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.


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.

No relief valve for another Great Depression…

December 1, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

It could indeed get ugly quick if things don’t turn around economically.

I wonder if we as a nation have the fortitude to stand up to and endure something like or even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Speaking in broad generalities, we’ve had it too soft for too long, two or three or more generations now.

And there is no relief valve.

Back in the 30s a large portion of the population still lived out on the farms. A lot of folks had to leave the cities and move in with relatives still down on the farm. At least they had somewhere to go.

And then came World War II, the biggest relief valve of all. Young and not so young men were called up or joined the military in droves (women volunteered too), while a large portion of the workforce was directly or indirectly employed in the war effort.

A lot of women got a chance to do men’s jobs and did quite well at it (and I have something to add somewhat relative to that at the end of the blog).

But this time around there are not all those farms out there to go back to. Besides, not all the folks who live out in the country are into raising their own food as they might have back in the 30s. I recall that back in the 1980s (I think it was) when farmers were having it rough in many rural areas people were reportedly going without enough food even when surrounded by tillable land. It seems that a lot of farmers are more into specialized and big equipment type farming – gardening skills have declined. It was not uncommon back in the 30s for even commercial farmers to raise some of their own food, with vegetable gardens and chickens running around and a hog to butcher and such.

I know there are folks today who have farms or just acreages who practice what you would call subsistence farming. Providing they can pay their taxes and hold onto their land and maybe still have some outside source of income and/or marketable skill, I would think they are in the best position to weather the current economic downturn (aside from those who simply have so much money that they are just insulated from the whole thing).

By and large, though, we are just not self-sufficient enough to get by. We are extremely vulnerable to any economic upset, price surge in fuel (it could easily happen again), or natural disaster (recall Katrina on that last one).

A couple of days without deliveries and the grocery stores would be wiped out.

I saw a rather chilling video news report before I started writing this blog. A black woman working at some type of warehouse – in Detroit I think – was reacting to the fact that they were going to lose their jobs due to the problems in the auto sector. She said young people are already robbing older people and that this will just make it worse.

While I realize that a lack of jobs could lead people to crime, it has been my observation that by and large the criminal element is the criminal element (black and white and Asian) regardless of the state of the economy. On the other hand, if people get desperate enough, that is if they get hungry enough, anything could happen.

If people will trample a store worker to death to get early Christmas bargains (as happened last Friday on Long Island), what would they do in a real desperate situation?

I also read a story in today’s newspaper that said the survivalist movement so popular in the 1990s has experienced a resurgence. What has always made me wonder about those folks who head for the hills with their canned and freeze dried food and their guns and who say the government is the enemy, is what do they think will happen if our government really did break down. Would they be able to stand up to well-equipped outside invaders?

While I do understand some of the sentiments (not all) of the survivalists, I am just as wary about them as I would be about the mob or outside invaders or the government. (In the same vein, I am no more comfortable with the liberal judge who lets a criminal go free than with the vigilante mob out for blood or even the jury who decides to ignore the evidence or lack of it.)

You may have read about that so-called Russian analyst who wrote a paper with the thesis that the U.S. will fall apart and break into separate nations. I doubt that. And I certainly hope that would not be the case.

United we stand, divided we fall.

P.s. When I was in college a little firecracker of a woman attorney gave one of my classes a presentation. She had represented some female employees of a Sacramento area defense plant during , I think, the Korean War. The women were doing some highly technical work on gyroscopes used in jet aircraft. They taught men how to do the job and then wound up working for those men who then became their supervisors. They also had to suffer sexual indignities on the job. That attorney eventually got them a big settlement.