Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Page 14)

Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method, page 14.
Click here to see the page at full size.
I posted a link on Facebook yesterday basically saying that I was pleased to see how Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearings are going.  If you haven't been following, Kerry is the President's nominee for Secretary of State in the second term, and it looks like he's going to breeze through the confirmation process.  Yesterday's report was specifically about Kerry's call for the U.S. to get its financial house in order, in which he called our country's fiscal irresponsibility and inability to make difficult choices our country's most pressing national security issue.  More specifically, without a strong economy underpinning the goals of our foreign policy, we'll be less able to influence other regions of the globe, and we'll have less influence by way of leadership and/or setting the example of what a successful country is supposed to look like.  That message got strong bipartisan support.

Warning: There is a LOT of ranting after the jump.  If you don't want to read it, don't click through.

To this, I specifically responded by saying that it's "Nice to get a professional [in] at State, for once."  And a couple of my friends reacted.  One asked who I thought the last professional was and another expressed a very strong distaste for Senator Kerry specifically.

So before I go into this any more, let me just start by saying that my friends who've stayed in the Army are all combat veterans now, and the last thing I want is for them to feel like they have to take shit from me--about anything.  I mean, what have I done? At this point, I'm no better than anyone else.  I have a cushy job with decent pay, safe working conditions, and terrific hours, and I sleep in my own bed every night.  My biggest concern in life is planning the Tri Club's next scheduled workout.  But this lifestyle is only possible because men and women--close personal friends of mine--do what they do to keep us safe.  I am not unaware of this; I have not suddenly forgotten where I came from after having been out of the Army for twelve years.

The flip-side of that, though, is that I'm an opinionated taxpayer in a land where free speech is sacrosanct.  I have a platform--here--and I use it.  No apologies; it is what it is.  You don't like what I have to say, that's fine.  I'm pretty easy to ignore here.  That's kind of the point.

But that brings us back to Facebook.  If posting something here is a little like talking to myself inside a digital phone booth--which is to say that usually I feel like nobody's paying attention, and yet I still can't seem to shut up most of the time--then posting that same thought on Facebook is like putting it up on a billboard.  Yeah, maybe nobody notices.  Or maybe your comment accidentally becomes the centerpiece of I-95's heavy-traffic advertising zone.  

So my $.02 about that is that Facebook is a shitty place to have political discussions because, bottom line, I think that most people go there to see how their old High School sweethearts are doing or to look at Cat Videos, and if you start putting politics into it, it really harshes the vibe.  Plus, it's hard to ignore specific types of comments without ignoring specific people in general, and I don't want to ignore people, nor do I want people to feel like they have to ignore me.  Especially people whom I respect, who do something that is frankly more difficult and more dangerous than what I do.

In short: political discussion is fine, but location and context are important.

With all of that said, my answer yesterday was that the last Secretary of State that I really liked was James Baker.  That shot might've been a little unfair to Warren Christopher, but in any event, it was specifically aimed at Colin Powell.  Powell was one of the biggest reasons I voted for George W. Bush the first time, but he then completely failed to check the Administration's adventurousness in the run up to the Invasion of Iraq.  I've read in the intervening years that he said that he felt trapped, that in briefing the UN with what turned out to be highly suspect intelligence, he felt like he was just being a "good soldier", but I mean, come on.  That good soldier defense is fine for an enlisted man or for a junior officer, but at a certain point, I think the job requires a little more personal and professional responsibility than just saluting smartly and following orders.  

Or, to put it another way, "if you brief it, you bought it."  Powell may have had reservations about the nature of the information that he was presenting, but if he did, he certainly kept them to himself.  But that's ultimately the same as not having reservations.  That is, essentially, being complicit in the act of cherry-picking information.

Beyond that, I thought that Rice was kind of a non-entity at State, and that in general, that the entire perception of the Bush Administration's tenure was saved by General Patraeus's dual strategies of the Sunni Awakening and the Surge.  Both of those were highly successful, but they were also the work of a man whose success owes little or nothing to the environment into which he was put.  Neither event was the work of State; that's the problem.

My criticism of Clinton as Secretary of State is basically with her and the Administration's handling of the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring represents an opportunity, I think, but not one that anyone has done much to capitalize on.  That said, the last four years internationally have been largely a reaction to the eight years that preceded them, and while we can make that a criticism in itself, the fact is that it will be interesting to see where U.S. foreign policy goes now that the President actually has his own man in at State and a relatively clean slate from which to work.


Anyway, I put all this here in case folks from yesterday want to talk about it some more.  It's not that I don't want to; it's that I don't want to on Facebook.  I mean, I recognize that we're not likely to change each others' minds.  But I also don't want to be pig-headed about it.  You disagree?  Go ahead and take your shots.

As far as this page of Bronx Angel is concerned, it seems like a pretty obvious piece of the story to me.  So I'll let it speak for itself, for once.

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