Why is always the question I ask. Visual images hold the power to impact us in ways that words never will. The image above is from a postcard I bought in Germany in 1980. In a blog post, I had mentioned that I went to the border, near a town named Hof, and I saw the “Iron Curtain” in person as a young soldier on a trip arranged by the Army. That trip, and of course being assigned to a Pershing missile battalion, set me on this path of studying military strategy and trying to understand, “Why war?” Assuredly, I am not some closet 60s peacenik, but I do search for better answers to the world’s most difficult mountain to move, which is “finding a path to Peace?”
The huge displacement of people from Syria, Libya, Iraq and other areas in the greater Mid-East, an exodus that has been in progress for several years, I might add, has now captured the amnesiac public’s attention in the West. A photo of a drowned Syrian boy, lying face down on the beach, where he washed ashore in Turkey after drowning when the overcrowded boat his family was on capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, will become the iconic image of this war, just like the photo of the naked Vietnamese girl a generation ago. The boy’s family was fleeing Kobani, the sight of an ongoing battle between Islamic State fighters and the Kurds.
I listen with interest to the simplistic answers to resolve this refugee crisis and also to the simplistic answers as to what caused this crisis too. The answers range from British actress, Emma Thompson declaring the problem is because British people are racist and don’t want to help these refugees. Across the pond, GOP presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, placed the blame squarely on President Obama for failing to act sooner and intervening in the Syrian civil war and dealing with the Islamic State. The prime minister of Hungary, Victor Orbán invited angry cries of racism and outrage, when he criticized EU policy. The UK news site, The Guardian reports:
“Everything which is now taking place before our eyes threatens to have explosive consequences for the whole of Europe,” Orbán wrote in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Europe’s response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union’s misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation.
“Irresponsibility is the mark of every European politician who holds out the promise of a better life to immigrants and encourages them to leave everything behind and risk their lives in setting out for Europe. If Europe does not return to the path of common sense, it will find itself laid low in a battle for its fate.”
The president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, lashed out at the EU. The UK’s Daily Mail states:
Mr Erdogan, the Turkish president, today insisted Europe had to act to save refugees dying.
He said: ‘European countries, which have turned the Mediterranean, the cradle of the world’s oldest civilisations, into a cemetery for refugees, shares the sin for every refugee who loses their life.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3220885/EU-draws-emergency-plan-relocate-160-000-stranded-refugees-continent-Britain-ZERO.html#ixzz3kmSeOoZD
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“The Prime Minister told reporters: ‘Anyone who saw those pictures overnight could not help but be moved and, as a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey.
‘Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities.
‘I would say the people responsible for these terrible scenes we see the people most responsible are President Assad in Syria and the butchers of ISIL and the criminal gangs who are running this terrible trade in people.’
Asked why Britain won’t take more refugees, Mr Cameron said: ‘We are. We are taking thousands of refugees and we have always done that as a country – running our asylum system properly and giving a proper welcome to people and helping them when they come here.”
My primary care doctor pulled out his cell phone a year or so ago and showed me photos of his parents’ home in Syria, where the neighborhood had been bombed in recent days. His parents are here in the US with him, having been displaced by the civil war in Syria. My doctor, a wonderful doctor and usually so calm and measured in speech, angrily stated that it was all because of one man trying to stay in power, placing blame squarely on Syrian president, Bashar al Assad.
And so it goes, each response, points a finger at who is to blame for the problem. Each response carries some truth, but none answers the big question of “why” this situation reached this point, nor do any responses bring us any closer to resolving the larger problem. The real answer is people accept ineffective leaders around the world and people look for little picture scapegoats to resolve complex problems, which require international answers and more importantly international leadership.
One country, not even those who believe in the US as the global hegemon, can resolve the ongoing collapse of Islamic civilization. And what the leaders in The West don’t quite grasp is simultaneously Western civilization is on that downward civilizational spiral too. As I stated in a previous post, we are facing two large civilization collapses at the same time. The West has set up a house of cards financial scheme that could fold without hurricane force winds. Yes, it is that precarious!
The post card at the top of this post set me on a journey searching not only for a better national security framework, but a better international security framework. Everyone, from Emma Thompson, horrified by that photo, to Victor Orbán, fearful of the collapse of western civilization, is right and yet, none captures the larger truth.. The larger truth is no one leader or country can resolve this crisis. Only many leaders working in good faith can end the fighting in the collapsing Islamic civilization and only many leaders can stabilize the collapsing Western civilization. In May, I wrote:
Now, how I started thinking about all this was because long ago, I was a young woman assigned to a Pershing missile unit in 1980 and trying to wrap my mind around “mutually assured destruction” scared me. I have been reading and thinking about our national security strategy almost every day since 1980 and asking myself “Why?” I am seeking a different path forward to provide, not just a national security framework, but an international security framework for ALL of us. Yes, quite an insurmountable obstacle, a pipe dream perhaps, but there you have it – that is my personal mission and I’ll keep studying, reading history, and considering new ideas unto that end. I am a nobody homemaker, but I am an American and no one ever told me I can’t succeed. I started writing my thoughts and ideas here and welcome other ideas.
“I believe too much effort is directed toward extremes of “kill them all” or “bow down in submission to Islamist nuts intent on killing all of us“. Hopefully, my determination to explore other avenues, than the extremes, doesn’t make me a quisling, an armchair expert or naive. I’m a mother and a grandmother wondering about the future for them and I believe, we need to explore new ways of bolstering an international security framework and that demands LEADERSHIP.”
I’ve written many of my thoughts about military strategy, war, and the complexities of understanding civilizations on this blog. I like to consider and analyze problems from a little picture/ big picture perspective. At the heart of war and all conflict lies the human heart and a break down of trust:
Then there are larger issues like:
Global Zero: Another Nothing-Burger Plan
Paving the path to Peace
So, after thinking about “Why war?” since 1980 and reading endlessly about military strategy, history, and geopolitics. I’m going to just repost my blog post from May and you can laugh, dismiss it out of hand, or consider it, but truly the answer boils down to “all of us”, not pointing fingers at another world leader or group:
If we build it; we can fix it
I want to write this post, which assuredly most people will dismiss out of hand. This is my explanation of why I think Peace is possible and the fall of civilizations remedied. I’ve been an adherent of a “God does not give us impossible missions belief” my entire life. I believe God gave us FREE WILL. We can choose to do or not to do, to soar or to sit on our butts whining that life isn’t fair and wait for others to do for us, We can choose to live in FEAR or we can dare to stand up and say, “I don’t care if that’s the way it’s always been, I am going to think for myself and see if I can think, invent, build something better.”
As far as I can tell, the only human unit that is vital is the husband/wife combo, because without them reproducing , the human race will perish. For a child to survive, requires both the mother and father. Of course, living in groups – the “it takes a village” idea, definitely makes it much easier for humans to flourish. So, most people live in groups.
I like to analyze systems, even though I have had no formal training to do this. One of my sons works for a large aircraft manufacturer as a software engineer. He tells me about his travels to go diagnose and fix problems for customers, whose planes have something not working right.
Now, imagine if their planes had some fatal flaw where, say, inexplicably their most popular deluxe model of planes started suffering engine failure after hitting around the 20,000 mile mark. The company would not accept the 20,000 mile failure of their planes nor would they want to have to rebuild engines, over and over or replace the ones that died. They would send someone to do a systems analysis and try to detect what design flaws or equipment failure are leading to this problem.
I never accepted either the “belief” that civilizations are doomed to this endless “rise and fall” cycle, nor do I wander off into utopian pipe dreams. My observation is that civilizations are built and deconstructed by man, just like planes – they are a man-made invention. We find on earth some societies that remained content to settle for living in small groups and fighting to survive at bare subsistence level. Others seek to live in a fancier deluxe model grouping, thus the most advanced civilizations are built to please those customers. These deluxe model civilizations rely on several complex sub-systems to operate.
My mother used to get frustrated with my unwillingness to accept answers that began with, “that’s the way it’s always been”. Accepting that premise dooms us to wasting a lot of, not only material wealth, but more importantly human lives and potential (often large portions of an entire generation), because lots of people perish when we have multiple sub-set systems failures.
