Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Why Dennis Prager is wrong

Dennis Prager recently wrote a column and placed it on his website that I find to be part of the endemic societal response to everything: fear and outrage. It would seem that everything that happens in America, and in the world, is the worst thing ever and clearly marks the point of no return for the human race. While sensational and profitable, it just ain’t true. So, in a totally different approach, I took Mr. Prager’s column and responded to each and every point, not to prove him wrong, instead to provide some perspective to what he is saying. The complete text of his column is initalics and offset with asterisks while my comments are in standard font.

*I cannot imagine any thinking person who does not believe the world is getting worse.

Well, I guess I might surprise him…

*The number of slaughtered and the number of refugees from slaughter is immense and growing.

Remember that hundreds of millions were slaughtered during the 20th century, not to mention other eras in history where populations were relatively much smaller and tens of millions were slaughtered.

*Islamic State now controls territories from Afghanistan to West Africa. Libya is in the process of being added to that list. And other sadistic Islamist movements hold additional territory.

Remember when the Soviets controlled a significant portion of the planet, either directly or indirectly, and had nuclear missiles a hop skip and a jump from Florida…

*According to Pew Research, approximately 10 percent of world Muslims have a favorable opinion of the Islamic State and terror against civilians. That’s more than 100 million people.

A country of more than one billion people used to be overtly hostile to the U.S. and is now a trading partner that depends on trading with us (China).

*The Iranian regime has just increased the reward it will give to anyone who murders Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, is increasing its repression at home, now has more than a hundred billion additional dollars to spend on terror and regularly calls for the annihilation of Israel.

Iran has been a rogue regime for many years and it is important to keep in mind that the existence of the current regime was in no small part due to our own intervention in wanting to depose the Shah.

*Iran just received from Russia the most powerful anti-aircraft weapons that exist outside the United States, making a successful air attack on Iran almost impossible.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Soviets basically create the craziest regime on the planet (N. Korea) during the last century. And the idea that Iran is impregnable now is foolish and dramatic.

*Europe is allowing in another million migrants from the Middle East, few of whom share Europe’s primary moral values. One consequence is that European women are being sexually attacked in increasing numbers. Another is that European countries are making criticism of Muslims or Islam — no matter how rational the critique — a crime punishable by jail time and/or fines.

At one point in history, didn’t Catholics in Europe kill people for religious heresy and we refer to it as the Inquisition? The world recovered from that institutionalized religious attempt at eliminating competition by slaughter, and to think that this most recent attempt at the same ends will mark the end of civilization when a significant technological divide separates the aggressors from their would-be victims is sensational and hardly likely.

*The only thing stopping regular mass murder of Europeans and Americans is increased European and American police work. And no one believes that this will suffice to prevent future attacks.

I think Prager gives too much credit to both terrorists and the police; let us remember the TSA has never—to my knowledge—ever prevented an attack. If he wishes to present evidence that somehow crime rates are higher, I would be happy to see it, but most of the evidence points to diminishing crime rates in general; particularly when you control for non-violent drug offenses. This would be like making Coca Cola illegal and then stating that the rise in crime rates due to Coke related arrests is indicative of a society in collapse; it is sophomoric, illogical, and merely designed to scare people. The growth of the police state should concern Prager more. Remember those hundreds of millions killed in the twentieth century I mentioned earlier? They were all killed by governments that established police states.

*Russia is led by a KGB man who seeks to replace American influence with Russian influence wherever possible. And he is allowed to do so by the American president and the Democratic Party.

Russia—as the Soviet Union—was run by the people who invented the KGB and they also wanted to replace American influence wherever possible…and, remember Lenin and Stalin? I am quite certain that, while I do agree Putin is a security threat, his threat is hardly greater than that of his 19th and 20th century predecessors; do bad actors like Hitler and Mussolini ring a bell.

*While Russia continues to attempt, in Charles Krauthammer’s words, “to fracture and subordinate” Ukraine, the United States under Obama refuses to send Ukraine weapons.

We—at one point in history—not only stood idly by while essentially the same nation expanded by force, but we helped them (remember: FDR called Stalin Uncle Joe).

*The United States is led by a president whose primary foe seems to be the prime minister of Israel, even though the prime minister’s country happens to be the freest, most moral and most pro-American country in the Middle East.

And he is opposed by people who seem largely obsessed with the same man…just for different reasons. Perhaps if Bush would not have preached restraint to the Israelis while we carpet bombed our attackers, much of this would be a non-issue at this point. Incidentally, everyone does realize the Israel is a socialist state, right?

*The commander of the U.S. Pacific Command recently told Congress “that China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” in order to gain “hegemony in East Asia.”

Hmmmm…I am partial to the good ole USA, but it smacks of a bit of hypocrisy for us to spend more on defense than—I believe—the next 16 countries combined and complain when one of those 16 builds theirs too. We scoff at the notion from other nations that we are attempting to control the globe through military might, but use the same argument against China? That is politics, I guess.

*Cuba now has American recognition, and as a direct result has felt free to increase its subjugation of the Cuban people. In January, the Cuban regime arrested 1,414 political dissidents, the second-most ever recorded. It will be rewarded by a visit from President Obama.

There are five communist countries left on the planet and we have long traded with three of them (Cuba and North Korea being the exceptions); by the way, exporting capitalism was one of Reagan’s plans to topple the Soviet’s. If not trading with them is the way to break the Cuban regime, shouldn’t they be long gone by now?

*In the United States, most universities are being taken over by a fascistic expression of leftism. Student thugs take over administration offices with impunity, shout down speakers with whom they differ, and many faculty members support them. In the name of “diversity” and “tolerance,” American universities, once a jewel of free thought and intellectual inquiry, have become places Americans who cherish liberty and cherish America increasingly fear to send their children.

Universities have been leftist for a while now. Furthermore, I have a BS in political science and a Master’s in Economics (the equivalent of 6 years of higher education via several colleges/universities) and I have never encountered the iron-fisted liberalism which is often discussed on talk radio. In fact, my most liberal professor conceded multiple points to me (because I used evidence and not hyperbole). Additionally, that same professor offered to write me a recommendation for graduate school. I might suggest that the effect of liberal professors has become a convenient way for students with conservative parents to explain their mediocre grades…

*Contempt for America and its founding ideals are indoctrinated into America’s youth from high school on. If shown any of the iconic paintings of the Founders — such as signing the Declaration of Independence or deliberating at the Constitutional Convention — rather than seeing great people creating a great nation, most young Americans now only see racist, sexist, rich, slave-owning white males.

Fallacies about the founders—and much of history—are not isolated to progressives; conservatives also spread a lot of mis-information and this is not a new problem. [Example being that all settlers from Europe supposedly came fleeing from religious persecution and seeking religious freedom; the fact is that Puritans fled England because religion was too free and easy. They set up a colony with designs on imposing religion and even killed dissenters in some cases.] Furthermore, I would suggest that instead of people exhibiting the response Mr. Prager suggests most students would not know who the people they were looking at are.

*As its universities make clear, the West is committing suicide. At UCLA one doesn’t have to read a single play by Shakespeare in order to receive a degree in English. But one is fully indoctrinated regarding “White Privilege,” “systemic racism,” “income inequality,” “homophobia,” “hate speech,” “climate change” and whatever radicals care about.

First of all, while reading Shakespeare does have some entertaining value and historical context, it is effectively worthless for much of society; particularly an English major (because nobody talks like that). Secondly, those things are discussed rather sparingly, and are dependent on the field chosen. If you go into sociology you are likely to encounter a lot of leftist ideas, if you go into finance or economics, the discussions will be about markets and those things which increase economic activity like reduced taxes and the fallacy of the wage floor as a means to increase the well-being of society.

*A Republican presidential debate opens with a comment by the leading Republican candidate about the size of his penis. And the audience cheers.

I really could care less about this. Guys have been talking like that since the beginning of time and will continue to until the end. The fact that it leaked out on TV is of no measureable consequence to me (I am not a Trump fan, incidentally).

