Free Markets, Free People

National Security

Immigration and the welfare state

Immigration seems to be the topic du jour at QandO today, and I take a slightly different tack than Dale and Bruce.

Let’s run through the main problems associated with illegal immigrants: state welfare costs, crime (or is it?), lack of assimilation (particularly if they’re allowed to vote), and suppressing wages for poor natives.

I think we can mitigate a lot of these problems with solutions far more realistic (in the short-to-medium term) than mass deportation, amnesty or ridding ourselves of the welfare state.

First, let’s recognize that the security threat becomes more complicated when you place wishful restrictions on immigration.  When there’s a flood of mostly non-threatening people crossing the border outside of any official process, it’s a lot harder to pick out the few really malicious ones.  And it’s really hard/expensive to stop that flood along such a long border.

We should be striving to funnel as many of them through official processes as possible, so we know who’s here, we know their backgrounds and we can separate the villains from those who just want to observe a basic civic peace and take advantage of opportunities in a freer country.  That means offering carrots and sticks to both prospective immigrants as well as those who are already here, and I’ll get to those incentives below.

Second, minimize how much the welfare state serves and controls non-citizens.

  • Uncompensated care makes up only 2.2% of medical costs in this country, and a good chunk of that doesn’t come from illegals, so the fact that many illegals wait until they need to use the emergency room, while irritating to some, isn’t a political hill to die on.  As long as it’s mostly limited to taking care of communicable diseases and real emergencies, which can be enacted into law, it’s tolerable.
  • Education is a much bigger problem.  I recall reading that there are 1.6 million illegal immigrants under age 18 in the States, and being from Southern California, where the largest budget item by far is education, I know that they (and natural born citizens born to noncitizens) represent a big cost.  Here we can do a bit of political jiu-jitsu: target guest worker families with a school voucher program.
    • They’re already in public schools, so it’s a win if they instead form the basis for a larger private school market.  The larger the market, the more the market can work its magic.
    • It can come with strings attached, like a requirement that any school accepting vouchers be able to show an improvement in English language skills at least as good as nearby public schools.
    • It’s not like Democrats have a good argument against it: it’s nearly the opposite of cream-skimming.  And when guests get this, naturally other groups are going to want it too.
  • Transfer payments (Social Security, unemployment, welfare, etc.), obviously, should be off the table for non-citizens.  I have no problem with people who want to take risks in a freer market; a host country owes them nothing more than securing their rights.

The idea here is to weed out those who aren’t seeking opportunity so much as handouts.  Those seeking opportunity are naturally more eager to assimilate.

Third, take the prospect of adding tons of dependent immigrants to the voter rolls off the table.  Instead, we can get most of what we want by creating a liberal guest worker program that virtually all prospective immigrants and current illegal residents can join simply by identifying themselves to authorities, as long as it’s clear that they’re going to generally be paying their own way, so that people with a dependent mindset are weeded out by attrition.

So what are the carrots and sticks here?  Without doing anything that would turn stomachs (and thus make reform politically impossible), we can get rid of the bad apples while not incurring the large costs associated with trying to throw 12 million people out of the country.

  1. A program allowing people to easily enter the country without being harassed should increase suspicion of anyone who’s still trying to immigrate the hard way — and that would increase public support for border security.
  2. Deport illegals who fail to register under the guest program and then commit serious crimes — violent crimes or big property crimes like auto theft.  Those who commit petty crimes and can’t prove their status can either apply for guest status and take their punishment here or accept deportation.
    • No sweeps or “asking for papers” for those who are just here peacefully.  Only those charged with another crime can be asked to prove their status within a reasonable time frame.
    • Come to an agreement to build cheaper-run prisons in Mexico to hold illegals during their sentences — no sense in keeping them in expensive American prisons if we’re planning on deporting them anyway.
  3. Illegals can’t access the school voucher program, but guest worker families can.
    • Perhaps also allow vouchers for English-language and Civics education for adults.

I’m open to any other ideas, but that seems like a good foundation, accepting (in the neolibertarian fashion) that the welfare state won’t disappear tomorrow, but offering a positive agenda that tends to increase liberty.

