Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama, Netanyahu Meet

President Obama and PM Netanyahu discuss the feasibility of a return to the 1967 borders, the (to say the least) questionable status of the Hamas/Fateh government as a viable negotiation partner, and the unreality of the "right of return".

Mr. Y on ‘strategic ecology’

It’s been a while since I looked at the “national strategic narrative” piece by Misters Y, but now seems to be a good time, what with the president’s address concerning foreign aid to the Middle East, and Egypt in particular. As you’ll see, the section we are considering today gives an example of challenges that seem culled from places like Egypt, and a sketch of the sort of ‘smart power’ that the NSN advocates with regard to these challenges. Along the way, it also seems to reinforce the funding prioritizations (away from DOD) touched upon earlier in the document. This, with a taste of ambivalence with regard to where efforts should be expended first (domestic or global?). As usual, we first excerpt the full section, and then some brief commentary:

A Strategic Ecology

Rather than focusing all our attention on specific threats, risks, nations, or organizations, as we have in the past, let us evaluate the trends that will shape tomorrow’s strategic ecology, and seek opportunities to credibly influence these to our advantage. Among the trends that are already shaping a “new normal” in our strategic environment are the decline of rural economies, joblessness, the dramatic increase in urbanization, an increasing demand for energy, migration of populations and shifting demographics, the rise of grey and black markets, the phenomenon of extremism and anti-modernism, the effects of global climate change, the spread of pandemics and lack of access to adequate health services, and an increasing dependency on cyber networks.
At first glance, these trends are cause for concern. But for Americans with vision, guided by values, they represent opportunities to reestablish and leverage credible influence, converging interests, and interdependencies that can transform despair into hope. This focus on improving our strategic ecosystem, and favorably competing for our national interests, underscores the investment priorities cited earlier, and the imaginative application of diplomacy, development, and defense in our foreign policy.

Many of the trends affecting our environment are conditions-based. That is, they have developed within a complex system as the result of conditions left unchecked for many years. These global trends, whether manifesting themselves in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eurasia, or within our own hemisphere impact the lives of Americans in ways that are often obscure as they propagate over vast areas with cascading and sometimes catastrophic effect.

Illiteracy, for example, is common in countries with high birth rates. High birth rates and illiteracy contribute to large labor pools and joblessness, particularly in rural areas in which changing weather conditions have resulted in desertification and soil erosion. This has led to the disruption of family and tribal support structures and the movement of large numbers of young, unskilled people into urban areas that lack infrastructure. This rapid urbanization has taxed countries with weak governance that lack rule of law, permitting the further growth of exploitive, grey and black market activities. Criminal networks prey upon and contribute to the disenfranchisement of a sizeable portion of the population in many underdeveloped nations. This concentration of disenfranchised youth, with little-to-no licit support infrastructure has
provided a recruiting pool for extremists seeking political support and soldiers for local or foreign causes, often facilitated through the internet. The wars and instability perpetrated by these extremists and their armies of the disenfranchised have resulted in the displacement of
many thousands more, and the further weakening of governance. This displacement has, in many cases, produced massive migrations of disparate families, tribes, and cultures seeking a more sustainable existence. This migration has further exacerbated the exploitation of the weak
by criminal and ideological profiteers and has facilitated the spread of diseases across natural barriers previously considered secure. The effect has been to create a kind of subculture of despair and hopelessness that is self-perpetuating. At some point, these underlying conditions must be addressed by offering choices and options that will nudge global trends in a positive direction. America’s national interests and values are not sustainable otherwise.

We cannot isolate our own prosperity and security from the global system. Even in a land as rich as ours, we too, have seen the gradual breakdown of rural communities and the rapid expansion of our cities. We have experienced migration, crime, and domestic terrorism. We struggle with
joblessness and despite a low rate of illiteracy, we are losing our traditional role of innovation dominance in leading edge technologies and the sciences. We are, in the truest sense, part of an interdependent strategic ecosystem, and our interests converge with those of people in virtually every corner of the world. We must remain cognizant of this, and reconcile our domestic and foreign policies as being complementary and largely congruent.

As we pursue the growth of our own prosperity and security, the welfare of our citizens must be seen as part of a highly dynamic, and interconnected system that includes sovereign nations, world markets, natural and man-generated challenges and solutions – a system that demands adaptability and innovation. In this strategic environment, it is competition that will determine how we evolve, and Americans must have the tools and confidence required to successfully compete.

