The good and the bad about the Obama war doctrine…

May 29, 2014

What I don’t like about the Obama approach is telling the enemy when we are going to quit. That’s absurd. What I do like about it is facing the fact that it is not in our interest and not practical to always use American force any time we see something we don’t like.

And as so many observers have observed, nation building is a mistake — it’s too costly in blood and treasure and it doesn’t seem to work — Iraq anyone? Even George W. campaigned against nation building and then inexplicably went on to do it in what is said to have been maybe the biggest military blunder of all time, Iraq.

And I think I’ve written this before and I heard one commentator say it yesterday, when we need to use military force to, say, oust the Taliban from somewhere, maybe they were talking about Afghanistan, we should go in there and do it and then leave, letting them know that if they cause a stir again,  we’ll be back.

I wholeheartedly agree with Obama that we should only use military force when our nation is directly threatened, at least I think that is what he said.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with cutbacks in our military. If anything, in this hostile world we need to keep it strong and even make it stronger. Of course we need to keep it efficient too.

The concept of drone warfare makes me nervous. Too impersonal. Too 1984 (Orwellian). It could get way out of hand.

And President Eisenhower was right on: you know his warning about the threat of the military industrial complex pushing us into needless war.

And finally, what a predicament for soldiers in the field. Who wants to be the last man (or woman) to die in the Middle East wars?

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Instead of Obamacare, he might have pushed veterans care…

May 27, 2014

I think I’ve yet to write anything real favorable about Obamacare and yet I am not against it. But the best I could do is give it faint praise, maybe. But now that Memorial Day is over, along with all the symbolic gestures toward veterans (well specifically war dead in the case of Memorial Day, a kind of fraternal twin of Veterans Day), what are we really doing for those who survive war in the service of their nation?

Apparently not enough, what with the current scandal going on in the Veterans Administration hospitals, with purported secret waiting lists to protect those in charge from accusations of mismanagement. But if there were not enough funds to provide enough staff why didn’t those managers work harder to push for funds rather than create secret waiting lists? (because their job is more important to them than the veterans.)

And it is reported that President Obama was “madder than hell” when he heard about the most recent VA scandal. Well actions speak louder than words or descriptions of how mad you are. Unless the reports are erroneous, it seems Mr. president that you have failed on your watch to take care of those veterans to whom you now claim in this just-past Memorial Day observance we owe a “sacred obligation”.

Seems to me that rather than push Obamacare you should have pushed veterans care. I have been hearing for years that there were major problems with the VA (although I have also heard reports from some who utilize the VA hospitals that care is good, but I don’t think any of them were severely wounded or suffering from PTSD).

And before that, on George W.’s watch, there were reports of veterans being denied care or being charged for care because they had been called up from the reserves or National Guard and somehow did not qualify — absurd and shameful!

And shame on all war mongers for not making it their first priority to make sure that wounded (physically and mentally) veterans are taken care of. A lot of lip service and not enough action.


On this Memorial Day I honor those who died no matter whether I think it was worth it…

May 26, 2014

I get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up but I know this is Memorial Day, the third and final day of the long Memorial Day weekend when there are parades, and there are ceremonies, often at cemeteries, with men wearing those military-style overseas caps, American Legion and such, and flags flying and so on. In its present form, Memorial Day is to honor all of our war dead (men and women) in all of our wars — and of course it is also a time off for workers and a great sales opportunity for stores, and a recreational opportunity at lakes and camp and picnic grounds and other such places.

There are some who see all the flag flying as so much jingoism. Certainly our penchant for having America first has gotten us into all kinds of troubles overseas through the years. And sometimes it seems one might be forced to ask whether it was worth it. I mean, as an example, why did we have to join the fray in Europe’s war in World War I? We were in no imminent danger. And, as a matter of fact, I have always wondered why Abraham Lincoln was lauded for standing up to the southern rebellion, otherwise known as the American Civil War or the War Between the States (for those in the South). I mean all that death and destruction might have been avoided had he simply let the South go its way — it might have well decided for practical reasons to come back into the fold decades later.

But one can try to rewrite or re-do history in his or her mind and it is useless.

The fact is that on this planet there is a constant struggle among humans for land and resources which are finite and throughout our history it has led to war. And some are called to fight them and some go on their own accord and some do not. Often those who do not are the ones who order those who do to go in the first place. And the non-fighters are often the biggest fans of the fight.

But regardless of the politics of it all, I join in honoring all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, no matter whether I think in hindsight that it was all worth it.Image


The conundrum of gun control and gun violence…

May 26, 2014

Now we have to worry on the guy who can’t get a date. He might go out and kill a bunch of people. That’s what that poor little rich but apparently unloved kid did in Southern California the other day.

You see the problem with the right of everyone to have guns is that some people just see them as the go-to thing when things don’t go their way or they get mad about something.

Of course if some of his victims were packing iron they might have been able to defend themselves, although they were caught by surprise — and how absurd is that? A raging gun battle.

(In the haste of writing my original post I erroneously said that most of the victims or fatalities were young women, but it seems as if the count was four men and two woman dead and several others injured.)

But apparently restrictive gun laws don’t prevent such tragedy — California is said to have some of the most restrictive in the nation, and yet this young jerk just went down to the local gun store and bought several — always looking for higher power and insurance in case one of them jammed in his pre-meditated plan to get back at those who rejected him, even though many or most of the shootings appeared to be at random — targets of opportunity.

And we can’t punish law-abiding citizens who want guns for self defense against bad guys and government or to serve in their local militia, a well-regulated militia being necessary to a free state. Or they might just want to collect guns — it’s part of our freedom guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.

And seriously, bans on guns don’t work. At the Mexican border it says guns and ammo are illegal in Mexico. Yeah, how’s that working out down there? (We’re doing our best to keep them supplied down there south of the border.)

Going on a shooting rampage has become quite fashionable.

I guess as long as there are guns people will use them, and more often than not for bad things. I mean hardly anyone actually depends upon them to put food on the table.

It does seem, however, that the easy access to them could be lessened somewhat.

You think?

 

p.s.

And it should be noted that he also stabbed people (and ran into people with his car and may have injured some in another fashion) — so guns are not the only culprit or problem. And we can hardly ban all instruments that stab or otherwise injure.

Oh, and thankfully, the perpetrator killed himself, saving us the expense and waste of court and prison time.

And now I feel guilty. I mean the guy must have had deep mental problems but was apparently able to hide them or people — his parents — failed to realize the extent of the problem. He had given off some clues and finally told the whole world what he was going to do in a post on social media — but it came too late, too near the time he actually went into his final action.

Assuming this is accurate, I provide a Wikipedia summary of the incident: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Isla_Vista_killings

 


Why does the high court even get involved in prayer cases?

May 7, 2014

What do I think of the latest ruling from the majority on the right on the United States Supreme Court concerning prayer at public meetings?

I think that whenever possible the courts should stay out of the subject.

If someone is actually forced to follow a certain religion or prevented from following one, then there is a case of First Amendment violation. But prayers before local government meetings, which this case involved, are as common as the celebration of Christmas by non Christians.

If I read the ruling correctly in Towne of Greece v. Galloway even the majority on the right thinks that there would be a problem if citizens were coerced by government into prayer before pubic meetings, commonly called invocations, but as long as they are voluntary and somewhat generic, it’s okay and causes no harm.

Well as a matter of practicality I tend to agree with that.

My father was not a church goer and not a follower of the faith (although he admitted to me once that we really don’t know what happens after death and it’s only natural that we have concerns whether we are doing the right thing — and that was my interpretation of what he said). And People tying to push religion on him irritated him. On the other hand, he would have never, as far as I know, insulted someone over their religion or being religious. He was a newspaper man. And I recall attending a city council meeting with him. As the invocation began, he looked over at me and whispered: “just look at the floor”. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

It would seem to me that since the First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion, local governments (and any governmental body) would simply do well to just skip any religious practice. I mean if the members of the body feel a need for prayer, who’s stopping them from individually and privately doing it themselves? And why can’t they just go to church on Sunday or whenever their congregation meets?

But on the other hand, how does looking at the floor hurt anyone?

 

P.s.

In reading the background I saw that those bringing the original suit against the town government claimed that almost all the prayers or invocations were done by Christian pastors (not all but almost all). What I did not see was any evidence that non-Christians were barred, although they were apparently not sought after our encouraged, at least for the most part.

I did not write an analysis of or brief the case as lawyers say. I did read through the majority opinion and it seemed kind of right-wing politically inspired (what else is new? I think the court has always been political, sometimes leaning right and sometimes left (the Warren Court). Yeah, I think they should have just let this one go. The high court does not hear all cases.

