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Monty Hayes McMillan

America is being “overtaken by events.” In military parlance, we are O.B.E. It means an event that creates unexpected results. My friend Larry, has recently been overtaken by events. For a dozen years he had fabulous season tickets at Anaheim (now Edison International Stadium) for the Angels. This stadium is being renovated now and those seats that many of us enjoyed will no longer exist next season. Gone for good. He can have
other seats elsewhere at Laker prices, but it won’t be the same. Sorry Larry, you’ve been O.B.E.

Japan at the end of WWII was O.B.E. They were a nation ready to slug it out on their own shores and turn the
invading Americans back into the sea. They were overtaken by one of the major events of the twentieth century – the atomic bomb.

John Deutsch, former head of the CIA talked to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council a while back about how the
agency deals with O.B.E. As you might imagine, the CIA is very concerned about being overtaken by events, because the responsibility of such things in large part is theirs.

By using long-range forecasting, analysts study three factors that can lead to major upheavals. Studying the world’s political situation allows us to watch for the rise and fall of governments and heads of state. It’s hard to do business in countries without political stability, where investments of all kinds may be jeopardized. Financial investments mean jobs and a productive society. Political instability and military adventurism go hand in hand in creating regional strife.

Climatic data is the second factor studied by analyst. This data can help predict such things a crop conditions and yields, rainfall and snow-pack depth, and forewarn droughts and heavy storms like hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons that force mass movements of people and animals – leading directly to civil unrest.El Nino conditions are just now being understood and its effect this year will have monumental results world wide.

The third factor Mr. Deutsch talked about was population growth. Americans consume a majority of the
world’s natural resources, and don’t understand how critically marginal the lifestyles of the rest of the world truly are. Sub-Saharan Africa is a good example of what happens when growth outpaces the resources available to support a populace. Resource forecasting predicted the movement of millions of Africans in search of the basic materials to clothe and feed their families.

Our reliance on the CIA is far greater than we perceive. As we move closer to a global economy (which is not
the same thing as one-worldism), stability in other countries becomes increasingly more critical. Few countries in the world desire anything but peace. Rogue nations do exist. And evenmore concerning are those terrorist groups and criminal tribes outside of any governmental control.

The recently purported loss of one hundred tactical nuclear munitions by Russia’s military points to a major
flaw in the policing of the world’s nuclear weapons. We must rely on and support wholeheartedly (but not blindly)
the CIA as the organization responsible for us not being overcome by a nuclear event in our own backyard.

Through the United Nations and other agencies, we can track worldwide population growth years in advance. Short range weather predicting has gotten increasingly better although there is always room for improvement.

Overhead intelligence can provide us with hours, maybe even days, of advanced notice of impending military
advances.Our abilities to foresee such events have lead our military to initiate new policies such as rapid
deployment and pre-positioned supply ships that extend our reach and decrease our response time. The 82nd Airborne (now on maneuvers in Kazakhstan) is designed to be airlifted straight to a battlefield in our new C-17’s and can be on the ground in 24 hours. Congress has allocated funding for fiscal year 1998 for more RO/RO’s
– roll on, roll off container ships. Of course, our carriers are always at sea and with them the U.S. Marines
Expeditionary Forces.

But why should we care? Why do we want to be involved in world politics? "Shut up and leave me alone." That is the view of many Americans and it is a very myopic perception to be sure. Near-sighted at best, perhaps suicidal at worst. The world is a very dangerous place, more so now than during the Cold War. We have more enemies and types of enemies than ever, all with agendas that start the same – bring America to its knees.

One way to do that of course is to stop the flow of oil from going to the west. Obvious, but not nearly as
glorious as a Soviet suitcase nuclear weapon strategically placed in some infidel American city.Oklahoma
City times a factor of a thousand, or more.

America must continue to be involved on the world scene, or be consumed by it. We were unable to stop Tim McVeigh from blowing up one building in one American city.All of America’s military, police and intelligence agencies couldn’t stop him. No satellite in orbit could tell what he was thinking or what he was about to do.In a matter of moments the citizens of Oklahoma City were overtaken by events. Now consider the consequences of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of America-hating people dedicated to a new “final solution” that will bring glory to them from their God, and nuclear ruin to us. Duck-and-cover drills will never be a defense or a deterrent.

The enemies of the U.S. must be kept as far away from North America as possible. We must continue to be involved and project the “big stick” and solve problems before they start. Our strength, or perception of our strength, is
enough to deter many.The best way not to be overcome by events is to stop the event before it happens. The existence of our military and intelligence communities help to insure world peace.Peace is what we as good
Americans want anyway. The motto of the U.S. Army War College says it all, “Not to promote war, but to preserve peace”.

As Americans, what can we do to not be O.B.E. in our daily lives?

BE PREPARED! Take those First Aid and CPR courses offered by the Red Cross. In Seattle, fewer people die of heart attacks than in any other American city, not because they eat better or smoke less. Seattle has the lowest death rate due to heart attacks of any major American city because its citizens volunteer to learn CPR.

Plant a garden and donate the food to your local church or your neighborhood homeless shelter. It also adds oxygen to the atmosphere and removes greenhouse gasses.

America is a participatory democracy. Participate. It can show the world the strength of our system. How can we be the world’s showcase of democracy when we don’t vote.

Travel. It’s the only way you can see for yourself what is going on in the world and find out what other people are thinking – and ask a lot of questions while you are at it.

Volunteer. I do. I am a California Emergency Response Team member. C.E.R.T. is sponsored by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Our training is to help save your life if we are ever overtaken by the “Big One”. There are many volunteer programs other than earthquake and emergency preparedness. The Peace Corps may be the best example of my generation, but Doctors Without Borders and Habitat For Humanity are two more of the better
known volunteer organizations. There are many other worthy groups to donate a little time to on a local, regional, national and international level.

Be a part of the strength of America, not its weak link. Someday it maybe you overtaken by events.


First published in VOICES magazine, Los Angeles.  September 1997