Posts tagged ‘bombing’

Fireworks as a Distraction

When I came back from my tour in Southeast Asia, fireworks made me nervous. Those last night in Syria appear to be a show for PR and nothing else. I don’t think it made anyone nervous. I know something of air warfare, at least back in the day, and the first thing you do is take out their defenses, you know Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) and Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA). Then you have the freedom to hit targets and do real damage. I don’t think we hit one defense system. What does that tell you? Damage this morning was noted as minimal and some analysts in the Middle East say that we actually handed a win to Assad, the Russians, and the Iranians. See, America is all about smoke and mirrors.

So what was the point? What did we accomplish? Well, for the weak-minded President DFF’s base, we keep our word about red lines. See, he is tough. But did we just make things worse? And the answer to that question is what is a viable strategy for Syria. I hate Assad right up there with the best of them, but we have to have a plan of what comes after if we really want to up the ante as apparently John Bolton wanted to do. Note we have no Secretary of State or major ambassadors in most of the countries over there, so all we got is a hammer. Remember shock and awe in Iraq that got us here?

So if I am going to criticize, what would I offer as what should our strategy be? That depends. I would start strategy meetings about what should be our policy and what is the blow-back with people who know the area (and some of our allies). Should we confront Russia now or can we hope that, a la Afghanistan, they get worn out? How about Iran? If we don’t want a larger conflagration, what does our appeasement (pin pricks for show) get us? So there has to be a larger strategy here than if you use chemicals, we will hit you, but if you kill millions using conventional weapons, then okey dokey. Oh, and we care about all the innocent children killed, but we don’t accept immigrants from your area. So sad…

I think we need a strategy that makes sense, sell it to Congress to get authorization, and then have contingency plans in place so we can react immediately if that is what our plan requires. If we think Assad will eventually fall, and Russia will be drawn into warfare between the Sunnis and Shiites (that is still what this is about), maybe we do nothing but try to provide humanitarian assistance as the most efficacious way forward. If we think Russia and Iran might use Syria as a launching point to support weakening Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis, which could then result in an all out war, then maybe it is time now to confront both. Russia just seems to be emboldened with our failure to take any action.

Whatever the policy is, it needs to be an informed one that we share with the American people so they are not lulled to sleep by a fireworks display that does nothing. But of course, expecting a rational policy with real costs and benefits out of this administration is a pipe dream. This administration is all about the PR game, not the best interest of the country. So President DFF looked tough and talked tough, and maybe made things a lot worse, but who cares if his base is molified and it distracted from his domestic problems? That was really what all that was about last night.

More Random Thoughts – Potpourri

I watched most of the hearings in the House Intelligence Committee and it is clear to the casual observer that there is clearly fire where there is smoke and while they were all dancing around it, invoking privileged conversations, it was obvious that was has been reported is true. It is clear there is something rotten in the Trump administration.  Not that the Republicans did not try to produce more smoke so you could not see if there was a fire.  It was almost shameful.  One Republican knuckle head actually tried to say that when Obama conferred with Medvedev, President of Russia back in the day (two heads of state), it was the same thing.  Nothing here folks, look away, or Obama is the bigger traitor.  I wonder when this kind of moronic spinning will finally start to hurt them?

The VIIC (Village Idiot in Charge) and his village idiot minions (VIMs) released his budget yesterday and it is a horror show unless you are a very rich person.  Of course all the cuts and give aways to the rich will be paid for by amazing economic growth that no one has seen since Eisenhower.  In other words it is a pack of lies and really smoke and mirrors to cut everything that we do to help our fellow citizens survive so that rich people can have further tax cuts.  Did you get the name of it?  The New Foundations for American Greatness. George Orwell be still your beating heart.  Ayn Rand would be orgasmic. I thought we learned austerity does not really help the economy? Oh well.

The Budget Office also scored the Trumpcare Plan and it was as expected.  There is no Republican solution to healthcare with a market based system if you want to cover as many people as possible and make it affordable while keeping the good stuff from Obamacare.  It really is that simple.

Thomas Friedman served up an interesting view of degenerating middle America with this conclusion:

The big divide in America is not between the coasts and the interior. It’s between strong communities and weak communities. You can find weak ones along the coast and thriving ones in Appalachia, and vice versa. It’s community, stupid — not geography.

