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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Italian PM likes Clinton, says Trump has a policy of fear

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi delivers his remarks during the signing ceremony on climate change held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York
By Diane Bartz WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticized U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Sunday for his "policy of fear," and said he was firmly in Democrat Hillary Clinton's camp. "I support very strongly Hillary Clinton because I think she is a woman able to give security to every partner, to give a message of cooperation with other parties, to continue the good policy of President (Barack) Obama" Renzi said on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" show. Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, and former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton are the front-runners to be their parties' candidates in the November presidential election.

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Should US take preemptive military action against Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities?
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Archive >> April 2009
file under: Nuclear ThreatIran 25 Apr 2009 8:09 PM
What's So Wrong With a Nuclear Iran? Posted by Nissim Dahan
On the face of it, it may be possible to make a reasonable case for Iran's right to develop nuclear weapons. After all, Iran is an independent nation, and as such, should have the right to self-determination. If Iran perceives a threat from its enemy, Israel for example, which does possess nuclear weapons; shouldn't she have the right to counter that threat with a nuclear arsenal of her own? Why should Israel be singled out as the one state in the Middle East that is allowed to have a nuclear weapons capability? Why should Iran be denied the national pride that comes from joining the league of nations which have achieved nuclear capability?


And of course, some of the leaders in Iran may have come to conclusion that the development of a nuclear bomb may bring with it some other benefits as well. A nuclear capability of this sort may be a good defense against outside interference. For example, a lot of people are doing a lot of talking against North Korea, but you don't see anyone doing anything about it. Why? Perhaps because North Korea has entered the privileged circle of nuclear nations. Saddam Hussein had no such capability and look what happened to him. And a nuclear weapons capability would also be a good insurance policy against internal dissent. If the local population gets a bit too rowdy, the clamp of repression can easily be brought down hard, especially if there is little risk of outside interference. And if Iran wants to spread her influence throughout the region, what better way to be taken seriously than to keep a nuclear arsenal in your back pocket?


So given all these good reasons for allowing a nuclear Iran, why should countries like Israel or the U.S. even bother to try to block it, especially considering the risks implicit in taking Iran's nuclear facilities out? After all, any attempt to take military action against these nuclear facilities would bring with it a whole host of problems on the perpetrators: a vicious campaign of unbridled terror activity, extreme condemnation in the region and beyond, military reprisals, an upsurge of fanaticism, an oil embargo and/or disruption of the oil supply, etc. And it is precisely the recognition of the price to be paid, that keeps Western countries somewhat paralyzed in their attempts to neutralize the threat of a nuclear Iran. There is a lot of talk, even as we speak, but so far not a whole lot of action.


So given the risks implicit in stopping Iran, why not just call it a day, and let them have what they want? Couldn't the threat be countered in other ways, other than a military strike? Couldn't we just point a bunch of nuclear-tipped missiles at Iran and say that if they, or their proxy, ever use a nuclear weapon, then the retaliation against them would be massive. Wouldn't the prospect of such retaliation be enough to keep a nuclear Iran in check, as was the case between the Soviet Union and the U.S. during the cold war?


So what is so wrong in allowing Iran to go nuclear? In my view, the greatest threat with regard to a nuclear Iran is her ideological posture. The Mullahs in Iran came into power as a result of a relatively recent political and religious revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini decried the secular leanings of the Shah, and ushered in a renewed commitment to the religious traditions of the past. Shiite Islam would now be the law of the land, and a new foreign and domestic policy would take hold, which is more consistent with the religious tenets of those in power.


Religious zeal is precisely what's wrong with a nuclear Iran. Once you put a heavy dose of religiosity into the mix, then all the restraints of rational thinking  go out the window, especially under the right circumstances. Imagine if you will, an extremist group blowing up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and Israel being blamed for it. Under these circumstances, will any measure of rationality be able to control Iran's often stated commitment to destroy Israel, and pushing the button to make that happen? If purely rational considerations were on the table, then prudence and restraint would probably win out. But with religious ideological conviction at play, no one could be sure that reason will prevail, and at the end of the day, the existential risk of nuclear war may be a risk that is too great to take.


It is true, as others have often said, that other nuclear nations are ideological as well. It can certainly be said that Israel is ideological about her right to survive. In the war of 1973, for example, when her survival was on the line and in question, there was talk of using the nuclear option, and thank God, that talk did not result in taking such action. But as ideological as Israel is about certain things, like the survival of the Jewish people, she is not ideological religiously. She wants to retain her Jewish character, but she is not particularly interested in spreading Judaism throughout the region. The same cannot be said about Iran, which is very interested in spreading her brand of Islam, and her version of real politick, and is not averse to using terrorist proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah to do so.


