At some point during the American Revolution, a frustrated British general, deep into his evening port, must have asked, "Can't these primitives understand the advantages we offer them?"
In Afghanistan today, exasperated American generals ask, "Can't these Afghans understand the advantages we offer them?"
The more things change . . .
A superb piece of reporting in Friday's Washington Post captured our self-delusion. Bewildered by the lack of local support for our efforts to "help," Gen. Stan McChrystal and his staff decided that our problems in the Taliban stronghold, Kandahar, are all about electricity shortages.
So, with the fate of our ballyhooed Kandahar offensive in doubt before it starts, the general wants to spend $200 million on generators and diesel fuel to improve the power supply.
It's a desperate ploy to make our politically correct counterinsurgency doctrine succeed: If we do nice things, the locals are supposed to rally to us and solve our problems with a minimum of violence. The only problem is that it doesn't work.
Would Kandaharis like to have more juice in their shambolic power grid? You bet. But the Eliot Spitzer Law of Foreign Affairs applies: You can't buy enduring love, just quick sex. And in Afghanistan, quick sex can get ugly.
Fiercely traditional Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban. Membership is a family affair. And Afghans don't turn against their own kind just because the lights stay on longer. We've gone from fighting the Taliban to fighting human nature.
If McChrystal -- a great soldier, but no strategist -- doesn't get it, our Kabul ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, does. He's a former general with service in Afghanistan -- and the man who warned long before others that President Hamid Karzai's corruption and incompetence meant we were headed for trouble.
According to Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Eikenberry's not against developing a better power supply -- but he's not in favor of turning quick tricks for instant gratification. He believes that any development has to be sustainable by Afghans over the long term -- and Kabul can't even provide diesel for the generators already in Kandahar.
We do it all, while insisting that our efforts will convince local Afghans that a government they despise is taking care of them. That assumes, first, that Afghans are incredibly stupid, and, second, that the backlash when Kabul fails to fuel and maintain the generators we'll purchase at outrageous prices -- or just sells them off to cronies -- won't be even worse than today's intransigence.
Eikenberry understands Afghanistan at a visceral level others just don't get. Bull-headed generals obsess about the immediate mission, but Eikenberry is willing to question the mission and the strategy behind it. That kind of intellectual integrity is exactly what we need right now -- when political correctness is killing those in uniform.
Two years ago, during an informal conversation in Eikenberry's office at NATO headquarters (he was still in uniform), he impressed me with a grasp of Afghanistan I hadn't encountered in any other senior officer. He wasn't a party-line guy, to say the least.
It would be great to see unity of command in Afghanistan, with Eikenberry in charge of both diplomacy and military operations. We've got to break the hold of those generals who can't see beyond the next helicopter ride. Fresh thinking would do more for us than fresh bribes (which is really what we're talking about in Kandahar).
As the spring fighting season develops, we'll see how robust the Taliban are this year. Meanwhile, we need to stop rationalizing away our problems and come to grips with reality. That means accepting that the Taliban have genuine and deep support among Afghanistan's largest single ethnic group, the Pashtuns.
How can we be so dismissive of an enemy who's made one of the most startling comebacks on record? Eight years ago, most Afghans thought the Taliban were finished. Now they wonder how long the Americans will last.
Power outages in Kandahar are the least of our problems.
...a frustrated British general, deep into his evening port, must have asked, "Can't these primitives understand the advantages we offer them?"
The Brits of the time were territorial imperialist who wanted to run the place that they had 'marked' as theirs through a series of wars. The intent was to reestablish control and rule over the subjects. Further, I don't recall the American colonies being a sympathetic region from which was launched a devastating attack that killed thousands of Londoners prior to the hostilities.
The Americans have no real desire to 'run' the place and it has nothing of value other than to be denied as a base of operation for those who already have demonstrated their propensity to kill. We just have to take down the problem to a level where other natural predators in the region will keep the parties too busy to bother us again.
