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Commentary–When We Were Not Looking

It’s now July 9th, the days are getting much warmer, and I wish I were on the holiday my wife and I had planned. On my desk calendar the notation for today: Leave for London. Instead, I am in my pajama bottoms and a dress shirt top, thinking about the last few months. America was attacked in a park across the street from the White House, and the pandemic virus killed thousands more. We met our grandson, not in our apartment, but in a small neighborhood pocket park. Releasing myself from self –detention and heading home after a short walk, my temperature was taken by the people who guard the front door of my apartment house. I try not to think of “what next”.
Merging one into the other, the pandemic and national protesting has created the impression of a nation in suspended animation. There appeared to be nothing else occupying our attention. There should have been, and there will be a price to be paid.
Being so narrowly focused and preoccupied, our national security concerns are overtaken by others who seek to inflict harm. There are those who wait for and thrive on the chaos of others. And the present chaos has provided a wide window of opportunity for the domestic and international terrorist.
In the UK, Detective Superintendent Matthew Davison, Coordinator at Counter Terrorism Policing, noted with the uncertainty generated by the pandemic that young people are potentially more vulnerable to negative influences and exploitation, as they explore their concerns online. The terrorist/extremist groups troll in the same cyber space, looking to use our apprehension, fear and uncertainty of the pandemic as a vehicle to spread disinformation, fear and to encourage violence. We certainly see an unsettling uptick in violence in the U.S… The Department of Homeland Security uncovered plans that white radically motivated extremists, the followers of Neo-Nazi James Mason, are planning to use the COVID-19 as a bioweapon. This reminds me of the saran gas attack in the Tokyo subway systems many years ago.
There is ample evidence that terrorists are looking at new approaches and techniques, being inspired by the confusion and slaughtering statistics caused by the virus. They also see that professional sports around the globe are grappling with suspending or limiting their playing seasons. The stock market collapsed after being in the bull territory for 11 years, and the WHO declared a global pandemic as the President cut off travel from Europe. And those were the events only until March 11 of this year. All of this has duly been noted by the terrorist abroad and at home as they incorporate COVID “fear” as an additional tool, along with explosive material to be planted in the minds of the civil population. One command from the James Mason Neo Nazi group was quite clever directing its followers to fill their contaminated saliva in spray bottles and use the spray bottle as a weapon in particularly non-white areas.
The Turkistan Islamic Party is a known terrorist group with close ties to Al Qaeda, and it is looking to the pandemic to ravage its enemies. While Most of Hezbollah’s topmost commanders have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, it hasn’t impeded its activities. The New Jersey Governor said violent Islamist extremists have used propaganda about the racial and political tensions in the country “to discredit the United States and motivate residents to accept their violent extremism and encourage supporters to conduct terrorist attacks.” There have been concerted efforts to disrupt police radios and take down websites in Minnesota, Illinois and Texas. Federal intelligence agents warned that law enforcement should be ready for such tactics as protests continue. The Department of Homeland Security issued a separate warning reporting that personal information of police officers nationwide is being leaked online, a practice known as “doxxing.” Last year was, in terms of domestic terrorism, the worst since the Oklahoma City truck bombing of a federal building on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people, including 19 children– hundreds of others were injured. All this as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and signed by Iran, to contain its nuclear development and arsenal— has been unraveling as the world focuses on COVID-19.
On July 5, front page headline in the New York Times, a story that has been percolating for some weeks that a sergeant major in the German elite Special Forces, was arrested. This member of the selected forces was hiding kilograms of PETN, an explosive which is very similar to nitroglycerin, along with AK47 rifles, silences and thousands of rounds of ammunition along with a trove of stolen material from the German army. Found, also, were reams of SS neo-Nazi material. Clearly, this was an issue that had been present far too long, and too dangerous for Germany to ignore any further both domestically and internationally. The problem has deepened beyond what had been anticipated by the German Republic and more important the far-right has probably infiltrated its national security services.
As I was preparing to end this Commentary, it was reported that essential nuclear centrifuges in Iran’s uranium development program were severely damaged or destroyed in a fire of unknown origin. A number of high ranking Iranian officials have suggested such attacks could have been launched in a cyberspace attack by the United States or Israel. Iran, in today’s global tension, may last out with a cyberspace attack where it faces a level playing field compared to a conventional military conflict.
As noted in my last Commentary, the South China Sea is becoming more dangerous as the U.S. is steadily increasing its naval presence with massive naval war games.
And lastly, words do matter when they attack our national and cultural values as a nation, and are spoken by the President of the United States. On 4 July, the President signaled that as part of his reelection message, it is his intention to rally his base of white supporters with an ominous and dangerous depiction of the recent national protests. He darkly predicted that the country will be attacked by throngs of “angry mobs, sought to unleash a wave of violent crimes in our cities.” The statistics indicate that those “angry mobs” have been embraced by an overwhelming portion of the nation and major corporate enterprises.
Richard Allan,
The Editor

Commentary- War With China—We Lose

I find myself in what seems like a lockdown that is lasting forever, obsessing about China.
When I was in my first year at college, my hope/dream was to become a doctor and move to China. There was something very mystical about its people and culture. At some point in my adult life (married with two children) I tried to teach myself one of the many dialects of Chinese. That lasted one week. And now I am back again, reading all I can about a country that is becoming more threatening to our national security. And by that I mean that China is a threat not merely to our economic wellbeing but also our physical security. Although China, like the rest of the world, is fighting the coronavirus, it is also experiencing a severe economic crisis. Notwithstanding these daunting domestic issues, it sluffs off international condemnation as it moves aggressively in escalating military tension between China, its neighbors and United States.

Hong Kong, one of several thorns of conflict in China’s mission to lead the world, will not precipitate a war-like international conflict, but will precipitate and escalate the economic conflict between the U.S. and China. The second prong, Taiwan, has been on the Chinese radar screen to be folded into mainland by the year 2030, and that might well precipitate a war between us. There is a treaty that we have with that island nation. Will India and China go to war over a long simmering border dispute that has erupted in gun fire across their common border? I doubt that very much. Air travel between the two nations was banned and tensions increase, and then the ban was loosened. Our focus should be The South China Sea. Tensions there might very well precipitate an armed conflict within the immediate future.
The South China Sea and its control is a critical military and economic component not merely for the wellbeing and support of the Chinese economy and its neighboring nations, but also the world. If there is a military confrontation between the United States and China are we ready to go to war? Don’t answer that question too quickly.

One given in life is that nothing remains a secret forever. For example–scientists might have just witnessed the birth of a new planet for the first time in mankind’s memory. That is exciting news. Another secret just uncovered, is the Pentagon has been conducting secret in house war games against China. The scenarios were different and diverse. Some involved clashes in the South and East China Seas. One – the worst-case scenario – was an out-and-out war in 2030. The results were devastating—we lost at every turn. The conclusions drawn from those military operations have opened a Pandora’s Box– why are we in that untenable military situation.
In a long “REVIEW” article in the recent weekend edition of the WSJ the headline is “The End of U.S. Military Primacy”. Note—there is no question mark at the end of the title. My online dictionary defines “Primacy” as “the state of being first (as in importance, order, or rank)”. My initial reaction when I read the WSJ headline was– could this be true? I had recently learned that the United States presently spends over 1 Trillion Dollars each and every year on our defense– why then is there that headline. My research seeking our “world standing” — our “national security”, “our national defense” has only heightened my anxiety.

