Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Multiculturalism Run Amuck

Here's further proof that the devotion to multiculturalism in the United Kingdom has allowed the Islamic extremists to flourish under the guise of religious freedom.

Heat in The Kitchen

Lee Harris has a good piece over at TCS Daily which offers some sage advice to Senator Clinton and others who keep appearing before the cameras and complaining that it is a disservice to them for President Bush to place the current fight in Iraq on their plate. As Harris notes, the job of the Presidency does not become a blank slate free from previous office holders actions or the messes that result from such actions on January 21st but is a continuing story but with different actors who have to find their own way. Harris puts it best when he noted the following:

It is the Constitution, after all, that forces us to consider swapping horses on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four years; it is the same document that, after FDR, forbids us to keep any horse for more than eight years. It is the Constitution that requires that our elections come like clockwork, despite the fact that sweeping and traumatic historical events, such as wars foreign and civil, seldom re-arrange their schedule to fit in with ours. It is, in short, the Constitution that makes it utterly inevitable that Presidents will often be forced to pass on their own messes to their successors and that these successors will be compelled to handle them as best they can—and to do so with the best grace they can manage.

No one is under any obligation to run as a candidate for the Presidency; but those who elect to do so are under a high and serious obligation to understand the nature of the office to which they are aspiring. If, like Lincoln, a future President Clinton finds herself confronted with a mess made by her predecessor in office, it will not be enough for her to blame Mr. Bush for his incompetence and mismanagement. It will avail her naught to continue to declare that Iraq is Bush's responsibility. By then, whether she likes it or not, Iraq will be her responsibility, and no one else's. If she refuses to recognize this unpleasant truth now, while still a candidate, how prepared will she be to recognize it when she is President and it is too late to throw the responsibility on someone else?

"We cannot escape history," Lincoln once said sadly and solemnly. We cannot undo what has been done; we cannot wish it away or blame it into oblivion; we cannot arbitrarily decide which parts of the past shall influence our future. We are stuck with what has been, and are constrained to make the best of it. History may or may not agree in blaming the mess in Iraq entirely on George Bush, as Senator Clinton has done; but history will not absolve his successor for refusing to take his—or her--responsibility for cleaning up the mess, regardless of who made it, or how it came about.

Is this fair? No, of course not. But then, history isn't fair, and those who resent this fact, as Senator Clinton appears to do, are well advised to steer clear of it.

Aside from Harris' reference to Lincoln, I'm reminded of when Eisenhower taking over the Korean War from Truman, Vietnam being passed by LBJ to Nixon, or Reagan received a weakened military and beleaguered national spirit from Jimmy Carter. While these individuals could have complained that laying all this on their plate as being "unfair" but most other presidents they tried their very best to make do with what they had at hand. To me, If you can't handle all the problems that comes your way with regards to the office of the President of the United States then you probably shouldn't seek the office.

Sleepless in Paris

According to this piece in The Australian, the Health Ministry of France is becoming so concerned about the fact that people in France are coming to work tired that they are suggesting that all workers should have 15 minute siestas. In fact if you think about it, France, a welfare state at its highest, with high unemployment, low economic growth, low worker productivity, 35 hour work week(by law), the whole month of August vacations, as well as a penchant for staying up all night visiting bars and cafes should be the last ones to even think about complaining about sleep. Its all good to be concerned about the sleep habits of your nation but I'm guessing that France should be more concerned about more pressing issues like the Muslim youths who seem to burn cars and assault everyday citizens, a sclerotic economy, Iran, Afghanistan, Islamic terrorism.

Meddling Mullahs

After reading this article in USA Today, one can truly understand why the US is turning up the heat on the various Iranian military and intelligence agents(some of them posing as diplomats or religious pilgrims) who are roaming in the cities and countryside of Iraq. Here's hoping we have some good hunting in the near future. Such would be helpful in our current and upcoming efforts in securing Baghdad and the other danger zones in Iraq.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Things Are Turning In Iraq

Maybe before the typical gaggle of politicians start falling all over themselves to appear before a TV camera or microphone to declare that the President's new Iraq counter-terrorism policy dead on arrival, they should take a look at the Jack Kelly's recent column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. According to Kelly, it looks like the situation is becoming more fluid and the enemy is getting antsy because they're not so sure that they can stand the onslaught that is coming. Though this could be wishful thinking, it is far optimistic to give this thing a try than settling on defeat and letting the Iraqis duke it out.

Faux Populism

I would say if John Edwards is going to run as an economic populist and preaching about standing up the "little man" then maybe he should live in more humble surroundings that what he's currently building.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Government Should Stay Out of Energy Biz

I think the Wall Street Journal aptly notes that the President's proposal to lessen us from the dependency of foreign sources of petroleum by reducing our consumption by 20% in ten years is bound to be an enormous boondoggle or end in failure as long as the federal government continues to imposing things from the top down like raising CAFE standards on cars and its promoting the adoption of alternative fuels via subsidies rather than letting the free market and the people decide. Probably the most costly of these top down ventures is the current love for ethanol in D.C. In fact, here's what the WSJ has to say about President Bush's tauting of ethanol in his energy proposal:
Ostensibly, the great virtue of ethanol is that it represents a "sustainable," environmentally friendly source of energy--a source that is literally homegrown rather than imported from such unstable places as Nigeria or Iran.

That's one reason why, as Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren note in the Milken Institute Review, federal and state subsidies for ethanol ran to about $6 billion last year, equivalent to roughly half its wholesale market price. Ethanol gets a 51-cent a gallon domestic subsidy, and there's another 54-cent a gallon tariff applied at the border against imported ethanol. Without those subsidies, hardly anyone would make the stuff, much less buy it--despite recent high oil prices.

That's also why the percentage of the U.S. corn crop devoted to ethanol has risen to 20% from 3% in just five years, or about 8.6 million acres of farmland. Reaching the President's target of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017 would, at present corn yields, require the entire U.S. corn harvest.

No wonder, then, that the price of corn rose nearly 80% in 2006 alone. Corn growers and their Congressmen love this, and naturally they are planting as much as they can. Look for a cornfield in your neighborhood soon. Yet for those of us who like our corn flakes in the morning, the higher price isn't such good news. It's even worse for cattle, poultry and hog farmers trying to adjust to suddenly exorbitant prices for feed corn--to pick just one industry example. The price of corn is making America's meat-packing industries, which are major exporters, less competitive.

In Mexico, the price of corn tortillas--the dietary staple of the country's poorest--has risen by about 30% in recent months, leading to widespread protests and price controls. In China, the government has put a halt to ethanol-plant construction for the threat it poses to the country's food security. Thus is a Beltway fad translated into Third World woes.

As for the environmental impact, well, where do we begin? As an oxygenate, ethanol increases the level of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere and thus causes smog. The scientific literature is also divided about whether the energy inputs required to produce ethanol actually exceed its energy output. It takes fertilizer to grow the corn, and fuel to ship and process it, and so forth. Even the most optimistic estimate says ethanol's net energy output is a marginal improvement of only 1.3 to one. For purposes of comparison, energy outputs from gasoline exceed inputs by an estimated 10 to one.

And because corn-based ethanol is less efficient than ordinary gasoline, using it to fuel cars means you need more gas to drive the same number of miles. This is not exactly a route to "independence" from Mideast, Venezuelan or any other tainted source of oil. Ethanol also cannot be shipped using existing pipelines (being alcohol, it eats the seals), so it must be trucked or sent by barge or train to its thousand-and-one destinations, at least until separate pipelines are built.

Time and time again, this nation has always discovered that while the government is great at passing laws(Some not as good as others), collecting taxes, and fighting wars, they fail miserably at creating innovative technologies or products that the American people are willing to purchase(That they can afford) or use. So instead of offering up subsidies and placing onerous standards on industries that have already taken turns towards fuel efficiency due to market forces-see Toyota, Honda and more and more of the Big Three, the government should reduce the tons of regulations and taxes that they have on these industries and thus allow Adam Smith's famous "animal spirits" to take flight and bring about cheaper and more efficient products that free us a good bit from foreign sources of oil. Even more, this nation would also find it in its best short-run interests it the government made it much easier for our domestic industries to drill, pump and refine our own domestic sources of petroleum. All in all, the solution to our energy problems are not found in the wood paneled offices of D.C. politicians and bureaucrats but in the board rooms and R&D labs of the private industries of America.

Veiled Radicalism

If you want to truly understand what kind of problem that the UK faces in trying to deal with Islamic extremists who use the freedoms of the West and take full advantage of the policies of multiculturalism to shield themselves and their hostile activity from the authorities, then I recommend you watch the following episodes from the UK's Channel 4 documentary show Dispatches. Here's the following links to the six part series over at YouTube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

I have to say that these episodes of Dispatches as well as Melanie Phillips's Londonistan provides one with an eye opening look at how a full embrace of multiculturalism out of a fear of offending can have a horrific impact on a society and its well being.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Undermining the UK's fight on Islamic Terrorism

This story over at the BBC just further demonstrates that the UK is continuing to undermine its security and rule of law out of the fear of offending the Muslim community. While its all good and well to get the community involved in enforcing the law, I believe that the police are cutting their throats(no slight intended) by sharing information on your suspects to the various leaders of the predominately Muslim community. These individuals might be law abiding citizens who respect the UK and want to keep their country safe from such individuals but you also run the risk of tipping off the bad guys thus allowing them to get the heck out of Dodge. All in all, the proposal being pushed by the leaders of the Metropolitan Police is just another way of breaking the UK's effectiveness in fighting Islamic extremism. It'd be nice if these individuals setting up such feel good policies would take a moment to look at Melanie Phillips' wonderful book Londonistan which provides in great detail how the destructive in nature that this embrace of multiculturalism and moral relativism with regards to the Muslim community has on the British society as a whole. Until they do so and really take a deep hard look at these policies, they will continue to pull the country down and endanger millions of lives in the process.

Is Something Burning?

Now this is what I'd refer to as a "hot" new weapon in our arsenal. I'd be nice if the military could up the release date and have such a weapon available to our soldiers out in the combat zone.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Far From Being the Next Iron Lady

This past week I was browsing The Times (London) and found an article in which Senator Clinton's advisers and friends are trying their best to sell the junior Senator from New York as being a liberal embodiment of Margaret Thatcher. Now try as they might, I pretty much doubt that they will ever convince the American people(Even if they raise or spend $500 million for 08) that Senator Clinton-an individual trained on "political triangulation" and a fanatic with poll numbers- is another Margaret Thatcher. Even more, with her steady change of course with regards to Iraq, Senator Clinton is miles away from the lady who proudly proclaimed "the lady is not for turning." Thankfully, Peter Cuthbertson has a piece over at TCS Daily which pretty much erases all doubts about Hillary becoming the second coming of the "Iron Lady."

Widom of Our Founders

I hope that all the Senators and others who are pushing forward resolutions to handcuff the President's hands and limiting his ability to effectively conduct a war as Commander-in-Chief will take a gander at this editorial in The Wall Street Journal and realize that such actions are far and beyond the powers that the Founding Fathers intended for them to have. Even more important is that the ones squawking before the cameras about limiting the President and his commander's actions when it comes to fighting a war are some of the same individuals who are bidding for a chance to become the next Commander-in-Chief. They might think that they can win the Battle of Iraq by committee but as with all other wars the ultimate victor is one who is commanded by a single but resolute commander who is oriented to a task of winning rather than trying to conform to a myriad of voices sitting at a table. Thank God for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.

Backing Up Somalia

In an earlier post I noted- with great joy- the great success that the combined Ethiopian and Somali military forces(Along with some help from US forces stationed in Djibouti) achieved in the routing the Islamic Courts Union from their perch this last month. I also noted that in order for this victory to be lasting and remain a no-go for al Qaeda, the United States has got to muster up all the resources it has at its disposal to ensure that the fledgling Somali government continues to stay intact and prevents the area from reverting back to chaos. Now I know that I have preached at the top of my lungs that the US should be wary of sending tons of cash outright to nations because it removes any incentive to the receiving nation but with Somalia I feel that we've got to throw out our apprehensions about blanket aid. The main reason for my avoiding my usual caution is that the current government is flat broke and is being held together by mere strings that are slowly fraying with Ethiopia's current troop draw down. One individual that seems to have a brain around the situation and understands the necessity of providing help to our friends who are willing to step up to the plate and fight Islamic extremists is Daveed Gartenstein-Ross who has penned a good article over at the Weekly Standard that calls on the US to break through all the roadblocks and turf wars between the Pentagon and State and help or friends in need before we suffer a strategic blunder in the Horn of Africa and chalk up a victory for al Qaeda much like we did when we booked out of Somalia like we did in the early 1990's. We've just got to return to JFK's(And many other foreign policy hawks) Cold War mentality in which we'll "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty," if we're going to push the Islamic extremists onto the ash heap of history.

*If we do take this route with regards to Africa then we've got to work on putting the region under a military umbrella with teeth much like David Silverstein noted in this piece over at National Review Online.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Economic Dynamism

I realize that the President's SOTU address was intended to push forward a bi-partisan spirit with feel good policies while at the same time conveying a sense of strength and determination to the nation and our enemies that we are prepared to push onward to victory in Iraq. While this talk is necessary, I think he would have had a better time and gained more traction with a large national audience if he had spent more time talking up our dynamic economy rather than just offering mere generalities. I guess since the President has a modest streak on touting the robust economy(Much like his Dad), it comes down to bloggers and others to point out the booming economy. One place that seems to lack the timidity of talking up our good economy is the good folks at the WSJ editorial board who made the following observation in today's paper:

The big economic story going into this New Year is that growth is accelerating. Jobless claims have dipped, as the labor market stays tight amid a low 4.5% unemployment rate and rapidly rising real wages. Corporate profits continue to defy gravity, growing at nearly double-digit rates some five years into this expansion. Economist Ed Hyman's ISI Group reports that as of last Friday some 57% of companies had beat profit expectations for the fourth quarter.

Then there's the "trade deficit," which was supposed to have produced a crisis any day now but is instead contributing to faster growth as American exports soar. Peppier growth abroad is helping, especially in Europe, assuming Germany's big increase in value-added taxes this month doesn't get in the way. Oil prices have come down, and even the housing slump seems to have stabilized in some parts of the country.

This might be seen as pure "happy-talk" by a lot of the populists but the simple fact is that Republicans are in a win-win position with the American people when they point out the economic dynamism that they have set off by promoting policies that lead to the unleashing of the powers of the free-market and getting the government off our backs. It worked for Reagan and would be a sure winner for the current President.

*John O'Sullivan has a good piece in the Chicago Sun-Times which sums up my whole argument on leaders touting their free-market principles and the results such policies. He sites three of my favorite leaders whole espoused such positive thoughts.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

CA Fruit Frost Can Be Prevented

I found this interesting piece by Dr. Henry I Miller over at TCS Daily which notes that the fruit growers of California could have saved some $1 billion in fruit had they been allowed to spray a bacterium that prevented the formulation of ice particles. While I could wax on and on about this marvel in agricultural science, I figured I'd let an expert like Dr. Miller, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, fill you in. Here's a look:
In the early 1980's scientists at the University of California and in industry devised a new approach to limiting frost damage. They knew that a harmless bacterium which normally lives on many plants contains an "ice nucleation" protein that promotes frost damage. Therefore, they sought to produce a variant of the bacterium that lacked the ice-nucleation protein, reasoning that spraying this variant bacterium (dubbed "ice-minus") on plants might prevent frost damage by displacing the common, ice-promoting kind. Using very precise biotechnology techniques called "gene splicing," the researchers removed the gene for the ice nucleation protein and planned field tests with ice-minus bacteria.

Then the government stepped in, and that was the beginning of the end.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified as a pesticide the obviously innocuous ice-minus bacterium, which was to be tested in northern California on small, fenced-off plots of potatoes and strawberries. The regulators reasoned that the naturally-occurring, ubiquitous, "ice-plus" bacterium is a "pest" because its ice-nucleation protein promotes ice crystal formation. Therefore, other bacteria intended to displace it would be a "pesticide." This is the kind of absurd, convoluted reasoning that could lead EPA to regulate outdoor trash cans as a pesticide because litter is an environmental "pest."

At the time, scientists inside and outside the EPA were unanimous that the test posed negligible risk. (I wrote the opinion provided by the Food and Drug Administration.) No new genetic material had been added, only a single gene whose function was well known had been removed, and the organism was obviously harmless. Nonetheless, the field trial was subjected to an extraordinarily long and burdensome review just because the organism was gene-spliced.
If the government would only find its way out of private sector more often I believe the farmers in CA would still have $1 billion in crops, consumers would have to pay higher prices on fruit as well as the double whammy of having to foot the emergency subsidies that will be given to the farmers. Folks are better off heeding Ronald Reagan's old adage
"government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," when the government starts to drift into the realm of the private sector.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Good News On the Iraq Front

I know that we are far from getting out of the woods with Iraq but this most recent news on the Iraqi government putting pressure and allowing the US to conduct more aggressive actions against Sadr and his Mahdi Army gives me a little more confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqis stepping up to the plate. Hopefully, these most recent events are just the tip of a much larger iceberg thus ensuring the chances of beating back the insurgency.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One Piece At a Time

Max Boot has a good column in the Los Angeles Times that notes how a large portion of America(I'm guessing more Americans prefer victory over defeat) and Congress should be very wary of calling President Bush's Iraq policy "dead on arrival" and offering retreat as the only alternative. I think Boot sums up the need to give the President and our military a fighting chance in Iraq when he notes the following:
Perhaps the objection now is that 21,500 troops won't make much difference. It's true that, according to the new Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Manual, effective operations generally require at least one soldier or police officer per 40 or 50 inhabitants. That would suggest doubling our current force of 132,000 to secure Baghdad and the entire Sunni Triangle (population 13 million). But it would be difficult to find that many soldiers in the overstretched and undersized U.S. armed forces.

That doesn't mean, however, that the reinforcements Bush is sending are useless. As called for under a plan formulated by military historian Frederick Kagan and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, the five newly arriving brigades should be deployed alongside Iraqi units to live in Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. This is a classic counterinsurgency approach focused on securing the populace, and it has never really been tried before in the capital. It could work, especially if the surge is long lasting and if it's coupled with other vital steps — such as increasing the number of American advisors in the Iraqi security forces, instituting a biometric identity card to make it easier to detain terrorism suspects and enhancing the capacity of the Iraqi legal system to incarcerate more violent offenders.

If everything goes right, large swathes of Baghdad could gradually be brought under control. Then American and Iraqi units could pursue a "spreading inkblot" strategy — another classic counterinsurgency concept — to increase the pacified zone outward.

Of course that's a big if. It may be that we still don't have enough troops to successfully carry out this strategy. It may be that we don't have the will to see it through. It may be that we don't have enough reliable Iraqi partners. But considering the massive investment we have already made in Iraq, and the lack of good alternatives, it seems worth one final effort to see if we can salvage something from this dire situation.
For a long time I've been calling on the White House and the Pentagon to start fighting a classical counterinsurgency much like the British did in Malaya in the 50's or what Gen. Creighton Abrams was pushing in the later half of Vietnam(Until Congress cut off the funds). If we can stick to the techniques of Small War fighting while injecting a myriad of soft power into the mix, I think we have a shot of achieving our goals.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Congress Should Re-read the Constitution

Now while Senator Clinton and other Democrats(Even some Republicans) on Capitol Hill are creating a fuss about the Iraq War by laying various restrictions on the President to boost their image for mere politics or assuage the left-of-center voters in America, they are in reality crossing their constitutional boundaries by calling for measures that handcuff the President in his duties as Commander-in-Chief. Take for instance Senator Clinton's most recent plan, which echoes Senator Clinton, in which she notes that the size of our troops in Iraq has to be capped and if the President wants more troops and money for Iraq then he has to have another resolution. It's true that the President needs the Senate and its power of the purse with regards to the funding of the war and to get an OK in initiating major combat but once they give the go ahead - like the did prior to the war - the conduct of the war(baring spending) falls into the purview of the President. Once the fighting gets going the Congress has to allow the President to have unilateral control over all the aspects of fighting a war, which includes increasing, moving or decreasing the size and location of these forces.

I can truly understand appealing to your base in the upcoming elections but what the Democrats are doing is going against the Constitution and endangering our standing in the world. I would advise the Democrats and others who are taking this position towards our operation in Iraq to take a second look at the Constitution and statutes that reveal that the ability to conduct war without any handcuffs is an absolute necessity for the Commander-in-Chief. One place I would recommend that they should look at the following Op/Ed by David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey in yesterday's Washington Post. In fact, they should pay close attention to the following paragraphs:

The precise line between congressional and presidential authority is sometimes unclear, and no court has jurisdiction to rule on the issue. The analysis, however, is straightforward. When the two political branches exercise their respective constitutional powers in a way that brings them into conflict -- a scenario clearly envisioned by the Framers -- the relevant constitutional principle is that neither branch can vitiate the ability of the other to discharge its core constitutional responsibilities. Just as the president cannot raise his own funds (by obtaining loans unauthorized by Congress, for example), the legislature cannot attach conditions to federal spending that would destroy the president's authority to direct the military's tactical and strategic operations. This balance makes perfect sense; if Congress could closely direct how the executive branch spends appropriated funds, it would vitiate the president's core responsibilities as chief executive and commander in chief, transforming him into a cipher. This outcome would fundamentally warp the Framers' entire constitutional fabric.

To maintain the integrity of this original design, the Supreme Court has long ruled, in such cases as United States v. Klein (1872) and United States v. Lovett (1946), that Congress cannot attach unconstitutional conditions to otherwise proper legislation, including spending bills. As explained by Professor Walter Dellinger -- President Bill Clinton's chief constitutional lawyer at the Justice Department -- "[b]road as Congress' spending power undoubtedly is, it is clear that Congress may not deploy it to accomplish unconstitutional ends." This includes restricting the president's authority as commander in chief to direct the movement of U.S. armed forces. In that regard, Dellinger quoted Justice Robert Jackson -- who said while serving as President Franklin Roosevelt's attorney general: "The President's responsibility as Commander-in-Chief embraces the authority to command and direct the armed forces in their immediate movements and operations, designed to protect the security and effectuate the defense of the United States."

Although this system may seem unsatisfactory to those who disagree with President Bush's Iraq policy, it has two great virtues. First, it bolsters the Constitution's fundamental design -- the separation of powers between the coequal branches of government. The Framers vested executive authority in a president for a reason. As Alexander Hamilton explained in the Federalist Papers: "Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks." Second, requiring Congress to exercise its power in dramatic ways ensures political accountability. If Congress believes the war is lost, or not worth winning, it must take responsibility for the consequences of forcing a U.S. withdrawal. Otherwise, it must leave the president to direct the war and to bear responsibility for the decisions he has made and will make.

I'm just hoping that the folks calling for this policy change and supporting the upcoming non-binding "sense of Congress" resolution is doing this for mere theatrics and are fully aware of what an actual cutting of funds brought about during the later years of the Vietnam War.

Poppy Farming in Afghanistan

Out of all the various pro and con arguments on how NATO's can effectively deal with the abundance of poppies being grown in Afghanistan, I have to say that Anne Applebaum has a pretty good answer on what is needed to effectively cut down illegal activity while keeping the local population happy. Here's what she noted in her most recent column over at Slate:

Yet by far the most depressing aspect of the Afghan poppy crisis is the fact that it exists at all—because it doesn't have to. To see what I mean, look at the history of Turkey, where once upon a time the drug trade also threatened the country's political and economic stability. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey had a long tradition of poppy cultivation. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey worried that poppy eradication could bring down the government. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey—this was the era of Midnight Express—was identified as the main source of the heroin sold in the West. Just like in Afghanistan, a ban was tried, and it failed.

As a result, in 1974, the Turks, with U.S. and U.N. support, tried a different tactic. They began licensing poppy cultivation for the purpose of producing morphine, codeine, and other legal opiates. Legal factories were built to replace the illegal ones. Farmers registered to grow poppies, and they paid taxes. You wouldn't necessarily know this from the latest White House drug strategy report—which devotes several pages to Afghanistan but doesn't mention Turkey—but the U.S. government still supports the Turkish program, even requiring U.S. drug companies to purchase 80 percent of what the legal documents euphemistically refer to as "narcotic raw materials" from the two traditional producers, Turkey and India.

Why not add Afghanistan to this list? The only good arguments against doing so—as opposed to the silly, politically correct, "just say no" arguments—are technical: that the weak or nonexistent bureaucracy will be no better at licensing poppy fields than at destroying them, or that some of the raw material will still fall into the hands of the drug cartels. Yet some of these problems can be solved by building processing factories at the local level and working within local power structures. And even if the program only succeeds in stopping half the drug trade, then a huge chunk of Afghanistan's economy will still emerge from the gray market, the power of the drug barons will be reduced, and, most of all, Western money will have been visibly spent helping Afghan farmers survive instead of destroying their livelihoods. The director of the Senlis Council, a group that studies the drug problem in Afghanistan, told me he reckons that the best way to "ensure more Western soldiers get killed" is to expand poppy eradication further.

While I'm generally a fan of eliminating all aspects of the illegal drug trade, I have to say that I'm all for the policy of making the cultivation of poppies legal. Now the reason why I support this is the fact that the cultivation of these products actually provide legitimate medicines and painkillers which if conducted in a proper method could also provide a healthy living for the impoverished people of Afghanistan(If they can wrestle this away from the nefarious elements of the country). It might go against the principles and policies that we have established in fighting the "War on Drugs" in Central and Southern America but I'm guessing that fighting terrorists and keeping or turning Afghans in our favor far outweighs what we can achieve in destroying such an abundant cash crop. Legalizing poppy grow and making a living out of the production sure beats having more smack on the streets of America and Europe. Maybe someone in NATO, the Pentagon, the NSC, or White House is paying attention to Applebaum's work.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happenings At the Pentagon

I have to say that this is interesting piece by Robert Haddick over at TCS Daily on Secretary Gates' proposals on the future buildup of the Army and Marines provides just another example of why this nation will truly to miss the keen mind and forward thinking of Donald Rumsfeld.

Populism's Downside

Last week I posted my disgust at the Democrats sliding towards economic populism with regards to the nation's energy policy. While I was aghast at the House pushing through a bill that would punish the oil companies with an onerous tax if the market price of oil goes above a certain price, it pales in comparison to the ire I've developed(After reading the proposed legislation) after reading more details from this most recent review and outlook piece in the WSJ. Now while folks will argue that this bill has good intentions(At least that's what they want people to think) because it goes after "big oil" but in return it creates greater problems for the American people in the long run. All and all, the WSJ points out many factors of the bill that should be large blinking warning lights to the American people and members of the US Senate that this is a bad bill. Here's two components of the bill that caught my attention:

This bill is said to promote America's energy independence, but the biggest winner may be OPEC. This is a lengthy, complicated bill, but the central idea is simple: Raise taxes on domestic oil producers and then spend the money to subsidize ethanol, solar energy, windmills (so long as they're not on Cape Cod), and so on. But if you increase the cost of domestic oil production by $10 billion, you are ensuring that U.S. imports of OPEC oil will rise and domestic production will fall.

