When Nelly sang “Hot in Herre”, he wasn’t talking about the weather but this week, President Obama was. In this week’s video address, Obama addresses his renewed commitment to emergency preparedness as we approach the fourth anniversary of hurricane Katrina.
I distinctly remember being on vacation in a hotel room in 2005 watching a grown man cry on TV as he pleaded to the government for help down in New Orleans. Of course, we all remember then President Bush’s accolade “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” to his incompetent head of FEMA, Michael Brown. One of Obama’s campaign pledges was effective government in times of crisis and it is good to see him reinforcing this in this week’s message.
Of course, when we talk about the weather, we can’t skip the topic of “global warming” or perhaps the more accurate term “climate change”. That so many are still climate change skeptics is truly frightening for our nation. In Monday’s “Huffington Post”, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry makes a clear and chilling case for the impending crisis.
Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. Here are a few you need to know: Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels have risen 38% in the industrial era, from 280 to 385 parts per million (ppm). Scientists have warned that anything above 450 ppm — a warming of 2 degrees Celsius — will result in an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change.
The truth is that the threat we face is not an abstract concern for the future. It is already upon us and its effects are being felt worldwide, right now. Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013. Not in 2050, but four years from now. — via John Kerry: We Can’t Ignore the Security Threat from Climate Change.
Kerry goes on to say that this ecological deterioration is not only a biological threat but a security threat as well. Groups like al-Qaeda will use any weakness to attack our country and an ecological destabilization could be just the opening they need to strike us again.
There are those who stubbornly call climate change much ado about nothing. As Kerry points out, the memo “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” was viewed similarly and we see how that ended up. This is definitely an instance where “better safe than sorry” is the best way to go.
And now the President of the United States of America:
Afghanistan — A Different Kind of Heat
I kind of thought hell would freeze over before I found myself agreeing with conservative pundit George Will but he has hit the right note where Afghanistan is concerned. In Tuesday’s Washington Post, he writes:
Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan’s recent elections were called “crucial.” To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American “success,” whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a “renewal of trust” of the Afghan people in the government, but the Economist describes President Hamid Karzai’s government — his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker — as so “inept, corrupt and predatory” that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, “who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai’s lot.”
Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan’s “culture of poverty.” But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many “accidental guerrillas” to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent reestablishment of al-Qaeda bases — evidently there are none now — must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?
I’ve said before in the comments section of this blog that I’m all for stopping al-Qaeda but lately there is talk of nation building in Afghanistan and Will points out with unusual humility and all nationalistic pride put aside, that we still have nation building to do in our own country (can you spell Katrina?). There has been talk of the right war and the wrong war. The typical construct is that Iraq was the wrong war, Afghanistan is the right one. But Afghanistan was the right war. Time changes everything. We squandered our riches on Iraq. We no longer have the money to pour into Afghanistan and at this point in time we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. al-Qaeda has been pushed into the Afghan-Pakistan border so, as Will points out, bringing the fight to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is no longer critical. With Afghanistan’s tribal structure, bringing democracy there is next to impossible. For that matter, we are not even nation building in a grateful nation. As I pointed out in a May article, Hamid Karzai is very quick to criticize American military strategy in his country, not realizing our presence there has been a substitute for his incompetent leadership.
Our priority should be working with Pakistan to ensure that neither al-Qaeda nor any other terrorist organization gets hold of Pakistan’s nukes. As for Afghanistan being another Vietnam, no, it is worse than that. In Vietnam we had the bogeyman of communism to fight. The enemy was clear, if over dramatized. The mission, easy to define even if we were nosing into another country’s business. With Afghanistan there is no clear end-game and no government worth defending. The enemy is elusive and in my opinion better defeated through effective intelligence and selective strikes.
You know the old saying about if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? Afghanistan has become too hot. It’s time to get out.
A Michele Bachmann Aside (or Should That be Ass-ide?)
The dumber half of the dumb and dumber Bachmann-Palin Overdrive, dropped another brain-turd Monday night when she said:
What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes.
“This thing” was opposition to health care reform. Is Michele aware that blood brothers prick fingers? Suicide pacts slit wrists. The only explanation can be that in her daily conversation with her Lord, she was instructed to go to any length not to say the word “prick”.