Friday, April 22, 2011

Economics 101! Incompetence Oozes From Every Pore!

Porter Stansberry lays out a very simple case for why you cannot balance the budget even if the government takes 20% of what we produce and the more government takes of what we produce the less it will receive by way of revenue because the productive will cease being productive. Why? Because it does not pay for them to be so - simple economics 101, Obama!

Then John Mauldin does an equally interesting job with respect to the miracle of compounded inflation.(See 1 and 1a below.)
Lloyd Marcus believes it is imperative not only to defeat Obama but also take the liberal media down as well. (See 2 below.)
The gears of Obama's 'creepy' foreign policy seem to have sand in them.

Assad slaughters his people and is being assisted by Iran. Qaddafi is alive and well and has proven NATO incompetent, ineffective and totally uncoordinated. Obama continues to assume those around Qaddafi will soon desert him as we pick them off with drones.

The PA threatens to unilaterally establish its own nation under the auspices of the UN and, all the while, Obama, like all sanctified liberals before him, is preparing to gut the Pentagon.

Afghanistan, his chosen war, goes nowhere and is no longer even reported on by the media in order to save Obama further embarrassment.

Obama has taken a bad economy and made it worse. Obama has taken the Middle East cauldron and added oil to the fire. Obama has, however, succeeded in raising money for his re-election.

The man's incompetence oozes from every pore in his body.(See 3, 3a, 3b and 3c below.)
Robert Shrum poses a serious question about whether we are a serious nation but then Shrum's characterization of Obama,ie."...he is a serious leader at a critical time." makes me question how serious should I consider Shrum. (Shrum is a long time Democrat operative and apologist.)

When we elect an incompetent with a thin resume like Obama's and an even less serious potential candidate like Donald Trump who believes he is qualified to be president, then everyone has the right to ask how much further can we go to cheapen the Oval Office and that is, at least, a serious question.(See 4 below.)
And on a lighter note - Will Rogers should be here now to see how much he is missed. Same with Johnny Carson. (See 5 below.)

1)Forget everything else you know about the budget problems and focus on these facts...

It doesn't matter that you've paid into Social Security and Medicare. That's like investors arguing Bernie Madoff owes them money. It may very well be true – but it's totally irrelevant. Likewise, it doesn't matter that "income inequality" is supposedly at a new high. It's not, but why argue? It doesn't matter – taxes won't solve that problem.

What does matter...? Consider this: Even if you collected 100% of the income of all the people who make more than $250,000 a year, the U.S. government would have still run a deficit last year. Even if you doubled the entire amount of income taxes collected, the Federal government would have run a deficit last year. There is no way to balance our budget, no way to prevent the literal bankruptcy of our country and the runaway hyperinflation that would result, unless we dramatically cut the government's budget. We have no choice, as you'll see.

The U.S. government has never succeeded in collecting more than about 20% of GDP in taxes. Yes, that's true. The higher the marginal rates of income taxes (the more you ask the rich to pay), the more inefficient the tax system will become and the greater the burden on GDP growth, which is the main driver of all tax revenue. There is no free lunch. To collect 20% of GDP in taxes isn't easy. It will require a broad-based, flatter income tax or something akin to it. Collecting more than 20% of GDP has, so far, been impossible. I wouldn't plan on it.

Our GDP is roughly $14 trillion today. So no matter how you organize the tax base, you end up with $2.8 trillion to spend. And you can't spend that much, because you've got interest payments and (gasp!) debt repayments to make.

Yes, that's right, America: You borrowed all this money, and our creditors actually expect to be repaid. Interest payments and principal reductions of our debt will have to come first and should total around $500 billion each year. If interest rates go up, we'll have to spend more than this. Sorry. That's the price we have to pay if we expect to maintain control of our economy and not allow our children to end up as house-boys and maids in Shanghai. That leaves us with roughly $2 trillion to spend.

Here are our current expenses: Medicare and Social Security are now spending $1.5 trillion and, if left alone, will quickly grow to far more than the entire tax base. The military spends over $700 billion (that we know of) each year. Domestic social programs (food stamps, Department of Education, etc.) cost $500 billion. Federal pensions cost more than $200 billion a year. So... we've got $2 trillion to spend... but our bills are running to $3 trillion per year, and they're scheduled to increase, substantially.

Thus, we will have to cut at least $1 trillion from the budget – immediately – and be prepared to continue cutting on discretionary spending and the military for at least the next decade. That will mean cutting about one out of every three dollars the government spends today. Unless we balance this budget, there's no longer any doubt our currency will be destroyed, our savings lost, and the assets of our country stripped by foreign creditors.

So... what's more important to you? The lies you've been promised, or trying your best to restore this country to its founding principles? That's what we've got to decide.

These facts, by the way, are common knowledge to all the planning people in Washington. So... what are the politicians doing? They're condemning capitalism by complaining about "short-term gains." They're investigating the free exchange of oil contracts and calling oil traders "criminals." Oh... that's right... they also spent months trying to cut $60 billion from the budget – about six cents on the dollar of the cuts required to balance our budget. Those "cuts," by the way, were actually just smoke and mirrors budget moves that won't reduce the actual amount of spending by a penny, nor even reduce our deficit.

Here's my question... and I mean this sincerely... how bad do things have to get in this country before the average voter wakes up and realizes that he can't actually live at the expense of his neighbor? How long will it take before it dawns on regular people that, like it or not, the rich can't pay for the entire burden of government? And what will happen when the average person who believed the lies he's been told by his government realizes there's no way any of those false promises can be delivered...?

Unfortunately... my bet is that things in this country are going to have to get a lot worse before our leaders in Washington – on both sides of the aisle – do anything that even remotely resembles actual leadership. So the next time you're thinking about selling your silver or cashing in your gold, just go back over these numbers above and ask yourself, how long will it be before Congress decides to gut the budget and begins to actually repay our creditors?

Oh... one more thing to consider. This week, we saw S&P threaten to downgrade the sovereign credit of the U.S., something completely unthinkable to the world's financial system just three years ago. We saw the University of Texas take possession of nearly $1 billion of gold, a trend I believe could cause a run on the world's bullion banks (like JPMorgan) and a panic unlike anything we've seen since the Great Depression. We've recently witnessed the world's largest bond investor (PIMCO) begin to actively short the U.S. Treasury market – an unprecedented situation in the history of the United States. And we're only a few weeks away now from the end of the Fed's so-called "QE2" debt-monetization binge.

1a)The "Miracle" of Compound Inflation
By John Mauldin April 22, 2011

Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” And compounding is indeed the topic of this week’s shorter than usual letter, but compounding not of interest but of inflation. As you might expect, I am giving a great deal of thought as to how we get out of our current financial dilemma of too much debt and deficits that are far too high. While I will use US data for our illustration, the principles are the same for any country.

Let’s start with a few graphs from the St. Louis Fed database (a true treasure trove of numbers). First, let’s look at nominal GDP over the last 11 years, from the beginning of 2000. The data only goes through the third quarter of last year, so sometime this year it is quite likely that GDP will top $15 trillion.

So, the economy has grown by roughly 50%, right? Give or take, that’s close to 4% growth (back of the napkin calculation). And in dollar terms that is correct. But what if we took out all the growth that was due to inflation? The economy would only have grown to $12.5 trillion. And in fact, “real” or inflation-adjusted GDP growth was just 1.9% on an annualized basis for the last decade, the lowest growth rate since the ’30s. What cost on average $1,000 in 2000 is now $1,250.

Now, to see this in an interesting graph, the Fed has real GDP based on 2005 dollars. You can see that we are about back to where we were in 2008, prior to the crisis, and growing well below trend. But if we adjust for inflation, growth has not been close to what it was in nominal terms.

Now let’s run through a few “what-if” scenarios. What if the next 11 years look more or less like the last, with 4% nominal GDP growth? That would mean that in 2022 nominal GDP would be 50% larger than now, right at $22.5 trillion. But that is with only 2% inflation.

What if inflation were 4%, with the same growth? Then nominal GDP would be $30 trillion! What a roaring economy, except that gas would $8 a gallon (assuming current levels of supply and demand). In essence, you would need $2 to buy what $1 buys today. Don’t even ask about health-care costs. If your pay/income did not double, you would be in much worse shape in terms of lifestyle. That is the insidious nature of inflation.

But let’s think about that from a federal budget perspective. Let’s assume we get 20% of GDP in federal tax revenues, which is roughly a little higher than the historical average. That means total tax revenues would be in the range of $6 trillion. With 2% inflation, revenues would be just $4.5 trillion. If the federal government froze its spending at current levels for 12 years (no inflation adjustment), we would be running large surpluses under either scenario.

Higher inflation means US debt is easier to pay back, as nominal GDP is what we pay taxes on, not inflation-adjusted. Inflation is a tried and true method of dealing with too much debt. Inflation is also just another word for default, but it sounds so much better to the ear.

What the CBO Assumes
The Congressional Budget Office makes projections, based on various Congressional tax bills, as to what future income and expenses might be. But to do that they have to make assumptions about the growth of the economy and inflation. You can go to their website and see their economic forecasting. The data I will be discussing is on page 7, in

Let’s look at one of the tables. Note that they have nominal GDP at $24 trillion in ten years (not far from my 2% inflation scenario above), but they assume rather robust economic growth for the next five years (beginning with 2012) of well over 3% and inflation down around 1.5%. Not a bad world if we could get it.

That’s a growth in nominal GDP of about 4.5%. Interestingly, they make those upbeat growth projections assuming that ALL the Bush tax cuts go away, but that’s a story for another day. They do compare their projections for the next few years with the “Blue Chip” economists, and they are not quite as optimistic as the economists, so this is not outside of mainstream economic thinking.

Look at this table. Think about what it might look like with 2-3-4% average inflation and lower growth. What if we don’t get robust growth? That means higher unemployment for longer periods. And what if (God forbid!) we had a recession? Let’s me see how many in the audience think we can go another ten years without another recession. Especially if we actually do start to cut spending in a manner that might get the deficits under control? I’m not seeing many hands. But it would mean that the debt-to-GDP level might not look as bad, which might just be the plan, in some circles. But not one I want to be included in.

Let’s think about what less-robust growth, more inflation, or a recession would do to budget projections. These are not nice thoughts for what is in Texas a beautiful spring day.

I was asked several times this week if we will see QE3. My answer is, not for some time; but if we had a recession, what would the Fed do? They only have one lever now, as rates are already low. They are likely to print again. Which is inflationary. Which could give us rising inflation with low growth. What’s a Fed to do?

And as it is beautiful outside and I want to find a place to dine al fresco, I will close here and finish this line of thought next week. Does the Federal Reserve face its own version of Scylla and Charybdis? We are all thinking about what happens when QE goes away, at least for a while.
2) Party David Vs. Two-Headed Goliath
By Lloyd Marcus

On the O'Reilly Factor TV show, Dennis Miller was asked his thoughts regarding the media's response to Obama's numerous flip flops. Miller said the media will report whatever Obama does in a positive light.

We patriots are well aware of the liberal media's love affair with Obama. And yet, for some reason, the reality of Miller's comment hit me hard right between the eyes. I thought, "Oh my gosh. This is not funny. Our country is in serious trouble."

Not only must we defeat the Obama administration, we must take on and defeat the liberal mainstream media as well; take on the two powerful well-funded entities committed to the fundamental transformation of America. Lord, help us!

Patriots, we can, will and must defeat this two headed evil Goliath. Despite the left's shock and awe public relations slanderous attacks on the tea party and our candidates, we took the House of Representatives. Thus proving, they can be beaten!

I am so sick of advisors cautioning us conservatives to walk on eggshells when dealing with the liberal media. It has even been suggested that we stop using the term "tea party" due to the negative image created by the media.

Patriots, even if we change our name to the "Happy Go Lucky Nice People Movement," we will still be targeted for destruction by the media. What part of they hate us and want us to fail do our advisors not understand? The liberal media is going to put a negative spin on whatever we say.

Now, am I advocating saying stupid provocative things? Of course not. I am advocating fearlessly and aggressively attacking Obama's horrific record. Call out the liberal media on their biased reporting. Stop allowing the Democrats and their media minions to set the rules of engagement. Patriots, the stakes are far too high to wimp out foolishly seeking approval from those actively pursuing our total destruction.

Again, I say, what do we have to lose by confronting the democrats and the liberal media? They are going to trash us regardless.

Yes, they will call you a racist. I say this in love: "Get over it." Throughout U.S. history many have suffered far greater and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Why? Because America is worth it.

Tons of articles have been written calling me a stupid self loathing n****r, an Uncle Tom, a tea party minstrel, a traitor, a sellout, and a clown. It all rolls off my back. I know I am on the right side. So, why should I care what evil stupid people say or think of me? But most of all, my strength and peace comes through knowing God is with us and America is worth it.

Like little David in the Bible, we must boldly confront the two headed Goliath, Obama administration/liberal media.

Why do you think Trump and Palin are doing so well in the polls? Both are boldly and unapologetically takin' it to Obama and are not kowtowing to the liberal media. Patriots are frustrated with Republicans pandering and trying to "play nice" with a Democratic Party and liberal media who are relentlessly and viciously attempting to kill us politically. The Democrats and the liberal media take no prisoners.

Rush Limbaugh says the Democrats and liberal media will tell you who they fear most by the intensity of their attacks. Who have been numbers one, two, and three on the Democrats' and liberal media's list? Answer: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. Brothers and sisters, we can beat them!

How do we defeat them? In addition to ceasing to fear Obama and his liberal media co-conspirators, we must continue doing what we have been doing. Patriots must continue following their passion and using their gifts and talents wherever needed in our extraordinary divinely inspired Tea Party Movement.

We are blessed with great minds on our side; patriots are writing books, organizing and conceiving various strategies to take back our country.

While some lament that we lack a central leadership organization or charismatic leader, I am grateful for all of our numerous patriot groups and committed individuals. Each is driven to politically defeat Obama in its own way. Their spirit is the tea party.

Just as God's grace guided David's stone to topple Goliath, our stone of truth, honor, and freedom will hit its mark and bring down the two headed evil Goliath of the liberal media and the Obama regime in 2012.
3)Obama's altruistic foreign policy
By Caroline B. Glick

If only in the interest of intellectual hygiene, it would be refreshing if the Obama administration would stop ascribing moral impetuses to its foreign policy.

Today US forces are engaged in a slowly escalating war on behalf of al Qaida-penetrated anti-regime forces in Libya. It is difficult to know the significance of al Qaida's role in the opposition forces because to date, the self-proclaimed rebel government has only disclosed ten of its 31 members. Indeed, according to the New York Times, the NATO-backed opposition to dictator Muammar Gaddafi is so disorganized that it cannot even agree about who the commander of its forces is.

And yet, despite the fact that the Obama administration has no clear notion of who is leading the fight against Gaddafi or what they stand for, this week the White House informed Congress that it will begin directly funding the al-Qaida-linked rebels, starting with $25 million in non-lethal materiel.

This aid, like the NATO no-fly zone preventing Gaddafi from using his air force, and the British military trainers now being deployed to Libya to teach the rebels to fight, will probably end up serving no greater end then prolonging the current stalemate. With the Obama administration unwilling to enforce the no-fly zone with US combat aircraft, unwilling to take action to depose Gaddafi, and unwilling to cultivate responsible, pro-Western successors to Gaddafi, the angry tyrant will probably remain in power indefinitely.

In and of itself, the fact that the war has already reached a stalemate constitutes a complete failure of the administration's stated aim of protecting innocent Libyan civilians from slaughter. Not only are both the regime forces and the rebel forces killing civilians daily. Due to both sides' willingness to use civilians as human shields, unable to separate civilians from military targets, NATO forces are also killing their share of civilians. In deciding in favor of military intervention on the basis of a transnational legal doctrine never accepted as law by the US Congress called "responsibility to protect," US President Barack Obama was reportedly swayed by the arguments of his senior national security advisor Samantha Power. Over the past 15 years, Power has fashioned herself into a celebrity policy wonk by cultivating a public persona of herself as a woman moved by the desire to prevent genocide. In a profile of Power in the current issue of the National Journal, Jacob Heilbrunn explains, "Power is not just an advocate for human rights. She is an outspoken crusader against genocide…"

Heilbrunn writes that Power's influence over Obama and her celebrity status has made her the leader of a new US foreign policy elite. "This elite," he writes, "is united by a shared belief that American foreign policy must be fundamentally transformed from an obsession with national interests into a broader agenda that seeks justice for women and minorities, and promotes democracy whenever and wherever it can—at the point of a cruise missile if necessary."

As the prolonged slaughter in Libya and expected continued failure of the NATO mission make clear, Power and her new foreign policy elite have so far distinguished themselves mainly by their gross incompetence.

But then, even if the Libyan mission were crowned in success, it wouldn't make the moral pretentions of the US adventure there any less disingenuous. And this is not simply because the administration-backed rebels include al Qaida fighters.

The fact is that the moral arguments used for intervening militarily on behalf of Gaddafi's opposition pale in comparison to the moral arguments for intervening in multiple conflicts where the Obama administration refuses to lift a finger. At a minimum, this moral inconsistency renders it impossible for the Obama administration to credibly embrace the mantel of moral actor on the world stage.

Consider the administration's Afghanistan policy. Over the past week, the White House and the State Department have both acknowledged that administration officials are conducting negotiations with the Taliban.

Last week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration's policy. During a memorial service for the late Ambassador Richard Holbrook, whom at the time of his death last December was the most outspoken administration figure advocating engaging Mullah Omar and his followers, Clinton said, "Those who found negotiations with the Taliban distasteful got a very powerful response from Richard — diplomacy would be easy if we only had to talk to our friends."

Of course, the Taliban are not simply not America's friends. They are the enemy of every good and decent human impulse. The US went to war against the Taliban in 2001 because the Bush administration rightly held them accountable for Osama bin Laden and his terror army which the Taliban sponsored, hosted and sheltered on its territory. But the Taliban are America's enemy not just because they bear responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. They are the enemy of the US because they are evil monsters.