Open borders, immigration and reality

So why would libertarians not be “open borders guys” as Dale admits in his post about Arizona’s new illegal immigration law?  Well, for one, for the same reason Milton Friedman understood when he said “you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

I’d love to have free immigration or “open borders”. I’d like to see free people who want to work and better their lives be able to freely wander to where such opportunities exist.  In an ideal world, what I would call my moon pony and unicorn world, that’s the way it would work.

I’d also prefer not to have a welfare state.  Welfare states are, in my opinion, destructive states that kill human productivity and builds the power of the state to a degree that “citizens” eventually become vassals. Additionally, I’m not keen on my hard earned dollars going to support such a state. But they do.

If you eliminate the welfare state, the “open borders” argument has more credibility. But borders aren’t going away anytime soon. Unilaterally eliminating ours or, for the sake of argument not monitoring who comes in the country, isn’t going to change anything as regards the welfare state. Unless those coming in are required to immediately contribute to the state welfare apparatus (an anathema any open border theory) before taking advantage of it, the desire to keep illegals out and away from state welfare that the citizenry has paid for will remain high. That’s a practical concern that drives much of the anger and desire of the citizenry to keep illegals out.

Since the welfare state doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon (if ever) either, again it seems rather silly to argue that “open borders” is a viable solution. Yes, it’s an ideologically pure libertarian solution, but it denies reality. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good goal, but it does mean that in the current situation, no one is going to listen to it seriously or give it any credence.

And then, to compound the argument against open borders, there’s a second problem.  There are a whole bunch of people out there who are trying to kill us.  Not random criminals, who are bad enough, but an entire movement dedicated to the demise of those who live in this country.  “Open immigration” or open borders would only grant full and unimpeded access to those who want to do us harm. It is something they’d welcome. Imagine, if you will, not monitoring anyone who comes in or what they might bring. How long would it take for our enemies to establish themselves and strike?

Now the natural inclination of my libertarian kin at this point in a discussion like this is to say, “yeah, but if we hadn’t gotten entangled in those foreign alliances and remained isolationist, we could have …”. Could have what? Sold our products to ourselves? Avoided a religiously driven zealotry that targets nations like ours just because they’re” infidels?” Pretended Nazism and Japanese imperialism weren’t a threat to us and our way of life?

Even if that’s shrugged off, we still need to trade to live. And trade requires interaction. International trade requires international interaction. You can’t do that as an isolationist (and “open borders” seems contradictory – at least to me – to being an isolationist. How does one “isolate” themselves except behind their borders?). Those you interact and trade with have certain demands that come with trade you either negotiate or they refuse the trade. While it is wonderful to think that we could have survived quite nicely by being internally self-sufficient and trading only within our borders, it’s probably nothing more than a pipe-dream. We could no more keep the world out of here than the Japanese were able to keep us out of Tokyo bay. Simple demand of the citizenry for products from other nations would have forced that.

Open borders have only existed in times when there was no welfare state and no existential threat – and, in fact, no real government in place. Think the settling of the west and the borders of both Canada and Mexico.  People passed through them pretty much at will seeking a better opportunity or a better life.  That is an era which has passed. Even as we were warned by our founders to avoid foreign entanglements, we were becoming aware of their necessity – self-protection or mutual protection among them. And even as we wished for the ability to open our borders to all free people, we became aware of those who would use such an advantage to harm us. Or, as the welfare state developed, to take advantage of that to which they’re not entitled.

Like many laudable desires, that of “open borders” doesn’t survive reality of a changing (and smaller) world. All things being equal, I’d prefer open borders for free people. But that’s not how this world works and the disadvantages – partly our own doing, partly that of our enemies – argues pretty strongly against “open borders” – at least in the present.

All of that said, we have a problem to deal with. The welfare state isn’t going away nor are our enemies. The border situation is intolerable, we have an antiquated and essentially broken immigration system and we a very large number of illegals already here. What are we going to do about that?

Whether or not you agree with Arizona’s recent law, it points out the frustration that many of the border states are undergoing as the problem continues and grows. I’ve mentioned any number of times that while the solution won’t be simple, the general outline isn’t rocket science:

– Streamline the legal immigration system so people can more easily access it, apply, receive visas, green cards, etc. It shouldn’t take us half a lifetime or cost multi-thousands of dollars to immigrate here, prove their worth and become US citizens.

-Streamline the work visa program and the seasonal work visa program. If I can order a kindle book from Amazon with a single click and have it downloaded to the kindle within a minute , it tells me the technology is probably available to make such a program much easier than it is at present.

-Kill the “anchor baby” provision. It may take a Constitutional amendment, but whatever it takes, remove the incentive. Heck in some countries they have tour packages aimed specifically at pregnant women in other countries to come here and have their baby. Sorry – no short cuts, no breaking the line, no gaming the system.

-Deal with the illegals in the country. Require them to register by a certain date or face permanent deportation. Once registered provide them with a clear, but back of the line path to citizenship, if they so desire. Make the requirements tough but fair. My guess is we’ll find many, if not most, of them would instead prefer a work visa or a seasonal work visa rather than citizenship. Many are here illegally because they can’t get those sorts of visas now.

-Secure the border. We do have an existential treat. Throughout our history we’ve had many existential threats. As long as different ideologies exist, especially those based in religious zealotry or secular imperialism, we’ll continue to have existential threats. Until those go away, we’re always going to have borders and those borders are going to have to be guarded to protect our citizenry.

I believe in immigration. I believe, in some ways, it represents the heart and soul of this country. I believe in giving those what want to work hard and better themselves the opportunity to come to this country to do so.  But they need to come here legally through an improved system to do that. Since we do indeed have a welfare state, I want those who try to game that system by illegal entry stopped. And since we have existential enemies, I want them stopped at the border too.

It may not be my moon pony and unicorn utopia, but it is reality and it is that with which we have to deal.  Then we can work on utopia.

~McQ

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Syria ups the ante, Israel responds

A few days ago I mentioned a story, which first broke in the Arab press and was then verified by Israeli intelligence, that Syria was providing the terrorist group Hezbollah with SCUD missiles.  Obviously there’s only one use for a SCUD and it isn’t defensive.

Syria, as you probably remember, has a huge stockpile of chemical weapons – weapons easily delivered by SCUD.  Hezbollah, financed by Iran, is buying the missiles from Syria and is moving them into south Lebanon.  The 15,000 man UN force there to keep such rearming from happening are apparently useless.  Of course SCUD missiles fired from southern Lebanon can range all of Israel and present a very real threat to the nation.  Syria is also providing advanced anti-aircraft systems to protect the SCUDs and their launchers.

Israel has made it clear that it holds Syria directly responsible for this situation and that any attack by Hezbollah with Syrian weapons will be considered to be an attack by Syria itself.  And, of course, it will be met by Israeli attacks on Syria proper:

“We’ll return Syria to the Stone Age by crippling its power stations, ports, fuel storage and every bit of strategic infrastructure if Hezbollah dare to launch ballistic missiles against us,” said an Israeli minister, who who was speaking off-the-record, last week.

The warning, which was conveyed to Damascus by a third party, was sent to reinforce an earlier signal by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister. “If a war breaks out the Assad dynasty will lose its power and will cease to reign in Syria,” he said earlier this year.

In reality the “Assad dynasty” is much less powerful now than Assad’s father ruled.  Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t the leader his father was and it is feared more radical elements within Syria are pushing for a confrontation with Israel.  It appears they hoped to do that by proxy, but Israel has put them on notice that option is closed.  In the meantime the article notes that Beirut , whose control was tenuous at best, seems to have totally lost control of Hezbollah now.

It is hard to imagine this sort of a capability not being used by extremists such as those in Hezbollah if they actually posses it.  And this situation points out very well why places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria are dangerous to the stability of the world – state sponsors of terrorism can and do provide these extremist groups with the means to arm and train themselves, and – in the case of Syria – access to powerful weapons which have a WMD capability.

“This is the first time that an internationally known terror organisation has been equipped with ballistic missiles,” said the minister.

Israel’s promise to attack Syria should Hezbollah fire SCUDs into Israel is the appropriate way to handle this sort of a situation and is a threat the US should firmly support.

“We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman.

And, as Israelis have in the past, I wouldn’t put it past them if they did a little preemptive SCUD hunting in southern Lebanon if their intel turns some up. It would serve to protect their cities as well as verifying the existence of the missiles in southern Lebanon.   Obviously the UN isn’t up to the job of ensuring they’re kept out.

~McQ

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NYT: In secret memo Gates complains US has no strategy to stop Iran nukes

The NY Times continues its recent tradition of publishing the contents of secret memos with information from one about our strategy, or lack thereof, for dealing with Iran:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

If true, it certainly isn’t unexpected.  In fact, the US has spent more time saying what it won’t do (i.e. taking things off the table) than what it will (“serious” sanctions).  However it appears that may be changing, finally.  If the Times is to be believed (which, anymore, is not an automatic) it is beginning to dawn on the brain trust that a) Iran isn’t at all intimidated by the prospect of sanctions b) feels no serious threat to their intentions and c) doesn’t plan on discontinuing them.

So this memo, if reported correctly,  is an apparent effort to ramp up a more coherent and comprehensive approach to dealing with Iran – an actual strategy.  And that includes some military options should “diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.”

Is there really anyone out there holding out hope that “diplomacy and sanctions” will have the desired effect?

Of course, and as expected, White House officials deny the absense of a strategy. National security adviser Gen. James Jones claims:

“On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

Except -according to the NYT  – the Secretary of Defense, certainly someone who would be privy to any military options, doesn’t seem to think we do.

For instance:

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state.

Then what?  Testing nuclear weaponry’s design no longer requires actually detonation of a nuclear device.  Sophisticated computer simulations now serve that purpose.  So Gates’ point – if he made it – is entirely credible.  They could indeed become a “virtual” nuclear state without us ever knowing about it (although I doubt their arrogance would allow the Iranian government to pass up an opportunity to rub the world’s nose in it).

The Times also contends:

According to several officials, the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iran’s power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.

But if we’re talking the “full range of contingencies” certainly one which has to be taken seriously and for which a strategy has to be formed.

In fact, other than “senior officials” and the NYT, there’s not much to verify the memo exists or the strategy doesn’t.  And a Gates spokesman has even gone as far as to claim, in the Secretary’s name, that such a strategy does exit:

“The secretary believes the president and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran.”

So does the Gates memo actually say what the NYT says it says?

I’m inclined to say yes, despite the statement of the Gates spokesperson because of this:

Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed. Separately, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote a “chairman’s guidance” to his staff in December conveying a sense of urgency about contingency planning. He cautioned that a military attack would have “limited results,” but he did not convey any warnings about policy shortcomings.

“Should the president call for military options, we must have them ready,” the admiral wrote.

That clearly indicates that at least Adm. Mullen didn’t believe the strategy included the necessary and appropriate military options.  And, as the NYT further reports, that seemed to be confirmed recently in some Senate testimony.  Speaking of the military contingencies against Iran, the Times says:

Administration officials testifying before a Senate committee last week made it clear that those preparations were under way. So did General Jones.

So I think it is fair to conclude that Sec. Gates may have written this memo that the NYT is reporting on and, in fact, that there isn’t yet a comprehensive long-range strategy to deal with a nuclear Iran.  To translate that a bit more, what that means is the administration’s focus has been almost exclusively on diplomacy and sanctions and Gates is making the case that those don’t appear they will yield the desired results and a more broad spectrum strategy which includes military contingencies be included and seriously considered.

He’s right.  But this may also be an effective way to get the word to Iran that time is running out and the military guys are beginning  be taken more seriously in discussions about how to react to Iran’s nuclear intransigence.

~McQ

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Our politically correct Orwellian national security

First they eliminated the fight against global terrorism and reduced it to collection of “overseas contingency operations”. Terror events are now called “man-made disasters”. We’re no longer confronted with “Islamic extremism”. How do I know this? Because it has been dropped from use as acceptably describing our enemy in the National Security Strategy . So has “jihad” and “Islamic extremism”. We now, apparently, confront “violent extremism”. I would appear that it can just pop up anywhere without any real basis for its being.

Mona Charen reports that the decision has been made to no longer describe rogue nation North Korea as a rogue nation. I have to tell you, if NoKo is a “rogue” nation, there are no rogue nations. NoKo has been a rogue nation since it became a nation. It is a tyrannical kleptocracy – a pirate state – but not “rogue”. Apparently that’s a bit to harsh. And we certainly don’t want to refer to Iran as that.

God forbid we actually call our enemies of the world that which they really are.  That might put them on notice that we’re on to their game and aren’t happy about it.

And there’s really no level to which this foolishness isn’t being extended. Heck even the GITMO inmates apparently need a name change:

The detainees in Guantanamo, too, have had a name change. They will no longer be called “enemy combatants.” The new name hasn’t been chosen yet, though cynics might just use “former clients of Obama Justice Department lawyers.”

Yes political correctness gone mad, but look where it is being applied. At the executive level of the government of the United States. Euphemisms that ignore the specific problem or nation in favor of non-discriminatory (everyone can be a latent “violent extremist” so we don’t have to specifically single out those who are) word salad.

Bottom line: We are fighting Islamic fundamentalist extremists who have had a jihad against us for decades. They are stateless terrorists. They get some of their support from rogue nations.

Why in the world is it so hard to say it like that? Or better yet, what’s the utility in ignoring it?  Why are the specifics of the truth deemed too offensive or antagonistic to state? And what purpose is served by ignoring those specifics in favor of broad categorical words that do very little to define the problem we actually confront?

And, finally, if those words are out of bounds, how does one put a specific strategy together to confront the real security problem facing us vs. some nebulous and useless piece of bureaucratic crap with this “approved” language which ends up doing a one-over-the-world hand-wave and calling itself our “strategy”?

~McQ

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Dear Bad Guys – we welcome chemical and biological attacks

I’ve always been a fan, when talking national defense and deterrence, of telling potential enemies what our strategies are. It helps them formulate their plans on how to best attack us without receiving the most devastating response. For instance, our new unilateral nuclear use strategy:

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war. For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.

Those threats, Mr. Obama argued, could be deterred with “a series of graded options,” a combination of old and new conventional weapons. “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” he said in the interview in the Oval Office.

Well if that’s true, Mr. Obama, why change our nuclear strategy? You see, in terms of a nuclear arms strategy, “ambiguity” is a feature, not a bug. But when you announce to anyone who can put anthrax in an envelope – or better yet weaponize it and introduce it into the US population via terrorist proxies – that if we find out who you are, you don’t have to worry about nukes, well that may make such an attempt at least appear to be somewhat survivable. And for zealots and other nutballs, that’s all it takes.

Certainly nuclear weapons are fearsome, but their history – their two uses – show them to be just another method of killing in war. For instance between Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the two cities bombed with nuclear weapons – about 105,000 died. That’s a horrific total granted, until you consider the 149,000 to 165,000 estimated to have died in the  conventional bombings of Tokyo and Dresden. Obviously Tokyo was done over an extended period but Dresden wasn’t.

I also know that nuclear weapons are significantly more powerful now than then – significantly. But they come in various sizes, yields and means of delivery. No one wants to use them but that “ambiguity” about their use has certainly served us well to this point. So why the change? What is served – in terms of our national security – by changing it? How are we made safer when you tell potential enemies “hey, if you’re in compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty and decide to use chem or bio on us, we will not nuke you?”

“Oh,” they answer, “well then let’s see how we can comply with that new strategy shall we?”

Obama claims he would retain the right to reconsider the use of nukes. Really? So what is the new strategy again? Is that unambiguous ambiguity I hear?

He also claims that his strategy will “edge” the world closer to making nuclear weapons obsolete. Will it? What it will most likely do is make chem and bio weapons the next bad guy growth industries.  Oh, and if you don’t have nukes, there’s no reason to fear them.  If you use chem and bio weapons on us – just as long as you’re in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty, mind you – we’ll only use conventional weapons in return (since we have no chem or bio weapons with which to answer in kind).

This isn’t a strategy, it’s a unilateral weakening of our national security. If the law of unintended consequences runs true to course, we’ll see that played out in a chem or bio attack on America or Americans somewhere.

Our enemies and potential enemies need to understand that if they strike us they will reap the whirlwind – potentially.  When the whirlwind is unilaterally downgraded to a dust devil, it makes them think an attack (a chem or bio attack for heaven sake) may be survivable, and that’s not a thought we should be putting in their heads.

Tell me where I’m wrong.

~McQ

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Poll: Americans think US less respected abroad since Obama became President

That’s pretty much the opposite of the promise made by candidate Obama and the administration’s spin since he’s become president, isn’t it?

A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago and think President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, a new poll finds.

The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin — 51 percent to 41 percent — Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“This is surprising, given the global acclaim and Nobel peace prize that flowed to the new president after he took office,” said pollsters for the liberal-leaning organizations.

