Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush speech at Annapolis: Plan for Victory

President Bush gave a fairly decent speech at Annapolis, rolling out a new strategy for coping with Iraq called the "Plan for Victory". This move is an implicit admission by the administration that they screwed up and now they really do need to come up with a plan to succeed in Iraq. But a new set of words alone won't complete the mission.

I don't think this new plan is really any different than the old plan (as it was), but more a pouring of old wine in new bottles since they know that they are facing a public relations disaster here at home. It's simply a new marketing campaign to fit the same old facts, or at least the representation of the facts that the administration uses.

So, give them an "A" for attempting to turn the ship and articulating the problem a little better, but give them a "C" overall since we'll need to "see" some results from this so-called "plan". And I have to give them a "D" for delaying the release of the plan for so long. They *should* have released the plan before the Senate had their vote to "approve" the invasion of Iraq back in 2002/2003.

An unclassified version of the "official" plan is in a document entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

The big problem is that this new "plan" is a unilateral U.S. plan. These guys just don't get it. People want a plan that involves the UN, the EU, Russia, other countries in the Middle East. As it is, this new "plan" will be a flop. Expect yet another new "plan" every six months or so, until the administration learns its lesson and pursues a multi-lateral approach. I mean, Geez, shouldn't the Iraqi government have had a chance to review and approve the plan and speak publicly about it first?

-- Jack Krupansky

Ariel Sharon and Kadima and the future of Israel and Palestine

I hadn't been a fan of Ariel Sharon or the Likud party or Israel's government overall, but Sharon's bold move to quit the Likud and form a new centrist party (Kadima, which is Hebrew for Forward) strikes me as an interesting and potentially good move. He's even managed to get Shimon Peres to quit both the Labor party and the Knesset itself to join Sharon in pursuing peace in the region.

Contrary to the traditional Likud party platform, these guys appear to be serious about giving even more land away in exchange for peace. Part of that is simply pragmatism since Israel seeks to remain a Jewish democracy and there are simply too many Palestinians on the land that Israel currently occupies, so the theory is to trade away land that happens to be the residence of significant numbers of Palestinians.

The status of Jerusalem remains a thorn in everybody's side. Both the Palestinians and the Likud/Kadima insist it remain 100% under their control, which obviously can't happen. Some form of compromise will eventually have to be worked out.

How this will all work out remains to be seen, but at least it shows some promise.

-- Jack Krupansky

National Will for National Security

In my own view, we made a huge mistake in our response to the events of 9/11 and missed a golden opportunity to morally and emotionally prepare ourselves as a nation for such events. Certainly there needed to be a determined response to the actual events, but the events were blown completely out of proportion. I offer the concept of "National Will", a determination to persevere no matter what and to refuse to allow any events, no matter how heinous to deter us from moving on in the face of all adversity and doing so it a manner that is a moral example for the rest of the world.

National Will is simultaneously a way to steel ourselves to potential adversity and also to act as a deterrent to any attempts to divert us from the path of progress. If real or potential enemies fully realize that we will be undeterred no matter what, they cease to have an incentive to pursue attacks such as occurred on 9/11. And even if they do pursue such attacks, they will by definition fail to deter us from our commitment to National Will.

As we now know, the events of 9/11 did not simply happen out of the blue and were brewing for some time and there were plenty of warning signs along the way. Law enforcement and even limited military action were appropriate at any number of points along the way and should have been pursued with more vigor. Yes, the Clinton administration should have been more vigilant and aggressive, but the Republicans should have been more sensitive to the threats of terrorism and not been wasting so much energy pursuing misguided efforts such as National Missile Defense. Law enforcement and limited military response to the events of 9/11 were still warranted. But this all out "war on terror" (or "global war on terror" or "war on global terror" or "war on terror with a global reach") and the "axis of evil" and all of that was simply not warranted. The exaggerated response to the events of 9/11 did in fact occur, and it occurred because we had not adopted and committed ourselves to the concept of "National Will".

A key aspect of National Will is that we completely refrain from public hand-wringing when any events occur. Call it a variation of the Theodore Roosevelt "Speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy. Grounding the national air transportation network and taking on a bunker mentality were *huge* mistakes. I was in Washington, D.C., sitting in a Senate hearing at 10:00 a.m. on 9/11, and the chairman of the Senate BankingCommittee (Democratic Senator Paul Sarbannes)  in fact started the hearing, saying "We're not going to let these people shut us down", the *only* heroic act I know of by *any* national public official that occurred on that day, or any of the days after that. Granted, there were a few other Senators that attended the hearing, both Republican and Democrat, but it was that act of leadership that stood out. That was a perfect example of National Will on his part, and he got absolutely *zero* support for it from any of our other "leaders". The first witness at that hearing spoke for about 15 minutes until a Capital Police officer came in and said we all had to leave. Sigh. Oh Well. But... we did in fact have 15 minutes of National Will, and let me tell you, it was great. Unfortunately, we haven't had even one minute of it ever since.

Yes, we should have engaged in significant military operations in Afghanistan and maybe elsewhere, but silently and immediately and with the element of surprise so that the perpetrators, planners, and leaders behind the events really could be dealt with effectively. But all the public hand-wringing and the ramp up of the massive "war on terror" were *huge* mistakes and damaged our ability to wage National Will.

To put it simply, if you want national security, the first and biggest step has to be th unequivocal adoption and commitment to National Will. It gives some context and foundation for everything else.

-- Jack Krupansky

Iraq - Part 2 - Building the Democratic Iraqi Police State

I'm all in favor of the Iraqi people ramping up their own security, but it does appear that we are at risk of creating a new police state. Nominally a democracy, Iraq appears poised to become the Democratic Iraqi Police State.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but simply replacing a dictatorship with a democracy without doing a credible job or eliminating tendencies towards harsh, authoritarian police practices is not a laudable path to pursue.

