Q&A: What will happen in Syria?

Q: What is the U.S. LIKELY to do in Syria? (not what you think they should do, but what you think they actually will do and why.) 
 
Best,
Jenny 🙂
 
A: Well Jenny, that’s a very interesting question, but I will try my best to get into the minds of our countries leaders without clouding that too much by my own bias.
 
Before we attempt to figure out how the US will respond in the future we must consider what has already happened. 
 
The Syrian conflict stems all the way back to to Arab Spring of a year ago. During that Arab Spring, an uprising, very similar to the one we currently see in Syria, was taking place in Libya. When the rebels in Lybia rose up against the repressive regime, the United States decided to intervene. The US Navy and Air Force played pivotal roles in limiting the Libyan government’s ability to put down the uprisings. Eventually the uprisings succeeded and the government was replaced. That set a precedent.
 
The Syrians saw what was happening and wanted their own freedom. The Syrian civil war began and the government has been relentless in their attempts to silence the opposition. Tens of thousands of Syrian militant separatists and civilians have died. Because of the precedent that was set in Libya, Syrians have asked the question, “What about us? Why isn’t anyone helping us?” To make the situation even more tricky, there have been reports that Al Qaeda has begun joining the fight on the side of the Syrian rebels, not to promote liberty, but their own terrorist agenda.
 
The UN has tried to pass resolutions condemning the fighting but have been unsuccessful. Mainly because Russia and China don’t necessarily like the idea of another pro-western government being formed in the Middle East. Even if resolutions could  be passed, that doesn’t mean much except it would give the US more cause to intervene if that’s what they wanted to do…but is it? The current administration has shown great reluctance to act unilaterally, and the Syrian conflict is no exception.
 
Now we get to actually answering your question. There are a few general thoughts that are prevalent in Congress and the White House. One thought, advocated by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, is that we need to intervene just as we did in Libya. They believe that we should send our superior Air Force to suppress the Syrian military and aid the rebels in ending the killings and overthrowing the government in hopes that it will be replaced by a pro-western democracy. There are others who feel that we should stay as far away from Syria as possible because either its not our problem and therefore not worth our money, or we are reminded of past troubles in the Middle East and we do not want to start another long engagement like in Iraq or Afghanistan. To top it all off, this is an election year and so no extreme actions on either end of the spectrum will likely occur until after November.
 
Until November we see how the Obama administration is tip-toeing around the issue. In recent developments, the US has decided to deliver non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. I have a feeling that this will be the extent of US intervention that we will see until after the election in November. The president doesn’t want to commit any of the US military to the conflict even if it would guarantee an end to the fighting for fear of alienating his own base but at the same time Obama does not want to appear heartless or even weak to the more moderate voters who will ultimately decide the upcoming election.
 
So to answer the question briefly, what will the US do in Syria? Not much. We support the separatist cause but not enough for the current administration to take any political risks to act without the full cooperation of the international community.
 
Hope this answers your question.
 
– Brian
 
If you have read this response and wish to ask your own question, about Syria or any other topic, please see the Ask Me tab at the top of this blog.
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Mitt Romney: The Inevitable Nominee

There has been lots of talk about how Romney is struggling to solidify his position as the inevitable nominee. I’m here to tell you that Romney does not struggle with this, he is the inevitable nominee and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are doing nothing but slowing him down and fragmenting the party. Let me explain why their efforts are in vain.

As it stands right now in terms of delegates, Romney has collected 516  to Santorum’s 236 and Gingrich’s 141, and not to leave out our dear friend Dr. Paul, he has 66. To address Ron Paul really quick, he struggles more than anyone else in overcoming Romney in delegates and as it stands right now, it doesn’t look like that will be even possible. However, as you are aware, Ron Paul is running just as much to advocate libertarian ideals as he is trying to become President. So Ron Paul is not going to drop out and we’re just going to have to accept that.

The magic number of delegates to secure the nomination is 1,144. Once a candidate gains that many delegates, they become the nominee. However, if a candidate is unable to come up with that number, then the selection goes to the party convention in August where uncommitted delegates then make the final decision. Santorum and Gingrich are hoping that by staying in they can see Romney commit political suicide like his father, or that they can stall the process and take the fight to the convention, neither of which will happen.

