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Saturday, December 28, 2019

All I Wanted for Christmas…Was Information About U.S. Military Deployments

Dan Burke of the 2nd ID 3rd SBCT 1-23 Inf. B Co. celebrates Turkey Day 2009 in Iraq. Photo by Nathan Marques.
Editor's Note:  Emma Still Does not have her wish a year later. 

"Cato Institute" By Emma Ashford

"The fundamental problem is simple. With only limited knowledge of where American troops are, and what they are doing there, we cannot even have a coherent public discussion about the scope of U.S. military intervention around the globe."

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"U.S. troops are currently engaged in counterterrorism and support missions in Somalia, Chad, Nigeria, and elsewhere, deployments which have never been debated by Congress and are authorized only under a patchwork of shaky, existing authorities.
Take Syria, where the Pentagon long claimed that there were only 500 boots on the ground, even though anecdotal accounts suggested a much higher total. When Maj. General James Jarrard accidentally admitted to reporters at a press conference in October that the number was closer to 4000, his statement was quickly walked back. Finally, last week, the Pentagon officially acknowledged that there are in fact 2000 troops on the ground in Syria, and pledged that they will stay there ‘indefinitely.’ 
Even when we do know how many troops are stationed abroad, we often don’t know what they’re doing. Look at Niger, where a firefight in October left four soldiers dead. Prior to this news—and to the President’s disturbing decision to publicly feud with the widow of one of the soldiers—most Americans had no idea that troops deployed to Africa on so-called ‘train-and equip’ missions were engaged in active combat.
Even in the Middle East, deployments have been increasing substantially under the Trump administration, with the number of troops and civilian support staff in the region increasing by almost 30% during the summer of 2017 alone. These dramatic increases were noted in the Pentagon’s quarterly personnel report, but no effort was made to draw public attention to them.
So if I could ask for one change to U.S. foreign policy for Christmas, I’d like to know where American troops are and what they’re doing there."









Friday, December 06, 2019

The Dire Necessity for U.S. Long Term Strategic Vision




Although by far the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. is suffering from a lack of long term vision. The individual citizen is as much at fault for this condition as the politician or the military industrial complex.  

From our political parties to our relationships with each other and with other countries, from corporate board rooms to Wall Street stock run ups, we have lost our long term vision in favor of short term gains. 

The results are polarization between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots", ignoring geopolitical realities, engaging in costly war intrusions, neglecting education/infrastructure and accumulating a $23 Trillion National Debt, heavily mortgaging future generations.

National Debt Clock
 
Geopolitical Realities and the US Role

George Friedman accurately sums the present geopolitical state in a recent article atSTRATFOR”:

“To put it simply, a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. 

Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm  it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will after the US was attacked September 11th, 2001.

All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s. 

At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008. 

The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation. 

The United States is, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. That does not mean that the United States can — or has an interest to — solve the problems of the world, contain the forces that are at work or stand in front of those forces and compel them to stop. Even the toughest guy in the bar can’t take on the entire bar and win.”A Net Assessment of the World 

China the Peace Maker 


David Grammig enlightens us in a recent article in “Geopolitical Monitor to an alternative to war and debt laden international finance being practiced by the Chinese:

Geopolitical calculations are as much a reason for this 2-trillion-dollar project as economic ones.

The OBOR project represents one of China’s new overarching foreign policy goals, and it demonstrates a willingness and ability to challenge old power structures, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East. 

The Silk Road, or OBOR project, aims at creating an enormous economic bloc and fostering trade, cultural exchange, political collaboration, and military cooperation among its members – under Chinese domination.

An obvious competitor against Russia’s Eurasian Union and India’s Act East and Connect Central Asia initiatives, the OBOR project has many Central Asian and Middle Eastern states justifiably worried of being caught up in a race for dominance in the region, producing somewhat cautious reactions to China’s big plans. Yet, some countries in the region – even those torn by sectarian conflict – may still be inclined to step into a new age due to China’s vast investments and its associated desire to protect its economic engagements.

The United States and its military interventions on the other hand, which aimed at securing political influence and protecting economic interests, bore no sustainable fruits and have led to growing instability in the region. Furthermore, US policy in the Middle East yielded anti-American resentment in the public and political spheres. 

China’s approach, however, will most likely not lead to demonstrations, burning flags, and attacks against its embassies, because it will not be seen as a war-mongering imperialistic force, giving itself a chance to establish itself as a partner whose outstretched hand is worth taking.” China - The New Peace Maker in the Middle East 

The US Market Mirage 


“One of the hardest-dying ideas in economics is that stock price accurately reflects the fundamental value of a given firm. It’s easy to understand why this misunderstanding persists: price equals value is a simple idea in a complex world. But the truth is that the value of firms in the market and their value within the real economy are, as often as not, disconnected. In fact, the Street regularly punishes firms hardest when they are making the decisions that most enhance their real economic value, causing their stock price to sink.

There are thousands of examples I could cite, but here’s a particularly striking one: the price of Apple stock fell roughly 25% the year it introduced the iPod. The technology that would kick-start the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism initially disappointed, selling only 400,000 units in its debut year, and the company’s stock reflected that. Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t give a fig. He stuck with the idea, and today nine Apple iDevices are sold somewhere in the world every second.

CEOs, who are paid mostly in stock and live in fear of being punished by the markets, race to hit the numbers rather than simply making the best decisions for their businesses long term. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found that 80% of executives would forgo innovation-generating spending if it meant missing their quarterly earnings figures.

