Archive for the ‘Military affairs’ Category

Who’s threatened by Iran?

Posted: February 12, 2012 by alephnaughty in International affairs, Military affairs, Politics
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Let me ask you a question: How many countries in possession of nuclear weapons have been attacked by a country not in possession of nuclear weapons? Take your time. In case you’re still scratching your head, the correct answer is zero.

Let me ask you a second question: Does the United States possess nukes? Does Israel? (Yes, they both have lots of them, the US especially so).

Projecting past experience forward, then (the new riddle of induction notwithstanding), will the US or Israel be attacked by a non-nuclear Iran?

Okay, if you’re still with me, let me ask you a third question: How many countries in possession of nuclear weapons have been attacked by a country also in possession of nuclear weapons? Again, take your time. In case you wanna cut to the chase, the correct answer (once more) is zero.

Projecting past experience forward, then, will the US or Israel be attacked by a nuclear Iran?

“Don’t be silly,” you say. “Just because something never happened in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. This time, my friend, really is different.” Maybe so. But when there is a strikingly consistent pattern in the historical record, it’s worth getting to the bottom of it. So let’s.

Why have countries with nuclear weapons never been attacked by other countries? Here’s a first stab at a solution. Political leaders, above all else, crave power. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice as much as they do to acquire it, and to maintain it. In 1945, when the US demonstrated the destructive potential of nuclear weapons (essentially telling Japan, “if you give us so much as a papercut, we will set you on fire”), every political leader in the world was watching. What they learned is that, for small countries, getting nuked is a recipe for not having a country over which to rule anymore. For big countries, getting nuked is a recipe for losing power very, very quickly.

So, caring first and foremost about power, world leaders silently affirmed the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not fuck with nuclear states. Don’t forget that, prior to 1945, war between great powers was the norm, not the exception. Since 1945, it’s only been cold wars between nuclear states, which is to say, often tense but essentially non-violent relations.

“Don’t be silly,” you say again. “Iran isn’t a cold, calculating government–it’s a fanatical theocracy committed to the destruction of Israel. Nukes in its hands cannot be trusted.” Maybe so. But consider this: How have the ayatollahs managed to (with relative stability) control Iran for 33 years? This is not a country whose government is protected from its people by outside governments. This is a country who has been the victim of CIA-led coups, internal uprisings egged on by outsiders, and social and economic volatility the likes of which Americans cannot even imagine. And yet these supposed loons have managed to maintain their grip. Something tells me that while they may be fanatical this-or-thats, they care a lot about political power, too. And something tells me that their cold, realistic calculations have a lot to do with why they still hold the reigns in what would otherwise be a tremendously unstable political environment. And recognition of the 11th commandment does not require a genius. So, why do you seem so sure that this time is different?

“Why, then, do they seem so hellbent on the development of a nuke?” you ask. Simple–when the most militarily powerful countries on Earth speak openly on a daily basis about their eagerness to destroy you, and when you know of the 11th commandment (refresher: Thou shalt not fuck with nuclear states), it would seem that getting hold of a nuke would help a lot with maintaining your grip on a country that is on the brink of revolution. Self-preservation is the name of the game in international relations.

Do I want Iran to have a nuke? Of course not. For one thing, lots of Iran’s neighbors would be more or less defenseless against a nuclear Iran. The effect on the balance of power in the Middle East would almost certainly be unfavorable. And yes, the probability of Iran violating the 11th commandment is marginally higher than the probability of, say, Israel doing likewise. Nobody wants Iran to go nuclear. But that’s not because Iran is a serious threat to US or Israeli security. It’s simply for classic balance of power considerations.

What’s in everyone’s best interest is for a ratcheting down of tensions. If Iran is less concerned about the international community planning its destruction, it will be more willing to slow or halt its development of the bomb. And if we offer that, in exchange for healthier diplomatic relations, we may be able to create a more stable political situation in the Middle East than would otherwise obtain.

So, why aren’t we doing that? Well, recall the 11th commandment. Once Iran has the bomb, we will no longer have the option of shaping their internal political situation (witness nuclear Pakistan, a fanatical government if there ever was one, who almost certainly hid bin Laden, but whom we don’t give orders to). If we don’t take out the ayatollahs while we have the chance, Iran is, for the foreseeable future, beyond our sphere of significant influence. But why do we care so much about influencing Iran? We obviously don’t care much about influencing Syria at the moment (actions speak louder than words). The answer, not obvious to only the most deliberately obtuse, is that Iran has lots of oil. Our goal is not to steal their oil, or to secure it at a discount. Our goal–indeed, the Western world’s goal, is to stabilize oil production and flows in international markets so as to minimize oil shocks to Western economies (the oil shocks of the late 2000s drove up headline inflation, triggering tighter monetary policy, triggering the worst recession since the Great Depression). Sure, we care about human rights, etc., too. But the reason we seem really eager to bomb some countries (Libya, Iran), and not others (Syria), is because access to a very important commodity is at stake. No conspiracy, no hegemony, just good old fashioned pursuit of strategic interests.

