Author Archives: Richard Allan

Commentary—Why?

I had just posted my latest blog about the lethal use of drones when a very dear friend, whom I have known since grade school, asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting. He said I have done so much international traveling why not write about that. Stop providing us with the unsettling side of national security. Stop telling us that we may have to move back to the cave.

For the past 60 plus years I have seen a good part of the world, seen different cultures and tried to leave my comfort space to be able to be embraced by new or different ways to live.

I have walked a beach where the vast majority of the bathers were people recuperating from sex change operations. I have, on two very separate occasions, walked the streets of abject, unimaginable poverty and deformity. I have been a guest in the home of a person whose sole aim was to buy all the land surrounding his home so he could not see an alien chimney or driveway. I have seen and eaten food that cannot be described with my vocabulary.

Obviously, my friend doesn’t want me to write about most of this. He wants me to describe and take him happily with my words to those places of magical dreams— swimming off Bora Bora, sitting in a palatial apartment overlooking the Seine or the Louvre, drinking high tea at the Dorchester, pumping ice cold water from a well high on a mountain overlooking Lake George.

Last week, during a moment of “what I’d like to do at 88 years of age “other than think about getting up on the right side of the grass — is to fly a helicopter —be an analyst at the CIA, have a late night radio program in a small town in New England, be a piano player in a small pub anywhere. If given enough time, the list would go on. But as my father would say— “take the needle out of your arm“or my wife always with the wakeup words: “reality” and “responsibility”.

We’ve often talked that we worry not about our adult children but about the world of our “four boys” –our grandsons, who are growing older and taller and wiser.

I’ve known that my blog/ commentary ranks in the 70s of the 101 Intelligence sites, but I have no idea who really reads my comments other than the few friends and relatives who may comment weeks after publication. My hope is that — in my response to my old friend — there might be someone who reads the commentary who can change things, who can make a difference, who might be moved, however slightly, by my rantings and would be willing and able to take the next important step—so we no longer have to “worry “about the world of our grandchildren.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary–The Drone Overhead

Commentary—The Drone Overhead

When my son was very young, I bought him a model plane with a small kerosene motor. The plane was attached to a very long lanyard to control and manage the plane’s flight. One Sunday morning we traveled into Brooklyn to an empty schoolyard started the engine that was loud enough to wake the dead and flew the plane for no more than three minutes. We were scared to death we might lose control of this non deadly “thing”. Today we have drones and they are lethal.

If you’re so inclined you can buy one of the sophisticated toys drones on Amazon. The cheapest is $29.99, or if you’re really hooked, there is one for over $10,000. It’s the non-toys that concern me and should you. The United States’ drone (the “Reaper MQ9) shot down by Iran cost the taxpayers between 123 to 139 million dollars. A second U.S. drone was shot down since June by the Iranian allied Houthis. These are very expensive losses. A smaller one from Iran was destroyed by a specially trained group of our navy in the straits of Hormuz.

We all know that drones are not flown with a pilot in a cockpit (thus called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), but from, in many cases, thousands of miles away. They range in shape and size, some with enormous wing spans and can cost in excess of 4 million dollars for just one! They can carry multiple sets of bombs and “Hellfire” missiles (whose cost depending upon the model is in excess of 99,600 dollars for each one). They have multi-mission capability, multi-target precision-strike ability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. Some drones also have the capability to loiter overhead for 14 hours when reaching their target. I attempted to count the number the different types of military drones and stopped at ten. All American. What country doesn’t have a military drone? “There are at least 150 different military drone systems being used by 48 countries.” Drones range in size from a hummingbird size “Black Hornet to the massive 15,000-pound RQ-4 “Global Hawk. “There are at least 28 countries with armed drones in their military, and we know at least nine (the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan) have actually used them in operations. Six of those countries used an armed drone in just the last two years.” By consensus, the cutting-edge current UAV’s are flown by U.S., Israel and China. Most information regarding their operational capacity and components fall under the heading of “military secrets” and, thus, unknown.

To bring down an enemy drone, one of two procedures are generally followed: Jamming and Spoofing. Jamming is utilizing a transmission blocking signal to disrupt communications between a drone and the pilot and to take over control of the drone’s activity.  Spoofing a drone refers to a third party taking over the drone remotely by impersonating the remote control. It involves emitting a signal that is supposed to confuse the drone, so that it thinks the spoofing signal is legitimate (when in fact it isn’t).

