Liam at 16 months

I cannot believe you are already 16 months old! Here are some of my favorite things about you lately:

– The way you bring us books to read to you. You will sit in our lap for a good 20 minutes and we will just flip through books.

– You randomly come up to me and give me a hug, melts my heart. You are my snuggle bug.

– Sometimes when you are hugging me or while I am holding you, you pat my arm or my back. Adorable.

– You love to pull/push toys all around the house.

– The way you say iPad, you shake your head up and down when you say it.

– You are trying to repeat a lot of the words we say. Here is what you can say so far: iPad, Mama, Dada, bye-bye, Abuelo, Abuela, Don, done, down, Calliou, “whoo” like the owl, “wow-wow” like the dog, WOW, Uh-Oh, agua, caca, and “No” (but you never say it just once…it’s always “no no no no”). You sign for more, all done, and eat.

– Along those lines, you are constantly babbling…no one really knows what you are saying but I love to hear you “speak” all the same!

– You could live outside. You love exploring and picking things up from the ground.

– The way you dance when you hear music. You recently added twirling to your dance routine. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing. If you hear a beat that you fancy you will start to dance.

– The way you try to snap.

– The way you try to wink, you basically blink your long beautiful eyelashes.

– I put up these fabric alphabet letters on the playroom wall and we have an elephant that sings the alphabet. We often turn on the elephant and point to the letters as we sing the alphabet song. You have started to point to each letter as we sing together. You are so smart.

– I love the way you walk around with one of your lovie’s in your mouth. We have Elly the Elephant, Barry the Bear, and Ralphy the Dog. They smell so badly, it doesn’t matter how often I wash them- they stink! But, you absolutely love them and know where one of them is at all times.

– You give us besos and blow us kisses. I cherish each and every one.

– I love watching you play with Max and Luna. You love it when they run around, you try to run after them and throw them their toys.

– Hearing you laugh. I can’t help but smile.

– Hearing you call my name. You know who I am and want to be with me. This brings me so much joy because I love being with you, you fill my days with so much happiness. I love being your Mommy.

Love Always,




Filed under Liam, Parenthood/Pregnancy

MORE Change is in the Air!!


Change is inevitable. I know this by now, but it does not make it any easier. Our family is in the midst of experiencing several great changes. I find myself feeling very anxious and nervous most days anticipating all the things to come even though they are GOOD changes.

Change number one: Becoming a family of four.  As of this past Thursday, Liam is 15 months old. As of this past Friday I am 36 weeks pregnant and per my OB’s exam could deliver anytime. I am anxious about being a mother of two who are so small. I try to think of how I will logistically feed Sofia every two to three hours and follow our little explorer around the house. I try to imagine taking care of a newborn and a very active toddler on very little sleep. (If you know me at all, you know I desperately NEED my sleep and have a pretty big love affair with our comfy bed). I wonder where I will find the patience, the love, the grace, the creativity and energy day-to-day to be the mother our children deserve. I wonder how this change will affect Liam. I fear the worst. I want Liam to be happy and I am afraid I will not be able to give him the attention he deserves. I worry that Sofia won’t get the time Liam did and will be behind. I know how silly all of these fears sound. Millions of women have raised successful, brilliant children under much more difficult circumstances. On that note I am extremely anxious about Sofia’s birth. I delivered Liam in 8 hours with  no medication of any kind. I was nervous before his delivery mostly because of the unknown. This time around I KNOW what the pain feels like. Let me tell ya, knowing is much worse. I feel as though for me and our children having a natural childbirth is the best. I am not going to lie, there is also a bit of a pride issue with me wanting to deliver our children sans medication. After all, for years I have taught that this way of childbirth is optimal, what kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t do this myself? When I was in labor with Liam I honestly thought I would die from the pain. I didn’t think anyone could survive such agony. It was worth it in the end. But those who say you forget must be CRAZY! I will never forget the pain of childbirth. EVER. The imminent arrival of our little girl brings back those memories ten fold. I honestly get sick and begin to shake thinking of it all. I will say, after it is all said and done I know it is worth it. It is truly amazing how God orchestrates the entire labor and delivery process and I am so blessed to be able to experience life at it’s best.