Apparently, the supposedly moral, anti-genocidal, pro-women Obama administration needs to be reminded why it is not merely distasteful but immoral to engage the Taliban. So here it goes.

Under the Taliban, the women and girls of Afghanistan were the most oppressed, most terrorized, most endangered group of people in the world. Women and girls were denied every single human right. They were effectively prisoners in their homes, allowed on the streets only when fully covered and escorted by a male relative. They were denied the right to education, work and medical care. Women who failed to abide in full by these merciless rules were beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and stoned to death.

The Taliban's barbaric treatment of women and girls probably couldn't have justified their overthrow at the hands of the US military. But it certainly justified the US's refusal to even consider treating them like legitimate political actors in the ten years since NATO forces first arrived in Afghanistan. And yet, the self-proclaimed champions of the downtrodden in the administration are doing the morally unjustifiable. They are negotiating, and so legitimizing the most diabolical sexual tyranny known to man.

Obama, Clinton, Power and their colleagues are now shamelessly advancing a policy that increases the likelihood that the Taliban will again rise to power and enslave Afghanistan's women and girls once more.

Then there is Syria. In acts of stunning courage, despite massive regime violence that has killed approximately two hundred people in three weeks, anti-regime protesters in Syria are not standing down. Instead, they are consistently escalating their protests. They have promised that the demonstrations after Friday prayers this week will dwarf the already unprecedented country-wide protests we have seen to date.

In the midst of the Syrian demonstrators' calls for freedom from one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East the Obama administration has sided with their murderous dictator Bashar Assad, referring to him as a "reformer."

As Heibrunn notes in his profile of Power, she and her colleagues find concerns about US national interests parochial at best and immoral at worst. Her clear aim—and that of her boss — has been to separate US foreign policy from US interests by tethering it to transnational organizations like the UN.

Given the administration's contempt for policy based on US national interests, it would be too much to expect the White House to notice that Syria's Assad regime is one of the greatest state supporters of terrorism in the world and that its overthrow would be a body blow to Iran, Venezuela, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaida and therefore a boon for US national security.

The Syrian opposition presents the likes of Obama and Power with what ought to be a serious moral dilemma. First, they seem to fit the precise definition of the sort of people that the transnationalists have a responsibility to protect. They are being gunned down by the dozen as they march with olive branches and demand change they can believe in. Moreover, their plan for ousting Assad involves subordinating him to the transnationalists at the UN.

According to a report last week in the Washington Times, Washington-based representatives of several Syrian opposition groups have asked the administration to do three things in support of the opposition, all of which are consonant with the administration's own oft stated foreign policy preferences.

They have requested that Obama condemn the regime's murderous actions in front of television cameras. They have asked the administration to initiate an investigation of Assad's murderous response to the demonstrations at the UN Human Rights Council. And they have asked the administration to enact unilateral sanctions against a few Syrian leaders who have given troops the orders to kill the protesters.

The administration has not responded to the request to act against Assad at the UN Human Rights Council. It has refused the opposition's other two requests.

These responses are no surprise in light of the Obama administration's abject and consistent refusal to take any steps that could help Iran's pro-democracy, pro-women's rights, pro-Western opposition Green Movement in its nearly two-year-old struggle to overthrow the nuclear proliferating, terror supporting, genocide inciting, elections stealing mullocracy.

Power's personal contribution to the shocking moral failings of the administration's foreign policy is of a piece with her known hostility towards Israel. That hostility which involves a moral inversion of the reality of the Palestinian war against Israel was most graphically exposed in a 2002 interview. Then at the height of the Palestinian terror war against Israel, when Palestinian terrorists from Hamas and Fatah alike were carrying out daily attacks whose clear aim was the massacre of as many Israeli civilians as possible simply because they were Israelis, Powell said in a filmed interview that she supported deploying a "mammoth" US military force to Israel to protect the Palestinians from the IDF.

In periodic attempts to convince credulous pro-Israel writers that she doesn't actually support invading Israel, Power has claimed that her statements calling for just such an invasion and additional remarks in which she blamed American Jews for US support of Israel were inexplicable lapses of judgment.

But then there have been so many lapses in judgment in her behavior and in the actions of the administration she serves that it is hard to see where the lapses begin and the judgment ends. Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and Israel are only the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere from Honduras to Venezuela, from Britain to Russia, from Colombia to Cuba, Japan to China, Egypt to Lebanon, to Poland and the Czech Republic and beyond, those lapses in judgment are informing policies that place the US consistently on the side of aggressors against their victims.

Back in the pre-Obama days, when US foreign policy was supposed to serve US interests, it would have mattered that these policies all weaken the US and its allies and empower its foes. But now, in the era of the purely altruistic Obama administration, none of that matters. What does matter is that the purely altruistic Obama foreign policy is empowering genocidal, misogynist, bigoted tyrants worldwide.

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where her column appears.

3a)How Assad survives
By Borzou Daragahi

Unable to stem a growing popular uprising with promises of reform, ceaseless propaganda and restrictions on the news media, Syria's government still retains one powerful weapon: the solid support of a secretive web of security forces that so far show no signs of abandoning President Bashar Assad and his Baath Party.

More protests broke out Thursday in Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, despite the interior minister's demand for civil disobedience to end. Activists are gearing up for another day of widespread protests Friday, when they hope to flood the center of Damascus, the capital, with demonstrators.

But the largely monolithic security forces, including Syria's army, appear steeled to prevent the nation's nascent democracy movement from succeeding in anything but suffering more bloodshed. Security forces were reportedly beefing up their presence in Damascus and the third-largest city, Homs, for the anticipated rallies.

"There are no big apparent rifts," Nadim Houry, a Beirut-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said of the security forces shaped long ago by President Bashar Assad's late father, Hafez, into a behemoth effective at stifling internal dissent. "So far there hasn't been any indication of a division within the armed forces. There are stories of defections, but there is nothing en masse or at a key commander level."

In Tunisia and Egypt this year, powerful figures in the armed forces with close ties to the West were at first neutral and then turned against their rulers, paving the way for popular uprisings to force out long-standing tyrannical leaders.

But in Syria, which has for years had a fractious relationship with the West, multipronged security forces, though long seen as inefficient and inconsistent, have maintained order for the commander of their one-party state.

"The president is chief of the armed forces just as he's president of the people," said a Lebanese army officer who has worked extensively in Syria.

"He takes part in military exercises and inspects the army. It's not like Ben Ali and Mubarak, who only had political authority," the officer said, referring to Tunisia's Zine el Abidine ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

The relationship between the government and armed forces in Syria more resembles that of Libya. There the leadership of its unusual armed forces, made up of a few formally organized units and ideological citizen militias loyal to the regime, has largely remained under the authority of the ruler, Moammar Kadafi. At the same time, some Libyan soldiers and officers from rebellious regions joined the opposition, helping foment the civil war.

In Syria, peaceful protests have intensified in cities across the nation over the last month, with escalating demands for civil liberties and economic opportunity despite Assad's attempts to mollify angry demonstrators with reform gestures, including decrees issued Thursday ending a five-decade state of emergency, abolishing a powerful security court and regulating the right to peaceful gatherings, the official news agency reported.

The protests began in the southern city of Dara when residents demanded the release of about 20 political detainees, mostly teenagers, accused of spraying antigovernment graffiti on walls.

But the burgeoning demonstrations, coming on the heels of the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, have frequently been met with bullets. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed by Syrian security forces, some shot down during funeral processions for previous victims of a deadly show of government force.

As with Iran's 2009 protests and in Egypt and Tunisia, the Syrian government has also relied on mobs, including possible criminals, assigned to create chaos and keep potential protesters at home and break up demonstrations with force.

"It is the shabiha, gangs, many of them related to the Assad family," said Yassin Haj Saleh, a prominent writer in Damascus. "They're lawless and protected in a way. They will not be arrested, not be brought to court. This is the dark instinct of the regime."

In a video disseminated on the Internet, black-clad security officials are seen triumphantly rummaging through a Dara mosque they had raided.

They had no reason to worry about consequences. They were elite members of the General Security Directorate, from a highly secretive intelligence school in Najha, 12 miles south of the capital, said a security official who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity. And they answer to no one but their own commanders.

"We killed them," one declares about protesters who had apparently been found in the mosque.

To ensure his family's continued rule, Hafez Assad, who seized power in 1971 and maintained strict control for more than two decades, had each of his four main domestic security branches — General Security, Air Force Intelligence, Military Intelligence and the Political Security Directorate — keep tabs not only on the Syrian population, but also on one another, jealously guarding their own ill-defined turf. Activists describe being detained and grilled by Military Intelligence, only to be released and picked up days later and undergo the same line of questioning by General Security.

Many democracy activists still hope for cracks to emerge in the army. Protesters initially welcomed soldiers enthusiastically when they arrived to replace the despised and shadowy domestic security branches during the unrest this month in the coastal city of Baniyas. Late Wednesday, protesters in Dara chanted, "The army and the people are one," a call for solidarity with the troops that has not been reciprocated.

Like in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria's 300,000-man, largely conscription army generally shares the values and political aspirations of the people. Only the 4th Armored Division, led by the president's brother Maher Assad, has been regularly deployed around the country to quell the unrest.

