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Category: Robert Farley


[ 103 ] January 20, 2012 |

Chuck Norris edition:

For my wife, Gena, and I, we sincerely believe former Speaker Newt Gingrich is the answer to most of those questions and deserves our endorsement and vote.

We agree with our friend and governor of the great state of Texas, Rick Perry, when he suspended his campaign and endorsed Gingrich, that Newt “has the heart of a conservative reformer.” We believe Newt’s experience, leadership, knowledge, wisdom, faith and even humility to learn from his failures (personal and public) can return America to her glory days. And he is the best man left on the battlefield who is able to outwit, outplay and outlast Obama and his campaign machine.

I will credit Newt with this; he has taken his campaign much farther than I (or most others) would have been willing to venture a year ago. If Santorum gives up the ghost after South Carolina (certainly possible if he comes in 4th), Newt could end up winning a handful of Southern states and perhaps competing in a few others. The hope for progressives, I suppose, is that he sticks against Mitt long enough to allow factional lines to harden sufficiently to cause problems in November. Wouldn’t bet on it, but then Mittens has been looking terrible of late.

The Budget Scrum

[ 52 ] January 18, 2012 |

Thoughts on the defense budget:

Rather, the real fight over the future of the defense budget will happen in the corridors of the Pentagon and in congressional committees. The nuclear weapons industrial complex will fight bitterly to maintain a role for itself, undoubtedly assisted by the senators and representatives from Tennessee and New Mexico. The Army and the Marine Corps will use every trick they have to deflect cuts and reaffirm their current size and status. In part because of mergers, the major defense conglomerates have spread geographically, reducing sectional conflict over major military projects. At the same time, however, maintaining an open spigot of defense money remains a bipartisan priority for many in Congress.

Unfortunately, this battle is likely to gain little national public attention. Defense politics would benefit from greater public scrutiny, but the lack of an imminent military threat like the Soviet Union, or an exciting partisan battle as developed in the 1980s, make it unlikely that the public will pay much attention to how the bureaucratic fight plays out. Defense budget politics has increasingly become a field of narrow contestation between experts, elites and interested actors, rather than a field in which different visions of the political good engage with one another. This has resulted in a prioritization of bureaucratic interest and parochial concern, both of which are enemies of real grand strategy.

And Now We’re DRIVING the Bus!

[ 15 ] January 17, 2012 |

The Powers That Be over at Bloggingheads have decided to hand Matt Duss and myself the keys to a new, weekly foreign policy show which we’ve decided to call Foreign Entanglements. Announcement and discussion here:

My relationship with Bloggingheads began, of course, with this vicious anti-bloggingheads screed. Let it never be said that the squeaky wheel does not get the grease. This is a very interesting opportunity, and Matt and I hope to make the most of it by continuing to include many of the contributors who have long been involved in Bloggingheads, as well as new contributors who speak on different subjects and to different interests. Feedback regarding potential contributors (or favorite past contributors) is very welcome.

With regards to the alternative names for the program, the following were considered and rejected:

Manhattan Project
Solarium Redux
The Next Objective
Present at the Summation
Statesmen and Scoundrels
Worse than Immoral, it’s a Mistake
Diplomacy by Other Means
All Foreign Intrigues
Alliances, Attachments, and Intrigues
A Clash of Wonks
The Internationalists
The Foreign Policy Faction
The Undiplomatic Corps
People’s Front for the Liberation of Bloggingheads

Ron Paul Ain’t Good on Foreign Policy

[ 462 ] January 16, 2012 |

Freddie De Boer gives us a heartfelt defense of Paul-curiosity:

I don’t know if that grave was one of the few to be opened and explored. Even now the Indonesian government broadly obstructs attempts to investigate the events of the Year. The “conservative estimate”– that is, the one that won’t get you laughed at by Very Reasonable People– is that 500,000 Indonesians were slaughtered, all under the considerable support of the United States. Some Indonesians I know find that estimate a laughable, inflammatory underestimation, but okay. Render unto Caesar. Half a million people, stuff underground or thrown into the sea. Lined up and shot in the back of the head, or hacked to death with machetes, after having been forced to dig their own graves and those of their families. You’ve heard it before. You’ve likely even heard that we supported it in every way conceivable, providing intelligence, arms, and funding to the new junta, including a literal hit list. If I know the average political mind today, many could read about these events with only eye rolls. They don’t deny the factual accuracy of the claims. They don’t even deny their horror. They just react as if talking about them is something gauche, uncool, boring. Few could deny their truth, at this point; the declassified CIA documentation is, as always, terribly frank. You’d be amazed at how many offer justifications to me. These people were commies, after all.

If you think that 1965 is ancient history, and that you are thus free from the burden of responsibility, I would remind you that the Clinton administration backed the Indonesian government in its atrocities against East Timor, where perhaps a third of the population was murdered; that Dennis Blair, former Obama intelligence official, had direct authority in our support of those war crimes; and that today, the Indonesian military is doing this to the people of West New Guinea.

I hardly need to tell you that our support of Indonesia and its military is ongoing. We are up to our elbows in the current regime, just like we were with the Suharto regime. (A Clinton apparatchik called him “our kind of guy.”) And in a democracy that makes it our responsibility. A foreign army that takes our money and our training and applies them to the harassment, oppression, and murder of its own people– that’s our responsibility. Yours and mine…

..What I insist, and what people like Glenn Greenwald keep insisting, is that Ron Paul’s endless failings shouldn’t and can’t exist as an excuse to look away from the dead bodies that we keep on piling up. What I have wanted is to grab a hold of mainstream progressivism and force it to look the dead in the face. But the effort to avoid exactly that is mighty, and what we have on our hands is an epidemic of not seeing.

Here are two assumptions embedded in this post:

1. The Indonesian government wouldn’t or couldn’t have carried out serial pogroms and violent state-building exercises without the support of the United States.

2. A President Paul, by withholding support and instigation, would have prevented these bad things from happening.

The first is a matter of historical debate. The CIA surely played a role in the fall of Sukarno and the murderous rise of Suharto; it’s far from clear, however, that CIA influence was determinative either in spurring the conflict or in producing a specific outcome. It’s also surely true that the United States maintained good relations with the Suharto regime for commercial and what it perceived to be strategic reasons, and that the US continued this support while Indonesia engaged in a variety of exceedingly violent statebuilding projects at various points in its periphery. The United States continued to sell Indonesia weapons during this period, took some steps to shield Indonesia from international scrutiny, and largely avoided using commercial ties as leverage over Indonesian behavior.

Again, we can debate as to how much this amounts to “piling up dead” for which the United States presumably holds responsibility. For my part, I think that lots of countries have brutal, bloody factional conflicts, and lots of countries engage in brutal statebuilding efforts without any assistance from the United States, so in general I’m inclined to think that US positive influence (making it happen) over these events is fairly minimal, with the real responsibility of the US in this case lying in its rejection of using any tools of negative influence (political or economic leverage, which was considerable) to moderate the behavior of the Indonesia government. Political leaders have terribly good reasons to kill other people for political effect; the United States rarely has to try very hard to convince them to do so, and often cannot convince them to refrain from doing so.

And so this brings us to assumption the second, which is that a President Paul would somehow have done something to make all those Indonesia people not dead. I suppose it’s possible that a President Paul would have refrained from supporting the Suharto coup, although it’s also certainly possible that Paul’s free market commitments would have made anti-communist activity attractive; I don’t know enough about Paul’s early career attitudes regarding the USSR, the Sandinistas, etc. I guarantee you, however, that President Paul would have lifted not a finger to assist all the Indonesians killed in the wake of the coup, or in the various statebuilding projects later engaged in by the Suharto and post-Suharto governments. President Paul might not have engaged in a direct military relationship with Indonesia, but he would not have prevented American private military firms from contracting with the Indonesians in training and advisory roles; he would not have prevented the Indonesian military from purchasing all the military equipment that it could afford from US defense corporations; he would not have prevented US corporations with interests in Indonesia from calling (publicly or privately) for violent defense of their extractive and labor interests; and he would not have supported any robust international action to condemn or isolate the Indonesian government.

