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Archive for March 28th, 2006

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

CASPAR WEINBERGER, R.I.P.

Former Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, the architect of the post-Vietnam era military build-up that was a critical element in Reagan administration Cold War strategy, died this morning after a battle with pneumonia. He was 88.

Weinberger, who had served in the Nixon administration and where he was known as ” Cap the knife” for severe budget cutting, oversaw one of the largest defense transformations in the history of the world. One of the few top advisers with unlimited access to the president, Weinberger was famous for his acrimonious battles with Secretary of State George Schultz, his longtime former colleague at Bechtel Corporation.

Ironically, Shultz and Weinberger were allies in opposing the Iran-Contra covert operations engineered by DCI William Casey, NSC Adviser John Poindexter, former NSC adviser Robert McFarlane and Colonel Oliver North. Despite his opposition to the Iran-Contra affair, Weinberger was prosecuted by Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh – a legal move regarded by most Republicans as vindictive and groundless – and ultimately was pardoned by the first President Bush.

Weinberger, despite his advocacy of robust American defense budgets, was exceptionally cautious about the use of military force and promoted the ” Weinberger Doctrine” now better known as the ” Powell Doctrine” that put fairly strict and clear tests for potential American intervention. He initially opposed both the multinational intervention in Lebanon as well as the invasion of Grenada before joining the administration consensus.

Rest in peace, Mr. Secretary.

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

WHITE HOUSE SHAKE-UP

Andrew Card, longtime Bush Chief of Staff, has been forced to resign and is being replaced by OMB Director Joshua B. Bolten. If conservatives, Republicans and the nation at large are lucky, this move will only be the first of an injection of new blood for the Bush administration.

The resignation was hailed at the big pro- Bush blog RedState, which gets things completely wrong because everything there is viewed through the prism of short-term movement and partisan politics ( Hat Tip: Memeorandum)

“Andy Card has served the President well for more than five years. We cannot, however, say that he has served conservatives or the Republican party well. He is, among other things, fingered as the man behind the Harriet Miers nomination that caused a fracture in the base and emboldened conservatives to fight the President. He also deserves some blame for the mishandling of the Dubai Ports Deal. “

Well, yes. By the same token Card has been part of everything that has gone right with the Bush administration as well. He has been not only Bush’s Chief of Staff and doorkeeper but virtually his shadow since taking office. Card’s involvement in the White House decision-making process was integral even by the historical standards of chiefs of staff, so his legacy cannot be relegated to the outcome of one or two issues.

Andrew Card had to go because when an administration hits the skids – as nearly all of them do in the second term – in our system the president cannot resign but his designated ” prime minister” must and usually this is all to the good. Sherman Adams, H.R. Haldeman, Don Regan, John Sununu and Mack McLarty all had to leave at a time when their president was under fire. Card has served longer than any of them except Sherman Adams and the effects of the grueling treadmill of a White House schedule take their toll. Creativity, energy and political judgment are sapped as crisis management stress, groupthink and isolation desensitizes and distorst the perceptions of even extraordinairly adept politicians.

Bolten does not need to do a purge or a complete housecleaning but new blood, new ideas and new perspectives are badly needed in the White House. Relationships need to be strategically rebuilt with Congress, the press and the American people so the Bush administration can catch a second wind.

The nation is at war. We cannot afford years of drift.

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

FOREIGN POLICY AND THE AMERICAN ELITE : PART I

My blogfriend Dave Schuler had a post today entitled “American foreign policy in an age of proximity” which spurred me to think on many levels. A thoughtful, well-crafted, essay it is definitely worth the full read but here is a significant excerpt:

“My own view was (and is) that America has a foreign policy and, using the diction I’d use today rather than the way I’d have put it back then, the policy is an emergent phenomenon of the major forces in American foreign policy thought: mercantilism, missionary internationalism, populism, and libertarian isolationism (AKA Hamiltonianism, Wilsonianism, Jacksonianism, and Jeffersonianism).

This emergent policy has a number of components but included among them are open borders facilitated by ensuring that our neighbors are weak. This is a policy that has been pretty successful for the last two hundred years or so. I’ve argued against it for the last forty and IMO the policy is beginning to look a little shopworn at his point.

