Thursday, April 19, 2012

Will Obama Abandon Eastern Europe?

President Barack Obama's recent statement to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, for incoming President Vladimir Putin, that he would be more willing to give into Russian demands after the election indicates re-election of Obama could be a disaster for the United States. Obama's statement is particularly disturbing because it comes on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred because Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev thought President John Kennedy's mishandling of the Bay of Pigs and weak response to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 indicated Kennedy was indecisive and weak. Khrushchev thought the Soviet Union could take advantage of that perceived weakness to place nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Thinking about the Cuban Missile Crisis reminds me that I got a haircut on Friday, October 26, 1962. As I rode my bicycle home from Buff's Barber Shop late that afternoon I wondered if my school would still be there on Monday morning or if I would still be alive.

Russia's attitude to the missile defense system the U.S. has placed in Eastern Europe to protect against missiles from Iran implies Russia, or at least Putin, isn't convinced the Cold War is completely over. Or, maybe Putin wants the appearance of a conflict with the U.S. so he can use the threat of a foreign enemy to suppress freedom of speech in Russia.

The mistake many Americans made after World War II was in thinking that "communism" was the enemy instead of Russia. The Soviet Union was never anything more than a fancy name for the Russian Empire. To rephrase Marx, in Russia "socialism[communism] was the opiate of the people."

Many believe that Putin is not really confortable with democracy. Many Russians are complaining that he stole the recent election.

Putin probably is smart enough to realize he cannot afford a military invasion of Eastern Europe, but he may want to be able to intimidate East European governments into having closer relations with Russia, particularly in the economic area.

If Putin can get the U.S. to retreat from its promises to protect Eastern Europe from missile attack, he may think he can convince East European governments that America can't be relied on to protect them. He might then attempt to intimidate them into abandoning ties with the west in favor of a close relationship with Russia.

Such a threat could produce a major crisis that Obama would be incapable of handling because he isn't a leader.

Nikita Khrushchev decided to place missiles in Cuba because he misinterpreted President John Kennedy's inexperienced handling of the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Crisis as weakness. Will Putin decide Obama is weak after Obama in effect has said that appeasing Putin is more important to Obama than doing what the American people want?

In the second presidential debate in 1976 President Gerald Ford in a slip of the tongue said, "there is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration." He later said he meant to say that he wouldn't recognize such domination.

Obama cannot claim that his statement to Medvedev was a slip of the tongue without appearing incompetent.

In October, 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin in Moscow and discussed the percentages agreement that accepted Soviet spheres of influence in southeastern Europe. After World War II ended Stalin expanded Soviet control well beyond the percentages suggested by Churchill by sending in groups to establish Soviet style dictatorships.

Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt had to give concessions to Stalin because they still needed Soviet help to defeat Germany. They believed they would need Soviet help to defeat Japan.

Obama has no such need for Russian support against foreign enemies. He has no need to appease Russia in eastern Europe.

Would Putin interpret an Obama "retreat" from eastern Europe as an opening to try to help Russia friendly groups in eastern Europe replace their governments with governments friendly to Russia, possibly by using questionable tactics? If that happened would some American politicians respond by trying to start a new McCarthy type era?

Former President Bill Clinton needs to remind Obama that reelection doesn't insure a full term of office. Clinton was impeached after being reelected and barely escaped removal from office. President Richard Nixon was forced to resign after a landslide victory because his supporters used questionable campaign tactics.

If Obama gives in to Putin and Putin takes advantage of him to create a major crisis, Obama could face impeachment. The charge wouldn't be corruption as was the case with Clinton and Nixon. The charge would be "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" (i.e., treason).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Dodge City" Florida

Those of us who like old tv westerns have watched the scene uncounted times. A gunfighter goads someone into drawing against him and gets away with the subsequent killing by claiming "self defense" because the other guy "drew first".

George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin sounds very similar except for the fact that Martin jumped Zimmerman instead of drawing on him.

Zimmerman has admitted that he essentially was stalking Martin before Martin apparently attempted to hide from Zimmerman. When Zimmerman got out of his vehicle Martin may have felt Zimmerman was going to attack him and decided to act first.

Martin reminds me of the "young cowboy named Billy Joe" that Johnny Cash sang about. Billy Joe was convinced that it would be safe for him to take his guns to town because he could "shoot as quick and straight as anybody". We can't be sure of what Martin was thinking but he apparently thought he could take on anybody even though he didn't have a weapon and had no way of knowing if his stalker was armed.

I don't know if Zimmerman has watched many cop/private detective shows, but if he has he has watched the wrong shows or didn't pay attention. If I had been watching this scenario on tv knowing that Zimmerman was armed and Martin was not, I would have anticipated what happened. Movie and tv characters being followed at least since the days of Humphrey Bogart have been known to step into the shadows to catch stalkers.

If Martin had been a armed criminal instead of an teenager just interested in getting something to eat and drink, Zimmerman would likely have died from a stab wound or bullet. If Martin had been armed he could have used the Stand Your Ground law to justify killing the man who was stalking him.

The media have focused on Martin's skin color because most of those in the media are obsessed with the issue of skin color. However, Martin's age may have been more important in causing Zimmerman to consider him suspicious. Male teenagers commit a disproportionate number of crimes.

There's one critical difference between what happened in Florida and the gunfights in Matt Dillon's Dodge City. In Dodge City a man who shot an unarmed man would be taken to jail by Marshall Dillon or given a permanent home on Boot Hill. On tv westerns ending a fist fight with a gun was considered murder regardless of who started the fight.

George Zimmerman may not have wanted to push Trayvon Martin into a fight, but he did. Zimmerman's reckless behavior resulted in the death of Martin. If Florida's law allows a man to cause a fight with an unarmed man so he can get away with killing, there is something wrong with the law. If Florida fails to prosecute Zimmerman it will be a signal to bullies that they can get away with murder if they can push their victims into throwing the first punch.

Florida's "Stand your ground" law might be a good thing if it applies to those are trying to defend against a threat from someone else. However, if the law protects those who initiate
dangerous situations it may legalize murder.

On the old westerns, when the law was too slow to deal with someone people had decided was guilty, some of them might decide to take the law into their own hands. Some groups are already reportedly threatening some form of vigilante action if Zimmerman isn't prosecuted. In another case, police might be able to wait to see if they could find evidence that would make prosecution easier. They may not have that option in this case. If authorities delay getting the case into the courts too long, they may end up having to prosecute someone else for killing Zimmerman.