The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Design Margin

As he almost always does, Richard Fernandez gets the the heart of the matter when he writes about the war in Ukraine and Biden administration response. 

Consider how many miscalculations both sides have already made to get us to this point; inevitably as we miscalculated in the past so we will in the future. Bearing this in mind, the West’s grand strategy ought to build fault tolerance and focus on the basics. The obvious place to start is to get the energy house in order, the borders under control, and the critical industries back where they belong. Washington ought to plan as if it’s going to be a long war, not something that will be settled before the midterms.

The Guardian called the Biden administration the “cursed presidency” and that’s not probably not just due to bad luck. Historically, disaster came in flurries. In the bible they are called conquest, pestilence, famine and death — the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The secular explanation for this clustering is that disaster begets disaster. Society runs out of design margin. Things fall apart. Imagine if politicians squandered public money, closed down domestic energy industries, and bought instead from despots who used the funds to prepare for Conquest. Imagine further a Pestilence out of China wrecking the supply chain; then War could break out on a weakened world and ruin the wheat harvest and unleash Famine. You would have the Four Horsemen complete. Alas no one might notice as long as Washington got the Iran nuclear deal.

The Ivy League geniuses who have run our foreign policy for decades have never distinguished themselves in the long game. Driven by domestic politics, they make "miscalculations" that are often near-catastrophic. They inevitably lack pragmatism and often put America last. When driven by the latest woke politics, their policies and decision-making is near-insane. Consider the purposeful destruction of our energy independence under Biden or ruinous COVID policies that were ineffective, unscientific, and projected weakness all at the same time, or the inability to continue a trend toward bringing critical industries back within our borders, or the acceleration of regulations and other government mandates that discourage investment in critical infrastructure and delay its implementation by years, if not longer.

As Fernandez notes, Biden's predicament is not solely due to bad luck. The anonymous "Committee" that runs the country (Biden is the cognitively-challenged spokesperson, but hardly its leader) is falling over itself to amplify bad luck—making nicey-nice with the mad mullahs of Iran, begging the thugs in Venezuela to provide oil for international consumption, and all-of-a-sudden recognizing that the murder on one journalist should not dictate foreign policy in Saudi Arabia. 

Here's the problem—the Committee is a Team of 1s. They have demonstrated over the past 14 months that they are incompetent, and worse, potentially dangerous. Not only are their decisions lacking in fault tolerance and design margin, they don't even understand what those concepts mean.

As they stumble through the history of our time, the Four Horsemen watch and smile.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

How, When, and Why?

In an interesting article, Roger Kimball posits that political forces that were once rabidly pro-Biden may now be moving to remove him from the presidency. After all, it's clear that Biden suffers from age-related dimentia and is tanking in virtually every poll.  The anonymous "committee" that runs the country and uses Biden as their puppet has made a continuing series of catastrophic errors in domestic and foreign policy in the 14 months they've been in power. Their problem is to somehow remain in power while removing Biden and more problematically, Kamala Harris. Most observers understand the political 'whys,' but the 'whys' offered as part of a Democrat narrative are yet to be defined. And the how and when are still hazy.

Kimball discusses the "conundrum" faced by GOP elites in the 1974 when faced with removing Richard Nixon from the Presidency but having to face to loose cannon of VP Spiro Agnew, and then writes:

Kamala Harris is more of a problem. She is at least as appallingly incompetent as her boss, and no less challenged rhetorically, as her alarming performance in Poland and Romania a week or two back demonstrated. But Harris will not be as easy to shift as was Agnew ...

But Biden’s—and Harris’—polls continue to crater, with 60 percent of respondents disapproving of the job Biden is doing, and 50 percent “strongly” disapproving. It’s the worst showing yet, and many commentators are rubbing salt into the wound by stressing the adverb: We’ve been traveling down this road for months, they say, and so far every “worst yet” turns out to be tomorrow’s “hold my beer” moment.

