Iran’s Gonna Pop

•July 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Interesting news from Persia; The Baazaris; the class of people who make money in and run the indispensable bazaars of Teheran and other major cities in Iran have turned against the Iranian regime.

The regime, bankrupt after redistributing the wealth in Iran to pay their political machine cronies (sounds like Washington huh?) desperately needs money to pay the thuggish revolutionary guard. They tried to impose a 70% tax hike on the bazaar merchants, and the merchants announced a strike. Predictably, this paralyzed the city of Teheran, which is the largest part of Iran’s population and economy. The Mullahs and Ahmadinejad backed down, but the Bazaaris stayed on strike. This is extremely bad news for the Iranian authorities.

To give some perspective; the 78-79 festivities started with a student revolt that looked in some ways quite similar to the recent Green revolution, with similarly young, idealistic Persians demanding freedom. This revolt was easily put down by the state apparatus, as was the Green revolution, but then, the Bazaaris got involved. They joined up with the clerics, the socialist/communists, and the students and suddenly all those unprofessional rabble rousers had real muscle. You could compare the Bazaaris to the unions, but they are even more important to the Iranian economy and tend conservative; they don’t like change and they don’t like anything that gets in the way of business. With out of control inflation, redistributionist policies, cronies getting hand out contracts from the government and now this tax hike to pay for it all, this regime has finally gotten in the way of business.

Now, all the elements are in place that were there in 1979 except for one thing; a single, populist leader in exile waiting in Paris (he had been in Iraq, but had made too much trouble there) who represents all the frustrations the Persian people have with the regime. We don’t see an Ayatollah Khomeini waiting in the wings to take power. That may be a very good thing though, since he became a strong man and set up a brutal theocracy. If multiple factions have to fight out who gets what after the fall of the Mullahs, maybe they will develop some kind of checks and balances or pluralistic system. If it were some African state, I wouldn’t bet on it, but this is Iran, and they have done things like that before.

In 1905, the Constitutional Revolution in Iran started with the merchants closing the bazaar. This led to huge changes in the state and the constitution that Iran still (theoretically) holds to. In 1891, it was the bazaaris who began the protests against the tobacco tax that led to the tobacco revolt. Again, a big time political event. Notice a pattern here?

The heart of Iran, it is said by some, is in the bazaar. If the bazaar merchants are now siding with the Green movement youths, the Mullah’s regime is probably finished.

I would predict that something significant will happen in the next few months; either a Tiananmen Square type resurgence of the regime backed by naked force, or a much bigger, more organized, more powerful, and far more effective version of the Green protests we have seen up till now, probably ending with the toppling of the Mullahs.

Well, my prediction is out there, tell me if you think I’m wrong. I have been saying something in the Middle East was going to blow up for a while now, I just thought it would be because of the pressure Iran is putting on the rest of the Middle East, but if it collapses due to internal problems before the region reaches a boiling point, that could save us the inevitable bloodletting that was going to occur.

One more thing; don’t be surprised if the Tiananmen Square scenario happens and it involves military or financial aid from China. China has invested a lot in the current Iranian regime and all bets are off if it changes. They have a good thing going with Iran and want its oil. They have backed up other clients, like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, keeping tyrants in power who serve their interests. Iran is a big and difficult to control, sophisticated and educated population, so they won’t be easily cowed, but don’t be too surprised if China sends Iran the necessary military aid to do just that.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Update;

Caroline Glick has written in her piece for Jerusalem Post; “A War On Whose Terms?” (07/13/2010) that

As is its wont, the regime has chosen to defend itself against this threat by repressing its internal enemies and attacking its external enemies. In an article last month in Forbes, Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy in the IRGC who maintains connections inside the regime, claimed that the IRGC has set up concentration camps throughout the country in anticipation of mass arrests in any future opposition campaign against the regime.

(Link to her article here)

This looks like the “Tiananmen” option I mentioned. It could also get fairly ugly pretty fast. We have to remember we are talking about the Middle East here.

My Pick For 2012

•July 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

Here you go. Watch this video and tell me Paul Ryan couldn’t be a good President.

<>

He has a lot more real government experience than Obama had when he ran, he knows something about economics, he is articulate, and he is the only Republican who has actually offered a credible plan to change the direction of the country. We need a change in direction, and Paul Ryan could actually do it if he gets a chance.

He also has charisma and talks to people like they are grownups, not kindergarteners (sorry Bobby Jindal). He would be better if he had executive experience, and he seems to know that; he has hinted that he may run for Governor of Wisconsin. I think that would be a mistake, since being a small state governor would pull him out of the issues that are important to the country for too long. I think Obama has changed the political paradigm. We need a real change in direction, real substance, and not just a good-looking face that doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular (like Romney), or that doesn’t seem to face a political challenge without folding (like Palin). Ryan may have a good-looking face, but watch him destroy Obama’s health care plan right in front of him and tell me he doesn’t have substance or the heart for a real fight.
<>

Now obviously, his “time for choosing” is not Reagan’s “time for choosing”, and he has had little opportunity to deal with foreign policy issues, but Ryan could really put forward a constructive program that could lead the Republican Party to a reawakening based on ideas and not inertia in 2012.

You will note that a few posts ago, I mentioned McCrystal’s opportunity to run for president if he wanted to, but did not say he would be a good president. I will now say that Ryan can run for president if he wants to and I am confident that he will absolutely be a good president. He’d be the best we’d had since Reagan.

Oh, and if you doubt his viability, ask the man who knows the most about Obama’s vulnerability in 2012; Barack Obama. He directly attacked Ryan by name after Ryan destroyed him in the health care conference, indicating that Obama was nervous about him and also elevating him to the president’s level instantly. (BO has done this before; remember Joe the Plumber? This time he elevated an extremely competent, intelligent, and experienced Congressman who is probably the leading light in the Republican Party. This one will not drift off after he flounders in the national spotlight.)

What Will We Do Without Cheney?

•July 15, 2010 • 1 Comment

Reading the reports of yet another heart related surgery for Dick Cheney, I felt both edified and deflated. Edified to realize what marvelous medical technology we have, but deflated as the inevitable sunk in. Some day, Washington’s favorite “Darth Vader” will be gone. A guy’s heart can only go through so much trauma after all. I realized that at this moment, the Conservative movement does not have an intellect who can step forward and fill the vacuum that will be left. Someone with real policy experience who knows why he is a conservative and can articulate it in a very clear and intellectually coherent way.

Just as Republicans have begun to realize that while this year may be similar to 1994 in many respects, they do not possess a Newt Gingrich to develop intelligent and creative out of the box policy ideas in the House or Senate, so the conservative movement as a whole will face a real void in intellectual capability when we no longer have Cheney.

The huge impact Dick Cheney has had on many levels of policy in this country is hard to overestimate. I am sure I don’t even know the half of it, but what I do know tells me that he is severely “misunderestimated” today (to use a Bushism I happen to like).

Just one example is his role in appointing Aaron Friedberg as Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs. That long and complicated title means that Friedberg had a significant impact on foreign policy for a good part of Bush’s Presidency. This is the guy who had written a piece about China’s probable strategy vis-a-vis the USA in East Asia back in 2000 that today reads like a history of East Asian relations for the past 10 years. It is amazing to look at some of his scholarship and consider it’s prescience. As Cheney’s and Friedberg’s influence waned, the USA drifted back into a pointless, endless six party talks routine that, powered by energizer bunny like State Department bureaucrats will probably never end until the final coming of the Messiah.

Cheney is largely to credit for the “Bush tax cut” from what I hear. I have read that when Cheney came on board in 2000, he talked to Bush about tax cuts and Bush was not extremely enthusiastic at first, but let himself be talked around and eventually pushed for the biggest thing he managed to do for our economy in his entire eight years. It probably would not have happened without Cheney.

“Darth Vader” came out of retirement after the end of the Bush administration because Obama was declassifying interrogation methods but not declassifying reports that demonstrated how effective the interrogations had been. In effect, the new President was making political hay by attacking the personnel who staff our intelligence and military apparatus, and who literally put their lives on the line to protect us on a daily basis. In the wake of successive beatings in 2006, and the recent Presidential contest in 2008, conservatives appeared almost cowed. They were nowhere to be heard when it came to defending the unpopular “war on terrorism” (which, despite being badly named, is worthy of our support). Nobody wanted to take on the entire media establishment until Dick Cheney and soon, his daughter, Elizabeth stepped forward to pick up the fight. Not only did they change the “issues environment” as weak-kneed conservatives found their voice, but it changed policy. The Obama White House largely backed down and pedaled away from the logical outcome of its initial statements; prosecuting US Intelligence and Bush administration officials for doing their jobs.

These three examples are only a few of the major impacts that Dick Cheney has had. In addition to the substantive stuff, who can forget his spanking of a debate against John Edwards in 2004, where the vacuous Democratic VP candidate looked like a rather dim high schooler being lectured by a rather above average Ivy League professor about the way the World really works.

This man has been more vilified than any other in our political history (if we exclude those Americans accused of actually shooting Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy), he has been labeled “Darth Vader” and had the grace to wear the slur as a badge of honor. He was painted as the “evil mastermind” behind a “naive” Bush, and every problem faced by the entire country, up to and including thunderstorms, was laid at his feet. Through it all he remained calm, collected, and always able to clearly articulate a conservative viewpoint that made so much sense that his political opponents were often reduced to sputtered, panicked, bluster within moments of his opening his mouth. Cheney does not let this get to him and focuses on building up a conservative movement that is prepared to govern responsibly when the time comes. He does more for the country more actively than people half his age on a regular basis, and has been so influential in a low-key way for so long that he is essentially taken for granted by Republicans and Conservatives who nevertheless benefit from his shadow. Dick Cheney is one of those people we are not going to realize how much we rely on until they are no longer with us.

They say we have a new guard coming up now. I am not convinced that they are the same caliber nor have the same mettle. Sure we do have guys like Tom McClintock in the House and we have Liz Cheney (who has apparently inherited a good part of her father’s intellect and drive) working in conservative circles, but I still feel unease when I read about the former VP in the hospital. It reminds me of the mortality that stalks us all, and I start to think…

What will we do without Cheney?

Stick A Fork In Him… Michael Steele’s Done

•July 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It gives me a certain sadness to say it, since I have family in Maryland who remember Erlich’s Governorship with great fondness and were very supportive of Michael Steele going back even before that period. Unfortunately, I have to say clearly that Michael Steele is politically finished as head of the RNC.

Steele has had a very rocky road as RNC head. He seemed to be a charismatic, energetic, somewhat younger leader than what we had had in the past who would provide more of a “public face” for the RNC than had been typical of former chairmen, and to a great extent he has done that. It appears though, that a public face for the RNC chair is not always a good thing, especially when he makes absurd, embarrassing, factually inaccurate comments on a regular basis. Every one of his gaffes have alienated another small slice of the Party he is supposed to be coordinating. Now, saying that Afghanistan was a war of Obama’s choosing, he has really gone totally outside the acceptable standards of the Republican Party and demonstrated that he has no core intellectual standards, just the will to attack Obama at any cost.

Obama did not choose Afghanistan. You could say he committed to it in a greater way and staked more political capital on it in a greater way than the Bush Administration, but he did not choose it, and Republicans are pretty much unanimous in supporting the surge, opposing a withdrawal date, and supporting Obama’s stand to try to win Afghanistan even if we don’t always agree with him on his greater strategy or some particulars.

Steele has alienated a large enough chunk of his party now that he will not easily be trusted with another senior position in the future. Whether or not he is ousted as RNC chair, he won’t quickly get back into any kind of national level position without a lot of detoxification. After having lost a bid for US Senate in Maryland by a pretty big margin, and having only been Lieutenant Governor under Bob Erlich, he ha not proved he can successfully run for office  on his own, has not proved he is ready for national level prime time and has not proved that he can be counted on to measure his words and make them count. In short, even if he’s not ousted now, he is done politically. Maybe he’ll try to resuscitate his career as so many others have done by drifting over to Fox to be a commentator.

