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?
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.
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.
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.
In the very early 80s, as a professor on sabbatical leave from my law school, I wrote my first major security piece to be published in a White Paper series. Part of the article dealt with moles. Moles– as in persons who come to this country and burry themselves in our social structure, waiting to be told to do something drastic to our wellbeing.
The then dean of the “security world “a commentator was a renowned professor, who pontificated from a university office across the Atlantic Ocean in Scotland.
My article was sent to him for peer review prior to publication, and his short, tart comment was I should stick to writing things I knew about— period. That “period” was a bullet between my eyes. It remained there as I sulked in the corner until one day, to my astonishment; he plagiarized entire paragraphs from my work in a Time Magazine article. My White Paper was then promptly published.
Today, the person terrorizing — as in terrorist— the American public is not a mole. He or she is not slipping in the dark from some rusting freighter just docking in New Orleans. To the contrary he or she is in plain sight in some American town or city and, in some instances, wearing a sign or posting openly on the internet. And they have been deadly. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, 19 of them children and over 600 injured. In less than 9 years, domestic terrorists have killed 465 persons with hundreds more injured.
I have just finished reading a lengthy report by Home Land Security, and their comments are not meant for bedtime reflection. Having just published two commentaries for publication, one on our total radar/intelligence gap in the drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil refineries, and the second, on the use of drones as a means of a terrorist attack on a major city —now to be confronted that my latest fear shoud be from those people on “any” American Avenue who walk around in tee shirts with swastika tattooed on their bulging muscles. My home grown terrorist in my old home town: the domestic terrorist.
In an article written by Ellen Nakashima, she notes that domestic terrorism attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, citing to the Department of Homeland Security’s new strategy report. What has changed since 9/11, according to the Department of Homeland security report, is the increasingly complex and evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. The diversity of terrorist threats is a broad span from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and now the ethnically motivated and anti-authority violent extremism—the domestic individual terrorist. All aided by more-sophisticated and easily available weapons such as drones (as I have written in a recent posting).
As was the case sixteen years ago, the Department of Homeland Security report found that foreign terrorist organizations remain intent on striking the “Homeland”. Doing so whether through directed attacks or by inspiring disaffected, susceptible individuals in the United States. At this moment, we are faced with an equally growing threat from domestic actors who are as dangerous as the foreign terrorist. All coming together and motivated in an age of online radicalization and violent extremism. Unlike ISIS and other international terrorist organizations, the domestic terrorist – the lone wolf is more target oriented than ideologically driven — aiming at the individual or group. The lone wolf who is more difficult to identify is obsessed with whom his target represents in his life –the attack on a school or church.
Online extremist communities glorify the attackers, encouraging others to follow their footsteps. The copy-cat. The individual terrorist who upon arrest said: I completed my mission. The internet has made attackers more operationally competent and knowledgeable, as they use the Web to learn, and then perfect, technical information for their attacks. Domestic threat individuals often plan and carry out their acts of violence alone and with little apparent warning, in ways that impede the effectiveness of law enforcement success in investigation and, more important, its interdiction.
We must require more effective means of surveillance and counterintelligence which will, I assume, automatically generate the claims that will lead to the cry that our privacy is being invaded and the eroding of our civil rights; the slippery slope argument. There are trade-offs in life and as the world shrinks, becomes more diversified and individuals become technically savvy. And there are practical and workable methods of checks and balances at our disposal, so that we feel safe and are safe as we respect the individual rights of all persons.
I was born in 1931. Then, a family radio was generally housed in a substantial piece of “furniture”. Ours was no different. It had doors, sat on legs and perched proudly in the living room. A Stromberg Carlson. For some reason we also had a smaller one that sat in our large dinette next to the kitchen.
I was eight and a half years old in September 1, 1939, and I heard that Hitler invaded Poland, but it made no great impression on me. Japan and China had long been at war, we saw that on the News Reels. That conflict was almost totally off my radar screen but for the group of Americans who flew fighter planes on behalf of the Chinese and were called the Flying Tigers. The nose sections of their planes were painted to resemble the teeth of shark. That hooked me.
From September 1939, the entire world rushed into what became a nearly 6 year war, and you had to be catatonic to be unaware that something was amiss even for an eight year old. Early on my world was not affected but for the refugee kids that I found myself having lunch with, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, in our kitchen during the school week.
