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Just as the assassination of the archduke of Austria triggered the outbreak of what became World War I, the U.S. and other nations must not let the civil war in Syria become a sparking point for a new global conflagration, with unthinkable consequences.

Moderation, reconciliation and restraint are what is needed now, not punishment, strategic attacks and provocation. Pressure to compel Syria to destroy or surrender their chemical weapons might be appropriate. Massive, multi-national humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and other civilians in Syria impacted by the conflict is called for. Better to use our collective air and sea logistic power for such aid, than for missile, bomber or drone attacks. Bury the country in love, as the hippies might have said.

I hope the Congress has the courage and common sense and decency to “just say no” to useless military attacks. In the scheme of things, who cares about the domestic political consequences for Obama? He should be hoping Congress will get him off the hook on Syria.

Sarajevo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sarajevo (Cyrillic: Сарајево) (pronounced [sǎrajɛʋɔ]) is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with an estimated population of 327,124 people within its four municipalities. The urban area of Sarajevo extends beyond the administrative city limits, with an estimated population of 452,124[7] people. In the wider Sarajevo region there are more than 650,000 inhabitants. It is also the capital of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity, as well as the center of the Sarajevo Canton. Nestled within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia, it is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans.

Sarajevo is the leading political, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its region-wide influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts contribute to its status as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest and most important economic center.[8][9]

The city is famous for its traditional cultural and religious diversity, with adherents of Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism coexisting there for centuries.[10] Due to this long and rich history of religious and cultural variety, Sarajevo is often called the “Jerusalem of Europe”[1] or “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.[2] It was, until recently in the 20th century, the only major European city to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue within the same neighborhood.[11]

Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century.[12] Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history. In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, the first being San Francisco.[13] In 1914, it was the site of the assassination of the Archduke of Austria that sparked World War I. Seventy years later, it hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. For nearly four years, from 1992 to 1996, the city suffered the longest siege of a city in the history of modern warfare during the Bosnian War for independence.[14]

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What is a gun? A means of killing game. A way to threaten, stop, and/or kill an antagonist.

A gun is a remote killing machine. It is a mechanical extension of the fist, or a club, or an arrow.

Point a gun in the direction of a living target, pull a trigger, and if everything works correctly, both mechanically and on the part of the operator, the target is engaged and terminated.

Yes, that’s right, a gun is the predecessor of the drones of today — it is a remote killing machine that dates to medieval times, and one that is still being perfected. Our fascination and horror of the flying drones of the 21st century is no greater than that felt about the rise of guns hundreds of years ago.

The wonder at the power of remote killing, with concomitant reduced risk to the killer, is a magnet for the predatory instincts of humankind.

As the world evolves its social institutions, bringing us closer and closer together through our common bonds as human beings, our predatory instincts and our arsenal of precision predatory tools remains, and even grows. It is one of the great dichotomies of the human condition.

Whether we are considering gun legislation or drawing the rules of military engagement, we must consider these critical, divergent, conflicting dimensions of our fundamental character.

 

In my previous observations on the drone mess, I briefly passed over the Reagan-era Star Wars bundle of laser technology that wound up at nearby Yerkes Observatory, here at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. Yerkes is the founding home of astrophysics in America, and still houses the world’s largest refracting telescope. Jim Gee, who runns Yerkes for the University of Chicago, is a friend and saw my “Droning” blog. He added some valuable detail on what lies beneath those giant telescopes at Yerkes, as a portion of what taxpayers spent a billion or so on in hopes of being able to “kill” Russian missles with a space-based laser system. Yerkes has put that tech equipment to some good peaceful use, thank the heavens! I suppose we may hear some more about drones in the State of the Union address tonight. Here’s Jim’s comments:

The equipment at Yerkes is the Star Wars declassified Wave-front Correction System (referred to as the WCE). It was awarded to the University of Chicago in 1994, it is the “adaptive optics” instrument from Star Wars, which I would describe as the “eyes” of the system. It was designed to spot incoming missile plumes and accurately direct the laser to zap the bad guys before the missile could hit the U.S. The WCE now lives ground level in the South Tower and was used through the 90’s to clarify CCD images taken with the 41” reflecting telescope. It takes the “twinkling” out of star images.

