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The Left’s Obamacare Debacle Denialists

Obamacare launch in 3...2...1....d'oh.

Obamacare launch in 3…2…1….d’oh.

Many of my liberal friends are apparently quite happy to live in an alternate reality.

In this reality, the Obamacare rollout is going just great; the issues are simple ‘glitches’ that can easily be remedied.  And of course, none of this will have repercussions to the larger program, nor will the public be turned off by the apparent hiccup.

Yeah, it must be nice living in that world…because the real world is not so great.

See this story from Oregon:

Is the Affordable Health Care Act making health care unaffordable for some people?

Some customers of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of Oregon’s largest insurance providers, say that’s exactly what’s happening. They say they are finding their health care plans are dramatically changing under the Affordable Care Act.

“Policy holders are seeing almost double their monthly premiums,” said a KATU viewer named Larry in an email. He said his wife’s premium will increase by $300 under the Affordable Care Act.

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox says most insurance plans that focus on lower premiums and higher deductibles will be replaced by plans with lower deductibles and higher benefits.

Or this story from Illinois:

The Tribune‘s Peter Frost found that a typical user in the system — a 33-year-old single father in this case — would see his premiums “more than double” from the current average of $233 a month. But if the single dad wants his premiums to remain in range, he’ll need to sign up for an annual deductible of $12,700. The average deductible before ObamaCare for this consumer would have been $3,500.

You will note I specifically chose states which are run by Democrats, where the states set up their own exchanges, and everything is going as Democrats planned.

If this is success, I would hate to see failure.  I would assume that ‘failure’ scenario has zombies and floods of lava involved.

Oh, but it gets worse.  In a post on the liberal blogging site the Daily Kos, a long time diarist posted his new reality…of much higher premium costs.

My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150. We have a high deductible. We are generally healthy people who don’t go to the doctor often. I barely ever go. The insurance is in case of a major catastrophe.

Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife’s rate is gong to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284.

I am canceling insurance for us and I am not paying any $#%#^# penalty. What the hell kind of reform is this?

If you take a look, be sure to read the comments section.  It is riddled with hate filled rants about how this poster is idea a GOP plant, a troll, or a liar.  A few helpful commenters told others to hold back the attacks until they knew the facts…to no avail.

This is pretty common in the left-wing bubble these days.  Many liberals have convinced themselves that there is no possible way Obamacare could fail.  They simply have faith that Obama could not be that incompetent.

It is almost a religious level of fervor.

To be sure, there are a couple liberal commentators that are facing the hard truths of this big government failure. Robert Gibbs, former Communication director, had this to say:

“This was excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“This was bungled badly. This was not a server problem, like too many people came to the website. This was a website architecture problem.”

“When they get this fixed, I hope they fire some people…”

A glowing endorsement, indeed.

Ezra Klein, Washington Post blogger and longtime Obamacare aficionado, was even more harsh; and even better, it is while he was on MSNBC:

“The way this I.P. is going is a disaster, I really don’t think people should soft pedal what a bad launch this is. They’ve done a terrible job on this website,” Klein said on Monday’s Morning Joe.“We’re a couple of weeks in and people can’t sign up, people have tried 20, 30, 40 times, I mean it’s one thing for that to be true the first three or four days, it’s another thing for it to be true two or three weeks in.”

Klein went on to say this in his blog:

So far, the Affordable Care Act’s launch has been a failure. Not “troubled.” Not “glitchy.” A failure. But “so far” only encompasses 14 days. The hard question is whether the launch will still be floundering on day 30, and on day 45.

Kudos to Klein and Gibbs for…facing glaringly obvious reality.

This is fundamentally the problem when you create a big government solution to a large-scale problem.  When you create such a program, facts be damned; success is about political victory, not necessarily making the lives of Americans better. And if facts get in the way of that, ignore the facts.  It is frightening how many otherwise rational liberals have totally deluded themselves into believe that Obamacare is a guaranteed success, when nothing can be farther from the truth.

Furthermore, there is no culpability in big government.  In most private ventures, a failure of a $600 million program to meet its most basic goals would result in a demand for and ultimately receipt of a resignation.  What are the chances of Obama demanding HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to resign, and her submitting her resignation?  Slim to none.  Because in government, you can do no wrong.

Today, most Democrats are oblivious to the realities that Gibbs and Klein are stating.  They still believe Obamacare is the bait-and-switch sale job that Obama sold to them in 2010.  They are still under the illusion this is a plan that will cover everyone (it will not), will reduce the debt (the CBO and GAO say that those cuts are less and less likely), and that it will cut the average American family’s premiums by $2,500 (always a joke, now proven to be a joke).

But self-delusion is a powerful thing.  And although a majority of Americans now see Obamacare as damaging to their well-being, liberals appear to be willing to go down fighting, to defend a reality that simply doesn’t exist.

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Government Shutdown: An Economic and Policy Analysis: Google Hangout

With Washington entering the 16th day of the government shutdown, the economic and social impacts continue to grow. What will it take for the government to open its doors? What is the best solution on the table? How does the fiscal cliff play into this? Do you think the proposed solution will pass through Congress & how will it impact society?

Join political media strategist James Kotecki as he moderates a discussion with policy & economic experts about the shutdown. He’ll be joined by Stan Veuger (American Enterprise Institute), Pradheep Shanker (Conservative Union Community on Google+), and CJ Guest (Sensible Politics Community on Google+).

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Get The Focus Back On Obamacare

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OK, now that we are arriving at the end game for the government shutdown, we need to once again find our bearings.

Many conservative commentators want to point fingers, say this person or that did or did not do damage to the GOP cause, etc. etc..

What a complete waste of time and effort.

I find the blame game to be worthwhile only in teaching us what we can do better next time.  And in that line of thought, I personally do my blaming behind closed doors.  Airing our dirty laundry for others to later use against us is a level of stupidity I simply cannot understand.  Yes, mistakes were made.  Yes, we could have done better and should do better.  But bad talking our own team in the public does none of us any good.

In the weeks to come, I am sure the media and Democrats will try to maintain the public focus on the government shutdown.  This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans barely knew there was a shutdown, nor really cared that much.  The polling that the media likes to repeat over and over again showing poor support for the GOP strategy also consistently shows the public largely didn’t think this episode was all that relevant to their daily lives.  Surprise, surprise.

The biggest drawback to the timing of the defunding maneuver and government shutdown was it took the media spotlight off the debacle of the Obamacare exchange website rollout.  Our entire focus should be on that issue for the next few months.

Our job is to get the focus back on the issues that matter.  In the short-term, that is the Obamacare rollout.

Obama will do what he always does:  he will try to distract. Maybe it will be gun control, maybe some abortion issue, I have no idea.  But he usually flashes some shiny object at conservatives, and we jump at it.

We need to keep our eye on the ball.  No shiny objects, no ‘SQUIRREL!’ moments.

The website disaster is only the tip of the iceberg.  The website itself will likely not be fully functional for months, if then.  Then, early in 2014, the deadlines for IRS penalties come quickly, as everyone must have proof of insurance by February 14th.  How this is going to occur with the current website dysfunction, nobody in the administration can answer.

Then, to compound matters, the sticker shock is starting to resonate.  Average Americans are seeing extraordinary premium costs, on top of decreased access and higher deductibles . To be sure, some people are seeing lower costs, primarily from the large subsidies the Federal Government is providing.  But these are not the people who matter; most of these people are actually going to end up in the Medicaid system.

The people who really matter, that the CBO and others state MUST buy insurance to make this system work, are young people, with young families.  Their insurance rates on average are going to be significantly higher than before.  These are the people who the GOP must listen to, hear their cries for help, and then allow their message to resonate to the rest of America.

So let whatever deal is going to happen on the shutdown come sooner rather than later.  And then, we can focus on the grand incompetence that is the Affordable Care Act.

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A Happy Conservative’s Thoughts On The Shutdown

kermit waving arms

 

A few random pontifications on the government shutdown.

