What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why President Obama will be Re-elected

As we are treated to a continuous show on the Republican side, first with unending debates, and now with unending primaries and caucuses, it is easy to forget that we haven't seen anything yet. Of course, there is no contest to the President on the Democratic side.  But the Republicans have not lost too many opportunities to run against him in their own campaign, when not being distracted by poll ups and downs, anti-Romneys up and down and the continuous intrusion of so-called "social issues." (I strongly prefer the term "cultural issues" since they are all about culture wars and not about class divisions.)  Republicans are being driven by the so-called base, including Tea Partyers and evangelicals, to address these issues.  Furthermore, they are a way to attack both President Obama and front-runner Romney at the same time.

 Romney wants to run on economic issues because, as he frequently says, he knows how to create jobs.  Interestingly, he has never really gone into any detail about how he would do this.  We are left to rely on his reputation as a successful businessman who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics as proof of his abilities.  He cannot even claim much credit for his stint as Massachusetts governor, because he governed as a moderate and, frankly, much of Republican strength is in the South, West and Mid West:  North easterners don't hold much weight in the current party.  After all, this is no longer the party of Nelson Rockefeller or Jacob Javits, and apparently not even Olympia Snowe.  Despite all this, Governor Romney's nomination victory appears to be a near inevitability according to all the pundits.

Actually, I hope so, because the other candidates all scare the hell out of me.  If a Republican were to win the Presidency, I would prefer that it be a well rounded centrist (even if he equivocated during the campaign) than a radical alternative.   Speaker Gingrich is a brilliant intellectual, but has been extreme in his criticism of the President, "liberals" and 'big government."  I would hope he is also just seeking to capture the Republican base, but there is no balance there.   Senator Santorum I find to have a pleasing, youthful personality with a good dose of sincerity, but he has gone off the charts with his remarks about cultural issues and criticism of the President as making "war on religion" and a "snob" for wanting every American to have the opportunity to go to college.  Ron Paul has a certain gentility to him but his libertarian extremism that would return us to the gold standard, eliminate the Federal Reserve and remove the country from its role as the greatest world power, seems dangerous.  It is inspiring to see how a very mature man like him inspires many college students and independents, but I suppose that they follow him for his rhetoric as opposed to his pragmatism.

So let's assume that Governor Romney wins the primary battle or a convention battle in Tampa. (I do not consider whether any of the other candidates--or even Sarah Palin--would win, because I believe they would not be a challenge to the President.  Once in the general election, the center becomes the "center of gravity" (to use a military term) of the elections.  Radicals will not appeal to the center, period.

So why would President Obama be able to beat Governor Romney?  Quite simply because the economy is going to continue to improve, including the job situation and will undercut the Republican's primary criticism of the President, that he has failed to successfully fix the economy following the Great Recession.    Not only that, the fact that this recovery will be gradual still, will cause the voting public to be even more cautious about switching captains of the ship of state at this fragile time.  The improvement in the jobs front, the saving of the automobile industry, the stabilization of the banking sector and a bullish stock market will give confidence that the country is on the right course.   Other issues, such as foreign policy, the issues that I find most interesting, will not be issues of the campaign.   Obama and Hillary have done a good job of managing our relations with the world.   He and Leon Panetta, and Robert Gates before him, have done a good job of extracting us from Iraq and laying a path to our withdrawal from Afghanistan.  At the same time, The President has shown himself to be an able Commander in Chief with the killing of Osama bin Laden and the reduction of the Al Queda threat.

This is not to say that President Obama is widely loved in the country,  From an inspiring campaigner, he became a cautious and careful Chief Executive.  He is still a great communicator, but somehow lacks the warmth and common touch of some of his great Democratic predecessors.  But he is still very Presidential in his manner and he is still probably one of the smartest people to occupy the White House.  The latter is an attribute that will be to his credit in the long run.  It is unfortunate that so much of the culture war rhetoric is designed to question his faith, his moderation, his nationality and birth origins--and behind it all, there is a troubling sense that race remains a factor in it.  Undoubtedly, politics and elections is not a kid gloves arena and ambitious politicians will always use the tools of their trade, including negative campaigning.  I would hope, following the election, we can get back to trying to resolve the real issues confronting this country and the world.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Syria: John McCain is Right

Although I did not vote for him for President, I have always admired Sen. John McCain's foreign policy and national security positions and respected his personal heroism.   We owe the Iraqi surge to him, without which we may have never attempted the surge in Afghanistan, which despite many difficulties, has changed the balance in that troubled country.   Sen. McCain wants us to bomb the Syrian military, which is indiscriminately killing its own citizens, and to set up a no-fly zone in addition to aiding the Free Syrian Army.  He is supported in this by Sen. Joe Lieberman as well.

