Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NH Nixes Driver's License Regulations

New Hampshire, the state with "Live Free or Die" written across the top of every license plate, is taking a strong stand against federally imposed standards for the issuance of driver's licenses. A measure prohibiting the state from adopting the federal standards passed the New Hampshire House and is expected to easily pass the Senate. The governor remains undecided, however there are certainly enough votes to override any potential gubernatorial veto. (Boston Globe: N.H. leads a rebellion against driver's license regulations).

Representative Neil Kurk said, "I don't believe the people of New Hampshire elected us to help the federal government create a national identification card. We care more for our liberties than to meekly hand over to the federal government the potential to enumerate, track, identify and eventually control."

Kurk is right on the mark. This federally mandated identification program is yet another knee-jerk reaction by Homeland Security that infringes on individual privacy, better enables the federal government to track and monitor every citizen, and does absolutely nothing to address the events that resulted in 9/11. When you look under the covers, absolutely nothing enacted by Homeland Security would have prevented those attacks from being successfully executed. What we have seen, however, is a non-stop erosion in our constitutional rights, our right to privacy, and our personal freedoms all under the false guise of increased security. The attacks on our way of life continue, only they are being perpetrated by a department that comprises part of our federal government.

Kurk went on, "It's not going to promote national security. It's not going to help us prevent illegal immigration. It's just going to help the government keep tabs on ordinary citizens. Remember, the 9-11 terrorists were in this country legally and had legally obtained documents."

Also correct. In fact, there would be absolutely nothing preventing any other group of terrorists from entering the country in the same fashion. They were here legally. They all had valid documentation. None of the measures implemented in the last 5 years would have kept any of them out of the country.

What worries me more than the measures being imposed by Homeland Security is the willingness with which people accept the non-stop erosion of our personal liberties. That erosion is a far greater threat to American values than any attack ever perpetrated by a terrorist organization, yet we the people are willingly embracing and encouraging it just for the illusion of increased security.

From the sovereign state of New Hampshire echo the words spoken by the Patriot Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775. "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" Well spoken, Patrick.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Rumsfeld Under Siege

In an unprecedented show of discontent, a half-dozen retired generals have openly called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. More significantly, some of the generals in this list participated in the pre-war planning for the invasion of Iraq and voice numerous complaints that the Pentagon was ignoring the advice of military commanders. (CNN: Pentagon fights back over Rumsfeld).

With the war now in its third year, there is growing discontent at home over the state of affairs in Iraq amid prospects for civil war and the implementation of a fundamentalist regime hostile to American interests. Rumsfeld is certainly the primary target for criticism since he is perceived as the architect of the pre-war plans.

There are two points that I hope are indisputable. First is that the military phase of the Iraq war was flawless. To overthrow Hussein's regime in the short time it actually took while completely dismantling the Iraqi military in the process is nothing short of phenomenal. By all accounts, the phase of the war far exceeded anyone's expectations.

Second, the post-military phase of rebuilding a new Iraqi government and stabilizing the economic and political environment in Iraq has been deplorable. Enthusiastic and Idealistic pre-war estimates that assumed the war would pay for itself using Iraqi oil and that the people would overwhelmingly embrace the US, not as occupiers but rather as liberators, have fallen so far short of expectations as to be comical. As successful as the military phase was, the post-war phase has been a travesty.

The question on the table, though, is should Rumsfeld resign? Sadly, I must answer yes to that question, but not for the reasons one might expect. I certainly do want to see those responsible for the post-war phase held accountable for that overwhelming miscalculation, but I don't think that someone is Rumsfeld. Rather, I'm concerned that the military has lost confidence in their Defense Secretary. When that happens, it's time to put a new man in charge. Support for Rumsfeld among active military personnel has been uncomfortably quiet, and this is a case where silence implies opposition.

Civilian control of the military is one of the fundamental pillars that support our freedom. For that to work effectively, however, the military must have confidence in those civilian leaders. That confidence has been eroded over the last three years. What is unfortunate is that the erosion is due, not to any military failures - there have not been any - but rather in our use of our armed forces for non-military purposes. Rebuilding nations after a war has never been our strong suit. Our military is designed to win wars, and it does that extremely well. The aftermath, however, is more problematic.

The constraints placed on the military in post-war reconstruction almost doom it to failure from the onset. What is needed in this phase is absolute martial control of the region. Instead, we're putting the military in the position of enforcing the peace while attempting to show a kinder, gentler side. It doesn't work. In fact, it's perceived as a weakness by our enemies and it's being exploited by the insurgency. It is only with an iron grip that stability will be restored in Iraq, and that is not something our leadership is willing to exercise.

So yes, Rumsfeld does need to take one for the team. He needs to set stubbornness aside and step down. It will not change anything in Iraq, however it will allow a new Defense Secretary to start with a clean slate. That may well be necessary to restore the military's confidence in their leadership.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

India Nuke Deal Ill Conceived

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to lobby for the President's plan to share nuclear technology with India. Now, this is not nuclear weapons technology - they already have that - but rather nuclear energy technology, a distinction Iran is attempting to sell in their own dealings with the world community. (Washington Post: Rice Appeals For Nuclear Deal for India).

Does the distinction really matter, though? Not in my view, and certainly not in the case of India, a nation that has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and who secretly developed and tested a nuclear weapon right under our noses. That foreign intelligence failure launched a mini arms race between India and rival Pakistan, and leaves the region smoldering in a temporary cold war that only awaits the removal of Musharraf to escalate into something tragic.

Coupled with the Dubai Port debacle, this plan to bolster India's nuclear capabilities underscores our government's true priorities in the grand scheme of foreign relations. When the balance sheets are tallied, it is the profit and loss line that wins, not the security line. India is a prime market for cheap labor, especially in the technology sector, they are now enjoying the many benefits of a relationship with the US in exchange for a cheap work force. National security be damned if it improves the bottom line for corporate America.

What suffers beyond our national security, however, is our credibility. It is difficult to take a hard line against Iran while rewarding two other nations (India and Pakistan) for developing and testing nuclear weapons in defiance of UN edicts against nuclear proliferation. It is difficult to sell the American public on the idea that our government's first priority is national security when, in the name of profit, we are willing to sell our ports to a Middle East government owned company and we're willing to enhance nuclear technologies in a nation that is a heart beat away from war.

Our dealings with India are ill conceived. It is not in our long term best interests to reward them for their nuclear proliferation. That is a headache that will haunt a future administration. It is not in our best interests to encourage the outsourcing of technology and call-center jobs to India. That move will come back to haunt the American worker and it may very well come back to haunt the economy as a whole. It will certainly hinder our foreign policy options when the aforementioned future administration is forced to handle the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan.

Many of the foreign policy problems we are facing today are the direct result of short-sighted or poorly planned initiatives on the part of prior administrations. Future administrations will be forced to deal with the results of today's poorly conceived and short-sighted dealings with India.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Iran Girding For War

While the UN dithers, Iran is preparing for a military showdown with the west. The latest move comes in test firing a new torpedo, conspicuously similar to a 1995 Russian design, that is capable of targeting multiple ships and eluding radar. (Bloomberg: Iran's Navy Says It Successfully Test-Fired High-Speed Torpedo).

Meanwhile, efforts in the UN remain deadlocked with neither China nor Russia supporting any form of sanctions or military threat against the rogue nation. A recent UN resolution calling for Iran to halt efforts to enrich uranium was all but meaningless. It carried about as much weight as a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Without the support of China and Russia, both nations with veto power, the UN will effectively remain on the sidelines.

The latest developments in Iran push us much closer to a US military response. The new torpedo, which was shown in Iranian media broadcasts this weekend, threatens shipping in the Gulf and would certainly be used as an economic counter measure by Iran once the shooting starts. Iran frequently attacked ships in the gulf during their 1980 conflict with Iraq and had numerous clashes with military warships patrolling those waters. This new torpedo raises the stakes in control of the major oil shipping lanes.

Also problematic is the risk this now poses for the US 5th fleet stationed in the Gulf. Until now, no nation in that region could touch US warships patrolling the gulf or using carriers in that region to launch air assaults against Middle Eastern targets. This torpedo traveling at speeds up to 233 MPH could change all that.

What is clear is that the US cannot afford to wait for the UN to move. Perhaps the best course of action now is to provoke Iran into firing the first shot; a Persian Gulf equivalent to the Gulf of Tomkin. All we lack at the moment is an excuse to take out Iran's military potential. A retaliatory response, unlike a preemptive strike, needs no UN approval to be justified around the world.

However we go about it, 2006 must see action in Iran. Giving them another year to develop nuclear capabilities or increase their defensive and offensive capabilities against US troops both in Iraq and in the Gulf makes absolutely no sense. Forget the UN. Russia and China have blockaded those efforts. The time has come to see which of our allies are willing to take a stand. Either way, unilaterally or with allies, we must address the Iranian problem now.