Friday, September 30, 2011

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is officially over!

Click on the link above to see my interview regarding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Difficult Questions

Late last week I made what may have been a mistake over a cup of coffee by asking a Palestinian friend of mine what he thought of the attacks on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan earlier in the week (13 September). He quickly told me that he was not supportive of the attacks and was deeply concerned with the ongoing Middle East violence. He said that he was also concerned about American actions in the area and reporting in the American press and asked me three questions along those lines.

First, he asked why it is that when we “take out” a Taliban or Al Qaida leader we say we weaken these organizations but we systematically take out our own leaders when we rotate units and leaders back to the U.S. and do not acknowledge any degradation of effectiveness in the war zone. Second, he asked why the U.S. press and pentagon characterize the successful attacks last week as an indication that Afghan forces are unable to provide for their own defense without U.S. help and ignore the fact that they were unable to do so WITH U.S. help. Might the U.S. presence as an occupying force motivate the attacks? Finally, he found Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the action of suicide bombers in the attack as “cowardly” ironic. He asked if this characterization implied that firing a missile from a drone from 7000 miles away was any more heroic. He then offered me a “bonus” question and asked why it was that the U.S. supported the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt but not in Bahrain, the West Bank or Gaza.

I did not have good answers to any of these troubling questions. The only consolation from the conversation was that he bought the coffee.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Insecurity Through Obesity

I know that this is a blog focused on national security and military affairs so you may be asking what obesity has to do with national security…read on. National security has many sources in addition to military capabilities. Among the additional sources are diplomacy, education, intellectual property, culture and economic strength. Last year all of Washington was engaged in the health care debate but not one elected or appointed officer or pundit pointed out that fully one third of the American people were clinically obese. Obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory ailments, some forms of cancer and skeletal infirmities, all of which contribute to the 17% plus of GDP we spend on health care in America. Some analysts have said that eliminating obesity in America would reduce health care expenses by 3-4% of GDP, a bigger reduction than all the elements of the legislation that ultimately passed Congress. Yet no one said a word about obesity.

Obviously, obesity affects national security because its cost weakens us economically. Devoting 3-4% of GDP to obesity related health care costs takes money away from education, infrastructure, and research initiatives that strengthen the economy. It also takes money away from military budgets as the Pentagon competes for dollars in a resources scarce environment. This tradeoff is also seen within the defense establishment as the Veteran’s Administration mission is made more complex and expensive as they treat patients who have not only service related injuries and illnesses but also obesity related conditions. Treating our Agent Orange victims is less complicated and more successful if the victim is not obese.

In the future, the American trend toward obesity among our young people will impact the ability to man the All Volunteer Force. More and more potential recruits will be unable to meet minimum height / weight standards for induction, causing the military to lower standards, raise enlistment bonuses, reduce the size of the force or take some other measure in response to the effect obesity will have on recruiting and manning the force.