Consider the circumstance of the US at the conclusion of the Second World War:
1) As a result of the enormous arms build up, approximately half of the world's industrial capacity resided on US soil.There's a level of inevitability in this - it would have been virtually impossible to have maintained the kind of economic gap that existed at the end of WW II - as well as a level of virtue - the world is better off with more prosperity wider spread than with less.
2) We possessed two-thirds of the known gold reserves on the planet.
3) To help fund the war effort 85 million Americans had "saved" $185.7 billion by purchasing bonds (equivalent to Americans saving $2.26 trillion today).
4) A half decade of rationing had pent up an overwhelming reservoir of consumer demand.
5) Our primary economic competitors had all been ravaged by warfare while our infrastructure had thrived.
When had any nation, since the dawn of the industrial age, enjoyed such a staggering advantage over every other nation? It had never happened before and almost certainly never will again, so it is little surprise that such an unprecedented advantage would subsequently translate into a generation of unparalleled growth and prosperity. By the 1970s, however, the world was catching up. US economic hegemony was being directly challenged by rival powers and US industries, many of which had slackened into complacent oligopolies, sluggishly adapted to foreign competition. For their part, US workers, whose wages and benefits had soared during the boom years, were increasingly forced to compete with cheap foreign labor. Add to this the unfortunate fact America's domestic energy supply had peaked in 1970 and the vine was ripe for stagflation as President Carter urged his fellow Americans to "face the truth" in his infamous Malaise Speech of 1979.
People who, like me, raise questions about the value of global military engagement are sometimes called "isolationists." But that term rightly applies only to people who don't realize that there are threats to our security out there. If you perceive the threats but realize that they're collective action problems, you realize that we do have to be involved in their solution.That's gonna work well...
What form should the involvement take? Funny you should ask! This is my last Opinionator column (maudlin details below, in the postscript), and I just realized that in my year of writing the column I've given short shrift to one of my main hobby horses: global governance.
Global governance is the solution to international collective action problems. The problems can range from environmental (it doesn't make sense for any one nation to cut carbon emissions unless others join in) to financial (as when nations coordinate policy to head off a contagious financial panic). But the most prominent symbol of global governance - the United Nations - was created mainly to deal with the problem under discussion here: keeping the peace. The United Nations Security Council is a mechanism through which threats to peace can be recognized, the military action necessary to deal with them authorized, and the burdens of that military action shared.
If we're smart, we'll use what's left of this moment to craft instruments of global governance that will assure our security even in a world we don't dominate ... and will also equitably distribute the costs of international security. We'll show people how to build a world in which we can all, without fear of being attacked, reduce the amount of money we spend on arms.We do need to craft those instruments. But they will look much more like alliances with Brazil, India, and the Anglosphere than like yielding our authority and power to the control of the UN or one of the existing global agencies.
That certainly seems to fit reports from the field - and it would neatly sidestep the central military-political problem created by conventional anti-poppy efforts, while providing a boost for programs aimed at a farmer-centric approach to counterinsurgency.
Well, well, isn't that convenient? Then again...
The fungus is found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, so it could be natural. Especially given the Taliban's kick-up of cross-border people flows who handle poppies on both side of the border.
On the other hand, it could also be introduced; the American strategy does indeed seem to quietly revolve around sitting on the poppy growers in Helmland, per Staretgy Page's "This Is The Plan". On the contra side, George W. Bush reportedly considered using pleospora in Afghanistan, but firmly rejected it. It's possible that Obama has decided to use biological warfare, I suppose, and the recent outbreak reflects that.
But how would we know?
That's the thing with biological attacks. Unless you're dealing with clearly unnatural mutations, like chimera viruses, you can't be sure it isn't natural. It doesn't take many people to implement. And even if it clearly isn't natural, you can't usually tell where it's from with any certainty.
Something to contemplate, as we face a religion for whom suicide-murder attacks on civilians have become, among many, the highest moral example. The pushback created in places like Iraq, where they were forced to engage and endanger their own co-religionists on a regular basis, has blunted that thirst - but not removed it. The Islamic civil war for the religion's soul continues. The winning side is very much in doubt. And the clock of falling technology curves still ticks....
