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Category Archives: foreign policy

Rachel Maddow Nails the President on Indefinite Detentions–Something Even Bush Didn’t Try

Recently the President signed into law new legislation that allows suspected terrorists or terrorist collaborators to be detained in the US.  MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow addressed the subject:

Methinks the President just lost the high moral road.

Want To See a “Humanitarian Crisis?” Look at the Ivory Coast

As mentioned before, the US isn’t being consistent when it comes to intervening in places around the world.  I actually understood when the President said we needed to intercede to prevent a mass slaughter, as Libya’s military was moving to kill the occupants of an entire city.  But such brutality is not unique to Libya.  Look at the Ivory Coast.

Laurent Gbagbo is the president of the Ivory Coast.  Or was.  Elections were held in November and he lost.  But he won’t give up power.  Further, he kicked out the UN peacekeepers.  But it gets worse.  Forces loyal to him have attacked folks who dare to protest.  DeWayne Wickham, writing for USA Today, describes the situation:

Nearly 500 people have been killed by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast president who lost a re-election bid in November but refuses to give up control. Many more people have been wounded in the fighting spawned by Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office. An estimated 500,000 have been displaced, and 90,000 more have fled the West African country, according to the Associated Press.

Evidently, we are refraining from getting involved and waiting for the African Union to step into the situation. But why wait? If we are into the whole thing of stopping killing on humanitarian grounds, shouldn’t we just jump right in along with the UN?

Something just doesn’t jive.

On Libya and US Foreign Policy

I may have addressed this before, but at the risk of being repetitive, I have to question the rhyme or reason behind the US getting involved in Libya.  Further, I have to look at it from a different view–if we are going in there to help with regime change, or prevent a leader from killing his own people, how do we decide which places to stick our noses in and which ones to ignore?

President Obama publicly rebuked Libya leader Mommar Quaddfi, saying that the US and its allies would get involved in Libya to stop the killng that was going on there.  On the surface, such actions are noble.  who doesn’t want to see an end to slaughter and bloodshed by a tyrannical dictator?  But the issue is a complex one.  If we are going to take this stance on Libya, why not on other countries?  There have been hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur.  The people in Iran tried to rise up and got squashed.  There are numerous countries in the Middle East where the citizens are currently protesting their government.

Of the situations mentioned, there is no plan for intervention from the US or otherwise.

So the question becomes, under what grounds do we decide to jump in?  Does the situation have to be 100% winnable?  Only under NATO approval?  Only when invited by the Arab League?

Someone somewhere needs to spell this out.

Reagan is Conservatism’s Patron Saint But Would Never Get Elected By Today’s GOP

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

Aside from Feb. 6th being Super Bowl Sunday, it was also what would’ve been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.  As Reagan is considered a hero by many on the right, there have been remembrances, dedications, shout outs, flashbacks, and countless other looks back on Reagan and his legacy in the last week.  Of course, folks on the left are having none of that, understandably choosing to focus more on those “accomplishments” that they feel did more bad than good.

I (as is often the case) am in the middle on Reagan.  I wouldn’t call him a hero, but then again, I wouldn’t try to back over him with a MARTA bus, either.  But I’m pretty convinced that based on his overall record, if an exact Reagan clone popped up today and attempted to run for President saying he would do exactly as Reagan did and be exactly as Reagan was, he wouldn’t even make it out of the primaries.  Why?  Simple.  Reagan doesn’t fit the mold of today’s Republican.

First, there is his track record on taxes.  In 1981, Reagan signed the The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 also known as the ERTA or “Kemp-Roth Tax Cut.”  The top marginal rate for personal income taxes went from 70% to 50%, and the bottom rate dropped from 14% to 11%.   In general, the Act lowered marginal tax rates on average 23% across the board.  He also lowered taxes in 1986.  After that, the top marginal rate was 28%.  While tax revenues decreased over the short term, over the long term there was not only an increase in the amount of tax revenues to the government, but also a long period of economic growth.  But, that’s not the entire story.

As the budget deficit grew, Reagan knew something had to be done.  So, he signed into law legislation that, in essence, were tax increases.   Bills signed in 1982 and 1984 closed tax loopholes and increased the tax base by making more transactions taxable.  The 1986 reform bill eliminated many deductions that high income earners had been allowed to use, increasing their tax bills.  In the end, his tax increases actually increased tax revenue to the government and offset much of the revenue lost from the earlier tax cuts.

In 1982, Reagan led efforts to privatize Social Security.  Not only did it not work, but (as is usually the case in midterms) the GOP lost many seats in the following elections.  In 1983 he signed legislation that bailed out Social Security.  Pricetag:  $165 billion. Results of the bailout included higher  payroll taxes for higher income earners and the self-employed, expanded the system to include federal workers, and made Social Security benefits taxable.

These tax increases are rarely mentioned.  In today’s environment, once it came to light, the Reagan-clone would get skewered for ever considering tax increases as fiscal policy.

The national debt also tripled under Reagan.  It went over $1 trillion during his first year, and was $3 trillion when he left.  Of course, that was a bipartisan effort, as the House was under Democrat control all 8 years of his presidency, and the Senate was for 2 of his 8 years.  But evidently, veto wasn’t an option.  Of course, many will say that much of the spending was to counter the Soviet Union.  But SOMEONE has to account for the money vacuum that was SDI, which never worked.

Among other things that are rarely mentioned:

  • Reagan promised to reduce the size of government, in part by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education.  Instead, he added a new Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • There was little done in the way to reduce government spending over Reagan’s 2 terms.
  • Many will always repeat Reagan’s call to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and say “see?  you have to be tough!”  In actuality, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly agreed to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons from each country’s arsenal.  Plus, to help Gorbachev enact reform, the US reduced defense spending in the latter part of Reagan’s second term.  How’s that for “peace through strength?”

Finally, the the proverbial straw that would bring our Reagan-clone’s hopes to an end–and yet one more point rarely mentioned–is immigration.  In 1982, Reagan signed a bill that allowed any illegal alien in the US before that year to be eligible for amnesty.  Yep, blanket amnesty.  In today’s environment, that would be a big no-no.

In the end, Reagan gains sainthood by default.  For those keeping up with conservative politics, there is no one else that can take his place.  Nixon resigned.  Ford was considered weak.  Bush I lost his reelection bid despite removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait (taxes played a role in his defeat).  Bush II had two terms, but many on the right don’t consider him conservative enough.  So who is left?  No one but the Gipper.  But he’d never make it today.

The US problem with Egypt: who to support?

In the last 24 hours, a crowd estimated to be nearly 2 million people took to the streets of Cairo to protest the current government led by Hosni Mubarak.  The people are demanding an end to hs 30 year rule, amid cries of poverty and brutality.  This has the US in a pickle.  Continuing to support him would make it seem that we don’t support “the will of the people.”  Supporting his removal could have major ramifications not only for the US but for the entire Middle East.

Tony Blankley addresses the dilemma in a piece at Real Clear Politics:  “The Historic Dilemma in Egypt.

Revolutions – French, Russian, Chinese and Iranian – have a typical trajectory. They are won on the street with the masses calling for freedom; they are stolen afterward by the best-organized, usually most malicious thugs (Napoleon, Lenin, Mao and the mullahs).
Once in a while – as in our Revolution – the cry of the street slogans becomes the principle of the government that follows – but usually not.
If the revolution in Egypt results in the fall of the existing governmental order, what are the chances that the people will be governed subsequently by a more just system? And what are the chances that America’s interests will be advanced by that result?

someone needs to plug the WikiLeak

Today, the US is in scramble mode due to a website called Wikileaks.  For the uninitiated, Wikileaks has been gathering secret, unpublished documents from the US and publishing them for the world to see.  Previously, the site released secret documents somehow obtained from the US military, documenting information, negotiations, and unmentioned concerns about the war in Afghanistan.  This past weekend, they went one better, releasing thousands of cables (think secure emails) from diplomatic sources around the world, exposing a lot of opinions that were best kept under wraps.   In short, when people are making cracks at other world leaders–referring to them as “weak,” “easily swayed,” “useless,” and even comparing them to Batman and Robin–it can tend to ruffle feathers.

Further, a number of things the US wanted to keep under wraps now come to light.  Like how US allies wanted the US to take out the Iranian nuclear facility.  Or how the King of Saudi Arabia did not want the US to invade Iraq and take down Saddam because the US and Saudi Arabia, along with Saddam’s help, had been able to keep Iran in check.  Even negotiations about a missile shield in Europe came out–which showed that President Obama has not trouble playing hardball behind the scenes.

One politician even called WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization.”  It will be interesting to see how much damage the site can end up doing to the US and its Middle East efforts.