12 Years Later: Reassessing the War in Afghanistan

October 7th marked the 12th year the United States has been in the war in Afghanistan. This is by-far the longest combat operation in American history, and is expected to continue for at least another two years. Aside from its record length, the war in Afghanistan has now has claimed the lives of over 2,000 US troops and wounded more than 17,000. In addition to the human sacrifice, the fiscal repercussions of this war have been exorbitant: now fetching a price tag of $1.172 trillion.

This has unarguably put a damper on the US economy. The $2 billion spent on the war each week is crippling the US government from being able to invest on its own soil, and it adds further bloating to an already looming debt crisis. Yet despite the fact that two-thirds of the American people oppose the war effort, the president continues to proceed with the status qua.

This was exampled when the president proposed his FY 2013 budget to congress, which requested another $88.5 billion in spending for the war in Afghanistan. President Obama has also been unwavering to make any changes to his, now archaic, Afghanistan plan that was developed in 2009. This is in spite of the fact that a new set of dangers and dynamics have unfolded such as: a surging amount of insider-based attacks from Afghani officials, the crumbling relationship with Pakistan, and the recently heinous assaults on US embassies and consulates throughout the many parts of the Muslim world, including Afghanistan.

But his opponent, Mitt Romney, offers no contrast to the president in this regard. This is because he is in lockstep with the president’s plan, which he even neglected to mention during his RNC nomination speech. Hence reaffirming why he has had so many campaign troubles this year.

If the president wishes to recapture support for the war then he needs to update his three-year-old plan and explain a renewed vision to the American people. This is an inherent duty of every any commander-and-chief, because there should never be any doubt in the United States’ interests and objectives for any war. Anything otherwise should prompt bringing our troops back home immediately.

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Romney Sacked Again

In light of Tuesday’s tragedies regarding the murders in Libya of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his fellow colleagues, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney added another blemish to his fumble- filled season of foreign policy politics.  According to Politico’s chief political correspondent Mike Allen, the major media networks received an email from Romney’s campaign around ten p.m. Tuesday evening concerning how “…disgraceful the Obama Administration’s first response…” was to the diplomatic crises unfolding at U.S. consulates in Libya and Egypt.  Of course being the anniversary of our nation’s most horrific terrorist attack, Romney’s campaign advised the media not to release these incendiary remarks until one minute after midnight in order to avoid disrespecting the President on this solemn day.  However, the Romney campaign seemed unfettered by the fact that our diplomats and Foreign Service members in the region were still under siege by enraged radical Islamist’s groups.

Pundits quickly took this story to the airwaves, emboldened by what was considered a cheap shot at the President during such an alarming time for our diplomats abroad.  But Romney should not take full responsibility for this misstep. He may have been attempting to sway voter opinion away from his reputation of always ‘playing it safe’.  It seems more likely, though, that Romney saw this diplomatic ordeal as an opportunity to gain back a few percentage  points the President gained as a result of his “Convention Bump”.

Romney’s advisers and political consultants must shoulder the majority of the responsibility for their handling of the campaign’s response to this tragic event. Their misstep should not come as a surprise for the Republican nominee’s campaign.  All season long, Romney’s campaign has shown their utter lack of political prowess regarding foreign policy.  They have allowed him to make comments on CNN about Russia being our “number one geopolitical foe”.  They have allowed him to insult British officials while visiting London during the 2012 Olympics.  They even allowed him to deliver his RNC presidential nomination acceptance speech while managing to completely omit any verbiage concerning the war being waged in Afghanistan, or the troops that are fighting it.

Instead of patching up what could have been chalked up to merely overzealous comments made on Tuesday night, Romney’s camp doubled down on their criticisms.  Romney stated in a public address that the President “…bore responsibility for statements by his embassies…” which Romney claimed were apologetic and sympathetic to violent rioters storming the US embassies.  Rather than Romney just pressing the mute button and letting emotions simmer as the facts are unveiled,  his doubling down may have been a “game changer”, according to Romney’s 2008 campaign adviser Alex Castellanos, with respect to Romney’s ability to win this November.

If this were a football game, all of Romney’s foreign policy plays this season would be re-runs of him getting sacked inside his own end zone.  The advisors — Romney’s offensive line — are much to blame for the amateurish and un-presidential response to the diplomatic turmoil on Tuesday.  Credit must also be given to the President for not trading jabs with Romney,  for that would neutralize the President’s popular foreign policy platform — Obama’s defensive line.  His refusal to engage in the political posturing also reflects well on the dignity of the Office of the President of the United States.  Although subliminal, this type of message is quietly effective with voters across the political spectrum.

This is unusual territory for any Democratic President. Somehow Romney continues to lose points in a field that has been singularly dominated by his own party during the past half-century.  Perhaps, Coach Romney should consider putting in his second string.  They could hardly do any more harm than what the starters have done.

Tax-Deductible Spin: How Super PACs and churches have more in common than you think

Republican strategist, Roger Stone reported a few days ago that David Koch (Co-founder and Co-owner of Koch Industries) may have played a vital role in the selection of Paul Ryan being tapped as the Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate.  According to Stone, Mr. Koch pledged to give Governor Romney’s Super PAC $100 million dollars if Congressman Ryan would be his V.P. selection.  I will not speculate that Governor Romney selected Ryan for such a bountiful donation -nor should the liberal media outlets- because there is an actually a more substantive problem at hand.  Assuming Stone’s report is accurate, and now that Ryan was selected as the V.P. nominee,  Mr. Koch will presumably settle his end of the bargain –making Romney’s Super PAC(s) $100 million dollars richer.

Here is where my gripe comes in, Super PACs are defined under our tax codes as 501(c)(4) organizations, which are classified as charity or social welfare groups.  When an organization is classified by the IRS under this section, they are essentially impervious to disclosure laws that make such organizations more transparent to the public in regards to their donors and donation amounts.  The other problem with Super PACs being protected under the ‘charity’ clauses is that any donation made to the organization can be tax deductible, acting similarly to the same deductions one gets when they tithe or donate money to a cancer foundation.

Now, I want to be clear in my argument here for I am not trying to pick on Mr. Koch, or any Republican candidates, because the Democrats have their power-brokers and Super PACs as well –making them virtually indifferent from their opponents.  My problem is that these Super PACs are often accredited for publishing, producing, and financing many of these distasteful, libel-ridden advertisements we see on TV or the internet every day.  However, they operate under a tax-exempt status, with little to no regulation, and can in layman’s terms be called a ‘charity’.  We should not allow these polarizing factions -major catalysts in eradicating Washington’s pragmatic personalities of old- to be classified as charitable organizations; rather we should call them what they truly are, partisan provocateurs.

In order for us to move forward as a nation -with sensible public policy and prudent public officials- we should first try to discern the difference between a charity and a hate group.

 

Here is Roger Stone’s original report:  http://stonezone.com/article.php?id=516

This was an insightful report about Super PAC tax classification:  http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/03/are-corporations-claiming-tax-breaks-super-pac-donations/50067/ 

Riddle me this?

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an article about how 130 members of Congress were dabbling with stocks -buying, selling, trading- that they had instrumental power in manipulating and configuring, during the course of their legislative proposals and committee responsibilities.  How are we (constituents of these congress members) ever going to be able to gain serious trust in our representatives, if many of them are using their political prowess and insider knowledge to gain financial prosperity -especially in such a volatile and alarming U.S economy.  I hope that both of our Presidential candidates will speak candidly on this matter and highlight to the American people why this practice is utterly unethical and irresponsible.

The Washington Post article:

Members of Congress trade in companies while making laws that affect those same firms

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