Opinion

The Great Debate

Burning borrowed money in America’s wars

— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. —

The Pentagon has an evocative term for the level of spending on a war: burn rate. In Afghanistan, it has been running at around $5 million every hour for much of the year. The burn rate will begin going up next week when the first of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops arrive.

Once they are all in place, the burn rate is estimated to exceed $10 million an hour, or more than $8 billion a month. Much of that is literally burned — in the engines of American jeeps, trucks, tanks, aircraft and power generators. On average, each of the 183,000 soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq requires 22 gallons of fuel a day, according to a study by the international accounting firm Deloitte.

Because of a difficult and dangerous supply line that runs more than 1,200 miles through Pakistan, fuel for the troops in Afghanistan is considerably more expensive than for those in Iraq: an average of $48 per gallon counting the cost of transport and protection. Flown by helicopter to positions on remote Afghan front lines, the cost can reach $400 per gallon.

Which helps explain why Afghanistan “is one of the most expensive, perhaps the most expensive, war in U.S. history on a per troop basis,” says Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank. His estimate of the cost per year of a soldier deployed in Afghanistan this year matches the number used by the White House – around $1 million. (The Pentagon says is it is less.)

Unemployment to stay above 10 percent in 2010

morici– Peter Morici is a Professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and former Chief Economist at the United States International Trade Commission. The views –

The economy continues to bleed jobs, even as GDP rebounds. Employment may be a lagging indicator, but job losses should have abated by now even if a lot of new jobs are not being added.

Coming off a deep recession, GDP growth should have been much stronger than the 2.8 percent recorded in the third quarter. A poorly conceived and badly executed stimulus package and the failure to correct structural problems that caused the Great Recession are holding down growth.

War and Peace, by Barack Obama

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

It is a timeline rich in irony. On Dec. 10, Barack Obama will star at a glittering ceremony in Oslo to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That’s just nine days after he ordered 30,000 additional American troops into a war many of his fellow citizens think the U.S. can neither win nor afford.

Whether the sharp escalation of the war in Afghanistan he ordered on December 1 will achieve its stated aim – disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: more troops equals more fighting equals more deaths — of soldiers, insurgents and the hapless civilians caught in the middle. Not exactly a scenario of peace.

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg –  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Prophetic words they were not. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all…The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Thus spoke a euphoric President George H.W.Bush early in March, 1991, shortly after the 100-hour ground war that chased Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the oil-rich U.S. ally they had invaded and occupied in the summer of 1990.

Obama fails small businesses

georgecloutier1 George A. Cloutier, a graduate of Harvard Business School, is the founder and CEO of American Management Services, one of the nation’s largest turnaround and management services firms specializing in small and mid-size companies. The opinions of George Cloutier are his own and do not represent those of the United States Conference of Mayors or Partner America. –

President Obama gets an “F” for his small business program. The SBA has guaranteed a paltry 50,000 loans  to the nation’s 29 million small businesses – that’s .0017. Loan volume is down 36 percent from 2008 and 50 percent from 2007. Obama and his advisers have actually done the unimaginable; they have reduced the flow of aid to small businesses in the face of a deep recession. The program’s bank lenders have left $15 billion on the table due to “regulatory problems.” Even an administration plan to provide lending to 70,000 vehicle dealers has no takers and failed.

Administration “experts” allocated less than 1 percent of the stimulus bill to small business. It’s mind-boggling that Washington ignores the biggest economic sector in the country employing 60 million people, producing 50 percent of GDP, and creating 70 percent of new jobs.

Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies: you’ve got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not “a lovey-dovey kind of guy”.

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. —

Words of wisdom from an American leader: “The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

“If we are an arrogant nation, they’ll view us that way but if we are a humble nation, they’ll respect us.”

Who lost the dollar?

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

The state of the dollar probably hasn’t been a first-tier political issue in the United States since, say, the presidential election of 1896. Back then, it manifested as whether or not America would stay on the gold standard or switch to a bimetallic one. (The William Jennings Bryan “cross of gold” speech and all that.)

The aftershocks of the global financial crisis may now be propelling the dollar back to the political forefront. The greenback’s continuing slide makes it a handy metric that neatly encapsulates America’s current economic troubles and possible long-term decline. House Republicans for instance, have been using the weaker dollar as a weapon in their attacks on the Bernanke-led Federal Reserve.

Global rebalancing to weaken dollar, quietly

– Neal Kimberley is an FX market analyst for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own –forex

Twenty-four years ago, major nations called for depreciation of the dollar to rebalance the global economy. Now, as another effort at rebalancing looms, the dollar will again bear the brunt — though officials will try to ensure its fall is less dramatic this time.

That’s the implication of President Barack Obama’s announcement this week that he will push world leaders for a new global “framework” in which the United States would cut its huge trade and budget deficits.

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

foghAfter just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.

President Barack Obama's decision to drop plans to install it on Polish and Czech territory leaves those former Soviet satellites feeling betrayed -- because they expended political capital to win parliamentary support -- and more exposed to a resurgent Russia, especially after its use of force against Georgia last year.

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