How Much is Freedom Worth?

Have you ever wondered how much freedom is worth?  I believe it is like they say on the television ad:  “It is priceless.”

Freedom typically is not valued until it is lost.  In other words, we in America take it for granted.  If you were to travel to countries where there is no freedom, you might place a different value on our freedom.

The earliest Americans settled here in order to practice their religions.  So, the freedom of religion is the bedrock or the Plymouth Rock that drew our ancestors to this land.  Americans declared our independence and our freedom to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The First Amendment to our Constitution states:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Second Amendment provides:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It is interesting to note that when the first ten amendments were ratified in 1791, these were the first two amendments listed.  Some importance and priority may be mined from that fact.  Religion and worship of God were very important to our Founding Fathers and the early Freedom Fighters.  It was truly a “nation under God.”

After well over 200 years have passed, where are we today?  Even though freedom is still priceless, we haven’t had to fight for it recently, so it just doesn’t seem as important to Americans.  Certainly, our troops have fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but these battles on foreign soil have not been embraced by the public as wars to protect our freedom at home.  The closest thing to an attack on our soil was on 9/11.  However, Americans have returned to their daily routines and the average Joe on the street thinks more about getting a promotion than losing his freedom.  It is just not a thought that we have in America.

Yet, we have been losing our freedoms, a little at a time, but losing them all the same.  Under the First Amendment, has the federal government prohibited the free exercise of religion and has it abridged our freedoms, including speech and press?  Of course it has.  And nobody says anything under penalty of being insensitive to atheists, agnostics, and others who disagree with Christianity.  America will lose her freedoms when average citizens choose to do nothing about protecting them.

I attended a corporate meeting many years ago with employees providing lengthy briefings on the best course for the company for its future.  When the Power Point slides were taken down and the lights came up, the president of the company looked around and asked, “Is there any way I can do nothing?”

If American citizens do nothing, they will lose all of their freedoms.  And once you have lost those freedoms, the government will not give them back without a revolution.  Unfortunately, many citizens are like the corporate president who wanted to do nothing.  They would rather stay under the radar… not make any waves… keep silent… all things which guarantee the loss of their freedoms.

I can remember when Americans were free to say, “Merry Christmas.”  Now, it is insensitive to other religions.  However, freedom of religion embraces all religions.  It does not single out Christianity.  In America, you have the freedom to practice any religion.  You even have the freedom to not practice a religion.  It’s called freedom for a reason.  And restricting Christians from honoring the birthday of Jesus would be like restricting the Muslims or Jews from one of their religious holidays.

The first part of the First Amendment that restricts Congress from establishing a religion should not be taken out of context.  The primary directive is to not prohibit the free exercise of a religion.  Let’s examine the current prohibition on mandatory school prayers.  Doesn’t this federal prohibition restrict the exercise of freedom of religion?  Of course it does.  The argument is that mandatory school prayers establish a religion, Christianity, and interfere with the free exercise of religious beliefs for those who do not believe in prayers.

Let’s get down to basics and common sense.  Quite frankly, any time the government acts to protect the free exercise of religion, Christianity or otherwise, it will be assisting in establishing that religion.  The framers of our Constitution and Amendments were very focused on freedom of religion and less focused on preventing establishment of a religion, so free exercise of religion should always be the bottom line.

It is true that Thomas Jefferson wanted the church to be walled off against the state in order to protect secular interests, but James Madison wanted to decentralize the federal government, allowing the religions in America to compete without interference by the government.

If we are truly talking about emphasizing freedom of religion in America, then the separation of church and state should mean that the government should stay out the business of religion altogether.  This would mean that the government should not restrict any religion, including Christianity.

What is wrong with saying “Merry Christmas”?  What is wrong with saying “Happy Hanukah”?  What is wrong with “Fast during Ramadan”?  All these religions are free to compete within America, no different than businesses.  The government should not promote monopolies of religions or businesses.  That should be the extent of governmental interference.  That should be the extent of our government’s concern about establishing one religion over another.

Let me make this clear.  The government does not restrict advertising by businesses just because that company has a bigger budget for marketing.  Monopoly busting is when a large company is too big, thus reducing the competition.  Monopoly prevention is when two companies are considering a merger and the result would have a substantial cooling effect on competition.  I know of no cases where the government has prevented a company from competing through advertising because it would have a bad effect on competition.

It should be no different for religions.  Government should not prevent religions from marketing, which includes letting others know about their religious days and practices.  This would be a very negative approach to preventing establishment of religions.  America is so diverse and independent, it is not likely that we will see religions forming monopolies.  Religions are known for just the opposite.  They splinter into many different associations, rather than coalescing.

The two provisions in the First Amendment can cancel each other out if you read them literally and out of context.  The federal government has removed many of our freedoms, including freedom of religion and right to bear arms, because it is too big and bureaucratic.

