Into the Fray, The Red Line

Everyone is up in arms. Obama made the use of chemical
weapons in Syria a red line. Late last week the news came across the seas that
some chemical weapons “may have been used in Syria”, and “that there is some
physiological evidence that some people exhibited symptoms of a chemical agent
having been deployed in their vicinity.” It is all very tentative and not at
all what we would imagine a full-scaled chemical weapons attack to be like. I
think Obama’s red line depended on a getting a little more solid evidence than
this about a chemical attack. However that may be, there have been rabid people
all over the media taunting Obama to deliver on his promise and to declare that
the red line has been crossed and to get more aggressively involved in helping
the Syrian freedom fighters gain their independence from Assad. Of course, John
McCain is the loudest and most strident of those who are apparently (they
think) calling Obama’s bluff.

But I have to wonder what it is that they want Obama to do
and I kept asking that of my TV on Sunday, which is Politics Day. I kept
saying, “Do we want a war? What exactly is it that you want Obama to do?
Surprisingly enough, after some initial difficulty getting through to my flat
screen I did get some answers. Everyone agreed that they did not want “boots on
the ground”. One suggestion is that we establish a no-fly-zone. Another is that
we get more involved in the care of the refugees in Jordan and Turkey and
elsewhere around the edges of Syria. There were also some caveats since this
group of freedom fighters is not one unified group but is rather a collection
of sectarian groups and even perhaps terrorist groups who may be at each
other’s throats once hostilities end.

There is also the “no good deed goes unpunished” rule. We
are likely to end up being hated and vilified regardless of what path we decide
to take. This is not a real win-win situation for us. We do like to treat
victims of abuse with compassion and the Syrian people looked pretty well abused
right now. And we do like to back freedom whenever possible. Will we feel good
enough about ourselves if we accomplish these goals, whatever the cost, and
whoever we offend? These are all questions Americans and our American President
must answer. Meanwhile all you hawks, stop acting like bullies. Stop yelling at
the President.  You imply that the
President and the US will look weak if we don’t act, but the President may also
appear weak if he lets people goad him into precipitous action.  Show some understanding of how difficult it
is to deal with the complex issues America faces in the 21st
century. Let’s let there be a little time to collect better evidence of
chemical weapon use and time to make a careful decision before we throw
ourselves into the fray.
Here’s a link to an article that gives some clear and
up-to-date information on this red line issue:

This article appeared in the Daily Beast today, April 29,



Playing Chicken

Welch Allyn has a plant near here where they make medical devices. They announced yesterday that they are going to have to fire people to cover the costs of a new tax on this equipment that is part of the Affordable Care Act. They said they will have to fire 45 people over the next 3 years. Of course we don’t want anyone to lose his/her job in this economy, but it is difficult to interpret this as anything other than manipulation. I am guessing that the profits Welch Allyn totes up each year will more than cover the total 2.3% tax that will be levied and still leave plenty of profit. Their blatant move appears to be motivated by a strategy designed to get this tax removed or to affect the 2012 election (get people to elect Republicans out of fear of further job losses) or get the Affordable Care Plan scrapped (or perhaps to accomplish all three goals). I’m guessing more companies will jump on this bandwagon.
Did we really think that the medical businesses being asked to find ways to cut costs (and perhaps profits) were going to give in to these changes without using subtle or not so subtle threats to get the government out of their hair? I would guess that the fact that medical businesses have been getting Republicans to fight Obamacare shows that the Affordable Care Act is on target and will eventually produce lower health care costs. We must hang tight and not let these companies play chicken with us by threatening job cuts instead of cost-cutting measures. We are very happy to have Welch Allyn in our community and we don’t want to drive them away, but we cannot let them use fear tactics to undo health care reform. I suspect their bottom line will hold up.