Archive for the ‘George Bush’ category

2016 – What Will The GOP Run Against?

December 3, 2014

A NBC poll released today showed former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading all perspective 2016 nominees. Romney logged in with 20% preference by those polled. In second place was Ben Carson with 10%. All the other Sunday talk show guests lined up as little ducks with descending percentages. Hmmm.

Romney’s preference can certainly be assigned to the fact that there has been little money spent to date for the 2016 race. The boat load Romney spent in 2012 makes him the most recognizable GOP candidate even though Romney has consistently said he is not a candidate for a third try.

Here’s some ideas for the eventual GOP candidate.

  • The Economy. Candidate “A” can claim he/she will get the economy going again. Hmmm. Considering the mess President Bush left, and the steady climb back, the current US economy is second to none in the world. And, the return to a strong economy was accomplished without any tax give away programs for corporations or the very wealthy. What can the GOP claim? Maybe they might point to the many Americans who do not feel they are participating in the recovery because their jobs do not pay enough. Hold your breath and lets see what this daring GOP candidate offers as the path to fairer income distribution.
  • Good Jobs. This would be a worthy goal for either party. The difficulty both will have is where would “good jobs” come from and how would the government play a role in enabling? Chances are no GOP candidate will offer anything substantive in reference to type of jobs or how to enable their creation (conflicts with small government goals). Simply saying, Candidate “B” stands for more good jobs will probably be the extent. For example, being specific like wanting to complete the XL pipeline because it will create good paying jobs, while partially true will also help depress the price of oil and refined products (good for most consumers). The lower oil prices will simultaneously create unemployment as current oil producers find their sunk costs exceeding the new lower price of crude. Hmmm.
  • The Affordable Care Act. It will be practically irresistible for GOP candidates to not cry for repeal of ACA. Candidate “C” will pronounce it a “train wreck”. Unfortunately for Candidate “C”, the facts do not support the train wreck description. No longer are Americans denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition or have their coverage canceled due to catastrophic illness. Uninsured Americans can obtain affordable coverage when in the past only the healthiest could. And, while it is still early, estimates are being made that the ACA’s emphasis upon reducing hospital errors is actually reducing health care costs. Hmmm. The wise GOP candidate, however, will move from repeal to “repair” ACA and point out certain aspects which should be fixed based upon experience.
  • Foreign Affairs. Most GOP candidates will puff up and say they favor a strong national security posture. More spending by the Defense Department will be their call. These demagogues will point to Russia, the Ukraine, China, and the Middle East as proof that the Obama Administration has botched foreign affairs. Oh, really? The Russian ruble is in free fall due to non-military sanctions put in place to counter Russia’s Crimean and Eastern Ukrainian policies. The Middle East mess, which began with President Bush’s ill-advised invasion and occupation of Iraq and his Administrations frequent calls for “democratic elections” in middle east countries, can only be resolved by the Middle East countries themselves. Any GOP candidate who proposes another invasion will be in for a rude surprise.
  • Immigration. Potentially the hottest potato of all. What can an honest GOP candidate say? Studies by even the most GOP minded business groups all point out the economic advantages of immigration reform. Common sense compels one to see the foolishness of any attempt to deport over 11 million undocumented. Probably the best advice would be to try the “Dick Nixon Vietnam approach”. Candidate “D” could say he has a secret immigration reform plan but can’t reveal it during the campaign because if he did, some could game the system… and Candidate “D” would want the reform to be fair to all.

President Obama will not be running this time. The presumptive Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton, can both defend and modify the Obama track record based upon the passage of time… things change.

Should the Democrats infact nominate Hillary, the GOP will have the real red meat they seek. Run against Hillary (and Bill).

So maybe the Affordable Care Act, and the Economy, or Jobs, or Foreign Affairs will not be the issues, just Hillary. Hmmm.

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Bush, ISIS, Paranoia

November 12, 2014

Former President George W Bush has written a book about his father, former President George H W Bush. The elder Bush was a war hero, public servant in numbers capacities, and the 41st President with a term marked by bold, long sighted decisions. “W”, on the other hand, has been tarred by the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina response, and the near melt down of the world’s banking system with the near depression which followed. Hmmm, some comparison.

In an interview with NPR (as part of hawking his new book), “W” offered a series of explanations over decisions Bush 41 made intimating these were roughly the same decision “W” would have made. Who can prove that statement wrong?

When it came to explaining “W” decision to invade and occupy Iraq, “W” got out his stock speech which asserts that Hussein was a bad person, capable of doing the unspeakable, and the Iraqi people are better off with him gone. As these words came out of the radio, I was struck by what did he just say? Thinking more, I thought, why did he just say that?

Shortly after “W” defense of invading and occupying Iraq, he was asked about ISIS. “W” responded that nothing should stand in the US’ way of defeating ISIS. Hmmm. Did he mean another invasion? Then Bush said, “remember the Bush (meaning “W”) doctrine, if a country harbors terrorists, then the US will fight the host country to “preemptively” defeat terrorists before they can carry out their attacks on the US”. Hmmm.

So again, why is “W” saying these statements?

The surface reasons should be clear. “W” is attempting to rehabilitate his name and that of the brand “Bush”.

Rewriting history is not a new phenomena and “W’s” attempt won’t be the last. Sometimes, however, there is simply no way to change the outcomes and rewriting history becomes impossible. All that is left is to change people’s perception of why foolish or failed policies were undertaken. Hence, ISIS front and center.

“W’s” years were marked by the wholesale use of fear to justify all sorts of government and political aims. Al Qaeda was a gift despite the tragic World Trade Center loses. Al Qaeda spawned the “War on Terror” and let the NSA, Patriot Act, and Homeland Security genies out of the bottle. In a short period of time, 300+ million Americans were told to worry about terrorists who might be behind every tree.

ISIS is now conveniently a new paranoia that can be used to re-stoke the fear factor.

This paranoia accounts for why many members of Congress prefer President Obama to send American troops back into Iraq (and probably Syria) with the mission of destroying ISIS. Many of these members reason that this a conflict American military can win, and should there be another terrorist event on US soil, they would be politically safer having supported an attack on ISIS first.

While this reasoning is probably true, it begs the question of will any new group follow ISIS?

Our Country, IMO, is better off seeing the Iraq invasion and occupation for what it was, an error in foreign policy of the first magnitude. Remember at the time of the invasion there was no ISIS nor was there any al Qaeda in Iraq.

More importantly the US has much bigger fish to worry about. Strategic relations with Russia, Iran, China, and the fragile African continent present far more environmental, health, and military risks than radical Muslims like ISIS.

The recommendation is not to overlook ISIS (or whomever follows), but to put the response to ISIS in proportion to all the risks on the table.

Had “W” done that with Iraq, there would not have been an invasion and occupation.

Vietnam All Over Again?

November 8, 2014

President Obama announced the US would double its presence in Iraq sending another 1500 servicemen. The White House was quick to say these were not combat troops but instead were advisors. Hmmm.

The parallels with Vietnam are eerie. Both countries represented cultures foreign to US understanding. Both countries seemed detached from any US national interest (although both were connected to oil). And in both Countries, the US sided with factions which were incapable of ruling with broad acceptance. (At least government policy has been consistent over 60 years.)

If you do not remember the Vietnam slippery slope, it goes like this. Suppose US training and military advisors become outnumbered and in danger of losing. The obvious conclusion is we will need to seed more advisors. After a few times of this escalation, it becomes necessary to send in troops to protect the advisors. And after that it becomes more efficient to send in combat troops to eliminate the treat to our troops who are their to protect the advisors and trainers. Hmmm.

When the US foolishly invaded and occupied Iraq, the removal of Saddam Hussein was equivalent to letting the “dark genie” out of the bottle. Not only did we let the “dark genie” out, we broke the bottle making in impossible to get the “dark genie” back in.

