Focal Points Blog

U.S. Air Force Using Putin to Justify Trillion-Dollar Bomber

The cost of the new Long Range Strategic Bomber is staggering. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

The cost of the new Long Range Strategic Bomber is staggering. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

The US Air Force just awarded a contract for its new bomber to Northrop Grumman. The price tag for what it calls the Long Range Strategic Bomber (LRS)? As Charles Tiefer writes at Forbes: “The contract is for $800 million per plane – or $80 billion for the whole fleet.” Northop had already designed and built the B-2 Stealth bomber. Another reason it got the contract, writes Alexander Cohen for the Center for Public Integrity:

Lobbyists and officials at Northrop Grumman have spent years greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill to ensure congressional support for the program and for the firm’s central role in it.

… Congress has given the program $2 billion so far, starting in fiscal 2011. That year, the House Armed Services Committee, then chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., even added $100 million more than the $197 million the Air Force requested for new bomber work for the 2012 fiscal year.

The company, through its political action committees and via its employees, contributed $4.6 million to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 224 lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees.

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U.S. and Saudi Arabia: A Toxic Alliance

Walking with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is intent on reducing Iran’s influence in the Middle East. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of State)

Walking with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is intent on reducing Iran’s influence in the Middle East. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of State)

The good news this week was that Iran was included in the international conference in Vienna aimed at achieving a ceasefire in Syria. The bad news was that the conference ended without agreement, and with the participants firmly divided. As a consequence, there is no end in sight to a war that has lasted 4 years, killed a quarter of a million people, and driven 11 million into exile.

What began as a peaceful protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that provoked a harsh response by Assad’s security forces, has since evolved into an international conflict. Participants include rebels supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf emirates who are seeking to oust Assad, and the Syrian army, backed by Russia and Iran. President Obama’s recent decision to send in 50 Special Forces troops to Syria as “advisers” to the rebels, and his pledge of an additional $100 million in aid, set the United States firmly in the camp of Saudi Arabia and the emirates.
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Did Hillary Clinton Delegate Too Much as Secretary of State?

Which is worse: micro-managing or a hands-off policy? Pictured: Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. (Photo: Zimbio)

Which is worse: micro-managing or a hands-off policy? Pictured: Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. (Photo: Zimbio)

Conventional wisdom has it that Hillary Clinton, unlike her husband, is not a natural campaigner. An apparently guarded person, she needs to be reminded to open up and let the public get to know her. Beyond that, though, any character issues on her part are seldom spoken or written about. On October 28, Politico Magazine posted an article by Michael Hirsh titled What Benghazi says about how Hillary Clinton leads. He writes:

Now that Hillary Clinton has her inevitability groove back, not least because last week’s Benghazi hearing left her looking, if anything, more presidential (as even a few frustrated Republicans admitted), maybe it’s time to ask what the whole imbroglio says about her management style. Perhaps we should ask one question that wasn’t asked on Capitol Hill: What does her performance on Libya tell us about the kind of president she would be?

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In Foreign Policy, Nature May Love a Vacuum

In foreign policy, the adage “Nature abhors a vacuum” should be turned on its head. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

In foreign policy, the adage “Nature abhors a vacuum” should be turned on its head. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

Some think that President Obama’s refusal to mount commit boots on the ground in Syria against the Islamic State (or the Assad regime, for that matter) has left a vacuum into which Russia (as well as Iran) have inserted themselves. As in “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In an article at the National Interest, Paul Pillar writes about how dangerous cliched metaphors — such as dominoes, or the current favorite that he cites, vacuum — are when used in relation to foreign policy.
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Pakistan Slowly Becoming Less Bellicose

At however glacial a pace, tensions are abating between India and Pakistan. Pictured: Lahore. (Photo: Michael Foley / Flickr)

At however glacial a pace, tensions are abating between India and Pakistan. Pictured: Lahore. (Photo: Michael Foley / Flickr)

Second only to North Korea — a distant second — Pakistan has long been regarded as the loose cannon of the nuclear-weapons club. Among other things:

  1. It developed nuclear weapons without signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  2. It failed to prevent one of its leading scientists, Abdul Qadeer Khan, from creating a nuclear black market to sell nuclear know-how and equipment.
  3. It refuses to renounce a policy of possible first use, as almost all the other nuclear powers have.
  4. It continues to build up its arsenal.
  5. It’s developing tactical nuclear weapons (smaller, for actual battlefield use) to compensate for the greater numbers of India’s conventional forces.
  6. There’s an undercurrent of dread about the thought that Pakistan military can be infiltrated by Islamist extremists who might stage a takeover of one of its nuclear-weapons facilities.

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Was Abbottabad the Result of U.S. Intelligence or Wasn’t It?