This begins at home with quality health care and education, with a vital economy and low rates of unemployment, with thriving urban centers and carefully planned rural communities, with low crime, and a sense of common purpose underwritten by personal responsibility. We often hear the term “smart power” applied to the tools of development and diplomacy abroad empowering people all over the world to improve their own lives and to help establish the stability needed to sustain security and prosperity on a global scale. But we can not export “smart power” until we practice “smart growth” at home. We must seize the opportunity to be a model of stability, a model of the values we cherish for the rest of the world to emulate. And we must ensure that our domestic policies are aligned with our foreign policies. Our own “smart growth” can serve as
the exportable model of “smart power.” Because, truthfully, it is in our interest to see the rest of the world prosper and the world market thrive, just as it is in our interest to see our neighbors prosper and our own urban centers and rural communities come back to life.

The first paragraph points out various social trends, and other conditions. Some of them cause political instability in parts of the world, like Egypt, that can be exploited by Islamists and other ‘extremists’. Others are public health concerns, which can exacerbate political instability, as well as migrate themselves across borders. Also, we are now more technologically interdependent thanks to computer technology. All of this, Mr. Y argues can have significant effects on U.S. national interests.

The second paragraph says these conditions have been stewing for some time. The third paragraph gets down to (relative) brass tax, and provides specifics to chew on. It quickly canvasses the effects of illiteracy and changes in global environment, claiming that these have caused a burgeoning of urban unemployed populations which are exploited by extremists, and are also incubators for exportable disease (once these disaffected move from place to place). The section then goes on to argue that the underlying causes (the illiteracy and the global climate change?) of all of this instability must be addressed. How? By the U.S. serving as a model, in addressing its own less severe but analogous problems. The global effort “begins at home with quality health care and education.” “We cannot export “smart power” until we practice “smart growth” at home.”

However, we also see elements in the passage at conflict with this “do it at home first” message: “We must ensure that our domestic policies are aligned with our foreign policies.” And, “As we pursue the growth of our own prosperity and security, the welfare of our citizens must be seen as part of a highly dynamic, and interconnected system that includes sovereign nations, world markets, natural and man-generated challenges and solutions.” This “do it everywhere” approach is a natural outgrowth of at least one aspect of Y’s thought. IF global environmental (strictly speaking) conditions must be reversed in order to address the loss of arable land and the consequent migrations and urbanization, then those conditions must be addressed everywhere or the effort will be futile. We might (as we already largely have) clean up our own smokestacks, or reverse land erosion in the great middle sections of our country, but other sovereign nations have not made such efforts and probably some will not while others cannot. So, we have to somehow change that dynamic. How? Once again, the passage simply holds out the hope that by undertaking “smart domestic policy” we can model for other parts of the world. One has to ask, how are other parts of the world, for instance, Egypt, going to emulate the model if they do not have the wherewithal? Will they not need money at least initially? From whom, and with what accountability regime? The case of Egypt could evolve in a direction that Pakistan has taken with regard to aid from the U.S., especially with the troubling political developments since the ouster of Mubarak. We’ve been throwing money at regimes such as this for some time, with insufficient oversight. How will the ‘smart’ powers change that? Is it up to the U.S. to come up with the oversight regime? Does Mr. Y think we should undertake all of the projects he envisions all over the globe simultaneously, or does he think we need to focus at home first, and serve as a model? What are the relative roles of USG and private sectors in this effort? How exactly are education and health care to be provided, and by whom? How are these best provided for? None of these questions are answered, but they naturally arise.

To wrap up, I think the general drift of this section of the NSN is quite expansive with laudable goals, but, like others, short of specifics. It does not draw distinctions between things that are directly relevant to U.S. national security and things that are indirectly related, and asks us to focus more funding and attention on those things that are indirectly related, and seems to simultaneously call for a “fix it at home first” strategy, while also calling for a more ambitious daunting and expensive global effort along the lines of the Marshall Plan. Is that ambivalence to be resolved in later sections? Is this brief characterization of the NSN’s unfolding theme in fact a fair assessment? We’ll see in later sections.

Next section: “Closing the “Say-do” Gap - the Negative Aspects of “Binning”

The raptured duck

I don't know what all this brouhaha is about. This Camping fellow is all wrong. We've known THE REAL STORY since 1975. Rod Serling and Alan Landsburg had the correct date for the end o' the world all along. Christmas Eve 2011. That's when the aliens will come back, and save us from ourselves. Groovy. I can save some money on Christmas presents and travel.

And, you know it has to be true when Leonard Nimoy also gives it the Vulcan seal of approval:

They can't get the story straight. Is it earthquakes and 'new men of knowledge appearing' and creating a world government or is it the return of the aliens?

For yuks, here is the complete Serling narrated documentary "Outer Space Connection" about the impending return of our alien forefathers....Classic 70s pseudo-scientific docu-bullstuff. Has all the tropes: pyramid power, auras, & etc.. - The Outer Space Connection (1975) pt.1/2 Video - The Outer Space Connection (1975) pt.2/2 Video