  • I for one think politically speaking, this is going much better than I could have predicted. I was supportive of the defund strategy, but thought it would all fall  apart in the first few minutes of a actual shutdown.  Give credit where credit is due:  Ted Cruz et al may have started this, but John Boehner is the one keeping the caucus together, against moderate threats like Peter King.
  • Where do we go from here?  I think it is pretty clear it will take another cliff to get both sides together, for a simple reason:  the government shutdown has not been very painful.  There is no motivation for either side to compromise right now.  Sure, the polls show a slightly larger portion of the population blames the GOP, but nowhere near the numbers of the 1995 shutdown. That is bad news for Obama. However, Obama is still under the illusion that this is a repeat of 1995, as are his West Wing advisors.  Until that view changes, we are on lockdown.
  • The next bump in the road:  the debt ceiling.  I think for all sides, that is far more important than this shutdown.  Default clearly would cause more repercussions than anything occurring today.
  • Be prepared for an unsatisfying end to this.  There is no way the GOP wins on all its points.  However, even a partial win by the GOP should be considered an achievement, considering the make up of D.C. today.  If we can get the medical device tax repealed, or something along the lines of the Vitter amendment, along with some other cost savings, I would be content.
  • The one negative of the shutdown?  The diluted news coverage of the debacle that has been the Obamacare startup.  The Feds are searching frantically for good news, and the best they can come up with is web hits.  Sorry, but that is about as useless a barometer as I can imagine.  Now, show me number of people who actually signed up for insurance, and then we can talk.  The most successful exchanges have signed up a few thousand customers; some have not signed up a single person yet, two days into this process.
  • So far, the Obama people have failed in finding any victims to point to in order to villify Republicans, but they did a pretty good job in creating victims to villify Obama.  The silliness at the World War II Memorial was about as stupid a political move as one can imagine.  And don’t doubt for a second that some political appointee reading Alinsky Rules didn’t make this decision.  No such barricades were placed during the Clinton-Gingrich shutdown, for example.  No, this was calculated, and it blew up in their collective faces.
  • Harry Reid compounded the Democrat debacle yesterday, when asked why the Senate wouldn’t try to help “one child who has cancer” by approving a mini-spending bill, he shot back: “Why would we want to do that?”  Reid spent the rest of the day trying to explain why this didn’t imply he wanted kids to die.  The House has twice passed funding bills to keep NIH and other essential services open.  If the media was actually nonpartisan, this would have a political impact.  We will see how much this story plays out.
  • As for tactics:  First, understand thy enemy.  Liberals are basically in the ‘Kermit the Frog hand flailing’ mode now.  Why?  I have had many conservatives ask this, and I thought it was blatantly obvious:  for liberals, shutdown of the Federal government is like taking away their oxygen.  You must understand that for many of them, their core ideological belief is that the government is the end all, be all of human existence. Life without a large, bureaucratic government overseeing their daily lives is unthinkable.
  • I suggest conservatives try to show sympathy for the furloughed government workers and others suffering from the shutdown.  I understand the hatred for big government, but many of these people are simply caught up in this, and are paying a price for the stupidity of our political leadership.  Be neighborly; help out any friends that are struggling. I have had friends that are Veterans, and some of their benefits have been cut.  Conservatives care about these things, and we should be the first to help and aid these people, and not revel in any of their misery.  This sympathy for fellow Americans does not mean inherently mean we should change our strategy; short term pain is one thing, long term good of the country is another.
  • Conservatives on the other hand need to react to these angry liberals in one, simple fashion:  Don’t worry, be happy.  Look, this is our ideal!  We have a government that is funding defense, and little other extraneous spending.  Doesn’t mean we support the level of spending that is occurring right now, but we can’t complain much about it either.  Be the happy warriors that Reagan used to talk about. We have little to lose, and a lot to win.  And unfortunately, many of these spending programs will be starting up sooner than we would like anyway.
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Obama’s ‘ALL IS WELL!’ World View

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On Tuesday, Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, and made some of the following comments:

“The world is more stable now than it was five years ago.”

“Just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share,” he said.

“As a result of this work and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago,” he added.

Obama did note, however, that “dangers remain.”

“Even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain,” Obama said. “In Kenya we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected. In Pakistan nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church. In Iraq killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.”

“Meanwhile, al-Qaida has splintered into regional networks and militias which doesn’t give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but it does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.”

Now, he did acknowledge there are dangers.  Bully for him.  But the rest of this world vision simply is a level of self-delusion that is not just amusing for his opponents and our enemies on the world stage, but is in fact quite dangerous.

Let us take a case by case look at the world, shall we?

Afghanistan:  Almost twice as many American military personnel have died in that country under Barack Obama’s 4+ years than during Bush’s 7 years of  over seeing that war.  The government has largely distanced itself from its American counterparts, and to varying degrees has aligned itself with Iran and Pakistan.  The Taliban is resurgent, and simply are waiting for the inevitable Obama announcement for exiting the war all together.

