Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Continuation on the Affliction of 'Political Science'

My previous post introduces my thoughts on how the study of government has devolved into a process of inane attempts to craft clever solutions to public problems, solutions which typically engender a practically malignant growth upon the body politic – a growth metastasised from a problem which would not have existed in the first place but for a bureaucrat's insistence that something must be done. And by 'bureaucrat', I mean an increasingly Progressive (yes, that is the term of preference for them now) set of beliefs that gather such people about in public service unions, and help perpetuate the problems themselves well beyond our normal capacity to deal with them. I believe that it was Ronald Reagan who quipped that the thing which comes closest to immortality is a Federal programme. And beyond even that, imagine if you can a UN peacekeeping mission which has actually accomplished its purpose. (I am in a position to criticise – I observed the inertia of UNDOF in the Golan Heights, and was a member of MINURSO in the Western Sahara.) Allow me to forestall a wasted reverie – none of them have been completed, other than those fore-ordained from the beginning as a place-keeper, such as West Irian or the Auzou strip, to oversee a settlement already agreed upon.

Just today, I had the good fortune to read the latest column of the Canadian writer David Warren, in the Ottawa Citizen (I recommend him unreservedly - always a delight to read), and he wrote on the same idea of 'Our dependent bureaucracy', explaining in part the ancient Confucian attitude to public servants. Only a small portion will I quote, to entice you to read the entire column:
For the wisdom of the ancient Chinese, as I understand them, was to govern with minimal intervention. The sage, as we read in Lao Tzu (I live and die by Arthur Waley's translation), "relies on actionless activity, carries on wordless teaching." He, "achieves his aim but does not call attention to himself." He is the opposite of one of our "nation-building" politicians. We, in our day, out of our own bureaucratic notions, are inclined to interventions that invariably compound truly simple problems, which we angrily refuse to understand. We gather statistics, and conduct sociological studies of extraordinary fatuity. 
To my more Sinitic view, the numbers themselves are a form of provocation. They are a way to avoid plain and unavoidable moral judgments; to intrude with the equipage of "science" into fields where knowledge must be of human nature, and where statistics can only mislead and obscure. Usually, there is some political agenda in play, and the grand spray of statistics is intended as cover for what the activists had decided to do all along. . . .  
Social "science" has itself been transformed over the last couple of generations, from an essentially journalistic enterprise, in which phenomena were directly observed in the field, intelligibly reported, and logically considered, into an extravagant, jargon-ridden, arithmetical game, aping physics, and attempting to appropriate its prestige. It was, from its beginnings, the softest "science" imaginable; it has hardened now into a ridiculous imposture.
And my paragraph above, relating to the United Nations and their apologists?  Another of my favourite quotes, from the great T E Lawrence (whose nom de guerre was Lawrence of Arabia), from his sublime Seven Pillars of Wisdom, explains the relationship by telling of the aftermath of his desert campaign with the nascent Arab armies against the Ottoman Empire in World War I:

We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew.
They are always with us, those who would rob our freedom for the common good.  Society must endure a beneficent cooperation for our individual needs, which translates to a common good of mutual benefit, as Adam Smith would describe it.  But beyond that, we must be always careful to distinguish the public servant from the bureaucrat, or worse, the apparatchik.  Haven't we all met them, at one time or another, or more commonly than civilisation should permit?  They are the people so ably described by G K Chesterton in The Secret People:

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on 'Political Science', & a strong trend in opinion on US energy development (or lack thereof)

First, an introduction to the broad aspects of the topic below:

One of the better commentators on the American scene (certainly one of the most readable) is George Will, who (like me, though certainly not to the same degree) has an academic background in Political Science (his being a PhD in the topic, from Princeton).  His attitude about the term ‘political science’ is much like mine, in that I believe that there really isn’t such a thing – I prefer the title ‘Government’.  An old quote of his runs something like “We should take all the political economists & send them back to the Economics department.  We should take all the political historians & send them back to the History department.  We should take all the political sociologists & send them back to Sociology.  We should then take the Political Science department & turn it into squash courts.”

I received my bachelor’s degree in the subject many years ago at Texas A&M University (a similarly august institution, though perhaps for different reasons), & back when the subject held better promise than it does today.  (I have been asked on occasion about the worth of such a degree from back then, & I reply with a brief kernel of my biography, which you can glean from the brief written example at the side & the wide variety of topics in this web log.)  But, like its similarly dismal cousin Economics, at that time the idea was to provide an opportunity to don white lab coats & act as if the ‘discipline’ had some sort of predictive quality to it.  In that respect, the polling of public perceptions on the political attitude of the country can perhaps best claim the title of what is left of Political Science.  That, I also believe, is slowly winnowing away due to the explosion of communication choices & controls that we have today, as opposed to that perhaps most famous blown prediction of “Dewey Defeats Truman”, when there were too few telephones (restricted to too few income levels) to arrive at a sufficiently significant conclusion.  Now, with voice mail, unlisted cell phone numbers, paging devices, & the like, the ability to find a large enough & diverse enough pool of respondents is becoming increasingly difficult.  I read the details of various polls & I am reminded of my father (a mathematical genius in his own right) & his quote of Will Rogers:  “You have lies, you have damn lies, & then you have statistics.”
Nevertheless (without getting too far down into the weeds), there are today (in my mind) two chief sources for what amounts to accurate political data about trends – Gallup still shows some worth in some areas, but Rasmussen, with its focus on likely voters as opposed to registered voters, is presently the best.  Which brings me to this little gem:

75% of likely voters believe that the US is not doing enough to develop its own gas & oil resources, in contrast to only 19% who believe that we are.  
These results are “virtually unchanged from last February”.  Further:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters say, when given the choice, that increasing the supply of oil by finding new sources is a better energy policy than reducing demand by cutting gas and oil consumption. Forty-two percent (42%) believe reducing the demand for oil is the better energy policy. . . .
Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party believe more strongly than Democrats that America is not doing enough to develop its own gas and oil resources. But sizable majorities across all demographic categories share this belief.

The population of independent voters is growing at the expense of both Republicans & Democrats, thus trends affecting the Independents are the ones to watch.  This affects them all, & in the same direction.  Add this to the predictive topics to watch for the next election.


Blood for [Chinese] Oil!

A favourite canard of the Left during the wars with Iraq (but oddly absent during our current intervention into Libya, don't you think?) was the phrase 'Blood for Oil!'  Just as I am no longer part of an 'occupation force' in Kuwait, having packed up & left once the dust settled in 1991 (like everyone else), this once again demonstrates that Americans, when pushed to fight, make things right & then go home.

Conservatives in particular were delighted to point out that the French, who were very vocal critics of the 2003 war that deposed Saddam Hussien & who pointedly refused to particitate (as opposed to their flanking contribution to the drive into southern Iraq in 1991, occasionally going so far as to actually communicate with us), were first in line to benefit from Iraqi oil contracts with the new government.

Now the Chinese are making good on their contacts with the Iraqis with a sweet deal indeed.

America!  Making the world safe for oil consumption!  For everybody else though - just not us.  In the meantime, all that gravel on the shore of ANWR is still pristine.

John Lennon: Conservative

Not that it would be publicised in the MSM anyway, but it turns out that John Lennon (imagine!) soured on the Left's ineffectual naval-gazing & became more conservative-minded in his later years, also becoming a fan of Ronald Reagan after his disappointment in Jimmy Carter.
He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete.
The story relates how Lennon would bait "old-time communists" into some "brutal arguments".  It is apropos that a follow-on comment to the story makes an attempt at a quote from Winston Churchill (alluding to the then-current political parties in the UK, but apt nonetheless): "A young man who is not a Liberal has no heart; an old man who is not a Conservative has no brain."

This story comes at a time to encourage me after Paul McCartney's cheap shot at W.

(H/T to Owen Brennan)

Dutch Marines take down Somali pirates

Here is the Dutch navy in action, taking down a Somali pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden.  Although the intro labels the participants as Dutch sailors, don’t be fooled – the Korps Mariniers are the Marines of the Netherlands.  (Having been in both the US Marines & the US Navy, I can understand why they would want me to specify who they are, & by way of explanation, I should quote Field Marshall Montgomery:  “A Marine should be sworn to the patient endurance of hardships, like the ancient knights; and it is not the least of these necessary hardships to have to serve with sailors.”)

Just to show that you don’t have to be smart to be a pirate, they take the Dutch boarding party under fire as it approaches.  Naturally, the Dutch generously return the greeting.

My bio refers to the fact that I served with a collection of foreign Marine units in my time, either in combined training operations, individual assignments, or being ‘seconded’.  I wasn’t assigned to the Korps, but I did some training ops with them, including a time when I was hanging out with the UK Royal Marines.  Both the Dutch & British Marines have a long history of combined operations, & together they serve as a combined NATO Marine Command.

Good job with those pirates, guys.  QPO

(H/T to Donald Sensing)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tax protest against U2 turns edgy

As I reported earlier, the threat to stage a protest against Bono & his group U2 at the Glastonbury Music Festival materialised yesterday, as the protest group Art Uncut raised a balloon emblazoned with  "U pay your tax 2", as a complaint about the group "moving its commercial operations to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax".  An organizer of the protest stated that "We had contact with people from the festival earlier in the day, and had told them the protest wouldn't disrupt the set.  They said it was fine."

Tax cheats

However, the group was rushed by some ten security guards, using "heavy-handed tactics" to scuffle with the protestors & deflate & confiscate the banner.
Art Uncut issued a statement on its blog questioning the move. "If they can get away with it, the wealthy establishment tend to hire heavies to crush dissent," it read. "We wanted a dialogue with U2, on an issue that is crucial for international development.

"Instead we got heavy-handed security tactics; our highly visible expression of conscience was pulled down after just a few minutes – where are the festival's radical roots now, we ask?"
 U2 campaigns with high profile in the publicity arena, demanding that governments pay more attention (& money) to the poor of the world.  Yet they take issue with paying higher taxes.  If they instead see fit to use that money to donate to legitimate relief organisations, then that is the essence of Adam Smith's capitalism, & I salute it.  Somehow, I doubt that they do.

