Monday, June 26, 2017

Most Republicans Know Climate Change is Real, So Why….

There are very few among the GOP, even die-hard Republicans unless they are a small minority of Christian fundamentalists, who will not tell you – if they trust you and in a private, off-the-record conversation – that man-induced climate change is real, serious and not a hoax. In fact, a belief in this fact was a mainstay in the 2008 presidential campaign from GOP stalwart, John McCain.
“[This] campaign ad appeared during the presidential contest of 2008. Rapid-fire images of belching smokestacks and melting ice sheets were followed by a soothing narrator who praised a candidate who had stood up to President George W. Bush and ‘sounded the alarm on global warming.’… It was not made for a Democrat, but for Senator John McCain, who had just secured the Republican nomination.
“It is difficult to reconcile the Republican Party of 2008 with the party of 2017, whose leader, President Trump, has called global warming a hoax, reversed environmental policies that Mr. McCain advocated on his run for the White House, and this past week announced that he would take the nation out of the Paris climate accord, which was to bind the globe in an effort to halt the planet’s warming.
“The Republican Party’s fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.
“‘Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax,’ said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. ‘But the entire climate change debate has now been caught up in the broader polarization of American politics.’… ‘In some ways,’ he added, ‘it’s become yet another of the long list of litmus test issues that determine whether or not you’re a good Republican.’
“Since Mr. McCain ran for president on climate credentials that were stronger than his opponent Barack Obama’s, the scientific evidence linking greenhouse gases from fossil fuels to the dangerous warming of the planet has grown stronger. Scientists have for the first time drawn concrete links between the planet’s warming atmosphere and changes that affect Americans’ daily lives and pocketbooks, from tidal flooding in Miami to prolonged water shortages in the Southwest to decreasing snow cover at ski resorts.
“That scientific consensus was enough to pull virtually all of the major nations along. Conservative-leaning governments in Britain, France, Germany and Japan all signed on to successive climate change agreements… Yet when Mr. Trump pulled the United States from the Paris accord, the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House and every member of the elected Republican leadership were united in their praise.
“Those divisions did not happen by themselves. Republican lawmakers were moved along by a campaign carefully crafted by fossil fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries (which can process 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day) as well as a subsidiary that owns or operates 4,000 miles of pipelines that move crude oil.
“Government rules intended to slow climate change are ‘making people’s lives worse rather than better,’ Charles Koch explained in a rare interview last year with Fortune, arguing that despite the costs, these efforts would make ‘very little difference in the future on what the temperature or the weather will be.’
“Republican leadership has also been dominated by lawmakers whose constituents were genuinely threatened by policies that would raise the cost of burning fossil fuels, especially coal. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, always sensitive to the coal fields in his state, rose through the ranks to become majority leader. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming also climbed into leadership, then the chairmanship of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, as a champion of his coal state.
“Mr. Trump has staffed his White House and cabinet with officials who have denied, or at least questioned, the existence of global warming. And he has adopted the Koch language, almost to the word.” New York Times, June 3rd. 
Did somebody say “Koch”? Notwithstanding the pro-climate-compliance vectors in the Paris accord supported from big oil (e.g., Chevron), that the Republican Party is deeply beholden to campaign contributions from some of the biggest natural resource extractors in the land is hardly a big secret. Especially those that are very free with the largest contributions at every level… like the Koch brothers. Even Russian media gets the power of such GOP money politics. Like this observation in the June 3rd “Trump’s highly controversial decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement was well-telegraphed throughout his campaign, but speculation that his one-time detractors the billionaire business mogul Koch brothers were behind the decision is gaining momentum.
‘What’s happening behind here is real politics. This is the victory paid and carried out for 20 years by two people: David and Charles Koch. That’s what this is about,’ Columbia University professor and Director of the Earth Institute Jeffrey Sachs said in an interview with Bloomberg.
“Sachs placed the blame for Trump’s decision squarely on the Koch brothers’ shoulders, claiming: ‘They have bought and purchased the top of the Republican party… Trump is a tool in this.’