Let me begin with two items: The first is date-marked three years ago (May 2017). Keep in mind that this is a three years old report by Air Force General Frank Gorenc. He maintained that “the airpower advantage the United States has enjoyed over Russia and China is shrinking… (This) comes as part of a deluge of commentary on the waning international position of the United States. The U.S. military, it would seem, is at risk of no longer being able to go where it wants, and do what it wants to whomever it wants. Diplomatically, the United States has struggled, as of late, to assemble ‘coalitions of the willing’ interested in following Washington into the maw of every waiting crisis.” This is a daunting statement and was published three years ago. Clearly nothing has changed this stark picture. Our air force now ranks marginally ahead of China.
The Second, currently from the pen of the China Power Project director, Bonnie Glaser at The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think-tank in Washington: “Every simulation (pentagon war game simulation) that has been conducted looking at the threat from China by 2030 have all ended up with the defeat of the US,” The war-games revealed that the U.S. risked “capital losses” even under our present defense efforts. Capital loses is a reference to both our major fighting ships, such as our enormous nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and advanced operational military bases such as those entrenched in Guam and Okinawa (the southernmost of 5 islands that constitute the Japanese nation.)
The results of the Pentagon war games were startling in that in every one of the various war simulations– China won—we lost! How could that be? And this at a time when we may lose the fight to control the future of communications, and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accuses the United States of pushing China to the brink of a new Cold War.

Christian Brose who had been a staff director of the Senate Armed Services has written in his latest book that the Chinese are not focused on projecting power but rather preventing U.S .world domination and preventing its ascendency. I don’t agree. China is flexing their muscle to expand their economic influence and military power starting in the Pacific Ocean. They are developing precisions weapons to prevent us from mobilizing our armed forces in any action against them as I will discuss later in this commentary. There are two major truths to keep in mind: first, in attacking China, its mainland does not begin and end at Beijing but runs for an additional 2500 miles west toward its heart (more of this later). Two, as David Ignatius has written in reviewing Christian Broses’ book, our military hardware and planning has for years been compromised by political/lobbyist/bureaucratic inertia all compounded by powerful entrenched interests. “The Pentagon is good at doing what it did yesterday, and Congress insists on precisely that. We have been so busy buffing our legacy systems.” The then Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis and then-Navy Secretary, Richard Spencer attempted to have an aircraft removed from service in 2019, because these supercarriers are becoming the relics of the modern era – like the battleships of WW II era. Congress refused. “A lot of (aircraft carrier) capabilities, which excel in attacking low-level non-state threats, don’t survive that well against an opponent with advanced anti-access and area denial capabilities,” wrote Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Dr Malcolm Davis.
Why are parts of our fighter jet, the F-35, built in every state in the Union? Political pork barreling practiced at its worst. Not merely unacceptable but dangerous to our national security.

In any armed confrontation, we learned from the Pentagon war games, that China has the ability to deploy hypersonic weapons. There are additional survivability issues that come clear:
*our spy and communications satellites would immediately be disabled;
* our forward military bases in Guam and Japan would be “inundated” by China’s precise missiles;
*our aircraft carriers would have to sail away from China to escape attack by their DF-21 missiles , the world’s first anti-ship missile which Brose tags as “the carrier killer”;
* our carrier-borne F-35 fighter jets couldn’t reach their targets because the refueling tankers they need would be shot down, and they have an unrefueled combat radius of about 685 miles. Keep in mind that Beijing is physically located at the eastern end of mainland China with its area defense “envelope” (A2AD), extending to about 2500 miles west from that nation’s capital.
The evidence leads to a number of conclusions:

We need inexpensive autonomous weapons at the edge of the fighting perimeter, rather than a few sexy, eye catching ones (the aircraft carriers and marine assault ships) that are vulnerable to successful military attack. Davis also noted, we need to be “spreading offensive capability across greater numbers of smaller vessels.”
There are systems that we already possess, but not in satisfactory numbers and not fully deployed, to make a significant impression in our military force –-the Air Force unmanned XQ-58A, better known as the “Valkyrie” which cost roughly 45 times less than the F-35 fighter jet. We have an unmanned underwater system known as the “Orca” which is amazingly 300 times less in cost as our Virginia-class attack submarine. There should be additional investment in our bomber capabilities in long distance strike platforms– a larger B-21 Raider force, adapting B-1Bs to carry hypersonic weapons.
To underscore these points, China, within the last weeks, conducted an 11 week combat exercise in the Yellow Sea, which is very closer to mainland China than is the South China Sea, so not nearly as provocative. Their message is they are getting ready for a military confrontation with the U.S. and telling us so.
But our robust robot forces, along with other smaller lethal attack forces, are neither sufficient in number nor sufficiently deployed. We should be spreading our offensive strike capability and strength across a larger number of smaller vessels and larger platform bombers. One problem of serious consequences is that we, as a nation, do not have a lobby forceful enough to rival the giant defense contractors allied with political interests in Congress. Jamie Seidel, a military analyst, wrote that “China is not moving slowly” as we are in the development of its modern navy and air force (in addition to cyberspace). That is not a statement that
cat be contradicted. It’s a fact and these truths only exacerbate our lack of readiness to meet China on the world stage in the coming decades.

Dr. Davis noticed a simple truth: “We have the money, the technological base, and the human talent,” What we lack is the will to change.
Richard Allan,
The Editor

Commentary–America Attacked

On Monday night I witnessed the President of the United States and his Attorney General order an attack on the American people. The citizens who were attacked were unarmed and a no threat to any person or property either civilian or governmental. Their crime was simple. They stood on a path in a park the President wished to use to walk to a church to which he had not been invited to hold a bible aloft and be photographed. Without warning of the President’s desires, the Attorney General ordered those people in combat gear to fire tear gas and stun grenades and then charge the milling crowed as one would charge an enemy on a battle field. The United States, at that very moment, declared war on the American people.
In no way can this event be compared to the American Civil War, when opposing Americans fired their weapons at one another. Two armies, uniformed, armed and prepared for engagement. The Americans attacked Monday night were civilians. No arms, no bricks, no batons. Only their voices. Anger and despair.
On Tuesday evening, I watched how army black hawk helicopters had been employed the evening before against the peaceful crowd. The helicopters were flown low, in a threating manner that simulates their use against enemy ground insurgents. Their large rotary blades were used to create fierce winds to attack and disorient all those in a wide perimeter on the ground. The army attacked unarmed American civilians.
At no time were those Monday night protestors aggressive. At no time did they raise their arms other than in the universal sign of surrender. Their only weapons were their voices. Their only defense was their own bodies. Their only demand on that blindfolded lady that holds the scales of justice was that all people be included in the embrace of impartially and fairness.
Richard Allan,
The Editor

