Why “we” REALLY nuked both Hiroshima & Nagasaki. In just 3 days.

OLIVER STONE: … Every school kid — still, my daughter in her school, in private school, in good school, is still learning this: We dropped the bomb because we had to, because the Japanese resistance was fanatic, and we would have lost many American lives taking Japan. This is one — there’s no alternative to that story.   Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars | Democracy Now!

Here’s the alternative — a part of the truth that should be taught in good, honest, schools:

At 8:16 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the world got a glimpse of its own mortality. At that moment, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by a fireball that sent waves of searing heat, then a deafening concussion, across the landscape. Three days later, a second bomb hit Nagasaki. … [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said in 1963 “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

… Besides the Manhattan Project’s internal momentum was an external motive. Its leaders had to justify the $2 billion ($26 billion in today’s dollars) expense to Congress and the public… Byrnes…warned Roosevelt that political scandal would follow if it [the atomic bomb] was not used. … “How would you get Congress to appropriate money for atomic energy research [after the war] if you do not show results for the money which has been spent already?” …the U.S. had produced two types of bombs–one using uranium, the other plutonium. Whenever anyone suggested that the moment the bomb was dropped the war would be over, [bureaucrat] Groves countered, “Not until we drop two bombs on Japan.” As [historian] Goldberg explains… “One bomb justified Oak Ridge, the second justified Hanford.” Hiroshima was hit with the uranium bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy”; the plutonium bomb, “Fat Man,” was used against Nagasaki.

From Why We Dropped The Bomb By William Lanouette, CIVILIZATION, The Magazine of the Library of Congress, January/February 1995

It’s hard for Americans who identify with the U.S. Government to accept the idea that that organization could have engaged in such horrendous acts – twice in three days – without pristine motives. Here’s what Vietnam era U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara – who was part of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s command when the bombs were dropped – thought about it: McNamara: “He, [General Curtis LeMay] and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.

Boy on dad's lap asks which terrorist group gets credit for nuking Hiroshima

As far as war criminals go, unfortunately we still have them.

CNAS National Security Hive on Syria: “Meh”

President Obama is expected to make an announcement this week on whether his administration will begin arming the Syrian rebels in their suddenly uncertain effort to topple the autocratic regime of Bashar Assad. All signs point to a lifting of the White House restriction on “lethal assistance” to the rebellion for the first time since the armed resistance began two years ago.

mehThis would mark a major development in U.S intervention in the civil war, which has been complicated by the infusion of radical Sunni extremists from outside the country, as well as the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, and untold resources for both Assad and the rebels, from the Gulf States on one side, and Russia on the other. Millions of refugees are pouring over the borders and into the already beleaguered states of Jordan and Lebanon. The Sunni resistance in Syria is sparking a Sunni resistance in Iraq, whose sectarian tensions mirror those of its neighbor and threaten to boil over at any time.

And how much did the giant annual convocation of national security state interests sponsored by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS)  talk about this on Wednesday?

Not much.

In fact, the “pivot to China” (or “pivot to the Pacific”) was a much more attractive topic of conversation today – in fact an entire panel was dedicated to “the future rebalancing to China” this afternoon, proving again that the defense community loves girding up for conflicts that are less likely to happen much more than a) learning lessons from real wars that aren’t quite over yet, or b) talking about very real intervention in a very real tinderbox much closer to our supposed “threat zone” in the Middle East.

This was reflected in the prepared remarks and in the back-n-forth banter by the featured guests throughout the morning, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who, when asked by a Reuters reporter about the Pentagon’s preparation for Syria, said simply, “I don’t have anything for you.” He barely uttered the word Afghanistan, other to say the government will keep funding the war.

Interestingly, Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN., the author of the Syria Transition Support Act with Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ., which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 15 to 3 last month, was the only one to talk extensively about Syria and that was because he is so gung-ho to get in there.

“We are the only county that has the ability to bring all the neighbors in the region together,” he said, pretty optimistically, considering the “neighbors” are already involved and doing their own thing. They are also a bit irritated with the U.S for not “bringing all the neighbors together” when it was more feasible, that is, before every foreign proxy including al Qaeda started popping up in the country.

“What is of great international interest right now is the aftermath of Assad and the great war that is happening right now,” Corker added. Also optimistic, considering that Assad’s forces are on the march toward taking the strategic strongholds of Homs and Aleppo and look less likely to negotiate than ever.

