Friday, June 24, 2005

Pax Americana: a little shaky these days.

President Bush is meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari today. "W" says Iraqis will continue to "defy skeptics" and that now was not the time to set a deadline for troop withdrawal. Of course, the very fact that he had to address the issue at all shows he's on the defensive. Naturally, the White House doesn't read the polls (Certainly Karl Rove doesn't.) but when you've got a 39% approval rating for your policies in Iraq and more than 60% of Americans say troops should be either drawn down or brought home, you have a problem. Right now, I'm sure he'd like to change the subject to Social Security, like he attempted to do earlier in the year, but there again, when only 25% say they agree with him on his plans for private accounts, the only other place to turn is energy policy. (Got to keep dancing with the ones who brought you, after all.) "W" was at a nuclear power plant yesterday promoting the "clean" energy alternative to fossil fuels. (He's the first president to visit a nuclear power plant since Jimmy Carter went to Three Mile Island, probably not the image they wanted to dredge up at this point. Karl, you're slipping.) He thanked the control room technicians for "being so gracious and kind and taking time to show all the dials and gauges." He said," I can play like I understand what I saw." [NYT]

You might say that's pretty much the way he runs the country, too. The Times article notes, "Bush said that since the United States had stopped ordering reactors, France had built 56 of them; China, he said is working on 6." Well, we love the French and I don't see any problem with the Chinese having nuclear fuel, they can't use it for bombs, right? So what's the problem with Iran having them too? It's clean and doesn't contribute to green house gases, which don't exist anyway, nuke plants for all! It must be kind of difficult to keep a straight face when you're advocating the building of nuclear bunker busters, developing the next generation of N-bombs and the construction of more plants while at the same time trying to get North Korea and Iran to give up their nukes. Kind of strains the bounds of credulity of this administration somewhat.

Obviously, he's not going to go after the Saudis and make them do anything about their cutting of the standard discount on their oil sales, which is a big factor in the price of a barrel of crude these days. Oh no, don't bug the Saudis. They haven't lifted a finger to lower the price of oil, they continue to jail dissidents, they haven't forgiven Iraqi debt and young Saudis are still swelling the ranks of the insurgency in Iraq, so the answer, naturally, is to go after Syria.

Condi Rice at the U.S./E.U. Iraq fundraiser in Brussels this week blamed Syria for all Iraq's problems. "It is time for Iraq's neighbors, and especially Syria, to live up to their responsibilities." Why doesn’t anyone ever ask why we can't secure the Iraqi border? It takes two to tango. Something tells me Saddam never had problems keeping the riffraff from crossing his borders when he was in charge. I understand there is all kinds of "progress" being made in the fight against insurgents, including "Operation Spear," which was a major success at leveling a bunch of buildings in a border town before they left the field to the insurgents, but the fact remains donors don't want to donate because it's too damn dangerous and dozens of car bombs are still going off every week. The most recent casualty tally I saw said that since the "day of purple fingers," 1,200 Iraqis had died. Additionally, over 100 U.S. troops have been killed since then. Today alone, two Marines were killed, 13 wounded and three Marines were missing along with a sailor in a single IED attack in Fallujah. According to the military, there have been over 700 IED attacks against U.S. soldiers this year. 155 soldiers over all have been killed by the devices this year, which are now even more sophisticated and deadly, using what is called "shaped" charges. [Inquirer.]

Testifying at the Armed Services Committee this week the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William D. Catto, conceded they had dropped the ball on providing sufficient armor for their humvees. "This is a lack of leadership on my part." Don't worry, General, no one ever pays for this sort of thing in this administration. Bungling is the order of the day. Gen. William L. Nyland assured the committee that humvees would be properly armored by December, because they just got around to signing a contract to get it done on Tuesday. By then the insurgents will probably have come up with a better way to kill our guys and we'll be even more behind the curve. Of course, part of the reason we're having such a problem getting armor on our vehicles over there is because there is a lack of industrial might. Since we've now sent all our factories to China, we've had to give contracts for humvee armor to places like a small restaurant equipment supplier in Prince Frederick, MD and other such places around the country that aren't used to doing business with the pentagon. Does anybody else get nervous about the idea that we can't even put armor on a SUV but we're supposed to be the most powerful military in the world?

No worries, at least we won't have to fight China anyway. They'll just buy us out. Haier, the Chinese maker of home appliances is set to buy Maytag and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has outbid Chevron by the tune of almost $20 Billion in its attempt to acquire UNICAL. (Zalmay Khalilzad's old Alma Mater.) When they start buying our oil companies, you know it's time to start worrying. It's one thing when Wal-Mart is up in the halls of congress lobbying on China’s behalf but when we’re buying our gas and heating oil from the People's Republic, we've got troubles. Maybe, we can get them to build us some armor for humvees?

