Time to Stop American Action in Syria

This article was originally written while the president was considering action in
syria a month ago.

The Congress is being asked to approve a limited military strike on the Syrian government. The aim appears to be punishment for using chemical weapons against their own citizens. The House Republicans have a unique chance to change the perception of Republicans among younger voters; the House leadership could be the anti-war party which may increase their support in future elections. Will the leadership of the House use this opportunity to stand firmly against this use of power?

What is the purpose of this operation? The administration’s military and foreign policy leadership could not provide a clearly articulated explanation of the Syrian policy. The Secretary of Defense and State gave contradictory views of the Syrian civil war while appearing before Congress. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could not give expectations or an exit strategy. What is the point of this action?

We participated in military action in Libya to help the rebels overthrow Kaddafi. The result was a government that has not solidified the country under democratic principles. Last year Ambassador Stevens and three aides were killed by terrorists. Our two governments have had cool relations since then. This is not a good outcome.

We supported the overthrow of President Mubarak in Egypt. As a result the Muslim Brotherhood assumed control of the country. They were the forerunner of the terrorist groups which became Al Qaeda. The purging of military leadership loyal to Mubarak threatened them. It is not surprising that they engineered a coup. We supported groups hardly inclined toward American interests.

In the Middle East complex groups are not often allied with Western values. We do not appreciate Islamic values. A 14 century argument between Shiite and Sunni involves the correct line of succession from Mohammed. Americans do not appreciate the depth of religious fervor among those in this region. We grow weary after 10 years of war, while the terrorists have worked for decades to gain an advantage.

Our financial situation is quite poor with a national debt of almost $17 trillion. Warfare is a financial burden that must be critically considered. Along with the social burdens of the welfare system, foreign entanglements have cost many great powers throughout history. At $1.5 million per Tomahawk missile this mission will cost hundreds of millions plus the cost to position the ships and manpower. Is this a wise use of our resources? With the budgetary restraints, will we be able to replenish our stock of weapons?

The administration claimed to have the power to undertake military action without the approval of Congress. Secretary of State Kerry announced the intended action and then was quickly overruled. The President decided to get Congressional approval suddenly. Last year he announced that the Syrians would cross the “red line” if they used chemical weapons. In Europe this week he indicated that the “red line” was set by others. An indefinite policy emboldens enemies.

The overwhelming opinion of Americans is opposed to intervention. In a democratic republic should a President take us to war without the support of the people? His efforts to create a coalition have not been successful as Britain has withdrawn following the parliamentary rejection of Prime Minister Cameron’s proposal. France is a qualified supporter. A coalition of two is far less than the mission in Libya. The President chided Bush when he engaged with Iraq, though his coalition was more robust. Our international support is quite limited also.

Senator McCain states that we should help the moderates in Syria. Undoubtedly, there are such people, but are they the major opposition to Assad? Rebels are being supplied by radical Islamists. Many are allied with Al Qaeda. Iran has supported Assad, but they could easily play both sides for insurance. The Russians support Assad and are tweaking the President.

Most likely Assad has used chemical weapons in the past. Do we know with certainty that the rebels have not used chemical weapons on civilians more recently to draw in outside forces to turn the tide? Assad’s forces have made great strides against the opposition. Most analysts feel that his army is winning. Why would he use chemical weapons at this point? What is he to gain by this action? The rebels have much to gain. Islamists have shown willingness in the past to kill civilians.

Some argue that we must act to send a message to Iran to halt their nuclear ambitions. The international restrictions imposed during the past several years have not stopped the Iranians and this military action will not deter them. A limited military action with limited objectives will hardly shield Israel from the existential threat from Iran. The likely result is that Syrian sympathizers will attack Israel for retribution and as a unifier of Islamist forces.

The policy being negotiated in Congress is to allow an attack for days (not weeks); there would not be any boots on the ground; no regime change is intended; the effort is to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. What about the nearly 100,000 dead civilians killed by conventional weapons? Does it matter how they died? Does this civil war directly threaten us?

