The Next World War

Let’s talk about the next war, shall we. This may not be a comfortable topic, or perhaps it’s one you think is a long way away so not worth the conversation now. As a student of history, humanity, and humor, I can tell you with a straight face, we’re now facing the next major war. This will be no Brush-Fire war on the scale of Iraq or Afghanistan, but one in which we’ll be fighting for control of the air, land, and sea in multiple theaters at the same time. It is the kind of war few in the world wish to contemplate until it’s already begun. It’s the kind of war we fought twice in the 20th Century. I can’t say exactly when or where it will begin, but we can talk about how it will happen, possible ways to prevent or limit it, and what it means for all of us. So, please join me as we think through our future, what it will cost, and what we can build if we happen to survive to see the other end of this human tragedy.

First, where we are today. From North Korea, the South China Sea, Iran, NATO-Russia frontier, and maybe even Venezuela based on some recent comments, we may be close to a multi-front catastrophe. We, as a nation, don’t seek out these conflicts, though some high within the administration would like to use them to galvanize support behind an unpopular and fearful President cringing with the ever encroaching approach of the special prosecutor looking into Russian election meddling which brought him to office. Expect the closer that prosecutor gets the more belligerency we’ll see from this administration. Lessons were learned by these folks when they fired a few cruise missiles into Syria back in April: Show some bombs and missiles, and the American people will line up, form up, and fall-in. This administration is counting on that wag-the-dog Pavlovian reaction when they need it most.

NBC had the chance to stop this when he was just a TV show character who grabbed woman’s body parts because he was a star. The Republican Party had the chance to stop this when he was a joke candidate no one took seriously who attacked judges, families of fallen soldiers, and war heroes. The American people had the chance to stop this when he espoused hate-filled propaganda and called it a candidacy for the Presidency of the U.S. Now, it’s up to all of these forces, aligned with the international community of democracies, to prevent a mad-man from literally going down in a blaze of (self-perceived) glory, and taking us all down with him. If we don’t stop him, the world itself, and all within it, will suffer the wrath of his hate-filled dystopian fantasy. Yet, there is hope.

No one knows when this conflagration will begin exactly, but it will be soon. When this war does start, wherever that is, the U.S. may initially look strong in that one theater of battle. We may even resist in two theaters at once, although we walked away from that doctrine more than 15 years ago. If we move to three, four, five, etc. theaters at once, we’ll be overwhelmed, especially without our allies, but that is exactly what our potential opponents would want to see.

This is where the power to stop such a war resides today: with our friends and allies across the world. Do not align with this administration. Do not enable them. Suffer the angry tweet. Suffer the change in trade policy. Suffer the malign barbs from within our political leadership. Stay true to the foundations of democracy, to the ideals of democratic governance, and to the ideas behind the world we built together after World War II. Don’t join this war on the side of this mad-man just because you have an alliance with the U.S. As a Fulbright Fellow who focused my work on NATO-EU relations, and a strong believer in the foundation of Trans-Atlantic Security being the bedrock of global stability, I am calling on our NATO Allies to protect NATO, but not let the U.S. drag the world into another World War. This message also goes out to our allies in Asia and the Pacific. Protect your interests, but don’t get dragged along to suicide by this clearly damaged individual and his enablers.

It’s easy to see NATO rallying against an opportunistic Russia, or Japan and S. Korea working with the U.S. against a nuclear weapon yielding North Korea. Yet, let’s not get into those fights, shall we? NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, other allies please work together, with the U.S. if you can, to prevent those threats from culminating into full-scale war. Remove the hostility and short-sightedness of our Commander in Chief from the equation and the world can probably work something out. Follow him down into the morass and we’ll all have to pay the price for his lack of understanding, inability to ask, and hatred of all who are not succumbing to his will.

If, despite these best efforts, the U.S. starts wars, consider where you stand. You may not feel you have the ability to stand to the side, nor may you want to see the U.S. defeated. I sure don’t, even if I don’t agree with the war. So, then think of how you’d engage without aligning with the aggressor. Think of how you’d fight if you were a co-belligerent rather than an alliance partner. Think of how you’d engage if a pretext for war was created by the U.S., but it didn’t actually fire the first shot. That is the most likely scenario, at least for the first in the chain of conflicts which will coalesce to form this new war.

Now, let’s come to the home front, a term introduced during the First World War when civilians became a key contributing factor in the outcome of that conflict. Our soldiers and (disproportionally huge numbers of civilians) will die from our having failed to prevent the rise to power of this mad-man and his sycophants, some of whom hope and want to bring about this war, having expressed such desires in the past. A nuclear exchange with North Korea, let alone China or Russia would be devastating to the United States, and any allies who join us in these conflicts. Yet, there is hope.

