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Thread: More US Warships in Asia-Pacific Under New Strategy

  1. #1
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    More US Warships in Asia-Pacific Under New Strategy

    'More US warships in Asia-Pacific under new strategy'

    By David Alexander, Reuters
    Posted at 06/02/2012 3:48 PM | Updated as of 06/02/2012 3:48 PM

    * Asia focus not an attempt to contain China, says US defense chief

    * U.S. committed to six aircraft carriers in the region

    * More exercises, expanding partnerships

    SINGAPORE- The United States will keep six aircraft carriers in the Asia-Pacific and move a majority of its other warships to the region in the coming years, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Saturday as he offered details of a new U.S. military strategy for the first time.

    Speaking to an annual security forum in Singapore, Panetta also sought to dispel the notion that the shift in U.S. focus to the Asia-Pacific was part of an American effort to contain China's emergence as a global power.

    "I reject that view entirely. Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible with the development and growth of China," Panetta said in remarks prepared for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference that draws senior civilian and military leaders from 30 nations.

    Panetta's comments came at the outset of a seven-day visit to the region to explain to allies and partners the practical meaning of a U.S. military strategy unveiled in January that calls for rebalancing American forces to focus on the Pacific.

    The trip, which includes stops in Vietnam and India, comes at a time of renewed tensions over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, with Manila and Beijing in a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal near the Philippine coast.

    China has downgraded its representation to the Shangri-La Dialogue compared to last year, when Defense Minister Liang Guanglie attended and met with then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. This year the Chinese military was represented by the vice president of Academy of Military Sciences.

    Panetta, on the other hand, was accompanied by General Martin Dempsey, the U.S. military's top officer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral Samuel Locklear, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, who leads U.S. forces in the region.

    Panetta said he was committed to building a "healthy, stable, reliable and continuous" military-to-military relationship with China, but he underscored the importance of Beijing supporting a rules-based system to clarify rights in the region and help to peacefully resolve disputes.

    "China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity by respecting the rules-based order that has served the region for six decades," he said.


    Fleshing out details of the U.S. shift to Asia, Panetta told officials attending the Singapore conference that the United States would reposition its Navy fleet in the coming years so that by 2020, 60 percent of its warships would be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region, versus about 50 percent now.

    He said the Navy would maintain six aircraft carriers assigned to the Pacific. Six of the Navy's 11 carriers are currently assigned to the Pacific, but that number will fall to five when the USS Enterprise retires this year.

    Panetta's announcement means the number of carriers in the Pacific will rise to six again when the new carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is completed in 2015.

    The U.S. Navy had a fleet of 282 ships including support vessels as of March this year. That number was expected to slip to about 276 over the next two years before beginning to rise again toward the Navy's goal of a 300-ship fleet, according to a 30-year Navy shipbuilding projection released in March.

    But officials warned that fiscal constraints and continuing problems with cost overruns could make it difficult to attain the goal of a 300-ship fleet over the course of the 30-year period.

    Panetta underscored the breadth of the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific, noting Washington's treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia as well as its partnerships with India, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries.

    He said the United States would attempt to build on those partnerships with cooperative arrangements like the rotational deployment agreement it has with Australia and is working on with the Philippines.

    Panetta said the United States also would work to increase the number and size of bilateral and multilateral training exercises it conducts in the region. Officials said last year the United States carried out 172 such exercises in the region.

    The U.S. defense secretary also sought to address concerns that the Washington might be unable to meet its commitments to the region because of tightening defense budgets and fiscal uncertainty.

    "The Department of Defense has in our five-year budget plan a detailed blueprint for implementing this strategy, realizing our long-term goals in this region and still meeting our fiscal responsibilities," Panetta said. (Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

  2. #2
    This is old strategy. Part and parcel of the Project for the New American Century. Global dominatin with particular emphasis in Eurasia and the Pacific to counter and prevent the emergence of any power that will challenge their supremacy. It is indeed the end of the American century. Hubris. No more money so spend them all in the military for war.

    Rome's decline took a century or two. Uk in 50 or less. The Soviet was in terminal decline when it was created. The US? If China pulls the financial plug by liquidating their treasury holdings, the US is dead overnight.
    Last edited by danny; 06-03-2012 at 11:01 PM.
    Understand? / ΏEntiendes?