The last several days have been full of wonder at the New York Time’s admission that, guess what, Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” was not—as Joe Biden claimed—“Russian disinformation.” Nope, everything that Donald Trump said to Leslie Stahl [of CBS's 60 Minutes] about it was true. Everything the New York Post said about it was true. Twitter and the rest of the regime media pronounced a damnatio memoriae on the Post and anyone who dared publicize the scurrilous story. The poor computer repair chap who found and publicized the dirt, political as well as sexual, on Hunter’s laptop was hounded and driven into bankruptcy...

The truth was there, staring everyone in the face. Remember Tony Bobulinski? He is the former Navy officer and businessman who was set to start a financial company with Hunter and Jim Biden, Joe’s brother. As I noted at the time, just before the 2020 election Bobulinski demonstrated, with copious contemporary documentation, 

"that various Chinese entities, all of whom—like all things Chinese—are ultimately answerable to the party, have invested heavily in the Bidens via various business enterprises of Joe’s son Hunter. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars.
Now, why would the Chinese do this? Out of some misplaced humanitarian instinct? No, they did it in order “to capitalize on the Biden name.” At the time, remember, Joe was vice-president of the United States. That was all that Hunter had to offer. But it was, the Chinese wagered, quite a lot. Many thought that Joe Biden might be president, and it turns out they were right.

I agree that it's likely that Joe is gonna go. The smell of corruption hangs in the air around him and his other negatives are ... well, staggeringly obvious. But the questions remain: How, When, and Why? 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Iran Deal 2.0

From 2009 to 2017, Barack Obama was the driver of a foreign policy that pinballed between fecklessness and dangerously bad decisions and actions. I posted an overview of Obama's greatest geopolitical hits here

His crowning achievement came in 2015, when he and his foreign policy Team of 2s, desperate for a foreign policy win, capitulated to the Mullahs in Iran and signed the "Iran Deal." At that time, I commented on the idiocy of that deal here, here, here, here and here—to cite just a few of many posts on the subject.

My feelings about the deal and the immediate aftermath can be summarized as follows:

Those of us who were violently opposed to Barack Obama's Iran "deal" suggested that: (1) the negotiation was a pathetic attempt to bolster Obama's "legacy" at the expense of the interests of our country and our allies in the Middle Eat and Europe; (2) that Iran could not be trusted; (3) that the "deal" was so one-sided that it smacked of capitulation; (4) that it gave the world's foremost sponsor of terror between $100 and $150 billion dollars in assets that could be used against the west. Like every other foreign policy failure of Obama and his team of 2s, the deal began falling apart within weeks of its signing. 

Now, Joe Biden and his Team of 1s, equally desperate for anything that can be characterized as a foreign policy win (after the catastrophic debacle in Afghanistan and the growing unease with our response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine), have decided to double down on the stupidity evidenced during a time when he was VP under Obama.

Ladies and Gentleman—Iran Deal 2.0—the ugly sequel to an historically bad deal with a notoriously bad actor, Iran. Even worse, this is a deal that has been brokered in part by Russia. Yeah, that would be the same country that has has created a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine and only has our very best interests at heart.

Gabriel Noronha reports that "... three top U.S. diplomats had quit [the Iran talks]—largely in protest over the direction set by U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, who serves as the U.S. government’s chief negotiator." 

Malley, a card carrying member of Biden's foreign policy Team of 1s, will show all of the intelligence and savvy exhibited by his boss when he (well, actually the puppet masters who feed Biden's teleprompter) drove U.S. energy policy into a ditch.

Noronha summarizes this foreign policy travesty:

The list of concessions that follows is long, detailed, disturbing, but also somewhat technical. But this much is clear to me: The deal being negotiated in Vienna is dangerous to U.S. national security, to the stability of the Middle East, and to the Iranian people who suffer most under that brutal regime. The lack of evidence to justify a removal of U.S. sanctions is illegal, and the deal that will be foisted upon the world without the support of Congress will be illegitimate. This deal will not serve U.S. interests in either the short or long term.

With Robert Malley in the lead, the United States has promised to lift sanctions on some of the regime’s worst terrorists and torturers, on leading officials who have developed Iran’s WMD infrastructure, and has agreed to lift sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) itself. In exchange, Iran will receive fewer limitations than those imposed under the JCPOA, and the restrictions on its nuclear program will expire six years sooner than under the terms of the old deal. And that’s just the beginning.

