Using lethal force to strike high-value targets inside Syria would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines, while establishing a no-fly zone would cost as much as a billion dollars per month over the course of a year, according to a new analysis of military options there by the nation’s top military officer. Another option, in which the U.S. attempts to control Syria’s chemical weapons stock, would first require thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces, wrote Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. Oh, and well over a billion dollars per month.
Under pressure to publicly provide his views on military intervention in Syria, Dempsey told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin what most people already knew: there are few good options. But for the first time, Dempsey provided an analysis of each option and its cost, providing new fodder for thinking about a conflict that has waged for more than two years, killed nearly 100,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
Dempsey outlined five options, including training, advising and assisting the opposition; conducting limited stand-off strikes; establishing a no-fly zone; creating a buffer zone to protect certain areas inside Syria; and finally, controlling Syria’s chemical weapons. Any of those options would likely “further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime,” Dempsey wrote. But any or all of them could slip the U.S. into another new war. “We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state,” Dempsey wrote Levin in the memo, a copy of which was released publicly late Monday. “We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action.”
As requested after a heated exchange in the Senate on Thursday over U.S. policy in Syria, Dempsey dutifully gave the pros and cons for each option. But in what amounts to the most candid analysis of the Pentagon‘s thinking on Syria to date, Dempsey couched each as highly risky. Establishing a no-fly zone, for example, comes with inherent risk: “Risks include the loss of U.S. aircraft, which would require us to insert personnel recovery forces,” Dempsey wrote. “It may also fail to reduce the violence or shift the momentum because the regime relies overwhelmingly on surface fires – mortars, artillery and missiles.” Conducting limited strikes on high-value targets inside Syria could have a “significant degradation of regime capabilities” and would increase the likelihood of individuals deserting the regime. On the other hand, he wrote, “there is a risk that the regime could withstand limited strikes by dispersing its assets.” Retaliatory attacks and collateral damage from the U.S. strikes could create large and sometimes unforeseen problems, despite the best planning.
All of this would come, Dempsey argued, at a time of enormous budget uncertainty for the Pentagon that has forced furloughs of civilian workers, cuts to programs and allowed readiness rates to drop to low levels, Pentagon officials say. “This is especially critical as we lose readiness due to budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty,” Dempsey wrote. “Some options may not be feasible in time or cost without compromising our security elsewhere.”
Dempsey still hedged the issue of his own view in an unclassified forum, never quite providing what he would recommend to his boss, President Barack Obama. But he also conceded that intervention in some form could make a difference. “As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that the use of force will move us toward the intended outcome.”
It still amounts to the start of a new conflict after more than a decade getting out of two other ones. “I know that the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly, it is no less an act of war,” Dempsey wrote.
It was unclear if Dempsey’s letter, intended to appease Sen. John McCain and Sen. Levin, would prompt them to move forward on his reappointment to another two years as Chairman. A few days before the hearing, a senior officer from the Pentagon had provided a classified briefing for senior Hill members and officials, according to a senior Hill staffer. But the takeaway may have been what got McCain so fired up: Pentagon officials told Hill staffers there is no clear military direction on Syria because there is no clear policy guidance from the White House.
Now Dempsey’s reappointment as Chairman hangs in the balance as Levin and McCain seek additional information from Dempsey on Syria — knowing full well that the nation’s senior military officer is getting directions from the White House on Syria that are ambiguous at best.
The issue stems in part from how Dempsey handled himself last week when McCain demanded he provide his personal views on military intervention in Syria. Dempsey essentially refused to answer to McCain’s satisfaction, raising the question squarely: what should military officers say when they’re asked their personal opinion in public?
When senior officers shuffle up to Capitol Hill for confirmation or oversight hearings, they all must affirm their answer to one of a handful of boilerplate questions, but this one is often central to the veracity of their testimony: “Do you agree, when asked, to give your personal views, even if those views differ from the administration in power?”
It’s all very pro forma. As all officers appearing for testimony do, Dempsey answered the question in the affirmative. But he seemed to trip up on it later during the hearing.
Dempsey could have known it was coming. McCain, increasingly agitated at White House policy over Syria, tested him over his views on military intervention. “Do you believe the continued costs and risks of our inaction in Syria are now worse for our national security interests than the costs and risks associated with limited military action?” McCain demanded. But Dempsey would not answer the question directly, saying he would instead share his views privately with the Commander-in-Chief, President Obama.
“Senator, I am in favor of building a moderate opposition and supporting it,” Dempsey said during the tense exchange. “The question whether to support it with direct kinetic strikes is a president for a — is a decision for our elected officials, not for the senior military leader of the nation.”
