One Simple Rule To Stop Unnecessary Wars

I’m sick of war.

Officially the cost of the war on terror has been $1.3 trillion. And military spending — especially the interest on debt to pay for past wars — keeps growing year on year:

As General Eisenhower noted:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

The cost in life was been ever steeper; over a million Iraqis died.

But it’s more than cost; this a problem of responsibility. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney live a comfortable life of wealth and leisure, four years after leaving office having started two destructive, costly and ineffective wars of choice. They didn’t fight. None of their children fought. But lots of American and British soldiers and innocent Arabs got their limbs and heads blown off.

Of course, military deterrence — and sometimes military action — is necessary.

As Eisenhower noted:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

The trouble is that war is a great excuse for weapons contractors to make lots of money, and weapons contractors happily fund war-mongering politicians into power. That’s the self-perpetuating military industrial complex.

So the problem then lies in differentiating the necessary actions from the unnecessary.

I propose a simple heuristic for this purpose, one that if introduced would also render the war-mongering politician — the Congressman who votes to authorise, or the President who signs the authorisation into law — personally responsible:

If you start a war, you have to fight. If you cannot fight, then your nearest fit relative has to fight.

This puts the skin back into the game. You want to risk blood and treasure to start a war? If it’s that important, you’ll put your body and blood on the line before you ask any soldier to fight, or any taxpayer to pay. If not, then it must not be necessary.

Would George W. Bush have started the Iraq war had he known his two daughters would be conscripted, and shipped off to Iraq to find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction?

I doubt it.

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Iran Did 9/11?

From the Washington Post:

NEW YORK — A federal judge has signed a default judgment finding Iran, the Taliban and al-Qaida liable in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Judge George Daniels in Manhattan signed the judgment Thursday, a week after hearing testimony in the 10-year-old case. The signed ruling, which he promised last week, came in a $100 billion lawsuit brought by family members of victims of the attacks. He directed a magistrate judge to preside over remaining issues, including fixing compensatory and punitive damages.

But I thought Iraq was culpable for it!

Suck on this!

We hit Iraq because we could!

Of course, war hawks (the same war hawks who wanted to hit Iraq — and succeeded in spending trillions of dollars on an expensive and fragilising conflict that did nothing whatever for national security) are always looking for compelling and emotive justifications for their war-mongering.

And in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hawks like Friedman have found a man who is in many ways their shadow. Flamboyant, provocative, over-the-top and fiercely combative Ahmadinejad gladly engages in anything that will piss the West off — holocaust revisionism, 9/11 trutherism, and now war games around a major international shipping lane.

“Suck on this!”, as Tom Friedman put it.

From Zero Hedge:

Iran is launching a “massive” 10 day war games naval exercise right in the belly of the beast.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on Thursday announced the upcoming launch of ten-day massive naval exercises in the international waters.

“This is the first time that Iran’s Navy carries out naval drills in such a vast area”, he was quoted as saying. “The exercises will manifest Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in the international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries and test the newest military equipment among other objectives”. He added that “the newest missile systems and torpedoes will be employed in the maneuvers, adding that the most recent tactics used in subsurface battles will also be demonstrated. Iranian destroyers, missile-launching vessels, logistic vessels, drones and coastal missiles will also be tested.

There can be no question that this “exercise” may well be a cover for seizing and closing the Strait of Hormuz.

The real question is how America will respond.

From the National Post:

The Strait is a 50-kilometre wide passageway through which about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic sails. Whoever controls this crucial choke-point virtually controls Middle East oil exports.

“The importance of this waterway to both American military and economic interests is difficult to overstate,” said a report by geopolitical analysts at the global intelligence firm Stratfor.

“Considering Washington’s more general — and fundamental — interest in securing freedom of the seas, the U.S. Navy would almost be forced to respond aggressively to any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz.”

“Iran has built up a large mix of unconventional forces in the Gulf that can challenge its neighbours in a wide variety of asymmetric wars, including low-level wars of attrition,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington.

Palestine: Obama Plays With Fire

Barack Obama discovered very early in his Presidency that in spite of his campaign promises he cannot be all things to all people. And, with the UN gearing up to a highly-charged vote over whether or not to recognise Palestine as a sovereign state, the future status of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East lies with the Obama administration, which is expected to veto any such proposal.

From the BBC:

Barack Obama has told the UN General Assembly the Palestinians deserve their own state, but that this would only be achieved through talks with Israel.

The US president’s speech came as diplomatic efforts for Palestinian UN membership intensified, while thousands rallied in the West Bank.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,” he said.

He added there could be no “short cut” to peace, and is expected to urge the Palestinians to give up the initiative.

Mr Obama is holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas later.

Mr Abbas is set to launch the statehood bid on Friday, after his address to the UN General Assembly, with a written request to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If his request is approved by Mr Ban, the Security Council will then examine and vote on it. In order to pass, the request must get the votes of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members.

If America vetoes this resolution, global opinion — which is broadly favourable to the Palestinian cause — may treat Obama and America rather unkindly. The middle east has recently seen a wave of revulsion toward Israel, including frenzied mob attacks on embassies in Jordan and Egypt. Turkey has cooled relations with Israel. Globally India, Russia and China have all expressed support for the resolution.

If America vetoes this resolution against the global consensus, Israel and America will simply be alienating themselves from other nations, by pursuing a widely detested course that puts all of the power in the hands of Israel.

