U.S. military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

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May 14, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own —

The U.S. armed forces, the world’s most powerful, outnumber the country’s diplomatic service and its major aid agency by a ratio of more than 180:1, vastly higher than in other Western democracies. Military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

The ratio applies to people in uniform (or pin-striped suits). In terms of money, the U.S. military towers just as tall. Roughly half of all military spending in the world is American. Even potential adversaries in a conventional war spend puny sums in comparison. The 2010 defense budget now before Congress totals $534 billion, not including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. China’s defense budget is $70 billion, Russia’s around $50 billion.giant_dwarf_w350

Is the huge imbalance between the size of the U.S. armed forces and the civilian agencies that make up “soft power” — chiefly the foreign service and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) — destined to remain a permanent fixture in the political landscape?

The gap is not likely to shrink dramatically, despite a growing internal debate over how to balance the instruments of power. Ironically, the man who has provided some of the most memorable statistics illustrating the hard power-soft power gap is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the only holdover from the cabinet of George W. Bush and President Barack Obama’s most inspired choice.

One of Gates’ favorite examples: The 6,600 foreign service professionals of the State Department equal the number of personnel of one (out of 11) aircraft carrier strike group.

The Pentagon spends slightly more on health care for the military than the State Department spends on looking after foreign affairs. And the United States employs more military musicians than professional diplomats.

The gap is meant to shrink, so that the United States can “renew its role as a leader in global development and diplomacy,” in the words of the White House Office of Management and Budget. It lists $53.9 billion for the Department of State and other international programs in the 2010 budget, a tenth of the defense budget.

The Obama administration wants to double foreign assistance by 2015 and “significantly” increase the size of the foreign service and USAID, the foreign assistance agency which shrank from a high of about 15,000 during the Vietnam War to just over 1,100 now.

OBAMA TURNS AWAY FROM OLD NOTIONS

Building up “soft power” is a sign that Obama is turning away from the notion that diplomacy is largely a tool to convey threats – a notion popular among the neoconservatives who drove the Bush administration’s policy – rather than to negotiate compromise and avert war instead of cleaning up the post-war ruins.

Adding people to civilian agencies that promote U.S. foreign policy interests may well be easier than adjusting the arsenal of the armed forces to the wars they are fighting now or are likely to fight in the near future.

Cutting the size of the military itself is not a subject of debate in Washington, not only because it is obvious that they are badly stretched by the two simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also because few Americans, and even fewer American policymakers, doubt the wisdom of permanent military supremacy for the United States.

How that should be guaranteed is a perennial subject of debate, reignited this month by the defense budget Gates submitted. It calls for a 4 percent increase over the previous year, not insignificant in a country facing a $1.2 trillion deficit next year, and showed that the “military-industrial complex” the late Dwight Eisenhower warned about is alive and well.

In his presidential farewell address in 1961, General Eisenhower said the military establishment and a permanent arms industry combined to create a military-industrial complex whose “influence  –economic, political, even spiritual– is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government.”

That influence is still felt, as shown by the reaction to Gates’ decision to readjust the arsenal, moving more money to the tools of irregular warfare and scrapping high-ticket items originally designed to fight a Cold War enemy who no longer exists. Case in point: the F-22 jet fighter, an aircraft pilots describe as the Ferrari of the air. It costs $140 million apiece.

The Air Force originally wanted 381 of the planes, Gates wants to halt production at 187 already built or in the pipeline. The aircraft is being built by companies in 44 states. That translates into 88 senators and ensures broad political support in Congress as well as vivid complaints over job losses once production ends.

Before betting on the outcome of the congressional fight over big-ticket weapons systems, keep in mind an old Washington adage: “The president proposes, Congress disposes.”

87 comments

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“war in Iraq was a great success and it ended with W’s “mission accomplished” speech aboard the carrier.” May 17th, 2009 6:14 pm GMT – Posted by Anonymous.

That sum’s up your narrow mind and defective vision. I’ll leave it up to other folk to make their minds up on whether to support your burning desire to “succeed” in Iran in the same way.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Thanks for your reply Raven. I agree with that one too. A sharp tool well aimed at right target could achieve the required result, and would possibly go relatively unnoticed. If technological superiority was the answer to conflicts, Adolph probably would have done better, but there’s a shining example of politicians fiddling with the military. (I don’t consider Adolph to have been a military man despite his status as a war veteran.) (I don’t have any military experience myself, but I devour history books, ancient, recent and current, and like to check who and where the books were written taking care not to read all the one sided ones.)
I do think diplomacy can work if both sides are frank and honest. Wars seem to be easier to start than stop.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

It’s sad that people want to lump me in with those who want war with Iran, but then again it’s easier to dismiss an opposing opinion by mischaracterization than really address a difficult issue.
International politics are unfortunately a zero sum game. You can talk about everyone getting along with mutual respect and honesty, but it’s a fantasy. In order for others to gain, some must lose, it’s really as simple as that. Once you accept that truth it’s difficult to believe that diplomacy can work in anything other than the simplest situation.
Some want to live in a fantasy world where all nations act rationally and only have peaceful aims. It’s not that simple or rosy in reality. I’ve said it before, wanting to talk doesn’t make you weak, but it does give that appearance to those who only understand force and violence. Thus, while you may not be afraid, if your opponent sees you that way how do you get a fair deal?