It’s really only surprising if you haven’t been paying attention. Most people outside the beltway and not blinded by their ideology recognized the award of the Nobel peace prize was a travesty and more of a political statement than something earned by Mr. Obama. And most Americans were put off by Mr. Obama’s “world apology” tour, as it was called by some, where he spent most of his time in other countries apologizing for America’s past. Lastly, it has been fairly obvious to most observers that our foreign policy is in shambles and even our allies find little reason to agree with or go along with whatever foreign policy goals we set – such as increased sanctions for Iran.

So while it is surprising to a “liberal leaning” polling organization, it isn’t at all surprising to other observers. Which brings us to the next “surprise” for the pollster I assume:

On the national security front, a massive gap has emerged, with 50 percent of likely voters saying Republicans would likely do a better job than Democrats, a 14-point swing since May. Thirty-three percent favored Democrats.

“The erosion since May is especially strong among women, and among independents, who now favor Republicans on this question by a 56 to 20 percent margin,” the pollsters said in their findings.

50 to 33 is well outside any sampling error and can’t be written off as such (it was 43 R’s and 41 D’s in May). And the amazing difference among women and independents is a true indicator the national security worm has turned. And that bodes ill politically for the Democrats. If you need even more evidence:

• “Keeping America safe”: Democrats now trail by 13 points (34 percent to 47 percent.) The gap was just 5 points in July 2008.

• “Ensuring a strong military”: Democrats trail by 31 points (27 percent to 58 percent.)

• “Making America safer from nuclear threats”: Democrats trail by 11 points (34 percent to 45 percent,) “despite the president’s strong actions and speeches on steps to reduce nuclear dangers,” the pollsters said.

Democracy Corps is the creation of James Carville and Stanley Greenberg and Third Way describes itself as a “moderate think tank of the progressive movement” (moderate progressive – sounds like an oxymoron to me). Given that information this spin about the brouhaha that has erupted concerning civilian trials for terrorists is terrific:

“Whereas a majority of the public approves of the job President Obama is doing in most aspects of national security, a 51 to 44 percent majority of likely voters disapproves of his efforts on the prosecution and interrogation of terrorism suspects,” the pollsters found.

That and the response to the Christmas day bomber have been two key reasons the polls have shifted. And both have to do with decisions made by Obama’s administration or Obama himself. And, unless I’m mistaken, a 50 to 33 difference does not say “a majority of the public approves of the job President Obama is doing in most aspects of national security”, does it?

~McQ

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Russia: How’s that “reset button” working?

The push for international support for tougher sanctions against Iran seem to be going well with our good friends in Russia:

Russia will not support “crippling” sanctions against Iran, including any that may be slapped on the Islamic Republic’s banking or energy sectors, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

[…]

“We are not got going to work on sanctions or measures which could lead to the political or economic or financial isolation of this country,” Oleg Rozhkov, deputy director of the security affairs and disarmament department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

“What relation to non-proliferation is there in forbidding banking activities with Iran? This is a financial blockade. And oil and gas. These sanctions are aimed only at paralyzing the country and paralyzing the regime.”

Well, yeah – that’s sort of the point of sanctions. Short of that, there are few options left to force Iran to comply with the will of the international community – such that it is. And this is one of the failings of the Obama administration’s approach.

You have to sort of root around to find that approach spelled out, but the clearest indication of how the administration approaches foreign policy is actually found in the DoD’s recently released Quarterly Defense Review. One sentence tells it all:

“America’s interests are inextricably linked to the integrity and resilience of the international system.”

In the past, US presidents have realized that, “the integrity of the international system depends upon the resilience of American power.”

The Obama administration (and this explains much of his world apology tour) has flipped that now putting “American power” second to the will and “integrity” of the “international system”.  As the article cited notes, Obama wants a “quiet world” so he can concentrate on his domestic agenda.  One way to do that is cede the US’s leadership role.

You can see how well that approach is working. Russia has just demonstrated the “integrity” of the “international system” by saying “no”. I wonder if Obama will call them obstructionists and “the country of ‘no’.”

Seriously though, this is quite a step back from the American leadership of the past, and it will have consequences. That statement in the QDR cedes our former position as the supposed leader of the free world to organizations like the UN. That has been a dream of the liberal left for decades. And as you read through the article I’ve cited for the QDR quote, look at the analysis that says that the plan reduces the American role in world by “disarming” us and structuring our military for a lesser role.

