Tag Archive for 'obama'



Why Won’t Obama Curb the TSA?

Published April 29th, 2011 by tcarpenter

The Transportation Security Administration’s outrages against air travelers reached new heights earlier this month with the (very) thorough pat-down of six-year-old Anna Drexel at the New Orleans airport.  Not only did that action violate common sense, it violated common decency.  The girl’s parents caught the horrific incident on their cell phone video camera, and it immediately went viral on the internet.   After being subjected to what one critic later described as the “freedom fondle,” Anna burst into tears.  That was hardly a surprise.  She had been told repeatedly by her parents and teachers that it was wrong, wrong, wrong for any stranger to touch her in her private places.  Anyone, that is, except arrogant, thuggish bureaucrats working for the TSA.  Talk about mixed messages!

Angry members of Congress have introduced legislation to bar such procedures on young children in the future.  But why should legislation be needed to end the practice–and the TSA’s other offenses against the basic civil liberties of the American people?  The TSA is an agency of the executive branch.  President Obama is the head of the executive branch.  He could order an end to all such abuses with the stroke of his pen on an executive order.  Why has he not done so?  His failure on this issue is just the latest piece of evidence that all of his  rhetoric about “hope and change” in the 2008 presidential campaign was just that–empty rhetoric.  

Decent Americans have had more than enough of the TSA’s airport security theater–useless and obnoxious intrusions on our civil liberties in the name of preventing terrorism.   If President Obama is too timid or uncaring to rein-in this rogue agency, Congress should do it without further delay.

Afghanistan: Obama’s Vietnam?

Published November 29th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama will address the American people on Tuesday night regarding Afghanistan.  Reports have leaked out over the past week that he will announce that he is sending additional troops into that quagmire.  The only question seems to be whether he will send 30,000, 40,000 or some number in between.  That is, frankly, not a very important issue.  And for all of his talk about “off ramps” for the United States if the Afghan government does not meet certain policy targets or “benchmarks,” the reality is that he is escalating our commitment.  Since Obama has repeatedly asserted that the war in Afghanistan is a war of necessity, not a war of choice, his talk of off ramps is largely a bluff–and the Afghans probably know it.

I am in the process of co-writing a book that includes a chapter on America’s disastrous war in Vietnam.  I’m the first to acknowledge the hazards of equating one historical event with a development in a different setting and time period.   In fact, the tendency of U.S. leaders to view every conflict in the world over the last 60 years through the prism of the failure to stem Nazi aggression in the 1930s has been a major cause of policy disasters like Vietnam and Iraq.  And I don’t want to imply that what Obama is doing is exactly the same as the foolish strategy that the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations adopted in Southeast Asia during the 1960s.  But there are a couple of very disturbing similiarities.  In both cases, U.S. leaders opted to try to rescue a failing war by sending in more troops.  And in both cases, Washington found itself desperately searching for a “credible” leader who could serve as an effective partner in the war effort.  The United States never found such a leader in Vietnam.  From the first client, Ngo Dinh Diem, to the last leader of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, American policymakers were frustrated by a parade of repressive, corrupt, and ineffectual political figures.  Now, doesn’t that sound more than a little like the problem the Bush and Obama administrations have encountered with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government?

That fact alone suggests that our Afghanistan mission is not likely to turn out well.

Instead of escalating, Obama should move to rapidly draw-down our forces and narrow the mission to one of trying to harrass Al Qaeda and keep it off balance.  My colleague, Malou Innocent, and I published a Cato Institute White Paper, “Escaping the Graveyard of Empires,” describing how to achieve that goal without pursuing the futile objective of nation-building in Afghanistan.

America and the Turmoil in Iran

Published June 20th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama has received considerable criticism because he has refrained from strongly endorsing the anti-regime street demonstrations in Iran.  Much of that criticism has come from the same neoconservative geniuses, such as former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who brought us the Iraq debacle.  My colleague Christopher Preble does an especially good job of showing why meddling, even verbally, in Iran’s internal political affairs would be a bad idea.  Given America’s less-than-savory reputation with many Iranians ever since the CIA overthrew the country’s democratic government in 1953 and put the brutal, corrupt Shah back on the throne, a U.S. endorsement of the opposition would likely be the kiss of death.  