Now you may say “but all that stuff happens anyway,” and that’s true to a point, although it’s also true that the United States finally did exercise some restraint on Indonesia with regards to East Timor, and played a not-completely-inconsequential role in the fall of Suharto. But that’s rather my point; for progressives, Ron Paul is less change than you want, and not at all the change you’re looking for. The world of a President Paul is not one in which the United States refrains from facilitating the murder of people in foreign countries; it’s a world in which the institutional structure of that facilitation is somewhat different, mostly in that it involves private actors undertaking direct policy rather than working through the US government. It’s also a world in which all of the multilateral institutions designed to alleviate human misery are undercut or actively destroyed by principled isolationist policy.

And this is my second point; De Boer compares Paul with Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich, arguing that they’re all dismissed by mainstream liberals as being ridiculous, etc. But this comparison rests on a basic falsehood, which is that the foreign policy of Ron Paul resembles that of Sanders or Kucinich in any meaningful way. Kucinich, for example, is an avid supporter of the United Nations, as well a host of other international institutions. He also supports robust foreign aid, and a variety of other positions that suggest a commitment to using US social and economic leverage in a non-violent way to improve international outcomes.
Bernie Sanders has a very similar record. Kucinich and Sanders are both firmly on the left side of the liberal internationalist consensus, while Paul rejects that consensus altogether. This means that they incidentally share a few positions, just as Kucinich and Sanders incidentally share a few positions with Jim Demint, but it doesn’t mean that they’re saying the same thing about foreign policy, or that progressives ought to think of them in the same way.

On this last issue, much of De Boer’s anger seems centered on the belief that Kucinich, Sanders, and Paul are being subjected to the same attacks from progressives for the same reasons, but I don’t think that this is true. What animates progressive rejection/derision of Sanders and Kucinich stems from the belief that their policy proposals, however sensible, are too far to the left to win, and that in any case both have a variety of personal characteristics that make a Presidential victory unlikely. What animates progressive hostility to Paul, on the other hand, is that he’s a paleo-conservative with horrific views on economic, social, and most foreign policy issues.

And so no, it’s not a tribal reluctance to come to grips with the failures of the Democratic Party on foreign policy that makes progressives inclined to reject Ron Paul out of hand. Rather, it’s a sensible, realistic appreciation of the totality of political character of Paul and the movement he represents. To my mind, this rejection is far more thoughtful and reflective than the decision to cherry pick a few of Paul’s views in isolation from the rest of his politics, then laud him as a figure worthy of consideration.

Lazy Rhetorical Tricks I Can Do Without…

[ 96 ] January 16, 2012 |

Bemoaning the loss of the “land of the free”:

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

Yes.  Yes, we’re lying to ourselves we call this country the land of the free, and the lie didn’t start with the invention of GPS trackers.  This construction invariably calls to some non-existent golden age in which civil liberties in America were carefully defended for all by a modest, effective, non-intrusive state dedicated to minimal interference etc. etc. etc.  It’s probably true that the United States hasn’t done so bad historically on “freedom” in comparison to Western Europe if we strictly limit our analysis to white men, but the US was a slave-holding aristocracy until 1865 and effectively an apartheid state until 1964.  And then you have Indian Wars, Japanese internment, Hoover’s FBI, deportation of anarchists and leftists after first Red Scare, et al.  The Europeans have their colonial brutality (as do we) and maybe that’s worse, but nobody is doing very well in the competition for “land of the free” honors.

So please, spare us the hand-wringing about how, suddenly, we’re unable to refer to America as the “land of the free.”

Afghan NIE

[ 2 ] January 14, 2012 |

I had some thought on the new Afghanistan NIE at RT yesterday:

Spring 2012: Bring it On

[ 4 ] January 13, 2012 |

Gots my Defense Statecraft syllabus more or less done, gots my Airpower syllabus pretty much done, gots my podcasts up and running, blog could use an update, but otherwise ready to go!