*The American president, a black man elected in the hope that he would unify the races, has overseen the greatest rift between the races since the 1960s. His repeated references to “Ferguson,” reinforcing the lie that a white policeman killed an innocent black teenager for no reason other than the young man’s race, is only one such example. One result is a rhetorical (and increasingly lethal) war on police that has led many officers to minimize proactively policing largely black areas.

This does not mean the world is doomed, just that when people make assumptions, the old adage comes true. And, FYI, he was not elected “in the hope he would unify the races.”

*The Democratic presidential race is between a socialist who has contempt for capitalism, the only economic system that has ever lifted large swaths of humanity out of poverty, and a woman who is so corrupt that she should be serving time in prison, not campaigning for president.

FDR was a socialist, Woodrow Wilson was a socialist, Johnson and Nixon (a felon, too) were authoritarians (as was GW Bush), and one of our Presidential candidates (and a founder) once killed a former Secretary of the Treasury (and founder), then fled to the west and plotted the overthrow of the government (Burr). So, to say this circumstance is unique or the worst ever is a bit of an overstatement.

*Meanwhile, the Republican race is led by a man who has mocks a POW as a loser; who repeats the libel that George W. Bush knew there were no WMD in Iraq; who calls for the killing of terrorists’ families; and, who, as noted, proudly talks to America about the size of his sexual organ.

Let us be honest, John McCain is a loser who has cost this country far more than any debt owed. As far as WMDs, if that was a reasonable cause for going to war, at least 40 other countries would likely need invaded tomorrow including China, Russia, North Korea, Great Britain, Israel, France,etc. So, guess what, invading Iraq and deposing Hussein was a bad move; I supported it at the time and am big enough to get over the fact I was wrong, maybe it is time for Prager to as well. As for the sexual organ thing again, I would suggest that Mr. Prager stop behaving like a 13 year old boy in health class when the reproductive system chart is pulled down; get over it.

*Many generations have believed that the world was getting worse. But since 1776, there was a great nation that one could still rely on to stem the decay. Now that great nation, under the influence of its own elites, men and women of the left, is itself in decay.

Prager is right, every generation swears the next is the last and he is playing into this. Over more than 200 years some ideas have taken hold I find deplorable (like Keynesian economics), but others such as slavery, Jim Crow, and the state as an institution of moral control have disappeared or lessened. I have come to find out that conservatives do not really have a problem with indoctrination at schools, only that their particular brand of indoctrination is no longer employed. The reason why we do not teach kids to think for themselves is that both sides feel threatened by such a concept; people who think hardly need others to think for them. Anytime an idea requires the point of a gun or a threat of a pain-filled eternity I am cautious; particularly if the intention is that those ideas be imposed on children. Any time an idea relies on force of any kind, we should be wary. Just to be clear, I am not anti-Prager, in fact I love his discussions on male-female interactions and relationships. I am, however, discouraged by this rhetoric that is over-inflated and largely without fact in light of other periods in human history. He intends to scare; which appears to be one of the common threads between the ideological right and left which seek to use fear to paralyze the population into inaction. For if we ever were to see that the fear is largely manufactured to control us, we would reject their fallacies and frauds and this scares them most. Political leaders have long known that fear is the greatest motivator and this is not lost on the Democrats and Republicans here.

*So, who can save the world now?

As for this last question, those who embrace liberty will.   Jefferson, Bastiat, Madison, Smith, Friedman, Williams, Sowell—some of the greatest minds in history—have one common message: that liberty is that mechanism through which all humans can advance. There is no other way. Liberty and the free market have been fighting authoritarianism on the left and right in America for several hundred years now; it has not lost yet. Instead, it has been the engine of the world and we must not let ourselves be dragged down to the level of fearmongering and the abandonment of logic.

 

 

Trump is clearly no economist.

