5.12.2008

Comin' From the Right with Right Commentary

In the right corner of the ring, is Bryan, from Right Commentary, in the Uncle Sam get up, and on the left...well OK, this is an interview, not a boxing match. A boxing match could be fun, but we'll have to have a few beers first. At least that way I could blame drunken debauchery and belligerence for my arrest. That said, I invited people from all walks of life and political perspectives to allow themselves to be interviewed. Bryan stepped up to the plate, and even though we are polar opposites on many issues, we agree on one thing, just because we have opposing views, doesn't mean we can't have rational discussions. Of course, Being that this is the first person (on my blog) to have totally opposite views as mine I have to fight the urge to debate him in his own interview. I think I've managed to get a hold of myself, and only include a few basic links. I'll leave all the debate to the comments section.

First, Bryan wanted to say this:

I ultimately believe that politics is about people. As such, I have never been afraid or concerned about engaging in people with views different from my own. I wish to be clear, however, that I do not support Anarchist views, or much of the views on this website. I suspect most of the readers of this website will not agree with my views either. I believe, however, that this audience is both serious and passionate and that a dialogue between "a conservative" and people who read this blog is worthwhile. I consented to do this "interview" under that premise - that political discourse is valuable when it can lead to mutual understanding. I therefore welcome comments at my own website from people of all partisan leanings. However, one should not interpret my interview as being an endorsement of this site or its philosophy... just as comments and opinions on my site are not intended as an endorsement of my political beliefs.



Q: With regards to general political opinion, how much weight does the Main Stream Media (MSM) actually carry? Do you feel that the MSM accurately reports enough pertinent information so that American citizens can make informed choices, or do they focus too much on the fabulous gossip stories du jour?

A: I believe that the "main stream media" is the dominant outlet for how people get their news, and therefore, it can carry considerable weight as to how people form political opinions. Much of the media stories are digested for people – in large part because specialized knowledge is often required in understanding the complexity of what is going on in the world. As a result of all this spoon feeding and specialized knowledge – most people are unable to think for themselves about what is going on in the world. In that regard, I think the MSM has not been helpful.



In addition to the MSM, soft media, oddly enough like John Stewart's media skit, also informs people about events. Soft media often does a better job than the MSM in parsing news into chunks people can digest. Because the news is often entertainment – it is easier to keep the viewer's attention and thereby convey complex stories. There has been some research into how soft media informs people's views about politics – that research indicates that shows like "The Daily Show" sometimes carry more weight than CNN in how people form opinions.



As to the "MSM's focus," I think that news production is ultimately driven by market forces. What people want to see and read about drives much of what is ultimately reported out by the major news networks. This results in a myopic production of news focused on "the breaking story," the "sensational story," and personal tragedy. One of my blog posts – "That's what we call the news" makes fun of this fact We interrupt this announcement for an urgent news bulletin!. I think that parody is good at highlighting the problems with most media reporting.



If you travel to other places, you will see the sampling of news is different, although the format is often the same. For example, I doubt many people in America would be interested in 10 minutes of reporting on Agriculture in the United States, however, in France – agricultural stories comprise a good portion of the news hour. Similarly, coverage of issues such as the Arab/Israel or Israel/Palestinian conflicts would be foreign to most US watchers/readers. US watchers would undoubtedly be able to understand the set up of those stories – since almost all news is produced according to a US standard, both in terms of how narratives are told as well as how visually it unfolds – however, I doubt they would appreciate much of the content.



In the United States, I think the American public suffers from a bad case of "schadenfruede," and thus, wants to see Brittney Spears smash her car into a telephone pole on Hollywood Boulevard, while Paris Hilton is busy throwing up at some mansion and being locked up in jail, all the while Lindsey Lohan gets busted for having crack in her boyfriend's pants. Sites like "the smoking gun" are immensely popular because people like to see other people in trouble. We like to watch personal tragedy and embarrassment on TV. More people can tell you who is on American Idol than who is on the Supreme Court, or even who their Congressman may be. That's just a fact of the political landscape – while we all admire success – there is a wicked streak in many Americans that seems to root for personal failure and wants to watch it on TV.

