April 15 and September 11

Few Americans look forward to April 15, income tax day.

Abraham Lincoln died of assassination on April 15, 1865.

The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912.

And the Boston Marathon bombing, April 15, 2013, with the trial 2 years later, in case we needed reminding.

September 11 is another bad one.

People tend to forget September 11, 1777: The Battle of Brandywine, right here in Chester County. George Washington didn’t expect the British to ford the river upstream of his position at Chadds Ford and attack his right flank. The British won and occupied Philadelphia. The war dragged on till British general Cornwallis finally surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

September 11, 2001: the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, as anyone reading this remembers all too well.

Is it just a coincidence that the terrorist attack occurred on the anniversary of the worst American defeat in the War of Independence? Or perhaps the Bin Ladens of the world have a sense of history?

September 11, 1714, also marked the fall of Barcelona to the Bourbon monarchy and the beginning of the Spanish occupation of Catalonia which has continued ever since. Somewhat perversely, the date of that disastrous defeat has become the Catalan day of national celebration; it’s true, the war and siege ended only after heroic resistance against overwhelming odds.

Look up any day here. All have good and bad associations, but the two days just mentioned seem particularly to have particularly bad karma.

Americans, however, tend to think more of places than dates. Have you noticed how many of the symbolic place names of our history reflect disasters, death, and destruction: Wounded Knee, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, Selma, Attica, Guantánamo, Ferguson…? And yet, as in most conflicts, people who don’t care to celebrate a victory in connection with such emblematic places can celebrate resistance and renewal.

We seem to have gotten through April 15, 2015, without any unusual disasters. Good! We and the world need to take things day by day at this point.

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The 1911 Triangle Fire, other disasters, and progressive eras

People keep talking about the 1960s as if that were the only progressive period in American history. It’s the only one people who weren’t around in the 1930s can recall, and of course people are very conscious now of Bloody Sunday and the voting Rights Act of 1965 because of the 50th anniversary and the movie Selma; but the 1960’s are not the only progressive period in our history or the one with the longest influence. The last 45 years have chipped away at the legacy of the 1960’s, and the US Supreme Court is in the process of demolishing the last important legal vestige of the 1960’s, voting rights.

Most of the legacies of the 1930’s, such as worker rights, have slowly dwindled away too, and Social Security has been under threat of diminution and privatization for a long time.

It’s discouraging to realize that American society doesn’t really change until people go to jail or die for their rights. In the women’s suffrage movement, the crisis came when women were (unconstitutionally, of course) arrested and packed off to cruel prison conditions, as in “Iron Jawed Angels,” a movie I wrote about in 2013.

That movie begins in 1913, two years after an industrial fire in New York City that killed almost 150 women, mostly young immigrants, which galvanized both the American labor movement and the women’s suffrage movement. Tomorrow is the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Factory fire.

Triangle fire(photo from the Kheel Center)

“The Triangle Fire” on PBS was an amazing documentary in the American Experience series of which you can still buy the DVD for about $20.

The film begins with New York City’s tribute to those victims still unidentified a few weeks after the disaster of March 25, 1911. A hundred years later, the last six unidentified victims were finally identified; see more on them and their identification at the Cornell University site The Triangle Factory fire and in “100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete,” New York Times, 2/20/11.

As the Times put it:

…And so, for the first time, at the centennial commemoration of the fire on March 25 outside the building in Greenwich Village where the Triangle Waist Company occupied the eighth, ninth and 10th floors, the names of all 146 dead will finally be read….

A shirtwaist, by the way, was basically a button-down blouse that was  ready-to-wear, fashionable, and symbolic of the growing role of women outside the home, according to PBS (page no longer active).

I first heard about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (about 35 years, I am embarrassed to say, after my formal education ended) in the poem “Shirt” by former US poet laureate  Robert Pinsky (text at poets.org; you can also listen to Pinsky reading the poem there):

…One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes–

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity….

That’s the sad gist of the story. Here are some further themes from the documentary, from PBS’s Triangle fire home page (no longer active), from “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire” in Wikipedia, and from other sources identified above and below.

