The Week Just Past
"At this time last week, I was returning to New Jersey from a visit to our soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan. So, I had very fresh perspectives as I listened to President Obama outline his "new' approach to the war on Tuesday. While there are several aspects of the policy that are worthy of support, I have serious questions about its execution.
"First of all, I have to express my deep disappointment that the President took over three months to decide to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to bolster the American and NATO forces already there and to accelerate the training of Afghan security forces. After all, he has been in office over 10 months and had the benefit of extensive top secret briefings as a candidate for President. The policy drift that has occurred since he was handed General Stanley McChrystal's recommendations in August has put the mission and American personnel in greater jeopardy. That's the clear message I received in face-to-face conversations with military leaders, junior officers and enlisted men and women in Kabul.
"With that said, I support the President's decision to increase troop levels. Afghanistan, the launching pad for the attacks of September 11, 2001, must be stabilized to deny safe havens to al Qaeda and to prevent further erosion of governance in Pakistan, a neighboring nation armed with nuclear weapons.
"However, the President's "exit' strategy is all wrong. He is essentially surging 30,000 troops into Afghanistan next year and then beginning to withdraw them one year later!
"On one hand, the President acknowledged the critical nature of the overall Afghanistan mission when he declared: "what's at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world ' However, in the very next sentence of his Tuesday speech at West Point he announced his intention to withdraw: " these additional American and international troops will allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.'
"Someone will have to explain to me how much our troops can accomplish in a mere 18 months! After all, military bases must be constructed and protected. And transporting these soldiers and Marines and the equipment they will need to execute their mission in Afghanistan will take six or seven months, because much of it will have to be moved overland through Pakistan on vulnerable and unreliable roads!
"Since this "exit strategy' apparently ignores actual conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, it appears that this approach is borne of political considerations, not military necessity.
"And I have to say that this attitude will probably confirm the worst fears of Afghans who are convinced that it is only a matter of time before they are abandoned once again to their ruthless oppressors, the Taliban. How can we expect any Afghan to partner with us if they know we will be leaving in short order?
"Beginning a withdrawal on an arbitrary date is the wrong message to send our enemies, our allies and the courageous servicemen and women, all volunteers, who are placing their lives on the line everyday to accomplish a very important mission.
"No one wants a conflict without end, especially those of us who have served in a war zone. But if the President truly believes his own words, why would he tell friend and foe alike that this "war of necessity' will begin to end in 18 months?
"We need to stop talking about exit strategies and instead focus on doing what it takes to accomplish our goals."
Recommended Reading: George Will in Thursday's Washington Post: "This will not end well":
Bad Idea of the Week: A new war tax
The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has proposed a 1-percent income tax surtax on individuals earning more than $150,000 per year to pay for the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rodney opposes this bad idea:
"I would not support another tax. People in New Jersey are already taxed too much. Instead, we should put the focus on restraining government spending. For example, seven annual appropriations bills are past due for the fiscal year that started two months ago. If we hold the spending INCREASE in those seven bills to just two percent, it would free up about $35 billion. That sum goes a long way toward covering the costs of the troop increase.
"But fundamentally, we have an obligation to find a way to provide our troops the resources they need to accomplish the mission they have been ordered by President Obama to carry out. Fiscal restraint in other areas of the budget should be our starting point. And frankly, we cannot have a new tax every time someone in Washington comes up with a new proposition, such as government-run health care!"
Recommended Reading II: Daniel Schammenthal in the weekend Wall Street Journal; "Prosecuting American "War Crimes'":
"Jobs Summit" All Talk, No Action?
Thursday's White House "jobs summit" featured plenty of talk about the need for fiscal responsibility, but very little action. Even with the trillion-dollar so-called economic "stimulus" law producing countless examples of wasteful government spending and the national debt topping $12 trillion for the first time in U.S. history, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the Majority Leadership still consider massive budget deficits to be a secondary concern and believe that dealing with them would actually hurt economic growth.
Just the opposite is true: rising deficits hurt job creation by making new government spending even "less effective" and freezing out small businesses, the engine of American job creation.
Even President Obama has warned that the soaring national debt could lead to a "double-dip recession." But Speaker Pelosi captured out-of-touch Washington thinking perfectly last week when she said that the American people would be willing to "absorb" higher deficits as part of another "stimulus."
"Families are asking "where are the jobs?' but all they are getting from Washington is more debt piled on future generations and no plan to stop it," said Rodney. "Red ink as far as the eye can see may be the single greatest threat to lasting job creation, and getting our fiscal house in order is an essential component of any economic recovery. The American people deserve a government that lives within its means and fully commits itself to creating good-paying private sector jobs."
As a starting point, Rodney has endorsed a package that includes:
* Allowing small businessmen and women to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income.
* Letting small businesses join together to purchase health insurance for their workers the way large businesses and labor unions do.
* Lowering taxes for all taxpayers by reducing the current 15 percent income tax rate to 10 percent and reducing the current 10 percent rate to 5 percent. This will provide an immediate increase in income to every taxpaying family in America and free up capital to help small businesses hire more workers.
* Passing three promising free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama that have stalled under the Obama Administration. Recently, the President stated that increasing U.S. exports by just 1% would create over 250,000 jobs.
"I appreciate the fact that the President has finally acknowledged that job creation should be a major focus of his Administration and that previous "stimulus' efforts have failed. In recent months, all the American people have been getting from Washington is more spending, more debt and more policies that hurt small businesses. This week, they deserved more than a "photo opportunity.' They deserved action."
Recommended Reading III: Peggy Noonan in Saturday's Wall Street Journal: "He Can't Take Another Bow;"
Health Care Update: Senate-Style
The Senate officially started debate on its version of the health care bill on Monday. At the same time, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study that found that, if the Senate bill became law, premiums in the individual market will rise by 10% to 13% more than if Congress did nothing at all.
Majority Leader Harry Reid says he hopes to be able to steer the Senate to a final vote in the next three or four weeks.
Reports this week that Iran is threatening to build ten more uranium enrichment sites make many people wonder whether the Obama Administration's "high-level" engagement with Tehran is amounting to much. In addition, there are new and disturbing reports that large amounts of arms and rocket materiel are flowing into Iran, no doubt bound for such terrorist groups as Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran's own Quds Force, a wing of their Revolutionary Guard!
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Noted with interest: Officials in South America announced Monday that Russia is building arms plants in Venezuela. Details about Moscow's military shipments and projects have been scarce since President Hugo Chavez's government began signing military agreements with Russia back in 2001. In recent years, the Chavez government has bought over $4 billion in weapons from Russia, including fighter jets, tanks, missile systems, helicopters and military spare parts. Critics say Caracas is fueling an arms race in Latin America.
It is surprising that the Administration appears to be focusing on assuring a democratic Honduras while the Chavez government in Venezuela escapes any condemnation!