McCain has now locked his confirmation until he gets more answers. There are two ways to look at Dempsey’s decision Thursday before the Senate panel. Some believe the general, well regarded but not known for rocking the boat, stood his ground and took a stand against a Congressional overseer thought to be bullying the administration over its Syria policy. Others were astounded that Dempsey seemed so cocky, even arrogant, at one point shooting a question back to McCain about “recent experience” with intervention — in Iraq.
Senior officers, experts and other observers all believe that Dempsey’s number one job was to obey what any senior officer will tell you is Golden Rule of confirmations: don’t filibuster, don’t grandstand and get confirmed. If Dempsey was being asked an uncomfortable question he couldn’t avoid, he should have politely asked to answer it in private session, they say.
“Military leaders, when they answer that question, they get from the Senate in the affirmative, they are absolutely committing themselves to providing their personal views to members of Congress,” one senior officer said. But those personal views aren’t always appropriate for a public setting such as a confirmation hearing, the officer said, and Dempsey did the right thing – even if he didn’t do it in the right way. “In my view, it was not inappropriate for Dempsey to withhold his views in that particular setting.”
Others agree, too. Some officials who are familiar with the process of preparing for testimony say commanders should be able to retain their best military advice for their commander-in-chief – not the public or members of Congress.
“Senior general officers, be they in command of a war or serving as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are there to serve the commander-in-chief, as advisors or commanders, giving him their best military advice.”Look at judges up for confirmation: do they divulge what their decisions will be? No. Similarly, a senior general gives advice to the president. He’s not appointed to give advice to Congress, nor does he feel compelled to tell, in advance, what his advice and views are to anyone besides the president.”
There have been a number of cases in which senior officers are asked their opinion in a public hearing — and some give it. Most recently, Gen. James Mattis, then commander of U.S. Central Command in April was asked how many troops he believed should be left in Afghanistan after security responsibility is completely transferred to Afghans at the end of next year. His answer: 13,600. The response, from an officer who was about to retire but had been widely thought to have been under a gag order during that command, angered some in the White House and other political types. But individuals close to his thinking believe that that was his personal opinion and he didn’t mind sharing it publicly since it didn’t expose any state secrets or classified information. Dempsey’s predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen, famously expressed his opinion about suspending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling the Senate what he thought, himself. “Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said in February 2010. “No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” he said. “For me personally, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
It took some prodding. But Dempsey finally spoke up, too. But by presenting the options in Syria as an array that goes from bad to worse, it’s not clear if he enhanced his confirmation prospects – or made them worse.
It seems that our corrupt, lying leaders in Washington are at it again. Just moments ago, the Administration said that Syria “Has crossed the Red Line” by using chemical weapons against the opposition. That isn’t what is driving this train.
According to international sources, the opposition is swiftly folding against the Army of Bashir al-Assad and this is unacceptable to the U.S. and its proxy Israel. You can read about the rebel fallback here on OEN.
This is also obfuscating the current news about the unwarranted NSA spying on all American citizens. Obama seems to be losing his credibility with his Progressive base over what they feel are their loss of privacy and 1st Amendment as well as 4th Amendment rights.
Americans are being railroaded into another lose/lose situation in the Middle-east to stop the political hemorrhaging here in America. This is unacceptable and Americans should see this as just what it is. War in order to keep dissent to a minimum is an old trick. People need to look at this for what it really is, something thrown into the mix to keep our eyes off the ball.
Senator John McCain was on CNN recently and was very satisfied that America was now going to send heavy weapons into Syria. We should not feel as pleased. Tensions will be getting even higher in the region and it could erupt into another World War. That would take the American peoples mind off of how badly their government has failed them.
Former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. A regular contributor to OpEdNews, he is the author of Kimchee Days or Stoned Cold Warriors. Tim’s political book, “From (
Apple paid almost no tax on earnings of more than $100bn over four years, US Senator Carl Levin and former presidential candidate John McCainclaimed last night.
One Apple subsidiary incorporated in Ireland paid no tax anywhere on a staggering $30bn of revenue between 2009 and 2012, the senators claim.
And a second incorporated in Ireland paid a tiny fraction – just five hundredths of one per cent in 2011 for example – on total reported income of $74bn over the same period.
The claims come ahead of the senate hearing today that will look at Apple’s tax activities and its relationship with Ireland going back over three decades.
The US senators published an explosive 40-page report last night, outlining what they claim is Apple’s use of Ireland and its different tax system to the US to avoid paying huge amounts of tax.
Apple’s Tim Cook is due to mount a strong defence at the public hearing today in Washington.
He will say that Apple pays more US tax than any other corporation, has a real presence in Ireland with 4,000 workers, and will deny the use of “gimmicks” to get out of paying a proper share of tax.
“Apple does not move its intellectual property into offshore tax havens and use it to sell products back into the US in order to avoid US tax; it does not use revolving loans from foreign subsidiaries to fund its domestic operations; it does not hold money on a Caribbean island; and it does not have a bank account in the Cayman Islands,” Apple said in a statement last night.
