WASHINGTON -- If you asked my true religion, I would not answer anything practiced in a church, synagogue or mosque. My real religion is America, and I feel privileged that, among the world's 7 billion people, I am one of the roughly 300 million lucky enough to be an American. This transcends mere patriotism. I believe in what this country stands for, even though I acknowledge its limits and failures. As individuals, we are no better than most (selfishness and prejudice having survived). As a society, we have often violated our loftiest ideals (starting with the acceptance of slavery in 1787). Our loud insistence of "exceptionalism" offends millions of non-Americans, who find us exceptional only in our relentless boasting.
The Rise of Popularism, NY Times, By Thomas L. Friedman
TRAVELING in Europe last week, it seemed as if every other conversation ended with some form of this question: Why does it feel like so few leaders are capable of inspiring their people to meet the challenges of our day? There are many explanations for this global leadership deficit, but I’d focus on two: one generational, one technological.
Europe's Grim Choices RealClearPolitics, By Robert Samuelson
WASHINGTON -- Europe is at the abyss -- again. Its turmoil is rattling global stock markets and stoking fear and bewilderment. The obvious question is, what's the solution? The answer is, there is no solution. Europe faces choices, some bad and others worse. Unfortunately, it's unclear which are which. The best that can be imagined is that Europe lurches from crisis to crisis and that its slumping economy weakens the already fragile global recovery. The worst is a massive flight from the euro and an economic free fall that resurrects the dark days of 2008 and 2009.
Duty and Sacrifice The American, By Ralph Kinney Bennett
For the majority of Americans, Memorial Day is first and foremost a three-day weekend. Time to watch the Indianapolis 500 or a baseball game; time to open the swimming pool or have a picnic. The American flag will be appropriated to embellish ads for supermarkets, department stores, car dealers, and home improvement centers. Sales on everything from garden fertilizer to bedroom furniture will be accompanied by perfunctory messages urging us to “remember those who died for our country” as we clip our coupons and make our way to the mall. The nearest most folks will get to any graveyard, let alone a military cemetery, is a file photo in the local newspaper or obligatory footage on the television news.
American Decline a Mirage in a World That’s Rising By Ezra Klein
“Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned,” said President Barack Obama in his 2012 State of the Union address, “doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” It was a “rah-rah America!” applause line for a president who needed to get the assembled Republicans out of their seats a few times over the course of the evening. But the line works literally, too. Whenever someone tells me that the U.S. is in decline, I don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. And neither, I tend to think, do they.
50 Years Of Government Spending, In 1 Graph by Lam Thuy Vo
Of each dollar the federal government spends, how much goes to defense? How much goes to Social Security? How much goes to interest on the debt? And how has this sort of thing changed over time?
(Click the link above to see the answers to these questions)
What Military Officers Need to Know About Civil-Military Relations by Mackubin Thomas Owens
Civil-military relations describe the interactions among the people of a state, the institutions of that state, and the military of the state. At the institutional level, there are “two hands on the sword.”1 The civil hand determines when to draw it from the scabbard and thence guides it in its use. This is the dominant hand of policy, the purpose for which the sword exists in the first place. The military’s hand sharpens the sword for use and wields it in combat.
Mahan’s Naval Strategy: China Learned It. Will America Forget It? World Affairs, by Seth Cropsey and Arthur Milikh
The public debate over the federal budget often obscures the relation between our domestic and foreign interests. Such debates test democracy’s prudence by forcing a choice between immediate and easily perceptible problems and the distant and often silent strategic interests underpinning policy. An enduring strategy that enables US political and military strength through commercial superiority hinges on naval power. We appear to have forgotten the vital and unique responsibilities assigned to a navy in a democratic society: how it preserves US commercial success and domestic material well-being and—most often ignored—how a navy establishes the conditions that make liberal commerce on the seas possible.
The Future of the World Economy RealClearPolitics, by Robert Samuelson
It must now be obvious that, economically speaking, we're in another country. Things we once took for granted no longer apply; things we never imagined occur all the time. We've entered a zone of ignorance where familiar experience and ideas count for less. "Thirty years ago, if you'd said that the United States and Europe were going to be the centers of financial crises, people would have thought you were crazy," says economist Fred Bergsten. The unforeseen is now routine.
Europe's Predicament is Similar to Ours RealClearMarkets, by Robert Samuelson
We Americans fool ourselves if we ignore the parallels between Europe's problems and our own. It's reassuring to think them separate, and the fixation on the euro - Europe's common currency - buttresses that mind-set. But Europe's turmoil is more than a currency crisis and was inevitable, in some form, even if the euro had never been created. It's ultimately a crisis of the welfare state, which has grown too large to be easily supported economically. People can't live with it - and can't live without it. The American predicament is little different.
How China Can Defeat America The New York Times, by Yan Xuetong
With China’s growing influence over the global economy, and its increasing ability to project military power, competition between the United States and China is inevitable. Leaders of both countries assert optimistically that the competition can be managed without clashes that threaten the global order.
America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment thedailybeast.com, by Niall Ferguson
In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitably and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man. History isn’t one smooth, parabolic curve after another. Its shape is more like an exponentially steepening slope that quite suddenly drops off like a cliff.
HASC Staff Paper on Defense Cuts
Staff has conducted a preliminary assessment of the impacts of budget cuts that could occur beginning in FY 2013 if:
(1) The recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction fail to be enacted and full sequestration occurs; or
(2) The FY 2013 defense budget request is 10% below FY 2011 enacted levels, which is one scenario OMB has directed all departments, including DOD, to plan for. These scenarios have similar consequences for defense through FY 2021 and are considered “worst case”. Future cuts of lesser amounts would have proportional impacts."
History And Strategies: Grand, Maritime, And American FPRI, by Walter A. McDougall
A classic treatise on grand strategy specifically addressed the geopolitics of the Pacific Rim in the aftermath of the First World War. Its cautionary conclusion warned that great powers drawn to compete for commerce and empire in the vast vacuum of the North Pacific invariably over-reached. Bids for hegemony by Spain and Portugal, then Britain and Russia, had already been thwarted and the likelihood in the 20th century was that Japan would be tempted to overreach followed, perhaps, by the United States. The author of that prescient analysis was none other than Karl Haushofer, whose reputation is that of a leading proponent of continental geopolitics fixated on the quest for hegemony over the Heartland of Eurasia, which his English counterpart Halford Mackinder dubbed the World Island.
Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity Center for New American Security (CNAS), by Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel, Travis Sharp
The Budget Control Act of 2011 has set the government on a path to dramatically reduce spending over the next decade, and a congressional "super committee" is now seeking to trim spending by more than $1 trillion beyond the cuts already enacted this year. As additional cuts are made, we must ask: How can the United States responsibly and effectively maximize its security in this era of growing fiscal austerity?
Simply Evil Slate, by Christopher Hitchens
The proper task of the "public intellectual" might be conceived as the responsibility to introduce complexity into the argument: the reminder that things are very infrequently as simple as they can be made to seem. But what I learned in a highly indelible manner from the events and arguments of September 2001 was this: Never, ever ignore the obvious either. To the government and most of the people of the United States, it seemed that the country on 9/11 had been attacked in a particularly odious way (air piracy used to maximize civilian casualties) by a particularly odious group (a secretive and homicidal gang: part multinational corporation, part crime family) that was sworn to a medieval cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, a religious frenzy against Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, and "unbelievers," and the restoration of a long-vanished and despotic empire.
This Decade at War Small Wars Journal, by Robert Haddick
War is frequently a matter of experimentation and trial-and-error. The wars of the past decade have been no exception. The United States has churned through several warfighting doctrines over the past ten years as elusive adversaries and looming political and financial constraints have forced policymakers to adapt. We are currently witnessing an accelerating decline in the size of the military effort against terrorism. Increasingly, the war against terrorists is fought in the shadows, out of sight, and by civilians or a few commandos seconded to civilian commanders. The vast majority of the U.S. military will soon exit the wars that 9/11 started. And the arrival of heavy financial and political constraints will force U.S. policymakers to develop a real national security strategy for the first time since 1950s. As other security challenges rise up, the War on Terror is already becoming a backwater.
