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Upcoming Essays November 12, 2008

Posted by Adam Nowland in Democracy, Election 2008, Politically Incorrect Blog, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Government.
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I’ve been extremely busy this week, but over the next few days I’ll be posting several more essays.  You can look forward to the following topics:

Why I’m Glad I’m Not the Next President:  The Overwhelming Crises Facing Barack Obama

Leader, Warrior, President:  How Future Generations Will View Bush’s Legacy

The Days After:  The Economic Realities of an Obama Presidency

President v. Party:  How Barack Obama’s Election Bodes Ill for the Democratic Party

While they should all be interesting to those following the recent election and the end of the Bush presidency, I’m particularly excited about the latter two.  Hopefully it’ll be good stuff.  I’ll keep everyone posted.


Defanging Deterrence: The Fate of Missile Defense in an Obama Administration November 10, 2008

Posted by SV in Election 2008, Homeland Security, Nuclear Proliferation, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Foreign Relations.
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The Obama campaign was consistently centered around the ambiguous theme of change (after “hope”) and successfully marketed it to the American people.  The question now becomes, will this be selective change or drastic change?  After all, while Americans have given President Bush a low approval rating, not only does his approval rise when asked about certain issues, the vote of last Tuesday should not be seen as a total repudiation of Bush Administration policies.  There is, still, wide consensus on a number of issues.  Also, the percentage of people identifying themselves as liberal and conservative remained steady (despite the fact Rasmussen found that Democrats were four times as likely to want to take an exit poll).  So where does President-Elect Obama fit in on missile defense?

In fact, by searching all the transcripts of the Democratic debates, the subject of missile defense comes up once.  And that was by Senator Chris Dodd, who said we need a different set of priorities from missile defense (“investing in the bridges and the highways and the water systems” to be exact).  This is indicative of the Democratic Party’s stance on a vital defense issue.  They know it is popular, according to a Gallup survey in April 2002 (the most recent available), respondents supported the deployment of missile defense by 64% to 30%.  To oppose, cut, or reverse it is, then, a losing issue for Obama.

In the first presidential debate, Obama stated that “we are spending billions of dollars on missile defense.  And I actually believe that we need missile defense…but I also believe that, when we are only spending a few hundred million dollars on nuclear proliferation, then we’re making a mistake.”  Never mind the fact that counterproliferation is much cheaper than missile defense (MD) by definition, his solution is to cut MD and funnel some of the money to inhibiting nuclear proliferation.  Though it sounds like a good idea, proliferation has been kept largely in check (there is no deterring regimes like Iran or North Korea from pursuing nuclear programs with “friends” like Russia or China nearby) by current efforts.

Obama, along with most other Democrats, has stated that MD needed to be “proven” before it is deployed (see the youtube clip).  “Proven” has become a code-word for bringing something back to the drawing board and indefinitely suspending it because there is always the chance it will not work 100% of the time.  So what does this mean for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)?  Expect to see the airborne laser system scrapped completely, the R&D funding for space-based systems eradicated, and a minimal deployment (less than 30) of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California.  On a side note, Obama will likely be forced to move ahead with the “third site” in Europe due to Russia’s bellicose rhetoric about placing missiles in Kaliningrad.  To not do so would be international weakness not seen since Kennedy’s meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna.

So far, it seems like the programs Obama would have cut are the ones that are, admittedly, years away from deployment.  But, enter Barney Frank stage left with this quote.  The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae fame) believes the US can cut the defense budget by an astounding 25%.  Such an unprecedented cut would come not just from ending the war in Iraq but also from MD and other future weapons systems.  Where, therefore, does “pragmatic, centrist” Obama mesh with the most-liberal-Senator-in-the-Senate Obama?

Despite extraordinary progress in the past eight years in the area of missile defense, Obama is likely going to set his “scapel” (or hatchet) to missile defense and bring it down to Clinton-era levels.  How else does he expect to pay for his massive health-care, tax rebates, and auto bailout plans?  “Proven” systems like the Aegis destroyers, SM-3 interceptrs, PAC-3 terminal missile defenses may survive the bloodletting.  But the goal of a layered sea, land, and air-based defense that could intercept missiles in their boost, midcourse, or terminal phases will be gone for four years.  If China or North Korea were looking for the opportune moment to launch an electromagnetic pulse attack or threaten nuclear blackmail, the next four years look pretty promsing to them.  As Obama makes abundantly clear in this primary-era ad (which you must watch), American primacy is not at the top of his priority list.  His pipe dream (or “smack,” since I guess he can afford it now) involves a world without nuclear weapons or rapidly developed combat systems.  Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Tehran, and Caracus must be euphoric.

