Why I May Vote for Obama This Time. If I Vote.

June 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm (By Amba)

I’m awfully tempted not to.  Sickened by the ever stronger resemblance of partisan politics to football, where getting the ball away from the other team and into one’s own end zone has become an end in itself, and the presidential election is the Super Bowl.  Nauseated by the prioritization of winning and spoils over governance, the frosting of self-righteous ideology over self-interest. (Everybody loves big government if it enables their class, from Wall Street to welfare.  Wallfare.) Gagged by the subscription to prefab sets of ideas that are shibboleths for membership in one or the other group of We Are the Good, the Better Sort. Bewildered by the crude misfit of polarized ideas to reality, which always seems to me to be neither/nor and both/and: Poverty’s the poor’s fault/poverty’s the rich’s fault. Abortion is a sacred right/abortion is a heinous crime.  Well, yes and no.  (As I tried hard to express here, but of course it is inexpressible. That’s why Taoists shut up, or talk nonsense.)

But I have a friend who used to be a diplomat in communist Eastern Europe, and he once said to me, “You have to vote.  Because you can.” Every time I consider not voting, I hear him say that.

As a voter, the main principle guiding me seems to be countersuggestibility.  I’m not sure some of my family and friends even know that I didn’t vote for Obama last time.  I didn’t have the courage to tell them, because I frankly thought some of them might stop speaking to me — that’s how tribal politics has become.  But also, not voting for Obama was not some grand declaration of principle or ideology.  I simply didn’t think he was qualified for the presidency in terms of executive experience, and I thought that if I wouldn’t vote for a white guy with the exact same bona fides, voting for Obama just because he’s black would be racist.  That left me, I thought, with no unquixotic choice but to vote for McCain, who was too old (if there was ever a time for him, it would have been 2000) and possibly a loose cannon.  But I wasn’t afraid of conservatives per se (other friends of mine, who may now stop speaking to me, are), and I respected survivors.

I expect Romney will win in November — we always change presidents when the economy’s bad, and it is still awful — and I’m not afraid of him, either. In every way (including the Brylcreem) he seems like a throwback to the Nixon era, a pragmatist and a manager, not an ideologue.  All his flip-flopping just says to me that he’s a political opportunist who will put on the cloak of whatever ideology will get him elected, and then throw it off and get to work, with fairly nonideological results.  (Exhibit 1: Massachusetts.)  I’m not afraid of his Mormonism, either.  Such Mormons as I know seem to pretty much ignore their screwy theology and concentrate on clean living and efficiency.

So why vote for Obama, who has been a predictably weak president in many respects (though a stronger one on national security, of all things, than one would have expected)?  Because I can’t stand his automatic demonization any more than I could his automatic deification.  Conservatives’ visceral hatred and distrust of him seems as reflexive and a priori as liberals’ reverence for him.  It’s like the Zen koan “Show me your original face that you had before your mother and father were born.”  Conservatives hated and liberals loved Obama before he was born.

I might vote for Obama for the same reason I didn’t vote for him before: because he’s just a guy.  He wasn’t the savior, and he’s not the devil.  How perverse is that?

My favorite presidential candidate was the unesthetic, no-bullshit Chris Christie, a Republican who dared to say human-caused global warming is real.  (Not that I agree with him; I admire him for breaking ranks.)  If he were Romney’s vice-presidential choice, it might sway me. But he won’t be. Romney’s choice will be someone more telegenic and demographic, like Rubio.  Besides, Romney is probably healthier than Christie, and you want it to be the other way around.

*Sigh*  Okay, bring it on.


  1. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Amba, we’ll still love you no matter who you vote for.

  2. amba12 said,

    Really??? I love you too.

  3. lh said,

    I will stand by you no matter what, Annie–

    Full Stop.

  4. amba12 said,

    *{{{hugs you}}}*

  5. mockturtle said,

    Well, I wrote in Ron Paul in the last Presidential election and may very well do the same this year. I find both parties equally self-serving and out of touch with both the Constitution and with the nation.

  6. amba12 said,

    I have to admit that when it comes to Ron Paul, I’m a little bit brainwashed by that American self-regard that says we have to busy ourselves in other parts of the world to be safe, and that we sometimes have some kind of mission to keep other people safe (even though I know that idealism is mostly the frosting on turf wars and treasure hunts). The idea of just being another country minding its own business (while other countries don’t) worries me. Like I said, brainwashed.

  7. Joe Mattern said,

    When Obama won I figured even though I didn’t vote for him that he might bring the country together so that could be a good thingt. I thought he might bring the country together mainly because HE SAID HE WOULD…….he is as useless as Bush maybe even more because he is a PURE Bullshitter. He is the only president I would like to punch in the mouth.

  8. amba12 said,

    Joe, my question to all of us, myself included, is: did you look at him with your own eyes, or through the eyes of the pundits you follow? Do any of us have any idea of what these people are actually doing when most of what we read about them has already been interpreted by people with that a priori axe to grind? We’re being told what to think, don’t you think?

  9. mockturtle said,

    I’ll let Joe answer the question [big of me, right?] but I can tell you how I feel about Obama. When he ran last time, I thought he was, at worst, innocuous. I much preferred Hillary Clinton over him as a nominee but I thought his head and heart were at least well meaning. As I said, I didn’t vote for him but wrote in RP. Since then, his executive orders are becoming an issue for me and have forced me to conclude that he is a power grabber [as was GW Bush] and I also don’t like the ‘more flexibility’ statement he made to Russian President Medvedev [who said he would ‘tell Vladimir’]. Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase is a big supporter of Obama and, as I recall, so was the former [fired] president of Fannie Mae [or was it Freddie Mac?] before Obama was elected. IMHO, he and Bush were equally culpable in our present economic mess.

    One thing about Romney I like—he has his own money. He does lack charisma, a fact I consider a non-issue. If I don’t write in Ron Paul again, I’ll probably vote for him.

    If we look back into history, we often see that the presidents who caused the most excitement [Kennedy?] were not our best presidents and some ‘sleepers’, like Truman, were winners. Personally, I like Ike, although I was just a kid when he was President. Maybe it’s time for another General. Schwartzkopf??

  10. mockturtle said,

    I might add that, though a Ron Paul supporter, I do not agree with his isolationist policies. However, I certainly believe we are mis-involved and over-involved at present. Some people are getting rich off of this ‘war’ on terror and it certainly isn’t us. Show me, at least, some real progress!

    Yes, I would continue to support Israel

  11. amba12 said,

    mt, you’re reminding me why I have to get serious and really examine what Obama has done rather than just vote out of perversity. That’s lazy.

  12. mockturtle said,

    BTW, I meant Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, not President.

  13. Icepick said,

    MT, I’m pretty sure Medvedev was still President when Obama made those comments to him. That was right after the Russian election, as I recall.

  14. Icepick said,

    For the record, I’m not voting, unless I write in a friend’s name. (I’ll ask him if he wants my vote – if he says yes I’ll vote for him!) I refuse to reward one party for being slightly less noxious than the other. I’m being offered the choice between a shit sandwich on wheat and a shit sandwich on white. Either way, it’s still a shit sandwich, and I’m tired of eating them. So no money, no votes, no freakin’ pins or t-shirts. I’m not supporting these so-called leaders anymore. My protest isn’t going to acomplish anything, but neither will my vote.

  15. amba12 said,

    Good point, Ice. But I still hear my friend’s words echoing in my ears.

    MT, I am really so uninformed, and one reason (though no excuse) is that I don’t trust the sources I might read not to have a priori agendas.

    If I become convinced that Obama is sucking up to Putin, I WON’T vote for him.

    Please, somebody, tell me what I can read that won’t try to spin my head like the kid in The Exorcist.

  16. Margie said,

    Interesting replies. Seems like everyone has a bone to pick, whether for or against the incumbent. For me, the elephant in the room is the corrupt senate/house people. I won’t give them the dignity of referring to them as representatives, since they are crooks looking out for themselves, period. Oh sure, they frequently say things are being done for the greater good……oh sure. That is one phrase that should be aborted from the American lexicon. Talk about great lies…..as I said, our representatives pass only what is favorable for them….in perpetuity, or so it seems.