Unfortunately, the U.S. with its secret prisions and torture-lite and other authoritarian leanings is failing to be an acceptable role model.

-- Jack Krupansky

Democratic police state

That's what our form of government seems to be or at least is evolving towards: a democratic police state. Sure, we're still technically a democracy with elections and all that, but "we the people" have absolutely *zero* influence in the ongoing ramping up of America as a police state, with law enforcement authorities gaining more power to *act* without any due process as every day goes pay.

Face it, even to walk onto an airplane or even enter a federal courthouse, you are *presumed* to be a potential terrorist.

Secret prisons? Torture-light? Extraordinary rendition? Tightened borders? Eclusionary immigration? Sure sounds like the earmarks of a police state.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Iraq - Part 1

Iraq of course is a complicated situation, but to put it simply at this stage, we broke it, so we get to fix it.

I don't agree with either of the promoted extremes, bringing the troops home *now*, or an indefinite and vague strategy with no sense or apparent urgency.

I don't think that any fixed, scheduled plan will work, but a flexible, approximate plan can do the best we can do.

The most important element is quite simple: Let the Iraqis decide when we should leave. There is little risk that they will want us to stay for a long, long time. All the facts we have before us point to them wanting us out as soon as feasible, but they're also sensitive to their own security needs.

The strategy of the withdrawal plan is simple: as the Iraqis gradually ramp up their security, we gradually withdraw. They've stumbled a bit, but they'll come up to speed as they gradually gain confidence.

There is clearly some internal civil disorder and tension, but nothing approaching the level of breakdown normally associated with a civil war, so even a relatively abrupt U.S. withdrawal (say, 50,000 leave by June and the rest by the end of 2006) is very unlikely to leave Iraq in a defenseless posture.

We clearly have a lot of political theater here in the U.S. I don't think it hurts either our troops, the Iraqi people, or our national security interests. If anything, the news about political dissent in the U.S. probably amuses the Iraqis and convinces them that the sooner they get "those *stupid* Americans" to go home, the better. Yes, they *are* thankful that Saddam is no longer in power, but they want *their* country back ASAP.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, November 28, 2005

National Health Care System

It's wonderful if you have health insurance and health care provided for you, but fewer people do as time goes on, and it's only going to get worse.

I'm normally a fan of market-based approaches to just about everything, but health care is one place where the market, in its current form, simply doesn't work.

Personally, since I'm self-employed, I have no health insurance, but I'm healthy and rarely have any serious "health issues". But few people are that lucky, and some day my luck may run out.

I'm not sure what form a national health care program should take, but as the old saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way, so let's get the will part settled and then we'll have a clear goal to focus on.

I don't anticipate a 100% national health care system, but simply a system where there's a per-person budget allocated to each person in the U.S. and you have a choice whether to opt-in to the national system or the opion of having your share of the health care budget applied to any private health care system of *your* choice. I can't see how 95% of the American people wouldn't say "Yeah, that's a good approach."

Just to get it started, maybe we could fund it as a national sales tax. Start simple, like covering regular physicals, common ailments, and modest hospital coverage, and then ramp it up as the economy digests the diversion of financial resources. And as the system gets more robust, existing government health programs can be folded in and we can switch more of the total national health funding from income tax to sales tax.

There are a lot of looming issues out there such as organ transplants, life extension, unnecessary prolonging of treatment for hopeless cases, etc., but the issues exist regardless of who funds them.

-- Jack Krupansky

Illegal immigration

I favor much more liberal immigration policies. Basically, I think virtually everybody who wants to come here should be allowed in. We can use all the new blood and motivated workers that we can get.

The only people that I think we should turn away are hardened criminals and people who are too ill to work and likely to be more of a burden on society than a help.

As far as illegals, I say let them stay. If anybody is that motivated to risk their life to get here, I say that's a good enough test to let them stay.

I personally would never lift a finger to facilitate any law enforcement action against an immigrant whose only crime was that the U.S. refused to let them in.

-- Jack Krupansky

Torture and involuntary interrogation

Although I'd advocate compromise on quite a number of issues, one issue that I'm unwilling to compromise is aggressive interogations. Whether the harsh techniques really are technically "torture", or are simply "harsh", I vigorously oppose any form of interogation that is involuntary. The phrases "you have a right to remain silent" and "name, rank, and serial number" are the guide.

Why anybody thinks that it may be "okay" for any government to demand answers from its citizens or even people who are not citizens is beyond my comprehension. It simply is *not* okay.

-- Jack Krupansky

Where's the party?

Politically I'm basically a centrist, whatever that *really* means. I've voted Democrat almost forever and certainly don't appreciate the totality of the Republican/conservative/Neocon agenda, but the overall "platform" and approach of the Democratic party leaves much to be desired.

First, they're too preachy, and second and most importantly, they're out of power.

If they want to 1) get back into power, and 2) have the support of the overwhelming majority of American citizens, they need to change and they need to do it fast.

My view is that the Democratic Party needs a platform that appeals to what I call the "Center 60", the center 60% of American voters. 20% of the diehard ultra-right-wingers are beyond hope, but people out at the 60-80th percentile are actually fairly reasonable people who just don't happen to agree with 100% of the 0-20 percentile ultra-left-wingers.

If liberals come up with a plan that appeals to the "Center 60-80", they can probably drag the 0-20th percentile holdouts and the fact that the 81-100 percentile ultra-conservatives are out in the cold will be just fine.

Be clear, trying to win only 51% of the vote or 50.00001% or even 60% is a non-starter if you want to enact an agenda that will truly pass the tests of time and the vagaries of politics.

-- Jack Krupansky