Lucky or Good?

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The debate occurring under the surface of the Boston coverage is summed up by the question: were the Tsarnaev brothers lucky or good? The obvious answer is “Yes.” Any time you can pull off a hostile operation in enemy territory, luck plays a role. Ask Anna Chapman, the Russian mole whose 11-member sleeper-cell had been activated for six months before being rolled up by the FBI. But from what we are learning of Dzhokhar’s communication with authorities, they were also taking the advice of al Qaeda, as published in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP’s) online English-language magazine Inspire.

The problem (for both sides) is one of scale. The FBI has been spectacularly successful in penetrating and foiling big plots – splashy, high-profile attempts like October 17 2012, when Bangladeshi national Quazi Nafis was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation after he attempted to detonate a vehicle borne improvised explosive device outside New York’s Federal Reserve Bank, among many others. The problem with these has been that the plan is larger than the expertise contained within the cell planning the attack. When they reach out for funds, expertise or materials, the FBI intercepts the query and offers undercover help. This is the scale problem for the perpetrators.

In reacting to the increased difficulty in sending professional terrorists into the United States, al Qaeda countered by sending in suicide attackers to take out the plane in-flight. Their first attempt – the now famous December 25 2009 crotch-bomber – failed through poor tradecraft (the bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, perspired into the PETN[1] explosives in his underwear, severely degrading the charge) and heroic passengers (who subdued Mr Abdulmutallab until landing). That was followed on October 29 2010 by the UPS printer cartridge bombs intercepted in the UAE and England after a frantic search initiated by Saudi intelligence. These were ingenious devices, build by Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, AQAP’s master bombmaker, each containing 300 to 400 grams of C4 and a detonating mechanism.

It was after these failures that al Qaeda decided to shift tactics. To change scale. Actually, the first mention of going smaller was in 2009 in their Arabic-language magazine Sada al-Malahim. The al Qaeda core organization embraced this approach in May 2010 in an English-language video featuring Adam Gadahn, the Oregon-born senior al Qaeda operator, who serves as cultural advisor, media expert and English-language spokesman. But the change of heart fully kicked-in with the November 2010 issue of Inspire, when a letter from the editor, the late Samir Khan, in his “death by a thousand cuts” missive, advised “…to bring down America we do not need to strike big. In such an environment of security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve fewer players and less time to launch and thus we may circumvent the security barriers America has worked so hard to erect. This strategy of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death.” This was the official beginning of al Qaeda’s Lone Wolf tactic, encouraging domestic followers to “use what is at hand – a knife, a gun, things in your mother’s kitchen” and to strike at small soft targets in greater numbers that it takes to mount a larger strike.

Timothy McVeigh et al[2] and Major Nidal Hasan[3] are held up as prime examples of this “small ball” approach. While the Oklahoma City bombing wasn’t related to al Qaeda-esque militant Islam, it serves as an example of the difficulty to intercept a dedicated lone wolf, the Fort Hood shooting was related, and is illustrative of the dangers of allowing political correctness to taint tradecraft on the part of the authorities. The brothers Tsarnaev serve as a further example of the efficacy of lone wolf attacks.

Major Hasan was bristling with so many pre-attack red flags that luck played the largest role in his ability to carry out his horrific spasm. His business card carried the notation SoA(SWT), known to mean “Soldier of Allah” (Subhanahu aw ta’ala), the latter translating to “Glory to God.” He had put out a PowerPoint presentation while serving at Walter Reed entitled The Qur’anic Worldview as it Relates to Muslims in the US Military, which emphasized allegiance to Allah above all other allegiances. He exchanged eMails with the late Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born master propagandist for al Qaeda, operating out of northern Yemen. He so worried and disturbed co-workers that he was promoted and transferred by commander after commander to “give the problem to someone else.” Major Hasan was a walking caricature of a homegrown terrorist. Nobody dared mention “radical Islam” as a danger dwelling within Major Hasan because it just wasn’t talked about in polite circles within government. The “Allahu akbar” shooting itself was hilariously branded as “workplace violence” by the Obama administration.