Posted by Edward M. Blake | Report as abusive

Anon, I’m of the opinion that after so many of our own soldiers and their own civilians die that you don’t really “win” the war.

How can you approve of foreign nation building while our own bridges collapse under our cars and we can’t protect one of our great and most treasured cities in New Orleans? I mean how many other cities are under the same threat from hurricane or other natural disasters?

If we simply spend money on our own defense and technology we don’t need to be in any other country. We can plenty reach any part of the world from our land or from satellites. It’s all in the name of empire-building. Maybe not now, maybe not in 50 years, but eventually that will be our demise like every empire previous.

To answer your first question the United States government, should worry about, well the United States. If we were truly doing this to be on moral highground we’d have all our troops in Darfur and we’d stop the blockage with Cuba, not that i’m advocating for either.

For the 2nd question I’d have to look it up, but are we murdering civilians any less than Saddam did?

This isn’t possible, especially anytime soon, but if they did than we should step in. What if Israel nukes Iran? There’s certainly a better chance of that happening, what would your opinion of that be?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Peter, your reference to WWII is of course spot on. A little anecdote – when German troops first encountered the Soviet T34 tank on the Eastern Front, they were so impressed by it’s superior ability that they sent captured tanks back to Germany with the request “we want these please…” Their requests to that effect were turned down, since the T34 would not pass the German quality control checks.

Should you get the chance, read Martin van Creveld: Supplying War… critically. This is a grim reminder of how one can be tempted to offer logistical planning in lieu of a sound strategic planning. So in the end, it all boils down to numbers. Yet Sun Tzu warns against exactly that thinking. It is not about numbers at all, but the concentration of a balanced force at a point where it cannot be resisted… or in the words of Sun Tzu: “Let your actions be like the dashing of a grindstone against an egg.” – that ‘grindstone’ being a big (5 ton) grindstone used by millers of his time.

Posted by Raven | Report as abusive

In response to an earlier post regarding the successful completion of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the “Mission Accomplished” speech – I’m afraid that history may have another take on this.

Let’s quickly recap the facts. From the end of the previous war (give or take a month), the international community plied pressure on Iraq to relinquish their Weapons of Mass Destruction and to terminate development programmes of the same. You should be able to recall the ‘he loves me, he loves me not…’ ping-pong that ensued – Saddam would collaborate, then not. He would allow weapons inspectors free access, then deny them access to Presidential Palaces. Poor Hans Blix… this man must’ve packed and unpacked his suitcase more than anyone else on this planet during this time. All the time though, Saddam was adamant… “we do not have WMD’s.”

In 2002 the US, UK and a couple of other countries turned up the ratchet a notch or two. Not only did Saddam have WMD’s, but also the delivery mechanism to hit the heartland of Europe within minutes of Saddam’s say-so… serious stuff. We even had General Powell do a PowerPoint presentation on the reality of the threat to the UN Security Council… seeking approval and support for upping the ante against Iraq.

Now… this part is important. Bear in mind that wars are not schoolyard brawls. Wars are fought as the continuation of national (or international) foreign policies by other means. The foreign policy in this instance was the removal of a clear and then present danger in the form of WMD’s (with long-range delivery vehicles) in the hands of a complete lunatic… “listen to him, he’s so crazy, he expects us to believe that he doesn’t have WMD’s”

We need to be clear on this… the policy was NOT to “free the Iraqi people” or the “create a democracy” or to “bring this dictator to justice.” It was to rid Iraq and the region of WMD’s. The ultimatum to Iraq was also to that effect. “Hand over your WMD’s or we will come and fetch them.”

At this stage, Saddam had probably wished he had WMD’s, just so that he could’ve handed them over. Even a fool could see where this was heading. But, sadly for him, he did not have any WMD’s, so on March 20, 2003, the Coalition Forces continued the pursuit of their collective foreign policy by other means… war.

And on May 1 of the same year? President George Bush declares “Mission Accomplished”. What was that “Mission” again? It was to remove the threat of WMD’s and the delivery vehicles from Iraq and the region. “We’ve come to destroy all the Heffalumps in your house, and haven’t found any… so well done to us – Mission Accomplished?”

I think that Operation Iraqi Freedom will be remembered for a number of questionable reasons… a galactic failure of national and military intelligence, a complete failure in the achievement of the original foreign policy objectives, a set example of the need to plan for the peace to follow the war. And still, the costs just keep on mounting.

So… in summary – in shock at the price, in awe of the stupidity. I know that General Powell is a smart and good soldier – I bet that once in a while, he wakes up in cold sweat from that nightmare where he is presenting to the UN Security Council on Iraqi WMD’s again.

