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Archive for November 2009

We Can’t Stop Global Warming – But We Can Prepare For It

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Whatever the reasons for Global Warming, whether it’s cyclical or whether it’s all our fault for pumping the atmosphere with CO2 and upsetting the equilibrium, it really doesn’t matter. Chances are that it’s coming with a vengeance. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

Up until now, the world has talked a good game about “stopping”, “slowing” or “reversing” climate change. But it’s all just hot air. Unless the human race is prepared to make monumental sacrifices that change the course of history in a matter of decades, we’re not going to have any effect. And the chances are very slim that the Chinese, Indians or even the Prius driving Americans will do even 5% of what’s necessary. President Obama’s last trip to Copenhagen to shill for his home town’s Olympic bid was a big disappointment. He’s not going to risk political capital to show up in the Danish capital for a second time in a year to give the headline writers a chance to say “Copenhagen is where President Obama goes to fail”

I’m sure in his private thoughts, Obama, along with Al Gore for that matter know the truth. The train has left the station. Global warming is unstoppable. But that’s not something you can trumpet from the rooftops without making the human race, well, hate you. For example, Obama has virtually trademarked the word “hope”, so he’s hardly going to start telling the truth anytime soon.

Unfortunately, all that hope is misdirected and might be damaging our long-term future. Because instead of concentrating on how to “contain” and “manage” global warming, we’re focusing on beating it. That’s a mistake.
Sure, green energy is good, but we also need to creating techniques to mitigate global warming’s coming effects, or agriculture, on cities, on whole nations. What are we going to do about the likely flood of climate refugees? What about flooding? Are we going to develop a mechanism so the world can share rather than hoard scarce resources?

By accepting that global warming is coming, we can bypass the First world against Developing Country blame game which is getting us nowhere. Lowering emissions would be very nice, but it’s not going to happen before its too late – which is when everyone will think it’s a swell idea.

So let’s get back to what we can actually do. The first step would be to accept the blame for Global Warming. It’s a fact that it’s our fault in the West. No getting around that. We made a big boo-boo and really damaged mankind. We need to wear a dunce cap for having started that silly industrial revolution and need to deliver a big posthumous slap on wrist for the dudes who invested the steam engine. Easy to say, and totally meaningless.

What’s really important is that everyone’s going to suffer whether they do something or not. Ultimately, America and Europe will do what they have to mitigate the effects of climate change for themselves, and for client states that they help to protect. If China or India want to ignore the future, that’s their business. The truth is that they’re not going to do anything meaningful anyway, so they’re on their own. No fair. No foul.

Of course, it would be nice if we could all get along so how about President Obama calling for the creation of an international center to forecast effects of global warming across the globe, and to recommend ways to combat those effects. That will help create a focus on management and containment, rather than the rather pathetic “we can beat this thing” call that’s going to lead to mankind’s biggest disappointment.

Written by coolrebel

November 23, 2009 at 4:03 am

Iran and Palestine. A Step-by-Step Guide To Middle East Peace

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Iran nukes out. Palestinian State in. No problem.
You and your damn logic, Mr. Spock!

Struggling with a Middle-East Peace Process that seems to have bogged down in a matter of months, President Obama is probably thinking he needs Iran’s nuclear ambitions like a he needs a Republican filibuster.

But looking a little deeper, it’s possible that Iranian nukes and creating a Palestinian state could be connected, and each helps the other problem go away.

How come?

We’re told that President Obama is a chess grandmaster when everyone else is still getting a handle on checkers. So let’s get some moves going and find out.

There’s no chance an Iranian nuke could be lobbed at the USA, but it’s totally unacceptable to both Israel and Saudi Arabia that Iran gets to nuclear “breakout”.

Neither of these countries has a chance of knocking out Iran’s nuclear facilities alone.

The Saudis are militarily weak and let other people do their dirty work.

Israel acts belligerently, but would have to overfly US controlled airspace to strike Iran, at maximum range, against advanced surface-to-air missile systems, and against hardened underground targets. It’s a stretch that they’d do anything more than enrage the Arab world, and make us Great Satan all over again. People try to suggest that Israel could do the job on Iran just like they did on Saddam’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981. But Osirak is a first-grade spelling test next to attacking Iran’s hardened bunkers.

The only nation that can stop Iran from reaching nuclear break-out is the USA. From our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and other long-range bases, the US could bring to bear overwhelming air and naval power, to protect air-delivered special forces that could knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities and then get the hell out of Dodge when the job’s complete.

Are we going to reach that point? It’s not unlikely, it’s probable.

President Ahmadinejad wants nukes. His power base in the Revolutionary Guard requires it. He must continue the Iranian weaponization program at full speed in order to please the hardliners who prop him up.

Initially, Iran will politely block and obfuscate the international community. Frustrated, the world will apply UN authorized sanctions against Iran, which will cause nothing but a hardening of attitudes in Tehran. The sanctions will fail to deter Iran from moving closer to weaponization.

At the eleventh hour, Iran will be forced to expel the IAEA nuclear inspectors in advance of completing their bomb, triggering a serious US response that will begin by lobbying the UN Security Council for “tougher action” against Tehran.

Ultimately the UNSC will not authorize a military strike on Iran, because either or both China and Russia will veto, wary of US action against Iraq, nearly a decade before. The US will therefore have no choice but to stand down or strike Iran unilaterally. Politically, the former will be unacceptable to the President.

All this may even happen before the end of Obama’s first term, only a couple of years after President Obama was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize.

But if the US attacks Iran it will be doing so on behalf of Israel and Saudi Arabia, and therefore it should extract a price from both. That price is peace in the Middle-East. In other words a viable Palestinian State.

The following is a run-down of the high-level but top-secret discussions that will have to take place:

The President ask Israel a simple question. Which is a greater security threat to Israel. An Iranian nuclear weapon or a Palestinian State? The answer is clearly the former. So the President tells the Israeli Prime Minister, we’ll deal with Iran and help you develop an anti-missile shield for added security if you agree to a Palestinian State. Terms set by the United States. Simple as that. If Israel tells us where to go. We say fine. Enjoy living with those nukes.

While Jerusalem is hating us and thinking about it, Obama calls Riyadh and asks Abdullah what he wants least.  Iranian nukes within 300 miles of his Presidential Palace or normalized relations with Israel.

King Abdullah will mumble something non-committal but we’ll make the issue clear. If Saudi Arabia thinks it can say no to the deal and engage in a nuclear arms race with Iran, we’ll treat its nuclear ambitions the same way we’re treating Iran’s – as an unacceptable threat to regional security, and the cozy relationship between Washington and Riyadh will be over. Not to mention the fact that Saudi oil fields and shipping lanes will be under the threat of a nuclear cloud which will drive the markets crazy and totally destabilize the Saudi oil economy. The alternative? Normalize relations with Israel.

There’s a good chance both sides will agree to our terms.

And if they do, the world could witness a historical peace summit brokered by the US – probably in Geneva – where Israel and the Palestinians, backed by Saudi Arabia (and most likely other regional Arab states) would sign off on an agreement to create a new Palestinian state. We’d let them take full credit for the deal of course.

Six months later, after Iran has thrown out the IAEA inspectors, and deliberations in the UN have ended in the usual stalememate, Iran will assume they’re out of the woods.

At which point the attack begins.

Maybe this is all just a good yarn. But it’s a story that might, just might come true.

Written by coolrebel

November 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Israel’s Future is in America’s Hands

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“I don’t accept the term “Jewish Lobby”,  tweeted William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy at the United Jewish Communties. The American Jewish community is incredibly powerful, economically, and politically, but wisely doesn’t want that power to be categorized in easily pejorative terms.

At the heart of the mission of Jewish organizations that have a political presence in Washington is strengthening US-Israel relations, but as Mr. Daroff makes clear that mission remains limited for the most part to what happens Stateside. The American Jewish Community doesn’t have favorites between the left, center or right of Israeli politics. “It’s up to the Israeli electorate. It’s not my role in the Diaspora to tell them who their leaders should be”,  says Mr. Daroff.

There has always been a sharp cultural divide between Jews who live in Israel, and those who live in the rest of the world, (known as the “diaspora”), and Mr. Daroff makes clear that Diaspora Jews shouldn’t have a say in how Israel is run. “We don’t interfere in the elections of others, just as I don’t want them interfering in American elections.”

But in many respects American Jews already do have an undue influence. Home to more Jews than in Israel itself, about six and a half million, American Jews care deeply about defending the State of Israel and their votes, and financial contributions, in Presidential and Congressional elections increasingly reflect that concern. Nobody denies that representatives from the US Jewish community watch the White House and Congress very carefully and try to maintain firm US support for Israel. That support comes in the form of an aid package worth $2.5 billion in 2007, mostly in the form of a military grant, and cements the single most important strategic alliance in the Middle East.

