Wednesday, December 27, 2006
KJW: In his August 8, 1974 resignation speech, President Richard Nixon, stated that "the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people."
Gerald Ford was the person who first and foremost was charged with that responsibility. In his first and most historic step toward that end he pardoned President Nixon on September 8, 1974. In doing so he said in part:
"My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquillity but to use every means that I have to insure it. I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy. "
Gerald Ford was the right man at the right time for our country when we were literally being torn apart as a nation. He was truly a humble servant whose mercy helped us all to begin to heal.
Gerald Ford was a steady leader during a time when this country desperately needed a moderating bipartisan voice. Although controversial at the time, his subsequent pardon of Richard Nixon was completely necessary, not only for the country's psyche, but also for his own. He had a job to do, and he didn't have the time or energy to dedicate to Nixon's problems. At that point, the US was in a recession, had a gasoline problem, and communism was spreading like wildfire. Gerald Ford led the country with great dignity during these difficult times, and lost one of the closest elections ever to Jimmy Carter in 1976. One advantage Ford possessed that I wish Carter had more of was respect. Ford had enough respect for the Presidency to keep his opinions to himself and support whomever was in power, regardless of party. I guess it is called class, and Gerald Ford was full of class. He was an Eagle Scout, combat veteran, congressman, vice-president, and President. He served the country faithfully and this country should thank Gerald Ford and his family for his amazing service to the American people.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
KJW: It appears that soon to be Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, understands the opportunity that lies before her. The question that always seems to arise when it comes to the Democrats is: will they take advantage of the opportunity, or will they screw it up?
RAISING MINIMUM WAGE: This is a no brainer. It should be the first piece of legislation introduced by the new Congress. The legislation should not be a part of any other bill. It should simply be an up or down vote on raising the federal minimum wage. Such a bill will pass overwhelmingly.
REDUCING INTEREST RATE ON STUDENT LOANS: This is also a no brainer. What group will persuasively lobby against this bill? The only one I can think of are the banks who are the lenders for the student loans. Good luck. This bill will also pass overwhelmingly.
STEM CELL RESEARCH: This issue is emotional for those on both sides of the debate. However, the polls seem to indicate that the public is in favor of allowing further stem cell research. I would support pursuing this issue but not as the first item and not at all political capital costs.
ALLOWING NEGOTIATION OF LOWER DRUG PRICES FOR MEDICARE RECIPIENTS: I would save this issue for another 100 hours.
IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION: Another item I would save for the second or third 100 hours.
ROLLING BACK SUBSIDIES TO OIL COMPANIES: Certainly based upon recent profits the oil companies are hardly in need of subsidies. Nevertheless, I would not recommend making this item one of the first 100 hours issues.
COMMITMENT TO NO NEW DEFICIT SPENDING: If they want to totally drop the ball then go ahead and make such a commitment. I would put this idea up there with George H.W. Bush's famous: "read my lips, no new taxes".
In historical context the first 100 hours of this Democratic controlled Congress may not have significance when it comes to truly significant legislation. However, it can be very significant in setting the tone with the American public. If the perception of the new Congress is one of getting things done for the American people it not only may bode well for the public, but also for the Democrats chances in the 2008 election. Conversely, if the hand off of power to the Democrats is perceived as opening the floodgates of investigations, subpoenas, hearings, etc., then the public may quickly sour on the benefits of throwing out the party in power.
Nancy Pelosi has a very ambitious agenda planned for the 110th Congress set to convene in just a few short weeks. The question is: How many of these items can actually make it through the legislative process and will be signed into law by President Bush?
Bush's eyes lit up during a post-mortem news conference the day after the election when a reporter asked him what he thought about possible bipartisan support of his "comprehensive" immigration reform bill. It is ironic that due to the Republican loss, McCain, Bush, and the other globalists are actually going to come up roses in their biggest piece of domestic legislation. Expect amnesty to be front and center and signed into law by our faithful leader within the first few months of the new Congress. Then we can all polish up our Spanish and prepare for the waves of humanity that are sure to follow shortly thereafter. Current estimates put the illegal immigrant population in this country anywhere from 10 to 20 million. Expect that number to double within five years, and triple within a decade.
I am fundamentally opposed to an increase in the minimum wage, which is proven to cost jobs and cost consumers more money. Instead, I would support further tax incentives for small businesses and low-income families. This will stimulate business and create more jobs, therefore increasing tax revenue. However, it appears the bill will have no trouble passing, and Bush will probably sign it and use that as leverage to get some of his items passed.
I have no issues with reducing the amount of interest on federal student loans. Education is always a good thing and is an investment in our nation's future.
Allowing federal funding of new stem-cell lines isn't going to happen. It may get through Congress, but Bush has made his position clear on this issue, and I believe he will not waver on this. That tends to be his approach to such moral issues; he has a set principle and does not waver from it.
The profits that oil companies are making these days is an outrage. I believe we need to rollback the subsidies that were put in place to help the floundering oil industry in the 1970's. Times have changed and obviously oil is a great business to be in. I am of the opinion that the government go one extra step, and this applies to media conglomerates as well. We need some old-fashioned Teddy Roosevelt trustbusting to break up the big oil and media companies. Business in the United States was never intended to be run in such a manner.
