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December 29, 2009

THE US IS TOO BIG TO BAIL

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TOO BIG TO BAIL

A Year-end Reflection by

Jay B Gaskill

 

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[This piece is also posted at < http://jaygaskill.com/TooBigToBail.htm > in htm format. .

 

Why The Next Bubble is Still Growing

 

Here’s the dirty little secret:  Our government is living on borrowed time, on borrowed money, living in a fragile bubble sustained by rapidly vanishing trust.  Don’t just look at the deficit figures; that daunting, scary picture is trumped by overall national indebtedness, revealed in the books behind the public façade.  The government could seize all that mythical “excess” income above $250,000 per year, apply it to the real debt, and we’d be still be deeper under water than our evicted friends whose empty homes are in foreclosure.   

 

Is the US “too big to fail?”  Here’s the real question:  Which nations, in the current political and economic environment, are both willing and able to bail us out?  Think it through.  Was Weimar Germany* too big to fail?  Was the Roman Imperium?  We will be allowed to fail because we are too big to save.

 

Here’s change you can believe in: Within a fairly short time span, there will be:

[Check Box One] a dramatic, destructive fiscal reckoning - or -

[Check Box Two] there will be a brutal, but survivable correction. 

 

Hope for the latter, because there is NO Box Three.  

 

I am resolutely optimistic by nature but my resolution is sorely tempered by the state of denial that has infected the Beltway power brokers.  We’ve been living through a red vs. blue power struggle that is analogous to a dangerously dysfunctional family; think of Mom and Dad \locked in a mortal struggle inside the house while the children are blithely setting up their toys on the freeway in perfect trust that everything will work out.

 

The problem is so serious that nothing less than an entitlement moratorium and a brutally honest spending reformation will save the day.  The spirit of fiscal improvidence in Washington echoes the last days of the Weimar Republic.  I do not exaggerate.  The problem here is that a majority of voters and a plurality of elected officials are essentially clueless about the relevant history.  [*First Hint:  Google “The Weimar Republic”, hyper-inflation and Hitler.  Second Hint; Hitler was a socialist.]

 

We can reasonably expect a partial course-correction as a result of the 2010 congressional elections.  I am constrained to say partial because the Senate may well remain resistant to any spending corrections initiated by the new house majority.  The current congressional leadership seems hell bent on front loading all of the new entitlement and save-the-world spending measures such that only an affirmative change in direction in both chambers, supported by POTUS, will be able avert the inevitable fiscal collapse.  This outcome would herald at least two more years, during which we continue to race towards the next bubble explosion.

 

This is why fiscal reform trumps health care reform and any save-the-world bend-the-climate curve measures.  Yes we are at that place. 

 

Staggering costs alone will transmute the democratic health care reform package – in any plausible form – into an electoral poison pill that will kill off an entire generation of liberal voters.  No they won’t actually die:  You just won’t be able to find very many of them after the coming reckoning/correction.

 

To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.  This was an opportunity squandered.  For a brief moment, when the president’s words about a bipartisan dialogue seemed real, we might have summoned a consensus to reform the health care delivery system at a more fundamental level, unleashing forces that would pry Americans from the herded-sheep, bureaucratic-nanny model that is spreading over the western world like a child’s “blankey”, writ large.  All of the strictly fiscal warning signs aside, this blankey will prove to be a faux-soothing cloak, ultimately suffocating.  To our credit, a super-majority of US voters agree with a more conservative approach, and remain strongly opposed to the democrats’ proposals.  Sadly, a Kamikaze, “this is who we really are and what the hell”, impulse has overtaken congressional democrats, who are still locked into “commit now and pay later” magical thinking. 

 

I’ve outlined some prudent health care reform alternatives in three articles, ending with http://jaygaskill.com/DarwinianMedicine.htm which references the other two. 

 

DOING THE UNDOABLE WITH THE UNTHINKABLE

 

The president’s stated agenda is inherently unobtainable because of its internal contradictions.  You just can’t “bend the cost curve” downward when you provide new entitlements.  And you can’t maintain the quality of any kind of professional care when you punish providers for offering it. 

