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Thoughts on the Rhine

May 28th, 2012 - 5:24 pm

Rhine watching

Kehl, Germany — I’ve been making my way downstream the Rhine from Switzerland on the way to Amsterdam, leading a military history tour while observing and talking and listening to Germans and Swiss. I’ve come to a conclusion that those who speak German are sort of like red-staters (socialists though they may be) who view the rest of a failing Europe, or indeed the world at large, the way those in Texas look at California or a Wisconsin governor envisions the Illinois legislature.

For now, Germany’s war guilt, Switzerland’s past neutrality,  fears of what might follow from an EU meltdown, and apprehensions that the successful and wealthy should not rub in their accomplishments given the wages of envy from the less successful all seem to subdue the Germanic speakers. On the topic of the southern Mediterranean con, they shrug and sometimes curse their debtors, but are more confused than enraged, as if they were lucky after all centuries ago not to have been absorbed right away by the bunch below the old Rhine and Danube.

Note that I say “for now,” for human nature is, well, human nature. But as Greece goes, and Spain, Italy, and Portugal totter, and as a rich French socialist from his Mediterranean villa lectures on “fairness,” and as Obama worries that Europe won’t print and borrow enough before November, there will follow an escalating weariness, followed by pique, followed by — who knows what next?

The psyche of Germany

In other words, it is as illogical as it is common for the wayward debtor to blame the thrifty creditor for his dilemma. The Germans now are in the impossible situation of being told they did something wrong by doing things mostly right. They retire too late and caused others to retire too early; they saved too much money so others had to borrow too much; they built too many things that others wanted; they acted too much like parents and so made others too much like children.

Right now the continent’s psychological problem is not that southern Europeans cannot pay the northerners back, but that they are often arguing that they should not have to pay them, as if those who lent are more to blame than those who borrowed. The Germans rightly know that if they were just to write off the debt, such magnanimity would only lead to the same disaster in another five years, as the southern Mediterraneans cited such largess as proof that the Germans were guilty all along of mercantilism and therefore finally evened up with their moral betters. For Germans, this serial blackmail is of course an impossible situation. Would you wish to be lectured by your poorer brother-in-law on why he should not have to pay your $1,000 loan back, as he critiqued your oh-so-conventional workaholic habits?

Again, it would be as if Californians would lecture Texans about why they must give the Golden State $16 billion to solve our current budget shortfall. And then to add insult to injury, we would offer a critique of exactly what is wrong with the Texan go-get-‘em mentality and what is right with the California laid-back lifestyle that spawned one-third of all the nation’s welfare recipients, with the highest paid teachers in America’s near-bottom-rated schools. How long would Texas take that? The answer is about as long as Germany will take that.

Waking up history

As we float downstream and discuss the Roman border forts on the Rhine, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, World II, and the postwar era, you can see why there arose a NATO, an EU, and a nuclear Britain and France, but not a nuclear Germany. These were all sorts of creative ways to channel German dynamism away from natural expressions of political — and military — influence. Two Germanys, the Cold War, German war guilt, an activist U.S. — all that both by design and by fate worked for nearly seventy years and gave us a prosperous pre-2007 stable Europe. But the noble lies of the EU — that technocrats could reinvent human nature and ensure a continental equality of result, as culture bowed to edicts from Brussels — destroyed the pretenses of the post-Cold War world. The scab is now off, the wound is still raw.

What would be the salvation of Europe? Praise, rather than damnation, for Germany; requests for German advice coupled with thanks for bailouts and promises of reform. In other words, impossible admissions from proud broke peoples that the way they are living is not sustained by the way they are working and organizing their society. How tragic that when the Germans finally learned to channel their talents and energies into pure production and enriched themselves and those around them, it still earned them in the end suspicion and envy, and yes, growing dislike — disarmed, pacifist, and multilateral as they try to be. Reader, you tell me what follows.