The story was of communities that from local advocacy, learned how to thrive and innovate their economic base and those that did not.  I am not sure it is as simple as that, but my thoughts went elsewhere here.  The picture of those failing communities were of lost jobs and then stagnation, turning to a drug epidemic.  This is kind of foreign to my being, the idea that communities are so stagnate.  I was a military brat when I grew up moving about every three years.  College was expected, and when I graduated, the nation was my plaything.  Now granted I went into the Air Force and left Maryland to go to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, but had I not been in the Vietnam era and a military career been my choice, I still would have looked at the country as the job market.

When things go south at home, I did not have a home.  Time to move on.  So with that kind of mentality, it is hard for me to understand the desperation of the young at least.  But I fear the story is more complicated than Tom paints it.  What about the old or the young who do not want to move and new industries do not come in to reinvigorate their communities?  Local community action might not be enough.  I think another story might be told that people on the coast are more mobile and maybe educated.

I also think about my experience getting she who must not be mentioned here a new car.  Now she has had her old car for 11 years so we were amazed at the technology changes.  And then it dawned on us, lease a car for 3 years because the technology changes are accelerating.  In other words just finance 3 years of use instead of the life of the car and upgrade again.  So how does that transfer to jobs?  My answer is that the job market will also change in the same fashion and what is technological savvy today, will be obsolete tomorrow.  While service industries might be static or stable in one area (teachers, nurses, hospitals, police, fire, etc.), there has to be a driving business community to which they serve the workers.  So what does that tell us?

I think two things.  First, jobs are going to come and go and government will have to play a role, counter to Republican inhumanness, where the community is not close to a university that can leverage a changing job market.  Second, the world of secure jobs for most of us, except service industries is over.  The work force will have to be a learning community as technology changes the whole environment of work.  So once again, what about those that are not capable? The Republican solution is leave them to die in the ditch.  Government has a role to play here providing easy and affordable access to education and a safety net for those who get left behind.  Think truck drivers when we go to driverless trucks and that is just scratching the surface.

One final thing this morning as I am on a train to SF and a visit to the Legion of Honor to see the Monet exhibit.  The Russia thing:  I have said it before and apparently they are finally catching on.  Follow the Money.  It has always been about the money and how the VIIC got his financing over the years as Russia was sinking their claws into him.  I see him gone by late summer.  The media has finally figured this out and it is only a matter of time.  Republican equivocating and obstruction is just disgusting.  I am hoping that they can also show Pious Pence lied about what he knew about Flynn.  Then does it go to Paul Ryan or will the nation finally realize we need a do over, a special election for President?  Maybe a two month thing (and please don’t run Hillary again).  I dream.

Note:  I have not mentioned the bombing in Manchester because I am not sure what to say.  I almost ignore it because there is nothing to say.  It is sad, tragic, and mindless.  It is also a police issue because this is the kind of threat we will be facing in the future.  It is just nut jobs and rooting them out is everyone’s responsibility. Reading about it is just too sad and I think we learn nothing when we hover on the nut job who thought taking innocent children had any meaning.

Brexit, Bernie, Hillary, and the Donald

Well let’s start with the Donald:

Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. “We have laws; they don’t have laws,” the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, “Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better.”

From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. “You have to fight fire with fire,” he declared. “We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”

Trump added, “Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they’re eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don’t do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we’re weak, we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire.”

In a CNN interview, Trump went on to say he intends to “change our law on, you know, the waterboarding thing” in order to “be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis.”

I think he already uses torture, but on us.  I guess all the people who really know something about the efficacy of torture and brutal tactics, and how it creates more enemies than we can find, the Generals in the Pentagon who actually have fought these wars, are just flat wrong.  Donald, after all, has been quite successful at financially and mentally torturing those who work for him.  Apparently Atilla the Hun is a role model for how to fight wars.  I think Donald has no idea that most of these wars are about ideas not tactics, and it is the ideas where we really haven’t engaged yet.

Okay on to Brexit.  Angela Merkel said what I said yesterday, that there is not going to be a golden parachute for Britain leaving the EU.  “They would not enjoy the benefits of membership — like access to Europe’s single market — while sloughing off its burdens.”  I really wonder if they are going to do it, leave that is.  In reality Parliament must vote and while David Cameron said, “I am sorry we lost the referendum but you have to accept the result of the British people, you have to accept the verdict, I’m a democrat,” in actuality they are a representative democracy. That is supposed to be a firewall to the rampaging masses. Cooler heads in Parliament could do the smart thing, but that would take political courage and I don’t see that happening.

