Thursday, May 9, 2013
Pressures are increasing on President Barack Obama to intervene militarily in the Civil War in Syria, a war that seeks to topple the dynasty that has ruled Syria for generations with brutal and undemocratic procedures. The risks that are holding back Obama on Syria are similar to those faced by the United States in its failed interventions in other Arab countries, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan where billions of dollars and thousands of lives were wasted in American attempts to conquer and reform nations with values and practices quite different from American values. American interventions in the affairs of such states have generally been failures except for the access to raw materials and the profits accruing to oil businesses. Sectarian violence spreading from Syria and similar countries threaten to swamp the region and spread international horrors like the murders of September 11. Some in Washington are pushing for arming the opposition to reigning dictators. The US has the power to step in to help those revolting overthrow the local dictatorships. It looks easy given US military superiority. However, in strategic planning, administration officials cite three big problems that have given President Obama pause. • As a superpower, in fact the prime superpower, the US can't afford to go into battle small, that is, without a complete commitment. If America exerts force it has to be enough to be decisive for a total and complete victory in the shortest span of time. If this is not possible, the US risks appearing to be an inadequate superpower, incapable of accomplishing its objectives and other conflicts like Iran or North Korea, affecting its ability to win wars and to carry out its threats. • If the US goes in big as it should, it will end up arming some disreputable elements who will involve the US in the formation of the successor government. The US will have the uneasy problem of picking and choosing the next leadership. • When you go in big as a super power, you own the problem indefinitely, if not forever. Other nations who have been part of the attacking coalition will tend to pull back their contributions of men and materials and leave final resolution to Washington. The US will surely learn from its difficult experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that intervention in the affairs of other countries can be, perhaps always will be a risky affair at home and abroad. The results are usually unpredictable in the intervened countries and in the domestic political effects on the intervenor. Even when it is the all powerful USA.
Posted by Jerome Grossman at 11:23 AM
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
We may never know why the brothers Tsarnaev performed their murderous actions at the Boston Marathon. These men, we imagine were sick and distant but before the murders they seemed to be one of us. How do small numbers of young men become radicalized? How do they lose their humanity and become killers without conscience, disaffected and apart? Some of these educated young people did evil things. Others did great things. Sometimes they were the same kids. Sometimes a young man will lose his social connections to family or friends. Sometimes they become young warriors for violent jihad to change leaders corrupt or committed to violence. Yes, some Muslim youths were deeply angered and upset with US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so upset by American actions in a third country they just had to go to Boylston Street and blow up people including Muslims who had nothing to do with it. What kind of madness is this? These young Muhadeen should weigh their ideals against the deaths of innocents. However, only a tiny handful ever expresses regrets. And we may never know why.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
The leader of North Korea, Kim John Un says he will expand his nuclear weapons arsenal sharply, raising the stakes in the standoff with the United States and its allies. He ordered his underlings to prepare for a missile attack on the United States. However, the threats and orders do not have the range to approach American shores. So the prospects are unlikely. And a ground attack would be out of the question. The long line of similar threats might have some credibility as a projected attack on South Korea, now defended by a large army and thousands of American troops. The Chinese military is all-powerful in this area and they have not joined North Korea's campaign of bluster, threats and fakery. Yet, the US media is acting as though the military threat is real and not an amateurish attempt at nuclear blackmail. A realistic assessment of the situation is an attempt to weaken US support for South Korea, to cause trouble between the US and China, to obtain cash or other concessions from Uncle Sam. Experts believe that the differences are negotiable with caution on both sides, but certainly without another war in Korea. Remember, that war was decided by the military intervention of China, which is now unhappy with North Korea's attempt to involve them
Posted by Jerome Grossman at 9:07 AM
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Everyone talks about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But what about Germany and Japan where our military has been in force since the 1940s? Now, Secretary of State John Kerry is expanding American military roles in Syria and Africa. The sequester-cuts our budget by $85 billion, half of which comes from the Pentagon. Why are we still fighting World War II? Why is the US military budget as large as that of all other nations combined? Meanwhile we invented the practice of foreign aid beginning with the Marshall Plan and continuing by stationing troops, military supplies, and military bases in every country that will allow us. Our sainted forefathers who wrote our admired Constitution warned us against foreign military intervention as diversionary from constructing a fair and prosperous society of Americans with liberty and justice for all. George Washington, first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen warned of foreign entanglements. John Quincy Adams, the much admired Secretary of State told nation not to go abroad “seeking monsters to destroy”, avoiding the temptations of empire. Our natural tendency is to emphasize the political and economic gains, peaceful arbitration of international conflict and transparency in trade and business. Our current wars rely on our large permanent bases, now accepted as the way to keep America safe, wars that now virtually encompass the entire globe, surely every continent as we absorb the cost of policing the world without the allies who ought to be pulling their share of the human and financial cost. Sharing the burden of our common security is the least we can ask. More important by far is the development of a workable system for security based on military disarmament. There is no other way of securing human survival in the wake of the explosion of military invention initiated and led by the US.