Q: In what way has blogging and independent internet media sources affected the political arena? What aspect of such immediate and easily attainable information would you like to see changed, what part is functioning well?

A: Well – blogging has clearly democratized information about the political process and thus has made the political sphere more transparent to the voter. It has significantly reduced the transaction costs of providing political commentary. For example, for a few hundred dollars, one can create a site that can compete with any main stream media outlet. Depending on the access the author has – they can often publish quicker – thus beating most news media outlets to the punch.



The democratization of the news has made it difficult, if not nearly impossible, for candidates to operate. For example, Sen. Clinton's "sniper fire" incident was a massive embarrassment for her, once the "You Tube" video of her calmly walking around the tarmac surfaced. At that point, ABC's "The Blotter" ran the story (the "Blotter" is essentially a blog), and then CBS confirmed the footage. The dissemination and digesting of information now occurs at warp speed.



I would also argue that the democratization of the tools to produce media has also made it incredibly difficult to tell the difference between news and political speech – sometimes potentially defamatory speech. A good example of what I'm talking about involves former Secretary of Commerce, Mickey Kantor. I blogged about it at my blog Mickey Kantor - Maligned by a YouTube moment…? and I think it clearly demonstrates the problems that "rapid reporting" by people who aren't checking their facts – or worse – reconstructing events with a political agenda in mind – can have on the political landscape. In the Kantor case, I believe ultimately his swift vindication was largely because of the fact that the blogosphere works just as quickly at propagating corrections as it does propagating potentially defamatory items.



Q: The Fed has been cutting percentages regularly as of late in an attempt to bail out investors, and help restore a slumping economy. Just how effective is this strategy, in your opinion? What other economic areas need to be addressed in order to prevent a full blown recession?


A: The Federal Reserve's job is to attempt to ensure stable growth while moderating inflation and preserving the banking system and the US financial system as a whole. In doing that, the Federal Reserve is limited in the types of monetary policy tools it can employ – rate cuts being only one of the tools in its arsenal.



I would disagree with you that the Fed's actions are tantamount to a "bail out." To my knowledge, the Fed has not underwritten any banks or financial institutions – exercising their obligations to ensure deposits against bank failure or having pumped money into insolvent institutions. The Fed has ensured liquidity exists so that banks can work through their problems. This is an absolutely necessary activity for the Fed. While many criticize the Fed for "bailing out" Bear Stearns – they fail to realize how serious the financial situation is in the United States and how the Fed's actions directly impact their lives. Had the Fed not moved swiftly to ensure the overall banking system – financial collapse was almost assured. While critics complain that the Fed is "saving the rich" – the bottom line is unless everyone wants to go back to trading bits of gold and being considerably more poor – the Fed's actions were essential. If the banking system collapses – we will all lose our wealth (except for those rare few who hold significant amounts of precious metals).



As for effectiveness of what the Fed has been doing – I think it's still too early to tell – but they've done what I would consider to be appropriate. My disagreement with the Fed stems not from what they did but when they decided to do it. A lot of the pain we are feeling could have been avoided – in my opinion – had it provided the boost of liquidity required in September of last year. Everyone was screaming that "money had dried up" – even Donald Trump was screaming that, a guy who shouldn't have problems getting money. But the Fed just wouldn't be moved. As a result – the whole ball of yarn began unraveling in an uncontrolled manner – BNP Parabais all but failed, UK banks started to crush, Merril Lynch almost imploded, and then it kept rolling and rolling. The Fed's efforts to stem back the tide with "Repos" (short-term debts for banks to balance their books nightly) was ultimately unsuccessful. Then it tried other half measures to try and boost liquidity artificially without listening to member banks and their screaming of "we have no more money! Create a market!" What the Fed failed to realize was that the liquidity of the market had completely dried up. That failure spun us out of control and almost caused the "car of the US economy" to do a 360 off a bridge and into the abyss. If the Fed hadn't acted as it did - it most surely would be worse. Bottom line – the Fed has pumped almost a trillion dollars into the banking system. The Bank of England and the EU banks are also pumping billions of dollars into the system and underwriting the loans needed for restructuring. It will take awhile for everything to unwind and work itself through – but the bottom line is – we stopped trying to run our engine without any oil to grease the parts.



