Tuesday, April 06, 2010

So who won the Vietnam war really?

William Thompson, who teaches public administration at UNLV. makes a provocative and fairly persuasive case that insofar as "we wanted to demonstrate the viability of free enterprise capitalism in competition with state ownership of commerce," the US. -- or at least free enterprise -- won the war. He recently visited his son, who is a teacher at the South Saigon International School and noticed almost nothing but vibrant capitalism going on. After the communist takeover of the South, which did lead to great loss of life and liberty -- and to the enrichment of the cultural landscape of Orange County as an unintended byproduct -- and a fair amount of warring, communist ideology did what people predicted. It led to economic stagnation, shortages and spreading poverty. So the leaders, while still calling themselves communist, started to permit more freedoms, to recognize private property. Now they havebustling markets, capital investment, manuifacturing and export development.

This squares with what my former colleagues Steve Greenhut and Mike Shelton found when they visited Vietnam five years ago or so. The Communist Party still rules, but the ideology is generally capitalist. So who won the war? Or perhaps more pertinent, wouldn't this development have come on more quickly if we hadn't prolonged the war or maybe not fought it at all?

Some virus laid me low

I hardly ever get sick, so when I felt a little under the weather Thursday I went to work anyway. I felt pretty good Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday some kind of virus hit me like a tsunami. I didn't feel like getting up off whatever bed or couch I was lying on, but I was a bit agitated so I kept moving from one place to the other. I just didn't feel like doing a thing, had no energy. Chills and fever. I felt the same way on Monday and did stay home from work,as I'm doing today. I feel considerably better today, but far from 100%. This is all unfamiliar territory for me, but I guess some nasty bug found a way past my immune system. I hate it.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Drilling announcement mostly symbolic

I'll give Barack Obama a certain amount of credit for announcing that certain tracts on the Outer Continental Shelf could be opened to oil and gas seismic exploration and drilling. Although there's little chance any drilling will actually occur there anytime soon, he certainly has taken heat fro0m much of his base, and he had to know it was coming. It took me a while today, with help from Jerry Taylor of Cato, just what the legal status of his announcement is. As I understand it, it's an amendment to the moratorium he reinstated when he became president (see here for more of the history). It's more politically than geophysically calculated (of course), slated off the shores of states where it's likely to be popular and not off California, where it's not so likely. Jerry Taylor thinks it's his way of saying "I care" as gasoline prices rise this summer. He's probably right.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Don't Ask complications

This is too rich. As the WaPo story relates, DefSec Gates wants a survey of serving military to assess attitudes about changing the ridiculous Don't Ask Don't Tell policy regarding gays in the military, and he wants to be sure serving gays are part of it. But if a uniformed officer is told by a gay or lesbian about sexual orientation, he or she just might be required, under current policy, to initiate an investigation that could lead to dismissal. (A gay organization estimates about 2% of the military, or 66,000 people are gay or lesbian.)

This is all pretty silly. The po0licy is harmful, the military will adjust to a new policy and all this study-it-to-death gradualism is unnecessary. They ought to just change the policy, the more quickly the better.

Is Obama just obtuse about Afghanistan?

Most of the other hypotheses don't seem to make much sense, so I'm starting to approach the conclusion that Barack Obama is just not that smart. It should hardly come as a surprise. He undoubtedly has an IQ slightly higher than normal or he wouldn't have made it through college and law school (though it might be interesting to see his transcripts, which to my knowledge he hasn't released yet). But in retrospect what he seems to have displayed throughout his career is more cunning or what some would call sagacity rather than real learning. He has obviously been extremely ambitious for a long time; perhaps he has had the presidency in mind since early college days. So he has been alert to the main chance, aware of the kinds of alliances he ought to make, aware that a sensitive autobiography would make him look special in the eyes of the easily duped intellectuals of our fading empire, aware of how to present himself as a multicultural black man. But his reputation for being really smart is belied by so many of his actions.

What has me going this time is not health care, though there's plenty of evidence there, but Afghanistan. His visit there earlier this week cemented this war as "his" war. But the war makes so little sense that you would think almost any reasonably intelligent person -- I suspect he didn't take any international relations classes in college and he certainly has not shown any special interest in that field heretofore, so maybe that's a mitigating factor -- would have been able to figure it out. The official line about keeping al-Qaida out of Afghanistan is obviously absurd -- al-Qaida hasn't been there since 2002. He has to know the Taliban is an indigenous Afghan outfit without international ambitions, so while a takeover would be sad for many Afghans it would have few if any international repercussions. He is obviously aware enough that Karzai is a corrupt tool and uncooperative to boot that it annoys him. So why does he insist on maintaining a U.S. presence in the Graveyard of Empire? Does he really want to preside over the fall of the American Empire? Is he so deluded as to think we can bring a semblance of democracy, stability or semi-decent governance in the next 15 months or so? Is he just cunning enough to realize that historians tend to rank American presidents who have presided over wars as "greater" than those who presided over peaceful periods?

Maybe he's just not that smart.