SNAPSHOT OF THE ERA (from my humble point of view)
Writer’s Note: Like many of us, some of my focus is being drawn to international and domestic issues, so I’m changing tack in this one article. My blog has been primarily for personal development and home business but also leadership development.
There’s so much turmoil in leadership at large but all I can do is begin by submitting a humble perspective, a reflection on events of 25-40 years ago in US history. This is written reminiscently with a sampling of economic, military, and political events – mainly from the viewpoint of the young man I once was joining the military after graduating from high school, a time when I became aware of weakness in central leadership and its effect on a nation.
The general advice to business people branding themselves is to keep your hand off such hot topics like politics, religion and sex, but when it’s possible that the current trend of political subterfuge will ultimately effect your liberty to conduct business with the freedom you have believed was your Right as an citizen of the United States, then categorical avoidance of the subject is at your own peril.
Here are a few grains of thoughts just to wet your whistle…
ENDING OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN THE VIETNAM WAR
As a nation we were making a rapid turn around from the Dazed and Confused 1970’s, producing for us the iconic image of the last helicopter shuttle evacuating U.S. employees off a rooftop in Saigon. The void of power and leadership from withdrawing of direct U.S. military involvement after 1973 resulted in the overtaking of South Vietnam by the forces of communist-North Vietnam. The southern capitol, Saigon, falls in 1975.
The 1970’s was a period that culminated in President Carter’s (amazingly, a former submarine officer, bless him) well-intentioned but tepid leadership. The economy was suffering from skyrocketing inflation, and an oil crisis, resulting gas rationing, in “A” and “B” days, and tougher going for the masses except for the young who didn’t know any better.
IRANIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS
In late 1979, everyday Americans were introduced to a new threat. Iran, under the theocratic rule of Islamic extremists, had taken 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, an ordeal that dragged on for 444 days, during which time America was hemorrhaging credibility as a superpower.
The disaster of a rescue attempt by US military special operations resulted in downed aircraft and dead servicemen on the desert floor in an aborted rescue mission. The failure was particularly tragic and another strike against already fragile American pride. There seemed to be serious lack of stalwart leadership. The nation felt like it was losing its bearings… losing its will.
THE REAGAN ERA
Then came the Reagan-Era, a glorious time to be in the Cold-War military, that is, if one could survive the crackdown on drug use that had permeated the Armed Forces and society since the American cultural revolution of the 1960’s and the Vietnam era.
Remember “Just Say No”? It was the slogan of First Lady Nancy Reagan for the campaign against drug use and other illicit activity.
Although President Reagan didn’t quite fulfill his campaign promise of a 600-ship navy, we came close. The United States of America ruled the waves and the air. Our fleet size now (Fall 2014) is under 300. While technologically superior, we need to consider the technological advantage the Germans had at the beginning of World War II and consider if being technologically superior is an adequate justification for force reduction. Moreover, effective superpower diplomacy relies on a nation’s ability to stand behind it’s claims and support its interests, with the backing of its military strength.
In 1983, U.S. stopped a Cuban backed Marxist takeover of the island of Grenada, which included the rescue of Americans held hostage at a medical university. The clear victory for the combined U.S. Forces, of which the main body was the Army’s fabled 82nd Airborne Division, was a much needed boost to the morale of the military which had suffered so much bad press for so many years past.
END OF THE COLD WAR… The First One
Amazingly, the 1980’s was the last decade of the post WWII Cold War when America and her NATO allies could claim a victory. After several decades of darkness behind the Iron Curtain, little could the average person imagine, the Soviet Union would collapse, ostensively, due in large part to a revamped U.S. economy that supported a resurgence of the military under President Reagan’s charismatic leadership, strong anti-Communist policies and advances in the so-called “Star Wars” weapons technology.
The Iron Curtain, the once impenetrable fortress border, which claimed the lives of many who sought freedom from Soviet totalitarianism, came tumbling down in late 1989.
It should be noted by current American strategists that the Soviets had suffered a protracted war in Afghanistan (1978-1992) in an attempt at expansionism and securing of regional resources, but the failure against U.S.-backed indigenous forces resisted and ensured the failure of the Soviet effort.
So what’s the point of glancing back at the past?
Besides entertaining you with a few recollections of the past, it’s possible you can see cycles of leadership and national mindset as they play out on national and international stages. The political composition of the institutions are different from the 1970s, and I see an extreme void in leadership in today’s landscape.
The current condition is exacerbated by a lack of accountability normally produced not only by checks and balances of the three arms of the federal government but also mainstream journalist. After World War II, many of the people who worked in media had combat experience and a real world viewpoint; moreover, many were survivors of the Great Depression and a time when people were not weakened by a sense of entitlement. This is a trend that has long since given way to ideologues and opportunists throughout government who appear to lack either integrity, courage or influence to keep government accountable for their wanton fraud, waste and abuse of power. This is an awfully dangerous state of affairs without accountability.
There is an old adage in politics that there are no such things as coincidences, the question is: “Who is watching the watchmen?”
As Benjamin Franklin responded to someone who asked what form of government the Founders hammered out, “You have a Constitutional Republic, if you can keep it.”
What do you think? As a country how do we stack up compared to before and are we in for a turn around in international influence and leadership? Why or why not?
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