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Pat Buchanan - Why are we trolling for a war with Russia?

Some 50 State Department officials have signed a memo calling on President Obama to launch air and missile strikes on the Damascus regime of Bashar Assad. A "judicious use of stand-off and air weapons," they claim, "would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

In brief, to strengthen the hand of our diplomats and show we mean business, we should start bombing and killing Syrian soldiers.

Yet Syria has not attacked us. And Congress has not declared war on Syria, or authorized an attack. Where do these State hawks think President Obama gets the authority to launch a war on Syria?

Does State consider the Constitution to be purely advisory when it grants Congress the sole power to declare war? Was not waging aggressive war the principal charge against the Nazis at Nuremberg?

If U.S. bombs and missiles rain down on Damascus, to the cheers of the C-Street Pattons, what do we do if Bashar Assad's allies Iran and Hezbollah retaliate with Benghazi-type attacks on U.S. diplomats across the Middle East? What do we do if Syrian missiles and Russian planes starting shooting down U.S. planes?

Go to war with Hezbollah, Iran and Russia?

Assume U.S. strikes break Syria's regime and Assad falls and flees. Who fills the power vacuum in Damascus, if not the most ruthless of the terrorist forces in that country, al-Nusra and ISIS?

Should ISIS reach Damascus first, and a slaughter of Alawites and Christians ensue, would we send an American army to save them?

According to CIA Director John Brennan, ISIS is spreading and coming to Europe and America. Does it make sense then that we would launch air and missile strikes against a Syrian regime and army that is today the last line of defense between ISIS and Damascus?

Does anyone think these things through?

Wherever, across the Middle East, we have plunged in to wage war — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria — people continue to suffer and die, and we are ensnared. Have we not fought enough wars in this Godforsaken region?

Last week, Russian planes launched air strikes on the rebels in Syria whom we have been arming and training to overthrow Assad. Said John Kerry, "Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite." But why are we arming rebels to overthrow Assad?

Who rises if he falls? Moscow's alliance with Damascus goes back decades. Syria provides Russia with a naval base in the Mediterranean. Vladimir Putin's support for the embattled Syrian regime in the civil war being waged against it is legal under international law.

It is our policy that appears questionable.

Where did Obama get the right to arm and train rebels to dump over the Damascus regime? Did Congress authorize this insurrection? Or is this just another CIA-National Endowment for Democracy project?

Why are we trying to bring down Assad, anyhow?

U.S. foreign policy today seems unthinking, reactive, impulsive.

Last week, 31,000 NATO troops conducted exercises in Poland and the Baltic republics, right alongside the border with Russia. For the first time since 1945, German tanks appeared in Poland.

Now we are planning to base four NATO battalions — one U.S.-led, one British, one German, and perhaps one Canadian, as the French and Italians are balking at being part of a tripwire for war.

How would we react if 31,000 Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Iranian and North Korean troops conducted military exercises across from El Paso and Brownsville, Texas? How would we react if each of those countries left behind a battalion of troops to prevent a repeat of General "Black Jack" Pershing's intervention in Mexico in 1916?

Americans would be apoplectic.

Nor are some Europeans enthusiastic about confronting Moscow.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the NATO exercises "warmongering" and "saber-rattling." He adds, "Anyone who believes that symbolic tank parades on the alliance's eastern border will increase security is wrong. We would be well-advised not to deliver any excuses for a new, old confrontation."

Not only is Steinmeier's Social Democratic Party leery of any new Cold War with Russia, so, too, is the German Left Party, and the anti-EU populist party Alternative for Germany, which wants closer ties to Russia and looser ties to the United States.

This month, we sent the USS Porter into the Black Sea. Why? Says Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, "to deter potential aggression."

While there is talk of a NATO Black Sea fleet, Bulgaria, one of the three NATO Black Sea nations, appears to want no part of it.

The European Union also just voted to extend sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting separatists in Ukraine.

Donald Trump calls the NATO alliance a rip-off, a tripwire for World War III and "obsolete." Hillary Clinton compares Putin's actions in Ukraine to Hitler's actions in Germany in the early 1930s.

Looking for a four-year faceoff with a nuclear-armed Russia?

Hillary's the one!

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Meredith Library needs 3 to 5 acres; if we build it they will come

To The Daily Sun,

I hope to clarify, inform and encourage debate about the future of the Meredith Public Library (MPL) and the Benjamin Smith Library Building (BSLB.) These are two separate entities. BSLB belongs to the Town of Meredith, as dictated by New Hampshire law. How this property should be re-purposed is up to the town. If you have a good idea, advocate for it.

MPL is our wonderful staff, our commitment to promote local culture and lifelong learning, collections, programs, outreach and furnishings. MPL Trustees are elected primarily to work for the MPL. We have custody of BSLB because it contains the MPL. BSLB's interests increasingly compete and conflict with the priorities of MPL.

Consider the view from the front door: Foyer and desk — glorious; room to the right — airy and elegant, yet warm and inviting. Cast your eyes left, and it's painful. Ugly computer cubicles obscure the fireplace. DVD and audio books clutter the remaining space. The rooms mirror each other, but, unless you look up, that harmony is gone.

MLP's greatest asset is the staff. I'm surprised they stay. Their "offices" are cramped and inconvenient. They get no private breaks because all programs and meetings use the same room. They must weed excessively to make way for new materials. (Any doubters? Please examine figures for materials acquired v. culled in the last several town reports.) Our esteemed director is a talented grant writer, but her efforts benefit BSLB, very rarely MPL.
BSLB is not "user friendly" for anyone in a wheelchair or challenged by stairs. It no longer serves families well, especially those with younger children. There are two toilets in the building. These are two full floors from the children's library and a half a floor from the meeting/program/staff room. Every week, we have one or two accidents on the stairs — children, elderly and staff members, all have fallen.

More than intellect, this debate requires imagination and some degree of compassion. Stand on the sidewalk and pretend. You have returns, a diaper bag and two young children. You're going to the basement and the attic... Or arrive at the back and think yourself into a wheelchair. Fiction is the only easy option (can't check out or use a bathroom) so you cruise the stacks. Great, but remember, you are seated. You see only books that, when you are standing, are on shelves between your knees and maybe four inches above your belly button. Over half are unavailable.

MPL/BSLB, open five days a week, serves 200-300 people a day. Inability to park is by far the biggest gripe about the library. Congestion on Main Street is a major reason why some opt for libraries and P.O. boxes in surrounding towns. Staff and trustees dream about an easily accessed lot with 40-60 spaces and ample off-road area for buses and wheelchair vans to maneuver.

Meredith has had three municipal entities downtown for decades, but Main Street struggles. MPL/BSLB visits take longer than most Post Office or Town Hall errands. We know many of our patrons also pick up mail. Is it impossible these three municipals might be one too many in our particular town center?

My most vivid memory of MPL/BSLB is from the 1950s. As usual, my family arrived and split up to browse where we liked. This was freedom: picking my own books, checking out independently with my new card. As I waited for the old gentleman preceding me, I had this amazing revelation: we were equals in this magic space. Awesome! And impossible today.

What else exists only in memory? Quiet places to study; exhibitions of World War I and World War II gear; local people's eccentric collections; presentations by folks who've traveled or have an expertise to share; the bridge, chess, camera and astronomy clubs. Only registered charities use the Community Center for free, and recreation spaces are often inappropriate for small groups like these. Where can they go?

Libraries with good visual continuity are the most family-friendly. For this, ease of access and efficient staffing, a library on one level is optimal. This also generally allows for the least "unassignable" space and provides for easier emergency egress. With such a building, MPL could open six days/week without adding staff.

This is biggest bang for the buck to build and to run. MPL plans a fund-raising effort but must find a location. For a single-level 14,000-square-foot building with parking for 40-60 cars (suitable for our population) MPL needs three to five acres. If we build it, they will come.
Even if all three properties around BSLB could be acquired, the total is less than 1.5 acres. Forget the dream parking lot. MPL needs a single level addition to the ground floor of BSLB of at least 10,000 square feet. The 1980s extension is tactful and unobtrusive, yet still disrupts the elegant symmetry of the original. What would a massive second addition do to this splendid old building and beautiful location?

Library to museum conversions have succeeded elsewhere. BSLB could be an impressive town hall. The present one and/or annex might then be sold and returned to the tax roll. Maybe Meredith needs a business incubator to diversify our economy and attract young people — a "maker space" with 3D printers and working areas for artists and inventors. Whatever. But those who love the BSLB should think about creating an endowment and a team to ensure it is properly maintained and preserved.

Pamela Coburn, Trustee

Meredith Public Library

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