Despite White House concerns over the years that Israel is not doing its part to push forward the Middle East peace process, the idea of removing or substantially reducing the aid package is a third rail. Doing so would unleash an uproar against the incumbent President and would never be sanctioned by Congress. Which is unfortunate, because it’s the only bargaining chip the US has that Israel really cares about.

The idea that American Jewish groups would support or not oppose a US move to remove aid from Israel seems laughable now, but there may be more to the idea than meets the eye. And here’s why.

Israel is at a historical crossroads. It has three choices.

Firstly, to maintain the status quo, occupying the West Bank, holding a hard line on peace negotiations while containing Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is the position that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes.

The second approach, “The Two State Solution”, calls for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State alongside Israel, most probably to include East Jerusalem. Variations of this deal have been offered to and rejected by the Palestinians at various times in the last decade or so, usually because they did not include the “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper.

The third trajectory is the “Single State Solution” whereby Jewish and Palestinian populations merge into a single state. This idea is starting to gather currency among Palestinians who believe they have a long-term demographic advantage (a thesis disputed by some Demographers in Israel who don’t see the Jewish population becoming the minority anytime soon). It is totally unacceptable to the Israelis. Over time Palestinians might move to a “long-game” continuing their rejectionism in the hope of forcing a single-state solution on what they hope will be a Jewish minority, with the support of the International community. Over time, as calls for a single-state approach among Palestinians increase, their appetite for a side-by-side arrangement may dwindle even further. This may happen in a matter of two decades or so.

By far the best approach for Israel and the United States is the two-state solution, and everything but the Right of Return should be on the table. For Israel, the two-state solution would achieve a number of goals. Firstly, after a period of fierce independence, the nascent Palestinian state would rapidly lose Arab state support and become reliant on Israel. Secondly, the new state would mean Arab populations would start looking inwards at injustices in their own non-democratic countries, destabiliizing Israel’s potential foes. Thirdly, a rejuvenated Palestinian population, supported by Israel and the International community may embrace peace. And fourthly, Israel would be able to take advantage of the new stability to build its economy, infrastructure, and society.

To suggest that Diaspora Jews should be mere spectators as this drama unfolds is naive. They are involved and should be involved.  It’s in the interests of American Jews to make their voices heard through their Community leaders in Washington, not with the same tired policies of retrenchment that lead to a continuation of an ultimately destructive status quo, but by proactively influencing the US Government to “go outside the box” and catalyse a desirable two-state solution before it’s too late.

It’s also in the interests of United States to listen to the newer, bolder entreaties of American Jews, to break the log-jam of a habitually frustrating Middle-East Peace process that, right now, it refuses to control.

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis must know that American interests demand peace in the Middle East, and that the US is prepared to apply meaningful financial and other diplomatic pressure to both sides (and in the case of the Palestinians to their allies too) in order to get it.

That pressure can come in the form of sticks, and carrots. The carrot could be more civilian aid to facilitate – for example – new homes and communities for current West Bank settlers moving back to Israel proper, ahead of the declaration of a new Palestinian state.

But the stick would have to come first. And although it may sound crazy, the best way for the American Jewish Community to support Israel is to make clear to the US Government that it would not oppose a threat to cut off Israel’s aid package if it doesn’t hold up its side of the bargain.

I can hear Mr. Daroff laughing now.

Will he still be laughing in twenty years?  We shall see.

Written by coolrebel

November 15, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Global Warming Can’t Be Stopped – Time to Rethink Policy

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Global warming is coming. And there’s really not much we can do about it. Sure, there’s plenty of blame and hot air to go around, as well as an endless flow of pronouncements from world leaders that we’re going to corral and control it. But when the President of the United States visits Copenhagen to pitch his home town as an Olympic host city but may not return to attend an important Climate Change conference, it’s not exactly a good sign that the world is actually going to make much headway against this thing.

So here’s a suggestion. Whatever the reasons, human or not, let’s change our approach to this – to damage limitation. Let’s accept that global warming is an inevitability, and shore up and defend what we have – not for our good, but for the good of future generations. Part of that defence is not to add to the problem by developing green energy solutions and building a new infrastructure, as well as finding ways to adapt to that change, in agriculture’ energy’ industry and society.

But were wasting valuable time and creative energy pretending we can stop it. We can’t and we won’t. All we can do is manage it.