Obamania the Day After November 6, 2008

Posted by Adam Nowland in Election 2008, Politics, President Bush, President Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Government.
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Congratulations, Democrats.  After eight years, you and your party have seized control of the White House with Senator Barack Obama’s victory over Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday.  Throw this in with your increased majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and you must feel like you are flying on top of the world.  In fact, with all the outpouring of love for America expressed since the election, you may very well be doing just that.  Just think of the circumstances.  The first black American President?  Check.  A sweeping endorsement of liberal control of the country?  Check.  Your biggest opponent, the hated GOP, reeling and searching for answers?  Check. 

                So break out the glasses and pop open the bubbly – after all, nothing can stand in your way now, right?  Now is the time to push for social equality, increase taxes on the rich and give generously to the poor.  Pack the Supreme Court with liberal-minded judges who will uphold Roe v. Wade and stop pesky Justices like Scalia and Roberts in their tracks.  Now that Bush is gone, we can bring home the soldiers to well-earned confetti and parades, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in one fell swoop.  After all, if we’re not over there, the problem should take care of itself, right?  Now is the time for Obama to start implementing all those wonderful promises he made while crisscrossing the nation over the last few months, correct?

                Not quite. 


There are a number of reasons why Democrats and other liberals will be disappointed during Obama’s initial work in the Oval Office. (more…)

The Demise of Anti-Americanism…Hardly November 6, 2008

Posted by SV in Election 2008, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Foreign Relations.
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Barack H. Obama has been elected president, so gone are the days of anti-American protests throughout the world, critical allies, and hostile rivals.  Right?  His election was greeted with glee in Western Europe, banner headlines from London to Tokyo, and with the slaughtering of goats and bulls in Kenya (I’m sure PETA was pleased).  Here is a sampling of the global ecstasy.  However, just because the president will no longer be a “cowboy” or “unilateralist” does not mean that we have seen the end of global anti-Americanism.

President George W. Bush was neither the beginning nor the end of a global antipathy to the United States.  A global distrust or envy of the US existed long before he ascended to the office in 2001 and will likely exist long after Obama’s term ends in 2012.  What, then, accounts for Obama’s seemingly unprecedented world popularity and “citizen of the world” status?  Well, his unique ties to Kenya and Indonesia certainly feed the impression that his ties (and hence, worldview) are not constricted to the United States.  He will very likely go through a honeymoon period with the world, after which, when they realize he is still an American (and hopefully he will act as such) their euphoria will transition to apathy or resentment.

Indeed, unless Obama intends to “spread the wealth” to the 3rd world, withdraw the US military from its overseas bases, and open our borders to unlimited immigration, he will face anti-Americanism just as frequently as President Bush has.  Do not expect the protests at the World Bank, G-8, or IMF summits to stop all of the sudden.  Global jihadists will still attempt to strike at the United States or its military forces at any opportunity they foresee.  And our rivals will clamor as loudly as ever, sensing weakness, that the US should not act as the lone great power and allow them to establish their own spheres of influence (i.e. Russia in Eastern Europe, China in the Western Pacific, Venezuela in the Carribbean, etc.).

Incredible to believe?  Its already started to happen.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated he hoped Obama would engage in “constructive dialogue…on the basis of trust” in this news story.  In the same speech, he announced Russia would be deploying short-range ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, a discontiguous part of Russia in between Poland and Lithuania.  The idea that the Russians could be trusted in any sort of dialogue when they place offensive missiles (not defensive ones like the interceptors we are placing in Poland) next to our allies illustrates how different they believe Obama will be from Bush.

But our allies will like us a lot more, right?  Sure.  They’ve always wanted to feel they were more a part of the loop in US foreign policy.  A multilateralist Obama is a huge vindication of their calls for the US to stop “going it alone.”  However, with more conservative governments in charge in Berlin, Paris, and London (somewhat), they are likely to be frustrated by Obama’s foreign policy priorities.  Also, like our rivals, their elites and people will try to get as many concessions and “goodies” out of Washington as they can.  Though this may not seem to be the anti-Americanism Bush confronted, it certainly is.  Whereas Bush encountered anti-Americanism because of the strength  of the US, Obama will likely witness it as an effect of contempt for the US.  No more anti-Americanism? Hardly.

