The idea now gaining ground in Washington that Arab Islamists could become the West's partners in democratizing the Middle East is wrong: They are no democrats, and the underlying causes of Arab radicalism and anti-Western sentiments will not disappear once they assume power. Before reaching out to movements like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizballah, American policy-makers must ask themselves whether Arab Islamist regimes would be democratic, or at least more democratic than the present regimes, and whether their ascendancy would reduce, radicalism and anti-Western and anti-American sentiments in their societies.
The ordeal is finally over, but for the past year, a North Carolina family has been torn apart after state officials claimed family photos of a father kissing his baby's belly button were some kind of child abuse.Sure, some moron Eckerd clerk reported this. But why did some moron cop look at the same pictures and agree with him, and why did it take a year to end this nightmare?
It began when Teresa Hamaty took impromptu party snapshots of her husband, Charbel, playfully embracing their naked, newborn son, Kristoff.
After dropping the film off at an Eckerd store in North Raleigh, authorities were notified.
"You see the back of the baby, and like if someone is kissing the baby's belly button," Teresa told WRAL-TV.
But police saw the worst and arrested Teresa for taking sexually explicit photos, charged her husband with felony sexual assault, and put Kristoff and his half-sister in protective custody.
"It was a nightmare," Charbel said, after spending half a year in jail.
Teresa took months fighting to gain back custody of her children.
"I think this was one of those times that they got the wrong people," Teresa said. "They were too quick to judge when they took one look at my husband."
Dozens of Hamaty supporters showed up for court appearances, claiming police overreacted. They raised some $140,000 in legal and living expenses for the Hamatys.
"[It] makes me feel, that's it – that's why I have to be strong for – to show everybody what the truth is," Charbel told the station.
The charges eventually were dropped when a report submitted by an expert said there was no criminal intent in the pictures.
"I hate cameras," Charbel now says. "I don't like taking pictures."
July 20, 2005: The U.S. Navy feels it is in need of more “soldiers of the sea.�? But since the U.S. Navy has lost control of the U.S. Marine Corps, the navy is assembling a new force of sailors serving as naval infantry. This is not really new. For example, the toughest troops in the Navy Department are not the marines, but the sailors who belong to the SEALs, an organization formed in the 1960s. But the process of regenerating the American naval infantry is accelerating. There was a time, not too long ago, when the marines where what marines had always been, soldiers who belonged to the navy and served on ships. But since World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps have developed into a truly separate force, no longer available to the navy.
While marines like to think that the Marine Corps has, since 1798, been a separate service, this did not actually happen until quite recently. Until World War II, the Marine Corps was so small, and dependent on the navy (for amphibious ships and, well, work to do), that in practice, marines tended to do whatever the navy asked them to do. But after World War II, the much larger marine force became, gradually, a truly independent service. The marines were still intertwined with the navy, but increasingly, able to defy the admirals. Thus we have the navy forming the SEAL commandos, in the early 1960s, using sailors, rather than marines. Over the next few decades, the navy slowly stopped using marines for their traditional job of providing onboard ship security. By the end of the century, the navy was content to let the marines be whatever they could get away with, and the navy would basically do without them.
After September 11, 2001, when the navy sought to increase its security force for ships in port, it did not turn to the marines (who long had taken care of that sort of thing), but greatly expanded the number of “Masters at Arms" (previously a job category, not a force). Now comes the ECG (expeditionary combat battalion) of high quality sailors who could fight on water or land in coastal operations. The ECG would obtain its manpower from those who apply to join the SEALs, but don’t make it. The SEALs are a very selective organization, accepting less than one in ten of those who apply. Now the navy wants to do something with those high quality rejects. The recent navy announcement that it is putting together a “brown water (coastal and rivers)" force mentioned an infantry component, and that these troops would be sailors, not troops from the Marine Corps. This new force also makes it clear how much the navy and marines have grown apart.
