Archive for the ‘president obama’ Category

Fight the extremists, not the Talibans.

August 15, 2009

 

Let us imagine the following. Due to some serious terrorist actions, foreign troops are forced to invade the US. Which then would lead to the least  casualties among invaders as well as US civilians: Attacking the “moral majority” or attacking the extremists groups?

 

If the invaders  limit themselves to attacks on extremists or interfering , in addition, with the court system.

 

Bringing in foreign aid workers and businessmen of the same nationality as the major invading forces or limiting the presence of foreign civilians to the minimum as much as possible.

 

Please keep this scenario in mind while we discuss the following questions.

 

First – why is the West in Afghanistan at all?  What are Western war aims? Or to put it differently, in what way does Western presence in Afghanistan make sense?

 

Second-What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Third- What is the nature of the Western Presence in Afghanistan?

 

Fourth-What makes the Western Presence unnecessarily disruptive in Afghanistan, supporting the extremists and causing avoidable damage to civilians and to the Western forces.

 

Fifth – How should the Western Forces react to the different factors in Afghanistan?

 

 

  

A.     Why is the West in Afghanistan at all? What are the Western war aims? Or to put it differently: is there any way that the Western presence in Afghanistan makes sense?

 

The drug trade, denial of women’s rights, the establishment of the Muslim laws  called the sharia, oppression of citizens. All these occur, more or less, in countries without any Western military presence and often allied with the West.

 

How is Afghanistan different?

 

a.      It has a government which does not control its own territory or even its own bureacracy (the closest comparison is former South Vietnam)

b.      The risk of an extremist takeover (not a Taliban-they are already there) is great.

c.       In addition the government itself is in danger of being taken over by drug dealers and turning into a narco state.

 

The West is there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a global danger by being a safe shelter for global terrorists. But the ones paying the price for global security are the Afghan people.

 

Therefore the only Western war aim that makes  any sense is to prevent the extremists from gaining control of Afghan territory.

 

B. What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Think of a series of dials. A big one for Afghanistan as a whole. Smaller ones for each province.  At the far left of each dial are the extremists (10%), next we have the very conservative and devout rural and small town population(40%),  then rightward we have the ones just trying to make a living and and getting along with the power that be, tolerating Western benefits  with (health care  and  women’s schools) and Western habits (rock, Western movies, Western dress) in various degrees the more you move rightward(30%). Then you have the Western modernizers who fully accept Western ideals (10%). Finally you have the drug dealers, war lords and gangsters at the far right (10%).Don’t get caught in the percentages – they are approximate and change as the needle moves. The needle is the current situation in Afghanistan based on what people think, how they act, and how the local leadership changes.

 

This means that it is not only  possible but necessary to negotiate with local Taliban leaders.  Depending on the position of the needle ,  the treaties will hold or not. However if they are broken  then it is back to the negotiating table again. Outrage will not solve anything but perseverance will give a breathing spell for ordinary Afghans to get on with their lives and  join to improve their society. It is this civil action that is the hope of Afghanistan.

 

 

        C.  What is the nature of the Western presence in Afghanistan?

 

The Western presence is that of foreign invaders with an alien culture whom the Afghan people did not ask  to intervene. The extremists are nearly all Afghans, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. That is the great advantage that they have.

On the other hand the extremists are fanatics who push the envelope till it pops.

The  great advantage of the Western forces is that the extremists run their territories so badly that even Western invaders are tolerated. Until the West in turn screws up so badly that the needle swings back again.  It  is important to note that the West is now engaged in a ground war in Asia, something which one Western general after another has warned against from General Eisenhower on down.

 

   D.      What makes the Western presence unnecessarily disruptive in           Afghanistan and and plays into the hands of the extremists?

 

i.                    Carpetbaggers.

 

These can be put under the following headings. Businessmen trying to exploit the weakness and corruption of the Afghan government to make money.

“Idealists?” claiming to help but in reality trying to impose their private agenda on the Afghans using the Western military presence and Afghan economic weakness.

 

What is the price in wayside bombs and bullets in the dark that justifies the presence of these?

