Saturday, August 23, 2014

Afgan Dysfunction
     Gaza, the Ukraine, ISIS, and China's flexing in the South China Sea are consuming the reporting capacity of the American media and the attention span of the American people.  But the average American might be surprised to know that his country is still deeply involved in a war in Afghanistan that after 2341 US service members killed and 17,674 wounded is not going well.  We still have 30,700 troops there costing several billion dollars per month.  We are slated to leave Afghanistan at the end of this year and our primary mission is to train an Afgan army and national police force that can defend the country.  We have been training these forces for twelve years.  The forces will cost six to eight billion dollars per year to maintain. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan's GDP is twenty Billion dollars per year.  Whom do you think will pay for the force, and for how long?
     Given the military and financial scenario above, it would be comforting to think that the internal politics and governance of Afghanistan were going well.  In fact, these aspects of the Afgan reality may be more alarming than the military/financial mess.  Afghanistan's presidential elections were held on 5 April 2014 with no candidate receiving a majority of the votes.  Abdullah Abdullah received the most votes.  A run-off between he and Ashraf Ghani was held on 14 June,  Ghani was ahead in the vote count when both candidates claimed fraud and the run-off vote is now being audited,  As a result, negotiations regarding a US presence there after 2014 are suspended.  This months long delay has caused some Afgan "leaders" to propose an "interim government", essentially a coup, backed by the Afgan army, national police, and intelligence corps.  This may be the best bad alternative for a country not yet ready for Jeffersonian democracy, but a crushing failure for American foreign policy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

     This blog posting is not meant to be an apology for the Obama administration's reaction to events around the world.  That said, I have been watching world events and national security decisions closely for two or three decades.  In that time I have never seen a more complex set of problems with so few good options available.  Threats are diverse and often ill-defined with almost all options riddled with downsides and potential unintended consequences.  As always, the enemy has a vote.  But in many cases we're not exactly sure who the enemy is. 
     The United States is not only war weary but also financially challenged, diplomatically weakened, and politically gridlocked.  Policing the world may have to give way to these realities.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Academic Fraud
     On Juy24 the New York Times published a lengthy article reporting that Montana Senator John Walsh plagiarized a paper he wrote while a student at the US Army War College in 2007 while serving in the National Guard.  The Times reported that "About a third of his paper consists of material either identical to or extremely similar to passages in other sources, such as Carnegie or Harvard papers.  and is presented without attribution.  Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes, but uses other authors' exact-or almost exact- language without quotation marks"
     The paper was required for graduation and graduation from a war college is a requirement for promotion to general officer.  Senator Walsh was promoted to general officer rank after graduation and holds that rank now in retired status.  Plagiarism is thoroughly described in the  War College's Handbook and the faculty constantly reminds students of the requirements for academic integrity.  The Times article further reports that the War College's "current student handbook "states that plagiarism will result in disenrollment and that discoveries of academic violations have led to degrees being rescinded and names being scraped off the bronze plaques honoring graduates on campus."
     It will be interesting to see how the Army handles this situation.  If Senator, or Major General, Walsh is found guilty of plagiarism his degree should be withdrawn and, therefore, his promotion to general officer revoked since he failed to meet the promotion criteria.  Colonel Paul Yingling wrote several years ago that "a private who lost his rifle was punished more than a general who lost his part of a war".  Will institutional cowardice and political pressures be the response to academic fraud?