Mr.President, America Needs a Withdrawal Order

I was in the Navy at the end of the Cold War, and I remember discussions with colleagues about the collapse of the Soviet Union. While we wished the Russians and the former Soviet socialist republics good luck, the uncertainty of their future, nuclear weapons and military capabilities demanded caution. We saw them as potential adversaries, but more as enemies. We concluded that America’s greatest international enemy for the foreseeable future now is instability. This post-Cold War threat was triggered by factors such as the end of a world organized into two ideological camps, poverty, despair and religious extremism. It manifested itself in failed states and terrorism.

Today there is ample evidence that things are very bad in our own country. We see hatred and mistrust displayed boldly in Congress. Election, public health and public education officials come under attack over bitter polarization. Unfounded allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, government mandates in response to the pandemic, history of racism and American transgender rights are fueling the assaults. High-profile murder trials involving vigilante-type actions have revealed that many of us approve of such behavior. A Supreme Court considering the annulment of Roe v. Wade, extraordinary gerrymandering and severe politicization of voting rights and election administration reinforce the view that political power is an end justified by all means. In such an environment, the gun culture in America could easily be a deadly accelerator of violent civil unrest.

We have become our own worst enemy. Americans threaten our nation’s peace and prosperity more than China, Russia, terrorism, and dangerous relics like North Korea. Our internal instability has many sources. We know what has weakened our confidence in each other and in our core institutions. The most difficult to accept are those resulting from the influence of our modern societal systems – which have become too big, too complex, interconnected and difficult for us to change.

American values ​​encourage excessive consumption and unnecessary materialism. Our political system is grossly dysfunctional and corrupted by money. Our version of capitalism is unbalanced, with too many monopolies and concentrated wealth and economic power that are undemocratically great. Public education is poor and its private sector alternatives do not provide sufficient opportunities for far too many people. Our reckless adoption of technologies ignores their destructive impacts on society until considerable damage has been done, if we consider those impacts at all.

American political parties are ineffective in countering these forces of instability. One of them makes our challenges enormously more difficult to overcome. Today’s Republican Party has dangerously decided that promoting and exploiting divisions resulting from cultural differences is to its advantage, a means of gaining political power.

In military and industrial organizations, when something goes wrong, operations are quickly interrupted, especially when security is compromised. Even those who are not remotely associated with an accident or an incident of concern participate in a review of what happened. Information is shared on how, when and why it went wrong. The point is to get everyone’s attention and get them to think about what happened. The goal is to fix what went wrong and take action to prevent it from happening again – and also to find out why the organization failed to prevent it from happening again. Stops are costly in time and resources. These are serious disruptions to business. To serve their purpose, they must be.

It is time to step down at the national level. We owe it to ourselves and America’s future to pause and think carefully about the direction of our collective behaviors. We cannot get caught up in the moment.

So how do you ask for and implement a national withdrawal?

Asking Americans to support and participate in a major upheaval in our society is a huge step that will require extraordinary leadership. President BidenJoe Biden Publicist ‘not associated’ with Kanye West at time of election incident: Trump spokesperson teases 2024 at Orlando event with O’Reilly Facebook executive says ‘people’, not platform, are to blame for the vaccine misinformation PLUS must meet the moment like no US president has before. Things will not improve if more of us support the Democratic Party and its programs in the 2022 election. This is because elections are no longer about hope and the future. We even went beyond elections as cynical exercises to scare people, blame others and offer “welfare” solutions to get them to vote against others. Elections are now a major battleground in our culture war, an all-out fight that is accelerating. We need President Biden to call for a “ceasefire” by calling for this withdrawal.

Congress, governors and others must join us; the president cannot lead us alone. The political risks for leaders will be enormous. Criticism of the proposed withdrawal will be fierce. Its economic cost will be significant and its intention will be questioned – honestly and cynically.

Withdrawing will require American time, attention and commitment. I suggest reserving a Friday every three months, from January 28, 2022, to create extended weekends. These should be viewed as days of community development and public service – more like volunteer work or jury duty, not holidays. Our leaders should ask us to use this time to take action that weakens the ignorance, isolation and incivility that make it so easy to demonize “other” Americans. Federal land grant universities in each state could help by developing and disseminating these new methods. When enough of us stop participating in the culture war, we will stop the advance of pernicious polarization and tribalism. Then, the weekends off the hook must evolve, allowing us to counter the forces of instability in our society. Hard work and participation in citizenship acts will be required. We’ll have to continue until we’re done.

Many Americans have answered calls to war against other nations – and once before in our history, to war against each other. Have we ever been asked to rally as a people to the causes of peace, justice, tolerance and mutual respect in our country? Beyond the brief exhortations to unity in the aftermath of an electoral victory, or a brief moment after a tragedy, have we ever been called to these causes in a way that we have marked on our calendars and in our memories? ?

It is now. This withdrawal must be such a call, and enough of us must respond because our enemy is winning.

John J. Grossenbacher retired in 2003 as Vice Admiral of the US Navy and Commander of US Naval Submarine Forces, after a 33-year naval career. He headed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory for 10 years, overseeing scientific and technical research in nuclear and other energy resources, the environment, and homeland security.

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