Culture is everything. That is a politically incorrect thought that can get you in trouble as much as we suspect it is true.

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Winning Battles, Losing Wars

May 20th, 2012 - 1:43 pm

Can We Still Win Wars?

Given that the United States fields the costliest, most sophisticated, and most lethal military in the history of civilization, that should be a silly question. We have enough conventional and nuclear power to crush any of our enemies many times over. Why then did we seem to bog down in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? The question is important since recently we do not seem able to translate tactical victories into long-term strategic resolutions. Why is that? What follows are some possible answers.

No—We Really Do Win Wars

Perhaps this is a poorly framed question: the United States does win its wars—if the public understands our implicit, limited strategic goals. In 1950 we wanted to push the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel and succeeded; problems arose when Gen. MacArthur and others redefined the mission as on to the Yalu in order to unite the entire Korean peninsula, a sort of Roman effort to go beyond the Rhine or Danube. Once we redefined our mission in 1951 as one more limited, we clearly won in Korea by preserving the South.

In Vietnam, the goal of establishing a viable South was achieved by 1974. Congress, not the president or the military, felt the subsequent peace-keeping commitments and air support were too costly. They allowed a renewed Northern invasion that led to a second and lost war, and then were surprised that the North Vietnamese proved to be not campus radicals but hardcore Stalinists.

Panama, Grenada, and Serbia were successful small enterprises. In the first Gulf War, the strategic aim was to oust Saddam from Kuwait—or so we said. That succeeded, though it did not solve the problem of what Saddam would in the future do with his vast oil revenues. In the second war, the mission was to remove him, birth a democracy, and then leave Iraq better than before. That more ambitious aim too succeeded—not, however, without enormous costs.

Our strategic objective in Afghanistan was to oust the Taliban and ensure that it did not return to host terrorists on Afghan soil. The former mission was done over a decade ago, the latter hinges on the Afghans themselves after we leave. We vowed to rid Libya of Gaddafi and we did—and did not exactly promise that what followed would be immediately better than what we removed. In such special pleading, the U.S. has won its wars as it has defined them. Note the great success of the Cold War that ended with the destruction of the Soviet Empire.

Not So Fast

But wait—North Korea was on the ropes and now over a half-century later still threatens our interests, and with nukes no less. Should not the destruction of that system have been the real aim of the Korean War? North Vietnam united the country under a communist government, whatever way you cut it. Iraq was a mess, and its democracy may in time prove no more than an Iran-backed Shiite autocracy. In Afghanistan, does anyone think our Afghan partners will keep out the Taliban after our departure? Are the Libyan riffraff that took over all that better than Gaddafi as they kill tribal rivals, hunt down blacks, and desecrate military cemeteries? What exactly were we doing in Lebanon and what did we do after terrorists killed 241 of our people?

Strategy, What Strategy?

Why, then, does the use of American military forces not guarantee sure victory? The most obvious answer ib why we argue over the results of our interventions is an inability to articulate our strategic objectives—what exactly do wish to see follow from our use of force and for how long and at what cost? Do we wish to rid the world of Bashar al-Assad? We could do that quite easily and probably without ground troops. But would the region be more or less stable? Would Iran suffer a blow or find ways to fund more terrorists? Would the collateral damage from funding insurgents or bombing be worse or not as bad as the current Assad toll? Would the insurgents prove reasonable, or more like those in Egypt and Libya—or even worse? Many of our problems seem to hinge on explaining to the public what we wish to do, why so, how, at what cost it is to be accomplished, and what we want things to look like when we’re through.

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Change—and Some Hope

May 12th, 2012 - 4:46 pm

Rays of Sun Amid the Storm

The Rasmussen Tracking Poll recently had Romney up 50 to 42 over Obama. At this early juncture, such polls mean nothing—except as diagnostic indices of why perhaps both candidates go up and down in popularity.

So why has Barack Obama plunged in the polls these last few days?