Meanwhile, we find that rival band Chumbawamba support the protestors.

The group also receives a 'mentioned in despatches' comment from the great Victor Davis Hanson, in his article "There are No Socialists".
But why then does multimillionaire John Kerry go to great lengths to avoid taxes on his yacht (why a luxury yacht when so many have so little?); why are redistributive overseers like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Charles Rangel, and Hilda Solis either late or delinquent in paying the federal, state, or local governments what they owe? Were not high taxes on the upper incomes like themselves the point of it all? Should not they pay all they can to ensure that their brethren receive needed entitlements? I thought Bono would lead an international effort of multimillionaire rock stars to relocate to socialist states like Ireland or Greece, so that they might gladly pay 75% of their incomes (which at “some point” they had enough of) to help others closer to home. Why instead is he fleeing to low-tax nations? Did not such socialists have enough money by now without undermining the socialist state? [emphasis mine]

Geert Wilders acquitted, and thoughts on pandering to Islamic Supremacists

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician and leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, and a major player in the current government coalition.  But he is most famous there (and here to the extent that he is known), as a leader of the anti-immigration movement, warning of the large demographic and cultural impact on Dutch society. 

Most recently he has come under fire as the creator of the film Fitna (‘strife’ in Arabic).  The film has been condemned by the European Left, particularly in the Netherlands, as well as the usual suspects such as the UN Secretary General and the World Council of Churches (which to me amounts to the old ‘banned in Boston’ seal of approval).  It has been labeled as highly offensive to Muslims, as it ‘exhorts violent, dangerous, anti-Muslim’ sentiments.  The film itself, though, almost exclusively uses footage and quotes from extreme, radical Islamic Supremacist sources, and quotes from the Qur’an.  Is Fitna a high-quality production?  No.  Is it somewhat simplistic, and does it tend to over-generalise the attitude of the Muslim world and Muslims in general?  Yes it does.  Yet it ably opens the questions of why should the West be submissive to people who believe – and act on – ideas about religious genocide, and why should we be tolerant of such massive intolerance?
The film has been difficult to access, posted then pulled from sites such as Google, as a result of the intimidation from the Left and threats from the Muslim world, part and parcel of those threats to kill Salman Rushdie; to threaten Danish citizens because a newspaper printed political cartoons that included depictions of Muhammad; because of baseless accusations of torture and disrespect at Guantánamo (exactly how do you flush an entire book such as the Qur’an down a toilet?) or Abu Ghraib (an entire administration condemned due to the late-night actions of seven poorly-supervised soldiers, properly court-martialed).  As for torture, such techniques as water-boarding (branded as torture ex post facto) have been used on our own military personnel for training. 
But for Fitnait can be found here (seen in four parts, the first two being the film itself of some seventeen minutes, the last two parts being a follow-on documentary).  I must warn you that it is graphic in parts, but that is the intent of Wilders, who agrees that we have been shielded too long from the magnitude of the enemy who wants to destroy our society, an attitude that would be akin to disallowing the showing of footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, lest we become overly motivated to strike back at the Japanese. 
The enemy, of course, is not Islam, nor is it the entire culture.  I have lived among Muslims, and my experience has been pleasant and fruitful, but these are not the ones who fight us.  Yes, I condemn the Irish Republican Army, and more recently the Ulster Defence League, who claim false religious labels for their patently political struggle in Northern Ireland, but neither of them claim that they are compelled to wage terrorist acts in the name of the Bible, or that they are engaged in a holy war. 

Historically, Holland has been a country rightfully proud of its tradition of toleration, particularly in the area of religion, and of free speech.  Paradoxically, Wilders had been charged with five counts of hate speech and discrimination for the film and other statements, but was acquitted of the charges on Thursday.  His comments to the judges before they reached their decision bear repeating in part:
Every day the armoured cars drive me past the statue of Johan de Witt at the Hofvijver in The Hague. De Witt wrote the “Manifesto of True Freedom” and he paid for freedom with his life. Every day I go to my office through the Binnenhof where Johan van Oldenbarneveldt was beheaded after a political trial. Leaning on his stick the elderly Oldenbarneveldt addressed his last words to his people. He said: “I have acted honourably and piously as a good patriot.” Those words are also mine. . . . 
Freedom and truth. I pay the price every day. Day and night I have to be protected against people who want to kill me. I am not complaining about it; it has been my own decision to speak. However, those who threaten me and other critics of Islam are not being tried here today. I am being tried. And about that I do complain.
I consider this trial to be a political trial. . . . Those on the Left like to tamper with the separation of powers. When they cannot win politically because the Dutch people have discerned their sinister agenda, they try to win through the courts. . . .

This trial is also surrealistic. I am being compared with the Hutu murderers in Rwanda and with Mladic. . . . I have been called a new Hitler. I wonder whether those who call me such names will also be sued, and if not, whether the Court will also order prosecution. Probably not. And that is just as well. Because freedom of speech applies also to my opponents. . . .

