Friday, March 17, 2006

Congressional "protectionists" with allies as well?

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a $256 billion fighter jet program led by the United States and co-financed by eight allied nations — was supposed to be a model of international cooperation. But because of American reluctance to share critical technologies, some of the biggest partners are threatening to withdraw.

This week, Britain, the principal foreign partner in the program to build the next-generation radar-evading supersonic jet, delivered an ultimatum at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Lord Peter Drayson, Britain's top weapons buyer, said Britain would withdraw from the program unless it gained better access to software technology and stealth technology needed to maintain and upgrade the planes it buys.

Okay, I'm going to have to plead waaaaay uninformed here. Perhaps a few of you military savvy ones can help ramp me up to speed in the interim here. (ahem... mdconservative?)

What I do know about the
Joint Strike Fighter was it was an expensive design, and thereby cooperation between the UK (who would also purchase planes for their Royal Navy) and US was meant to keep costs down. Original bidding for the contracts came down to Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.... which the latter finally won back in 2001.

Good thing since the whole shebang would have most definitely gone done in flames with UAE's current bid to acquire Boeing....

Since the first plans, and sundry delays, increasing costs, a few more allies have jumped into the financial pot - a cooperative effort between eight nations all together, including Norway, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and the Netherlands to name a few.

Congressional objections that I know of ran the gambit from whether or not it was an advanced enough (or outdated?) design to compete with Russian craft of similar nature, to the costs and delays in the programs. A couple of these articles can be found
here and here.

Since I'm not up to date on the latest, I'll reserve further comments about military technology of which I know little. I did have my hands on the latest report sent to Congress in summer of 2005, PDF format. But I'll have to find that again as I didn't bookmark it. Patience, please.

In the interim, I will comment on an area where I do feel comfortable. And that is the continued negative impression Congress gives to foreign nations about doing business and investments with the US. And an ultimatum coming from valued allies like this... clear of any Arab-phobia... shows that our Congress is consistant for a change - but headed down a very dangerous road of protectionism and isolationism.

Let me 'fess up right now. I used to be a protectionist myself. I have a great deal of romantic respect for our first President, that would be Washington for any of you history-challenged... LOL - who insisted that we maintain at least the basics in our nation for self-sustanence. That would include industries such as textiles, steel, copper, aluminum, energy and defense at minimum. Being independent for our most basic needs is only logical.

But since we've already given away the farm on most of these basics, trying to play protectionist at this stage of the game is nothing short of ludicrous. This smacks of the same nonsense as the ports deal. The parallels - sans the racist element - cannot be denied.

Now I'll quit while I'm ahead... for now. But I'm quite sure this story, along with the ports sale fiasco, are harbingers that we should not ignore. Evidently, friend or foe... we trust no one anymore.


Rastus said...

With regard to their apparent isolationist path, Congress is just reacting to the mood of the American people, which is in turn much more a reaction, however belated, against the offshoring of our production capacity, overriding in importance even the national security issue. Bear with me as I explain.

Government economists keep telling us that our problem is that we simply buy too many foreign-made goods, but we know the lie behind that: Most of what we buy on a day-to-day basis is simply not available from any domestic source any more. The manager class, anxious to enhance their portfolios, have instead used the Wal-Mart model to offer us cheaply made, third world crap in place of the quality merchandise we used to get, and call it "consumer value". People don't want any more of that; they want quality again, and decent jobs again. They realize that that $10 item costs them more in the long run than the quality $60 American one did. They want "Made in the USA" to have respect again, even if it means that the Jack Welch's of the world get paid a few million less, and actually have to figure out how to compete, instead of simply buying their way bigger.