Now to Boston. Pressure cooker bombs aren’t new, they’re just new here. They’ve been used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to much more effect – military-grade explosives are pandemic in war zones – as the Tsamaev brothers had to make do with fireworks charges and black powder. These devices are widely discussed on Islamist websites and how-to articles have appeared in Inspire, which Dzhokhar has freely admitted to the FBI that he and his brother regularly read. Al Qaeda encourages familial cells – parent-children, siblings, cousins etc – for security reasons. Almost automatic loyalty helps strengthen operational security among cell members running up to the attack, particularly among amateurs or first-timers.

Where Fort Hood sounds an alarm about the lack of scrutiny to warning signs, Boston demonstrates the scale problem of “a thousand cuts” for the authorities. Small, isolated, self-contained plots are hellishly difficult to detect, almost requiring friends and neighbors to provide any pre-attack intelligence for any hope of interception. And while the Tsamaevs are ethnic Chechens, tracing their roots back to that troubled region of southern Russia known to export violence, it is far more likely that the older brother was radicalized by militant Islamism and brought his younger brother along for the ride.

But the message is clear. We may be in for a spate of attacks that are much harder to preemptively stop, even if the post-attack tracking of the perpetrators is as efficient as it was in Boston. They also demonstrate an axiom of al Qaeda that is alien to the Western mind – they don’t mind in the least throwing away the shooter in the attack. As Abu al-Zarqawi[4] famously said, “You value life, we live for death.” It may also be of interest that there are numerous tutorials on the construction of suicide vests online.


[1] C5H8N4O12 or [3-Nitrooxy-2,2-bis(nitrooxymethyl)propyl] nitrate, commonly called Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, and abbreviated as PETN.

[2] Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also convicted as conspirators in the Oklahoma City bombing.

[3] The Fort Hood [Texas] shooter.

[4] Leader of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) up to his June 7 2006 killing via American air strike.

Another Interesting Session – Take Two

Another Interesting SessionTake Two

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This week’s SCOTUS activity was interesting on two counts – one for a refusal of certiorari, and one for the orals it did hear.

There are several Second Amendment cases wending their way through the appellate court system having to do with restrictive concealed carry state laws, and New York’s case (Kachalsky v Cacace) finished first, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals having decided that New York’s restrictive permitting of individuals to carry a weapon in public (only one-half of one percent of New Yorkers have concealed carry permits, compared to the average in neighboring states of ~6%) to be constitutional. Plaintiffs filed a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court, which was declined Monday without dissent or comment by the Justices.

The High Court, in other words, deferred to the state as long as a citizen’s right to reasonably bear firearms is not infringed.

Notable among the other cases is an Illinois case challenging the state’s outright ban of carrying a firearm in public, which the 7th US Court of Appeals overturned, Judge Richard Posner writing that the Legislature had 180 days to produce a law that “shows some awareness of the Constitution.” Colorado’s 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law requiring concealed carry permits to awarded only to Colorado residents. California and Hawaii had three cases before the legendary 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, summed up by Peruta v San Diego, which challenged California’s restrictive concealed carry law that requires an applicant to demonstrate a need to carry. The Court issued a summary judgment upholding existing law. In North Carolina, there is a challenge to a law permitting concealed carry in restaurants and bars. Most others have to do with legal aliens’ challenging various state laws prohibiting non-citizens from gaining concealed carry permits. As there are a number of issues involved in these various cases, some will undoubtedly be granted certiorari as they exhaust their appeals court runs.

In the case they did hear Monday, Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics, the Court is deciding if a human gene can be patented. Not unlike Windsor and Hollingsworth, discussed in Another Interesting Session (in these pages on 28 March) this case involves a lot of visceral emotion which may cloud the legal questions raised by this case. At issue in AMP v Myriad is Myriad’s patenting of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, commonly referred to as the “breast cancer genes,” as their mutations are present in most breast and many ovarian cancers. Myriad, which is working feverously on developing and perfecting tests to detect these mutations, has patented the two genes so as not to endanger their $500 million investment in this work. Revenues from BRCA tests ($405.5 million in its last fiscal year) represents 80% of Myriad’s profits.

