Posts Tagged ‘strategy’
Originally published at Rubin Reports.
General David Petraeus was the hero of the victorious surge strategy in Iraq. But he also has the distinction of becoming America’s first Politically Correct field commander. His strategy in Afghanistan was in line with that of the Obama Administration by putting the emphasis on winning Muslim hearts and minds as a higher priority than military victories or even at times the safety of American soldiers. There’s a reason why President Barack Obama made him CIA director.
Leaving aside the question of the resignation’s relationship to the Benghazi debacle, in some ways, his fall is more discouraging than the election results. Don’t these powerful people feel that their duty is more important than their personal self-aggrandizement or pleasure? We should remember, too, that Petraeus’s predecessor in Afghanistan was brought down because of some incautious things said in a magazine interview.
Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Herman Caine, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Larry Craig, Richard Nixon, and other politicians supposedly represented certain ideas, policies, and the hopes and dreams of millions of people who have worked hard for them and put their trust in them. Can’t they put aside what they might also desire for the sake of those things?
I have seen with my own two eyes Kennedy drunk on the floor of the Senate and I know a lot from first-hand observation about the private adventures of former Senator Chris Dodd and Hart. And all of the above hasn’t begun to touch on financial corruption.
Of course, many do behave differently and far better. A few years ago I’d have said that perhaps the media has become too willing and able to expose the foibles of those at the top. Yet after the spectacle of a Teflon Obama and his entourage it would be more correct to say that the media only exposes those it wants to for political purposes. Then, too, Clinton and Kennedy didn’t suffer at all from their amorousness and bad driving.
If I’m not mistaken, there are now Democratic senators from Connecticut and Massachusetts who lied about their military records. The latter one, Senator John Kerry, may soon be secretary of state, which will be a global disaster of major proportions. There is also now a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who clearly lied about being a Cherokee in order to get preferential treatment in getting a job.
I have seen in the National Archives the OSS report during World War Two that a Danish journalist was a Nazi spy. And this is the woman with whom John F. Kennedy had an affair and for that reason was shipped out by his father to the Pacific front, where he would be made a hero through a combination of his bad navigation and subsequent brave behavior in the sinking of PT-109. General Dwight Eisenhower’s and President Franklin Roosevelt’s affairs during World War Two are today well known. But those were times when things remained quiet.
Why, though, are these personal matters anyone else’s business? The debate usually focuses around an argument between what is proper morality and whether Americans are too puritanical. The French, we are told, rejoice when their politicians get naughty.
But there is another far more important issue altogether that is rarely aired. If a politician or major public figure believes in what he’s doing and knows that exposure of his misdeed would destroy that mission, how can they give in to temptation if they really believe in the importance of that mission or of the importance of keeping faith with those who are relying on them?
And if they don’t care at all about those things, how can they be worthy of wielding power? It is not so much a question of personal morality as it is of character, not an issue of private life but of whether one takes seriously the concept of duty. If, for example, Bill Clinton was willing to risk his presidency for having some sort of relations–even if he could define them as not having had sex in some physiological sense–with Monica Lewinsky and then, according to the court finding, committing perjury about his behavior, that is not the sort of person one should want to be president. The fact that he escaped impeachment for the latter offense is not the point. His being willing to take that chance is the issue.
There is also something in the character of those who lust for power and fame—and I write this from long observation growing up in Washington DC—that very much distorts one’s personality. Such people almost inevitably feel superior to others, arrogant that they can get away with anything, coming to take for granted that they deserve privileges but that the rules don’t apply to them. That’s why the founders of America wanted to limit government and the power of those who ran it.
Such wisdom is even older, though it has only rarely done humanity much good. “Put not your trust in princes,” says Psalm 146. Rabbi Hillel said almost two thousand years ago that the obsessively ambitious end up by destroying themselves.
Today, it isn’t so much that Republicans are more upstanding. The difference is that they pay for their sins because the media is so quick to devour them. If, say, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri says something stupid once, he’s finished. If a Democrat does so, even repeatedly racialist statements, he gets to be vice-president for another four years. That’s reality.
Before the revolution it was clearly defined in France which classes whose members could or could not be legally tortured. This distinction now applies to public figures along partisan and ideological lines as well.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
How do you make the important decisions of your life, such as what to study or where to invest your money? Is there a mathematical strategy to thinking clearly? On this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Professor Michael Starbird, professor of mathematics and author of “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking,” talks about how we make decisions and how to think clearly.Doug Goldstein, CFP®
Despite public surveys that show the general public largely opposed to negative campaigning, the overwhelming majority of candidates in contested races have refined this strategy almost to an art form.