"Only the 4th has been opening fire on the people," said Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Washington-based Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. "That's why the protesters are chanting only against the 4th."

But the army also is largely designed to keep the Assads in power. The elder Assad, a member of Syria's Alawite community, recruited senior officers from the country's minority Alawite, Druze, Ismaili and Christian faiths, positioning them in a life-or-death struggle with the large Sunni Muslim majority.

Unlike the armed forces of Egypt or Tunisia, the leaders of Syria's army and domestic security agencies don't abide by any independent ethos or commitment to professionalism. Their fate and their communities' fates are tied to the survival of the regime.

"The minority networks dominate the command structure," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "They see it as an us-versus-them situation. It galvanizes them against the kind of splitting that you saw in Egypt or Tunisia."

Some analysts have described long-standing chasms between the army's elite and the mostly Sunni conscripts that could lead to crisis within the armed forces. Even Sunni towns that are traditionally strongholds of the regime, such as Dara, Homs and Dair Alzour, have risen up in protest. The same sectarian tinderbox the Assads have manipulated so well over the decades could still blow up in their faces, dissidents hope.

"If you have Sunnis shooting Sunnis, there could be a split between the leadership and the rank and file," Tabler said.

But Bashar Assad, who cut short his training as eye doctor to attend military school after the death of his older brother in 1994, has in recent years lavished resources on the army, building it into a more professional force, said the Lebanese army officer. Last year Assad raised salaries and upgraded cars and housing for the army in an attempt to bolster their loyalty to the regime.

"They are well disciplined and have a tradition of military security and military intelligence inside the armed forces," the Lebanese army officer said.

Despite anecdotal stories of soldiers refusing to fire on protesters in Dara, Baniyas and Homs, the defections don't appear to be widespread. Assad has proved adept at deploying troops from one region to another to make sure they're not in a position of firing on their own relatives and tribes, Ziadeh said.

For the time being at least, said the Lebanese army officer, if soldiers were ordered to open fire on crowds, "they do not hesitate."

"I know them well," he said. "They will do it. I don't advise anyone to bet against them."

3b)Mission Creep and Its Discontents
The Afghanistan Conflict
By Amitai Etzioni

Washington's persistent difficulties in Afghanistan are due to the Obama administration's mission creep. Within a matter of months, U.S. operations expanded from counterterrorism measures designed "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future"[1] to a counterinsurgency strategy viewing nation-building and democratization as prerequisites to military success—a highly unrealistic goal in a country that is as poor, illiterate, corrupt, and conflicted as Afghanistan.

Having made the Afghan war the edifice of his battle against violent extremism, President Obama, here with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, December 3, 2010, has been struggling to shape a coherent strategy. His frequent juggling of goals and his lack of clarity on what they are has reduced public support for the war and hindered U.S. efforts to disengage. Photo by Michael Sparks, CJTF-101

The mission creep and confusion in Afghanistan has greatly hindered U.S. efforts to find a way to complete its campaign and to disengage. As the target keeps changing and enlarging, public support for the intervention both in the United States and in other nations is declining while the human and economic costs of the war are mounting. A return to the original goal and to some version of the "Biden approach"—advocating reliance on drones, Special Forces, and the CIA to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a haven for terrorists after the U.S. departure—may provide an answer.

Counterterrorism to Counterinsurgency
Having made the Afghan war the edifice of his struggle against violent extremism, President Obama has been struggling to shape a coherent strategy. His first strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan, completed in March 2009, was basically framed as a counterterrorism mission to be carried out by military forces and the CIA. However, over the following year, the president endorsed Gen. David Petraeus's change of strategy from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency, which holds that in order to accomplish the security goal of eliminating terrorists and their havens, a considerable measure of nation-building must take place.

In discussions of counterinsurgency, the term "nation-building" is typically avoided, but the precept that to win the United States must build an "effective and legitimate government" and that counterinsurgency means not just destroying the enemy but also holding the territories and building the new polity, in effect amounts to nation-building. Moreover, the scope of nation-building has been steadily extended. Thus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that "we share an interest in helping build an Afghanistan that is stable and secure; that can provide prosperity and progress and peace for its citizens."[2] Obama added the following day that he had "reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to an Afghanistan that is stable, strong, and prosperous." He reiterated the 2009 goal to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future." But he also underscored the need for "a civilian effort to promote good governance and development … In addition… [to] open the door to Taliban who cut their ties to al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and accept the Afghan constitution, including respect for human rights."[3]

As the Hamid Karzai government started to negotiate with various factions of the Taliban about the conditions under which they might support the government, or join it, or lay down their weapons after the departure of U.S. and NATO forces, the nation-building goal was extended. It grew from an "effective and legitimate government" in the eyes of the Afghans to ensuring that democracy and human rights, especially women's rights, as stated in the Afghan constitution (fashioned under U.S. influence and in line with the values Americans hold dear) are respected and that Shari'a or Islamic law does not become the law of the land.

Late in 2010, as it became clearer that nation-building was progressing rather poorly, mission creep turned into mission confusion. At several points, the U.S. government opposed negotiations with the Taliban. At others, it endorsed and facilitated these talks.[4] A more moderate goal was mentioned much more frequently: Weaken the Taliban to the point that they become truly interested in a peaceful settlement or in avoiding a civil war among the various ethnic groups after U.S. troops leave.

Most recently, a geopolitical goal has been added—namely to ensure that after the U.S. withdrawal, the Afghan government will not tilt toward Pakistan or come under its influence—especially not that of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)—because such a tilt could trouble India, which in turn might lead to a regional war or to India distancing itself from the United States, just as Washington is counting on New Delhi to countervail China.

The discussion proceeds by spelling out the reason why nation-building, a key element of counterinsurgency, is not working in Afghanistan, the need to draw much more on structures and leaders already in place rather than building new ones if Washington is to disengage successfully, and it closes by outlining what might be done and what lessons might be learned from this war, one of the longest in which the United States has ever engaged.

The Limits of Nation-building
Champions of nation-building, which often entails pouring large amounts of money on the nations to be reconstructed, ignore the bitter lessons of foreign aid in general. An extensive 2006 report on the billions of dollars invested by the World Bank since the mid-1990s in economic development shows that despite the bank's best efforts, the "achievement of sustained increases in per capita income, essential for poverty reduction, continues to elude a considerable number of countries."[5] Out of twenty-five aid-recipient coun?tries covered by the report, more than half (14) had the same or worsening rates of per capita income from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. Moreover, the nations that received most of the aid, especially in Africa, developed least while the nations that received very little aid grew very fast (notably China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan).[6] Other nations found foreign aid a "poisoned gift" because it promoted dependency on foreigners, undermined indigenous endeavors, and disproportionately ben?efited those gifted at proposal writing and courting foundation and foreign aid representatives, rather than local entrepreneurs and businessmen.

In addition, the World Bank and other students of development have learned that large parts of the funds provided are wasted because of widespread and high-level cor?ruption. In The White Man's Burden,[7] American economist William East?erly systematically debunked the idea that increased aid expenditures in and of themselves can alleviate poverty or modernize failed or failing states and pointed to the key roles that bad government and corruption play in these debacles. Steve Knack of the World Bank showed that huge aid revenues may even spur further bureaucratization and worsen corruption.[8] Others found that mismanagement, sheer incompetence, and weak government were almost as debilitating.

Afghanistan was ranked by Transparency International as the third most corrupt nation in the world in 2010.[9] Its government lost much of whatever legitimacy it had following fraudulent elections. It does not govern large parts of the country. It surely qualifies as a failing state—eight years after reconstruction began with few signs of improvement. A 2008 study by The Economist found that several of the main reasons that Afghanistan's development is proceeding so poorly are the widespread corruption, cronyism and tribalism, lack of accountability, and gross mismanagement. The Economist recommended that the West pressure President Karzai to introduce reforms.[10] But how should Karzai proceed? Should he call in all the ministers and ask them to cease taking bribes and stop allocating public funds to their favorites? Fire them and replace them—with whom? And if he did, what about their staffs? Many of the police, judges, jailors, customs officers, and civil servants in Afghanistan regularly accept bribes and grant strong preference to members of their family, clan, and tribal group.[11] Most are poorly trained and have no professional traditions to fall back on. How is a president, even one backed by foreign powers, to change these deeply ingrained habits and culture?

One may argue that such reforms occurred in other countries, including in the West. Indeed, social scientists could do a great service to developing nations if they conducted a thorough study of how those nations succeeded in curbing corruption and gross mismanagement.[12] The study would probably show that the process took decades, if not genera?tions, and that it entailed a major change in social forces (such as the rise of a sizable middle class) and major alterations in the education system—among other major societal changes. Such changes cannot be rushed and must be largely endemic.

