Foreign Policy

According to a new analysis from Bloomburg News:

This month, as the last U.S. combat forces left Iraq, the holiday parade in Hickory, North Carolina, featured a first: marchers carrying the names of all the state’s troops who died in that war and in Afghanistan.

“The older men stood and saluted; some people cried,” said Mike Beasley, an ex-Marine who organized the display through his church. “It opened a lot of people up to what had happened.”

Places like Hickory, with a population of 40,010, bore much of the burden of Iraq war casualties. Roughly half of those who died came from towns with fewer than 50,000 people, and of those, about a quarter were from places with less than 10,000, a Bloomberg analysis of U.S. Census figures suggests.

The all-volunteer military gets many front-line troops from rural areas, where there’s a culture of patriotism, a tradition of service and often limited economic opportunities, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in defense policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Infantry forces, which take the brunt of a lot of the casualties, do tend to draw predominantly from these regions,” O’Hanlon said.

This statistic is even more telling when you consider that while one-half (1/2) of the troop that died came from rural areas; only 10% of the US population lives in such areas. In other words, one-half of the deaths came from just 10% of the US population.

And yet, most Congresspersons representing rural areas  like Alabama Cong. Mike Rogers (see here and here) seem to agitate for more war & any war.


Andrew Bacevich on the legacy of the Iraq War:

Central to that legacy has been Washington’s decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.

According to a new briefing by the Military Advisory Board comprised of high-ranking retired military leaders: Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence. , the US needs “immediate, swift and aggressive action over the next decade to achieve the 30 percent reduction in U.S. oil consumption.” This report

“We have seen oil shocks before. And they have been immediate and far-reaching. But at today’s level of US consumption, a sustained disruption would be devastating – crippling our very freedom of movement,” said General Paul Kern, USA (Ret.) who chairs the MAB. “Our enemies know this fact and they exploit it at will.”

Citing the diverging trajectories of oil supply and demand, with countries such as China, India and other developing countries stepping on the accelerator, the leaders write, “Worldwide demand for oil is increasing at an alarming rate… Our military experience tells us transitional moments such as these are important and they come and go quickly. When the moment is ripe, we must act or fight our way out of the consequences of inaction.”

“You could wake up tomorrow morning and hear that the Iranians sense an attack on their nuclear power plants,” General James T. Conway, USMC (Ret) said. “And so they preemptively take steps to shut off the flow of oil in the Gulf. The U.S. would likely view this as a threat to our economy, and we would take action. And there we are, drawn into it.”

CNA analyzed the potential economic impact of a future oil disruption in one critical industrial sector that is heavily dependent on petroleum: the U.S. trucking industry. The analysis measured the effect of four different theoretical blockages in the flow of oil, each lasting 30 days, in the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Panama Canal.

Under a worst-case scenario 30-day closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the analysis finds that the U.S. would lose nearly $75 billion in GDP. But cutting current levels of U.S. oil dependence by 30 percent, the impact would be nearly zero. Oak Ridge National Laboratory found complementary results when measuring the impact of oil flow disruptions on other sectors.

MAB Vice-Chair Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) adds that a meaningful reduction in U.S. reliance on imported petroleum over the next decade would provide substantial economic as well as security benefits. “Currently, our collective national conscience is focused on jobs, and rightly so,” he says. “Our economy is in serious trouble. But rather than divert us from the task, moving away from oil could contribute to restoring our economic strength.”

The military could benefit significantly from a 30 percent reduction in U.S. oil consumption, according to the report. Achieving a 30 percent reduction would undoubtedly require new methods of efficiency that would translate directly to the battlefield. In addition to greater efficiency resulting in saving lives by decreasing dangerous battlefield fuel convoys, a 30 percent reduction would spawn diversified power sources other than oil. Less oil use equals less oil we are required to import and greater flexibility for military presence in dangerous parts of the world. This flexibility could translate into putting fewer American troops in harm’s way and keeping more dollars at home.

Three Free Trade Agreements passed the house yesterday with overwhelming support of the Tea Party Caucus and great opposition from the Democratic House members.  The South Korea deal is  the most consequential trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified in 1994. Great, how did that work our for us?

Alabama GOP Congressperson mostly supported each FTA. Our GOP Ag Commish has been cheerleading this for months.

When will we learn? Clyde Prestowitz summarizes our insanity (i.e. doing the same thing and expecting a different result.)

In trying to build public support for congressional ratification of Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, President Obama is telling audiences that “these agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America”.

Why do presidents keep saying things like that? Do you remember when we were negotiating to bring China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Clinton White House was asking Congress to grant Beijing permanent Most Favored Nation (MFN) treatment (meaning that for trade purposes we would treat China the same as our other trading partners)? At that time the United States had a modest trade deficit with China of about $10 billion. President Clinton and his top officials- U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, National Economic Council Chief Gene Sperling, and others – assured the Congress that the proposed deal with China would dramatically reduce this deficit and create thousands of new jobs for workers who made things in America. The argument at the time was that the United States would be the big winner because it would be China that would be making most of the big tariff cuts and market opening concessions. Of course, with the United States now running a $250 billion trade deficit with China, it’s obvious that things haven’t worked out as predicted.

The American Conservative provides some of the real costs of our wars of the past 10 years.

Military deployments to the war zone since 9/11:

  • 2.22 million total service members deployed
  • 941,743 deployed twice or more (42 %)

Military casualties in the war zone since 9/11

  • 108,974 casualties
  • 6,211 deaths (including 298 war zone suicides)
  • 45,889 non-fatal wounded in action
  • 56,874 non-fatal medical evacuations due to injury or disease

Veteran Post-Deployment Healthcare Use

  • 1.44 million vets eligible for VA healthcare
  • 711,986 Iraq & Afghanistan vets treated at VA
  • 367,749 vets treated for mental health condition
  • 211,819 vets treat for potential PTSD
  • 9,700 average new vets treated per month

Veterans Post-Deployment Disability Claim Activity

  • 1.4 million eligible for disability payments
  • 624,266 vets filed for disability
  • 133,595 awaiting VA decision
  • 107,718 vets with appr0ved PTSD claim
  • 9,500 average new claims per month

Estimated long term cost impact on VA: up to $900 billion over 40 years

More Estimated Long-Term Impact on VA

  • 1,032,000 Total New Veteran Patients, Dec. 31, 2013
  • 938,000 Total New Veteran Claims, Dec. 31, 2013

Service Member and Veteran Suicide

  • 462,854 Total Calls to VA’s Veterans Crisis Line
  • 259,891 Calls from Veterans from Any Period of Service
  • 6,030 Calls from Active Duty Service Members
  • 195,933 Calls from Others / Family
  • 16,855 “Rescues” of Suicidal Veterans and Service Members
  • 2,293 Active Duty Suicides Since January 2001
  • 298 Suicides While Deployed in War Zone
  • 1,995 Other Suicides (Deployment Status Unknown)

Veterans’ Claims Pending at VA for All Periods of Service

  • 1,097,489 Sep. 2011, Pending Veterans’ Claims and Appeals
  • 568,711 Mar. 2003, Pending Veterans’ Claims and Appeals
  • 528,778 Pending Claim Increase, Mar. 2003 to Sep. 2011

Providing context to the fact that the US Department of Defense is the biggest employer in the world, the Washington Post follows:

The biggest employer is the United States’ very own Defense Department, which had 3.2 million people on its payroll last year. That number, the Economist points out, means that 1 percent of Americans work for DoD.

The United State Department of Defense.

What would James Madison think?

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people…. [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and … degeneracy of manners and of morals…. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

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