Tag Archives: defense

Five Days of Liberty: A Recap of PorcFest 2011

The freest festival in America

Ever wondered what it would be like if you lived in a world where there were no police, no laws, and no mandates from legislators? For the last five days I was in such an environment in Lancaster, New Hampshire. This event, called PorcFest, is a weeklong celebration of freedom, liberty, and a rebellion against crooked governments and statist legislation. This event is hosted each year by the Free State Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to create a libertarian community within New Hampshire, considered by many, including the prestigious Mercatus Center at George Mason University, to be the freest state in the country both economically and socially. The goal is to get 20,000 liberty activists to agree to move to New Hampshire to make it even freer than it already is. PorcFest is a yearly event that brings together people from around the world to join together under the cause of “liberty in our lifetime”, and also to be able to do the kinds of things that are illegal in their hometowns.

Read on at www.silverunderground.com

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“Justice was Done”

The great international manhunt came to an end last night, as the United States finally got their man. Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and countless other atrocities around the world, was killed in a daring raid on a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a wealthy neighborhood some 50 kilometers north of Islamabad. This moment, nearly ten years in waiting, touched off jubilant celebrations from New York to Los Angeles and beyond. President Obama remarked that this moment is “the most significant achievement” in the War on Terror, and he couldn’t be more correct. However, amidst the euphoria and celebration of the news late Sunday night, there was a shroud of mystery surrounding the raid that deserves to be addressed. How did bin Laden make his way across Pakistan away from the Tora Bora Mountains without being noticed? Why did nobody suspect anything was amiss in that neighborhood when a giant mansion with 18-foot walls was erected, dwarfing every other house in the area? Most importantly, how did the Pakistani government not realize that the most wanted man in the world was practically in their backyard, and living near one of the largest military bases in the country? Even though he was finally found and killed, new suspicions have arisen, leaving one to wonder how friendly American-Pakistani relations really are, or if we’ve been played like a fiddle for the past decade.

Let’s focus on the mission itself to start with. According to military sources, this raid had been in the plans for the last four years. The reason it didn’t commence earlier was apparently because the units that took part in the mission needed to be trained to handle such a vast, protected complex, and they had to confirm that bin Laden was actually there. This cautious approach was necessary because the neighborhood the house was in is no slum: it’s an affluent neighborhood far from the combat zone, and right on the doorstep of a supposedly friendly government. There was a great risk that this mission would go pear-shaped, and have ruinous consequences for diplomatic relations with Islamabad if the house had held just innocent people. It was a bold decision on the part of President Obama to sign off on such a mission, knowing the risks involved and the political hot-water he would be in if the suspicions were wrong. Luckily for him, and for the soldiers that took part in this historic raid, the intelligence was correct, and the most wanted criminal on the planet was taken out.

Unfortunately, it seems it didn’t matter very much if the mission was successful or not in terms of our partnership with Islamabad. The success of the mission only raised more questions regarding where the Pakistani military and government’s allegiances really lie. We all knew that fraud and two-timing deals are the norm with this country, but the fact that bin Laden had been hiding in plain sight for all these years, in a part of the country that is as heavily militarized as Abbottabad, is troublesome. There might be reason to believe that the Pakistani government knew he was there all along, and was using his presence there for leverage against the United States, especially when it came to coordinating counter-terror attacks on the Afghani-Pakistani border. We now know that bin Laden was nowhere near that area, debunking years of assurance to the contrary, and somebody either on the Pakistani side or our side has some explaining to do. 

A problem I have with the media’s response to this event is that there seems to be a consensus that with bin Laden out of the picture, al-Qaeda and the Taliban will crumble. I find this hard to believe for a multitude of reasons. First of all, al-Qaeda is an elaborate terrorist network, and it would be surprising if they didn’t have a successor-in-waiting in the event of bin Laden’s death. What is more troubling is how the organization will react upon hearing the news, and what consequences will their actions have on innocent civilians across the world. In the US, security has been beefed up at all airports and possible places a terrorist attack may go down, and governments across the Western world are following suit. While nobody expects a repeat of 9/11 to happen again, attacks like the Madrid train bombings and the 7/7 attacks on London’s transportation system are possible, and relatively easy to plan and carry out. These next few days and weeks are going to be some of the most nerve-wracking of the last decade, especially when we don’t know if al-Qaeda is going to be a force anymore without its leader and spiritual guide. As for the Taliban, they will definitely still be around, and still pose a threat to the Afghani government and people, as well as to the troops still over there. Make no mistake; this is no time to let our guard down. These terrorists are battered, but not beaten.

Politically, this moment couldn’t have come at a better time for Obama, who’s foreign and military policies have been much criticized by both Democrats and Republicans as of late, especially in regards to the war in Libya. While the success of the operation can and should be credited to the military commanders and the soldiers that took part in the planning and execution, the President is still the commander-in-chief, and signing off on this mission was a gutsy move. Also, headed into the 2012 elections, he has a huge weapon in his re-election bag of tricks now, and it’s a weapon that we can expect him to use repeatedly in his campaign, especially if the economy is still lagging. His approval rating is going to go through the roof over the next few days, I’m expected it to peak at around 60%, but any wartime spike in approval is usually short lived, and it won’t be much longer before his numbers come back down to Earth, especially since there are still many more problems the country is currently facing and he is still struggling with. Still, he has that one-up on President Bush that nobody thought he would achieve: during his presidency, bin Laden was found, and justice was done.