Many conditions that are unlikely to be reproduced elsewhere led to successful reconstruction in Germany and Japan after World War II. First, both nations had surrendered after defeat in a war and fully submitted to occupation. Second, many facilitating factors were much more established than they are in countries in which social engineering is now being attempted. There was no danger that Japan or Germany would break up due to a civil war among ethnic groups as is the case in Afghanistan and Iraq. No effort had to be expended on building national unity. On the contrary, strong national unity was a major reason change could be introduced with relative ease. Other favorable factors included competent government personnel and a low level of corruption. Political scientist Robert Packenham cites as core factors the pres?ence of "technical and financial expertise, relatively highly institutionalized political parties, skillful and visionary politicians, well-educated populations, [and] strong national identifications."[13] And, crucially, there was a strong culture of self-restraint present in both Japan and Germany that favored hard work and high levels of saving, essential for building up local assets and keeping costs down.

Conditions in the donor countries were different as well. In 1948, the first year of the Marshall Plan, aid to the sixteen European countries involved 13 percent of the U.S. budget. In comparison, the United States currently spends less than 1 percent of its budget on foreign aid, and not all of it is dedi?cated to economic development.[14] Other nations are giving relatively more, but the total funds dedicated to foreign aid are still much smaller than those committed to reconstruction at the end of World War II. In short, the current tasks are much more onerous, and the resources available are meager in comparison.

Sociologist Max Weber established the importance of culture or values when he demonstrated that Protestants were more imbued than Catholics with the values that lead to hard work and high levels of saving, essential for the rise of modern capitalist economies.[15] For decades, developments in Catholic countries (such as those in southern Europe and Latin America) lagged behind the Protestant Anglo-Saxon nations and those in northeast Europe. These differences declined only when Catholics became more like Protestants.

Culture is also a major factor that explains the striking differences between various rates of develop?ment, especially between the Southeast Asian "tigers" (which received little aid) and African and Arab states that received a great deal. It is not that these latter states cannot be developed because of some genetically innate characteristics of the people living there, but because their cultures stress other values, especially traditional religious values and commu?nal and tribal bonds. These cultures can change, but, as the record shows, only slowly, and the changes involved cannot be foisted upon them by outsiders.

When all is said and done, one must expect that development of countries such as Afghanistan will be very slow and highly taxing on all involved, which is exactly what has happened there. Corruption continues to be endemic at all levels of the Afghan government. Efforts to suppress the growth of opiates and the illegal drug trade have failed. Warlords continue to play a major role in large parts of the country. The government is not considered legitimate, following fraudulent elections. The majority of citizens feel that the judiciary is bought, law and order is lacking, and a considerable number are yearning for the days when the Taliban were in charge. Indeed, the Taliban influence is growing in parts of the country, including in the north, where it was weak in earlier years.[16]

All this indicates that counterinsurgency efforts are very unlikely to succeed in the foreseeable future. This is quite openly acknowledged by General Petraeus, who called for patience in a 2007 BBC interview because "the average counterinsurgency is somewhere around a nine or a 10 year endeavor," and the British counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland took "decades."[17] But Americans and the citizens of other involved nations are very unlikely to support such a long-run project at such high cost, which is estimated to already have cost the U.S. government $336 billion by the end of 2010, and with the addition of $119 billion requested for 2011, will cost $455 billion by the end of 2011.[18] In short, the nation-building goals are too ambitious and must be abandoned.

Working with Local Forces
The nation-building project has been a top-down one. Washington and its allies sought to rely on the national government headed by President Karzai and on a constitution that centralizes more power in the national government than any democratic society and in a society in which local, ethnic bonds and commitments are far stronger than in any democratic society. The national government appoints provincial and district governors and city mayors. Although district councils are supposed to be elected, elections have not yet taken place. At the same time, the Afghan sense of nationhood is weak, and the primary loyalty of most Afghans is to their ethnic group—the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc. Moreover, the national army has a disproportionately high number of officers from non-Pashtun groups, especially the Tajiks,[19] while the Taliban's closest affinity is with the Pashtun and further divides society along ethnic lines. Attempts to reduce the tension between the political structure and the societal one have run into difficulties because of the close alliance between the coalition forces and the national government. To disengage, much more attention will have to be paid to local powers and local institutions and leaders that are in place.

Alexander Thier, the director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Jarat Chopra, a former professor at Brown University, write that in Afghanistan, "family and tribal affiliations outweigh all others" and that tribal elders "are not willing to place a united Afghanistan over advancement of their particular tribe."[20]

The Taliban were defeated in Afghanistan in 2001 with very few U.S. casualties; only twelve U.S. service members were killed. This has obscured the fact that the war was won by a U.S.-supported coalition of ethnic groups, mainly Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara, known as the Northern Alliance.

U.S. officials tend to favor national forces although even in the United States, much police work is locally and not nationally controlled. Even the U.S. National Guard can be called up only by the governors of the various states, and each unit primarily serves its own state. Yet in Iraq, after U.S.-led coalition forces removed the Saddam regime, Washington and its allies tried to create a national force by insisting that Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish units either disarm or be integrated into a national force. Moreover, initially the Bush administration positioned Shiite forces in Sunni areas and Sunni forces in Shiite areas in the hope that they would cease to view themselves as tribal forces and start acting like "Iraqis." The result was often increased bloodshed.

A similar development took place in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the new Afghan government sought to disarm the tribal forces that had ousted the Taliban—what the government referred to as the AMF (Afghan Militia Forces)—in favor of fashioning a new national army. As a result of this disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, about 63,000 militiamen were disarmed by 2005. However, there are still a great number of unofficial ethnic forces and other private armies. Estimates of their size run between 65,000 and 180,000. Recently several attempts have been made to work with local forces. NATO forces have contracted with private security companies to secure dangerous stretches of highway, while the Local Police Force Program was established in July 2010 as part of a larger "village stability platform" to supplement the Afghan National Army and provide regional security.[21] In Wardak province, the Afghan Public Protection Program has helped to establish security in what was a Taliban stronghold.[22] To further disengage, Washington and its allies will have to shift more weight and resources to these local forces and rely less on the Karzai government.

An essential feature of a stable political system, and one able to adjust as changes occur, is the availability of institutions that can be used to settle differences without resorting to violence. Westerners tend to assume that these political institutions will be democratic and that various particularistic interests will be represented by elected officials. In this way, ballots will replace bullets. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government and its allies invested considerable effort in introducing free and fair elections, in part to serve the purpose of absorbing ethnic and regional conflicts into political institutions.

Given, however, that the format of the introduced political institutions was greatly influenced by U.S. guidelines, they often do not reflect the preferences of the majority of the Afghan people. For instance, Washington insisted that the Afghan constitution be drafted and approved by consensus before the election of the National Assembly and national officials, and it promoted Karzai as the national leader. None of these moves helped lend legitimacy to political institutions that were imported and alien to begin with.

In Afghanistan, as in other countries in similar states of societal development, native people have their own institutions and their own ways of selecting leaders and resolving conflicts. These include tribal councils, community elders, and religious authorities. That is, the people often rely on natural leaders—those who rose to power due to their charisma, persuasive powers, lineage or religious status, but who were not elected in the Western way. Initially, it is best to try to work with them, rather than expect that they could be replaced by elected officials in short order. The same holds for various councils and inter-tribal bodies.

Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation argues that a strategy that seeks to build a strong central government and to hold territory with foreign forces is unlikely to work in Afghanistan.[23] He reports that the national presidential elections in 2004 and parliamentary elections in 2005 did little to diminish the power of regional warlords and tribal militias. Even efforts that were made to relocate such leaders and wrest them from their regional power bases were unsuccessful. Instead of attempting—and failing—to break these solid ties, strategists should draw upon them to promote security in Afghanistan. Jones points out that a successful bottom-up strategy must strengthen the local tribal and religious leaders who understand their communities best, so that they may provide security and services. Indeed, he writes that "the most effective bottom-up strategy in Afghanistan is likely to be one that already taps into existing local institutions … Local tribal and religious leaders best understand their community needs."[24]

To illustrate the influence of local natural leaders, one only needs to look at Ismail Khan. After the defeat of the Taliban, Khan, a warlord in Herat, became governor of the area. Despite his ability to maintain security, Khan's support of Iran and his refusal to send the tax revenues he collected to the central government in Kabul, coupled with a wish to strengthen Karzai, led Washington to urge his removal. Khan was removed from his local post in 2004, a move that resulted in violent protests, [25] sectarian violence, increased crime, and the Taliban making inroads into Herat. Similarly, Governor Gul Agha Shirzai of the Nangarhar province was removed from a previous gubernatorial position because of his autocratic, warlord style but is now viewed as necessary to stabilize the province. Atta Muhammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province, has been credited with bringing security to his province and eradicating the poppy trade there.[26] This is not to suggest that all these tribal chiefs can or should be made into local partners. Each must be examined in his own right. However, one can work with many to improve their records. The more Washington and its allies work with local leaders, including religious ones, the sooner it will be able to disengage.

There remains a danger that if the U.S. forces disengage, having increasingly drawn on local forces to provide security and stability in their area of the country, a civil war might break out among various groups, especially among the Pashtun and other ethnic groups, or among various warlords. The best way to minimize this risk is not to presume that one can fashion an effective national government to which various local power centers will yield but to work out inter-local coalitions, treaties, and agreements.

