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04 January 2009

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Fred

Michael,

Cubre Libre! I can hear the choking in Miami now. The next thing you know you’ll be saying we should actually talk to Venezuela. Excellent proposals and I am sure they will drive the right wing noise machine into spasms. To make any of these a reality it would help if the new administration acted like they actually won the past election.

Frank

Is it too late to make a play for you to become Sec of State?

Patrick Lang

Mike

I don't ever again want to see Colin Powell or his pet dog, Wilkerson, given anything of public importance to do. pl

Dave of Maryland

In an essay dated 4 January, Juan Cole wrote,

I was on the radio recently with John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, and he expressed the hope that Egypt would take back Gaza and Jordan what is left of the West Bank. You may as well dream of pink unicorns on Venus. It isn't going to happen.

I like the idea of a year abroad. So much that while I dodged the draft, I didn't dodge that. But when I returned I found that I was excluded by all those who had not spent a year abroad, ie, those whose eyes had not been opened. My inept handling of my time in Europe did not gain me permanent residence, thus forcing an unwilling return. When I did, I found I was unable to make up the years I lost while abroad. Thirty years later I think the time I spent in France & London to have been a mistake.

A better idea: A year abroad in New York, for Kansas boys like myself. A year abroad in Dodge City, for Upper West Side elites. Or Philadelphia, Mississippi. Not another round of Vista Volunteers sent to "rescue" those who have not asked for help. A year-long exchange of high school juniors, from one school to another. A family to family swap. Get to know your fellow countrymen.

Wanna change Washington? How did the French forever change Paris? What would be our Bastille? I can think of at least three...

DaveGood

Very good post.

I have some serious quibbles with some of the points but nevertheless, an intelligent, thought through set of policies I have no doubt would benefit both America and the planet if followed through.

Point 1, Cuba, completely agree.

Point 2. Agree, but the Current administration has basically ( Apart from shoveling huge sums into wars in Columbia that has driven millions of farmers from the countryside into city slums) basically ignored the region and the Monroe doctrine for the last seven years.

That's given the region time to start forming their own bloc, one in which it is clear they don't want the USA involved in, the "Miscreants" are a large part of that bloc and if you hope to split off Chile, Brazil and Mexico from it, I think it will be a wasted effort.

But overall, it's the right approach.

Point 3. Korea, agreed.

Point 4. Nothing wrong with strengthening India, Japan and Australia but if you hope they will contain and restrict China, that'll fail.

Besides, Since it is the savings of Chinese peasants that have been used to help pay America's bills for years... It's unwise to be seen as actively trying to block thier aspirations.

The Chinese Government owns large amounts of America's debt, not the other way round.

Point 4. Agree

Point 5. Agreed. America must give up large chunks of it's fabulously expensive military bases, particularly abroad... It can't sustain the funding going forward. But (although I see the attractions) I'm not certain Colin Powell should be the one to do it.

His record as Sec of State doesn't cover him in Glory.

Point 7. Shift support from Pakistan to India as the major Regional Ally.


Frankly I doubt The USA or any Government has the ability to handle such a transition without inducing a chaotic breakup of Pakistan that won't end up in a regional war and loss of control over Pakistans Nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is already under threat from the Indians to their East, and American air strikes into Pakistan territory on it's west are almost routine now.

If the Pakistan's conclude that America is shifting all the way over to India it will be soon as a betrayal and a threat to national survival.

Point 8... Agreed, but again if the Pashtun region of Pakistan is split off with American support, again we will end up with Chaos, war and Pakistan nuclear weapons either being used or going "Missing".

No Government and no Nation has ever calmly allowed large chunks of it's territory ( No matter how worthless) to be taken away without a fight.

It is my view that in reality a Pashtun "Homeland" straddling the Afghan Pakistan border already, de facto, exists.

But formally Awknowledging it, and forcing Pakistan to do so is a political and diplomatic move beyond our abilities to pull off at this time.

Point 9 Agreed.

Point 10. Agreed.

J

Colonel,

re: - or his pet dog, Wilkerson,

i like that one. lol lol

David Habakkuk

A point which Cieran made not long ago was that devising thermodynamically efficient methods of energy storage -- or establishing that the prospects of significant improvement in this area were limited for the forseeable future -- was a crucial precondition for any sensible energy strategy.

If major progress can be made in this matter, all kinds of possibilities may well open up for reducing dependence on oil -- which might in turn have all kinds of benevolent knock-on effects, not least in the area of foreign policy.

And unless one has a clearer idea of possibilities and problems on this front, any decisions one makes on energy programmes are liable to be left behind by subsequent developments.

So a coordinated programme in this area, involving public/private sector cooperation and transnational cooperation, would certainly be worth recommending.

Michael Chevalier

I am cut to the quick. My own Cher Cousin, doing a blogging drive by on a innocent pooch. Is this guilt by association or what?

MCC

ColinLaney

"Build an entirely new Palestine that isn’t split in half by Israel."

Pigs will pilot the Starship Enterprise before AIPAC allows a US administration to advocate this.

Stormcrow

Very, very good ideas.

Especially Cuba, we should have done that immediately following the collapse of the USSR.

I'll also come out on a limb and plonk myself fully in your corner on number 5. My reasons may differ from yours.

I think we're in the path of a volkerwanderung.

We can try to hold back the sea with a sieve, like we've been doing, and have it fail for the reasons it always has. Or we can meet this head-on, and turn it to our advantage.

IMHO, Hispanics make bloody good citizens. The new ones'll learn the language and the laws for the same perfectly good reasons prior generations did.

The only item I might possibly disagree with is number 3, Korea. If North Korea were to implode, I'd be all for that one, too. They are in the same trap the Soviets were in 25 years ago. But there's no reason I can see for us to expect they'll go the same way. And the other way is external war, with the only possible adversary: South Korea.

Alex

End totalitarianism in Cuba by flooding it with American tourists

Hey, they started it to get away from American tourists. Yes, I know, Soy Cuba! is far enough from Rankean historiography to make the man himself tunnel a new course of the Spree. But, you've seen them, right?

Alex

I think we're in the path of a volkerwanderung.

This happened, I think, in Europe and its broader geographical context starting in the 1990s, driven by the end of the Cold War and a dog's breakfast of assorted peripheral conflicts (Kurdistan, Balkans, Caucasus, West Africa).

We coped patchily; nothing too bad happened compared with the historical Völkerwanderung, but quite a lot of demagoguery and strain on the principle of asylum.

Michael Chevalier

Alex, I know about Leopold from my MBA workups but I will cheerfully admit to be less than expert. Nice angle though! And, here I have been of the opinion they did it to get Meyer Lansky's retinue out of town. Or was it Andy Garcia?

MCC

Cieran

David Habakkuk:

I agree with your comments re: energy and foreign policy. And it would be immensely helpful if this topic were given due informed attention in public discourse, because so many other world problems are derived directly from it.

It's worthwhile to imagine the position of the U.S. and Europe if our governments actually developed energy policies that reflected our strategic capabilities, e.g., our incredible ability to create useful technology of both the sustaining and disruptive varieties.

I like to imagine a world where our primary concern about the middle east actually reflects the needs of the people of that region, instead of our addiction to the resources that lie beneath it. That would be one likely outcome.

Or imagine a world where Russia can shut off the supply of natural gas to the Ukraine (as they just did), and nobody cared, because that act would hurt only the Russian economy.

Imagine a world where the U.S. is the world's largest creditor nation, instead of the world's largest debtor, and where our wealth is based on actually building useful things that improve the human condition instead of concocting yet-more variations on the Ponzi scheme.

Your suggestion certainly leads to some compelling visions for the future. And while getting there is not going to be easy, it's guaranteed to be a heck of a lot simpler in the long run than the path we are currently negotiating!

Ormolov

I know that it is a natural dynamic for dominant powers to play the Great Game against each other, but since we're taking moonshots and naming them after Monty Python here, we may as well strain the realpolitik a little further.

Why not reach out to China and Russia as much as possible? Why beat them to Cuba and South America and contain them in South Asia with India? Why not go directly to the source and declare our hostilities forever dead? No existential threats here. Maoism and Stalinism are as dead as Friedman's free market. Why can't we all call the 20th Century a failure and work together toward a new pragmatic world order? Hell, most of China's technocracy was educated here in the U.S. anyway. Let's really let the page turn and stop trying to encircle historical adversaries.

I, for one, am quite excited at the prospect of Obama's National Service campaign. At Change.org he has promised no new national program, but has only proposed fully funding the programs that already exist. Double or quadruple the Peace Corps, Americorps, community service for college students, volunteer programs for retirees. All we need. And if 2009 is an economic wasteland and I lose all my income, I can think of nothing better than taking my little family on a two year Peace Corps mission to wherever they'll have us.

