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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘sequester’

Congressional Budget Deal Includes Funds for Iron Dome

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives budget committees have proposed a budget deal that would restore $220 million for two more Iron Dome anti-missile batteries only months after they were said to be victims of budget sequestration.

The proposed deal needs to be approved by houses of Congress before becoming law. The deal also adds $15 million for a US co-production capability for Iron Dome parts.

State of Unreadiness

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

My colleague Timothy Whiteman at Liberty Unyielding highlighted recently the number of Air Force squadrons that will have to cease training later this year because the Air Force doesn’t have funds for the flying hours.  This is real, and it is astounding.  It will mean that, at a certain point in the near future, as early as this fall, if no additional funds become available, the cost of mounting an operation big enough to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons-related installations is likely to be too high.

This is because there will be no force depth to either sustain follow-on operations or overcome the geographic constraints U.S. forces are increasingly likely to face.  Assuming all of the Air Force’s stand-downs and readiness-losses do occur, the available front-line forces would be maxed out with a moderately scoped strike package.  To meet the task, they would require the most favorable basing options that could be available in the Persian Gulf under today’s conditions – but which may not be available.  If we don’t have those favorable basing options and the Air Force squadron groundings remain on track, the Iran strike goes from all-but-under-resourced to impossible.

There will not, after all, be two aircraft carriers on station near Iran, with their combined eight squadrons of Navy strike-fighters (more on that below).  It will in theory be possible to deploy a second carrier, but doing so is pretty much certain to require more money from Congress.  (Doing so would also enlarge and accelerate the readiness snowball for the Navy’s carrier force, a snowball that will inevitably become an avalanche of carrier unreadiness in the next three years, if world problems require unplanned operations during this period.)

The Air Force will have to carry the load of a strike on Iran, if there is to be one in the foreseeable future.  The Air Force’s forward-deployed squadrons will continue to train and conduct operational flights.  The B-2s and some of the B-52s, which can deploy immediately and/or operate globally from their bases stateside, will remain combat ready.  But the strike-fighter squadrons at their home bases in the States, which would be called on if a major operation had to be ordered, will be in an impaired state of readiness.  The aircrews will fall out of combat qualification when they haven’t been able to get their training hours in (and some aircraft maintenance will be deferred as well).  If the president wanted to order a new operation, beyond our current military commitments, it is not clear what would happen.

Geography rules

This is a good time to briefly review the features of the hole we are backing into, with respect to an Iran strike.  (I wrote more about some of them in February).  The features of this hole can be grouped geographically and in terms of military resources.

Geographically, the potential axes of approach to Iran for a nuclear-facilities strike have been whittled down significantly, through political attrition and strategic disuse.  Five years ago, U.S. forces might have approached from multiple axes, including possibilities like operating intelligence or refueling aircraft out of Turkey, or inserting special forces from Iraq.  These were at least political possibilities at that time; today, they fall between unlikely and not happening.

Moreover, it is no longer guaranteed that we would be able to launch the Air Force’s strike-fighter aircraft from Qatar or Kuwait, still less from a base in UAE or Oman.  We don’t normally operate Air Force aircraft from Bahrain, but even Bahrain – long our closest partner in the Gulf – may not be a fallback option.  Iraq will not be an option at all, and Afghanistan would object to being used as a base for launching attacks on Iran.  The same can be said of Pakistan.

If the Air Force has to launch most of the aircraft for this operation, we have a serious problem.  B-2s and B-52s launch from elsewhere, of course, but for certain types of bombing, they will require fighter escort protection while over Iran.  Refueling tankers orbiting over the Gulf will require fighter protection as well, as will the EA-3 Sentry airborne command and control platform.

We may or may not have the use of other nations’ air space to approach Iran (e.g., Kuwait’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s, or Oman’s); if we don’t, there will be one way in and out of the Persian Gulf air space through which manned bombers will have to transit.  That in itself is a significant vulnerability.  Geographically, there is a real possibility that the U.S. would be limited to bringing aircraft in through the air space over the Strait of Hormuz.  If there is nowhere local for aircraft to recover – e.g., Oman – that limitation would effectively knock the Air Force strike-fighters out of a small operation.

Sequester Cuts Military Aid to Israel by Small Amount

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

The United States told Israel the sequester axe fell lightly on Israel and that the cut in military aid will amount to $144 million or 5 percent, instead of the originally planned 8 percent of the $3.1 billion aid program.

Finance Ministry sources told the Globes business newspaper that “reliable sources” notified Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of the decision.

The ministry said that despite the reaction, Israel actually will receive more in this year than it 2012. Mush of the aid is funneled back to the United States for American equipment and technology.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told visiting Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week that the sequester cut would not affect the Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile programs.

Sequestration Worries Israel

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed concern Sunday that U.S. financial difficulties would affect Israel’s economy.

