Friday, March 28, 2008

Why is the US Military still fighting al Sadr?

In recent days, the Iraqi city of Basra has seen intense fighting between rival Shia groups. One is financed and trained by, and politically tied to, Iran. A reasonable person might think this is the group that the US Military is fighting, but alas, that person would be wrong. We are fighting along side the Iranian-backed Badr / rebranded ISCI, against local nationalists led by Muqtada al Sadr.

I've said it before, al Sadr is "anti-American" only in the sense that he wants us to withdraw from Iraq. So do all of the Sunni groups that are cooperating with us in Anbar since the surge! We still work with them, don't we? If someone was really interested in the long term stability of a place like Iraq, they would realize that al Sadr is the type of person who could help make that happen. He is a nationalist, keen to curb Iranian influence, and willing to join forces with Sunnis for the sake of "Iraq".

Iraq is the perfect setup for Iran. First we take out Iran's number 1 enemy in Saddam Hussein. Then we sacrifice thousands of US lives and billions of dollars fighting other enemies of Iran; Al Qaeda, the Sunnis in Anbar, and even local Shia nationalists like al Sadr. We are doing all of Iran's dirty work for it, protecting the elected government that Iran more or less owns, and all the while Iran gets to berate the US every day for occupying a Muslim country.

I've got a longer post on this topic coming, but I had to get this one off my chest.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Speaking of preachers who blame America for 9/11

Obama is taking criticism because his reverend, Wright, said some comments about America being partly responsible for 9/11. "Chickens coming home to roost" and all of that. Here are some thoughts.

1. The idea of 'blowback' was presented in the 9/11 Commission Report and describes that actions may have unintended consequences. This isn't a new idea, and it isn't anti-American to suggest that blowback is real.

2. Reverends Falwell and Robertson blamed America for 9/11 as well. Video link is here. Although in their case, the culprit responsible for the terrorist attacks was not blowback, as Wright claimed. Rather, it was moral depravity.

So lets recap. It is anti-American to suggest that covert CIA operations in foreign countries can cause resentment in the local populace. However, it is perfectly reasonable, but not anti-American, to suggest that belief in evolution or partaking in gay sex causes terrorism.

For the record, and to my eternal dismay, John McCain long ago accepted the endorsement of Falwell and spoke at his "university". Anyone who would think less of Obama for his association with Wright should think still worse of McCain for his association with Falwell.

For the record, I could care less about either. It would be impossible for a person to become a contender for the presidency while never once associating with some mildly scrupulous characters. Relative to other politicians, both McCain and Obama are very clean.

Interesting historical tidbit

From Wikipedia:

The Hawley-Smoot Tariff (or Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act)[1] was signed into law on June 17, 1930, and raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to record levels, and, in the opinion of most economists, worsened the Great Depression. Economists have now generally regarded this Tariff Act (i.e., tax increase on imported goods) as the greatest policy blunder in American economic history, coming as it did after the 1929-30 recession and preventing the economy from a full, natural recovery which had already started by the Spring of 1930. Many countries retaliated with their own increased tariffs on U.S. goods, and American exports and imports plunged by more than half.

During the 1992 Presidential Debate, Ross Perot warned of a "giant sucking sound" to describe job losses to Mexico if NAFTA was signed. During a debate on CNN, Al Gore presented Perot with a framed portrait of Congressmen Smoot and Hawley. The Clinton Administration subsequently won the election and passed NAFTA, which was considered for years to be a fantastic bipartisan achievement.

More trade discussion from my favorite economist Greg Mankiw on the NY Times.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Playing a dangerous game

More concrete word about Republican tactics. They are coming out in droves to vote for Hillary Clinton in Democrat primaries. For a republican it's a cost-benefit analysis. Their best-case scenario is President McCain; worst-case scenario is President Clinton. A President Obama falls somewhere in the middle. Republicans adopting this tactic of helping Hillary are going for an all-or-nothing strategy. That doesn't make sense, though! The reward in such a risk should be high; its not. John McCain is not the next Reagan. The risk, however, is extremely high - the prospects of another President Clinton. Meanwhile, the odds of a favorable outcome (McCain beating Hillary) still aren't that great - especially if the economy tanks or Iraq gets worse. Republicans should realize that settling for four years of Obama is a far less risky and more sensible prospect.

Ultimately, conservatives should be thankful for the existence of Barack Obama. If not for Obama, we would be looking at President Clinton in 2008 - end of story. She would have clinched the Democratic nomination with ease, and she would have trounced any republican, even John McCain, in the general. The only reason McCain could potentially give her a run for her money now is because Hillary's campaign against Obama has shown many Democrats how despicable she really is. Without Obama, the Clintons would still be revered among all Democrats.

After eight long years of abject failure under Bush, conservatives should recognize that they don't deserve the presidency this time around. They need to spend the next four years reorganizing, cleaning up their act, and going back to true conservative principles. In the meantime, they should be thankful that at least its not Hillary.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It isn't impossible to imagine a scenario where Hillary wins the Democrat nomination. She will be permanently behind in the delegate count, as many have pointed out. It may not matter - neither her nor Obama will be able to make it to 2025 delegates on their own. That is the number required to lock the nomination. The super delegates would have to call it in such circumstances. If Hillary had ended the primary season on a winning streak, its not hard to imagine them deciding in her favor, even if Obama had a very slight overall delegate lead.

This would almost certainly cause a civil war within the Democratic Party. It is much easier to imagine a John McCain victory after such a tumultuous outcome. I for one would not hesitate to vote for McCain if forced to choose between McCain or Hillary. This may be the third virtually unlosable election in eight years that the Democrats are well on their way to losing. It almost makes me pity them.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Addendum to previous post

Short video of Barack Obama discussing education; I completely agree with every point he makes. The short version: while there are lots of things we need to be doing to improve education in America, parental responsibility is most important. This is so obvious, and yet few national politicians are hitting on it.

On a contrary note, I would like to reiterate how strongly I disagree with Obama on economic issues. I am a supporter of NAFTA; on the whole it has been a good thing for North Americans. I support free trade. There isn't any other force that will be capable of lifting billions out of poverty world wide. Free trade unites people as well; nothing in mankind's history has been so effective at preventing wars. Read about the "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention" for more details (no two nations with a McDonald's have ever gone to war with each other).

As I said below, I am willing to take a hit on economic issues for this election cycle, because the pros of an Obama Presidency more than make up for the economic negatives. Still, I am hoping that Barack's anti-trade rhetoric is mere politics designed to win a primary, not something that he genuinely believes.