Men With Masks

Pro Russian Militia in Eastern Ukraine

Pro Russian Militia in Eastern Ukraine

In 1989, there was an interesting moment for those who were in the map business.  Almost overnight, it seemed almost as if the entire Eurasian continent would require a reorganization and renaming. For those at Rand McNally , the midnight lamps were burning as new countries popped up daily as free standing entities – Estonia and Moldova; Montenegro and Georgia; Slovenia and Slovakia; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Russia and the Ukraine.  An enormous re-ordering of the world occurred peaceably as the two great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union stood down to allow it to happen without major bloodshed.  A new world order was declared – a world in which the principles of free choice, self determination, peaceful cohesion and global interconnectiveness would overwhelm tired old tribalism and cultural malevolence.

Well, the new world order did not last long, and it may be time to get those map makers busy again.

There’s a new technique being used to subvert international order and territorial integrity and it basically requires producing a map and finding men with masks to enforce it.

Charles Kupchan, former Professor at Georgetown and current Senior White House Director of European Relations for the Obama Administration, and one of the mentors for the President’s shall we say interesting interpretation of history, has defined this new technique as ‘hybrid warfare’ :

“Because I think one of the things that we’ve learned from the situation in Ukraine is that oftentimes in this new world that we live in, NATO or individual countries may be facing not armored columns coming across their border, which you can usually see in advance, but guys coming across in masks, you don’t know who they are — what we could call hybrid warfare, or asymmetric warfare. And that requires a very different kind of military response than NATO has traditionally been focused on.”

Charles Kupchan is the author of the book  “No One’s World: the West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn”  in which he sees the West – meaning the US, Europe and Japan – in a position of irreversible decline and the need to deal with a world where no one will be ‘in charge’.  This administration is well on its way to making Dr. Kupchan’s vision a reality.

These men in masks seem to have a proclivity to ignore international borders, and part of their technique is to suggest the border has no validity.  You do that by getting a map the reorders the border – thus the sudden existence of Novorossiya (or New Russia) – a country President Putin is referring to as spontaneously existing, and therefore the need for a map:

Novorossiya as Putin would see it

Novorossiya as Putin would see it

We seen this pattern in the recent past in another conflict:   Masked Men

Masked Militia of ISIL

Masked Militia of ISIL

And a Map of the Caliphate they assume will be theirs:

The ultimate Caliphate desired by ISIL

The ultimate Caliphate desired by ISIL

So what’s with the masks?  The masks are a device to allow the anonymity of not just the warriors but their nation sponsors. These so called hybrid warriors as Kupchan would have us believe spontaneously form have no desire to be recognized for what they are – shock troops for the countries that want to see maps changed in their favor.   Masked men who hide their nationality and their identity allow free transition between borders and the ability for countries to provide them with sophisticated weaponry and support.  These shock troops allow  the Irans, Qatars, Saudi Arabias, and Russias of the world to engage in proxy war that otherwise would position them as old fashioned pariahs and might even engage an old fashioned response from the part of the world that is self absorbed in self induced decline.

The United Nations Charter of which of the above aforementioned are member states, pledges in Chapter I Article 2  of the United Nations Charter:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

That charter of course doesn’t matter if you can get the map to say a new territorial reality is present, and you have masked men to enforce it.

This is a very dangerous game that countries like Russia are playing, and it is awakening people from the political spectrum one would think would be the last to respond.  The President of the United States however is still formulating a strategy that will permit the progressive decline of the West without him being perceived as directly responsible for its destruction.  That’s a balancing act we have not seen him showing the high wire skills necessary to pull off.  Then again, the United States has a border, a southern border, that the administration is loathe to enforce territorial integrity over. It won’t be long before we see our own masked men.  And they’ll probably be carrying a map:



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Alfred Brendel and Beethoven’s Ghost



About twenty five years ago during my study years, I had the opportunity to see Alfred Brendel in recital performing Beethoven. I had a vague understanding through recordings what I might hear, but I was not prepared for the possibility that I was going to be involved in a seance.  Among other pieces, Brendel performed a late Beethoven piano sonata.  It was during this piece he became simply transfixed and other worldly.  Several minutes into the central movement, a listener developed an annoying recurrent muffled cough in the hushed recital hall.  The sublimity of Brendel’s face on stage began to reveal a series of anguished contortions, as if he was being pulled from a deep dark place into blinding light.  After several moments, he stopped playing, to the astonishment of the audience, and turned to the horrified cougher with an intense expression, then said, he could not channel Beethoven and play it the way the master wanted, and the audience deserved, unless the dissonance from the audience stopped.

The coughing stopped, and the sublimity returned.

No one can play Beethoven like Alfred Brendel, and  the means to the answer was on the stage that night. Brendel plays Beethoven like a re-incarnated Beethoven, and it  may well be that he is capable of channeling the master composer’s spirit directly into his body and soul.  To hear Brendel in recital is likely the closest you will ever get to hearing Beethoven himself perform his works at the height of his prowess in Vienna in 1800.  Frankly, you probably will never know how Beethoven must sound until you hear Brendel perform Beethoven.  The perfect phrasing, the precise articulation, and the masterful but limited use of the pedal makes a Brendel interpretation of a Beethoven sonata not a performance but rather, a re-creation.

Alfred Brendel was born in 1933 in the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, born in the Czech Republic, moving to Croatia at an early age and eventually settling Graz, Austria.  He showed early musical talent,but the horror of WWII swept away any capacity for rigorous formal training.  It may well be that his self taught style in the absence of overbearing influence of piano teachers may well be the means by which Brendel has maintained the purity of the compositions in his performance.  Regardless of formal instruction, Brendel’s performance genius particularly for the classical masters of his homeland, Mozart, Schubert, and most specifically, Beethoven was evident in the years after the war and through his long career since until his performance retirement in 2008.

Interpreters of Beethoven are particularly cherished for their ability to remind every one of the unique olympian genius of Beethoven.  In the first half of the twentieth century, the ultimate interpreter was recognized to be Artur Schnabel, and there has been a need by music critics ever since to use Schnabel’s intense concentration on the Beethoven works as the standard by which to evaluate all others.  We have only the older recordings by which to judge Schnabel, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we have an extensive performance record of high fidelity by which to immerse ourselves in the wonders of a Brendel performance.

