American Enterprise Institute Admits The Problem With Iran Is Not That It Would Use Nukes

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By M J Rosenberg

showPicture.php
File picture of Danielle Pletka, undated screengrab from C-SPAN.

Suddenly the struggle to stop Iran is not about saving Israel from nuclear annihilation. After a decade of scare-mongering about the second coming of Nazi Germany, the Iran hawks are admitting that they have other reasons for wanting to take out Iran, and saving Israeli lives may not be one of them. Suddenly the neoconservatives have discovered the concept of truth-telling, although, no doubt, the shift will be ephemeral.

The shift in the rationale for war was kicked off this week when Danielle Pletka, head of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) foreign policy shop and one of the most prominent neoconservatives in Washington, explained what the current obsession with Iran’s nuclear program is all about.

The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, “See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.” … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.

Hold on. The “biggest problem” with Iran getting a nuclear weapon is not that Iranians will use it but that they won’t use it and that they might behave like a “responsible power”? But what about the hysteria about a second Holocaust? What about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that this is 1938 and Hitler is on the march? What about all of these pronouncements that Iran must be prevented from developing a nuclear weapons because the apocalyptic mullahs would happily commit national suicide in order to destroy Israel? And what about AIPAC and its satellites, which produce one sanctions bill after another (all dutifully passed by Congress) because of the “existential threat” that Iran poses to Israel? Did Pletka lose her talking points?
Apparently not.

Pletka’s “never mind” about the imminent danger of an Iranian bomb seems to be the new line from the bastion of neoconservativism.

Earlier this week, one of Pletka’s colleagues at AEI said pretty much the same thing. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Thomas Donnelly explained that we’ve got the Iran problem all wrong and that we need to “understand the nature of the conflict.” He continued:

We’re fixated on the Iranian nuclear program while the Tehran regime has its eyes on the real prize: the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East.
This admission that the problem with a nuclear Iran is not that it would attack Israel but that it would alter the regional balance of power is incredibly significant. The American Enterprise Institute is not Commentary, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which are not exactly known for their intellectual heft.

It is, along with the Heritage Foundation, the most influential conservative think tank. That is why it was able to play such an influential role in promoting the invasion of Iraq. Take a look at this page from the AEI website from January 2002 (featuring, no surprise, a head shot of Richard Perle). It is announcing one of an almost endless series of events designed to instigate war with Iraq, a war that did not begin for another 14 months. (Perle himself famously began promoting a war with Iraq within days of 9/11, according to former CIA director George Tenet.) AEI’s drumbeat for war was incessant, finally meeting with success in March 2003.

And now they are doing it again. On Monday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) — AIPAC’s favorite senator — will keynote an event at AEI, with Pletka and Donnelly offering responses. It will be moderated by Fred Kagan, another AEI fellow and Iraq (now Iran) war hawk. The event is built on the premise that “ongoing efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have failed.”
We all know what that means. AEI will, no doubt, continue to host these “it’s time for war” events through 2012 and beyond, or until President Obama or his successor announces either that the United States has attacked Iran or that Israel has attacked and we are at her side.

If you didn’t know any better, you might ask why — given that Pletka and Donnelly are downgrading the Iranian nuclear threat — AEI is still hell-bent on war. If its determination to stop Iran is not about defending Israel from an “existential threat,” what is it truly about?

Fortunately, Pletka and Donnelly don’t leave us guessing. It is about preserving the regional balance of power, which means ensuring that Israel remains the region’s military powerhouse, with Saudi Arabia playing a supporting role. That requires overthrowing the Iranian regime and replacing it with one that will do our bidding (like the Shah) and will not, in any way, prevent Israel from operating with a free reign throughout the region.

This goal can only be achieved through outside intervention (war) because virtually the entire Iranian population — from the hardliners in the reactionary regime to reformists in the Green Movement working for a more open society — are united in support of Iran’s right to develop its nuclear potential and to be free of outside interference.

What the neoconservatives want is a pliant government in Tehran, just like we used to have, and the only way to achieve this, they believe, is through war.

At this point, it appears that they may get their wish. The only alternative to war is diplomacy, and diplomacy, unlike war, seems to be no longer on the table.

At a fascinating Israel Policy Forum (IPF) symposium this week, Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a longtime journalist and author who specializes on Iran, noted that the Obama administration has spent a grand total of 45 minutes in direct engagement with the Iranians. Forty-five minutes! Just as bad, the administration no longer makes any effort to engage.