Looks like we're going to need to really get going since Afghanistan is falling apart again. Too bad ambassador Khalilzad didn't get around to "breaking the back" of the Taliban before he moved on to greener pastures in the "Green Zone." Since March, when the snows started to melt in the mountain passes of Afghanistan, 14 U.S. troops have been killed in fighting there. [FT] Over a hundred fighters both Taliban and government forces have died in just the last week. The FT says "Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, warned the House armed services committee to expect Taliban forces to escalate attacks in the run up to the country's elections."

(Hmmm. That sounds familiar. Isn't that the BS they usually pull out for Iraq? Won't there be more violence in the "run-up" to the drafting of a constitution and then another for the "run-up" to elections in January?) The FT also reports there are some sharp words being exchanged between Hamid Karzai and our good friend in the war on terror, president Pervez Musharraf. Seems the Pakistanis might be up their old tricks when it comes to the Taliban. Jawed Ludin, spokesman for Karzai, said, "Some senior members of the Taliban, including some who are involved in killings and are considered terrorists" were in Pakistan. [FT]

Before he left, Khalizad said in an interview last week, "If a T.V. station can get in touch [with a Taliban commander], how can the intelligence service of a country which has nuclear bombs and a lot of security forces and military forces not find them?" Musharraf has also said that the 9-11 attacks could have been avoided if the U.S. had taken his advice and engaged with the Taliban rather than having confronted them. That’s ok Pervez, just let us keep flying over your country and let us use some bases and we won't press you too hard on who the other countries were that A. Q. Khan gave nukes to. Killing hundreds of demostrators in Uzbekistan hasn’t chilled our relationship with Islam Karimov, after all.

Now that things are going from bad to worse in the "war on terror" and the debate has turned to what we're going to do about our lack of bodies in the military forces, the Army can't meet their recruiting goals, even when they threaten recruits with jail and other dirty tricks, Max Boot has come up with a plan that can't fail. The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act! (DREAM), introduced by Orin Snatch and supported by 48 other senators. According the Boot in an Op-Ed on Wednesday, the proposed legislation is "targeted (probably not the best term to use.) at children of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States for more than five years but not born here. They would get legal status and become eligible for citizenship if they graduate from high school (We don’t even ask our American recruits for that anymore.), stay out of trouble (Because red blooded American kids always do.) and either attend college for two years or serve two years in the armed forces." Gosh, I wonder how many of them could afford college ? Boot would go even further, though, and "offer citizenship to anyone, anywhere on the planet, willing to serve a set term in the U.S. military. We could model a Freedom Legion after the Foreign Legion. [Isn't that a French idea?] Or we could allow foreigners to join regular units after a period of English-language instruction, if necessary."

Boy, are we really that desperate? For you out there with a sense of history and think this is eerily reminiscent of the decline of the Roman Empire, Max has an answer for that too. "That's a misreading of Roman history... the first century A.D., the legions were mostly non-Italian and mercenary, and the empire still endured for 500 years. If only Pax Americana were to last half as long."

But, wasn't the Republic basically overthrown in the first century after the civil war that left Augustus in charge? Afterwards what remained was a hereditary dictatorship, which soon after produced the likes of Tiberius' henchman Sajanus (Who terrorized Rome with his Praetorian Guard made up of mostly German barbarians), Caligula, Nero and then lead to the selling of the empire itself to the highest bidder by the Praetorian Guard. Actually, sounds pretty much like what’s going on now.

But enough of all this defeatism! David Brooks thinks there's "a reason George Washington didn't take a poll at Valley Forge." A pretty astute analogy; just change al-Jaafari for Washington and you've pretty much got the picture. Leaving Iraq now would lead to the "crushing of democratic hopes in places like Egypt and Iran, and...ruinous consequences for American power and prestige." Indeed, our prestige is at an all time high around the world and our power is unsurpassed, except for the fact that our entire military is bogged down and even unable to adequately protect our troops, but I say stay the course! Brooks posits, "Since we don't have the evidence upon which to pass judgment on the overall trajectory of the war, it's important we don't pass judgment prematurely." The Generals on the ground apparently have charted the trajectory of the war and have concluded there isn't any military solution to the situation there. General John Abaziad has said insurgents are pouring into Iraq at about he same rate as six months ago, but the evidence isn't in yet, I guess.

If only we had had any evidence at all of WMD before we got into this mess! But this "isn't about (my) personal vindication. It's about victory for the forces of decency and defeating those, like Zarqawi, who would be attacking us in any case." Right, better to fight them there than on the streets of America. Except for the fact that no one had ever heard of Zarqawi before we invaded Iraq and which now has, according to the CIA, become a training ground for Jihaddists who are building "transnational terrorists cells, groups and networks." Because, this is what it comes down to; those nay saying the war just hate Bush and want him to fail. That argument is getting a little stale David, can't you come up with anything else?

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