Written by coolrebel

November 15, 2009 at 3:25 am

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed plays New York City

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Attorney General Eric Holder made the sobering announcement today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (henceforth KSM) would be tried in New York for masterminding the 9/11 attacks.

It’s a bold move that’s been well received by progresssives as an opporunity for America to show that no matter what the crime, justice and due process will always be served.

Even though There is No Plan is a card-carrying member of the American left, it takes a very different view.There are no upsides in bringing KSM to America to face trial. Not one.

But let’s examine why many people think there are.

The argument put forward is that America will be able to show the world and in particular the Islamic street that we’re giving this guy a fair shake, so they won’t think he’s being martyred if and when he’s executed.

Think again. We can’t buy a break with Islam, literally. We build them roads, schools and institutions and they hate us. We buy their oil and accept their undemocratic and they hate us. The idea that they’re suddenly going to say, “You know America gave this guy a fair trial so if they say he’s guilty, he deserves to be executed” is total delusion. It doesn’t matter whether we drive the guy to the death house in a limo, or sentence him to death in the brig at Gitmo, he’s gonna be a martyr to Islamists and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. And as for the rest of the world, whether we try KSM at Gitmo or in downtown Manhattan will not change anybody’s opinion of us a jot, apart from the Europeans who are sure to whine about the death penalty.

Another argument is that the crime that KSM committed took place in New York so that’s the jurisdiction that should try him. Legally correct. Let’s give this guy due process. But sadly, this is no ordinary case. Firstly, we waterboarded the guy nearly two hundred times so admissibility of evidence is going to be in doubt. Secondly, KSM will make sure that it’s a show trial, and you can be pretty sure that torture will get the headlines in this case, not American justice. Thirdly, it will take forever, draining, dragging us all down with it, and finally, we might not even get a conviction. Think about that for a second. The guy who was behind 9/11 could walk free or do jail time? That’s a risk we’re prepared to take? To say that notion is red meat to the Republicans is the understatement of the year.

There’s also the issue of timing. If the Bush team had brought KSM back to NYC to face trial in 2002 when he was captured, I’d have been all in favor. Of course, the Neo-cons had other ideas, and the result was years of built up resentment because of the Iraq war, the exposure of unauthorized waterboarding, highly radicalized Islamists, and the plenty of time for the KSM legal team to build a rearguard defence. KSM has already made clear that he wants to be martyred for his role in 9/11. His only goal is to maximize the damage to us at this trial. His goal is simple. To look like a victim of an American conspiracy. To make us look bad. Propaganda is a powerful tool, and this guy has had plenty of time to figure out how to use it.

And what about the much maligned military tribunals. They’ve been standard practice in the US for decades. There are two reasons they’re frowned upon now. Firstly, Bush and his team totally botched the use of military tribunals, discrediting them badly, and secondly, we’re not certain whether KSM or any other terrorist is a criminal or an enemy combatant. There’s no way Bush should ever have started the “War on Terror”. Labelling Islamic terrorists as enemy combatants at war with the US was the best piece of advertising they ever had.  But that boat has sailed. It’s too late to go back.  We’re right in the middle of deliberations as to whether to escalate a war that was started to expel Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, and remove the Taliban who gave them safe haven. This war is not being fought by SWAT teams from the NYPD chasing down the hoods that hit the World Trade Center. It’s being fought by the United States Armed Forces, as authorized by Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. And the reason we’re fighting this war is partly because of the guy we want to put on trial on NYC – as a common criminal. That doesn’t quite compute.

Finally let’s consider the political expediency of bringing KSM over to the US to be tried. Obama is a principled man, but this goes too far. The American people have been roughed up pretty bad over the last couple of years. The last thing they’re going to want to see is more shame about America’s embracing of waterboarding, and other borderline interrogation techniques.  Sure, the torture rationale was formulated and carried out by the Bush team, but it’s Obama who will be airing our dirty laundry when we’ve got pink-slips to worry about. And because the trial will go on for ever, the timing is guaranteed to be terrible for the White House too. And when the grumbling reaches fever pitch – Obama is going to have to tell us “it’s okay, because it’s the principled thing to do.” Rather him then me. Ouch.

Perhaps the Gitmo approach is less “principled”, but wouldn’t it be better for America, and for Obama to put KSM in front of a closed door military tribunal. The American people don’t care how KSM gets his come-uppance just as long as he does. Yes, they’re flawed, but the process would be fast, and politically far less painful. And while there would be complaints from the left, most people, perhaps even all but the most radical Islamists, would quickly forget KSM, who would not have had his months or perhaps even years to try and score propaganda points against us. America’s standing in the world would not go down, and nor would the President’s poll numbers just as his party is fighting mid-term elections.

Obama is playing with fire.  And right now, he’s got bigger fish to fry.

Written by coolrebel

November 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

The American Left Needs Discipline!

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populism is my middle name
Populism is my middle name.

Sometimes being smart can really let you down.

I reside on the American Left. It’s a great place to be, when it comes to the cut and thrust of conversation on Twitter, or Daily Kos, or the numerous Progressive blogs and publications that I inhabit.

But when it comes to power, living on the left truly sucks.

We just don’t have any power in this country. People can hardly spell Kucinich, and Bernie Sanders is regarded as a kook from a kooky state. As for Ralph Nader, he just gets blamed for eight years of Bush. Sure there are some fabulously progressive men and women in Congress, particularly in the House. But for the most part we on the left are in the wilderness, and have been pretty much since Roosevelt.

And yet here we are with our country at a watershed moment in its short history. Will the nation rise again, or is this the beginning of the decline? Will rampant unemployment, the great lie of real estate riches, Wall Street turning bailouts into bonuses, two wars going badly, and health care in intensive care bury this great experiment? Or will we finally corral all that’s best about this nation into a vibrant, brilliant, innovative, energetic social contract that finally puts some punch into the “pursuit of happiness”.

Sounds like a job for the Social Democrats among us. Sounds like our message should be resonating with the downtrodden. We should be in charge. But we’re not. I mean, we’re talking sense. We know what’s wrong with this country. People should listen. The echo chamber replies.

So what’s the problem here?

Well, there’s a bucket-load. Enough to fill a big box store full of cheap Chinese crap. And those problems fall into two broad categories. “Them” problems, and “Us” problems.

Let’s start with “them”. You know, the corporations, the sclerotic, risk-nothing Congress, the salacious, saturated, ratings-hungry mainstream media. Not forgetting the Roberts’ Supreme Court, K-Street lobbyists, and the “Teabaggers” too. Oh, and let’s hear it for Rush, Beck, O’Reilly and all the other petty tyrants who pepper our airwaves.

Wow. And we wonder why we’re getting spanked by the centrists in our own party and the GOP. What chance do we have against a veritable perfect storm like that list? I mean how are we going to make the media actually do stories, or get the lobbyists to look for new lines of work, or get Congress off their be-hinds to actually take some chances?

The answer is to look more closely at that wall. There’s a tiny hairline crack in it.

It’s called the people.

Which brings the discussion neatly to the “Us” problem. There’s only one.

We need to get through to the people and we’re not talking their language.

But wait? We do an awful lot of talking. Tons of it. On Twitter, and Facebook, and the blogs. Sometimes we even make it into the New York Times.  But the problem is this. We only ever talk to or at each other.  When we’re not viciously pummelling each other on some tiny point of principle, or parading our political correctness at the expense of good sense, all we on the left do is complain about how hypocritical “they” are. We decry the media, ridicule the Teabaggers and GOP, we fume at John Roberts, and Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner, and Joe Lieberman, and Max Baucus, and yes, even occasionally, his holiness, the President.

What we don’t do is get our message to the people. You know, the poorly-educated, lead-em-by-the nose, don’t-know-their-own-interests, people who actually live in America. Without reaching the mass, the incremental centrists currently in charge of the show are the best we’re going to do. And judging by the mountain of problems this nation is facing, it’s not going to be enough.

There’s a word for what the left needs.


we can do way better taglines too

we can do way better taglines too

And right now, there’s only one outfit that’s whipping up the mob. You’ve guessed it. “Them”.

The Democratic Party is simply too nice these days to get its hands dirty, so the right gladly fills the vacuum. And they do a really good job. Their propaganda is first class; persuasive, simplistic, brutal, visceral, and reptilian. The right is supposed to be in headlong retreat, but you’d never know it. In some ways their propaganda machine has never been in better shape.

And the funny thing is, they’ve got a grip on a population that really should hate them.  The right feeds the people an anachronistic American mythology with one hand, while outsourcing their jobs with the other.  They whip up a hatred for Wall Street while simultaneously kissing its collective ass. It’s really very impressive.

And what do we do?  We castigate Fox News Channel for being Fox, and long for more impartiality (whatever that is), when what we should really be doing is getting our own damn Fox. We could call it the Bloodhound Network. Bloodhounds eat foxes for breakfast.

And when they take all the headlines, with their outrage and sloganeering, do we learn from them?  No.  Do we take notes?  Not a chance.  Instead, we throw up our hands in horror and do the whole shocked, shocked thing thirty tweets per head per day. Useless and weak.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. The left can find its populist voice. and tap into the long-dormant left-wing strain of American Populism that was once a big part of this country’s political landscape. Granted, it’s going to be very hard for a bunch of life coaches and organic farmers on Twitter to make much headway in the heartland, but it turns out we’ve got just the guy to do it, if only we could get him the right advice.

The President is our conduit.

more of this...

more of this...

A photogenic, rhetorically gifted, intelligent President sits in the White House meeting his cautious wonks when he should be out there pressing the flesh and, frankly, converting people. He’s a five-tool player bunting for a base-hit. His ratings are going down. The nice guy start didn’t fly. He needs to shed his wonky, technocratic image roll up those shirtsleeves, and climb into the bully pulpit. Get loud. Get street. Get funny. Cut the other side down. Consign bi-partisanship to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

The writing  is on the wall. A recent Pew Poll suggested that the right are far more energized than the left. One year ago we were so motivated, some of us were still staring at the polls as the dawn rose on a work day. Now, we’re feeling disappointed. We, the left, the base, have been left behind by the compulsive compromises of a President who doesn’t seem to realize that politics is not about being Mr. Nice Guy. And that’s not good for business, especially with the mid-terms starting to look like they might be more than a little unpleasant.

The President needs to be a son of a bitch. He needs to make decisions and make them fast. Less soaring speeches. More short, punchy speeches with short, punchy words. Less playing bartender in the Oval Office, more arm-twisting centrist Senators.  Time to ax Lieberman, time to support primary challenges. Time to make some serious threats, and use us, the base, to back them up. Time to remember that the kookie left were the peeps who pushed him over the top. Time to be seen as strong. Not thoughtful, not careful, not deliberate. Strong with a capital S. The guy earned his political stripes in Chicago. It’s time he started acting like it. In short, he needs to start leading by example.

It might help if Rahm Emmanuel, the toothless pit bull, got some canines and helped the White House straighten out its message. It needs to choose its friends.  But more importantly it badly needs some enemies.

Public Enemy number one is Wall Street. The White House needs to tell America plainly that the Right is running a con-job on them, and start leveraging that enemy for our political gain. Go after Wall Street with a vengeance and the Teabagger meme might just fade away as fast as it astroturfed its way into our consciousness.

Enemy number two are the big corporations (close cousins of Wall Street), busy outsourcing Indiana and Michigan to China. You want a heartland voter?  Blame the Chinese.  They fix their currency.  And then fix us but good.  But not on our watch, say we.  Free trade is cool, as long as Beijing plays by the rules. Make them.

Enemy number three. Special Interests. Time to put the lobbyists – of all stripes – out of business. Time to take money out of politics and make it whole again. Tell the mob that they can pick the craziest, nuttiest loon they can find and let him have a fair shake at power even without cash and they might just buy the idea.

And one more thing.

Take back the talking points of the right. The family, God, liberty. Maybe even guns.  I checked with the USPTO and turns out the right don’t have a patent on any of them. They’re fair game.

I can hear the sighs as I write this. This guy’s dreaming. That’s not going to happen.

Damn straight it won’t. Not without us. The base. The kooky, Commie left that can see the writing on the wall.

We are the opinion formers, we are the influencers, we are the technologists, we are the writers, journalists, intellectuals. We are the scientists, the doctors, heck, sometimes even the trial lawyers. We have more power than we think. We go to the right dinner parties. We are most of the media. We comment on the right blogs. We’re organized. Most of us are on Twitter, for the love of Pete (as is @barackobama ). We just need a simpler, more ideologically-driven message to make that matter. We need to look beyond “them” and master the weaknesses that bedevil “us”.

So let’s move on from “Move-On” and start to make our debate count with a new passion. Let’s agree on some simple solutions that fit neatly into 140 characters. And then after we’ve got a our manifesto, let’s feed those tweets and status updates up the chain and make sure they’re seen and heard by the President himself via Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the virtual cocktail party that is the social internet. Not just once. Not just every month. But all the time, and with every fiber of our being. If POTUS gets five million @barackobama and @whitehouse tweets a day from us, with nice simple 140 character nuggets – it’s probably the only way we’re going to get the dude fired up, and put a little unconventional into the CW that his phalanx of pedestrian advisors keep doling out.

