To the UK, I apologize

March 8, 2009

I feel I must apologize for our president. I’ve been hearing press coverage of PM Brown’s visit to the U.S. and it’s discouraging. I finally heard about the visit through the UK Telegraph, and now I’m embarrassed. Granted, from all accounts the “meat” of the reason for Brown’s visit was accomplished, but diplomacy is communication by various means including the use of words, decorum, and going through rituals of tradition, which indicate the state of our relationship with another nation. One of Barack Obama’s promises was to rebuild foreign relationships which had been “so badly damaged” by the Bush Administration. He’s getting off to a bad start (h/t to ArmyWife).

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.

A British official conceded that the furore surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. “I think it’s right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn’t quite understand the British concerns and didn’t get what that was all about.”

Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

How is this a way to treat our closest ally? Obama was much more deferential to the nations of the Middle East than this. I don’t recall the U.S. being this ham-handed with any foreign dignitary during the Clinton presidency, or that of George W. Bush.

Mr Obama rang Mr Brown as he flew home, in what many suspected was an attempt to make amends.

I was aghast at the following:

The real views of many in Obama administration (sic) were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.

After all we’ve been through!!…Again, I must apologize. The UK has stuck with us arm in arm, more than many other nations have, in the War on Terror (as we call it here), and this is the kind of regard we have for them. Shameful. Well at least Obama had kind words to say about Canada, which has helped us out in Afghanistan. Of all the nations I can think of who have been our friends, I feel as though the UK has done the most heavy lifting for us. We should express our gratitude at every opportunity.

Why the slights? It’s being explained here that PM Brown is not popular in the UK. His power is declining, and Obama is not interested in weak leaders. I even heard it’s likely the conservatives will take over Parliament soon. This may be true, but I’ve never heard that excuse before with regard to state visits. When PM Blair was at his lowest popularity the White House still held joint press conferences with him, and the president still talked about our “special relationship” with the UK. When PM John Major’s popularity was only so-so, the White House showed him no less deference, as I recall. I think this reveals a certain arrogance on Obama’s part. What’s striking to me is how liberals are apparently blowing off these slights like it’s no big deal.

Actually, this is not the first time Democrats have put domestic concerns over diplomacy. I can remember not too long ago when they wanted to pass a formal resolution in congress condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide. What they apparently weren’t aware of was that Turkey was helping us out in critical ways with the operation of the war in Iraq. Maybe they didn’t care. Once the Iraq war turned into a “fiasco” Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. As a result the Democrats were tone deaf on this issue. This is a sore point with Turkey, and at the time it was unwise to anger them.

Over the past few years Democrats have trumpeted how incompetent the Bush Administration was at diplomacy and foreign policy, as if they knew better. Incompetent compared to this?? You must be joking! Obama chided Americans during his campaign for our lack of knowledge about the world, and that the only foreign words we knew were the French “merci beaucoup”. PM Brown offered Obama a gift that had cultural and historical significance, showing that he and his crew had thought a lot about it. Obama offered Brown a set of DVDs. How quaint. I would be embarrassed and profusely apologetic if I were him.

I can’t help but think this latest incident has to do with our nation’s current view of the Iraq war, that it was a colossal foreign policy blunder. For those who have been paying attention it’s known that the UK didn’t just follow our lead into Iraq. PM Blair believed as we did that Saddam Hussein needed to be toppled. Now that we “know better” perhaps there are many in the powers that be who believe our relationship with the UK had something to do with this “colossal blunder”. After all, Bush uttered his famous words about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger, based on British intelligence. The threat of Iraq building nuclear weapons was the primary reason that most Americans think we invaded. I get a sense that there’s a desire to wash our hands of the whole affair, and everyone who was involved in it. It’s similar to the way in which people don’t want to relive the horror of 9/11. I can remember when the movie United 93 came out a few years ago people said they thought it was “too soon” to tell the story. The truth was a lot of us wanted to put 9/11 behind us, in a dark corner where we could ignore it. This sort of denial is never healthy.

Well at least for this American the UK holds special stature. I hope that in the future we will be able to make it up to you.

Edit 3/8/2009: Well this explains a lot. Morris Reid, former Clinton advisor, says “The special relationship (with the UK) is over and dead. It’s a different day.” Gee, I hadn’t gotten the memo.

