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.