|Dan Burke of the 2nd ID 3rd SBCT 1-23 Inf. B Co. celebrates Turkey Day 2009 in Iraq. |
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Friday, December 06, 2019
Although by far the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. is suffering from a lack of long term vision. The individual citizen is as much at fault for this condition as the politician or the military industrial complex.
From our political parties to our relationships with each other and with other countries, from corporate board rooms to Wall Street stock run ups, we have lost our long term vision in favor of short term gains.
The results are polarization between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots", ignoring geopolitical realities, engaging in costly war intrusions, neglecting education/infrastructure and accumulating a $23 Trillion National Debt, heavily mortgaging future generations.
National Debt Clock
National Debt Clock
Geopolitical Realities and the US Role
George Friedman accurately sums the present geopolitical state in a recent article at “STRATFOR”:
Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will after the US was attacked September 11th, 2001.
All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s.
At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008.
The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation.
The United States is, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. That does not mean that the United States can — or has an interest to — solve the problems of the world, contain the forces that are at work or stand in front of those forces and compel them to stop. Even the toughest guy in the bar can’t take on the entire bar and win.”A Net Assessment of the World
China the Peace Maker
David Grammig enlightens us in a recent article in “Geopolitical Monitor “to an alternative to war and debt laden international finance being practiced by the Chinese:
“Geopolitical calculations are as much a reason for this 2-trillion-dollar project as economic ones.
The OBOR project represents one of China’s new overarching foreign policy goals, and it demonstrates a willingness and ability to challenge old power structures, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East.
The Silk Road, or OBOR project, aims at creating an enormous economic bloc and fostering trade, cultural exchange, political collaboration, and military cooperation among its members – under Chinese domination.
An obvious competitor against Russia’s Eurasian Union and India’s Act East and Connect Central Asia initiatives, the OBOR project has many Central Asian and Middle Eastern states justifiably worried of being caught up in a race for dominance in the region, producing somewhat cautious reactions to China’s big plans. Yet, some countries in the region – even those torn by sectarian conflict – may still be inclined to step into a new age due to China’s vast investments and its associated desire to protect its economic engagements.
The United States and its military interventions on the other hand, which aimed at securing political influence and protecting economic interests, bore no sustainable fruits and have led to growing instability in the region. Furthermore, US policy in the Middle East yielded anti-American resentment in the public and political spheres.
China’s approach, however, will most likely not lead to demonstrations, burning flags, and attacks against its embassies, because it will not be seen as a war-mongering imperialistic force, giving itself a chance to establish itself as a partner whose outstretched hand is worth taking.” China - The New Peace Maker in the Middle East
The US Market Mirage
Rana Foroohar demonstrates in Time Magazine how the folly of short term thinking often drives poor investment in the stock market when assessing the value of companies:
There are thousands of examples I could cite, but here’s a particularly striking one: the price of Apple stock fell roughly 25% the year it introduced the iPod. The technology that would kick-start the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism initially disappointed, selling only 400,000 units in its debut year, and the company’s stock reflected that. Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t give a fig. He stuck with the idea, and today nine Apple iDevices are sold somewhere in the world every second.
CEOs, who are paid mostly in stock and live in fear of being punished by the markets, race to hit the numbers rather than simply making the best decisions for their businesses long term. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found that 80% of executives would forgo innovation-generating spending if it meant missing their quarterly earnings figures.
Nobody–not Economists, not CEOs and not policymakers–thinks that’s good for real economic growth. Yet the markets stay up because of the dysfunctional feedback loops. Eventually, of course, interest rates will rise, money won’t be cheap anymore, and markets will go back down. None of it will reflect the reality on the ground, for companies or consumers, any more than it did during the boom times.”
The Market Mirage
Face geopolitical and economic realities, stop war interventions and invest in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.
Cease dwelling on threat and build long term infrastructure, education and international development. The threats will melt away.
Invest for the long term at the stock holder, company and national levels based on a strategy dealing with present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.
Elect a Congress and an Administration that know how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. We must then let them know what we think regularly by communicating with them.
Know that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether or not to support it, ignore it or attack it.
Sunday, December 01, 2019
Wednesday, November 06, 2019
“A retired two-star general has come up with a new explanation for what’s wrong with Congress – Not enough veterans in the House and Senate.
“Veterans would instinctively understand when mutual sacrifice was necessary to achieve a common goal”
“I really do believe that,” said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, who has a unique perspective on the ways and mores of Capitol Hill from his 24 years as a staffer with former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat and an iconic figure on defense issues as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The temptation would be to pass off Punaro’s analysis as yet another insider’s gripe-fest, but he has made the case at length in his book “On War And Politics: The Battlefield Inside Washington’s Beltway” (Naval Institute Press).
“Today’s so-called ‘leaders’ are fully aware of the problems that need solving. They just don’t seem to have the courage to make the hard choices — not if it means they may lose votes or campaign contributions,” Punaro said. “I believe it’s because most of today’s bureaucrats and elected officials have never faced a real battle or had to risk their very lives in a shared effort.”
He pointed to statistics showing that “in 1981, when we could still compromise, 64 percent of the members of Congress were veterans. In 2015, only 18 percent had served.”
Veterans would instinctively understand “when mutual sacrifice was necessary to achieve a common goal,” Punaro said, but compromise has become a dirty word in the how-do-I-avoid-a-primary era of gridlock, government shutdowns, and perennial failures to pass a defense budget.
In his book, and in a phone interview, Punaro said the decline in the number of veterans in Congress could be traced directly to the scrapping of the draft and the introduction of the all-volunteer force, which he continues to support — with reservations.
In 1970, as protests against the Vietnam War rattled the nation, President Richard Nixon issued an executive order creating a 15-member Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force, led by former Defense Secretary Thomas Gates, “to develop a comprehensive plan for eliminating conscription and moving toward an all-volunteer armed force.”
Nixon directed the commission to study the various aspects of an all-volunteer force, such as pay, recruitment incentives, benefits and selection standards. The all-volunteer force went into effect over the objections of much of the Pentagon’s leadership, who feared the impact on recruitment.
“A lot of people were skeptical about replacing the draft,” which happened in 1973, “but I wasn’t in their ranks. I’d seen firsthand what it did to both our country and men who never should have been put behind a trigger,” Punaro said.
But by the late 1970s, the all-volunteer force was on the verge of collapse as the services could not meet recruiting and retention goals and costs were ballooning far beyond original estimates.
Nunn put together hearings detailing the problems and calling on the Defense Department to boost standards and increase pay and benefits to attract recruits. The bottom line — “The quality of the force was more important to him [Nunn] than the price tag,” Punaro said.
“Today, the AVF is again unsustainable from the standpoint of fully-burdened life-cycle costs. DoD spends more than half of its budget supporting people,” Puinaro said, but he remained a supporter of the AVF. “I’m amused when some people label me as a critic of the AVF. I’m still a supporter of the concept but our force as it stands today is no longer sustainable in the long-term,” he said.
Punaro wrote that “The Gates commission foresaw this circumstance, stating in 1970 that a volunteer force would not be sustainable unless lawmakers eliminated the 20-year cliff retirement, reformed the ‘up or out’ promotion system, and changed the pay and compensation from a simple time-in-grade to a skill and performance-based system. None of these recommendations were adopted and reforms in those areas are long overdue.”
While praising individual Pentagon leaders, such as current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Punaro’s book said the institution itself could be as hidebound as Congress when it came to reform. Sometimes, head fakes were required to get anything done.
Punaro cited the 1986 passage of the landmark Goldwater-Nichols Act reforming the structure and responsibilities of the Joint Chiefs Chairman, the service chiefs and the Combatant Commanders with the goal of improving joint operations.
To get the bill passed, Nunn and Sen Barry Goldwater “fought every single civilian and military leader,” including then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Punaro said. “From my early days as a staffer, I knew that the Pentagon always overreacted to reform efforts, so we included fake provisions in our proposal to keep them diverted in their response.”
“One was to get rid of the Joint Chiefs of Staff entirely. We obviously had no desire to actually do this but while the Pentagon was busy pummeling our straw man, we were gathering votes for the real elements of change, like unifying the Joint Chiefs through a more powerful chairman and vice chairman.”
The book goes on to detail other legislative battles won and lost but frequently returns to the lessons learned by 2nd Lt. Punaro in Vietnam as leader of 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
The book is dedicated to Corp. Roy Lee Hammonds, who was from another platoon in Lima Company but raced to rescue Punaro when he was wounded in an ambush on Jan. 4, 1970.
“Someone had come after me,” Punaro wrote. “Incredibly brave. Incredibly risky. I grabbed his flak jacket and yelled ‘Let’s go. Let’s go.’ No answer. My hand came back covered with blood. An unfamiliar pale, long face fell back. I didn’t know him. ‘I can’t move,’ I yelled, but he didn’t’ respond. Just lay there on top of me, jerking as the bullets hammered his flak jacket.”
“I didn’t know what had caused Corp. Roy Lee Hammonds, 21, of Waxahachie, Texas, to come to my rescue. He’d been in country since Feb. 25, 1969, and was within weeks of going home.”
Aboard the medevac helicopter, “in the last fading golden light, I looked out over the rolling hills of the battle-scarred country we were leaving and laid a protective arm over Roy’s body.”
“He died saving my life,” Punaro said over the phone. In writing the book, “I wanted to tell the story of those Marines and what they did,” of their dedication to a mission and to each other. “The second thing was – I was becoming increasingly concerned, watching the deterioration of the executive and legislative process to where we weren’t solving anything.”
What was needed, he said, was finding a way to imbue in current members of the House and Senate that same commitment to a cause greater than themselves that is ingrained in those who serve in the military.
“The best advocates for the military are our troops,” and members need to spend more time with them, Punaro said. “I think if we could get more people in Congress to spend less time politicking and more time learning about what’s going on in the military that would take the place of some of the experience” gained by actually being in the ranks.
“If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to explain to somebody who’s never served in the military, never knew anybody who ever served in the military, what our military goes through.”
In his foreword to the book, former Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican who was once Punaro’s boss as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gently warned him to expect some blowback from those who might be offended by Punaro’s characterizations.
Warner said Punaro should give himself the same advice he gave his platoon in Vietnam: “Every man must now put on his flak jacket, zip it up, for the incoming will soon be targeting down on us.”
Wanted: More Veterans in Congress to Break Gridlock