Challenging the upholding of the patents by two Courts of Appeals, AMP represents several women’s groups and medical associations, holding that human DNA is a naturally occurring entity (equated to trees, clouds and the sun in their brief), and is therefore a nonsensible candidate for patenting, which according to US case law and patent statute, can be awarded only for human inventions. There is also anecdotal evidence of women unaware of, or unable to afford, Myriad’s BRCA tests developing preventable cancers because, in the opinion of physicians, those tests cannot be part of standard screening owing to Myriad’s monopoly.

I think this case may break the 5-4 tradition of the Kennedy Court and break large in favor of overturning the ability to patent human DNA or any portion thereof.

Zero Dark Thirty

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I watched Zero Dark Thirty last night, and can recommend it. A lot of the story was compressed, and I can understand that – the hunt consumed a decade in real time – but overall, the story Ms Bigelow wanted to tell was well told.

It faithfully demonstrates how mostly boring, often confusing and frequently frustrating intelligence collection and analysis can be. The painstaking task of piecing together a mosaic of dribs and drabs into a coherent picture of what is going on is not for the impatient. The episodes of “enhanced” interrogation were collapsed into an abbreviated sequence heavier on brutality than how it actually works, but it would take a film in its own right to try to “explain” the techniques to a movie audience. I’m alright with how it was handled – as part of a larger story. The narrowing-down of suspects, wading through a swamp of noms de guerre to isolate actual people, the confirming of suspicions about certain actors, all was well told here.

The mission-specific preparation of SEAL Team Six for the operation was entirely left out (not even a mention of the construction of a duplicate of bin Laden’s compound for endless rehearsals), substituted perhaps for the political drudgery of trying to convince the politicians of the degree of confidence that bin Laden was in the compound – also a necessary part of the story, but too bad other important facets were sacrificed in its favor. Sprinkled through were high profile incidents: the bombing of Kobar Towers in Riyadh; the thwarted Times Square bombing attempt; the killing of a CIA officer working on the bin Laden hunt at the intelligence headquarters in Kandahar’s Maruf district – all were documented in the film.

The centerpiece of the effort focuses on “Maya,” the fictitious name of the real CIA analyst who relentlessly pursued bin Laden’s location for a decade (“Jen,” in Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette’s No Easy Day, a first-hand account of the operation), was excellently played by Jessica Chastain, with whom I was unfamiliar before seeing the film. The operation itself was a fitting end for the story, well and accurately told, if compressed for cinematic and pacing reasons – all acceptable in my view.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is good film with the benefit of treating CIA, warts and all, honestly – right up there with Charlie Wilson’s War and The Good Shepherd. It takes a few obligatory Hollywood left-wing shots, but the overriding treatment is told evenhandedly and without preaching.

Another Interesting Session

Another Interesting Session

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Two cases dealing with same-sex marriage have been granted certiorari before the US Supreme Court. One, United States v Edith Schlain Windsor, deals with the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the other, Hollingsworth v Perry, deals with the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Although the bulk of the media will swoon over the plight of same-sex couples, the issues here are legal – that is, does the Constitution give the federal government a role in deciding such things.

Windsor is interesting because it contains hazards for both the right and left. DOMA, which in 1996 passed the House 342 to 67 and the Senate 85 to 14, defines marriage in Section 3, for the purpose of the approximately 1,100 federal laws that pertain to marriage, as a legal union between one man and one woman. Its supporters considered this necessary as a prophylactic against single-sex marriages for the purpose of federal benefits, ranging from tax breaks to estate probation. Detractors cite the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause as obviating the attempt. The Supreme Court will weigh the 14th Amendment against the 10th Amendment’s enumerated powers clause, giving states and the people powers not mentioned in the Constitution, as amended. Hollingsworth argues that California has no right to bar same-sex marriages, and specifically addresses one of the two suits filed to invalidate the referendum.

Most cited in same-sex debates is the 2003 Lawrence v Texas decision, striking down a Texas anti-sodomy law. The Court declared that intimate sexual conduct between consenting adults was off limits to government regulation. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted that “the Court’s decision would have no wider application.” “Do not believe it!” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia roared in dissent. “Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” he wrote. And within months, Massachusetts became the first state in the union to codify the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.

Massachusetts, eight other states and the District of Columbia currently recognize same-sex marriages. At the same time thirty states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and eight others have adopted statutes enforcing the same traditional definition.

