Right Wing Nut House


The Posner Challenge

Filed under: Blogging, History, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:48 am

Judge Richard Posner has written something of a vanilla essay, trying to answer the question “Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam?”

I appreciate the fact hizzoner may have been a little busy since the November election and may have missed the 5,000 blog posts, articles, tweets, and books that not only noticed that very fact but have actually tried to find a cure for what ails the movement.

Nevertheless, any time someone of Judge Posner’s eminence and brilliance turns his attention to diagnosing the illness afflicting the right, we should pay attention if only to glean nuggets of truth from someone a whole helluva lot smarter than anyone reading this (or writing it for that matter).

No, we shouldn’t automatically accept as gospel what brainy people have to say. But given that Posner will no doubt be labled an “elitist” by the base for being cursed with the ability to view the world in an unemotional, analytic manner, I thought highlighting his views on the problems of conservatism would give them the exposure they deserve.

In essence, Posner makes the same point made by most pundits - conservatism is a victim of its own success:

By the end of the Clinton administration, I was content to celebrate the triumph of conservatism as I understood it, and had no desire for other than incremental changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. I saw no need for the estate tax to be abolished, marginal personal-income tax rates further reduced, the government shrunk, pragmatism in constitutional law jettisoned in favor of “originalism,” the rights of gun owners enlarged, our military posture strengthened, the rise of homosexual rights resisted, or the role of religion in the public sphere expanded. All these became causes embraced by the new conservatism that crested with the reelection of Bush in 2004.

My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

Yes, that just about covers it. I would niggle a bit with the good Judge in his example of global warming as evidence that will has been substituted for intellect. While there is something of a knee jerk reaction to the idea of man made climate change among many conservatives, there is also a solid, growing body of scientific evidence that skepticism with regards to global warming is well founded - even more so when one considers the “solutions” being offered.

That said, Posner has a couple of very interesting, and original causes for conservatism’s decline as an intellectual force.

The realization that, for all our expensive military hardware, not very much of it is useful on the modern battlefield, may be the most lasting and best lesson learned from our troubles in Iraq. Only a fool like Saddam will challenge us in the future to a stand up battle which makes a lot of the equipment we designed and built to fight the Soviet Union obsolete - and a waste of defense resources at that. Given the unholy deficits we will be running in the future, a massive contraction of defense spending is in the offing. National defense is one of the only budgetary items where savings in the hundreds of billions can be achieved and given the trillions of red ink Obama will be running, you can bet he will cut there before he goes after entitlements.

But have we learned the lesson that military force has its limits - again? One would have thought that after losing 55,000 men in Viet Nam, the lesson would not have needed repeating. Alas, we may be condemned to repeat this exercise in wasting blood and treasure as long as we seek to maintain superpower status.

Another interesting point made by Posner was “the neglect of management and expertise in government.” For a variety of reasons - some good, some horrible - George Bush insisted on staffing his government with cronies.

If you are going to make appointments of cronies, the least you can do is appoint competent ones. While many of Bush friends and supporters were people he could trust, a legitimate question could be asked as to how competent were many of them?

The evidence suggests that Bush appointed people who were not up to the tasks assigned to them. By sticking industry hacks into regulatory positions (a long and shameful list), the president put the foxes in charge of watching the very henhouses they were supposed to be regulating. There was cronyism and partisan appointments everywhere in government during the Bush years and efficiency suffered as a result.

But Posner’s real gripe - and the gripe of many less ideological conservatives - is that “the new conservatism [is] powered largely by emotion and religion and [has]for the most part weak intellectual groundings.”

Amen and Hallelujah. What Posner refers to as “new” conservatism (a term I will be shamelessly stealing from now on), calls on such intellectual luminaries as Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck, for sustenance. In this, the leading lights of the new conservatism dole out philosophy and rationale the way a Baskin Robbins ice cream server spoons whipped creme on to his concoctions. The result are that ideas and concepts with the heft of cotton candy, but extremely palatable to the narrow minded, are passed off as conservative dogma.

Religion has been confused with “traditional values” in order to justify the infallibility of many positions on social issues. Posner points specifically to abortion but might have also included gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and the teaching of creationism in schools. And the slice of conservatism that also identifies itself as “evangelical” - influential beyond their numbers - makes these “values” the centerpiece of their political universe.

Judge Posner has correctly diagnosed most of what’s wrong with conservatism today. He makes mention in his article that the intellectual giants of the past or gone and few recognized public thinkers have stood up to take their place. That’s not to say they aren’t out there The question of when and how they will step forward to define a kind of “post-conservatism” that builds on the past while laying the groundwork for the future will be hard to answer as long as the right continues to wander aimlessly in the wilderness.


  1. The Posner essay should be required reading. He’s not saying anything you haven’t said, but it’s an effective distillation.

    The difference between conservatism now and conservatism in 1964 is the power and persistence of the Jesus wing of the party. You guys had more freedom of movement then. You have almost no freedom of movement now. In fact, by far the biggest antagonists of a new conservatism are people who call themselves conservatives but are no such thing — the radio loudmouths and their office-holding allies.

    You need to shed these people. They are a dead weight stifling any attempt at intellectual progress or innovation.

    There’s no escaping it: actual conservatives need to break from the religious radicals. Form a new party. Make it a three-way game where conservatives can be free to appeal to independents who find the religious wing not just unattractive but repellant.

    You’d have a reasonable chance at my vote for such a party, but I will never, ever, under any circumstance, be under the same tent with Dobson and Hannity and Palin.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 5/12/2009 @ 12:26 pm

  2. I don’t understand the Republican’s fealty to the Jesus wing. Its not like they’re going to go vote Democratic.

    Comment by busboy33 — 5/12/2009 @ 12:54 pm

  3. At the end of the day, it’s statism versus anti-statism. Bush and Obama are/were both statists. The Republican Party loses when it veers toward statism - after all, given a choice, many people like “statism with a smiley face” of the Obama variety over “statism with an angry frown” of the “Compassionate Conservatism” variety.

    Whenever you say “Society must do X”, you’re making a statement favoring state action to force X on the population. It doesn’t matter what X is.

    So-cons have many goals that can’t be achieved without a big state, which is why they and small-government conservatives are eternally - and probably rightfully - suspicious of each other.

    Big states are simply too dangerous to leave lying around.

    Comment by Foobarista — 5/12/2009 @ 1:16 pm

  4. Religion has been confused with “traditional values” in order to justify the infallibility of many positions on social issues.

    You make it sound like this was not by design.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 5/12/2009 @ 1:20 pm

  5. Rick

    I must admit you cause me to think sometimes. Having said that, the fact is history is dynamic. Issues that were on the cutting edge of debate in 1964 are somewhat reduced in stature ie the Cold War and marginal tax rates. While other issues in 2009 were not on the radar screen in 1964 such as global warming and for that matter the environmental movement and the civil rights movement upto 1970s.

    So of course thinking changes because issues change and lets face it our friends on the left are offering new challenges to conservatism and we must rise to defeat them.

    Frankly you are part of the challenge. The right needs to answer the question what do we want society to look like today given the fact that issues change and what policies do we want to implement.

    There is still plenty of things that existed in 1964 that still exist in 2009 that need fixing such as enttitlements and the miserable failure that is the welfare state no matter how many Republican presidents we have.

    Comment by Kevin Brown — 5/12/2009 @ 2:24 pm

  6. Kevin Brown said:

    and the miserable failure that is the welfare state no matter how many Republican presidents we have.

    What do you mean by this? Care to elaborate a bit?

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 5/12/2009 @ 2:51 pm

  7. I’m disturbed by the cult of religion in the politics of both left and right. On the right, it’s the promotion of a very narrow fundamentalist Protestant view as the only view of Christianity - and, thus, conservative values.

    On the left, it’s taken the universal human need to sacrifice and feel cleansed and twisted it to feel cleansed by making others sacrifice.

