Dempsey's Words of Warning

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, General Martin Dempsey, nominated to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a host of warnings to offer. He said that cutting the defense budget too deeply is very dangerous, and added that the suggestion that spending should be slashed by $800 billion over the next 12 years “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.”

Taking on Iran, Dempsey counseled Tehran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons and support for insurgents in Iraq, calling the regime a “destabilizing force.” “With its nuclear activities and its surrogate activities in southern Iraq, there is a high potential that Iran will make a serious miscalculation of US resolve,” Dempsey cautioned.

And moving to Pakistan, Dempsey said that he would keep the pressure on Islamabad to fight extremists if he were chairman. He said the key will be showing the Pakistani government that those extremists are a greater threat than India ever will be. As Dempsey put it, Pakistan persists “in the idea that India poses an existential threat to their existence while the terrorists that operate with some impunity in North West Frontier Province and FATA are less of a threat to them, and therefore they allocate their resources accordingly.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is looking over a battle concept drawn up by the Navy and Air Force that was developed in reaction to China’s military growth and Iranian weapons advancements. In the plan, the Navy and Air Force will join forces to make longer-range strikes possible. Unclassified portions of the concept could be released in a few weeks. China meanwhile is not happy about U.S. surveillance flights near its coast, saying they disrupted the strategic trust that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen spoke of earlier in the week. On Monday Mullen let Beijing know that Washington would carry out the surveillance flights in response to news that Chinese planes entered Taiwan’s airspace to pursue a U.S. plane.

In his meeting tomorrow with Stephen Bosworth, the North Korean vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, will likely mention the prospect of a peace agreement officially ending the Korean War as a first step toward denuclearization talks. Other than the sitdown with Bosworth, details of Kim’s visit to the United States are hard to come by.