Pakistan:  This critical nation is more destabilized now than ever.  The political situation is tenuous, and our relations with them continue to reach all-time new lows.

Iran:  Iran inches toward nuclear weapons, a clear goal if there ever was one.  We missed an opportunity during the Green revolution in 2009, and such a chance will be unlikely to come again.

Iraq:  The country for which Obama has the least historical responsibility, but things are not going well here.  Violence has escalated, almost close to the levels of the civil war of 2006.  And because we withdrew from the Bush-era force agreement, we have no leverage there, as Iraq, like Syria before it, starts to become a proxy state for the Iranians.

Syria:  The biggest, most glaring hole in Obama’s claim.  100,000 Syrians have died during the two-year civil war, and tens of thousands more will die before the war is over.

Israel/Palestine:  The peace process has been dead as a doornail, with neither side even approaching the negotiation table.

Egypt:  After Syria, maybe the next most glaring example of failure.  Violence has been rampant all year, as the Muslim Brotherhood was pushed out of the democratic process.  Ever since Obama helped displace Mubarak from the leadership, Egypt has been in a slow death spiral.  Now, ironically, it looks like only the Egyptian military, from which Mubarak himself originated, can save the country.

Libya:  We helped oust Qadhafi, and ever since, it has been a failed state.  The central government controls less than 1/3 of the nation. Islamists control the rest. Many of the weapons we sent to the rebels has been used in other Islamist conflicts through out Africa, the most prominent being the Mali civil war.

Russia: Outside of the Middle East, the biggest diplomatic failure.  We are closer to a new Cold War than we have been since 1991.  Putin has no respect or love for Obama, and opposes him at every turn.

Al Qaeda/Islamic terrorists;  Probably deserves its own category.  Whether you are discussing Yemen, Kenya, or elsewhere, the death of Osama Bin Laden has done little if anything to stop the generational war that Islamists continue to fight, whether we admit it or not.

Simply put, no rational analysis of the world situation can result in thinking the world is more stable today than five years ago.  We can argue whether this is Obama’s fault or not, whether this is a historical trend we are swimming against, whether this all the fault of George W. Bush, or maybe the fault of Aliens.  But in short…Obama’s view is simply delusional.  There is no other way to describe it.

 

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John McCain: Goodbye, And Thanks For All The Fish

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I own a shirt very much like the one above.  Yes, I campaigned for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.  I blogged and worked hard for his election, even knowing that the reality made it highly unlikely.  I defended all of his past mistakes and bad behavior, and in the end…we got pummeled.

Now, I don’t mind getting pummeled.  The litany of campaigns that I could name that were hopeless causes runs a mile.  I can live with picking a candidate, fighting, and losing proudly.

But I am honestly ashamed of my voting for John McCain.  I am sure many of you feel the same way.  Pretty sure the entire state of Arizona is feeling somewhat like that as well, this morning.

McCain had long ago jumped the shark, and after than, he nuked the fridge, and yesterday, he he nuked the shark with a fridge or something.  In comments following Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21 hour Senate floor speech, McCain could only revert to being his smarmy, irritating, old codger self.  No, he couldn’t hand out any praise, or even simply keep his mouth shut.  No, the old crotchety Cold War warrior had to make his normally stupid remarks.

McCain also recalled the 2009-2010 debate over Obamacare — before Cruz was elected to the Senate — saying “the people spoke” on the issue when they reelected President Barack Obama in 2012. McCain said lawmakers shouldn’t “give up our efforts to repair Obamacare” but said it wasn’t worth shutting down the government.

“We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost,” McCain said. “One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation.”

This is classic, ‘Maverick’ McCain.  The McCain the left and the media adores.

Why?  Because this McCain is basically a shill, a Democrat, a man worthless to the Republican Party and to conservatives everywhere.

Oh, I don’t mind that he disagrees with Cruz.  I don’t mind if he doesn’t like the defunding strategy.  But to say ‘We lost!’ and that is it…completely misunderstands his place within the minority party in America.  He also misunderstands the ‘public’ debate.  Obamacare was passed with minority support…from the public.  It never won the hearts and minds of Americans.  Just because Democrats were able to ram the ill-conceived law, no matter what debate did or did not occur, belies the point that simply accepting it is a moronic political policy.

