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Commentary—Reality Check for National Security

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Terrorism – Politics or Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really? Acceptable?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

Commentary—The Invitation You Don’t Want

Do you know that, if you care to, you can log on to Amazon and, in addition to purchasing your groceries, you can obtain: “The Hacker Playbook—A Practical Guide to Penetration”. Then I stumbled onto an article that described an incredible, worldwide cyber-attack, and realized I know minus zero about cyberspace security or even hacking. I can tell you what hacking causes because almost everyone I know has had their e-mail hacked at one time or another.

How awkward and uncomfortable I felt writing a security-bent Commentary, as I was preparing to purchase a new computer and moving at the same time. My learning curve took a dramatic turn that brought me to a slew of wonderful articles and reports that opened a new world of understanding and, above all else, caution and continuing concern.

In one extensive report, I learned that last year (2017) there was cyberattack on a power grid in the United States, and even though it was horrific in scope and import, it drifted by unnoticed by most of the people I know. It has been claimed that there are those who beyond mere curiosity but with criminal intent, have the ability to shut down all our generated power and throw us into total darkness. And by that I do not mean just the lights in your home but to affect our all aspects of our being from individual and national finance to healthcare and cooking dinner to our basic forms of daily transportation.

The scope of the breach, first reported by the cybersecurity company Symantec in September 2017, revealed much about the way these attacks work. So much was revealed in its report, that the U.S. government turned it into a high valued investigation that produced a 16 page document. A team of cyber specialists from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation placed the hackers’ tradecraft under its investigatory microscope and then disseminated its findings in the hope that the information would help prevent similar attacks – and keep this one attack from generating further chaos.

Experts say cyberspace communication is at a crucially vulnerable time in an age when hackers, whether motivated by disruption or bent on conducting wide scale cyber warfare, are constantly finding ways to infiltrate, corrupt and weaponize whatever touches the internet – often bit by bit. As I type this page I suddenly wonder is there someone looking-in that I am unaware of and what will they do with the information learned.

“It’s important to raise awareness,” said Mark Orlando, chief technology officer for cyber services at Raytheon. “…. details, if taken by themselves, might not seem that impactful. When presented with the entire story, we can see it was part of a larger, sustained campaign, potentially causing a lot of damage.”

The prospective for that type of damage is sweeping, said Constance Douris, who studies cybersecurity for the Lexington Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank that focuses on defense. She said hacking the power grid is essentially a newer way of attacking a traditional military target. Understand that a power grid is not merely a power vehicle for our individual and business life but constitutes a prime military target by any adversary.

“Everyone understands cyber is important, but they don’t quite understand why it needs to be protected,” she said. “Hospitals, banks, pipelines, military bases – all of these cannot operate without electricity. Protecting the grid from cyberattacks should not be neglected by any means.” Clearly, this is an understatement. Our cyberspace integrity is “crucial” to our national and individual wellbeing. It can be utilized as a silent massive attack against the United States. It is not as dramatic as three planes flying into well-known buildings but clearly and potentially more deadly.

Here’s how the cyber experts broke down the “work” of the hacker – and how businesses and by extension, individuals can protect themselves.

Hackers have the learned that the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line—thus instead of attacking the largest target (who are, by necessity and self-preservation on the alert) the hacker works his or her way through the “smaller, less secure companies” and networks. Jumping from one network to another and moving to larger networks one at a time. One of the attackers’ main strategies is to divide targets into groups. As one security expert put it: each of us must “manager our own systems and being as vigilant as you can.” And we have read in the press that the hacker can use misleading emails that will deliver malware right into your computer. Be careful of what mail you open, especially if you do not recognize the sender. The hacker knows who they are targeting by collecting as much information and intelligence that is available, so that the email received by the target is both reasonable and believable and therefore more likely to be opened. I recieve emails all the time from institutions with whom I have some business or professional relationship asking me to update information that they should not be requesting. I don’t open those messages. I receive telephone calls from people with far-east accents who tell me that I am having a problem with my computer and they can rectify the issue with a small payment and to allow them access to my computer.

Another method of crawling into your computer with malware is to corrupt a site that you visit often. When you log into that site which has been “altered to contain and reference malicious content,” the government investigation found that you will then be infected with the planted malware. Some refer to these sites as “watering-holes” where the malicious malware codes at planted. Common places are the information sites you generally turn to on a regular basis. As one person said to me: “You can catch a lot of fish that way.” Another method is by stealing the identity of an important member/employee of a target including their usernames and passwords. Here again that is usually accomplished through tricking that person with a false login page of an often utilized site.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI uncovered yet another method of invading your computer: The hacker sends a document to its target, but it is sent in a manner in which it cannot be downloaded. The bait is to then to inform the target: “if you are having problems downloading this document”, to click “having trouble” — which takes the target to the program that contains the malware. Cleaver and destructive.

