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Pat Buchanan - Bluster & bluff in the Baltic

"I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty alliance. ... Article 5 is crystal clear: An attack on one is an attack on all. So if ... you ever ask again, 'who'll come to help,' you'll know the answer — the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America."

That was Barack Obama in Tallinn, Estonia, last week, reissuing a U.S. war guarantee to the tiniest of the Baltic republics — which his Cold War predecessors would have regarded as certifiable madness.

From 1945 to 1989, no president would have dreamed of issuing a blank check for war in Eastern Europe. Our red line was in the heart of Germany. It said to Moscow: Cross the Elbe, and we fight. That red line was made credible by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops permanently stationed in West Germany.

Yet Truman did not use force to break the Berlin Blockade. Ike did not use force to save the Hungarian rebels. JFK fulminated, and observed, when the Wall went up. When Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact armies into Czechoslovakia, LBJ did nothing.

Why did these presidents not act? None believed there was any vital U.S. interest in Eastern Europe worth a war with Russia. And, truth be told, there was no vital interest there then, and there is no vital interest there now. If we would not risk war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Hungary or Czechoslovakia half a century ago, why would we risk it now over Estonia? Cold War presidents routinely issued captive nations resolutions, declaring our belief in the right of the peoples behind the Iron Curtain to be free. But no president regarded their liberation worthy of war.

What has changed? When did the independence of the Baltic republics, miraculous and welcome as it is, become so critical to us that if Russia intrudes into Estonia, we will treat it as an attack on our homeland?

In 1994, George Kennan called the expansion of NATO into the old Soviet bloc "a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions." Yet we not only brought into NATO all the Warsaw Pact nations, George W. Bush brought in the Baltic republics.

To see the folly of what we have done, consider Ukraine, which has been involved in a military and political collision with Russia ever since we colluded in the overthrow of its pro-Russian regime. As neocons cheered the ouster of the corrupt and incompetent, but democratically elected, Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin moved to secure and annex Crimea, and pro-Russian separatists sought to break away from Kiev and achieve independence or reunification with Russia.

A question arises: Why do not the pro-Russian separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk have the same right to secede from Ukraine, as Ukraine had to secede from the Soviet Union? And why is this quarrel any of America's business? Was it the business of Czar Alexander II when the 11 Southern states seceded from the Union and, then, West Virginia seceded from Virginia?

Under the new government of Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine sent its forces to the southeast to crush the separatists. They failed. Rising casualties and a separatist drive on the city of Mariupol have apparently persuaded Kiev to seek a ceasefire and peace.
Needless to say, those who celebrated the overthrow of the pro-Russian regime in Kiev are now apoplectic at Kiev's apparent defeat. Yet, on Sept. 5, the New York Times wrote, "The Americans have no illusion that Ukraine could ever prevail in a war with Russia."

That is realism. But if Ukraine's cause is militarily hopeless, what would be Estonia's chances in a clash with Moscow? Estonia has three percent of Ukraine's population and is less than one-tenth its size. If Moscow decided to take Estonia, it could do so in 48 hours.

And should Putin engage in so rash an act, what would NATO do? Would 28 NATO nations declare war and send troops? Would the United States declare war on Russia and conduct air strikes on Russian forces inside and outside Estonia? Would we send aircraft carriers into the Baltic Sea? Would we start a war with Russia that could lead to early use of tactical atomic weapons, devastating Estonia and causing massive deaths?

How would NATO save Estonia without destroying Estonia?

To eliminate second thoughts about our war guarantee to Estonia, some in Washington are calling for permanent U.S. bases and the stationing of U.S. troops in the Baltic states, so that any Russian incursion would lead to U.S. causalities and a definite clash with Russia.

Presumably this threat would deter Russia in perpetuity. But if it doesn't deter Putin, or if a future Russian ruler regards it as a bluff and chastises Estonia, what do we do then? Put the B-2s on alert and go to DEFCON-2, as we did in the Cuban missile crisis?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:30

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Sanborn — It's fall and many buyers are just getting started

There were 1,283 residential homes on the market as of 9/1/14 in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The average asking price was $587,950 with a median price point of $269,900. Last September 1, there were 1249 homes on the market with an average asking price of $498,590 and the median was $259,800. The current inventory level represents a 15.5 month supply of homes on the market.

