Thursday, November 28, 2013

Taunting
     If the negotiations between the US and Afgan president Karzi over US troop levels after 2014 were being conducted under NFL rules, Karzi would be flagged for taunting.  The US has spent billions of dollars and more than 2,200 US service members lives to prop up a corrupt, ineffective, and unreliable Afgan government led by Karzi for the past decade.  To have the US pander to his changing terms of agreement on a world stage is an embarrassment and yet another reason to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Training vs. learning
     If the United States can negotiate acceptable terms under which American forces can remain in Afghanistan after 2014 the mission of those forces would be to engage high value terrorist targets, gather intelligence, and train the Afhan military.  The first two have merit but training Afghan forces gives me pause for two reasons.  First, the Afghan government is fighting an insurgency.  The US has never defeated an insurgent force....Viet Nam and Iraq being examples.  Second, we have been training Afghan forces for twelve years at great expense.  We train American recruits in four to six months.  Are the Afghans hopeless students or are we ineffective trainers?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why?
     On several occasions I have written that we should exit Afghanistan immediately.  Here is yet another reason.  The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment recently reported that it will cost the US $2.1 million per year for each soldier deployed in Afghanistan in 2014.  From 2008-2013 the per soldier cost was $1.3 million per year.  In Iraq, the cost per soldier high point was $400,000 in 2005.  The US troop level in Afghanistan in 2014 is expected to be about 40,000.  You can do the math:  it's staggering.  At this rate, a debt burdened United States will spend billions to perpetuate an unwinnable war.  Why?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Exceptionalism II
     In my last posting I wrote about "American Exceptionalism"  in the eyes of our European allies.  It occurs to me that the Chinese (not necessarily a US ally) may also have some thoughts about exceptionalism.  Those thoughts may be influenced by Sun Tsu, who wrote The Art of War some 2500 years ago.  In the book he writes "to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.  In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good."  The recently "resolved" US government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis may reinforce Sun Tsu's advice.....just let them go.  Let them be dysfunctional, divided, and wedded to deficit spending and we will prevail without effort. 
     The modern day commentator, Rev. Al Sharpton, offers an updated interpretation of Sun Tsu;s counsel to the Chinese, "If your enemy is about to commit suicide, walk away.  Don't turn a suicide into a messy homicide",  The result is the same with no risk or cost to you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Exceptionalism
     I just returned from a two week trip to Ireland and England and found that I was unable to post anything to this blog while there.  However, I had the opportunity to conduct a totally unscientific survey regarding the idea of "American Exceptionalism" while there through spirited discussions with the "natives" and my fellow American travelers and reading the European press.  The views of the two groups differed in two ways.  First, the Europeans thought that the idea of "American Exceptionalism" was a dangerous fantasy while the Americans believed in it.  Second, the Europeans could give pretty cogent reasons as to why they believed as they did; the Americans could not.  And this was before the current US government shutdown.
     Again, nothing scientific but interesting nonetheless

Monday, September 16, 2013

Russia's Interests
     As much of the world now sees the Syrian civil war through a lens focused on the diplomatic process to have Assad surrender control of his chemical weapons we should note one important fact: Assad's surrender of his chemical weapons may prolong the war as he and Russia may be seen by many as rational actors who caused US military action to be averted.  Russia's strategic national interests in Syria are arguably greater than those of the US on four counts.  First, Russia has a naval port in Syria giving it access to the Mediterranean Sea which would be lost if Assad falls.  Second, if Assad falls he is likely to be succeeded by a radical, unstable, Islamist state on Russia's doorstep which could destabilize parts of Western Russia with large Muslim populations.  Third, the likely successor government to Assad (radical and Islamist) might control the chemical weapons in question and direct them against nearby Russian targets.  Finally, the Assad government in Syria has a long-standing alliance with Russia just as the US does with Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea.  If Russia were to abandon Syria it harms their credibility and status as a nation..
     A longer look through the above referenced lens may indicate that the idea of American Exceptionalism is being confronted by a discomfiting reality.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ignoring Egypt
     The current American obsession with Syria, a country one-quarter the size of Egypt, might cause some to think that all is well in Egypt.  No doubt, the Syrian civil war is a mess and the use of chemical weapons is a concern.  As we focus on Syria we forget that Egypt is currently ruled by an illegitimate military regime as the result of a bloodless military coup that ousted the first democratically elected president of Egypt and then threw him in prison.  The illegitimate regime has also imprisoned thousands of Islamists, killed peaceful protesters (children among them), and closed opposition news outlets.  Nonetheless we continue to deny that a coup occurred, give the illegitimate government billions in financial aid while our debt climbs, and continue to count Egypt as our ally.
     Magical thinking is required to believe that the United States has a coherent foreign policy in the Middle East.