Wednesday, July 26, 2006

'War on Terror' continued part 2

Continued from part 1...

The fact that our leaders, from Congress to the President and his administration, cannot define clearly what a ‘war on terror’ is, as I stated above, not a surprise. The phrase is catchy, seemingly accurate and precise but in fact states nothing. It does not say who we are fighting. This policy does not define our objectives, nor what constitutes a win. This policy does not hint at a potential endpoint. The policy encompasses to broad a range of actions and events, for too long a span of time. These are the reason why every action currently seems ambiguous and without forward motion. Our troops deserve better support.

The auspices of this policy, for it is more of a policy or doctrine than a declaration of war, reach into the core of life in America to the furthest nations, and will do so for an unknown period of time. That seems like an untenable situation to me. The potential for corruption is vast. And we have already seen the fingertips of such corruption in elements of the Patriot Act (has anyone noticed the problems with Patriot Act II or continuing even provisions of the first Act? Where is the news stories on that?), the wiretaps and eavesdropping of communications on the international and national fronts, the detainment of not only foreign but also American citizens, and other items. All of this is fed by the fear contained in the ‘war on terror’. Generalizations and ill-defined goals lead to an atmosphere of uncertainty that creates a nurturing ground for abuse.

I agree that there are portions of the policy that need to be enacted. I think that portions of the steps taken to date are needed for the continued stability or growth of the standard of living currently enjoyed in this nation. And I can understand why a shroud has been placed over the policy, to enable the less savory aspects of the actions (and consequences) to be done. But I think that given information and time the average American can accept the choices and consequences required. If such information were provided the balance of the checks and balances that the government was formed under becomes stronger and more secure. Eluding direct scrutiny erodes the foundations, and creates an atmosphere in which our troops suffer. That I do not abide.

So while the poll results are shocking, they are not surprising. What is surprising is that we, the American citizens, do not force our leaders - from the local level to the Presidential - to provide us with more. No poll of such importance should be so one-sided towards confusion.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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War on terror poll - Part 1

I was flipping thru channels on July 25, 2006 when I came upon Mr. Bill O’Riely doing his show. Now I happened to stop for a moment as he has interesting commentary from time to time, and I even agree with some thoughts he has to varying degrees. I was just in time to hear the results of a poll, which had 35,000 respondents. Here are the results, 91% responding believe that Americans do NOT understand the war on terror, 9% Do understand it. That is both appalling and without surprise.

I find it appalling that more Americans are out of touch with what is happening. Our troops are in the world fighting for a cause we have stated is important to us; and if the poll is accurate, we have no idea what we are doing. If it is even close to the mark, the poll is scary. How can we, via the leaders we elected, send our sons and daughters out to protect us from something we can’t describe? How can we be protected if we do not know what we are fighting? How can we not know more when the stakes are so high?

Some would blame our leaders, and they do deserve part of the blame. They have chosen the plans, means, and targets of our ‘war’. They have given us reasons for each action, though some have proven to be dubious or outright lies. Our leaders are accountable for each life lost, as it is the responsibility of the leadership to create and maintain a cohesive and attainable plan for the military to enact. Our leaders are also responsible to disseminate those plans and actions to us the citizens so that we can approve or disapprove their actions, shown most clearly through our voting. If there is confusion in what we are understanding then it stands to reason that there is confusion in the dissemination of information. This leads on to believe that the chain up is as confused as the chain down. That is a problem.

Blame for not understanding what is the actual ‘war’ on terror also falls on the citizens (myself included). We must seek out the answers that are readily available to us. If more people actually too the time to look up and read about the information that is out there, then the phrase “war on terror” would be laughed at. As I’ve stated in other posts, it’s not possible to have a war on an ideal. Yet many agree and support this never-ending, impossible ‘war’, based on the hyped presentations made by various cable network news stations. The colorful and glossed over style of this ‘war’ resembles more of a marketing campaign than actual information. The fact that the average American allows this to be enough is their own fault.