Every now and then, congressmen (and their staffers) have a knack of taking a terrific opportunity to investigate the alleged criminality at the apex of Wall Street (such as Tuesday's hearing with Darth Blankfein), and blow it by 1) pursuing personal agendas that have nothing to do with the matter at hand and 2) having no understanding of the matter at hand. And when the matter at hand is something as complex as CDOs (just ask Lloyd or Ben Bernanke - both will tell you that only Goldman understood these products well enough to trade them, and that only the Fed is smart enough to regulate them), televised embarrassment is sure to follow. Which is why we have prepared some bedside reading for all those who intend on grilling Lloyd on Tuesday.
We start with the CDO bible which everyone should read (after all JPM created CDS - they know more about synthetics and structured products than anyone else):
In the days leading up to the dramatic late-night vote on President Barack Obama's health plan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it ' Now that ObamaCare has passed, it is slowly dawning on people what the new law means for the country and for Washington state.
ObamaCare sweeps away a host of state regulations and permanently alters our state's insurance market. From now on, the federal government will manage the health care of all Washingtonians. The 2,700-page law contains a complex web of mandates, directives, price controls, tax increases and subsidies.
Federal officials will now decide what kind of insurance people in Washington must have, what medicines will be covered, what treatments are allowed and which are not. Early reports indicate, however, that President Obama, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, senior members of Congress and leadership staff are exempt.
The new law falls well short of universal coverage. ObamaCare will leave about 6 percent of Washington residents without coverage. The measure is conservatively expected to cost $2.4 trillion in its first full decade. Thousands of older Washingtonians will lose their Medicare Advantage coverage, and the state's 120,000 Health Savings Account holders may need to buy new policies or face stiff penalties.
Washington residents will begin paying ObamaCare taxes this year, while most benefits don't start until 2014. The law includes some 19 new taxes. Here's a rundown of what Washingtonians can expect in the coming years.
Penalties on individuals. Individuals will pay a yearly penalty of $695, or up to 2.5 percent of their annual income, if they cannot show they have purchased a government-approved health policy.
Penalties on families. Families will pay a yearly penalty of $347 per child, up to $2,250 per family, if parents cannot show they have purchased a government- approved policy.
Penalties on employers. Business owners with more than 50 employees must buy government- acceptable health coverage or pay a yearly penalty of $2,000 per employee if at least one employee receives a tax credit.
Tax on investment income. ObamaCare imposes a 3.8 percent annual tax on investment income of individuals making $200,000 or more and on families making $250,000 or more. The new tax is not indexed to inflation, so more people will fall under it each year. Seniors on fixed incomes and people with IRAs and 401(k) plans will be hit particularly hard.
Tax on Cadillac' health plans. Starting in 2018, imposes a 40 percent annual tax on health care plans valued at $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.
Medicare tax increase. Requires single people earning $200,000 or more and couples earning $250,000 or more to pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes.
Tax on Home Sales. Imposes a 3.8 percent tax on home sales and other real estate transactions. Middle-income people must pay the full tax even if they are rich' for only one day the day they sell their house and buy a new one.
Tax on medical aid devices. Creates a new 2.9 percent tax on medical aid devices. Certain items intended for personal use are exempt.
Tax on tanning. Imposes a 10 percent tax on services at tanning salons. Business owners will collect the tax from customers and send it to the federal government. This appears to be the first federal sales tax in the United States.
ObamaCare will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency plans to hire 16,500 new auditors, agents and investigators, and to increase enforcement audits. The IRS can confiscate tax refunds, place liens on property and seek jail time if health-related penalties and taxes are not paid.
President Obama had said people could keep their coverage if they want, yet the Congressional Budget Office estimates that under ObamaCare 8 million to 9 million people will lose their employer-provided coverage.
The ObamaCare law passed over bipartisan opposition in Congress. Republicans say they will run on a repeal and replace' platform this fall, and Washington has joined 12 other states in a lawsuit challenging the federal government's power to force state residents to buy a product insurance from private companies. The long-term prospects of ObamaCare are unclear. In the meantime, Washingtonians should prepare for major changes in their tax burden.
Carried over to Monday. AoS.
