• Spirit in the Night

    November 23, 2012

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Iran, Iraq, Military

    “Who the hell are you?”

    “Why Barack, I’m the Ghost of Presidential Legacies Past.”

    “What are you doing here? It’s just Thanksgiving. I thought you guys visited on Christmas Eve, anyway. It starts earlier every year, doesn’t it?”

    “You’re confusing me with other spirits, Barack. I visit second-term presidents just after they are reelected to help them map out their foreign policy legacy.”

    “I’m calling the Secret Service. Get out of my bedroom!”

    “No need Mr. President. No one can see me but you. I’m here to talk about the future, about America overseas, so you can achieve your place in history. I am here to help guide you.”

    “You do this for all presidents? What happened with Bush, then?”

    “That was unfortunate. It turned out Rove had been a hyena in a previous life and could somehow still smell me, so I got chased out. And see how it ended up for Bush? His legacy is fear of overseas travel, wondering how far the Hague’s reach really is.”

    “OK Spirit, what do you want from me?”

    “Barack, you were elected the first time on the promise of hope and change. You got reelected mostly by not being Mitt Romney. You need to reclaim the original mantel. You need to be bold in foreign affairs and leave America positioned for this new world. You won the election by not being the candidate from the 1950s. Now, you need to establish a foreign policy for an America of 2012 instead of 1950.”

    “What do you mean, Spirit?”

    “Stop searching for demons. Let’s start with the Middle East. You inherited a mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, certainly, thanks to Rove and his canine sense of smell, but what did you do with it?”

    “I ended the war in Iraq.”

    “No, you agreed not to push back when the Iraqis threw the troops out in 2010. The war continues there, fought in little ugly flare-ups among Iranian proxies. But that’s spilled milk. What you need to do is reclaim your State Department from what is now a lost cause.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Much like the way Vietnam destroyed the army, Iraq and Afghanistan gravely wounded your State Department. Why does America still maintain its largest embassy in a place like Baghdad? That massive hollow structure sucks money and, more importantly, personnel, from your limited diplomatic establishment. Scale it back to the mid-size level the situation there really requires, and move those personnel resources to places America badly needs diplomacy. As a bonus, you’ll remove a scab. That big embassy is seen throughout the Middle East as a symbol of hubris, a monument to folly. Show them better — repurpose most of it into a new university or an international conference center and signal a new beginning.”

    “You mentioned Iranian influence in Iraq, so yeah, thanks, George, for that little gift. I have the Israelis up my ass looking for a war, and it seems every day another thing threatens to spark off a fight with the Iranians.”

    “Iran can be your finest achievement. Nixon went to China, remember.”

    “You know Spirit, you actually look a little like Henry Kissinger in this light.”

    “Yeah, I get that a lot. Coincidences, right? Barack, you can start the process of rebalancing the Middle East. Too many genies have slipped out of the bottle to put things back where they were and, like it or not, your predecessor casually, ignorantly allowed Iran to reclaim its place as a regional power. Let’s deal with it. Don’t paint yourself into a corner over the nukes. You know as well as I do that there are many countries who are threshold nuclear powers, able to make the jump anytime from lab rats to bomb holders. You also know that Israel has had the bomb for a long time and, despite that, despite the Arab hatred of Israel and despite the never-ending aggressive stance of Israel, their nukes have not created a Middle East arms race. Start talking to the Iranians. There are any number of would-be middle men out there, and even Iran’s foreign minister has floated a few trial balloons. Follow the China model — set up the diplomatic machinery, create some fluid back channels, maybe try a cultural exchange or two. They don’t play ping-pong over there, but they are damn good at chess. Feel your way forward. Bring the Brits and the Canadians along with you. Give the good guys in Tehran something to work with, something to go to their bosses with.”

    “But they’ll keep heading toward nuclear weapons.”

    “That may be true. America’s regular chest-thumping military action in the Middle East has created an unstoppable desire for Iran to arm itself. They watched very, very closely how the North Koreans insulated themselves with a nuke. The world let that happen and guess what? Even George W. stopped talking about North Korea and the stupid Axis of Evil. And guess what again? No war, and no nuclear arms race in Asia. Gaddafi went the opposite route, and look what happened to him, sodomized on TV while your Secretary of State laughed about it on TV.”

    “But sanctions are working on Iran. We’re crushing their economy.”

    “Maybe, though there are lots of holes. Regardless, real change in Iran, like anywhere, is going to have to come from within. Think China again. With prosperity comes a desire by the newly-rich to enjoy their money. They start to demand better education, more opportunities and a future for their kids. A repressive government with half a brain yields to those demands for its own survival and before you know it, you’ve got iPads and McDonalds happening. Are you going to go to war with China? Of course not. We’re trading partners, and we have shared interests in regional stability in Asia that benefit us both. Sure, there will be friction, but it can be managed. We did it, with some rough spots, in the Mediterranean with the Soviets and we can do it in the Gulf, what President Kennedy called during the Cold War the “precarious rules of the status quo.” I don’t think this will result in a triumphant state visit to Tehran, but get the game started. Defuse the situation, offer to bring Iran into the world system, and see if they don’t follow.”