Nothing like a fantastic hockey game to cap it all off, with a goal in overtime to secure home team gold. Up in Canada, this was a hugely important game. And if you were watching down south, you saw 2 teams playing exciting on-the-attack styles, which made for a good game. Team USA coach Ron Wilson:
"Canada and the United States play the game like it should be -- not sitting back and playing on your heels and waiting for something bad to happen and counter-punching, but actually going on the attack. I know Mike (Babcock)'s teams play that way and I try to play that way, not very successfully right now with my team in Toronto [Canada]."
US coach Ron Wilson may get even more grief back in Toronto for saying that "Sometimes, the best team in the tournament doesn't win a gold medal." In a 1-game format, however, he's right. And Team USA was more consistent throughout.
But it did come down to one game, aganist another great team. And a finish that set a record for home country gold medals. That was thanks, in part, to a program called "Own the Podium," which aimed to secure more advance support for Canadian olympians, and focus on winning instead of just competing. That's a big cultural change for Canada, and a welcome one. Mission Accomplished.
Despite its good intentions, San Francisco is not leading the country in gay marriage. Despite its good intentions, it is not stopping wars. Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, its homeless problem is worse than any comparable city's. Despite its spending more money per capita, period, than almost any city in the nation, San Francisco has poorly managed, budget-busting capital projects, overlapping social programs no one is certain are working, and a transportation system where the only thing running ahead of schedule is the size of its deficit.
It's time to face facts: San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America. This year's city budget is an astonishing $6.6 billion - more than twice the budget for the entire state of Idaho - for roughly 800,000 residents. Yet despite that stratospheric amount, San Francisco can't point to progress on many of the social issues it spends liberally to tackle - and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short.Because it's only superficially about good intentions. At root, it's about power and money. The nomenklatura get the power...
This city is a mecca for people in search of a government handout that they can hand out. According to a 2009 analysis, San Francisco spends around 41 percent of its discretionary budget - about half a billion dollars - on nonprofits, mostly to provide social services for the poor, homeless, elderly, and others....and the politically omnipotent public sector unions get the money...
Many cities contract with nonprofits because it's cheaper than using city workers. Government is now paying the tab for services that used to be undertaken by families, churches - or, frankly, no one. But a 2009 University of San Francisco study notes that this city is to nonprofits what New York is to big musicals: "Per capita expenditures by operating nonprofits in San Francisco are almost double that of the rest of the Bay Area, and more than twice that found in Los Angeles or [the whole of] California."
We want the services. We're willing to pay for them, if they lead to good results. Yet whether our gargantuan investment is paying off is a question no one has an answer to. Hardly anyone even bothers to check. As far as much of the city is concerned, ignorance is bliss.
In 2007, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) held a seminar for the nonprofits vying for a piece of $78 million in funding. Grant seekers were told that in the next funding cycle, they would be required - for the first time - to provide quantifiable proof their programs were accomplishing something.
The room exploded with outrage. This wasn't fair. "What if we can bring in a family we've helped?" one nonprofit asked. Another offered: "We can tell you stories about the good work we do!" Not every organization is capable of demonstrating results, a nonprofit CEO complained. He suggested the city's funding process should actually penalize nonprofits able to measure results, so as to put everyone on an even footing. Heads nodded: This was a popular idea.
There are two lessons here. First, many San Francisco nonprofits believe they're entitled to money without having to prove that their programs work. Second, until 2007, the city agreed.
The then-president of the Board of Supervisors had proposed sweeping Muni reforms to get the transit system running on time and on budget. National transit experts said Peskin's proposal was solid; it was later approved by the voters in 2007 as Proposition A. Since then, Muni has slashed services and raised fares, and is facing a bigger budget crisis. That shouldn't have been a surprise - Muni reform started unraveling on that June day, when dozens of transit union workers "testified" in front of the Rules Committee.Now what this represents - written small - is the process that's going on in government throughout the country. We're looting the money we should be spending on core services - infrastructure, libraries, schools - and spending it on a political class and their dependents.
Job protection for even the most obviously unfit Muni workers is among the strongest in the city. Peskin had proposed increasing the percentage of employees who could be fired for incompetence from 1.5 to 10 percent. But if that provision were included in the measure, union reps said, they would flood the "No on A" campaign with money and volunteers. "This is a union town," one transit worker warned. "And we expect it to stay that way."
