Thursday, March 15, 2012

No OIL in Afghanistan - Redux

Way back in 2009, I posted No OIL in Afghanistan along with the graphic shown here, making three key points:
  • 1-IRAQ "...history will conclude our actions in Iraq were justified to assure a level of stability in a country that has a large percentage of the world's oil. The Iraq War was necessary for the stability and progress of the world's economy and for something like peace in a historically turbulent region."
  • 2-AFGHANISTAN "... Given the terrain, population and history of Afghanistan, there is nothing to be gained by adding more US blood to that already left by the British in the 1800's and the Russians more recently."
  • 3-IRAN "... if Iran continues to build its nuclear weapons program, the US and our allies will have to take military action of some sort. That country has a large percentage of the world's supply of oil and it is therefore important to keep it stable and peaceful."

Now, in 2012, over two years and too many American and allied lives later, I think my reasoning has been validated. As I will show by quoting from my earlier postings, I opposed the Gen. McChrystal (Obama) surge in Afghanistan as strongly as I supported the Gen. Petraus (Bush) surge in Iraq. The Afghan surge, as we should now realize, was doomed to failure because our interests there are tactical and not strategic. Our interests in Iraq are the exact opposite. OIL in Iraq and the absence of OIL or any other strategic material in Afghanistan explains both situations.

It is now beyond time to put Afghanistan on "simmer", protecting a few major population areas with a minimum number of boots on the ground, and continuing to use drones and Special Ops to suppress any Taliban or Al Queda training camps and command centers as well as interrupt supplies to them and protect supplies to the Afghan government. This will minimize our cost in blood and treasure while keeping our enemies from taking control of Afghanistan. It will also protect our interests in keeping Pakistan relatively cooperative.


Afghanistan Has No OIL

"Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan" (OEF-A) is the official name for our military action in Afghanistan. (The original name was "Operation Infinite Justice" which offended those who believe the source of "infinite justice" is God.)

According to Wikipedia, "The initial military objectives of OEF-A, as articulated by Former President George W. Bush in his Sept. 20th [2001] Address to a Joint Session of Congress and his Oct. 7th [2001] address to the country, included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al Queda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan." Multi-national military action began in 2002, just a year after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US mainland.

The Bush administration has been criticized for emphasizing military action in Iraq, which had little or nothing to do with 9/11, rather than in Afghanistan where the Taliban allowed Al Queda to train the terrorists responsible for 9/11. The Obama administration is now being asked by the commander, Gen. McChrystal, to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops there and repeat an Afghan version of Gen. Petraeus's Iraq surge. As in Iraq, the generals say we need US "boots on the ground" to gain and hold territory.

After much reading and consideration, I have come to the conclusion the US should not greatly increase troop strength now. We should revert to the previous Bush administration policy of a "light footprint" that defends key population centers and uses mainly airborne strikes to prevent the Taliban and whatever remnants of Al Queda remain in Afghanistan from making too much progress. Given the terrain, population and history of Afghanistan, there is nothing to be gained by adding more US blood to that already left by the British in the 1800's and the Russians more recently.

I think history will eventually recognize that the Bush strategy of a relatively low-level war in Afghanistan, where our allies took a large percentage of the responsibility, was correct. Those of you who have played chess know it is sometimes safer to hold back and exercise force from a distance, using your Rooks, Bishops and the Queen on clear diagonals and columns, rather than commit your pawns and Knights to a "boots on the ground" attack.

Iraq, a strategic source of oil, required both boots on the ground and airpower. Afghanistan, especially now that we have unmanned air vehicles capable of pinpoint attacks, should be addressed mostly with remote airpower. I believe VP Biden has been advocating a position similar to mine and that Obama will eventually accept that policy.

Sadly, President Obama did not adopt the "light footprint" with "remote airpower" policy followed by President Bush in Afghanistan, reportedly urged by VP Biden (and me). Instead, he ordered the McChrystal surge, but coupled it with a confused and contrary policy of a date-certain pullout, both with (IMHO) an eye on the 2012 Presidential race rather than the best strategic interests of the USA.

Lots of OIL in IRAN

I hope it does not come down to it, but, if Iran continues to build its nuclear weapons program, the US and our allies will have to take military action of some sort. That country has a large percentage of the world's supply of oil and it is therefore important to keep it stable and peaceful.

But, Iran is not Iraq. There is a considerable level of well-organized internal opposition to the current leadership and the Ayatollahs are not crazy. Perhaps we can persuade the Iranians to take a more reasonable approach. With the cooperation of the Russians and French, Iran can have a peaceful nuclear power program and we can have guarantees it is not directed at nuclear weapons.

Sadly again, President Obama has wasted the first three years of his term with weak leadership of our alliances with Western Europe and Israel and half-hearted sanctions and threats against Iran. He has given no significant support to the internal opposition to the current political and religious leadership in Iran. In the end, this may lead Israel to act in its own defense against what they perceive as an existential threat to their very survival.

PS: There are some 26 Comments at the end of my No OIL in Afghanistan thread, mainly a lively discussion between Howard Pattee and myself. I think that conversation is worth reading now.

