Commentary: We’ve Taken Our Eye Off the Enemy

President Trump happens to be the loudest person on the planet earth and sucks the oxygen out all the others who are attempting to speak. Sound does not travel in a vacuum. And we have provided him a platform. We instinctively follow the noise and a loud trombone. We turn our heads to the sound of the drum. Tonight, I hear about yet another shooting and, not quite buried in the news, the gas lighting by a public official who has not been playing it straight with the American public— think of the attorney general. I decided I need to take a quiet break.

A very dear boyhood friend asked me this afternoon: “can’t you write something funny”? And we agreed that we no longer worry about our children but fear what we are creating for our grandchildren. A dangerous, hostile environment that starts in the street and rises to the highest offices of government. And not just in the United States. America has always been “the” leader in the world, and the rest of the world is now following our steps in hate and domestic violence. “Beat them up and I’ll pay your legal fees”. Not some mob boss, but the president of the United States.

The President is using trade wars and tariffs as a wrecking ball. The American farmer is living on life support with your tax dollars. The cost to you is 16 billions of dollars on top of 12 billion last year. And, however you might want to spin the facts, there is no such thing as clean coal. And you can watch each day as the stock market flirts with going lower and lower, as 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to meet a $400 emergence expense. That’s untenable, unacceptable and the list goes on. And as the facts get lost in the loud noise, our national security has been placed in jeopardy by our failure to appropriately focus our military ingenuity and resources. China built that Great Wall to keep out the invaders; presently it is building an even greater “wall” to embrace however far it can reach outward. China’s naval fleet is growing faster than any other fleet in the world, and after decades upon decades they are in the throes of controlling all the coastal water far from their shores. We presently sail thru the South China Sea at our peril. But that is only the tip of the rolling wave.

Decade after decade we have been in one war after another with one eye on the large red star in Moscow and the other unfocused, failing to see the Chinese as a potential military threat much greater than the Russian dictator. They have changed the balance of power in the Pacific in two decades and are in the process of making our all but invincible aircraft carrier fleet obsolete and impotent. To compound our lack of focus, the Trump Administration has pulled money from ballistic missile surveillance programs to fund the Great Trump Wall on a desert stretch of barren land. While our navy is directed to conduct “freedoms of navigation” operations, in claimed territorial water, for the purposes of challenging what is clearly Chinese excessive maritime claims of control and dominion.

The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual assessment of Chinese military power. That report revealed in stark terms that the Beijing’s artificially constructed islands (I have written about this in the past) were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018. Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands . The area is already militarized and part of the total Chinese aggressive military movement.

The traffic and trade war with China however controlling they are of our nation’s headlines and in turn our pocket books, the economic volatility will get worse and might end in all probability to erase all predicted financial gains this year. And we can look forward to decades of toe to toe world competition, with China our most powerful economic competitor. There will be a long term economic war of attrition and conflict between the two nations.

Before I focus on the enlarging security challenges by the Chinese, it is obvious that most eyes are on Iran, underlined by the president’s constant references to an armed conflict with that nation. To put that in perspective: Although it is true that Iran has an elite naval force, it is of no consequence to the American navel capacity in that area of the world—the Straits of Hormus– a naval choke point between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Straits are a vital shipping line that Iran alleges it controls. If one would compare that to the dangers of conflict with China, Iran is mosquito that will disintegrate before American’s naval and air power. I don’t say that in a flippant manner, and I do not mean to minimize its importance, but it is imperative to understand the enormous difference in problems present and future that each of these nations present.

With regard to China: the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet has sailed thru the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive maritime claims. China promptly responded that this aggressive act was provocative and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and dangerous to international peace. This naval exercise followed a recent transit by two other warships through international waters in the Taiwan Straits.

 With outstanding reporting and analysis by Reuters excellent investigation team and Benjamin Kang Lim, we have been well schooled on how powerful China has become and its military ability to forcefully confront the U.S. military dominance. China’s biggest state-owned missile maker, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd, screened missiles that are specifically designed to attack aircraft carriers which have been, since the demise of the massive battleship, the mainstay of our military dominance. If you have a moment look at the size and shape of the latest aircraft carrier, you can only marvel on not only its size but its capacity to bring enormous destruction to the enemy far from its decks.

“Across almost all categories (of missiles manufactured by the Chinese) of these weapons, based on land, loaded on strike aircraft or deployed on warships and submarines, China’s missiles rival or outperform their counterparts in the armories of the United States …” Beijing, has always been unrestrained by the INF Treaty (which the U.S. just cancelled unilaterally with Russia), in its deploying them in massive numbers. And their range of operation is very impressive: between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). This includes the so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If these missiles are as effective as described, and it would be wrong to discount this information, they would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.” China is also making rapid strides in developing so-called hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver sharply and travel at five times the speed of sound. Presently, the United States has no defenses against a missile like this, according to Pentagon officials, and this positions China as having the most advanced defensive ballistic missile system in the world.

Without sabre rattling, America is at a sever disadvantage to the power in the East. But it is important to note I have used the word “defensive” in terms of China’s power. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, China just two. China is not looking to proactively engage the U.S. in a naval battle, but they are more than prepared to defeat the U.S. if it is the aggressor threating its claimed territorial waters. In addition, China has the capacity to push back its military as it looks to expand its influence over vast areas of the South China Sea, by quietly ramping up its naval and air incursions around Taiwan and pushing its operations into territory it disputes with Japan and others in the vast East China Sea.

 Two challengers have been posed to me: The first is China’s weapons have yet to face the reality of battle. China, I am reminded, has not fought a war since invading Vietnam in 1979. We, the U.S., have done nothing but test our hardware in war after war over the past two decades. What makes me so sure that China is our number one capable military adversary? And second, “if China were so very far advance in the military spectrum of international military jostling and has no fear of U.S. intervention wouldn’t they ‘just liberate’ Taiwan”.

If in fact the description of China’s extraordinary missile ability is only 90 percent accurate, any aggressive moves by a multi U.S. Carrier fleet into or near the South China Sea in a real or perceived aggressive stance will invite the possibility of massive destruction. Are we willing to test China’s ability or resolve in this reckless way? Taiwan is and will never be a threat to China. It is an ongoing annoyance, a political embarrassment but nothing more. To “liberate” Taiwan would require a military operation and become a quagmire and an internationally diplomatic nightmare for China.

We tend to think of China not as a nation, as we view England, France or Russia but as individuals who we have seen through the decades in our movies, televisions and characters in sitcoms. How many in the U.S. see the individual Chinese person. May I say on the one hand our responses boarder on racism while marveling at their mathematical genius? China is looking to replace the United States as the world leader and we do an immense disservice to our grandchildren if we ignore facts, rely upon stereo type, and market our aggressive military posture.

Richard Allan

The Editor

The Suicide Drone

Although it hasn’t been warm enough to go outside in a light jacket, I decided, today, it was time to do the necessary clearing of my winter pile of papers, clippings and magazines on my desk and accept that spring will come one day.

I am blessed with a wife who cleans out our junk mail right at our mail box into a garbage can provided by coop, but being a hoarder, there are certain items I grab and tuck onto my desk. What remained today were three items, which although miles apart in subject matter, are connected and very troublesome for our national security.
One of the catalogues, I was able to salvage, as my wife happily tossed them away, advertised as a new and exotic drone. One is small enough for your apartment and a larger model for your Central Park enjoyment. The second “type” drone I found in a press release from those who follow the news out of Moscow. The drone hyped by Moscow is being developed and operated as a “suicide” weapon. Suicide is the intentional causing one’s own death. An example would be those persons the Palestine Authority financially support, who choose the role of strapping a bomb to their body. That is suicide.

The Russian suicide drone is very different from drones we presently employ which are much large –more than 20 feet in length and carry rockets to be launched. The drone remains intact and is redeployed for another mission. The major news outlets have referred to the new Russian drone as a “suicide drone”, which on first blush is misleading, but on second thought makes total sense. Imagine a drone with all the capacity to sustain itself flying over a long distance, hover, choose its target and then destroy itself on impact. Now imagine several such drones flying in a semi-formation over an enemy battalion or city, and then simultaneously destroying itself upon not one but several designated targets.

First some background that is important to review: A report issued by the Dutch National Coordinator of Counterterrorism and Security reported that Muslim extremists are recruiting to radicalize European Muslims in schools, mosques and social groups. Notwithstanding ISIS’s loss of territory, it continues to be a significant terrorist threat. This is especially true for all those who fought with ISIS and are coming home to Europe. It becomes evident that ISIS and al-Qaida are using this quiet time in preparing to launch multiple attacks. In addition, hundreds of American commandos and other troops are leaving West Africa at the same moment terrorist attacks are intensifying and spreading across that continent.

Although there have been lulls in terrorist attacks in 2018—only 6 attacks in Europe, compared to 20 in 2017, we must not, cannot assume that international terrorism is on the decline. When we move from the European theatre to the United States, according to FBI figures shared with The Post, in the 2017 budget year there were about 110 people arrested in the United States, after being investigated for actions inspired by foreign terror groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Of those, about 30 faced terrorism charges. Lawmakers are rightfully worried about domestic terrorism in the United States and want the FBI and the Justice Department to provide a complete accounting of the threat after recently disclosed data show arrests in such cases now outpace those in international terrorism probes.

The third prong of this discussion is a front page graph and lengthy article in the New York Times asserting that attacks by White Extremists are growing. More important, is their connection, however tenuous, to each other. In addition, the attacks in North America are more deadly.

If you put each of these developments side-by-side it is possible that the terrorist is on the cusp of changing how it might attack in a new, more dangerous and surgically applied way to inflict greater damage and to increase its psychological impact. Let me explain.

I have never visited Abu Dhabi, let alone attended an armaments exhibition but the blog “In Homeland Security” staff has led us thru a small section of an exhibit of the get-together of the world’s munitions and arms companies, as they walked the runway touting their latest methods for the most efficient ways of us killing each other. Most of us looking at the Paris fashion world (even the non-aware people such as myself) know the names of the world’s famous fashion designers, but how many of us know the name: Kalashnikov Group? You should.

Their designer product is on the lips of every person when there is a mass shooting in the United States—the infamous, deadly, accurate AK-47 assault rifle. It has become the most lethal tool across the globe. It is cheap, easy to use and best of all very efficient. In Homeland Security blog it claims that the United States “purchases secondhand Kalashnikov (AK-47) rifles for its allies in Syria and Afghanistan, rather than give them the more expensive American-made guns.” That in “arms” terms is a compliment.

Although it is widely known that the U.S. and Israel have incorporated suicide drones into their resources, the Russian government has the KUB drone designed and built by the people who brought us the AK-47. The KUB, as described, is faster, more accurate, delivers twice the explosive capacity and has a greater range than the devices presently slapped together by terrorists or the U.S. and Israel. “And unlike U.S. and Israeli exploding drones, the KUB will be ‘very cheap,’ said one of the Kalashnikov representatives.” The Russian corporate spokesperson described the drone as four feet wide, can fly for 30 minutes at a speed of 80 mph and carries six pounds of explosives. “That makes it roughly the size of a coffee table that can be guided to explode on a target 40 miles away.”

This weapon changes not only the face of warfare between major adversaries but the face of terrorism. If the KUB is as simple and cheap to make and is as accurate as described, then it is very conceivable that a well-funded terrorist organization can copycat its design and delivery. In addition, considering its size, it can be transported and delivered anywhere in the world with a little ingenuity. That is one side of this unsettling news. The other side is the rise in numbers of individual extremist and local extremist groups. They are not traveling to the United States, they are already here and are part of our society whether in Portland, California or Kansas or Charleston where attacks have occurred. They don’t have to smuggle a stolen Russian suicide drone. They can duplicate it right here at home.

I well remember 9/11, that day and the days following. Not only the psychological shock, but paranoia swept thru the City and the nation. The cancellation of air flights across the country. The swift shutting down of mass transit leaving people stranded. I can vividly recall the pictures of people running thru the streets to escape downtown Manhattan. And the smell that lingered for weeks.

Now visualize, not a 9/11 concentrate attack against two closely placed buildings, but five or six simultaneously launched suicide drones from a sparsely dense neighborhood in Queens or Westchester each carrying six pounds of the deadliest explosives, exploding into the towers of JFK and LaGuardia airports, the center of Times Square, Grand Central Station, and a number of highly dense towers spread out in Manhattan. That attack would close the City and paralyze the nation. ISIS and al-Qaeda and their subparts are not defeated, but much more important is that we have become more vulnerable to our own homegrown white extremists who think globally but act locally.

Richard Allan
The Editor

2-9-19 Commentary- ISIS IS Not Defeated

 In the latter part of 1989, when terrorists and suicide bombers from the mid-East were beginning to create consistent headlines, I began to think back, 45 years earlier, to the Japanese kamikaze pilots during WWII. For those who have no memory of this group of young Japanese fighter pilots, with their flowing white silk scarfs and their “Banzai” war chant or battle charge, their mission was to ultimately ram their plane into the largest allied fighting ships in the Pacific. At that time I wasn’t surprised by their suicidal acts, nor in reflection am I now, considering the ancient Japanese culture of an honorable death — seppuku or, as we know it, hara-kiri—to restore honor. I came to understand that this particular action was not terrorism, as we define it, but an act of war…instead of dropping the bomb, the kamikaze pilot flew the bomb into the target.

But in 1989-90 what was motivating this new breed of mid-eastern terrorist? There was no ancient mid-eastern honor code to direct sacrificing one’s life to correct a breach of duty or honor. The terrorists who were hijacking airplanes and detonating vest bomb and forfeiting their life were not an “elder” whose misstep brought dishonor. In 1989-90, I could find no ancient scroll to help me understand this new type of terrorism. What I did learn was that there is a long history in the use of terrorism first domestically then as an offensive weapon. One thing that history teaches us, but invariably we fail to acknowledge, is that history does repeat itself—not necessarily verbatim but in some similar form. The President has claimed that ISIS is defeated, and has decided to withdraw our military forces from Syria without consulting our allies. This is a denial of history clearly indicates that he has absolutely no understanding of the facts on the ground or the history of the last 25 years and is tone deaf to the uproar it created.