What is the solution?  Well, it is just common sense as Thomas Paine penned in 1776.  The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution provides:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This amendment has been abused and ignored, but it tells the federal government to keep out of our state, local, and personal business unless it has a specific power to so intervene.  And there are not that many powers specifically granted to the federal government.

The key is to return the government to the people.  Citizens should emphasize government at the local levels, where the elected officials actually have a vested interest in their communities.  Typically, mayors and council members will do the right thing for their cities because they live in that neighborhood.  They may protect their communities for selfish reasons, but this is better than federal politicians who distance themselves from what is going on at the local level.  Many don’t care about their constituents, only thinking instead about lining their pockets.

Congress needs to focus the power of the purse on local governments so that we can downsize the federal government and retake our freedoms that were stolen by the feds.  This, at least, is the peaceful solution to the current problem.  Our freedom is certainly worth doing this.

Evolution for Afterlife

We are all familiar with Darwin’s theories of evolution during life, but very little has been written on evolution after life.  If you believe that there is nothing after life, then you will not be interested in this discussion; however, you might want to read this just in case there is something waiting for us after we die.  Since it is impossible to say with certainty that there is nothing after we die, it might be good to at least think about the possibilities.

You have heard stories about parents who wanted their children to have a better life and sacrificed their own lives to provide an education and whatever else they could to give their children a better chance than they had.  Evolution is a part of that process.  Survival of the fittest is one of the evolutionary principles that generally create a better and stronger species.  The weaker and less efficient members of that population die or don’t reproduce.

We know that Homo sapiens was lucky to become the dominant species.  If the dinosaurs had not suffered a mass extinction, mammals would not have had the opportunity to flourish.  And our species was nearly wiped out several times, but it fortunately survived the eruption of Mt. Toba and the ice ages.

So even though we consider ourselves as the ultimate species at the top of the evolutionary peak, this is not true.  Consider the source of that belief.  Our species consists of very fragile animals that cannot survive in extreme conditions.  The species has only existed for a short period in geologic time.  Our selfish tendencies will eventually doom us.  We would rather satisfy our individual needs than do the right thing to protect our progeny.  An example is our inability to preserve our environment for future generations.

We attempt to improve ourselves during our lifetimes, but our humanness limits our ability to evolve into selfless creatures.  Perhaps the best we can hope for is that we would sacrifice our lives to protect our children.  So, it may be that any significant evolution of man must occur after death.  Assuming that we are still conscious after death, we may have the opportunity to evolve into a much better entity.

The Bible indicates that there are three Heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2).  We can only speculate on these different Heavens, but there may be three separate tests for each Heaven.

The first Heaven probably is the obvious one where Christians go if they believe in Jesus who died for their sins.  But Jews and Muslims also know this Heaven as a place where believers of God are admitted.  Other religions and beliefs are not excluded from this Heaven.  This destination is not an exclusive club for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any religion.  But your choices made during life may be a part of the judgment, including analyzing your actions as evidence that you actually believed.  So, this Heaven perhaps is the easiest to reach as long as you believe.  There may be a clear division between believers and nonbelievers.  The Bible refers to an abyss between the two groups.  Near-death experiences consistently refer to crossing over.

We apparently will retain at least some of our senses to detect this Heaven.  This is the Heaven that has been seen and heard by those who have had near-death or death experiences.  It probably is a beautiful and peaceful place, but still should be within the confines of God’s created, closed universe.  This is where we may see and talk to relatives and friends who predeceased us, angels, and Jesus and Abraham, all in recognizable human form.  This probably is by design so we will feel welcome and will not be afraid of unfamiliar forms and entities.  The face of Jesus will be comfortable and familiar to us, so we may see Him here.  But the face of God might be more hidden from us in this Heaven.

The second Heaven may require an evolution of spirit, going from selfish, centrist thought to “big picture” thinking.  In other words, you become less important as an entity as the whole becomes more important than your part.  This Heaven, more than likely, is reached through your thoughts.  You may find the mid-Heaven quite a bit more difficult to reach since there may be temptations in the first Heaven that impede your progress.  However, if you become one with God, you should be able to avoid selfish and prideful thoughts.  Some religions teach this unification, which is critical in order to evolve and transfer into the second Heaven.  Reaching this goal requires much more than a belief in Jesus or God; it requires a complete makeover of your personality, focusing on the universe that is beyond you.  I have no idea about the structure of this Heaven, but it probably is still within the border of our closed universe.  We may be judged by our actions in the first Heaven to determine if we will be permitted to transition to the second Heaven.

The third Heaven probably is God’s universe, which is outside our known universe.  The law of conservation of energy basically states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed in a closed universe.  So, God’s creation probably occurred outside our closed universe in God’s kingdom.  The transformation that is required to reach this kingdom may be of such a magnitude that I would be surprised if many souls ever made it.  In fact, the Bible, including the teachings of Jesus, is very clear that only a very few make the grade to reach God’s kingdom.

