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Commentary # 1-2017

North Korea – “The Mouse That Roared”

February 14, 2017

In the 1959 film, “The Mouse That Roared” starring Peter Sellers, the fictitious European duchy of Grand Fenwick decided the best solution to their financial problems was t to declare war on the United States, then surrender and thereafter participate in the largess that the US delivers to its defeated foes. In the invasion of New York that followed, their army of twenty chain-mailed knights captured the Q-Bomb, a new weapon capable of demolishing continents. Thereafter the duchy received offers of support from many nations terrified by the thought that Grand Fenwick held this awesome weapon.

Although it is highly unlikely that the Kim dynasty that has ruled the DPRK (North Korea) since the 1953 partition had ever seen the film, their actions during the last sixty years appear to follow its scenario. Many other totalitarian countries have acquired (or tried to acquire) nuclear weapons to remain in power. However, the possession of any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by North Korea is no joke. Under the the rule of Kim Jong-Il and his really weird son Kim Jong-Un, North Korea has conducted four tests of nuclear weapons from 2006 to 2016. Further, North Korea is developing ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and sufficient range to reach the US West Coast. As a further deterrent, the DPRK fortified its border with South Korea with strongly imbedded artillery capable of reaching Seoul. Over these years the world has watched with increasing apprehension as ongoing diplomatic efforts and various incentives for the “Hermit Kingdom” to abandon these programs and join the civilized world have failed.

The optimum solution for the DPRK’s long-suffering citizens is to overthrow the Kim Jong-Un regime, but it is extremely difficult for the people of any autocracy to overthrow their government. There is a long list of recent failed coup attempts, including the Green revolution in Iran, the “Arab Spring” countries (except Tunisia), the disaster in Syria and most recently, Turkey. In all these cases the leaders of the failed coups suffered horribly. However, there are some encouraging developments. As described by Jieun Baek in Foreign Affairs,[1] ongoing programs conveying information on the world outside DPRK are having some success. Recently, Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, defected to South Korea. He stated that “Kim Jong-Il’s days are numbered” and is working to overthrow the regime.[2] These efforts are worthwhile and should be augmented with professional covert activities, presumably by South Korean agencies, to support the insurgent groups at such time as a coup is launched with sufficient arms to overcome the formidable defenses protecting the Kim leadership group.

As a final option, the US,together with Japan and South Korea, should quickly establish the air defense missile systems similar to the Iron Dome in Israel to be able to intercept and destroy any missiles launched by the DPRK in their development programs. These need for these actions was dramatically illustrated by the successful launch of the solid fuel missile called Pukguksong - 2 on February 12 while President Trump was hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Mar-a-Lago. This missile can be launched quickly from mobile platforms, making them difficult to find and destroy on the ground.

The immediate justification for destroying any missiles launched by the PDRK is that the allies had 
no way of knowing the destination of the missile or whether or not it was armed with a nuclear warhead. Therefore, the action taken was deemed to be totally defensive, and not an “act of war”.  However, any such attack likely would bring a new set of unknown consequences, notably China’s response. The dream of creating a united, democratic and prosperous country occupying the entire Korean peninsula is long sought objective, but likely will remain a dream as long as it is in the interest of China to keep North Korea as a thorn in the sides of South Korea, Japan and the United States.

I
n summary, “The Mouse That Roared” has grown into a large rat which, with nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities, can threaten the US and our Pacific allies. Prior US
administrations have “kicked this can down the road”, it is now the challenge for the Trump administration to address the issue. We expect that General Mattis, our erudite new
Secretary of Defense, discussed these options during his recent visit to Asia. It was reported that he gave strong reassurance to both South Korea and Japan that the US would
honor or treaty obligations, which had been a major concern of both countries and Taiwan.  That certainly is very good news.