So, far we’ve got most of the best geopolitical systems analysts (world leaders, scholars, statesmen, soldiers) not working on finding ways to fix the multiple, simultaneous, sub-system failures that lead to a collapse of a civilization. They study the various sub-set systems and do some disparate diagnostics, then shrug and say, that’s just how civilizations are – “they rise and they fall”. Some try to design quick-fix patches. Some recoil in fear and are content to be passive spectators to the collapse and murmur, “It’s always been that way”. Brilliant geopolitics experts, almost to a man, say “that’s the way it’s always been and I have seen nothing in history to indicate it can ever change.” Of course, if you accept it can’t change, very few people will even bother trying to change it.
In fact, they invariably insist that when one of those sub-set systems, one intended to safeguard the entire system, runs amok and helps destroy most of the frame and body of the entire civilization, we’re just supposed to accept that these most complex advanced civilizations have some fatal flaw – it’s either that’s how God made the world, accept it, quit being a daydreamer and shut up about “utopias”.
I refuse to accept that belief. I believe that if we build it, we can always improve on the design and come up with better sub-systems to build a newer, better performing model. If your best systems analysts don’t ever even really try to find the design flaws and fix them, but instead wander off, halfheartedly fixing, only bits and pieces of some of the sub-system design flaws, of course the system will continue to reach the point where these sub-systems start falling apart and down the chute into the dustbin of history goes all that work that went into it. In the process usually many, many people perish, because most of these sub-set failures happen in midair, resulting in spectacular crashes, although some do implode and burn slowly on the runway too, so to speak. Cleaning up the wreckage from civilizational collapses can take centuries, sometimes those people that survive don’t even bother, they wander off into the wilderness.
The known history of man provides us a great deal of information to study the various sub-sets, how they work together, which models work better and the flaws in the various systems. For instance, we know that in governmental systems there are good kings and bad kings, dependent on one thing – the king. For that system to work long term, relies on the accident of birth and hoping the genetic lottery of life works favorably for your kingdom, because all it takes to wreck a good kingdom is one bad king.
Others, say, in America, sat down and studied history and analyzed government systems throughout history and tried to select components that would provide a safeguard against the one bad king, as they had just got done ditching one of those bad draws in the genetic pool kind of kings. In America, some men gathered together and said, even though no one in the known history of man has tried this first, we are FREE to come up with a better system. We started with the premise that ALL MEN ARE FREE and constructed a governmental system that we thought would best safeguard individual freedom. Many people in the world get sick of hearing Americans blabber on about our Constitution. Lots of countries have constitutions, but none of them starts with the bedrock BELIEFS that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and ALL MEN ARE FREE.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we tried to transplant democracy, but democracy isn’t what leads to a better life for people; FREEDOM does. A Constitution is just a piece of paper. Napoleon was one of the world’s premiere constitution writers in history. As soon as Napoleon conquered a place, he wrote another constitution for those conquered people to obey. Selecting a good governmental system, in my opinion, is the most important sub-system in a group’s organizational structure, because that sub-system determines how well any other component sub-systems you design will work. We shouldn’t be telling the world that democracy makes us different, we should teach the world that the BELIEF IN INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM does.
Many other governmental systems work, and all governments are subject to engine failure (where America is at now) and a host of other sub-system failures, because any government relies on many other complex sub-systems to work too, just as civilizations do. Being willing to do the diagnostics and taking the corrective actions to prevent a total breakdown determines the fate of more complex groups, who rely on a more advanced organizational structure than a simple group, like a tribe or religious commune.
My son recently lamented to me that he doesn’t understand why some, way more experienced, software engineers he knows settle for creating sort of patches to fix problems, instead of trying to figure out what’s causing the problem to occur in the first place and fix that. He asked why people are like that and I told him, that in my opinion, lots of people prefer to take the easiest road – believe me, growing up in PA, our pothole-patched roads attest to that. Because throwing a patch on is easier than repairing the entire road. And I should know, because my father built roads for a living.
3 responses to “In a boat without paddles…..”
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JK, That’s a very important essay.