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23 May 2010

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steven gandy

colonel lang:

I love the Salvador Dali pix. Surrealism is the order of the day. The print
hangs in the Dali museum in
St.Petersburg Fla.

Robert in SB

"The generals do not have the time they would need to make their strategy work" How much time should they get? I am asking the question sincerely. After 8 years there, I cannot discern what real gains we have made. It seems like we just keep moving the Goalposts a little further down the unending field.

Adam L Silverman

Sir,

I agree with that the President's approach is internationalist, but I don't see the social democrat at all. He certainly doesn't appear, in speech or deed, very reminiscent of any of the social democratic politicians I became familiar with when I lived in Europe in the early 1990s. If anything I think he would easily fit pretty close to the center line of the ideological spectrum most anywhere but the US; some of his positions are just left of center and some are just right of center. Only in the US, where our understanding of ideology has become unbound from the actual ideas that the labels represent can a centrist, technocrat whose every policy seems designed to placate the elite and powerful could President Obama be perceived as significantly left of center.

Patrick Lang

Adam

I guess it depends on your point of view. From my point of view he is someone who definitely wants to make a change in the terms of the social contract in the US in favor of greater federal government participation in the daily lives of the people. At the same time he is a participant in democratic politcs, ergo...

Which Sociual Democrat leaders were you referring to? I am not interested in those who called themselves that specifically.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democrat

pl

Stanley Henning

Yes, it really does appear that "surges" and "nation building" and what all have been and continue to be not much more than catch phrases for a few to enhance their careers near term as opposed to a serious understanding that it is actually all heading south at a rapid pace to the long term detriment of our country and international order. The problem is that all this is based on a shallow understanding of the situation. There appears to be a serious lack of depth in civics in our education system - simply put, an understanding of the interaction of political and military factors not only crucial to our day-to-day functioning and survival as a nation, but also in other societies with which we interact. We have taken our supposed superiority seriously to the point that we have actually come to believe that all other "reasonable" people in the world believe this too and look up to us - therefore we can solve all problems our way. For example, we need to seriously review our historical COIN-like experiences (Philippines, Latin America) and would find that none, except tangentially, the Philippines, where we initially ruled the place, did we succeed except fleetingly. We need to wake up, take education seriously, and understand what is really to our benefit as a nation or we will lose it all.

walrus

I need to remind everyone that the clock that is ticking is a Financial one. It will shortly become apparent that America is not going to be able to afford financially to stay in Afghanistan or Iraq much longer.

Do not be fooled by the Wall Street commentariat pointing their fingers at Europe, they are simply trying to deflect attention away from American and British sovereign debt woes.

The British financial problems will be revealed around June 22nd when the results of the audit of British finances is published by its new treasurer, if they are not leaked first.

The American financial crisis will only become apparent after Wall Street finishes picking over Britains bones.

Obama does not qualify as any form of socialist at all in my understanding of the term.

Patrick Lang

walrus

Your understanding of the term is not that of a great many Americans.

Yes. Your ticking clock is actually more serious. I was addressing these specific processes. pl

Adam L Silverman

Sir,

I agree that he is looking to change nature of federal, or just governmental over all, participation in the daily lives of people. I'm not sure that its so much an expansion that he's interested in, but rather a right sizing or reorienting to address the hollowing out essential and necessary governmental functions after almost 40 years of dismantling and progressively more dysfunction. I know that you have less tolerance for Federal activity, with a greater preference for state level operation than I do, but even there I don't see the President doing anything that comes close to social democracy.

Had he really been looking to move the US towards a socialized democracy, or just the Democratic Party in that direction, he's had great cover to do so since he took office. He had every opportunity to nationalize the financial sector, both banking and investments, force the principals that facilitated the crisis to take major losses, and then either remake the sector with heavy new regulation, the reinstatement of all the New Deal regulation that was dismantled starting under President Carter and carried through by every president to today, or some new and different hybrid model. He did none of these things. The financial regulation that just passed is very weak, and the only reason it was improved in recent weeks was because several Democrats had primary challenges!

On healthcare he didn't push what would undeniably be a social democratic approach of single payer (regardless of the flavor), he didn't even go with the left of center to center left public option alternative. Instead he went with a bill that is largely an updated version of the Senator Dole and Senator Tower, Heritage Foundation backed, alternative to HillaryCare from the 1990s with elements of Governor Romney's plan. Hardly a social-democratic approach.