According to estimates by The Economist, foreign banks' exposure to Greece, Portugal and Spain combined comes to 1.2 trillion. European banks have lent most of this. German banks alone account for almost a fifth of the total. (Table 2)
Realizing failure to act risks a financial meltdown, German finance minister Wolfgang Chasuble pleaded with his people and told Der Spiegel that, "We cannot allow the bankruptcy of a euro member state like Greece to turn into a second Lehman Brothers...Greece's debts are all in euros, but it isn't clear who holds how much of those debts. The consequences of a national bankruptcy would be incalculable."
Worries about Greece's widening deficit and has contributed to a 7.2% slide in the euro this year and sent ominous ripples across a stagnant European economy.
The proposed pact would cost EU members--almost all of them facing onerous debts already--additional 30bn ($40bn, £26bn) of debt. More bailouts could be expected with other highly indebted PIIGS nations waiting in the wing.
This no doubt will damage the euro's prestige, and will inevitably increase their debt burden, and further weaken the euro. Eventually, Greece might still default and the entire euro zone will likely face higher interest spread, and so the vicious debt & risk cycle would commence again.
Didn't we already hear the whine "Too Big to Fall"?
Or is this, "If we go down, we'll take you with us"?
Either should be a good reason to start shooting Bankers.
Start with CEO's and go down from there, Tellers are exempt.
Posted by: Redneck Jim ||
04/25/2010 20:36 Comments ||
Headline might be better as: "Greek Crisis: Too Big To Fail 2.0"
Since the end of World War II, the overriding premise of American grand strategy has been that if we as a country want peace and prosperity at home, we must have a military sufficiently dominant to deter major threats, police the international commons, and, when necessary, win the wars we wage. Although not cheap, such a strategy provided the underpinning for six decades of remarkable prosperity and success all across the globe.
The total defense budget has increased since 2001 only in the sense that the country paid for fighting two extended wars. The core defense budgetthe cost of raising, training, and equipping the militaryhas barely grown. As a percentage of the GDP, the core defense budget has risen from 3 percent in 2000 to 3.5 percent today, with much of that change coming from increases in personnel and health costs associated with an all-volunteer force.
The president's proposed budgets call for an ever-increasing piece of the federal pie to go to domestic programs and a decreasing amount to national defense. The Obama administration has already flattened out the defense budget this year, while domestic spending has exploded; in last year's stimulus, virtually every federal program got significant additional money except defense. We have today an aging and shrinking Air Force and Navy, an Army that is overstretched, reserve forces that are far too "active" in their rate of deployment, and too few dollars to rebuild and modernize. And if the Obama domestic agenda is implemented, discretionary funds available to fund those who "fight our country's battles/ In the air, on land, and sea" will shrink to a level at which maintaining the dominant military we have become accustomed to since the end of the Cold War will almost certainly be a thing of the past. Indeed, the Obama administration's projected budgets have the defense burden shrinking to less than 3 percent of GDP in the decade ahead. A level not seen since before World War II.
It's far from clear that the U.S. military can withstand another eight years of flat or declining budgets and remain the preeminent global force it is today, continuing to spare us the costs that come with a world in which there is increasing anarchy and less order as American military power recedes.
Posted by: No I am the other Beldar ||
04/26/2010 13:22 ||
Top|| File under:
... and health costs associated with an all-volunteer force.
Not to mention that like all government programs, the percentage of retirees is growing into a major portion of DoD health care. Tricare Prime payments which were levied to cover some of that expanding expense haven't increased in the last decade though demand on services has. Although, delayed compensation for poor pay in the 70s and early 80s was part of the sell on the side of the government, like states and other pension programs, the boys playing with the books and budget never really got around to committing what was necessary to cover future costs to include DoD medical commitments. Now DoD is doing its best to off load as much as the program as possible though various referral processes that features all the things people were warned about with Obamacare. It is the canary in the mine.
ION TOPIX > [South AFrican Communist Party] SACP: CAPITALISM A CHALLENGE. PERENNIAL + DISSATISFYING, as it has proven over decades + generations unable to meet or satisfy the needs of ordinary South Africans, Minorities, + World Humanity at large.