Peskin caved. He had to. This is a union town. You can't reform the city charter without winning an election; winning an election requires union support; and unions - almost by definition - don't want major reform. It would be a paradox - but that would contravene a number of union bylaws.
In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that the city had, for decades, been siphoning nearly $700 million from its Hetch Hetchy water system into the San Francisco General Fund instead of maintaining the aging aqueduct. Several mayors and boards of supervisors used that money to fund pet causes, and the Public Utilities Commission didn't say no. Unfortunately, spending maintenance money elsewhere doesn't diminish the need for maintenance. By 2002, the water system was in such desperate condition that voters were asked to pass a $3.6 billion bond measure to make overdue fixes. Obligingly, they did - who doesn't like water? Since then, the projected costs have swelled by $1 billion. So far.We've chronically underfunded maintenance on infrastructure in order to pay exorbitant public-sector salaries, high costs for nonprofits and costs for NGO's who are great at manipulating funding systems, and possibly less great at actually delivering the services they are contracted for.
"Thirty years of negotiations and sanctions have failed to end the Iranian nuclear program and its war against the West. Why should anyone think they will work now? A change in Iran requires a change in government. Common sense and moral vision suggest we should support the courageous opposition movement, whose leaders have promised to end support for terrorism and provide total transparency regarding the nuclear program."
Anne Applebaum writes the same thing in Salon, saying that "Tehran's worst fear is a well-financed human rights campaign." In other words, talk less to Iran and more to Iranians.
Unfortunately, this also seems to be Obama's worst fear. Applebaum is also dead wrong to say that "he people who care about [the democracy movement] are rarely much interested in [Iran's nuclear program] - and vice versa." In fact, most of the people concerned with the nuclear program see the democracy movement as the best hope for progress, and have for some time. Obama, in contrast, has a consistent record of aversion to promoting or supporting human rights, rule of law, and other niceties abroad. Which is why the drift will continue, until Iran has the bomb.
The United States government, along with the rest of the Western Hemisphere's governments, is so worked up about returning ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power that it hasn't thought through the long- or even medium-term consequences of its threats and demands.
Millions of dollars in aid to Honduras-one of the poorest countries in Latin America-was cut off after Zelaya was arrested by the military and sent into exile in June. The U.S. is not only threatening to cut off hundreds of millions more, it's threatening to impose sanctions and not recognize the results of the November election if he isn't first allowed back in office. These threats, if carried out, will put both Honduras and the U.S. in impossible positions.
Sanctions are supposed to be temporary. Targeted countries are always told what they can do to restore the status quo ante. Iran, for instance, can dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. Syria can cease and desist its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Saddam Hussein, while he still ruled Iraq, had the option of admitting weapons inspectors.
Honduras, though, will have no way out if the interim government doesn't return Zelaya to power before his term ends in January. Because the Honduran constitution prohibits him and every other president from serving more than one term, it won't be legally possible for Honduras to do what's demanded of it after the end of this year. Unlike Iraq, Iran, and Syria, it will be isolated and trapped under sanctions indefinitely.
Sanctions and diplomatic isolation aren't the geopolitical equivalents of jail time and fines; they're used to coax rogue regimes into changing their behavior. They are tools of coercion, not punishment. By the time 2010 rolls around, it won't make any difference how badly the current interim government of Honduras is or is not behaving right now if the next one is elected in a free and fair election. The "coup regime" will have been replaced. The crisis will be over, the problem resolved. Punishing the next government-and by extension, the people of Honduras-for something a temporary former government did the previous year is gratuitous and, as far as I know, unprecedented. Even a country as roguish and oppressive as North Korea can come in from the cold if it holds a genuinely free and fair election.
While Honduras will be placed in an impossible position that it can't escape from, refusing to recognize the results of the November election will put the U.S. in an equally impossible position. Reality will force the U.S. to back down for one simple reason-it will be possible for the U.S. to back down, while Honduras could only surrender to our demands by using a time machine. We might as well play "chicken" with an inanimate object.