Commentary— China–Again

With lockdown and unbridled fear of covy-19, I have done little else but sit at the computer—most of the time staring at a screen filed with stories of “death and dying”. I have been intentionally hiding away from late cable news because all it does is tells us in graphic detail how slow or fast we are dying. I frankly have enough disturbing dreams.
So today, notwithstanding my intentional hiding, the first thing I notice, while the world swings blindly at our pandemic threat, is that there is an increase of hostility in our geopolitical world that doesn’t pause for a vaccine or virus test. Buried behind the last pages of the news, three days ago, we find that the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has once again announced to the world in his warning to Israel that he will tear up their bilateral agreements if the Jewish state should attempt to extend its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Then yesterday, Abbas upped the rhetoric, warning of the rise of violence at a time the U.S. had done little to damp down that tinderbox. And, then today, Iran promised to supply arms to Abbas. Washington may have underestimated the international consequences and direct impact on our national security interest, if that threat is carried forward.
It is particularly important for us to be fully engaged with all sides of the international community while in the midst of an international virus attack, a sharp international economic free-fall and most important, China’s increasingly aggressive activities.
China, once again, looms code red on our radar. As I have written previously, I view China as a greater threat to our wellbeing than Russia. China is the second largest holder of our national debt; we owe it trillions of dollars, and they clearly do not cower or recoil from threats or condemnation from the U.S. To the contrary, whenever we throw a barb at them, they respond twice-fold in flipping us off. They have just begun the end of a long history of democracy in Hong Kong.
I have written that China has aggressively increased not merely its presence in the South China Sea but also in the Indian Ocean. It is in territorial conflict with six nations in that region. The United States has informed the India government to resist China’s aggression on their common Himalayan boarder. China’s neighbors, other than India, do not have either the military or economic capacity to confront them on an equal footing. The area depends upon the ability and desire of the United States to place a steady and even hand on the region.
Each day brings greater revelations, most often reported in the small print at the end of a story, of the Chinese building and expanding their military infrastructure and power. Their intentions are obvious –to position themselves as the world’s most influential nation—economically and militarily. We, for a number of reasons, are increasingly removing ourselves from that leadership position. I argue that we will pay a heavy price for that action.
I am not an arms hawk, but I am aware that one cannot unilaterally reduce ones military strength and withdraw from arms agreements. To do so would be utter folly and would defeat our ability to fully defend ourselves not merely at home but in those buffer zones we have developed with friends and enemies abroad. I recognize, at this time of a severe economic turndown, that there are urgent domestic needs seeking economic fairness among all our citizens. There need not be a question of building another aircraft carrier vs housing for the needy. We need not stifle a crucial food program to replenish outdated fighter jets. It is reckless and irrational to put our nation’s needs in an either/or conundrum.
China is not merely a political and economic threat –it is a clear military threat to the United States and our interests. It can better withstand a virus attack on its population than either Russia or the U.S. Although, the political opposition in Russia is closely monitored, it doesn’t compare to the harsh methods used by Beijing to suppress and eliminate opposing voices. And so when China, in the face of a virus pandemic, pulled back on its economic forecasts and closed down Hong Kong’s democracy, while in the process of building its third aircraft carrier, (after illegally enlarging and militarizing “coral reefs”) we should sit up and pay close attention.
The Chinese state owned and controlled Jiangnan shipyard, is building China’s newest aircraft carrier, and has just launched its first large floating work dock. The significance is that China now has the capacity to launch and transport large and ultra large ship modules. This is a momentous breakthrough. Its size is breathtaking. For years this shipyard had been building China’s destroyers and warships. Its ability now expands its capacity to deliver a wider, diverse and enlarged naval force. Second only to the U.S. and Russia, the Chinese military continues to grow alongside a domestic, mushrooming military-industrial complex. And probably more important, China’s fighter jets’ strength is second only to the United States.
Unlike some in our Congress who can be bellicose in rattling the sword of war, I do have a stake in how we take our stance in world politics. I have four grandsons whom I do not want to see sent to war. China is an economic and military bully. And perhaps because it has one billion more in population than the United States, it feels that, it can, in the long run, outlast and overpower its hemisphere neighbors first and then the world. In 1938-39 the world had the power to stop Hitler. It didn’t. We felt that the Atlantic Ocean protected us from the war in Europe and it didn’t. The United States had the power to stop the Soviet Union from implanting its missiles in Cuba. And it did. The Pacific Ocean, notwithstanding that San Francisco is over 5,000 miles away from Beijing, we are not protected from China’s aggression.
We have the power, without firing a shot or short changing the real and obtainable needs of all Americans at home, to stop China’s expansion. To understand the importance of the South China Sea (SCS) and its place in the world’s economy, it is estimated that over 3 trillion dollars of global trade ships through the SCS, and that accounts for at least one third of all the global maritime trade. China’s economy thrives in the SCS.
Because China has no “boots on the ground” in territory where it is seeking to expand its control, one may not view this as a sign of China’s lack of military determination to control the region far beyond its physical boarders. It is a useful lesson in defining the meaning of “territorial aggression” and “foreign occupation”. When a foreign nation’s ship intrudes into your territorial waters without prior permission, that is an aggressive military act. When a foreign nation’s warships patrolled your sovereign water, that is territorial aggression; when a foreign nation sends surveyor ships, uninvited, into your territorial water, that is an aggressive military act. And it is not just in the SCS that China is moving aggressively. The Heritage Foundation reports that China has quietly embarked on government building projects across Africa that add up to a counterintelligence nightmare for the United States and its partners.
The China tariff war, started by the current President, was misdirected and did more economic harm than good. Our naval presence and patrolling of the South Asia Sea is both appropriate and necessary. But that is clearly not enough to stop and reverse China’s territorial aggression. We must engage in an aggressive economic program specifically aimed at China’s hostile territorial claims, so that China will feel more than verbal internal condemnation. Time is not on our side.
Richard Allan,
The Editor

Commentary—Rally Round the Flag—Really?

These commentaries were created and developed many decades ago, after I spent some time on a sabbatical away from my law school teaching duties. My mission was to address the increasing issues surrounding our national security. It was during my time as an American Scholar-in-Residence at the EastWest Institute that it began to be clear to a small number of us on a national scale that there were indications that the future held the probability of increased violence due to international terrorism. Upon returning to my law school faculty, my focus became, first, the international terrorist and then, years later the domestic terrorist as a new “innovation” in that type of violence. What became very clear was that the interdiction of such criminal behavior required a different approach that also maintained and protected our civil rights.
From time to time I have deviated off my chosen path and ventured, gingerly, into the political ramifications of the actions of some of our political leaders and their effect on our national security.
National security has, over time, become an umbrella term to cover not only our well-being here at home but also the protection of our interests abroad. The interest “abroad” focus is not just on the individual American or U.S. corporate interest and facilities that happen to be beyond the lower48 states, but encompasses foreign countries. If the operations of a foreign country are disrupted or attacked, would there be a negative impact on our own domestic security interests and values? That issue is especially important when our nation is faced with an international crisis or war. For example: Military relations between the U.S. and Israel have been historically close. Israel has provided the U.S. with a decisive and strategic platform in that very hostile region. While being a major purchaser of our military equipment, Israel and the U.S. have engaged in regular joint military exercises. The two countries have maintained a high level of defense cooperation with joint military exercises, military and weapons research and development. I recall, some years ago, a Russian fighter pilot deflected from his squadron on an ordinary flight mission in the Mid-East who landed in Israel. The Israelis did their own research on the plane and then immediately turned the fighter jet over to the U.S.. This was an important coup for our own defense capabilities.
An attack on Israel would be an attack on our own national security interests. If that occasion should arise in the future, it is abundantly clear to me we would see the phenomena called “rally round the flag”. Most often, notwithstanding internal domestic political differences and the advent of a national crisis, U.S. citizens would rally around the flag, which means support for the president escalates. At times it is short run and at other times the effect lasts longer.
Our entry into direct conflict in WWII was less than stellar. The world was in flames for years prior to the attack on December 7th, and I was surprised to learn that even after we were attacked, there was a sizeable portion of the nation that did not want us to go to war and did not immediately rally round the flag. When Europe was in conflagration prior to December 7, 1941, there were Nazi bund meetings, with enormous banners embossed with the swastika, hanging over a crowed that filled every seat in Madison Square Garden in New York City. I would have thought that rally round the flag would have begun much earlier.
We don’t read much about the concept of “rallying round the flag” in world news, but it has crept into today’s pandemic reports. Thus far, “Trump has not gotten the expected bump that comes from national catastrophes, as Americans typically rally around the flag and the president”, says Bernard Baumohl, chief economist at The Economic Outlook Group.
• “These are times when the nation as a whole, the American people, will look to the president and the White House for policies that will get them out of this mess and all they’re seeing is rhetoric designed to get Trump re-elected,” he tells Axios.
• “He wants to see the economy be revived again but before it’s safe to do so. That I think is going to become somewhat catastrophic when the numbers start to pick up for that second wave” of infections.”
For years, the symbol employed by the press to identify our international enemy, was a standing Big Brown Bear with a hammer and sickle embossed on its massive stomach. That formative bear, the Soviet Union, has been reshaped by economics to a smaller Soviet Republic, and has been in semi-hibernation, hampered by economic woes at home.
Today, the United States has two decisive international enemies. Both are dangerous, and both are unpredictable. Both have a potential for impact on our political system; both the potential for manipulation to impact on our democratic process. In no particular order one is the Virus19, and the other is China.
The President is attempting to manipulate both issues, with an eye on the November election. There is nothing subtle about his maneuvers; there is nothing subtle with his goals.
The November election is likely to be a referendum on how Trump handles the pandemic and whether his push to restart the economy pushes the U.S. back on its economic track or drives a second wave of infections that does even greater damage than what we are experiencing.
While a majority of Americans believe that the virus “is a sign from God”, there is a second aspect to this goal and that comes in the form of his son-in-law Jared who floated the idea this week that if we are in a pandemic situation (as determined by whom? Trump?) that the national election should be postponed. Who, then, determines when the threat is over? Trump? What a marvelous invitation to a soft coup. The idea is so very simplistic, that even the least analytical person (a diehard Trump additive) would accept the idea without a second thought, let alone, any analysis. The claim that we should rally round the flag in this situation is very inviting. The fear of the virus is very personal, imminent and a daily remainder that it might be right next door…”stay at home and let the President do his great work.” What better slogan to upend our democratic institutions and way of life. My thought though about this scenario is that it the lesser of the two President Trump’s ploys to succeed in effecting the outcome of the November election.
The second scenario is the more likely to succeed, considering the parties involved: China and Trump. As I write this Commentary, China has alleged that the United States has escalated its cold war mentality, reminds us that it holds in excess of 1.11 trillion dollars of our national debt, that we owe millions of dollars to the UN peace keeping obligations, all the while the President has floated the idea that the U.S. “could cut off the whole (economic) relationship” with China in the aftermath of the virus attacks we are experiencing.
In a move that is sure to ramp up international pressure between China and the U.S., the Trump administration moved to block global chipmakers from shipping semiconductors to China’s Huawei. He also argued that the economic toll of the pandemic attack offered further proof that the United States needed to do more to disconnect and separate itself from global supply chains that included China as an essential move for our economy. This, in addition to Trump’s continued instance that the virus19 was manufactured in China, then released thru its negligence or that it began its global march in China, and they lied about its origin. Blame, blame, blame. Step one.
Step two: China’s aggression in the South China Sea: while the Department of Homeland Security will shorten the visa length for Chinese journalists working for non-American news organizations in the ongoing media war between the two nations, the pandemic crises can only play into the continued aggression of the Chinese in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. An internal Chinese report obtained by American intelligence has warned Chinese leaders over the possibility (not probability) of a military confrontation with the U.S. stemming from our allegations that the Chinese have mishandled and lied regarding the coronavirus outbreak in China. The New York Times has reported that the White House is putting pressure on American intelligence agencies to provide evidence in support of Trump’s claims that the deadly virus was laboratory construct although all indications is that this did not occur. It is my belief that any military confrontation with China will not erupt over the virus but a misstep by either party more than likely in the South China Sea than in the Indian Ocean, and used as an excuse by Trump to lead to hostilities. Let me explain.
Any hostiles sufficient to have the voting public rally round the flag and not want to change current administrations during a shooting confrontation has to strike at the heart of viable American interests and that we were not the aggressor. Within the last days on the 1200 mile border between India and China, both sides have for the first time in years, fired live ammunition at each other, causing some minor casualties. While this is a serious development, it would not be used by the current U.S. administration to become involved in that conflict. Too far afield to reap any popular support from the person in the street to “rally round the flag”. On the other hand, the continued very aggressive behavior by the Chinese in the South China Sea has only escalated the probability of a confrontation, that I believe Trump is looking for, to start a diversion from the horrendous handling of the virus and our abysmal economic situation. The South China Sea and their nearby closely connected Straits are home to what is probably the world’s busiest and most important commercial trade lifelines. It connects wide portions of the world’s trade, and it is considered one of the chief devices of global economic growth. Some 80% of China’s world trade, including vital oil imports, passes through its waters. At the same moment, surrounding Asian nations have territorial disputes with China which are increasingly hostile, as China attempts, thru its creation of fake armed islands, the sinking of foreign fishing vessels and the placement of surveying ships with armed escorts in the territorial waters of its smaller neighbors. Two issues are at stake: the free international movement thru the SCS and the mining and recovery of vital natural resources below the sea level. The United States has sent its fleet to that area to maintain the integratory of the freedom of the sea and the independence of the rights of China’s neighbors. What might happen can almost be anticipated.
A Chinese naval captain, with little or no experience, faced with a U.S. naval fleet might panic and shoot at an American warship. Little if any damage would occur. Instead of logging a complaint as is the customary diplomatic response (as when Russian fighter jets come dangerously close to our non-combat planes in international air space), Trump will once again claim the role of victim and will use that as an excuse to start a military confrontation with China. “Let’s Rally Round The Flag—can’t let those virus deceivers who are killing your love ones, along with those crooked financial manipulators in Beijing, ruin the world. Look how they have been ripping us off. You can’t change political ships in the middle of hostilities and give the reins to save us to those without my enormous experience and capabilities.”
Implausible? No. Improbable?
Richard Allan
The Editor

Commentary – China Again

I am one step away, in my ordered lockdown ritual, from moving from my desk to hiding in a closet. What better way to hide from an unseen virus. I watch Rachel at night, but when she starts her rendition of the nightly statistics of death and dying, it is enough for me to quickly turn her and the night light off. As fate dictates, one headline buried deep in the day’s news caught my eye. That, in turn, led me down the path to a world without a virus, but nonetheless was as aggressive with potentially deadly consequences. I had written about this issue in the past and had thought that the villain had stopped or at least slowed its bold moves. But no, China, with the world focused on an attacking virus, was continuing its attempts to gobble up vast chunks of the South China Sea and the Bengal Sea as they flow into the Indian Ocean with a maze of Straits that connect the two bodies of water, providing access to a number of smaller counties. Those bodies of water are not merely the water-rails that supply the world with the sea routes of commercial importance, but in vast areas they have very recently been found to be rich in minerals to be explored and extracted. Keep in mind when viewing China’s maritime aggression in South East Asia that it was implicated in 90 percent of all espionage and industrial secrets theft from 2011-2018. Let me explain further.

In August of 2019, I described in a long Commentary how China had the capacity to employ its vast military complex as it sought 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. They began by enlarging and arming nothing more than uninhabitable rock formations, the Paracel and Spraty Islands, in the South China Sea into formidable military installations. Their present deployment of Chinese war ships comes after China’s Foreign Ministry asserted China’s claim to those rock formations by calling a March 2020 submission by Vietnam to the U.N. over its own territorial rights as “illegal and invalid.” Today, we understand the reason for the massive and provocative moves of Beijing to dominate the area. It is seeking to control not only the commercial routes but much of the mineral-rich areas that lie beneath the South China Sea, including areas that reach the shores of its smaller neighbors: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, all of whom have claims in the region. They have blanketed the South China Sea with their commercial vessels, surveying fleet, and warships and aircraft carriers. China is now also in direct conflict with India both on land and in the Indian Ocean. We learn now that China has had live fighter-fire drills, as a border dispute with India enters its fifth week.

Four months ago the Indian naval chief confirmed what appeared to be the constant presence of a significant number of China’s surveying and warships in the Indian Ocean. This coincides with a Chinese aircraft carrier and its warships sailing through the Miyako Strait in addition to its tracking Chinese war vessels near its strategic Andaman Islands, after it passed through the Strait of Malacca. I have sailed thru the Andaman Sea and visited the area and had assumed that because of their very close proximity to mainland Indonesia they were under the control of that government, when in fact they belong to a strategic military setting for India.

When the entire picture is viewed it becomes clear that all these aggressive moves by Beijing are an obvious attempt to shore up it’s never ending claim of dominance of exploration and commercial routes in the area. What underlines this overt military threat is unsettling, as Forbes reported; China has deployed at least 12 underwater “Sea Wing” drones – which can play a crucial and dangerous role in submarine warfare in the Indian Ocean.

Which brings us to the present — as of April 2020, with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sidelined in Guam because of the corona virus, the USS America (along with a guided-missile destroyer the USS Barry) is heading towards the South China Sea where a Chinese government survey ship and its armed Coast Guard escorts are in the midst of an international maritime dispute with Malaysia. The America has at least five Marine F-35B Lightning II fighters, as well as tiltrotors (a plane capable of landing vertically like a helicopter while having a range and speed in excess of the conventional rotorcraft), and CH-53 helicopters as part of what could easily be described as a typical Marine air combat formation but aboard an amphibious warship. Things would be much better in terms of our military confrontation with China, had our coronavirus sidelined aircraft carrier been part of the flotilla. China has announced in the state run Global News, that it “considers using” its electromagnetic and laser weapons against our fleet to force them out of the area. At the same moment the Philippines’ defense chief as I write this commentary downplayed Beijing’s latest aggressive move in the South China Sea, saying it appeared that Chinese sailors “had no real intention of hurting Filipinos” when they pointed a laser gun at a Philippine navy ship. These weapons are non-lethal but dangerous and have been employed by the Chinese in the past against U.S. forces.

In April of this year, China also deployed survey vessels in a standoff in a Vietnamese exclusive economic zone; this move will only exacerbate tensions between the two countries over their rival claims in the South China Sea. The deployment comes less than two weeks after a Vietnamese fishing boat sank in a confrontation with a Chinese vessel near the disputed, armed Paracel Islands, which prompted international criticism of Beijing.

The U.S. military has been carrying out freedom of navigation rights and sailing missions throughout the disputed region since last year, as part of a deterrent force to keep international sailing lanes free of Chinese interference. Washington has also assured the Philippines (who have been trying to cozy up to Beijing with seemingly no success) and other regional allies that it was prepared to back them up in case of Chinese aggression.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in Washington, said “If a global pandemic doesn’t cause China to calm things down in the South China Sea, there’s not much that will….They (China) are operating on the same policy framework which is go out, assert rights, harass neighbors, do whatever you want”.

Our radar screens are filled with the devastation caused by the coronavirus and rightfully so. The viral attack will in time abate, and we will adjust to a new norm. Hopefully, the scientific community will provide us with a vaccine sooner rather than later. But, we, as a nation, must be vigilant in attacking the virus as well as recognizing that there will be nations that will attempt to take advantage of the pandemic attack. China’s attack, and it is an attack, in attempting to snatch territory whether it be land or water must be stopped at its inception, and not delayed until a time when their aggressive mission has been almost completed. We have, within the last year entered an economically driven tariff war with Beijing, having nothing to do with their present aggression, to seize vital mineral rights belonging to others and to control international water routes. Beijing must be stopped and our freedom of navigation missions and push back on mineral grab must be backed up with new dedicated economic sanctions now.

Richard Allan

The Editor

Commentary– The Terrorist Next Door

I remember years ago, my wife and I had been roaming across the southern tier of Canada when we decided to go home, We were on a backroad in the middle of nowhere heading south when on the right hand side of the road up popped a large sign indicating that we were about to leave Canada. I looked for a Mountie or Canadian border patrol but there were none. Then, within seconds, there was a large sign on the left hand side of the road sitting next to what looked like a super large telephone booth. The sign read that I was about to enter the U.S. and that I should use the telephone in the booth to announce my presence. No one was present to make sure I used the phone. I had a cousin that lived in Vermont whose bedroom was in the U.S. but her living room was in Canada. That is not uncommon. If you want to enter the U.S. you need not present yourself at a ladder at the President’s wall or any official entry point in the South nor need you try to swim the Rio Grande River. The immigrant/security problem in the south today is that the poorest of the poor are crossing the immigration bridge not the terrorist. The terrorist and budding terrorist are not having that much trouble, for the truth be it told, many of them are already here. The Domestic Terrorist living next door to you. This is unsettling because for two successive sessions of Congress, a bill has been introduced by Senator Dick Dubin–called the Domestic Terrorism Prevention act of 2020, to authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism. It remains mired in politics.

If you look internationally, the marvelous information site Memri, founded by my old friend Yiagl Carmon, reported that the Hizbullah Brigades issued a communique that read: “America, the first country of terrorism in the world, still violates the sovereignty of Iraq, demeans its dignity, and belittles its people and national [political] powers.” The Hizbulla statement said the group will continue “to pursue the path of resistance to humiliate America, its proxies and supporters,” pledging “not to allow the American occupation to stay in the land of the sacred sites as long as we [the Hizbullah Brigades] are alive.” That threat has not reached our shores. According to the Washington Post terrorist violence is escalating across a broad portion of West Africa. The Pentagon announced it forces have been pushed into the defensive, while France has dispatched more troops and asked its European allies for help. That threat has not reached our shores. The threat posed by  returning foreign ISIS fighters to their countries of origin has been lower than anticipated, but there is still a significant number of militants unaccounted for. The question remains of what will happen to Islamic State members being held in detention camps throughout northeast Syria and elsewhere. Note all these conditions –the threats and activates do not indicate any threat in the lower 48 states. The threat we face today is from the domestic terrorist.

As I started to type this commentary, I read of those on the extreme left (yes, the left) who have entered the presidential political battle with threats of physical violence against those who don’t accept their ideology. As noted by my son-in-law we have advanced to a form of “ideological terrorism”– not fact based. I have stopped (sort of) noting my political thoughts on Facebook because of the remarks that have been left in response. What caught my attention was a bold, unsettling headline in the New York Times that read: U.S. Faces Thorny Task: Halting Domestic Terrorists As They Outpace Jihadists.

What seems to becoming a more and more accurate statement is that homegrown extremists or domestic terrorism has become pervasive throughout the United States. A regional office of Homeland Security reported that the domestic terrorist, especially the white supremacist, ranks the highest on their threat level while those from across the oceans rank the lowest of threat levels. Bidget Johnson noted in her article that “as of late America has bled more from the growing menace of domestic extremism.” And Brian Levin, from California State University testified before Congress that “more people were murdered domestically in 2019 by a handful of white supremacists than all of those killed in the whole calendar year 2018 in every extremist homicide event.”

Suzanne Gamboa of NBC news reviewed a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that found an increase in the number of white nationalist groups in the United States for the second straight year. The report, she reviewed, tracked the actions of the white nationalism movement, the white supremacy and hates groups and reported that there were 155 white nationalist groups in the U.S. last year, up from 148 in 2018. That is an immense 55 percent increase since 2017.

These groups have a common grievance—ethnic displacement, race mixing and their defining the immigrants as the invaders. Their overriding theme is that there is a demographic change in the U.S. and a white genocide is in progress. I came across a new word that I had not encountered before –“accelerationists”. It describes those who have come to believe that violence is the only instrument that can confront our common enemy — our “increasingly pluralistic, democratic governments.”

Surprisingly, during the increase in white nationalist groups, there was a dip in the number of hate groups from 1,020 to 940 last year, largely due to a collapse in the number of Neo Nazi groups and a decline in the Ku Klux Klan, Christian identity and neo-Confederate groups, reported SPLC senior researcher Howard Graves. But Mr. Graves notes that decline in the numbers of those groups and been substituted with a broader acceptance of white nationalist ideas under President Donald Trump’s administration. The FBI reported that 1 in 5 crimes were motivated by anti-LGBTO bias. And that number appears to be increasing.

The exacerbated problems we face from domestic terrorism was noted in an article by Matt Zapotosky “The Justice Department inspector general chided the FBI for failing to fully address weaknesses in how it assesses possible homegrown terrorists” More than 20 homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States have created havoc since Sept. 11, 2001. Several of those terrorists involved had been previously evaluated by the bureau as a potential threat but not fully investigated. In a 41 page report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote “that while the Bureau seemed to recognize its failings, it had “not taken sufficient action” to fix the problems. Of special concern are those areas in which officials have been attempting to improve their rate of successes at interdiction after several attacks by suspects previously known to law enforcement. The DHS reported “in addition to mainstream social media platforms, white supremacist violent extremists use lesser-known sites like Gab, 8chan, and EndChan, as well as encrypted channels” to expand and increase the intensity of their hate or broadcast their intents, such as we all read when Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers posted on line: “I’m going in” before his deadly attack.