At this point, I hope he leaves the party, pulls a ‘Arlen Specter’ and becomes a Democrat.  He has long wanted to anyway.  He would do less damage to Republicans by simply converting than his idiotic tirades on a weekly basis is already doing.

McCain is a war hero, and for that, he will forever deserve our thanks.  I am not sure that anything he has done after that point has really helped America though.  One way or another, he needs to be seen to the door, and metaphorically placed on a ship and sent to parts unknown.

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9/11…Never forget.

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Never forget.

Freedom_is_not_free

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Syria: What Now?

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So, I have spent much of the last two weeks contemplating the logic of war, what should determine if we send troops into the field and kill and destroy people of a far off land.  I think, and I hope, I took a fair look at the decision-making involved.  You can see my prior posts here.

That said, where does that leave us?

I believe wholeheartedly that Barack Obama made the right decision in 2012 when he refused to get involved directly in the Syrian Civil War.  None of the arguments I have heard, to this day, make me believe that anything we could have done would have dramatically altered the landscape in such a way to benefit us in any significant way.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have had an effect.

First and foremost, we could have pushed a diplomatic solution long ago. Yes, it would have required agreement by Russia and China…but isn’t that what diplomacy is always about?  And don’t tell me it was impossible.  Today, with the deal the Syrians are making with the Russians, we are seeing how impossible such a path was.  Simply put, our diplomatic forces failed miserably.

Additionally, if we wished it, we quite easily could have pushed Assad out of power.  But to what end?  To allow a host of rebel groups, most of whom are to one degree or another Islamists, and many who have direct ties to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, to take control of a key piece of real estate in the Middle East?  There was no western-style democracy to be had in Damascus.  Every alternative was a bad one.

Then, for reason unknown to this day, President Obama drew his now infamous ‘red line’.  This may go down in history as one of the most inept Presidential statements ever.  In one single sentence, Mr. Obama placed the credibility of the U.S.A., not to mention the credibility of his own Presidency, on the line if Assad or the rebels ever decided to use their chemical weapons stockpiles.

Imagine:  placing the credibility of the greatest nation on earth on the decision-making of dictators and Islamists groups, who would happily die for the greater good that they envision.

That was madness.

Everything that has occurred on this side of the pond since has largely occurred because Mr. Obama said something extremely stupid in that press conference.

To compound this initial mistake, which could have been corrected by an apology, Obama then went on to double down, as he built a case for war against Syria.

At this point, he has laid this mess on the laps of Congress, because frankly, he had no where else to go.  He couldn’t go to the public, because they are about 90:10 against the concept; heck, his own wife is not on board.  He couldn’t go to the United Nations, because his leverage there may be less than mine. He tried to go to America’s great backup plan, the United Kingdom, and David Cameron failed in epic proportions to muster the votes needed for military action.

Now, Obama stands alone.  And honestly, this is unique in his entire political career.  Obama has always made sure he had political cover for every decision he has ever made.  That is one reason he has tried to go back to Congress; he believes that their support may give him the cover he needs to take the country to war again.

So, the question remains:  what should Congress do?  This is a terrible decision all around.  First and foremost, the President already had the power to attack Syria under the War Powers Act.  I wholly believe this, although I have made much hay about Obama’s hypocrisy on the subject (he openly opposed those same powers when George W. Bush was in office).

If Congress blocks military action, the President and the country will be further diminished in the eyes of the world.  If they vote for military action, Obama could take the country on another unnecessary and possibly dangerous adventure in the Middle East…and we all know how well those have gone in the past.

In other words…damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In a last-minute brilliant move by Vladimir Putin (brilliant for him; not so good for the United States), Putin offered a roadmap to peace.  He would allow the Syrians to give up their chemical weapons, in exchange from protection from military attacks from the West.

This is, of course, ridiculous policy after the past few weeks.  First and foremost, Assad has been accused of wars against humanity.  So all he has to do is give up the weapons for which he is accused of those crimes?  It is like allowing a murder to walk following a shooting, if only he hands over his gun.

It should be interesting how Democrats play this.  For the last several weeks, Obama supporters like John Kerry and Harry Reid have made the case that Assad is the modern Hitler.  So now, if we allow Assad to stay in power…the natural progression of their logic is Barack Obama is the modern Neville Chamberlain.

