Monthly archives "August 2015"

The Guns of August

In 1962 historian Barbara Tuchman published her book The Guns of August.  It would win the Pulitzer Prize in 1963.  I found it a remarkable work on several counts.  First, it is highly readable.  Ms. Tuchman said the primary responsibility of the historian and author is hold the reader’s interest.  Second, it is the only book I have read involving military operations where I could follow both the terrain and the strategy of the battle.  It made me think of Vin Scully, dulcet voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and how he can so paint a baseball game that one can see the field even on radio.  Third, President John Kennedy read the book and found it instructive to his work as Commander-in-Chief.  I will return to this later.

The Guns of August deals with the errors that led to WWI (then known as The Great War until WWII surpassed it in scope and geography), and the early battles of that war.  The August 10 Weekly Standard magazine contains a lead article titled “The Guns of August 1990.”  It is authored by Vance Serchuk, an advisor to the navy and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.  Founded in 2007, CNAS is a Washington based think tank that deals with national security for the Unites States.

In the article, Serchuk looks at the August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait by 100,000 of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces and the American and Allied response that pushed Saddam out of oil rich Kuwait.  The thesis of this piece is that the past 25 years have been remarkable in the progress of humanity as we have seen the peaceful internment of the catastrophic idea of communism and the brutal empire it spawned.   But Serchuk feels that we did not learn as much from The Gulf War as we might have and less than we should have.

This is particularly true of the Obama Administration, so critical of prior blunders in Iraq, which has looked for the same slam dunk win with the Arab Spring.   Thus, there was regime change in Libya with no leader to take over which led to Benghazi and a false red line in Syria which has helped spawn ISIS.  Our friends do not trust us, our foes do not fear us.  This is a dangerous place for the world and the United States to be.

Konrad Adenauer once quipped that the definition of history is “the sum total of things that could have been avoided.”  Serchuk says that the task of a leader, as he or she looks back, is not to derive a sense of superiority from the mistakes of his predecessors, to pass on the blame for responsibility for the problems of the present, or to imagine more pleasant results had they been in charge.  It is to try to understand how well meaning, intelligent people got things wrong and to discern patterns of policy from the past that can help us navigate the present.

But he feels our political culture does not lend itself to such reflection by our leaders.  While that may be generally true, I would here return to Jack Kennedy as an exception to this rule.  He read constantly and when looking at Tuchman’s book urged his advisers to keep the lessons of the accidents of history which led to WWI before them as they dealt with the Soviets and other dangerous regimes of that day.  Kennedy particularly reflected on The Guns of August during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.  His skilled leadership and reflection on the past helped the world avoid WWIII in that critical hour.

I am thinking on these things today as we look at the large Republican field for 2016 and the small Democrat field.  It is of concern that the GOP leader at the moment is a bombastic, very wealthy man who appears to shoot from the hip without reflection while Hillary has no sense of comportment, truth or the propriety of the offices she has held–most especially Secretary of State.

I pray for leaders who understand and can learn from the past, who have a sense of the present moment and who can take the longer view as to where present policy may lead.  I have great respect for John Kennedy and feel he was coming of age as a leader when he was tragically taken from us by an assassin’s bullet.  He was followed by a man who took giant steps in terms of such domestic plans as Medicare and got ahead of the world in Viet Nam.  Both have led to disastrous results fifty years later as Medicare and its step child, Obamacare, will break the nation without changes and Viet Nam still wounds the titan that is America.

When I think of President Kennedy, I wonder how Lincoln would be seen if he was assassinated in 1864 before the fall of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea which cut the Confederacy in two.  That is what happened to JFK.  I believe he would have known that our nation could not be bogged down in a land war in Asia and that we would have skirted Viet Nam.  He also was reluctant to change too many things too rapidly domestically.  Lyndon Johnson had no such compunctions.

I pray for leaders today who have a sense of the past which allows them to see further into the future;  leaders who will have a sense of the present moment–the dangers and the possibilities.  Leaders who reflect Oliver Cromwell’s balance when he said to a political foe:   “Do what in your best judgment you must do, but bear in mind you could be wrong.”  Each century of our existence has given us a great President.  In the 18th there was George Washington.  In the 19th it was Abraham Lincoln and in the 20th Ronald Reagan. We were 2.5 million people in Washington’s day, 29 million in Lincoln’s and 235 million in the Age of Reagan.  In a nation of 315 million I think it not too much to ask for such a leader again.  Surely there is one. Dear Lord, may it be so, may it come to pass.  And may the American People have the good sense to elect them.


Blaming Israel

When we look at the Democrat leaders of today, one longs for John Kennedy and Henry “Scoop” Jackson or at least for Joseph Lieberman.  Barack Obama has subtly suggested that if his Iran deal is rejected it will be due to J Street lobbyists–in other words:  the Jewish Lobby.  Secretary of State John Kerry is more open in his contempt for Israel in saying their lobby will spend 20 million dollars to defeat the Iranian agreement.  He went on to say Israel will be more isolated and more blamed if the agreement he negotiated is defeated by Congress.  Kerry is really saying that if they lose in Congress, he and Obama will see that Israel is isolated and blamed.

But really Israel will have done nothing for which they should be blamed.  In fact, it will be because the representatives of the American people rejected a bad deal.  Kerry and Obama love to say, “It is our deal or war.”   Nonsense!   The sanctions were working to cripple the Iranian economy and should have been strengthened rather than removed.  Right now, if the Obama Administration had any common sense (admittedly a stretch), they would unleash American energy world wide which would lower oil prices for all and damage Iran as they have nothing else but oil to export save terrorism.

In fairness, it is not only the failed regime of Obama that has dealt foolishly with Israel.   George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, is reported to have said, “To hell with Israel.  Jews don’t vote for us anyway.”  Pat Buchanan has long been critical of Israel and said they were beating the drums of war when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.  George W. Bush ignored Buchanan and expelled Iraq from Kuwait.

Baker could dismiss Israel because American Jews foolishly and reliably vote Democrat.  Obama and Kerry can dismiss Israel because American Jews foolishly and reliably vote Democrat.  But American Jews voting against their best interests does not justify politicians in either Party delegitimizing Israeli security as they are only true ally in the Middle East.  They do not cry, “Death to America!”   That is the Iranians with whom Obama is desperate to deal.

These are dangerous days for America which means dangerous days for freedom loving people world-wide.  I commend to anyone looking for solid conservative thinking, reflection and writing The Weekly Standard.  It is edited by established conservatives Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes and replete with gifted young writers such as Jonathan Last, Steve Hayes, Jay Cost and Mark Hemingway and mature senior and literary editors such as Andrew Ferguson and Phil Terzian.

The magazine is encouraging for young people on a search for truth as well.  If you have someone entering college this year consider a subscription for them.   The Weekly Standard has an ad with photos of Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky asking “Who will your favorite student meet at college this year?”  If you send the magazine they can be braced by gifted, modern conservatives Steve, Last and Terzian rather than worn out Communists like Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky.

Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman in San Francisco who began writing in the late 1940’s when he was 50 years old.  I have read The Ordeal of Change which he considered to be his best work.  It dealt with the causes of change and manifestations of those changes.  He was interviewed by CBS essayist, Eric Sevareid, who described him as an intellectual.  Hoffer said, “No, I am a longshoreman.”   He was later described as the “Longshoreman Philosopher.”

Though he claimed to be an atheist, he was very supportive the State of Israel and of people of faith.   In 1968, a year after the 6 Day War, Hoffer wrote an important article on Israel for The Los Angeles Times.   It appeared in May and was titled, “Israel’s Peculiar Position.”  Bill Kristol quotes from the piece at some length in the August 10, 2015 Weekly Standard:

The Jews are a peculiar people:  Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.  Other nations drive out millions of people and there is no refugee problem.  Russia did it;  Poland and Czechoslovakia did it;  Turkey drove out a million Greeks,  Indonesia countless Chinese–and no one says a word about refugees.  But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs are eternal refugees and Israel must take everyone of them back.