“We have to change the balance of power,” the senator insisted, and help push things toward a negotiated settlement. “I do believe, this is the very best way forward and if I could make a bet …I bet that is what the president is going to to.”

The level of excitement in the room after this rousing plea for intervention was somewhere between zero and “meh.” Quietly, afterward, some national security types (both Marines and Air Force) told me they didn’t think there was any enthusiasm from the military for pushing our way into the Syrian mess. That seems to be an understatement.

Last summer, the Pentagon was on board with a plan by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Chief David Petraeus to send arms to the rebels. By April, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Martin Dempsey was backing off from that position and Sec. Def. Chuck Hagel was saying military involvement would be a bad idea.

Who knows who might convince the President otherwise as they continue these hot discussions in the White House this week. It looks like my friend Gareth Porter was right the other day when he said the “National Security State,” which includes the armed services, the Pentagon, and the Joint Chiefs, “are fine with what is going on in Syria” as of this moment. “But getting involved, it would be a tax on their resources,” and that the “cost to the National Security State would be greater than the benefit” of getting involved.

Talk about Nat Sec State interests — these are CNAS’s financial supporters here.  Most likely a good number of them had representatives at today’s conference. That most of the talk in the morning evolved around the budgets — how the Pentagon was going to work with sequestration, how it would survive with leaner budgets, indicates where the hive’s head is right now (on itself). They only want to know where the next-gen threats are in as much as they can offer new opportunities for federal contracts.

Not surprisingly, CNAS’s 7th Annual Conference was called “Looking Forward: U.S National Security Beyond the Wars.” After COIN fell this crowd couldn’t wait to get away from the war fast enough (interestingly, CNAS just issued a paper on “Toward A Successful Outcome in Afghanistan,” yet no panel was arranged to discuss it). CNAS seemed perfectly happy to talk budgets, China and Cyber, energy and whatever the room full of suits wanted. Painful strategy debates involving protracted conflicts (we still don’t know how many troops will be left behind in Afghanistan after 2014) and a possibly messy intervention that may in fact be decided this week, were not on the docket.

Guess it just wasn’t in their “interest.”


Free-market Groups Want to Slash $1.9 Trillion from Pentagon

From R Street’s Andrew Moylan:

As lawmakers begin discussing the National Defense Authorization Act in earnest this week, many in Washington are wondering, is it possible to defend America’s national interests and defend taxpayers’ wallets at the same time? According to a joint report from the National Taxpayers Union and the R Street Institute, the answer is an emphatic “Yes.”

Tomorrow the two free-market groups will provide an overview of their study, which highlights a menu of 100 Pentagon savings recommendations (some of which would overlap or conflict with each other) totaling nearly $1.9 trillion in coming years. The paper also briefly recounts the history of conservative involvement in military spending restraint, and provides seven suggestions to help conservatives “move beyond occasional success and become an ongoing influence” in Pentagon budgeting decisions.

WHO: NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp & R Street Institute Outreach Director and Senior Fellow Andrew Moylan

WHAT: Media teleconference and overview of the study, “Defending America, Defending Taxpayers: How Pentagon Spending Can Better Reflect Conservative Values.” An advance copy of the report, which will be released 12 noon ET, June 4, may be viewed here.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET.

CALL IN: (877) 642-4202. PIN # 91370297.

Beltway Braces for a Very Cratchit Christmas

Today’s Washington Post informs us that “for the holidays, the spies say they’ll scrimp.”

[W]ith budget cuts looming, party plans are being pared back for the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA. …

Under then-director Leon E. Panetta last year, the CIA brought in shipments of California wine, and served fried oysters, grilled shrimp and quesadillas. His predecessor, Michael V. Hayden, made sure there were musicians playing Irish music while stations set up inside the agency’s cavernous headquarters hallway served drinks and hors d’oeuvres. …

But the CIA and DNI both acknowledged this week that the events this time around will be smaller, cheaper and off-limits to the press. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the holiday austerity reflects the nation’s financial condition.

“Scaling back our holiday celebrations is just another small example of our commitment to making sure that we continue to make wise fiscal decisions across the board,” Clapper said in a prepared statement.