Global Economic Downturn: A Crisis of Political Economy STRATFOR, by George Friedman
Classical political economists like Adam Smith or David Ricardo never used the term “economy” by itself. They always used the term “political economy.” For classical economists, it was impossible to understand politics without economics or economics without politics. The two fields are certainly different but they are also intimately linked. The use of the term “economy” by itself did not begin until the late 19th century. Smith understood that while an efficient market would emerge from individual choices, those choices were framed by the political system in which they were made, just as the political system was shaped by economic realities. For classical economists, the political and economic systems were intertwined, each dependent on the other for its existence.
The Real Budget Deal RealClearPolitics, by Robert Samuelson
With so much financial turmoil, it's important to grasp what last week's budget deal does and doesn't do. Note, for starters, that it won't create much "fiscal drag" on the economy. The spending cuts are simply too small in a $15 trillion annual economy. The deal might shave one-tenth of 1 percent off annual growth in the next decade, estimates the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers. Note also that the deal isn't a victory for the tea party over liberals. Liberals got much of what they wanted while the tea party's influence may wane. Taxes may rise if the Bush-Obama tax cuts expire at the end of 2012.
The Crisis of the Old Order RealClearPolitics, by Robert Samuelson
We are now witnessing "the crisis of the old order." The phrase, coined by the late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to describe the failure of unfettered capitalism in the late 1920s, also applies to the present, despite different circumstances. Everywhere, advanced nations face similar problems: overcommitted welfare states, aging populations, flagging economic expansion. These conditions define the global crisis and explain why it's struck the United States, Europe and Japan simultaneously. We need to move beyond daily headlines to understand this larger predicament.
Hard Slog -- the Real Future of the U.S. Economy Bloomberg, by Peter Orszag
The continuing weakness in the labor market and the saga of the debt limit highlight the dual problems we face: low economic growth right now and an unsustainable amount of debt for the future. Unfortunately, both are probably more significant than policy discussions and official predictions about the U.S. economy suggest.
What’s Happening to the US Economy? Project Syndicate, by Martin Feldstein
The American economy has recently slowed dramatically, and the probability of another economic downturn increases with each new round of data. This is a sharp change from the economic situation at the end of last year – and represents a return to the very weak pace of expansion since the recovery began in the summer of 2009.
The Death of the American Dream II The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
In one of the great American classic musicals “Little Shop of Horrors,” Audrey sings a paean to the American Dream of the twentieth century: “Somewhere That’s Green.” Living in Skid Row, she dreams of escape to life as it ought to be lived:
A matchbox of our own
A fence of real chain link,
A grill out on the patio
Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share
Somewhere that’s green.
This is the sound of the American Dream 2.0.
The Death of the American Dream I The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
The news from the housing market this week is bad. Really bad. House prices today are lower in most of the country than they were in the dismal month of April 2009; we are now in the second dip of the double dip housing downturn.
This doesn’t just mean that President Obama’s re-election is in trouble. It doesn’t just mean that stocks and the dollar may fall. It doesn’t just mean that unemployment will stay high for a while and that whole economy may follow the housing market back into the tank for a second recession.
American Enterprise Institute (Defense Spending) As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, DC, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Thank you Arthur, and thanks for that introduction. And my thanks to the American Enterprise Institute for hosting this event on relatively short notice. In many ways it is appropriate that AEI be the setting for my last major policy speech in Washington. The recent history of this institution and some of its more prominent figures is inextricably tied to the war in Iraq, the conflict that pulled me out of private life and back into the public arena nearly four and a half years ago.