The bill also includes a "Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve" fund for alternative fuels. That sounds a lot like the Carter-era Synthetic Fuels Corporation -- one of the more notorious Washington boondoggles of all time, having spent $2.1 billion of tax dollars on alternative fuels before declaring bankruptcy. Today there is no under-investment by the private sector in alternative energy. The research firm New Energy Finance has found that between 2004 and 2006 investment in alternative energy doubled to $63 billion. Venture capital funding of green-energy technologies has quadrupled since 1998.

I'm all for helping the everyday person with lower energy prices but feel that passing the burden on the American people via higher taxes, restraints on domestic drilling, more red tape and driving us further into the arms of foreign producers(Less than friendly nations at that) isn't the way forward for greater energy independence.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Economic Populism On The March in Congress

After looking over this article on the energy bill that is being push through the Democrat controlled Congress, I've become convinced that the Dems are filled with a bunch of economic populists who seem to have failed to learn a lick of economics. Now what has convinced me of this is that these members of Congress are willing to push through a measure in the bill that would force energy producers to pay a "resource conservation" tax $9 on a barrel of oil and a $1.25 per million Btu on natural as long as the market prices remained above $34.47 per barrel and $4.35 per million Btu of natural gas. The Democrats might think the oil companies are greedy and sticking it to the American people thus they feel this measure would punish energy producers and force them to lower their prices but in reality they fail to realize the key word in the whole passage which is "market prices." I would be all good if such a measure would make the energy companies jump and lower such prices but they are held hostage to the market which is a function of supply and demand. As long as the demand is high and supply is low you'll have high prices and lower prices when the opposite occurs. So you can threaten to punish the energy companies for higher prices(something they have no control over) by imposing this onerous tax but in reality these measure will only be passed on to the buyer of the raw petroleum and gas which eventually will be passed on everyday Americans who end up consuming these products. If the folks weren't so busy trying to push through this economic populism on energy companies, they'd realize that the markets are doing their thing and are responding to lowering of demand which in return is resulting in falling oil and natural gas prices. For me, I'll take the free market over an interfering populist Congress each and every time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bureaucratic Wrestling Over the Trophy

This NBC Nightly News report by Lisa Myers on the fight between the US Army and the Pentagon over the fielding of the Israeli designed anti-RPG weapon known as the "Trophy" is just another example of the bureaucratic fight that sprouts up between the different branches of our armed forces and their bosses in the Pentagon. I'm all for our military going to US based contractors like Raytheon to develop such weapons but we need to be willing to go around the bureaucracy rules and use a system that is already on the shelf and is being fielded by the Israelis. I guess the US Army is still a little miffed at the Pentagon after Secretary Rumsfeld and the rest of the Pentagon brass canceled their much loved Crusader(a self propelled long-range howitzer) and other weapon platforms. Here's hoping that the Pentagon wins this one and can rush some of these "Trophy's" to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It'll at least give our soldiers one less thing to worry about, If only the Israelis had some new technology on the shelf to ward off IEDs.


Here's the second part of Lisa Myers report on the turf fight between the Army and Pentagon over the "Trophy."

Factors of Ten

Here's Andrew Ferguson's take on the "100 hrs." agenda that Pelosi and company keep on raving about every single time they appear before the media. Take a look:

Some of the agenda is being overtaken by events already; the case for government funding for embryonic stem-cell research has been badly hurt by new advances, reported this weekend, in non- embryonic research.

Almost every item on the agenda, meanwhile, will be second- guessed by the Senate and president. And few of the items that make it into law are likely to inspire lasting gratitude in the public mind.

By the end of next week, the 100 hours of frenetic legislative activity will be over. Then, like Gingrich before her, Pelosi will be staring at several hundred days with little definite to do. And before too long she may find herself, metaphorically at least, reaching for the ice buckets.

There's Some Hope

While Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is a chummy with the foreign policy "realists" of D.C.(Powell, Armitage, Hagel, Biden, Baker, and others) and has been a little leary about the US achieving victory in Iraq, he has penned a good piece on Lt. General David Petraeus. As Ignatius notes in his column, Petraeus might save the day because he is a walking field manual(He wrote it) for fighting an effective counterinsurgency thus more suited in executing a proper fight against our enemies. Now Ignatius does make a good point in noting our tardiness in initiating an effective counterinsurgency but much like life, war is very unpredictable and one can't anticipate what will happen next.(Just look at The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, WWII, Vietnam or other wars in our past.) The best we can do is push this policy forward and hope that a wise American commander schooled in the art of counterinsurgency can achieve with the Iraqis something that is lasting or we'll feel safe in leaving. So if David Ignatius, who is not considered a great fan of GWB's foreign policy, can at least see a tiny ray of sunlight in this counterinsurgency fight then we have a chance.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The last full measure of devotion

Since the conclusion of the 2004 election I've been reading and hearing a cavalcade of Democrats and talking heads mouthing complaints that the White House is still "staying the course" with Iraq and stubbornly refuses to make any change in policy with regards to the land of the two rivers. Well after some two years of seeing things go a little rough in and Iraq and a realization that things aren't going as we wished, the Commander-in-Chief has finally stepped up to the plate and is offering a hearty defense and national security policy change that folks have demanded. After the 2006 election in November, we've seen Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replaced by Robert Gates, the movement of John Negroponte from the Department of National Intelligence to become the new Deputy Secretary of State(with the Iraq portfolio), Ryan Crocker from the Pakistani Ambassadorship to the Iraq post, the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to head our delegation at the UN as well as tasking Mike McConnell(A vice-admiral who has 25 years of intelligence experience under his belt) to head the DNI. Aside from these Washington centric posts, President Bush is making a systematic change in his Iraq and regional military command (under the recommendations of DoD chief Gates) by calling General Casey home from Iraq to become the new chief of staff of the Army and replacing him with a counterinsurgency minded David Petraeus as well as moving Admiral William Fallon from Pacific Command to Central Command to take up spot of that is left open due to the retirement of General John Abizaid.

Added to this Licolnian/Trumanesque shake up of his national security/defense shakeup, the President is in the process of putting together an Iraq policy that moves away from the status quo and introduces policies that are bold and designed to bring about success. Even with such important and decisive decisions, we still have politicians rumbling about how President Bush refuses to change course and is flat out wrong on Iraq. Now I know that moving folks around and introducing more troops might not be a golden ticket to a clear victory in the near future but at least the President is doing his job as Commander-in-Chief and is making moves that he clearly sees as being in our best interests in ensuring a secure Iraq and thus making it possible for us to eventually draw down our forces from Iraq in a future date and time.

All I can hope for is that the President lays out a good Iraq policy before the American people tonight and such a policy brings about some good results. While people might deny it, the US has got to hold the gap in Iraq and achieve a lasting victory or we'll see a far darker future with an embolden enemy ready to take us on our shores. So here's praying for a great success in Iraq.

*As a student of history, I feel it's fitting as this pivotal time in our history to remember the following words from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Down but not Out

While Rick Santorum was slayed by Bob Casey Jr in the 2006 election, it seems that he has arisen from his death-knell and will become a more independent, yet bigger voice on the issues of that threatens of this nation by taking a senior fellowship at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C. According to this wonderful piece by John J. Miller over at National Review Online, the former PA senator will not only become a senior fellow but will also be the director of a new program known as America's Enemies, thus giving him a greater platform to educate the American people, government leaders and parts of the media on the continued and growing threats that al Qaeda and Iran pose towards this nation and Western Civilization as a whole. So here's wishing Rick Santorum great luck in his new venture.

Tightening The Screws on Tehran

Well it looks like the White House is deciding to step up its efforts in taming the wild Persian cat of Iran by putting a freeze on all US based major assets/holdings of the Tehran based Bank Sephra due to the fact that the bank is the main conduit for the regime's missile procurement program. Now while this pales in comparison to the financial squeeze on the mullahs, it's definitely a start in something that should have been in effect a whole lot earlier. Here's hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to Iran.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Standing Side by Side With Somalia's Fight Against Islamic Fascism

Here's an interesting commentary in the The Times by Rosemary Righter on the Ethiopian/Somalia government ousting the Union of Islamic Courts from the Somali countryside and the hard choices that await the government in the near future. Hopefully some folks in The White House, State Department, Pentagon and Congress have read this piece of commentary and are finding ways to help this fledgling government. After reading these articles here and here, I think someone is paying attention.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Compassionate Conservatism

As you know, I'm a big fan of small government and truly believe in the power and ability of the private sector to deliver far greater results to a myriad of problems. One are that seems to have a better track record in the private sector that in the government purview which is elevating poverty. I have to say that had it not been for the scholarly work of Marvin Olasky and Charles Murray and their respective books The Tragedy of American Compassion and Losing Ground, , I doubt we would have seen such a monumental gleaming of the welfare and the further tearing away of a good bit of the "war on poverty" out of the hands of the government(Uncle Sam has spent $6.6 trillion since 1964 on a failed policy) and placing it in the portfolio of the the private sector charity, church and the individual. While the above mentioned books and individuals have had a lasting impact on showing how the federal government had failed miserably in fighting poverty and how the private sector was much more efficient and successful at this job, the fight over who delivers the goods are still being debated between the right and the left. Thankfully this debate seems to be falling further on the side of the private sector and its devotees with the most recent publication of Arthur C. Brooks' Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. In this wonderfully researched book, Brooks, an economist from Syracuse University, lays out a detailed study which shows that individuals who believe in the power of private sector, are more politically conservative and attend church regularly are more likely to donate a larger amount of their income or time towards a private charity than folks who cleft to the big government ideals found most prominently amongst the left-of- center. I believe Jonah Goldberg aptly summed up the whole argument in Who Really Cares when he made the following point in his syndicated column:
The further to the left you are — particularly to the secular left — the less likely you are to donate your time or money to charity. Imagine two demographically identical people, except that Joe goes to church regularly and rejects the idea that the government should redistribute wealth to lessen inequality, while Sam never goes to church and favors state-driven income redistribution. Brooks says the data indicate that not only is Joe Churchgoer nearly twice as likely as Sam Secularist to give money to charities in a given year, he will also give 100 times more money per year to charities (and 50 times more to non-religious ones).

Because Brooks is using vast pools of data, and because he’s talking about averages rather than individuals, there is no end of exceptions to prove the rule. No doubt there are pious Scrooges and Santa-like atheists. But, basically, if you are religiously observant, a married parent, and skeptical toward the role of government, you are much more likely to be generous with your time and money.

You’re also more likely to be a political conservative, but it’s a mistake to find causation in that correlation. Certain types of people are likely to be conservative and to be charitable. But being a conservative doesn't make you charitable.

Still, the partisan ammo is what has interested the Bill O’Reilly types the most — and it is interesting, since it so directly contradicts the generations-old propaganda of the left, which depicts the rich right as stingy, unfeeling and selfish. “Blue state” America spends a lot of time talking about how much more caring and enlightened it is. But that’s with somebody else’s money. When it’s their own money, that’s a different story.
While America has a long way to go before it can change the minds and powerful interests that still cling to the various vestiges of FDR's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society, the debate and public at large will gain a greater perspective on the debate on the fight on poverty. Above all, Brooks' Who Really Cares should be a great blinking sign to populists like John Edwards that this dream world of greater involvement of government in our lives is something of the past and will always be done in by the private sector and individual initiative. I recall that Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan have got a lot of mileage out of such ideas.

*Also, check out Andrew Ferguson's column over at on Arthur C. Brooks' Who Really Cares.


Victor Davis Hanson(VDH) has a good piece out today which takes an overarching look at our fight on Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and points out that even though the sacrifices that we have made or are going to make with regards to Iraq far outweighs the fate that awaits us if we lose this war. Here's a look at what VDH has to say about the crossroads we face with regards to Iraq:

One, we can withdraw ground troops and return to punitive and conventional bombing — tit-for-tat retaliation for each attack in the future. That way, the United States stays distant and smacks the jihadists on their home bases below. Few Americans die; terrorists sometimes do. The bored media stay more concentrated on the terrorists' provocations, not on our standoff response from 30,000 feet in the clouds.

Or American forces, at great danger, can continue to change the political and economic structure of the Middle East in hopes of fostering constitutional governments that might curb terrorism for generations. This current engagement demands our soldiers fight jihadists on their vicious turf, but by our humanitarian rules. For this, we must pay the ensuing human and materiel price — all broadcast live on the evening news.

The first choice, a return to what was practiced throughout the 1980s and 1990s, is easy and offers short-term relief with little controversy. But the second path, which we have taken to prevent another 9/11, is hard, lengthy and thus unpopular. Yet it holds out the promise of long-term solutions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Presidents Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton, who respectively skedaddled out of Beirut, skipped Baghdad and fled from Mogadishu, didn't risk, lose or solve much against the terrorists.

In contrast, George W. Bush wagered everything by going into Afghanistan and Iraq. And he will either make things much worse or much better for millions — depending on how successfully the United States can endure the messy type of war that jihadists welcome and the American military usually seeks to avoid.

Military success on the ground now demands that we expand the rules of engagement to allow our troops to shoot more of the jihadists, disarm the militias, train even more Iraqis troops to take over security more quickly, and seal the Syrian and Iranian borders.

This solution, of course, is easier said than done. The military must use more force against those who are destroying Iraqi democracy at precisely the time the American public has become exasperated with both the length and human cost of the war.

Imagine this war as a sort of grotesque race. The jihadists and sectarians win if they can kill enough Americans to demoralize us enough that we flee before Iraqis and Afghans stabilize their new found freedom. They lose if they can't. Prosperity, security and liberty are the death knell to radical Islam. It's that elemental.

It would be nice if a lot of the folks in D.C. would take VDH's ideas and adopt a warrior ethos to winning the the battle for Western Civilization rather than offering "hot-air" or bombast that does nothing but catch headlines or helping advance themselves to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008. With the nostalgia of Ford floating around the ether, I believe we need can reformulate the 38th President's WIN(Whip Inflation Now) slogan into a a 2007 foreign policy centric slogan of Win Iraq Now. It might be corny but it sounds like a winner compared to some of the ideas coming out of the Capitol Hill or from the Iraq Study Group(which had a lot of Ford realist foreign policy acolytes.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Hangman's Noose

While a small pocket of folks in the Middle East marched in protest of the death of Saddam and the world government found an opportunity to lodge their disapproval of the death penalty, there was a large subsection of Iraq that was relieved that justice had been served and the Butcher of Baghdad" could never rise again. Amongst the many pieces of read on the death of this tyrant, I have to say that Amity Shlaes has penned a great column over at that pretty much sums up why folks are relieved on seeing the end of Saddam and how this meting of justice provides us an important message. Here's a sample:

Nobody was willing to stand up for the Kurds. By the mid- 1970s, C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times invoked Voltaire's phrase about hanging. Sulzberger titled a column ``To Be Obscurely Hanged'' about the unnoticed fate of the Kurds.

The message from the rest of the world -- Nixon, Kissinger, Ford, Jimmy Carter and other leaders -- was the same: No one will stand up for the Kurds. In the 1980s, Saddam killed Kurds by the tens of thousands at another moment of U.S. preoccupation. For decades, Saddam remained sure he could get away with it.

My own view is that this story doesn't reflect on Ford, a thoroughly decent man who lacked -- along with all other American presidents -- the ability to police every injustice in every country on the globe. But it does remind us of the cynical killings that happen when the rest of us are looking away.

Realpolitik, the policy of getting along with other nations, rather than righting injustices within them, is newly fashionable. That's all right, but we should remember its negative consequences.

Most importantly, all this history reminds us of why Saddam had to go on trial in the first place. When you hang a hangman in a most public way, you give future murderers pause -- at least some of them. And you step a bit more confidently into the light of the new year.

I know that future or aspiring tyrants are not much into reading columns or Fire of Liberty but if they are smart they should think twice about what a fate awaits them if the become another Saddam. For me, the fate of Saddam is more in accord with justice than the fate that awaited the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Franco or awaits Castro.

*For some further commentary on Saddam see here, here, and here.