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Commentary: Restoration Doctrine
by Arnaud De Borchgrave
Washington (UPI) Jul 26, 2011

US military chief nominee worried on defense cuts
Washington (AFP) July 26, 2011 - General Martin Dempsey, the nominee to be the next chief uniformed officer of the US military, said Tuesday that major cuts in defense spending would pose a "very high risk" to the United States.

President Barack Obama has proposed $400 billion in defense spending cuts in the next 12 years. Some lawmakers of Obama's Democratic Party have proposed cuts twice as steep as the United States confronts a ballooning US debt.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Dempsey pledged to "adapt the United States military to a new fiscal reality while ensuring, as my primary responsibility, that America remains immune from coercion."

But pressed on the proposals for steeper cuts, Dempsey voiced concern.

"Based on the difficulty of achieving the $400 billion cut, I believe $800 billion would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk," Dempsey, who was nominated by Obama as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Dempsey was responding to concerns from Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and staunch military advocate.

"But what concerns me most about our current debate is that the defense cuts being discussed have little or no strategic or military rationale to support them," McCain said.

"They're simply numbers on a page. Our national defense planning and spending must be driven by considered strategy, not arbitrary arithmetic," McCain said.

The proposed defense budget for 2012 is about $671 billion, including $118 billion for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The budget remains by far the largest in the world. China's defense budget for 2011 is officially $91.7 billion, although experts believe the real figure is significantly higher.

The United States has already hit a debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion. The country will default on August 2 unless Obama and Congress can reach a deal to raise the allowed debt level.

It's now called the Doctrine of Restoration, diplomatic jargon for rebuilding America before China eats our lunch.

After blowing $1 trillion on the Iraq war over the last 10 years and establishing a 1,400-person strong U.S. Embassy in Baghdad only to see Iran emerge with more influence in Iraq than the United States, it is time for Looney Tunes' Bugs Bunny to burst on the national stage and ask, "What's up, Doc?"

We now discover the U.S. taxpayer is funding both sides in Afghanistan through U.S. contracted trucking firms. Contracting waste dug up by Congress totals $34 billion.

Before we blow another trillion on Afghanistan -- it's already close to $500 billion since the U.S. invasion Oct. 7, 2001 -- and encourage European allies to waste more treasure in Libya, it's time for a customized brain fitness plan. We also need cognitive exercises tailored to our geopolitical goals and an estimate of our improvement potential.

A tall order -- but not too tall for a former director of Policy Planning at the State Department and a good bet for future secretary of State. Either a Democrat or a Republican president will need a time-tested geopolitical brain who understands the need to downsize and then rebuild a lean and mean military.

Such a person may be Richard Haass, president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations. Under the headline "Bringing Our Foreign Policy Home," Haass writes in Time magazine that "a doctrine of restoration can strengthen the U.S. position abroad by focusing on nation building -- our own."

Brooklyn-born, short-fused, Haass doesn't suffer blowhards gladly. He earned a presidential medal for his work in articulating and developing U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and divided his government service with ranking positions at both State and the Pentagon. From 1989-93, he was special (foreign policy) assistant to President George H.W. Bush.

"The good news," says Haass, "is that there is a doctrine that fits the U.S.'s circumstances. It is one that judges the world to be relatively non-threatening and makes the most of this situation ... The goal would be to rebalance the resources devoted to domestic challenges, as opposed to international ones, in favor of the former.''

Stripped of Aesopian verbiage, this means, "Charity starts at home."

"Doing so," Haass continues, "would not only address critical domestic needs but also rebuild the foundation of this country's strength so it would be in a better position to stave off potential strategic challengers or be better prepared should they emerge all the same."

Haass' term for this doctrine is "restoration": A U.S. foreign policy based "on restoring this country's strength and replenishing its resources -- economic, human and physical."

Under a doctrine of restoration, there would be fewer wars of choice, Haass writes. If any!

America today is in urgent need of a multitrillion-dollar makeover -- from collapsing schools and bridges to a deficient 21st-century air traffic control system.

"Restoration," writes Haass, "is not isolationism (which is) the willful turning away from the world even when a rigorous assessment of U.S. interests argues for acting. Isolationism makes no sense in a world in which the U.S. cannot wall itself off from terrorism, proliferation, protectionism, pandemic disease, climate change or a loss of access to financial, energy and mineral resources."