This is an interesting combination of cases because one is federal law and the other a state law. For example, if Windsor is decided as a 10th Amendment violation and struck down, Hollingsworth must be upheld under the same grounds. This will not be lost on the Justices. Neither will Justice Kennedy’s disclaimer on Lawrence be lost on Justice Kennedy.

Looking at Hollingsworth on merits, there are three basic possible outcomes of striking it down: depending upon the wording of the majority decision, striking down Proposition 8 could apply across the country, in effect invalidating constitutional provisions or statutes against gay marriage everywhere; the Justices could agree on the 10th Amendment argument, upholding Proposition 8 in California while legitimizing same-sex marriage in the nine states and DC that have legislated so (and all that shall in the future); or, the Court could follow the Kennedy disclaimer in Lawrence and apply the invalidation of Proposition 8 to California only.

Upholding Proposition 8 would leave gay Californians without the right to marry in the state and would tell the thirty-eight states that do not allow same-sex marriages that there is no constitutional problem in limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Such an outcome probably would trigger a political campaign in California to repeal Proposition 8 through another ballot measure and could give impetus to similar voter or legislative efforts in other states.

There is one other possibility – the Supreme Court could decide that those appealing the California high court overturning of Proposition 8 do not have standing to appeal – they have suffered no ill-effects by the California court’s actions. Given that, the US Supreme Court does not have a question before it, and would simply remand the case back to California, effectively upholding that court’s overturning of Proposition 8.

As to DOMA, if the Court upholds Section 3 – banning same-sex unions as a federal definition of marriage – it would leave in-place the state laws legitimizing same-sex marriages, but would deny federal benefits (Social Security survivors benefits, spousal insurance coverage, various estate provisions, federal income tax breaks, and so forth).

The effects of striking down of DOMA would also get into the weeds of why the Court did so. If it does so on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause – saying in effect that there is no substantive difference between straight and gay couples – that would strike a blow to the thirty-eight states that have ruled otherwise, and undoubtedly set in motion suits to nullify those provisions. If the Court decides Windsor as a 14th Amendment issue, it would nullify the thirty-eight state prohibitions against same-sex marriage, opening the way for legislative relief to those couples for state-recognized marriage. If it decides Windsor on 10th Amendment grounds, it would leave in-place the nine state and District of Columbia statutes allowing same-sex marriage as well as the thirty-eight state statutes prohibiting it. I call this the “Kennedy Ruling,” and assign it the highest probability of the eventual outcome.

The ruling will come down in June.

Finally!

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The US Senate stood eye-to-eye with tradition and tradition blinked. They actually passed a budget for the first time since 2009. Of course it contains a trillion in new taxes and no cuts, but, hey … it’s a budget. We need to be easy on them, Senate Democrats aren’t used to following the law on this. Debbie Wasserperson-Schultz isn’t worried about defense cuts, airport control tower closings or White House tour cancellations … she’s worried that House staffers will have to pay $10 for lunch in the House cafeteria. Just after ObamaCare passed, nearly half of doctors polled across the country said they would probably take early retirement rather than subject themselves to increasingly nationalized medicine. That’s now up to 60% of doctors polled across the country, and most predict even more as the last parts of ObamaCare kicks-in next year. Iraq is devolving back into secular warfare as the Taliban mark the days off their calendars, waiting for Americans to bug-out. Each month is still seeing more people quitting the labor force in disgust than those finding jobs. After a yawner of a trip to Israel, even the administration-friendly New York Times’ Thomas Friedman referred to Obama as the first sitting US President to visit Israel as a tourist. Remember the federally-run state exchanges that were going to be so easy to use – to get insurance if other routes were unavailable? Well, Henry Chao, who heads the effort to bring forth that software is beginning to panic. “The time for choosing screen color and fonts, to make the sites user-friendly, are over – we’re just hoping it isn’t a Third World experience.” He’s hoping, in other words, that the wonder of ObamaCare is better than Zimbabwe’s for those who it was designed to help. But enough about the state of the union.