Consider the case of Cuba in the light of this policy. We don’t really care whether Cuba is communist or dominated by a dictator or spreads instability in other countries in the hemisphere (that’s actually something of a feature rather than a bug) or outside of the hemisphere or makes its people miserable. We’ll avoid trading with Cuba (a few cavils from Hamiltonians notwithstanding) but we won’t stop others from doing so nor will we overthrow the tyrant (a few sporadic actions from Jacksonians and complaints from Wilsonians notwithstanding). We’ll even encourage emigration from Cuba (which provides a safety valve for the Castro tyranny). We’ll accept it as long as Cuba is weak.

But if Cuba shows signs of becoming strong (as it did during the Cuban missile crisis almost 45 years ago) then it’s a threat and we’ll act forcefully to correct the situation.

Things have changed quite a bit since the first quarter of the 19th century. They’ve changed quite a bit in the last 45 years. China and Iran are closer to us today than Mexico was in 1850 and little farther away than Cuba was in 1962. We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe.”

I have many comments.

First, I very much like Dave’s elastic use of ” proximity” as a relative cognitive perception. He’s right. As the world has globalized and moved into the information age, what constitutes “distance” has changed irrevocably for people in advanced ” Core” societies. Only a little more than a half-century ago a British Prime Minister justified appeasement because the costs were being borne by a ” far-away people, of whom we know nothing”. What was that, of course, compared to ” peace in our time”?

That excuse is much harder to make these days, at least in terms of Western statesmen avoiding obloquy. Just ask former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, whose new first name might actually be ” Feckless”.

Secondly, (and at least to me, interestingly) revisionist historians like William Appleman Williams, Walter Lefeber, Thomas J. McCormick, Gabriel Kolko and Lloyd Gardner
would agree with Dave that “We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe”, albeit for very different ideological motivations.

Thirdly, I sense in the immigration debate to which Dave refers a growing and serious disconnect in terms of values betwen our leaders and the American people. I generally consider that immigrantion has been helpful to this country. Unlike, say, Pat Buchanan, I am not alarmed by Mexican immigration per se, brown skin can be good kin, as it were.

But the sheer magnitude of illegal immigration coupled the deliberate attempt by Mexico’s Vicente Fox government to cultivate and retain the immigrant’s primary loyalties is worrisome. The inability of our current security procedures to exercise even minimal control our own borders is worrisome. These things are basic challenges to American sovereignty. A policy encouraging a high degree of mobility across the border does not have to be implemented with a high degree of stupidity.

Most worrisome of all is that our bipartisan elite is content to tur a blind eye to the problem and pursue an uncontrolled borders policy to which nearly 60 % of the Americans are strongly opposed – opposed even by a majority of Hispanic immigrants. A policy contrary to American national interests but very much conducive to the political and economic interests of this insular bipartisan elite.

End Part I.

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

BLOGGING NOTES, HOUSEKEEPING AND POLICY CHANGES

Ahem. A rare address on the state of Zenpundit. First, the blogroll.

I have added some newcomers to the blogroll – many thanks to Dave Schuler of the Glittering Eye and Tom Scudder of ‘Aqoul for their suggestions – more changes will soon be forthcoming but for now you can welcome:

Ann Althouse

Bliss Street Journal

Chicago Boyz

History Unfolding

SyriaComment

Window on the Arab World, and More !

A fine group of blogs worth your online time to peruse. The next batch of additions will remediate some topical or domain gaps on my blogroll that I believe need plugging. There will be a few deletions of dead or dying blogs or people whom I do not read that often and who, in the interim, appear to have gone insane or joined a sect of unreconstructed wingnuts.

Secondly, after some reflection, I have decided to accept some degree of paid advertising from a reputable company which can be seen in the form of unobtrusive text ads in the margin. I have had inquiries in this regard in the past but have never accepted until now. Why alter my policy ?

While I do not need the money per se I do incur some costs from subscriptions to periodicals, online data bases and ( an exceedingly large number of) books that support my blogging that I might not otherwise have purchased. Moreover, I have plans for upgrading Zenpundit in the near term that involve additional expenditures and it would be nice if the blog can self-finance at least some of these things.

Therefore, I will accept some sponsors who offer products or services that have nothing to do with the topics on which I usually write. If it could be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest I simply won’t take the ad. Completely off-limits would be ads from partisan political campaigns or websites of an adult nature ( call it the “no politicians or whores” rule). Also rejected a priori are gaudy, bandwith sucking, banner ads or pop-ups because I find such things very annoying myself and do not wish to inconvenience my readers.

Other than that, let capitalism reign.

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