Afghanistan. Biden Has the Guts. Issue 2

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We should have left long ago, but it took a President Biden to say, ‘enough is enough.’

It took a man like Biden to say, ‘I was elected president of the American people, and will do what I must to improve their lot.’

That takes guts.

Presidents came and went but it took Biden to say, ‘it’s time. We have to leave.’

And no one, no one, could in their right mind, expect a tidy exit.

The same way that no one had thought that the Afghan army, stronger in numbers than the Taliban, would choose to lay down their arms as the mujahideen advanced.

Was their country not worth fighting for?

That will be on the consciences of Afghans to deal with.

As to the chaos at the airport in Kabul, it will soon settle down as evacuations come to an end in the next few days. And if it doesn’t, so be it.

We need to rebuild our nation. We need to work on improving the skills level of our citizens, their education and health, all of which will result in greater wellbeing and productivity.

Many of our cities and rural areas are in desperate need of attention and assistance.

President Biden sees that. But the whole lot of his critics, both Republicans and Democrats, who claim to be aghast at the messy exit and the tragic scenes of Afghans clinging to a moving airplane on the tarmac of the Kabul airport, instead of empty blabber, should take a good look at themselves and ask if they’re not being unfair with Biden.

Afghanistan had long ago ceased to be geopolitically important and yet we stayed and stayed.

Almost 2500 American soldiers have died in the effort.

It has taken a president like Biden, who is mindful of our people’s needs, to put things in perspective and better allocate our resources.

It was time to leave. And it is time to reassess our role in defense of others around the world.

Here in our nation, we, the citizens, have a right to not be the victims of senseless violence. We, the citizens, have a right to have the opportunity to be the best we can be.

We can and will help others in need elsewhere in the world, even when it takes something that we ourselves don’t have enough of, but we cannot be careless with how we use our resources.

For we have also a duty to remind those we help, that they must do all they can to help themselves.

Our interventions abroad must be time limited. Are we in northern Syria to support the Kurds? Then we must make it clear that the arrangement is not permanent. Same with Iraq.

We have a large military base in Qatar, which should be enough as far as the Middle East is concerned.

The wide political divide here at home is a glaring sign of long standing neglect.

What is the use of sending troops all over the world if we don’t manage our problems here at home?

Working hard to improve our people, will help us project an image of strength that is fully grounded in reality.

Oscar Valdes.

On Iran. A Little Thought, Anyone?


When Trump decided to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran his objective was to boost his macho image on the world stage. The agreement, flawed as it was, had kept us in diplomacy. Trump’s choice to break away from the pact shut us out of it. I suppose he’s keeping some people happy with his decision but our nation as a whole is the loser.

It is so easy to lose perspective on the subject. Sure, Iran is funding Hamas and Hezbollah and is a foe to allies in the region, but are any of those allies not dictatorial, except for Israel? No. Realpolitik? Okay, but not to boost the flawed ego of a failing president.

It is so convenient to forget how we’ve treated Iran. In 1953 we joined with Britain to overthrow a regime that wanted to nationalize their oil production. We felt we had the right to bully another nation into submission.

We installed the Shah which was no great gift to anyone other than he was willing to do our bidding. Finally, the Iranians had had enough and revolted. But soon after we were backing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in a long bloody war against Iran that cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. No qualms of conscience. The war was far away from our soil.

As things went, it would not be long before Saddam turned against us, and so back in we went with guns blazing to attempt to mold another regime to our liking. Never mind the lack of evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

After all that blood and treasure spent, can we say we have liberated Iraq? No. They will be very happy to see us leave and one day soon we will have to. Our legacy? Iraq has grown more sympathetic to Iran.

It is not difficult to see how a more thoughtful policy from the start could have delivered very different results and the Middle East would likely be a different story today. Where were the thinkers then? Where are they now?

Make America Great Again? Really. I see no trace of greatness in our record with Iran or Iraq.

But let us not lose hope.

The other day I saw that some people had come up with a line of clothing that said ‘Make America Think Again’. It might be the start of something.

Trump, Tariffs and the Reelection Bid.

