Tag Archives: War

Seeking Meaning at the Tip of a Spear

One of the most fascinating byproducts of my return to college is studying history. I’m currently enrolled in a class named Introduction to Western Civilizations. The course begins with the Ancient Babylonians and Sumerians and the wonder of the Fertile Crescent. Yesterday we were introduced to Henry VIII. I recently finished our semester project, an exhaustive research paper that was to be heavily sourced and presented to an instructor quite familiar with the material. This was one I couldn’t fudge. I trudged through and received a much better grade than I had expected.

The subject of my paper was Alexander the Great and his impact on current military strategy and tactics.

We have been exposed to a wealth of material about wars through the ages. Prior to the Common Era, or the existence of Christ and the acceptance of monotheism, most, if not all of the conflicts revolved around land or access to natural resources.

But the common theme of warfare since the emergence of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, et al, has been the persecution of those individuals whose views did not comport with their own. In other words, if you don’t worship my idol, the value of your life is nothing and you have become a threat to my belief system. Therefore, I will kill you.

Clearly outrageous behavior back in those dark days before science enlightened us and allowed us to think critically and resolve many of the mysteries that were deified in ancient times.

I truly believe that deep within each man and woman, there is an unexplained (as of yet) hunger for meaning in our lives. Why are we here? What is our purpose? Compelling questions that have endured through the ages…along with the accompanying fear that if thy neighbor doesn’t share our conception of our god, it’s okay, if not encouraged…to kill them.

I am a spiritual man. I am not an atheist. I pray daily. I pray to an unseen spirit or energy. I don’t know what form my God takes. I deeply respect the freedom all mankind shares in worshiping whatever God they choose. I do not respect their ancient need to kill each other over these beliefs.

The inherent value of studying history is that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors.

For those of you who hold a certainty about the form and existence of your God, I applaud you. I also ask that you put the spear down and let the rest of us worship our own God.

After all, don’t you think that’s the answer to the question: WWJD?



Reaping What We Sow…

Syria is in our face.

We can’t run and we can’t hide. President Obama recklessly painted us into this corner when he declared there was a “red line” with regard to Syrian use of chemical weapons.  But his ill-advised rhetoric is not to blame.

Truman began this descent into Constitutional madness, and our lack of Congressional accountability has fomented it.

Without rehashing an endlessly fascinating (I’m being a serious wonk here) debate on the merits and legality of nation states taking violent, war-like action against other states, I submit that our constitution would be served best by at least trying to maintain an appearance of balance with regard to the Executive and Legislative branches when it comes to “declaring war”.  Or in this case, utilizing American military resources to strike another country.

Here’s where it’s gone all wrong. Truman  unilaterally launched our now famous “police action” in Korea, and ever since, the Executive branch has used that as a green light to launch all manner of military excursions.

There is a real honest and important policy consideration to be undertaken (as yet hopelessly mired in politics) regarding the use of American military forces in the interests of protecting the citizens of rogue states and merciless strongmen.  Think Rwanda where our inaction facilitated the genocide there. Or the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia.

When is it appropriate for us to become the worlds policemen?  Is it in the interest of our national security or simply a moral imperative?

Sadly, we are unlikely to have this debate. As surely as we are unlikely to systematically parse the actual legality of the action the Executive branch appears to be headed towards.

Why?  Because our system of government is broken.  The powers of the Executive branch have exceeded their intended boundaries as critically as our failed attempts at election reform have filled our Congress with short-sighted, career politicians with no understanding or the word compromise.

A poll released today states that a majority of Americans want Congressional approval before any military action is taken. In a perfect, “Constitutional” world, I support that sentiment.

But let me repeat: our system is broken and the only result of attempting to get Congressional approval would be another vote along party lines. No actual compromise or representative government would be seen within miles of the beltway. It would be another facade.

Do I think military action in Syria is the right move? Yes…but I simply despise the way we got here.

We are paying the price for decades of political instant gratification that began with Truman and masterfully exploited during the era of the “Great Communicator” himself.

We have only ourselves to blame…


Jihad Misharawi carries his son’s body at a Gaza hospital. (AP)

It’s time to stop.  It’s time for the Israeli government to step up and think outside the box…make a bold and courageous move and make the necessary concessions to the Palestinians.  You won’t be rewarding aggression, you will be claiming the moral high ground and saving lives…generations worth of lives.  This is the only way this conflict will end and the only way Israel can step on the right side of history.

And the Obama administration needs to take the lead on this.  There are countless moderate voices within the Israeli population that are yearning for peace and for rational decision-making.  Netanyahu and his ilk must go and the American government and the moderates within Israel must do this NOW.

Enough.  It’s time.  The government of Israel has become what they fear most, a despotic instrument of terror that is out of touch and out of control.  They have rightfully responded to repression in the past with force, but that time has long since come and gone.  They are now like the bully who responds to being hit with a pebble by blasting their weak attacker with a shotgun.

