Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq Gov't Batting .500

According to a report to be released to Congress, Iraq's government is halfway to success. Out of the 18 political and security benchmarks set for the Iraqi government to meet in order to begin U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq has met a "satisfactory" rating on 8 of the benchmarks, "unsatisfactory" on 8 others, and 2 "mixed" ratings.

This is the equivalent of an 18-game sports season, and having 8 wins, 8 losses, and 2 ties. With the September report from General Petraeus coming in a couple of months, further improvement along this front may bode well for the rebuilding effort, and the eventual return of our troops back home.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Into the Dustbin of Presidential Primary History... where John McCain is heading. His campaign manager and his chief strategist both stepped down today. The immigration debacle, Fred Thompson, a rising thirst for a new face in the GOP's national spotlight, and other factors have all led to the slow decline of McCain's campaign.

If McCain drops out, I wonder how his base will begin to reaffiliate themselves?

Mortman's Ron Paul Experiment Redux

Funny stuff, Extreme Mortman is one of my favorite political blogs ever. Especially his "Top 10 Reasons Ron Paul is not Libertarian Enough". Here's the list...

10. Ron Paul’s passport was issued by the U.S. government.
9. When the National Hurricane Center suggests Ron Paul take shelter, he does.
8. Ron Paul’s campaign bus has a license plate. It also uses the Interstate highway system, which has no toll booths.
7. Ron Paul’s name has too many letters.
6. Ron Paul accepts that Pluto is no longer a planet, but still says the other eight are.
5. A tie: Ron Paul’s TV picks up UHF channels.
Ron Paul shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. Oh wait, that’s Johnny Cash.
4. Ron Paul has yet to call either Nancy Pelosi or Abraham Lincoln a “statist.”
3. When the U.S. Postal Service raises the price of a stamp, Ron Paul goes along.
2. Ron Paul’s Social Security Number is not of his choosing.
1. Ron Paul’s water is fluoridated.

Kudos to the majority of the pro-Ron Paul supporters who took this as a joke and ran with it. It's nice to see such die-hard supporters "get" this kind of light-hearted humor (and probably could add to it).

I know I'm late to the party on this Ron Paul list (it originally posted on Mortman's site on July 6th), but it's definitely worth mentioning.

Smart American Right Here

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and your opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.
You guys should all ace this quiz. I mean, really...c'mon. This is not hard stuff at all. This is 5th grade social studies at the hardest.

Who Cared About Live Earth?

Apparently, not many people, according to Rasmussen Reports.

22% of those polled actually followed the stories and news about Live Earth either somewhat or very closely. Meanwhile 75% did not pay any attention to it. 3 out of 4 Americans couldn't have cared less about this thing. 41% of those polled also said that events like Live Earth are not helpful to their own cause.

Much of the skepticism came from the fact that most Americans don't think celebrities care about global warming. In fact, in the same poll, 52% said that performers take part in these types of events because it is good for their image, while only 24% said that they do it because they actually care. I'm inclined to agree with that 52%...for 99% of celebrities, it's all an image thing. (In fact, read one of my "Weekly Podiums" where I mention hypocritical celebs and their actual environmental impact...start at the paragraph that beings with "Leonardo DiCaprio")

Matt Bellamy of the band Muse referred to Live Earth as "private jets for climate change".

In fact, in the article explaining the results of the Live Earth poll, I stumbled across this interesting RR poll, which stated that only 24% of Americans consider Al Gore an expert on global warming...and 47% think he is not an expert at all.

Now that, my friends, is an inconvenient truth.

Starting Off The Morning Right...

Fred Thompson 45%, Hillary Clinton 45%

Every week, Rasmussen Reports tends to report something that energizes me like 3 cans of Red Bull in the morning. In the words of Borat, "Very nice!"

Now, many people will point out the unfavorable opinions of Hillary, but one has to remember that Hillary has the highest "Very favorable" polling numbers of any candidate. In fact, only one candidate currently comes close to Hillary in terms of "Very favorable" ratings...and if you guessed Fred Thompson, you would be correct.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Weekly Podium: "Ending The Occupation"

(Cross-posted at The New Dominion)

Recently, I've been thinking about how our government can best wrap up the occupation in Iraq. I know that the popular cry from the left (and the Ron Paul camp) has been "just get up and leave!" However, I think many would agree that making the region more stable than it is now would be the "best-case scenario" of any exit strategy.

We're a nation that likes "best-case scenarios", we like things to go our way. That's about as obvious a statement as one could ever make. My question is, why are so many people avoiding the possibility of leaving Iraq with the best-case scenario?

The answer is simple...for many people, the "pack up and leave now" option is the most instantly-gratifying, soul-assuaging, "light at the end of the tunnel" scenario out there. We get the troops home, no more soldiers die, and we stop spending billions of dollars on this occupation.

Before I go further, we have to evaluate what the current situation in Iraq actually is. I do not consider the current situation in Iraq the "Iraq War". The "Iraq War" ended when the socialist Ba'ath Party government was toppled and Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. Right now, we are in the midst of a post-war occupation, with civil war being fought between various factions who have differing opinions on the direction of Iraq's future.

It's just like the Marshall Plan and the post-World War II occupation of Europe...except this time, there wasn't a unified appreciation and assistance of our efforts by the Iraqi's to rebuild their war-torn nation. In post-WWII Greece, Italy, and West Germany, our occupation and presence was well-received, and that is what led to the successful re-emergence of these nations from the ashes of war.

Even though things are uncertain and unstable in Iraq at this moment, we must realize that certain concessions must be made. I believe that, if a few forward-thinking plans are implemented, we can be out of Iraq (minus a base like what we have in Germany and other nations) within a year...give or take a few months.

So here is my personal opinion of what America and Iraq need to do...

The first thing that needs to happen is the Iraqi government needs to be structured so that the Kurds, the Shi'as, and the Sunnis have equal representation in governing the nation. The 3 factions already have, for the most part, geographically divided themselves into different areas. My suggestion is that, below the federal level of government in Baghdad, there is a regional government for each of the 3 areas. After that, each of the provinces within these regions should have their own level of government, then it continues from there to the more local levels.

Granted, this plan is a little more bureaucratic than I would prefer for our own nation...but when you have warring religious factions, a bit more control is necessary until tensions are reduced to minimal levels.

How these various factions can be quelled is through invoking a bit of pro-Iraqi patriotism amongst Iraqi civilians in regards to this new government. Broadcast it loud and clear that the new government will create one Iraq that will end the violence, and bring prosperity to the Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurds. While these groups are split among religious lines, they are all Muslims, and to create a great new pro-Islamic state in Iraq would be beneficial to them in the long run.

I think a lack of psychological warfare against the extremists and terrorist groups that are fueling the flames of civil war has been part of our nation's problem in getting our of Iraq. We haven't emphasized the benefits of a mutually-beneficial government in terms of the general promotion of Islam within Iraq's borders. We (the United States) are still seen as the secular/Christians, and many Iraqis believe we're trying to distance them from Islam. While we've attempted to build as close to a secular government as possible in the just cannot be done.

While the federal government should lean secular, the regional and provincial governments will obviously have to cater to that region's particular Islamic sect (to a certain extent) in order to get this new government off the ground. These governments will also have to govern within certain limits of power, just as the federal government will have to do the same. However, the regional/provincial governments will be more involved with the day-to-day governing of the people compared to the federal level.

Next, the rebuilding of the Iraqi army and police needs to be sped up. It's their nation, they need to protect and defend it, as well as enforce their own laws. Once the above government is formulated and the main religious groups are pacified a bit, start enlisting these various militias into the ranks of the Iraqi military and police.

American forces would withdraw, with the exception of a single base, which will keep our presence in the region visible, but light and with as little imposition as possible. With this new government, the most federally-regulated sections of government will be the military and the importing/exporting of goods, such as well as the equal redistribution from profits made off of exports.

Oh yes, and there is a timetable for this. If this plan were to be implemented today, we would expect the Iraqi government to be fully operational, and the military/police in full working order, by July 31, 2008. Sometime before that date, we would make a decision as to where we go from there.

If the Iraqi government mobilizes into operation well ahead of schedule, we can start the gradual withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. As their military takes over defending the country, ours will then begin leave at the same rate. The further ahead of schedule they get, the sooner we are done and gone in regards to our continued military occupation of Iraq.

If the Iraqi government is uncooperative, refuses to work within this framework, and cannot come together...we leave. It is as simple as that. We're not going to simply sit around and let soldiers die while the Iraqi government refuses to function adequately (as has been the case). If the new Iraqi government can't (or won't) get their act together, or procrastinates in doing so for too long, they're going to have to clean up this mess on their own.

If things are close to completion, but the Iraqi's need a few more months to get things finally in order, we may stay and help finish things up if there is good reasoning for it. The effort on all parts must be evident in order for us to stay.

While the current strategy is already somewhat related to this, my idea involves heavy pressure on the Iraqi government. In fact, if we were to lay this out to our allies, I believe that we could create heavy international pressure from places far more influential (and investment-minded) than the extremists and terrorists that currently thrive on this conflict.

As far as Iran goes, that's a different story. I do believe that the growing public insurrection within Iran will cause them to focus enough of its energy inward that it's influence on neighboring countries with decrease substantially, even for a short period of time. Stabilization in Iraq, in my opinion, would further increase the appetite for change that the Iranian public has shown.

What is interesting is that despite the bickering between Democrats and Republicans over the issue over this messy occupation, I can't think of one person who wouldn't want to see our troops come home. I think that is the common goal that gets lost in all of the partisan fighting. Some Dems think Republicans are warmongering oil hogs, while more than a few GOP supporters see the Democrats as white flag-waving apologists for Islamic extremists.

What we need to realize is that both sides don't want to be in Iraq any longer than necessary. The disagreement is over what constitutes "necessary". Personally, I can see why both sides have their own definitions of "necessary". However, given our long-term interests as a leading member of the global society, to end this occupation with a more stable Iraq would make long as the Iraqi government gives us full cooperation.

To say "we've lost the Iraq War" is a complete misnomer. We won the war, we won that war a long time ago. The history books should reflect this as time goes on. However, in order to prevent future conflicts that will result in greater bloodshed; we need to leave this situation in a better condition than when we entered into it.

Why? To be honest, I don't think any of us want to go through this again anytime soon.

A Brain-Teaser For All of You...

Get out your pens, pencils, notepads, protractors, and calculators...

If a Prius is driving 100 mph, and the driver is carrying marijuana, Valium, Xanax, Vicodin and Adderall...and he has already been in rehab once, and gets put in rehab a second time, has a previous substance-related conviction, and his father is a former U.S. Senator and Vice-President, as well as the hero to millions of environmentalists around the world..........what are the chances that Al Gore will make sure his son will never, ever, see the inside of a prison cell?

And the answer is...?