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Franklin C. Spinney

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The Malleable Bi-Partisan Utility of Poison Gas

If there was a centerpiece to Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign for President of the United States, it was her struggle to convince the American people that Donald Trump was congenitally incapable of reacting rationally when surprised by a dangerous international crisis.  She struggled futilely to contrast her experience and gravitas to Trump’s reckless impulsiveness.  In a rational world, the recent Trumpian brain fart of firing  59 cruise missiles (worth about $90 million) at a nearly empty — and forewarned —  Syrian airfield should be a candidate case study to test Clinton’s psychological theory. But it won’t be. Mr. Trump merely did what Ms. Clinton called on him to do (see this video) a few hours prior to the attack.  Moreover, the political response to Trump’s attack has been one of widespread bipartisan support, with particular enthusiasm among senior Democrats [e.g, see 12  3]
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Defense Spending: Do Presidents Make a Difference?

It’s generally taken for granted in the press and by the "Defense Cognoscenti" that the election of a president is a major determinant of  the size and shape of the defense budget.  It is also conventional wisdom that Republicans have been more pro-defense than Democrats — with the degree of being pro-defense measured by the size of the defense budget.  If these assumptions were universally true, the historical record would bear this out.  But the historical record is mixed, to put it charitably.
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Ukraine's Very Suspicious Weapons 'Purchase'

Defense News, a defense industry trade publication, just released a report entitled, Ukraine Signs Defense Deal with UAE. It led with:
ABU DHABI — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a deal for unspecified military and technical cooperation with the UAE on Tuesday, and said negotiations are ongoing with the United States and unspecified European nations.

Poroshenko told reporters at the IDEX show here that he hoped talks with the US would yield an agreement to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia. Poroshenko reportedly planned to meet with chief Pentagon weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, at the show.
An arms deal between Ukraine and the UAE — what gives?
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Is Privatizing the Afghan War a Feasible Exit Strategy...

...or is it a formula for perpetual war?

President Obama may have told Congress and the American people in his state of the union address that the American combat mission in Afghanistan is over, but that claim is a bit disingenuous, to put it charitably. 

To be sure, the military presence has been reduced, and only 9,800 troops remain in Afghanistan. However, the incoming Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, already indicated a willingness to slow down or possibility reverse the ongoing drawdown, should security conditions “degrade."
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