Let’s, then, not sign off on another war without our eyes open to what’s really at stake, and what our government’s true motivations are.


On Feb 9, 2012, the second anniversary of her Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB), home of the mighty C-130 Hercules, on the second stop of her four city tour. Obama is sojourning across the nation in an effort to promote fitness and nutrition and to unveil a new Department of Defense (DoD) initiative highlighting healthy food on military installations. LRAFB is part of a six base pilot program testing out new, healthier menus heavily featuring vegetables, whole grains, and top grade meats. For years, the DoD has been criticized for serving low quality food in the form of MREs and in the dining halls on military bases. So low quality, in fact, that rumors have circulated suggesting the DoD only purchases and serves “Grade D” meats which are certified for use only on military installations and in prisons. This and similar rumors are false, of course, and the DoD has been striving to upgrade the quality and taste of the food served to the members of our nation’s sword and shield for many years. The pilot program being conducted on LRAFB and the other bases is in support of this change.

The First Lady’s visit to the base included a tour of the dining facility and a brief talk to the service members trying out the healthy menu. During her speech she noted, “[a]ccording to a recent Army study, more than a quarter of our nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds are too overweight to serve in our armed forces today.” This is a very weighty (huzzah for wordplay) and depressing statistic. In 2010, a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found Arkansas to be the 8th fattest state when measuring adult obesity. Well, if LRAFB was included in the statistic, I’m willing to bet Arkansas should be rated somewhere around the 3rd or 4th fattest state without the military population. So, while Little Rock definitely needed her visit to set things straight, she probably would have reached a fatter demographic by giving her talk at a high school or junior college. Haven’t you seen Transformers, lady? Military dudes are fit. Most of them can do more than the 18 girl pushups you did on Jimmy Fallon.

Prior to leaving the dining hall, Brigadier Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services (picture) told Obama that “we are working hard to make healthy sexy.” Now while I’m sure Gen. Murrie is highly respected and lauded in her career as a navigator (doubtful), she probably has never been consulted for her insight regarding the issue of sexiness.

Recent reviews have claimed the changes to the dining hall and menu are fast, neat, average.

Changes to military combat pay (IDP/HFP)

Posted: February 7, 2012 by pleonasty in Military affairs
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Starting February 1, 2012, American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be subject to a proration system for their Imminent Danger Pay (IDP). IDP is a tax free bonus paid to members of the armed forces that are deployed to specific locations, i.e. combat zones. The provision for this proration was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA), which was signed into law on December 31, 2011. Due to the red tape and inertia, the military pay system was not able to adjust to the proration system until February 1. As a result, between the signing of the NDAA and February 1, military members deployed to combat zones were effectively overpaid under the old system. Prior to the NDAA, one day of duty in a combat zone entitled the servicemen to the entire month’s worth of IDP, $225. Implementing the change according to the NDAA results in prorating the bonus to $7.50 per day, up to a maximum of $225. If a deployed military member, serving in a combat zone is exposed to hostile fire or a hostile mine explosion event, the member then receives Hostile Fire Pay (HFP), which is also a tax-free bonus of $225. IDP and HFP are mutually exclusive; earning the full $225 under either renders the service member ineligible to receive the other.

Let’s delve into this issue and find out what’s really going on here. The idea behind this change is to eliminate the abuse that results when a military member arrives in theater on the last day of a month and then later departs the combat zone on the first day of a month. Under the old, non-prorating system, he is now entitled to $550 for essentially two days of being in the combat zone. With the changes, he now only receives $15. But, in reality, who’s to blame here? Lower ranking warfighters don’t just hop on any ol’ flight to Afghanistan whenever they want. They’re shipped off in large batches and go when they’re ordered. So, it’s not the private’s fault that he’s been paid an extra few hundred dollars because the military brass couldn’t organize a better system of shipping and receiving their troops. The real culprits are the military bigwigs that make tours through the many bases in the combat zone to ostensibly inspect for morale and welfare. These guys make sure they arrive on the last day of the month, shake some hands, have lunch with some people, make a big display so it looks like they care, and then they’re packed up and gone on the earliest flight the next day, wads of cash figuratively stuffed in their pockets. This change to the IDP policy will cut down on high ranking officials abusing the system, sure, but these instances are fairly few and far between. The only thing the change really does is hurt young enlisted troops who get paid pennies to do all the dirty work. Don’t you think they deserve a little bonus for putting their asses on the line for freedom?