Juggling Act

The great Anniversary Iranian Celebration–at least thus far–has had all the excitement of watching Geraldo. Nope…nothing in the basement.

It was as enthralling as Dr. Zawi Hawass opening the empty tomb, without the good doctor’s charm.

We already knew about the 20% enrichment capability, and 20% is a long way from what it takes to make enriched, satisfying noises and distinctive cloud formations. At present–again, “at present”–the celebration is precisely what I expected: a big fizzle which holds us as riveted as a speech by Castro, Chavez, or Obama.

We can read this one of three ways: that the A-man took himself seriously and is going to be so embarrassed by world opinion that he lashes out from vanity…or that he was just messing with our heads seeing if he could provoke an attack or disarm us mentally…or he’ll fling warheads around next week, once we’ve lowered our guard.

How many nukes would this chucklehead chuck if Ahmadinejad could chuck nukes? Probably all he had. How very frustrating not (apparently) to have enough to hit the Great Satan and Israel simultaneously. I’ll offer him a piece of advice, though: when you get the nerve and the hardware simultaneously, Mr. Ahmadinejad, strike the USA and the Vatican. It will be a great deal safer than thinking you can knock out all Israel will throw at you given a good excuse.

Israel already has ample reason.

Israel has more than that, beginning with a strong sense of survival and a solid year of Obama and Hillary siding with their (Israel’s) enemies. One of the few constraints on Israel for decades has been abiding by the wishes of its closest ally, Heaven help it. Time and again all outside parties including supposed allies have demanded that Isael act to its tactical and economic disadvantage. Give back territory I won fair and square when the other side attacked?! I think not. Give up part of my nation in an attempt to appease enemies? Nonsense. Restrict family growth in favor of Hamas, which is already being given millions by Clintonista, Congress, and Obama? Not in this lifetime, if I were in control, and I’m not even Jewish nor have I lived in combat conditions all my life. I wouldn’t even worry about collateral damage if my nation were attacked by ground forces and we flung the invaders back over their borders for a loss of ten. Football is our national game, and if we have to retake Pork Chop Hill several times we will. I think the Israelis are tougher than we are, and they are certainly playing on a much smaller field.

Yes, Netanyahu has a precarious coalition, but I’m moderately certain that the appeasement crowd isn’t a gaggle of cowards, just misguided; there is no diplomatic solution to the problem and never has been. Anyone expecting another Masada would be wise to find a bunker-buster-proof cave. For nearly sixty-five years Israelis have protected their tiny toehold. Every citizen is a soldier, and if we had any sense we’d be importing them (even chosen at random) as security experts. In my quaint hawkish way I think it is long past time to consider how much further it is safe to back Israel into untenable corners. It could just be that the Germans weren’t the only ones who ever considered lebensraum.

A big hunk of Jordan is part of historical Israel, and I have roundabout reason to suppose that the King of Jordan has long considered the possibility that Israel might, ah, “request” a bunch of it back. My husband was an advisor to the King for a while, and John remained vehemently anti-Israeli until his death. Of course I never questioned him about his military activities, and he certainly never told me one single thing I shouldn’t know. John was as cerebral and practical as they come, and I have never supposed that he was captivated by the hospitality his host showed and the friendliness of the population. My purely amateur conclusion is that Jordan frets frequently about what Israel may do and the effect that would have on tourism and the throne.

The Pentagon may have intended for the cessation of win-hold-win to be a threat to Congress over budget cuts, but possibly some country less aware politically might conclude that Iraq and Afghanistan count as the one war per customer and it is safe to try a little encroachment elsewhere. What do we do if Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and/or Egypt decide to go play alongside the Palestinians? Say, “Sorry, we’re committed to only fighting one war at a time?” Respond, “In this rare instance we’ll make an exception” or pull all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? No good can come from the Generals, Congress, and the President telling the world that we are tapped out financially and militarily.

Metals are up strongly and the DOW was up a tepid hundred the last time I looked which may reflect an attitude of, “Thank goodness that threat is over and we can get back to business as usual.” If so, the market reaction is a very short-sighted attitude. All calm today means is that thus far Amahdinejad did not strike at the “arrogant” West. I’m more inclined to think all four metals I track being up is indicative of a feeling that just because this firecracker fizzled doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention.

We need to go find our version of Krupp to follow, I think. We can’t just track Remington, Winchester, and Federal because of the run on sporting- and hand guns and ammo for the last eighteen months. A contact on the West coast was pleased to be able to pick up a hundred rounds recently, the shortage is that bad. To those who don’t shoot a hundred rounds of nine mil or a “brick” of 500 .22 shells probably sounds like a lifetime supply or enough to stage your own version of Waco, but it really isn’t. Four friends plinking at targets could go through that amount in less than half an hour.

What we want to know is how those making NATO rounds (which can be fired using an assortment of long guns) and tanks are doing. With the increasing number of “preppers” even the MRE isn’t a good measure of military preparedness any more…General Dynamics is almost certainly a good tell-tale. Maybe chart just the Friday close on Martin Marietta, DuPont, and Bell Helicopter?

MDC suggests the turbine engines used in helicopters, tanks, and other widgets made by Lycoming–which may be affiliated with Bell, now–could prove interesting. Avco, Vickers, Pantex, BSA, maybe keep an eye on exports from Israeli Arms…they hold the patents on Uzi and the practice rounds for 120mm, 30mm armor piercing, interesting things like that. Krupp, which has been in business since the 1500s, is still manufacturing munitions and chemicals and has introduced a 17.5 cm weapon recently. I didn’t put Krupp at the top of the list because investments overseas might be a little dicey if we end up in WWIII.

Signature chuckle…you don’t expect sweet little old ladies to while away rainy afternoons attempting to work out a reasonable equivalent of Krupp as an investment, do you? There are always wars somewhere, and the Keynesian solution when all else fails is a great big war. The possibility of WWIII as a solution to the crash of the dollar…or the Chinese economy…or even Japan has been bruited about. The Middle East is a perennial running sore but it isn’t the only danger. The stakes went up when the Pentagon announced the end of the philosophy of attempting to fight two wars simultaneously, known as “win-hold-win.” Anything which causes our numerous enemies to doubt our will or our ability to wage war increases the chances of conflict.

The premise for over half a century has been that the “military-industrial complex” foments war for economic gain. We’re always interested in economic gain, although we’d prefer ours to come from a new extraction method for shale oil or foreseeing that we should get out of buggy whips and in to pneumatic tires, or short whale oil and go long LPG. I don’t buy stocks on “hunches,” but I definitely believe in investigating sectors for potential growth or signals of future events on internal nudges. So…don’t count “I’m a dinner jacket” out because he didn’t cause a gruesome mess today, but start thinking like a merchant of death far afield. If you had influence and reason to believe widespread, long-term hostilities were on the docket, what would you invest in and what would you collect?

Remember what was in short supply and/or rationed during WWII: tires, gasoline, butter, clothing, meat, cooking oil…tires would be a good bet again because they aren’t made out of rubber from Malaysia any more. Worse, they are made out of oil, and most of them are made overseas. China just might not be on our side during WWIII. We Americans have a good stockpile of automobiles if the factories are converted again to produce automatic weapons, but if you might consider picking up a set of the things that need replacing periodically, such as points, plugs, condensers, filters, belts, hoses, engine oil, power steering fluid, starter, alternator, and so forth. If we’re thinking of investments, I might talk myself into some Good Year, etc., particularly since the most popular sizes of tires more than doubled in price following Obama’s imposition of an enormous tariff.

Interesting, isn’t it, how what we want for our own personal use is probably what the nation will need if we conscript grannies and teenagers to fight an even bigger war? Shades of “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the country.”

Linda Brady Traynham

February 17, 2010

The Daily Reckoning