Filed under: Foreign Policy, Military, National Security, The United States | Tags: Self-Aggrandizing Rhetoric, The Big West Point Speech, The Straw Man Argument
We talk a lot about “straw men,” usually in the case of a speech by President Obama. It’s one of his favorite rhetorical tricks. At Breitbart, Charlie Spiering pointed out five specific straw man arguments from the president’s much disparaged West Point foreign policy speech. Obama presents these positions as a radical extreme, while carefully placing himself in the middle.
- Those who believe America is in decline
Obama assured cadets that America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world” and those who think differently are just wrong.
- Those who warn against foreign entanglements
Throughout history, foreign policy has fallen into two camps, one wo which were self-described realists who were reluctant to go to war.
This apparently no longer applies to Obama
- Those who want to intervene around the globe
A different view from interventionists on the left and right, says we ignore these conflicts at our own peril. Obama says “neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.”
- Those who will send troops into war to avoid looking weak
Obama boldly knocks down this straw man with a swift stroke. :I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed fixing, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.”
- Those who are skeptical of multilateral action
These straw men think that going to NATO and the UN is futile and a waste of time. Not Obama. “Of course, skeptics often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action. For them working through international institutions, or respecting international law, is a sign of weakness. I think they’re wrong”
The clue to a “straw man” argument is usually “those who”— a nebulous, unidentified and probably non-existent opponent who probably wouldn’t think that anyway. It’s a self-aggrandizing trick for those who find it easier to argue with a straw man than a real person. Unattractive.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Health Care, Law, Military, Politics, The United States | Tags: ee, Forty VA Hospitals Implicated, The Civil Service Bureaucracy, VA Hospital Administration
Why am I not surprised? A long list of Democratic Senators are now calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. The theory is that if you get rid of the guy in charge, then you can assign the whole scandal to him, and put the rest of it in the nevermind file.
The Senators demanding General Shinseki’s resignation completely, coincidentally, just happen to be those who are all up for reelection in November. Once the inspector general’s preliminary report came out, with the stunning wait-times at the Phoenix VA of 115 days, and “systemic” problems at VA medical facilities the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats jumped promptly on the bandwagon.
You have Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina who released separate statements that the Secretary must go. Al Franken of Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The Senators were joined by Rep Scott Peters of California, Bruce Braley of Iowa and Ron Barber of Arizona. Three Republicans who are influential on military affairs, House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Sen John McCain said Shinseki must step aside.
If General Shinseki were to depart today, it would not fix anything. The problems predate his tenure. Assigning the scapegoat role to General Shinseki might well be used as an excuse to avoid a real housecleaning, prison sentences for the guilty and a deep analysis that considers whether or not a government-run health care system can adequately address the needs of our veterans.
The VA has some remarkable expertise in medical needs specific to military veterans. Advances in the technology of prosthesis, in ptsd care, have responded to injuries in an age of IEDs. The veterans dying because of wait-times seem not to be the young healthy vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, but of older vets with cancers and tumors needing immediate attention which never came. It sounds like the medical staff is caring and skilled, but the tests and scans their patients need—wait months for scheduling. Their complaints cannot get past hospital administration, and nothing changes.
The problems seem to lie in the administrative ranks, and in the union. The fiddling with requests for appointments and treatments reach far beyond one hospital, which would seem to point to some collaboration among hospitals. Sloth, indifference, greed, corruption and deceit— bonuses, promotions. It is the Civil Service System that is the culprit—the bureaucracy. Bruce Walker sums up the possibility of reform:
The Civil Service was created more than a century ago to prevent an incoming administration from firing government employees and replacing them with party operatives who helped to win the election. However noble the original intention of this change may have been, the practical effect was that Civil Service employees became almost impossible to fire.
We’ve had a lot of scandals, but no one has yet gone to prison that I know of. They get parked in something called “administrative leave.” at full-salary.
So far more than 40 hospitals have been implicated, and a full criminal investigation may actually happen. In Phoenix an estimated 1,700 veterans and their families were wrongly placed in waiting list purgatory. The inspector general’s interim report reveals “that delays, hidden by the fraudulent manipulation of records have long been business as usual throughout the health care system charged with serving nearly 9 million veterans.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting last year found that after the VA’s July 2012 promise to shrink its benefits backlog “right now” — coming in the midst of the presidential campaign — long waits actually increased by about 18,000 over roughly the next six months.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Education, Foreign Policy, Military, National Security, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Coalitions And Collective Action, Defending His Foreign Policy, The West Point Speech
What coalitions? President Barack Obama’s speech to the graduates at West Point was a defense of his foreign policy against detractors. America must lead the world by example, through coalitions and collective action. NATO and the UN will dominate American foreign policy, Obama said; ‘This is American leadership, American strength.” Wrong speech, wrong audience. The speech was less a foreign policy speech for graduates of the military academy than a defensive response to critics.
He bravely attacked an army of straw men and subdued them to tepid applause from the cadets. “I’m not weak,” he said firmly. He also repeated the tired refrain that he was not elected to start wars but to end them. Wars are fought to achieve some goal. As a result of his feckless foreign policy, his belief that foreign policy should be subordinate to partisan politics, the war which was won in Iraq has become a sad loss due to an inability to get a status of forces agreement, and Afghanistan looks to follow in that path.