I’ve been reading some more articles about Brown’s visit and it seems everyone thinks the DVDs were an odd “quickie” or “cheap” gift. A few sharp people made the point, “Better hope the DVDs were Region 2 encoded (European), not Region 1 (American) or else they won’t play.” D’oh!


Winning on nothing

November 5, 2008

Barack Obama won the presidency last night, and the Democrats gained larger majorities in the House and Senate. Despite Hillary Clinton’s vigorous campaign that brought the nomination down to the wire, and nearly split the party; despite defections like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Lynn Forrester de Rothschild, the PUMAs, and Democrats for McCain; despite McCain nominating a woman for VP, none of it mattered. He won a comfortable victory.

Did anyone know what he was going to do if he won? Basically all we got was stuff like this:

and this…

Obama won on nothing but voter anger towards Republicans and “hope” that a Democrat will do something, again we don’t know what, to make their lives better.

In 2004, shortly before that year’s election, Lawrence O’Donnell was challenged by one of his compatriots on a political discussion show about John Kerry giving the American people “nothing” to go on. O’Donnell made a bold prediction, like he always does (a bit of a fanatic if you ask me), that Kerry would “win on nothing” in that year’s presidential election, just as the Democrats did in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, because people were so fed up with George W. Bush. In other words, all Kerry really had to do was stand there and say “I’m not Bush”, without saying much about what he would do differently, and he would win. It didn’t turn out that way. Bush won handily. However, rather than change their approach the Democrats just repeated the same strategy. This time it worked. The difference is Obama did it better than Kerry did. Kerry was not too great at PR. Obama is much better. Obama also didn’t run against Bush the man, but a weaker campaign in the candidacy of John McCain (which of course he cast as “Bush’s third term”).

It appears that Obama won mainly on the economy. He appeared more sympathetic to the plight of the needy than McCain did. Obama reflected back to people the economic worries they had, and gave them every reason why they should blame the Republicans, whereas McCain tried to reassure people with technical talk that “the fundamentals are good”, and didn’t expend much effort blaming anyone for it.

People feel they need financial security. McCain didn’t sell his ideas in that vein, except to say he would help refinance troubled mortgages. He said he would revitalize the economy by freezing spending, and keep taxes low. In reality this would have been a good start, but what people wanted was a hand-out, not his abiding faith in the American economy. The people have lost faith in the economy, perhaps in capitalism itself.

So what will Obama do?: The good, the bad,…

The plain truth is we don’t know what Obama will do. Despite his public pronouncements of what he will do, he’s changed them enough times I don’t know what to think. Some say he will govern to the far left. Others say he will be a moderate. According to his history, he’s an opportunistic panderer to whatever constituency will give him an advantage. He also has a history of voting mostly on the Left on the issues, with a few exceptions. He’s going to have to pretend to be a centrist if that’s what his strategists suggest. He is definitely going to receive pressure from the House to go Left.

I can anticipate some of what he’ll do based on what I see the Democrats wanting in general. We will definitely see movement towards ending our involvement in Iraq, and there will definitely be pressure to do it ASAP regardless of what’s happening there. Obama indicated this summer that he was amenable to looking at conditions on the ground before making a decision on pullout, despite his earlier position of getting out ASAP. He’s going to have hardly any pressure though to go that direction. The Democrats want out. If he’s going to go slow or reconsider it, that leadership is going to have to come solely from him, and he’s shown no history of fighting for a position.

We will see Guantanamo Bay shut down. Where the prisoners will go is anyone’s guess. This probably would’ve happened if McCain had won, too. Let’s just hope they’re not released into the U.S. general population because our courts try to apply normal evidence-gathering rules on the military.

I think we can forget about low energy prices no matter what form of energy you’re talking about. It’s not happening. The Democrats are solidly against drilling for oil. Obama says he wants clean coal (I don’t know if I trust that) and is against old-style coal-fired plants. He doesn’t seem to like natural gas, but he likes ethanol which we currently get from corn, and which energy experts say is just a political solution. It doesn’t solve any problems for us, because corn ethanol takes more energy to produce than we can get from it, and it puts more CO2 into the atmosphere (if you care about that sort of thing). He likes wind and solar power generation which doesn’t produce much energy, but he’s against expanding nuclear power. So our energy bills are going to go up all around, and I imagine we’ll see rolling blackouts from time to time. We will have to reduce our power usage because it will be rationed. This will be a drag on our economy and affect the poor and middle class most significantly.