Battle for the Nation (3)

There is no question that the tariffs Trump is imposing on China and the threat to impose them on Mexico are a burden to the American taxpayer. Both sides are hurt by them but Trump is betting that they will hurt the other side more than us. Tariffs have not yet derailed our economic expansion but they may well do so.

Are there problems with our trade with China? Of course. Do they need addressing? No doubt. But what happened to gradualism? Wouldn’t that approach give our industries and every other nation’s enough time to make the necessary adjustments?

Yes, it would.

The reason Trump is rushing headlong with tariffs is clear. He is convinced that they are his ticket to reelection. He appears to think that pushing tariffs will project him as the great American gladiator, the sublime avenger of all injuries inflicted upon us.

But we will not beat China on tariffs. They will fight back and even endure much pain rather than bow to Trump’s demands. In the 80s we could impose tariffs on Japan and stem their rise because we had defeated them in WWII. We did not defeat China. She was not even a nation.

China has become a formidable opponent. Their brand of state sponsored development, their drive and ambition, has challenged our position in the world.

Their commitment to technological superiority, their advances in 5G and artificial intelligence, all make it evident that their push for world dominance is here to stay.

Should we be frightened? It depends on how capable we perceive ourselves to be. 

China’s rise and defiance should be seen as a warning that we have to reorganize our economy and the way we connect to ourselves and to the world.

To do that we need to think clearly as to what our priorities are.

Take immigration: immigrants have contributed enormously to who we are now and what we have. A Russian immigrant is Google’s cofounder. Apple’s Steven Jobs’ father came from Syria. Intel’s Andy Grove, a leading figure in the company’s growth, came from Hungary.

Present day Silicon Valley is filled with first or second generation Indian entrepreneurs.

I live in California. There are several buildings going up near where I live. The major component to the labor force pushing up those structures are Latinos.

When I go for medical care the likelihood is high that the nurse or doctor assisting me will be a first or second generation immigrant. And so too when I go to the pharmacy to pick up my meds.

Same at the bank or when I go for coffee or to get something to eat.

We are immigrants. That’s who we are. We have needed the numbers and immigrants have provided them.

China’s story is different. They have the numbers. But they started to thrive quickly only when they opened to the world. It was that influx of ideas and technologies that, coupled with their drive and ingenuity, lifted them to their present status.

Again, openness.

In China’s case, however, selective openness. They have not been willing to import democratic ideals and so their population remains severely bereft of individual liberties.

The West bet that trade with China would inevitably stir a strong desire from within to transform their communist ideology. It hasn’t happened but it does not mean that it will not.

We got wrong the time table for political change but the central concept remains. Sooner or later China will open up politically.

Trump’s intemperate push for tariffs betrays a sense of panic.

China announces their desire for being the worldwide leader in technology and Trump frets that we will be at their mercy.

He bangs his tariff drum – the louder the better – thinking that it will deter China.

It will not.

The Chinese must love that our president is showing so little confidence in all the pain and effort that it has taken to build America. But Trump has little sense of history.

Our concept of liberty is the distillation of hundreds of years of thought and discussion, struggles and wars.

China has not done that work. They went from a near feudal economy to world prominence in a very short time. Much like South Korea did, except that we could exert political influence there because we fought for their freedom.  

Why then are we panicking with China’s rise?

There is no need to do so. In fact, it is counterproductive.

To panic is to doubt that our model of governance is effective.

It is effective not only because of our economic and military strength but because it keeps attracting millions of people from all over the world. And yet, it needs to be fairer.

As we embrace greater fairness we will help release the fullness of our citizens’ productive capacities.

Rather than panic with China’s rise, we should welcome it, for it challenges us to remake our society.

Let us not forget that our society is not in its final form. Far from it. It is designed to be in a continuous state of flux because the complexity of life demands it.

China’s spectacular growth has contributed to the rise of nationalism both here and abroad. But reacting in such way is going in the wrong direction. We must not lose faith in man’s thirst for freedom and how it unleashes their creative forces.

China lags way behind the West in allowing the fundamental freedom that man has long aspired to. In time, and with visionary leadership, they will come around.

