Sunday, May 22, 2011

Three thoughts ...

So I have three things I want to talk about today.

First, Jack Kelly today is ... what ... going "all in" on Pakistan today (or maybe the correct phrase is double down, or raise the stakes - whatever). As I said last week, I pretty much agree with the idea that our relationship with Pakistan is no better than troubled, perhaps very toxic. Kelly claims that a former head of Pakistani intelligence "midwifed" Al Qaeda, and (seeing how vague that statement is) I could easily believe that, although given our role in encouraging Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets, we were at least in the delivery room of the birth of Al Qaeda (and might be the daddy). And I will say, having studied a bit of international relations theory, that American foreign policy (and generally any countries foreign policy) never uses academic foreign policy theory, and in fact maybe the most important thing in any foreign policy decision is the domestic political climate. But Kelly seems to again showing an astonishing level of naivete in his foreign policy analysis. There are reasons why we might want to distance ourselves from Afghanistan, since our continued military presence there does not seem to be producing positive results, and for whatever reason, we do not seem to be putting effort into the nation building that might help Afghan citizens might think better of us (which is to say I do not think Muslims in Afganistan or elsewhere want to live in the stone age, contrary to what conservatives like to say). But we need to keep some engagement in Afghanistan, to act if new terrorist camps are set up.

And we need to keep engagement with Pakistan, even if their intelligence service is more interested in helping terrorists (maybe especially if they are). Kelly suggests that we don't need to care about Pakistan's nuclear weapons, but if parts of Pakistani intelligence are helping enemies who killed thousands of Americans on American soil in 2001, I would suggest we do need to care.

Now, I will say I don't know exactly what our policy in the region should be, maybe something involving giving fairly large chunks of money coupled with working with local intelligence and law enforcement to attack terrorists in their countries. This kind of policy would be tough to sell to average American citizens, although bin Laden's death might make that (coupled with a return of tens of thousands of American soldiers) more palatable. By the way, the KD/PG edition had an interesting discussion connected to this issue, with a former fairly high level CIA official with a book.

And bin Laden's death is the second issue I wanted to talk about. The former CIA officer on the KD/PG program said that he thought bin Laden would not have any worthwhile intelligence personally, so there was less incentive to capture bin Laden alive. Ironically, when talking about his own ability to talk on the KD/PG program, the CIA official said "we are a nation of laws" ... meaning that the CIA does not issue propaganda (and of course he would tell us is they do) and while h has to clear expected answers, the CIA doesn't tell him what to say.

But the "nation of laws" remark is interesting. Shouldn't any employee of the government (law enforcement or military), when coming into contact with the mastermind of I guess the greatest crime committed on American soil, try to find a way to have that person stand trial in an American court? Surely there would be enough evidence against bin Laden such that the government would not have to reveal classified intelligence in open court.

So I was trying to think whether something happened during the mission that caused the SEAL team to decide to kill bin Laden . Just to say, I understand there were six SEAL members, a small number on two helicopters that between them are equipped to carry 22 people. There may have been some medics, some other people to guard the helicopters while on the ground. But then there was the stash, the loot to be taken from the bin Laden compound, so maybe not. When the one helicopter crashed and became inoperative, that meant reduced capacity to take materials out, especially considering that there was at least one extra crew member (the pilot and maybe a co-pilot of the crashed helicopter) to take away from the compound. Does that mean that a captured live bin Laden couldn't fit on the remaining helicopter? well, supposedly his body was taken out the compound, so his weight was apparently not the issue. We may never know why bin Laden was killed instead of captured. The answer may lay in the calculation Barack Obama of what would serve his re-election goals best.

Which brings me to the final issue I have been tossing around in my head, Obama's chances in the 2012 election. Of course, for Democrats there is no other choice. It is impossible to conceive of putting up a different candidate if your party has the White House now. I'll come back to my take on the Vice Presidency.

But my big question is who does Obama think is going to vote for him this time? Remember, last time saw record turn outs of young voters for Obama (although they didn't turn out as much as their grandparents do every election), and independents went for Obama (surprisingly). And yet Obama only won by a relatively slim margin. Now Democrats will vote for Obama in the general (what choice do they have?) although it is possible Obama could be defeated in primaries (even if only by Mickey Mouse written in). But independents? If they are unemployed and poor, why should they vote for Obama? And if they are wealthy, why should they vote for Obama? Not to mention that the young may well have been disheartened by Obama's various policies (or lack thereof in the case of Wall Street).

The Republican field is pitiful, but Obama appears to quite possibly handing the election to whoever the Republicans nominate. Even thought the Tea Party is literally turning the Republican party into a party of lunatics, there is every indication that Barack Obama is handing the Presidency to whatever lunatic the Republicans put up. This at a time where humanity is affecting the climate of the world, unless we start to alter our behavior.

Maybe the apocalypse is coming, just in somewhat slower motion than we expected.

Oh, by the way, Obama could re-energize the 2012 race if he dumped Joe Biden and offered Hillary the Veep slot. Sure, she seems to be enjoying being Secretary of State, but she might be able to have input as Veep, push Obama to actually stop negotiating with himself and do the things that need to be done to help the unemployed and the poor (who might reward Hillary with the Presidency in 2016)(Al Gore could be her Veep, if he could stand to do it again).


Vannevar said...

Great post. I think one of the big things going for Obama's re-election is the absence of any credible Republican opponent. Which of these little R-men could anybody vote for?

EdHeath said...

I think I will write a new post that might answer your comment (at least peripherally).