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Of People, Places & Things: The Year of the Sheep

Fri, Jan 3rd, 2003
Posted in Columnists

2003 is the year of the sheep in the Chinese zodiac. People born under the sign of the sheep are said to be wise, gentle and compassionate, characteristics that many of our world leaders may need to find more of in the coming year.

North Korea, Iraq, the Middle East, and the war on terrorism all loom as flash points on the world scene. Throw in conflict in South Asia, the perennial problems in South America and there are few places on the planet that dont seem to be in trouble.

A recent report issued by the conservative National Defense Council Foundation, found that 53 countries struggled with conflict in 2002. Thats approximately 1/4 of the worlds countries.

North Korea, a rogue nation who recently expelled U.N. inspectors monitoring its nuclear capacity, has given every indication that it is ratcheting up its nuclear bomb generating potential. This is a country that cant feed its own people and doesnt mind living in total isolation from the rest of the world.

Iraq, the poster girl for developing nations amassing weapons of mass destruction, waits quietly to see if they will be invaded by the U.S. and its allies. Saddam has few options at this stage of the game.

Meanwhile, its neighbor, and long time enemy, Iran is supposedly on the fast track for developing a nuclear capacity of its own.

Two nuclear countries, India and Pakistan are forever at each others throats, even when they are feeling friendly. Pakistan, a special friend of the US because of its access to Afghanistan, has supposedly aided North Korea with nuclear technology.

If that isnt enough unease for you, the daily slaughter in the Middle East continues unabated. Add names like Chechnya, Nepal, and the Philippines to the list where insurgencies are a part of daily life. In Africa, people in Ethiopia and Somalia face famine and those in Zimbabwe food shortages.

Compounding the problem is a sluggish world-wide economy. Our federal and state governments face huge deficits, and there is little to be optimistic about.

The business community can live with good news or bad news, but uncertainty drives them into inertia and inaction. This translates into increased unemployment which results in poor consumer confidence, which typically drives economies.

The threat of war, social unrest - 30 million Americans now live below the poverty line, and a poor economy leaves little for optimism in the coming year.

2002 has been the year of talking tough and carrying a big stick as the US tries to get the world to line up to its way of thinking. Outside of Europe, America has few countries that fully support these efforts. In fact, prime ministers of Germany and South Korea were recently elected on anti-American platforms.

The recent action by North Korea prompted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeldt to speculate that the U.S. could manage military action on three fronts: Iraq, North Korea and Al Queda.

The world is a scary place in 2003. It is no longer possible for the U.S. to lead and expect that other nations will follow behind us. The times call for world leadership that is able to balance our nations security needs with the aspirations of other countries. A strong military stance does not preclude sitting down at the negotiating table and working for peaceful solutions.

Perhaps it is time for the Bush administration to re-evaluate how it carries out policies. In the Year of the Sheep, we will need leadership that is all about wisdom and compassion.

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