The Geopolitical Mission Creep
Recently, an argument surfaced that the United States cannot withdraw from Afghanistan until that country is well-stabilized because such a withdrawal would cause Pakistan—especially the ISI—to greatly extend its support for violent Islamist groups in Afghanistan and use it as a base for terrorist attacks against India. This could result in a new battleground for Indo-Pakistani rivalry, bring other powers into a confrontation, and even risk a nuclear war.[27]

Although Pakistan is a U.S. ally in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, various observers believe Islamabad is playing both sides. Pakistan's historical alliances with the Afghan Taliban and the Islamist Haqqani network extend from the 1990s when the country supported the rise of the Taliban government. Moreover, the ISI, which appears anti-American and pro-Taliban, is following a different course than the Pakistani military. Journalist Helene Cooper observes in The New York Times,

What Pakistan wants most in Afghanistan is an assurance that India cannot use it to threaten Pakistan. For that, a radical Islamic movement like the Taliban, with strong ties to kin in Pakistan, fits the bill.[28]

Cooper also believes that Pakistan wants to keep the Taliban in its "good graces" should U.S. forces withdraw and leave the Taliban to reassert control over the country. Likewise, Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council asserts that Pakistan's support of extremists is "leverage in the sense that it allows [the Pakistanis] to have a government in Kabul that is neutral, if not pro-Pakistan. That's why they've always hedged on the Afghan Taliban."[29]

There is an ethnic dimension to the Indo-Pakistani rivalry in Afghanistan, as well. Pakistan wants an Afghan government that provides greater representation for the Pashtun and is more closely allied with Pakistan. The current Afghan government contains more Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara members that were aligned with the India-backed Northern Alliance, and thus Pakistan perceives the current Afghan government as being too close to India.

Additional evidence to support the claim that Pakistan is at least somewhat favorable to the Taliban and would be more so should U.S. forces withdraw, can be seen in the accusations that Islamabad is undermining the current peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. According to The New York Times, Pakistan's apparent stance against the peace process is due to the fact that the Karzai government is reported to be leaving out those Taliban members regarded as being controlled by the ISI. [30] Those Taliban leaders not associated with Pakistan who do show willingness to negotiate have been suppressed by Pakistan; for example, Pakistani agents arrested high-level Taliban official Mullah Baradur. The New York Times also reports, "Afghans who have tried to take part in, or even facilitate, past negotiations have been killed by their Taliban comrades, sometimes with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence agency."[31]

A number of observers have suggested that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would precipitate the return of the Taliban with ties to Pakistan that would enable increased terrorism against India. As Steve Coll observed in a New Yorker blog, "The probable knock-on effect of a second Taliban revolution in Afghanistan would be to increase the likelihood of irregular Islamist attacks from Pakistan against Indian targets—not only the traditional target set in Indian-held Kashmir, but in New Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities, as has occurred periodically during the last decade."[32] Likewise, Robert Kaplan writes in a report for the Center of New American Security that Afghanistan is a "principal invasion route into India for terrorists" and "an Afghanistan that falls under Taliban sway … would be, in effect, a greater Pakistan, giving Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate [ISI] the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Lashkar-e-Taiba."[33] The latter group carried out the 2009 Mumbai terror attacks against India.

Aside from terrorism, some observers point to potentially even more devastating consequences of increased India-Pakistan rivalry, following a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the likely return of the Taliban that it could facilitate. Associated Press reports that the "fight [in Afghanistan] pits nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan against one another in a battle for influence that will almost certainly gain traction as the clock ticks down toward America's military withdrawal."[34] Coll contends that the tension caused by terrorism against India, emanating from Pakistan, "would present, repetitively, the problem of managing the role of nuclear weapons in a prospective fourth Indo-Pakistani war." [35]

Finally, some observers hold that a U.S. withdrawal would be seen as an abandonment of India, causing it to move closer to other powers. Associated Press reports that

India warns that it would form a coalition with Iran—an alliance that would infuriate Washington—if the Taliban appear poised to return to power. The "self-interested coalition" could include Russia and several Central Asian states that would also fear a Taliban return. [36]

Kaplan suggests that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would be tantamount to deserting India, causing it to move closer to China:

The quickest way to undermine U.S.-India relations is for the United States to withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan … [It] would signal to Indian policy elites that the United States is surely a declining power on which they cannot depend. D├ętente with China might then seem to be in India's interest.[37]

During off-the-record briefings in Washington, conducted under Chatham House rules, which allow the use of the information but not the identification of the source or organization at which the briefing took place, U.S. State Department officials indicated that indeed the department saw the need to keep India on the U.S. side for many reasons but especially to "balance" China, a major consideration in determining the role Washington should play in Afghanistan.

An Assessment
The frequent re-juggling of the goals of a mission and lack of clarity on what they are is detrimental to any campaign. The main difficulties the U.S. administration faces in Afghanistan are due to mission creep generated by nation-building—in both the somewhat-limited counterinsurgency version and the expanded human rights and democracy version—often a highly unrealistic goal, in particular in a country that is as poor, illiterate, corrupt, and conflicted as Afghanistan.

The military mission, as originally defined by President Obama, was achieved in Afghanistan but not in Pakistan. However, there is no reason to hold that continued fighting in Afghanistan, by drawing on large conventional forces and a similar number of private contractors, will change the situation in Pakistan. Attempts to move the government to confront the Pakistani Taliban and eradicate the havens for Afghan terrorists in that country have largely failed. So have most efforts to pressure, cajole, or incentivize Islamabad to change the balance between the largely anti-U.S. ISI and the other parts of the military—and between the military and the civilian authorities in favor of the latter. Pakistan continues to have a rather unstable regime, to harbor terrorists, to be unable to put down an insurgency, to hold nuclear arms, and to be headed by a civilian government that is unpopular.

The most promising avenue for significant change in Pakistan lies in helping it and India to settle their major differences, which would free the Pakistani military from its eastward obsession and enable it to fight terrorism and insurgency, improve the economy, and downgrade the importance of nuclear arms. This is a very challenging mission, which might well be impossible to carry out. However, the prospects of such a settlement have little to do with what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

With regard to the geopolitical goal, New Delhi has many interests that Washington can serve—or neglect—from continued outsourcing to deals concerning fuel for nuclear reactors and technical knowhow, from weapon agreements to sharing intelligence about terrorists. For example, U.S. intelligence agencies are reported to have had knowledge about those who attacked Mumbai before they struck.[38] Hence, given the high costs of staying the course in Afghanistan and the likelihood that it will fail, Washington will be better served if it disengages even if this leads to some displeasure in India.

Moreover, it further suggests the important role Washington can have by fostering a settlement of the Kashmir issue and other sources of conflict between India and Pakistan—a win-win situation compared to overstaying in Afghanistan to please India—a lose-lose condition. It remains for another day to ask whether the whole notion of nations such as India "balancing" nations such as China is not a highly anachronistic one, harkening back to the days when nations had no ideological commitments and shifted sides to maintain a balance of power.

Can Washington Afford War?
In recent years, a consensus is emerging among students of international relations that U.S. power is declining and that its foreign policy will have to adapt to its increasing weakness. This thesis has numerous facets and implications, only one of which is here explored—namely, the argument that because of the stressed condition of the U.S. economy, interventions of the kind seen in Iraq and Afghanistan will no longer be possible, at least in political ways.

Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University contends:

the limits that constrain the government in its external initiatives will be drawn less on the basis of what the world requires and more by considering what the United States can—and cannot—afford. In an era in which fewer resources will be available for everything, it is certain that fewer will be available for foreign policy. When working Americans are paying more than in the past to support their fellow citizens who have retired, and retirees are receiving fewer benefits from the government than they were promised, neither group will be eager to offer generous support to overseas ventures.[39]

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said:

I think the Congress and the president would look long and hard at another military operation that would cost us $100 billion a year … If there's a real threat out there, the president and Congress will spend whatever it takes to protect the nation. But in situations where there are real choices, I think this would be a factor.[40]

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes:

If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world.[41]

This viewpoint is based on the failed and costly attempt to engage in nation-building but does not apply to military interventions. Thus, the U.S. intervention in 1991 that rolled Saddam out of Kuwait exacted a heavy cost from Iraq for violating another nation's sovereignty and shored up U.S. credibility in the world, but it was achieved swiftly with few casualties and at a low cost of $61 billion,[42] almost 90 percent of which was borne by U.S. allies. The same is true of 1989's Operation Just Cause in Panama. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam's regime were carried out swiftly with few casualties and low costs. Only $56 billion had been appropriated for Iraq operations by the time President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003, and 172 U.S. servicemen had died.[43] Most of the casualties and costs were inflicted during the nation-building phase that followed. Since May 2003, more than 4,500 Americans have died and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and the direct financial cost has totaled $650 billion.[44] The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 was carried out swiftly with minimal U.S. casualties and low costs. Most of the casualties and costs that followed took place during the nation-building phase—only $21 billion was spent in 2001 and 2002 while the costs since then have amounted to more than $300 billion.[45] Only twelve U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2001, but almost 1,300 more have died since then.[46]

Thus, it is wrong to conclude that the United States will be unable to afford military interventions to support its foreign policy goals, for instance, compelling Iran to give up its nuclear sites—although they are likely to be substantially higher than the interventions just cited—as long as no nation-building follows. This is not to suggest that the United States should go to war because wars are cheap. On the contrary, a nation should engage in a "just war" if and only if there is a clear and present danger, if all other means to resolving the conflict have been exhausted, and only to protect innocents. However, when the United States must engage in war, economic considerations will not prevent it from proceeding.

