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Top 5 Articles: Weekend Reading

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, Middle East, Top Articles   Print Print

Here are this week’s top articles that GPP recommends highly.

1. Falling Between Two Stools – Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

Mead argues that the Obama team needs to get itself together and soon or it faces a failed presidency and a diminished United States:

Finally, there is a kind of temperamental caution that has not, so far, served this President well.  Unlike George W. Bush, who liked to place large and even reckless bets, President Obama likes to hedge.  If he puts four chips on black, he almost immediately wants to put three chips on red.  He surges in Afghanistan, but time limits the surge.  He bombs Libya, but vows to keep the boots offshore.  This can look like a prudent step to limit losses; in some cases it may make bigger losses inevitable.

2. Fleecing the Facebook Generation – Bill Frezza, Forbes

A brilliantly snarky take on the young adults of America’s stubborn support for the current entitlement system:

Let me get this straight. You kids from Generation Twit, or whatever they call 20-somethings these days, are rallying to keep Washington’s Ponzi-as-you-go entitlement systems alive despite the fact that you will never see a dime for yourselves. And, stupid me, I’m wasting my breath trying to talk sense into you.

Sitting here a mere eight years from sticking my snout into the public trough, maybe I need to rethink this. Perhaps I should back off criticizing all those liberal college professors who charged your parents $50,000 a year to fill your heads with mush. Maybe they did me a favor. You graduated so brimming with altruism that you’re willing to sacrifice your own economic well-being so my college buddies and I can keep ourselves in expensive wines and fine single malts until we’re sucking them down through feeding tubes.

3. US Must Stop Libya From Becoming a Farce – Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Cordesman, one of America’s most sober and sharp foreign policy analysts, finds much to worry about in the current US-France-UK led approach in Libya:

What is already certain is that the end result was a set of decisions that focused on short term considerations and bet on the come. French, British, and US leaders do not seem to have fully coordinated, but it is clear that they sought and got international cover from the UN by claiming a no fly zone could protect civilians when their real objective was to use force as a catalyst to drive Qaddafi out of power. They seem to have assumed that a largely unknown, divided, and fractured group of rebels could win through sheer political momentum and could then be turned into a successful government. They clearly planned a limited air campaign that called for a politically safe set of strikes again against Qaddafi’s air defense and air force, and only limited follow-up in terms of ground strikes against his forces. And then, they waited for success…

4. Obama’s Sophistry on the Budget Deficit – Jay Cost, Weekly Standard

When it comes to dissecting modern politics and politicians, no one is better than Mr. Jay Cost:

Obama regularly praises some value that is expounded mostly by conservatives, then turns around to qualify or balance it with a point made by the left. This is designed to create the impression that he is in the political center, or better yet at the final stage of a dialectical process: conservatism the thesis, liberalism the antithesis, Obama the synthesis.

However, this rhetorical move is inevitably a non sequitur, and always promulgated for the same, political purpose. In the case of the deficit, and what to do about it, the president’s “faith” in the free market is completely abstract and is unrelated to the real world of political debate. Sure, he’s pro-free market in the sense that he prefers it to socialism or communism, but that has nothing to do with the contemporary political divide. Most everybody in the mainstream political discourse agrees that free markets – of some sort – are good. The country is not debating whether to become a communist country. Instead, it is debating how much the government should involve itself in the free market.

Obama knows this, of course, and his speech is intended to confuse the issue, to make it seem like his policy proposals are not as liberal as they actually are. He starts out at 30,000 feet, above the political fray, to explain and praise our shared American values, some emphasized by conservatives and others by liberals, then he quietly zooms down to the ground level to stake out a position on the left hand side of the divide, arguing speciously that this final spot is consistent with where he started out. His hope is that you will not notice the transition, and thus assume that his decidedly left wing position is in fact the one that synthesizes liberalism and conservatism.

5. Union Busting, Massachusetts Style – Kimberley Strassel, Wall Street Journal

It appears that Wisconsin’s efforts to curb public union power is becoming more the norm, rather than the exception:

Pop quiz: What political party, in what state, this week passed a bill in the dead of night stripping public-sector unions of their collective- bargaining powers? Republicans in Wisconsin? The GOP in Ohio or Indiana?

Try Democrats in Massachusetts. Maybe the debate over public-sector benefits isn’t all that ideological after all.

What did you like? Hate? Feel free to offer your own recommendations in the comments.

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Libyan War: Question Time #3

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

For our third and final Question Time concerning the Libyan war, we turn our attention to the views of a so-called ‘Average Joe’. Our ‘Joe’ is no foreign policy expert or political junkie, but has been keeping an eye on the Middle East upheaval and the situation in Libya. His perspective on the issue should be enlightening as he likely represents many other ‘average’ Americans who are watching these events unfold on their television and computer screens. With the United States militarily attacking Qaddafi’s forces in Libya and many in this country questioning exactly why we are intervening (Rasmussen has only 45% supporting US military action) in the civil conflict, the views, aka support or lack there of, of average Americans will be integral in how the Obama administration proceeds. Enjoy.

1. Why do you think the Obama administration made the decision to join France and the UK to institute a no-fly zone and bomb Qaddafi’s forces in Libya? Do you support the decision? Why or why not?

Average Joe: I think that Obama finally decided to support France and UK because he didn’t have any alternative at this point, and was forced to make a decision finally.  It would be a major disgrace to not support our allies. Yes I support the decision, even tough I don’t think Obama has a real vision or strategy.  I think Libya is an example of a country whose leader will stop at nothing to restore order, and will slaughter anything that stands in the way.  Libya is also a real opportunity to keep the momentum going with regards to rebellion in other oppressive nations ( Syria, Bahrain, Iran etc). Also it’s important to be a nation that supports freedom throughout the world.

2. In Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia there are citizens voicing their opposition to the ruling class and leader(s) and refusing to let the status quo remain. What do you think of these recent uprisings throughout the Arab world? What will they lead to? How do you think they will affect the United States?

Average Joe: I think they are all corrupt nations and I’m glad to see the people starting to rise up against these monarchies and unjust societies.  I think this is only natural as we have seen this in Europe and our own history. It needs to happen. I’m not sure what it will lead to, just as America’s future was unclear in the beginning.

I’m optimistic though, most of the protesting and revolutions have had economic factors as a driving force – no jobs and no opportunity for the masses. I don’t think that any new oppressive or Islamist fanatical regimes could take over and provide the type of economic freedom necessary to satisfy these needs.  I also wouldn’t discount the importance of people remaining “connected” to the Internet and outside world. Something that was so important during the revolutions.  Basically, I don’t see these nations trading one dictator for another.  Once freedoms are established, it’s much harder to take them away.

However if Islamic extremists do take power via democratic elections, so be it.  At least then we will have clarity on where things stand in that part of the world.

Any other ‘Average Joe’s’ out there that would like to comment?

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Libyan War: Know Your Friends

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

I have often argued on this blog that the United States needs to take their enemies seriously, know who they are, and what they stand for. This is why I get so frustrated when the Obama administration has gone out of the way to not use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Islamism’, and now, even ‘war’. It should also be noted that just as important as knowing your enemies is to know who your friends or allies are, both in times of peace and war. Who are the US allies in our current war in Libya?

From the outside, though the coalition is smaller than any major multilateral American operation since the end of the Cold War, it includes strong US allies like the UK, France, and now NATO as a whole, and also the Arab League (for the moment at least) and three other Arab states. But when one looks at America’s allies inside of Libya, some questions arise. During the drum up to war, I remember hearing a story that the areas where the Libyan rebels were based in the east of the country was also were a majority of foreign combatants fighting in the Iraq war originated from. So I did some searching and found these two charts from Time magazine:

Time got this data from West Point and it only covers August 2006-August 2007, a period of great violence in Iraq. As can be seen, on a per-capita basis, Libya was the mother of a large percentage of foreign fighters coming to attack American and Iraqi government forces. The next chart….

breaks down the exact location in Libya where the foreign fighters originated from. Yes, that’s right. Benghazi and and Darnah are both home to the rebel movement currently battling Qaddafi and receiving US/Allied support. It has also been reported that a rebel leader, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, fought against the US and NATO in Afghanistan.

Now this isn’t in itself a reason not to help these insurgents or to topple Qaddafi’s regime. Libya’s rebels also have a government in waiting that has strong French support and we should not judge a whole region or people for the actions of a small minority. This is just something that should be duly noted as we go forward in this still murky war effort. After all, what do we do if the rebels win?