  3. #3
    ^^^ Danny, in this age, can there really be an empire of any kind? Even after 1990, I don't think America was ever an "empire" even in the British sense, never mind the Pax Romana.

    Even speaking of China, given all of their overt actions, can the Chinese erect a "Bamboo Curtain 2.0" in this day and age?

  4. #4
    Not an "empire" in the classic Roman sense, but a politico-military empire nonetheless. Not from my own words nor reflection but even the mainstream US media can recognize the "American Empire".
    Understand? / ΏEntiendes?

  5. #5

    The West's 'hard power' deficit

    Shrinking defense budgets among its allies are a warning sign for the U.S.

    The Los Angeles Times

    By Gary Schmitt

    September 11, 2012

    When it comes to "hard power," the West is in steep decline. Virtually every nation in Europe is cutting its defense budget. Japan refuses to spend more than 1% of its gross domestic product on defense. And Australia is slashing its military budget, leaving it at just 1.5% of GDP, the smallest ratio in more than seven decades. Now add in the cuts of more than $800 billion in current and planned spending on U.S. defenses, with the prospect of nearly $500 billion more over the next 10 years. The result is a Western defense capability that is rapidly shrinking in size, has too little invested in future technologies and is increasingly wary of any conflict that would require sustained operations.

    The situation is especially dire in Europe. In the early 1990s, NATO allies averaged 2.5% of GDP for defense expenditures — not great but passable. Today, it is closer to 1.5% — even though, a decade ago, members had agreed to a 2% minimum. According to NATO figures, last year only two countries were above that line: Britain at 2.6% and Greece at 2.1%. No doubt Greece no longer belongs in that club.

    As Stephen Hadley, former President George W. Bush's national security advisor, has pointedly remarked: "Europe has become so enamored with soft power that it has stopped investing in hard power. In terms of hard security, it makes Europe a free rider." Strong words from someone who has been deeply committed to keeping transatlantic ties strong.

    Nor is the picture much better in Asia. While China has been increasing its defense budget by double-digit rates annually for two decades, Taiwan and Japan have allowed their defense budgets to decline or to stay essentially flat. In Japan's case, it's the 11th consecutive year the defense budget has been cut. With the world's third-largest economy, Japan's 1% still buys a lot of capabilities, but, arguably, it isn't enough to keep up with China's growing military might. And although Australia cannot be said to have been a free rider given the sustained contribution it has made on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, the planned cuts to its military will mean a sharply reduced capacity to act as a force multiplier as the United States pivots to Asia. Even South Korea, which faces a nuclear-armed, unpredictable state on its doorstep, has not seen its defense burden rise above 3% of GDP for nearly 20 years.

    Measuring defense spending as a percentage of GDP does not, of course, give you a perfect picture of the defense effort of a country because it cannot measure the quality of the existing force or the willingness of a country to use force. That said, the GDP measure does give you a generally accurate sense of the burden the government and its citizens are willing to sustain when it comes to the military and, as such, the priority a country gives to defense relative to other matters.

    And here, "the tale of the tape" is revealing. According to the European Union's accountingfrom 1995 to 2010, French spending on defense — broadly defined as including the base defense budget, civil defense, R&D and foreign military aid — had risen by 33%. At the same time, spending on the environment increased 143%, on housing and community amenities by 103%, on health by 80% and on social protection (old age, disability, unemployment, etc.) by 81%. In Germany, while defense spending declined over the last two decades, Berlin's spending on health increased by 81% and on social protection by 70%. Germany also saw an approximately 50% increase in other areas, such as public services, education, recreation and culture. As for Britain, over the same time frame, expenditures for the environment, health, public services, education and social protection have exploded — each well over 100%, with health increasing by 188% and environmental spending almost tripling. In the meantime, defense spending was increasing by a little over a third.

    In short, if there is a fiscal crisis among our allies, it has not been brought about by an untenable level of spending on defense.

    As the figures indicate, spending decisions are political choices. The United States faces similar choices as the rise of entitlement benefits and healthcare begin to squeeze out other items, such as defense.

    Compounding the problem, at least among NATO allies, is the perception that they face no significant conventional security threat. What's missing in this focus on immediate and obvious threats is the role the West's militaries play in maintaining a largely stable world order. It is the West, with the U.S. in the lead, that has both kept the great power peace for 60 years and kept rogue states from disrupting that order in critical areas. It is this stability that has allowed globalization to flourish and, in turn, help generate unprecedented economic growth around the world.

    Of course, military power alone has not produced this prosperity. But take away the safety net the West's military predominance has established and everyone will be looking at, and planning for, a far more Hobbesian global environment.

    The good news is that this predominance does not require a return to Cold War-era spending levels. Yet, given the uncertain consequences of China's rise, continued instability in large parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, and a revanchist Putin-led Russia, it does require more than is currently being budgeted. As then-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said in his farewell address to allies in Brussels a year ago, "This imbalance in burden sharing is not sustainable in a world where projecting stability is the order of the day."

    America's allies like to tell themselves that they can always spend their defense monies more efficiently, but that is true only up to a point. The fact is that smaller budgets almost always mean less capability and, implicitly, more loaded onto America's shoulders. Politically, this is getting more and more difficult to sustain in the United States. While the U.S. base defense budget — minus funds for the war in Afghanistan — amounts to 3.4% of GDP, current projections see it falling to less than 3% in the decade ahead.

    If the Polish government can mandate that its defense budget not slip below 1.95% of GDP, it hardly seems unreasonable to ask that other allies meet that standard. Otherwise, we are headed for a strategic train wreck, with the U.S. looking for more help on the world stage and allies providing even less.

    Gary Schmitt is a resident scholar and the director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

  6. #6

    America's 'Pacific pivot' craze

    The Middle East remains in turmoil. The U.S. should boost its air and naval assets in Asia but leave the other military branches free to focus on other regions.

    By Max Boot

    The Los Angeles Times

    July 2, 2012

    Is there any organization outside of Hollywood more prey to intellectual fads than the Department of Defense?

    A decade ago the buzzword around the Pentagon was "transformation." Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld wanted to force radical change to take advantage of information technology. So the individual services took to justifying every program, even hulking tanks and massive aircraft carriers, as "transformational."

    Then, as the armed forces became more deeply embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan, the buzzword became counterinsurgency, or "COIN." The Army and Marine Corps retooled themselves to fight insurgents. The Navy and Air Force felt left behind, so they took to rebranding everything they did as COIN-

    related. I remember a fatuous briefing from an Air Force general in Afghanistan who solemnly informed me that his MPs were doing COIN around their own air base, which just happened to be located in one of the most insurgent-free areas of the entire country.

    Now the buzzword du jour is "Pacific," as in "Pacific pivot." In January the White House released a new national security strategy, complete with italic emphasis: "While theU.S. militarywill continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region." Since then, Secretary of DefenseLeon E. Panettahas announced that 60% of theU.S. Navywill gradually shift to the Pacific.

    Naturally the Army and Marine Corps have been compelled to march in step. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, seldom lets a speech pass without noting that "seven out of the 10 largest armies are in the Pacific, and 22 of the 27 nations in the region have an army officer as chief of defense." Hence, he argues, the Army has a vital role in building "relationships [that] will help us in the long run in the Pacific." Not to be left behind, the Marine Corps has already dispatched 2,500 Marines to Darwin, Australia, where the greatest danger they are likely to face is alcohol poisoning.

    Building up U.S. forces in the Pacific makes sense. China is a rising power and a potential long-term threat. But we don't need a full-on "Pacific pivot," at least not for the ground forces, because we can't afford to neglect the Middle East, the center of our security concerns for more than three decades.

    What should be rebalanced? Ships and aircraft. China, according to the U.S. Naval Institute, has been outbuilding us in submarines by 8 to 1 since 2005. A bipartisan commission calculated last year that the Navy would need 346 ships to meet its global commitments. But, as a result of budget cuts, the fleet is going to decline from 282 ships today to fewer than 250 in the next decade — and that's not counting "sequestration," the draconian mandatory budget cuts that are due in January unless Congress acts first. Similarly the Air Force has stopped buying the F-22, the most capable fighter in the world, and is steadily decreasing its planned buy of the next best, the F-35.

    To be meaningful, the "Pacific pivot" would need to reverse the decline in procurement of aerial and naval weapons systems — and that, in turn, would require reversing the decline in the defense budget.

    As for the Army and Marine Corps, shifting their focus to the Pacific would be ill-advised.

    The only contingency that could call for a substantial deployment of ground troops to the region would be another Korean war or an implosion of North Korea — and even then, the large and capable South Korean forces would be in the lead, with the U.S. primarily providing intelligence and air power. Korea aside, the Army and Marines in the Pacific will in all likelihood be limited to exercises with allied ground forces. No one imagines U.S. troops marching on Beijing.

    So does this mean that we have no need for a large ground force and can afford to cut Army and Marine Corps troop levels by 100,000, as currently planned? No, because the greater Middle East — a region stretching from Mali to Pakistan — remains in turmoil. U.S. troops are still fighting in Afghanistan, and it is not hard to imagine scenarios under which they may need to be sent to Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia or other countries.

    Groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are constantly plotting attacks on American aircraft and the American homeland. If even one of them succeeds, there could well be inexorable pressure to clean out the terrorist sanctuaries — and the Army and Marines could be sent into battle again.

    Instead of pushing the Army and Marine Corps to pivot to the Pacific, the administration would be better advised to recognize that for the U.S., the Pacific will remain primarily an air and naval theater. By all means, increase our air and naval assets in Asia, but leave the Army and the Marines free to concentrate on the area where they have been so heavily engaged in the last decade and are likely to remain engaged for years to come.

    Max Boot, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present."

  7. #7

    India's cold shoulder

    Courting India as hoped-for 'strategic partner,' the U.S. has sold the nation $8 billion in arms over the last 10 years. In return, U.S. goals have been mostly frustrated while nuclear nonproliferation efforts have been undermined.

    By Jonathan E. Hillman

    The Los Angeles Times

    June 12, 2012

    There's a party in the Asia Pacific, and the United States wants India to be its date. As U.S. foreign policy "pivots" away from the Middle East and Europe and toward Asia, U.S. officials are doing everything they can to cozy up to the nation that Mark Twain once called "the cradle of the human race."

    America's courtship — a bipartisan effort — has included the great-power equivalent of sending flowers (civil nuclear technology underGeorge W. Bush), chocolates (more than $8 billion in U.S. arms during the last decade) and love letters (India is the only state deemed a "strategic partner" in the Pentagon's most recent strategy review).

    The flirting has lasted so long that U.S. officials are starting to recycle old pickup lines. Quoting former President Clinton, Defense SecretaryLeon E. Panetta said while visiting New Delhi last week: "India and America are natural allies, two nations conceived in liberty, each finding strength in its diversity, each seeing in the other a reflection of its own aspiration for a more humane and just world."

    The attraction is undeniable. India is the world's largest democracy, a rising economic power and a potential counterweight to Chinese influence in Asia. There's only one problem with America's entreaties: India is nowhere near saying yes.

    Before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sits down with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Wednesday in Washington for the third meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, U.S. officials would be wise to take a hard look at the outcome of past overtures.

    In our zeal to improve relations with India, we've undermined our own nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Giving India nuclear technology without making it a party to the nonproliferation treaty created a double standard that encourages a dangerous, alternative path for aspiring nuclear powers. In April, for example, as U.S. officials were warning North Korea against its planned missile launch and criticizing Iran for its lack of transparency, India launched its own long-range, nuclear-capable missile.

    As India's nuclear capabilities grow, so doesPakistan'sparanoia. In response to India's April test, Pakistan launched its own nuclear-capable missile six days later and has since conducted four more tests. Worried about falling behind India in nuclear arms, Pakistan is racing toward the completion of its fourth nuclear reactor and has doubled the size of its nuclear arsenal since 2006, according to estimates by the Federation of American Scientists and the Institute for Science and International Security.

    India has also made a habit of abandoning the United States at the international altar. In 2011, the year after President Obama announced support for giving India a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, India voted with the U.S. only about 33% of the time in the United Nations General Assembly. In its temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council, India often sides with Russia and China, who dismiss international efforts to protect human rights as meddling in other nations' domestic affairs.

    To be sure, the United States and India have made progress on a number of strategic fronts, expanding joint military exercises and exchanges, for example. But overall, relations consistently fall short of the warm-and-fuzzy rhetoric that U.S. leaders of all political stripes have grown accustom to voicing.

    Rather than continue their charm offensive, U.S. officials should push India to articulate its view of the U.S.-India partnership and India's larger role in the international community. The South Asian power has expressed its intent to become a leading global power, but it has shied from assuming responsibilities that come with the territory.

    Getting a clearer picture of India's intentions will allow U.S. officials to recalibrate expectations about where the relationship stands and where it is heading. Like the overhyped "reset" in relations with Russia, unrealistic expectations about U.S. relations with India only make it harder to manage tensions when they arise. India is not Russia, of course, but neither is it a traditional ally like Britain, and when it comes to the Asia Pacific, it's also not Australia, Japan or South Korea.

    If necessary, U.S. officials should also consider introducing some sticks into what has largely been a carrot buffet of diplomacy. The United States has significant leverage on a number of issues important to India, such as sharing aerospace and defense technology. Further U.S. assistance in these areas should be contingent upon India's support for top U.S. foreign policy priorities such as tightening sanctions against Iran and funding and training Afghanistan'ssecurity forces.

    Approached correctly, India can still become a key ally in advancing U.S. strategy in the Asia Pacific. But forging a stronger partnership requires first admitting that America's love for India remains largely unrequited.

    For the record, 11:50 a.m. June 12: The headline on a previous version of this article said the U.S. gave India $8 billion in arms over 10 years. The United States sold the arms to India.

    Jonathan E. Hillman is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

  8. #8

    Mutual mistrust in the Pacific

    Squabbling Asian nations pose a threat to U.S.-led security efforts.

    The Los Angeles Times

    By John R. Deni

    September 6, 2012

    Recent disputes among some of the United States' closest Asian allies over largely uninhabited islands in the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the South China Sea underscore the challenges facing Washington in moving beyond the classic hub-and-spoke structure of its security system in the Western Pacific and in crafting a more collective approach. For some time — and as most recently reiterated in the 2010 National Security Strategy, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review report and the 2011 National Military Strategy — the United States has sought to "multilateralize" its security relationships in the Pacific, similar to what exists in its ties to Europe.

    American and Western European leaders have crafted a security architecture that relies on collective action. Decades before the phrase "pooling and sharing" came into vogue, the allies of the North Atlantic region pooled their security in the 1949 treaty that created NATO and shared, if somewhat unequally, the burdens and risks of defending against common security threats.

    However, Washington has long proved unable to coerce or cajole its Pacific allies into a similar round-table or multilateral approach. Therefore, the United States adopted a hub-and-spoke system, with Washington at the center, connected by bilateral "spokes" to its key allies in the Pacific theater, such as Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia.

    Unfortunately, efforts to move beyond this type of security structure in the Asia-Pacific region appear destined to fail, at least in the short run. Whether it's Taiwan versus the Philippines (and China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei) in the South China Sea, Japan versus Taiwan (and China) in the East China Sea or South Korea versus Japan in the Sea of Japan, many of Washington's key allies here have little interest in cooperating more closely on security issues.

    If there is one thing America's Pacific allies do share, though, it's a collective anxiety over China's rise, and specifically over Beijing's increasingly overt ability and willingness to translate its economic power into political muscle. These factors have yet to compel in a resounding manner the kind of cooperation that spurred France and Germany to overcome decades, if not centuries, of mutual mistrust and resentment in the aftermath of World War II.

    The prospect of key Pacific allies quarreling among themselves instead of collectively focusing on their common security challenges places the United States in a no-win situation. Washington may be able, through a kind of neutrality, to avoid getting dragged into such disputes, but this won't necessarily prevent those allies from clashing with each other. If the United States is drawn in on one side or the other, it risks seeing one of its allies — namely, the loser — unnecessarily weakened politically, militarily and/or economically, an unhelpful outcome in this era of American defense austerity at home and China's rising influence in Asia.

    Indeed, the way ahead for the United States — and the best path by which to avoid the aforementioned risks — is unclear, in part because of the differing nature of the conflicts outlined above.

    In those cases in which disputes have more to do with national pride and the weight of history, the United States has proved it has limited ability to prevent regional leaders from exploiting such disputes to stir nationalist sentiment for political advantage, at least as evidenced in the Western Balkans during the 1990s. During that decade, several political leaders in Serbia, Croatia and elsewhere who otherwise had limited domestic support exploited historical disputes that had largely faded from contemporary memory to gain or retain power. This ultimately and tragically resulted in multiple armed conflicts and tens of thousands of deaths.

    Where Washington might find greater success in staving off such disasters is in exercising adroit diplomacy, and in playing the role of trusted arbiter in those conflicts among its Asia-Pacific allies that include economic or resource issues. Although such disputes might seem more intractable, since there appears to be more at stake, each of the disputants actually has a greater incentive to engage in give-and-take negotiation over potential economic benefits. Otherwise, the alternative to a negotiated settlement is to fight and potentially lose out on any potential gains — hence, better to get something rather than nothing.

    Regardless of whether Washington can succeed in making this case with and defusing conflicts among its closest Pacific allies, the hub-and-spoke security system appears destined to stick around for the foreseeable future. Greater collaboration among America's allies in the Asia-Pacific theater is unlikely any time soon.

    John R. Deni, a former advisor to the U.S. Army in Europe, is a research professor of joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational security studies at the Strategic Studies Institute. These views are his own.

  9. #9

    McManus: Romney's arithmetic problem

    His defense numbers don't add up with the rest of his platform.

    By Doyle McManus

    June 24, 2012

    Here's an issue that hasn't been debated much in the presidential campaign but ought to be: How much should we spend on defense?

    President Obama has proposed keeping the Pentagon budget essentially flat for the next 10 years. Mitt Romney, by contrast, wants to increase defense spending massively — by more than 50% over current levels, according to one estimate. That could mean almost $2 trillion in additional military spending over 10 years.

    Lots of flash, little substance Romney hasn't actually proposed a defense budget or offered any specific numbers for his military strategy. But he says he wants core defense spending to reach at least 4% of the nation's gross domestic product — a big increase over the current level of about 3.2%. And he says the country needs about 100,000 more active-duty military personnel than the current 1.4 million, even though U.S. forces have left Iraq and have begun to withdraw from Afghanistan.

    Romney's argument is that only increasedU.S. militarypower can guarantee peace in the world. "A strong America is the best deterrent to war that has ever been invented," he told veterans in San Diego last month. He said his goal was "to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world.''

    Of course, the United States already fields the strongest military in the world; U.S. core defense spending — that is, the amount we spend on our military excluding the cost of major wars — is already greater than that of the next 10 countries combined. The real questions are: How much is enough? How much can we afford? And in a time of shrinking federal budgets, how would we pay for it?

    Let's start with what's enough. Romney's proposal for a defense budget of at least 4% of GDP isn't outlandish on its face; it's less than Ronald Reagan spent to help end the Cold War. But the number gives military strategists fits because it's based on an arbitrary economic benchmark, not an assessment of global threats.

    The same is true of Romney's suspiciously round number of 100,000 for additional military personnel. Where did that number come from? Romney aides won't say, though they speak about the need for an enlarged Navy and Air Force to deploy in East Asia.

    But the biggest problem with Romney's defense numbers is that they don't add up with the rest of his platform, which calls for decreasing federal spending overall while also lowering taxes — and, at the same time, balancing the budget.

    "My administration will … make the hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts necessary to reduce spending to 20% of GDP by the end of my first term," Romney said in February. "And then, without sacrificing our military superiority, I will balance the budget."

    A nice trick if he could pull it off, but it flies in the face of, well, arithmetic.

    "It's just not realistic — and that's being generous," said Todd Harrison, an analyst at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "It would require a dramatic increase in defense spending to reach these targets. If you combine it with tax cuts and a commitment to avoid cutting Medicare, there's no way to do it without creating a much higher deficit."

    Harrison crunched the numbers on Romney's call for a 4%-of-GDP floor on core defense spending. Here's what he came up with:

    Using Congressional Budget Office estimates for future GDP, Romney's plan would boost core defense spending to about $945 billion in 2021 — about 53% more than the $618 billion proposed in Obama's defense plan for that year.

    One has to wonder, Harrison said, "if this is just a talking point, and if they have actually looked at these numbers themselves."

    I asked a Romney advisor who should know: Dov S. Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon's chief financial officer in the administration ofGeorge W. Bush. Zakheim said Romney was serious about the goal but hasn't specified a date for reaching it — and as a result, no specific spending forecast is possible.

    "It is a target," he said. "The sooner we reach it, the better. And we can build up faster as the economy grows."