Unless Iraqis find a new bottle and put the “genie” back in, open hostilities will continue. The dreams of a Middle East democracy were childish during the Bush years and are just as naive today. The Middle East is mired in the middle ages, not the middle east.

President Obama has two years left in his Presidency. There is not much time or a lot of options for him to leave evidence of a successful 8 years. Leaving with a war underway in Iraq will not only be a black stain on his Presidency, it could lessen the dim views history has taken of the George W Bush Administration. Without the harsh assessment that invading Iraq was a huge foreign policy failure, future Presidents will find it easier to justify pre-emptive wars, wars of choice.

With pre-emptive wars, the US, like Rome, will have begun its descent.

Delusional

September 3, 2014

Syria and the Ukraine offer insight into how a delusional person, place or thing is can come to be. Both countries reflect truly delusional thinking from political parties, the press, and the average citizen. The crisis in both these countries reflect failed US foreign policy coupled with dysfunctional behavior by others.

US foreign policy is built upon a false premise that capitalism and democracy can flower almost any place in the world.

In many places, “covert” US policy has tried to give this presumed thirst for democratic ways a boost (in fact, actually many boosts). In the 50’s and 60’s, dictators were preferred over popular governments because the US feared subsequent movement to communism.  In the 80’s the cold war ended.

Consider

  • When the Soviet Union imploded, US policy thought the timing was perfect for NATO and the European Community to expand, right up to Russia’s door steps. This view was “policy”. What drove policy, however, was the business and banking communities’ belief that billions in profits lay ahead, especially if Russian communism could give way to a democratic Russia.
  • With Syria, a similar foreign policy view was held. The Arab Spring had turned many into the streets to demand more from their governments. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and then Syria all hosted demonstrations and government attempts to suppress.
  • The US Syrian policy was particularly confusing. Just as with Saddam Hussein, Bashar al Assad was a brute of a leader. The Assad Government was broadly viewed as repressive and unrepresentative of the Syrian people.  But with the exception of Lebanon, Syria kept within its borders.
  • American policy, following the Arab Spring called for Assad’s resignation and nothing more. Assad had already seen what happened to strong minority leaders once they were out of office or overthrown. Assad wanted no part of that. Hence, a civil war.
  • The overthrow of the Russian friendly Ukrainian President Yanukovych was the last straw. Shortly there after, the reality of Eastern Ukraine and its Russian speaking majority became clear. Crimea voted with their feet.
  • Now, the eastern part of Ukraine is doing its best (with much Russian help) to pull more geography into the Russian sphere. These Russian loving Ukrainians are expressing the policy of mother land and free expression. The driving forces, again are economic with Russia wanting more geography (customers) and the separatists leaders expecting personal gains in a Soviet win. Syria, on the other hand, is a bit more complex.
  • The well armed Islamic extremists (ISIS) are simply crazy people by 21st century standards. They represent a continuation of al Qaeda and the Taliban. One can speculate that ISIS, aside from its advertised religious motivation, is driven by trying to build another Saudi-like State where this group of leaders become very rich men.

The ISIS foreign policy of converting everyone in their paths to strict Islam is totally delusional. Money and power drive this activity.

This week when ISIS released two videos showing the beheading of American journalists, most civilized people were appalled and disgusted. American politicians, member of the press, and everyday citizens have cried out for action. “These barbarians must be eliminated”. Hmmm.

There is no time like the present to reflect for a moment.

  • Who facilitated the current situation with a well intended (?) but naive invasion and occupation of Iraq… while that country could have been concentrating its efforts on “hot pursuit” of al Qaeda and the Taliban?
  • Which country spoke openly of Middle Eastern countries adopting “one person, one vote” when these people have never know democratic rule?
  • What country supported the overthrow of the Ukrainian freely elected President?
  • And what country openly encouraged regime change in Middle Eastern Countries during the Arab Spring?

Looking forward, the issue should not be “what would be ideal”, rather the issue is “what is possible” given the actual conditions.