    Comment by Juan Paxety — 5/12/2009 @ 4:48 pm

  8. Yglesias on Posner and the Conservative Movement…

    Richard Posner blogs on what he calls “the intellectual decline of conservatism,” which prompts some gleeful ruminations from Yglesias. The trouble with this (and it’s a trope that’s bound to be repeated elsewhere on the left) is Yglesias’ claim t…

    Trackback by ProfessorBainbridge.com — 5/12/2009 @ 5:30 pm

  9. Rick;
    I haven’t read the essay but the irony is that IMHO religious conservatives are beginning to back away from their fearless fealty to conservative Republicanism. (see James Dobson’s “retiring” statement.) Do I think Christian conservatives are moving leftward? No, though their offspring clearly seem less politically conservative. Do I think they will vote Democratic? Maybe a little more often but not dramatically so. Do I think they may become less involved in party grunt work? Probably. That’s probably a bigger concern for the Republican Party than for them. If they were part of the core of volunteers who “got out the vote” then the Party will need to figure who replace them (and with the same level of vigor.) That’s as serious a problem as moderate and independant appeal. I don’t see moderate Republicans (speaking as one) to feel passionate enough about the issues to volunteer lots of time.

    I like to think I’m fairly thoughtful, intellectual if you will, but I know that “well thought out policy positions” do not “get out the vote on election day”. Barack Obama was not elected due to deep “intellectuosity”.

    Finally, I would simply point out that for much of Bill Buckley’s career he was the fascinating, engaging intellectual conservative voice of a DISTINCTLY MINORITY PARTY THAT LOST A LOT OF ELECTIONS!

    (this coalition building is messy business isn’t it)

    Comment by c3 — 5/12/2009 @ 6:05 pm

  10. In essence, Posner makes the same point made by most pundits - conservatism is a victim of its own success:

    Electoral success yes, but this usually did not translate into legislative success. For example, the “Contract with America” had 10 major components, yet much of it was never passed, and what did pass was often watered down or ineffective in reducing the size of government. Nor did 8 years of a republican president achieve freedom from government. (On the contrary, we’re all more dependent on the feds than ever before!) Such ineffectiveness of leadership has been quite dispiriting to independents such as myself. I’m convinced that electing GOP politicians would mean that a true conservative agenda would be NEVER implemented at all, such is my doubt.

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 5/12/2009 @ 6:37 pm

  11. Whatever did happen to getting government regulations out of our lives? I distinctly remember Reagan campaigning on that quite well and then never carrying through… and cutting taxes is very nice, but then increasing spending and government power seems to be quite contrary to fiscal conservatism and traditional conservatism. So what’s up with that?

    Big Government Conservatism is no better than Big Government Liberalism: both create more burdens for the people, increase government power and scope by continually going after understood limits of the government in the Constitution. The Interstate Commerce Clause has been heavily abused and broadened by Democrats and Republicans, to the point where States have little say left over their own affairs. If conservatives can come up with a ‘national market’ for an illegal product, as they did in the Raich case, then it is not liberals expanding the power of government, but conservatives.

    Then there is ’strict constructionism’ in which the SCOTUS should only do those things set to it in the Constitution. Say, how about some intellectual honesty from conservatives on that and apply it to ALL the branches of the federal government? And stop trying to broaden powers and adding brand-spanking new interpretations into the document that had no place in it at the founding. Remember those folks? Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton? That lot?

    Unfortunately we are now in the future where the Anti-Federalists are getting their worst nightmares realized: those critics of the flaws of the Constitution and that proposed changes to tighten it up to keep the federal government on a short leash now are proving prescient. Not that anyone reads them… they were just observers of human nature, people who examined past failed republics and democracies, and who then compared those to the few successful ones that lasted a bit and drew lessons from those. Fascinating reading of the gamut of problems they saw… and how Hamilton, Madison, Jay, et. al. weren’t able to respond to many of the points in the Federalist Papers. Of course that would mean reading those works and seeing how they responded to each other… and see just what the strains of thought were that would go on to found Traditionalist Conservatism and Fiscal Conservatism started and why. But that is ‘back to basics’ and modern conservatives don’t do that.

    Reagan didn’t.

    Gingrich didn’t.

    And Bush was a Big Government Conservative: a Progressive. Both of them.

    A pity conservatives got all tuckered out when they didn’t even do a tenth of the job that had been promised. Guess that building government is so much easier than dismantling it. And that helps win elections so you aren’t seen as such a meanie, instead of returning basic liberty and freedoms to your fellow citizens and removing it from its ill placement in government that is too expensive, too expansive and ever eager to take more from the people. That doesn’t end in a good place.

    Comment by ajacksonian — 5/12/2009 @ 7:36 pm

  12. I’m pretty sure I understand that moderate Republicans are against Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and Beck, but I’m still not sure what they are for. I understand that moderate Republicans are appalled by the lack of intellectual substance from THAT wing of the party, but I’m not sure what intellectual substance THEY are offering. It would be much more interesting to read what moderate Republicans have to offer which counters the move to the left by a Democrat controlled congress and administration. Whether it was the new conservatives or the moderates which caused the loss in the last election, the fact is that Republicans lost, and beating up on one another will not produce much to counter the Democrats. Generalizing a lack of intellect and making broad accusations that new conservatives are influenced by emotion and religion are not very enlightening unless something of substance is offered as an alternative. I would think that if moderate Republicans have a good plan based on intellectually superior policies, all those independents who are drifting from both parties might be ready to listen.

    Comment by Mike Farmer — 5/12/2009 @ 7:40 pm

  13. How long before Judge Posner gets thrown under the bus by the Limbaugh wing?Because that wing says the partys fine and does not need tweaking. Amazing.

    Comment by Joe — 5/12/2009 @ 7:41 pm

  14. “How long before Judge Posner gets thrown under the bus by the Limbaugh wing?Because that wing says the partys fine and does not need tweaking. Amazing.”

    I know I should just give up, and I don’t have a dog in the fight between wings of the Republican Party, but out of intellectual honesty I have to ask — are the moderates not part of the Republican Party? Are the moderates not trying to throw Limbaugh under the bus? Are the moderates perfect and in no need of tweaking? Why is it when moderates talk about the problems of the Republican Party they talk as if the “new” conservatives the only ones in the party?

    Comment by Mike Farmer — 5/12/2009 @ 8:22 pm

  15. “Only a fool like Saddam will challenge us in the future to a stand up battle…” With all due respect I don’t think thats true. There are at least three countries on earth now who are capable of beating America in a stand up war. These are Russia, China, and India. In fact, with Russia’s advamced muclear arsenal it would probably prevail in any confrontation with Aemrica. Iran, Venezuela, and Pakistan to name just three are builing impressive militiaries. Any of those countries is fully capable of winning a conventional war with the Unitd States right now. In fact, America’s victory in the first Gulf War against Iraq was far from certain. It is more attributable to excellent planning on the part of the Allied and American military planning and execution of the plan than to a huge power imbalance.

    I think it may be a bit premature to think that only a fool would challenge the United States to a straight up war. After all I’ve named six countries in this post who could defeat the United States in a military conflict. This does not mean tha the odds would necessairily be in favor of some of these countries to win the war but they could. As such, if they think a war with the United States to be in their interests, it would not neccessarily be foolish of them to try. With the proper leadership and execution they could very well win.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/12/2009 @ 8:31 pm

  16. There are at least three countries on earth now who are capable of beating America in a stand up war. These are Russia, China, and India.

    I assume you’re trying to be funny? It’s hard to imagine what terrain we’d be fighting on, but in any conventional war we’d wipe the floor with any of the three, and take all three at once fairly easily.

    As for Venezuela or Iran, um, what? Really? Venezuela?

    Comment by michael reynolds — 5/12/2009 @ 9:19 pm

  17. F/u. Read the Posner piece. Opinion unchanged. Re-read Rick’s post and found myself struggling with the notion that there more than just a tad bit of sarcasm in Rick’s tone.

    Comment by c3 — 5/12/2009 @ 9:23 pm

  18. Posters keep trying to sell the meme that the US need not maintain its military power at its current level, or with only an increase of a few divisions. They survey the current threats, the armies of the key nations, and conclude that they cannot stand up to our military, even if we slap it with a 25% or 30% reduction. Doesn’t anyone remember what we had to do 5 years after WWII was over(Korea)? How about another 10 or 12 years after that(Vietnam)?
    Oh, then Gulf I and II, and Afghanistan. We seem to forget what terrible contortions we had to go through after some disingenuous leaders declared that we don’t need a big military in order to take funding away to give to their own projects (Clinton, for example). We are about to do it again, most probably focused on the “big ticket items” in the military pipeline–aircraft, major warships, and an integrated battlefield approach. This will be one of the Obama legacies.

    Either Russia or China has all it takes to build super military forces with very modern equipment on a sound technology base, and with an enormous supply of men available. Give them 5 to 10 years and we could be outclassed and outnumbered in both conventional and unconventional warfare.