Together the Democratic Party in the White House, and we on the left can make sweet music. Together we can learn the art of propaganda and put it to good use – in a good cause. Together we can create focus, find enemies, and hold to a lexicon that’s simple and direct.  And together we can focus on a simple historical fact; that the mob is always angry, hungry and easily influenced.

Turning 20% of them into our footsoldiers might just be easier than people think.

We just need to get a little discipline.

Written by coolrebel

November 12, 2009 at 2:58 am

Posted in Washington

Making Plans for Pakistan.

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Nothing in Foreign Policy is simple, but problems don’t get any thornier than what do about Pakistan.

One of the most perplexing elements of the discussion surrounding the current hand-wringing over what to do in Afghanistan is how little Pakistan is mentioned as ‘the reason’ for our Afghan policy. This despite the coining of a racy new phrase to describe US policy in that arena “Af-Pak” (mainly for use on Twitter) as well as clarion calls from lots of Foreign Policy Wonks (FPWs) that Pakistan is where the action is.

So why is this? Why is Pakistan the nexus of US foreign policy in the region?

There’s really only one reason for this.  Pakistan has nukes, and the word around Washington is that those nukes are less than secure.

Sure, the rise of the Pakistani Taliban is a deeply unsettling development for the US. But a little perspective is useful here. They are not a threat to the US homeland unless they get access to a usable nuclear weapon. But if they do, they represent probably the single most dangerous threat that the world has faced in this short and already violent century.

The Taliban’s success in sequestering power in Pakistan is a product of many factors, but despite being medieval thugs, we, America are seen in a lesser light. The truth is that body politic in Pakistan is a strange and unpredictable beast indeed. Most Pakistanis distrust the militants almost as much as they hate America or India, while their government stumbles on, loathed, despised and ineffective. It’s hard to for America to make national security judgments when Pakistani society seems to be in constant state of an odd mix of utter and post-colonial good sense.

Meanwhile, the real power broker in Pakistan, the Army, is itself weak.  The Taliban absorb the body blows of their brutal campaigns to quell the insurgency, and attack the heart of the Army establishment at will. The US has tried – rightly – to build a strong relationship with the Pakistani army but the results have and will continue to be disappointing. Distrust reins supreme.

So what’s a superpower to do?  The answer is not too much.


Nation building is out. They quite simply don’t want our help. Don’t trust it. Fierce nationalism undermines our ability to buy them the old fashioned way.  The best we can hope for in Pakistan in the short term is to keep a lid on the place and try to make sure it doesn’t blow up in our faces. Keeping the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban on the defensive so they can’t export their special brand of fun to the rest of the world is something we can achieve and be proud of

But more important than the export of conventional terror, is nuclear control. We have to recognize that if the Taliban and insurgents get close to control of a nuclear weapon, all bets are off and we have to deal with that, our way.  The word is that the hijackig of a Pakistani nuke might be an inside job, with militants from inside the army staging the heist. That’s quite simply a no-no for us.  So it’s vital that the US establishes and maintains cast-iron intelligence assets in the Pakistani army, and throughout the government, as well as in the hot-spot regions to monitor every hint of that and be prepared to act fast if a threat solidifies.


And what of our presence in Afghanistan?  It’s vital. Not so much to secure a better future for the Afghans (which is just not possible right now), but to provide a jumping off point for our forces in case an attack on militants in Pakistan becomes necessary. We must continue to garrison Baghram AFB, and have a Rapid Deployment strike force of at least 2 brigades ready when necessary. We must also boost our Special Forces presence to keep the Afghan Taliban on the defensive – particularly where it hurts them most – in the wallet. America maintains strategic garrisons in many a distrusting or hostile nation (the most famous of which is Cuba), and the Afghan government – like them or not – are going to be quite amenable to a military force that will protect them from the none-too-pleasant fate met by past Afghan leaders.


Containment sounds kind of dull. But Pakistan is too thorny a problem to leave alone, and too much of a potential quagmire to jump into feet first.  Containment is a time-honored US strategy that’s used when there are just too many dead ends for anything else to work.  And unlike the Afghan troop surge and the Counter-Insurgency strategy, containment is not a “perfect world” scenario where everything has to go right for the concept to work. Life just isn’t like that.


America is still living in the shadow of Bush’s disastrous nation-building dreams. But remember where all that exporting democracy stuff came from. It was only when we didn’t find WMD in Iraq that talk of Democracy became a la mode. It should be put back into the box of bad ideas from whence it came.

Let’s try and be a little less ambitious this time.

Written by coolrebel

November 11, 2009 at 5:30 am

Obama’s Decision On Afghanistan – Bold Solutions Required

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Obama’s Afghan Dilemma is only vexing because it pits one conventional approach against another, when neither holds much hope for success.

Both the COIN + CT approaches are what I call “perfect world” approaches. They rely on countless variables going right, and if history in Afghanistan has taught us anything, it’s that banking on anything there is a bad idea.

So what to do. First, we need to establish the prism we’re seeing the problem through. Is it humanitarian prism? Or a principled ideological prism? Or through the prism of securing the strategic interests of the United States via realpolitik. Ideology, in the form of neo-conservative export of American Democracy was tried, and failed. After eight years, we’re dealing with a deeply corrupt prime-minister in Kabul with zero credibility at home and in Washington. As for humanitarianism, we have to examine what it is we want to achieve. There is tremendous hardship in Afghanistan, but it’s been there for millenia. The place is now and always has been essentially Medieval. A true humanitarian mission would be massive, would require a stable government in Kabul with reach across the country, and a commitment to accelerate the course of Afghan history at great cost to the United States, and with no real guarantee of success. All that would beg the question. The third world is full of desperation. Why should Afghanistan be singled out for saving, at the expense of so many other countries that need our help.

Finally, there is the prism of realpolitik. Some might call realpolitik amoral, but there is a view – and one that I subscribe to – that only America has the power and reach to keep the world stable and relatively peaceful, and this new realpolitik is built around the understanding that America’s interests are served by serving the interests of the world at large.

Sadly, America is not omnipotent. Its resources are limited. It must decide where it can best advance the cause of world stability.

So does adding to our troop levels in Afghanistan represent the best use of American resources. The answer to that is clearly no. The major threat to world stability in the Central Asian region is not in Afghanistan. It is in Pakistan to the east and Iran to Afghanistan’s west. With Al Qaeda a shadow of its former self, and the Taliban more interested in internal control than reestablishing the Caliphate, we can safely divert resources to Pakistan and Iranian wings of the theatre.

But does that mean we abandon Afghanistan? Not at all. We need to maintain Baghram AFB as a strategic garrison with at least 2 strike brigades to deal with hotspots as they emerge, and as HQ for a large Special Forces array which will be the main strike-force of our continued Afghan policy.

And what should that policy be? In a word, bribery. The key to weakening the Taliban is to hit them where it hurts. In the wallet. Without money, they’re an overstretched rump that can’t afford recruits to expand their reach. The more overstretched they become, the less able they’ll be to enforce their brutality.

The Taliban get their money from two major sources. Opium and foreign donations, mainly via Saudi Arabia ( the world’s foremost exporter of terrorist financing ). Dealing with the cash flow from Opium will require us to pay the farmers handsomely well over market price for their opium crop in order to stop them from growing, and to keep paying them so that they resist the Taliban when they come after these – wealthier – farmers. We would also throw money around to the communities that support these farmers. Those special forces units would be the bagmen – delivering the money, and would lie in wait – when intelligence presents itself – to deal with any Taliban that come after the farmers. The good news is that we’ll be waiting for them, reversing the usual search and destroy formula in our favor. And if the farmers renege, or betray us. No more cash. The Taliban return and the farmers pay tribute in lives and treasure once more. If they like it, fine. If they don’t they can make a phone call.

At the very least, we keep the Taliban occupied while we concentrate on our strategic interests in Pakistan and Iran. And the policy would have another plus. The price of opium would rise dramatically, hitting the drug traffickers hard.

As to choking off donations to the Taliban, that will be harder, but it does not involve committing troops. It involves giving our diplomats teeth in their dealings with Saudi Arabia. A recalibration of America’s relations with Saudi Arabia is critical to our Afghan and Mid-East policies as a whole, and will be impacted by countless other elements, particularly in the energy sector of policy making. But that’s for another time.

Let’s leave this discussion by saying this. Achieving success in foreign policy comes from embracing bold solutions. There is no better cauldron for testing them than Afghanistan.

Written by coolrebel

November 11, 2009 at 3:06 am