I am responding to your request to bundle up some of the major negative
setbacks and positive advances during my life spanning nearly eight
On a geo-political-strategic level, I regard as catastrophic the multiple
large-scale military struggles during the period that have wrecked
economies and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries
for millions of people across the globe. Unfortunately billions of
dollars in resources have been depleted to support warfare and rebuild
shattered infrastructures that could have been invested in programs
to uplift needy people worldwide.
A major disappointment has been the failure of regional and international
leaders to resolve the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis following
the 1948 establishment of the Jewish nation.
The outcome has been periodic wars and clashes between these two entities
and their allies. Military involvement of Middle Eastern and other
Muslim countries and political, arms and economic aid to both sides
by world players weigh in as overall progress toward resolution of
the basic dispute remains ephemeral.
As a result, angry and frustrated Muslims across the globe have grown
much more critical of American policies, which they assess as pro-Israel,
feeding an escalation of violence. The greatest threat to world peace
emerged during the closing years of the 20th century with the launching
of an extremist Muslim movement in Afghanistan conceived by wealthy
former Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden.
The most spectacular strike against American interests occurred when
a group of bin Laden conspirators stunned the world in 2001 with aircraft
crashes that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and damaged the
Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people. Nearly that many American
troops have died in Iraq since the Bush Administration's decision
to invade Iraq without United Nations approval on the basis of threats
posed by Saddam Hussain's alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
A government commission has concluded that Administration claims about
the WMD's and that the Saddam regime had pre-war links to al-Qaeda
Coalition forces have been unable to quell an insurgency in Iraq fed
by suicide bombers and widespread sectarian killing, especially in
the capital of Baghdad, that has resulted in the deaths of thousands
of Iraqis in July and August of 2006 alone, along with American and
President Bush maintains that "we are winning the war on terror."
However, an assessment by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies is that the
invasion and war in Iraq have helped expand a new generation of Islamic
radicals around the world as the Jihad movement expands. According
to the analysis the Iraq war is "breeding resentment" in
the Muslim world and the "Iraqi Jihad is shaping a new generation
of terrorist leaders and operations" which inspires more fighters
to continue the struggle elsewhere in the world.
"U.S. officials are anxious for Iraqis to take a stronger role
in their country's security because of mounting pressures to withdraw
troops as soon as possible," the Los Angeles Times reported in
a dispatch from Baghdad. "Rising public discontent in the United
States with the war, tired troops on their third and fourth rotation
in the Middle East and huge expenditures by American taxpayers are
all driving U.S. officials to press the (Iraqi) government
quickly take more responsibility."
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton sees a political agreement
between Israel and the Palestinians as the only alternative in the
Middle East, stating that "consistent with Israel's security
let's get back to work on the Palestinian peace process because that's
the juice that's feeding terror all over the world."
(In late 2006, a ten-member Iraq Study Group authorized by the White
House and headed by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary
of State Jim Baker similarly assessed the issue. "The United
States," it reported, "will not be able to achieve its goal
in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the
Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment
by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israel peace plan on
Previous major international bloodshed during the period considered
includes American-backed coalition invasions to engage in conflicts
in Korea and Vietnam. The Korean conflict at mid-century pitted United
Nations forces against the invading North Korean army and also the
Communist Chinese military when the American Commander, General Douglas
MacCarthur, ordered an advance toward the Yalu River bordering China.
Some 55,000 Americans died in that confrontation, along with many
nationals on both sides.
In another major conflict, more than 50,000 American military were
killed in a prolonged engagement in Vietnam, along with troops of
allies and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. The rationale was
to protect democracy and support the "Domino Theory," official
Washington doctrine, which had predicted the collapse of Southeast
Asia into communism without international intervention. The most powerful
nation in the world had to retreat before the advancing North Vietnamese
Army. The so-called "domino" nations remain free of communism,
with the exception of Laos and also Vietnam, with which the United
States now has diplomatic relations.
Earlier, during another chaotic period, the explosive fireballs of
a pair of U.S. atomic bombs on Japanese cities in mid-1945 brought
a terrifying end to Japan's holdout against American forces ending
World War II. However, the horror of possible nuclear war led to fresh
apprehension as the United States and the Soviet Union launched a
nuclear arms race, and other nations proceeded to perfect such weapons,
leading to worldwide fear of nuclear exchanges.
The Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and the later collapse of the Soviet
communist system eased the nuclear arms standoff. But fresh concern
has arisen over the threat of Muslim suicide bombers wielding suitcase
bombs or planting chemical or bacteriological weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear weapon development programs by such belligerent nations as
Iran and North Korea, as well as stockpiles already in the arsenals
of neighborly foes like India and Pakistan also pose the danger of
Aside from destructive wars, global warming is another international
threat to mankind and the planet earth. Mounting scientific evidence
has indicated precipitate thawing of icepacks and glaciers at record
levels in the Arctic and Antarctic during the past few years. Scientific
studies link the problem to expansion of clouds of pollution traced
to emissions of industrial carbon dioxide as well as gases exuded
by vehicular engines and other poisonous sources.
