Three Ways to Cut Defense Spending

Elizabeth Warren Washington Times
Generic War Photo

Veteran defense analyst William Hartung explains America’s endless wars and what can be done to end them.

The question is: What will the nation’s budget priorities be going forward? Both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have called for reductions in Pentagon spending, with Warren singling out the Pentagon’s war budget, the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO, in particular for elimination. OCO has been used as a slush fund not only to pay for those wars, but also to fund tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon pet projects that have nothing to do with our current conflicts. Eliminating it alone could save up to $800 billion over the next decade for other uses.

There has recently been a surge of proposals aimed at cutting the soaring Pentagon budget in significant ways. My own organization, the Center for International Policy, for example, has created a Sustainable Defense Task Force made up of ex-White House and congressional budget experts, former Pentagon officials and military officers, and analysts from think tanks across the political spectrum. Our group has already outlined a plan that would save $1.25 trillion from current Pentagon projections over the next decade.

Meanwhile, a group of more than 20 progressive organizations called #PeopleOverPentagon has proposed $2 trillion in cuts over that decade and the Poor People’s Campaign, working from an analysis done by the Institute for Policy Studies, would up that to $3.5 trillion, while investing the savings in urgent domestic needs.

Source: Tomgram: William Hartung, Lessons From Battling the Pentagon for Four Decades | TomDispatch

Will the Democrats Take On ‘Endless War’ in the Second Debate?

Kirsten Gillibrand

While Democratic presidential candidates are growing more vocal about foreign policy issues, especially Russia, they don’t talk much about war and peace in their televised debates. Foreign issues matter less to most voters than so-called “kitchen table” issues of jobs and health care.

But no small part of the next president’s job will be to manage the global U.S. military empire and nuclear force, plus the various wars that the U.S. is waging (or supporting) in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

While there’s hardly unanimity in their views, half the candidates speaking tonight have staked out antiwar positions

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been the most outspoken candidate about the use of military force and Pentagon spending. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, has delivered a forceful and detailed call for ending U.S. involvement in “endless wars.” Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is a critic of the military industrial complex and “forever wars.” Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the Trump is “beating the war drums” against Iran and “we must speak out against it.

The other candidates appearing Wednesday night have made their world priorities clear.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Hawkish Critic of Endless Wars

Kirsten Gillibrand

On the Campaign Trail:

Sen. Gillibrand speaks Mandarin at town hall

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand opened her CNN town hall by speaking a little Mandarin and sharing a brief story about her college years.Gillibrand said she learned Chinese in college and traveled throughout the country.

Posted by CNN on Tuesday, April 9, 2019


Foreign Policy Vision: ‘Strong and Strategic’

The junior senator from New York says “America needs a strong and strategic foreign policy, not endless wars.

Gillibrand combines opposition to U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria with hawkish positions on Venezuela and Iran.

[Do you like Kirsten Gillibrand? Tell us why in the comments section. Or DM us @jeffersonmorley. We will publish your comments with minimal editing.]

Defense donations only make up 0.7% of all campaign donations

On Venezuela: Supports Trump’s Sanctions

Gillibrand supports the Trump administration’s sanctions on Venezuela.

“Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) supports working with our allies to recognize Juan Guaidó – who was legitimately elected – as the interim president under the Constitution until Venezuela can hold new elections,” said Meredith Kelly, communications director for Sen. Gillibrand’s presidential exploratory committee. “And while she believes economic sanctions are the appropriate response to achieve this, she does not support sending troops to Venezuela.”

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post

I want to see free and fair elections in Venezuela – monitored by international experts so that the will of the Venezuelan people is reflected in their government. But more than that, I want to see a fair judiciary, an open press, and other aspects of a truly thriving democracy. So I support the efforts of the international community to impose a combination of sanctions and humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure on President Maduro, and to take steps to lessen the humanitarian disaster ordinary Venezuelans are suffering. Almost 4 million Venezuelan refugees have fled and we must provide humanitarian and refugee assistance.Venezuelans, like other asylum seekers who reach our shores, deserve our protection. But I do not support military intervention. We cannot allow Trump’s warmonger advisors get us into yet another war. It would not be good for the American people,Venezuelans or our other friends in the region.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Iran: Trump’s ‘Shortsighted, Dangerous Mistake’

While she opposed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, she co-sponsored a bill introduced by opponents of the deal.