During a Senate hearing the highest ranking intelligence officials warned that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, was capable of attacking the United States and painted a picture of a still-formidable terrorist organization notwithstanding its loss of occupied territory. The President repeated the very same inaccurate picture during his State of the Union address. Additionally, a released Pentagon report sets out a stark warning that without US military presence and pressure, ISIS could, in all likelihood, regain the territory it lost in Syria within the next six months to a year. One can accurately forecast that with our withdrawal ISIS will re-establish its caliphate left by our disappearing act and its void. There are three things that are on the top of the list of danger zones we presently face either because of a lack of knowledge or not looking at the history of global attacks by terrorism as follows:

The first is Trump’s latest snap decision proposal for a 20-mile safe zone that Turkey will establish. This plan has been made with no process or analysis. This area would encompass all Kurdish areas of eastern Syria. There is no armed force ready to take over that responsibility, nor time to build one, as American troops prepare to leave. And entry of Turkish-backed opposition forces would likely displace thousands of Kurds, as well as threaten vulnerable Christian communities interspersed in these areas. The strategic consequences of Trump’s decision are already playing out: The more Turkey expands its reach in Syria, the faster our Arab partners in the region appear to lean toward Damascus. In addition, Bloomberg news finally reports what very few media outlets seem to understand about Syria: “US troops aren’t even marginally involved in the fight against the biggest remaining jihadi force there — which is al-Qaeda, not ISIS.”

The second point, as reported in great detail in Smithsonian Magazine, more than 17 years after the Global War on Terrorism was initiated by President George W. Bush, it is now truly global. “We found that, contrary to what most Americans believe, the war on terror is not winding down—it has spread to more than 40 percent of the world’s countries. The war isn’t being waged by the military alone, which has spent $1.9 trillion fighting terrorism since 2001. The State Department has spent $127 billion in the last 17 years to train police, military and border patrol agents in many countries and to develop antiterrorism education programs, among other activities.” This is a damming statement, contradicting the claim that the “world is safe”; ISIS has been defeated. We think of ISIS as mid-east phenomena, but that was only a seed from a previously terrorist group that has been replicated and is now embedded across the globe: as I write this commentary, the WSJ reported that ISIS has made a “surprise” comeback in West Africa. Why the surprise? Which brings me to my third thought.

What any historian studying the incubation and evolving of present day international terrorism will list as number one is that, like the amoeba we looked at thru a microscope in high school, terrorist groups have internal conflicts and wins and losses on the battle field that prompt them to split and reorganize. When one group is “defeated” or there appears to be internal conflict, a splinter group develops and takes on its own mantle with a new or adjusted focus and methodology. ISIS is not dead, and with its loss of territory in the mid-East (which it will fill with Trump’s retreat) it will find, as it has done, a different venue to operate and control.

Trump in a repeating tweet, true to form, that in no uncertain terms, he “knows more and better” than his senior security heads. And he continues to declare ISIS defeated by pushing the envelope to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Imagine for a moment the CPA you retain each year for your tax advice and corporate filing. She is about ready to have brain surgery, and prior to the anesthetist saying “count back from 100” she tells her surgeon, in great detail, how to proceed in performing the operation. You would get a court mandate to do both the operation as planned by the surgeon and instantly commit the person to a psychiatric institution… and find a new accountant.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Japan and World Order

As a child, late on the afternoon of December 7th 1941, I was sitting with my father in the balcony of a movie theatre called the Brooklyn Paramount. It had a large ornate interior much like the Paramount movie theatre then on Broadway. The movie we were watching was “One Foot in Heaven”. It was a period piece set in 1917, and I believe the star was Fredric March, as the head of a happy family. I recall I was thinking that afterward I wanted to go to the Horn and Hardat restaurant for their apple pie when suddenly, the picture on the screen started to flutter and stop. The house lights went on and a man in (to the best of my recollection) an army uniform walked out to the middle of the stage, looked into the audience, and told us that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He told all the service men that they must return to their base immediately. The lights went off, the movie flickered on, and the characters on the screen were celebrating the end of WW I. I began to cry, thinking that my father, although not in the army, would leave us.

In September of 1945, I saw, I believe in Life Magazine, the historic picture of the signing of the unconditional surrender of Japanese forces. A cloth covered mess table had been placed on the deck of the battle ship the USS Missouri (which then was the last battleship commissioned into the United States Navy), anchored in Tokyo Bay, along with over two hundred other allied warships but no aircraft carriers. There were four or five men in uniform (Japanese and allied) standing on opposite sides of the table, signing. Thus began five and half years of American occupation of Japan.

On 27th September of that year, in a photograph, the towering figure of General Douglas MacArthur (hero of the Pacific war) is shown standing next to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, for their first meeting. MacArthur has his hands in his pockets and the Emperor, ramrod stiff, in formal attire.

MacArthur’s title was Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and to the world he was the leading figure in all that took place in the ensuing years, until he was “fired” by President Truman. MacArthur forgot (or ignored the fact) that there was a Commander-in-Chief of American forces who also happened to be the President of the United States. He never diminished the growing impression that whatever flowed from his office in Tokyo had its inception under his direct command. What I learned, only recently, was that there was concentrated planning in Washington for the eventual defeat of Japan and its “rehabilitation” two years prior to its actual defeat and occupation.

By 1946, the Japanese government, under U.S. military occupation, thought it was MacArthur’s intention that they draft a new constitution for the emerging postwar, post occupation nation. Upon review by MacArthur’s team, it was immediately rejected and MacArthur ordered (without consultation with any of the US Allies) a government section of his occupying forces to draft a constitution, to be ready for submission within a matter of weeks.

Two items of the new constitution, adopted in 1947, are of particular importance today. The first is that the Emperor, under the newly proposed constitution, would lose the position of ultimate authority, although remaining as head of state. In essence, what real political power he previously exercised would be abolished, and the rights of peerage would be abolished. In principal, Japan became a constitutional monarchy. The second element, Article 9 of the Constitution, is presently in the forefront of a political challenge for modern day Japan. Historically, not one coma in their Constitution has been changed in over 70 years, and the constitutional challenge for Japan and its people has international implications.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is commonly known as the “peace clause”. The clause requires that Japan relinquish and abandon any right to wage war or to maintain a “war potential” military force. Its military might is limited to defensive measures only. As we enter 2019, Japan’s regional neighbors are clearly more hostile than the world order was at the time the constitution was formally adopted in 1947. Today, Japan’s partnership with the U.S. in that region is crucial to the national security of both nations. Russia’s submarines are increasing their patrols in the seas north of Japan. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and expansion creates a dangerous and hostile environment. China’s military program, its cyberwar, and stealing foreign held trade secrets is producing an unacceptable security setting in that enlarging geographic area.

To modify Article 9, the Emperor, similar to the Queen of England, is a mere bystander. That task falls to the elected members of both houses of the Diet, their legislative branch of government. The Prime Minister views Article 9 as an impediment to Japan enlarging its military forces, so that they have the ability to play a more proactive role in regional security and on the world stage.