Oh, and the majority opinion remarked something about the reason that most of the prayers were Christian in nature in the town in question was because well it was a community composed mainly of Christians. Makes sense. But we all know the hue and cry that would take place if some Muslims were elected to the city council and put out their prayer rugs before each meeting. But I guess if that were to take place in a predominantly Muslim community that would be considered okay, even if Christians or Jews or other faiths or members without faiths had business before the body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The world wonders if America has lost its nerve, or if the U.S. does not lead, who does?

May 6, 2014

We have not had a major terrorist attack on United States soil since 911.

That may be because the one thing our enemies, be they nation states or more indefinable terror groups, know is that the one thing that will provoke a deadly response from the United States is killing people on its home territory (I just robbed that thought from an article in The Economist).

And only being mildly sarcastic here, but our response might not be on the right subjects. My thought.

But I am reading that the world is wondering if anything else could make us fight after such an amazing backdown in Syria where our president declared that if that nation’s outlaw regime used chemical weapons we would respond and then even said indeed they did and we were (going to respond) but then could not get support from congress, even though he said he did not need it, and backed down. Yeah there is some kind of agreement to rid the nation of its poison gas weapons but the progress on that is unclear and the regime there continues to murder its own people.

Now I’m not sure that moving militarily on the Syrian regime would have been in the best interests of the U.S. or whether doing more to help the rebels would move the situation in our favor. I do feel, though, that it is not a good idea to draw a line in the sand and then step back and draw another one. Don’t make the assertion in the first place, lest you lose credibility and embolden foes around the world.

And speaking of emboldening foes — here we go again in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is ignoring threats to react by the U.S.

No one wants to go to war there, and the Europeans have economic interests that are at stake and don’t feel in any position to go to war, even as they fear the advance of Russia.

And then there is North Korea. That nation is run by a mad man, the son of a late mad man. And it has nuclear weapons capability and is hard at work developing a missile to reach the U.S. But all the U.S. does is threaten.

China is becoming a world power to rival the U.S. and has not had to fire a shot. It let the U.S. waste blood and treasure in Iraq and then grabbed oil supplies there. And I believe I have read it is eyeing mineral deposits in Afghanistan. It supports the Syrian regime. And now I read that Israel has struck some kind of military deals with China. Thanks a lot Israel, you who depend upon the U.S. for survival amidst neighbors who despise you.

Since World War II, the European democracies have lived under the shelter of the U.S. and have spent precious little on defense, as compared to the United States. The same goes for nations in Asia who are otherwise in our corner.

(To be fair, Japan has been constrained militarily by the U.S. since it lost World War II, and by its own internal law.)

Some of this is 20/20 hindsight, but I personally think the U.S. has been played for a sucker both by our friends who let us do most of the heavy lifting and by enemies who have forced our hand and made us weaken ourselves with costly but unfruitful wars in Southeast Asia and then in the Middle East. I mean on some of this, who knew?

(Giving credit where credit is due, other nations have helped us, and long ago in Vietnam South Korea was reported to be a big help, as was Australia.)

There has been some move in the U.S. back toward an almost pre-World War II-style isolationism.

I would almost like that, if it were not the fact that we have been the toughest kid on the block for so long that now we have to remain so for our own survival. A lot of folks out there rightly or wrongly (wrongly for the most part) want to take us down. We really can’t afford to be anything other than number one — but we are losing that position slowly or not so slowly, but surely.

What to do, what to do…

I don’t think cutting back on our military Obama style is the way to go. If anything I would build it up, although anything to make it more efficient is in order. We don’t need more fancy officers’ clubs and exotic weapons systems, although we do need state-of-the-art systems. What we need is a large, very large, well-trained (and well-paid) force, backed up by a continued Selective Service system, and maybe a mandatory draft for all young men (somehow many have developed the attitude that defending the nation is someone else’s job). While the role for women in the military has been greatly expanded, I personally am not ready for the idea of a draft for women.

Making military duty mandatory could serve as a check, using popular opinion in a democracy, against the nation getting into unnecessary wars.

And David Brooks of the New York Times said in a recent column that we need to have alliances around the world to help protect our interests.

I think we need alliances, such as NATO, but we must insist that member nations step up to the plate and do their share, otherwise we might just have to decide not to be there for them when they need it.