 

The president is fond of citing history.  This would be an excellent moment for POTUS to reflect on economic history.  Realistic cost containment can only be achieved when efficiencies are driven by the market tensions between informed consumers and providers who are rewarded by consumer preferences.  Realistic debt containment can only be achieved by dramatically cutting back entitlements to match real government income.  Realistic job creation can only be achieved by unburdening productive job-creating businesses.  Realistic recovery from excessive debt can only be achieved by substituting repayment for new borrowing.    

 

Here’s one more dirty little secret:  The current government in power is still borrowing to pay for necessities and intends to borrow still more for programs that are not necessary.  That’s what deficit actually spending means:  continuing to add to a staggering indebtedness.  Even a balanced budget the holy grail of sound fiscal policy does absolutely nothing to reduce the vast, unstable debt bubble.

 

I believe in American exceptionalism.  We are in fact the light of hope for the world.  But our hard earned exceptionalism is about to be squandered.  We are not so exceptional that we have earned some secret exemption from the iron laws of economics.  Countries that persist in spending beyond their means actually do fail. 

 

JBG

 

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --

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December 19, 2009

Blue Dogs and Greedy Monkeys - The Health DARE

Want to escape the dismal headlines? Read Jay Gaskill’s new thriller.  More at  http://www.jaygaskill.com/TourTheStrandedOnes.pdf

 

Welcome to the Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com    

As Posted On

→The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1   

→The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3 

Also check out the “OutLawyerGaskill” channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/OutLawyerGaskill ...

 

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article - except for personal use - is needed.

Forwarded links are welcomed.

 

Contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

As posted in HTM format on The Policy Think Site:

LINK -- http://jaygaskill.com/BlueDogsGreedyMonkeys.htm 

 

Blue Dogs and Greedy Monkeys

Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

 

At this writing, it appears that the Nebraska democrat, Senator Nelson, a putative Blue Dog democrat, has surrendered to a heath care compromise. (LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-senate-healthcare20-2009dec20,0,1299246.story  ) His sticking point was opposition to taxpayer funded abortion services.  Evidently, his price was met.

 

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs other Blue Dog votes, including that of the independent, Green Dog democrat, Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, to shut down debate.

 

All this is remarkable in light of the fact that every poll now shows a decisive majority of US voters are opposed to the democratic health care juggernaut. 

 

Why?  Public trust has been broken.  Far too many undisclosed, un-discussed deal-killing clauses and provisions were bundled into far too many bills that now are better weighed on a butcher’s scale than read in detail.  Too much change was bundled into an unwieldy and dangerous package, pushed with too much urgency, with too little time for careful review. 

 

If the bills fail, the story of the greedy monkey comes to mind.  The prudent monkey sneaked into the cookie jar, pulled out a single cookie and ran away.  The greedy monkey grabbed so many cookies that he couldn’t pull his hand out of the jar and was caught, red handed so to speak.

 

The Hoover scholar, Victor Davis Hanson, in a year end review, put the situation this way:

 

“Jobless Recovery?

“We should be in a natural cycle of rebound, but it looks instead like what the Democrats used to call a “jobless recovery.” The President has hosted a job summit, and jawboned businesses to expand. But most are terrified of an array of new taxes and regulations, and are instead hunkering down. Caricaturing surgeons and the Chamber of Commerce didn’t help. Talk of new cap-and-trade taxes hurt. So did promises of higher payroll, local, state, and federal tax bites.

“We know the federal borrowing (nearly $2 trillion this year) cannot go on much longer. Yet we seem to want to get as much cheap money at 1-2% interest as we can still from the Chinese. The result is that the more the administration and Congress talk of fiscal responsibility, the higher they set the new debt ceilings.

“Enjoy It While It Lasts?

“There is almost an end-of-the-century/‘after me the deluge’ madness in the Congress. With rock-bottom congressional approval ratings, a President with freefalling polls, and a public angry at almost every piece of proposed legislation — from socialized healthcare to cap-and-trade — Congress’s mood seems to be ‘let us race to cram through this statist agenda and get it institutionalized before we all get thrown out in 2010.’”

