Thursday, July 11, 2013

Immigration Reform, Intelligence, DoD, Hijackings.

A few thoughts this morning...

1) House Republicans are making an awful mistake on immigration reform. I get and respect that many members of the Republican caucus oppose the Senate's immigration bill. That's fair enough. But to simply offer intransigent opposition without response would be terrible mistake. It would play to Democratic caricatures of the GOP as a party that has no interest in governing. It would reinforce negative perceptions of the GOP in the eyes of Hispanic Americans. Most of all, it would represent a stunning neglect of the ultimate responsibility of elected officials to govern. There can be no doubt that America's immigration system is broken. It deserves and requires resolution. Yet, I fear that in much the same way as was the case with health care reform, by ceding the debate, Republicans will also effectively cede control over the contours of immigration reform. This will lead to the worst possible outcome - open borders, unfettered amnesty and a tremendous political defeat for the GOP brand. House Republicans need to listen to conservatives like Paul Ryan.

2) Members of Congress are complaining that the Intelligence Community regularly obfuscate their reports to the intelligence oversight committees. This is nothing new (see The Deep State). Yet, it's open airing speaks to a dysfunction at the heart of the US Government. Many intelligence professionals simply do not believe that politicians can be trusted to make objective decisions on the merits of particular intelligence operations. As a result, they do their utmost to sell those programs in uncontroversial ways. Don't get me wrong, misleading Congress is absolutely unacceptable and where it occurs, it must now stop. Nevertheless, Congress bears responsibility for its shifting rhetoric on the constitution of appropriate intelligence activities.

3) I share Chuck Hagel's concern over the looming impact of the sequester on the US Military. Unfortunately, until Democrats accept the inevitability of major entitlement reform, the prospects of an appropriate defense resolution are very low. It's stunning to me that liberals still refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue over entitlements. The numbers speak for themselves. In the interim however, it's crucial that Hagel resists efforts by President Obama to play politics with the sequester (a preference for which Obama has previously shown significant sympathy). For one example, it makes no sense that USN/USAF fighter squadrons are seeing degraded readiness. We should be closing bases before degrading our power projection capabilities.

4) A new book on air hijackings has been released. The author covers the 'epidemic' in hijackings that afflicted the world in the 1960s/70s. Of course, things have since changed. The threat of suicide hijackings and the rise in politically motivated attacks (especially by Palestinian affiliated terrorist organizations) forced western governments to develop highly trained counter-terrorism capabilities. For example, the United States lead agency for plane focused hostage rescues is ACE (aka Delta Force). Combined with greatly improved airport security efforts, the ability to respond to and effectively resolve hijackings has meant that air travel is now substantially safer.

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