Immigration needs reform in that the nation must have control of its borders. Let’s tackle that. Let’s discuss it. Let’s do a referendum on the issue.

But let us not allow a leader without a sense of history, to throw us into a state of panic that leads us to question the fundamental values that we have struggled so hard to maintain.

Oscar Valdes

Open Letter to Kim Jong Un

Dear Kim:

With your people facing greater scarcities at home and you not being able to provide, it follows that you are getting anxious again. Will North Koreans see you as a failure? Will the growing unease spark a revolt?

Knowing that the mounting distress could turn explosive, you have gone back to doing what you do best – making noises with your rockets.

It doesn’t help, of course, that you’ve painted yourself into a corner and antagonized the international community, although you’re still able to reach out to other iron fisted rulers (Putin and Xi Jinping) and beg for assistance.

But since the pattern keeps repeating itself, I think the US and the international community have to get more imaginative in addressing the problem.

The fundamentals are clear: you will not give up your nuclear weapons and you will not surrender your leadership. But it may be possible that, with a little effort, you might be willing to embrace the state capitalism that has worked so well to lift up China.

Here’s how I think the US and the international community could take a fresh approach. They could say to you, “Kim, let’s accept the facts, you are a nuclear power. Your cunning and persistence have outwitted every American administration and all the sanctions they have set up and you are now an undisputed nuclear power. We give you that. You are nuclear, baby. You did it.”

But that is not going to feed your people and you and I know North Koreans deserve a great deal more.

So here’s a deal for you. The US lifts all sanctions and we start doing business.  How would that work?

In exchange for the lifting of the sanctions, you would grant American businesses the exclusive right to set up ventures in North Korea for a period of 10 years. This may include technology transfers with appropriate payment for patents. This will stir up the spirit of entrepreneurship in your people and be good for both countries and for the world.

Look, as a capitalist nation, we know how to make money, and we can help you learn how to do it, too.

Should this idea take hold, very soon North Koreans would be raising their standards of living, and if you keep a good system of surveillance in place – the technology is amazing – like the Chinese do, you will be able to stay comfortably in power.

Only 10 years, Kim. After that your land would be open for you to do business with whomever you would like.

During those 10 years we would invite you over to the White House and to Mar-a-Lago (while Trump is president) so you can get to meet all kinds of interesting men and women.

We’re all grownups here, so you should know that our intentions are clear. We, in America, would like for you to become more like us. And make money as you go. You don’t have to give up being communist, but you would be a money making, high living communist, like Vladimir and Xi (Trump could even get you started in the hotel business, building towers and the like. Imagine yourself building a ‘Kim Tower ‘ in Moscow?)

This idea may not be easy to sell but it’s worth a try. Trump may be initially resistant because he’s surrounded by some people who still believe that America can change another nation’s way of governing themselves. But those ideas are fast going out of fashion.

To make it easier for Trump to consider this lifting of all sanctions, you could tell him, “Look Donald, during those 10 years during which America would have exclusive rights to doing business with us, I promise that I will not sell my nuclear weapons to other nations. I won’t because there will be no need for it. My people will be properly clothed and fed, well educated and happy, and I will enjoy international recognition.”

Mind you, Trump may be reluctant to accept this promise – because you have made so many and broken them all – but the thought of lifting all sanctions is so radical that he just might go for it. Remember, he prides himself on being different.

One more thought. We know that you would like a unified Korea. I think that may be possible, down the line, and having a strong economy with a rising GDP will be a great incentive to persuade your brothers and sisters in South Korea. But for the foreseeable future, America should keep South Korea well armed with nuclear weapons, in keeping with the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction).

How’s your golf game? We can help you with that too. We’ll be glad to send Tiger Woods over to teach you some moves. He’s the best.

Oh, before I forget, I think your sister should be given more authority. Equality for women is just good for business. We haven’t yet elected a woman president but it may happen soon.

Here’s my very best to the North Korean people.

Oscar Valdes

PS: I know that Trump has spoken in favor of tolerating torture but, for most Americans, that’s not a cool idea. So, please, don’t torture your enemies.