    "If you look at the last 10 years, 4% isn't exactly a lot," he added, noting that the Bush administration spent more when it went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    True, but that's not the issue Romney needs to address. He needs to explain how he plans to balance the federal budget while adding trillions in new military spending.

    Romney has been careful all year to avoid being specific about what kind of spending he'd cut — presumably because at some point, he'd have to acknowledge that big budget cuts require reduced spending on Medicare, a dangerous subject to raise with older voters. His plans for a bigger defense budget only make that problem worse.

    If Romney wants voters to take his promises seriously, he owes them more details, and soon.

  10. #10
    China’s Communist leadership set for change

    Alexander F. Yuan/AP

    The Washington Post Updated: Thursday, November 8, 9:21 AM

    BEIJING — China’s once-a-decade leadership transition began Thursday with all the pageantry, security and behind-the-scenes political intrigue befitting the secretive Communist Party’s most sensitive event.

    The usually crowded Tiananmen Square had been cleared, giving it an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel. Activists had been chased out of the capital, and buildings across the city were draped in flags, flowers and signs, all colored communist red.

    But beneath the pomp of the 18th party congress, estimated to last one week, are deep implications for the U.S.-China relationship and the world at large.

    China’s new leaders will take over at a critical moment. The country’s economy, the world’s second largest, has been growing for three decades, providing much-needed fuel for the regional and global economy and helping to ensure stability at home. But it has slowed in recent months, and many believe economic reform is desperately needed.

    China’s complicated and often-fraught relationship with the United States also has been stalled for much of the past year, with China-bashing figuring prominently during the U.S. presidential election.

    At a news conference Wednesday, Communist Party spokesman Cai Mingzhao expressed hope that with his reelection, President Obama would “continue to build a positive China policy.”

    In recent years, the Obama administration has invested time and energy into nurturing ties with the next generation of Chinese leaders. Vice President Biden, in particular, has tried to develop a rapport with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to replace President Hu Jintao as leader of the Communist Party and the country next week. Xi is expected to assume the title of president in March.

    But whether that U.S. investment will translate into greater clout with China on thorny issues such as Syria, Iran, Taiwan or Tibet, or into better overall U.S.-China relations, is unclear.

    Hope for reform

    The highly scripted party congress carries serious domestic implications. Party officials are encountering growing criticism of corruption, their vested interests in state-owned enterprises, and the secrecy and democratic veneer used to cloak their iron grip on the country’s levers of powers.

    In recent weeks, calls for reform have become louder, including some from within the party, prompting some analysts to say that a measure of change may be possible.

    But experts caution that what party leaders see as reform could differ greatly from the outside world’s understanding of the word.

    “It would not be political reform the West talks about,” said one intellectual with connections to party officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “It will not mean a real multiparty system or an elected leader, but rather reforms that help the party preserve credibility, strengthen the economy and, above all, keep its hold on power.”

    A secretive process

    The willingness of the new generation of leaders to undertake such reforms will depend on its makeup, which remains a mystery.

    For weeks, speculative lists have circulated among party insiders — sometimes overlapping, at other times contradictory — of who may be named to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Most experts believe that the decision has been made in secret by retired party elders and current leaders. But others say the list may be open to attack or change up to the last minute, given the fierce competition among party factions.

    To distract the public from that closed and secretive process, party leaders have stuffed the next days with an array of events, including news briefings, the unveiling of official party reports, and countless meetings and group discussions among the party congress’s 2,270 delegates — all designed to promote the party as a vibrant, democratic organization.

    Four news conferences also are scheduled in the coming week to address areas of mounting criticism: the party’s opaque system of internal promotions, environmental destruction, the economy, and government censorship and other restrictions on culture.

    But answers to the most pressing questions will be gleaned mainly by reading between the lines. Provincial officials and analysts will be poring over a report that Hu is scheduled to deliver Thursday morning on the party’s recent work and accomplishments, parsing its meaning for clues to the party’s direction.

    Other telling details include not just the names of the new Standing Committee members, but also the roles each person is assigned and whether Hu retains his position as head of China’s military, even as he cedes the party leadership to Xi.

    None of this, however, will be made clear until the day after the party congress ends, when the lineup is expected to be announced.

    And like most things related to the party, even the date of that final announcement, speculated by some to be Nov. 15, remains a secret.

    Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

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