Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

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ANOTHER FINE MESS WE’RE IN

August 31, 2013

All week, the rabid Press has been in an uproar.  Despite the President saying over and over that he had not made a final decision on what was to be done in terms of Syria, we saw feature after news feature outlining how wrong he was. 

First, he was wrong because he did not wait for the UN Inspectors to return.  Hmmm.  Far as I know, he prepared for, but had not decided during the very same time the UN Inspectors were in Syria.  Nevertheless, the Press screamed and (almost worse) kept spitting into the microphones – unable to contain themselves in their stirring up the pot of how wrong the President was.  One impassioned commentator almost cried as he asked why Obama couldn’t just wait two days so the inspectors trying to help were “out of harm’s way”.  

Personally, that term is one that makes ME want to cry.  Do we have to mimic the drama of the Bushman?  What is wrong with the word “danger”?   But I digress.

And on and on they raged.  Couldn’t he at least let the UN Inspectors do their jobs?  Far as I could tell, he was doing that; but from the Press angst, something must have happened I was unaware of-but I listened to news until 8:30PM and never was enlightened as to what that was!  By this morning I had figured it out-just a bad case of Press hype – gone astray.

In the meanwhile, the Press continued to focus on the weekend of terror coming up; because after all, the President was leaving shortly for Russia and the G-8, and he had to get this done before he left.

And yet, coming from Obama was …”I have not made up my mind yet”.  Maybe you hadn’t, my friend, but the Press had and not only that, they had moved on to critiquing how it was going to roll out.   In fact, we were really into polls last night.  The Public does not agree with Obama not having Congressional support when he bombs Syria tomorrow…well, that’s not exactly what the figures on the screen said.…79% approve if Congress also approves, but Obama is earning his lowest support in 5 years…only 20% are with him in his plan to bomb Syria tomorrow-without asking for Congressional support.

Today, more of the same…..until the President announced what he was going to do.

He decided that 1) we needed to move against Syria; and 2) that we would go to Congress for their consent (just like he advised AND voted, by the way, when Bush declared war.)

He also indicated he would not call Congress back due to the upcoming Jewish holiday, but instead, will take this to Congress on September 9.  As I understand it, that was in response to conversations with Congressional leaders last night.  However, today the Military have started to whine.  They of course, think that it should happen tomorrow as it won’t be a surprise next week.  I don’t understand why they think it would be a surprise if it happened tomorrow; the press has been telling us it would be today or tomorrow for a week! Go figure.

 

And now, those very same Press that were criticizing yesterday did a 180 today, and they all have their undies in a bundle about how wrong his decision was…..

I cannot count the number of times I have heard on two different stations in that last hour speculation about “what caused the President to change his mind”.  I am not sure the President DID change his mind.  I think he had NOT decided – just as he said. And late yesterday, he did decide.  It just was not what the PRESS had decided several days ago…so to them, of course, he changed his mind.

But according to the Press, I am wrong.  Britain made him lose his determination….Just what is this costing to have those ships standing by….and why did he leave this hanging and go off to play golf this afternoon?

Excuse me?  Yesterday he was wrong because he was acting too fast.  Today he is wrong because he is holding off for a week and will go to the G-8 for additional discussion.  And he is especially a bad boy because he is out playing golf with VP Biden this afternoon.  The NICEST thing said about Obama today was that after all, he was a Constitutional scholar, and philosophically, during the Bush Administration did not think Bush should have initiated war without Congressional approval.  As a result, this has been a difficult philosophical struggle for him.

As the day went on, I found out so much more.  Little did I know the ships that were repositioned had been in dry dock and the crew was on leave.  What?  You say that is not the case? They were just patrolling elsewhere?  Well, then why is it costing so much more money now?  Oh, I see.  Just another Press fabrication; it is not costing more money. Despite the Press angst, we should not be worrying about the money it was costing to have five ships readied.

Andrea Mitchell for one, is particularly irritated both about the cost of the ships and about the golf.  She raised it as a major issue on a show I happened to be tuned to.  Then she raised it again. And then she did her own War Report at 4 PM, and after getting no traction the first two times, the person asked the third time sided with Obama; indicated it has been a hard week, and with another hard week ahead, it might be good for a couple hours down time.

