Back on the blog and Merry Christmas!!!

December 25, 2009

I’ve been off this blog for several weeks, well, actually months, because I got the proverbial day job, no actually day and night job, and on top of that, my computer crashed. Just got a new one — a wonderful and generous Christmas gift. It has taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to access my old blog site, but hopefully, as I key this in, I have figured out how to get back into this thing. This computer is different to the touch, and I am having problems typing (yes I began writing back when we still plugged away at typewriters, and right now this seems as difficult). I’ll get used to this new machine (yes you can tell I am of the pre-computer age by my use of the word “machine”.  I remember old folks, back before I was one of them, old folks, that is, referring to a car as “the machine”).

I’ll make this post short and sweet as I write this tonight, Christmas Eve, because I am tired beyond belief and excited at the same time that I am able to be back  in the blogosphere.

The devout Christians see Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children everywhere, and adults just as much, see it as a chance to get some cool gifts or not so cool gifts, whatever.

Saw a letter to the editor in my local newspaper complaining that a public school had ruled out any reference to Jesus or traditional Christian religious songs in its Christmas program. This seems absurd to me. But then again, I have to wonder what folks would think, if say, the school allowed or put on a program with a Muslim or even Jewish theme.

I have never thought that the First Amendment prohibited children from praying or singing the praises of Jesus. The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee the right to practice religion — among other things. But of course, the government, or the public school, cannot support any one religion, so the only way the authorities can see to handle this is to prohibit any religious reference in programs altogether.

On a related matter, I am not aware of any school actually prohibiting individual children from quietly praying on their own, although, this may have happened somewhere. School personnel cannot be seen as sanctioning or promoting any one religion or interfering with one’s right not to be religious.

This post is kind of a ramble because I am tired and I am having a hard time navigating this keyboard.

But on this Christmas Eve 2009 I can only hope that we get something out of the teachings of Jesus and learn to enjoy the good earth and the blessings we have been given.

I do not know why we must fight wars, except in true self defense. But I do know from reading the Bible, which good Christians tout  everywhere, that war and terrible violence men inflict upon one another, not to mention the wrath of God, has been a fact of life since the dawn of man.

But Christmas is a time of hope. And I hope that we humans can change and learn to live in peace.

But life is a struggle over limited resources.

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas and a hope of peace for all mankind!

Advertisements

Half measures will not do in keeping terrorists from Pakistani nukes…

May 8, 2009

As we face the prospect of a grave military threat from terrorists in Pakistan who might grab that unstable nation’s nukes, I ponder my attitude toward war.

(And I call them terrorists because that is their methodology. They use the name of Islam, but their method is terrorism as brutal as any ever used and they have made no bones about wanting to destroy our way of life in the Western world and us along with it.)

I have always looked toward the wars in our time with ambivalence. Basically I am anti-war. That is to say I don’t see war as just another foreign policy tool. At the same time I have thought that once the nation is engaged in a war it should do so with focus on an acceptable outcome. That would be winning versus stalemate.

Unfortunately during my lifetime we have had no wars that I can think of with an acceptable outcome. Korea took place when I was a small child. We did hold the red tide back or beat the red tide back, but at great cost. I think in history it is questioned as to whether we should have gotten involved. North Korea with the backing of Red China (remember? we used to call it that) and the Soviet Union overran South Korea, but we got involved under the auspices of the United Nations and beat them back to a stalemate and all these decades later must still contend with a belligerent communist North Korea who threatens us with ultimate creation of their own nuclear force. This is after the Soviet Union dissolved and although the old Red China is still communist in government, it has a primarily capitalist economy (that I think one day would result in communism dissolving). We wouldn’t let Gen. MacArthur chase the red devils all the way to the North Korean capital. I was still a child, as I said, but that was the start of our more cautious approach to war. Whereas in World War II we decided the way to resolve the issue was total victory, by the early 50s we had no stomach for that – quit while we are ahead (where we began is where we finished).

And then came Vietnam. Again, the red menace. The country was sold (at least there seemed to be support) at first when it was thought we would just throw a little weight around (yes I’m skipping over volumes of history) and be done with it. But the war dragged on. Casualties mounted. And we did not define what winning was, let alone resolve to go for total victory, which would have been to take over what was North Vietnam, the belligerent who eventually overran the south. Nearly 60,000 American dead and thousands gravely wounded, and for what? Today a unified Vietnam as China has a communist government and, though not on the scale of China, it has moved toward a capitalist economic system.

Saddam Hussein’s forces turned out to be a pushover in the first Gulf War, but once again our resolve was less than full fledged (at least by our leaders), and instead of total victory, overrunning the belligerent nation that started it all, Iraq, we held back. And eventually the first president Bush’s son became president and found a convenient excuse to finish what his daddy didn’t. Some say all the trouble the younger Bush had in Iraq is proof we would have been wrong to invade the first time. But that was then and this is now. All evidence is we certainly could have done the job the first time, but we would have needed the forces and the resolve.

There is evidence we might have gotten more cooperation this time around in our initial invasion had a large portion of the Iraqi population thought we had the resolve the get the job done. They correctly guessed we did not and acted accordingly.

We initially invaded Afghanistan supposedly to go after Osama bin Laden and his forces who took credit for the 9/11 attacks. There was widespread public support and world sympathy (help would be nice, but sympathy’s good too and I know we’ve had help, but only token help — again my apologies to the soldiers involved). But little Bush decided he wanted to make a stand in Iraq and we dithered in Afghanistan (with all due respect to the actual troops who did not run the war – I’m talking about the leadership).

Today we face the threat of Taliban and Al Qaeda getting their hands on nuclear weapons due to an unstable Pakistan, our nominal ally.

I continue to be ambivalent toward war. It shouldn’t be  just a tool in the bag of foreign relations. But the survival of all mankind depends upon keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists.

Does Barack Obama have more resolve than his modern predecessors?

The fate of the world may depend upon the true answer to that question.

P.s.

I actually was going to blog on a slightly different, but closely related subject. It had to do with the fact we don’t seem to get much actual war reporting. I checked out a library book entitled “The Blog of War” (a play on the phrase “the fog of war”), by Matthew Currier Burden, a former U.S. Army major. Nowadays soldiers tell their own stories in realtime (or near), blogging from the field. But unless you read those blogs you are not likely to know how things really are. It is not going to convince me politically whether a war is right or wrong by knowing how a participant feels, but he or she can provide me a sense of the real situation on the ground and the human aspect of the whole thing. That is something that has been missing, I think. And really the whole dynamic of the professional soldier (the all-volunteer military) vs. the drafted citizen soldier adds a whole new dimension to war for the United States, good and bad. When I finish reading the book I will have one more thing blog about, I’m sure. I had previously purchased another book with a kind of insider’s view of the war but at the time it seemed too much of a pro-warrior, my country right or wrong, inside baseball approach. But I’ll have to get back to it sometime, because it too had some actual battle accounts you just don’t get from the standard media. I think those who run the paid media feel that citizens just don’t have the patience or attention span for real stories and the business-oriented management thinks that they don’t sell. This is a long post script. I’ll quit now.


I agree and disagree with McCain (and Obama) on Afghanistan war policy…

March 29, 2009

Just watched Sen. John McCain on Meet the Press and had thoughts that maybe he should have been elected after all.  And maybe if his own party would have done more to support him, he could have won, maybe.

But while I agree with his contention that although he agrees generally with President Obama’s approach in Afghanistan, he, McCain, would favor an even more aggressive approach, I think even McCain is not aggressive enough.

And sorry for the previous awkward sentence; I’m writing this on the fly.

If you read my last blog (just scroll down), you will see that I would propose we either go all out or cut out. While McCain favors more troops than Obama, he suggested that we don’t need to move on Pakistan even though it is aiding and abetting, harboring if you will, our enemy.

I do give McCain credit for saying that Obama should warn the American people that we have a long and hard road ahead there and that there will be a high level of casualties.

And please don’t think I am some type of war hawk. Actually, I would prefer that we cut our losses and get out. But I know that is not going to happen. At least I don’t think so.

I actually think that Mr. Obama has another Vietnam on his hands. And unfortunately, much of the electorate now does not understand, or even care, about the history and legacy of  Vietnam.

It has always been my belief that we could have won in Vietnam, but we might have then been left with a burden.

Even though Vietnam was partly an insurgency, it was also a conventional war with regular North Vietnamese Army troops, pith helmets and uniforms and all, and even tanks, invading South Vietnam. We never effectively cut off the North Vietnamese supply lines, even though we could have, albeit with great cost. But we expended great costs anyway for no favorable result.

Late in the Vietnam War President Nixon did at least one right thing, but failed to follow up — the public mood had turned decidedly against the war by then. He mined Haiphong Harbor, temporarily preventing Soviet supply ships from delivering war materials to the North.  Even though the Soviets threatened directly or indirectly (I don’t recall) nuclear confrontation with us, they backed down, as they always did during the Cold War.

The only logical approach in Afghanistan would be to call up the military draft, throw as many troops in as possible, and support them with our new sophisticated weapons and go for all out victory, which would be complete control of the territory. If the enemy is hiding in the border areas of Pakistan, then we must attack there too.

There is a prevailing thought that in this modern day and age, facing a hard-to-find and even to identify enemy that seems to come out of nowhere and then disperse so we can’t find and kill them, that we have to employ smarter tactics with fewer forces.  I know, I don’t get that either.

Historically, down through the centuries, no one has ever been successful in conquering Afghanistan, not even the once no.2  super power of  the Earth the Soviet Union. That should be instructive.

So the choice is to try to win or realize we can’t and get out.

Obama claimed this week that we are no longer attempting nation building in or image in Afghanistan, but McCain seemed to imply that we should. That worries me.

The only nation we need to build  — or rebuild and maintain — is our own.

McCain seemed reasonable on his economic policy suggestions, but he is in the comfortable position of not having to take the heat as Mr. Obama must.

Again, while I really do not prefer the war option, I would suggest if we choose to stay and fight, then we must go all out with military conscription.

We could solve our unemployment problem overnight and ramp up our sagging industrial sector, which could then in a future peacetime be maintained to keep us self sufficient as a nation.

What we probably should do though is cut our losses over there and pour all of our resources into rebuilding our own economy — while maintaining a strong defense, as opposed to offense — and turn ourselves back into a nation of producers of things rather than consumers of the world who buy our way into insolvency.

P.s.

The reason I doubt we could ever win the hearts and minds of the population in Afghanistan is that they are so backward that they are easy prey for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who help them a little at times, but promise them that all will be better in the great Islamic after life.

After we won World War II, the Germans were more easily subdued because they were already a modern industrial nation with a culture a parrallel to ours. And even Japan, although Asian, was a modern western type industrial nation. And both societies were not broken up into tribes.

P.s. P.s.

Please check out my German-American blog where I’ve composed my own version of the Hansel and Gretel story with a suspect German translation at: http://vonwalther.wordpress.com

Danke


We really need to stop our futile and expensive wars

March 8, 2009

Since World War II we have not fought a conventional war. And we have not really won a war since then.

I did not realize this until I was watching a documentary recently, but it was not until I think the allies started turning the tide against the Germans in North Africa that it was decided that we would fight to an unconditional surrender.

In the other theater of war where we were fighting the Japanese, we eventually showed our resolve for total victory by dropping two A bombs on their island nation.

That is the type of war in which a clear winner and a clear loser can be defined.

We followed up by occupation and submission of the axis powers. We did not cut deals with them.

Since then we have fought wars with no clear cut objectives.

And to go back to World War II, it can be argued as an academic exercise as to whether the United States needed to be involved, remembering that we goaded Japan into its attacks on us, although I don’t suggest that any of our actions actually justified the surprise devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. But that is history. The U.S. took the lead role for free nations against the forces of tyranny represented by the militarists of Japan and Germany. And in the end, we emerged as the world’s leading power.

Since then, we have meddled where perhaps we needn’t have meddled.

Our founding fathers did not set up this nation to be a warring state. They lived in a far different time, but they envisioned a nation that would live under a representative democracy and would allow its citizens to lead peaceful and productive lives away from the war like ways of the kings who fought wars as games of chess, conscripting their citizenry as pawns – but unlike the board game, is was real life and death and misery.

Perhaps becoming a world power spoiled us and made us think we must rule the world.

We are in the confusing position now of benefitting from the security that comes with being the biggest kid on the block and suffering from the vulnerability it creates at the same time (9/11).

I’ve already written too much of a lead in to all of this, because what I really wanted to say is that for my part, I believe we should pull our military back completely to our own shores. We have essentially a failed state or a nation facing armed insurrection to our south, Mexico. We may well need our military here if the war, and there is a real war going on there, spills over onto the north side of the border.

Life is too short for me now to have to mince words and provide all the obligatory remarks that I support the troops, just not the policy (and there I just did).

I was born after World War II. If that was the good war, I can only say there has not been one since.

As a matter of practicality if nothing else, we have to be willing to defend ourselves. But that is as far as I would go to support a military policy.

The idea we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here (and we can’t define who them is) is one of the most senseless pieces of jingoism I have ever heard. We are actually making ourselves weaker by the amount that has been and is being and will be spent in both borrowed money and human capital.

I think the 9/11 attacks were a fluke that may have been far more successful than its perpetrators originally envisioned not only in the one-day destruction, but in us taking the bait of bin Laden and his ilk and once again miring ourselves in wars where we have no clearly defined objectives and no clear cut reason for fighting. And no way of knowing when and if we have won.

Using the logic of hard core war supporters we would be in perpetual war. Even George W. Bush and Dick Cheney glibly envisioned a war without end – we always have to fight the forces of evil. (It is instructive to note that Bush avoided fighting in Vietnam by getting a safe spot in the Air National Guard and then not even attending all the required training and Cheney wimped out with some type of deferment. I don’t blame either one of them for that. I do blame them for then making others fight unnecessary wars, making themselves leading “chicken hawks”).

This is my anti-war stance. The eccentric, but ever pragmatic Ron Paul inspired me. He notes with the money wasted on wars we could make our own lives better. His method would be by returning the money to the people in the way of reduced taxes. I have a hard time seeing the hole in that argument.

I do believe that Barack Obama has become stuck to the Iraq and Afghanistan tar baby.

(And can you imagine if John McCain had been elected? I think he may have suffered irreversable mental degradation from too much time in a dark hole and physical torture.)

(Copyright 2009)