Nobody–not Economists, not CEOs and not policymakers–thinks that’s good for real economic growth. Yet the markets stay up because of the dysfunctional feedback loops. Eventually, of course, interest rates will rise, money won’t be cheap anymore, and markets will go back down. None of it will reflect the reality on the ground, for companies or consumers, any more than it did during the boom times.”
The Market Mirage 

Achieving Strategic Vision

From the above analysis by experts, it is apparent that the US is in dire need of strategic vision.  To achieve it we must:

Face geopolitical and economic realities, stop war interventions and invest in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.

Cease dwelling on threat and build long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 

Invest for the long term at the stock holder, company and  national levels based on a strategy dealing with present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.

Elect a Congress and an Administration that know how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. We must then let them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 

Know that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether or not to support it, ignore it or attack it. 




Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Deeper Lasting Costs Of War

Marine John Thomas Doody, (Chris O’Meara/AP)
   

CLICK IMAGES TO VIEW OR ENLARGE  - Video and Chart Brown University “Costs of War”


MILITARY TIMES
A new collection of studies reveals at the often unseen effects of those wars both at home and abroad ranging from fractured families, strained caregivers, increased cancer rates to mistrust of health workers, demolished infrastructure and military suicides.
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“Impact from the past two decades of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be seen in dollars spent, lives shattered by injury or trauma and dead service members carried home.
“War and Health” is a collection of ethnographies covering a range of people affected from the wars beginnings, current day and likely long-term future ripples.
In it researchers have found correlations between areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan with higher number of drone strikes are also less likely to accept polio vaccinations and other medical assistance due to mistrust of government aid.
They’ve seen increased rates of behavior incidents and low school performance among children of frequently-deployed military parents.
The reports show waves of Iraqis seeking medical care in Beirut, Lebanon with late-stage cancers because they couldn’t get early screening in Iraq, which previously boasted the leading medical care in the region.
Researchers found military suicides, increased family violence and higher numbers of substance abuse and DUIs even among non-combat service members correlated with faster-paced deployment schedules and training.
While half of all caregivers for veterans are spouses, parents or immediate family, a full one-third of caregivers are friends or neighbors who don’t qualify to receive financial compensation created in recent years to ease the burden that caregivers for vets can face.
Catherine Lutz and Andrea Mazzarino edited the collection as part of their work with the “Costs of War Project,” out of Brown University.
The project collects information on war dead, military and civilian casualties, budget figures and other measures of the costs of the conflicts in the Global War on Terror. The project began in 2011 and recently kicked off a new effort to update past reports and develop new measures by 2021, the 20th anniversary of the start of the wars.
The same project recently released and updated notice on the fiscal costs of the Global War on Terror. The release noted that an estimated $6.4 trillion had been spent between late 2001 and today, a large portion of which has been financed through deficit spending.
But, those numbers can be difficult to nail down, as noted in the report, which quotes Christopher Mann of the Congressional Research Service.
“No government-wide reporting consistently accounts for both DOD and non-DOD war costs,” he said.
Part of the Costs of War Project’s work is to pull together disparate sources to find the tally of the wars.
Their research has found that that a growing cost will be medical care.
One example included 10-year costs estimates for post-9/11 veterans with traumatic brain injuries is expected to cost $2.4 billion from 2020 to 2029.
Mazzarino spoke with Military Times about the nature of the project and what she and its contributors hope it will accomplish.
She and others have participated in media interviews and, through the Costs of War Project, have been in touch with Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT and hope to testify before Congress on their findings.
“The whole point of the project is to move beyond the academy to influencing advocacy and public policy,” Mazzarino said.
That’s not an easy task. Data-driven studies such as past reports on increasing servicemember suicides and strains on military families garnered political and public attention, but that took years and resulted in some changes in programs.
What Mazzarino and her colleagues are working with is less black-and-white and more focused on the second- and third-order effects of having a military at war on a daily basis for decades.
But, it may be that what they’re finding will have as much a long-term impact as other major war-related concerns.
“People who were serving when the war started, they’re entering old age soon,” Mazzarino said. “That’s going to come with all kinds of financial burdens to the U.S. government, especially with care for those veterans.”
And overseas, the imprint of decades of combat leave their own kind of toll.
“There are subtle and unexpected ways that the destruction of infrastructure has affected public health,” she said.
The Costs of War Project website has compiled estimates that a many as 480,000 people have died in direct war violence. They estimate far more have died due to “indirect” war violence such as when access to food, water and medical care was restricted or unavailable due to combat.
Their research estimates that more than 244,000 civilians have been killed in connection to the wars and as many as 21 million have been displaced and many are now war refugees, with substandard living conditions away from their native lands.
One harder to measure item is how the estimated $5.9 trillion spent on the wars could have been spent, the report notes. What healthcare, infrastructure or education projects were curtailed, limited or ended as a result in budget priorities to fight the wars instead?
Mazzarino has seen firsthand some of the effects of the wartime military. Her husband serves as a submariner in the Navy. That’s meant more frequent and unexpected deployments that his predecessors faced.
And she’s seen that strain on fellow military families, members and commanders.
Some similar experiences were reflected in a section titled, “It’s Not Okay: War’s Toll on Health Brought Home to Communities and Environments.”
One vignette profiled Dolores, the young wife of an infantry sergeant whose unit had seen a number of murders committed by soldiers back home and increases in domestic violence.
Those experiences had weighed heavily on her husband who returned and completed another Iraq deployment, this time being injured and later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Six years after he had returned from theater, she had become his main caregiver and had to quit her job to do that work and to advocate for his care.
The section’s authors, Jean Scandlyn and Sarah Hautzinger, wrote that many of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan they interviewed still saw themselves as deeply entangled in what had happened during their deployments.
“Assessing war’s toll on health requires that we consider the ways we all become entangled in wars seemingly distant, and how war particularly erodes wellness in domestic military communities,” they wrote.”