Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Who is Radicalizing Who?

Tashfeen Malik called herself a soldier. We call her the 29-year-old female terrorist who, along with her husband, killed 14 unsuspecting Americans during an office party. Either way, she is a cause celebre now. The more we demonize her – and fittingly so – the more ascendant her fame in the eyes of Jihadist everywhere. 

A psychologist appearing on CNN’s “Smerconish” explained Tashfeen’s actions in these terms:  “She seeks power, inclusion, and hero status.”

Seeking militarily to advance oneself – in any military – is an ambition as old as military history, itself. Recently, America’s defense secretary, Ash Carter, decreed that female soldiers serving in America’s military would no longer be excluded from frontline combat units. It was the right decision. Congressional Medals of Honor are scored on the battlefield, not in supply depots. As long as women serve in our military, they deserve the same breadth of field to satisfy their ambitions as men are afforded. 

Tashfeen, too, moved to the front lines in her army’s struggle with America. The psychologist appearing on Smerconish suggests that Tashfeen believed that by attacking Americans in America, she was “making the world better for her children.” I imagine our female soldiers yearning to fight and their families, too. This is not an attempt to draw a moral equivalence between Tashfeen and our own female fighters. It is simply an attempt to understand Tashfeen’s motivations. If we truly want to defeat our enemy, we must make a sincere effort to understand him. That begins with being honest with ourselves. 

On hearing about the killings in San Bernadino, Newt Gingrinch exclaimed, “The terrorists have declared war on America!” Let us be serious. Before the San Bernadino shootings, America had carried out over 6,000 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, killing thousands of ISIS fighters (and certainly some innocent men, women, and children besides.) Now, when was the war declared, Newt?

Americans kill 11,000 Americans in gun-related violence each year. In the past nine years, terrorists have killed 45 Americans in this country, an average of five per year. Yet, it is the terrorists whom we fear pose the existential threat. 

At this rate, America cannot defeat terrorism, not as long as we accept self-inflicted terrorism. Inner-city children are being slaughtered in gang violence that has nothing to do with them. White communities like Newtown and Columbine see the slaughter of their precious babies, and nothing changes. Then, a Muslim couple opens fire at a gathering of adults celebrating the holidays, and we self-righteously demand to know “who radicalized them?” 

A better question is:  Who is radicalized Dylan Roof, the man who shot nine black church members in South Carolina? Who radicalized Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, who shot an African-American teenager 16 times? Who radicalized the Planned Parenthood shooter? America has put 300 million guns into the hands of a citizenry 300-million-strong. Who radicalized America into thinking that is a solution?

You want to defeat terrorism? This is how: Put down the guns and pick up the children. Teach them the lessons of love and respect. As long as we treat them with love and respect, they will listen. Raise good children and the need for guns will dissipate like a morning fog. When Americans truly learn to respect one another, this crushing array of weaponry will simply become an ugly reminder of the way we were. Let a terrorist come into that America, and we will rip him apart with our teeth. 

Rebuilding America will not be child’s play, (though it could be a lot of fun.) It will be the greatest task the men and women of this nation will ever undertake. It will take generations; we have time. For the sake of our children – which are the sake of this American nation – we must make time. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

They Call Them "Boots on the Ground" (I call them "Our Sons)

The politicians call “…boots on the ground.”  Apparently, they do not know what “boots on the ground” mean. Let me see if I can explain: My son, who is in the army, served two tours of duty in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan. During those agonizing years, it was difficult, sometimes, for his mother and me to breathe. I feared ringing telephones. I wanted no one to approach me. Sometimes, I wanted no one to look my way, lest they were preparing to approach me with bad news from the front. This anguish was constant. My son was not a boot. 

President Obama has tried to keep our sons safe. He has pulled them out of that graveyard which is Iraq (where over 4000 of our young men and women have died). He is trying to get them out of Afghanistan where another 2000 lie dead. He has kept them out of Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

But, beware President Obama’s successor. Many of the Republican candidates advocate a more aggressive strategy against ISIS, even if it is one that sends tens of thousands of American troops to “hunt down and kill every ISIS fighter.” Be warned: ISIS is in ten affiliate nations stretching from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east, an area encompassing over four million square miles. Besides ISIS, other terrorist groups – including Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Al Nusra Front – will rise out of the sands and cities of North Africa and the Middle East to turn that desert into the “Mother of American graveyards.” In the ensuing maelstrom, we will kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. We will spawn a new and more terrible generation of Islamic extremists, hell-bent on avenging the deaths of their parents and brothers and sisters. 

