- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

U.S. military beset with problems, now and in the future

Your commentary concerning the dilution of the fighting mentality of professional combat troops at the hands of those who long ago abdicated responsibility for an understanding and, moreover, an appreciation of the military raison d'etre pinpoints one of several failures of the current administration. ("Softer, gentler paratroopers," Editorial, Sept. 25)
Those who send combat-trained and proven troops, be they 82nd Airborne paratroopers or Marines, cast an insidious veil of contempt not only for the purpose of our military but also for those dedicated heroes who serve valiantly. These combat troops are not waiters at an afternoon tea party; nor are they, as some in political havens might wish, facilitators or referees charged to police a volatile situation of a type other than that for which they were trained.
The Army report cited in the commentary that stated paratroopers' actions were "overly aggressive" is an indictment of the current state of misguided thinking or, worse, an alarming ignorance of the role of the combat trooper by senior officers or civilian demigods. Is this part of the cancerous political infusion recently uncovered that involves politically motivated government officials attempting to emasculate the Army Corps of Engineers; a flaccid Congress unwilling to challenge an irrational administration that permits the number of Navy ships to decline toward 300 in a free fall; a callous, irresponsible administration and Congress that reduces many servicemen and servicewomen to near-welfare status as food stamp recipients?
Softer, gentler paratroopers are one symptom of the current bureaucratic design that has irresponsibly absconded with powers traditionally held and directed by those in and connected with the military who were capable, productive producers. This is but one of many serious problems in the military borne of reckless abandonment on behalf of either ignorant bureaucrats or, worse, self-aggrandizing political pretenders who "loathe the military."
Annandale, N.J.

David Hackworth's article, "Let the debate begin," (Commentary, Sept. 25) sounded the tocsin for action to determine to the fullest extent the facts concerning the state of global readiness and national strategy.
Political polls report few U.S. citizens are interested in national security and foreign affairs. If this is so, America's future is in jeopardy, for the government's actions in foreign affairs, national security and the economy are all linked. Balance between the nation's vital interests, both global and domestic is paramount. Yet the candidates focus upon short-term domestic issues and neglect long-term international relations.
Successful diplomacy dictates balance of commitments and power. The Clinton-Gore administration made a shambles of our foreign affairs by engaging in an adventurous foreign agenda while concurrently downgrading military readiness to the lowest level since the 1930s, resulting in loss of worldwide leadership and prestige of the United States.
While sharply divided on the state of U.S. military readiness, the presidential candidates spend little time discussing national strategy for an unstable world. For instance, Vice President Al Gore, by championing unsuccessful Democratic Party social and anti-military programs of the past, threatens the future security of the United States. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, running on returning government to the people, has failed to provide his plan for correcting the de facto problem of military readiness.
The readiness problem stems from failure to replace reactive, short-range crisis management of America's vital interests with forward-looking policies. The thought of bringing the nation to its full potential of performance to meet the challenges and promises of the future is the crux of presidential leadership. Yet neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Gore indicates where he intends to lead this country during the 21st century.
St. Simons Island, Ga.

Why should retirees work when government taxes them so heavily?

As a retiree, I have reflected on our tax system and how it affects successful professionals and businessmen. I am a retired electronics executive with bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering, and I was recently asked to provide consulting services. I took the task because it sounded fun and not for economic reasons. But taxes turned out to be a major disincentive to work. First, I pay a Social Security tax of more than 15 percent. My retirement and investment income result in a 39 percent rate for federal income tax, and I pay 6 percent state tax. This means the government gets 60 percent of every marginal dollar I earn. To add insult to injury, if I don't spend these earnings, the government takes a additional 55 percent with the death tax. My question is simple. Why should I work at all if the government takes so much of my earnings? It is appalling that we have a tax system that eliminates any incentive for successful members of our technical community to work.
Huddleston, Va.

Clinton administration has an anti-energy policy

Republicans who say that the reason gas prices are going up is that the Clinton-Gore administration doesn't have an energy policy are wrong. They have a very clear energy policy, which they have pursued consistently for the past eight years. It is to reduce the production of fossil fuels, constrict supplies of fossil fuels and raise energy prices. Although they have never articulated these aims, and indeed have tried to conceal them, they are succeeding. The ultimate purpose is to implement the Kyoto global warming treaty, which would require huge cuts in energy use.
Of the hundreds of administrative actions and policies, these are some of the highlights:
In 1993, the Clinton-Gore administration proposed a tax on fossil fuels equivalent to approximately 11 cents per gallon of gasoline. When it failed because of bipartisan congressional opposition, they proposed increasing the federal gas tax by 4.3 cents per gallon. Vice President Gore cast the deciding vote that passed the measure in the Senate.
Actions taken to reduce production include President Clinton's veto in 1995 of legislation that would have allowed oil and gas exploration in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Department of Energy estimates that it could contain 16 billion barrels of oil, which is equivalent to 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia. Mr. Clinton extended by executive order moratoria on oil and gas leasing off the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico coasts areas that could contain billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Again by executive order, Mr. Clinton has created a number of new national monuments on federal lands, thereby removing these areas from future natural resource production. The 1996 Grand Staircase-Escalante designation in Utah shut down the active development of the world's second-largest known reserve of low-sulfur coal.
Additional obstructions to oil and gas production have been created by creative use of the Endangered Species Act, more restrictive wetlands permitting and the moratorium on building roads in 43 million acres of national forests.
The Environmental Protection Agency has constricted energy supplies. Oil refineries are currently running at full capacity to supply demand, but no new refineries have been built since the early 1970s because the Clean Air Act's New Source Review regulations make it uneconomical (and in fact virtually impossible) to build new refineries. In 1996, the EPA proposed a new interpretation of these regulations that will make it very difficult to maintain or upgrade existing oil refineries and coal-fired power plants. The EPA has also required many different types of gasoline for different areas of the country. The cumulative effect has been to raise prices in most markets.
A number of other controversial new regulations, including new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for soot and smog, will significantly increase the costs of generating electricity by coal-fired plants. Coal generation is by far the cheapest means of producing electricity and accounts for more than 50 percent of U.S. production.
The Clinton-Gore administration has also made the permitting process for new natural gas pipelines by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission much more difficult. Consequently, most proposals for new pipelines have been scrapped.
To add insult to injury, President Clinton has twice officially determined that increasing dependence on foreign oil constitutes a threat to our national security, yet has proposed no actions to reduce that dependence beyond minor energy conservation measures and subsidies for alternative fuels.

Global Warming and International Environmental Policy
Competitive Enterprise Institute

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