"sometimes it is a very extreme translation (thats the scary part, the radicals that believe that Westerners should die)"
Unfortunately these motherfuckers seem to be supported by the moderates and doubly unfortunate they're in a suburb near everyone.
Posted by: Sir Victor Emmanuel Glomomble IV ||
04/26/2010 10:23 Comments ||
From what I understand it is a feature of the Koran that promotes violence against infidels (anyone but muslims), intolerance towards other religions and women. So making fun of something that upholds these things is a tool against it; PC is useless.
Editor's Note: When U.S.-Israel relations hit a rough patch, there are those who quickly blame Israel for America's difficulties abroad. Israel has outrageously been blamed for endangering American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and erroneously been blamed for preventing the formation of an Arab coalition to work with the US to contain Iran. While we recognize, as Gen. Petraeus did, that American support for Israel is used by our adversaries to foment anti-Americanism, we also recognize that the important countries of the region won't like us any better if we shed Israel as an ally. They will wonder how quickly we will shed THEM when they are inconvenient. The correct response to those who denigrate the U.S.-Israel relationship, is to note that Israel is a friend by virtue of shared civic and political values and a security asset upon which the United States can rely.
For nearly 30 years, JINSA has been taking recently retired American Admirals and Generals to Israel to better understand the threats Israel faces, the resources it brings to its own defense and ways in which the U.S. and Israel can cooperate on common security issues. Their understanding of the role of Israel is in the ad below. JINSA is working to place the ad in newspapers (Jewish and other) around the country to ensure that Americans (Jewish and other) hear these voices.
I haven't seen the ad, which suggests newspapers have been rejecting it. Or am I becoming cynical?
A peek into the minds of those Arabs who are neither old-fashioned Arab national or trans-national socialists nor modern radical Arab Islamo-fascists. Herewith some thoughts on President Obama's impact on the future of the region.
Current US peace proposals are just as alarming to Jordan as would be any regional war
A Russian newspaper recently revealed that NATO's secretary-general asked Jordan to help train an army that is being rebuilt in a major area of NATO operations -- quite a recommendation of Jordan's military prowess. But Jordan remains more devoted to peace than war, as the Jordanian king told The Chicago Tribune a few days ago.
Asked about the impact of Iran's nuclear ambitions, King Abdullah II said that countries as small as his cannot think of having a military nuclear programme. He then went on to urge peace in the region.
Continued on Page 49
In addition, Jordan has more Palestinian refugees than any other country in the region: three million in total and 1.7 million from Gaza and the West Bank alone, according to a report by UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency).
The land used to form the kingdom of Jordan used to be Palestine!
How can the Palis be "refugees" when they have never moved anywhere?
Gaza used to be part of Egypt before it was lost in the 1967 war. So those Gazan "refugees" are really Egyptian, not Palestinian.
Posted by: Mike Hunt ||
04/26/2010 20:26 Comments ||
I'm all for the right-of-return so long as the Jews are able to return to their land in the Arab countries they were thrown out of at the same time.
Posted by: Mike Hunt ||
04/26/2010 20:29 Comments ||
Why on earth would Israeli Jews want to move back to the lands of their dhimmitude, Mike? To visit, certainly. To be reimbursed for that which had been theirs, often for millenia, ok. But to live as a minority in the midst of those who'd driven them out, and hated them for returning? I don't think so, I really don't.
Next, scientist will revive the Ptolemaic model of the universe, demanding grant monies to fund computer models that will show its true! Cause the universe must fit the religiously ordained model! All else is heresy. Go to your room Galileo.
I should say current distortions and politicization of science makes my brain hurt. Yes, I taught engineering for 25 years.
I was just teasing, John dear. They make my brain hurt, too, and I took only an intro engineering class once. The professor demonstrated conclusively that engineers are born, not made, so I eventually became a housewife instead. Those who drive across bridges or put gasoline in their vehicles know not how much reason they have to be grateful to that man.
The reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs was likely an evolutionary change in plants that allowed them to utilize CO2 at lower concentrations. Hence lowering the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, perhaps dramatically and in evolutionary terms, extremely rapidly.
