Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama praise

In an effort to remain at least somewhat even handed and not descend into the same reflexive hatred that the radical left so readily dealt out to President Bush I have to give some credit to two Obama Administration initiatives. The first is a shift on Cuba policy where the administration appears set to ease travel and financial restrictions:
"We can expect some relaxation, some changes in terms of the restrictions on family remittances and family travel," said Jeffrey Davidow, the White House adviser for the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which Obama will attend.

Davidow said Monday that the changes - which officials say would allow unlimited visits to Cuba by American families and remove caps on money transfers - are intended not only as a moral step for the estimated 1.5 million Americans who have relatives in Cuba, but also to foster change there.

"Cuban-Americans are the best possible ambassadors of our system and our values," Davidow said. He added, however, that the high hopes that some have for reforms since Fidel Castro ceded power to his brother Raul last year have not yet been realized.

Davidow and other officials say the administration is also looking seriously at calls from some lawmakers to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba, appoint a special envoy to oversee policy toward the island and possibly end U.S. opposition to Cuba's membership in the Organization of American States.
This is the correct move from both a moral and practical standpoint. We do the Cuban people and our own cause no favors by punishing them through this embargo.

The second move worth applauding are the proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget. While defense cuts inspire knee-jerk opposition by many on the political right the reductions proposed by Secretary of Defense Gates make eminent sense. Not every weapons system is necessary or serves a vital purpose, and there is just as much waste at the Pentagon as any other government bureaucracy.

The F-22, for example, has little use in the war on terror, and a dollar spent there is a dollar not available for more effective systems. And don't think it is an accident that production of the airplane is spread across something like 44 states and over 1,000 suppliers to maximize political support. What's more, money is actually being increased for some of the more effective weapons systems according to Fred Kaplan:
  • [Defense Secretary Gates] requested a $2 billion increase for drones such as Predators, which have dramatically improved intelligence and counterterrorism efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, increasing their deployed numbers by 62 percent (by 127 percent compared with a year ago).
  • He more than doubled the purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters—the smaller, slightly cheaper stealth aircraft—from 14 in 2009 to 30 in 2010 (way too many, in my mind, given the problems with this program, too, but perhaps Gates felt he needed to compensate politically for killing the F-22).
  • He boosted the fiscal year 2010 purchase of Littoral Combat Ships, for counterinsurgency operations to coastal regions, from two ships to three.
  • He added money for helicopter pilots and maintenance crews, theater missile-defense (against short-range missile attacks on the battlefield), aerial-refueling planes, and the training of more experts in cyberdefense.
  • To protect the all-volunteer armed forces, he added $11 billion to fund the expansion of the Army and Marines, $400 million for additional medical research, $300 million for care of the war-wounded, $200 million more for child care and spousal support—and, moreover, he put these sorts of programs in the baseline defense budget. (Before, they were part of ad hoc programs in the war-emergency supplementals and therefore without institutional protection—or, as Gates put it, they were bureaucratically "homeless"—in the political competition for scarce dollars.)
The real shame is that this kind of thinking isn't being applied across the board, with a surge in spending taking place in the rest of government. It's instructive that Obama is ready to demand cuts at the Department of Defense -- one of the core functions of the federal government -- while shoveling additional money at the others.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Two comments on the defense spending:
(1) We're being told by the Obama administration and allies that any $1 spent is a $1 of stimulus regardless where the dollar goes. If that's true, it shows a shocking set of priorities if President Obama cuts defense spending yet pushes through almost $1 trillion of spending, millions of which will be funneled to organizations like ACORN.

(2) While the F-22 should be cut we still need a long range fighter replacement for the F-18. To the best of my knowledge, the F-22 is a short range, land based fighter. Greater for defending the US homeland from an invading air force but pointless for most in theater operations in say the middle or far east.

The F-35 isn't much better and it scares me that the government would chose an economy all-in-one product when it comes to defending this nation. Adjusting the military to handle counter-terrorism activities following the deaths of 3000 Americans is important, but failure is not catastrophic.

However, rapidly ramping up design and production of the next generation weapons system need to fight a true war is nearly impossible. However unlikley, our military needs to be prepared to take on a large state actor should the need arise or should key terrorist infrastructure exist in a nation with a far more advanced military than Afghanistan, a state such as Iran.

Again, it is unlikely this will be necessary and there are a lot of non-military actions we can take to ensure this never comes to pass. But our military is an insurance policy not a hedge fund. We pay in way more than we need just in case one day when we really need it, it's there.