Russia is just the first of many nations which are going to defy the US’s attempts at pushing its foreign policy throughout the world because, essentially, there is no down side to doing so. We’re a weakened debtor nation (Putin recently consoled EU economic basket case Greece by pointing out the US is in the same boat) that has made it pretty clear that it won’t act without clear consensus from the “international system” this administration seems to love. Russia is obviously a part of that system and doesn’t mind at all stepping up and saying no. And China? Well, if Russia is this blatant and blunt about denying what the US wants, you can imagine China’s position.

Like I said, 2009 was the year of taking this administration’s measure on the foreign policy front. 2010 is the year that those sensing a power/leadership vacuum inherent in this US pullback attempt to fill it. Russia’s just the first to step up to the plate. We’ll hear from China soon.

~McQ

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The Future Consequences Of Energy Stupidity

I’m not sure how else to characterize this in a strategic and national security sense:

Canada, faced with growing political pressure over the extraction of oil from its highly polluting tar sands, has begun courting China and other Asian countries to exploit the resource.

The pressure is coming from the United States. The “pollution” is carbon. But the bottom line is the tar sands are going to continue to be exploited in Canada. The question is, to whom will the oil extracted go?

With the US backing away, the answer, apparently, is China.

In the most significant deal to date, the Canadian government recently approved a C$1.9bn (£1.5bn) investment giving the Chinese state-owned oil company Petro­China a majority share in two projects. Prime minister Stephen Harper said: “Expect more Chinese investment in the resource and energy sectors … there will definitely be more.” China’s growing investment in the tar sands is seen in Canada as a useful counter to waning demand for tar sands oil from the US, its biggest customer. The moves, which have largely gone unnoticed outside north America, could add further tension to efforts to try to reach a global action plan on climate change.

[…]

The projects, which will begin coming on line over the next decade, are seen as crucial to a long term strategy of finding new sources of energy as China’s economy continues to expand.

How about that … a country with a “long term strategy” in which it seeks sources of new energy for future growth. Not so in the US where Ken Salazar’s Interior Department seems to be using every means available to it to slow down the possibility of finding and bringing new carbon based resources on line for future consumption:

The Interior Department has informed Congress that it will take over two years to complete an environmental study needed to allow major seismic surveys of Atlantic coast oil-and-gas resources – a timeline that industry groups allege is too slow.

In an early February letter to House and Senate appropriators, Interior provides a timeline for completing a “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the effects of seismic testing and other assessment techniques.

It anticipates a “record of decision” – which is the final agency sign-off – in mid-April of 2012.

If I’m not mistaken, that will put us 4 years into the decision to allow drilling in the OCS. And, of course, seismic surveys and their effects are well known and have been for decades. The seismic surveys would update decades old surveys.

The point, of course, is these new Interior requirements completely derail the timeline established by the Interior Department in 2007:

Interior’s 2007-2012 offshore leasing plan calls for a lease sale off Virginia’s coast in 2011, although the sale could be delayed.

No company is going to bid on leases until those seismic surveys are complete.

The long range consequences for the US of these sorts of short sited policies should be obvious. And I don’t expect them to get any better any times soon despite the promises President Obama made in his State of the Union address.

~McQ

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Terrorism = Burglary

Counterterrorism Czar John Brennan made a comparison this weekend that has landed him in hot water. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday and apparently in response to a question about recidivism among the Gitmo inmates who had been released, he said the rate was about 20%.

Ok, that’s arguable, but it is a number that has been tossed around by any number of people. That isn’t what got him in trouble. If we stipulate that the 20% of terror suspects released have returned to extremism or outright participation in terror activities, most would consider such a rate unacceptable. In fact, most would not be happy with recidivism at all, but understand that 0% is most likely an unrealistic expectation.

But Brenan thinks 20% isn’t so bad:

“People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'” Brennan said. “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

Indeed, the recidivism rate for property crimes is quite high according to the Department of Justice:

Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

But violent crime, more akin to terrorism – not so much:

Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide.

This apparent acceptance of 20% recidivism by terrorists has to inspire tremendous confidence in the public to know the guy who is supposedly engaged in fighting terrorists equates them with the kid who popped the lock on your car and stole your GPS and finds the 20% rate nothing to get excited about . Yes, to him a burglar and someone who blows up embassies are pretty much the same. And he’s quite satisfied that only 20% are going back to burglary, er, blowing up Americans.

Quite satisfied.

~McQ

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