Of course what happens if Scotland’s parliament has to give it’s consent and won’t?  I see all kinds of legal problems here. I believe the morning after their anger binge with no thoughts to the consequences is the worst hangover they have ever had.  Sure there are problems with the EU, but like the Donald in America, this particular cure is worse than the disease.  Oh, and in case you are wondering, immigration while a much bigger issue in Europe than here, was never the issue.  Economic inequality and the results of austerity were the cause of all the malaise.

Hillary and Bernie.  Let’s start with Hillary.  She is having a field day because all she has to do is wait for the Donald (see above) to open his mouth, and she can eat him alive.  The problem is that while there is no question Hillary would be a fine commander-in-chief for foreign affairs, that is not the issue.  The Donald is all over immigration, and ISIS, and Muslims, and Trade Agreements, and that is not the issue.  The issue is economic inequality and austerity, just like in Britain and Europe.  All the rest are reactions or fears, but at their heart is the economic malaise felt by working class people.  All the rest are targets of displacement. (Note even Tom Friedman gets this one).

Bernie wrote an op-ed today in the NYT called Democrats Need to Wake Up .  It spoke directly to the causes of the malaise and anger, but was short on specifics and mechanics of fixes*.  Hillary on the other hand notes the anger, but her specifics don’t really go after a restructuring of the economic system (incrementalism).  Trade is a good example.  Both are now against the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).  Many think Hillary is pandering since Barack will probably have it in place prior to her taking office.  Bernie and the Donald are just against it.  But as always the devil is in the details.  As Thomas Friedman pointed out about the Brexit, it gets dumbed down to a binary argument, thumbs up or thumbs down.  It is not that simple (TTP Again?).  The test should be are its benefits shared by all our stakeholders or just the 1%?  Then fix it appropriately.

Finally, let me comment on the bombing in Ankara. It’s tragic. Let’s have a moment of silence.  Okay I am being trite, hypocritical, and callous.  But it is like coverage of a car wreck, over and over again.  So I kind of turn it off as I expect most Americans do.  We are all about the mechanics of the wreck (bombing) and the suffering and we little or nothing about the war of ideas.  Sadly, if we took that on, while it might intensify the war in the short term (they would be mad as hell), it is the long term strategy to ending radical islam’s pull on dead enders.

Okay, off to the Padres ball game.  Beer, sun, and the boys of summer.  Everyone should enjoy these moments.

*Both the Roosevelt Institute and the Economic Policy Institute have laid out specific economic plans to deal with economic inequality and restructure our economy to work for all of us.  Hillary argues that it is not politically realistic and her way of incrementalism will get us there.  People in Britain and in America, I believe, aren’t buying that anymore.  That is what Donald, Bernie, and Brexit is telling us.  They are saying stand up and fight for change because we don’t believe in the system anymore.  Hillary needs to not only adjust her message, but really embrace those messages if she wants to be one of the greatest President we have ever had.  She can do it quite frankly, I am just not sure establishment Democrats quite get it yet.

Some Retrospection

Who does ISIS today threaten the most? Arabs and Muslims. So why isn’t the Islam religion and its practitioners taking the lead to do something about this cancer on the earth, and begging us to help them? Instead we get a video of two Americans getting their throats cut and we are taking the initiative and begging them to support us. Why is that?

Well maybe one answer is that the governments in the region are a reflection of a defunct ideology, Islam. It is a patriarchal system of tribes. It is the good old boys network with a large touch of misogamy rolled in. Now I don’t say that from a deep understanding of their religion or culture, just watching their behavior. They are a 5th century culture trying to exist in a world of new ideas, by stifling democracy and freedom. It is a world that breeds radicalism.

You can look at this whole caliphate thing as a bunch of young men feeling left behind by the world, and withdrawing into themselves to create a society that makes them kings with total control over everyone else. If they establish it, it will crumble because it is a fantasy in a world where we are all connected and new ideas cannot be stamped out.