Well, Labor Day has come and gone. It really feels different now. Downtown Meredith has gotten back to normal. You can actually drive down Route 3 or Route 25 into town without cursing the stop and go traffic (at least until the foliage season.) You could kind of hear the door slam behind the summer folks. The sudden decrease in cars mucking up the byways seems to create a vacuum and it always makes me feel like it's the end of the sales season... but it's not. There may be fewer people around this the time of year, but this is when many serious buyers are just getting started.

The following chart shows that in Belknap County over the past three years, the third quarter has the most closings. There is no doubt that some of these properties went pending in the beginning of the summer, which is what you would expect. However, the fourth quarter of the year has the second highest number of sales. September and October are always pretty strong sales months and then things slow down in the middle of November and through the holidays as people focus on more important and festive activities.

Sellers always ask when the best time is to sell their home. The answer is anytime as long as the property is priced right. Your home has to be on the market in order to sell it. There were 419 homes sold over the past three years in the first quarter of the year, many of which went pending during the holiday season. Who knows for sure, but some of these homes might not have been seen or sold at all if they weren't available when that particular buyer was looking.

So just because the throngs of flatlanders are gone right now, they could be sitting down there in flatland thinking that they'll come back up when it's quiet, sneak up on you, and buy your house. At least that what's we are hoping...

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 9/2/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 07:41

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Pat Buchanan - Has Hillary ever been right on foreign policy?

Sen. Rand Paul raises an interesting question:

When has Hillary Clinton ever been right on foreign policy?

The valkyrie of the Democratic Party says she urged President Obama to do more to aid Syrian rebels years ago. And last summer, she supported air strikes on Bashar Assad's regime.

Had we followed her advice and crippled Assad's army, ISIS might be in Damascus today, butchering Christians and Alawites and aiding the Islamic State in Iraq in overrunning Baghdad. But if the folly of attacking Assad's army and weakening its resistance to ISIS terrorists is apparent to everyone this summer, why were Clinton, Obama and Secretary of State Kerry oblivious to this reality just a year ago?

Consider the rest of Hillary's record. Her most crucial decision as Senator came in 2002 when she voted to invade Iraq. She now concedes it was the greatest mistake of her Senate career.

She voted against the surge in 2006, but confided to Defense Secretary Bob Gates that she did so to maintain her political viability for 2008.

This is statesmanship? Not voting your convictions about what is best for your country at war, so as not to antagonize the liberals in the Iowa caucuses?

In 2009, Hillary presented a "reset button" to Vladimir Putin's foreign minister. In 2011, she supported U.S. air strikes to bring down Col. Gadhafi and celebrated in Tripoli when he was overthrown and lynched. How did that work out? Libya is today a hellhole of murder and mayhem and Islamists are threatening a takeover. Who did Hillary think would rise when Gadhafi fell?

Hillary's failure to anticipate or prevent the Benghazi massacre and her role in the botched cover-up, all concede, are burdens she will carry into the primaries in 2016, should she run.

Where, then, has Hillary exhibited the acumen to suggest she would be a wise and savvy steward of U.S. foreign policy in a disintegrating world?

Is this a convincing argument for the Republican alternative? Hardly. The principal GOP voices on foreign policy, who get more airtime than Wolf Blitzer, are John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Their track record: McCain wanted to confront Putin over South Ossetia. He and Graham wanted to arm Ukrainians to fight the Russians in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk. They wanted Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia brought into NATO, so that if war were to break out, we would be fighting the Russians alongside them.

This year, Graham was trolling around a Senate resolution to give Obama a blank check to attack Iran. Last year, McCain and Graham were for attacking Assad's army. This year they are for bombing ISIS, which is attacking Assad's army.

But if Hillary, McCain and Graham have been repeatedly wrong about Syria, what do we now? Answer: Stop and think.