Does that about sum it up?

Posted by Raven | Report as abusive

Peter H,
Looks like, lacking valid argument, you resorted to one of liberals favorite trick – pulling a phrase out of context and then completely distorting your opponent’s point of view making it easier to attack. But this also makes all of your arguments, valid or not, questionable due to your manned to conduct discussion.
Or maybe you meant it – all liberals tend to lump the war in Iraq and the post-war democracy building effort into one big ugly lump they call “Iraq war”, making it easier to argue that war in Iraq failed and, by extension, all wars are failures. Looks like in your blind hate of Bush and anything that has to do with him, you try to deny him a credit even when it’s due.
In fact, there were 2 separate event in Iraq – the war, which was a victory beyond any argument, and the post-war period, which was a failure beyond argument. But it’s this failure that’s being continued by BHO – maybe different in presentation, but the same in its essence – support of failed Iraqi regime that is itself a bastard of failed effort on “democracy building”. And leaving even a single military person above the usual number of embassy guard Marines means there’s no “complete withdrawal” as it was promised in the run-up to elections.
So, in your own words, “That sum’s up your narrow mind and defective vision. I’ll leave it up to other folk to make their minds up on whether to support your burning desire to” capitulate before all opponents of America, reward them for being anti-American, and in the same time abandon historical allies, if not punish them for being our allies.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

You have only confirmed what I have said Ham.

People who are against the war do not want to fight for the freedoms of others, because they believe it is not their problem.

But if Iran nukes Israel and kills millions? “Oh, then we would step in and do something”. Good sentiment, but lousy timing.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

I’ve read about five of these comments, and I’m disgusted by the lack of intelligence or forethought in anyone’s writing. Our world is not a utopia; this is a fact. America is the dominant military presence in the world.

What the author nor readers also mention is that the US GIVES more money away than any other country in the world, period. Our 50 billion DWARFS what the English, French and Spanish are giving away combined.

So, if our military superiority threatens the rest of the world with our way of life, I am not only comfortable with it but I embrace it and pay my taxes willingly. The rest of the world would be done a favor to be dominated under an empire of the United States, because trust me, there’s nothing quite like liberty. If you’ve grown up here, chances are you haven’t left, just because there’s no place quite as free.

Anonymous, your post reads as if it were a fake. The views therein are so saturated with ignorance that I almost didn’t take it seriously.

I find the facts conveyed in this article to be most appalling and uncharacteristic of a supposedly free and democratic nation. The previous comment upon this piece makes me fear for the future of this once prosperous land, even more so than before.

Yes, America’s legions garrison some 130 countries all about the globe, protecting freedom and democracy through the righteous power of brute force. Woe be to those who would resist the will of the leviathan we call a government.

One of the things that Anonymous failed to understand is that all this money has to come from somewhere, and that is from the American taxpayer. The massive amounts of foreign aid that our country doles out to keep foreign regimes favorable to western interests is actually a form of corporate welfare, as the money must be used to purchase from US corporations. Not only are the taxpayers getting screwed, but the politically well connected business class is profiting immensely from it.

I don’t know how far gone you have to be to declare something as ludicrous as the world would be better off under a US based empire, surely something is amiss with that logic, or lack thereof. I don’t know if Anonymous has ever read US history or has any inkling as to why our country was founded in the first place. It was to become free of taxation without representation, a sprawling world empire, and the cabal of European central banks, all of which have regained control of the nation. Liberty and empire are antithetical. This is not the US that I nor any of the other posters grew up in.

Posted by wingman | Report as abusive

One of the stated reasons Bin Laden attacked the US was our 15,000 troops in his ‘holy land’ of Saudi Arabia. How is the 727 US bases in foreign lands making citizens here any safer? Ike was the last Republican President with any integrity who warned of the “growing military, industrial,complex”. That was when the Pentagon/War Dept.(now called ‘Defense’) budget was only 40 billion!
MLK Jr. said a “nation which continues to spend more & more on it’s military is approaching spiritual death”. The American Empire is on it’s last legs. I doubt a nation of ‘Idol’ watchers is awake enough to notice.

Posted by Jeff Pine | Report as abusive

Anon, again you’ve shown your unwillingness to answer my questions. I can understand, if I were taking your position I wouldn’t wanna answer them either. Nothing I’ve said is in favor of your war-mongering and government expansion ideals, I’m stating the exact opposite.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Mr Ham. I hate having to spell things out. Couldn’t you just read people’s posts better?

I claimed that people who are against the war have moral issues. Either:

1. They do not wish to provide freedom to other people, because they feel it is not their problem, or
2. They do not care what happens to other people, as long as their own hands are clean.

All of your responses have only supported this. So what else can I conclude?

You don’t want to fight overseas because you don’t care what happens to people in other nations. You don’t want to pay taxes to provide freedom to others outside America. You don’t want military bases in other countries because it isn’t your problem. You value your own freedom over the safety of the community.

“America should take care of America”. That is what you said.

I have answered all of your questions. The problem is you don’t bother to read the answers that are given.

“What if Israel attacks Iran?” Is that the question I missed? What a joke. You want your answer?

Israel is trustworthy. It has proven it’s restaint time after time. It has been attacked time after time, yet it always avoids complete slaughter.

And trust me, if you think Cast Lead was a real slaughter, you need some political perspective.

Whereas Iran is a repressive theocracy. One who’s munitions and money seem to find their way into Iraq, Palestine and Lebenon with surprising regularity. Just another elephant in the room ready to be ignored.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

“to be dominated under an empire of the United States, because trust me, there’s nothing quite like liberty”

Haha! Dude, you seriously need to refine your argumentation skills. That, or accept that your breed is finally dying out, thank God.

Am I the only one humming “America, f*** yeah! Freedom is the only way yeah” right now?

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

My apologies Anon, you’re dead on, I don’t think another government’s problems should turn into mine and yours. If people want to change their government, revolt, we did and we had to sacrifice hundreds of thousands to get what we have.

I expect the U.S. government to provide adequate engineering protection for our greatest cities, protect our borders, tax us minimally like our founding fathers said. If our government proves it can do that, then we can try and help others out. We can’t help others if we can’t help ourselves.

Iran is an awful government but to say Israel’s been restrained when they haven’t chosen peace at any time period since their country’s beginning is laughable. If they were about peace then they’d be 100% in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, which they won’t. Because if they do that they’ll have to maybe go back to their own borders and stop bulldozing Palestinian homes on Palestinian land to make way for their expensive housing settlements.

Iran won’t have any nuclear capability anytime soon if ever, Israel has shown itself to be a nation of shoot first, ask questions later. Why else would they not allow reporters to cover their constant attacks and no allow aid workers to come in and save the civilians while they bleed out on the battlefield?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Well, see the whole problem is other country’s problems do turn into ours. Particularly since there is no viable international organization to intervene and the feckless EU has decided to act like scared children (i.e. if we keep our heads under the covers the monsters can’t get us) and do you really want China and the Soviets..err Russians to be the ones interfering?
Make no mistake, the greater powers of the world always have and always will interfere with the lesser powers. To pretend that the US can get itself in order without some type of order in the international arena is silly.
I’m not condoning the actions of our government in anyway, I’m simply saying that to act like we can ignore the rest of the world to “get our house in order” is impossible. It is a global community, witness the spreads of both the swine flu and economic crisis around the world like wildfire if you need examples.

Posted by Edward M. Blake | Report as abusive

Edward how do you know it’s impossible? We’ve been trying to be the world’s hall monitor for 100 years and we’ve been in constant decline that entire time. You’re assuming we can only worry about ourselves, this isn’t based on past history.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I think the main question, regardless of where one stands on the issue of war, is “how do we get others to cooperate?”

And for me, the answer is simple. I would cooperate with a colleague giving me food or money long before I would cooperate with a belligerent foe sticking a gun in my face.

Needless to say, I would probably comply with the armed militant, which is what gives our pro-military friends here the ammunition to say “it works.” Yes, it does, in the short term.

But as soon as that enemy’s back is turned, I would be scheming a way to get out from their influence. Much as the insurgents have been doing in Iraq, as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan.

I am extremely interested in the idea of increasing the abilities of USAID. What if, instead of 10,000 soldiers, we sent 10,000 trained diplomats and lots of food, money, and building supplies into Afghanistan? Wouldn’t the Taliban find it much harder to rally support against us, if we’re actually making life better?

What if the U.S. started offering young people the chance to join USAID with the same benefits as those of the armed forces? That would give our pacifist patriots a good way to serve their country.

“assuming we can’t only worry about ourselves”

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I think you have your history a bit off, I wouldn’t say the US was involved to a great extent in international affairs in 1909. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but how can you believe that the US would prosper if it wasn’t involved in international affairs? You do realize that we trade with other nations and while I don’t particularly agree with our methods of dealing with instability, such instability is bad for business. That’s really the only concern I have with other countries. If we can’t trade in a reasonably stable environment, how is that going to help us? Again I’m talking in the real world, not in the fantasy normative world of the ivory tower pointy headed folks. If you abstract all reality away then sure, the money spent on defense and foreign aid would improve things here. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.
I again hate to challenge you view on history, but it proves you wrong in pretty much all instances. You cannot simply ignore the rest of the world, especially in this increasingly globalized world. Absent changes that are simply never going to happen, e.g. the reigning in of the power of MNCs, there’s no realistic way to disengage from the unfortunate commitments and entanglements our poor policies of the past have led to. We need to change how we interact, not completely close up shop. It’s all fine and good to look askance at our past, but we can’t simply walk away any easier than we can continue on this bad road. Instead of assigning blame and rehashing poor history, we need to look to change. But you can’t change realistically, unless you look at the world realistically. Until then it’s just pointless whining and bashing with no purpose.

