Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's time for a major, major strategic reappraisal


So now it's time to shift "Left" a bit.

Redeploy, bring 'em home.

It's time for a major, major strategic reappraisal.

As the "fog of war" swirls around the long term impact of the oily invasion of the Gulf Coast, a reduction of the American military presence in Afghanistan is essential for this nation's security.

We must cease living in a fantasy land. Those who seek to fly too high will have their waxen feathers melted by the sun.

It is time for a "rolling reassessment" -- to find a creative way to tamp down Afghanistan.

Without destabilizing the entire region and creating new sanctuaries for terrorism.

That will not be easy.

But ways must be found to reduce the American military "footprint" in Afghanistan, support local and regional accommodations among competing warlords, even to support competing factions from a distance. The Taliban could win complete control, but there may be other outcomes.

Above all to focus American goals on the demolition of Al-Qaeda base areas.

Mr. President, you are not so good at waging focus on the vital ones.....

Crises such as the Gulf oil spill have the potential of doing as much long term damage to the economy of parts of this country as Al-Qaeda.

You have no choice but to win on issues such as the new "Battle of New Orleans" -- and other battles, challenges facing this country.

Learn from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan....Bring 'em home.


Back to Basics: with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the legacy of an oil slickened Gulf, it important to remember the thousands of young soldiers and their mothers whose lives are caught up in the tribal flames of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over extension can be the Achilles heel of great nations.

Obama must exercise leadership to protect many more from a lifetime of pain.

Now it is time to win this new "Battle of New Orleans" -- a symbol for many challenges facing the U.S.

Scarlett Tide

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Treasure box for those who survive horrible events

Written for those who survive horrible events
by a friend who as a child lived through the bombing
of Germay (but not Dresden) in WWII

A Treasure Box

The winds of fortune blow hot and cold,
No one's pot holds only gold.

The tides come in and the tides run out,
bringing and taking promise and doubt;

Joy and pain, all the same;
unpredictable, on any given day,
the winds of fortune will have their way,

What you imagine is yours to hold;
in a treasure box much more true

than anything else that happens to you.

You can fire it up on the darkest day,
and the winds of fortune won't have their way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter....

It is good to remember the longing refrains of "Shenandoah, I love your daughter."

Listen below to the traditionalist Tennessee Ernie Ford version of this song I recently sang in a New Bern concert.

One of America's greatest ballads. It is many a man's voyage: a song of leaving, roving, but always loving...with the heart forever open to the dream of peace, a return home.

The trapper and the Indian maiden, the "archetypical" image of the American frontier.....where love and movement sometimes uneasily coexist. Centuries of romance have swirled around "Shenandoah's Daughter:"

'Tis seven years,
I've been a rover,
Away you rolling river,
When I return,
I'll be your lover,
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.

It was once informally the state song of Virginia, before that a boatsman's song on the Missouri River, then a shanty song shipping around the world with the clipper ship crews out of New Orleans.

Listen to Paul Robeson's 1936 version. The great Afro American singer was a classmate of my father at Columbia Law School, class of 1923. This son of a slave, obsessed with the battle against lynching, threw in his lot as an apologist for the Soviet Union. He lost his show business career in the "Red Scare" of the early 1950's.

Few are the Americans who have not sung or heard this tale of the American voyage.
Check out a vast panorama based in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley as painted out on the melody of this great ballad. And click below to listen to a golden white robed choir of youth following with Bruce Springsteen's glistening arrangement.

Now it is truly international. Hear the words of the equisite Norwegian singer Sissel. Compare with New Zealand's teenage superstar Hayley Westenra (the version on my cellphone ringback.)
Hear a violin version by Celtic Woman. Then there's Arlo Guthrie. Top it off with Anna Sophia-Henry, a nine year old soprano.

Lastly, listen to actor Jimmy Stewart's Hollywood version of "Shenandoah" -- tailored to a post Civil War call for peace and healing.

