Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Nuclear Politics in Germany

Hi Everyone,

There were two big shocks in the Land (state) elections in two large German Lander: Baden-Wurttemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz. The Greens won big in both elections! The recent crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan seems to have been a major factor in both elections. You may ask, "so big deal, the Greens won a by-election." But Baden-Wurttemberg is one of the most conservative Lander in Germany. This would something like the American Green Party winning the governorship in Georgia. The Greens won enough seats that they can take the Premiership of the Land if they can form a coalition with the slightly smaller, Social Democrats (see election results here). In Rhineland-Pfalz, the Social Democrats had hoped to continue to govern alone but will be forced into a coalition with the Greens (see election results here). Both elections mean that the Greens will have more representation in the German upper house (Bundesrat).

Earlier I posted an attempt to start a discussion about the new politics of alternative energy that will result from the Fukushima crisis (and the oil price increases we're likely to see for the foreseeable future). These election results in South Western Germany suggest that the new political landscape is already emerging.

Germany gets about the same share of its electricity from nuclear power as Japan does (a little more than a quarter). The Social Democratic and Green Party coalition that governed Germany until 2005 had begun a plan to gradually phase out their nuclear power. The Greens had said from the start it wasn't going far enough quick enough but in any case, that coalition lost the election the Christian Democrats. In 2009 with the Christian Democrats consolidating their power, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced a major extension of the date by which nuclear power would be phased out. After Fukushima, Merkel announced that she was flip flopping and suspended operation at several older plants and suspended the extension of the phase out. Too little, too late apparently.

If these results had happened in one of the more left leaning, northern Lander like Nordrhein-Westfalen, I'd be less impressed by this. But that these elections, especially the one in Baden-Wurttemberg, are happening in the more conservative south western part of the country suggests a major shift in German politics. One might be inclined to say this was a fluke resulting from the high profile coverage of the Fukushima crisis. But anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany had been building for a long time. Fukushima may have just put it finally over the threshold where nuclear power is permanently on the outs in Germany.

Germany cannot hope to supply its power needs with wind power or current solar technology. Germany is already a world leader in research and development in alternative energy sources. I think there will be a number consequences of this. One of them will be that it will be even harder for Germany (and the EU) to meet their Kyoto targets. Another will be that the Germans are about to ramp up their investment in non-nuclear alternatives. This will mean that the warnings that Obama has been sounding about the US falling behind in the fields of research that will generate the 21st century economy are even more valid.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Libyan Situation

Here are my opening two cents on the complicated situation in Libya:

Value and limits of US power: The US cannot and should not try to impose its will on the world unilaterally. It doesn't need to do so really. Many countries benefit enormously from a world organized in the way the US likes it to be organized. The US should not need to always be the unilateral "international cop." Sometimes direct US involvement simply isn't worth much of a US commitment even if the stakes are high for some of our allies. I think that is the situation in Libya. The stakes are much higher for Europe than they are for us and it is as correct as it is novel that Europeans shoulder the majority of the burden here. But even if the US doesn't want commit much, the US is unique in its ability to project power around the world. The Western European militaries are very capable. They have air forces that are nearly as capable as ours. They operate fancy jet fighters like F-16s, the Rafale and the Eurofighter/Typhoon. These forces are more than a match for the aging and poorly trained Libyan air force. But they will be hard pressed to operate those air forces even in nearby Libya. The Europeans will probably need US logistics support if not US combat support. A friend of mine in the USAF told me that even if they are operating from bases in Sicily, F-16s (for example) would probably need to refuel on the way to and on the way back from Libya to give them much air time over the combat area.

Why the Situation in Libya Matters More to Europe than to the US: If there is a bloodbath in Libya, it would provoke a massive refugee crisis in Tunisia and Egypt both of which are in no position to deal with such. Very quickly, many of those refugees would end up in Western Europe (especially France, Italy and Spain). Also, there is the possibility that European leaders still feel some shame about their inability to act in Bosnia in time to prevent a bloodbath there. While Americans may look at Libya and see Iraq: Part II, Europeans see besieged Libyan towns like Misrata and Benghazi and fear another Srebrenica. At the same time, the current President of France, Sarkozy, is facing Bush-like disapproval ratings. Two thirds of Frenchmen disapprove of his policies. Sarkozy may be trying to "wag the dog." Much of that disapproval is tied to Sarkozy's reaction to the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East (his initial move was to stand by Tunisia's ousted dictator - le oops).

