So much is happening in our nation and in the world that often events move so fast that many of us cannot keep up with it all. Here are a few quick thoughts about some of these happenings.
- Syria and Iraq. The President gave a good speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week. (You can read it here.) However, in his remarks there and to the American people, he has assiduously avoided the use of the word “war.” For those flying the combat missions and on the ground in Iraq, legal definitions of “war” make little difference. For them, we are at war. As a minimum, the Obama Administration should have the Department of Defense and Central Command come up with a name for the operation. From the Middle East to Panama we have over the last few decades named all of our significant military undertakings. This one should be no exception and would, psychologically, help the American people to understand the nature and seriousness of our commitment. Something like Operation Desert Lightning might work.
- White House Security. As many of you are aware, the Secret Service has had a series of revelations of breakdowns in their procedures for protecting President Obama and his family. So far, most of the suggested changes to improve that security involve expanding the security perimeter around the White House and making it harder for normal citizens to access the area. Indeed, the security perimeter along Pennsylvania Avenue has already been expanded. Wrong answer. Review and follow the protocols. The failures of the Secret Service cannot be fixed by imposing increasing restrictions on the people. One of my biggest disappointments in recent years is going to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Freedom Hall. The security procedures required to get into the building were worthy of any security check for any airport in the world. Bad news that our symbols of freedom are hidden away behind tight security.
- Congress. Whether or not we are technically at war, Congress has an important role to play in making sure that our Armed Forces are not sent needlessly into harms way. Although the last time that Congress actually passed a resolution declaring war was long ago (in June 1942 against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary), they have debated and passed resolutions supporting significant military operations. Other than authorizing funds to begin to train Syrian fighters, Congress left town last week for campaigning without addressing the current actions against ISIS. (Incidentally, this is the earliest Congress has left town for mid-term elections in fifty years — after having worked only eight days following a five-week summer recess. Nice work if you can get it.) There is no more important matter for our government as a whole and for Congress in particular than national defense. The only good news here is that it was a bipartisan agreement. Perhaps the only one of the past year. Neither party wanted the “operation” against ISIS to get in the way of the campaigns surrounding the mid-term elections. In other words, most Representatives and Senators did not want to have to go on record with a vote either for or against military action in fear of having to explain it during the campaign. Shameful.
- Baseball. On a more positive note, at least in this area of the country, both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles won their divisions and are in the playoffs. It is too much to hope that they will meet in the World Series, but the locals can dream. Already the debate is underway as to what to call it. Battle of the Beltways? The Parkway Series? It would be fun. And no comment on baseball could be complete without a comment on the retirement of Derek Jeter. As a rehabilitated Boston Red Sox fan (Jetah — you suck!) I tip my hat to the man. It is too easy to get carried away about what our various sports teams mean to the country and one can question what role it should play. But all of the leagues and those in sports would be well served if their players were as consistent — on and off the field — in grace and leadership as Derek Jeter.
I could go on, but this is enough for today. It is a fast paced world that we live in, indeed.