Monday, January 28, 2008

8 Reasons Iraq is Important in the 2008 Elections

There are myriad reasons why Iraq will remain an important issue for the 2008 elections in spite of the fact that the current successes of the surge have largely removed it from the headlines.

The most obvious reason that we should continue to fight for a free and stable Iraq is that, if the terrorists win, they will establish a national base for terrorist training and support, just as the Taliban did in Afghanistan (1). A failure in Iraq would leave a terrorist state from which al Qaeda could launch further attacks on the United States.

A terrorist state in Iraq would be much worse for us than Afghanistan, however. Iraq is country rich in oil. If the terrorists gain control of Iraq’s oil, they will not only have a base from which to launch attacks; they will have a way to fund their war against the west (2).

A retreat from Iraq would also endanger Iraqi civilians (3). Terrorists in Iraq are known for their torture and murder of innocent civilians who support the elected government and coalition forces. If the coalition forces leave and the elected government becomes ineffective, Iraqi civilians would be at the mercy of bloodthirsty terrorists and militias. The death toll would be staggering and refugees would flood neighboring countries, much the same way the “boat people” escaped the clutches of “People’s Republic” of Vietnam after the fall of South Vietnam. A glimpse of the human tragedy to come can be seen in the murders and torture chambers revealed in areas of Iraq formerly held by Al Qaeda.

Iraq would also be strategically important in the looming confrontation with Iran (4). As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad moves his country towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons, he must contend with the fact that US troops and aircraft are already based on two of Iran’s borders, its western border with Iraq and its eastern border with Afghanistan. This puts Ahmadinejad at a huge disadvantage in a conventional conflict and makes it easier for US forces to stage an attack, if necessary.

Some politicians claim that Iraq has been a distraction from the War on Terror for the United States. In truth, it has been more of a distraction for the terrorists (5). Al Qaeda has poured men and resources into Iraq to fight Coalition forces. When these terrorists are in Iraq, they can be hunted down by Coalition forces and killed. When they are in Iraq, they are not making their way into the United States or attacking Americans abroad. It is not a coincidence that there has not been a major terrorist attack in the US since 9/11.

Politicians speak of ending the war in Iraq, but a US withdrawal would not end the war. In fact, the presence of US troops may the only thing preventing escalation of the war into a larger regional conflict (6). Iranian forces have already sent Revolutionary Guards troops and weapons into Iraq to assist Shiite militias. There is little doubt that they would expand their assistance, or launch a full-scale invasion as Syria did in Lebanon, to fill the power vacuum if the US were not present. Saudi Arabia has stated that if the US leaves, Saudi troops will intervene to protect their Sunni brethren from the Shiite majority. Iranian and Saudi troops would likely end up fighting each other and other countries might join in both sides. Additionally, Turkey would probably attack Kurdish bases in northern Iraq as well.

A premature US withdrawal would also erase the enormous gains made by US and Iraqi forces since the beginning of the troop surge a year ago and make vain the sacrifices of the US, Iraqi, and Coalition soldiers who have been killed or wounded in the struggle against Islamic terrorism (7). Violence is down by almost every measure. Al Anbar province, a year ago considered a lost cause, is now the model of cooperation between Iraqi tribes and US troops. Car bombs, kidnappings, and other terror attacks have become rare enough that they have almost disappeared from news reports. The exit of US forces would enable the terrorists to move back into areas now controlled by the Iraqi government.

Finally, a retreat from Iraq would damage US prestige and destroy the trust that our allies place in us for years to come (8). The US has a history of walking out on our allies when the going gets tough. If we want other countries to trust and respect us, then we need to follow through on our national commitments. Countries such as Pakistan, Taiwan, and South Korea are no doubt watching particularly closely. If nations doubt our resolve, they may choose to align themselves with one of the numerous nations who consider themselves a challenger to our sole superpower status, such as Russia or China, or a regional competitor, such as Iran or Venezuela. A decline in US prestige could negatively affect national security or the US economy.