Some argue that Washington has a moral obligation to "reconstruct" countries it invades.[47] Opinions can differ on what the United States owes a country it helped liberate or that used to harbor terrorists. However, in any case, given that nation-building cannot be carried out long-distance by foreign powers in nations in an early state of development (in contrast to post-World War II Germany and Japan), the moral issue is moot. At the same time, there is no reason to stop non-lethal interventions through educational, cultural, and public diplomacy means, from Fulbright scholarships to foreign aid. It is also worth noting that diplomacy is dirt cheap. The U.S. State Department budget famously has fewer foreign service officers than the Pentagon has military band musicians.[48] Granted, a return to military interventions and counterterrorism without counterinsurgency efforts would mean that once the United States topples a regime that endangers it or others, the people of the nation will have to duke it out to determine which kind of regime will be established without coerced U.S. tutelage. Hence, for instance, if the people of Afghanistan find that the Shari'a law that the Taliban is promoting is too harsh from their viewpoint, they will have to fight the Taliban. On the other hand, if they favor a strict Shari'a regime, the swift justice the Taliban metes out, its harsh way of dealing with pedophilia and drug dealers—combined with injustice to women—then Washington should let them embrace that regime while exhorting them to work for reforms, the way it does in many nations in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In any event, the American decline is to a considerable extent a reflection of an inability to live up to the excessively ambitious goals Americans set for themselves. It matters little whether this goal-setting is due to an idealistic American commitment to human rights and democracy, to falling prey to public relations, to a lack of realism, or to sheer arrogance and hubris. If the United States limits its goals to key national interests and global security—it can readily afford to use its power for good purposes.[49]

Amitai Etzioni is a university professor and professor of international relations at George Washington University, director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, and the author of Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2008).

[1] Barack Obama, "Remarks by the President on a New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan," Mar. 27, 2009.
[2] Hillary Clinton, "Remarks at Reception in Honor of Afghan President Hamid Karzai," May 11, 2010.
[3] Barack Obama, "Remarks by President Obama and President Karzai of Afghanistan in Joint Press Availability," May 12, 2010.
[4] The Guardian (London), July 19, 2010.
[5] "Annual Review of Development Effectiveness 2006: Getting Results," World Bank Independent Evaluation Group, Washington, D.C., 2006.
[6] Ibid.
[7] New York: Penguin, 2006.
[8] Stephen Knack, "Aid Dependence and the Quality of Governance: Cross-Country Empirical Tests," Southern Economic Journal, 2 (2001): 310-29.
[9] "2010 Corruption Perceptions Index," Transparency International, Berlin, accessed Jan. 12, 2011.
[10] "A War of Money as Well as Bullets," The Economist, May 24, 2008.
[11] CNN, Dec. 2, 2010.
[12] See, for example, Susan Rose-Ackerman, Corruption and Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
[13] Robert A. Packenham, Liberal America and the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 34-5.
[14] Curt Tarnoff and Larry Nowels, "Foreign Aid: An Introductory Overview of U.S. Programs and Policy," Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., Apr. 15, 2004.
[15] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 2 ed. (Abingdon, N.Y.: Routledge Classics, 2001).
[16] The Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2010.
[17] BBC News, July 9, 2007.
[18] Amy Belasco, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations since 9/11," Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., Sept. 2, 2010.
[19] Antonio Giustozzi, "Afghanistan's National Army: The Ambiguous Prospects of Afghanization," Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, Washington, D.C., May 1, 2008.
[20] Alexander Thier and Jarat Chopra, "Considerations for Political and Institutional Reconstruction in Afghanistan," U.N. Public Administration Network, New York, Jan. 2002.
[21] The New York Times, June 5, 2010; Seth G. Jones and Arturo Munoz, Afghanistan's Local War: Building Local Defense Forces (Santa Monica: National Defense Research Institute, RAND Corporation, 2010), p. 57.
[22] Time, Oct. 27, 2010.
[23] See, also, Andrew M. Roe, "What Waziristan Means for Afghanistan," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2011, pp. 37-46.
[24] Seth G. Jones, "U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan," RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, Washington, D.C., Apr. 2, 2009.
[25] The Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2006.
[26] Environment News Service (Washington, D.C., and Seattle), June 6, 2007.
[27] The Economic Times (Mumbai), Nov. 10, 2010.
[28] Helene Cooper, "Allies in War, but the Goals Clash," The New York Times, Oct. 9, 2010.
[29] Time, Dec. 2, 2009.
[30] The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2010.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Steve Coll, "What If We Fail in Afghanistan?" The New Yorker, Nov. 16, 2009.
[33] Robert D. Kaplan, "South Asia's Geography of Conflict," Center for a New American Security, Washington, D.C., Aug. 2010.
[34] Associated Press, Apr. 25, 2010.
[35] Coll, "What If We Fail in Afghanistan?"
[36] Associated Press, Apr. 25, 2010.
[37] Kaplan, "South Asia's Geography of Conflict."
[38] The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2010.
[39] Michael Mandelbaum, The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era (United States: Public Affairs, 2010), p. 33.
[40] The Telegraph (London), May 9, 2010.
[41] Thomas L. Friedman, "This I Believe," The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2009.
[42] "Conduct of the Persian Gulf War," final report to the U.S. Congress by the U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., Apr. 1992, appendix P.
[43] "The Cost of Military Operations in Iraq: An Update," analysis by the House Budget Committee's Democratic staff, Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2003.
[44] "The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update," Congressional Budget Office, Washington, D.C., Aug. 2010.
[45] Belasco, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11."
[46] "Faces of the Fallen," The Washington Post, accessed Jan. 12, 2010.
[47] Noah Feldman, What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 80; Bill Wineke, "Whatever Happened to Freedom Fries," Wisconsin State Journal, June 12, 2005; Gerard F. Powers, "The Dilemma in Iraq," America, Mar. 6, 2006, pp. 19-26.
[48] National Public Radio, Sept. 29, 2010.
[49] For more discussion, see Amitai Etzioni, Security First (New Haven: Yale, 2007); idem, "The Promise of the Proliferation Security Initiative," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2009.

3c)Obama Fires Up His Campaign Cash Machine
With the GOP eager to exploit relaxed spending restrictions, the President is asking top "bundlers" to raise far more than they did for 2008
By John McCormick

When President Barack Obama visited California in February, he had a private dinner with Apple (AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and other technology chieftains. The stated purpose of the meal was to solicit job-growth ideas.
The President returned to the Golden State on Apr. 20 with something different on the menu: campaign cash. Facing a 2012 re-election bid at a time when Republican fundraisers are eager to take advantage of relaxed campaign spending restrictions, Obama is on an early tour of his most important money markets, from Chicago to Silicon Valley to Hollywood to Wall Street. While his campaign is downplaying speculation that it could be the first to raise $1 billion, it's nonetheless building up a cash stockpile as the GOP, with the field wide open, gets off to a slow start. Former governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts are the only two major Republican candidates who have announced exploratory committees, even as Obama's campaign prepares to open offices in battleground states.

Though some big-name Democratic donors, including actor Matt Damon and hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, have expressed disappointment in Obama's Administration, fundraisers say the President remains popular and his events are selling out. After headlining an Apr. 20 town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Obama was scheduled to host a series of San Francisco fundraisers, including a dinner at the home of Marc Benioff, chairman of (CRM). That event, which was expected to attract about 60 donors, had an admission price of $35,800 per person, with $5,000 going to Obama's campaign and the rest to the Democratic National Committee to support his reelection.

Wade Randlett, a fundraiser and co-founder of San Francisco biofuel startup Nextfuels, says Obama is helped by the fact that there are no Republicans in the current field of candidates who are "strong on business issues and moderate on social issues." Randlett raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama in 2007 and 2008, and plans to match that performance this cycle. "When you see what the other side is offering, it's really just a no-brainer for the Bay Area." The California events were expected to yield as much as $5 million for Obama and the DNC, according to a Democratic source who could not speak publicly because he was not authorized to share the information. That's roughly twice as much as Obama raised on Apr. 14 at three events in Chicago, where he kicked off his fundraising drive.

Another money-raising swing is planned for Apr. 27 in the New York area, a trip that will include another $35,800-per-person event, this time at the home of Jon Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO and New Jersey governor. The fundraising effort will be the first test of whether Wall Street donors will be as generous as they were in 2008, when Obama received more money from employees of the securities and investment sector than from those of any other industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. After last year's financial regulatory overhaul and Obama's "fat cat" rhetoric, some former Wall Street supporters have cooled toward the President, says Dan Gerstein, a Democratic strategist in New York. "He's paid a heavy price in the banking sector," says Gerstein. "He's alienated a lot of people with his rhetoric."

Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager and a former deputy White House chief of staff, has tried to dampen predictions that the President will raise $1 billion for 2012. Still, he's put together an aggressive fundraising schedule. Top bundlers, who solicit money from a wide circle of donors, have been asked to collect at least $350,000 this year alone. Four years ago members of Obama's national finance committee were asked to raise $250,000 for the entire election.

The higher bar has been set in part because Democrats don't know whether Obama will be helped or hurt by Republican efforts to handicap labor, a big source of Democratic money. The governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have signed bills making it harder for unions to collect dues. Anthony J. Corrado, a professor who studies political fundraising at Colby College in Maine, says the move could backfire. Unions are going to have "a very strong incentive" to counterbalance Republican attacks by donating heavily to Democrats. At the same time, the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision makes it easier for political groups to "take corporate and labor union money and do ads specifically advocating the election or defeat of the candidates," Corrado says. He predicts the 2012 Presidential election will be a "proxy" battle between corporations and unions.

Obama will have a larger pool of potential backers than he did four years ago, when the drama of a marathon primary battle with Hillary Clinton helped fuel his fundraising but also split the field of donors. At the same time, some of Obama's top bundlers in 2008 will be officially barred from fundraising because they're now enjoying the perks of their past performance. Boston philanthropist Alan D. Solomont, former media executive Charles Rivkin, and technology lawyer John Roos each raised more than $500,000 for Obama's 2008 campaign. They're now serving as ambassadors to Spain, France, and Japan, respectively.

The President also lacks the aura of a historic quest to become the first black President. "There was a certain type of excitement that went around the first go-around," says Lester N. Coney, an executive vice-president at Mesirow Financial who was one of Obama's top 2008 fundraisers. "He's never going to be able to capture that again."

The bottom line: Obama's 2012 campaign is asking top bundlers to increase their goals by at least 40 percent, to $350,000 this year.
4)Is America still a serious nation?

A visit to Southeast Asia evokes memories of our folly-filled past — and serves as a reminder of the critical issues we face today
By Robert Shrum

Are Americans still capable of making this country serious? That is the question — the real and fundamental issue — that spans all the bitter debates now raging in Washington, and everywhere in a decidedly unhappy land.

Visiting Southeast Asia, you encounter powerful signs of America's enduring standing — and an indelible reminder that our country is capable of nearly invincible stupidity.

On the one hand, the dollar is the nearly universal alternative currency. U.S. companies are investing and manufacturing in Vietnam, and increasingly in Cambodia. They're welcomed, and so are Americans visiting Hanoi, Angkor Wat, the Mekong, and all the places whose names were the common datelines of our news just a few decades ago. Of course, Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City, in permanent celebration of our defeat. But there is no sense of unease or recrimination; one-time enemies who devastated cities, villages, dikes and dams are treated as friends.

This makes the shadow of that earlier memory even more haunting proof of our stubborn stupidity in waging the Vietnam War — known here as the American War. We blundered in and stayed the course in the name of a domino theory that turned out to be true in only one sense. Communism here was a vehicle for nationalism, not an engine to advance an international conspiracy. We might have at least suspected this when Ho declared independence from French colonial rule in the 1940s, using the very words of our own Declaration of Independence. And in the decade after the last U.S. helicopter lifted evacuees from the roof of our encircled embassy, the dominoes did fall — to our economic system. Capitalism is the norm now, if, in some cases, still in largely symbolic red trappings.

A serious nation would not shortchange an intervention in Libya that's as right as Vietnam was wrong.Democracy doesn't flourish here anymore than it does in China. But our vital interests were never at stake and the conflict we fought was a profound mistake. We persisted because Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon refused to face reality, each determined not to be the first American president to lose a war. Until Americans wearied for good in the 1970s, they also found it too hard to accept that the war was wrong — and could not be won. To paraphrase the young John Kerry when he came home from the Mekong to oppose our involvement in Vietnam, how do you tell 55,000 Americans and two million Vietnamese that, from first to last, they died for a mistake? Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other casualties and the nearly two million lost in the killing fields of a lunatic named Pol Pot, who might never have come to power in Cambodia if Nixon hadn't secretly bombed and then invaded that country.

History never exactly repeats itself, but the impulses manifest in history can and do. Today, in very different times and circumstances, we have to ask which America will prevail: the America of hope, of global leadership for good, the great innovator and driver of its prosperity and the world's; or the America that sees through a glass darkly, that clings to self-delusion and misconceived ideology and once again loses it's way? The question is not about one policy, but about the entire span of domestic and foreign policy.

Serious leaders of a serious nation would not play political games with raising the federal debt limit, threatening to hold the full faith and credit of the United States — and the stability of the economy — hostage to repealing the New Deal, the Great Society, and health care reform, while rolling back a woman's right to choose. This is an extremist wish list and if the extremists in the Congress successfully push confrontation to this point, no one will be using the dollar as a reserve currency.

Nor would a serious nation even consider the budget just passed by House Republicans. Short-term, it would destroy jobs, and long-term, it would increase the deficit — except according to the in-the-tank Heritage Foundation, whose math isn't just fuzzy, but transparently false. Every responsible analysis shows that at the right time for fiscal tightening, the plan would do the opposite, precisely, but not surprisingly, because it would lavish tax breaks on the privileged. And along the way, it would shred the social safety net.

The unserious Republicans are exploiting the widespread misunderstanding of cyclical economics and the role of deficit spending in recession and recovery. Most presidents have yielded to this easy temptation: They've professed desire for balanced budgets, but seldom been foolish enough to follow through at the wrong point in the cycle. Only JFK ventured a candid conversation with the country about this issue. Even Barack Obama, in the midst of the GOP assault, repeated the old chestnut that government, just like a family, can't spend more than it takes in. This is certainly untrue of government — and, if you think about it for a nano-second, untrue of a family. Ever hear of a mortgage — or financing to buy a car?

Last week, the president finally stood his ground, and in a speech setting out a realistic budget plan, tried to move the debate in a serious direction. His aim is to protect the recovery, and once it's fully taken hold, focus on major deficit reduction. To get there, he will also have to overcome other angry and embedded public perceptions that reward frivolous, cheap, and dangerous economic demagoguery.

One prime example is the faux populist drivel about "bailouts" — which saved the banking system and the auto industry, and, along with the equally reviled stimulus, prevented a collapse into depression — and which are now making a profit for the Treasury. People are frustrated about the failure to provide help for Main Street, although the stimulus did just that, if not enough. And in fact, without the bank bailout, Main Street would be pretty much shuttered. People are also likely to be repelled by the Republican proposal to repeal and replace Medicare with a voucher system that should properly be named "InsuranceCompanyCare," because it would assure a profit-swelling treat for the industry instead of life-saving treatments for the elderly.

The proposal is Obama's best weapon in the battles ahead. But it's about saving the best of the past and not, to borrow a phrase, about winning the future.

A serious nation would not disinvest in education, research, alternative energy, and infrastructure — the only path to sustained prosperity in a globalized world — but that is the GOP plan. Democrats too have their own unserious streak; many in Congress adamantly resist opening up trade. Pending agreements are blocked with the easy and inaccurate rationalization that protectionism will save American jobs. The Doha Round charged with opening markets generally is just about dead. The plain reality is that this country can't just consume; it has to sell — to the two billion new middle class customers in the emerging Asian markets of the next decade. That requires bringing down barriers, not clinging to them.

Nor would a serious nation follow the GOP folly of gutting trade adjustment assistance — retraining and workforce investments which are essential to prepare Americans for the higher-skill, higher-paid jobs which have to be the heart of our future economy. This isn't just an option; if we're to prosper, it's the only choice.

Finally, in dealing with the world, a serious nation would not cut diplomacy and foreign aid — of course, the latter is really unpopular, so the Republican knives are out — while throwing billions at weapons the Pentagon doesn't even want. And a serious nation would not shortchange an intervention in Libya that's as right as Vietnam was wrong. We can't let Moammar Gadhafi stay in power, inflicting terror on his own people, or Libya could become the Rwanda of this generation. We need to do more if we have to — not with our troops — but with our airpower, if the British and French fall short.

We came to our senses in Southeast Asia, late and at a terrible price. America now seems tempted by senselessness almost across the board. The question may not be settled until 2012. You don't have to agree with Barack Obama on every issue — to some, it feels that we have moved from change we believe in to deals we can barely abide — but he is a serious leader at a critical time. A serious nation would never seriously consider replacing him with one of the Republican candidates who range from the empty suit of Romney to the clown suit of Trump.
Will said -

"Never squat while wearing your spurs"

Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash, was one of the

greatest political sages this country has ever known.

Enjoy the following:

1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman.

Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it

and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men:

The ones that learn by reading.

The few who learn by observation.

The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence

and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad

10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then

to make sure it's still there.

11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.


First ~Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying

about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers.

Not me; I want people to know 'why' I look this way.

I've traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren't paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth,

think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or

Sixth ~ I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging

is that it's such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

Tenth ~ Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks,

it was called witchcraft.

Today it's called golf.

And, finally ~ If you don't learn to laugh at trouble,

you won't have anything to laugh at when you're old.

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