This is crazy. Of course, there is no way of knowing if the Iranian regime wants to talk, but what is the harm of trying? If they say no, they say no. If we talk and the talks go nowhere, then at least we tried. But we won’t try out of fear of antagonizing campaign donors who have been told that the alternative to war is the destruction of Israel. (Thanks to those same donors, Congress is utterly hopeless on this issue.)

So, instead of pursuing diplomacy, we are inching closer toward war.

At IPF, Slavin predicted what the collateral results of an attack on Iran would be:

What’s the collateral damage? Oh my Lord. Well, you destroy the reform movement in Iran for another generation because people will rally around the government; inevitably they do when country is attacked.

People always talk about the Iranians being so irrational and wanting martyrdom. That’s bull. They’re perfectly happy to fight to the last Arab suicide bomber. But they don’t put their own lives on the line unless their country is attacked.

So, you know, they would rally around the government and that would destroy the reform movement. And of course the price of oil would spike. The Iranians will find ways to retaliate through their partners like Hezbollah and Hamas. I think the Israelis would have to attack Lebanon first, to take out Hezbollah’s 40,000 rockets. It’s not just a matter of a quick few hops over Saudi Arabia and you hit Natanz, you know, and a few other places.

That’s why the Israelis want the United States to do it, because they can’t do it, frankly. U.S. does it? Okay, the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are sitting ducks. Iran is already playing footsie with the Taliban in Afghanistan. That will become much more pronounced.

They will perhaps attack the Saudi oil fields.

Slavin continues, but the point is clear. An Iran war would make the Iraq war look like the “cake walk” neoconservatives promised it would be.

And for what? To preserve the regional balance of power? How many American lives is that worth? Or Israeli lives? Or Iranian? (It is worth noting that this week, Max Boot, the Council on Foreign Relations’ main neocon, wrote that an attack on Iran, which he advocates, would only delay development of an Iranian bomb.)

Nonetheless, at this point war looks likely. Under our political system, the side that can pay for election campaigns invariably gets what it wants. There is, simply put, no group of donors who are supporting candidates for president and Congress based on their opposition to war, while millions of organized dollars are available to those who support the neocon agenda. Pundits used to say: As Maine goes, so goes the country. It’s just as simple today: As the money goes, so goes our policy.

13-50

The Shari’ah Controversy in America:

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Waheeduddin Ahmed, Ph.D.

shariah-compliance_imgIslamophobia, as it exists today in America, cannot be assigned to a single cause. It has a variety of causes. Differences in belief systems have little to do with it, since such a chasm would require awareness, which is all but lacking in the general populace. Clash of civilizations is hardly causative in a civic society, where only one civilization prevails. In fact, it is the cultural side of Islam, which arouses prejudice and disapproval on the part of some and suspicion on the part of others.

The second cause is the global political conflicts in which Muslims are seen as occupying the center stage. Incessant news and events depicting individuals committing terrorist acts, with their religion specifically highlighted in the media if they are Muslims, constantly plays on the minds and emotions of the American people. The worst act of terrorism in its history occurred in New York on September 11, 2001. It was carried out by a few foreign miscreants from the Middle East with Muslim names and had roots in the Arab-Israeli conflict. While it shook the world, it sent chills down the spines of the Muslim inhabitants of America. They were hit the hardest just by name association. They walked the streets under suspicious and disdainful eyes and are still struggling to reclaim their rightful place in the American society.

We are living in an era sequential to global communism. The phobia which dominated that era was the fear of the great Bolshevik conspiracy, which would undermine our freedoms and individual liberties. The product of that phobia was the Cold War, generating thousands of nuclear weapons, sufficient to obliterate human race many times over and which gave birth to scores of dictators all over the world, who subjected their countrymen to tyranny and humiliation. The succeeding era would not pass without a phobia to decorate it with.  Islamophobia readily served the purpose. The bogey of the worldwide Islamic khilafa replaced that of the Communist conspiracy and is beginning to inflict the psyche of the American public. If there are any people, who are unaware of this khilafa “conspiracy”, it is the Muslim people themselves.