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The War in Libya: Question Time #2

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

This time FMFP finds himself under the hot lights of questions written by yours truly. Let’s see how he does…

1. Why do you think the Obama administration chose to attack Libya? Why Libya? Why now? How would you say the decision making process and final choice to start an intervention in Libya’s civil war reflects an Obama Doctrine?

FMFP: I will start with your last question. An Obama Doctrine at this point can be traced to a document written in 2008 by some of President Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers called, “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy.” Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal recently captured the meat of the strategy in a recent article:

“Their blueprint…counsels constant multilateral cooperation, institution-building and consultation. While it admits U.S. preeminence, it is largely a meditation on the limits of American power and authority (my italics). This is the document’s final, summarizing sentence: ‘And such [U.S.] leadership recognizes that in a world in which power has diffused, our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us.’”

As to why Libya and why now, I can only guess. Perhaps because the pressure to do something became so great and after weeks of indecision and paralysis by America, the French and British finally decided they would take the lead. Only then was it safe for the Obama Administration to act without feeling beholden to the imperialist claims that so many of the Left’s base feel naturally inclined to lodge every time American action is taken abroad.

2. When you hear the words ‘Commander and Chief’, what comes to your mind? In this vein, how does President Obama’s performance in the role, specifically in regards to Libya, but also more generally, compare to your vision?

FMFP: Commander-in-Chief is the leader of the country’s armed forces and tasked with protecting the American people against threats, foreign and domestic. This position comes with unbelievably tough decisions and responsibility. It requires leadership, instinct, skill in foreign diplomacy and ultimately, an unflinching desire to protect American citizens at all cost. Needless to say when I think of President Obama, the first thing that pops in to my head is Hillary Clinton’s famous “3AM White House Phone Ringing” Ad:

These travails are certainly no easy matter to decide but that’s what being a leader is all about and for the biggest foreign policy events of Obama’s presidency he has been silent, indecisive and weak. The next candidate for president should run that ad again and show Obama golfing, writing op-eds about gun safety and filling out his NCAA bracket while the world’s on fire. Sadly, in reference to question 1, this is probably the role Obama envisions the US playing as long as he’s president – keeping his head down as President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron make the tough decisions.

Tomorrow, Average Joe takes the GPP stage to offer us how might a ‘normal’ American citizen view US involvement in Libya and the Middle East turmoil.

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The War in Libya: Question Time #1

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

The next three days GPP will feature a Q & A covering the ongoing war in Libya. Today will feature questions by FMFP to myself, representing a so-called foreign affairs expert. I am no master of Libyan politics and society, but I will do my best to provide a thoughtful analysis of the war from an American perspective while answering FMFP’s questions.

1. Americans have proven quite resistant to military action based on humanitarian concerns. Whether it’s going after the country that was primarily responsible for 9/11 (Afghanistan), a merciless dictator feeding instability and seeking WMDs in a vital energy-producing region (Iraq), or a mix of all of the above (Somalia), American popular opinion is hard to maintain even with national interests at stake. Thus far President Obama has been practically absent on the US interests at stake in Libya and further, there appears to be no clear game plan, objectives or exit strategy in place. Given this historical and political context, how long do you see President Obama maintaining support for air strikes or even promoting more aggressive military action? How much deference will the American public grant the President before raising these concerns?

“Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.”

President Obama on Libya, March 18

First off, Americans have proven throughout the past 250 odd years that they are willing to fight and die for their national security, their freedom, and the freedom of others. If a country or group messes with the United States, the Jacksonian streak in our culture rears its head and demands retribution. As of right now, Libya doesn’t fit that description and that is why the Obama administration has to be careful. Qaddafi’s regime has American blood on its hands, spoken ill of our intentions and nature, and is currently violently putting down his own countrymen to secure his dictatorship, but none of these are at a high enough emotional or strategic level that would get a majority of Americans to believe that we must use extensive resources and blood to remove and replace him. This does not mean that a majority of Americans won’t support the implementation of a no-fly zone, which has and will include bombings and missile strikes against Qaddafi forces, nor that they don’t sympathize with the rebels opposed to the brutal and backward Qaddafi regime.