       There are a lot of Republicans these days embracing the anti-trade rhetoric of Donald Trump and, simultaneously, screaming about the ineffectiveness and unfairness of wealth redistribution through the welfare state. Interestingly enough, these two positions are equivalent to one another. You cannot be for trade protection (such as tariffs) and against wealth redistribution; they are fundamentally the same thing. Let me illustrate how.

   Wealth redistribution operates under the principal that government takes (forcibly, mind you) money from Susan and gives it to Tom. Susan is guilty of no crime besides being in an electoral minority, but nevertheless she incurs the wrath of Tom’s jealousy and greed of her accomplishments and higher earnings. Tom’s greedy vengeance is carried out by elected officials who are able to send men with guns to Susan’s house (if she doesn’t pay) to do what would be illegal for Tom to do himself, which is to steal from Susan.

     Now, this redistribution is all based on the premise that Tom should be allowed to do as he wishes (i.e. work less hours, invest less effort in his own skill set, and engage in more recreation) and still be provided with all the basic needs that life requires (including many that life does not require like cell phones, etc).   In effect, the welfare state makes inefficiency a right, one that can be subsidized. Productive capability is discounted in favor of lifestyle choice.

       This brings us now to trade protection and why the two things are indifferent. Let us imagine that Susan is now a consumer and Tom is a worker at an auto plant. We are told that tariff’s on foreign auto makers will “help” our economy (incidentally, zero of this claim is backed up by well-established economic principals or any evidence) so that Tom can keep his job and manufacturing will not be “shipped” overseas. Instead our government will place a 10% tariff on those evil foreign automakers that, for some reason or another, can supply us vehicles at a fraction of the price of Tom’s employer. If the foreign car is $20,000 and Tom’s car is $22,000 before the tariff, this new 10% tax (tariffs are taxes on consumers, by the way) will make them essentially the same price[i].

      So, now Susan (and everyone else) must pay $2,000 more per vehicle for Tom to remain employed (not to mention increased sales taxes, etc.) in his current occupation. If Susan chooses to purchase the foreign car, the government will profit after placing no value into the production of said vehicle much like the mobster running a protection racket. If Susan chooses to purchase the car Tom makes, she will pay a greater price to subsidize Tom’s relative inefficiency; because, if Tom were as efficient as the competition, his autos would be priced accordingly. Tom gets to keep his job that he is not as good at as the competitor is while everyone that purchases a car pays more to ensure this. The government has then taken money from every consumer (a tax) and given it to Tom to subsidize his inefficiency (we could just as easily call this welfare…see paragraph 3, sentence 2).

       If 50,000 people buy a car in a given year, the result is $100M that cannot be spent elsewhere or saved for the future (either choice is an investment in economic growth). Incidentally, this most adversely affects those families making relatively less money—that is right, the much maligned middle class and poor; rich people are not concerned with trivial little tariffs and will buy the foreign car anyway if they want to.

       If you think (rightly) that a redistributive tax hurts the economy by reducing consumption, which in turns reduces the amount of production required, and thus lowers employment you cannot simultaneously think a tariff—which accomplishes the same thing at an even greater cost—will not hurt the economy. Well, you can…but it is no less fantasy than unicorns or Bigfoot. Holding this belief would have led the government to ban the car to protect the wagon builder or ban the light bulb to protect the candle maker. Mass production of food through technological advances would have been outlawed so we could maintain the same volume of farmers, plow makers, and ox breeders (a decision which would have increased the likelihood of starvation due to poor conditions, a concern we no longer carry as humans in the U.S.).

       We must resist the urge to fall into emotional, unsupported arguments—such as those being made by Donald Trump—that tariffs will help the American worker and engaging in trade is bad. I know what you may be thinking now: “we want trade, but fair trade.” Did I get that right? That is hogwash, too. In no way, does us buying goods at a cheaper price—enabling us to consume more and thus produce a wider array of products ourselves—ever, never , never, ever hurt us. If this principle is true, why not only buy things from within your town, or county, or state and really help your local economy boom? If you think unemployed people in your town just need a chance, quit buying things from the mall, Walmart, or Amazon. The reason you do not do this is that you know deep down it is malarkey. Politicians like Trump can use nationalistic hubris to motivate an adverse response that goes against your own best interest. History has known another politician who was effectively able to do this…Adolf Hitler.