Pastors rarely will discuss the three Heavens and even less often will mention the difficulty in reaching the third Heaven, God’s kingdom.  It would be too controversial.  The pastors would be run out of town.  Most believers only want to hear about the first Heaven, which is the easiest destination.  So, ministers focus on how members of their church can reach the first Heaven.  It would be difficult to sell Christianity or any other religion if people had to work too hard at it.  So, don’t expect too many articles on evolving from the first Heaven to the second and third Heavens.

The significant evolution of our spirits must occur after we die.  My wife and I look forward to the Heavens as a challenge.  We will do our best and reach as many Heavens as we can.  We believe we have a chance to reach the second Heaven, so we will prepare ourselves as much as we can during our lifetimes to be ready for whatever happens.

If there is no afterlife, then all will be still when we die, and we will not suffer from our beliefs.  However, if there is an afterlife, then we will be well served by our preparation for consequences.  The free will that God gave us must have some significance.  As religious existentialists we believe that free will without the consequences of God would be quite absurd.

Also, it seems logical that a creation must have a Creator and that a design must have a Designer.  If I were an odds maker, I would say that it is more likely than not that there is a God.  If I were a gambler, I would place my money on God not only because of better odds, but also because of the consequences if you are wrong.  Even if the chances of there being a God were one in a million, I would still bet on God because if I’m wrong, it will not cost me anything.  But if I don’t pick God and I’m wrong, it will cost me everything.

My wife and I have taken a vow of abstinence for the past twenty years.  We will die without having sex again.  This may seem a bit extreme, but believe me, getting to the other Heavens requires extreme effort.  It will not be easy, no matter what religion and beliefs you have.  You must be willing to sacrifice yourself and your desires.  My wife and I study the Bible together as we prepare for our final days.  We are not perfect, but we work toward reaching the final goal.  If you get halfway toward your goal each day, you will never reach the goal, but you will keep edging closer.

It is interesting that many people do not like their lives, their work, their sex lives, their sex (male or female), but there are days when my wife and I find that we don’t like our species.  We apologize for this, but sometimes, we like our dogs better than humans.  In fact, we hope God has animals in the first Heaven.  We feel confident that the second and third Heavens require a complete transfiguration from our species into something altogether different and, of course, becoming a better entity through the evolution for afterlife.  Good luck.  We all will need it.

Would Heaven Be Boring?

Reservations for Heaven may be very limited, but assuming that I make the cut, would I be bored spending an eternity there?

Nobody knows what awaits us in the afterlife, but living an eternity on earth would be a nightmare.  Over the course of eternity, your body would deteriorate to the point you would be bedridden.  Not being able to die as your body failed you would be horrible, indeed.

So, we must assume that matter in Heaven will be different.  I assume that we will not have to eat or use the rest room or breathe or have a body that will age ungracefully.  Perhaps, thinking will be our primary activity.  Knowing the frailties of man, it is quite possible that thinking about anything for an eternity would be a challenge.

It might even be considered cruel and unusual punishment if it becomes solitary confinement within your thought process.  So, certainly there will be others to communicate with in Heaven.  But what will you communicate?  Will you talk about the weather on earth?  Will you be able to watch earth’s activities like on a television screen?  Will you have animals around you to entertain you?  What mental challenges will be at your disposal?

Quite frankly, an eternity is a long time.  Will I get bored in Heaven?  Will God and the other residents get bored with me?  Are there any requirements for being able to stay in Heaven?  Or will I want to stay if eternity starts to become an issue?  I like to eat cherry pie, but I would get sick of it if I ate it every day.

I believe that God is so unbelievably smart that He will make Heaven inviting for an eternity.  My curiosity would be peaked by investigating the billions of galaxies and the billions of potential solar systems in each galaxy.  It is very likely that there are many forms of life scattered throughout the universe.  I can’t imagine that I would be bored if God allowed me to explore the billions of galaxies.  And by the time I had examined them all, things would have changed, so I could reexamine them with different results.  The vast universe could not possibly bore me.  And if there are multiverses, then it will be even more interesting.

God, I’m certain, has a creation that would keep us in a discovery mode for an eternity.  I would be very excited to try living in God’s universe, if I am considered worthy.  I guess that is the problem:  How does God know if I am Heaven-worthy?

I know that I need to do my best to mirror Jesus and His teachings, but the Beatitudes tell us that we can’t even think bad thoughts.  Wow!  I missed the boat big time on that one.  The Bible indicates that there may be three Heavens, so there may be three tests that we have to pass. And is each heaven a contingency, so you could actually drop back  to the past Heaven, depending on your actions in that particular Heaven?  The Bible also makes it very clear that only a few will reach God’s universe.  Thus, the majority of us will not have an opportunity to even see if Heaven is boring.