Franz Kafka said: “one sees the sun slowly set, yet one is surprised when it suddenly becomes dark.”

Mister President, members of the Court, do not let the lights go out in the Netherlands.

Acquit me: Put an end to this Kafkaesque situation. . . .

Acquit me. I do not incite to hatred. I do not incite to discrimination. But I defend the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of the Netherlands. That is the truth. That is why I am here. That is why I speak. That is why, like Luther before the Imperial Diet at Worms, I say: “Here I stand, I can do no other.” 
Wilders lives with 24-hour-a-day protection due to very real death threats.  This is, after all, the land that saw politician Pim Fortuyn assassinated for his comments about the encroachment of Islam into Europe, and film director Theo van Gogh slaughtered in broad daylight by an unrepentant Dutch-Moroccan for a film called Submission, also critical of radical Islam and its cultural imprisonment of women (done in collaboration with Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a strong advocate against those bonds that she escaped, and now living under the same death threats in self-imposed exile).
Wilders also exposes the deadly imbalance between the fact that he is being prosecuted for being critical, while others who are issuing death threats (and making good on them), or at least who are making comments more critical than his, are being pandered to.  The West needs to hear something from the Muslim community that forswears this abominable rampage, yet the community is largely silent, with few exceptions, such as this notable one after the attempt to blow up the last public Christmas Winter celebration in Portland, Oregon.

Instead, after such killings or attempts, we hear pronouncements from our own officials that warn against a backlash against the Muslims who live with us.  They are picking at straws, hoping to build a straw man.  Time and time again, where is this backlash?  The story above cites an arson attempt at a mosque, a story that received more local coverage than the bomb attempt itself, but the case remains without any substantive clues.  But where is the wide-spread retribution in this ‘racist and xenophobic’ society of ours that we hear so much about?

Do you have to agree with all that Geert Wilders has to say?  Do you even have to like him?  There seems to be a whiff of extra-political over-enthusiasm about him, but that could be the veneer of how he is portrayed in the press – I don’t know.  But what he says has meaning for us, however brutal and direct.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve emergency explained

We now have had a one-day positive bounce to the announcement that we have opened the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the tune of some 30 million barrels, & the question remains about how this is to have any lasting, positive effect.
Indeed, crude supplies could tighten again by late this year, predicted analysts with Barclays Capital, who argue that the influx of government oil will lead Saudi Arabia to reduce output it had pledged to cover the Libyan shortfalls. That could send crude prices higher into next year, they said.
If Obama feels that releasing this two-days-worth of oil is a good idea, & if he feels that Saudi Arabia producing more oil will help (though the coordination of the move with the Saudis suffered), then why not allow more production of oil here in the US?  The Alaska National Widlife Reserve (ANWR) deposits could produce up to a million barrels a day with minimal impact on the environment.  If the administration would allow it, the Gulf of Mexico could yield an additional 300,000 barrels a day.  Approval of the Keystone Pipeline out of Canada could yield 900,000 barrels a day.

We are depleting supplies of oil that we have stored up for an emergency (which will have to be replaced eventually at a higher cost) to put them on the market in order to reduce gas prices.  Likewise, we are encouraging the Saudis (though clumsily) to increase production as well, for the same reason.  Why don't we take our own advice?

Perhaps my favourite political cartoonist is Michael Ramirez, who suggests an answer:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Whitey Bulger connection to Usama bin Laden

I’m back among the ‘civilised’, after a restful mountain sojourn devoid of connections to telephones, television, internet or the like.  The first news that comes to my attention is that the mildly infamous James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (former Boston Irish mob boss, accused of some 19 murders) has finally been caught after residing on the FBI’s Most Wanted List since 1999.  The only information of interest outside Boston in the meantime was the fact that Whitey's brother William was the president of the Massachusetts Senate for some 17 years until his appointment to be president of the University of Massachusetts, until finally compelled to resign by then-Governor Mitt Romney in 2003.  I say ‘mildly infamous’ because his case simply didn’t seem to draw much attention until it was brought to mind by the Pakistani ambassador last month.

The reason that Ambassador Haqqani name-dropped the model for the Jack Nicholson character in The Departed came up after a flurry of accusations that key elements within Pakistan knew that Usama bin Laden had been hiding there prior to his demise in the sights of what I expect was an MP-5 (Am I dating myself?) of SEAL Team 6 (yes, for you purists it’s NAVSPECWARDEVGRU).
If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can't Osama Bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?

It seems fortuitous indeed that Bulger, having languished on the list for some twelve years (only slightly longer than bin Laden himself), is apprehended only seven weeks after Haqqani made the discomfiting connection.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heading to the mountains

Posting will be sparse (non-existant, to be precise) for a few days as I'm off to the high-altitude wilderness that I love so much (this exact one pictured, as a matter of fact).  Mount Rainier is beautiful & massive (more glacial ice than the rest of the Cascades combined), & I just can't get enough of it.  For those of you sweltering in summer heat, allow me to add that the report of a few days ago noted that there is still some 158 inches of snow at around the 6000-foot level (the montain tops out at 14,411).  I blame global warming.

