The Curse of Oil
|by Thomas Gale Moore|
The Bush Administration has made much of Iraq's oil reserves. It wants to use the proceeds from the sale of petroleum to pay off the country's debts, cover the costs of reconstruction and government expenses. It has been hectoring European governments and the Russian government to write off much of the debt that Iraq owes them so that the money can be spent on rebuilding that devastated country. In general, most people and governments have viewed Iraqi oil as a boon; but its existence has major downsides. Oil is more of a curse than a benefit.
First is the quandary it creates for possession of the oil fields. Kirkuk is surrounded by the northern oil fields, which represent about 40 percent of all oil in Iraq. The city of Kirkuk includes Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, and Assyrian Christians. Except for the Christians, each group claims to be the largest. During Saddam Hussein's regime, Arabs were encouraged to migrate to the region and occupy farms and houses. In many cases Kurds were forced out of their properties, which were turned over to the newcomers.
Permanent Bases: A Recipe for Permanent Terrorism
|by Thomas Gale Moore|
While the White House has often denied having a Plan B for Iraq, it turns out that the Pentagon has thought about what to do if Plan A, the "surge" doesn’t work. According to Steve Inskeep and Guy Raz of National Public Radio, plan B would involve maintaining a series of military bases around Iraq with some 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops. That plan would have them stay for decades, under the excuse that they could train the Iraqi troops and deter neighboring countries, such as Iran and Turkey, from sending their own troops into the country. Already the U.S. has built military compounds that look permanent, supplied with air-conditioning, movie theatres, Starbucks coffee houses, and fast food outlets.
Originating from the dispute over whether the Russians hacked the U.S. election and tried to influence it, rumblings came from the Trump transition team about reorganizing the intelligence community or parts thereof. That’s not a bad idea at all.
Prior to 9/11, the US intelligence community had grown to 16 sprawling, secretive agencies, which stayed in their stovepipes, thus cooperating insufficiently. For example, the CIA and FBI had coordination problems that really impaired the government’s warning of the 9/11 attacks.
"Demonizing Islam and demonizing Muslims is self-defeating. It will make the problem worse."
These are two of the statements made by former Secretary of Defense and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency Robert Gates at the Naval Postgraduate School on January 5, 2017. Classes for one morning time slot were canceled so that the students, largely U.S. military officers, could attend. I attended also.
What follows are some of the good things Gates said, along with some of the bad. There were more good things than I had expected, all in the direction of not going overboard on foreign policy. I caution, though, that it’s relatively easy for someone to make independent thoughtful statements when he is no longer a high-level appointee and when, given his age (73) and his likely net worth, he is likely no longer looking for a political job. I have no idea how he actually acted while Secretary of Defense. After listing the good and the bad, I’ll close with one thing Gates said that, whatever his intent, increased my respect for President-elect Trump.
Also Expects to Get Along With Russia
According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, President Trump “expects” Russia to both make the level of violence in Eastern Ukraine go down, and to unconditionally “return” the Crimean Peninsula to the Ukrainian government, adding that he “also expects to get along with Russia.”
After protests in Kiev ousted the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum on secession from the Ukraine in March 2014. A region dominated by ethnic Russians and host to a major Russian military base, that referendum easily passed, and Crimea sought and received accession into the Russian Federation days later.
The post-revolution Ukraine government was pro-West, and naturally Western nations rejected the Crimean secession as unlawful, accusing Russia of “annexing Crimea” militarily. Despite this claim, no real military action ever took place, and the only movement of forces came after the referendum, when Ukraine managed to borrow enough gasoline and car batteries to get their military vehicles off the peninsula.
The US has vowed never to accept Crimea as part of Russia, however, and has repeatedly demanded Russia unconditionally “return” Crimea. Clearly Russia has no intention of doing so, and threats aside Ukraine has no practical way to expel Russia from the peninsula.
‘Media jihad’ against White House an old game
“The game is to zero in on this or that Trump White House staffer and paint them with some form of journalistic radioactivity,” the columnist explains, adding that this is a very old tactic that has percolated for decades.
The travel moratorium: A hopeless disaster
After first reporting the telephone contact between then national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak,The Washington Post’s David Ignatius highlights the questions that still remain surrounding his resignation. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
“In the JSOC world, you think you’re Superman,” said a former Pentagon superior of Flynn’s. After the disappointment at DIA, he said, “Flynn wanted recognition from anyone who would give it to him.” The Russians paid attention, and he reciprocated.
Flynn departure erupts into a full-blown crisis for the Trump White House
Even as the White House described Trump’s “immediate, decisive” action in demanding Flynn’s resignation late Monday as the end of an unfortunate episode, senior GOP lawmakers were buckling under growing pressure to investigate it.
To belatedly celebrate for our friends Down Under, I suppose we could sing Waltzing Matilda.
But since I’m a policy wonk with a special fondness for the nation, let’s instead acknowledge Australia Day by citing some very interesting research
Economists at the Australian Treasury crunched the numbers and estimated the economic effects of a lower corporate tax rate. They had several levers in their model for how this change could be financed, including increases in other taxes.
