War Archives

Nobel Regrets

Quick trivia question: Who won Nobel Peace Prize in 2009? The answer; newly-elected President Barack Obama. And the obvious follow-up question is, why? To his credit, he wasn’t sure why either. The thought was that this would encourage him to be a peace-maker. A new book is at least shedding some light on the regrets that the Nobel committee had in making that decision.

In a new memoir titled "Secretary of Peace: 25 years with the Nobel Prize," Geir Lundestad, the non-voting Director of the Nobel Institute until 2014, writes that he has developed doubts about the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to grant Obama the Nobel Peace Prize over the past six years. While the prize was designed to encourage the new president, it may have not have worked out as intended.

When I posted this on the “Consider This!” Facebook page (my podcast), listener Pil Orbison said that, while President Obama wasn’t a Helen Keller or Indira Ghandi, no two Nobel prizes are alike. She said that what Obama did for the economy and healthcare certainly gave others a better outlook on our nation, and no other President could have done that.

Let’s set aside whether or not what Obama has done has improved either the economy or health care. The Nobel Peace prize is for what you actually have accomplished, not for what the committee hopes you will accomplish. That standard isn’t applied to any other Nobel Prize. They don’t give out the Chemistry award for what someone might discover, or to someone who shows promise in that field. The Peace Prize has, or should have, the same criteria.

Sure, the Nobel committee can have whatever criteria they want, but this article shows what can happen when you pin your hopes on a guy just because of his politics or the promises he made on the campaign trail. Politicizing the prize cheapens it for those who truly deserve it; people like Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malala Yousafzai, or PLO terrorist Yassar Arafat. Oh yes, he got one too.

    If You Knew Then What You Know Now…

    A number of Republican candidates for President are being asked a question that I’d like to pose to you. This is a hypothetical that is really trying to “Monday morning quarterback” decisions from the past, but let’s try this exercise.

    If you knew then what you know now, would you have invaded? Now remember, at the time, the country was run by an iron fist, a guy who was killing his own people, partly because they were of the wrong religion, but partly just to keep himself in power. He had also already shown a propensity for invading and occupying his neighbors, so this wasn’t some tin pot despot talking big but not actually doing anything.

    But it’s not just what was known before the war; would you have gone in if you knew what would happen after the war? What if you knew that, when the war was over, something even worse would rear it’s heard? And that this group would also butcher people under its control. It would have an expansionist agenda, trying to grab as much vital territory from other countries as it could.

    It’s not really fair to judge decisions of the past based on information from the present, but the media seem to enjoy posing this question to the Republicans, as though a particular answer from them, with knowledge from the present, would show that their decisions from the past were “ill-informed”. The answer to the question is of little use, but they demand an answer to it, so I’m posing it to you as well. What do you think? Should we have invaded … Germany? Read the rest of this entry

      Does Religion Cause the Most Wars?

      Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.” The three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history, begs to differ.

      For those wars, the authors note the causes of each. Consider this; they categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, more than half of them, 66, were fought in the name of Islam. Take those out, and the percentage of non-Islamic religious wars is a mere 3.23%.

      So the next time someone tries to use the Crusades as a way to paint religion as the primary source of all war, just ask them, “Is that the best you can do?” Takes quite a bit faith to believe that.

        The Draw of Pacifism

        I’ve known Christians who claim to adhere to pacifism, as well as seen protest signs with "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" painted on them. But Bart Gingerich, critiquing Methodist professor and theologian William Abraham’s new book, notes that this supposed "cure" for war may just be as bad, or worse, than the disease. Of the book "Shaking Hands with the Devil: The Intersection of Terrorism and Theology", Gingerich writes.

        Abraham admits that pacifism superficially offers moral arguments against terrorism, but its medicine is worse than the disease by disallowing defense of the innocent. He opines: “It requires a very special kind of intellectual malfunction and self-deception to sustain pacifism over time.” And he specifically challenges the particularly fashionable form of “pragmatic pacifism” espoused now by Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary as “just peacemaking,” which he decries for failing to address terrorism seriously. Its pseudo-scientific claims he calls “bogus and misleading.” Although maybe offering occasionally useful “partisan” policy proposals, just peacemaking ultimately aims to shut down the case for force, can offer “false hope,” and ultimately may only fuel further terrorism.

        Hat tip to Don Sensing.

          NY Times Wakes Up

          It’s one thing to criticize decisions. It’s another to realize you have to make the same ones you criticized. But Barack Obama has been continuing the same war policies from the Bush administration that he ran against. It’s amazing what getting the job has on your view of the job

          If President Obama tuned in to the past week’s bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

          Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country’s core values in the name of security.

          (Oh, and the NY Times is just now realizing this?)

            Leaving Iraq

            The last American troops left Iraq yesterday. (Well, likely, the last combat troops. I’m sure there are still advisors there.) The Fox news article described it thusly:

            The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief. Their convoy’s exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast U.S. ally.