The two great geologists (their names escape me now) who predicted that Mount Saint Helens would blow 'sometime before the year 2000' also said that the next to go would be Mount Rainier (likely the southwest quadrant).  I have to take it all in while I can.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ted Cruz for Senate

If you can vote in Texas, support Ted Cruz for the US Senate.  If you can't (& God knows I wish I still could), then support him as best you can.

He has the endorsement, among others, of the great political commentator George Will, who lays out impressive credentials of an impeccable life.  Here's just a tidbit:
Before he earned a Harvard law degree magna cum laude (and helped found the Harvard Latino Law Review) and clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Cruz’s senior thesis at Princeton . . . was on the Constitution’s Ninth and 10th amendments. Then as now, Cruz argued that these amendments, properly construed, would buttress the principle that powers not enumerated are not possessed by the federal government. . . .   
As Texas’s solicitor general from 2003 to 2008, Cruz submitted 70 briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has, so far, argued nine cases there. He favors school choice and personal investment accounts for a portion of individuals’ Social Security taxes. He supports the latter idea with a bow to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said such accounts enable the doorman to build wealth the way the people in the penthouse do.  
Regarding immigration, Cruz, 40, demands secure borders and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants but echoes Ronald Reagan’s praise of legal immigrants as “Americans by choice,” people who are “crazy enough” to risk everything in the fundamentally entrepreneurial act of immigrating. He believes Hispanics are — by reasons of faith, industriousness and patriotism — natural Republicans. He says the military enlistment rate is higher among them than among any other demographic, and he says an Austin businessman observed, “When was the last time you saw a Hispanic panhandler?”
 You really have to read the whole thing.

If you like Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), you'll love Ted Cruz.

The War Powers Resolution staggers on

We are faced again with the event of Congress taking on the president on the topic of war powers, specifically in regards to our action with NATO in Libya.  The argument is embodied (as it has since 1973) in the War Powers Resolution.  I have previously posted on the subject, basically calling into question the sincerity of the purpose of the WPR, & today find support in the form of Jonathon Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western, writing in the Volokh Conspiracy web log. 
One form of the debate is a lawsuit filed against President Obama, filed by (among others) the pacifist gadfly Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), demanding “an order to suspend military operations in Libya absent a declaration of war from Congress.”
Right.  Libya = World War II.  Not likely, & I agree with Adler:
It is extremely unlikely this lawsuit will go anywhere. I would be very surprised were it not dismissed on political questions grounds, and simply flabbergasted were a court to actually order that the U.S. military suspend operations in Libya (or anywhere else, for that matter).
The other question, more realistic, also arises from Congress:
Speaker of the House John Boehner recently called upon the Administration to seek Congressional approval of the Libya operations or explain why the War Powers Act is inapplicable.
The administration takes the view that the WPR does not apply, but Boehner is keeping up the pressure, giving the administration until Friday as a deadline.

This sets up a delicious battle over the issue.  I’ve always maintained that the WPR was an extra-constitutional grab for power by Congress, or a means for what at the time was considered a perpetually Democrat-controlled Congress to pump up a confrontation against the possibility of a Republican president.  Now, just as the Special Prosecutor fell by the wayside after Kenneth Starr hammered Democrat President Bill Clinton at the behest of a Republican-controlled Congress, so now perhaps the contentions of the WPR can be brought to a head.

More on Gates' view of NATO - 'you guys suck'

As I previously posted, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates is becoming increasingly candid in remarks as he approaches his retirement date at the end of the month.  I’m not the only one, of course, who has noticed his refreshingly open air of probity – take Phillip Ewing of DoD Buzz:
Have you ever imagined quitting your job and telling your old cretin of a boss exactly what you think of him? Of course – it’s the American dream.  And Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is living it right now, having gone to the doorstep of one of the world’s most ossified, stultifying bureaucracies – NATO – and delivered this message: Get your act together.
Ewing has gathered together some observations from other sources to flesh out this view:
He was dismissive of some NATO partners as “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”
And this, about Libya:
“The mightiest military alliance in history is only eleven weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country — yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” Mr. Gates said.
While the Libya war was unanimously endorsed by NATO nations, less than half are participating, and less than a third are carrying out strike missions.
“Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t,” Mr. Gates said. “The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”
 Or this about Afghanistan:
“Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more,” Gates said …
A NATO air operations center designed to handle more than 300 flights a day is struggling to launch about 150 a day against Libya, Gates said.
Ewing titles his article, appropriately enough – “Gates to NATO: you guys suck”.  This goes along with the observations I’ve heard from returning troops from Afghanistan – the NATO command there is known as ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), which includes Americans, but the ‘ISAF’ term among the US troops is used as a reference to the military of the other nations there.  There are notable exceptions of course (e.g., Australia, Denmark), but the abbreviation breaks down as ‘I Suck At Fighting’ to the appropriately sardonic American troops.  Examples?  Well, there are such items as German troops bunkering down & refusing to patrol at night, or Dutch attack helicopters refusing to come to the aid of Australians troops under fire.

