Intense efforts are underway to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. The talks are now focused on the largest single element of discretionary spending, one which has nearly doubled in the last decade: the defense budget. According to the Washington Post, an increasing number of conservatives agree with the president that reforms to defense spending must be part of the overall solution to reducing the national debt. This shift comes as the public questions how America’s military commitments abroad are paying off—something President Obama acknowledged in his speech last week when he announced the withdrawal of the surge troops in Afghanistan. “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” he said.
Leon Panetta will soon take over as secretary of defense amid a review of roles and missions, requiring that as we rethink budgets and spending, we also rethink the strategy that determines how and where America uses its military. Panetta will also be forced to deal with a Congress that says it wants to reduce spending, but still funds unwanted programs that several defense secretaries before him have tried to weed out.
Tomorrow, December 5, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is set to expire. START, the largest arms control agreement in history, was spearheaded by Ronald Reagan and signed by George H.W. Bush in 1991 after a decade of negotiations. Yet that has not stopped some conservatives in the Senate, like Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), from attacking the Obama administration, saying that they do not have a “bridging agreement” ready should a follow-on treaty not be in place before the expiration date. Indeed, the Administration has declined to rush the negotiations in order to make sure that our security needs are met – while conservatives have played politics with the talks.
It is the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief to ask the tough questions and challenge our military and civilian bureaucracies to look past their own perspectives to provide the best answers. Even as these important debates continue, prominent neoconservative pundits remain bent on blasting the Administration for ‘dithering’ on its strategy. Not only does this reckless commentary ignore the complex reality of Afghanistan – one that can’t be reduced to an exclusive focus on troop numbers – but it runs against the emerging bi-partisan consensus that the President has behaved shrewdly in taking a deliberate approach to his strategy.
After a long impasse, Iraqi politics took a significant step forward on Sunday with the Iraqi parliament’s passage of a new election law.Resolution of the election issue underscores how moving forward in Iraq
depends upon political decisions by Iraqi leaders, a point emphasized
by President Obama in his speech at Camp Lejeune, when he stated that
the “the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military.” While Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill will continue to prod Iraq’s
political leaders to reconcile, such encouragement will only be
effective as long as it occurs against the backdrop of U.S. withdrawal.
Even as Iran reportedly responded negatively to a deal over its uranium
enrichment program, a bipartisan and international consensus against it
remains strong. After years of division and uncertainty, for the first
time there is clear international agreement that Iran must accept
limits on its nuclear program. American diplomatic leadership on this
issue, absent for the past decade, has brought the world to the closest
point it has been to beginning to rein in Iran’s nuclear program
This afternoon, President Obama signs into law the first Defense Budget that matches the threats and security imperatives of the 21st century. As Secretary of Defense Gates has said, the military needs to fight today's battles, not yesterday's. By signing this 21st century Defense Budget into law, President Obama is taking a major step forward in bringing our defense priorities in line with current threats. This is a major victory for the progressive national security agenda.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s efforts to rewrite the track record of his Administration reached a new level of absurdity yesterday. In one of the most bizarre attacks on President Obama yet, Cheney, as well as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), accused the President of “dithering” on Afghanistan.Furthermore, Cheney and Boehner’s calls for the Administration to rush more troops to Afghanistan without a clear partner government in place are irresponsible.