What the US Should Do: I think Obama is correct that this is NOT a situation that warrants the commitment of US ground troops. The only exception to that I could imagine being worth while would be a temporary deployment to secure a landing zone to evacuate a small number of foreign nationals or perpetrate a snatch and grab operation to kidnap/arrest Gaddafi and get the heck out of Dodge. I don't think anything that happens in Libya (even the emergence of an Islamist regime or the shut off of Libyan oil) is worth the long term deployment of US troops.

What Will Happen Next?: The short answer is: "who knows?" It's up to Gaddafi, who is probably lurching from one psychotic break to another, and the people around him. All of the inner circle people in Libya probably fear, with much justification, that there are few options for them other than to go out in a blaze of gunfire. If the US has visions of a decade of quagmire in Iraq and the Europeans have visions of Srebrenica, Gaddafi probably has nightmares of Saddam Hussein's execution and the killing of his sons in gun fights. If he would have thought more clearly, he would have jumped on a plane to Venezuela as soon as things looked to get ugly. But the man is clearly insane. If you make me guess, I'd put my money on Gaddafi trying to go down fighting. So far it looks like Gaddafi is trying to retake as much of the country as he can before European forces can get into action. There are rumors that Egypt is arming the rebels in Benghazi. If that's true, there may be a scenario whereby France, Spain and the UK et al, cripple Gaddafi's forces with air strikes which gives the rebels time to get organized and equipped to take over the country themselves. It's worth noting that every time the Libyan army (based on the Islamic Legion and its successor organizations) has gone up against organized resistance they have been routed.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The New Politics of Alternative Energy

The Winter/Spring of 2011 will go down in history for two major events. Both of them will end up having a huge impact on how Americans view energy sources in the future. I’m referring, of course, to the latest round of unrest in the Middle East and to the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant crisis in Japan.

I’ll discuss the Middle East first. So far, authoritarian regimes in two non-oil exporting states in the region have been overthrown and replaced by transition governments pledging to oversee a move to a more democratic and open regime. It remains to be seen what will happen in Yemen, another non-oil exporting state, as it teeters on the brink of failed state status. The regimes in the oil exporting states seem to all be willing to use massive amounts of force against any demonstrators. Libya’s Qaddafi seems poised to reconquer the eastern provinces of that country. The Saudis have already cracked down on their own population and are in the midst of a crackdown on Bahrain’s population. The unrest itself is making oil prices spike in the short run. If this period of unrest becomes a longer term problem of continued instability (a fairly likely outcome if you ask me), then we can expect periodic disruptions to the oil supply from the Middle East. There is a lot of talk about the Straights of Hormuz being a choke point for oil exports from the Persian Gulf states. But Gulf of Aden (between Yemen and Somalia) is just as important. If Yemen becomes a full fledged failed state, that water way would become even more plagued by piracy than it already is. This could force oil tankers on their way to the US and Europe to run a gauntlet of pirates and political instability all the way from Basra to the Suez Canal. I doubt this would lead to a cutting of the oil supply lines but it would make it more costly to transport the stuff and I have every confidence that the Big Oil companies would figure out how to pass those additional costs onto consumers. Rising and consistently high oil prices will increase political support for any alternative to imported oil. The Republicans will try to make this into a justification for “drill baby drill” but we all know that domestic oil reserves are simply incapable of making a dent in the price let alone significantly reducing our dependence on imported oil. In the final analysis, the only alternative to imported oil is something other than oil. It might mean a shift to natural gas but even that will need to be largely imported. That means that a long term solution to our energy needs will have to depend on some combination of wind power, solar power, biofuels, hydroelectric and nuclear energy which leads us to …

The tragic situation in Japan. The Fukushima plant seems on the verge of a meltdown. US authorities are openly second guessing the reserved reports from the Japanese. I’ve seen comments from US experts to the effect that the Japanese should just give up on saving any of the plant at all and get to work on a cement “sarcophagus” to entomb the ruined and toxic fuel rods as soon as possible. This is part and parcel with an ongoing drum beat in the US news media that is largely serving to spread the idea that the situation in Japan proves that nuclear power is fundamentally unsafe. I’m no physicist but it seems to me that much of this criticism of nuclear energy as a hole is exaggerated and unjustified (perhaps Dr. Strangelove would care to elaborate on these issues in the comments). Certainly putting nuclear power plants in earthquake and tsunami prone areas is a bad idea but if the Fukushima plant had been in the American Midwest and suffered a direct hit from an F5 tornado, I doubt we’d be talking about a meltdown. In any case, this is largely irrelevant in the short term because the political environment for nuclear power just got A LOT worse in the US.