Obama spoke confidently of diplomacy as a resolution to all problems, but diplomacy only works when reaching an agreement is more desirable than the alternative—which means a perception of American power standing firmly behind the offer to talk. Iran’s mullahs are confident that there is nothing to prevent their continuing effort to build a bomb.
“Power in world politics is perceived power , and perceived power is a vector that results from perceived military capability and perceived political will”l………………………………………………(Michael Lind)
The president has been cutting back on our perceived military capability and our perceived power because there is no political will. The credibility of American power has diminished because of distinct choices which he has made.
I was looking up that quotation in my homemade quotation book, and I ran across the following:
The President and his advisers have been desperately eager to maintain good relations with Russia and China and willing to overlook almost any transgression to do so. Confronted by compelling evidence that North Korea is still building nuclear weapons, that China is exporting missile components to Pakistan that Russia is doing the same to Iran, Clinton officials have repeatedly lapsed into denial and distortion. The Clinton inner circle is in the grip of misguided faith in arms control. Preserving the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has become an end in itself despite the need to build a national missile defense system. ………..(Bill Gertz)
Here is the President’s speech at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony on May 28, 2014, in its entirety.
Filed under: Freedom, Health Care, Law, Politics, The United States | Tags: Fort Peck Tribes, Indian Affairs Hearings, Indian Health Service
About time. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held field hearings in Billings, Montana. And they got an earful from representatives of seven Montana and Wyoming reservations. Rusty Stafne, chairman of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of northeast Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation. said:
We have lost fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and future leaders because they were unable to get the health care they need.
Yvette Roubideaux, acting director of the Indian Health Service said federal health care spending on American Indians lags far behind spending on other groups such as federal employees, who receive almost twice as much on a per-capita basis.
In Montana, life expectancy for Native American women is 62 years, compared to 82 years for white women. Native men have a life expectancy of 56 years in contrast to 75 years for white men. There are 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, with around two million members.
The tribes have been complaining for years about a shortage of trained medical personnel in government-run clinics, misdiagnosed illnesses, denied payments. They described an agency with a bloated bureaucracy that could not perform its basic duty of providing health care for more than 2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Health care is part of the U.S. government’s trust responsibility.
This is not new, but publicity at the same time as the government’s complete failure in the case of America’s veterans may help to get some action. Tuesday’s hearing followed complaints about delayed and poor care on reservations from the Crow Tribe.
Former Indian Affairs Chairman Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota conducted a similar investigation in 2010. Dorgan found that a “chronic state of crisis” plagued health care services for American Indians. Problems included a lack of providers, hospitals at risk of losing their accreditation, improperly licensed staff and missing or stolen narcotics.
This is how bureaucracies work. Hearings are held, complaints registered, apologies, promises, more hearings, investigations, growing files, published reports, and nothing changes, nothing at all. The federal government does almost nothing well, and many things badly. Encouraging an incompetent government to take on more tasks is an exercise in futility.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: "Death to America", Jihad Will Continue, One Side Negotiates
The Daily Caller headline: Iran’s Supreme Leader: Jihad Will Continue Until America is No More.
“Those [Iranians] who want to promote negotiation and surrender to the oppressors and blame the Islamic Republic as a warmonger in reality commit treason,” Khamenei told a meeting of members of parliament, according to the regime’s Fars News Agency. Khamenei emphasized that without a combative mindset, the regime cannot reach its higher Islamic role against the “oppressors’ front.”
“The reason for continuation of this battle is not the warmongering of the Islamic Republic. Logic and reason command that for Iran, in order to pass through a region full of pirates, needs to arm itself and must have the capability to defend itself,” he said.
“Today’s world is full of thieves and plunderers of human honor, dignity and morality who are equipped with knowledge, wealth and power, and under the pretense of humanity easily commit crimes and betray human ideals and start wars in different parts of the world.”
America has placed sanctions on Iran that were harsh, and brought the country to the bargaining table. The administration believed that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was more moderate, and open to reform. Not so. Iran has no intention of halting the expansion of the country’s research and development program, nor of continuing enrichment, and the country’s ballistic missile program is not up for negotiation. Now that the sanctions have been removed, their economy is functioning again.
IAEA officials met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran to discuss information on the work on detonators and the outstanding issues on its nuclear program as part of seven transparency steps Iran had agreed to fulfill by May 15. They apparently lied.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Iran, Middle East, Military, The United States
“At a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event in Maryland, President Obama accused Republicans of putting politics above the good of the nation and hinted that because of that they aren’t patriotic,” Warner Todd Huston relates.
We’ve got one party in Congress right now that has been captured by ideologues whose core premise is “no” — who fundamentally believe that the problem is government; who don’t believe that we as a community, as a country have any serious role to play in giving people a hand up; whose budget reflects an interest in cutting back commitments to the most vulnerable and freeing the most powerful from any constraints; and whose principal focus at any given point in the day is trying to figure out how can they make people sufficiently cynical, sufficiently angry, sufficiently suspicious that they can win the next election.
