Friday, April 7, 2017


News And Guts

“Here’s where we are, as a people, as a nation.

"We are on the razor’s edge of danger in widely separated areas of the globe.

US soldiers leave
Nineveh Joint Operations Command Headquarters
to go to Al-Kayyara district and around Mosul,
in Nineveh, Iraq on October 19, 2016.
(Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Im
"American armed forces are on the ground and deeply involved In religious-based civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. These are primarily ground wars. Our naval forces are in touchy, to say the least, and potentially explosive situations around the Persian Gulf (versus Iran) and in the South China sea (versus China.) We’re heavily committed to opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine and in defense of Eastern Europe. And all the while we are fighting terrorism of various forms at home and abroad. Plus, we are committed by treaty to the defense of South Korea, with a threatening North Korea literally at the doorstep; the whole Korean situation is a proverbial powder keg with a short, burning fuse.

"Our military is powerful and resourceful. But by any reasonable analysis, taking the overall view, they are stretched…well, if not thin, then something less than ideal, given present and potential future demands on them. And the drain on our economy—the high cost of war and constant readiness—is an important part of this.

"As we try to balance on the razor’s edge, we have a new President, one with zero military, diplomatic or big-power political experience. With that as background, he has, in general, been off to a highly questionable beginning. Before he ordered a missile attack on Syria his already historically-low public approval ratings were dipping even lower. One could understand if he were desperate to change the narrative about him; away from turmoil among his staff and the increasingly serious questions about what did he know and when did he know it concerning Russian involvement in the Presidential election.

"No one I know is saying that he deliberately fired the Cruise missiles into Syria in order to quickly change the narrative. And I personally do not think he did. But, fair or unfair (I think it would be unfair,) it is bound to enter some people’s minds. Political leaders, including some of our own, have been known to change the subject to real or imagined foreign crises when domestic politics turn negative for them.

"Intended or not (and, repeating for emphasis, I think not), the effect of the strikes against Syria is likely to help Mr. Trump in terms of American public opinion. His approval poll numbers may very well go up some. In the short term, at a minimum; maybe longer. Missile strikes, not investigations into Russia's mucking around in the last election or White House staff infighting, are likely to dominate news coverage for awhile. And Americans, whatever their political persuasions, generally give presidents support and the benefit of any doubts, in the early days (often longer) of when one orders military action.

"So, there you are. And here we are: on the razor’s edge of danger. And the blade is growing thinner; keeping our balance more difficult. (A mantra of professional high-wire walkers is “don’t look down, keep you eyes straight ahead, on where you seek to wind up, or on the far horizon.) In our case, the situation we’re in, that “far horizon” is a more peaceful world and a better country, one reunited in determination to continue striving, ever striving, toward liberty and justice for all.

"What can you, what can any of us do? Be steady, and, yes, optimistic (I know, I know; it’s hard, but it’s imperative.) Be skeptical about what you hear—especially from the powerful—but never cynical.

"Worry (that’s understandable given what’s happening,) but don’t succumb to fear. We are not descended from fearful people. Fear is not in the American character. But citizens’ commitment to analytic thinking about what’s best for their country is.”