All this adds up to a potential “I told you so” moment for President Obama. A key part of Obama’s agenda has long been investment in future technologies, especially alternative energy and infrastructure upgrades such as “smart grid” technology. In 2009, Republicans often scoffed that it was a waste of money and their criticism often stuck in people’s minds because oil prices were temporarily low due to the global recession. But now, with oil prices rising again, investments in anything but oil are looking like a pretty smart thing to have advocated. The Republicans will be left to criticize Obama for agreeing with them that nuclear power should be part of the future mix and renewing their chant of “drill baby drill.” But both of these Republican strategies have no real substance behind them. On nuclear power, Obama has two obvious ways out of the Republican accusations. First, he can say Republicans are even bigger fans of nuclear energy than he ever was. Second, he can offer a reasonable sounding compromise by reviewing any nuclear power plant in an earthquake zone and dare the Republicans to demand an outright moratorium on nuclear energy. On “drill baby drill” Obama also has two obvious responses. First, the BP oil spill in the gulf was not only a traumatic demonstration of the dangers of unrestricted oil drilling in the US, it made for good TV making it ready made for political ads in 2012. After all of that all that is left if Obama’s original agenda of increased government support for research in alternative energy technology and infrastructure upgrades. It should be clear to any thinking person that sooner rather than later, our country will not be nearly as dependent on fossil fuel technologies as it is today. We have a choice, not between the status quo and a fossil fuel free future but between a future of our own making or one that we will have to buy from China. Obama is 100% right to push hard to invest in alternative energy sources and he should use the events of this winter to underscore his advantage on the issue.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Politics of Japan's Recovery

Hi Everyone,

The deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan are rightly dominating the news broadcasts these days. It’s even largely knocked the civil war in Libya and the increasing instability in places like Bahrain off the top of the news agenda. Most of the coverage is focusing on the immediate tragedy of the devastation and the following nuclear crisis. It’s reasonable that this should be focus of the 24 hour news crowd. But every now and again, they will bring up the economic consequences of this disaster – usually with a “what will this mean for the US economy” emphasis. What’s not being discussed is the politics of Japan’s response to the tsunami both in the short term and in the medium term.

Japan entered into this crisis already in a deep and ongoing recession. Japan’s economy has been struggling with deflation for more than a decade. Deflation is inflations nastier cousin. While inflation may be the “thief that robs in the night” by making everyone’s assets worth less, inflation at least benefits debtors. Deflation benefits no one. When the economy shrinks there is simply no way out of the reality that fewer assets are left to be divided up. Japan’s economy has been shrinking for a long time and the massive devastation to the North Eastern portion of the country will not help at all.

Adding to this economic misery, Japanese public debt as a percentage of their GDP as of 2010 was over 225%. That makes them #2 in the world in debt to GDP ratio. To put this in perspective, Greek and Irish public debt as a percentage of GDP are 144% and 94% of GDP respectively (as of 2010, the USA is at 58%). Japan may find it difficult to borrow the money to finance the rebuilding of a large part of their country.

Japanese politics is currently dominated by two major parties. The party that governed Japan for most of the post WWII period is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP set up a managed a protectionist, corporatist state that has been struggling for a long time. LDP officials dominated the politics of the country both legislatively and administratively. For decades, the civil service was hired, fired and promoted at the whim of the senior leadership of the LDP. They had cozy relations with big business and used their dominance of the courts and regulators to protect their corporate allies. There have been allusions to a scandal some time ago involving falsified inspection reports for the nuclear power plant currently in crisis in Fukushima.

The party in government at the moment is the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). This is a reformist, centrist party that grew out of the merger of a number of center-left parties and break away factions from the LPD in 1998. They finally won a majority in the Japanese lower house in 2009.

