Are we safer? – not so per The Washington Post editorial

The following editorial by Joe Scarborough called “Trumps ignorance has created an international crisis” appeared in The Washington Post. It is not an isolated opinion, as variations of concerns can be found in other publications. Yet, this is the first one where reference to the president’s “ignorance” of history and the gravity of the situation is not reassuring to us or our allies.

My concern is the assassination has galvanized hatred toward the US in the martyred Soleimani. Instead of more reasonable relations with Iran via the Nuclear Agreement, by going against the wishes of our five allies who co-signed the agreement, we are escalating tensions with “no off ramp” per former Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullens. And, we have destabilized our relations with Iraq as well.

Yet, what troubles as much is how we have harmed our relationships with our allies. The US is not trusted because our president is untrustworthy. How does this make us safer? Coupled with the national security risk following the Ukraine shadow diplomacy and strong-arming and the answer is we are not safer under this president.

Please read the attached brief editorial. It will not be reassuring.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-trumps-ignorance-has-created-an-international-crisis/ar-BBYGezL?ocid=spartandhp

Our Republic is under attack by its president says a retired admiral

An increasing number of people with gravitas are going on record to heighten concerns over the abuse of powers and attempts to obstruct such from view by the US president. Thomas Friedman has penned an excellent editorial along these lines (below is a link to a blog which includes Friedman’s piece). He contrasts the political courage and heroic words under oath of Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to the words at various rallies by the US president calling those who criticize him as enemies of the state.

Also, below is a link to a summary of an editorial by retired Admiral William McRaven, who led the raid on Osama Bin Laden among other career accomplishments. He has penned a piece that is simply called “Our republic is under attack from the president.” As he notes, this is not just McRaven’s opinion as an unnamed General took him aside and said the president is a threat and has to go. The summary starts out with the following statement:

“Former Adm. William McRaven (Ret.) argued in an op-ed Thursday that President Trump is ‘destroying’ the United States, warning that the future of the country is ‘in peril if Trump is not removed from office.'”

As more reasoned voices who mitigated Trump’s worst instincts and impulses have left the building, the nation should be concerned. We have an unshackled president who prides himself on not doing any homework. As conservative pundit David Brooks said yesterday – the score after the Kurds were abandoned is Erdogan 56, Trump 0. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said the following in a editorial in The Washington Post about the grave mistake to withdraw support from the Kurds:

“Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances. Sadly, the recently announced pullout risks repeating the Obama administration’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq, which facilitated the rise of the Islamic State in the first place.”

I have long believed the US president is a clear and present danger to our democracy, to our planet and to the Republican party. The latter group is beginning to realize that fact. I hope it is not too late. They need to call upon a dose of that political courage of Ms. Yovanovitch and others who are telling the truth knowing a vindictive president will react.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/ex-special-ops-commander-our-republic-is-under-attack-from-the-president/ar-AAIWxE8?ocid=spartandhp

The Words Of A Wise Man

The only woman in the room – a novel about the amazing true story of Hedy Lamarr

Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler was born in Austria and would later become a famous and beautiful actress known as Hedy Lamarr. But, her story is far more compelling and complicated than that. Marie Benedict penned a novel based on Lamarr’s incredible true life story called “The only woman in the room.” Not only was she an iconic actress, she was a scientist and was in the room when her domineering husband, a munitions manufacturer in Austria, hosted Austrian, Nazi and Italian leaders.

I will stop short of giving the story away, but this fast-paced novel told in first person, provides a narrative of a woman frightened by her first husband and the plans she overheard. Staying only with the teaser written on the back cover, she would eventually flee to London where she met a movie mogul who was recruiting actors and actresses leaving Europe as Hitler expanded his evil reach.

Yet, she would lament what was transpiring in her homeland, as a Jew and as an transplanted Austrian. So, based on what she heard in these many meetings back in Austria, she would work with a talented avante garde pianist and composer to devise an electronic communication system for the war effort that laid a foundation that is used today. I will stop there at this strange point, so as not to say too much. I will leave you thinking the obvious – an actress and a pianist did this?

The book found its way to The New York Times best seller list. It is a quick and compelling read. I highly recommend this book as it is far more than an unknown history lesson.

