m not actually talking about the Oval Office, though thats undoubtedly a weird enough story in its own right.


After all, you were a community organizer and a constitutional law professor and now, if you stop to think about it, here’s where you’ve ended up: you’re using robots to assassinate people you personally pick as targets.  You’ve overseen and escalated off-the-books robot air wars in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and are evidently considering expanding them to Mali and maybe even Libya.  You’ve employed what will someday be defined as a weapon of mass destruction, launching history’s first genuine cyberwar against a country that isn’t threatening to attack us.  You’ve agreed to the surveillance of more Americans every which way from Sunday than have ever been listened in on or (given emailing, texting, and tweeting) read.  You came into office proclaiming a “sunshine” policy and yet your administration has classified more documents (92,064,862 in 2011) than any other in our history.  Despite signing a Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act, you’ve used the Espionage Act on more government whistleblowers and leakers than all previous administrations combined, and yet your officials continue to leak secret material they see as advantageous to the White House without fear of prosecution.  Though you deep-sixed the Bush administration name for it — “the Global War on Terror” (ridding the world of GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever) — you’ve accepted the idea that we are “at war” with terror and on a “global battlefield” which (see above) you’re actually expanding.  You’re still keeping uncharged, untried prisoners of not-quite-war in an offshore military prison camp of injustice that, on the day you came into office, you promised to close within a year.  You’re overseeing planning that, according to recent reports, will continue the Afghan War in some form until at least 2017 or possibly well beyond.  You preside over an administration that has encouraged the further militarization of the CIA (to which you appointed as director not a civilian but a four-star general you assumedly wanted to tuck safely away during campaign season).  You’ve overseen the further militarization of the State Department; you’ve encouraged a major expansion of the special operations forces and its secret presidential army, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the U.S. military/  You’ve overseen the further post-9/11 expansion of an already staggering national security budget and the further growth of our labyrinthine “Intelligence Community” — and though who remembers anymore, you even won what must have been the first prospective Nobel Prize for Peace more or less before you did a damn thing, and then thanked the Nobel Committee with a full-throated defense of the right of the U.S. to do what it pleased, militarily, on the planet! And if that isn’t a weird legacy-in-formation, what is?


I mean, you have my sympathies. The Bush administration did you no favors. You inherited hell for a foreign policy and when it came to matters like Guantanano, the Republicans in Congress hung you out to dry.


Still, who woulda thunk it?  Don’t these “accomplishments” of yours sometimes amaze you? Don’t you ever wake up in the middle of the night wondering just who you are? Don’t you, like me, open your eyes some mornings in a state of amazement about just how you ended up on this particular fast-morphing planet? Are you as stunned as I am by the fact that a tanker carrying liquid natural gas is now making a trip from Norway to Japan across the winter waters of the Arctic? Twenty days at sea lopped off an otherwise endless voyage via the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Did you ever think you’d live to see the opening of the Northeast Passage in winter? Don’t you find it ironic that fossil fuels, which helped burn that oceanic hole in the Arctic ice, were the first commercial products shipped through those open waters? Don’t you find it just a tad odd that you can kill someone in distant Yemen without the slightest obstacle and yet you’ve been able to do next to nothing when it comes to global warming? I mean, isn’t that world-championship weird, believe-it-or-not bizarre, and increasingly our everyday reality?


Aren’t you amazed that your Pentagon has recently issued a directive meant to ensure that armed robots will never kill human beings on their own? Not so long ago, that was the stuff of sci-fi; now, it’s the subject of a bureaucratic document. Tell that to Skynet someday, right? 


Who could make this stuff up? Maybe William Gibson — maybe he already did — but not me and my guess is not you either.


Putting Yourself in a Box


I know that we humans are terrible at predicting the future. Still, if I had told you back in, say, 2003 that, in the wake of a lawless administration, we would vote a constitutional lawyer into the White House as a “peace candidate” and he’d do exactly what you’ve done so far (see, again, above), you wouldn’t have believed it, would you? And if I had told you it would be you, I’ll put my money on your laughing me out of any room (not that I’ve ever been in a room with you).


Just the other day, something leaked by two “administration officials” onto the front-page of the New York Times got me started on this letter. In a piece headlined “Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy,” reporter Scott Shane wrote that, fearing you might lose to Mitt Romney, you were rushing to develop “a formal rule book,” including “explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures.” You won the election, of course, but Shane claims you’re “still pushing” — though at a far more leisurely pace — “to make the rules formal and resolve… exactly when lethal action is justified.”