“We are very worried about the financial difficulties in the U.S., and I hope they won’t hurt us,” he said at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Steinitz’s comments came after Obama on Friday night ordered $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts, called sequestration, after Congress failed to reach a compromise on deficit reduction.

U.S. government agencies must cut $85 billion from their budgets through Oct. 1, much of it coming from the Defense Department.

The cuts are sure to affect military aid from the United States to Israel, with estimates of cuts as high as $300 million, including affecting funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Participants in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference, which opened Sunday, are expected to lobby members of Congress during a visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to retain Israel’s $3.1 billion in military aid for 2013 and 2014, as well as some $211 million in additional funding for Iron Dome.

Dead in the Water: Obama’s Military and Iran

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Two to three years ago, the United States Department of Defense had enough military forces on station in, or readily deployable to, the Persian Gulf region (the “CENTCOM AOR” – area of responsibility – or Southwest Asia, as it is called in the military) to execute a limited strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without asking Congress for special funding.  The military could have performed such an operation “out of hide,” as quickly and seamlessly as the president wanted it to.

Four to five years ago, moreover, the U.S. had the regional political capital to use our bases in the local nations (e.g., Qatar and Bahrain) to launch and direct such a strike campaign.

Both of these conditions have now changed.  I wrote about the political shift in December of 2010, after the Persian Gulf nations executed a flurry of bilateral defense agreements with Iran, and Bahrain, in particular, announced that the U.S. would not be able to use Bahraini territory for launching military operations against Iran.  Even a subtle shift in these nations’ postures means that the U.S. will have less discretion in what we propose to do against Iran.  U.S. military actions that are so limited as to leave Iran able to retaliate against her neighbors may not be acceptable to our hosts.

Mounting a limited strike campaign using only U.S. Navy assets and the Air Force’s global strike bombers (which don’t need the Persian Gulf bases) has remained a fall-back option.  But as of 2013, with the funding issues inherent in the long-term budget stand-off, that option can no longer be performed out of hide.  The Navy has already had to cancel a carrier strike group deployment that it couldn’t project being able to pay for, and we can no longer assume that the Air Force will have the ready aircraft and aircrew – not to mention the fuel – to perform a bomber campaign against Iran.

The central reason is that the military doesn’t know whether or when it will get more operating funds.  There isn’t a federal budget, and the recurring fiscal showdowns between Obama and the House Republicans make all future military funding a big question mark.  There is no end-point beyond which the military knows how much money it will have.  This isn’t a question of pinching pennies for a while until the money kicks in on a date certain.  The Department of Defense doesn’t know what its future operating picture will be, beyond the next couple of months.

In the worst case, the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on.  In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR.  Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.

A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs.  In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off.  The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

Note that the Truman deployment, even if it had gone on as scheduled, would have left a gap of more than two months in the two-carrier presence in CENTCOM.  There has been one carrier strike group in CENTCOM, that of USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), since USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) left the AOR in late November (returning to Norfolk, VA in December).  A gap isn’t unprecedented, in the years since the two-carrier presence was factored into carrier scheduling (although gaps are typically much shorter).  But now an actual degradation in our force posture has been announced.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is scrambling to scope out the impact of the sequestration cuts on its operations.  Big Blue foresees having to cut flying hours for the rest of the year by a third and cancel some scheduled squadron deployments overseas, both of which measures will, within months, affect force posture and readiness in CENTCOM.  So will the impending decision to further defer depot-level maintenance on overdue aircraft.  Some squadrons in the U.S. would run out of flying-hour funds by mid-May 2013, with no prospect of a new infusion of funds.  If additional squadrons were to be forward deployed to CENTCOM for a strike on Iran – and the fuel for such a massive operation set aside – much of the Air Force would have to stop flying altogether until more funds were provided.

Bibi, Tell Obama to Take His Promises and Go Home

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

News item:

When he visits Israel next month, US President Barack Obama will tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for a military strike on Iran will open in June, according to an Israeli TV report Monday evening.

Obama will come bearing the message that if diplomatic efforts and sanctions don’t bear fruit, Israel should “sit tight” and let Washington take the stage, even if that means remaining on the sidelines during a U.S. military operation, Channel 10 reported. Netanyahu will be asked to refrain from any military action and keep a low profile, avoiding even the mention of a strike, the report said, citing unnamed officials. Translate “citing unnamed officials” as “the administration leaked.”

There is no way I can put an optimistic interpretation on this. There are four things that immediately come to mind:

First, Israel is asked to put its trust in the Obama Administration to deal with an existential threat. Simply, would you take this bet?

Second, the U.S. armed forces are stretched extremely thin as a result of the budgeting policies of the administration, and now by the likely sequester of funds. For example, the USS Harry S. Truman, scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf this month, will not do so (h/t: JD). The U.S. is not in a position to ‘gear up’ for anything major.