Other nations, when they win a war, dictate the peace.  When Israel wins a war they must sue for peace.  Other nations, when they lose a war, survive and recover.   If Israel loses, they are wiped off the map and no one lifts a finger.  Yet, Israel is America’s truest, most reliable, unconditional ally, and we do not seem to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general.

Hoffer closed by saying that he had a premonition that would not leave him:  As it goes with Israel, so it will go with all of us.  Should Israel perish a new holocaust will be upon us.

Hoffer lacked the pedigree of a John Kerry or the stature or a James Baker or, thankfully, the silliness of Barack Obama.   He was ever so much wiser and, thus, chose to stand with Israel which makes him greater than any of these.  And he would not be intimidated by any of them.  I am hopeful our representatives in Congress and the Senate will manifest this kind of steel and wisdom.  But I am not holding my breath.

I believe God raised us up as a Second Chosen People to stand with the First Chosen.  I do not know how else one explains the amazing accomplishments of the American People.   But our great nation is failing in no small measure because we are not standing with the First Chosen.   God help us and the Children of Israel!


E.P.A. Hypocrisy

Richard Nixon was perhaps the most insightful President on Foreign Policy the nation ever elected.  But from Watergate to the EPA his domestic agenda was a disaster.   How much he knew of the Watergate break in before it happened is open to question;  that he had a dark side that could allow such an intrusion is not.  But perhaps the most dangerous of the alphabet soup of agencies in the Federal Government, the most insidious along side the IRS is the Environmental Protection Agency which became part of the Federal Bureaucracy in 1970 under President Nixon.  This is particularly true under the Far Left such as Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton and the war on coal and oil.  Their regulations are strangling private industry.

We recall the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.  President Obama was all over this as part of his call for renewable energy and his denigration of coal and oil.   Of course, this did not stop his jumping on Air Force One at every opportunity and burning lots of jet fuel.  Hillary Clinton flew to a rally on Global Warming recently and was then spotted boarding her private jet to fly to her next stop.  The Left in particular suffers with a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.   The Right wants all to succeed, not just a privileged few.   And those privileged tend to be people like Barack and Hillary who have never run anything but their mouths nor have they produced anything but chaos and pain for the middle class.

Back during the Depression the Works Progress Administration was the largest of the New Deal programs to put the unskilled to work.  While some of the work was legitimate, many of these projects had no real purpose.  The W.P.A. was with humor sometimes called the We Putter Around program.   A man came home from W.P.A. work one evening and his wife asked what he did that day.  He said with a sigh, “Same as usual.  We seem to build roads to nowhere.”

The E.P.A. might be called Every Persons Abomination for their purpose under Obama seems to be higher energy prices for everyone and more regulations for nearly every private business.   This does not include he and his family, of course, as they will permanently be on the public dole.  But other persons will pay higher prices for everything as it will cost more, not only to heat and cool our homes, but more to transport goods to market.

But now the Environmental Protection Agency has itself created an environmental disaster in southwestern CO.   On August 5 an E.P.A. crew created a breach in the waste water of the abandoned Gold King Mine and the pristine Animas River has been turned into a flow of orange sludge which is threatening wild life and drinking water for people in CO, UT, NM, AZ and CA as the Animas flows into the San Juan which flows into the Colorado River.   Back in the early 1970’s I worked for the Colorado Department of Agriculture and took water samples of the Western Slope Rivers and fished in the Animas at the end of the work day.  The word Animas means soul in Spanish and these rivers form the soul of a beautiful state that is not abundant with water as are other parts of the country such as the Midwest.

It is instructive to watch how the E.P.A. responded.  For a time they said nothing–no warning.  Then they said the spill was a million gallons.  That has become three million gallons and growing by the hour.  Finally,  Administrator Gina McCarthy, has arrived in CO to personally inspect the damage.  This is one full week after the breach occurred and orange sludge began to flow into the Animas River.  In short, the E.P.A. behaved as they accuse private industry of dealing with environmental problems:  delay, obfuscate, and say as little as possible.  At least McCarthy is apologizing rather than blaming George W. Bush and the Republicans as her Boss President Obama does.

Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper of CO has said the E.P.A. is made of human beings and makes human errors.  I recall when the Left went crazy over Mitt Romney’s saying “Corporations are people too.”  Hick (as we call our Governor) wants to cut the E.P.A. some slack.  But Republican Governor of NM, Susan Martinez, is made of sterner stuff than our Governor and so are the Attorneys General of CO, NM and UT who are considering legal action against the E.P.A.  Governor Martinez is particularly upset about the silence of McCarthy for so long and the lack of warning.  It is as if McCarthy thought this would go away.  Legal action and major fines are certainly what the E.P.A. visits upon such corporations as British Petroleum and rightly so.  But what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander–even if the goose is the E.P.A., or maybe especially so.

No one I know wants dirty air or water and it is good to have rules.  The problem with enforcement, however, is that bureaucrats never know when to quit.  In this case of the E.P.A. is part of the blame American industry first (as liberal Democrats in general blame America) with excuses for China and India as they foul the air at alarming levels.

What has happened here in CO with the Animas River and an environmental mess created by the E.P.A. itself is called poetic justice.  This is a literary device as old as Shakespeare in Othello and King Lear in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished.  It is often accompanied by an ironic twist of fate related to the character’s own conduct.  The E.P.A., so quick to judge the action of industry, to judge others and to punish wherever possible, is the culprit this time.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

As columnist George Will writes, “Poetic justice is often more poetry than justice.”  That may be the case this time, but big government and regulation have taken a hit and that is important to the freedom loving.  In fact, much of the Obama Administration has been exposed as dangerous failure at every turn.  Hopefully there are enough sensible voters who see it also and cannot abide another incompetent Far Left President.




Marco & Carly

There is a story about a man who took his rather average canine to the dog show.  A neighbor said, “He is never going to win.”  The man said, “Oh, I know that, but he’s going to meet a lot of nice dogs there.”  The GOP has 17 candidates declared for the Presidency.  Most of them have no shot but it is a place to meet a lot of political talent.

I first noted Carly Fiorina in a post on October 18, 2010 when she was running for the U.S. Senate from CA against Barbara Boxer.  She was the far superior candidate but she had no shot to win in the bluest of states.  But two important things happened as a result of that race.  First, Carly was so good and Boxer so outclassed that The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed no one.   Newspapers are in real trouble so they could not back Carly Fiorina without losing subscribers, but they did note that Boxer had done very little for CA.

Since 2010 I have posted about Carly three more times in 2015:  March 29, June 2, and June 9.  There are real contrasts between Ms. Fiorina and the other woman running for President, Hillary Clinton.  The former is an American success story and fulfillment of the American Dream through industry and talent.   She started as an assistant in a real estate firm, went to work for Hewlett-Packard and rose to be CEO of the entire enterprise.   When she reached the top the company was in decline and she turned it into the technological giant of the industry.

Hillary’s rise is through privilege and marrying into political talent.  While Bill is also a liar, he is charming and gifted.  His wife is neither.  Ms. Clinton is a weak candidate which is part of the reason she hides out rather than face reporters and the public.  And neither she nor her handlers or supporters can name one accomplishment attached to her having been First Lady, a U.S. Senator from New York or her time as Secretary of State.  And scandal follows her whether it be cattle futures where a 1000 dollars became 100,000 dollars, Benghazi, and the destruction of her server and private e-mails that should be public.  The last has led to a criminal investigation by the F.B.I.

