The Banality of Terrorism

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Terrorism, no matter how devastating, has an everyday aspect to it. Its destruction knows no boundaries, and its impact affects  young and old alike in a matter-of-fact reality.

We quickly grow accustomed to the bombings and accept them as a cost of being alive in the 21st century.

We quickly grow accustomed to the bombings and accept them as a cost of being alive in the 21st century. Families are torn asunder as babies and young children die horrible deaths or are gruesomely injured. Rehabilitation does little to soften the blow.

As each incident occurs, we grow accustomed or desensitized to the pictures flashing across our television sets, and we quickly relegate them to the back of our minds.

For those who experience terrorism directly, such as yesterday’s suicide bombings in Belgium, life is never the same again. They have been irrevocably scarred through no fault of their own. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As we try to comprehend yet another senseless killing, we try to rationalize the event, as something that occurs somewhere else, far from our daily lives. We continue with the tasks of everyday living, choosing from 10 types of breakfast cereal in the supermarket, or engaging in mindless pleasures.

Israel has learned to live with terrorism, the United States not so much. It will take only one major incident over here, one plot carried about my Isis, to completely change our lives. I hope it never happens, that we destroy Isis before they start to destroy us.

Axis of Evil

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The virulent criticism of the Iran agreement as support for an axis of evil may involve the United States in new conflicts in the Middle East.

One of the reasons why President Obama does not want to utter words such as “the war on our terror” involves the never-ending conflict it implies.

Those so willing to commit our Armed Forces to new battles, to project American power around the globe, certainly lack empathy for military families and the impact of our aggression on their well being. Many of these “hawkish” individuals have never fought themselves and so fail to understand the unique hell of military conflict and its debilitating effect on our nation.

One of the reasons why President Obama does not want to utter words such as “the war on our terror” involves the never-ending conflict it implies. A Republican, President Eisenhower, understood the nature of the “military industrial complex” and its untoward influence on government policy. President Obama has tried to avoid new engagements in the Middle East; thus, his reluctance to become involved in Syria or to stop Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon through force.

Instead of branding Iran’s government as part of an axis of evil, President Obama understood many of our goals could be achieved through the art of diplomacy instead. And by tightening sanctions, he brought Iran to the negotiating table and pushed through an agreement despite the tremendous odds against it. Secretary of State Kerry deserves kudos for his role in the process as well.

Critics of the deal should remember our key allies in the European Union participated as well, and Iran’s hard-line government reluctantly made some key concessions. Yes, the deal required some sweeteners to convince Iran of its best interests, but we live in the real world, and Iran needed to save some face as well.

No one likes to be called evil, no matter what their ideology, and we must remember we are dealing with human beings on the other side of the table who can be pushed only so far. Talking to our enemies and making agreements for our mutual benefit represents a key goal of diplomacy, and if one member of the military lives because of it, there is no telling what that individual might contribute to society. The next Steve Jobs may very well be puttering around in his parents’ garage.

Third-World Terrorism Targets

parisIn the world of terrorism, it’s location, location, location. The destruction of the idyllic reverie of Paris startled the world. The attack the day before in Beirut did not. Not many know that 43 were killed there and more than 200 wounded. The Paris attack generated wall-to-wall cable coverage for more than a week.

The destruction of the idyllic reverie of Paris startled the world.

And what about the attack in Mali just yesterday. News programs are covering it out of necessity, because it relates to Paris, but if another terrorism attack hits a first-world country, who knows how we’ll react.

Of course, innocent civilians are just as vulnerable in Africa or Asia, but they’re used to violence and bombings, or so the story goes. But it’s clear from the media capitals of the world that a European life is more valuable than an African one, and especially more than the Middle East.

It’s not fair, but that’s how the world works. And eventually, the terrorists are going to figure that out, and that’s when we really need to worry. Of course, unlike much of the world, in America, we can go down to the corner store or the supermarket without wondering if we will encounter an explosion along the way.

But I have a feeling those days are numbered. As terrorists learn how to manipulate our system, and they will, we will have to join the rest of the world in a very tragic state of affairs.

