Wednesday, December 24, 2014
FB is filled with mountains of Merry Christmas posts which have supplanted the traditional snail mail Christmas cards thus I would assume Hallmark has been deeply affected by this technology. Each year I am amazed beginning about Thanksgiving at the astounding increase in the number of people in the obituaries leading up to Christmas and this year is no exception. This year our world seems more broken, scary and frustrated than any other Christmas in my memory when viewed through the global and domestic prism. The DOW broke 18,000 yesterday and that, alone, defies logic of normal market equity trading rules and weigh that against the plunge in oil and gasoline prices with no rational logic as to why and you just scratch your head and just enjoy the ride, no pun intended. The daily news of new frontiers being broken in the values and mores of our nation make national news as gay marriages are now considered chic, lesbians marrying and being artificially inseminated to have children to rear is simply over the top for me to even contemplate and yet, such aberrant behaviors are not only accepted but celebrated. We are in an era that is frightening and New York and the NYPD murders and protesting has upended yet again our safety net about our public servants which is tragic but very telling about the state of our nation. There is simply too many people in too many places talking too much and too often to inflame racial tensions in our land. I could go on but will use these example as the door to open to my heart this early morning as I view into this season of joy and peace, we have always been told.
For me, I always find myself reflective on this special periods of the year as my mind probes the years of my life and the twelve months past but as well my mind goes to my childhood, my early school years and teachers that touched my life some of whom I am on FB with to this very day. I think about my global career and the many wonderful people I met, worked with and the challenges that boggle the mind now at the the complexity and environments within which pressure-driven work goals had to be met. I think about all I missed with my children and their young lives in being so consumed be my vocation. Strangely but telling I believe is that I have been retired from Goodyear now almost twelve years and probably 95% of my night dreams are still very Goodyear-centric. I find that amazing, sad, but amazing still.
As we now prepare to spend time with families over these next couple of days, I realize daily how vital family is to a person. Family, if close, provides that anchor of hope that you can turn to verbally and non-verbally when the winds of change and concern blow. Seeing and getting to know thousands of prisoners each year, you can see the pressure and angst escalate geometrically when December comes and the Christmas time tends to increase the worries and fears and tears of these men and women incarcerated with a dismal, questionable future before them determined by judges, lawyers and prosecutors as well as victims they have hurt in some way. But see, those hoards of men and women, as bad as what they have done, have become part of the circle of my family extended and I pray and feel deep concern for each of them and their families and their lives once out from behind the bars.
On this Christmas Eve, given all the above and the much more I will just not write into my list, I have really built a Case for Change for myself personally. I want 2015 to be a better year for my family and for the masses I get to meet either through singing, preaching or simply meeting in the relationship example I want others to see clearly I have with my God. I pray that each of those I yet to know will yearn to find that same relationship I bask in each day in knowing my home for me in Glory is ready and waiting for me once this journey is complete. I want to be a better father and grandfather to my amazing children and their families and to spend more time spiritually with Logan, Noah, Isabella, Gracie and Ms Hopie. I want my legacy with them to be one of them knowing how loved they are and how much they bless my life and I want them to see Christ clearly in my walk.
I am going to propose something for each of you that my wife and I have been doing daily for several months just this morning completing Jeremiah 25. We began a daily reading of the Bible beginning with Genesis 1:1 several weeks ago from a challenge by our Pastor he gave to the congregation from the pulpit. We have read the Bible through many times but never had we read it from verse one and continuing. We have learned so much in the morning readings but as we enter this Christmas celebration of the birth of Christ season, until you understand the history, architecture and events of the Old Testament, you will never fully grasp the amazing majesty of the coming of Christ. We may read the Christmas story from Luke but understanding the depth and richness of history leading up to that starry night, the true meaning of the coming of Christ is made more real and clearer with His coming. I highly recommend you take the challenge of reading the Bible from page one and we will finish the rest of the Bible probably in March of 2015. Please do this!
So to all my friends that will take the time to read this, each of you are part of that amazing family God has surrounded me with. We cannot know what 2015 will bring but the great news is that I am not concerned nor worried about that unfolding for I stand on a solid Rock. Seek to enjoy every moment of this holiday time and thank you for allowing me into your busy lives. I only want to radiate God's Will for my life via my words, thoughts and deeds and actions. See, that means I am truly blessed.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
As I awoke and opened up the news, I learned of the senseless assassination of the two NYPD policemen in Brooklyn by what appears to be an enraged Islamic man set out to kill police. He planned, he plotted, he drove, he executed two men that devoted their lives to protecting the people of our nation. We are witnessing more and more of this behavior and it is my belief we will see more and more of this depravity exacted on those we look to protect us as the fires of racism continue to be fanned in this nation by professional athletes, loud mouth spokespersons with an agenda, the American Communist Party, the NAACP and many others. As ISIL continues its well funded social media inflammation process, Islamic fundamentalists, nut jobs is another great descriptor, will pour of of the woodwork in their own little jihadi dens to destroy that which we depend upon to protect, to defend and to serve US!
While I did not see nor will I, I understand the Obamas have "spoken out on race" which only heats up the incendiary nature of this disaster. Even black pundits on FOX and CNN were in stark argumentative posture with each other that the POTUS is first the President and then a black and that he should speak for all people and not just blacks. Wow, now that is a novel concept isn't it? I believe a great deal of culpability for the inflamed racial divide in this nation stems from the White House in allowing some of the firebrands like Sharpton and Jackson and others access to the White House with TV cameras blaring thus legitimizing the voices that seeks to create more havoc. What happened in Ferguson was unfortunate but sending the armies of DC elite there to calm and placate did exactly the opposite; added to the distrust and disdain for police authority. We are paying a heavy price and these two families in New York are the victims of this morass.
I live in a relatively high crime city and I find myself now each time I see a police or sheriff vehicle, I want to pull up and thank them or buy them lunch or something to let them know that for me and my house, we appreciate their sacrifice and duty to all of us. Seeing weekly in my Jail ministry, dozens of dedicated young deputies act respectfully with inmates some of which are profane, mean spirited and disrespectful toward the deputies, I have as yet to see a like response toward the inmate though most deserving. Police are tough and I want them tough. I want them perfectly trained. I want them over armed. I want them over equipped. I want them to be given the best for WE OWE IT TO THEM to protect us! There, I said it.
This garbled logic about the overarmed police in Ferguson as the trigger for the protests defies logic to me. To see professional athletes including our own Mr. James sporting protest-intended shirts on the playing court or field where people can hardly afford now to attend a game is just wrong. All of this. ALL OF THIS. is flaming the embers of anarchy in this nation I fear. Distrust abounds and in that environment, danger excels. I am absolutely amazed that any young man or woman would choose to go into law enforcement, frankly. I have spoken with several law officers asking the question if they would have take this career path knowing what they know now and the 100% response is "certainly not." How sad and how dangerous!
My heart aches for the NYPD families and their brothers and sisters in blue that must face yet another day of not knowing not only the if but the when some fanatic will see his or her opportunity for jihad or protest. At the aggregate of this whole thing, for me, is realizing that America is dizzyingly breaking apart into tribes along racial lines it would appear to me. I am further convinced that the 24/7 media frenzy is fomenting this divide made more provocational by the CNNs and all the talking heads that fan the flames of racial dissent and divide. I must admit that I actually found it almost humorous in the Ferguson beginning that seemingly every black on camera had his or her lawyer standing right beside them. So the legal profession would seem to be the real benefactor of all this. Attacking the Ferguson prosecutor for apparently does his job was simply sickening to me and even by other lawyers I know attacking the long standing process of American jurisprudence.
We have evolved to a time, it seems, where nothing is sacred, nothing is circumspect and nothing nor anyone is held in respect or regard. That is a cesspool of danger for a society. So to those that choose each day and night to protect my family, I say thank you and praise God for your efforts to do your duty. I believe more people need to be seeking to do their duty to this nation instead of tearing the very heart out of this once great nation.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The world cringed with the blaring news of the massacre of school children in Pakistan yesterday. Those of us with children and grand children could not have not been moved by such depraved atrocity. Last night while attending a Christmas program for my five year old grand daughter, Hopie, that is Ethiopian, the images of starvation, female manipulation and slavery flashed through my mind as tears welled in realizing how blessed we are to have her and for her to have us now as an American citizen with a whole life before her.