The Phobia and its Profile: The Mosque Controversies:

Proposals to build mosques to serve the religious needs of Muslims countrywide have brought out deep-rooted prejudices even from the members of the clergy, from California to Wisconsin to New York. Acts of vandalism against the Muslim places of worship such as in Tennessee proliferated. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin a Muslim doctor who owned a store type building proposed to convert the property into a place of worship for hundred or so of Muslims. The place was close to the hospital he worked in. A public hearing brought out some of the patients he had treated and had faith in, who spilled out venom against Islam, a faith they had no knowledge of. It shook the wits out of him and many of the citizens. In Manhattan, Muslims had been praying at Burlington Factory House at Park51 a makeshift mosque for a year before the Cordoba House proposal. On Fridays the congregation at Farah Mosque nearby would spill over on the street for want of sufficient accommodation. It was not a matter of “desecrating” Ground Zero but a matter of dire necessity and equal rights under the constitution. The proposal became such a big controversy that everybody from the president to the governor to the archbishop to the Jewish Defense League weighed in. It was made to look as though the proposed Cordoba House was a monument of Muslim “triumphalism” at Ground Zero.

Ban the Shari’ah Legislations:

The campaign against the Cordoba House project was started in a blog “Stop Islamization of America”, a xenophobic campaign, playing on the aforementioned fears of people, of the perceived impending transformation of the country’s religious face and its cultural profile. This is an outrageous presumption and a wildly imaginary scenario. Exact statistics are lacking but according to a study conducted by the American Jewish Committee there are 2.8million Muslims in America, while many Muslim organizations have been claiming that the total number stood at about six million. This makes the range of percent population to be from 0.9 to 1.9%. The true number may be closer to the lower figure than the higher one. Of the total population, the practicing Muslims may be less than half that number, scattered over a continent and among the population of 308.7 million. What a force for the Islamization of the United States of America!

The force behind this anti-Shari’ah tirade is an Arizona lawyer: David Yerushalmi, a White supremacist, an anti-Islam hate monger and the founder of the “Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE)”. He argues that whites are genetically superior to Blacks.  He wrote: “Some races perform better in sports, some better in mathematical problem solving, some better in language, some better in Western societies and some better in tribal ones.” He urged that the United States must declare war on Islam and all Muslim faithful. This puts him in the same category in hate mongering, as the likes of Meir Kahane, Baruch Goldstein, Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz and Peter Emerson. He had pushed legislation in 2007 to make adherence to Shari’ah a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Sadly, it is him and the likes of him, who are driving the conservative legislative agenda in this country. He is either the author of or the consultant for most of the anti-Shari’ah bills, which have been introduced. The American legislators, who have been led onto this path by people like Yerushalmi, in the name of patriotism, should realize that their actions are mutilating the values and the principles on which this country was founded.

A majority of the anti-Shari’ah bills is considered to be, in the main, innocuous and inconsequential, emotive rather than practical, save SB1028, the State of Tennessee bill as originally proposed, which would have dangerously violated the basic human rights of Muslims, guaranteed in the constitution, by criminalizing the day to day acts of worship. The other acts of legislation have been rightly branded as: “A Solution in Search of Problem”. However, there are some very complex legal implications, which cannot be overlooked.

Shari’ah, meaning “the way” or “the path” encompasses many disciplines such as ritual worship, moral principles, trade, charity, dietary rules, monetary transactions, matrimony, inheritance as well as criminal law. Many of the Shari’ah rules have been absorbed into cultural norms and adherence to them is almost subconscious, such as the dietary rules. Although ritual worship is an essential part of religion, some Muslims pray and some don’t and those who pray would do so even under the shadow of a guillotine. The criminal law (the Shari’ah penal code) is in abeyance in a majority of the Muslim countries, as secular criminal laws have taken its place. The laws of marriages, divorce and inheritance are in general followed, except that polygamy is now obsolescent among the common people. Most of the laws of Shari’ah, including the penal code, bear striking similarity to the laws of the Old Testament (Halacha) and those followed in early Christian communities. Reformist movements in Judaism and the Church in Christianity have amended those laws but since in Islam there is no Church, Pope or “reform” authority, the Shari’ah has remained immutable, except where the rules are amenable to ijtehad (dialectical derivation).There is a corpus of exegesis in Shari’ah law but its implementation however, has been effected with a varying degree of laxity.