And why not? After all, many of these same polls also conclude that this type of campaigning – whereby the candidate too often distorts his or her opponent’s record while spewing venomous personal attacks – works, as seeds of doubt regarding the opponent’s fitness for office are planted in voters’ minds.
But imagine if Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discarded this strategy in favor of saying what they really think and what they offer the American people.
Under this unlikely scenario, here is what I’d like them to say. We’ll begin with President Obama:
I have been accused by some political detractors of supporting economic policies that have a distinct socialist bent.
Well, if governing with compassion by advocating the creation of a society that benefits the American people by equalizing the social status of all Americans makes me a socialist, I proudly plead guilty.
If ensuring that as many Americans as possible have the basic necessities of daily living, even at the cost of taking more from those who have made it and giving that share of the pie to those who, for whatever reason, have not, makes me a proponent of income redistribution, I will proudly wear the title of the “Robin Hood of American politics.”
If the cost of solving today’s economically challenging times is to spend beyond our means, a strategy nobody really likes but one that is sometimes necessary, then I will propose in a second term more stimulus spending and more entitlement programs. Yes, there are times in a nation’s life when the government must spend, even when resources are scarce, to protect the have-nots.
I realize that some describe this policy as an irresponsible means of spending other people’s money and mortgaging the fiscal future of the next generation. But, if reelected, I will continue my policy of deficit spending to rescue America from an economic catastrophe that I inherited from my predecessor – something I apologize for reminding you of yet again.
The protection of Social Security in its current form from insolvency and the maintaining of Medicare and Medicaid for our nation’s seniors and disabled are areas I will pay particular attention to in a second term. And if adequate resources in the national treasury are lacking to fix these impending problems, I will yet again tax the wealthy Americans among us.
And my justification for this is simple: If the ultra-conservative chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, concluded that it is within the government’s right to force one American to provide health insurance for his or her fellow American through higher taxes – as he ruled recently when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of my universal health care legislation – then surely Congress and I can see to it that certain Americans, namely high-income earners, pay whatever is necessary to secure a better future for the most vulnerable among us.
If a judicial champion of conservatism like John Roberts says that any type of taxation can be left to the discretion of the executive and legislative branches of government, its imposition on anything those branches deem necessary to improve America’s human condition should logically be supported.
And speaking of government’s legal right to impose necessary revenue enhancers on taxpayers, government must have the same right to impose mandatory regulations – similar to my administration’s health care legislation’s rules – on businesses that unfairly profit off the backs of American workers. And my administration, in protecting workers’ rights, will determine what constitutes unfair profits and act accordingly.
My general philosophy of good government at work is this: The longstanding general business principle of putting greed over equality and profit over compassion must go by the wayside. For as President Woodrow Wilson once said, “we are all caught in a great economic system which is heartless.”
* * * * *
In the national security and foreign policy realms I will continue to punish the guilty, as my order to kill Osama bin Laden and my policy of using drones against terrorists in Pakistan has demonstrated. But my overall goal remains what it has always been: a secure international peace that will stand the test of time, through the values of decency and humaneness that made and that keeps America great.Eli Chomsky
With the campaigns for the presidency of the United States in full swing people are beginning to imagine the inaugural address that will be delivered this coming January 20. Especially this year, when the candidates offer such different visions for America, rhetoric enthusiasts are expecting whoever wins to deliver an inspiring speech designed to provide a strategy and game plan for the country to move forward.
The challenge for all modern presidents when they deliver their inaugural address is that they are inevitably compared to John F. Kennedy’s classic. As history has so far demonstrated, unlike Olympic records, Kennedy’s address has to date not been surpassed. While most people remember his “Ask not…” exhortation, I would like to focus on a sentence from the beginning of his speech – a sentence infused, simultaneously, with the deep hope and fear that was the product of years of thought and concern on Kennedy’s part.
After his salutary comments, Kennedy described: “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” Kennedy truly feared the dangers inherent in nuclear weapons. In his announcement in 1946 that he would be running for Congress, Kennedy stated, “We have a world which has unleashed the powers of atomic energy. We have a world capable of destroying itself.”
