Archive for the ‘George Bush’ category

Jeb Moves Closer To Irrelevance

August 12, 2015

With 16 Republicans vying for the GOP Presidential nomination, the field is crowded to say the least. The original presumed leader, Jeb Bush, has been struggling to make his candidacy relevant without much success. Yesterday he added another package of hot air which will be difficult to talk around in future debates should he somehow get the nomination.

Yesterday, Jeb tossed out the already well worn line that ISIS is a direct result of President Obama withdrawing US troops from Iraq too soon (after ten years of a war fought for no valid reason). Bush gratuitously added Hillary Clinton to the list of coconspirators. He claimed the policies of both left Iraq exposed and unprepared for whatever lie around it. Hmmm.

Many observers’ first reaction is to ask, “on who’s watch did the US troops get into Iraq in the first place?”

Further questions might be who supported (selected in many analyst’s views) Nouri al Maliki as Iraq’s Prime Minister and did nothing to replace him when it became clear Maliki was driving a wedge between Sunnis and Shiites?

Jeb’s speech, billed as a major foreign policy statement, certainly ranked higher on importance scale than most of Donald Trump’s bluster. That is, however, not much of an endorsement.

Bush is also one of many who have denounced President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal. Jeb’s also calling for a “better deal” whatever that is. Apparently, Bush believes that magic will somehow intervene and Iran will disavow its nuclear ambitions on its own accord.

Jeb’s opposition to President Obama and just about anything the President has done is not really a surprise. Some say this is just politics. When one considers, however, that a group of leading American scientists (who would understand the technical aspects of the agreement) and another group of retired senior military officers (who would understand the difficulties and dangers of a war with Iran) have both issued letters saying the current agreement with Iran is the best alternative available now, Bush’s (and many other politicians’) rejection of the agreement makes one wonder whether they are thinking things through?

Jeb’s brother George W certainly did not think through what a war in Iraq might lead to. “W” added to this intellectual laziness (or incompetence) a hard sell to the nation where “faulty” intelligence was used to convince the American people war was the right option.

Jeb’s view that had America kept its fighting forces in Iraq, ISIS would not be where it is today is simply problematic. Maybe or maybe not. What is not problematic is that had the US still kept combat mission forces in Iraq, they would have been used resulting in deaths to more Americans. Probably as certain would have been that Iraq would have still not undergone the political and social reforms necessary to mend together the Iraq’s sectarian differences.

If Jeb Bush (or any other candidate) wants to speak on foreign policy and to really be relevant, they need to address the situation as it exist today. I wonder what Jeb would say about the Iranian nuclear deal given the world’s endorsement? What would he do when President?

I also wonder what Jeb would do with Iraq as it is today? Hmmm.

And while he is at it, how does he think the US can handle the Middle East, Russia (western expansion creep), and China (south China sea expansion), and the mess that is called Africa? Such statements are unlikely because they are highly nuanced and bold clear unequivocal statements would unlikely stand the test of do we have the forces, the will, and the budget to undertake them.

Consequently Jeb is left to making statements on what “should” have been and even then he is getting it wrong.  Jeb is drifting towards irrelevance.

Advertisements

A New Foreign Policy Strategy?

February 1, 2015

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote a piece titled “America’s Strategy Deficit”. Hmmm. What does she mean?

Reading her opinion column doesn’t help a whole lot. Ms Noonan recounts the opinions of several present or former Generals as well as several former Secretaries of State. All of whom find fault with the present Administration’s grasp of a coherent strategy. Ms Noonan offers no suggestion about what that may be but drives home the point that the Obama Administration does not understand the world correctly.  Hmmm.

A little history might help to begin.

President Obama inherited a foreign policy that was like a ship had been bouncing along a rocky coast.  In 2008, the US foreign policy had come to rest stuck in on Middle East/Islamic beach unable to move.

We can see in 2015, that the assumption supporting the Bush foreign policy were patently wrong and the tools used to implement it were clearly inadequate. So to understand President Obama’s foreign policy one must start here.