On the social front, a breakdown has occurred in family value levels
in America and the concomitant coarsening of society. Permissive sexual
themes, nudity and violence are common in various media like films
and in TV broadcasts even during peak hours of child viewing. Cable
networks in particular but also others feature programs that tend
to focus on the worst aspects of criminality and human nature, such
as grotesque murders, kidnap and rape. Obscene lyrics broadcast by
popular radio stations negatively influence and desensitize members
of society and the young in particular.
To make matters worse, single-parent families are increasingly prevalent
but even in homes headed by traditional parents more moms are working,
leaving insufficient time in harried households for the proper supervision,
nurturing, education and disciplining of children.
Other major blows to morality include the Supreme Court legalization
of abortion leading to the destruction of more than 13 million fetuses
annually in the United States. Congressional corruption and kowtowing
to the influence of lobbyists in return for political donations have
caused the eruption of a cancer within the legislative process. The
infusion of money shapes laws and warring lawmakers become more intent
on party protection and feather-nesting of special interest groups
than the welfare of the nation.
An obvious conclusion is that mankind is not only fouling the earthly
environmental nest but in the United States the various social and
political trends outlined have permeated the foundations of morality,
partly due to acceptance of the status quo by an all-too-willing society.
Polls demonstrate increasing concern over where America is heading
and slipping trust in congressional and governmental leaders and the
media, which presumably could lead to some housecleaning and changes
in the party politic through elections.
Turning to positive developments, a paramount achievement toward the
mid-20th century was the successful Allied military campaign guided
by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill
to defeat Fascist totalitarianism during World War II. The victory
restored liberty, democratic governments and civil rights to vast
multitudes in Europe and Asia.
With the end of the war, the establishment of the United Nations and
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided a diplomatic and military
umbrella to vulnerable nations. Communist Moscow and Beijing moved
onto the international stage in an effort to stuff aggressive socialist
policies into any geo-political vacuum and had some successes in Eastern
European takeovers. Moving swiftly, however, American assistance to
Greece through the Marshall Plan and other actions, including a massive
U.S. airlift over Soviet-closed borders around Berlin, called Moscow's
bluff to ward off threats of the communist stranglehold. Later economic
failures caused by the ineffective communism system in the Soviet
Union and various Eastern European nations, glasnost and the tearing
down of the Berlin Wall paved the way for initiation of democracy
in former communist bastions.
In America, the civil rights movement took a giant step forward with
a mid-fifties Supreme Court ruling that outlawed racial segregation
in educational institutions. The Reverend Martin Luther King and other
leaders launched a nationwide campaign, especially in the South, to
further the constitutional rights of minorities. The policies of President
John Kennedy and later President Lyndon Johnson influenced the approval
of a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act and other legislation
of a "Great Society" program that resulted in new opportunities
for blacks and other minorities.
In medical, scientific and space-age fields, mammoth advances expanded
life spans through improved health care capping government and private
investment in research and development and the application of new
technology. Dr. Jonah Salk virtually eliminated the scourge of polio
by discovering a vaccine that was ultimately administered worldwide.
Smallpox was basically wiped out across the globe as well, and medical
research has led to procedures to curb cancer and other diseases.
Space exploration took off, spurred by the success of the Soviet Union
in beating America to the punch and launching the first cosmonaut
into earth orbit.
(I recall viewing from nighttime darkness the initial winking Soviet
sputnik, caught in remaining high rays of sunlight as it whirled around
the world, and wondering in awe and apprehension like many others
whether America would be targeted by Soviet missiles launched from
platforms in space.)
In reaction, President Kennedy prioritized the landing of Americans
on the moon, a successful mission not yet accomplished by any other
nation, which burnished the image of the United States. Today Russians
and astronauts from many nations work together to man a space station
and also cooperate in a variety of programs designed to explore the
universe and add to the scientific and technological knowledge of
The space program and the computer and Internet era have spawned a
telecommunications and educational revolution, which has exploded
economies in many nations and has affected the work and pleasure habits
of millions of people. It has enabled a digital time frame for swift
delivery of a wealth of information with ever-cheaper and more powerful
computers and has mounted a wave of gadgetry. The technological wave
has had social implications as well, strengthening communications
among families and friends who used to chat over backyard fences and
at backyard barbecues but now stay in touch by tapping out dialogue
on a keyboard.
Television and radio have been leapfrogged to some extent by digital
links, which disseminate a wide range of news and commentary, blogs,
data, movies, music and personal and business e-mail services. Profits
and circulation of print media, for example, have declined since the
computer-and-cell phone savvy can plug in constantly to keep up-to-date
on what's happening in a world of constant change.
Such a stream of fast information is particularly invaluable during
periods preceding national and regional balloting, in which enduring
freedoms of speech, the press, religion and others enshrined in the
U.S. constitution continue to serve the republic so well. Lawmakers,
governmental leaders and even judges, being human, are prone to corruption,
error and disastrous decisions. In the American system of government,
however, the charter and Bill of Rights framed by the nation's founders
provides a framework for justice and righting wrongs when leaders,
consumed with hubris, arrogance and abuse of political power opt to
drive the national vehicle into a swamp.
To the rescue comes a much-better-informed electorate marching to
the polls to "throw the bums out" as necessary. Through
the ballot box, a free choice and a wealth of information available
for analysis of political platforms and personalities, there's always
the promise of replacing the inept with lawmakers capable of ushering
in a fresh start and a new day, America-style.