What is clear is that our security (I am not referring to our privacy having a drone monitoring our backyard activity) is in jeopardy at any moment. I am not paranoid. A little less than one year ago, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, said the risk of drone attack against the United States is “steadily increasing” due to their wide spread availability and ease of use”.
For 1500 dollars you can rig your civilian drone with a flame thrower. What I just learned, to my naive thinking, is that flame throwers are legal in a good part of this country and have the ability of throwing a 25 foot flame. Why would anyone want one other than to do damage.

The EU Security Commissioner noted that drones are” becoming more and more powerful and smarter,”  and warned within the last weeks, “which makes them more and more attractive for legitimate use, but also for hostile acts.”

This is not new news—and I have warned about that threat especially in crowded areas such as New York.  “And the real fear from a drone attack is that a chemical or biological payload could be delivered into the midst of a crowded space with relative ease.” According to Germany’s de Welt, France’s Anti-Terrorism Unit (UCLAT) issued a “secret report” for the country’s Special Committee on Terrorism. The report warned of “a possible terrorist attack on a football stadium by means of an unmanned drone that could be equipped with biological warfare agents.”

I have reported, before, on terrorist use of drones in the Middle East to mount attacks—countless Islamic State (ISIS) raids on the Iraqi frontline, recent attacks on Saudi targets and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad sharing video online of an attempted drone attack on Israeli tanks on the Gaza border. I said at the time, that security agencies focus on the possibility that a dangerous payload would target the West. Terrorist-drone threat has now become the topic of interest for those who try to anticipate the future methods of a terrorist attack. “Last year, at a closed meeting with one of the U.K.’s leading soccer clubs, the stadium’s security director told the room ‘there are two things that terrify us: a large vehicle driven at speed at thousands of fans as they head home after a match, and, of course, drones.’” The meeting room overlooked a stadium where “it is estimated that 50,000 plus people gather 25 plus times a year”. I remember, many years ago, reading a novel whose center theme was a dirigible attack on a football stadium during the Super Bowl.

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, told a Senate Homeland Security Committee last year that the terrorist threat from drones is escalating—such devices “will be used to facilitate an attack in the U.S. against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering”. A year earlier Wray had told senators that “we do know that terrorist organizations have an interest in using drones. We’ve seen that overseas already…the expectation is that it’s coming here. They are relatively easy to acquire, relatively easy to operate, and quite difficult to disrupt and to monitor.”

Islamic State propaganda posters have already depicted a drone attack on the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York City. Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, has warned that the threat from drones “is outpacing our ability to respond…terrorist groups such as the Islamic State aspire to use armed drones against our homeland and U.S. interests overseas.”

Remember, ISIS operatives have extensive drone experience from the Middle East. A U.K. police counter-terror spokesperson commenting on drones: they “have been used on the battlefield and what’s used on the battlefield will eventually be adapted to be used on domestic soil.”

The relative ease — availability and execution — to support a drone attack alarms security agencies worldwide. What is clear is that the amount of explosives or missiles that can be carried by obtainable drones are not unlimited. But there is one explosive (as I will discuss further in this Commentary) that weights little in comparison to size and weight of conventional missiles, and has immense destructive power upon impact.

Less than five months after the alleged military defeat of ISIS in Syria, a report from the UN stated that the leaders of that terrorist group could launch international terrorist attacks. It was claimed that ISIS has reconnaissance potential targets and has positioned explosives. And, in today’s NYT (8.20.19) front page headline: “After ‘Defeat’ ISIS Rekindles In Middle East”—“Killing and Recruiting as U.S, Draws Down.” All this notwithstanding President Trump’s claim that the group has all but been eliminated as Al Qaeda sits quietly and safely in Afghanistan protecting the Talban leadership, and we are planning to begin to remove our troops on a public announced timetable that he derided many years ago. But they are not the only ones we should fear. Domestic attacks are on the rise and more deadly. Presently, domestic terrorists are not treated under a terrorism statute but under the general criminal law statutes.

New York has been called a lot of different names. Some of them pejorative, some anti-Semitic, some racist. New York was a different symbol for those who decided to strike us on 9/11.

If you want to hurt us you can. And if there are enough of you, you can want to destroy us. And you, in this world of information gathering at your fingertips, and with not too much of a stretch of one’s imagination, your actions can be devastating.

Pick a stretch of industrial land in Queens were one can find an ample number of empty factory warehouses. Move the equipment you will need into your empty building after the workers in the nearby occupied factories have left for the evening but before it gets too dark. Don’t attract attention. Assemble the drones you have purchased legally on Amazon, and attach the maximum weight of an explosive that each drone can carry. You might want to use Semtex, also known as “plastic”, and then wait. I have seen Semtex at work and was overwhelmed at the amount of damage a small amount can accomplish.

You want a clear day with the week following rainless and bright. Then at eleven o’clock in the morning when all the inborn traffic to Manhattan had peaked — Drone A and B will be flown the short distance into the base of the air control tower of JFK and LaGuardia airports. Drone C and D will be flown into the western tower of the Manhattan Bridge spanning the width of the bridge and anchoring its suspension cables. The Bridge carries 450,000 people each day. About 80,000 by automobile and the balance by four of the City’s subway lines from and to Brooklyn and Manhattan. Last, Drone D will be flown into the massive complex of the new, crowd gathering, Hudson Yards. Drone C and D will arrive at the bridge 10 minutes after Drone A and B struck JFK and LaGuardia airports. And Drone E will arrive 20 minutes later at Hudson Yards. Each attack 10 minutes apart.

The massive JFK and LaGuardia airports will be closed and disrupt domestic and international air traffic. The destruction and loss of a major element of the City’s subway and vehicular transportation venues systems would cause havoc, and the debris from the collapsed portion of the bridge would end what economic use there is of the East River. Hudson Yards would remind us of 9/11.

Aside from the lives lost— not nearly the number murdered in the 9/11 attack, and faced with major transportation systems incapacitated or crippled, the fear and panic created, spread and percolated would overwhelm and might eventually destroy the heartbeat of the City.

Some drones are toys; some in the future will deliver your Walmart package to your front porch and some……

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary: We’ve taken our eye off the prime enemy.

President Trump happens to be the loudest person on the planet earth and sucks the oxygen out all the others who are attempting to speak. Sound does not travel in a vacuum. And we have provided him a platform. We instinctively follow the noise and a loud trombone. We turn our heads to the sound of the drum. Tonight, I hear about yet another shooting and, not quite buried in the news, the gas lighting by a public official who has not been playing it straight with the American public— think of the attorney general. I decided I need to take a quiet break. A very dear boyhood friend asked me this afternoon: “can’t you write something funny”? And we agreed that we no longer worry about our children but fear what we are creating for our grandchildren. A dangerous, hostile environment that starts in the street and rises to the highest offices of government. And not just in the United States. America has always been “the” leader in the world, and the rest of the world is now following our steps in hate and domestic violence. “Beat them up and I’ll pay your legal fees”. Not some mob boss, but the president of the United States. The President is using trade wars and tariffs as a wrecking ball. The American farmer is living on life support with your tax dollars. The cost to you is 16 billions of dollars on top of 12 billion last year. And, however you might want to spin the facts, there is no such thing as clean coal. And you can watch each day as the stock market flirts with going lower and lower, as 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to meet a $400 emergence expense. That’s untenable, unacceptable and the list goes on. And as the facts get lost in the loud noise, our national security has been placed in jeopardy by our failure to appropriately focus our military ingenuity and resources. China built that Great Wall to keep out the invaders; presently it is building an even greater “wall” to embrace however far it can reach outward. China’s naval fleet is growing faster than any other fleet in the world, and after decades upon decades they are in the throes of controlling all the coastal water far from their shores. We presently sail thru the South China Sea at our peril. But that is only the tip of the rolling wave. Decade after decade we have been in one war after another with one eye on the large red star in Moscow and the other unfocused, failing to see the Chinese as a potential military threat much greater than the Russian dictator. They have changed the balance of power in the Pacific in two decades and are in the process of making our all but invincible aircraft carrier fleet obsolete and impotent. To compound our lack of focus, the Trump Administration has pulled money from ballistic missile surveillance programs to fund the Great Trump Wall on a desert stretch of barren land. While our navy is directed to conduct “freedoms of navigation” operations, in claimed territorial water, for the purposes of challenging what is clearly Chinese excessive maritime claims of control and dominion. The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual assessment of Chinese military power. That report revealed in stark terms that the Beijing’s artificially constructed islands (I have written about this in the past) were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018. Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands . The area is already militarized and part of the total Chinese aggressive military movement. The traffic and trade war with China however controlling they are of our nation’s headlines and in turn our pocket books, the economic volatility will get worse and might end in all probability to erase all predicted financial gains this year. And we can look forward to decades of toe to toe world competition, with China our most powerful economic competitor. There will be a long term economic war of attrition and conflict between the two nations. Before I focus on the enlarging security challenges by the Chinese, it is obvious that most eyes are on Iran, underlined by the president’s constant references to an armed conflict with that nation. To put that in perspective: Although it is true that Iran has an elite naval force, it is of no consequence to the American navel capacity in that area of the world—the Straits of Hormus– a naval choke point between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Straits are a vital shipping line that Iran alleges it controls. If one would compare that to the dangers of conflict with China, Iran is mosquito that will disintegrate before American’s naval and air power. I don’t say that in a flippant manner, and I do not mean to minimize its importance, but it is imperative to understand the enormous difference in problems present and future that each of these nations present. With regard to China: the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet has sailed thru the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive maritime claims. China promptly responded that this aggressive act was provocative and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and dangerous to international peace. This naval exercise followed a recent transit by two other warships through international waters in the Taiwan Straits. With outstanding reporting and analysis by Reuters excellent investigation team and Benjamin Kang Lim, we have been well schooled on how powerful China has become and its military ability to forcefully confront the U.S. military dominance. China’s biggest state-owned missile maker, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd, screened missiles that are specifically designed to attack aircraft carriers which have been, since the demise of the massive battleship, the mainstay of our military dominance. If you have a moment look at the size and shape of the latest aircraft carrier, you can only marvel on not only its size but its capacity to bring enormous destruction to the enemy far from its decks. “Across almost all categories (of missiles manufactured by the Chinese) of these weapons, based on land, loaded on strike aircraft or deployed on warships and submarines, China’s missiles rival or outperform their counterparts in the armories of the United States …” Beijing, has always been unrestrained by the INF Treaty (which the U.S. just cancelled unilaterally with Russia), in its deploying them in massive numbers. And their range of operation is very impressive: between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). This includes the so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If these missiles are as effective as described, and it would be wrong to discount this information, they would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.” China is also making rapid strides in developing so-called hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver sharply and travel at five times the speed of sound. Presently, the United States has no defenses against a missile like this, according to Pentagon officials, and this positions China as having the most advanced defensive ballistic missile system in the world. Without sabre rattling, America is at a sever disadvantage to the power in the East. But it is important to note I have used the word “defensive” in terms of China’s power. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, China just two. China is not looking to proactively engage the U.S. in a naval battle, but they are more than prepared to defeat the U.S. if it is the aggressor threating its claimed territorial waters. In addition, China has the capacity to push back its military as it looks to expand its influence over vast areas of the South China Sea, by quietly ramping up its naval and air incursions around Taiwan and pushing its operations into territory it disputes with Japan and others in the vast East China Sea. Two challengers have been posed to me: The first is China’s weapons have yet to face the reality of battle. China, I am reminded, has not fought a war since invading Vietnam in 1979. We, the U.S., have done nothing but test our hardware in war after war over the past two decades. What makes me so sure that China is our number one capable military adversary? And second, “if China were so very far advance in the military spectrum of international military jostling and has no fear of U.S. intervention wouldn’t they ‘just liberate’ Taiwan”. If in fact the description of China’s extraordinary missile ability is only 90 percent accurate, any aggressive moves by a multi U.S. Carrier fleet into or near the South China Sea in a real or perceived aggressive stance will invite the possibility of massive destruction. Are we willing to test China’s ability or resolve in this reckless way? Taiwan is and will never be a threat to China. It is an ongoing annoyance, a political embarrassment but nothing more. To “liberate” Taiwan would require a military operation and become a quagmire and an internationally diplomatic nightmare for China. We tend to think of China not as a nation, as we view England, France or Russia but as individuals who we have seen through the decades in our movies, televisions and characters in sitcoms. How many in the U.S. see the individual Chinese person. May I say on the one hand our responses boarder on racism while marveling at their mathematical genius? China is looking to replace the United States as the world leader and we do an immense disservice to our grandchildren if we ignore facts, rely upon stereo type, and market our aggressive military posture. Richard Allan The Editor

Commentary: We’ve Taken Our Eye Off the Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan

The Editor

2-9-19 Commentary- ISIS IS Not Defeated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Japan and World Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary– What Will Be Wrapped For Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

Commentary—Commander-in-Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump is hiding in the dugout.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

.

 

Commentary—Reality Check for National Security

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Terrorism – Politics or Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really? Acceptable?

Richard Allan

The Editor