Friendly Flippancy

“In here, you wait.” The krout says to me as he shuts the door with little regard for the amount of noise made.

So I’ll wait here then.

After all of the Gestapo show, why are they not summarily executing me, as is their policy?

No decorations adorn the room, occupied, as it were with simply a gun-metal chair, matching table, and worn walls of peeling plaster and paint.

Simply more interrogation? Seems unlikely. They could have simply kept me in that stale, and now bloody, room.

As I contemplate what’s changing in my situation to require a new room, the door behind me flings open.

Does no one care about sound in this place?

“Captain Wooldridge, it’s a pleasure to meet you!” a stern voice projects.

I turn to see who it is before freezing in place.

Can it be?

“Field Marshall, fancy this!” I reply.

“Yes, last we met, you were stopping me from taking Cairo. Now we are together in France.”

“Indeed. Here we are, as if fate has more in store for us.”

Was my effort at El Alemain reported back to the Germans in ‘42? Or, do they keep track of those who were awarded the Military Cross?

“It must, indeed. Can I get you anything.”

Get me anything? Is he kidding? Yeah, the hell out of France!

“Certainly, Field Marshall, a single ticket back to the UK, a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a really good meal would be splendid.” I reply with a quip.

The Field Marshall eyes me up and down before responding “I’ll see what I can do.” He then leaves the room.

Within minutes I’m invited into an adjoining room where a waiter in a white coat sporting a bright red Nazi arm band, stands before a set table adorned with a stein of beer, a packet of cigarettes, and a bowl of steaming meat balls with potatoes and sauerkraut.

This is for real. They buttering me up for the big interrogation finish?

Rather than question my fate, I dive in, gulping down the beer and devouring the meal before attacking the cigarettes.

This is the way to be captured.

I owe this story to inspiration provided by Dirk DeKlein

Captain Roy Wooldridge- The British soldier saved by Field Marshall Rommel.

Captain Roy Wooldridge, who was in the Royal Engineers, was taken prisoner during a covert night-time mission to examine submerged mines along the French beaches weeks before the D-Day landings. Mr Wooldridge, who was twice awarded the Military Cross, was sent a telegram ordering him to report to his unit just three days after his wedding in 1944.he lieutenant, who was later promoted to captain, was sent to the French beaches with a colleague to ensure there were no mines which could blow up the boats during the D-Day landings. Due to the secretive nature of the mission, he was not wearing a uniform or carrying identification. Captured by the Nazis and treated as a spy, Captain Roy Wooldridge was told he must reveal all about his secret mission or be shot dead.Despite being grilled by the Gestapo, the British soldier refused to talk. Capt Wooldridge, a hero of the Battle of El Alamein two years earlier at which Rommel was defeated by the Allies, was stunned when he was presented to the high-ranking officer.hen Rommel asked if he needed anything, cheeky Roy replied: “A single ticket back to the UK, a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a really good meal.”

To his astonishment, his wish was granted when he was ushered into Rommel’s mess where all three items were waiting for him, with the exception of the ticket back to the UK. He later recalled “I was taken to the officers’ mess, where a waiter in white dress adorned with a ­swastika gave me a jug of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a meal. From memory it was meatballs, or faggots, with potatoes and sauerkraut.” Capt Wooldridge ate the food, drank the stein of lager and smoked the German cigarettes, but kept the empty packet as a souvenir.hat empty cigarette packet featured on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow on 23 November 2014.With Arms and Militaria specialist Graham Lay. Thanks to Rommel, he survived and was sent on to a prisoner of war camp, where he spent the rest of the war.

Captain Roy Wooldridge died in April 2017, aged 97.

