Paul W. Barada
Thank goodness Election Day is only one week from now! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about all the electioneering, campaigning, debating, and attack ads - from both political parties - I can stand. I hasten to add that I’m about to the point where I don’t care who wins. That’s not really true, I do care who wins. I just want the vulgarity of the run-up to the election to stop.
For the life of me, I can’t imagine why any sane person would want to be President of the United States. Who in his or her right mind would willingly go through the scrutiny of every minute detail of their lives, both public and private? Then, having endured the campaign season which, it seems to me, has lasted for about the last two years, would want the headaches that come with the top job?
The really sad part of the whole process is being President of the United States is a really important job. It requires someone of extraordinary talent, drive, ambition, and a constitution of tempered steel to endure it.
As we’ve seen over the last four years, whoever is elected president can change how the United States is perceived throughout the world. And, for better or worse, a strong United States military makes for a safer world. Reducing our military’s ability to command respect among nations, particularly those in the Middle East, does not make us look more peaceful to Islamic extremists, it makes us look weak and emboldens those who would like nothing better than to see the United States an impotent power in world affairs.
One of the mistakes governments make is not realizing that, by and large, when we’re talking about the majority of nations in the Middle East we’re really talking about tribes of widely diverse peoples. We may think of them as nation-states, but they’re really not. A map of the area may show boundaries that define Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all the rest, but they’re not really “nations” in the traditional sense. The loyalty of the people is to their tribes and their religious leaders. The notion of loyalty to a “nation” simply does not exist in the way we, as Americans, think of it. And because they’re still operating as though the world is still in the Middle Ages, peace overtures are seen by them as weakness. We do far better in that part of the world by remembering Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition to, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That’s what religious extremists understand, unfortunately.
The tribes of the Middle East can be analogized to the American Indian tribes of the 19th century. They fought among themselves until they had a common enemy to unite them. In the case of the American Indian, it was the encroachment of white settlers on traditional Indian lands that eventually caused them to put aside their differences and unite against the white man. The same sort of thing, essentially, is going on in the Middle East. And that’s why having overwhelming military power is the only thing they’ll respect, just as the Indian Wars of the 1800s brought an end to the isolated attacks by various tribes against white settlers; that’s the best analogy I can think of to compare to what’s going on in the Middle East.
Getting back to the upcoming election, in the last debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, the President, somewhat condescendingly, pointed out that we don’t need a big navy anymore because each ship we have is so much more powerful, sophisticated, and technologically superior. One ship can now do the work of several. The point he’s overlooking is that even the most advanced nuclear aircraft carrier can only be in one part of the world at a time. The United States Navy is one of the “big sticks” we have in a troubled world. Nothing makes the Somalis, with their machetes and bolt-action rifles, think twice about attacking merchant vessels than the sight of an American aircraft carrier. But the coast of eastern Africa isn’t the only trouble spot in the world where a display of American sea power is needed. So, to say we need fewer ships in the Navy presumes that the ships we have can zip around the world at a moment’s notice whenever American lives and property are at risk.
Furthermore, does anyone think that former Soviet Premier Gorbachev would have paid a dime’s worth of attention to President Reagan when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” referring to the Berlin Wall, if the United States had been weak militarily? The United States is a force for good in the world because it has the military power to free the world from brutal dictators and, if not get rid of them, to keep them from committing further atrocities on their own people or their neighbors.
Speaking from a position of strength is essential for American foreign policy, not from a position of perceived weakness by those who would attack us if they thought they could get away with it.
One week to go and we’ll know, in rather dramatic fashion, what the future of this country will be like. There are two very distinct political philosophies from which to choose. Regardless of which philosophy you think will be best for the future of all Americans, be sure and vote.
That’s -30- for this week.