Change number two: Mason is getting out of the Air Force sometime in January. We will not be 100% sure until the end of November but supposedly it is basically a done deal. For six years now (ever since I met Mason) we’ve had this 9 year commitment to the AF hanging over us. We have felt as  though our lives couldn’t truly start until we were out of the Air Force. We had no real illusions of being released when Mason filled out the paperwork for an early exit. We had originally heard he was not granted an early release. My mind shifted from the small glimmer of hope to making the best out of the situation God had given us. Eleven days after the original news we were in awe and shock when Mason’s commander told him that his request had been appealed. In a sense, Mason’s life will be the one that changes the most, his work life anyways. He will finally be able to practice medicine the way he thinks is best without the bureaucracy of the AF. I think he will be happier. There are a lot of little things in the AF that  have been frustrating for ME and I am not the one dealing day in and day out with it all. Obviously, Mason has to find a job now! Please pray with us about this situation. Today is November 23rd (and I am now 38 weeks pregnant) and we are still awaiting Sofia’s arrival. Normally we wouldn’t want to rush her arrival but Mason desperately needs to begin interviewing at the different prospects. Between interviewing, making a decision, hiring process then credentialing it could take a while – all of this during the holiday season which makes everything slower. I pray for wisdom for Mason as he interviews and as he/we decide which option is best for our family. We are incredibly blessed that Mason has a career where he has absolutely no problem finding a job. We haven’t found the ideal (ie, a hospital IN Nashville) but there are several good options on the outskirts of Nashville.

Change number three: MOVING!!  As “fate” would have it, we are finally settled in this beautiful home in Destin. We have made some good friends, found a church and I’ve gotten involved in MOPS. If you read my last post about change you will not be shocked with what I am about to say. We are trying to move to the Nashville area.  Most everyone knows our hearts stayed in NYC when we left. New York simply feels like home to Mason and me. BUT we feel as though right now the best decision for our family is to stay close to our parents. With such young children I, especially, feel as though I could use the help and support of family. We have not given up on our dream to move back to The City, we are simply postponing it for a few years. We truly feel as though God has orchestrated all of these events in our lives. He has given us an overwhelming peace that can only come from Him.

Well, some of these changes have finally happened. I gave  birth to our sweet Sofia a week ago today. In a nutshell her birth was nothing of what we thought it would be. It was much more difficult than any of us thought it would be. But, in the end, Sofia and I are both healthy and happy! I will write more later, but for now I will leave you with a few pictures.





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Change is in the Air

Most of you know that I am a missionaries’ kid. As such I am accustomed to change. We moved from Spain to the States and back to Spain several times. We moved to a lot of different towns within Spain as well. The last time I counted in my THIRTY years of life (yikes!) I have lived in twenty-seven or so homes. I’m sure the number is higher now. And being as though I am married to a surgeon who is in the Air Force that number is simply going to continue to climb for a while. That’s ok, I feel claustrophobic after a while, I get a deep yearning for change. I’m not sure what I would do with myself if I knew there were no more moves in my future.

Through all the homes, towns/cities, friends,changes in relationship status, jobs, hair colors, phases, etc the one thing that has remained constant in the past thirty years are my parents.  I have ALWAYS been able to count on them for anything-day or night. For the most part they have gone through all my biggest changes with me. Now it’s their turn. For the first time they are leaving Spain (with no plans to return), the place they started their first church, the place they raised their children, the place they met their first grandchild. Spain is where they grew up together as a couple in many ways. This is a huge turning point for us as an entire family. I’m not sure I ever believed this time would come. Spain is “home” and my parents have always been “home.” I can’t decide if this blog is going to be more about my feelings about their move or how I imagine it must be for them. It will be some of both, I suppose.

My parents are amazing parents, grandparents and have become best of friends to me. Selfishly, this move is a gift from God. Instead of being 4,579 miles away (yes, I googled that) they will only be 447 miles north of us in Nashville, TN. I wish they were only 4 miles away, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!! I have said this before and I will say it again, as I get older I feel more of a need for my parents. More importantly, I WANT them near. I can obviously live my life without them right here, but life is simply more enjoyable when shared with two of my favorite people. I look forward to being able to call my parents up and not count seven hours ahead every time to figure out what time it is there. I look forward to texting them. I look forward to them seeing Liam and, soon-to-be-arriving Sofia more often. I look forward to being only a SHORT plane ride away or a day’s car ride away from quality time with them. I look forward to celebrating more holidays and special occasions together. There are a ton of things I look forward to – one being the day we live in the same town!!!

On the other hand, I am sad that they are moving back. Mostly because of my brother and his three children. I think it will be a huge change for them. Every time I am around our nephews and niece and they see my parents they yell “ABUELOS!!!” and seem really excited to be with them. Their entire lives they have had them close by. I have only known Spain with my parents there. It is the same for my brother. Spain without my parents must be an odd place. Now that they are moving back we will not be visiting Spain as much. We will still go to see M,B,A,C & D of course, but it won’t be the same. This is sad to me. I will miss Spain and I will miss Spain without my parents – it simply will not be the same. I almost feel as though I am leaving home all over again. There is a sadness amidst the happiness.

It will also be difficult on all the people my parents have touched in their thirty years. I don’t think they realized how deeply they have impacted people until now. We tend to take people for granted on a day to day basis but when our day to day is threatened by change you re-evaluate the value of those around you. I think those around my parents are experiencing this and vice versa.

Change is never easy but when this change entails moving your ENTIRE life across the ocean and saying goodbye to thirty years of memories it makes it seem almost impossible. I know God has a reason for this move and He will be guiding them and holding their hands throughout this entire process. I pray they feel His presence at every step of this journey.

Mama y Papa, I love you both so much and we are here for you and praying for you always!



Filed under Liam, Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Parenthood/Pregnancy

In Just One Year

Dearest Liam,

Today we had your very first birthday party! You are a big ONE year old. I am so very proud of you. As I type this I have home videos playing of the day you were born, your first car ride, your first walk, your first bath. It brings tears to my eyes. So much has changed in just one year. I never knew it was possible to love someone unconditionally until you came along. I never knew what it was like to want to give of myself completely to another being until you were born. I never realized how lacking I am in so many areas and how I want to be a better person in every way until I met you. I could have never imagined watching my heart walk this earth (outside of my body) until you were given to us. You have been such a blessing and a gift in so many ways.

I know I have already made so many mistakes and I am sure I will make many more. I am sorry honey. Please know I am trying to improve as your Mommy and as a human being because of YOU. You deserve the best and I am trying to be that for you. I pray that you will forgive me for my short comings and love me despite my faults.

Here are some of the highlights of this past year for me:

– The moment I laid eyes on you for the first time. This was a life changing event.

– Breastfeeding, I loved the bond and closeness that it brought.

– Watching you smile for the first time, the sixth time, the one hundredth time…your perfect smile lights my world.

– Hearing you laugh. Every time I hear you laugh I can’t help but laugh myself.

– Watching you sleep. In the beginning it was like a miracle when you slept so I would cherish those moments and run off to nap myself. Now you are a great sleeper and I love the peacefulness that I see when you lie in your crib dreaming sweet dreams.

– Experiencing all your “firsts”. You have grown from a tiny newborn to a fun and curious toddler.  Not every step has been easy but I will cherish each and every one.

– Seeing the world through your eyes. Everything seems to intrigue you.

– Reading books with you.

– Watching you play and love on your amazing Daddy. (You really do have the best Daddy in the world. He is wonderful in every way and we are beyond blessed to have him. I know one day you will look up to him and respect him like I do.)

Liam, there are so many other things that I love about you and that I will carry in my heart always. I am so thankful to be your Mama! I look forward to waking up to your sweet and smiling face every morning. And to giving you kisses and snuggles before every bedtime. And to all the fun in between. You are my personal gift from our Heavenly Father and I hope that I will be able to show you this in a real and tangible way.



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Dearest Baby M2

Baby Girl,

What a surprise you have been to us in every way! We already love you so much and are so thankful for you. One day you will probably hear  how shocked I was to find out that you were growing inside of me. You will also probably hear that I was a little sad. Baby Girl, this had nothing to do with you and everything to do with your silly Mommy. I was/am scared that I won’t be as good as a mommy as you and your brother deserve. I am terrified that you and Liam will not feel loved enough or have enough “Mommy time”. In my perfect plan you were due to arrive a year or two later. But you came at a much better time. You came in God’s perfect timing.

You also shocked us by being a girl! Daddy and I really wanted you to be a little girl but we had convinced ourselves that you were a boy. We were going to name you Lucas. When Dr. Esses did the ultrasound and told us you were a GIRL I just kept saying “WHAT?!??!? REALLY?!? NO WAY!”  I still can’t believe that I get to be a mommy to you, my precious little girl. I think I might not completely believe it until I hold you in my arms!

I am twenty weeks pregnant with you and time is flying by until the day we get to meet you. I find myself dreaming of you and what  you will be like on a daily basis. I daydream of all the fun girly things we are going to be able to do together. I hope we can be as close as I am to Abuela. I pray for you. I pray that you will see how precious and perfect you are. I pray that  you will see yourself in God’s eyes.

Honey, you are so blessed because you have the BEST Daddy in the entire world. Your Daddy treats me better than any woman could ever dream of. I really hope and pray that you will find a husband exactly like your Father, but I feel as though it will be hard. He is so uniquely wonderful. You will be spoiled by seeing how amazingly he treats me and us. You deserve someone like him though, I pray you wait patiently for whomever God has for you.

Your big brother is so much fun! I know he is going to make you laugh a lot. He is a good snuggle bug too!  I really hope you two are really close and truly enjoy each others company. I know there will be times when you get on each others nerves but I pray that at the end of the day you realize there is nothing in this world like family.

I am planning your room and having so much fun all along the way. I love looking at all the girl bedding and baby clothes. It really is so much fun. I hope I don’t go overboard! I cannot wait to have your nursery together! I know you probably won’t remember your first room but I want you to know that we put a lot of effort it to making it perfect for you. We have many years of planning your rooms and clothes together-how much fun!

Well, I guess that is all for now. I am sorry if I don’t write much but know that I think about you everyday. Our family is going to have so much fun together. You were perfectly placed in this family and I love you always, Mama.

Our first unofficial family picture!



Filed under Liam, Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Parenthood/Pregnancy

Unfriendly Skies

Imagine, for a moment, that a hotel requires you to pay your bill in full for your entire stay before you arrive. When you arrive, you are greeted by a surly bellman who whisks away your luggage, but not before charging you $20 up front for this chore. You make it to the front desk, where a clerk who, despite her nametag that reads 10 years of service, acts with utterly confused cluelessness, as if you are the very first guest she’s ever assisted. After a cacophony of keystrokes on the computer, she informs you that your room is not ready and won’t be for hours. The reason? A maid from another hotel in the chain is delayed by bad weather outside and won’t be able to clean your room for several more hours.

You wait in the lobby. No refreshments are offered and no refund is even hinted. Several hours after the initial delay, you overhear the busily confused clerk mention to another employee that the rooms won’t be ready for several more hours due to problems with the beds. She doesn’t mention this to you or anyone else. You approach her to get clarification and an update on the room availability, but she claims that she has no new information. At this point you are tired and hungry, and around you babies cry and someone with a foul smelling odor grumbles incessantly. You are frustrated, and call the hotel’s customer service hotline. They don’t offer so much as an apology, and blame the entire problem on the weather.

At long last, the hotel clerk makes an announcement that your room will be ready in an hour. Two hours later, you are told you can head up to your room. You make it up to find that the bed is lumpy and uncomfortable, there is trash tucked away in a corner, and the toilet doesn’t flush. You inform housekeeping, but they tell you the toilet is broken and you’ll have to either wait or use one down the hall. Too exhausted to be angry, you collapse on the bed, which subsequently collapses beneath you. Again, too tired and hungry to care, you call for room service, but they inform you they only offer a can of soda and maybe a few crackers – for everything else there is a fee, and you must pay with cash, preferably exact change. Oh, and your luggage. When you call the bell desk they tell you it is lost and won’t be back until morning. No apology, no offer of a refund of your $20, just a cold statement that it will arrive in the morning. No consideration is given to a refund or future travel voucher for your horrible experience.

Ok, enough of the hotel metaphor. You get the point right? If any industry other than the airline industry charged you exorbitant fees in advance, proceeded to deliver pathetic service, and then treated you like an steaming pile of dung you would be shocked and outraged. You would demand an apology, write negative reviews on Tripadvisor,, and any other site where your could express your immense displeasure. Yet how many of you reading this have had a similar experience with an airline? How many of you have had a similar experience on multiple occasions? How many of you have that experience most times you fly these days? And how many of you, for all your problems, ever get offered a discount, refund, or even a simple heartfelt apology? I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between zero and “Hell no!” For Melissa and I airline travel is a nausea-inducing ordeal, an exercise in futility and a consumer rape of epic proportions. We expect to experience delays, be treated with the utmost disrespect by the staff, and have some sort of problem during the course of travel. All at too-high prices and without even consideration of a refund or discount. Ah, the joys of flying.

Recently the U.S. Department of Transportation released its annual report on airline performance. In what should be the least surprising statistic of the year, consumer complaints about the airlines were up 28% in 2010. The reason complaints were up by such a significant amount is very simple and needs little analysis: it doesn’t take a genius to see that, collectively, the airlines suck. While objective performance measures (punctuality, baggage handling) were slightly improved, customer satisfaction was down, as consistent incompetence worsens with every trip the airport.

Predictably, airlines blame bad weather, overcrowded planes and airports, and a shortage of runways across the country for the increase in consumer discontent. But what they fail to realize is that continuing to pass the blame and consistently shirking responsibility for their poor performance only catalyzes customer frustration. The airlines, ostensibly a transportation and service industry, are wholly unique in their ability to bilk passengers and simultaneously piss them off with impunity. Costs are rising and traditionally free services – such as baggage handling – now carry significant charge. Yet as prices rise and the miserly nickel & dime fleecing propagates, the quality of customer service plummets, as does even basic competence amongst airline employees. No other industry – particularly a service industry – can claim to raise prices and take a collective dump on its patrons while decreasing quality of services rendered. Hence the increasing consumer angst.

Above and beyond abject scorn and non-existent customer service, the worst part about the airlines is their unabashed incompetence. Tasks that should take 10 minutes end up taking 30; workers don’t know (or care) what the airline or airport policy is; policies on pets and infants vary from flight to flight. No one seems to have any idea how to do their specific job. All of that is infuriating, but the number and frequency of mechanical problems is downright scary. On a recent flight from Atlanta back to Fort Walton, all three flights on that route had “mechanical problems” that led to delays of at least 2 hours for each flight. Certainly strange things happen and the occasional glitches can occur, but if 3 flights to the same small airport all have problems in the same night, either the airline is lying about the problem or the mechanics are incompetent. Both scenarios only increase resentment for the airlines.

Managing a single model airplane is too much for Delta's half-wit CEO.

The airline that received the most complaints in the DOT report was Delta Airlines. Again, does that surprise anyone? Delta is horribly managed in every phase of operations and support. They are rarely on time – “Doubtful Ever Leaves The Airport” – and customer service is absolutely non-existent. The sheer magnitude and degree of incompetence at every level never ceases to amaze. The worst thing you can see on your airline itinerary is Delta ATL connection. Delta’s CEO, Richard H. Anderson, raked in $8.3 million in compensation last year. For those of you keeping score, that makes him the highest paid airline CEO and places him 394th on Forbes’ executive ranking. So what if his airline received more complaints than any other airline – by a significant margin – in 2010. And don’t mind the fact that Delta has lost money eight of the last ten years, including $1.2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a b)  last year. But who’s counting, right? The truth is Richard Anderson – like most other airline CEOs – is a colossal douchebag, a meat-head of epic proportions, a charlatan, thief, and glowworm.

Incontrovertible proof of Delta's suckage.

Cool gig, being CEO of Delta: giving a perpetual middle finger to your customers and putting the company billions in the hole while raking in a nice $8.4 million. Must be nice making that kind of dough so he doesn’t have to fly a crappy airline like Delta.