I know there are some engineers who say that we’re moving towards an era where we get most of our power from wind and solar, and only a little from fossil fuels, but it just doesn’t add up. The amount of power produced on a unit basis by current alternative energy solutions is a pittance compared to fossil fuels and nuclear power.

In terms of taxes, there’s no way Obama is going to be able to keep his “tax cut” pledge. The situation is worse now than what Bill Clinton faced in his first term. Even McCain wouldn’t have been able to keep his “keep taxes low” pledge. I never expected him to. He will most certainly raise taxes on the wealthy. He has made that very clear, even saying that he’s really going to do it for moral reasons, not fiscal or economic reasons.

Despite the current economic crisis I fully expect Democrats to not let up on federal spending. We know Democrats. They invented the idea of buying votes. I don’t expect them to change.

I think there’s a real risk that Obama will promote tax and fiscal policies that will prolong our recession, and perhaps deepen it. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. It is possible in a democracy for people to act against their own interests, thinking they’re solving the problem. The reason the public often falls into this attitude in uncertain economic times is despite our love for our freedom, we see the government as an organ of control that we the people can manipulate in order to sort things out. The problem is when the government tries to control the economy it tends to mess it up, because the economy runs on incentives not mandates. We face that issue now with the government takeover of significant institutions in our economy. In this instance it was necessary to avoid a total collapse.

We have avoided the problem of the public misperceiving a solution to economic problems in the past by political leaders convincing the public to change its mind and support policies that are in our interest. This time I’m not so sure we will see that, because Democrats agree with the public’s perception of what needs to happen.

Despite my concerns about his economics mindset, I think on the other hand he will try to promote business growth in alternative energy infrastructure, biotechnology, and information technology. This will require that he take a laissez-faire approach to entrepreneurialism, and given that he will raise taxes on the wealthy I anticipate he will have targeted incentives for business investment. This isn’t the best policy, because managed economies have been shown to not work, but it might produce interesting results that a future, more conservative president can further develop.

Along with this, I think despite the progress that’s been made with turning skin cells into stem cells, Obama will insist on removing Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research. In my mind this is more of a political play. Even though it’s probably not needed and is more complicated, certain interest groups apparently have a lot invested in it. He may even see fit to allow what’s called therapeutic cloning, which allows (I think) people to create embryonic clones of themselves from which genetically-compatible stem cells can be harvested to regrow damaged body parts. The problem is this opens the door for unscrupulous operators to start cloning people.

I think another thing he will do, giving a nod to his major contributors in the tech industry, is he will weaken President Bush’s restraints on immigration. Silicon Valley won a victory on Tuesday. Obama is their man. Silicon Valley has complained bitterly about Bush’s immigration policy over the last several years, because many Ph.D students with the skills they want to hire come from outside the United States. There’s been concern that in the long run this trend would reduce American international competitiveness. A loosened policy will open us up more to jihadist attacks, however. I anticipate that Obama will implement a more sophisticated homeland defense strategy to try to prevent them. I have an idea of who he may contact about that, but the strategy I anticipate has more to do with protecting institutions from major attacks, not citizens in the wider sphere. It has the potential of risking more lives in exchange for the potential of greater economic growth down the road. It’s a trade-off. The question is are we willing to take it? Personally I’d rather not, even though I like the idea of keeping America economically competitive. I think human life and keeping the ideas of the American republic are worth more than that.

Some have anticipated that Obama will revitalize government with some technological innovations that have been developed by his campaign. Technology gave Obama a crucial edge over all his rivals. It’ll be interesting to see how Obama’s technology plans pan out, if at all. Ross Perot had a vision some 30-40 years ago of having an “electronic town hall” where citizens’ concerns could be aired and discussed in government directly. He made it a major campaign theme when he made his first independent presidential run in 1992. Now it appears Obama is actually going to try to create a version of that. I think it might be an experiment for a while, but I don’t expect it to last. The president is too busy to listen to hundreds of thousands of messages and discuss issues with the public at length (though I don’t doubt he’ll try at first). Basically I anticipate any progress on improving internet access to the White House will just be an electronic version of what they’ve done for decades of having aides read mail from citizens. If anything he’ll use it to work the other way around, to extend the “constant campaign” way of interacting with the public, which President Clinton invented, out to the internet and people’s smartphones so that he won’t have to deal with the media as much as past presidents have. Have you noticed how few one-on-one interviews Obama had in the presidential campaign? I think that’s a sign of things to come. This campaign proved that the mainstream, old media, and even the newer cable media is less relevant than it used to be. He may still need them, but not as much as past presidents did.

What the Obama campaign has illustrated is that people don’t pay much attention to what politicians say or do. We have very short attention spans, and have difficulty putting together a coherent narrative of what’s really happening. I saw this several times. Obama is a master of catching people in the moment and giving them something they’ll believe about an issue, even though it’s completely out of context. If you’re paying attention it doesn’t make sense, but to most people who don’t, it does. He’s also very effective at recasting an idea into a pleasing image for whatever constituency he’s pandering to. Again, it doesn’t have to make any sense. If people believe it, that’s all that matters as far as he’s concerned.

I don’t hold out too much hope for this, but one hope I have is since Democrats have traditionally been friendly to funding K-12 and higher education, that these institutions will improve under an Obama administration, leading to more innovation in our economy. Obama’s history with radical William Ayers doesn’t give me much hope that his influence will be constructive, though. Ayers is a professor of education (he teaches teachers who go on to teach in public schools), and his agenda has been to turn out political activists in the mold of his own warped world view (a view based on a reality which incidentally died right at the time he and his cronies formed the Weather Underground), who in turn will encourage parents and students to become the same sort of activists. It’s not a real education agenda, but a political one. Obama was totally copacetic with that agenda when he administered the Annenberg grant money in Chicago’s school system. Ayers acquired the grant and set the agenda for how it would be used. The money was directed towards activist organizations who were invited in to schools to “radicalize students”.

This is all domestic politics, but foreign policy issues are going to have to be tackled no matter how badly the Democrats want to ignore them. A huge question in my mind is whether Obama’s presidency is going to be a chaotic one, because he’s got significant issues to deal with that need serious consideration. No more playing around.

…And the ugly

As for Obama’s governing style? Watch out! I’m only being frank here. Obama got his political education in Chicago’s corrupt political machine system. I don’t expect him to be honest with the American people, and I expect that he will carry his corrupt practices into the federal government. Republicans thought they had a corrupt man in Bill Clinton. They didn’t find much to tag him on, though they sure tried. I think with Obama we’ll have the most corrupt presidency since Richard Nixon. Evidence from the Democratic caucuses has surfaced which supports this concern.

For a conservative like me I imagine it’s going to be a frustrating for four years, maybe eight (ugh!). I don’t like seeing the public getting fooled, but I believe that’s what happened in this campaign.

Obama is an example for why democracy is in danger of losing its legitimacy. The old style TV media already has. It’s almost dead. We could be entering a period that’s not unlike the 1960s where our institutions become so delegitimized that it results in societal revolt. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but I’m just trying to be real with you all.

Our society expects to be manipulated by slick, professionally done PR campaigns. The difference is in the past the people who participated in those campaigns actually understood something about governing and had some policy knowledge under their belt. What the Obama campaign did was take the practice of PR to its logical conclusion. His campaign was all PR all the time, not about substance or leadership qualities that you could take to the bank. George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign came close to this. I didn’t see much substance in his first campaign either. Obama went even further, though, by creating a mass delusion that he was somehow more special than other presidents who came before him.

The thing is people don’t really know who Obama is. We got so wrapped up in the fantasy we didn’t stop to ask who he is, and what he’s done that’s worthy of recognition. The Obama campaign and a lot of the MSM actively encouraged this non-questioning attitude, and it’s going to continue. It’s going to be a while before the public wakes up.

Perhaps I don’t know my history of presidential campaigns, but I think Obama is a first in more ways than one. He’s not only our first black president (no, that wasn’t Bill Clinton), he’s also the first presidential candidate I’ve seen who won on nothing. It’s a scary prospect because I still think he’s not up to the job. We may have just elected our first empty suit. Since we have such high expectations of our presidents we tend to think that when things get bad they couldn’t get any worse with an alternative. Oh yes they can!