Global Security posts an extended DoD release on the same topic, though in a more measured tone:
Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan -- NATO’s first “hot” ground war -- total European defense spending has declined by nearly 15 percent over the last 10 years, the secretary said. Furthermore, he added, rising personnel costs, combined with the demands of training and equipping for Afghan deployments, has consumed an ever-growing share of already meager defense budgets. . . .

Today, just five of the 28 NATO allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Greece and Albania – exceed the agreed-upon 2 percent of gross domestic product spending on defense. And that probably won’t change, Gates said.  [One can do anything with statistics: what makes this list all the more distressing is that two of them - Greece & Albania - are there not because their defense budget is so high relative to their GDP, but because their GDP is so low.]

“The relevant challenge for us today, therefore, is no longer the total level of defense spending by allies, but how these limited – and dwindling – resources are allocated, and for what priorities,” he said. “For example, though some smaller NATO members have modestly sized and funded militaries that do not meet the 2 percent threshold, several of these allies have managed to punch well above their weight because of the way they use the resources they have.”
This is a nice way to focus attention on the fact that other, more capable nations don’t have the political will to follow through on the commitment not just to NATO but to their own defense.  Further:
“As you all know, America’s serious fiscal situation is now putting pressure on our defense budget, and we are in a process of assessing where the U.S. can or cannot accept more risk as a result of reducing the size of our military,” the secretary said. “Tough choices lie ahead affecting every part of our government, and during such times, scrutiny inevitably falls on the cost of overseas commitments – from foreign assistance to military basing, support and guarantees.” . . .

For most of the Cold War, U.S. governments of both parties justified defense investments and costly forward bases that made up roughly 50 percent of all NATO military spending, the secretary said. “But some two decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. share of NATO defense spending has risen to more than 75 percent – at a time when politically painful budget and benefit cuts are being considered at home,” he said.
Try not to pull any punches, Bob.  I'm curious to see if this has any effect, like "Tide - recede!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pakistan arrests CIA informants (?)

Pakistan has come under severe criticism here in the US for evidence of sub rosa support of the radical elements in the country that aid & abet the Taliban & al Qaeda.  (The Taliban, after all, were created in Pakistan in order to gain some control over the chaos in post-Soviet Afghanistan).

The news hitting us this morning speaks of arrests of Pakistanis who might have assisted us in the take-down of Usama bin Laden in Abbotabad, & reveals some element of pay-back which, if true, carries it beyond whether Hillary Clinton or ADM Mullen may be disposed to work a little harder to assauge hurt feelings on the part of the Pakistani government.

A little background: the US intelligence system was dealt a serious blow during the Carter administration in the late 1970s (while the military was still reeling from the reduction-in-force or RIF cutbacks from the Viet Nam War) with the decision to practically eliminate the human intelligence (HUMINT) system.  The idea was that we could rely almost exclusively on our technology (such as satellites) to gather the accurate information that we would need, & forego having to sully our hands by dealing with actual people on the inside of inimical governments.  That did more than cut loose our agents & sources - it placed them in grave & sometimes lethal danger (& there is more to be said on that topic).

Here again we see that same danger arising - one of the key aspects of developing a source such as these is your assurances that they will be protected to the extent that we can.  The feeling that we abandon our friends & allies (such as South Viet Nam on a strategic scale) results in a severe distrust on the part of those who want to side with us against their oppresive regimes, but who nevertheless feel that they are entering into a deadly fool's bargain by cooperating with us.

The immediate denial by the Pakistanis adds a fillip of complexity to the story, but cuts Pakistan's way nonetheless.  If the denial is true, it puts a good face on them in their dealings with us, but still sends a message that has a chilling effect on anyone who wants to help the United States in this fight with Islamic Supremacists who are just as much their enemy as ours.  This civil cold war within Pakistan then leans to the side of the Taliban.

A Pakistani source among others reported that Defense Secretary Bob Gates, though not actually confirming the reports, today spoke to Congress as if they were, saying that this "is a reflection of the harsh realities of today’s world".

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Obama: 'I'm not partisan'

Really?  Last night in Florida, Obama drew attention to himself & the fact that he hadn't spoken much about Republicans: "If you want partisan politics, I'm not your guy."

As a public service, the web log Jammie Wearing Fool has compiled a partial list of the exceptions to that claim.  Brew up a nice cup of coffee & settle in to a comfortable chair, this might take a while.

The wonders of science

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has come up with technology that
will develop biologically inspired climbing aids to enable soldiers to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials, without using ropes or ladders.
It uses the same idea that allows geckos to climb glass.  Cool stuff.

No problem

Conan O'Brien scores

Scott Johnson at Power Line has ties to Dartmouth, & passes along what is probably the best quote from the commencement addresses this year.  Conan O'Brien was chosen to provide the address, at the same ceremony where President George H W Bush was to receive an honorary degree.  O'Brien began with:
Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, have been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.