Ultimately airlines are the only industry I know of that get away with overcharging and performing horribly. Punctuality isn’t a priority, the planes are often dirty and poorly maintained, the customer service ranges from terrible to non-existent, and concerns over basic safety continue to rise, illustrated by the cracked fuselage on a Southwest flight last week. I’m not a big fan of government regulation and am all for privatizing industry, but at this point the airlines can’t get any worse. I’m in favor of refusing them future bail outs, allowing them to fail, and then just starting over. The status quo cannot continue.

If the airlines go back to basics, design sensible schedules, and starting caring about their customers they can regain our trust. Until then we will anticipate flying with absolute dread rather than excitement.



Filed under Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Travel

The Dream Ticket

Marcus Tullius Cicero was the Barack Obama of ancient Rome. A well-educated senator in the late Roman Republic, he is considered by many to be the greatest orator in Roman history. Exceptionally eloquent and extremely persuasive, he was revered for his ability to win others to his side with his speeches on the senate floor and in the forum. He was an immensely popular defense lawyer, famously successful keeping his clients (usually the wealthy and powerful) from significant punishment. Cicero was nuanced and thoughtful in his positions: he vociferously defended the traditional Republic against the prospect of Julius Caesar’s dictatorship, but hated the thought of civil war, and thus remained neutral before finally siding with Pompey in the end. His writing skills were excellent as well, but ultimately led to his execution by Mark Antony when he harshly criticized the latter in his philippics.

Cicero was not anti-war in general (Roman conquest was more or less expected), and even advocated executing captives rather than keeping them alive in prison or exile. Yet he opposed ostentatious display of victory, such as Pompey’s 2-day triumphal procession in 61 B.C. for his victory over Mithradates of Pontus. He was wary of any one man having too much military power or using the army too frequently, as Julius Caesar did for nearly a decade when he conquered Gaul and invaded Britain.

Yet Cicero was not averse to using the military, particularly for his own personal gain. When he was pro-consul (governor) of Cilicia, a province in what is now southern Turkey, he relished the prospect of an easy victory over the weak tribes of the region. As pro-consul, he had imperium over the province, meaning he had control over the military there and could wage war as he saw fit, for the Roman army was not controlled by central government. He feared neighboring Parthia (essentially Persia), which was a major rival to Roman power in the Middle East, and had no interest in starting a war with such a powerful foe. But taking on the weaker armies was a clear possibility. A colleague in the senate wrote this to him:

If we could only get the right balance right so that a war came along of just the right size for the strength of your forces and we achieved what was needed for glory and triumph without facing a really dangerous and serious clash – that would be the dream ticket.

Cicero apparently agreed with this sentiment, writing back several months later:

You say that it would suit you if only I could have just enough trouble to earn a sprig of laurel [worn by a triumphing general, possibly symbolizing a divine nature of sorts]; but you are afraid of the Parthians because you don’t have much confidence in my troops. Well, that is exactly what has happened.

And bragging of his forays into the sparsely populated mountain country:

Many were captured and slaughtered, the rest scattered. Their strongholds were taken by surprise attack and torched.

Cicero was a first class statesman, a patriotic man loyal to the true essence of Rome. He was not a military man and had little interest in foreign affairs. Unlike Pompey or Caesar or Mark Antony, he had no dreams of massive military campaigns and prolonged war. Nor did he have much interest in seeing Roman lives placed at risk. But he was not averse to relatively low-risk operations with a high probability of success. Such success was highly important if someone like Cicero wanted to build a lasting legacy in addition to advancing to the upper echelon of Roman politicians. Building an army and mobilizing it to attack a powerful foe like Parthia was out of the question; picking on far weaker forces was the way to go.

In thinking about current involvement of the United States in Lybia, along with Afghanistan and Iraq, I can’t help but think of the need for an easy victory over hapless opponents while avoiding a conflict with a tough rival. Many people today draw comparisons between ancient Rome and modern America: Rome was the overwhelming military and economic superpower of its day, involved in global trade and military intervention on multiple continents that was unthinkable by any other nation; many people who despise the U.S. make the comparison gleefully, anticipating an American collapse similar to what Rome experienced in the 5th century. So if the U.S. is Rome and Obama is Cicero, then a powerful military like China corresponds to Parthia and nations like Lybia, Iraq, and Afghanistan correspond to the Cicilian tribes that Cicero happily fought.

It is impossible to draw perfect parallels between the ancient world and modern times, but China’s relationship with the U.S. is similar in many ways to Parthia’s relationship with Rome. Rome was more powerfully economically and militarily, and had a more stable and popular government. In a full scale war the Romans would have had inevitable victory. Rome experienced victories deep in Parthian territory, along with losses that ceded the conquered lands back to the Parthians. They never fully subdued their opponents despite five centuries of unrest, but there was never any chance Parthia could invade and destroy Rome. Their rivalry was more for sphere of influence over Mesopotamia and Armenia. Similarly, China desperately wants regional influence over Asia and the Pacific without American involvement – they have no real desire (and no chance of victory) to attack the United States. Likewise, the U.S. has no intent of starting what would be a massive and costly war with the Chinese.

China is an oppressive, murderous, corrupt, immoral authoritarian regime. Sound familiar? We’ve heard those words used by at least 3 consecutive American presidents to validate military action against regimes led by Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and now Muammar Gaddafi in Lybia. Last week President Obama took to the airwaves to defend the controversial action in Libya, justifying it on almost purely moral grounds, using these terms as moral validation for the action: “brutal repression and humanitarian crisis,” “Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead,” “prospect of violence on a horrific scale,” “slaughter and mass graves.” All of this was more or less summed up in this paragraph:

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

So President Obama’s philosophy – and it is hardly different from President Bush or President Clinton – is that America’s military should be used to stop mass murder and violent repression when it occurs around the world. On a philosophical level, I agree with this doctrine. America should intervene in places like Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan. We have the capability to save millions of lives of our fellow humans, and I think we should come to the aid of the oppressed. On that level I am in complete agreement with President Obama and our foreign policy in general.

But I disagree profoundly with two aspects of our foreign policy for the past 15 years: the astonishing inconsistency that can only be interpreted as cautious intervention at best and cowardice at worst, and the lack of adherence to Colin Powell’s “doctrine” that calls for military intervention only when it is applied full force to achieve fast, decisive, overwhelming victory. If there is a moral imperative to help the Libyan rebels as President Obama says, and I’m inclined to agree there is, then why are we not also helping the people of Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Bahrain, Syria, and yes, even China? If murderous repression is morally wrong, then the U.S. should intervene in all cases where it takes place. There is no difference between mass murder in Libya or the Sudan or Saudi Arabia or China. If we intervene in one place, we should be prepared to intervene in all of them.

China currently holds about 500,000 political prisoners – by far the most of any nation around the world. Every year China executes more people than the rest of the world combined (that we know of), most of them political dissidents. They rank 7th in per capita executions, which is impressive considering they have over a billion citizens. Confessions obtained by torture are common, and physical and psychiatric abuse are widespread in Chinese prisons. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners are currently being held without due process, many of them either political dissidents or ethnic minorities. Involuntary organ harvest from prisoners is thought to be common in China. And these are only the violent aspects of Chinese repression, never mind the lack of freedom of speech, religion, and regulations such as the one-child policy.

If we have a moral obligation to stop murder in Libya and Iraq, then why are we not mobilizing our forces for a full-scale invasion of China? Their murder and oppression is far worse than Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. So why aren’t we taking on the Chinese? Why are our naval fleets and ground bases centered around the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf instead of the South China Sea? Why are resources going to fight hapless regimes whose military strength is built on a scale that doesn’t even belong on the same spectrum as the American military? Why are we picking on Gadaffi but leaving the Saudi monarchs alone? Why is the Taliban being hunted and wiped out while the Chinese Communist Party operates with impunity?

In his address, President Obama gave absolutely no moral rationale for intervening in some places and not others. What he fails to recognize is that there is no integrity in selective intervention for moral causes. The FBI doesn’t selectively choose which mass murderers to pursue, because murder is always wrong and murderers must be brought to justice, however difficult. If our foreign policy is based on a similar moral structure, then we cannot selectively decide which murderous regimes must go. If we go after one we must go after them all. If we overthrow Gadaffi today we must go for China tomorrow.

