Summit Daily letters: Fighting against the fear-mongerers (column)
September 6, 2016
Fighting against the fear-mongerers
Well, let's see if we can't get ahead of Morgan Liddick's frightening offering for this week; for surely he will regale us with another horror story about how the world will come to an end if Hillary Clinton becomes our forty-fifth president.
Let's begin with Jimmy Carter. He was a bright man, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy; but, he was a flop of a leader in foreign affairs. He had been the governor of Georgia, but he was ill-prepared to deal with nefarious governments like Iran that, in the latter part of his presidency, held captive and tortured fifty two Americans for four hundred and forty four days. Although he made a lame attempt at a rescue mission, he failed to move the Iranians from humiliating our country. It was only after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated that the Khomeini regime released its hostages.
Along those same lines, Barack Obama's Middle East policies have been misguided. He was altogether too anxious and eager to complete a dubious, nuclear deal with the Iranians. Here is another president who, acting on principles that are fundamentally peace-seeking and decent, has failed to maintain America's stature in the wily and complicated realm of foreign affairs. The terrible example of his drawing a red line on Syrian chemical weapons (A supply of which, including sarin, many still believe Assad possesses) and then backing away from enforcing it told the world that America was a paper tiger. It's something no country can do, especially in a region like the Middle East, which fundamentally only respects demonstrated power.
Similarly, given his near total lack of experience in foreign policy, Donald Trump, ironically, probably would turn out to be another Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama. He has proven his naiveté in statements and pronouncements he has made regarding Vladimir Putin. He has asserted that he will make deals with Putin, a man who has proven to be an adversary in terms of his rape of Crimea, his invasive war on Ukraine, his ongoing threats to our Eastern European NATO allies and his introducing Russian forces into the Syrian conflict. This is not a man to be trusted. Nor is he going to roll over because "The Donald" smiles and winks at him.
Trump is dangerous on any number of levels, but the greatest danger he embodies is his braggadocios style. Pompous pronouncements and off-the-cuff pop-offs imperil foreign policy and demonstrate no understanding of or feel for realpolitik. Our allies reputedly are anxious over whether, in a Trump administration, the United States would honor its treaty commitments and its military alliances. Given his erratic and incendiary statements, they have every right to be nervous.
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It is not a lame concern that such a man, filled with himself and with a history of walking away from his business commitments, would ignore his advisors and do something truly impulsive, thereby threatening us all with a nuclear showdown. (We can all extrapolate from this).
So, Mr. Liddick, given Mrs. Clinton's foreign policy experience, which was reflective of her commander-in-chief's policies and Donald Trump's near total unfamiliarity with the way foreign policy works and a demonstrated ignorance of the deep nuances it entails, how are you going to respond? You can point to Clinton's failures (but please save us from a rehash of Benghazi because, as Congressional hearings have repeatedly shown, that gets us nowhere; and save us from castigating her vote on the Iraq War because it was more reflective of a neocon position than a typical, left-leaning Democrat, and the same is true of her pushing to rid Libya of the Lockerbie assassin, Muammar Gaddafi).
So here is my Monday thrown-down, Gordon. I look forward to your learned response.
Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
Land of the free and home of the brave
In USA Today on Sept. 6, President Obama defends Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem silent protest, stating he is exercising his constitutional right to bring attention to racial injustice and he is the latest in a long line of professional sports figures to do so. Obama doesn't doubt his sincerity concluding that it's "messy" but "it's the way democracy works".
The reason anyone acknowledges Kaepernick's protest isn't because he is sincere or is exercising his right as an American but because he has NFL celebrity and he wears a 49ers uniform. American democracy works because it is the land of the free AND the home of the brave. You can't have one without the other.
I graduated from college in 1966. The whole summer l spent on the beaches of Lake Erie (Ohio) looking across the lake deciding if l would serve my country or burn my draft card and bolt to Canada. I chose the former, enlisted, went through Officer Candidate School was commissioned and deployed to Korea. While LA Watts, Cleveland and Detroit were aflame, while Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated l was overseas along with many others securing the land of the free AND the home of the brave.
The latest in a long line of sport figures to do so — the Mexico Olympics of 1968 took place with African American athletes mounting the metals podium with black gloves on, fists raised and backs turned in defiance while my roommate, U.S. Army Captain, Mike Silliman, captained the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team to team gold. And his silent protest — he returned to the Corps officer's club in Wejonbu, Korea wearing that Olympic gold in tribute to all of us who were stationed there.
And my silent protest was during my last nine months of active duty statesside l made notification next of kin on some of those brave soldiers killed in action as they returned home, each one of them honored at graveside with Old Glory draped over their coffins. Sincere, messy but the way real democracy works in the land of the free AND the home of the brave.
Charles "Bud" Hill