Wednesday, February 4, 2015
President Barack Obama was full of praise when he announced his choice for Chuck Hagel's replacement in December, lauding Ashton Carter as a person who was "rightly regarded as one of our nation's foremost national security leaders." The president paid explicit tribute to Carter's "innovation" in the Pentagon and his tenure with regard to US defense policy, making it clear that the 60-year-old had more than enough experience to do the job. "He was at the table in the Situation Room; he was by my side in navigating complex security challenges."
Staring directly at Obama, Carter responded to the presidential praise with two promises:
"If confirmed in this job, I pledge to you my most candid strategic advice," he said. And that he would "keep faith with the greatest fighting force the world has ever known."
Over the past two decades in and out of the Pentagon, Carter has built a reputation for being an assertive technocrat with sterling knowledge of US weapons arsenals and the workings of the department of defense - and a proclivity for pragmatic decision-making.
Former Pentagon colleagues, including Defense Secretary William Perry, under whom Carter served as assistant during the Clinton administration, have described him as "efficient," "calculating," even "hard-nosed" when it comes to the use of force in implementing US defense policy.
He was Obama's chief weapons buyer from 2009 to 2011 and after that served as Pentagon number two until 2013. His deep knowledge of Pentagon budgetary affairs will come in handy amid a resounding White House and Congressional desire to cut military spending across the board. A characteristically pragmatic Carter has expressed willingness to decrease spending, but only where that spending is "unnecessary."
"Carter's great strength is his weakness," said John Hulsman, a German-based American foreign policy expert. "He is seen as a superb technocrat who knows how to make the unwieldy Pentagon work. As such, he is truly respected on both sides of the aisle," Hulsman told DW.
Despite his expertise and his political acumen, however, the question remains whether his vision for the US role in the world - given domestic qualms at home - is a viable one.
"He really isn't a grand geostrategist - and one is needed now to make sense of the multipolar world," Hulsman said, concluding that Carter's impact as defense secretary "may be limited."
A quantum leap to defense policy
Carter's reputable expertise and interest in defense policy follows, almost bizarrely, an academic career in which he dedicated himself to the study of theoretical physics. He double majored in medieval history and physics at Yale and earned his doctorate as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, envisioning theories about quantum chromodyamics, i.e., the behavior of sub-atomic particles in nuclear reactions.
"In [Carter] you have a poster child for the guy who discovers that science and technology are the major drivers for some of the most important events in international affairs, and sometimes are the sources of the solutions," Graham Allison, who recruited Carter to work for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School, told the New York Times ahead of Wednesday's Senate hearing.
In a short autobiography published on the Kennedy School website, Carter explains that the motivation for his jump from academia to the political realm was inspired by the Cold War. "The enormity of the dangers could not be ignored," he wrote, with reference to the year 1979. "I flattered myself into believing that the two poles of my training, physics and history, came together in the effort to cope with the [potential destructiveness of the] Cold War."
And with regard to Washington, Carter writes: "Public service at senior levels is a little bit like being a Christian in the Coliseum. You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers."
Carter concludes that in the face of the "whirlwind" that is Washington the only thing that can help is "having an agenda," and the faith to say what he feels in the face of the lions. And those were indeed the two promises he made when Obama picked him for the Pentagon's top job.
President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget, released on Monday, pulls together the themes and policies set forth in his State of the Union address and other recent speeches and gives them a force and coherence — an ambitiousness — that a more piecemeal delivery does not convey.
As a practical matter, the budget details what Mr. Obama believes needs to be done to help ensure a more prosperous and inclusive future for ordinary Americans, including greater contributions from corporate America and from those atop the wealth ladder. Politically, it seeks to frame the terms of the debate for the 2016 presidential election season. If Republicans simply reject those terms — if they can’t discuss the ideas and act on them — they may find themselves, deservedly, struggling for a response.
The core of the president’s 2016 budget is a plan to boost the middle class by helping low- and middle-income earners pay for education, child care, job training and other needs, and by vastly expanding investment in the nation’s infrastructure. These initiatives would be paid for, in the main, by nearly $1 trillion in tax increases that would fall on the wealthy and large financial institutions over the next decade.
The new taxes, however, are also carefully crafted to spur economic growth more broadly. A proposed higher rate on capital gains, for example, would discourage rampant and inefficient tax sheltering, while encouraging investors to deploy the capital in ways that are more economically productive. Ditto the financial tax that is structured to discourage speculative activities at banks that endanger the economy, as well as taxpayers.
The President Obama’s budget also presents a reasonable plan for relieving the near-term damage from automatic budget cuts, also known as sequestration. Much like a bipartisan plan that reduced the harm of sequestration in 2014 and 2015, the proposed budget would raise nonmilitary discretionary spending over the capped level by $37 billion while offering a dollar-for-dollar increase in military spending.