The film emphasizes that 1909-11 was the period when intolerable working conditions stimulated the growth of the union movement in New York’s sweat shops:

Progressive reformers had been shining a light on the growing inequalities in America for twenty years…  But their calls for government to rebalance the relationship between employers and their employees went largely unheeded.

Does that sound familiar?  And do our current downturn in regulation and decline of the union movement seem like an ironical commentary of the sacrifices and losses of life in 1911?

Ironically, the Triangle Factory workers themselves–who were at the forefront of the movement, courageously staying out on strike while they were brutalized by hired thugs and scorned by official New York, and their families went short of food–did not succeed in unionizing their own place of employment.

Ironically, the daughter of J. P. Morgan and other “society ladies” and woman suffragists  publicly supported the strikers (up to a point) and enlisted socially prominent picketers.

Ironically, owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris had emigrated as young tailors from Europe to the US 20 years earlier; now, their policies caused the deaths of 146 mostly Italian and (like the owners) European Jewish immigrants or their children, almost all of them women, half of them teenagers (the youngest: 14).  The owners were acquitted on manslaughter and actually received more in insurance than the cost of the physical damage to the facilities.

Ironically, the factory was in the Asch Building (it was not, however, reduced to ash and is now part of NYU).

The owners on the 10th floor, notified by telephone from the 8th floor where the fire started, escaped to the roof.   But of the 240 workers on the 9th floor, more than half died.  There was no fire alarm; one stairway was locked (the foreman escaped to the street with the key in his pocket); the external fire escape collapsed; the freight elevators began to melt and were weighed down by bodies falling down the shafts; fire ladders reached only the 6th floor.

Over 50 victims chose death by falling to the sidewalk rather than by being burned up.

As the New York Times said:

“…The fire was a wrenching event in New York’s history, one that had a profound influence on building codes, labor laws, politics and the beginning of the New Deal two decades later….”

Things can’t get worse than the Triangle fire, right? Actually, “Deadliest Workplace Accidents” at PBS catalogues 37 other industrial and manufacturing accidents of US facilities. Of those, eight have even higher death tolls than the 1911 disaster, ranging up to 581 in 1947.

And let’s not forget the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. From Wikipedia:

The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident….

Surely management-imposed labor disasters don’t happen any more, right? Unfortunately, they do: the PBS list ends with six 21st-century disasters: death in an oil refinery, a sugar refinery, a power plant, two mines, and of course the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion of April 20, 2010, which killed 11 workers and produced the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

It takes a lot of guts to be an industrial worker in the US, doesn’t it?

At least we don’t have any more sweatshops, right?

Alas, from the Cornell site:

Even today, sweatshops have not disappeared in the United States. They keep attracting workers in desperate need of employment and illegal immigrants, who may be anxious to avoid involvement with governmental agencies. Recent studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that 67% of Los Angeles garment factories and 63% of New York garment factories violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Ninety-eight percent of Los Angeles garment factories have workplace health and safety problems serious enough to lead to severe injuries or death.”

As I wrote in 2012 in “Burning up workers,” reflecting on the fire in a Pakistani garment factory that killed twice as many workers as the Triangle fire.

“Wrenching events,” in the Times’ expression, happen around us all the time, in fires, mass shootings, car accidents, environmental disasters, wars, and the steady erosion of our social fabric. Will those too have “a profound influence”? Or is our society totally adjusted to such events, as it seems for now to be to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and their almost monthly sequels, as an everyday cost of doing business? Is living among self-generated death and destruction just how it is to be Americans these days?

Posted in Labor | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Do countries have friends?

Today I had a rare moment of agreement with Realpolitik, as practiced notably by Henry Kissinger.

Realpolitik is “politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises” (Wikipedia).

My moment of realization came in reading Linda Chavez, “Abandoning our friends Obama-style,” Daily Local News, 3/20/15.

In the comment section I posted:

Let’s not get too sentimental here. People have friends; corporations have clients; countries have allies. Russia was our ally, then our enemy. The British, who burned the White House, are now our allies. Values, like friendships, can change; and who always lives up to their own values and friendships… or alliances, for that matter?

Why don’t all countries just go out and act like Hitler and Mussolini—to name two dictators whose countries were highly civilized when Columbus set sail to the New World. Sure, acting like those two (or like Columbus, for that matter) isn’t nice, it isn’t moral, and it kills a lot of innocent people; but countries go right on invading others, killing civilians, reducing whole populations to poverty by sanctions and occupations, and setting up coups against foreign governments.

The real mitigating factor, at least in our time, is world opinion. The US “lost” the war in Vietnam (which we kindly took over from the French) but it would have been easy to “win” by dropping a few nuclear bombs. But we wouldn’t have looked like a very good role model to the rest of the world, would we? After all, in 1945 we became the only country ever to drop nuclear bombs on actual people; twice would become a pattern.

Actually, presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was perceived as suggesting the nuclear solution in May, 1964; although he later hedged on that position, it sure didn’t help his results in November, 39% to LBJ’s 61% (I was in France at the time, and I went through a lot of hoops to cast an absentee ballot in my first presidential election).

But how about this? Chavez writes:

…history is not the primary reason we have always stood by Israel and must do so today. We are part of the same civilization. Our values are the same, part of a continuing tradition that traces its roots back some 4,000 years. Our Founders understood the profound importance of Judeo-Christian values in the American conception of individual rights….

The most cursory look at world history shows that being part of a noble civilization and its ostensible values does not guarantee good behavior. Every European country has played a significant role in western civilization, its great composers and writers, its contributions to democratic thought and government; and every one of them has done the most horrendous things to others.

As a Francophile (yes, as an individual human being, I can have friendly feelings toward a country), I listened intently yesterday to a BBC news report, “Algeria’s War of Independence,” which you can find here.

Beginning in 1830, French settlers took most of the good land and maintained their own institutions and political control. The Algerians started a resistance movement in 1954 that France countered with 500,000 troops, widespread bombings of civilians, destruction of whole villages, use of napalm against suspected militants, and the death of about 1,000,000 Algerians over eight years. Finally France decided in 1962 to let its colony (theoretically a non-contiguous part of France, as Alaska and Hawaii are of the US) go its own way; but for some time the settlers’ “Secret Army” (OAS) continued the battle for Europeans to retain control.

If any country should qualify as our friend, it’s France. Without French support, the US would not have won its war of independence against Britain; without the US, France would have long remained under Nazi rule. As a country, we have never fought against France.

But no, countries aren’t friends, and shared values mean little on the world stage. If they meant more, we wouldn’t have mortgaged our economy to China over the past generation in order to buy cheap plastic goods, when we could have been patronizing countries who “share our values” in Europe.

People can ask Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, but my view is: in foreign policy we should act in our own interest, follow our own governing principles as much as possible, and look like good global citizens. Unfortunately those three desiderata are often in conflict; but at the least we shouldn’t violate all three at the same time.

French soldiers search Algerian
French soldiers searching Algerian, from BBC

Posted in Foreign policy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Night of the Bulldozers (Charleston, 3/18/03)

Poetry and politics can meet. “The Night of the Bulldozers” was written twelve years ago this evening, on a trip to Charleston SC, when the then US president announced that the attack against the then Iraqi dictator was about to begin. I keep bringing this to the top on March 18 because it remains so timely.

In Charleston it was a stormy night, the thunder and rain making it hard to hear the news broadcasts–a fitting prelude to a disastrous war. The next morning we went, with about a hundred others, to an anti-war demonstration in downtown Charleston. It was quite civil; I remember the demonstration leader going off to have a cup of coffee with the chief of police.

Every day we see the worsening devastation that occurs when “the big ones” take on the power to do as they wish with the lives of ordinary people. The “patient restorers” and “feeders of children” haven’t been able to make enough headway in the disrupted lands of what used to be the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.