Democrats saying they won't spend any more money is like a Packers fan saying they're not going to eat anymore cheese. It is laughable. The only question is, how much are they going to raise our taxes to cover their socialistic plans?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Will Frederick Kagan's December 14, 2006, "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" be the option that President Bush pursues ?
The initial military action was clearly won by the U.S. With regard to the peace, we have just as clearly been losing. So now we are faced with the question, can we reclaim victory through further military and diplomatic actions? As I have related in previous posts I believe that it will be necessary for the U.S. to remain in Iraq for at least the next 18 to 24 months regardless of the course we pursue. To do otherwise would leave Iraq in a more disastrous situation than currently exists. So should we spend that 18 to 24 months attempting to gracefully extricate ourselves from Iraq, or should we take one last shot at achieving the victory that President Bush says is the only solution?
I have read the "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" Plan in its entirety, not just a synopsis prepared by some commentator with an agenda. In a nutshell, The Kagan Plan calls for us to change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. It urges that we send more American combat forces into Iraq, especially into Baghdad. This increase in troops would include a surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments. These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, would clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city. After the neighborhoods had been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, would remain behind to maintain security. As security is established, reconstruction aid would help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, would strengthen Iraqi local government.
The Kagan Plan doesn't sound revolutionary in many respects. In fact, he points out such a plan was successful in containing similar ethno-religious conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo. Of course, myself and others will be left wondering if that is true, why has it taken us this long to reach a similar conclusion in Iraq? Nevertheless, if all we do is look back and analyze how the Iraq war was mishandled there would never be time to try to bring it to an end.
So, back to the issue presented in a prior post: Do we go big, go long, or go home? At that time I was against Going Big - since it had not been defined in a manner that would be to my satisfaction. I believe that the Kagan Plan would definitely be Going Big by anyone's definition.
I further believe that the Kagan Plan, or something similar, is the course of action that President George Bush intends to pursue. Despite many of my beliefs about this administration and its propensity to screw things up, if the Kagan Plan were adopted in the form I have just read, then I would support it. If it failed to achieve the intended results in 24 months, then I would support a less than graceful exit.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I do not believe that the denial of the Holocaust should be a criminal offense. I believe that every person should be allowed to express their views and opinions, even power hungering maniacs like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Furthermore, I believe that the number of people educated in a free society who actually believe that the Holocaust never occurred is rather small. However, Iran and much of the middle east are societies that do not allow their citizens to be freely educated. In such societies that are oppressive and regulate what their citizens may and may not learn, there is a problem. Societies such as Iran indoctrinate their citizens to extreme beliefs (and actions) by using ideas such as Holocaust denial to mischaracterize Israel, and the United States, as evil that needs to be eliminated. Terrorism, just like racism, is not inborn, but instead is learned behavior.
So while I believe that persons should have the right to say the most absurd and controversial things, I also believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to stand up and say it isn't so. World leaders must not just dismiss Iran's Holocaust denier meeting, but instead should stand up and vehemently condemn it.
As Irish orator, statesman, and politicial philosopher Edmund Burke said over two hundred years ago:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Like I have said before, we are living through the 1930's all over again. We have a world leader once again espousing world domination and using the Jews as the scapegoat. Sound familiar? With the US sending clear signals of wavering in Iraq and wanting to negotiate with Syria and Iran, and with appeasers such as Robert Gates and James Baker now forming policy, the stage is set for another despotic regime to commit genocide on a grand scale.
The question we must ask ourselves: where is the outcry? Yes, a few Western leaders have spoken up to condemn the Holocaust deniers. But the response, quite frankly, has been sub par. Why do we study history? Answer: so we don't repeat history's mistakes. According to today's revisionist historians though, the Jews are to blame for displacing the Palestinians. These premises come from the same wackos that say 9/11 was an inside job. The fact remains though, Israel is the only UN-created state, and they still can't manage the situation. The Palestinians claim to the Holy Land is completely baseless. The Jews have ties to the Holy Land which extend back three millennia. One must not forget, in addition to the West Bank, there is also an East Bank. It is called Jordan, and this Arab kingdom was set up after WWI as a homeland for the Palestinians. Eighty percent of Jordan's population is Palestinian.
We must also take into consideration the influence that Iran and Ahmadinejad has on the rest of the Muslim world. Ahmadinejad is attempting to be THE MAN in Muslim culture. What he has been in effect saying since he took office is, "It isn't Mubarak, it isn't King Abdullah of Jordan, it's me. I'm the leader of the Arab world. I have stood up to the Great Satan." Mr. Ahmadinejad is a well educated man. Not for one minute do I believe he actually believes in the religious fanaticism he espouses. But he is using religion as a means to accomplish his goal: world domination. And he is using a scapegoat which has been used for millennia as well: the Jews. The question we must ask ourselves: are we going to let history repeat itself again, or will we confront evil before it gathers? Stay tuned.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts in recent weeks to end the violence in Iraq. With the naming of a new defense secretary and the emergence of the Iraq Study Group's report, is the United States on the path to victory in Iraq? Of the three options (Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home), which is the best course of action to take now?
The key to succeeding in politics these days seems to be framing your opponents position on issues with a negative sound bite. Although "Cut and Run" eventually went down in flames there is no denying that it was effectively used for many months. While I would not agree that the only options available in Iraq can be framed as "Go Big", "Go Long", or "Go Home", I will nevertheless address this latest example of the political sound bite.
For this discussion I will address the specific issues as if none of them would meet any resistance at home from the public, media or government officials. Let's just pretend for a minute that we are all sheep.
Option 1 - Go Big: I have not yet heard this option fully explained. However, let's assume for discussion purposes that it means dramatically increasing the level of our troops in Iraq and engaging in a massive military campaign. I have heard it suggested that we should start with wiping out Sadr City. Of course we would be faced with the problem of not knowing who the enemy is since they would not be wearing uniforms. But again, assuming we are sheep and such a campaign goes forward successfully, what then?
After wiping out much of the military age male population from Iraq, does anyone believe that the Sunnis and the Shiites would stop trying to kill each other? Do you believe that the Kurds would then want to resume being a part of Iraq? (Remember that Kurds are not even allowed to fly the Iraqi flag.) The fact is that the military campaign ended several years ago and we did in fact win. What we have failed to win is the post war period where diplomacy and nation building is required. Diplomacy is the only way this war is going to end in victory for anyone. Option 1 - Go Big - NO.
Option 2 - Go Long: Again I will need to assume what this means. If it means that we remain at the current troop levels with the same role that we have presently, then such an option is too ridiculous to even urge. Even W has given up on STAY THE COURSE.
However, if Go Long means that we reduce our presence and reposition our remaining troops so that they could be immediately redeployed in the event of military necessity, then that might be palatable. Such a policy would entail an ongoing reduction of troop levels within the borders of Iraq. It would also not involve any specific date for complete withdrawal from Iraq. Even upon the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, we could continue to have an increased presence in the region with added troops positioned in Kuwait for example. These added troops would allow us to be in a position to prevent, or respond to, any intervention in Iraq from neighboring countries. Option 2 - Stay Long - YES, well sort of.
Option 3 - Go Home: I am not in favor of IMMEDIATE withdrawal from Iraq. If that occurred noone, not even W, would disagree that the resulting mayhem would constitute a civil war. In addition, such a course of action would leave the door open for Iran / Syria / Turkey to assume a role or to intervene in ways that would be negative. I believe that the Go Home option would need to involve a gradual draw down of U.S. troops over a twelve to twenty four month period. Anything faster than that would not be advisable. However, twenty four months is adequate for the Iraqi government to have plenty of time to plan for the transition and departure of the U.S. forces. Just as with the Stay Long Option we could continue to have an increased presence in the region, in order to prevent, or respond to, any intervention in Iraq from neighboring countries. Option 3 - Go Home - MAYBE.
The United States has, with its' latest moves, given a clear signal to adversaries that we are wavering in our resolve and aren't serious about winning in Iraq any longer, but rather more interested in saving face and "managing the situation," as Nancy Pelosi has referred to it as. The naming of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary signals a change of course, but not necessarily in a way that will provide for victory. Remember, VICTORY is defined as having a stable, secure Iraq capable of governing itself, and most importantly, to have an ally in the War on Terror in the middle of the Mideast. Gates has long been in the James Baker camp, the camp that wants to negotiate with terrorist-supporting nations in order to resolve the situation. This shouldn't come as a surprise from Baker though, who's law firm represents Saudi Arabia's interests in this country. This is also a classic case of appeasement by rewarding bad behavior. In the case of Syria and Iran, this bad behavior is their continued support of terror organizations and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. This type of appeasement will only encourage more bad behavior.
Unfortunately, President Bush seems to have lost his resolve to secure victory in Iraq. He has buckled under intense media and political pressure. It is most unfortunate for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, who wake up everyday and fully believe in the cause they are helping. They understand how important it is for us to win in Iraq, to support moderates in the Middle East and not give in to barbaric thugs who would use Iraq as fertile ground for terror training. They KNOW they are defending the American people, and they wish everyday that the media and people would understand this and get behind them so they can finish the job. They don't just want to "manage the situation," which means that each of their buddies' deaths went for naught. The troops want to WIN, and they know they can do it given the chance. Unfortunately, politicians and media pundits don't appear ready to give them that opportunity.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the American people. Here is your chance to respond.
Dear President Ahmadinejad and Noble Iranians,
Thank you for your letter. I was truly struck by its sincerity and logic and controlled passion which, in these troubled times, is very welcome. There is, today, far too much loud, screaming rhetoric of hatred and wishing total death and destruction on one another. You seem to understand there is no purpose served by doing that.
I was even moved by your analysis of our failed policies in Iraq. Nothing new there really since all the information you use is readily available through our free press, and internet and electronic media and people talking and arguing freely on street corners and churches and schools. It's all out there. It's they way we do it here in America. Many of your points I have made myself right here in preceding entries to the 3HM. You have a good take on the high cost of this war and how it has affected us economically, militarily, reputationally around the world and spiritually here in the United States.
But my problem with your letter is this. No where did you offer any suggestions of what you and your country could do to help this situation. Your rhetoric, and forgive me for saying this, has been downright hostile, threatening, belligerent and war mongering; precisely the same things you criticize the United States for in your masterful letter. Though you didn't say so directly in this letter, your prior outrageous statements about wiping the nation of Israel off the face of the earth is no way for you to suggest that we sit around a table and discuss joint solutions to complex issues. Especially since everyone is expected to take your word that you want uranium for power plants, not bombs. How you expect to annihilate Israel without nuclear weapons is a disconnect for me, but it would make all of us a little easier if you'd let neutral parties in to inspect those places you claim are not being used to make weapons. As you point out this administration made one serious blunder when we thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. If you want to help us and yourself, let inspectors in. And most troubling is that you have said nothing about what your country is doing to prevent terrorists from training there with money and weapons you are supplying to them. Don't deny it, you know you are.
