Merkel, Schaeuble and the Beginning of the End of a United Europe

Posted July 14, 2015 on 8:38 am | In the category Economy, Europe, Germany, Greece, Merkel | by Jeff

So, the Eurozone and the Greeks have dodged a bullet…or have they? and should they have? Below is a slightly edited exchange between an American former expat retiree and his friend who has lived in Europe for over twenty years. The former (A) lived in Munich and Prague for ten years; the latter (B) an American lawyer/businessman who has lived and worked in Europe for over twenty years.

A: What are your thoughts on Merkel and her Finance Monster – ur – Minister?

B: Repulsion. Same as for Greek governments of all denominations. Lying #### the lot of them. . Plague on German Volk and Greek governments. Tyrants and enslavers. There are no tyrants but that there are slaves. Politicians (particularly Greek ones) are slaves to the indulgence of their own power and so sell their people into slavery to keep their personal indulgence. And Hollande, …. He is a nothing. He was fighting Merkel just so as to keep France punching far above its weight for another few years.

In my opinion Greece should vote itself out of the Euro and the currency would soar (to my benefit admittedly). That not good for Angela. Good for Greek people who could get on with their lazy ways and devalue their currency whenever it was convenient for them. Good for principles. Good precedent for Portuguese, Spanish and probably Irish people. Bad for their incumbent governments.

If the people do not want an EU then there should not be one. If they want one they should have fiscal and political union and give up nation states except during the World Cup. That is the point my favorite economist misses. Wolfgang Munchau (Financial Times) is usually better but I think he has never known a non=integrated Europe and often forgets that indeed it is a utility for the benefit of people. Mostly of little people. :

A: Most of what I have read leading up to last night’s “negotiations” started with the premise that the Euro without political unity of some sort was doomed to struggle if not fail. Pickety, Stiglitz and Krugman, and many other professional economists have suggested that the best answer for Greece is to leave the Eurozone and work out their troubles with a new Drachma. In fact as Munchau says, it might be good also for other countries. (i.e. Ireland, Portugal, Spain) I have felt that Germany had simply found a new way to dominate the rest of Europe for its own parochial benefit, this time in a less obviously malign way. And sure, the Greeks have been led by crooks for years and many Greeks don’t work as hard as they might….and of course not as hard as the Germans claim to work. But austerity is a self indulgent exercise designed by Schaeuble, implemented by Merkel for the self interest of Germany, and the rest of Europe ends up participating in their own damage. As for the Greeks sleeping in the street waiting for the ATM s to,open and picking through garbage, they are simply collateral damage.

It is especially galling for me to see Merkelmania produce a heroine out of a local politician playing to her Calvinist voters while humiliating a fellow European country and forcing that country to accept absurd, counter-productive austerity programs designed to impoverish itself so it can accept so-called bail out money, which they then give to German banks. Ergo, a perfect ploy by the Germans, who then applaud themselves for their moral stance. This is not going to end well.

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THE 2014 REPUBLICAN “SUCCESS”

Posted November 9, 2014 on 12:05 pm | In the category Economy, Election, Obama, Politics, Press, Supreme Court, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The Republican “long game” of demonizing the President which began immediately after Barak Obama was elected president in 2008 has finally crossed the finish line. Vowing to do anything to destroy Obama’s presidency, the Republicans and their Tea Party sub-contractor began the process of character assassination that culminated in this week’s midterm elections. The strategy put the political future of the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner ahead of the needs of the country and therefore out of necessity had to ignore anything positive that might attach itself to the Obama presidency.

It is not surprising that much of the press largely played along with the story line, broadcasting Boehner and McConnell’s daily banalities after having given credibility to political hacks like Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and pizza maker Herman Cain in 2012.

But hapless Democratic candidates were complicit in their own downfall by running away from Obama and simply ignoring anything positive in his record.

When Obama’s presidency began the United States was a living horror show, largely produced by Republicans. The country had wasted up to $3 trillion on a war fought over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist; it had allowed investment banks to run wild while bringing the American economy to its knees; the American stock market lost 54% of its value in the 2007-08 crash; unemployment soared to over 10% and thousands of homeowners lost their homes through foreclosure – or by simply walking away from suddenly wildly overvalued property. President George Bush’s last budget – for FY 2009 had a deficit of $1,412 billion. After six years of the Obama presidency the annual budget deficit ($483 Bn) is less than a third of Bush’s last deficit, unemployment is at a rate less than half of the 2009 rate, the stock market is at record highs, the housing market has largely recovered, housing foreclosures are at historic lows and the American economy has recovered better than any other Western country’s.

So why have the Democrats suffered such a huge loss?

MONEY: When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people and that their money is a form of free speech an already lopsided election funding process became a game of craps played with loaded dice. It has become almost impossible to gauge the amount of money spent on elections but one estimate is that some $4B was spent on the 2014 midterms. Anyone trapped in front of a TV in October must have believed that they were faced with voting for either a swine or a hog.

SUPREME COURT: the U.S. Supreme Court has managed to play a powerful (and perhaps inappropriate) role in politics with its Citizens-United decision opening up funding of election campaigns to corporations and unions, and has decided that protection of voting rights is no longer needed despite the efforts of Republicans to make voting more difficult by requiring photo IDs at the polls despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud in the past.

THE PRESS: The American mainstream press has always been susceptible to the temptations of closeness to power, giving us what amounts to a courtier press. The Sunday talk shows wheel out the same tired lineup week after week: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Peggy Noonan, Reince Priebus, etc. and they become insider clubs with little difference between the reporters and the politicians. Print journalists have become an endangered species and cable news stations are uniformly tedious – even stupid – , pumping up non stories like the so-called ebola threat and refusing to do the hard work of journalism.

DEMOCRATS’ INEPTITUDE: The Democrats seem to have drunk the Republicans kool aid. They ran away from Obama’s (and their own) accomplishments, refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, never developed a positive message, ignored the positive economic record of Obama’s administration, and did not force the Republicans to defend economic policies that have favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. They allowed the Republicans to determine and control the narrative and refused to risk losing on Democratic party principles. Turns out they could hardly have done worse and could at least have looked at themselves in the mirror the day after the election had they stood strongly for something positive.

OBAMA’S PASSIVITY AND ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: The President’s noted rational approach to governing could only work if it was supported by energy or, better yet, passion – for what he is trying to accomplish. His inability- perhaps unwillingness – to sell the Affordable Care Act to his clients (all of us) is an example of a failure of politics. The ACA has been vilified by the Republicans largely by their lying about it. Death panels, free abortions, increased deficits, etc. ad nauseum. The administration never fought back effectively and in fact, by losing control over the development of the ACA website, created a nightmare for themselves – to say nothing of the people who tried to sign up for health insurance. The apparent unwillingness to play the hard politics that end up being a necessary part of the job contributed to giving the Republicans control of the narrative for the election.

VOTERS’ GENERALiZABLE ANGER: Americans are understandably pissed off. They saw their lives seriously disrupted by the recession of 2008-9, then saw bankers bailed out with taxpayers’ money, bank executives raking in record multimillion dollar rewards for incompetence while they were losing their jobs and homes. The rich do indeed get richer and the poor do indeed suck wind. So they looked around and – helped enormously by Republican money and ads demonizing Obama – decided to blame the President. Is that stupid? well yeah. Is it unexpected? well no. The hard work of figuring out what actually happened in the absence of a strong and honest press turns out to be beyond the capabilities of the American people. Or at least – so it seems.

So we come to the future and as our friend Leonard Cohen says, “I have seen the future brother: and it is murder”. And so it will be: possibly death to health care for all, more insane U.S.wars in places with little or no relation to our national interest; greater wealth to the oligarchs; less for the poor; no hope for immigrants; and a fundamental national commitment to all that works agains the interests of the vast majority of the American people. It is our democracy. Love it. Embrace it. Or work to change it.

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LABOR DAY: 2014

Posted September 1, 2014 on 5:20 pm | In the category Economy, Employment, Labor | by Jeff

Four stories for Labor Day:

1. CNN noted today that the average American CEO is paid 375 times what their ordinary worker gets paid. Twenty years ago the difference was 20 times.

2. The NY Times published a front page story today describing how major businesses cheat their employees out of earned overtime payments. Walmart’s warehouse subsidiary, McDonalds, Federal Express and Doubletree Hotels are among the many corporations that have routinely screwed their workers for years.

3. The long fight to increase the minimum wage in America continues to be stalled as Republican politicians and their business community supporters and funders continue to insist that they cannot afford a federal minimum wage increase over the current disgraceful level of $7.25 an hour while payoffs to CEOs has increased exponentially since the 1990s.

4. Several weeks ago the Board of Directors of Marketplace, a large grocery chain in the Northeast, fired its CEO. The family owned and operated chain had been plagued for decades by a nasty family feud that led finally to one branch of the family controlling the Board and ousting the CEO. But in addition to family rivalries the Board was responding to the desire of the controlling interests for reduced benefits and pay to its employees and greater profit to them. Well fine, except it ended up blowing up. Seems the fired CEO was beloved by his employees AND his customers and both groups began a battle to overturn the decision which included massive protests including workers simply refusing to go to work and customers refusing to shop in the chain. Soon store shelves were empty and threats to fire employees only exacerbated the problems.

Before it was over the Governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire got involved in negotiations, the press excoriated the Board for its inability to manage itself, and it became apparent that the only viable solution to keep the company afloat was to find a way to put the former CEO back in charge. He raised the funding to buy out his rivals and in a victory for workers and consumers the stores reopened last week. So a once successful, profitable business was saved by its workers and its customers without any of the workers being formally unionized. They simply refused to be pushed around by greed.

It is only one out of four for the good guys, but nice to have one positive story on this Labor Day. Now, back to work, everyone.

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Quo vadis Europe

Posted September 5, 2012 on 1:47 am | In the category Economy, Europe, Immigration | by Mackenzie Brothers

The financial disaster called Europe sails on with no port in sight and with deadly reefs looming on a regular basis. Captain Merkel uses her delegated powers as the boss whos pays the bills to forge ahead on her chosen path with such a powerful and refined lack of charisma, in a political world otherwise run by charismatic lightweights and clowns, that no one can really challenge her spartan version of the financial globe. She demands sacrifices from European lands that have not been willing or able to live within their means, that ultimately mean a tremendous lowering of quality of life for the average Joe. Greece is the very small poster-boy for this campaign but bigger and much heftier combatants are falling over each other to try to keep out of the Merkelschiff’s course. Spain, no small piece in the European puzzle, now has higher unemploment (25% of the total population, 50% for those under 25) than does Greece. That is a recipe for disaster somewhat reminiscent of previous social catastrophes like the potato blight in 19th century Ireland (for a staggering fictional account see Peter Behrend’s The Law of Dreams) or the food failures of late 19th century Scandinavia (see Vilhelm Moberg’s epic The Emigrants). When 50% of the young people and large numbers of professionals cannot find work or feed their families, there is revolution or emigration brewing. And big players in  the economic puzzle like Italy and even France are running scared and Portugal is already staggering.

So far the solution of choice is emigration. This is a guaranteed right of all EU members and unemployed young Spaniards and Italians as well as middle-aged unemployed skilled labourers and professionals from all of southernEurope are moving north looking for jobs in Germany and Scandinavia. Portuguese engineers, with no work at home, are moving to booming oil-rich Angola or Brazil, as it suddenly pays to speak Portuguese in parts of Africa and South America. Who knows where it will end. Will the demographic map of Europe brcome seriously altered, probably to the benefit of already prosperous north european countries? Will the brain drain of southern europe to the richer EU countries or even to the former colonies, be long-lasting as was the emigration of the Scandinavians, Jews and Italians to North America a little more than100 years ago?  Or will, as Captain Merkel hopes, it all settle down relatively quickly and the EU will then reach an economic stability which is nowhere to be seen today?

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May Day: Europe and the United States Compete for Worst Economic Policy

Posted May 2, 2012 on 10:43 am | In the category Economy, Europe, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

In a battle for world supremacy for economic stupidity America’s Paul Ryan is taking on Angela Merkel in a battle for the ages. While Ryan is only one of 435 Representatives in the U.S. Congress he has become the intellectual leader of the party that gave us the $3 Trillion Iraq War, the huge Bush tax breaks for the wealthy, the unpaid for prescription drug benefit for Big Pharma, and unleashed America’s investment banks so they could sell paper crap around the world and bring the world economy to its knees. Having participated in creating a recession that barely missed becoming a depression, Ryan is now regaining his strength with Mitt Romney, much of the American press and virtually all of the so-called Tea Party singing the praises of the Man Who Would Destroy the American Economy as an homage to his heroine, Ayn Rand. Ryan’s austerity budget has even managed to create a negative response from elements of the Catholic hierarchy – a group normally focussed on how best to reduce women’s power.