A Johns Hopkins University student armed with a samurai sword killed a man who broke into the garage of his off-campus residence early Tuesday, a Baltimore police spokesman said.-
According to preliminary reports, a resident of the 300 block of E. University Parkway called police about a suspicious person, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. An off-duty officer responded about 1:20 a.m. to the area with university security, according to Guglielmi. They heard shouts and screams from a neighboring house and found the suspected burglar suffering from a nearly severed hand and laceration to his upper body, he said.
Well, this was interesting. Active, broadband, exterior cloaking devices... but not for light:
"University of Utah mathematicians developed a new cloaking method, and it's unlikely to lead to invisibility cloaks like those used by Harry Potter or Romulan spaceships in "Star Trek." Instead, the new method someday might shield submarines from sonar, planes from radar, buildings from earthquakes, and oil rigs and coastal structures from tsunamis.
"We have shown that it is numerically possible to cloak objects of any shape that lie outside the cloaking devices, not just from single-frequency waves, but from actual pulses generated by a multi-frequency source," says Graeme Milton, senior author of the research and a distinguished professor of mathematics at the University of Utah."
Read my 2002 post "Pipeline Politics: The Caspian Front" for an intro, and "NATO's German/Eastern Question" to understand the limits of American power and influence. Now, RIA Novosti RussiaProfile.org's July 24/09 "Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: A Battle of the Pipelines"...
"The last three weeks have been rich in developments in the unfolding "battle of the pipelines" to supply natural gas to Europe. Russia, the EU and the United States are locked in a tough struggle to secure domination over the natural gas supply lines to Europe from Russia and Central Asia. Why is there such heated competition for building alternative gas pipelines to Europe? What are Russia's objectives in the "battle of the pipelines"? What are the EU and American objectives? Why is the United States trying to play such an active role in decisions that will not in any way affect the energy supplies to the United States?"
In March 2008, DID's "Sharpen Yourself: LinkedIn & Social Networking Sites" discussed both the career benefits and the security risks associated with social networking sites. Sir John Sawers, the prospective head of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency is probably wishing he had read it. His wife recently leaked dangerously specific information about him on Facebook, and created a controversy about his fitness for the job. Sir John now faces a possible parliamentary probe.
Despite these setbacks, social networking is becoming a larger part of the military, and the industry. In July 2009, Lockheed Martin released its internal company social networking application's underlying code as open source software. Social networking efforts are being explicitly built into PR contracts, and it's becoming one of the information shifts that are changing the battlespace. The Pentagon recently launched an official blogging platform at DODLive.mil, and US Forces Afghanistan launched a social networking strategy that extends to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Followed by orders to bases to stop blocking key social networking sites.
These efforts can make a big contribution toward ensuring that the Pentagon is no longer, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates puts it, "being out-communicated by a guy in a cave." On the other hand, they are not risk-free.
Grant Martin of the Kansas City Star sums up the situation in a quick paragraph:
"Just in case you've turned your TV News off because you were tired of MJ stories- Honduras' president supposedly wanted to change the Constitution and serve for more years than allowed, the Supreme Court and Congress ruled that as illegal, he tried to hold a referendum, the Army refused, he fired the Army chief, the Supreme Court told him to reinstate the chief, he refused and had some group raid the warehouse that stored the referendum ballots, and so the Supreme Court ordered the military to arrest him and send him packing."
Zelaya did more than have "some group" raid the warehouse. On June 26, he issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the referendum. Except the referendum can't change the constitution. Octavio Sanchez explains why this stripped him of his office:
"According to Article 239: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years."
The direct purpose of this provision, which has been in place for 27 years, is to prevent the kind of "creeping dictatorship" so familiar in Latin America, from the left and the right. Honduras' Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya's arrest per that provision, and the Army carried out that function within Honduras' constitution. Who is currently serving as President? Roberto Micheletti, a member of Zelaya's own party, and head of Honduras' Congress. Who is constitutionally next in line after the President (stripped of office) and VP (resigned to run for President). That doesn't look anything like a coup to me. It looks like the rule of law.
Honduras has certainly had a long history of American intervention. Indeed, every single historical argument one could advance for a "soft approach" in Iran, applies here with more force. Coupled with the fact that this is a country following its constitution rather than a theocratic cadre brazenly stealing an election, it should be a no-brainer. But of course, Obama is uninterested in consistency - or perhaps he is.
In his role as an enabler to dictators and their allies, he's been absolutely consistent.