In the under card debate held at happy hour in Cleveland on August 6, Carly Fiorina was declared the winner over the six men on the stage with her by an astounding 82%.  The former CEO has no fear of Hillary Clinton and takes the fight to her by calling her a liar in her closing statement.  This incensed Chris Matthews of Far Left MSNBC.   In contrast to Hiding Hillary (turns out she was hanging with the Kardashians) Carly went right on Matthews’ show.  He asked why she calls Hillary a liar.  This was a big mistake as Ms. Fiorina went right to work on the lies on Benghazi and on Ms. Clinton’s private e-mail account.   After, Chris Matthews could only say, “Wow!  I see why you won your debate.”

In the Prime Time debate of ten men, probably only Rand Paul hurt himself as he was out classed by Chris Christy.  Front runner Donald Trump did not distinguish himself (though his poll numbers stay strong) and neither did Jeb Bush.  Governor Scott Walker of WI is a tough man when facing unions and special interests in his state, but he came across as rather weak with short answers.  When called on in a debate with many on the stage, it is best to take the time allotted.

Ted Cruz is a brilliant man and excellent at debate as he proved at Princeton and at Harvard Law School.  His answers were in perfect paragraphs that fit precisely into the one minute time frame.   However, the FOX team over looked him for 40 minutes at one stretch which was unfair and beyond his control.   Chris Christy did well at the expense of Rand Paul and held his own with Mike Huckabee in a dust up over entitlements.   The former Governor of AR is an impressive speaker with a sharp mind.   In his closing he spoke of a candidate with little to commend them but money.   Donald Trump was nervous as was the audience until Huckabee said, “I am speaking of Hillary Clinton, of course.”  Mike Huckabee should have run in 2012 and he might be President now.  While he belongs on the big stage due to talent and a gift for making his point without rancor, his time has probably come and gone.  He has little money for the long run.

But the Carly of the major debate was Marco Rubio.  He is probably the best pure candidate running and is young and assertive.  Hillary Clinton is old and elusive.  Donald Trump remains a mystery as to whether he can remain at the top and Jeb Bush just fails to impress.  Many people think that Bush will gain the nomination due to money and Establishment backing and that he will face Hillary Clinton in the General Election in November 2016.  I hope the two Dynasties are over.  As Jeb’s mom, Barbara Bush said, “I think two Bush’s are enough.  There is a lot of other political talent in the country.”   I realize she has revised her statement now that Jeb is running but she had it right the first time.

We are backing both Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina who would make a strong ticket whomever leads the team.  We are ready for a woman President;  it simply should not be Hillary and the Clinton Crime Family whose Foundation is a another scandal ready to break as it is often “Pay for Play” with plenty of evidence of quid pro quo.

Ms. Fiorina reminds me a great deal of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, who along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, changed the world.   Margaret Thatcher said, “Don’t follow the crowd;  let the crowd follow you.”   There was NO leading from behind with her.   One of her slogans in her first campaign in 1979 was:  “Don’t just hope for a better life.  Vote for one.”  During a tough negotiation she said, “I am extraordinarily patient, as long as I get my way in the end.”   When told to  compromise she told her supporters:  “You turn if you want to;  this Lady is NOT turning.”

That is a real leader talking for which our nation and the world is desperate to find again.   We will not find this in the Democrat field which is very weak like the President from their Party.  They are also dangerous.  As Marco Rubio said during the debate, “We have many good candidates on this platform.  The Democrats cannot even find one.”  He is exactly right.

This election reminds one of 1980.   A weak Jimmy Carter was followed by the powerful Ronald Reagan who knew exactly who he was, exactly what he wanted to do and exactly how to get it done.   From day one of the Reagan Presidency the nation had the feeling someone was in charge again.   A Fiorina/Rubio team would be the same and it is needed perhaps like no time since the Civil War.