Across the Atlantic Angela Merkel serves as Ryan’s powerful competitor for the title of Master/Mistress of the Recession. With the help of France’s embattled President, Frau Merkel has managed to force Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland (the list will surely increase) to adopt economic austerity policies guaranteed to force most or all into a lengthy recession with devastating unemployment rates, low or no actual economic growth and a near suicidal commitment to doing more of what demonstrably does not work in order to avoid admitting to their mistakes.

Ryan and Merkel have so far avoided being compared to David Cameron whose ongoing commitment to economic disaster seems to have been missed by much of the press, but that could change at any time as Britain has entered its second recession in four years. But before Cameron can be allowed into the field he must rid himself of the attention given to his love affair with Rupert Murdoch which has greatly diminished the attention given to his disastrous economic policies.

The next several months will determine the success of Ryan, Merkel and Cameron as they struggle – each in his or her own way – to bring national economies to their knees. The U.S. election, the budding resistance to Merkel’s stubborn commitment to folly among other Euro zone countries, and the shakiness of of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat ruling government in Britain will play out as the three head for the finish line in this race to the bottom.

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Iceland, Greece, Whatever

Posted November 9, 2011 on 3:18 am | In the category Economy, Europe, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

The economic crisis send out its ripples, knocks down its first dominoes, and the rich fat cats who thought they were too far away to be threatened, are starting to raise their heads and start smelling something rotten heading their way. First it was Iceland, now it’s Greece, and soon it may be bigger fish in much bigger lakes like Italy and Spain. The problem is always the same: whole countries live beyond their means, run up big debts on credit and fall apart when the sleazy chaps who convinced them to take out cheap loans, ask for a payback.   Iceland lived in a fantasy world of fake wealth in this bizarre ritual and the streets of Reykjavik rumbled with the weight of oversized  cars bought on non-existent money. The average Reykjavik household had 3 cars, and more than 20,000 cars were imported in the year before the banking system collapsed in 3 days only 4 years ago. This year 2,000 cars are coming in. But Icelanders have learned to live with catastrophes: hunger winters, volcanic eruptions, whatever. When asked how he was doing in the midst of the debacle, my brother Doug’s Icelandic pal had a quick reply: “Don’t worry about us, we know how to fish and raise potatoes”. And lo and behold it is the Icelandic fishery that has actually prospered in terrible economic times, as the fishing fleet never stopped going out into dangerous waters, still under Icelandic control after the cod war of the 1970s after the fleet turned away invading British warships, and provided a solid economic base for an economic recovery, even for the gamblers who had  lost in the economic games of the mid-2000s.

Now it is Greece’s turn to pay the price of spending too liberally on the basis of phoney money. Just as in Iceland (and in all the countries that will be hit next) it is the fat cats who will be able to find an escape hatch and the poor suckers who have tried to make an honest hard-earned wage who will find that their savings have disappeared along with their jobs. Like Iceland Greece has tremendous resources in its saplendid setting and matchless history. Come on guys, get it together, start planting those potatoes or whatever grows best, send out the fleet, and get those workers who are ready to roll up their sleeves back on the job.

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The Financial Crisis for Dummies

