Small Town SmackDown: Payback Can Be a Bear…. Reply

By Chris Simmons

Several years ago, a quaint little village in Virginia held its annual “Fall Festival.” Populated by amazing artisans, tours of historic homes, and abundant junk food, it is a fun event for young and old alike. On that particular October weekend, bitterly-contested state and national elections were in their closing weeks. Throughout the strongly-Democratic hamlet, political signs were as abundant as the gently falling leaves.

A major Republican Party official and her entourage arrived and launched into some old-fashioned politicking at the heavily attended fair. Within minutes, members of the festival’s organizing committee surrounded them and instructed them to leave. “We don’t allow politics to distract from our festival,” they were told.

“How can you say that?” one local entourage member asked. “Your town is awash with blue Democratic Party campaign signs” the staffer added. Then, pointing to a nearby crowd, another Republican activist added – “Right there are several Democratic candidates for the state Senate and House of Delegates doing exactly what we’re doing.”

“We hadn’t noticed they were here,” a festival organizer said with a broad smirk. “Now please leave,” she again directed.

The senior Republican representative graciously complemented the organizers on the beauty of their village, expressed her hope for a hugely successful event, and announced that they would leave as requested.

Livid at the disrespect just inflicted, several members of the entourage repeatedly glanced back as they proceed up the hill to the parking lot. “Look, they’re going back to the fair!  They didn’t tell the Democrats to leave! They lied to us!!” wailed one incensed supporter.

“It will be okay,” their Republican leader said reassuringly. After the activists were packed back into their vehicle, their principal turned to them and again smiled. “Think of this as a teaching point,” she said. “I sit on the committee that decides which towns receive state grants for their festivals, as well as the size of those grants. This town will never see another dime from Richmond [the state capitol].”

During the years that followed, the hamlet received annual notices that its grant requests had been denied. Apparently, there is no longer enough funding for all the worthy applicants.

Two distinct lessons can be drawn from this scenario:

  1. Hypocrisy and deceit is often “treated” by the hidden hand of discreet retaliation.
  2. We frequently create our own enemies.

The Blind Men and the Elephant 1

As told by Donelle Blubaugh, India

Long ago six old men lived in a village in India. Each was born blind. The other villagers loved the old men and kept them away from harm. Since the blind men could not see the world for themselves, they had to imagine many of its wonders. They listened carefully to the stories told by travelers to learn what they could about life outside the village.

The men were curious about many of the stories they heard, but they were most curious about elephants. They were told that elephants could trample forests, carry huge burdens, and frighten young and old with their loud trumpet calls. But they also knew that the Rajah’s daughter rode an elephant when she traveled in her father’s kingdom. Would the Rajah let his daughter get near such a dangerous creature?

The old men argued day and night about elephants. “An elephant must be a powerful giant,” claimed the first blind man. He had heard stories about elephants being used to clear forests and build roads.

“No, you must be wrong,” argued the second blind man. “An elephant must be graceful and gentle if a princess is to ride on its back.”

“You’re wrong! I have heard that an elephant can pierce a man’s heart with its terrible horn,” said the third blind man.

“Please,” said the fourth blind man. “You are all mistaken. An elephant is nothing more than a large sort of cow. You know how people exaggerate.”

“I am sure that an elephant is something magical,” said the fifth blind man. “That would explain why the Rajah’s daughter can travel safely throughout the kingdom.”

“I don’t believe elephants exist at all,” declared the sixth blind man. “I think we are the victims of a cruel joke.”

Finally, the villagers grew tired of all the arguments, and they arranged for the curious men to visit the palace of the Rajah to learn the truth about elephants. A young boy from their village was selected to guide the blind men on their journey. The smallest man put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. The second blind man put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, and so on until all six men were ready to walk safely behind the boy who would lead them to the Rajah’s magnificent palace.

When the blind men reached the palace, they were greeted by an old friend from their village who worked as a gardener on the palace grounds. Their friend led them to the courtyard. There stood an elephant. The blind men stepped forward to touch the creature that was the subject of so many arguments.

The first blind man reached out and touched the side of the huge animal. “An elephant is smooth and solid like a wall!” he declared. “It must be very powerful.”

The second blind man put his hand on the elephant’s limber trunk. “An elephant is like a giant snake,” he announced.

The third blind man felt the elephant’s pointed tusk. “I was right,” he decided. “This creature is as sharp and deadly as a spear.”

The fourth blind man touched one of the elephant’s four legs. “What we have here,” he said, “is an extremely large cow.”

The fifth blind man felt the elephant’s giant ear. “I believe an elephant is like a huge fan or maybe a magic carpet that can fly over mountains and treetops,” he said.

