Saddam Hanged

2006/12/30

Saddam is dead, and nothing will change because of it. Saddam was never the leader of the partisan resistance, or guerilla factions; his supporters constituted a small number.

The idea of the nation of Iraq itself is a bad one: I have said this repeatedly. Saddam’s methods alone held Iraq together, little else has worked since its inception after WW1; that goes to show that “Iraq” is an ill conceived idea. Western countries cannot successfully colonize, administer, or occupy foreign nations that are nationalistically self aware. You have to slaughter them, and bring settlers, like the Europeans did in the new world. If a people understand that being colonized makes them lesser persons, in a world that gives lip service to equality and practices racism, they will resist that humiliation. Can anyone honestly think they themselves would not fight a foreign occupying army in their own country? 

Military power has little utility by itself, but it has some when combined with a practicable political policy. Our government is confused about what that is: and in a nation of 300 million, we wait on the “gut” of an unlearned alcoholic, reminiscent of the French Bourbons who “learned nothing and forgot nothing.” We could have gone into Baghdad, hanged Saddam and his top X crony’s, split off Kurdistan, ceded some territory to Jordan, and left. That was the limit of the possible.  Occupations take a mindset that we don’t have, and an eyes open ruthlessness we lack. U.S. troops will leave “Iraq” one day, and then the inhabitants can get on with making their own political settlement. Every dollar, and drop of blood expended since Saddam’s government was toppled has been for nothing.

We need a new government.

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The Conservative’s Lack of Personal Responsibility

2006/12/30

Conservatives lack personal responsibility, and blame others when they and their policies fail. They engage in Liberal baiting, yet are themselves thin skinned whiners, fighting their own personal demons. Conservatives fail time after time to implement workable policies and then blame the opposition for their failure: this is even more apparent in foreign policy than elsewhere.  

A favorite rhetorical device is, to blame the opposition or some oppositional group for Conservative policy failures. The inverted logic of dreams is their gut check. Criticism of a failed policy is not actually able to be the cause of the preceding failure. The thing that causes home front support to crack is when the governments rhetoric becomes so obviously detached from the reality of the situation people lose heart. But, the failure preceded the loss, and to expect people to support a failed policy is to misunderstand human nature, and to dishonestly abjure the personal responsibility of the decision makers. 

Conservatives indulge in “stab in the back” rhetoric: that a given war could be won if only the people will maintain their resolve. That is only true for things that are hard, not for pipe dreams. The Civil War was hard, WW2 was hard, and American will did not falter. Vietnam and
Iraq were ill considered and reckless gambles that in neither case went to our national security. These two wars were sold on falsehoods and their perpetuation served no good purpose.
 

The outcome in Vietnam in 1975 was far worse than what could have been expected without our intervention. There were no dominos and Communism was never monolithic. The revolutionary nationalism that motivated war against foreign occupation was broad based initially. The course and pointless viciousness of the war gave a dedicated cadre of true believers (communists) control of the movement and then the country. They could not have done the same in a peaceful transition and early western withdrawal. We expended inordinate blood and treasure in a manner that actually helped the communists versus their own domestic opposition.  

Foolishly we initiated a war that we went on to lose in a humiliating spectacle, and worse we learned the wrong lesson, took no responsibility and blamed the people opposed to the war. We are fighting in a country that did not attack us, for an impossible goal, we name our cause noble and forgive us our own transgressions, we are doing it again: Conservative race-baiting liberal-baiting and all.  

The Conservative movement philosophy is diametrically opposed to every reason this country was founded and every article of the Constitution. The damage inflicted on our economy, constitution and civil liberties from Conservatives is an indictment of their asinine world view. That their movement is still getting any support when it has been so consistently wrong, and wrong in a way that is verifiable, is an indictment of our system, and the foolishness of people who think marginal change wrought by congressional democrats constitutes change of any kind.   

We need a new government. 


The Presidency We’ve Got

2006/12/29

The passing of former President Gerald Ford is perhaps an opportunity to reflect on the presidency as an institution. The presidency is an odd institution: responsible for executing law and policy, it is mentioned less than half the number of times the Congress is mentioned, but more than the passing reference to the Supreme Court, and no mention or parties and lobbyists whatsoever.If one were to design a flow chart of the U.S. Constitution, I think one would see that the parts don’t actually interact always; by design, intent or flaw. The so-called checks & balances, and separation of powers, are really ways of describing lack of connectivity or coherence. The President heads the Executive branch, now a bureaucratic behemoth. Though originally conceived as somewhat limited in scope, the Presidency now runs the country, determines policy, and lacks accountability. 

The Presidency’s of Ford and Carter are generally agreed to have been ineffective. Why these two honorable men failed stems from their respect for the Constitutional limits of their office, their decency, and the flawed structure of the federal government. The Democratic congress that came into office in 1974, like the GOP congress of 1994 refused to work with the executive branch, undermined the executive branch, but Ford and Carter respected the Constitutional limits: therefore they were ineffectual. 