            The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.

            I think the US ought to get a cut of oil profits for some predetermined amount of time to help repay us for liberating the country from a brutal dictator. But beyond the dollars-and-cents view of "worth it", recall we were instrumental from saving Germany (and most of Europe) from a brutal dictator 70 years ago at the cost of lives orders of magnitude greater than this. Hussein had invaded neighboring countries, used chemical weapons on his own people, and oppressed the Kurds, to name just a very few of his atrocities. Are Iraqis better off without him? You betcha’.

            Should we go in and invade every country with a brutal dictator? I don’t think so, but the Middle East is a particularly important area to the global economy (i.e. oil) and is also one of the most volatile. What goes on there can make or break countries far and wide. Add to that Hussein’s view of our ally Israel (i.e. supporting terrorism there), and this combination was enough, I believe, to seriously consider dealing with it militarily. The US Congress thought so as well when they authorized the use of force (notwithstanding those mealy-mouthed Democrats who voted for it and later complained that they never thought they’d be taken seriously by Bush).

            For those who lost family and friends in the war, indeed the cost for them is so different and felt stronger than for the rest of us pontificating from the sidelines. But at the same time, the "worth-it-ness" of the war in total has to come from a big picture view. I believe it was worth it, and I think most Iraqis, who’s opinion has to count for more than ours, would agree.

              Credit Where Credit is Due

              Whenever I try to give credit to Ronald Reagan for participating in the fall of the Soviet Union, I often hear that its fall was an inevitability, and it just so happened to occur on Reagan’s watch. I have to point out to them that Reagan was the first President to come along with an intent to defeat communism, not just contain it. And then to have the Soviet Union defeated "on his watch", with nary a nuke dropped, is one of those "coincidences" you don’t often see in politics; where the effect so closely mirrors the cause.

              Interestingly, some of those who say the fall of communism was inevitable weren’t around when it happened. I was. And so was Lech Walesa.

              Lech Walesa said that there would not be a free Poland without Ronald Reagan, during the unveiling of a statue in Warsaw of the late American president on Monday.

              The former Solidarity leader said that “as a participant in these events,” it was “inconceivable” that such changes would have come about without the last American president during the post-1945 cold-war era.

              Walesa added that thirty years ago, it seemed that the fall of the communist system would not be possible without a nuclear war.

              Reagan stood strongly, and very publicly, with Poland against the Soviets. This was not an appeasing President. The Soviet Union was wrong and evil, and Reagan was not afraid to call it that, to the consternation of so many American liberals. (Just ask if, after Reagan walked out of the Reykjavik summit, if they thought nuclear war was a distinct possibility.) Lech Walesa agreed, and understood that history could just as easily played out very differently, if Reagan had not believed that victory was possible.

              Let’s give credit where credit is due. Poland certainly is.

                Friday Link Wrap-up

                Starting with Occupy Wall Street:

                • If the Tea Party had been shown to have done just a few of these things, if would have run on the nightly news for days. (Just recall how unsubstantiated accusations of racism were reported), and they would have been (rightly) castigated. When OWS does it, the press is mute.
                • Richmond charged the Tea Partiers $10,000 to have a rally. OWS, nothing. The Tea Party is going to ask for their money back on the grounds that the government is playing favorites.
                • It looks like even those who oppose the fat cats on Wall St. can act just like them. For a group upset at how the wealth has been spread around, they don’t do such a good job at spreading it themselves.
                • When Lech Walesa, Poland’s former President, said he support OWS, the AP was all over it. But when he got more details about what was really going on and what the demands were (such as they were), he decided not to support it, saying "American is sliding towards socialism."  All of a sudden, the AP website didn’t seem to think that Walesa existed. Oh, that liberal media.
                • Vagrants started to take advantage of the free food at the OWS protests, and all of a sudden the 99% started acting like the 1%. One protestor was quoted as saying, “It’s turning into us against them. They come in here and they’re looking at it as a way of getting a free meal and a place to crash, which is totally fine, but they don’t bring anything to the table at all.” It got so bad, the folks manning the kitchen staged their own protest against providing food for free to those who weren’t there to support the cause, aka freeloaders.
                • Take a look at these headlines. If they described Tea Partiers, you just know they’d be the top story on the nightly news. OWS gets a pass. A lot of passes, actually.

                Folks who support assisted-suicide claim they just want to stop suffering. Today’s slippery slope defines "suffering" as "loneliness" and financial troubles.

                James Taranto starts out by describing what sounds like the housing bubble. But he’s not. What other bubble is out there, inflating as we speak, and is ready to burst?

                With a Democrat in the White House, the "no blood for oil" chant has gone on hiatus. Imagine if Dubya had gone into Libya.