Now I am somewhat uncomfortable with military alliances if they ever put American troops under foreign command. I mean that cannot happen. Yes, it might seem unfair that we expect other nations to operate under our military command if there is an attack by hostile forces, but, hey, we’re the biggest kid on the block and have the most to lose. That’s just the way it is.

A big long article in The Economist (out of Great Britain) concluded thusly:

“Some will celebrate the decline of America’s ability to deter. But wherever they live, they may find that whatever replaces the old order is much worse. American power is not half as scary as its absence would be.”

I believe that is a true statement.

P.s.

I’m no war hawk. I think we have to choose our battles wisely (if there are to be any). I like the idea that we are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program and just hope our own intelligence (which seems to be lacking at times) can determine if we are being played for a fool.

As for North Korea, we really need to make a deal with China and rein it in. Even China is uneasy with that rogue regime.

(I’m not so sure but what a CIA hit is in order. But only if we can’t get the Chinese to do something.)

Sadly we are devoid of leadership in this nation.

In my lifetime there has been precious little leadership. I can’t really count Eisenhower because I was too young. JFK was a true leader but his time was cut short. Lyndon Johnson was on the domestic level with his civil rights bill and his war on poverty (which probably went astray or was eventually starved of funds in some instances), but that is about it. Okay, even though I did not care for Ronald Reagan’s politics, I will give him credit for leadership — he helped bring a speedier end to an already dying communist empire that forced so many under the yoke of oppressive regimes and stifled free will and human progress.

Even though it is late in the game, we still don’t know what the final outcome will be for the Obama presidency, but one fears that when it is all said and done it may turn out to have been more show than substance, more talk than action. He is a deliberate and careful man, and that can be good. But sometimes we just need strong leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lethal injection seems no more humane than hanging, and the death penalty is more revenge than deterrant

May 2, 2014

I’ve never able to get behind the death penalty.

I have no sympathy for murderers (generally the ones who get the penalty).

The big uproar over the botched execution the other night in Oklahoma was that it was cruel and unusual (something the Supreme Court has ruled is not to happen). Ghastly might be an apt description of it. Due to the drugs failing — after a doctor had pronounced him dead — the condemned man writhed in agony for something like a half hour. And then he died of a heart attack.

As to that last part, I heard a couple during my breakfast this morning exclaim: “So what’s the problem?” The idea being that isn’t killing the guy the ultimate goal, I guess. And the implication being how can you feel sorry after what he did to his victim (or victims) and how he may have done it.

No, I don’t feel sorry for the victim of the botched execution but somehow I think a civilized society should be beyond this — I mean I guess they used to do things like draw and quarter people in the Middle Ages, and that nut case that runs North Korea according to some reports set dogs on his uncle to kill him.

If we are going to have executions, I wonder, why don’t we just hang people? That can be botched, but I think most of the time if done by people who know what they are doing it comes off without a flaw and is quick. I imagine a firing squad is efficient in that way too.

I have never understood this lethal injection thing. Not only have there been reports that people don’t die immediately but that they suffer great pain along the way. And is not the idea that someone is going to kill you by injecting a needle into you while you are strapped down kind of a torture in itself?

Capital punishment is revenge and nothing else. It does not at all seem to serve as a deterrent. Certainly it can hardly be one when it is a crime of passion. In other crimes, people are just bad and have no moral values and many assume they will not get caught. Some people say that the death penalty to be more effective must be sure and swift instead of drawing out the whole procedure through the courts for years. But the problem is that in a rush to judgment innocent people are put onto death row and innocent people surly have been put to death (many of them probably were guilty of other crimes, maybe even murder, but our law demands that you be punished for the specific crime or act charged — not just in general for being a bad character).

Those who so glibly say so what’s the problem only say that because they have not been caught up in the trouble — anyone could be accused of murder — maybe by mistaken identity (we are finding out that so-called eye-witness testimony is among the most unreliable evidence) or simply through malice and false accusations or DA’s over eager to have convictions. Those people who see no problem would sing a different tune if it were them or a loved one in trouble. Also they ought to have some concern for civility.

But then again, we could just go back to the Middle Ages or even later in history where you could be put before a tribunal and not even be able to face your accusers and then have your head lopped off.

But come to think of it, the guillotine might be more humane than lethal injection.