 

I propose that nationals from the major contingents serving in Afghanistan (with the exception of journalists) be barred. Martyred Afghanistan is not to be a playground for economic and ideological hustlers. As for the citizens from smaller countries, their presence ought to be discouraged unless the Afghan government insists on their presence. Even their    help costs too much in paving the way for local extremists.

 

ii.                  Atrocities

 

On the face of it there is a military necessity for air attacks and artillery fire where civilians and their livelihod are at risk.  And there are no risks to the ones ordering it– charge it to the taxpayer. The risks are borne by the men in the field who are the targets of those avenging their martyred dead.

 

I propose the following, either separately or in combination for a trial period of six months:

 

a.  Air attacks and artillery fire as usual but a reduction of one pay grade for the officer ordering it.

 

b.  An board of inquiry for every such event, evaluating the necessity, the effect and eventual errors.

 

As it is now, bombing the wrong village or for inadequate reasons is written off as a mishap and these mishaps keep happening because there is no interest in correcting them.

 

                     If after 6 months (or earlier if there is a sharp casualty rise due to these restrictions)  there  is no increase in military casualties traced to these restrictions then they should remain.

 

       E.   How to minimize Western distruption of life in Afghanistan?

 

                a. Compensation for loss of life and property   

 

 

Any loss of life or property (read livelihood and shelter) due to Western military action should be compensated in a way that puts the money into the hands of the sufferers and not parcelled out through a corrupt bureaucracy.

That extremists use the civilian population as shields is totally irrelevant. They are Afghans, the Westerners are invaders and the extremists would not use the civilians as shields if the Westerners weren’t attacking them. (OK this means that the extremists are literally getting away with murder, but that is not the point.)The point is the reaction of the victims and their neighbors (see section B )

 

  b.  Establish an agricultural support program.

 

            It is important that this does not interfere with normal market procedures. That   is a matter for the Afghans. The program should be confined to compensating for floods and storms on the one hand and providing affordable (not genetic modified)  seeds for the nexts season’s planting, on the other. Unfamiliar crops for which there is a local demand could also be financed this way.  It is important that this should not go through the Afghan bureaucracy.  A benchmark should be set up for when the program should be phased out, otherwise it will always be “needed”.

 

c.  A pension plan for seniors who survived the Sovjet invasion

 

                    For many years the Afghans fought the Soviets. Their resistance was one of the major reasons for the fall of the Sovjet empire. Most of the survivors have died of privations or from the subsequent unrest.

 

   I suggest: That the West pays a modest monthly pension to Afghan senior citizens in those districts that have a functioning girl’s school and women’s medical clinic. That the payment gets into the hands of the poverty stricken population and not sticking to somebody’s palm. 

 

To sum up: Resist the extremists, negotiate with the local Talibans time and time again, limit  the carpetbaggers, cooperate with the government at arm’s length, and prepare a sensible exit strategy for Afghanistan.      

               

 

 

President Obama’s recovery plan : so far not good enough

February 28, 2009

 

 

A. Preliminaries

 

Here will be outlined another approach towards economic recovery but first –the groundwork

 

 

 That which  follows are ideas. All ideas must be sieved through pp ( practical considerations and political considerations). How does it work and will it work, and will it be accepted by the public and/or  Congress,.

 

Further, the situation, including eight years of dismounting the even then necessary oversight, is an open field for graft and Hurricane Katrine type inefficiency and waste. To add just another layer of bureaucracy is countereffective. Instead, for every program the following requirements must be met

1        Imaginative enforcement and auditing points for just that program must be identified and part of the program.

2        If possible, current enforcement agencies must change their procedures to include these programs.

3        If possible, legal challenges should  be difficult. The recovery  is a question of incentives and not of rights. 

All of the above subject to the pp sieve.