Summer of ’69 – a few things to remember

While 1968 was a year of significant occurrences, we are now reflecting on the events of fifity years ago in 1969. Bryan Adams sang of this year from a personal standpoint in “Summer of ’69,” so it is a great way to kick off:

“I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it till my fingers bled
It was the summer of ’69
Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I should’ve known we’d never get far
Oh when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Ya I’d always want to be there
Those were the best days of my life”

This song was penned by Adams and James Douglas Vallance and reveals how the band was so important to the life of the singer. Yet, I find of interest how he interjects how life rears its head and alters the dreams. I do not know how autobiographical the song is, but I am glad Adams stuck with it, as he has crafted and performed many memorable songs.

Fifty years ago, we saw the final straw that caused action to occur on environmental protection. Following the reaction to Rachel Carson’s push with ‘Silent Spring,” the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire as it was so polluted by chemical dumping. Seeing this in retrospect, it amazes me that companies would dump or drain chemical run-off into a river and be surprised by the result. Within six months, President Nixon inked the law to create the Environmental Protection Agency, one of his two greatest accomplishments (opening dialogue with China was the other).

Later this summer, we will reflect on Neil Armstrong taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he is the first human to walk on the moon. Buzz Aldrin would soon join him for a lunar walkabout. These actions opened up science as a possible career for many young people and it also showed us that we are mere occupants on our planet. So, it is crucial we take care of where we live for our children and grandchildren. Maybe this helped provide additional context for enacting the EPA.

In August, will be the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock where 300,000 or so people ventured to a farm in upstate New York for a three day concert. This event still amazes me and I am intrigued by a friend’s recounting of what happened as he was there as a young college student. From his view, he remembers there were so many people, things like food, water and restrooms were dear. He recalls making food runs for people. The music and atmosphere were wonderful, but the challenges are overlooked in memory.

Finally, people who do not follow baseball or football will yawn, but this was the year of two huge upsets, which in actuality, should not have been as surprising. In January, Broadway Joe Namath led the New York Jets over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. Namath had bragged that they would win the game the preceding week, but what many failed to realize, Namath had a terrific set of receivers and two of the best running backs in the game. This win led to the merger of two rival football leagues.

In October, the New York Mets easily won the baseball World Series over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles (it was a tough year for Baltimore fans). For the first part of the decade, the new Mets were the worst team in baseball. What was underestimated by the Orioles is the Mets had two future Hall of Fame pitchers – Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan and another excellent one in Jerry Koosman. Good pitching will beat good hitting almost every time. I mention these two events as when you look under the hood, the outcomes are less surprising, even though they were at the time.

The decade ended with two eventful years. Unfortunately, the US remained in Vietnam fighting a war which, we learned later, we knew we could not win. Many Americans and Vietnamese died, as a result fighting a war that would last several more years. We should remember people die in wars, before we go out and fight another one. As a Vietnamese soldier said in Ken Burns’ documentary on the war, people who feel they can win a war, have never fought in one.

 

 

Credibility

Former CIA Director Michael Morell said on CBS Morning News today he is persuaded from the evidence Iran is most likely behind the attacks on Japanese and Norwegian tankers. Yet, he also spoke about a credibility problem the US must overcome to convince its allies. He is not alone as newspapers in the European Union and United States have made similar reports.

Morell notes the US faces three credibility issues and he does so with chagrin and in a matter-of-fact way.

First, he said the US is remembered for the ardent and contrived evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction that led to the invasion of Iraq. This information helped build a coalition of support. A UK commission faulted both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair for being less than forthcoming.

Second, Morell said “let’s face it,” the US president is known for being untruthful on a recurring basis. So, anything he says must be verified. America is less trusted because its White House incumbent is untrustworthy.

Third, many allies view the US as contributing to this mess. By pulling out of a nuclear deal between Iran and six countries, when our allies and US intelligence noted Iran was in compliance, set us on a different path forward. It should be noted Secretary of Defense Mike Mattis said at that time we should remain in the deal. By asserting more pressure on Iran, we are pushing buttons that need not be pushed.