 

 

“Is America a Deer in the Headlights?” http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson121709.html

 

If I were to select just one issue, the single cookie to snatch from the jar, it would be the dropped coverage issue.  The Congress provided a reasonable temporary fix for that in Stimulus 2.0, by subsidizing the employer’s contribution for insured employees who were forced to go on COBRA following job loss.  That should have been the seed for a prudent, carefully budgeted, incrementally-implemented reform.  There would have been Republican support.

 

But the president has stated an entirely unreasonable goal for a massive grand health care bargain, to be rammed through by a compliant democratic majority:  He wishes to bend the health care cost increase curve downward.  Not only is this fiscally-driven bromide a piss-poor rallying cry, it is the fools gold of all federal policy, a metal commonly referred to in engineering circles as unobtanium.  “Why?” you ask: Because you can’t blend a new entitlement with cost containment.  You might as well try to make ice cream over an open fire. 

 

All entitlements, from Social Security to Medicare, tend to outrun their funding mechanisms.  In the long term, they lead us to a choice between bankruptcy or a TAX revolt and reduced benefits.  Collectively, the entitlements embedded in the US fiscal economy will result in the bankruptcy of the federal government.  I do not exaggerate.

 

We are living on borrowed time, with borrowed money, relying on a pyramid scheme that is currently being bankrolled by Chinese investment and a rampant fiat money factory.  A major new entitlement will be the coup de grace for this fragile recovery.  If you pay for it with higher taxes and fees, the costs dangerously impair recovery, and if you don’t pay for it with higher taxes and fees the deficit pressure will trigger the federal bankruptcy tipping point, while sparking another Carter-era “stagflation” in the bargain.  You might as well give up on economic recovery until 2012.

 

Blue Dog democrats earned their charming name because they were closed out of inner circle by the ideologically liberal clique that runs the Democratic Party for so long that they turned blue from the cold.  If there is one simple principle that distinguishes the Blue Dogs from their fellow democrats, it is a stubborn fiscal common sense, the quaint notions that bills should be paid, that federal borrowing is not all that different from personal borrowing.  Will this actually be true of the handful of fence-sitting Senators that holds the keys to fiscal sanity?  That “profile in courage” remains to be measured.   The Blue Dog label needs to be earned.  There is a moment of electoral reckoning in November next year, when the current blowback in the polls is transmuted by a decisive power shift.

 

 

 

 

December 11, 2009

Author's Virtual Tour

My new thriller, The Stranded Ones, is available in several  formats...all electronic. 

I've just posted an illustrated Author's Tour.  If you like the tour, you'll love the novel.

Go to http://www.jaygaskill.com/TourTheStrandedOnes.pdf 

Best,

 

Jay B Gaskill

December 07, 2009

SCIENCE AND TRUTH: On Not Severing our HUMBILICAL Chord

 

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http://jaygaskill.com/TheNewThrillerByJayGaskill.htm

 

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SCIENCE AND TRUTH:

On Not Severing our HUMBILICAL Chord

 

I love science and I’ve never met a scientist whose company I did not enjoy. 

 

I love literature, but I can’t make quite the same generalization about every member of the literati I’ve met.  Ego and a sniff of defensive condescension have corrupted the fieldworkers. 

 

Scientists, as persons, are intellectually humble – in my personal experience – because they have learned through trial and error as fieldworkers that the scientific process is an imperfect tool, especially as a single measure of human progress.

 

We all need to remain connected to our humbilical chords (our heuristic umbilicus harmonious, if you will).   My invented term describes the sense that – other than our deep ultimate moral compass – we just might be wrong, arrogant, unwilling to listen, and therefore at risk of becoming self-disabled beings, crippled in our capacity to learn and live outside our separate thought-bubbles.

 

The 20th and 21st centuries have elevated the role of science-as-myth, from Robert Oppenheimer’s “destroyer of worlds” (the Hindu deity, Shiva) to the Maker of Worlds.  In the most recent trend, science has been conflated with ideology, for example in the ideology of amoral atheism. It is as if empirical science is capable of proving or disproving such deep truths of existence.  There is a new word in the lexicon of those who watch the human condition being formed and deformed under the stresses of rampant “modernity’ and “postmodernity”:  scientism.  This term describes the misappropriation of science as a moral compass, a guide to the human policy maker, the elevation of the white coat of the laboratory to the garments of the priest, seer and rabbi all in one. 