The Republican slugfest is over. The media cannot headline any longer the daily conservative suicide. Barack Obama’s job report came out at 8.1% unemployment—but, more importantly, with information that a smaller percentage of adult Americans are working than ever before, and fewer in absolute numbers than nearly four years ago when Obama took office.

So someone must be asking, “What then was the lost $5 trillion for?” Note, in this regard, the 5.4% unemployment rate that won George Bush the slur of a “jobless recovery” in 2004.

There was some pushback to Obama’s spiking the football on the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.

And have you noticed how Team Obama keeps losing the doggy wars? Seamus begat a photoshopped Dachshund sandwich; Romney’s supposedly terrible polygamist great-great grandfather in Mexico begat Obama’s polygamist father in Kenya; Rush Limbaugh’s “war on women” begat Bill Maher’s misogyny; Romney the high-school hair cutter begat tapes of Obama as the chronic drug user and recollections of Biden, the neighborhood teen bully. I know why the Obama people wish to distract from the economy, but at some point they must accept that they are losing these trivia tit-for-tats, and it now is beginning to show in the polls. (Hint: you may think it neat to ridicule a Mormon, but for purposes of fielding a clean candidate, Romney is a political operative’s dream in this age of adultery, sin, drug, and drink—which is why the Washington Post is back to a supposedly insensitive 18-year-old Mitt Romney this last week).

The flip-flop on gay marriage, of course, did not win Obama a single vote, just plenty of one-percenters’ money. More injurious to his cause was his idiotic refrain about his “evolving” views. No one believed that yarn: fifteen years ago he was for gay marriage when it was smart politically for him to be so, and then he revolved to “no” when it was not. All that happened this week was that clueless Joe Biden jumped the gun. Obama with a wink and nod had privately assured rich gays, as he had Putin, that after his reelection he would give them what was wanted, but could not quite yet, given his need to hoodwink the clingers to get reelected. I think most voters understood that con as emblematic of this presidency.

Then there are the lack of press conferences, the non-stop shakedowns of rich people whom he caricatures, and the somnolent speeches (“make no mistake about it,” “I/me/mine,” “in truth,” “let me be perfectly clear,” “I inherited a mess,” “pay your fair share,” and blah, blah, blah).

Add all that up, and one loses 6-8 points. Keep doing it and he will lose even more. At this rate, Obama will be October surprising Iran.

Despite, not Because of, Obama

But there is more good news. Surveys of federal oil and gas reserves keep soaring. At some point, some president is going to realize that by tapping such bounty all at once he can create new jobs, earn budget-deficit-reducing cash, stimulate the economy, cut down on the trade deficit, and marginalize the Middle East as a security issue. If Obama wishes to pass on that godsend, so be it: he can bequeath to his successor even greater riches that will only increase in value.

Rather than Obama destroying the economy, there is a sense emerging that he is merely restraining it. Should Obama lose in November, there will be the greatest collective sigh of relief since 1980 and a yell that all hell will break lose, in the good sense of business activity, commerce, investment, hiring, and resource utilization being unleashed.

Look at it this way: for four years Obama has poked and jabbed at the corralled stallion, and when the gate goes up he will roar out as never before. Or if you are a Greek, try this: for 30 years we have been lectured to death about global warming, the brilliant Ivy League technocrats, the genius of Keynesian borrowing, the need for multiculturalism in the White House, if only we had open borders, why lawyers and academics need to be in charge—all on the “what if” presumption that no one in his right mind would let any of the above become gospel. And so we had the constant liberal whine, “if only.…” Now we have it in the flesh, and in cathartic fashion Obama is going to purge us of that unhinged temptation for another generation.

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All Fall Down

May 6th, 2012 - 10:18 am

The temple of postmodern liberalism was rocked these last few weeks, as a number of supporting columns and buttresses simply crashed, leaving the entire edifice wobbling.

Fake but Accurate Identities?

