Coping: Thursday in the Mail Bag–National Security

Sadly, there has been a decline in World of Woo-Woo events in recent weeks, so we’re fresh out of those kind of reports for you.

But the mail keeps coming in covering points on this and that, much of which is interesting and worth sharing.

For example, without going into the larger context, I mentioned the speech by President Eisenhower on the “military industrial complex” in Wednesday’s report. And that prompted reader Atom to send in his little-know fact:

military industrial complex. the actual written speech, per his daughter, was “the-military industrial-congressional complex”, but because he was enjoying good relations (not sure who was on top) with congress he omitted the congressional reference. The military-industrial complex can not exist without a funding source…congress.

Thanks for listening.

And speaking of which (the military) I can’t keep but mentioning several other military-related items while I’m at it.

I often take the Obama administration to task for failing to follow through on the campaign promise to close down the penal facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  In fairness, however, the administration is not entirely to blame.

The record shows it was the US House (yep, the republicorp dominated House) that blocked administration plans to close down the detention facility there.  It’d be hard (not to mention an ugly crapstorm) for the president to unilaterally move against specific legislation.

The problem this brings into focus is that both political parties love to play dirty and switch sides on issues.  In this case, one can see how the republicorps are holding up the agenda.

All of which is not to exonerate the Administration, however.  They get other things wrong, as I see it.

For example, this Bill Gertz piece in the Washington Examiner note how the Obamanistas keep “tuning” on the rules that permit (under specified conditions) US military involvement in ther enforcement governance on American soil.

This is a particularly touchy area.  In a sense, parts of it (mutual fire and police aid) between military and local dot-mils makes sense.  But it’s the  command and control functions that are most bothersome.

I’d be really interested in some of our lawyer/readers giving us some input on how to take Gertz’ concern after reviewing DoD policy over here.  Consider it “pro bono Thursday.”

Exceptionalism: A Curiously American Delusion

The final point to this morning’s comment on things military, deeps with president Obama’s speech to West Point grads.

The full text of the speech can be found on any number of websites (like here, or here) and it’s this talk about American Exceptionalism that I find particularly bothersome.

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions. (Applause.)

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And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo, because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders. (Applause.) That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence, because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens. (Applause.) America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost; we stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere — which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership: our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.

America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism; it is a matter of national security. Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war. Economies based on free and open markets perform better and become markets for our goods. Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.”

The difficulty I have with this “exceptionalist” view is that it would have been a good argument to make up until about the end of the Eisenhower administration, or perhaps even up to the assassination of President Kennedy.

But the historical record argues that American interventions in foreign lands has long been tainted by the interests of the defense industry.

The selective prosecution of intervention can be clearly explained by looking at two “boating accidents.”

Look at the roots of the Vietnam War:  Respectable websites report that the second Gulf of Tonkin “attack” may never have actually occurred. Yet it was used as a major justification for raising the stakes in a country we were eventually hounded out of, with the loss of many lives and untold suffering of veterans to this day.  That hardly qualifies in my book at “exceptionalism.”

On the other side,  a US intelligence ship was attacked by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats during the Six-Day War and the US took no definitive action militarily.

These two “boating incidents” occurred within about 3-years of one another (1964 for the Tonkin incident and 1967 for the Liberty.)  The asymmetry of policy application is appalling, but also instructive to the aware observer.

We note that Desert Storm was a justified war.  Iraq had invaded Kuwait and it was really one of the founding wars over resources, a war which continues through present day, although seldom discussed as such in polite company.

Still, in theaters like Afghanistan, the motivation is more suspect.  To be sure, the battle originally was predicated on removing the Taliban and denying al Qaeda safe harbor.  But here are ware, 13-years later and the Taliban is still around and the opium poppy business is still causing problems in America via the heroin trade.

That doesn’t sound like “exceptionalism” to me.

To be sure, exceptionalism is “on the rocks” on a large number of other fronts.

Take the CNBC report this week that ‘Housing 1% soars as 99%ers dive” which argues to the fact of continuing.

Exceptionalism?  You tell me:  Is it exceptional that the rich/ruling class can continue to evade taxes, concentrate wealth, and fund corrupt political processes by interstate funding channels and special interest groups?  That doesn’t sound especially “exceptional” to me.

To be fair, the US has done some really exceptional things in technology (telephones, microwaves, transistors, software, and other breakthroughs including the internet do count for something.)

But the counter to this is that we don’t protect our assets worth a damn.  China is buying up huge blocks of America (with money they got from us, via Treasury purchases) and we have no national policy to reach a “golden age” of humanity thanks to all the workplace automation that is presently in the pipeline including 3D printing, driverless cars, and my favorite (*and a Peoplenomics topic) the virtual company that simply “prints money” for its owner’s.  That’s exceptionalism, alright: Exceptionally stupid.

I’d suggest that such things ought to be obvious to anyone using the word “exceptionalism. Particularly when the person uttering it holds title as HMFIC.  

A more contemporary measure of our exceptionalism might be found polling the people of Ukraine, which up until the US/West/EU started pushing their stuff around, used to be a stable place where incremental change was taking place.

Perhaps I missed something definitional:  Maybe exceptionalism means “country cleaving” for profit or resource, if we can distinguish.

Remembrance of Heroes

Still, for all our faults, America does get something things right, including remembering those who pay the ultimate price for keeping us….what we are.

Prescott Arizona, for example, is holding big doings June 30 to remember those 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in forest fire fighting operations last year.

THAT is exceptionalism.

And in America, it can happen in any career, any field, any area of endeavor.  It is not limited to those with guns or jobs at State.

The local Yavapai Amateur Radio Club will have a special events station on the air to mark the occasion, too, with a special QSL card for those who make contact:

Using the call sign N7GMH, we will attempt to make contact with as many amateur radio stations as possible during the timeframe of 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM local time Monday, June 30, 2014 (1300 UTC to 2459 UTC). We will operate on several bands including, at least, 40M, 20M, 15M and 10M throughout the day.

The Movie Is the Message Dept.

From one of our unusually well-informed sources:

“Please point out to George that there is an uncanny physical resemblance between Edward Snowden and Ryan Eggold as character Tom Keen in the television series The Blacklist.

Snowden was collecting his information with intent and later distributed it at the same time casting was probably being done on The Blacklist.

Did someone know Snowden to be villain and cast a look-alike as villain Tom Keen, the spook/killer in The Blacklist? If so, the whole Snowden story becomes terribly more murky.

As usual, I don’t want to be named for my contribution.”

It’s a fascinating possibility, is it not?  I debated sharing the observation, but like James Spader says, “What would you do, Lizzie?”

Send in those WoWW reports and other comments.  And write when you break-even.