Secondly, we all know this is a delay tactic. Much like Saddam Hussein, time is on the side of the tyrant.  The longer he survives, the more time he has to wipe out his enemies, in what ever manner possible. Furthermore, if you see news reports in the German press, there is an open question to whether Assad ever was inclined to use chemical weapons in the first place.  This raises the question:  is he even in control of his weapons?  And if he isn’t, that means that he benefits from any steps the international community takes, by allowing him to consolidate his power.

Furthermore, the reality is Assad will never give up his chemical weapons.  Not really.  Even if he gave up every ounce of weapons he has today, he will forever have the capability to make more.  Chemical weapons are a low-cost entry in to the world of weapons of mass destruction.  He may talk about eliminating his stockpile; he may even let inspectors come and look at his weapons depots.  But the possibility of him handing over his trump card, including potential capabilities to produce future weapons, is next to nil.

So, the joke is on us if we even consider this proposal for a nanosecond.

On September 10th, the President plans to talk to the American people.  I have no idea what he plans to say.  At this point, I almost don’t care.  The last few weeks of foreign policy from this administration has been a comedy of errors, and sadly, none of it is funny.  As they have made their case for war, their support for war among the public has dramatically dropped; as much as 20% in a recent poll over the past week.  In other words, the more Obama makes his case, the more people are opposed to it.  So what difference will a Presidential primetime speech make?  Likely, none at all.

So, Congress is likely to shoot down Obama’s war proposal; possibly even the Senate.  That will be one of the loudest votes of no confidence in an American President in modern times.  The decision-making will then shift to the Kremlin, where Putin has outplayed Obama, and he now holds all the cards.  And where Obama goes from there, nobody knows.  But America will be weaker off for it.

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The Logic of War, Part II – The Syrian Conundrum

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Yesterday, in the post linked here, I discussed generally what I believe should be our logical process in evaluating whether a war was reasonable and necessary.

Today, I am going to put Syria to the test.

1.  U.S. National Interest.

Clearly, we must have some vital interest that involves us in a conflict.  If a war goes on in a region of the world where we have no diplomatic, military, or financial objective…we simply must turn away.  We are not the world’s policeman, as much as Barack Obama, John Kerry, John McCain and others would apparently like to make us so.

As for Syria, do we have a vital interest?  Syria probably falls into that over broad category.  Like the Cold War, Misters Obama and Kerry are arguing that any destabilization of the Middle East is worrisome.  Syria could potentially be a threat to our allies, Israel and Turkey.  And they fear the conflict spilling over its borders into places such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.

I find this argument less than compelling.  If destabilization is a threat…then why are we not more involved in Egypt today? Or, for a larger question:  why are we allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons?  Both likely have far more national implications for the United States.  One could even make the argument that pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan destabilizes the region.

But, history has given Presidents broad leeway on this, and I guess I should do the same for President Obama.  Syria does in the broadest and most vague terms fit the arena of American national interest.

2.  Do we have a list of defined goals and objectives?

I think the clear answer here is a categorical ‘No’.

During yesterday’s testimony to Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked this time and again, and could not provide a rational response.

Does anyone, including the President, have any idea what the endgame is?  We have already been assured that regime change is out of the question, so removal of Assad from power is not a goal of these strikes (Ironically, Kerry stated it may be a goal of our diplomatic approach, but not the military action; if that makes any sense).  That also means they don’t want to wipe out the current Syrian army.

The Defense Department has stated that there is no tactical way of destroying the chemical weapons stashes around the country…so ridding the country of WMD is not possible.

And a ground invasion is off the table, at least theoretically.

The only argument for a defined goal that I can fathom is that we are acting as the world’s policeman, and wish to ‘punish’ the Syrian authorities for use of chemical weapons.  This might be meaningful, if we had the world community supporting us.  Of course, we don’t.  The United Nations refuses to authorize this, and most of our major allies have decided to stay at home.

3.  Are the goals worthwhile?

Not sure how to answer this after the answer in question #2, but I think it is fair to say that if you have no real goals in mind, there is nothing worthwhile in the effort.

If the only goal is to punish Syria, then will the missile strikes that are being contemplated achieve even that minimal goal?

 4.  Are the goals achievable?

What goals?

OK, let us, for the sake of argument, say our goal is policing the world community, and to punish Assad for violating international norms.

If that is the case, what punishment would suffice?  Clearly not a few Tomahawk missiles, that is for sure.  In the past two decades, such action against the likes of Saddam Hussein did nothing but bolster their regimes hard-line stances.

You would need a systematic disruption of the ability of the Syrian army’s ability to fight the rebels; strategic destruction of the Syrian air force; and some sort of diminshed ability of the Syrians to use chemical weapons.  Furthermore, direct assault on Assad’s own power base would be helpful.

After the testimony of Defense officials, other than the destruction of the Syrian air force, none of these goals are achievable.  And even the Syrian Air Force may be a tough target to destroy. Certainly, we could hurt Assad’s forces.

That said, how would we hurt Assad in such a way, when Mr. Kerry specifically stated that our goal is not to hurt Assad in such a way?

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I admit there may be a logical reason to strike Syria.  The use of chemical weapons should be considered beyond the pale, an act of evil against civilians that should not stand.

However, nothing in this strategy from the Obama Administration makes the least amount of sense.  They probably have, in the most lenient definition imaginable, some national interest involved.  But they have yet to articulate a rational set of goals that are worthwhile and achievable considering the situation on the ground.

Until they meet those criteria, they should not involve the United States in any foreign intervention.

1

The Logic Of War, Part I

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As Barack Obama continues on his weaving, hesitant and confused path toward attacking Syria, we continue to see his utter lack of a true philosophy or method when it comes to deciding America’s role in foreign interventions.

For decades, we as a country became involved in numerous conflicts, but all were, to a greater or lesser extent, related to American interests, either political, military, or economic.  Unfortunately, the last century’s wars mostly involved the Cold War, and the appearance that we were countering the ‘Communist threat’.  That was an  overly broad vision of ‘American national interest’ that involved us in conflict after conflict that, as history showed, did little truly to benefit America.

Many keep discussing what our involvement should be in these conflicts,  As I wrote last week, Mr. Obama now seems to have completely accepted the U.S. role as the world’s policeman.  It is fascinating that a man who so clearly opposed our war in Iraq, and did not outwardly support our specific strategy to win in Afghanistan, now has such an expansive view of foreign policy.

It does bring us back to the core question:  how do we determine if a war is ‘necessary’?  Clearly it is an issue we deal with time and again, and the President Obama appears to be struggling with. I personally think that to come to the decision of getting involved in any foreign conflict, we must achieve these four goals.

1.  Is there a U.S. National Interest?

I believe there are several levels of importance when in comes to issue of national interest.

First and foremost is safety and security.  A response to a direct attack on the United States of America clearly falls under this category.  The most glaring examples of this are Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 attacks.   Nobody who is reasonable would question the U.S.’s right to respond to such attacks on our vital interests, our homeland, and most importantly, our citizens.

The next level of importance is an attack on our allies.  We live in the world where we need friends, and as such, we have created military alliances in order to keep the peace. Sometimes, this can backfire, as the snowball effect of the road to war in World War I showed.  However, a direct attack against one of our close allies, such any member of NATO, clearly would fall into our national interest.  Of course, a larger debate would occur if our more peripheral allies, such as Israel or Taiwan, were attacked.

The third, and weakest level of American national interest is when people make the argument that regional stability is essential for American well-being.  This covers a wide range of issues, whether it be political stability, economic interests, or involvement in other relationships we have across the globe.

Most wars in the post-WWII era have fallen under this category:  Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, The First Gulf War, Kosovo War, and even the wars in Iraq and Libya more recently.  Each of these have, in one manner or another, altered the political dynamic in a region of the world we consider important, and thus, we have felt the need to move to military action.

The problem with this category is simple:  there is no clear, definite U.S. interest.  What appears to be important to some is clearly not important to others.  Iraq is the perfect example.  We can argue the issue of pre-emption, but to some, Saddam Hussein provided a threat to the United States, both because of his potential weapons, but also because of his destabilizing force on the region.  Ironically, the Obama Administration makes similar claims today about Syria.

 2.  Do we have a list of defined goals and objectives?

This is an essential consideration for a multitude of reasons.  First, to prevent the use of military use as a diversion for some other issue, such as a political crisis (Clinton firing missiles into Iraq at the height of the Monica Lewinsky crisis, for example).  Second, to have a limited number of goals to prevent expansion into a larger conflict (Vietnam comes to mind).  Lastly, to understand when the war is over; how can you end a war, if you have a shifting goalpost of what the war must achieve?

