Commentary: Terrorisms and The Coming New Year

 

On a grainy photograph taken after a cold November rain, we see the President of France laying a wreath– not at some French memorial monument or battle field but a normal, ordinary looking Street in Paris. The ones I usually stroll. It was the anniversary date of the slaughter of dozens of ordinary people during a terrorist rampage in Paris on the night of November 13th 2015. When the last shot was fire that night a total of 130 persons died at the hands of terrorists. In one instant there was whole-sale murder of people not running in the street or cowering in a café but being held hostage in a concert hall. In all, Islamist militants killed 17 people in Paris in January 2015 in an attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Another 130 people were killed when gunmen and suicide bombers attacked the capital in November 2015, and 86 more were killed when a man drove a truck into crowds watching fireworks in the city of Nice the night of Bastille Day, France’s national holiday. A few weeks later, two men pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State slit the throat of a priest in Rouen. The attacks continue as I write this blog, and our State Department has issued a travelers warning for travel in Europe.

The Islamic State, whose strongholds in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by French jets, has urged followers to continue attacking France. If one scans a map of ISIS occupied territory in a 21 month period from January 2015 to October 2016, you understand the sharp reduction in land occupied by these terrorists. But that has not stopped the attacks; it seems to have escalated its response in other areas of the world. Somewhere between 900 and 1,500 French citizens are believed to have joined ISIS, according to International Centre for Counterterrorism.  In September, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that, while plots are being foiled “every day,” 15,000 French Muslim youth are still radicalizing. France’s national police spokesman Christophe Crépin  told Time, “We have the means now, but it is not sure that [there] won’t be further attacks. There is a savagery that is very, very strong now.”

France has suffered a disproportionate and disturbing number of terror attacks in the past two years: “There will be new attacks, there will be innocent victims … it is my role to tell this truth to the French people,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. But with over 400 would-be terrorists off the streets, is France at least safer than it was a year ago? Some say yes, it is my feeling that the answer tilts to: no. And my answer would be “no” for the rest of Europe –with the advent of right-wing, nationalistic governments on the steady and strong rise.

The struggle by the French government, one year later, has not become easier for a country looking to make advancement in a fight against a group of people who vow its destruction by violence. And of course the question is “why”? As ISIS is losing on the traditional battlefield, its movement, unlike the Taliban, has an “unhinged” mentality with extreme horrific violence. As it dies in one place it will arise in another. France faces a combination of threats, making it difficult to develop a wide-ranging strategy to combat them. First and foremost ISIS sends trained operatives into Europe. It was these fighters who carried out the November attacks. Second, there are people unaffiliated with the group who carry out attacks on its behalf or in its name. Third, are the lone wolves, the person who drove his truck into the celebrating crowd on Bastille day in Nice. And fourth, is the historic tension and total lack of integration and social connection between the French citizen and its immigrants, 10 percent being Muslims.

France’s parliament investigated last year’s terrorist attacks on Paris and determined that there was a “global failure” of French intelligence. But it is so much more than that. The government has instituted a “series of administrative and legislative reforms aimed at adapting to the new paradigm,” with De-radicalization centers. But they have not been totally successful. One commentator said that it’s like treating drug addition:” Yes, people will leave jihad, but people cannot be forced to leave it, they have to make their own choices.” And clearly, many that went through the “treatment” are back working for terrorists organizations. It will get worse as the extreme right political structures move into greater power, and that will only create a greater counter-push against nationalistic governments by the extremists.

With the rise of nationalistic movements that take control of any government, it will be harder to eliminate the social tensions that divide a population. But France has and probably will be resistant to the approach of social integration. There is no indication that there is any real movement to some sort of “internal social cohesion” in France, because of the ingrained idea that France is for only French-people, and only those born in France are French.

Across the Channel in England, at the same moment, an extreme surveillance bill becomes the law. This took place without a moment’s hesitation by any of the lawmakers or serious public outcry. The Dutch parliament has approved a ban on face coverings in public; the rule covers ski masks as well as burkas and niqab face veils. The fine is up to 410 euros, which is about $435. Was all this a response to the French lack of significant success in its fight against terrorism?

In the UK, its new law gives both their intelligence agencies and the police what one person described as “the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world.”   The fear in its general population allows the government to move that fast and that far into that type of surveillance territory. That fear is being propelled not merely by the extremist in their Araba communities but, as a top UK counter-terrorism officer has said – they “fear the threat of far-right violence is growing and poses a similar danger to communities as other forms of extremism.” The far right neo-Nazis is described as a fractured, unpredictable and violent group and has been accused, indicted and convicted of politically motived violence. What will happen in the United States with its new extreme right-leaning- neo-nationalist rational administration?

And although we in the United States passed a “modest” bill curtailing bulk phone data collection, our new President will easily and certainly move around it by having the UK supply us with their treasure trove of information collected under their new laws. Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.” Only fear allows that, fear among the general public

It has been said: “Understanding the drivers of terrorism is crucial if we are to develop counter-terrorism strategies that help combat radicalization.” While the military maps clearly indicate that the military operations are obviously contributing toward restraining and diminishing ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they have not dented the continued appeal of its organization, evident in the ISIL-inspired attacks in Europe. This demonstrates the limitations of a purely military approach. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that “violent extremism” — that is, jihadism — demands more intelligence collection and analysis now “than at any other point in history”. But what are we doing with that information? If it is for military purposes only, we lose the war on terrorism.

What is clear is that if the West – and France especially – is going to protect itself from the Islamic jihad today and in the future, it will have to find new ways to prevent the violence. The answer seems abundantly clear: it’s to reach out to the Muslim youth before they radicalize, not after. And again this is especially true in France and Western Europe. But so far, no one seems even to be trying.

In the United States we have just placed an entire group of our citizens on notice: “we don’t trust you”.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

China’s Trojan’s Horse in Your Neighborhood.

Several weeks ago, before the massive onslaught of election-living hell, I was starting to think about my next post. As often happens, it started with an unexpected news report concerning the purchase of an entertainment empire. I did some minor research. As more and more information unfolded, a newspaper ( in this case the WSJ) wrote what I consider a naïve column. Then all stopped – the reporting stopped and I stopped and became an obsessed watcher as the election a terrified roller-coaster ride (I hate them). I was no longer able to breath until November 8.

You know the Greek tale of the Trojan horse and its creator, the Greek hero Odysseus. He built a large, hollow wooden horse, shoved a bunch of armed Greek soldiers inside and ran it up to the Trojan gates and left it as a gift. The Trojans opened the gates, rolled in the horse and went to sleep, awaking the next morning to the Greeks at their breakfast table and promptly surrendered. Much like a real Trojan horse, in a 1936 radio address, a Spanish nationalist commander during the siege of Madrid announced that he had a “fifth column” (that Trojan horse again) — a group of his soldiers hidden within the city’s population ready to attack and aid his four columns of armed soldiers outside the city and about to attack .

Today, China has slipped a powerful Trojan horse into your neighborhood, and you don’t know it and it is growing. Let me explain:

If you are as old as I, or not too far behind, you will remember or at least you might have been told about “Dick Clark “and his “American Bandstand” television program in the late 50’s. Dick Clark, with his white buck shoes and perennial boyish charm, held sway for one of the longest running television programs on what was then a very small television tube. Unknown to most of us, he not only fronted this program but with a lot of imagination, foresight and backing built an enormous entertainment production empire. That empire, Dick Clark Production, produced or owned dozens upon dozens of televisions programs and scores of musical copyrights and, became the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised events. Long after his death, his production company remained in your home and life until one day, recently, his production company was in negotiations to be sold to Dalian Wanda. Dalian Wanda you ask? This blog of Terrorism and Security you wonder?

And here is the saga of a Chinese Trojan horse in your neighborhood – a foreign country’s Trojan horse, not friendly and aggressively anti-U.S., who will control an immense portion of your life without a shot fired and with no overt sign informing you of its invasion or takeover. The magnitude of its invasion and growth is beyond the point of merely being interesting to observe and can now be said to be of important security interest.

Dalian Wanda is a Chinese conglomerate corporation and, as such, is the world’s largest private property owner and developer, and the world’s largest movie chain owner and operator. They are also heavily engage and invested in sports, luxury hotels and department stores. At the head of Dalian Wanda is its billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin. He not only holds the title as Chairman of the Board of Wanda but stands at the important political juncture of China’s economy, its political ruling class and its non-democratic government. Admittedly, he is a key advisor to the ruling communist party. It is claimed that foreign prime ministers send him notes, and Hollywood’s stars run when he summons them. However much may be true or not, what is true is that his power is monumental, and thru that power he and his corporation have been able to amass an overwhelming portion of the United States’ entertainment interests that hold our daily attention and pocketbooks. A short list:

  • The Dalian Wanda Group has bought a stake
  • in a Hollywood film studio (Legendary Entertainment) valued over $3.5 bn. They are the producers of Jurassic World, Dark Knight Batman trilogy and Godzilla.
  • The Wanda Group has purchased AMC Theatres (formerly the Loews’ Theatres), who in turn purchased the Carmike Cinema who in turn purchased Robert Redford’s Sundance Cinemas.
  • It owns or has a major interest in Magic Johnson Theatres, Starplex Cinemas, General Cinema Corp, Odeon Cinemas, and the list goes on.
  • Viacom, the media company that owns cable networks and movie production businesses, is in talks to sell a 49% stake in its film studio, Paramount Pictures, to China’s Dalian Wanda Group.

A quick look at this empire and you can easily see that Wanda is the largest motion picture theatre owner in the United States. Its aggressive move into production will enable it to control and direct not only the content of films being produced in this Country but its local distribution throughout the United States. When I go to the movies on Broadway and 68th Street, the AMC movie complex, it will be the Chinese Government through Wanda who decides what films will be shown in that theatre. And I mean the Chinese Government not merely the Wanda company owner.

The Communist Party ties to Wanda and Mr. Wang were the subject of a New York Times investigation in April 2015. The report found that relatives or business associates of four members of the party’s ruling Politburo, including relatives of President Xi Jinping, were among the company’s earliest outside investors. All appear to have earned spectacular returns, as they tie the company to the government. The Justice Department has been asked to look into these investments. So when the Wall Street Journal writes that “Chinese investment in the U.S. movies isn’t a security threat “–and that we shouldn’t “send the wrong message about U.S. openness”, its conclusion is worse than naïve, it is dangerous. It should be noted, and if my research is correct–it has been more than a decade since a Hollywood studio made a major movie critical of China’s authoritarian and oppressive government. Obviously, from this point on, there is certainty that it will not.

But, the story and destruction of competition does not end there: In September 2013, a group of Hollywood elite attended (summoned?) the launching ceremony of Wanda’s 900 acre Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. In attendance –in China—was the head of the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the top four entertainment talent agencies and a bunch of A-listed American movie stars. The Wanda Group announced that the studio complex will be completed 8 months from the writing of this blog and will have more than 20 studios , one of them will be the world’s largest and another will be a fixed underwater facility. In addition to an Imax research laboratory (Wanda already owns the Imax theatres in the US), it will have a theatre that can accommodate as many as 3,000 people.

Obviously, the Communist Party, thru Wanda’s purchases, is the government’s move to expand its global influence to ensure several scenarios: First that any portrayal of China in a Hollywood production ( for local or world-wide distribution) will meet the criteria set in Beijing not Hollywood. And second, to control that favorable portrayal of China by directing the place and time movies are shown to the American public. Third, the ability, by the shear financial force of its ultra-modern studio complex and seemingly unlimited funding, to reposition the making of motion pictures from a Hollywood studio to China.

What all this boils down to is quite simple: It would be naïve to believe that an attack on one’s security arrives only in the form of a bullet, bomb or kidnapping or even the crashing of an airplane into a skyscraper. Propaganda, the deliberate dissemination of information or ideas in all its forms, is a powerful weapon that has deadly and lasting influence. There is “advertising” so you purchase one soap powder over another, you vote for one candidate, and there is ISIS and its propaganda on the other end of the pendulum. They have all employed the lessons of propaganda – to direct your pocket book, your mind and your conduct to only their advantage.

The motion picture—“going to the movies”– has always been thought of as entertainment, but history has shown that Hollywood has for good and bad utilized it as a powerful weapon of propaganda. Now, though, when you go to the movies you can thank China for your choices on the big screen!

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary— Wake Up– China is Awake!

At a family dinner this week, the conversation turned first from domestic politics to fear and then to the Mid-East. I suddenly felt very much in the minority. We were becoming myopic in our view of the world’s present and potential disasters. As much as I tried to steer the conversation from Mid-East to the West and Asia, I was rebuffed on all sides. We have such an emotional and intellectual investment in the Mid-East that we are losing sight of a very dangerous geographic confrontation that is quietly playing itself out on the far side of the Pacific Ocean and what may morph into a dangerous confrontation in that part of the world.

The most recent news that bombards us from ISIS is their latest video released online touting a shari’a school that attempts to instill in its very young pupils the desire of martyrdom—“the cubs of the Caliphate” . The voice-over video announces that it is these children who will be the vanguard of a new army who will conquer Rome, Jerusalem, and Baghdad among other major cities.