If your i-pad and i-phone are connected to your computer they are all invitations to the hacker to invade your world. Cancel those “invitations” with heightened awareness that “anyone” could be a target—anyone. And the results of those invitations can be catastrophic.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

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Commentary – Viewing Our Diminishing World Influence, Egypt and Israeli Military Coordination, And Why We Should Focus On Pakistan

From behind a fairly thick curtain of security comes news that at the highest government level, Egypt and Israel have coordinate aerial attacks against ISIS sympathizes within Egypt. This cooperation has been in place for more than two years relying upon unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets— all with the approval of the Egyptian President. There is close and improving cooperation between the high military commands of both nations. At the same moment Egypt is flooding discovered tunnels dug by terrorists to create artificial bodies of water to raise fish.

Much of the remaining news in the world surrounding the Syrian war zones is turning uglier, more deadly and unpredictable each day:   Iran and Hizbullah have taken advantage of the cover of war in Syria to smuggle advanced weapons through Syria to Hizbullah sympathizes and fighters; the Soviet capital can credit itself to have pushed its way to be able to claim an equal footing with the U.S. in wielding both political and military power in that explosive Eastern Mediterranean world.

The news from the world surrounding Syria is not at all encouraging, with no decrease in the extreme violence and devastation inflicted upon civilians of all descriptions and associations, who appear to be fleeing in all directions and continue to be caught in the crossfire of a political war, with its incendiary propaganda and violence rained down in the form of all types of military hardware.

Lost in this loud, violent conflict is our attention to what is properly the most potentially dangerous marker on the table: Pakistan. We generally think of Pakistani/India—both nuclear powers and their seemingly endless conflict. What I suggest is that Pakistan, aside from its conflict with India, is a dangerous powder keg undermining our own interests and security.

Some background to this discussion: Pakistan as a country was created in 1997, and we have had a long diplomatic multi-faceted relationship since then. If you look at a U.S. State Department site, it will show that we have maintained a strong security relationship, which only intensified since a 2014 attack against its Karachi airport and army school. Economically, Pakistan’s largest export destination is the United States, but China is it largest trading partner. What is more important in the equation is the amount of civilian and military aid we supply each year and have for years on end. All, Washington has alleged, so “Pakistan becomes a more secure, prosperous and stable democracy.”

If we reach back 11 years we read the official reports that we are “increasingly concerned that member of Al Qaeda, its Taliban supporters, and other Islamist militants find safe haven in Pakistani cities.” Some of these Islamist forces express “solidarity with anti-United States forces”, along with al Qaeda militants having made alliances with “indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups “that are clearly anti-Western’. In early 2007, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence had the most reliable crystal ball: in two sentences the dilemma facing our national security was articulated: “Pakistan is a frontline partner in the war on terror. Nevertheless, it remains a major source of Islamic extremism and the home for some top terrorist leaders.” Al Qaeda was posing, he said, the single greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its interests. Remember: This is a county that possesses nuclear power. This is a country that allows dangerous anti-American terrorist groups to secure hideouts. This is a country in which “anti-U.S. sentiment is not just a phenomenon within elite Pakistani circles either; it extends to the Pakistani population as well.” “According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. favorability rating among the Pakistani people hasn’t cracked the 30 percent mark in thirteen years of public polling on the subject.” We are not welcomed, we are not accepted. But please send the next check. And we have sent millions upon millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid. To what avail?

Part of the complex relationship that pits us and Pakistan on a dangerous path is Pakistan’s almost emotional reflex reactions to US/India relations. “Pakistan cannot, will not, absolutely will never accept Indian dominance in this region. Even if (the president) tweets that Pakistan is an unfaithful and disloyal ally. It doesn’t matter. Pakistan’s national security posture is defined by how it perceives itself with respect to India.” Not said is how Pakistan views itself to the rest of the world and its own ideas of what constitutes self-preservation. And therein lies part of the crux in its relationship to the United States and our security interests. The other element is the country has shown little if an incentive to crackdown on groups such as the Jamaaat-ud-Dawa (Jud) which had been blamed by the United Nations for the 2008 attack on the Indian city Mumbai that left the city inflames and killed 166 persons.

We must be more rationally engaged—whether it takes “carrot and stick” in preventing Pakistan from doling out its tactical nuclear weapons (which most assuredly could and will fall into terrorists’ hands), discouraging with sufficient support to encourage Pakistan from reviving its nuclear proliferation activities, preventing a major Pakistan-India war (that would in all likelihood land hard on United States interests) , as well as clamping down on Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India in their ongoing seemingly endless nationalistic conflict and providing sanctuary to Afghan insurgents.

The United States has poured millions of dollars each year into Pakistan in the hope of influencing its mindset, but we must be more rational in our approach to this potentially dangerous nuclear power. We must not act like a street bully, and most important we must stop calling diplomats, heads of state and nations in common derogatory street terms if we hope to be a leader in the free world. It is a worthwhile and important first step that we will withhold two billion dollars in security assistance and have proposed to place Pakistan on a terror financial watch. Will that make a difference?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary- The Escalating Dangerous Conflict Between Turkey and the United States.

In order to appreciate our present, very dangerous relationship with Turkey, it is important to understand its world history however briefly reviewed: The Ottomans Empire lasted a bit over 624 years (ending in 1923). If you were to visualize a map of the Mediterranean Sea with your anchor in present day Turkey and then create a backward letter “C” – moving west on the rim of its northern and southern shores you would begin to visualize its vast control of that part of the world. In essence, the “empire” was an assemblage of voluntary and captured countries. Admittedly, the Empire became one of the most powerful and controlling world powers in all history.

The Empire was very much pro German before the start of WWI. I would suggest you go back to see the marvelous movie: Lawrence of Arabia. It deals with another aspect of the area’s history during the same time-frame as Lawrence led a revolt of the Arab people against the Empire. When the United States entered WWI it declared hostilities against Germany. The Ottoman Empire in April 1917, then severed its diplomatic ties with the United States. It wasn’t until 10 years later, long after the secession of hostilities, that formal diplomatic relations were re-established with the Ottoman Empire’s successor, now the created independent nation state, Turkey. For reasons that are immaterial at his juncture, the United States never declared war against the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey’s place, this very day, is front and center on the United States’ military and political map. The complexities created by the waring parities, local and international, in Iraq, the Syrian civil war, the fight against ISIS and the Kurdish peoples demand for nation status, has created an ongoing volatile conflict worthy of a Shakespeare drama. In this geo-political arena, two long allies– Turkey and the United States– have collided and have escalated their collision on a daily basis as they represent, at the same moment, different, overlapping and in some cases violently competing military goals and parties. In addition, Turkey’s political structure has undergone profound political upheaval that complicates the areas security and our long standing relationship. The future does not present a good picture for our interest in that region of the world as our diplomacy with succeeding administrations has been less than successful. America’s voice in that region is but a feeble croak.

The time line of the United States and its present day confrontation with an ever increasingly anti-American hostile Turkey can start with the Cold War and the West’s confrontation with the swelling political, geographic and aggressive engagements of the Soviet Union. A reasonable marking date is 1974, with the advent of the Truman Doctrine. The United States Congress chose Turkey, among other nations, as the recipient of extraordinary economic and military aid, with the heating of the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine would be the foundation, with its immense financial assistance to help to create a major Turkish military force now attached to NATO and a strong, hardened army in the war against ISIS forces. It would become the basis upon which these two countries would build their relationship for the next four decades. It is also prudent to know that 2.5 billion dollars found its way into Istanbul in just one twenty year period, and help jolted Turkey’s shift toward massive democratic reforms in the election process, political representation and substantial social restructuring, until its recent swift and politically violent flipping of that Muslin nation. Its present stance while not altogether hostile is clearly strongly anti-American.

There were political and military actions that the United States undertook in Iraq that caused increasing strident outrages in Istanbul, but those headlines did not became the reason for its political transformation. Today, Turkey can be defined as a quasi-dictatorship.

Turkey has fought a long, costly insurgent war against the Kurdish people in general and the Kurdistan Worker Party (the PKK) in particular. The PKK is recognized by the EU and the United States as a terrorist group. But, and equally important, there is more than one Kurdistan group seeking its people’s independence. Turkey has been involved in an increasingly hostile war toward the Kurdish people in general and their demands. (Either as an independent Kurdish state within the borders of its destabilizing neighboring state or within its own national boundaries.)

Turkey’s turn away from democracy and its norms began with Erdogan’s grab for political power in mid-2016. He accused the U.S. Military Command of siding with the architects of a failed coup while Istanbul arrested certain Pentagon contacts in Turkey. With the crushing of the coup, there were deep mass arrests ordered by Erdogan not only up and down the ranks within the army but also in the judiciary and civil service. Istanbul then demanded the United States government extradite a Turkish cleric and national living in the States as the coup’s instigator. The United States government, in turn, demanded that Turkey produce the “evidence” that the cleric was in fact connected with the attempted coup. The Turkish controlled press followed, claiming that a United States general was behind the coup which was followed quickly by the American suspension “indefinitely” of all non-immigrant visas from Turkey with the traditional tic-for-tac suspensions by Turkey.

To complicate both the political clash and the war on the ground, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the United States forces have been openly allied with the Kurdish YPG fighters and have been supporting them with military and logistic help. Turkey considers these Kurdish fighters in the same light as the PKK, namely as terrorists and has told Washington they will attack those Kurds with the same force as those they employed against the PKK. It has been alleged, in current headlines, that the deadly nanpan has been deployed against civilians in the town of Azaz in northern Syria. This puts the United States and Turkey in direct military conflict.