Even after eight years of abysmal political leadership – and I use that phrase very loosely, I will be optimistic about America. Because Americans can overcome it. The world now wakes up to iPhone communication, Amazon online buying, social networking on Facebook, Google internet searches, and writing and computing with Microsoft software. Why weren’t these innovations first developed in Japan, PRC or Germany – all wealthy industrial countries with large, well-educated and hard-working populations? Because in such nations, young oddballs like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs more likely would have needed the proper parentage, age, family connections or government-insider sanction to be given a fair shake[1].

America is the land that attracts other nations’ young oddballs because here, it is the idea that, in the end, rules – not the innovator’s age, gender, connections, religion, creed or race. We remain the most meritocratic society in history, singular in our devotion to innovation and pragmatism. We will overcome this infatuation with Europeanism because, much to the disgust of the left in this country, American Exceptionalism is very real – and shared opportunity is stronger than the tired ideology of “shared sacrifice.”


[1] See Victor Davis Hanson, America’s big fat advantage, Hoover Institution [Stanford University], March 21 2013.

Thought for the Day 2

Every time there is a “crisis” in Washington (a dusting of snow, most recently), the White House announces that “non-essential employees” needn’t show up for work. I say, on the next such occasion, take attendance and pink-slip those not answering “Here.” We obviously don’t need “non-essential” government.

Full Circle[1]

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Well, I’ve come full circle on the sequester. We should let it happen. Sure, it’ll be very bad for defense, but so will this administration anyway. The main reason I’m now for it is that I’m convinced this is the only way we will get any cuts in non-defense federal spending, even if it doesn’t touch the real problem – entitlements. Any start is a good start.

His “balanced” approach to kicking the can down the road this latest time turned out to mean higher taxes with no cuts. Now he’s talking “balance” again. His thirst for stealing the earned wealth of others is insatiable. It has become obvious that the president isn’t serious about cutting government spending – four more trillion-dollar deficits won’t bring him down, and he doesn’t give a flying *#!@ about the debt – that’ll be somebody else’s problem.

With 14% of what’s left of the workforce un- or under-employed, trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, a “What difference does it make” foreign policy, and around seven million “If you like your insurance, you can keep it” individuals set to lose their coverage this year, our president takes off on a “Let them eat cake” trip to Florida for golf lessons and to play a couple of rounds with Tiger Woods. Michelle and the girls set off for Aspen on another $17,000 an hour presidential plane. These people have no intention of cutting anything.

He started this “post-partisan” Chicago-style thugocracy early-on – a trillion-dollar political payoff package known as a “stimulus” (PS, it didn’t work) and a trillion-dollar entitlement package hilariously called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in his first two years, both with a grand total of three Republican votes. Voters reacted by removing his legislative majorities in both houses. And now here we are with the latest “crisis.” The sequester was cooked up in the West Wing by Jack Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors[2] and promoted by the president, let him have it. It’s time to think of saving the republic from further trauma. Try to mitigate as much systemic damage as possible, and hold fast on further usurpation of individuals’ earnings. No more taxes. Deal with it.


[1] Title art by Sally Helper.

[2] See Bob Woodward, Obama’s sequester deal-changer, in Washington Post, February 22 2013.

It’s Official, There’s Something in the Water in San Francisco

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Nancy Pelosi, on national television, stated – with a straight face – that “we do not have a spending problem, we have a deficit problem.”

For any Nancy Pelosi think-a-likes out there, I’m writing this slowly, and I will try to use small words. In 2012, we spent $3.8 trillion dollars, while taking in $2.47 trillion. That’s a shortfall (read: deficit) of $1.33 trillion. If the problem isn’t spending, then it’s income, meaning that we need to raise taxes by 53.846%. Everybody’s tax bill needs to more than double to solve our “deficit problem” without viewing it as a spending problem. Did I lose anyone? I’ll give you time to re-read the paragraph before continuing.

This administration has become so blasé about lying to our face that the leader of Democrats in the House of Representatives can look us in the electronic eye and make such a statement. It’s tax-and-spend on steroids, but finally presented honestly – we need whatever revenues are required to complete our dystopia of all-government-all-the-time. The unbridled arrogance and apparent psychosis in this statement is made all the more dangerous by the 47% of voters who don’t pay any income taxes whatsoever – what do they care about everybody else’s taxes? Their incentive is to increase taxes on those who do pay, so they can continue to reap their entitlements.