Notre Dame Commencement As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN, Sunday, May 22, 2011
Today, we face challenges that do not threaten America’s unity and very existence as directly, but they are in some ways just as complex. And if there’s consensus in Washington on one thing, it is that we cannot put off dealing with this crisis any longer. But going forward, we must be clear-eyed about the fact that there are no painless answers.
The China Challenge The Wall Street Journal, by Henry Kissinger
Societies and nations tend to think of themselves as eternal. They also cherish a tale of their origin. A special feature of Chinese civilization is that it seems to have no beginning. It appears in history less as a conventional nation-state than as a permanent natural phenomenon. In the tale of the Yellow Emperor, revered by many Chinese as the legendary founding ruler, China seems already to exist.
The Death of Osama Bin Laden, and the Shape of Threats to Come Center for Strategic & International Studies by Anthony H. Cordesman
No American -- or anyone else one who opposes violent, murderous terrorism -- can see Osama Bin Laden’s death as anything but just retribution. We need to be very cautious, however, in assuming that it will now damage Al Qa’ida and other Islamist extremist networks, or that we can predict the political and strategic consequences.
If you thought the financial crisis was bad, wait till the debt ceiling caves in
Washington Post, by Ezra Klein
Timothy Geithner does not want the market to smell his fear. “I want to make one thing perfectly clear,” he said Sunday. “Congress will raise the debt ceiling.” But if there was truly so little doubt, Geithner wouldn’t have been peppered with questions about it on the Sunday shows.
An Interview with General Jack Keane Small Wars Journal, by Octavian Manea
How would you describe the US Army’s mind-set in approaching the war in Vietnam?
"I think we took an army whose primary focus was conventional operations against the Warsaw Pact in Europe and took it to war in South Vietnam. In the first three years of the war we were trying to use conventional tactics against an unconventional enemy. That strategy failed miserably. And it was not until General Abrams came in and took over from General Westmoreland who changed the strategy to a counterinsurgency strategy which was designed to protect the population. We saw significant progress against the insurgency and then, by 1971, three years later, it was essentially defeated."
Click the link above to download the full interview from Small Wars Journal.
The Middle East Crisis Has Just Begun The Wall Street Journal, by Robert D. Kaplan
Despite the military drama unfolding in Libya, the Middle East is only beginning to unravel. American policy-makers have been spoiled by events in Tunisia and Egypt, both of which boast relatively sturdy institutions, civil society associations and middle classes, as well as being age-old clusters of civilization where states of one form or another have existed since antiquity. Darker terrain awaits us elsewhere in the region, where states will substantially weaken once the carapace of tyranny crumbles. The crucial tests lie ahead, beyond the distraction of Libya.
Are America's Best Days Behind Us? Time, by By Fareed Zakaria,
I am an American, not by accident of birth but by choice. I voted with my feet and became an American because I love this country and think it is exceptional. But when I look at the world today and the strong winds of technological change and global competition, it makes me nervous. Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that while these forces gather strength, Americans seem unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that face us. Despite the hyped talk of China's rise, most Americans operate on the assumption that the U.S. is still No. 1.
Speech to the United States Military Academy As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, West Point, NY, Friday, February 25, 2011
One of the greatest privileges of serving as Secretary of Defense over the last 4-plus years is the opportunity to visit the service academies – to speak to and hear from the future leadership of the finest military in the world. This will be the fourth – and final – time that I address the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy as Secretary of Defense.
"Is Fear The Father Of Us All?" The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
If a specter haunts the chancellories of America, it isn’t communism and it isn’t Karl Marx. It’s Thucydides, the chronicler of the 30 year Peloponnesian War between ancient Sparta and Athens that led to the comprehensive defeat of the world’s first great democratic power. The assumptions most Americans bring to the study of foreign policy — that there are win-win solutions for most problems, that democracy makes for a more peaceful world, that international law can prevail and that power need not be the final arbiter in human affairs — strike Thucydides as pious, nonsensical claptrap.
Unfortunately, he was a very smart man, and much of what he wrote makes sense.