People say, “We have to hit them hard so that they will know not to mess with us again.” Forget about it. With their last breaths, they will avenge every hit we deliver. The great physicist, Isaac Newton, said, “For every action, there is a reaction.” In biblical terms:  “Eye for an eye…” That is how they live. It appears that is how we live, also.

We call the terrorists, “barbarians.” We call ourselves, “civilized.” Yet, we behave similarly. They seek vengeance; we see vengeance. They kill innocents; we kill innocents, (although we call our victims “collateral damage,” as though that makes it better.) Being civilized, should not we be the one to acknowledge that “vengeance begets vengeance,” and then do more to end this vicious cycle? Are not we supposed to be the adult in the room? I can’t tell. And don’t say, “They hit us first.” That would be childish, and denial. Time to stop the bloodletting. It can happen once those with cooler heads prevail. President Obama displays an even temper. Will his successor be as responsible? 

America’s sons are not afraid to fight. And we, as parents, must not be afraid to send them into a worthy fight. What we must fear, however, are leaders who would send our precious young men to fight and die for people on the other side of the world who will not fight and die for themselves.

It is our job to protect our soldiers, just as it is their job to protect this country. For them, we must be wise, not vengeful. They are not boots. They are the best of us. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Entrust the Future to the Future

You ever see someone who does not like something simply because they cannot have it? That reminds me of the Republicans. They bristle at Obama because they do not have an Obama, or do they?

Last month, during an interview on CNN, Jeb Bush was trashing Obama, like all good Republicans are expected to do, when the anchor asked him if he had anything good to say about the president. Without hesitation, Jeb said, "I wish I could walk into a room and light it up the way he does."

The Republican candidates for president pretend to detest Obama (much like they pretend to believe in creationism over evolution) because it is politically expedient. Most of that field, in fact, are probably closet Obama admirers. They see Obama as a winner - a man who trounced the Clinton machine, twice beat their candidates for president, and has repeatedly out-maneuvered the Republican congress. He pushed through initiatives like Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal, lifting the Cuban embargo, and my favorite, changing the name of Mount McKinley to its original name, "Denali."

Obama has shaken the Republicans' confidence. They wonder now if they can win with "conventional", yet fear that "unconventional" is nonsense, and contrary to the standard they are entrusted to bear.

Jeb Bush, in an effort to capitalize on the Republicans' mess (and boost his own "conventional," candidacy) compares his main rival, Marco Rubio, to the man he thinks Republicans dislike most. There are a number of similarities: Both Obama and Rubio were first-term senators when they launched their presidential campaigns. They are personable and attractive men of color, and each campaign features the prospect of a history-making event.

Jeb, in seeking to diminish Rubio, unwittingly elevates Rubio as the one Republican with the je ne sais quoi to wipe the spectre of Obama from their collective fragile and haunted senses.

President Barack Obama has been a transformative force in American politics. That is difficult for Republicans to admit. Rather than celebrate this man who has pointed America toward the future instead of the past, they choose to bash him. No wonder they are confused.

Kasich and Trump are no more suited to lead America than are Hilary and Bernie. They are yesterday's leaders. The American electorate should consider entrusting its future to the future. And the Republicans might want to give Marco Rubio a good look, and hope that he is the Republican version of Barack Obama that the guileless Jeb thinks he is.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Physics, Faints, and Fumbles in a Fake Primary

The Republican Party is in a headlong stumble. The Democrats are not far behind.

In the lead-up to the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democratic National Committee chairperson, banished her vice-chair, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, from attending the event. Gabbard’s crime:  She asked that more Democratic debates be held than the six already scheduled. (There were 27 in 2008.) This split underlies the brazen inevitability entitled leaders wreak upon their supporters and the democratic process. 

The DNC chair is committed to giving its party the bare minimum in order to protect Hillary Clinton from excessive hits. It is much like a football team seeking to limit the number of exhibition games in which its stars must appear. 