  17. mockturtle said,

    I read from a number of sources, at least sporadically, which include several British news sources [not the BBC] and Al Jazeera, IMHO one of the best comprehensive news sources on the planet. I watch Lehrer Newshour which is the only source of TV news that I trust [sort of]. Not that I consider myself well informed, by any means. [Ice is correct that Medvedev was president until May] It’s quite impossible to get good news sources nowadays so the best bet is to be as eclectic as possible.

  18. amba12 said,

    Al Jazeera! Huh. Yeah, I’ve heard they’ve gotten quite good, and actually rather objective, or balanced. You think?

  19. amba12 said,

    Margie — you’re so right. I wish we had a citizen legislature — that serving in government was like jury duty, and then you went back to your life.

  20. amba12 said,

    I sometimes think the human enterprise has become such a snarled mess that there’s no way out but some big catastrophic eraser.

  21. joared said,

    Frankly, I don’t give much credence to the primary candidate of any of the parties. Also, I’m inclined to think one of the reasons why the people of this nation have done a rather poor job of guiding this nation’s course is due to apathy. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” or words to that effect.

    I must confess to not understanding a friend of mine who was annoyed because H. Clinton lost the Dem. nomination to Obama, so voted for McCain. As much as those two parties (I no longer belong to either) have changed in their basic beliefs, contrary to what their platforms state, there are fundamental differences which are not interchangeable — despite their both catering to the monied class.

    I don’t think Romney and his wife have the foggiest idea of what life is like for ordinary Americans as I’ve listened to his words and observed his actions, unlike some of the wealthy Presidents we’ve had in the past. I think past reports of his paternalistic behaviors enforcing his religious beliefs on female church members, and actions as a young adult man indicate significant character traits I have no reason to believe are no longer present and I would not welcome them in a leader.

    He’s acquired his wealth not on creating jobs, but on investments of the money of the wealthy, which often meant eliminating jobs. His business reminds me of a similar operation years ago when I worked for a financially successful multi-state corporation that was purchased by a national corporation whose other companies were all in the red financially. The national company proceeded to function much like the Mafia, sucking out all the profits of the multi-state successful corporation. Needless to say, that once profitable acquired smaller corporation eventually disintegrated and was sold off in pathetically destroyed bits and pieces taking jobs with it (not mine, as I had left before that.)

    When he was Gov., review the decline of job creation in his state. Why would we expect he would be any more capable of doing nationally what he couldn’t do in his state?

    Unless there is some change in the composition of Congress we’re doomed to more gridlock, since one Party declared years ago they’re more interested in re-election of their group than attending to what might be in the best interests of this nation. How can I respect them and their leaders?

    I don’t like the extremist views of either Party, but I would rather contend with containing too much freedom, than living with those who would project their own social and religious beliefs on all others. A theocracy like Iran, and one which now threatens Egypt, is counter to what this nation’s founders fled in Europe, though their Puritanism hardly reflected what they said they believed.

    “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” Robert Maynard Hutchins

  22. Donna B. said,

    I don’t think there are any sources you can read that don’t spin the story in some way. The trick is to recognize the spin, read multiple sources, consider the sources, and do the best you can to determine what the “real” story might be.

    Oh, and good luck with that.

    Perversity can be a force for good sometimes. In fact, that’s the way I tend to look at Obama’s presidency so far. His getting elected actually has done good for race relations, but I don’t think it is in the way he or the pundits think it is.

    I’m basing that not on what’s written, but on changes I’ve observed where I live. The black people I know and interact with are happier. They smile at me more, they’re more likely to look me in the eye and actually see me and let me see them.

    That sounds condescending and I don’t mean it to — I’m not as good with words as I would like to be. For the 20+ years I’ve lived in this city, the demographics have been close to 50/50 black/white, and probably were for years before. The majority of black people have smiled at me and looked me in the eye always. What’s different is that the noticeable minority of them who didn’t, who proudly wore a sullen resentfulness, has shrunk close to non-existent.

    It is that sullen, resentful minority that once influenced the majority to vote for the Democrat no matter what.

    Another change I’ve seen is in a very small subset of white people — trade union members specifically. My husband’s male family members have belonged to a trade union for generations. His father’s generation served stateside during WWII as pipefitters, electricians, and ironworkers building factories and ships and aircraft. That wasn’t all done by Rosie the Riveter, ya know?

    My husband was the outlier in his family deciding on a career in the military first and then rejoining them as a pipefitter.

    Until Obama was elected, no one could have convinced any of them that a Democrat would ever do them wrong or that a Republican wasn’t out to destroy them. Y’all may think the internet is full of vitriol now, but I read and posted to trade union bulletin boards during the 90s. Frankly, that’s where I learned that I was — along with most of the other posters — a conservatively bent libertarian.

    Now, I’m seeing those union members acknowledging the corruption that is inherent in public service unions. They feel betrayed and used far beyond the unfortunately expected financial corruption they’d become rather used to.

    Obama, through his support (half-hearted though it was) has exposed the core corruption — as opposed to the merely financial — in unionizing public servants.

    Of course that’s merely my spin on the “union” problem. But it’s the spin of one who counts on a union pension check every month and wonders when it will bounce.

    Obama has — perversely — served his country well…. so far. It’s a gamble as to whether he needs another term to continue this work, isn’t it?

    For me, personally, I will vote against another term for Obama to both protect whatever viability that union pension has… and because he is first a radical leftist (IMHO, of course) and second (and almost inconsequentually) a radical leftist.

  23. Donna B. said,

    Well, that last paragraph made no sense!

    For the last “a radical leftist” please insert “an incompetent”.


  24. Donna B. said,

    Furthermore… unless I get my comfortable desktop with multiple monitor computer setup back up, I may give up the internet altogether.

    I am now reduced to an old laptop, a somewhat newer tiny netbook or my “smart” phone for internet. I am not a happy camper.

    But I am a cheap one. My desktop setup that succumbed to my mistreatment was at least 10 years old. The one I’m trying to get up and running is only a few years younger. Both were given to me. I have not paid for a desktop computer since… well, a long long time ago.

    I did buy this durned laptop I’m on now about 5 years ago. I hate it, as I hate all laptops.

    However… I find I’m grateful that it got me here and must now say that even if I have to use this increasingly annoying laptop to stay connected to my internet friends, the connection is more important than the annoyance.

    But if I should happen to come into a great number of $$$, I will get me a huge honking powerful desktop computer with FOUR monitor instead of only two…

    Yeah… I’m whining. And moaning and groaning. And I know that I’m still one of the privileged… but dadgummit I want all those privileges back! And I want them NOW.

    Whew… I do feel better now.

  25. kngfish said,

    I would like a machine with a screen that floats in the air and follows me around…like a pet!

  26. Maxwell James said,

    I feel less conflicted about my vote in 2012 than I did about my vote in 2008. I vote for president primarily on foreign policy, because that’s where presidents have the most influence. And Obama’s record on foreign policy, while far from perfect, is a great deal better than I had any cause to think it would be back then.

    – We’ve successfully wound down the Iraq war without major loss of life, and without Iraq becoming a proxy state for Iran – despite many conservative predictions to the contrary. To me this is Obama’s most significant accomplishment, and one he gets, amazingly, zero credit for.
    – Similarly, the Afghanistan war has begun to wind down, so far without major disaster (relatively speaking) as well. I fly a fair amount for work, and see returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in the airport all the time.
    – I didn’t support the Libya war and thought it was going to be a disaster. It hasn’t been, at least so far. While the pro-Qaddafi forces are still making trouble there, they’re having elections in a few weeks, and have a chance to establish a functional government.
    – The New START treaty with Russia, which was enacted despite vigorous Republican squawking, is a pretty decent step towards ameliorating the one existential problem humans still face.

    As for Romney, he’s lost me several times over now – most recently when he called Russia our “number one enemy.” That goes beyond idiotic preening for his base, and into a more dangerous area.

    Oh, wait, you want to talk about economics? Well, we’re fucked there. But I still hew to the old, conservative idea that the president doesn’t have much power over the economy. I’m not wild about most of the decisions Obama’s made in terms of the economy, but I also think their impact, negative or positive, has been far less than has been made out to be. Nor do I think Romney would be any improvement in this area.

