19 July, 2010

Would you care for a double dip?

The Great Recession shows no sign of ending any time soon, no matter what the politicians tell us.

It's amazing when the best thing going for the eurozone is the relative weakness of the US dollar (now around $1.30 to the Euro). Although money has been (and continues to be) pumped into the American economy, the money going to Wall Street and global banks has not converted into jobs.  In a sense, the system is clogged with money at the top, and maintaining real unemployment rates of 16.5 percent (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics "U-6" measure) to over 22 percent (by a private survey, including everyone looking for a full-time job).  The government, in short, "cooks the books," and almost certainly for political reasons.

The metaphor of a toilet comes to mind.  If we can shove just enough more into it, it's bound to open up, right?

MUST read report

The American Intelligence "Community" has been dreading this for some time now, and now part 1 is available.  From the Washington Post: Top Secret America.

15 July, 2010

Guns and money

The relationship between economic and military power are on display off the coast of South Korea.  According to the 14 July report from Nightwatch Chinese displeasure with a previously-announced joint exercise involving the Koreans and the US is being accommodated, with the operations of the USS George Washington Carrier group shifting from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.  Of course, American officials say there is no connection, but
as long as China holds more than $1.052 trillion
in US Treasury bonds, it will get its way on defense issues that the
administration considers not vital or needlessly provocative. For now,
the Treasury Department rules, except in Afghanistan.

14 July, 2010

You shall know him by his enemies

There's yet another "emergency committee"--and this time the targets include Pennsylvania Senatorial candidate Joe Sestak (the same guy who defeated Arlin "I'll say anything to be re-elected" Specter in the primary).  The committee includes William Kristol, Michael Goldfarb, and Gary Bauer.  As Steven Walt observes,
The ironies here are remarkable. For starters, you have some of the same
geniuses who dreamed up and sold the Iraq War -- one of the dumbest blunders
in the annals of U.S. foreign policy -- joining forces with someone who thinks U.S. Middle
East policy ought to be based on his interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. They're
going after a retired three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, who also happens to have a Ph.D.
in political economy and international affairs from Harvard. Given their track record over
the past decade, this is actually a stunning endorsement of Sestak's candidacy. Criticism from
these folks is like having Lindsay Lohan complain about your lifestyle choices, or having
BP president Tony Hayward offer advice on environmental safety and public relations.
You can tell a lot about a man by the quality of his enemies.  If these guys are against Sestak, I want to be on his side.

11 July, 2010

Idealists and genocide

Catching up on the reading today, after a long day at "slobberfest," an annual get-together of Bassett Hound owners.  A few things stand out:

I like Walter Russell Mead.  He has a talent for systematization, writes well, and even when he oversimplifies he's engaging.  For example, his recent article in The National Interest.  It's a magazine I don't usually get around to, but seeing his name I made the time.  As usual, he makes a very valid point: that one of the greatest threats to human liberty can be naive pacifists or isolationists who are willing to stand aside while evil is done.  He calls them the 'goo-goo genocidaires,'
the willfully blind reformers, civil society
activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance
was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last
hundred years.  Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to
espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it.  As a
result, tens of millions died.  Unless this kind of thinking is exposed
and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the

This doesn't mean that war is the best--or only--option.  It doesn't mean we automatically ratchet up the pressure because we don't like how a government is treating its neighbors or its own people.  It often makes sense to get the best deal one can.  But it does mean doing so with a clear vision, not with the illusion that we are dealing with good people.

Mead raises the issue in the context of sanctions against Iran.  Personally, I have some doubts about sanctions.  Sanctions in general have a poor track record.  They can be a way of expressing opposition, or (if carefully targeted) they may make an undesired activity (building a bomb, for example) more costly.  But sanctions also play into the hands of nationalists who seek to justify themselves to their own people by pointing to the external threat.  Furthermore, doing something with more symbolic than real value it can encourage our own complacency. 

Oddly enough, the Security Council may have hit on a workable strategy.  Not because it will lead to the downfall of the Iranian regime (it won't) or prevent the construction of a nuclear weapon (it can't), but because it shows the Iranian government that there are limits to how far the Russians and the Chinese will go to protect them.