Reagan demonstrated the potential unlimited power available to the assertive executive. His genial public persona, his rhetorical respect for the Constitution, combined with the marketing appeal of Reagan’s Tall Tales, especially in contrast to the dreary lecturing tone of Ford and Carter, allowed a new direction. Later George W. Bush would tell Congress, the courts, the press, our allies, all and sundry to get fucked and make it stick. That is not to say the country is better off for it, it is not. Americans who put loyalty to party and leader over country and constitution are symptomatic of a cultural shift toward obedience and ignorance. 

Congress is not entirely irrelevant, just an obstacle, sometimes. There are not enough congressmen. Congress has ceded its power to the executive branch and unelected lobbyists and staffers. The recent big win of the Democrats will have no effect on a large scale. Their first hundred days proposals are very mainstream, mild stuff. A Congress worth a damn would take back control of itself from lobbyists/staffers, then retake control of the budget from the Executive Branch, impeach Cheney, then Bush, then justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, then create Congressional Inspectorates over every department and agency of the Federal government, then sort out state from federal purview, and then get serious about reform. 

This government sucks. 

After more than 200 hundred years of practice, and with a rich history here and abroad to draw on, one would think we could improve our governance. We need a new government, one of democratic enterprise to replace the monetized/bureaucratized feudalism we have now.


Texas Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick

2006/12/24

Tom Craddick is the current Speaker of the House in Texas. He will be up for re-election when the house reconvenes for its new session. Here is an interesting fact about a man who knows how to look out for number one. While in the Texas Legislature, State Representative Tom Craddick pushed passage of the (FCUC) Former COBRA Uninsured Children provision of the Texas State Uniform Group Insurance Plan (UGIP): sometimes known as the Craddick Law. This special provision allowed lifetime eligibility in the state employee insurance coverage for the adult children of state employees, who had maintained COBRA coverage after they aged out of the dependant coverage eligibility. If the dependant child was covered at age out; then paid COBRA premiums for 36 months, they became eligible for lifetime insurance coverage should they elect to pay the premium. This was a remarkably valuable perk for state employees and legislators who had disabled and otherwise uninsurable children like Tom Craddick.

A system that rewards crud like Craddick is defective. Craddick is just being true to his nature, the system needs change.


Military v. Political

2006/12/24

People often seem to minimize or exaggerate what the military can accomplish: the same with political. Often this seems to be a problem of words and definitions. Political solutions can encompass and include the military, diplomatic, economic and other means. The military is simply that.   As an example of what I mean take the U.S. Civil War. It originated out of a political problem whose roots were moral and economic. A time came when one side decided to abandon the comprehensive political approach to a solely military one: as we are wont to do today. The other side had recourse to arms as well. After a titanic struggle lasting years and consuming the youth and wealth of the nation, one side won a total victory. Military means quite satisfactorily settled the question of secession. But military means failed utterly to settle the issue of equality for all Americans. Though Black Americans were no longer slaves, they were hardly free or equal. That took 100 hundred years and a political solution.  The same holds true elsewhere. Our military settled the question of whether Saddam could steer Iraq in an unacceptable direction. But it cannot settle the question of who will steer
Iraq and where to, because it is a political not a military problem. The powerful fools who run our country and the overworked under-educated populace at large cannot fix this within the rules and incentives that operate in America. That is why we need a new government.


Foreign Policy Redux

2006/12/24

Our National Policy needs to have a realistic view of the world. We have pursued the chimera of stability, in many nations, with uniform failure over time. Stability, such as it is can only come from the internal dynamics of a given country. It cannot be finagled or imposed. It is important to use terms consistently without equivocation. I do not say that military power cannot affect outcomes. I say it has side effects, foreseeable and unforeseeable; that generally are overlooked by our government, and people. Our government insanely oscillates between the catastrophic and the utopian.  Our exaggerated hopes and fears are in no wise rational. Going back to the Spanish American war, except for Nazism, our fears were irrational. And the government and media hyped or manufactured threats, for motives of power and profit.  

But these fears have become institutionalized in our culture now. When the
USSR collapsed finally, we went looking for something to fear. We tried china, but in the early 90’s that couldn’t be sold. Now we have the clumsy verbiage of the forever war on the intangible.
 We have made many mistakes. Some of them counting backward: we elevated the minor threat posed by
North Korea into a major threat and failed. We elevate the non existent threat of
Iran to major, and fail. We elevate the miniscule threat posed by Saddam’s
Iraq, and fail after the application of the majority of our mobile ground forces. We elevate Castro’s
Cuba into a major threat and fail. We fictionalize a threat from
Grenada and succeed, in an empty and meaningless way. And so it goes. But why must we pursue these insane fears, against our own national interest?
 

A pragmatic view of our situation finds us in an historically enviable position. There are no unknown territories out of which can surge fearsome nomads, as happened to Europeans and Asians. We have no powerful and hostile neighbors, who have mechanized forces within ten day’s drive or less to our capital, as happened to France and
Poland. Our own efforts at transporting and supporting troops globally, against no naval or air opposition show the futility of trying an invasion of
America from overseas. Finally our nation spans a continent. We have two weak and friendly neighbors that require no military effort to hold back, and we are surrounded by four seas, the Atlantic, Pacific,
Arctic and Gulf/Caribbean. There is no credible military threat to the
U.S.
 We act as though there is. We have a military whose scope is far beyond national defense. We have a military whose record of success is mixed, and in no way the main pillar of American power. Yet we have come to think of our lucky position as hard fought, the fruit of victory, and superior skill. The outcome of WW2 left us rich and powerful. We fought hard, but not alone. Our allies the Russians and British fought hard; so too the Poles and French. The difference between the former and latter has more to due with geography than will. None of the countries named were ready to fight a modern mechanized war, though they were ready to fight.  

The difference was time and space. The French and Poles had too little space and time. The German Wehrmacht had a better doctrine and communications, the French and Poles had no time or space in which to adjust. The British just as thoroughly defeated in the field could withdraw across a sea barrier, uncrossable without adequate naval and air forces.
Russia never gave in, but did yield considerable land and manpower before they, under extreme pressure, devised a successful means and doctrine for fighting the German Wehmacht. The
U.S. was never territorially threatened by Nazi Germany. We had every opportunity to learn from the prior mistakes and experiences of the Poles, French, British and Russians, but we didn’t. Our training, doctrine, and equipment were inadequate and we had our clocks cleaned at Kasserine. But fortunately for us that was a continent away and after four years of fighting, the German Wehmarht had a feeble logistical tail.
 We were victorious in concert with our allies. We set up currency, trade, legal, and defense agreements that were to our advantage, and somewhere decided we had done it all thru force of arms, by ourselves. Americans often measure the current in comparison with the 1950’s: a ludicrous exercise. A vast portion of the industrialized world lay in ruins then, augmenting our sense of power. But that was never bound to last. Whereas we could have gradually and gracefully become progressively more inclusive as countries recovered, we insisted not on being the leading nation, but the deciding nation at all times. We developed a two tiered standard for viewing the world stage and its actors. We forgive ourselves the most brazen and shameful actions, and then doubt the good intentions of other any nation that has their own interests at heart.  

Now we are using our own military power to strip away the last vestiges of soft power that were the real additions to American power, Bretton Woods, GATT, UN, World Bank, these all benefited
America most, and now they are almost gone from our petulant control. We have the continued illusion of power because the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. This allows us to appropriate the productivity of other nations. The only reason our thorough mismanagement of this boon has not caused the dollar to collapse yet, is that there is no currency to replace it. Likely the Euro will never be it, but the Chinese could do it some day. And that is a big threat.
 The threat to America is not “terrorism” or “Islam” or Iran, China or
Russia, the threat is mindless, baseless, irrational fear. Our government is ill prepared to change, and our people ill educated and easily led by the pied piper of fears. That’s why we need a new government.
 


Foreign Policy Wrap Up

2006/12/24



Europe:

We should reengage Europe, western, northern and central
Europe. The part of
Europe that is Western in orientation, democratic, and politically settled. We should have the Dollar and Euro move toward a fixed rate of exchange, allowing country’s to opt out of the Euro. There should be more cooperation and standardization of law, currency, military and diplomatic enterprises.
 


Russia:

Russia must be treated as a partner, but not an ally. We both have a need to check Chinese hegemony. And in concert with America’s allies, Russia and
India that should be doable. Russian Balkans or
Scandinavia.
 

 

The
Americas:
Central America, the Caribbean, the Colombia, and
Venezuela are bordering or near bordering states in which we have an interest. We have no need to accept hostile regimes, but we also have no need to interfere in internal development. American investors should not be able to call on the power of the Federal Government to insure their investments. As long as American investors receive equal or superior protection compared with other foreign investors we should keep our hands off. We should prevent any foreign power from outside the region from establishing bases of any kind in these territories. But these countries must be allowed to determine their own social and economic order, as any democratic and self a ware people must.
 

The further states of
South America have the wherewithal to develop their own economies and power. This is no threat to the U.S. Strong; stable states are in our interests, but beyond our ability to manufacture.
 


Africa:

North Africa, like the Balkans is not worth the effort of intervention. Although they should be prevented form exporting their domestic political and cultural problems abroad. 

Sub-Saharan
Africa is such a tragedy. Western interference has destroyed the olds way and replaces them with nothing. It is the great misfortune of Africans that their continent contains minerals prized abroad. They need both a macro and micro solution. The micro solution is to further break down the artificial and nonsensical boundaries of those nations into more ethnically homogenous and territorially compact areas. The macro solution is for an All Africa Mineral Resource authority to be the agent for all sales of African resources. Accounting transparency, wealth sharing, and protection in law are vital.
Africa needs roads, bridges, tunnels, canal, sea ports, railways, education, industry, agriculture, and health care, paid police and civil bureaucrats for the modern world. They could use the mineral wealth that is so richly and unevenly distributed toward rational progress and development. They need the internal and external dynamics of their political situation to change.