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.