In an excellent article by Adam P. Liff and Ko Maeda, they contend that it will be next to impossible for the Prime Minister to effect change for at least two reasons. The first is the procedural process, which is very difficult. It requires a two-thirds majority vote by both houses of the Diet and then a national referendum. Second is the population of Japan, whose position on the issue of modifying their constitution runs from “pacifisms to the fear of being entrapped in a U.S. war far from home” Let me propose a third almost unspoken position. I have met Japanese, who although not born at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have said they have no desire to bring a child into a world that has the potential for the use of an atomic bomb. That memory gets passed down through generations of Japanese.

American military might is stretched thin. It can no longer effectively fight on more fronts than it is now engaged. We need the military power of the Japanese to be at the ready and to be aggressive, when necessary, if China, North Korea or Russia threatens regional or world order. I think of Kosovo, when there was a genuine humanitarian crisis, and the U.S. led intervention. We need able and willing partners throughout the world, not just in the far Pacific, not just in the mid-East but as unanticipated events occur that demand our moral, political and military attention.

Richard Allan — Editor:     P.S. — As I began my final edit and posting of this Commentary, ISIS supporters threaten attack during the holiday, and the President abruptly announced, against the advice of the military and members of his own party, the withdrawal of 2000 American troops from Syria. David Sanger wrote in a front page article for the NYT that what we have learned through the hard lessons brought home in the post 9/11 years “…that deployed forces are key to stopping terrorists before they reach American shores and vital to maintaining the alliances that keep the world safe.” The Kurds, if abandoned by the U.S., responded that they will release 3200 ISIS in their prisons. And then the resignation of General J. Mattis. President Trump’s tax break has fizzled, his tariffs are pounding Middle America and the stock and bond markets are flashing red lights as the Feds see an economic downturn next year. Mr. Trumps is impeding our ability to maintain our security at home and abroad. RA

Commentary– What Will Be Wrapped For Christmas?

 Thanksgiving is over — both eating and leaning what the early settlers ate—and it wasn’t turkey.

There was little, if any, political discussion before and during dinner, but looking around the very large double dining room table, I quickly realized the majority of those present were age 16 to 24. It was then that my internal worry button was pressed. I have long stopped worrying about the world as it is or will impact upon my children and their spouses, but it is the life of the younger generation that will feel the blunt of today.

The world is turning nationalistic, and although that is worrisome enough, it is just below the radar screen supporting that movement that is unsettling. It is the growth and flourishing of a prime industry: the manufacturing and distribution of military hardware including the proliferation of nuclear bomb making knowledge and material.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute –“After 13 consecutive years of increasing in global military expenditures from 1999 to 2011, and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military spending rose again in 2017.” The total amount spent worldwide in 2017 was an astonishing 1.7 trillion dollars. This would represent in 2.2 per cent of the global gross domestic product. Translated it means that worldwide, each person would theoretically have spent $230 towards the purchase of military hardware. The increases in spending are partially due to China, India and Saudi Arabia and their race to dominate their region or world competition.

Not surprising, the US spends more money on military expenditures than any other nation. But surprising to me was learning that we spend more money than the next seven highest spenders—combined! And under President Trump that number is growing, notwithstanding that there are almost 40 million people in the United States living under the poverty level. In addition, not lost in the global picture is that although Russian military complex is the leading edge of its world political posture and aggressiveness (its present naval attack against the Ukraine), its military expenditures have been reined in by its economic stagnation since 2014, and actually fell in 2017. In the 10 countries in the Mideast, Israeli is number 8 in military spending.

Not only are these worldwide spending numbers staggering, one particular item creates the greatest risk–more than guns and tanks, jets and submarines is the amount spent on the nuclear arsenals. And while there is abundant knowledge of what has been spent, there is a wide area that the amount is not known. This presents a far greater global threat than any fighting unit of tanks or squadron of jet fighters.

In 1987, the US entered into a treaty with Russia that prohibited either country from positioning missiles with a firing range from approximately 320 miles to a bit over 3400 miles. Many military strategists believe this treaty eliminated nuclear missiles from the European continent. It is Trump’s position that the Russians have been violating this agreement for years, and with China’s globally strong entry into the political/military equation, US international strategy must change. Thus, this agreement became irrelevant. Trump is in the process of unilaterally cancelled the agreement with Putin.

More than two dozen nations have nuclear power. Only nine possess actual nuclear weapons: Russia, the United States, China, India, Israel, France, North Korea, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Combined, they represents a present day arsenal of 14 plus thousand nuclear warheads, a significant reduction from an earlier high of over 70 thousand.

At least two issue major issues are apparent to me. The first, within the group that possesses an actual nuclear weapon; there are two that I fear have a dangerous political posture in their control and stockpiling of these weapons. They are not being held as deterrents against would-be aggressors but as offensive weapons in their expanding arsenal—North Korea and Pakistan.

Second, recently reported in some of the press, the CIA has raised the question of whether the Saudis are preparing for the building of their own atomic bomb. The Saudis crown prince (the one accused of ordering the killing of a journalist) has been in negotiations with both the United States’ Department of Energy and the State Department for the sale of nuclear “designs”. The deal is worth some allege 80 billion dollars, contingent upon the ultimate number of nuclear plants to be built. One demand by the Saudis has produced flashing red lights. They have demanded that instead of their purchasing nuclear fuel abroad, they produce their own. The New York Times reported that that the Saudis could purchase that fuel in the open market at a cheaper cost than generating it at home. What concerns those familiar with the negotiations is that if they produce their own nuclear fuel, it would be possible for them to covert the end product into an atomic bomb without any UN oversight or limitations. This places Washington and the West in the same dilemma that was presented prior to the conclusion of the Iran nuclear accord in 2015. The open competition for a bomb making between the rival Saudis and Iran would become a reality.

So on this gloomy Monday morning, with the caravan of immigrants being turned away at our boarder, with tear gas in response and the haunting picture of an immigrant mother fleeing from tear gas with her child, what rings hollow and violates my sense of logic and humanity is the world spending 1.7billion dollars for military destruction. What have we become and what are we leaving to our grandchildren?

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

Commentary—Commander-in-Chief

When I was in law school in 1959 and graduated in 1962, all the courses one took the first year and a half were mandatory. Then the tight control loosened, and you were able to pick and choose what appealed to you. In today’s world, some schools have opened the early curriculum to a limited number of choices. One course I took was Constitutional law, taught by a universally known scholar. He arrived and all 150 of us fell silent. He put his briefcase on his desk (which sat on a platform), placed his notebook on top of his briefcase, sat down and in a voice and cadence that came as close to an overdose of some strong opiate droned on for what seemed like an eternity. Most of the time, I think it more likely, I dozed off. I have no recollection of actually reading the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights—neither is a long text. Presently, because of all the talk that we are in or approaching a constitutional crises, I thought it more than wise to read our Constitution in its entirety, along with the Bill of Rights.

These incredible documents are not a jumble of legal terms or convoluted proposals. The language is clear and unambiguous. All but one small section of the Constitution is directed to how our government will be formed and how it is to address the needs and protection of those who reside in the US. The one small paragraph I referred to is addressed to us individually- you and me. That small section describes sedition– the probation of an individual’s attempt at the violent overthrow of our government.