On environmental rules and regulations he's done the same thing. After a month of tremendous damage to the Gulf of Mexico the lead on the response isn't the Federal Government or even the Obama Administration - its still BP. And rather than taking further coastal and offshore drilling off the table, twelve new rigs have been completed in the past two weeks and several new permits have been issued.

Similarly, on retirement and other social safety net measures there is no real social democrat approaches. The blue ribbon commission is co-chaired by two men who have long public records of supporting entitlement/safety net spending reductions and the majority of the commission's staff is supplied by the Peterson Institute; a think tank started solely to find someway to eliminate all Federal social safety net spending in the hope it will lead to the further reduction of Mr. Peterson's tax burden. If President Obama was really a social democrat he'd actually be trying to find ways to extend the social safety net, not supporting attempts to reduce and restrict it.

Also, were the President a social-democrat the entire American approach to the Middle East, and especially the Israeli/Palestinian issue, would actually be what the AIPAC, Likudnik, and neo-Con crowd are screaming that it is: pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli, which we both know is not the case.

President Obama, based on what he's been proposing, supporting, or doing is clearly a centrist, technocratic. The changes he's proposing seem to promote the idea that a properly functioning government can be part of solving problems, not one of the problems to be overcome. He bears very little resemblance in his politics or his policy to John Smith, the late Labor Party leader (and unlike Blair an actual social democrat) or Willy Brandt or any of the other actual social democrats at that wikipedia entry. And I don't know how you claim Gorbachev as a social democrat, but the author of that article did...

Roy G

'The Persistence of Memory' is a great theme for what we are currently undergoing, since it appears that, collectively, we have none.

Perhaps i'm missing the joke, but I must correct Mr. Gandy; the painting hangs in the Museum of Modern Art.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_persistence_of_memory

BillWade

Regretably, we have another ticking time bomb in the Gulf of Mexico, where is our leadership?

Patrick Lang

Adam

You are evidently more to the left than I am. (nothing wrong with that as Seinfeld would have said) A lot of American voters disapprove of Obama's "adjustments" to society and that is going to hurt him. My point was that he will have enough political burdens in 2012 without carrying the burden of a stalemated war that, as Walrus points out, we can not afford.

"Gorbachov" I did not cite any articles.

BTW, blue ribbon commissions do not make laws. They are usually camouflage for whatever it is that you want to do. pl

Richard Armstrong

Does anyone beside me find it kind of hard to believe that all the Afghan insurgents are actually members of the Taliban?

I mean really, isn't that country made up of many tribes/groups that make war amongst themselves and any and all foreign invaders?

J

Bill Wade,

I concur with your assessment regarding the 'ticking time bomb in the Gulf of Mexico'. Many are voicing their opinions that BP is making matters worse with their dispersants which appear to be more toxic than the oil itself. While the oil may affect sea and wildlife that gets in its slicks and underneath clouds, the dispersants BP is using could cause toxic rain which would affect inland areas such as our nation's crop areas in the Eastern U.S.

Toxic rain thanks to BP could prove more devastating to the U.S. citizenry than both Afghan and Iraq wars have been.

Here's a paper regarding Corexit toxicity:

Why BP is not using the less toxic DISPERSIT instead of Corexit, I find baffling.

And while the dispersents make break up the oil, it does not decrease the oil's toxicity, just breaks it up into smaller particles.

Enzymes could be used to break-down the crude oil down instead of simply breaking it up into smaller droplets with their dispersants.

Jonathan

British defence minister on Afghan visit calls for troop withdrawal

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1058373/1/.html

... Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell are set to meet President Hamid Karzai in their first visit to the country since a new coalition government took power in London this month.

Hague described Afghanistan -- where around 10,000 British troops are helping fight a Taliban-led insurgency well into its ninth year -- as "our most urgent priority" in comments released from London as the party touched down.

In an interview with The Times newspaper before arriving in Kabul, Fox made clear the visit would focus on speeding up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, and that no new troops would be deployed.

"We need to accept we are at the limit of numbers now and I would like the forces to come back as soon as possible," he was quoted as saying.