Update: Another choice piece from the address:
"Graduates, faculty, parents, relatives, undergraduates, and old people that just come to these things: Good morning and congratulations to the Dartmouth Class of 2011. Today, you have achieved something special, something only 92 percent of Americans your age will ever know: a college diploma. That’s right, with your college diploma you now have a crushing advantage over 8 percent of the workforce. I'm talking about dropout losers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. Incidentally, speaking of Mr. Zuckerberg, only at Harvard would someone have to invent a massive social network just to talk with someone in the next room."

Monday, June 13, 2011

New START: US finally achieves unilateral disarmament

This is a new web log, so I can only attest to the fact that I've held the New START Treaty to be a one-sided deal, with only the US ending up cutting its nuclear weapons & delivery inventory.  There is legitimate debate about whether lessening our inventory could actually be an advantage or not, such as allowing us to more easily update the quality of our inventory, or allowing that our strides in more precise targeting (such as our cruise missiles blowing through the front door) means that we may not need as many weapons with a Circular Error of Probability that can be measured in kilometers.

But what brings the argument to my table is the stance adopted early on by the State Department, that both sides would see a reduction of some 30% in their respective inventories.  Despite protests of high dudgeon to the contrary, it turns out that the State Department had to admit that its critics were right.
As of February 5, the day the treaty came into force, Russia already was below the ceilings mandated by the treaty both for deployed strategic nuclear launchers and for warheads. . . . Secretary of State Clinton denied this now-obvious fact before the Senate Armed Services Committee and charged that American treaty skeptics making such observations “just don’t believe in arms-control treaties at all and from my perspective are very unfortunately slanting a lot of what they say.” . . . “The Treaty does not force the United States to reduce unilaterally.”
The results of the . . . New START treaty were released by the State Department on June 1. They demonstrate conclusively the truth of what treaty skeptics had said for months: The treaty brought the United States nothing in terms of lowered Russian force numbers.
I hate to say I told you so.  No really, in cases such as this, I really hate it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Lotus Eaters shall inherit the earth?

Peter Hitchens takes on the Archbishop of Canterbury:

So why does the Archbishop of Canterbury speak as if it was obvious that we should treat people who can work, but won’t, in the same way as we treat those who are truly in need?

As Dr Williams has decided to take up political commentating, I think I shall do a little bit of Archbishoping.  Here beginneth the first lesson: in St Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, chapter 5, we read, ‘If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.’

Peter is in many ways the alter ego of his brother Christopher Hitchens. As Sherlock Holmes had his lesser-known but more brilliant brother Sherrinford, so Christopher has his Peter.

The Archbishop might do well to review 2 Thessalonians 3:10, too.

China increases pressure on North Korea

China is becoming increasingly exasperated with North Korea (from Strategy Page).

China is also unhappy with the chaotic way North Korea is run. It’s not just the ruling Kim family (who are quite odd, but so are many politicians), but the whole paranoid, dysfunctional, unpredictable atmosphere in the north. China is most upset with the unpredictability, and is demanding more discipline and, to put it bluntly, obedience. Lacking that, there will be consequences. More Chinese troops have been moved to the North Korean border, and China is less discreet about its network of spies and agents in North Korea. The rumors of a ruthless "China faction" in the North Korean leadership have been given some official recognition by the Chinese. Thus the Chinese are attempting to use the "offer you can't refuse" gambit on the north. It may work, and bring about much needed reforms. Otherwise, the Chinese threaten to pull the plug on aid and political support, and perhaps order the China Faction to take action.
 Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Palin Emailgate - "no bombshells"

The Politico reports that, despite a frenzy of investigation through the 24,199 pages of e-mails from Palin's first 21 months in office, there was essentially, nothing there.
Seventeen news organizations — Alaskan, national and international — picked up sets of five 55-pound boxes of the printed-out emails, delivered on a hand truck. Each organization paid $726 in copying costs for the trove.

 How many trees did that kill?

If only the MSM would be so assiduous about investigating Climategate & the IPCC, or . . . well, don't get me started - I'll be here for hours.

There's still hope for the liberals progressives, though.  Such sources as the New York Times & the Washington Post are calling upon a legion of volunteers to help comb through the thousands of pages.  Apparently all the other reporters are chasing after her non-campaign bus.
There are no secrets about what she did or how she did it, and the emails will be, at most, footnotes.  But they will give liberals an opportunity to deflect attention from Palin's actual accomplishments to faux conspiracy theories and "scandals," none of which will go anywhere, but which will contribute to the smearing of Sarah Palin.  Which is, obviously, the point.

Sources of Mexican cartel firearms

Evan Perez, writing in the Wall Street Journalstates, “The U.S. was the source of at least 70% of 29,284 firearms recovered by authorities in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, according to new U.S. government figures.”

Not so.

Scott Stewart's article at Stratfor provides a lengthy analysis of the question, including: 
According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

How many of these US arms were supplied by our own Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE) in the recent ‘Gunwalker’ scandal?  How many come from Central America?  This is a large story that continues, & plucks at the strings of strongly held political philosophies.