To manage the crisis, the government will have to establish the trust of the people and authority over private interests that may seek to take advantage of the crisis or escape responsibility for mismanagement (for example TEPCO's and their nuclear power plant). The long history of cozy and often corrupt relations between Japanese civil servants and corporate big shots may hinder this on two fronts. First, the Japanese civil service may still, after just two years, reflect the influence of 6 decades of LDP dominance. Many of these government bureaucrats may have more affinity with the executives at TEPCO than they do with their own elected superiors. I've heard comments from American media that various ministries in Tokyo are starting to give the press the run around - for example the science ministry refusing to discuss the Fukushima situation and referring all questions to the Prime Minister's office. This may be what the PM wants but it may also be unwillingness by the government officials with the most knowledge and responsibility to be forthright about what TEPCO is doing. Second, as the government appears to only release information once the story has already broken, it will lose the trust of the population and may not survive the next election.

To rebuild, Japan will have to either generate economic growth or borrow to finance government recovery projects. Japan is not in the best position to do either. We may be witnessing the event that marks the final transfer of regional leadership from Japan to China and South Korea.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Wisconsin, Walker and Reagan Democrats

I think it's been mentioned on this blog recently before (I think by US West) that the union voters in Wisconsin who are now the arch enemies of that state's Republican party are exactly the demographic that the Republicans have depended on to undermine Democratic candidates. These are the so called "Reagan Democrats" who vote Republican for the nationalism and the odd tax cut here and there. But this attack by the Wisconsin Republican Party (and other Republican legislatures in other states) have laid bare the extent to which these people have been voting against their own self interest all this time. At the very least, even if this group has not completely defected to the GOP, they have largely stayed at home and not come out to vote for Democrats.

I often find myself wondering how many of the union members demonstrating in Madison in 2011 either voted for Walker or did not vote at all in 2010. To them I point them to a famous scolding from Harry Truman. He said then that the refusal of organized labor to support Democrats in elections had led directly to Republicans passing union busting legislation. Like Truman, part of me is inclined to think that these disloyal blue collar voters are getting exactly what they deserve. I hope the nationalist zeal and tax cuts compensate them for the years of reduced income that the elimination of their collective bargaining rights will produce.

But the less vindictive side of me looks at this and sees hope for the future. Has Scott Walker done to the blue collar Republicans what Pete Wilson did to Latinos in California? When Governor Pete Wilson began his anti-immigrant campaign, California was a swing state. But by completely alienating Latinos from the Republican party, Wilson doomed his party to permanent minority status. Has Governor Scott Walker (and Kasich in Ohio, and others) done the same thing for the relationship between the Republican Party and blue collar voters in the Great Lakes region? I doubt the anti-Republican backlash will be as severe as in the Pete Wilson case but I do think Republicans badly overreached on their anti-union agenda. So long as Republican union bashing was limited to depicting union leaders as stogie smoking hypocrites, they could count on some agreement from many blue collar voters and even from union members. But by directly targeting collective bargaining rights, they shifted the public image of their targets from the leadership to the rank and file. Bad idea. At the very least, they've handed Democrats in Wisconsin, Ohio and other Great Lakes states, a cause to rally behind. At worst, they've just jettisoned another part of their national electoral coalition.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Bigger Fish to Fry on the Arabian Peninsula

With all the news about Libya, it’s easy to forget that there two other countries in protest- both of which are very important to U.S. security, Bahrain and Yemen. The catch is, they are also very important to Iran.

In Yemen, Protesters are calling for the resignation of President Salih. His term ends in 2013, but there are concerns that he may change the laws to allow himself another run. For updates on protests on Yemen, go to Aljazeera English.

In Bahrain, a constitutional monarchy, protesters are calling for the royal family to implement reforms that would open up more benefits for the majority Shia population. At the moment, most of the social benefits run to the Sunni elite. For more see the Christian Science Monitor.

Protests are being planned in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well.

See this map.

Notice the strategic locations both of these nations possess. Both are located on important trade routes for oil and natural gas. The Gulf of Aden has suffered in importance as of late because of Somali pirates. But it is still important for shipping.