    Our intelligence penetration does not seem to be at the same level it was at during the Cold War (which was not all that good), which says that we may not get sufficiently advanced warning of such buildups, nor of the new weaponry we might face. What is worse, we would most likely turn a deaf ear to anyone that predicted a conflict arising, until it was almost too late. The intentions of these buildups can be disguised very easily up to a point, especially when willing but weak souls are all too accepting of the peace rhetoric that usually accompanies such objectives.

    So, in the face of not knowing a tenth part of the capabilities and intentions of our potential enemies (actually, both are historical enemies) over the next decade or so, we want to downgrade our conventional war capabilities and shift their focus to counter-insurgency actions.

    We are going to be at great risk in these Obama/Reid/Pelosi–constructed out years; much greater than it has to be.

    Comment by mannning — 5/12/2009 @ 9:33 pm

  19. Manning,
    I don’t think the United States is in danger of loosing their military advantage any time soon. However, I agree with you that just because we are currently fighting a counter insurgency doesn’t mean all resources should be concentrated there. As in all government programs there is enormous waste in the military so I don’t think cutting some programs is such a bad idea.

    B. poster:
    India capable of beating the United States? Now, come on..

    Comment by funny man — 5/12/2009 @ 11:03 pm

  20. Soon, our youngest citizens, raised to value life by the yardstick of utility, will face restricted lifestyles due to a massively indebted government. Old folks without Posner’s wealth may then begim understanding the perils of following intellectuals who blithely dismiss opposition to abortion as mere religious fanaticism.

    Comment by John Howard — 5/13/2009 @ 3:32 am

  21. John Howard said:

    …restricted lifestyles due to a massively indebted government… opposition to abortion as mere religious fanaticism.

    Um, yeah, there is exactly zero correlation here. None. Logic fail.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 5/13/2009 @ 8:55 am

  22. B. Poster -

    None of the countries you mention can project any meaningful force for any real distance outside of their own borders. None of them are in any real position to project force into a resisting country, even an adjacent one. For example, Russia took 15+ years to get results in Chechnya remotely comparable to those we’ve achieved in Iraq - and that was an adjacent country that has long cultural links to Russia and is not home to millions of ethnic Russians whose loyalty lies with their “homeland” and not their home.

    The only wars that Russia, China, or India, could win against the US are defensive wars inside of their own territory or, maybe, the territory of an adjacent nation that invites them in and doesn’t feature any substantial resistance to their presence.

    As long as we don’t make the stupid decision to invade Russia, China, or India (or an adjacent vassal state) we really shouldn’t have a problem.

    Comment by getreal — 5/13/2009 @ 9:09 am

  23. and is not home to millions…

    sorry … I meant IS home to millions of ethnic Russians whose loyalty lies with their “homeland” and not their home.

    There was no comparable “fifth-column” of pro-American Iraqis. Even our allies were Iraqi-loyalists who sided with us because they thought it was in the best interests of Iraq, NOT because they were loyal to America.

    Comment by getreal — 5/13/2009 @ 9:12 am

  24. getreal:

    Recall that what I said was predicated on a 10 year+ horizon. The problem is that development of new weapons and infrastructure takes 10 or more years to field, so if we arrive at 2019+ without developing an increased capability or by actually decreasing it, while one or more of our potential enemies has pushed ahead with their armaments, we are in serious jeopardy.

    I would challenge the idea that either Russia or China cannot become a significant threat in 10+ years. I would ask you what sources are being used to make such statements about the capabilities and intentions of these historical enemies, and just how reliable these sources have been in the past in the real world (as opposed to sources with a heavy stake in the current government’s political positions and financial chaos).

    It is particularly worrisome that the EU, its individual nations, and NATO are very weak militarily now, and do not appear to have any intention to correct that position, largely trusting that the US shield will protect them just as it has for the last 60 years. Our small tripwire presence in Europe, now about 89,000 strong, is predicated on being able to delay a massive invasion from the East until reinforcements can be transported to Europe. This tripwire force would be overrun in days or a week, and the rest of the West’s current level of forces defeated in a few weeks by a resurgent Russian military, after the 10+ years of buildup that I suggest.

    The key to this would be to gain air superiority by defeating the gaggle of NATO air forces in the first weeks using hundreds of new and superior fighter aircraft whose high production levels were previously little-known to the West until too late to react.

    If I recall the basic NATO plans correctly, if such a massive attack were to occur, NATO would be forced to resort to tactical nuclear weapons to stave it off. Once that genie is out of the bottle, who knows what may happen next?

    My preference is to take out an insurance policy–a strong enough US military–that might well forestall this whole scenario, and other such scenarios as well, without risking lives and nuclear engagement.

    This is not to say that we cannot find greater efficiencies in military procurements, in eliminating redundancies that do not add up to a benefit, and in actually canceling some items that are not needed, in the wisdom of the government and military properly exercised apolitically.

    Comment by mannning — 5/13/2009 @ 12:22 pm

  25. Thanks Mr. Posner. I am in complete agreement with your position. That’s a 360 for me from my first post on this blog.This “vile sodomite” is checking out.

    Thanks for all the fish.

    Comment by bsjones — 5/13/2009 @ 2:38 pm

  26. bsjones: since pedantry is my profession, I’ll mention that a “360″ would be to return to your initial position.

    Comment by Foobarista — 5/13/2009 @ 6:49 pm

  27. Mannning,

    Excellent posts ( #18 and #24). I think you are largely spot on, however, I think to suggest that we have a 10 year horizon may be overly optimistic. In fact, we may already be behind Russia and China.

    You correctly point out that our intellegence peneatraion is not very good within Russia or China. In fact, our intellegence have performed quite poorly for a long time in all phases. As such, we cannot be sure where our enemies are.

    We do know that Russia, China, and others I mention above have invested heavily in their militaries in recent years. Add to this fact that the US military is worn down form continued operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the global war on terrorism.

    While it does seem to be true that the US spends more moeny on its military than any other country does, there is substantial waste. Spending a large amount of money on something does not necessarily mean it will be better. It’s a very strong possibility that the United States already trails its enemies.

    You also point out that miitary build ups can be disguised up to a point. This seems to be what is happening now. China’s build up accross from Tawain comes to mind. The build up is such that is way beyond what is needed to take Tawain. The Chinese would be able to take Tawain quite easily any time they wanted to with their military build up. This build up is likely in preparation for an invasion of the American mainland. We may not have ten years before China carries it out. The only thing holding them back may be America’s nuclear arsenal which we haven’t upgrded in years and there seem to be no plans to maintain it!! I think Russia’s inavasion of Chechnya is simillar. It is in preparation for military actions elsewhere in the world. There have been some commentators who have alluded to this possibility.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/13/2009 @ 9:31 pm

  28. [...] endorses Rick Moran’s take on the whole thing. Moran, writing at Rightwing Nuthouse, says that “Posner’s real gripe — and the gripe of many less ideological conservatives — is that ‘the new conservatism [is] [...]

    Pingback by NYT calls it “Not-So-Bright Right” getting ad hominen right off the bat « Cliftonchadwick’s Blog — 5/13/2009 @ 10:08 pm

  29. B. Poster,
    Russia’s invasion of Chechnya? That’s still part of Russia as far as I know.
    Have you ever been to Russia? What in the world makes you think we might be ‘trailing Russia’. Don’t you think they have other worries?

    Comment by funny man — 5/13/2009 @ 10:35 pm

  30. Yes, Checnya has historically been a part of Russia. The pont was the military buildup that Russia justified to hold on to this part of its territory seemed to be way beyond what would have been necessary to subdue the region. Perhaps Russia should have other worries but they do not seem to have changed posture from the days of the Cold War. America is still percieved as the main enemy. Given that Russia has upgraded its nuclear arsenal in recent years as well as its conventional forces and they are actively supporting those who are opposed to American interests around the world, I think this is some thing Americans and their leaders should be concerned about.

    Any way back to what seems to be the main thrust of Rick’s post. I think Michael Reynolds may be correct. The best thing may be for the Republican party to split. The “Religous Right” can establish its own political party and the so called “Moderates” can estabilsh their own party. This may be the only option since the so called “Moderates” don’t seem open to reasonable compromise at this time. This would free both groups up to offer their own policy perscriptions to the American people without having to try and weld the policies ideas of both together.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/13/2009 @ 11:16 pm

  31. You said,
    There was cronyism and partisan appointments everywhere in government during the Bush years and efficiency suffered as a result.
    Give a few examples or this lacks meaning.

