Time to be scared? Let’s hope not

 

world-fed-club

This photo appeared in 1947 Cardinal Pennant, the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin high school annual. These students had hope for world peace. Is that hope dead?

I am as scared today for the future of humankind as I have ever been in my 87 years.

Mind you, I’m not personally scared; I’ve far too few years left for that. My fright, of course, is for our children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.

In three weeks, President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated, elected on a wave of xenophobic sentiment that bodes ill for any form of peace in the world.  He wooed his crowds with promises of tough talk to destroy ISIS (the Islamic State) while welcoming an “arms race” that he says the United States could easily win.  Trump threatens to seriously decrease, and perhaps end, U.S. support and involvement in NATO and the United Nations.

Most seriously, he has called for beefing up our nuclear weapons arsenal, ending a process toward ending nuclear proliferation that began more than thirty years ago in the Reagan Administration and has been embraced as a bipartisan policy of this nation since.  Such action on the part of the United States would certainly lead other nations to do the same and eventually plunge the world into an “arms race” that no nation could win.

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To the present day, the nuclear nonproliferation treaties have stopped nations from developing these devastating weapons, a policy that led to the recent treaty that halted Iran from advancing its nuclear weapons program.  Such world-wide consensus on nuclear weapons (except for the outlaw nations like North Korea) has saved the world from nuclear devastation.

The president-elect further wants to spend billions more on the military and close our borders to all but white Christians and Jews, vows that won wide hoorays from his worshippers.  It appears his goal is to mold the United States into a bunker mentality – a situation of false security.  He’s too young to remember the Maginot Line created by the French after World War I to protect it against invading Germans; the fortress of cannons shooting from concrete bunkers failed miserably in World War II when the Nazis simply maneuvered around it to invade France and march triumphantly down the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Repeatedly, Trump blamed President Obama for creating a “mess” in the world, blaming him for weakness and indecision.

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In this old man’s view, President Obama has done remarkably well in maintaining a modicum of peace in an extremely “messy” world.  We need go back no further to President George W. Bush’s ill-advised Iraq war against non-existent weapons of mass destruction to see that Obama inherited a world in which terrorism would be nutured.  The invasion of Iraq helped to build a sentiment among many Muslims that the United States was engaged in a “holy war,” and became a rallying cry for those terrorists who wished to spread their hate and violence throughout the world.

One can argue with some of the tactics of Obama (his ill-advised drawing of a “red-line” in the Syrian use of chemical weapons, for instance), but if you believe in a peaceful world you can’t argue with his general strategy of building coalitions with like-minded nations to fight terrorism and by seeking to strengthen the United Nations.

Trump’s “go-it-alone” strategy would change all that, forcing this nation to bear even greater military and armament costs, possible loss of military lives and the ill-will of much of the world.

To be sure, Trump is an enigma and has a facile ability to do just the opposite of what he promised.  Maybe all of his bluster and braggadocio was merely campaign talk and he will become a more serious leader; so far, he hasn’t exhibited such a possibility.

Meanwhile, the Far East is in turmoil with a bellicose North Korea, a growing expansionist threat from China and unrest in Malaysia.  President Obama has been seeking to build up our presence in the area and it’s an area we can’t neglect.

On January 20th, our new president will inherit a tense world.  It is my hope for the coming New Year that he will shed his ego, his pettiness and tendency to act without thinking and listen to wiser heads.  In any event, it’s up to the rest of us to do what we can to sound off in the best ways we can to head off our new President from his worst nature.

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Seventy years ago, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 – a date that has lived in my mind all these years.  The devastation to that Japanese city was unbelievable to my sixteen-year old mind.  It was then that the possibility of a World War III became unthinkable. In my junior year in high school I joined with about fifteen other kids to form a school-sanctioned chapter of the United World Federalists, then a popular movement that called for ending the nation-state that led to wars.  In its place we believed we should create a “United States of the World,” a one-world government.

While our idealistic dream never came true, it did form the basis for the belief that peace can only come by breaking down borders and by realizing that America may be a “great ” nation, but that it is not the only great nation and that we must learn to live with all the nations of the world.  Donald Trump appears to have different ideas.  I believe I am right to be scared for our nation and our world. — Ken Germanson, Dec. 30, 2016. 

 

 

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Sen. Johnson: Have you the courage?

An Open Letter to Sen. Ron Johnson:

Every so often a legislator gets a chance to take a courageous step forward.  Now is YOUR time to make that act of fortitude.

Please remove the shackles of conformity that have linked you to the current Republican Party’s view that it must scuttle President Obama’s nuclear arms agreement between our allies and Iran.

We know you may feel that your political future calls upon you to join in the cacophony of outlandish comments from many of your colleagues and claim that the agreement is a betrayal of Israel or a surrender similar to that occurring in Munich in 1938.  We believe that you as a successful businessman certainly know that it’s important to make decisions based upon facts and evidence, rather than upon wild rantings.

As a retired labor negotiator, I know that the “perfect deal” is never possible, but that a deal that offers both sides hope for a better future is good for both sides.  This deal provides just that.

The Iranian citizens, according to reports, are dancing in the streets knowing that crippling economic sanctions will be lifted; as a people, they are eager to embrace Western cultures.  Certainly, the U.S. business community may benefit in the long run by opening up new markets.  It’s possible that through such economic interchange that the Iranian aggressive nature will be blunted.

For the U.S. and its allies, it means greater assurances that Iranian nuclear arms development will not only be reversed, but held off for at least ten years; by then it’s highly possible that Iran’s desire to continue a costly nuclear arms program may be greatly weakened.

Of course, you must look at the negatives of the deal:  Will the International arms inspectors miss some secretive nuclear arms location?  Can we trust Iran?  The Obama Administration and our allies are convinced that these concerns can be met.   You’re right to study these questions.

I urge you to examine the terms closely and hope you will come to the same conclusion that I have:  on balance, the Iran deal offers a chance for longterm peace and for decreased chances of nuclear war.

My personal political hero is Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld who in 1892 pardoned the three remaining prisoners who were awaiting execution on framed-up charges of participating in the bombing deaths of eight persons in the Haymarket Event of May 4, 1886.  Even as a stanch pro-business governor, he acted to pardon the three “leftists” because he was convinced they were unfairly charged and convicted.  He acted, even though he was aware the action might cost him re-election.  It did.

I doubt your action in defying conventional Republican orthodoxy in approving the Iran deal will cost you re-election; polls show wide support for the deal.  Yet, I know the pressures from your Republican colleagues will be great to follow the party-line.

Please put aside any temptation to engage in political, divisive rhetoric; study the bill and we hope you’ll agree with us that “yes” is best and have the courage to say so to your constituents in Wisconsin.

Thank you.

Kenneth A. Germanson, Aug. 3, 2015