Two Beethoven creations of Brendel frame this performer’s mastery well.  The first is the most beautiful and elevating seven and a half minutes of music in the classical literature, Beethoven’s Adagio movement from his epic ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto No.5. The second, Brendel’s recital performance of Beethoven Sonata No.32.  The concerto performance will make you cry a little as you feel Beethoven reaching for the essence of human beauty at a time of enveloping hearing loss, but the Sonata will leave you stunned, as you realize Brendel is reaching through time and space, and bringing Beethoven physically through his hands onto the piano, to the everlasting wonderment and joy, of us all…

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The Big Ditch Turns 100



In today’s culture of dependency, it is hard to remember a time not so long ago when a visionary idea no matter how difficult, time consuming, or potentially immensely risky, was seen as a genetic characteristic of our civilization.   For thousands of years until the nineteenth century, the progressively discoverable world was available at the speed by which a man could walk or run, or horse could be ridden, or a sail could push a boat by a fickle wind or current.   A world so vast, that a day’s voyage could be arduous simply within the limits of a man’s sight, and the idea that one could know the world through personal experience seemed beyond  the scope of a man’s lifetime.

Yet, there seemed to be no shortage of individuals that would take on seemingly impossible and dangerous journeys to somehow reduce the globe to human conceptualization.  The ancient Polynesians using rafts to turn the Pacific Ocean into a highway between settlements.  Marco Polo traveling for twenty-four years and 15000 miles along the Silk Road to the Forbidden Kingdom and back, to document a civilization superior to his own and open up a trade revolution that changed his home forever. And 500 years ago, Ferdinand Magellan pointing his ships west rather than east to develop a sea route for trade that ended three years later as a 24000 mile voyage that circumnavigated the globe.

Especially poignant is Magellan, for he did not live to see the fruits of his great achievement, having died two-thirds upon the way of his massive voyage, massacred on a remote Philippine Island at the hands of an angry chieftain’s warriors who took umbrage at his desire to play favorites and Christianize those he preferentially selected.  In fact, of the 230 or so intrepid voyagers who accompanied Magellan on his epic journey, only 18 managed to circumnavigate and three years later return safely to their point of departure in Spain. These explorers were however to make Magellan immortally famous in their careful records they took of the voyage, so meticulous that they determined they landed one day younger than the number of sunrises and sunsets that had been catalogued since they had left, the first humans to document time travel, associated with traveling against the world’s rotation.

Magellan achieved many identified firsts, but it was certainly not his intension to take the longest possible route to East Asia.  He  rather hoped for a shorter rout traveling west to east then was at that time required to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean. His desire for potentially  shortened sea routes led him to avoid the rumored foul weather and dangerous waters of Cape Horn, at the southernmost tip of South America, instead navigating and ultimately discovering the Straits of Magellan, at the northern most aspect of the Tierra del Fuego, thus cutting several hundred miles off the voyage compared to around the Cape Horn. Through the straights he named the new ocean he encountered the Pacific, or ‘peaceful’, for it’s apparently placid waters as compared to the tumultuous Atlantic.  The short cut was nice, but the travel west from Atlantic to Pacific around south America still required an 8000 mile journey, and certainly represented no bargain for traders in regard to time or risk who wished to go to the East Indies or China.

You might wonder how all this Magellan business leads us to the Panama Canal. Well, I’m getting there.  You see, Magellan was not the first to recognize the new ocean, the Pacific.  That honor went to Vasco Balboa,  who in 1513 crossed the Isthmus of Panama and became the first European to view the western Pacific, suggesting a path thousands of miles shorter than Magellan’s circuitous route.  But nobody got efficiently rich transporting goods across scores of miles of mountainous jungle (at least until the Conquistadores discovered native slave labor) simply to reload then in a boat.  No, fortunes were made filling the massive cargo hulls of sailing ships and bring the goods home in one  watery trip, making even the thousands of extra miles of the Cape Horn trip more viable than cross country.

Balboa’s vision of a shortcut across the Isthmus travelled the centuries unrequited until the machine power of the nineteenth century began to make the idea of a canal more than a pipe dream. The Europeans were still the initial visionary force behind the dream of a canal and the French got the farthest, developing a canal company  that beginning in 1881 spent the next nine years on a tragic and fruitless effort to tame the 48 miles of mountainous jungle that separated the two bodies of water. Nine years later, having lost 22,000 workers to tropical diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, and having sunk the investments of 800,000 French investors, the effort was abandoned.

The canal idea was not too big, however, for the bountiful new world republic to the north. Despite having connected the continent by rail in an equally spectacular engineering achievement, goods and services were infinitely too expensive to travel by rail from New York to San Francisco, taking instead the ultimately cheaper, but daunting sea trip around the Cape Horn that would take months.  The United States, in the midst of a boundless can do spirit occasioned by becoming the world’s biggest economy at the beginning of the twentieth century, saw the opportunity of the canal, and the power that  would go to the country who ran it, too valuable to not take up the epic challenge.  The United States engaged in some very dubious politics,  positioned itself as the overlord of the vision and never doubted for a minute its ability to get the job completed.

The final vision came in the form of Theodore Roosevelt, a president who saw the future of the United States as a world power, and focused the immense energy and economy of his country on the huge project. From 1904 to 1914, the United States through its Army Corps of Engineers ,spent some 8.6 billion dollars in today’s  money, used some of the world’s

The Earthmovers of the Big Dig 1904-14

The Earthmovers of the Big Ditch 1904-14

first bulldozers and earth movers to blast and sculpt its way through the Panama wilderness, moving over a 152 million cubic meters of excavated earth, losing 5600 workers to the same diseases that plagued the French, and creating the world’s most spectacular set of locks and dams that continue to function today in magnificent fashion.  The locks still make possible for some of the biggest ships in the world  to traverse huge quantities of goods from sea level up over the

The Locks Solution to the elevations of Panama

The Locks Solution to the elevations of Panama

mountains and back to sea level without ever unloading a crate off a ship.  The 48 miles of beautiful locks and transporting tug trains make possible the movement of billions of dollars of goods across the Isthmus each year and reduced the epic path of Magellan from 800o miles to 48 miles and the time from months around South America to just 20 hours.

The Path Between the Seas-   PANAMA's CANAL

The Path Between the Seas- PANAMA’s CANAL

The nefarious politics that ultimately gave the United States the rights to build the canal and ultimately run the Canal Zone, and the just as uncomfortable politics that lead to the canal hesitatingly being turned over to Panama ultimately in 1999, can not take away from the incredible achievement that incredibly connected two oceans.  The 150,000 dollar fee for traversing the canal is worth every penny for the ships filled with the hugely profitable trade goods  that magnify Magellan’s dream a million times over.

