Thursday, May 31, 2012

Winning the LONG WAR, a book review

I’ve pulled from my professional reading list a book by James Jay Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig, published by the Heritage Foundation © 2005 entitled Winning the Long War, Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom.  I have to say it is an excellent guide to the problems we will face with the threats to stability from terrorist groups.
Its discussion and recommendations are based on the U.S. experiences and national approaches of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, a different but equally real threat to national security.  What I found most enlightening was discussion of a document I had not heard of until this book.  In the winter of 1946, George F. Keenan was an ambitious Foreign Service Officer in the Moscow Embassy.  The ambassador was back in the United States, and it fell to Mr. Keenan to answer daily queries from Washington on things like why the Soviets were unwilling to participate in new organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.[i]  He wrote what was to become known as "The Long Telegram" that captured what would become the essence of a blue print on how America should deal with the Soviet Union on the world stage.
Mr. Kennan laid out the strengths and vulnerabilities of the Soviet society and his analysis on how to counter-balance those strengths to assure U.S. survival.  Messrs. Carafano and Rosenzweig believe the last 350 words of this missive hold the keys to U.S. success and survival on what will be a potential war without end against terrorists with an increasingly deadly capability at their finger tips.  I would like to take excerpts from Mr. Keenan’s telegram and with just one simple change show how relevant his thoughts are for today. 
“In summary, we have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus vivendi that is desirable and necessary that the international harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of live be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet [terrorist] power is to be secure.”
“(1) [Terrorist] power, unlike that of Hitlerite Germany, is neither schematic nor adventunstic.  It does not work by fixed plans… Impervious to logic of reason it is highly sensitive to logic of force…”
“(2) Gauged against Western World as a whole, [terrorists] are still by far the weaker force.  Thus, their success will really depend on degree of cohesion, firmness and vigor which Western World can muster.  And this is factor which is within our power to influence.
“(3) Success of [a terrorist] system, as a form of internal power [or global coordination] is not yet finally proven.  It has yet to be demonstrated that it can survive (the) supreme test of successive transfer of power from one individual or group to another”
“(4) All [terrorist] propaganda beyond [their] security sphere is basically negative and destructive.  It should be relatively easy to combat it by an intelligent and really constructive program”
Keenan concludes his telegram with five recommendations on how the U.S. must deal with the Communist threat.  Those recommendations remain as valid today as yesterday when confronting any group that seeks the destruction of a free society.
1)    We must recognize the threat for what it is, and study it with “courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which a doctor studies (an) unruly and reasonable individual.”
2)   The public must be educated and made aware of the realities that lead to terrorism.  “There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown.”
3)   The strength of our society in open debate and free trade is critical.  “[Terrorism] is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue.”  “Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems in our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit in our own people, is a diplomatic victory…”
4)    “We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of (the) sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in the past.”
5)   “Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society.  After Al(sic), the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of [terrorism], is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping."

[i] Carafano & Rosenzweig, Winning the Long War, Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom, Heritage Books, Washington, DC, 2005, p. 2

Sunday, May 27, 2012

When We Were a Young Nation

When we were a young nation we didn’t have time to celebrate so much, we were too busy.  We were mostly an agrarian lot, with farmers in the fields, and fisherman along the cost.  Of course we had merchants and craftsman, and the industries necessary to support that farming foundation.  With large families we grew and grew and grew.  For those who were dissatisfied with their station in life there was tremendous opportunity to change, to move to new lands, and start over again.  All this was done with a minimum of government assistance and interference.
Thanks to a few bold men we expanded to fill the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  After some struggle we came to find agreement with Mexico and Canada on what are now our borders.
We have had our disagreements over how this nation should shape itself and what freedom really means.  When we started out, the idea of slavery was acceptable, even though a few visionaries had come to realize the evil of it.  Many of our original European forefathers had paid their way to this new land as indentured servants, and for their term were no better than slaves.  The real issue was the involuntary servitude of the African’s, brought to this new land to toil in the fields and serve their masters, principally in the southern states with their large cotton and tobacco plantations, with no expectation of freedom at the end.
To create this nation, those who realized the evil of slavery were not at first able to force the issue, and had to settle for compromise with the representatives of states like South Carolina and Georgia. But like any infection it was inevitable this would fester and inflame until it broke out in open war.
This great civil war forced the issues of slavery and states rights on the entire nation and cost the lives of 620,000 Americans.  In the end we remained one nation, and the African slaves were freed in Lincoln’s Presidential Order, the Emancipation Proclamation. 
Following the conflict, the Grand Army of the Potomac set out to remember those union soldiers who had fallen in the great struggle.  The women of the South had started a similar push.  I imagine there was some national consensus we not forget the men who had fought and died in the painful fight to determine if, as Abraham Lincoln so succinctly said, “…this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
So it came to pass that May 30 was set aside, not as marker to begin summer but as a day to remember the sacrifices of those men, and women, who placed service before self, and have given their last full measure that America remain a land where freedom exists.  Where we have the right, like any family, to squabble among ourselves, but let there be no mistake, if an oppressor should view this as weakness they would find an unmistakable resilience and resolve in our core.  It is not shaped by the politics of the day, but a deep belief in our right to self-determination and despite what some would have us believe, a unified view by all of us that the USA is a great place worth defending.
On this day I hope each of you have a chance to hug your loved ones, feel the warmth of freedom with your families, and spend just a few moments reflecting on those who have not come home, or are in distant lands so that you may complain about the economy, or the political campaign, or even the dog catcher.
Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day

My poor words will not do justice to this day.  A time when we perhaps spend a few minutes thinking about those who have served this nation.  Offering their lives in its defense, or the ideals it stands for.  These men and women, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters left behind loved ones who morn their passing, yet must carry on with the act of living.
I can think of no better tribute than that paid by President Abraham Lincoln for the Americans, both Union and Confederate, who died on the bloody fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where Will We be in 2014?

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" ~ George Santayana
2014 is the year President Obama is claiming US Forces, well most of the conventional forces anyway, will complete their withdrawal from OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM – Afghanistan, and the majority of the nation will believe we’ve ended this war that has been going on since September 11, 2001.  The question is will we leave Afghanistan a better place, able to grow into a viable state, or will it be the same as we found it, a land locked country whose principle cash crop is opium, and the control of that crop goes to the strongest warlord?  Will the struggle for power continue as it was when the Soviets installed their puppet regime and were forced to leave, or will the warlords engage in something that looks like democratic politics?
I remember a phrase I first heard as a college senior, near the end of the Vietnam War.  On January 23, 1973, President Nixon announced to the nation that Henry Kissinger, representing the U.S., and Le Doc Tho, representing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, had reached agreement ending the war in Vietnam.  In that speech he indicated  this marked a turning point where the U.S. and South Vietnam, and North Vietnam had achieved a “Peace with Honor,” where our Prisoner’s of War would be returned, and the people of South Vietnam would have a right to determine their own future, without outside interference.  We know how well that peace was observed, but in the end it worked itself out.  Vietnam was not actually the domino so many thought it to be, and communism did not spread throughout the world to destroy capitalism.
But Afghanistan and the Islamic Jihad is a little bit different.  Today the threat isn’t with a political ideology but a political theology.  Afghanistan isn’t a surrogate for other states to play out their struggles, it is an incubation chamber where religious intolerance, and hatred is nurtured with the use of monies made from the sale of opium.  Just as the United States and European governments are turning away from the principles of Judeo-Christian government, the poorest countries are turning toward Islamic fundamentalism to combat the secular western influence.
So the question for our President and for all of us as we approach this withdrawal is how do you shape a nation who disagrees so violently with the fundamental tenets of a nation built on the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of justice that no matter how hard our secular government tries it can never be viewed as an ally?  When we leave Afghanistan will we have this generations “Peace with Honor” moment where it is just a matter of time until the western backed government falls to the Taliban extremists and we return to the days of blowing up Buddhist statues as they did in the 1990’s, while the world cried out its outrage but did little more? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

In Pursuit of the Truth

I hear so many people say we need to see the truth, we need to know the truth, or we need to get to the truth, and so on and so forth.  The longer I am around the more I realize people don’t really want the truth, they want the story to support their already held beliefs.
If, for example, you believe that people who hold strong religious beliefs are nuts, you will believe any story that supports that supposition.  On the other hand if there is some tangential connection between something you believe and those with opposing views, then clearly they are moving to your side, and see the wisdom of your position, not the other way around.
I sit in meeting after meeting where someone will say we have to put the interest of the “warfighter” first.  A pet cliché in the military, but very few do. Since the “warfighter” is a nameless group it usually falls to the generals to discern what is in their interest.  Only rarely does anyone ever really ask someone fresh from combat what he or she needs, and then if it isn’t in line with what the General wants they clearly don’t understand the big picture.
Take for example three separate stories in the news this week.  First we have the on-going public debate over the Travon Martin – George Zimmerman case.  Here we have each side offering fresh and contradictory details on the shooting.  The question is why?  The obvious answer is to keep the case alive in the court of public opinion so that it can be used to support other agendas, or color a potential jury pool so they carry in the preconceived facts of the case.
Next we have the John Edwards trial where his defenders argue that the misuse of campaign funds is okay if he was only trying to cover his infidelities from his dying wife.  Really?
And last, but certainly not least we have the interesting tale of a liberal law professor who claims to be 1/32 Cherokee Indian because one of her family told her she was, she has high cheek bones, and she sent a couple of possibly plagiarized recipes into the “POW WOW CHOW” cook book her cousin was publishing.  As a lifelong victim she appears unable to actually say perhaps she was wrong and move on.  Obviously these attacks on her play into a belief scheme where she is fighting against the oppression of the white man, as she has done all her life.
I guess we all have our own truths?  Except we really don’t!  We may fool others, we may even fool ourselves, but truth and the facts that support the truth don’t change, no matter how hard we try to spin them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When it is All, or Nothing

There are times when you have to go all-in, bet everything you have on the hope for success.  For America’s politicians, fueled by the political talking heads, it seems that every interview, every decision, every choice becomes an all-in proposition.
I was talking today with a younger friend who noted that during primaries the candidates have historically courted the extremes of the parties and then moved toward a more central position for the national campaign.  That appears to be a diminishing possibility as the media exerts pressure for the candidates to remain consistent with every position since high school.  It leads to great headlines and lousy politics.
We have seen for the last three years a President who is unable to moderate his position and leave his principle role as campaigner.  His style is not so much to govern, but to cast the opposition in a negative light.  The opposition plays into this as they struggle to find the theme that will lead to his defeat.
We cast aside the principle issue of how to recover the economy so we can play campaign games in the realm of government mandated and run health care, a supposed “war on woman,” and the us versus them strategies of “the 1%” and “#OWS.”
What concerns me most is the President has now set the standard for behavior for those who follow him, either in 2013 or 2017.
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