The world was slow — much too slow — in responding to Hitler in Europe. And that was a flaw that would ultimately bring about the death of seven million people. Then I began to hear, as I headed off to sleep, the spirited conversations that seemed to always crop up over the weekend, when droves of my parent’s friends and relatives would descend into our living room to talk of the “phony war”. At the time the word and its meaning made no sense to me. The world in Europe was at war –there were thunderous declarations of war—but there were no overt hostilities. The French called this period the Drôle de guerre; and the Germans name was Sitzkrieg. . It was an eight-month period from the time war was declared by the UK and France against Germany on September 3rd 1939 to when Germany launched its invasion France and the Low Countries on May 10th 1940. During the phony war The Allies had created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to end the German advancements, but it was too little and much too late. Thus, the phony war.
To me, none of this became frightening until the age of ten and half on December 7th and Pearl Harbor, and the induction into the army of an uncle I adored. The talk of a “phony war”, ceased and I never heard that expression again. There was talk of collaboration with Germany that involved not only the Baltic States, Poland, Hungry, Russia and, unthinkable to me, France. It wasn’t until last week that I had read of a “shadow war” for the first time and I was stumped again. This time, 79 years later, I had the internet and instant access to information but have come up with no hard definition. An example is the best method to describe this event.
On September 13th 2019, twenty some odd drones carrying deadly missals carried out a sophisticated, simultaneous attack on Saudi oil refineries and created an international disaster. (Please, see my previous blog and the use of drones in simultaneous attacks within New York City.) Almost immediately, the President of the United States announced that this nation (although not attacked) was “locked and loaded” and presumably ready to attack Iran. And on Monday, September 16th, the President said that the U.S. is prepared to respond to the attacks in Saudi Arabia. Have we become a surrogate for Saudis in an attack not aimed at the U.S? This sent me scurrying to one of my copies of our Constitution.
Article I, sometimes referred to as the War Power clause– vest in the Congress, not the President, the power to declare war. Toward the late afternoon of the 16th of September, although not attacked and with no consultation or consent of the Congress, this nation was aiming our military resources to trounce another nation who didn’t attack us. A commentator sarcastically wondered if the Saudis were anointed with the power conferred by Article I and not our own Congress. According to a report by MEMRI, the attack on the Saudi oil facilities “was an implementation of Iran’s explicit threats in recent months to target Saudi Arabia and the U.S. global economy”. It is also claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, sponsored by Iran, that they are the actors who launched the drone attack against the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, while the WSJ, on the 17th, headlined that the “Saudi Oil Attack Originated In Iran, U.S. Says”. This is a perfect example of a—“shadow war”. Where one nation stands in– a surrogate for another — to further their common goals.
In the bitter conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the “shadow” combatants would be the United States on one side (armed and attacking on behalf of the Saudis) and the Houthi rebels in Yemen (armed and supported by Iran) attacking the Saudis on behalf of Iran.
It’s obvious that Iran has missiles, it has a nuclear program on the front pages of the world’s headlines, it has tanks with which it threatens the world, and it has exported terrorist militias. Iran has spent $500 billion on its missile and nuclear armament programs. It has spent $350 billion on the regional wars in the Middle East–almost one trillion dollars, “but its economy is collapsing and withering. Its economy is stagnant, yet it continues to threaten the world.” It has Russia at its back. What is also so very disturbing is that the successful Iranian attack represented an “American technological failure”, as not a single cruise missile or drone was stopped or destroyed.
Although until now there are no signs that Russia would decisively side in the favor of Tehran, if Iran’s confrontation with Saudi Arabia would intensifies — meaning something more that economic support. And this weekend that conflict did intensify with the potential of a “shadow war” with the U.S. stepping in for Saudis. Our Secretary of State said that Iran’s attack at Saudi Arabia was an attack of war. Against whom? Will Russia find it necessary to step in for Iran?
I will be sitting by my Stromberg Carlson
P.S. As I was about to type my name and post this blog, another thought came to mind. I had no clear recollection of my geography and of the borders separating Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran, so I went to the maps of the area. If the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities came from the Houthi militia in Yemen, the failure to intercept the missiles and drones, notwithstanding the millions spent by Saudi’s in defense, would be very upsetting. If, on the other hand, the attacks originated in Iran that would verge on a shattering statement of the U.S. capabilities in the Arabian Sea. Let me explain: 1. Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen is probably over 500 miles from where the attack on the oil refineries took place. Depending upon the size of the drone, that might well be beyond their range of operation. 2. If on the other hand they were launched from Iran and flew directly across the Arabian Sea, they would have had to fly, as some point, literally through the spread of the radar network of U.S. Navy. If that were true it would be calamitous for our operational ability to not only defend our own naval ships in case of an attack but to fulfill its overall operational mission. There is a third possibility. According to the NYT, the Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles (picture of the missile published on the 19th September) that fell short of its target. The analysis now runs that the missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the Gulf, thus avoiding the U.S. Naval radar. In any of these scenarios, the question now for President Trump, in what has truly become his growing political separation from potential allies growing, will he, like President George W Bush heading into Iraq 16 years ago, find he is largely alone in any retaliating strike or serious sanctions. Or will his hesitation to act embolden Tehran?
I had just posted my latest blog about the lethal use of drones when a very dear friend, whom I have known since grade school, asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting. He said I have done so much international traveling why not write about that. Stop providing us with the unsettling side of national security. Stop telling us that we may have to move back to the cave.
For the past 60 plus years I have seen a good part of the world, seen different cultures and tried to leave my comfort space to be able to be embraced by new or different ways to live.
I have walked a beach where the vast majority of the bathers were people recuperating from sex change operations. I have, on two very separate occasions, walked the streets of abject, unimaginable poverty and deformity. I have been a guest in the home of a person whose sole aim was to buy all the land surrounding his home so he could not see an alien chimney or driveway. I have seen and eaten food that cannot be described with my vocabulary.
Obviously, my friend doesn’t want me to write about most of this. He wants me to describe and take him happily with my words to those places of magical dreams— swimming off Bora Bora, sitting in a palatial apartment overlooking the Seine or the Louvre, drinking high tea at the Dorchester, pumping ice cold water from a well high on a mountain overlooking Lake George.
Last week, during a moment of “what I’d like to do at 88 years of age “other than think about getting up on the right side of the grass — is to fly a helicopter —be an analyst at the CIA, have a late night radio program in a small town in New England, be a piano player in a small pub anywhere. If given enough time, the list would go on. But as my father would say— “take the needle out of your arm“or my wife always with the wakeup words: “reality” and “responsibility”.
We’ve often talked that we worry not about our adult children but about the world of our “four boys” –our grandsons, who are growing older and taller and wiser.
I’ve known that my blog/ commentary ranks in the 70s of the 101 Intelligence sites, but I have no idea who really reads my comments other than the few friends and relatives who may comment weeks after publication. My hope is that — in my response to my old friend — there might be someone who reads the commentary who can change things, who can make a difference, who might be moved, however slightly, by my rantings and would be willing and able to take the next important step—so we no longer have to “worry “about the world of our grandchildren.
President Trump happens to be the loudest person on the planet earth and sucks the oxygen out all the others who are attempting to speak. Sound does not travel in a vacuum. And we have provided him a platform. We instinctively follow the noise and a loud trombone. We turn our heads to the sound of the drum. Tonight, I hear about yet another shooting and, not quite buried in the news, the gas lighting by a public official who has not been playing it straight with the American public— think of the attorney general. I decided I need to take a quiet break. A very dear boyhood friend asked me this afternoon: “can’t you write something funny”? And we agreed that we no longer worry about our children but fear what we are creating for our grandchildren. A dangerous, hostile environment that starts in the street and rises to the highest offices of government. And not just in the United States. America has always been “the” leader in the world, and the rest of the world is now following our steps in hate and domestic violence. “Beat them up and I’ll pay your legal fees”. Not some mob boss, but the president of the United States. The President is using trade wars and tariffs as a wrecking ball. The American farmer is living on life support with your tax dollars. The cost to you is 16 billions of dollars on top of 12 billion last year. And, however you might want to spin the facts, there is no such thing as clean coal. And you can watch each day as the stock market flirts with going lower and lower, as 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to meet a $400 emergence expense. That’s untenable, unacceptable and the list goes on. And as the facts get lost in the loud noise, our national security has been placed in jeopardy by our failure to appropriately focus our military ingenuity and resources. China built that Great Wall to keep out the invaders; presently it is building an even greater “wall” to embrace however far it can reach outward. China’s naval fleet is growing faster than any other fleet in the world, and after decades upon decades they are in the throes of controlling all the coastal water far from their shores. We presently sail thru the South China Sea at our peril. But that is only the tip of the rolling wave. Decade after decade we have been in one war after another with one eye on the large red star in Moscow and the other unfocused, failing to see the Chinese as a potential military threat much greater than the Russian dictator. They have changed the balance of power in the Pacific in two decades and are in the process of making our all but invincible aircraft carrier fleet obsolete and impotent. To compound our lack of focus, the Trump Administration has pulled money from ballistic missile surveillance programs to fund the Great Trump Wall on a desert stretch of barren land. While our navy is directed to conduct “freedoms of navigation” operations, in claimed territorial water, for the purposes of challenging what is clearly Chinese excessive maritime claims of control and dominion. The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual assessment of Chinese military power. That report revealed in stark terms that the Beijing’s artificially constructed islands (I have written about this in the past) were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018. Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands . The area is already militarized and part of the total Chinese aggressive military movement. The traffic and trade war with China however controlling they are of our nation’s headlines and in turn our pocket books, the economic volatility will get worse and might end in all probability to erase all predicted financial gains this year. And we can look forward to decades of toe to toe world competition, with China our most powerful economic competitor. There will be a long term economic war of attrition and conflict between the two nations. Before I focus on the enlarging security challenges by the Chinese, it is obvious that most eyes are on Iran, underlined by the president’s constant references to an armed conflict with that nation. To put that in perspective: Although it is true that Iran has an elite naval force, it is of no consequence to the American navel capacity in that area of the world—the Straits of Hormus– a naval choke point between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Straits are a vital shipping line that Iran alleges it controls. If one would compare that to the dangers of conflict with China, Iran is mosquito that will disintegrate before American’s naval and air power. I don’t say that in a flippant manner, and I do not mean to minimize its importance, but it is imperative to understand the enormous difference in problems present and future that each of these nations present. With regard to China: the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet has sailed thru the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive maritime claims. China promptly responded that this aggressive act was provocative and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and dangerous to international peace. This naval exercise followed a recent transit by two other warships through international waters in the Taiwan Straits. With outstanding reporting and analysis by Reuters excellent investigation team and Benjamin Kang Lim, we have been well schooled on how powerful China has become and its military ability to forcefully confront the U.S. military dominance. China’s biggest state-owned missile maker, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd, screened missiles that are specifically designed to attack aircraft carriers which have been, since the demise of the massive battleship, the mainstay of our military dominance. If you have a moment look at the size and shape of the latest aircraft carrier, you can only marvel on not only its size but its capacity to bring enormous destruction to the enemy far from its decks. “Across almost all categories (of missiles manufactured by the Chinese) of these weapons, based on land, loaded on strike aircraft or deployed on warships and submarines, China’s missiles rival or outperform their counterparts in the armories of the United States …” Beijing, has always been unrestrained by the INF Treaty (which the U.S. just cancelled unilaterally with Russia), in its deploying them in massive numbers. And their range of operation is very impressive: between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). This includes the so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If these missiles are as effective as described, and it would be wrong to discount this information, they would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.” China is also making rapid strides in developing so-called hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver sharply and travel at five times the speed of sound. Presently, the United States has no defenses against a missile like this, according to Pentagon officials, and this positions China as having the most advanced defensive ballistic missile system in the world. Without sabre rattling, America is at a sever disadvantage to the power in the East. But it is important to note I have used the word “defensive” in terms of China’s power. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, China just two. China is not looking to proactively engage the U.S. in a naval battle, but they are more than prepared to defeat the U.S. if it is the aggressor threating its claimed territorial waters. In addition, China has the capacity to push back its military as it looks to expand its influence over vast areas of the South China Sea, by quietly ramping up its naval and air incursions around Taiwan and pushing its operations into territory it disputes with Japan and others in the vast East China Sea. Two challengers have been posed to me: The first is China’s weapons have yet to face the reality of battle. China, I am reminded, has not fought a war since invading Vietnam in 1979. We, the U.S., have done nothing but test our hardware in war after war over the past two decades. What makes me so sure that China is our number one capable military adversary? And second, “if China were so very far advance in the military spectrum of international military jostling and has no fear of U.S. intervention wouldn’t they ‘just liberate’ Taiwan”. If in fact the description of China’s extraordinary missile ability is only 90 percent accurate, any aggressive moves by a multi U.S. Carrier fleet into or near the South China Sea in a real or perceived aggressive stance will invite the possibility of massive destruction. Are we willing to test China’s ability or resolve in this reckless way? Taiwan is and will never be a threat to China. It is an ongoing annoyance, a political embarrassment but nothing more. To “liberate” Taiwan would require a military operation and become a quagmire and an internationally diplomatic nightmare for China. We tend to think of China not as a nation, as we view England, France or Russia but as individuals who we have seen through the decades in our movies, televisions and characters in sitcoms. How many in the U.S. see the individual Chinese person. May I say on the one hand our responses boarder on racism while marveling at their mathematical genius? China is looking to replace the United States as the world leader and we do an immense disservice to our grandchildren if we ignore facts, rely upon stereo type, and market our aggressive military posture. Richard Allan The Editor