Democrats On Defense

So this came out today. Let’s take a look…

The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World

March 29, 2006

109th Congress, Second Session

Americans want and deserve change. Democrats’ plan for Real Security will protect Americans and restore our country’s position of international leadership.

OK, so far so good. I want to be protected, and want our country to lead.

The first responsibility of our government is the security of every American. In this era of unprecedented and unpredictable challenge, we must be prepared for any threat.

Hyperbole, but OK hyperbole.

The men and women of America’s armed forces and those on the front lines here at home have met every challenge with skill, bravery, and selfless dedication. They, along with veterans, military retirees and the families of those who have given their lives or have been wounded in defense of our country, deserve the gratitude and support of the American people. We will always honor their service and fulfill our promises to them.

Rhetoric, but OK with me.

We believe America is best protected, and freedom best advanced, by national security policies — including homeland, energy, and diplomatic strategies — that are both tough and smart.


Democrats offer a plan for Real Security to rebuild our military; equip and train our first responders and others on the front lines here at home; provide needed benefits to our troops and veterans; fully man and equip our National Guard; promote alternative fuels and reduce dependence on foreign oil; and restore Americans’ confidence in their government’s ability to respond in the face of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

OK, that’s half the problem. What will we do about the elephant in the room?

To protect the American people, we will immediately implement the recommendations of the independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission and finally protect our ports and airports, our borders, mass transit systems, our chemical and nuclear power plants, and our food and water supplies from terrorist attack.

All things I’m generally supportive of – with a caveat. The caveat is simple; we can protect ourselves by giving up all our freedoms (I don’t think that’s what’s being proposed) and we can defend ourselves by eliminating our enemies (which may mean killing or capturing them, or making them not our enemies any more). In general, I like the idea of some of A and more of B. That’s because in reality, without a ‘V for Vendetta’ type police state, we can’t secure ourselves, we’re too big, too interconnected, and too open. So I’m very wary of ‘making ourselves safe at home’ as a core – as opposed to important ancillary strategy. But I do think that we need to do more to secure ports, railroads, key facilities, and the population at large. In part, I think we do it by educating and empowering citizens; in part we do it through government programs.

After September 11, all Americans trusted President Bush to take the steps necessary to keep our country safe. Since then, inadequate planning and incompetent policies have failed to make Americans as safe as we should be. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina showed that the federal government was still not prepared to respond.

I’m wary of the Katrina response as a ‘canary’ issue; first things were not as bad as they were made out to be; many of the immediate problems were local; the size of the disaster has to be seen on a map to really be appreciated; and there’s something about the idea of omnipotent Feds that creeps me out a bit. I’d like my local governments to be somewhat competent, please.

Under President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress, the war in Iraq began with manipulated intelligence and no plan for success; our ports and other critical infrastructure remain vulnerable, while both soldiers in the field and first responders at home lack the basic equipment and resources they were promised. Both in the Persian Gulf and our own Gulf Coast, lucrative no-bid contracts have gone to companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, and others with friends in high places and records of cheating taxpayers. And despite record high fuel prices, our country remains heavily dependent on foreign oil because of an energy policy that benefits the big oil interests.

I’ll go for ‘good job’ on the energy policy; suggest that every war and large public works project is skewed toward insider contractors (Los Angeles Red Line, anyone?); I do think that too little has been done to secure infrastructure (note my comment above about the role of citizens in doing that); I do fully acknowledge that postwar planning – and more, management of the critical reconstruction aid – was badly shortchanged; ‘manipulated intelligence’ is pretty much a partisan trope.

Americans want and deserve change. Democrats’ plan for Real Security will protect Americans and restore our country’s position of international leadership.

OK, puffery is approvable in political speech

21st Century Military
To Ensure Unparalleled Military Strength and Honor our Troops, we will:

Boy, ‘Strength and Honor’ – I know it’s an accidental juxtaposition, but didn’t anyone with an ear proofread this?

Rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary.

The entire game here is “what equipment, specifically?” and “what manpower, specifically?” Depending on the answer to that this could be absolutely great or it could be a boondoggle (Crusader anyone?).

Guarantee that our troops have the protective gear, equipment, and training they need and are never sent to war without accurate intelligence and a strategy for success.

Well, they won’t be going to war much then, will they? That’s just silly. Intelligence is almost never accurate (except in movies) and the strategy for success (except the broadest ones) that is approved on Day 1 of the war is usually invalid by Day 7.

Enact a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century that guarantees our troops — active, reserve, and retired — our veterans, and their families receive the pay, health care, mental health services, and other benefits they have earned and deserve.

I like that; I think that the GI bill was one of the major levers into middle-class life for the postwar dogfaces, and I think that an intelligently designed set of programs could well be the rope that keeps the modern grunts in the middle class as well.

Strengthen the National Guard, in partnership with the nation’s Governors, to ensure it is fully manned, equipped and available to meet missions at home and abroad.

OK, how would you do things differently than they are being done now? Equipment is sketchy because it’s being used; the only way to have 100% readiness ratings is never to go do anything at all. Enlistment is down, but in the face of the media CW and lack of sales by the Administration, I can see why.

War on Terror

To Defeat Terrorists and Stop the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will:

Eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan, and end the threat posed by the Taliban.

Yeah? You and whose army? I’ve said in the past that I thought our strategy in Afghanistan was genius, because it avoided the cultural and military pitfalls that the Russians found there. I think that the suggestions that things would be better in Afghanistan if we only had 150,000 troops on the ground there are purely and simply delusional, and people who suggest things like that are demonstrating that they know nothing of Afghanistan or military history.

Double the size of our Special Forces, increase our human intelligence capabilities, and ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure.

Where will the new operators come from? Would we lower standards, raise pay? I know a little bit about this, and can tell you that this is going to be damn difficult if not impossible. I’d like to see some specifics, please.

And I’m working on a piece on humint, based in large part on the article in The Atlantic this month about the spies that the UK managed to place in the IRA – and what they had to do to stay there. From the Atlantic:

I put it to Martin Ingram, the former spy handler, that in the case of Scappaticci, the British strategy had gone amok.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it went very much to schedule.”

“So you think—”

“I don’t think, I know. He was acting to orders.”

So the British government knew of Scappaticci’s killings?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “The one preconception the IRA had is that if you are dirty—that is, if you have killed—then you cannot be an agent.” Scappaticci exploited that misapprehension. “His best protection,” Ingram continued, “was to keep killing.”

If that’s true, the British spy services beat the IRA by appealing to a belief that the United Kingdom wouldn’t sacrifice its own subjects—especially its own agents.

When Nancy Pelosi signs on for this kind of humint, please let me know.

Eliminate terrorist breeding grounds by combating the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive; lead international efforts to uphold and defend human rights; and renew longstanding alliances that have advanced our national security objectives.

So we’ll be promoting freedom as a way of eliminating the “political conditions” that lead to terrorism.

Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorists could use to build nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs.”

That’s a good plan…I’ll support that one.

Redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.

What, specifically would they do differently?

Homeland Security
To Protect America from Terrorism and Natural Disasters, we will:

Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.

See my comments on internal v. external security above.

Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America’s nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.

Nice goal, not happening anytime soon. Note that Jane Harman – arguably the smartest Dem on security (and coincidentally, my Congresswoman) doesn’t think so either.

Prevent outsourcing of critical components of our national security infrastructure — such as ports, airports and mass transit — to foreign interests that put America at risk.

That’s just silly. The issue isn’t who owns the facility – the issue is who manages security there and what programs/policies they follow.

Provide firefighters, emergency medical workers, police officers, and other workers on the front lines with the training, staffing, equipment, and cuttingedge technology they need.