Please don't get me wrong. My Republican friends all think I am crazy for wanting you and Syria and the other sovereign nations of the mid-east and the United States to sit down and talk about peace and what is best for the future of Iraq. But what will you bring to the table? I'll argue on your behalf but you have to work with me.
Until then, I very much appreciate your heart-felt letter. I'm doing my small part here in the United States to achieve peace so everyone wins a little. All I ask is for you to hold your letter to a mirror and do the same.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
In 1953, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech entitled A Chance for Peace concerning our relationship with the Soviet Union. In that speech he said in part:
"No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations. Any nation's right to its own form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable. Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible. A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations."
If you and your country would live by these words, Iran and the United States, along with the rest of the world, could live with each other in peace.
Thanks for your thoughtful letter. I was noticing though, your language is quite different from speeches you have given at home. You have been quoted as saying that you want to, "wipe Israel off the map," and you can picture, "a world without America and Israel." These are not the words of someone who is seeking peace. Your actions have been suspect as well. First, there is the ongoing problem of your nuclear program. You have said that you seek only civilian nuclear technology, however the weapons-grade uranium and enrichment system you have set up says otherwise. Also, you have continued to fight a proxy war against Israel by using your forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and the Lebanese population as human shields. These actions are abhorrent and not the way in which civilized countries operate. Until you are ready to change your rhetoric and your actions, Iran will become increasingly isolated and at odds with the international community. Diplomacy will eventually break down, and the people of Iran will be the ones to face the wrath brought on by your decisions. We respect the Iranian people and their sovereignty, and welcome you with open arms into the family of nations, but only after you abide by the same laws as all countries abide by.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Are Republicans happy or disappointed that Rep. Pelosi decided Rep. Hastings would not be Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence ?
Contrary to some of my fellow Democrats I do not think that Speaker-elect Pelosi has lost anything in the first few weeks of her new authority. I spent most of my adult life in Baltimore, Maryland, where politics is not just something you read about in the papers. It is a full contact sport and it was in that tough as nails environment where Mrs. Pelosi cut her political teeth.
Appointing Rep. Hastings, after his outrages, to the Select Committee on Intelligence would have been an oxymoron. That decision was clearly a no-brainer. Did the Gone Old Party really think she'd do that after an election where they just lost because of one scandal after another, among other things? They must be very sad.
Also, I think it was very smart of her to choose Rep. Murtha but let the House vote decide on Rep. Hoyer (from Maryland remember) as second in command. By doing that she showed loyalty to someone who had helped her but who she probably knew, behind closed doors anyway, wouldn't be elected by his colleagues. He's far too controversial and scandal tainted. So she now wins both ways. She doesn't have to worry about Mr. Murtha any longer because she was loyal and can now publicly begin to make amends (if there ever were any to make anyway) with Steny Hoyer, a truly effective legislator and vote building Number Two man. I think it was a brilliant maneuver.
No, the Republicans will just have to keep waiting to be happy. Speaker-elect Pelosi, don't forget, was trained in Maryland where the state sport is jousting. Knowing that I can just see her sharpening her lance as we speak.
Nancy Pelosi got off to a bad start by supporting Rep. John P. Murtha, D- Pa., for majority leader. Now she is dealing with another situation that can potentially undermine her ability to effectively lead a bipartisan House for the next two years. Since Pelosi apparently hates Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif. who is the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, she has made clear her intention to appoint someone other than Ms. Harman as the Chairperson of the committee.
Apparently Pelosi's first choice for the position was Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. However, it seems that after realizing that there would be substantial fallout from such an appointment, she has announced that Hastings will not be her choice as the Chairman. It is interesting to note that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who at the time had been in office for less than one year, voted to impeach then Federal Judge Hastings. How she could have come full circle to the point of considering him for such a position of leadership is incomprehensible. The fact is that Hastings carries enough baggage by himself to single handedly make a joke out of Pelosi's promise of "the most ethical Congress in history".
So are the Republicans disappointed that Pelosi did not choose Hastings? Absolutely. Despite the "can't we all just get along" speak between President Bush and the Democratic leaders, Republicans are no doubt hopeful that the next two years will be a disaster politically for the Democrats. Only the naive believe that bipartisanship will actually exist between now and the '08 election.
Talk radio and Republicans in general have been crucifying Alcee Hastings since the Democrats won on November 7, and with good cause. Mr. Hastings is one of only six federal judges ever to have been impeached by the US Senate. Many have argued that he deserves a chance to chair the elite Intelligence committee because he was never convicted in a court of law. Mr. Hastings was convicted on nine articles of impeachment in the Senate, and unfortunately, didn't strip him of the right to hold federal office in the future, though they had the opportunity.
This and the election of Steny Hoyer over John Murtha bodes well for conservatives. It indicates that the fringe left isn't running the show, and moderates will lead. Let us not forget, it was not the so-called "progressives" who won on election day, it was moderate Democrats who benefited from conservatives dissatisfaction with the Republican party. These Blue Dog Democrats will more than likely caucus with Republicans on many issues, social and fiscal.
