Patriotic rhetoric emanates from both presidential campaigns, their allies, and the chirons of every broadcast and cable news division. Anchors and strategists drip with cynicism. Conventional wisdom reflects an intellectual laziness rather than common sense and good governance.
Meanwhile, Americans struggle to survive the threat of another economic collapse. Bouncing checks to get groceries and praying the utility companies will agree to another payment arrangement. Families are focusing inward because of economic necessity.
This may prove to be a silver lining. When American families prioritize each other, they build life skills the pampered politician will never understand. They cut coupons, pay cash for gas at the stations who offer a discount and teach their children how to cook. How to save. How to sacrifice. Ultimately, they teach their children to serve those they love, their communities and the nation.
Children during Great Depression learned these same lessons. Economics and war. Sacrifice and heroism. Safety nets, rationing and doing the right thing. They watched grief and morality bind together. They witnessed America awaken from an isolationist slumber to embody the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers. They remember Roosevelt closed his eyes to the unfolding genocide that became the Holocaust. With his Secretary of State Cordell Hull, a man revered by non-interventionists, Roosevelt discarded calls for help. His administration ignored warnings from Polish witnesses about the concentration camps. Instead, he offered a whole lot of powerful rhetoric. It wasn't until World War II was literally at America's doorstep he adopted the right position, sent American troops to battle and set American policy on the right path.
Some 70 years later, America stands at a crossroads. A terrible economic situation, the fallout of the Arab spring, Syria's Assad regime keeps slaughter on the nightly news, Egypt's antiquities disappear by the hundreds, and the refrain "never again" rings out again and again. The 'war on terror' continues via drone strikes across the globe, and the president takes credit for each success -- all but declaring his own conspicuous gallantry.
President Barack Obama made many promises in 2008. While there are countless opponents who carefully catalog every deviation, others who traffic in scorn, there is a powerful narrative developing just off the radar.
Human rights activists, anti-genocide advocates, humanitarian aid organizations and unlikely allies within AfriCom know there is a frightening spectre dawning. In Sudan, black Africans are subject to racial animus from Arabs allied with President Omar al Bashir, an indicted war criminal. Across the Nuba Mountains and South Kordofan, to Darfur, up to the Blue Nile and Abyei, Bashir acts with impunity. Innocent men, women and children are killed simply for their race. Muslims, Christians, and those practicing indigenous African religions fear extinction.
In nearby Congo, women between the ages of 15-49 face rape at a pace of 1,152 every day according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health released in 2011. A generation of child soldiers now rules alongside the warlords that survived the horrific lawlessness and evil lurking in a nation without a stable, reliable government.
The environmental lobby sounds the alarm about man-made climate change and touts hybrid vehicles as the solution. Never you mind the deforestation of the Congo River Basin -- the second largest rainforest in the world. Never you mind that rape, child slavery, auto-cannibalism and other horrors fuel each and every hybrid on the market. Cobalt, copper, tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from Congo are trafficked and smelted with conflict-free minerals -- tainting perhaps every electronic device produced. The National Association of Manufacturers, NAM, claims change is too expensive. Change reportedly works out to about one penny per product.
How nice. The environmental lobby and NAM have created job security for themselves. They lobby against each other, point fingers. Never you mind solid policy is a simple compromise away. Both sides claim they want what is best for Americans, our allies, and the planet but neither has the guts to actually step up and do it. Instead, they will raise millions of dollars for advertisements. No wonder there are so many cynics on the news.
President Obama's most ardent supporters have tried to repeatedly defend his Sudan and Great Lakes Region (Africa) policy. They point to strongly worded statements. They point to the Atrocities Prevention Board, and Samantha Power, as evidence that Obama and his team are "on our side."
The Democrat-led U.S. Senate has not produced a budget. The Republican majority in the U.S. House is light years away from Bush era humanitarian policies that were preventative as well as moral. Saving lives through anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, malaria medications, vaccinations for polio, basic subsistence and medical care, is a smart policy in addition to being an honorable one. Every ally we gather is important.
President Obama's policy, if not the man himself, mistakes duplicity for reciprocity. He is the president. He sets the tone. He chose to ignore the bipartisan goodwill his predecessor cultivated on humanitarian causes. Partisans have taken their queues and are all too comfortable with the status quo.
There is little so foolish as isolationism. The chorus of 'America first' is willfully ignorant, particularly when it comes to spending. In 1993, Bill Clinton opted to bring troops home from Somalia after the Black Hawk Down incident. Ending our humanitarian mission, as well as the covert missions targeting Mohamed Farah Aidid and his allies, had consequences. At the time, Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan, had trained Somali fighters, and directed operations against the U.S. with cover from Bashir. If the U.S. had stayed, completed the mission, and helped the Somalis towards stability the world we live in today would be different.
If America had stayed in Somalia, destroyed Osama bin Laden's training camps, and held Omar al Bashir responsible in 1993, the actions the men took later could have been avoided entirely. That means: no attacks on the Embassies in Kenya or Tanzania. No bombing of the USS Cole or Khobar Towers. No September 11th attacks. No Department of Homeland Security. No Afghanistan war, likely no Iraq War either. That is about six trillion dollars, without interest, though some estimates vary depending on how you calculate the costs. We should all recognize how desperately the United States needs an extra six trillion in the treasury right now. The human toll is thousands of American lives, victims in the attacks as well as our Armed Forces who gave the last measure of devotion is incalculable. Further, the two million Darfuris, South Sudanese and Sudanese that perished in Bashir's genocidal campaign would have been spared.
A seemingly small decision, however expedient, set our nation on this course. Clinton thought he did the right thing. He faced criticism for chasing a Phantom Menace throughout his presidency. The political climate would only allow for so much. Leadership requires unbridled courage. The unintended consequence for leaving Somalia, allowing Bin Laden to stay in Sudan, and Bashir to operate with impunity led to more than just American suffering. Two million Darfuris in Sudan were slaughtered because of their race. Somalia remains a hotbed of terrorism, with al-Shabaab headquarters in the heart of a nation we abandoned.
The president took an oath. He shoulders an immense burden and deserves prayers and encouragement when he does the right thing. The president has a choice, every day. He can be worthy of the office, honor the legacy left by George Washington. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or he can continue to embrace moral relativism and look away as America's economy hangs in the balance. The lessons are there.
Every one of us has a responsibility to remind the president and the U.S. Congress of their sworn duty. The oath isn't about political allegiance, it is about upholding the Constitution. They must be reminded we expect them to do the right thing, not the expedient thing. We expect them to make history worthy of our founding documents. As just one person, one citizen, one vote, I have chosen to dedicate the next 40 days to President Obama and our Congressional leaders. I will exercise my voice through a hunger strike beginning today and ending as my 40th birthday dawns on June 30th.
Leadership requires courage, not shortsighted partisanship. Diplomacy, smart investment strategy and deliberative military policies are the tools of State. Use them wisely and there will be liberty and justice for all.
This post has been updated to include the South Sudanese and Sudanese killed during the Darfur Genocide, for which President Omar al Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court.