Thursday, January 11, 2007

About the Money

A.J. Strata said it best: the Democrats are redefining the term "spineless" in their opposition to President Bush's planned troop increase in Iraq. Oh, sure, they're against the surge, but right now, they plan nothing more than "symbolic votes" against the policy. And, they offer absolutely nothing in terms of an alternative.

Responding to Mr. Bush last night, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin delivered one of the most vapid political speeches in recent history. No substance, just a rehash of Cindy Sheehan's latest talking points on the dangerous "escalation of the war," and another call for a "phased withdrawal" of U.S. forces. Naturally, Senator Durbin didn't say where they would go, or what our troops should do after the terrorists take control of Iraq. Once again, the party of FDR, Harry Truman and John Kennedy demonstrated why it is no longer fit to ensure the nation's security.

Predictably, the Democrats are still threatening to withhold funding for the troop increase, though any action along those lines is probably months down the road, after they pass a non-binding resolution in opposition to the Bush plan, and (presumably) after more polling and focus-group research. What a way to run a war, or more correctly, opposition to a war.

Can the Democrats actually deny funding for the troop surge? Long-term, the answer is probably "yes," although there's no assurance that some of the recently-elected Democratic "moderates," elected in Republican districts last November, will provide lock-step support for the plan. If some of the Blue Dog Democrats bail, there is less chance the Democrats can cut off funding, even if the vote is scheduled for later in the year, and even if the situation doesn't improve in Iraq.

As for a short-term funding denial for the troop increase, the answer is a resounding "no," and it has less to do with politics than Pentagon accounting practices. One of my former colleagues (an air weapons controller by training) had an undergraduate degree in accounting. His expertise in that area apparently led to a "career broadening" tour as a budget officer for a major military intelligence agency during the 1990s. "Spook," he once told me. "Don't ever worry about the military running out of money for operations. You won't believe how much is stashed away in 'rainy day' accounts, hidden in other programs, or available for 'transfer' from other funding lines, should the need arise."

Needless to say, DoD can probably find the money for much of the troop surge, even if Congress balks. It won't be particulary pretty from a fiscal standpoint--other programs covered under the operations and maintenance (O&M) budget could take some serious hits--but the Pentagon can make it happen. That's why Democratic threats to cut funding are like the rest of their security policies--little more than hot air, with generous measures of hysteria and partisan politics thrown in.


Boghie said...


An interesting factoid...

The Pentagon wasn't even able to spend the funding allocated to them in FY2006. (re: Monthly Treasury Statement September 2006, page 5)

To summarize, they were expected to spend $512,099 Billion, but instead spent $499,355 Billion. All big numbers. But numbers that point to the 'hidden' money you are describing. It is rather hard to blow through a half-trillion dollars - you know...

By the way, tomorrow will be an interesting day for deficit hawks. December is generally a surplus month. If the surplus is in the $30 Billion range we might be looking at a balanced budget THIS YEAR... Se the numbers here at about 0900 PST tomorrow.

eatyourbeans said...

I'm struck by the non-mention of the O-word by either side of the aisle. That's why we there, that's why we're staying, no matter what the Iraquis do.

Spook, you're the expert here but it seems to me that nobody can be so effing, supernaturally stupid not to understand that if we "redeploy", we're handing the monopoly on the world's energy supplies to such good friends of America as Iran, Russia and Venezuela.


Dean Ob said...

EYB is partially correct, the whole thing is really about oil. Not so much because we have been getting lots of oil out of Iraq since since 2003, but because that oil is not available to the competition. The competition is not Iran, Venezuela, or even Russia. It is China. Only by preventing China's easy access to cheap energy can we prevent China from growing into a power that can challenge the US. This is, by the way, exactly what China says it wants to do. Not some much militarily, but certainly economically. So, correct that the US is not going to leave Iraq without tremendous internal pressure. Incorrect that we want Iraq to be free and democratic. That is the last thing we want. We will prop up a puppet government in Iraq, and/or place a totalitarian military junta or the like, one favorable to the US, for as long as possible. The sectarian violence is actually a good thing because it distracts from a broader hegemony that could tip the balance. If sending more troops escalates the internicine violence, that is actually a good thing and in fact paradoxically supports US interests.

Also, let's make a distinction between indoctrination and proficiency.