The measures come at a time when the Obama administration is also probably eager to avoid any appearance of opulence amid the sour economy and soaring national debt.

Elsewhere in the Post, though, we read that while “home prices continue to fall, D.C. bucks trend.” And — oops! — I left out the last graf of that other story:

Indeed, the party savings are probably more meaningful symbolically than financially. A U.S. official said the annual DNI party typically cost about $50,000, or roughly the cost of a single Hellfire missile, and a fraction of the $54 billion spy budget this year.

(Second link via David Friedman.)

The Future Affordability of US National Security

That’s the title of a timely paper by MIT researcher Dr. Cindy Williams [.pdf]. The summary points:

1. The United States currently devotes about 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to national defense and another 1.5 percent to broader security efforts, including international affairs, homeland security, veterans’ affairs, and intelligence.

2. What share of GDP will be affordable for security over the long term depends on a variety of factors, including:
– Public perceptions of the security threat;
– The degree of debt-induced fiscal and economic risk policy makers are willing to run;
– The level of taxation the public is willing to bear;
– Whether and how much the costs of federal entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, can be reined in; and
– How much money is devoted to running the rest of the federal government.

3. Putting federal budgets on a sustainable path will require shifting about six percent of GDP into revenues or out of spending, relative to their likely current course, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. Depending on how that shift is distributed among taxation, entitlement spending, defense spending, and nondefense discretionary spending, an affordable long-term level for national defense will be between 1.6 percent and 2.6 percent of GDP.

5. An affordable long-term level of total security spending might thus be between 2.1 percent and 3.4 percent of GDP.

Read the rest here. (Via Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives.)

Pentagon’s Doomsday Looks a Lot Like 2007

The Project on Defense Alternatives sends along “Pentagon Cuts in Context: No Reason for ‘Doomsday’ Hysteria” [.pdf].

Key points:

* The Budget Control Act (BCA) provides for assured caps and reductions on Pentagon spending only if the Joint Select Committee – the “super committee” – fails in its mission or if Congress fails to accept the Committee’s plan. This would trigger caps and reductions in Pentagon spending resulting in a ten-year budget about $1 trillion below the plan originally submitted by President Obama in February 2011. This is the so-called “doomsday scenario.” It is the only provision in the Act that would directly cap Pentagon spending.

* Doomsday equals 2007. The “doomsday scenario” would produce average annual DoD base budgets equivalent to the 2007 level of funding, adjusted for inflation. The average annual base budget for 2012-2021 would be about 13.6% below the 2011 level in real terms. However, total spending during 2012-2021 would be only 6% less than total spending during the previous decade, 2002-2011.

* The so-called “doomsday” scenario entails a decade-to-decade reduction far less severe than that experienced after the Cold War ended. The decline in DoD budget authority would be only one-quarter as steep.

* What makes the “doomsday” scenario impractical is the manner in which the Budget Control Act would implement reductions, which is precipitous. This is intentional. The provision is meant to motivate, not mitigate, tax increases and entitlement cuts.

* A gradual approach could achieve equivalent savings with much less disruption — for instance, by reducing the Pentagon base budget step-by-step to $490 billion over four years and then allowing it to increase by inflation only. This would require reducing the budget by only 4% in real terms for each of four years, starting with 2012. Over ten years, this saves the same amount, but without pushing the Pentagon off a wall.

* The “doomsday” scenario can be averted if the Joint Select Committee produces a plan that becomes law and saves at least $2 trillion via cuts, revenue increases, or both. In that case, the BCA ensures at least $841 billion in discretionary budget savings, as measured against the March 2011 CBO baseline. This is the officially preferred or “non-doomsday” scenario. But it involves no direct caps on the Pentagon base budget. Lawmakers are left free to seek proportional savings from the Pentagon or not.

* The Administration and Congress are both disinclined to seek proportional savings from the Pentagon. For the next two years, the International Affairs budget is likely to pay the price. After 2013, the BCA allows more of the burden to be shifted to non-security accounts.

* Proportional cuts equal 2008. Proportional reductions in the DoD’s discretionary base budget would entail a real reduction of 8% from the current level of expenditure. The average Pentagon base budget would be rolled back to the level of 2008, adjusted for inflation. Comparing decade to decade, total base budget expenditures for 2012-2021 would be the same as the total for 2002-2011 in 2012 dollars.