Bridges are Building Across the Country… if not Across the Aisle

by Seth Green | April 28th, 2006 | |Subscribe

With Karl Rove now put back in his position of divider-in-chief, bipartisanship in Washington is looking more difficult than ever. But my own personal experiences from Charleston, South Carolina, to New Haven, Connecticut, give me hope that bipartisanship may come from below—hopefully uprooting the divisionaries above.

Three weeks ago, the organization I work with (Americans for Informed Democracy) hosted a youth summit in Charleston, SC, on the role of young leaders in ending global poverty. We realized that this goal was widely shared by a diverse group of student leaders in South Carolina and so we outreached as widely as possible, bringing in students from the Citadel, Bob Jones University, and other campuses across the state. While schools like Bob Jones have been the focus of grand stereotypes in some parts of the Northeast, we decided to outreach a hand to students there based on respect for their religious conviction and sense of purpose. We explained that we shared their concern for the preciousness of life and believed ,like them, that all of us have a role to play in ending global poverty and ensuring the dignity and respect for every human.

The response was tremendous. Students came to the Charleston summit in droves from across the political spectrum – and from across different religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds – united by a common belief that America needed to do more to use its great military and economic might to realize one of the greatest opportunities of our time: the end of poverty. Certainly, students at the conference had their differences, but more mature and caring about our world than opportunistic Washington divisionaries, they decided to accentuate our tremendous agreement. One Bob Jones University student who attended the summit later told his college newspaper (click here) about “the irony of two afternoon-dress-clad BJU students sitting behind an individual with a ‘Save Roe Now!’ sticker on his notebook at the same conference.” But these differences were a positive to the student. They showed, the student wrote, “the ethnic, political and religious diversity of… the movement against global poverty as a whole.” (more…)

The Pentagon’s Rodney Dangerfields: Generals not getting any respect

by David Isenberg | April 26th, 2006 | |Subscribe

Wheeee, gee Mom, look at me, I’m a blogger!  Oh, hi there, pardon me, excuse the exuberance. I’ve never blogged before.

For those of you unfamiliar with me consider me to be like Dennis Miller, only my rants will be shorter and confined to the world of 3D. That’s death, doom, and destruction for us ordinary folks, or what the high and mighty over at places like RAND, American Enterprise Institute Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Brookings like to call, with suitable gravitas, geopolitics, and international security.

Anyway, I promise to be suitable restrained, serious, and buttoned up in the future. No rolling on the floor, breaking out in hysterical laughter, when I read the morning news. Hmmm, on second thought I am writing in the Dubya era so I better not make any promises. But I’ll give it the old college try.

Hmmm, let’s see, whatever shall I write about. Oh hey, here’s something that appeals to the part of me that is a former E-3 Navy deck ape, back towards the end of the Vietnam War. American generals are criticizing the Bush administration in general and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular. What’s the problem? It appears they are aggrieved that they weren’t being listened to in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, their advice was given short shrift or ignored, and they were treated rudely.  Just like Rodney Dangerfield they didn’t get any respect. You mean? Yes, that’s right. They were treated like ENLISTED MEN. Gasp, the horror, the horror! Hey, guys, welcome to the noncommissioned ranks.

Oh, all right. I couldn’t resist. Actually, there is something serious about all this. In part, those concerned about Iraq should be worried. Those who criticize the generals on the grounds that they are undermining or challenging the traditional and totally proper subordination of the military to civilian authorities miss the point. First, the generals are doing no such thing. While one wishes these profiles of courage actually had the guts to resign while still on active duty, when their resignation actually might have given people pause, if they felt so angry about this I suppose it is unrealistic to expect them not to worry about lost income and being able to put the kids through school. Second, the generals are sending some other, equally, if not more important messages. These would be as follows. (more…)

Party Politics and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

by Eugene Gholz | April 26th, 2006 | |Subscribe

I’m very fortunate to be a university professor, not least because professors are expected to study a broad range of topics – frankly, whatever catches our interest, when it catches our interest, so long as we have sufficient background expertise and research skills to figure out something interesting to say. My work has spanned many facets of the intersection of national security policy with economics, ranging from studies of the “military-industrial complex” and sources of new technologies to improve our military to studies of the effects of wars on the global economy (and, more specifically, the U.S. economy). All sorts of related topics are in the news these days, so I have ended up presenting on everything from the Boeing-Airbus rivalry to the cost of the Iraq War on “To the Point,” a radio show that is syndicated to a number of NPR stations.  Many of these topics connect to partisanship in discussions of American foreign policy, and I am sure that I will blog about them here in the weeks to come.

