Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Half truths better than ignorance

Nelson Marans and Serge Wing simply don’t get it (Obama’s dangerous path 2-21-08). But they needn’t take my words or Obama’s more reasoned and non-lethal approach to dealing with the threat of terrorism to understand the fallacy of thinking more military “muscle” is needed to defeat terrorism.

Just last November U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said "One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win: economic development, institution-building and the rule of law, promoting internal reconciliation, good governance, providing basic services to the people, training and equipping indigenous military and police forces, strategic communications,” were also “essential ingredients”. Gates also said “the attacks of September 11 marked the dawn” of a “new era” distinct from previous war eras, and now “there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security." He also acknowledged that Pentagon supporters (like Marans and Wing) would consider this "blasphemy".

Marans and Wing could also review the recent survey of more than 3,400 active and retired officers -- 10 percent of whom served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. Even a majority of these military professionals agreed that more muscular military assets would not be as useful in assisting “the US military in winning the Global War on Terror” as “diplomacy tools”, “intelligence”, “language skills”, “civilian experts” and “economic development assistance”.

It’s clear that many other patriotic Americans like Marans and Wing are still stuck in a pre-9-11 era mindset even after super military powers like the US and the Soviets loss insurgent wars against Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Mr. Morans claims I “essentially endorse a policy of surrender to terrorism and the nations that support it.” The US and the Soviet Union didn’t ‘surrender’ to Vietnam or Afghanistan. We (and the Soviets) simply stopped fighting a war that wasn’t worth the cost.

Devoting our limited resources towards policies that effectively reduce terrorism… instead of using military muscle that creats 10 terrorists for every one we kill -- isn’t a policy of surrender. It’s a smart policy that works against a relatively small group of mass murderers whose organizational structure is nearly identical to the Mafia , not the Nazis.

Mr. Wing claims my “Platitudes…are at best half correct” but then asserts that we had a real “coalition” going into Iraq. He then claims that “12 years of noncompliance” and “17 violations” were legitimate “acts of war” by Iraq – and my “criticisms” of Bush’s Iraq war are “outdated” given “recent successes”. I believe it’s completely accurate to say that the tens of thousands of people who lost loved ones on both sides of this unnecessary conflict will consider all of Mr. Wing’s statements far less than half correct.

And finally, anyone who seriously claims that “water boarding” is not torture because they ‘experience it’ under peace time conditions at the hands of their own professional colleagues…doesn’t really know the difference between reality and half truths.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dovish better for US than Hawkish

Donald Lambro makes so many errors in “The race to pull out” (Valentines Day) that one can only guess that he gets his information from former Bush administration advisors.

This “left-wing, anti-war” individual doesn’t “oppose a tougher defense posture”. I oppose an alienating ‘offensive posture’ that leaves us warring against a dangerous global enemy with fewer and fewer friends. And, to win a global war of ideas we don’t need more “muscle” in our “foreign policy” -- we need more brains. Forcing our ideas upon others isn’t as powerful as influencing them by ‘walking our talk’. ‘Liberty and justice for all’ is far more motivating than ‘bombs and waterboarding for any suspect.’

Lambro claims Senator Obama “harbors” a “more dovish national security” view -- as if that’s a bad thing. How bad would it be if we had never invaded Iraq -- or did so with the more ‘dovish’ protection of the Iraqi people instead of the more hawkish strategy of ‘shock and awe’. There is little doubt that a ‘more dovish’ approach would have yielded us more Iraqi support in the beginning as well as more allies and international financial support desperately needed as we end this costly fiasco.

And, no approach to war could be more “dangerous and sophomoric” than going it virtually alone, on faulty intelligence, and with inadequate planning. Better not to have gone at all. Or, as Barack Obama insists, gone after Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda where they were… instead of where we wanted them to be.

Obama might ‘look weak’ by being lied to by foreign leaders but that wouldn’t leave us as weak as we are with our military bogged down and overstretched in a seemingly endless war.

Lambro’s final question “How long do you think it will take al Qaeda to re-establish bases throughout the country once we’re out?” misses contextual reality. Al Qaeda doesn’t need to re-establish bases in Iraq if it already has them in Pakistan -- or can establish them in any other lawless areas of the globe where a more thoughtful US foreign policy would harden the ground they seek to crawl into.

If we can believe the Bush administration it also to wants to “pull out” of Iraq. But, for Obama, it is more a function of strengthening our nation’s security than improving the dismal legacy of a hawkish political party.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Education is a national security investment

Dear Editor,

Fred Gedrich should be applauded for correctly identifying Pakistan as our nation’s greatest concern regarding Al Qaeda’s effort to acquire a nuclear weapon (Invest in Pakistsn, 2-5-08). And, Gedrich’s idea of investing in counterterrorism efforts that primarily focus on improving the quality of education in Pakistan’s “13,000 religious schools” and to sharply reduce the 50% illiteracy rate of other Pakistani children is paramount.

Properly educating Pakistan’s children will undoubtedly reduce the number of Jihad recruits, demonstrate positive American concern for Pakistan’s impoverished people, and lay the foundation for that nation becoming a truly democratic US ally in the larger global war on terrorism.