Afghanistan is a good example of this.  Clearly, there was a vital national security interest there after 9/11.  But what was the goal? Was it to simply rid the country of terrorist elements? That could have been done with air strikes most likely.  Was it for regime change, to punish the Taliban?  Or was it nation building?  Even after a decade of fighting there, some of these questions remain unanswered.  And it appears that we may be leaving that conflict before we ever really answer any of those questions.

3.  Are the goals of war worthwhile?

I think this is an important question that we have more often than not skipped over in recent years.  Even if we go to war, and achieve our ends…are the goals justified and meaningful?

Let us take the Korean War.  Clearly, we were in the midst of the Cold War, and so any communist aggression was to be fought against, no matter the cost nor outcome.  And South Korea, a strong democracy today and a stalwart ally, would say the war was worth it.  But would we fight a similar war today, at the cost of over 33,000 American deaths? I find that doubtful.

Consider Iraq.  We actually achieved many of our stated goals.  Iraq is far from perfect, but they are relatively stable compared to the rest of the region.  They have a sort of constitutional democracy; they certainly aren’t a dictatorship like their immediate neighbors.  And they are no longer a threat to the larger region.  However, at the cost of 4,500 American deaths, it is considered a relative failure by most.

So, even the costs of war have changed over time.  The Korean War is considered a success, Iraq War a failure…although the former had 10x greater cost in American blood.

Furthermore, there is the financial cost involved.  We cannot decide to go to war or not to go to war based on cost alone, but we cannot ignore the issue all together either.  The Iraq War costed $784 billion in today’s dollars.  The Korean War would have cost $341 Billion; Vietnam costed around $738 billion, and in turn, was a military loss.

 4.  Are the goals achievable?

Once you have determined if a war is of national interest, and you have a list of achievable defined goals, then you must clearly ask if such goals are achievable, under the prescribed limits set forth by the nation.

The latter part of that statement is actually more difficult than the former.  That is a political question.  For example, if in 2003 George W. Bush had told America that the Iraq war would take a decade, cost four thousand American lives, and would cost $700 billion dollars…I  highly doubt even most Republicans would have backed the effort.  Some of this cannot be known, as wars are highly unpredictable. But even within the realms of our prognostication abilities, to convince the American public such a cost was worthwhile would have been a long, hard slog. 

The core of the question, whether the goals are achievable, is critical to any endeavor, not just a war effort.  Can the United States, with our military force and diplomatic power, achieve victory as we have defined it?  Many times in our past, we refuse to define what victory is, for a simple reason:  we haven’t a clue what we are trying to achieve.  Could Vietnam, for example, have been avoided if we had honestly confronted this question?  Could we ever have pushed the communists out, considering the involvement of the Chinese? 

One ancillary point out of this particular discussion:  are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to win the war?  Are we willing to lose thousands of men, spend billions of dollars, and spend years in a concerted effort to win the conflict?  This was a question we were not truly honest about with ourselves prior to Iraq, for example.

And that leads to a final point:  if you can’t win the war with conventional weapons…are you willing to win the war in other methods?  For example, we could have ‘won’ the war in Vietnam with tactical nuclear weapons.  After all the blood and treasure we poured in there, should we have considered such drastic action?  And if not, why were we there in the first place?

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These questions are essential discussions that should be had before we enter any foreign conflict.  We have been too laissez faire in our approach to intervening overseas, as a slow progression of more and more lackadaisical use of military force has become the norm.  We certainly cannot blame Barack Obama for this, as this has been going on for decades, but a return to a more logical, thoughtful approach is necessary.

Furthermore, the belief that Congress and the American people should follow a logical, thoughtful process toward international interventionalism is not an ‘isolationist’ position.  I certainly am willing to intervene overseas if the necessity arises.  For example, Afghanistan was a necessary war, even though we did not do a great job answering questions 2 and 4 above before entering that conflict.  I do think we could have done the country a great service however if we had answered those questions; it may have more clearly defined what our strategy was, and what steps were necessary, instead of the sometimes confused strategy that has been the hallmark of the Bush and Obama administrations for the past few years.

Tomorrow, part two of this series, with the essential question of the day:  How do we answer these questions now that we face a conflict with Syria?

 

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