Monday, September 2, 2013

President Obama and Syria

You know you’re in trouble when your only ally is the French.  It’s hard to know where to start with this fiasco of a foreign policy.  But let’s start at the beginning; open mouth, insert foot, close mouth.  About a year ago the president drew a red line regarding the use of chemical weapons.  And now Assad has called his bluff. 

There’s no doubt that Assad ordered this chemical attack, and ordered it for a reason.  He’s not stupid.  Only a trained military could have executed this attack the way it was done; early in the morning when winds are down and the temperature cool to keep the gas from moving too much.  The rebels don’t have the weapons or the training to do this.  And the goal has been achieved; he’s scared ALL the people and the opposition who don’t have the means to protect them-selves.  He’s truly diabolical.
But the actions of the president the last couple of weeks have been incredible if not bizarre.  After promising action he does nothing.  He then transmits our intentions in detail so Assad can take corrective actions to ameliorate the potential impact.  Our foremost ally, Britain, has demurred (although I don’t know why, what were they going to do?  Applaud?).  And now he’s taken a page from their playbook and ostensibly our own Constitution (he alternately refers to and ignores this document when it’s to his advantage) to ask Congress for approval.  Why, because deep down he really doesn’t want to do it and doesn’t want to take the blame?  No, I think not.  He just doesn’t want to do this alone.  Not even the Sunni Arabs want to support yet another American military adventure in the Middle East, even when it’s to their collective advantage. 

So how will this vote go?  In Congress there are the far left Democrats and the nascent libertarian Republican movement that are both fiercely anti-war.  Add to that the mainstream Republicans who will vote against ANY legislation that helps this president and I think that means this will be a very close vote.  And my anecdotal guess is the vote will be to NOT support military action.  Also, this vote will NOT be along party lines and ironically could actually be a good thing for Congress.  Perhaps this vote will be the first plank in a bridge to bi-partisanship….OK, forget I just said that….silly me.  Bi-partisanship is highly overrated anyway.

A no vote would be a good thing.  It will not be taken well by the rebels in Syria but there are many factions in that movement that have Al Qaeda and/or Islamist sympathies.  I’m not too excited about seeing another radical Islamist state in the Middle East.  But then Assad is aligned with Russia and Iran, a radical Islamist state so perhaps it matters not who controls Syria.  And if it matters not which side runs Syria, what’s the point, American prestige?  What prestige?  Iraq is not much better than before our invasion and I’ll bet you my next paycheck that the Taliban is running Afghanistan in 5 years.  We’ll surely kill some civilians with this attack and America will be blamed for killing more Muslims.  If we do nothing we can only be accused of allowing deaths to occur which, while bad, is not as bad as ACTUALLY killing people.

Our enemies are killing each other.  What’s not to like?  Pull up a chair, pop some popcorn.  Put your feet up.
Larry Summers for Fed Chair?  Not no but Hell no.  In an interview when he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and in front of then Senator Tom Daschle, he admitted to not understanding Reserve Accounting.  OK, that's only a technical matter and simply ignorance which can be rectified.  He is a creature of Wall Street and as such will not support the proper banking regulatory regimen required in a Fiat money based monetary system.  That's the reason he should not be Fed Chair.

Janet Yellen, while a liberal Democrat at least understands Reserve Accounting.  She served as an economist at the Federal Reserve early in her career.  She would not have to go back to school to learn how the mechanics of the Federal Reserve.  She would also provide some continuity which the markets would probably find reassuring and favors proper bank regulation.

Which brings me to my favorite, Shelia Bair.  Ms. Bair headed up the FDIC during the Great Recession and was the voice of calm and reason during a difficult time.  She also would be in favor of significant banking regulations and has no ties to Wall Street.  Here's a paragraph from her Wikipedia page.

Prior to her appointment at the FDIC, Bair was the Dean's Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a post she had held since 2002.  She also served as Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury (2001-2002), Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the New York Stock Exchange (1991 to 1995), and Research Director, Deputy Counsel and Counsel to Kansas Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (1981-1988).  While an academic, Bair also served on the FDIC's Advisory Committee on Banking Policy.  Bair also pursued a seat in the U.S. Congress (she lost to 1990 Republican nomination in the 5th Kansas district by 760 votes to Dick Nichols).

Bair began her career in the General Counselo's office of the former U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Ms. Bair left the FDIC on July 8 2011, when her five-year term expired.  She became as senor advisor to The Pew Charitable Trusts in August 2011.  She is chair of the Systemic Risk Council, a voluntee effort formed by the CFA Institute and the Pew Chartible Trusts to monitor and comment on regulation.

Unfortunately, this is an appointment by the President, end of story....