As for the criminal law, it must be noted that Muslims have lived under secular laws for ages without protestations. There are only two countries where Shari’ah law is applied, albeit selectively: Saudi Arabia and Iran.  American Muslims have therefore no qualms about living under the law of the land. Civil laws however are a different matter. Let us take the example of India, home to 161 million Muslims (13.4%) among a total population of 1.2 billion. The criminal law is the law of the land and is applicable to every resident. Muslims are not clamoring for the imposition of hudud, qisas or ta’dhir (elements of religious criminal law).  In civil matters, Muslims are allowed to follow their own “personal law” or opt for the secular law. Western countries would do well to consider this precedence.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had proposed a similar procedure for the British courts, where arbitration, with the consent of the contestants, would amiably settle disputes without burdening the courts with costly trials and litigations. In any case, in the matters of divorce, inheritance, child custody and child support, the parties would have an option between the Shari’ah and the secular laws, whichever they think serves their interests best. This kind of arrangement, if mutually agreed upon by the parties and allowed by the courts, does in no way threaten the integrity and the tranquility of the society; it may on the other hand enhance them. Nevertheless, we must ensure that the women’s rights and the children’s welfare are safeguarded by the courts in the best way possible. There will be times when the Shari’ah will serve women better than the states’ laws. In California recently a court ruled that meher payment (a contractual sum payable to a woman by her husband on divorce under the Shari’ah) violated the state law prohibiting spouses from “profiteering” from divorce. Loss to the woman in this case is obvious. In general the interests of the citizens as well as of the state would be best served when the courts are independent and have discretion — not obligation — in when to reference religious laws and when not to do so.

“Foreign” Law and the U.S. Courts:

In many states legislation prohibiting the courts from considering “foreign” law or international law is being pushed with a vengeance. This raises a number of very complex legal issues, involving international treaties and trade. Compliance with international treaties, when ratified, is vouchsafed in the U.S. constitution and may be outside the jurisdiction of any one state. However, there may be areas of trade and labor laws, where complications may arise and hamper businesses of American companies.

In the U.S. courts presently marriages contracted abroad and under the Shari’ah are recognized, so are divorces executed abroad. The integration of many immigrant families is based on this provision. In the matters of matrimony, parenthood, inheritance and execution of wills disputes do arise in courts and could not be settled without reference to “foreign” laws. There is a serious concern that the ramifications of ban on foreign law now or in the future may put strains on the justice system and adversely affect the social structure of the American society.

Islamophobia, the Underlying Reason:

It is hard to believe that the proponents of the ant-Shari’ah bill of Tennessee, as it was originally written, were unaware of its unconstitutionality. Clearly, their intent was provocation and their motive was historic religious prejudice. It is not uncommon in the American history and in the history of many other countries for hate groups to arise in certain political and economic circumstances and by their actions and rhetoric malign the very society whose wellbeing they claim to protect.

It was said after 9/11 that “history begins now” or words to that effect. How true! Muslim Americans have been living in the full glare of history ever since, with their faces lit with bewilderment, although some governmental agencies, the top political leadership of both the parties, the law enforcement agencies and the leadership of almost every faith have helped to take the attention away from them. We still remember with gratitude the president of the United States’ visit to a mosque in the aftermath of the tragic event and the kind words uttered. This brought out what was good in the American people and averted a possible catastrophe. We appeal to the same good nature of the American people not to heed to bigotry, prejudice and electoral polemics. America will lose its soul if it succumbs to religious intolerance. It will lose its reason for being.

Muslims in America are a highly diverse community, consisting of almost every race, ethnicity and culture, including a large indigenous section. Among them are doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and workers, enriching the economy with their contributions. There are Nobel laureates such as Ahmed Zewail news anchors such as Fareed zakaria and many sports celebrities. There are highly regarded congressmen and mayors in many cities.

Muslim contribution in highlighting the moral values is an asset to the society, which should not be ignored. The mosques are not a threat to anybody but beacons of light. They are centers of spiritual uplift as well as of education, social activism, moral reformation and charity.  Most mosques have prison visit programs, which have resulted in transforming many individuals into productive and law-abiding citizens. Many mosques in the inner cities have food pantries, counseling and crisis management programs.  Above all they curtail social ills. Consider a man who comes to the mosque to pray early morning, early afternoon, late-afternoon, at sunset and at night, five times in Twenty-four hours, to renew his commitment to God. What are his chances of committing unsocial acts in between his prayers? If two million people do this in a society, is the society better off or worse?

13-25

III. A Progressive Israeli Argument for the Two-State Solution

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

San Francisco–Home at last!  Home at last with a thick new notebook.