The conservative movement is dead for now, but do not fear. It will return.

Unbelievable: Colin Powell endorses Obama

October 19, 2008

I heard about this back in August. There was breathless speculation that Powell was going to endorse Obama. It didn’t happen, and it made the Obama campaign sound like it was crying wolf to grab headlines. Earlier this week I heard the same thing and I brushed it off. “He’s not going to do it,” I thought. How could he endorse a candidate with such irresponsible foreign policy views? Well here it is. You have to see it to believe it.

Basically what Powell says here is he likes that Obama is intellectually curious, and gathers information and views from many sources. And he doesn’t like the direction the Republican Party is going in, with certain high level people in the party wondering whether Obama is really a Muslim, and whether he really has ties to terrorists that could do America harm. Perhaps he doesn’t like that McCain hasn’t disciplined those people in the party or thrown them out, since being the nominee of the party, he is the leader of it. He also said in so many words that he didn’t like McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP, because in his mind she’s not ready to be president. So he thinks Obama is ready? Is he serious?

It’s interesting that on Friday Christopher Hitchens, a long-time supporter of Bush and his policies in the “War on Terror”, also endorsed Obama on the O’Reilly Factor for the same reasons. Hitchens conceded that Obama is inexperienced and has some wrong ideas, but “he’s teachable”. I guess that’s an attractive notion to some, but I think if Obama does win he’s going to be taught more (brutally) by actual events than by experts, and we’re all going to be his guinea pigs while he learns. Great. I can’t wait.

The objections Powell had about McCain were that McCain seemed unsure about how to handle the economic crisis, that his foreign policy approach has gotten narrower, and that his campaign has focused too much on issues that are of little concern to the American people.

Have these men forgotten that it was McCain who came up with the winning strategy of the surge in Iraq, a policy that Obama opposed? Obama favored beginning the pullout of forces in 2007, a strategy that would have surely led to chaos in Iraq and the surrounding region. Has Powell forgotten that it was McCain who backed legislation in 2006 that would have regulated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would have had a chance of nipping this financial crisis in the bud before it blew up on us this fall? Where was Obama on that one? He was in the Cloak Room in the Senate and couldn’t be bothered to come out and vote for it.

I’m sure McCain doesn’t believe that Obama has ties to terrorists that will do us harm, nor that he is a Muslim. I’m curious to know why Powell somehow thinks that doesn’t matter. The question from McCain’s perspective was never about whether Obama is the “Manchurian candidate”, but that Obama’s associations have never been vetted by the MSM (as they should have been), and that his associations say something about him and his judgement. That’s all.

Hearing that Obama is intellectually curious is a plus in my book. Both Hitchens and Powell said this. I’m intellectually curious myself, but I know that it’s not the end-all, be-all of judgement.

My grandmother was a nurse before she got married. She went through a nursing school that was more like a vocational school. There was book learning, but there was a lot of hands-on work. Students worked with real patients every day. By the time she graduated she knew how to work with doctors and patients, and she had probably seen it all as far as what kinds of problems patients could have. Her husband was a radiologist. Both of them told me growing up that book learning is good, but hands-on experience is invaluable. If you have a serious illness or operation, you do NOT want a doctor working on you who is just out of medical school. Get one who has been dealing with patients’ illnesses and physiology for many years. Why? The doctor just out of medical school is trained in the basics. Sure they’re competent, but they have been trained for the routine stuff, and they don’t know what they don’t know. Also what they don’t know, just from a lack of experience, is that biology can and does throw them curveballs. They’ll think one thing is going on when in fact it’s something else, and they’ll treat you (very convincingly I might add) for the wrong problem. People die in hospitals quite often, and not of natural causes. Sometimes it’s because of negligence (in which case they have a lawsuit on their hands), but often it’s because the doctor(s) did their due dilligence, but even that wasn’t good enough.

I have to admit I haven’t listened to a lot of what McCain has said about what he’d do on policy. One policy position I heard from one of his advisors that really impressed me is that he’s considering bringing in more people from different professions to serve as teachers in the public schools, rather than credentialled teachers who have gone through the education schools. This is a non-obvious solution to an obvious problem. Our schools of education (the university programs that train teachers), by and large, suck. This has been the case for decades. My mother who got her degree in education has said as much for years. This was the case when she went to school, though fortunately she found a good graduate private post-graduate program. It seems as though everyone but the people ensconsced in the education schools knows this. Many of these schools are a joke.

