Another year has come but all is not calm and all doesn’t seem bright.

Despite media declarations and presidential proclamations, it is obvious that the conflict in Iraq is far from over. As the last US convoy pulled out, locals watched helplessly knowing what lay ahead for them. The deadly bombings across Baghdad in the past few weeks have proved their fears. Sectarian violence has restarted and religio-political power-plays are in full swing. “Whether or not this was the right time to pull out our troops” is too late to debate. We can only hope that the Iraqi people will fight the good fight for democracy. Much good has been accomplished in the past eight years. Minorities have been heard for the first time and given a place at the table. That in itself is a giant leap towards progress in a region known for suppressing the weak. The vision of liberty lies now in the hands of the Iraqis. Will they stand for justice and equality for all or will they lose the ground that has been gained? Only time will tell.

Along with Iraq, the nations of Iran and North Korea are back in the news as well. In spite of international criticisms, Iranian leaders are defiant in continuing their nuclear program. They even thumbed their nose when asked to return the US RQ-170 drone. If that was not enough, now the Iranian navy is conducting drills in international waters and threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. With regards to North Korea, all eyes are on the next in line of the Pyongyang crime family. Experts doubt that much will change under the new successor. As the most militarized nation of the world with an active nuclear and ballistic missiles program, North Korea remains unpredictable and defiant in the face of the free world. It seems that Ole’ W’s axis of evil is still with us after ten years. With Longfellow we say: “And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Given the evil intent of evil leaders, it falls upon leaders of the free world to stay ever vigilant and take preemptive steps to defend peace. Withdrawing from war zones may not be the smartest thing to do. Make no mistake, we are glad to see our troops come home to their families and they should be commended for a job well done. They left their home to fight so that the fight would not come to their home. They fought against insurmountable odds to bring peace and freedom to a nation under a dictator. Many wives lost their husbands; many sons and daughters lost their fathers; and many mothers and fathers will miss their sons at their thanksgiving tables. Those who returned will have their share of scars for life. We owe our troops a debt of gratitude. But as much as we are glad to see every service man/woman home safe, we need to remember that sometimes our presence is the most effective way to keep peace. As long as evil men roam the earth, peace-loving men will have to roam nearby.

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