Even with those increases, discretionary spending would fall by 2019 to its lowest level on record as a share of the economy, in data going back to 1962 — too low to meet the needs of a large economy and a growing population. Still, easing the sequester as Mr. Obama proposes would help shift the national discussion to how, when and how much government should spend, rather than how much it should retreat and retrench from its duties.
Contrary to the Republican charge that the budget is fiscally irresponsible, it addresses, albeit indirectly, longer-term problems like the financing shortfall in Social Security — just not in ways that Republicans care to acknowledge. For example, the budget assumes passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which would boost the economy by adding millions of newly legalized workers. Immigration and economic growth are essential to improving the financial health of the Social Security system.
The president’s budget will not be enacted in whole, and perhaps not even in part. But enactment is not the only measure of its success. The budget is a strong discussion draft, detailed in its particulars, unassailable in its aims and a powerful challenge to the Republicans.
The 11th death anniversary of great legendary classical musician and singer Malika Pukhraj was observed on Wednesday.
Malika Pukhraj was born in village Mirpur and when she grew up her mother moved to Kanak Mandi area of Jammu, in present Jammu and Kashmir, where she spent early years of her life.
She was given the name "Malika" at birth, by `Majzoob', `Baba Roti Ram, a spiritualist, in Akhnoor area, and named Pukhraj by her Aunt.
Malika Pukhraj was coached by Ustad Ali Baksh Kasuri father of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. At age nine, she visited Jammu and performed at coronation ceremony of Maharaja Hari Singh, who got so impressed by her voice that she was appointed a court singer in his Durbar, and stayed there for another nine years.
Malika Pukhraj was termed as a highly popular singer of Pakistan. She was generally called as "Malika" meaning The Queen. She is extremely popular for her rendition of Hafeez Jalandhri's song "Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon" (I am still youthful).
She was among the greatest singers of British India in the 1940s, and after partition of India-Pak in 1947, she migrated to Lahore, where she received further fame through her radio performances with composer, Kale Khan.
In 1977, when All India Radio, for which she sang until partition, was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, she was invited to India and awarded with the `legend of Voice' award. In 1980, she received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award, Pakistan. Malika Pukhraj also recorded her memoirs in the novel Song Sung True.
Malika Pukhraj died in Lahore on February 4, 2004.
The visit by the chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee will likely prompt concern in Washington and other major capitals that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have reconfirmed an arrangement whereby Pakistan, if asked, will supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear warheads.
The main meeting on Gen. Rashid Mahmoud's itinerary was with King Salman — the topics discussed were reported as "deep relations between the two countries and ... a number of issues of common interest."
General Rashid also saw separately Defense Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman — who presented him with the King Abdulaziz medal of excellence — as well as Deputy Crown Prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef and Minister of the National Guard Prince Mitab bin Abdullah.
The only senior Saudi absent from the meetings appears to have been Crown Prince Muqrin.
For decades, Riyadh has been judged a supporter of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, providing financing in return for a widely assumed understanding that, if needed, Islamabad will transfer technology or even warheads.
It has been noticeable that changes in leadership in either country have quickly been followed by top-level meetings, as if to reconfirm such nuclear arrangements. Although Pakistani nuclear technology also helped Iran's program, the relationship between Islamabad and Riyadh has been much more obvious.
In 1999, a year after Pakistan tested two nuclear weapons, then Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan visited the unsafeguarded uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta outside Islamabad — prompting a US diplomatic protest.
Last year, as Riyadh's concern at the prospect of Iranian nuclear hegemony in the Gulf grew, Pakistan's chief of army staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, was a guest of honor when Saudi Arabia publicly paraded its Chinese CSS-2 missiles for the first time since they were delivered in the 1980s.
Although now nearly obsolete, the CSS-2 missile once formed the core of China's nuclear force. Pakistan's first nuclear devices were based on a Chinese design.
Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, visited the kingdom January 23 for the funeral of King Abdullah and had also been there a couple of weeks earlier to pay his respects to the ailing monarch.
The civilian leader and his military commanders have an awkward relationship — in an earlier term of office, Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup and sent into exile in Saudi Arabia — but Pakistan's nuclear program seems above any civil-military partisanship.
The visit by General Rashid comes a day after Pakistan announced the successful flight-testing of its Raad air-launched 220-mile-range cruise missile, which reportedly is able to deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with pinpoint accuracy.
While chairing his first cabinet meeting as prime minister yesterday, King Salman announced there would be no change in Saudi foreign policy.
In its own way, today's top-level meetings with the Pakistani military delegation seem to confirm this statement, adding perhaps an extra awkward complication to the Obama administration's effort to secure a diplomatic agreement with Tehran over Iran's nuclear program.
Read more: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/nuclear-nuances-of-saudi-pakistan-meeting#When:21:27:41Z#ixzz3QodGbYkh