Obama’s Energy Policy Strangling Economy
Today in Opinion:
- Now that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated and al-Qaeda faces its decline, Lawrence Kudlow wonders why the United States still needs troops stationed in Afghanistan. The cost, not only in dollars but in American soldiers’ lives, he says, just isn’t worth it anymore.
- The economy is still in trouble, but Thomas Sowell says it might have a better chance to recover without intervention by the government or the Federal Reserve. Unfortunately, neither body can afford to be seen as “doing nothing,” so their useless — and often dangerous — meddling continues.
- Looking at the vast amount of history currently being made in the Middle East and North Africa, Tony Blankley is concerned about Egypt’s movements. After Mubarak, the new Egyptian government may be trying to seize a mantle it long ago relinquished: leader of the Arab world.
- Michael Barone hails action by Obama, Navy SEALs and U.S. intelligence that led to the death of bin Laden, but he points out just how many of the practices Obama employed were once condemned by the president’s fellow partisans.
- One reason no true front-runner has yet come forward in the 2012 GOP nomination race, says Phyllis Schlafly, is that no potential candidate has answered the big question: What will you do about the jobs crisis, and how will you deal with unfair globalism policies?
Are We Done in Afghanistan?
In the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, I found myself agreeing with Charles Krauthammer that this was a global game-changer for American greatness. It was a gutsy and courageous decision by President Obama, brilliantly executed by the Navy SEALs and all the intelligence and support behind them.
As Krauthammer put it, after the tough slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, this amounts to the restoration of unquestioned U.S. military dominance. America has not slipped, nor has our military reach and power.
But now I want to ask a more difficult question. With the killing of Osama, is the Afghan mission complete? The original post-9-11 goal was to kill bin Laden and wipe out al-Qaeda. Now that we’ve killed bin Laden and dismantled so much of al-Qaeda, do we really need to trudge through an even longer war in Afghanistan?
Ayman Al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan. Perhaps the SEALs can dismantle him. Anwar Al-Awlaki is in Yemen, and perhaps al-Qaeda can be dismantled there. But regarding the broader war in Afghanistan, I was taken by a quote from Rep. Peter King on National Review Online. He said, “The enemy is now more of a threat from within than it is from overseas.”
I am no military or foreign-policy expert. But I do know the cost of supporting a corrupt regime like Hamid Karzai’s in terms of blood and treasure. The cost is steep. I speak here as a hawk, not a dove.
In dollar terms, the cost of the Afghan war is roughly $450 billion today, and according to Congressional Budget Office projections, it is scheduled to rise by perhaps another $500 billion.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service reports that we have doubled our average troop strength in Afghanistan from 44,000 to 84,000 as part of the surge. Troop strength there is expected to average 102,000 in FY 2011. A slight 4,000 troop decline is projected for FY 2012, but the longer-term commitment continues to the end of 2014.
Thus far, nearly 1,600 U.S. troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan. To me, this is the most tragic part. Of course, I wholeheartedly support our troops. But is this blood really necessary? Are the projected future costs really necessary?
Again, I ask myself: All this to support Karzai? Isn’t this the sort of nation-building that the late William F. Buckley, Jr. opposed? Are American national-security interests really tied up in Afghanistan? Is now not the time to contemplate a much more rapid troop withdrawal from Afghanistan?
I am willing to concede that the United States needs to fight the expected Taliban spring surge. But after that, is it worth it to stay any longer? And does our mission really include wiping out the Taliban in Afghanistan, a seemingly impossible task?
Going forward, what exactly is our real mission in Afghanistan? That’s the basis of my concern. Are we as Americans and conservatives really convinced that the continued mission is worth the lost blood and treasure? Is now not the time to leave?
What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan? And how do we get out of it?
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
Fed Up with the Fed?
When people in Washington start creating fancy new phrases instead of using plain English, you know they are doing something they don’t want us to understand.
It was an act of war when we started bombing Libya. But the administration chose to call it “kinetic military action.” When the Federal Reserve System started creating hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air, they called it “quantitative easing” of the money supply.
When that didn’t work, they created more money and called it “quantitative easing 2″ or “QE2,” instead of saying: “We are going to print more dollars — and hope it works this time.” But there is already plenty of money sitting around idle in banks and businesses.
The policies of this administration make it risky to lend money, with Washington politicians coming up with one reason after another why borrowers shouldn’t have to pay it back when it is due, or perhaps not pay it all back at all. That’s called “loan modification” or various other fancy names for welching on debts. Is it surprising that lenders have become reluctant to lend?
