Tag Archives: Pentagon

Apology won't cut it

Betting is for fools, but if I were a betting man I’d say the White House apology for brokering the prisoner exchange to gain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl won’t quiet the Capitol Hill critics.

To be honest, I don’t blame congressional critics for being ticked off.


The White House has called it an “oversight” that it didn’t notify congressional leaders in advance of the release and the exchange. Officials issued the apology to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. House Speaker John Boehner says it’s more than an oversight; he believes the White House knew Congress would kill the deal. I’ll leave it mind readers to determine whether Boehner knows what he’s talking about.

Still, the deal has enraged members of both parties in both houses of Congress.

A 2013 law required congressional notification of such activity. The White House had said initially that it did tell some lawmakers that a deal was in the works. Now, though, the White House is singing a different tune.

Here’s another question that needs asking: Did you or did you not talk to Capitol Hill about this deal in advance?

Do I think a crime was committed here? No. I think we have instead a terrible political miscalculation that well could explode all over the president, his national security team and the Pentagon.

A deeper concern for me is whether Sgt. Bergdahl deserted his post. Does that preclude his country seeking his release from the Taliban? No. It does raise questions that need some air-tight answers.

Did he walk away from his post? Did his doing so put his comrades at undue risk? Did he go willingly with the Taliban when they captured him?

Offering an apology might assuage a tiny bit of anger among some lawmakers. However, if they have a role to play under the law in these kinds of warfare “transactions,” they have reason to demand some answers.

Moreover, Sgt. Bergdahl has some serious questions awaiting him when he gets home.

Pentagon strikes hard at al-Qaida

Something tells me the Pentagon brass is embarrassed enough to take some serious action against the world’s pre-eminent terrorist organization.

A video surfaced a few days ago in Yemen that showed a large crowd of al-Qaida thugs rallying in broad daylight; they were chanting, cheering and carrying on as if they didn’t have a care in the world.

You remember al-Qaida, yes? They’re the murderers responsible for the 9/11 attacks, not to mention countless other acts of bloody terrorism before and since that heinous act more than a dozen years ago.


Well, the video suggests that al-Qaida is growing yet again. The group is brazen enough to prance around in the open, apparently right under the noses of U.S. and Middle East intelligence-gatherers.

Over the weekend, drone strikes and special operations forces began a concerted effort to wipe out a number of these terrorist leaders. Pentagon officials called it a massive operation conducted in cooperation with Yemeni government operatives and commandos. News of the strikes was announced late Sunday and early Monday it was revealed that the strikes are continuing.

This is the nature of war these days. The war on terror that President Bush declared after the 9/11 attacks is continuing. My hunch is that it will continue for as long as terrorists lurk among us anywhere on the planet. Osama bin Laden is dead, but others have surfaced to take his place.

Al-Qaida got our attention in a serious way when its henchmen flew those jetliners into the New York skyscrapers and into the Pentagon. All that dancing and prancing just made us angry all over again.

Defense cuts don’t ‘gut’ our military

Lindsey Graham can be excused for hyperventilating over plans to cut defense spending.

He’s facing a stiff challenge from his right in South Carolina as he seeks re-election to the U.S. Senate. Given that challenge, he’s got to sound extra-tough in criticizing the Barack Obama administration’s plans for the Defense Department.


He said over the weekend that proposals to cut the standing Army to 440,000 troops will “gut” our ground capability.

I don’t get this. The United States possesses the strongest military in the history of the planet. It’s stronger than Russia and China. We possess a nuclear arsenal that is second to none. Our anti-terrorism efforts are killing bad guys almost daily. Our Navy is combat-ready. Our Air Force is second to none.

Is the Pentagon brass, starting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, really and truly seeking to disarm this nation, to make it a “third world power” militarily, as Graham and others are suggesting?

Give me a break.

Graham wondered this past weekend whether we could defend South Korea if North Korea decided to invade its neighbor. He said the Army could not respond. Hagel’s assertion? He assures us that the United States can fight a war in any single theater of operations using all the assets it will retain.

If the government is going to cut spending — as many Americans believe must happen — no single element must be spared. The Defense Department’s budget will continue to out spend Russia, China and Great Britain combined.

We aren’t disarming ourselves.

Defense budget plans to trigger new fight

You’ve just heard the latest shot in the fight between congressional Republicans and the White House over a key budget matter.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a proposed Pentagon budget that, in his words, takes the United States off its “war footing” for the first time in more than a dozen years.


I want to make a couple of points:

One is that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. As the liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell noted Monday night, it took a retired five-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, to coin the term “military-industry complex” in his farewell address to the nation as president of the United States. Ike understood the military better than most presidents. Hagel also understands the nation’s defense needs in this post-Cold War period.

Second is that even with the big cuts in defense spending, the United States still will spend more on defense than Russia, China and the United Kingdom combined.

The elimination of the A-10 Warthog close ground support jet is going to raise hackles. So will the reduction in surface ships for the Navy. Same with the elimination of the U-2 spy planes that will be replaced by unmanned drones. The Army will see its force reduced to 420,000 men and women.

Hagel’s point, though, is that the United States no longer will be fighting a war abroad but still will be able to respond to a future conflict while defending the homeland.

Our arsenal remains the most potent the world has ever seen.

The cuts will save the country billions of dollars over the short and the long terms, which is what fiscal conservatives say they prefer.

However, wait for it. The critics are going to declare that Hagel and the Obama administration are hell bent on disarming the United States in favor of domestic spending programs.

It’s untrue. That won’t stop the barrage.

President vs. Military: Nothing new in Gates book

My friends on the right are having a good time these days dissecting former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency, particularly the part about the president’s strained relations with the military. He writes about it in his memoir, “Duty.”

I have been wondering about that. Is it really unique to this president, or to the office, that the commander in chief would have difficulty with the brass?

I tend to think not.


The link attached here contains part of an interview that Sean Hannity had with Gates in which Hannity seems to seek to lure Gates into acknowledging some kind of special animus between this White House and the Pentagon.

Again, is that really new and unique to this administration?

I am going to share a brief personal recollection on that very subject.

My late uncle, Tom Kanelis, was a career Army officer. He enlisted in 1943 and then received his commission some time after that. He then served during the Korean War, where he saw all kinds of hell as an infantry officer with the 2nd Infantry Division. He would serve a total of 27 years in the Army before retiring in 1970 with rank of colonel.

His last post was at the Pentagon, where he served as a staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He attended many high-level briefings with the Joint Chiefs and their civilian bosses, namely the defense secretary and his staff.

I asked Tom about the brass’s view of civilian authority. He was pretty unequivocal. The brass resented all civilian authority, period, he said. I was shocked to hear that. “What about Ike?” I asked of President Dwight Eisenhower, the former general of the Army who — as you will recall — played a huge role in defeating Hitler’s forces during World War II. Didn’t matter, Tom said. Once Ike took off his uniform and and then entered politics, he added, he became one of “them.”

Yes, this is just one example. Other officers have different views of different presidents. Ronald Reagan is held up as the recent example of a commander in chief who had huge respect among the ranks of the brass.

I also know that the brass at the highest levels won’t say directly whether they disagree with a civilian edict. They take an oath to follow lawful orders without questioning them.

Gates’s revelations about Barack Obama and his top military commanders doesn’t surprise me in the least. They’ve existed at some level throughout the history of the Republic and will exist for as long as the nation exists.

That means forever.

U.S. primed to pick fight with China?

You have to hand it to the brass at the Pentagon, not to mention the commander in chief.

With foreign policy crises either erupting or about to erupt in places like Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa, the folks at the Pentagon decide to provoke China by flying B-52 bombers into airspace the Chinese claim as their own.


China has declared ownership of space over some mineral-rich islands near the coast of Japan. The Japanese also claim that territory. Who’s right is just about anyone’s guess.

Now comes the United States, with its immense military presence in the region. The Air Force launched a couple of B-52s over the disputed area. The Chinese responded by sending their only aircraft carrier into motion, along with a couple of guided-missile frigates.

Nothing happened. No shots were fired.

I’m betting the United States isn’t going to let China bully Japan — our key ally in East Asia. Heaven knows the Chinese have done a number on Taiwan for many years, claiming that the now-independent nation remains part of the mainland empire, given that Taiwan created a separate government after fleeing the mainland in 1949 after losing a bloody civil war with the communists who now run China.

I also should add that Vietnam, another ancient foe of China, is worried about Chinese aims on the region. Vietnam and China fought a fierce border war in the late 1970s after the United States withdrew its forces from Vietnam in 1975.

What are the Chinese up to remains anyone’s guess.

They do understand the showing of force, which is the United States did with the B-52 flyovers. Yes, the birds were unarmed — but there’s plenty of firepower nearby.