The alleged election victory by hardline President Mahmoud Amadinejad was probably the result of fraud, and most Americans hope that the ongoing demonstrations ultimately oust the clerical regime.  But if a revolution occurs, the Iranian people must do it for themselves.  It would be both improper–and given the unfortunate history of U.S.-Iranian relations, counterproductive–for the U.S. government to meddle.   So far, President Obama has struck the right cautious and balanced tone.

NATO’s Sop to Obama

Published April 12th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama came away from last week’s NATO summit in Strasbourg hailing the outcome as a great victory for U.S. foreign policy.  He professed to be especially pleased with promises made by the allies regarding the mission in Afghanistan.  Yet the European members of NATO gave him next to nothing.  He asked for a substantial number of additional combat troops to supplement the surge of American troops he announced last month.  Instead, the European allies agreed to send a mere 5,000 personnel, none of whom will be combat forces.  Moreover, the bulk of that number (3,000) will be sent just temporarily to assist the Afghan government in the upcoming elections.  The rest consist mainly of police and military trainers and wannabe nation-building bureaucrats.

These anemic gestures continue the lack of seriousness on the part of the NATO allies that I’ve written about here and here.  During the Cold War, NATO was a credible security organization–although even then the Europeans underinvested in defense and liked to have the U.S. bear a disproportionate amount of the burdens.  Now, though, the alliance has become a bad joke.  NATO has just celebrated its 60th birthday, and Washington should take stepts to make sure that it’s the last birthday.  NATO has become a very bad bargain for America, and we should terminate our involvement in this increasingly disfunctional alliance.

Obama’s First Week: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Published January 25th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama is certainly off to a fast start.  The record during his first week, though, is mixed. 

One good early action was his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, shut down the secret CIA prisons in various overseas locations, and tighten the standards for interrogating terrorist suspects.  Gitmo and everything associated with it will likely go down as one of the more shameful episodes in American history.  Even though Bush administration officials repeatedly denied that the U.S. engaged in torture, the reality was otherwise.  Cynical euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation techniques” sounded like dialogue from characters in a George Orwell novel.  Of course, we all want to minimize the danger of new terrorist attacks, but there are certain lines that a society must not cross if it wishes to remain a moral society.  Torture is one of those bright red lines.

While President Obama’s decisions on that issue removed a stain on America’s honor, his proposed remedy for the ongoing economic recession embodies many of the worst ideas liberal Democrats have been peddling for decades.  Advocating another $825 billion in spending when the federal government is already running a deficit that is likely to exceed $1 trillion this year constitutes fiscal folly.  Even the underlying goal to jump start more consumer spending is flawed.  Jim Rogers, one of world’s most successful investors over the past three decades put the matter very well: “The idea that you can solve a period of excessive borrowing and consumption with more borrowing and more consumption” is “ludicrous on its face.”

The ugly portion of the Obama administration’s first week was the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.   In her earlier confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she pledged that the administration’s foreign policy would be one of “smart power”–filching a term that I and other scholars have used for years.  That wouldn’t be so bad if what she advocated was even remotely smart.  But virtually everything she said was merely warmed over conventional wisdom–and usually the worst aspects of the conventional wisdom.  Clinton emphasized the supposed need to strengthen NATO–that Cold War-era dinosaur of an alliance–and add new members, such as tiny Balkan states, Georgia, and Ukraine.  The former are militarily useless (as is Georgia) and membership for Georgia and Ukraine would further damage the already tense relations between the U.S. and Russia.  The rest of her testimony was equally bad.  America must keep other useless, costly military commitments, such as the one to South Korea, somehow solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (like we haven’t been trying to do that for the past four decades), take a hard line with Iran (like we haven’t been doing that for the past three decades) and engage in more humanitarian interventions and nation-building missions.  Those, apparently, we can accomplish with all of our spare money and troops.  If there were such a requirement as truth in advertising for presidential appointees, Hillary’s foreign policy would have to be labeled “dumb power” not smart power.  For an approach that is actually smart power, check here.