During the past week (6th-12th), the initial reports were that the casualties of the Palestinian demonstrators at the Syrian border by the Jewish Strata on  the Golan Heights has increased to twenty-seven — mowed down with live bullets from the other side of the barbed wire with several seriously wounded, furthermore,  by the by the IDF (the Israeli Defense Force) at the express orders to employ the ultimate violence against the non-violent demonstrators from the Prime Minister (P.M.) Netanyahu. In North Africa the rebels are hedging more closely to Tripoli, the Libyan nation’s traditional capital…  Although Gaddafi has been accused of rape as a weapon war by his soldiers, the “Colonel” has stated,” I’ll stay in Tripoli whether I live or die!’  While two Imperial powers, Britain and France, are preparing a resolution in United Nations (U.N.) condemning Damascus for their brutality in their civil war.  Incidentally, Libya and Syria have been two of the most obnoxious to the West, and “taking out” President Assad would be a great relief to the Israeli Prime Minister, for they one of the few nations’ in the expanse (since they are neighbors) who could provide a MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) to Tel Aviv overbearing nuclear arsenal in the Negev .

As your composer has stated earlier, he believes the success or failure of the Arab “Spring” will depend upon the reaction of the Israeli government.   If they act diplomatically, there can be a tremendous blossoming of Arab-style democracies; if they respond in a belligerent manner there will be an appalling conflict, and, with nuclear weapons involved, it can be as great a disaster as Hiroshima, and with the closeness of Israel to its neighbors it can only destroy the nuclear State to unimaginable consequences.

This is the third installment with the Israeli General, their Ministry of Justice bureaucrat and Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street in the United States who was in Washington at the time of the call:

The two Israeli citizens pointed out that Palestine is unstable at the moment.  (Unfortunately, that is true, but it is true that it is overwhelmingly caused by the Zionist expansion upon Arab land!)    The General believes that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is not a threat, for under his analysis, he deems Hamas to be weak, (but under your author’s assay Hamas  is a substantial opponent  to the Israeli hegemony over the region, for, although Tel Aviv and Cairo had been doing their best to execute the sway of the Palestinian mini-strip on the sea, your researcher is of the opinion that Gaza quintessentially defeated the Hebrew-speaking Army in their Cast Iron operation against the Palestinian mini-State by exposed to the world Jerusalem’s vicious violence to an ultimately defenseless populace; thus, turning the prevailing global popular “good” opinion away from the Zionist’s position towards their opponents for the land, the indigenous Palestinians.)  

One of Israeli incentives for joining in on the dialogue with Ramallah in the company of the Quartet (the United States, the U.N., the European Union (E.U.) and the Russian Federation) as interlopers is, although there are many differences of opinion regarding Hamas, Tel Aviv wishes to isolate and prevent them from capturing the total “Occupied” Territories’ in the next elections which they have a very good chance of accomplishing with the depopulation of the Christians and the Islamization of Palestine herself.  Even so, there are talks amongst the original inhabitants of the Holy Land (for most of the Palestinians there are the direct descendants of the ancient residents of their geographic district, whereas the majority of the Jews had been Europeanized with a mixture of the Jewish diaspora who had fled Spain to the region mainly within the border districts of modern Poland and Russia wherein they had intermixed with the Yalta converted (Jews) of the Ninth Century (I most not this historically scenario is highly disapproved by Jewish scholars in Jerusalem as is the Night Ride of the Prophet (s); and, thus, Israel can be perceived as a Settler Colonial State and must be amalgamated into the Middle East) to be accepted.  Further The Quartet must integrate Hamas into the elections (if it is not done, it would be hard to describe these forthcoming `polls to be free and fair.  What is so interesting about the advancement of the Palestinians’ cause is that, finally, they are on the world’s “radar, and that it coincides” with  the Arab “Spring,” and it has many elements.  (It must be kept in mind, that, Palestine is central to the Arab’s ideology, and, although it is on the fringes of West Asia, it is well near the “center” of the Arab-speaking humanity which extends from the full of North Africa into the Arabian West and Saudi Arabia itself, the homeland of Islam, and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) in the Persian (or Arab, as it is, also called,) Gulf on the East.         

Tara Hassan, of the Israeli Ministry of Justice is, also, a leader for “true” Justice within her homeland.     She urged that the Palestinian Prime Minister (P.M.) Mahmoud Abbas, be granted concessions, reiterating the Israeli bugaboo, to avoid Hamas administrating the West Bank.  (It is interesting to note the great fear of almost all Israelis – either on the Right or Left – is their irrational fear of Islamism, and seems to be a driving force to lean their Commonweal to the Left which is a hopeful sign for an agreement to the conundrum and the especially for the long-term future of the Palestinians themselves.  Although she describes herself as a Zionist, for her, a Zionist does not have to be on the political Jewish-wing.  “Only a two-State Solution will save Israel,” too.  Hassan, further, states that “…We should take every opportunity [to convince] the people of Israel!”  Sharoni interjects that we should present to the Israeli public” the necessity of the two—State Solution!  As often as possibility, for the people (here) have an unfounded fear of the Arab “Spring,” (and that is driving internal policy there, too).  

Why are we spending so much time looking at non-Muslim Israel — because it is the dominant dominion within the Middle East – due to the policy of America arming its pariah client to the hilt?  (The citizens of the U.S.A. have a grave duty to extricate their own nation from this enigma to which they themselves have created, and to become a force for peace among these environs.)

Whatever is happening within the halls of Tel Aviv will have a dramatic effect within the Arabic al-Islam!

13-25

More Bucks, Less Bang:

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Ineffective Weapons Disease Infects Another Generation of Weapons

By Dina Rasor, Truthout

In the early 1980s, the Pentagon was in the midst of several new generations of tanks, aircraft and missiles, especially during the Reagan defense budget buildup. It was in one of the hottest times of the cold war and I had many sources tell me that, because of nuclear weapons, there probably wasn’t going to be a land war with the Soviet Union in Europe, so these weapons were just bluff and window dressing. Much of the attitude was that it didn’t matter much if these weapons failed their test and cost too much because they were designed to look tough, but not to actually be used in war.
In many ways, the cold war was perfect for DoD managers of major weapons systems: they could project that their new technically laden weapon could do all types of terrifying things, but they were reasonably sure that they would not be used in a major war. It was the equivalent of saying you had a poker hand of four aces, really only having a couple of queens, but knowing that you wouldn’t have to lay down your hand to verify it. The problem of expensive weapons that didn’t work as advertised led me to edit a book in 1982 entitled “More Bucks, Less Bang: How the Pentagon Buys Ineffective Weapons.” The book reproduced over 30 news articles on various weapon failures with an introduction and final chapter on how the system failed and what to do about it.

Now, it is almost 30 years later and we are seeing signs of the same dilemma facing our next generation of weapons where they are costing more, but doing less than promised. The difference now is that we are currently in several hot wars and struggling through a serious recession. Many of these failing weapons are being introduced into the battlefield even as they are being developed, overrunning their costs and flunking their tests.

I could write numerous columns outlining all the current overpriced and low functioning weapons, but there is a new group of weapons that the DoD has promised to revolutionize warfare for these various wars we are involved. According to Wired.com’s Danger Room, the Pentagon plans to double its unmanned air force. This is in the face of budget cuts and concerns about the overruns and technical problems of the next generation of aircraft, especially the F-35. Unmanned aircraft, better known as drones to the public, have suddenly been elevated to new heights with the spying on Bin Laden’s compound to drone missile strikes in Pakistan. The military’s manned aircraft program is not growing, but the unmanned aircraft is slated to grow from “approximately 340 in FY [fiscal year] 2012 to approximately 650 in FY 2021,” according to the DoD’s Aircraft Procurement Plan 2012-2041.

There are already heated discussions on whether drone warfare works or not from a strategic point of view, but I will refrain from that argument today in order to just look at whether the drones are working as advertised and whether their price is becoming as prohibitive as the manned DoD aircraft.

On June 6, 2011, Bloomberg News reported that Michael Gilmore, the director of the DoD’s Operational Test and Evaluation office, declared that the newest version of Northrop’s Global Hawk “is not operationally suitable.” According to a May 27 report from the testing office, “mission-critical components fail at high rates, resulting in poor takeoff reliability, high air about rates, low mission capable rates, an excessive demand for critical spare parts and a high demand for maintenance support.”

According to Aviation Week, the Global Hawk’s poor performance had a “poor sortie turnaround performance. And, “Effective time on station (ETOS) or the amount of time the aircraft can loiter over a target gathering intelligence, was expected to be 55% but the system achieved only 27%.” There are quality problems with something as simple as nut plates that were breaking, requiring 24-hour cure time to fix the problem, thereby grounding the planes for a day each time these nut plates failed.