What happens to most of us who don’t get a taste of Heaven?  I don’t know, but my guess is that we will be recycled in our closed universe’s hopper, which may spit us out in some other form.  Will we still be thinking if we return as an ant or bird?  I don’t know.  Will we still be thinking if we come back as a rock?  Or will we still be thinking if we are in limbo in space?  Nobody knows.  So, will you be bored if you are not in Heaven forever?  Being sentenced to this universe for infinity may really be cruel and unusual punishment.

Perhaps the best we could hope for, if we don’t make it to Heaven, is for life to end with there being nothing else beyond that.  But the odds of that happening are not very good because matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed in our universe (First Law of Thermodynamics).  So, our thinking, which may be both matter and energy, will continue in some form after we die.  We just don’t know in what form.  And life without consequences or something beyond life would make life absurd (existentialism).  However, we have no clue what consequences await us.

 

What Are the Odds There Isn’t a God?

Many people claim to be atheists or agnostics.  They either don’t believe in God or don’t know if there is a God.  Of the two, the agnostic has a more credible argument.  The ultimate creation is probably unknowable since more than likely the Creator is outside our universe.

The atheists go out on a limb when they claim that they know for certain that there is no God.  That seems rather unlikely since mankind knows very little about the universe.  Only about 3% of the universe is visible and our telescopes only pick up a small percentage of that amount.  In other words, we don’t have enough information to prove that there is a God or there is not a God.  Either statement is rather ambitious with the scintilla of evidence that we can view.

Assuming that there is or is not a God, what are the odds for either being the case?  You might argue that the odds are 50/50, but it really does not matter.  The most important thing is the consequence if you are wrong.

If you do not believe in God, you have to be right to avoid consequences.  If you believe in God, you do not have to be right in order to avoid consequences.  If you believe in God and there is a God, you can avoid serious consequences.  But also if you believe in God and there is no God, you still avoid serious consequences.  You simply die and there is nothing more.

So even if the odds are only 50% that there is a God, why in the universe would you choose to believe that God does not exist?  There certainly is no guarantee that there is no God any more than there is a guarantee that there is a God.  If you are not 100% certain that there is no God, then it would be foolish to invest your future as an atheist.

And even though it is logical that we will never know for certain about God’s existence until death, it makes sense to place your bet on God.  Even if you are an agnostic, your chances improve in any judgment day scenario if you recognize that there could be a God and prepare for this contingency.  Agnostics must ask themselves if they can say with certainty that there is no God.  Even though the same holds true for saying with certainty that there is a God, it does not matter because the consequences are dire if there is a God.

What are the odds there isn’t a God?  Perhaps the odds are 50%, but I would want the odds to be 100% before I bet my afterlife on there being no God.  If I went through life doing anything I wanted, satisfying my carnal needs, completely ignoring any moral code, it would be a sad day indeed if I faced a God on judgment day after my demise.  What would I say:  “Oops!” or “Omigod!” ?

I Wish I Were an Atheist

I truly wish I were an atheist.  If I were an atheist, I would not have to worry about consequences… at least during my lifetime.  If there were no God, then this would be the best thing for mankind for there would be no consequences for all our poor choices.  Even the best of us make poor choices, so every human should hope that there is no God to judge us.

Of all the possible scenarios for afterlife, the best for mankind is for us to die and that is it.  After death, everything is black and nothing happens beyond that point.  Then nobody has to worry about being punished for bad acts and stupid decisions.  Death and then no more is the best case for Homo sapiens.

However, this is not very probable.  Everything within our universe is cycled and recycled.  The famous first law of thermodynamics is that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed.  In other words, in our closed universe, our body, mind, and spirit are all recycled after death.  In other words, we may still be aware of where we are after death.  That, in and of itself, presents some problems for us.

If we are still thinking after death, what will we be thinking?  If we are not distracted by the daily chores of life, we will probably be thinking about bad decisions that we made during life.  It is natural for us to be hard on ourselves if our senses are not leading us in another direction.  Our senses, as we used them during our lifetimes, may not even be functioning after death.  Our consciousness or awareness may be our primary sense at this stage.

If we have free will during our lifetimes, God cannot intervene.  He gave us a moral compass or a conscience to guide us as we make decisions.  We can’t blame God for our poor choices or for the misfortunes we encounter on earth.  God is the creator, who lives outside our closed universe within which nothing can be created nor destroyed.

If there are no consequences for our choices made during life, then life is absurd.  If I die and there is nothing else, then our conscience and consciousness are absurd.  If there is no creator, then a closed universe sitting in the middle of nothing and surrounded by an imaginary boundary is absurd.  (Caveat:  a creator can be any power outside our universe that created our universe.)

So, the best case for humans during life is to be atheists and believe there is no God.  The only problem is that if you are wrong, then the afterlife will be a nightmare.  Thus, if you are an atheist, you must believe completely and absolutely that there is no God and there is no afterlife.  You must bet everything you own, including your soul, on there being nothing after death.

