Food for Despots

178px-_Be_Smart_Act_Dumb__-_NARA_-_514912Despots thrive on ignorance. After watching US foreign policy for the past 10 or so years, it is not too far-fetched to say that people get the government they deserve. We have learned this lesson time and time again. First we thought we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Then we moved from anti-terrorism to nation building in Afghanistan. Then we cheered on the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. In all cases we have discovered that the country post-despot is far more dysfunctional than the country under the despot.  This may sound callous bordering on bigotry but some countries are so full of ignorant people, incapable of self-government that they need a strong-arm to keep things in order. I believe the jury is out on whether the world is better off without Hussein, Mubarek and Gaddafi. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is a bad joke. And now what are we doing? We are seriously contemplating a contribution to the demise of Syria’s Assad with zero knowledge of what will follow his departure.

Is the lesson this teaches us here at home limited to foreign policy? No it isn’t. A smart electorate can become a dumb electorate. Dumb people get leaders who end up not acting in their best interests. Dumb people end up losing their freedom. I argue we are becoming a dumb people and I say this in a totally bipartisan way.

In the past week I have watched several exchanges on television that left me very unnerved. Bill Moyers interviewed Glenn Greenwald a journalist who has written about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistle blowers. The government tactics range from intimidation to criminal prosecution. According to Greenwald, more whistle blowers have been harassed by this administration than any other administration combined. Recent developments suggest that those offering evidence on the Benghazi terrorist attack of 9/11/12 that was contrary to the government account were being shut down. I have spent some time on this blog and in the comments section defending Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi affair but when a mainstream show like “Face the Nation” this morning reports that the administration knowingly lied or distorted the facts about Benghazi how can there be any more defense? In fact, we risked endangering our relationship with the new President of Libya by essentially calling him a liar when he said the attack on the embassy was planned.

Then a few nights later a PBS “Frontline” report talked about America post-9/11 and painted a picture of a government shrouded in secrecy doing things in “America’s best interest” without their permission. This policy was passed on to the Obama administration and expanded by him. Billions of our e-mails are read every day by folks employed in Homeland Security.

Later in the week HBO’s Bill Maher interviewed Jeremy Scahill, a reporter whose eyes burn with anger when he recounts how we brazenly killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki simply for being the son of a terrorist instigator. Press Secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, reportedly said this is what happens when your Dad does bad things. Scahill seems to be alone while most liberals turn a blind eye to a liberal administration flushing liberal ideals down the toilet.  Scahill went on to discuss the near indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians by our special ops forces. As Scahill puts it, if someone steals your goat, you can report them to the Americans as a suspected terrorist and our special ops team will storm their house and kill everyone in it.

Later on that same broadcast an argument broke out, so brief that if you blinked you missed it. Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC uber-liberal, flew off the handle when conservative guest Pete Hegseth launched the old 2nd Amendment defense of an electorate needing to protect itself from government tyranny. O’Donnell said what I have been saying for years … and very recently in the comments section of this very blog, namely that the time for us to be worried about government tyranny is long past. Our well oiled democracy has built-in safeguards that ensure government tyranny would never happen. Along with that is the ironic and contradictory side argument that all of our US militias would never be a match against a government armed with drones and nukes — that same government that would never resort to tyranny. Essentially “they would never be tyrants but if they were you’d be no match for them.”

Well, I’m no longer so sure O’Donnell is right. We saw a militarization in Boston a few weeks ago that should give us all pause. When asked if America would ever drone strike its own people, Attorney General Eric Holder’s initial response was a hypothetical yes. He only backed off after an old-fashioned filibuster by Senator Rand Paul focused attention on it. Combine this with the other stories I watched this week, and we no longer have the liberal ideal of America that I vote for every four years.

But beyond all that, we have a conservative populace with a sizable number of folks who still don’t believe Barack Obama was born in America and a liberal populace too ignorant to understand that universal background checks (which I support) would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy of Sandy Hook. We are, as a nation, getting dumber and dumber. If we don’t turn this around, we will wake up one morning and not recognize the America in which we live. Our ignorance will be the food that one day nourishes a true despot.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Poster from National Archives

 

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What to Do When Your Buddy’s Girlfriend Dumps Him

Foreign affairs is not my strong point. I’m better versed in domestic issues. But I do see a current American dilemma boiling down to the following scenario:

You’ve known your buddy for years. You’ve had good times. When you see your buddy treat his girlfriend pretty shabby, you look the other way. After all, your buddy is one of the only guys in his neighborhood whom you feel you can count on. Suddenly one day his girlfriend says she’s had enough. She burns his clothes and tosses them out the window. She goes running out the front door. He chases her out of the house. Does he have a gun? A baseball bat? Maybe he’s just shaking his fists? What do you do? You love the guy after all. But you’ve got standards. You see how he’s mistreated her all these years. You know she has every right to protest. She has every right to want him out of her life. So the best you can do is tell him to stop shaking his fist, or to put down the bat or the gun. You love the guy but you don’t want everyone thinking you condone his bad behavior. Then again, he is one of the only dependable guys in the neighborhood. Man, you’re in a spot, aren’t you?

For the past thirty years, we’ve been buddies with Hosni Mubarak. We’ve stood by as he has promised governmental reform to his people and never delivered. Now in a wave of protest that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Mubarak’s people are pissed and they’re not going to take it anymore. But as in the case of the guy whose buddy’s abused girlfriend finally leaves him, President Barack Obama had to walk a fine line this week of pledging support to Mubarak while warning him not to run after his “girlfriend” with a baseball bat or a gun.

This business of allies is quite complicated. Sometimes you make friends with the best of a bad bunch. In an ideal world, would we really be friends with Hamid Karzai or Asif Zardari, two men who repeatedly snub us in both word and action?

Well, as I said, I’m no foreign affairs expert. I just know it’s a real pain when your buddy’s been acting like an ass and finally gets called on it. Now you’ve got to choose between loyalty and virtue. This week, it looks like we tried to have our cake and eat it too.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Hot in Herre — Obama Video Address: August 29, 2009

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?

via George F. Will – Time for the U.S. to Get Out of Afghanistan – washingtonpost.com.

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”.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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