In addition, in its lurch from a secular democratic nation state, Turkey has joined Qatar as the prime source of funding to speed the spread of extreme Islamism “everywhere from western Africa to Southeast Asia”.

The news reports describing the area’s conflict both politically and on the battlefield is Russia’s physical arrival in the area with its continued support of Syria’s Assad against United States’ interests in the region. This in turn will not only complicate the delicate state of our security interests but complicate the ground hostiles. It will then stall or even more than likely collapse any meaningful democratic move in Syria’s future and will permit yet another tyrant, Assad to remain in office.

Intertwined is the predictable direct military clash between United States and Turkish forces with Russia sitting at Istanbul’s side. Turkey, which looks less each day like a NATO ally, it is claimed consulted Moscow before attacking U.S. Kurdish allies in northern Syria and has obtained surface air-to air missiles from its sponsor the Russians.

The future of the Kurdish people and their lives as a people is in jeopardy. And their outcome can be reliably predicted by examining the United States’ previous behavior– it will leave unconscionably yet another weaker ally in the lurch, as we did with the Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk, and now to abandon the Syrian Kurds as soon as it is expedient, advantageous, and politic for us. Why do we choose the strongest military ally however faulted and compromised instead of the appropriate one?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

Commentary—Racism and National Security– a Volatile Combination

The new cool in Europe is to be anti-Semitic especially new in Germany, according to Steve Emerson’s web site in an article written by Abigail R. Esman. And those throwing the bombs and horrific language are the old and new line Nazis but the new refugees fleeing from their own countries of oppression and violence.

When I was a child during the early years of WWII and in grammar school, it was at a time when my family didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Notwithstanding our own lack of funds, my grandmother would round up the kids of refugee families who were living on the wrong side of poverty and feed them lunch at the same time I came home for lunch. There was one boy I remembered well. My grandmother and mother would be trying to feed this gang and get us out in time to get back to school for the afternoon session, and he would stand up, pound on the table, and say: “I am rrrready, I am vating!” I wanted to respond, as young as I was—if you don’t like the service leave, but I dared not on more than one ground. Eighty years later I have never forgotten his arrogance and his sense of entitlement. Many years later, my father had a wonderful woman who cleaned his office. One day when she was complaining about having a bad cold and how expensive doctors were, he suggested she go to the emergency room of a local hospital a few blocks away. She looked in horror at my father and said: I ain’t gonna sit on bench with any of them spicks! This woman was black.

And now not only do we have vitriolic language pouring out of the White House, as I commented in my last blog, we have been introduced this week to a racist leader of the free world. The President of the United States.

The mandate of these Commentaries is the examination of national security. And we hold strongly to that directive. If we were to review the impact of racism or anti-any minority, we inevitably learn that we have simultaneously injured the very fabric that supports our national security. Pragmatically, we become less apt at fighting those who would attack or endanger our democracy in the form of traditional terrorism.

This reasoning is clearly supported by reality: once you have an attack by one segment of the population against another segment of that same community then vital security components must be diverted from one area of concern to another in order to maintain the safety of all. It does not take rocket science aptitude to understand the causal connection and the dilution of resources. Those who fail to do so, do at the risk of greater national violence that becomes endemic.

You may say if I and my neighbors call someone a “nigger”, a “spick rapist”, how have I diminished any portion of the security arrangements in my community? I haven’t physically attacked that “nigger or spick”, and thus trigger a response from law enforcement. The answer is so obvious:–words have consequence, and words inflame actions, and words incite people to act. There are people in this country who take at face value the truth of statements made by our elected officials. One of them being the President of the United States.

As reported in the New York Times, in 1923, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, told an immigration conference that an unnamed European country was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirables.” His comments gained traction among a segment of the American population but fell on deaf years on the vast number of Americans who knew different and were proved correct by history. Forty-two years later in 1945, we were the strongest and most powerful nation in the world. The difference between 1923 and 2018 is the world has shrunk, arms of violence are larger and more powerful, bombs are smaller and more lethal and we have reinvented terrorism on a grander and deadlier scale. The spoken and written word travels further and faster and to more people instantly. When you call a nation a “shithole” that message is transmitted to the entire world within seconds. There are and will be consequences.

We need only look at “Germany, anti-Semitism is not just widespread: it is growing, particularly among the country’s hip youth” Abigail R. Esman. And she writes –“anti-Semitic attacks and regular calls for “death to Jews” have plagued Europe in recent months”. In the “Austrian capital, officials fined three pro-Israel activists last month for waving an Israeli flag near a pro-Palestinian demonstration”…” a man wielding a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam.” And on New Year’s Eve, a man threw a rock at the window of the Amsterdam Chabad center. ” In an in-depth report for the Daily Beast, Josephine Huetlin describes the vast reach of German Jew-hate – from Muslim enclaves to far-right groups that support the up-and-coming political party, Alternatives fur Deutschland (AfD, Alternatives for Germany). “Indeed, AfD may signal the biggest threat going forward. According to Huetlin, AfD politicians believe that “the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country.”

