Posted on

The United States on the World Stage: Slow-Motion Train Wreck

7 October 2019

The Slow-Motion Train Wreck.

Today’s foreign affairs headline reflects, in microcosm, our status as the “world super power.” We are no longer that, of course. We are an international train wreck. Specifically, what your are about to read is why I put chapter 16 in Street Politics: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore. More generally, realities like what you’ll see below are why I wrote the book.

Let me preface by saying that precious few who read this will come away with the intended message. The reason for that is simple. Folks who read political/social commentary tend to lean in one strong direction or another. In today’s childish political environment that mostly equates to the two camps of I-LOVE-EVERYTHING-ABOUT-TRUMP (ILEAT) or TRUMP-IS-THE-ANTICHRIST (TITA). Both camps are brain damaged and rarely capable of real discourse.

The ILEAT believes that POTUS is a genius. No matter how stupid or immature his comments or tweets, they are convinced the gaffes are really signs of an underlying genius that only ILEAT members have the gift to understand. They believe he authored the tax reduction and actually “cured” us of Obamacare. He did neither. They believe that a wall, because he told them so, was going to solve out illegal immigration problem. It won’t. But don’t tell ILEAT that.

This cadre also believes that Donald Trump really is the greatest dealmaker of all time. A dealmaker he may be (there is doubt about who actually negotiated his deals in civilian life) but that hasn’t served him well so far in his international dealings and that is what we will discuss here.

And let’s face it, 1600 words is nothing. But for the average voter right now it’s considered a tough slog.

Look at North Korea, Hong Kong, Europe, China, Iran. They are taking advantage of Trump’s overtures to gain legitimacy. In the case of North Korea and Iran it is ONLY in Trump’s talk of making deals with them that they have even the pretense of legitimacy. But… in order to make the “beautiful, beautiful” deals the Donald claims are on the horizon, he needs people on the other side who want to make a deal. So far, none of them do, so they string him along with hints of deals and short, meaningless “negotiations”.

On the TITA side you have the idiots who think everything wrong with the US, especially foreign affairs, is the fault of Donald J. Trump. This is even more absurd than the former group.

Whether you agree with Trump’s approach or not (I don’t) there is one truth that can only be denied by the most credulous and ignorant: He is at least trying to move us back onto the world stage and regain some power and prestige.

Generations of politicians before him, both legislative and executive, have slowly ground away our position in the world mostly through a combination of incompetence, cowardice and cruelty. I’ll explain how that is still true today. Trump’s immediate predecessor actually took sides AGAINST America’s interests from his infamous apology tour through his standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the mullahs, against his own people, to guarantee Iran nuclear weapons by 2024.

Trump may be flailing from scheme to scheme, but he is at least trying. I will also credit him thusly: I think much of what we have seen of our policies throughout the Middle East are the result of advice going to Trump from advisors who have no greater concept of success there than he has.

So, with all that said, why write the article at all?

Someone has to say it.

One other caveat: This is not intended as an argument for or against new adventures in foreign lands. It is a critique of our existing ones.

If you prefer to get straight to the big picture, read the book.

So let’s dive in.

The morning headlines announced Trump’s reversal of his December reversal of his previous announcement that we were leaving Northern Syria. Back in December, when he first blurted out that we were leaving the region it became immediately clear that he was acting on impulse and had not sought the advice of the Pentagon or the Joint Chiefs. When they had a collective conniption, Trump quickly said we would stay to protect the Kurds (loyal allies) from Turkey’s clear intention to wipe them out. This morning? Meh…not so much.

From Korea to Iraq and Afghanistan we can now add Syria to the list of places where we wasted American and foreign lives for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. In most cases, we have then left those who fought by our side to be broken by the enemy, as is now the case with the Kurds.

The poor, pathetic Kurds. Three times in three decades we sought their support in our ham-handed dealings in Iraq, and now Syria. Three times they took our side asking that we be there for them, if not to help them gain the independence they sought, then at least to keep them from being overrun by their enemies. And now, again, we have failed them.

Remember, it was Bashir al-Assad, emboldened by Barack Obama’s fecklessness, who decided to break from his father’s harsh but pragmatic style and start to crush his opponents overtly. Obama’s repeated lack of response (no law said he had to respond) left a power vacuum too tempting for Russia to resist. Assad had made too many domestic enemies. Seducing him was a cakewalk for Putin. 

In regaining a foothold in the Mediterranean not enjoyed since the 70’s, Russia made a cold calculation to let ISIS run free in northern Syria. Their presence there and in Northern Iraq, on real estate we paid for with blood – more than once – was icing on the cake for both Putin and Assad. They knew our position in Iraq was severely diminished thanks to Obama’s intentional destruction of the previous Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Even the sorry, corrupt government in Iraq at the time knew Obama didn’t care how many American lives were lost there when he sent Joe “Duh” Biden to “renegotiate” (SOFA) less than a month before it expired.

This set the stage for Iran to become the dominant force over the area we had fought for.

With the US busy in Iraq, Assad could continue to gas villages sympathetic to his internal enemies. If we moved against Syria, we would be the aggressors, on paper anyway.


Ad:

This Christmas, let your family and friends know just how cool you really are!

Po River Furiture


And the situation didn’t improve with age. Obama played paddy cake with ISIS and Putin for the final years of his presidency. His obsequious use of the term ISIL (even ISIS didn’t use the self-aggrandizing term for themselves anymore) throughout made it even more distasteful to watch.

The Trump administration reinvigorated W’s limited war practice to just barely rid Iraq and part of Syria of ISIS. Now, with the help of Turkey, ISIS is reconstituting as we speak.

The only locals who actually fought effectively through all this were the Kurds.

And so we come full circle. This is the same Turkey who will roll right past our people in the region and try to stomp the remaining Kurdish forces there into a fine paste. The Donald is making tough noises about this, “I’ll wreck your economy” and such. But that is for domestic consumption. If Turkey respected Trump they wouldn’t be sheltering ISIS or pushing into Syria to kill Kurds. They are doing both.

This post isn’t about whether we should involve ourselves in these places. That ship has sailed. The fact is, under an endless succession of post-Vietnam yes-men, we ARE there. We have once again wasted American lives and not pushed the contest to an advantageous outcome.

The few reading this who understand how the world actually works, get it. But the others?…

To the TITAs among you: Did Trump’s predecessors do any better? While I disagree with his approach to our present situation, I would contend POTUS is doing as well or better than any of his predecessors since WWII. That’s a REALLY LOW goddamn bar.

To the ILEATs; However we feel about Iraq (I don’t think we needed to go there) what of our actions since?  All those Americans killed and injured taking territory – in the case of some cities, more than once. Did they do it so Iran could take control of two thirds of the fucking country? And the guys who fought ISIS, was that so the nut bags could take cover in Turkey and come back later? How do we sum this up? Was it all just a fucking gesture? Do we now get to “harrumph” everyone and walk away having accomplished nothing, or worse leaving the field to a happier, healthier enemy (Iran)?

I’ll answer all those questions for you. No, Trump’s predecessors have done no better. They were all gullible enough to think limited war is a good idea. (Some jerkoff in the last 20 or so years came up with the term asymmetrical warfare as a synonym for limited war. It sounds so POWER POINT!) And yes, we are going to treat the sacrifices, both ours and those of our enemies, as a vapid gesture and we are going to walk away.

 

Thank you TITAs and ILEATs. Thanks to all who think war is good or bad based on who is president at the time. And of course, thanks to the governing class. Because of you, we WILL do this all again after we finally absent ourselves from Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s because many reading this are hopping mad right now – not at the situation, but at me – and you are incapable of learning.

All the other foreign debacles I mentioned at the outset will play out just as well. Some of that will be Trump’s fault. But his predecessors teed all of it up, especially in the cases of China and North Korea.

Oh, hell. Just read the damn book.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/35980364@N04/31607887384/”>mccauleys-corner</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Putin:Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/45909111@N00/9817146255/”>Gwydion M. Williams</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
protest: Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/126497846@N03/46815696351/”>hillels</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
soldier:  Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/152139242@N07/47928990378/”>Katzencie ♡</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Posted on

Let’s Not Relearn All the Same Lessons! 2020

We saw it all coming!

Update: Bloomberg just entered the primaries.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse.  He’s late to the game, but hey…he’s slightly more acceptable than the rest of the Dem fi

I had just wrapped up the second edition of this book during the 2016 general election.  In it, I got one key prediction wrong.  I said Trump was looking weak going into the fall and might well loose the election to BJ Bill’s wife.

Then, the FBI found criminal evidence against Hillary on Arnold Horshak’s laptop.  You remember him…Huma Abedin’s dumb ass husband?


A great idea for Vets and By Vets


Anyway, that is the one prediction and/or policy position I will own as being wrong.  But I NAILED IT again and again through the rest of the book! Damn, you’d think Bernie Sanders read every word and used it all (process – not policy).

I took the price down to poverty royalty levels. Trust me when I say this won’t pay the mortgage.  But I want as many people as possible RIGHT and LEFT to read this before we get down to brass tacks in the 2020 election.

You should really, REALLY read this book!

Posted on

Rocky VIII: An Economic Metaphor Part 2


Please support our sponsors:
This is a project for Vets and run by Vets. Cool, right?  Click here!

Update: 11/7/19  The tariff circus drags on.  China continues to play the US like a fiddle.  With every “deadline” China simply makes obviously empty promises and gets the date to slide further right.  Today we hear we have a the framework on terms to be negotiated and a venue.  And we are told that we won’t get the “big” deal this time around.  (big shock, right?)  Instead we will get a promise from China to buy more stuff – AGAIN!  And that will be called a deal.  (Pass the fig leafs) As I have said in many places:  When all this is over, we will ALL end up very much where we were when it started.  TARIFFS DON’T WORK. AND THEY CERTAINLY DON’T WORK AGAINST TOTALITARIAN STATES!!!  Only real free trade works across the board.  But there isn’t one politician with the sack to actually discuss real free trade.

At the moment, that doesn’t even exist in this country!

8/14/19  4:27

The markets have closed down 800+. And no, it still isn’t the Hong Kong riots that caused the drop. That is just another symptom.

In Hong Kong, as with all drawn-out protests by youth, a Lord of the Flies mentality has set in. Agitators in their little corners of the conflict are fighting for the conch by attacking police and trying to be the toughest boy scout. This will cause them to lose public support and has doomed their fight. China wins. Of course they were always going to. They won’t let ANYTHING change because of this protest. The government is not civilized and they don’t preside over a democracy.

One cop showed incredible restraint when cornered by several attackers using sticks to beat him, quite badly. He drew his weapon but didn’t fire it. If it had been me, there would be dead kids at the Hong Kong airport. That’s one GOOD cop.

But back to the real problem at hand.

Who are tariffs good for? Certainly not consumers. And they don’t help suppliers of goods not protected. As I stated in my January article, they only help the specific industries being protected, allowing them to RAISE prices with less competition, but only for a short time. Then everyone looses.


Ad

Who dresses your bar?

Po River Furniture creates beautiful barware and wine stoppers. All are handcrafted, one-of-a-kind and made one at a time; utterly unique.

Most of our inventory is turned from storied, reclaimed wood. We make some of the finest conversation pieces you’ll see at an event.

Please visit and say hello.

 


Thanks to this ridiculous tariff scheme we STILL have silly scenarios like this one: There are tariffs on materials used to make bicycles but no tariffs on bicycles. So U.S. manufacturers of bicycles, already hampered by higher labor costs here, now must pay more for materials and parts. The result? Foreign bike manufacturers, including Chinese companies have an even greater advantage in our market. Come Christmas all the “buy American” slogans in the world will not put an American-made bike under the tree in this country. And the tariff scheme is riddled with this stupidity, as if just launching this campaign wasn’t stupid enough.

So who pulled Trump’s chain?

I don’t know who in the administration stroked Trump’s ego well enough to put him on this idiotic tariff bender, but I’d like to strangle them. We had just emerged from an abysmal 8 years of little of no growth and had just a bit of traction under out feet (even Europe was growing for the first time in a decade) when it was all wiped out with this one impetuous and utterly ill-conceived act.

Yes, many players on the world stage are corrupt and still charge tariffs to please their cronies. Hell, Europe has been enjoying tariffs we allowed since after WWII to give them a shot at recovery. And we completely dominated the world’s economy for 75 years. Europe didn’t become a dominant power. Still, tariffs are an insult to free trade and should have been done away with. But how? With US tariffs? Hardly.

In our last episode a victorious Rocky (the US economy), still injured from his rematch with Creed, is being forced to fight Clubber Lang, Tommy Gunn and Ivan Drago (trading partners) at the same time. Mickey (Trump) said it was for Rocky’s own good (national security).

At the outset, Rocky seemed to be standing his ground. Gunn (Mexico and Canada) didn’t have the stomach for a fight and knew it wasn’t in his best interest. He immediately threw in the towel because Mickey was willing to renegotiate NAFTA. It was a smart move. He leaves the ring, not a hair out of place.

But problems remain.

Lang (Europe) puts up more of a fight. He throws lots of punches at the US economy and calls Mickey a bully but then slips in a few concessions, some of them really good (like zero tariffs on cars – our biggest obstacle). Where Lang might be inclined to turn on Drago (China) in the overall fight and stand with Rocky, he can’t. Every time he tries to step in, Mickey tells Rocky to punch him on the face. Mickey says he doesn’t want parody with Lang, he wants a complete advantage. Instead of taking 80% and turning Lang against Drago, Mickey chooses to post childish and insulting tweets about Lang, pissing him off and reinvigorating him.

Despite a groin injury (zero, and even negative economic growth) Lang persists in the fight. While he isn’t as much of a threat, his continued presence in the ring makes Rocky’s real challenge more difficult. And with each punch he gets weaker, so even if Lang (Europe) does eventually try to turn on Drago, he will be too weak to help.

Drago (China’s economy) is huge, everyone says his economy is weak and he can’t stand up to a trade fight with the US. But he has something the Rocky doesn’t have. His corner is a totalitarian police state. The corner will not suffer if Drago takes hits, even severe ones. Drago’s fans will. But they will endure what they are told to endure and they will like it.

It won’t end well.

You see, ultimately, that is where controlled economies must end up. You can’t control economics like you are planning a birthday party, although idiots who call themselves economists and politicians try every day. But you can oppress people. The more control exerted over the economy, the greater the oppression must be. I give you Free College for All, The Green New Deal and Tax the Hell Out of the Rich as examples.

Where will this end? It remains to be seen. But it won’t end well. Serious and unnecessary damage has been done and it will take a while to unwind.

Leaving the ring for the real world, we have two options to fix this and move on:

  1. Real free trade

OR

  1. Demanding tariff-free trade among all our trading partners

I’ll address number 2 first.

U.S. Dominated Trade

We can start by country or by region or with all our trading partners at once. Congress passes a law that states by a date certain there will be no tariffs anywhere in trading with the United States. We send you our Spaghetti-o’s, you send us your kumquats. They are sold to our respective consumers unencumbered by tariffs. If you keep or create tariffs, you have sold your last kumquat in the US. Subsidies would have be eliminated at the same time as they are just the B side of the same 45, created to thwart competition.1

This is preferable to the existing fight and the pre-existing status quo. However, it isn’t really free trade. If trade takes place under the auspices of the US government, like it as we may, it isn’t free. Making a product and gaining market share at home or abroad is up to the companies who wish to trade, not the government!

And, oh, by the way, try to wrestle sugar or corn subsidies from the political whores on Capitol Hill or the cronies they protect. They’ll tell you the economy is too complex and you just don’t understand why we have to take the bribes we take to help market sectors. Poor, ignorant you.

Market-Dominated Trade

Number 1, above, is actually the real answer. Free trade. Really free.

Sadly for the dupes who think the government is obligated to get your rubber dogshit into novelty stores in Poland, this scenario pretty much resembles the situation we have right now, based on how ignorant other trading partners remain.

If you, unlike most politicians and career government workers, have brains and vision, you understand that having rich trading partners is better than having poor ones. So rule number one for healthy trade is don’t impoverish your customers. You are not obliged to prop them up, but you don’t kick the stool out from under them either.

Further, if Heinz wants to sell ketchup in Germany and pay a hefty tariff to do so, that is none of the U.S. Government’s business. That is 100% up to Heinz and the board of directors. It is up to that company if they wish to move into a market where they are made artificially less competitive based on price. If they didn’t think they could use the popularity of their brand and quality of their product to make money in that market, they wouldn’t send their stuff there to begin with. And if Berliners wish to pay more for ketchup or pay tax money to their own ketchup companies in the form of subsidies, that is their concern ONLY.

Naturally, if Heinz finds a political whore who will go and fight and threaten the Germans or initiate tariffs here, I suspect Heinz would make huge campaign contributions and pay tens of thousands of dollars for speeches to be made by the whore in return. But that doesn’t make it right.

The lesser of two evils? Meh, Maybe.

I support choice number 2 over the status quo. But I know choice number 1 is the best long-term answer to all of this. I hold out absolutely no hope that ANY of our politicians have the guts to start the process by winding down our existing market protections to undeserving cronies. And I also despair at Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity on the matter.

How bloody it gets depends on how long people insist on being stupid. But when it all finally shakes out we will all be financially weaker and pretty much the same place we were relative to the rest of the world when this all started.

So, Rocky is screwed on this one. We all are. But don’t worry. You’re screwed on lots of other ways as well. Maybe next time we’ll revisit how Facebook, Google (and politicians that are supposedly “taking on the tech giants”) are playing all of you for total suckers

 


Don’t be a political pansy! Read Street Politics, the book that predicted it all!

1. But we’ll deal with subsidies in another article.  I did deal with them in my book.  See the link above.