Posted by Edward M. Blake | Report as abusive

Edward I’m more or less saying the way I think is best, not offering a potential good policy for the U.S. I’ve already lost 100% hope in this government with regard to everything, I’m on here for discussion. With how far we are, revolution is the only way to fix it.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Dear Anonymous,

How could I possibly experience liberty if I am ‘dominated under an empire of the United States’? What exactly does ‘Liberty’ mean to you? I thought it meant freedom… from oppression, domination, etc. But if “Liberty” is attained by being dominated, then you can keep it.

The same goes for the modern US vernacular regarding ‘Democracy’ and ‘Peace’. Does Iraq have a “Democracy”? Is that what a democracy looks like? If it is, you can keep it. Are the Iraqi’s “Free”? Do they have “Peace”? As they cower in their homes, dodge the bombers and mourn their dead? Once again, it they are, you can keep it

And believe me, I do not consider the US military superiority to be a threat even if they were my enemy.

Posted by Raven | Report as abusive

I would assume at this point after 74 posts, that someone would have considered the fact that what America wants in the world is not particularly important to the rest of the world.

That leaves the only posible conclusion…

Posted by Alan Murgatroyd | Report as abusive

Wow, I’m being emulated! But I have a few disagreements with the impostor who signed his/her post “Anonymous” on May 18th, 2009 8:54 pm GMT. Firstly, I’d never link my name with a p0rn site, even if the name is a made-up one.
Secondly, and most importantly, unlike that P0rnanimous impostor, I oppose spreading our way of life all over the world, and even more oppose spending my tax money on it. For each his own. Democracy works more or less acceptably in the West (and acceptably only because all known alternatives are even worse). Even in the West it sometimes produces hiccups like in Germany 1933. But, left unchecked in other less civilized places, its results are catastrophic. Too many civil wars and internal ethnic and/or religious conflicts to enumerate – all because of attempts to implement democracy. Too many destroyed economies. And wherever Islam is involved, unchecked democracy brings to power the most extreme elements like Hamas in Gaza, mad mullahs in Iran, or their shia proxies in Iraq and Lebanon.
Bringing democracy and freedom to other corners of the world on American bayonets, while looks noble on the surface, is irresponsible waste of American soldiers’ lives and American taxpayers’ money. Bringing stability and order – maybe if that corner of the world is of significance for us like Korea in 1950. Confronting regimes that pose danger to us and/or our allies – absolutely necessary.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I’m not certain about the suggestion that democracy only works in the west because all known alternatives are even worse. I’d put it down to the heritage that has come down through the ages that is more or less democratic and dates back as far as possibly the neolithic age or earlier. Many of the occasions where some megalomaniac imposes absolute rule in the west result in absolute war from those that have had their “democratic privileges” trampled on, although not immediately, only after the bad affects have sunk in.
On the topic of diplomacy v war, and having tried to follow the recent US-Israel discussions, one hairy issue has arisen in my mind in the form of “diplomatic language” which by it’s diplomatic nature leaves observes (like my humble self) somewhat unable to see if anything has changed.
I still can’t help thinking the Iran issue is a complete red-herring, especially given the chaos gripping their Pakistani neighbours and worrying reports I’ve read concerning the concern that US funds intended for “combating terrorists” have it seems been spent on pumping out nuclear fissile material in Pakistan. Which is worrying especially if you consider that in the not to distant future there is to be a decision on what to do once the START 1 agreement with our Russian friends which expires in December, not to mention the problems that could arise if any of that fissile material gets in to the wrong hands. There is also another interesting little ditty which expires before that coming up for renewal, renegotiation or grabs come October and that is the ICAAN licence. Now you might wonder what control over the internet domains has to do with the price of fish, but given that cyber-warfare can be used to invoke Chapter V, including sanctions such as pre-emptive nuclear strikes it kind-a some how fits in, in my mind.
Given the previous administrations version of diplomacy I’m not certain that the President can really do much on his own. (I’m not anti-Bush, I happen to think he is a good upright man, just not a particularly good President, and his “team” seemed to have their own odd agenda.) The President (or Prime Minister in the UK) is only as good as the team he has around him (unless like Blair you go it alone, or with someone elses team).
One of the glimmers of hope that I do see is the roasting currently being enjoyed by Britain’s political elite might just draw the line under the power of the lobby movements and backroom deals over here, or at least put their “interests” in a less powerful position to hijack the democratically elected government.
Another glimmer of hope has been supplied courtesy of the massive democratic nation of India (which wasn’t in the west the last time I checked on my atlas) which has voted for stability, a commodity that is in short supply in that region (although curiously Iran, with all its associated problems does appear to be stable) (it could be run by Micky Mouse for all I care, so long as it works).
(I couldn’t find the “Supplying War” book in my library, so I might have to buy it, in the mean time it’s the Norman Invasion of Ireland for me. Sun Tzu is a great man and inspirational leader.)

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

“I’m not certain about the suggestion that democracy only works in the west because all known alternatives are even worse. ” – Posted by Peter H
________________
Well, maybe I didn’t phrase it well – I was in a rush and somewhat irritated by the impostor who tried to link me to a p0rn site. It’s not that democracy only works in the west because all known alternatives are even worse. It’s rather about how I grade it. And the reason why I grade it “acceptable” is exactly that – because the alternatives are even worse. If there was a proven working alternative, I would have graded democracy as a way of life and government “poor”.
Now about why democracy tends to work in the West and fail everywhere else. In my opinion it’s because the West is home to massive middle class that outnumbers everyone else (poor and rich lumped together). On one hand, the middle class has a lot to lose in case of wrong choice made in the elections. On the other hand, middle class is sufficiently educated to make that choice. That’s what brings stability to the system and prevents extreme swings. And in case of the most spectacular failure of democracy – Germany 1933 – the middle class was wiped out by hyperinflation. Seeing your life savings and your lifestyle going down the toilet doesn’t make people think rationally. Desperate people make desperate decisions :-( . And Japan, while geographically not even close to the West, socially and economically is firmly there.
In 3rd world the middle class is barely noticeable, if anything. It’s rather very few filthy rich in the sea of dirt poor. While money surely influence elections, they can go only that far. The poor by definition have nothing to lose, and if some demagogue promises them the world and then some, they can well vote for some madman like Ahmadinejad or Chavez.
And India… They are surprisingly well educated for their level of development – one thing that brings them closer to the West. Maybe the people whom we see dirt poor don’t see themselves as have-nots. Maybe that small plot of land or a shack in the slum is something their owners value and don’t want to risk to instability. Or maybe during the generations under British rule they learned how to play the game of democracy – after all they learned how to play the game of cricket so well that they regularly beat you Brits at it :-) .

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Dear Anonymouse, The failure of Germany’s “democracy” isn’t a good example what-so-ever. I shall attached a link and the brief intro…
“In its 14 years, the Weimar Republic managed to survive despite severe economic problems (including a disastrous inflation), political extremism and …”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Repu blic
to the better than nothing wikipedia should you wish to brush up on your “facts”. Did you study any history at school – or any time after? You have an appalling grasp of most things. The stuff you get on television isn’t history.
Germany’s democracy was quickly cobbled together on the abdication of the Kaiser who split just before the end of WW1, which the German’s “lost” despite having not be pushed back in any meaningful way from their positions in France. They signed the Armistice on 11 November 1918 (theoretically for 11 o’clock) following the fall and evaporation of their Austrian allies.

You will also find that India wasn’t ruled in any kind of democratic manner under the British Colonial system, and that is one thing I would have thought the Americans knew something about. I suggest a holiday to any where in the Asian part of Asia Pacific could open your eyes. Beijing could be a good start. You will also find that Pakistan has a large, well educated, wealthy middle-class for all the good that’s going to do them.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Iran just tested another missile today. And boy was she a beauty. 2000km range balistic missile.

And Iran claims these missiles are for self defence.

Of course, ballistic missiles are quite useless in conventional warfare. Launching a few missiles at an enemy nation won’t stop their army from bombing you into a smoking crater with their air force.

So I wonder why Iran is claiming these missiles will help defend their nation?

Could it be that these missiles are intended to have some kind of extra payload attached to them?

Posted by Anon. | Report as abusive

The game of brinkmanship is going to end in an almighty disaster unless some kind of solution can be hammered out. There won’t be any winners in the region if the war kicks off, and it will be hard if not impossible to contain.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Peter H,
Believe me I did study the history. And not only Western or, even narrower, American narrative, but other points of view as well. The run-up to WWII was among the periods I was mostly interested in. The link you provided so generously didn’t give me any new revelations – maybe some details and clarifications, but nothing beyond that. The fact remains that Germany was stumbling from one economical disaster to another. The population became impoverished, and, as a result thereof, more politicized and polarized. That resulted in electorate making NSDAP the largest party in Reichstag. Even though the composition of Reichstag was that of stalemate and democratic governing was going nowhere despite totally free and fair elections, the fact of NSDAP being the largest represented party was an excuse for the establishment to appoint Hitler Reichskanzler. That much for liberal democracy…
“I suggest a holiday to any where in the Asian part of Asia Pacific could open your eyes. Beijing could be a good start. “ Unlike you Europeans, we here in USA have vacations short, few, and far between. Instead of Asian sightseeing I’d rather take my kids to yet another Caribbean cruise – healthier, and more fun for them. And cheaper to boot. All info on Asia I need I can extract from the Internet.
“Pakistan has a large, well educated, wealthy middle-class” in a few select urban areas that are, coincidentally, comprising the traditional paths for Western tourists. I doubt that, even if you’ve been to Pakistan, you ventured beyond these oases of well-being to the slums or rural areas, let alone tribal areas now fought over with Taleban. If you did I’m very surprised you still keep your head. These select well-to-do areas are representative of all Pakistan no more than Upper East Side in Manhattan is representative of all America. The fact remains that in Pakistan most of population is poor and barely, if at all, educated.
Oh, and finally, it’s “Anonymous”, not “AnonymousE”.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Dear Annonymouse, WW2 wouldn’t have kicked off were it not for WW1 (which could be viewed as simply paused), and the run up to that one is the one that fascinates me with an extensive run up going back to the Reformation (and no doubt longer). The between the wars period is fascinating for just who knew what and how much they knew – it seems no one at the time was taken by surprise although Adolph did surprise the sector of society who thought he was their man (not the democratic sector).
I am very well traveled from early childhood on. Whereas I haven’t been to Pakistan I have been to India and many other “third world” countries. The thing I see is rapid development and change despite the colonial era pillaging (although I wouldn’t include Pakistan so much in the development, but the change does apply) in Asia. Yes they do have massive impoverished populations. They have massive populations.
It is a great shame that the UN (a post-WW2 re-hash of the League of Nations which was set up to fail post WW1) is so inept as the vacuum of a good strong international diplomacy will be filled one way or another by an individual state which will only repeat past mistakes. There is probably little that can be done from the outside in the Middle East the way things are going and the stakes are so high it’s chilling. The reason I suggested Beijing probably went over your head.
It never ceases to amaze me the differences different people see when looking at the same picture. It is a truly fascinating (and to me beautiful) world, I hope it stays that way for many generations to come.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

To: Peter H/Annonymouse

“Dear Annonymouse, WW2 wouldn’t have kicked off were it not for WW1″.

1. History doesn’t deal with ‘would’ history is all about ‘was’.
2. You only right about name ‘WWII’. WWII can only be after WWI, but the big war was unavoidable and history has written prove .
Since we all pretend to know history…
In 1940’s even with Germany out of equation war was unavoidable.
1. Russia assembled biggest army ever with number of tanks running in 1000’s. (BTW strike was set on summer 1941-42)
2. Japan built fleet next to British breaking 1922 Washington treaties.

Democracy obviously has big pre-requirements :) World full of failed Democracies look at Africa and Latin America.
Annonymouse naïve in attempts to explain stability of West democracies by Middle class and Wealth. He sees that Wealth came after West plunder poor colonies. I agree that Wealth brings stability to society. But…
Most Western democracies emerged in 19-20 centuries while counties were in ruins after wars.
West spend on Aid to 3rd World more that US spent to aid to Europe and Japan after WWII just to see tribal chiefs promoted themselves to Presidents rather than Emperors. At the same time poor and multiethnic India was able to build great Democracy. So it not about Wealth… May be it is about culture and tribes/clans become nations.

Posted by SKV | Report as abusive

Let me list all the ideas

Turn as many Empty Factories in Every State of the Union into Greenhouses that catch as much water, sun, and energy
to be as self sufficient as possible. They can be oasis’s of Food, Heat, Shelter with Structure as Homes around these Depressed areas are Rebuilt. Plus, We would not be so dependent on food being shipped, less gas used, less pollutants.

By placing just One Solar Panel and One Wind Generator with a new Battery (A large one they will use in Electric cars) The Jobs created to make the Panels, Generators, and Batteries will be an Immediate help to our economy. The Instillation will create Jobs.
Homes that can Produce their Own energy will Lessen OUR need for Fossil Fuels across this country. This will put less pollutants in the air, as well as lessening the demand for MORE power-plants. Our National security as well as Security for the Population will increase since homes can produce their own Energy in Emergencies.

Creating a Magnetic Train system(Like Europe, but MUCH better) will lessen the amount of OIL needed for air travel since the train,Using Solar panels ALL ALONG the tracks, with wind catchers to catch the trains passing wind and mother nature, should help power itself, making it cheaper to operate, making it cheaper to travel! If we connect ALL State Capitals, Major Cities, Universities, and Casino’s how easy would it be to see OUR COUNTRY in all her Glory?
Small Business thrives on tourists!

Casino’s have always been hubs of underworld activities like Prostitution, Drugs, and Money Laundering. Why should we let Gambling make Millionaires and Billionaires out of Mafia Types, who wish to make money on our vices, when we can take that money and create a Free Health Care System. How much can we save when we CUT OUT ALL HEALTH INSURERS, who don’t care about your health, only THEIR PROFIT! Doctors pay would not be affected since Skill and Ability in that field always rise to the top. Malpractice would be rethought, since Insurers are not involved. How much better could Health Care in general be when we take out the PROFIT motive, and focus on Healing and Caring for the Ill, not making as much as possible off of them.

Where is all the State Lotto money going? I thought it was supposed to go towards Schools? YET School budgets get slashed every year while the money spent on Lotto’s keep going UP? This needs to be looked into, this discrepancy in BUDGETS.

Where is could the money come from to start these projects? How much has been spent to bailout “BANKS” and those who have been ripping us off? These people made how many BILLIONS off of the Public, you and me, NOW they get more BILLIONS to rescue them from THEIR MISTAKES, and HAVE YET to start letting the “CREDIT” flow?

