Blogging Obama’s War


CNN’s got a promising new effort to involve people in what is likely to become one of the two key discussion points over the next 3 years:  The growing US War in Afghanistan (the other is obviously the US / Global economy)     Here’s the Afghanistan war blog

In my view it is very hard to comment wisely about details and policy without a lot more of the “secret” military information – threat assessments, probabilities, estimates of deaths.    Without this it is simply not reasonable to attempt to evaluate the complex international military strategies of Obama or any president.

If, for example, there is good reason to believe that the terrorists have a good chance of destabilizing Pakistan and taking over intercontinental nuclear missles the stakes are very high indeed.   If that is extremely unlikely it changes the game considerably.

It is odd to me how people who argued Obama was “a communist / marxist”   refuse to grasp the obvious reality of his moderate policies.   Few Marxists or far left folks (outside of China! 😆 )  supported Obama.  They will call this a simple extension of US imperialistic power.   For many moderates the hypocrisy is also glaring.     They called Bush was a “war monger” but now seem very comfortable with Obama’s very similar military directions.    I’ve spoken about this with several who remain generally supportive of the President’s international efforts.   It is as if they are more interested in how we talk about war than how we prosecute these wars.

Lost in the details of the military aspects of the strategies is the calculation that addresses the single most important concern – do the benefits of US security and help to the Afghans outweigh the losses they and we will endure over the next three years?

I can’t second guess our leaders on this, but I’d sure like to see the numbers.     Like others I’m waiting anxiously to hear the president’s speech tonight but I doubt it will shed much light on how many people will die, even though these estimates are a critical part of the strategic process at the Pentagon.

Although I believe you can make a case for war in some cases, it’s absolutely immoral to fail to adequately determine if the benefits outweigh the massive human costs.     I know Obama tried to do this, but he should tell us what went into the calculations.    These are not simple calculations, but contrary to what many assert you *must” place values on lives whenever deaths are going to happen.    Do you try to do this directly (with numbers and specific assumptions) or indirectly with vague or general assertions and assumptions.    The government will maintain the pretense of thoughtfulness even when indirect and vague policies are driving things forward.

Governments often do many types of comparisons that shed a lot of light on how to move forward.      Transportation and Environmental agencies do this type of thing all the time when deciding how much to spend on safety / health / etc.   In those calculations lives in the USA are each worth about two to five million dollars.    It’s about time we started publishing a lot more information about the rationale for these numbers, and publishing the military rationale for the massive numbers of civilian casualties in our wars.    People don’t like to know their life has a very finite value to agencies of the  government (as it should by the way), but as we move into the challenges we’ll face from countries where lives are effectively valued by their leaders and governments  in  “hundreds of dollars” rather than “millions of dollars” as here in the USA.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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17 Responses to Blogging Obama’s War

  1. glenn says:

    Rummy/Bush blew it when they didn’t nuke tora bora…we shouldn’t even have to discuss this today.

    We shouldn’t have to fight a war with our hands tied behind our back. It’s stupid and you don’t win wars that way and if we don’t plan to absolutely win a war we shouldn’t get involved.

  2. John Obeto says:

    I have to agree with you, on escalating the conflict if there is any possibility that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could come into the possession of terrorists.

    Barring that, the President has to show, to the American people and the world, a clear nexus between our continued involvement in that war, and a threat to the US in particular. Not some nebulous perceived threat. A clear and imminent danger.

    As for hypocrisy, it abounds on all sides of the political spectrum. I am mostly amused by the warmongers who decried the need for universal healthcare here in the US as costly, but have sat back while untold trillions are spent off the books in these wars.

    Whan you say “countries where lives are effectively valued in ”hundreds of dollars” rather than “millions of dollars” as here in the USA”, whose valuation are you quoting for those other countries? Certainly not the inhabitants, or parents there, I don’t think.

  3. JoeDuck says:

    John welcome to the blog and thanks for pointing that out – I just edited the sentence because I did NOT mean to imply those folks are “worth less” than Americans – just that the governments of poor countries often appear to place lower values on lives. e.g. Failure to properly deploy vaccination or oral rehydration when those would save thousands at trivial cost.

    Whether the people do as well is a really interesting topic also but I think that is going to vary family to family. There’s a well documented problem in Cambodia where more than a few parents sell children into sex slavery for about the price of a TV set and this tragedy is repeated in much of the developing world – far less of a problem in USA.

    • glenn says:

      Why would anyone put a price on a life anyway? It makes no sense – it is that kind of thinking that justifies rationing and many other forms of population control.

      Joe right here in the USA all you need to do is go to your local ACORN office and you can set up a business exploiting children into the sex slave you don’t need to travel to exotic Cambodia for that.

      It amazes me that people think about putting a price tag on a human life and yet they sit by idly while gazillions of dollars are wasted on the most stupidest of things. The only dollar value we should be looking at is what is the starting personal debt of a person born in the USA…as of today every person born starts out with a $345,000 debt to the government for our unfunded liabilities. That number will most likely double within 20 years.

      Obama is a CO2mmunist…they have a new label for what he is trying to do along with all the other Progressives of the world.