On the Home Front we can belatedly, although hopefully still in-time to save ourselves from any more grief, disable this mad-man from sending us down this path. We have the 25th Amendment which empowers those under the President to remove him from office. We have the process of Impeachment which, although slower, can have the same result. This path is difficult though, as the scared little boy inhabiting the body of the man titled President will strike out when he senses himself at risk and cornered. None-the-less, we cannot keep enabling him. We must prevent this disaster in whatever legal means are available to do so.

Those waffling on this idea because they would not want to see Mike Pence assume to role of Commander and Chief, I get you, but I respectfully wish to tell you to “Get off your butt!” Pence may disagree with almost everything for which I stand as a compassionate person who believes in the power of democracy to better the lives of all citizens, but I’d prefer him to the clearly disturbed individual inhabiting the oval office as I write this. Yes, he’d enact policies I’d disagree with. Yet, I’d be alive to disagree with them, fight him, over-turn them after the next election, and hopefully start rebuilding that democracy again.

If we cannot cut off this war before it starts, we then have to consider what to do once it’s over. No one knows what the world would look like after the end of such a calamitous human catastrophe. No one in July 1914 could have imagined what the world would look like in November 1918. No one in August 1939 could have imagined what the world would look like in August 1945. Yet, there is hope. Even after countless military and civilian deaths, humanity will endure. Those left will do what they can to rebuild and work together to prevent another such disaster in the future, strengthening the bonds which link like-minded nations together for the common goals of all. All of this depends on who survives. If those who led us into this human blood-bath survive then there is little hope for growth and learning from what occurred. If those who believe in cooperation, democracy, and the rule of law survive, we could again align as we did after World War II to build a better world. Therefore, plan how you’ll survive such a war. Where can you go? What can you do to secure your family, your values, and those of the country you love? How can we work together as communities to ensure everyone is cared for, safe, and able to contribute to the future we all hold dear. There is, and always will be, hope.

We will face this war, unless we can prevent it now. If we face this war alone we will lose. Whether we win or lose, many will die and suffer from what could have been avoided. None-the-less, there is hope all along the path through this difficult time. We can plan for how we’ll work to prevent, protect, then mitigate, if we have to, such human caused violence. Then, maybe, the lessons of history will compel us toward Peace.

Peace Please!

 

Jeremy Strozer

 

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THREADS OF THE WAR, VOLUME IV.

 

ST. Louis

Staring up at the well built two-funnel German cruise liner, I can’t help but feel the desire to leave this place.

The heat, the debauchery, the lack of faith. I don’t belong here.

My small launch pulls up alongside the huge ship. Giant white letters on the bow call out for all to see SAINT LOUIS. Similar lettering was visible as we passed the stern just moments ago.

What a beautiful site, these grand ships that travel the seas, taking people on adventures far from their lives; far from who and what they know.

As we near the lowered stairway, I stare up at the crowd of people standing on the mid-deck, where I will be entering the ship.  

They look happy to be here. 

Gingerly, so as not to aggravate my sciatica, I make my way up the stairs.  One foot at a time, step by step, leaning to the left as the pain from pinched nerves stabs down my right leg.

To be free of pain. To be free of this job where I must ascend ship stairs. To be free to leave would be nice.  But I can’t because I have to take care of my family and cannot afford to get out of Havana.

Step by step up toward the waiting crew, I pay stern attention to the freshly cleaned steps so as not to slip.

Chains from a job I cannot leave hold me here. Were I to have any skill I could leave this place, leave this job, take my family on a ship like this. 

Almost at the top step I look up from below to see who is on deck to greet me.  Just as I do my right toe catches the step.

It’s so hard to raise that foot to the same height as the left with the pain!

Luckily, one of the crisp-white uniform clad crew, who is standing right at the top of the stairs, catches me as I stumble.

“Are you ok?” he asks in perfect Spanish.

“Of course, just a little misstep” I reply, hiding my pain behind a facade of clumsy.

A fall at this point, so high on the stairs, could have been very ugly.  I must be extra careful.  I cannot lose this job.

“Will you please follow me to the Captain?” the clean member of the crew, still holding my arm, offers.

“Certainly” I mumble while looking around at all of the smiling passengers who have gathered to see me board.

Usually passengers are not aware when the immigration official boards the ship. It’s nice to have them notice me.

I can’t help but look at the strong leg muscles of the crew member as they portrude from the starched white shorts. Each muscle flexes and releases in time with the steps of this young German man who is taking me to meet the ship’s captain.  