In this universe, even politics is subject to gravity. Just as the speed of Earth’s rotation keep it from crashing into the Sun, so does sound politics keep our society from crashing into the Earth. 

All nations depend on a healthy international community to keep themselves reasonably in orbit. That is the crux of the foreign policy debate in America:  How will what goes on over there affect us over here?

Today, America is forced to reconfigure its foreign policy debate in on the run – whether it is pivoting to the Asian Pacific, or reconfronting a re-emerging Soviet state. On Tuesday’s debate stage, the two leading Democrats shared their thoughts on two pressing foreign policy matters. Something each said provide a peek into the trite reasoning of these people who would lead us. 

Bernie Sanders, in a pique over Putin’s adventures in the Ukraine, declared, “Putin will regret taking the Crimea.”

No, Bernie. The Crimea is the choicest piece of real estate in “all of the Russias.”  Its temperate climate has made it the favorite vacation spot for Russian rulers since the time of the Tsars. 

During World War II, Hitler’s troops invaded the Crimea and besieged Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers died taking the Crimea back. 

No one should have been surprised when Russia retook it again. (I suggested the probability of a takeover in 2010, there years before it occurred.) Besides, the Ukrainian capital of Kiev was, before that, the capital of Rus, or old Russia.

Hillary shows a similar deficit regarding the geopolitical threats facing the United States. To give a preview of her idea of a muscular commander-in-chief, she pushes for a no-fly zone over northern Syria. Such a move would pose a direct challenge to Russian jets patrolling Syrian skies at the request of the Syrian leader, Assad. They are Syrian skies, not American. We have no national interests there. To lose one American life over Syrian territory – not to mention, risk a major war – would be a crime.

More and more, Bernie is sounding like an angry old Bolshevik calling for one last revolution. Despite his scrappiness, he will never rise above his role as a foil for Hillary.  He cast enough of a glow to add contrast, without posing a credible threat to the Clinton coronation. American cannot vote for him. Putting a socialist in the White House would be an embarrassing disavowal of our victory over communism in the Cold War.

Hillary, on the other hand, is so disingenuous that in the latest Quinnipiac poll, 63% of respondents deemed her untrustworthy. Is it any wonder that Representative Gabbard, a true “honest broker”, wants to see more competition? 

Someone should tell Wasser-Schultz that this Democratic field is not her football team, and Hillary is not her quarterback. Now, Bernie could guard the left flank. But, the other three guys on that Las Vegas stage – I’m not sure what they were there for. They must be the enigmatic “players to be named later.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fight, Or Die a Thousand Deaths

The Republicans ridicule President Obama for having recruited and trained only 54 moderate Syrian rebels to fight for their country. The problem is not with our president. Has anyone noticed that 75% of those fleeing Syria appear to be young men? How is it that, when foreign men (ISIS) invade a country because they want to make it their own, that the young men of that country flee to lands a thousand miles away?

Did the Native Americans flee when the Europeans came? No, they stood and fought. Did the colonist flee when the “Redcoats” came? No, they stood and fought. Would my sons and I flee? No, we would fight. 

Today, literally tens of thousands of young Syrian men can be seen streaming out of Syria to avoid fighting for it. And the detractors laugh that Obama could not find more than 54 of them to fight. Why should Obama have to find any? It is the young Syrian men who should be seeking to find themselves. If they can manage that, they should look into the mirror to see if there is any courage there. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How About Carly?

Prior to World War II, the Pope sent an emissary to Moscow to tell Stalin, "He should treat his Christians better."  Stalin responded: "How many divisions does the Pope have?"

When asked at the last Republican debate how she would handle Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, candidate Carly Fiorina said, "I wouldn't talk to Putin. I would rebuild the Sixth Fleet."

That is the kind of universal language Putin listens to. With that single statement, Carly showed her foreign policy "chops"; she showed she understands Russia and how to deal with its leaders.

One day, American will have a female president. It could happen as soon as 2016. How about Carly?

Imagine Carly vs. Hilary in a presidential debate. Carly would eat Hilary's lunch. It would be like Liston trying to hit Ali. Carly would dot both of her eyes.

Hilary Clinton is so yesterday, (as is most of the Democratic field). You can tell by her baggage. Besides scandals, all she has in there is more pants suits. We are tired of that. We like to see a woman in a dress once in a while. Carly beats her there, too. Call it an intangible.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Guns, Guns, Guns...

"The only thing to fear is fear itself."  - President Franklin D. Roosevelt

With each tragic shooting in America comes the obligatory debate:  Pro-Gun vs. No-Gun. The Pro-Gun advocates want better mental health efforts to keep guns out of the hands of “crazies.”  No-Gun people want more effective background checks and no-gun zones. (Those in the middle simply throw up their hands in frustration.) The debate inevitably dies out within days, if not weeks, of the shooting. It rears its head with the next incident, only to suffer the same fate…over and over – a thousand deaths. 

There is only one answer to gun violence in America:  Raise our children better. That is not so difficult as we think. Taking more time with your child is infinitely easier (and more fun) than taking guns off the streets. Engendering a child with a sense of discipline and respect is far more sensible than trying to determine who can be trusted with a gun, and who cannot. 

The presence of guns in our society reflects, more than anything, the presence of fear in our lives. When a policeman shoots an unarmed black man, the first words out of his mouth are, “I felt threatened.” Let’s just say, “We all feel threatened.”  Passing out guns will not help. The only thing that will dissipate this ever-more-threatening cloud over our lives is courage. 

It isn’t about background checks; neither is it about throwing up our hands in despair. It is about sacrifice you selfish, selfish adults. Sacrifice.

If grown-ups were not so busy celebrating themselves, and seeking to expand their sex lives with enlargements and Viagra, they would have plenty of time to spend with their children – time to instill in them a sense of responsibility, of purpose, and of being loved. Time like that comprise the main elements of self-confidence, which is the only antidote against fear.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Political Correctness Takes Down the Vaunted Rangers

For the first time in the history of the legendary Army Rangers, it has opened its doors to women. Two of those women, Shaye Haver and Kristen Geist, have met the grueling challenge, and triumphed. The nation is impressed.

With this magnanimous gesture, the Army hopes to have satisfied this nation’s obsession with political correctness, which apparently is more important to Americans than is reality. What is also apparent is that Ranger school is not as “grueling” as most people, including yours truly, had imagined. Requirement to pass include being able to do 49 push-ups, 69 sit-ups, and 6 chin-ups. Any man who cannot achieve those modest numbers should not be allowed into the regular army, much less its special forces. 

Let’s face it: The elite Army Rangers, in seeking to be politically correct, merely exposed themselves to be not so “elite” after all.

If women in America must be allowed into all-male clubs to satisfy this nation’s zero tolerance for discrimination, should we not go all the way and ban all organizations that restrict participation based upon a person’s gender? 

There are women in the Women’s National Basketball Association who earn over $100,000 a year to play basketball. There are many men in America who are broke whom, nonetheless are talented enough to excel in a league that lets the boys play with the girls. Why not, in this land of opportunity, allow men to earn the same big bucks that their female counterparts make? The answer:  Because women and men, alike, would scream, “Don’t be ridiculous!” Opening the WNBA to men would render female participation insignificant. 

In other words, women are not big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to physically compete with men. That is why they need separate arenas. That is the honest answer sans politics. 

Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, proclaimed Haver and Geist “Trailblazers.” No, Ash, they are not. The “trail” you suggest they have supposedly “blazed” leads nowhere. This is not a swipe at women. It is a body shot at political correctness. 

If Haver and Geist want to be true trailblazers, why not spearhead a drive to form a female Ranger unit? Just as there is a WNBA and LPGA to ensure women can fully compete in the sport of their choice, instead of having to hang on to the men by their fingernails, let women build their own special forces – call them Amazon Forces, if you like. I wouldn’t mess with them. 

It is time we clamped down on political correctness before it clamps down on us. Already it is chipping away at the freedoms that have made this nation great. Freedom of speech is steadily being eroded. People are literally afraid to speak their minds, rendering many of us just plain phonies.

Political correctness is a human construct whose purpose is to thwart nature. Such manipulations create a slippery slope that demand logical human beings accept blatant contradictions for the sake of appearances.

Hell, this very essay is politically incorrect. Sue me.