Saturday, September 26, 2009

Episode 78: Sanction This: Political Chess Games

Before I begin, I have an announcement: The L Comment is 1 year old today!! This blog is my 5th try at blogging and this is the first one to bear fruit. I want to thank all the readers of this blog for reading!! This blog has accomplished my main goal of having civilized political discourse with people from many political persuasions. And may I say, the kind of dialogue has FAR exceeded expectations. You guys are awesome, and I thank you very much for coming back for more debates!

Onto the news of the day, it seems Iran has come clean with a new nuclear facility being built. Now if Bush said Iran was developing a nuclear program and not Iraq, we’d have to re-evaluate history because he’d be right. I’m not surprised by this, and I doubt anyone in Washington is either, because all the candidates of the election brought up this possibility during the 2008 campaign. Furthermore, we already knew about one facility and its location, information that Obama has shared with Russia and China to get them on board to place sanctions on Iran.

From the same CNN article linked above, this passage is key:
"It is not at all surprising that Iran would want this news to come out now," Ingram said. "It strengthens their hand."

The fact that Iran has proactively informed the world helps Iran diplomatically in conducting nuclear negotiations, Ingram said, adding that to characterize this second facility as a covert operation is misleading. The Iranians have yet to start production at Qom and are revealing it before that happens.

"It will be seen as an indication that they are willing to play by the rules, and this will make it more difficult to persuade them to abandon enrichment," Ingram said.

I’m not a doomsday conspiracy theorist by any means, but we have to read between the lines here. Iran’s aggressive approach has failed every single time they’ve tried it. Now with the US, China, and Russia in the fledgling stages of a alliance here, Iran is backed against the corner. Typically when the enemy is backed against a corner, they fight harder than ever before. As Muhammad Ali proved, the rope-a-dope strategy works pretty well…

This is how I see this playing out. Iran pretends to cooperate. They follow all the rules, abide by the sanctions, and the world let’s go of the leash a bit. Meanwhile, in a cave somewhere, weapons are being developed. Now if they attack, their target will likely be Israel. If this happens, we have to defend our allies. If our relations hold up, we’ll have Russia and China, as well as England, France, and Canada as allied nations. Iran will have Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq as allies. That’s going be a really tough fight.

This development has made me revisit my previous post. Afghanistan is no longer about the Taliban. If this impending war happens, Afghanistan is going to be a very important piece. The equivalent of the center squares of a chess board. Having Afghanistan as an ally gives the US Allies a strong position on the battlefield. If the Taliban take over the region, a war with the Middle East will prove to be very difficult. Thus, in light of this story, I think it may not be a bad idea to fight the Afghan war because all of a sudden, we have a very good reason for winning that war. The objective is simple: eradicate the Taliban.

I hope to God that I’m wrong and this is all gross over analysis. However, if I’m right, or even 50% right, it is very possible the 2,000 year struggle in the Middle East may be over in my lifetime. WWIII may very well be called Jihad for real, perhaps Crusade II. The main advantage would be that this war is against countries, not ideology. There are parameters for victory and failure and its nation vs. nation, rather than nation vs. terrorism.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Episode 77: P.S. We’re In a War

If you take a look at the news programs and blogs of late, the topic du jour is healthcare, and rightly so, as we are nearing a vote that could have a profound impact on the lives of Americans for several generations to come. Diving deeper into the subject, we find a lot of hyperbole from both sides of the isle, using buzzwords like “death panels” and “if we don’t reform healthcare, you’ll die faster” etc. Taking a glance at the blogosphere I took a hiatus from for a bit, it seems no one is talking about the fact we’re in a war. And generals want MORE troops!

I’m having a lot of trouble understanding what a victory in Afghanistan looks like. Does it mean we establish a free democracy there that the people don’t want? Do we secure an oil interest that doesn’t exist in that country? Do we capture a rugged, mountainous region, with awful weather (really, really hot or really, really cold), and surrounded by enemies in each direction to gain some kind of tactical advantage?

I’m of the opinion that we need to cut our losses and just bring our troops home. After eight years, a few blown opportunities to catch the true enemy Osama bin Laden, and the non-existent support from home and abroad, there is no victory to be had in Iraq. Let’s say we found Osama tomorrow and he caught him, hung him, and put his head on a rusty iron platter (because silver would be too good for him), then what? Is the War on Terror, sorry, the War on Al Qaeda, over at that point? Did we really spend $10 Billion to capture and kill one man? As far as I’m concerned, bin Laden is a target of opportunity at this point.

I have good news however. I know how to win the war on whatever you want to call it. The answer is so simple, you may kick yourself for not thinking of it sooner. The answer is to flat out leave Iraq. This is what happens when we do: The Taliban will declare our withdrawal as a victory. From an article from the NY TIMES, Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban was recently reported saying “Today we have strong determination, military training and effective weapons,” the message said. “Still more, we have preparedness for a long war, and the regional situation is in our favor. Therefore, we will continue to wage jihad until we gain independence and force the invaders to pull out.” Given Afghanistan’s nearly perfect track record of thwarting all forces that have invaded them for the past 2000 something years, I’m inclined to agree with him.

In response to our leaving, most of the “alliance” will also pull out. The Taliban will not attack America because they got what they want – the removal of western influence from their land. The Taliban will complete take over Afghanistan. Then one of two things will happen, their regime will be so suppressive, the world will have to rejoin the war effort under the banner of human rights (ie. WWII and Kosovo) or Afghans will spent about 5 years being miserable. If scenario 1 happens, the world will be dragged into another unwinnable war until a smart guy like me concludes we need to leave, and the process starts again and moves to scenario 2 – the Afghans will engage in a civil war against the Taliban. The people will rebel the oppression, and crush the Taliban forever. Then a coalition led by the U.S. will come back in a humanitarian mission to rebuild Afghanistan, establish a working democracy, and other nations in the region, empowered by Afghanistan’s success will follow suit.

The main point is, victory from oppressors have never been achieved from outside forces extinguishing the problem for the oppressed. From the Battle of Thermopylae, to the storming of the Bastille, to War of 1812, or from The American Revolution, Civil War, and Civil Rights movement, no struggle has been solved from the help of external powers. The same is true for Afghanistan. It has been said there’s no such thing as good wars, but there is such a thing as necessary ones. I think the only way to truly secure American security interests is to leave and let them fight their own battle. They will win, because the oppressor always loses in the end. We will win because we’ll have an ally and will be safer from terrorist attacks. The world will win because young people want to blog and twitter, and new governments in the region will rise that will allow their people to do those things.

Let’s refocus our lens back to the present day. We talk about how much money healthcare is going to cost, but I don’t hear those detractors talking about the budgetary black hole of the war in Afghanistan. The generals there want more troops which mean more money. We’re fighting an enemy that is damn near unbeatable with no real understanding of what victory means. It makes very little sense with respect to our domestic interests to continue to invest in a war with no end and no exit strategy. Wars cannot be fought unless the economy is in war mode. This means domestic production of tanks, armor, guns, bullets, etc. Wars shouldn’t be a part of the budget ledger like Medicare, Cash for Clunkers and office supplies. If we are unwilling to commit this economy into a war economy, then we should be equally unwilling to participate in this fruitless campaign. This doesn’t negate the tremendous work our soldiers do each and every day. It doesn’t make their deaths and injuries in vain. On the contrary, our missions have given us greater clarity on how to proceed. Perhaps this endless war in the Middle East may have a light at the end of the tunnel in our lifetime.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Episode 76: Mini Hiatus

Hello all! As you were probably well aware, I've been gone from the blogosphere for a bit. I've been on some business trips and have a final one this week to wrap things up. I just wanted to drop by quickly and write a quick note to let you, my dear readers, know there is TONS of new content soon!!

Upon my return Monday, I'll be getting back to the health care debate with my good friend and conservative blogger New Conservative Generation (I didn't forget about you!). I have lots of new ideas on health care, the war, energy, the economy (which finally seems to be recovering!) and plenty of political philosophy to write about. Also, The L Comment: Sunday Comment radio show will be launching two Sundays from now if all goes well! New Conservative Generation has already volunteered to be my first guest host, and I hope all of you will tune in!

Sit tight guys, I'll be back soon, and I greatly look forward to reading your blogs again as well!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Episode 75: Remembering That Day

At least once in a lifetime, a life changing, earth shattering event occurs that impacts us so greatly, every detail of the day is forever burned into our memory. For all Americans, 9/11 is that day. We all remember where we were that day. I was a senior in high school. Beautiful picturesque day. I was drum major of our marching band, running band practice when announcement informed us the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Instant silence. Then sobs. Several of my classmates had friends and relatives who worked and lived near there. We continued to the next period when we learned the second tower was hit. By this time, every TV and radio in school was on, and we witnessed live the collapse of a perhaps our most conspicuous symbols of American power. One of my teachers had a daughter who worked for the Pentagon. I remember him not even being able to complete one sentence of the lesson, his thoughts drifted to the safety of his daughter. We came to find out the plane that hit the pentagon was exactly where her office was, and because she had to retrieve a document from another room, she was out of her office at the time.

As I sit here, watching a real-time re-broadcast of the attacks, I remember so clearly all the emotions of the day. The chaos, confusion, the unanswered questions. I remember three days before the attacks, marching in the Labor Day parade in New York City. Manhattan was such a different place. It was around the time of an election, and I happened to be next to a politician’s float. Fake handshakes, insincere smiles, carefree blissful ignorance, as we were living in the height of our prosperity. Coming home from the parade, the sun was behind the World Trade Center casting a silhouette of the New York skyline that looked like it was taken from a postcard.

I remember the smoke cloud. Driving westbound on the Long Island expressway, when you get close to exit 33, a large mushroom cloud appears on the horizon. My heart shrank to the bottom of my stomach every time I saw it. It remained in the skies for many, many months. I remember ground zero. I didn’t have the courage to see it until a couple of years after the attack. Though the area was significantly cleaner, there was still a huge crater in the ground. My grandfather was on the construction crew that built the World Trade Center. He told me the basement was seven stories deep. Perhaps the impact made it a bit deeper.

What I remember the most about that day however, was the true spirit of America. The charities, the outpouring of support from every citizen, the scores of Long Island volunteer firemen, policemen, ambulance, and other emergency personnel heading to Manhattan to move sheet metal, find bodies and provide blankets, food and drink. I remember that for a short time, there was no democrat, no republican, independent, libertarian, green party, black, white, red, brown, yellow, purple – there was only The United States of America. We were one nation. As we head into the difficult debates ahead, let us put aside the conspiracies, the petty bickering, and the misinformation. Political dissention is the fabric of our great democracy. But we can do it in a way that brings us together, not divides us, that includes people into the debate, not dismisses points of view we don’t agree with, that values pragmatism over ideology. Let us be the America from that day, that banded together to tackle difficult issues. In doing so, we can turn the tragedy of that day into an unbreakable strength.

My thoughts and prayers, go out to all those affected directly or indirectly by that day.