And here is a standard version of the grand old ballad:

Oh Shenandoah,
I long to hear you,
Away you rolling river,
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to hear you,
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.
Oh Shenandoah,
I love your daughter,
Away you rolling river,
I'll take her 'cross
Your rollin' water,
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.
'Tis seven years,
I've been a rover,
Away you rolling river,
When I return,
I'll be your lover,
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.
Oh Shenandoah,
I'm bound to leave you.
Away you rolling river,
Oh Shenandoah,
I'll not deceive you.
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.

The origin of the name Shenandoah is much debated. One theory holds that Shenandoah is an Indian word meaning "sprucy stream" or "river flowing alongside high hills and mountains."

Acccording to Wikipedia, that great source of modern wisdom. the word Shenandoah does come from
Algonquian-Wakashian American Indians and mean Beautiful star daughter; maybe spruce-lined stream or vast prairie.

Another theory is the origin of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, Indian, of course, and also means "daughter of the skies."

Other claims are that Shenandoah is Iroquois for "great plains" and less likely, that it is derived from the Schind-han-dom or "spruce stream."

Whatever the source, the ballad lives on -- and its sounds ever change along the rivers of life.


Ah, sweet Indian maid, where has thee been before? In "Song of the Indian Maid," by John Keats, 1818:

Young Stranger!
I've been a ranger
In search of pleasure throughout every clime;
Alas! 'tis not for me!
Bewitch'd I sure must be,
To lose in grieving all my maiden prime.

Come then, Sorrow,
Sweetest Sorrow!
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast:
I thought to leave thee,
And deceive thee,
But now of all the world I love thee best.

Let us come down from the highbrow lyricism of English poetry and explore the dozens of love songs about Indian maidens published in the "Tin Pan Alley" parlor music of a century ago (Click on the link to enjoy both the lyrics and the sounds).

Centuries of romance have swirled around "Shenandoah's Daughter."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

China, US: both hit by fast movin' trains


As China pulls ahead with its fast moving trains, Americans ponder whether Sarah Palin scribbles notes on her lovely hands.

Could it be that Sarah Palin is a fast movin' train?

We all know what Sarah Palin can do to a crowd.

Let's take a look at another "picture from life's other side" to see a bit about what fast trains can do for some Chinese:

"Once the speed gauge hits 350 kilometers per hour, or 217 miles per hour, passengers charge down the aisle to photograph the electronic display.

"'If we go any faster, we'll take off!' jokes Hu Qing, cracking open another can of beer on China's world-record-breaking train.

"The Dec. 26 opening of the high-speed link between south Chinese cities
Guangzhou and Wuhan is the latest example of massive state spending to keep China's economy roaring.

"The fast-expanding network of high-speed trains is stoking patriotism, too."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

China's "black ops:" hacking away at U.S. power


Who would have expected the agressive forward strategy of a more assertive China?

In a cyber attack on Google and other Western computer companies.

Well, it should be no great surprise.

For China's capacity to assert itself has been growing -- and so has been its annoyance at the ability of the internet to penetrate its "closed" society.

So China now has its own brand of "black ops."

Hacking open Google mail accounts is minor compared to the possibility, but not probability, that Chinese and other cyber warriors could bring the American economy to its knees.

China is just one of several nations which need on occasion to stand up to the United States.

Countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Russia already have or will soon have cyber war capacity.

In the wake of U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, nations confronting the US more than ever seek nuclear weapons and cyber arsenals to put limits on American power.

More frequent cyber attacks ahead?


China sees its cyber war arsenal as an important insurance policy to assert its influence and stave off American dominance.

It is a carefully orchestrated cockpit of conflict -- where a Chinese government sensitive to internal dissent threatens an assault on the very technology which is part of its opening into the modern world.

As China grows stronger, it can be expected, as in the past, to insist upon standing up.

It need not actually take down the American economy or the global internet.

Still, demonstrating its capacity carries a big, if quiet, stick.

This then, for now, is one flavor in today's sometimes dysfunctional America-- China relationship.

In the insecurity of the Chinese government lies the need for an aggressive outward kick.....

So it has often been with authoritarian, insecure regimes.

But this time we have a modern one -- with the power to punch --- to enlist skilled hackers into military style units with orders when and where to strike.

The importance of a little minor hacking is that it reminds of far more aggressive steps which could be taken to undermine American power.

Some experts believe China's underground stable of hackers could bring the American economy to its knees.

So what can or should Americans do?

Should they threaten or take retaliation? Should they even, under certain circumstances, strike first?

The New York Times on China's more agressive rise.

The New York Times on how the U.S. finds no easy "digital deterrent."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti quake: a wakeup call for a new "war" ahead

Haiti: Fighting a "New Kind of War"


"A picture of life's other side" includes the dark futility of much rescue effort in Haiti.

Maximum outpouring of international concern, but s
low access to the trapped, wounded, homeless, and hungry.

Against a "deadline" after which hundreds, even thousands, of those trapped will be dead.

The dark picture also contains a compelling wake up call: to step up prediction and contingency planning for a new form of "war" which may lie ahead.

Despite all the international attention, very little in the way of medical aid and rescue assistance made its way to those in need during the window of opportunity during which entrapped survivors were still alive.

And then thousands who could not be reached quickly were dead.

Looking Backwards: What Happens Without Planning

As bottlenecks opened, aid workers and thousands of U.S. soldiers poured in to help sustain those who survived.

An exercise in futility?

Hardly, for the money collected and the attention aroused could be used for future long term recovery -- after the dead are buried.

After the failure to save those who could not be quickly reached comes the second major challenge: to maintain interest, commitment, and co-ordination for long term recovery.


And the broader challenge: to step up prediction and contingency planning for a new form of "war" which may lie ahead.

Looking Ahead: One Guide to Choice

Stepped up international planning will be necessary to meet fresh emergencies.

From unpredictable weather, earthquakes, climate change, and a rise of ocean water levels which may threaten
coastal settlement in both poor and rich parts of the world.

There is a need to learn from Haiti, to improve precautions against bottlenecks, methods of co-ordinating aid, establishing security, getting medical teams in fast.

Haiti may be an extreme case but the challenges it presents will occur again and again.

Coastal Flooding: Waves of the Future?

Climate Change: To Mitigate and Adapt

It matters little whether climate change is "man made."

To one degree or another we can expect the consequences will be there.

In some cases there will be sudden catastrophes.

In some cases gradually developing, more manageable problems.

But stepped up international planning and co-ordination will be necessary to minimize bottlenecks, confusion, rivalry.

As we push forward ahead, let us learn from Haiti.

New forms of "war" lie ahead.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

As the World Turns: is the U.S. "Play It Again Sam?"

It can be argued the U.S. has been a "bird dog state."

"Locked on" in global conflict for decades with enemies of choice, bad guys who have challenged it, who repress their peoples, and have leaders wearing funny clothes.

A militarized state with vast overseas troop deployments -- whose diplomacy sometimes seems forever habitually locked in "Play It Again Sam."

A country used to pushing others around, used to getting its way.

America, a country with lots of military power, a wonderful capacity to make quirky extremist enemies.

A country which defines the world into good guys and bad guys.

A country which never forgets.

Perhaps it began with the crusade to destroy Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Sustained by forty years of Cold War with the Soviet Union.

In sustained confrontation with China from 1949 to 1971. Moderated conflict to 1979,

"At war" with North Korea from 1950 to the present.

"At war" with Iran from 1979 to the present.

"At war" with Castro's Cuba from 1959 to the present.


Oh, it did not work with Vietnam.

The Vietnamese defeated the U.S.

It seemed to work in Iraq -- at a cost.

Now, will it work in Afghanistan?

Stay tuned.

"As the World Turns," does the U.S.?