“Koch Industries and its subsidiaries are a sprawling conglomerate that comprises everything from chemicals and plastics manufacturing to energy products such as natural gas and petroleum and even fertilizer and ranching, all of which are highly polluting industries that would greatly benefit from decreased regulation and government interference.”
So in simple words, the GOP has actually done a 180 on climate change because they were well-paid to do so. They promulgate the “hoax” of climate change, knowing full-well that it is very real. So real that the United States is one of only three countries on earth who challenge virtually all of the underlying facts and consequences of that climate change reality, relying on dramatically false statistical information, telling us that the voluntary provisions of the Paris accords are mandatory when they know they are not and promulgating a “Chinese conspiracy” against the 195 other nations who remain committed to that Paris accord. Why? Cold, hard cash.
I’m Peter Dekom, and exactly where does corruption begin and free-speech-campaigning end?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stealth Wealth Redistribution

Despite the litany of supply-side failures to create more and better jobs – most recently Kansas GOP Governor Sam Brownback’s decimation of state services without moving the employment needle through his “cut taxes” for the “job creators” tactic – and notwithstanding the worst economic inequality in this nation’s history, wealth redistribution is the Republican Party’s central plank.
The United States used to be in the green income distribution areas (considered reasonable) that the rest of the developed democratic world maintains as reflected in the above chart. But as American upward mobility has all-but-died in recent years, the United States is sliding into pink-to-red “banana republic” income inequality statistical realties (a lot more for the richest in society and a lot less for everyone else). This chart applies the “Gini Index” (named for an Italian social statistician) to measure such wealth polarization. “The Gini coefficient (sometimes expressed as a Gini ratio or a normalized Gini index) (/dÊ’ini/ jee-nee) is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a nation's residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality.” Wikipedia.
GOP policies are very intentionally focused on enhancing the wealthy, even if that has a deeply negative impact on the rest of us. Their problem? How to make that look as if they were creating a program that is fair to everyone… when it just plain isn’t. For Republicans, just about everything is couched as either “we can’t afford it” (“it “almost always applied to social and regulatory programs, not stuff they want like “defense”) or that disproven mantra, “we need to incent the job creators.” OK, let’s drill down further into what’s really happening.
Regulations that protect consumers and rein in banks’ squeezing us all, that promote occupational safety or protect our air and water quality cost wealthy corporations with compliance costs but benefit most of us. So damn us “little guys.” Repeal or limit those regulations and make such companies more profitable. Will they create more, good-paying jobs as a result?
Well, for example, they certainly disincentivize companies that manufacture equipment to provide alternative energy or environmental controls – a vastly larger industry than the dying coal business. And companies don’t just hire more people when they make more money. They need a clear business projection showing that there is a clear business opportunity to hire more people… which is not driven by their tax policies. As we learned during the Reagan era, when tax rates for companies plummet, they tend to use a great deal of that windfall capital for mergers and acquisitions… and most of us know that when two corporations combine, they move to justify that combination – with increased efficiencies and profitability – and almost always implement significant layoffs. Job loss.
You really have to wonder, if job retention and creation is the Trump administration goal, why have they so totally focused on a dying industry like coal mining (which employs under 100,000 workers, half the number of those employed in the solar energy sector), while the fading retail sector – which employs 10% of the American workforce (around 15 million) – is falling like a stone with massive job losses. OK, then, let’s just cut taxes.
While we do not yet have a fully-fleshed out revision of the federal tax code, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has already flashed a general perception of fewer tax-rate tiers that push over 90% of the tax cuts to the wealthiest 5%, some estimating that the top 500 earners stand to get annual tax savings in seven or eight figures each. We could lose $10 trillion or more over ten years under such “reform,” and guess where that money is coming from?
We’re not cutting the defense budget (we’re raising it). We can’t cut the interest cost associated with our deficit; we just owe that. We’ve already postponed any promised infrastructure upgrade. Clearly, with that massive a reduction in gross tax revenues, something has to give. Regulatory agencies, educational support, scientific research, healthcare, Social Security, social safety nets and social services to the public in general are the sacrificial lambs. As my June 18th blog – Shhhhhhhhhhhhh! – states, when it comes to implementing a massive tax cut while appeasing conservatives’ desire to contain the federate deficit, you cannot have both a solid healthcare plan and those tax cuts… so healthcare has to get cut to the bone to “incent the job creators.” It is truly an “either/or” choice.