First, this war in Syria and Iraq, like all such wars, is eventually going to be won by soldiers, by boots on the ground, by troops who can take and hold territory. And in such wars, as Napoleon said, God is on the side of the big battalions.

America should declare to friends and allies in the Middle East, as Nixon did to our friends and allies in Asia in the Guam Doctrine of 1969, that while we will stand with them when they are attacked, they, not we, will provide the soldiers for their own defense.

No nation is less threatened by ISIS than ours. And as the Syrians, Turks, Kurds and Iraqis have the proximity and manpower to defeat ISIS, they should do this job themselves.

Turkey shares a 550-mile border with Syria and could march in and crush ISIS. But if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wishes to play games with ISIS, out of hatred of Assad, let him and the Turks live with the consequences.

As for Syria's army and regime, which either defeats ISIS or dies, let us cease impeding their efforts by backing a Free Syrian Army that has rarely won a battle and is only bleeding the Syrian army.

Kurdistan and its ethnic cousins in Syria, Turkey and Iran are capable of defending themselves, and we should encourage any nation, including Iran, that is willing to send them the weapons to fight ISIS.

As for Baghdad, if it wants its Sunni lands back, it either should fight for them or accept their loss. We Americans are living today with the consequences, in considerable losses of blood and treasure, of fighting other people's wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Yet, we are suffering not at all from having kept out of other people's wars — in Georgia, Crimea, Donetsk, Syria and Iran.

Speaking of the debate over U.S. air strikes in Syria, the New York Times writes, "There are too many unanswered questions to make that decision now, and there has been far too little public discussion for Mr. Obama to expect Americans to rally behind what could be another costly military commitment."

Sometimes the Times gets it right.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 04:22

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Froma Harrop - The 'Spiral of Silence'

With folks yapping all day on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the rest — how can there be such a thing as a "spiral of silence" online?

Easy. Just make the experience of online political debate so disjointed, impersonal and unpleasant that people shut themselves up. Or they hide out in groupings where everyone says much the same thing. In that case, what they're doing is cheerleading, not debating.

The "spiral of silence" is a theory that people hesitate to say things they believe others in their group won't agree with. It predates the Internet age.

Let me add that the "spiral of silence" disproportionately affects the shy, the thoughtful and the female.

Social media were supposed to free these cooped-up opinions by offering new venues for speaking one's piece. But this high-minded promise of a vast online town hall for pensive argument has fallen flat, according to a new report by Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.

If anything, people seem less willing to engage in real back-and-forth about public affairs on websites than they are in old-fashioned personal settings, the researchers found.

We're talking about politics here, not hiking trips, kitchen renovations and dog adoptions. And the politics we're talking about is not a rally for Sen. Foghorn — the sort of thing that works well online — but a real hashing out of political differences.

To find out how the public ranks social media as a place for political debate, the researchers asked questions about Edward Snowden's leaks of the National Security Agency's operations. They used this issue because polls found the public fairly divided on the subject.

Only 16 percent of respondents who use Facebook said they'd discuss it there. And only 14 percent of those on Twitter said they'd talk about it on Twitter.

But 40 percent said they'd be willing to debate the matter at a family dinner table and 32 percent at a restaurant with friends.

Why aren't we doing more political interchange online? For starters, the Web fragments us into bands of the like-minded. People with minority views can huddle with others holding the same views, making them feel safer, part of a majority.
Further, online interaction is notoriously devoid of restraints on anti-social behavior — doubly so when creeps hide behind fake identities or go anonymous. Not everyone can laugh at "You are an idiot." And for the vulnerable, squads of lowlife trolls can multiply the hurt.

Here's another possible reason for social media's poor showing as a stage for political debate. How can anyone engage in a serious discussion on Facebook with videos of goats nuzzling monkeys cluttering the feeds, alongside pix of weddings and kayaks?

As for Twitter, how can anything more complicated than the temperature in Chicago be discussed in 140 characters or fewer? What passes on Twitter for political debate is often a battle of links. People offer a link to a longer article or post and then add only a handful of their own words, such as "I agree" or "This guy is right" or "You're wrong, read this."