But the white supremacist is not the only group on the FBI radar screen. In preparing this commentary, my targeting the white supremacist and domestic terrorism moments, I came across those misogynistic men who identify themselves as part of the “Involuntary Celibate” (Incel). “Incel” means “involuntary celibate,” referring to online misogynists who blame women for denying them sex. They, surprisingly to me, are not a new movement.— there was Elliot Rodger, who stabbed and shot to death six in 2014 in California before killing himself leaving us his self-styled “manifesto”, the “ incels bible”, describing his hatred of women and incomprehension at their refusing him sex. The Texas Department of Public Safety assessment of terrorism in 2020 included a warning of the Intels. “Once viewed as a criminal threat by many law enforcement authorities, Incels are now seen as a growing domestic terrorism concern due to the ideological nature of their recent attacks internationally, nationwide, and in Texas” of all places.

What presents itself to those who follow the terrorist world, is the realization that there is an enormous leap in attempting to understand the scope and enormity of the terrorist movements. It is not just the usual actors but those many other groups that have been flying under our usual radar screen. It is important to be able to distinguish between foreign and domestic terrorism and where they overlap. Horowitz wrote that an internal FBI document said the bureau had a “fundamentally incomplete understanding” of the threat posed by such extremists, and that deciphering whether suspects are merely consuming terrorist propaganda or planning an attack “is extremely complex.” He noted, that some FBI field offices “may not be fully aware of the investigative tools and techniques that can be used to thoroughly investigate counterterrorism assessment subjects.” That is upsetting.

A historical footnote: twenty-five years ago this month, Japanese terrorist attacked the Tokyo subway system with the extremely deadly saran gas. Many were killed, many more injured. The Japanese government at the time called it “urban terrorism”. The only thing that has changed in the ensuing years has been the title of the type of terrorism. In the process of defending us from any terrorist act, recognizing that the domestic terrorist is the most difficult to spot, we come down to the methods to be employed for interdiction. Solving a terrorist act after its commission is fairly simple but understanding the damage is irreversible–it’s been inflicted. To be able to foil the attack is, whatever the congratulatory headline, the prime goal. With this axiom we must employ the most effective tools at our disposal. At this moment the state and federal governments are imposing conditions limiting our movements in order to combat the coronavirus. None of us (with the very rare exception of those without an ounce of logic) are thinking that these rules are impinging upon their civil rights. None of us are claiming that these rules are a slippery slope to more stringent draconian measures. The prayer is: save me, protect me and my family, and friends. We don’t seem to take the same position when it comes to domestic terrorism and its deadly consequences.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary –Biometrics–I’ve Got Your Number

For as long as I can remember I had an uncanny ability to remember faces but was incapable of recalling names, even those of my relatives. I employed an alphabet method going from A to Z in the hope that when a particular letter came up, it would trigger the person’s name. My next line of attack was the woman who became my wife, who would invariably supply the missing name. The biggest problem was when “this person”– walking down the street, right at me with a big smile and arms outstretched—who were they. Now if I had an app on my I Phone that could read that persons face and give me a name — what a relief.

But Bernie Sanders would say— you’re entitled to a free state run college education but you’re not entitled to know my name. And he’d be right with a” But”. Privacy insures are not an all- in or an all-out conundrum. By making all facial recognition ability too great a privacy violation, we lose a marvelous potential tool for law enforcement. And as I write that you in turn will sing the words to the slippery slope song. I am sure it was sung to Columbus, as he headed out into the unknown and the edge of the world: “Chris—can you really depend on those maps– they may be flawed?” Let us not forget there are multiple methods of recognition systems that are in play currently. They are already a fabric of our daily lives.

I venture to guess that most people in the United States have heard something of facial recognition ability, but they are unsure if “it’s good or bad”. The usual complaints are it is an unreliable tool, biased and a threat to our basic civil rights and safety. Put simply it is alleged that it invades our privacy which contains a whole bundle of different protect rights.

The conversation starts not with facial recognition but with Biometrics. Biometrics data collecting is a means or method of collecting and verifying an individual’s personal identity. Said another way, it is a measurement and an analysis of an individuals’ unique physical attributes. For example: your DNA, your fingerprints, voice patterns along with possible behavioral characteristics. In other words –what makes you—Zazu Pitts– different from everybody else in the world. Your identity, yours only (your biometrics) is totally different from mine and everyone else. We have, until this moment lived with biometrics for a long time and probably not realized it. When we access our locked I phone with the ‘reading’ of one of our fingers, that is biometrics recognition. So has voice and iris recognition been part of our life for a long while. I don’t know how many times that instead of waiting on a long passport line arriving home at an airport, I put my face toward a common looking machine and it scans my iris and allows my entrance back into the United States. (President Trump wants to take away this right because I live in New York.) In the UK you can unlock your car with voice recognition. Some blood banks rely on biometrics to identify past donors and their blood type. But someone behind me just snarled: “Big Brother”. But that has not changed the penchant for greater and greater invasion of our privacy. Banks have been quietly rolling out biometrics to identify its customers: verifying them by their fingerprint, voice or eye scan. The bottom line is that companies are collecting massive amounts of our most intimate information. I was not shocked to learn that one company was not only collecting data on how we hold our cellphone but how I type on this computer.

London’s Metropolitan Police has announced what has been described as controversial plans to use live facial recognition technology to improve officers’ ability to identify suspects in the British capital. The London Police said that the technology will be deployed to places where the data recognizes people responsible for serious and violent crimes, such as gun and knife attacks and child sexual exploitation. They announced that the cameras, clearly identifiable, will be trained on small, targeted areas to scan people’s faces as they walk by. The Met police say the technology has been tried and tested. Others take issue with this conclusion. There are other studies that have flagged evidence that the technology discriminates against women and people of color — an issue that’s been documented by Federal researchers in the United States, where several cities have banned use of the technology. In one state, Maryland, in 2013 defied federal guidelines when it created a driver’s license program for undocumented immigrants, has been accused of a “betrayal of trust” when it was discovered that in recent years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have had direct access to those records. The access, which does not require the approval of any Maryland state official or court, is far greater than other states permit. The state legislature will begin hearings on a law restricting such searches.

India is trying to build the world’s biggest facial recognition system. But it is claimed by Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner that the system is “Moving too quickly to deploy technologies that can be overly invasive in people’s lawful daily lives risks damaging trust not only in the technology but in the fundamental model of policing by consent.” On the other hand India has used the technology to find missing children and wants to build the world’s largest facial recognition system.

In the United States, some California cities including San Francisco and Oakland as well as Somerville, Massachusetts, have decided the risks of facial recognition technology outweigh the benefits and banned its use .

What really started the intense discussion by the pubic into the issue of facial profiling or recognition was the outing of a New York startup corporation called Clearview, generally unknown to the average person whose actives were exposed. The paper revealed how Clearview was “scraping” social media networks for people’s photos thereby creating one of the biggest facial recognition databases in the world and selling access to its “faceprints”, or facial recognition software, to law enforcement agencies across the US. The startup claimed it could identify a person based on a single photo, revealing their real name, general location, and other identifiers. Clearview has convinced some cities such as Chicago, who are paying almost $50,000 for a two-year Clearview “pilot”.

Some cities and states have come to the conclusion that the risks of facial recognition technology outweigh the benefits and banned its use. In a recent face recognition study by the National Institute of Science and Technology it was determined that false positives disproportionately affect people of East and West African and East Asian descent, the elderly and children. India, as I previously noted relies heavily on the technology to find children missing and wants to build the world’s largest facial recognition system.

Does this remind you of NYC’s stop and frisk debacle? A well-considered idea, but ended being horribly and dangerously executed. Another policing concept that is under increased fire and I find it hard to not to shake my head in disbelief, is those seeking to ban the use of red light cameras and speeding detectors. I am referring to those cameras on street corners that catch you when you pass a red light or you are caught speeding. South Dakota and sixteen other states will stamp out the use of red light cameras and speed cameras by statute. Other states, including Missouri, Ohio and Florida, are considering similar prohibitions.