For those who still enjoy an even basic understanding of economics, it should be remembered that government is a non-productive segment of the economy – it’s a productivity sink. The higher portion of the nation’s efforts that are usurped by government, the less goes to improving the standard of living, the less is left to do the hiring and expansion that is needed for a growing economy. This administration is strangling the golden goose it needs to finance its hallucination of a liberal utopia.

Oh My God! Get Over It!

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Enterprise Florida, a public-private joint venture that promotes business development in Florida, released a new logo (shown above), and news sites and Facebook lit up. It turns out the stylizing the “i” in “Florida” as a necktie is sexist. Really? This is today’s bête noire?

First, there is no constitutional right not to be insulted. It’s called maturity – shrug and move on (if by someone you know, cross them off of your “Merry Winter Solstice” card list).

Second, these people who see everything through a racist/sexist/Islamaphobic/fill-in-the-blank’ist filter, need to find something productive to do with their time; there are real problems in this world and logos aren’t on that list. If a Judeo-Christian-hating, misogynist, misanthrope had a plan that could pass Congress and solve our hallucinatory spending binge, I would vote for him/her/it.

Third, if this hideously inappropriate and blasphemously insensitive promotion fails, it will have cost these knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers the $380,000 it cost to develop the logo – wouldn’t that be a good thing to these “I’m insulted” whiners? If, on the other hand, it causes some businessmen/businesswomen/businessthings to consider Florida for its tax and regulatory advantages, and start or relocate their companies in Florida, hiring people, wouldn’t that be a good thing for Floridians? Win-win.

Fourth, and I love this one, the furor being raised by these whiners has brought the logo (and what it stands for) to instant national attention, furthering the cause of Florida as a favorable business environment – pure genius on their part, I’d say.

Any of you ladies have workable ideas on stabilizing the Middle East? Didn’t think so.

Hagal at Defense

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Ordinarily I would question this choice. Chuck Hagal is a blank slate on defense – he’s not authored a single substantive bill on the subject, written a paper on it, delivered a memorable speech about it. He’s the Susan Rice of defense – chosen to represent an issue about which he exhibits no particular expertise. His observations on international affairs have been curious, but then, the SecDef doesn’t set policy, just carries it out. And I think that is what lies behind the choice.

The president doesn’t want advisors, he wants functionaries that will carry out his vision of a “transformed” America – his legacy. Mr Obama will hand the next president a diminished and atrophied military, and his next SecDef will oversee the final evisceration of that force.

Both sides of the aisle will have more problems with this nominee than I do. I don’t think it will matter who sits at this desk for next four years – we will wind up with the smallest fleet since before World War I, the smallest fighter force in Air Force history, and a shrinking ground force. That’s the “vision.”

Democrats will have problems with Mr Hagal because he is a Republican. Republicans will have problems because of his rather curious views. I don’t look for this to be a smooth confirmation process, though, in the end, I think he will be confirmed.

Let’s start with the basics. A president is somewhat owed the people he wants to carry out the operation of the Executive Branch of government. There are, or should be, common sense exceptions: for example, Democrats denied Senator John Tower (R-TX) the same post due to a drinking problem – which manifested itself in his escorting a stripper into the Tidal Basin. If being befuddled by TurboTax® wasn’t found sufficient to deny Tim Giethner the Treasury job[1], then a featureless stint in the US Senate certainly won’t rise to that level.

Overall, I see the next SecDef more as a placeholder than an advocate or architect of the future military, and therefore, it doesn’t really matter who is in the job – they won’t be able to stop the momentum of the dismantling of American global power. Having said that, I don’t think it can be completed in four years, but the next president will have a major reconstruction job to do before considering much of anything else. These programs have such long lead-times, that the damage that will be done in next four years will take a decade or so to rectify. In the meantime, critical institutional capacity will erode and an irreplaceable skilled workforce will dwindle. But again, this is the “vision.”

I can’t really think of Democrat that I would want as SecDef, so a nondescript one is probably as good as any.


[1] In an extraordinary vote, the Senate overlooked what everyone knew was an outright lie and confirmed a tax-cheat to head the agency that oversees the IRS. This was a new low in the legitimacy of the Senate confirmation process.