But the ECG is expected to be higher quality than the marines, something close to U.S. Army Special Forces. The ECG would be trained in foreign languages and cultures, and be part of the force that provided training to foreign navies. But the ECG would also take over some SEAL functions, like providing boarding parties for dangerous interdiction missions. Most of these boarding operations are not dangerous, and are handled by specially trained sailors and Masters at Arms. These folks are also doing a job that has traditionally belonged to “marines." But since the U.S. Navy no longer has control of the U.S. Marine Corps, and needs marines, it has to rebuild the force under a new name. Or, rather, several new names.
The new marine force will be only a few thousand strong, which is more in line with the proportion of marines in other navies. The U.S. Navy lost its original marine force because the U.S. Marine Corps got so large during World War II that it was no longer a part of the navy, but a truly separate entity. This new force of naval infantry also revives another old navy tradition; infantry training for sailors. Until about a century ago, infantry training for sailors, and even infantry exercises on land, were a regular feature of navy life. All this had faded away by the 1930s. The navy stopped issuing field manuals for naval infantry in the 1960s. But the war on terror, and increased emphasis on brown water operations, has returned many sailors to the old ways. The new naval infantry will perform many of the traditional marine functions, without being called marines.
Those who believe China's rise may not be peaceful argue that Washington must thwart Beijing's attempt to exert global influence, and advocate a U.S. arms buildup aimed at China.The problem is that we're trying to run the war on terror on the cheap, without upgrading our defense expenditures. Defense spending needs to go up by a percentage point of GDP, maybe two, for us to afford the security we desire. We're not being asked to sacrifice a thing, and predictably, we're not getting something for nothing. Just because our conventional arms could beat any military today is no reason to be complacent.
Jim Woolsey, former CIA chief and currently a partner at Booz Allen Hamilton (No. 28), said the United States and China already may be on a collision course. "China is investing in high-tech sensors and weapons [intended] to target U.S. aircraft carriers with an intent to dominate the Western Pacific," Woolsey told the House Armed Services committee July 13.
While the Pentagon debates how and where to spend its money in the next few years " on new threats like terrorism and insurgency or to counter potential threats like China " some analysts warn that not spending enough on new weapon platforms could hurt growth at the four major U.S. defense companies.
"We have believed that absence of platform replacement in defense spending can go on for only so long, and that the future is not an endless series of electronics upgrades to 1970s- and 1980s-vintage aircraft, naval vessels and armored vehicles," Byron Callan, analyst at Merrill Lynch, New York, wrote in a June 2 note to his clients.
Callan said the United States continues to spend vast amounts of money on developing new weapons but is not buying enough of this new equipment.
According to Merrill Lynch analysis, the ratio of procurement to research and development has been steadily falling since the early 1990s, when it stood at about 2.5, to a little over 1 today "suggesting that not all the new equipment being developed is being purchased. Money available to buy such new systems may be further squeezed when the emergency wartime supplements for Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end.
One former senior defense official expects emergency funds for Afghanistan and Iraq to end by 2006 and 2008 respectively, going by the example of U.S. operations in Bosnia, when supplements ended five years after the start of operations. If the supplements end and the cost of operations are folded into the regular budget, it could further erode money left for major weapons, the former official said.
Callan also fears that beyond 2006-07, "operating costs of military operations could impinge on modernization spending."
The U.S. Army expects such wartime supplements to pay for its modernization, including Future Combat Systems and modular brigades, and will face a sticker shock if the supplements end.
WASHINGTON — Facing severe budget pressures, the Pentagon is developing plans to slash the Air Force's two prized fighter jet programs, according to Defense Department officials and outside experts.In all fairness, this article consists of a lot more speculation than concrete decisions. I'm afraid it might be a toe in the water to test the temperature, though. It's kind of important for the United States to be able to best any conventional enemy, and underinvesting in next-generation weapons systems will allow competitors like China to quickly catch up to us. Our advantage isn't permanent, but it's unwise of us to let it shrink even further. We face the war on terror in addition to the threats that already existed, not in place of them.
Military planners are debating options to scale back the Air Force's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the stealth F/A-22 fighter, as some defense officials question spending billions on weapons that have little use against terrorist networks and other unconventional threats.
Such a move would be an enormous blow to the Air Force, which has spent years developing the two weapons to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets. The budget cuts could encounter fierce resistance from lawmakers, including some from California, whose districts would be hit hard by the economic repercussions.
