« 4 december 2016 in Aleppo | Main | The emergence of a competent syrian Army »

04 December 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


An argument about the importance of the intelligence briefings:

"The risks of neglecting the intelligence aspect of preparation for the presidency are grave. History shows numerous examples of failed crisis management during presidential transitions."


"that cannot compete against US high-tech agriculture."

What they can't compete against is the absolutely massive subsidies paid to American farmers by the govt. When the US balances it's budget a discussion about how competitive the US really is can finally happen.

robt willmann

J, TTG, pl,

For Gen. James Mattis (ret.) to be confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Defense, it looks as if a new law will have to be passed by Congress from scratch. Title 10, United States Code, sections 113(a) and (b) say--

"Section 113. Secretary of Defense
(a) There is a Secretary of Defense, who is the head of the Department of Defense, appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

(b) The Secretary is the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to the Department of Defense. Subject to the direction of the President and to this title and section 2 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 3002) he has authority, direction, and control over the Department of Defense."


The change from a 10 year gap to 7 was made during the George W. Bush (jr) administration, in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, in section 903 of Public Law 110-181, signed on January 28, 2008--

"Sec. 903. Change in Eligibility Requirements for Appointment to Department of Defense Leadership Positions.
(a) Secretary of Defense.—Section 113(a) of title 10, United States Code, is amended by striking '10' and inserting 'seven'. (b) Deputy Secretary of Defense.—Section 132(a) of such title is amended by striking 'ten' and inserting 'seven'. (c) Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.—Section 134(a) of such title is amended by striking '10' and inserting 'seven'."

Since a new law will have to be passed and it will not be a vote on the nomination itself, the change in the Senate filibuster rule that allows a simple majority vote to confirm presidential appointees except for the U.S. Supreme Court will not apply. That should mean that to pass a law creating an exception for Mattis, the Senate vote on the "waiver" might have to beat a filibuster, which in turn could require 60 votes to block a filibuster through a vote on "cloture" and get the nomination brought up for a vote on the confirmation--


Here is a 15-page article from the Congressional Research Service entitled "Senate Consideration of Presidential Nominations: Committee and Floor Procedure". Pdf pages 12-13 get down to brass tacks about getting the nomination placed for an actual up or down vote--


The following useful article, by the same author, is "Majority Cloture for Nominations: Implications and the 'Nuclear' Proceedings", written after the change in the filibuster procedure in the Senate--


With these two articles cited above, you can get an understanding of the tricky process in the Senate involved in getting a presidential nomination confirmed or a law passed.


As soon as you start slapping on protective tariffs the trade war is on. Maybe the US can win that, however you want to define winning, but it is one hell of a gamble. Your first problem is that American companies are going to fight it tooth and nail and the business side of the Republican party is going to do what business tells them to do. So your not going to start with a united front.

In a massive trade war the multinationals will be the ones to get hurt the worst, those would be mostly American companies. Add to that, there is only one country that wants the US to win a trade war.

But if that is what Americans want I encourage them to do it.


After Renzi's defeat last night this article on conflictsforum seems to sum it up the Western mood perfectly.
( He comes to the defence of old whites as well!)


robt willmann

A clarification. I kind of lumped together the probable need to beat a filibuster to get a new law passed to allow Mattis to be eligible to be Secretary of Defense, and the confirmation vote itself. It looks to me at this time that the law to create a waiver will have to overcome the possibility of a filibuster in order to get passed in the Senate. With a Republican majority in the House and no filibuster rule there, it would easily pass the House. Trump would sign the special waiver bill into law. Then, the regular confirmation process in the Senate would proceed to try to confirm Mattis. As the articles indicate, there can still be ways for the nomination to be stalled or stopped in the Senate.

Trump obviously is trying to grease the skids to get his appointments and proposals through the Senate by having appointed Elaine Chao to be the Secretary of Transportation. She is the wife of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (Repub. Kentucky), who is majority leader because the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. Elaine Chao was the Secretary of Labor when Bush jr was president.


global hegemony=realistic
multi-polar global power structure=utopian


As to what I think Trump should do about Russia's budding relationships with China and Iran -- look busy.

From my readings during the past 2+ years on water scarcity and related issues, I'd say that China and Iran are dying.

Half of Iran is now desert. And just last month Iran's government publicly conceded what was already known to water scientists, which is that more than 90 percent of the country's water reserves have been depleted. (1)

China has 20 percent of the world's population but only 7 percent of the fresh water. China's officials will admit to 400 cities that now face a water shortage and 110 that have a severe water shortage. So the true numbers are probably much higher. Recently a city of 200,000 in Gansu Province ran completely out of water.(2)

And desertification is on the march in China, which is now 20 percent desert. The huge urbanization schemes emptied the countrysides of people, leaving the land to the desert. Too late Beijing realized what was happening and then transferred many city dwellers back to the country to battle the desert.(3)

Bottom line: There aren't enough people in China to both support its export-centered industrial base and fight the onslaught of desertification. But even if the government could return enough people from the cities to the rural areas the returnees would quickly drain the dwindling water resources.

IMO the worst of the catastrophe is that it's the cities themselves that have been killing China. It's the vast infrastructures; building and maintaining them gulps many times the water than the city inhabitants require.

As to solutions -- for various reasons no amount of dams and water reclamation, transfers, diversions and conservation, or desalination schemes, can work for any more than a few small regions, or the solutions create new sets of problems.

It's too late to save those countries. So what's going to happen to them? What's already been happening. In one word, "dispersal." The governments have been quietly dispersing large numbers of their populations to other countries. In the case of Iran, the dispersals are to Iraq, and now Syria. They've also been dispersed in smaller numbers to other parts of the Middle East, including Lebanon.

In the case of China, OBOR and thousands of Chinese development projects around the world transfer large numbers of Chinese to live and work in other countries. And Beijing sends large numbers of Chinese abroad to study.

Internally, many Chinese have been dispersed to more remote regions of the Mainland, such as Tibet. They've also been smuggling Han Chinese who pose as Tibetan Buddhists into Ladakh, India. The situation got so out of control that finally the Indian Army stationed tanks along the border in Ladakh in the effort to keep the incursions down to a dull roar.

The Chinese have been doing the same in Nepal and paying the basket-case government to look the other way. And Beijing has had its eyes on Siberia. (Moscow is aware of this.)

All the above barely sketches the reasons that water-related catastrophes are overtaking China and Iran.

But I'm less concerned about China and Iran and an emerging strategic triangle between those countries and Russia than I am that to my knowledge not a single person with a public platform anywhere in the world has asked, "Where is Trump getting the water to build a wall along the US-Mexico border?" (4, 5)

Despite all the publicity given during the past two years to drought and water crises, the world's water calendar still reads 1955. "World" to include US military.

(1) http://ncr-iran.org/en/news/economy/21450-half-of-iran-has-turned-info-desert-official-acknowledges

(2) http://www.marketplace.org/2016/04/21/world/warning-parched-china-city-runs-out-water

(3) http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/chinas-deserts-taking-over-as-they-expand-into-vast-sea-of-sand/

(4) http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/colorado-river-mexico-water-sharing-trump-231811

(5) https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/industrial-expansion-will-strain-mexicos-water-resources

Babak Makkinejad

That is what I keep on asking myself; why does US wish to contain China or Iran; both countries are going to so conveniently die out.


Yes. But I suspect that the military has the year 2025 circled on the calendar as to when they'll have to deal with the fallout from water crises. From a video I saw recently, the military is preparing for an apocalyptic world -- sort of the Mad Max scenario, with complete lawlessness, as billions of desperate Climate Change refugees descend on cities that have water supplies left.

As to why 2025, I think that was the year Global Warmists said the Apocalypse would descend if humanity didn't get carbon emissions under control. Something like that.

But it's not happening the way anyone imagined. The most immediate threat crept up on humanity's blind side. People were looking at the atmosphere, not at the groundwater beneath their feet because they couldn't see it.

Then one day about two years ago some scientists read the data from the amazing GRACE satellite system, which peers deep into the earth, and said (paraphrasing), 'Oh. My. God.'

Then they had to break the news to governments the world over that everyone had wildly overestimated the amount of groundwater left.

Nobody's really ready yet to face all the implications.


"He will try to pull Russia and China apart..."
He will try to find a way to work with both
to the greater prosperity of all three.
It will not be difficult to do.
Why do the "realist" commentators here keep trying to pigeon-hole
Trump into yesterday's paradigms?



The foreign policy establishment is "the borg" not our host. Perhaps that is not clear in the academic version of English you are accustomed to using.


I agree with you about a turn toward basic principles and spiritual theory. I also agree with the old Protestant saying, "Pray, but row away from the rocks."

Re the situation for the USA -- due to the California drought, which woke up many Americans about water issues, the USA has a fighting chance to avoid China's fate, if only because the USA is such a vast country with many climates.

However, most Americans (I'd guess with the exception of Californians) are still a long way from developing what I'd call water consciousness or awareness; i.e., learning to ask "How much water does it cost?" in the way we ask how much money something costs.

My immediate concern is that I've seen no evidence that the incoming Trump administration has this water awareness; I find that troubling because they are planning to bring a great deal of manufacturing back to the USA and launch huge development projects all over the United States.

They don't seem to be taking into account that during America's manufacturing heyday in the 1950s the US human/livestock populations were much smaller, and most cities were a fraction of the size they are today.

In short, water awareness is still not manifesting very much at the institutional levels. And yet the California drought taught that development must now be assessed first and foremost against water capacity. Not at the federal or for the most part state levels are these assessments being done in any more than a cursory manner -- and sometimes not at all. Some US states still have no water management policies -- none.

So one can go down the list of countries with zero to awful water management and find parallels in the USA (and Europe).

And many development plans in the US represent 'pork' projects -- members of Congress lobbying for their state or district to receive business, but with no thought to how the increased water demands affect nearby regions. The rampant growth of Atlanta, Georgia is a textbook example.

The good news is that scientists and engineers across many different disciplines are now making tremendous strides toward learning what good water management really entails. However, no amount of such management can alone save a country, even the USA, in an era when megacities are being built to house megapopulations. We have to start confronting the fact that urbanization needs to be reversed in many places.

The only person in a national leadership position who clearly understood this decades ago was Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But nobody outside Thailand wanted to listen to him because everybody knew the future was big cities, not villages.

I think many development specialists are now seeing that he was right, although it's a little late in the day.

But there's a photograph of King Bhumibol I often recall. It was taken during the days when he was personally inspecting every village in Thailand, even the remotest. The task before him, to find a way to save his country from a communist insurgency, seemed impossible at the time.

He's walking through open countryside, his camera slung on a strap around his neck, a map clutched in his hand. He's completely focused on the task of walking, carefully putting one foot in front of the other as he strides along.

If you want to know exactly how he did the impossible, here is a present for you.


He had only one eye -- lost the other in a car accident. So talk about a metaphor. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man was indeed a king.

The Twisted Genius


Appreciate your comments on the state of fresh water usage by modern societies and the links to the King Bhumibol documentary. That was fascinating. When our DOD talks about climate change being a major threat, I think they are including the shrinking of fresh water reserves as a major part of that threat. Clearly this goes beyond climate change. As you point out, our wanton misuse of our fresh water reserves could very well lead to our doom long before any other effects of climate change.


I'm glad you found it interesting and were able to watch the documentary. And yes, this goes beyond climate change.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad