Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dysfunctional Congress. News at 11.

Everything is better when you speak behind a podium
It's interesting to see the Republican base as splintered and dysfunctional as the Democratic base. Most of my life there has been tension between the religious, fiscal, and libertarian wings of the GOP, but they used to do an excellent job of closing ranks and unifying. Alas, the disinformation age has been as kind to the GOP as it has to the Democrats.

Politico has a nice article breaking down the current situation plauging the Grand Old Party.
If one of the lessons of 2012 for the GOP leadership was to make peace with its rightward flank, so far, it’s not getting a passing grade when it comes to establishing a real sense of teamwork. Tea party lawmakers are still willing to buck party leaders, often at the behest of conservative groups, despite the fact that top aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have organized a regular invite-only meeting of roughly a dozen advocates from entities like R Street Institute, Independent Women’s Forum, American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform to encourage an open dialogue.

In part, leadership’s struggle to woo so-called wingers to its side remains an uphill fight because there is often a basic disagreement within the new conservative base about the best path forward and many tea partiers aren’t interested in the typical horse trading and compromise that typically have helped make deals on Capitol Hill.
The zealots in either party never tolerate compromise, but unfortunately for the rest of us, the way that pesky Constitution is written is that you have to compromise in order to get what you want. So if a political party can't even come to terms with itself as to what it wants, how on earth do you expect them to be able to negotiate with the other party? If your negotiators are constantly being accused as traitors, and prevented from reaching across the isle by the loudest and most reactionary, then it's impossible to compromise. Compromise is how things get done in D.C., and if you can't do that, then you are simply going to breed failure after failure. Those bold feel-good ideological stands simply translates into weakness, inefficency, and a complete failure in the ability to perform the most basic functions of government.

This country is largely shaped by the Legislative branch, as they set the rules and allocate the treasury. If they can't even argree to honor the bills that they have charged, it's not like the President or the Treasury Department can do anything about it.

As for the Legislative branch, the Senate has pulled itselves into pretzles to manage a handful of bi-partisan bills, but it's extremely difficult due to get nearly 2/3rds of the Senators to agree on anything. When it happens, it involves compromise, and thus a swift death in the House of Representatives.

Not exactly the most loved instutition in the U.S.
That leaves the House as the poster-child of dysfunctionality, as it is completely unable to compromise. The leaders of the House simply can't even control their own members to pass even basic legislation that would survive a veto, much less the Senate. For a number of these members, it's a badge of honor to throw a spanner in the works and let the zealots win. Since congressmen can't agree with themselves, they certainly can't negotiate with the other party to move things forward. Partisanship has largely taken the House hostage, and there is nothing in the forseeable future that will change that.

The Republicans believe the government is screwed up. Congratuations. If they could agree to it, they should pull out that old Mission Accomplished banner.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I think we should attack Syria

I don't support the U.S. being involved with regime change in Syria, joining a side to win that civil war, engaging in nation building, or even being remotely responsible for the fate of that nation. We aren't the ones who can determine the future of Syria, nor are we responsible for doing so, regardless of how that civil war plays out. Those are the problems for the citizens of Syria, and not the United States.

That said, I believe there absolutely needs to be a harsh response to anyone utilizing chemical, biological, and nuclear weaponry. If we tolerate Assad using chemical weapons, we'll tolerate the next butcher doing the same. And the next one, and the next one.

To me, this is a significantly different situation than Iraq, where we invaded someone we accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction. In this case, we would be hitting someone who is actively using them right now. To me, that's a huge difference and is in the interest in our national security to put the ever living fear of God in any nation that would ever think to use weapons of mass destruction.

Sadly, we've seen that issuing sanctions, making UN resolutions, proposing talks & roundtables, moralizing, or waving our fingers at the combatants of this conflict has had absolutely no impact on Syria. Frankly, factions that are desperately fighting an existential conflict to survive don't care about resolutions or sanctions. The only penalty that Assad will ever feel is hitting his military assets, which he needs in order to survive this civil war with his head intact.

So, I'm fine with punishing Assad with cruise missile strikes, drone attacks, and extremely targeted surgical strikes based on intelligence assets we already have in Syria. We won't wipe out every WMD they posses, but we'll certainly have an impact on his military infrastructure and ability to win his civil war.

While I have some serious reservations when it comes us using special forces in Syria, I'd understand the need to keep that on the table. What I'm opposed to is the type of extensive combat/occupation forces that we always use when we engage in pointless nation building exercises. We should never be patrolling the streets of Damascus or trying to install our version of order over there.

In my opinion, the goal in hitting Assad's military assets shouldn't be done to "win the civil war", but to damage anyone who utilizes actual weapons of mass destruction. With or without the blessings of the UN (which will never materialize thanks to Russia or China), whatever happens to Syria in the long-term future, Assad should be made to regret ever having used weapons of mass destruction, and make future warmongers use their WMDs for saber rattling, and not for actual use on the battlefield.

I'm sure I'm in the minority when it comes to this opinion, but I felt it was something I should state out loud. As usual, YMMV.