As for a "recession," to me as an economist, recession means negative GNP changes of about -1 to -3%. I do not see the economy contracting. However, in this country – growth rates of less than 4% cause considerable strain on US politics and attitudes about the economy. Popular culture cries "recession" any time the US unemployment rate pops above 5%. I just don't think we're there yet where we'll see real GDP contractions – but there is no doubt that everything has slowed dramatically. The bottom line is – people can't spend like they used to… and may not be able to for quite some time. I also recognize that a lot of people are hurting financially and dealing with a good deal of financial strain – but economic "slow downs" aren't recessions. The US has become used to "good times" being 4% growth or higher. When we only grow at 2% or 1% - things get economically and politically painful.



Q: What has been the largest contributing factor to the possible recession, in your opinion?

A: Personally, I don't think we're in a recession – not in a technical sense. But I think the slow growth we're experiencing is brought about by the fact that for about 15 years, we've been living off of cheap money, cheap oil, and cheap imports. When the pendulum swung the other way – it's been very painful for the US economy.

Q: With economies going global, how will a recession in the US affect the rest of the world?

A: Negatively. What the rest of the whining world is about to find out is that when "Uncle Sam" gets a cold – the rest of the world get's Ebola. There will be significant carnage and economic disruption down the pipe for most of the world for the next five years as a result of the vaporization of wealth in the US and the EU. You're already starting to see the UK have the precursors of meltdown. Europe will be next.

When the US contracts in its foreign buying – you'll see much of the world implode financially. What drives the world economy is Greenbacks.

My advice to our colleagues over the seas is – don't confuse dollar weakness with Euro strength. Your economies won't be able to shoulder the burdens ahead of us.


Q: There has been some talk of China decoupling their economy with the US. Do you think it's plausible? If so, how will this affect the US economy, and international trade?

A: I think it's plausible but I don't understand under what premise they would try to do that. China wants to be a super power, and continuing to work with the US and enticing US business and investment continues to drive that engine. They are not "there" yet to be able to go it alone – and will be unlikely to be in a position to do so for quite some time.


Q: CEO's such as John Bogle have been striking out against the current form of capitalism as of late, under the premise that manager owned capitalism has become a major burden on the US economy. What is your take?


A: Well, I'm unfamiliar with Bogle's statements, but in general, I think people who believe capitalism is inefficient, ineffective, or responsible for social ill is usually someone who fails to understand both human behavior and the fundamental problems of social choice under scarcity.

Blogger's note: If anyone wants to know more about John C Bogle, read His blog, His Wikipedia entry and his Website. His latest Book, "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism" is a great read.


Q: The finance and National Defense industry has been pulling the majority of financial weight in the US for some time. The loans, investments and exchange of currency has served to inflate the US's GDP throughout the last two terms, however our economy is slumping none the less. Are these two industries actually capable of keeping our economy afloat, what's more, if they are not what type of industry do you feel would be better equipped to create a sustainable US economy, and labor market?

A: I don't know that I agree with the basis assessment that "military Keynesianism" (your rubric of spending for "national defense" while incurring debts) is what has kept the country afloat for the past eight years. The US economy chugged along during the last eight years primarily on the back of innovation and productivity improvements, high technology industry, improved manufacturing, and international finance – not military spending. The reality is, the United States military expenditures are not dramatically out of alignment from previous Administrations in terms of spending. If you include the war spending in then expenditures are up by about 20% over the six years we have been fighting (2001). If you do not include the war spending – then the military budget has grown modestly during this period – about 7%. The war costs are dragging on the US economy – but those costs must be borne in response to very real problems in Afghanistan, in the GWOT more generally, and in Iraq.