Seapower, Piracy, and Iran

[ 2 ] January 11, 2012 |

Thoughts on the recent USN rescue of Iranian fishermen:

To be sure, this version of the rescue represents public relations spin, but soft power often amounts to framing narrative for the purposes of public relations. The Iranians’ claim that Iran frees pirate hostages all the time without the same degree of fanfarerepresents an implicit acknowledgement of the success of the hostage rescue in this regard. The Iranians surely also understand that the logic of positive-sum seapower — that the entire world benefits from freedom of the seas — contrasts sharply with their own threats to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event of an expanded oil embargo and their warning to the United States not to deploy another aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. It can also be applied antagonistically to any Iranian attempt to follow through on those threats. Pirates are the original hostis humani generis, but states that threaten maritime freedom, especially when maritime freedom has been construed in terms of common rights and common good, can also become “enemies of humankind.”

In short, the rescue illustrates the way in which CS-21 provides an internationalist vocabulary for the pursuit of national ends. The U.S. desire to contain and confront Iran may or may not be wise, but one of the purposes of a strategic document is to provide civilian leaders with sufficiently flexible policy tools to pursue national ends. In this case, the internationalist focus of CS-21 does not constrain U.S. action, but rather reframes it in terms much more palatable to regional allies and competitors. CS-21 plays a similar role in the South China Sea, placing U.S. national ends squarely on the same side as an internationalist vision of free navigation and exploration. From the point of view of the U.S. desire to tighten the screws on Iran, the rescue could not have come at a better time.

A Winner Have We…

[ 6 ] January 10, 2012 |

Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide, and congrats also to QAS410, who submitted the winning entry “Hitchens Bowl” to the LGM Bowl Mania Challenge.  QAS410, please contact me at the admin e-mail on the far right sidebar for prize info.

1 Hitchens BowlQAS410 508 97.9
2 UnleashtheFurycabotgk 507 97.8
3 strannix 1strannix 506 97.6
4 No, the other Spartansehlimbach 495 95.8
5 ADDFTAVII 492 95.0
6 Taylor Branch slemieux99 491 94.8
7 Lafayette’s FinestUKEvan 484 93.0
8 aintthatprettyracobeen 479 91.5
9 FunBoy84Lyfe 1FunBoy84Lyfe 477 90.9
10 Disciples of Tebowtjohnson534 474 89.9


Return of the Rummy?

[ 39 ] January 9, 2012 |

Steve Clemons has an interesting notion:

Rumsfeld’s public ruminations about what might be possible in achieving efficiencies and dealing with a tough budgetary environment were leading the nation in my view to do some of the “rebalancing” back in early 2001 that would have been healthy for the country.  Robert Kagan,writing in July 2001, strongly disagreed with my perspective, but his piece gives a sense of the times before 9/11 that roughly feel like the budgetary and hard choice debates unfolding today.

A return to Rumsfeld’s efforts to strangle some parts of the Pentagon while conceptualizing new ways to achieve security would be a constructive discussion for the Obama team to consider.

Obama, Leon Panetta, Tom Donilon, Ashton Carter, David Petraeus, General Dempsey and others on the Obama national security team may find that such public discourse could very well help Americans see something that might be true — that greater security deliverables are possible with reform and change, even amidst budget cuts.

Maybe it’s time to invite Donald Rumsfeld to be invited to join the respective advisory boards tasked with thinking through new blueprints for a reformed and rewired military strategy.  Controversial, of course — but also a smart thing to do, even in an election year.

It’s possible that there are some lessons of value to be learned from Rumsfeld’s first eight months on the job; he did undertake a serious effort to re-think the US defense posture, and he wasn’t afraid to engage in brutal fights against entrenched Pentagon interests. As I’ve suggested at other times, in an entirely different universe Rumsfeld might have ended his career with the legacy of an important reformer, rather than as the Worst Secretary of Defense in History.

But in this universe, Donald Rumsfeld is a colossal failure who shouldn’t be admitted to polite society.  Normally, that would be no object to using him strategically in the coming defense budget wars.  However, Rumsfeld is almost unique in American political life in that virtually everyone recognizes him as a colossal failure.  The uniformed military hates him, the Pentagon civilians hate him, the neocons hate him, liberals hate him, and even centrists don’t particularly care for him.  You bring someone like Rummy on to your team in order to provide cover, but Rummy doesn’t provide cover; he attracts fire, almost all of it deserved. And while Rummy might have some private lessons to impart to Panetta, I very much doubt that he’d be interested in helping out a Democratic administration in any fashion that wouldn’t also be part of his own rehabilitation.

Ron and Rand

[ 22 ] January 8, 2012 |

Alyssa notes something that people in Kentucky have been talking about for a while: Rand Paul’s potential Presidential candidacy in 2016.  It’s an interesting problem.  Rand surely has more potential as a charismatic advocate of the Paul family ideology than his father, and he lacks much of the baggage (although he obviously has some).  I think that the Paul faction of the GOP is more committed to Ron Paul the symbol than Ron Paul the candidate, and Rand is uniquely well-suited to occupying that role. I suspect, thus, that Rand’s ceiling is higher than Ron’s, although I don’t know how much higher.

It may be that Rand likes being a Senator, and will be happy to run for re-election in 2016. He’s not a shoo-in by any means; each of the last three Senatorial elections in Kentucky has been hard-fought, and Rand won during a Republican wave that was especially pronounced in Kentucky.  I suspect that the Democrats will target him in ’16, and so he might want to concentrate his efforts on re-election rather than on a Presidential run.  The latter is unlikely to help the former all that much; libertarianism doesn’t tend to be a real big winner in Kentucky, and so drawing contrasts between himself and the rest of the GOP field would probably be counter-productive.

Another interesting question will be how the outcome of this year’s election affects Rand’s prospects.  If Mitt occupies the White House that would make for a very interesting contested primary, between an incumbent President and a sitting Senator.  I’m sure that no matter how popular Mitt is or isn’t in 2016, Paul’s supporters will find sufficient reason to work themselves into a berserker rage at Romney’s heresy.  But of course Rand will fail to defeat Mitt, and the national GOP will suddenly display a tremendous lack of interest in Rand’s Senate re-election prospects, making a dicey campaign even more problematic. To my thinking, he pretty much has to choose between being Senator from Kentucky and failing to unseat an incumbent GOP President; I don’t have a good sense of how he’d behave in that situation.

Best case scenario for Rand is that Obama beats Mitt, letting the GOP get even more enraged over the next four years.  A Mitt defeat will be blamed on the “moderate,” “establishment,” elements of the GOP, likely increasing the appeal of a radical outsider.  It will depend on the other candidates, but I wouldn’t say he’s guaranteed to lose the nomination in the same sense as his father. I think that he’d be an extremely weak general election candidate, but of course the result of the election will turn mainly on factors that will develop closer to 2016.

I do think that Rand’s position within the GOP makes it less likely that Ron will run as an independent this year.  If Ron is perceived as Mitt’s spoiler, leading to an Obama victory, then the Paul name will be mud in the GOP, and Rand’s ceiling will consequently be reduced.  Then again, I could imagine things playing out differently, and at the least a Ron run would make a Mitt victory (Rand’s worst case scenario) less likely.


Greatest Duck Ever?

[ 11 ] January 7, 2012 |

LaMichael James to the NFL:

Oregon running back LaMichael James, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010, is skipping his senior year and declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft.

“I feel like I’m leaving with a bang,” said James, less than a week after he helped the Ducks to a victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

A 5-foot-9, 195-pound All-American, James rushed for a school-record 1,805 yards this season despite missing two games with a dislocated right elbow. He led the nation with an average of 150.4 yards rushing per game.

James is Oregon’s career leader in yards rushing with 5,082. He is the first Pac-12 player to have three straight 1,500-yard seasons.

In Oregon’s 45-38 Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio victory over the Badgers, James rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, James said he’s been told he’s likely a third-round pick. He hopes to improve his status with workouts.

James has his agent and training plans in order, sources told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Friday.

James is one term away from completing a degree in general social science, or sociology. He may take the winter term off to train before returning to school in the spring to finish up.

Good luck, LaMichael!

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