Let me digress a moment, because I am not a pacifist. I accept and strongly believe that we need to defend our nation against all threats to it. I have no problem in the use of force to achieve various goals that support our way of life. Whether our troops are fighting in Iraq to stabilize the region, gain the United States a strategic foothold in the Middle East, or ensuring that we have a guaranteed supply of oil for decades to come (or more likely different degrees of all the above) I can live with that use of force. All of those reasons benefit the nation as a whole. I just would like an honest and direct answer as to which it is.

Continued in part 2...

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thoughts about North Korea

Recent missile launches by North Korea, Pyongyang, have caused quite a bit of a stir. There is a lot involved in whether North Korea has nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver those weapons to allies of the United States, or parts of the nation itself. Considering that North Korea has acted without regard of its ally, China, the intentions are worrisome. The fact that they have been a nation preparing for war since the Korean War doesn’t help either.

From 1950-53 North and South Korea were in an active state of war, with the U.S. actively involved on the behalf of South Korea. I say an “active state of war” because while there was a cease-fire agreement there has never been an end to the war. North Korea was helped by China during the active conflict. The toll is estimated at 2.5 million Koreans, which includes over 10% of the then N. Korean population, 54,000 Americans, 1,500 Canadians and 390,000 Chinese. N. Korean government has never fully recovered and has kept it’s populace in an ever ready stance to ward off attacks from America, that they have said are “imminent” for over 50 years.

Obviously the U.S. is not trusted. It’s people live, I imagine, in a state of fear similar to how Americans felt in the first few months after 9/11 every day for half a century now. And it is this ever present fear that has kept their leader Kim Jong-Il in power. Even so the nation has had internal problems for decades, not the least of which is a weak and declining economy, starving people and little fuel. Now adding to the mistrust, hunger, generally poor living conditions and international tension are the missiles and probable nuclear weapons program.

It seems like N. Korea is pushing the U.S. to react. No nation is happy about the launches that have happened nor the at least 3 more threatened to take place. The implications of these launches, that may or may not have warheads armed, is terrifying. Japan, South Korea and the entirety of Asia are potential targets. The long-range missiles place Alaska and potentially the Philippines and Hawaii in danger. Only China is not concerned about being attacked; though if attacks were to happen China would suffer from the refugees and economic spillover.

In the face of this, some in Congress say we need to cave in and start one-on-one talks. I disagree. There is no common ground for our 2 nations. There is no trust. And because they have displayed a show of force we cannot be pushed into talks. It would be a huge win for the U.S. to speak only with N. Korea, leaving our allies and the other concerned parties in the cold. We are not the only ones involved. And as stated above, this has never just been about the actions of one or 2 nations.

I cannot see how you can shake the hand of someone who has a loaded gun in the other. Manic paranoia is never a good trait, and when it feeds nationalism it can easily be deadly. We need to stay with our friends and make a unified statement on what has to happen. Their friend needs to reason with them, and other interested parties like Russia need to stand firm that nothing can move forward til this is resolved. The fear that has held the world has been the proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially if that lead to them being in the hands of an unstable or unreasonable nation/individual. Few nations of the world are more insular, fearful and aggressively positioned than North Korea. It is estimated that they have one of the largest standing armies in the world, that has been training for action continuously for 50 years.

We cannot let N. Korea fall. It’s people must be fed, its economy improved, fuel imported and trade opened. The fact is that if any one of these things fail, then the dominoes start to fall. Considering the amount of conventional weapons, military personnel, instability, and the probable fact of nuclear arms one of those dominoes would lead to horrendous consequences. But we cannot at the same time let fear lead us into a diplomatic solution that feeds the machine that has brought us to this point. It would be too much like appeasement and that has never work, not for Hitler nor anyone else.

North Korea must follow international guidelines in their actions. They must approach the world with an open hand, not a closed fist, and speak calmly. The world must be willing to listen for a whisper for help and then do so. Without both of those actions I feel the only other thing to prepare for is a conflict where the number of dead would make WW II seem small in comparison. It's time for the U.N., our allies and theirs, to all stand in one voice and say: 'You cannot stand against everyone, and you don't have to. Open up a little and we will help you make everything alot better. Drop your gun and open you fist. Shake our hand.'

This is what I think, what do you think?

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