Briefly, President Obama decided to “stop digging” in order to get out of Bush’s hole. This policy also fit the President’s personality which is risk adverse.  Obama sees the world as overly complicated and compensates for the global unknowns by waiting to see “how things played out”. There have been no information or events during President Obama’s term that supports the view that Bush had it right and Obama has it wrong.  So if Obama is wrong about the world, who should we consult to find the correct views? Why has the world become so difficult to understand?

Following WWII, there was but one country wealthy enough to provide global leadership and also grow its own economy at home. The US saw the world as divided in two camps, the communist world and the “free world”. Foreign policy was called “containment” and its goal was to keep the communist ideology from spreading beyond its current boards (largely the Soviet Union and China). This type of foreign policy was succinct and actionable. What few paid attention to was the simultaneous reality that the world also was divided along the lines of manufacturing capability too. The “West” grew more and more capable of producing “goods” while the “communist world” fell further behind.

This all changed suddenly. Along came the Japanese decade where Japan, propelled by its electronics and automotive industries conquered western markets. The Japanese seemed unstoppable but their secret to success was finally discovered.

The Japanese had mastered quality manufacturing.

Of course as it turns out, any country who follows quality principles (such as put forward by Deming, Juran, and others) can make high quality, lower cost goods. China and most of Southeast Asia have become the world’s manufacturing hub without firing one bullet.

So what’s the point?

The worlds trading partnerships have been reordered. Russia has opted to be a natural resource exported (oil and gas). China has chosen to be the 10,000 pound gorilla in the low cost, high quality manufacturing world. And thanks in part to Bush Administrations Middle East policies, the oil exporting countries from Morocco to Iran have been turned upside down with their indigenous “have nots” now seeking “more of the pie” in countries like Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. So tell me what’s the obvious US foreign policy so far overlooked by US strategic thinkers?

The world has changed but conventional US thinking has not.  The US  still pursues destruction of communism, keeping oil available and at predictable prices, and above all maintain the openness of world shipping routes.

Witness, expanding NATO’s boarders (and threatening Russia in the process), attempting to keep China from expanding its territorial ambitions into the South China Sea (and posing economic and security damage to countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan), and increasing US Southeast Asia alliances with nations we have previously disdained due to their internal policies (which has created all sorts of contradictory situations where human rights might be concerned). It is not hard to draw the conclusion that US foreign policy is on the wrong path.

Ms Noonan’s view of a US “strategy deficit” is only half the proposition. The more important half is “what should the US foreign policy be”.

If foreign policy is left to the Generals, it would be “boots on the ground”. If left to the politicians, it would be something for everyone (and results for no one). If left to the State Department professionals, it would be more of the same.

If left to our presumed allies, it would be more American money and lives while quietly diverting more and more wealth to their countries. What should we do?

You won’t find the answer here. Rather I would propose we consider that following:

  • America is wealthy enough and militarily strong enough to outlast our next strongest competitors unless we spend our way into bankruptcy. The combination of an open society and free enterprise makes the US economic model more durable and more competitive in the long run than other systems on the globe today. So there is no need to panic.
  • No religion anywhere in the world is our enemy. All religions are so internally flawed that the US secular society can prevail and be seen with envy from all other societies. We, of course, must not misinterpret this as a justification that any religion practiced in the US is superior to any other in the world.  Basically keep religions out of the equations.
  • From time to time, the US will be forced to use military forces with any foreign policy, to either defend itself or to achieve its foreign policy. As a safety precaution, the US must augment its volunteer Army with “drafted” civilians whenever US forces are committed for more that 90 days. Equally important, all employment of military force, must be funded with new designated proportional taxes on the US population. We should avoid any further conflicts where the expense is borrowed and the wars are fought with a narrow cut of Americans. This will force our leaders to think before committing the military.

In my opinion, these three simple principles will lead whatever party is in power to adopt and follow foreign policies that make sense. Every day that goes by is witnessing the rise of stronger military and economic threats to US national interests. Ms Noonan is correct is suggesting it is time to think what the US strategies should be.

Cuba – Another Test For Commonsense

December 18, 2014

A quiet sigh of relief flowed out in Washington, DC yesterday when President Obama announced his intentions to normalize US and Cuba relations. Congress members’ public the statements followed more closely to party lines.   No one, however, presented a convincing case why the Cuban isolation and sanctions had accomplished anything or that if continued just a little longer would make a positive impact on US national interests.