    A list, by no means complete:



    Comment by Clifton — 5/14/2009 @ 4:54 am

  32. B. Poster and Manning:

    Neither of you knows the first thing about military force, technology, preparedness or as far as I can tell, anything else.

    There is not a single credible military expert in the US or in Russia or in China or in India who believes any of those countries, or a combination of those countries, could take us on in a straight-up conventional war. Which was the original premise.

    No one. No one at all, anywhere, who is not a complete idiot, thinks the Russian army is a match for the US army, or is about to be a match, or even has the possibility of matching anywhere on the horizon. I guarantee you that there lives not a single Russian general or admiral who is salivating for a battle with the US.

    You’re living in a paranoid fantasy world.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 5/14/2009 @ 9:59 am

  33. “the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming”
    Strawman. It’s the denial that government solutions are the answer. But has GW been proven? Really?

    “the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials,”
    So what? I thought America had freedom of association. But it’s okay when the Left uses Lack of Religion criteria for selection of public officials, right? But praytell, give me some examples of these firebrand public officials and their heavyhanded use of law intertwined with religion? I love how the right is simultaneously excoriated for 1) hiring cronies who are too insider or 2) hiring unqualified Bible thumpers.

    “the neglect of management and expertise in government”
    I just love this part of the Republican platform. Oh, wait, this is Posner’s opinion. This is too precious in light of the current President’s decided lack of experience in… well, many many things.

    “a continued preoccupation with abortion”
    Unlike Naral and much of the left of course, which are just echoing the voice of the moderate American Main Street concerning abortion. Preoccupation? What a condescending boob. A preoccupation with life. Funny, but pro-gay marriage and pro-choice positions are always arrived at through years long-thought-out rumination, or so the Left tells me. “Preoccupation.” Fuck you!

    “and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.”
    Yay! Posner gets one right.

    Comment by Why — 5/14/2009 @ 12:09 pm

  34. Rick said:

    A list, by no means complete:

    Wow. I had no idea.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 5/14/2009 @ 4:34 pm

  35. Mister Michael Reynolds; It isn’t what we don’t know very well, it is what so many, such as you, think you know and do not know at all. You have absolutely no knowledge of where I am coming from or where I get my information. That makes you a perfect fool.

    Your rather pathetic attempt to attack my premise that in a matter of a decade or so the Russians could have a superior military to ours shows your own ignorance and bias most clearly. (It was never my premise that the Russians could best us today on the battlefield…that is your distortion.)

    It is historically factual that extremely strong, even massive, military forces can be generated within a decade: witness Germany in the late 30’s and 40’s, Russia in the 40’s, the US in the 40’s, and Britain in the 40’s. In fact, most of these huge buildups took only 3+ years.

    Russia is certainly capable of doing that again, and is generating the revenue for it now from its oil and gas resources. In fact, by stretching procurements out over the longer period of 10+ years it becomes more affordable, and they need not mobilize till late in the period. Then too, The ruble goes a long way towards procuring military goods in Russia.

    There is solid reporting on the existence of the recent Russian military buildup program, and the same holds for China, although less specific. Only a fool would ignore these actions. But, of course, the Obama administration is hell-bent on making heavy warfare reductions and cancellations to our military. Just the things we might need in 10+ years.

    Fortunately, we have the means to detect a truly major buildup today, hopefully in time to counter it, and hopefully with a different administration in power when we do.

    Comment by mannning — 5/15/2009 @ 1:35 am

  36. The amusing thing is about Mr. Reynolds is that he does not offer more than hearsay evidence for his sweeping statements, and I have yet to see any military qalifications from him.

    At various times I have been deeply associated with the all of the main US Army automation efforts, the efforts of the Swiss Army to create a more efficient artillery solution, as a contracted advisor to the German Army on automation, as an advisor to the Dutch Army, and a participant in many NATO efforts, covering in particular NADGE and GADGE, and as part of the NATO AWACS program. I was an early program manager in the advanced airborne command post efforts (E-4B), and many SAC programs, especially the B-52 upgrade efforts. Virtually every one of these efforts began with analysis of requirements, and the strategic and tactical picture of concern, before proceeding to the design phase.

    Other efforts of a highly classified nature involved intelligence collection and processing systems of many types: one that my team designed went to SAC HQ in support of the SIOP, and was operational there for many years.

    I was directly responsible for all of the command center upgrades for the Pentagon Renovation Program forabout three years, which involved obtaining a full understanding of their operations and needs.
    In all, I have had 43 years of such experience in a range of military problems related to C3I.

    Your turn.

    Comment by mannning — 5/15/2009 @ 11:46 am

  37. Manning:

    Your rather pathetic attempt to attack my premise that in a matter of a decade or so the Russians could have a superior military to ours shows your own ignorance and bias most clearly. (It was never my premise that the Russians could best us today on the battlefield…that is your distortion.

    This thread subset didn’t begin with your premise, it started with B. Posters:

    There are at least three countries on earth now who are capable of beating America in a stand up war. These are Russia, China, and India. In fact, with Russia’s advamced muclear arsenal it would probably prevail in any confrontation with Aemrica. Iran, Venezuela, and Pakistan to name just three are builing impressive militiaries.

    As for substance. You say:

    It is historically factual that extremely strong, even massive, military forces can be generated within a decade: witness Germany in the late 30’s and 40’s, Russia in the 40’s, the US in the 40’s, and Britain in the 40’s. In fact, most of these huge buildups took only 3+ years.

    One wonders then how the DoD was unable to produce armored Humvees in three years. But setting that aside, you show your ignorance in equating the construction of massive numbers of landing craft or light tanks or B-25’s, with the building of modern weaponry.

    The development alone of new sophisticated weapons systems takes years. The Russians have nothing in their arsenal or in development that can challenge our air superiority or battlefield control systems. The Russians cannot wake up tomorrow and decide to build 2,000 new Migs that can go toe to toe with F-16, 18’s and 22’s. That’s a paranoid fantasy.

    In every case that American weapons have gone head-to-head with Russian weapons (take Israel 1973 or Iraq in either war) the Russian systems have underperformed. In the most recent war American armored personnel carriers were taking out Soviet-made tanks.

    Russia’s geographical limitations have become even more crippling than those of the USSR. The USSR had deep, secure borders to their West. They have no such depth now. They lost their Polish and East German ports. They lost their Ukrainian coast. They now share space with a resurgent China and a newly-nuclear India.

    They are economically weaker, poorer, older, sicker, less able to recruit or retain soldiers. They have precisely zero meaningful allies. Their population is about half of ours, not at par as it was under the Soviets.

    Their tanks are out of date, their command and control systems primitive, their fighters at least a generation behind ours, their missiles (conventional and nuclear) are inaccurate. As mentioned before, their tanks have lost battles against Bradleys, let alone against our tanks.

    So, despite your alleged experience, you’re full of it. Russia is a military and economic basket case, a sad, washed-up relic, a joke.

    Find me a credible military analyst who believes Russia will be able to take us on in 10 years.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 5/15/2009 @ 5:35 pm

  38. Michael and Manning,
    the two of you, ghosh (smile). Anyway, think for a second how the Russians feel about all of this (now to be honest, there is no ‘Russian’ opinion). For them, the Cold War ended by Gorbachev letting Eastern Europe go (but they were still respected in the world). Then comes Yeltsin and breaks up the Soviet Union and letting in some form of ‘free market’. At the end of his reign, their economy has collapsed and they are the laughing stock of the world. All that with a long history of imperial conquest dating back past Ivan the terrible. The Russians also bore the brunt of the allied casualties in WWII.
    Anyway, no wonder that they welcomed Putin who brings order and reestablishes Russia to some degree of importance. I don’t think they have SU ambitions but want to be respected. Michael so I don’t think they are a joke neither Manning do I loose much sleep over them.

    Comment by funny man — 5/15/2009 @ 5:54 pm

  39. Manning,

    Thank you for your service to our country. That is some impressive experience and accomplishments you have. Actually, from reading your posts, I suspected you had substantial experience with the military or you had extensively read what those who have experience with the military have written.


