One Hundred BILLION Dollars!

The new, fully archived blog is now: www.cambridgeblog.org

It has nothing to do with a nuclear-armed drill, or liquid-hot mag-ma however.

The US has spent $100 billion on contractors since 2003. And as we know, it was well accounted for, and spent prudently. Right?

The Pentagon’s reliance on outside contractors in Iraq is proportionately far larger than in any previous conflict, and it has fueled charges that this outsourcing has led to overbilling, fraud and shoddy and unsafe work that has endangered and even killed American troops. The role of armed security contractors has also raised new legal and political questions about whether the United States has become too dependent on private armed forces on the 21st-century battlefield.

This article has the scoop. Contractors outnumber troops on the ground.

The cover image from Paul Verkuil’s book really says it all. There are the billions, right on that table.

Paul Verkuil is an expert in administrative law and professor at Cardozo. His book was a huge wake-up call, and I really hope message gets out!

Obama and the Third Bush Term — A Competent One

In recent days Barack Obama has sought to establish bluer water between himself and John McCain over Iraq.

Did he succeed?

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Obama and McCain duel over foreign policy in this NY Times article

Yes, he has succeeded to a degree. He has made it clear that Afghanistan will be the first front in his revised war on terror. By wrapping up Iraq quickly – most US brigades, save for a residual force, to depart with sixteen months – he is promising to redirect US violence on the Taliban. McCain, alternatively, says that the Iraq war should not be judged according to a timetable established in a US electoral campaign. If winning takes time then time it shall take. The war on terror is not a debate between Iraq-firsters and Afghanistan-firsters. It is a global war on multiple fronts that demands attention to all those fronts.

Two features are worthy of note. First, despite what elements of his domestic base may be hoping, a President Obama is not seeking a withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East theater. Rather, he is pledging to redeploy American troops so as to better advance the war on terror. His initial caution over the Iraq liberation was not grounded in a leftist pacifism. It was, instead, the product of his empiricism. The Iraq war was a tactical misstep which he is pledged to correct. But the essential strategy of Bush’s war on terror has not been disavowed. President Bush stands accused by the Illinois senator not for being a warmonger but for being an incompetent war monger. ‘Make me commander in chief,’ Obama is saying, ‘and I will make violence abroad more effectively. Pakistan watch out.’
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In For the Long Haul: Petraeus and the War

The war in Iraq is ugly, ambiguous, and marred with incompetence. It leaves an awkward legacy for our next president. According to Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, this is nothing unusual for the US, nor for fighting on such terms. More surprising: the policy patterns that led to the war will likely continue this way after Bush steps down.

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

The parallels between the ongoing US actions in Iraq since 2003 and US actions in Korea after 1950 were especially apparent at the Senate hearings on Tuesday. In both wars a charismatic general held the attention of the nation and the fate of his president. Indeed, of his future president too. The most important military official serving George W. Bush is Dan Petraeus. Ditto Harry S. Truman and Douglas MacArthur. Each general brought stunning success that was profoundly controversial back home. The wars they waged caused the popularity of their respective commander-in-chief to plummet. Importantly, their wars were not short, sharp, shocks. They entailed a massive military and economic subvention by the United States – at the request of the host government. America has ‘occupied’ South Korea since 1950; its troops are still there. Iraq, we were warned again yesterday, could be at least as long.

For those with sufficient patience, the legacy of Korea for Iraq is a positive one, as is the legacy of the cold war for the war on terror. If America can stand by its allies over the long haul, in a dangerous neighbourhood, in a global war against a diffuse but ideologically committed opponent it will succeed in this venture.

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