Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 4, 2012
Mr. President: The highlight of the week was the sight of our President half way
around the world in Kabul signing an agreement with the hapless Karzai at 4 a.m. Of
course, that time happened to be just right for our evening news. And when one says
Kabul, one actually means the heavily fortified area beyond which senior American
officials, generally arriving by stealth of night, dare not step. Meanwhile, outside this
'green zone' bombs kept going off as usual.
Andrew Bacevich, the military scholar based in Boston University, has defined three
phases of these wars: first, liberation / domination; second, counterinsurgency; and
third, targeted assassinations. The latter can go on for ever because the leaders
killed are simply replaced. We can always declare victory and leave, although real
victory requires the defeated to accept defeat. So here we are pointlessly killing
middle level commanders, and civilians, who happen to be in the way or are
mis-targeted, and garnering ever more hatred. One consequence is Afghan army
soldiers killing their American trainers. These attacks have multiplied to an all-time
high this year.
The Secretary of State's visit to China was preceded by the Chen Guangchen
incident. The blind dissident escaped house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S.
Embassy. He claims he was treated like a hot potato with embassy officials wanting
him to leave as soon as possible. He did -- escorted out by us and left in a hospital.
He has now been allowed to file for permission to leave China to study law at NYU.
We will have to wait to see what happens. There was a time when the U.S. might
have fought more vigorously for him but the discreet presence of Treasury Secretary
Geithner, not much mentioned in the PR of the visit, speaks volumes for the shadow
of the almost $2 trillion debt (to the Chinese) overhang. That is almost two-thirds of
total Chinese foreign exchange reserves, themselves constituting half of the rest of
the world put together and a possible threat to IMF's previously comfortable role in
Elsewhere, the effort to libyocratize Syria has ground to a halt as both sides take a
breather during the U.N. monitored ceasefire. The Gulf Cooperation Council
members led by Saudi Arabia are busy scratching their heads as Syria proves to be a
harder nut to crack. One wonders if the Syrians really want the devastation of a Libya
or Iraq in their relatively densely populated country.
In the meantime, we have a recession / depression (2007 - 2009) showing no signs of
a reasonable recovery five years after it started. How do we fix it? Certainly not by
handing out blank checks to banks, no strings attached, or opening the flood gates at
the Fed for interest free loans to them. For a start, how about a serious effort at
repairing and replacing infrastructure to remove bottlenecks to growth when the
economy really recovers, and to provide some demand-pull through the jobs created.
Or are we ready to sacrifice a generation and be placed on a permanently lower
growth track. That is what happens when a generation is not fully able to contribute.