Private businesses have amassed record amounts of cash, which they could use to hire more people — if this administration were not generating vast amounts of uncertainty about what the costs are going to be for ObamaCare, among other unpredictable employer costs, from a government heedless or hostile toward business.
As a result, it is often cheaper or less risky for employers to work the existing employees overtime, or to hire temporary workers who are not eligible for employee benefits. But lack of money is not the problem.
Those who are true believers in the old-time Keynesian economic religion will always say that the only reason creating more money hasn’t worked is because there has not yet been enough money created. To them, if QE2 hasn’t worked, then we need QE3. And if that doesn’t work, then we will need QE4, etc.
Like most of the mistakes being made in Washington today, this dogmatic faith in government spending is something that has been tried before — and failed before.
Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said confidentially to fellow Democrats in 1939: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.”
As for the Federal Reserve today, a headline in the Wall Street Journal of April 25th said, “Fed Searches for Next Step.”
That is a big part of the problem. It is not politically possible for either the Federal Reserve or the Obama administration to leave the economy alone and let it recover on its own.
Both are under pressure to “do something.” If one thing doesn’t work, then they have to try something else. And if that doesn’t work, they have to come up with yet another gimmick.
All this constant experimentation by the government makes it more risky for investors to invest or employers to employ, when neither of them knows when the government’s rules of the game are going to change again. Whatever the merits or demerits of particular government policies, the uncertainty that such ever-changing policies generate can paralyze an economy today, just as it did back in the days of FDR.
The idea that the federal government has to step in whenever there is a downturn in the economy is an economic dogma that ignores much of the history of the United States.
During the first 100 years of the United States, there was no Federal Reserve. During the first 150 years, the federal government did not engage in massive intervention when the economy turned down.
No economic downturn in all those years ever lasted as long as the Great Depression of the 1930s, when both the Federal Reserve and the administrations of Hoover and of FDR intervened.
The myth that has come down to us says that the government had to intervene when there was mass unemployment in the 1930s. But the hard data show that there was no mass unemployment until after the federal government intervened. Yet, once having intervened, it was politically impossible to stop and let the economy recover on its own. That was the fundamental problem then — and now.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
“Going Like a Child into the Dark”
If you threw a dart at the map of the Middle East and North Africa, you almost couldn’t miss hitting a spot where an historic event was unfolding.
In the headlines of just last Saturday and Sunday (normally slow news days), one could read of Syrian tanks slaughtering the rebellious civilians of Daraa; NATO bombs killing Gadhafi’s son and grandchildren (with the U.N. pulling out its staff from Tripoli as a result); 80 percent of Jordan’s gas supply taken offline by sabotage; the Taliban starting its spring military offensive in Afghanistan and President Saleh of Yemen refusing to sign a transition deal involving his removal from power, threatening to derail efforts by the Gulf states to control months of unrest in that key U.S. ally. The Washington Post headlined the question “Will Pakistan erupt like Egypt?”
Or perhaps you saw the headline that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials on the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, where Hamas officials reiterated Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Or perhaps you didn’t.
With so much going on simultaneously, neither the world’s statesmen nor the leading editors of worldwide journalism can agree on what to focus the world’s limited attention. This provides a golden opportunity to the world’s nefarious leaders for the foreign policy equivalent of getting away with murder in broad daylight — unnoticed.
And it brings to mind the observation in 1864 of Europe’s most brilliant diplomat, then-Prussian Chancellor Prince Otto von Bismarck, that the practice of diplomacy “teaches that one can be as shrewd as the shrewdest in the world and still at any moment go like a child into the dark.”
Last week’s news that the Egyptian government has brokered an agreement between the main Palestinian factions — Gaza-based terrorists Hamas and Fatah’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority regime — should be shedding more light in the United States than it so far has on the darkness that is current Middle East events.
The United States identifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, thus by including Hamas in the PA regime, almost a billion dollars in yearly United States-led aid will presumably have to be cut off (and should be). Already, Israel has cut off its prorated $80 million annual contribution.
Also, already, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi said that the critical Rafah Crossing from Egypt into Gaza will be permanently opened, marking the biggest breach in the Gaza blockade, which was imposed by Israel and backed by the West, since 2007. This fact alone ought to be seen as a storm warning.