That didn’t prevent some Congress members and pundits from taking an anti-Cuban position

  • You may heard that Cuba is a communist leaning country and we all know how bad communism is. Hmmm. Communism certainly is not America’s cup of tea.   The US economy is built upon a slightly regulated form of capitalism.  Russia and China, on the other hand claim to be communist countries in principle, and the US engages both countries without regard to their economic philosophies.
  • You may have heard that Cuba is a repressive regime and has imprisoned hundreds of Cubans. Hmmm. It turns out that the US has incarcerated more people than Cuba (absolutely and in terms of number per 100,000 citizens). And who can forget Guantanamo detention facility and the nearly 200 uncharged detainees. Hmmm.
  • You may have also heard that Cuba is a dictatorship and the Castros have refused to turn the government over to free democratic elections. This is probably true but lets look at that statement in world context. Democratic elections only work in countries where the population understand the responsibilities associated with free elections. A voting box with multiple candidates in no way assures democratic processes. The real question is why does anyone think that isolation and sanctions will bring about the miracle of free elections? Consider Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and a smorgasbord of Central African countries.

A more interesting question is why now?

Normalizing Cuban relations is no more appropriate today than it has been for decades. Pandering politicians have prevented normalization in the past.  These politicians have couched their rhetoric depending upon where the most votes lay. The anti-normalization faction has traditionally won this popularity contest. President Obama near the end of his sixth year brings a different set of circumstances.

He has little to lose.

The President has not received much credit for guiding the country out of a severe recession and huge unemployment situation which he inherited. His compromise “Affordable Care Act” (which did not give Progressives the single payer plan they wanted) never the less mended a modern day sin against humanity (insurance companies right to cancel policies or outrightly refuse to insure some people). And following over 10 years of war, the President has let the air out of the war machine.  All this with little popular recognition.

When historians write their texts covering the years of George W Bush and Barack Obama, my guess is the Bush years, despite his best intentions, will be marked as policy failures with the Iraq War topping the list. For Obama, historians will likely write that as a leader, he was not very effective, but as a policy maker, he made courageous and correct decisions more often than not.

Normalizing relations with Cuba will be just one of them.

Dick Cheney – Is He For Real?

December 15, 2014

Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on “Meet The Press” yesterday and repeated with apparent pleasure his defense of “enhanced interrogation methods” including water boarding. “I would do it again in a minute”, he said. Hmmm.

Cheney’s justification seems to be that the CIA EIT targets were “bad people”. Other defenders, including Cheney, claimed important and useful information was obtained. Still others said the “lawyers” said it was ok.

Cheney put the exclamation point on it by saying President Bush was fully briefed and kept informed on a regular basis. Hmmm.

The collective defense seems to be that al Qaeda (and anyone the CIA thought was connected) were such bad people that no civil rules applied. They deserved this type of treatment. And, the Cheney-types add, these techniques prevented any further 9/11 type attacks.

I wonder where the “lawyers” were when the Bush White House was reminded that the US was a signatory to the UN Torture Treaty (signed in 1988). Within the treaty lies a definition for what acts constitute torture.

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

I wonder what part of “severe pain or suffering” was not clear?

The Bush White House, we must remember, sought out lawyers who were amenable to their enhanced interrogation views. They struck gold (maybe I should say muck) when they hired Jonathan Yoo who wrote the infamous torture opinion (pain equivalent to organ failure was Yoo’s standard).

Regardless of what Cheney and others felt (like the risk the US was exposed to), they knowingly chose to rig the system in order to convince CIA agents to torture, Congress to look the other way, and do it in such a way that there would be deniability for senior officials including themselves.

Cheney’s actions at this time could be an attempt to rewrite history. His outburst are far more likely aimed at minimizing any chance of prosecution by the Justice Department.

There is nothing in this issue that is Democrat or Republican, or Progressive or Conservative in nature. This is more about Libertarianism versus Authoritarianism. This is about clever leaders rigging the system so they could flaunt what ever rules they pleased, for what ever reasons they had.

Dick Cheney belongs to the Dr Strangelove era where the world was divided into white hats and black hats.

What is even more disheartening is a quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia. He said he did not read anything in the Constitution which prevented “coercion”.

Hmmm, what a polite way to refer to torture.

Abu CIA

December 11, 2014

The Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001 shocked America. Not only were three thousand citizens killed but four passenger jets were hijacked right before our eyes. How could something so catastrophic happen in a Country that spends so much on intelligence gathering?

9/11 happened early in the George W Bush – Dick Cheney Administration. It was somewhat understandable, although completely unacceptable, that a new Administration might have trouble connecting the dots. After all Osama ben Laden and al Qaeda were not unknown to the intelligence community, but it does take time for an administration to gel.

The Neoconservative element saw an opening to asset a much more proactive foreign policy. They saw a chance for the US to flex it muscles and teach these “bad people” a lesson. Little did most Americans know that neocons had populated many key jobs in the Bush/Cheney teams. Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowicz, Scooter Libby, and David Firth, all charter members of the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) began writing position papers on what the US needed to do to fight these radicals. Two products of their recommendations became the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq and enhanced interrogation techniques.

Both of these events went beyond the accepted bounds of governance and stepped into the unchartered area of war crimes.

The neocon driven frenzy connected Iraq and Saddam Hussein with 9/11 and the Iraq efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Using phony intelligence, this neocon faction got Colin Powell to say before the US Security Counsel that proof existed that Iraq was active in developing weapons of mass destruction. Time has shown this claim to be totally false.

When the Iraq invasion turned sour and instead of handing flowers to incoming US soldiers, the presumed grateful Iraqis offer IEDs to unsuspecting and unprotected US troops. Thanks to the neocons.

The neocons, however, were just getting started. They pressured the CIA and the Army to get tough with prisoners and gather intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee report issued yesterday fairly well documents the excesses of the CIA effort.

Abu Ghraib showcased the attempted corruption of the military.  When Army prison officials would not voluntarily adopt enhanced interrogation, CIA and private security contractors were brought into work in Abu Ghraib.  The rest is sad history.

The third piece of the get tough policy was to pressure the Justice Department to write opinions which held these methods as legal (thanks to Jonathan Yoo).

In both these cases, the neocon method of deflecting criticism (and frankly indictments) was to blame excess upon the low level soldiers and CIA officers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prison guards and the CIA officers were doing what they were told to do.

The politically clever but ethically and morally lacking behavior of top Government officials such as George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld stand out for all to see… unless one is not distracted into the debate whether useful information was obtained from the use of torture or whether Saddam Hussein was a evil person or not.

Bush by apparent laziness and Cheney by misplaced intent started a ball rolling and cared not to know the details, only confirmation of results.

The fiery rhetoric we are hearing today is the frenzied GOP efforts to get this genie back in the bottle.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee report was written only by Democrats (Republicans refused to participate).
  • The Committee did not interview any of the CIA leaders involved (They had already testified before Congress and they were currently part of an on-going criminal investigation and would be limited in what they could/would say).
  • The intelligence results may or may not have been valuable. The Committee report says no, CIA officials say yes. What is not being debated is whether enhanced methods were necessary and have clearly not lead to a safer world today. (More to the point, torture is outlawed in a treaty to which the US is a signatory.

Additionally, unless the US wishes to adopt the standard line from Russia and China that “this matter is about the internal affairs of another country and we do not meddle in those matters”, using enhanced interrogation makes the US clearly a hypocrite country.)

Abu CIA sprung from the same bad seeds.

When Does Something Not New, Make News?

December 10, 2014

Yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of CIA interrogation abuses has provided the 7/24 news cycle with an early Christmas present. This story combines the best of everything. There is a platform for partisanship, another for pseudo patriotism, one for rewriting history, and the most important, an opportunity to reflect upon how the Government can secretly go wrong for what appear to be the right reasons. Hmmm.

Democrats want Americans to know clearly what happened under Republican President George W Bush and his Republican friends. Republicans want Americans to know that valuable information was obtained in a war time setting and that criticizing the CIA is almost treasonous.

