1/4/13

So…2013 is upon us. Here are a few disparate and general comments.

Predictions:

I am still convinced that the results of the elections are bad for America and dangerous for the world. But most relevant for this blog, they put my ability to predict in great doubt. I read the map so wrong that it leads me to believe that my predictions are worthless. I look at other pundits and I am shocked by their complete immunity to self-criticism, lack of ability to admit being wrong, and complete self confidence in their ongoing predictions, all in spite of being as wrong and more as I was. Some simply ignore their terrible record; some try to invent reasons and excuses.

Karl Rove, for whom I generally have a lot of respect, was badly wrong in his predictions. He published yesterday in the WSJ an article called “My 2012 Mistakes and Fearless 2013 Forecast.” Sounds good right? Except that when you read the article, it spends 30 percent of the space recounting some of his correct predictions, all of which are completely technical and irrelevant in the scheme of things, and maybe 15 percent about the two “minor” (my word—he actually uses the terms “dead wrong” and “biggest”) mistakes: the Presidential elections and Republicans taking over the senate. Duh. Really. The rest of the article is back to form, and again, with complete confidence (he uses the term “bold”), makes predictions for 2013. The article is better than many of the others but is still ridiculous by not owning up to his lack of ability to predict.

So let me say this: I was badly wrong in reading the political map. That means that I have some serious misunderstanding of the American public and its mood. I will need to take this into account in the future. Maybe I should limit my predictions to foreign affairs where my record is much better. So I will comment on the events, I will provide my views, but I will be careful in making predictions on domestic matters.

WSJ:

Readers of these annals know that I have a lot of regard for the WSJ. I think it is on balance the best media outlet in the world today. They are informative, accurate to a large degree, and generally correct in their analysis. I respect the fact that they, at times, will give opponents of their editorial view space to present their opinion. That is good journalism and is entirely fine. However, last Wednesday was too much even for the WSJ. The article by Ryan Crocker titled “Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense” is, well…a crock! I am not going to comment on this anymore. I hope Obama reconsiders but if not, I will discuss it then.

But in the same paper there was an article that made my blood boil. The combination of naiveté, ignorance, and even stupidity represented by that article is just astounding. The article I refer to is called “The Menace of Syrian Chemical Weapons.” It is by Jamie M. Fly and you can read about Mr. Fly here.

The writer served under Republican presidents and the Foreign Policy Initiative organization where he is the executive director seems to be republican leaning. To some extent, this makes the contents of this article even worse. If Republicans are that naïve and stupid when it comes to foreign affairs, where will our salvation come from? Specifically there were two things in this article that really made me angry:

  • The writer refers to the seven weeks it took the international community back in 1988 to “respond” to the massacre by Saddam Hussein of 5,000 Kurds using chemical weapons. What is astounding is that he characterizes what happened as a “response” by the international community. You would have thought that killing five thousand people would generate a substantial RESPONSE, chemical weapons or not. No, the actual response was a UN condemnation. Even the writer refers to the fact that it was an indirect condemnation. That is NOT a response; that is a disgrace and should be categorized as such.
  • But the second point is the real doozie in this article. The writer suggests that the only way now to ensure that terrorists do not get their hands on the Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons is…drumbeats…“early and sustained planning to stabilize a post-Assad Syria.” Now? Really? EARLY?

The suggestion that “early planning” in the context of Syria is still an option is so ridiculous as to be totally stupid. Early planning should have happened 20, 18, maybe even 12 months ago—now it is too late for that. There is NO WAY to avoid extremists getting their hands on all or some of these stock piles without a major ground offensive to destroy these stockpiles. The sooner this will be done the better, and the less messy it will be. Like any problem, a conflict delayed is a conflict enhanced.

Reading such stupid comments from a supposed foreign affairs expert, and head of a Republican think-tank, makes me shudder.

Philanthropy:

On a lighter but as important note, the US keeps giving the highest percentage of GDP to charity in the world. I wrote a blog about it before and I take my hat off again. This is clearly one of the things that makes the US special. Really special, not like Obama’s special (every country is special…).
The interesting thing is that according to a survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, of the top ten states in the country based on % of GDP charity giving, the first 9, or the top 9 most giving states, are all Republican states. Of the 10 least giving states, 9 are Democratic (voted for Obama) and only 1 is Republican. Why is that? Why is it that survey by survey proves that Republicans give more to charity than Democrats? Should it not be the reverse? Should it not be Democrats who talk big about wanting to pay more tax and wanting to take care of the less fortunate? Should they not be giving more to charity than Republicans who supposedly care only about the rich?

State Governance:

According to a survey by 247 Wall Street, the five best run states in the US all have Republican governors while the five worst all have Democratic governors. Why is that? What can we conclude from that regarding the ability to manage economic and domestic affairs? Are the states not supposed to be the laboratory of democratic governance from which Washington should learn?

Happy 2013. May it be safe, healthy, and prosperous for all.