Why Is Bush Considered Good On National Security?
Posted by Mary
Listening to some of the SOTU analysis today on NPR, the conventional wisdom tells us -- or more precisely, the pundits that tell us what Americans think, say -- that the Democrats can't run on National Security issues because Bush and the Republicans are seen as stronger on this issue. How much of the conventional wisdom is due to their saying it over and over again? And how much of it is due to the propaganda of Faux? And how much of it is because the soundbite-loving, complaisant and lazy media are not reporting the truth about how badly Bush has screwed up our national security?
When you have the real facts, it is pretty clear that the Republicans have totally destroyed their credibility on the national security. They have destroyed our alliances that had been our greatest bulwork against a dangerous world. They believed that threat and a follow through with violence using our military would make the rest of the world bow down to the great and terrible Oz (or Bush - the little man behind the curtain who has decided that his big stick is all he needs to become the 21st century's emperor of the world). Well, it turns out that he screwed up badly. But knowing Bush's personal record of failure, why would anyone believe he would have been capable of having his luck go well here?
The military which he is relying on is badly broken and stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the front line of scores of other flashpoints for the foreseeable future. (The Romans didn't try to build an empire on the cheap -- they knew that they had to pony up the troops and the treasure to make their conquest work.)
I'll bet you didn't know that the Bushies are running a huge jobs works program. It's just not being done in the US. According to Chambers Johnson, we are building massive new garrisons all over the world.
It's not easy to assess the size or exact value of our empire of bases. Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and HAS another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. Pentagon bureaucrats calculate that it would require at least $113.2 billion to replace just the foreign bases -- surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic product of most countries -- and an estimated $591.5 billion to replace all of them. The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.
These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo -- even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11.
All those bases need lots and lots of people to man them and to be prepared for the next incursion. However, you can only do this on the cheap for so long. Some where you've got to have people to put on all those bases. Our volunteer army isn't doing too good and now it looks like the Reserves are on the verge of a retention crisis.
The head of the Army Reserve said yesterday that the 205,000-soldier force must guard against a potential crisis in its ability to retain troops, saying serious problems are being "masked" temporarily because reservists are barred from leaving the military while their units are mobilized in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly said his staff is working on an overhaul of the reserve aimed in part at treating soldiers better and being more honest with them about how long they're likely to be deployed. Helmly said the reserve force bureaucracy bungled the mobilization of soldiers for the war in Iraq, and gave them a "pipe dream" instead of honest information about how long they might have to remain there.
"This is the first extended-duration war our nation has fought with an all-volunteer force," said Helmly. "We must be sensitive to that. And we must apply proactive, preventive measures to prevent a recruiting-retention crisis."
But even if we can still rely on our army to be prepared for the next real threat, there is the problem that we are now in this all by ourselves. Although according to our press, the American public is sanguine about the fact that Bush deceived them about the real threat from Saddam, the rest of the world is definitely not quite so forgiving. Kenneth Pollack, who was one of the strongest cheerleaders for taking out Saddam, is now accusing the Bush administration of bad faith and that this will have severe consequences. (Now he tells us.)
Finally, the U.S. government must admit to the world that it was wrong about Iraq's WMD and show that it is taking far-reaching action to correct the problems that led to this error. Iraq is not going to be the last foreign-policy challenge in which we must make choices based on ambiguous evidence. When the United States confronts future challenges, the exaggerated estimates of Iraq's WMD will loom like an ugly shadow over the diplomatic discussions. Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways.
However, there is a silver lining to the Bush fubar, which we find by listening to some conservatives who are very unhappy with what George has wrought. Success in Iraq is drifting fast because of his careless disregard of the fact that there would be a post-war period - one that probably needed just a little bit of attention before we actually invaded. The silver lining is that his screwup has put a bad odor on the preemptive war policy according to Ken Adelman.
"'The foreign policy blow-back is pretty serious,' [Adelman] said. He [added that] the gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of 'preemption,' which envisions attacking a nation because it is an imminent threat.
"The doctrine 'rests not just on solid intelligence,' Adelman said, but 'also on the credibility that the intelligence is solid.'" (via Salon)
So why is Bush seen as good on national security? I think this is another failure of our SCLM. If our media was consistently reporting on how badly this war is going, what it is doing to weaken our ability to really protect our national security and that this war was a war of choice and unnecessary to protect our security, then I believe that the perception that the Republicans are better on national security would melt in the face of the evidence.