"The Revolution Wanders From The Script" The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
The Egyptian government has survived the first crisis of the revolution and both the government and the protesters are moving to a new trial of strength. Surviving the first blast of popular fury — and of international criticism — is an important milestone for the government. The longer it can hold out, the more likely it is that the core power centers of the Egyptian regime — the ‘deep state’ as the Turks say — will survive the Mubarak era and dominate the country for some time to come.
"The Plagues of Egypt" The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
The Obama administration is now living through one of the oldest and most difficult recurring problems in American foreign policy: what do you do when revolution breaks out in an allied country?
The only clue history offers is not an encouraging one: there is often no satisfactory resolution of the dilemmas revolutions present.
"America Must Brace Itself For Turbulence" Financial Times, by Peter R. Orszag
America is experiencing the hard slog of recovering from the financial crisis. Prospects have turned more positive over the past two months. But a year ago growth was picking up too – and then it stalled, at about the same time Greece's fiscal problems infected the global economy. The question now is whether a home-grown fiscal crisis could derail this year's rebound.
"The West and the Tyranny of Public Debt" Newsweek, by Jacques Attali
The history of public debt is the very history of national power: how it has been won and how it has been lost. Dreams and impatience have always driven men in power to draw on the resources of others—be it slaves, the inhabitants of occupied lands, or their own children yet to be born—in order to carry out their schemes, to consolidate power, to grow their own fortunes. But never, outside periods of total war, has the debt of the world’s most powerful states grown so immense. Never has it so heavily threatened their political systems and standards of living. Public debt cannot keep growing without unleashing terrible catastrophes.
"800 Words on the Last Year in Afghanistan" Small Wars Journal, by Major General Nick Carter, British Army
The last year has seen significant change in southern Afghanistan. An uplift of over 20,000 US troops, and more importantly, a huge increase in Afghan security forces has more than doubled the number of forces in Helmand and Kandahar. When I arrived in southern Afghanistan last October there was one weak Afghan Army brigade in Helmand and one in Kandahar, the original capital of Afghanistan. When I left a year later these had increased to nearly six. The Afghan Police has also been uplifted by 30%. These reinforcements have made possible the disposition of our forces to be realigned so that our counter insurgency strategy can focus on protecting the population.
"Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons - Toward a Regional Strategy" American Enterprise Institute, by Michael Auslin,
Ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific region will be the primary foreign policy challenge for the United States and liberal nations over the next generation. Doing so successfully will provide the greatest economic and political opportunities for the next quarter century. Conversely, a failure to maintain stability, support liberal regimes, create cooperative regional relations, and uphold norms and standards of international behavior will lead to a region, and world, of greater uncertainty, insecurity, and instability
"In Defense of the Liberal Arts" Tribune Media Services, by Victor Davis Hanson,
The liberal arts face a perfect storm. The economy is struggling with obscenely high unemployment and is mired in massive federal and state deficits. Budget-cutting won't spare education.
The public is already angry over fraud, waste and incompetence in our schools and universities. And in these tough times, taxpayers rightly question everything about traditional education — from teacher unions and faculty tenure to the secrecy of university admissions policies and which courses really need to be taught.
Opportunistic private trade schools have sprouted in every community, offering online certification in practical skills without the frills and costs of so-called liberal arts "electives."
Debt and Taxes: Will America Ever Grow Up? Businessweek, by Peter Coy and Heidi Przybyla
In the space of a week, the chiefs of two blue-ribbon panels in Washington have put forth tough-minded proposals for reining in federal budget deficits. The ugly reality that they emphasized—no less true for being so often described or so reliably ignored—is that Americans have undersaved, overspent, and made unaffordable commitments for the future, particularly on retiree health care. The IOUs are accumulating, and if nothing is done soon, the chits will hit the fan: Creditors will stop lending money or at least demand much higher interest rates for it, as they already have in Greece, Ireland, and Iceland.