    My basic premise I believe is correct, however, I forgot to add North Korea to the list. This is another country who would be capable of beating the United States in a stand up war. At least this is according to people I know wha have served in South Korea. Should the North decide to invade, we would need substantial reinforcements very quickly to hold this off. There is significant questions as to whether we could get them there in time and do with the military stretched extremely thin due to ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Global War on Terrorism there is some doubt as to whether the neccessary forces are even available.

    To address a couple of your points, the countries listed by Manning did in fact build impressive military forces in a very short time. Germany even did this while having to pay reparations from the end of WWI. At least this is how I understand it, that Germany had to pay reparations at the end of WWI. Russia faces no such constraints. Neither does China. In the case of Iran or North Korea, any such sanctions are not very effective.

    Manning’s contention is we have 10+ years. Assuming we still lead Russia in military technology, we may not have that long. Its been quite a while since the US has been adding new weapon systems. My memory is a bit fuzzy now but in July 2001 I remeber reading that Russia and China were engaging in cyber war fare in attempt to counter the “lop-sided conventional strength of the Americans.” It is your contention that Russia has not developed any new weapon systems that can challenge America. Since most of your post reads like the talking points from the main stream media, I’m not surprised you missed it, as I only remember scant coverage on this in the main stream news media. The Russians have been extensively upgrading their missles and delivery systems, as well as their nuclear submarines. The missle defense systems that Russia has employed and is in the process of upgrading in Iran is believed by some analyists to be the best in the world.

    “One wonders why the DoD was unable to produce humvees in three years.” I suspect a combination of a lack of will, perhaps a dash of incompetence, and perhaps even elements of fifth column within the Government who does not want America to be successful on the battlefield. With the will and the competence any of the weapons you mention should be able to be constructed in a two to three year period. Also given the poor state of US intellegence these weapons may already be in place.

    “They have zero meaningful allies.” If you said this about America, you would probably be correct. The only meaningful ally we have is Israel which Obama seems to be undermining in order to try and placate American enemies. In contrast, Russia has Iran, Syria, Venezuela, much of the Middle East and much of Central and South America, and China. Russia is building an impressive coalition of allies.

    “Find me a credible military analyist who believes Russia will be able to take us on in 10 years.” I’m not sure what you mean by credible. According to General Colin Powell, the Russian nuclear arsenal could destroy America in under an hour. Any confrontation with Russia would probably use nuclear weapons. Given the poor state of American intellegence, and the fact that our nuclear arsenal has not been upgraded in a long time, the Russians may be able to finish the job before we could respond.

    The premise of ten years is probably contingent on the US being able to maintain its weapons. Due to the massive national debt that the Bush Administration left us with and that the Obama Adminstration seems to be increasing the ability of the Americans to maintain their weapons will likely become problematic at best in the next few years, if it has not already. Assuming we are still ahead, I would assert that we may not have more than a couple of years.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/15/2009 @ 8:16 pm

  40. Funny Man,

    I’m not suggesting we lose sleep over them. What I am suggesting is we need to pay closer attention.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/15/2009 @ 8:18 pm

  41. Again we are treated to hand waving and biased opinion. You really don’t get it, Michael. You are wedded to the present, and apparently unable to project your thinking into tomorrow or the next decade. Every argument you put forward cites the Russian situation of the recent past and present, but not their plans and programs for the future.

    Your thin analysis of Russian aviation is rather shocking. You really ought to Google Sukhoi and read up on the SU-27, and the new SU-35, among other developments.

    Do you really believe that Russia would go to battle in 10+ years with the same old tanks and APCs? Google T-90S and T-94, and read up on their newest T-series tanks with a 125mm smoothebore gun, a modern fire control system, and other armaments. These prototypes are serious rivals to M1A2s.

    Down most lines of military hardware, the Russians have been designing, prototyping, and testing various new models before committing them to production. The T-90S has been produced in hundreds so far, and has been exported to India. The T-94 may well end up being the next major production tank, but it has problems.

    Look into the BMP-90 as well. It is evidently an excellent IFV.

    What we are seeing is a concerted effort by the Russians to field an advanced array of armor, and artillery at a measured pace, with the capability to turn on the production at any time they are satisfied.

    This fits rather well with a targeted 10+ years of buildup from now I posited with a whole new set of modern, proven fighting vehicles. I find the same approach being implemented for their Air Force and Navy, and they are earning export funds in the process.

    It is quite obvious that they are constrained by their economic situation–who isn’t? But it seems that they do afford what they must for the military, especially under Putin, and they expect the ecomomy to improve in a few years, with their natural resources leading the way.

    I find your attitude offensive, and unworthy of an intelligent man, and your replys full of your own opinion, not supported by facts. You are not worth talking to.

    Comment by mannning — 5/15/2009 @ 8:28 pm

  42. B. Poster,
    our European allies are more important than Israel.

    Comment by funny man — 5/15/2009 @ 10:47 pm

  43. Funny Man,

    That might very well be the case, if in fact they are allies. The problem is they are heavily dependent on Russian and Middle Eastern oil. Also, the European Union and the nations that make it up typically seem to have tended to view the United States as a strategic competitor. As such, I don’t think they are really allies.

    In contrast, Israel acts as a buffer between the United States and the free world and Islamic terrorism. If Israel were not there, the terrorists assets would be deployed elsewhere. Probably more operations against Western Europe or the American main land. Also, America tends to get valuable intellegence on its enemies and potential enemies from Israel. As such, Israel is probably our most important ally. The European nations who are so called allies are at best fair weather friends. At worst, they are not even allies.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/15/2009 @ 11:13 pm

  44. Maybe we can get our “allies” ro honor their committments to NATO for Afghanistan. That would be an excellent start.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/15/2009 @ 11:17 pm

  45. Israel needs the United States to survive we don’t need them. That is the hard reality. Israel’s interest can be our interest but not necessarily so. It is true that Europe could do more in Afghanistan but it takes time to mend fences after the neocon episode in Iraq. I know it is fashionable to beat up on Europe in some conservative circles but that is stupid and shortsighted in my opinion. Europe will always be closest in mentality and history. While I support Israel and think we should honor our commitment to protect her it is not in our interest to alienate the whole Muslim world.

    Comment by funny man — 5/15/2009 @ 11:34 pm

  46. “Israel needs the United States more than we need them….” I don’t think this is true. Israel is a highly advanced country. They would do fine without our assistance. In fact, I think they might do better without us. To often I think the US acts to restrain Israel. If we lose the alliance with Israel we lose a valuable source of intellegence and valuable technical expertise. As such, I think we need them far more than they need us.

    “it takes time to mend fences after the neocon episode in Iraq…” The bottom line is our intellegence about many aspects of the Iraq war turned out to be wrong. Specifically WMD. Maybe the WMD was moved or maybe it did not exist. In any event, for largely political reasons the type of investigation that would be necessary to determine this is impossible. At least it cannot be done publically. In event sanctions had largely failed and the EU nations were on the take with the oil for food program. Perhaps if they were the ones being threatened they might have thought about this differently. Instead they were profiting. American lives were not particularly important in their calculations.

    Please understand based upon what we knew at the time I probably would not have suggested that an invasion of Iraq would have been a good idea at the time it took place, however, I can understand why some would have supported it. To blame the affair on some sort of necon conspiracy I don’t think is entirely helpful. While it is true that the necons along with many supported the invasion of Iraq for a variety of reasons, they were not any more important than anyone else nor did they have a more substantial role than many others in the planning or the execution.

    When the Iraq war began the obhjectives were three fold. 1.)a Democratic Iraq, 2.) a stable Iraq, and 3.)an allied Iraq. This seemed to be the order of the goals. From the start, I thought this was mixed up. The order should have been an allied Iraq, a stable Iraq, and a Democratic Iraq. As it stands right now, we may be able to achieve a democratic and stable Iraq, however, it is unlikey Iraq will be strongly allied with us at this point. The best we can probably hope for here is that the the post Saddam-Iraq will not actively oppose American interests they way Iraq of the Saddam error did.

    I think we may have been able to achieve all of our goals in Iraq had the media and various government officials actually worked to support the effort rather thna to try to undermine it but we may never know. Also, help from Western European nations would have certainly been helpful. They were getting richer off the oil for food progam. By their calculations Aemrican lives could be sacrificed to keep this going. Another possibility is that the Europeans were making so much money here they simply shut their eyes to the threat. They simply did not want to see the threat. If this is so, they are not the first nor will they be the last. While they surely feel some bitterness egged on by the press to a large degree about the “neocon episode in Iraq” some Americans feel a bit bitter about what seem to be their inceasent efforts to undermine our interests.