August 14, 2014 was the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the canal, and the world has benefited greatly from the daring of a young nation that naively felt that it was chosen to do great things, and somehow got them done.  It would do us well to remember the civilization we are so quick to blame for every inequity was once the natural spring of  visionaries that conquered the Silk Road, circumnavigated the globe, made distance our servant, and took the impossible, and made it happen.

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Barbarians at the Gates

ISIS deals with prisoner of war issues in Iraq - AFP Photo

ISIS deals with prisoner of war issues in Iraq – AFP Photo

To comprehend events, one must be willing to descend into the faint mists of time and history to possibly understand the here and now.  The boundaries that define the modern country of Iraq are artificial drawings on a map that simplify a maelstrom of historical peoples, events, and passions that are the basest contributors to the whole known human story.  The fertile crescent of land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been the birthplace of great empires and religions, and perhaps the most contested real estate on the planet.  At the northern edge is noted to be the birthplace of man as a creature of record. Some three thousand years before Christ the tribes of the region founded the worlds first recognized governmental structure, the Semitic kingdom of Semites and Sumerians known as Akkadia, soon divided into Assyria and Babylonia. It is said that the Assyrian Semite Abraham traveled out of Assyria around 1800 BC to eventually become the father to the Hebrew peoples. By the tenth century BC, Assyria may have comprised the largest empire in then known world and provided the legacy of one of the great core language structures, Aramaic, influencing people from northeast Africa to central Asia.  The Assyrian people became  important contributors to the expansionist Greek empire culture and subsequently were influenced to assume many of the philosophic constants of the Greeks, in many cases becoming early Christians as did their Greek counterparts in the first through third centuries AD.

With the arab Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia in the seventh century, the centuries long process of this ancient culture having to subordinate and assimilate while trying to preserve its identity began.  Through Islamic pogroms and Mongol invasions, Ottoman overseers, British protectorates and Baathist dictators, the identity of the ancient Assyrian culture managed to survive.

Until now.

The city of Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh, is the home of the Assyrian Christian population of Iraq and the gateway to Kurdistan.  With a population of 50,000, it represents one of the last congregations of Christian influence in Mesopotamia and its existence as such is an anathema to a virulent strain of Islamic puritans known as ISIS.  On friday, August 8th, Bakhdida became the latest city to be overrun by the ISIS horde and the consequences to an entire people who profess a different fate are dire.  With tens of thousands of Christians fleeing the genocidal sickness that is the ISIS modus operandi, President Obama finally determined to take action in some form to address his administration’s developing Rwanda event. It was not the fate of the Christians or their Kurdish or Shia muslim brethren that stirred him so much as the plight of the Yazidis, a small sect connected to the ancient Zoroastrian faith of monotheism that precedes Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.  ISIS forces have forced them into the mountains with the intent of starving them to death, or killing them in place, whatever opportunity presents.  For the ISIS  adherents, this is the holy work that should have been done centuries ago.

The western world has always struggled to get too upset about genocidal outrages against Jews and Yazidis, but Christians?  That used to be another matter.  There is no Richard the Lionheart to lead a Crusade, likely not even a George Bush the Earnest.  The post-Christian western world does not connect well with the outrages committed by Islamic extremists, whether it is the lunatic fringe Boko Haram in Nigeria slaughtering entire villages of Christians and trafficking in human slavery, or ISIS with its religious cleansing fury in Iraq. Christian outrage and responding to attacks is so Seventeenth century.

But ISIS is working in the seventh century and doesn’t give a flip to modern mores.  Having stunned most of Iraq, conquering oil fields and water supplies, drowning in money from bank robberies and sympathetic fat cat Wahabiast poseurs from the Arabian peninsula, and in possession of millions of dollars of sophisticated weapons abandoned by the Potemkin Village Iraqi national army as it fled,  ISIS is a Tamerlane disciple of the twenty-first century, with the will to kill who doesn’t submit.  The map shows an effective reality on the ground that suggests they are succeeding in their vision:

ISIS in Mesopotamia - CNN maps

ISIS in Mesopotamia – CNN maps

So the President of the United States finally acted. Not to save Christians or Iraqis.  That would have required previous strategic thinkings and actions.  No, the action is to prevent current genocide against the Yazidis, certainly deserving, but no more deserving than any of the other hundreds of thousands already crushed under the foot of the marauding 7th century jihadists.  President Obama thinks he can pick and choose his genocides he determines to intervene upon.  I suspect ISIS and Boko Haram will give him plenty of choices from which to choose.

What is there to do in this inevitable world calamity approaching?  It is frankly too late to recognize what would have been the easiest solution in Iraq.   President Obama’s political trump card was the withdrawal from Iraq no matter what the consequences, when twenty-thousand in country troops would have likely prevented this travesty.  Imagine you are the warden of a prison filled with 500 dangerous characters and innocents alike.  With just 20 guards providing organized control, you can maintain the security of the prison and keep the most dangerous inmates from killing you, or each other.  The previous warden gave you after much effort a stable place, with effective control.  But you are a much smarter warden, who believes the previous warden was a doofus, and should not have been allowed to have made warden decisions in the first place that did not sit with your world gestalt.  You therefore instead announce you are pulling all the guards, opening all the prison cell doors, and putting the kitchen staff in charge of negotiating with the prisoners.  Its pretty easy to predict what will happen, unless apparently you are President Obama.  Now, if you want to contain the violence, restore the security, and protect the innocent,  it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than twenty guards to achieve a renewed stability and civility.  And a lot of people are going to pay a very grave penalty for your naiveté.

What to do with a modern world that would like to believe we have grown beyond the barbarians that defined our human past-the Tamerlanes, Attilas, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers – that would create a single vision of humanity on the slaughter of nonbelievers? The Assyrians of Bakhdida would like to know soon, and hope its more than a few food packages and pinpricks.  But if the western world cannot decide this is serious business, don’t worry.  We may soon get first hand knowledge of what the Assyrians of Bakhdida are up against, at a location much closer to home.

