By John Keller
These are tense days in the world, and there are more reasons than ever to pay close attention to the continuing long-term needs of our military. In case you miss my meaning, we need to stay on the ball, not only to support troops in the field with beans, boots, and bullets, but also to enhance our military preparedness with the latest military technology and weapons.
Sure, I know people are sick and tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether the Iraq war is politically justified or not in your view, here are a couple of facts no one should ignore: American has troops on the ground in the Middle East who need our physical and moral support, and there hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. In the kind of dangerous world we live in, that latter fact shouldn't be taken lightly.
Now, however, we have perhaps bigger and more ominous things to worry about than wiping out nests of terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today a re-energized Russia once again is on the march, and we have a troubling situation in Pakistan that, at worst, could put nuclear weapons in the hands of radical Islam.
Earlier this month, Russian soldiers and tanks rolled into neighboring Georgia under the pretense of protecting rebels in a district called South Ossetia. The South Ossetians, not ethnic Georgians, want to be part of Russia -- even though the region is within the legally and internationally recognized boundaries of the independent country of Georgia. It's kind of like if residents of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington decided they wanted to become part of Canada.
Understandably, Georgia wanted to quell violence to keep control of this part of its country. Russia, obviously hungry for international mischief, poured overwhelming forces across the Georgian frontier ostensibly to help the rebels. Also understandably, Georgian forces were crushed. It was like a Major League baseball team playing a little league team.
The Russians have emptily voiced some puffery about withdrawing from Georgian territory, but news reports have the Russians digging in, not leaving. Reports also have Russians destroying Georgian military and civilian facilities in the Black Sea port of Poti, and Russian forces are perhaps only 30 miles from a vital oil pipeline that supplies much of the region's energy. Some withdrawal.
More ominously and significantly, however, is Russian rhetoric concerning other regions. Russia is already threatening "non-diplomatic" means of stopping a U.S. ballistic missile shield from being built in Poland. Other neighboring states, including the Republic of Moldova, have been put on notice that they had better toe the Moscow line -- or else.
The folks in places like the Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithuania must be casting nervous eyes towards their borders with Russia.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has resigned, perhaps reducing the stability of that country and placing it at real risk of a political takeover by the forces of radical Islam. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, which in the right circumstances could easily fall into the hands of terrorists bent of attacking the United States.
Musharraf may be no saint when it comes to international relations, but he's been instrumental in keeping the nuclear genie in the bottle in the Middle East for years. Now that he's gone, all bets are off.
Musharraf is a U.S.-backed political strongman. People might claim he's a Western-backed dictator, and I've got precious little to argue against this claim. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't; that's not the point. Like him or not, Pakistan President Musharraf was one of the few barriers preventing radical Islamic extremists from getting the atom bomb.
Now American leadership has to go to plan B in that region -- whatever plan B is.
This is a difficult and dangerous chapter for all Americans, and it's no time -- whether out of exhaustion, frustration, or empty-headed idealism -- to consider drawing down U.S. military capability. I've heard the arguments. I know money is tight and getting tighter.
Still, in times like these, I'd hate to see U.S. tanks, planes, and ships traded in for windmills and solar panels. Not that there's anything wrong with windmills and solar panels ... I'd just like to see a sane mix of those promising renewable energy sources with more nuclear energy generation, a big step-up in oil drilling in the U.S. -- including offshore and in Alaska -- and a continued commitment to U.S. military power.
Let's face it, if we're not there to fill the military vacuum in the world, then someone else will be. Is that what we want and need? Think about it.
U.S. military strength is vital for the stability of the world. You don't have to agree with me, but that's the way it is. Throughout our history, the United States has done far more to stamp out slavery, reduce racism, and help the oppressed throughout the world than anyone else. Much of that work has been done largely due to support from the U.S. military.
Let's face another fact: planes, ships, and tanks are not going to be run anytime in the near future with wind and solar power. Oil and gas are the keys to that. This is the way to maintaining the way of life that Americans enjoy today.
Let's think about these things as we approach the national elections in November. Hope and change are pretty to think about. It's a continued strong U.S. military that has one of the best chances of ensuring continued national prosperity.