It boggles the mind when lawmakers succumb to the concept that everything, without any nuanced thinking, that will make our lives safer and more secure is immediately lumped under the same outcry that one’s privacy has been invaded. If you are run down by a careless driver while crossing the street, is it better to have no red light cameras that might slow a reckless driver in fear of getting a traffic ticket? Am I safer on the parkway when someone decides to see how fast they can get from point A to B and drive 30 miles over the speed limit with no inhibitions that might give them pause and stop them?

I can fully appreciate the concerns with facial recognition technology use until its use it is totally reliable. But let’s not place it in the trash bin because it is not yet 100 percent accurate. Put it to the tests we have for all other law enforcement tools, and as it progress in its reliability, be able to accept its value and not the knee jerk reaction in the use of the term “privacy”. I am more concerned that Macys’ might have my biometrics than the police if I am diagnosed with a cognitive disability, and I am roaming the streets. I am reminded of two events. The first was when my son was stabbed and the police had archaic mug shots that were useless. Second, I am reminded of the time when London experienced five simultaneous bombings. The terrorists were apprehended within hours, if not a few days, because London has cameras that blanket the City and the terrorists were identified. You can’t expect privacy when you walk the streets. You can’t expect privacy when you use a dangerous instrumentality namely, a car. And I expect all law enforcement to use all the technology possible to protect me and to apprehend those who might harm me or my family. Period.

Richard Allan,

Editor

 

 

Commentary—Sobering: It was hidden on page one

 

 

My morning ritual is fairly consistent. Coffee first, then the headlines on my iPad followed by reading the NYTimes and WJS. The particular morning I have in mind: I had to share my international concerns that Prince Harry and his wife were in crisis talks with Prince Charles and want to strike out on their own, and that the President of the United States has revealed that we are developing supersonic weapons. First and foremost: don’t you need some sort of skill or training to “strike out on your own”. I think that’s in Prince Charles’ mind in their crisis talks. And second, didn’t Putin announce at least three weeks ago that the Russians already had supersonic weapons? I have all but conceded (to myself) that there is no way I can convey to the Prince (any of them) the realities of life on one’s own, and with regard to the President, I admit I can neither walk on water nor quicksand.

In mid-December, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia’s arsenal of new weapons had no foreign equivalents and that his country had a clear fighting edge for years and years to come. The new Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile and their Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle are enormous additions to Moscow’s fighting capacity and power. “No one has hypersonic weapons yet, but we have it,” he publically boasted. The U.S. Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the Russian military additions have the speed, altitude and maneuverability to simply make them too difficult to stop.

The GAO report states: “There are no existing countermeasures.” That is daunting and disheartening news especially in light of the President’s telling us how invincible we are under his administration.

If that information is not sobering enough, and as the U.S. and Iran compete for the best PR positioning, the Trump administration is about to unveil its 2021 Pentagon budget that is not only flat but also leaves our armed forces with little, if any room to not only design but to build and test critical modernization projects that require hypersonic and artificial intelligence technology.  The Pentagon says it needs more funding to be in a position to at least inch ahead of both China and Russia. It is important to remember, in structuring our defense and offensive capabilities that China and Russia do not have the financial burden of two decades of unsuccessful and expensive wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. When you build a war machine, I have learned, there is a difference between “a force structure, readiness, and modernization”, each component with their own timetable, urgency in their need and the obvious—cost.

What we have learned is that there is an enormous gap between –for example—what the Navy needs and what the current administration says is available to spend. To this untrained eye the Navy is being asked to sail blind beyond two oceans. The Navy, it is reported, told the White House it would buy one dozen fewer ships, slash its shipbuilding budget, and possibly decommission 12 more hulls over the next four years. The White House did not like that scenario –it would be a PR disaster, and directed the Navy to become magicians and count unmanned vessels as ships, allowing it to continue to “grow in size” as “the president has directed”. The Navy has taken its case to the front pages of major newspapers in demanding more money than the Army or Air Force. The Air Force is not in much better shape and will in all probability suggest phasing out a large portion of its older fleet to be able to accommodate the purchase of more F-35s and B-21 bombers. And don’t forget the newly introduced Space Force –not withstanding its weird uniforms, the need to staff it and give them something “to fly”. Speaking at the White House about the Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing U.S. and NATO forces and the injuries to 11 Americans, President Trump announced: “the American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration at the cost of $2.5 trillion dollars. The U.S. armed forces are stronger than ever before.” I have no idea what cheat-sheet he is utilizing to learn this information but obviously he is deluded.

If you believe that there will be an end to hostilities since both the U.S. and Iran have publically announced a stand-down, you are betting on the wrong horse. Putting aside for a moment the jumbled, incoherent attempt to justify the assassination of an Iranian general, Iran is being pressed economically by Trump’s additional sanctions. It is recklessness to think that for one moment they will sit idly by without some counter measures. In addition, they have unintentionally created another problem with their own citizens in the downing of the Ukrainian Airline and demands of accountability.

The Irian Government’s need to divert their citizen’s attention has increased. And that scenario will not play out with bombs or rockets, inviting a reciprocal response, but the deadly, accurate use of cyber-attacks on the U.S. and our interests. The risk is real and high enough that both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a joint warning that the U.S. government and the private sector must accept that their sites “will go down and be prepared to hit restart”. CNN has also reported on the FBI and DHS “joint intelligence bulletin” that predicted attacks first on overseas facilities — such as the Iranian missile attacks at two U.S. air bases in Iraq —to be followed in the “medium-term” by attacks on the U.S. homeland and our interests abroad. “I’m going to tell you a painful truth. When you have actors like this that are well trained — in the thousands — by a nation-state, if they are targeting something, they will probably succeed,” says Diana Volere ( a risk and intelligence expert with Saviynet, a risk, security and intelligence group). Their coordinate attack on the Saudi oil fields is a prime example of their excellent and precise capability.

In 2012, Iran formally established a special high-level command for cyber war, led by the Revolutionary Guards and directly overseen by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They have had 8 years to build and prefect their capacity to create havoc far from Tehran: hacking the electrical grid on our West Coast (that would cause chaos and panic) or sending drones crashing into soft military installations. The message from various private and government sources is that the potential for attack will not only be aimed at U.S. government installations and military facilities, but as Texas Governor Greg Abbott reported, citing information from the Texas Department of Information Resources, as many as 10,000 attempted attacks per minute from Iran had been detected over the past 48 hours on state and local agency networks. And he made that announcement on January 7 of this year.

The type of attacks, targets chosen and methods of operation are restricted only by the imagination of the attacker. On January 14th, the New York Times front page headline claimed that Iran’s financial condition would not permit it to wage a war. I don’t question the wisdom of that claim, but its economic struggles have not and will not prevent its clandestine, under-the-radar cyber-attacks that do not require an army or fighter planes in the sky. They proved that with their coordinate well planned and timely executed attack on the Saudi oil fields. Israeli intelligence predicts that Iran will likely field nuclear ICBM in two years. Parenthetically, Iranian lawmaker Ahman Hamzeh has reportedly offered a $3 million reward for the assassination of President Trump, according to Reuters, and called for the country to produce long-range missiles.

Gen. Paul Nakasone (head of CYBERCOM –which is responsible for defending the Department of Defense information networks worldwide)) noted in an interview with Joint Force Quarterly, discussing cyber-attacks: “Persistent engagement is the concept that we are in constant contact with our adversaries in cyberspace, and success is determined by how we enable and act. ….Acting is the concept of operating outside our borders, being outside our networks, to ensure that we understand what our adversaries are doing. If we find ourselves defending inside our own networks, we have lost the initiative and the advantage.” Sobering.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary–The Spy We Can’t Ignore

A year and a half ago we moved into an apartment with a terrace that was 25 floors above ground level. The first summer of our residence, I would venture out onto the terrace, hugging the terrace door, with a slight shaking in my legs; I would ultimately sink into my chair overlooking an incredible view. I have since overcome my hyperventilating and noticed that there were birds that flew high in the sky. They flew alone and seemed to glide endlessly with no movement of their wings. I have since learned that they are a species of hawks and wondered what they were searching for in a high-rise city. Having an obsession with drones, as I watched the hawks, I would look for what looked like drones—the ones you might buy on Amazon. I didn’t know I was looking for the wrong thing.

