Weekly Letter to President Obama
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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
Jan 6, 2012

Mr. President:  The mayhem in Iraq continues.  Yesterday at least 67 people have
been reported killed in numerous bombings in various Shiite neighborhoods.  The
sectarian constitution inflames religious conflict and the current violence stems from
the Shiite Prime Minister's heavy-handed attempt to neutralize the Sunnis by charging
their highest ranked leader, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, with terrorism.  How
stable and how democratic Iraq will be is anyone's guess.  The oil deals are going
mostly to non-U.S. entities.  So what did we get for the $3.2 to $4 trillion (as estimated
by the latest, Summer 2011, Brown University study) spent on the wars in Iraq?

Is this the most mismanaged war ever?  The book "We Meant Well:  How I Helped
Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People" by Peter Van Buren
chronicles the waste and incompetence.  The failed methods of Vietnam were
retrieved, dusted off and re-employed with dismal results.  The questions to ask now
are:  Who is being held responsible?  And why do similar methods continue to be
applied in Afghanistan?  Why are our taxes wasted with impunity by incompetents who
dream up ideas on a whim?

New plans and cuts in the Defense budget announced yesterday reflect the
consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is clear we will henceforth be relying on a  
much smaller footprint -- special forces and drones to the fore - recalling the concept
of "offshore balancing."  The idea, much advocated by University of Chicago
Professor John J. Mearsheimer, relies on friendly regional powers to offset hostile

Questions remain because no one has articulated an overall political strategy or
objectives.  So, what do we need our armed forces for?  Does demand for the world's
resources have a role?  If so, it is worth noting that China seems to be wrapping up
almost everything in Africa.

And with regard to China, do we plan to contest the Pacific as its influence grows and
ours ebbs?  If so, what will we need?  Are there means other than the presence of
force?  These might well offer the potential of a plus-sum instead of a zero-sum
game.  Otherwise, Mearsheimer's 2001 book, "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics",
which illustrates his theory of offensive realism and foresees bleak prospects for
peace in northeast Asia, will become the apt predictor.  Anarchy in the world system,
according to this theory, obliges states to seek dominance, forcing even peaceful
nations into a relentless power struggle.

There has to be a time when the human race is able to resolve conflicts through
mediation and international law, or diffuse them into rivalries; it becomes particularly
important as worsening climate change affects the whole planet, and solutions
inevitably require cooperation and trust between the nation states that govern us.