So, a 11 ton bomb was dropped. Apparently, as a result, some have decided “Mr Trump has no strategy”. How they know that, the press forgot to ask. Oh, wait. they didn’t ask because it’s clear those claiming “no strategy” were just making crap up. Remind my why grown men and women who call themselves reporters, report as “news” stuff they know is just made up? And furthermore, when you play, say, chess, do you feel it is a good idea to inform your opponent the details pertaining to your strategy? No? Thought not. Why is this different? Another very positive outcome is that unlike the former administration which completely forgot the lessons from that undeclared war of the 60s and early 70s (that is decisions should be made by professionals in the field and not by Washington) this administration has deferred tactical and methodological decisions to those who have actual expertise. Which means finally after 8 years of misery, the primary aim of our tactics will not be driven by domestic politicking but by strategic goals set by the administration.
Attacks were made in Syria as well. Pretty clearly this had a two-fold goal, first off, unlike the former (somewhat regrettable) President Obama, when a “red line is drawn” and crossed … there are consequences. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, having done the decision in front of Chinese high officials … it sets the stage for China/North Korean negotiations. If you read around in the aftermath of that event, the obvious escapes way too many observers.
News surprising no one, although it will remain to be seen if the Clinton foundation was connected, after all they carried a lot of carpet bags to Haiti.
Sex and the student body, some young women thought not saying no implied no. Annulled. Wonder if civil suits can recover damages?
Reflect a moment on the Olympics, the US and many Western leaders have decided “not to attend”, Google followed suit with a rainbow Olympic rings display, and publicly gay (privately … who knows) stuffed shirts were sent as part of the US delegation and many others. This was supposedly in response to how Russia is perceived to deal with public homosexuality.
Consider the following. Make an honest list of the top 10 economic, liberty, social, legal, and cultural issues facing the Russian people and the Russian Federation today. Order these by which have the highest priority and will do the greatest good. If you are honest (and I will charitably assume that is the case), gay rights did not appear on the list. Extend it to 20. Gosh. Still not there. In fact, I’d be willing to bet, if you put the time and effort it that gay rights might not even (if you are honest) make the top 100.
So …. why is that a putative issue for our leaders? Could it be because all politics is local and this is a safe way of pretending to do something about gay issues in their country without having to actually, you know, do anything about those issues? Crocodile tears all around.
Well, I read the NSS this weekend … and I haven’t yet written that thorny post that I promised to write as yet. This post will not reach that lofty goal I held for myself but it may do as a weak substitute. As mentioned on Friday what I was going to try to do is take this middling sized document (about 60 pages) produced by Mr Obama which comprised the new National Security Strategy which his administration is allegedly following and this document comprises a submittal to the Senate explaining the overall features of that strategy.
What I discovered in my attempt to bypass the Satan hermeneutic and to attempt to read it sympathetically is that this exercise is really really difficult. When you read a document such as this and stumble at every paragraph or even every few sentences with objections to fact, to interpretation of events or situations, and to the efficacy of particular strategic offerings it is difficult to catch yourself every time and to remember that the author does not see these objections. He sees either obvious solutions to those problems or doesn’t see the objection as valid. It is the exercise then for the reader at each of these catchpoints to pause and to reflect and try to imagine either the solution or why the objection is invisible.
In the near future I hope to do that exercise for a fragment of this document and demonstrate how it works out. But for now, there are some broad brush impressions I’ve garnered in the attempt to use this method. A third post I hope to write is one reflecting finally on the actual overall NSS as a strategic plan.
What I’ve learned is that Mr Obama is a statist, he has Marxist leanings and has either not read the Petraeus COIN manual or Paul Collier’s books on the third world (or if he has read those latter two works he’s rejected their conclusions and their suggestions). Let me explain.
- As Statist — All his solutions to various problems whether it be engaging foreign states both friend and foe or strengthening the economy and the internal status of our county the solution is the same … the federal government.
- As Marxist — He finds one of the essential source of conflict in the world are class struggle identified by inequalities of opportunity and wealth between different tribal, national or ethnic groups. Mr Collier points out in his book the Bottom Billion that there is no statistical basis for that premise. It seems to me this is going to be a strategic problem if you misidentify the source of conflicts.
- COIN — One of the theme’s hammered home time after time in the COIN manual is that there are a host of tasks that need to be done in the context of an counter-insurgency operation. These tasks we are informed (repeatedly) are not best done by the military but by other government and NGO organs. The development and extension of these capabilities have consequences beyond the specific task of COIN operations but if developed could be an effective tool for aiding nations in that “bottom billion” on the road to recovery.
- Collier — Like Mr Bush before him, Mr Obama thinks democracy is the answer and would encourage its development. Mr Collier points out some of the pitfalls of democracy for the bottom billion which is unacknowledged and ignored. As Mr Collier points out the pet solutions for the third world held by left and right are only accidentally and occasionally useful. Each of these countries is unique and the solution for one country may be harmful for another.
Let me point to one of my objections listed above in more detail. In engaging our enemies Mr Obama thinks that diplomatic and government interactions are key to breaking the history of distrust. He talks about engagement. Now it seems to me there is an obvious “better” way to go about skinning that cat and that while the federal government might have a role they, that role is not primary but an enabling one. Economic entanglement by getting opening and bringing small to medium sized businesses in these countries to interact and establish relationships would be a better one. For example, if you want to “reset” relations with Russia, drop visa requirements and try to get Russian companies, e.g., Teremok and the like, to open branches here. Try to get them to reciprocate and start bringing the grassroots of our economies more interdependent.
A question regarding promotion of Democracy. During the Iraq reconstruction, the Iraqi people came together and wrote their own Constitution. Critics in this country soundly criticised that document because it didn’t establish freedom of religion, that is Islamic religious principles and separation of Church and State was not firmly established. In the recent National Security Strategy document released by the Administration the same curious thing occurred. In adjacent sections Mr Obama states that two primary objectives with regard to promoting human rights abroad include supporting democracy and women’s rights. These two ideas are in conflict.
The document states the importance of:
Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.
Supporting the Rights of Women and Girls: Women should have access to the same opportunities and be able to make the same choices as men.
It seems to me quite clear that one of the notions held throughout much of the world is that women should not have the same access to the same opportunities as men. And this is an idea expressed by peaceful, law-abiding, and non-violent voices in places around the world, one with which however we disagree. This is just the same as the criticisms rendered after a democratic government forms a Constitution which does not separate Church and State.
Here’s the thing, you can support the idea that people should be free and able to set up their communities and the laws and customs by which they are run. You can want people to have certain ways of governing themselves and modes of setting up those communities. You can’t have both.
During the last to night time basement biking sessions I’ve watched the movie Katyń, see here and here for more. In the context of the some of the conversation that arose today over my short essay on the UN some remarks come to mind. One commenter (JA) remarked:
This distinction is really just a symptom of the deeper distinction — the right, being more nationalistic, looks at the UN solely from a what-can-we-get-out-of-it point of view, while the left, being more humanistic, believes that the same principle that says a nation’s citizens should have a say in their government also says that the nations of the world should have a say in whatever passes for global “government.”
Yet this gets it backwards. Continue reading →
Iran is judged today to be a up and coming mad-as-a-hatter soon-to-be nuclear regime with some short and medium range missile capabilities. Back in 2007 the Bush administration had wrangled some ABM bases in Poland with Radar in the Czech Republic which were at that time designed to knock down long range missiles, of which Iran had none, but of course Russia had (and has) plenty. Russia took umbrage to this and rightfully so, just look at a map, unless you have a much much bigger monitor than I do, you don’t see Poland or the CR on that map at all.
Mr Obama it turns out has been not well served by the conservative current events blogs … although his speeches and on this in fact do have some glaring omissions, in the light of which the conservative commentary does make more sense … but only in the light of those omissions. Here is the text from the Obama speech, although I don’t know how accurately this reflects his actual remarks or whether it has been changed to reflect better in the light of later remarks, i.e., Mr Gates this weekend). This was also released on the same day by WH to the press to accompany the speech. The disservice by the conservative press is that this is touted as a withdrawal of a program, which fails to mention that another is proposed in its place. On the other hand, it is also not mentioned that this plan which is put in its place is likely a paper dragon, i.e., worse than useless. Continue reading →