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Mideast March Madness

Up until now, March Madness just meant the ritual of filling out brackets for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, then watching as they slowly (or in my case swiftly), get torn to shreds within the first weekend. However, in Washington, the madness has revolved around the civil strife in Libya. For much of the last month, the turmoil that has defined the Middle East has spread to the shores of Tripoli in some of the most violent uprisings since the Bosnian conflict in 1995. Contrary to expectations, the rebels, based in the city of Benghazi, had the upper hand, capturing much of the country and appeared poised to take Tripoli. Unfortunately for them, they found out it’s difficult to keep fighting when Gaddafi turns his army loose. By March 13th, the rebels were in full retreat, and the “capital” of Benghazi was under siege. It was at this time that the UN Security Council authorized a no-fly zone by a 10-0 vote, with P-5 countries Russia and China abstaining, and soon the US was sending ships and planes and men to halt Gaddafi.

Without congressional approval.

Without an address to the nation.

Without any explanation as to why the conflict in Libya is a national security priority.

It is the reasons mentioned above why many Americans, and congressmen from both sides of the aisle, oppose the conflict in Libya. What is even more surprising is that this conflict flipped the script in terms of support for military activity. Proponents for the Libyan conflict include Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who oppose the Iraq war, claim intervening in Libya is a humanitarian issue and Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who maintain that it is America’s obligation to defend those who combat tyrants in their home country. Opponents of the conflict include Democrats like Representative Dennis Kucinich and Tea Party-backed Republicans like Rand Paul (and, of course, his father Ron), who are upset with Obama’s bypassing of Congress and instant support for the UN resolution. Some Democrats like Kucinich have even speculated that Obama’s actions are grounds for impeachment (no you read that right, Democrats are speculating that). Regardless of which side you fall on, this issue is one of the very few whose battle lines aren’t partisan, a rarity in the age of Obama.

The crisis in Libya has been often compared to the war in Iraq, but there are noticeable differences between the way Obama is handling Libya and the way Bush handled Iraq. In 2003, Bush took us to war in Iraq on the premise that dislodging Saddam Hussein would deprive al-Qaeda of a safe haven from which to attack America. Also, Saddam was thought to possess weapons of mass destruction capable of attacking Israel and the US. Even though nerve gas canisters were found, which can be called “weapons of mass destruction”, opponents say those were overstated, or even fabricated. Also, the war in Iraq did not gain UN approval, but it got congressional approval, and Bush addressed the nation before commencing with the war, along with nations like South Korea, the UK, Iceland, and a few other minor players. Obama took us into Libya without consulting Congress beforehand, choosing to send a letter explaining his actions after airstrikes began. Also, the conflict is currently limited to a no-fly zone, but there is every indicator that it will go beyond that and will involve ground troops, especially since Gaddafi has resumed his offensive on the ground despite the airstrikes. The premise for the Libyan conflict is that America can’t supposedly sit on the sidelines when a civil war is raging, so military action is justified in this case. So far, it isn’t the full blown invasion like we saw in Iraq, so the costs are significantly less, but given the ongoing budget battles in Washington and in the states, any amount of money spent is magnified, especially on defense.

One thing is clear however; the conflict in Libya has enabled the world to see what kind of leader Obama is in regards to military and foreign policy, especially when this seems like it will be Obama’s War, and it isn’t promising. By not consulting Congress, Obama has given the impression that UN approval is more important than approval by our elected representatives, thus giving the UN the power to dictate where US military might is deployed. At least with previous presidents like Bush, it was more important to get congressional approval, since it is the taxpayers that fund the military, not the UN. Also, despite Obama campaigning on promises of peace and a reduced presence around the world, promises that somehow earned him the 2009 Nobel Peace prize, it only takes a civil war in a country that doesn’t pose a major threat to American interests for him to contribute America’s military power. This was the kind of behavior that earned President Bush wide condemnation for being reckless, especially by then-Senators Obama and Joe Biden. In 2007, Joe Biden even went on record saying that violating the War Powers Resolution Act, which requires presidents to keep Congress informed regarding usage of the military, is grounds for impeachment, which Bush and Obama . Don’t get excited guys, President Obama won’t face Biden’s wrath anytime soon, he’ll have enough of a time trying to win back the liberals he lost over this conflict. 

Let’s not forget about the costs of this conflict as well. A no-fly zone will cost roughly $1.2 billion a month, plus the costs of the Tomahawk missiles and the expected costs of ground troops that may become necessary, despite Obama saying he won’t be using them. NATO is expected to take control of the coalition very soon, but NATO’s military forces are backed up by the US, and make up a huge component of the coalition. Obama is also going to have to find a way to raise money for this war. Hopefully he will abide by the cut-go policies of the House of Representatives, especially since he wanted to make cuts in defense spending anyway, but it seems like it will mean raising taxes yet again.

The situation in Libya is changing every day and uncertainty over what America’s role in the conflict will continue. Whether or not the no-fly zone will force Gaddafi from power, or only increase his resistance to the sanctions will be decided in the coming days, weeks, months, or even years. One thing is clear, the Obama that ran against Bush’s war policy is gone, and has been replaced with an Obama that has not only embraced such policies, but has expanded them into yet another theater of war.

So much for “Change We Could Believe In”.

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