Chemical Warfare: Never good but there could be a different outcome

On many levels this is out of my purview. However, in the early ’60’s I was an officer in what was then called the Chemical Corps. I spent the first year of my service running a chemical combat support platoon primarily stationed in Fort Ord, California. Then, clearly, I saluted somebody wrong, and spent two summers in the desert and the winter in between in Alaska and some other places testing various Chemical, Nuclear and Biological weapons delivery systems.  All of these were bad weapons.  I am not sure there is such a thing as a good weapon.

The Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use of chemical weapons (not biological) and calling for destruction of existing weapons went into force in 1997 after the initial discussions on the ban began in 1968.  Syria is not a signatory to the Convention.

I am not sure what a limited strike does to deal with this problem other than having, for sure, unintended consequences.  Also, are we simply saying that if conventional weapons had been used to kill 1400+ would we not care?  As I said, Chemical weapons are bad, and with a very few exceptions, the world agrees.

As opposed to more death and destruction as a retaliatory punishment, wouldn’t it make sense to use this time while Congress debates to present the fully documented case to the world, garner universal support against the use, universally demand  an apology and recompense from Syria to the families affected, and a promise not to use such weapons ever again? What is really in the interest of all in this instance? It is hard to believe that this was at the direction of Assad because of the stupidity of the action. If so, there needs to be the full mea culpa. However, if this was an attack generated and ordered within the military ranks, blame can be directed and action taken.

One cannot bring back the lives lost, nor for that matter the 100,000 lives previously lost.  However, why not turn this action into a reason for reaching a political solution as opposed to a continuation of the bloodshed using whatever weapons are available or provided.  It is in some ways an opening for the Assad regime.  More military action involving more participants will not have a good outcome.  This approach will surely sound naíve and wimpy to some.  It is one person’s viewpoint.  The killing by whatever means needs to stop.

Joining the Chorus–Sequestration: Any Fiscal Austerity Now is a Mistake

Everyone with a brain has commented on Sequestration and what should be done instead–some with sound logic and facts and data to support their view. The most recent brought to my attention in a comment by Tom Gallagher, via RenMac, is an analysis of the impact of austerity in Euroland, “Panic-Driven Austerity in the Eurozone and its Implications“.

The best complete article on this topic and what else needs to be fixed in America–actually in Washington–was Fareed Zakaria’s in a recent issue of World Affairs, “Can America Be Fixed–The New Crisis of Democracy.”  It details the ills of the US and spells out some solutions. The solutions were summed up in a sentence in his second paragraph of the 10-page article: “The focus in Washington is on taxing and cutting. It should be on reforming and investing.”  In the same issue, Roger Altman, who would have been my candidate for Treasury Secretary,  wrote a rather optimistic article, “The Fall and Rise of the West.” asserting his view that the West would emerge stronger from this financial crisis. I think Altman is right if Zakaria’s prescriptions are followed. I would highly recommend both of these articles as well as the fall, 2012, issue of the World Policy Journal, which devoted the whole journal to the subject of Democracy. If you only have time for one article it should be Zakaria’s–an elegant and fairly complete synopsis of how we got to this point and what should happen to get us past it. Zakaria provides some very appropriate solutions, which unfortunately require our politicians, and to some extent, we, the people, to act responsibly. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of this happening either from the Administration or Congress or us. And, now that it looks like it will happen, Sequestration is getting a “…it’s not so bad…” rationalization from some who should know better.

I am hoping for a miracle, I guess–just a simple agreement to postpone this nonsense and any short-term series of compromises and truly to focus on a long-term well-vetted plan,with a clear understanding of timing and consequences, that results in “…reforming and investing.” I think the markets, companies and individuals would react well to this. There isn’t much substantive to add to what others have said. I simply urge you to click on the links above to understand a bit more of the madness that is rampant in Washington and its implications.

The Fiscal Cliff, Long Term Deficit Reduction and Instant Gratification

Well, there was a form of Fiscal Cliff Resolution which appeared to make no one happy except maybe real people who got a little more certainty about how they need to handle their finances.  There seems to be general disappointment that the long term deficit problem was not dealt with.  Let’s state the obvious: the long term deficit problem is just that–a long term problem. Instant gratification is not required–except maybe for the securities markets. The short term problem, even for the securities markets and certainly for the commonweal, is maintaining the pace of a recovery that remains fragile. Why would any leader want to truly deal with a long term problem with a lame-duck Congress, particularly when the incoming Congress is modestly more in his camp? I would posit that he may not even want to deal with the long-term problems with this Congress if he has any belief that the 2014 elections could swing things even more his way as Congress continues to look political as opposed to statesman-like.

Right now, we need to deal with the short-term issues of maintaining this recovery. Some of the compromises made to get past the Cliff didn’t do that–the Payroll tax restoration being a big one.  No doubt there will be more compromises to get past the debt ceiling issues. However, I do believe it is becoming more difficult for the majority in the House to continue to hold a gun to this economic recovery. The majority in the Senate and the minority in the House need to do their part as well. In addition, the ratings agencies should also stop looking for instant gratification. The long term deficit problem must get dealt with, including entitlement reform. It will get dealt with because it has to and it can be done. If that takes two years, during which we continue to see a reasonable economic recovery, I don’t think that’s a problem. Maybe  is pays to take another look at what could be happening if we keep eliminating uncertainty and maintain this recovery.