The US is winning in Iraq. A withdrawal before the Iraqi government is ready to stand-alone would only help the terrorists. Candidates who advocate a pullout are advocating a return to the dark days of an out of control insurgency or, worse, to a theocratic terrorist regime, as in Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban. We should let the presidential candidates know that we will not allow them to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Monday, January 21, 2008

CaptainKudzu Endorses Huckabee

After examining the platforms and records of the presidential candidates for 2008, I have arrived at the conclusion that my vote will go to former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. Huckabee has faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans during the primary season, but an examination of his record reveals him to be a populist conservative of the Reagan mold.

I first gave Huckabee a close look last summer when it seemed that Senator Fred Thompson would never enter the race. I still like Senator Thompson, but his campaign has never really picked up momentum. I believe this is a factor of being the last entrant in a presidential primary that started earlier than ever before.

Governor Huckabee passed my first cut by standing strong on the Iraq War and the War on Islamofascist Terror. Every Democrat candidate, as well as Ron Paul from the GOP, want to withdraw US troops and sacrifice our gains in Iraq. I will not support a candidate who seeks to appease terrorists at the expense of American lives. Withdrawing US troops prematurely would embolden the terrorists and cost us the gains that we have made in Iraq. This would cost more US lives in the long run.

Closely related to the war is US border security. Currently thousands of illegal immigrants cross our border without government knowledge or approval. Most of these immigrants are merely workers seeking jobs, but it is not realistic to assume that terrorists will never sneak across our border. Governor Huckabee has been endorsed by the founder of the Minuteman, a volunteer border security group, and favors securing our borders.

A second big issue is tax policy. As the US inches toward a recession, tax hikes for any reason would further slow the economy. Democrats propose various taxes to pay for healthcare or to discourage use of carbon fuels. On the other hand, Governor Huckabee supports the Fair Tax, which would eliminate the income tax. The Fair Tax would attract business and investment to the US, stimulating the economy.

Another traditional issue is gun control. I am strongly in favor of Second Amendment rights, as is Governor Huckabee. I generally find that if a candidate supports the Second Amendment, they can be trusted on other civil rights issues as well.

Abortion is a national tragedy. Most Americans believe that abortion is murder and should not be available on demand. Governor Huckabee supports a constitutional amendment to protect the life of unborn babies. In contrast, most Democrats oppose even minor restrictions on the “right to choose,” which evidently trumps the baby’s right to live.

Healthcare is a big issue for this election, but I believe that the Democrats are on the wrong track. Instead of giving the government control over 14% of the US gross domestic product, we should get government out of the way. Fewer government restrictions on health insurance would make policies more affordable. Private companies, such as Wal-Mart, are already using their mass marketing expertise to open clinics in their stores that often cater to the uninsured. I believe, as does Governor Huckabee, that we should restore competition to the healthcare industry, not create a government monopoly.

I do have some misgivings about Huckabee. His record does show a large number of pardons in Arkansas, some of which resulted in additional crimes being committed. He has also committed several foreign policy gaffes in recent months. On the whole, however, his positives outweigh his negatives.

On some issues, such as school vouchers, which I favor, but which Huckabee opposed in Arkansas, his position is very conservative. He favors the ability of state and local governments to enact vouchers in their school systems. This small-scale experimentation is just what our nation’s founders intended.

Huckabee also favors judges who will interpret the law, rather than rewrite it to suit their beliefs. Liberal judges have twisted many of our laws so that they are enforced in direct opposition to their wording. The first amendment freedom of religion being interpreted as a separation of church and state is one example.

Mike Huckabee is a true compassionate conservative and an entertaining and engaging speaker. He has the charisma to compete with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and his command of the issues will clearly trump the socialist agenda of the eventual Democrat candidate.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Whatever Happened To Global Warming?

"...for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero)."
-UK Telegraph

Recently, the question of whether the US should face higher standards of environmentalism and carbon reductions than the rest of the world has been raised. Politicians have suggested massive increases in gasoline taxes, the introduction of carbon taxes, and draconian restrictions on carbon emissions.
Ironically, as I sit at my computer, my home state of Georgia is undergoing the second snowstorm of the week. In a state, which has, over the last few years, received almost zero snowfall, this is certainly big news.

