Friday, March 23, 2012

“Executive Order – National Defense Resources Preparedness”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Executive Order – National Defense Resources Preparedness”
March 23, 2012

American democracy is based upon maintaining a balance of power between the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial. An independent press – sometimes known as the fourth estate – is charged with ensuring that power does not accrue to any one branch. Thomas Carlyle, in his book, On Heroes and Hero Worship, attributed the term to Edmund Burke, who had used the term in a 1787 debate in Parliament: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” The press today is overwhelmingly dominated by the Left, so is less vigilant in their duties when a liberal Democrat sits in the White House, than Edmund Burke perceived their responsibilities to be when he spoke 225 years ago. Fortunately, the internet has permitted bloggers and others to keep the flame of freedom alive, and the feet of toady reporters to the flame.

Despite the periodic expressions by Presidents who have felt constrained by the Bench , the risk of a power grab has always been with the Executive. Other than the pre-Civil War period, following the end of Andrew Jackson’s second term and Lincoln’s first, when three Senators – Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun – dominated Washington, Presidents have generally held their own, and sometimes more. For example, during the Civil War President Lincoln halted freedom of speech and of the press, while suspending Habeas Corpus. During World War I, when Congress refused to grant President Wilson extended power over resources, he invoked an Executive Order providing him that very control Congress had denied. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt interned American citizens of Japanese descent – a violation of their Constitutional rights. Ironically, those three Presidents who have done the most to curtail the rights of individuals are among those most praised.

Now President Obama has signed an Executive Order (EO), the policy of which states: “The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.” (The emphasis is mine.) The EO signed on March 16 expands on a prior order originally issued in 1950, and which has been amended on several occasions, giving the President complete control over all the resources of the United States in time of war and emergency.

Conspiracy theories abound, suggesting that the signing of the EO is but a prelude for the imposition of martial law by a President who was apprenticed under Saul Alinsky and instructed by Jeremiah Wright. However, as stated above, the country has functioned under this Act that has been updated by every President from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush; so supposing the worst seems like a stretch.

The Order is filled with legalese that is over my head, but is couched in such terms that an initial reading says, of course, we must ensure availability of energy and food in times of crisis. Nevertheless, questions arise. Why in peacetime? And why was it issued at this time, with Osama bin Laden dead and our winding down military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why did the President choose to issue it on a Friday afternoon, a time when politicians typically attempt to slip bad news past a press more focused on the upcoming weekend than events in the nation’s capital? In short, what, if anything, is the President hiding?

Edwin Black, a journalist and best selling author of several books including one last year on British Petroleum, believes that the reason for the EO is oil and the potential for its disruption. Given the situation in the Middle East with Israel determined (and properly so) to protect itself against a potential nuclear-armed Iran, hostilities could close the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 20% of the world’s crude oil pass.

Conservative pundit Ed Morrissey, though, says it is much-ado about nothing; perhaps he is right.

However, the most important criticism I have read comes from J. E. Dyer, a retired U.S. Naval commander who keeps a blog, the “Conservative Optimist” and who writes for The Weekly Standard. She suggested on March 19th that one should follow the “M” word, not “M” for martial law, but “M” for money. Her point is that the Obama Administration has made it clear, in its public posturing, that defense spending must be cut – funds have been cut for the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV and the F-35; bases are being closed in Europe and military forces will be reduced by 80,000. But the EO, she notes, suggests a need to fund special projects, investments in “advanced manufacturing.”

Following the money does appear to have relevance. This Administration created a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, a position that needs no Senate confirmation, yet one that manages the Defense Production Act Fund. That fund will invest in “advanced manufacturing technologies for the defense industry.” In 2009, the President created a Defense Production Act Committee to oversee these investments. In June of last year, the Obama Administration launched an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, charged with identifying opportunities and dispensing funds.

The risk, obviously, is that the unstated purpose of this EO may be to further the type of crony capitalism we have seen in President Obama’s push for “green energy”, exemplified by the failure of Solyndra, a company whose CEO was one of Mr. Obama’s largest bundlers.

Concerns about the EO may be overblown. It does not appear to be a precursor of martial law. But, it is an Executive Order that focuses on the dispensing of money, even though disbursements are generally the purview of Congress. I agree with Ms. Dyer’s concluding sentence: “I don’t think the EO or its timing is meaningless, or merely routine.” It needs to be closely monitored, which is why we need a real Fourth Estate, not the sycophants that seem to populate our mainstream media.

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