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Women in Combat?

Rick Santorum, one of the candidates vying for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party, ventured in to the "women in combat" issue with the following,

"I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved."  He continued, "It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat, and I think that's probably not in the best interest of men, women or the mission." (CNN interview," (2/09/2012).

There is much to be discussed with respect to the proposed changes soon to be issued from the Pentagon.  There are concerns particular to women in the battlefield, but Mr. Santorum's comments reflect a lack of understanding for the purpose of the mission during combat.  Thus, his comments were met with a strong reaction from all sectors of society, at which...

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Deadly Veto

The vote at the United Nations this weekend reveals old fault lines from the Cold War period.  While the Syrian people will pay the price of realpolitik, there is no doubt that a multipolar world will require greater deftness on the part of the United States and its allies. Even with the knowledge that the Assad regime has become a public killing machine, Russia will still remain an ally of Syria, if only to check the United States in the Middle East.  The "No" votes from Russia and China are sending a multifaceted message but to be sure, one of the messages is intended to tell the U.S. that its influence in the region must not expand.  While the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was designed to establish a democratic bulwark in a region of dangerous threats, it unsettled many of the demons lying underneath the Cold War games.  These games centered around oil resources, duplicity, and power relationships that carved out the international playing field during a...

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What Price Would You Pay for Freedom?

In Syria, the price for freedom is one's life. I attended a function this weekend for the Syrian American Council where the pragmatic view of the battle for freedom in Syria was sobering. The key speaker, Mr. Mohammad Al Abdallah was matter of fact when he said, "This is what we must do to have our freedoms. The people who are dying to end the Assad regime are paying the price that we must pay. Freedom is not free. Those in Syria are buying our freedom with their lives." Other speakers shared first-hand knowledge of the human cost for challenging the Assad regime. First-hand accounts of torture, murder, violence and unspeakable cruelty. The Assad killing machine has repulsed every corner of the world. In 2012, the use of camera phones has allowed images of systematic elimination of non-combatants to be shown on the internet. The control is being ripped from the regimes hands, but it is a bloody fight. The winds of the Arab Spring are searing their grip, but the cronies seem to have...

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Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia-the Middle East Triangle

The Middle East is a complex arrangement of nation-states with different identities and religious expressions.  Directly impacting the cultural complexities is the reality of geo-strategic interest.  At the start of 2012, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are central to the growing tensions throughout the region. Saudi Arabia is the center of Sunni Islam with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  It is also a key ally of the United States.  Syria maintains a strategic relationship with Iran and is positioned to strike at Israel with efficiency.  Iran is an archenemy of  Saudi Arabia and is home to a Shi'a majority Muslim population who do not want to see conflict with the U.S.  Are you beginning to see the outlines of the triangle? The tensions between the U.S. and Iran have radiating and serious consequences.  The Arab world is undergoing its own geopolitical shift as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia lead the way in the aftermath of populist revolutions...

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today I am walking in my city in the 19th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Walk -a-Thon.  Each year I walk to remember that the country I live in no longer sanctions the inhumane practice of slavery.  And I am so glad.  I don't think I could live in a country where such a thing was permitted.  I am thankful for those who protested in the 60's and I recognize King for his courage.  Owning human beings is a reprehensible practice.  It is incomprehensible in 2012 that it was ever permitted in the United States. The existence of slavery, followed by segregation was an immoral and contradictory practice in a nation that championed human rights and democracy.  Slavery is a dirty chapter in the oftentimes, pristine history of the United States.  The religious moralism of those who hail the righteousness of their brand of what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. usually omits this chapter.  This brand of religion has at times been at the...

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Perspective

Perspective... Sometimes it is all about perspective.  The CNN photo blog highlighted people in Hong Kong who live in cages. The cage is their home and the opportunities to change that address are non-existent.

http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/08/hong-kongs-poor-living-in-cages/

The blog posts people wrote in response to these photos included a healthy dose of gratitude for what one has.  The culture within the United States is under duress, no question about it.  But a look at humans who must live in cages due to an absence of resources, alternatives, or options is jarring.  And it is a palate cleanser at a minimum. We in the United States and in most of the western countries have experienced economic challenges in recent years.  But our challenges are quite different from many around the world who will never be able to lift themselves out of abject poverty. What is your perspective?

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Democracy, Culture, and Capitalism

Let's be clear.  Democracy is a governing system, the form of which in the United States has supported free expression in the market and business sectors. The United States had the great advantage of timing...as a new nation in the latter part of the 18th century it formed a democratic government along with the convergence of emerging modern economic practices.  It was highly beneficial, this convergence, and fueled the progress of a neophyte nation on the global stage. This parallel track is the source for an assumption that runs throughout the citizenry.  That assumption often holds democracy and capitalism as equivalent and even partisan...which explains why many citizens have a conflated perspective about two of the largest pillars for the American way of life, democracy and capitalism.   This pervasive cultural belief further explains why one hears presidential candidates speak in "cultural"language about what they can do to fix the economy. Capitalism...

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What is going on with Iran?

During the holiday slow-down at the end of 2011 I was asked many times, "What is going on with Iran?" Well, that is a complex question;one that requires a long answer. Iran is playing the geo-strategic board game of posturing and positioning. Hard-liners within the government are going forward with objectives to achieve what is believed to be the respect that has been denied them. The goal for Iran is to become a powerful presence in a region that has been dominated by U.S. military presence. Iran sees itself as surrounded by the United States. Until U.S. fighting forces withdrew from Iraq, there was a sizable military on its western border. On its eastern borders there are ISAF forces in Afghanistan and there is a visible presence in the Gulf where U.S. Naval ships patrol the oil corridor in the Strait of Hormuz. While playing the nuclear card will be counterproductive, it seems that Iran is willing to roll the dice in the hope that leverage can be gained. Deeper sanctions are sure...

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Good Food and Lights and Gifts

During this coming week many holidays will be celebrated: Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Over a month ago, Eid al-Adha was celebrated. It is a marvel that in the United States people of all faiths are welcome. Also welcomed are their customs and celebrations. It is a hallmark of the United States that it began with the ideals to make a home for all peoples. As a nation-state the United States was created through the efforts of many who had diverse views, beliefs and backgrounds. The fundamental conclusion was that all people could find a home where freedom from persecution was guaranteed. This year the world has been witness to the democratic struggles around the world. The uprisings in the Arab states evidenced the human impulse for freedom, representation, and opportunity. Many of the young people who actively fostered the uprisings held the U.S. as a model. As contentious as the political and economic terrain have been in the U.S. during the year of 2011, it is important to...

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Was Iraq a Success?

As the U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq there remain many questions about the reasons for the war in this country following the Al Qaeda attacks on 9/11. Even more questions remain about Iraq's future. The "political-speak" in Washington includes tough language of sovereignty and success. But is Iraq really a success? As U.S. and EU corporations prepare to exploit Iraq's new markets with advertizing and the flooding of western products, the Iraqi people remain uncertain about their future. After decades of harsh rule under Saddam, years of debilitating sanctions, and a nearly nine year period of internal chaos following the invasion of U.S. forces, the people need education and training. The people need time and the opportunity to establish a sense of what it means to live in this new Iraq. While Iraq is presently able to sustain a quasi-democratic government, the culture remains fraught with sectarianism, and is in the center of tensions within the greater Middle East. In short, Iraq...

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