The key here is time, resources, and objectives. The Obama administration clearly plans for this endeavor to be short-lived, or at least the part led by the United States, and does not exert too much pressure on American military resources, but wars hardly ever go as planned. Turning to objectives, President Obama has, as his quote above shows, attempted to justify the US involvement in Libya’s civil war by referring to the humanitarian disaster and warning that the situation could lead to further regional instability that could harm our allies, and therefore, ourselves. But there’s a problem. President Obama said these words on Friday, March 18 (when most Americans are concentrated on other matters) and then went on a trip to Brazil. I did an informal test of the knowledge about the war with some of my co-workers, neighbors, family, etc. and did not find many who knew what the heck was going on and had even less knowledge of why the US was getting involved. Americans will follow a President into war and sustain the effort if he can show them that the fight is worth fighting. President Obama’s lackluster effort engaging the public and explaining our objectives, combined with his poor job propping up  American/NATO efforts in Afghanistan, does not give one great confidence.

2. It’s been just a few days since the U.N. coalition began bombing in Libya and already we are hearing complaints from the Arab League that they only supported a no-fly zone, not aerial bombing. Considered a crucial partner in the campaign and a central element in President Obama’s “world-wide approach,” what is the likelihood of maintaining the Arab League’s support for the mission? What implications will this have on the resolve of the UN and the US particularly?

Good question. The Arab League went from supporter of international intervention in Libya to skeptic in near rapid fashion. The group has voiced concern over civilian casualties caused by the process involved to create a no-fly zone in Libya. This is not unexpected as no one wants to be on the side of innocents being harmed by outsiders, especially if you’re considered the ‘in’ group, but the whole US/France/UK/Arab League/UN mission was to protect the Libyan civilians being crushed by Qaddafi’s forces. There have also been no documented reports of civilian casualties caused by allied bombing, which has been painstakingly made to only harm Qaddafi’s forces. The Arab League’s support is indeed important, and it was probably necessary to get the Obama administration and United Nations Security Council on board (or at least abstaining), but it’s relevancy should not be overstated. As long as the group continues to for the most part support the military intervention and oppose the rule of Qaddafi there should not be any major impact on the ongoing war effort. In fact, calls for the allies to be careful in their military efforts by the Arab League, should not be surprising. They represent those civilians in many ways and obviously do not want to be seen as puppets of the US/UK/France.

Tomorrow, FMFP, a domestic policy junkie, takes the stage and faces questions from yours truly. The last session we will see the views of an ‘Average Joe’.

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Comparing Wars: Libya and Iraq

   Posted by: FMFP    in Uncategorized   Print Print

By no means is Libya a simple issue, nor do these facts necessarily argue against the actions taken by the United States, but it is important to take this opportunity to put our last major military intervention in Iraq into perspective by considering just a few facts:

International Support
* Coalition partners Bush had for Iraq: 30
* Coalition partners Obama has for Libya: 17

Domestic Support (Pew Research Center)
* Decision to use military force in Iraq (March 2003): 72% support/22% oppose
* Decision to enforce no-fly zone in Libya (March 2011): 44% support/45% oppose
* Decision to bomb Libyan air defenses (March 2011): 16% support/77% oppose

Constitutional Considerations
* Candidate Obama (2007): “The President does not have power under Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military strike.”
* President Obama (2011): “Obama did not seek congressional authorization before joining allies, including Great Britain and  France, in taking military action against the regime of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi in order to establish a no-fly zone over that country. The action was approved by the United Nations Security Council but not by the U.S. Congress.” –

Congressional Support
* Iraq war resolution passed House 297-133 and Senate 77-23.
* Libyan war resolution: does not exist

* US objective in Iraq War: Topple Saddam Hussein regime, replace with democratically-elected government, stop race to obtain and use WMDs and ultimately bring more stability to Middle East.
* US objective in Libya: Stop Qaddafi from murdering Libyan residents, ???

Public Demonstrations

* Iraq War: Major protests in San Francisco, New York, Portland
* Libya War: Crickets….

The Iraq war started in 2003 and the present one in Libya have numerous differences, but I thought the comparisons above were worth highlighting. GPP will have much more on the ongoing American/UK/French war efforts in Libya throughout the next few days.

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