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Lynn Hummel: Crossing that line in the sand

Did you know that your 285 H.P. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a name that goes back to before the birth of Christ? It’s true if you’re curious about what a Rubicon is. A Rubicon is not a Reuben sandwich with a 285 H.P. engine.

The Rubicon is a tiny river in Northern Italy. In 49 A.D., Julius Caesar was governor of a Roman province, Gaul, just across the Rubicon River from Italy itself. Under Roman law, provincial governors were prohibited, under penalty of death for themselves and their soldiers, to march into Italy. But Caesar, full of ambition and a lust for glory, deliberately marched a legion of 5,000 soldiers across the Rubicon and headed for Rome.

Once Caesar and his legion had crossed the Rubicon, they were considered to be at a point of no return. If they had been captured they would have all been executed. But the Romans, under Pompey, Caesar’s chief rival, fearing a much larger army, fled and Caesar captured Rome. Within 60 days Caesar became the master of Italy and had himself appointed dictator and counsel for life.

But being a dictator is no bed of roses, as Saddam Hussein (Iraqi dictator hanged in 2006), Muammar Gaddafi (Libyan dictator, killed by rebel forces in 2011), Hosni Mubarak (Egyptian dictator, died in prison in 2012 while serving a life sentence) and Bashar al-Assad (Syrian dictator, still hanging on, but soon to go) have learned.                Caesar, as it turned out, was stabbed to death three years later by men who had accepted his favors and who he believed to be his friends.

The situation wasn’t exactly the same for General George Washington and his Revolutionary Army in 1776, but there were parallels. Washington wasn’t driven by ambition or a lust for power, but he had a river to cross, his Rubicon, the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing was a night surprise attack the day after Christmas.

Washington probably didn’t stand up in the boat crossing the rough, icy river as pictured, but he caught the Hessians sleeping and scored a much needed decisive victory. If he had lost, the war probably would have been over, so the crossing was a point of no return.

As it was, many more victories were needed for the ragtag Revolutionaries and the war wasn’t won until the victory at Yorktown in 1881.

Today we are at another point of no return. Kim Jung Un, the still-not-30 North Korean Dictator of just over a year is making serious threats. North Korea has just moved mid-range missiles to the eastern front of their country, near the Russian border and has warned that the military has been authorized to attack the U.S. using small, light, diversified nuclear weapons. “The moment of explosion is approaching fast” the military statement said.

Are the North Koreans bluffing? In February, they fired a rocket and tested a nuclear bomb. It is generally understood that they have nuclear attack capability. Further, they have closed their borders and refused to allow entry to the South Koreans who manage jointly-run factories in North Korea. But they resent economic sanctions and U.S. and South Korean military exercises are being called “provocative”.

The U.S. has 28,000 troops in the demilitarized zone just south of the North Korean border and another 40,000 troops in Japan. All are in a state of military readiness.

Is young Kim Jung Un serious? Is he just acting tough? Does he know what he’s doing? He hasn’t even been able to find a good barber yet. He’s just a banty rooster dictator, crowing and strutting and enriching himself while he rules a bankrupt, starving nation. Once he crosses the Rubicon by pulling the first trigger or pushing the first button, he’s toast. He’s stepping up to that line in the sand, that point of no return, and the world is watching.