Aug. 29, 2014
I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I’m getting a head start today by having lunch in my back yard with a good friend.
Working from home has its decided benefits. It’s been a good and productive week for me. (I hope my boss agrees). My friend and I will be sitting in my favorite birthday gift — my new Adirondack chairs. This very American invention seems to symbolize peace, order, creativity. Sitting side-by-side with a friend, in animated conversation, is one of life’s joys.
But there is a certain bittersweet quality to these days. We have never had a nicer summer in Maryland. Blue skies, low humidity, picnic suppers at the sea wall in Annapolis, watching red sails in the sunset, enjoying a summer of peace.
Yet the world has seemingly never been in worse shape, but here at home, peace is precious. The Mideast is exploding. War between Israel and Hamas brings condemnation — as usual — of those who are defending themselves from terrorists. From Gaza, Hamas has been tunneling under the Israeli primary schools and staging rocket attacks on their hospitals. The French have an old expression for this: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”
The president this week announced to the world: “We have no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.” Truth be told, this president has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Russia, or China, or Boko Haram. Not since Jimmy Carter’s uncertain course has the Ship of State been so obviously adrift.
I had the honor of interviewing President Carter’s own choice for Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malcolm Toon had been a thirty-year diplomat. He told me in 1982 that the only time in his career that he feared for the United States was when Carter was president. “I had never seen the Soviets so contemptuous of American weakness,” Amb. Toon told me then.
President Bush erred, badly, in saying he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and had seen “a good man.” He looked into the Russian strong man’s soul, Mr. Bush announced. Russian dissident writer Vladimir Bukovsky spoke to a Victims of Communism Dinner shortly thereafter. Asked about George W. Bush’s statement, Bukovsky deadpanned, with his lugubrious Slavic intonations: “I have looked into eyes of many KGB agents. I have never found it a particularly soulful experience.”
It took years for George Bush to gain a better understanding of Putin and his conduct. But at least he got it. Not so this administration. Vice President Joe Biden related how he had told Putin “I don’t think you have a soul at all.” This prompts one to ask: Is there a Nobel Prize for Jackassery?
The Obama administration’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, is famous for her evoking of “Soft Power,” whatever that is. But in the UN this week, she declaimed that the Russians had to stop “lying” about their activities in Ukraine. Why, Madame Ambassador, must they stop lying? Are you going to invoke Soft Power against them? Liberalizing Czech Communists tried Soft Power in 1968. The Kremlin crushed that Prague Spring under the tank treads of their T-34’s. So much for Soft Power.
We in America can thank God for our safety — and thank the U.S. military, too. There’s a quote — probably misattributed to the great English writer George Orwell — that says “people sleep safely in their beds because rough men are ready to do violence in their behalf.”
What the U.S. military does is not violence. The U.S. military has always been a force for peace. When obliged to use force, even deadly force, it is not engaged in violence. The “authorized use of deadly force” is what distinguishes legitimate and civilized nations from those — like Russia under the Communists, like the Nazis in Germany, like Hamas, Iran, or ISIS today — whose use of force is always violence, never legitimate.
Every Sunday, my wife and I join in prayers at Chapel for the families of young Americans who have died the previous week defending us. We thank God for the sacrifice of these heroes. They are not rough men ready to do violence. But they are brave men, capable men, men and women ready to defend our peace, our freedom, our laws and our Constitution, with their very lives.
To my friends and dear readers enjoying this last breath of summer may I share this poem?
The Last Rose of Summer
‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?