It is not easy, after so many years of focus, to move away from those types of threats and focus on a different part of the world, but we must or suffer the consequences. We have done just that in the past. Let us not repeat that error again.

If you look at your map and find the southern tip of Japan, the Philippine Islands is to the south-east, then move in a circular clock-wise direction to Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and finally China you will notice these nations form a large oblong circle, some miles 1,400,000 square miles creating the South China Sea (SCS). This Sea, and its mostly uninhabited islands, have been subject to competing claims of sovereignty for decades by several countries for a number of strategic reasons. Among them: one-third of the worlds shipping ply thru its water, and there are huge oil and gas reserves in its sea beds.

If you google “China” the first thing that will pop-up is that there is a new home buying boom and all the banks in China are in hot pursuit of those new customers. What does not receive the attention it deserves is that China is once again creating new islands out of old coral reefs. That is not a typo– these man-made large islands, sitting upon coral reef, are not being advertised as the new tropical island tourist attraction for those tired of the Caribbean. China is building a major, powerful war machine far from its mainland to control that part of the world.

As we passively watched Europe in 1938, 39 and 40, we are once again almost passively watching the growth of a powerful armed threat against the sovereignty of a number of nations in the South Pacific that will have a direct impact on the economics of world trade and security. If nothing else, remember that one third of the world’s commerce flows thru this area.

Thanks to a series of excellent articles including one by Steve Mollman, we gain additional insight into the present military importance of this area, which we are ignoring at our peril. In the past, I wrote about the Spratly Islands in the SCS, where China, through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!), created a substantial military base of operation. This military complex has sea port facilities, military buildings, and multiple high density airstrips. China then unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. All this announced in clear violation of settled international maritime law. And then the leaders in Beijing angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting its claim.

To the north west of the Spratly Islands and about 200 miles from the coast of Vietnam lies the Paracel Islands. Here too, the Chinese have claimed ownership of disputed territory and then, thru the massive reclamation by dredging, have greatly expanding their acreage. On several of these islands, intelligence photos reveal the building of military garrisons, radar domes, and on one of the islands in the group, a concrete manufacturing plant with an enlarged sea port with reinforced seawalls. What appears to be developing along with new island acquisition, which I will note in the next paragraph, is that an anti-submarine(ASW) helicopter base of operation is being developed that could morph into an enormous ability for massive surveillance without the necessity of supply and surveillance support from main land China.

How that vast area is quickly moving under controlled by China is evidenced by their present illegal adventures to annex the Scarborough Shoal, a large coral atoll with a reef-rimmed lagoon. It encompasses 58 square miles and lies less than 150 miles from the Philippine coast.   If you take that next look at the map of the South Asia Sea you will notice that these three sets of islands (the Spratly Island and Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands) form a formidable strategic triangle that covers just under a million and half square miles and provides China with a superior air dense identification zone. In effect, China controls the air space over this international and vital portion of the world—where more than five trillion dollars’ worth of trade pies its waters each year and is the main passage for Mid-East oil to Japan and South Korea.

China has set a rapid and high urgency agenda to build a sophisticated naval deployment with supporting structures in the South Asia Sea. They are accomplishing this with sophisticated radar equipment, ASW anti-submarine strength facilities, deep water ports, military grade runways, along with building additional aircraft carriers to increase its naval strength with a support fleet all superimposed upon illegal claims of maritime sovereignty. Within the last week, elements of the Chinese and Russian navies concluded an eight day joint war games exercise in the SCS. And today, amid increased tensions over the disputed territories, Beijing announced it is preparing to launch stealthy UAVs to protect and map the contested islands.

It is clear from all of China’s activities, aside from the naval war games with Russia, that there can be no question regarding its strong commitment to its ever increasing territorial claims and the accelerated building of its armed/naval strength and presence. This has caused both military and diplomatic confrontations with the United States in what a former Japanese admiral has called a “game changer.” We must call China’s behavior what it is –unadorned overt military aggression. We must draw a real line in the sand that will be enforced — not by name calling but by concrete military intervention and economic sanctions. Our message must be conveyed in clear and unambiguous terms to China and the international community.

Silence and inaction is an act of capitulation to an international bully and can only lead to damaging both our economic and direct security interests. With China, from a reef to an island in less than a year, is reality. What next?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

Commentary—Eurabia Revisited: Muslim Surge – Multi-Ethnic vs. Multicultural Society

In 2005, Tony Blankley, a conservative editor at the Washington Times, not the Washington Post, wrote a slim book that caused people to yell: Foul! Discriminatory! Inflammatory! I do not remember if he was a participant on the Sunday morning Mclaughlin Report at the time but I do remember his slight English accent and gracious manner. His political position was very much cutting edge on the far right side of the political spectrum. His book was described as “shocking”. He argued that it was the West’s last chance at survival because the European continent was to become Eurabia.   He argued that the European continent would be overwhelmed by militant Islam, which would pose a greater threat to the United States than Nazi Germany. This, he argued, was the West’s last chance at survival. This was in 2005.

That was eleven years ago. We had lived thru the September 11 2001 attacks –a series of four coordinate attacks by an Islamic terrorist group that killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 and caused billions in property damage. Five years prior to the Blankley book, a book published in the Netherlands had claimed that multiculturalism had failed in that country. That author was viciously attacked, called a racist and bigot. It was against this background and with the then surge of Muslims into Europe, that Mr. Blankley envisioned a continent where Muslims outnumber non-Muslims.

What has happened in Europe? This is 2016, and we will take count in 5 days of the 9/11 attack. Is there a Eurabia? Have the Muslims assumed the mantel of ownership in Europe? Clearly the answer is “no” but with a very large warning asterisk. When one meshes a fine article by Abigail Esman for the IPT News and the work of Conrad Hackett, a demographer focusing on religion at Pew Research Center, we see the formation of a very disturbing trend on the European Continent and England. I had a colleague who was fond of saying: Yes, I have a phobia, but that doesn’t mean someone is not trying to kill me.

Phobia based reasoning, people claim, is not a rational method for discourse, but there is a factual trend unfolding before us that is more than disturbing for the present and the future. Let me explain.

In Britain, Poles constitute the largest number of foreign-born residents, and the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union has unleashed a wave of violent xenophobia. But it is the Muslim population in Western Europe and Great Britain that has caused the greatest amount of fear.