"An embrace of old-fashioned isolationism would accelerate the emergence of a more disorderly and dangerous and less prosperous and free world," Haass says lest anyone misconstrue the message.

The wars of choice he rejects are Vietnam, the second Iraq war and the current Libyan intervention. Wars of necessity would continue when vital interests are at stake and when there is no alternative to using force.

Afghanistan evolved into a costly war of choice when newly elected President Barack Obama decided to pursue Taliban and not just al-Qaida.

The Restoration Doctrine would quickly drawdown U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Haass' figure: Less than 25,000 troops over the next year and reduce spending by $100 billion.

On Iran, Haass' Doctrine is closer to Israel's when he writes "the U.S. would use or support the use of armed force if it is determined that a military strike could destroy much of Iran's relevant capacity, that doing so would not reduce the chances of meaningful political change inside Iran, that the costs of likely retaliation by Iran were sustainable, that a nuclear Iran could not be confidently deterred and that the proliferation aspirations of others could not be managed."

But Haass's caveats mean the U.S. would keep its powder dry lest Iran's formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities block the strait of Hormuz, send oil prices skyward to $500 a barrel and Western economies into a tailspin. His language was also designed to appease Israel where three retiring heads of intelligence recently warned that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu favors the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities.

At home, restoring the fiscal foundation of American power is Haass's top priority; the current situation is unsustainable.

Major cuts in discretionary spending should be a top priority. Such expenditures must be restricted to investments in the United States' human and physical future and competitiveness. This includes "targeted spending on public education, including at the community-college and university levels; modernizing transportation and energy infrastructures; and increasing energy efficiency while decreasing dependence on Middle East oil. Spending cuts should focus on entitlements and defense."

Haass' goal is to reduce the budget deficit by $300 billion per year until the budget is balanced.

The United States can only lead the world, he concludes, if it puts its own house in order first.

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Military exchanges to foster US-China trust: Mullen
Washington (AFP) July 26, 2011 - The United States is mulling a bilateral exchange of defense officials with Beijing, the top American military official said Tuesday, following his visit to China earlier this month.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen wrote in the New York Times that the proposed exchanges are an outgrowth of mutual visits by his Chinese counterpart Chen Bingde last year to the United States, followed by Mullen's trip to China this month.

"General Chen and I are considering more frequent discussions, more exercises, more personnel exchanges," the navy admiral wrote.

"We both believe that the younger generation of military officers is ready for closer contact, and that upon their shoulders rests the best hope for deeper, more meaningful trust," he said in the Times.

The top US military officer said that the relationship between China and the United States should be based on "candid and forthright" talks rather than suspicion, and that there are various "crucial areas where our interests coincide."

"There are issues on which we disagree and are tempted to confront each other," Mullen wrote in Tuesday's New York Times.

"So we need to make the relationship better, by seeking strategic trust," Mullen said in the daily, stressing the growing importance of diplomacy between the two powers.

"We've got to keep talking. Dialogue is critical," he wrote.

"A good bit of misunderstanding between our militaries can be cleared up by reaching out to each other. We don't have to give away secrets to make our intentions clear, just open up a little," Mullen said, asserting that the time had come to end the knee-jerk suspicion vis-a-vis China.

"When they don't like something we do, they cut off ties. That can't be the model anymore. Nor can we, for our part, swing between engagement and over-reaction," he wrote.

"Real trust has to start somewhere."

Mullen earlier this month became the first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2007 to visit China, following a US visit by Chen last year.

The navy admiral's visit came amid tension over Beiing's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Nevertheless, Mullen wrote, "we broke new ground by, among other things, showing him (Chen) Predator drone capabilities in detail and a live-fire exercise," he said.

"The Chinese reciprocated with a tour of their latest submarine, a close look at an SU-27 jet fighter and a complex counter-terrorism exercise."

"Our discussions were candid and forthright," Mullen continued.

"General Chen made no bones about his concerns about American arms sales to Taiwan, and I made it clear that the United States military will not shrink from our responsibilities to allies and partners," he said.

"Not exactly cordial, but at least we were talking," he wrote in the Times.

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Eyeing China, Clinton urges India to take leader role
Chennai, India (AFP) July 20, 2011
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