Posts filed under “War/Defense”

9/11 Reflections

Each year, I try to avoid writing anything about 9/11. But I had some issues to work through this year, and I find jotting a few notes down helps me.

My personal experience on 9/11 was secondhand. I was in the LI office of the firm where I was Market Strategist. Our HQ and trading desk was in 2 WTC. As events unfolded, I got my head trader on the phone, and he gave me a full play by play of what occurred in real time for about 2 hours. I put all that down on paper, and with his approval, published it the next day: A Personal Recollection From a Day of Horror (September 12th, 2001).

Its actually Bill’s story, I was merely the scribe. I know the day left its mark on him, and he has struggled with what I can’t even imagine.
Even today, nearly a decade later, I find the entire retrospective “event” that occurs each year to be maudlin: The roll call of lost colleagues and friends; the tragedy porn that the media rolls out; I especially detest terror tourism down at the WTC site. The whole thing makes me more angry than sad.
But as a life long New Yorker, I am still frustrated over how the 9/11 event was mishandled — the ignored warnings, the invasion of the wrong country after, the bastardization of what the USA stands for, the lack of accountability for all these major errors of incalculable incompetency. The response was so far beneath what this nation is truly capable of that is still greatly saddens me, even today.
To release those demons, I wrote this on Election Eve 2004:

On September 11th, George W. Bush was presented one of those rare and horrible historical moments. The terrorist attacks united the country and the world around the President: His approval rating skyrocketed to 90%. Even the French Prime Minister announced, “Tonight, we are all Americans.”

The historical opportunity was laid at the feet of the President. With a unified country behind him and a sympathetic world willing to cooperate with him in just about every imaginable way, he could have achieved monumental greatness: He could have asked for great sacrifices from the populace, and they would have willingly made them. At that moment, any reach across the aisle would have been fruitful on a number of vexing issues. A bipartisan approach to any political problem at home – cutting pork out of domestic policies, reforming Social Security, renovating the tax code – could have been accomplished in a bipartisan spirit of strengthening the economy and defending the country. He might have even done something about our education system so, in truth, no child would be left behind.

One would imagine that a man elected under what can be charitably described as “inauspicious circumstances” – with nary a mandate in sight – might have taken the 9/11 tragedy as an opportunity to move to the center, putting aside partisan political differences, and governing “all the people.” To be, in fact, truly a “uniter,” not a “divider.”

Alas, it was not to be.

When people ask why I dislike the presidency of George W. Bush, it was that colossal failure to rise to greatness on that occasion, and indeed, to engage in a series of decisions that — not in retrospect, but at the time — reflected terribly poor judgment.

Unlike many others, I only blame W in small part for ignoring the warning pre-9/11. there were lots of false positive warnings, so claiming he should have recognized how serious that one was is much easier to do in hindsight.

But for the catastrophic series of decisions that he made following 9/11, I hold him 100% accountable.

This is not about partisanship — its about recognizing a terrible tragedy that was compounded through bad judgment and even worse governing.

Indeed, my feelings about 9/11 have morphed from sadness over the tragic loss of loved ones into frustration and beyond. Even now, the anger rises over the unwillingness to hold the past administration accountable for their many sins.

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Previously:
A Personal Recollection From a Day of Horror (September 12th, 2001)

Postscript (September 16th, 2001)

Feedback from around the World (September 19th, 2001)

The Tragedy of the Bush Administration (November 2nd, 2004)

Baby Bush: The Worst President in History? Doug Casey, September 11th, 2009

Reflection on 9/11 David Kotok, 9/12/09

Category: Really, really bad calls, War/Defense

Tony Blair’s Journey

I have always been fascinated by the Tony Blair paradox. On the one hand, he seems like an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful politician (at least from NY).

On the other hand, he dragged Britain into George W. Bush’s ruinous war of choice in Iraq. Sold to the public — in both GB and the US — on false pretenses, it cost both nations a fortune in blood and treasure.

I am tempted to read his book, A Journey: My Political Life, if for no other reason than to find out why. Not that I expect honesty in any politician’s memoirs, but I am especially curious about this conundrum.

I am less than enthralled with Blair’sdiscussions on the financial crisis — at first glance, they seem to be hackneyed clichés. For the most part, he makes bad excuses. But worse, he doesn’t seem to understand what happened, didn’t see it coming, and is utterly lacking in economic insight.

All the usual excuses — “no one saw it coming, but it was not a failure of free markets” — are classic political after the fact excuse making. Expecting economic insight from any politician is like asking a prostitute for her insight into love: You are bound to be disappointed.

As to the war, consider this excerpt from the WSJ:

What is the nature of the threat? It does not derive from something we have done; there was no sense in which the West sought a confrontation. This is essential to the argument. The attacks of Sept. 11 came to most of our citizens as a shock that was utterly unforeseen. Countries like America and Britain were not singling out Muslims for unfair treatment; and insofar as Muslims were caught up in generalized racism towards those of a different race or color, such attitudes were on the way out, not the way in.