In France, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Netherlands there is mounting concern because of the ever increasing Muslim population. Germany and France have the greatest number of Muslims. In approximate numbers, Germany has 4.8 million Muslims or about 5.8 percent of its population. Germany has roughly the same number but constituting 7.5 percent of its population. The UK has 3 million Muslims or 4.8 percent of its population. Last, the Netherlands has only 1 million Muslims but 6 percent of its population.

When viewed as a whole, Europe’s total Muslim population has been increasing steadily and consistently from 4 percent in 1990 to 6% in 2010, and should reach well above 8 percent, because of the extreme violence now in play in the mid-East and the rush of immigration fleeing to Europe. In 2015 alone the number of refugees escaping to Europe pushed to an astounding 1.3 Million people. While in the small and progressive nation, Denmark, the more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylums seekers who had arrived in the last year has created a backlash. Bo Lidegaard, a prominent Danish historian, as reported in the New York Times, voiced the issue most profoundly:” we are a multi-ethnic society. We are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

These numbers are a haze to digest. But important as they are, they create a troubling picture for the future. The Muslims who have endured extreme hardship and arrive in Europe are younger than all other people in Europe, and thus it is expected they will reproduce at a greater rate than their older European neighbors. In 2011, it was predicted that the world Muslim population will grow twice as fast as non-Muslim s over the next 20 years. They have the highest fertility rate well above replacement levels and, thus, become the fastest growing religion worldwide.

Within the last 15 months I have felt the increased tension while visiting in the UK and France. Taxi drivers, without request, are indicating which streets and cafés were bombed; there is a palpable tension and one feels the quiet sense of possible danger. Since my visit in January of 2015 to London, with a cancelled trip to France because of the bombings, over 275 have been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorists. The youth are racializing and communities across Europe are in the midst of heated discussion regarding the strict control of immigration, reviewing counterterrorism strategies, increased surveillance and tighter control of currency exchange that have provided clandestine help to the potential terrorist.

I have written previously of much needed programs to coordinate intelligence gathering and data within EU partners. And that has come to fruition. Most important, beside the regularly scheduled meetings of the EU partners which I have called for is the present sharing of databases pinpointing not just groups but individuals whose potential for terrorism is demonstrable.

With the intensity of the data and intelligence sharing process we are faced with the concerns for individual privacy and the ability to have sufficient resources to conduct the most crucial aspects of counterterrorism intrusion. There is also the necessity to appreciate the macro picture –considering the effect on the general well-being of the European population with the arrival of thousands of fleeing refugees. “What now that that Europe is close to its limit on accepting refugees,” EU President Donald Tusk (the former president of Poland) said on Sunday, 4 September, as he urged the international community to do more to step up resettlement of those seeking refuge.

Taking the problem one set further, a major consideration in Ms. Esman’s article is how to combat/prevent radicalizing of the non-terrorist persons within the prison populations by the terrorist in the next cell. Equally important in the total fight against terrorism is the aggressive surveillance of those places that advertise themselves as cultural or religious centers but serve yet another purpose. Too many years ago, Steve Emerson of IPT came to my home and showed Yigal Carmon (who was then the advisor to the PM of Israel and now the founder and president of MEMRI) and me the first cut of a documentary he produced that was to be shown on PBS-Television: “A Jihad in America”. You were taken—with the use of hidden cameras– into mosques across America that were openly utilized as recruiting and training grounds for future terrorists. I remember clearly when the video print came to an end, I sat silent and stunned. I could only mutter: Please play it again. I watched it three times before I was able to discuss its content. Today, I would not be shocked.

Looking at Europe from afar, from the safety of my home, what I see is in some quarters is a culture that evokes hate and fear. There is so much more fear in Europe and the UK than in the United States. And the reason is obvious. 9/11 has become a memory to most of us in this Country—almost a symbol with little or no personal pain; the terrorist attacks in Europe are in the present, unrelenting, personal and with no understanding why the locations or the persons chosen to be attacked are determined—other than, in some instances, mere convenience. There is no place to hide. And so the rapid influx into Europe, first gradual and now in torrents, of Muslims bringing their traditions, culture and religion create a sense of being overwhelmed.

There is no Eurabia today and maybe not tomorrow, but there will be a massive change in the complexity of Europe’s character in our lifetime as the flow of large numbers of people rush from the Mid- East to Europe. Some to merely escape violence and they will be content to find peace anywhere. There will be some who will seek to impose their lifestyle on their host nation—and there will be conflict; there will be some who come not to escape violence but to vent through violence their religious hatred toward their host.

It is unfortunate, but the terrorists will, in the short run, outpace their pursuers. It is unfortunate, in the macro world, that the process thru which these refugees must be processed and their acceptance into our community will require enhanced surveillance. This will require the surrender of some of those civil rights we cherish until we find a method that truly balances those rights with providing for our individual safety. Pragmatically that is possible. There is always a price – a price for living in an open multi-cultural society.

Blankley was right. This is the West’s last chance to maintain its heritage—but only if we do deal humanely with those who flee from violence. In the process of recognition we must accept the concepts of religious freedom and deal simultaneously and pragmatically with terrorism –in one integrated bundle. One must understand that these are not separate issues; each forms an important part of the mosaic that will keep the continent European and embracing. France cannot be only for the French and Muslims cannot superimpose their will on the French –their culture or heritage. The EU must be in lock-step, united in one common goal. We, in the United States, learned that lesson when 13 very independent states formed one union, no physical barriers, accepting of diverse religions, no competing tariffs, and one nation-wide set of legal principals — all embedded in what became our Constitution.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary: Why Study Madeiran

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and all my outside chores where put on hold. Time to clean my desk and my computer of saved “stuff”. The mere thought of the process has overwhelmed me.

The mid-East has made the word “nightmare” too mild an adjective. And the headlines take me from the news that there has been the first human head transplant to the announcement that we (our Government) has spent 1 trillion dollars (that’s a lot of zeros) on our homeland security. And as I note to myself that I do not feel any safer by any standard, a family questions pops up. Grandson number 2 is off to college and the question passed around is– should he continue his study of Madeiran as part of his core studies in his first year in college. Most of those polled say: No. Why continue with such a difficult Chinese language. His brother and I say: Yes. I am not sure our reasons are the same.

The Mid-East is a burning inferno with more crossed signals that one could have anticipated. The shifting of allies and the increased intensity of the violence produced by our enemies has created confusion and discouragement simultaneously. Why are we continuing to bother to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people and institutions that are mired in a time-warp in history that cannot be changed by either externally instigated or home inspired civil wars. We cannot impose democracy or regime changes or fight battles with some of those who are motivated by barbaric instinct.

There is yet another layer of conflict, the fight, not merely for control of regional ideologies, but the struggle between the United States and Russia to build powerful buffers for each of its own international self-protection.

With this our sole focus of attention, we miss a greater threat that is blithely and elegantly sailing under the radar and with the tide running in its favor.

Grandson number# 2, I say, continue your studies in Mandarin Chinese because there lies the bomb that is greater than the Mid-East flames. The Mid-East conflict will last another fifty years until all the regional parties will become exhausted and no longer have the ability to pay for the cost of inflicting or being the recipient of violence.

China on the other hand has crumbled its “great wall” of international isolation and seeks to confront the rest of world for what it alone considers its rightful share of this planet. It is not looking for a “hand-out” from the big powers. It ignores them. It has decided unilaterally that it is their prerogative to seize or create (an island out of coral reef) what it believes it is their rightful share of not merely world power and dominance but substantial space on this planet, and has put its military might and its own logic behind that grab.

It all started with the world looking with, and I think I say this accurately, something akin to “what are they trying to do? “ And, parenthetically, there is also a smirk on our faces. If you do not remember the facts, let me refresh your recollection: First if you look at a map of the Philippine islands (there are some 700 that make up the chain) and draw your eye to the West into the lower region of the South China Sea, you will find a slew of small islands and reefs. A reef is a chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water. In 2014, a rivalry intensified in that area that is best described as a sea of messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing the sovereignty of island chains and reefs in the nearby waters.

Then, a little more than 18 months ago, started China’s startling action in a little more than 18 months ago: it has reclaimed –through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!) in the Spratly Island. It unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. With all this in violation of international maritime law, China built a substantial military base with a major runway. And to move fast forward their leaders in Beijing have angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting the legality of its claim to the South China Sea. On top of this, China has three aircraft carriers in either construction or refurbishing placing them at the forefront of its maritime might.

Last, in this very brief summary of China’s surge, is a long article in 20 August WSJ “ China’s Naval Footprint Grows”. I was startled by a map of China’s strategic military port networks from Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya in Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Greece and moving east to Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma). These ports of call are being built or financed or operated by the Chinese navy for the new Chinese navy, not for tourism. This list does not include those ports visited most frequently by the Chinese navy for rest or refiling, nor those being built in the South China Sea as I described above and are being enhanced.

China has ignored an international court; China has ratcheted its aggressive maritime move to ports far beyond it natural maritime boarders, and most important, China shows no hint of slowing down either its rhetoric or is aggressive military expansion. We fly within what they consider their territorial sovereign boarder in the South China Sea, we send ships pushing the 12 nautical mile claim of control and they warn us and we ignore them. That dance cannot continue.

I dare not think of an Obama line in the sand, especially as he is departing the oval office in 5 months. I dare not think what China may do to exacerbate an already contentious presidential United States election. I dare not think how far China is willing to push the expansion envelope with our main focus not west but east.

I do think my number 2 grandson should continue with his studies in Madeiran for the most obvious of all reasons. China is not our ally, not our partner, not our friend.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

Commentary–the Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Comment: Terrorism and Coups

Terrorism and Coups

On the morning of Bastille Day (July 14th) I sat in a meeting with our children and wanted to complain that instead of bottled water on the conference table there should have been champagne in celebration of the French holiday. We are not French; I am a Francophile. By the end of the day the celebration and fireworks turned horrific and deadly — not in Paris but on the idyllic coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice. And, days later there was an attempted coup in Turkey. Unlike early commentators, to me this was not unexpected if you had studied the last months of the present regime and its ever increasing curtailment of anything resembling democratic rights and open voices. But more of that later.

These two incidents – terrorism in one country and the violation of civil rights in another– while in some instances are not related, do form a scenario. They provide us with a picture that the world is becoming edgier, angrier and employing extreme violence as a mode of expression. Years ago I would write that I fear for my children. Now I am much more concerned with the life my grandchildren will face. I am not optimistic.

A boyhood friend of mine, and no friend of Obama, believes the President is a failure when it comes to our national security. He asks in an accusatory tone: “Why hasn’t he stopped terrorism? And usually follows that with: you’re the expert; what should we do? In a New York Times op-ed article some days ago, the author, a former F.B.I special agent, writes that when “the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are finally defeated” we can prevent the next attack.

Two thoughts come to mind: Both my friend and the former FBI agent are denying reality, and equally important, ignore history and a world that has changed drastically in the last twenty-five years.

Terrorism has been with us for more than multiple decades, well before any present day mid-East conflicts, civilian revolutions and revolts in multiple countries across the globe and before the “dreaded” creation of the State of Israel. Terrorism and its operations are not new. The only thing that is new is their message, methods of operation and their targets.

Technology and history bring new methods, new goals and objectives and different issues. From the terrorist who initiated the fight against the Russian monarch in 1917 to today, there is a long list of terrorist groups around the world each holding a different banner and ideology.

So let us stop all the finger pointing, hype and chest thumping and false promising and understand the basic fact: No country can stop either the scope or depth of terrorism. Terrorism is a fact of life. To think otherwise is foolish and dangerous. The best we can accomplish is to interdict any attempt at its inception or to blunt its impact. You cannot wish terrorism away. You cannot legislate it away. You cannot bomb it away.

Most of us are locked in a memory curve of the past — attempting to understand the present. And this is true regardless of one’s age. I used a typewriter when I was twenty years old and it took me fifteen hours to fly to Paris; my grandsons use the most advanced forms of communication and fly around the world without thought of distance or time.

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, we cannot control what occurs beyond our boarder, even as those events have a direct effect upon our lives. We cannot control the quiet, lonely, angry person who seeks any cause to elevate their psyche; we cannot control the small groups of people within the U.S. who feel the government conspires against their individual rights; we cannot regulate the fear or stupidity of those who need an AK45 to protect their home and, last, we cannot build a wall around our apartment and grow tomatoes in our window boxes to sustain ourselves.

What occurred in Nice was shocking only because it occurred in an unexpected place. But that is where the lone terrorist lived, and his anger evolved. What occurred in Paris earlier in the year was not shocking because that City, as is New York and London, is a natural “target” for any terrorist. By their very nature they invite the terrorist to demonstrate their skills.

What is playing out in Turkey is not unexpected. Not terrorism but because what might have started out as a democratic election process that elected its President he has turned that nation into a budding dictatorship that is stifling all forms of civil rights and dissent. It ceased being a democratic country after its most recent election and after its president began his dismantling of its democratic structures. When it comes to silencing the press, Turkey lands third place after Russia. In the latest move, after the mid-level military coup was brought to heel, the government has arrested 6000 people. You need a stadium to contain that many people and under what conditions?  President Erdogan’s swift roundup of judges and prosecutors (along with nearly 3,000 military plotters) after the failed coup indicated to the EU commissioner reviewing Turkey’s bid to membership that the government had a prepared a roundup list prior to the upheaval.