By walking away from the Iran Deal, President Trump has made a shortsighted, dangerous mistake. The deal gave us the ability to aggressively monitor and verify Iran’s behavior. This move only opens the door to Iran going back to developing a nuclear weapons program.


She was a co-sponsor for the Iran Sanctions Loophole Elimination Act which sought to deny the Iranian government access to its foreign exchange reserves.

On Afghanistan: Bring Troops Home

She favors U.S. withdrawal.

“America cannot afford an endless war in Afghanistan,” Gillibrand said. “After nearly a decade at war, with still no equal commitment from the Karzai government, and after all the lives we’ve sacrificed and the billions we’ve spent on this war, it’s time to start bringing our troops home.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Presses Administration For Clear Withdrawal Plan From Afghanistan — Huffington Post

On Yemen: ‘End This Humanitarian Crisis’

Saudi Arabia is using American-made bombs to terrorize Yemeni civilians with airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians – and millions are without food and access to medical care. The Senate must do everything it can to end this humanitarian crisis.


On North Korea:

When it comes to North Korea, we must base our actions on a clear understanding of what has and has not worked in the past, and make a commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula. I would come to an arms control summit prepared with facts based on seasoned policy and intelligence advice. I would strategically leverage diplomatic steps to curb aggression. And I would carefully articulate our national security goals, rather than send mixed signals. I would work together with our allies, including through incremental measurable steps designed to limit the North Korean threat, with the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean Peninsula.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Syria: Don’t Arm Rebels

Unlike Hillary Clinton and many in the foreign policy establishment, Gillibrand opposed arming the anti-government rebels.

I don’t think arming the [Syrian] rebels in this instance is necessarily going to be productive.

CBS News

On Arms Control: Back Towards Stability

Gillibrand is not a Russia hawk. She was one of 26 senators who opposed Trump’s decision to leave the INF Treaty. The letter (which was also signed Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar) stated:

A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s. We ask you to reverse the recent course set by your administration and instead point our nation back towards stability.

Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senate Website; Press Release — 12.13.2018

On Israel: Careful of First Amendment

‘Yes. In my trips to Israel and through conversations with U.S. experts and Israeli leaders, I have learned that Israel’s security and the prosperity of both Israelis and Palestinians is best achieved through a peace based on two nations living side by side. But that lasting peace and security can only be achieved by those on the ground, and the U.S. must remain engaged, but balanced, in order to foster direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Trump administration has dangerously undermined U.S. ability to foster such negotiations. As president, I would seek to restore it by continuing America’s strong relationship with our ally, Israel, ensuring its meaningful military edge allows Israel to defend its people, while at the same time reversing the Trump administration’s damaging policies toward the Palestinians. This means reopening the diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, restoring our USAID presence in the West Bank and restarting USAID programs that President Trump has cut.’

Council on Foreign Relations interview

Senator Gillibrand withdrew as a co-sponsor from the Senate Israel Anti-Boycott Act on August 1, 2017 for 1st Amendment concerns.

On Human Rights in China:

I am deeply troubled by the alarming reports of widespread human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim Chinese citizens. I have called on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to update U.S. export controls on American technology to ensure that neither China nor other repressive regimes can use American technology to commit human rights violations. I have further supported targeted sanctions against those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and other abuses of human rights, and have cosponsored the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. America must pursue a variety of goals in the bilateral relationship with China, including holding them accountable for currency cheating, unfair trade practices, and cyber theft of American technology and Americans’ data. But history has taught us that we never ultimately advance our interests when we ignore human rights abuses. I believe we can support human rights in the context of addressing our country’s vital national security and economic interests.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Russia:

‘Russian aggression toward Ukraine – whether in the Crimean Peninsula, Eastern Ukraine or in the Kerch Strait – is dangerous, not only toward Ukraine, but broadly, because it emboldens Russian aggression elsewhere. Russia’s cyber hacks of Ukrainian infrastructure gave it a testbed, and its lessons could be used to target the U.S. We must be very clear with President Putin that Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation are not acceptable. That is why rather than warmly greet Putin in confidential conversations, or weigh his assertions above U.S. intelligence assessments, I would continue a policy of sanctions aimed at the group of Russian leaders who have undermined Ukraine’s democracy, security and territorial integrity, and closely coordinate our policy with our European allies to deepen their impact. And I would once again deepen our NATO ties because this alliance presents one of the strongest bulwarks against Russian aggression.
And because Russia has demonstrated its willingness to invade its neighbors, it is all the more reason that we must ensure we have arms control agreements in place to limit Russia’s nuclear and strategic forces. I had opposed President Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement because its absence opens the door to a new and dangerous arms race. It is all the more critical that we extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to limit Russian nuclear weapons and provide information to the U.S. intelligence community.’

Council on Foreign Relations interview

In the Eyes of ‘the Blob’ and the Secret Intelligence Agencies:

President Gillibrand would probably be acceptable to policymaking elites, intelligence chiefs, and military leaders in the same way Obama was. Like Obama, she resists calls to use U.S. military force but otherwise does not advocate fundamental change in the national security system.

Research: Daniel Ortiz

Return to Insider’s Guide to the 2020 Democrats on War and Peace

How Gillibrand Would End the Endless Wars

Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand speaks out.

Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand coupled a call for an end to America’s “endless wars” with denunciation of President’ Trump’s “unpredictable and often contradictory positions.”

The junior senator from New York called for repealing the post 9/11 congressional resolution used to justify military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia. As president, she said would not go to war without congressional authorization.

If we do need to use force, we must have clear achievable goals where our tactics must match the threat and only when Congress provides the necessary legal authority to send our men and women into harm’s way.

Gillibrand joins rival candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in laying out her foreign policy plans in detail. Unlike them, however, Gillibrand limits her criticism to the Trump ears. Where Sanders, Warren, and Gabbard promise to change U.S. foreign policy as pursued by both Democratic and Republican candidates, Gillibrand is narrower in her critique. Like former vice president Biden, she promises a return to the pre-Trump era, not a new start.

Gillibrand articulates the common denominator positions of the Democratic candidates but does not go beyond it. Like most Democratic contenders, she denounces of “endless war” in the Middle East and Russian intervention is U.S. elections. She opposes to US support for the war in Yemen and Trump’s Iran policy. She embraces allies and favor aid to Central American countries.

Unlike Sanders and Warren she did not link foreign policy to economic policy. Unlike Gabbard she did not reference militarism. She did not criticize Israel or mention Venezuela.

For Gillibrand’s complete remarks, go here.

Continue reading “How Gillibrand Would End the Endless Wars”

On Venezuela, Five 2020 Democratic Candidates Actually Support Trump. Five Oppose Him

Venezuelan Flag

The ordeal of Venezuela is forcing its way into the 2020 presidential campaign.

The sputtering uprising led by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. has Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro gloating about a “failed coup,” while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton are demanding U.S. military options to ward the perception of defeat.

In Washington, the standoff at the Venezuelan embassy between supporters of Guaidó and Maduro continues after the arrest of three people yesterday.

The Democratic response to Venezuela defines a fundamental distinctions between the candidates: do you favor a policy of “regime change” or not? And more generally, what do you think of U.S. interventions to change foreign governments?

Vice President Joe Biden was quick to endorse the Trump approach with a tweet on Tuesday, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg forcefully rejected, in different ways, the Pompeo/Bolton approach of threatening U.S. intervention.

The Trump White House sees political advantages in confronting Maduro, especially in Florida. Dovish Democrats see a public that is sick and tired of the “endless wars” generated by costly and failed post-9/11 interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Hawkish Democrats, while they all oppose Trump on domestic issues, do not break with him on Venezuela. They do not see power struggle and social collapse in Venezuela as another endless war in the making. While they say they don’t support U.S. military intervention, they do not criticize the Trump/Pompeo/Bolton policy short of war.

The hawks include Biden, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressmen Seth Moulton and John Delaney.

The doves, while critical of the Maduro government, denounce the Trump approach. They are sometimes vague or contradictory on whether they oppose sanctions, but they all question the need for demanding a change in government in Caracas. The doves include include Gabbard, Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.

The ducks duck the issue with silence, meaningless statements or “no comment.” So far the ducks include Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris.


The most outspoken dove is Gabbard, who says “the United States needs to stay out of Venezuela.” The Hawaii congresswoman and Iraq war veteran, makes anti-interventionism a central message of her presidential bid.

Tulsi Gabbard

Pete Buttigieg

The South Bend Mayor is getting more forthright about denouncing Trump’s policy, citing his own experience as a military officer.

Bernie Sanders

In an interview with New Yorker, last month, Sanders sounded dovish but he was not as strong as Gabbard and Buttigieg.

I asked Sanders whether he saw Maduro as part of the axis of corrupt authoritarianism. “Yeah,” he said. “It is a failed regime. From all of the recent evidence, it appears that the election was fraudulent. And, despite his ideology, what we need to see is democracy established in Venezuela. That does not mean deciding that some politician is the new President, who never won any election.” I asked whether, given the depth of Venezuela’s suffering, he had considered calling for a more muscular and immediate response than the monitoring of future elections. Sanders thought for a moment, said that military intervention was off the table for him, and added, “The world community has got to be mindful of the humanitarian suffering and the hunger that’s going on in Venezuela right now. But, at the end of the day, I think what you want in one of the largest countries in Latin America is free and fair elections, and we want to do everything we can to establish democracy there.”

Elizabeth Warren

Warren opposes the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and rejects the idea that the United States should attempt to install a leader.

“The Venezuelan people deserve free and fair elections, an economy that works, and the ability to live without fear of violence from their own government,” she said. “Instead of reckless threats of military action or sanctions that hurt those in need, we should be taking real steps to support the Venezuelan people.”

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post

Andrew Yang

The Silicon Valley social entrepreneur renounces “regime change” as a U.S. goal.

My goal as president would be to help assist the Venezuelan people in any way we can — any sort of humanitarian intervention that would help ease the suffering.

I do not think it’s the US’s place to engage in regime change. Our track record on making decisions for other countries is very, very uneven at best. So certainly if there’s anything we can do to support on a humanitarian level, I’d be eager to do it, but I don’t think we should be choosing other nations’ leaders. …

Yes, I’d recognize [Guaidó]. I just wouldn’t militarily intervene to depose Nicolás Maduro and insert him.

Business Insider


Joe Biden

On Monday Biden pinned his tweet in support regime change and voiced no criticism of Trump’s approach.

Amy Klobuchar

In March Klobuchar told NBC that military intervention should always be “on the table.” As she put it to the Huffington Post,

“I support the people of Venezuela standing up against Maduro, installing a new leader, and restoring democracy in Venezuela,” Klobuchar said in an email.

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post

Klobuchar didn’t explicitly address the crucial issue of sanctions but her support for Trump policy seems clear.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand supports Guaidó and sanctions.

“Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) supports working with our allies to recognize Juan Guaidó – who was legitimately elected – as the interim president under the Constitution until Venezuela can hold new elections,” said Meredith Kelly, communications director for Sen. Gillibrand’s presidential exploratory committee. “And while she believes economic sanctions are the appropriate response to achieve this, she does not support sending troops to Venezuela.”

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post

Seth Moulton

I support Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaidó …
It is clear: Nicolás Maduro must go …
Here at home, we must also be cognizant of America’s mixed history of intervention in the region. President Trump does not have the required Congressional authorization to use force in Venezuela. Intervening militarily in Venezuela today would give credence to Maduro’s history of fear-mongering that the U.S. will do just that. As a separate and co-equal branch of government, it is Congress’s constitutional responsibility to prohibit the use of funds for any unauthorized military campaign.

Press Release — 2.8.2019

John Delaney

Delaney supports sanctions and opposes U.S. military intervention.

“I’m not in favor of us intervening to change the regime, although I am in favor of the fact that we don’t recognize Maduro as the leader of the country. I’m in favor of sanctions … I think the United States needs to be working with all the other interested countries … What I worry most about the situation is because of the relationship the country has with its neighbors, something like 15% almost 20% of the population has already left the country. So we may actually be watching a dying country … But I don’t favor a military intervention in part because why would we go to war with the group, or people, or the military who are going to be needed to actually save the country.”

Source: SiriusXM — The Big Picture With Olivier Knox: Mob Hits; Middle East Policy .(4/3/2019)


Julian Castro

When the Huffington Post asked Castro’s campaign for comment on the situation in Venezuela, the campaign did not respond.

Kamala Harris

When the Huffington Post reached out to Harris’s campaign for a comment on Venezuela, the campaign did not respond.

Beto O’Rourke

When In These Times asked O’Rourke’s campaign to comment, the email bounced.

Cory Booker

In a brief interview on Capitol Hill, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told HuffPost that Maduro “is alarming to me on many levels” but did not elaborate beyond that. His office did not respond to further requests for comment. 

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post