 

A final problem, which,  if recognized, is easy to solve, is the problem of benchmarks. The problem with any government program is that the bureaucracy involved has an interest in preserving it. This has often been solved by brutally cutting programs short before they have achieved their purpose or letting them drag on when they serve no purpose. So agricultural supports which were designed to even the demand cycle for small farmers and ranchers have turned out to be a handout to agrobusiness (the wealthys’ form of socialism). A benchmark for completing a program should be tied to the economy’s progress to normalcy. (Obs! It is important that this not be confused with returning to previous levels)

It is really a pp but examples of benchmarks are: new housing starts, federal   interest rate, or increasing business orders. There could be one single benchmark for for most programs or one tailored to each particular program.

It could either be a benchmark for most programs or tailored to each particular program.

 

When I propose something I stand in back of it unless convinced otherwise. When I suggest I send up a trial balloon to be shot down by any thought out proposal.

 

  1. General Considerations

 

 Recovery is not reconstruction. It would be a grave error to try to recreate the economy as it was. After all that is the economy that crashed. Nor would more oversight solve the imbalance of the economy, though greater transparency would be a great help.

 

  1. A Case in Point: the autoindustry.

 

The autoindustry was bloated, outcompeted and a menace to the environment before the crisis.

A bailout means a return to its original disastrous state. For the workforce the problem is to keep it gainfully employed in the viable parts and to provide alternatives, see below, for the rest. I propose that a joint taskforce of banks, private enterprise and government decide which parts of the autoindustry has a chance to survive if bailed out.

I suggest that this be done as follows: The taskforce above establishes guidelines for investors with a proven track record. These may bid on the viable parts of  the autoindustry. The bids will be the percentage they are willing to invest  in the viable part bid upon with the government bailing out the rest. As the economy recovers the government will sell out its stake on the general market preserving these investors’  voting rights under a benchmark period + 1 year.

 

 

D. General Incentives

 

Bailouts are not the answer. Handouts (such as tax cuts) are not the answer. Consumer earnings are the answer.

 

Bailouts keeps the economy from crashing but stimuli enables the economy to rise to an acceptable level.

 

The stimuli to start with are the most basic – consumer earnings that  have to be spent or invested without too great a delay.

 

Consumers need food, shelter, transportation, and hope for the future. What the government must do is to create an economic incubator which leads to free enterprise regaining confidence to produce and invest.

 

Where to start?  With the farmers. You can’t mothball a farm or make an instant farmer. If the farmers have a reliable market source they will make the necessary investments for the following harvest and they will be a good credit risk.  Where is the credit to come from? The regional banks serving them if such banks have a sound balance sheet and don’t need bailouts. The major financial institutions may need bailouts to keep from crashing but there is no need to support uncompetitive regional banks.  On the contrary there is a need to support reliable ones so the farmer can count on sound credit givers till the next harvest

 

How to get a reliable market source for farm products? That is a pp question. One of many suggestions is to create communal eating halls where anybody can get a square meal for an affordable amount. Many other solutions are possible.

 

We now have a recovering production sector (farmers), a demand for credit (again farmers), a demand  for their products (paying low income consumers) who can get a square meal for themselves and their families at affordable prices.

 

But where are the consumers to get their income, how much  and for doing what? Let us start with the communal eating halls. Use this as a placeholder for useful activity for elemental infrastructure which demands agricultural products. (In other words I  am making a suggestion here which easily can be replaced, and not a proposal such as supporting the farmers and the sound regional banks).

 

They have to be built and run. This creates jobs. which among other things, pays for the food. Another activity is to prevent destruction of capital by buying repossessed housing from the banks or from a “toxic reservoir” ( a government or nonprofit institution which takes over bad loans), and maintaining and improving them. To providing an additional incentive for doing a decent job there may be provisions to allow a share  of the selling price or the rent of the renovated housing or reduced rent on a longer contract for living in them.

 

How much should they be paid?. At least the minimum wage with a bit more for specialists. Why?

First to establish a demand floor. That is : the demand for goods and services will not be less than the minimum wage for the majority of wage earners. Second to establish an turnstile which will allow only productive enterprises to establish themselves and not ramshackle ones who precariously survive by cheating the taxpayer and preying on the wageearner.