When I was growing up in Georgia in the 1970s and 1980s, Georgia typically got about two or three snows each winter. These snows would get us out of school for a couple of days (since Georgia has virtually no road clearing equipment) and would stay on the ground for several days. Over the past several years, when Georgia had snowfall, it came only once or twice a year and, if it accumulated at all, would be usually be gone by lunchtime. When I examined this anecdotal data from my own life, I was hard pressed to argue with global warming activists, at least on a local scale.

The news of flattening global temperatures comes at the same time that many parts of the United States are experiencing record winter storms and, coincidentally, at the time of the two major winter storms that swept Georgia. If I didn't doubt before, I certainly would now.

Global warming has always been a rather theoretical. It is based on short data trends and computer models. Even the data on which the short trends are based is suspect. Most automated weather stations that climate data are based on have serious quality problems (see As a professional pilot, I can tell you that we take the information that we get from automated weather stations with a large dose of salt.

Assuming that the global warming activists are right, the problem is a world problem, not just an American one. In 2006, China surpassed the United States in carbon dioxide emissions, and combined, the two nations make up less than half of the total. Developing nations make up an even larger share of other forms of pollution. It is clear that the problem is not the United States alone and the solution cannot focus solely on the United States.

Additionally, there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that carbon dioxide is responsible for warming the earth at all. Data indicates that there is indeed a correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide, but not the one that you would expect. In the past, temperature increased first, then carbon dioxide increased several hundred years later. If temperature changed first, then carbon dioxide cannot be responsible for the change.

It seems that the recent information would indicate that it would at least be a good idea to wait and see if which trend continues before we make major changes in an attempt to prevent global warming. If it does, we should look at alternative explanations for warming, such as changes in solar radiation. Temperatures of other planets are also increasing, but their warming definitely cannot be attributed to earthly carbon emissions.

Let's not ban carbon based fuels or initiate massive taxes on carbon until we find out for sure what kind of problem we are facing. Our economy is based on carbon fuels and such legislation would almost certainly slow the economy to a recession. This would be especially tragic if the destruction of the economy did nothing to solve the warming problem. A safer approach would be to begin a change to alternative energy sources, such as cheap, reliable nuclear power, as we continue to research global warming.

Granted, the climate is changing, but how is it changing? The new data questions whether the earth is still warming. Even environmentalists are speaking less of “global warming” and more of “climate change.” The climate is always changing, however. There have been numerous ice ages and warm periods throughout recorded history.

Might we be better off by focusing on adapting to climate change rather than preventing it? Previous warm periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period around AD 1000, were a boon to mankind. Warm temperatures and increased carbon dioxide were so helpful to agriculture that the Vikings were even able to cultivate now frigid areas of Greenland. Warm temperatures might even mean less energy use for heating, which would also save money for individual families.

Environmental issues are a global concern. Regardless of whether carbon is at fault for global warming, global initiatives should be taken to reduce pollution. These initiatives should focus on developing nations as well as nations that are already industrialized, such as the United States. We should be careful not to take curative steps that would be worse than the climate change disease.

Source: /opinion/2006/04/09/do0907.xml

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Christian Right

In this election season, as well as the past several years in general, much is being made of the Christian Right and their effect on politics and government. The “religious right” has been decried as a monolithic bloc that votes on the orders of religious leaders and as a “branch office” of the Republican Party.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead flocking to the Republican Party to grasp for political power, Christians are being pushed out of the Democratic Party. As I grew up in the 1970s, the Democratic Party had a solid lock on southern politics. My family, as well as most other southerners, considered themselves strong Democrats. In my home state of Georgia, most elections were decided by the Democratic primary. The general election against a Republican challenger was merely a formality (assuming that there even was a Republican challenger).