And alienation is bad, both for Israel and for America, because they are both dependent on imported energy, imported natural resources, and imported goods. America spends trillions of dollars a year on military hardware, manpower and infrastructure to police the world and keep the global infrastructure stable. Why would Obama choose to stir the hornets’ nests by going against the wishes of the world? Certainly, the American political system and the Obama administration is influenced by Jewish interests who have no wish to see a Palestinian state.

But should those interests be of more importance to Obama than the wishes of global powers like China, India, Russia, and the European Union?

The real question is what impact these events will have on regional power. Does the Arab world have the chutzpah to bend Israel to its will? Or will Israel take stronger action to meet its interests?

UPDATE:

Ehud Olmert states this is the last chance left for the two state solution. From the NYT:

AS the United Nations General Assembly opens this year, I feel uneasy. An unnecessary diplomatic clash between Israel and the Palestinians is taking shape in New York, and it will be harmful to Israel and to the future of the Middle East.

I know that things could and should have been different.

I truly believe that a two-state solution is the only way to ensure a more stable Middle East and to grant Israel the security and well-being it desires. As tensions grow, I cannot but feel that we in the region are on the verge of missing an opportunity — one that we cannot afford to miss.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, plans to make a unilateral bid for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations on Friday. He has the right to do so, and the vast majority of countries in the General Assembly support his move. But this is not the wisest step Mr. Abbas can take.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared publicly that he believes in the two-state solution, but he is expending all of his political effort to block Mr. Abbas’s bid for statehood by rallying domestic support and appealing to other countries. This is not the wisest step Mr. Netanyahu can take.

In the worst-case scenario, chaos and violence could erupt, making the possibility of an agreement even more distant, if not impossible. If that happens, peace will definitely not be the outcome.

The parameters of a peace deal are well known and they have already been put on the table. I put them there in September 2008 when I presented a far-reaching offer to Mr. Abbas.

According to my offer, the territorial dispute would be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground.

The city of Jerusalem would be shared. Its Jewish areas would be the capital of Israel and its Arab neighborhoods would become the Palestinian capital. Neither side would declare sovereignty over the city’s holy places; they would be administered jointly with the assistance of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Palestinian refugee problem would be addressed within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The new Palestinian state would become the home of all the Palestinian refugees just as the state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Israel would, however, be prepared to absorb a small number of refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Because ensuring Israel’s security is vital to the implementation of any agreement, the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and it would not form military alliances with other nations. Both states would cooperate to fight terrorism and violence.

These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions.

We Israelis simply do not have the luxury of spending more time postponing a solution. A further delay will only help extremists on both sides who seek to sabotage any prospect of a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution.

Moreover, the Arab Spring has changed the Middle East, and unpredictable developments in the region, such as the recent attack on Israel’s embassy in Cairo, could easily explode into widespread chaos. It is therefore in Israel’s strategic interest to cement existing peace agreements with its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

In addition, Israel must make every effort to defuse tensions with Turkey as soon as possible. Turkey is not an enemy of Israel. I have worked closely with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In spite of his recent statements and actions, I believe that he understands the importance of relations with Israel. Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Netanyahu must work to end this crisis immediately for the benefit of both countries and the stability of the region.

In Israel, we are sorry for the loss of life of Turkish citizens in May 2010, when Israel confronted a provocative flotilla of ships bound for Gaza. I am sure that the proper way to express these sentiments to the Turkish government and the Turkish people can be found.

The time for true leadership has come. Leadership is tested not by one’s capacity to survive politically but by the ability to make tough decisions in trying times.

When I addressed international forums as prime minister, the Israeli people expected me to present bold political initiatives that would bring peace — not arguments outlining why achieving peace now is not possible. Today, such an initiative is more necessary than ever to prove to the world that Israel is a peace-seeking country.

The window of opportunity is limited. Israel will not always find itself sitting across the table from Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who object to terrorism and want peace. Indeed, future Palestinian leaders might abandon the idea of two states and seek a one-state solution, making reconciliation impossible.

Now is the time. There will be no better one. I hope that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas will meet the challenge.

Why QE Didn’t Cause Hyperinflation

Ben Bernanke, and the Keynesians were right: Quantitative Easing has not caused the kind of inflation that the non-mainstream Austrian economists claimed that it would. The theory was that a soaring monetary base, and the zero-interest-rate-policy would lead to easy money flowing like a tsunami, and creating such a gush that inflation on goods and services — the change in cost from month-to-month and year-to-year — would soar, making daily life impossible for those on fixed incomes, and in a worst-case-scenario — like Zimbabwe, or Weimar Germany — forcing consumers to use an armful or wheelbarrow of cash to purchase a loaf of bread. Let’s look at the monetary base:


That is a huge spike!The monetary base — also known as M0 — is the total amount of coins, paper and bank deposits in the economy. Quantitative easing injects new money into the monetary base, and as we can see above, has great increased it. So why can I still buy bread without a wheelbarrow? That is because the monetary base and the money supply are two different things. In a fractional-reserve banking system, deposits in banks can be lent, re-deposited, and lent again. Government policy determines the number of times that money can be lent — in the United States, total credit cannot exceed lending by more than ten times. The money supply — which accounts for fractional reserve lending — is known as M2. Let’s look at it:


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