Commentary—When Enough is Enough—Our Military Needs in Combat

We need more funding for education in the United States, not less. The arts are at the foundation of our soul and need financial support from our Government, not less. There are diseases that will only be conquered with more financial support from our Government, not less. And diplomacy is the string that connects the world. And you can, at this point, add your own items of concern to the list that need the government’s financial attention. The President wants to slash all non-military expenditures in favor of building up an armed America. Part of that is wrong; the other part needs examination.

Notwithstanding Trumps attempt to set a new tone with Russia, history has taught us that men like Putin are not on the same wavelength as democratic philosophies, ideas and values. Putin will wait for the most opportune moment to strike a blow to our wellbeing both domestically and internationally. To think otherwise is to be naïve. Russia is not our friend; has never been. Russia is not our partner on the world stage. And I am not a hawk.

I do believe in being prepared to meet all challenges both domestically and abroad. Whether that challenge is an unknown disease from Africa or a military strike from a potential adversary.

This bring me to a security issue without a political agenda…namely without embracing President Trumps’ unhinged military and world view. How prepared is the United States’ military to defend (notice I used the word: defend—not the grabbing of oil fields that do not belong to the U.S.) American interests domestically and abroad? “I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States, developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform, and I’m very proud to be doing that,”

The scrutiny must lie in the assessment of each branch of our military, separately. This examination is not how well there is integration of our military services but to examine each component of the whole. My thought is: you are as strong as your weakest link. The same is true of our military.

The “U.S. Armed Forces” consists of the five armed service branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. There are two general categories of military people: active duty (full-time soldiers and sailors) and reserve & guard forces (usually work a civilian job, but can be called to full-time military duty), The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, who is responsible for all final decisions concerning our armed services. The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) has control, subject to the President’s approval, over each branch of the military – except the Coast Guard, which is under the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. And, what I never realized until writing this piece, is that with over 2 million civilian and military employees, the DoD is the world’s largest “company.”

The Navy: The Navy measures its strength or capacity to undertake a mission interestingly enough not by the number of sailors but by counting the number of ships—“the fleet”. On reflection it is clear and most importantly, in assessing the necessities for the Navy we just do not merely count ships because the obvious is that “not all ships are counted equally”. The Navy focuses mainly on the size of its “battle force,” which is composed of ships considered to be directly related to its combat missions. Fascinating is the reality that when you examine “where the fleet is normally stationed at any given moment”, the majority of our ships (not sailors) are at anchor in the continental U.S. (CONUS) to undergo routine maintenance. This time at home also provides the navy time for training and to provide for time at home for their crews.

However, given the reality of our present needs and that of our national security, there requires our core naval power to be at their stations in regions around the world. This requires that the navy have as many ships forward at sea/deployed as possible, and creates a delicate balance in its operational demands (getting the ships in fighting readiness and sailor with “shore leave”) and the necessity of forward command posts.

The Navy, not the President, presently assess its readiness as it pertains to providing global presence as “strong. Namely, to maintain its ability to forward deploy a third of its fleet and “stave off immediate readiness challenges”. And there is the crux of the dilemma— without further recapitalization and without more hulls entering the fleet, this level of readiness cannot be sustained.

We do not need a Navy to take on the world at the expense of all else. But we do need a Navy, when we view what appears to be an ongoing upward trend of military engagement around the world, to have an increase in a “capacity or readiness funding”. If not, the Navy’s overall score could degrade in the near future. Trump told an audience that our Navy is now “the smallest it’s been since World War I.” This is a misleading statement. The U.S. Navy may be smaller than it has been for 100 years, but its power — relative to the navies of the rest of the world — is still enormous, even after being worn down by the past decade and a half of constant engagement in conflicts.

The Army: In March of 2016, top U.S. military leaders warned Congress that years of combat combined with budget cuts and personnel reductions have left the Services stretched so thin that they may not be able to adequately respond to an unexpected crisis.  The admissions take place amidst growing uncertainty about a constrained defense budget and increasing global instability. That was a year ago.

The Marines–The Marines have informed a congressional committee that if they were called upon today to respond to an unexpected crisis, they might not be ready to deter a potential major conflict and could incur more casualties because of their short fall in preparedness. “I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” the marines reported, citing a lack of training and equipment. To further complicate their preparedness, the Marines are most risk because of fewer training opportunities with their best equipment which has been deployed with their forces overseas. The picture doesn’t get better when it was revealed, in their report to Congress, that their communication, intelligence and aviation units are the hardest hit at the same moment that roughly 80 percent of Marine aviation units lack the amount of ready aircraft that they need for training and to respond to an emergency.