There is no way the United States government can continue to support this current tragedy in Gaza.  As Gershon Baskin said in a recent New York Times editorial “This was not inevitable, and cooler heads could have prevailed.”  We are clearly on the wrong side of history here and on the wrong side of the moral compass.  Yes, Israel has a right to defend herself from rocket attacks from Hamas and yes Hamas is a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel but has the decades long offensive against the Palestinians taught us nothing?  This ridiculous schoolyard tit-for-tat has become a lightning rod for Islamic fundamentalists and radicals throughout the region and has further threatened the security of the United States.

Stop the offensive in Gaza RIGHT NOW, remove Netanyahu and bring a moderate voice to the table, make the tough concessions that are needed to remove this cancer in the middle east and move forward.  As the photo above shows, we are long past the time for nationalistic pride on both sides…it’s time to end this conflict…swiftly and courageously.

The New “Civil” War…

Retro is big these days…from fashion to politics. Yes, I said politics. The Civil War is back…emphasis on “civil” but the similarities between the issues that divided our country 150+ years ago are right around the corner.

The first salvo was fired by Reagan and his brand of “you don’t have to be smart to be President” style of leadership. This was followed by a much more vile pattern of behavior by one Karl Rove.  The master of dirty politics. The savant of “the ends justify the means”…both men shortsightedly employing short-term solutions for long-term problems.

Demagogues. It doesn’t matter if they lie as long as the electorate buys it…and it’s what you want to hear. Many argue that our current President falls into that category to which I respond…wrong…simply…wrong.  That argument is another among many twisted by the Rove/Fox/Hannity spin machine.  Truth doesn’t matter anymore.  Witness Romney’s debate “win”.

I’m a liberal.  I’m unlikely to be persuaded by your right-wing point of view.  I’m even less likely to be persuaded by it if you come at me with misinformation, intimidation and name-calling.  My opinion clearly is at odds with a portion of this country.  30 years ago that would be called a two-party system.  Today, my opinion opens me up to personal attack and charges of disloyalty to my country and plain stupidity.

I don’t troll the websites of Republicans or other people with whom my views diverge.  At times however I do have occasion to see their comments and views and it scares the living hell out of me.  Perhaps they feel that way about my views, but I don’t feel the need to post my opinions of them on their websites.  I’d like to but I don’t.  For one thing, it’s a waste of time. I’m not going to change their opinion by posting provocative content. For another thing, it’s disrespectful to the process.  A process that not so long ago used to be a great deal more “civil” than it is today. Responsibility for that can be primarily assigned to the Karl Rove’s of the world.  You may disagree with that, but, sadly for you…it is one of those pesky, socially verifiable facts that Rove and Fox “News” have ingratiated this culture of hate into our political discourse.

I work a full-time job and am a single parent.  I don’t have nearly as much time to fact check and investigate the prescient political issues as I would like and I suspect I am the rule rather than the exception.  So most of us gravitate to those individuals and institutions that “feel” right.  For me, that’s the Democratic and socially liberal platform…and the godsend that is Jon Stewart.  For you, it may be Fox and the conservative platform.  Here’s the deal…we probably both don’t have time to independently verify our facts, so to that end, rather than engage in the self-defeating exercise of personal criticism, let’s make reasoned arguments from our heart, and do our best to not let our passion eclipse our humanity or sense of community.

If we don’t follow this path, I am truly afraid that the “civil” war will become another Civil War…

And then it didn’t hurt so much…

It’s been a fascinating week watching my daughter (via social media), across the country, get settled into her dorm at college in D.C.  Equally fascinating has been my reaction to this whole fiasco.  As previously documented, it was pretty tough on me when she left.  My pride and joy was moving across the country to begin, what will no doubt be,  her swan song as far as the father/daughter Maslow’s physiological and safety phase of our relationship.  That makes me sad.

What makes me guilty is the fact that my daughter is going to college and she’s not being deployed.  So far so good with my 16 year old son, he’s not likely to enlist and will be college bound.  As I wallowed in my pity this week I read an article about parents whose son was near the end of his deployment in Afghanistan and was killed with less than two weeks prior to his demobilization.

I cannot imagine the sacrifice these young men and women, let alone their parents are making.  I am so far separated from their reality it just doesn’t feel right.  Advocates have suggested bringing back the draft as a means of sharing the sacrifice and raising awareness of the reality of armed conflict, but I’m not sure that’s the answer.  Maybe it’s just a matter of a parent like me being aware…being aware that I haven’t yet had to share the sacrifice of others and be damn glad I haven’t.  Maybe it’s a matter of gratitude manifested in political action and outreach and outrage that so many of our national treasures, young men and women like my own, are being sacrificed for what???  My father fought in World War II.  There was a clear national resolve and purpose in that war.  At the outset of the war in Afghanistan, I believe we could make the same case.  But then we allowed our President to carry on a sick personal agenda in Iraq and our focus in Afghanistan was terminally damaged.

I am sad my daughter is gone.  But, God willing, she will come home.  I am so grateful I can say that.  Other’s can’t.  And we should not forget that…


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