But the “we know best” Press continued on.  First, we now look bad because the President changed his mind and now we are regarded as wishy-washy through- out the world.  How will we live that down?   Further, we have lost the surprise.  What Surprise, I think.  We have talking about this on every news program for a week!

Second, the focus has moved to “a strike will do nothing”  based on input from two military experts –well known from ten years ago.  Now, I don’t mean to complain, but really?  We are calling on Bush war advisors to show us what Obama is doing wrong?  Another bunch of retired angry old men with expertise rooted in Viet Nam.    It brought to mind that old military guy that was pushing for trained horses before WWII…or was that a myth?

Third, I guess the afternoon really showed me how much we keep our President in the dark and only the Press has the facts and expertise to handle these issues. I also learned that military trump both the President and the Congress.  So the latest at 5:30 was that we are now headed for a total disaster.

Seriously, I do not know what the right answer is, but I definitely know not to trust the Press of today. But then again, I am sure if we look at the ratings for the news shows this afternoon, they sky-rocketed.  Never mind if the public was better informed.  It’s all about the ratings.

 

 

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QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

August 26, 2013

I’ve only read the first section of the paper this morning, and already I have been distracted with some significant “food for thought”:

First, an OPINION EXCHANGE with a eye-catching headline – OH, IT’S ONLY BIG BROTHER:

“Is it the general public’s comparative lack of indignation over the NSA surveillance scandal that is surprising, or is the real shocker that journalists, activists and politicians feel so outraged?”

Personally, I think David Rieff asked the wrong question.

 The FIRST question should be “When we pay these people to be the eyes of our country, why did they not know these things before Snowden leaked them?

 Even I, a commoner out here in the Midwest, was well aware of some of this activity since it emerged shortly after 9-11; have followed  it as much as general public could, I think, including the alterations to tamp it down a bit, and I mentally assumed risk and worth had been duly judged.  Despite concerns Obama himself expressed about the practice since it began, I sensed –perhaps inaccurately- that once he became President, he was briefed on facts not generally known in public and thus, had not yet taken action.  That, I think, was reinforced in his first official speech on the issue after Snowden when he said he welcomed a review and positive input on how to minimize the down side of this initiative.

The SECOND questions should be:  What makes common bedfellows of journalists, activists, and politicians?  Oh yes, we all like to focus on admirable words like “truth” and “love of country”, and “agents of change”, but we often overlook another: Big Egos drive them in search of name recognition, ratings, and good polling numbers.

And one more time, they manipulated the public, trying to make Snowden a Hero exposing the enemy – our government.  Ratings soared, but as the general public absorbed more facts, the hyperbole died down.

YES, there are many issues we have not faced as we transition into this digital world we have created.  There is a wealth of information available by non-political experts – a pile of it is sitting on the corner of my desk .  Whether you are “just” a citizen of the US like me, or a politician, journalist, or activist, it is our common responsibility to explore with open minds, listen to both sides and then come together to craft  new guidelines that minimize risk, and capitalize on strengths of this new world we find ourselves in.

That will not happen until we stop clinging to “This is the way we have always done it.” It might surprise most of us, but we have NEVER always done it the same way.  The strength of our US system is its flexibility to change to meet the needs of its citizens as we go forward.

 

The second eye-catcher in Section A today came from a Letter to the Editor by Neil Anderson of Richfield:

The STRIB’s Front Page (Above the Fold) shares a report that 330 people died and an additional 3000 were impacted from Syria’s use of chemical warfare.

Still first section, 10 pages later, the STRIB published Neil Anderson’s opinion.  That opinion stated that 1,100 were killed and hundreds wounded as it described the very same incident.

 Hmmm.  I will skip the additional hyperbole about a “do-nothing President Obama” and simply say…it is not hard to fact-check in today’s world.  Neil Anderson might want to try it!  That should keep him busy while Obama, his staff, the military leaders , and informed legislators continue to review and debate options in development since the first rumor of chemical weapons surfaced. 