Now we are trying to save Arabs from themselves (see Iraq) and I wonder why. Are we being hysterical? Is our involvement really necessary and in involving ourselves, do we do just the opposite of what we intended, make the world a more dangerous place? Every terrorist attack from the Middle East has been a result of our getting involved in the Middle East, and being seen as the problem. See Bin Laden and company and 9/11 for what started this mess. It was our bases in Saudi Arabia that got him all riled up.

No, I am not arguing for appeasement, and there are times when we must take the lead, and well, lead. But I wonder if we are rushing into something we need not rush into. We have strategic interests in Iraq because we broke it. Our focus should be bringing them into the 21st Century of tolerance and inclusion if that is possible with a tribal society. But putting ISIS on a pedestal and attacking them in Syria to Assad’s benefit, may be a bridge too far.

We need to think about this. We need to wonder why the Republicans who can’t raise a finger to spend money on our crumbling infrustucture are rushing to be first in line to spend our treasury on weapons and destruction. We need to wonder why our response to a purely political problem (a defunct society held hostage by tribes and sectarian hatred) is always with force.

We claim to see the problem as political, but our fall back solution is always military intervention. Are we falling in the trap of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? I think we are.

Happy Friday and isn’t it a great weekend while the wife beaters play on in the NFL? Maybe everyone ought to turn off their TV for one weekend and ignore them. Money always gets their attention.

President Obama’s Katrina May Have Arrived

President Obama’s major strength and weakness is his slow deliberative decision making approach to just about anything.  They were amazingly slow to understand the political reality of Republican intransigence.  Now it is Iraq.  It seems like he lets a problem fester until action is forced.  ISIS presents a real problem for the whole region, but until we recognize the political realities of the region, it is almost impossible to come up with a coherent strategy to deal with the area.

Right now our “humanitarian” mission has expanded to protecting the Kurds.  Most military experts say that what appears to be the Obama strategy, to delay ISIS with air strikes until local forces can win the day is not feasible without “boots on the ground”.  Now let’s step back a minute and consider not just a reactive approach to the latest crisis, but what is a long-term strategy for the region.

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert (well sometimes I do) on the region, but the Iraqi government, and Iraq as a country does not work.  It is going to break apart and I would think our strategy has to recognize that reality.  Secondly, we have to consider our strategic interests here.  Besides trying to prevent a humanitarian crisis, what are our vital interests and strategy based upon those interests that would justify intervention?

That is what the President has never done.  The great communicator has not communicated what our path forward should be, just like on our economy.  There is no vision that supports a grand strategy.  It would seem that the grand strategy right now is no boots on the ground, but what are the red lines?  Since Syria and his perceived false red line, he seems incapable of drawing them, which means we have no real policy.  Note that John Boehner, who I don’t agree with on anything, has said the same thing.  Certainly if the President lays one out, it begins the political fight, but that is called leadership.

Now here is what I think.  The Kurds are our real friends there and ISIS poses a real threat to the international community.  So the strategy is that we would help support the Kurds stabilize the situation, recognize that the Shiites have made their own bed with Maliki, and the country is probably going to be in three parts.  Since ISIS is also posing a threat to other countries, we should be talking with them about our joint interest in containing them.  The President is going to have to come forward and layout our strategic interests, and what those strategic interests may require in realistic achievable goals in the region, including some boots on the ground.  So far as best I can tell, he has no policy except maybe when we get rid of Maliki everything will be better and it is kind of like his belief we could negotiate with Republicans.

I think we need to think carefully about how we can best stabilize the situation and avoid blow back.  But I hear none of that except from some old military talking heads who are making sense right now.  It would be nice if the President would take charge.

Liberals Lose the Thread

I listened to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor, publisher, and part owner of The Nation explain to Alex Wagner on MSNBC that negotiations was the way to go on Syria and “we have already accomplish more than any bombing would have accomplished.” Well that remains to be seen, and hopefully it is true, but she forgets that it was the creditable threat of bombing that got us there. Liberals lose the thread just like conservatives when they jump to a preferred conclusion without considering all precipitating circumstances. To wit: Negotiation is superior to bombing and the present circumstances proves that. Fails to recognize that the threat of bombing is what allowed the negotiations.

I have to laugh at all the calls for negotiations and taking this to the UN, World Court, etc., before Russia played their card. It was the same false logic as calls for partisanship and more negotiations to find middle ground with the Tea Party on the economy. It takes two to negotiate and both parties have to perceive a loss if they don’t negotiate. Keep the bombs ready.

