Recently in Public Policy Category

Trump and NATO

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In a recent article in Foreign Policy, The Certain Trumpet, Admiral Stavridis makes a point about Donald Trump's stance on NATO being dangerous. Admiral Stavridis is spot on but we should not be surprised by Trumps position.

Trump is a business man and has persuaded a sizable portion of the populace that government needs to only be run like a business and all would better. In a business, you do not have treaties or alliances, you merely have deals. Deals can be made and deals can be broken. If you chose to not honor a deal and the result is greater profit for your company, then you are a hero. If you lose, all that is at risk is some money, perhaps your ability to work with that company in the future, and maybe a lawsuit. That is not the case in foreign policy.

In foreign policy, broken treaties can mean the loss of life and liberty. It can mean the loss of allies that are desperately needed, especially is this day age on non-state actors being one of our greatest threats. Further, it is difficult to measure the value of treaties and put them on a balance sheet. Sure, you can look at how much each country has contributed to NATO but how do you measure (accurately anyway), the value received by the US of having a stable Europe?

The problem with Trump is not only with what he thinks he knows, but with what he doesn't know, and more importantly, with what he doesn't know he doesn't know. The issue with the American people is that too many are voting for a person they like or don't like, and not who will and can do what is best for the country. There are many things to dislike about both of the major candidates in terms of their personal lives; there are even things to dislike about their professional lives, but the question that must answered, and the question that must be addressed at the polls in November, is who can do the best job for the country? Not who will be perfect or who will do everything I want them to do, but who can do more good than harm?

The NSPE Board of Directors approved several new policies this morning in their metting which were presented to them by the eislatve and Governmental Affairs Committee (on which I serve). We had aproved the policies in previous meetings. Approved policies are on Engrgy Security, Nuclear Power, Geothermal Energy, and Natural Gas. In our meeting on Friday we, the committee, approved a position statement on Hydroelectric Power but it still nees review and approval by the Board. There are sever other polices currently in the committee which are being tweaked.

I enjoyed Bill Bennett on C-SPAN. Wish his Morning in America Show was not so early in the morning.

Strategy or Tactics?

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"Strategy vs. Tactics in Afghanistan", by Ann Marlowe. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. A19, 02 June 2010.

Ms Marlowe has done some research on counterinsurgency strategy and has some interesting and telling comments. She points out that "good counterinsurgency can't make up for the lack of a political plan" and she is absolutely correct. This is actually a strategy of tactics according to military historian Col. Gian Gentile at the USMA, meaning there are actions being taken on the ground but there is no overall objective. I find that troubling given Clausewitz states that "war is politics by other means". Without the politics are we not in some difficulty?

It is also interesting that counterinsurgency has worked in the past but in those situations there was a good government in place. Such is not the case in Afghanistan. Will that be the downfall of the COIN strategy or will it be an exception to history. I don't know but I hope for the exception.

This summer Ms Marlowe is to publish a monograph on David Galula, a French COIN theorist through the Strategic Studies Institute. I'll look forward to reading it.

"Most Consumers Unaware of Broadband Speed", by Amy Schatz. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. B4, 02 June 2010.

A survey by the Federal Communications Commission indicates that most consumers are not aware of exactly what their broadband speeds are. Even not knowing what the speeds are, nine out of ten surveyed indicated they were happy with their speeds.

I do not fall into that 9 out of 10. I do know what speeds I am getting and I am not happy. The fastest speed I can buy via AT&T right now is 3 Mb. I usually only realize a speed of about 2.5 Mb and sometimes less than that. Of course AT&T has their own specification of what those speeds really mean within tolerances, whether you like those tolerances or not.

The real question though is are American's getting what they are paying for? Another question would be, are we paying too much for what we are getting. The Internet has become ubiquitous on our lives and I would much rather lose voice comms than I would electronic comms. Perhaps it is time for the FCC to rethink the whole communications paradigm.

Politics of Disaster

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ARTICLE: "The Politics of Disaster". By Lexington. The Economist, 08 May 2010, p. 36

Lexington points out that, at the time of this article, the President had done little for which he could be faulted. Some have referred to the Gulf of Mexico spill, if spill is the right word, as "Obama's Katrina" but it has not yet stuck. Now, several weeks later, the name may be sticking a little more.

The President continues to say that he is in charge and that BP is doing nothing without approval. I fail to see the advantage of this. No one has more reason and incentive to stop the oil from leaking into the Gulf than does BP and the President lacks any special expertise in petroleum engineering to make his oversight of any significant value. He seems to be setting himself up for blame for any failure yet will never get any credit for a solution.

The President continues to say that BP will pay to clean up the spill but is that true? What if BP refuses (unlikely), or goes out of business (perhaps also unlikely)? Why is BP being held to a higher standard than the financial institutions were held when the financial crisis was caused by greed but the oil in the Gulf was apparently an industrial accident? What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is indeed a tragedy but it was an accident. Everything we do in life carries some risk and we, as individuals, companies, and even governments, tend to engage only in those activities in which the benefits will outweigh the risks. Such was the case here. There were risks involved in drilling for oil off the coast but the benefits of a domestic supply of oil outweigh those risks.

The flow of oil will eventually be stopped and the cleanup will be accomplished. The greater question is what will this do to domestic oil exploration? Will we continue to drill off shore or will we now consider more drilling on land and perhaps in areas such as ANWR? And who will make these decisions? I fear the decisions will be made by the politicians based on politics and not by the engineers based on reason. Decisions may well be made based on emotion or re-election concerns rather than sound engineering reasoning. This is an area in which engineers must play a greater role. They need to explain the risks and benefits of oil exploration as well as the risks and benefits of other energy alternatives. Then, and only then, will we be able to make sound decisions which minimize risks.

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