The Airforce has a different spin on its readiness: They do not discount the need for additional funds—“money is helpful for readiness”, but it is the number of men and women who fill their ranks that provides the “worrisome” issue in their equation. And because the Airforce personal is stretched so thin that Air Force describes itself as “so small”, caused by the extended deployment of troops and the lack of material to execute the necessary training. This is especially true as new equipment is placed on the flight line. The Secretary of the Airforce said just one year ago “if you go into a high-end conflict with a great power and you’re not sufficiently ready, history teaches me, you lose more lives and it’s a prolonged conflict. And it’s very worrisome.”

When you look at the armed services as a whole, it is the Navy that has a more unique role in our national defense. The peace-time Army and Marines have a much smaller contained role in peacetime. We do not need either the Army or the Marines to be stationed or present—a show of force– in many parts of the world. The Navy’s role in peacetime is to be “present” around the globe, and that is the driving force behind the idea of “ship counting”. But during conflict, the navy must be—the expectation—is to be able to fight and win. In this sense, ship counting is not the benchmark. What is necessary is strike groups of carriers, amphibious ships, submarines and support ships that are necessary to ensure success.

What is a given in any discussion, at a time when entities come with hat-in-hand looking for funds to satisfy their own budget demands, is some puffing and hand-wringing in an attempt to increase the urgency of their burdens. Taking the previous sentence as true and reviewing the demands of our armed forces, the picture that they paint does not require or demand that we discount their needs with a slashing sword. Their requests are modest when placed against the framework proposed by President Trump.

No President within my memory or research, who sought funds for massive military expenditure, did so at the expense of our non-military, national or international commitments. The framework of Trumps budget envisions massive cuts across the government’s civilian spending while increasing spending on the military by an additional 10 percent or 54 billion additional dollars. What is hard fact at this moment is that this country spends more on its military then the next seven largest military complexes combined.

Trumps budgetary demands make no sense. They make no sense militarily. They make no sense when reviewing the protection necessary for all of the other needs of our society. This makes no sense in defining the position of the United States as a leading world power. And by itself, his military budget demands will not “Make America Great Again”. To contrary, they will weaken our internal social structure and fracture our international relations.

We must have enough troops of all description. We must have enough equipment of all description to support the military at war. We must have enough ships to permit us to win any conflict–anywhere. We are not and should not be a military empire.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

Commentary: Freedom of the Press, National Security and the Right to Know

Although the great Barnum and Bailey Circus is folding its tents, American politics under our new President is opening its and I fear for our society—at least the lions at the circus were in cages. Please, let me explain.

The press, and I am referring to both the newsprint and electronic mode of expression, in the United States is under attack, and at the same moment we are all aware that our national security has been and is under attack. There is an additional impediment to our daily living and there is developing disconnect in our daily language between truth, lies and distortion. There is a distinction unless, of course, you are George Costanza who aptly told Jerry Seinfeld: “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” The issue today is the press, its place in our daily lives and its impact on national security.

The press has a twofold mission; to inform us of the facts and to have a place where people may discuss their opinions. Nothing new in that thought but it bears repetition.

The press has always been a vital instrument in American history and its development as a strong and lasting democratic society. As a matter of law, the press cannot be censored by the government. And yet the press is subject to libel laws for infringement upon individual truth. All else is fair game “but for” the rules of common decency.

For myself and my education and to find insight and overview in the thinking process, I read the foreign press, and foreign opinion magazines such as Prospect from the UK and the newspapers of record in the United States.

With the presidential election, I find we have we have three types of politically oriented people in the U.S.: the Democrat and two types of Republican. The first type of Republican who in any conversation listens, discuss and doesn’t call either you or the press liars when they disagree. The other type of Republican, doesn’t know or care how to enter into a civil conversation, and finds his or her facts in an alternative means of information gathering and employs an alternative use of the English language. I have one such Republican friend and relative on each side of that equation. Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist, has just told the press “to shut up”. And Kellyann Conway said that calling out President Trump’s lies is –“Dangerous to the democracy.”

Actually, there is a fourth type of person in this country: the person who believes that he or she is above it all, who disdains all, who thinks they have no choices worthy of their most vaulted vote. So they sit back, do not vote and then complain when their secret choice is not victorious. A Republican member of Congress has informed us that it is probably “better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” And, the silencing of the press continues with the Trump administration mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. Political review of data from scientists, not scientific review, and not objective review before any data is shared with the public. Why?

My charge today is not to argue a brief on the historic heritage of freedom of the press. I never taught a constitutional law class, and only litigated one major constitutional issue in all my years of practice. My fear…not concern…my fear is for our security and that our national security is in jeopardy when the press cannot report to us what they see, what they learned, who is manipulating our lives and facts so that our physical well-being is placed on a dangerous path.

Because we are a nation in jeopardy—the terrorist cares less of our democratic process– it is crucial that the press has the access that makes news gathering and reporting transparent so that we – the people who ride the subway—are fully informed. There is a trite saying: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. That is true when it comes to whom we trust with our security, how they function and what are their motives. In the end it is our lives. The secret service does not protect me, nor does it protect you.

Today our security is being placed in jeopardy in more than one area of our lives. Not merely the potential bomb on the truck or subway. The NATO Secretary General warns of a sharp increase in cyber-attacks against our military alliances that will have profound effect if fully effective and that will breach into our daily lives. It doesn’t end at the military front. He announced that in ” the latest evaluations, there was a monthly average of 500 threatening cyber-attacks last year against NATO infrastructure that required intensive intervention … That’s an increase of 60 percent compared to 2015. “

Our newly elected president calls NATO obsolete. They, he alleges, are “not paying their fair share” of the cost for defense. BUT can we, as a country, go it alone in a very dangerous world. The answer clearly is: no. The answer historically has been no.

The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have not been our walls of national defense for decades. A wall along the Mexican border will not protect us from the terrorist only the Mexican day laborer. ISIS employs other paths. It is not a question of NATO and its financial support (a profit and loss statement of who pays what) it is about lives, yours and mine and not the cost for us and our children to “live” to tomorrow. NATO is a real, not imaginary line of defense to an historical enemy of the United States who is not a supporter of democratic action. Russia has a present history of “internationally destabilizing” activities. That is reality. A collapse of NATO because of our failure of financial support would be a security disaster for the people of the US.

 

A second reality that must be kept under national press vigilance is that it is almost certain that this Administration will ultimately have to turn the spotlight away from a serious domestic issue and will, given its history, do so with a grand gesture or as the commentator Edward Lucas said—a “grand bargain with Putin”. An announcement of a “deal” with Putin only to be revealed and unveiled to the press by the President at the time of a self-congratulating signing ceremony and, not during any period of discussion or negations. Lucas has suggested that President Trump will enter into a “grand bargain” – a deal– to distract the American people from a domestic failure and agreeing to “a Russian troop removal from its western military district in return for America pulling its forces out of a strategic European frontline of defense.” “I think” he wrote “that would be absolutely catastrophic.” The “Art of the Deal” does not work with a known dictator who has no sense of international integrity. Only an open and free press is our hope of protecting the American people from the misadventures of any administration. A press that is unafraid of an Administration, who is unafraid of asking questions, is unafraid of stepping on bureaucratic toes including that of the President of the United States. And who will not “keep its mouth shut and just listen”.

With a management style that has been describe by one GOP strategist as “deliberate chaos”, one can only wonder what tomorrow will bring. Therefore, once again, it is the press that will bring us “the facts”, and must do so at a time the President has said he was in a ‘running war” with the media calling journalist “among the most dishonest people on earth”.

A final thought: I have intentionally stayed politically neutral when discussing security issues in my commentaries, whether they be domestic or international. With the election of Mr. Trump as president, security issues take a 180 degree turn. The security question is: To what direction will the President ultimately turn when viewing the rest of the world. “History” appears to make no difference in his equations and he appears to approach life on an ad hoc basis. The fear then becomes in the “not knowing” and the further fear is does he himself know which way he will turn and, last, the fear of our partners not knowing what he will do or say and that will impact our and their national relations and security.

Will he bail on NATO, will he stop talking to China and merely employ our naval guns, and will he allow his new friend and our historical enemy Putin to move in any direction he chose in the hope of getting some sort of deal that will appeal to his base supporters?

The ultimate issue is: what strategy is The President of the Untied States taking to the White House, and how do we, the people, know without a press reporting?

             Richard Allan,

                          The Editor

 

 

 

 

Commentary: A Look Back With a Bleak Future

Although we are in a New Year, I would like to look back. The reason seems so clear to me. The facts we face today are so stark that they portends what the future holds. Life will undoubtedly be more difficult on all fronts in the many months to come.

Trumping up a nuclear rivalry with Russia’s Putin, our new president is being goaded by a dictator who is cash poor but more than anxious to anti-up the stakes in a nuclear armament race. This bravado will create greater chances for a deadly error, and clearly the cost of this fatal game is better spent on other issues. This is especially true with a president-elect who evidences more respects WikiLeaks then our own national intelligence capability.

With a trade war on the horizon, not with Putin who does not have the stakes to come to the financial table, but with a much more powerful financial giant who has enormous assets and investment in our country — China. In the past I have written of China’s control of a segment of the U.S. economy. It would be best to partner with this foe than the one that controls Siberia. Turkey deploys more weaponry to its border with Syria to face the innocent young, old and injured that flee from its dictator. Turkey a lynch-pin in that region of a hostile world is not our friend and certainly an enemy of democracy. Today it partners more with Russia then the U.S. The mid-East and North Africa is home to 22 countries all but one is a democracy. We have just finished a year with horrific attacks on humanity in Syria and beyond. The world merely looked on. “Looking on” in unacceptable silence or, worse still, with empty words is deplorable. No animal in the wild kills with the same velocity and scope as the human. It has been said a million times fold, an animal kills to feed itself and its family. Humans kill, at times, for reasons anchored in ancient history and not present reality. How much more barbaric can we become.

I have been reading about the Reformation period in England and I am horrified not by the poverty, inequity and base cruelty that existed and was then reinforced, but that we have not come very far in man’s-inhumanity-to-man in over five hundred years. Cruelty committed beyond any definition — thru nonfeasance and malfeasance, by inaction and by action.   All committed by the hand of man.

We draw lines in the sand and then ignore our own threats. We permit others to act barbaric, as we respond with bravado rhetoric, sit on our own hands, and then shake our heads in disbelief. Tantrums (both Democratic and Republican) with no long-range thinking prevail at the highest levels of our government. And I predict, because of what I will describe below, the situation will only be worse in 2017.

The threat of violence today has escalated by waves of mass migration—uncontrolled mass migration that cumulated in 2015 and is an intensifying brewing-pot of viciousness. The number of illegal migrants reaching Europe’s border jumped sharply in the first four months of 2014, suggesting then that year’s total could be on track to overtake the 140,000 refugees who arrived during the 2011 Arab Spring. The story became far worse and more critical with time. A quick look at the past 20 years of illegal immigration have confirmed to many that unknown numbers will and are attempting to reach Britain by crossing the continent and using Calais as a staging post. This, as French authorities continue to demolish squatter camps near the Channel, as immigrants attempt to cross to the UK.

Since the American intervention in Somalia in 1992, the more developed nations have had the ability to quickly organize and put into place sufficient ground forces to overrun territory in chaos. As reported widely, the problem more than often was there was no credible group to replace the faulting government, and what ensued were frustration and anger that led to the rise of splinter groups of the defeated terrorist forces.

Europe today is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. In 2016, hundreds of the continent’s overtaxed, overextended border guards (of whose work we read very little) travelled to Warsaw for their yearly review. The issues—today– how do EU border guards and they management forces face its biggest challenge in two decades– with hundreds of thousands of refugees that pour over weak boarders into France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Hungary. All at the same moment, these countries are more than inept in their negligent attempts to deal with those with violence and terrorism agendas. Those who have already arrived are integrating deeper into the population and executing their deadly plan: Bastille Day in Nice and Christmas in Berlin. In December, the Islamic State claimed that it had carried out 1,034 suicide attacks in 2016. That number, as reviewed by experts, is impossible to verify, but they did agree that the total has been climbing for several years now. The number of people willing — even eager — to sacrifice for the “cause” is staggering. Mass integrated planning by the EU is now beyond merely necessary but vital across Europe.

ISIS has learned to accomplish what al Qaeda could never develop—a simple terrorism act to capture a bold print international headline: a truck, a willing driver, a mass of un-expecting citizens brought together violently can produce a killing of countless persons within seconds and without a single explosive or shot fired. To digress for a moment, as noted by Kakov Lapin in a special report to IPT News: “Hamas launched a public relations campaign in recent days, aimed at capitalizing on a deadly truck attack in Jerusalem. The campaign sheds a light on Hamas’s plans to encourage and launch jihadist atrocities, but also on its vulnerability to the arrival of ISIS as an ideology and movement.” A “movement” that is engulfing all of Western Europe, as I write this sentence.