The cost of imported oil will certainly increase on the spot market because of the uncertainty created by war. Is there any benefit to our country in paying higher gasoline prices? How will this help our struggling economy? This does coincide with the administration policy of increasing gas prices to lessen use of petroleum products and limit carbon emissions.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $1trillion and countless lives and wounded American soldiers. Many will question the decisions to go to war in these nations. The results are mixed with the military winding down in Afghanistan. The Iraqi effort ended with a hasty retreat at night. Neither country is a stable ally after all our spilled blood. Why would the Syrian effort result in a better outcome?

The President has yet to articulate a cohesive rationale for intervention in the Syrian civil war. This might benefit the Saudis more than us. Chemical weapons threaten our troops in foreign lands. Terrorists might us such means to damage our homeland. If we are determined to rid the world of such weapons, it would take a more determined effort than the pin-prick being contemplated.

The President has requested the Congress concur with his decision to attack Syria. He wants to share the political fallout should this action have a negative outcome. If they refuse to support his request, then he will blame them for the continued deaths in the Syrian civil war. Assad is a bad actor. However, his opposition may be worse.

Only a few years ago, Secretary of State Clinton called Assad a reformer. Secretary of State Kerry has had good relations with Assad in the past. Mixed messages confuse others, including our enemies. We need a coherent policy before we undertake another war.

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Time to Stop American Action in Syria

The Congress is being asked to approve a limited military strike on the Syrian government. The aim appears to be punishment for using chemical weapons against their own citizens. The House Republicans have a unique chance to change the perception of Republicans among younger voters; the House leadership could be the anti-war party which may increase their support in future elections. Will the leadership of the House use this opportunity to stand firmly against this use of power?

What is the purpose of this operation? The administration’s military and foreign policy leadership could not provide a clearly articulated explanation of the Syrian policy. The Secretary of Defense and State gave contradictory views of the Syrian civil war while appearing before Congress. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could not give expectations or an exit strategy. What is the point of this action?

We participated in military action in Libya to help the rebels overthrow Kaddafi. The result was a government that has not solidified the country under democratic principles. Last year Ambassador Stevens and three aides were killed by terrorists. Our two governments have had cool relations since then. This is not a good outcome.

We supported the overthrow of President Mubarak in Egypt. As a result the Muslim Brotherhood assumed control of the country. They were the forerunner of the terrorist groups which became Al Qaeda. The purging of military leadership loyal to Mubarak threatened them. It is not surprising that they engineered a coup. We supported groups hardly inclined toward American interests.

In the Middle East complex groups are not often allied with Western values. We do not appreciate Islamic values. A 14 century argument between Shiite and Sunni involves the correct line of succession from Mohammed. Americans do not appreciate the depth of religious fervor among those in this region. We grow weary after 10 years of war, while the terrorists have worked for decades to gain an advantage.

Our financial situation is quite poor with a national debt of almost $17 trillion. Warfare is a financial burden that must be critically considered. Along with the social burdens of the welfare system, foreign entanglements have cost many great powers throughout history. At $1.5 million per Tomahawk missile this mission will cost hundreds of millions plus the cost to position the ships and manpower. Is this a wise use of our resources? With the budgetary restraints, will we be able to replenish our stock of weapons?

The administration claimed to have the power to undertake military action without the approval of Congress. Secretary of State Kerry announced the intended action and then was quickly overruled. The President decided to get Congressional approval suddenly. Last year he announced that the Syrians would cross the “red line” if they used chemical weapons. In Europe this week he indicated that the “red line” was set by others. An indefinite policy emboldens enemies.

The overwhelming opinion of Americans is opposed to intervention. In a democratic republic should a President take us to war without the support of the people? His efforts to create a coalition have not been successful as Britain has withdrawn following the parliamentary rejection of Prime Minister Cameron’s proposal. France is a qualified supporter. A coalition of two is far less than the mission in Libya. The President chided Bush when he engaged with Iraq, though his coalition was more robust. Our international support is quite limited also.

Senator McCain states that we should help the moderates in Syria. Undoubtedly, there are such people, but are they the major opposition to Assad? Rebels are being supplied by radical Islamists. Many are allied with Al Qaeda. Iran has supported Assad, but they could easily play both sides for insurance. The Russians support Assad and are tweaking the President.