You're correct, Mata, that we have gone far past the point where we can simply cut ourtselves off from the world and go it alone. We have allowed nearly our entire manufacturing base to be exported, along with all the technology that made the USA the world economic leader. We manufacture very little any more, and we therefore have little to offer in trade except our managerial skills, and they obviously aren't anything worth bragging about. We have tens of thousands of engineers who can't find work in their fields because the design work has also been sent overseas. What a wasted resource!! Then companies complain that there aren't enough H1B visas to satisfy the "shortage" of engineers, and wonder why young men aren't enrolling in engineering courses so much any more. They complain about the lack of entry level workers and field laborers and demand work permits for illegal Mexicans, yet they leave hundreds of thousands of American teenagers unemployed and on the streets, with no prospects, few work skills and no vision of the future. And then we wonder why kids turn to drugs or crime.

Worse, we've been encouraged by stupidly easy credit and the abuse of our currency via artificially low interest rates to believe that the prosperity our ancestors spent 200 years building can be mortgaged beyond its value, and that this won't come back to bite us or our children eventually. I've not seen anyone explain adequately how present policy will in any way benefit us in the long run, short of offering us low prices for goods we won't have the earning capacity to afford anyway. The people are economically ignorant, but not totally stupid; a sense of foreboding is starting to nag us all. People know we're deep in debt, but they're rebelling against the idea that we have to relinquish the farm to the lenders in order to satisfy that debt. They want to explore other ways first. That is why you see Congress in such political disarray; they know that business as usual won't cut it any more.

The lack of manufacturing capability and the huge pile of debt that the aforementioned business "strategy" has caused us to amass has, as you correctly point out, rendered us unable simply to isolate ourselves suddenly from the world economy. But many people are starting to feel as though caught in a trap by those policies. Whether of their own making or not, it's a trap they want to escape, before they're devoured. What they're saying is, "Stop subsidizing the large corporations' giveaways of all of that's valuable, and worse, make them stop giving away the technology leadership that allows us to defend ourselves. Make, or at least encourage, them to start hiring Americans again to do the work that needs doing, even if it costs us a few extra bucks in the short term. And for God's sake, stop the harassment of small businesses by the IRS, EPA, OSHA and other agencies who make it next to impossible for the economy to develop and thrive, and create new jobs. Take decisive action against countries that manipulate their currencies in order to draw American capital to themselves, and have some integrity, and some damned balls, when confronting nations who abuse our good faith in their efforts to drain our economy. We don't like subsidizing thievery.

What concerns me about your position, Mata, is that while you correctly recognize that we're not in a position to be isolationist, you also seem to be saying, "It's over. Just accept that and give in to globalism." I think that's terribly dangerous. It's tantamount to giving away our sovereignty, because by giving in to an economic globalism that deprives us of the ability to support and protect ourselves, we will ultimately be forced to accept its full implications: that of global governance and the destruction of our civil liberties. I'm not ready to do that, and I don't think you are either. Economic freedom is meaningless without the civil liberties that make it possible.

MataHarley said...

I have no disagreement with you, Rastus. We are on the same page... but for one small item. And that's not a disagreement, but your misinterpretation of my 'tude.

I'm not a "give up" kind of person. I think we need to engage in globalism in some realms, but also take back our fundamental manufacturing industries in others just to cover our own proverbial butts. How to diplomatically & economically accomplish that is be way beyond me. But I am of the opinion that it is the best balance that can be reached.

However, those that are able, or responsible for taking back some of industry are of the "give up, it's over" mentality. You and I are just being dragged along for the ride.

On the specifics of the JSF technology... that falls into the "globalization" realm for me. I can't see the logic to sell the product to allies, who shared in the R'n'D costs, but then deny them the technology to maintain the craft. Hang, that's like selling a Playstation II, but refusing to pass on the manual. Or putting out new auto engine designs, but not allowing anyone but dealerships the service manuals to maintain and repair.

My point is, if we trust the partners in the JSF as allies, enough so to even allow them the military capability of this stealth fighter, then we should also be confident in their alliance enough to provide them with the technology as well.

MDConservative said...

I'm putting together a full response for you.

But on something like this I want to double check a few things first.

MataHarley said...

Thanks so much, mdcon. Looking forward to hearing your input on the issue.