Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How We Got into Libya.

The Europeans wanted to get into Libya. To a certain extent, it's their backyard. I thought the Israelis too wanted us in, but now I'm not so sure. The impetus for Bernard-Henri Levy's Libya visit may have been more French than Jewish. Clinton and Rice wanted us in because of Rwanda. But the deciding factor may have been the unexpected votes by the AU and the UN. They called our bluff and said go ahead and support the rebels.

Debt and Global Waming

Republicans want to cut debt so that their children will not be burdened. But then they are against doing anything to counter global warming, which means that their great-grandchildren probably won't survive anyway, at least not in a lifestyle that looks anything like ours today.

Thoughts on Reading "Obama's Wars"

People talk about how Afghanistan invaded the US, because bin Laden trained there. But that's like saying some empty building is responsible for a drug killing because the drug gang met there. The gang is the problem, not the building. 9/11 was really a criminal matter, not a military one. But Bush and Cheney were probably right that the American people wanted a big military response, especially since all the hijackers died,and there was no one to hold legally responsible except bin Laden.

Woodward's book emphasizes the importance the whole Obama administration placed on naming McChrystal as Afghanistan commander. When he had to be removed it must have been devastating.

Bush, after invading Afghanistan with a few special forces troops, sent in a few regular troops, and then basically abandoned the war to start a new one in Iraq. The one thing he needed to do in Afghanistan was find bin Laden, but he failed to do it. He left a rump American force there with insufficient guidance and resources. This was terrible for the military, essentially assigning them to a waste of.lives and money, with no possible desirable outcome. Obama gave the military the chance to make something out of Afghanistan, but it's questionable whether that is possible. In any case, so far the military has failed to make progress, even with more resources.

When Obama began to focus on Afghanistan, he and his advisers began to give Pakistan a higher priority as a threat to US interests. Thus, the strategy for Afghanistan was controlled by what effect it would have on Pakistan. Seen this way, US policy for the war was backhanded, sort of like pushing on a string. And Afghanistan once again was second fiddle to another country, this time Pakistan instead of Iraq.

Underlying the debate is the military's need for a war to justify it's existence. The military gets a lot more money, power and attention in wartime than peacetime. So, it's not surprising that it would encourage any war for any reason.

Letter to Veterans Committee

Is Veterans' Committee Chairman Miller a military veteran?

As a Vietnam veteran I ask, because press reports, including a recent email from the American Legion, indicate that this Congress wants to drastically cut veterans benefits.

It sounds like Chairman Miller is from the Pensacola area. When I was growing up, the Pensacola Naval Air Station was one of the most important things around Pensacola, but I find it is not mentioned in the Chairman's bio. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and my mother and I used to shop at the Naval commissary while my father was serving in the Army in Korea during that war.

It is terrible that this Congress is attacking veterans as dead and wounded veterans come home from two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and some kind of military action in

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Elizabeth Warren Redux

I am very disappointed with President Obama's decision not to nominate Elizabeth Warren as head of the new consumer protection agency. She is one of the few people in Washington that I respect and trust. Obama's decision to pass over her for one of the deputies she hired shows cowardice in the face of Republican opposition. To me, coming simultaneously with the fight over the debt ceiling and budget deficit, it illustrates the failure of the two party system.

I have seen in the news that Elizabeth Warren is considering a run for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Scott Brown. I can't imagine why a woman with her high moral character would want to join a corrupt, dysfunctional body like the US Senate, but she could only raise its standards. Nevertheless, she surely would have been more useful as head of the consumer agency.

The consensus seems to be that Congress will come up with some way to raise the debt ceiling, whether the minimalist Mitch McConnell approach to raise the ceiling but do nothing about the budget, or the gang of six maximalist approach to make huge modifications to the budget. Because I have no confidence in Congress, and because Congress has dithered until the last minute, I do not expect anything important to come out of this mess. I don't see how it can reform Medicare, Social Security and the tax code in less than two weeks.

I am hopeful that the ceiling will be raised somehow so that the US does not default on its debt at the same time that Europe is facing much more substantive debt problems. Europe has to deal with the future of the entire Euro zone, while the US is tied up in knots over a simple procedural issue. But the two together could bring down the world economy, or at least transfer world leadership from the West to China.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Swift Boat Vets Don't Love the Troops

I am not happy with all the talk by Republicans (and Democrats) about how much they love the troops. As a Vietnam veteran I did not get a particularly heartwarming welcome home. The main welcome I remember is that Continental Airlines offered me a free drink flying from Fort Lewis, Washington, where I separated from the Army, to New Orleans, on my way to Mobile.

The most anti-veteran thing I remember was Swift Boat veterans ads that the Republicans ran against John Kerry when he ran for President. Although it was directed at a fellow Swift Boat veteran, Kerry, it was really an attack on all veterans, particularly against Vietnam vets. It ironic that except for pilots and Seal teams, Swift Boat vets have been the only Navy vets who have actually fought the enemy since World War II. I think most Navy personnel killed or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan are medics assigned to Marine units.

In retrospect, I think the attitude of the general public toward Vietnam veterans coming home was that the Vietnamese should have killed the returning vets. They thought that would have been more just, because Vietnam vets were perverted baby killers. Those who didn't go -- Clinton, Bush, Cheney -- felt they had to condemn Vietnam vets, because otherwise the draft dodgers would have looked bad. They weren't necessarily cowards, but they were selfish, not willing to serve their country.

As a result, Vietnam vets have something in common with low ranking German Nazi vets, who fought in WW II because they had to, and they fought for the guy in the foxhole next to them, like the troops in Afghanistan, not for any Nazi ideals. But they will forever be branded as low grade war criminals. That's more or less how those who didn't fight see Vietnam vets. It was particularly hard on minorities and less educated vets, who were drafted or volunteered in disproportionately large numbers because the more advantaged youths refused to go.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Do Republicans Understand Debt Crissis?

Republicans don't seem to understand the difference between incurring debt and paying it off. The debt ceiling is about paying off existing debt. If we don't pay it, it is like not paying a credit card balance. The credit card company is going to charge you lots of fees and higher interest and will probably refuse to lend you any more money. What Republicans are worried about is continual charging on the card, running up a bigger and bigger balance. The answer is to stop charging, not to stop paying. Once you have a huge bill, it is hard to figure out how to pay it off. It is a much longer and tougher job than just making a payment each month. They need to keep paying the bill, and then work on a budget.