Posted by Jerome Grossman at 10:10 PM
Monday, February 25, 2013
Wealthy investors felt that the 14,000 level of the DOW was worrisome, even dangerous because it might be the result of the money the Federal Reserve has put into the financial system. They worried that it was not supported by corporate fundamentals. These heavy hitters feared that another financial crisis could lead to deflation, destroying stability and stock values of dividend paying investments. In the last quarter of 2012, growth contracted in the developed world. The 34 member countries gave the world a sign of how the global economy had weakened. Growth vanished in the developed economies. This recent weakness has not generated counter cyclical support from governments and many of the countries where the economy weakened. What they did came late in the crisis. The United States economy did better because fixed private capital investment was still rising. Government investment was down but the US gain is caused entirely by the private sector. Historically, it was very unusual for government Investment in the United States to decline. Austerity has become the byword in many countries, with the heaviest burden falling on the working class and those living at or below the poverty level. Despite the significant contraction of government spending, a protracted fight over the cuts in government spending is likely to last for a long period. If one side wins the first proposal, counter proposals will keep the issue alive for a political generation but only to decide how much and where to cut government programs The social needs of the underprivileged classes will receive far less attention from the drive for the broadest budget cuts. For lack of money, most of the proposals in the President's State of the Union Address are likely to be unfulfilled along with the social economic and moral needs of the nation.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Democrats have demographic dreams. Liberals are counting on population and voting trends to doom Republicans to minority status that will last for a long time. This expectation is at the heart of the debates in Congress about immigration. Democrats believe that they will be on the winning side in future elections. The first election of Barack Obama set the trend. His landslide reelection confirms the change in voting patterns. The white Americans who tend to vote Republican are shrinking as a percentage of the population while those who lean Democratic are growing rapidly, especially younger voters, Black, Hispanic, and Asian. By 2050, US population is expected to increase by 117 million and the vast majority will be immigrants or the children of immigrants especially Latinos, Asian Americans, and African-Americans who will rise to nearly a third of all Americans. Hispanic immigration in the Southwest and the historic black population will be the biggest factors meeting the needs of the US economy. Expanded education and economic opportunity will help the Latinos move into the mainstream of American life. Their mutual bonds will lead them to bond with the political party that identifies with their concerns. However, right now, the GOP Tea Party seems less likely to consider comprehensive immigration reform and to promote affirmative action. For the GOP to have a serious chance to win over the Latino population and other voting blocs, it will require serious changes in their political, economic and immigration policies. It may be very difficult to obtain support from Middle Western whites for new policies. Restrictive policies passed by the Republicans and states like Arizona and Alabama are the most obvious negative examples. But a move away from draconian immigration policies and belligerence could make Latinos a contested demographic bloc and give the GOP an outside chance to shatter the Democratic dominance. It might even lead to a one party state dominated by a bureaucracy with sufficient political skills to satisfy the status quo while leaving room for the growth and development of all groups. Open immigration policies could be the first step followed by other economic windfalls: simplification of the current visa system, greater investment in employee training by business, temporary work visas should be minimized in favor of permanent status, scientists and engineers and innovators would be favored as the main drivers of productivity.
Monday, February 4, 2013
On October 15, 1969, popular protests against the Vietnam War peaked when 10 million people in thousands of communities in all fifty states, students, non-students, the middle-aged and the middle class, from every profession attended protest meetings and rallies. Republican and Democratic politicians maneuvered to address the public meetings. In working-class communities as well as the affluent suburbs, speakers read the names of local men killed in Vietnam. The Moratorium set the stage for serious political action to challenge the Vietnam hawks in office who insisted on supporting the war without a purpose, costing an enormous toll of lives and pain. In the 4th Massachusetts, this took the form of challenging the hawk incumbent US Rep. Philip Philbin. The word went out and many antiwar supporters appeared from the entire citizenry as though by magic. I was committed to the dean of the Boston College Law School, Rev. Robert F. Drinan, as the best-known and most prestigious candidate willing to sacrifice his career to end the bloodbath. One morning, I was working at my job, President and CEO of Massachusetts Envelope Company in Somerville when the company receptionist came to my office with a problem. A young man who presented himself as a student at Harvard College insisted on seeing me immediately, calling the demand a matter of life and death. Without an appointment, the student was told the interview was not possible that day at that time. The student refused to leave citing the importance of his mission. Bending the rules, the student was ushered into my office. His name was Cameron Kerry, he was a Harvard student and his mission was to obtain for his older brother, just returned from combat in Vietnam, the right to be included in the political Caucus being planned to select the candidate to defeat Philip Philbin. His brother, Cameron said, can speak with the greatest credibility on Vietnam as a decorated veteran of the war, a young man returning after years of fighting