There is one basic problem however, with Mr Gedrich’s idea. There is a seemingly insurmountable shortage of US tax dollars available for us to make such a wise foreign investment. Bush’s new budget even cuts US education programs and proposes large increases in the military budget. While this military increase is suspect given the opinion of most experts that Iraq, Afghanistan and the larger war against terrorism won’t be won by the military, we are unlikely to see any reduction there. And we can’t ignore the flailing US economy, the falling value of our currency, Bush’s promise not to raise taxes, and a host of other vital US security programs that are as urgently in need of similar investments in US tax dollars.

One ‘thoughtful suggestion’ that this critic of the Bush Administration would like to offer is the implementation of a fee on cross border currency trading. Mitt Romney balanced his state’s budget by increasing fees for valued services. Currently there is no fee on people like George Soros who make billions in cross border currency trades basically speculating on the ups and downs of the momentary values of national currencies. Almost everyone is convinced we need fences to prevent free flow of people across our borders yet we have no restrictions on the free flow of currency that most economists would agree is the single greatest threat to global economic stability.

A micro fee on estimated $1.8 trillion dollars traded daily across national borders could yield $100 to $200 billion a year. Each nation that agrees to join in this effort could keep half and devote the rest to universal education goals that would help reduce jihadi recruitment globally. Using this same windfall of resources we could also invest in truly ‘universal health care’. A well staffed primary health care center in every community in the world could also yield enormous amounts of useful intelligence information to stop the spread of Al Qaeda or other serious threats we face, like natural pandemics or bioterrorist attacks.


Friday, February 01, 2008

At what price war?

Dear Editor,

Thomas Crawford (At What price peace? Letters 1-31-08) makes ghastly errors in responding to Deborah Metke (“Creating a war free world”). First, we aren’t ‘giving up our ability to protect ourselves’. That ideal vanished with the invention of the atomic bomb. At best, we managed to avoid mutual destruction, but in today’s world any undergrad biologist, agricultural chemist, wanna-be pilot or cyber punk -- with a mean streak or a real or perceived grudge -- can wield unimaginable damage to our nation.

We can’t stop the postal delivery of anthrax or rental truck’s filled with fuel oil and fertilizer, not to mention radical religious extremists with engineering degrees. For these feats we will need a world of people who don’t hate us and global institutions willing to help us find such killers before they strike. But, most importantly, we need a world of fair and enforceable laws that will assist in creating a world where the desire to mass murder is rare. Waging more wars won’t create that kind of world.

George Washington was correct. “Government is …force”. That’s why he and his wisest followers chose to build a government with effective checks and balances -- including an invaluable second amendment as the ultimate check against tyrannical government. With today’s growing array of increasingly lethal, affordable and ubiquitous ‘technologies’ and their undetectable/uncontrollable nature (think IEDs)… there is no government or global institution (not even the US military) that is capable of forcing a population to capitulate against their will. The only lasting success we will have in Iraq or Afghanistan is in winning hearts and minds -- not bombing them into submission.

Crawford really needn’t fear any strong UN military force. He should however, fear any place in the world where lawlessness exists. Today, the greatest lawlessness in the world exists in impoverished communities within nations and the artificial lines between them. A stronger UN could help elevate the lawlessness in both these arenas.

Crawford expossed a blissful ignorance of history however by stating “nationhood is a good thing” because “ it places a curb on the ambitions of would-be dictators.” Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam and every other mass murdering dictator depended on the sovereign rights of “nationhood” to protect their homicidal ambitions and actions. An ICC with the force of law could rally a world of support to stop any future genocidal dictators.

Mr. Crawford may be correct that “only” the EUs “elitist leaders are happy with” that super union. But the same was true of most colonists when our founding fathers were attempting to convert our confederation of 13 independent states into one vast ‘united states’. People were against it …until they realized the freedom and security advantages of legal unification. That is our choice today. At what price war?

At what price peace? (Letter printed in Washington Times 1-31-08)

Deborah Metke ("Creating a war-free world," Letters, Sunday) advocates giving up our ability to protect ourselves to a strengthened United Nations, which supposedly would guarantee peace by outlawing war. Personally, I think she is advocating a recipe for disaster.

The expression "enforce the law" means just that: to use force to assure that the law is complied with. George Washington once said, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

To enforce a global peace, an entity must be strong enough to force all nations to do as it says. If it is strong enough to force all nations to do as it says, it is strong enough to impose global tyranny.

In fact, human nature being what it is, isn't that precisely what we should expect?

Even if we refuse to attribute bad motives to those currently heading the United Nations or NATO, if such power is ever assembled, sooner or later, some individual or group will succeed in gaining control of it, for his/her/their own ends. The world will be far safer if such power is never assembled.

As for the International Criminal Court about which Miss Metke is enthused, President Clinton (an advocate of the ICC) admitted it will not be based on fixed legal principles. Miss Metke urges us to look at the European Union. We should, indeed.

Only its elitist leaders are happy with it. The vast majority of the people in it are angry and frustrated, as they see decisions they historically made at the local level being taken away from them and made by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels.

Peace is always desirable, but not at any price. After Germany conquered Austria, France and Poland at the beginning of World War II, it was technically "at peace" with those countries.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, the Soviet Union was "at peace" with the Eastern European nations it had forced into the Communist Bloc. One reason why nationhood is a good thing is that it places a curb on the ambitions of would-be dictators.