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« Review: "While America Slept" | Main | Book Review: “While America Slept,” by Robert C. O’Brien »

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: LCF resident questions U.S. foreign policy 

LA Times / La Cañada Valley Sun

By: Joe Puglia

The world is often abysmal and dark as a bad dream. Utopians surrender any understanding of reality for the promise of societal perfection. The search for Nirvana is ultimately a futile and dangerous quest that encompasses and necessitates the death of reason. It’s a precarious ideology that inhibits detente and empowers enemies.

The world is often abysmal and dark as a bad dream. Utopians surrender any understanding of reality for the promise of societal perfection. The search for Nirvana is ultimately a futile and dangerous quest that encompasses and necessitates the death of reason. It’s a precarious ideology that inhibits detente and empowers enemies.

William James’ essay, “What Makes Life Significant,” tells us there is no escape from anxiety and struggle. He contends, though, that the very ills of life give it its color. In our attempt to provide balance, and for survival, our only solution then is the legislation of morality. Morality does not evolve from the floor of the Senate; subsequently, a strong presence is worth considering.

Is the world any better this week, on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001? We are even more polarized politically, socially, religiously and racially than we were on that fateful Tuesday morning, that changed our collective face. Our stature in the world has eroded. This happened while Americans slept.

Robert C. O’Brien, a La Cañada resident, recently authored a book, “While America Slept.” He asserts that under the current administration’s “lead from behind” foreign policy, the world has become a more dangerous place.

O’Brien’s professional and political vita are impressive. He earned his juris doctorate from UC Berkeley. He then joined the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army and reached the rank of major.

O’Brien was a senior legal officer with the United Nations Security Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Nominated by President George W. Bush and approved by the Senate, Robert O’Brien served as the U.S. alternate representative of the United Nations General Assembly where he worked with Ambassador John Bolton. There, he addressed the General Assembly on the question of Palestine and represented the United States in discussions on international terrorism. He was the founding co-chairman of the Department of State Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, serving under two secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice and later Hillary Clinton.

In his book, O’Brien offers essays backed by historical rationales as antidotes to the aggressions of Russia and China, a nuclear Iran, an unstable Middle East, Islamic terrorism, a weakened military, and the rise of ISIS. He cites a lack of American leadership that has traditionally provided a steadying influence in the chaos of our world.

In the first section of his book, he discusses the pitfalls of isolationism. Sections 2 and 3 support a “peace through strength approach to world affairs.” In Section 4 he discusses and emerging China. Sections 5 and 6 deal with terrorism and rationale, respectively.

In one of his essays, O’Brien asks “What would Churchill do?” Winston Churchill, one of O’Brien’s political heroes, warned of the impending dangers of then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement toward German expansion, which eventually engulfed the world in war. He draws a parallel between prewar Europe and the current affairs of the world. O’Brien cautions that while America sleeps we might be going down the same path.

I find O’Brien’s interest and endeavors in political ideology fascinating. He said his curiosity was spurred when his father, a Marine officer, took him to a Ronald Reagan political rally. There, he was mesmerized by the excitement of the event and by Reagan’s charisma.

After graduating from college, he assisted former President Richard Nixon write a book, “The Real War,” which was intended to have an impact on the presidential campaign of 1980.

Mitt Romney, whom the La Cañadan advised in his 2012 presidential bid, said, “O’Brien is a five-tool player. He can do any job in any agency. I wouldn’t be surprised he’s the next president’s national security adviser.”


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at doctorjoe@ymail.com. Visit his website at doctorjoe.us.

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