What happened? Ronald Reagan forced us to take a hard look at the Democratic Party that we thought we knew. We found that many of the planks of the Democratic platform did not match our personal beliefs.
The Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson, was as much a result of this awakening as an instigator of it. The Christian Coalition’s primary mission was to put out information on how candidates had voted on issues in the past. Incumbents, especially liberal ones, cried foul when their track records were made public. Constituents often found that what their representatives said and how they voted were often dramatically different.

The truth is that today there is no bloc of Christian voters who look to evangelical leaders, such as Dr. James Dobson, to tell us who to vote for. Church leaders are prevented by IRS regulations from endorsing candidates (although they can preach on specific issues). If they violate these rules, the church can lose its tax-exempt status.

Christian voters are individuals who look at each individual candidate and make up our own minds. We look at issues that are important to us. For that reason, we are referred to as “values voters,” although in reality all voters are “values voters.” Each voter has different values and priorities that they look for candidates to address.

In the past few decades, we have found that the Republican Party espouses values most similar to our own. The Democratic Party is often hostile to many beliefs that we hold dear.

One of the most important values that Christian voters consider is national security. This is a basic duty of the federal government, and, especially in wartime, is a high priority. We want the government to protect our families from terrorists. We want the government to efficiently prosecute the war in order to make our country safe and to make it less likely that our small children will one day have to fight and die against Islamic extremists. Democrats have shown repeatedly that they are unwilling to admit that we are at war with Islamic Extremists, much less to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion.

Similarly, we oppose the income redistribution policies of the Democrats. We give generously to charities and our local churches, but do not like “forced giving” to the government. Government social programs are notoriously inefficient and prone to fraud. The also rob people of the will to work and create unforeseen consequences, such as the rise in single parent families. The Bible tells us “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). If someone does not have the ability to work, then they deserve our charity, but if they do have the ability to work, then they should be productive members of society.

Currently, entitlement spending, including Medicaid and social security, make up over 60% of the federal budget. In contrast, defense spending, even while we are at war, makes up only 19%. As baby boomers leave the work force, fewer workers are supporting more and more Americans through entitlements. This is not sustainable in the future and unless we change, the federal budget will drown within a sea of entitlements within our lifetimes.

Gay rights is another area of disagreement between Christians and the Democrats. Most Christians are not like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, which teaches that God hates homosexuals. We believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God loves us all and desires that we follow Him and accept His forgiveness (John 3:16). Neither do we seek to ban homosexuality or persecute homosexuals.

On the other hand, we do not support the movement to legalize homosexual marriage. Traditional marriages provide vital stability for childrearing and are the foundation of our society. Numerous studies have shown that gay unions lack this stability and that children need both male and female role models.

With respect to affirmative action, Christians believe that there is “neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11), implying that all men are equal in the eyes of God. We believe that, as Martin Luther King said, that a man “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Abortion is considered to be the cornerstone issue of the religious right. Democrats vehemently defend the right to abortion as “a woman’s right to choose” and oppose any restrictions on it. Democrats opposed laws that require parental notification when teens get abortions, that would ban the barbaric partial birth abortion procedure, and some, such as Barack Obama, have voted in support of policies that would allow living babies to be born and left to die without medical treatment. Bill Clinton even sought to silence pro-life protesters by invoking the RICO law used to prosecute mobsters.

On the other hand, scientific advances make it harder than ever to deny the humanity and life of unborn babies. First, ultrasounds allowed parents to see a shadowy view of their baby’s movement, then, more recently, three dimensional ultrasound technology was introduced that even allows portraits of unborn babies. We can now see babies reacting to stimuli, and even smiling, while still within the womb. These images give lie to the claim that a fetus is nothing more than a mass of tissue. If an unborn baby is alive, then abortion is murder.

Through movement away from Christian values on these and other issues, the Democratic Party has alienated Christian voters. I would really like to have a viable choice between two candidates who share my views, but as long as the one party continues to nominate candidates that oppose my beliefs, then I’ll have to continue to vote my conscience. I don’t consider myself to be a Republican, but a Christian and a conservative. I, like many other Christians in the United States, look at the both the candidate and the issues and make up my own mind.