Morality in Foreign Policy

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The United States will always win out in foreign policy versus the Russians for one overriding reason. Morality plays a major role in our foreign policy decisions, and the world knows that. In an arena where so many decisions are underpinned by Machiavellian considerations, the morality factor both restrains us and acts as our greatest benefit.

Now, the Middle East is faced by a re-entry of Russians into their arena. The aerial bombing they are conducting on behalf of their client, Bashar al-Assad, threatens to change the balance of power and perpetrate continued rule by this ruthless dictator. The United States has been largely relegated to a minor role.

The United States will always win out in foreign policy versus the Russians for one overriding reason. Morality plays a major role in our foreign policy decisions, and the world knows that.

While President Obama’s usual opponents are wringing their hands, he may be treating the situation exactly right. The Russians are not, and never will be, loved by their clients. Resorting to their assistance represents a last chance act of desperation by Assad. And the Syrian civil war shows little sign of abating any time in the near future.

But resolutions in the Middle East occur over the long term, over centuries rather than years. And Russia’s bombing raids are making enemies quickly among people who don’t forget.

So President Obama may be correct in his observations about the Russians entering a quagmire. And he may be doing our nation the greatest favor ever by keeping us relatively uninvolved.

Making Room for Migrants

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For all those people who grew up after World War II and who find those tumultuous times as something divorced from modern experience, I can say that the transformative migration to Europe provides shocking images. With some migrants being herded into camps and detained against their will, it looks inhumane at best and evil at worst.

Germany struggles with guilt for what happened during World War II, and I think it’s time we forgive them. Despite an endless stream of refugees, the nation has opened up its heart to the struggling migrants, with no thought of recompense or self-aggrandizement in any form.

But the attitude of one country, surprisingly, renews my faith in mankind. Germany, the ultimate destination for many of the migrants, has responded with enthusiasm to welcome the migrants. German citizens have rushed to the border to greet them, and, to my opinion, this goes a long way to reforming the legacy of that nation. Germany struggles with guilt for what happened during World War II, and I think it’s time we forgive them. Despite an endless stream of refugees, the nation has opened up its heart to the struggling migrants, with no thought of recompense or self-aggrandizement in any form.

The number of refugees can be daunting. The great mass movement of populations would be difficult to absorb by any country. And Germany deserves some assistance from the rest of Europe. But they have not acted in a  presumptuous or entitled way at all, and a new generation of Germans is on the horizon.

 

The People of Iran

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Critics of the Iran nuclear deal may harbor some justification in their complaints, but no one criticizes the Iranian people. Despite years of denigration (rallies organized around the chant “Death to America” comes to mind) by their autocratic government, the Iranian public remains one of the most pro-American in the Middle East. Unlike fully Arab nations, Iran is known for its Persian influences as well as a liking for blue jeans and Big Macs.

… the religious and military leaders of Iran fear their own people.

That’s one reason why the religious and military leaders of Iran fear their own people. Their power does not reside in a groundswell of approval but rather brute force. Whether the current form of government remains exactly the same for 10-to-15 years is an open question.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are correct in describing the idea of waiting for a better “unicorn” deal as a fallacy. No nation would ever agree to open its military facilities for investigation in full instant access. We need to remember that all peoples possess a certain amount of inherent pride. In many ways, the success of the negotiations with Iran is a minor miracle. The Iranians went further than anyone anticipated at the onset, and President Obama should be praised for the way he leveraged increased sanctions to bring Iran to the table. That both governments crossed so many “red lines” is a tribute to the seriousness of Iran’s leaders to improve the lot of their people.

A Transformative Agreement

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Republicans are fond of arguing that cutting taxes does not decrease revenue because the increase in economic activity changes the dynamics and boosts the collection of taxes — I humbly submit they should look at the accord with Iran in the same way.

Republicans are fond of arguing that cutting taxes does not decrease revenue because the increase in economic activity changes the dynamics and boosts the collection of taxes — I humbly submit they should look at the accord with Iran in the same way.