Further, I don't know that I agree with your assessments that investments, loans, and exchange currency inflated the US GDP. I presume what you're trying to get at here is the implosion in housing prices in the US and the ripple that this had on international markets. If anything, what that event showed was how dramatically dependent much of the world is on the US being able to efficiently and effectively provide good returns on investments. The hiccup in US credit markets did not start with housing – and regardless – US credit market liquidity problems caused the entire world credit markets to implode. Despite all this nonsense of the end of American economic power – I'd suggest to my colleagues in Europe who are gloating not to confuse dollar weakness with Euro strength. Their markets are also imploding now – because the real underlying engine of capitalism world-wide remains the United States capital markets. When they get a sniffle – the rest of the world get's a cold. It will be much worse elsewhere.



Finally, the US economy is a mature and remarkably stable economy. While we are having problems now, I believe that a recovery is soon at hand and by the end of this year – the economy will be much brighter than it seems right now. The problem with economic forecasting is like it's driving a car with only a map and a rear-view mirror. You can look at the map and see where you think you should be – and you can look out the rear view mirror and see what you just passed – but you can't look out the windshield and see what's up ahead. I believe that Secretary Paulson is right in saying that the worst of the credit crisis is probably behind us. The US has pumped close to half a trillion dollars of liquidity in the markets. Europe is now starting to do the same and will likely pump about 300 billion of their own currency into the market. If nearly a trillion dollars of liquidity can't solve this problem – we'll then we're all doomed.



The US will grow the next couple of years through exports, productivity gains, and through becoming more competitive in providing services – mostly financial, intellectual, and scientifically intensive activities. We may also enjoy some temporary wealth from commodity production (agricultural). We have an economy that greatly rewards innovation, thus, productivity gains through innovation will continue to be our saving grace. Just as the US pulled out of its economic doldrums in the 1980's – convinced we were going to be dominated by the Japanese – so too shall the US pull out of the current economic doldrums by returning to its competitive and productive roots. I believe that long-term growth for the US will continue to be in high tech, knowledge intensive, and intellectually intensive enterprises.

Blogger's note: While I appreciate the answer, it wasn't quite was I was asking! For more clarity, read Mediocrity Postured as Success is a Loss of Failure.

Q: How much effort is actually needed in Homeland Security, domestically speaking? (Ie, is the threat of homegrown terrorism anywhere near as big as people make it out to be?) How about internationally?

A: This is a good question – one which unfortunately I'm not sure that the Department of Homeland Security has a good handle on in solving. The problems, however, are highly complex and failure is a significant problem. We are spending billions of dollars on homeland security – DHS's direct costs and operations, grants to state and local municipalities for Homeland Defense activities, grants to individuals attempting to come up with new ways to defeat potential threats, etc.



The next couple of years – the United States will face very difficult budgetary constraints. I think that those budget cycles will cause policymakers in Washington to develop some conceptual clarity about what it really takes to secure the US from the multitude of threats it is facing. I believe we are safer now then we were on 9-11, but I also feel that there is a considerable amount of waste in how homeland defense (or national defense) dollars are spent. Tight budget times tend to sharpen the pencil in figuring out what are truly mission critical activities.



However, let's also not forget the depth of the situation we're facing. In 2001, the United States was vulnerable to terrorist attack. September 11th demonstrated that fact. I believe that for all the problems the Department of Homeland Security has had, and for all the problems the US government has had more broadly, the United States is safer and better able to deal with an attack on the US homeland than it was on 2001. I think thus far, our money has been reasonably well spent.



Assessing risks, however, is a tricky business. Your question of "how much is needed" is really a question about where are the greatest risks and how much resource can be applied to mitigate them. The answer to that question is – it's really hard to know because terrorists have a wide menu of things to attack and we're faced with an incredibly difficult environment of attempting to uncover information about terrorist plots and maneuver our assets in place to stop them.



However, al Qaida continues to desire to strike the United States, its allies, and its interests. Al Qaida's most recent release continues to condemn the United States and countries aligned with the US in the global war on terrorism. The threats from al Qaida have to be taken seriously and we must undertake steps to make another 9-11 attack difficult, if not impossible. Other terrorist groups may also decide to attack the United States. Al Qaida is not the only game in town – and there are reasons I could see other terrorist groups deciding to attack the US. We must be on guard against such threats of terrorism.



I am not as convinced, however, that the organizations that evolved and the ways of measuring risks of terrorism are the end-all be-all way to do it. I think that over time, we'll get a lot of smarter at determining risks and what are the best means to combat them. Remember that it took about 50 years of joint fighting, refining, and fighting some more to develop the strategies we use today that make our military force so effective. Similarly, DHS is going to need to continuously evaluate, refine, and adapt. The intelligence communities are already in the process of evaluating, refining, and changing how they do business to better enable policymakers with timely and relevant information. Information is the key to stopping terrorist attacks before you have high casualties (or any casualties).



That said, I think we have done a good job at "hardening" the US. It is much more difficult now for al Qaida or any terrorist organization to operate. When I was a US official, I argued to my colleagues abroad that they were now the easier threats to attack, not the US, and that they would be the ones to suffer more attacks. Unfortunately, I was proven correct as al Qaida has attacked countries in Europe and in the Middle East in their support of the US against al Qaida.


Europe and much of the world doesn't take terrorism seriously enough. Unfortunately – they'll learn that lesson when the Eiffel tower is a heap, or White Hall, or the Bundestag, is in rubble. Al Qaida will continue to attack whatever targets it can – and US targets are undoubtedly more hardened than how our allies deal with the threats abroad.



Seperately, homegrown terrorism is clearly something to be concerned about. I'll be honest – that's not my field of expertise – so I don't know if I'm in the best position to answer about that threat. As Tony Blair said, however, the real problem for Britan's March attacks was that the individuals were British citizens – making it much more difficult to detect their activities. I believe that there are many reasons why Islamic fundamentalism would have a difficult time surviving in the US culture – namely because of our pluralism and avenues for social discourse – but these facets of US democracy are by no means an inoculation against homeland attacks by homegrown terrorists. Just look at Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing – the most serious terrorist attack before 9/11.



All of these things need to be considered and planned for – as well as a lot of other things that the public writ large does not need to (and cannot) know for their own safety. I think that the budget realities of the 2010 budget cycle will make policy planners have to think long and hard about the best way to secure against the obvious threats, and the not so obvious ones.


Q: What is the general consensus of privatized security groups and contractors such as Blackwater, when operating next to an all volunteer military? Are these groups beneficial, a detriment?



A: I don't know if I can speak to a "general consensus" position. Consensus among whom exactly? That aside, Private Military Corporations stem from the fact that the US has made decisions about what capabilities to retain "in house" (via the military) and what capabilities to contract for and hire out. PMC's are largely engaged in security and protection missions – missions that are labor intensive for US forces. In a situation where forces are small – either by choice or by the operational realities – having PMC augmentation can be valuable for missions that need skilled troops, but are not "front line" battle missions.


Q: With regards to Blackwater, during the Blackwater hearings some months ago, it was made known that Blackwater was under the supervision of the military, and was accountable to the US military in all matters over seas. Just how true is this, and how effective is government control over a private group, when under fire? If such a group does go outside of legal parameters when overseas, how does this impact the specific military command they are working with?



A: Quite honestly, this question is essentially a question before the US Federal courts in a number of cases. The degree to which military justice applies to contractors is not well settled. I believe that federal law, the uniform code of military justice, as well as contract specifications usually written into PMC contracts provide for the US military to punish individuals for violations of US law or laws covered under the SOFA (Status of Forces) agreements. It is a common thing to see in DoD policies and directives that contractors are subject to the same obligations as US government employees. This would include, I would imagine, PMC's.



Ultimately, anyone operating in a war zone is subject to the Combatant Commander's (COCOM) authority – thus – at the minimum, the COCOM always has the authority to reach out and apprehend someone operating in his area of responsibility. COCOM authority in war zones is broad and well defined under Title X of the US Code.



I believe contractors are ultimately covered under US law and can be prosecuted for crimes or misconduct they engage in while operating with US government agencies, US forces, or under contract to the US government. If a US attorney wants to sue a contractor for unlawful activity abroad under the US controlled AOR – I think he can do it. I also think military courts can exercise jurisdiction. However, as I said, these issues are under legal review and we may know if I'm right soon enough.


Q: Is the proposed US missile defense system [to be placed ] in Poland going to be effective against terrorist strikes, or is it simply the best place to put a defense system to deter any strikes from around the globe? Did US know how Russia would react to it prior to creating the proposal? Furthermore, do you think that the proposal was the last straw in the already strenuous relationship with Russia?



A: Complicated question. I don't know the capabilities of the system to be able to tell you if it can thwart terrorist attacks. Few terrorist organizations have the capability to deploy rockets that fly any significant distance, thus, I can't immediately foresee a group like al Qaida launching an ICBM from a host country towards the US and then US forces in Poland shooting it down. But again, I don't know the extent of the system or the full extent of what terrorists may have available to them. If a group like al Qaida were to build a bomb, and convince a host government with ballistic missile technology to sell a rocket to them – or allow them to launch a rocket – then it is quite possible the US could face such a WMD threat.



As for knowing how governments will react - in my experience, policy analysts usually take into account target and other government responses in conducting their analysis. I doubt very much that the US knew "nothing" about how Russia would respond to the deployment of ABM in Poland.



As for being the "last straw," I don't think so. The reality is that Russia and the US are old adversaries – and while "Russia" is no longer the USSR – they know the score and they know how to play the game. I doubt much it caused a significant hiccup in US/Soviet relations. The Russians have many other problems to chase down – other than going crazy over ABM technology. They know that their existing weapons capability would overwhelm a single system. For them, the deployment in Poland undoubtedly comes down to issues of sphere of influence and us playing in their back yard.


Q: The hot button issue for today is; Clinton's stance on Iran. Do her statements come across as strong, neglectful, or just plain old posturing? Does the notion of obliterating Iran as possible foreign policy come across as the most responsible of policies?

A: It comes across to me as posturing. I think Clinton is much more of a hawk than she let's on, but, I also don't think she's crazy enough to just try and wipe a country off the map. For me personally, the US would have to be facing existential threats before I could sign on to vaporizing a country like Iran. If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, and were to threaten the US, then I would fully support whatever deterrent and/or compellence acts needed to eliminate the threat. If Iran threatened a US city with destruction – then I would support all means necessary to stop it, or alternatively, to eliminate Iran as a country. I think the government of Iran knows this – and thus – nuclear deterrence with Iran is possible. While I don't want to see them obtain nuclear weapons, and perhaps military action to intervene is both wise and appropriate, should they develop nuclear weapons, I believe their behaviors can be deterred. However, their development of nuclear weapons will spark considerable turmoil in the middle east – and not just with Israel.



Q: If the US moves into Iran, what are your predictions for future global and international relations with countries such as China, Russia, and Venezuela?

A: This is a very broad question based on a good deal of assumptions that you haven't specified and thus it is a difficult question to answer with general assumptions. Presuming that what you mean by "moves into Iran" is the US initiating or responding to an event with a military strike on Iran or its interests, the basis for such an act would need to be something that was in the national interest. It is important to think about the broader foreign policy responses as part of the context for evaluating an action – however that said – international reaction alone is rarely a reason against military action if such acts are otherwise justified under doctrines of jus ad bellum.