From here on out, I will focus on Santorum and ignore Gingrich and Paul just because they are all in the same boat and Santorum has higher false hopes than anyone. Santorum cannot honestly believe that he can overtake Romney in delegates. I mean, look at the gap. Santorum is trailing Romney by a significant amount. Looking at the fact that only a couple of the remaining primaries are “winner-take-all,” if Romney does just as well in Santorum in the remaining contests, he will maintain his lead giving him a major boost if the fight does end up going to the convention. So, Santorum loses if Romney does just moderately well from here on out. But what are the chances of that? He will not just do moderately well, but will succeed. Romney is a strong candidate and continues to win elections. He recently won in Puerto Rico by +75%, even after Santorum went and campaigned on the island. In Illinois, a big state with lots of delegates, Romney is up +15% according to a poll that came out yesterday about tomorrow’s contest. In California and New York, two more large states with large prizes of delegates up for grabs, Romney is polling very well, even +20% in California. Despite Santorum’s efforts to slow him down, Romney’s chances for collecting the needed 1,144 delegates remain high.

But what if our friend Rick is successful in fragmenting the party to the point where Romney cannot collect the 1,144 needed? What if this fight drags on all the way to the convention? No big deal. Sure, it would put the nominee in a tight spot by giving them a late start on the general election, but Romney will still come out of the convention as the nominee and Santorum explains why that is almost every day.

Santorum and Gingrich go around touting that Romney is the establishment candidate, as if that was a bad thing. They make this claim because Romney is more successful than any other candidate in collecting high profile political endorsements. As far as I’m aware, Romney has collected endorsements from just about every republican governor and most republican senators and congressmen/women. The leadership of the Republican Party seems to support Mitt Romney. So what does Santorum expect to see when he drags this fight to the convention where the leadership of the party selects the candidate? Does he really expect to win over the “establishment” from the “establishment’s candidate”? It’s preposterous for Santorum to think that he will be successful at the convention.

Mitt Romney is the inevitable candidate and the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be against Obama. Leftist news organizations like CNN and even the right leaning Fox News would like you to believe that Romney is a weak front runner, that he has not established himself as the inevitable candidate. They like to say things like, “Romney really needs to win this state to put down doubts in the party.” Don’t let them fool you. They have been saying things like this since Florida.  Romney has lost some of those contests and so the mainstream media goes on to say, “See, we told you so.” But even if Romney wins they will say, “Oh, but he did not win by such a great margin, so therefore, he still has not established himself.” Even if Romney wins Illinois tomorrow by 10%, the mainstream media will still be tearing him down and saying, “Well he really needs to win this next contest.” Stop listening to the mainstream media, and listen to reason.

Romney will be the nominee. Romney will be going up against Obama in the general election. The sooner we unite behind Romney, the sooner we can stop fighting each other and start fighting the real enemy, Barack Obama. Republicans, independents, and even some moderate democrats, are all in agreement that Obama is hurting this country day by day. We need someone who will do what it takes to fix the economy. Though I believe that any of the remaining four republican candidates would do a better job that Barack Obama, Mitt Romney will be the nominee, so we need to unite and give him the best shot at the White House.

Contraception and the Constitution

Some quick thoughts on the issue of government subsidized contraception.

First off, how ridiculous is it that we are even having this debate! I mean seriously, how bloated has our government become that we are actually arguing about this. The government has no business subsidizing something like birth control as a contraceptive, period.

There are a couple of arguments floating around about this issue that I feel are confusing the public.

The most ridiculous of them being that people are claiming that Republicans believe contraception is a bad thing and we should deny women access to it. False. Even Rick Santorum – who personally doesn’t believe it is right to use contraception ever –  doesn’t feel that it is right to deny access of this medication to women. That’s the first thing.

The reason this is even an issue is because Obama is undermining religious liberties in order to push his own social agenda. Obama likes to give people stuff using other people’s money. I don’t blame him, it’s smart politics. People like you if you give them stuff. As part of Obama’s Health care plan, commonly known as Obamacare, all insurance providers would be required by law to include contraception as a part of that insurance coverage. This means that every institution in America would be forced to offer its employees insurance with contraception coverage. This includes religious organizations. The use of contraception is against the moral code of the Catholic Church, to just name the biggest player in this debate. Under this law, the Catholic Church would be forced to pay for insurance policies that provided contraception. This would be like forcing Muslims to take everyone out for pork chops or Mormons to buy people beer. It is simply ridiculous and it is a direct attack on religious liberties.

Proponents of the government subsidized contraception say, “Wait a minute bud, this isn’t about sex, it’s about health! Major diseases can be treated and prevented because of birth control pills.” To them I say, “GOOD!” No one out there is saying that nothing good can come of birth control pills. Even the Catholic Church recognizes the medicinal value of birth control pills and has said that they would allow the use of birth control pills for the explicit purpose of curing these various diseases, just not for their more popular purpose of controlling birth. They feel that that is God’s responsibility, and if that’s what they believe,  let them believe!

What we really need to do is get government out of the way of health insurance. If health insurance providers want to include birth control as part of their coverage, let them. If people want to purchase a health insurance plan that includes coverage of contraceptives, let them. But if people want to opt out, that should be just as much their right.

I would challenge anyone to find a spot in the Constitution where it talks about how people have a right to contraceptives. I understand the desire to want to help the less fortunate. But there already is a system set up for that. There are plenty of Non-profit health clinics who would be glad to give people all of the contraceptives that they wanted. And if we really feel that at the end of the day the government needs to be involved, then at least do it in a manner that does not infringe upon the religious beliefs of others.

Libertarianism as a Guide, not a Rule

Let’s establish from the beginning that on the spectrum of political ideologies, I consider myself to be a libertarian leaning conservative. I attribute that to my father, who for many years considered himself entirely libertarian, and tried to pass those thoughts and views along to his children. I like small government. But let me again make it clear that I do not consider myself to be a staunch libertarian. I do think that the current system is extremely bloated and that, for many, the Constitution has been considered nothing more than an old piece of paper in a museum. I agree this must change, but maybe not in the same way others may want it to. In changing the current system we need to rely on libertarian ideals of small government as our guide while also being willing to mold each individual policy so that the United States of America can best promote peace and prosperity at home and abroad.

Over the course of this primary season, I have personally come into contact with many strong Ron Paul supporters. Ron Paul is the candidate who is the champion of libertarian ideals. But in my conversations with Ron Paul supporters, I often feel like I’m being accused of supporting a socialist run police state, where Big Brother is as common as the taxes which fund him. Considering the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that I like to think of myself as being a libertarian leaning conservative, I am taken aback and left with a bad taste in my mouth by these encounters.  I’m left to reflect on my own political decisions and decide if I’m really supporting the right candidate. I ask myself, “Well, aren’t I in favor of limited government? … Don’t I want to see one trillion in debt cut in the budget? … Don’t I want states rights and federalism to thrive?” The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes,” but still Ron Paul is not the one for me. Here are some examples of issues that should be considered exceptions to the hard fast rules present in the minds of libertarians like Ron Paul.

One reason for this is that I do not believe that the world is as black and white as Paul believes it is. Libertarianism to me represents the ideal. It represents what we should be striving towards. If you are a typical Ron Paul person, you have likely already yelled at the computer, “Well then why not support the guy who is going to do that?!” Why not? Because, though I believe that libertarianism embodies the ideal form of government, we do not live in an ideal world. As much as it may pain us to admit it, the world is more gray than it is black and white. Foreign policy seems to me to be the most obvious example of this.

This is a direct quote from the National Defense Policy page from http://www.ronpaul2012.com:

“Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to protect the borders of other countries, while Washington refuses to deal with our own border security needs.

“Congress has been rendered virtually irrelevant in foreign policy decisions and regularly cedes authority to an executive branch that refuses to be held accountable for its actions.”

I personally think that these are great arguments against current National Defense policies. Like Ron Paul suggests, we need to avoid unnecessary war and always go about engaging in war in a constitutional fashion, but we need to allow for exceptions to the rule. I know this is a slippery slope, but it is necessary to consider.