Big Oil has been “Speculating”, “Price Fixing”, and engaged in “Anti-Competition” practices for HOW LONG? When was the last time you saw a “Gas Price War” from your Local Gas Stations? I’m not saying Nationalize, but why don’t we Freeze some of the Accounts of Leaders, go through these Oil Company Patents and see if they have BOUGHT technology that would improve Gas Mileage. Remember, Big Oil makes money PER GALLON, so the lower MPG your car gets, the better for them, and they have how many BILLIONS to LOBBY Congress? No wonder America’s MPG Standard is the Lowest in the World.

It is only a subtle shift in Thinking. Instead of PROFIT and CONTROL being the Focus of our Economy, we need to Make our Economy Strong, Steady, and Reliable by Building it to be that way. We just need to change LEADERSHIP at some places atop these TOO LARGE MULTINATIONALS, who do not care about the individual, region, or Nation, they only care about them, theirs, and their Bottom Line.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

I have ideas, and ideas

How would I set up GM? With intelligence. The World Car Market since the 1930′s has Always had a trend of Customization and Modification. All the Home Mechanics during the 60′s and 70′s took a lot of money out of the Big 3′s pockets. How many Dealerships, like YENKO, became more popular because of that Customization and Modification?

GM should approach this rebuilding keeping this in mind.
I see GM like Apple and its iPhone. Apple supplies the iPhone and allows whoever the ability to make an Application.

If GM redesigned and supplied a completely Modular car platform, with easy to install components, how easy would it be for Dealerships to offer Customizations?

I envision a new car buyer going into a Dealership. The Customer chooses a frame (small car, sedan, truck, ect.) then looks at the available body types that can be hung, picks an interior, a sound system, rims, and a customized paint job if they wish, among other things.

I see these Customizing Car Shops everywhere, why not turn them into Dealerships where GM ships Parts, Frames, and Pieces to be assembled. The Quality should improve since you are meeting your cars assemblers at the Dealership. YOU, the customer can watch your car being built. Each Dealership can Distinguish itself with their WORK! Popular Dealerships(like YENKO of the 60′s) could have Customers traveling across the country to have a car assembled for them. (Hopefully they will travel over a Comprehensive Train system and drive the New GM car back home)

How many people could be employed in Local Dealerships, instead of being concentrated in one area like a Giant Factory? These New Dealerships would employ Mechanics, Body Specialists, Painters, Interior Specialists, and Sound Installers among Salesmen and Shop Managers. Keeping it smaller scale will keep Quality High, especially since shady Dealerships will become easy to see because of the shoddy work.

Just another idea to better America.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

This idea for GM also puts most of the money in the hands of those who Construct, Build, and Assemble the cars, those who do the most WORK, and should limit what the Government can take out of the company in the form of Money.

Jobs are more important to a Strong, Steady, and Reliable Economy than the amount of Money that Economy can make in the form of Profit.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

I have more ideas.

Energy, energy, energy.
We will always want energy. How do we get it? Energy Companies take from you, too much, and use it to buy Fuel.
How about, along with the Solar Panel and Wind Generator, we add an Row machine, or a Bike machine which generates energy to feed into the system.

Kids at a Mall want to buy a CD, or DVD, or whatever it is Kids want to waste money on. Instead of Mom and Dad giving their hard earned money, the Kids can go and Row or Pedal, get some exercise, and get some money in their pocket.

For you Conservatives, what better way to instill a work ethic in kids? “Johny? you want some money? You can go be productive, put some Energy in the system, make some money, and buy what you want.” We can teach Work Ethic and Money management to our children while starting to free us from Oil, foreign and Domestic.

Folks, even the Homeless can go to a public place, get some exercise, do some work, and make some money that they can buy some food with. How much will the health of this Nation increase in 2 years?

See what thinking with Love can do? and not greed for profit?

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

Some more about me.

I was a Latch Key Kid, meaning i kept my house key around my neck. Started in the First Grade. I lost my Key for the first, and only, time in the 3rd grade.

This is an example of how i was raised. My Dad raised me by himself, a rarity even today. He KNEW i would eventually lose that key, it is just the nature of children.

Instead of getting mad, he was prepared. He turned it into a lesson. He told me why a key was so important, why Security mattered. He got me involved in the lock changing process, explained why it cost so much.

All my life my Father has always Explained Why something was wrong, so i understood the punishment. Once you understand WHY something is wrong, you have no excuse for doing wrong again. That was his view anyway.

Worked rather well. How could you expect a child to be perfect their first go at life? However, my Dad thought that once he fully explained why something was wrong, it was my ass if i made the same mistake twice.

Smart people learn from mistakes, it is what makes us grow. My Dad has always said, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

What have we learned, what can we learn, what will make us better, smarter, better prepared for Our future.
Dad said, “Always think ahead.”

Posted by C. D. Walker | Report as abusive