Friday, April 03, 2009

Navy SNAFU: Some Things Don’t Change

Protecting American interests around the globe, the U.S. Navy faces a myriad of threats. From terrorists and anti-ship rockets, to mines, torpedoes and even ballistic missiles…But here at home, one naval installation has discovered a new menace…We’re referring to the common tree squirrel, and last Saturday night, one of these furry rodents disrupted phone service at Virginia’s Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. Four days later, “land line” phones at the base still aren’t working….Squirrel Leaves Navy Base Incommunicado, Nate Hale, The Examiner, 4/2/09

For most who’ve served in the military, the opinion of veterans regarding the competence of government to run operations large and small is usually lower than that of the general population’s. Ask anyone who served, whether in World War II, in Vietnam, or in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you’ll get variations on the same theme. We were doing fine in Kabul (Baghdad; Khe Sahn; Hoertgen Forest) until Big Army showed up. Big Army, of course, is that highly regulated and brassed crew whose officers go by the official Federal Big Blue Book of Bureaucracy. Big Army, as some like the intrepid reporter Robert Kaplan have argued (see Imperial Grunts), nearly lost us the war in Iraq, has fumbled the ball in Afghanistan in allowing the Taliban to stand up again, completely screwed the pooch in Vietnam, and nearly lost an airborne division in a pointless battle in the woods before the Bulge distracted enough attention from the important officers and allowed the regulars to fight the war again.

What is it that government can’t see? Well, at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, they couldn’t see the squirrel running between the legs of a terrorist scenario. Similar things happen in other programs. For instance, about a decade ago, the Clinton Administration, with such good buddies as they could find among bankers (Robert Rubin, and other Citibankers especially), thought it would be just fabulous if those too poor to afford mortgage payments could get mortgages to pay anyway. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would buy this questionable paper, mix it in with the good stuff, securitize it, and all would be wonderful. Even the half-assed speculator buying startup houses in a swamp could benefit. You could ask Barney Frank about the wisdom of that (Former President Bush did, time and again). Funny thing. It was true for a while, but then – oops! somebody forgot to pay for the program. And, oh, oops! Somebody forgot to pay attention to those wild guys selling credit default swaps. And, oh, oops! There went Citibank. There went Lehman Brothers. There went AIG. There went Merrill-Lynch.

Even the French don’t believe that throwing another trillion of stimulus at this mess is a good idea. And France is the country that thought it was worth its national budget in the 1930s to block a mobile army with fixed fortifications (See Maginot Line). Even crazy people think that blowing more trillions on this kind of stimulus, and that kind of bailout, is a mad idea. What will become of the dollar, the euro, any currency of participants in this kind of madness?

Big Government, though, personified these days by President Obama, Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative Frank, believes that it’s just hunky dory, a swell idea, a marvelous intrusion in everybody else's life.

Oh, SNAFU, we can hear you coming.


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