Iran is watching all of this unrest in Yemen and Bahrain with great interest, I am sure. With the U.S. scheduled to leave Iraq in December, the Iranians are biding their time. Unless the Iranian opposition is successful (highly unlikely, I am afraid- moderate Hashemi Rafsanjani has been forced to step down from his post as chairman of the Assembly of Experts, signaling the tighter grip of hardliners), the Iranian government is sure to take advantage of the instability in Iraq. In fact, I’d speculate that they are covertly contributing to it by providing funding to opposition groups and clerics. They would also like to see Saudi Arabia destabilized. One way to do this is to covertly stir the pot in places like Yemen and Bahrain.

Iran wants to be a regional power. At the moment, it has to do little to achieve that goal. Since it has the Western World wrapped up in its nuclear game, it can play quietly on the side, sowing dissension. So, we should be watching these two nations more closely than we are Libya. Libya is all about internal forces whereas Yemen and Bahrain potentially involve external forces. Getting involved in Libya would be unwise as it would divert even more attention and resources from the bigger kettle that is simmering further south. The potential risk to US security would be much greater there than Libya.

UPDATE: March 14th

Saudi Arabia, along with other nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council are sending troops into Bahrain to quell protests. Saudi sent 1000 troops on Sunday, March 13. Secretary Gates was in Bahrain March 12th. According to reports from STRATFOR, Gates encouraged the Bahrainis to speed up implementation of reforms, warning that Iranian interference would become a greater possibility if Bahrain fails to do so.

Barhaini Shiites are now split into two factions. The Wafa and Haq blocs have formed a coalition with the Haq bloc headed by Iranian supported Hassan Mushaima. The Al Wefaq movement is the other side and has been trying to negotiate with the regime for reforms.

For Full story at


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Class Resentment Misplaced

I was looking around the web the other day and ran across this story on the political blog, The Monkey Cage. It’s an analysis by a University of Wisconsin political science professor, Kathrine Cramer Walsh, about what is going on in Wisconsin politically. Dr. Walsh happens to be in the middle of field research in Wisconsin about regional differences in public opinion. Her analysis focused on the conflict between rural and small town Wisconsinites from northern parts of the state and the more urbanized Wisconsinites from Madison and Milwaukee. One quote from her interviews around the state stuck with me. One of her northern subjects expressed his resentment of public employees, and teachers in particular, this way…

“Sam: I think a school teacher -- I know it can be hard. But they got great benefits. Tremendous benefits. And if you've been there for 15, 20 years, you're making 50 grand a year. There's nobody in town other than them making 50 grand a year. The guys in the [local] mill makes 20 thousand.”

Dr. Walsh’s intent was to present the dimensions of conflict driving the political scene in Wisconsin for the governor’s supporters. She was not seeking to engage their views or do anything other than present solidly objective political science. But I’d like to address the politics (as opposed to the political science) of her subject’s views.

He seems to think that someone making $50,000 after 15 or 20 years in a career is unusually and unfairly privileged. From the other comments in Walsh’s report, Sam and his neighbors have the view that they pay taxes on their small salaries to pay for high salaries and benefits that are not justified. They love seeing Walker stick it to those lazy public employees. This observation by Walsh seems very intuitive to me. It certainly seems to be my experience of how small town Midwesterners think of urban Midwesterners. But how does $50,000 really stack up to a teacher’s private sector peers?

According to, teachers in Wisconsin start at about $25,000/year. The average teacher in Wisconsin makes about $46,000/year (close to the $50k figure referenced by “Sam”). But according to “”, the average starting salary for a graduate of the largest public university in the state, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is $47,900/year and the “mid career” salary is $87,400. The same numbers for graduates of UW-Oshkosh (a smaller, less prestigious branch campus of the UW system) are $38,900 and $67,800. Since all teachers have to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, deciding to become a teacher upon graduating from college means making a massive sacrifice in pay. The gap is probably biggest for math and science teachers. Taken as a group overall, teachers make about half as much as their private sector counter parts throughout their careers. I know that teachers often get good health care and retirement benefits. But there is no benefits package I can imagine a teacher getting that's worth $40,000 a year.

What’s more, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average salary in 2008 of a male with a high school diploma was $32,000 (women average $25,000). So it is possible that a new high school teacher could congratulate her graduating students and watch them earn more than she does with nowhere near the same investment in education and training. If anyone should be resentful, it's the teachers.