Today, though, news about American leaders seeking party advantage through manipulating the supply of oil caught my attention. President Bush announced a small, temporary change in the pace at which the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be filled (See, for example, this Washington Post article), and immediately Democratic Congressional leaders cried foul. And it’s a good example of partisan silliness in policy debates linked to foreign policy.

Oil and gasoline prices are generally set by the economic forces of supply and demand. Some people fear that cartels manipulate the supply of oil, and given the worldwide appetite for oil, the supply restrictions would drive up prices, hurting consumers. By economists’ reckoning, these cartel activities would also distort investment decisions and hurt the overall economy. The question is, what cartel is price fixing? The only alleged cartels that the U.S. government has direct access to investigate and, perhaps, force to change to more consumer-friendly business strategies are those that are active in the United States: the big companies that transport, refine, and distribute oil and petroleum products. That’s ExxonMobil and other companies that anti-corporate Americans love to hate. (more…)

Generals Are Right to Dissent

by Brian Vogt | April 25th, 2006 | |Subscribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Krauthammer writes in a recent Washington Post column that “I-know-better generals are back. Six of them, retired are denouncing the Bush administration and calling for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Secretary of defense. The antiwar types think this is just swell. I don’t”

When I first heard about these retired generals who have publicly called for Rumsfeld’s resignation, I thought about what the bipartisan response should be. Were these retired generals speaking up purely for partisan reasons? Were they simply spokespeople for the Democratic party? I’ve seen little evidence to suggest that they are doing this for partisan reasons, which gives me greater confidence in their statements.

I believe that the statements of these generals are particularly important due to the very justification that President Bush provides for his actions in Iraq. Bush regularly argues that he is following the recommendations of the military commanders in Iraq. He will never let politics influence those decisions. Well, maybe he is immune from such political calculations (though I doubt it) but the fact that these retired generals have come out and said that actually Bush hasn’t followed many of their recommendations calls into question Bush’s basic claims. Of course, we all know about the now infamous recommendation by General Eric Shinseki that we would need several hundred thousand troops in Iraq. Shinseki was publicy rebuked by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

Krauthammer, of course, has several criticisms of these generals. General Batiste criticized Rumsfeld for “radically alter[ing] the results of 12 years of deliberate and continuous war planning on Iraq.” Krauthammer argues that “the Bush administration threw out years and years and layer upon layer of war planning in Afghanistan…. and achieved one of the most remarkable military victories in recent history.” It’s a sad day when we look at Afghanistant as an overwhelming military success. True, we did expel the Taliban and that was a clear victory. But, we failed to capture Osama bin Laden – a clear failure. And if you look at the news reports coming out of Afghanistan today, it’s not so optimistic. Insurgents in Afghanistan are starting to adopt techniques of those in Iraq and the country is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Like Iraq we were able to secure a quick military victory, but are having problems securing the peace. (more…)

Busy Time – Iraq, Iran, Scotland

by Christopher Preble | April 24th, 2006 | |Subscribe

The launch of the PSA Blog “Across the Aisle” comes at an appropriate but busy time. Events in Iraq have hardly settled down, and yet a number of Americans seem intent upon some sort of military confrontation with Iran. (e.g. here and here) Although a few of these voices assure us that we must do anything it takes to win in such a contest, most will candidly admit that we lack the resources (i.e. PEOPLE) to occupy a country the size of Iran while nearly 140,000 U.S. troops are tied down in Iraq. (The news is not all bad, however. For a few sensible voices on Iran, visit The Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy web site.)

That does beg the question, however: What if we were not constrained by the number of U.S. troops? What if we had a nearly unlimited supply of men (and presumably women) standing by to enter the services? This was certainly the case in Vietnam, when political leaders and military planners alike gave very little thought to “resource constraints.”

As it happens, I am leaving on Tuesday for a three-day conference in Scotland, sponsored by the Liberty Fund, discussing the timely topic of “Standing Armies, Militias, and Liberty.” The readings cover over 400 years of history and philosphy, going back to Machiavelli’s The Prince to a 1994 article from the Wake Forest Law Review.

I am a proud veteran of the all-volunteer military, having accepted a commission as a naval officer through the NROTC program at George Washington University. I served over four years on active duty, over three of those on board a naval surface ship, the guided missile cruiser USS TICONDEROGA. While I know that some military people were opposed when the country moved away from conscription in 1973, I am quite sure that very few people in the current military would welcome a return to conscription.

But I think I’ll have more to say on this topic in a week. Check back then.

All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.