Kony 2012 and Afghanistan

I found last week’s hoopla surrounding the Kony 2012 video annoying and disturbing.  Designed to stir souls to a noble cause, the video is worrisome because it is classic agitprop.  It has ignited among its viewers a strong emotional firestorm that bypasses reason.  (On a sadder note, it seems the global explosion of attention and backlash were too much for the maker of the video.)

Everyone agrees that Kony is a bad man, but I doubt everyone agrees on a real solution.  Neither Facebook posts nor monetary contributions stop an evil man like this.  UN blue helmets don’t do much good either; just ask the residents of Srebenica.  It would take a concerted effort by a competent, modern military force to uproot that kind of evil.  Funny though, when that sort of operation becomes reality, as with the Iraq War, people complain about it.  If only text donations were more widespread back then, maybe Saddam Hussein could have been effaced by the collective wireless bills of the Free World.  And what about the fresher atrocities of Kim Jong Il?  By the time of his death last December, there was no 80 million+ hits YouTube video for his crimes.

For all the talk of “capturing” Kony, I would not be surprised if his capture attempt looked and ended up like last year’s righteous and successfully culminated mission against Osama Bin Laden.

Just a day or two after the Kony 2012 media explosion came the sensational storm of the Afghanistan massacre.  But instead of passion to spark a new war, this story reinforced among the public a desire to end an old one.  I instinctively resist the popular sentiment to pull out that comes from seeing casualties and bloodshed.  When I studied “peace and security” as an international relations major, I discovered the great extent of thought that informs decision-making on questions of peace and war.  Such deadly serious business must not be decided by the fickle whims of the public, but ought to rest in the hands of sober-minded policymakers.  Whether we actually have such trustworthy policymakers in power is another story altogether.

The power to make war is a necessary and classic function of government that is not going away anytime soon.  Indeed, Robert Kagan’s latest book argues specifically for America’s need to maintain a prominent profile in the world’s affairs.  What is ultimately entailed in Afghanistan is hard for me to say, but mere public opinion shouldn’t determine whether we send SEALs to get Kony or send our troops in Afghanistan packing.  Our national security and our troops’ sacrifice are too important for that.

SOTU 2012: The Tax Loophole Jump

SOTU 2012:The Business Tax Loophole Jump

 

There were some nice things about Tuesday’s State of the Union Address:  Representative Gifford’s recovery, the accomplishments of our awesome Navy SEALs, and Mitch Daniels’ well-spoken and clever GOP response.  And there were some not so nice things.

Looking at the fiscal picture, President Obama’s speech boiled down to two proposals: shuffling business tax credits and asking for more money on things we already spend a lot on.  Among the various behaviors the President aspires to manipulate through a fresh scrambling of our already deeply convoluted tax code: who businesses hire, how much they pay those employees, what  manufacturers make, and where they make those things.  Has the White House not gotten one of those memos on tax simplification?  What ever happened to the recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles report they commissioned?  All of the new tax credits (read: loopholes) will only distort market behavior.  And market distortions are “what got us into this mess.”

Then there are the new outlays he requested.  First, to create a new bureaucracy, the Trade Enforcement Unit.  I think he is going for the Jack Bauer vote by calling it a unit, as in “Counterterrorism Unit (CTU).”  Its a worthy cause, but can’t it be done by retasking existing agencies?  Next on the list is money to transform community colleges into “community career centers.”  I don’t know what they were before if not that!  Just a place to find a date for Friday night?  Finally, he asked us to fork more money over for teachers.  But it seems like school voucher programs don’t count.  Democrats only accept more money for education when it doesn’t threaten unions.

I don’t think our President has managed to outdo himself in 2012.  Last year’s “Winning the Future” (WTF) theme with $53 billion for high speed rail projects is just too tough to beat.  And that outlandish record will hopefully stand if this State of the Union address is President Obama’s last.

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