Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Do You Make A War?

"How do you make a hurricane?" is the punch line of an old joke in which two retired Jewish retailers meet on a Florida beach and compare their retirement plans. Put in context of the current US election, the question becomes, "How do you make a war?" Imagine you are the incumbent President of the USA. You face an election that everyone, including yourself, believes will be determined by the economy. Your problem is that the economy is, for too many people, in the crapper. You know that no one, even yourself, could, in less than four years, fix an economy that the opposition party, together with an incredible number of morons from your own party, spent 30 years screwing up. But you are the incumbent and so you get to take the blame for whatever state the economy is in on election day. In the immortal words of Barney Frank, no one has ever won re-election with a bumper sticker that says "It would have been worse without me." You may have noticed that Mr. Frank is not running for re-election. To make matters worse, your opponent can honestly say that he knows something about business, finance and the economy. Agree with him or not, he is able to make what one of my professors used to call "intelligent noises" on those subjects.

And then it hits you. Four years ago the issue that everyone, including yourself, was convinced would decide the election would be which candidate would make a better Commander-in-Chief. The country was mired in three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and global terrorism) and suffering from a loss of prestige on the world stage. Your problem was that you had no demonstrable skill or experience in foreign affairs or warfare. Your opponent, a war hero who survived torture to become a US Senator, was going to crush you in the debates and then march to victory in November. Just as things were looking tough, your predecessor figured out how to make a depression. Suddenly, the election was totally about "the economy, stupid." You succeeded in looking and sounding like you had a clue. At the same time, your opponent looked lost in some senior moment. And the election went from a difficult, uphill slog to a slam dunk.

So now, four years later, the question on the floor is, how do you make a war? Or at least get everyone to focus on the wars that we already have while ignoring the economy. You have spent four years as the Commander-in-Chief and even some of your worst detractors have had to concede that you've actually been pretty good at it. You've been milking the Bin Laden and other targeted assassinations for all they're worth and have most world leaders taking the USA seriously again. You really would not mind having more of that stuff to announce at press conferences, using all that free TV time you get just because you are the President. At the same time, your opponent is clearly clueless when it comes to foreign affairs. I mean, really, what potential US President makes a courtesy call at 10 Downing Street and manages to incur the wrath of the Prime Minister of the UK? How lame is that? And using the death of a popular US Ambassador for cheap political shots has even hard core Republicans wondering out loud if he's not really up to the job. If I'm your opponent I'm not all that thrilled to have my so-called friends describing my latest faux pas as a "game changer" without specifying that I'm the guy who benefits from the changed game. So, how do you make a war?

The answer is, you don't  You are not your predecessor. It's just not in you to deliberately start or heat up a war to settle a personal grudge or get re-elected. But it turns out that Joe Biden, of all people, was right. There is always some unexpected crisis that will test a President. And change the focus of the public debate. Al Qaeda cells in Libya and Tunisia are about to learn why so many of their colleagues in Pakistan and Yemen don't return phone calls these days. Meanwhile, suppose Assad gets killed and Syria collapses into total chaos. With cable news in the midst of a Syrian feeding frenzy, Bibi Netanyahu, thinking that no one will notice, bombs Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran will, of course, retaliate by not only launching missile attacks on Israeli cities but also by trying to close the Straits of Hormuz. You've had your Navy and Air Force planning and practicing for these events for months, if not years. And so, before you go into the last debate, your Navy and Air Force will have wiped out the Iranian Navy and Air Force, bombed every nuclear and missile facility in Iran, opened an air corridor for the Israelis to do something which the usual whiners will describe as "disproportionate" but no one will actually do anything about and, if things really break your way, Hillary and the CIA  would have helped put Syria under the auspices of Turkey. Pull this off and you can spend November 7 drafting your second inaugural address.


ed g. said...


I am disappointed. Can't we have just one more war? Come on now! it's fun. And America is good at it. All we need are some more patriotic but mislead American fodder who want to fight for freedom and to protect the "way we (meaning the 1%-ers) live.

Let's look at two interesting facts about American capitalism the so-called greatest economic system ever developed by any nation, anywhere and at any time (in history).

Since 1789 the year the American Revolution was hijacked by the 55 white, very rich, mostly educated and almost all slave owners or large land owners in the secret Philadelphia convention, until now we have about 215 years. During that period Panics, Recessions and Depressions occurred during 80 years or 40% of all of America's existence. When you throw in a very conservative ten (10) years of super-inflation and stagflation the 80 goes to 90 years and the percentage goes to about 45%.

But what happened during the 55% of the years that were not economic messes? They were years of some prosperity at least for a small segment of the population not forced to or did not voluntarily join the wars since 1789 against the French, then the British, the Barbary Coast pirates, the forever wars against the Native Americans, the war of 1812 (again with the British), the Mexican War, more wars against the Native Americans, the Spanish-American War, World War I, internal wars against Americans who thought America was big enough to accommodate freedom of expression, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the many secret an open wars against anyone who was not for us during the Cold War, Vietnam, more war against dissension, other countries nearby Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II and Afghanistan and the air war against so-called terrorists in the mid-east. Wow! Almost forgot all the secret and open wars in eastern Europe and Africa and of course the invasion of Grenada and the illegal war against almost every other country in Central and South America.

So war as Marx (both Groucho and Karl) said seems to be a serious part of the capitalistic economy.

But according to the 'Decider' George Bush II the rest of the world does not like us and our way of living (meaning again for those who do not get this coded message-the way the 1% live). I know from my extensive travels and long periods of smoking dope that this is true.

The rest of the world hates the fact that those Americans living in their double wides get excited and are ready with guns and 6-packs in hand to leave their castles and die for the right of the super rich not to pay their fair, ethical, moral, and democratic share of the tax burden. As Lewis Black the Jewish comedian says, we call this 'leadership'. They also hate the fact that Americans can't get good paying jobs with reasonable benefits and retirement and that 20% of Americans are living under the very low poverty levels or that racism exists and that America has been led by the nose by crazy Christian faux pax leaders. They have no problem with the fact that America's 1%-ers are close friends with their countries 1%-ers.

So you are correct again, David. But can't we have just one more war? It is a hard habit to shake as it wins elections and it fixes the economy.

David Stolow said...


I'm not opposed to "one more war." Please remember that I'm the guy with anger issues left over from having an airplane flown through my office building back on 9/11. As far as I'm concerned Obama and Hillary can start on the western borders of Syria and Iraq and work through to the eastern border of Pakistan and make that entire area incapable of sustaining carbon based life. My blog is not meant to oppose doing unto Iran today what Carter should have done in 1979. I am merely marveling over the timing of events in a way that will re-elect Obama, something I am also in favor of.