The Common Good

Maintaining Military Superiority, Employment Drops

The Pentagon via Wiki Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pentagon_sa
The Pentagon via Wiki Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pentagon_satellite_image.jpg

Maintaining military superiority

President Barack Obama made an unusual appearance in the Pentagon briefing room Thursday with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to release a new Defense Strategic Guidance, essentially the strategic plan for the U.S. military.  Recognizing the end of the war in Iraq and the pressure of deficit-driven budget cuts, the plan outlines a smaller and more focused military.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • a fundamental strategic shift from the ability to fight two simultaneous conventional wars to the capacity for one war and dealing with “an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.”
  • an increased emphasis on Asia in light of China’s growing strength and Korean tensions
  • a continued emphasis on preventing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons
  • reductions in personnel for the Army and Marine Corps
  • a likely reduction in the number of nuclear weapons and a reduced role in national security for them
  • a change from large-scale counterinsurgency operations to increased special operations forces and drone aircraft

There are some good changes (fewer nuclear weapons) and some not good (more drones).  But the overall strategic objective, according to the president, hasn’t changed.  “Our military will be leaner,” he said, “but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”

That guiding strategy is what really needs change, but it isn’t seen here. The military budget, which will translate this into spending priorities, will be released in early February.

More people working

December unemployment numbers out this morning, and show a drop to 8.5 percent.  That’s obviously good news, but don’t get overly excited.  The unemployment rate for minorities was virtually unchanged – 15.8 percent of African-Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics remain unemployed.  And the broader measure, including what are called “discouraged workers” – people who want to work but have stopped looking and those working part time because they can’t find a full time job – is 15.2 percent.

It is often said that the best way out of poverty is a job.  In many cases that’s true.  Let’s hope that the economy continues to improve, more and more people are able to work, and we see a corresponding drop in the poverty rate. 

[News stories:  Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times]

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC

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