Changes in Personal Perspective
I’ve been silent on this blog for almost 6 months. But with the NATO Summit in my backyard this week, it seems like a good time to break that silence.
First, an update. I no longer serve as an active-duty recruiter for the Illinois Army National Guard, while trying to pursue theological studies in my spare time. Early this year, I flipped my focus – now I’m a full-time seminarian and part-time citizen soldier.
In this next chapter of life, I hope to win hearts and minds in a different way than I did in Afghanistan. That means what I write about will shift somewhat too. I hope you’ll join me as I move forward in ministry. But I’ll understand if you feel “LifeLoveandTruth” no longer fits on your reading list. Regardless, everyone’s always welcome here.
For those who choose to roll with me on this next mission – thanks! I’m the same person I always was – but now I have more experience, and perhaps a bit more insight. I still hope to make a difference in the world, in whatever way I’m able. But I expect to share more of what of matters to me as a believer, a lifelong learner, and a person who wants to make a difference in the world – whether it’s in Afghanistan, or right here in my own back yard. (And as everyone knows, Chicago has its share of issues to address!)
Changes in Global Security
Speaking of Chicago, you may have heard that the NATO Summit has arrived in town – along with the congestion, protests and general disruption that accompany high-profile confabs of this nature. If you’re looking for some background and perspective on the NATO alliance and the summit, I recommend two articles:
Here’s my point-of-view:
Increasingly, NATO/OTAN looks like a “United Europe Self-Defense Agency” – largely underwritten by the US in the same way we underwrite the United Nations. In Afghanistan and Iraq, it was NATO that intervened, not the UN. NATO was also the driving military force in Libya’s recent ouster of Kaddafi, so it remains a potent defense force. But its future is uncertain.
As the Chicago Magazine piece notes, China and Russia continue to spend heavily on their militaries, as do we. But Europe – not so much. Is this what’s driving the NATO protesters? I don’t think so. Instead, the protests seem more like a vocal, visible “Leave-Afghanistan-Now” campaign, with NATO as a backdrop. But the core message is similar to what many Democrats have been saying for years – nothing new.
There actually are more important questions: What is NATO’s real purpose? And is that purpose still relevant? This conference won’t address those questions – it’s presumed that there is still a good reason for NATO to exist. And right now, the “War on Terror” seems to be its biggest justification. But as the complexion of world security continues to evolve, it’s only a matter of time before the more strategic issue must be addressed.
Until then, those who protest against war in general are likely to continue. And to be frank, I am with them. After all, in a civilized society should anyone truly be “pro war?” Death and destruction for its own sake is counter to the core principles of our nation.
However, I don’t believe there will be a day when bad guys simply vanish from the planet. (At least, at my advanced age, I don’t believe I’ll see it in my lifetime.) It’s a sad fact that, to maintain order, we need our police, and we need our military.
Think of schools today. They’re like a microcosm of the world. Bullies don’t quit bullying just because they’re asked nicely to stop. It takes consistent monitoring, clear consequences and appropriate incentives to reverse their behavior. Similarly, armed thugs around the world will not stop committing atrocities against others, just because we claim that it’s uncivilized. With both bullies and terrorists, greater force is necessary. I say this, even though I lament it. Perhaps one day we will learn. But I don’t believe we’re ready yet.
Let’s Look Forward to More Change
Clearly NATO doesn’t have all the answers. And eventually, developed nations will have to embrace new ways to cooperate in addressing the realities of an unstable planet. So whether we protest publicly – or only at the dinner table in the privacy of our own homes – we should all hope that the transformation happens sooner rather than later. A peaceful world depends on better solutions.
Do you remember the song, “The Times, They Are a-Changin?” Bob Dylan wrote it almost 50 years ago, as the world ushered in a new era of civil rights. It’s an anthem worth remembering today – because it reminds us that, even when change isn’t easy, it happens. It happens with or without us. So let’s not just settle for letting change happen to us. Let’s own it. For the sake of future generations, let’s own it.