As reported in the South China Morning Post, China has been using high-tech drones that look like and behave like birds as a method to spy on their own citizens. What is equally amazing (to me) is that there are more than 30 governments and military groups around the world that employ what look like birds as spying drones. It was reported in the South China Morning Post that these bird-like drones are so convincing that real birds often fly beside them. These spies in the sky are GPS equipped and have the ability to transfer their findings to their base in real time. Their movements apper so real that they are hard to spot and identify from the ground. Some hours after reading the China press report, I remembered a spy series on television that had used robot birds to spy on an ISIS bombing attempt. Fantasy colliding with reality.

In the early 1930s Secretary of State Henry L Stimson wrote in his memoirs “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”. How life has changed. While the Chinese birds might remain in China, the Chinese government is actively spying on the United States and the rest of the world. There is nothing new in that report, as we spy on everyone else — both our allies and enemies. On a closer examination we have learned of the enormous extent of China’s aggressive spying, along with their hostile military forays into the South China Sea. These security issues have become more than merely worrisome. The complexity of Trump’s trade war with China is the tip of the iceberg; it is not a “sleeping giant”, and we should be more concerned and more proactive in denying them the space for their adventure. A small example is the U.S. Interior Department grounding its entire fleet of aerial drones, one of the largest in the federal government, citing increasing concerns about the national security risk from Chinese manufacturers.

According to the WSJ, the Interior Department has more than 800 drones, all of which are either made in China or have Chinese parts. Officials are quoted that the I.D. worries that U.S. reliance on Chinese drones might be putting critical U.S. infrastructure at risk. The concern, voiced by some, is that these drones may be (in all probability) sending information back to the Chinese government or hackers elsewhere to use in cyberattacks against the United States and its interests.

The heart of the matter is the extent to which China is aggressively combating the United States. We all (I am assuming) know the name Huawei (as I did) but have no true understanding of why and when the name of this massive international corporation raises a collective groan. From its name one can calculate that it is a Chinese multinational technology company that manufactures and provides telecommunication equipment, smartphones and consumer electronics, with its headquarters deep into China. It employs close to 200 hundred thousand persons with a little less than one half engaged in research and development (R &D), stationed around the world with an annual investment of close to 14 billion dollars in R& D alone. So why the present concern? It started with their dramatic overtake of the telecom operators, telecommunications-equipment manufacturers, overtook Apple and its smart phones, Samsung Electronics, and ranks somewhere in the low 70 of the Fortune Global 500 list. This international sweep all within the grasp and influence of the omniscient hand of the Chinese government. Cleary, the company is a state backed corporation, and maybe as some have claimed, a high-tech Trojan horse. Along with the development of 5G wireless networks, which China vigorously promotes, the United States government has raised the storm warning flags of potential cybersecurity attacks of immense proportions. Contention flowed back and forth, and in December ’19, it was announced that the Company’s center was moving from the United States to Canada, but not before it moved in the U.S. Federal courts in its continuing legal and PR battle against the U.S. government. A legal challenge to a Federal Communications Commission order was filed labelling the Chinese telecom as a “national security” risk and blocking rural phone and Internet providers from buying its gear.

Almost unseen in the background of this turbulence, a CIA former case officer, whose last name indicated Asian ancestry and who had served in multiple agency offices overseas, including China, was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison for conspiring to provide American intelligence secrets to the Chinese government. Some current and former officials say his spying caused a devastating blow to U.S. intelligence operations. It is alleged that he had knowledge of some of the most sensitive secrets, including the names of undercover sources in China. His work with Chinese intelligence coincided with the demolition of the C.I.A.’s network of informants in China. And he isn’t the only Chinese citizen arrested with some secretly deported for spying. On the last day of the year, a front page article in the WSJ detailed “one of the largest-ever corporate espionage efforts, cyberattackers alleged to be the work of the Chinese intelligence service…and its actions have not ceased.”

Over the last few years what we have written and learned from a number of journals and reporting — one article in particular by Bonnie Bley—is the enormous stature China has achieved across the board in the international diplomatic arena . My impression of China changed drastically after I saw photographs taken by my grandson (#2) during his extended stay in that country. We may think rickshaws and endless rice paddies and shiny boot lines of a military parade thru Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but many of the photographs (he took) were of large, very impressive modern steel and glass cities.

As we closed out 2019, China has surpassed the United States in an underappreciated but essential measure of global influence: the size of its diplomatic forces and network. Additionally, one of the most visible signs of its relationship with the United States ( aside from the tariff war which will not end with the newest protocol) is the collapse of Chinese direct financial investment in the United States, as Chinese firms once eager to expand into foreign markets now avoid the political risk. President Trump’s trade war only exacerbated the divide. For decades, Washington had the largest diplomatic network in the world. Now China prevails boasting 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. The United States’ network, meanwhile, stands at 273, down one post since 2017.

In global diplomatic primacy, the playing field is now leveling. For a number of reasons, I believe it is tilting in China’s direction. The 2019 index puts China in first place ahead of 60 other major diplomatic networks.

Add to this, the Trump administration’s desire to cut the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets by up to 23 percent. It came as no surprise that U.S. diplomacy looks increasingly clueless to other foreign governments. There is another important item in this revelation. Diplomatic postings and facilities also operate as facilities for spying while appearing more mundane. If there is a diplomatic post of any description you can be assured that one member of the delegation is a spy.

Most every week I read in the back pages of our national newspaper that another Chinese civilian or official is wandering into or on military restrictive areas taking pictures. Chinese Embassy officials trespassed onto a Virginia base that is home to Special Operations forces. Our government secretly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials this past fall after they drove onto a sensitive military base in Virginia. At least one of the Chinese officials was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover. Their expulsions only add to tensions between Washington and Beijing. As the year closed, a Chinese national penetrated a Florida military naval air station in Key West. It has been reported more than once that American intelligence officials say China poses a greater espionage threat to our national security than any other country. In recent months, Chinese officials with diplomatic passports have become bolder about showing up unannounced at research or government facilities.

On top of the Huawei situation, the United States Army has banned soldiers from using the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, calling it a security concern. “A Cyber Awareness Message sent out on 16 December identifies TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use,” The move comes after the Navy barred the use of the app earlier, telling its sailors that anyone who hadn’t removed the app from their government-issued phone would be banned from the Navy intranet. Many in the C.I.A. feared China had a mole in one or more federal agencies.

To make matters more intense, a meeting seeking to increase South Korea’s financial contribution for our military defense of that nation broke down. Seoul rejected Trump’s demands for a fivefold increase in South Korea’s payment to the U.S. for the cost of stationing American troops there. Trump is seeking to earn a “financial return” from the presence of American forces. While Trump’s negotiating team walked out of the meeting with our closest military ally in that region, the South Koreans turned around and signed a “defense” understanding with China—boosting “cooperation” between the parties. The curtain rising during the first week of 2020 finds the United States juggling two military crises — one with North Korea, and on the other side of the globe –Iran. We cannot afford war or hostilities with either of those two countries. I had written the last sentence of this blog before word of the assassination of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary elite squad or Quds Forces on the direct orders of the President of the United States. The fall-out from that has yet to arrive at our doorstep, as it most surely will. The Iraqi Parliament has voted to oust us out of that Country at the same moment that Iran announced it will suspend all commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Because of the President’s unsettling relationship with the dictator of the former Soviet Union, we have all but ignored a major facet of our national security focus. Yes, the Russians meddled and are attempting to meddle in our elections for the benefit of the President, and yes, Putin needs to speak with a megaphone for the world to hear the Russian bear roar, but it is the silent giant China who should be keeping us awake at night. China’s economic and militarily aggressiveness fuels its expansion far beyond its immediate and immense geographic and population resources. Diplomatically, economically and military through the use of direct pressure and the evolving and aggressive development of its sophisticated spying technique, its tentacles are fast eclipsing the reach and power of the United States.

Richard Allan,

The Editor