The Night of the Bulldozers
(Charleston, 3/18/03)

In a room with rain on the roof boards
we wait for the shooting to start
it is not our own children who carry the arms
nor our own children against whom arms are carried

The man who holds his finger on the trigger
is adjusting the aim of his cannons this evening
is tuning the edge of his bombers’ wings
bringing his friends to heel in the palm of his hand

The people holding the bulldozers back from the houses
thought they had an agreement but a woman
among them yesterday kneeling was bulldozed
crushed on the sand by a man with his hand at the wheel

Over our roof sound thunderclaps or airplanes
the rain beating doesn’t let us know which
they could be resounding from the hands of the gods
or from the men who have their fingers on the bombs

A handful of big little boys strut their boots on the sand
their shiny toys gleam in the high sun
closer to each other down the main street they swagger
it is close to noon one minute short of noon

Others try to hold the bombers back with their bodies
to find out if the man with the biggest arms in his hands
will bulldoze his own into a valley carved in the sand
to pile on top of the others bulldozed there before

Through our roof with the rain on it sirens sound
police are chasing or ambulances racing
far away sirens will sound shrill and long in the night
of the bulldozers the night of the bombs

The men with the big toys bestride a narrow land
the moment nears in the dust of the sand
down the main street of the world they strut
hands poised on their overflowing holsters

We wait you knit we will not turn back the dial
will not let the voice of the man with the bombs in his heart
enter this old room over the radio music of the strings
over the voice of the dove mourning in the evening garden

The big ones who strut oh they never are struck down
by the thunderbolt of a god by the hands of the good
by the tearing apart of the heart
before the guns can speak

With raindrops on the roof in the streets
on the waves of the ocean
we make our peace as we can
peace with our own minds

There is no more to be done but to wait
for the killing which has not started to end
for the day of the patient restorers the feeders of children
to come once again once again

Posted in History, International, Peace and War | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Admiral Joe Sestak in Coatesville

Sestak in your shoesThis morning I was at Admiral Joe Sestak’s street corner meeting in Coatesville. The former Congressman (D, PA-7, 2007-10) is campaigning toward a rematch with the current R Senator.

The theme of today’s meeting was “Manufacturing Jobs” with special emphasis on small businesses as job creators.
Here is Sestak’s summary from his web site:

Admiral Joe Sestak knows from his experience as Vice Chair of the Small Business Committee that job growth comes from innovation, and innovating is what America does best. Because the average manufacturing business has fewer than 50 employees, it’s the rugged innovators in small businesses that will be the future face of American manufacturing, creating quality jobs and putting the Dream back in reach for millions. Joe believes there is much we can do to empower the initiative and enterprise of our renewed manufacturing sector to prosper, creating opportunities for manufacturers and workers alike.

You can also download a press release and a detailed “contrast sheet” showing Sestak’s and Toomey’s divergences on this issue.

Sestak globe Lukens

Here are a few of his remarks that particularly caught my attention at the Gateway Park in Coatesville, with the large globe in front of the Lukens steel plant (not a small business, he noted) where his grandfather, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, worked.

“Grassroots is back.” Sestak is “walking in our shoes,” deriving his strength from “We the People,” ordinary Pennsylvanian citizens.

Sestak & Butcher 2“The biggest issue is not debt but the trust deficit.” Politicians should answer for their deeds, not their words. “I want to be held accountable.”

There followed a closely reasoned development–as one would expect from a Harvard PhD–about what he has done to support small businesses and their creation of jobs, and what his opponent has not done, which you can read in his press release, such as:

Sen. Toomey… tells Pennsylvanians he cares about people with manufacturing jobs but then votes against them back in Washington, D.C. He filibustered the Bring Jobs Home Act twice, which would end tax credits for businesses that have jobs overseas and provided tax credits for businesses that bring jobs back to the U.S. Toomey has also voted against support for small manufacturing businesses in the United States. Despite saying that small businesses “are already struggling,” he voted three times against funding the SBA as a senator, which included voting against loan guarantees, microloans and access to capital for manufacturers. This included support for manufacturers to purchase machinery, equipment and working capital. He also voted against funding for small businesses that are owned by veterans and women.

He challenged Sen. Toomey to say: “Look at what I do.” Toomey did boast to the Tea Party about leading the filibuster against a transportation bill that actually would have helped American manufacturers.

Toomey also signed the open letter to the Iranian leaders, harming American leadership by telling them that 47 Republican Senators do not support the president of the United States. The presidency has long been respected in the world; Toomey and his colleagues are diminishing it.

Toomey voted against funding the Small business Administration, against bills to train workers, against bills to remedy problems like veterans’ suicides.

We also need a voting Rights Act to solve the problems of selective voter disenfranchisement.

Maybe when Admiral Sestak gets back to Washington, but not as long as the incumbent is part of the majority there.

Sestak Dems 2

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Racism and global warming

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” as Mark Twain or someone else famously said.

That is how racism is like global warming: We’re still talking about it, and nobody does anything about it. At least, whatever has been valiantly tried hasn’t really worked. The damage from racism continues; the carbon keeps spewing into the air. We can’t be expected to abandon our peculiar institutions, can we?

Didn’t we become post-racial in November, 2008? In our dreams!

No surprise here, unfortunately: Matt Apuzzo, “Ferguson Police Routinely Violate Rights of Blacks, Justice Dept. Finds,” New York Times, 3/3/15.

Kali Holloway’s article “Hey, Smug White People: You (Yes, You) Are a Racist, Too” at Alternet, 3/2/15, sums it up in its title and goes on to catalog ten areas of racism in our society, with many links to supporting studies.

If you can bear more, see Ian Ayres, “When Whites Get a Free Pass: Research Shows White Privilege Is Real, New York Times, 2/24/15.

And David Dante Trout, “The racism that still plagues America,” Salon.com, 1/20/2014, where the city of which West Chester is the West receives some special mention:

… what Chester lacks in racial diversity and shopping it more than makes up for in public health pathologies. People here get really, really sick. The city has the highest mortality rate and highest lung cancer rate in the county. Its moms give birth to the highest percentage of low-weight babies in the state, and their infants die at twice the rate of other infants in Delaware County….

So what’s new in such studies? We already knew about environmental racism; we already knew that, for the same background and actions, black people get jobs less often and go to jail more often than white people; we already knew about white privilege.

But maybe we didn’t realize how frustratingly slowly the human mind changes. And that sometimes it even goes in the wrong direction–as in our own country, at this particular point in history.

Here’s an eye-opener: attitudes toward global warming, like most things in our society, follow a racial pattern. See “Hispanics more likely than whites to say global warming is caused by humans” by Jens Manuel Krogstad, Pew Research Center, 2/27/15


As you see (2014 data), almost 3 times as many whites as Hispanics deny that earth is getting warmer (blacks fall in between). Whatever we think of this winter (due, as I understand it, to a warming Artic disrupting the jet stream), 2014 was the latest in a series of super-warm years; and some people were paying more attention than others.

I wonder if those 31% are the same 31% who believe, in another Pew study, that “Humans and other living things have… existed in present form since beginning,”

Even more bizarrely, the percentage of Americans who believe the earth is warming has evolved rapidly from 77% to 57% to 72% within the past 8 years:

Climate change views 2006-14
Chart from Cary Funk and Lee Rainie,
Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society, Chapter 3.

Clearly, since except for a handful with dubious outside funding sources, scientists have long agreed that the earth is warming, the public is being influenced by extraneous factors that have nothing to do with actual data.

So how else is racism like global warming?

First, attitudes toward them are strictly political. Another Pew chart shows that 83% of Business Conservatives believe that “U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights” and only 6% of Solid Liberals agree. Are these two groups even living in the same country?

Maybe not. See “Study Finds White Americans Believe They Experience More Racism Than African Americans,” Political Blind Spot, 1/3/14:

There’s a saying that “the new racism is to deny that racism exists.”

And today, as they look back to the 1950’s…

…Caucasians surveyed believe that the discrimination faced by their African American neighbors has decreased much more rapidly than the African American respondents. Furthermore, they believe that while African Americans now have it better, they – the Caucasians surveyed – have taken their place as the primary targets of discrimination.

Never mind that “The typical white family in their 60s has $285,000 more in wealth than their black counterpart,” per “Whites have 12 times the wealth of blacks,” CNN Money, 2/18/15

There was some progress, in the mid-1960’s, especially with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is being undone before our eyes by 5/9 of the U.S. Supreme Court, just as the civil rights amendments after the Civil War were undone by the Hayes-Tilden “compromise” of 1877, the end of Reconstruction, and the beginning of the Jim Crow era.