Morell said neither country wants to go to war, but all it will take is an attack on US interests or Saudi Arabia or Israel acting aggressively. It could be an actor that wants to instigate a fight. This should worry us.

I do not disagree with Morell and have tended to find him a voice of reason. What also concerns me is a president who is not (nor cares to be) a student of history and is more concerned with perception than reality. Reality is about to bite him on the behind and we have damaged one of our greatest strengths – our allied relationships.

In memoriam

My father passed away in 2006. He was a veteran of the Korean Conflict. For some reason it was not worthy of being deemed a war, but still many people died.

My father was a sailor on board an aircraft carrier during the Conflict. He did not talk much about the fighting, but I do remember two things he shared – the limited 25 second showers and the Blue Nose Society.

The former was divided up as five seconds of water. Stop. Lather up. Stop, Then, rinse off with the final twenty seconds. The latter is a card given to the sailors for morale purposes when the ship crossed the Arctic Circle. It was the Navy’s way of saying, it’s cold, so here is a card.

War or conflict is difficult. People are in harm’s way and too many do not survive or are impacted physically and/ or mentally. Often, harm comes to people for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think of this when I read articles on D-Day. Death was random.

Today, I read of a sailor who let men off on shore at Normandy. As soon as he let the gate down, the bullets riddled in and soldiers were killed before they got out of the boat. The movie “Saving Private Ryan” captures the randomness of those who gave up their lives on that beach.

Yet, to honor these men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we need for our leaders to do everything in their power to avoid conflict. They need to do everything in their power to staff and supply our people. And, they need to have a clear goal for success. The soldiers and sailors deserve that.

Let’s think good thoughts for our friends and relatives who fought and died on our behalf. And, let’s say an extra prayer for those in harm’s way today.

$60 Billion, James Mattis and ISIS

Here is a sample letter I posted to a few Senators’ websites. Please feel free to adapt and use with your Senators and Congressperson. I encourage people to reach out to their legislators, commenting on good work and needed efforts.

************************************************************************

Senator, three thoughts to chew on:

– the southern border wall will take $30 billion to build and $30 billion to maintain – it is not a just $5 billion issue. It also will do little to solve a problem which is blown out of proportion (per new Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when he called it a “simplistic solution” in 2015).

– James Mattis’ resignation is very troubling as we lost a brilliant mind who understands the value of global relationships and the history behind them. We lost a key governor of a mercurial and ill-informed man and the world and our nation is a less safe place. A wall cannot overcome these concerns.

– I understand the reason for leaving Syria, but the work is not done and this was handled in a very offensive way, not conferring with allies, Congress and our military leaders. It shows a lack of good faith dealing which is par for the course with this ego-centric President.

Please protect our nation’s interests addressing real problems. Also, please safeguard Robert Mueller, as this investigation may be our best hope to remedy a major problem in the White House, which is fast-getting out of control. The Trump legacy will haunt our planet, nation and the Republican party, which has lost its footing.

Some truths that could shape debate

Things have not always been the way they are. By itself, that should force us to ask questions. Here are a few of those truths.

– Catholic priests used to be allowed to marry. Some who did not get the memo continued to marry hundreds of years after the Vatican stopped the practice. To me, married priests would solve a major problem for the church.

– Marijuana has long been used for medicinal purposes. Prior to the 1930s movie “Reefer Madness,” it was a centuries old treatment. Now, scientific evidence supports Cannabis as very helpful with pain, seizures, anxiety and other ailments. The remaining states who do not allow at least medical Marijuana should reflect on this.

– Bigotry has to be carefully taught. Seeing the movie “Operation Finale,” about the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1961, it shed a spotlight on the following. Nazism was alive and well in Argentina as Juan Peron made it more than a safe haven after the war. If we do not remember our moral compass and shine a light on this bigotry, it will continue to fester. This is a key reason the US President tripping over the low bar of leadership against bigotry is so problematic. It is not right to denigrate people saying they have lesser rights than others.

– Finally, hyper-nationalism has been a recipe for problems and poor relationships among countries for multi-millennia. The world is safer and more prosperous the more it works together and trades commerce. This must be remembered as people in the position of power retrench into their own cocoons.

That is all for now. Let me know what you think or offer some other truths.

We should listen to rational experienced voices

In 2002, Jim Webb penned an op-ed in The Washington Post cautioning the US about going into Iraq. Who is Jim Webb? He is a former Marine, Secretary of the Navy and US Senator from Virginia. He has a law degree from Georgetown and has been a member of both political parties serving under multiple Presidents.

Two paragraphs from his pre-invasion op-ed piece are telling:

“The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. The second is that a long-term occupation of Iraq would beyond doubt require an adjustment of force levels elsewhere, and could eventually diminish American influence in other parts of the world….

Other than the flippant criticisms of our ‘failure’ to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years.”

It should be noted we have been in Iraq for  over fifteen years. Maybe, the chest beaters should listen to those who have fought and have experience rather than people who understand less what fighting and occupying a country mean.This was a crossroad moment in our history and we have not been the same since. Many thousands of American and allied troops died, even more Iraqi troops and civilians died, our reputation has suffered and our debt is much higher. Plus, he was right on the money about American influence being impacted around the globe. Lying to allies and others about weapons of mass destruction has that kind of effect, not to mention misunderstanding the landscape.

Right now, almost 200 former military and intelligence officers have penned letters being critical of the US President’s decision to withdraw security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. This follows earlier criticism of the same President on his siding with Russia over his intelligence officials or not heeding the advice of his more experienced folks.

Call me crazy, but maybe we should listen to the more rational and experienced voices? They may be telling us something we need to hear. We owe it to Amercans fighting for our county to take the time to get it right.

Relationships with countries are vital

There are no perfect people, so we cannot expect perfect leaders. There are also no perfect countries, so we cannot expect perfect agreements among countries. To respond to these short-comings, we must do our best to value relationships.

This works for people as it does for countries. An ambassador noted America’s strengths are its military might and its relationships with other countries. Our relationships predate the existing leadership team, so it is imperative to nurture them. This will help us resolve problems as they arise.

This is not just a US problem where its current front man acts rashly and chaotically, breaks commitments and agreements and lies more than he does not. He has made America less trustworthy and other countries are finding a need to seek better agreements with others that do not include the US.

The imperfect European Union is experiencing significant tension with the pending Brexit, the current difficulties in Italy and the growing nationalistic movements in EU countries. This is made worse by targeted social media efforts by countries that would benefit from a dysfunctional EU and US. Russia is one of those countries and they have been accused of such targeting.

A key part of these relationships is a financial one. The global economy is larger than it otherwise would be due to these relationships. If each country only tried to maximize its own profits in a zero-sum effort, the total pie is smaller and we all lose. This concept is called the Nash Equilibrium, which won John Nash a Nobel Prize in Economics.

Yet, it is more than that. These relationships make the world more secure and safe. The nationalists argue the opposite, but the more commerce is intertwined, leaders work harder to nourish those relationships. A strong EU makes Europe safer and prosperous. A strong relationship with the US and other countries does the same.

Yet, these agreements are imperfect. Not every citizen within a country may benefit equally from a global economy. There is a graph called the “Elephant Curve,” which is a silhouette of an elephant with its trunk raised. The body forms the rampant growth in income of the poorest workers around the world, while the trunk represents the even more significant growth in the highest income earners. The trough inbetween represents the middle income earners who are seeing stagnant incomes, who are in more flourishing economies. This trough has led to populist politicians who over-simplify the problems and come to short-sighted solutions.

Their needs must be addressed, but first we must understand the causes are more than the global economy. The larger threat is techonology advancements. Through our relationships we must invest together on addressing these issues. If we do not, we will create zero-sum contrasts, that will cause even more tension. The rise of fascism in Germany evolved out of dire economic circumstances after WWI.

This last example should inform us of why working collectively is so important. We must value our relationships and make them as beneficial as possible. Going it alone may seem like a good idea to some, but we need to think through the benefit of trade and mutual investment in each other.

If this concept sounds theoretical, let me explain it better by BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan making cars in America, with GM and Ford making cars around the world. And, Chrysler is owned by Fiat, an Italian company. Jobs are created as we invest in each other’s countries. This is true for other industries and suppliers. And, we may be less inclined to create war, when so much is invested in each other.