Oh and one other thought: Assad is reportedly dispersing his weapons to be harder to hit and find especially if he reneges on the deal. With weak kneed Americans and Republicans trashing the President, he may be right in assuming we won’t do anything. But we are number one, right?

What Do Terrorist Experts and VSPs* Have in Common: They Both Got It Terribly Wrong

I found some interesting similarities in our initial analysis of the bombing in Boston and the continuing, although now maybe slightly shifting, analysis of our economic problems. I think there are some lessons here about how vested interests, who profits, and political dogma leads us astry. And more importantly, after we got both wrong, the need to shift our tactics and focus which may not happen. Lets start with the bombing.

As soon as it happened, the “experts” were talking some kind of international conspiracy plot. They were evaluating everything they saw based upon what they needed to justify their expertise. I chronicled in my day after the bombing blog, The Boston Tragedy, what did not jive with that “expert” analysis. While the experts were going on about the attack site being a important terrorist target, powerful bombs, and extreme coordination between the two blast that would require professional planning and guidance, I came to exactly the opposite conclusions seeing the same event.

The site was not the optimal terrorist target, it wasn’t strategic, but very local and begged the question is this a local grudge attack? The bombs were not large considering what plastic high explosives such as RDX or HMX could do, and the timing was easy to accomplish, and not planned to create even more terror (same site after first responders run in). It screamed local and amateur to me. When they published the photos of these two bombers walking through the crowd, it screamed Columbine to me, two young men who have been marginalized and isolated and are striking out.

Continue reading ‘What Do Terrorist Experts and VSPs* Have in Common: They Both Got It Terribly Wrong’ »

Three Non-Controversial Conclusions We Can Draw From What We have Witnessed About Our News Media

  1. The Generals in our military tend to use the tactics and strategy from the last war to fight the next one, ignoring how times have changed. Much of the media is evaluating what they see with experts on 9/11 and jihadist terror or to paraphrase, Generals from the last war. This may be a totally different event and their eyes are closed to it and are focusing on all the wrong things. Maybe this event is more akin to Newtown and Columbine than 9/11, or a mix of the two.
  2. To a carpenter with a hammer, the solution to every problem looks like a nail or said another way, if your paycheck is predicated on the world being a certain way, that is how you see it. The experts and ex-government officials need to be relevant to the reality of the events, but their expertise and livelihood is based upon the problem being an international jihadist conspiracy (subset of the last war, number 1 above).
  3. News as entertainment has turned to opinion as news since it requires less resources for fact finding and instead presents opinion as fact. Now when we need facts all we get is a muddle of truths, half-truths, speculation, opinion, and grand standing, and our media does not seen to know how to sort through them so we get it all and it is unintelligible.

Delusional – Afghanistan

Here is a story headline in the NYT this morning:  Attack at Kabul Hotel Deflates Security Hopes in Afghanistan.  Really?  You had security hopes?  This is no different than Vietnam in that the government cannot and never will stand on its own two feet.  In a Daily Beast article this morning by Peter Beinart,  Kabus Bombing’s Political Fallout, he quoted a local car dealer, Nazir Amini, caught in Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel bombing as saying, “If they give the security responsibilities to the current government at 10:00 a.m., the government will collapse around 12 noon. They cannot live without foreigners.”

But I think what is more honest and direct were his indictments of President Obama and our government’s failure to face the reality of Afghanistan.  And here the parallels with Vietnam are so true:

“…Obama did imply that his administration’s surge has so weakened the Taliban that they’ll trade their weapons for negotiations and eventually join the current government, thus allowing the U.S. to leave an Afghanistan headed towards peace. That’s what Mr. Amini was disputing. There’s an honest way to advocate for withdrawal from Afghanistan and a dishonest way. The dishonest way is to suggest that we’ll leave behind a government that can secure the country and a political process than can end the war. The honest way is to acknowledge that the Afghanistan we leave behind will be a chaotic, ugly place where the Taliban rules large swaths of the country, and much of what we have built may be washed away.”

We can never win there and it really does not make any difference.  It is the lesson we should have learned from Vietnam, but we did not and our hubris will continue the suffering and emptying of our treasury because we can’t face reality.