And the president of Turkey now publically demanded that U.S. merely “handover” a cleric who resides in the United States and, who he “believes” instigated the attempted coup. And Erdogan would like to bring back the death penalty. The failed, poorly executed coup will only lead to greater authoritarian control with the autocratic President Erdogan pushing his nation to a more Islamist position both locally and internationally.

Today, Turkey is an ally of convenience, because we need to have an airbase on its territory as close as possible to launching our air-strikes against ISIS. Our relations with that country will begin to slide toward its negative side with the failed coup. Last evening, one expert told me that he believes Erdogan orchestrated the failed coup to gain greater control of his country in the guise of attempting to protect his country in a state of a national emergency. You can be sure that greater reins will evolve and be imposed with the crushing of the coup and the massive arrest of suspects.

Obama cannot stop “Terrorism”, and Trump cannot seal us off from the rest of the world, because there are persons born within this Country who will commit acts of violence to express their anger. We, as a nation, cannot dictate the rule of law in other sovereign states. We can support the attempt at true democratic rule, we can’t impose it. But we must act honestly. As the Turkish coup initially unfolded, there were American diplomats who referred to Turkey as a democratic country. Clearly, today and the day before the failed coup it was not. And it will not be for the foreseeable future.

The inquiry then facing all sides to this conversation– from the time of the French Revolution until today: Who are we attempting to protect– the state or the individual? And my response is: wrong question! The question is how are we to protect both the state and the individual simultaneously in response to threats and acts of terrorism or infringements upon our individual civil rights. There is a method to balance the integrity of each without the usual cries of “slippery slope” legislation. [Terrorism: Pragmatic International Deterrence and Cooperation. Institute for East-West Security Studies, Occasional Paper Series #19, 1990] The ideas proposed in an important section of that paper are pragmatic and possible. They require only the will of Congress to enact them.

If there is one clear lesson today, and clearly it has not been learned, the death of one violent movement (and this is true in all countries) does not put an end to all violence but often inspires a successor that is more often much deadlier.

Richard Allan

The editor

 

Commentary—Terrorism and Encryptology

 

A number of years ago as I clutched to the window ledge of car driven by a man whose eyeglasses seemed to have been made from the bottoms of coca cola bottles, I asked this security service official why his country’s “counterterrorist” services were so good at preventing terrorist attacks in his country. His answer was direct: “Because they (the terrorist) are not now that smart, but someday they will be.”

That day has long since arrived.

The date can be marked with the coordination and execution of the 9/11 attack. In retrospect, the logistics were quite astonishing; it was executed with immaculate precision, not on their own turf, but on ours.

A report by Anna Mulrine written about two months ago, but just arrived at my desk discussed how we confront terrorism has been transformed

The title of her article: “New encryption technology is aiding the terrorist, intelligence director says.” The intelligence director she refers to is the non-descript, bi-speckled James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). In that position he answers to and is directed by the President .He also serves as the advisor to not only the President himself but the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council in matters that relate to our national security. He also is head of a 16 member national intelligence community. Interestingly, federal law mandates that he also be an active-duty commissioned officer or have experience in military intelligence. The bottom line is that when this man speaks, we should listen very carefully.

A cautionary note: Critics claim that in crafting the legislation that created the DNI, it provided inadequate powers to improve the performance of the US Intelligence Community. Namely, the legislation creating the DNI left other important security agencies untouched. The need to hold onto power never changes.

This past week we are faced with mass murder in Orlando. This is the worst domestic attack of its kind in American history. We know there was a lone killer, born in the United States. The suspect, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, is a Muslim American of Afghan descent, and law enforcement agencies were investigating whether he had ties to or was inspired by Islamist extremism. An Islamic State group claimed the impetus for the attack, and across social-media outlets, Islamic State supporters cheered Sunday’s mass shooting, and called for more attacks on the West.

All this brings me to Ms. Mulrine’s report that new encryption technology is benefiting the terrorist. The playing field is becoming level. General Clapper noted — “The Edward Snowden” leaks, if nothing else, fast-tracked the sophistication of encryption technologies by “about seven years.”  And that is nothing but bad news for United States’ national security.

Clapper noted that the Islamic State is “the most sophisticated user by far of the Internet.” And they accomplish that because they have the resources and ability to go into the market place and purchase software that will “ensure end-to-end encryption” of their communications. In turn, he noted that this “had and is having major, profound effects on our ability” to collect intelligence, “particularly against terrorists”. This raises a particularly American long standing issue.

The publicized conflict between national security, privacy issues and those companies who refuse to divulge their user’s information creates — rightfully or wrong — road blocks in the fight not merely to stop but to at least contain the terrorist act. It increases the tension with those supporting the need for advanced security against cyber-attacks. Recently as February Clapper cited cyber-attacks as a greater threat than terrorism – and the blunt opposition to law enforcement against the development of so-called unbreakable encryption software that, they say, could hinder their search for terrorists. That said, he warned of yet the next step in this conflict with the development of an unbreakable encryption: it would “give the terrorists a pass” in its operational ability.  Think of those consequences and one can only shudder.

Clapper warned that ISIS has clandestine cells that are plotting more terrorist attacks in Germany, Italy, and England. This can only lead to the question: what if ISIS is defeated at home, how strong will they remain in plotting attacks abroad. Barbara Star, the CNN Pentagon Correspondent quoted a high racking counterterrorist official saying that ISIS “is not an army, It’s not about religion, it is not even a movement. It is a label covering mad and upset young man who can just say they are part of ISIS.” How does any part of law enforcement   respond to that?

To this end, the United States is stepping up efforts to promote more intelligence sharing. In my previous blog, I wrote of the proposed creation of a Secretary General for Intelligence within the NATO structure to improve not only how intelligence is shared but to expand its view of how analysis and information is shared. In the meantime, since the attacks on Paris and Brussels in January of last year, the US intelligence officials have learned that ISIS is clearly taking advantage of the migrant crisis in Europe, Clapper said. Nothing new was reveled in that statement but it doesn’t make it any less unsettling.

All this presents a daunting task for Europe, Clapper warned. There is a “fundamental conflict” between European Union incentives that drives the agenda to promote openness and free movement of people and goods with privacy. This “in some ways is in conflict with the responsibilities that each country has as a nation-state to protect the borders and securities of their nations and peoples.” This is all complicated by this week’s election in the UK weather or not to exit the EU. Even before the vote, the mere thought of exiting the UK has exacerbated normal volatility in the world’s stock markets and will have enormous bearing upon the security of all nation-states. Scotland has announced that if there is an exit by the UK from the EU, it will reexamine if it wants to remain within the UK; there are rumblings that it would also have lasting negative effect on peace in Norther Island. And there has been one assassination of a young member of the British Parliament.