However, it is more likely than not that there is something after death, simply because of the commonality of cycles within our universe.  So, it probably would be better to suffer the pain of thinking about consequences, so that we will be better prepared to deal with judgment day.  If you believe that there is a God who forgives you, then the afterlife may be more tolerable.

Remember the Past to Protect Our Future

Welcome veterans and active duty to our Memorial Day program … “Remember the Past to Protect our Future.”  This is your day.  You and all the fallen warriors are to be honored this afternoon.

How many of us in here today know how much freedom is worth?  I think all of us have our own idea.  It’s probably like that ad you see on TV when you learn that something is priceless.

We are honoring veterans from WWII and the Korean War, fought by a generation known as “The Greatest Generation.”  Would those veterans please stand or, if you cannot, please raise your hands.  These GI’s didn’t want recognition, but they were willing to die in the fields with their band of brothers to protect our fragile freedom.  They made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, but wanted nothing in return except to know that they were making America safe and free for their children and grandchildren.  Thank you (applause).

We also are honoring veterans from the Vietnam War, fought by “The Marred and Scarred Generation.”  Would those veterans please stand.  The stories that you  heard about these veterans returning home and being spit on by fellow Americans are true.

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a problem both over the pond and back home as these warriors received a double whammy as they were shot at in Vietnam and then came home to unwelcoming arms.  Our freedom cost these veterans more than most.   Hopefully, this program today can help bring you peace, knowing that this audience greatly appreciates what you did for your country.  Thank you (applause).

We are also honoring veterans who served in the Middle East.  Would those veterans please stand.  You stood tall in serving your country in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan.  You know that freedom came at a cost as you watched your fellow-soldiers crash to the ground, bleeding on foreign sands.

You know that America was at the top of its game in the First Gulf War.  President Bush stated the goal of getting the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he gave this singular assignment to the military to get the job done, which they did after losing several hundred soldiers against the fourth largest army in the world at that time.  This may have been America at her best in wartime.  But any loss of life was a high price to pay, but these heroes never complained.  Thank you (applause).

We also want to honor those active duty military who are here today.  You keep us safe at home, while fighting on foreign soil.  Would you please stand to be honored.  Thank you (applause).

Finally, we veterans want to thank the First Responders… those policemen and firemen from our communities who serve and protect our families when we are overseas.  Are there any policemen, firemen, paramedics, or family members here today?  We want to thank you since you stand tall every day serving your country in a different way.  Your comrades have also died saving lives.  You know the cost is very high, but you do it just the same.  Thank you again (applause).

Please give a standing ovation to all these great American heroes.

As I said, the presentation today is:  “Remember the Past to Protect our Future.”  Quite frankly, I borrowed this idea from Confucius who said: “Study the past if you would define the future.”  In effect, if you learn from the past, you may avoid prior mistakes and build a brighter future.

However, you needn’t dig up our peaceful past and study it, because times of peace are not as valuable in forecasting our future.  Of course, peaceful times are important, and analyzing these periods can show changes and patterns, but they typically don’t help us in protecting our future.  Why?  Because hard times present the true challenges to our integrity and beliefs.  It is easy to support your beliefs in peacetime, but it is more difficult if somebody is shooting at you because you support those beliefs.

The older generation generally worries about the younger generation losing moral ground.  Decade after decade, older generations shake their heads and wonder what the future will be like with the younger generation in charge.  Elvis, the Beatles, acid rock, heavy metal, punk rock, and rap made older generations think that each succeeding generation was worse than the last.  History tells us that moral values deteriorate more during peace time, so one theory is that America’s loss of values occurred during decades when either there was peace or no war on our soil, much like what led to the fall of the Roman Empire.

On the other hand, the younger generations thought the older generations were in the way of progress… their progress, and should not be trusted after age 30.  But these past events probably will not matter that much in the future scheme of things.

It is wars and hard times that seem to matter the most.  We must remember and study past wars and depressions and revolutions in order to protect our future.  Analyze how we made it through those hard times.  How did we survive the tough tests of life?  Remember that saying:  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”?

These difficult times typically had battle lines drawn by two major forces:  (1) self-serving interests and (2) community-serving interests.  And we need to study the past so that we can ensure that community-serving powers overcome and are never controlled by self-serving interests in the future.

The bottom line for the past is summarized in a question:  Were the generations that went through those hard times willing to die for their country?  In other words, were they willing to die for what they believed was the right thing?

Then the most important question for future generations will be:  will they be willing to die for their country?  In other words, will they first believe in something and secondly will they be willing to die for those beliefs?

Some of you might argue that younger generations form their moral codes and beliefs in times of peace, so that peace is an important time to analyze their development or lack thereof.  Even though this is true to a certain extent, the hard times are much more important for analyzing the human spirit.  I have seen criminals and nere-do-wells change into powerful leaders during hard times.

