5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

Despite severe problems with F-35’s software, the U.S. Marine decided to go ahead with the plan to deploy rather than waiting for a full fix.

“What we have found is that when have two, three, or four F-35s looking at that same threat, they don’t all see it exactly the same,” Bogdan said. “When there is slight difference in what those aircraft might be seeing, the fusion model can’t decide if it’s one threat or more than one threat.”

There are also other problems, for example:

Meanwhile, Bogdan told reporters that the F-35B’s structure is showing a tendency to crack. It’s a problem that stems from earlier efforts to reduce the jet’s weight. Because the program switched from extremely strong titanium parts to aluminum to save weight, problems are showing up.

and

A plane’s ability to move is measured by how many “Gs”—units of gravitational force—it can function under. The steeper the climb, the tighter the turn, the more Gs the plane pulls. The F-35B was supposed to be capable of 7 Gs. But for now, it will be able to pull between 4.5 and 5.5 Gs, Bogdan said. By comparison, a present-day F-16 can pull 9 Gs.

To bypass the caps on military budget, there is an worrying and increasing trend to use ‘the war budget’, ie the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, fund, to increase spending with minimal justification and accountability.

War budgets have historically received far less scrutiny than the Pentagon’s so-called base budget. Weapons or equipment requested in these supplemental appropriations do not require detailed justifications. And, politically, lawmakers have also been less willing to vote against the budget that funds troops in foreign wars — making the measures easier to pass without serious scrubbing. …

In one recent case, a $33 billion Pentagon war request for “operations and maintenance” funding was accompanied by just five pages of explanation. …

From 2001 to 2014, nearly $71 billion of nonwar funding was provided through war appropriations, according to the Pentagon’s own definition, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported in December.

The lack of any strategy, William Hartung, lies behind the Pentagon’s wasteful and disproportionate budget.

Even to begin discussing this subject means asking the obvious question: Does the U.S. military have a strategy worthy of the name?  As President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it in his farewell address in 1961, defense requires a “balance between cost and hoped for advantage” and “between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable.”  Eisenhower conveniently omitted a third category: things that shouldn’t have been done in the first place — on his watch, for instance, the CIA’s coups in Iran and Guatemala that overthrew democratic governments or, in our century, the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But Eisenhower’s underlying point holds. Strategy involves making choices.  Bottom line: current U.S. strategy fails this test abysmally.

Rather than scaling back by rethink priorities and making appropriate choices, the operations have been expanded:

In addition to maintaining its huge network of formal bases, the Pentagon is also planning to increase what it calls its “rotational” presence: training missions, port visits, and military exercises.  In these areas, if anything, its profile is expanding, not shrinking.  U.S. Special Forces operatives were, for instance, deployed to 134 nations, or almost 70% of the countries in the world, in fiscal year 2014.

and

According to data provided by the Security Assistance Monitor, a project designed to systematically track U.S. military and police aid, the Pentagon now delivers arms and training through 18 separate programs that provide assistance to the vast majority of the world’s armed forces.

Having so many ways to deliver aid is handy for the Pentagon, but a nightmare for members of Congress or the public trying to keep track of them all.  Seven of the programs are new initiatives authorized last year alone. More than 160 nations, or 82% of all countries, now receive some form of arms and training from the United States.

Michael Moore in his latest article on The Nation, stating if he was the president he would “reduce the Pentagon’s budget by 75 percent. That will pay for the above free college and most of my ideas that will follow. We will still have one of the biggest militaries in the world and the ability to blow it up many times over—just not as many times as before.”

A new report found that “US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.”

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” It could be more than two million.

Soldiers’ exposure to chemical weapons have been systematically covered up:

During and immediately after the first Gulf War, more than 200,000 of 700,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Kuwait in January 1991 were exposed to nerve gas and other chemical agents. Though aware of this, the Department of Defense and CIA launched a campaign of lies and concocted a cover-up that continues today.

It has been reported that “Japan is giving funds earmarked for climate friendly projects to coal plants in India and Bangladesh. That is on top of US$1 billion of loans Tokyo gave to Indonesia for cleaner coal power stations, also classed as ‘climate finance’.” The UN’s Green Climate Fund is now urged to exclude all fossil fuels from future investments.