The President has announced that Obamacare is over, that it has been a total failure. While clearly in need of a couple of fixes (like every major such program in American history), why did a program that was stabilizing, that was actually working, seem suddenly to crack at the seams, a crack that only developed after the Trump administration took control? My June 10th blog – Sabotaging the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) – shows how the Trump administration has been implementing a deliberate policy of underfunding and failing to enforce the ACA mandates, purposely disincentivizing insurance carriers to remain in the system by sending destabilizing mixed messages. Ahhhh. If you can kill Obamacare, regardless of the tactics (Trump’s base just overlooks this little meddling), then Congress will have no choice but to “repeal and replace.” Got it.
But wait. Every once and a while, this move to shift wealth further to those “job creators” (where exactly are those resulting jobs again?) surfaces as a hard slam to the vast majority of Americans: Those same hard-working Americans (around 70%) who have faced two and half decades of constant, year-to-year reductions in inflation-adjusted earning power. And sometimes the “favor the wealthy over most of us” becomes so obvious that it actually threatens the electability of those Republicans actively moving to take away benefits to their constituents, even from Trump’s legendary and seemingly immovably-loyal base.
But what Republicans aren’t openly discussing is how Trump’s populist healthcare campaign promises are completely incompatible with their lean government, incenting the rich, central platform – what some might call irreconcilable differences. “All together [looking at the GOP-Congress’ take on healthcare reform], it shows how long-term conservative goals of cutting taxes and entitlement spending have overtaken Trump’s agenda, as the bill faces critical votes in the Senate as soon as next week [week starting 6/26] that could take it to the precipice of becoming law. Reducing taxes, Republicans argue, will boost the economy, and shrinking spending on programs such as Medicaid will slow the growth of the federal debt.” Washington Post, June 23rd.
That the acceleration of America into nascent “banana republic” status in global income inequality measurements (see above), that trickle down (supply side/incent the job creators) economics has never really worked here… well we will just repeat those mantras enough until we finally make them true… Riiiiight!
But they cannot reverse the fact that what they are proposing is hardly a fulfillment of affordable, accessible and quality healthcare that Trump promised. It is very much the opposite. That nasty non-partisan Congressional Budget Office keeps reporting how the “repeal and replace” American Health Care Act (combined with the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017) will save companies and the wealthy a ton of money, while slashing tens of millions of people from healthcare coverage, reducing what is covered under Trumpcare policies and threatening massively to increase deductibles and co-pays even for those who would be paying for coverage under the new plan, a plan that accelerates de facto reductions in coverage over time.
Hospitals, doctors and insurance carriers are screaming at the expected and massive negative social and economic consequences if Trumpcare passes and the ACA is extinguished. Few in the GOP are listening. The resulting disruption and suffering will be “uuuuge.” In the words of even Donald Trump himself, the impact of this legislation, if it passes, is just plain “mean.” God help you if you are getting older, have pre-existing conditions or, heaven forbid, are poor. Oh, and GOP leaders have also announced that Social Security and Medicare are “unaffordable” as configured. Hmmmm.
So as healthcare reform now sits in an unfortunate and clearly “rich win, middle and lower classes lose big” reconciliation bill (cited above) that was drafted in secret (now released, it’s a tough read, but scary when you understand what it really says), now approaching a Senate vote… super conservatives want more “repeal” and less “replace” while moderate Republicans fear the backlash when their constituents realize that they have been sold down the river with massive reductions in their current healthcare coverage. And because it is a “reconciliation” bill, they are not vulnerable to a “filibuster” (cloture) by Senate Democrats. Anything that happens in healthcare now is clearly going to be attributed solely to the Republicans, good or bad.
Unless they are prepared to violate one of their cardinal rules – don’t incur massive deficits – the GOP-controlled Senate has to pass a hugely reduced healthcare plan, cut social programs in general, in order to get to what the GOP really wants: massive tax cuts for the rich. But they seem to be unable to hide the fact that this bill is a huge slap-down to middle and working class Americans, and most certainly for the lowest income Americans. So bad that it actually is life-threatening to many. If their plan passes and really does hit those voters the hardest, the GOP secretly fears the potential negative ripple effect in upcoming elections.
What if Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (his Kentucky constituents would be hit hard by Trumpcare), secretly doesn’t want Trumpcare to pass? He currently does not have enough votes. But what if he wants it look like he tried but does not want Republicans to be held accountable for legislation that seems certain to backfire if passed? What if he wants to continue the existing ACA in some form in order to keep the liberals that passed it as “blame them” targets?
Mr. McConnell plays his strategic cards so close to the vest that a queen of hearts must be tattooed on his tie. He may, of course, be convinced that the Senate can pass this bill. Perhaps after some moaning, and some changes to the bill through amendments, the 51 senators needed to get the bill over the line (or 50 if Vice President Mike Pence is summoned) will choose a good-enough effort over being tarred as the person who declined to make good on a seven-year promise to unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement…
“When it comes to voting yes, a majority of members of Congress have a policy price, and leaders often will write the check. “There’s the natural frustrations that people have” at the start of a process that often ends in legislative victory, said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.
“But there are potential costs for senators like Mr. Heller and others in repealing a law that has grown in popularity over recent years, and Mr. McConnell has always taken pride in protecting his members. Trying to come to a meeting of the minds with the House — which crafted a far more conservative bill in many respects — would be time-consuming and unpleasant.
“Mr. McConnell and many of his aides are also eager to get to the business of changing the tax code, which they view as less difficult than health care, and have been working with the White House behind the scenes to get that effort started. For Mr. McConnell, cutting taxes is a much higher priority than health care, which time and President Trump have turned into quicksand for him and his fellow Republicans.
“Just hours after the presentation of the Senate health care bill, Mr. McConnell met with Speaker Paul D. Ryan and White House officials to talk taxes… Mr. McConnell is not fond of bringing bills to the floor that he does not think can pass. Should he be unable to pull together enough support on the health care bill over the next week, it would seem likely at first glance that he would make the dreaded call to the White House to let the president know that he lacked the votes.” New York Times, June 22nd.
But if Trumpcare fails to pass, what happens to the ACA that Trump has seriously sabotaged? What can really happen? It just plain is not pretty, as insurance carriers have been deserting healthcare exchanges in droves based on Trump’s efforts. Can the Republicans fix this mess? And if they cannot get those massive cuts in healthcare, what impact does that have on their tax cutting plan? Stay tuned. Did I say, “not pretty,” I should have said, “downright ugly.”
I’m Peter Dekom, and shifting wealth further to the rich at the expense of everyone else has serious long-term consequences that might eventually become irreversible without… regime change, a truly terrifying prospect.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

America’s Bad Habit of Starting Wars It Cannot Win

It is fascinating – in a bad way – to watch a series of American presidents continue the war in Afghanistan with the fervent belief that we can “win.” You might not know this, but I began this blog back in 2008, in protest to an American policy that thinks of modern asymmetrical warfare in terms of “winning” and “losing.” Old world concepts when the enemy is a concept without fixed and clear territory. Having lived in the Middle East in the 1960, a time when Americans were liked and welcome is most of these Islamic nations, I watched in horror as my Yale classmate, George W. Bush, succumbed to the hidden agenda of his Vice President, Dick Cheney, in post 9/11/01 turmoil plus the manufactured a war in Iraq (2003 to ??? even though there was a technical withdrawal US forces as of December 16, 2011).
Before and during the Bush W years, Cheney openly championed a government under a powerful “unitary executive” – without the continual oversight of Congress during hot times – but faced a post-Vietnam War congressional mandate that severely limited the President’s power to engage in military conflicts. To get Congress to repeal those restrictions, he needed a congressional vote. The 9/11/01 attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers were a pretty terrific excuse.
The bill to create that “unitary executive” and repeal those congressional restrictions: The USA Patriot Act, well over 300 pages, was introduced on a Friday in October of 2001 and passed with a huge majority the immediately following Monday. Virtually no Congress person who voted for it read it. Since the bill was introduced about a month and a half after the 9/11 attacks that motivated passage (the terrorists who perpetrated the hits were trained in Afghanistan), Cheney had long-since had an on-hand a draft of the bill he wanted to get before Congress; it only required a few minor tweaks to get it ready.
With Afghanistan seemingly collapsed – the Taliban gave up power – based on cruise missile attacks, a few U.S. forces and not much more, Cheney needed a rallying point to support further expansion of Presidential powers. He needed a really war with a real threat. W. Bush fell for Cheney’s failed logic. Our intelligence agencies were pretty much instructed to “find weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) in Iraq. Contrary intelligence was to be ignored. The evidence of WMDs was false, and no such weapons were ever found. The above and now discredited satellite photograph was one of the pictures the U.S. presented to the United Nations as “proof” of such Iraqi WMDs.
While former Congressman and CIA head, President George H.W. Bush knew better than to depose Saddam Hussein (a member of the Sunni minority community) after the first Gulf War (1990-91) – knowing that this would unleash Iraqi Shiite (Iran’s overwhelming Islamic faith) power creating an inevitable alliance with America’s sworn enemy, Iran – W. ignored his father’s warning and followed Cheney’s quest for a full-on war with Iraq.
Meanwhile, the United States imposed mega-corrupt “democratic” regime on Afghanistan and promptly redeployed a large segment of U.S. forces there to Iraq. The Taliban began to reconfigure, along with more than a few local warlords, to the point where the new Afghan government controlled little more than Kabul and its environs. Iraq lived up to H.W.’s fears and is now a staunch ally of the Iranian theocracy.
We never left Afghanistan. The Afghan conflict is now America’s longest war. Terrorism has exploded since our involvement there. General after general has been deployed to deliver a victory in the harsh land where the Afghan Mujahedeen defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980s, literally precipitating the downfall of the entire Soviet regime. Dealing with alien terrain, an abysmal literacy rate, proliferation of several languages, a strict religion that differs dramatically from what most American military and political leaders understand, an alien culture, an innate local distrust and lack of understanding of foreigners and the world outside their local communities, no familiarity with democracy (mostly warlords, a monarchy or a religious dictatorship)… it is this vacuum that our military leaders have been asked to deliver a “victory.”
Since the inception of the war, the Taliban have never been as strong as they are today. It is a war we have not won… and one that we will not win. Instead, we continue to think that swatting as a wasp nest is a really good idea. What exactly do we think we offer the Afghan people that they remotely want? We don’t even understand who they are.
The notion of militant jihad is hardly confined to a “place.” It exists in pockets everywhere, as the recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and England attest. You can whack-a-mole anywhere, and the one true thing is that it will pop up somewhere else (or many somewheres). Crush ISIS entirely, and we can still expect attacks by comparable groups in numerous other venues. Al Qaeda, which we hailed as defeated when bin Laden was killed, is stronger than it has ever been, with operations in many more countries around the world.
So now it’s Donald Trump’s time at bat. He’s pretty much abdicated his role as commander-in-chief role to the Pentagon. He’s told his commanders to ramp up to whatever level of troop strength they feel they need to get the job done… a job that they can never accomplish. But they have been modest in their request, knowing that too big of an “ask” will turn the nation off from this failed military effort, further going against Donald Trump’s campaign pledge of less involvement in international conflicts.
“[The] Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week [mid-June] confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops to a war that, in its 16th year, engages about 8,800 American troops.
“Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.
“The White House played down the Pentagon’s vaguely worded statement, which referred only to setting ‘troop levels’ as a stopgap measure — a tacit admission of the administration’s internal conflicts over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan…
“But former commanders and military scholars said that in sending troops before having a strategy, Mr. Trump has put the cart before the horse, eroded the tradition of civilian control over the military, and abdicated the president’s duty to announce and defend troop deployments.
“‘A commander in chief keeps control of limited wars by defining missions, selecting commanders and setting troop levels,’ said Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who was a top commander and the American ambassador in Afghanistan. ‘To delegate any of these is dangerous.’