Will China Kill 'Global Rebalancing'? RealClearPolitics, by Robert Samuelson,
WASHINGTON -- The idea of "rebalancing" the world economy is simple. Before the financial crisis, some advanced countries (led by the United States) were overspending, and some poorer countries (led by China) were oversaving. The two offset each other. The big spenders ran large trade deficits, and the big savers ran large trade surpluses. Now, the financial crisis has dampened the overspending. If the big savers don't increase their spending, the world economy faces prolonged slow growth. Countries may battle each other for shares of that weak demand by managing exchange rates, subsidies or tariffs.
"The Age of Austerity" RealClearPolitics, by Robert Samuelson,
WASHINGTON -- We have entered the Age of Austerity. It's already arrived in Europe and is destined for the United States. Governments throughout Europe are cutting social spending and raising taxes -- or contemplating doing so. The welfare state and the bond market have collided, and the welfare state is in retreat. Even rich countries find the costs too high; but the sudden austerity could perversely trigger a new financial crisis.
"Managing Oneself" Harvard Business Review, by Peter R. Drucker, January 2005,
History's great achievers - a Napoleon, a da Vinci, a Mozart - have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so un-usual both in their talents and their accomplishments as to be considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place our-selves where we can make the greatest contribution. And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.
Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on Foreign Policy by John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821
AND NOW, FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind?
"Solitude and Leadership" The American Scholar, by William Deresiewicz, Spring 2010 -
My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and leadership necessitates the presence of others—the people you’re leading. When we think about leadership in American history we are likely to think of Washington, at the head of an army, or Lincoln, at the head of a nation, or King, at the head of a movement—people with multitudes behind them, looking to them for direction. And when we think of solitude, we are apt to think of Thoreau, a man alone in the woods, keeping a journal and communing with nature in silence.
"Ebb Tide" The American Interest Online, by Seth Cropsey, September - October 2010 Issue -
Only one statement can be made with certainty about the future of the U.S. Navy: Its strength is a necessary precondition of U.S. continuance as a great power. A robust, globally distributed and technologically superior naval force does not ensure the future of American international preeminence, but a waning fleet composed of fewer and less fearsome vessels guarantees the decline of U.S. influence in the world. Venice, Spain, Holland, France and England learned the identical lesson over the past 500 years: The loss of seapower paralleled and was in large measure responsible for their decline as great powers.
"As the US wanes, China gains" The Australian, by Cameron Stewart, August 5, 2010 -
BENEATH the radar, almost by stealth, the tectonic plates of power are shifting in the Pacific Ocean.
A resurgent China is baring its teeth at the once indomitable US Pacific fleet. The certainty of US hegemony over this vast ocean, which Australians have taken for granted since World War II, is being challenged.
But this steady transformation of our security outlook has failed to capture public attention in Australia precisely because it has been so steady and does not lend itself to an easy headline in a world of 24-hour news cycles.
"A Time to Appease" National Interest Online, by Paul Kennedy, June 22, 2010 - "“APPEASEMENT!” WHAT a powerful term it has become, growing evermore in strength as the decades advance. It is much stronger a form of opprobrium than even the loaded “L” word, since Liberals are (so their opponents charge) people with misguided political preferences; but talk of someone being an Appeaser brings us to a much darker meaning, that which involves cowardice, abandoning one’s friends and allies, failing to recognize evil in the world—a fool, then—or recognizing evil but then trying to buy it off—a knave. Nothing so alarms a president or prime minister in the Western world than to be accused of pursuing policies of appeasement. Better to be accused of stealing from a nunnery, or beating one’s family."
In 1941, Admiral Ernest J. King (Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet) issued two SERIALS to his Commanders focused on exercising command. In these two Serials, ADM King reinforces the critical importance of decentralized command and control enabled by the initiative of the subordinate. From my perspective, nothing has changed in the 69 years since ADM King promulgated these Serials that would make his words any less true or important today than they were during the months leading up to our involvement in World War II.
"Cinclant Serial 053 of January 21, 1941"
"Cinclant Serial 0328 of April 28, 1941"