    “I can’t let them go nuclear.”

    “Well, I don’t know if you can stop it, and focusing just on that binary black and white blocks off too many other, better options. Look, they and a whole bunch of other places can weaponize faster than you can stop them. What you need to do is work at the need to weaponize, pick away at the software if you will, the reasons they feel they need to have nukes, instead of just trying to muck up the hardware. Use all the tools in the toolbox, Barack.”

    “But they’re Islamos.”

    “Whatever you want to call it. Islam is a powerful force in the Middle East and it is not going away. Your attempts, and those of your predecessor, to try and create ‘good’ governments failed. Look at the hash in Syria, Libya and, of course, Iraq, real sacks of it. You need to find a real-politick with Islamic governments. Look past the rhetoric and ideology and start talking. Otherwise you’ll end up just like the U.S. did all over Latin America, throwing in with crappy thugs simply because they mouthed pro-American platitudes. Not a legacy move, Barry. You’re sorting your way through this in Egypt. It will feel odd at first, but the new world order has created a state for states that are not a puppet of the U.S., and not always an ally, but typically someone we can deal with, work with, maybe even influence occasionally. That’s diplomacy, and therein lies your chance at legacy. Demilitarize your foreign policy. Redeploy your diplomats from being political hostages in Baghdad and Kabul and put them to work all over the Middle East.”

    “Sure Spirit, nothing to it. Anything else you want me to do before breakfast?”

    “Hey, you asked for the job — twice — not me.”

    “Spirit, sorry to go off topic, but is that an 8-track tape player you’re carrying around?”

    “Hah, good eye Barack. KC and the Sunshine Band, Greatest Hits. Things work oddly in the spirit world and one of the quirks is that unloved electronics from your side migrate to us. Here, look at my cell phone, big as a shoebox, with a retractable antenna. I still play games on an old Atari. We got Zunes and Blackberries piled up like snow drifts over there. But back to business.”

    “What else, Spirit?”

    “As a ghost of sorts, I’m used to taking the long view of things. I know better than most that memory lasts longer than aspiration, that history influences the future. You have it now in your power to amend an ugly sore, America’s dark legacy of the war of terror. Guantanamo. You realize that every day that place stays open it helps radicalize ten young men for every one you hold in prison. Demand your intel agencies give you a straight-up accounting on who is locked away there. For the very few that probably really are as horrible as we’d like to believe, designate them something and lock them away in an existing Federal Super Max. Just do it. Turn the others over to the UN for resettlement. It is an ugly deal, but it is an ugly problem. Close the place down early in your term, let the short-term heat burn off and move on.”

    “And Afghanistan?”

    “Same thing. Cut your losses. Accelerate the drawdown. You’ll keep your bases, so your back is covered against anything really awful happening and embarrassing you. The Taliban is disorganized enough, and under Pakistani ISA control enough, that there is unlikely to be any fall-of-Saigon scenarios. Afghanistan will be on a slow burn for, well, probably forever. Among other reasons, Pakistan needs it to stay that way. They like a weak but not failed state on their western border and you can manage that. The special ops guys you leave behind can deal with any serious messes. Corruption and internal disagreements mean there will never be a real Afghan nation-state, no matter how badly you want one. The soldier suicides and green-on-blue attacks are a horror. You are going to accomplish nothing by dragging that corpse of a war around with you for two more years, so cut it off now.”

    “Next is drones, right?”

    “Yes Barack, next is drones. This is fool’s gold and you bought into it big. You thought it was risk-free, no American lives in danger, always the 500 pound elephant in the room when considering military action. But, to borrow a phrase, look at the collateral damage. First, you have had to further militarize Africa, setting up your main drone base in Djibouti. The Chinese are building cultural ties and signing deals all over Africa, and we’re just throwing up barbed wire. Who’ll win in the long-run? Like Gitmo, every thug you kill creates more, radicalizes more, gives the bad guys another propaganda lede. Seriously, haven’t you noticed that the more you kill, the more there seem to be to kill? You need more friends for America and fewer people saying they are victims of America. Make your intel people truly pick out the real, real bad guys, the ones who absolutely threaten American lives. Be comfortable in publicly being able to articulate every decision. Don’t be lazy with bringing death. Don’t continue to slide downhill into killing easier and easier just because you have a new technology that falsely seems without risk. Seek a realistic form of containment, and stop chasing complete destruction. You need an end game. The risk is there my friend, you just have to pull back and see it in the bigger picture.”

    “Bigger picture, eh? That’s what this legacy business is all about, isn’t it? Seeing Iranian nukes not as the problem per se, but as part of a solution set that doesn’t just leave a glowing hole in the ground, but instead fills in things, builds a base for more building.”

    “You’re getting it now. And even as domestic politics suffers in gridlock, you have room to do things in foreign policy that will mark history for you. As a second term president, you are freed from a lot of political restraints, just like you told Medvedev you would be.”

    “Open mikes, who knew, right? But what about my successor? The party wants me to leave things ready for 2016.”

    “Don’t worry about that. I’ve got Springsteen working on new songs for the campaign. Hey, you know anything that rhymes well with ‘Hillary’? Right now we’ve only got ‘pillory’ and ‘distillery.’ Bruce is stuck on that.”

    “But look, Spirit, I appreciate the advice and all, but to be honest, all this you propose is a lot of work. It’s complicated, needs to be managed, has a lot of potential for political friction. I could, you know, just stick with things the way they are. People seem to have gotten used to a permanent state of low-level warfare everywhere, drone killings, the occasional boil flaring up like Benghazi. It wasn’t a serious election issue at all. Why should I bother?”

    “Well, among other things Barack, you’ve got two very sweet, wonderful reasons sleeping just down the hallway. It is all about their future, maybe even more than yours.”

    “You make a lot of sense Spirit. America retains immense power, to do good or to muck things up. I may even earn my Nobel Peace Prize this time. It will be my legacy. I don’t know how to thank you, Spirit.”

    “Well, actually, there is one small thing, ironically a domestic issue.”

    “Certainly. What can I do for you Spirit?”

    “It’s actually for a friend of mine, lives out in Colorado.”

    “He needs a job? Should I appoint him ambassador somewhere?”

    “No Barack, just two words. Legalize it.”

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  • Recent Comments

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      Isn’t creative writing fun?

      11/23/12 5:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      May I have more War, please?

      The US is a big turkey and the vultures are picking US to the bone.

      11/24/12 1:20 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Nice. But I’d submit OStooge…er..OScrooge wouldn’t give a damn. He’d simply send you a Christmas present. After all..ole Eric the schmuck Holder has written another “secret memo”. This time he’s authorized the CIA to paint a Santa and wrap a big ole ribbon on the drones. Merry Christmas!

      11/24/12 1:48 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      Perfecting the ever tinier drones, the hummingbird, dragonfly, and bumblebee models, with their natural swarming program, will provide much better stealth and reduced residual footprints. Smaller models provide better precision, but will need some sort of base platform to launch from.

      A high-altitude, 60,000ft.+ base ship sounds good, but the lightness of these units will require their ability to remain on target while countering the prevailing winds on decent, if so, the units could possibly remain aloft and utilize solar cells for power, hunt and seek thermals,…waiting….watching….planning.

      The bottom line for the American tax payer, those that willfully pay for these government services, will be unit cost vs. return.

      11/25/12 7:09 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Yes Barack, next is drones. This is fool’s gold and you bought into it big.”

      Barack is no fool. “Facing the possibility that he might not win a second term and that HE might be the drone target of a vengeful presi-dense, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures …like not killing an ex-presi-dense.”

      11/25/12 2:50 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Ya know, kidding around in regards to murder perpetrated by our government only serves to illustrate how far down the moral free pit we’ve descended. So I’m DONE kidding around.

      Fuck these blood thirsty bastards. These depraved cold blooded murderers have sunk America to the bottom of the moral free cesspool and this so called War on Terror is a sham, perpetrated in the name of profits for the Oligarchy Empire of arms manufacturers, military/CIA torture and death zealots and those political elite who serve them. They have no shame. Zero. Zilch. NADA. And they make me sick to my stomach.
      However, the REAL blame falls squarely on the shoulders of every Subzero IQ citizen who contributed to their Great Moment in Stupidity on election day. Congratulations America. AGAIN..you are now accomplice’s to mass murder of civilian women and children around the world. You have no shame either.
      Given our putrid Congress has acquiesced to the dismantling of our Constitution via the Patriot act and the NDAA, and their deafening silence to the bloody screams of dismembered innocent victims of the USGs campaign of death and destruction from above, there is only one way to stop this madness. You know it and I know it.
      However, also given the sheer magnitude of cowardice that exists in the bowels of our rancid society, I submit you better shut your eyes when the War on Terror comes home to roost via the NDAA and 40 thousand drones, cause you ain’t gonna like it, but it will be TOO LATE…PAL. Maybe when ‘merican’s start to disappear into the bottomless Gitmo pit, and blood starts flowing in our suburban moral free ghettos.. you might get a clue. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

      11/25/12 4:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      Pitchfork does seem to sum up this situation clearly. I too, see what’s been going on.

      Is this anger an over-reaction?
      No, it’s very reserved, proper, and healthy.

      Is the US federal system of government inherently faulty?
      Perhaps to some extent, but can any system be idiot and corruption proof?

      Tom Jefferson wrote to John Adams on October 28, 1813:

      “For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground for distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents;….The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency. ”

      However, Jefferson was too idealistic and held the goodness of humankind too high, for he finished the paragraph with,

      “…In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.”

      So, our system must have greater citizen participation to Force their F’ing F’ government to abide by the rules. Absent that realistic co-operation by the F’ government, then it’s up to the people to peacefully revolt, tear down the F’ government, and build a new F’ Government with better controls. Their is no other F’ing way.

      If any of you pay F’ taxes, you F’ing support that degenerate F’ government.

      Again I’ll state my case against the F’ government is one to those elected, appointed, and those employed who place their job above the requirement for accountable, open, and decent activities with the view they are to serve the People, not the government, or they must resign.

      11/26/12 5:31 AM | Comment Link

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