Third, Obama is said to be offering this to Israel. What will Israel be expected to do in return? I don’t have to tell you, do I? Hint: it involves the Palestinians.

Fourth, the demand to ‘remain on the sidelines’ is a direct attack on Israel’s sovereignty as well as an invitation to disaster. When the first Tomahawk hits Iran, Israel will be attacked by Hizballah, which has stockpiled 50,000 missiles for just this occasion, and probably also by Hamas. Iran, too will throw whatever it can against Israel.

The policy of ‘no self-defense’ would result in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israelis. It is as stark as that.

And what is the reason for this tactically foolish restriction? Wouldn’t it be better if the U.S. had Israel on its side? This is part of the deal, because the Arab world, as it did in 1993, wants to see Israel hurt and Israelis die. It is offensive to the Saudis, for example, when Jews dare to raise a hand to Arabs or Muslims. This is why Israel was required to suffer bombardment by Iraqi scuds during the Gulf War, and why it is expected to do nothing when Iranian proxies try to tear it apart.

Obama’s policy is Saudi policy. That is where the irrational push to create a Palestinian state comes from, and that is where the handcuffs on the IDF are forged.

Netanyahu must tell Barack Hussein Obama to take his promises and go home.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Israel, the Republicans and Obama’s PR Strategy

Monday, February 25th, 2013

A correspondent of mine expressed some surprise when it was announced yesterday that the new secretary of state, John Kerry, would not be visiting Israel prior to the visit next month of President Obama.

What this means to foreign-service hands is that there won’t be a ministerial-level sit-down in advance of the president’s trip.  The army of foreign-service specialists who negotiate for the U.S. and Israel won’t come up with serious negotiating points (or at least statements of common objectives) on topics like talks with the Palestinian Arabs, or the Iranian nuclear threat.  The president’s itinerary and official events will no doubt be planned thoroughly, but there is a big hole where the normal process of policy preparation would be.

The prospect of Obama’s visit producing a tangible Middle East-policy outcome is thus nil.  Appearances now suggest that the trip will basically be

an extended photo op.  The president will have photo ops with the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank as well.  One of the bigger photo ops will be the award to Obama of Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, by President Shimon Peres.

Appearances as to the kind of trip we can look forward to are probably not deceiving, but they must be understood in the context of Obama’s political style.  This is a president who believes that a photo purporting to show him shooting skeet at Camp David will establish his bona fides as a supporter of the Second Amendment – enough so, at any rate, to neutralize political opposition to the increased gun restrictions he favors.  For Obama, photo ops are the execution of policy: they build a narrative that gives him leverage by undermining his opponent’s position.

CERTAINLY, HE has approached the federal budget stand-off this way.  It makes an excellent case study.  As numerous pundits have pointed out in the last week, the “sequester” of funds, in the absence of a budget agreement, was Obama’s idea.  He has played the sequester to the media on both sides, however, attributing it entirely to the Republicans in Congress when it suits him to.

In February 2013, he is decrying a set of exaggerated effects which he claims will result from the sequester kicking in on 1 March.  (As Jennifer Rubin notes, even the New York Times detected exaggeration in Obama’s dire predictions.)

But in the thick of the negotiations that produced the sequester threat, back in 2011, Obama threatened to veto any attempt to avert the sequesterwithout a full budget deal.  The same consequences have always been in prospect; what has changed is the position Obama proclaims to the public.

Writers at Politico – hardly a hotbed of right-wing perspective – quote administration officials identifying Obama’s sequester strategy as “shame.”

Certain that the political winds are in their favor, [the White House is]forgoing serious negotiations for a high-risk public offensive, banking almost entirely on the president’s ability to persuade. They believe that the GOP will be scared of taking the blame from an angry public — and the White House says this is just the kind of thing that gave them the victory they claimed in the fiscal cliff fight and the most recent standoff over the debt limit.

The aim is to force Republicans to submit to new revenue as part of a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion in potential cuts — and the only way to get there, senior administration officials said, is by making the GOP position indefensible.

Just so we’re clear:  this is community-organizing politics, in a nutshell.  Hype an exaggerated problem or threat – even a counter-factual one – with a lot of noise and pressure; stir people up about it; make yourself and your agenda the hero fighting for the people; and pin the blame for it all on the target you want to squeeze concessions from:  in this case, Republicans.  (This site has a brief summary of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” the methods community organizers favor to achieve their goals.  Rules 4, 9, and 10 are particularly applicable here.)

Obama has taken off the mask of moderation since his reelection – something even his supporters have reservations about.  This is important context for his visit to Israel in March.  If he foregoes serious negotiations in Israel for a photo-op narrative-building opportunity, what are his objectives?