The Democrats find themselves in a position of responsibility, finally, and are still in the very early stages of proving to the American people that they are worthy and effective governors. The next two years is a kind of trial period for Democrats, in preparation for the big prize in 2008. If they get in there and go crazy left with investigations and corrupt liberals, they will be ostracized from power for another eight years. However, if they show themselves to be level-headed pragmatists who are committed to making America better, then perhaps Americans will give them more opportunities. I will give Nancy Pelosi credit for one thing; she is a very shrewd politician.
Monday, November 27, 2006
With the Bush administration being pushed toward a regional resolution to the war in Iraq, the question becomes what role, if any, should Iran and Syria play in a post war Iraq ?
I am not quite sure why, after six years of this administration, I keep scratching my head in puzzlement about why it refuses to sit down and discuss serious issues of global consequence with those nations whom we call our enemies. I suppose that talking is too hard and it must seem easier to let things escalate until we have to send troops in to make them see things our way.
That being said I know my comments here will seem just, well, too liberal. Not only do we have to talk to our enemies, in this case Syria and Iran, but it is absolutely mandatory that we do so. Why does something so important, so diplomatic, so crying out for true United States leadership, simply fall on deaf ears of this "stay the bloody, damned course" presidency. Not only do we need to have Syria and Iran involved, but other nations of the region as well. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey share boders with Iraq, some friendlier to us than others, but that is good. Iraq is the region's hub of the wheel and if the hub cracks then the entire wheel crumbles. The United States has gotten this part of the world into this and we have to responsibly and diplomatically ask all of these nations to help solve the future fate of Iraq. I have said before we are from different cultures, literally and figuatively. We, in the West, do not really know how to talk and negotiate with them effectively - obviously - and they must be asked and allowed to sit at OUR table and give us advice about how to solve this issue. Period.
That's not going to be easy for this administration to do, however. In an article in the New York Times ( November 27, 2006), David Sanger writes that the current draft of the 10 member, bi-partisan Iraq Study Group reflects co-chair James Baker III's "public criticism of the administration for its unwillingness to talk with nations like Iran and Syria." But, true to form, in the same article Mr. Sanger quotes Stephen J. Hadley, the president's national security adviser, as saying, "Talking isn't a strategy...The issue is how can we condtion the environment so that Iran and Syria will make a 180-degree turn, so that rather than undermining the Iraqi government, they will support it." What?
Staying the course. What am I missing here?
While the Bush administration on one hand would like to encourage stronger relations between Iraq, Iran and Syria, on the other hand the administration is wary about Iran and Syria taking a more active diplomatic role.
State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, recently said, "while there have been positive statements from the Iranian government about wishing to play a positive role in Iraq, those statements haven't been backed up by actions."
He offered a similar assessment of Syria, saying the problem "is not what they say; the problem is what they do. ... What we would like to see the Syrians do is take actions to, among other things, prevent foreign fighters from coming across the border into Iraq."
At the same time, there have been indications that the Iraq Study Group is considering recommendations that could include a broader role in the region for Iran and Syria. The ISG is expected to issue its report soon. One possible recommendation of the ISG is believed to include a recommendation encouraging talks with Iran and Syria while shifting the U.S. military focus away from combat and toward training the Iraqi forces.
However, working with Iran and Syria would require America to enter into a de facto partnership with them. Understandably the Bush administration will be hesitant to enter into such a partnership even though it may have very few other viable options.
Iran tried to organize a summit between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iraqi President Talabani, and Syrian President Assad in a bid to assert its role as the top regional power broker. Iranian officials have said an invitation was extended to Assad, but Syria did not respond. Nevertheless, the Iraqi President traveled to Tehran in response to the invitation to meet with Ahmadinejad. Syria may likely be looking further down the road to potential talks with Washington.
In the past the United States has refused to negotiate with Iran and Syria to seek their support to bring stability to Iraq, accusing both Tehran and Damascus of aiding insurgent groups in Iraq.
Iran is believed to back Iraqi Shiite militias blamed in sectarian killings that have killed thousands this year. Iran has repeatedly denied the allegations. But President Bush is coming under increasing pressure to engage Iran and Syria in a dialogue. The New York Times reported recently that a draft report by the ISG recommends increased regional diplomacy, including holding talks with Iran and Syria.
Former President Jimmy Carter said he would agree with any call for direct U.S. talks with Iran and Syria over Iraq, adding: "This is one of the most counterproductive policies that I've ever known, ... not to talk to the people who disagree with you unless they agree in advance to everything you demand."
Despite the unease of the Bush administration, Iran, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Syria, will need to play a significant role in the stabilization of Iraq. Otherwise, any possible solution is not likely to be long term.
The United States of America NEVER negotiates with terrorists. And that's exactly what we are dealing with in Iran and Syria. Iran funds Hezbollah, a know terrorist entity. The corporate offices of many Islamic terror groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc., are located in Damascus. Until these countries reform their behavior, they cannot and should not be trusted. Their aims are exactly what we are fighting against; an authoritarian Islamic regime where Sharia law is the rule of the day.