But the company admitted that its Irish subsidiary, Apple Operations International, has no presence or employees in Ireland and pays no tax here as a result, but neither is it tax resident in the US.
It is the kind of legal tax scheme that is infuriating political leaders in the US and in the UK desperate to tax the profits of big corporations.
It is even claimed that Irish authorities negotiated with Apple to cut the effective rate it pays in tax in some cases to just 2pc – a fraction of the standard 12.5pc.
via US senators accuse Apple of using Irish arm to avoid tax – Independent.ie.
via US senators accuse Apple of using Irish arm to avoid tax – Independent.ie.
Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded and still have no right to sue?
NATO forces have refused to turn Afghan prisoners over to some local jails due to concerns about the torture committed in many of those detention centers. After a dozen years of U.S. efforts to export democracy to Afghanistan, that’s just one example of why this mission has proven to be an utter failure.
The Guantánamo prison also illustrates what’s gone wrong with our permanent battle formerly known as the Global War on Terror. President Barack Obama promised to shut it down when he was first sworn in four years ago, but the Caribbean detention center is still wrecking lives and standing as a gleaming symbol of so many things that are wrong with U.S. foreign policy.
The biggest obstacle to closing Gitmo is the dilemma of what to do with the detainees still held there. In any event, Congress has barred their transfer to American soil. People here have rights, or at least used to, and we surely can’t afford to let terror suspects claim any of those.
The farther they are from U.S. shores, and the murkier the justice systems of the receiving nations, the harder it’s going to be to trace any appalling abuse back to our “anti-terrorism” experts.
So hard, in fact, that Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled it can’t be done. No prosecutions await, therefore, for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Petraeus, Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, or the hundreds — maybe thousands — of underlings who oversaw acts of torture committed in U.S. custody or later covered them up. We can’t be entirely sure whether such deeds still go on until some brave soul makes another movie or another whistleblower decides it’s worth life in jail to tell us.
The FBI prosecuted him for divulging the name of another agent to a journalist. Even though the reporter didn’t publish the operative’s name, Kiriakou began serving a 30-month prison sentence on Feb. 28. This made the whistleblower the only CIA officer to do time for anything related to torture
As Kiriakou’s fate indicates, our justice system isn’t much help for thwarting government-sponsored abuse. A federal appeals court has ruled that even U.S. citizens who were tortured by our own military have no “right of action.” How’s that? Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded too and still have no right to sue? Attacked by one of our own government’s drones?
Historically, it’s no surprise that torture turns out to be an established weapon in America’s diplomatic arsenal.
After all, look at the history behind the School of the Americas, where some of the most vicious leaders in Latin America learned terror techniques at our behest. That training beefed up our ability to defend friendly dictators in the West, and to oust leftist leaders who somehow managed to get elected.
U.S. citizens understandably have trouble knowing what to believe. It just can’t be true that our own virtuous democracy has, now or ever, perpetuated torture. But then there is all the evidence. Guantánamo detainees have been subjected to everything from sensory deprivation to Chinese torture techniques.
Washington will have us believe that the victims are all terrorists. And the Republicans (John McCain aside) say it’s really OK since we must be getting some valuable information.
The rest of the world isn’t quite so sure. A war crimes tribunal in Malaysia has independently found the United States guilty of those crimes. So have the European Court of Human Rights and the Italian Supreme Court.
In his second term, President Barack Obama should shut Gitmo and put an end to these abuses that stain our nation’s integrity.
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org
Unable to move on:
In his first interview since losing last year’s presidential election, Mitt Romney made it pretty clear through his words and tone that he hasn’t moved on from his loss. “I look at what’s happening right now, I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done.” Ditto his wife, Ann. “It was a crushing disappointment. Not for us. Our lives are going to be fine. It’s for the country.” Given that the Romneys haven’t moved on, it raises this question: Why did they do the interview? In fairness to Romney, he’s not the first losing presidential candidate to have a hard time getting over a loss — George McGovern, John McCain and Al Gore all come to mind. Not everyone ends up like Mondale or Dole and moves immediately to elder statesman status. By the way, don’t miss what Romney said about his infamous “47%” comment: “What I said is not what I believe.” Folks, that one sentence sums up Romney’s two failed presidential bids.
Even after the election, the Romney campaign still doesn’t get it. Mitt Romney’s 47% remark at a fundraiser haunted his campaign more than any other issue. Matched with similar remarks that he liked to “fire people” or that “corporations are people,” Romney constantly confronted the belief that he didn’t understand the problems of ordinary Americans. The Romney campaign could never overcome that obstacle. Now it appears that was because they didn’t really understand it.