      • JoeDuck says:

        Glenn it’s not me “wanting” to put a pricetag on life – my point is that we all do it all the time. It’s done directly when making a road safer will cost 10 million and estimates say it’ll save 5 lives over the lifetime of the improvement. Also, the military will usually do a collateral damage assessment before a missle strike in a city. Often strikes are called off because hitting the military target will kill innocents but it’s also common to kill innocent people in an effort to get “high value” military targets. We need a LOT MORE TRANSPARENCY rather than simply pretending this isn’t done.

        Now, YOU do similar calculations every day. Do you let your kids ride a bike rather than taking them in an armored car to school or friends? Their chance of injury is greater, but we calculate it’s worth the risk – there are benefits outside of pure safety. Although it’s hard to quantify the process, it’s not reasonable to say we don’t value our lives and the lives of others every day. We *must* do this to make pretty much any non-trivial decision about humans.

      • JoeDuck says:

        Obama is a CO2mmunist

        Glenn I started to write that I don’t agree even though this is very clever. But if your main point is that warming is viewed and used far too politically to impose something of a new world view that is too “anti corporate” for my taste than I agree.

  4. John Obeto says:

    Don’t get me wrong, most governments of 3rd World countries DO devalue the lives of their citizens.

    I should know, being Nigerian by ancestry. Doing business with other African countries also help crystalize that view.

    Not to detract from your point, we should continue to hold this administration to a higher standards, since, that was why we voted them in: to make a change, we, ahem, could all believe in?

    BTW, I have followed the blog since I started following you.

  5. horatiox says:

    For many moderates the hypocrisy is also glaring. They called Bush was a “war monger” but now seem very comfortable with Obama’s very similar military directions.

    Yes, and most overlook the fact that Obama has pledged more to the DoD budget than even BushCo wanted–Obama throws better par-tays, tho’.

    • glenn says:

      The hypocrisy defines the Democratic party and the MSM. The sad fact about their level of politics and lies is that it costs lives of US soldiers – they don’t care about our military.

      I don’t understand how approximately 33% of the population appreciates being constantly lied to and in fact they welcome the hypocrisy.

    • JoeDuck says:

      The foolishness and low ROI of our ongoing massive spending is a great point lost on both liberals and conservatives. Obama supporters seem to think “now it’s OK” because Obama wastes trillions with a smile. Conservatives don’t care about wasted spending if it’s on guns instead of butter.

  6. horatiox says:

    Given the increase in drones in Afghan. and Paki., I suspect Northrop Grumman and other drone-aircraft manufacturers probably call the shots . Hey Barack, we want to benchmark a few more Predators….

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jul/30/world/fg-afghanistan30

    • horatiox says:

      Indeed, even mentioning Obama’s war or defense budget tends to scare Demo faithful (as mentioning BushCo’s war scared the GOP):

      as with Byronia aka “the Gerbil” of New Worlds (at least it’s honest). http://new-worlds.org/blog/?p=3395

      Instead of discussing the actual shortcomings of BO-ocracy
      or say even the Demo’s objections to Obama’s pro-insurance stance on health care, it’s time to resort to the usual alarmist BS, the rape hysteria and praise of a moderate like Franken.

      Of course, the atrocities in Iraq are wrong, but it’s mostly a soundbite opportunity for a celebrity-politician like Franken.

    • JoeDuck says:

      How serious are you? Although I’d agree there is too much influence from the military industrials as Eisenhower presaged, I don’t think they play a major role in the process, which is geopolitics and power games far more than money. Most of our (massive) wasted expense in defense goes to paying people, not for technology.

      • horatiox says:

        Aerospace, and military aerospace especially forms a big part of the SoCal economy, and defense giant Northrop Grumman and other companies have been cranking out drones for the last few years. War is big business, and military contractors still have a lot of pull–Feinstein was out in Palmdale a few months ago speaking of her love for the global hwak or B2 or something.

      • JoeDuck says:

        War is big business

        Certainly agree with that. Eisenhower’s nightmare has to some extent come to pass as both Democrats and Republicans assume – stupidly – that we need to spend half a trillion to keep the kids safe. As with any endeavor there are cheap ways to run the show and expensive ways, and political spending creates expensive, unwieldy, often ineffective “solutions”.

        If the Tea Party folks were protesting our most flagrant waste – much of which is in the defense budget – I’d give them a shred of credibility. But they don’t, because they don’t understand the political economics any more than the drunken spree spending liberals.

        Third party anyone?

  7. glenn says:

    Considering now that Obama is actually spending more on the military than Bush…it is just a whole big problem now.

    I think in the past the focus on outrageous miltary spending was something people could rationalize…well at least it is something the government SHOULD be spending money.

    However I do agree that ALL spending by the government is so way out of bounds at this point that we will need to see absolutely massive cuts in spending across the board to the tune of 70-85% before we start to see any real progress. The entire house of cards is going to collapse.

    As for the Tea Party Folks Joe…most of them think the military is too high as well. You would surprised…talk to some of them. I have and face to face at many events and no one I have talked to thinks that the military budgets couldn’t be cut. In fact most of the conservatives out there would like to see a much stronger modernization of our military and move away from the focus of so many boot on the ground.

    If we could just all agree on nuclear use 🙂 the costs to support the military could be quite small. Just don’t attack America and you would never have to worry about being nuked.

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