According to Richard Tofel, in his book analyzing Kennedy’s inaugural address, Sounding the Trumpet (2005), JFK contemplated for many years whether democracy as an ideology and way of life would be able to survive the challenges of totalitarianism. “With the advent of nuclear weapons, this uncertainty took on apocalyptic overtones…” (p.95). In his 1958 speech to Washington’s Gridiron Club, Kennedy articulated his concerns very clearly. “The question is—whether a democratic society—with its freedom of choice—its breadth of opportunity—its range of alternatives—can meet the single-minded advance of the Communists….Can a nation organized and governed as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Have we got what it takes to carry through in an age where—as never before—our very survival is at stake—where we and the Russians have the power to destroy one-quarter of the earth’s population—a feat not accomplished since Cain slew Abel?”
By the time he delivered his inaugural address Kennedy’s thoughts had developed and he challenged humanity to overcome the man-made threats to the world. The problem was whether the technology had outpaced its moral masters. While Kennedy in 1958 referred to Cain murdering his brother as a dire warning of the stakes at play, one of the broad themes of this week’s parsha captures the essence of the challenge. There are inherent dangers in knowledge when it is used inappropriately – without the metaphoric brakes being there to pace the engine of progress properly.
The Torah relates (2:17) that G-d granted Adam permission to enjoy all the bounty of the Garden of Eden with the exception of the Tree of Knowledge. The commentators throughout the centuries have analyzed the reason for this prohibition. Whatever the actual reason was, it is indisputable that after Adam and Eve ate from the tree, the world was never the same. Not only did death become part of nature’s course, the very knowledge attained through the act of eating hastened the process.
Carefully examining the events which followed Adam and Eve’s sin it becomes clear that they share a common theme. While human beings made tremendous discoveries, invented life-changing technologies and developed an appreciation for the arts, they did so without moral restraint. Rashi explains (4:20) that Yaval, who is credited with technological advances, adapted his engineering technology to build temples for idolatry. Likewise, his brother Yuval, who is credited with inventing musical instruments, did so for idolatrous purposes. Their cousin Tuval Cain, who invented metallurgy, did so in order to provide weapons for murderers.
All three played critical roles in the advancement of human development. Their efforts would probably earn them a Nobel Prize today. But when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge he lost for his children the moral restraints necessary to control knowledge. His descendants used their knowledge for nefarious purposes and helped plant the seeds for the world’s destruction. Not until Noach do we encounter a person who used knowledge in a controlled manner, developing useful agricultural tools and methods. His name derives from the Hebrew word for consolation, for he truly improved the human condition. Unlike the other inventors in the parsha, Noach had no ulterior motives. His was solely to help humankind. Tragically, as we’ll read in next week’s parsha, his efforts were too little, too late to save the world. They were, however, enough to start the world anew.Rabbi David Hertzberg
As Israel comes closer to a confrontation with Iran, we should note that Iran’s primary strategy is unlikely to be direct conflict with Israel. Iran’s air and missile forces, despite their bragging, are not sufficiently well-developed to support such a conflict.
Instead, I expect that they will depend on their main proxy, Hizbollah. Hizbollah can be expected to attack with its considerable missile forces and even to attempt ground incursions into Israeli territory. At the same time, Iran will try to leverage Western fears of terrorism and oil-supply disruption into pressure on Israel; so we can also expect to see terrorist attacks against Western targets.
The difficulty of destroying or seriously damaging Iran’s nuclear capability is much-discussed, but I think the neutralization of Hizbollah will also be a major task, and one of more immediate importance. In the short term, the number of Israeli casualties and the amount of damage to the home front in a conflict with Iran will be proportional to the time it takes the IDF to end Hizbollah’s ability to fight.
Hizbollah is also an essential component of Iran’s long-term strategy, whether or not she succeeds in building a bomb. A nuclear Iran is more likely to pursue her interests in the region by threats and low-intensity conventional conflict under a nuclear umbrella than by actual use of atomic weapons, which would expose her to devastating retaliation.
In 2006, the Bush Administration gave Israel a month to finish Hizbollah. Israel did not make use of the opportunity because of the incompetence of the government and top military commanders, complacency, lack of planning, poor intelligence, etc. I believe that these problems have been fixed to a great extent.
Although one might expect Obama to be less cooperative, it’s possible that the administration’s closeness with conservative Sunni interests — primarily Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or even Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — which are natural enemies of Hizbollah, might lead it to wait before lowering the boom.
On the other hand, if Hizbollah terrorists are car-bombing buildings in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, there will be enormous pressure on Israel to end the conflict (yes, it’s irrational, but we’ve seen this response before). I don’t think that Israel can count on getting a month this time.
If I were an Israeli planner I would think about a preemptive attack on Hizbollah — separately from and before attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, for the following reasons:
*Hizbollah is the most immediate threat to Israel;
*Hizbollah will be Iran’s major weapon of retaliation if Israel strikes Iran;
*By not attacking Iran, Israel does not give the regime an excuse to disrupt oil supplies;
*The IDF can concentrate on defeating Hizballah;
*It’s always better to initiate than to respond; and
*The chaos in Syria makes it easier to isolate Hizballah from its source of supply and keeps the Syrian military too busy to intervene.
I would stress the importance of a short campaign, which will probably mean the use of massive force. Hizbollah is very well dug-in in southern Lebanon, and an operation aborted by international pressure could be disastrous.
If Israel can be successful in removing Hizbollah from the equation, Iran will be greatly weakened, Israel’s security and posture of deterrence will be strengthened, and the chances for future military action (or even diplomacy) to keep Iran from getting the bomb will improve.
Visit the Fresno Zionism blog.Vic Rosenthal
“I don’t want to be complicit if they (Israelis) choose to do it (attack Iran’s nuclear program),” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey.
News flash, General Dempsey: You are complicit in the way that counts; you are trapped: the Iranian leadership does not care what we say — or what we do — about our military relations with Israel. The Iranian leadership needs the U.S. as its adversary and will not allow you deniability. If there is a strike on Iran, they will need for it to have been the U.S. – will need, General Dempsey, for it to have been you.
It is unlikely, General, that you spoke on your own hook as you are still wearing your stars. The last General who spoke to journalists out of turn and out of the country was Stanley McChrystal – and he lasted only as long as it took to arrive in the Oval Office. Your Commander in Chief appears to have used you to hammer another nail in the coffin of a relationship that had, until he got here, been remarkably productive for more than 30 years.
Since the Reagan administration, U.S.-Israel military relations have generally been buffered from US-Israel political relations. They were not always smooth, but the military establishments were largely left to determine their interests together and separately. The late Caspar Weinberger was not enamored of Israel (certainly he was not enamored of the late Prime Minister Begin nor of the 1982 war in Lebanon), but the designation and early growth of “U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation,” and the designation of Israel for Major Non-NATO Ally status came in those years. The Sixth Fleet came to Israel and the Haifa USO was built then to handle the enthusiastic crowds of American sailors and Marines.
Israel had the first wartime operational drones in 1982. The war that Weinberger opposed was a catalyst for U.S. thinking about remotely piloted vehicles. I took a small group of retired American military officers (including the former head of DIA, the former commander of US Air Forces Europe and the former commander of NATO’s Southern Command) to Israel in September 1982 so they could put their hands on the drones that emerged from an Israeli model-airplane-flying club. The officers compared it to the US Army’s then-unsuccessful drone program and the rest is history. U.S. conceived and built drones carry the weight of the Afghan war, but they also carry the history of 1982.
The First Gulf War complicated the relationship when President Bush (41) built a broad Arab coalition to rescue Kuwait. Israel withstood Saddam’s rocket barrage without retaliation because that was what the U.S. wanted, setting into motion deterrence difficulties for Israel that played out later as its closer neighbors acquired and used rockets and missiles. But it also set in motion Israel’s rapid quest for missile defense capabilities, which became an area of close U.S.-Israel cooperation.
After 9-11, Americans instinctively understood that we had been hammered by something with which the Israelis were familiar. “We Are All Israelis Now” was the headline in a major American paper. The Israelis “opened their closets” to help the U.S. deal with Islamic terrorism, urban warfare and counter-terror operations. Israel taught members of the U.S. Army to train bomb-sniffing dogs. While the work was going on, Israel loaned I.D.F. dogs to the Americans – Hebrew-commanded dogs were in Baghdad.
As the U.S. has become more adept in the ways of Middle East ground warfare, it is the Americans who have technology, tips and training to share with Israel.
“Complicity” is the wrong word for a relationship between countries that was grounded in the most fundamental agreement on democratic governance, civil liberties, minority rights, rule of law, and what constituted the enemy – at least until now.
General Dempsey meant Iran, but there is more than a divergence on Iran going on here. There has been a determined shift of emphasis in the current administration. President Obama has elected to focus on how and where the U.S. might find partners in the Arab/Muslim world – not itself a bad thing, but dangerous if it means a) eroding the definition of an ally to mean anyone with any set of political/religious/strategic beliefs that does not involve killing Americans outright; and b) throwing the Jews down the well (to channel Borat).Shoshana Bryen