Well, there’s a lot of cutting edge technology out there; how about some basic interoperable communications infrastructure? I’d rather have good, simple, common tools than the latest wizbang items.

Protect America from biological terrorism and pandemics, including the Avian flu, by investing in the public health infrastructure and training public health workers.

Bingo. Applause. Attaboy.


To Honor the Sacrifice of Our Troops, we will:

Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.

How in the world do you ‘ensure’ that ‘ the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country’?? That’s wishful thinking of the ‘declare victory and leave’ style.

Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency; promote regional diplomacy; and strongly encourage our allies and other nations to play a constructive role.

Again, what would be different than what we’re doing today?

Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.

That’s a winning wartime strategy – let’s battle among ourselves.

Energy Independence

To Free America from Dependence on Foreign Oil, we will:

Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.

Energy independence is a laudable goal, but there are a couple problems. But I’m still a supporter of greater energy efficiency.

Increase production of alternate fuels from America’s heartland including bio-fuels, geothermal, clean coal, fuel cells, solar and wind; promote hybrid and flex fuel vehicle technology and manufacturing; enhance energy efficiency and conservation incentives.

Golf clap.

So, overall, a few things that I’m very excited about (resources to first responders and public health, energy efficiency). But I’m not seeing anything (doable) that’s bold or different – or even particularly interesting – about the approach to the Middle East, and I’m seeing some particularly unrealistic things.

I’ll try and go deeper into some of the interesting questions in the next week or so – but I’ll bet others beat me to it.

But overall, let’s see another draft, guys.

24 thoughts on “Democrats On Defense”

  1. Ask Democratic incumbents in any federal elective office, any statewide partisan elective office, or in any state legislature, to give a yes or no response to the following questions:

    Do you believe America’s enemies should be destroyed?

    Do you believe we should kill America’s enemies?

    Their faces will crack, and they’ll say and do anything to avoid answering those questions yes or no.

    Until the Democratic party has a public image of being more eager to use military force against America’s enemies abroad than the GOP, and at least as competent at it, no Democratic candidate will win national office for the duration of the war on terror. And it will be a long war.

    The Democratic party might not survive that long.

  2. Tom, nobody sane would answer such a question with a simple yes or no. either one would leave you wide open to be blindsided by the follow-up questions: “which enemies are you talking about, and who was it that got to define them as being enemies?”. any politician who’d fall for a trap that simple would have to be either stupid or a dangerous zealot.

  3. This is laughable. Glittering generalities. The demo’s again try to go right but keep crashing into a wall – one they built themselves.

    “Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.”

    Why don’t they do more to “stabilize” the “Middle East”. Apparently the Bush Doctrine of fostering democracy on tyrants doesn’t sit well with the dems. Having energy independence makes sense, but the dems aren’t breaking new ground here. Just politics.

  4. Halliburton and KBR are the only companies left capable of completing the contracts, thanks to Clinton’s defense cuts. Unless you want to bid out to the UK, Germans, or Chinese. Take your pick.

    Sure, finish the job in Afghanistan. That means you need to invade Pakistan and Iran, destroy their regimes, and tribal societies, that back bin Laden and have provided Al Qaeda support. It’s not magic. You need lots of men, equipment, and you need to kill people and break things.

    Special Forces are not magic either. They are only useful in support of regular troops, alone they are toast (Desert One or BlackHawk Down). Special Forces are also only Special because they wash out 75% of those who apply. You can’t double them and have them be Special Forces. Just ordinary military with cooler uniforms.

    This is as good as it gets with Dems. They are simply and categorically unable to use force in military applications. Law enforcement, Davos conferences, and at best Clinton’s impotent missile strikes are all they have. So Reps win again.

    A real alternative would be to triple our military, openly call for invading Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and breaking those societies so that they never threaten America again. It would be different from what Bush proposes. It would have a chance at least of actually working. It appeals to Angry Jacksonians. It could get serious support and votes (not the least of which is the implications for the Navy, Air Force, and Army/Marines). You’d need a lot more ships, planes, and transport vehicles/tanks/etc. That’s stuff you need to buy.

    Tom is absolutely right. Dems are totally stuck in Give Peace a Chance.

  5. Marc,
    As previous commenters have called you on, there are zero, nada, no statements as to how the anti-Bush will accomplish any of these lofty goals.
    I’m especially disappointed on your response, or lack of, to their call to;
    “Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.”
    as they won’t even take office until 2007, should they, chuckle, even take control.

  6. Mike –

    C’mon – I said:

    “How in the world do you ‘ensure’ that ‘ the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country’?? That’s wishful thinking of the ‘declare victory and leave’ style.”

    That’s not critical enough?


  7. Nomen,

    That is my point. The Democrats’ credibility on national security is so low that nothing less than unqualified affirmatives to those questions can even start to change their image.

    Until they become far more hawkish than the GOP, no one will believe them.

  8. Note how the Democrats are utterly muffing a chance to change their weakness personified image through being “dangerous zealots”, as Nomen put it, on Iran’s nuclear program. They don’t have the responsibility to actually do something so they can safely scream bloody murder about the mullahs being our worst enemies, demand immediate military action (buy those Nuke Iran mugs and t-shirts, folks, Buehner needs the money), and claim that Bush’s cowardice will get millions of Americans killed.

    But they’re not doing that. Their base would kill them.

    Like I said, the Democratic party might not survive the war on terror.

  9. Jim wrote- “Halliburton and KBR are the only companies left capable of completing the contracts, thanks to Clinton’s defense cuts. Unless you want to bid out to the UK, Germans, or Chinese. Take your pick”

    Jim- SCUSE ME, are you suggesting that Bill Clinton is was responsible for not building up the United States Armed Forces after 9/11…because I hate to break it to you, he was not in office when that event happened.

    Same tired noise. Neocons and their cheerleaders will never, ever, take responsibility for going into Iraq with too few troops, without proper planning, or this foolish pre emptive war Democratic Nation building nonsense. No matter how many Conservative Republicans and other experts told them it was a job for 500 to 700k, they will never take responsibility for their biggest failure…failure to raise an Army after 9/11. I am not sure about the rest of you, but the “blame blow job Bill” routine is getting a little tired, folks.

  10. 500 to 700k?

    As for the actual article, platitudes are meaningless. Lay out some concrete proposals if you want to be taken seriously by those serious about national security.

  11. The democrats lack credibility on defense because they are the main obsticle to our national defense. It is beyond ironic that democrats criticize the Bush administration for failing to do the things that democrats oppose.

    Democratic President Clinton’s obsession with avoiding bad press hamstrung our military effectiveness in the actions he took. Bush fortunately is made of sterner stuff, but the democrats political games are not helping our country in a war against those who would destroy us.

  12. Bishop- Taken seriously on defense… you mean, like promoting a regional strategy enforced by the DoD thats stated objective is to spread Democracy in the Middle East? Hard to take anything seriously, when the macro level goal is foolish.

    Freedom is on the March

    Final throes

    Mushroom clouds

    Media bias is to blame

    Saddam is to blame for todays violence

    Iran is on notice

    Job for future presidents

    Really, how can one take anything seriously when this is the concrete data coming from the neo cons. You know, electricity, water etc is worse than pre war levels, attacks have steadily gone up, and that most regional experts said stabilization of Iraq post invasion was a job for 400-700k. Our military is under manned. That, we all know. You are not kidding anyone.

  13. Consider the Democratic position paper in the context of this post from Angry Bear*

    (replace the ‘*’ with ‘o’)

    on the fiscal future facing the U. S. Kash is, to put it mildly, generally supportive of Democrats. However, the actual alternatives we have to face are either:

    • Cut defense spending.
    • Cut non-defense spending.
    • Single payer health care system.
    • Tax increase.
    • Some combination of the above.

