Grief, Joy, and Paradox

I came home from a day of shopping, getting an oil change, and
visiting my mom and turned on my TV with a sense of familiar dread because my
car radio had alluded to an active shooter in San Bernardino, California. In
fact I listen to news lately with a growing sense of anticipated dread because
disaster has become so common that it seems that routine news days are rare. I
am not a Donald Trump fan, nor do I intend to vote for Donald Trump, but at
least if I see his smarmy face plastered all over my TV screen then I know that
today was a good day in the news, a normal day in the news.
So I watched as they evacuated wounded people from a Social
Services office building and listened to the count of those who died and
thought to myself, “who wakes up in the morning and thinks, ‘I guess I’ll go
shoot myself some social workers who help disabled people today’? The answer
was pretty quick in coming but it will never make any sense to me. A young
couple went out to kill today, newly married, with a baby who they have to
leave with a parent while they go kill people. Have we all gone insane? How
could this man, an environmental engineer and his wife, this new mom, become
radicalized, if that is what happened? They’re not hopeless loners with no
future. I just don’t understand. Why would any promise of glory after this life
make them give up raising their child together?
It is the day that the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center
will be lit and I feel guilty but I decide to leave the news coverage and go to
NYC on my TV to celebrate what should be a season of hope. It was a good move
but also bizarre. Everyone on that stage seemed so brave to me. There were the
young people in their bright red coats, tempting fate, and singing about peace
on earth. It was a lesson in the paradoxes of our lives to move from hate to hope
so quickly. When Andrea Bocelli, blind and brilliant, stood facing an audience
he couldn’t even see and sang to us all with his eyes closed, it seemed to me
an act of defiance as well as a gift of love. Living in a world that brings
forth these two events in one day is dizzying and mind-blowing and so confuses
our emotions. But it also makes the whole business so much more profound. Music
is a healer. It soothes our troubled souls and makes us smile no matter what.
And that is how something as prosaic as a Christmas special that we can see
every year, this year brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the good that
still remains in the world.
So we will mourn again with still another group of family and
friends who have lost loved ones and at the same time we will celebrate a
hopeful season. Through our tears…through our tears of grief and of joy.
By Nancy Brisson

Love Peace: Prepare for War

No Time to Stand Down
I know that America must make it clear to the world that we can
defend ourselves. We must make it clear that we are in a merely tactical
withdrawal. Our military resources must not be allowed to get rusty or decline
in numbers or readiness. We must stay battle ready. We should even continue
with military innovation. The world is hardly at peace yet as we can see and we
have enemies, mostly foreign, perhaps a few domestic, who would delight in
catching us unprepared. Our allies must stay prepared to fight also. This is no
time to stand down.
New Kind of War
However, this is the time to stand back when we can, to
analyze, to accept that future wars in some ways may not look like the wars of
the past, although many of the same sad truths will apply. It is time to
regroup, to brainstorm, and find innovative ways to target each enemy with
tailor-made plans in the same way we now target certain cancers with
personalized drugs. We can’t afford to ignore our enemies; we don’t really want
to be isolationists who wake up one day to find themselves deprived of this Democracy
we treasure.
Can’t Waste Our Best Assets
Committing ourselves to send huge forces of our young men
and women off to war as America’s soldiers is not a strategy that will work. We don’t
have the human resources for this or the heart. 
Our people are too precious to us and we don’t have an enormous
population to waste. Our human resources are hardly endless. We have no “clone”
army. We have no robot soldiers. How do we fight well without expending large
numbers of our most valuable resource – our people? I think we fight exactly as
we are learning to fight now. “Designer” wars targeted to a particular enemy
are a good start, although our long distance tools are limited. We need to
rewrite those classic books on military strategy, to 2K reboot them, so to speak.
What We Stand to Gain and Lose
We may not love drones but for a while they are the
only nonhuman long distance resource we have outside of nukes which we
absolutely can’t use and chemicals, which we also can’t use. Collateral damage
is always a bad thing in a war. Wars are not supposed to kill civilians. They
are about deciding how those civilians will live after the war. If no civilians
survive, war is pointless, unless you are simply trying to depopulate the
planet and fortunately we aren’t there yet. I’m a civilian. I don’t want to be
killed by accident; therefore I don’t love drones that kill civilians anywhere.
I don’t love war either for that matter. We must use the new tools we have to
prevent our Democracy from being swallowed by a world of power-mad people who
hate freedom. We must not allow ourselves to be easily crushed by those who
would have us live according to religious beliefs and customs that are not our
own and who would deprive us of important rights. Women would especially be
deprived of freedoms that we hold very dear. Our brains would once again cry
out to be used and we would end up using them in petty competitions and
cruelties among ourselves.
Police, Use Military Gear to Defend Locals, Not Police
I do deplore the fact that our police departments own
equipment that is military in nature, but I only deplore it if they use it on
our own people to enforce laws that can be enforced (and have been enforced)
without turning our hometown police, our neighbors, into hostile strangers
hiding behind riot gear. We don’t want to escalate violence against each other.
We want to be trained to recognize a true enemy if it presents itself and we
want to be prepared to fight such an enemy anywhere in America. (I am trying to
get used to calling America the homeland, but it doesn’t sound quite right to
me yet.)
Flexible, Targeted, and Deadly
We need to have strategies that allow for flexibility,
for travelling light but being a deadly force regardless of the size. We need
ways to get into war zones, where the outcomes may affect us or our allies,
quickly and to get out quickly. We don’t have many of these technologies in our arsenal.
They may not even have been invented yet or we may not have decided yet whether
they are technologies we want to use. However, if we can design things as toys
for movies I am guessing we can eventually design real ones. Drones cannot be
the only robot or long distance tool we have and drones need to continue to be
refined until our enemies can be more exactly targeted.
The Paradox

I want peace. I have no faith that mankind has any gift
for peace and I still want it. Until the whole world wants it too, is dedicated
to it absolutely, I am a war monger who only wishes to make it clear that we
can and will defend ourselves. We will try in every way not to defend ourselves
with the frail flesh and blood of our fellow Americans. We have to try to
invent the most effective techniques we can find for fighting wars from a
distance. If our ways are effective enough maybe war will end; it will be too
deadly to fight wars and we can have peace. If we can invent the internet we
can do this. Meanwhile we must stay lean, mean and keep as much distance from
our enemies as humanly possible. We can hate war, in fact it is better if we
do, but we must know how and be prepared to fight. This is the paradox of the
world as we know it, the paradox that I hope we can someday put behind us forever.
By Nancy Brisson