As with any US action, other countries view it through the lens of whether or not our action enhances or degrades their position. They will chose to oppose the US action, or bandwagon with the US in supporting our policies, depending on what action they belief will benefit them the most. Chavez has a long history of opposing the US even if US action benefits Venezuela. Russia and China are much more astute players of politics and are less likely to judge US action solely through an ideological lens.


Q: Speaking of Venezuela, in the recent Exxon lawsuit against Venezuela over the nationalization of an oil project, International courts ruled that Exxon had no case. What is your take on this?



A: Opinions disagree. I personally do not place much faith in international jurisprudence. Thus far, it's been quite problematic on human rights, and I imagine it's even less effective in handling economic and international business disputes. Perhaps over time it will become more robust, but for now, it seems weak and infantile. Besides, despite Chavez's naked attempt to steal Exxon's money – Exxon managed to secure in February about $15B dollars in Chavez's assets – and those assets remain frozen as far as I know. So I guess who's the weaker party here? Exxon or Chavez? I'd argue Chavez.



Exxon makes more money in a year than Venezuela makes in a decade. All Chavez did by nationalizing the oil fields and kicking Exxon out was ensure his people would continue to remain poor. He lacks the technology and the ability to extract the oil efficiently.

Blogger's note: Exxon's case was dismissed, and all funds have been unfrozen, and returned to Venezuela, last I checked.



Q: You are a proponent of drilling in ANWR, but eventually, oil will become such a high priced commodity that it will no longer be practical to use on a day to day basis. What alternative energy sources should the US be looking to, that will both power our country, and continue to fuel our economy and labor market?



A: I don't know. I'm not an energy expert. I believe, however, that market based alternative fuel solutions are out there and that the US needs to be serious about both a) winning the race for global energy, and b) coming up with better ways to employ energy resources to maximize output.



That said, not drilling in ANWR is just plain stupid. It's like deciding your car is wrecked, your house burnt down, and you need new clothes, new shoes, and a new place to sleep, but you refuse to dig into your $100,000 bank account because your Aunt Tessy may not like you anymore. We have immediate needs that can be alleviated through ANWR drilling. And although the "green movement" would have people believe that ANWR is "eden" or something – bottom line is it's not – its desolate rock. We should be drilling in ANWR as well as other places so that we can increase overall supply. The bottom line is – we need more oil.



I will say, however, that "corn gas" and other similar panaceas that politicians are hawking lately is just garbage. I blogged on it (http://rightcommentary.com/2008/04/25/corn-hoax-well-need-oil-and-lots-of-it/) and it's pretty obvious that alternative fuels will need to be market based and provide greater returns to scale than the energy required to extract or develop the resources.



Q: Regardless of individual opinions about the Iraq war, right now we are there, and Iraq is not functioning properly. Do you feel that Iraq's lack of structure and stability are caused by too much US intervention?

A: That's the $110 Billion dollar a year question – isn't it? I think that the bottom line is Iraq was so screwed up of a country under Saddam that it is going to take a long time to build an Iraq that isn't governed by fear and corruption. I think, however, that US presence in Iraq both helps and hurts at the same time. I just don't know how much of an impact US forces have on the Iraqi's not accepting responsibility for their country. Unfortunately, political science has a dreary lesson for countries that are "given" their freedom – they almost always fail and lapse into violence.



I'll be honest – Iraq is not my forte. I don't know enough about all the sects and all the intersections of policy, politics, and history for that country. I believe we can over time stabilize it – but I think it's a long haul that will take probably another decade.


Q: What steps need to be taken to rectify the sectarian disputes, so Iraq can once again function on their own, and we can see our men and women come home? Is it time for the politicians to step in and make it happen on a governmental level and not by ground troops?



A: I think Gen. Petreaus laid out an effective strategy for dealing with the sectarian violence. It's clear that unless the various sects have a vested interest in a successful Iraq – they'll continue jockeying to be "king of the hill" and fight for resources, power, and prestige.



