Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

June 6, 1944

June 6, 2014

imagesOn this day 70 years ago the greatest invasion force in the history of the world, led by the United States of America, set out to liberate Europe from barbarism.

My father, and my wife’s father, though they did not hit the Normandy beaches on D-Day, did sacrifice years of their lives and took part in the overall enterprise. I salute them, and all those like them who (unlike me) made such sacrifices, including the ultimate one. But if I had been one of those men jumping from landing craft at Normandy, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have lasted two minutes. In fact, many never even made it as far as the beach.

Bumper stickers saying, “War Is Not The Answer,” or “War Never Solves Anything” are puerile. War isn’t always the answer, and doesn’t solve everything – but sometimes it is, and does. Diplomacy could not have rescued Europe from the Nazis; nor freed America’s slaves (nor will it free Syria from Assad). images-1Sometimes the reality of the human condition requires us to face up to hard choices, and not wish them away with shallow pieties. It isn’t noble to renounce violence and leave the world at the mercy of those who don’t.

In his March 28 West Point speech, President Obama (otherwise so fond of “false choice” rhetoric) drew a false choice between war and no war. images-3Nobody is suggesting we rampage into, say, Syria, or Ukraine, with boots on the ground and guns blazing. Yet plenty could have been done*, short of “blundering into war,” to prevent or at least moderate the indisputable crumbling of international order and security that has occurred on Obama’s watch. His assertion of undiminished American global puissance was ludicrous empty swagger. The world knows that actions speak louder than words.

Obama also said terrorism is our biggest threat. images-5How foolish. The threats that can really harm America include that mentioned crumbling, of the paradigm that has until lately kept peace among big powers; flagging support for economic openness and trade; rising authoritarianism; climate change; and humanity’s age-old nemeses of disease, ignorance, hunger, and intolerance. Meantime, at home, America’s political paralysis and failure to tackle fiscal imbalances presage economic ruin.

Terrorism? images-4Its main threat is provoking yet more over-reaction, and distracting us from those other far more dangerous challenges.

We rose to the challenge on D-Day. Would we do it again today?

* We still have not answered Ukraine’s plea for military aid to suppress Russian-instigated thuggery; nor fulfilled Obama’s previous promise of aid to Syria’s rebels. His 3/28 speech re-promised it. Three years ago it might actually have made a difference and advanced our interests.

 

 

Boston

April 16, 2013

imagesWhen President Obama said Americans are standing with Boston, I was reminded that we stood in solidarity with Boston before – before, indeed, there actually was a United States of America, in 1774 – also confronting a common enemy.

I’ve also heard much commentary that we’ll never feel safe again. That implies we did feel safe, before Monday. Well, if the 3000 dead on 9/11 had already slipped from our consciousness, surely even sooner will the three Boston dead. That bespeaks not callousness but resilience.

But what does feeling safe mean? Who on this planet has ever been “safe”? One woman on the radio said she now worried about her husband, walking to work, being victim of a bomb. Had she never feared his being hit by a car (vastly more likely)? And, no matter what precautions we take, death is not just a danger, it’s a certainty.

That’s the human condition, but we do carry on, we go about our business, live our lives, in spite of it. Fear of car crashes doesn’t paralyze us, nor do all the other myriad threats – including bombs. Bombs fell nightly on London during the blitz, but even then its citizens got out of bed each morning. That is the nobility of human life.

It also makes such terrorist acts so maddeningly pointless. Yes, these atrocities do terrify us, yet they cannot alter our human nature. If we got over 9/11*, what makes the Boston villains envision some different result? What could they hope to accomplish?

The will to harm fellow creatures is baffling. We are all in the same sinking boat (life), nothing we do can change that, but shouldn’t our joint fate engender compassion?

Well, it does, of course; and the acts of compassion in Boston dwarfed the bombers’ acts of malice. I go back to Steven Pinker’s book about the decline of violence (reviewed by me here). Violence has indeed been playing a diminishing role in human affairs, and a basic reason is that people have simply learned better ways to gain their ends. How tragic, though, that there are still some who didn’t get the memo.

* Well, admittedly, while we the people did get over 9/11, that being our nature, unfortunately the government did not; and that’s its nature; with thousands of people whose job it becomes to not get over it. America was harmed more after 9/11 by what government did than by what the terrorists did.