 

The most recent scientific scandal has been dismissed by our modern oracle, the New York Times, in the piece, “In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril” by Andrew Revkin and John Broder. 

 

The scandal, in case you haven’t heard, is that a major scientific player in the global temperature collection and analysis game, the highly respected scientific team at the University of East Anglia, in England, has been compromised. 

 

The distraction story was that “hackers” got into a body of confidential scientist-to-scientist emails.  The real story, however, is what these private communications now reveal:  These “global warming” scientists were so freaked about evidence suggesting that the earth’s recent (i.e., last 100 years) warming wasn’t quite as severe as the “scientific consensus” held (the term should be putative consensus) AND were even more seriously freaked by recent evidence of a cooling trend, that they manipulated data, skewed its presentation and even erased embarrassing anomalous information. 

 

This is the scientific equivalent of priestly child molestation.   

 

I am not a global warming “denier” (a term borrowed from religious discourse) because data are data, period.  During the geologically brief period when humans have been able to capture reasonably accurate world temperature information (about 80 years at best), there has been a detectable, but not uniformly consistent, warming trend.  There is a more recent cooling period, much briefer; it might be a brief pause (think of a marathon runner stopping to take a drink, bind a knee and relieve herself, then resumes the race) or it might portend something more. 

 

Data is data. 

 

And there surely is SOME human contribution to the warming trend, although in my amateur study (think of a lawyer sifting forensic evidence here), most of the human climate pressure was exerted over 8,000 years of deforestation and other large scale land use transformations, the warming effects of which were driven more by methane than CO2 and were masked by an overall cooling trend.  But that is a debatable position, of course.

 

All this discussion is so very, very important because public policy issues hang in the balance.  For example, a full-on attempt to drive down CO2 emissions via economic disincentives will impose a dramatic negative drag on the world economy, truly dangerous in our current precarious situation.  A false sense of urgency and a faux consensus?    Bad economic timing, to say the least.  But a cooling period, even a pause, would give everyone some breathing space.

 

This is why some of us propose an aggressive supply-side strategy, one focused on the deployment of new generation nuclear-electric generators (the safety of which far exceeds that of the coal and oil industries).  But that policy discussion is for another piece.

 

 The New York Times Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/science/earth/07climate.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper ). 

 

Consider this:  The overall evidence for the existence of a divine, intelligent creator is of the same general character as the evidence relied on to assert human climate forcing as the principal cause for the recent 80 year warming period. 

 

But the case for a real God is actually stronger.

 

JBG

December 01, 2009

OBAMA @ WEST POINT

 

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --
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CHURCHILL or LYNDON BAINES OBAMA?
OUR PRESIDENT @ WEST POINT

 

[][][]

 

President Obama has just finished speaking.  It was a cool delivery, serious but without passion.  I will paraphrase the speech highlights.  He reviewed 911, describing how Al Qaeda ,harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan planned and carried out the attacks on us and how we responded by obtaining a UN resolution and NATO commitment.  Under the banner of domestic unity and international agreement, the Taliban was deposed and replaced. For six years Iraq drained resources from Afghanistan. But, today, Iraq is a success and the end of US military involvement there is on the calendar.

 

But today, the Taliban is making headway in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The president’s new goal is the defeat of Al Qaeda and its allies. Because Al Qaeda retains safe havens along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, action must be taken. General McCrystal’s assessment that the status quo is not sustainable requires us to act.

 

“I owe you a mission that is clearly defined.” Obama then defended the three month delay because nothing was on his desk requiring action before January. He will commit 30 thousand troops for a period of for 18 months.  The president mentioned the polarized partisan atmosphere and the current burdens on the economy without explicitly acknowledging that they have affected his Afghan strategy.  “We must keep the pressure on Al Qaeda and we must increase the stability of our partners.”