    “I know it is fashionable to beat up on Europe in some conservative circles but that is stupid and shortsighted in my opinion.” It is fashionable in many European cirlces to beat up on America. This works both ways. I agree it is shortsighted and stupid. We both must find a way around this. I think this should start with Western Europe. Unfortunately they don’t seem ready to do this. There seems to be smug arrogance with many Western Europeans. They can never admit when they are wrong or acknowledge the role they play in certain misunderstandings. The Americans tend to be the exact opposite. We are to quick to apologize and make concessions when not warranted.

    “While I support Israel and think we should honor our commitment to protect her it is not in our interest to alienate the whole Muslim world.” If you protect Israel, you will alienate the Muslim world. I agree it is not in our interest ot alienate the entire Muslim world. Collectively they are far strogner than us. In fact, while not Muslim, Iran is a Middle Eastern country that is capable of taking on and defeating the United States in a military confrontation by itself. In fact, many people in the media and the Government who have obsesed about preventing an American attack on Iran have been worrying about the wrong thing. What they really need to be worrying about is preventing an Iranian attack on America!!

    With regards to Israel I think our best bet would be to get out of Israel’s way and allow them to defeat their enemies. In other words, don’t meddle in their affairs. Currently they seem obsessed with maintaining the “special relationship.” With Aemrica significantly weakened militarily by the ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Global War on Terrorism, a struggling economy, and a massive national debt I don’t see them being particularly worried about the so called “special relationship” for much longer. If America plays its hand properly, it can have a strong ally in Israel that is able to operate completely independently of America.

    With regards to national defense our best bet going forward would be to do the following: 1.)Withdraw all troops, equipment, and other military personnel from Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere throughout the world. 2.)Secure the borders. 3.) Place a moratorium on immigration for at least 10 years. This gives the people already here a chance to assimilate into our country and allows us time to fix our immigration system. Exceptions might be made for certain work visas but this needs to be closely monitored. Immigration from Muslim countries should be indefinite. 4.)Build more refineries and drill for all domestic oil and natural gas supplies on US land and off the US coasts. 5.)Expand and upgrade the nuclear arsenal. Doing these things would give us greater utility for our national security interests than invading Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other country ever would or likely ever could.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 12:33 am

  47. I meant to say that an indefinite moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries should be put in place. Also, I forgot to point out that the biggest problem with Iraq was a failur to use enough troops at the start. IF we were going to invade Iraq, we should have used at least 500,000 troops and probably more but as stated in the previous post I did not think invading Iraq to be a particularly good idea. Unfortunately poor planning and faulty intellegence compounded our problems.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 12:43 am

  48. Posner’s entire article is interesting and relevant, but the decline of intellectualism can most clearly be seen in how the GOP has publicly responded to the abortion issue for the last twenty-nine years.

    Basic conservative principles would argue that government should refrain from interfering in personal liberties absent a clear necessity to do so. The need to infringe on any personal freedom should be demonstrated by a clear and convincing argument that the exercise of that freedom either unreasonably infringes on the rights of others, or that it undermines the orderly operation of society in a material way.

    For too long, the only argument conservatives have articulated against abortion has been based on Christian religious doctrine. Each person should be free to act according to the tenets of their faith, but not to impose them on others. We have to be concerned when we begin asking government to create laws based solely on religious principles.

    Either we can make a clear secular argument for how banning abortion is in the public interest or we can’t. If we can’t, then it seems to run counter to basic conservative philosophy to seek government intervention to impose our will. If we can make the argument, then we should set aside the faith-based justification for the purposes of forming public policy.

    While we may revile abortion, we need to have the courage to act in accordance with the principals we espouse. If we can’t do that, perhaps we should admit that we don’t really believe in a limited role for government. At least not when we’re getting our way.

    Comment by Mark — 5/16/2009 @ 1:09 am

  49. B. Poster,
    Iran is not able to defeat the United States. That’s not even a match. However, Iran is a typical example of your thinking going wrong. That is a young population which in part is pretty pro Western. Now some there are obviously the opposite. So it is good to play for time and hope that eventually things will change (and they will).
    In war, size does matter (see Russia) so in the long run Israel has to find a peace deal with her neighbors and if we care about Israel we should encourage that. It is definitely not in our interest to have this problem going on and on and we should be seen as an ‘honest broker’ not totally partisan on Israel’s side.
    Now regarding the neocons, yes they pushed for the Iraq war with a small force. Remember Wolfowitz, Richard Pearl, Don Rumsfeld and this joke of a con man Achmed Chalabi. Luckily Bush gave those folks the boot in his second term.
    No, even though I opposed the Iraq war, I think we can’t pull out hastily and the same applies to Afghanistan. I think we will have some sort of success (as long as it is not nation building and bringing democracy). Getting more energy independent certainly is a good goal but you forgot half of the equation. You also need more energy efficient cars and homes, more alternative energy sources etc etc because that is the stupidity of this debate between liberals and conservatives, both are right.

    Comment by funny man — 5/16/2009 @ 12:30 pm

  50. Funny Man,

    I did not suggest that Iran would be the odds on favorite in a war with the United States but they certainly can win. It would be the height of arrogance to think other wise. In fact, given the general lack of will among the American people and among the political elite and the worn down nature of the American armed forces I would say Iran has a very real chance of defeating the United States in a war.

    Notice I never suggested that an invasion of Iran would be a good idea. I’m familiar with the argument that Iran has a young pro-Western population, however, I’m a little skeptical of such thinking. These people have been exposed a steady diet of “death to America” for their entire lives. Nevertheless for now I’m going to assume you are correct. As such, the question becomes how do we play for time until things can change while preventing the current rulers of the country from destroying us? My suggestion above sounds even better. This is especially so when the massive national debt and the worn down American military is factored in.

    It may be true that the individuals you mention above favored a small invasion force. I’m not sure if they expected a long stay in Iraq. In any event, the way those men have been demonized in the media I don’t think a fair evaluation of their performance is possible. These people had become lightning rods of controversy and were almost universially hated. As such, giving these people the boot was the only thing that could have been done by that point. According to General Franks he was the one who made the decisions on troop sizes. IF we were going to invade Iraq, we should have used enough troops to eliminate the government, secure the weapons caches, secure the borders, secure the ports, secure all known potential WMD sites, and secure the country. This would have probably required a minimum of 500,000 troops.

    It’s hard to be “seen” as an “honest broker” in the Israeli/Arab war when the media is not giving us a fair presentation. Our policy has been even handed and has generally favored the Arab side in the last fifteen years or so. Israel gets about 80% of its oil from Russia. If Russia were to cut this off, this would have a greater impact on Israel than the loss of financial and military aid from America would have. Since the Arabs seem at Israel and they must blame someone, they are mad at the wrong country!!

    You are correct to point out that size matters. This is why Israel really needs these settlements. They act as a valuable buffer between Israel and its enemies. Without these settlements the point at which Isreal would need to consider drastic measures such as using nuclear weapons assuming Israel really has such weapons would come much sooner. As for the Arabs living there, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries should be able to resettle them. They have plenty of room and resources available. A settlement that compromises Israel’s defense is not going to be a good idea for Israel or us.

    As I point out in the previous post, the best thing for America to do is to stay out of this. I don’t think the Israeli/Arab conflict is our business any way. I suspect Israel will win. HAd we not acted to restrain Israel during its wars with Hezbollah and Hamas Israel would have likely delivered crushing defeats to both terrorist groups. This would have been an enormous benefit to America. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are bitter enemies of America.

    I agree with you regarding energy efficiency. I did not mention this because much has already been done in this area. We need to do more on the other side and produce more. As for alternative energy sources, these would be helpful. I think I’ve mentioned it elsewhere on this site in other posts. The problem I have with it is a great deal of money has already been spent here with minimal results. I’m a bit uncomfortable about spending large sums of money here on something that so far hasn’t yielded any real fruit when we have known technologies that work.

    We may not have a choice but to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We should do so, as soon as our transport planes can get our people out. The military is beginning to crack under the strain of continued operations in the Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Global War on Terror.

    The other option is for our NATO allies to contribute more troops. If each NATO member put in 10,000 combat troops this would probably be enough. As for Iraq, this is winding down. We will be out of it by mid 2011 at the latest and probably much sooner. As such, more troops for Iraq probably are not needed unless they are requested by Iraq’s soverign government.