As I was reading the text of the Constitution, one section stood out. Although it is referred to all the time in the press and television, it was the first time that I stopped and thought about its meaning and import. The Constitution states that The President is the nation’s Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. Commander-in-Chief is a military term. It means that the President, President Trump, is the highest ranking military person in our nation, although he wears no uniform or ranking epilates. There was a clear reason for the architects of the Constitution to insert that section, and there is a treasure trove of writing during its drafting. There was to be civilian control of any armed services. The top generals and admirals were to have a civilian “boss”. While it is true that in recent memory no American president has had military experience (unlike Bush I and I think of the corporal who led the German military tactically and strategically) each prior American president has been engaged in an ongoing, serious learning process to formulate our national military objectives that form the guidepost for our military commanders. Some of them have performed very well, others have squandered the commission.

That role has been clearly abandoned by our present Commander-in-Chief. At the end of his first six months in office (and during the transition period), the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (our longest war, now 17 years old and counting), he ignored these hostilities other than to promise that “he will win” each. He has, in fact, abandoned much of his authority as Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of Defense and his National Security Advisor.

His hope is transparent, as with all missteps that are clearly attributable to him: to escape any responsibility from any error coming out of the White House, including those strategic military errors that had and will take place on his watch. He had to sign off on a SEAL mission to Yemen, during which one of those on the mission was killed. When questioned by the press as to the events that led up to the SEAL’s death he said that “the buck stopped somewhere else”  “They (the generals) came to see me they explained what they wanted to do, the generals … and they lost…” the SEAL combatant.

In two years he has not visited the troops at any overseas base. Which he said is “not overly necessary” “I’m very busy.” Appearing this weekend on a Fox sunday morning program with Chris Wallace he said that he is putting together a plan to visit the troops. And today he criticized the military for not eliminating bin Laden sooner. To use a military term, he was AWOL from the major memorial services to commemorate the fallen soldiers from WWI. From the NY Times: “ … shortly after becoming commander in chief, President Trump asked so few questions in a briefing at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., that top military commanders cut the number of prepared PowerPoint slides to three from 18, said two officials….”

I am not a hawk. Diplomacy is the road I always prefer to take. Having said that, it is also imperative in a world where all the players, small and large, are not on the same side of peaceful co-existence without the desire to expand its boarders, we must be sufficiently prepared. The military must be prepared, both in personal and hardware to take on any contingency that might occur anywhere in this world.

We should have learned that lesson in 1935, running up to the invasion of Poland in 1939. One of the claims was Poland was very far away, and there was a large uncontrollable ocean between us and the European continent. We as a nation sat on our hands and literally watched the world crumble under the weight of a German blitz, then a Japanese onslaught. Only when we were physically attacked, did we then seek to protect “our national interests”, which had been under attack for years. Today, if need be, the Commander-in-Chief has an airplane– the North American X15 — that travels at 4520mph. The Commander-in-Chief has to understand the implications of using that plane in an offensive strategic manner. Not that it travels so very fast and far and can carry deadly weapons, but if employed, there will be repercussions that follow. Strategic nuances. Every international action, by any nation, motivates a reciprocal response. And to understand those crucial dynamics, a leader (a Commander-in-Chief) must be able to read beyond the headlines, beyond the headnote rules, beyond those who he mimics and beyond simplistic bravado.

Strategy (not logistics) is not learned overnight. To understand the nuances of strategy takes patience and a learning curve. Strategy is not a game of darts but could reasonably be compared to a long, thoughtful game of chess between grand masters. A commandeer-in-chief is a person who should have an understanding of the chess board and its control. Although it is imperative that she calls upon the experts for guidance, it is the President that makes the ultimate decisions and equally important takes responsibility if they should fail. President Carter failed in his dealing with Iran and the American hostages; Clinton understood Bosnia and Kosovo in what was Yugoslavia; Trump belittles those in the military unless he is using them as political props, and President Truman said that the buck stops with him.

President Trump is hiding in the dugout.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

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Commentary—Reality Check for National Security

 

The election is over and I can stop looking obsessively at the statistics of who is projected to win. I can, I thought, go to bed without the agitation of a wild election cycle. And then I read – and realized– that all the election noise was drowning out the rest of my life, and we are moving toward what appears to be an armed crises.

I am old enough to remember Pearl Harbor and the heated political discussions in my home prior to the US being drawn into the war with the December 7 bombing. The war in Europe started in 1939, the Maginot Line became a myth and Hitler invaded France in the spring of 1940; the battle in the air over London was on every news reel in every movie theatre, and then Hitler turned somewhat unexpectedly on the Soviet Union. There were mixed feelings in the United States with that turn of events. The two nations Russia and the United States were not on the best political terms and one could describe their relationship as less than friendly and tense. They needed each other though in the fight against German/Italy and to a much lesser degree Japan.

The Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, was an openly oppressive, dictatorial leader who regularly used violence and deadly purges against his own people, the army he commanded and his perceived political opponents. The Russians, for their part had no great liking of America, its leaders and its refusal to accept the Soviet Union into the international community. The United States viewed the Soviet Union and its leaders as an ongoing threat to democracy. In addition, prior to 1941, both the Nazis and communists had a loud and prominent presence on the American scene. I recall one photograph, taken in the late 30s in the old Madison Square Garden. It looked more like a scene of a Hitler rally in Berlin, with the hanging swastika and the hundreds standing with Nazi straight arm salute, than a massive event in mid-town Manhattan.   Pearl Harbor changed the dynamics.

Toward the end of the war in Europe, we witnessed the rush to occupy Berlin by the Allies on one side and the Russian army from the east, both moving as quickly as possible on the German capital. These onetime allies at war were at the same moment political adversaries– that only deepened with time. The Berlin blockade by the Soviets and the American airlift to the besieged city only hastened and deepened the animosity. Words became deeds. What was clear to the least politically motivated person was the Soviet’s intent to place Eastern Europe under its domain and to spread of communism worldwide. Underneath all that was the Soviet anger that simmered for years. They claimed we did not enter the war earlier enough by not creating a second battle front against Hitler, which they attributed to the death of tens of thousands of Russians.

When the physical hostilities ended against Germany ended with the bitterly divided Berlin and Germany, the political hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union began in earnest. As Russia became the Soviet Union (and expanded its political and geographic boarders), the United States responded by being more aggressive internationally. With both side facing off, a natural product was the arms race. We called that long period the “Cold War”. When in 1949 the Soviets developed their own nuclear capability and produced their own atomic bomb, the hostility between the two escalated, impacting the comfort zone of all nations to a new low of fear.

There was another element to the arms race and the cold war and that was its economic drain on national and economic resource. This was especially true in the Soviet Union. In December 1991, after a failed August coup that was featured on the front pages of every newspaper and television news broadcast, Boris Yeltsin (the first “freely” elected president of the USSR) began the task of dissolving the USSR, and later in that month Mikael Gorbachev acknowledged its total economic collapse and the final dissolution of the empire. The Cold War came to an end.

Then two years ago we began to see a significant change in United States policy and tone along with an emboldened ex-KGB Putin, who takes no prisoners. Both countries engaged in threatening, bellicose and confrontational posture. Then words lead to an increase in military spending and expansion of military hardware.

The pentagon has green lighted a new generation of steerable smart tactical nuclear weapons. We have entered into a new arms race with China and Russia. These particular weapons are designed to support naval, land and air forces in areas close to friendly forces, and can penetrate fortified structures many feet below ground. Unlike those weapons that produce mass destruction, these bombs are designed to be carried by high-speed stealth fighter jets to hit targets precisely with limited peripheral damage. Then during the last 8 weeks, the United States Air Force in the European theatre received its largest shipment of military hardware in over 20 years. This followed the President’s 54 Billion dollars request from Congress to be spent by the military establishment, which far exceeds the present Russian spending on weapons. The United States signed off on arms exports worth $192.3 billion over the past year, a full 13 percent increase from the previous year.

Several points are clear and unmistakably strategically and tactically wrong in the President’s approach of saber rattling, arms buildup and an overt desire for a Red Square display of military might. Although the ongoing, decades old, war in the mid-East is with rockets, bombs and street to street fighting, with about the same number of US troops that the President wants on our Mexican border, the main battlefront is far different and more complex. Even though we witness how close and aggressive a Russian fighter jet came to an American surveillance plane in international airspace ; no matter how aggressive the Chinese navy has been in the South China Sea, there will be no on the ground warfare in Europe or in the Pacific.

Neither Russia nor China can match our military spending. And the battlefield has changed. We have moved from more and more bombs and jet fighters to a new and dangerous battlefront. The psychological war perfected by Putin and his hackers, espionage agents, cyber invasions and the propaganda experts of the Russian intelligence corps. Their aim is your mind, your emotional and intellectual responses. One need only look to the Russian interference in our own election of 2016 and their success in control of the mindset of a vast number of Americans.

Counter-intelligence is a cheaper form of warfare, less obvious than a new multi-million dollar plane, and in the short and longtime more effective and with real-time results. Our national dollars would be more prudently utilized in beefing-up not only our own counter-intelligence ability but those of our NATO allies. As one commentator wrote, our defense funds would be more wisely expended in place like “the Czech Republic, where Russian embassies are filled with more spies than they can count”.

We have, with the election of this president, entered into a new era of diplomacy and international confrontation. There is no public launching or fanfare with the advent of a counter-intelligence probe. There is no photograph of a new stealth bomber or aircraft carrier being launched with a counter-intelligence operation. If you want national security against an advisory as committed and proficient as China or Russia, then you meet them on their cyberspace turf and reach for the best possible form of proactive counter-intelligence security and not a paper tiger! There is no medal for second place.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Terrorism – Politics or Reality

In late 1988, there were a very small handful of us in the private sector who took the pragmatic approach to analyze the issues of “terrorism”. It was through present-day events that we attempted to understand the “how” of a successful terrorist attacks and the construct of counterterrorism measures. My approach, then and now, to counterterrorism is simply this: you are not “successful” when there is a terrorist event and, thereafter, you catch the terrorist. The center of the target for law enforcement at all levels of counterterrorism is to prevent the attack before its execution. There were a number of college professor in the 1988 examining terrorism. (I have two in mind who were outstanding, one at UConn and one on the West Coast). The main focus of both of these highly regarded academicians was from a historical prospective not from on-the-ground-present events and their analysis.

At one point in late 1988, I went to the far side of Kennedy Airport – then a quiet industrial area, stood at a metal fence separating the road from the runways, and visualized how many of the landing jets I could destroy with a hand held rocket launcher before I could escape being detected and arrested. My analysis forced me to reassess my then academic research direction. I was fortunate (because David Trager, then Dean of Brooklyn Law School who thought me a bit off the grid in being interested in current terrorism issues) to be able to obtain a sabbatical from my law school and, thru sheer luck I landed at the EastWest Institute. At that time I was the only person at the Institute interested in terrorism, but they afforded me all the help I needed in my research and writing. After being ensconced in a telephone sized office, I met three people who help me move at lightning speed into this new adventure: Yigal Carmon who was then the advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, Ian Cuthbertson who was the VP at the Institute and Don Lavey who was a FBI agent assigned to lead the counter terrorism unit at INERPOL.

This month I was lucky when I came across Stephen Tankel who has written a long excellent article [https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/12/has-trump-read-his-own-counterterrorism-strategy/] that brought back those memories and, especially now, at a crucial time when the professional national security analysts are being all but ignored by a White House and its President. Those that council the President and the President himself do not understand the issues of terrorism and certainly not counterterrorism. They appear to be more inclined on a daily basis to be concerned with political theatre. And they do excel in clouding the real issues. The multi-million dollar Mexican wall and then the threat to send first five thousand then fifteen thousand American troops to the border is pure political scam theatre.

There are far more sophisticated and less costly methods to stop illegal immigration and the wall will certainly not stop the terrorist. The Muslim travel ban is also political theatre. I remember, many years ago, driving from Canada into the United States on a country road and suddenly seeing a sign attached to what appeared to be a large wooden telephone booth. The sign read something along the lines that you are about to enter the United States and asked that you please “call in” before proceeding across the border.

In reading the report of National Strategy for Counter Terrorism [https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NSCT.pdf], released this month by the White House, one can easily sense that this is not some bold new plan but, as analyzed by Tankel, one built on the work of previous administrations. The present White House strategy adopts the approach beginning with the Bush II administration, of “collaborating so that foreign governments take the lead wherever possible, and working with others so that they can assume responsibility in the fight against terrorists.” That flies in the face of The Trump America First rallies, the bashing of NATO and the isolation approach by the present Administration. Clearly this method does not mesh with the security report. What the present Administration does do is to create a sense of something more than international political uncertainty with those partners in the international community. There are countries that looked to their American partnership for their own “containment” of terrorism. I think in most instances our foreign partners, who laughed at Trump’s declaration at the UN, are hopefully long term planners who look beyond the Trump presidency for rational thought.

When it comes to the increase in domestic initiated terrorism, Tankel writes that Trump’s acknowledgement of the threats posed by “domestic terrorists who are not motivated by a radical Islamist ideology is a welcome surprise.”

Domestic terrorism is a real and growing threat, and requires more government, not less specialized resources. In most cities, in this country, local law enforcement officials do not have the on-the-ground resources to cope with a terrorist attack; they have never developed the background intelligence resources and data necessary to either interdict or solve a terrorist incident. That requires years of development and money. There is a second problem that remains unaddressed and so often happens when legislation is drafted and then thru either oversight or sheer lack of foresight the failure of the legislature to address the penalties to be attached to the crime. A quick view of our federal code (18 U.S. Code § 2331 – Definitions) addressing domestic terrorism clearly illustrates this point…

“As used in this chapter—(5)the term domestic terrorism” means activities that—(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B)appear to be intended—(i)to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and  C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

 Nowhere in the statute does the Congress, in its acceptance that domestic terrorism is a distinct and separate criminal act, advise us of the penalties attached to these acts. I doubt that was intentional in its rush toward its enactment; but they have never done the work necessary to clear up that uncertainty and have left it to the various federal law enforcement prosecutors spread across the United States to fashion their own proscription from alleging murder to hate crimes in domestic terrorism litigation.

As I was about to put the final period to this blog and send it on to my editor, I reviewed the following report: The House Committee on Homeland Security and its recently released monthly Terror Threat Snapshot report. As usual, it paints a picture that “should keep every American on his or her guard and vigilant – especially during the holiday season.”