I hate to be blunt about it, but that’s the play. And, by the way, when I say a party has been captured, it’s because I actually want an effective, serious, patriotic, capable, sober-minded Republican Party. And we’ve had that in the past.
Oh please, Mr. Obama. You don’t want anything of the kind. You want a Republican party that does not question your policies, does not question your budgets, and gives you free rein to go on damaging the country and spending us into poverty.
Most conservatives think of President Obama as, more than anything, a radical who seeks to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” to what? That isn’t quite clear, but he seems well on the way to doing so. The failures and scandals were all blamed on Bush, or Republicans, or unfortunate videos.
I have come to assume that to have always been the Obama way, boy and man, of dealing with disapproval. “It’s not my fault.” Until the White House clamped down on photographers and allowed no photos other than those taken and approved by the White House photographer, one of the most characteristic Obama facial expressions was a childish pout, lower lip thrust out. There have been instances when he accepts credit for things done by someone else, but he is never, never to blame.
Now he’s pivoting again. Time to distract from the VA scandals. “Barack Obama will kick off an ‘intense’ two week focus on foreign policy beginning with a commencement address at West point tomorrow. He will then head to Europe, commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and stop by Poland just to let everyone know America is still, well, alive.”Danielle Pletka adds:
So unless the president is planning on explaining that the United States is on hiatus from global leadership, he will be challenged to answer the questions piling up about why the US seems AWOL on the world stage. And once answered, those listening will expect action. Daniel Pletka offers a list of ten questions about foreign policy, but you could add your own, as this is certainly not an exhaustive list.
After inadvertently outing a CIA chief of station, the president announced his timetable and numbers for getting all troops out of Afghanistan, so the Taliban will know when to take over.
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, The United States | Tags: Civil War Photos, Rememberng the Fallen, The War Dead Enumerated
The first Memorial Day, which they then called Decoration Day, was celebrated May 30, 1868. The date in May was selected because flowers were in bloom then, and the day was set aside to decorate graves and to remember the fallen. The numbers were appalling. The national population in 1860 was about 31.4 million. The Civil War dead, both Union and Confederate, are now roughly estimated at 750,000, and possibly even more. Memorial Day became an official national holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day now remembers the fallen from all our wars. Robert Samuelson “lists the war dead from the “Historical Statistics of the United States (Millennial Edition)”by conflicts as follows” the Revolutionary War, 4,435; the War of 1812, 2,260; the Mexican War, 13,283; the Spanish-American War, 2,446; World War I, 116,516; World War II, 405,399; the Korean War, 36,576; the Vietnam War, 58,200; the Persian Gulf War, 382. And the Pentagon reports 6,809 deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and related combat zones as of May 22.” Mr. Samuelson has a fine column about the surrender at Appomattox to Ulysses S. Grant.
The Civil War, for all its horrors was represented by the world’s first true war photographers, with a relatively new technology recording the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history. Here’s a slide show of Matthew Brady’s photos as well as others. Here is another from the Library of Congress. They are a good accompaniment to Victor Davis Hanson’s brilliant lecture on War.
The photo is of the 6th Maine regiment.
Filed under: Politics
Especially right and necessary for Memorial Day, Victor Davis Hanson talks about War. Why do we have wars? What makes men start wars? How do you end a war? How can we avoid war? Is war simply natural to the human condition? Is there no hope? He spans the entire history of the wars of civilization and shows how the study of the history of war can be a torch to light our way through the darkness. Absolutely brilliant. It’s 20 minutes long and worth every minute.
Reposted from the same time last year.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Fun n Games, News of the Weird, Pop Culture | Tags: Artery Clogging or Taste Treasure?, Everything Bacon, Who Knew?
I assumed that I was done with the food posts, but the current mania for all things bacon interfered. I made the mistake of searching for an image of bacon on Google images. Ooops! We have bacon dresses, bacon bras, a bacon man’s suit, a bacon basket for scrambled eggs, bacon candy, bacon ice cream, bacon gumballs, a child’s bacon costume, bacon cupcakes, chocolate covered bacon, a bacon attaché case, bacon soda, bacon toothpaste, Kevin Bacon, bacon deodorant, and a few other things that would spoil your taste for bacon for some time.
Another search produced a cooking site: endless simmer which features” 100 ways to use a strip of bacon” (with pictures) and recipes to go with each picture, some of which look really good. The Food Network does “50 Things to Make with Bacon” again with recipes.and delish.com has “Bizarre Bacon: 12 Weird Bacon Products You Won’t Believe.
At that point I’d had enough. I knew that there was a major food fad going on with bacon, but I had no idea how extensive it was.There are websites just about bacon. There are uses too embarrassing to mention. We never quit bacon during all the talk about saturated fat, but it was more Sunday morning with sourdough pancakes. Long ago I used to stuff a hot dog with a long skinny piece of cheddar cheese and then wrap the whole thing in a slice of bacon, but that was a really long time ago. It was really good too.
ADDENDUM: I should mention that the price of bacon is climbing sharply from bacon enthusiasm and a virus that affects baby pigs with a fatal diarrhea. As they say in the investment business, buy on dips.