"We have to reset expectations and timelines.

"National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened," Fox said.

Norman Rogers

We keep surrendering the initiative to the enemy in Afghanistan, and that's not COIN (at least, not in my humble opinion).

We have telegraphed a major move--it's make or break, you see. We HAVE to drive them out of (insert wherever we're saying now) and the FATE of the war hinges on our success.

No, we should be saying nothing, and then, one day, whoever we want dead shows up dead with a few hundred of his comrades, and US troops have already moved on to do something else. We should be waiting in ambush for whatever force comes into an area we are occupying solely because that's where we want to be, not where the enemy wants us to be. Better yet, we should have proxies bringing in scalps while our forces do whatever they want, when and where they want, and for as long as they feel like doing it. It's been said here and elsewhere many times--no, they don't really practice COIN and they don't have the stomach for it. Each and every day that goes by, it becomes more and more apparent that the march to the 2012 elections is all that matters.

I think they will wake up one day and wish they had taken the initiative away from the enemy rather than play political games with Mr. Karzai and his brother. Karzai can stuff the ballot box--can Obama stuff enough ballot boxes and survive?

Patrick Lang

Jonathan

That's nice but he also made it clear that the US shouldn't leave too soon. pl

Jackie

J,
It's not baffling why BP is using Corexit. I heard the other day that they have a monetary relationship with their favored product.

William R. Cumming

All national resources that can be mobilized including those owned by the National Security State will soon be required in the Gulf and environs! Gulf of Mexico that is! By Labor Day the Gulf front will loom larger and larger as 2010 elections near. In Governor Jindal of LA. the Republicans will have the perfect rapier to outwit Obama's use of the saber.

Brian Hart

The Pentagon's battlefield and its effort to shape it is the mind of the American public and not ground reality in Afghanistan.

First, you're not hearing American generals discuss the withdrawal of UK and Canadian troops from Afghanistan. While the British Foreign Minister wags his finger about premature American withdrawals, his Defense Minister is meeting with Karzai about pulling their troops out.How much of our surge is about about filling the hole?

Second, media sources in Afghanistan are being choked off by the Karzai government and Petraeus. The media is being managed. The Pentagon views the media as the battlefield of the American mind. The Taliban recognized this as well, hence the seemingly futile rocket attacks on giant US bases. They need only outlast us by a day to win on the ground in Afghanistan.

Third you hear off the cuff comments from generals implying that American forces have won ground but the Afghan government keeps dropping the ball. The mantra by this winter will be Karzai fumbled on the 1 yard line in 2010 so don't blame the officers. Let's wait until the 2011 for another shot at the title.

Fourth, note the shifting time lines. Knowing if our approach is working has gone from this March to this summer, to early December - conveniently after the congressional elections. And the main time line for a US draw down, conveniently before the US 2012 elections.

Fifth the Afghan surge is twice the cost per troop, half the withdrawal number from Iraq and surprise surprise the same spending level plus inflation as if we were in Iraq. Unfortunately 40K more troops aren't enough to control the ground and I don't think we're prepared to commit more. So now what?

Last the enemy controls our supply lines into Afghanistan and the heavier our footprint the more Karachi truckers get paid to carry our supplies past Taliban's toll takers. How can we win with large conventional forces when the enemy can choke off our supplies at will?

The news today is that there is no plan B, but plan B is being negotiated in secret with the Pakistan ISI, the Taliban and the Karzai government as we speak.

Castellio

Sincere apologies for off topic, but Reuters is writing this: In Tehran, Mehran Alinejad, head of special drilling operations at the National Iranian Drilling Co, said Iran had successfully dealt with huge oil leaks in the past, particularly when rigs were bombed during a war with Iraq in the 1980s. "Iranian technical teams have had major achievements in oil well capping compared with which the Gulf of Mexico oil rig is no feat," he told the IRNA news agency.

Is that possibly true?

graywolf

"It becomes increasingly obvious that Obama is both a social democrat and an internationalist in the classic old mold."
Yeah, what other country elects a leader who fundamentally doesn't like the country?

Jon T.

Whoever, whatever built the Afghan COIN strategy, it doesn't look effective.

