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Yesterday, I met an authentic modern hero. Not the kind of domestic hero, who works as a volunteer at a food bank, or rushes to put out a fire, or adopts a needy child. But a modern military hero, who acted to save lives at the risk of his own in a combat zone, who accepted the role of leadership, even when it meant personal sacrifice. A living oxymoron: a French Algerian, who came to America, renounced his French citizenship to join the U.S. Army, and rose to become the newest and one of the 10 living Medal of Honor winners alive today.

Captain Florence (Flo) Groberg appeared yesterday at a small luncheon hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He brought along his charming girlfriend and his Pentagon handler, a public affairs master sergeant. Groberg described coming to America from a Paris suburb, where his French Algerian mother had married an American businessman. He attended high school and college in the U.S., and after 9/11, and becoming a naturalized American citizen, joined the Army and attended Infantry Officer’s Candidate School and advanced Ranger training.

On Groberg’s second tour in Afghanistan, he was leading a personal security detail for senior American and Afghani officials walking toward a local conference, when an elaborate suicide bomber attack began. Identifying the nearest would be bomber, Groberg pushed down the assailant, taking part of the blast himself, but saving many others in the process. While four died in the attack, Groberg survived, and after 33 surgeries is back on his feet. Two weeks ago President Obama presented him with the Medal Of honor at the White House.

Captain Groberg, now a Pentagon civilian employee,  is an intelligent, personable, modest patriot. When asked to comment on national policy issues, he reminds the audience that, “I am just an Army Captain, not a talking head political commentator.” He believes the U.S. is well prepared and our forces are well trained to fight the asymmetrical battles of the 21st century. Asked what his calling was in Afghanistan, he said, “to help the villagers with their local security issues.”

Asked what military traits he thought would be most beneficial in civilian employment, Groberg smiled and said, “punctuality, and then planning. Punctuality means we should up when, where and as needed, and planning means we approach every situation with a plan of action.”

In today’s era of widespread cynicism about America’s foreign adventures, with which I can heartily relate, it is moving to meet and hear from one of hundreds of thousands  of young people who live to serve and sacrifice in the name of American principles and leadership that they trust and admire.

 

 

These lunches and dinners with Republicans President Obama is having are a shallow, cynical ploy to garner points for crossing the political divide. It is a transparent bit of public relations crisis management, obviously designed to make the White House look convivial with “reasonable” Republicans.

Such meetings need not have been publicized, if substance trumped image, and they clearly could have been held before the sequester disaster. It’s unfortunate that White House communications operatives are sinking to the same level of insincerity as Congress has become so well known for to date.

As a retired public relationships professional, I’m embarrassed to see such amateur and transparent communications tactics taking the place of real substantial political dialog and a sprit of patriotic cooperation between the White House and Congress.

Five questions for which the debaters won’t have answers…
October 3, 2012

In the Presidential debates tonight, I doubt whether either candidate will have realistic answers for these 5 questions.

1. When will our endless wars and military occupations stop?

2. How and when will we unwind our spiraling national debt?

3. When and how will we implement election reform and restore civility to federal government?

4. How will each American receive the medical care they deserve and how will it be paid?

5. How and when will the banking and financial risk industries be separated again?

 

Today, it is predicted that Oklahoma City can expect their highest recorded temperature — 114 — ever! Yet  cultural disinformation efforts designed to discredit 6,000 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that global climate change is rife persist. Not one such study demonstrates the opposite. There is not a comprehensive energy policy in the U.S., much less a climate change policy. Neither Presidential candidates mention climate change, much less make public warnings nor propose comprehensive initiatives related to climate change.

Yes, unemployment and economic disruption and erosion of education are major American issues. But without an effective strategy to reduce the negative effects of climate change, we are burying our head as to the future. None of these other issues will be solved with addressing climate change. One of the few leaders to address climate change through constructive analysis and positive proposals is senator John Kerry, in this address before Congress just yesterday. Take a listen: http://sn128w.snt128.mail.live.com/default.aspx#n=180166905&fid=1&fav=1&mid=7e19162a-dc33-11e1-8362-00215ad8015c

Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, please make climate change policy a priority, now! Humans are almost surely the cause, but even if we are only part of it, climate change is real, and we can act to moderate and reduce its effects on humanity, which there is still some time left.

 

With CNN reporting that President Obama has secretly arrived in Afghanistan to sign an agreement for some kind of continuation of forces beyond 2014, one can honestly question whether this generation will ever see an end to U.S. involvement in the conflict there.

The only acceptable “excuse” for America‘s continued presence might be as some sort of insurance policy to keep nuclear, radical Pakistan at bay, although why that can’t be accomplished without ground forces is a mystery to me.

My concern is not just about the continued exposure of U.S. troops to what amounts to civil war, in which the U.S. serves as a political mercenary force. My concern is that the massive economic cost of our continued presence will be even more destabilizing here at home than would our total departure from Afghanistan.

Our continued presence in Afghanistan is one more reason why the next generation of Americans will not get enough education or job opportunities, that is, unless they volunteer for military service or contract service to the military. Another generation will loyally go to war, while leaders will write books about their difficult choices, and the populace will wither because of the unfortunate choices those short-sighted, narrow-minded “leaders” have made on our behalf.

A perfect early fall day at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. If the Buffet Tax and the cuts in loopholes that surround it are truly in the offing, and the political will to enact those reforms remains in question, the 21st century version of the French Revolution may be deferred in America. Now if only we could also create some new jobs…

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.

Amidst all the discussion about the convoluted and deteriorating status in Libya, the U.S. has lost sight of the compass. We should get out and stay out. We never should have gone in. Don’t we ever learn anything? Our hollow promises of help and support will only result in death and agony, not just for our enemies, but for our friends there.

And while we’re at it, let’s start to dismantle the imperial war machine, and bring back troops from Germany, Japan, S. Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, if for no other reason than to stop increasing the national debt and putting the financial stability of our nation in hoc. I’d sooner see us pull back our military than strip the retirement and health care system in the U.S. just to keep Wall Street afloat, which seems to be where our Congress and even our President are heading.

We need a proper defense, yes. But I bet we could do that on less than 50 cents on the dollar of what we are spending now on defense. Let’s put those soldiers coming home to work on restoring our national domestic infrastructure, if you want to talk about strategic security and strength. And let’s institute a draft, and put our out-of-work young people to work rebuilding our country with their brawn and brains, and not with guns.

See my other blog entries on Libya, defense and Congress. And while we’re fixing America, lets abolish the Electoral College so the people of the U.S. actually can elect their own Presidents.

I’m less and less partisan politically, because neither major party is faithful to my beliefs and interests, but I do have the following gut reaction to the national fiscal proposals now taking shape.

I’ve met and talked with Paul Ryan, and I like him, but he has apparently adopted the stance that we can slash and implode entitlements while we preserve the tax incentives and advantages of the rich and circle the wagons on defense. That’s an oversimplification, but in my view a formula for social upheaval, at the very time the little people of this country are being increasingly stomped under the feet of the wealthy and powerful. As we’ve recently seen in North Africa, a social spark can lead to a bonfire.

Something called the French Revolution sprang from such a scenario, and while I don’t see heads rolling here, I do think the economic unbalances in our American society are taking us rapidly down a road toward social instability, and then, everyone loses.

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