Friday, June 25, 2010

It is good to be rid of General McCyrstal

General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), made incredibly disrespectful comments in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. He, and others in his staff, mocked the vice president and the president’s staff. The general’s comments demonstrated a tragic disrespect for the constitution and the office of the president. For this, President Obama was right to fire the general. But, perhaps more importantly, it was right to fire the general to maintain a total, unquestioned, control of the military by the civilian government of the country.

The founding fathers wanted nothing to do with a standing army. All of the kings of England had used them as their personal enforcer. The armies of England had invaded other countries, put down justifiable rebellions and enforced otherwise unenforceable edicts of the kings. Of course, the armies were sent to the New World to keep the colonist in line.

It is clear from the original wording of the constitution that there was not to be an army that might be used against the citizen’s will. In the constitution, it clearly states that armies should only be raised to repel invasion and other such events. Then, only for two years at a time. The constitution also states that the President of the United States, a civil politician, should be the commander in chief of the army. All of this to maintain control of a military that could became threatening if it gained too much power.

From the time of the early republic, generals have been fired. Although, it is not a common event in the country. All of them because they had challenged the President’s policy at the time. None of them, at anytime – at least in public – actually suggested in any form that the government should be over turned, just policy. A general’s job is to carry out the policy of the United States. While it is natural to want as much power as possible to complete any task, the level of power can never be greater than the president.

It isn’t just the generals that we need be concerned about. When the people at the top are mocking those that are in control, the chain of command will be compromised. As orders come down from the president, those that are assigned to carry out the directives are to respond with total commitment. Disrespectful attitudes from superiors about those that are issuing the orders may mean someone will second guess a command. That could be deadly to themselves, their fellow soldiers and to the republic.

It is good to be rid of General McCyrstal.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Drug wars in Mexico is our responsibility

It is an old cliché that is attributed to Einstein that goes, “if you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results, you are ignorant of reality”. Well, yes, I did add the ignorant part because sometimes reality is right in front of us and we fritter away at treating symptoms.

The University of Michigan issued an order banning all travel to Mexico on University paid trips. The university, like many other organizations, have banned travel because of the extreme drug violence all across Mexico but especially in the border towns with the United States.

Drug violence in Mexico is getting out of hand, or in this case, out of country. The violence in Juarez is so bad, that up to 20 people a day are murdered. Sometimes four or five are killed at once, in the middle of town in clear daylight. Two cartels have decided that Juarez is to be their battle ground for control of drugs moving into the United States.

This is our responsibility. No, not that we should go storming into Mexico like we did in the early 1800’s. But drug consumption in the United States is causing this problem in Mexico. Our inability to deal with the consumption of drugs is hurting not only us, but also Mexico and every other country that produces the drugs.

The law enforcement approach is failing. Arrests, jail time, court ordered probation and other authority based approaches have not stopped drug use in America. Will drug use ever go away completely? No, it will not. But we could set realistic goals and develop plans to get there.

Communities should come together and hold discussions on the problem. Families, schools, local police and businesses need all work with each other. This may sound idealistic and a set up for failure but unless this happens, drug use will be here to stay and violence will become a long term part of life along the border with Mexico.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Forgive Virginia

You can’t Separate the Confederacy from Slavery

"We went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery. Men fight from sentiment. After the fight is over they invent some fanciful theory on which they imagine that they fought."

-- Confederate Col. John S. Mosby (1)

Now that the dust has cleared about the governor of Virginia declaring a new marketing campaign, we should all jump in the car and vacation in the state. The campaign asks people to come to the state to see Civil War sites and honor the brave men who served in the Confederate Army.

But, the tourist sites we may not be able to visit are the plantation living quarters for the slaves. Or the auction sites where people were bought and sold like cattle. The docks on the sea posts most likely don’t have the slave ships that would come and drop their “chattel” off, the term applied to the slaves on board in the Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling. (A trip to Detroit’s own African-American museum has a replica of the hold of one of those ships, it is something worth seeing – dreadful).

Why should we preserve those you may ask? Ask the Jewish Community in southeast Michigan why they have opened a museum about the Holocaust. They have spent millions to remind us that, no matter how cliche-ish (forgive me for making up a word) it sounds, the old statement is true: If we forget the past we will repeat it.

Forgive Virginia though, that is why I suggest we all take a vacation in the fine state. The governor was just trying to come up with a marketing plan that would get tourist in the state and boost the economy not make a political statement. The idyllic vision of the southern plantation and all that hospitably stuff must have been too much to ignore when they were brainstorming about ideas to lure tourist dollars.

But, to brush away the past like it didn’t happen is to forgive all that happen. None of the people that supported the slave economy during the civil war are alive anymore. So, there is no one to blame directly. But, if we glorify that past, we risk it happening again.

If you don’t think it could, talk with a White Supremacist. They would just love for you to forget about the past.

(1) John Singleton Mosby (December 6, 1833 – May 30, 1916), also known as the "Gray Ghost," was a Confederate cavalry battalion commander in the American Civil War. His command, the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Cavalry, known as Mosby's Raiders, was noted for its lightning quick raids, partisan or ranger-like tactics and his ability to successfully elude his Union Army pursuers and disappear with his men, blending in with local farmers and townspeople.