Most likely Assad has used chemical weapons in the past. Do we know with certainty that the rebels have not used chemical weapons on civilians more recently to draw in outside forces to turn the tide? Assad’s forces have made great strides against the opposition. Most analysts feel that his army is winning. Why would he use chemical weapons at this point? What is he to gain by this action? The rebels have much to gain. Islamists have shown willingness in the past to kill civilians.

Some argue that we must act to send a message to Iran to halt their nuclear ambitions. The international restrictions imposed during the past several years have not stopped the Iranians and this military action will not deter them. A limited military action with limited objectives will hardly shield Israel from the existential threat from Iran. The likely result is that Syrian sympathizers will attack Israel for retribution and as a unifier of Islamist forces.

The policy being negotiated in Congress is to allow an attack for days (not weeks); there would not be any boots on the ground; no regime change is intended; the effort is to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. What about the nearly 100,000 dead civilians killed by conventional weapons? Does it matter how they died? Does this civil war directly threaten us?

The cost of imported oil will certainly increase on the spot market because of the uncertainty created by war. Is there any benefit to our country in paying higher gasoline prices? How will this help our struggling economy? This does coincide with the administration policy of increasing gas prices to lessen use of petroleum products and limit carbon emissions.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $1trillion and countless lives and wounded American soldiers. Many will question the decisions to go to war in these nations. The results are mixed with the military winding down in Afghanistan. The Iraqi effort ended with a hasty retreat at night. Neither country is a stable ally after all our spilled blood. Why would the Syrian effort result in a better outcome?

The President has yet to articulate a cohesive rationale for intervention in the Syrian civil war. This might benefit the Saudis more than us. Chemical weapons threaten our troops in foreign lands. Terrorists might us such means to damage our homeland. If we are determined to rid the world of such weapons, it would take a more determined effort than the pin-prick being contemplated.

The President has requested the Congress concur with his decision to attack Syria. He wants to share the political fallout should this action have a negative outcome. If they refuse to support his request, then he will blame them for the continued deaths in the Syrian civil war. Assad is a bad actor. However, his opposition may be worse.

Only a few years ago, Secretary of State Clinton called Assad a reformer. Secretary of State Kerry has had good relations with Assad in the past. Mixed messages confuse others, including our enemies. We need a coherent policy before we undertake another war.

A Primer on the Capitalist System

Today Rush Limbaugh tried to explain the purpose and consequences of the minimum wage during his radio show.  Why would he do this?  Because the Senate had hearings in which Massachusetts Senator Warren explained that the minimum wage should be about $22 per hour if it were adjusted for inflation and the increase in productivity since 1960:  In a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week on “indexing the minimum wage,” Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren inquired of University of Massachusetts professor economics Arindrajit Dube, “If we started in 1960, and we said that, as productivity goes up — that is, as workers are producing more — then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And, if that were the case, the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour. So, my question, Mr. Dube, is what happened to the other $14.75?”

 

So how did we get to a point where a former professor at Harvard Law School is so uniformed about the process of wage development?  Can we ever hope to solve our financial problems if this is the caliber of leadership within the Capitol? Limbaugh went on to explain that the minimum wage costs jobs, which is correct, and is designed for the lowest skilled workers.  He also explained that the labor unions support the minimum wage and want it to increase regularly to encourage higher salaries for their members.  All of this is true, but even this explanation misses several crucial points.

 

Perhaps more critical is the response that Professor Dube gave to Senator Warren’s question and her retort as reported:  Dube backed up Warren’s math, and even stated that if minimum wage had kept pace with the rise in income of the top 1% of taxpayers that it would have been around $33, before the recent recession.

Warren then went on to question David Rutigliano, owner of the Southport Brewing Company. Rutigliano took the side of small business owners, stating that his business doesn’t run the same way or with the same volume as a McDonalds, which Warren pointed out could weather a minimum wage hike with relative ease. 

 

After 100 years of progressivism and its influence within the public school system, high school graduates do not understand the fundamental differences between socialism and capitalism.  They have been taught that under socialism the government owns the means of production, but while under capitalism individuals own the productive businesses and valuable resources.  This dated and limited definition plays to the progressives’ and socialists’ ability to accumulate power and increase the growth of government.  It also stifles all efforts toward economic growth and stability.

 

The growth of governmental influence over productive private entities which is a threat to individual liberty is the aim of statists.  In Europe, this power was consolidated into the monarchy during the Middle Ages.  With the growth of feudalism, the aristocracy grew into a wealthy, privileged class.  Mercantilism reached a height in England in which the king granted individuals commercial and territorial rights.  These entrepreneurial efforts did not respect the value of a meritocracy.  It took our founders to provide this form of capitalism in America.

 

The socialists and progressives cannot accept their limitation to compel economic behavior.  Progressives, following Marx and Engels, believe that fairness requires redistribution of wealth within our society.  This comes from the socialist principle that “from those that have to those that need” must operate.  Yet, people will endeavor to thwart this aim for their own benefit.  Large corporations have staff that work to move profits to other nations as the tax rate is lower elsewhere.  This defeats the governmental aim to collect greater tax revenue.  Smaller businesses have less flexibility to accomplish this aim, but still endeavor to maintain the greatest profit for themselves.

 

Smaller businesses have owners that manage their affairs for direct benefit; in contrast, larger public corporations hire managers (CEO’s) that are concerned with their survival as the leader and that results in quarterly stock increases or higher profits for stockholders which are the owners.  Smaller businesses show an independent streak, while the government can solicit larger companies to comply with regulations more easily.  Larger businesses have the means to adjust to onerous rules, which might wreck havoc on smaller businesses.  Statist find the larger businesses more willing to accept their regulations as the CEO’s see these regulations as an inconvenience

 

A private business pays staff based on the lowest salary that can be expected to elicit the necessary work.  Some may obtain higher salaries as a convenience to the manager, who might want to limit negotiations.  Yet, the job will only be available at a wage that the owner or manager will commit, since they control the money.  If the salary does not solicit enough positive response, then a ne and higher offer will result until the ceiling is met.  The minimum wage is not a living wage because the business does not hire staff to generate income in the community, but rather to generate wealth and profit for the owners.  There must be value in this transaction.

 

Milton Friedman, in his august work Capitalism and Freedom, argued that “liberalism” in the Enlightenment spirit requires economic freedom.  This threatens the progressives and limits their ability to dominate others.  The European enterprise model evolved from the feudalist past.  The American model rewards individual success.  It cannot protect against failure or deficiencies, but the government can offer a safety net for those unable to manage their affairs.

 

The hubris that progressives demonstrate can result in accumulations of power beyond the corrupting influence.  Clearly few people can resist the temptation to collect material and wealth along with the power to control others.  Lord Acton warned of this corrupting influence, but still citizens surrender their liberty for a “few pieces of gold”.  Joseph Schumpeter, the Harvard economist, warned of the opportunistic (during crises) grab for power by politicians that would threaten democracy in this country.

 

Our society may be at risk, but the solution is to educate the populace on the value of the private entrepreneurial system.  Rebuilding the social studies curricula is a must, but this is just the beginning.  One thing to consider regarding the orientation of higher education is the extent to which the left has controlled the agenda.  Austin Goolsbie, the former Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors firmly accepts the need for more government intrusion into private business.  He teaches at University of Chicago, the same institution that once housed Milton Friedman.  Could this be any more worrisome?

President Obama Is The Same Person That We Elected in 2008

This article was originally written during February 2011 while the media was claiming that the President was mainstream.

