Printed letters, September 10, 2013

All morning the talking heads have been dancing around the facts of Obama’s present Syrian problem.

As I see it, and what they’re carefully not saying is, he cannot get U.N. support because of Russia’s veto power on the Security Council, he clearly doesn’t have the juice or talent to persuade major western powers (save for France, but so what?) to join him in some cooperative action, and he didn’t dare take unilateral action because he would bring down a load of national wrath on his head and that of the Democratic Party.

So, once again appearing weak and indecisive on the world stage, he cops out by going cap in hand to Congress to get its support and, if successful, thus will be able to claim the “will of the people” without ever having to consult the people themselves.

The Democrats and he will definitely have to pay a very steep political price, individually and collectively, to get a “yes” from Congress. With congressional support, he still faces a serious dilemma, both domestic and international. Syria isn’t Granada. If Congress says “No,” then what? He’s back to square one with egg on his face.

No matter what he does, he will not appear strong, decisive and in command. It’s really too late for that, although the Dems will do their very best, with the help of sympathetic media, to spin it and try to make him look a less weak and inept leader. No matter what he does or how he does it, he’s in a no-win situation at home, in the Middle East and everywhere else in the world.

Unhappily, without a resounding public outpouring of support (public, not congressional) this whole Syrian brouhaha boils down to internal D.C. party power politics as usual. And the dead get lost in the shuffle.


Grand Junction

United States would be unwise 
to take on Syria issue alone

I recently watched three ladies on TV casually discussing why we, Uncle Sam, should hurry up and get into the Syria mess, with about the same level of concern they might have discussed the sending of kids to play in a volleyball game!

It brought to mind a fairly common comment from back in the very early 1940s, if and when folks mindlessly spoke of “getting into the European Fracas” — they ought to be the first ones sent over there.

I’d have hoped that, by now, folks might have remembered the difference between the normal hoopla attendant to a basketball game and the gore, tragedy and drudgery of war, so as to not mix their reactions to the two.

The probable use of gas in Syria, I believe, was, indeed, a terrible tragedy. But I also believe that it was also, primarily, Syria’s tragedy. It should also be concern for the United Nations — if that organization is to have any meaning at all. A balanced UN force, proportionally representing all its members, might be considered for dealing with the users of the gas. But, ever since its inception, it seems to me, “UN actions” evolve into U.S. actions, with Uncle Sugar providing most of the manpower and dollars.

I don’t know what interest or importance Syria is to and for us, but I have very serious doubts that, whatever they are, they are worth the costs in blood and dollars for us to take on the problem alone.


Grand Junction


Political issues are reality 
in educational decisions

“It’s what’s best for the kids.” How many times have I heard that. The problem is that we often disagree about what’s best. And while it’s true that school board elections are nonpartisan, we can’t ignore the issues. Anyone who insists he or she is nonpartisan is ignoring reality.

Some disagreements are theoretical. The math wars, which have been going on for practically forever, are a good example. Traditional method of memorization and drill, or the “new” method, which has students seeking familiarity with mathematical concepts?

Some are philosophical. Building students’ “self-esteem” and, perhaps, harming their psyche by using a red pencil, and the whole area of promotion versus retention are continuing philosophical disagreements.

And some disagreements are political. Insistence on teaching climate change as an incontrovertible fact, rather than asking students to gather evidence on both sides of the issue and form their own conclusions, is political.

A strong American history curriculum with emphasis on the constitution, versus Howard Zinn on the evils of our founders is political.

When the infamous Breakfast After the Bell bill was making its way through the Colorado Legislature this past year, numerous superintendents spoke to me about their opposition. When, in spite of local-control violation and the obvious message of distrust of local district motives, it passed, that was political.

Almost all of the charter school votes we have taken at CDE resulted in 4-3 votes in favor of the charter. That, too, was political.

We all realize that we have a duty to see each student receive the best possible education. However, we are burying our heads in the sand if we continue to maintain, “It’s all about what’s best for the kids!”


Grand Junction


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On February 1, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) published an op-ed piece wherein he accused Secretary of Defense nominee (former Republican Senator and decorated Viet Nam veteran) Chuck Hagel of “shifting his positions” regarding cracking-down on state sponsors of terrorism, on preventing a nuclear Iran, and on defending Israel.  Thus, Cruz considered Hagel to be insufficiently “hawkish”, anti-Iran, and/or pro-Israel.

Cruz also wrote that “Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government”.  After fact-checking Cruz’s claim, PolitiFactTexas found it “worse than incorrect.  It’s ridiculous.  Pants on Fire!” (i.e., a flat lie).

On February 12, before the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to confirm Hagel, the McCarthy-esque Cruz used sleazy innuendoes to smear Hagel’s honesty, integrity, and patriotism by baselessly insinuating that speaking fees he’d disclosed had originated from unspecified “radical groups”, from Saudi Arabia, and/or from North Korea.

Now that President Obama has called for military enforcement of the international norm banning Assad’s use of sarin gas against Syrian civilians, Cruz is singing a different tune.  Even though failure to punish Assad’s violation of the chemical weapons ban will likely embolden Iran and other “state sponsors of terrorism” – thereby threatening the security of Israel and the U.S. – the hyper-partisan Cruz now opposes “hawkish, anti-Iran, and/or pro-Israel” retaliation against Syria, apparently because President Obama is “for it”.

Thus, the McCarthy-esque Cruz—along with neo-isolationist Senator Rand Paul (R-KY),  Congressman Scott Tipton, and letter-writer T. Streff—now finds himself squarely allied with Beshar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and (of course) Iran, whose Islamist Mullahs are undoubtedly “celebrating” their new-found “position shifting” friends.  Politics makes strange bedfellows.   

Barack Obama is President today because he opposed the Iraq War ab initio.  Partisan opportunists like Cruz obviously lack that judgment.

While American public opinion can be swayed, courageous leadership cannot.  Assad and Putin both know that.

As Ray Lashley properly points out, the current debate over Syria is reminiscent of the toxic partisan political environment preceding World War II, when U.S. popular opinion was overwhelmingly isolationist and FDR risked impeachment by surreptitiously arming Britain to resist Hitler.  Like FDR, President Obama is “on the right side of history”.

Democratic President Woodrow Wilson conditioned U.S. involvement in World War I on allied acceptance of “Fourteen Points” – which included creating a League of Nations.

However, isolationist demagogues in the U.S. fostered the notion that we’d been drawn into WWI by duplicitous Europeans, and must never be so gullible again.  Consequently, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected America’s membership in the League.

Wilson promoted “national self-determination” for ethnic populations inhabiting defined territories.  While the allies applied that principle in dismembering the Austro-Hungarian Empire and (arguably) in the Balfour Declaration (creating a Zionist homeland), Britain and France (eager to expand their colonial empires) violated it elsewhere – particularly as to the disintegrated Ottoman Empire.

Republican sabotage of America’s leadership role in the League of Nations – and later disdain for the United Nations—contributed to subsequent world events, including German revanchism, Italian and Japanese expansionism, World War II, Viet Nam, the Bosnian/Kosovo intervention, the Iraq War, and now the civil war in Syria.

Barack Obama is President of the United States today because he early-on opposed the Iraq War, while then-Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden voted for it.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 because he expressed commitment to principles of international law and respect for the world community – thus impliedly rejecting both paranoid isolationism and the lawless jingoism of his predecessor.

Thus, Syria is setting the stage for a 2016 presidential campaign in which Hillary Clinton and/or Joe Biden – both more “hawkish” than President Obama – will debate America’s proper role in the world with neo-isolationist Rand Paul and/or opportunist Ted Cruz.

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