The 2003 Iraq invasion has been intertwined with allegations that oil or Israeli foreign policy objectives greatly influenced American Middle East policy. Both seem plausible and may have been contributory. What cannot, however, be denied that American domestic politics and the simplistic “good and bad” labels were applied to the Middle East players.

More apropos would be to perceive all the players as bad and our job, if we insist upon interfering, is to pick those players who might create the least damage.

President Obama has learned that the entire American apparatus, CIA, State Department, Defense Department, and the business community see the world through very shaded glasses. Libya, like large parts of norther Africa will soon be a lawless failed State. Syria, without Assad will follow. It is not clear about Iraq but very recents events suggest a soft Federation (Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds) maybe the most practical outcome.

So what does that mean about ISIS?

The press needs to surrender the ISIS headlines and go dark. US and appropriate allies should put together clandestine operations which eliminate this extremist element or at least remove ISIS ability to create havoc. The world and surely Americans do not need hour by hour chants about what is the US going to do about these beheadings? I wonder whether the press or political figures have thought that our drone strikes almost assuredly decapitate both their targets and many unintended. Hmmm.

So what about Russia (versus the Ukraine)?

A wise move would be for the US to consolidate its post cold war gains and stop trying to move up to Russia’s border.  The American mentality does not understand “mother Russia” as it does not understand the Caliphate.  A soft surrender of the eastern parts of the Ukraine is probably the best option of rather poor (and delusional) choices.  Hmmm.

 

Pandora’s Dilemma

August 26, 2014

In August 1990, some say, the US lead coalition opened Pandora’s box a bit. The first gulf war, operation Desert Storm, was ostensibly to stop Saddam Hussein’s aggression against neighboring Kuwait. The fact that Kuwait was oil rich and that Hussein’s Iraq was already suspect to American neo-conservatives, were thought to have had greater influence on American policy than Iraq’s violation of International law.

Pandora’s box was jolted ajar a second time following 9/11. American lead troops ousted the Afghanistan “Taliban al Qaeda friendly” government and then allowed their mission of hot pursuit to morph into nation building.

But the box became fully open when the US invaded and occupied Iraq for the second time in 2003. “Mission Accomplish” which boasted of Saddam Hussein’s capture (and subsequent execution) was clearly the beginning of the Middle East unraveling.

US involvement in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadaffi, and most recently attempted unseating of Bashar al Assad all displayed clearly that the US had not learned from Iraq or Afghanistan.

This week, senior Administration officials are breathlessly describing potential military operations aimed in one way or another trying to close Pandora’s box. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said yesterday that the US military were preparing contingency plans should a Afghan political deadlock prevent a “status of forces” agreement being signed before the US troop departure date.

It should be fully expected that Taliban forces will attempt to retake the Afghan government (by force, if necessary) once US forces leave. It should be fully expected that the Taliban, like the extremists in Iraq, will commit horrific slaughters under the name of Allah in order to retake the government. Hmmm.

So, when American political leaders speak of taking the war to ISIS, or keeping a sufficient residual force in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban, their motivation is probably to prevent wholesale slaughter. A humanitarian motivation one might say. Hmmm.

As the Middle East proverb goes, “if you steal one of my chickens, I will steal two of yours”. Consequently, intervening within Middle East (Afghanistan and Pakistan too) affairs can only lead to an escalation in violence.

The wisest course of action, although not pretty, will be to withdraw and allow the locals to work out a governance solution.

Oh, I bet the more insightful policy makers wish the US had not opened Pandora’s box in the first place and wonder what the Middle East might be like today?

Short Term Memories?

August 23, 2014

Do you have the feeling you are reliving the George W Bush years? At least the part that deals with the “war on terror”?

This past week has witnessed some of the dumbest and patently out of touch with reality statements by senior Administration officials (as well as leading politicians) since the Bush hubris years.

In this swirl of bogus statements, the likes of John McCain and Lindsay Graham can relax and smile in the “I told you so” glow of misrepresented facts.

First we saw the “rebuilt” and “retrained” Iraqi Army collapse, drop their weapons, and run from advancing ISIS troops. The sky was falling. A new force had suddenly emerged and the Middle East was about to be conquered. Hmmm.