The extremism we fear is a strain within Islam. It is wholly contrary to the proper teaching of Islam, but it can’t be denied that its practitioners act with reference to their religion. I feel we too often shy away from this assertion, as if it stigmatizes all Muslims. But if it is true—and it is—it has to be faced, not just because it is true, but because otherwise we don’t analyze the problem or attain the solution properly. If it is a strain within Islam, the answer lies, in part at the very least, also within Islam. The eradication of that strain can be affected by what we outside Islam do; but it can only be actually eliminated by those within Islam.

Here is where the root of the problem lies. The extremists are small in number, but their narrative—which sees Islam as the victim of a scornful West externally, and an insufficiently religious leadership internally—has a far bigger hold. Indeed, such is the hold that much of the current political leadership feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing support.

This is a situation with practical consequences. Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as the West’s battles. With a few notable distinctions, this is not perceived as a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. Yet the outcome is surely vastly determinative of such a struggle.

I have my criticisms of Israel and my ideas of to how to make progress. But leave aside for a moment the details of the peace process. As I started to spend more time in Palestine, I was surprised to find it is often easier to raise money for the “resistance” than to fund the patient but essential process of Palestinian state-building. Israel can and should do more to push forward the necessary changes on the ground—the West Bank and Gaza—that can underpin the peace process. However, it is also true that if the Palestinian cause gave up violence emphatically and without ambiguity, there would be a peace agreement within the year. Not enough voices in the Muslim world are asking them to.

It is America today that leads the challenge to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. But let us be frank: Iran is a far more immediate threat to its Arab neighbors than it is to America. It is of course a threat to us, too, but this is partly because of what a nuclear-armed Iran would mean for the Middle East, rather than as a direct threat.

The problem is this: Defeating the visible and terrifying manifestations of religious extremism is not enough. Indeed I would go further: This extremism won’t be defeated simply by focusing on the extremists alone. It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.

Our people say, “How long are you seriously saying we should hold out?” If, in the 1950s, when faced with the threat of revolutionary Communism, I had asked you how long you expected us to fight it, you would have answered: As long as the threat exists. If I had said it may be for decades, you would have raised an eyebrow, as if to say: Well, if the threat remains for decades, what choice have we? In other words, you would have seen this as a clearly defined threat to our security that left us no alternative but to take it on and beat it. Of course, there were those who said “Better red than dead,” but that was surely one of the least appealing slogans to the human spirit ever devised, and only a minority bought it. Most people realized the threat was real and had to be confronted, however long it took.

The difficulty with this present battle lies in defining what “it” is. After Sept. 11 the phrase “the war on terror” was used. People distrusted this, partly for its directness, partly because it seemed too limited. So we dropped it. Yet if what we are fighting is not a war, what is it?”

The “Publisher’s comments” are after the jump:

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Category: Books, War/Defense

Mid-August Bullets

David R. Kotok Chairman and Chief Investment Officer Mid-August Bullets August 22, 2010 > Middle East geopolitics raise the fear quotient. The Obama administration’s response to Middle East tension remains a mixed message. Israel faces another “flotilla” plus the Iranian nuke threat. For Prime Minister Netanyahu, this is a two-front geopolitical war that can threaten…Read More

Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

Israel Window to Bomb Iraq Reactor Closed ?

Debka via UBS’ s Andy Lees (in London) by way of Art Cashin in NY: Geopolitics – Debka file reports that the announcement that Russia is set to activate Iran’s first nuclear power station by loading the fuel on August 21st has caused a major flap in Israel as it is reported that Russia has…Read More

Category: War/Defense

Cost of War

You know I am a sucker for these sorts of infographics: > Chart courtesy of NYT > Source: The War: A Trillion Can Be Cheap ELISABETH BUMILLER NYT, July 24, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/weekinreview/25bumiller.html

Category: Digital Media, War/Defense, Weekend

WaPo: Top Secret America

Huge investigative piece in the Washington Post into “A hidden world growing beyond control” — National Security Inc. — about the massive expansion of the private and government intelligence and counterterrorism activities. What was historically sensitive government-only activities has been outsourced to for-profit vendors, with a variety of problems associated with this: “To ensure that…Read More

Category: Digital Media, War/Defense

McChrystal’s Balls – Honorable Discharge

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
McChrystal’s Balls – Honorable Discharge
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Category: Financial Press, Humor, Video, War/Defense

Missed Opportunity: BP Gulf of Mexico Disaster

One of my regular criticisms of George W. Bush as President was, when presented with an opportunity to achieve greatness, he repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion. Indeed, his presidency can be viewed as a long series of missed opportunities: “Once in a generation, the stars align for a political leader. There is this…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Energy, Politics, Really, really bad calls, Regulation, War/Defense

Where Is A Spectacular Implosion Most Likely?

I had lunch earlier this week with Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI. Our offices are a block apart, and from time to time, we get together to shake our heads in collective astonishment over the economic questions of the day. We are both data driven, and look askance at the squishy gut approaches to economic forecasting….Read More

Category: Politics, War/Defense

My 9/11 Update

Every year, I avoid doing/writing anything on (or about) 9/11.  I had my say in 2001 (mirror here). I hate the entire maudlin retrospective “event” each year: The roll call of lost colleagues and friends; the tragedy porn that the media rolls out; I especially detest the terror tourism down at the WTC site. But…Read More

Category: War/Defense