Posted in CULTURE, HISTORY, POLITICS | Leave a comment

Claude Debussy and the Prism of Life

Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 1888 Vincent Van Gogh

Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 1888
Vincent Van Gogh

Until the seventeenth century, light was accepted as a force of illumination, colorless and devoid of structure, the essential device by which God brought life from a formless void.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said Let there be Light. And there was Light. And God saw the light, that it was good. And God separated light from the darkness.                                                            Genesis 1:  1-4  

Then Isaac Newton came along, and revealed that colorless light was actually a complex spectrum of many colors, the beams made of heretofore unknown constituent particles that disassembled by the prism could be easily reassembled. The understanding of the world and its realities were forever changed.  With the microscope, the wonders of microscopic life, with the telescope, the celestial heavens comprised of so much more than the visible known.

This new understanding, that the miracle of nature and life was not for simple interpretation but for complex experience of the seen and the unseen, the heard and the sensed, inevitably established itself as a device by which the artist and musician , as interpreters of the two most visceral senses, expanded their creative forces to interact with man’s ultimate tool of expression, his imagination.

The 19th century was period of the most intense experimentation in these concepts, with the end of the century achieving the synthesis of this ideas in a merged artistic school known broadly as Impressionism.  The goal of the impressionists, whether in writing , art, or music was to achieve a projection of the essence of a subject, rather than a description of it.  Paintings fragmented or blended light, removed both clarity and shadows, brought an ethereal sense of place without specifically demanding accuracy from it. To look at the same haystack at three different times of day or two different seasons changed entirely the essence of it, and the feelings it emoted.  The power of this human impulse to interpret the natural world this way was most developed in France, linearly from Manet to Monet to Renoir to Van Gogh and beyond.

A parallel track was occurring in music, initiating with Berlioz and the Russian Five developing the telescopic power of the modern symphony through Wagner and his symbolic use of sound through motifs, but the back to France to join the painters and authors, through the most original stylings of a very unique genius, Claude Debussy.

Claude Debussy was born in the town of Saint Germaine in countryside near Paris in August 1862, just before Manet’s Luncheon in the Grass was revealed to Paris in an exhibition highlighting the first transitions from realism to something altogether more evocative.  Debussy’s family was driven from Paris by the crisis of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, and moved to Cannes, where his musical talents were discovered and allowed to flourish under a diverse set of colorful instructors, that appealed to his contrarian and bohemian genetics.  Artistic education for talented people propelled through France’s Academe, where the principles of classical art and music were rigorously enforced.  Debussy like all scoundrel talented youths from time immemorial had no patience for the judgements of accredited types, and sought his own muse almost immediately.  He was never a fan of the concept of Impressionism as it was then understood, but preferred the symbolic aspects devised by Wagner, while repelled by its bombastic Germanic expression.    He was drawn more to the world of the microscope than the telescope, relating to more intimate expressions and internalized emotions, consistent with other avant-garde composers like Satie.

Debussy reduced the experience of music to its essence, but he was not averse to beauty.  For him the natural world was so inherently beautiful that even discordant voices and cords could be, like the prism, used to emote a unified whole that was spiritual by his definition.  And beauty was for him the most primordial expression of the senses.  It flows like its own force from the tone poems of Images,Iberia,  and La Mer to the crystal glass intimacy of Clair du Lune, Reverie, and l’apres-midi d’un Faune.  The music soars and dives, roles and ripples, like light through leaves or wind through a screen.  It is tactile and physical, but does not exist in the conscious emotions of passions or anger.  This is  the serenity of the natural world on the floating mind, clouds between storms and waves driven by the eternal tides.  Expressing like JMW Turner, we are left to feel the boat on the ocean, or is it only a cloud, though it matters not because it is after all, the essence of the sea.

Debussy produced volumes of work that ushered in other great composers like Ravel, and contributed side by side with contemporaries like Stravinsky.  He unfortunately lived long enough to see the realities of the mechanized world destroy the intimacies of the old innocence with the brutal forces unleashed by World War I, another August anniversary of note.  The faintly discordant sonorities of Debussy were soon over taken by the cold  post industrial mathematical expressions of Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern.  The prismatic quality of Debussy was no longer capable of being reassembled as a unified expression linked by beauty.  The immense calamity of World War I and its effect on the psyches of both artist and audience alike saw to that.

But then, nobody is meditating to Schoenberg, or rocking their baby to sleep with Webern.  The innate stimulus of a special human place in the brain is Debussy’s gift to us, and like the prism, separates and re-assembles the world into a unified beautiful whole we long for in our daily lives, when the real world gets to be just a little too much.  Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the fateful declaration of war of Great Britain against Germany, exploding the conflict in the center of the continent into a world war, and changing the individual intimate world Debussy created for us forever.  The better memory will always be the gift of Debussy’s prisms of life.

And God said, let there be Light. And there was light.  And God saw the light,  that it was good.

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Just Being There

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

With the continuing dismal news proliferating daily that would unsettle the most secure supporter of the President of the United States, President Obama continues to see his role as the one time assumed leader of the “free” world as that of a disinterested bystander.  The log of upsetting events propels unabated …

Fragile and timid Iraqi forces struggle to mount any kind of cohesive response to the aggressive radical forces of the ISIS terrorist network attempting to establish a caliphate.  Syria continues in armageddon spiral downward in a battle of primitive and ruthless wills of the government and those same ISIS forces with an entire country’s population at their mercy.  A catastrophic collapse of organized government in Libya is in its death throws against hordes of radical cells unleashed by America’s extraordinarily incompetent decision to overthrow Libya’s dictator with absolutely no strategic plan to inject in case of success.  Israel and Hamas are treated diplomatically as equals in a battle for survival for the middle East’s only true democracy, facing a foe that uses women and children as human shields.  Russia lops of an independent country’s sovereign land in Crimea, funds and supplies with sophisticated weaponry a group of thugs led by Russian intelligence officers to destabilize the rest  of the country, then haughtily stands by as these same thugs shoot a civilian airliner out of the sky with 300 innocents aboard.

At home, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants pour across the nation’s sovereign border destabilizing the local economies, the health care facilities, and destroying the concept of a nation’s sovereignty.  The economy groans under the weight of trillion dollar deficits.  Government agencies designed to be impartial, function as the enforcement arm of a marauding government looking to instill its socialist  political philosophy on its citizens.  Even supporters of the President stand in anxious concern as the issue after issue piles on the impassive executive, putting to risk their electoral survival in November.

Yet the passivity continues.  The golf outings.  The vacation to the Vineyard.  The fundraisers with star elites.

For the intelligent and the logical,  the trail of disasters with no reaction is no longer explainable by incompetence.  There is the desire to attempt to conceive an overarching plan or strategic concept at work, to attempt to define how an apparently intelligent man could be standing by so idly while all around him collapses.  Charles Krauthammer, the insightful Washington Post columnist has convinced himself there is a method to the madness:

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.

Perhaps. But I’d propose an alternate theory that gives him more credit: Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it. He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is one of Obama’s favorite sayings. Ultimately, injustice and aggression don’t pay. The Soviets saw their 20th-century empire dissolve. More proximally, U.S. gains in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in time, liquidated. Ozymandias lies forever buried and forgotten in desert sands.

If you believe this, then there is no need for forceful, potentially risky U.S. counteractions. Which explains everything since: Obama’s pinprick sanctions; his failure to rally a craven Europe; his refusal to supply Ukraine with the weapons it has been begging for.

The shooting down of a civilian airliner seemed to validate Obama’s passivity. “Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences,” explained Obama. See. You play with fire, it will blow up in your face. Just as I warned. Now world opinion will turn against Putin.

For most in our nation’s capital, it is important to find a rational basis for actions that seem so divorced from reality.  The nation has assumed a level of elevated intelligence in the man that would be a nation’s transformer, its savior – as declared in the triumphal exuberance of the reports of Obama’s prowess when elected.  The smartest chief executive ever.  A brilliant multidimensional thinker who puts to shame the minor intellects opposing his programs.  An international savant who sees with clarity the flaws of past administrations and will lead the world to a cleaner, safer, more tolerant and civilized place.

But what did we really know of this man?  A college and law school grad upon which no records of assessment have ever been released.  A community organizer trained at the feet of some of the most radical elements of American dissonance.  A single term state senator who rarely registered a vote of conscience.  A U.S. Senator who didn’t complete a single term.

What was the preparation or training for this individual who desires to overthrow all the tenets of a carefully constructed relationship of a government with its people, a world with its stabilizers.  What was the actual level of intellect, the depth of understanding of this individual.

In 1979 Peter Sellers projected onto the cinema screen a epic character named Chauncey Gardner who projects through his simple opacity and feebleness anything a person wants to see in him.  He becomes a mirror for all who want to see great depth in his thoughts, and are embarrassed to admit they don’t see what others see in Chauncey.  Perhaps this president is simply Chauncey Gardner, who is leading this nation as a mirror of what everyone hoped they had elected,  the savior of the human race and a great nation twisted upon itself.  To Chauncey his goals are simple.  He wants to tend to his garden, and help things grow.  The caos we are living through may not be the carefully laid radical solutions of a master politician, but maybe just a nation’s gardner who sees his role as just Being There.

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America and Obama’s Coming Certain Utopia

The United States as a Republic - R.I.P.

The United States as a Republic – R.I.P.

Our nation’s 238th birthday took place on the 4th of July and corresponded with Ramparts of Civilization’s 4th birthday, also born on the Fourth of July as a celebration of and defender for the accomplishments of that great day so many years ago, and the many other examples of similar greatness throughout the long and compelling story of western civilization.  July 4th, 1776 held one of the most treasured places in the pantheon of western civilization’s accomplishments, in its bold recognition of the individual as primary to the story,  rulers as a servant to the people, and not the other way around.  The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men as a right of their birth, are created equal and by their existence as equal men, maintain unalienable rights, that of life, liberty, and their individual pursuit of happiness.   It declared that government existed to preserve these rights and was instituted among people, deriving its powers from the consent of the governed.

The revolutionary words stimulated the passions of an extraordinary generation of people, and by 1789, had achieved the miracle of a constitution designed on those principles, and a series of carefully lain limitations and balances to maintain them.   Through the wrenching pain of a civil war, the sins toward an indigenous culture, the stain of a hypocritical enslavement of a race of people born under the same protections, the calamitous world of market crashes and the impact of two massive world wars, the founding documents preserved a means of governance that led to the freeist, most prosperous society on earth.  The United States was a beacon to those who came from environments with less or no respect for those unalienable rights, and flourished as the singular example of what was possible when a person’s talents are freed and left to their own devices.  The United States became not only the most desired, but the most powerful country on earth, an accomplishment achieved through the power of words and a people’s respect for their meaning.

It devised a council of elective representatives that would create a nation of laws, a judiciary that would ejudicate them and an executive that would see the laws were faithfully executed.  The Chief Executive was asked to swear a specific oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States

The key concept of the Chief Executive was that of the defender of the Constitution, that he would seek election to that critical post to help lead the nation towards a future in the Constitution’s image, not his own image.

On November 4th, 2008, the nation elected someone who presented themselves as a Constitutional scholar, and on January 20th, 2009, swore the very oath above as the 44th President of the United States.

And that was pretty much the last time the Constitution was basis for any consideration of this particular man, Barack Obama.  The first hint of this individual’s determination to not to uphold, but overturn the carefully constructed checks and balances that had brought the country such prosperity, was illuminated five days before his first election as President in October 2008:

And he meant it.  To him transformation meant the necessary destruction of that which came before him. Facing a recession caused by a fiscal crisis, he ignored the multiple previous examples of successful resolution of recessions by removing the hand of government upon the economy through tax cuts and relief from regulation, and went instead for a boundless stimulus spending process, that significantly lengthened the recession and injected into government a massive increase in size that all but doomed any future ability to achieve budgetary control.  When budgets were suggested to control the out of control spending, he ignored the concept of presenting a budget altogether.  In the 232 years of governance  and 43 Presidents before him the nation had incurred a 10.6 trillion dollar deficit.  In the six years he has been in office he has almost doubled the deficit and will have expanded it 2 1/2 times, to 22 Trillion dollars when he leaves office.  He achieved the largest grab of governmental control over the private economy in history when Obamacare was enacted in 2011 without a single opposition vote of support, then rather than enforce it as law of the land, has amended it  without any legal basis over twenty times to fit his purposes.

When he was unable to persuade the opposition or even at times his own party in regard to so called immigration reform or global warning legislation, he simply went over their heads by injecting regulations not based on any law, and ignored laws that were already there.  If the voting population could not be persuaded his ideas were sufficiently mainstream, he determined to change the make-up of the voting population, allowing hundreds of thousands to illegally enter the country, ignoring the laws of border security he had sworn to uphold, precariously putting his country’s whole southern border at risk to calamity, disease, and crime, as well as forever changing the voting demographics to something more of his liking.

He entered people’s private property through increased power of the NSA, the corruption of the IRS, and awesome power of his regulatory commissions to reek havoc.  He turned the power of the IRS on citizens who had differing views then his and sought to destroy them, He sent his minions from ACORN to corrupt voting processes and secure voting assurance for his desire to transform.  He promoted class warfare to hide his failures, and promote the innate power achieved in securing a dependent population to the whims of government control.

He purposefully undercut the painfully won strategy to secure Iraq for the simple concept of proving his notion that the previous administrations’ policy were wrong, and he was willing to waste the sacrifice of over 4000 American deaths and countless casualties to prove it by withdrawing all military support from the shakiest of new democracies, surrounded by ravenous neighbors.  He may have illegally supplied weapons to the most dangerous of opponents to the Assad regime in Syria, sacrificing the life of his Libyan ambassador to prevent exposure of the arms process, ultimately arming the very insurgents who have declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and threaten to destabilize the entire middle east. He destabilized governments in Libya and Egypt, supported long term sworn enemies of American policy in the Middle East.  He slashed the military at the very time when the nation’s position and influence was growing more perilous by his actions, securing for Russia and China more aggressive policies toward their neighbors, and in Russia’s case, allowing the largest baldfaced land grab since World War II, in Russia’s consumption of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Obama institutionalized a pattern of behavior more fitting of a despot than an elected leader in his desire to “transform”.  He envisions a certain utopia from his actions, an America radically transformed into a socialist democracy fundamentally ruled by one party, with a bounty secured to a progressively dependent population obtained from a steadily diminishing group of producers, the majority fed by continuous immigration with promises of access to the bounty, a financial indebtedness that will remove America forever as the securer of the world’s free trade and markets, and an emasculated military that will prevent any influence on the more dangerous developments in world events, leaving her vulnerable within her own borders.  The concept of a series of checks and balances that would prevent this utopia are anathema to him, and he is gambling on the country’s unwillingness to call him to account for his actions, until they are irreversible. To him its all so obvious, and reasonable.  If the checks and balances of the system require him to persuade, and he can not, he will need to simply do “something” – He will do what he wants – its Economic Patriotism:

When we look up in 2016, we will see the ruins of a republic and lament its passing.  Like all great national efforts before it,  America’s own hubris brought to the position of power its own poison pill, and we swallowed it in 2008.

‘Preserve, Protect, Defend the Constitution’ will be actually our own epitaph, for by standing by passively helpless while this individual remade the country, whose founding principles he hates, in his own image, we cemented our own demise.

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A Sorry State of Affairs

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

What a week it has been.

In the past week, the IRS, the agency dedicated to holding accountable hundreds of millions of Americans to maintain precise records to defend their economic interactions and responsibility to proffer taxable income, admitted that somehow more then two years of emails sent by Lois Lerner beginning in the critical pre-election year of 2011 were somehow lost when her computer crashed and can not be recovered.  In an unrelated event, hundreds of marauding commandos of an islamist terrorist sect, ISIS, a group so violent and uncontrolled  Al Qaeda has disavowed supervisory influence, slammed across western Iraq and took control of Mosul Iraq’s second largest city, and a third of Iraq’s sovereign territory, driving tens of thousands of fleeing and deserting Iraq army soldiers before them.

What could the potentially criminal actions of a government agency and a sunni-shia conflict that has been fulminating for hundreds of years  possibly have in common?  The connecting word? -Catastrophe.  The connecting meme? – a Catastrophic Presidency.

Try as one might to seek a reasonable explanation for an individual’s self destructive and wanton behavior, families are often aghast as to their lack of influence with their wayward relations, and helpless in the face of their destructive spiral downward.   What to do, when it’s the President of a country, and the destructive behavior will potentially take a whole country down with him.

The coalescence of catastrophe around domestic and foreign policy decisions made by this President are not a surprise to those who have experienced the process in their own families.  The usual signs of spiraling self destruction are there.  The flaunting of laws and modes of behavior as if norms apply only to other people.  The blaming of others for outcomes that were uniquely created by the individual’s own action or inaction.  The cloying need for unconditional acceptance for their actions as indicators of their right to act anyway they want to, and be rewarded nevertheless.

The one stabilizing force in Obama’s first administration was at least there were a few adults in the room at times to corral his baser instincts.  Now?…not so much.  There is no William Gates, General Petraeus, Leon Panetta, or even Raul Emmanuel to at least form an argument on a subject.  Surrounded with failed Presidential hopefuls and syncophants, the President is finally the smartest man in the room and that’s apparently not saying much.

There is no one to stop him from claiming there is not “smidgen of evidence” of criminal behavior in an IRS scandal that has not even been investigated and already shows enormous signs of criminal obstruction at the highest levels.  There is no sage voice preventing him from again from sending his stooge ‘National Security Advisor’ Susan Rice out to spout completely unsupported tripe regarding his trade of 5 Taliban terrorist critical generals for a disserting private turned sergeant.  There is no available wise man present to keep him from trading his personal integrity time and  time again for convenient short term political spin.

No conceivable pattern of awareness or understanding is present in decisions to abandon unilaterally hard won victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, allow Russia and China to flaunt America’s helplessness to the countries that have counted on us for support, or secure America’s energy infrastructure on the altar of global warning lunacy.  No sequence of logic is present to solve the country’s immigration dilemma of millions of unsupportable illegal residents by the active opening the gates to millions more.

Like a clueless alcoholic on a binge, the pattern of behavior from the IRS to the NSA, Benghazi to Baghdad, Venezuela to Iran,  illegal immigration to ignoring illegal behavior in his own agencies, the fawning over enemies and the humiliation of friends, the President has determined to turn a deaf ear to any rational disagreement or warning as to the consequences of his actions.

We are all aghast at the deafness to our concerns, the tin ear to those who would try to prevent further calamitous actions.  America, your President is not listening because he cares not what you say or believe in. Its about him.

What a sorry, sorry state of affairs.



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A Close Run Thing

D Day Omaha Beach June 6, 1944

D Day Omaha Beach June 6, 1944

In his later years, the 1st Duke of Wellington, Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, celebrated as the pre-eminent hero of final defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo and subsequently twice the Prime Minister of Great Britain, would have been forgiven a glossy remembrance of his greatest victory. Asked, however, of his impression of the moment at Waterloo that cemented his martial immortality, he stated:

” It has been a damned serious business.  It has been a damned nice thing – the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

The Duke’s statement has been modernized into reminding us that nice in 1815 vernacular referred to as “uncertain” – the quote has become “a close run thing”.  Wellesley recognized something profound that exists when enormous forces of history come together in a specific time and confined location – the outcome is nothing short of profound and completely at the mercy of fate.  No matter how intense or brilliant the planning, no matter how careful the preparation of the resources and talent, the final struggle is between immense forces of equal indomitable will, and the outcome more often than not resides in the unpredictable synthesis of  execution, weather, individual responses to enormous stress and out and out luck.

Wellesley could have been describing the amazing accomplishment of D- Day, June 6th, 1944, and the successful invasion of the continent of Europe by the liberating allied forces initiated on that day. The seventieth anniversary  of D-Day has just been marked at Normandy with the usual cocktail of a Presidential soliloquy and the celebration of the rapidly diminishing band of participants in that fateful day.   The eighteen and nineteen year old boys that were asked to commit to the beach that day as the youngest members of the invasion force are now the frail old survivors in their  late eighties.  A president born far after their day of sacrifice is asked to synthesize the forces and emotions of that day into a recognizable tome.  We are reaching the last of the ‘decade’ remembrances of D- Day, as the final group of participants will likely be gone, or unable to travel, to the next.  The political leaders are using the event as usual to promote their ‘appreciation’ of history, the righteousness of the cause, and the clarity that time has provided that the right side would inevitably win.

The truth is, it was a very close run thing.

The reality facing the allied nations in June of 1944, was that Nazi Germany was anything but a spent force.  The allied challenge was to be able to establish immediately an army in force that could stably secure a position in Europe and could resist and ultimately dislodge a fully equipped mechanized and highly experienced fascist army that had spent several years in unimpeded planning and construction of an impenetrable west wall of defense. As has been recognized over time, Plan A was the full injection of material, men and will on the beaches of Normandy, and Plan B was – there was no Plan B.  Men can be brave beyond comprehension, plans creative and comprehensive, but ultimately a small force briefly securing a beachhead would have no ability to resist a counterblow of superior forces, artillery and devastating tanks properly dispensed.

The loss of the armies of Normandy and the irreplaceable supplies and force commitment that went with it, would have had a devastating effect on the effort to defeat Nazi Germany. The loss would have been the end of Great Britain’s land army capacity, the political collapse of the ‘unconditional surrender’ strategy of Churchill and Roosevelt, and the potential stagnation of Stalin’s ability to determine the destiny of his eastern battle against a now unimpeded Germany. A massive victory for a staggering Germany would have allowed her the time necessary for implementation of the jet engine into her airforce, reversing the allied air superiority, ending the bombing campaigns, and securing the safety of her rocket weapons to destroy her opponent civilizations.

Plan A required a one day achievement of the landing of 160,000 men amphibiously with flanks secured, and the immediate establishment of harbors that would permit force multipliers, artillery and tanks,  a million men disembarked and supplied, all before the enemy could sufficiently react. Never before tried on such an awesome scale, at the complete mercy of favorable tides and the weather, and requiring of complete surprise and secrecy while preparing and training a million man force who would have to executive a plan with success with no foreknowledge of the date or the place, the most complex battle plan in history relied on the call of a single meteorologist.  At a time without weather satellites or computers, Captain James Stagg managed to come up with the most accurate and critical weather forecast in history, that prevented the armada from being swept away in a gale on June 4th-5th, and predicted a 24 hour window for relatively calm seas on June5th-6th, sufficient to provide a landing zone capacity.  General Eisenhower hinged his decision on the forecast, delayed D-Day on the night of the 4th, and gave the go on the night of the 5th, and secured a fate different then that of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel in 1588, a successful amphibious landing.  The German weather forecast did not see the brief window of stable weather Captain Stagg saw, and believing the weather too foul to allow a complex operation, the man most responsible for German’s Fortress Europe west wall defense headed home to Germany to visit with his family.  On the morning of the 6th, the one man that could have redirected Germany’s panzer tanks to repel the invasion was far from the field of battle.

D Day Normandy June 6th 1944

Plan A could not afford any exposure of flanks.  All five beaches had to be surmounted or the gaps would have allowed crushing of the fragile force.  Omaha Beach was the linchpin, and 6 hours after the first wave, the water was littered with hundreds of bodies and the invasion force was only feet into France, pinned disastrously against a seawall under murderous fire, not the several miles inland required.  General Bradley, the American directly responsible for the American army force, considered the possibility of withdrawal, as it appeared an epic defeat was eminent.  It came down to the individual man, who determined the water behind him was more certain death than the cliffs in front, that finally penetrated the murderous fire raining down and found the way off the beach.  Thousands of boys and men died, pushing out of the water onto land, and thousands of men and boys died for the defenders equally determined to push them off.  It was a close run thing on Omaha, and nobody there on that day will ever forget the terror.

Plan A required a level of secrecy and subterfuge of an almost metaphysical level to succeed. The ability to move an awesome force across open waters to a location surprised to see what had been predicted and prepared for by the enemy  for two years defies understanding in our current world of satellites, Google maps, and instant communication. Maintaining the  secret of a million man force, with spies all around, incredibly complex planning required, and multiple opportunities for slipping up defies belief.  Yet the secret was maintained so well and the confusion as to the allies real intentions so spectacularly sold to the enemy, that even days after the invasion took place, German Central Command and Hitler himself was sure that the Normandy invasion was a feint and the real invasion would come by Calais.  Entire false armies, errant bombing, parachuted dummies, even false orders on dead bodies produced an epic magic trick distraction that worked to perfection and provided the precise delay in response required for success.

It was a close run thing. The world of a thousand years of darkness enforced by perverted science envisioned by Churchill if the Nazis were to succeed was not an incalculable outcome of the struggle on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.  9000 graves in the Normandy cemeteries mark the final resting places of young people who placed themselves in the violent vortex of history and did not live to see their sacrifice achieve the destiny they hoped to see to fruition.  The freedoms we so casually take for granted and carelessly toss aside to any bureaucracy that lives to take them, were on the final breaths of every participant in the epic struggle of that far ago day.

Soon the men who personally viewed, participated and fought in the awesome spectacle that was D Day will be no more. That is of course a requirement of our mortality and the endless onward journey of time itself. But the tipping point that so few moments in history truly evoke, is safe in the epic story of that distant day.  As would the Duke of Wellington, we tip our glass to fate, and admire her generosity to us. It is why we celebrate the battle at Waterloo and not the catastrophe at Ligny, and epic triumph of the amphibious landing at Normandy and not, in the face of failure at Normandy, lament the potential German invasion upon the beaches of Brighton and Portsmouth.  For all the men on June 6th, 1944 who soldiered and sacrificed to convince Fate, who the winner should be in history’s story, we again salute you.





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Doctrines and Legacies

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton

Presidents of the United States from its inception have felt a pull to leave some form of recognizable imprint on the destiny of the country that would suggest a contribution worthy of the nation’s Olympian founders.  Since the end of World War II, this has been elevated by the nation’s position as the undisputed economic and military superpower in the world.  At its most identifiable, the policy considerations bear the vaunted label of the chief executive himself as the “architect” of the policy – the Truman Doctrine, the Kennedy Doctrine, the Nixon Doctrine, the Reagan Doctrine, the Bush Doctrine.  The establishment of a recognizable doctrine implies the formal intellectual understanding of the world’s various historical forces and the United States’ position within it.  It secures for the President his legacy – a measurable effect upon world history that will have legions of intellectuals debating the doctrine’s merits years after – a permanent accolade to the view of this individual as an effective and wise “leader”.

Last week, President Obama felt the need to use the commencement address at West Point Military Academy to try to put form to his foreign policy actions over the previous 51/2 years as President as a logical and consistent doctrine of international management that he hoped would cement a legacy of his time at the helm.  An Obama Doctrine, as it were.

The tenets of a doctrine tend to allow for a very contracted definition for what in each case was an extremely complex set of policies that drove the machine of the policy and the tremendous patience and investment in seeing it through:                                                        Truman Doctrine : Peace Through Containment                                                                   Kennedy Doctrine : Peace Through Competition of Ideas                                                      Nixon Doctrine : Peace Through Détente and Balance of Power                                            Reagan Doctrine: Peace Through Strength                                                                                Bush Doctrine: Peace Through Freedom as Universal Ideal

The evolution of a doctrine that holds merit is magnified by its survivorship over future administrations and its continuing logic in changing circumstances, but most profoundly by its ultimate success in accomplishing its goals.  The penultimate examples are Truman’s and Reagan’s Doctrines, which are effective bookends of the same strategic overview.  President Truman, burdened with the colossal responsibility of an entire continent in collapse as the detris of a crushing military conflict and facing the ominous reality of a megamilitary power in the Soviet Union with a antithical set of ideals as to a future world, saw presciently in an obscure State Department policist George Kennan a means to achieve peaceful containment sufficient for the time required for a free world to recover from its prostrate position juxtaposed to the Russian dominant force.  Kennan’s famous Long Telegram, published February, 1946, was a foundation on which a whole set of complex structures were laid – the Marshall Plan, NATO, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank – were developed under Truman’s clear headed understanding of how long the battle would take and what on what fields the battles would be fought.

For thirty years, Truman’s doctrine served to provide the United States the breathing time and protection it needed to avoid direct conflict until the time when the free world’s resources could be fully marshaled to secure a permanent result.  That occurred in 1980 with the election of President Reagan.  The Reagan Doctrine was natural outgrowth of the Truman process, though few recognized it as such in its time.  Reagan saw that containment has reached its evolutionary position where the enormous progress of democratic economies were in position to roll back the hegemony of the communist tyranny in the world.  ‘Peace Through Strength’ was the metaphor for the simultaneous release of the economic might of the free world, the advance of technologic innovation into the military force, and the exposure of the deficiencies of the communist world and the aspirations of its subjected populations.  In spectacular form, the combined tenets achieved in the life of the two terms of the Reagan Administration, the victory of this ‘cold war” strategy fruition in the collapse of Russian hegemony in Europe and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union itself in 1991.

What is to be made of President Obama’s attempt to define a ‘premeditated’ thinking to the American actions in an apparent series of passive and confoundingly self-defeating responses to one calamity after another on the world stage?  Is there a thinking process that secures a positive outcome in the parade of foreign policy apparent setbacks in the withdrawal of troops from a hard won victory in Iraq, the simultaneous surge and withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan, the red line declarations and subsequent lack of follow through in Syria, the appeasement strategy for nuclear weapon control with a autocratic Islamist regime in Iran, the aggressive military detachment of a functional government from Libya into the current dangerous  chaos that cost America a terror attack and loss of an Ambassador and that rules the Libyan people today?   What doctrine describes the dithering support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the demonization of the Mubarak and now Sisi regimes, the peripheral disappointment and minimal sanctions for a bald land grab of the Crimea by Russia, and the continuing whining regarding past American policies?

The doctrine of Obama as outlined in his West Point speech shows the reality that the ‘doctrine’ followed the disparate actions, and not the other way around.  The speech, a collection of verbosities and generous interpretations of outcomes, suggests the Obama Doctrine to be ‘Peace Through Controlled Decline’.  America must lead and when necessary militarily without asking anyone’s permission, but not”rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences, without building support or legitimacy for our actions“.  America must not be responsible for crises in the world that do not involve our direct national security interests, but “needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change, a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food, which is why, next year, I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet.” The concept of American Exceptionalism is not a foreign concept to this President, simply a concept that has been misinterpreted by all the Presidents before him –  “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”  America must be prepared to face her enemies with complete resolve and where necessary military action and sacrifice but only with the near certainty of no collateral damage- ” But as I said last year, in taking direct action, we must uphold standards that reflect our values. That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty — there is near certainty of no civilian casualties, for our actions should meet a simple test: We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield“.

Doctrines and Legacies often intertwine, but the more modern of our politicians progressively confuse that legacies are earned, not managed. The genetic flaw in President Obama’s makeup is his confusion of instinctual intelligence for the hard work of learned strategy.  It is depressingly clear every time this President opens his mouth of his alarming ignorance of history and events and his willingness to interpret every event as reflecting his need to insert his personal spin as the defining historical participant . Charles Krauthammer perceptively lays this out in his essay “Emptiness at West Point” which he states more than anything reflected the President’s increasing irrelevance and “smallness”.  In the process of “leading from behind” , the two most politically skinned leaders in American history in Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton have put America in potentially irreversible waters in five short years.  A circular Doctrine that sees contrary events as having been guided by the same unidentifiable plan has placed not only America, but the world, in a perceptively more dangerous place.  Now that is a legacy likely to leave a lasting impression.




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