12 April 2010

Tragedy is likely to result...

I make no effort to discern the intended meaning of the authors because authors do not control the meaning of their own words once they are uttered in public.
-Ted Hopf, Social Construction of International Politics

Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility and commitment.
-H. Ross Perot

Congress sees no budget rush
Congress is poised to miss its April 15 deadline for finishing next year’s budget without even considering a draft in either chamber.

Unlike citizens’ tax-filing deadline, Congress’s mid-April benchmark is nonbinding. And members seem to be in no rush to get the process going.

Indeed, some Democratic insiders suspect that leaders will skip the budget process altogether this year — a way to avoid the political unpleasantness of voting on spending, deficits and taxes in an election year — or simply go through a few of the motions, without any real effort to complete the work.

The practical consequences of failing to produce a federal budget for next year are about the same as they are for a family that doesn’t set a plan for income and spending: Congress doesn’t need a budget to tax or spend, but enforcing discipline is harder without one.

Understanding the Russian Military
The Russian military is often dismissed offhand based on perceptions with outdated roots in the mid-1990s and the turn of the century. In truth, the Russian military has seen very significant improvements since that time, and the Kremlin’s net military capability exceeds the Western perception of it.

Western analysts have already begun to pick apart the Russian invasion of Georgia, citing details that they argue denigrate the performance of the Kremlin’s military. But something very different is going on. Where they see failures based on modern Western standards of military performance (inappropriately applied to today’s Russian and yesterday’s Soviet militaries alike), we see the effective exercise of military force. When the moment came, the Russian military achieved the Kremlin’s objectives without suffering unreasonable losses. Though widely touted as a failure, this is the essence of any successful military operation. They are never pretty. But by the above measure, the Georgian operation was a success — tactically, operationally and strategically — for Russia.

Former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is an intelligence officer, and the cultivation of false perceptions is an inherent part of the skills he learned and the trade he plied as a professional. Furthermore, he has long understood the value of technology-focused espionage.

Russia’s net military capability exceeds the perception, and that is no accident. The perception is carefully cultivated by Russia and compounded by a tendency in the West to judge Moscow by Western military standards.

Working through the US jobs crisis
To be unemployed in the US – to lose your identity as a consumer in an economy where 70 per cent of all activity is consumption – is in some way to inhabit another country.

In fact, if you count all the unemployed, underemployed, and those who have given up looking for work in the US, you have a population of almost 30mn – a country about the size of Canada.

The political future of Barack Obama's presidency may hinge on his ability to bring the unemployment rate down. So the question that immediately comes to mind is why he has not yet proposed a single big idea or bold plan commensurate with the scope of the crisis.

Follow the chain of command
Rules of engagement are designed to manage risk. The more they are calibrated to minimise the risk to one's own troops, the greater the potential risk to innocents. Equally, the more one takes precautions to avoid collateral casualties, the greater the potential risks to one's comrades.

McChrystal, aware of the importance to the overall political struggle of avoiding civilian casualties, has decreed that in such circumstances, unless those in the building pose an immediate and direct threat to deployed troops, the compound cannot be attacked.

It does suggest, however, that if ill-prepared and impressionable personnel are armed with loose rules of engagement in a non-traditional conflict zone, where most of those on at least one side of the conflict do not wear uniforms, tragedy is likely to result - and that those responsible for allowing such circumstances to come together might well stand justly accused of criminal negligence.

Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?
When you make the argument that the South was angry with the North for "invading" its "homeland," Osama bin Laden has said the same about U.S. soldiers being on Arab soil. He has objected to our bases in Saudi Arabia, and that's one of the reasons he has launched his jihad against us. Is there really that much of a difference between him and the Confederates? Same language; same cause; same effect.

If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?

We can't on the one hand justify the actions of Confederates as being their duty as valiant men of the South, and then condemn the Muslim extremists who want to see Americans die a brutal death. These men are held up as honorable by their brethren, so why do Americans see them as different from our homegrown terrorists?

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