But beware - these figures being touted by Perez are wildly inaccurate.

And the fact is, nobody (not you, not me, and probably not the Mexicans) really knows the full breakdown of where these weapons come from.

The Rick Perry campaign?

After the implosion of the Gingrich campaign staff (I’ve said before that the campaign was dead; it just hadn’t fallen over yet), there are excited postings that say that this is the call to arms for Rick Perry to run, as at least two of Perry’s previous high-placed campaign staffers are now available to him.  Roger Simon of Pajamas Media feels almost certain:
The news . . . is a strong sign that Perry has decided to run for the presidency.

I believe that Simon’s prediction is somewhat premature, but his analysis of a Perry candidacy is well thought out.  Read the whole thing.

Likewise, Rick Moran at American Thinker has a good analysis.  Read them both.

I agree that if Perry decides to run, he has some hurdles to clear (as I’ve said, there’s that ‘clone of W’ image that the Democrats & the media [but I repeat myself] will throw at him).  But he will be a formidable campaigner & an excellent president.

Bono: anti-poverty campaigner & tax cheat

My musical regard for the group U2 matches that of Pink Floyd – that is, none whatsoever.  Their music is treacly & pedestrian, & brings to mind Voltaire’s aphorism that there is no notion so silly that it can’t be sung.  All of U2’s music sounds the same, so they are the pop music version of Mahler.

Fortunately for them, their lack of talent is well-exceeded by the talents of their agent, schooled by the example of the success of Andy Warhol, all of them imperial fashion-mavens.  Helen Hayes saw clearly through this cultural smog with her summation of Madonna: “She’s not without some talent . . . and she’s managed her career remarkably well.”

The ‘news’ spends an inordinate amount of time on egotistical lead singer Bono, who pumps the current gush of hand-wringing over the environment & capitalises on the ever-present plight of the poor of the world (Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8).  He says that the ‘rich’, with whatever definition of the moment, should pay more to compensate for the travails of the downtrodden.

Imagine my frisson of Schadenfreude when I find that protestors in their native Ireland are targeting U2’s move to cut their taxes with an ‘off-shore’ move to the Netherlands.
Irish politicians branded U2’s move a cynical ploy, leading to accusations that, while the band were urging the Government to give more money to relieve poverty, they were denying it the funds to do so. . . .

Tax expert and anti-poverty campaigner Richard Murphy said: ‘If Bono thinks he is just like any other Irishman, he should pay his taxes like everyone else.  That is the only way for Ireland to break out of this mess it is in.’

After the initial success of the Beatles, they were stunned to discover their tax liability, which resulted in George Harrison’s song ‘Taxman’.  Perhaps Bono should consider a similar opus.

Update:  The protest occurred, & the event organizers weren't happy about it.

Clinton & UN discover violence in Syria; more on Libya

Today's new warnings to Syria will likely to have the same effect as before, which is nothing:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to refrain from violence as the United Nations called on the Syrian regime to halt its "assault on its own people."

At the end of last March, after the US & NATO attacks on the Libyan Qadaffi regime began, Clinton was asked about the comparison between the situations in Libya & Syria.  The printed words do not convey her stifled guffaw in her answer:
"There's a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities than police actions that frankly have exceeded the use of force that anyone would like to see," Clinton said comparing Libya and Syria.
I've asked before what difference it makes about Libya's air power when the vast majority of the NATO attacks are against ground targets. Obama had said that there was a potential for the death of 1,000 people in Libya without some sort of response to Qadaffi's war on his own people, in order to justify our intervention.  The death toll in Syria "has exceeded 1,100, with up to 10,000 detained".  Now comes word of another 21 deaths today.  One could say that this begs the question, but this is more like grovelling.

True, a move on the Syrian regime invites the attention of their Iranian ally.  I would say that that would be all the more reason to crack Assad, but first the Libyan problem must be dealt with.  That involves NATO, in both instances.  NATO was created to take on the Soviet Union & the Warsaw Pact.  Here we see that it can barely manage to handle half of Libya.

Update: Soon-to-retire Defence Secretary Robert Gates, seeing the light at the end of his tunnel, is becoming more comfortably candid with his assessments, such as 'US taxpayers are paying 75% of the financial burden of the [NATO] alliance'.  He praised the contributions & effort of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, & Norway, though he notably said nothing about the UK, France & Italy, who pushed the US into the problem, & he went on to say that after only eleven weeks of the campaign, European countries are pulling back because their stocks of munitions are getting low.  He said that the alliance faces a "dim, if not dismal future", &
Without naming names, he blasted allies who are "willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets."
Defence officials originally told Congress that it would estimate $750 million for the operation through Sepetmber.  We've already blown through that, & now we're being asked for another $100 million.  Gates said that the 28 members of NATO voted for the operation, yet only a third have contributed to the effort.  He went on to say that European countries have cut back so much on their defence budgets that many could not participate, even if they wanted to.

This is another example of Europe resting under the umbrella of American protection, while criticising us for our military presence.  This is an element that has prolonged the season of lotus-eating on the Continent.