“The decision to send additional troops represents at least a temporary victory for Mr. Mattis and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, over Mr. Trump’s aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who had warned that sending more troops was a slippery slope toward nation building, anathema to nationalists like him who reject both the interventionist neoconservatives of the George W. Bush administration and the limited war fought by Mr. Obama.
“Those objections stymied the troop proposal several weeks ago. But officials said the White House was rattled by a huge truck bomb in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that killed more than 150, as well as by fears that military trends are running against the government of President Ashraf Ghani, an American-friendly former World Bank official, to the point that it might be in danger of collapse.
“General McMaster — who served in Afghanistan as the head of an anti-corruption task force and is closely allied with Mr. Mattis, another former general with Afghanistan experience — argued passionately to Mr. Trump that the military effort had to be expanded without further delay, according to one official.
“‘What we are seeing now is that the president has acknowledged that the Afghan mission is important, and we ought to do it right,’ said James Jay Carafano, a national security specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump’s presidential transition.
“White House officials say they are still debating America’s role in Afghanistan — one senior adviser said they would consider issues as basic as whether the country needs a strong central government, rather than the warlords who have historically divided power there. In the meantime, the Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to send 3,000 to 5,000 troops to try to stabilize the country.
“But it is not clear what Mr. Trump’s view of the strategy is, or even how involved he is in the debate. Officials said he did attend two National Security Council meetings last week — the first to discuss the troop issue, and the second to discuss the broader policy for South Asia… ‘Three thousand to 5,000 additional advisers and trainers is essential,’ John R. Allen, a retired general who served as the commander in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, said in an interview.
“When he served as the commander in Afghanistan, General Allen envisioned a residual force of 13,600 Americans and 6,000 NATO and other foreign troops — a force level that would have allowed advisers to be placed at all of the Afghan Army corps headquarters, to accompany Afghan brigades on some operations, and to set up a national training center in Helmand Province.
“The White House is calling its strategy a South Asia policy, to distinguish it from the Obama administration’s so-called Af-Pak policy. Officials said it would include diplomacy with Pakistan, India and even Iran, a nation that American diplomats cooperated with during the early months of the Afghan war but that the White House now sees as a bitter foe.
“But the administration’s efforts to harness diplomacy may be handicapped by the depleted condition of the State Department. And that suggests to some that whatever strategy the Trump administration eventually arrives at will be dominated by the military.
“‘I am not against a troop increase,’ said Daniel F. Feldman, who served as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under Mr. Obama. ‘But this appears to be tactics waiting for a strategy.’” New York Times, June 18th.
No one sums up our hopeless situation better than Ambassador James Dobbins (former State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan) in the June 23rd The Cipher Brief: “The American war in Afghanistan is in its 16th year. It was preceded by 12 years of civil war, and before that by the Soviet Union’s war. So the country itself has been in, more or less, continuous conflict since 1979. 
“Today, the Trump Administration is facing the same set of alternatives that confronted the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, this is not a choice between winning and losing. The former objective is not obtainable in any foreseeable timeframe. It is a choice between losing and not losing. 
“At present, the Afghan armed forces are gradually ceding ground to the Taliban. The Afghan government still holds all the major population centers, but the Taliban is increasing its control over the countryside. This result was foreseen by the Obama Administration when the president announced in May of 2014 that American troops would be out of the country by the end of his term. The expectation was that once American and European forces departed, the Kabul government’s control over the country would gradually erode. Although Obama and his team never acknowledged it, they were looking for what Henry Kissinger described, apropos of Vietnam, as ‘a decent interval’ between the American withdrawal and the local regime’s collapse.” We just don’t seem to learn, despite history’s rather clear lessons. 
And when you think that the United States has not won a major war since WWII, you really do have to ask yourself what all those trillions of dollars spent on Defense procurement have really accomplished. Or we can keep swatting at wasp nests and hope that those 1.6+ billion Muslims around the world will just keep letting us fight without even more dire consequences.
I’m Peter Dekom, and whatever happened to well-informed civilian oversight of our military services?