Former Intelligence Chief Blair Calls for End to Drone War

Noah Shachtman has the story about Adm. Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence, who just called for a sweeping reconsideration of U.S. strategy in what used to be called the “global war on terror”. In particular, Blair questioned the effectiveness of U.S. drone strikes, noting that whatever damage they might do to terrorist networks is likely cancelled out by the destructive effects the drone war is having on relations with both the governments and populations of countries like Pakistan and Yemen.

While Blair suggested that drone strikes might still be permissible if executed in consultation with local governments, he called for an end to all unilateral drone strikes. Coming as the Obama administration continues to step up the use of Predator and Reaper drones across the world, this makes Blair the most prominent former national security official to question the conduct of the drone war as such. And as discussed here previously, this is precisely the sort of conversation that needs to be had in Washington: the seemingly “clean” and “low-cost” nature of drone strikes means that Obama will likely only reconsider his use of them if prominent political figures raise the profile of the issue and force him to pay a political price at home for relying on Predators and Reapers as primary instruments of foreign policy.

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.

10 Comments

  1. My uncle, a CFP referenced above made another argument that I utterly destroyed. He points out that historically the rich have paid only 20% in effective tax rates. Considering that they are currently paying, on average 16% then they should get a 25% tax rate increase in real effective rates paid.

    Since raising marginal taxes only results in slight increases in effective rates paid, perhaps tax rates on high, high earners needs to be raised even higher than 25%. I would have a 50% tax rate on income exceeding $1m/yr.

    Since the high tax rates of the post WW2 era never resulted in effective rates that were only modestly higher, we must ask what happened.

    The effect I describe is that companies/individuals facing high tax rates have an increased incentive to defer profits for investment. This would not change revenues for a particular firm, but would (and historically has) grown GDP. As other firms would build that new warehouse, or lower taxed employees are hired, or other stimulative activity.

    Low taxes make is cheaper/easier to sell off assets, take high pay, or otherwise bleed the firm from the top. And, since the Reagan revolution, we have seen just that, a hollowing out of America, a dearth of manufacturing and jobs, outsourcing and many of the novel developments that makes you think my arguments are anachronistic.

    Explain Germany to me Jon? US manufacturing, like German manufacturing out produces it’s Chinese cousins. Yet, the lobbyists, who are the non-productive types encouraged by our low tax rates have perverted our system. We can emulate a banana republic, or we can emulate an advanced economy.

    I plan to move to Algeria, which has low taxes and few jobs. I can do this once I collect the various inheritances that should inevitably come my way. I will be able to hold on to my nest egg with fewer taxes. However, these factors which are beneficial to my hording cash offers few jobs.

    High tax rates on high earners is good for the economy, and expands GDP. Wealth by nature tends to aggregate in the hands of a few. Only Progressive tax rates can stimulate them to engage their money and stimulate the economy. Having money makes making money easy. Taxes are the fairest way to expand GDP. And, are better than the poor rising up and killing the rich! Or, simple confiscation, or other oppressive redistribution programs.

  2. Jon, the many loopholes and tax credits have undermined the tax effect I am writing about. But, it is still true that the tax rate is the discount rate for investment and hiring. This requires some protectionism as well. Considering that the one great asset the US has is it’s consumer base; it’s disgusting that our politicos won’t use that to demand–you wish to access our markets you must produce here.

    Jon, what I’m saying isn’t outdated–though perhaps out of fashion. The Chicago School (Laffer, Friedman) of economics is a fraud. They have undermined economics with idiotic theories that have no basis in research or facts.

    No Jon, it hasn’t changed, but been watered down. Accelerated depreciation absolutely stimulated purchases of SUV’s, Hummers and Suburbans. You perhaps don’t really understand what I am talking about. Hell, my uncle called me an idiot when I proposed this theory, until he had to admit I am right. You need to think about it–THE TAX RATE IS THE DISCOUNT RATE FOR INVESTMENT AND HIRING. The higher the tax rate, the greater the incentive to avoid taxes. Small businesses, entrepreneurs can always defer income/profits by investing in themselves. This encourages people to defer profits for greater wealth. (Ethanol credits and other targeted tax concessions amount to command economics and not something I support. Purging the tax code of loopholes coupled with a dose of protectionism will reinforce the effect that no one wants to admit, but can’t refute.)

    I would argue that taxes should be viewed like Sodium. There is a balance to strike, if our levels are too high, that is bad, just as sodium levels must remain high enough for us to function properly. I know, I’m years behind the times defending sodium, but, I’m right. Sodium doesn’t harm most people, higher tax rates have the least effect on small businesses and entrepreneurs. Those most hurt, like sodium are the bloated, gout riddled fat-cats who abuse their positions.

    High taxes really stick a few people, corporate execs, media stars (TV journalist, athletes, actors) lobbyists and small professional corporations. The funny thing is these people produce nothing, risk nothing, and have few expenses. They lobby gov’t for a living, or otherwise game the system. Taxing them into submission would be good for our economy.

    We have a demand recession. There is no shortage of liquidity among big corps and the wealthy. Raising taxes on them, and the $2trillion in corporate reserves would force them to engage their money.

    I’m not out of date, you’ve been brainwashed by the low tax fundamentalists. What galls me the most is that they argue this in defense of small businesses. What utter hogwash! Small businesses aren’t affected by taxes, they are the most nimble players in the market. All I know Jon is that I’ve been a small businessman for 25 years. My grandfather was president of Champion Paper, retiring in the early 80’s. He never earned a $1/4 mil/yr, though his successor, beneficiary of Reagan tax rates pulled down $1.3mil/yr. While my grandfather was pissed, I dare say the stockholders should be the angry ones.

    I know you’ve succumbed to an effective propaganda campaign. What I’ve written isn’t out of date. Rather, it’s utterly evergreen. Name me ONE COUNTRY, one accounting system that doesn’t consider investment and employee costs as a business expense? So long as this is true, high tax rates will always increase the incentive to invest and hire. The mistake that you and those who’ve swayed you make is to look at this from a macro level. Look at it from a firm’s perspective, it becomes crystal clear.

    Of course, I might be crazy, and ignorant. And, those who have no interaction with small businesses, who only lobby Congress with their non-profits (for whom these rules don’t apply, since these sophists aren’t taxed.) Grover Norquist has NEVER run a business but only run two non-profit lobbies, to shelter and protect the fortune his daddy left him. Sorry Jon, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  3. Your first comment, Scott, does not go to the point I made and indeed makes no sense to me.

    Regarding your second comment, you might do a little independent research instead of speculating on what I was “suggesting.” Correcting me on the number of jobs available, for example, while at the same time reframing the context is really out of bounds. Try making your own points instead of misrepresenting mine and then putting a spin on that misrepresentation.

    Your comment on job training and taxes is outdated. The actual state of U.S. and international tax laws vitiates your conception. You’re about 20-25 years behind the times.

  4. If, you were suggesting that there are high tech jobs available, (not hundreds of thousands) then the companies could/should train workers to do that work. It’s niggardly of them to have stopped this traditional role. Ironically, raising taxes would increase the incentive for them to avoid taxes by sinking profits into job training, hiring and investment.

  5. “have several hundred thousand job openingss at least that cannot be filled because there are no American workers available who possess the requisite skills.”

    We have many Americans willing to do the menial work you describe, they are skilled, just unwilling to do the work for minimum wage.

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