Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Syrian Civil War

Article by Norm Gottlieb

SeniorsCan applauds the apparently successful diplomatic action by President Obama, supporting the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.  But we are deeply concerned about the President’s current actions in that nation.

There is a major on-going civil war, and we should not be supporting so-called “moderates” who  are fighting the regime.  Nor should we be providing any military armaments to any  of the various factions.  The Kurds control a sizable portion of northern Syria, and there are many other groups fighting for control of the country.  We should not be in the middle of  this  conflict – much of which is sectarian.

Our involvement in Syria is not in our national security interest, and, ultimately, this is a matter for the Syrians to work out for themselves one way or another.  Our intervention only exacerbates the situation, and our intrusion cannot be sustained in the long run.  Containing the war and its attendant humanitarian problems is best addressed by the neighboring  nations and others in the Middle East.  A negotiated settlement is the only road to peace.

Nevertheless, we hope that the Montreax conference in January 2014, with the U.S., Russia, and 30 other countries participating will at least make some progress toward a cease-fire and humanitarian relief.  We should not delude oourselves by  unilateral efforts attempting regime change or attempting democracy in Syria.  We have no right to intrude in that country with no clear mission.  Any further actions pose unforeseeable unintended consequences and risk costly escalation.


The Threat Of Nuclear Weapons

Article by Norm Gottlieb

SeniorsCAN call upon the U.S. to unilaterally reduce its nuclear weapons and to work with other nations individually and collectively to reduce theirs and to stop any furhter development of such weapons.

Nuclear bombs may well be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.  They threaten the very existence of life on earth as we know it.  Nuclear bombs have been used in the past and are now universally condemned.  The Cold War engendered an arms race and a stalemate of mutual assured destruction.  The use of nuclear weapons in war is virtually unthinkable, but even the very possession of these weapons poses a grave threat to all peoples.

The issue we should be adddressing now is that of safety and security.  Technological and system failures, deterioration, and human errors pose a significant threat of catastrophic accidents.  A nuclear incident could lead to nuclear escalation.  Terrorists or others bent on power or destruction also pose a threat.  Reducing the number of nuclear weapons will reduce these threats.

Robert McNamara, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, has stated that nuclear weapons are dangerous, immoral and unnecessary; that the combination of human fallibility with nuclear weapons leads to human destruction; and that the only way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate the weapons.  This should be the world’s ultimate goal.

Nuclear weapons have no military value-they are weapons of terror and genocide.  Each nation that possesses nuclear weapons does so for special interests.  The continuing nuclear weapons programs by nations and the stockpiling of such weapons is the result of an irrational arms race and display of power.  Israel does not want Iran to have the capacity to make even a single bomb for fear of annihilation. Iran and North Korea would possibly like to possess the weapon for deterrance or for diplomatic leverage.

We believe that the only way to manage this world-wide matter is to put it under the control of the United Nations.  The goal is the total ban on the possession of nuclear weapons.  What is needed now is a renewed pledge to adhere to the Nuclear Weapons Convention and a thoughtful orderly process to destroy existing stockpiles as soon as possible.  Transparency will lead the world toward enhanced security.

Norm Gottlieb

Afghanistan Conflict

Afghanistan Conflict:  Article by Norm Gottlieb

SeniorsCAN call upon President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel,  National Security Advisor Susan Rice and all Congresspersons to stop ratification of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan which will commit American forces to staying in that country beyond the current 2014 deadline.

The US should declare an end to our intrusion in Afghanistan by December 31, 2014.

The stated reason for the US staying beyond 2014 for another 10 years is a ‘commitment’ to Afghanistan’s security.  Afghan forces have improved, and another year of training and support by our military should be sufficient for Afghans to provide their own security.

The people of Afghanistan have their tribal rivalries but have managed to coexist for a thousand years without foreign interference.  In the long run, neither the US nor NATO can impose its will upon that country.

We could be an honest broker to a negotiated peace between Afghanistan (its president and the Loya Jirga) and the Taliban after 2014 if we cease our physical presence in that country.

What this proposed agreement will do is foster more resentment to our invasion of that country and to our foreign presence.  It will permit us to maintain 9 bases, which, among other things, will allow the CIA or US Air Force to use the bases to launch drones secretly targeting suspected terrorists or insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It will commit about 10,000 troops to provide training and ‘logistic’ support; all of the troops will be in harm’s way with surely more death and injuries in future years.   In addition to the troops, there are numerous US contractors working there who are ‘nationals’ we are committed to defend militarily.  The proposed agreement will provide immunity for US troops from prosecution in Afghan courts.  It will commit the US to continue its massive military aid and financial support for another 10 years!

One of the provisions of the pact permits US ground troops to continue entering Afghan homes in the conduct of ‘night raids’ but only ‘under extraordinary circumstances’.  But there are no limitations on the use of unmanned aircraft  On November 28 a US drone killed a 2-year-old Afghan.. The US apologized to the government for the mistake.  But where is the concern for Afghan lives?  And where is the accountability and justice?  Was this ‘war time collateral damage’ really executed as the result of a strke threatening our national security?

But the big question is:  What is our mission?  We are not going to kill all Al-queda and their affiliates by counterinsurgency actions.  We cannot stop the Taliban from trying to return to power in Afghanistan.  We are not going to stop the opium trade or corruption in that country.  We are not going to further democracy by military action.  The only apparent purpose of the proposed agreement is to enhance our military-industrial complex.

When you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging.  Over the past 12 years we have already lost too many lives and expended too much precious capital.  The wise and prudent action now is to bring all of our troops home as soon as possible, close all of our bases in Afghanistan, and stop the flow of military and financial aid after 2014.  Furthermore, because all actions by the ‘coalition’ are perceived to be those of the United States, NATO’s International Security Force should also leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Norm Gottlieb