To use your term, you are putting “a legal architecture” in place for a process of White House-directed robotic assassination — you call them “targeted killings” — that will assumedly be long-lasting. These are acts that in the years before 9/11, as Shane points out, Washington used to condemn when Israel committed them and that most countries consider illegal to this day.


I understand why the idea of Mitt Romney as assassin-in-chief made you nervous and why you wanted to put him in a straitjacket of drone codification. But it’s hard not to ask — and I’m not the first to do so — what about you? It’s human nature to trust ourselves over the other guy, but has it occurred to you that some of us might have the same reaction to you at the helm of a globalizing robot war as you had to Mitt?


In any case, haven’t you already managed to do to yourself what you planned to do to him — without cutting down the killing appreciably, including the deaths of civilians, children, at least four American citizens, and a Yemeni deputy provincial governor who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda? If press reports are to be believed, you’ve already been fully involved in regularizing, bureaucratizing, legalizing, and codifying your drone wars. In other words, you’ve put yourself deep inside a developing system in which you no longer have a hope in hell of imagining the world any other way.


Here’s a little history of the process (not that you of all people don’t already know it): You inherited an ad hoc Bush administration program of CIA drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal borderlands that started in 2004 and was originally aimed at top al-Qaeda types. But as will happen, those “targeted killings” became ever less targeted, spreading to lower level al-Qaeda types, Taliban leaders, Taliban “foot soldiers,” and finally what came to be called “signature strikes” against “patterns of behavior.” (A group of military-age males with weapons, say, in an area believed to be controlled by Islamic extremists.)


We know that President Bush took you aside at the changeover moment and urged you to continue the drone wars in Pakistan (along with his cyberwar program against Iran). And though it must have been very new to you, you did so, expanding them in Pakistan and extending them in a major way to Yemen, while ever more drone bases were built in key areas of the world and ever more drones ordered up.


As this happened, those wars became ever less ad hoc, ever more organized and bureaucratic. A regular process for deciding on individual “targets” came into being. You had your “baseball cards” (PowerPoint slides on potential individuals to target) that you discussed in your regular “Terror Tuesday” meetings.  Where once George W. Bush kept in his desk drawer a “personal scorecard,” a list of bad guys to cross out whenever one of them was killed, you now have an official “kill list.” Where once these strikes were just launched, you got the Office of Legal Counsel to produce a 50-page legalistic justification for using drones to kill a U.S. citizen. It and other legal memos on drone use have never been released to the public or even to congressional leaders. Still, your top officials feel free to use them to their advantage in public defense of U.S. counterterror policies. (Note that the Bush administration did the same thing with its torture policies, producing Justice Department “torture memos” that “legalized” acts which, in almost any other context, or if committed by any enemy nation, would have been denounced as nightmarish acts of international illegality and that, in the past, the U.S. had prosecuted as crimes of war.)


Now, Shane reports, you’ve had the urge to codify it all and so institutionalize a presidential right to conduct assassination campaigns without regard to Congress, the American people, national sovereignty, the world, or previous standards of legality. And that is an accomplishment of the first order. I mean — Voilà! — you’ve officially created the box that no one can think outside of.


You are — so the story goes — the most powerful man on Earth. From the Oval Office, you should have the widest of wide-angle views. But sometimes don’t you feel that you’re trapped like a rat inside a maze in part (but only in part) of your own creation?


Dreaming Before Its Too Late


Of course, I’ve never gotten nearer to the Oval Office than Pennsylvania Avenue, so what do I know about how it’s like there? Still, I’m older than you and I do know how repetitive acts rigidify, how one possible way morphs into the only way, how one limited system of living comes to seem like the only option on Earth. It happens with age. It also happens in Washington.


The other day, I noted this little passage in a New York Times report on the discovery of huge quantities of ice on Mercury: “Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for [the spacecraft] Messenger, said there was enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep.” I couldn’t help smiling. After all, the Washington I read about already seems enclosed in a block of ice, which is why, when it comes to the world, it so seldom thinks a new thought or acts in a new way.


If only you could reverse time and take a step back into the world of the community organizer.  After all, what does such an organizer do, if not try to free people from the rigidities of their lives, the boxes they can’t think outside of, the blocks of ice they’re encased in, the acts that have come to dominate them and regularly wipe out any sense of alternative possibilities?  What’s the point of community organizing if not to allow people to begin to imagine other ways of being and becoming?


Maybe you don’t even realize how you’ve been boxed into, and boxed yourself into, the codifications from hell, almost all based on our militarizing way of life. Outside that box where the bureaucratized killing takes place, where the “wars” are fought, and the battle plans are endlessly recalibrated in ways too familiar to matter, outside the airless world of the National Security Complex where one destructive set of ways has become the only way, there surely are other possibilities that could result in other kinds of worlds. After all, just because you’re trapped in a box doesn’t mean that the world is. Look at the Middle East. For better or worse, it visibly isn’t.


Back in 2009 when you first took office, I wrote a speech for you. In it, “you” told the American people that you were “ending, not expanding, two wars.” I knew that you would never give such a speech (no less read mine), but I did believe that, despite the “wisdom” of Washington, you could indeed have put both of Bush’s wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — behind you.  We’ll never know, of course.  You chose another path, a “surge” of 30,000 troops, CIA operatives, special forces operators, private contractors, and State Department types that led to yet more disastrous years in Afghanistan.


Unfortunately, the ghostly what-ifs of history count for nothing. Still, haven’t you ever wondered whether something else wasn’t possible? Whether, for instance, sending bombs and missiles into poverty-stricken, essentially energy-less, essentially foodless Yemen was really and truly the way to world peace?


My apologies! I let sarcasm get the better of me. How about: really and truly the way to enhance U.S. national security? Honestly, Yemen? Most Americans couldn’t find it on the map to win the lottery, and according to reports, American drone and air strikes have actually increased membership in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And yet you won’t stop. You probably can’t.


Similarly, don’t you ever wonder whether a “pivot” to Asia, mainly involving military power and guaranteed to exacerbate regional relations in the Pacific is the best way to deal with the rising power of China? After all, what would it mean to go to war with the country which now holds well more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt? Wouldn’t it be like shooting ourselves in the foot, if not the head?


And don’t you ever wonder whether a labyrinth of 17 (yes, 17!) major agencies and outfits in the U.S. “Intelligence Community” (and even more minor ones), spending at least $75 billion annually, really makes us either safe or smart? Mightn’t we be more “intelligent” and less paranoid about the world if we spent so much less and relied instead on readily available open-source material?


I mean, there are so many things to dream about. So many ghostly possibilities to conjure up. So many experimental acts that offer at least a chance at another planet of possibility. It would be such a waste if you only reverted to your community-organizer or constitutional-law self after you left office, once “retirement syndrome” kicked in, once those drones were taking off at the command of another president and it was too late to do a thing. You could still dream then, but what good would those dreams do us or anyone else?


Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, his history of the Cold War, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050


Shrinking NATO


December 6, 2012

by Doug Bandow

American Spectator

NATO is moving to station Patriot missiles in Turkey along its border with Syria. But if war erupts, it won’t be the Europeans doing the fighting.

The organization is moving toward a first. With the Europeans continuing to shrink their militaries, it may eventually become an alliance without a military, at least an effective one.

From its start the organization has generated international dependency. While Europeans understandably concentrated on economic reconstruction after World War II, they proved little more ready to spend their money on their defense after they recovered. Throughout the Cold War — when there really was a threat to their security — the Europeans preferred to let Washington provide it.

At the time, the U.S. also carried a disproportionate defense burden in Asia, eventually adding the Middle East and even Central Asia to its long list of military responsibilities. So American officials routinely badgered their NATO allies to do more, but the Europeans just as routinely broke their promises to do so. It was almost as if Uncle Sam enjoyed being taken advantage of.

At least the trans-Atlantic alliance had a purpose during the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact there was no longer the slightest chance that Moscow could dominate Europe, let alone Eurasia. The Europeans were capable of defending themselves against whatever dangers remained. 

NATO should have transformed itself. America could have turned the alliance over to its European members. The Western Europeans then could have decided whether to add the newly freed Central and Eastern European nations. Washington and Brussels could have built a strong cooperative relationship to handle issues of genuine trans-Atlantic concern. 

Instead, NATO’s organizational survival instincts took over. Its members decided to get involved in “out of area” activities, that is, controversies in which they had no direct interest. As a result, countries increasingly drag each other into conflicts that they would have better avoided. America ended up fighting in Kosovo, occupying Bosnia, and intervening in Libya for no good reason. The Europeans have spent more than a decade trying to turn Afghanistan into a modern, democratic nation state, also without justification.

Yet NATO’s non-American combat capabilities continue to atrophy. The Europeans have essentially decided that it isn’t worth their while to have militaries capable of doing what militaries are supposed to do: fight wars.

A recent Brookings Institution report, “The Implications of Military Spending Cuts for NATO’s Largest Members,” highlights the problem. Before retiring, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates blasted the Europeans for doing so little as to court “collective military irrelevance.” NATO Secretary General and relentless cheerleader Anders Fogh Rasmussen nevertheless admitted: “if European defense spending cuts continue, Europe’s ability to be a stabilizing force even in its neighborhood will rapidly disappear.”

Several authors contributed to the paper. Admitted editor Clara Marina O’Donnell: “current military spending trends are reducing the ability of most NATO allies to contribute to international security.” Unless the Europeans change course — which seems unlikely — both Gates and Rasmussen will be proved right.

Christian Moelling, with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, reviewed military efforts within the European Union. Cuts in military spending are pervasive, with smaller states making the largest reductions: 36 percent by Lithuania in 2010, 21 percent by Latvia in 2009, 19 percent in 2011 by Greece, 13 percent by Romania in 2010, 11 percent by Portugal in 2010, and 10 percent by both the Czech Republic and Ireland in 2011.

Of even greater concern are cutbacks by the larger nations upon which European efforts necessarily depend. Both Germany and Great Britain are planning an 8 percent cut in military outlays by 2015, though economic exigencies could accelerate and intensify the cuts.

Along with reductions in the budget have come cuts in the number of military personnel — down about 160,000 continent-wide from just 2009 to 2011. “The United Kingdom, one of Europe’s most important contributors of deployable troops, has been amongst those making significant personnel cuts,” said Moelling. Others are likely to follow suit.

Equipment procurement, too, faces significant cutbacks. Governments are delaying acquisition of equipment, reducing order size, retiring weapons early, and reselling equipment. Explained Moelling: “The largest equipment cuts have taken place in small and medium-size EU states, some of which have canceled entire military capabilities. For example, the Netherlands and Denmark are eliminating their main battle tanks. Denmark is also getting rid of its submarines and land-based air defense.”

With U.S. officials determined to maintain an outsize military despite the enormous cost to the U.S. economy, the disparity between American and European capabilities continues to grow. For instance, Washington modernizes its forces more often, “leading many to suggest that NATO was already a multi-tier alliance,” noted Moelling. Increasingly, the Europeans won’t be capable of doing much of anything serious when it comes to war.

Despite manifold deficiencies of their militaries, European governments still have been able to support peacekeeping operations — until now. However, warned Moelling, “Several European countries have already started withdrawing their troops from multinational operations in order to save money.” As the militaries of smaller nations dwindle to nothingness, the alliance will place increasing responsibility on larger European nations even though they are reducing their forces as well.

The negative cycle seems destined to accelerate. With Europe in economic crisis, there is ever less public support for foreign expeditions, warned Moelling. Indeed: “At a time of significant financial hardship, some may raise difficult questions about the legitimacy of such militaries, and others might even begin to question the merit of having armed forces at all.” Despite the dream of European elites to turn the European Union into a Weltmacht to compete with the U.S. and China on the global stage, the continent increasingly seems destined for geopolitical irrelevance.

After all, even Europe’s stalwarts are cutting their militaries. Andrew Dorman of King’s College in London wrote about the United Kingdom, considered to be America’s most faithful ally. Two years ago the new coalition government announced a four-year real reduction of 7.5 percent in military outlays, but, noted Dorman, “in reality defense spending has dropped by nearly 25 percent” due to a shift in financing of new nuclear submarines and over-commitments by the previous Labour government.

Manpower of 104,000 is slated to fall to 82,000 to 84,000 by 2020. The number of different weapons platforms and number of units acquired will drop essentially across-the-board. Concluded Dorman: “The reductions in the armed forces will have a significant impact on Britain’s ability to project and sustain military power.” The only silver lining in the dark cloud is that Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will restore a limited ability to intervene, but on a smaller scale, with a longer response time, and over a less extended period.

France joins Britain at the top of Europe’s military hierarchy. Determined to maintain an independent global presence, French military outlays dropped just .6 percent in real terms from 2002 to 2011. Although Paris has cut the number of military personnel, it professionalized its force. 

But all good things must come to an end. Financial constraints forced Paris to reduce its planned spending from 2009 to 2014 by three percent. Moreover, noted Camille Grand of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique: “it will become increasingly difficult for Paris to meet the 2013-2017 budgetary increases envisaged in France’s 2008 defense strategy.” Indeed, with the Socialist Party taking control of the French presidency and parliament, “it is widely assumed that significant military spending cuts will be introduced.”

Grand figured military outlays could fall short of current targets by about 10 percent annually. Almost inevitable are a smaller force and a reduced ability to intervene abroad. Moreover, such a change would essentially end the fantasy of a continental military. Grand warned of the possibility of “abandoning the cause of EU defense cooperation: France would no longer be in a position to sustain its long standing efforts to turn the EU into a leading player in global security with autonomous military capabilities.”

Most important for the U.S., with a reduced military capability France is likely to become another shameless defense “free-rider.” Observed Grand: “Like most other Europeans, France risks relying on the U.S. to address global crises.” Surprise, surprise!

Germany, despite its storied (though at times discreditable) military history, is a lesser military power than Britain and France. Its military cuts so far have been less draconian than Britain’s but, reported Bastian Giegerich of the Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences, budget concerns are driving reductions which “are likely to accelerate in the period 2014-2016.”

While the government hopes to maintain “the broadest spectrum of military capabilities possible,” it will be reducing force and equipment levels across-the-board. Moreover, this approach means “a reduced ability to sustain troops for long deployments abroad.” With the end of conscription, which should increase the quality of Berlin’s armed forces, personnel levels are falling. The positive is that Germany currently is able to sustain no more than 8,000 of the 14,000 that it claims to be deployable for international crises; ongoing reforms are supposed to bump that up to a still paltry 10,000.

However, these are not likely to be the last cuts. The government is pushing to renegotiate existing procurement contracts, with the threat to reduce research and development on new capabilities if companies refuse. That may not be enough. The Euro crisis continues to expand with Berlin expected to bankroll any and all rescue efforts. The squeeze on German finances will worsen even if the country avoids the recession which has hit many of its neighbors.

The study includes a review of American military spending. Washington’s outlays almost inevitably will fall too. President Barack Obama appears to accept the impossibility of maintaining America’s current outsize outlays, nearly half of the world’s military expenditures. 

Adam Grissom of the RAND Corporation predicted that coming reductions will lead to additional personnel withdrawals and base closures in Europe. He argued that the actual cost of basing American units in Europe is small, but his analysis ignores the cost of raising the units. Commitments require force structure. If Washington is going to protect Europe from unknown threats and garrison the continent forever, the U.S. must maintain a larger military. The cost of raising those units is part of America’s NATO cost.

Nevertheless, he correctly contended that the basic issue is one of strategy, a “fundamental decision to cease being a global power altogether,” as he put it, or, more accurately in my view, to stop attempting to micro-manage the world. Being a global power does not require forever subsidizing the defense of those capable of protecting themselves. It certainly does not require doing so when those capable of doing so don’t believe there is any reason to do so. Some Europeans don’t believe there is anything they need to defend against. Others believe that America always will step in if such a need emerges. It doesn’t matter which opinion predominates: the effect is the same.

The Brookings Institution report demonstrates that the Europeans are moving away from even the pretense of maintaining capable militaries. The authors are strong advocates of a relevant Europe, but have no solution to offer. For instance, Christian Moelling admitted: “It will not be feasible for most NATO allies to increase their military spending in the years to come.” 

Not, of course, that they don’t have the money. They could make more cuts elsewhere, but their publics will not allow them to do so. Instead, he argued that the European states should work together more efficiently, ignoring sovereignty concerns. However, despite years of discussing a common foreign and defense policy backed by a pan-European military, virtually nothing has been achieved — other than adding an inconsequential EU “foreign minister” with more bureaucracy than power.

This won’t change while Americans allow the Europeans to free ride. As long as Uncle Sam is willing to play Uncle Sucker, the Europeans will be happy to play along. The only sensible response for Washington is to say no more. The U.S. government should defend America, not the rest of the world. Washington should cooperate with friendly states, including the Europeans, when shared interests are at stake. But no more unnecessary wars, like Libya. No more nation-building in Europe, like Kosovo.

After more than six decades, Europe should take responsibility for its own security, whatever happens in Syria. The Europeans should decide whether they feel threatened and respond accordingly, making whatever trade-offs prove necessary between economic revival and military security. And then Europe should live with the results. But that will happen only if Americans push their populous and prosperous friends off of America’s defense dole.

            Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author and editor of several books, including The Politics of Plunder: Misgovernment in Washington (Transaction).


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