America Foreign Policy War

Pre-emptive Candy-bombing!

Since no one else seems willing to be President, I guess I’ll have to finally lay out my platform, officially. Despite all my rantings on widely varying subjects, I, heystupid, have only one plank to my Presidential platform: pre-emptive candy bombing. For those unfamiliar with the concept of candy-bombing, the original candy bomber, Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, dropped candy from his C-54 cargo plane to the children of Berlin in the aftermath of World War II. Soon, American candy makers were sending chocolate by the ton and Americans were mailing their own handkerchiefs to Halvorsen to use as parachutes. Almost 70 years later, Colonel Halvorsen was invited to carry the German team’s national placard during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. There’s a school in Berlin named for him. Check him out here:

This is a terrific example of winning hearts and minds at the price of about 12 cents per heart.

However, it occurs to me that it’s wasteful and unnecessary to bomb a country with ordnance before we bomb it with food, water, clothing, medicine, malaria nets, soccer balls and, yes, candy. We should be mercilessly pre-emptively candy-bombing (and potato-bombing and water-bombing and amoxicilin-bombing and …) dozens of countries, especially our enemies. Let them tremble before our charity! Hal Halvorsen said, of his act, “It wasn’t the candy that was important. What was important was that somebody–an American–knew I was in trouble. Somebody cared.” Imagine how many fewer countries we’d have to invade if the people of the world felt like Americans knew their struggles and cared.

So, if elected my first priority will be to redirect one-third of the US military budget to humanitarian and rescue efforts. The US military already does a lot of humanitarian work, and they do it astoundingly well. Coupling these efforts with military capability will help ensure aid is directed where most important. But, let us go into this venture with open eyes. There will be American casualties from this, despite our best efforts. What could be more noble than to die that families may have enough to eat?

I propose we raise a worldwide generation whose first memory of the stars and stripes is attached to a Hershey bar and a bottle of Pepsi (or a SodaStream!). HeyStupid 2016!

Foreign Policy War

TWIS: Either have a good plan or a long-term plan

It seems like you can always count on Dr. Ben Carson to provide a fresh, hot batch of stupid to save your (sorta) weekly column. He was interviewed by The Hill and said (as he had to), “I was never in favor of going into Iraq.” So far, so good. But his follow-up was priceless. “When you go into a situation with so many factions and such a complex history,” he said, “unless you know what you’re doing or have a long-term strategy, it just creates more problems.” Now, Dr. Carson might have meant we should have both knowledge and a long-term strategy, except that he adds “..and since we did go in, the big problem is that we didn’t secure victory there, and that’s a huge problem.” In other words, since you didn’t know what you were doing going in, you’d better make up for it by staying longer.

This is the unanswered question for the Right. Imagine you’re Barack Obama in 2009. You’ve inherited two wars. Both will be a decade old (twice as long as WWII) by the end of your first term and rapidly approaching the 100,000 deaths and 4 trillion dollar mark. What’s a traitorous, deficit-ballooning, secret Muslim election-stealer to do? Continue Bush’s folly, rooted in deception, greed and industrial-strength denial? Cut and run? Stay the course?

The answer from the Stupid, of course, is that you should have done the opposite of whatever Barack Obama did do. Since he left, then the right (Right!) answer was not to leave. But was it? By 2010, the government of Nouri al-Maliki, Shia prime minister of Iraq, was corrupt, sectarian and weak. It was heavily supported by Iran-backed, loosely-controlled Shia militia. It was complicit in the persecution of the Sunni minority. The actions of this government and its thugs really created ISIS in Iraq.

I’ve never heard a critic of Obama’s Iraq policy state what should have been the criteria for withdrawing troops from Iraq. How long, after all, should we have continued to prop up the Maliki government in contradiction of its own expressed wishes? John McCain thinks we should have stayed for 100 years. At least he has the courage to say so. Cowards like Carson make sideways allusions to some phantom fool-proof strategy that’s a bound to succeed. Clowns like Donald Trump comically state they have a secret silver bullet strategy, but won’t tell us what it is.

Politics is politics, of course, but now we have a chorus of GOP Presidential candidates who brazenly advocate for the reinvasion of Iraq. (Carson, to his credit, is not one of them.) For the GOP, and their defense contractor backers, war doesn’t need a goal. It is the goal. The more nebulous and unattainable the exit strategy, the better.

Madonna once said, “I prefer young men. They don’t know what they’re doing, but they can do it all night!” Looks like Dr. Ben and the GOP may have found another fan of their foreign policy.