The trivial Elizabeth Warren “high cheekbones” fraud nonetheless offered a draw-back-the-curtain look into the gears and levers of our national race industry. The real story is not that the multimillionaire liberal (and one-percenter) Warren fabricated a Cherokee identity for over a decade (to the delight of her quota-thirsty universities), but rather the notion that if a pink blond at Harvard can get away with faking a career-enhancing minority identity, then anyone, anywhere, can—or rather often has.

Give Ward Churchill his due: he worked at it—unlike Warren, who junked her supposed great, great, great grandparent once she got tenure and being “Indian” was a drag at Cambridge cocktail parties. At least, like the proverbial chameleon on the leaf, Churchill tried to alter his appearance with buckskin, beads, and braids to find an edge his otherwise mediocre talents and white male status would not supply. In contrast, Warren simply by fiat claimed high cheekbones—no beads, no trips to the reservation, no buckskin, no Churchillian effort. Note the connivance of Harvard, which hand-in-glove used Warren’s pseudo-identity to pad its “diversity” goals, which enable a mostly white yuppie left-wing faculty to, well, not feel too guilty about remaining a mostly white yuppie left-wing faculty.

Anyone who has taught in a university has come across the “Cherokee” con, especially given the Oklahoma diaspora in California. By the time I retired from CSU, I was exhausted with “1/16th” Cherokee students, who claimed success with their gambits. This was a world of Provost Liz Smith-Lopezes, José Beckers, Simba Bavuals, and all the other attempts to traffic in victimized identities.

Still, Warren, as no other recent examples, reminds us of the bald fakery in America these days. “Van” Jones was not born Van Jones. Louis (note the Jehmu Greene bowtie) Farrakhan was not born Farrakhan (yet just try to be a cool black racist as the Caribbean Louie Wolcott, aka Calypso Gene). In his twenties, Barry Dunham Obama went from Barry (a not very useful preppie suburbanite-sounding name) to Barack Obama. In the La La lands of academia, high journalism, and big government (though not in the landscaping business, farming, or short-order cookery), we sometimes wear identities in America as we do clothes, a different outfit as the occasion demands, given that our present-day Jim Crow racialists are busy figuring out to what degree pigment, ethnic ancestry, nomenclature, or assumed identity “counts.”

Cross the border and you in theory can go from an impoverished Mexican national that lived a wretched material existence thanks to grandees in Mexico City to a “minority” with vicarious claims against the American system who is suddenly eligible for oppression-based, affirmative action recompense. But if your family came from Egypt in 1950, you apparently qualify for very little reparations, even if you are darker than the recent Jalisco arrival. Yet again, score 1600 on the SAT and achieve a 4.5 GPA in high school, and if both Asian and wanting to go to Berkeley or Stanford, well then, who cares about the Japanese interment, the Chinese coolie labor of the 1850s, or the exclusionary acts of the 1920s? Too many Asians doing too well is not diversity at all, so we go into the reverse quota mode of exclusion. Warren reminded us that we will soon need DNA badges to certify the exploding ethnic, racial, and gender claims against society. And just as there are too few young these days to support the retiring Baby Boom generation on Social Security, so too we have too few oppressors left to pay out subsidies and recompense for the growing legion of Warren-like victims.

Isn’t It the Economy, Stupid?

We have had 38 months of 8% plus unemployment. We are setting records in the numbers of Americans not working and the percentage of the adult population not employed. GDP growth was a pathetic 1.7%. The borrowing hit $5 trillion under Obama, who between golf outings and campaign hit-ups of wealthy people, adds $1 trillion plus each year in more debt. To question how to pay it back is to pollute the air or abandon the children. In 2005, Paul Krugman was writing why Bush’s spending was going to crash the economy; in 2012, Paul Krugman is writing why Obama’s far greater deficit spending, on top of Bush’s debts, is not going to crash the economy, given that we need to borrow far more than our paltry $3 or $4 billion a day.

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