Archive for October, 2015

War, Causes, and Winning

October 16, 2015

War, Causes, and Winning

There are two main causes for war in the modern world. One is simple territorial aggression, based on a lust for power. A nation’s leadership comes to believe that they are somehow entitled to expand their control of lands or people. In the past, this would have led to invasion and conquest; in the modern world, a different form of control is seen, that of the threat. When one power is so large that it’s secure from military action by its neighbors, rattling the sabers is usually enough to force those neighbors to allow the larger one to exert control. We’re seeing this around the edges of the new Russian Empire and also in China.

The danger here is when the saber-rattler misjudges its neighbors. Two regions of the world now face unrest because the two largest nations on Earth are attempting to expand. Russia is active around its European borders and has pushed into the Middle East. China, in addition to disputed Asian border regions, is expanding into the South China Sea, an area claimed by several other nations.

But territory can be lost as well as won, so it must be defended. That’s the weakness of a large nation. Defending those extensive borders is costly. What Russia has been doing, arming the disaffected around her borders to create instability, can be turned back on her and used to counter to further expansion. It’s a risky tactic, but so is what Russia is doing. A miscalculation can lead to world war three.

The second cause is religion, often allied with a kind of tribal identity. Once again, power is an underlying cause, but in this case national size is unimportant. A combatant need not even be a nation. People and their belief systems are the sources of power.

Unless governments understand this, their efforts can’t succeed. US and Western attempts to counter the ISIS and the Taliban treat the two ideologies as if they were nations. Russia is taking a slightly different approach; Putin intends to control Assad and let him deal with the IS ideology. Russia’s risks are moderate and Putin gains influence by having a presence in the Middle East that neighbor states cannot ignore. Will Russia succeed where others have failed?

I don’t think so. They’re directing their operations at territory, not ideology.

Simply put, in a war with religious overtones, you can only succeed if you counter the religious base. That means targeting the mosques and clerics. It means targeting the ‘caliph’ of the caliphate. That means targeting the people involved, without regard to territory.

I see a similarity between this type of war and the American Civil War. That one dragged on until Union commanders realized that destruction of the Confederate armies was the key to victory. Removing support from those armies was also necessary.

No nation or coalition has understood that the only way to destroy the Taliban or ISIS is to take the field with armies and pursue the enemy to destruction. No one has been willing to attack the source of their support, religion. So IS and the Taliban can afford losses among their soldiers; across the Middle East, religious leaders recruit replacements and send them across national borders to join the ‘armies’ of the Taliban and IS.

But that’s the key to winning.


Democrats, Economics, and Me

October 14, 2015

I noticed something last night. Hillary Clinton doesn’t even know what capitalism is. Really. When asked a question, she went on about small businesses. Those are entrepreneurs, not capitalists.
Bernie Sanders calls himself a ‘Democratic Socialist’, but to be honest, he favors the social safety net, not socialism.
As for me, you’re going to have to find a new description. I’m not socialist, I’m not capitalist. But at the same time, I’m not totally against either of these, so long as they’re only part of the economic system. Part, because there are advantages to be gained from those, and other systems.
Begin with private enterprise, AKA entrepreneurship. Someone sees a need, starts a business, begins making a living. Maybe they even hire an employee or two. Pretty much every candidate at least pays lip service to this, even if they don’t know what it is.
Toss in capitalism. If the opportunity is large enough, that entrepreneur can take in a partner who has money, or several thousand ‘partners’. They’re using surplus money to earn more money. Set up a means of selling or buying the shares they own in a company. Now you’re using ‘capital’, and this is ‘capitalism’. So far, so good; but like communism, unrestricted capitalism must be regulated lest it gain control of the entire system.
Restricted capitalism works fine. It earns money for investors, but isn’t allowed to damage the economy. We need more of that. When a capitalist company moves jobs offshore, because that way they make more profit, they damage the economy. We need a system of regulating this, but short of a major tax overhaul it won’t happen. We can’t keep a corporation from relocating to where it will, either to increase profits or to shelter income from taxes; what we can do is tax each corporation based on access to the American economy. You sell here, you pay taxes here, regardless of where you claim to be based. It’s called a gross-receipts tax system, and it can cancel the advantage that corporations currently have.
Meantime, regulated capitalism works well enough for domestic corporation that can’t offshore, things like the gas company.
Finally, there’s socialism. Socialism can be part of the social contract, part of the social safety net. Socialism is direct government ownership or investment in part of the economy. Socialism does what capitalism won’t do, it funds non-profit activities. Used properly, socialism can be the ‘governor’ that regulates the economy. Make the government the employer of last resort. Lose your job? Work for the government. Do what the CCC and WPA did during the 1930’s. All the money paid to workers is immediately spent, generating more economic activity. When the economy picks up, people take better-paying jobs. But no one has to fear going homeless because he/she can’t find a job. And we’ve surely got things that need to be done in this country.
Education and healthcare are two fields that are currently capitalist, but that need to be socialist. Simply put, they’re too important to be provided only to those with money.
So how do we pay for socialist enterprises and the social safety net? Simple: Quantitative Easing, the same system that was used to bail out the big banks at the end of the Bush presidency. It’s how the Fed creates money, electronically. No printing of currency, just an electronic message generating a balance that banks can use. Or, for that matter, the Social Security Administration can use. Or a new Civilian Conservation Corps. The only thing the Fed needs to keep an eye on is inflation. Economists such as Paul Krugman have written that we need MORE inflation to stimulate the economy.
Unlike efforts such as the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, this doesn’t rely on any other country to help us keep our economy stable. We can do it ourselves.
So: I favor a balance of private enterprise, capitalism and regulated capitalism, socialism, and a social safety net for individuals.
Not socialist, not capitalist. I think you’ll need to come up with a better descriptive phrase for me.