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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reviewing Something Old And Something New

There are two important occasions at this time. The first is that this is the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fifty years ago, we came so close to fighting a nuclear war with the then Soviet Union which would have certainly destroyed all of human life. The second is that we are within 2 weeks of voting for the next President of the United States. To prepare for choosing the next President, we have had the much publicized Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. The participants in these debates have been the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties. However, less known to others is the Third Party Presidential debate of October 23 between the nominees of the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Justice Party, and the Constitution Party (can be seen here). A followup debate between the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates will be held on October 30. Rather than choose one of these events, I thought it most appropriate to review both.

There is plenty of material available for one to learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis for those who are too  young to know or remember. I am not that young though, I was an elementary school student when the crisis occurred. I have faint memories crisis with the most prominent one being that of hearing my first air raid siren while I was in my neighbor's driveway. That memory stuck out most in my mind because when I heard the siren, I didn't know it was only a test; I thought for sure that war had started. To review this crisis, I will use the movie, Thirteen Days. This is a movie I own and I once assigned it to a class on terrorism so they could learn and distinguish the different parts of intelligence gathering, interpretation, and policy making. The movie can be accessed here. This movie does a fair job of accurately portraying most of the key events that took place during the crisis.

The Cuban Missile Crisis started with the discovery of medium range Soviet ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba. The issue then became how the U.S. was going to remove those missiles. Two sides quickly formed during this crisis. The first side were those who favored an immediate military intervention. According to the movie, those favoring such a response included the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as those in the intelligence community. The other side consisted of those who opposed any kind of action that could trigger a WWIII. This other side was a diverse group from Adlai Stevenson who was strongly favored a diplomatic solution while President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and the President's unofficial Chief of Staff, Kenny O'Donnell. These three, at first, had difficulty believing that a diplomatic solution could be found but they knew that the military option would mean a world war.

Two key features of this movie was President Kennedy's resistance to following the advice of his military advisors. The President believed that if he had ordered an attack on Cuba, the Soviet Union would retaliate against Berlin. This would eventually lead to the localized use of nuclear weapons which could never be contained. According to the movie, the two driving thoughts that sustained President Kennedy's resistance to the demands of his military advisors was the belief that "abandoning" one's own judgement was "immoral." The second thought was what President Kennedy learned from reading the book, The Guns Of August. The lesson that Kennedy learned was that the military leaders in WW I made fatal battlefield decisions based on past wars. Their flawed tactics and strategies cost millions of soldiers their lives. And indeed, the thinking of President Kennedy's military advisors was based on WW II thinking.

The second key feature was Adlai Stevenson's role. Though his suggestions of finding a diplomatic solution were, at first, quickly scoffed at and dismissed by the all involved. In the end, a diplomatic solution, similar to what he suggested, was used resolve the crisis. And Stevenson's handling of Soviet Ambassador Zorin in a UN meeting was one of the highlights of the movie and history.

But why review this movie here? It is because with today's esteem for our military and power that is so prevalent in our society, we should note how the use of the military can invite one's own destruction. This historical lesson is greatly needed today. We can never afford to allow any President to give carte blanche deferment to our military leaders. On the other hand, us citizens must never allow the President to use the valor of our troops and our esteem for their high character as a moral shield for their militaristic policies. It is the latter that is what is happening today despite the growing number of civilian deaths that results.

As for the Third Party Presidential debate, for the most part, the candidates focussed more on making popular sound bites and individual statements while avoiding showing a broad unifying perspective on today's issues. And I am making this criticism while planning to vote for Jill Stein, one of the participants in the debate. While the conservative third party candidates made the fiscal bottom line the only bottom line, the nonconservative candidates, except for when Rocky Anderson mentioned the Nuremberg Principles, failed to mention the moral bottom line. So while the conservative candidates determined right and wrong by whether we can afford to do something, none of the nonconservative candidates adequately pushed for a moral bottom line in determining foreign and domestic policies.

Being a chief administrator requires one to work with both concrete details and abstract principles. For the most part, none of the participating candidates demonstrated a recognition of the latter. Talking in sound bites will only allow one to preach to the choir. If these third party candidates want to significantly cut into the popular support for the two major parties, they will have to show that they have broad perspectives that are more encompassing that those from the two major parties.

What abstract principles are needed today? They are the ones promoted by both Socialist candidates who were not invited to participate in this debate and OWS. That is we need to build a world that is based on sharing and cooperation rather than competition. It isn't that competition on a small scale cannot bring some benefits. Rather, it is that the more any part of society is based on competition, the more that part of society threatens the rest. And in our world, competition is not only king, it is the only resident. With proliferation being inevitable and with natural resources that dwindle as the world's population increases, morals that promote sharing are not idealistic but unrealistic luxuries as the business community would have us believe. Rather, they are essential to surviving the future. On October 30, it will be up to Jill Stein to show how a broad moral perspective can guide how one works with the details. It is up to her alone because conservatives have as their only guide, the fiscal bottom line.

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