Thomas Jefferson called a crisis a “fire bell in the night,” awakening a nation for worse to come.   On the eve of Civil War, the nation elected Abraham Lincoln, a man for the ages.  As Hitler approached the English Channel, Britain turned to Winston Churchill.   As Iran is on the verge of nuclear status and promises to hit Israel and America, as Putin has designs on a new Soviet Empire, as China builds a navy to control the South China Sea and threatens the Philippines and Japan, are we going to turn to a woman who said Benghazi was caused by a video and not terrorists?  A woman who hides from reporters and the public?

God has raised up the leaders we need.  Do we the American people have the wisdom to elect them?  Every Empire eventually fails.  Let it not happen to our land on our watch.   God sent the reluctant Prophet Jonah to Nineveh in 785 B.C., the capital city of the evil Assyrian Empire and, miracle of miracles, they listened.  They turned from their wicked ways and their declining Empire was spared for 175 years, falling to the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C.

Margaret Thatcher said Europe is based on history but American is based on a philosophy of freedom.  God raised us up as a new Chosen Race.  May he spare us for another 175 years.  “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.”  Lamentations 5:21


A Sheath Without a Sword

In his poem, The Statue and the Bust, Robert Browning describes a Prince who is like a sheath without a sword.  The young man was living life without purpose.  Browning asks what good is a sheath no matter how externally attractive without a sword,  and what good is life without a worthwhile purpose.

Goals make the difference between the drifter and the doer.  As someone said, “No wind is favorable if the Captain does not know to which port he is steering.”  Goals give purpose to living;  lacking goals makes it harder to meet the challenges and struggles of life.

Many Americans have to come to despair of life today and feel the same as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who cried:

O God!  O God!

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable

Seem to be all the uses of this world!

Fie on it!  Ah fie!   ‘Tis an unweeded garden,   (Fie is an ancient expression of disgust)

that grows to seed.              ___Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

Albert Einstein said, “The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but is disqualifying himself from life.”  Carlyle, the essayist wrote:  “Have purpose for life and then throw all the strength of mind and muscle that God has given you into it.”  Now we have come to the key question–“What has God called me to do?”

We have different gifts and graces but one God who gives them all.  And what would He have us do?  Whatever the gifts, whatever the temperament, if we involve ourselves in cooperating with God in extending His Kingdom we find the highest purpose for living that is possible.   William James wrote, “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.”

Some wonder if they can maintain a sense of individuality if they surrender their life to Christ.  In reality, in Christ we find our fullest selfhood.   And our Lord answers this question in Mark 8:35-36 when He says:  “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it;  but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

My mother-in-law passed to the other side on July 25 at the age of 98 years and three days.  We celebrated her life and her life eternal on Friday, July 31.  It was my privilege to officiate at her service.  She gave her life to Christ and the advancement of His Church through her life of prayer and service.  She began each day with Bible Study and prayer for each of her seven children, twenty two grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.  She concluded the day with Bible Study.

Her life was one of service in her church from music, children, youth, women’s ministries, and church assistant.  She was also a nurse who cared for the ill.  With a large family she served countless meals and ALWAYS ate last.   Proverbs 31 describes a woman of noble character who is worth more than rubies to her husband and is a blessing to her children.  This description is apt for my wife’s mom.  A great lady of gentle spirit whose life matters and whose influence lives on.

On April 5, 1976 the world’s wealthiest man, one of the first legitimate billionaires, died.  His name was Howard Hughes.  It took Time Magazine two pages single space to list a part of his holdings.  Of what did he die?  He died of malnutrition.  His bank roll was full but his spiritual cupboard was bare.  His latter years were lived in literal darkness and in a most sickening way.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

My mother-in-law lived life with purpose.  She lived life for the Lord and for others.  I thank God for her and her inheritance of life eternal.  Are you seeking purpose for life?   Invest yourself in others.  Lose your life for His sake and win it for all eternity.