Anyway, that’s one policy position I listened to. The real reason I came around to McCain is I was impressed that he came up with the surge policy in Iraq, which is working well, when everyone else, including many Republicans (except Bush), wanted to throw in the towel and concede defeat. That shows judgement and leadership that Obama simply doesn’t have, and I’m surprised that Powell, who as a military man has been dedicated to success in military conflict (in my opinion), would back someone who doesn’t have the perception to understand what it takes to succeed in that theater, and who has a powerful constituency he has to please that believes war is never justified.

Colin Powell, I hate to say this, because I have long believed that you are a good judge of character, but I think you’ve fallen for a very well done PR campaign that has in my opinion caused you to go more with your feelings than with your head and sense of judgement. I am so very disappointed in you.

Playing on the fears of children

June 18, 2008

I heard about this web ad yesterday from and I felt like I had to come out of my “sabbatical” to address it. I haven’t been posting here for a while because I’ve been busy and life has been pretty uncertain for me for several months. It’s been difficult to focus and think about politics/current events.

Take a look at the ad, and I’ll comment below.

“Not Alex”

(I’ve had a little trouble with this video. If it doesn’t display/play correctly, just hit Refresh on your browser)

Now, we have to remember this is the same group of people who put out the ad below when Gen. Petraeus first came to report to congress about the progress of his strategy in Iraq:

General Betray Us

These folks, along with the Obama campaign, are getting extremely good with public relations. The intention of the Obama and MoveOn campaigns is not to address issues in a serious way, using rational discussion as part of a democratic process. Instead they play on deep primal emotions.

The far left has come to understand the essence of public relations: Play to people’s deep seated fears and desires, and you can not only win office, but also manipulate society towards your ends. The anti-global-warming campaign that’s been going on for several years now isn’t much different. No need to engage in rational debate. Just get people to love you or some cause you want people to support, and hate those who don’t join the group.

Every president since Reagan has used techniques of public relations to get elected to the presidency. What I think is different about groups like MoveOn and the global warming crowd is they’re going all the way with it. I think their ambitions are to not only gain the faith and trust of constituencies, but to also manipulate those constituencies towards a particular end.

The “Not Alex” ad is a case in point. It is in no way rational. If you try to analyze it rationally it falls apart. MoveOn doesn’t care. The ad plays on the primal fears of those who are ignorant about what is going on with the country and the world. It uses a gaffe in expression that McCain committed when talking about the war in Iraq, the statement about “100 years”. He has never advocated for endless war. He meant the “100 years” in the sense of South Korea, Germany, and Japan. We’ve got U.S. troops there right now. They’re there to create security for those countries, not to go after an enemy and risk their lives. There is no draft, and most people and politicians alike oppose it. The military functions better with an all-volunteer force. “Alex’s mother” in the ad says, “You can’t have him.” Fine! Nothing’s saying he has to join. In other words, the ad is clever, but it has no basis for making a point. That doesn’t stop it from trying to make you think it does. This ad in particular is a very cynical ploy.

It’s quite apparent to me that for many anti-war activists they can’t get past the notion that there is no draft. They still think we have one, or that it’s coming back online soon.

This is yet another sign that people are losing their fear of Islamists. MoveOn doesn’t want people afraid of Islamic radicalism. They want people afraid of Republicans, as if they kill people, even our own citizens, out of an evil desire for some sick form of power. These people should look in the mirror once in a while. If you listen to what they want for America, the consequences are more anti-human than what the Republicans are up to.

Ironically the one congressman who tried to bring back the draft a few years ago was New York Democrat Charles Rangel, who is NOT a conservative. Republicans, and most Democrats wanted nothing to do with it, not because it was politically harmful to them, but because a draft actually hampers the effectiveness of the military. Think about it. You’re bringing in a bunch of people who did not choose to be there. Ironically it’s the people who want to be there who are going to do the best job of killing the enemy while at the same time preventing themselves, their brothers and sisters in arms, and innocent civilians from getting killed.

Rational argument is often counter-intuitive, but it is right more often than not.

The war we are fighting in Iraq

October 9, 2007

David Kilcullen, an advisor working with Gen. Petraeus, appeared on Charlie Rose this past Friday. He is an expert in counterinsurgency, and has studied Islamic insurgencies in particular. For all those who are wondering how we’re going to succeed in Iraq, they should pay attention to what Kilcullen says.

The picture he paints is another facet of this “different kind of war”. One of the facts he lays out straight away is that “insurgents usually lose”. Historically 80% of insurgencies have been defeated. He said it’s a myth in this country that insurgencies can’t be defeated. The question is are we willing to do what’s necessary in the time that’s necessary to do it.

He basically says the war in Iraq will be won by a two-prong approach, using the military for security, and using our diplomacy for political stability. It’s not one or the other. While the Iraqi national government is getting its legs, we’re also working town by town, province by province to set up strong civil institutions that can repel the insurgents by themselves. He said it’s going to take a while, but he also said we might be able to leave before the insurgency is defeated, leaving it for the Iraqi government to finish. There is historical precedence for that.

I like that Kilcullen has a can-do attitude. He “knows this beast” and has ideas for how we can defeat it so we can leave.

Iraq improving – Op-Ed in NY Times

August 1, 2007

I heard about this yesterday. Two New York Times critics of the Iraq war say after a recent visit that Iraq is improving, and that the predominantly Sunni area of Iraq (Anbar Province) has joined the Kurdish region in the north in the distinction of being one of the most stable areas of Iraq. Anbar used to be the most troublesome area. Al Qaeda was gaining strength and allies. Today the Sunni and Shia leaders there are crippling Al Qaeda! Secondly, there’s not a “whack-a-mole” problem anymore in Anbar. From what they say, areas are being secured, and they stay secured.

The one area where they noted Iraq really needs to improve is the Iraqi government. They’re still squabbling amongst themselves. This needs to move to reconciliation and compromise.

Still, the two columnists were impressed, and closed by saying that the current strategy should be continued “at least into 2008”.

I’m glad for once to be hearing some good news come out of there. I wasn’t saying much about it, partly because I’ve been busy with other things in life, but I was also holding my breath, waiting to see if something good would come out of the surge. I am very happy at the moment that we seem to be turning the tables on the insurgents. Unfortunately I’ve learned enough about this war to know that Murphy’s Law might apply here: “If you feel happy, don’t worry. It’ll pass.” The insurgency has shown itself to be very resilient, and will likely try other strategies to screw Iraq up. This war isn’t over yet.

Are the Kurds making a move for independence?

June 9, 2007

Breaking News

Just heard about a news blurb that Kurdish and Turkish forces are amassing along the northern border of Iraq. Turkey is on that northern border, as is the Kurdish region of Iraq. It sounds like some cross-border attacks or artillary fire has already occurred. This is a significant development. I’ll talk about it more when I hear more news.

This is one of the things I was worried about with Iraq, though I didn’t think this sort of thing would come to pass unless we pulled out of Iraq too early. Turkey said from the beginning of our invasion of Iraq that they would not tolerate an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds had to remain a part of Iraq. The Turks would consider it an act of war if the Kurds declared independence.

Occasionally I’ve watched reports on C-SPAN from people who are from the U.S. and Iraq, about the situation there. The U.S. officials had worked intimately with the Iraqis, getting a sense of how things were moving. This included the Kurdish situation. One of the things that was worrisome is even though the Kurds had made no moves for independence, they were in effect acting as if they were independent. Kurdish officials had very little contact with the Iraqi government. They were building up their own ministries, and military forces, almost mirroring the official capacities of the Iraqi government. I think the only office they lacked was a prime minister. They even produced a nice ad for American television titled, “Kurdistan: The Other Iraq”. It expressed the Kurds’ gratitude for our invasion, and welcomed business investment, but all the same I was a bit worried about the “Kurdistan” reference. Again, it seemed like they were asserting their independence without making it official.

The Kurds have done a lot of work to build a more modern state than what they had before the invasion, and have progressed much faster than the Iraqi government has in creating a stable governing structure. Up to this point they’ve lived in relative peace compared to the rest of the country.

Anyway, I’ll be watching for what else is happening there.