By Larry Hamp
Happy New Year, President-Elect Obama. Enjoy those sunny beaches in Hawaii. Your best vacations, for a long time, will be one-nighters crammed with work, worry and woe at Camp David. Only three of our great leaders—Washington, Lincoln, FDR—have taken office (in Washington's case, military command and huge political leadership responsibilities) with the country in such dire straights...
Every national institution—government, finance, military, business/industry, indeed the very states comprising the Union—is either broken, bankrupt, scandalized, incompetent, greedy, dishonest and/or hindered by zealots, ignorance, mismanagement or thieves. A lot of thieves.
With one war winding down, another will be winding up—the one against the plotters and abettors who attacked us in September 2001. By summer 2003 they were all nearly in the bag (but in difficult territory) when the 'bushwits' decided to double our trouble, invading Iraq and draining resources from Afghanistan.
Now the place is just another dysfunctional medieval state run by a dysfunctional medieval government, a situation not likely to be changed by us, since the powerful invaders Alexander the Great, the British Empire (twice), the Soviets (nearly 10 years and with at least 100,000 soldiers committing great slaughter) have all failed in similar attempts. Our “ally” Pakistan has proven a hindrance rather than helpful. When nuclear war, or attack, occurs look for Pakistan to be completely in the mix.
Our sights in Afghanistan should be set on crushing the Taliban and Al-Quaeda, not on nation-building. The locals just aren't interested in change—at all. Those there who've demonstrated desire for change live very dangerous and, generally, very short lives. I can make a good case that the same off-target thinking is what's ruin't every Bush effort in Iraq.
Sectarian violence—bombings, shootings—occur in Baghdad and outlying provinces every day. “The surge was successful”, McCain, Bush and Petraeus claimed. They lied, and knew they were lying. People were absolutely correct dismissing McCain's claims of success. Trouble-makers there dove deep into Baghdad's rabbit-warren slums, and waited for things to cool off.
Just as I write this, the Defense Department has announced the deployment of 3,000 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne, and 100 choppers, to Afghanistan in Spring, '09. So...how much brighter is Bob Gates than Donald Du...er, Rumsfeld? This is about as stupid as Rumsfeld's attacks on Fallujah, Iraq—each discussed publicly for weeks before being launched the insurgents always left town, but left behind their nothing-to-live-for minions dreaming of death and 79 virgins, after killing Americans.
There's little doubt, hearing this news, bin Ladin and Associates will bend every effort to load-up on shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (SAM's) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG's). After all, American supplied Stinger missiles, in the '80's, drove Russian forces first to distraction, then to defeat. Don't be surprised if the Russians supply the missiles. Revenge, after all, really is sweet.
So, it's a singlular moment for a strong, level-headed 'leader'--a big, dangerous situation fraught with opportunity. We're fortunate to have a thinking man to lead us into this shambles (it's just beginning, you know), and, hopefully, out of it intact.
Right off the bat he's going t have to consider (and somehow) do something about disgraceful horrors in large parts of Africa—in Somalia (a throw-back to the Barbary pirate states), and particularly the Congo, where warlord Laurent Nkunda openly laughs at and belittles attempts by disorganized, futile neighboring states to reign him in. Since we have our hands full, militarily speaking, he's going to have to play a leadership role inspiring others to put a stop to Africa's self-immolation.
Gazing into the eastern fog, the 'new' (You're still the same) Russian state is creating problems for the west among old Soviet-bloc states. Newly oil rich, with huge natural gas and diamond deposits, Russia is again pushing her way into the world's sea lanes, using, or threatening to use, armed force to keep close neighbors away from NATO, and from any cooperaton with the West.
Domestically, former KGB operatives partnered with the Russian 'Mob' are tightening control through the expansion of treason laws. Journalists there, and political activists of every stripe, are routinely hassled, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, or just disappear into a still active gulag. It's a politically docile and immature country, and still the world's drunkest nation.
An even bigger problem on the presidential menu is what to do about some 30 (if we admit the existence of a few we don't know about) intelligence agencies, administrations, directorates, commissions, and bureaus. Top level officers of these outfits have been tainted to one degree or another by association with torture, kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, rendition, tribunals, and other Bush administration defiance of the American Constitution as well as the laws of other nation-states, friendly or otherwise.
When I first realized, some 40 years ago, the CIA was hugely involved in world-wide drug distribution (what better way to raise black money for black ops—just ask Oliver North), I told a group of friends, “some day, some President, is going to have to surround CIA and NSA headquarters with soldiers, and physically destroy them”. I'm more convinced than ever both agencies, and some others, are a bigger threat to Americans than to our foes. Their collective track records suck. Did they give Bush misinformation on Iraq...or disinformation? Were they just fuddled? Who knows, for sure? Not even them.
Among various intelligence agencies prior to 9/11/01, plenty of hints, clues and indication of what was afoot lay unshared in file cabinets, on computer discs, in the minds of agents and operatives. Some, no doubt, made its way to 'file 13'. None of it was shared, compared, considered in toto; for practical purposes all remained 'in va-cuo'.
“Well, good luck Mr. President/Commander-in-Chief in waiting”, you're gonna need it. We're gonna need it. And, Oh by the way, happy New Year.