18 June 2014


The USA has not been blessed with leaders with a clear-eyed, long-term geopolitical view of the interests of the country for decades, and that record, along with the consistent ineptitude of the present administration, makes inaction preferable to action on a number of fronts. Iraq is descending into a chaotic civil war, due to the precipitous disengagement of the Obama administration and a total lack of strategic vision. There is no question that the blunders of the Bush administration are responsible for instigating these problems, but in that case at least half the blame belongs to Saddam Hussein himself for so successfully faking WMD capabilities in order to be perceived as a more formidable force in the region. That posture backfired, as did his removal. Sadaam was an awful dictator, but he counterbalanced the equally odious Iranian regime, which became the principal beneficiary of his demise. Broader strategic thinking would have made that outcome obvious. 

More importantly, Sadaam was a secular leader who checked religious extremism as long as he was in power. The same dynamic is at work in Syria now, where the US currently has zero credibility or respect, having drawn a  “line in the sand,” which it then ignored.  A wiser, long-term geopolitical understanding would have informed us of the saliency of the religious extremism in the two branches of Islam, and guided our strategic thinking accordingly. This is a long term, historic conflict that could still last centuries. Do we want to be part of that? At this stage, given the bumbling proclivities of our leaders, I think the best course for the US is to use this as an opportunity to get out of the line of fire. By that I mean ceasing to be enemy number one to extremists on both sides of the Islamic rift.  We have managed to fumble our way into that position, and it is now time to extricate ourselves. 

There are many countries in the world with an “Islamic problem,” meaning either a restive minority population or conflict with an aggressive neighbor. The US is not one of them, and a cursory examination of global borders makes that obvious. There is no inherent reason for the US to be at odds with any of these players, but for inserting ourselves into their affairs. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the left, it’s not about oil. We are more self-sufficient in this hemisphere than most other countries, and would be even more so but for the anti-energy policies of this administration, which sooner or later will be undone. The people who depend on mideast oil are the Japanese, the Europeans, and increasingly, the Chinese. Consequently what happens in the area is of far more consequence for them than it is for us. 

As for cultural conflict, Europe has a large, unassimilated Muslim population. Russia, and even China have restive Muslim minorities. Thus, the problems are far more acute for them, so why should the US wind up being the Great Satan? Bin Laden (who primarily targeted the US for stationing forces in Saudi Arabia, which are now gone) is dead and most of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack are accounted for. The Muslims are not our problem, and the more we disengage from conflict with them the less we would be targeted. Their main goal is obtaining power within the Islamic world. They are basically a headache for the existing regimes, who until now have managed to deflect such hostility onto the west. We are not sufficiently ruthless for this kind of conflict.

This does not mean cutting and running, but making a realistic policy that in essence says you don’t bother us and we won’t bother you, for if you do you will be annihilated with overwhelming force.  We would basically make an offer they couldn’t refuse. Let the CIA do its job for a change and come up with accurate information on these movements. Given the nature of the present administration I do not see a better path. 

We have paid dearly for all of this, not just in lives and treasure, but in terms of our own liberties. We now have a massive security state that is adept primarily at inconveniencing us at airports. Yet the end result is a situation no better than it was before, and given the instability in the area, arguably worse. We need to focus on rebuilding strength at home, where our way of life has deteriorated significantly. I am not suggesting isolationism here, but realism, as per Theodore Roosevelt’s axiom, speak softly but carry a big stick. 

15 June 2014


I’ve been down with Lyme disease for the past several days and haven’t been up for much of anything as a result. This is the second time I’ve had it, and the seventh year in a row that I’ve been bitten by the ticks that cause it. This is due in large measure to the pathway that tick-bearing deer have made for themselves across my property. They start out at a preserve east of here, cross the beach, and then somehow manage to scale a two hundred foot sandy cliff from the shore in front of my house.  From there they linger in a patches of brush and copse, while helping themselves to plants in the garden. Then they continue on, past a dune to the west and probably somehow make it to the next woodland preserve. The nuisance is still superseded by the wonder of it, and in any case other creatures, like raccoons can also carry the ticks,  which are thus hard to eliminate.

If recognized soon enough antibiotics will get rid of the disease, but this is the sort of malady with which you don’t feel up to doing much of anything, at least until drugs  kick in. It isn’t so serious as long as it’s being treated, but a kind of ennui sets in and things you usually spend time become onerous, such as being constantly online, so I’ve been unplugged over this period, not just from computers, but most television as well. It is amazing how much time you suddenly have to do things you thought you’d never find time for, even while not being well. Other things that previously seemed urgent are less compelling. You become much more attuned to the ebb and flow of life around you, and the most important thing you want to find out is the weather report.

The biggest deterrent to tuning out is that you might miss something. But with sufficient detachment you realize that in the larger scheme of things, life goes on without you, as it did before, and as it surely will when you are gone. You see that your time is truly limited, and really think about what you are spending it on. You can get a slight sense of this when traveling, but everywhere you go the world is wired, and as long as you remain connected you are never completely detached. You don’t get a true sense of life apart from electronics, or of life that is not  socially networked to everyone all of the time. 

Yet no one will go to their grave wishing they had spent more time on the Internet. I am in no way suggesting that everyone should drop out, but rather consider how much time you are spending with electronic media, especially while other things remain unattended, and try to place some limits on it accordingly. I try to limit social media to fifteen minutes a day now, because otherwise you can get drawn in for hours, and miss the larger truth that life is what is happening while you’re on the Internet.