When asked about what the United States should do in Syria, Ron Paul answered “It’s none of our business” (Read full statement here). In that interview he makes very valid points about how it’s not expressly in our national interest to care. I would agree with him, but we should still care. Thousands, even tens of thousands, of innocent civilians in Syria have died for desiring to overthrow a repressive regime, for desiring the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do we just sit back and let them die; let them work it out themselves, while the regime kills more and more everyday? Think about that. According to the black and white libertarian logic, the answer is yes, let them be, because it’s not our problem. But in any case when people are treated inhumanly, do we just sit back knowing that we have the resources to help and just let these people suffer? Do we let these tyrants consolidate their power so that they can continue to harbor non-state actors that are determined to see the destruction of the west? I understand that intervention in any way is costly, so let’s cut the fat elsewhere in the budget and come up with the cash to help these suffering people. Though I know that we could easily avoid such an increase in taxes if we cut the budget elsewhere, even if it means paying a few more dollars, sign me up, and if that makes me a raving liberal, then so be it.

His stance on foreign policy might be enough to convince me not to vote for him, even if it were the only problem I had with Paul’s policy. I am in agreement with all of the ideals of his domestic policies (just like I, in principle, favor the ideals of his foreign policy). The major issue I have with his domestic policy lies mostly in his stance on social issues.

It is the libertarian ideal that all of these kinds of decisions and policies regarding social issues should be left up to the states.  That is the ideal, and I agree with the ideal. But again, there are some things that are just too important to leave up to the states, and Ron Paul even agrees with me on that! Take his stance on abortion for instance. According to Ron Paul’s official campaign website, abortion is the only social issue which Ron Paul feels the national government should have a say in. He feels, as president it would be his responsibility to repeal Roe v. Wade to put the decision back in the hands of the states, and also pass a “Sanctity of Life Act” which would define life as beginning upon conception. From there it would be easier for states to then undo the legalization of abortions. This is a wonderful idea and a great start. It is no wonder why Dr. Ron Paul feels this way. He has worked for years as an OB/GYN and has seen the terrors of abortion. So in no way is my point here to attack Dr. Paul’s stance on abortion, but to ask the question, what about other social issues? Other social issues that are equally important to me, in Paul’s view, should be left up entirely to the states. Again, I agree with the principle of his ideas. For issues such as health care and education, get the federal government out of the way and let states govern.  However, just as Paul feels that the sanctity of life is too important to be defined by the states, I feel that there are other things that deserve a definition and support from the national government so that the government can fulfill its duty  to “promote the general welfare” of our nation.

I really like Ron Paul; I think his is a wonderful man who is doing wonderful things in educating the nation about the ideals of true libertarianism. The more people strive towards having a smaller, less intrusive government, the more prosperity we will see. That I believe. But I also believe that the world isn’t as black and white as we wish it may be. For these reasons and others, I  have decided that even though I like the principles that Ron Paul proclaims, I support a different candidate who also believes in those values of small non-intrusive government while at the same time being willing to shape policy around the specific issue.

The Specter of Success

For the past three years, President Obama has been engaged in, what the Right calls, Class Warfare. This means that Obama’s policies have been such that the only way one economic class of people can succeed is if another is penalized. It’s no wonder he’s adopted this policy; it’s popular but misguided.

Obama has made an enemy out of the “1%” as Stalin made an enemy out of the Ukrainian “Kulaks.” After the Bolsheviks in Russia were successful in eliminating the rich – and therefore corrupt – bourgeoisie, he needed another enemy to rally the people against. His fabricated enemy were those farmers in Ukraine who were successful and well off despite the debilitating economic principles of Stalinist communism. I do not lightly make comparisons between Stalin and Obama, but this comparison is too fitting to pass up. Please keep in mind that this is the only similarity that I believe to be fitting between Stalin and Obama. I in no way contend that Obama is an evil villainous murder like Stalin of old. But the principle is still the same. Obama has created an enemy against whom he can rally support, the notorious “1%.”

This rhetoric, started by the Occupy movement, and perpetuated by our President, has damaging effects on this country. An easy example of how this is perpetuated can be seen in liberal Hollywood.

Recently I saw two movies that are great cases of this. In the recent Muppet movie, the evil heartless villain was portrayed by a greedy owner of an oil company named Tex RICHman. In the movie, “Tower Heist,” again the villian is portrayed by a billionaire Wall Street investor who shows absolutely no consideration for others, only himself. I do not think that these movies were politically motivated entirely, but it does show an increase in sentiment that the “1%” is what is keeping this country from prosperity.

But why is it that we must be pitted against each other in order to obtain personal success and prosperity? Why do you become untrustworthy and un-American by making seven figures a year? Let’s assume for a minute that every billionaire in the world is like those villains portrayed by Hollywood. The fact remains the same, it is because of those men and women that jobs are created and the market can thrive. Of course there are those who cheat the system, but this occurs at every level of income, not just in the “1%”

I think we don’t give these people enough credit. Most rich people in our country have had to earn their wealth like anyone else. They worked hard and used their God given skills and talents to obtain the American dream. Why should they be punished and demonized? Because they worked hard?

Instead of allowing yourself to be fooled into thinking by this administration that the only way the poor can thrive is if the rich are penalized think about what good comes from their success. Companies are expanded, jobs are created, and others are given the opportunity to thrive just as they have.

Obama has said that he would like anyone who makes >$1,000,000 to pay %30 in taxes. That’s $300,000 for every million earned. Imagine what a person could do with that kind of money? They could buy luxury items from small businesses (providing income to the small business owner who can then spend that money on someone else), they could expand their own business and provide more jobs. The Obama administration has added over five-trillion dollars in debt, and what do we have to show for it? Are your streets paved with gold? Mine sure aren’t. So instead of punishing those who drive the economy in order to give the government more money to waste, let’s accept the fact that though there are people more economically prosperous than us, it is they who allow us the opportunity to prosper, not the government.

It’s a mess, but it’s America

The following post was published on my personal blog on August 2, 2011 in the midst of the debt ceiling debate. I re-post here to give a sample of what else may be posted in the future. Enjoy.

 

 

The President’s approval ratings have hit an all time low and congress’s marks aren’t stellar either.  The Washington Post did a poll that revealed that, “nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word to describe how they viewed the budget negotiations. The top words were ‘ridiculous,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘stupid.’ Overall, nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word. Just 2 percent had anything nice to say.”  In my experience I have found that to be very true and have even found myself using those very adjectives to describe the goings on of Capitol Hill.  

When I came back to the country, at the end of June, after living in Ukraine for two years, I had to quickly come up to speed on our current situation.  As I did some research after two years of limited exposure to American news, I was appalled at what I learned.  With the debt in the trillions and rising every day it seemed that something wasn’t quite right.  On a side note, trillion is a number that is hard to comprehend.  Let’s consider this, imagine that we paid some bureaucrat in the US Treasury to sit and count out every dollar that we are in debt (and you chuckle because you can see this actually happening). If it took half a second to count each dollar of the, let’s say, $14 trillion debt; it would take that bureaucrat 221,968.54 YEARS, to count to $14 trillion.  That’s not even taking into account the amount of Social Security, Medicare, and government benefits that would have to be paid to this man after 220 thousand years ;^).

So our debt is in hyper-astronomical figures and we find ourselves in a pickle because after borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends, we’ve maxed out the credit card.  So now what?  Keep our constituents happy by borrowing more to fund their programs?  Or we could make the American people pay for the programs through higher taxes.  In many politicians’ minds those were the only two options.  But there is more to the story.

In my research after two years of being in the dark, I kept hearing the name, “The Tea Party.”  “Who are they and what they want to do with my country?” are the questions that I immediately began asking myself.  In my limited research I discovered that they are a grass roots movement that in the last couple of years has gained some momentum and leverage in saying, “enough is enough!”  They applied pressure to Congress adding another idea to the table, “Cut, Cap, & Balance.”  

So now it wasn’t so easy.  And with a need to pass an increase in the debt ceiling through a newly Republican House of Representatives as well as a still barely Democratic Party Senate, this proved quite a challenge.  It doesn’t help that while most of the people think that spending is out of control, no one wants to cut the things that they happen to like.