An ever more highly-armed Gaza Strip makes Palestinian/Israeli military engagement more likely. And the reduced economic activity that the loss of Western money to the West Bank is likely to cause may both increase unrest and undermine the recently reduced corruption there.
But the greater significance of these events rests in what it may tell us about the nature of Egypt’s post-Mubarak foreign policy.
It suggests that Cairo is feeling tremendous urgings from broad Arab sentiment to return, after 30 years, to its traditional Middle East foreign policies as the leading Arab nation, rather than the ally of the United States and Israel.
It has certainly been an historically odd fact that — with Egypt and Saudi Arabia allied with the United States and taking our lead on policy — the structure of Middle East policy has been driven by non-Arabs: United States, Turkey, Iran and Israel. While this has worked (except for Iran’s role) powerfully to our advantage, those days may be ending.
Turkey has been slipping away (first slowly, now faster) from an American alliance since 2003. Saudi Arabia — appalled by our undercutting of Mubarak — is beginning to forge its own path, as evidenced by its unprecedented decision to cut rather than expand oil pumping during this current oil price rise.
Now Egypt expedites the terrorist Hamas into Palestinian leadership and wantonly prepares to permit the re-arming of the Gaza strip: Target Israel.
It is reported that the Egyptian-brokered deal was a “surprise” to the world. Can it really be the case that the United States, with our well-earned closeness to the Egyptian army (which currently governs Egypt), was genuinely unaware of this quite shocking development? Or did we know and not try to stop it? Or did we know and try but failed to stop it?
Congress (both the Democratic Senate and the GOP House — this is beyond partisan politics) should promptly hold hearings on this reversal of American long-term interests.
Who dropped the ball: State, Defense, the White House, CIA?
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
To Get Bin Laden, Obama Relied on Policies He Decried
Let’s cheerfully and ungrudgingly give credit to Barack Obama for approving the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
I have criticized Obama’s foreign policy, which was characterized by one of his advisers in an interview with the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza as “lead from behind.” That criticism still stands.
But in tracking down and nailing bin Laden, Obama led from behind the right way — behind the scenes he made a right but risky decision, without any leaks to the press, to achieve an objective sought by two presidents and thousands in the American government and military since Sept. 11, 2001.
The decision was risky because the operation could have failed, like Jimmy Carter’s Desert One operation to rescue American hostages in Iran failed in April 1980.
But this time, even though one helicopter was lost, the operation succeeded. There was evidently a lot of redundancy in the plan and a lot of flexibility on the ground. A lot of good people did a lot of good things right.
While we may not know all the details about and behind this operation, it’s fascinating to see how many of the things that made the success of this operation possible were not so long ago decried by many of the president’s fans and fellow partisans.
For one thing, it apparently would not have happened without those infamous enhanced interrogation techniques — “torture,” according to critics of the Bush administration.
The enhanced interrogation techniques reportedly led to identification of the courier who eventually led our forces to bin Laden’s hiding place. Critics of water boarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques assured us that “torture” could not produce reliable information.
They were probably right that sometimes such techniques yield false information. But the bin Laden operation shows that they can also produce actionable intelligence.
You may remember that many Democrats called for criminal prosecution of CIA interrogators who were acting under orders vetted by legal counsel. Attorney General Eric Holder actually considered bringing such prosecutions.
Fortunately, he decided not to do so — fortunately for the individuals involved but fortunately also for his own reputation. Who would want to be known for prosecuting the people who helped track down bin Laden?
It has also been reported that in hunting down bin Laden our forces relied on intercepted communications. I wonder if any of them included contacts between suspected terrorists abroad and persons in the United States.
This was the “domestic wiretapping” revealed to great acclaim by The New York Times and presented as an intolerable infringement of civil liberties. Given what we know now, it’s a good thing our folks were tuning in.
Obama deserves credit also for employing the Navy SEALs, who are part of the Joint Special Operations Command. It was fashionable a few years ago to call the JSOC Dick Cheney’s death squad and Cheney’s assassination team.
The assumption behind such criticism was that Bush administration officials were using what they termed the war against terrorism as a smokescreen for persecuting domestic dissidents. But there is not a scrap of evidence that either the Bush administration or the Obama administration were doing anything of the kind. They were too busy trying to protect us.
There was criticism as well of the idea of targeting particular individuals for assassination. But in ordering the raid on bin Laden’s compound, Obama authorized the killing of bin Laden. And no Miranda warnings first.
Bin Laden’s death removes the possibility of any debate about where he would be confined or tried. On this, Obama has already been forced to keep the Guantanamo detention center open and Holder has had to concede that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will not be tried in a civilian court in Manhattan.
Finally, let us note that this was a unilateral operation. Obama didn’t go to the United Nations Security Council. He didn’t, so far as we know, consult NATO allies. He took care not to inform the government of Pakistan, some elements of which obviously knew that bin Laden was ensconced in a house 800 meters away from Pakistan’s military academy.
For years, we heard supposedly enlightened people excoriate our leaders for torture, lawlessness, unilateralism — the list goes on and on. Now the president they wanted has used the tactics and methods they excoriated to get bin Laden. Good for him.
COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
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Who Will Answer the Jobs Question?
Public opinion polls show that all the Republican presidential hopefuls are clustered in single- or teen-digit approval ratings. It should be no mystery why no one is breaking out of the pack: No one has answered the No. 1 political question.
Why did millions of good blue-collar jobs go overseas, and what is your plan to restore them? Who and what is responsible for this national disaster?
We now have a combination of 10 percent unemployment, much more chronic underemployment and heavy personal debt incurred to prepare for jobs that do not exist. Middle-class voters have been badly hurt both by job losses and by stagnation in living standards.
Underemployment has been described by examples in The Wall Street Journal. They include the man who lost his $150,000-a-year job as a money manager and is now making cappuccinos at a Starbucks for $8.85 an hour, and the former manufacturing manager with two master’s degrees who is now working as a janitor at $9 an hour after he was turned down for 1,000 other jobs.
Are we losing, or have we already lost, the American middle class, which is the socio-economic factor that long distinguished us from other nations?
This huge voting constituency is up for grabs in 2012. But Republican presidential candidates have failed to offer solutions.
The opportunity is ripe for Republicans because President Obama continues to pander to his constituencies. He even caved in to the feminists’ tantrum that he give the majority of stimulus jobs to women, not to the men who had lost their jobs.
Then he appointed General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt as his jobs czar (director of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness). As CEO, Immelt reduced the value of GE’s stock by half, closed GE’s U.S. plants, laid off the workers (including all those who made Edison light bulbs) and, by 2010, had 54 percent of GE’s employees overseas.
During the 1990s, U.S. multinationals added workers everywhere on a two-to-one ratio of American to overseas jobs. However, U.S. Commerce Department data show that in the 2000s, U.S. multinationals cut their American work forces by 2.9 million while creating 2.4 million jobs overseas, many of them for high-skilled employees.
In the recession year of 2009, multinationals cut 5.3 percent of their workers in the U.S. and only 1.5 percent of their jobs overseas. Reporters say company executives are very squeamish about revealing or talking about how many of their workers are overseas.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed out that 26 percent of its member companies say they are hurt by China’s “indigenous innovation” policies. The Chamber’s survey also found that more than half of U.S. companies say that non-Chinese enterprises simply cannot get the same licenses that are given to Chinese companies.
Even the American Chamber of Commerce in China, a big supporter of free trade, is now complaining that China is violating free-trade pledges by limiting market access and shielding its industries from competition. Beijing demands that foreign companies hand over U.S. technology, openly brags that China favors Chinese companies when buying computers and other technology, and orders banks and other companies to limit their use of foreign security products.
The Chinese government is helping local Chinese businesses in technology, energy, aviation and other fields in order to establish Chinese dominance in those fields. The U.S. Chamber says those policies are “a blueprint for technology theft” and force non-Chinese firms to hand over their ideas, patents, trade secrets and know-how as the price of doing business in China.
Why is anybody surprised? China has a communist government and is aggressively protectionist.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China’s annual White Paper reported that China clearly supports domestic companies at the expense of non-Chinese companies by regulations on “indigenous innovation, licensing, standards, government procurement, competition law and IP enforcement.” These regs, combined with forbidding non-Chinese access to major industries, show that China, despite World Trade Organization membership, has no intention of allowing free and open markets.
Last December, U.S. trade negotiators (who are always outwitted by the Chinese) thought they were getting a promise that Chinese local governments would not be required to buy locally developed technology products and that China would stop using stolen software. There is no evidence that China complied — U.S. negotiators had failed again.
The question that should be asked of all candidates is: Do you support the globalism and free-trade policies that require Americans to compete for jobs with Chinese who work for only 40 cents, or even $2, an hour?
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM