Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bullies and aircraft carriers

You remember Coleman McCarthy, don't you boys and girls?

Sure Spotty, he used to be a columnist at the Washington Post, right?

Exactly grasshopper. Now he directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C.

Next question: who has heard of Capt. Bradley Johanson? Anybody? All right.

Well, Capt. Johanson is the commander of the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, the modern incarnation of a dreadnaught, currently motoring around the Persian Gulf.

What do these two men have in common?

[furrowed brows and sighing] We don't know, Spotty.

It is admittedly a little obscure, so Spot will help you out. The both got some ink in the Star Tribune today, March 28.

That's the only connection?

Not the only one. They represent the yin and yang of human empathy. First up is McCarthy, who had a piece on bullying on the op-ed page. Spot wants you to read the whole thing, boys and girls, but here is a taste:

In 25 years of teaching courses on nonviolent conflict resolution -- to high school, college, law school students and prison inmates -- I've argued that violence is a learned behavior. Bullies aren't born, they are taught: often by peers, sometimes by the adults at home or coaches who berate their players during practices or games, and perhaps by living in a country like the United States that is perceived by much of the world as a global bully. [italics are Spot's]

If violence is learned, can empathy, kindness and tolerance also be learned? Yes. If taught well and taught consistently, those skills are as teachable as any others.

A prime solution is exposing children in the early grades to the satisfaction of service to others. If parents, teachers and coaches encourage -- and demonstrate themselves -- reaching out to someone who needs help, a message is sent: We are a caring family, we are a caring school; we are a caring team. Be a part of it. Whether the service is as basic as clearing the table after dinner or as large as volunteering at Special Olympics, chances increase that a child will become less self-centered and more other-centered.

Spot says that is a pithy and powerful statement about how to raise your pups. Spot wrote about this recently in Katie enslaves her dog.

And now for a quote from Capt. Johanson in an article about why he is motoring around in the Persian Gulf (the quote is in the last paragraph):

ABOARD THE JOHN C. STENNIS - U.S. warplanes screamed off two aircraft carriers Tuesday as the U.S. Navy staged its largest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, launching a mammoth exercise meant as a message to the Iranians.

The maneuvers with more than 10,000 U.S. personnel, 15 warships and more than 100 aircraft were sure to heighten tensions with Iran, which has frequently condemned the U.S. military presence off its coast and which is in a faceoff with the West over its nuclear program and its capture of a British naval team.

While they would not say when the war games were planned, U.S. commanders insisted the exercises were not a direct response to Friday's seizure of the 15 British sailors and marines. But they made it clear that the flexing of the Navy's military might was intended as a warning.

"If there is strong presence, then it sends a clear message that you better be careful about trying to intimidate others," said Capt. Bradley Johanson, commander of the Stennis. "Iran has adopted a very escalatory posture with the things that they have done."

Let's see, the United States has invaded the countries on either side of Iran and currently has two battleship groups patrolling off-shore of Iran to the south. Iran detained some British sailors and marines who may or may not have been in international waters, and who were themselves detaining ships:

Exhausted after working a 17-hour day the small group nevertheless seemed buoyed by the day's events, explaining how they had been boarding ships carrying suspected smugglers earlier and planned to return the following morning.

There are two possible scenarios here. First, the Brits were in Iranian territorial waters; in that case they were legitimately subject to arrest for the territorial violation. Second, they were in international waters. In which case you have to ask yourselves, boys and girls, by what authority were they detaining ships on the high seas? Do you suppose we would like it if the Iranians did that?

If Spotty was an Iranian, he would want a nuclear weapon, or several of them, pretty badly. Wouldn't you, boys and girls? Think about the Axis of Evil: North Korea has nukes and didn't get invaded; Iraq didn't have them and got invaded. Which category do you think Iran prefers?

Capt. Johanson has broken or missing irony sensors and empathy sensors! And he sounds like he is spoiling for a fight. A decision made at the ship-commander level is probably how a war with Iran will start.

Spotty wonders if Capt. Johanson was a bully.

Update: You might want to read Arthur Silber's Sleepwalking to the End of the World.

Tags: , , ,

No comments: