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It doesn’t matter to which God you pray

Precious time is slipping away

                                           Van Morrison


Several weeks ago I read a little known Barbara Tuchman book, The First Salute. In it are descriptions about the battles fought in the American War of Independence. These are familiar as we’ve read or seen them reenacted in countless television and film dramas. Very upright, uptight British Red Coats march into battle in perfect formation.  Accompanied by drums and horns, they advance toward the Colonialists dressed in rags. But something profound happens along the way.  An advance party of Americans, also dressed in the homespun vernacular of civilian life, starts shooting at the British formations. From behind trees and hills they pick off the soldiers one by one. As they fall the British do not break ranks.  They march straight ahead, stepping over their dead, the epitome of dignity until the end. We all know what happened next. Ignominious defeat from a rag tag troupe changed the world forever.
        Why would the British do such a thing? Why would they allow themselves to die when they could live? Why would they not adapt to the new type of warfare being waged against them? All the answers boil down to one. They were locked into an outdated model that valued honor over success. These rigid formations were how honorable armies fought from time immemorial. It was unfair and unprofessional to snipe and shoot from behind trees while dressed in civvies.
         We now look back at this 18th century thinking with amusement and wonder. Rather than win the war and defend the crown they lost the war but held on to their pride.
          There is a life or death lesson here in how the world deals with Iran in its certain quest for a nuclear bomb. Nationalism may end up defeating us as sure as battle honor defeated the British. The outdated 18th century idea of nation states and sovereignty of borders may not insure our survival in the 21st century.
           When an Iranian nuclear-tipped missile slams into a foreign city, it will be, as any kid knows, “game over.”  The world as we currently experience it will end. 9/11, the Asian tsunami, Chernobyl, and Haitian earthquake will be minor footnotes in the history of contemporary human misery. The inevitable blowback will engulf the world in a horror show of destruction that will appear apocalyptic. It is unlikely there will be rock concerts and merchandise to aid the survivors.

Missiles can cross borders in seconds. Nuclear bombs can arrive in a shipping container. There will be no warning and no defenses so the concept of nationalism will not limit or prevent the Iranian nuclear contagion.  It will allow it to fester. The old-think pre-missile, pre-nuclear nation-state concept of sovereignty that allows a global menace to grow may end up destroying mankind.

This is what is on the table for civilization. The fight over sanctions, China’s support for or against them, the Russian stance, and the potential for additional mid-east nuclear proliferation are all silly and basically irrelevant distractions that need not be answered.

The question that needs to be addressed by those who want to live and thrive in the future is this: What is preventing us from protecting our children and ourselves? What is the cost of abandoning our concept of nationalism thereby eliminating a menace to humanity? What self-destructive urge would insist we die for the concept of nationalism?

If the answer is that we cannot cross borders in advance to preserve our collective survival, then at least we will know why we ended the world. If the answer is that nationalism is an outdated concept that does not translate into the 21st century, then we must evolve, and eliminate Iran’s ability to destroy us. The Iranian and, for that matter, North Korean nuclear threat must be treated as a global threat.

The British were defeated by unconventional means in 1781, but the stakes were somewhat low. They piled into their ships and went home.  Two years later a peace treaty was signed and trade with America resumed. The failure to stop Iran from obtaining a bomb and a warhead will not be so slight.  Game over is just that.




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