Posted July 16, 2011 on 3:49 pm | In the category Economy, Europe, Politics, Tea Party, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Okay, here is the scoop. Please pick it up and move on to serious matters, like how to end the wars that are obviously part of the financial crisis. The European Union, founded on the idea of a common border and common currency, is falling apart. There is something rotten in the state of Denmark, as it has reinstated border controls on both its German and Swedish borders. Though nowhere near as draconic as the heavily-armed US outposts along the Canadian frontier, where all those dangerous outlaws are trying to press south, they nevertheless irritate their neighbours mightily. Hungary currently contributes the presiding president to the EU council and also unnerves its fellow members by acting contrary to EU rules on the question of ethnic minorities. Greece is living so far beyond its means that Sugar Daddy Germany has made clear it has run out of patience with request for further bank transfers. Ditto Portugal and Ireland, and more menacingly Spain and Italy. Who’s next? Well, even France has noticed that its bellicose response to poor Libya’s problems is costing way more money than it thought it would (which war doesn’t?) while gaining it no new friends on its former colonial continent since military success is not on the horizon while civilian deaths mount. The UK staggers along with a new scandal (welcome aboard Rupert) each week. Can you name the Prime Minister? There are some economic successes that should be mentioned: Germany, cruising along because of the quality of its expensive products and its unwillingness to get into wars, Switzerland, cruising along because of it secret bank system, Poland, the country that has gained the most from EU membership, and, amazingly, Estonia, which has the best financial report of them all.
And then there is the United States, the most powerful one of them all still – pace China – whose elected representatives seem incapable of dealing with elementary money matters such as overwhelming debt, war expenses and looming bankruptcy. The last will presumably not be allowed to happen, but I’m afraid the analysis of that possibility goes beyond the scope of the title of this rare foray of my brother Doug into higher economics.

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Unions, Politics and the Press

Posted February 28, 2011 on 3:37 pm | In the category Collective Bargaining, Economy, Politics, Press, U.S. Domestic Policy, Wisconsin Governor | by Jeff

Oligarchy: a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

The moves by Republican governors to eliminate collective bargaining rights by public employee unions represent an attack on what had become a basic human right and goes far beyond any attempt to address states’ deficits. Issues related to costs of pensions and health insurance have been successfully addressed by some cities and states via negotiations; the new strategy of simply eliminating unions’ bargaining rights is a callous affront to the public employees who teach our  children, patrol our streets, fight our fires, treat the mentally ill, etc. The fact that corporate America is running away from providing health insurance and pensions does not make it right.

America’s financial elites managed to take the country to  the  edge of the abyss and then feathered their nests with taxpayer bailouts to save the country from the results of their near criminal behavior.  Add to that the idiocy of choosing an unnecessary war that will cost the country upwards of $3 trillion (according to Nobel prize economist Joseph Stiglitz) and we have the need to find a scapegoat. Could it be that it is the thieves and cheats of corporate America? the “too big to fail” investment banks? the bailed out auto executives? the hedge fund manipulators? the mortgage crooks? No. It is determined in Wisconsin and Indiana and New Jersey and throughout the country that it is the teachers, the school custodians, the librarians, the police and  firefighters, the mental health workers, the hospital scrubbers, the prison guards, the snow plowers, the bus drivers, etc.   They are the unionized public workers with living wages, health care benefits and pensions. They are the ones to punish for having gained those benefits in honest, open negotiations.  Welcome to the new America – the country run increasingly by big money, Ayn Rand greed and – alas – a major dose of ignorance fostered by a weak or complicit press, a  simple-minded tea party and a fully aware, manipulative Republican party leadership.

And just where is the press in all of this? In an apparent intent to present divergent views, it too frequently ends up a tool for information manipulators, promulgating, for instance, the big lie of the Wisconsin governor that unions are responsible for the deficit and that they have some mysterious power to bring the state to its knees. The fact that the Wisconsin unions have offered to make the concessions asked for by the governor has gotten lost in the lack of honest coverage of the governor’s plan to cripple unions as a reward to his corporate sponsors.

Whether workers are entitled to paid vacations, health insurance, retirement pay, paid sick leave etc. are issues of concern to all workers – unionized or not – but having the right to negotiate for those benefits is a human right that needs to be defended.

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American House: How Low Can It Go?

Posted February 20, 2011 on 1:35 pm | In the category Economy, Obama, Politics, Republican Party, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

When Americans went to the polls last November did the majority really vote for a decline in their quality of life? It would seem so as we see what their elected representatives in the House are choosing to eliminate or reduce. The initial attack in the House of Representatives targets virtually every nominally progressive program subject to discretionary funding. It attacks support for health programs, environmental programs (many also related to the health of Americans), arts and humanities programs, nutrition programs for pregnant women and infants, food supply regulation, student loan programs, clean water programs, public radio and tv and etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and will most likely enter many peoples’ consciousness only when they get a dose of salmonella, or have to drop out of college, or develop asthma, or have to rely on Fox and CNN for their TV news and analysis.