 

He pointed out that Al Qaeda hasn't stopped its threats to us and our allies.  He acknowledged that terrorists seek and will use nukes.  Therefore we must deny them a safe haven.  We need to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Afghan legitimate government.  We will employ a multi-pronged approach. The military prong is designed to break insurgent momentum and help train local security forces. Obama repeated, “We must end this war successfully.”

 

Any pull-out deadline “is to be executed responsibly taking into conditions on the ground”.

 

Another prong of the strategy is to improve civilian performance.  We will “open the door” to Taliban members who renounce violence and agree to play by the rules.  Another prong of the effort: We need to work both sides of the border, containing the cancer.  Pakistan is a partner. We need to cultivate their help.

 

Obama disagreed that Afghanistan is another Vietnam.  In one of the better passages in his speech, he pointed out that, unlike Vietnam, we have a broader coalition; we were attacked, and that the Taliban is not a popular insurgency.

 

He disagreed with those who argue that we can hold Afghanistan with current forces because we need to provide “security space” for the local forces to train and assume responsibility.

 

In the most sensitive part of Obama’s speech he defended the notion of having and announcing a pullback deadline.  "We cannot afford open ended commitment".  A deadline places constructive pressure on locals. This echoed Senator Obama’s Iraq arguments.  Then he pointed out that the US “can't ignore the price of these wars”. The surge will cost 30 billion.

 

Obama’s best substantive quote: “The nation I’m most interesting building is our own.” 

The speech ended with some applause lines.  He stressed the necessity of nuke containment, the value of diplomacy.  Then he talked about values.  “I will prohibit torture and we will close 
Guantanamo”. [All my quotes are approximate.] 

The President told the assembled cadets that the
US has not sought world domination, instead “we have fought for a better future for our children”, whose lives are better when other children “have freedom and opportunity”.  That won the first applause.  In his strongest applause line (there were three by my count) he praised the idealism of military service.  In his last applause line he said, “We were unified after 911  and I refuse to accept that we will not be unified again.” I would have joined in that applause, while wondering about the hopeful assessment. 

 

He ended with, “our cause is just and our will is unwavering.” 

 

[][][]

 

 

 

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

 

Winston Churchill

 

Headline:  Obama Will Announce a Limited Afghanistan Surge

 

“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

 

Barak Obama

 

 

The key elements in the president’s announced strategy:

 

  • 30,000 new troops over the next six months,
  • A request to NATO for an additional 5-10 thousand troops,
  • An attempt to train more Afghani troops and security forces and
  • Exit dates for the additional troops – July, 2011 and more “to be announced”.

 

Some comments:

 

ONE     This represents 25% fewer troops than General McCrystal urgently requested ninety two days ago.

TWO    The hoped for NATO contribution is problematic on two counts: (A) NATO may not come through. (B) NATO troops have not bought into McCrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. This will be a problem because the counterinsurgency plan involves the real prospect of higher short-term casualties (see below).

THREE  Everyone agrees that more Afghani security forces need to be trained and brought on line.  This requires the intense and dependable long term commitment of significant American resources.  Think of recruiting and training new firefighters who don’t speak English, who don’t trust foreigners, all in the middle of a general conflagration, complicated by snipers who want the fire to succeed.

FOUR    Announced exit dates are good for domestic consumption, but invite gaming by our enemies.  The June 2011 date is an obvious lead-in to the Democratic presidential primaries.

FIVE     The remaining issues are a test of our new president’s leadership abilities, because the memories of the 911 attacks have faded, and the opportunities for political gaming on the left and right may be too tempting to resist.

 

All that aside, we have only one president.  I am happy to give him the benefit of the doubt today and to pray for success in this initiative.  President Obama earned kudos for the political courage to forge ahead in Afghanistan, spending valuable political capital in the bargain. 

 

This is as much as can be expected of any 21st century liberal democrat, given the mood of the core leftwing constituency that controls the party machinery.  As long as this president stays the course, he will certainly have my support and that of realistic liberals, national security conservatives and friends of liberty everywhere. 

 

I believe that the President’s delay in rolling out his Afghanistan war position was a political calculation.  The delay was not primarily driven by the time needed for a careful a national security strategic review (that part was done weeks ago).  It was a sales strategy review, much like any business would carefully choose the most propitious date to roll out its latest software or hardware. 

 

I am personally convinced that the President’s advisors fully expected that the president’s political capital would have already driven though that over-ambitious health care reform package by now, with plenty left over for other initiatives.  Whoops....  

 

But the demands of national security can be stalled only so long.  Even this 92 day delay coveys the image of an administration in the middle of a shooting war huddled in a defensive crouch.  The three months delay in the “surge” announcement, coupled with a nod to the “get out deadline” crowd, resurrect memories of famous one-term democratic president whose popularity went from stratosphere to bathysphere in two years.  Political observers with intact memories all can sense the ghost of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the looming, eerie premonition of LBJ’s Vietnam failure. 

 

Our new president’s speech at West Point artfully conveys more that it really says, leaving one immense question dangling:  Do we now have a more clever strategy to win or do we have another war-by-nuance? 

 

Obama has talked the talk. Now comes the walk-under-fire part.

 

The Stakes

Afghanistan and Pakistan will become one of two things within the lifetimes of most Americans now alive:

 

(1) Armageddistan, the nuclear armed jihadist axis, the nightmare of the 21st century;

 

(2) Stable, non-threatening countries (noting here that the nominally democratic source of that stability is a separate and subordinate question). 

 

Yes, both options are costly, but the first one, which happens to be the path of least resistance, virtually guarantees a nuclear war that could take out part of America. 

 

The second option requires us, with or without the substantial assistance of allies, to expend more military and economic resources than most of us would like for more months and years than anyone wants. 

 

The Players

 

Fortunately, we now have a military team in-country with sufficient experience and sophistication to achieve the second goal within a few years, if they are provided the resources they need in time. 

 

Hence the leadership challenge of our new president. 

 

We are locked in the classic Venus Flytrap dilemma presented by terror states with 21st century weapons: 

 

Once we’re engaged, we can’t exit the field without ruinous consequences.  Those voices clamoring for an American exit are willing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: because we are more than half way to the goal.  Our premature exit from Afghanistan would ignite a chain of events far more harmful and costly to us than the expense of winning even a protracted counterinsurgency in this putatively remote part of the world.  I say putatively remote because we are living on a much tinier planet than that inhabited by the British and Soviet forces that ran aground in Afghanistan.  The 911 plot to destroy the pentagon, America’s great financial center and our political nerve center in a single decisive blow almost succeeded.   That plot was hatched in Afghanistan with the covert support of Pakistani radicals and others in the Middle East.

 

We owe this bitter cross to the infamous Abduk Qadeer Kahn, the Dr. Strangelove of Arab hyper-nationalism, the rogue scientist who, with the aid and comfort of our covert and duplicitous enemies in the region, brought the blessings of the atomic bomb to Pakistan, then facilitated the spread of that malevolent technology of death via Korea to Syria and Iran. 

 

Had we acted with sufficiently intelligent ruthlessness, say, ten years ago, we would not find ourselves at this cross.  And we can say with reasonable certainty that if we are now to fail to seize this one last opportunity to actually win, our children will be debating whose fault it was that twelve million lives (or more), Americans and others, went up in that infamous 21st century nuclear conflagration. 

 

The “Strategory”

 

The best succinct review of the military situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan I’ve yet encountered was written by Max Boot in Commentary Magazine (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/how-we-can-win-in-afghanistan-15257 ). 

 

The core of Boot’s analysis is this:

 

“When General Stanley McChrystal was selected on May 11 of this year as the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, it was by no means certain which approach he would employ. His background is almost entirely in counterterrorism. He had been head of the Joint Special Operations Command (comprising elite units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEALs) when it was carrying out daring raids to capture Saddam Hussein and kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. If he had decided to follow the same approach in Afghanistan, he would have had the support of Vice President Joe Biden and numerous congressional Democrats who favor a narrow counterterrorism strategy to fight al-Qaeda and who want to cut the number of American troops to a bare minimum.”