                And finally, speaking of OWS, here’s a graphic to help the media tell Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party apart. (Click for a bigger image.)

                  A Century of Conflict in the Middle East

                  How far back does the Israel/Palestinian conflict go? Would you believe about 100 years?

                  Hat tip to PowerLine.

                  I noted this on my Facebook page, and had one friend comment that he’s through worrying about this because of the fighting by both sides. I replied that the two sides version of "fighting" are quite different; Israel defending itself vs. Arab’s attempted genocide. Given how many opportunities the Palestinians have had to get there own homeland (as noted in the video) and how often they have rejected the option and instead chose to try to exterminate the state of Israel, do you really think this would end once they got official statehood?

                  Given the history, I don’t, and a clear understanding of history is needed to come to a proper conclusion. Watch the video and see what I mean.

                    Friday, er, Monday Link Wrap-up

                    There have been more casualties in Afghanistan under less than 3 years of Obama than we did under 8 years of Bush. Additionally, in the first 3 years of the Iraq war, we had fewer casualties than two and a half under Obama. This is not to criticize Obama for these deaths; that’s what happen in war. But Reason magazine notes that this raises 2 questions. "First, where are the antiwar protests? And second, where is the press?" The "anti-war" protestors are, as I’ve said before, more anti-Bush (or anti-Republican) than anything else. And the press are tied up trying to dig up dirt on Sarah Palin. It’s a full-time job, y’know.

                    Unions hand-picked 6 of the most vulnerable Republican state senate districts to target for recall. They just needed 3 wins to take control. They could only manage 2. Granted, recall elections have been notoriously difficult to win over the years, but if Democrats and the unions that sponsor them can’t get their base energized over their own referendum on alleged "anti-worker" sentiment in hand-picked districts, that doesn’t say much about how the public views them.

                    Atheists seem to believe that if humanity would just get rid of this archaic religion thing, violence would drop and peace would reign. Just ask Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, or even John Lennon. Yeah, well, how did that work in the Soviet Union, where atheism was essentially the national religion? Or in Europe today, especially Britain, where religion is on the decline?

                    And speaking of ideas not working, how’s that gun ban in Britain working out for those store owners in the middle of the riots?

                    Remember the spontaneous "You lie!" outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson of S. Carolina during an address by President Obama about his health care bill? Joe said that after Obama said, "There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally." Well guess what? Turns out Joe was right.

                    Why do we need voter ID laws? To keep this from happening; overenfranchised Democratic voters. And how about this bit of irony: "While NAACP President Benjamin Jealous lashed out at new state laws requiring photo ID for voting, an NAACP executive sits in prison, sentenced for carrying out a massive voter fraud scheme."

                    Dale Franks of Questions & Observations has some great points about our economic situation. A couple of paragraphs, from one post talking about the hole we’re in:

                    And don’t come back at me with some lame "Our GDP:Debt ratio was 120% at the end of WWII" silliness.  Yes it was. And you know how we fixed it? We cut Federal spending from $92 billion in 1945 to $38 billion in 1949. For 2011, 40% of the federal budget was financed with borrowed money: We’ll spend  $3.818 trillion, of which  $1.645 trillion is borrowed. If we funded only defense, Medicare/Medicaid, and Social Security, and interest on the debt, we’d still have a deficit of $673 billion. Just to balance the budget this year—forget paying off any debt—we’d have to cut an additional ~25% from Health, Defense, and Pensions. Follow the link and download the CSV file, open it up in Excel, and run the numbers yourself. The magic number to balance the budget this year is the revenue of $2.174 trillion.

                    That’s $2 trillion this year, not over 10 years.

                    And from another post, noting that tax increases alone, even historic tax increases and an incredibly rosy set of other assumptions, aren’t going to do it. Spending cuts, substantial cuts, must happen.

                    In order to pay off this year’s share of the $61.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities, the government will have to collect $4.261 trillion in revenues.  With an estimated 2011 GDP of $14.922 trillion, that comes to 28.6% of GDP. If we assume government revenues rise to the historical average, the we’ll need the government to take 31.6% of GDP in tax revenues. Happily, because we’re assuming a 3% rise in GDP and revenues for every year over the next 30 years, that percentage will decline slightly every year, until, in 2041, we’ll only need to collect 20.5% of GDP in tax revenues to pay off the last installment, assuming, again, 14.8% of GDP covers the operation of government.  If we go back to the 17.8% figure, then we’ll have to collect 23.5% of GDP in revenues.

                    Either way, for the next 30 years, we need to collect substantially higher tax revenues than we have collected at any time in the nation’s history, and we have to do it every year for 30 years.

                    The point being, this is probably not possible, economically or politically. This is how bad our situation is, and how much action we need to take now on spending.

                    And yet, who gets blamed for trying to bring sanity back to the budget? (Click for a larger version.)

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