This Idea Will Save Humanity

Coal and Steel were what divided France and Germany. Both wanted it, both had some of it, but not enough for either one. Therefore, among other things, they fought over Alsace-Lorraine, a region rich in the coal needed to produce steel. An ancient enmity realized in multiple wars cost countless lives. Through these wars, the main engines of Europe exhausted themselves. They could no longer maintain the capacity to fight. They simply ran out of people, resources, and the will to continue dying for simple material resources. Instead, along with Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, they created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) as a means by which to share these precious resources, building off of their shared capacity to build their respective economies. Once they started sharing these resources, and building their economies back up after the utter destruction of the two world wars, they realized the more they integrated their economies, the better they would all do. This wasn’t hope, it was proven fact. Through a long process the ECSC turned into the European Economic Community, then the European Community, and most recently, the European Union. From the humble start of a single authority for Coal and Steel, eventually the countries of Europe were able to create a better life and future for all their citizens by unifying their economies. They hit hurdles in terms of creating a unified banking system to support a common currency, a unified political system, and a unified foreign policy, and it was these hurdles which sowed the seeds of disenchantment with the European experiment in the minds of some within its borders.


The last one, the foreign policy, is where I came in. In 1997 I began my study abroad in Belgium to learn about the European Union, to understand its history, institutions, and potential promise for humanity. I became a fan of May 9 (Europe Day), the European Anthem, and Robert Schuman (some call him the father of Europe). I love the idea of subsidiarity, where decisions are made at the lowest-most appropriate level, and was enamored by the idea of proliferating the ideals of the European Union to other parts of the world. I have not lost this intent. In fact, as the EU struggles under the pressure of inequality, where the benefits of integration went to the upper classes at the expense of everyone else, we can realize the lessons from this integration to create even more powerful supranational institutions for the benefit of humanity in all parts of the world.


In 2000, I launched my Fulbright, studying how NATO and the EU could work together for the security of the Trans-Atlantic Community, and the world. As I witness our current president pulling away from our allies, and the EU’s challenges with Brexit, I can’t help but feel both saddened by what’s becoming of the inexpensive Russian influence operations to destabilize the United States, the UK, NATO, and the EU. At the same time, I can see the seeds of the EU still flourishing, and want to bring these back to Europe, take them abroad, and show the world how we can all prosper from opening our economies, our borders, and our economic systems to each other, hopefully without the need to go to war first.


Today I look out and see the need for a decision by all currently in power. Will we let our world descend into the chaos of another war, led by the powers of illiberalism on one side, and those remaining to support the rule of law, economic integration, and individual freedom, on the other? I do not want to see this war, but it really looks like it’s coming.


Whether or not we end up in another world war, what happens after is what offers me, and humanity, hope. If some collection of us survive, we will need each other more than ever to solve shared problems. We will need to be focused on results, rather than philosophies, enmities, and histories, in order to improve our lives. We will be able to learn from the past to ensure we distribute the benefits of integration to all in society, rather than those only at the top. We will know where some of the landmines are (ensuring we minimize the wealth gap), so we can avoid them in our effort to rebuild, renew, and rise again as a prosperous society in which children can once again have the promise fulfilled of having better lives than their parents. We can have this worldwide, and I look forward to helping bring it to reality. Who would like to help?


Preventing a Second U.S. Civil War

For many years in my late teens and early 20’s I used to joke I was a California Nationalist. This was amusing when I met people from other states, as we are all proud of the state from which we came. I was part of the California State Society, would quote the Economist when saying California is the most democratic country in the world second to Switzerland, and would laugh at the idea of the world’s 7th largest economy going it’s own way. I am no longer making that joke. I am not a California Nationalist. Nor would I ever want to see the United States break apart. I am an American first.


An ancient Chinese novel speaking of  a period of political instability begins with the words “Empires wax and wane; states cleave asunder and coalesce” (Romance of The Three Kingdoms). The United States is an empire, and has been since the beginning of The 20th Century’s War, which started with the Spanish-American War. Are we seeing our country cleave asunder? My argument is no, but there are many in our country who seem to be advocating just that, at the same time they are hugging the flag and claiming to be The true patriots.


Court records from the Special Council Investigation into Russian Influence in the 2016 Election reveal a relatively inexpensive, yet very successful, foreign influence campaign operating in The United States. For less than $50 million Russian operators were able to incite nascent animosities among Americans, instilling a sense of “Us against Them” on both sides of the political aisle in an effort to sow discord and diminish the vote. Components of this campaign were advocacy of state nationalism. One example was pushing for California to declare independence from the United States. The Russian agents who ran this campaign first came to the U.S., talked with Americans, learned what divides us, then drove wedges into those divides in an attempt to cleave the country. Their success is reflected in pictures from some political rallies where supporters of one political party wear T-shirts claiming they’d rather be Russian than of the other political party.


This division is increased when elected office holders share social media speaking of (and sometimes supporting the idea of) violence against those who disagree, or a second U.S. Civil War. With so much talk in this direction, particularly by those on the extreme, it’s easy to dismiss such verbiage as letting off steam, the rants of lunatics, or the last gasps of a lost philosophy. My career has been focused on preventing the avoidable catastrophe, preparing for the unavoidable, and planning the response for those we experience. I am writing this piece to achieve the first - prevent the avoidable catastrophe. I am not claiming the United States will have a second Civil War, but I want to do everything in my power to ensure it never does. I will start by preparing Americans for what a second Civil War could look like. This is not a prediction, just my understanding of the political, economic, social, and military dynamic in the country. If you love The United States then please read on. This could save our country, our way of living, and perhaps your life.


Snapshot of a Second Civil War


Many who call for a second Civil War in the United States use images such as this showing Red States vs. Blue States. This completely misses how the divisions in our country break out. In every state which tends to vote for one political party over the other there exist pockets of people who disagree with that direction. In the states where things are relatively even (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, etc.) both political parties are well represented.


A second Civil War would not be state on state, it would be urban versus rural, with the suburbs caught in the middle. Such a distribution of disagreement and armed struggle would not provide neat lines of battle, fronts on which troops could deploy, or most importantly, safe areas away from the conflict. Instead, such a war would look more like what we witnessed in Yugoslavia during the 1990s, with sieges of urban areas, rural enclaves cut off from each other and the outside world, and no way out for civilians trapped within either. This type of warfare would be prevalent across the country, from the East Coast to the West, with enclaves of potential temporary stability in-between. Refugees would have little option of where to go, whether North to Canada, South to Mexico, or hunker down and hope for the best where they are, assuming Canada and Mexico keep their borders open to dis-U.S. refugees.

I won’t speak of the horror for the individual in this kind of conflict. Anyone interested can simply read up on recent civil wars in Syria, Yemen, the Former Yugoslavia, and other regions of the world. What I will say is, the American way of life would be destroyed for a long-time. Many would die. Almost all would suffer catastrophe in some form. It’s likely no family in the country would be untouched in a negative way by such a conflict.


Preventing A Civil War


Therefore, it’s in the interest of every American, no matter political party, view of the current political environment, economic status, or any other division among us, to prevent such a catastrophe. Dismissal of the idea of such an event is living in denial, and only brings its likelihood forward. Instead, we all need to face the reality that talk of a Civil War is the first step toward having one. So, the first step toward stopping one is to talk back. Share the experience of civil wars in other places, and ask the speaker, “Do you want that here?” Push back against those advocating this, joking about it, or simply hinting at it. It’s never too early to say “No, not in America!”


Beyond talking back, push for The Center in political situations. Rather than electing extreme candidates on either end of the spectrum, support central figures who want to bring people together, build up the community, rather than tear anyone down. Look for those who develop collaborative groups, work together to solve community problems, and run in to help when any one of us is suffering. Avoid those who attack. Take power away from those who divide. Encourage friends, family, relatives, those at work, those in your community, and those you don’t even know, to do the same.


Please consider what a Civil War would mean to you, your community, and our country. Then, act accordingly.


One Final Note


Throughout The 20th Century’s War, and even in the United States Civil War, those who start wars are usually the ones who lose. Anyone considering starting something, please keep that in mind. Is it worth it? What is gained? Hopefully, on a rational level, you can see there are other ways to solve the problems you wish to solve. Let’s work that out in a non-violent way. It will require us to negotiate, to give a little, and to find resolution. That’s hard, but it’s a lot better than the alternative. My e-mail box is always open for a conversation. I welcome the opportunity to work with anyone to keep a potential catastrophe from becoming a reality.