Great post!

curious

haa ahaa haa, you bafoon. not going to happen. (tho' I would like to agree with a lot of points in there)


1. China. In order to have legitimate excuse to place troop against chine (defending taiwan included) one would need North Korea. The reason we stick around in South korea/Japan is not North Korea, but China. To balance China in the pacific.

The game with China is tremendous. I for one don't think anybody actually understand how the game will end up being played. The game with china is about soft power at global level. Then military, China know they have all the time in the world until their GDP hit $10-15K. Then they will crank up their military. (at that GDP, it means China economic size is nearly twice as large as the US, with $8K more to go just by coasting. Everybody hit a wall at around $22-25K.)


2. Cuba? not going to happen ever. Miami cuban and southern sugar farmers control the direction of conversation. And Cuba itself is too small to matter. (unless Russia instal nuke in there somewhere to stay even with Georgian case.)

3. India? They seems to learn their lesson about not changing super power partners too often. (they got burn badly between nuclear power + Mumbai) And Indian military is squarely rooted in Soviet technology. Not to mention space technology.

Did I mention the Indian does not like one bit how Bush play the game in Pakistan? So that's that.

I think India will play the game to gain technological access as much as they can to counter Pakistan. (They are not that hot pursuing china like they used to. Obviously they have no big reason to at the moment.)

Lastly: it should be in anybody's mind. The us status as superpower lies in the economic well being. And it's on rough patch. No credible world power can stay in front without credible economic policy. And the world is changing a great deal since the cold war.

jonst

Michael,

Can live with all the ideas--and strongly support many of them. However.....

With the Col on 'retire Powell now'.

And real problems with: the guest worker program 1. as long as the border is not controlled better than it is now. Control the flow...then pass out the stay, legally, in America buttons.

2. The idea of Mexico, as a 'failed state' has captured my imagination.

I don't enough first hand knowledge about the place but from what I read and hear....it seems be going the way of a narco state. Big time. Akin to Putin's enterprise.....

Perhaps the way to prevent that from happening any further than it is happening is to embrace your suggestion. On the other hand, perhaps there is no one to cut a deal with there that can, in fact, carry out a deal. The rot, as indeed, may be the case here, may have set in too deeply.

Dick Shave

Expand #9 to include domestic component of service in the form of "Infrastructure Corps" for soils, air and water, tapping into current domestic "Greenie" fervor. Fancy eats is really the only domestic issue that the media LOVES primarily because while us greenies fight all the time (Organic, Vegan, Biodynamic, Vegetarian, Omnivore, etc, etc,etc.) the Nation seems to agree that good food is cool again, even in harsh times. Easy to hook up with the rest of the world via GMO's also...

Jay McAnally

Colonel:

I pretty much agree with all 10, But #1 is the most rational, has the best chance of success, and regrettably (IMHO) the least likely to occur.

Oh well...

Duncan Kinder

My proposals ( which should happen but are no more likely than a rational Israeli or Cuba policy ):

1) End the War on Drugs: this is a massive incentive to form narco-terrorist type organizations.

2) Institute a Manhattan style project to develop energy independence. Focus on dispersed, low capital systems of energy rather than centralized, capital intensive systems. This will minimize the impact of any terrorist attack.

3) Promote low capital economic projects. This will minimize the impact of the credit squeeze.

4) Rather than parade about as a "world leader," seek to remove the plank from our own eye before seeking to remove the speck of sawdust from anyone else's.

Jose

1. Completely agree, embargo is what keeps the Castro brothers in power.

2. Suggest you add Colombia to the mix plus their women are really, really hot.

3. Agree, but Camp Casey...

4. No comment, not my area of expertise, but what about Indonesia?

5. Agree, should have been done years ago.

6. Just want to add, consolidate all the military academies into one for fewer amounts of dead weight.

7. Cautious, might drive Pakistan to the extremist or perhaps we are a little to late on that.

8. Recommend Patrick Lang, Colonel, retired, for the management/leadership position.

9. Worked for me, two years, before getting my SH*T together and going to college.

10. If people will still listen to us after the last eight years...

Recommend you add:

1. Globalization does not work if America is the only playing by our free trade rules and mentality.

2. America's education system is a complete and utter joke, fix it. Suggestions, 10 years = high school diploma plus 2 free years at a Community College for AA or AS. Cheaper, plus kids need to realize not everyone can be a Wharton MBA, Harvard MD, or esquire from Yale. Computer Techs, Nurses, and Radiologist require only two year investments and can make good money.