This “Block 30” of Global Hawk drones have already been used to fly over the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan to take thermal images of the damaged plant, and have been used in surveillance missions over Libya. The Global Hawk is a “remotely piloted spy plane that can fly at high altitudes – up to 60,000 feet – to evade easy detection. Its primary role is to take pictures, while also picking up enemy communications signals and electronic signals like those from a nuclear detonation,” according to an article from The Hill.It has been cited as the replacement for the cold war manned U2 airplane. The report that Gilmore released on the testing is highly critical and blunt for that office and has 16 recommendations to improve the Global Hawk, including upgrading the communications systems and boosting its all-weather capabilities.

The problem with looking at the recommended fixes is that the Global Hawk production costs have already overrun by at least 25 percent. The unit cost has been pegged at $113.9 to $161 million each. When you count the cost of research and development and the construction of the facilities to build it, each Global Hawk has risen to an astounding $173.3 million, rivaling many of the DoD current manned aircraft. To give it perspective, the estimate of the much-maligned F-35 is now put at $133 million each (with an equally astounding life-cycle cost of one trillion dollars.) There are threats to cut down the amount of F-35s and replace a percentage of them with current fighters.

However, even though this testing report was issued on May 27, 2011, there are assurances that the Global Hawk’s problems can be fixed and that the program will survive and the weapon will work. While Gilmore has revealed serious problems in the testing, the head of Air Force testing, Maj. Gen. David Eichorn puts a softer spin on the bad news. According to Aerospace Daily, Eichorn said that he found the system to be “effective with significant limitations … not suitable and partly mission capable.” He went on to explain his softer version of the operational tests: “I was much more comfortable with the shade of gray in this case rather than the black and white of is it effective or not.”

The pressure will be on to put in some fixes, retest the drone and quickly declare a victory to get it out in the field. Several corporate watchers say that the Global Hawk will survive this because the original Predator drone had major operational test problems, but there were enough fixes to make it effective in the field. Philip Finnegan of the Teal Group, an industry consulting group, told The Hill, “The Predator/Reaper suffered from serious criticism from testers early on, but it came back and is now very effective and I would anticipate that the Global Hawk would solve its problems.” There are still questions whether the Predator or Reaper have truly solved their testing problems because of the circle-the-wagons mentality by the Air Force and the DoD when a weapon is questioned. I am glad that Mr. Finnegan was willing to talk for free to The Hill, because the Teal Group’s white paper on unmanned aircraft costs a whopping $1,895.00 for a copy – sort of in line with the Pentagonal costs of weapons.

To help ensure that the Global Hawk survives any DoD cuts, the June 7 email issue of Politico’s Morning Defense had several Northrop ads sprinkled through the text including:

    A message from Northrop Grumman: The newest and most capable Global Hawks, Block 40, have started arriving at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. Block 40 provides affordable, state-of-the-art wide area surveillance sensor for the future.
    [and]
    The employees of Northrop Grumman salute the men and women of the U.S. Air Force and citizens of North Dakota on arrival of the first RQ-4 Global Hawk to Grand Forks Air Force Base. This milestone marks the activation of the second Global Hawk main operating base, bringing expanded intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to our troops. Global Hawk is the world’s preeminent high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system, capable of flying above 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours and having already flown more than 43,000 hours in combat.

There was no mention of the severe test results that were in the press only the day before. Northrop has been running positive ads on Global Hawk in Politico’s Morning Defense since April, including extolling its virtues in combat. Since the DoD would have briefed Northrop on its results, I have no doubt that Northrop knew that the bad news was coming and wanted to soothe the problem with ads that predicted great successes for their drone.

Despite all the problems, the Global Hawk most likely will be approved for full production, despite the poor operational tests.

Inside Defense gave several reasons the Global Hawk will succeed in a June 6, 2011, story:

    Tom Christie, who headed the Pentagon’s weapons testing shop from July 2001 to 2005, when the Global Hawk Block 10 variant was being operationally assessed, doubts that the new report will impede Pentagon plans to proceed with full-rate production of the Block 30 variant.

    “Once again, we have a system that has failed to meet effectiveness and suitability requirements – but one that no doubt will probably proceed post-haste into full production and deployment,” Christie said. “In fact, the Global Hawk has been deployed for years prior to any semblance of realistic OT&E [Operational Test and Evaluation].”

    Last year, the Pentagon flagged the Global Hawk program for running afoul of statutory cost-growth thresholds for a third time. The Pentagon has spent $7.7 billion of a projected $13.9 billion to develop and acquire Global Hawk systems. The program has already breached “significant” cost growth thresholds, and on two occasions – including last June – exceeded “critical” cost growth levels, prompting the Pentagon to restructure the program and certify it as essential to national security.