I say yes, and as soon as possible.   Our country has normally been cautious about throwing itself into war, as it should be.  Wounded by Vietnam and the Somali Blackhawk Down debacle, we hesitated much too long to launch into Bosnia.   It was only when media attention to near genocide by the Serbians had built up to an intolerable level that we finally intervened.  Without Bosnia, it is doubtful we would have intervened in Haiti in 1994 or continued to help Kosovo.   Now we feel once again "burned" by Iraq and Afghanistan and uninterested in launching into another war in the Muslim world.   But we felt that way also about Libya, and finally changed our minds as a possible slaughter in Bengazi was confronting us.  (The shadow of Rwanda still hangs heavily over us.)   With leadership from NATO and a shift within the administration led by human rights activists, we took the plunge in Libya.

Now we say that Syria and Libya are different.   Gaddafi's regime was isolated and militarily weaker than Assad's.  After all Assad has the support of not only Iran but also the Russians, who mistakenly see this as an example of interference in an ally's internal affairs and a manifestation of Russia's new "independence" from the West, particularly the United States.  As the media points out, Putin's electoral victory is certainly pyrrich.  But he must feel threatened by the growing public dissatisfaction with a government that clings to power at all costs, and sees vibrations of the Arab Spring fueling the opposition, not dissimilar to what is happening in Syria.  To approve of foreign intervention in Syria, legitimizes foreign support for opposition to him.   Don't get me wrong, Putin is not Assad, and has not turned his army on his own people, nor would he.  More sophisticated tools are at his disposal to stave off an upheaval.  Furthermore, it would be wrong to think that he does not have broad support among working class Russians.   Unfortunately for him,  it is the middle class, the intelligentsia and the educated, info age youth--i.e., the constituency of the future--who are yearning for greater freedom.   What is happening today, driven by new media and unlimited information, is a major global revolution, not unlike those that swept forward in 1968 and 1990.   However, it is actually just the latest and most hopeful chapter in the long sweep of democratic change since the end of World War II.

What we hear from the Obama administration is that a military intervention could provoke greater violence than it resolves, feeding a civil war.   In truth, there is already a civil war, but it is terribly lopsided in arms on the part of the Assad regime.   What is most crucial, however, is that the case of Syria is clearly one of crimes against humanity of such a scale that they cannot be  tolerated.  The international community has an obligation to protect innocent--including peacefully protesting civilians-from mass slaughter by its government.   The days are over when we can simply look the other way or ring our hands in doubt.  How many thousands more innocent civilians must die?  Also, it is cowardly to wait until public opinion and the media build up enough pressure so that action is politically acceptable.  This is true even in an election year where the risks may seem greater.

We have also heard that the Syrian leadership is divided and we must understand who we are supporting before we engage.  The same dilemma obtained in Libya, but eventually we found our way to intervention.   Even if we do not know who to support right now, we should know who the enemy is:  Assad's military, its tanks, armored cars, artillery and command and control centers and large military formations and bases.  If we are so worried about Syrian anti-aircraft weapons and "putting our troops into harm's way,"  let us start out by using only stealth bombers.  This would have a huge psychological as well as strategic impact.   We also should provide enough weapons for the Syrian people and Free Syrian Army to defend themselves, including a good supply of hand held anti-armor weapons.  And we should help create a no-fly zone where the Syrian opposition can consider a safe haven.  Hopefully, other Muslim countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, would come to their assistance with a strong endorsement of the League of Arab States. 

We should not wait for the United Nations Security Council to approve of what we will do.   We might have to settle for a regional organization like the League of Arab States, to provide its own endorsement under the UN Charter.  Although article 52 of the Charter requires Security Council approval for use of force by regional organizations, this provision, though widely defended by legal scholars has often been challenged in practice.  

Most recently, the 1998 ECOWAS intervention in Sierra Leone was only approved by the Security Council after the fact and in muted terms.   There is a long tradition of humanitarian intervention in states and more recently the "responsibility to protect" doctrine (R2P-for more background seee http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/crises/crisis-in-syria).  According to a study of the ECOWAS intervention, "Some commentators suggest that such unilateral actions should not  be judged in terms of the prohibition contained in the United Nations Charter because the Security Council deadlocked during the 1970s and did not reach any decision concerning humanitarian intervention. When the Security Council is unable to authorize intervention due to internal political squabbles, it is legitimate for a state to act unilaterally to end gross violation of human rights in another state, particularly when international peace is threatened." (The Use Of Force To Restore Democracy: International Legal Implications Of The Ecowas Intervention In Sierra Leone-1998).  We face a similar Security Council deadlock today.

So let's stop futzing around and help to save the Syrian people and enable them to overthrow a ruler and a regime which can only be considered a criminal enterprise in every sense of the term. He can not be trusted or negotiated with.  There can be no diplomatic solution to the Syrian Revolution.  We must answer their pleas for our help.