Just because people appear to have no backbone or moral standards in peaceful times does not mean they will not fight for their freedom to the death.  In fact, terrorists are examples of young people who will die for a cause.  But there is a significant difference between dying for your personal beliefs and dying for somebody else’s beliefs that have been imprinted in your brain.  But I will save the discussion on brainwashing for a little later in the presentation.

Let’s first analyze WWII.  We were very lucky that two self-serving interests, Hitler’s right-wing totalitarian society and Stalin’s left-wing totalitarian society, did not prevail against our Band of Brothers.  So how did the community-serving side win the war?

To answer that, I will rely on my dad’s experiences.  I remember waking up in my early years with my dad screaming because of his nightmares from WWII.  My dad served in combat under General George Patton for almost three years.  Let me repeat that.  He was shot at for almost three years.  So, he knew the answer as to why we won the war.

He told me that we won because of the “DC rule.”  The DC rule is when the leaders in Washington DC are finally motivated to Delegate and Cooperate.  The generals in the Pentagon delegated decision-making powers to the soldiers in the field, while Hitler demanded that no troop movements be made without his approval.  The Band of Brothers then cooperated by making excellent tactical decisions, while the Nazis waited for a self-serving dictator to tell them what to do.  We need to focus on what is best for our community and not on selfish pursuits in order to protect our future.

The Korean War was more of the same.  The selfish totalitarian forces of China and North Korea lost out to the powerful teams of soldiers formed through delegation and cooperation, working together to defeat a common enemy.

The Vietnam War showed us what happens when selfish interests overpower community interests.  The American soldiers were never given the green light to do what they needed to do to win the war.  Politicians held them back based on their self-serving interests.  There was no delegation and cooperation.

But we learned from our mistakes.  In the First Gulf War in 1991, Papa Bush as President told the military to remove the Iraqis from Kuwait.  He then delegated that mission to the military, allowing them to do their jobs.  America cooperated with many other countries.  With United Nations Security Council sanctions, we formed a coalition of 34 countries, including eight Arab countries, to remove the Iraqi army from Kuwait.  At that time, the Iraqis had the fourth largest Army in the world with the vaunted Republican Guard, which had over eight years of experience fighting the Iranian army.

Since the Iraqi army had the advantage of being dug into solid defensive positions, we expected to lose about two to three times as many soldiers as the Iraqis would in the ground warfare.  As it turned out, we only lost 148 troops, while the enemy had 20,000 to 35,000 killed in action.  That was amazing.

What made for this unbelievable result?  Primarily, it was because of Delegation and Cooperation.  Our military made decisions in the field while the Iraqis waited for guidance from Hussein.  We also were patient and waited until we had built up worldwide support to remove the Iraqis from Kuwait.

We also cooperated by following international law or the Law of War, which is the civilized rules for fighting a war.  One of the important rules of war is that you should minimize civilian casualties.  Hussein ignored this rule and it hurt him on the international front and in the press.  Hussein just plain didn’t care, so he used civilians as human shields for his military and he placed his military in schools.  How do you think we handled this?  We bombed the military at night after the school day was over.

Did you ever wonder why President Bush didn’t go into Baghdad and oust Hussein?  Many in America thought it was the right thing to do, but this was based on American selfish interests and not the needs of the communities in the Gulf to maintain stability in the region.  Bush, who had many years of international experience, including being Director of the CIA, knew Hussein’s value in Iraq was that he controlled the diverse and fractionalized religions and cultures.  If you removed Hussein, the area would become a powder keg.  Iraq also was the neutralizer of Iranian power in the region.

Bush knew that the international community and coalition forces had agreed to remove Hussein from Kuwait, and to go further than that would have been a violation of international law.  You can only secure your military objective and you have to stop.  If you go beyond your military objective, then you are in violation of the Law of War, which has not only international implications, but also carries sanctions.

If we had not followed international law, we could not have maintained the fragile coalition.  If President Bush had gone into Iraq attempting to oust Hussein, he would have been going beyond the military objective.  To go after Hussein would have been a breach of international law.  Bush was experienced enough to know the consequences of that.

“Didn’t have to do it.  Didn’t have to go to Baghdad.  Only had to get ‘em outta Kuwait.  Did it and did it quick.  Followed the rules.  Followed the law.” 

In my mind, Papa Bush was the best war president we ever had.  He knew the national security interest, announced the goal, and then stood back and let the military do its job.  And the military did its job extremely well, always following the law.

I served as a JAG in both the Army and the Air Force during the wars in the Middle East.  JAGs and military attorneys were even used to examine the targets to avoid violations of the Law of War.  As an example, these attorneys told Gen. Colin Powell and Secretary of War Dick Cheney that they could not bomb a triumphal arch in Baghdad because it was a cultural object just like the Washington Monument.  Powell and Cheney were not happy and shook their heads that attorneys were running the war, but they scratched this target from the bomb list.