By surfing the net, you can read the comments of those that support the Trump rhetoric, and they do so without question. If you want to support those thoughts and comments that is fine, but to do so without question and without any objective analysis is dangerous. Not merely to oneself but to others. Democracy is dependent upon independent thinking not mass adherence or abidance by a master’s call. To do so is frightening, dangerous and un-American.

It is not politically correct to say: We do live in dangerous times. And we do, and to make these times less uncertain and more secure it is imperative that we have leaders that think before they speak and leave knee-jerk analysis in the waste-bin. But equally important, it is imperative that we, as individuals, “think” before we follow.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary: Vitriolic Politics and National Security.

President trump is sucking the air out of decency and the greatness of diversity by his direct and unsupported attacks upon ideas and people. These unprovoked attacks have no place in the form of democracy practiced in the United States. They have had, in turn, a profound and direct effect upon our national security. That is a fact, not an opinion, not a political statement.

A functioning democracy does not require that we all love each other. That would be utopia and not reality. Reality requires that if we do not agree with the position of our opposition – to any degree—there is, at the least, respect in the discourse. However intense, extreme or passionate. That is how a democracy works, that is how it has worked up until the present. We live in a dangerous time and it has become more dangerous not of necessity. Let me explain.

From Election Day, November 2016 to the 19 November 2016, hate crimes in the U.S. spiked– the “civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges that there have been at least 700 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation since the election. It ranges from swastikas at a baseball field and a playground to Pennsylvania high school students shouting “white power” in the hallway. It is a vivid throwback to the days of segregation at a high school bathroom in Northern California.” That wasn’t all. In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, a wave of hate crimes and lesser hate incidents swept the country — 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days. By far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups. And there are identifiable groups being terrorized just seven miles from the White House who aren’t eager to talk about it. Not only do they fear the potential violence, but they also fear being deported because a goodly number are undocumented.

Muslims are among the groups President Donald Trump has repeatedly singled out and targeted. He ran on a campaign promise to ban them and continues to share controversial anti-Muslim videos on social media. That incites individuals and groups to take the law—unlawfully—into their own hands to execute judgement as they seem fit.

The President has claimed that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims. You can say that this claim is false. You can also say the President lied to inflame a segment of the white community—his voting base. The most glaring inaccuracies have to do with white homicide victims. Trump cast blacks as the primary killers of whites, but the exact opposite is true. That is Fact. By overwhelming percentages, whites tend to kill other whites. Similarly, blacks tend to kill other blacks. These trends have been detected, noted and written about for decades.

How the extreme right viewed the Trump election and how it would carry that victory forward was captured in the following quoted encapsulation:

“The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. ‘Our Glorious Leader             has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.” Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.” Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.”

     This makes Muslim-Americans, blacks and other minorities that much more vulnerable and exposed to not merely discrimination but violence in the Trump era. Trump inspired violence by words and deeds. Despite the rights of equality and free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, the minority see their own lives as being threatened in the streets of their own towns, American cities, and the universities and colleges they attend.

From the New York Times we learn: “There are fliers depicting men in camouflage, wielding guns and an American flag, appearing in men’s restrooms throughout Texas State University: ‘Now that our man Trump is elected,’ they said, ‘It is time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage.’ ”

What compounds the entire topic was underscored by a senior counterterrorism officer who sees casualties being escalated by our nation’s polices on weapons: “because our population of violent extremists has no difficulty gaining access to weapon that are quite lethal” said Nicholas Rasmussen, as he ended his five-year run at the National Counterterrorism Center, three of them as its director.

When we have domestic attacks on our own citizens or those who are peacefully in our country because of their ethnicity, country of origin, the color of their skin, the religion they might or might not adhere to, then you place in jeopardy all of us, because there is then a general collapse in the foundations that support our democratic fundamentals, traditions and civil rights. This applies to all of us. This type of violence is a direct attack on our national, domestic security. Terrorism is not limited to an attack by ISIS against our interests in some foreign city or country. Our security is in danger not merely from foreign forces from abroad attacking our national interest far from our national borders. But here, right at home. Americans –attacking other Americans—listening to the words and deeds of the President.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary: Anti-Everyone– But Me. Plus a short comment regarding Turkey and China’s film industry– Fade Out

 

National security depends, in part, upon the cohesiveness of its citizens residing in and outside of its geographic boarders. If there is either internal strife creating a rupture within a country, causing a mass exodus of people attempting to escape their traditional home country or the attempted weaving of large numbers of new immigrants within the fabric of a society –it is clear that national security is impacted. For more years than I care to remember, I have measured so many aspect of my life by a simple measuring stick: You are only as strong as your weakest link. And this applies to the national security of any nation facing increasing violence from elements within and without a nation state.