Up From the Ashes – The Republican Party’s Chance for a Renewed Lease on Life November 5, 2008

Posted by Adam Nowland in Democracy, Politics, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Foreign Relations, U.S. Government.
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As Americans wake on the morning of November 5th, they awake in a country on the verge of a new era.  With the landslide victory of President-elect Barack Obama, who enters office with significant majorities in both the House and the Senate, Americans have spoken, and spoken loudly.  The Republican administration of lame-duck President George W. Bush has been swept from office as U.S. citizens voiced their concerns that the GOP was no longer in touch with the average American.

                However, despite the humiliating defeat, the Republican Party is far from dead.  Indeed, in the long run, a crushing defeat at the hands of Obama and his allies may be exactly what the GOP needs to spring back into national power.  Although the defeat and future power seem contradictory, one realizes that the idea isn’t so far-fetched when we recall how far astray from its “roots” the Republican leadership has gone over the last eight years.  Abandoning the old mainstays of fiscal responsibility, small government, and increased rights to private individuals, the GOP in many respects had become the thing it feared most – the Democratic Party.  For all intents and purposes, the parties, at least in Congress, had become indistinguishable.  By assuming power, the Republicans in Congress and the White House permitted absolute power, especially in the wake of broad support following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, to transform them into big government, drunk on power and unlimited funding.  By forsaking their roots, the Republicans set the stage for the major upsets in the last two elections.

                But now that they are removed from power, the Republican Party and its leaders can return to what made them popular in the first place.  The environment for a victory in two years in the next national election is perfect for conservatives, who, if they play their cards right and get a little help from the Democrats, could provide a stunning comeback.  Let’s take a look at the opportunities:

              An inexperienced, untested President taking office with enormous expectations.  Republicans must exploit any mistakes by Obama in his first months in office.  If Obama opens negotiations with Iran, or backpedals in the face of pressure from North Korea, China, Russia, or Venezuela, the GOP has a fantastic opportunity to show that Obama is weak when it comes to foreign policy.  Likewise, the domestic decisions that Obama makes in his first two years as president could have significant ramifications for the economy, the health system, and social policy, and he must tread lightly and ignore the obvious mistake of liberalizing too much too quickly, or he and his party will quickly burn through the political currency they gained yesterday.

              A faltering economy.  The overwhelming focus of voters, the economy continues to struggle while the government seems helpless to solve the credit crunch, the enormous (and crippling) housing mortgage crisis, and a slipping dollar.  The country may be on the verge of significant inflation, yet the government continues to find new ways to pour money into the economy.  Obama plans sweeping tax changes and has promised to pour upwards of sixty billion dollars into the nation’s infrastructure.  Unfortunately, the United States probably can’t afford such action, at least not now. 

              Increasing domestic divisiveness.  Socially, conservatives and liberals in the United States continue to go their separate ways.  Obama takes office with a significant portion of the country extremely distrustful of his motives and potential (which is nothing new for any president).  However, he will have to be careful not to offend large segments of voters, or, like the 2006 national elections, citizens will treat him as they treated President Bush and his unpopular Iraq War.

              A global security nightmare.  War in the Congo.  Continued crisis in Dafur.  An aggressive Russia unresponsive to global scrutiny.  A war going well in Iraq.  A war not going well in Afghanistan.  Osama bin Laden still unaccounted for.  Mr. Obama must find ways to protect Americans from a second 9/11.  However, he must also judiciously approach foreign crises as well.  The United States is uniquely prepared to go into other countries to stop calamities like genocide or famine.  Obama must continue the United State’s role as a global policeman while still avoiding getting mired in another long war in a country that doesn’t fully support our own end goals.

                All these issues point clearly to opportunities for the Republican Party to seize on mistakes by the Obama administration and his supporters in Congress.  A major mishandling of a crisis by Obama would go a long way to bringing the GOP back into power.  However, Republicans must also reinvent their image as a party of the people, rather than a party of the government.  If they can project a new understanding of responsibility and empathy, they should be poised, at the very least, to take back some of the lost seats of Congress.  I suggest three ways to help the Republicans get back on track.