International law is that important in cooperating in the world today.  As an example, Bush’s son did not fare as well as his dad did in understanding international law.  When he used water boarding at Guantanamo and other torture at Abu Ghraib, he probably was in violation of international law.  We lost world respect and, more importantly, fiscal and physical support and cooperation from other countries.

I taught the CNN Test to the pilots who were going into war environments.  I told them to see if the targets passed the CNN Test.  In other words, how would that target look on the news the next day?  For example, we advised Gen. Powell not to bomb a statue of Hussein because it was a cultural object and did not have much military necessity… not enough to risk getting a CNN story about how our pilots risked their lives to bomb a statue.  The media supported the First Gulf War and it was used very effectively to obtain worldwide support.

By issuing general orders and delegating the details to your troops in the field, you enable soldiers to think outside the box.  I worked in the Pentagon and I believe that most of the people I worked with thought that thinking outside the box was coming up with new excuses for not coming to work.  And when you did run into people who thought outside the box, they were still touching the box.

One of my favorite Pentagon stories involved one of those meetings with all the big whigs and mukety mucks and the big brass.  And at this meeting, the generals were handing out new emergency plans to evacuate the building in case of any emergency.  After the meeting, I took the map and followed the directions right into a dead end.  The staffers who had prepared the map had not actually walked the course.  They based it on the old blueprint.  To me walking the course is not even thinking outside the box.  It is just simply thinking.  You should at least get out of your office and check out the course before handing it out to people.

It is interesting.  When you place bureaucrats in the field to face hard times, assuming that you can ever get them there, they actually think differently.  They quickly get outside the box and start thinking much clearer as bullets are whizzing and bombs are bursting around them.  War is surrealistic.  It makes people think and sometimes makes them think differently.

I served in four military services over four decades.  Let’s go back in time to the early 1960’s when John Kennedy was president.  I started my service in the Viet Nam war.  It was a difficult war for those of us in the military and also for those who were at home.  President John Kennedy first sent our troops into Viet Nam as trainers.

“I uh, was not certain that we were doing the right thing, but I couldn’t just stand idly by and allow the communists to overrun the country.  So, I sent small military teams over there to train the Vietnamese to fight.”

The Viet Nam war continued and we sent more and more soldiers overseas, but our leaders would not allow the military to do what they needed to do to make it a short and victorious war.  President Lyndon Johnson took most of the heat for the political bureaucracy that bogged down the military.

“Mah fellow Americans.  I come to you tonight with a heavy heart.  Ah think it’s that dadburned chili I ate.  I want you to know that ah nevah lied to you about Viet Nam.  I may have kidded you a lil’ bit, but ah nevah lied to you.”  

I remember when we finally pulled out of Nam, our military leaders met with the Viet Cong and angrily told them that we had won every battle that we fought with them.  The Viet Cong leaders quietly told them, “Yes, but that was irrelevant.”  The point is that you have to think differently than the selfish bureaucratic leaders in order to win the war.  You can even win all the battles, but if the leaders in DC don’t delegate and cooperate, you can still lose the war.  President Richard Nixon finally brought our troops back home.

“Let me say this about that.  I was the one who brought our boys home.  Give me credit for that.  You may kick tricky Dicky around for other things, but I brought our troops home from Nam.”

I remember President Jimmy Carter was on the television show, “What’s My Line?” when he was Governor of Georgia, and the panel didn’t know who he was.  He was elected president a short time later.  His inexperience hurt him when he tried to deal with the Iranian hostage situation.  It was another failure to delegate and cooperate.

“Hidy, hidy.  I relied on experts around me, but I didn’t have many experts with military experience.  I had served with the Navy, but not in combat.  I wanted to work things out with the Iatolla, but I had to learn the hard way that you can’t negotiate with fundamentalists.  I did better with Sadat and Begin because I learned to delegate and cooperate.”

And it is not a matter of Republicans vs. Democrats.  Unfortunately, both parties carry bad and selfish records into wartime efforts.  Both Bill Clinton and George Bush, the son, did not understand or appreciate international law.  First, Bill Clinton.

“Hillary, have you seen the latest polls?  I want to find out if I need to take more military action in Bosnia and Serbia today.”

Presidential decisions should not be made based on public opinion.  Decisions should be based on protecting national security interests while complying with international law.  Gen. Colin Powell, recommended allowing the European powers to handle the problems in former Yugoslavia because America had no national security interest involved.  We should have delegated and cooperated with other countries.  Clinton got America involved in the Bosnian-Serbian war based on opinion polls and not America’s national security.  Presidents must be civil servants protecting our national interests, not securing votes for the next election, a selfish interest.

Next, George W. Bush.

“Those are evildoers out there in Iraq.  They tried to kill my daddy!”

Presidential decisions to attack a country cannot be based on emotion or a personal vendetta.  Again, these decisions must be based on national security interests while in full compliance with international law.

After 9/11, Bush went on the offensive in Afghanistan going after the terrorists.  That was a reasonable response to the bombing of the Twin Towers.  It was similar to a policeman’s “hot pursuit” policy when chasing a criminal into another jurisdiction.  We definitely had a national security interest at stake, and the international community understood our response and considered it appropriate.  But we should always have an exit plan.  We need to get in and then get out.  The longer you stay, like in Vietnam, the worse it gets.

But what was our national security interest in invading Iraq?  There were several reasons given:  (1) Hussein was an evil dictator, (2) Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, (3) Iraq needed democracy, (4) terrorists were being protected in Iraq, and (5) Iraq was one of the countries in the Axis of Evil.

I don’t really need to talk about any of these because they were all distortions of the reality of Iraq’s role in the Middle East.  No matter what you thought of Hussein, Iraq was a great counterbalance to dangerous fundamentalists in Iran.  By removing Hussein, we allowed both Iraq and Iran to become a serious threat to peace in the Middle East and to our national security.

It’s really not an issue about which party you belong to, but it is an issue about following the path of what is best for our community or nation.  Sometimes, the two-party system creates two extreme positions, neither of which is helpful for our country.

I was raised in downtown Louisville in the 1950’s.  It was a time for the Jets and Sharks.  Gangs were a way of life.  I remember that those gang members who were extremists never became leaders of the gang.  The leaders were assertive, but not aggressive.  Whether you are fighting in a gang or as a soldier in a war, if you are aggressive, you will get yourself and your friends killed.  The best leaders in war are assertive.

I remember my dad telling me that the new soldiers were ignored because most of them were too aggressive and would get themselves and anybody around them killed.  The combat hardened soldiers took their time and never jumped into the fire.  They were assertive, but not aggressive.  They actually adopted an approach to war that avoided aggressive, self-interest actions, but focused on group-assertive activities.

If your friends pressure you to take an extreme position, do you conform or do you think for yourself?   If your boss tells you to do something that is illegal, do you do it?  If you join a terrorist group and you strap a bomb to your back and blow yourself up, did you do this because it conformed to your belief or was it somebody else’s belief?  Generally, the terrorist leaders who instruct followers to blow themselves up, rarely strap any bombs on themselves.

An experiment was conducted at a university using students being directed by a person in authority telling them to administer shocks to test students.  Initially, it was thought that about 1% of the students would actually shock their fellow students under the direction of an authority figure.  They weren’t under duress or offered money, it was just simply somebody telling them what to do.  It turned out that 65% of them shocked the other students, even to the point of causing severe pain.  And the painful sounds made by their fellow students didn’t deter them.  Of course the students receiving the shock were hidden behind a screen and were only faking it, but the students administering the electric current didn’t know that.

The actions taken at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo Bay were based on instructions from above.  Nobody questioned the authority from above.  These were Americans torturing people in violation of international law.

During the McCarthy hearings and during the witch trials and during the rules of Stalin and Hitler, most people did nothing to stop these extremist positions.  You may be afraid of consequences to yourself if you say anything, but the worst consequences are from doing nothing.  Do you think Hitler would have stopped with the Communists?  With the Jews?  With the Catholics?  With the Protestants?  You can keep silent until your group comes up for annihilation.

When I worked with Exxon, I made a two-hour Power-Point presentation to the president.  After it was over and questions had been answered, the President asked, “Is there any way I can do nothing?”  And that’s what he decided to do.  And by doing nothing, there were environmental consequences.  Yet, I was the only one in the meeting who spoke up.  If others had said something, he might have actually done something.

An 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke believed, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  How many times have we done nothing after we saw that something was wrong?

Many politicians are self-serving, doing nothing for their constituents.  It’s very difficult finding politicians who are more interested in doing the right thing than in getting elected and then re-elected, but hopefully they will come forward, especially if times get really bad.

Many people today are like the politicians… out to serve themselves.  But if times get tough, I wonder if Americans will take action to defend our beliefs.  If we recall the past things that awakened America, Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers come to mind.  These were actions that awakened the sleeping giant.

I see where military bases have stepped up their security since ISIS is taking actions in the United States.  I believe that at some point, ISIS will awaken the sleeping giant.  It may be an attack at a mall or an elementary school, but there will be a line that they will cross that will bring out the Hulk in America.  ISIS will go too far and awaken America from its slumber just like Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers did.  And when it does… watch out!  When these tough times reach our soil, that is when I believe young and old Americans will unite against the enemy.  As we transition from peace to war, the genetics in Americans that is found in our ancestors who were tough immigrants and hard-core pioneers will reappear in an independent spirit of America.

When we reach that point, we will need to be smart.  We need to follow the past recipe for success:  “DC” – delegate and cooperate.  The political leaders in DC need to delegate the details to the military and law enforcement officials, who then need to share information and cooperate in a coordinated attack.  It might even be our cells against their cells, as we form Terrorist Tactical Teams throughout the United States combining specialists from federal, state, and local levels for the teams.  And all the different agencies must share information and cooperate.