Monday, September 1, 2014

A Syria(us) Strategy for ISIS

Much has been made about Obama's so-called "lack of strategy" for what we should do in northern Iraq, Syria, etc. about ISIS.

I am no foreign policy wonk but here's my simplistic idea in three parts:

1 - We DO make a deal with Assad but it involves him stepping aside, leaving the country, turning over every last shred of chemical or any other WMD he might have. War crimes trials are possible.

2 - IN EXCHANGE we promise to obliterate ISIS from Syria and Iraq. This could stop the civil war that has claimed way too many lives in Syria and allow the millions of refugees to return (to what's left of) home.

3 - We will work with our allies to help establish some type of valid representative government in Syria to avoid a vacuum etc. We have to realize this might not be a democracy as we know and love them. Use whatever lessons we learned from Iraq and apply to Syria.

Finally and this is a bonus part. We also help establish a Kurdish nation in exchange for their help with removing any vestiges of ISIS, protection and movement of refugees off ALL faiths, protecting Iraq's northern oil supplies etc.

This would mean a massive air strike and no doubt some ground troops. But we don't go it alone. I think other countries would get on board and most Americans would like to see the Syrian crisis end.

Friday, June 20, 2014

redraw the map?

Per usual doing a lot more reading again about what is happening to/in Iraq. Especially the historical perspective. Two things that stand out for me so far are columns by Fareed Zakaria (here) and a recent blog by Ross Douthat of the NY Times (here).

Some people say "you broke it, you bought it" about our involvement in Iraq. I think it was broke when we got there. Afghanistan too. And I don't think any amount of troops or "advisors" (anybody remember the first people we sent to Vietnam?) is going to make a difference.

If we can use drones to specifically target key ISIS folks before they do any more damage then maybe that could be the extent of our involvement. But then again maybe we don't need to do any more.

I had pretty much come to the conclusion we should just let the Iraqis sort it out and if Iran could somehow broker some sort of deal, to let them, but just today I read another chapter in a different book/different subject, "My Promised Land" by Ari Shavit. He spends an entire chapter talking about the nuclear threat posed by Iran (not just to Israel but to the entire Middle East and ultimately the world). Mr. Shavit is not just another Israeli hawk, he is a liberal columnist/writer and from my read, is often critical of many of the things done by his country in the name of Zionism.

But germaine to this topic, he feels the U.S. and others failed to stop Iran soon/early enough from developing into a nuclear nation (and in the process stalled attempts by Israel to intervene in Iran as well) so the point here is that while we should not send in troops or get heavily involved, this is like a chess game and while the ISIS people move players around, so is Iran. They are involved in Syria now and would probably love being on the world stage as being able to "fix" things in Iraq that the all-powerful United States could not.

As to the history, remember, the names and borders we see now are mostly about 100 years old. Many of them were drawn up by the French and Great Britain in the aftermath of WWI and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

I can't add much more (if anything) to the discussion but this one quote from Douthat sums it all up pretty well; "I wouldn’t want to be in the position of asking anyone, American or otherwise, to be the last man to die for the sake of a hundred-year-old map."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Life, Animated

the book is Life, Animated by Ron Susskind; a story of sidekicks heroes and autism. 

It is a decades-long chronicle: young boy regresses into autism and with the help of many people and the unlikely resource of animated Disney movies, begins ever so slowly to find himself and to learn how as an autistic boy to live and function with remarkable insights in our very complex world. 

It is a long book and not always an easy or entertaining read but as a parent of a child with Asperger's, I'm always drawn to resources that might help; especially with the scary thing we call being an adult.

The most difficult part of the book for me to fathom was actually that the Susskind family is very well-off. NOt tha they are well-off but that somehow they can afford schools and therapists and costs that would exceed the total normal income of most middle-class families. One school cost $85,000/year! What happens to those without the resources or income to get this kind of help?

Every book has some quotable moments or thoughts; here are a few:

Finding the "hidden ears" as in Dumbo or finding the thing that makes (allows) you fly.

"find beauty in yourself, then you will be able to really see it in others and everywhere."

And finally perhaps the most important thought is that children with autism,  "... like so many, they are different, not diminished. So many folks are exactly like the rest of us; only more so and less so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I am not a huge short story fan nor am I of collections but for some reason this one caught my ear/eye so I got it. I just wrapped it up today and it's sort of like old vinyl albums; there's a great song or two, some pretty good ones and some that, if they didn't have to fill up two sides of a record, might not have made the cut.

Some of these stories are really good. There are a couple I didn't finish and one I wish I hadn't read. But I think in the future we will hear/read more from Mr. Klay.

Warning - he's a former Marine, been to Iraq so there are plenty of the f-words to go around.

But he is telling some stories that draw you into his characters and make you feel for what our servicemen and women have been through in service to our country.

It doesn't come across as a pro- or anti-war thing. Just some slices of life during and after the war. (It is over, isn't it?)

If you enjoy reading about our current situations and those that lived (or not) through it, this might be worth grabbing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

In the New World

Just wrapped up another book; this time In the New World by Lawrence Wright.

Wright is better known for his lengthy Looming Towers about Al Qaeda and 9/11.

I'm not even sure how I heard of this or what prompted me to request at the library - I do that for so many books I often lose track of the whys etc.

But quickly I realized this book was a lot about my growing up.

Wright lived his formative years in Dallas and they overlap with many of mine. He is older but writes of the 60s (Kennedy assassination) and Dallas politics and then as he grows up and moves around, puts his own take on the events and politics of his time up through the mid-80s when he concludes the book (published in 1987 I think)

This will not interest everybody but if you are from Dallas, grew up in the 60s, lived through Vietnam ... then you might find something to like about this.

Caution; it is long and a slow read and in parts he wanders a bit but when he is writing about history and not how he felt, it holds up pretty well and serves as a good reminder of some of the seminal events most of us boomers lived through.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Suicide is not Painless

The story from Ft. Hood is sad on so many levels; for the families of those killed or injured, those who witnessed the shootings, those soldiers who are thinking “there but for the grace of God…” and more.

I’ve really only listened to one media report in the days following the shootings and it seemed like all they were looking for was a villain, someone to blame.

It has been said the shooter was being treated for PTSD and struggling with depression. He was angry about being denied a leave request. I’m sure more will turn up.

I recall reading in “Thank You For Your Service” about high-level meetings with military brass on how to reduce the suicide levels of those returning from combat.

In 2013 the suicide rate for veterans exceeded the number killed in combat. It has been called an epidemic.

This ( from the Huffington Post is a good summary of what is being done, the scope of the problem etc.

I did not start out for this to be about suicide. But based on what I’ve read, I am not surprised that the soldier ended up killing himself after his shooting rampage. A 2012 VA study showed that more than 20 veterans commit suicide every day! But those sad stories don’t make the front page or CNN; and we probably don’t want them to.

Is every veteran a ticking time bomb? Of course not. I hope the VA will re-double its efforts to remove the stigma of asking for help. It seems like they are trying but the problem is growing faster than they can do screenings, add hotlines, therapists and such.

I can’t offer any suggestions or solutions. Maybe a prayer or two is all I’ve got. I’ve been praying for a young man in Afghanistan for more than a year. Hopefully he is home safe by now and will find a way to adjust to this life we call normal. Maybe I just need to keep praying.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Artisan Soul

I heard about this from someone I follow on Twitter and was eager to read it.

I began it during my early morning devotional/reading time (a few chapters from the Bible - right now re-reading in Genesis from the Message version). It seemed like I was working too hard and not enjoying it much but I kept trying to give it a chance.

But I finally gave up. I almost felt guilty. I guess my soul is not artisanal enough.

No offense to Mr. McManus, a popular speaker and writer, but I found the writing to be simplistic and wooden or clunky. 

I would find a pithy nugget here or there but not enough breadcrumbs to keep me going down the road.

It may be just what some creative person needs to read right now but not for me.