The Return of the “Next War-itis”

By on 12.12.13 | 6:16PM

Former defense secretary Robert Gates is not memorable for much, but his condemnation of “next war-itis” is worth remembering—but only because of its unfortunate revival by Washington Post writer Tom Ricks.

In a 2008 speech, Gates said, “I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called Next-War-itis — the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict," Gates said. And in a world of limited resources, he continued, the Pentagon must concentrate on building a military that can defeat the current enemies: smaller terrorist groups and militias waging irregular warfare.

That is so wrong on so many levels—e.g., it assumes we’ll never have to fight another conventional war—it’s hard to believe it ever came out of a defense secretary. (A former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs once told me in confidence that when Gates said it, he shook his head in disbelief.)

Send to Kindle

Another Perspective

Mandela and Redistribution

By 12.11.13

When he was elected president of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s country was a sizzling stovetop of grievances and ideologies, a place where the vestiges of Apartheid mixed with newer black nationalist and Marxist resentments. The pressures Mandela faced were enormous.

One of them was to follow the example of Robert Mugabe, president of nearby Zimbabwe. A gapingly disproportionate amount of land in both Zimbabwe and South Africa was owned by the white minority. Mugabe was in the process of implementing a sweeping, coercive land reform plan that would redistribute land en masse, and without compensation, from whites to black farmers. This ultimately hyper-inflated his currency and annihilated the Rhodesian economy.

Send to Kindle

In Memoriam

The Greatness of Nelson Mandela

By 12.5.13

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the Nobel Prize-winning former political prisoner who became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa and that republic’s first black president, passed away today at the age of 95.

The young Mandela, an African nationalist and leftist, became active in politics in the mid-1940s, opposing the Nationalist Party of white Afrikaners (South Africans primarily of Dutch descent) and their imposition of racial segregationist policies known as apartheid.

Under apartheid, South Africans were classified into racial groups which, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation website, “determined where someone could be born, where they could live, where they could go to school, where they could work, where they could be treated if they were sick and where they could be buried when they died. Only white people could vote and they had the best opportunities and the most money spent on their facilities.”

Send to Kindle

Result of U.S. Intervention in Libya: Sharia Law

By on 12.4.13 | 4:12PM

The Libyan government voted today to make Sharia law the basis for all legislative policy in that country. Spurred on by the Muslim Brotherhood-supported Justice and Construction party, the Libyan General National Congress decided that current and future laws should be compliant with Islamic religious doctrine, and that a committee be created to monitor and supervise the adoption of Sharia.

Send to Kindle

At Large

Back to the Future in Cairo

By 12.4.13

The definitive sign that Egyptian politics had spiraled out of control — or rather back into control — came last August when the former head of the IAEA, the often anti-American Mohammed ElBaradei, unexpectedly gave up his relatively new national ambitions and hurried back to his home in Vienna. He had broken his decades-long self-exile when he thought there might be a chance for him to become a compromise presidential choice. Baradei has always been a barometer of international politics and his flight back to European security told a clear story.

Send to Kindle

Senate Poised to Pull Trigger on Iran Sanctions

By on 12.2.13 | 4:39PM

Before Thanksgiving it seemed that certain key players on both sides of the Senate aisle were skeptical of the latest deal with Iran, which pulls back economic sanctions in exchange for concessions to Iran's nuclear program. Now it appears that both parties in both houses of Congress are ready to issue additional sanctions at the first hint that Iran is faltering in its agreement.

In what the Washington Examiner calls “rare bipartisan support,” key Democrat and Republican leaders are prepared to undermine President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to negotiate with Iran. Even members of Congress who support negotiation over sanctions, such as Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer, argue that sanctions should be in place in case Iran does not make good on its nuclear promises.

Send to Kindle

Loose Canons

The Coming Oil Wars

By 12.2.13

Accidental wars only happen in the movies. What’s happening now in the East China Sea is a calculated Chinese provocation that could lead to war. At the same time, the Argentine-engineered crisis in the waters off the Falkland Islands is just as dangerous because Argentina may be more reckless than it was when Margaret Thatcher defeated it and Britain is so much weaker. It is of such events that wars can be made.

War for oil isn’t new. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, its principal grievance was the American decision to cut off most of its oil supply.

On November 23, China declared a new “air defense identification zone” that extends to the north close to South Korea, to the south within miles of Taiwan, and to the east to encompass the Senkaku Islands, a short chain of uninhabitable islands off southern Japan that the Japanese have claimed ownership of since 1895.

Send to Kindle

Letter From Paris

Never on Sunday

By From the November 2013 issue

DON'T LOOK NOW, but we just might be witnessing the tentative first steps toward the beginning of a mini-revolution in France. In the land of the cherished 35-hour workweek and five weeks of vacation, brave souls are starting to question some of the very foundations of the welfare state and the limited individual freedom that goes with it. For example, whether the government should be able to dictate, for their own good of course, when, where, and how individuals can work and do their shopping. They are also wondering whether labor unions, those staunch supporters of strict regulation and big contributors to the socialist parties that create it, aren’t more interested in defending their own turf than in protecting jobs.

Send to Kindle

Another Perspective

Nuclear Hide and Seek

By 11.29.13

The world press followed the Kabuki theater of negotiation among the G5+1 and Iran as if it was a traditional “give and take.” But the Iranians had already won the contest before it began. No matter the conclusion of the six month test period, the Persians already have acquired and stored enough weapons-grade nuclear material to arm several missiles. It may not be of the highest destructive concentration, but it can work. And that’s all that’s needed.

The Obama administration, accompanied by its allies, has convinced itself that the Iranians are unable to hide the crucial accumulation of weapons grade uranium. This is a false assumption. The North Koreans had effectively camouflaged their progress and continue to do so. What Pyongyang is now missing is the ability to reliably deliver its weapons on target.

Send to Kindle

The Current Crisis

A Gentleman’s Answer to President Karzai

By 11.28.13

WASHINGTON—It appears that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is acting up again. As if President Barack Obama does not have enough on his hands with and hotspots spreading around the globe, he now has Karzai, the Importunate. The Afghan prima donna is threatening Our President’s role as a wartime president, a role he has not been particularly comfortable in but at least it is popular with some Americans. Now the playing of “Hail to the Chief” may become somewhat subdued all because of Mr. Karzai’s demands. He is refusing to sign a status of forces agreement allowing us to leave U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan after the war, troops that would be used to protect Afghans!

Send to Kindle