Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Titanic is going down.




A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare.

The Titanic was  "unsinkable."  Sporting 52,310 tons, which by today's standards was not the largest of ships. but by 1912 standards, was a leviathan, a iron riveted monster, with 16 water tight bulkheads and carrying lifeboats sufficient for 1,178 of its 2,234 passengers. A North Atlantic Iceberg ripped a gash through five of the sixteen watertight bulkheads,  the  unsinkable sinking inside of three hours, resulting in 1500 dead.

World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Serbia, triggering a chain reaction of alliances causing the great war, killing over nine million combatants and seven million civilians.  Nations of sleepwalking leadership plunged the world into not only that war, but also the Treaty of Versailles, setting the stage for the rise of fascists and the Second World War, involving over 100 million people from over thirty countries and ultimately involving 50 to 85 million fatalities.

The Korean War, fought from 1950 to 1953, begun as a UN "Police Action" ended in a stalemate, insuring the establishment of what ultimately became a thriving democracy in the south and a totalitarian dictatorship in the north.  The war was never ended with a peace treaty, but a semi-stable armistice for the last 60 years or so.  Korea had been occupied by imperial Japan since 1910 until the end of World War II.  The Korean war cost 178,000 lives including 37,000 American soldiers dead and 103,000 wounded.   America feared the spread of Communism and the result was favorable for the South.  But the remnants of that war haunt us to this day, with a ruthless dictator threatening to post missiles to San Francisco, among other American cities.

The Viet Nam war started on a waterfall of misinformation, including the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, based upon an erroneous report that American ships were attacked first by North Vietnamese forces.  58,000 Americans died in the misguided conflict, tearing our nation apart.  In fact we thought we were stopping the fall of Communist dominoes, but the Vietnamese thought they were fighting a war of national liberation in a country previously dominated by the Japanese, the French and the Americans, all of which supported corrupt regimes.

In World War II to defeat Nazi Germany and Japan, we allied our country with a totalitarian Stalin against a totalitarian Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, hoping to create a better world, a world free of dictators and despots.   Between Hitler and Stalin, 50 million people were killed (by their hands alone.)    At the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1993 Francis Fukuyama wrote that History had ended, arguing that the advent of liberal Western Democracy may signal "the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and heralding the final form of human government--liberal democracy."

The arc of history is long. The consequences of what is happening in the Middle East are now in the hands of US President who understands neither foreign policy nor history.

Despite the efforts of educated, sophisticated policymakers such as George Kennan, Dean Acheson, FDR, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, subsequent presidents and leaders were perfectly capable of destroying the building blocks of a world order of pax Americana and the alliances that have essentially made the world a safer place since the end of World War II.   The United Nations, has nobly attempted to create a better world, but has failed in many respects, including the inability to foster world peace through its own devices.  It must rely on the largesse of the member states, many of which only  look after their own interests.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, Fukuyama thought, was the end of history.  It was to be the rise of liberal democracies throughout the world.    How wrong was Fukuyama?  How difficult is it to predict the future?  Essentially the best of leaders, with the noblest of intentions are winging it, but now we should all be especially frightened.   A President caught in scandal, possible criminality, and obsessed with his own narcissism faces uncertainties, befuddling the best of statesman.

This president knows all the answers.  But is not a statesman.

When our founding fathers, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Constitution, they designed an elaborate system of federalism dividing the powers, checks and balances among the states and the three branches of government, decided that they did not want a king and determined the term of office for the President as four years.   They wrote a second amendment guaranteeing a "well regulated militia" insuring the right to bear arms (flintlock muskets, not AR 15s.)  They decided they did not want a parliamentary system nor a prime minister.  They provided a provision for impeachment of the President for "high crimes and misdemeanors."   But they did not provide for a vote of no confidence nor a special election to put in place a new president for an administration gone haywire.  Two presidents have been impeached, but none ever convicted and removed.  They provided an electoral college that misapportioned power among the states, and allowed for the election of a minority vote getter.

This is the 21st century, not the 19th. It is time for a new constitutional convention.

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