FROM Dan Goure
Are America’s Aging Nuclear Weapons Worth Restoring? The Cold War is over, and even the commander of America’s nuclear forces says an atomic attack by Russia is “hardly worth discussing.” “The greatest risk to my force,” he adds, “is an accident…[or] doing something stupid.” But the staff assigned to maintain weapons that could destroy much of the world has no sense of urgency—or even their own importance. The nuclear arsenal has been allowed to fall into disrepair — making it subject to possible errors or accidents of enormous destructive power. But the US still maintains more than 4000 nuclear warheads and the bombers, submarines and land-based missiles that carry them need replacement. Should the Pentagon spend up to a trillion dollars on yesterday’s weapons? We hear what life’s like in the missile silos of Montana.
The F-35 Striker Jet and Pork Barrel Politics More than 15 years in the making, the F-35 striker jet still has trouble landing on wet runways. The most expensive weapons system in history was grounded again this week, missing several airshows in England. They were much-needed marketing opportunities to help sell the F-35 fighter-bomber to foreign countries, amortizing increasing costs. We’ll hear about continued Congressional support despite a history of failure.
Obama Charts Middle Path on Nuclear Arms President Obama's goal of a world without nuclear weapons is a long way off. The Nuclear Posture Review , announced yesterday, is a new strategy for America's existing arsenal. Why do we maintain it? When might it be used?
Splitting the Difference on Nuclear Weapons What threats justify maintaining a nuclear arsenal? When, if ever, could such weapons be used? Those and other questions get some new answers in the Obama Administration's Nuclear Posture Review , reviving arguments that go back to World War II. Now that the Soviet Union is ancient history, the focus is on North Korea, Iran, proliferation and terror. What's the best way to deal with those challenges, reduce the chance of a confrontation and keep America as safe as possible? We hear from journalists, nuclear experts, military analysts and former Pentagon officials.
Rebuilding a Struggling Military at a Time of Fiscal Crisis Bailouts, infrastructure and financial stimulus will require big money during a deepening recession. Barack Obama also needs to worry about defense. The US spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, and more than any time since World War II. But it's stretched too thin to cover both Iraq and Afghanistan. Potential new threats might come from Iran, North Korea, Russia or China, from unstable countries like Somalia or from Pakistan with nuclear arms, not to mention terrorists of increasing sophistication. Will future threats be from conventional warfare or counterinsurgency? Will they require more troops or more high-tech equipment for smaller forces? We look at some of the toughest questions the next president will have to answer.
The Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan...for the Next Hundred Years When the Iraq invasion was launched, Pentagon officials said it would be financed in large part by Iraqi oil money. The estimated for the United States was $50 billion. Five years later, the reality is higher by orders of magnitude. A Nobel Prize winning economist pegs the cost at $3 trillion. That includes combat, debt on borrowed money and restoring the military, not to mention the staggering cost of caring for wounded veterans for the rest of their lives. We hear how the expenses got so high and what they'll mean for the economy, future generations and national security.
House of Representatives Begins Debating the Iraq Buildup Just two sentences long, it's a " non-binding resolution ," which supports US troops in Iraq, but it goes on to say, "Congress disapproves" of President Bush's deployment of more than 20,000 additional forces . Debate will go on for 36 hours. While nobody doubts the resolution will pass, one big question is how many Republicans will go along. Mantime, the President's supporters are challenging Democrats to cut off the money. Is the new majority being politically prudent or cowardly? We hear from journalists, Democratic Congressmen, experts in constitutional law, public policy and defense, including a former Pentagon official.
The Defense Budget Keeps Growing The much-anticipated Senate debate on Iraq remains a non-starter as Democrats and Republicans squabble over the ground rules. Meantime, the Bush Administration is asking Congress to increase defense spending to near record levels, with the Pentagon ready to ask for still more. As proposed by the President , the 2008 defense budget would be 20% of all federal spending, with a total of $623 billion--8% more than this year, including $142 billion for the war in Iraq . House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it "a huge number." The military agrees it'll take years to catch up with repair and replacement of basic equipment, but it still wants new, hugely expensive high-tech systems. The US already is spending more than the rest of the world combined on preparing for warfare. Does it get what it pays for? What are the tradeoffs in domestic services and alleviation of global problems?
Counterinsurgency: Is This the Future of the US Military? President Bush has acknowledged that current strategy in Iraq is not working. As the President reconsiders, senior military leaders are stepping down, giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates the chance to pick new ones. The Los Angeles Times reports that the military is divided between a conventionally-minded old guard and a new generation focused on counterinsurgency. The answers to questions about what should be changed may well apply not just to Iraq, but also to the so-called "war on terror." Some experts say it's not really a "war" at all--with a single enemy worldwide. They say it's as much about information as guns. Is America faced with a new kind of warfare? Is counterinsurgency required after all?
Does Big Money Make America Safer? After four hours of debate about terrorism, Secretary Rumsfeld and the war in Iraq, the Senate passed a $470 defense bill yesterday without a single dissenting vote. If Congress does nothing else between now and election day, it will have passed more military spending than the rest of the world combined. It's a post/911 election year, after all, with wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Pentagon has admitted for years that it can't keep track of its money. So who knows if more and more dollars really add up to greater protection? Does Congress exercise the oversight it's supposed to? Are pet projects taking resources away from American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? (An extended version of this discussion was originally aired earlier today on To the Point.)
Senate Passes Record Defense Budget, but Are We Safer? After hours of impassioned debate about terrorism, Secretary Rumsfeld and the war in Iraq, the Senate passed the defense-spending bill yesterday by a vote of 98-to-nothing. Congress is about to do the same. The legislation's $500 billion provides for more military spending than the rest of the world combined. In a post-9/11 election year--with wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan--no politician in either party wants to be labeled "anti-defense." The Pentagon has admitted it can't keep track of all of that money. So who knows if bigger spending really means greater protection? Are threats to America changing faster than the military can get ready to meet them? Does Congress focus on oversight or pet projects?
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Human Rights in the era of Donald Trump President Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said today the US might pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Serious violators of human rights are members of the Council itself–and a US resignation could make things worse. Later on today’s show, now that he’s into his second term, comedian turned US Senator Al Franken is telling jokes again.