Andy

Michael,

Can we add a pink flying pony for my daughter to the list? Seriously, you have some good ideas in there, but some of it strikes me as completely impractical.

1. Yes, a change in Cuba policy is long overdue.

2. I'm not sure how much closer we can get to Mexico culturally. We have millions of Mexican citizens living and working here and salsa began outselling ketchup a decade ago. Spend some time in the west and southwest and the influence and integration of Mexican culture is clear.

3. You might want to ask the Koreans what they think first, particularly since protesting students are a minority opinion in the ROK. Last I checked, South Korea still had universal conscription, so those students WILL be joining.

4. Agreed.

5. Democracy is messy. You will have to make a compromise to change the status quo.

6. We've been BRACing for over a decade now and there are limits to how far one can go and how much in savings one can achieve. Closing overseas bases must be done as part of a larger foreign-policy realignment since most allow us to meet treaty commitments.

7. It seems we've already done that through the recent nuclear treaty with India (which was not and will not be offered to Pakistn). Regardless, we shouldn't be picking favorites unless we absolutely have to.

8. Talk about paternalistic! US power and influence is quite limited in all these areas regardless.

9. There are approximately 16 million people in the 18-20 age group. If you pay them minimum wage that cost alone is going to run close to $200 billion a year. Assuming the American people are willing to pay that price (which will likely be much more than $200 billion when other costs are factored in), what exactly will we get in return for that investment? 16 million unskilled laborers doing what exactly? There's not nearly enough work to go around. Better to stick to volunteer programs.

10. Yes, if you're talking about nation-states. Probably not if you're talking about anything/anyone else.

Babak Makkinejad

David Habakkuk & Cieran:

There is a thermodynamically efficient method energy storage invented in 1984, John R. Hull & Malvern K. Iles.

It proposes using magnetically confined kinetic-energy storage ring for storing electrical energy.

The relevant publication is ANL-84-19 from the US Argonne National Laboratory.

This solution is even more feasible now, after the discovery of high temperature superconductivity at liquid nitrogen temperatures.

Like many other inventions conceived in the United States, it was never put to use because it was easier to make money in the financial sector than to actually build anything in US.

Argonne was also the site of experimental breeder reactor technology that US Congress, in its infinite wisdom, killed in the middle of 1990s. See http://skirsch.com/politics/globalwarming/ifr.htm

In regards to the subject of this post:

Only #3 makes sense strategically for the United States if you add Germany and Italy also to the list of withdrawals (perhaps even Japan).

I will have to strongly and strenuously object to #9; it proposes a diminution of personal liberty for the young people; subjecting them to an impersonal bureaucracy in the first 2 years of their adult lives. Better reducing the voting age to 15.

Dana J

I have to agree with both Cieran & Ormolov above.
And we (the US) has to start facing the truth: We are BROKE! And the only way to fix that will involve the Obama team to start looking at places in the fed budget where the fat is, and guess what, the Pentagon is fat overflowing. There WILL have to be major cuts in the so-called "defense" budget, first with a freeze on all new spending, then cutting the unnecessary programs like the F-22. Who out there posses any kind of threat to us, even if we froze or cut advanced programs for 10 years? No one, and no one ever will. We have enough firepower now.
So I agree, we need to start closing overseas bases, starting with our huge bases in Europe, and turning them over to NATO. We DON'T need them. We need to seriously downsize the military budget, we just can't afford new "toys" for the boys in blue anymore. The Pentagon is just going to have to face the facts: They are going on a diet. This is the most wasteful (Golden) arm of the government, we get less per dollar spent than in almost any other area (I can already hear the arms companies whining), with the least return directly to the citizens of this country. We can't be the worlds police anymore.

I know that you probably won't post this, since you come from a military background, but I feel that I have to say my piece.

Michael Chevalier

Dana J: Not going to practice censorship. This is Pat's blog but if he lets his radical cum Mainer cousin on it, he should have your admiration for his courage and tolerance! And, when I raised my hand to uphold and defend the Constitution, I wasn't intending to be a party to stuffing rags in the mouth of well intentioned people with a different skew than mine.

MCC

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