According to the Pew-Rutgers report, people weren't even using social media for basic information about the Snowden-NSA conflict. Almost 60 percent said that television/radio was one of their sources. Some 34 percent said they used online sources other than social media — mainly the sites of mainstream news organizations, I bet. Only 15 percent sought knowledge on the issue through Facebook, and a mere 3 percent used Twitter.

It all sounds paradoxical, but here we have it: Noise only increases the silence on things that matter to our society.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - Martyrdom . . .

A few days ago, while riding in the car, my wife turned to me and said that she had a dream in which she stood up in church and asked the congregation how many would be willing to die, rather than deny their Christian faith. Her dream had been incited by recent news events that reported on Christians and people of other non-Islamic faiths, being told to convert, or to be killed . . . possibly beheaded. Her question was serious, as would be the answers.

As we remotely watch the horrors of war spread across our big screen TV's, we see Christian churches being burned and parishioners of those churches fleeing for their lives or being killed. We watch as symbols of the Christian faith are demolished and piled on a heap of rubble. Pleas for peaceful resolutions to never ending animosities and intolerance are ignored. The Pope appeals for peace but acknowledges that it may take a "just war" to curb the ever increasing carnage. In doing so, he asks that the "just war" be limited to solving the problems at hand and not to be reciprocal in our cause.

In a speech to CEO's of multi-national companies, Herbert Meyer, a senior intelligence advisor to President Ronald Reagan, regarding the Islamic world, said, ". . . . We're trying to jolt them from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once, which may be further than they can go." That statement's validity is visible as we watch what is happening in the Middle East and is spreading throughout the world. Islamic Tribalism is in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq, and is spreading rapidly throughout Africa. Many European countries are seeing their immigrant Muslim populations swell as they overwhelmingly out-birth the native populations of their host countries. Some, like England, seem to be caving in, ceding to the wishes of their immigrants rather than having the immigrants adapt to the British rule of law.

The west has built armies and navies, and has immense air power . . . all designed to fight large scale wars in accordance with the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention. However, those enormous war-making capabilities may not be the most effective way to deal with terrorism, or guerrilla warfare. The terrorist or guerrilla does not wear a uniform, does not march in lock step in a parade, cares not about the Geneva Convention, does not value life, and is willing to sacrifice a child by turning him or her into a bomb to be guided into a crowd of non-Islamic innocents. Radical Islamists only have one mission, to conquer the world and to enslave or kill all those who do not convert to Islam. They are willing to die in their effort to make that happen. As Islamists spread throughout the western world their mission spreads with them. In the time yet to come, it may not be a terrorist from Afghanistan or Iraq who poses the question convert or die, it may be someone from a neighboring town, or a co-worker, or your next door neighbor.

Will that prospect effectively "terrorize" our population? Will trust and harmony be eschewed in favor of protection of self and family? Will mob rule replace the rule of law? Instead of the west doing what Herbert Meyer said, ". . . trying to jolt them from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once . . .", will it be that it is they who take us back to the tribalism of the seventh century?

Part of our problem may well be that we are trying to use "faculty lounge" reasoning with non-professorial types. Our leaders say things like, "That is not the way things are done in the 21st century, either forgetting or being unaware that the radicals are not of this century . . . they see freedom as evil and believe human rights are confined to Sharia law. They are committed to their mission and it is with that with which we have to deal.

Sadly, many of our citizens are in denial. They believe what is happening in the middle east does not threaten our country. Often overlooked is that we are in a global economy and events elsewhere can have an impact on us, economically and otherwise. Russia, for example, has retaliated to sanctions we have imposed on them by banning our poultry products from being shipped into that country. That ban may have a devastating impact on that section of our economy. Further, we restrict our oil exploration while the Middle East is in flames, jeopardizing future imports of oil from that region and, of course, at higher cost. While that is happening, Russia, Europe's largest supplier of oil and natural gas, is making nice with Middle Eastern countries, knowing that their cooperative efforts can essentially put Europe and some of the United States into a deep freeze.

That brings us back to my wife's question . . . would Christians, or those of other non-Islamic beliefs, be willing to die rather than deny their faith? Would you be willing to die? They are!

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 01 September 2014 04:39

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