Recent Middle East events prove we must stop ignoring reality…

        Here we stand, once again faced with abhorrent violence in the Middle East.  Violence which we are to believe is random, spontaneous, and to some extent – justified(?).  Through the blinding light of our own ignorance; the impediment to logic which is idealism; and paralyzed by the ongoing evidence that we may never be adored globally, we stand as a nation with leadership that is prepared to do…nothing to change the status quo.  This is the unfortunate position that America’s post-Cold War foreign policy has placed our nation in.  Reject reality, we say!  Instead, let’s hope the thousands of years of human nature are going to change overnight because…well, it just ought to.

       So, what is the goal of American foreign policy you might ask?  A form of idealism aimed at showing strength towards allies, passivity towards foes, and demoralizing our own people in the process.  Idealistic foreign policy is derived from the “progressive” notion that all nations will gather ‘round the fire, cook some smores, tell some ghost stories, and generally frolic together like a group of girl scouts after a successful cookie drive.  This is a complete shift in policy since the end of the Cold War in which we now attempt to get all nations to rise above their own national interests and become part of the global family.  Plus, at some point we have determined if nations do not like us, it is not their people nor their traditions, only their despotic leaders that do not like us.  Easy remedy, right, depose Hussein and the Taliban and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will welcome us with open arms because of their newly instituted, American-style democracy…Yet another miscalculation of the “democracy builders” on the left and the right.

    So, how is it we miss the point so bad?  We have unrealistic expectations of people we largely do not understand; and when we do understand them, we try to insert our own, more favorable version of reality in the hopes that they too might embrace this alternate reality.  So, instead of the rioters in Libya or Egypt merely hating us, we are told they just did not like a movie.  There are plenty of movies I do not like, but I have easily refrained from killing anyone over them [note on Napoleon Dynamite…I would love to have those couple of hours of my life back].  Now, just how do we begin to fix it?

     The first remedy would be to incorporate a little bit of cultural relativism into our foreign policy.  Cultural relativism reminds us not to view other cultures through our own eyes to best understand them, but to consider their practices through their own worldview.  This is an important detail, not for some ill-fated pursuit of political correctness, but because understanding the other culture provides us information as to how they will act in the future and what potential impact our foreign policy may (or may not) have on them.  Our actions must be measured, but must not be measured arbitrarily through the lens of our own moral authority, regardless of how relevant that authority may be.

      Second, act on those things which we know to be true.  Understand that, as unfortunate as it may be, reality is just as advertised and no matter how much hope we engage in, we cannot change reality.  Example:  if we know that nation-building has a low probability of changing a group of peoples’ attitude towards the U.S., let’s save the money and move along (Iraq and Afghanistan).  We must act in our own national security interest!  This may seem conceited, but if we engage in trying to make the world what we wish it were, we will likely be ambushed by that which it certainly is.  We are not the teacher of some global kindergarten class in which our will can be imposed through idealistic efforts and frequent use of “time-out” (does that really even work in kindergarten anyway?).  Instead, we must realize that we stand as the only remaining superpower in a world which largely believes that it no longer has a requirement for one.

Additionally, appeasing terrorists, tyrants, and despots is ineffective foreign policy (see: pre-WWII French and British policy towards Hitler—then “Google” The Holocaust).  Furthermore, there is a reason we have a policy of not negotiating with terrorists because, if we did it once, we would be doing it all the time.  And, lest we forget that having a Bill of Rights and individual liberty does make us better than everyone else!   If we continue down the path of excusing inexcusable behavior and apologizing for our own global superiority, we will only perpetuate and encourage behavior like we are seeing once again throughout the Middle East.  We mortgage our future for the unattainable goal of popularity, but must wake up to realize this is most certainly not a high school prom court; in reality, we live in a world riddled with danger where we stand as the biggest prize for those who wish to prove something.