What is effective is Greg Mortensen's approach (see the book "Three Cups of Tea) and the program outlined in this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XBw99-Uyy4&feature=related
which is don't chase the Taliban, build up the poor people without changing their culture. And beware the "prepackaged government" that has an Army comprised largely of Tajiks and Uzbeks.

I recall that you, Col. Lang, said that is what the Green Beret ODA's do - relate to the people as the people are, not try to change them, save for teaching them how to truly defend themselves against corruption and crazed jihadists.

Good ideas, eh?
Ever going to happen in the reality of money and power?

Whenever has an effective strategy prevailed over entrenched power? Mortensen is still at it and his success is phenomenal. The book about him is inspirational and I for one am grateful that effort is being made. However, those types of ideas will not become national policy.

zanzibar

I agree with Adam Silverman that President Obama is not a social democrat in the Western European sense of that label but neither is he a capitalist. I think his actions to date reflect statism and protection of the entrenched kleptocracy - a pattern, IMO, endemic to both political parties for at least the past 3 decades.

Walrus is right - it is only a matter of time when the funding crisis crosses the Atlantic. The problem of excess debt cannot be solved with more debt or monetization of debt - although that will be the preferred approach for those with a printing press until the bond and currency markets take that away. Global financial instability is in our future - from speculative finance in Chinese urban real estate to insolvent western banks and shaky confidence in exponential sovereign debt growth in Europe, Japan, UK and US - the trigger can come from anywhere to precipitate financial market discontinuities.

Can social democracies actually undertake austerity programs under duress? Or does the set-up lead to demagogues and war? We will find out soon enough!

Cynthia

Just about everything that Obama says turns out not to be true. So when Obama said that BP will pay for all the cleanup cost from its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf, what he is really saying is that BP is totally off the hook for this and the American people will be paying for BP’s mess either in the form of higher taxes or higher gas prices or a mixture of the two. Nothing has changed about Obama. He’s still deep in the pockets of Corporate America, so he’ll continue to make certain that BP’s profits remain privatized and its losses remain socialized. He’s still a Swiss pocket knife for America's most kleptocratic-crony capitalists.

And since all of the privately-owned oil companies, from Exxon to Shell to Chevron, don’t have any incentive, much less any desire, to help BP put a stop to the oil gusher in the Gulf, that leaves the publicly-owned companies, mostly ones from the BRIC countries, to step in and fill their shoes. And because Brazil’s Petrobras is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to drilling for oil in ultra-deep water, this giant oil company from Brazil most likely knows the most about how to stop oil from gushing out of a wellhead that’s 5,000 ft underwater. But now that Obama has snubbed Brazil’s tripartite agreement with Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to hand over a large part of its low-enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for a much smaller quantity of slightly higher enriched uranium, enabling Iran to produce medical isotopes, don’t be too surprised if Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, snubs Obama back by refusing to help us out in the Gulf.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNxn80LUDbg

It’s high time for the American people to wake up the ugly truth that Obama is not only a neoconservative warmonger who chooses war over peace, but he’s also a neo-liberal corporatist who chooses corporate profits over protecting our workers as well as our environment. So to describe Obama as a social democrat is just a softer way of saying that he's a corporate imperialist democrat.

Go ahead, call me a name caller of the lowest order, but do give me credit for not using profanity while engaging in name calling.;~}

Roy G

Mr. Cumming, I am in sad agreement with you, however, I am wondering how your last sentence can actually work; to me, the Gulf disaster is the tarbaby of the Reagan Republicans. They got what they wished for, self-regulating industry, without the burdensome meddling of the federal government, costing them money with burdensome safety valves and tests and whatnot. Is this not like the financial meltdown, where the profits are privatized and the losses are expected to be covered by the People? Perhaps the federal government could have done something more, but what, especially with BP lying and covering up the extent of the leak?

This oily bird should be hung around the collective necks of the Republican party, imo. My heart goes out to all the people and wildlife of the Gulf, but at the same time, this is the sad result of the juvenile 'Drill Baby Drill' mantra.

Please understand that I don't think you disagree, nor do I think we should leave the Gulf states to their own pitiful Republican leadership. This is a non-partisan issue, and I want the government to do everything in its power to help, but all the same, this is an object lesson that the Republican crowd needs to be forced to self-examine. Your thoughts?

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