There'll be much more to come, but one thing is certain. No matter what the final outcome of Iran Deal 2.0, it's likely to be no better than a disastrous Iran Deal 1.0 and probably be much, much worse.

UPDATE (3-11-2022):

A little good news. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Iran talks have broken off without a deal. In a month that has seemed to contain only bad news both domestically and internationally, the fact that no Iran deal has been made is a bright spot. 

I suspect that the drive to reenter the fantasy realm in which Iran is an honest and non-malevolent actor will push Biden's Team's of 1s to capitulate even further. But maybe not. We can always hope.



Thursday, March 03, 2022


No more than a month ago, the political elites around the Western world believed fervently that industrialized nations would act with caution whenever they had a tendency to become belligerent. Things would be settled at the U.N. or via multi-party negotiations, or via the fear of condemnation by "the world." They believed that the hard men whose dictatorial control of a few powerful nation states would bow to woke ideology, or human rights, or climate change or any of the things that our political elites thought would control the violent tendencies of those same hard men in the never ending quest for expansive power.

The tragic events of the past two weeks in Ukraine and the despicable actions of Vladimir Putin and his military prove yet again that Western political elites would prefer to believe in their fantasy—at least until the reality of the actions of hard men smack them squarely in the face.

Ten years ago, Barack Obama exemplified the fantasy position of the Western political elites during a presidential debate. The Boston Herald reports:

Nearly 10 years ago, soon after former Gov. Mitt Romney settled into his third debate against then-President Barack Obama, he was quickly painted by his presidential opponent as being out of touch — especially with foreign policy.

“A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda. You said Russia,” Obama told him.

“And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he quipped. 

The Democrat's trained hamsters in the media gleefully reported the exchange, noting that Romney was tied to the past and that the sainted Obama was a global citizen, a man of the future. 

The fact that Obama was dead wrong isn't a surprise. Russia—far from being a docile and agreeable partner in the new word order—has become a violent and aggressive actor, all on the whim of its dictatorial leader. During the intervening 10 years, Western political elites believed that they could dismiss Russia, do what they wanted to do in Europe, and ignore a growing threat that Romney recognized and that they dismissed.

Our political elites expected proper behavior and were smug in their actions. Germany, for example, was perfectly willing to decommission power plants and become increasingly dependent on Russian oil and gas. Joe Biden aggressively moved to shut down oil leases and pipelines in the United States, crushing our growing energy independence in the process. They believed in fantasy—until it collided with reality. 

Daniel Henninger uses the history of the past few years in the United States in an effort to explain the catalyst that lead to the catastrophic events in Ukraine. He writes::

Across the U.S., behavior outside the boundaries of established civil order—[riots], violence, murder, theft—has become routine because the police have become less willing to prevent disorder. [For months during the summer of 2020, the police were demonized by many political elites in the USA and other Western countries with allegations that all police were "systemically racist" and that they should be defunded.]

That collapse, in essence, is what has happened in Ukraine. Until a week ago, Kyiv, like any big American city, was largely an orderly place—with problems to be sure, but nonetheless providing normal space for people to live their daily lives. Then Vladimir Putin obliterated the fine line that sits between order and disorder, in the process explicitly threatening the postwar order of Europe itself.

The orderliness of life doesn’t just happen. Order has come from centuries of political effort, much of it to make the rule of law stronger than the law of the jungle. Maintaining that order is a political responsibility. It requires political leaders who are willing to ensure that the line between order and disorder doesn’t blur, or collapse.

With Mr. Putin’s reduce-to-rubble invasion of Ukraine, the world’s leaders—notably German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg—are recognizing that they didn’t do enough to prevent a determined outlaw like Mr. Putin from collapsing the weak presumptions that had propped up Europe’s orderly existence.

Now a free country is being destroyed by Putin, a hard man who doesn't give a damn about the opprobrium of people like Scholz and Stoltenberg, who couldn't care less about the things that they believe are the primary drivers of future governance. 

And worse, these same Western political elites are now left with few viable options to stop the carnage in the Ukraine. So they say the right words and do what they can. But when your strategies over many years are based on fantasy, a harsh reality can and will intervene. That's what has happened in Ukraine.