In December, the WSJ published a magnificent in-depth analysis written by Matthew Dalton, describing the critical situation across Europe. He writes, and supports with hard facts, that the latest attacks “has laid bare multiple failings in Europe’s security apparatus, including poor cooperation between national governments, porous borders and lack of biometric data to identify people who use false identities.” This monumental indictment cannot be misconstrued to fit any positive conclusion. In early January, the WSJ again published a devastating article detailing “Belgium’s Botched Hunt for ISSI”. It can read almost as a parody of the famous film “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”. The authors of this article describe the botching, by the Belgium police, when they had multiple chances to catch the ISIS terror cell that carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks –“and muffed every one”. Their source: a confidential report prepared for the Belgium Parliament.

Compounding these problems is the rise of Islamic State ability to strike almost at will in Europe although being beaten on the traditional battle field. At year’s end, we find security services, across Europe, overwhelmed in their ability to follow and track not merely the jihadist presence but the potential threats among the newly arrivals. Islamist groups employed, as was the general published belief, the surge of refugees to smuggle their operatives into Europe. It has been described in countless articles that most of the terrorists traveled from Syria through the Balkans and then Central Europe, moving with the hordes of refugees in the summer and fall of 2015.

To understand a crucial part of the migration and terrorism issues in Europe, one must understand the border controls in Europe and in turn to be aware of the Schengen Zone. This part of Europe is composed of 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. This large geographic zone functions as a single country for international travel purposes and is named after the Schengen Agreement, which for a time eliminated border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened border controls with non-Schengen countries. With the terrorist attacks and migration crisis in late 2016, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden temporarily imposed controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states. Previously, in 2015, after the Paris attack, France declared a state of emergency which stepped up its boarder control measure with other Schengen states.

A quick review of the history of the Berlin attack suspect Anis Amri, who arrived in Europe in 2011, will underline the depth of the failure of European intelligence at this moment. The authorities in Italy and Germany have tried multiple times to send Amri back to Tunisia. They failed. Around the same time, he was released after four years in an Italian prison for starting a fire at a refugee shelter; he was allowed to leave Italy (with a criminal record). Nonetheless, he applied for asylum again in Germany. This “underscores the disorder of Europe’s refugee system.” Although the authorities ordered him to return to Tunisia, he headed to Germany, where he roamed freely, using a series of false identities, and sought asylum. Since the authorities don’t routinely fingerprint migrants or check their fingerprints against national criminal databases (freely discussed in the press and with what little facilities there are) he was able to travel as he desired. Evidence, however sketchy, has established that the Islamic State has sent dozens of operatives to Europe, over the past two years, and to Germany in particular. And, is simple to deduce, is that with the unraveling of ISIS strangleholds of Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, the obvious will occur–that many potential terrorists will disappear from the scene and attempt, one way or another, to enter Europe.

Aside from the security issues the humanitarian questions such as in Greece, wintry conditions have imperiled thousands of refugees in overcrowded camps, as described in the New York Times, prompting the E.U. to declare the situation “untenable.” While thousands displaced person from Mosul are in desperate need of life-saving aid, the security concerns and gloom are layer upon the humanitarian apprehensions and present a desperate picture ahead.

European security services race against time to detect the terrorist threats among the millions of refugees who arrived in recent years. But that is like closing the barn doors after the cows have fled. What is clear is that the Schengen border restraints remain sparse; the creation of “hot spots,” where officials conduct security checks of migrants, using high-speed internet connections to security databases, do not cover the porous country-side where both the migrant and terrorist can move freely and without detection. How many have arrived in the United States?

We live in a time with Western Europe in disarray both politically and socially. Their population is living in the shadows of constant and increasing terrorism. We live in a world struggling with the rise of an increasingly dark populist cloud, both at home and abroad, as we witness the plummeting of civility, diversity acceptance and truth.

For me, a defining moment was the day after the United States presidential election and one month before the first WSJ laid bare the state of the European deplorable security apparatus— helplessness to cope with its crisis of terrorism and immigration, we cancelled our trip to London and Paris.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

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