    Later this month, Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive, is scheduled to convene the high-level Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) to consider whether to proceed with full-rate production of the Block 30 variant. As part of that review, the Pentagon plans to restructure the program, breaking out elements of the Global Hawk program into subprograms.

    This DAB meeting is expected to be a culminating moment for a program that has been under close scrutiny for more than a year, including an internal Pentagon review last summer and an Air Force-directed blue-ribbon panel set up in December.

    On April 6, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley revealed that the Pentagon was cutting the Global Hawk procurement objective from 77 to 66, a 14 percent decrease (DefenseAlert, April 21).

Here, based on my experience, is how the Air Force and Northrop will save face on this failing program and get it through, even during these tough budget times.

Many of the problems listed above are failures by Northrop to have Global Hawk do its mission and to be maintainable (remember the nut plates that broke and needed 24 hours to fix). In a realistic world, not the world of military procurement, Northrop would be expected, under their fixed-price contract, to fix these serious problems on their own dime and lose any incentives built into the contract. However, since this would be at a high cost to Northrop, the Air Force will probably declare that the fixes of these problems are actually changes requested by the government and will put in Engineering Change Orders and other government “requests” for changes (not to be called fixes anymore). This will allow the defects of this drone to be fixed at government cost, not Northrop’s cost because the government initiated the fixes. This will raise the baseline of Northrop’s fixed-price contract (called rubber baseline in the trade), nourish the contract and lessen the specter of having overruns, all because the government will now pour more money into the drone. With these fixes, the Air Force, once embarrassed, will make sure that the drone passes the next set of operational tests by tricks in the scoring of what is a failure and is not a failure. It has been a common practice for over 40 years for services to manipulate test data to make sure that a troubled weapon passes the operational tests and goes into full production.

I helped pass the law in the 1980s to set up an independent test office in the DoD, the office that Gilmore now heads. Sen. David Pryor of Arkansas read an article that I wrote about cheating on weapons testing and urging for an independent testing office, and sponsored a bill to create an independent testing office. We were successful in getting the office established, but there was much resistance in the DoD to give it enough funding and to find tough leaders of the office to insist on hard-nosed testing. One of the directors, Thomas Christie did try to fight the bureaucracy while he was head of that office, but the institutional DoD and the military services fight any bad news coming out of the office.

The Global Hawk test report was stronger than usual, but it probably won’t help fix all the problems, keep the government from paying for Northrop’s mistakes or make sure that this weapon is truly effective in the battlefield, even during an active war. Even having an independent testing office in the DoD won’t guarantee that; even when problems are made public, things will change.

Northrop will marshal its supporters in Congress and in the DoD to help them look good so that the DoD program managers will also look good and everyone will be happy. The drone programs are headquartered at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, and the Dayton Daily News helped tout that base’s future in a May 19, 2011, story headlined “Pentagon plan for drones may secure WPAFB future,” outlining how this base is “Ohio’s largest single-site employer with more than 27,000 workers …”  The district that has the bedroom communities for Wright Pat and has the base literally on the border of the district is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s district, which means that there will be a heavy hitter to make sure that the drone programs make full production and are well funded despite any bad testing news or critical cost overruns.

In the eyes of most involved in this program, everyone will win except the taxpayers who will have to pay more for a flawed weapon and the troops that will be relying on the data or lack of data that the drone is supposed to capture.

So, what is the solution here? I worked for years to make sure that there was independent review of weapons testing, but the bureaucracy has dulled its impact. The DoD just released two studies that showed that testing of a weapon does not cause delay or overrun, but that fixing the problems found in testing caused by bad management is a main reason for delay and overrun. So, the testing isn’t the problem; fixing the mistakes is a big problem.

Once again, this is such a huge problem that any small-slice solution will be quickly deformed by the crushing power of the forces that want to keep the weapons’ money flowing. I believe that this system won’t change until we successfully get rid of the overwhelming problem of self-dealing: where people in this system have personal monetary stakes in these weapon systems proceeding through the system. One of the biggest problems is the revolving door among the military, Congress and the industry. In my past column, “The Buying and Selling of the Pentagon (Part II),”  I take each group, the Congress, the military and the defense contractors, and put in very strict restrictions that forces a decision: if they want to be a part of the system that buys weapons for our troops, which puts them in a very special category, then they have to sacrifice for their country, as our troops have had to sacrifice.

These solutions are not easy, but I don’t believe that we can solve problems like the Global Hawk without drastic action.

13-25