I am not sure, but I presume this was what the FIRST President Bush did when we learned of what Hussein did as Desert Storm was launched in response to the Kurdish situation and Kuwait.  He took time to GET THE FACTS, and more importantly, HE LISTENED to experts around him, and together they crafted a plan that ensured that we could go in, alleviate the situation with minimum cost of American lives and dollars and GET BACK OUT.  He had UN support, and Saudi Arabian, UK and Egyptian troops as well as $36 million of Saudi Arabian financial support (approximately 1/3 the cost of the entire 7 month action.) He launched an effort that was supported around the world, and more importantly, succeeded in its stated mission.

Neil Anderson is certainly entitled to state his knee-jerk reaction; and likewise, is entitled to skip the facts and urge the government to act without a plan.  After all, there is a precedent set for that as well.

On 9-11 we were attacked here in the United States; the mastermind of that attack escaped to hide in the mountains of Afghanistan.  It may have been a good match, as Afghanistan is a savage place-and in my mind, bin Laden was a savage person.   But one would have expected a bit of caution along with that emotion and flag waving, as it was no secret that the RUSSIANS had fought for years and years in Afghanistan and in the end, could not win and withdrew defeated.  One would have hoped we had evaluated that, identified why the Russians could not win, and had developed a plan to ensure the same would not happen to us.  But apparently, that was too much to ask; and hubris won-we went to war.

Within days, the second President Bush and his neo-con staff launched the Afghan War – and then just six months later launched the SECOND war on Iraq.  I, for one, am still not sure how the two were connected in the beginning.  Now, they are connected by a tremendous loss of lives in both, billions of dollars spent on a credit card over 7 years with no exit plan, no plan to repay the American people, no plan to help families to gave up members of their families, no plan to financially take care of returning veterans lucky enough to survive-many who returned home gravely wounded both physically and mentally, and certainly no plan to bring back from the dead all those who died for nothing.   

So I am glad to be a part of that majority of the voting public who have voted for President Obama TWICE…because we trusted he would collaborate, listen to experts, and ultimately develop a plan that could yield the best  results for the least risk-for the crises he was sure to encounter as President.  By voting YES for Obama the majority voted for a man who represents the 21st century.  At the same time, we voted NO to a repeat of the gun-slinging cowboy of the 19th century that did so much damage to our country as this new world dawned around us-damage we still have not been able to make right.   

 

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July 23, 2013

A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PRESIDENT

For some time now, America has been very critical of Obama for one reason or another.  He is either not going to war and killing people like the Republicans want; or not handling things the way Democrats want-based at least on what Democrats who came before him have done.

And over and over, I question – is that a bad thing?  I was comfortable that he was not predictable; he did not tout party lines but thought in terms of what is best for each individual situation.  Nevertheless, the continual outcries sometimes made me doubt because I certainly seemed to be in the minority!  But I continued to listen, understand, and support his reasoning for any given action… despite thinking  perhaps I was out of step with America.

And then, Steve Chapman’s column this morning entitled “If Obama is a wimp, hail to the wimp” gave me hope.  Finally, a columnist who succinctly and honestly assessed each situation in question and told it like it is – as it relates to Obama and his foreign policy in Egypt…Syria…and, Afghanistan.

“None of these situations is working out in a way that is pleasing to us.  So it must be his responsibility to fix them, right?”

“Well, no.  The beginning of wisdom about the international realm is that those are not our countries.  We don’t have the responsibility to dictate what direction they take and we don’t have the means to impose our preferences.  When we get deeply involved, we’re apt to produce results very different from what we hope…the path to wise policy does not run through a field of daisies.”

So to all the naysayers – Stop and think for a minute folks!  Almost half our country thinks our OWN government which was elected by the majority of us has no right to tell us as individual citizens what to do.  Think of the outcries we’d voice if China – disagreeing with the way we operate as a country, dropped in, took charge, and dictated what we do. 

We would not like it one bit; so why do we think citizens of other countries would welcome manipulation and interference from us- whom they often see as the “Ugly American”?  To think differently brings to mind the term “hubris” a trait that always creates conflicts!

Look at the three examples in Egypt, Syria, and Afghanistan and tell me why one size fits all and US interference is the “size” they all should buy!

From my persective, Obama has looked at each unique situation carefully, getting input from all sides before he wades in, then makes a unique decision best suited for that situation.

Is it consistent?  If you mean the same proposed solution over and over whether it will yield results or not – no, it is not consistent.  If you think consistent is spelled WAR as the last adminsitration did, then no, it is not consistent.  If you think, yes the process is the same:  he looks at each instance as unique, follows the same process to get input and then determines the best option for that situation… then, YES, he is consistent.

And I am especially happy that he is not consistently applying a favorite outdated 20th century single solution to  every circumstance.  What he has done is what he TOLD us he would do when he ran for President.  That is what gave me and a lot of other people hope; and that is why he was elected –a new way of thinking for new situations in a new time.

As Steve Chapman said so well this morning:

“For now, at least, Obama is carrrying out a foreign policy that errs on the side of caution, patience, restraint and economy.  As for the critics, you know what?  We tried their way.”

RIGHT ON, STEVE (and Obama)…I’M WITH YOU ON THAT THOUGHT FOR SURE!

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SYRIA and “TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE”

June 17, 2013

This is getting old.  As this brouhaha unfolds, we’ve already learned that Obama had staff working on the “what if” contingency of arming Syrian rebels…BEFORE the much-quoted Red Line Speech.

Yes, as I recall, I read that within the Administration they had been charged with researching who to arm AND what should be included as elements…before reports surfaced about the use of chemical weapons.

From my perspective, the “red line” comment was a calculated one – it not only bought some time to ensure we were not headed for a repeat of “Iraq has nuclear weapons” myth of the Republican initiated debacle in the Bush Administration but it also may have bought some time to ensure allies positions and prepare for a rollout prior to the G-8 face-to-face meetings with Putin  – do ya think?

But then, I admit, I did not agree with the Neocon Iraqi plan when I heard it and I think it has been proven I was on the correct side of that argument – but maybe that was just “luck”?

Nevertheless, I do not buy in to the apparent theory that everyone including the poor folks begging for quarters on the street corners have better ideas, better intell, and better solutions that the experienced mixed-party staff in the White House can come up who review and discuss all known details and what-ifs, then share perspectives, listen and learn from one another and then reach a consensus plan of action that balances risks and rewards.  Will that always result in an error-proof plan? 

Those clamoring for differing actions based on only your own limited knowledge and opinion  should pause for a minute.   Ask yourself if all the plans you have implemented in your lifetime have been not only trouble-free but also highly successful, with no negative consequences.  Many of the public questioners have been consistently wrong.

That’s why it is so puzzling to me that even the Press who are neither administrative, legislative nor judicial members of our governing system feel they know more and better than those engaged in that governmental process.

Don’t get me wrong.  I certainly believe in freedom of the press to report on “facts” as they see them and I accept those “facts” are often reported too soon or too late and are also colored by personal beliefs.  But please, the Press is not the ultimate authority sitting in judgment of the other three branches of government…except to report and then play the role that all citizens share.

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THE DECIDING DEBATE…or just more blather?

October 22, 2012

For weeks we have heard the debates don’t matter. Opps…poll numbers started shifting during the first three, and now this final debate is the MOST IMPORTANT thing of the campaign. Who knows what the truth is? All I really know is that we should expect posturing and not truthful thought-out responses.
Yesterday I started a blog that outlined what I would like to hear discussed in the last debate tonight. No, Benghazi was not on the list…contrary to neo-con manipulation of Romney’s impression, Benghazi’s greatest importance was the unexpected loss of American lives-especially one who may have emerged as a knowledgeable and informed leader in 21st century foreign policy-someone who understands the Middle East; someone that could have helped the United States make needed transitions from “War is the Answer” to peaceful co-existence. And, its second most important role was as a demonstration for the American people of just how complex-even murky-an incident like this is. Such an incident calls for patience and level heads, no finger pointing until everyone has the facts, and no posturing for political advantage…especially from a neophyte whose total foreign policy is wrapped up in a father born in Mexico for religious reasons, and time spent as a missionary in France – a country that was then just emerging from post-WWII recovery! While I applaud Romney for his time and compassion, I do not think he emerged a qualified 21st century diplomat based on that experience! And frankly, I shudder to think his neo-con advisors are the very same men and women that manipulated Bush and tricked the world into the wrongful war in Iraq!
But I digress. What I was in the midst of outlining yesterday was my own questions/issues I hope to hear discussed tonight.
• Japan is about to take China’s place as the US largest creditor. What do you see as positive/negative impacts, if  any, on the United States?
• With China’s low profit margins on production of goods, combined with extremely low worker wages, what do you see as impact in the US, of as the Chinese “Boom” recedes? Will there be economic consequences from the many US companies with facilities there? Are the US corporate investments in China significant enough that a collapse there would impact us domestically?
NOTE: This morning STRIB had article in Business Insider Page 1 raising similar question of what will happen as US Corporations ramp up there, expecting China to replace slow markets in the US and Europe.
• What impact to US do you see as the Chinese population growth controls (one child; preferably male) starts impacting the Chinese economy?
I’ve read that traditionally, this male head of family takes on responsibility of support for parents AND parents of spouse. That support of three families on low wages seems challenging; as does the question of whom do these favored sons marry with so few Chinese women in their generation?
The Strib OPINION PAGE added significant “food for thought” this morning by pointing out that the most serious security challenges confronting the US –which come from the Mideast and South Asia- are “so complex and fluid” it is hard to provide clear answers…so at best we can expect posturing by Romney and over-simplification by Obama.
Uggh.
Before the debate, take the time to check out the article “What to hope for tonight at the debate”. The questions raised about the Arab Spring, Syria, Iran, will make your head spin, but every one of them is valid and raises significant issues…just reviewing the questions makes one realize how daunting the situation is.
The author’s last paragraph says it all.
Whatever the weaknesses of Obama on these issues, I’ve heard no clear alternatives from Romney and no recognition of the global changes of the last decade. I hope Schieffer will press both candidates for real, not canned answers. But my expectations aren’t high.
Amen to that….by now, most of you know, my biggest issue with Romney is that he is NOT prepared or even cognizant that we do not live today in a world in which his experience and success in a past century will make any difference. If he does not understand the implications and relationships in the world today, he will not be effective; nor will he be able to lead us successfully into the future. I say again, tomorrow is NOT more of the same. The world has changed.

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RAMBLINGS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON – PART 2

July 29, 2012

THANK YOU AMBASSADOR RYAN CROCKER

Sorry to see this man retire!

I first heard the name a decade ago when Bush and the neo-cons were hatching their Iraq War Plans/  Crocker was co-author of “The Perfect Storm” – a memorandum defining risk of a U.S. Invasion of Iraq.  Yes, the ignored analysis that predicted accurately the disintegration of Iraqi society that did, indeed, take place!

Five years later, the Bushies with no other option, had to call on him for help to “fix the deadly situation.”

As ambassador, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, he worked to build trust with local leaders, understood intimidation would not work, and showed compassion towards the ordinary citizens caught in the life-threatening and political power struggles.  That was a rarity for Bush and Neo-cons –which  I repeatedly point out is reflected when we recite the cost of war and only mention deaths of AMERICAN soldiers, and not who we killed, or were killed by others because of our presence.

He suggests we need to learn the lessons of our recent past as we weigh military options for the future- including plans for Syria and Iran.

We’re a superpower, we don’t fight on our territory, but that means you are in somebody else’s stadium, playing by somebody else’s ground rules, and you have to understand the environment, the history, the politics of the country you wish to intervene in.

Good advice.  I THINK Obama gets this; I KNOW the neo-cons advising Romney do not.  And where those that support Romney stand, I have no idea.

In any case, I think it worthwhile to repeat three thoughts from Crocker as found in the Strib:

  1.        Remember the law of unintended consequences
  2.        Recognize the limits of the United States actual capabilities
  3.        Understand getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.

And to those I would add: If you don’t have money to pay for it, you can’t just charge ten plus years of war, residual damage, and long-term impacts on the US soldiers and families involved to your successor. 

You fooled us once…I hope we learned not to trust you again.