Blog No. 33. Putin, Ukraine and Echoes of Munich

After Britain and France approved Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement of 1938, it became a symbol of appeasement that still reverberates.  Indeed, Vladimir Putin’s telephone call to Barack Obama on March 28, offering a resumption of diplomatic discussions, raised the question of whether he may be seeking a 21st century version of the Munich Agreement. Russia’s incursion into Crimea, on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians, reminded many observers of Hitler’s purported grounds for annexing the Sudetenland.  A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton observed:

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Putin and Obama shake hands […]

Blog No. 32. After Crimea: A Different World? has been reluctant to add its voice to the cacophony of comment and opinion on the Ukraine crisis, much of it from sources far more knowledgeable than we. Yet it seemed there might be a point to putting down in one place what seem to be the principal issues:

1. Is the annexation of Crimea reversible?

2. Does the occupation and subsequent annexation of Crimea foreshadow a similar incursion into, and possible annexation of, eastern Ukraine?

3. Does Ukraine have the military capacity to resist a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine or beyond? Should the United States and NATO provide military assistance to Ukraine and, if so, what kind?

4. How serious a threat do the Russian actions in Ukraine represent to other nations of eastern Europe?

5. What is the purpose of economic sanctions and what effect will they have?

6. What is the likelihood of our being drawn into direct involvement in an armed conflict in Europe? If that should occur, are we sufficiently prepared militarily and politically?

The ultimate question is suggested by the statement of NATO Secretary Rasmussen, in Washington on March 19. Calling the Ukraine crisis a wake-up call for NATO, he observed that, “We live in a different world than we did less than a month ago.”  The question is whether we are prepared to deal with that different world.

2014. Russia annexes the Ukrainian region of Crimea, after Russian troops invade and the area votes to secede from Ukraine. The vote and annexation is condemned internationally. The Economist, Mar 20th 2014, K.N.C., P.K. and A.C.M.


Blog No. 11 Syria: The Putin Lifeline and the Continuing Dilemma

Despite the continuing indignities of airline transportation, modern travel abroad does offer one compensation. It is no longer necessary to scurry about looking for an International Herald Tribune in order to learn what’s going on back home and around the world. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and even American televised news is available in the better hotels. So it was not difficult from afar to follow the apparent train wreck of our government’s ever-changing positions as to Syria. And it was interesting to do so while traveling in territory – from Istanbul to Athens – that had been the scene of endless conflicts, and the rise and fall of various civilizations, for over three millenia. Those surroundings were a sad reminder that improvements in technology, including the technology of killing, have far outstripped improvements in the human skill of conflict resolution.


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Blog No. 5 Whither the War on Terror? Part III: Disclosures of NSA Surveillance—The Elephant in the Room

edward-snowden-is-both-a-patriot-and-a-traitorOn June 5, a British newspaper, The Guardian, reported the existence of a  National Security Agency program active in collecting data on telephone calls made within the United States. The report was based on documents and information provided by one Edward Snowden who also furnished information and documents for a story in The Washington Post the following day on a second NSA program, PRISM, that intercepts communications of overseas internet users. The stories created sufficient uproar that on June 7, that President Obama felt obliged to address the matter while attending a healthcare conference in California. […]

Blog No. 5 Whither the War on Terror? Part II. Of Drones and Guantanamo

Drone Strikes. President Obama’s May 23 speech announced new criteria for drone strikes. Although the previous criteria had not been disclosed, he made it clear that the new criteria were significantly narrower. According to the President, a targeted terrorist must now pose “a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” Taken literally and applied conscientiously, those are narrow criteria indeed. But as The New York Times reported, “Even as [Obama] set new standards, a debate broke out about what they actually meant and what would actually change.” […]

Blog No. 1 Sexual Assaults in the Military

Is there anyone who does not believe that the disclosures of sexual assaults in the military are appalling? The official Pentagon report, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, indicated that, between 2010 and 2012, reported incidents of sexual assaults had increased from 3,192 to 3,374. Even more troubling is the fact that many sexual assaults go unreported, resulting in an estimate that the total number of sexual assaults rose from 19,300 to 26,000. Public concern with the issue has been heightened by a compelling documentary, The Invisible War, the report of a criminal conviction by a military court being overturned by a commanding general, and by the recent arrest, on charges of sexual assault, of the very officer, Lt. Col Jeffrey Kusinski, who had been in charge of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assaults. […]