OBAMA WILL presumably seek to be seen in a posture friendly and solicitous toward both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.  I think we can expect very positive-sounding but vague comments about Israel and Israeli security, which, along with photos at the Western Wall (with kippa), a visit to an Iron Dome battery, and photos of himself receiving his medal from Peres, will be intended to evoke powerfully the sense of Obama as a friend to Israel.

Similar care will be taken to select photo-op venues with the Palestinian Arabs.  But nothing material will be resolved; Team Obama will simply hope to pocket good feeling about his attitude toward both parties.  As with his Magical Sequester Tour in the U.S., he will be looking for imagery and narrative building to establish his bona fides on Israeli security as against his political opponents’ – most particularly with an audience of the U.S. media and American Jews.

In community-organizing terms, Obama doesn’t have to convince Netanyahu himself, or other Israelis, or regional-policy experts; he certainly doesn’t have to make a parsable case for a posture that is trustworthy or has a rational basis.  What he has to do is neutralize or “make indefensible” the position of his opponents – from House Republicans to Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel – regarding both Israel and Obama’s stance on Israel.  He has to outflank them on the battlefield of perception, looking more solicitous of Israeli security than Netanyahu, and better disposed toward Israel than either AIPAC or Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

If, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, Obama’s main political objective today is winning the House in 2014, then establishing imputed bona fides for him on Israel is certainly important to the races in some key districts.  ThatObama’s campaign organization remains in political-action mode, in spite of the constitutional limit on his own reelection, is clear.  Obama won’t be leaving the 2014 election for the Democratic Party to handle.

But there is also the foreign-policy aspect of any “perception benefits” Obama hopes to garner from a photo-op tour of Israel.  Down the road, Obama may want Israel to pay a high price in security concessions for any hugs administered in March 2013.

That, I think, is where the limits of community organizing will be reached.  Netanyahu will remain undeceived as to the wisdom or utility of anything Obama may insist on (such as bilateral talks with Iran), regardless of personalities or media hype.  So, of course, will supporters of Israel in the United States – but in this case, unlike the case of the sequester, the decisive factor will not and cannot be the perceived “indefensibility” of the position held by Obama’s political opponents at home.  Not only does Israel have a vote on whatever policies are to prevail, but the other regional actors have votes too.

None of those actors – the Palestinian Arabs, the Arab nations, Hezbollah, Hamas, Turkey, Iran, the E.U. – is locked in a closed-loop system with Obama, as his political opponents in the U.S. are.  The foreign actors have alternatives to Obama’s suggested roles for them, and they are starting to pursue those alternatives.  From outside the closed loop of American politics, most of them see clearly that a perception advantage for Obama inside the U.S. isn’t the same thing as Obama being reliable or competent, or having a policy idea that’s good for them.  They will act according to their interests, in the end, rather than hitching their wagon to Obama’s star – or, indeed, rather than suffering political losses if Team Obama can make their American supporters look bad.

THE COMMUNITY organizer’s horizon is always limited.  So is his reach.  In a way we have not seen since the 1930s, the rest of the world stands outside America’s internal struggle today, and plenty of foreign observers have Obama’s number.  This will have the effect of making the world less stable, unfortunately, while reducing America’s influence over its direction.

It may also increase the poignancy of the Israeli government’s codename for the Obama visit – or perhaps it increases the geopolitical insight behind it.  According to media reports, Israeli officials have dubbed the visit “Brit Amim,” which is being translated from the Hebrew as “alliance between nations.”  The English expression being used officially by Israel is “Unbreakable Alliance.”

Christian groups on the watch for the eschaton immediately pointed out the similarity of “brit amim” to a passage in the prophetic book of Daniel that refers to “brit rabbim,” or a future covenant of Israel with all peoples.  (The verse in question is Daniel 9:27.)  “Brit” recurs throughout the Old Testament to signify “covenant,” in the sense of a covenant between God and His people.

While I do not think the Israeli government meant to invoke Christian prophetic expectations in choosing this codename, it is reasonable to suppose that Bibi Netanyahu, who titled his 1993 book on Israel A Place Among the Nations, is well aware of the biblical connotations of the formulation Brit Amim.  The UN’s recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 was, in a sense, a covenant of the nations with the Jewish people, and Brit Amim as a codename for the visit of Barack Obama in 2013 may imply, at the very least, a dual meaning: not just affirming the alliance between Israel and the U.S., but affirming as well that the covenant of the nations with Israel extends beyond any one president or nation.

Community organizing is very narrowly focused and self-referential.  Having no positive goals, it comes with an inherent expiration date.  It may or may not bring America down; it will not keep history from happening.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative under the title, Israel and Obama: Community Organizing the Planet?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/israel-the-republicans-and-obamas-pr-strategy/2013/02/25/

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