Budget Priorities and Military Spending

December 9, 2011, 3:48 pm | Posted by

An infographic to complement the new study on the relative job-creating value of spending on defense vs. discretionary budget items. From MilitaryEducation.org:

Cost of Military

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Assistant Secretary of Defense Rejects GOP Frame of Ideological War, Ctd.

December 9, 2011, 2:17 pm | Posted by

Spencer Ackerman weighs in on the exchange between Secretary Stockton and Rep. Lungren about conservative insistence on “naming the threat” of violent Islamist extremism.

Acknowledging that this framing can sound “on the surface” like a good way to distinguish between terrorists and peaceful Muslims, he points out more nuanced flaws:

“Violent Islamist extremism” means the U.S. is at war — war – with Hamas, with Hezbollah, arguably with Iran. Little unites these organizations and entities with al-Qaida in any programmatic way. They just all claim to be motivated by Islam; all take a fevered and conspiratorial understanding of Islam (though conspiratorial in different ways); and all use violence as a tool to achieve their goals. Fighting al-Qaida is already a big, big enterprise, since anyone the government says is “affiliated” with al-Qaida, worldwide, is in its crosshairs, and no one knows how to define “affiliated” in any rigorous way.

Larding other Islamist extremist groups on top of that is, I argue, a bad idea. It ensures the U.S. loses focus on its core enemy. It will mean lots of blood and lots of money for a long time. And even if you were, miraculously, to rid the world of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups I’m neglecting at the moment, it wouldn’t get you a hair closer to the core goal of eradicating al-Qaida. So thanks but no thanks.

Second, “Violent Islamist Extremism” only means something in English. In Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, etc., it means, “The U.S. will attack every Islamic group it can think of, so we’re all under threat.” In other words, the key demographic in play — the world’s Muslims, whom every smart counterterrorist recognizes are the difference-maker determining whether al-Qaida gets a new lease on life — hears “Violent Islamist Extremism” as “Islam.” That is very bad for strategy.

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Evangelical Leaders Call for Rethinking Nuclear Weapon Policies

December 9, 2011, 12:00 pm | Posted by
nuclear weapon.jpg

Last week, a group of prominent evangelicals penned a Washington Post op-ed calling for a rethinking of international nuclear policies. “Nuclear weapons, with their capacity for terror as well as for destruction of human life, raise profound spiritual, moral and ethical concerns,” they said.

They also outlined concrete steps toward ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used:

“As leaders in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), we believe thoughtful application of evangelical principles and consideration of the current realities support:

  • Re-examining the moral and ethical basis for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence
  • Maintaining the taboo against nuclear use
  • Achieving verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles
  • Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
  • Increasing safeguards against accidental use
  • Resolving regional conflicts
  • Preventing the unauthorized spread of fissile material
  • Continuing dialogue on the effects of possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons”

The letter was signed by Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Dennis Hollinger, president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, John Jenkins, of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, and Jo Ann Lyon, of The Wesleyan Church.

This statement echoes the faith activism around last year’s START nuclear arms reduction treaty. The NAE joined fellow evangelicals at the Two Futures Project as well as Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders calling on Congress to ratify this important agreement.

Promoting peace is a central component of almost all faith traditions and now is the time to put their faith into action toward making our world safe and secure for all.

Photo credit: Kingdafy, Fotopedia

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Director of Combating Terrorism Center Explains Importance of Quality Training Materials

December 8, 2011, 3:36 pm | Posted by

Of the three witnesses that testified on the first panel of Rep. King’s hearing yesterday, the Assistant Secretary of Defense and U.S. Army Senior Adviser for Counterintelligence Operations may have been the higher profile names, the third witness, Lieutenant Colonel Reid L. Sawyer–Director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, was just as important.

The Combating Terrorism Center was most recently in the news as the “clean-up crew” for the FBI after Spencer Ackerman’s reporting exposed the sloppy, anti-Islam bias in the Bureau’s training materials. As Ackerman notes, the CTC has “earned high praise from counterterrorism experts as a haven for rigorous, practical scholarship on terrorism and Islamic extremism.”

In other words, it’s the direct opposites of the self-styled anti-Islam “experts” whose broad stereotypes and wild conspiracy theories currently seem to count as “scholarship” for conservative politicians.

At the hearing, Lt. Coloner Sawyer explained why rooting out these kind of voices from policy and training materials is so important:

There are two critical parts to this. The first is that we do not want to inhibit our ability to educate our forces whether it’s within the inter-agency intelligence community or the military on these critical threats. How do we get our solidiers or our intelligence or law enforcement officials to understand these threats in which they can react to them in a proactive manner and to understand them in depth to be able to focus on the changing trajectory of our time.

To achieve uniformity in this what we need to do is really to instill that there’s a competency in the people that are producing the training materials–that they’re academically rigorous, that they’re based on sound research in which they’re producing and that they are fact-based and devoid of political agenda or personal opinion in those. And if we accomplish that I think that the training materials become much more responsible in the general sense across the general enterprise and, in fact, the reviews have shown this to be the case.

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New Study Confirms Investments in Domestic Priorities Better than Defense for Job Creation

December 8, 2011, 2:33 pm | Posted by

In the ongoing economic debate over the most effective way to manage debt and create jobs, conservative ideologues have maintained a hard line of cutting taxes and slashing spending–except when it comes to the defense budget. Paradoxically, while dismissing the ability of government spending to create jobs, conservatives simultaneously insist that reducing military spending will lead to greater unemployment. However, a new study from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, proves this talking point wrong.

The study shows that investing money in domestic sectors rather than defense programs actually creates more jobs than funneling those funds to military programs alone. The two economists who authored the study used figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the number of jobs created by government spending in areas like tax cuts, energy, health care, and education. The chart from the study illustrates the number of jobs that each area created from a billion dollars in spending:


It’s easy to see that military spending isn’t as crucial to creating jobs as the conservative talking points would have you believe–in fact, it’s not even close to the most important spending area. The combined areas of major domestic spending–investing in clean energy, health care, and education–create about twice as many jobs per dollar than military spending. Even separately, it’s clear that the numbers come out higher than the military category. As the study’s authors conclude, “spending on clean energy, health care, and education will all create many more jobs overall, at all pay levels, than spending on the military.”

In order to work toward a moral budget that takes the needs of all Americans into account, it’s important to get past the rhetoric to find economic solutions that will actually help put struggling Americans back to work. It’s immoral to pursue a budget that slashes government spending for important domestic programs while refusing to trim spending in an area that has proven less effective at spurring job creation.

H/T ThinkProgress

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