It is likely obvious by now to the reader to which side I lean when it comes to my political ideologies.  However, the heart of this post is not about who’s to blame on how we got to the debate, but how we acted once we arrived.

The closer we got to the August dead line, when we would inevitably lost that 40 cents of every dollar (they called that “default on our national debt,” although maybe it wasn’t) the more heated the argument became.  The Democrats wanted to continue funding their constituents with every cent that they needed and increase the debt ceiling and taxes in order to do so.  The Republicans (being egged on by the Tea Party) wanted to stop spending in order to balance the budget which would result in certain government programs losing the money that they have grown to depend on.  In simpler terms I’ll use an analogy that was originally introduced to me by my father.  Government spending is as a car on the highway.  For the last few years, the driver of this car has been accelerating to unsafe speeds and something needs to be done before something tragic occurs.  The Democrats would have us buy new road signs increasing the speed limit, making us feel more safe though do nothing to the speeding vehicle.  The Tea Party is calling for the car to slam on the brakes and pull the E-Brake bringing the car to an abrupt halt.  You can see that to each side, their idea seems to be the proper solution but we can see that each idea has its downfalls and dangers.  And so the debate begins.

It has been an ugly July for congress.  Bipartisan efforts came and went as the moon over Capitol Hill.  Nothing seemed to work and congressmen and the President’s administration were getting frustrated.  Like 3rd graders Congressmen were calling each other names and questioning their intelligence in front of the entire Nation.  Just as I did when I was five and didn’t get my way, lawmakers stormed out of meetings and the American people braced for impact.  Both sides were complaining that the other wasn’t compromising.  I thought to myself how sad that each side had to be so extreme but I began to understand.  If they weren’t extreme.  If they weren’t stubborn then the other side would walk all over them so they needed to stick to their guns if they were to help get through the plan that they truly felt was the best solution for America.  

Blogs and news sources were equally relentless in ripping into Congress and the President for not finding a solution faster.  They were outraged and thought it was ” ‘ridiculous,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘stupid'” how the situation was handled, as was I, until I remembered what I had learned in a Political Science class about our Constitution.  And this is the point I would like to make today.  Yes, it is a mess.  Yes, because of stubborn lawmakers and heated debates it was literally in the last hours that a compromise was made. Yes, it isn’t a pleasant atmosphere on Capitol Hill.  But guess what?  It’s not supposed to be.  This government was specifically designed to prevent legislation from being approved too quickly.  And if you have a problem with that, take it up with some of the greatest philosophical minds dealing with politics that the world has ever seen, or as I like to call them, the Founding Fathers.  

It’s a mess but it’s America!  The Founding Fathers would probably be rolling in their graves if they heard some of the things that were being said amongst the Congressmen but I don’t think that they would have preferred some rush job of a deficit reduction plan that haphazardly slid its way through congress and across the President’s desk.  But if you think that this kind of quarreling is new to American politics, think again!  Let’s go way back in our history.  Does anyone remember the Burr-Hamilton Duel?  A man was killed over political disagreements!  At least we don’t have that today (though I still wouldn’t want to be around Dick Cheney and his shotgun… you can never be too careful).  How ’bout the Civil War?  Anyone remember that?  A whole chunk of the country seceded and went to war over a political disagreement!  If we were so quick to compromise in that case about slavery where would our country be today?  Now, I don’t suggest that our country was on the brink of civil war or that this debt crisis is on the same level as slavery but the point I’m trying to make is that inefficiency is good for a country.  Because of that and because of last minute deals, instead of haphazardly increasing the speed limit on our proverbial highway or recklessly slamming on the breaks, we have taken our foot off the gas and our beginning to come to a safer speed.

So next time when you wish to get angry at the inefficiency of our government…go ahead, get angry and tell your Congressman how you feel. But just remember, this is just evidence that the Constitution is working well to protect our country against irrational emotional decisions that may have devastating consequences in our country’s future.

So yes, it’s a mess.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.   

 

(Original post can be found at http://openbookofbrian.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-mess-but-its-america.html)