Corporate income taxes are one of the most destructive ways for a government to generate revenue, so it’s not surprising that the study concluded that a lower rate would be desirable under just about any circumstance.
But what caught my attention was the section that looked at the economic impact of a lower corporate tax rate that is offset by a reduction in the burden of government spending. The consequences are very positive.
Though, in retrospect, perhaps the GOP should have given Obama the Award since Republicans reaped the short-term benefits.
In any event, let’s not get distracted by electoral politics. That’s because we have another tongue-in-cheek award. It’s time for the Libertarian Party to give its Woman-of-the-Year Award to Michelle Obama.
Why? Because the First Lady has single-handedly managed to discredit the federal government’s program to subsidize school lunches.
In short, there are now all sorts of federal regulations and mandates that have simultaneously made the program most costly for schools and resulted in food that is less appealing to students.
In other words, she’s helping to teach the next generation that big government makes your life less pleasant. That’s usually a lesson young people don’t learn until they get their first paycheck.
Let’s look at the results of Ms. Obama’s handiwork.
Citing a report from the Government Accountability Office, the Wall Street Journal opines on how Washington has made the school lunch program become far less appealing.
If you take a close look at the world’s freest economies, you quickly learn that they are highly ranked mostly because of the even-worse governments elsewhere.
Even places such as Switzerland have some misguided policies.
But there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud. The incompetence, mendacity, and cronyism that exists all over the world means that I’ll never run out of things to write about.
So let’s enjoy a new edition of Great Moments in Foreign Government.
We’ll start with the utterly predictable failure of an entitlement program in the United Kingdom.
The government must stop ‘nannying’ British parents and do away with universal free childcare, a new report has urged. Families most in need of help are not getting it because Government subsidies are poorly targeted, the Institute of Economic Affairs publication said. Many families on average earnings are spending more than a third of their net income on childcare, the report claimed, saying too much regulation in the sector has hiked prices. …One study has estimated that keeping parents in work costs £65,000 per job, the report claimed, describing current policy as ‘costly and inefficient’. …home-based childminders are priced out of the sector, it said. Co-author of the report Len Shackleton, an editorial research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘Government interventions in the childcare sector have resulted in both British families and taxpayers bearing a heavy burden of expensive provision.
But I admit it’s too early to tell. Maybe my policy predictions on Trump will be as bad as my political predictions about Trump.
And, for what it’s worth, I’ll freely acknowledge that Trump’s election is having a very good effect on my leftist friends. Because they fear the new occupant of the White House, they’re now much more sympathetic to the notion that there should be limits on the power of the federal government and they’re acknowledging that maybe federalism isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Indeed, some of them are so supportive of limiting the impact of Washington that they’re considering secession! The L.A. Daily News reports on a growing campaign in the Golden State.
“Yes California,” a pro-secession group, filed paperwork with the state attorney general in November for a proposed 2018 ballot measure to strike language in the state constitution binding California to the United States. …If its ballot measure succeeds, Yes California would pursue a 2019 vote to declare the state’s independence. …Talk of California secession is nothing new. But it gained momentum after Donald Trump’s election. Hillary Clinton got 62 percent of California’s vote in defeating Trump… According to Yes California, a path to secession exists through the U.S.-ratified United Nations charter.
The “Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” report, which amounted to nothing more than a speculative assessment, contained no actual evidence of Russian hacking, and was a clear attempt at propping up a dubious political agenda.
The report provided no conclusive evidence to support the oft-made claims of “Russia hacking the election,” and instead devoted a large section of the report to speculative claims about Russian motives and criticism of the Russian television station RT.
In particular, the report explicitly blamed the RT program, Breaking the Set, for undermining Americans’ confidence in US electoral processes. One major problem: the program wasn’t even on the air during the current presidential election cycle.
This is, of course, most clearly evident in the State’s absurd War on Drugs — far more fittingly called a War on the People. A war in which, just as a recently viral meme describes, “anti-drug” politicians deal drugs, banks launder that illicit profit, the president supplies the cartels with badly needed weapons, and the military ineptly loses massive shipments of drugs — and all of this is carried out with complete impunity. However, if you are not an agent of the State and happen to be caught with one of the most medicinally beneficial plants on Earth in one of the State’s arbitrary areas where possessing or using that plant remains a no-no, it’s guaranteed you will not receive the same treatment.
After they woke up to the fact that their due process had been entirely removed by Optotraffic — a private vendor allowed to extort citizens with the blessing of New Miami politicians — the people fought back in the form of a class action lawsuit.
This week marked the fifth anniversary of Obama’s first drone kill while in office. Since that time, according to a report from a leading watchdog, close to two and a half thousand people have been killed by launches sanctioned by the White House.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, a staunch critic of the semi-secret drone program, has compiled a report to mark the milestone. The group collates and compiles information on the drone strikes from local, national and international media, law enforcement and government reports, as well as eyewitnesses accounts. It’s statistics are considered the most authoritative on the subject.
The group notes that Obama’s first authorised strike came just THREE DAYS into his presidency, and killed at least nine civilians, mostly from one family, in Pakistan’s tribal regions.
“There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.” the report notes.