Thursday, October 22, 2009

Done Deal in Virginia?

I love watching the Intrade election futures market. At Intrade, people put down real money on upcoming elections as well as such doozies as the amount of snow to fall in NYC and academy award winners.

Supposedly, no candidate who ever hit $75 at Intrade (meaning, the market is predicting a 75% chance of winning) has ever lost an election. Don't know if that's true or not, but I do remember that Senator Webb hit $75 within a day of George Allen's infamous macaca flub.

Right now, McDonnell is trading at $95. Doesn't look good for the Dems in Va.

The New Jersey race is much more interesting with Dem incumbent Corzine at $64.50, Republican Christie at $35, and independent Daggett at $2.50. The Real Clear Politcs polls average has Corzine ahead of Christie by only 0.2% (39 to 39) with Daggett trailing at 15%. New Jersey Republicans had better win by more than the polls suggest bc. they don't have a prayer of winning a recount (ref. the jackass Senator from Minnesota).

The most pathetic thing at Intrade? "Charles Rangel departs as Chairman of the the Ways & Means Committee" by 12/31/09 is only selling for $20. What a crook. And it just doesn't matter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

get out

It’s time to get out of Afghanistan.

Back in my UU days I wrote a piece on the reasons for going into Iraq for round two. Try as I might, I can’t find that bit in my computer files, but from what I remember there were six or eight reasons for invading Iraq. This is what I can remember:

1. Saddam was a tyrant and a threat to Middle East stability. No one on any moral level could possibly defend the system he had created.

2. The American public was behind it.

3. The terrain in Iran was flat—good for us. We would be able to fight on our terms. We were going to win, militarily, without a doubt.

4. Arabs historically have been pathetic warriors. They quit rather that fight.

5. Iraqis were a relatively well-educated population with a history that had included visions of democratic rule.

6. Iraq had oil. Yes, stability in the oil markets was worth fighting for.

7. Fight them over there and we wouldn’t have to fight them here. Or, at least, it would be less likely that we would fight them here.

I can’t remember if those were exactly the same things I listed in those days before Facebook but it’s pretty close. At any rate, let’s apply this list to Afghanistan today.

  1. The government in Afghanistan is not a tyranny. Surely it’s corrupt when measured by Western standards, but the Taliban has been overthrown.
  2. The American public has turned against involvement in Afghanistan. O’Reilly says 60% are against it but I’m too lazy to fact check that.
  3. The terrain in Afghanistan is anything but flat. We can’t roll in the tanks. The mountainous topography favors those who walk it, who grew up in it--not those (Americans) who are interlopers.
  4. Afghanis are historically tenacious fighters. Ask the British, ask the Soviets. Does no one read a history book? These guys have been at war for decades if not centuries. It’s what they know. They will never quit.
  5. There is little history in Afghanistan of any sort of respect for, desire for, or vision of democratic institutions. It’s a tribal society that rejects central authority. Good citizens put tribal interests above the rule of law. They’re not buying what we’re trying to sell them.
  6. They don’t have oil. They have opium and pistachios. We need neither. Grandma will not freeze in the winter when the opium and pistachio supplies are cut off. Afghanistan is missing the key ingredient of democratic governance—a stable, prosperous, educated middle class. And they won't have that ingredient in this lifetime.
  7. They are not a threat to us. Sure, when we leave, the Taliban will take back over and Al Qaeda will re-establish training camps. That’s what cruise missiles are for. (Do we still have neutron bombs?) And, sure, it will be seen internationally as a defeat for America. That’s why we have aircraft carriers and B-2 bombers. If things get too bad, we can turn Venezuela into a modern-day Granada to re-establish our standing as a superpower.

My Pa spent a Christmas or two of my childhood away from home on a submarine dropping frogmen off on the shores of North Vietnam when he could have been home with his wife and kids. To this day I judge the sacrifice he and his family made with one simple question: for what? It’s clearer to me why it was that Pa missed Christmases in my youth than it is clear to me why we are sending soldiers to die in the mountains of Afghanistan. For what, I ask.

What makes this worse? The Obama government is quite simply incapable of dealing with Afghanistan. They lack the will to succeed. On the stump, O’B called this the just war so that he could be elected. But he was elected by folks who don’t want war. He can’t back down without the demagogues on the right crushing him and he can’t crack down without alienating his base. In the meantime, our soldiers are dying every day as they, their families, and Americans everywhere ask, for what?

We can’t fight this war half-way and expect to succeed. I don't think we even have a vision of success. A request for more troops is not the same as the request by some Ivy League professor for tenure. A tenure request requires months of meetings and “input”. Deliberation. Contemplation. White House politicos sit around holding meetings and deliberating and studying whether or not they think the Karzai government deserves our support—as if war strategy were some sort of trifling academic exercise. All this as American kids are dying. That reality ought not be taken so lightly. What a waste. And for what?

The will is not there to do what it takes to win.

So get out.