Bringing Iran back into the fold of nations will change the internal dynamics of the country. The increase in international investments combined with other aspects of globalization will improve the lot of everyday Iranians and help to build a consensus against the pursuit of nuclear weapons when the accord expires 10-to-15 years from now. In addition to reversing and then freezing the breakout time for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, the agreement will also start to build a relationship between Iran and the West.

This relationship will not consist of a black-and-white allies or enemies dilemma but will fall somewhere in between. The very fact of removing the sanctions will make it very hard to reimpose them without just cause. And if Iran is scrupulous about complying with the various tenets of the agreement, it will build its reputation in other spheres as well.

Of course, these developments will not occur overnight. Iran will continue to engage in conflicts outside its borders and try to project its influence throughout the Middle East. But the power of economics has a way of breaking down walls, and relationship between Iran and the United States could potentially transform both countries in the future.

Give Greece a Break

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As Greece and its future in Europe hang in the balance, the bureaucrats in Brussels seem to lack the compassion necessary to reassure the Greek people. After an overwhelming “no” vote in the referendum, everyday Greek citizens have voted against more austerity, and the prime minister, Alex Tsipras, is being squeezed by the IMF, European Bank and Germany, as if the vote never happened.

As Greece and its future in Europe hang in the balance, the bureaucrats in Brussels seem to lack the compassion necessary to reassure the Greek people.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Mr. Tsipras has been forced to agree to steps his people oppose, including additional cuts to his citizens’ pensions. I think he should tell them where to put their precious money. When he does so, and the European Union realizes the hit their currency will take as a result, he will have more leverage to negotiate something acceptable with more compassion for his predicament.

Perhaps, he can describe the breakup as a temporary exit from the Euro to minimize the overall effect and preserve his options. But his heartless creditors must realize they can either receive a negotiated payment of Greek’s debt or no payment at all. Despite its size, Greece is needed by the European Union to shore up their other weak economies such as Spain, Portugal and even France. When the European Union comes to its senses and realizes this, a real solution can be found.

Greece Stands Up to European Bullies

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In a historic vote last night, the Greek people stood up to European bullies who wanted to put them through another round of austerity measures as a price for staying in their club.

Economists such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times have repeatedly emphasized that a nation’s economy needs a stimulus to pull out of a recession, and austerity measures only work in the long run. In fact, nations such as Greece are only making matters worse by enacting austerity as the economy shrinks faster than the additional taxes or cuts in spending imposed.

It’s worth noting that macro-economics is totally different from sitting down in your kitchen to balance your household budget.

So the only thing gained by austerity in the short term is the infliction of pain on the population at large.

It’s worth noting that macro-economics is totally different from sitting down in your kitchen to balance your household budget. Economic activity carries a multiplicative effect when spending stimulates the business world, and the resulting increase in revenue and dynamism holds no parallel to the kitchen table analogy.

In other words, macro-economic theory predicts that austerity is exactly the wrong thing to do. As if we need more proof at this point, President Herbert Hoover attempted to heal the U.S. economy through austerity. And we all know how that turned out.

The Tyranny of a Currency

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The institution of the Euro may have seemed like a work of genius as a surreptitious way of binding the nations of Europe more tightly together, but the experience has been a mixed blessing for some of them.

without any control over monetary matters, individual nations lack any incentive to delay gratification.

The problem with the set-up is exactly the fact that the nations are not bound together, with each one setting their own tax and spending policies. Priorities differ from nation to nation, and without any control over monetary matters, individual nations lack any incentive to delay gratification.

The German work ethic, while admirable, has not been adopted by other nations in the Euro zone, primarily the nation of Greece. And without the ability to adapt monetary policy to the spending level, or providing a stimulus when needed, the Greeks are trapped, hoisted by their own petard.

Imposing German values on Greece will never work because the two peoples are not alike, and never will be. So what is the best solution to the current conundrum?

Inevitably, Greece must abandon the Euro and be allowed to sink or swim as a nation based on their own decisions. When Greece assumes responsibility for Greece, their attitude towards life, taxes and government policy will assume a more adult hue.

The departure should be executed as smoothly as possible to minimize unnecessary hardship on the other nations still using the Euro. That’s the best course of action for all concerned.