As for "the government to step in" – I hate to shatter your fragile construct – but the US government has stepped in – at the Presidential level – and it doesn't get any higher than that. Bottom line is, a lot of what Iraq's government and political structure is is just broken.

Q: Iraq is undergoing a refugee crisis at the moment, and many neighborhoods have been locked down to prevent sectarian violence. Some analysts believe that the violence will erupt just as soon as the US leaves, and nothing can be done about it. What is your take on this opinion?


A: I essentially agree with the analysis that if the US leaves Iraq before stabilizing the situation, the chaos that will ensure could cost thousands if not tens of thousands their lives.


Q: Finally, if you took the Head of the DoD, and the Head of Homeland security, and threw them in a wrestling ring, who would you put your money on?

A: Funny! My money would be on Secretary Gates. Mike Chertoff is a strong guy – but I'm pretty sure an ex-CIA man must have had some training that a former Federal Judge couldn't counter.


If you want to read more from Bryan Head on over to his blog Right Commentary or visit his bio for more information at About the Editor

8 comments:

timethief said...

I appreciate the question and answer format of these interviews. It's been my experience that any blogger who chooses an Uncle Sam avatar will go on to express political viewpoints in complete opposition to my own. This was confirmed by Brian's answers to the questions posed.

Thanks to both of you.

Brad Spangler said...

@Bryan - rgarding "...I think that news production is ultimately driven by market forces."

Would you care to attempt to back that up?

The reason I ask is that the broadcast industry is characterized by massive state intervention in the market. By definition, state intervention in the market distorts the market. We have a massively cartelized MSM, and that cartelization is demonstrably a result of state policies (and, therefore, state violence).

On what basis, then, can you assert that the MSM is a result of "market forces".

I mean, one can't credibly claim an economic arrangement is a result of a "free market" just because there aren't statues of Lenin all over the place and they don't play "The Internationale" as elevator music. Can one?

Daniel Owen said...

Quite, Brad! I snorted a little at that one too.

So Bryan, here's my question: What do you think about President Bush's historical invocation of Taft-Hartley to attack US unions? What do you think about unionisation in America?

Don Lewis said...

Hey Bryan,

Unlike the rest of these politically savvy, but socially inept commenters :) I'd like to say thanks for the interesting and thought provoking read. I found your insight on potential domestic and international trends especially interesting. And your thoughts on the potential of blogging as a point source for news and opinion dissemination was spot on.

Daniel Owen said...

Don Lewis, i never realised you were such a liberal! Hippy love all round, huh?

Peace out bro,

Alex Mcone said...

An anarchist and a conservative ... my oh my ...

Another good interview although I did not agree with almost all of it.

Bryan, you're right I shouldnt be asking you any questions here ... I'll just scoot over to you're blog ... :D

Highlander said...

"Europe and much of the world doesn't take terrorism seriously enough. Unfortunately – they'll learn that lesson when the Eiffel tower is a heap, or White Hall, or the Bundestag, is in rubble."

I just wanted to snort disparagingly at this paragraph. The UK tried to defeat the (terrorist) IRA in a straight 'military' struggle for over 60 years, with much loss of life and suffering on both sides, and got exactly nowhere . It was only when the two sides realized this fact, and starting taking diplomacy more seriously than terrorism, that any progress was made that would properly reflect the aspirations of both the Catholic and Protestant populations.

So I would consider Bryan's right-wing, militaristic posturing old-fashioned. Threatening whoever you perceive to be a problem with a bigger and bigger stick (he worryingly refers to Iran and nuclear 'deterrents') only encourages terrorist recruitment and cements your position as World's #1 Bully. Hopefully, one day, he'll learn that lesson.

bloggernoob said...

it's a damn shame, but most people are too busy trying to make a few dollars to pay attention to what's going on in the world. MSM is just silly. It's about as serious as celebrity gossip magazines. It's cause people don't care.