    The Democratic position paper suggests an increase in defense and veteran’s benefits expenses. So, how do the numbers add up?

  14. This was less a national strategy paper and more an 8th grade student council platform, “We will extend lunch an extra 45 minutes and have Metallica playing in the halls between classes”. Oh yeh? How?

  15. Laughable piece of tripe, this Really Real Security Plan, I comment over at*

    Hey, I want to go on record that this plan is greatly superior to that last stellar achievement of Democratic Party deep-thinking, the John Kerry “Fix Everything Wrong with Iraq” Plan. This time the plan’s in writing, and has specific verbiage to document its existence. This is a plan you can grab with your hands and wave in the air for dramatic effect!

  16. I’ll quote the good captain Ed:

    The plan is a collection of slogans and mission statements with almost no specifics about legislation, financing, strategies, tactics, or military efforts to achieve them.

    That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell.

  17. I was reading through the document, mentally storing up criticisms and rebuttals for a full post, until I came to this line:

    Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin

    At which point I realized the writer(s) of this statement could not be taken seriously. The Democrats are still suffering from the same collective failure to understand economics that has turned me off from the party for years: they don’t understand the concept of scarcity of resources, whether that resource be time for container screenings, or eligible candidates for Special Ops teams, or tax revenue (when entitlement programs start competing with increased domestic security spending for tax dollars, which program will win?).

    And incidentally, if they actually do have a concrete plan to “eliminate Osama Bin Laden” and “destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda”, why haven’t they shared it with the rest of us yet? What are they waiting for? Does the Democratic leadership know something about bin Laden that the rest of us don’t, or does the DNC have their own super-secret anti-terrorist spy organization, which has a better track record than the CIA?

  18. I’ll tell you whats really scary: if these guys get back in power one of two things is likely to happen.
    -They rapidly get mugged with the reality of the situation and fall back on the isolationist-bomb empty tent mentality most people expect they really believe in.

    -They rapidly get mugged with the reality of the situation and feel politically pressured to keep these promises. Say what you want about the Bush administration, there are some guys in it that have been to the dance and worked in war-time presidencies. I dont have much faith that the Dems are going to run an experienced hawk, so there is a strong chance we will get rookies and Clinton retreads. The fact that they float this kind of rhetoric about ‘going to get’ Bin Ladin and so forth is flat out scary. Scary in the sense that I really dont think the vast majority of Democratic leadership has a clue what they are talking about. There is just a real lack of military grounding there. When we talk on WOC or other conservative leaning sites, things like the inadvisability of putting a lot of troops in a place like Pakistan are a given. I really dont have much faith that a Howard Dean or a Hillary Clinton ‘get’ this at any level. Hey, we got 10k troops in Afghanistan, why not put 100k and let them hunt OBL? Politics could easilly drive these guys into doing something cataclysmically wreckless. Something that will make Iraq look like a pleasant memory.

    So what is scarier, believing the Dems are bluffing or believing they are telling the truth? Personally, until I hear a democrat offering some specifics that dont sound _insane_, this line of campaigning will continue to give me the screaming willies.

  19. I have two complaints:

    * What happens after you’ve “gone to get Bin Laden” and _nothing whatsoever has changed in the Mideast_?

    What do you do about everyone else who says, “oh, we don’t support terrorists or Al Qaeda, we only give money to humanitarian groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.”

    And the energy policy…

    It doesn’t really say anything about how.

    And I’ve seen the Democrat energy policy for the past five years: work to limit new oil drilling in this country, and against nuclear power, while talking about how in another five years they’ll be able to rely on the Energy Fairy.

    It’s five years on now since 9/11. The Energy Fairy hasn’t shown up yet.

  20. A.L.,

    A draft to get more Special Forces?

    Are you daft?

    I think that the men and women that would be collected by the draft would be better off working in the civilian economy.