A Nobel Laureate—what greater honor—an activist for democratic principles and a prominent member of Myanmar society has created waves of international backlash when warning her own community that Muslims had come to dominate other southeast Asian states, and that her country is now facing a dangerous situation. Parenthetically, there is a movement to have her stripped of her Nobel Laureate acclamation. But, that aside, her actions are a clear indicator of events happening around the world, and, in particular, I would like to focus on France and the continuing violence that is being called terrorism.. We could examine the white supremacist in the United States, but the scope and intensity of their continuing eruptions here doesn’t measure up to the events and actors we are witnessing in France. France presents a clearer account of what we are witnessing in other countries. There are varying elements within each country that are opening the gates to internal violence preceded by vocal hatred and intolerance, but whatever the cause of the violence, they create a serious challenge to a country’s national security.

In France, anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon notwithstanding the government’s public and constant pushback. But what is different in France, in its intensity and scope, is that the violence is the “French against French” –the French attacking their own. Not a civil war. An excellent article by James McAuley in the Washington Post discusses that country’s attempts to not merely cope with this phenomena but to challenge and meet head on the origins of “homegrown” extremism and terrorists. It is helpful, in reading the McAuley article, to be able to look at this issue from more than arm’s length (the potential for terrorism in the United States) in order to get a fuller and clearer understanding.

The white supremacist in Charlottesville chanting their anti-Semitic vitriol and then the intentional killing of a young protester is a far cry from the breath, scope and intensity of the fierceness that is being unleased in France. The attacks in Las Vegas and New York are beginning to form a mosaic that does not bode well for this country and its internal security. France is an illustration of what can happen if this type of behavior is left unchecked.

To those who might raise the flag of “freedom of speech” –that any proposed legislation or counterterrorism procedures to protect us against this type of escalating violence, but who support the right to spew hate speech — employ the slippery slope mentality to oppose any changes. Freedom of speech which we cherish beyond the words of the Constitution, like freedom of dissent, is not and has never been an unlimited right. And there is always the ability to put in place an oversight mechanism that controls the use of invasive surveillance and intrusions into the lives of our citizens.

Today, in France, where Jewish activists fear the growth of Anti-Semitism, it is becoming more socially acceptable to make anti- Semitic jokes and comments without fear of backlash, and looking back to the 1980s and early 2000s —the violence that erupted was often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Parenthetically, Jewish leaders in France today are now sounding the alarm of an essential change in the tone and intensity with the spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism.

In the last few years, more than 125 persons have died in France as a result of terrorism. There have been many terrorist attacks where there were no causalities. Some of those who have been killed were singled out as being Jewish. In some instance, and against the human cry, the government did not initially label those crimes as terrorism. We all remember the attack in Nice on Bastille Day in 2016 that killed 84 persons. And there were the attacks against the Jewish supermarket in Paris along with the devastating attack against those working at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.  But, a disturbing example of the French government’s use of with the term- “terrorism” occurred in the early hours of April 4, 2017. A African Muslim named Kobili Traore broke into the Paris apartment of his neighbor, a 66-year-old Jewish female doctor , and as he viciously beat her, he cried out the already well know phrase: “Allah hu akbar.” He then threw her to her death from her third-story balcony. It took months, with petitions and letters from prominent French citizens, to persuade the French Government to reconsider the labeling of this attack after their initial determination that is was merely the attack by an unhinged person.

There is a two prong approach to understanding the cause of increased cases of terrorism in France—first, it is a country that has the largest Jewish population in all of Europe where anti-Semitism has been breeding for generations, and second, France has historically been understood as the “standard bearer” of western secular liberalism, and thus has been actually singled out by ISIS as a key target. ISIA—has posted its view of France as an atheist power which while defending western ideals such as human rights, free speech and democracy is trying to impose them on the Islamic world. Both prongs have generated acts of violence, and both prongs are terrorism whether there were many or few Jewish persons who are the primary targets.

We in this country have started on that dangerous path by emulating our out spoken President. He has with his overt behavior made it socially acceptable and thus permissible to act out ones feelings. Against this background while the United States population comprises only 5% of the world’s population, we own nearly half (48%) of the estimated civilian owned guns worldwide. This is a staggering number and clearly a recipe for violence.

What we cannot escape—in this Country– is that there is and has been dormant racism of all types within our population, and when it is unearthed in the form of violence, it affects our national security.

Follow Up Commentary – It is always interesting, after writing a commentary, to return to a topic as the circumstances and events change.