The sixth blind man gave a tug on the elephant’s coarse tail. “Why, this is nothing more than a piece of old rope. Dangerous, indeed,” he scoffed.

The gardener led his friends to the shade of a tree. “Sit here and rest for the long journey home,” he said. “I will bring you some water to drink.”

While they waited, the six blind men talked about the elephant.

“An elephant is like a wall,” said the first blind man. “Surely we can finally agree on that.”

“A wall? An elephant is a giant snake!” answered the second blind man.

“It’s a spear, I tell you,” insisted the third blind man.

“I’m certain it’s a giant cow,” said the fourth blind man.

“Magic carpet. There’s no doubt,” said the fifth blind man.

“Don’t you see?” pleaded the sixth blind man. “Someone used a rope to trick us.”

Their argument continued and their shouts grew louder and louder.

“Wall!” “Snake!” “Spear!” “Cow!” “Carpet!” “Rope!”

“Stop shouting!” called a very angry voice.

It was the Rajah, awakened from his nap by the noisy argument.

“How can each of you be so certain you are right?” asked the ruler.

The six blind men considered the question. And then, knowing the Rajah to be a very wise man, they decided to say nothing at all.

“The elephant is a very large animal,” said the Rajah kindly. “Each man touched only one part. Perhaps if you put the parts together, you will see the truth. Now, let me finish my nap in peace.”

When their friend returned to the garden with the cool water, the six men rested quietly in the shade, thinking about the Rajah’s advice.

“He is right,” said the first blind man. “To learn the truth, we must put all the parts together. Let’s discuss this on the journey home.”

The first blind man put his hand on the shoulder of the young boy who would guide them home. The second blind man put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, and so on until all six men were ready to travel together.

Breaking the Serbs: The High Price of a Single Misjudgment Reply

Map of Bosnia

By Chris Simmons

For weeks, anticipation had been building within the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR). One of the deadlines for demilitarization was now just days away and it was unclear whether the rival blocs that constituted Bosnia-Herzegovina would meet the suspense.

“Bosnia” actually consisted of three distinct governments: a weak state-level institution (i.e., Bosnia) with two highly autonomous parts, the Croat-Bosniak Federation and the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS). Each entity had its own government, parliament and presidency. The redundancies were mind-numbing. It was a bureaucracy gone mad, making interactions between NATO and the Bosnian governments problematic at best.

On Monday, the entities were to inform NATO whether they would meet the demining threshold required by the Dayton Peace Accords. The Croat-Bosniak response came first:  they were done, three days ahead of schedule. Then we learned the RS Minister of Defense would appear via Video-Teleconference (VTC) during the evening meeting at NATO’s Sarajevo headquarters. This, we all knew, was not a good sign.

That night, the Minister came on the VTC and told the SFOR Commander the Republic of Srpska (pronounced “Serp-Ska) would not meet the deadline. He professed his desire to help, but said the Justice Minister had ruled the Dayton Accord’s demining requirement unconstitutional. The SFOR Commander, who saw the action as nothing more than political brinksmanship, was not amused. He reminded the RS General that his government had signed the Accord four years earlier. “You will meet your obligations,” the Minister was told before the SFOR Commander abruptly ended the broadcast.

Turning to his Intelligence Staff, the SFOR Commander asked how close the RS was to meeting the suspense. “No where close,” he was told. A weapons specialist stood and advised the General the RS had well over 200,000 mines that still needed to be rendered safe. “There isn’t a country in the world that could de-militarize that many landmines in three days” the analyst concluded. It was clear to everyone the RS had been planning to obstruct the peace treaty for some time.

The SFOR Commander directed his staff to identify the three best units in the RS Army and to secretly make plans to seize their equipment and start discharging their personnel at 12:01am Friday morning. For the next two days, their Defense Minister continued to blame the Justice Ministry. Finally, at Thursday’s VTC, the RS General gleefully announced that the Ministry had reversed itself – the Dayton Accord was constitutional. All he required was an extension of the suspense. The SFOR Commander responded with words to the effect, “You’ll have my answer tomorrow.”

At one minute after midnight, NATO forces surrounded the garrisons of the RS’ three premier units. Entering the compounds, the soldiers were awakened and all of their weapons and equipment seized. Standing in formation, they learned they were being discharged – effective immediately. By dawn, the “crown jewels” of the RS military had ceased to exist.

This bold move broke the back of institutionalized resistance by the RS government. Henceforth, they were as compliant – if not more so, than their Croat-Bosniak counterparts. And the RS military set a record for the fastest destruction of 200,000+ landmines……