service. Impressed by the brotherly admiration and devotion, I nevertheless had to resist because I was committed to father Drinan, who went on to win the Caucus and the congressional seat and to distinguish himself as totally committed to liberty, peace and the pursuit of happiness, a virtual saint in his courageous pursuit of peace and social Justice. However, John Kerry had stunned the 2000 political activists who attended the Caucus with his commitment to the same issues as Drinan. He could not be ignored. I took the microphone and acknowledged Kerry’s words and his absolute commitment to support the winner of the Caucus and opposition to the Vietnam War. “John Kerry”, I said, “We will never forget your sacrifice in the name of group unity. You have a great political future and I will be a part of it, supporting your various candidacies as you rise to the leadership of our nation.” And I have fulfilled my pledge as John Kerry has lived up to the promises and expectations of his brother Cameron. Now, when he speaks about his eagerness to end the Vietnam War, he suggests he may have been too aggressive, didn't think clearly, it was not thought out, but it was how he felt. John: no apologies, please. You and your fellow protesters saved thousands of American and Vietnamese lives, setting a humanitarian standard, never to be forgotten.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The reelection of President Obama is subject to many interpretations. Each side debated issues that affect a long malaise into which the economy seems to be settling, and the growing divide between the 1% and the rest is an inequality not only of outcomes but also of opportunity, as pointed out by Nobel Laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. These problems have driven inequality to its highest level since before the Depression and will be difficult to overcome - and the American dream - a good life in exchange for hard work-is slowly dying. Politicians typically talk about rising inequality in the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena but in fact they are intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains, and holds back our growth. This serious threat to America after four decades of widening inequality is squelching our recovery The reasons: the middle class is too weak to support our economic growth. The top 1% of income earners took home 93% of the growth in incomes in 2010, skyrocketing inequality. Those who are born to parents of limited means are likely to never live up to their potential. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty. Adjusted for inflation, real wages have stagnated or fallen. When young people are jobless their skills atrophy. The student debt for 2010 exceeds $1 trillion. Many of these problems originated in the Bush Administrations. Obama bailed out the banks but didn’t invest enough in workers and students. It is not too late to correct policies
Posted by Jerome Grossman at 11:54 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The popular movements in the 1960’s, women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, sexual rights and so forth left us unprepared for the slowdown in growth and the rise in inequality in the current decade. Today, with union membership reduced to 7% of the private sector most working people have no organized voice at all. Meanwhile, the power of wealth has been fully unleashed by the Supreme Court. The rich protect their freedom with wealth and the people protect theirs with laws. Among most minority groups support for the Democratic candidate is the norm. Whites are the most reliable Republicans democratically in the country. We have two basic poverty problems in the United States. One is the prevalence of low wage work. The other concerns those who have almost no work. The two overlap, with 103 million people who will go into and out of poverty. 20.5 million is the number of Americans with an income less than half the poverty line, a big hole in our safety net. So many desperate people lug their lives and possessions around the streets as virtual outlaws. It is so difficult to upgrade skills and opportunity that fully half the jobs in the United States pay the worker less than $33,000 per year. When nearly everyone in the country is poor, the distinction between have and have not becomes meaningless. Some families become masters at rotating their bill payments. Some estimate 69.1 million as the number of poor Americans at the official poverty line. In too many areas, work disappears and dreams die. It is going to take new solutions motivated by a common wit and universal sympathy.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Iran’s defense minister confirmed that Iran fired on a US drone unmanned aircraft that had entered Iranian airspace. US says it was a routine surveillance mission using international airspace over the Persian Gulf. It was the first time Iranian aircraft fired at an American drone that the US says was protecting American interests. US warned that drone flights will continue. Understanding American drone strikes is difficult, because they are based on uncertain information from dubious sources. How many people have been killed by these unmanned aircraft by the CIA strikes in Yemen and Pakistan? How many are really civilians? How many are children? The Obama administration and the CIA have been secretive about the fast-growing drone program. There are few challenges to the US administration’s description of those killed as “militants”. Are they really terrorist sympathizers? How can they tell from unmanned or even manned planes? Are they victims of American militarism, using weapons indiscriminately without fear of retaliation? There has never been a serious public debate in Congress on the program. Carrying out strikes in secrecy without accountability is dangerous. About once a month, the CIA sends a fax to a general in Pakistan and Afghanistan intelligence, indicating where the US intends to conduct drone strikes. The Pakistanis, who in public oppose the program, don’t respond. The US concludes it has tacit consent to strike with drones. Obama administration officials believe they are on firm legal ground in their drone program, that Pakistan failure to object amounts to a “YES”. Others call the drone program “cowboy behavior”, and unease is widespread except in the US. What if all countries did what the US is doing?