Thursday, December 14, 2017
Mr. Trump was able to do this without any prior notice thanks to the Jerusalem Embassy Act which was passed in 1995. It more or less authorized the acquisition of buildings and materials necessary to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel according to the Israelis but not recognized by the majority of countries.
Clinton, Bush and Obama all avoided implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Perhaps all three saw little to be gained by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as the undivided capitol of Israel, something the Palestinians and most Middle Eastern countries disagree with.
Mr. Trump, as far as I can tell, did not implement his decision on any foreign policy or national security basis. Instead, he needed a victory back home to after failing to repeal Obamacare and lack of progress on tax reform. It was essentially a middle finger to the Republicans and a reminder to the Trump-faithful that he was still shaking things up.
Most foreign policy experts predicted outbreaks of violence in the Middle East which have occurred but the real issue is US has now seemingly allied itself with Israel to the exclusion (and perhaps detriment) to it is relationship with the rest of the Middle East.
It was this type of thing that resulted in the 1973 Energy Crisis. For those too young to remember, the US provided arms and support to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. In retaliation, OPEC proclaimed and oil embargo. The price of oil shot up from $3 to $12 a barrel. Lines at gas stations wrapped around for blocks as people waited for gas.
Something like that could happen as well as an increase in further terrorist attacks. One lone bomber detonated a pipe bomb in New York city, fortunately injuring mainly himself. The United Kingdom is bracing for more terrorist attacks as well.
Hardcore Trump fans feel moving the embassy was long overdue. I'm not persuaded that it does anything to further US interests in the region. Israel was already a long standing ally. So why now?
I began with Roy Moore and it seems fitting to finish with his failed election. Mr. Trump originally had asked Moore to step down. When he didn't, Mr. Trump switched his position and backed Moore. These two decisions, backing Moore and moving the embassy, have resulted in Mr. Trump having only 32 percent approval rating.
Hopefully lead Mr. Trump to take some other action as a means of regaining popularity. North Korea remains extremely volatile and now China is making noise that will not remain on the fence in the event of an attack by the US. With our attention so diverted, Russia has now started to build back up its nuclear arsenal as well as building bunkers. Making it to the end of Mr. Trump's first term without a war is increasingly unlikely.
Monday, December 4, 2017
As we've all heard by now, North Korea successfully launched a missile that can strike to the Continental US. Trump's top generals are sounding alarms that war could be imminent. Yet most people are going about their business without regard to the imposing threat. Having grown up doing the Cold War, I remember most people being very concerned that the Soviets could strike without warning.
The sociological and psychological factors are different in 2017 that say in 1967 or even 1987. People were acutely aware of the threat of a nuclear attack. Perhaps 9-11 and the subsequent unending threat from terrorism has dulled their senses to new threats. Or perhaps Mr. Trumps predilection for calling Kim Jung Un "Little Rocket Man" has smugly convinced the public that North Korea is a joke rather than a threat.
Why then hasn't Mr. Trump ordered a preemptive strike (as he has strongly hinted at in the past) to take out North Korea's missiles or manufacturing sites?
Mr. Trump has always been about the bluster more so than the action. He may now realize that even with three carrier strike groups in the region, there is no way to take out North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities BEFORE North Korea retaliates by lobbing thousands of 175mm shells and 240mm rockets into Seoul. Ten of thousands of South Koreans would be killed before US and ROK forces could even respond.
The other scenario is that North Korea has no intention of actually using ballistic missiles to strike at the US. It would much easier to place a nuclear device in a shipping container destined for a US port and then detonating the weapon upon arrival. Detecting such a device in time my not be possible unlike the scenarios we see in TV shows and movies.
Another and more alarming scenario could see North Korea retaliate by using biological weapons in the US. Detecting these in time is extremely difficult and may result in hundreds of America dying of exposure (with hundreds of thousands panicking).
Mr. Trump may also be distracted by the flipping of Michael Flynn to Mueller's investigation. Even if Mr. Trump isn't worried, his cabinet has to been feeling the pressure and are not focused as much on North Korea was we would like.
Insults via Twitter won't be enough to bring North Korea to the table. The rumors of Secretary Tillerson soon being fired don't help. Neither does leaving multiple diplomatic positions vacant.
We should also be concerned about the US Navy which will take the lead should an attack on North Korea occur. There has been several warships damaged this year along with at least one aircraft loss which all seem to point to an overworked, under resourced service. The Navy had to re-shuffle its entire fleet of F/A-18 fighters just to be able to deploy all three carriers to the region. Sailors are not re-upping meaning the Navy has to rely more and more on the newest sailors to operate their systems.
I had a Navy vet recently hare with me that sonar and radar operators on US Navy ships often receive no training PRIOR to arriving on the ship. Basic seamanship skills are also no longer taught in boot camp and follow schools. If this is true then it goes a long way in explaining what happened with the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain.
Can the US prevail against North Korea? Sure, why not but the big question is what happens to the people of South Korea and the US in the process?
Friday, November 10, 2017
Given the accidents involving two US Navy destroyers back in summer, the carrier strike groups are at risk not only from retaliation by the North Koreans but by whatever navigational glitches plagued the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald. Some have argued that the navigational systems on the US Navy vessels had been hacked. To me, it seems hacking into the civilian cargo ship systems would be easier but whatever the case the fleet is still at risk.
Perhaps to avoid the investigations of Robert Mueller (who looks posed to hand out an indictment on former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn), Mr. Trump has traveled to Asia in a rather heavy-handed, grandiose gesture to stare-down the North Koreans and Chinese.
The question Mr. Trump and his White House have not answered, and probably don't want to think about, is what happens should foreign policy via Twitter fail? There are 51 million South Koreans and around 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea that are vulnerable to any attack from the North. It is only 120 miles roughly between Seoul and Pyongyang. There is no time to evacuate or even shelter. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost if North Korea retaliates.
Of course that does not include Japan or Guam. So far North Korea seems focused on ballistic missiles rather than a conventional attack. Japan and Guam therefore become the most likely targets as they are well within range of North Korean ballistic missiles.
How then would the US respond? Any strikes to North Korea risk those living in South Korea. The North Korean dictator is not going to lose face so his reactions to Mr. Trump's statements and Tweets will only worsen. We should be concerned that few in the White House have the experience necessary to restore calm to US/North Korea relations. If that were not concerning enough, Mr Trump has more or less said that he doesn't see his chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, being around for all four years!
It may be nothing more that the 21st Century way of bluster and posturing but doing so with a country determined to have nuclear weapons is dangerous. One wrong step, one too many Tweets and a nuke gets launched.
And now it appears matters have gotten worse. Not because of anything Mr. Trump has done but because now Saudi Arabia and Lebanon may declare war with one another which could bring Israel and Iran into the conflict. I truly hope Mr. Trump stays off of Twitter for this one. There is too much history, too much bloodshed, too much intrigue to be handled by a few terse Tweets.
All of this seems an appropriate reminder why we celebrate Veteran's Day. Regardless how the situation with North Korea or Middle East resolve, US troops will be called upon once again. Happy Veteran's Day to all of my fellow vets!
Friday, May 12, 2017
Under the Obama Administration, North Korea was most ignored and allowed to hold its breath until it passed out. North Korea could shot off the occasional missile and make all manner of anti-US rhetoric but in the end, Kim Jun Un seemed to lose interest. Now the Trump administration has determined that North Korea will no longer be tolerated and the each subsequent temper tantrum by North Korea is cause for escalation.
In the last few months, the Trump administration has deployed the THADD missile system to South Korea meant to intercept potential ballistic missiles from the North. Then the USS Carl Vinson was sent to be on station. Another carrier group was rumored to be heading to the vicinity as well. Then the USS Michigan, a guided missile sub, made a port call in South Korea.
North Korea attempted to respond to the increasing US firepower by launching more missiles. The results have been less than impressive with both blowing up shortly after take-off. A subsequent live-fire demonstration of North Korean artillery and torpedoes seemed to show North Korea's resolve to remain unapologetic.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to judge how much Mr. Trump and his administration are blustering or are fully committed to a conflict with North Korea. The inept and much maligned Press Sean Spicer makes matters worse through his clumsy delivery and increasing absence. The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has also been largely silent on the matter.
The problem for Mr. Trump, and perhaps why Mr. Obama avoided the issue, is that North Korea can strike South Korea with no warning inflicting tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of casualties with simple artillery strikes and non-nuclear missiles. There isn't much the US will be able to do to prevent it. Retaliation by US and South Korean forces will lead to huge devastation on the Korean peninsula and it will take decades to recover.
The US attention has been diverted by the firing of FBI Director Comey leading some to compared Trump to Nixon when the latter fired Archibald Cox. The one difference being that Nixon had not put North Korea on notice!
Let's we not forget, Mr. Trump plans on increasing the defense budget by $54 billion dollars and adding another 5,000 troops to Afghanistan. Even if the showdown with North Korea does not end in a shooting conflict, Mr. Trump seems to be very willing to send more US troops into harm's way.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Then just over a week ago, Syrian dropped more chemical weapons followed by images of "beautiful babies" who had died as a result of the latest attack. It was too much for our social media savvy President how sent 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles in to prevent further atrocities by the Syrian government.
However, several hours after the Tomahawks struck the Syrians were able to launch aircraft out of the same facility. This raised many questions such as; did the Syrians know in time to move their aircraft?...did the Russians somehow or other tip off the Syrians?...why did some reports have the Tomahawks orbiting overhead for nearly an hour before attacking?
Europe and NATO applauded the attack (especially Turkey which has no use for Assad) as well as many of the Democrat hawks (such as Mrs. Pelosi). But the usual suspects (Russia, China, North Korea and Iran) condemned the attacks against a sovereign nation.
The attacks have cooled US/Russian relations with Mr. Putin now suspecting that the US and Russia may be heading to some type of conflict. Mr. Trump then decided to lean on China (which holds most of the paper on US debt) to bring North Korea in line (hey wait, weren't we just trying to avenge the deaths of beautiful Syrian children?). China played the card of "Well, we trade with North Korea but we don't control them." Of course this set off Kim Jong Un who vowed to attack the US if Mr. Trump doesn't back off on the rhetoric.
China did quietly cut off buying coal from North Korea to give Kim Jung Un a wake up call. His response was to shoot off a ballistic missile that missed its target. Mr. Trump, who doesn't seem to be able to just relax sometimes, responded by sending a second carried to the region.
Now people on the west coast of North American, including the Canadians, are getting nervous because US and Canadian anti-submarine aircraft have been seen conducting low orbits. North Korea has been suspected of trying to send a nuclear weapon on a cargo ship or using mini-subs to attack US warships in harbor.
Finally Japan had to send some of their fighters to intercept some Russian Tu-95 and Il-38 aircraft that were heading towards Japanese airspace.
All of this has happened within the last few weeks. I haven't even touched on the attacks in Spain and Sweden. It's as though everything is being thrown open at once to keep all of the players guessing as to which move is next. Will Russia attack using cyber (as they stand accused of doing over the elections)? Will North Korea launch and attack on South Korea? Will Iran or China back another 9/11 attack somewhere else? Amidst all of this, two aircraft carrier battle groups are in the region of China and North Korea as the US sends more troops into Syria to battle ISIS.
For now, the diplomatic option seems remote as the State Department has been decimated by the departures of so many mid-level and senior-level diplomats. The White House itself is in deep turmoil as Mr Trump keep shifting around advisors in and out of roles. On top of that, it appears Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law, is a shadow Secretary of State undercutting his real Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) authority in the eyes of the world.
Perhaps at no other time in recent history has the stage been set for one misstep or mistake to set off a war. Ironically, April 6th was the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I.
Our short attention spans and market-driven media (which seeks to tailor web searches to your particular tastes and opinions) insures we only see a small fraction of what is going one. Even then, we only see events through those media sites that agree with our politics (just compare how Fox News or CNN covers events compared to Al Jazeera or RT).
The left has been in meltdown since November. Now the right is going into meltdown since Mr. Trump isn't delivering on things as quickly as he promised. What a great way to keep the masses in the dark!
Stop calling the other guy names and take a deep breath, we are all being played here.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
The hawks and pro-Trump camps are no doubt busy hi-fiving each other. The doves and anti-Trump camps are no doubt aghast and wondering how we got here.
Unfortunately in all of this, no one is asking the most important question. What is the right answer for the people of Syria? No matter what we as Americans may think of Assad, he is the legally elected leader of Syria. Deposing him (as the Obama Administration planned) or bombing him (as the Trump Administration is doing) fails the Syrian people. Should Assad be ousted or killed, then what?
The US has a piss poor record when it comes to "who's next?" after eliminating an unpopular leader. All you have to do is see how well we managed Iraq after getting rid of Hussein to know the challenges we are facing with Syria.
And what exactly qualifies the US, a nation the loves bragging about its Judeo-Christian roots, to figure out how an Arabic, Muslim nation should be run?
Meantime, let's not forget the huge exodus of professional diplomats from the State Department means we have even fewer experts to answer that question than normal.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
What do I mean? Back in the Cold War days, any number of terrorist groups operated espousing some Marxist philosophy (European and South American groups) or Maoist philosophy (Asian groups). Often though most were primarily anarchists.
Despite their philosophical rhetoric, no one really believed that being a Marxist or Maoist automatically made you a terrorist. Terrorists of the 20th Century were motivated to commit their acts of violence by those who funded their activities. In the examples above, this usually meant Soviet Union, Communist China, or Cuba. The US funded right-wing groups opposed to the left0wing groups and trained many of their leaders through the US Army School of the Americas (now known as The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC).
20th Century terrorists were therefore third party operatives of either the Western or Eastern governments that funded their activities. Then two terrorist attacks occurred to reshape this thinking.
The first was the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 by Libyan terrorists. The second was the bombing of the Word Trade Center bombing in 1993. These attacks targeted the US and were not backed by the Soviet Union but rather but and Muslim nation (Libya) and Muslim terrorists (Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, from Pakistan, planned the attack). Now with the Soviet Union out of the picture, Islam became the new reason du jour.
Intelligence agencies and the military especially went batshit crazy because it meant you would never have to prove a clear line back the the organizers, the way you would say with the former Soviet Union. Now you had to merely point out that the suspects were Muslim, better if you could also add "radicalized" into the narrative, and presto! Instant threat that was easy to explain to the public and media.
But in the post-information age that we also call the 21st Century, we have gotten more complacent and less willing to understand events in a larger contexts. Sure the the perpetrators of the attacks on 9/11 were dark-skinned (always a plus for the racist tendencies of the West) Muslims but who funded them (Saudi Arabia?) and what was their real motives? Too many people today are willing to just go down the road that Muslims want to kill Christians and that's why we have terrorists. No one seems to ask if the 21st Century terrorists aren't the same third party operatives as their 20th Century counterparts, just with different actors from central casting?
If we accept that there may be motivations beyond the obvious theological or political labels of a given terrorist, then we should become much more concerned about what is really going on. For instance, the average American thinks all Muslims are the same (not realizing how many different factions of Islam exist) and there is some kind of one over-arching organization that controls Islam (no more than there isn't one group that controls all of Judaism or for that matter, Christiantinty).
If no one council exists that holds equal sway over Shiites and Sunnis, then why do we paint all attacks in the 21st Century with the same brush? The attacks in France, London, Spain and Russia may all turn out to be conducted by "radicalized Muslims" but to what end? If in fact that are all working towards a common end, say total anarchy in Europe, who then is actually making the calls?
Thursday, March 23, 2017
The terrorist attack in London comes amidst the go ahead for Brexit, along the French getting ready to elect a new president (and for now it still looks like it will be Le Pen) and an increasingly tumultuous White House administration. The attack will give even more ammunition towards the isolationist tendencies of the three nations.
But even if terrorism is no longer the incentive du jour, Mr. Trump continues to agitate North Korea, China and Iran.
North Korea threatens US with "Merciless Attacks"
US Bomber warned by Chinese officials
US Carrier on station in Persian Gulf, first time in 3 months!
Unlike the Global War on Terror, which is dragging nearly into its second decade, these nations not possess conventional militaries but in the case of North Korea and China, nuclear weapons as well!
Mr. Trump in particular but many of his advisors in general seem to be hellbent on showing their strength by attacking some foreign power. Compounding this pugilistic attitude is the defection of pretty much all of the senior and middle level diplomats at the State Department upon the election of Mr. Trump. The current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has no former experience as a diplomat. He has been remarkably silent on matters and seems to be content with allowing Mr. Trump to set the tone of international affairs via the President's Twitter account.
Even as a young officer during the Reagan build-up, it never felt like we were as close to a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union as we do now with either North Korea or China. It does not seem the White House is going to settle down any time soon and Trump haters are becoming more desperate each day (not to mention their numbers are increasing). At this point, if we can make it through the summer without starting a war with someone, that may be the most we can hope for.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Yesterday Mr. Trump decided to slay Big Bird (PBS), Lake Wobegone (NPR), the California Zephyr (AMTRAK), Meals on Wheels, and school lunches all in one mighty swoop! The collective swooning of the left was nearly matched by the head-shaking and second guessing of the more moderate right who are beginning to question whether the new President is ever slowed down by thought.