    To give an example of the precarious nature of the American military, I disrember the exact dates but I think it was late 2007 there were problems with the planes that defend the skies over Alaska from Russian penetration. Given the increased activity of the Russian Air Force, this defense is mission critical to American national security. The planes that would normally have filled in the gaps were being used in Iraq. We had to rely on the Canadian Air Force to plug the hole in Alaska!!

    The choices are either pull out “hasitly” or get assistance from so called allies. Given the time it would take to get those troops in, I’m not sure the US military can hold the line for much longer. Ensuring stability for their countries is the job of Afghans and Iraqis. Securing America is the job of Americans. If we continue to run the military inot the ground, the ability of the military to carry out its most basic taks of defending the American homeland will be severly compromised, if it hasn’t been already. America’s position is even more precarious given the massive national debt.

    Finally, in his post Rick points out that we may be in a situation where we are spending blood and treasure as long as we seek to maintain superpower status. With the advances that Russia and China have made to their militaries in recent years a “superpower” status has likely been lost, however, the US is still a major power. As I’ve pointed out before, the American people really do need to ask themselves, “do we want to be a major world power?” If the answer to this question is no, some expenditures may be unnecessary. Another good question to ask is “what will the world be like if America is no longer a major world power?” I certainly don’t know the answer to that question.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 2:21 pm

  51. What I meant to convey is large sums of money seem to have already been spent on alternative energy sources with very minimal results. U’m reluctant to spend any more money on this when we already have proven technologies. I don’t think I made that very clear.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 2:29 pm

  52. Another question to ask, is “can America remain a major world power?” With the massive natinal debt any attempts to do so may be futile any way.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 2:30 pm

  53. Solar is clean and with nuclear you always have the waste. So why not work on that, I don’t see any downside. Even more with gas guzzlers. I’m not against using nuclear energy but why shouldn’t we use wind and sun. Who already spent large sums on alternative energy sources? The technology has improved greatly.
    Sure America can remain a (or the) world power. Why not?

    Comment by funny man — 5/16/2009 @ 3:13 pm

  54. Nuclear energy is an excellent option. They use this in Western Europe. It works well for them. I think it would work here. As I understand it, the waste will need to be stored underground. The Europeans have figured out how to do it safely. I think we can to. Solar and wind may work in some cases but as I understand it they do not work as well as traditional sources like oil and natural gas.

    Who has spent large sums of money on alternative sources of energy? The taxpayers have. Had the same funds been spent on extracting oil and natural gas from sources that are known to exist and in building more refineries we would be in a better position than we are now.

    “Sure America can remain a (or the) world power. Why not?” America is still a major world power. Its days as the world power are likely over, if in fact it ever was the world power. It cannot remain a major power for much longer unless BIG changes are made. It has done little to upgrade its military capabilities in recent years and from the stress of continued military operations around the world have severly degraded the capabilities that it once had. Also, America has allowed the nucelar deterrent to erode significantly in recent years. In contrast, Russia, China, and a number of enemies and potential enemies have upgraded their conventional forces and their nuclear arsenals in recent years.

    In order to remain competitive, America will need to substantially upgrade its heavy war fighting capablity and its nuclear arsenal. This should begin post haste. It will cost a large amount of money. Unfortunately with the massive national debt the funds may not be available to undertake the kind of expenditures that will be necessary to achieve the heavy war fighting capabilities and the nuclear deterrent that we need to remain a major world power.

    There may be other options. Due to the massive national debt America has and the huge lead Russia and China have opened up on America in terms of research, development, and manufacturing it is going to be difficult for Aemrica to compete in a direct confrontation with Russia or China in the coming years. It may already be difficult for America to be competitive. We may be able to negate some of the advantages that Russia and China have and will likely have in the future if we will improve our intellegence gathering capabilities.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 5:52 pm

  55. B. Poster,
    you are not American for sure. Where are you from? There is no lead that either China or Russia have build up for sure.

    Comment by funny man — 5/16/2009 @ 5:59 pm

  56. Actually I’m from America. Just to give you a little back ground on me I likely would have chosen a career in the military but my eye sight is not good enough.

    “There is no lead that either China or Russia have build up for sure.” Actually I don’t think this is true. Much of what we buy is made in China. China has an impressive manufacturing capability. We have allowed our manufacturing capability to erode to a very large degree. Russia has a larger arsenal of nuclear weapons than the United States does and the arsenal as well as the means to deliver it have been upgraded in recent years. We have not upgraded ours in quite a few years and we have allowed it to degrade to the point that even some Russian military planners have noticed.

    I’m not saying our nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it would not necessarily be effective should we need it just that we have allowed it to degrade. This may make things much harder than they need to be. In addition, there seems to be no plans to upgrade the nuclear arsenal that exist right now.

    Russia and China have upgraded their conventional forces in recent years. We have largely stood pat. At least we have not upgraded at the pace that our enemies and potential enemies have. Manning believes we have a 10+ year window. He could be right, however, I think that was probably true in about 2000. Given the fact that for the first decade of the twenty first century we have largely stood pat, at least we have not been improving our military at the rate that Russia and China and other potential enemies have been furthermore our capabilities have been eroded a great deal from the strain of continuing operations around the world in the Global War on Terror and our enemies and potential enemies have upgraded their militaries in this time I think the 10+ year horizon may be overly optimistic. Assuming we are still ahead I think the window may be at most one to two years before they catch up.

    Remaining competitive becomes even more problematic when considering the fact that it takes some time to redirect resources from other areas into the development of military technologies. This is especially problematic when one considers how slowly the American government typically moves.

    Finally assuming the American government and the American people decide that we want to be competitive with the likes of Russia and China due to the struggling economy and the massive national debt it may not be possible for us to remain competitive with them. I’m not necessarily saying we definitely can’t compete with them but this is something that we may need to consider and act accordingly.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 7:17 pm

  57. It’s really hard to believe you are from America with so little faith in our creative capability. Talking about decaying nuclear arsenal are you sure you are not talking about Russia? Ok, if you want to ring the alarm, fine. However, it has to be reasonable.
    You stated Iran could “beat’ the United States. How? With the non existent Navy or Airforce? I mean if it were life and death, either France or Britain could take them out.
    India? Yeah right, their tanks probably would be stuck in traffic. When did you see Indian soldiers efficiently in action. Same goes for Russia and China. They probably are the biggest threat in the long run but I bet you never visited those countries. I mean why in the world would they want to start an all out war with the United States. To annihilate the Earth?
    Germany and Japan have an even more impressive manufacturing capability but you don’t seem to be worried about them. Hm, I wonder, given their history. My bad, forgot the impressive Iranian manufacturing capability.

    Comment by funny man — 5/16/2009 @ 8:07 pm

  58. I have a great deal of faith in Americans and our creative ability. Unfortunately some are naive regarding the nature of our enemies and potential enemies. In order to properly harness this creative ability, Americans need to be aware of the problems and potential problems. In this area, the media and the Government have done a major disservice to the American people.

    I did not say Iran would be the odds on favorite in a war with the United States but they could win. Part of how this might be done is to use elements of their special forces that are probably already here. Iran has a very capable Navy. It is very active in the Persian Gulf. Also, thanks to significant help from the Russians, Iran has a very capable Air Force.

    The goal would not be to “annihilate the earth.” In a military conflict with America the key would be to strike decisively before the US can respond. Actually this is a good idea no matter who the enemy is. Given the poor nature of our intellegence services, being aware of the impending attack in time to respond is somewhat problematic.

    As for Gernamy and Japan, it has been said that nation states do not have permanent allies. They only have permanent interests. Right now a military attack from Germany or Japan seems unlikely, however, it could change. The nations of the EU including Germany have tended to view the United States as their major strategic competitor. It is important for military planners to plan for all contingencies and to NEBER underestimate an adversary or potential adversary.

    As for Iran’s manufacturing capability, they have been working to be self sufficient in much of their military hardware. They have made impressive strides in recent years.

    I don’t see either Britain or France being able to take out Iran in a conventional war. Based on the best I can tell, they simply don’t have the will or the military forces to get this done. Also, I would suspect that Iranian special forces specifically the Revolutionary Guard are probably already operating in Britain and France, as they likely are in the United States. Britain or France may be able to use their nuclear arsenals to defeat Iran but then they would probably face reprisals from Russia and China. In any event, no offense to Britons or French I just don’t think it is likely that either of them or both of them acting together can defeat Iran in a war. At least not without significant help from America or another major world power. Perhaps they could though.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 9:20 pm

  59. NEBER should have been NEVER.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 9:23 pm

  60. Iran as a major superpower rivaling Britain or France is just ridiculous. They are a third world nation without any serious Navy or Airforce. I don’t know where you get your intel from but you totally overestimate them. A serious Navy in the Persian gulf? What? There I can assure you that if a conflict were to break out, Britain could take care of their Navy in no time. Sure, Britain or France don’t have the military will now, why should they. I said if it is life or death they would defeat Iran conventionally.
    I was just kidding with Germany and Japan. What do you mean with permanent interests? National Interests? Germany has them, France has them, the United States have them. What is the point? Most normal thing in the world.
    BTW, secret services are one of the most overrated entities in this world. I’m not really worried about them either. You seem a bit paranoid.

    Comment by funny man — 5/16/2009 @ 10:27 pm

  61. What I meant by permanent interests is that today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy. I agree these interests are perfectly normal. Where do I get my intel from. I get much of it from non conventional sources, such as Russian defectors, Iranian defectors, Israeli sources, and those who are famillar with them. There track records of predicting world events, while not perfect, is very impressive. As for Iranian Naval activities, as I recall this came from Time Magaizine. Admitedly the article was from some time ago so it could be outdated. There is no doubt that Iran has upgraded its military capabilities since the early 2000s.

    I may be a bit paranoid, however, I think I’m a realist. I would percieve you as being a bit of a Pollyanna. I think being a Pollyanna is a much more dangerous than being overly cautious. I’m not suggesting we invade anyone. What I am suggesting is that major enemies need to be taken more seriously and we need to be more vigilant than we currently are.

    Secret services can gather valuable information on an enemy or potential enemy. This can help direct the military where the targets are in the event of a war and good intellegence can clue leaders in on what needs to be done to counter the actions of enemies or potential enemies.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/16/2009 @ 11:37 pm

  62. If I were you I’d be careful of defectors of any kind as they usually have their own agenda. Remember Ahmed Chalabi? How anyone in their right mind could have believed a man who took down Petra Bank years ago. He served the neocons well but Saddam didn’t have any of WMD so it was all a lie. Israeli sources? They also have their own agenda. How do you know they are not exaggerating? All I can tell you is that I take things seriously but I don’t blow the limited capabilities of a country out of proportion. That was done in the case of Iraq, don’t you remember? They didn’t have any Air force and Navy so they didn’t have a chance. Do you really believe we went in there because we were worried about WMD?

    Comment by funny man — 5/17/2009 @ 10:45 pm

  63. “Do you really believe we went in there because we were worried about WMD?” Yes I do. Unfortunately our intellegence turned out to be wrong. Either the WMD was moved to another location. Some sources have said Lebanon’s Bekka Valley as a possible location or Iraq did not have the WMD. Clearly the intellegence was wrong. Given the errors in intellegence gathering and analysis by the CIA and the US Government, it is hard to put much faith in any thing they put out.

    I agree that defectors can and do have their own agendas which may or may not be compatible with ours. The reason I find these credible is past reliability.

    As for Chalabi, I think it was highly unlikely that he was the only source. I have come accross many things that he did not seem to be associated with. Again, our intellegece gathering and analysis was flawed. Also, I don’t think our Coalition partners would have put themselves at risk based upon only one source. Bottom line, Chalabi should not have been trusted.

    As for Israeli sources, these are generally the most accurate. The very survival of Israel depends on superb intel.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/17/2009 @ 11:09 pm

  64. What I meant to write was: either the WMD was moved to another location or Iraq did not have the WMD. I apologize for the faulty writing.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/17/2009 @ 11:13 pm

  65. Iraq did not have any WMDs, the Niger connection was deliberately cooked up. That was a war the neocons wanted no matter what the intelligence said.
    I agree with you about good Israeli intel but they are not going to share them with you.

    Comment by funny man — 5/17/2009 @ 11:21 pm

  66. {erhaps Iraq did not have WMD. The Niger connection turned out to be incorect, however, as I recall there was other evidence to support this possibility besides the documents in question. There is also the possbility that Iraq’s WMD was moved to Syria. In any event while if I were the one making the decision, I probably would not have invaded Iraq, I can understand and empathise with those who concluded that we needed to based on the intellegence that we had at the time.

    I’m not suggesting intellegence was not “cherry picked.” Decision makers were likely VERY CINCERNED and may have over reacted. Also, some in the US government did not and do not like the former Iraqi government. As such, they were likely predisposed to believe the very worst about that government and those people. By the same token there were and are many elements of Iraq’s former government who did not and do not like America very much either. As such, they would have been predisposed to believe the very worst abut us as well.

    Bottom line is we had faulty intellegence. If we accept the premise that Bush and the so called neo cons knew Iraq did not have WMD and lied about it, then this means the CIA and other US intellegence agencies allowed themselves to be polticized for personal gain. Perhaps their is a dose of incompetence here for not detecting the manipulation of intellegence by said people.

    The other possibility is that US Intellegence and members of the Bush Administration as well as the so called necons acted in good faith and really did believe Iraq had WMD. I think this is by far the most likely possibility.

    Regardless which premise is correct the CIA and other US Intellegence Services desparately need to be reformed. Perhaps they need to be dismantled and we need to start over from scratch. A good place to start would be to try and get good HUMMIT in place. While US Intellegence is rebuilt, we would need to rely on the Intellegence of other countries. Our best bet would be Israel’s.

    “I agree with you about good Israeli intel but they are not going to share them with you.” Generally you would be correc, however, if they feel they can trust someone they will be more likely to share. Due to the often duplicitous nature of the American government toward them they seem to becoming more reluctant to share intel with our government. Had we have utilized Israeli intellegence more in the run up to the Iraq war we could have avoided many of the challenges we have had there. In fact, we probably would not have invaded.

    Until a serious effort is made to reform US Intellegence I would not put much trust in what they report. They made a mistake on Iraq’s WMD and they seem to be making the exact opposite mistake with regards to Iran!! There underestimating the threat!! Perhaps most troubling of all is in the wake of the errors made regarding Iraq WMD no one has been publically held to account and no effort, at least publically, has been made to reform US Intellegence Services.

    If for whatever reason they can’t get Iraq right, I don’t see how they can be trusted with an analysis of the potential threats posed by Russia and China. Supposing they allowed their work to be polticized on Iraq, they would likely allow themselves to be politicized on Russian and Chinese analysis as well.

    If Russia and China are 10+ years away from being competitive with America, as Manning suspects, then BIG changes will need to be made today to ensure we have the capability to meet the challenge in 2019 or so. If I’m correct, and we have much less time, these big changes will have to be made but they will have to be made much sooner. The current leadership in both Democrat and Republican circles have little interest in the kind of change that would be needed nor does the media. As such, if US Intellegence Services allowed themselves to be politicized once, in the case of Iraq, they may do so again. In other words, they may be “lying” about Russia, China, and Iran. As stated before, I don’t think there was a deliberate attempt to mislead, but either way I don’t trust trust them until they are radically reformed.

    The type of reform that will be needed will require strong leadership. I pray and hope we can get the kind of leadership that is needed before it is to late.

    Comment by B.Poster — 5/18/2009 @ 12:26 am

  67. The most impressive group of people I have ever met were the analysts on the “open” side of CIA, and I had hours of needs-assessment interviews with just about all of them. I have no idea whether they have maintained the standards of excellence they had when I was there, as a decade or two has passed and there is a whole new crew in place.

    It is the covert side that needs shoring up, in my opinion, or HUMINT, as B Poster cited. On the technical side, I think they are doing an outstanding job, but you can’t do all that must be done using remote sensing, much as many want to believe. So, I agree with B Poster that some major reform steps, perhaps simply a lot more recruiting and longer-range efforts, must take place on the covert side, and that takes time.

    However, the Congress and the Administration must support these reforms and not use a chopping block to emasculate CIA efforts on pretty-please grounds as was done by Clinton and Co. Good luck with that today!

    I am also concerned that the Agency has become far more politicized than earlier, and more proactive in making their opinions felt through back channels. I have no idea what can be done about it, except to clamp down hard on the guys that get caught–and their superiors.

    Comment by mannning — 5/18/2009 @ 2:23 pm

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