The truth about how Osama bin Laden was located in Abbottabad may lie between the U.S. government’s account and Seymour Hersh’s. Pictured: bin Laden in his happy cave days. (Photo: The Telegraph)

The truth about how Osama bin Laden was located in Abbottabad may lie between the U.S. government’s account and Seymour Hersh’s. Pictured: bin Laden in his happy cave days. (Photo: The Telegraph)

On Oct. 15 at the New York Times, Jonathan Mahler revisited the government’s account of the Abbottabad raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. In the process, he demonstrated sympathy for Seymour Hersh’s famous or infamous (depending on your perspective) revisionist history in the London Review of Books. Mahler wrote:

The official narrative of the hunt for and killing of bin Laden at first seemed like a clear portrait, but in effect it was more like a composite sketch from multiple perspectives: the Pentagon, the White House and the C.I.A. And when you studied that sketch a little more closely, not everything looked quite right.

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Haaretz Journalist Gideon Levy Reviled at New York BDS Appearance

Sheldon Adelson alone has contributed $50 million to stop the BDS movement. Pictured: Gideon Levy. (Photo: Hanay / Wikipedia)

Sheldon Adelson alone has contributed $50 million to stop the BDS movement. Pictured: Gideon Levy. (Photo: Hanay / Wikipedia)

The meshuggeneh offensive

If you’ve never seen a group of meshuggeneh pro-Israeli zealots – as self-righteous as they are ignorant, frequently wrong but never in doubt – try to disrupt a peace event that includes two Palestinians and an Israeli opposed to the Occupation, then, you’ve really missed something.

Recently I had a chance to experience just that. A few days ago, on October 19, the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and a local Westchester County, New York peace group, WESPAC, sponsored a program with Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and Palestinian researcher Suhail Khalilieh. Aleen Masoud, a young Palestinian musician played music and also made some comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some old friends I was visiting, involved with WESPAC, were going and invited me along. The meeting was covered by Jewish blogger Phillip Weiss, of Mondoweiss, who wrote a fine story on it, complete with video footage.(1)
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U.S. Default Position on Foreign Policy Is Deeply Cynical

Supporting governments such as Egypt’s not only compromises our moral values, it’s unnecessary. Pictured: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. (Photo: Business Day Online)

Supporting governments such as Egypt’s not only compromises our moral values, it’s unnecessary. Pictured: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. (Photo: Business Day Online)

I recently posted:

In an eye-opening article for Foreign Policy in Focus entitled Why Doesn’t the Foreign Policy Establishment Take World Peace Seriously?, Didier Jacobs writes of U.S.-Iran relations that the U.S. “foreign policy establishment is susceptible to groupthink.”

“Very few people in the establishment challenge the threat to use force if Iran reneges on the [nuclear] deal. No one questions whether Iran should be considered an enemy in the first place.”

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Does a State’s Possession of Nuclear Weapons Justify Humanitarian Intervention?

By developing nuclear weapons, a state arguably puts its own citizens at more risk than if it hadn’t. (Photo: John Parie / U.S. Air Force)

By developing nuclear weapons, a state arguably puts its own citizens at more risk than if it hadn’t. (Photo: John Parie / U.S. Air Force)

American sometimes forget that we, the people, didn’t mandate the development of nuclear weapons — it was state-ordained. In December 2014, at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Kennette Benedict wrote:

While humanitarians in the United States urge intervention in Iraq and Syria to protect innocents from mass murder in the name of the responsibility to protect, the citizens of the United States live with a government that is unable—or unwilling—to protect them from the catastrophic harm of nuclear weapons. By threatening to use such bombs—a key part of the doctrine known as nuclear deterrence—without citizens’ active consent and in the face of near-certain retaliation, the US government has abrogated its responsibility to protect its own citizens. The social contract between citizen and government lies in shambles.

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Like Everything Else, Alternative Energy Requires Cheap Oil

Immediate needs for oil may outweigh long-term needs for oil such as establishing alternative energy. (Photo: Ed Suominen / Flickr Commons)

Immediate needs for oil may outweigh long-term needs for oil such as establishing alternative energy. (Photo: Ed Suominen / Flickr Commons)

In February, at Resilience, Frank Kaminski reviewed The World After Cheap Oil by three Finnish energy analysts. The book ranges from the looming shock to an unprepared world to the climate crisis dependence on oil has helped foment to evaluating alternative energy sources. Kaminski singles out two unusual features of Peak Oil that the authors cover. First, the “energy trap.”

It can be summarized thus. Once world oil production begins to decline and the resource goes from being abundant to scarce, the oil that would be needed to reduce society’s dependence on oil is no longer available. This is because, as noted earlier, alternative energy sources sorely depend on oil just for their current production, not to mention the massive build-outs required to make them the dominant fuels. In a world of scarce oil, every ounce of it we possess will have to meet essential needs before those of alternative energy. The trap will become ever more acute the further we move along the depletion curve, since the sacrifice required to invest in renewables will have to come out of an ever-shrinking pie.

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