The WCE rests atop a very heavy and solid optical bench; no card tables are used.

The whole system connects to the 41” telescope (4 floors above) through an evacuated stainless steel tube which provides a stable light path. The top of the tube connects to the coude focus of the telescope, the ground level (bottom of the tube) focuses the telescope images back to the WCE via a series of strategically placed mirrors….. but I drone on………

Yes, today the Iraq War is officially over. I say, now is the time to bring back a draft.

If we had had a draft, Iraq might have ended under public pressure by 2004 or 5, saving thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now would be a good time to institute a draft, not only to help prevent unsustainable wars like Iraq, but also to give young people a chance to serve their nation, either in the military or in other forms of public service, for a few formative years of their young lives.

Not only would we eliminate the risk that only one percent of the nation would be engaged by some future political decision to enter into conflict, but we would gain the low-cost, character-forming service of millions of a diverse corps of strong, smart young people. They would gain skills, discipline and a sense of service that would build character and maturity, and serve as a pre or post-college opportunity to help build the nation.

I recently wrote a memoir about my experiences during the Vietnam War, in the late 60s, and after thinking about President Obama’s speech last night on his strategy on getting out of Afghanistan, I realize again that we didn’t learn a thing from the Vietnam debacle. Cynical political calculations by Richard Nixon scuttled the Paris Peace talks in the fall of 1968, as revealed in recently released Presidential papers of then outgoing President Johnson (see Wikipedia under Vietnam War).

Candidate Nixon, with Henry Kissinger and Anna Chennault as messenger, told the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal in the peace talks under a Republican administration than under the Democrats. Johnson found out, and wanted to expose Nixon as a traitor, but was advised that such an accusation could be socially destabilizing, so he didn’t. The result: Vietnam did not get settled under Democratic watch, and the U.S. proceeded to lose another 20,000 troops (plus a million Asians) before the Vietnam War was finally ended in 1975.

Lesson: Pulling just 33,000 U.S. troops by September, 2012, a month before the election, is another such cynical political calculation, designed to leave enough troops there (70,000) so that Afghanistan will not descend into chaos, as it likely will do, if the troops were mostly removed before the election, embarrassing the Obama administration with a lost war on its watch.

Sound like Vietnam 1968 all over again? The economic loss, and the loss in lives, will be the test.

Taking out Bin Laden is a milestone in recovering from 9/11. Now we should celebrate by accelerating getting out of Afghanistan, and continue doing so in Iraq — that would be the real “victory” for America. And by the way, have we learned our lesson? War is a very inefficient, self-destructive form of vengeance.

The world knows Picasso’s famous mural painting (he did his monumental piece beginning from 42 sketches he made at the scene) in Madrid of the anguish of the brutal and unprovoked aerial attack by the Nazi’s on the civilian population this small town in the Basque country of Northern Spain, April 26, 1937. We visited the Peace Museum there — the town is locally spelled Gernika, its Basque name, not the more recognized French spelling used by Picasso.
What many don’t recall, if they ever knew it, was that spanish dictator Franco, then an ally of Hitler, gave his friend the Führer permission to test out his new carpet bombing technique on the little town during the Spanish Civil War, because the Basque people of the north of Spain were in conflict with Franco’s regime. To this day, many Basque’s seek political independence. The bombing took place in daylight on a market day, when the townspeople were outdoor in the streets, and more than 1.600 in this little town were mercilessly cut down. Journalists and then Picasso made Gernika a symbol for the complete breakdown of civilization signified by war.

The Gernika Peace Museum is tasteful, and a strong but calm reminder of the agony and inhumanity of war, and the challenges of reconciliation. It was not until 1987 that the Germans apologized for the bombing of Gernika. Franco never even acknowledged that the bombing took place. We were very moved by the town, now more modern than many others in the area, of some 16,000, and by the museum, which is very much worth a visit if you are visiting Bilbao and the beautiful, rugged Basque mountains of the North of Spain. Modern super highways make it easy to get there. As I was just revising this, our cat Cider stretched out across the keyboard — talk about symbols of peace!

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