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Howard Pattee on Independent Living

As I mentioned in my "Movin' on UP" to Independent Living about the move my wife and I just made, Howard Pattee and his wife have about a decade of experience in a similar situation at Sweetwood, Williamstown, MA.

Sweetwood (see autumn photo, taken from the road to Mount Greylock) is located in a relatively rural area of Massachusetts near Williams College, and has 70 apartments. By contrast, Freedom Pointe has 240 condos and is across the street from The Villages Hospital and a shopping center not far from one of the town centers in our giant (80,000 people and growing) retirement community.

Howard, who is still busy editing his latest book, kindly sent me some text and photos, which I am happy to post here.

[from Howard]
Your move suggested that a good discussion topic is retirement communities and the health care problem from our more limited point of view. The big national health care problem is just too much of a political mess to be solvable, but there is a lot of promising effort to improve home health care for the elderly. We are a member of Mass. Life Care Residents' Association (MLCRA) which promotes legislation in our favor.

Ira, your physical description inside the Villages Independent Living apartments and the services sounds very similar to ours. The area is exactly the same down to the 8 x 4 foot locked storage. Outside there are some differences. We are small, only 70 apartments. We are 4 miles by road or hiking trail from Williamstown (see Google Earth). Above is an Autumn view of Sweetwood from the road to Mount Greylock.

Here is a Spring view from Sweetwood with Mount Greylock in the background.

And below is a Winter view from our apartment window.

As you know, moving your home is always a hard choice. Moving to a retirement community is harder because it is very likely your last move, and you have to make a lot of guesses about your aging and health care. You were wise to move early so you can enjoy the advantages of the Villages. Too many people wait until they need assisted living or nursing care.

One of the most important conditions for us was having the option of “age in place” so you can choose to have home health care and hospice in your own apartment if it is what you and your spouse want. Every state has different laws governing levels of care in retirement communities and each community (and insurance company) has its own rules, so it takes careful investigation.

In Binghamton we had to help my stepmother move four times at Hilltop Retirement Community―moves which were required by NY State law for accreditation of their facilities. Each move was stressful and psychologically like a slow death as she gradually lost space, familiar belongings, friends, and freedom. She never lost her wits. She died peacefully in hospice care, but alone in a strange room. She could have been cared for better (and at less cost) in her original independent living apartment.

Keeping costs down must be the major health care issue nationally, and it should be outcome-driven, not liability-driven or ideology-driven. For example, after my valve job, my surgeon would not release me from the hospital unless I was driven by ambulance to a skilled care nursing home (for liability protection). Fortunately, Sweetwood has a nursing home next door and I knew the director who let me go back to my apartment without doing my rehab in the nursing home, because we have 24/7 care available. The 75-mile ambulance ride was fun, but it cost the taxpayer $30 per mile. It would have cost another few thousand to keep me a week in the nursing home, and I got much better food and care at home.
Howard Pattee

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Movin' on UP" to Independent Living

Well, Vi and I have made another big change in our lives, moving from our private home in The Villages, FL, retirement community to a condo in a new Independent Living facility called "Freedom Pointe". Our new digs are here in The Villages so we can continue to enjoy all our clubs and the sports pools and -most important- all our Villages friends.

The image shows the view from our condo which faces northeast. We get just a sliver of direct sunlight in the mornings, and have a fine view for the remainder of the day. That is the hospital over my right shoulder.

The second photo shows our condo, on the fourth floor, close to outdoor parking and not far from the covered garage where we have a parking spot for our car adjacent to a spot for our golf cart, along with a 4' x 8' locked storage shed.

Our condo has two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, a kitchen, a washer/dryer, and a master closet. At 1144 square feet, it is half the area of our most recent home, but we have access to lots of public areas. These include: 1) a good sized balcony that faces southwest, part of which is air conditioned, part screened, and part open to a grand view of the pond and golf course, 2) the Library, 3) the Studio, 4) the Meditation Room, 5) the Woodshop, 6) the Dining room, 8) the Pub, 9) the Town Center auditorium, 10) the Pool, 11) the Barbershop, 12) the Lobby, 13) the fully-equipped Exercise and Rehab facility, 14) outdoor picnic area, 15) pitch and putt golf, and 16) other stuff we have not found yet!

One restaurant-style meal, in the Dining Room or Pub, is included daily. Weekly light housekeeping is also included. They are responsible for all maintenance of the appliances in our condo.

When the time comes that we cannot drive our car or golf cart, they offer free transport to doctor's appointments and shopping. They also have weekly free entertainment and movies, free internet building wide, over 90 free channels of TV (but, sad to say, it is analog, so we subscribed to DirecTV HD-DVR service) and lots of scheduled activities, trips, and who knows what. And, we still have access with full resident rights to all amenities of The Villages.

Further Information?

In case you are interested in why Vi and I think this was a right choice, and why now when I am "only" 73 as she is even younger, please ask in the comments. I will also be happy to share the financial aspects of Independent Living and what I know of what will happen when one or both of us needs a higher level of care, such as Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing or the Memory Unit.

Howard Pattee, who I hope will rejoin the Blog for this discussion (at least) has been living with his wife in a similar situation in Western Massachusetts for over a decade, and he may have something to add. [UPDATE 13 Mar: Here are Howard's thoughts.]

Ira Glickstein