Wanda: “And Fade Out”

Dalian Wanda, a privately held corporation, has gone under an enormous change since I wrote (China’s Trojan Horse in Your Neighborhood—11/14/16) of its massive financial invasion and attempted takeover of American cinema facilities. Wanda’s goal had been morphing from real estate development to entertainment and tourism major world player. His aim was to become the dominant world player with his acquisitions of American cinema chains and production companies. It is that goal that drove his overseas spending binge.

First, there was an outcry from Congress, but that seemed to go nowhere. Then, as one commentator said, the rug was pulled out from beneath Wanda by the Chinese government itself. The question is why? Wanda is headed by the second richest man in China, Mr.Wang. Why would his own government react as they did?

Mr. Wang, who owns Wanda, is held to be one of China’s wealthiest individuals, with a fortune that sits close to $31.4 billion. He is also ranked 18th in the world by Forbes. In China that is a singular achievement. All this achieved in what can be characterized as a country with an enormous bureaucracy and intense social and economic control — it is China. So what happened? Did Congressional outcry set up a second look by the Chinese government? I doubt it. Was it his extraterritorial spending too much of Chinese wealth being utilized outside his own country instead of internal investments? Or simply in the vernacular — was he getting too big for his britches for a very controlling government. He was clearly violating his nation’s investment law, but none-the-less, he was permitted to continue his overseas investments without interference by his own government.

Then it all seemed to fall apart. His real estate empire is a mere fraction of what it was. You might remember last year, when he visited Hollywood and bragged that Wanda would soon beat Hollywood at its own game, and with the carrot and stick promised generous rewards to those who would work with him. At this moment, at least four of the entertainment deals, including the $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary Entertainment, have already closed. But, and that is a big “but”, the Chinese government’s ban appears to prohibit loans even to those units for day-to-day operations or for restructuring.

At his point, the Chinese Government has played a very open hand, and it was a long time in coming—all to the benefit of the United States. The Chinese government has directed its banks to loan him no more money, even if it means he will default on his overextended investments. As in the movies, in time, he will “fade from the scene”, and I predict he will sell off his stakes in Hollywood. From a US national security point of view: that is very good news.

In Istanbul-Turkey— An Ally who “ain’t our friend”

It is a given: Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Not because we like each other and have similar democratic national and international views but because Turkey is our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It provides badly needed strategic and tactical cooperation with U.S. military operations in the area. Nevertheless, since the attempted coup, the repressive Turkish government, headed by Erdogan, has moved further and further away from its democratic heritage and more toward a dictatorship with scores of its citizens being arrested and detained—from army officers, the judiciary, to journalists, to the person in the street, to his demand that the US government extradite a cleric into the hands of the repressive regime. It has violated every provision of NATO’s founding treaty regarding human rights. As of July 2017, the Turkish government has arrested 228 journalists and convicted an additional 25. Turkey today has become the worldwide leader of incarcerated journalists.

Last month, The Turkish lira slumped as much as 6.6% against the U.S. dollar, continuing as the mutual irritation between the two “allied” nations escalated. The latest incident spilled into a dispute over visas between the two countries.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara had announced it would cease processing most kinds of visas for Turkish citizens after Turkey detained two Turkish nationals employed as USA consular staff .Turkey’s embassy in Washington D.C. quickly responded–tit-for-tat, saying it would halt visa applications for Americans.

 

In addition, The Department of State has warned U.S. citizens of the continuing threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. Due to the persistent threat of terrorism, the U.S. government has restricted travel by U.S. government personnel. In addition, Washington has warned US citizens to carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time.

But for Turkey’s most vital geo-political, strategic military position the situation between the two countries would only deteriorate at a faster rate than is now occurring.

Richard Allan,

Editor

 

Commentary— Turkey: Our Morality and National Security

 

In 2005, as I was flying into Istanbul, a dear friend, Joe Serio, was leaving after attending an international security conference. I remember his comment at the time: “I think things might change here.” How perceptive of today’s Turkey, as we are sitting in the viewing stands witnessing the slide into moral cowardice by a United States’ administration on two security fronts– internationally and at home. Both affect our national security. I will address the first.

This blog and its commentaries are concerned with our national security. Not to promote the idea of isolation as a means of self-protection from the violence surrounding us, but as part of our interaction with the rest of the world — from North Korea to ISIS to Afghanistan and onto any unrest that might have an impact on our lives. Today, Turkey is on the opposite end of a very long national strategic fence of international partners. The history of Turkey has turned increasingly and dramatically ugly within the last decade.

In 2005, when I arrived in Istanbul, this was a beautiful city of charm, great food, exciting architecture and artifices with a different sight and smell at every turn, and notwithstanding my friend’s comment, one felt no sensation of what was to become of this country. Today a geographic anomaly, Turkey is a mass of land that has one-half of this nation sitting in Asia and the other in Europe. The Bosporus, with its amazing bridge spanning both worlds, cuts the nation in half but does not affect its culture or intensity of daily life. Every day brought a different sense of this country from the phony rug salesmen to the kids running thru the streets delivering tiny cups of coffee to the stunning mosques. We slept in a monastery turned hotel, walked the spice markets, and could easily have extended our stay beyond that week but for a boat we had to catch on our way, eventually, to Athens.

Politically, Turkey was a secular country in the midst of a Muslim world. In 2001, the country’s Constitutional Court had the power to ban and to declare that a pro-Islamic political party was far too anti-secular. A stunning move, when we think of our own democratic process. Parenthetically, the following year Turkish men were no longer to be regarded, under the law, as head of the family. But at year’s end, the population went to the polls and gave the PK (Justice and Development Party) — an Islamic based political group — a sweeping victory. A stunning political change. Only to be followed by the newly elected pro-Islamic government ramming through a constitutional amendment that allowed the now infamous president, Eayyip Erdogan, to become its prime minister– although he had been barred from any public positon due to having a previous criminal record. We must remember that all through this period there is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighting for an autonomous, self-governing Kurdish state within Turkey, and at the same moment the country was seeking future EU membership. The seeking of EU membership is to be a long rocky road with EU concerns regarding Turkey’s human rights stance that have only worsened.

Between 2006 and 2007, Parliament rushes through anti-terror legislation that raises the EU’s concerns regarding civil rights issues, and EU then freezes Turkey’s membership application. At the same moment, toward the end of 2007, Turkey launches a number of air strikes against the Kurdish PKK movement, not in Turkey but inside Iraq. The political issues spiral down. By 2010 there is a poorly organized and executed coup, with hundreds of army officers arrested by Erdogan, that severely cripples the army’s internal power. By June of the following year Erdogan moves into his third year in office and takes control of the army. By 2013, mass anti-government protests are felt around the country because of the nature of the government’s non-democratic rigid and dictatorial methods of governance. The police respond to the protests with violence, and the Prime Minister, Erdogan, responds with dismissive distain. And protestors die. By the end of the year, the future can almost be predicted: The pro-Islamic Erdogan government fires police officials who seek to protect the population from government corruption. This, was followed by Erdogan being elected President of Turkey. The election is declared valid. The Islamic population has turned its back on secularism and in turn democracy.

Then, slowly, one can see the movement toward what can now be truly described as a dictatorship, with democracy to be hurriedly buried. Last year, the government placed Turkey’s largest opposition newspaper under state control, the prime minister was forced out by Erdogan in his continued grab of dictatorial power, thousands of soldiers (!) and judges (!) are imprisoned on mere suspicion of their possible involvement in the failed coup, and the government in order to prevent the dissemination of hard news, closed dozens of media channels and 16 TV channels. In July 2016, the President of Turkey accused two United States military commanders of siding with the coup plotter or being the masterminds behind the coup. In April of this year Erdogan has extended his powers.

Where the United States is today: A survey was conducted between mid-February and early May of this year and found that 72 percent of the Turkish citizens who participated in the survey see us –the United States– as a threat to their security, greater than that of Russia and China. That conclusion is obvious and reasonable because of the total eclipse and suppression of an open and free press in Turkey. The population is only permitted to read what the government selects. Our Secretary of State, under the moral leadership of our President, see tensions “in tone” between the two countries being reduced. How can we accept the notion that the negative tone between these two nations has been ratchetted down, and not upward, notwithstanding the arrest of thousands upon thousands of civilians on the pretext of their alleged involvement or support of the failed coup?

Turkey is a member of NATO—its military bases and air space of operation are utilized by US-Allied forces. Our alliance with them in NATO requires the United States to come to their aid if they are attacked. In addition, and this is a crucial point: Turkey is an “autocratic” government, and its recent passage of a constitutional referendum all but destroyed the remaining vestiges of their civil rights. This has made it mandatory for the EU to stop—and stop they did of all further considerations of Turkey’s admittance to EU.

Let’s be clear with regard to the EU; we are talking of “civil rights”, and an “autocratic” is despotic and tyrannical. Yet we look to Turkey as an NATO “ally”. The prevailing excuse for this relationship can only be the “expediency of war”. Why are we committed to the protection of a nation that violates the civil rights of its citizens and operates a repulsive, tyrannical administration?

Our nation can conduct whatever warfare necessary in the mid-East without the help or assistance of Turkey. We are large enough, strong enough and imaginative enough to undertake whatever is necessary to protect our national security interests anywhere in the world. Will it be more difficult without a Turkey in the equation: yes, but neither will it be impossible nor improbable.

Where are our commitments to international morality?

Shame on us.

Richard Allan,

The Editor