On a daily basis much of the media tells us that the President is moving toward the political center. They feel he is emulating President Clinton and will triangulate. This is quite perplexing to the outside observer since they are different personalities. President Clinton had no ideological compass, while President Obama clearly holds strong progressive views. Perhaps the most striking comment made by the President on Sunday during his interview with Bill O’Reilly was his refusal to concede a move toward the center in recent months. He stated that he is the same person that the nation elected two years ago. This reiterates the statement made by Valerie Jarrett recently. So what is going on? The President has correctly stated the situation. Will the press stop trying the help him get re-elected by putting the most favorable light on his actions?
President Clinton held no true ideology, while being a liberal. Obama is a socialist and is trying to do a head fake as commonly used in basketball. A look at many issues reveals his concern for social justice and economic reform. His programs are not capitalist in orientation. While he claims an interest in small business protection and encouragement, the policies demonstrate antagonism. How can you share the wealth without taking it from those with it?
Obama rushed to pass the Stimulus Plan in March of 2009. He rushed to get the Health Care Reform bill to Congress. The Congress used questionable methods to pass the reconciled legislation in April 2010. He had no trouble with the procedures and signed the legislation. The President insisted on rushing the Nuclear Reduction Treaty with Russia through the Senate during the lame duck session of the 111th Congress. The President in conjunction with the overwhelmingly liberal and large Democratic majority Congress succeeded in passing Investment and Banking Reform legislation. The large number of new regulations continues the progressive effort to control the business sector.
The President is a master of the head fake. He constantly spins the mid-term election results as a vindication of the need for health care reform with cost control and availability despite pre-existing conditions. But this is not the lesson of the November 2010 elections. Instead, the change in direction demonstrates the electorate’s disapproval of the policies undertaken by the President and the Congress. Nobody can say for certain which policy is at fault, but the lack of job growth, soaring budgetary deficits and less certain future must be considered. The President is the same liberal/socialist who began his career as a community organizer. The political reality of the mid-term elections has forced his hand and style. As a result, the Bush era tax cuts were extended. However, the President negotiated a reduction in Social Security withholding taxes for the employee. This will not help in creating any jobs, since it is not a reduction for the employer. This is his version of the “rope-a-dope” in which he accomplished an increase in spending while transferring income or redistribution of wealth.
The left, though some may challenge him in a primary, has no other option in 2012. The President has sought to remake the Democratic coalition. The primary support comes from the unions and government workers. Seniors have traditionally supported the Democrats due to Social Security and Medicare. However, senior support of Democrats has waned in the past elections as other policies have moved too far to the left for their tastes. As a result, the President has not been a strong supporter of the elderly. Hence, the Social Security and Medicare have not gotten the increases in funding usually supported by Democrats. The President allowed a sacrifice of funding for Medicare to ensure adequate funds for the health care reform bill. Obama did not push for an increase in Social Security funding for inflation. This transfer of money toward the youth, immigrants, and uninsured may derive from the President’s desire for social justice, but also seeks new potential voters. A desire for a comprehensive immigration reform is an attempt to court Hispanic voters.
The President reaches out in public, as he did at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speech, but there are no changes in policy. In the speech the President offered to reduce business regulations, but failed to mention the great number his legislation added. Obama promised to “share the wealth” in 2008, but how does this create jobs? It does not. Any transfer of wealth from individuals will necessarily cost jobs, but that is the progressive approach to government. In one week the administration has unveiled several more programs aimed at government growth. On Tuesday a program to bail out states that borrowed money for unemployment insurance payments was proposed. This increase in costs for employers will not result in more private sector jobs. On Wednesday, the Vice President unveiled a program to spend $53 billion to expand rail service. Again, government solutions are offered rather than private sector ones. Our President is correct that he has not changed. Is this not socialism?
Members of the TSA are seeking unionization. The administration is behind this effort. Again, the policies are supportive of organized labor. The administration still wants to see the union “card check” legislation passed. The President still wants to see the petroleum industry limited. The EPA is still considering regulating the carbon-emitting industries. The administration has not obeyed the federal court ruling concerning the moratorium on deep water drilling. The President has chosen to ignore the rulings by federal judges against the health care reform bill. He has offered a small correction by eliminating the tax 1099 reporting requirement. This is hardly compromise.
A willing group of legislators may see a move toward the center, but this is a mistake. Watch the actions of the administration and do not let the words fool you. The President has offered a budgetary spending reduction of $600 billion over ten years, but is short on specifics. The only move toward the center can be found in style. The President is the same person the country elected two years ago. Believe him!