                First, the Republican Party must recreate themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility.  This is a no-brainer.  The Bush administration has become famous for its liberal spending policies, which inevitably led to increased government debt and certainly did not help the country avoid the recession that even now wracks the economy.  This spending is not reminiscent of your grandparents’ Republican party.  With nearly every state struggling economically, schools scrambling to make ends meet, and individuals watching their savings dissolve, it is shocking that Americans have so little faith in Republicans that they turn to a party that is known for its spending excess.  The GOP CANNOT miss this golden opportunity to push towards decreased government.  People don’t want to spend more money on taxes – they want to save and have the government help provide things like education, energy, and infrastructure.  Resume the push for small government and fiscal responsibility, and the Republicans will have taken a major step towards success.

                Second, the GOP must begin rebuilding bridges with the media.  Yes, everyone knows that the media is indeed biased (except, it seems, the media itself), but news outlets continue to hold enormous sway over voters.  Indeed, it is a testament that President Bush was able to be elected despite extreme negative treatment by the media.  Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was incredibly popular with news organizations, and he used those ties to his advantage.  While pandering to the media is not an activity the GOP would like to do, it cannot escape the fact that it will not be successful unless it can somehow gain respect, if not love, from media outlets.  There is no doubt that Barack Obama was a media darling during the 2008 elections.  Republicans must pull a page from the Democrats’ book and use the media as a tool to achieve success, rather than battle reporters and cameras at every outlet.

                Finally, and most importantly, the GOP must show that it is a party of and for the people.  Too many people criticize Republicans for being aloof and “above” the average citizen.  Democrats got involved with the people who would vote for them and got their hands dirty campaigning.  Republicans recently have failed to engage voters on a personal level, showing that they understand the economic and social woes of the everyday family.  Without this personal engagement and a clear understanding of what most people are going through, or knowing what the goals and beliefs of the average citizen are, the Republicans cannot gain the support of voters.  Rectifying this problem would be a significant achievement.

               While Republicans are (and should be) disappointed by the results of the 2008 election, there is hope on the horizon.  The GOP must seize on Democratic mistakes and effectively take the place of the Democratic Party as the political entity most in touch with voters.  By taking advantage of knowing WHY they lost this election, the Republican Party can set itself up to avoid another failure in 2010.

President Obama – Senator Barack Obama Takes White House November 4, 2008

Posted by Adam Nowland in Election 2008, Politics, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Government.
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To the exuberant celebration of Democrats and liberals across the United States, and to the dismay of conservatives around the country, Senator Barack Obama (D – Illinois), the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, swept into power November 4th, defeating his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain (R – Arizona).  As polls around the country closed Tuesday evening, the major news networks wasted no time declaring state after state for Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden (D – Delaware).  Preliminary data indicated that President-elect Obama would have no problem reaching the number of electoral votes required to seal his victory, a result which likely surprised very few of the pundits and analysts deciphering polls and results.

                After eight tumultuous years under the administration of President George W. Bush, many Americans were ready for a new direction, and eagerly snapped up Obama’s campaign slogan “Change We Can Believe In,” hoping that electing a liberal Democrat would help stem the tide of anti-American sentiment sweeping the globe and help solve a myriad of other problems ravaging the country.  Bush’s administration oversaw two seemingly endless and unpopular wars in Asia, watched as the global economy entered its worst struggle in years, and angered many millions of people around the globe by taking what was regarded as a unilateral approach in American foreign policy, taking significant action in other parts of the globe without seeking the consultation or assistance of other nations.

                The result was a President with the lowest approval rating of his time in office, and indeed one of the worst approval ratings of any recent Commander-in-Chief.  Similarly, the U.S. Congress has been saddled with an approval rating of barely half of that of the President, shocking when one considers the unpopularity of President Bush, and even more shocking when one remembers that it is controlled not by the Republicans, but Democrats.  Even the most casual observer of the American government can conclude that voters are fed up with the way the government is being run.  Regardless of one’s views of the effectiveness of the current administration and Congress, it is clear that those men and women entering office in 2009 face substantial, if not overwhelming, challenges.

                Indeed, it is a significant show of faith on the part of voters to elect a President who has yet to complete even a single term of office as a senator, and one who brings a considerable lack of experience as well as tremendous expectations with him to the Oval Office.  Obama holds the distinction of becoming the first African-American to ever hold the country’s highest office, a major step forwards for minorities in the United States, but he will be under close scrutiny from both those who voted for him and those who opposed him.  Obama must demonstrate that he can effectively do the job of leading the world’s greatest nation, and prove that he was justifiably elected because of his abilities and not just because people saw his race as a chance to vote for something different.  Obama is smart enough to put race behind him all together, but there are still enormous numbers of Americans who voted for him simply because he was black, or against him for the same reason.  Each of those votes for or against was a form of racism in and of themselves, and Obama must rise above such a dangerous idea.

                In addition to his achievement of being the first black man to be elected President, Obama will also have to face the challenging problems of the economy, the national deficit, America’s declining status in global policy-making and popularity, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, problems with the national health system, Social Security, and the all-encompassing “War on Terror.”  Each of these problems is significant, and most cannot be controlled singularly from the White House.  Obama has the support of a heavily Democratic Congress, which will enable him to accomplish a great deal for at least two years, if not more, but such power is also a curse.  The President-elect will have no excuses if he cannot find solutions for many of these problems.  In fact, Obama runs the risk of making some of these problems worse by tampering with plans that are already in the works.  For example, then-Senator Obama strongly opposed the Iraq “surge” when more American troops were sent to the Middle East to help secure the new Iraqi government.  Mr. Obama’s fears proved to be false when the surge was decidedly effective, but if he chooses to immediately draw down American forces to appease his electors upon taking office, the situation in the tentatively quiet region could again spiral out of control.  Obama will need to tread cautiously, as American voters give their elected officials short leashes, and could very easily vote Mr. Obama out in four years if his proposed plans don’t create visible results.

                President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of “change,” a tangible object or idea that Americans apparently desperately needed and wanted.  Time will tell if Obama’s guarantees of something that breaks from “business as usual” in Washington are true, or if his words are just another fantasy in the land of fairy tales.  Obama faces a difficult road ahead, and the margin of his victory and the amount of support he has as he takes office will only add to his struggles if he fails to produce.  The American voters have spoken, and they have marched to the byword of “change.”  Let us as citizens hope that this change isn’t just believable, but that it truly is necessary – and effective –  as well.

One for the History Books? February 2, 2007

Posted by SV in President Bush, Saddam Hussein, U.S. Foreign Relations.
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It recently came to my attention while reading a textbook on world geography that the politicization and misinformation about the Iraq War has already been ingrained into the pages of history (and apparently geography) textbooks.  The quote that aroused my attention: that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was “based on the unsubstantiated claims that Saddam Hussein of Iraq may have been involved in the 9/11 attacks…”

If anyone can provide me the exact date, location, and quote of when President Bush or a high administration official said “Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001” please post a comment.  To my knowledge, such an assertion was never made, despite continued statements by elites suggesting that a reason we declared war on Iraq was Hussein’s involvement in 9/11.  The closest one can come is to say that the type of behavior or policy Saddam promoted was the same that led to the terrorist attacks.  Such a statement should be uncontroversial though.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 12/7/1941, was there a public outcry when we also declared war on Germany?  Germany, after all, had no hand in the planning or even knowledge of the surprise attack.  Yet the same aggressive behavior and warlike tendencies Japan exhibited were also practiced by Nazi Germany.

I also must say that textbooks that try to add these sections on Iraq and the War on Terror to “stay current” are doing their student readers a disservice.  Leave current events to the media and daily news reporters, material for history (and geography) books does not need to be updated year to year (most likely for financial gain).  A general rule of thumb should be that events must have occurred at least 10 years ago before they make it into a textbook, therefore they are in the proper perspective and can be better analyzed.  I’m sure there was no analysis of the loss of the Philippines in the 1943 textbooks…

Jeb Bush for President? May 10, 2006

Posted by Adam Nowland in Politics, President Bush, U.S. Government.
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The Washington Post reports that President Bush thinks his brother Jeb would make a great president someday.  2008?  Unlikely.  Though perhaps Jeb espouses the same conservative ideals that have allowed President Bush to find reelection, the recent problems suffered by the GOP mean that voters are unlikely to elect another Bush at this point in time.  The GOP would be wise to try to find a charismatic, strong conservative who would inspire swing voters to renew their faltering support for Republicans.  Trying to get another Bush into office would probably lose the White House.  For now, Jeb claims he's not interested in the job, but in the future, perhaps we'll elect the first pair of brothers in American history to the Presidency.