Then, ISIS released a video in which they cold bloodedly decapitate an American journalist. This was proof positive, we were told, that this new fighting force is a threat to the US mainland. Hmmm.

Does anyone remember al Qaeda? How about the Taliban and the equally ruthless murder of Daniel Pearl? Hmmm.

News reporters are asking questions like, “is the US prepared to invade Syria and attack ISIS at its roots”? And, “How are we going to protect our homeland when these trained, American passport carrying extremists come home”? What are people thinking?

There is no problem right now using air assets to attack any insurgent group in Syria. As evidence, the Administration let slip an attempt to free James Foley which involved overflight as well as a ground landing well within Syrian boarders.

With respect to recruited Americans, this is just a fact of life now. Americans who choose to become extremists can go to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and much of Africa as well as Syria if they wish to improve their terrorism skills.

Hot pursuit (chasing ISIS assets from Iraq into Syria) and targeted rescue missions seem both justified and within our current capabilities. Thinking about ramping up our deployed resources seems foolish as well as unnecessary.

With regards to extremists returning to the US, what is all these measures American travelers, like grandma and grandpa, must endure traveling in our airports about?  And with a gun in every home and on the hip of many Americans, I wonder what is the greater risk.

Americans must be vigilant during times like this. Vigilant, not just about crazies doing harm in America but the danger of over zealous public officials. Well meaning public officials are prone to brandish our swords without thinking where or when they are necessary.

The news media must stand tall and resist the urge to manufacture “the story”. Ask the hard questions of government officials like who are these ISIS people, where do they get their funding, and where are the leaders located?

If these American officials do not know, ask Mossad.

Compelling Reasons?

August 14, 2014

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supposedly made up last night on Martha’s Vineyard island. In an interview, Hillary had called into question some of President Obama’s decisions concerning Iraq. Clinton’s comments is just the beginning of a careful tightrope walk she must undertake on the way to the Democrat Presidential nomination in 2016.

While her comments were a little of a cheap shot, they also bore some truth. “Organizing Principles” are an effective way to lead the broad, sprawling, government apparatus in a desired direction. While “don’t do anything stupid” isn’t an organizing principle, as Clinton pointed out, it sure would have been helpful if George W Bush’s Administration had embraced those words.

If you remember back to the Bill Clinton years, you will recall that his team were masters at “triangulation” as a fundamental in communication. Former President Clinton would “leak” some assertion, for example in response to some foreign provocation, and then measure (poll) how people reacted. Clinton would then disown the “lead”, and float another response. Again there would be a denial and again a trial balloon until Clinton’s advisors thought they were on the firmest ground in terms of public opinion.

There is no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will not govern in the same frustrating manner. The public will likely become frustrated with the question “what does she really think?”

I would submit that while this will be a maddening attribute of Hillary, there are far more compelling reasons to nominate and elect her as the next President.

  • First, Hillary is very slightly on the right side of center. While there will be wild outcries from conservatives, Hillary will in fact not drive US foreign or domestic policies far off center.
  • Second, Hillary is a woman and there is scant evidence that electing a male President is essential for the country’s well being. On the contrary, there is mounting evidence that a diverse group (gender, race, ethnicity, age) is valuable in dealing with the complex, multi-cultural hurdles facing the country.
  • Third, although Hillary is a centrist, she will nominate candidates for the Supreme Court who are not like the current 5 conservative Justices. Who exactly she will nominate is a matter of question, but strict constructionists are unlikely.
  • Fourth, Hillary is thoroughly qualified individual who possesses far more ambition and willingness to question than President George W Bush and arrive with far more experience than President Barack Obama.

In my opinion, Hillary should be careful on her “Obama critiquing” and position herself confidently as someone a majority of voters will select. There is nothing she can say or do which will placate the right wing and ultraconservatives. Supporters of immigration reform, woman’s rights, gay rights, and progressives in general are sufficient to provide the margin of victory.

Unfortunately, it is hard to teach an old Hillary new tricks.