Dick Cheney proudly put forward the words that the CIA was doing dirty work in a dirty world in their efforts to protect Americans from another 9/11. For some who have been exposed with their fingers in the cookie jar, it is a chance to “correct” the record by claiming they were acting under orders from the top.

And, those who had already known of these abuses but could not speak or write with certainty (since everything was classified), there is now a chance to explain step by step how an Administration which believed the ends justify the means could hijack the Country’s moral and ethical core.

President Bush’s naive “do what it takes” message was paid back with his subordinates not detailing what the CIA was actually doing to the President until 2006.  This was clearly an attempt at protecting the President with plausible deniability.

It was the Bush Administration who hired and then fired Justice Department counsel until they found ones who believed that extreme measures (maybe short of drawing and quartering) was legal. It was the Office of the Vice President who relentlessly pushed the CIA, NSA, and others to get results.  These “legal opinions” and subsequent classification that served as the cover to keep these programs secret and fully operational.

The Senate Intelligence Committee release of abusive CIA programs is really about much more.

In the business world, executives sometimes find also themselves in precarious situations.   Business failure endangers both shareholders and employees. Sometimes these leaders decide that instead of running harder in their assigned lane around the track, they could cut across the infield and rejoin the track way ahead of competition. In other words, these executives believe they can suspend rules of fair (and legal) play because they “need” to protect employees or shareholders.

Beginning with the likes of Dick Cheney this attitude of justifying any means if they believed the ends were important was the start of the fast track lane to failure.

Anyone is capable of this type of leadership. Only a few are capable of leading successfully while playing by the rules.

Given the political partisan nature of the US today, it is very unlikely that prosecutions will follow. And if the prosecutions were limited to the “few bad apples” as in the Abu Greive debacle, then I would not want to see the lower operatives punished and their chain of command retire in luxury.

I wonder how long this report will last in the 7/24 news cycle?

Feinstein’s Last Hurrah

December 9, 2014

Senator Diane Feinstein, Chair Person of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is set to release a committee report on alleged CIA abuses committed in the years following 9/11. The report is said to contain incidents involving water boarding as well as other “enhanced interrogation” methods. Hmmm.

Evidence obtained by these methods is considered suspect by most interrogators and is inadmissible in both the Military Commissions and US civilian courts. Hmmm.

Why release the report and why now?

Who knows what Feinstein’s real reasons are. Pragmatically, her term as committee chair ends with this Congress in December. Since the GOP is dead against the report’s release, it is now or never.

There will be certainly nothing in the report that has not been practiced by hundreds of nations before. For some it might be comforting to know that these enhanced interrogation methods will put the US in the same company as the Catholic Church’s inquisitions, Hitler’s Gestapo, and North Korea’s brain washing techniques. Of course no one will acknowledge that association. Instead we will hear about being a patriot and protecting our country.

If the world was fair, there would have been human rights and/or war crime trials following the revelation of these enhanced interrogation methods. The buck stopped with former President George W Bush but the coterie that promulgated the ideas of ends justify means was Vice President Dick Cheney and his circle of neoconservatives. While this group always spoke of protecting America, there were in fact undermining the Constitution and the many treaties adopted over the years aimed at curbing inhumane actions by governments.

In all probability, had the Bush Administration followed the Army Code of Conduct, the Iraq invasion and occupation probably would not have taken place. Once, however, an Administration sees itself as above the Constitution, existing treaties, or simple human decency, the Government ceases to operate within the traditional checks and balances. Bad things can and usually do happen.

It is very questionable whether anything new will be revealed today. Leaks have already outlined the scope of past CIA transgressions. The inability to bring to trial the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks volumes about the short sightedness of the policy. Bringing it back to the public’s attention in a partisan manner may not serve the higher purpose the information could have brought.

The Bush era “neoconservative crowd” remains hidden in the shadows even today. These righteous Americans see the needs of the country from a personal best interest perspective. They are bright and intelligent, and very driven people.

The cleverly imperfect American system of government, however, allows for the change of leadership every four years and limits the President to a maximum of 8 years. Bush and Cheney were done in 2008. America is still cleaning up their mess and unfortunately will for years to come.

I am not sure whether this report will help but it is difficult to see how it will hurt.