Robert F. Jakubowicz: Two dilemmas that defy easy solutions

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PITTSFIELD — America is facing two potentially catastrophic events. One is natural and something we have to live with. The other is man-made and something we cannot live with.

Hurricane Irma remains a Category 5 storm at this writing and is heading toward Florida. North Korea has apparently manufactured a hydrogen bomb and is daring America to do something about it while it keeps testing rockets in an effort to build one capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could strike this country or territories like Guam. This is the one that we cannot live with. Both the hurricane and the nuclear weapon can cause massive destruction and are not easily dealt with.According to historians, the first known inhabitants of the Americas considered hurricanes acts of God imposed on them as punishment for their transgressions. The Maya called the God who did this "Jurakan." They sacrificed humans to this God to stop the damaging winds. West Indian natives considered such a destructive force as the release of an evil spirit by God. They called it ""Huracan," which was their word for evil spirit.

May as well beat drums

Early Spaniards in the Americas considered themselves as superior to the inhabitants they found there. But they too considered these storms as godly creations. Since hurricane season peaked in October, the month the Spaniards honored St. Francis of Assisi, who wore a knitted cord around his waist, they placed little ropes with three knots in their doorways to seek his intervention to save them. In addition to these ropes, others in the Americas blew horns and beat drums in response to the fury of these storms.

Today, for all the scientific breakthroughs that have taken place since those early days in the Americas, nothing has been discovered to control hurricanes. David E. Fisher, in his book "The Scariest Place on Earth — Eye to Eye with Hurricanes," pointedly wrote that the early natives of the Americas and the Spaniards who landed there were just about as effective in avoiding or preventing hurricanes as we are today. They are an integral part of nature we have to live with.

There is an obvious and simple way to avoid or minimize the effects of a hurricane — get out of its way. But over the years, local communities allowed the development of their storm damage-prone land to place residences and businesses there at risk from these storms. The storms recur regularly. But instead of dissuading the rebuilding in these areas and leaving them in their natural state as much as possible to face the storms as nature intended, it has now become a sort of patriotic response to rebuild these areas.

While the Red Cross and other like organizations, the National Guard, and the federal and state governments aid the victims, our presidents visit the areas and encourage a national pride in rebuilding. In addition to s0uch support for the victims of hurricanes, we need a national and local government plan for getting people out of the way of these storms permanently and to the extent possible leaving the oceanfacing areas as they were meant to be — nature's defense against these storms, free of development as much as possible.North Korea is a different matter.

The dictatorial family who have led that nation have been focused on America as its major enemy since the armistice halting the Korean war in the 1950s. Former President Harry Truman instigated the United Nations "police action" to stop North Korea from taking over all of Korea. American military forces played the major role in pushing back the North Koreans to the present demilitarized zone. America has since kept a large military presence in South Korea.

Concerted effort

Some years ago, I watched a documentary on North Korea which included a video taken secretly in one of its elementary schools. The lesson being taught was how America was its main enemy and that North Korea will eventually will defeat it in war. In the meantime, America has tried to isolate the North Koreans and impose trade sanctions on them.

The result of all this was predictable — the continual preparation to be ready for its war with America. Nobody should be surprised by its attitude and nuclear arms buildup aimed at America.

The U.S. vowed over the years that North Korea will not be allowed to maintain a nuclear arsenal, but U.S. leaders have never spelled out how this would be accomplished. What has been tried to date has not worked. Now, short of overt military action to defeat North Korea or covert action to change its regime, there is nothing America can do on its own to deal with this problem. It requires the concerted effort of all the major powers in the world, including China and Russia. The question is whether our current presidential administration is up to the task.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor.

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