Iran's leaders have stated very bluntly that their goal is to see "a world without Israel and America." Ahmadinejad has said he wishes to "wipe Israel off the map." This type of rhetoric is not exactly conducive to cordial relations. There is also the ongoing issue of Iran's nuclear program, which they refuse to suspend. There are no signs that Iran and Syria want to come to the negotiating table as an honest broker, but instead are still looking to fulfill their own agendas. Iran is trying to flex it's political influence in the Middle East, and is in a conflict with the US over this.
Pundits in this country, including former President Carter, have been calling for the US to abandon it's current policy toward Iran and Syria and engage them. Let us not forget that President Carter's blunders led to much of the current situation in the Middle East. His failure to support the Shah in the 70's led to the Iranian Revolution. President Carter is also the one who certified Hugo Chavez's fraudulent election in Venezuela. I don't believe he should be looked to as a source of expertise in this area. The US should not engage Syria or Iran until they change their behavior and rhetoric, including the VERIFIABLE suspension of the nuclear program and cutting off funding for all terror organizations. The last thing we need is a rebirth of the Persian empire that runs from Iran to Lebanon, which is the route we are heading down if we allow Iran to win the battle of influence in the Middle East.
Monday, November 20, 2006
With President Bush wrapping up his latest Asian tour, should any changes be made to US economic policy in regard to Asia, or are Bush's free-trade policies the right course?
The discussion here concerns the issue of "Asian" challenges to our free-trade policies. The topic is, of course, much bigger than that. It's ultimately about worldwide free trade and what it means to us and everyone else.
But our dear Mr. Bush is currently in Asia as part of his annual foray into the foreign territory -- and I'm not just talking geographical territory -- of representing us at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. If, in fact, Mr. Bush is there because he really believes in the free trade agreements then it will be the first time in six years I've ever agreed with anything he's said or done. I'm just not convinced. These meetings appear so awkward for him, like he'd rather be somewhere else. The reason I feel he always looks so out of place is that he has been trained in the now jeapordized neo-con school of thinking that we can just bludgeon the world into doing what we want by "punishing" any country we find offensive or which hurts a particular idea we hold dear or, worse than any of these, that beats us at our own game. Perhaps he realizes this tactic just isn't working. Perhaps the man is conflicted about what his intentions ought to be and just doesn't know how to act. He wants free trade, maybe, as long as it's our trade that's free.
The U.S. can no longer encourage an attitude of us against them. We are all in this together. Pissing on our own little fire hydrant and clinging to our territory with all our might is just plain stupid. Are jobs disappearing because of globalization? I've seen no decent study that proves this. There is job shifting, yes. Out sourcing, yes. But are we the United States of the "good 'ol days" when we could think of ourselves as totally self-reliant? No. We couldn't shop at our precious Wal-Marts if that were so. Then perhaps our new strategy, instead of taking the ball home when we don't get our way, is to become the United States of the World and be courageous leaders enough to see that if all people become economically successful we are all successful. That would be true world domination and the Republicans could dance in the street.
So, of course, from my perspective we have no choice in a multi-faceted world but to do everything to encourage free trade with the entire world, not just Asia. Central and South America is a hot bed of problems at our very feet that must be addressed. I'm convinced most of that region's hostility surrounds economic matters, not just run amock political posturing. Do the neo-cons really believe that the free market system really works? Then do it and lead by example. I am not saying that the current package of agreements is fair. That is what the art of negotiation and compromise is there to do. Unfortunately the world is driven by greed whether it's Democrat, Republican, Socialist or Communist or whatever. But do we just keep developing angry plans of first strike tactics and punishments (economic and militarily) to rule the world by fear? We should be smarter than how we've been acting.KJW:
Proponents of protectionism have been around for thousands of years. Plato thought that allowing foreign traders into the polis would corrupt the soul. Aristotle thought that exchanging products for money had a corrupting influence, and thought that the best state was one that was self-sufficient.
Perhaps the main reason why protectionism has failed to die is because special interests -- auto manufacturers, steel companies, the textile industry, and so forth - - have much to gain by enlisting the aid of government to protect them from foreign competition, whereas the large majority of the population, consisting of unorganized consumers, have little to lose by any particular protectionist legislation, and may not even know that the measure is costing them money in the form of higher prices.
While it is obvious that protectionism results in higher prices and benefits the few (producers) at the expense of the many (consumers), perhaps the strongest argument against protectionism is the moral argument. The illegitimate use of a state by economic interests for their own ends is based upon a preexisting illegitimate power of the state to enrich some persons at the expense of others.
One of the more curious aspects involved in trying to restrict imports is trying to determine exactly where the product in question is coming from. Is there a difference between a Chrysler made in Canada and a Honda made in Ohio? Which one, if either, should we be protected from?
Some protectionists argue that they need government protection because some foreign government is subsidizing some product. But if this were true (and it sometimes is true), then it would be cause for celebration, because it means that some foreign government is paying part of the cost for a product that American consumers are purchasing.
A variation of the subsidy argument is the dumping argument, the belief that foreign manufacturers are selling their products in the domestic market for less than cost. Yet, oddly enough, consumers never complain that prices are too low. It is the domestic manufacturers who complain, and ask for government assistance in preventing or reducing the competition that they face.
Another argument that has been put forth in favor of protectionism is that the failure to protect domestic industry from foreign competition will result in the loss of jobs. While this is sometimes true, perhaps more importantly, if inefficient industries are protected from more efficient competitors, then government is being used to subsidize inefficiency, which has a retarding effect on economic growth and the standard of living.
Another argument is the trade deficit argument. The trade deficit argument (as well as many of the other protectionist arguments) begins from the implied assumption that domestic producers are somehow entitled to the business of the country's populace, and that foreign producers who do business with the local population are somehow stealing from the domestic producers. Is such an assumption logical? I think not.
Another oft-heard argument is that America is deindustrializing, that its manufacturing jobs are being replaced with lower-paying service industry jobs. Yet the evidence shows that the number of jobs in manufacturing in the USA has remained about the same for the past few decades, and production has increased because of the adoption of more efficient methods.
A variation of the deindustrializing argument is the low-wage argument, which takes the position that industrialized countries need protection because they cannot compete with third-world countries that have much lower wage rates. But what these proponents ignore is the fact that industrialized countries can afford to pay higher wages because their labor force is more productive, partly because of higher capital investment. And even if foreigners can undersell a domestic company in some labor-intensive industries, consumers benefit because they can buy what they want for less money, which means they will have more to spend on other goods and services.
So which way does the President lead us? Beijing is under pressure from Washington to revalue its currency to make Chinese imports more expensive and US exports cheaper. China's neighbors in East Asia fear that such pressure will be the prelude to US protectionism that will not only hurt China but crimp their economic growth as well.
There is no reason why labor-intensive industries should be protected, as competition with low labor cost countries is a losing battle. Instead, it is important to have a flexible society so that resources can be redeployed more productively in more competitive sectors of the economy. History shows that the depression during the 1920s was more severe and longer than it could have been because trade barriers were raised. Trade barriers tend to penalize those embracing change and to block job creation, while subsidizing those who do not adjust.
President Bush is over hob-nobbing with communists in Asia in order to avoid the funeral for the Republican Party here at home. And where are these economic policies getting us? Are these free trade agreements really in the best interest of the American people? Or are they designed to help global corporations increase already astronomical profits? And could these policies be actually contributing to an already unstable security situation in the region and here in the homeland?
Kim Jong-Il still survives today for one reason: China. The People's Republic supplies the little dictator's godforsaken country with 90% of its' energy (oil). If President Hu wanted to, he could simply turn off the spigot and we could all be witnesses to the implosion of Kim's pesky regime. But he won't. And why should he. China is winning the economic battle right now with the United States. The trade deficit is at an all-time high, they refuse to revalue their currency, and Americans have a never-ending lust for their cheaply made shoes, garments, and anything else under the sun that can be made for pennies on the dollar over there. Bush does nothing but continue to give them 'Most-Favored Nation' status and run around Indochina in a kimono. North Korea also acts as a distraction for China; as long as Kim has us hopping from one foot to the other, we are less focused on China's military buildup. I support imposing tariffs across the board on all Chinese goods to balance the trade deficit and force China to cut off North Korea. While this may hurt consumers here in the short-term, it is the best action to take in regards to our own security, and should also help reinvigorate our severely damaged manufacturing sector.
Mangos for nukes. This one still confounds me: President Bush traveling to India to sell "civilian" nuclear technology. At the same time, Bush is holding on to ally Pervez Musharraf by a thread, who has been fighting with the Indians forever over Kashmir. He is playing both sides in this conflict; hopefully it doesn't cost us one of our biggest allies in the War on Terror. It also sends a poor signal to countries like Iran and North Korea, who see a double-standard in place as far as our policy towards nuclear proliferation.
What about these free-trade agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.? How many millions of jobs was this deal supposed to create in Mexico? Now we have more illegals streaming across the border than ever before. TEN PERCENT OF MEXICO'S POPULATION RESIDES IN THE UNITED STATES ILLEGALLY! Remittances from the United States accounts for Mexico's second leading source of income, after oil revenue. The trade agreements have also hurt the manufacturing sector, making it easier for manufacturers to outsource jobs to cheap foreign labor. Ford and GM are basically dead in the water, a sad commentary on the American manufacturing situation.
I hope if the Democrats do anything, they address the free-trade situation promptly. We need to adopt more of a "protectionist" policy economically or we face losing the economic war to the rapidly-expanding Asian market, and soon we could be a country of nothing but massage therapists and web designers (and illegal immigrants).
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
President Bush has mainly been talking about economic and diplomatic isolation, however, the administration is also leaving open the option of military action. The question is this: if the economic and diplomatic options do not succeed, should the U.S. (or Israel) launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities ?
Before we do anything rash against Iran we have to exhaust every single negotiable point we have. Certainly nuclear weapons are a serious issue. But we have to make absolutely sure that Iran has them and, most importantly, intends to use them against Israel or any other country or population it deems unfit according to fundamentalist Islamic rule.
There is a delicate cat and mouse game going on here. We are assuming that Ahmadinejad does, in fact, have nuclear weapons. What if this is just bluster? What if our intelligence is again wrong? Do we go charging in to "liberate" yet another Arab country on a whim and undocumentable claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction? I hope not. President Ahmandinejad has to understand, even in his lunatic anger and rage and rantings, that any nuclear strike would be suicidal. I'm certain that every country which currently has nuclear capability would launch a strike so severe against Iran that there would be very little country or citizenry left.
Frank McManus, in the November 19, 2006, Los Angeles Times puts forward an argument that has crossed my mind a few times. ( http://www.latimes.com/search/la-tm-poker45nov05,0,3065105.story ) Entitled "Bluff" the article likens the Iranian stance, and most other chest puffery for that matter, as a game of Texas Hold 'Em poker. Even though we Americans invented poker as we know it today a very similar game has been played in Iran for at least 250 years before we were ever a country. Called As-Nas (My Beloved Ace) it is a bluffing game requiring as much skill in watching your opponent and his quirks as it does knowing percentage strategies. We have spent a lot of time wringing our Western hands about how the Middle-East just isn't like us. Our stategies have been to convince and coerce and entice them into being like us (read Iraq here if you like). Maybe we have to learn how to play their game. Maybe we need to learn how to be really good poker or As-Nas players. One other thing Mr. McManus points out is that only one country other than the U.S. has produced more than one World Series of Poker champion and that is Iran.
We always liken diplomacy to a chess game (a game which also orginated in the Mideast, by the way). But as McManus points out, with chess all your pieces are exposed and all your options are on view by your opponent and though there may be limitless moves available there is really only one good move that will win the game. In poker very often the strongest hand does NOT win the game.
Mr. McManus also quotes former Secretary of State Warren Christopher who warns that "Iranian negotiators deploy 'bazaar behavior' resembling that of a 'Middle Eastern marketplace, with outlandish demands, feints at abandoning the process and haggling over minor details up to the last minute.' Secreatary Christopher should know what he's talking about. He negotiated the release of the American hostages in 1979. Ever gone to buy a new car? Do you always feel you've been snookered no matter how good the deal is that you think you've struck? Same thing.
The point I'm trying to make is that the United States has not even begun, at least to my satisfaction, to learn to play the opponents' game -- and win. We continue arrogantly to demand they play our way, or else. With nuclear mass destruction at stake we can't afford to be bluffed into a catastrophic first strike. Or let them.
That misunderstood twitch of the left eye could be the end of the world as we know it.
Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, speaking ahead of his recent meeting with President Bush, said regarding Iran's nuclear capacity, "I don't want to measure it in days or weeks, but it's quite close, and we have to join forces in order to stop it because this is a serious danger to many countries, amongst them Israel, and this is a moral obligation that we all have. And I think that we all understand it will not happen, it can't happen, we will not tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran."
If the U.S. or Israel decided to make a first strike there are multiple scenario's that could be considered. One first strike scenario would involve a quick and limited strike against nuclear-related facilities accompanied by a threat to resume bombing if Iran responded with terrorist attacks in Iraq or elsewhere.
Another first strike scenario would involve a more ambitious campaign of bombing and sending cruise missiles to level targets well beyond nuclear facilities, such as Iranian intelligence headquarters, the Revolutionary Guard and some in the government.
When Prime Minister Olmert was asked whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, all the Prime Minister would say was that he hoped it would never have to reach that stage. However, don't forget that Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 to prevent it from being used to develop weapons.
I must say that I am beginning to lean toward a first strike option. Although, neither first strike scenario described above sounds ideal, both sound better to me than taking no action and allowing Iran to join the nuclear club.
Nonetheless, I don't want us to make the same mistake we made in Iraq. That mistake is to start something before it has been fully thought through and an exit strategy (or post strike strategy in this case) has been developed and settled upon.
Despite having taken this position, I do believe that sitting across the table from your enemy is appropriate. Even the hero of every neo-con, Ronald Reagan, believed that to be true. However, sitting across the table from an enemy while they take steps to develop and likely use nuclear weapons against you or your allies is not the position we should place ourselves in. The bottom line is that the minute Iran has nuclear capability its unstable leader will be prepared to use them and we must do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn't happen.
It's 1939 all over again. Hopefully we don't have a Chamberlain coming back waving a piece of paper and saying, "He only wants a small piece of territory!" The policy of appeasement is a proven loser. Someone must confront this religious fanatic named Ahmadinejad, as he is the next Hitler, and if he gets the bomb he will use it. Ahmadinejad believes he is in office in order to foster armageddon and believes the way to do this is through a nuclear attack on Israel. He must be confronted, and unfortunately it doesn't appear anyone besides the US and Israel has the fortitude to do it. The United Nations is a broken organization, too rank with corruption to be effective in handling anything, even humanitarian efforts (see Oil for Food scandal).
Will the US and Israel do anything about it? George Bush seems to be the epitome of the term "lame-duck" now. He is out of political capital, and doesn't appear ready to do anything militarily. Israel is coming off their first loss in a conflict ever, in the embarrassing display against Hezbollah earlier this year. Israel has been taken over by the centrist Kadima party, who doesn't appear as apt to fight for Israel's right to exist. If Israel doesn't put the Likud party back in power with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm, they are committing suicide as a nation.
The bottom line is this: Israel cannot afford to wait for the UN to act. They must pressure the US to help them in a first-strike on nuclear facilities within Iran. Mind you, Iran is VERY different from Iraq, and I am not advocating a full-scale ground invasion. But we must have a widespread bombing campaign to make sure we get all of the facilities and set them back far enough that it will take a few years off their progress. Much of Iran's nuclear program is kept in fortified underground bunkers, which may require nuclear-tipped bunker buster bombs. These tactical nukes are meant to be very focused in their fallout. This is a threat that must be taken seriously, and one that we will have to deal with sooner or later. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later.