Yet as the Pentagon conducts a top-to-bottom assessment of its entire arsenal, defense officials are mindful that the military buildup that followed Sept. 11 is coming to an end. The war in Iraq, which now costs the Defense Department more than $4 billion per month, is contributing to the budget squeeze that jeopardizes some of the Pentagon's most desired — and expensive — weapons.
The Joint Strike Fighter program is projected to cost $245 billion, a price tag shared by the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and nine U.S. allies, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Turkey. It is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program, and the Air Force has by far the largest part of the budget; it hopes to purchase 1,763 of the planes to replace the F-16 fighter.
The Air Force also plans to acquire 179 F/A-22s, each costing about $345 million.
A Pentagon decision to scale back the programs would be the strongest signal yet of a significant change in strategic priorities. With Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld trying to transform the military to deal with unconventional threats, many say that weapons built for dogfights and eluding enemy radar are increasingly irrelevant.
"What does Al Qaeda's air force look like?" said one defense official working on the Pentagon's assessment, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review.
The Pentagon's overall budget is expected to grow by 8% between now and the end of fiscal year 2011. Yet with the military planning to field about a dozen big-ticket planes, ships and submarines during that period, the Pentagon estimates that its budget for new weapons will balloon by 34%.
Some of these weapons, such as the Army's Future Combat System — a fleet of combat vehicles linked to a computer network — and the Navy's DDX destroyer, are being eyed for cutbacks to prevent a budget crisis later.
Because U.S. troops are heavily engaged in the Middle East and Central Asia, officials say there is little room to cut personnel costs from the Pentagon budget. Weapons, they say, are the only target for cost reductions.
Although Pentagon officials contend that no final decision has been made about the fate of the two Lockheed Martin-designed jets, some inside the Defense Department say that the deepest cuts could come in the Joint Strike Fighter program. According to one source, the Pentagon could cut the Air Force's allotment of the planes by half.
Officials involved in the review process say that the option of canceling one or both of the programs is on the table, although it is extremely unlikely — in part because such a move would cause a furor among members of Congress. The fact that close allies are involved in developing the JSF is another factor that should keep the program alive, the officials say.
Although Lockheed is the prime contractor for both jets, about 40% of the JSF is assembled at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s plant in Palmdale. Most of the F/A-22 is built at Lockheed's plant in Marietta, Ga.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said it was too early in the review process to know what specific programs might be cut or expanded, and that planners were still identifying which types of missions the military ought to be preparing for.
"It's definitely premature to say we're looking at cuts," said DiRita, who stressed that there were months remaining in the review — due before Congress by early February — and that no proposals had been presented to Rumsfeld.
He did say that Pentagon officials hoped to make some decisions about weapons programs by September or October, as the Defense Department prepared its fiscal year 2007 budget.
The Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-22 have been plagued by cost overruns and production delays. In April, the Government Accountability Office called the JSF's original business case, laid out by the Pentagon in 1996, "unexecutable."
"When you have difficult budget choices to make, several of the Pentagon's expensive modernization programs become likely targets," said Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
"The JSF sits at the top of that list."
Air Force officials are vigorously lobbying to preserve their coveted weapons, and supporters of the two programs point out that the emergence of China as a potential long-term threat is the best case for a large investment in fighter jet technology.
Last week, a Pentagon report warned that China's military buildup threatened the balance of power in Asia, and that within a decade China's military could pose a threat to modern militaries on the continent.
Air Force officials, who consider protecting the F/A-22 their top priority during the review process, argue that the jet's stealth technology makes it essential for eluding the advanced radar systems the Chinese are developing.
The Pentagon has scaled back the number of F/A-22 jets it intends to buy from 381 aircraft to 179. But Pentagon officials say that deeper cuts in the number of planes purchased are possible.
Rumsfeld has repeatedly criticized the length of time it can take for a weapon to move from the drawing board to operational testing to deployment in the field.
"There's no question that the longer it takes to field a program, the more expensive it becomes," DiRita said.
Pentagon May Scrap Jet Plans