If I were a “doctor” having just concluded a physical examination of these issues in the U.S., I would be more than merely concerned with its continued well-being. We live in a different world since 9/11 –The terrorist is not uninformed. The terrorist is sophisticated. The terrorist has learned to master the techniques utilized by the most advanced governments. The terrorist has learned to take advantage of the chaos in the Mideast, its flow into Europe and the political and social tensions around the world. The state of the patient’s national security “health” is not merely “not very good”—it’s in jeopardy of further very concerning deterioration. Political hysteria, in some quarters, does not address the problem.

Richard Allan,

The editor

 

 

 

 

Commentary: NATO Seeking New Intelligence Service, Iran’s Nuclear Non-Compliance and France’s Call for Negotiations

Two weeks after we left Paris, with its protestors blocking the streets, France is faced, with streets that are not flooded with demonstrators but water. The photographs are horrific and the damage must be catastrophic.

If you only listen with one ear, you only hear half the story. I wish I could write that it was my grandmother who said that. I live on the computer. I read two newspapers each day. I live from one news source to another and in between read some political blogs and then go back to the news and commentary.

Two very important events are now in process. With regard to the first, we can only say it’s about time. As to the second, my thought was: nothing new.

First, NATO –the Western Alliance is finally moving toward the creation of what it describes as a powerful new intelligence post. Its aim is to improve how Europe and the United States share sensitive intelligence information on terrorism among other dangers. At the moment NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) depends heavily upon the U.S. intelligence facilities for support, and it believes it could improve its reliance with a new, but superior and senior, intelligence administrative position. Strangely, NATO does not have an official role in fighting ISIS, notwithstanding the brutal attacks in both Paris and Brussels. The proposal is the creation of a Secretary General for Intelligence to improve not only how the intelligence is shared but to expand its view how of analysis and information is shared. The plan is to include, among other issues, Russia’s military capabilities and activities along with other Middle Eastern terrorist base incidents on the Continent. All this seems like a non-brainer for the Europeans but it is not because of the following:

First: NATO has two important players that are not members of the EU: The United States and Turkey. Any alliance with them would make intelligence sharing more meaningful. Second: Too many European countries have legally placed strict legislative barriers between their intelligence and police departments. Information is not shared. Third: There is Interpol (headquartered in Lyon, where I spent a week years ago working on a project) who is the EU’s police agency and has its own counterterrorism center. This is complicated by NATO – it has no law-enforcement role. All describing a situation where turfs are protected and agencies are fearful of treading on the toes of others, while others look to protect their own turf. To bring everyone to the table with one director is not easy, and was not easy in the U.S. fifteen years ago after 9/11. The United States did just that with the creation of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence. The Europeans can do the same, but can they in the wake of the UKs contentious vote this month to leave the EU; can they set aside their differences in light of the horrific migration problems that are showing divides in how that is managed; can they succeed dealing with the Greek financial crises?

The second important event has two distinct parts: The first is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a U.N. nuclear watchdog issued it second report on Iran’s nuclear program and found that key information needed is lacking. Without that information we do not know if Iran is complying with its agreements. The report also makes clear that there is no reliable information of how many of Iran’s too many centrifuges are operating. And last, not in the report but in the national press, Iran’s leaders continue to spit their threats of annihilating the United States and Israel. Do we really think that they are complying with all aspects of their agreement? And why is the State Department not taking a more vigorous approach to enforcement procedures? Why are we so diplomatically docile with a country that hates us and would see us eradicated? Do we really think that by placating them they will move more toward the center of the diplomatic world? And the answer is: I think not.

We are losing precious time in stopping them in this dangerous nuclear world after depositing millions of dollars in their pockets. What can be the logic to our behavior knowing them to be the leading exporters of terrorism in the world? Last, and there is new marvelous demand by the Iranians that made me stop dead in my tracks: The Iranian Parliament now demands compensation from the United States for its involvement in the “spiritual and material damage” for the past 63 years. Please, close your checkbooks.

The second is there was a call for an international conference by the French to end the decades of Israeli “Occupation.” At the same moment the Palestinians have launched scores of deadly knife attack against Israelis since October. This is my “nothing new” in French behavior. At no point in the French PM’s call for a conference to end the “occupation” did he mention either the continued rocket attacks against Israel or the attacks by knife slashing of Israeli civilians. The idea in French thinking is that the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is somehow the root cause of the difficulties in the Middle East. This of course is nonsense. The one day conference ended with nothing accomplished.

Diplomacy, as I understand, is the attempt to find a balanced solution to a problem, local or otherwise, that does not ignore the deep seeded desires of the parties in conflict. At the same moment, one cannot be unconditionally wed to ancient history as the veil thru which we examine the present desires of the conflicting parties.

An atrocity committed a hundred years ago, a town annexed one hundred and fifty years ago cannot form the basis of working toward a conclusion to a dispute today. If so, the world would be in constant flux of demands, threats and violence. Unconditional surrender, as demanded by the Allies at the end of WWII, is not an option or pre- condition to dispute settlement today. Unrealistic demands accompanying an invitation to come to the table will keep the parties apart –period. Those who want or to pretend to want to be intermediators need to be impartial, forcefully even-handed and imaginative. They must also be sensitive that history is a powerful source that is always present but must not rule the negotiations.

Thus, with France not having the best of historical track records in dealing with anti-Semitic problems, it cannot blithely ignore the issues facing one of the parties while calling for a peace conference to move Palestinian-Israeli conflict toward a peaceful process of reconciliation. There is no negotiation between parties when the agenda is one sided. There is no negotiation when one party is predetermined “the guilty” one, and now let’s settle thru negotiations how we will deal with them. An imposed solution is bound to fail if parties are treated differently at the table. Syria is obsessively embroiled in violence, Yemen is failing, Egypt is in constant turmoil, Iraq is splintering into parts since 2003 and none of these issues provide a reliable backdrop in dealing with Israel/Palestine peace.

There can be only one factual precondition to any Palestinian –Israeli conference: Stop the violence, Stop the rockets, Stop the stabbings. There can be No historical preconditions in place. The only workable formula: Two nations willing to talk to each other, one neutral facilitator and time.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Gutter Politics, Fear and National Security and more-

Once in a while and more often than not it is a good idea to get out of your own apartment. It is also very healthy to get out one’s own country. We have done that and have just returned from a trip to London and Paris. The view from abroad was startling. To understand one owns country through the eyes of a foreign nation, to read the local press of another nation not tainted by the prejudices of home, to look at something at arm’s length provides a view neither varnished nor sanitized. It was at once unsettling and refreshing. I have waited a short while to write this blog to allow the events that transpired to settle into reality.

First London, where only a year before we were counselled not to go on to Paris because of the bombings, we found the hotels in London half empty, easy to obtain a restaurant reservation and theatres selling tickets at half price. The Americans (among others) were staying home. Our hotel tea room was filled with a group of women wearing burkas with mere slits so they could see. Men from Africa in overflowing bright floral-patterned shirts, their fingers encased in massive rings, doing business with their formal English counterparts, and English secretaries’ scurrying about with their I-pads taking notes. Security was on alert but nothing to compare with what we were to confront in Paris. And, as an aside, property rates in London are still rising with the influx of foreign money.

But, it was the local and national UK politics that held center stage with massive headlines in London. And by American standards, the language was not far behind the language used by Donald Trump. In the past I have written about the level of anti-Semitism in English academia, but it became clear that it was now more pervasive and intense, than I had seen in the past or anticipated. Shocking to me because this news had not even scratched the surface in the US press, then again, why should it.

A vicious campaign for the mayor of London was about to end with an election during our stay. In the headlights: The Conservative Party vs. the Labor Party. The Conservative Party candidate wild eyed and the Labor party headed by a Muslim. In proper London, bowler hats, rolled umbrellas and with a population no longer represented by Mary Poppins elected the Muslim candidate. A first, but not the end of the story: The Labor party was hit by a massive scandal that found dozens of its members drummed out of the party for extreme anti-Semitic remarks. This behavior was now street talk. The unsettling news shared the headlines in the London press in which the PLO announced, with the killing of an American, that “their” people “loved death more than life”.

While this played out each day, the ongoing slug fest was whether the UK should leave the EU: “Brexit”. The international invitation to join the conversation had words from the President of the United States and the Chancellor of Germany and all the rest around the world. Clearly, there are massive implications for not merely those who live and work in the UK but for treaties, deals, travels, security and life beyond the tiny island of the Kingdom. If the vote, to take place later in June, were to find the UK saying goodbye to the EU, it is more than an economic decision. Many think that the UK would be stronger economically, since it could deal with whomever it wishes on any terms it wishes. “Self-government works better than being part of an empire that doesn’t have our interests at heart”. A comment made in 1776 and now repeated with the question: will the Eurozone be in existence a decade from now? Others feel it would be a catastrophic. The person shopping in the UK does not trade locally in the Euro but the Pound, so there is no problem there. But it invades the lives of each person living in the UK whether they are citizens of the UK or not. From the simple decision to take a day trip by Chunnel train to France, to the cost of their daily purchases. Passport control will be reinstated, border controls will be erected, import duties will be imposed; a French person or Italian or German living in London might have to register as an alien. The legal issues will remain even after a proposed economic retreat. Investors are pulling out of Europe in anticipation of the vote. And while Britain provides more intelligence to the EU than it receives, the routing will be slower, more guarded, and thereby impacting security.

But more import and overarching: Since World War II the world has looked to a united European Continent: different languages, but one nation, one set of legal values and the civil rights of individuals. People of enormous political stature had given their entire adult lives to this political and social cause, and now it seems to be unravelling. And the big question is why and why now? And the not very simple answer is not economics. It is immigration and control of not merely ones own boarders, but of who can be allowed to enter “my” country by merely crossing an invisible line on a map. “My” country no longer looks like me; these people speak a different language; the food they cook smells funny; their clothes and manner of dress are not the same as mine; their religion is not mine. And they want things—the line is longer for health care; they want to build a mosque, they talk about imposing their own laws instead of our treasured national laws of governance. I am losing my country; it is no longer mine. So let’s turn back the clock to a time “before” the EU by voting for Brexit. But is that simple, and can you? Tension, but clearly not the type of tension we experienced in Paris.

In Paris, a most beautiful city that is changing: a narrow local street that I love, once occupied by a small butcher, a baker, a tobacconist, a florist and a small super market, now has cafes shoulder to shoulder. But it is the tension that runs through it all that is mounting and palpable. A department store now has a private security force at all its entrances, examining your purse, back pack, your attaché case and your shopping bag. Outside on the sidewalk are four to six young men—soldiers in full combat fatigues, wearing green berets with their helmets attached to their combat vests, carrying Famas assault weapons across their chest, at full ready with their fingers across the trigger guard. Their eyes darting and suddenly they will move to another street or another location. In a taxi cab rid–any ride if you pass by one of the areas hit by the terrorist attacks in January 2015, you are told how many died that night.

The driver will tell you how Charlie Hebdo has moved but not to where.

Then the Paris government, in the midst of our stay, announced a new austerity movement that will curtail labor and the protests started and continue to this day. Coming back to our hotel after dinner, night after night, we are diverted more than once because the protesters had taken over the streets. The protests then turn into riots and then the attack on the police and an American is accused of a violent attack on a police car. My wife has metal in her legs because of a series of breaks, it has been years since any airport security has stopped her and, in fact, we stopped carrying a doctor’s letter to that effect in our passport holder. At the airport in Paris, on the way home, she was not only patted down with utmost precision, but also subjected to the use of the wand in a slow and meticulous manner. Nothing left to chance. But that was Paris.

After our return home, I heard “horror” stories from seasoned travelers who are complaining that airport security is getting negligent to the point of non-existence. I had a friend who once said (and it has been said by others):”Just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean that someone is not trying to kill me.”

The political world – and I do not mean international foreign relations—is getting more vulgar with gutter politics looking to incite the lowest common dominator in the population. This is not unique to America. England has its share. There are pronouncements and statements aimed at our most irrational fears, looking for a scapegoat for our own failures, and not taking responsibility but blaming others for missteps is becoming the norm. This vile populist rhetoric attempts to create a mass movement in efforts to morph a nation into nationalistic isolation. This behavior, by its very nature, invites not merely verbal confrontation as in the discussion of the place of the individual Mexican in the US or the hostility toward the immigrant in the UK. It adds fire to a type of tension that gives rise to fascism and the ugly personal violence it usually accompanies. One need only look back a little more than seventy-five years ago in world history. It is all based upon the irrational, the stereotypical and innuendos to intentionally introduce instability. It jeopardizes not merely our political process but in the long run our national and international security, our individual security and individual rights. That is my fear, and it is not unfounded.

Richard Allan,

Editor