Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Year, New Outlook

Happy New Year.

Yes, I know it's March. March and April have long been associated with New Year- new beginnings, new flowers and new life after a long grey/gray winter (grey with an "e" seems more dreary than with an "a"). Spring seems a more appropriate place for a new year than the Gregorian Calendar that places January 1 as the start of all new things...

I have always had more luck when the business of the new year began along with the rise of grass and green. Warm winds blow more favorably than the cold cutting damp knives of January.

As you noticed from my last post. I became disenchanted and frustrated with the NFL, the New England Patriots, our political tussling, the impending holidays and arrival of family from far and near. I was becoming a grouchy curmudgeon. Who would want to read that drivel.- even if I was right... I have tried hold to the advice that Thumper's Father gave him in the movie "Bambi"; "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."... We can all grinch, complain and gripe... My Grandfather used to say "A kicking mule can't pull"... I have decided to stop kicking... well at least as much events allow.

My Grandfather followed a mule plowing for most of his life. My Father graduated from high school during WWII. He could have had a farming deferment. Being young, energetic and having a hangover he spent one morning walking behind the mule watching it's rear end and decided he would rather go fight Germans... He was 20 years old at the Battle of the Bulge... As he aged he remembered the funny times during the war and tried to forget the horrors. He was among a group that liberated a concentration camp. "It was just a little one " my Aunt said... (Her husband spend the war at Fort Dix wrestling paperwork. We didn't spend much time around her. Stupidity might be contagious. We took no chances.)

It affected my Father when he would remember the horrors of what supposedly civilized people had done to others. He had a hard time sleeping for many years. He went from a small town in a corner of Georgia where most farming was still done the way it had been done for 100 years to the world of mechanized genocide. There was one Jewish family in the country. There were no Catholics. Nobody in his world had ever expressed that kind of hatred and evil... There was some bigotry towards blacks, but the depression had hammered the whole countryside. Everybody was broke. It's hard to hate when you're all in the same boat.

My father died in 1959 in a car wreck. That was long ago, far away and ancient history.

Except it's not. George Santayana is attributed to the misquote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". History does seem to run in cycles. It does not run in ruts. Things are never exactly the same as they were before. We can learn something of the future by studying the past and looking for the reasons that people made decisions which led to known results. We do that by studying history. It seems we concentrate too much on battles, elections and personal lives of dictators, kings and royalty. We don't spend enough time looking at the common people. We look at the weapons and great buildings and not at the homes and daily lives of those who make the machinery of civilization work. Yet, when the great leaders need a war, they turn to these people for justification, fodder, support, sacrifice, and sacrifice. When we study businesses we do the same things. We look at the large enterprises, the leaders of these monster corporations... We don't study either the people who make the wheels turn, the paperwork move and the details attended. We don't study successful individuals and look for clues to what habits and traits made them so.

We like to think that we are wise. We are the "thinking ape ". But we are often blind to the people and changes around us. We make plans. We present them for approval, revision, alteration, amendment and finally funding. We give credit to ourselves for our success. When it fails we blame "bad luck " . I have yet to see a successful person attribute their position to "luck " Yet, we study their failures to avoid "bad luck " corrupting our plans... This all seems a bit arrogant to me.

We won WWII. We have no real idea what we did right. We did not have the best trained army. We didn't have the most modern and effective weapons. We were able to build and supply ourselves and our allies. We didn't get into a war of attrition in the traditional sense. We did not repeat the meat-grinders of WWI. The more books are written and the more detailed history is revealed, the more I read it as a very close run. We could have lost.

I think the defining difference between WWI and WWI was American leadership and the spirit of the American people. We were at war. We had been attacked. We struck back and then began the the search for allies, understanding the enemy and preparation to win. We faced an enemy that had attacked its neighbors, had enslaved its citizens and slaughtered thousands because they didn't fit some grand design. We faced an enemy that had wealth, intelligence, cunning, a ruthless disregard for human life be it their own forces or their enemies or the innocents. They were killers willing to use the most modern weapons and means to make the world into a better place for their kind. We had no illusions about their barbarism. We were clear in our commitment that their kind could not prevail or only be knocked down to return again stronger and more deadly.

We were attacked again in 1993 and 2001. In 1993, we treated the attack as a police action. We investigated and found the bad guys. We arrested them and gave them civil rights of a citizen and protections that they would never have given us. Throughout the 1990's we were repeatedly attacked. We continued to treat it as a police issue. We'd fire off a few cruise missiles to blow up some tents, an aspirin factory and bluster about.... We weren't serious about responding militarily. We were afraid of actually facing a serious enemy. We long lived in a delusional world of peace-harmony and political answers to all questions. Our thought leaders were convinced that all evil of the world originated somewhere in America and we should be ashamed of our success. On September 11, 2001 we were attacked by an enemy using airplanes as missiles. Suddenly, we were at war. Our Thought Leaders could not wish away 3,000 dead and replace the vanished buildings.

We faced an enemy that possessed no national homeland, no national boundaries, no national infrastructure, no factories, no government agencies, no way that we could strike back by sending in bombers and cruise missiles. The nation state had dissolved. However, like our enemies from the past these monsters
had attacked in many countries , had enslaved its citizens and slaughtered thousands because they didn't fit some grand design. We faced an enemy that had wealth, intelligence, cunning, a ruthless disregard for human life be it their own forces or their enemies or the innocents. They were killers willing to use the most modern weapons and means to make the world into a better place for their kind. They didn't covet our land, our wealth, or citizens, our peace or our prosperity. They hated us because we would be most likely to oppose their planes for world domination. Of all the nations in the world they chose America aas the toughest one to cow with threats and intimidation. They tested us with their 9/11 attack. They tested our newly elected President. Unfortunately, for them, this time they had a President who was willing to fight.