This opening shot is a sample of what seems likely to come. The scorched earth Republicans and Tea Partiers are intent on finishing the job – started during the Reagan years – of increasing income inequality in America, and reducing opportunities for those at the low end of the income ladder to climb out of lives characterized by inadequate educational opportunities for their children, over-priced and inadequate healthcare, and a public life devoid of art and culture.

The driving abstraction for these efforts is the “deficit”, and the Democrats (including President Obama) have joined with much of the national media and press in allowing the Republicans to determine that as the field of battle.  While many Republicans are not actually serious about reducing the deficit (witness their unwillingness to eliminate the Bush tax reduction for the richest 5% of Americans) they are dead serious about eliminating or seriously damaging virtually any program intended to improve the quality of life for all Americans.  The current budget reductions are a spit in the ocean of the deficit but even so those reductions will retard the economic recovery thus reducing tax revenue further and thus adding to the deficit. So be it for rational thought from this crew.

Lost in all the Republicans’ blather is the reality that the deficit grew enormously under Bush due to the bizarre choice of war in Iraq, the Bush tax reductions, and the costly Bush prescription drug program, which turned out to be a gift to the drug companies. So we face a future of declining quality of life while the people who created much of the deficit AND the people who destroyed a healthy economy through near criminal mortgage and hedge fund frauds continue to work their black magic.

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IRAQ: Dreams vs. Realities

Posted September 6, 2010 on 3:15 pm | In the category Economy, Iraq, Press | by Jeff

In Iraq, brief triumph subsided through criminal incompetence into fractured mayhem, leaving more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead and concluding in the fluid uncertainty of sporadic violence and democratic deadlock. No intellectual contortion – even with important stirrings of political give-and-take in Iraq – can ever inscribe Operation Iraqi Freedom in the annals of U.S. victories. — Roger Cohen, NY TIMES, 9/2/10

Cohen says what most media analysts avoid saying as they celebrate a self defined   “success” in Iraq. The war began on a lie, proceeded to kill at least 100,000 Iraqis and some 4000 American soldiers, spent and committed over $3 trillion, in American tax payers’ money, enhanced Iran’s influence in the region, left over 35,000 American soldiers seriously wounded, tarnished America’s reputation, debased our politics and exposed the American media as gung-ho cheerleaders for a war we chose to start on non-existent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Much of the analysis has focused on the “success” of the surge. While the surge contributed to controlling the security needs, most reporting – as compared to op ed analysts – noted the more significant contribution made by buying the Sunnis’ support by paying the “Sons of Iraq”, the Sunni militia that turned against al-Queda in Iraq in 2006.  Unfortunately, as Uthman al-Mukhtar reports in the Eurasia Review, “…pro-government Sunni militias have accused Iraq’s national leaders of leaving them in poverty and vulnerable to violence. The warnings come as al-Qaeda employs a mix of intimidation and enticement to lure Sunni fighters to joint the insurgents.” Having played a major role in bailing out the failed U.S. effort in Iraq they are now left to their own devices to deal with a political stalemate that has proven to be unable to even form an operating government and that has left the Sunnis out of the functioning economy.

Sunday’s Washington Post carried an op ed by Nobel Prize economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and his co-author and researcher Linda J. Bilmes, that updates his earlier estimates of the true cost of the war to America. Their piece – “The True Cost of the Iraq War: $3 Trillion and Beyond” –  is depressing but essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the true costs of the Iraq adventure.

But the major issue that seems never to really get addressed is: Was it worth it? Or put another way, was it in our national interest to spend that much money and human resource on a war that has given us an Iraq that is almost totally dysfunctional, an Iran with more influence in Iraq than before the war, an Afghanistan too long neglected and now significantly controlled by the Taliban, an American deficit that eliminates the political possibility of stimulating the economy further, 100,000 Iraqi dead, some 4 million Iraqi refugees, the disillusionment of many of our allies, and a war that continues even as we partially depart. We got rid of Saddam and his sons and gave ourselves a pat on the back. But was it really worth it?

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