 

Now we have discussed, food, shelter and wages. We still have transportation to cover.

 

The problem of the auto industry has already been  considered. We are still left with minimum wage earners who need an inexpensive temporary people mover until such time as they get off the wage and get a job which at least will support a used car and its fuel and  garage costs. Such a people mover which can carry two persons and about 100 lbs at max 40 miles an hour, powered by a combination of solar panels and rechargeable batteries may exist. Otherwise govt support of research and production will quickly create it. The problem is to prevent them being broken up for sale of the components.

To encourage small business, even if it means a slightly larger production cost, production should be reserved for small machine shops, engineering firms and do it yourself assemblers from kits. It should not be a crutch for the auto industry.

In addition I propose the return of public transit to major metropolitan areas should be supported by bailout funds as a means of employment, as providing inexpensive transportation for minimum wagers, and as a pollution reducer.

 

The risks for featherbedding are however enormous but can be reduced by making this transportation free thus eliminating both  collection devices and computer systems as well as expensive audits in just the payment sector.

 

  1. Special Incentives

 

Now for hope for the future I have 4 proposals plus some replaceable suggestions to implement some of them:

 

  1.  
    1. A Mississippi Valley Authority

 

      The Tennessee Valley Authority, chartered by congress, already exist for the production of electricity, flood control, support of agriculture, improvement of  navigation etc. The Mississippi valley is one of the more depressed economic areas of the United States. The very planning of such an Authority will give the economy a positive jolt and as the planning becomes reality will give employment and hope to many wage earners both directly and indirectly. However, there is a political trap here, the

Obama administration should make it clear that it will only undertake such a major operation, if asked by a joint resolution of the Senate and the House. Otherwise the project would be an

albatross  round the administrations neck like the League of Nations was for the Wilson administration.

 

 

  1.  
    1. A Student Bill of rights.

     One things which concerns the middle class even more than housing is affording their children’s college education.

I propose a federal loan system with student loans paid monthly to anybody attending a state university and keeping up their grades. The loans to be repayable only when the student reaches a generous wage or property level and even then at a low interest rate rate with early repayment giving a massive reduction. In short education should in principle be affordable by anybody accepted at a state university repayable after recovery is certain.

This in turn will immediately mean a demand for increased student housing which will benefit both wage earners and smaller construction firms.

 

  1.  
    1. A High School bill of rights

 

High schools today are, for all too many more of a prison or a place of storage, than an opportunity for learning. Even high school students need a break. I propose that for all above a certain age (the age is a pp) there will be an opportunity to take time out for a year if enlisted in a program which could either be local community service or a national  one.

 

Suggestions for programs (see below). The important thing is that they be adequately supervised to keep out predators and that they do not turn out to be a playground for juvenile delinquents. Obs! Participation in a national  program is a privilege, not a right.

 

  1.  
    1. A Wage Earners bill of rights (sabbatical)

 

I propose  a government program giving all, who have worked in the caring or protective sectors a certain number of years, a year’s leave for a minimum wage. The number of years, the number covered and the wage level is a pp. By caring or protective I mean the health sector, police, firemen, sanitary personnel and prison guards.

 

 

                 5. The coasts

 

a. Fish farming

 

This is a suggestion to aid the seaboards. The important thing is that if it is practically workable this should be channelled to small business and not to agrobusiness and should, if possible be supplemented by normal fishing and small ship handling activities.

                

                 b. Ship building and sailing for recreation.

 

I suggest  as one of the possible High School programs’ the building of a sailing ship and sailing it from one coast to the other.

 

                 

    6. West of the Mississippi

 

     Recreation – get the horse back into the country

This suggestion is the one of the high school programs.  Every young person that is capable should have a  chance to learn how to ride and a year to explore the country on horseback. This involves both building stables, care of horses and organizing the programs the hostels and  the trails. It, as several of the others puts money in the hand of consumers for work performed and benefits the coming generation.  (And gets them out of “jail” for a year.)

 

Start from the bottom and build upwards. Don’t start at the top and hope recovery will trickle down.

 

 

                              

                              .