In 2013, Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people. President Obama had to figure out what to do with Syria. He could have bombed Syria. He could have tried to do some sort of joint military action with our western allies. There was a lot of hand wringing, as there should have been. We are talking about life and death. Instead of making the decision to bomb Syria, Obama threw the decision to Congress, which did not give him authorization to strike Syria. I’m not sure that he was truly all that whipped up to strike Syria. He turned to Russia; who helped (Russian help is kind of an oxymoron) broker a deal for Syria to destroy all of their chemical weapons. Well, we know that this “deal” wasn’t what anyone would have hoped, since al-Assad just gassed his own people again. It is completely unclear whether al-Assad has more chemical weapons or not. We have to assume that he has.
Many Americans have applauded Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria. I’m not so sure. I think that Donald Trump took the only option that was open to him. He couldn’t make another deal. That was out. There is no coalition of “the willing.” No one wants to invade Syria. With that option off the table, what was left? Bomb them. That was the only other option.
I just don’t know how bombing Syria will help the problem. As far as we know, there were no significant military leaders killed. I think that we know we did not kill -nor even injure- al-Assad. So I’m not sure that we have changed any behavior.
Given this lack of attention to nuclear weapons, it’s not surprising that in August 2007 a B-52 accidentally flew six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles across the country, from North Dakota to Louisiana, or that four nuclear-missile fuses were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006. Gates was correct to hold Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne responsible for their lack of attention to nuclear weapons. But the bigger issue is why the Pentagon still needs to keep so many nuclear weapons in its inventory nearly two decades after the Cold War–particularly when just about everyone in the military believes they present minimal strategic utility. General Cartwright, who in 2007 moved from STRATCOM to become Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said as much. In Congressional testimony on March 8, 2007, he declared, “As good as [U.S. conventional weapons] are, we simply cannot be everywhere with our general purpose conventional forces, and use of a nuclear weapon in a prompt response may be no choice at all.”
At the height of the Cold War, the United States possessed more than 30,000 nuclear warheads in its inventory. Today, Washington continues to maintain nearly 10,000 warheads. Reducing that number to no more than 1,000 (600 operational and 400 in reserve) would be more than enough for deterrence; one of the last air force officers to command STRATCOM, Gen. Eugene Habiger, has actually suggested this number. Doing so would allow the air force hierarchy to direct its attention and resources to the challenges of the twenty-first century. According to the recently fired Secretary Wynne, the air force has a budget shortfall of $100 million over the next five years because the baseline defense budget is projected to decline in real terms over this period.
More importantly, reducing our own nuclear arsenal would enable the United States to gain the moral high ground in nonproliferation matters and in our increasingly tense relations with Russia. What better way to enhance our negotiating position with the North Koreans and Iranians than by our living up to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which obliges us to reduce and eventually eliminate our nuclear stockpile in exchange for others not developing these weapons? And what better way to negotiate a new nuclear reduction treaty with Russia and enhance the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program than by reducing our own nuclear arsenal?
I’m sorry, but I have a significant problem with all of the media coverage of this missing Malaysia airliner. It would be different if we actually had some information or news. Unfortunately, we haven’t had any new information in over two weeks. It was over two weeks ago that we learned this airliner was missing. Currently, that’s all we know. We have people who have seen debris here and seen debris there … so far, the debris has turned out to be nothing. We have wild speculation that the Chinese government has somehow done something nefarious. Maybe they have. I don’t know. All I know is the ratio of speculation to the facts is way too high for me to follow the story with any bit of intellectual curiosity. This is a tragedy. In this great big world of ours there are millions of tragedies which happen every day. Maybe the problem is our 24/7 news cycle. Maybe the problem is that we have instant answers with smart phones and Google now. CNN, a company which has made a living over the last 30 years of jumping from one disaster to another, seems to be leading the charge of wild speculation.
The tug-of-war between the United States, the EU and Russia continues. The G7 met yesterday and voted to exclude Russia from future meetings. The G8 was planning on meeting in Sochi, Russia later on this year, but this meeting has been canceled. It appears that the G7 will continue to put financial pressure on Russia. Investors and their money may be leaving Russia.
Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of several best-selling religious books decided to write a piece for the Washington Post on contraception. Of course, the Supreme Court is now deliberating over the Affordable Care Act and the contraception mandate. I would like to take just a second to look at the first several paragraphs of his op-ed. Pastor Warren opens with a flurry of questions – “Does our Constitution guarantee freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.” Anybody who studies the Constitution knows that there are no freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution which are absolute. All of our freedoms have some limits. The classic example is freedom of speech. We simply can’t say anything, anywhere, at any time. For example, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater if the theater is in fact not on fire. Specifically, this could cause undue injury to other theatergoers. Continue reading News Roundup – Malaysian airliner, Russia, Rick Warren→