This source also points out that the real value of the salaries of high school grads has dropped quite a lot in the last 30 years. No doubt, this perception of declining living standards drives the resentment that people like “Sam” feel towards teachers and other public employees. But I argue that Sam’s resentment is horribly misplaced. Over the same period, college graduates’ salaries have more or less flat lined (even including the private sector). If Sam and his neighbors want to find out where their share of the national economic pie went, teachers are not the place to look. They should look at Wall Street. But the Republican party has successfully convinced Sam and his friends that their real enemies are the people are managing to tread water while Wall Street pushes Sam and his friends under water.


Friday, March 04, 2011

The Word!

New Country for Old Men

What an innovative idea!


Amen and Thank Goodness

Finally, we have some defense in the mainline media for Federal workers.

From Thomas A. Kochan , professor of management at MIT's Sloan School of Management:

But let's be clear about the stakes: Wisconsin's governor is attacking a fundamental human right, the freedom of association and the right to have an independent voice at work. This is not only unacceptable; I hope we will have the courage to call it un-American.

In case anyone is interested, most public employees don't have the right to strike. So all they can do is collectively bargain or protest in their free time.

The problem is scandals like that in Bell, California confuse people. Scandals like that are NOT because of unions and they are NOT typical of public employees. Scandals like that are simply corrupted officials.

In interviews with people in Egypt, many cited corruption among their public officials. They had to pay bribes for everything from getting birth certificates to passports. This is what happens when governments fail to pay their civil servants living wages. I work with people from all over the world, many of them from very corrupt places. They marvel at the trust and honesty of most Americans. We do not know what it is in this country to pay a bribe to get a birth certificate, building permit, or stamps at the post office. We pay our public servants a living wage, and for professionals a competitive wage because the American people deserve the very best service and quality from its public servants. If that argument can be used to defend the over-sized salaries of bankers, why is it not legitimate for use when talking about public servants?

According to Transparency International the United States ranks 22 out of 178 countries for corruption. This, by the way, is the first year since the index started that the United States has fallen out of the top 20. Why? Was it because of unions and the public sector? NO! It was because of the financial collapse and the various banking scandals caused by Wall Street as well as by weakened government oversight.

Why is government oversight weak? One word: Deregulation. There aren't enough civil servants to do the hard work of monitoring food quality, building and environmental safety, tax compliance, banking rule compliance, etc. And that has been a Republican tactic: Bleed the system dry through cuts to everything and everyone EXCEPT the very wealthy and their supporters.

Nancy Boswell, president of Transparency International U.S.A, refers to an "Integrity Deficit."
We're not talking about corruption in the sense of breaking the law. We're talking about a sense that the system is corrupted by these practices. There's an integrity deficit.

"These practices" refers to loose lending in the subprime crisis, the disclosure of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, rows over political funding,various financial scandals at state and city level, etc.

And when I made arguments about Democracy or the lack thereof, my co-bloggers were correct to say that we do have a Democracy. My problem is that the type of sophisticated, white collar corruption that we have witnessed in this country for too long undermines faith in the system. And so much of our success as a nation has been because of the faith we've placed in it. Without faith, you end up in revolution.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Point of the Blunt Spear

Over the weekend, Secretary Gates told a group of West Point cadets that they will be entering a very different military from that of their predecessors. He pointed out that financial and human resources are necessarily dwindling and that any president who thinks a ground war in Asia is a good idea needs "his head examined".

I am a big fan of Secretary Gates. And considering that Rumsfeld is out promoting his book claiming that Iraq was NOT a mistake, Gates offers a reasoned view that is very much grounded in reality. He gets it!

George Freidman writing for STRATFOR has put together a very good article on why Gates is correct in his analysis. The short version is that the US military faces three problems in Asia. 1) long supply lines that require huge human resources for logistics and 2) an inability to field a large enough fighting force (i.e so many human resources are taken up by logistics, little is left over for the actual fighting force) 3) the populations in Asia are disproportionately large compared to the size of US forces.

The one thing this article doesn't mention, but is becoming more an more discussed is the role of mercenary insurgents. It is more and more evident that many nations keep a stock of mercenaries available to fight anything from wars to suppressing uprising. That will be the next fad in military analysis if it hasn't already started.

To respect all copyright laws: Never Fight a Land War in Asia is republished with permission of STRATFOR.