Mr. Trump is keeping good to his campaign promise of reforming government but now even some of his fans are beginning to wonder what exactly that is going to look like once he gets done. He is incasing spending on the military (+10%) and the VA (+6%) as well as DHS (for building the wall, now at taxpayer expense instead of Mexico's).
The US seems to be transforming under Mr. Trump into an isolationist, fortified nation with a large military. The obvious question is after years of globalization, can the US really survive as a continent on to itself?
Whilst the mainstream media continues to publish every salacious detail of the Trump Administration's faults, the public remains largely in the dark on several items that should gravely concern all of us.
Foal Eagle is an annual FTX (field exercise, as opposed to table top or command post exercise) conducting between US and South Korean forces. This year, in addition to the normal rotation of troops and equipment into South Korea, Mr. Trump has added drones, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), as well as a huge increase in Special Forces. Some have conjectured that this may be in preparation for taking out Kim Jun Un (other kidnapping or assassinating). These same fringe strategist feel this may be so Mr. Trump can prove just how tough he is.
What makes this a little more believable is Mr. Trump's statement that he may just go ahead and blow up the Russian spy ship that has been patrolling the eastern seaboard for the last few weeks! It isn't that the Russian ship poses a threat, in fact the US Navy has publicly stated that the spy ship is unable to detect any information about US submarine operations. So why does Mr. Trump want to blow it up? To prove he isn't weak!
Going back to Korea, if Mr. Trump tries some heavy-handed overthrow of the North Korean government (and assuming is doesn't result in North Korea launching a nuclear counter-attack), we are left with two big questions. One, what does China do? Two, what does Russia do?
By all means, be pissed off about the demise of public broadcasting or sloop joe's but don't lose sight of the fact something far worse may be right around the corner.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
TSA announces a more invasive, process to streamline pat-downs http://dailym.ai/2mCzsIM via http://dailym.ai/android
So TSA still is only looking in one direction...what happens when a terrorist group decides to attack the airport instead of the airplane? Just a few months ago, someone ran amok in an airport brandishing a machete. TSA has no impact on this atrack.
Friday, February 3, 2017
The invention of "fake news" is a brilliant ploy. It greats both the belief that the "other guy" is at fault and keeps doubting everything that they read. It's so perfect that it is frightening.
Just this morning, Kellyanne Conway is making news for referencing a massacre at Bowling Green as justification for the Trump travel ban….except of course no such massacre happened. So did Ms. Conway make a mistake (thereby causing the liberal left to have further proof of the duplicity of the Trump administration) or was she planting a subliminal thought of a fictional event to create even more cognitive dissonance amongst the masses?
Part of this might be to keep our attention diverted from the build-up by both US and Russian troops throughout Europe. The significance of these moves get lost in the noise generated by the heavy-handed and obtuse moves by the Trump administration, which in-turn have energized the liberal left to protest nearly every announcement out of the White House these days. In-turn, the conservative right feels vindicated in their condemnation of all things liberal. It is a perfect storm that is both self-sustaining and shows no signs of abating.
What should be concern for everyone is the loss of the middle ground. Calling someone "deplorable" or "progressive" in no way convinces the person being labelled to reconsider their opinion. The Million Woman March pandered only to a very narrow segment of American women, while completely ignoring all men. If liberals want to start a revolution, they will have to first start by converting those who don't agree with them. Conservatives need to abandon their victory dances and realize their neighbors, friends and maybe even relatives are very frightened by what just happened. Keeping both sides polarized and not talking is NOT in the best interest of the American public.
Keeping liberals and conservatives divided allows things to go on without notice or consensus. The travel ban happened with no discussion and immediately liberals went to social media to decry the decision. In turn, conservatives criticized liberals. No one really was looking at what the ban was (a legacy of the Obama administration) used to target Iran. What makes me say that?
Today it was announced by the White House has placed new sanctions against Iran for testing ballistic missiles. The issue is very messy as the wording of the UN treaty does not specifically prohibit missile testing, it is more of an encouragement not to. Regardless, Mr. Trump has jumped on this to ramp up the rhetoric with Iran. Given the lack of direct communications between Washington and Tehran, this is very alarming and could mean hostilities.
Of course, this could all be fake news as well to keep us from seeing something else such as China or North Korea. The use of social media keeps everything moving so quickly that it is difficult to keep track and whenever you try, it is designed to exhaust you.
Rather than shut down, keep the dialog open with those who don't think like you. You might just surprise each other.