Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rumsfeld Is Over the Top on Iraq

On August 29th, Donald Rumsfeld told the VFW convention that many Americans are confused about how the war on terror should be fought, and this confusion is leading to a lack of unity in confronting the terror threat. He compared the current adversaries to Hitler, and indicated that some American's “confusion” and lack of unity has similarities to the pre-WWII appeasement of Hitler. He also claimed that the Iraq war is part of the war on terror. This speech only gives added credibility to those who are asking President Bush to replace Rumsfeld, and it enrages veterans like me who question the appropriateness of the Iraq war and laugh bitterly at the mess that Rumsfeld and his cadre of draft-dodgers have made of it.

The idea that our adversaries in the war on radical Islamic terrorists resemble Hitler’s Germany is patently ridiculous, and Rumsfeld should be in the best possible position to know this. Perhaps the superficial comparison of Hitler’s dream for a world-ruling Thousand Year Reich to the terrorists’ assumed goal of creating a large Islamic-ruled land mass is enough for Rumsfeld, but it is not enough for any thinking person. The comparison fails in respect to the terrorists' war-making capacity, which are puny in comparison to Hitler’s. It also fails in respect to the degree of organization and the unity of purpose held by the compared organizations. Hitler had a well-defined system of command and control and top-down goal setting, while the terrorists have various factions attached to specific leaders and others attached to governments – with no common understanding of an end-point goal. Consequently, the war on these terrorists is going to be much different than the war on Hitler.

We already know that the war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was not a war on terror. Saddam’s only goal was remaining in power, and he knew that becoming directly or even indirectly involved with terrorists was not a good strategy for achieving this goal. Saddam was only a token Muslim and had much to fear from the militant Muslims who are now giving the West so much trouble. By taking him out, Rumsfeld simply created a vacuum where the militants can assemble, recruit, and ally with their fellow Shiites in Iran. Bad judgment! If the Iraq war is, in fact, a part of the war on terror it is because he created and/or facilitated our new adversaries there.

Our continued high-profile presence in Iraq incites Muslims around the world to accept a radical outlook and unacceptably drains our military and financial resources - so much that the terrorists have already won that war to a significant degree. Our secondary goal in Iraq (after the WMD justification failed) was to help establish a democratic government there. Such a government has since been elected, and it’s time to let it go to work. If it fails, as is likely, the Islamic world will see how poorly the Shiite religious majority will actually govern. If it succeeds and does not support terrorism, we will have succeeded. If it succeeds and supports terrorism, we will have a defined adversary rather than a terrorist force inside a phony country. All these scenarios are preferable to our continued high-profile presence there, and we need to phase out in an orderly manner.

Yes, we need to take the threat from radical Islam seriously and combat it vigorously. The fact that radicals like Osama bin Laden hate us, and are a real danger to us, is understood even by Democrats! But this war needs to be as much a war of ideas as a war on the ground, and we need a much more pragmatic group of leaders to fight it. There are strong diplomatic approaches that need to be taken with both Western governments and existing governments in Muslim countries, there are major investments that must be made in intelligence and internal security, and there needs to be a strong worldwide police action against terrorism. Military action does not work against decentralized terrorists, and Rumsfeld again is smoking something other than tobacco if he is silly enough to believe that after his Iraq debacle.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's a "FIASCO" Thing

Our dear president is conspicuously missing from campaign ads for congressional seats held by people of his own party. With George Bush's popularity in the sewer, those congresspeople and senators want nothing to do with him except to see him in fund-raising events populated only with Republican diehards. Hard to blame them...

I'll be one of those Republicans not at a fund raiser; instead, I'll be going to a coffee for an opposing Democrat. I expect to be campaigning hard for anyone who is not a Republican, and I'll do that until my party gets back to its roots of fiscal conservatism, non-intervention, and social and religious moderation. The best way to do that, I suppose, is to clean house of all the folks who went along with Bush and his crew of passionate but stupid sad sacks.

And that is the issue that most Americans have now figured out - that George Bush and his crew have made far too many major mistakes when they have taken action, and they also have failed to get consensus on actions that really needed to be addressed on their watch...when they had every bit of government power under their control. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that they will not continue to make these mistakes if they stay in power, especially since you can't find a diehard Republican who even admits that mistakes have been made.

In our national government, as well as in every other component of our society - business, academia, religion, and local government - it's the people in charge who set the tone, hire the people, achieve or fail to achieve consensus, and take or hide from responsibility for failures as well as successes. In this Bush presidency the tone has been combative in both domestic and foreign affairs, poorly qualified people have all too often made serious errors, there has been little interest in forming a national consensus, and accountability has been glaringly absent. In too many areas of this administration's performance, FIASCO is a word that fits. Given this record there is no choice but to force change as soon as possible.

Some say that a congress controlled at least partially by Democrats will place too much focus on examining the conduct of the current administration. I say that is just what is needed, even if our national government is embarassed in public. The world needs to see that our democracy can honestly evaluate its leaders and "hold them to account" for the decisions they made. When it comes right down to it, George Bush is just an elected employee of the people, a man who is paid to maximize our interests. He is not a king, and he fails to listen to the people at his peril. The curtains have been drawn for far too long. Let the light of day shine!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Minimum Wage Travesty

Why is it that the Republican party has developed a death wish? As a lifelong Republican, I’m dismayed at the blatant hypocrisy and cynicism of the Republican congress, most recently displayed in their consideration of raising the minimum wage.

The current minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, with overtime calculated on the average hours worked during a two-week period. That works out to $10,300 per year for anyone unlucky enough to work fifty forty-hour weeks at this rate. The minimum wage has not increased during a period where the congress has raised its own salaries by over $41,000 per year. So, maybe it's time to consider an increase for the least employable people who want to work!

Unfortunately, that was not on the Republican congressional leadership's agenda. Nothing was to be done. Yet the unfavorable comparison outlined above threatened the campaigns of those Republicans who will be running for re-election in the fall. So, in a stroke of genius, the Republican house leaders concocted a bill to combine a phased increase in the minimum wage with a significant reduction in the estate tax. The bill was passed, with Republicans voting in favor. But this bill will not go into law, since this combination will not pass the Senate. The outcome was known in advance, so the whole exercise was "political cover" for those who need to face their constituents.

The logic for reducing the estate tax is simply this - it's payback for the well-heeled Republicans who have been financing Republicans for house and senate seats. Some have called it "welfare for Paris Hilton". The fact is that great Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt felt the estate tax was necessary in order to prevent the formation of an "American Royalty", a class of people who live in royal fashion simply due to the success of a forebear. And great Americans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet believe the estate tax must be maintained. But the greedy rich of today's culture, those Christian self-made men and women who funded George Bush want to pass on every penny they couldn't spend to their progeny. Well, that is just too much! The kids will still get plenty, but somewhere down the line they or their kids may actually have to work. That's the American way according to Teddy Roosevelt, and a majority of the senate agrees with him. So, this house bill is DOA.

The minimum wage must be increased simply because few people are willing to work for that amount. It's well below the poverty line, for heaven's sake! If someone's take-home pay still leaves them with a grim existence and dependence on the government and charities for hand-outs, then what satisfaction is there in work and what motivation to take it on? In my view, Americans want everyone to earn a decent day's pay for a decent day's work. Unfortunately, the Republican congress doesn't agree with me. That's one of the reasons we've been separated for some time and heading for divorce.

It would be one thing for the Republicans, who control both houses of congress, simply to state their reasons for not increasing the minimum wage and get on with other business. But this cynical, non-starter package deal is basically another shady lie that will take its place alongside all the other disgraceful deeds of this congress. History will take notice of how these Republicans hijacked a great party, sold it to the highest bidder, and got tossed out like so much garbage when their stink got too strong for even many of their staunchest initial supporters. The fall elections can't come too quickly!