Friday, May 23, 2008

A Peace or Appease?

For a relative peacenik, I have a long military lineage.

Each Memorial Day, I don't have to search for ancestors and other relatives who fought in our uniforms. My maternal grandfather, for one, snuck away, underage, to enlist in the American Expeditionary Force in England and then France. My father was a WWII artillery commander — D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, combat decorations and more. Thus it was with uncles, great-uncles, cousins and so forth. I have a lifetime pass for my family to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where my father's remains lie.

With this and more, I have an interest in the hardball, hard-line rhetoric recently from John McCain, and even from George gosh-did-I-forget-to-report-for-duty Bush. Moreover, I can believe that everyone in U.S. military uniform has an interest.

McCain seems immature, even in his 70s, and likely temperamentally unsuited for this campaign, much less the stresses and decisions of the Presidency. Only the latest of many flares of temper and illogic came when Barack Obama criticized McCain's lack of support for a bill to provide college funds for returning veterans — "I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did."

This forms an unfortunate bookend with Bush's recent remarks to the Israeli Knesset, which included:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Both bookends have clear markings. I shall not be questioned! I shall not even discuss what you think are vital topics!

Thus we are seven years into an unjustifiable war, with our cemeteries increasingly occupied by our military men and women. Not only should Bush be impeached for, among other crimes, ordering the Iraq invasion on cooked reports. He needs some history books and even newspapers. Every President, certainly since Truman and many before, negotiated with our enemies. Even our Revolutionary War leaders did. It is what national leaders who do not want to throw away the lives, wealth and influence of their people do.

His father certainly communicated with and negotiated with terrorists and dictators. Unfortunately, he and other recent Presidents also installed and supported the worst of the rest of the world.

Sometimes it works well, sometimes it fails, sometimes it is a holding pattern. However, it is the way nations have avoided war and sometimes to everyone's benefit for centuries.

I confess that I am embarrassed as a long-time Democrat to admit that in my lifetime, many Republican Presidents have negotiated with, or as George the Lesser Bush would have it, appeased the bad guys better than Democrats have. It was Republicans who opened China, who kicked a stumbling CCCP down the international stairway into Russia. Dems still could learn a lot about negotiating with enemies from Republicans.

Alas, George the Lesser and McCain are not from the traditional statesman and diplomat mold. They would rather thump their chests like silverback gorillas, bare their canines and charge.

It appears that this Bush is not bright enough nor educated historically to understand this huge flaw. McCain seems far too emotional, short-sighted and unable to handle complexity. Neither should be President.

A great way to honor those who fought for the nation would be to ensure that our Presidents understand how to balance our military resources with diplomacy. A President who knows who to use his cabinet, diplomats and advisers to gain American advantage without yielding to thugs or causing unnecessary death is what we had been used to and need to return to in 2009.

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