He doesn’t know the pain of sciatica. He’s so young. He has a future.

“May I help you up these stairs?” he asks, standing before another set of stairs leading up to a higher deck.

Pausing for a moment, I assess the staircase.  

Seeing my hesitation, the crew member offers “Let me have the Captain meet you here.”

“Yes, that may be best.” I agree.

He runs up the stairs, strong muscles taking leaps over every other step so that he ascends the case within a brief moment. After admiring his agility, I turn to my right to look out over Havana.

I love seeing the city from a ship.  It’s as if I’m looking at a completely different world. One bereft of my squalid existence, one with no history for my family, one with a future.

Behind me I can sense an encroaching mass, so I turn away from the city into a collection of faces, each with a story of his own.  Men, women, small children all stare at me.

“Sprechen Zie Deutch?” one man asks.

“No” I reply, briskly.

The mass pauses, then begins a slow retreat as I hear the sound of shoes clanking on the metal steps above.  Turning back to the steps my eyes rise to meet well-shined black shoes connected to a starched white trouser leg, a slim fitting belt, and a captains jacket before settling on the calm face of a man clearly in charge of all he surveys.

I wish I was in charge of something! To have power. To give orders. To determine the fate and actions of others. 

“Greetings, Senor Echazabal, it’s a pleasure to have you aboard the Saint Louis.” The Captain offers.

“The pleasure is mine, Sir.” I reply.

“We have the passports and visas for our passengers right here” he says while turning to one of the crewmen who stands behind him, one leg on the staircase.  That crew member hands the Captain a large black book filled with plastic pages.  The Captain sets the book down atop a gray ship vent, balancing it so that he can open its jacket to reveal plastic pages, each holding eight passports.

“Do they all have landing permits?” I ask, getting to the point rather quickly.

Everything looks in order, but I have to be thorough. It’s how I’ve kept this job for so long.

“Yes, they are all right here.” He says, offering me a manifest from the back of the book. Each name on the manifest has a document title next to it, outlining what kind of permit the individual has to enter Cuba.

Perusing the list, I notice only a few names have official Cuban Visas.

Most of them have the wrong documents.

“I’m sorry, Captain, but these people have the wrong permits.” I exclaim with authority.

I have something over this man in charge.

“What do you mean, wrong permits?” the Captain replies in disbelief.

“Earlier this month decree 937 was issued, proclaiming a change in our permit policies, and retroactively invalidating all previously assigned landing permits, except for Americans. It appears that only a few of your passengers have Cuban Visas.  They can land, but the rest of your passengers cannot.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of this new rule. What are these people to do?” the Captain pleas.

I surprised him.

“Captain, I cannot let them land here. They will need to leave Cuba.”

I love these moments of authority amended immigration laws offer.

The Captain looks me in the eyes, his hard face softening. 

“Sir, I implore you, these people have documents, and NEED a place to land.”

Now I am in charge.

“I am sorry, Captain.  These are new rules.  I cannot, and will not, offer any exceptions.”

“Sir, please show compassion.” He pulls in close to me, putting his mouth just inches from my ear.  
“These people are escaping NAZI Germany, do you know what that means to them?” 

Turning so that I can look him in the eyes again, I respond “Yes Captain, but my hands are tied.”

At this, the Captain turns his back on me to face his crew member. In a stern voice he orders “Finish dealing with SENOR Echazabal, I will be on the bridge.”

His face now crimson, the Captain storms up the stairs. His shiny leather shoes smashing against each step with power I can only imagine coming from my weakened legs.

“Sir, please make this quick” the sailor snarks at me. “We have to find these people somewhere to land.

“Of course” I reply, picking up the manifest book to compare with the document list.

 

 

 

On May 5, 1939 the government of Cuba changed its immigration laws to prevent non-Cubans who were not Americans from entering the country.  This was a surprise to the crew and passengers of the SS Saint Louis. Of the ship's passengers, 937 were Jews escaping persecution in NAZI Germany. Each, with difficulty, had obtained visas to leave in hopes of starting a new life in the Americas.  Unfortunately for these people, Cuba would not allow them to enter.  The United States did not allow them in either. Canada also prevented them from entering.  The ship returned to Europe, where they were scattered across The Netherlands, France, The United Kingdom, and Belgium.  After the war a manifest of the passengers was compared with those still living, revealing that of the 620 Saint Louis passengers who returned to Continental Europe, 254 died in the Holocaust. The banality of evil comes from those simply doing their jobs, as they are the hands of the few who threaten or commit violence against the innocent.