So bottom line, arguments can certainly be made, based on the equities of the moment, for allowing Iran to fulfill her national aspiration of becoming a nuclear power. And a great risk of reprisal will be taken by any nation, be it Israel or the U.S., which undertakes military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. However, given the religious ideological conviction that motivates at least some of Iran's leadership, the risk of a nuclear Iran may be a risk too great to take, by any and all of the actors in the region: by Israel, by the U.S., by the other nations of the region, and even by the Iranian people themselves. Sometimes, the unimaginable becomes possible, and the possible becomes real. It takes only a little imagination to imagine a nuclear Iran making the impossible real.

file under: Western civilizationPhilosophyGodfrom hate to hopeextremismethicsenvironment 3 Apr 2009 6:26 PM
If You Were God Posted by Nissim Dahan
Try to imagine being God, or more precisely, being the sum total of all the creative energy in the universe, even the energy of intelligence, and even the energy that is the lifeblood of each and every atom. Some 13.7 billion years ago there was nothing, not even time or space, or so the scientists tell us. And then, in an instant, there was a great explosion, what we call The Big Bang, and suddenly, there was everything, the entire universe in all its glory. You made that happen, and your creative energy continues to permeate every corner of the whole of existence.


Having created the universe, how would you go about confirming that your creation is indeed good? It's not like you have your mother telling you how great you are. You are God. You are all-powerful. You created something out of nothing. And yet, it is precisely because of your greatness, that you find yourself somewhat alone. In a very real sense, there is no one out there quite like you.


And so, in an effort to confirm the efficacy of your good works, you create life, as a reflection of the life that you've breathed into the universe as a whole. And in particular, you create man and woman, in your image no less, so that they could apprehend the nature of your existence, and the wonder of the work that you have wrought. And since you are a creator, and since man and woman are created in your image, then they too are given the power to create the world as they see fit.


And so, having put in place the various pieces of the puzzle, you watch for any signs which show that your creation is indeed good. You were like an artist on a rampage when you created the universe. Just look at the pictures sent back from Hubble. But like any artist, you want your work to mean something, and so, the search for meaning is at the heart of your intent in bringing into existence the whole of creation. And yet, how will the possibility of meaning make itself known?


In your search for meaning, you created man and woman, in your image, so that like you, they could create as well. But you didn't make it easy on them, did you? In fact, you couldn't. Your inclination was to believe that meaning could only emerge from the struggle between good and evil. And so, in a way, you stacked the deck against human beings, because you wanted to see how they would do in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. If they could succeed against the odds, then it would be an affirmation to you that your creation was indeed good. That it meant something.


And in recent days, as if to bring history to a head, so to speak, you've allowed the pressure to increase, so as to allow man's destiny to play itself out, once and for all. And so, you watch as global economies begin to tumble. You sigh as the environment is laid to waste. And you probably laugh as the extremists of the world take their ideological positions so seriously. But you are not detached from your creation. You still have a stake in the game. Your sense of self-worth is on the line after all. If man is somehow able to pick up the broken pieces, and to recast himself as "new and improved," then it will be an affirmation to you that your creation is indeed good, and that as between good and evil, good has the upper hand. At such time, your belief in the possibility of meaning will have been vindicated.


And so, having a legitimate stake in the game, you continue to make your presence known. With little hints along the way, and with puzzling coincidences that are ever more purposeful then they seem at first, you point to the right path for us to follow. As a loving mother nudging her baby to take her first steps, you push us onward, in so many ways, to do what is right, and what is necessary, even as we trip and fall at every turn. You do this because at the end of the day you want to believe that it was not all for naught, and that there is an underlying meaning to the whole of creation, a meaning that is sometimes buried somewhere, but is still waiting to get out.


Many of us lowly humans around the world find our nations' fabric somewhat tattered and frayed at the edges. Out economies are falling apart. Our environment has been trashed. And the forces of extremism are busy hatching plans for our collective future. It is time to pick up the pieces, and to weave them together in a new pattern, one that is more reminiscent of our founding principles and highest ideals. It is time to help God out to realize the potential for meaning, the meaning that was part of the design, but that has yet to come to fruition. Will we find the courage and the wisdom to use the dire circumstances of our time to remake ourselves in a new light, a light that will shine as a beacon of hope, for all to see, and for all to follow? What do you think?