The link is from today's NY Times on this human tragedy and you can see that mothers are distraught in the midst of the bloodshed of innocent children at the hands of the Taliban. And then my mind whirls in realizing that Pakistan has been a strange, predictably unpredictable, dangerous and nuclearized nation that borders Afghanistan.
There are those, I am one, that believes Pakistan exists by playing all sides of the fence and was complicit in Bin Laden lasting as long as he did. Pakistan has been at the core of the loss of thousands of American lives so I have no particular compunction to support Pakistan's cause, place and certainly their leadership. I guess I believe they got what they pretty much deserved as a nation but still, the execution of 150 small children most of which were shot in the head at point blank range is horrifying at the thought.
But it, the massacre, forebodes now not what has happened but what will now happen. Today I have read a long article from Foreign Affairs Magazine interviewing a wide array of scholars both foreign and domestic on the US role in air strikes in Iraq and Syria asking the fundamental question, is America doing enough or too much in this ISIL war and yes, it is a war? The statistics indicate that there is no consensus on that question. About half feel air strikes alone are effective, yet they are predictably not, and the other half indicate American should and must play a heavier, more lethal role both in the air and on the ground in both Iraq and Syria for ISIL is growing and strengthening, in numbers and in financing and is certainly winning the media war.
America, as a nation, finds itself via the POTUS and his Administration and philosophy and stoked by the Reids and Pelosis and Hoyers on the Hill, in a time where America was in the early 1900s that ultimately led to World War I and our being sucked into that war unprepared. We went, we prevailed, we came home and we politically returned to a time of pulling the walls of the Atlantic and the Pacific up thus trying to ignore the reality of what was happening in Europe; especially with Germany led by Hitler as we know who the results of those events. As you know, I strongly believe history is the best predictor of future events and when I see America, war weary, yes, pulling those walls up trying to act like the Bogey man will go away and we will all be safer tomorrow.
See, I remember all too well getting stuck away from home on a business trip on 9/11 being 1,000 miles from my family and this strange, empty, crawling feeling that I needed to do something but was clueless as to what for I had to concept of what was really happening. When I finally got my wife on the phone all I knew to do was to tell her to to fill the car up with fuel and get five hundred dollars out of the bank and to stay home. That was like yesterday and in retrospect, what I hated most then and do now, was that sense of no control, no knowledge, no direction in a vortex of chaos and away from the people I was to protect. I hated that helplessness sensation.
I believe most Americans, today, are wrestling with that same sense of helplessness but then exacerbated by the poisoned political process that causes the weight of helplessness to quickly turn to disdain and anger. I am angry for I want my nation, my leadership to get something, anything, right for all I see is bungling, campaigning and Congressional chicken being played all the while our national credit card is over maxed now at over $18,000,000,000,000; yes count the zeros and much of that debt is owed by nations that does not like us and it is they that will determine our future for they hold our debt.
The massacre, is made more sickening by realizing that Sunnis are killing their own. That is dastardly and deserves capital response meaning annihilation of that threat for it is a metastasizing cancer. Wait, that is only the Taliban; let us not forget ISIL for the thought of late is that they are moving to unite instead of compete. The world is allowing that to happen via not creating a means to destroy. Yes, I am now convinced we, the world, has a global Islamic issue and not the small minority we have all been fed is the culprit. No, I believe the percentage of radical jihadists is much greater than we have been led to believe and we know from history the bloodletting religious wars elicit.
America is the ONLY nation of earth capable to blunting this cancer but still we watch the violins playing in Washington as the place burns which is a sick but applicable analogy. I sincerely do not see how this nation can exist another two years under this POTUS and his philosophies and now with the Republican majority in Congress, am quite disappointed with the initial initiative with the budget but hey, who should be surprised! But there is hope for I am looking to 2016 and who the Republican POTUS will be for that waiting line is pretty short right now.
What we, America, has been and have stood for and stood upon is no longer that America. That, for me, is the saddest epitaph of all. Is it recoverable? Too soon to call but certainly not under this stale, stagnant, inept leadership.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
The purpose for me embarking on this journey into the blogosphere is to bring a daily dose of our global reality but then siphon from it the human and spiritual meaning and lessons for the reader going forward. It is my hope that you will feel my heart in my words.
Those words above have brought me back to a reality that was fueled by something my Pastor said in his sermon this morning. In the Book of Psalms, it tells us clearly in several of the Psalms that if you are a believer in God, then how you can not praise for believing is about praising and therefore praising God is about believing His Word, right? The answer is, RIGHT!
Here is what has come so clearly to me and before I depart for church in a little while to do another cantata at 3 pm and as my wife is asleep, I wanted to get my heart into letters. I began this blog journey, 260 of them ago now, to, as the paragraph which is the dashboard of my blog, Prof Jim Today, provide a dose of global reality siphoning from my chosen topic to reflect the spiritual meaning and lessons as I view the topic at the time. What I have realized is that I have moved too far to the side of connecting dots, the coloration of my commentary is too dark when, if you look hard enough, you can always find the sunshine in the darkness of what seems an ever darkening world. I am always so honored and so humbled when people will write or call or walk up to me thanking me or commenting to my blogs. But goes with that is a chosen responsibility on my part to be a Christian in my thoughts, my words, my sentiments and expressions.
Never did I ever think I would be a blogger but I was asked by many over the last few years, primarily by students, to do that thus providing for wider audiences some of my thoughts and approaches I use in my teaching. Thus, I entered the realm of the readable and do not regret it. But if you go back to the beginning, the coloration of my blogs were much brighter, encouraging and uplifting I sense. But I can only blame myself for allowing the darkness of a dark world to find its ways into my thought processes and writing style. I realize I have become one of "them" meaning one of those that tend to throw gasoline into the fire instead of speaking to the brilliance of the fire's warmth. For that I apologize to each of you for I am better than that.
My concerns about my nation are at an all time low or even worse, I see nothing in leadership that will turn this ship of dismay and disappointment into the winds of good and joy. But then I realize, all of this is Biblical. All of this is part of God's plan. All of this is in the choreography of the End Times. All of that I believe!
So, what does all this mean? It means I will continue to put my heart into letters in hopes that the reader is lifted and encouraged. I may go a period of time and write nothing about the crazed nature of our world such as ISIL, POTUS, scandals, wars, etc, and lean more toward personal interests, biographies of great people I have known, such as my grandchildren, or I may just post a song and talk about that song's meaning to me. But in the aggregate, I want my blogs to be positive diamonds glistening with joy in the ring of life that is all too consuming and exhausting at times. I do love to seek to understand the things of this world but me adding my even bleaker summation and opinion to things like the current debacle of the CIA report, for example, adds only insult to injury.
My wife's favorite question to me is something like, "is there anything you can do to change "it"? Reality is, No, there is nothing I can do to change for alter so I guess I have fallen in the writer's trap of thinking my words and sentiments can create change. No, that is not practical I believe I realize. I yearn to be a beacon of encouragement and hope; so that is my new horizon. Many of you seem to like my writing so I hope you will like the "New Jim" and my approach to be what I believe God would have me be with the gift of writing He has given me but now more for His Glory!
Thank you for your faithfulness in my blogs and for the many, many encouraging comments I have received. It is truly humbling.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Good morning! As I have yet again did my survey of media to get a sense of our world across a wide spectrum of sources, my aggregate mindset is that we have arrived in our world in a state of Conundrum. Each day it seems a new realm of dissent, distrust and dissatisfaction abound. Our faith in our peace officers is now tainted with the afterglow being stoked that every police officer in America cannot wake up early enough to load his or her weapon to get on the streets to find a black person to kill that day; how sick is that?
Our government! Well there is just too much to comment on but to say that in my own mind I have not faith in either party nor in the current lugs that we pay to go to Washington to represent our views and belief. Too much money makes our governmental elected leaders nothing but NASCAR driver sponsored prostitutes working at the whelm of K Street; it really is more correct than not should you choose to push back on my assessment. The POTUS situation is, well, just plain terrible and continues to be murky and now the infamous CIA debacle unfolding. Oh, remember the IRS, VA, Benghazi, etc, etc? No wonder We the People have just given up on this morass. But the conundrum is, we CANNOT do that for the poison wins!
But my greater concern is the deterioration of our national value systems for therein should lay the core where principles are learned and reinforced by parents. Right, wrong, good and bad are environmentally taught. Seeing more and more examples of the implication of the broken family unit is disheartening and growingly worrisome as I view into the next two generations. Electronics has displaced parental control and teaching is a generalization but so very true. Addiction to drugs in so many forms is astounding to me still and seeing addiction to electronics is just as concerning for within a family unit, parents and kids addicted to their Iphone, Ipads, Iwhatever, is a means to disconnect and erect walls that kill effective communication lines. It is not only sad; it is downright scary.
Many of you reading this will agree with my comments and some will not but even in my generation when things were not always rosy and lovely, at least, generally, there was a family unit that ate together, spent time together and learned from each other. That model, generally, is completely broken today and I believe the many pitfalls we see, drug addiction, crime, overflowing jails and prisons, divorce, same sex relationships now adopting and having artificially inseminate pregnancies just causes me to have cold chills at the impact going forward. What examples are being provided is the Conundrum? Where are manners learned? How boys treat girls and girls treat boys; where is that taught? In too many cases today it is taught at the university of pornography; sad but true.
So at the core of Conundrum is the lava flow of values and that is what I am most concerned about is the lack of example and lessons that teach values; value that are framed with what God says in His Word what is right and what is wrong. I question more and more simply, where are our heroes we once sought to be like? Honestly, as I watch, read and listen, there is not a single person on the TV screens or newslines that I long to align with for there is this everpresent sense that if I wait a little long, there will be a revelation of wrong about that person or organization. How sad is that? But so true!
As we begin a very busy next two weeks with much singing and events, I felt compelled to put words to the aching heart I feel about the state of our nation.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
It is a rainy, cold, gray day here in NE Ohio which, I think am realizing, is a metaphor for We the People. I have this friend, a poster child for the Liberals, that loves to espouse the wonders of this POTUS and made more enthused by the economy of late. I guess I need to hear that even though I do not care for this President nor his Administration over these six years but give credit where credit is due I believe. I could challenge the logic of the numbers but that is not where my heart is on this bleak day. My greater concern far transcends economic numbers that are usually only political fodder anyway. Did I say that?
My entire life I have heard that baseball is America's pastime which I never believed for that is the most boring game ever created in my humble opinion. I now believe football has surpassed it but hey, who is counting! My concern is that the American public's new pastime for our nation is doubting. We doubt our long held beliefs. We doubt the impact and implication of Scripture. We doubt anything held as "right" for in there somewhere there has to be something wrong. We doubt our societal values. We doubt our leaders. We doubt our nation's capability. We doubt each other. We doubt our churches. The list can do on but one that stands out to me is doubting the capability of the generation now in their twenties headed into adulthood. Perhaps every generation does that looking at the oncoming generation but it seems more profound and prevalent with my generation looking at the generation of grandchildren in a world seemingly spinning totally off its axis.
A worrier I am not for those of you that know me. A connector-of-dots I am which is propelled by this insatiable need to understand what is happening and why to see what the image on the horizon will be and how it will function. I am sure my heart is more acutely linked to this in having been so widely exposed to over seven thousands college students over the last ten years. Seeing them work, or not, struggle, hope, push, strive, or not, and to seek a piece of the action in their wage earning years was such a joy and such a physical and emotional challenge for me.I loved it! There are some of those students that no doubt have voodoo dolls with my face taped on it with needles inserted but they would be the ones that chose to occupy the 20% cave of not caring and not contributing. Most of them did not last very long in the environment within which I taught but assuredly they will spend a lifetime in that cave in the various endeavors they embark up in life unless theychoose to be their best; but some will not!
I realized a few years ago that each of us at some point come to this amazing reality; that you have more years behind you than you do in front of you. I am there and I know it and that is okay with me for I know in my heart that the best is yet to come long after this life is over. But while on this earth and this walk, the depth and degree of doubt that I see abounding is quite concerning to me for it presupposes a heavy ceiling of dark clouds hanging low over the landscape keeping the sunlight from shining clearly. In that situation, one loses depth perception and a sense of direction. You feel a sense of being lost and few human emotions are worse than that feeling in life.
We have watched the fires of racism engulf the landscape and fueled by the angry voices of the MLK era seeking the "crown" he left it seems to me. The voices tend to turn my ears and my heart off at the very mention of their name. But what I have been more concerned about is the role of media versus the 1960s with the sound bytes, the 24/7 continuously starved news cycles, the "contributors" that tend to bring their own brand of gasoline to toss onto the fire instead of what news was designed to do, report the news and not pontificate and shape the message. Walter Cronkite was considered the Master newsman for that very gem he brought. We have no Mr. Cronkite me thinks!
Now we have too many former prosecutors, FBI directors, and acidic news anchors that seem to love to stir the pot instead of calm the pot. Don Lemmon, Jake Tapper, most of the lady talking heads, all seem bent on creating instead of reporting FACTS. Nancy Grace is a great example of one that literally makes my eardrums peal so I will not listen to a syllable from her. There are many others. I know some like FOX, some like CNN, that would be me until lately, but my concern is simply, where do We the People get solid, credible, news upon which we can determine right and wrong? I honestly do not have a good answer. I think, hope, PBS comes close.
But to my point, I believe the tsunami of doubt that is rampant in our nation is rooted in We the People simply not investing enough time into seeking to understand what is happening around us. I mean, think about it, when I watch hour after hour of police bashing, one would think that every police person in America goes to work shining his or her rounds readying to find the first available black person to shoot. Is that not crazy? YES, that is crazy but that is subliminal message being blasted from every angle. In the military we call it PSYOPS .. psychological operations.!
We are a great nation but we do not act like a great nation. We are a powerful nation but we do not act like a powerful nation. We are a nation of great leaders but I fail to see them anymore and I will go ahead and begin at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Great leaders would never allow this nation to fall to the depths where it appears America has fallen societally and otherwise. Do we have a racial divide in this nation? Well, one would have to say from the news we have a mountain dividing this nation. From the depths of my heart, I do not believe there is a mountain but media seems to love to build that mountain. Perhaps there is a mountain and I either too stupid or too blind to see it but I am neither stupid nor am I blind.
All I know to do about this new pastime is to pray and pray I do for our nation is sick regardless of the silly numbers. Lest we forget we owe more money than we earn in Gross Domestic Product which, for me, is the ONLY viable and thus concerning number. When you owe more than you make, somebody else determines your future; voila, that is America today!
I am not a doubter nor do I care to be around doubters but I sincerely feel there is is gray colored pall hanging over the nation, the greatest nation EVER created where fear and doubt abound. That begins with leadership for leaders carry the power of influence to change that. Come on leaders, LEAD!
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
As we have yet another "Ferguson" unfolding in the Big Apple, the same pundits, talking heads, pontficants are all at their places spouting the gospel of hatred, disrespect and blaming. Having watched the incessant coverage since August 9 that was mind numbing, this cacophony will certainly surpass the Ferguson Effect. I have realized in the last few days that the very fabric of our national moral compass is being ripped to shreds and, from my perspective, on a much greater and more damaging scale than during my teenage years in the mid 1960s in Alabama.
Three times today in separate conversations I found myself having this crawling feeling that comes when the touchstone of racism is approached for it leaves an indelible mark of concern for the person with whom you are speaking. The matter of "political correctness" is now blurred thus even a hint of opinion about our current state of affairs can too quickly become flawed and anger-generating. So the Pavlov's Dog Effect causes there to be no conversation, no expression of opinion for you know you are wrong before you begin. That, for America, is more acute than at any time I can recall during my lifetime. That is very sad for there has never been a more needful time to be able to be able to articulate thoughts, concerns and fears without retribution or retaliation.
I mean, when Charles Barkley becomes the "voice" of logic to a whole component of the American population, even he is finding himself being frontally assaulted by people of color for his rendering his opinion. The degree of distrust of the entire criminal justice system, its prosecutors, the police, the National Guard, the FBI, etc, is overwhelming and frightening as a citizen.
I am the perpetual optimist but I can feel some of that oozing away daily in the morass of hatred and negativity. It is exhausting and it is turning friends against friends, neighbors against neighbors and brothers against brothers. I did not choose that previous sentence loosely for it was part of the lexicon in the description of the American Civil War; sound familiar?
My nature is not to conspiratorial in thought but I do seek to understand what is happening around me and then to connect dots. The dots that are connected are yielding a very fearful picture as we view the horizon. Please know that I pray I am wrong but it seems that we are in a time when everybody has a shovel and everybody wants to keep digging the hole deeper.
Even in the throws of this mess, and a mess it is, I believe in this nation and this democratic form of government called a republic where We the People elect people to represent our views that enact laws to reflect our needs. That function in this nation right now is broken and inept it appears to me. When two of the three triumvirate arms are not working, which is the case now, my concern escalates geometrically.
I believe in our law enforcement, in our criminal justice system for I still believe it is the best in the world. I, like most Americans, just want the nation and our leaders to "take a knee" and let's figure this out. It takes offense and defense to win a ball game and I think we need both seeking equilibrium in our human relations today. There are far too many gangs, guns and organizations that reside for one purpose which is to create anguish and damage.
As an American, I ask the question ... what do we stand for, really? All evidence to the contrary, I believe our moral compass is spinning sadly out of control. The fix begins with leadership, transparency and accountability. Let US FIX THIS THING before it blows up into something that is unstoppable. Remember 1861 .... yes, it can happen again!
Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Saturday, November 29, 2014
I am pasting in an op-ed in today's WSJ that will umbrella my blog on the strategic nature of the world's most traded commodity; Oil! Read the last paragraph slowly, please!
Nov. 28, 2014 6:59 p.m. ET
America’s unconventional oil boom continues to yield major benefits—economic and geostrategic. The latest evidence is OPEC’s decision on Thursday to defy expectations and maintain its current oil production target despite the steepest price decline since the 2008-2009 recession. The price of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, plunged as a result to about $70 a barrel, continuing its decline from a peak of nearly $116 in June.
Not too many years ago the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries might have cut production to maintain higher prices. The cartel’s countries have long sought to keep prices high at a level consistent with a growing global economy, not least to keep the revenue flowing into government coffers. Rogue states such as Venezuela and Iran desperately need the cash flow.
But the cartel has lost much of its pricing power thanks in part to the revival in U.S. oil production. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—business innovations done mainly on private land—have pushed U.S. oil output to its highest level since the 1980s.
The Energy Information Administration says U.S. production reached more than nine million barrels a day this year and is expected to keep climbing. OPEC is afraid that demand for its crude will keep falling as U.S. supply continues to grow and more of it makes its way to the global market as American export barriers fall.
One way to read the OPEC decision is therefore as a price war to shake marginal U.S. producers from the market. The U.S. shale boom and high global oil prices have encouraged new areas of production with widely varying break-even price levels. Much of such proven areas as the Bakken Shale in North Dakota can remain profitable even at $50 a barrel, by most estimates. The Eagle Ford Shale in Texas also has a relatively low break-even. But newer areas with higher exploration and development costs could suffer if prices keep falling.
That’s how markets are supposed to work, with supply and demand rather than a cartel of dictatorships setting prices. A lower oil price will mean pain for some U.S. producers, and it is showing up in lower share prices for energy companies.
But no boom lasts forever, and lower prices will discipline American drillers to focus their investments on the most promising areas and innovate further to reduce costs. A shake-out might have long-term benefits if it doesn’t go too far.
Meanwhile, lower oil prices are an unmitigated boon to American consumers. The average gasoline price per gallon in the U.S. fell to $2.79 on Friday, down 50 cents from a year ago. That’s a big difference to the average family filling up the SUV each week, especially wage earners who haven’t had an increase in their standard of living during this entire economic expansion. Consumers who feel less pinched might open their checkbooks for non-energy purchases.
Lower prices will also add to the economic pressure on some of the world’s worst dictators, notably Vladimir Putin . Russia doesn’t belong to OPEC but it has benefited to the extent that the cartel’s production controls have kept prices high. Already under pressure from EU and U.S. sanctions, Mr. Putin’s ability to buy domestic political support will decline along with oil prices.
All of these benefits are flowing from a U.S. oil boom that government didn’t predict and had almost nothing to do with. The political class has force-fed subsidies to renewable energy with little economic benefit. The new oil order is a reminder that markets and American ingenuity are better economic pillars than all the schemes of government planners.
Oil is like tires; nobody wants to talk about it and have nothing to do with it until you need it; the is a classic analogy of what is defined as a "commodity" plus keep in mind that a commodity is something that in and of itself add little value but add it to a more sophisticated platform, like tires, oil, bearings, etc, to a car, then the value of the commodity heads north quickly on price. As I have watched the current Administration do all it can to kill the Keystone Pipeline project, pour hundreds of billions of dollars into artificial forms of energy potential to basically no avail while at the same time attacking the means of extracting oil is absurd to me. But then, there are other absurdities I will choose to step over on this blog about Oil.
The world, I learned yesterday, produces 64,000,000, that is nearly a 100 million automobiles globally each year with China being the largest market for automobiles. Let that massive number sink in for a minute. Our global population is roughly at 7 billion and will surpass 9 billion in twenty years. Think about the strategic implications just in the auto industry hanging in the balance of the discussion of Oil.
Oil has been far too long a weapon used against the United States from the brilliance, NOT, of our initiative to create OPEC in the last 1970s; that is right, We the US drove that organization into existence. As as the Embargo of 1973 led to rationing, gas lines, riots, I remember oh so well, now the table is turned, finally. Gasoline in this nation is still far too expensive given the rules of Supply and Demand but keep in mind that the greater portion of gasoline price has nothing to do with Supply and Demand but rather taxes by every level of government on each gallon pumped. It is far worse, the taxation per gallon, in Europe so you can know.
But my point today is that sanctions, whining, decrees, hopes, military exercises, etc are all part of a facade to cause a nation to change its sinister ways such as Russia and recolonization of the Empire but the price of oil will do it for you. I read recently that Russia is losing roughly $200 billion per day in Gross Domestic Project due to the low cost of crude oil on global markets. Add to that the black market selling of oil by ISIL in Euro and not dollars and you have yet another body slam at Mother Russia. Thus Oil is a geostrategic weapon more powerful than a B52 if properly targeted and used. But this Administration seems clueless but trying to kill any semblance of increasing oil production as well as coal production in this nation. I find that sad and, well, STUPID, frankly but then go back up and read the red print from the op-ed.
We need oil and given the oil hungry emerging nations and the mature oil-based nations doing bad things, we need an ever increasing flow of oil production to combat strategically these rogue states and warlords. Hitting people in the pocketbook is much tougher than a bullet to the brain for there is a whole nation hanging in the balance via a hit to the national checkbook. .
I am more convinced that at the core of Mr. Obama is that he is a great speaker, intellectually solid but has fallen into the trap of surrounding himself with too many telling him what a great job he is doing and if they do not feed that, Hagel for latest instance, they will be shown the door. It is amazing to me, not really, that it seems nobody will step up to the plate to replace Hagel; SECDEF four under Obama; a new first for American Presidents.
Oil is a weapon; how it is used and to whom it is used on determines the real value of the weapon. It appears we are getting this one right in spite of Mr. Obama and his team; term used loosely I wish to add.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Guess that title will get some attention in light of the last few months. I, like many Americans, are tired of the Battle of Ferguson and all the talking heads, pundits and bobble heads denouncing everything about the prosecutorial process, the grand jury, the water and the hamburgers. I am making light to get to a point. Last night I decided I would go newsless after an amazing Thanksgiving service at my church but, like trying to not watch a car wreck in progress, my fingers did the walking toward channel 1350; CNN on HD. BUSTED I was!
But as the shotgun blasts about all white people hating all black people continued and how Michael Brown has become a martyr and using the term "murder" to describe a police officer doing his work by the book as proved by the evidence; all of which is discounted because the Brown kid was black and all the nut job organizations like the American Communist Party, the infamous Black Party and dozens of other inflammatory groups all decided to make Ferguson a battle ground. To watch blacks destroying other blacks lives and livelihoods is beyond just wrong; it is criminal. But in the midst of the noise, I saw a snippet on CNN that did bring a moment of smile to my consternation..
Mark O'Meara, the defensive attorney in the Trayvon Martin case is now on CNN. This contributor, a black guy name Lamont something or other, loves to hear himself chatter on about "whitey" and hating all blacks thus throwing gasoline into the fire. When I see him I go to Everybody Loves Raymond. Mr O'Meara calmly posed a simple question of Lamont in the middle of another jumbled rant by asking quietly, "do you think Michael Brown carries even a modicum of responsibility for what happened given the evidence we now have?" From that moment on I found humor in realizing Lamont was trapped on national TV in having to think instead of rant to answer the simple question which, of course, he never did and Don Lemmon quickly went to commercial to rescue him is my thought. CASE STUDY in the state of race and reporting in this 24/7 new cycle. Get a bit and find a way to explode it into a hour in the machine needing more and more hype and distortion.
It is Thanksgiving Day and should be a day of rejoicing but I cannot escape the reality of the deep sores and crevices in our nation, my nation, on this issue of race. We have come to a place where all policemen are brushstroked with the same venom by all the poor black people for the police are the Gestapo that apparently get up each morning planning to go out and shoot some innocent black person; as sick as that sounds. If I did not spend hours each month in a county jail and see week after week after week of groups of nearly 40 men and women in chapel services nearly always with 80% plus percent blacks, I might have a different perspective so I am colored by what I see and hear and watch for I project that into the macro society. America has a black criminal issue that cannot be wall papered over with racial rants, threats or diversions.
Giuliani made a very profound comment last night when he spoke about why are there so many police calls into black communities and ghettos; it is easy; they are killing each other so why would the police not predominately be called to these communities? I have to tell you, I am a pretty gutsy man and consider myself rather bravoein the midst of adversity but give what we are seeing each day and night, you have to back up and ask the question, why would any policemen knowingly enter a black neighborhood on a call knowing what potentially awaits and any action he or she might take will be ballooned into a racial attack. That is a generalization but it think you get my point. Perhaps a sick solution is for the police to just ignore calls to come and then measure the death statistics that arise!
We are a nation of laws and laws are worthless unless enforced and it is the police that are charged and challenged to enforce those laws. We have seen rampant, intentional and blatant breakage of laws which are now being allowed to continue by police in some cities, Cleveland for example, because they do not want to inflame a situation. Snarling traffic for hours is a public safety breakage of law and I feel the Police Chief that, on camera, acted like a timid lamb in light of the blatant breakage of the law should be fired for the poor example set on live news cameras. It was embarrassing and all because of the Battle of Ferguson.
I am a sixty-six years old man and I am white and am educated and was raised in the South and have lived and worked all of the world and now reside in the North and love it. I remember all too well the segregated everything, met George Wallace on four occasions; enough of my credential as a qualifier for my comments! We are a nation that is sick and I believe the sickness has gone from a cold to pneumonia due to national leadership inciting the flames that have exploded into this global spectacle that is embarrassing as a nation, demeaning to a People and I do not think represents the true America. So I believe our fearless (smile) leader, POTUS, and the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security and others have in their own way contributed to this disaster and I would love nothing more than to sit in a room with them all and have a good Q&A to address this with them.
If you play with fire, you will get burned. This nation is being burned in so many ways and I think that is crimina but then I think Benghazi, VA, IRS, ACA, etc are all criminal so I guess you see where I think the stake in the ground actually resides; 1600 Pennsylvania. I am an American, I am white, I love my country but I do not love what is happening in this my country I have careered in, worn the warrior cloth for and had been hopes for our nation. I believe Satan is loving every bit moment of this whole unfolding of the fabric of that nation that once stood for greatness.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
We have all watched in shock, horror and disgust at the unfolding, never ending news out of this small hamlet in Missouri since August 9. Many of us watched the prosecutor read his final non-indictment report which, to me at least, sounded credible, astute and well documented and mountains of proof and forensics to support the proof. I breathed a slow sigh thinking, well, just maybe, we can move on to other nice things like ISIL or Russia or Ebola or, something, please! But alas, on CNN, the media went immediately to this female black former prosecutor CNN commentator, Sonny somebody, that immediately assailed the prosecutor, the "proof", the process. See, I realized a few days ago that it mattered not what the grand jury would finally decid, the "crowd" did not want justice; they wanted a head on a stake. And that would never have been enough either!
To make matters even more sickening to me was watching the unfolding of events immediately following the assault on the "process" turn to fires, overturned vehicles, over 150 documented shots fired at the assemblage of police, bottles, looting Baghdad-style and the media, as far as I am concerned, Don Lemmon, Chris Cuomo, etc, were slanted and inflammatory of the events around them thus fanning more poisonous flames. Nothing bothers me more than when "news" reporters stop reporting news and become pontificants of their opinion and slant of what they think they are seeing or worse, think they are hearing, they think.
For me, night two was most concerning as other cities found themselves in the throws of the "non violent protests" that, for some reason, rarely remain "non violent." More troubling to me was watching live television out of Cleveland at the 5 pm traffic rush to see an entire main artery choked down by chanting protesters with traffic backed up for miles and watching Cleveland police allow that to go on as meek sheep including the Chief of Police mulling around shaking hands and back patting the traffic blockers. There was no question the mayor had instructed the Chief that there would be no Ferguson in Cleveland so let the protesters shut down traffic and be "calm and peaceful." How about those thousands of stranded drivers trying to get home paying taxes for those police to do their job which they blatantly were not doing!
The cameras were rolling on a crowd in LA tearing away at a fence obviously being torn down to facilitate access by the "non-violent protesters" to shutdown an Interstate highway you could see just past the fence. I kept thinking of images I saw on safari in Kenya a few years ago of hyenas and lions attacking their kill for some reason in watching all of this unfold; wonder why!
As I went to bed last night I climbed into my helicopter and pulled up to about 10,000 feet to see the bigger view and the image of Tarir Square in Egypt began to come into view for me for if you look at all the "non violent protesters" (cynicism intended) across America coming out of the woodwork, one can begin to realize none of this is ad hoc but rather part of a master, underground plan, organized to disrupt using the First Amendment as justification. So perhaps this is the American version of the "Arab Spring" beginning to unfold.; Time will tell!
We are in dangerous times made more dangerous by our elected officials and police being neutered and impotent as exampled last night. We saw clearly when Hussein toppled and the police in Baghdad left thus nonexistent, what resulted. Police control the civilian population; THAT is there job. I saw little of that last night. Interestingly, the force build up in Ferguson prior to the prosecutor delivery was criticized as too strong, too militarized, too inciting but then when reality hit, those same leaders and forces were again criticized for not being strong enough, militarized enough and too impotent to stop the violence and blatant intent to destroy a way of life. We talk about ISIL and their killing and destroying their own people; how is this any different?
This morning, my wife and I again prayed for God's Hand of peace to spread across our Land and for our leaders to lead. I believe this is all part of God letting us have a taste of life without Him for we, as a nation, have turned so far from Him. Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Thursday, November 20, 2014
I have just watched a Charlie Rose interview with Chuck Hagel, America's Secretary of Defense and in that interview being pressed hard by Rose on the role and purpose and process of elimination of ISIL, Hagel stated that, "Charlie, you must know that we are watching a new world order being built right before our very eyes day by day ..." Wow, I found that intriguing in so many ways.
We have all been literally taken aback by this thing called ISIL in how the cancer has grown so fast and so brutally and I think we collectively have thought there would be this magical moment or event when that dirty old thing, ISIL, would be destroyed and we could all go on with our busy lives. Well, in watching this evolution of this cancer and its brilliant, yes I said that, brilliant prosecution at will in swallowing swaths of Iraq, Syria and soon to be other vulnerable Middle Eastern states, the reality is, I now realize, ISIL has become the metaphor for this New World Order. Bush 41 spoke of this New World Order in the early days of justifying Persian Gulf 1 but I do not think anyone really internalized what NWO meant assuming we were capable of internalizing. Persian Gulf 1 came, we overwhelmed a weak and dishevelled Iraqi military, we declared victory and came home heroes. Life is good!
But in the ensuing period of post Hussein, we began to realize that there were centuries of tribal blood simmering for revenge and looking for a trigger to allow the evening of the score for these years of abuse by dictators and tribal chieftains. 9/11 was the triggering mechanism that rattled the world, in retrospect, that something big, bad and uncontrollable by traditional means had been unfurled. We did not know how to name it, find it and fix it for the lines kept changing and the advent of social media accelerated the visibility of this ghost of something nobody understood and many sought to bury our heads in the sand, pun intended, and thinking in our late 20th century mindset and paradigm, that we would wake up one day next week and things would all be normal.
We, here it is 2015 looking into the shaded and obfuscated binoculars at a horizon that is jagged, smoking, moving and undefinable; a New World Order. And with this NWO the most striking reality for Americans and for the world addicted to America is that America no longer has the secret formula. We can blame politics, which is abominable. We can blame social media and technology, which will only grow and improve. We can blame the POTUS, and he deservedly is worthy of that criticism. Yet, all the blaming on earth will not change the nuclear fission we are witnessing that the atom of calm is unleashed on an unsuspecting and unprepared world; voila, a New World Order. Therefore, I believe ISIL is the perfect storm driven by strategic direction, funding, recruitment, vision and doggedness to a cause; again I say, brilliant, strategically.
So the real question now is not how but what must this NWO truly be and how must it lead the soon to be 9 billion global villagers? My old adage, if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten and doing it faster is the definition of dumb. It is time America and the modern world, whatever that means, stops doing what we have always done. As oil prices which have been the Claymore mine of change since the OPEC Oil Embargo in 1973 have been, oil seems to be less the currency of change in our world. I am not a magician nor do I have a crystal ball but my assumption is that the next currency of change in our world will be the matter of Water supply. Perhaps that is the medium of exchange, money if you will, that world leaders can grasp hold of and begin to work the levers of change in trying to manage the dynamics which, at this stage, seem unmanageable.
Let me finish by stating clearly what I believe about the global view of a world gone made; the world has gone mad! There, is that clear? The world has gone mad for I believe in my heart We the People, God's People and Creation have so dramatically pulled away from the clarity of the Scriptures in our societal norms and mores. I believe We the People have disappointed our Creator and we are tasting the fruit of God pulling back and we are witnessing the spoils of our own making. Perhaps that sounds simplistic or even naive but that is what I believe at the aggregate of this whole global morass and headed toward a global debacle led by the onslaught of this thing like ISIL. Remember, ISIL is supposedly only an army of roughly 30,000 which if that is all ISIL has, it could be militarily obliterated in about a week with enough resources and commitment. But I think the cancer ISIL represents has an force multiplier far, far greater than that number. I believe ISIL is an ideology that few in the world understands and there is not enough energy or drive to want to understand. It is hard to defeat an ideology for you cannot measure it nor grasp it.
So as the blood continues to flow and the heads continue to be severed and as the crucifixions mount and we worry and ponder and plan and hope, what we need to be doing is a global return to God seeking his forgiveness for choosing to allow the forces of evil to prosper. And yes, I do believe it is just that simple. We have allowed things like the ACLU to tear down the walls of what Scripture clearly says is right and wrong. There are no solid absolutes anymore and the concept of right and wrong has to be wrong for everything has a gray, middle ground. NO, it does not! If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything and that is exactly what I am seeing daily in so many, too many, ways and places.
In closing, my question I will pose to each of you reading this; what do you stand for? Ponder that please. I believe the fix for ISIL and all it metaphorically represents is a powerful return to the God that made us, loves us and wants us to live by His principles clearly outlined in His Holy Bible. It is not about fairness, negotiation of boundaries; it is about living in a world of absolutes with each other and in our relationship with our Creator. That will yield a New World Order in God's image but please remember, He created the first and best World Order and it is We the People that have managed to scar His landscape, right?
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Selah is a term that is used at times at the end of certain verses in the Bible that has always intrigued me but I have not really invested any time in researching it. This past Sunday I was part of a Jail Chapel service for forty women inmates and one of the ladies I would honored to work with spoke to the group of inmates about their time of Selah while incarcerated. In a flash for me, the term took on great gravity and I have found myself pondering Selah ever since that worship service.
The term, basically, connotes to "take pause" thus to reflect on what you have just read in the Scripture. When put in the context of people in a holding pattern in their life, for example in a jail cell, Selah becomes extremely meaning. As I took over the worship leading in speaking to the gathering, the Selah concept kept finding its way into my comments. Since that Sunday afternoon as I sit here on a very cold Tuesday evening, I have found myself listening more deeply, reading more thoroughly and seeking to understand in more depth what is being said to me as I journey through the hours since that jail service.
I have decided to blog the concept for I think there is more than ample example in our busy-crazed world where fewer and fewer people even think about pausing to reflect and thus to consider and ponder the next step of their journey. Perhaps the hit to the head with Darleen's comment about Selah was made more imperatively in learning of a female inmate the previous Thursday night trying to killing herself by hanging inside the jail. Today as I attending my weekly Bible study from Luke, the amazing Scripture recording Zecharias' comments at the day of circumcising of his miracle son, John. I found myself reading and rereading during the Study in wanting to plumb the amazing gravity of John's father's words to those in his family that came to the ceremony. That is an example of how my mind has been affected by the power of Selah since Sunday.
In a world seemingly gone mad, and it has, we must find time to take pause to ponder many questions we face as to direction, investment, decision, choice, for ourselves and others that depend on our decisions and choices. For example, I watch student loan debt in this nation spiking annually as the quality of education and value of the education deteriorates and just scratch my head. I have seen far too much example in my decade of university teaching of a significant percentage of students coming to college that are not motivated to perform or, frankly, are not academically skilled to take on that responsibility. That is but one example where the concept of Selah should be forced to take place before that costly and wasteful decision to attend college is made.
My assumption at my age and stage of life is that truly using the toolbar of Selah in one's life coming after passing a gate of maturity. It matters not the age of the person but the events that have crafted that person and the ensuing life that has been charted with good and poor choices. I stand as witness to that sentence with raised hand!
Selah! Wow! Selah! My challenge to each of you reading this is that you will take a season and truly seek time and pause on life decisions but more especially to seek God's Will in and for your life via those decisions; and we all face them don't we?
So in closing, Friends ... Selah on your moments ahead! If you are reading this you can know you are special to me and for whatever the reason at this very moment, that specialness is made even more acute.
Thank you for allowing me into your world for a few moments. I am blessed!
Friday, November 14, 2014
How to Respond to a Disordered World
Richard N. Haass
Richard N. Haass
RICHARD N. HAASS is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Follow him on Twitter @RichardHaass.
In his classic The Anarchical Society, the scholar Hedley Bull argued that there was a perennial tension in the world between forces of order and forces of disorder, with the details of the balance between them defining each era’s particular character. Sources of order include actors committed to existing international rules and arrangements and to a process for modifying them; sources of disorder include actors who reject those rules and arrangements in principle and feel free to ignore or undermine them. The balance can also be affected by global trends, to varying degrees beyond the control of governments, that create the context for actors’ choices. These days, the balance between order and disorder is shifting toward the latter. Some of the reasons are structural, but some are the result of bad choices made by important players -- and at least some of those can and should be corrected.
The chief cauldron of contemporary disorder is the Middle East. For all the comparisons that have been made to World War I or the Cold War, what is taking place in the region today most resembles the Thirty Years’ War, three decades of conflict that ravaged much of Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century. As with Europe back then, in coming years, the Middle East is likely to be filled with mostly weak states unable to police large swaths of their territories, militias and terrorist groups acting with increasing sway, and both civil war and interstate strife. Sectarian and communal identities will be more powerful than national ones. Fueled by vast supplies of natural resources, powerful local actors will continue to meddle in neighboring countries’ internal affairs, and major outside actors will remain unable or unwilling to stabilize the region.
There is also renewed instability on the periphery of Europe. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia appears to have given up on the proposition of significant integration into the current European and global orders and chosen instead to fashion an alternative future based on special ties with immediate neighbors and clients. The crisis in Ukraine may be the most pronounced, but not the last, manifestation of what could well be a project of Russian or, rather, Soviet restoration.
In Asia, the problem is less current instability than the growing potential for it. There, most states are neither weak nor crumbling, but strong and getting stronger. The mix of several countries with robust identities, dynamic economies, rising military budgets, bitter historical memories, and unresolved territorial disputes yields a recipe for classic geopolitical maneuvering and possibly armed conflict. Adding to the challenges in this stretch of the world are a brittle North Korea and a turbulent Pakistan, both with nuclear weapons (and one with some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists). Either could be the source of a local or global crisis, resulting from reckless action or state collapse.
Some contemporary challenges to order are global, a reflection of dangerous aspects of globalization that include cross-border flows of terrorists, viruses (both physical and virtual), and greenhouse gas emissions. With few institutional mechanisms available for stanching or managing them, such flows hold the potential to disrupt and degrade the quality of the system as a whole. And the rise of populism amid economic stagnation and increasing inequality makes improving global governance even more challenging.
The principles informing international order are also in contention. Some consensus exists about the unacceptability of acquiring territory by force, and it was such agreement that undergirded the broad coalition supporting the reversal of Saddam Hussein’s attempt to absorb Kuwait into Iraq in 1990. But the consensus had frayed enough over the succeeding generation to allow Russia to escape similar universal condemnation after its taking of Crimea last spring, and it is anyone’s guess how much of the world would respond to an attempt by China to muscle in on contested airspace, seas, or territory. International agreement on sovereignty breaks down even more when it comes to the question of the right of outsiders to intervene when a government attacks its own citizens or otherwise fails to meet its sovereign obligations. A decade after UN approval, the concept of “the responsibility to protect” no longer enjoys broad support, and there is no shared agreement on what constitutes legitimate involvement in the affairs of other countries.
To be sure, there are forces of order at work as well. There has been no great-power war for many decades, and there is no significant prospect of one in the near future. China and the United States cooperate on some occasions and compete on others, but even in the latter case, the competition is bounded. Interdependence is real, and both countries have a great deal invested (literally and figuratively) in the other, making any major and prolonged rupture in the relationship a worrisome possibility for both.
Russia, too, is constrained by interdependence, although less so than China given its energy-concentrated economy and more modest levels of external trade and investment. That means sanctions have a chance of influencing its behavior over time. Putin’s foreign policy may be revanchist, but Russia’s hard- and soft-power resources are both limited. Russia no longer represents anything that appeals to anyone other than ethnic Russians, and as a result, the geopolitical troubles it can cause will remain on Europe’s periphery, without touching the continent’s core. Indeed, the critical elements of Europe’s transformation over the past 70 years -- the democratization of Germany, Franco-German reconciliation, economic integration -- are so robust that they can reasonably be taken for granted. Europe’s parochialism and military weakness may make the region a poor partner for the United States in global affairs, but the continent itself is no longer a security problem, which is a huge advance on the past.
It would also be wrong to look at the Asia-Pacific and assume the worst. The region has been experiencing unprecedented economic growth for decades and has managed it peacefully. Here, too, economic interdependence acts as a brake on conflict. And there is still time for diplomacy and creative policymaking to create institutional shock absorbers that can help reduce the risk of confrontation stemming from surging nationalism and spiraling distrust.
The global economy, meanwhile, has stabilized in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and new regulations have been put in place to reduce the odds and scale of future crises. U.S. and European growth rates are still below historical norms, but what is holding the United States and Europe back is not the residue of the crisis so much as various policies that restrict robust growth.
North America could once again become the world’s economic engine, given its stable, prosperous, and open economy; its 470 million people; and its emerging energy self-sufficiency. Latin America is, for the most part, at peace. Mexico is a far more stable and successful country than it was a decade ago, as is Colombia. Questions hovering over the futures of such countries as Brazil, Chile, Cuba, and Venezuela do not alter the fundamental narrative of a region heading in the right direction. And Africa, too, has a growing number of countries in which better governance and economic performance are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Traditional analytic approaches have little to offer in making sense of these seemingly contradictory trends. One conventional route, for example, would be to frame the international dynamic as one of rising and falling powers, pitting China’s advance against the United States’ decline. But this exaggerates the United States’ weaknesses and underestimates China’s. For all its problems, the United States is well positioned to thrive in the twenty-first century, whereas China faces a multitude of challenges, including slowing growth, rampant corruption, an aging population, environmental degradation, and wary neighbors. And no other country is even close to having the necessary mix of capacity and commitment to be a challenger to the United States for global preeminence.
U.S. President Barack Obama was recently quoted as brushing off concerns that things are falling apart, noting that “the world has always been messy” and that what is going on today “is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War.” Such sanguinity is misplaced, however, as today’s world is messier, thanks to the emergence of a greater number of meaningful actors and the lack of overlapping interests or mechanisms to constrain the capacity or moderate the behavior of the most radical ones.
Indeed, with U.S. hegemony waning but no successor waiting to pick up the baton, the likeliest future is one in which the current international system gives way to a disorderly one with a larger number of power centers acting with increasing autonomy, paying less heed to U.S. interests and preferences. This will cause new problems even as it makes existing ones more difficult to solve. In short, the post–Cold War order is unraveling, and while not perfect, it will be missed.
THE CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
Just why have things begun to unravel? For various reasons, some structural, others volitional. In the Middle East, for example, order has been undermined by a tradition of top-heavy, often corrupt, and illegitimate governments; minimal civil society; the curse of abundant energy resources (which often retard economic and political reform); poor educational systems; and various religion-related problems, such as sectarian division, fights between moderates and radicals, and the lack of a clear and widely accepted line between religious and secular spheres. But outside actions have added to the problems, from poorly drawn national borders to recent interventions.
With more than a decade of hindsight, the decision of the United States to oust Saddam and remake Iraq looks even more mistaken than it did at the time. It is not just that the articulated reason for the war -- ridding Saddam of weapons of mass destruction -- was shown to be faulty. What looms even larger in retrospect is the fact that removing Saddam and empowering Iraq’s Shiite majority shifted the country from balancing Iranian strategic ambitions to serving them, in the process exacerbating frictions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims within the country and the region at large.
Nor did regime change have better results in two other countries where it was achieved. In Egypt, the American call for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office contributed to the polarization of the society. Subsequent events demonstrated that Egypt was not yet ready for a democratic transition, and U.S. withdrawal of support from a longtime friend and ally raised questions elsewhere (most notably in other Arab capitals) about the dependability of Washington’s commitments. In Libya, meanwhile, the removal of Muammar al-Qaddafi by a combined U.S. and European effort helped create a failed state, one increasingly dominated by militias and terrorists. The uncertain necessity of the intervention itself was compounded by the lack of effective follow-up, and the entire exercise -- coming as it did a few years after Qaddafi had been induced to give up his unconventional weapons programs -- probably increased the perceived value of nuclear weapons and reduced the likelihood of getting other states to follow Qaddafi’s example.
In Syria, the United States expressed support for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and then did little to bring it about. Obama went on to make a bad situation worse by articulating a set of redlines involving Syrian use of chemical munitions and then failing to act even when those lines were clearly crossed. This demoralized what opposition there was, forfeited a rare opportunity to weaken the government and change the momentum of the civil war, and helped usher in a context in which the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has declared itself the Islamic State, could flourish. The gap between rhetoric and action also further contributed to perceptions of American unreliability.
In Asia, too, the chief criticism that can be levied against U.S. policy is one of omission. As structural trends have increased the risks of traditional interstate conflict, Washington has failed to move in a determined fashion to stabilize the situation -- not raising the U.S. military’s presence in the region significantly in order to reassure allies and ward off challengers, doing little to build domestic support for a regional trade pact, and pursuing insufficiently active or sustained consultations to shape the thinking and actions of local leaders.
With regard to Russia, both internal and external factors have contributed to the deterioration of the situation. Putin himself chose to consolidate his political and economic power and adopt a foreign policy that increasingly characterizes Russia as an opponent of an international order defined and led by the United States. But U.S. and Western policy have not always encouraged more constructive choices on his part. Disregarding Winston Churchill’s famous dictum about how to treat a beaten enemy, the West displayed little magnanimity in the aftermath of its victory in the Cold War. NATO enlargement was seen by many Russians as a humiliation, a betrayal, or both. More could have been made of the Partnership for Peace, a program designed to foster better relations between Russia and the alliance. Alternatively, Russia could have been asked to join NATO, an outcome that would have made little military difference, as NATO has become less of an alliance in the classic sense than a standing pool of potential contributors to “coalitions of the willing.” Arms control, one of the few domains in which Russia could lay claim to still being a great power, was shunted to the side as unilateralism and minimalist treaties became the norm. Russian policy might have evolved the way it has anyway, even if the United States and the West overall had been more generous and welcoming, but Western policy increased the odds of such an outcome.
As for global governance, international accords are often hard to come by for many reasons. The sheer number of states makes consensus difficult or impossible. So, too, do divergent national interests. As a result, attempts to construct new global arrangements to foster trade and frustrate climate change have foundered. Sometimes countries just disagree on what is to be done and what they are prepared to sacrifice to achieve a goal, or they are reluctant to support an initiative for fear of setting a precedent that could be used against them later. There is thus decidedly less of an “international community” than the frequent use of the phrase would suggest.
Once again, however, in recent years, developments in and actions by the United States have contributed to the problem. The post–Cold War order was premised on U.S. primacy, which was a function of not just U.S. power but also U.S. influence, reflecting a willingness on the part of others to accept the United States’ lead. This influence has suffered from what is generally perceived as a series of failures or errors, including lax economic regulation that contributed to the financial crisis, overly aggressive national security policies that trampled international norms, and domestic administrative incompetence and political dysfunction.
Order has unraveled, in short, thanks to a confluence of three trends. Power in the world has diffused across a greater number and range of actors. Respect for the American economic and political model has diminished. And specific U.S. policy choices, especially in the Middle East, have raised doubts about American judgment and the reliability of the United States’ threats and promises. The net result is that while the United States’ absolute strength remains considerable, American influence has diminished.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Left unattended, the current world turbulence is unlikely to fade away or resolve itself. Bad could become worse all too easily should the United States prove unwilling or unable to make wiser and more constructive choices. Nor is there a single solution to the problem, as the nature of the challenges varies from region to region and issue to issue. In fact, there is no solution of any sort to a situation that can at best be managed, not resolved.
But there are steps that can and should be taken. In the Middle East, the United States could do worse than to adopt the Hippocratic oath and try above all to do no further harm. The gap between U.S. ambitions and U.S. actions needs to be narrowed, and it will normally make more sense to reduce the former than increase the latter. The unfortunate reality is that democratic transformations of other societies are often beyond the means of outsiders to achieve. Not all societies are equally well positioned to become democratic at any given moment. Structural prerequisites may not be in place; an adverse political culture can pose obstacles. Truly liberal democracies may make for better international citizens, but helping countries get to that point is more difficult than often recognized -- and the attempts often riskier, as immature or incomplete democracies can be hijacked by demagoguery or nationalism. Promoting order among states -- shaping their foreign policies more than their internal politics -- is an ambitious enough goal for U.S. policy to pursue.
But if attempts at regime change should be jettisoned, so, too, should calendar-based commitments. U.S. interests in Iraq were not well served by the inability to arrange for the ongoing presence of a residual U.S. force there, one that might have dampened the feuding of Iraqi factions and provided much-needed training for Iraqi security forces. The same holds for Afghanistan, where all U.S. forces are due to exit by the end of 2016. Such decisions should be linked to interests and conditions rather than timelines. Doing too little can be just as costly and risky as doing too much.
Other things outsiders could usefully do in the region include promoting and supporting civil society, helping refugees and displaced people, countering terrorism and militancy, and working to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (such as by trying to place a meaningful ceiling on the Iranian nuclear program). Degrading ISIS will require regular applications of U.S. airpower against targets inside both Iraq and Syria, along with coordinated efforts with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey to stem the flow of recruits and dollars. There are several potential partners on the ground in Iraq, but fewer in Syria -- where action against ISIS must be undertaken in the midst of a civil war. Unfortunately, the struggle against ISIS and similar groups is likely to be difficult, expensive, and long.
In Asia, the prescription is considerably simpler: implement existing policy assiduously. The Obama administration’s “pivot,” or “rebalance,” to Asia was supposed to involve regular high-level diplomatic engagement to address and calm the region’s all-too-numerous disputes; an increased U.S. air and naval presence in the region; and the building of domestic and international support for a regional trade pact. All these actions can and should be higher administration priorities, as should a special attempt to explore the conditions under which China might be prepared to reconsider its commitment to a divided Korean Peninsula.
With Russia and Ukraine, what is required is a mixture of efforts designed to shore up Ukraine economically and militarily, strengthen NATO, and sanction Russia. At the same time, Russia should also be offered a diplomatic exit, one that would include assurances that Ukraine would not become a member of NATO anytime soon or enter into exclusive ties with the EU. Reducing European energy dependence on Russia should also be a priority -- something that will necessarily take a long time but should be started now. In dealing with Russia and other powers, meanwhile, Washington should generally eschew attempts at linkage, trying to condition cooperation in one area on cooperation in another. Cooperation of any sort anywhere is too difficult to achieve these days to jeopardize it by overreaching.
At the global level, the goal of U.S. policy should still be integration, trying to bring others into arrangements to manage global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, proliferation, trade, public health, and maintaining a secure and open commons. Where these arrangements can be global, so much the better, but where they cannot, they should be regional or selective, involving those actors with significant interests and capacity and that share some degree of policy consensus.
The United States also needs to put its domestic house in order, both to increase Americans’ living standards and to generate the resources needed to sustain an active global role. A stagnant and unequal society will be unlikely to trust its government or favor robust efforts abroad. This need not mean gutting defense budgets, however; to the contrary, there is a strong case to be made that U.S. defense spending needs to be increased somewhat. The good news is that the United States can afford both guns and butter, so long as resources are allocated appropriately and efficiently. Another reason to get things right at home is to reduce American vulnerability. U.S. energy security has improved dramatically in recent years, thanks to the oil and gas revolutions, but the same cannot be said about other problems, such as the country’s aging public infrastructure, its inadequate immigration policy, and its long-term public finances.
As has recently been noted in these pages, American political dysfunction is increasing rather than decreasing, thanks to weakened parties, powerful interest groups, political finance rules, and demographic changes. Those who suggest that the country is only a budget deal away from comity are as mistaken as those who suggest that the country is only one crisis away from restored national unity. The world can see this, and see as well that a majority of the American public has grown skeptical of global involvement, let alone leadership. Such an attitude should hardly be surprising given the persistence of economic difficulties and the poor track record of recent U.S. interventions abroad. But it is up to the president to persuade a war-weary American society that the world still matters -- for better and for worse -- and that an active foreign policy can and should be pursued without undermining domestic well-being.
In fact, sensible foreign and domestic policies are mutually reinforcing: a stable world is good for the home front, and a successful home front provides the resources needed for American global leadership. Selling this case will be difficult, but one way to make it easier is to advance a foreign policy that tries to reorder the world rather than remake it. But even if this is done, it will not be enough to prevent the further erosion of order, which results as much from a wider distribution of power and a decentralization of decision-making as it does from how the United States is perceived and acts. The question is not whether the world will continue to unravel but how fast and how far.