The cable and network news have been describing the military personnel killed in Chattanooga as “heroes.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been saying that John McCain is not a hero. So what is a hero?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “hero” as “a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. “ That leaves open the question of what degree of courage, achievement, or nobility qualifies someone to be characterized as a hero.

In the Chattanooga case, it seems that to be a military recruiter has not required a high degree of any of those qualities, compared with serving in combat overseas. If dozens or hundreds of recruiters are slain in the future, then much more courage will be required to serve as a recruiter. If that were the case, then serving as a recruiter would be heroic in the same way that going to Afghanistan or any other war zone would be heroic. I think that to say everyone who goes into a combat zone is a hero, debases the word. Clearly, everyone who is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor is a hero. You can keep going down the list of medals, but the further down you go and keep calling the recipient a hero, the more you debase the use of the word to describe those who won the highest medals. You have to come up with some superlative beyond hero for them.

John McCain may fall somewhere in that gray region below Congressional Medal of Honor, but I think any pilot or crewman who flies into heavy anti-aircraft fire probably deserves the appellation of hero. The idea of going into great danger despite one’s fear is what makes the act heroic to me. Again, there could be debate about what “great danger” is. Does it mean almost certain death, or only some risk of death? If very few planes were shot down over North Vietnam, that would make McCain’s act less heroic, but I think he went on a pretty risky mission. In addition, his refusal to leave the POW prison before his colleagues was heroic in its nobility.

Again, describing as heroes the slain Marines in Chattanooga, who were shot while going about routine tasks, tends to lower the respect the term gives to people such as McCain and those who won the Congressional Medal of Honor. People use the term loosely because most of them have no interest in or respect for service in the military. They would not serve, and tend to think those who do serve are somewhat foolish or stupid; they are people who could not get a real job in the civilian world. This contempt for the military started with Vietnam, maybe with Korea, and has diminished today, but still exists in the background. People tend to be over complementary of the military to offset the slight contempt they have in the backs of their minds. Maybe because I am a Vietnam veteran who came home to contempt, I misjudge this feeling, but I tend to see the overuse of hero to describe anyone killed as evidence of continuing contempt for real heroism.

In 9/11 for example, all of the first responders seem to be called heroes, but obviously some were more heroic than others. The failure to discriminate between the real heroes and the almost heroes tends to discredit the term. It is the same attitude that today means everybody who competes in some event gets a blue ribbon; it’s why we have grade inflation. But there are differences. Some heroic people are more instrumental in defeating the enemy; some heroes save more lives than others. Failure to recognize that results are important has consequences that may come back to haunt the US someday.

Bob Hormats on Greece

I had not seen Bob Hormats on TV for years. When I was on the Brazil desk, he was a deputy assistant secretary working in the State Department economic bureau. Today he was on Bloomberg, which said he is now at Kissinger, where he is working on Greece. He said the Greek deal was worth it to keep ball rolling; it was better for Greece. Greece will need some concessions. from the EU, perhaps to prolong the payment period. When his interviewer asked him about Piketty’s comment that Germany should not pressure Greece because Germany never repaid it WW II debts, Hormats said it was not relevant, just ancient history.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, he said that no perfect Iranian deal was possible, but this deal accomplished many U.S. objectives. He said he had heard that Iran was going to send a trade delegation to the US in September.

His Bloomberg interviewer was not great; she was enthusiastic, but not too well prepared.

Iran Nuclear Deal as Seen by Morning Joe

Morning Joe on MSNBC had pretty good coverage of the nuclear agreement with Iran, relaxing Western sanctions on Iran in return for Iran agreeing to restrictions on its nuclear program.  Most of the commentary was unfavorable to the deal.

I believe that the world is safer with Iran deal. The nuclear proliferation achieved by India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea are examples of failures. Of those, North Korea is least advanced.  Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright argued that President George W. Bush dropped the ball after she started talks with North Korea. On Morning Joe, Richard Haas espoused the Jewish-Israeli viewpoint on the deal. I find this whole thing is very confused because Jews have racist views on Persians, which the Persians reciprocate, and which fills this issue with strong overtones of racist and religious hatred.

People don’t talk about what alternative to the deal would have been. If there were no deal, Iran would not stop its program unless we or Israel were to invade and destroy the nuclear program. The sanctions hurt Iran but did not directly stop the nuclear program.

Morning Joe had Democrat Steve Israel excoriating the deal using his Israeli-Jewish talking points from his namesake, Israel. I think that Jews will dominate the media discussions on the deal, because they hold such influential positions in the media and politics. On Joe, people were not sure whether NY Sen. Chuck Schumer would come down against the deal, representing his Jewish ancestry, or support it as a Democrat.

On Joe, Zbigniew Brzezinski defended the deal as a Christian and a Democrat. He said it was significant that we worked out the deal with the cooperation of other major players, including Russia and China, which is healthy for the deal and for America’s international status.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken was about the only Jew defending the Iran deal. He did make the argument that you have to look at alternatives to the deal, or lack of them them.  He argued that Iran would get the bomb quickly without the deal.

To make the Jewish arguments even stronger, Morning Joe had on the Israeli Ambassador to criticize deal. Although Joe tried to get him to, he wouldn’t criticize deal as a betrayal of Israel. He said it was just a disagreement. But he said this deal would fail like the one with North Korea. He said American allies, including Israel and the Arabs oppose it. Of course, the Arab countries that oppose it are Sunni, and oppose it because of their religious hatred of the Shiite sect that Iran espouses.  In this case the Jews and the Sunni Arabs are united in their religious hatred.  The Israeli Ambassador did not mention the supporting roles of China and Russia.

Last to speak, another Christian, the British Ambassador,  thought this was a good deal. Like Russian and China, the Brits participated in negotiating the deal. He, like Dr. Brzezinski, said that Iran was just months away from a bomb without the deal.

Of course, the unmentioned alternative to the deal is a military attack on Iran.  I think Netanyahu sees this as a great opportunity to attack Iran and kill Iranians.  He wants blood.  I worry that his blood lust is shared by some Republicans in the US Congress.  They loved killing Afghans and Iraqis, and now they want to kill Iranians.  As a Vietnam veteran, I believe the US should defend itself, but not unless it is seriously threatened.  One of my Foreign Service colleagues, Amb. John Limbert, was a hostage in Tehran, and he recently wrote an article in the Foreign Service Journal calling for rapprochement with Iran, rather than war with it.


Aljazeera Still the Best TV News

After clicking around the TV channels, I still believe that Aljazeera has the best general news coverage, mostly because it has the best foreign coverage.  Aljazeera still seems to have correspondents stationed around the globe.  The US networks don’t seem to have anybody outside of a few major cities in each continent, basically London and Beijing.  South America, Africa, and Australia don’t seem to rate correspondents.  The US networks have lots of news about weather in the US, because they can use reporters from local affiliates standing out in the rain, wind, or snow.  The people who are affected can look outside and see for themselves what is going on.  Charlie Rose interviewed a “Vice” correspondent, Ben Anderson, who was scathing in his criticism of US networks’ coverage of foreign news.