    Like you I think Obama may very well be dragged down by it, but if so will be remembered, like George H.W. Bush, as a pretty decent one-term president. Especially compared to what comes next.

  27. karen said,

    I guess i’ll chime a little tune- hopefully less shaky than my soul, right now.

    First and foremost- AMBA- you have the absolute right to vote for whomever you desire and think is best for the job. Just because i may disagree w/you– why would you think i would(anyone would)not speak to you again?? It’s no one’s freaking business who you pen down, for whatever reason- and i wonder why you’ve decided to share this info– maybe to be talked out of it:0)?

    My soul is shaky due to the visceral conservative reaction toward such a man as O. Not. It’s shaky due to all of the arrogant behavior of this said President’s past, much documented and on youtube- toward anyone who doesn’t agree w/him or his politics. Or, his wife’s.

    How many vacations has he and his family taken- at what cost to our Country? i heard 18. Remember when Air Force 1 flew over NYC so low that people freaked- thinking another attack? Which- IIRC- he denied.

    If Russia isn’t a foe– then why are they aiding Syria when we are trying(through the UN)to stop the carnage? I mean- the UN worked so well for Iraqi ethnic cleansing, eh? I suppose Obama can take credit for reconstructing the marshes in Iraq that were drained/destroyed by Saddam, as well?


    It’s funny to read Althouse and her posts trying to view Obama w/different eyes and thn read yours– doing the same:0). It’s confusing, but- it’s totally understandable- uniqueness of all.

    ps- our cow, amba- just calved this a.m. Had a bouncing baby boy– which sucks because he has to leave, pro’ly Thursday.

    I don’t know why i seem to be the only person that sees W as a man who stood up for something when no one else would. I find him… principled. Anchoress just had a post on all of his work in Africa– and the picture was so beautiful. It is impossible for me to see Obama doing the same thing. He can never let his guard down enough to be himself– whoever the hell that is.

  28. karen said,

    Ron: a pet’net!

  29. karen said,

    Also, the only pundits i listen to are pretty evenly divided.
    CBS news, Npr- and Ace, lol. Military blogs are a source of research on what they think of the President. That could be helpful. Who a man surrounds himself w/is important- i loved Condi. Hillary- not so much. Markedly different women. One was born w/grace.

    I find it fascinating that Althouse refers to Rush so often. I think she’s able to ignore the partisan bs & hear the info w/in. Maybe because she’s a lawprof? Also, all of the Walker goings-on in Wisconsin was helpful in seeing how ~each side~ tried to get their message across.

  30. mockturtle said,

    Al Jazeera! Huh. Yeah, I’ve heard they’ve gotten quite good, and actually rather objective, or balanced. You think?

    I find them [my own subjectivity permitting, LOL!] to more objective than balanced, balanced implying two sides to every issue. Seems to me they just report as much actual news, without spin, as possible from everywhere on the globe. What the BBC once did.

    Of course, I read the English version of AJ. The Arabic version might be chock full of biased rhetoric. ;-) No, I don’t think so, although Al Arabya is in that camp. We used to get AJ on TV, too, and found it worth watching. Perhaps you get it in NYC. I’ve always preferred the print medium, however.

  31. Icepick said,

    Calling Russia an enemy is impolitic (a failing of sorts in a politician), but it’s not like it isn’t true.

    Plus, it’s not like Obama and Putin are all that chummy either, despite Obama’s promise to grab ankles for Vlad after the election.

  32. Icepick said,

    Maxwell, the people in Mali (and in what used to be Mali) might have a different viewpoint about how well the Libyan adventure is turning out. As would the sub-Saharan Africans in Libya.

    Not to mention that Obama has a fetish for deciding who lives and who dies – has any President ever been this involved in having people assasinated? He’s got a WEEKLY MEETING to decide who to have offed next. He won’t do press conferences anymore, he hasn’t gotten a budget passed, but he makes that weekly kill-list meeting every week! Woohoo! It;s the only meeting he makes more regularly than his turn on the links. And he had his minions in the Administration go to the NYTs so they could brag about what a sociopath he is – they consider this effective image management!

    And thanks to our congress Obama now has the power to assasinate any American anywhere based solely on his say-so. There can be no excuse for this kind of tyrannical policy, and no excusing those who support it.

    Yet another reason to not vote for any of these bastards, or the parties that coddle them.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the constitution is no longer the operative document in the land, and it isn’t where we should look for guidance. It’s time to look to that other old document locked away in the vaults. The one that states, in part:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    PS Sorry to link to a Greenwald piece, but he’s correct on this issue. Not sure how much this particular link delves into the assasination issue. Seriously, folks, you live or die at the whim of the president now, whoever that might be, with no prospect for any kind of review or appeal.

  33. amba12 said,

    Joared, thank you for the thoughtful comment. I’m sorry I didn’t wake up and “approve” it sooner. There’s so much here I want to respond to, but I’m preparing to go to Chicago tomorrow for parents’ 70th anniversary bash.

    Donna, I love what you have to say.

    Karen, I just feel like we all see through the eyes of “our group” and not for ourselves. We love and hate who we were taught to love and hate. That’s what I mean by “conservatives hated Obama before he was born.” They can’t see him except through the eyes of a taught political (not racial) prejudice. I don’t think he’s a radical leftist any more at all, although he undoubtedly is confused about WHAT he is — which must be a big part of the problem with him. In fact, the radical left is very disappointed in him.

    I heard from an old childhood friend — we are from Hyde Park, one of the bastions of superior liberalism, and Obama’s home. She sounded shocked and betrayed at my revealing at this late date that I had not voted for Obama in 2008. Her tone was, “You are not the person I thought you were. How could you conceal this from me?” I could feel her distancing herself, as if chemically — I emitted a pheromone that proved me to be a different species, an imposter from her point of view, since she had simply assumed I was “one of us.” That’s exactly what I can’t stand about political tribalism and why I cannot bear to have political affiliation be the basis of my bonds or friendships with people.

  34. amba12 said,

    As for Althouse referring to Rush — they have the same birthday. Also, they have a lot in common. They are both political provocateurs and entertainers who have attracted huge audiences by being that. I think she identifies with him, and admires him.

  35. amba12 said,

    Joared — your point about apathy is chillingly accurate. But it’s a vicious cycle: apathy comes from a sense of futility. There is a feeling that these people are so entrenched, corrupt, and self-dealing that our vote is impotent. There is also the power of money, which comes from our susceptibility to propaganda that tells us what we want to hear, which is what money pays for: media that hits us on our fears and our interests. Looking at all this, I feel hopeless. I’d rather be a dropout myself.

  36. amba12 said,

    Karen, how many vacations do most, if not all, presidents take at our country’s expense? How much golf do they play? This behavior is not unique. It’s not engaging in it that would be unique.

  37. amba12 said,

    Funny that with all the discussion of whether Russia is or is not our serious enemy, no one has mentioned China, which is also to be a partner in those Iranian war games. An alliance between Russia and China against us — presumably this is what Obama is sucking up to forestall? Good luck. The future is not on our side, partly because we’ve been so successful for so long that we’re soft.

  38. Icepick said,

    Annie, the Chinese are certainly opponents, but certain facts mitigate that: first, we are a huge trading partner with the Chinese; second, we owe the Chinese about $800,000,000,000 dollars (lst I checked) in T-bills, which is at least as big a problem for them as it is for us; and third, ultimately the Chinese will be more interested in some very sparcely populated land full of resources to their north. That last is to say that a Chinese-Russian coalition can only be short lived, it cannot endure. So they may make common cause to oppose us on this or that, but just like the Communist block could not hold together, neither can this current alliance. The trick will be to not let it damage us too much in the meantime.

    The Russians, on the other hand, are anxious to promote the idea that they are still a power, and not some slowly dying land known for cheap brides for foreigners, vodka, chess, caviar and computer hackers. They DO have tremendous resources, they DO still have technical know-how (notice how we have to bum rides from them to get into low Earth orbit – a revolting development), and they DO still have some organizational chops. They’ve got a huge nuclear arsenal, and some of it is probably still functional! They’ve got a KGB man in charge, and they’ve got ambitions. If they can’t do anything about their demographics, they will become irrelevant, but the ambitions of their rulers make them very dangerous in the meantime. The US marks the biggest obvious target for them to tussle with (Cold War style) – in other words they’re trying to look bigger by punching above their weight class, Fedor Emilianenko-style*. Standing up to the Europeans won’t offer the same appeal, plus they don’t want to get the Euros to actually re-arm themselves. And taking on China is DANGEROUS. China and the US are separated by a nice big ocean, whereas China and Russia are separated by some ink on maps.

    * Fedor was probably the greatest MMA fighter pound-for-pound on the planet from about 2000-2008 or so, and may be the greatest of all time. He fought at around 230 pounds, and a soft 230 at that, and should have been cutting weight to fight in the 205 pound class. Instead, he fought against heavy-weights (in MMA that’s those between 205 and 265, and don’t forget that the bigger heavy-weights CUT to 265 so they’re probably fighting at 285 or even more), and super-heavy-weights in Japan. For all that he had an amazing record (essentially undefeated) before hitting the skids the last few years. Age catches up with evereyone, and also MMA continues to get better over time for a variety of reasons. But Fedor is still the GOAT to a lot of fans.

  39. amba12 said,

    Ice, what a complete, succinct summary of the situation. See, I don’t even have to go read something, my brilliant friends will come here and tell me like it is.

    You should be blogging.

  40. Icepick said,

    The future is not on our side, partly because we’ve been so successful for so long that we’re soft.

    The future is not on the Russian side. They’re withering away. And though China has been a great success in the last three decades, they’ve got problems of their own. There are problems everywhere on this planet, which means things are pretty much normal in some sense.

    I also forgot another critical tie between the US and China. The Chinese determined that they could not control their own currency, so some time back they pegged it to the US dollar. Basically US monetary policy _IS_ Chinese monetary policy. Until they’re willing to take the reigns of their own currency they will remained tied to us. That might be a bigger reason than any of the others I mentioned.

  41. amba12 said,

    There are problems everywhere on this planet, which means things are pretty much normal in some sense.


  42. Icepick said,



  43. Icepick said,

    You should be blogging.

    I will not get sucked into usenet blogging MySpace Facebook Twitter. Aw, rats. Well, three out of five would get me into the majors?

  44. mockturtle said,

    Ice, I think I’ll nominate you for Secretary of State. ;-)

  45. Melinda said,

    I’ve forgotten how to have a conversation without a “Like” button.

  46. wj said,

    Wow! I really gotta check in here more often!

    Yes amba, we’ll still love you no matter how (or even if) you vote. But to add to your friend’s comment that you should vote because you can, I would add the incentive that there is always someone to vote against. I suppose it is theoretically possible to have an election in which there are two good candidates in the general election, and you have to struggle to pick between them. All I can say is that I have not had that luxury yet. This time, there is definitely someone to vote against.

    As for evaluating Obama’s record, this life-long Republican has done so. Did he do everything he said should be done? Nope. Were some of those failures his fault? Yep. But failing to “bring us together” is definitively not his fault. To quote the current Senate minority leader, “Nothing is more important than making Obama a one-term President!” (included in that “nothing” being, on the evidence, the nation’s credit rating, the functioning of the judicial system, and the good of the nation). Starting from there, it is impossible to reach any kind of accomodation. Even when Obama takes a long-standing Republican proposal (e.g. the individual mandate) and embraces it (in the hopes of getting a health care bill that could get bi-partisan support), it suddenly becomes an assault on everything that is good in America. In those circumstances, I suppose one could fault Obama for not succeeding; but not for failing to try.

    Actually, the situation with Russia has some similarities. Would better relations with Russia be a good thing? Yes (Romney’s amazing characterization of them as our “greatest geopolitical threat” notwithstanding**). And Obama did try. That he did not succeed is more due to Putin’s determination to look/feel important by embracing reflexive paranoid opposition than to anything else. Russia is fading, demographically, economically, and soon (as Ice correctly notes) probably geographically. So was Obama wrong to try to improve relations? No. Did he succeed? Also no. Does that prove trying was a mistake? Again no.

    ** Has he never heard of China? Or does he think that a fading power is more dangerous than one which is rising and already stronger? Personally, I think the greatest geopolitical threat to America is those politicians who think everything that they don’t like in the world should be solved with as much violence as possible. But that’s just the conservative in me, I guess.

  47. karen said,

    MT– i’ll 2nd that nomination(there’s a song echoing around in my mind that’s got a comical twist)OOooohh- i’ll 2nd that emotion!!!

    I wish i could link to the pic of W in Africa- if a picture is worth 1,000 words…

    Ice- MMA scares the shit out of me. It is FUBAR in and of itself, IMhO.

    There’s a video– luckiest people on Earth- or in the world- that is so cool, on Youtube. Reminded me of Ron’s racing car video– just w/a different perspective:0).

    Amba– you emit delicious pheromones, no matter what. You’re friend is being totally unrealistic, in my eyes. Besides– no one really is who anyone thinks they are anyway, right:0)?

  48. wj said,

    To expand on Ice’s 3:52 comment on China, I like the characterization of China that I read today as the world’s greatest free-rider.

    Just one example: Currently, China imports a much bigger percentage of its energy needs than the US does. Including a bigger percentage from the Middle East. But do we see them working to maintain stability there? No. Do we see them taking significant steps to help patrol the sea lanes where their energy imports flow? No.

    They gripe about the US as a hegamon (one of the favority epithets of their commenting staff on some blogs), of course. But they cheerfully allow the US to do all the work to safeguard the imports that make it possible for their economy to grow.

    They may not have reached the level where they could totally replace the US on either of those fronts. But they certainly have the resources to do something. And yet, they haven’t.

  49. Melinda said,

    Any comment I make on this is going to be a variant of “ditto, amba,” so you know you have my vote on your vote.

    There are people in my circle who were scandalized that I’d voted twice for Rudy, for cryin’ out loud. So I may have disagreed with your choice of McCain/Palin in 2008 but I understood where you were coming from.

  50. lehg said,

    Outstanding, ‘Pick!!! And wj’s point is excellent, too.

  51. lehg said,

    Dang. I don’t know how to get my ID synced! It gets auto filled differently depending on what device I use for posting. –lh

  52. Icepick said,

    wj, China IS a less dangerous geopolitical threat. We’re all tied up with each other, which limits their ability to push us around.

    And vice versa, of course. There’s a reason we don’t really make much fuss about China’s human rights record, for example. (Besides the fact that ours is continually getting worse.) Incidentally, I think the administration’s handling of the recent problems with the blind dissident actually went fairly well. It was a bit of a minor PR cluster-fuck, but ultimately we achieved about all that we could hope to achieve. Also Chinese dissidents aren’t really our problem.

    Moreover, where China is most likely to want to mess around is largely areas where either (a) we don’t really have much reason for concern long-term or (b) where other powers will also oppose them. Around the Horn of Africa might be the big exception, but frankly that’s a long way from home for the Chinese, and they don’t have the naval tradition or the deep-water Navy that we do.

    The Russians, on the other hand, have little reason to not mess with us here, there, everywhere. Even if it does turn out to be the last gasps of a dying power, oh what a power! (I’m pretty sure everyone here is old enough to remember the Cold War.)

  53. Icepick said,

    They may not have reached the level where they could totally replace the US on either of those fronts. But they certainly have the resources to do something. And yet, they haven’t.

    I’m not actually sure they have much ability to do much more than they’re doing now. They’ve got to keep that economic machine rolling, or the leadership is humped. As it is the country is being held together (politically) with some old gum and rusty bailing wire.

    But I do believe they announced they would build a carrier group a few years back. That’s a big attempt at catch-up, with a lot to learn if they go nuclear powered. (And if they don’t make their carrier nuclear powered, why bother building one?) I don’t know, maybe they can go from building ghost cities to a military-industrial complex, but I’m not sure that’s so good for us either. Let’s not ENCOURAGE them to become adventurers like us!

    Besides, they’ve got little reason to do much on either front. The US (plus what’s left of Europe) has committed to keeping the spice* oil flowing, so why bother? Plus, at the moment they’ve got the world by the short hairs on rare earth elements.

    * Nerd alert!

  54. Icepick said,

    karen, which image do you have in mind?

  55. kngfish said,

    Russia and China have squared off in the past…and there is still no love lost. Russia suspects the “Arab Spring” is a US creation to flush Russian military clients, hence a lot of the stubbornness about Syria. And, yes, they suspect collusion with China and the US aimed at….guess who!

    I think the Russians now have one functional boomer sub left….they’ve dropping their reactor cores in the Arctic Ocean for years now.

  56. mockturtle said,

    Annie, in my experience, liberals are the most intolerant people of all.

  57. kngfish said,

    When the Russians announced their carrier group, Naval Proceedings (a US Navy journal) published….daily….photos of its construction and daily analysis of what each new widget meant. This is how the….Russian Army… found out about this new carrier, not from within!

    Eventually they sold this unfinished carrier to India, lied about how much work needed to be done to finish it, and then got in a huge pissing match with India about costs. Eventually India is finishing it themselves… the Vikram, I believe?

  58. Maxwell James said,

    Icepick – I don’t really disagree much with anything you said. I just weigh it differently. Obama’s I CAN HAZ ASSAZINATIONS strategy seems to me one more fray in our eroding commitment to civil liberties, and one more step in Congress’ abrogration of its responsibilities with respect to war and peace. It’s the natural follow-up to Bush 43’s support for legalized torture and indefinite detention, Clinton’s use of extradition, and the many preceding power grabs by US Presidents over matters of war and peace. It used to be the job of Congress and the Supreme Court to counterbalance the executive on such issues, but every year they see more and more the value of rolling over.

    And the sad fact is that most Americans support that. I appreciate Greenwald’s consistency in opposing both Bush and Obama on this topic, but his position is in the minority. Poll after poll shows that Americans are all for trading liberty for perceived safety, even when it comes to the stupid TSA.

    I would throw Obama over for any presidential candidate who would genuinely commit to giving up these powers, but who is going to do that? Romney? Don’t make me laugh. If anything the Republican Party has always been more gleefully committed to giving more and more power over to the executive. The support for civil liberties that remains is largely on the D side, even if it is riddled with hypocrites and liars.

    And yes, this all supports your more cynical position of not voting, not supporting either party. I respect that; hell, on many days I feel the same way. But more often I still feel as amba does, that I should vote because I still can. And that means choosing who to hold my nose for.

  59. mockturtle said,

    Or…write in Ron Paul, a conservative who stands for civil liberties. Sure, it’s a ‘wasted vote’. But, when you think of it, aren’t they all, in this system?

  60. amba12 said,

    “Choosing who to hold my nose for.” Well said. God, I love you guys (in which, needless to say, I include dolls). Of course it is indulging my laziness to have y’all laying an education on my doorstep, but you’re my kind of minds.

  61. Maxwell James said,

    As for Russia – there remains a huge difference in recognizing and preparing for ways in which they can mess with us, and calling them out as an enemy in a public forum. 1984 was a long time ago.

  62. Maxwell James said,

    MT – If I truly felt write-in were my best option, why limit it? In my imagination there are a lot of people I would choose before Paul.

  63. mockturtle said,

    I guess my point was ‘none of the above’. But what we have is ‘Obama’ and ‘not Obama’.

  64. kngfish said,

    “Every four years you get to make your last mistake worse” — Groucho Marx

  65. kngfish said,

    ‘Obama’ and ‘NObama’ sung to the tune of ‘Volare’…

  66. Icepick said,

    I would be a horrible Secretary of State for multiple reasons. The most important of which is that my default inclination is to leave the world to its own devices. That can be more succinctly expressed as “Fuck the world.”

    Also, I believe in very direct methods whenever possible.

    I remember taking a international relations class in college way back about 20 years ago now. At the time one of our problems was that Haitians kept coming here on boats. The Coast Guard would find them on all manner of rickety leaky barely floating ‘boats’ and try to turn them back. First they would ask them. Then they would try to tow them back. The Haitians, not wanting to go back (who could blame them?), would throw off the ropes. Etc.

    My proposed solution in class discussion period was to sink the boats. Don’t blow them up, don’t massacre the people, just sink their boats – it wouldn’t take much. Once their boats start sinking, they will be damned happy to get on yours! Then you can take them back to Haiti and don’t even have to worry about whether or not the death trap they were riding in would make it.

    Do that a few times and before long, no more Haitian boat people problem, as word will get around.

    Another example of my foreign policy. After 9/11 we gave the Taliban an ultimatum: give us Al Qaeda or else. In late September or early October of that year the Taliban leadership met to discuss the issue, I believe it was in Kandahar. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knew the Taliban were going to tell us to get stuffed.

    My plan would have involved waiting for the Taliban leadership to gather, and then nuking Kandahar. It had been 56 years since we last used a nuke in war. Nuking Kandahar would have had several salutory effects.

    First, eliminating a good chunk of the Taliban leadership would be a plus.

    Second, we might have gotten some Al Qaeda types as well.

    Third, it would let everyone know that we were really serious about getting Al Qaeda. Think anyone, even in failed states like Somalia, would have been willing to harbour them after that?

    Fourth, it would establish that asymetric warfare is actually to the advantage of the side with more firepower. The only reason the myth of the little guy having an advantage in asymetric warfare persists is because we keep scaling our responses.

    Fifth, this response would be viewed in exactly the way intended: you fuck with us, and that’s it. It is all but unhinged, and even if someone wants to mess with a bully, no one wants to fuck around with a crazy person. Nuking Kandahar puts us into crazy person territory.

    Follow up on this with black ops work eliminating more Al Qaeda types, conventional military attacks (if it was deemed warranted), and some behind the scenes messages to relevant players. For example, I would have called the Saudi Ambassador to the Oval Office, and had the President tell him, “If any of these terrorists you’ve been funding underground do anything like this again, the next cities to be nuked are Riyahd, Mecca, Medina and Jeddah.” That and only that. That would be the start, middle and end of the meeting.

    The costs of this policy are all the people in Kandahar. And a certain measure of ‘respect’ from Europeans, which we didn’t really have anyway. But I hold with Sherman on this:

    You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

    We can pour out a lot of malediction, but more importantly we can make it happen.

    It’s brutal and direct. Don’t worry about people hating your guts, because likely they will anyway. Just make the cost of attacking us so high that no one would want to do it. Even madmen would give pause after Kandahar was reduced to radioactive glass. And certainly they would get no help from those that help from the shadows.

    So, still want me as SecState? Didn’t think so….

  67. Icepick said,

    I just weigh it differently. Obama’s I CAN HAZ ASSAZINATIONS strategy seems to me one more fray in our eroding commitment to civil liberties, and one more step in Congress’ abrogration of its responsibilities with respect to war and peace. It’s the natural follow-up to Bush 43′s support for legalized torture and indefinite detention, Clinton’s use of extradition, and the many preceding power grabs by US Presidents over matters of war and peace.

    No, there is a big difference is handling non-uniformed enemy combatants in rough manner (treaties don’t really apply to them), and in giving the President unlimited power to assasinate American citizens wherever they might be, for the flimsiest of reasons. And contrary to popular belief it isn’t like the US hasn’t handled captured enemies in rough manner before, though usually without official sanction.

    Note that this isn’t partisan, as members of both parties supported this authorization, else it could not have passed. Both fish are rotten from the head down.

  68. amba12 said,

    “If any of these terrorists you’ve been funding underground do anything like this again, the next cities to be nuked are Riyahd, Mecca, Medina and Jeddah.”

    Dang, you’re making me nostalgic for Michael Reynolds!

  69. Maxwell James said,

    You forget that the Bush administration originally applied its enemy combatant rules to American citizens as well, before this practice was partially struck down by the supreme court. The reasoning is exactly the same.

    Actually, thinking about it is making me angry all over again. Maybe I won’t vote this year after all…

  70. Maxwell James said,

    Icepick, since you’re often on the Internet you’ve probably seen this. But if not, I think you’ll appreciate it.

  71. Icepick said,

    And yes, this all supports your more cynical position of not voting, not supporting either party.