So, for the first round of progress it took a bloody war between the states, and for the second, years of white-on-black terror culminating in Bloody Sunday on the Pettus Bridge in Selma, March 7, 1965, as we have all had a chance to see in the movie Selma.

As with racism the evidence mounts up, the damage continues for global warming. What cataclysm will it take for people and governments to start paying attention? When Miami and New Orleans sink below the waves, perhaps?

Posted in civil rights, Environment | Tagged , | 1 Comment

War authority–why and for what?

I can’t find online my letter published in the Daily Local News a week or so ago. So let’s put it in the blog.

This letter builds on my thinking in “Responsibility in the country, responsibility in the world” (August 10, 2014), beginning: “How is President Obama like the United States? Answer: both get blamed whatever they do.”

In my view, if one has to be blamed, it is better to be blamed for not killing people than for killing them.

Of course I’m not in favor of ISIS killing people either, destroying whole societies, breaking up historical works of art, and terrorizing the Middle East. The question is: who is going to deal with them?

You could say: the U.S. should, because by invading Iraq and trying to recreate it on a Western model we created the power vacuum and religious strife into which ISIS emerged. Or, you could say: Britain and France should, because after World War I those two colonial powers carved up the Middle East to suit themselves, and there has been trouble there ever since. Or, you could say: the United Nations should deal with it, and I agree in principle, but unfortunately its odd power structure (with one country on the Security Council being able to thwart all action) renders it no more effective than the U.S. Senate right now.

So, how about the neighboring countries who are next in line to be invaded by ISIS–most of them our ostensible allies–taking on the anti-ISIS assignment? Saudi Arabia did send out some bombers the other day, fine, that’s their business. Well they might make some use of their own military against ISIS, because ISIS’s

… real potential for destruction lies … in the implosion of Saudi Arabia as a foundation stone of the modern Middle East. We should understand that there is really almost nothing that the West can now do about it but sit and watch.

That’s according to Alastair Crooke, “Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia,” The World Post, 9/2/14. And they can likely find recruits on site for the plan, at least judging by Bin Laden’s success in lining up 15 Saudis among the 19 9/11 hijackers.

And the Saudis surely have the wherewithal to take there turn at being the Middle East’s policeman; their 2013 military expenses were 4th in the world (see chart below).

With all this in mind, here is my actual letter:

Ruth Marcus’s column “War authority both sides dislike” (Daily Local, Feb. 16) puzzles me, especially coming from a columnist who usually tries to be prudent and reasonable.

The “both sides” of the title isn’t Marcus’s; the title in her home paper, The Washington Post, is “Congress’s war duty.” But she does bring the argument down to two sides: those who think the president can hunt down ISIS on his own, and those who think Congress should be part of it (as in that creaky old constitution of ours, art. I, sect.8).

Her discussion is all about authority, domestic politics, and separation of powers. But wouldn’t we want to know first for what the authority, whoever has it, would be used?

In short, what’s the goal of any “war authority”? We didn’t know what our goal was when we invaded Iraq or Afghanistan, and how has that been working out for us? And for that whole part of the world?

Is it an American responsibility to stamp out evil everywhere we see it on the globe? Or should we expect some help from our friends (if any)?

Why don’t we put it the other way around: how much help should our friends (if any) expect from us?

Don’t the countries of the Middle East, northern Africa, and western Europe, whose citizens are the ones being attacked these days, have armies and air forces and military budgets (often partly financed by ourselves)?

How many Americans should we be prepared to lose, once more, in a distant war? And how many billions of dollars are we prepared to spend, when our schools and hospitals are desperate for funding?

How will we know when (if ever) we have reached our goal, whatever it is?

Ruth Marcus ought to ask what we want to do and why before she tries to figure out who should authorize it.

And there is a third side: those of us who would rather that American troops and treasure stay out of this one.

Finally: are we Americans making our share of sacrifices to keep the world in order (if that’s what you think our military is for)? Yes, more than our share. Here, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, are the figures for the 2013 calendar year:


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