The world won't go away

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By John Barnhart

I hope everybody had a nice 4th of July. The weather wasn’t perfect, but at least it didn’t rain on anybody’s parade on Friday.

My Fourth included mowing the lawn, something I neglected to do the previous Saturday. I spent that Saturday at Sedalia’s Bluegrass Festival, something I particularly enjoy. Then it rained enough the following Sunday afternoon to give me an excuse to put it off. By the 4th it was bad enough that I figured I had better mow before my neighbors decided to use the sound of fireworks to cover the sound of gunshots.

I imagine a lot of people had a nice 4th of July holiday back in 1949. I mention 1949 because I doubt anybody guessed what would happen the following summer. On June 25, 1950, Kim Il Sung, father of Kim Jong Il, the wacko who currently rules North Korea, invaded South Korea. By the 4th of July, American forces were already fighting and the first action involving U. S. ground troops would take place the next day. In the end, more than 30,000 Americans would die during the three years of the Korean War.

It’s important in this election year to remember that the world does not end at our borders. The rest of the world won’t go away while we focus on our economy. We can’t ignore the rest of the world either. Something ugly could happen in the next 12 months that will demand a foreign policy decision on the part of our next president.

I can think of a couple of possibilities right now.

Last month Afghanistan’s president Mohammed Karzai, in frustration over cross border raids by the Taliban from sanctuaries in Pakistan, threatened to pursue the militants back into Pakistan. Currently, the Pakistani government seems to have realized that it’s futile to attempt peace agreements with Islamic militants and it’s starting to crack down once again. It’s possible that a future effort by Afghan or NATO troops to attack militants in Pakistan may be done with the Pakistani government’s blessing, or at least its acquiescence. Nevertheless, the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains a very tense international border, and let’s not forget that Pakistan has nukes.

Then, there is the possibility that Israel may launch a strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mahmoud Ahmandinejad has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Israel, in turn, is one of a number of countries that does not believe that Iran has given up its quest for nuclear weapons.

Last month, Israel held a large military air exercise involving 100 F-15s and F-16s. The exercise took the aircraft 900 miles over the Mediterranean, west of Israel. Military experts have pointed out that this is the distance between Israel and Iran’s known nuclear sites. Most believe this was meant as a warning, rather than a bluff. It’s also been noted that Israel has a limited window of opportunity to launch such a strike before the delivery of Russian anti-aircraft missiles make it impossible.

We could also get a surprise. North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 was surely a surprise to most. Then, there is always the possibility of action by some armed militant. It was a militant Serbian nationalist who fired the starting pistol for World War I in the summer of 1914.

It’s important that our next president be able to competently deal with an episode of international nastiness and I don’t think Barack Obama is up to it. He has absolutely no foreign policy experience and while he’s obviously smart, the lack of experience increases the risk of a bad decision with serious consequences for us.

John F. Kennedy was relatively inexperienced in foreign policy, although his experience in the Senate significantly exceeded Obama’s. When he met with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961, he gave Khrushchev the impression that he was weak and could be bullied. It turned out that Khrushchev was wrong, but the ensuing Cuban Missile Crisis took us to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon.