The Military

Obama’s war

Marcos Cintron.
Brian Backus.
Alvin Boatright.
Edwaard Dixon.
James Harvey.
Josue Ibarra.
Tyler Kreinz.
Gustavo Rios-Ordonez.
Scott Smith.
Alan Snyder.
Jared Verbeek.

These are names of young Americans whose deaths were publicly announced the morning after President Obama’s message about our role in Afghanistan. President Obama has sacrificed their lives and others in a futile and extraordinarily expensive war. Ask their families if they think the president’s approach to troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is "balanced,” as advertised.

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Let’s hear from Gen. Petraeus

When we went to war at the beginning, we were fully unprepared. We went from peace to war overnight. Our army under Tommy Franks and the administration with Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush had no hands-on experience, and Congress was made up of peacetime people concerned with housekeeping issues. Not until Defense Secretary Robert Gates came to the position did a steady hand come to policy in the Middle East conflicts. But Gen. David Petraeus also brought stability and success to a mess he did not create. At his confirmation hearing today to become the next CIA director, he should speak plainly about his assessment of the situation as we enter the post-Gates period.

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Petraeus calls the shots

It remains to be seen how President Obama will explain his decision on the Afghanistan drawdown tonight, but if early reports are to be believed, he has listened to the military and ignored those within the administration and his own party arguing for a shift to a counterterrorism strategy.

If he does announce a withdrawal of only a token number of troops this month, and not front-loading the drawdown, Obama would be heeding the advice of outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chief commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus. Both have advocated keeping a substantial number of the 30,000 “surge” troops through next year’s fighting season. Yet public opinion in general now favors the removal of the troops as quickly as possible.

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Counting down in Afghanistan

We are only weeks away from President Obama’s announced troop drawdown in Afghanistan. But with the scheduled withdrawal supposed to begin July 1, the president has not yet decided on whether the number will be “significant” — his words — or “modest,” in the words of the Defense secretary, Robert Gates.

I heard a couple weeks ago that about 20,000 soldiers, or two-thirds of the “surge” troops, were expected to return home next month. But that is considerably higher than the anticipation now that only about 5,000 would return — the argument being that it would be a mistake to sharply reduce troop numbers during the Taliban’s fighting season. Gates, making his farewell tour of Afghanistan, has said that he would opt to “keep the shooters and take the support out first.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants only 3,000 out.

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The Pentagon’s flawed logic on cyberwar

The Pentagon is readying a new strategy that would treat cyberattacks from a foreign nation as acts of war.

The quote that caught my attention was the military official who told The Wall Street Journal: "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks."

That’s all very well, but what would that particular official say if Iran — which believes Israel and the U.S. to be behind the Stuxnet cyberworm that sabotaged its nuclear program — applied the same logic and felt entitled to strike back by putting a missile down an American or Israeli smokestack?

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Department of Defense awards

A Department of Defense agency just announced the recipients of the Employer Support Freedom Award.

This is a big deal, since the U.S. is asking a lot from members of the National Guard and Reserve, often serving multiple deployments under fire.

This is a burden for the companies where the troops work also, and the Department of Defense folks are showing their appreciation for that with the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. It’s a big deal, and for more, check out www.FreedomAward.mil. Here’s the list of the 2011 recipients:

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VA asks employees to do better

A lot’s going on in Washington that few people hear about, where VA employees figure out how to serve vets better. They organize using Net-based tech, and let the boss know of stuff like redundant work that can be eliminated. Here’s the next phase of their innovation efforts.

On behalf of the Under Secretary for Health and the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2), we are excited to announce the launch of the 2011 VA Employee Innovation Competition website to solicit ideas that improve veterans’ health and healthcare. The site may be found at:

https://vha.ideascale.com

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Mandatory conscription

The United States benefits from conscription because national spirit increases, national unity improves, neighborhoods become safer and society grows healthier. With conscription, troubled teens who normally head to street corners enter the military and receive the training, discipline and experience that propel them to a stable and secure life. They unite with people of all sexes, races and religions to work toward a common good. This allows neighborhoods to become safer and society to become stronger.

The workforce gets better workers, families get better mothers and fathers, and the country gets a more unified citizenship.

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Iraq — should we stay or should we go?

The United States is clearly willing, but the Iraqi people and, more problematically, Iraq's Council of Representatives, must take the steps necessary to allow some U.S. forces to remain.

It is definitely in their interest and ours ... A half-century later we maintain thousands of troops in South Korea, and one must question the logic of not maintaining a similiar partnership with Iraq —- especially in the next five years.

With an ever-expanding Iran and a seemingly endless number of nefarious extremist elements operating in the Middle East — if we abruptly close up shop in Iraq, how does this play out?

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VA Palo Alto social-media outreach

The folks at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs center are doing a great job, now using Facebook for social media outreach to local vets, to provide more services for returning troops.

Check it out at Facebook.com/vapahcs. They’re getting high scores here and here and for that matter, on Yelp. I also just read that Lisa Freeman, who’s director of the Palo Alto VA center, was cited as one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women. I’ve met her and staff and veterans at VA Palo Alto, very impressed. Bay Area folks should know that they have one of the best VAs in the country and that couldn’t happen without outstanding leadership.

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