A report, compiled each month by U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), is a wide-ranging account of what it perceives is the current threat posed to the United States by ISIS-linked groups and other terrorism organizations. “The snapshot focuses on recent homegrown Jihadist cases in America – showing at least one homegrown case in 30 states – with 159 total cases since 2013.”

What frightens me is my strong belief that domestic terrorism will continue to increase in both tone and scope. The lone wolf or small cabal will be the leading actors. It only takes a truck and determination to decimate a parade. It need not be in New York or Boston or a Timmothy McVeeigh in Oklahoma City to create great personal tragedy, national havoc and pain that will never recede. Then, as I was about ready to post my commentary, my friend of 75+ years died, and I stopped doing most things. In that lull, a political domestic terrorist started delivering explosive devices to those who oppose President Trump. Home grown, domestically built bombs, delivered across the nation. Law enforcement was swift and the bomber was arrested. But the bombs still arrived after his arrest. There were a lot of bombs produced and almost simultaneously distributed, and we know that only 6 percent of terrorists act alone. This defendant lived in a van. How do you make and distribute –“simultaneously”—at least 14 bombs, however small from that environment? Then Saturday morning, a day later, at a Jewish Temple near Carnegie Mellon University, a gunman who owned over twenty weapons, joked during the standoff with police that he liked killing Jews. A horrendous mass killing.

Why am I not surprised? We see the blatant resurgence of anti-Semitism most strikingly by elected officials in the Congressional election and on social media. We have with the advent of the Trump era witnessed the escalating, to crises proportions, of violence fueled by hate speech. We live in a culture where a sitting president, publically announces that he will pay the legal fees of those who employ force to protest on his behalf. Who repeatedly uses ugly derogatory rhetoric to demean those who dare challenge him. Who, without hesitation, openly panders to and embraces the lowest common denominator in our society– the white supremacists as “really nice people”.

Really? Acceptable?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

Commentary—The Bad Seed(s)– Elections and Repression

 

Turkey and Poland are two geographically unrelated countries. The roots of their history and the present state of their governments are unrelated. They do form an emerging political mosaic that allows us to see into the future: an unhealthy nationalistic surge, and a domestic repressive political climate, and a “me” mentality. These conditions have created a danger to the dynamics of any form of democracy not only for the citizens of these two countries but will be the seeds seized upon to impact their neighbors and ultimately our own national security interests.   We see that moment in the rhetoric of our President and the acts of his ministers.

In Poland, during and after the German occupation in WWII, neither the people nor its government were anything but hostile toward minority groups. Some thought that when Lech Walesa came to govern in 1980, the country was on a path to democratic reform. Democracy ebbed and flowed during which the Country became a member of the EU and NATO. In 2015, the picture changed. As in the United States presidential election, Poland moved hard right and, in doing so, turned the Polish democracy on its head. In its latest move, the ruling party –Law and Justice—did the unthinkable in a democracy and ended the Country’s judicial independence. In a decisive move, the governing political party purged an overwhelming number of judges. It is tantamount to the Republican party dismissing those Justices on the Supreme Court they found to be counterproductive to their platform. In Poland, Judges who were not considered loyal to the ruling party were dismissed and replaced by those who were. Sound familiar?

Turkey, Istanbul, was once a beautiful country and city to visit. A country that was known for its marvelous array of spices, food and antiquities of wonder. A country that has moved from a democratic state to what could be defined as a dictatorship wrapped in a democratic election. Notwithstanding its present political stance and leadership, it is embraced by the United States because of geopolitical necessity in a troubled area of the world.

When we visited Turkey, it was a democratic nation-state. Today it is not. How did the country move so dramatically away from its democratic roots? What prompted its people to change their chant from democracy to embracing a man who was permitted to destroy an open, independent press? Turkey became a hard right Muslim nation and experienced a childish, attempted coup that failed. 150 members of the press have been arrested, and the working conditions of the press were best described in a report from Reporters Without Borders. Just three years ago, it ranked Turkey 149 out of 189 countries that support a free press. That ranking placed Turkey between two countries– one a failed state (Congo) and the other where journalists are regularly utilized as targets for murder (Mexico).

Turkey is a country where judges are indiscriminately rounded up and arrested by the Government. Where thousands of high ranking officers in the military either escape to another country or are arrested for alleged treason. Where thousands of police officers and hundreds of academicians were fired from their jobs with their passports confiscated. The Guardian has reported that the Turkish President has dismissed thousands of state employees under a so-called emergency decree for alleged connection to terrorist groups. At last count 130,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs with their passports confiscated during this period

The Associated Press has reported, as I am writing this commentary, that the state of emergency declared by newly reelected President Erdogen, after the failed coup and that has been in place for two years will be lifted. The emergency rule allowed the government to bypass parliament on all key issues. The latest nail in the democratic life of the people of Turkey is that the so-called “democratically” elected president’s role will be transferred to that of an “executive presidency” (no checks and balance in his authoritative control).There will be a completely revamped charter providing him greater authority as its president. In his latest decree the President has abolished the office of the Prime Minister. He will draft the budget and, as noted, chose the judges and have the ability to dismiss the Parliament at will. All this occurring as 12 non-governmental organizations, three newspapers and one television station were shuttered.

Despite the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency, a close look at the proposed statutes that will replace the emergency decree does nothing more than maintain the repressive status quo. The new laws would still allow the government to detain its citizens for an extended period without a criminal charge. The pending legislation would also give the government the power to stop people from leaving the country or traveling freely within the country. And to tighten control further, if you were “considered” a threat, you could be removed from your state job with your passport confiscated. To tighten control even further, if a person’s rights were revoked, the government had the right to penalize one’s spouse.

Clearly, the history in Poland, in the specifics, differs from that in Turkey. That is not the point. The point is that individual rights in both countries are being circumscribed by an elected government. The individual citizen, in both of these countries, has forfeited their rights through an election process. A process that has been cherished for generations, and that has been the method by which we elect a person who will respect and protect all of us. Where their story converges, is the lack of civility and spear point of those running for elected office. The aim of their political campaigns was to target the lowest common denominator—the masses. To demine and ridicule those least able to defend themselves. To promise anything and all things, rational or not for one voting group after another. Civility and truth was not a hallmark, and when a candidate’s approach was lacking in civility and honesty, it became permission for all to act similarly. The elections in Poland and Turkey did not become a debate about values but one of intolerance, bigotry, self-interest and in the end dishonesty. The mob won.

It matters not which way I turn, the sign posted is held high: “Me First”. What does that mean and at what cost to each of us? Why has the vocal majority become so angry and in turn vengeful? Why do we tell people— “go back to where you came from” — based on their language or color of their skin, their tribe or religion? All of us, at one time or another, other than the American Indian (and even they did not somehow materialize out of nowhere on this continent), came from “somewhere” else. Seventy years ago, my father told a black person, who was ill and could not afford to consult with a private physician, that a good alternative would be a doctor in an emergency room of a very fine nearby hospital. He was admonished: “I aint gonna sit on any bench next to a spick!” Why the anger and why the disgust? And that was seventy years ago.

The mob language today is often accompanied by threats of violence. What little civility and tolerance that exits is mocked and ridiculed by our leaders and chanted by the crowd turned mob. We are discarding and crippling the usual barriers that were a natural support of civility. The barriers that held us within permissible conduct are ignored by those in power and that conduct filters down to those who feel empowered, or believing they have been rejected or ignored thru the decades, and its “now their turn”. The crowd then becomes the catalyst for greater unacceptable behavior by the leaders. So, in Poland, the latest attack is against an independent judiciary, and it is destroyed; in Turkey, unless you are likeminded your rights and freedom are evaporated.

One is hard pressed to look at the international scene and find a country that is welcoming without conditions. And as we turn inward and view our own political system, there are those among us who today, and this is difficult to comprehend, openly support the candidacy of an avowed Nazi, a holocaust denier and a white nationalist, each running for elected office under the banner of an American flag and a national political party. How did that happen?

Two countries, Poland and Turkey, two different histories and cultures, and yet the more they are different, the more they seem the same, and the deadly infection they breed is spreading. And it is here.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

Commentary: To Drone or Not to Drone

If you log on to Amazon and type in the word “Drones”, you are given an arms-length list of items you can purchase– from games involving the use of drones to flying your own drone. If you have watched enough episodes of your favorite spy thriller, such as “Homeland”, you will see at least one short scene of two American pilots sitting behind what appears to be a mocked flight simulator, but in fact, it is a replica of the equipment utilized to fly armed drones that may be thousands of miles away from the control center. This was an accurate portrayal of reality: the targets were initially suspected high-level terrorists speeding in a car caravan across a remote desert area or in a hut in the middle of a village. Today, the target of armed drones goes beyond that limitation, but as I write this commentary, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk, described the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan as a “significant development in the fight against terrorism.”

And the American pilots presently controlling our armed drones, dressed not in a fighter pilot’s high altitude flight gear but in tailored non-flight uniforms, receive information from observers possibly thousands of miles away or by high power cameras attached to a drone. What has recently been reported is that many of those who pilot drones, far from harm’s way, have never seen combat because of the necessity of having combat trained men and women needed in the “real” battle zone.

Drones are low on the list of our daily vocabulary, but they are an integral part of our daily living to check the viability of utilities lines, to site checking long miles of above ground oil pipe lines to flying toy drones, as we did with model airplanes with tiny gas motors. Today, drones also play a decided role in one of our many ongoing wars. Most of which we are totally unaware of. The list of areas of the world that face drone warfare keeps expanding, as we sit basically ignorant of the government’s involvement with armed conflict from Islands in the pacific to the Mid-East and now being revealed in many parts of Africa.

For me, it was a quiet labor day weekend when I read an article by Rebecca Gordon that enticed me to go further to learn of our expanding use of this very singular weapon. My research led me to discover buried articles, describing the involvement of U.S. troops, arms and, most important, drones in Africa. Prior to the ultimately extensive revealing of the ambush of our troops in Nigeria, when four U.S. soldiers died in an October attack, if you were to give me a blank map of Africa, I would be hard-pressed to fill in eighty percent of the names of each nation-state. What surprised me was the extent of the use of drones beyond the Mid-East into Africa. The Pentagon’s Africa Command is presently building a facility named “Air Base 201” in Agadez, a town in Niger. Your taxpayer dollars will support this $110 million installation and will be the base of operation for MQ-9 Reaper armed drones. As reported by the US Air Force it will soon become the new centerpiece in an undeclared U.S. war in West Africa. The Air Force describes this drone as “…an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons — it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets. 
Reapers can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid over watch, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives. “

What gave me pause was that this new base of drone operation is not the only base of U.S. involvement in that part of Africa. It turns out that the ambushed troops weren’t the only U.S. soldiers involved in firefights in Niger. The Pentagon has recently announced very quietly that there had been another clash in December of last year between Green Berets and a previously unknown group identified as ISIS-West Africa. This is not the only area of Africa that is subject to attacks. There have been at last count at least eight incidents, most of them in Somalia. Mz Gordan tells us, in her report, that U.S. drone strikes on Libya targets have increased under the present administration and, are usually launched from a secure non-combat base in Sicily. The new air base in Agadez, it is reported, will be able to strike targets in all these countries.

But this is not the end of the story, and what is missing from our daily sources of news is that the United States presently has another major drone base in Africa, in the tiny country of Djibouti which you will find on your map just across the Gulf of Aden and war ravaged Yemen. It is from that base that the U.S. has been pointing its strikes against targets in both Yemen and Somalia.

While looking at the newly created tariff trade war escalating between The United States and China, it is not surprising that the Chinese have recently established their first base in Africa in Djibouti, which is physically quite close to the US base of operation. China, as noted below, is also selling its attack drones to other countries.

The Times points out that this “approach (to the use of drones in combat)… for possible strikes in countries where Qaeda- or Islamic State-linked militants are operating, from Nigeria to the Philippines” is evolving. And under the Trump administration, it is no longer necessary that drone attack decisions only be made at the highest levels of government. “The requirement for having a “near certainty” of avoiding civilian casualties’ ― always something of an inter-governmental friction ― officially remains in place for now.” This march, Fox News (not a prime source of information for me) reported that the marines are planning to build a highly new and multipurpose drone, called the MUX, for Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary. “The MUX will terrify enemies of the United States, and with good reason. The aircraft won’t be just big and powerful: it will also be ultra-smart. This could be a heavily armed drone that takes off, flies, avoids obstacles, adapts and lands by itself ― all without a human piloting it.”

The time for the widespread use of some form of military drone has arrived, not merely on the battle field by nation states but also by terrorist groups, and it appears that it is an underreported present threat world-wide. One report has stated that nine countries have used armed drones in combat: the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Those are the ones that have reported their use, but we can safely guess that there are other countries that are in the process of developing the armed drone. And similar to the traditional piloted operated fighter, the military drone falls into categories dependent upon how high they fly, their armament and their endurance of flight. Not surprising is that the United States and Israel are the top sellers of military drones with China following closely behind. What did surprise me was that India and the UK are among the largest of the purchasers.

On 9/11, after leaving my law school and prior to catching the last subway out of Brooklyn to Manhattan, I spent an hour on a high floor in a Brooklyn apartment overlooking the East River toward a large heliport jutting out into the river in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. Within minutes private planes disappeared from the landing site and a number of combat army helicopters appeared. It was my assumption that they were going to be utilized to evacuate high level government personal from the City. The late, brilliant Ian Cuthbertson set me straight: What was feared was there would be a follow-up attack by small, comparatively slow one engine planes that could not be intercepted by fast moving fighter jets and, thus, the use of the slower attack helicopters.

Which brings me to today: attack drones are not the little toys, similar to those one can purchase on Amazon. They are large enough and capable of transporting a large assortment of weapons including rockets. Why not explosives? Why not steal, manufacture or have them purchased by Iranian agents from China and then innocuously shipped in multiple stripped down parts to the waiting terrorist in the U.S. They could then be secretly reassembled and armed with explosives to be flown under the radar screen at numerous soft targets in New York, Washington or any other high value targets. Not unreasonable and real.

Richard Allan,

The Editor