Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 1, 2011

New Generations Aspiring to Greatness

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS,Events,Futures — by Mark Chubb on June 1, 2011

Stock and commodity markets reacted negatively today to news that sluggish private sector hiring, slipping domestic manufacturing and sliding Greek sovereign debt ratings. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans met with President Obama to discuss legislation to raise the debt ceiling following a show-vote on Tuesday meant to signal their resistance to any measure that fails to herald a new era of fiscal discipline in Washington. (Which, it should be noted, they regard primarily, if not solely, as cuts to domestic discretionary spending and entitlement programs.)

Although the economic situation in Germany and Japan are not much better than here in the United States (and some would argue much worse), the stories grabbing the biggest headlines in these countries are very different from those here at home. Indeed one might wonder whether the tables have now truly turned since the end of the Second World War.

Those Americans who worked to defeat the axis powers in World War II have come to be known as the Greatest Generation for their willingness both to make difficult decisions and to make significant sacrifices at home and on the battlefield for the sake of future generations. Their leadership benefited not only our generation, but those too of the nations they fought.

The turnabout decision this week by Germany to abandon nuclear power by 2022 and invest heavily in renewables with a target of supplying at least 80 percent of their domestic demand by 2050 reflects nothing short of a payback on our nation’s post-war investment in rebuilding war-ravaged Europe. Germany’s decision and the actions that must follow are no less ambitious than the mobilization of labor and capital required in the United States to supply the war effort 60 years ago. The German people will only succeed in reaching their goal through a combination of expanded capacity, technological innovation and significant reductions in demand through energy conservation and increased efficiency.

A segment of the population of that other great power of the war era has shown a different kind of foresight and fortitude that reflects a more personal sort of sacrifice. The lingering crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has fueled the loss of faith in the government and is now mobilizing a segment of Japanese society that one might assume has every right to sit back and wonder what happened to the country they helped build as the successors to the generation defeated by our grandparents. Instead, this generation of retirees and grandparents is volunteering to expose themselves to dangerous levels of radioactivity by helping cleanup the damaged nuclear reactors rather than leaving the job to younger workers who would be more likely to suffer the long-latent effects of such significant radiation exposures.

In both instances, the decisions and actions we see taking center-stage overseas reflect the sorts of values that made our forebears great. At the same time, their presence, even prominence in the news from abroad makes their absence from our own political debate that much more glaring and indeed worrying for our stability, stature, security and future prospects of success.

What sacrifices are we willing to make to maintain our greatness? How hard are we willing to work? How much would we pay to remain an exemplar of the can-do spirit for other nations to follow?

Judging by the crisis of confidence afflicting both the political and economic spheres, it seems the answers to these questions are “not so much.” Our crisis will continue, if not deepen, unless those who can start doing. Americans should not expect leadership of the sort displayed in Germany and Japan this week to come from politicians alone. As the examples of our former rivals aptly illustrate, we need leadership at every level of our society if we are to restore our greatness.

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Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 2, 2011 @ 11:33 am

Well Mark, I concur with you wholeheartily and I have been talking about the waning days of this great Republic that you, Phil, Chris, Bill, John and so many more all portray your love for our nation!

While Germany will lead a downsized ten (10) nation state and its fast deployment army into War with the ever powerful and political Vatican by its side as it challenges Islamic fundamentalists – this morning’s news other than the quite unusual tornado activity in New England was about a NY Congressman who took a picture if his underwear and croach and there ist appeared news reports verified on twitter!

The lust for power, the arrogance of Paulsen and “Mr. Barney” this “Goldman Sachs” administration, the incestuous applause of partisan politics which has more than gridlocked our country and so on and so forth, our days are numbered and I repeat what I said sl many times…pick up your Bible not the Qur’an as this is a Judelo-Christian based nation and read Daniel especially verse 35 and to the end of the Chapter.

I am in the international trading business spanning seven continents, why is it that all the vessels for the most part arfe enrfoute to China port! The Chinese have stockpiled enough of metals and foods, etc.to take care of themselves for many years!

Wake up America! My front porch flag is turned upside down to depict the distress We here on Main Street USA feel each day as the only “change” we see if the last few pennies saved and now our pockets emptied –

We are taking bets that soup lines will reappear —

Deval Patrick and Mitt Romney touting Massa Health and Massachusetts so much in trouble – the kid from Chicago, oh, yea, Barry et al, ya’know the wife who takes a bunch of gal pasl and her daughters to visit we still don’t know who in Spain much like we never found out what Jimmy Carter told the thugs behind closed doors, these Syrian thugs who kill thier own in the middle of the street – the First lady rather taking her daughter(s) to the Grand Canyon saving all the millions she spent abroad and teaching her kids about US history rather than the slavery stories We are all quite aware of – Oh, wait…there is my neighbor of -color- next door as he gets into his S-class Merecedes and well, I’d say, I would like to think slavery is in the past, however seeing the number of seniors having part-time jobs into their 80’s because they have not enough for the “good ‘ol beltway bandits” and their banker pals took it all!

Aspiring to greatness when the Chinese and India are graduating this month so, so many more engineers and young scientists and their naval fleet is stretching to our offshore and every order for coal and iron ore which comes by my desk for me to ship from S. Africa, Turkey and Brazil is loaded onto vessel enroute to China, not US port. All this and much more while partisan politics gridlocks America!

Wake up America!

Christopher Tingus

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 2, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

Japan and Germany on different historical courses. It will be interesting to view their divergent paths! Japan slowly spinning into the orbit of China! Germany already
dominating its solar system.

USA will with rest of W. Hemisphere be commodity provider to Eurasia!

Comment by Arnold Bogis

June 6, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

While I certainly do not disagree with the call for greater courage and leadership in our domestic political arena, I have to admit to disagreeing with the two examples held forth as models of leadership.

The vast majority of observers note that Germany’s nuclear decisions have been driven by pure politics than any sensible risk/benefit analysis. One does not go from reversing a nuclear shutdown plan to enforcing a nuclear shutdown ban (and still losing a long held province to anti-nuclear Greens) without earning the name “Frau Flip-Flop” for a reason. Germany got around 25% of its electricity from nuclear power, I believe, so that is not a particularly hard goal to meet. Especially as an affluent nation that can afford to pay for carbon offsets if it does not meet its short term goals.

In terms of the Japan story, while it is admirable for those retired engineers and scientists to volunteer their services, it is important to note that very few workers (if any) have been exposed to “dangerous” levels of radioactivity to this point–and it is likely to be less for those involved in the clean up. The leader of the group explained it best himself when rejecting the hero or even kamikaze references in saying that the slight increase in cancer risk would mean nothing to him or his fellow volunteers in the context of their expected life spans.

I gather greater solace in stories like the ones out of Massachusetts where one of the four victims of the tornado outbreak died protecting her teenage daughter in their bathtub. That is true bravery and leads me to believe that humans are naturally resilient everywhere, while the systems in which we live vary…

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