Economics Foreign Policy Philosophy

Unintended consequences

You don’t have to be long around Republicans before they teach you the “law of unintended consequences”–the principle that, sometimes, things don’t go according to plan and sometimes they have the opposite effect of the one you intended. In a discussion of public policy, once your opponent resorts to the “law of unintended consequences” you know you’ve won the argument. You can interpret this to mean

1. Your idea seems like a good one.

2. She can’t think of any reason it won’t work, but…

3. It might not work.

Which, of course, is true about every good idea, ever. It even applies to the idea of doing less. The idea of reducing regulations is equally subject to the law of unintended consequences. For example, deregulation of media and telecommunications in 1996 has been, generally, a disaster with terrible unforeseen repercussions including ruining music, hampering the internet and giving money a louder voice in politics.

But still, the “law of unintended consequences” is preached to and by Republicans and Libertarians every day. To avoid “unintended consequences,” conservatives prefer to make their mainstay ideas which are manifest bullshit from the beginning. If I can’t rule out that a policy will give different results than the ones I intended, the best policy, they seem to argue, is to pursue nonsensical or even Machievellian goals, hoping to stumble into good results.

But in Republican minds, the law of unintended consequences doesn’t apply to things like privatizing social security or defunding the EPA, and it especially does not apply to foreign policy (arming the Syrian opposition? What could go wrong?). So, the next time you hear your Republican friend say “well, but you know the law of unintended consequences, don’t you?” don’t get frustrated. Simply apply your palm to your face and walk away victorious.

Faith Foreign Policy Obama

Leadership…it’s all about posture!

A special midweek stupidity update. I’m aware that not everyone reading this post is a Christian. But, a solid majority of people tweeting and retweeting this graphic are's about posture’s about posture

As a Christian myself, I’ll admit to being quite pleased with ThisWeekInStupid’s response below:

I think you may be right
I think you may be right


Have a good week and don’t forget to follow ThisWeekInStupid on twitter.

Foreign Policy Obama

The President’s failure to act has made troubles worse

Mitt Romney, bolstered by the recent praise from the Right on his prescience in identifying Russia as “our primary geo-politcal foe,” thought he’d weigh in on, well, everything. He did it in the Wall Street Journal here. As someone interested in Ukraine before it was cool and as self-appointed liberal liason to the Right, I’ve read a lot of conservative commentary on Ukraine. And this is not the dumbest, but it’s up there. Mitt, to his credit, doesn’t spend a lot of time, as others have, extolling Putin’s acumen in out-maneuvering Obama. This is an ignorant point of view. In fact, what Russia has done is further de-legitimized the UN Security Council–one of the last remnants of a world in which Russia could diplomatically influence other nations. What’s more, there are legitimate legal challenges to Russia’s permanent membership on the council. I’m neither an international law nor diplomacy wonk, but the idea of a formal challenge to Russia’s permanent membership would have more sticking power now than at any time. Those with a sense of irony, might propose that the permanent seat of the dissolved USSR (which seat Russia now occupies) should be rotated among the former Soviet Republics–Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic states, for example. There’s a certain delicious parallel between this and Putin’s abandonment of the Budapest memorandum on the grounds that it was signed by a different Ukrainian government.
Further, if 4 of the 5 nations on the Security Council (the US, Britain, China and Russia) feel justified in waging wars over the objections of the majority of the security council membership, then a diplomatically and economically isolated Russia can do very little for its allies out of the immediate reach of it’s tanks and bombs.
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the economic costs to Russia, estimated at $400bn this year. That’s 20% of GDP or $2800 from every Russian (whose average salaries are just $800/month). And that’s before figuring losses due to any sanctions. I’m with (gulp) Ted Cruz on the idea of expanding natural gas shipments to Europe to increase these costs. Contrary to popular belief, Putin is no king. He has political rivals and has a parliament to wrangle. Anyone paying attention understands that this is a big tragedy for Vladimir Putin at home and abroad. Last November, he had an ally on his huge southern border and some semblance of legitimacy in the world.
But we were talking about Mitt Romney. His piece did have one thing in common with the rest of the neo-con idiocy out there. Mitt asks the question
Why are America’s hands so tied?
which ought to be rhetorical to anyone not in a coma last decade, and yet Mitt weaves some yarn about how, if we’d just been more willing to arm Middle Eastern freedom fighters, things would have been fine.
The 80’s called, Mitt. They want their foreign policy back.