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Archive for September, 2013

How Much Will It Cost to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons?

September 17th, 2013

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Isolating and destroying Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons is, finally, within reach. But of course, any complex international endeavor involves price tags—monetary and otherwise.

Estimating the dollar cost of destroying the roughly 1,000 tons of Syrian chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war is challenging. But it’s possible to come up with a ballpark estimate.

First, let’s look at what the U.S. spent destroying its chemical weapons stockpile using incineration and neutralization processes, which both seasoned chemists and Breaking Bad fans should appreciate. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Materials Agency oversaw the destruction of just over 28,364 tons of chemical weapons—nearly 90 percent of the U.S. stockpile—for an estimated cost of $28 billion. That’s about $1 billion per 1,000 tons.

The remaining 10 percent of the stockpile—3,136 tons—will be eliminated by 2023. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Weapons Alternative program, which is managing the destruction, estimates it will cost $10.6 billion, or about $3 billion per thousand tons.

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With friends like these…

September 16th, 2013

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Democrats got three surprises last week.

One was that the party would not hold together behind President Obama’s call for a military strike in Syria. Another was that Democrats in Colorado did not rally to the cause of gun control. The third was that New York Democrats have come up with an unexpected new spokesman for urban America.

What do the three surprises add up to? The fact that the New America coalition that President Obama brought to power is ready to set out on its own, independent of Obama.

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Bipartisan and Pragmatic? What’s not to love?

September 11th, 2013

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Let’s be clear: the time for energy efficiency is now. We’re beyond the days of comprehensive energy legislation; cap and trade is dead and buried, carbon tax a policy for a far-off political future. In this age of incremental improvements, many issues, from fracking to nuclear, are divisive. That’s exactly why Third Way strongly supports advancing energy policies in smaller, yet still important components.  Efficiency is one topic that everyone can agree on – it saves Americans money and makes our economy stronger and more competitive. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act acknowledges the political realities of today and has earned support from both sides of the aisle.

If the time for energy efficiency is now, what could go wrong?

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Americans Tire of ‘World Police’ Role

September 9th, 2013

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President Obama is trying to pull off a difficult political feat. He is asking Congress to defy public opinion. When Congress is heedless of public opinion, there is always a political price to be paid.

Case in point: the Senate vote to ratify the Panama Canal treaties in 1978. Many years later, President Jimmy Carter called it “the most courageous decision in the history of the U.S. Congress.” And what happened? The public rose up. The issue energized conservatives. Ronald Reagan made the canal his signature cause. His rallying cry: “We built it. We paid for it. It’s ours. And we’re going to keep it.”

The Senate ratified the treaties by a one-vote margin in 1978. And then? Here’s how former President Carter tells the story: “There were twenty senators who voted for the treaties up for re-election in 1978. Only seven of them came back to the Senate the next year.” Another twelve treaty supporters were defeated in 1980, including Democrats Frank Church of Idaho, Birch Bayh of Indiana and George McGovern of South Dakota. Not to mention President Carter himself.

On Syria, public opinion could not be clearer. Americans strongly–and loudly–oppose a military strike. Unfortunately for President Obama, the issue came up when Members of Congress were on their summer recess, most of them in their home districts. Constituents had access to their Representatives. And the Representatives got an earful. Rep. Tom Cole (R-S.C.) told the New York Times, “I literally cannot walk across the parking lot without being stopped to talk about this issue.”

“To say it’s 99 percent against would be overstating the support,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told the Times. The Washington Post reported this message on the Facebook page of Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.): “The American people DO NOT WANT to get involved in Syria. Are you listening? We will not forget who votes for this garbage.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) warned his colleagues in a tweet, “If you’re voting ‘yes’ on military action in Syria, might as well start cleaning out your office. Unprecedented level of public opposition.”

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The Politics of Syria

September 4th, 2013

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Congressional Democrats are in a bind. If they vote to authorize a military strike on Syria, they could be putting the country on a slippery slope to war. But if they vote no, they will deliver a crushing defeat to their president.

What President Barack Obama did was call their bluff. Last week, more than 50 House Democratssigned a letter urging the president to “seek an affirmative decision of Congress” before committing to any military engagement. That was the Democrats’ way of going on record to express reservations about what Obama sounded like he was going to do anyway. Then, lo and behold, the president decided to do exactly what they asked. Now it’s their decision. Read the rest of this entry »