Ten years after the opening of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, political debate rages on. But the military who run it and security officials who tracked its inmates have a surprisingly united view: the facility should be closed and as many of its inmates as possible tried in U.S. courts. With David Petraeus pointing out that "the enemy continues to beat you with them [Guantanamo conditions] like a stick," and retired officers from four-star Marine generals to the prison's first warden calling for it to be closed, it is time for Congress and the administration to work together to craft a solution based on effective counterterrorism, not fear-mongering.
Yesterday, a procedural vote on the defense spending bill containing the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy came just three votes shy of the 60 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for debate. This minority group of senators blocked the important defense bill because of DADT repeal, which is supported by the majority of the country, the military and top bipartisan and nonpartisan military experts. The current DADT policy harms America's national security by depriving the military of crucial skills, creating unneeded financial strains and, perhaps most importantly, by violating the core principles that the military's success are based on: integrity and discipline. This is not a sustainable policy. A legislative pathway towards repeal is still preferred to ensure an orderly implementation that the Pentagon leadership has been advocating for. However, there remain a number of pathways for repeal, and it is crucial that all tools be considered in order to end this harmful policy.
A Rolling Stone profile of NATO-ISAF Commander General Stanley McChrystal, which contained derisive critiques of senior Obama administration officials by both the general and his aides, has touched off a furious controversy. McChrystal, after delivering a written apology, has been summoned to appear in person before the President to explain his comments. Regardless of the outcome of that meeting, it is clear from McChrystal's own written statement that the comments in the piece reflected "poor judgment and should never have happened." Additionally, up to this point, McChrystal has offered unequivocal support for the Administration's Afghanistan strategy and the process that informed its development. Specifically, in December, he stated that, "The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task." While some may be tempted to seize on this incident as evidence that the Obama Administration is not in sync with the military, statements from McChrystal, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, and Secretary Gates all confirm the Pentagon's full support for the administration's strategy in Afghanistan and the White House's leadership in its creation.
Wednesday night the House Armed Services Committee marked up and unanimously passed its version of the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2011. This bill is expected to go to the House floor next week and a Senate Armed Services Committee mark-up of the companion bill is also scheduled for next week. However, during the mark-up process, the committee placed a number of hurdles in the way of crucial administration national security priorities on foreign policy and the defense budget. For example, it included language harmful to the goal of closing the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that military and national security experts agree that keeping it open hampers American national security. In addition, despite the tight overall budget, the committee inserted funding to continue the development of a second, alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - an expense that the Pentagon has rejected as an "unnecessary luxury," as America's defense budget priorities remain in need of serious reform. While the overall bill provides a strong basis for achieving American national security goals, it is crucial that Congress pay heed to the bipartisan consensus on these national security issues and that it fixes the bill to achieve America's foreign policy and budgetary priorities.
A consensus is beginning to emerge on the need for the Pentagon to move in a new direction. “The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.”
On Sunday the New York Times reported that the outgoing Bush Administration is preparing a review of its Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy for the incoming Obama Administration. The report’s three conclusions – making assistance to Pakistan conditional, adopting a broader regional approach, and elevating the importance of non-military efforts toward the region – constitute a rejection of the Bush Administration’s approach and embrace an alternative that progressive leaders and institutions have advocated for years.
The Center for American Progress has released a report highlighting the need for a strategic overhaul in the US relationship with Pakistan. It points toward a policy which recognizes the linked challenges presented by Pakistan, Afghanistan and India; broadens the US relationship with Pakistan beyond military and intelligence coordination; and supports good governance and the forces of democracy within Pakistan.
Yesterday the Iraqi cabinet approved a security agreement that stipulates that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq should take place by the end of 2011. This reflects a growing consensus that it is time for American forces to redeploy.
One of the unnoticed evolutions in Iraq policy over the past few months is that there is now a broad consensus both here and in Iraq that for the sake of American and Iraqi interests it is time for American forces to redeploy.
America’s economy underpins its position as the world’s most powerful nation. Today’s collapses in our strategic and economic strength are linked – and mutually reinforcing. Unchecked military spending and faulty strategic thinking have left us in an unsustainable global position, and as the financial crisis has spread across the globe, world leaders are seriously questioning the United States capability for continued economic and strategic leadership.