One last note on this; I am very pleased to note the fact that Republicans have been perfectly willing to criticize Steele on the merits, and have not avoided criticizing him because he is black as Democrats would be expected to do. The difference between the two party’s approach to race is striking, and strangely correlates with the history books; the Democratic party was pro slavery, Republicans were abolitionist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was a life long Republican, etc. If you think that was all ancient history, consider Harry Reid and Joe Biden.

Reid;

“He [Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ ”  -Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in their book, “Game Change,”

Biden;

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, …I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Unlike leaders in the Democratic party who appear to think that no African-American had bathed before Barack Obama (if you take Biden literally), Republicans in talking about Steele have focused on what the man did, what he actually said, and how it has not been up to snuff. Nobody is going to coddle him because of his race, because the Republican Party is not racist. For that, I am proud of my party, and that is another reason Steele is done. He can’t count on any treatment except what would be afforded anyone else saying the things he is saying in his position as RNC chair.

Sorry Michael.

How To Win Afghanistan

•June 29, 2010 • 4 Comments

The President is right. A “political solution” is the necessary way to win the war in Afghanistan (though he is wrong to say “end” and not “win”). The absurd “deal” being brokered by Pakistani security forces is not the right deal however. Pakistan is trying to turn Afghanistan back into a Pakistani proxy that can base terrorists operating against India “outside Pakistani control” so they can’t be blamed. Their deal for “reconciliation” between the Karzai government and the Taliban is a recipe for Pakistani dominance and perpetual meddling to serve as the stabilizing factor there.

The problem with the Obama approach to Afghanistan is a lack of imagination. He seems to think we have to deal with Pakistan as the future guarantor of security because we’ve dealt with them in the past. Of course, dealing with them in the past has been tremendously unsuccessful because they have a stake in the war continuing forever so they can keep getting American foreign military aid forever. Pakistan is not a good partner for us.

Pakistan is also not a good partner because they are a society based on the idea of Islamist nationalism, which is the ideology used to fuze the divergent identities of all the very different peoples of that huge land. Unfortunately, Islamist Nationalism is also the foundational belief held in common between the Taliban and Al Qaida.

Pakistan recently started pushing the idea of a “good Taliban” and a “bad Taliban” so we could cut a deal with the “good Taliban”. This is a bunch of baloney. The Director of CIA just basically called it a bunch of baloney yesterday and even Obama seems to realize it is merely window dressing for a Pakistani satrapy in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, our State Department has already started using the Pakistani language on this, which has alienated India.

The current end game being talked about now is one where Pakistan would serve to stabilize a divided Afghanistan balanced between various factions. Ironically, after years of effort and billions of dollars, this would be pretty much a return to what it looked like before 9/11. That is not a victory.

A victory means that the Taliban is crushed, Al Qaida is non functional, Afghanistan does not look like it did before 9/11 and in fact is stable and democratic, and America is stronger than before. That is my definition of a victory, and it is possible. Not only that, it’s reasonably easy now that all the hard work has been done by our military.

Here is a plan for victory based on a political deal.

India is a strategic rival of both Pakistan and China. They are extremely interested in Afghanistan and are the only one of four regional players that is actually a democracy.  (The other parties trying to influence or control Afghanistan are Iran, Pakistan, and China). They have already spent a tremendous amount of money rebuilding Afghanistan and sent troops in to protect their citizens working there as well. They want a pro-Indian Afghanistan and I suggest we give it to them in return for a few things.

1; We should ask India for about 100,000 troops to “backfill” behind our guys with the Afghanis. Indian troops are all volunteer and, while nowhere near as good as ours, are about a thousand times better than the Afghani military, they are also very experienced with peacekeeping operations and 100K is a rather small number for India.

2; We should ask India to back our play on Iran in return for supporting them in Afghanistan. India has been cultivating Iran for access to oil.

3; We should ask India to sign a memorandum of understanding that requires them to build Afghanistan into a democracy.

4; Once we sign the MOU with India, we send a senior official to Pakistan and explain to them very bluntly and in a straightforward manner that we have come to believe they are no longer our best partner in Afghanistan and we are therefore handing it over to India. We should say to them; “Right now we have an MOU with India. If Al Qaida is not destroyed in your Northern provinces in six months, we will sell India weapons. If they are not destroyed in a year, that MOU will become a formal alliance. In a year and a half, we may be talking to them about mutual defense agreements. On the other hand, if you destroy Al Qaida and the Taliban in your North quickly, we will not sell weapons to India, and we will remain ‘neutral’ between your countries on Kashmir.”

And just like that, you have instant motivation. India would stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan as a democracy. They have plenty of troops, a reasonable tolerance for casualties, a working democracy and a history with British government systems, which have historically proved to be the most successful in nation building. Pakistan will go after Al Qaida for exactly the same reason they turned 180 degrees in their policy after 9/11, because the one thing they fear most is an Indo-US alliance.

For many years, America has pretended to be neutral between India and Pakistan, but the problem with this is that the stance of permanent neutrality means that we can’t punish either state for bad behavior. If we come down hard on one, it is seen as not being neutral. That leaves us only with bribes. So far, we’ve showered Pakistan with bribes for years and they quickly figured out that as long as the war keeps going on, they keep getting F-16s (and other things), so they do their best to keep it going. Hey, Pakistan’s government isn’t stupid, right?

Oddly, after 9/11, we never looked back on our “neutral” stance with India and Pakistan to see if it was still the right strategy given that we were now going into Afghanistan. How we managed to get into a major land war in Asia without re-assessing our South Asian strategy or changing it at all I can’t figure out, but we did. That is the reason Afghanistan isn’t working. The military can do miracles, but if the administration has not figured out their over-all strategy in South Asia, we don’t know where we are going and we can have no victory. Think of the military as the engine; we have a beautiful nitro-enhanced, blower-equipped, 800HP monster that can take us anywhere we want to go. Problem is, we are trying to operate without a steering wheel (no grand strategy), so we find ourselves burning rubber in circles.

As to how serious India is about rebuilding Afghanistan, here are a few points.

• India pledged $1.3 billion in aid in Afghanistan since 2001. More than a third of which has been distributed. This includes roads, infrastructure, education and humanitarian aid, as well as help rebuilding the Afghani parliament building. 1.3 billion isn’t a lot for us, but for India, that’s a huge commitment in foreign aid.

• Indian troops are currently in Afghanistan to protect Indian workers. Killing of Indian employee by Taliban in 2005 led to dispatch of 200 Indo-Tibetan border police “commandos”.

• India has military units stationed in Tajikistan and an agreement with Tajikistan concerning movement of troops.

• India has begun to bring Afghani government officials to India for training and education in specialized areas.

All that means they really are committed to the place and they are perfectly willing to be there long term. The critics of any cooperation with India of course, will cry that this will irk China, who is our very best friend in all the World. Unfortunately for them, American strategy in Asia has always been to keep one powerful player from gaining enough strength to dominate it and project power outward, or close Asia off to us. This is precisely what China is busily doing. India is one of the very few states in the World that can counter balance China, so we need to make sure they increase in power as China does. As a rule of thumb, if it irks China, it’s probably the right thing to do.

Proposed steps;

• Cut deal with India; we will formally back you strategically, you will stabilize Afghanistan.

• Use Indian peacekeepers to “backfill” with Afghani military behind NATO troops. As Indian troops take over peacekeeping and American military systematically destroys enemy bases, we should be able to draw down our forces until India is primarily maintaining stability.

• Ask India to back American policy on Iran in return for the strategic boost.

• Pressure Kabul to allow Indian troops in and to formalize their relationship to India via treaty.

• Create a land link between India and Afghanistan if possible (this may be possible based on small modifications to the line of control in Kashmir). Too much diplomatic effort should not be wasted on a hopeless attempt to permanently settle the Kashmir issue however, American interests in Afghanistan cannot be held hostage by a slow diplomatic process over a several decades old conflict.

• Keep American “strategic preference” for India informal. Use memorandums of understanding. Inform Pakistan that unless they destroy Pakistani Al Qaida, this will formalize and arms sales to India will increase.

• Take steps to ensure Indian leadership in Afghanistan after American withdrawal. Make a clause of the MOU with India that they will continue to build democratic institutions.

• Facilitate and support efforts to send Afghani bureaucrats to India for training and education.

• Work on intelligence sharing deal with India to secure intelligence concerning terror targets and warnings in the region as they strengthen networks in Afghanistan.

• Immediately authorize arms sales equal to anything sold to Pakistan up till now to India, with the possibility for more sales and military cooperation in the future.

• State that China is not the reason we are selling arms to India. We are selling them only to help them in their mission to stabilize Afghanistan. (Nevertheless, it is in American interests for a strong India to counterbalance Chinese power).

There, it’s been posted. It’s up there, and our policy makers can find it if they want to. From now on, they have no excuse for losing what our boys in uniform have sacrificed so much to win. If Washington finds a way to turn our endless string of victories in Afghanistan into a Vietnam type FUBAR, they can’t say it was because “nobody had a plan”. Here is a plan, do something with it.

McChrystal For President

•June 27, 2010 • 11 Comments

Given the events of the last few days, with Rolling Stone publishing an article that printed much too much truth about what the staff of our senior military commanders actually think of this administration, there is now an opportunity for McChrystal to really do something about it all if he wants to.

I am not going to repeat the commentary that has been running elsewhere about the Rolling Stone article, except to say that I actually doubt that a man in Stanley McChrystal’s position would have not known the likely result of the interviews his staff were giving. I think he realized that the President’s withdrawal timetable was leading to inevitable defeat, and decided to make a strong statement about the administration before he went. If this is true, then he is a very savvy political player.

I’ll lay out a case for why he can run for president credibly, but I will make no predictions as to what sort of president he would be, except to say he would be guaranteed to be better than what we have.

First; by 2012 at the rate things are going, Michael Jackson’s chimp could probably win against Obama in the general election if endorsed by the Republican Party. Obviously, there is more to it than that, with a sitting president always having a lot of advantages, but this president is displaying an astounding lack of competence combined with an astounding ego, which blocks him from learning in order to build his competence. The result is that we should not expect Obama to have built back up his credibility by 2012. This all means that the real race will be inside the Republican Party in the primary election; rather the way the real race in 2008 was in the Democratic primary election.

With the populist anger out there, any outsider will have a great chance against a Washington insider, but people will still be looking for competent experience after 4 years of the boy wonder Omessiah. This means that a military leader is almost the only category of individual who could simultaneously show national security and leadership credentials and also not come from an institution (like Congress) viewed as corrupt and out of touch with America. Obviously, he can check this box nicely. It is hard to say that McChrystal’s experience would leave him unprepared to handle being Commander In Chief. No community organizer is he.

Thirdly, he has already tickled the happy button of every hard-core conservative in Washington by letting his staff say what they really think to Rolling Stone magazine. Everybody who considers Dick Cheney a great leader is smiling at the entire episode (minus a little queasiness at the thought of changing out commanders during a critical phase of operations in Afghanistan while we are losing our boys in combat). This means that he has a good base to begin courting the real conservative types who are critical in gaining support for a primary run for the Republican nomination. If you have given the crusty old Washington conservatives warm fuzzy feelings in the past, you are in a good position for getting the Republican nomination, which I’ve already said is critical to winning in 2012.

Finally, he is not bad in either political maneuvering (having out maneuvered Obama; twisting his arm into ‘OK’ing a troop level increase last year) or public speaking, which are critical to the ability to transform into a presidential candidate. His public speaking skills are not bad at all. He has a plain-spoken, humble, yet intelligent demeanor that could easily appeal to middle America. He comes across as the kind of guy who would explode if he tried to do anything other than “give it to you straight”, which is enhanced by his entire break with the Obama administration of course.

There are downsides, and he has some liabilities to get around. First of all, being a presidential candidate takes a tremendous amount of effort and represents an entirely different set of skills than the war-fighting and leadership skills he has honed his entire career. Knowing how to win a war and knowing how to win a political campaign are related, but he will have to get out fast, get help starting a PAC to fund travel (like WIN-PAC maybe), and get some on the ground experience canvassing, meeting constituents, and speaking on behalf of selected Congressional candidates this year in order to build some experience with the weird and wooly world of campaigning. Also, he will have to try to practice smiling, which is always a bonus in a presidential candidate.

Beyond his lack of campaign experience is his political past as a Pentagon ladder climber. In the Pentagon, a presidential vote is a strategic move connected to your ability to get appointed to different jobs, and I am certain that his decision to vote for Obama was, like Colin Powell’s, the result of a lot of years needing to be on the winning side of the Presidential race in order to stay relevant. He probably wanted to be able to be appointed to oversee Afghanistan by the new administration because he knew we were bleeding there and had to win for the sake of our boys (and girls) in uniform, but this is something he would have to explain (diplomatically) should he seek the Republican nomination.

Another area where he is a mystery is economics. This is a critical area now, with the Great Recession just dragging on and on thanks to the endless meddling and over-involvement of Washington in all areas of our economy. What McChrystal knows about economics is not clear. He would have to attract some good people (I would personally recommend Tom McClintock of CA, for example, both for political and economic advice), and would have to develop and articulate a very clear, credible, and (critically) different from the Democrats, approach to our economic problems in order to be viable. If he did this though, with his excellent military background and politically incorrect break with Obama, I think he could be a major player, should he decide that running for Commander-in-Chief is the best way to help our guys in harm’s way and protect our citizens (goals he appears to have spent his entire life pursuing).

Some say his rough edged personality and penchant to “go rogue” on leadership are bad traits. I disagree. I think these things allow Americans to identify with him (unlike, say David Petraeus, who, rather too perfect all the time, has been aptly described as a “geeky teacher’s pet type”). McChrystal’s personality is actually one of his best assets, and as a senior officer, he has even had to learn to curb the expletives that come naturally to a guy who spent too long in Spec-Ops when on camera.

Whether he can bring in a team of experienced people who know about campaigns to advise him, build up a little campaign experience, and develop a basic economic plan, and whether he even wants to go through all the trouble and years of sacrifice of running are unclear (though years of sacrifice don’t seem to faze him particularly given his background). Nevertheless, McChrystal could well be a formidable figure in a Republican primary given the current lack of a central leader in the GOP. As I said before, he who wins the GOP nomination in 2012 will be well on his way to winning the general. I don’t know if he would be a great president or even a good one, but after what we have now, I think he would seem great by comparison if he only tried a quarter as hard as he did to win our war in Afghanistan for us.

Middle East About To Explode

•June 4, 2010 • 3 Comments

Other than the raid by the IDF of the ships determined to open a weapon smuggling route to the Hamas brethren of the Islamist Turkish organizations that sponsored the trip, something else very significant is brewing in the Middle East.

I have outlined in other blog posts that the Middle East functions not based on a “power balancing” paradigm like Europe, but on one centered on a “bandwagon” effect. This means, in short, that being feared and powerful is far better in the region than being liked, and that aggression will gain you “allies” and followers as states decide to get onto the winning team before they become the next target.

The United States was the hegemon in the Middle East. We crept into the role after 1991, but very much more so after our second war in Iraq which saw immediate returns in the form of Libyan compliance with our wishes, Syrian malleability, gains in Lebanon (temporarily, alas), and many other tangible benefits after our invasion of Iraq. Unfortunately, the United States hates the idea of being the hegemon in the Middle East so much that we spent the last two years of Bush II trying to wiggle out of it, and now after a year and a half of Obama, we have completely convinced the Middle East that we are 100% not interested in sticking around to ensure stability there as we did in Asia. (As a side note, the Middle East has always been a cauldron of violence EXCEPT when a single, usually imperial power dominated it, in which case it would spend decades or centuries in productive peace, just FYI.)

Now, the Middle Eastern states have taken Obama’s message to heart. They will now have to have another round of major wars to sort out exactly who the new top dog is over there. Iran seems to have gotten away with everything and is the growing power that openly thumbed it’s nose at the USA and sent in support to help kill our troops in Iraq. Now, the fear of Iran engendered by it’s history and positioning is paying off. Turkey, once a stalwart American ally seems to have (with it’s backing of this blockade breaker fleet against Israel) finally peeled off and is now effectively cooperating with Iran. This is an enormous shift. Turkey is a huge state with the second most powerful military in the region (other than Israel), a big economy, and a relatively modern state apparatus. Losing Turkey gives the anti-Americans a huge boost. Not only that, but our oldest follower in the region other than Israel, Egypt, has staged war games aimed at giving it’s troops practice in they type of operations necessary to attack Israel. This is another massive red flag that has gone unnoticed in Washington. If we lose Egypt, we are almost toothless in the status game of Middle Eastern bandwagon politics.

Syria is now arming at an alarming rate, and has been doing so for several years. They are built up to a level not seen since 1973, thanks to Iran buying off their debt with Russia (dating back to 1973, incidentally) which had kept them from charging up the credit cards on new tanks and missiles. Syria is now armed to the teeth. So is Hizbullah. So is Egypt (thanks to us). So is Turkey (largely thanks to us). So is (to some extent) Iran (thanks to China). But of course, egypt would never use American technology to attack Israel, right? Just like the Taliban would never use American technology for use against the USSR against American interests? I mean, this is the Middle East here; people respect their contracts, right?

What is happening now is that the bandwagoning effect of states jumping on Iran’s bandwagon has progressed to the point where it is nearing critical mass fast. If Egypt tilts too far, the whole Middle East will explode again as it has not done since 1973. America will be standing on the sidelines as an out of (our) control major military conflict goes on just across a couple small borders from our own military conflict in Iraq. The possibilities for this going wrong are staggering in their number.

Why does the Iran bloc have to attack Israel anyway? Why can’t we have a “peaceful rise”, as China purports to be doing? Because Israel will not submit to Iran, for it is not suicidal. Israel refuses to be the sacrificial goat of the region. So long as the strongest military and economic power in the area refuses to join the wolf pack, it is not complete. If it is not complete, the Alpha wolf is not secure. If he is not secure, he, himself is dead meat in the long run, because his entire claim to authority is his ability to cow or terrify every other wolf in the pack. Iran MUST defeat Israel or Iran itself will be attacked by the Arab states who don’t particularly like the Persians, or by Suunis who don’t particularly like Shiites. The mere fact that Israel refuses to cower is what keeps the Gulf Arab states from kowtowing to Teheran. They have gone so far as to offer (reportedly) the use of Saudi airspace to Israeli warplanes on their way to Iran. That cannot be tolerated. Once too many big states jump on the bandwagon, a war is inevitable.

War is inevitable, that is, unless the USA does something about it. Of course, with a President who has been doing nothing but throwing doggy biscuits almost randomly at the wolves, we are in no position to assume the leadership mantle that is currently unoccupied. This means that Israel will be the only real resistance to Iranian hegemony. Believe me, Egypt does not risk it’s incredibly cushy position with our State Department lightly. If they are engaging in anti-Israel war games, this tank of gasoline is very likely about to go poof.

Keep that in mind as you watch upcoming events. Believe me, the Palestinians are a sideshow. The main event is Arab-Israeli War V; this time with a Persian flavoring and some American troops caught up in it from Baghdad and Falluja. In Gen X terminology; how incredibly joyful!