National Security

Playing Defense on the Sequestration Battle

As January 1 draws near, expect doomsday predictions about big national-security cuts to ramp up. 

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

If you’ve been following the news, chances are you have heard of “sequestration” by now. Everyone in national security—from the Pentagon to Congress to industry to the think tanks—seems to agree that the spending cuts would be a menace that deserves to be squelched. But is it?

Look Past the Turban

Sunday’s shooting at a Sikh temple couldn’t be described as surprising, which is a problem that has plagued our country for a long time.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

It had happened. When I received the first phone call about the Wisconsin shooting on Sunday, I felt shock, grief, and immense horror. But I could not register surprise. Since the September 11th attacks, Sikhs like me had spent years preparing for this day and trying to ward it off.  But with hate crimes and discrimination against Sikhs still rampant, an attack on our gurdwaras—the community’s gathering spaces and houses of worship—seemed inevitable. We just didn’t know when or where or who. Now we do.

The Army's Bizarre Cover-Up

(AP Photo/ U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte)

Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a rising star in the Army who formerly oversaw the training of Afghan security forces, was recently accused of impeding a 2010 investigation of corruption in the Afghan military medical corps to avoid affecting the outcome of congressional elections, as reported by Danger Room.

Caldwell, who now commands the U.S. Army North based in Texas, was supposedly worried that a revelation of mismanagement and neglect would hurt Democrats’ electoral chances, damaging the close rapport he enjoyed with Obama.

Lockheed Martin's Creative Lobbying

Lockheed Martin federal contracts.

When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, many people predicted that big corporations would start buying elections, now that they were allowed to spend as much money as they wanted on campaigns. While that certainly might happen in the future, it hasn't happened so far, probably because they're worried about the PR backlash that could result from too much partisan activity. Instead, the ones donating millions have been extremely rich individuals, most of whom are Republicans. But that doesn't mean corporations don't have clever ways of playing the political game. To wit:

Talking Honestly About Our War Dead

Arlington National Cemetery (Flickr/Celine Aussourd)

The endless string of mini-controversies that occupy the attention of the media usually run the gamut from stupid to extra-stupid to super-stupid. But sometimes, one comes along that is profoundly dispiriting, the kind of thing that makes you wonder whether we'll ever be able to have a real debate about anything important. I'm speaking of what happened after MSNBC host Chris Hayes had a brief on-air discussion about the use of the word "hero" to apply to every person in the military who died in war. This came in the middle of a show devoted to Memorial Day, the larger theme of which was that Americans don't fully appreciate the sacrifices made by people in the military and their families. When he raised the question of the overuse of the word "hero," Hayes was careful to say that he didn't want to disrespect the memory of any fallen soldier, but that the word sometimes made him uncomfortable, because he was concerned its repetition makes it easier justify future wars. Like everything Chris does, it was thoughtful and respectful, and the only way you could be offended was if you both took the remark out of context and then intentionally tried to mislead people about what he had and hadn't said.

You can guess what happened next. As Conor Friedersdorf does an excellent job of explaining, a bunch of conservatives went on a tear of phony outrage, making sure to offer the most inflammatory and dishonest baloney they could, complete with plenty of made-up crap about what Chris Hayes "believes" and "thinks," based not on his actual words but on their own venomous caricatures of the awfulness that surely must lie in every liberal's heart. I'm not going to waste any time refuting them, first because Conor took care of it already, and second because those critics have revealed themselves to be so despicable they aren't worth any more of your time.

But what is worth our time is attempting, even in the face of what happened to Chris (he eventually felt compelled to issue an apology), to do some thinking about how we talk about the people who fight in the wars our political leaders initiate...

A Plan to Privatize a State's Entire Male Prison System

(Flickr/Tim Pearce, Los Gatos)

It's been tough times for the prison privatization industry. The two biggest companies both have extra space thanks to a recent drop in the number of people sent to private prisons. The companies just can't seem to expand their share of the market. The poor guys really lost out when the Florida Senate killed a bill that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 workers. The lobbying was so aggressive, one senator with health problems actually had to get protection from her colleagues.

Keyboard Jihadist?

(John Ritter)

It’s unusual for a domestic terrorism suspect to have a fan club. But every morning of Tarek Mehanna’s eight-week trial late last year on federal terrorism charges, supporters packed the domed, ornate courtroom in downtown Boston, smiling and waving whenever Mehanna turned to face them. 

Tired of War

(Flickr/The US Army)

Obama campaign thinks a general election on foreign policy works toward their favor, as the past few weeks have made clear. The President is trying to stake out a middle ground between the typical hawk and dove divide, highlighting his success in killing Osama bin Laden and engagement in Libya while also recognizing the country’s war-weary sentiment by extracting the country from Iraq and signing an agreement with the Afghanistan government to remove the United States from combat operations by 2014.

The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan

(White House/Flickr)

If anyone was expecting President Obama to spike the proverbial football during his address this evening from Afghanistan, they were sorely disappointed. In a sober, 11 minute message, Obama retraced the path that brought the United States to Afghanistan, and outlined the next two years of American policy in the country.

Why CISPA Isn’t SOPA

Privacy hawks are in danger of fighting the same battle over Internet legislation fought in January.

(Flickr / Search Influence)

Privacy activists are taking aim at Congress’ latest attempt to legislate the Web this week—the Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) being debated in the House today. So far, the measure’s sponsors have managed to fly beneath the radar, avoiding much of the attention that doomed two earlier attempts at Internet policing, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But if CISPA’s opponents get their way, the lawmakers’ strategy of keeping quiet won’t work for much longer.

I’ve Got Some Assignments for Rachel Maddow

(AP Photo / Chris Pizzello)

Last week, the authorities here at the Prospect were calling me the substitute teacher. I got grumpy about that at first (all kinds of anti-woman and bad childhood associations). But I’ve decided to embrace it. Rachel Maddow, here’s your homework.

Paul Ryan No Longer Thinks the Military Is Lying

(Flickr/SpeakerBoehner)

Last Friday I noted Paul Ryan’s comments where he, in essence, accused the top military brass of lying to Congress to cover-up potential harm to the nation’s security in Obama’s proposed budget. To Ryan’s credit, he went on the Sunday shows to retract the claims. Per TPM:

Paul Ryan's "Smoke and Mirrors"

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Paul Ryan, the supposed champion of fiscal restraint among right-wing Republicans, has put his colleagues in an awkward bind. His budget includes a host of unpopular provisions, and if implemented, would eviscerate almost every part of the government except defense, health care, and Social Security by 2050 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yesterday, all but 10 House Republicans entered their name in the congressional record as supporters of the bill, providing Democrats with ample material for negative campaigning this fall.

Americans Want Out of Afghanistan

(Flickr/The U.S. Army)

The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire.

Romney Shouldn't Be Ashamed of Not Having Served In the Military

Mitt Romney speaking to troops in Afghanistan (Flickr/isafmedia)

No matter who the Republican presidential nominee turns out to be, this will be the first election in pretty much forever in which neither major party candidate served in the military. As a post-boomer, Barack Obama never had to worry too much about this question, since he came of age after the transition to an all-volunteer military. But Mitt Romney was of prime fighting age during Vietnam, a conflict he avoided with deferments for college and missionary work.

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