 

“But that is not what McChrystal has chosen to do. He has decided, as he put it in an “interim assessment” dated August 30 that was later leaked to Bob Woodward of theWashington Post, that “success demands a comprehensive counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign.” A close reading of that document, which was directed at the Pentagon and White House, as well as the “Counterinsurgency Guidance” drafted at his behest around the same time and directed at his own troops, provides a window into his thinking. It shows why a COIN campaign is needed, how it would be carried out, and why the kind of narrow counterterrorism effort favored by so many amateur military strategists is unlikely to succeed.”

 

The new strategy requires additional forces that are more commingled with the population and therefore, at least temporarily, more exposed to danger.  The request for additional troops by Mr. Obama’s chosen general is essential to eventual success.  As Mr. Boot put it:

 

“To carry out his strategy, McChrystal must have more resources, especially more troops. In his assessment, he writes, “Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.” NATO’s war effort has in fact been under-resourced for years, “operating in a culture of poverty,” as McChrystal puts it. That has made it impossible to carry out classic counterinsurgency operations, because those typically require a ratio of roughly 1 counterinsurgent per 50 civilians. Given Afghanistan’s population of 30 million, 600,000 counterinsurgents would be necessary. At the moment, the total is roughly 270,000 (170,000 Afghans, 64,000 Americans, 35,000 from other nations). Actual force planning, however, is too intricate to be reduced to such back-of-the-envelope calculations. Unique local characteristics have to be taken into account, such as the fact that the insurgency is largely confined to the Pashtun, an ethnic group that comprises 42 percent of the population.”

 

“McChrystal and his staff have drawn up a range of recommendations on extra troop levels. The respected military analysts Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, who have consulted for McChrystal, have completed a study of their own that suggests a need for 40,000 to 45,000 additional troops, to be concentrated in eastern and southern Afghanistan. Such a number is reportedly at the high end of what McChrystal has recommended, but in war it’s always better to have too many troops than too few.”

 

“Too few, however, is what he may get.”

 

Max Boot is no lightweight, and he is certainly NOT one who speaks “yes” to power.  He is a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today”.  Max Boot is a leading expert in the history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism. 

 

Our president is a liberal political leader who is attempting, much as Lyndon Baines Johnson did, to accommodate the left wing of the Democratic Party to reality, while moving incrementally towards a commitment to actually win a war.  We find ourselves, once again, in a situation that requires Churchillian steadfastness.  And some of us may fear that we have something less. 

 

But, today, President Obama deserves credit for not abandoning Iraq and not signaling the abandonment of Afghanistan.  As I said at the outset, this may be the best that can be expected from a liberal democrat still captive to the leftwing of that party, a political institution that in different times produced Harry Truman and Henry Scoop Jackson, but one that now appeases Code Pink while evicting men of integrity like Joe Lieberman.

 

I personally believe that our new president has been made aware of the stakes, and that he is attempting to thread the needle, negotiating a narrow path most acceptable to the coalitions of the moment on which his larger agenda depends. 

 

BUT THE LARGEST AGENDA OF ALL IS TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THE HOMELAND FROM ALL THREATS, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.  

 

FDR did not announce a deadline by which we would either defeat the Nazis in Europe and the Axis in Japan, or leave the struggle to the locals.  FDR did not parse the budget where national security is concerned.  We defeated our enemies (who it must be remembered were also the enemies of liberal Western Civilization) because the USA had one single, overriding goal: VICTORY FOR US, DEFEAT FOR THEM.

 

 

 

The author, Jay B. Gaskill, is a California attorney who served as the Alameda County Public Defender, then left his “life of crime” to devote full time to writing. 

 

His new thriller, The Stranded Ones, is available as a downloadable E Book.

More about the book at:

http://jaygaskill.com/TheNewThrillerByJayGaskill.htm (without graphics)

http://jaygaskill.com/NewThrillerByJayGaskillPDF.pdf (with graphics)

 
Buy a copy at ireadiwrite --
http://www.ireadiwrite.com/home.php   [This is the publisher & author-preferred source]
 
Books On Board --

http://www.booksonboard.com/index.php?BODY=viewbook&BOOK=548140 

 
KINDLE (by AMAZON) -- http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=%22the+stranded+ones%22&x=15&y=12 .

 

 

 

 

 


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