This point illustrates that most scientists, who are specialists in narrow fields, know no more about most aspects of science than the average person here at the Burg. And many know considerably less than a reasonably well educated person. A point completely lost on the MSM, who assume every scientists is an expert on all aspects of science.
Re #5: Technically, one is not supposed to sell himself as an engineer or call himself an engineer unless a P.E
John, so what do you call the person who drives a train?
Posted by: Rambler in Virginia ||
04/26/2010 19:16 Comments ||
Something about Evolution has bothered me for years and I have no idea how to find out.
Can anyone tell me just about when the oceans became too salty to drink?
I know that fish have an ability to expell salt, their blood is less salty than sea water, (You will find that fish need salting when you dine on them)so wouldn't this be a severe change cause a huge die off?
Posted by: Redneck Jim ||
04/26/2010 19:22 Comments ||
Technically, one is not supposed to sell himself as an engineer or call himself an engineer unless a P.E
I'd call a person who operates a train an engineer. I'd call myself an engineer just not a P.E. I have occasionally seen state licensing board come down very heavy on non-licensed engineers for calling themselves engineers. I know a lot of people who have never been to college who are better engineers than many who are hold degrees. I know a Ph.D. type engineer who is a nationally certified accident reconstructionist (former student) who was taken to task by a P.E. in the court system for not being a P.E. The accident reconstructionist had to show reasons to the state board why he should not be taken to task and fined for practicing without a license. He got it straightened out but with some effort. The P.E. didn't know $hit about accident reconstruction but he was a P.E. with a chip on his shoulder. The P.E. didn't have the qualifications for the case and most likely he was trying to deflect attention away from his ineptitude. I think we have come to a place in our society where we are requiring an "over-credentialization" of just about any field. i think it is mostly an effort to limit the field in the workplace. I can remember a friend of my father over in Arkansas in the 1960s. He was a self-taught attorney. He never went to law school. Good lawyer. He just had trouble staying out of the bottle a little too much.
The endpoint of central planning, if not outright failure, is a much deeper and more intractable division of society into haves and have-nots. After promising a better world for everyone, the progressives will end up creating a society that is more polarized than ever.
Keep this firmly in mind, because youll see it first in stories that middle-income people are somehow having more and more trouble just affording the necessities of life. This is an unstoppable treadmill leading downward. Theres something very deeply wrong when ordinary necessities like food, shelter and healthcare need to be subsidized for millions of people. It means their own productivity isnt adequate to provide for their needs. It means that economic progress is going backward. And it means that resources are being concentrated in fewer hands, rather than being spread more broadly. This is the crushing, bitter irony of Obamas belief that we should spread the wealth.
And were already seeing everywhere, from David Brooks to Noam Chomsky, the signs of how the elites will have to deal with the polarization: by loudly proclaiming in their captive media that the have-nots are stupid and, eventually, evil.
In a way, the muzzling of "South Park" is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions' cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. It's no worse than the German opera house that temporarily suspended performances of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" because it included a scene featuring Muhammad's severed head. Or Random House's decision to cancel the publication of a novel about the prophet's third wife. Or Yale University Press's refusal to publish the controversial Danish cartoons ... in a book about the Danish cartoon crisis. Or the fact that various Western journalists, intellectuals and politicians -- the list includes Oriana Fallaci in Italy, Michel Houellebecq in France, Mark Steyn in Canada and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands -- have been hauled before courts and "human rights" tribunals, in supposedly liberal societies, for daring to give offense to Islam. so you think he is ready to end the column with a punch
This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that "bravely" trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.
Happily, today's would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn't Weimar Germany, and Islam's radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy. unfortunately, the islamic supremicists are not just a radical fringe and they are an existential enemy but maybe not in the columnists neighborhood
For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there's enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe or the same foe after it has grown incrementally
might be able to bring them crashing down.
This is why they also fear the Tea Party and engage in outrageous extremes in defining it and attributing non-existent violence with it. They're cowards who'd fold if it did come to something serious and real, and their 'thugs' couldn't stop it.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.