    I contest that this is cynical. I’m choosing to not support candidates that do not represent what I believe. That’s pure principle. And this isn’t even a matter of being a single issue voter, as I could live with candidates that don’t hold every position I do. (The only way I would get that would be to run for office myself, and that ain’t happening.) I am stating outright that across a broad range of issues concerning matters foreign and domestic I find both candidates and both parties highly objectionable. The cynical move for me* would be to vote for one of these bastards as the lesser evil. I’ve done that, but no more. I did it one last time in 2008, but those circumstances were particularly unpleasant. I stopped in 2010 and felt pretty damned good about it. I intend to stay stopped.

    I respect that; hell, on many days I feel the same way. But more often I still feel as amba does, that I should vote because I still can. And that means choosing who to hold my nose for.

    My vote means nothing if have no credible choice to make.

    * You’ve got to decide for yourself what would be the cynical thing to do. I speak only for myself.

  72. Icepick said,

    Dang, you’re making me nostalgic for Michael Reynolds!

    I’m sure you could prod him back here if you tried. I do believe that he’s getting tired of OTB. I’ll even promise to ignore him – here.

  73. Icepick said,

    You forget that the Bush administration originally applied its enemy combatant rules to American citizens as well, before this practice was partially struck down by the supreme court. The reasoning is exactly the same.

    You’re right, I had forgotten that.

  74. Icepick said,

    Maxwell, I had heard of this but hadn’t read the original reddit post. Amazing!

    Note that my nuclear gambit doesn’t work with nuclear players, but they are usually a little more sane anyway. (Or terrified, having pertinent knowledge.)

    As a subset to the policy proposed above one could consider taking out Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. That’s tricky, though.

    This does put a premium on nations want to get their own hands on The Bomb. The only thing is WE’RE ALREADY THERE.

    In fact, I offer here a third foreign policy initiative.

    The Iranians want a bomb. The Iranians have every reason to want a bomb – just look at the neighborhood they’re in! This would be true irrespective of what form of government they had or whether or not they were our Allies.

    Keeping Iran from getting The Bomb would be a fulltime job for any Administration, with no guarantee of stopping the Iranians indefinitely unless you periodically invade. (Only invade to get to the dangerous sites and destroy them – do not, repeat DO NOT attempt to occupy Iranian territory long-term.) Beyond the other dangers of invading, there is also the possiblity that the Iranians might trick you and eventually get their hands on a Bomb anyway.

    To hell with all that.

    Just sell them some Bombs.

    Seriously, choose some older but functional models from our inventory, and I mean old so as to hide what technology we can, and sell them for X million barrels of oil. One proviso to the Iranians: If you use these Bombs against us or any allies, we will end you. Other than that, it’s “Have a nice day and thanks for the oil!” They’ll have the technical expertise at this point to verify the weapons work, and we can even throw in an extra one so they can test fire one at random.

    Note that this would have worked very well if we had already reduced Kandahar to radioactive waste. The proviso would have carried extra weight.

  75. wj said,

    Ice, as you say, we are all bound up with China economically. So perhaps they aren’t much of a threat — although if it comes to that, we arguably need them more than they need us, so they might be a threat in some circumstances. But I admit that they are not an existential threat.

    But what can Russia do to threaten us? Shoot missiles? Only if they are suicidal. And Putin isn’t.

    Trash the European economies by cutting off gas supplies? Sure, and that would hurt us some. But lack of income from Europe would hurt Russia far more. Cutting off gas supplies is useful for the occasional tactical ploy, but it has to be reversed before it can do serious long-term damage. So not a strategic threat, really.

    Fund regimes which can hurt us? Certainly they can fund regimes we don’t like. But who, exactly, could they fund that could hurt us? Maybe Iran (someday, but not real soon) or Pakistan could set off a nuclear war in the Middle East. Which would hurt us, no question. But far less than any other advanced economy on the planet. (And whoever did so would get destroyed.) Which includes the European economies which Russia depends on for its income. So not a real good option.

    On balance, and admitting that nobody is as likely to do us damage as we are to do to ourselves. I think China is more of a threat. Not a huge threat, but more than Russia.

  76. Maxwell James said,

    Icepick: I contest that this is cynical. I’m choosing to not support candidates that do not represent what I believe. That’s pure principle.


    Regarding the reddit post: I was badly addicted to the original Civilization for a few years, so much so that it nearly ruined my life. As a result, I swore it off along with all of its descendants – one of the few cold-turkey vows I have ever made, let alone kept for nearly 20 years now. Reading that post was the first time I even felt more than a twinge over it – but I really wish I had thought to do that.

    And yeah, I could totally see that future happening (though probably not with the Vikings and Celts).

    To hell with all that. Just sell them some Bombs.

    LOL. I am perhaps somewhat more soft-hearted about human nature than you are, but I appreciate a good Machiavellian gambit, and that is one. Hats off.

  77. karen said,

    ~Dubya’s Africa Efforts Ongoing~ a post written about W 10 june 12.

    I’m sorry to always bother you w/my linkage issues- and there is so much good stuff over there, this from 13 june 12 on “… The Tyranny of Bloomberg:

    “G. K. Chesterton’s assessment of fundamental liberty:

    “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk 6-11-35”

    ““Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.” –C.S. Lewis”

  78. karen said,

    Yeah– Michael and Ice were like… fire and Ice. No tas friendly, though.

  79. Icepick said,

    On balance, and admitting that nobody is as likely to do us damage as we are to do to ourselves.

    Which is a big reason I think we should pull back from most commitments around the world.

    I think the biggest danger from the Russians is this: They may get reckless and unintentionally start a big damned mess somewhere: the Caucasus, the ME, the Balkans, even Central Europe. Start with something small that starts escalating out of control. The situation in Georgia could have easily gone south, as it were, a few years ago. (And I mean even without John McCain as President. :/ )

    For that matter it could start with some internal revolt and the Russian government looking for a distraction by invading someplace.

    More importantly, threats don’t have to be existential to be serious. Russian represents real threats across a pretty broad range of areas.

    For that matter, look at what is happening right now. The Russians are trying to ship supplies to the Syrians. I saw that a UK naval vessel had turned back a Russian freighter. What if the Russians try again, and this time shots get fired? You know, the fact that such confrontations won’t automatically escalate to a nuclear exchange means that all sides now have more leeway to shot at each other with regular munitions. I don’t think it will get out of hand, but I see more and more opportunities for it to go wrong.

  80. Icepick said,

    Hats off.

    {takes a bow}

    Seriously, I read that post and some of the comments and I wanted to buy the Alpha Centarii game, the non-Civilization Civilization descentdent. I could get into 30 or 40 years of one game!

  81. Icepick said,

    Maxwell, I’m just trying to look at the reality of the situation and judge it for what it is. Like I said, an Iranian regime of any type has EVERY reason to want The Bomb. They’re big enough and developed enough that they will probably get one. I’m just trying to save everyone time and aggravation, plus make a buck at the same time. Once the Iranians have a few Bombs maybe they keep working to develope their own, maybe not. But after they get some we can adjust to the new reality. And if the Iranians ARE going to be nuts and use them, I’d rather find out sooner than later. I believe in taking one’s medicine promptly.

    Note that I do not advocate selling Bombs to just any old nation. Iran may well be the only nation I would consider doing that for.

  82. Icepick said,

    So perhaps they aren’t much of a threat — although if it comes to that, we arguably need them more than they need us, so they might be a threat in some circumstances.

    I can’t imagine the scenario (without going completely apocalyptic) where we need anyone more than they need us. (Note there are many cases were neither side really needs the other. I imagine Switzerland doesn’t need much in the way from us, especially now that we’ve made a hash of their banking secrecy laws. They might do better without us!)

    Our nation isn’t just large, it is exceptionally well provisioned with Nature’s bounty. And there’s alway Canada and Mexico to invade if we need more space. (Just kidding. For example, why would we want more frozen tundra? The Canadians would be happy to sell us whatever they’ve got in free and fair exchanges. Commerce, bitchez!) We’ve got sufficient ingenuity to utilize what we’ve got, too.

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt in the short term (the law of comparative advantage not having been rescinded, last I checked), but in the long run we’re better set than just about everybody of significance. (Canada is small, population wise, and so may well be better off than we are. Just so long as we really don’t invade, that is.) A trade war would be inconvenient for us. It would be disaster for China.

  83. amba12 said,

    If you sell Iran some bombs and they use them on Israel?

  84. mockturtle said,

    Everyone has their knickers in a twist about Iran having the bomb but Pakistan has had nuclear weapons since the 70’s. Does anyone think Pakistan is not our enemy, in spite of the fact that we have poured billions of dollars into their corrupt and devious government?

  85. kngfish said,

    I’ve played a lot of Alpha Centari. (I named all my cities after actresses) ..and there is a modified variant of it as well… Good stuff….if anything, I’d expand the construction possibilities.

    I’ve also played Colonization as well…. it’s different but pretty good as well. What’s funny to me is that the least productive person to arrive in The New World is the ‘hardened criminal’. If you’re using these guys you’re in tough shape. The best thing to do with them is to….turn them into preachers (easy) and send them to try and convert Native Americans. They often get killed….but when they do send some converted Indians your way…these guys can at least fish and farm….


  86. wj said,

    I figure invading Canada would almost be the definition of counterproductive. As it stands, we have a neighbor which is friendly, stable, and generally about as ideal as it gets. Not to mention that any time someone says “America is trying to take over country X” (for any reason or none), we can just point at Canada and say, “If we were interested in taking over more territory, we’ve got lots close by (no logistical issues), no natural impediments (heck, we’ve got a close to a thousand miles where it isn’t even possible to tell from the air who is on which side of the border), no problems at all. And they’ve got all the natural resources (from oil to timber to uranium) we might want.”

    But we haven’t even made noises in that direction in over a century. (Does anyone even learn “54-40 or fight!” in school any more?) We may be in a fight in your country for stupid reasons, but taking territory definitely ain’t one of them.

    About the only reasons that we get into a fight with China are either a) we announce we are defaulting on all the bonds that they hold, or b) they get in a dust-up with their neighbors (probably over the South China Sea) and things escallate. There’s no reason for a) (especially since the secondary markets would mean we would have to default on everybody, including ourselves).

    And b) is more likely to be contained than anything else. My favorite approach would be to spend some high explosives reducing all the islands and sea mounts in the Spratlys to rubble. Expensive, but far cheaper than fighting a war. If there’s no land to claim, it’s hard to justify why the area is yours. Even harder than the current gossamer justifications China uses.

  87. wj said,

    Does anyone think Pakistan is not our enemy,

    MT, there are enough delusional people in the world that surely someone thinks that. It’s just hard to picture anyone with two brain cells to rub together who does.

    What we’ve got is a situation where it is easier and cheaper for us to pretend that we are ont he same side — at least in public. And the people in charge have strong economic incentives to keep our money coming in, even as they use us as an external threat to keep the population from rising up. (When they aren’t using India for the same purpose.)

    We probably are at more risk from the people who think that Pakistan should be fought, rather than contained. Some people are just too fond of war — at least in the abstract, which tends to be the only way they interact with one.

  88. Icepick said,

    If you sell Iran some bombs and they use them on Israel?

    Then we find out how good Israeli missle defense system is. Also, bye-bye Iran.

    In all seriousness, I think Iran is going to get The Bomb sooner or later, short of a series of invasions to find and clear everything out. Iran would be a much tougher nut to invade than Iraq was – bigger both geographically and the populace is much more numerous. And I’m pretty sure that nationalism would completely trump any reservations some in that country might have to their current regime. Expect unified opposition to a foreign invader. (You should ALWAYS expect that unless the country is already involved in major sectarian violence.

    And the only way I think Israel can stop the Iranian program (as opposed to delay it, as the current covert war has done) is to nuke some of Iran’s major sites. We could get away with nuking some dirt-hole if provoked because we’re the BIG BAD. Israel won’t be able to get away with that and survive.

    Really, I think Israel is just humped if the Iranians are set on getting a Bomb and using it against them. If the Iranian regime is really that crazy I don’t think they can be stopped. And I just don’t see how Israel can stop Iran short of using their own nuclear weapons.

    I really hope someone is wargaming these possibilities for DC, and that we’re working behind the seens with Russia (and other nuclear powers) to make sure if that happens that it doesn’t lead to the rest of us doing something stupid. Unfortunately I don’t have any faith in our current leadership (or prospective leadership) having the brains to think these things out ahead of time, much less being able to put in a mechanism to contain some worst case scenarios.

  89. wj said,

    Ice, it’s pretty clear that Iran can get the bombif it decides it wants to. It is equally clear that an Israeli (or US) attack to delay them will be more likely to unite the country in pushing to get one than to delay them much.

    The key question is, will that kind of sensible analysis carry the day? The Israeli government may have taken a small step back, thanks to the change in the coalition, and the Israeli military and intelligence services certainly seem to be clear on the reality. But will that be enough? And given what Romney says he thinks should be our policy and actions on Iran, we may well be looking at a US action next year.

    Unfortunately, both countries have significant groups who are more interested in ideology-driven policy than in what would happen in the real world.

  90. Icepick said,

    MT, I have been worried about Pakistan having The Bomb basically since it became apparent they had one. After 9/11 I started paying more attention to Pakistan, and then I got REALLY scared. I can give you scenarios for how a Pakistani Bomb ends up vaporizing downtown Mahattan or the Mall area in DC without even working hard. Worse still, as far as I can tell there are no procedures put in place to stop my particular nightmare scenarios (Scenaria? Whatever.) For what I’m thinking of the counter-measures would need to be very visible to the public.

    (I typed that up so many times back for 2001 to 2006 that I’m not going to do it again. Or if I do I’ll put it on my blog. In fact maybe I already have….If I did, I can’t find it.)

    But there is a difference between Pakistan and Iran. Namely that high officials in the Pakistani government haven’t speculated publically about destroying Israel with a couple of nukes even if it means a few Muslim cities burn too.

    That said, I do find Pakistan more dangerous.

    Incidentally, here was another proposal from me on how to deal with a nuclear Iran. Looking at this I am reminded that we’ve been talking about this for a long time. Maybe it WILL be possible to delay them indefinitely….

  91. Icepick said,

    Unfortunately, both countries have significant groups who are more interested in ideology-driven policy than in what would happen in the real world.

    wj, the only problem with that is what if the Iranians really DO intend to destroy Israel at first opportunity? The Number 2 Ayatollah has said that several times in public over the years, and who knows exactly how much of a fuck nut Ahmadinajad is? (Magic 8-ball sez, “Unclear”.)

    It’s not completely ludicrous to take an apocalyptic doomsday cult seriously when they’re proposing doomsday.

    It’s really easy for me to sit here in Florida and think about this in the abstract. If I ws living outside of Tel Aviv rather than outside of Orlando I’m sure my perspective would be very different.

  92. Icepick said,

    Karen, I believe this was the picture you had in mind:
    W in Africa

    Sorry, the picture is getting cropped. Here’s a link to the original.

  93. Icepick said,

    Of course my Sell-them-the-bomb idea fails politically. There are almost too many ways to count it.

    First, the Israel lobby in Washigton along with allies would kill it dead.

    Second, every other nation on the Earth that wasn’t Iran would protest mightily. And there would be no way to do it clandestinely. Really, we couldn’t keep that piddling Iran-Contra Affair secret, no WAY we could keep this secret.

    Third, the American people would object mightily. It would be a race to see which pundit could get on television first to say, “This would be like selling carrier launched torpedo bombers to the Japanese in the summer of 1941!” This would lead to some grousing from various Japanese folks. Personally I bet that some schmuck on MSNBC would say it first, but everybody would remember Charles Krautheimer saying it on Brett Baer’s show instead. I think the only people watching MSNBC are conservative bloggers looking for more red meat to throw to the crowd.

    Fourth, how pissed would the Iraqis be?

    That’s off the top of my head.

    The serious questions are these:

    A: How likely is it Iran will get The Bomb?
    B: If they do, what is the time frame?
    C: How likely is the current regime to use it?
    D: How likely is it that another regime will come to power before that, and are they more or less likely to use it than the current regime?
    E: What can we (or allies) do to prevent or slow Iran from getting The Bomb short of military intervention?
    F: How likely are these measures to succeed, and what is the blow-back whether they succeed or not? **
    G: Can we intervene militarily to prevent or slow Iran from getting The Bomb?
    H: What is the likelihood of success or failure? What would the blow-back be from either?

    Note that the answer to D may mean that you would want them to get the bomb sooner if you think the next regime is likely to be even more radical/suicidal.

    But answer those questions, assign your probablilities, and put together a decision matrix. That gives you a starting position on where to go next.

    ** For example, Stuxnet may well end up doing us more harm than it did to the Iranian nuclear program. We’ve got a lot of vulnerabilities that just aren’t being addressed, and Stuxnet and its descendants could probe some of those deeply if I understand it correctly. (I probably don’t, though, which is Good News! LOL)

  94. Icepick said,

    All this other stuff was fun, but the real concern now is that Europe is grinding to a halt. The Socialists in France are about to strangle that economy, and the Greek economy is already dead.

  95. mockturtle said,

    What if Iran develops a nuclear warhead and attempts deployment only to have it fizzle like the N. Korean missile did? So Israel’s defense system retaliates and bombs Iran into oblivion. Or somewhere near oblivion. I have a lot more confidence in Israel’s capability than in that of any of her enemies.

  96. mockturtle said,

    Ice, you’re right–again. Europe is a bigger issue right now than the Middle East. And a much, much bigger threat to our security.

  97. Icepick said,

    Europe is the biggest threat to everyone’s security. The only reason they are Euroweenies now is because they were the scariest sons-of-bitchs on th planet in the not so distant past.

    Heck, Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space and he’s been dead since 1727. How bad ass is that?!

  98. Icepick said,

    I have a lot more confidence in Israel’s capability than in that of any of her enemies.

    True! But I’m pretty sure if the incoming missle fizzled the Israelis wouldn’t counter attack. They just smile knowingly and make everyone think that had done it somehow.

  99. mockturtle said,

    I guess we’re due to become ‘Ameriweenies’. It was inevitable. :-(

  100. Donna B. said,

    So it is sort of a fluke that my daughter attended a high school that offered Russian language courses… and that the college she attended offered a degree in that language… and that upon her graduation it was a good thing she also majored in mathematics… and that now her knowledge of Russia and it’s language is once again important.

    And no, it’s not comments here that bring this fluke… or whatever it can be characterized as… to mind.

    I’ve been told some things over the past few months that cannot be described as secret at all… but y’all might be surprised to learn. And I cannot bring myself to elaborate other than to say that I have volunteered to help babysit while my grandchildren’s parents travel.

    Think about the fact that Russia — more equally than any other country is both our ally and enemy. Consider that — at heart — the Chinese are pragmatic while the Russians are idealists. Wonder where we Americans (and Brits, Canadians, Australians, Poles, French, and Indians) fall on that idealism-pragmatism continuum.

    Or it could be the other way around… perhaps the Greeks are the pragmatists.

    I dunno… do you?

  101. mockturtle said,

    The idealists might provoke a war but the pragmatists are more likely to win. The Chinese are becoming pragmatic but were intensely idealistic when embracing the Cultural Revolution.

  102. mockturtle said,

    Donna, I hope we are pragmatists and will remain so. Idealism, be it socialism or theocracy, believes the State can change human nature for the better and will inevitably result in either a failed state or a dictatorship. Accepting human nature, giving individuals freedom, within the bounds of necessary public safety, is the best we can hope for and, I believe, what our Founding Fathers had in mind.

  103. wj said,

    I really wonder how much of the ranting about destroying Israel is merely domestic political posturing by the Iranian elite. From everything they have actually done, they are far more interested in remaining in power than in doing something that may be ideologically desirable, but is clearly dangerous to themselves.

    Yes, there are a few who are suicidal nutcases (I include in that those who delude themselves into believing that somehow God would save them from the fallout from their idiocies). But every country, including our own, has those. And I don’t really see a way in which any of them sneak into power. (Ours are more likely to do that than theirs. If only because our people have been far more sheltered from the realities of war at home.)

    Of course Israel (or anybody else listening) gets nervous at someone threatening them. Just as we did over “We will bury you” — which I suspect most of us are old enough to remember. But unless you believe that the insane faction is in power and will strike, there is no rational reason to decide to strike first. Especially when you know that you have serious second-strike capability — and so do those making the threats.

    One other thought occurs to me. To make a nuclear strike on Israel would pretty much necessitate taking out Jerusalem, which just happens to be an islamic holy city nearly as important as Mecca and Medina. I could see a nuclear Iran striking back at a nuclear strike from Israel; but not making a first strike.

    What it comes down to is this. The Iranian leadership probably** wishes that Israel would cease to exist. Enough to fund terrorists who will make (relatively) small-scale attacks. But not enough to take overt action themselves.

    ** Only “probably” because having an external enemy is important if you are trying to keep an unpopular police state in place. And now that Saddam is gone, there really isn’t another enemy that will effectively rally the Iranian population.

  104. karen said,

    Ice- thank you so much.
    Wonderful, innit?

  105. Icepick said,

    I really wonder how much of the ranting about destroying Israel is merely domestic political posturing by the Iranian elite. From everything they have actually done, they are far more interested in remaining in power than in doing something that may be ideologically desirable, but is clearly dangerous to themselves.

    That’s a big assumption. It may even be true. But can you say for certain that’s true? If you were Israeli how much margin for error would you allow in your assumptions on this point?

    Especially when you know that you have serious second-strike capability — and so do those making the threats.

    The thinking is that a few nukes effectively destroy Israel, but that Israel could not destroy the entire Muslim world. In other words, they are at least willing to contemplate significant losses to destroy Israel.

  106. Icepick said,

    Karen, babies tend to bring out the tender goofball in people.

  107. wj said,

    Contemplate significant losses to destroy Israel? Probably. Contemplate getting killed themselves, and having their country, plus Mecca and Messina destroyed? Not so much.

    As I said, everything that we have seen of the Iranian elite indicates that they are no more suicidal than the USSR’s elite was. Which is to say, not at all. Willing to let a bunch of their followers get killed? sure. But not themselves.

    As for the latter, in their shoes, would you doubt for a second that the Israelis are not going to toss a couple of nukes that way? (I don’t know that Israel would do so, mind. But given the way they demonize Israel, how would they not expect something like that?)

    Any time you are going with a deterence/MAD model, you have some risk. But even ideological enthusiasm isn’t enough to get most people to do something that they know will destroy them. Especially when they have all the perks of power already in hand. Suicide is for those who think that they have nothing to lose.

    P.S. I have to say that I also have a lot more faith in Iran’s ability to keep their weapons under control (i.e. not slipped to the kind of fanatics who might go for a suicide attack) than I do Pakistan’s.

  108. wj said,

    ACK! Medina, not Messina. Sigh

  109. Icepick said,

    I wondered what the Israelis had against Kenny’s old partner.

    I could edit the one comment and delete the other, but then this comment would make no sense. And I’m not about to delete a Loggins & Messina reference.

  110. kngfish said,

    I hate to sound like a hawk, but if someone wants to do a Unilateral First Strike on Hall & Oates…. I’m OK with that.

  111. karen said,

    It’s true, ice. Just– it’s too bad no one really knows W is in(or was in)Africa.

  112. wj said,

    Ah, nothing like a typo to releave the tension and divert the discussion. ;-)

  113. karen said,

    :0)- in color, too!!

    Instapundit has lots of stuff on Holder/Obama and how they LIED about Fast and Furious. Of course, Obama is now going to conceal the documents from Congress.

    What else is new?

  114. karen said,

    Obama Is So Weak ‘They Don’t Give a Damn What the United States Says’

    Charles Krauthammer commenting on the G-20 press conference during an appearance on the O’Reilly Factor. Interesting stuff on Russia, coincidentally. Wow- sp’d correctly 1st try:0).

    All found on Ace: get to him from Anchoress(or maybe ice will link).
    I really admire Krauthammer(even if he is a snob).

    Another really cool video is of Obama from ’07 of him dissing the W White house for blocking questioning, or something. You know– the same thing he is currently doing himself.

  115. mockturtle said,

    I like Krauthammer, too, Karen–I used to read his column. Don’t like Fox [or any other major news network], though, so I seldom hear him.

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