Just as Cicero wanted no part of a war with Parthia, so President Obama wants no part of a war with China. You see, virtually of all of his criticisms of Gadaffi’s regime also apply to the Chinese Communist regime. If pressed directly (which he hasn’t been) about why we are fighting Libya and not China, President Obama would likely maintain that attacking China would lead to an enormous conflict, and he’s probably right. But what does it matter? If it’s morally right to overthrow Gadaffi then it’s morally right to overthrow the Chinese regime for their murder and oppression. If the only difference is degree of difficulty, then either we are weak and cowardly or we have no real moral compass.

I don’t mean to pick on President Obama. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were no different. Kosovo was hardly any different from Libya, either in terms of degree of oppression or ease of victory. Iraq and Afghanistan had marginally tougher military forces but were both defeated within hours. And the reasons for fighting in both places are still murky at best: are we really any safer from Al Qaeda or terrorism as a result of these wars? We may have helped the Iraqi and Afghan people throw off murderous regimes, but that brings us back to the question of moral consistency (or lack thereof). President Clinton wanted and got an easy victory in Kosovo. President Bush achieved easy military victories but completely mismanaged the aftermath in both nations. It is not only a problem of the current president’s policy, but of American foreign policy in general since the end of the first Gulf War.

If the U.S. lacks moral consistency in its foreign policy, it also lacks the will to fight war the way it should be fought. Colin Powell is correct that if we are going to use any military force at all, it should be used to achieve overwhelming and complete victory. Returning to ancient Rome, after the third in a series of bloody Punic Wars fought against Carthage, the Romans completely destroyed the city so that it would never rise to challenge them again. This prompted a rival British chieftan to say of Rome: “where they make a desert, they call it peace.” Romans valued “peace,” but to them peace was only achieved when Rome destroyed her enemies or made them accept peace on terms overwhelmingly favorable to the Romans; negotiating an even military truce was considered shameful.

As anachronistic as it may seem, that should be the way America approaches military endeavors today. If all other avenues are exhausted and it comes down to war – to taking other lives – the United States should make sure that we secure absolute victory. Otherwise the enterprise is a waste of human lives and national resources. If it is right to fight Gadaffi and oust him from power (as President Obama claims to want), the his regime should be completely destroyed. If the Taliban is worth fighting in Afghanistan, it should be utterly wiped out. Only by applying our full force and ensuring unambiguous victory do we honor those willing to fight and potentially die. Otherwise they die in vain.

President Obama claims that America has a moral interest in Libya, but is only willing to risk a few fighter missions and cruise missiles fired from hundreds of miles away. While there some ground troops involved, there seems to be no will to put any additional forces in place. It seems as though the American role will be one of support by way of intelligence and technical assistance to a NATO force. So I have to wonder why the United States is involved at all. If it is worth involving the military to stop Gaddafi, then force should be applied to the maximum extent to ensure a speedy and ultimately safer resolution to the conflict. Lobbing a few bombs and flying a few fighter sorties is meaningless. Either the U.S. should fight Gadaffi or we shouldn’t, but there is no room for dipping a tentative toe in the water when it comes to fighting a war.

Thus in my view the American involvement in Libya is just another example of a morally inconsistent and poorly conducted foreign intervention. I cannot see a way that it is morally right to fight Gadaffi and not China. The only difference between the two is degree of difficulty. And if the strength of opponent guides moral intervention to that degree, then it is hard to believe President Obama isn’t just like Cicero in wanting an easy and safe victory over a weak opponent. Furthermore, if America is going to apply its military might in Libya, it should be done to end the conflict as quickly and decisively as possible. U.S. action so far has been perhaps mildly effective, but Gaddafi is still in power, still fighting, and still killing his people. Morally we have accomplished nothing, and yet there seems to be no will to do anything further.

Until both Gaddafi’s regime and the Chinese Communist party no longer exist, the U.S. will have fulfilled no moral imperative. The alternative to becoming involved in every instance of widespread violent repression is to be involved in none of them. Personally I believe such isolationism  is morally wrong – just as wrong as ignoring the Holocaust. Thus we must be prepared to fight many wars and to fight them often. Europe’s most peaceful era was during the height of the Roman Empire. It may be that the world’s most peaceful era will be during the height of the American Empire. Perhaps that is the ultimate dream ticket.



Filed under Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Rome