We went after their asylums in Afghanistan, the Philippines and South East Asia. We have had some successes. We have had a hard time convincing many nations and people that we face a united and organized enemy. Our intelligence and forecasts showed that Iraq, which had killed thousands of Iranians and Iraqi Kurds with poison gas, posed athreat. We went to the UN for sanctions and the authorization to use force to enforce the sanctions. WE asked and waited long months for answers to the future of those weapons of mass destruction. When we had no further choice we invaded and removed Saddam Hussein from power. We then engaged in helping the Iraqi people recover from 35 years of totalitarian dictatorship and subjection. It has been a rough process. We have adjusted and things are improving. The terrorists and criminal sectors of Iraqi society saw an opportunity to seize power. New generals, new tactics and the willingness of the Iraqi people to fight for their new lives have dramatically changed things over the past year. Our newspapers and TV media have chosen to ignore our victories. Our Thought Leaders still see America as the font of all evil in the world...

. Our own military has dubbed this "
the long war". Like previous "long wars" this may take a long time. We Americans have become accustomed to wars of short duration. We have not fought a long war since our struggle fro independence. We had to convince many that our cause was just and our course correct then as well.

Our enemy hides among the citizens of the world. They are as much at home in the highrise towers and hallways of power and wealth of modern cities as they are in villages and mountain caves. They go by many names. They hide behind the words of religion. They find a cover in religious fervor but when they are at full rampage, they take drugs, rape, steal, murder and desecrate without any consideration of any religion or the laws of any god or nation. They are killers. We refer to them Islamofascists or terrorists . We really don't know what to call them because they are very clever at turning our own civil libertarian concerns against us.

We know that they wish to kill us. They wish to attack and slaughter as many of us as possible. This will weaken our resolve and frighten their enemies. They will be able to convert the weak and assume world supremacy and the fulfillment of some nebulous grand design. They seek and will use any weapon that can kill tens of thousands of us in multiple attacks.

We have grown weary of the war. Our citizens have grown tired of the struggle. Our news media wants a different story. (They bore easily). Democracies have never had the long term will to face a tyrant. The longer we go without another attack, the easier it is to want to withdraw. have we not been attacked because of some plan or simply because we have been lucky, thus far.

Our new President will be tested. The Democrats have chosen to hold a race to withdraw from the major battlefield of this war. Altho, most recently they have decided that rather than remove the troops several hundred miles away they want garrison them inside large fortifications. They propose to fight a counterinsurgency war using the trench warfare tactics that created a meat grinder in "the war to end all wars" 90 years ago.

We are at war. Yet, our economy continues to grow and blossom. 95% of all workers are working. 96% of all mortgages are being paid on time. the revenues collected by the US govt are at all time highs. We do not have a draft to call up more military. Oil is expensive, but it is because the markets are uncertain about its availability 90 days from now. The oil speculators are chary of events in the oil producing regions of the world. There is no shortage of oil.

What the high oil prices have done is make alternatives economically viable. In 1977, I heard Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani speak. The first OPEC cartel price increases had shaken the world. Yamani had gone to school in America and knew us well. Like Admiral Yamamoto before him he knew that when they provoked America they "awoke a sleeping tiger". He feared that raising the prices too high or too quickly would prompt American ingenuity to find alternatives to their oil.

We are close to that point now. The high prices at the gas pump are prompting the govt., investors, inventors and entrepreneurs to seek alternatives. Ethanol and soy deisel now provide great farm subsidies but they pose long term problems. Wind and solar power are dependent upon the wind blowing and the sun shining. Improvements in solar power generation chips make it seem that we face another "Moore's Law" style revolution. If all these measures prove as promised what does that mean for the Middle East-?

Without oil wealth at the present level, will the world still scramble for access, control, possession-? If we only need oil as a lubricant, will the terrorists still get their funding-? Will terrorist states still fund their proxy wars-? What will the Islamofascists do when there is no more oil wealth-?

We must remain true to our American principles. We face many problems in the future. However the future is not carved in stone. We can still change the fates that our politicians say are aligned against us.

We cannot surrender to the fear mongers who would make us hide from the future. We cannot solve the problems of the future by retreating into the failed answers of the past. We cannot withdraw from the world. We cannot build walls and barriers to protect ourselves from everything. We are Americans. We are optimistic. We are inventive. We are creative. We are imaginative. We do not "muddle through", except when we are preparing to change the game...

We are the lucky beneficiaries of a grand experiment in participatory democracy. We are the first nation founded not by a tribe, a geographic boundary, race, religion or act of some government. We are founded on the philosophy that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator of certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"

From that premise, we hold that all humans have a right to life, liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness... This makes us very much at odds with any nation or person that would deny or restrict life, liberty or freedom to anyone else. We have struggled with this history within our own boundaries. We have not won all the battles. We have too many who would take and even more who would surrender their freedoms for the politicians promise of the better life as a slave. Too many who would exchange the freedom to pursue happiness as we each define it for the promise of safety, security, jobs, health, housing, education and old age assistance... That way lies the trap of slave master, the tyrant, the return to serfdom

Thanks to Wikipedia for the history links...

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