Due to traveling and other life pursuits, in the last several months I’ve had as little time to devote to these pages as at any point since they were launched [most probably a relief to those happy for a respite from long-winded Noise 😉 ]. As life is returning to a more normal routine for us, a few reflections as summer ends:
As you may be aware, the legal status in our country for many Afghans whom we evacuated in August 2021 – Afghans who aided our war effort, and whom we evacuated because of the severe retribution they would have faced from the Taliban if we left them behind – is not yet secure. The Afghan Adjustment Act is a bipartisan bill (sponsored in the Senate by U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar and, of all people, U.S. SC Sen Lindsay Graham) that would, if passed, ensure that those Afghans who were brought to safety by the U.S. military may apply for lasting protection to stay in the U.S. long-term. The bill is reportedly modeled after laws previously enacted to protect people from Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iraq. Seemingly noncontroversial, the New York Times reported on September 22 that the bill has hit “snags” due to Republican objections that the people we evacuated were insufficiently vetted prior to withdrawal. The Times quoted former Trump Administration official Stephen Miller (that’s a surprise) and U.S. IA Sen. Charles (“I was there when we nominated Abe Lincoln for President”) Grassley among those voicing objections for these predominately-Muslim evacuees. Although this bill has the feel of one that will be passed in the lame duck session following the November elections, I will take the liberty of suggesting that in the near term you might encourage your Senators and Representative to vote for the legislation if they haven’t already indicated their support.
These pages’ last substantive observations regarding the Ukrainian conflict were published on April 22 – an amazing interval to this old retired blogger who professes a particular interest in foreign policy. At that time, I offered that a primary challenge facing Mr. Biden related to the crisis was … time. Since that note was posted – and while the world cannot forget the millions of Ukrainian lives forfeited or forever marred by the global ambitions of one man — the conflict has gone, from geopolitically-strategic and military perspectives, immeasurably better for Ukraine than the West could have then reasonably expected and devastatingly worse for Russia than Russian President Vladimir Putin could have then anticipated. I agree with those that say that Mr. Putin’s recent mobilization of Russian reserves, orchestration of sham referenda in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories as a preface to their Russian annexation, and threatening allusions to Russia’s nuclear weaponry are indications of his desperation, and also with those that have opined that NATO forces should actively enter the conflict in aid of the Ukrainian army if he does deploy nuclear weaponry (I might go so far to include his use of chemical weaponry as sufficient provocation). I most strongly disagree with those favoring negotiation with Russia at this point. If one could now concoct some internationally-engineered settlement of the conflict, do you believe that Mr. Putin would thereafter cease in his attempts to disrupt democracy in Ukraine, the NATO nations that were once part of the USSR, the Nordic nations, western Europe, and the U.S.? To ask the question is to answer it. What, then, is the value in negotiating with Mr. Putin when he is at his weakest point?
That said, I still fear that time is the Russian President’s ally. I have quoted Fiona Hill’s and Clifford G. Gaddy’s study, Mr. Putin, extensively in these pages; the gist of their analysis is that once Mr. Putin commits to a fight, “he is prepared to fight to the end”; and “he will fight dirty if that’s what it takes to win.” Without meaning to be facetious, The Godfather provides guidance here: when the enemy seems the most disadvantaged, triple your precautions. If advising Mr. Biden, I would ask whether we still have any measure available to materially press the West’s advantage that Mr. Putin might not be anticipating. If so – short of nuclear weaponry – we should spring it now. The only way this war ends is if Mr. Putin is deposed from the inside. A protracted conflict, given an impending cold European winter without Russian-supplied energy and a global economic recession, will be more likely to adversely affect Western resolve than impact upon Mr. Putin’s designs.
In the short run, the Green Bay Packer offense may be able to get by on the strength of its running game complemented by sufficient production from its experienced (but physically limited) wide receivers. In the long run, the Packers have no realistic Super Bowl prospects unless at least one of its rookie wide receivers blossoms. I’m intrigued by Romeo Doubs. Mr. Doubs certainly contributed to yesterday’s narrow win, but seemed to me to somewhat disappear in the second half; what I couldn’t tell was whether that was a result of an altered Tampa Bay defensive scheme or due to Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ well-known penchant for relying on veterans in tight situations.
President Joe Biden’s recent assertion that the COVID pandemic “is over” has been assailed as making it more difficult for public health authorities to combat a disease that is still taking hundreds of American lives a day (although the President did qualify his comment at the time with the indication that COVID remained “a problem”). We can never forget the millions of lives lost to the disease worldwide, including the one million American lives lost (some significant percentage of the latter and of those we lose in the future, I would venture, being the fault of former President Donald Trump). Even so, I would submit that the President is right in the larger sense. We just got back from a trip across the globe. We saw few masks. As a retiree, I am now rarely out in morning rush hour on the route I took to work for decades; last week I was; it was the first time since March, 2020, that the volume and pace of traffic at that hour was virtually what it had been before the COVID shutdown. As I’ve previously suggested here, the shutdown affected different dispositions differently: some were sorely impacted by the sudden and enforced isolation; others who adjusted more readily to the solitude have perhaps needed more time to acclimate to pre-pandemic levels of social interaction. I sense an awakening coming at a time of year that, at least in the Midwest, one customarily starts to hunker down. That said: Medicare authorities advised last week that updated COVID vaccines are available for increased protection against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants to any Medicare recipient receiving his/her last vaccination/booster earlier than July 22. That includes TLOML and me. We intend to get the new booster. I suggest that if you’re eligible, you should do so as well.