    The German Generals in WW2 thought a smaller better trained volunteer army would have been a better deal for them.

    Any yet you think an armed mass of conscripts would be an advantage to us now?

    Try learning the lessons of history.

  21. At this point in time we have no idea what a post oil economy would look like. We have glimmers but no definite path.

    More nukes ain’t going to do it. Cars don’t run on electricity. Liquid fuel is the real deal.

    Fuel cells? Don’t make me laugh. To start with there is not enough platinum in the world to do the job. Then there is the hydrogen energy density problem. Then you have the hydrogen in an accident problem. Liquid fuels are very dangerous but they burn slowly compared to hydrogen and require higher ignition energy. 100 million bombs on the road? No sale.

    We will find answers. There are promising lines of research. We are 10 to 30 years from such an answer. Which means 30 to 50 years from full deployment. How does that square with the 14 years the democrats say they can do it in? Where is the plan? The production capacity? The customer willingness to buy?

    Did I mention that by 2020 (probably a lot sooner) wind electricity will cost less than nuke energy? If we want to make maximum use of that we will need energy storage once wind goes above about 20% of grid power. Energy storage is doable. Where is the Dem plan for that?

    Plug in hybrids are a definite possibility for the next 20 or so years. A good transition form. Last year about half a million (maybe a million) such vehicles were sold in America. We have 100 million vehicles on the road. Production is going to have to rampway up to significantly change the mix. Which means a huge increase in power semi-conductor production. Among other components. Where is that in the Dem plans? Where are the batteries going to come from? The super capacitors? etc.

    Not only do we need an energy fairy. A production fairy would also be needed.

  22. More nukes ain’t going to do it. Cars don’t run on electricity. Liquid fuel is the real deal.

    Nuclear and wind generation to overcome the ethanol energy deficit?

  23. While I think wind power is one of the few alternative energy ideas that can really help the situation, I don’t think it’s a panacea. (No one thing is a panacea, and the pretense that anything _is_ is part of what keeps us dependent. Since nothing is a complete solution, we don’t do anything and then a couple years down the road oil’s still expensive).

    Keep in mind that nuclear power is artificially expensive in this country because a) we haven’t built plants here in a long time, and b) back when we were building plants here the regulatory environment discouraged any attempt to standardize designs or mass-produce them, or any of the other tools used by standard industrial civilization to bring prices down.

    I agree with the points about hydrogen above; most of the “ooh, it’s a hydrogen car” enthusiasm seems to come from people who haven’t thought through the fact that most hydrogen in use today comes from reforming natural gas, and are projecting “real soon now” technologies for making it.

    (And if you’re going to burn it in an internal combustion engine, you’d be better off skipping a conversion step and just burning the natural gas. But that wouldn’t let you pretend you have a panacea just around the corner, because natural gas is expensive and we know there isn’t a Real Soon Now.)

    Hybrids I have mixed feelings about. I think they might be useful for different engine cycles than we have now (like combined cycles) but thus far they’re only used to raise the efficiencies of otto cycle engines.

    We already know how to do that with a lot less expense and complexity: replace them with diesel cycle engines. Of course, there’s no “panacea, real soon now” factor there either.

    “Plug in hybrids,” gets back to the power grid…

  24. Phil,

    I agree mostly. Wind is very good up to about 20% of grid power. Above that you need storage or a way to absorb excess production. Plug in hybrids for instance whose charging was controlled by the grid.

    BTW we are way early in the engineering evolution of the hybrid. So I would have to agree that some of the designs are iffy. The market is sorting it out as we speak.

    The reasond diesels never made it big in America is the clean air rules. My ideal is a 4 wheel in-wheel motor all electric drive vehicle. No transmission. An engine sized for crusing. Carbon fiber body. Then you will see real gains. However, fiber prices will have to come down. And a few other technologies will have to evolve like SiC or diamond semiconductors for power control. It is all coming.

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