Stuart Stevens, a top strategist for Romney, wrote in the Washington Post how wonderfully transformational the Romney campaign was. Stevens tries to present Romney as a dark horse for the nomination because the Republican Party elders never liked Romney and Romney trailed in the polls to about every Republican presidential candidate at one time or another.
Was Stevens in the same campaign that the rest of us remember? Romney was the favorite for the nomination from day one after the 2008 election. He raised far more money than his rivals and lead in the polls regularly. The only reason that the polls briefly gave candidates like Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann and Santorum boosts was disatisfaction with Romney. A disatisfaction in hindsight that that was well placed. Failing to seal the deal is hardly something to throw laurels at.
Stevens suggests that the selection of Paul Ryan was brilliant because it forever changed the way that America looked at Social Security and Medicare reform. He must be joking. Does anyone remember anything memorable that Ryan did in the campaign? That’s not to say Ryan was a poor choice. He just wasn’t a gamechanger.
Stevens points to Romney’s 8-point victory over Obama as proof that Ryan’s entitlement reform ideas went over well. Stevens should look at the 2008 demographics. John McCain carried senior by 8 points too. 2012 was a closer election. The numbers improved for the Republicans from McCain’s run in 2008. When a demographic doesn’t follow that trend, it takes a particularly strong dose of chutzpah to claim it as a victory.
None of that comes close to this piece from Stevens’ reflections:
On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 4½ million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain.
All that is true, but Romney’s only got 54% from those receiving over $100,000 a year. Obama carried those making under $50,000 with 60%. Romney did get 52% of those making between $50,000 and $99,000. That doesn’t mean that once someone makes $50,000, that person is more inclined to back Romney. Romney might have won those making over $40,000 or lost those making under $65,000. The $50,000 mark is an arbitrary drawing line.
What can be assumed comfortably from the exit polls is that Romney lost the 47% that he decried by a comfortable margin. Those are Americans making significantly less than $50,000 a year. They are often the young and minorities. These are the very demographics that the Republican Party needs to expand and embrace if it is going to compete in future elections.
Yet Stevens dismisses all that in his proud declaration that Romney won the voters who really matter: the rich, old and white voters. I’m actually surprised that Stevens didn’t pound himself on the chest and declare Romney won the majority of the male vote too.
No wonder Romney never comprehended the image problem that he had with a majority of Americans. He had people like Stevens telling him that the important voters are those who dominated America’s past.
The Republican Party’s challenges are going to be more difficult than just rebranding. It has people like Stevens who are entrenched in the twentieth century thinking that they can still bring together the coalitions of Nixon and Reagan. Someone needs to tell them that the silent majority is no more.
Rich, older, white male voters are not going to dominate politics like they once did. Yet Stevens really thinks that Obama’s campaign was the aberration and the Democrats will not be able to replicate it.
There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?
There is Stevens trying to make the argument that an African American candidate is nearly invicible, especially with a billion dollars in the bank and the media in his back pocket. If Stevens really believes that there is no racism left in America, then he is further delusional than I am imagining. Maybe he is. Take a look at his conclusions.
Yes, the Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right. When Mitt Romney stood on stage with President Obama, it wasn’t about television ads or whiz-bang turnout technologies, it was about fundamental Republican ideas vs. fundamental Democratic ideas. It was about lower taxes or higher taxes, less government or more government, more freedom or less freedom. And Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.
Mitt Romney carried the day? Mitt Romney performed better than only four other Republican candidates in the last 15 elections. Stevens had better looked at the election results again. Romney received 47% and 206 electoral votes. He did not carry the day. He lost the election in what may be the last attempt to forge a coalition of the older, white and wealthier voters that Stevens admires.
John McCain Explodes After CNN Reporter Asks Him Why He Didn’t Attend Benghazi Briefing: ‘Who the Hell Are You?’
Earlier today it was revealed that Senator John McCain, along with several of his fellow Republicans, skipped a classified Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee briefing on the Benghazi consulate attack to hold a press conference about the lack of information on the Benghazi consulate attack.
CNN wanted to know why Sen. McCain decided it was more important to complain about “many unanswered questions” about Benghazi rather than, say, go to a committee briefing where those questions might be answered, so they sent a reporter to ask him.
But, ironically, McCain was in no mood to answer questions.
“I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media,” he told CNN’s Ted Barrett. Pressed on why he had no comment, McCain barked back, “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”
When CNN noted that McCain had missed a key meeting on a subject the senator has been intensely upset about, McCain said, “I’m upset that you keep badgering me.”
McCain’s spokesman Brian Rogers later told the media McCain missed the Benghazi hearing “due to a scheduling error.”
It’s worth noting that McCain was in a pretty foul mood yesterday as well, lashing out at a reporter who asked him if the national security threat from the Petraeus scandal was comparable to that of the Benghazi attack by calling the query “one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard.”