Byron K. Varme
Executive Director

[1] Foreign Affairs, Vol. 96 January/February 2017- The Opening of the North Korean Mind – Jieaun Baek
[2] Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2017 - page A-7 - Jonathan Cheng
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The Inter-Regnum –A Dangerous Time

# 4-2016

November 7, 2016

No matter the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election on November 8th, the world will enter a more dangerous period until the inauguration of the new president on January 20th and likely for some months afterwards. As an example, Vladimir Putin could use this period to further expand into the former Soviet controlled states by replicating his annexation of Crimea and intrusion into Ukraine. In each of these cases he began with increased military exercises on their borders, followed by incursion of the “little green men”, soldiers of the Russian Army without insignia.

The reaction of the West to these takeovers was strong denunciation of the acts by Western diplomats and later imposition of increased sanctions. But nothing else happened. It was a Russian fait accompli.

Estonia, with 25% of its population ethnic Russian, and bordering on Russia, is a particularly enticing target. Estonia ranks as one of the most advanced countries in the world. No doubt that with any such Russian activities, the Baltic States would immediately call on the NATO countries to live up to their contractual commitments to come to their aid. The reaction of the US would be crucial. Direct military involvement could be considered an act of war against Russia. The Obama administration would be loath to make such major decisions before the inauguration of the new president.

The other critical decision would be from neighboring Germany, but any overt military action would probably be met by the Russians shutting off the supplies of natural gas. The prospect of a cold Christmas would not be welcomed by German electorate.

Of course. it would be a gamble for President Putin, but he has proved to be an excellent poker player and has as a very strong hand. During the Inter-Regnum, other countries, including China, might also use this period to increase their expansion activities. In short, the inter-regnum beginning tomorrow until a new administration has settled in could be a dangerous time.

   Byron K. Heating  

Byron K. Heating 
Executive Director
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The End of Pax Americana?

August 3, 2016

Historic Perspective

In reviewing the myriad tragic events carried out or inspired by Islamist terrorists throughout the world, it is worthwhile to step back and consider these events in a historic perspective. It is not an encouraging exercise.

The original use of the Latin phrase “Pax Romana” described the era when the world was dominated by the Roman Empire, roughly from 300 BC to 500 AD when Rome was overrun by the Barbarian hordes and the Empire collapsed. By that time, Christianity had been widely adopted and was kept alive during the Dark Ages. The birth of Mohammed in Medina in 570 AD marked the beginning of Islam. Muslim armies swept from the sands of Arabia to the gates of Vienna and as far as Tours, France before being repelled. In the course of this conquest, given little choice, many citizens of conquered lands converted to Islam.

The Dark Ages extended for five centuries until the Renaissance which began the flowering of European arts, culture and a developed a revolutionary technology, the printing press.

Skipping ahead, Pax Brittania describes the period of British imperial expansion. From the 18th to the early 20th century, this small island nation spread its culture around the world...”The Sun never sets on the British Empire”. In this process the pioneer merchants, civil servants and military established the English language and Common Law as worldwide standards.

Pax Americana began around the turn of the 20th Century. In 1898 at the Treaty of Paris the United States acquired most of Spain’s colonial properties including Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico. In 1907 Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world to establish the US as a global power. World War I decimated generations of European young men; however, the US was relatively untouched by the war and became the predominant global power.  The Great War accelerated the development of the airplane, which by the end of the century had dramatically expanded global travel. Two other two significant inventions of the 20th century were birth control and the computer. As their populations became wealthier, all of the Western nations experienced significant declines in birth rates resulting in aging populations.

After World War II under the Marshall Plan the US spent $13 billion for the reconstruction of Europe and the benign polices of General Douglas MacArthur enabled the Japanese to devote their formidable energies and skills to create an economic powerhouse in Asia. In the past twenty years, China adopted a capitalistic economy run by a totalitarian state which has lifted millions out of poverty and created the world power it is today.

Finally, towards the end of the 20th century, computers and smart phones became both amazingly powerful and ubiquitous, leading to the Internet which enabled billions of people to have access to most of the accumulated knowledge of the world. As could be expected, this greatly increased economic competition, in which many jobs in traditional industries were lost. The basic geo-political theory supporting free trade is that partners with mutual economic interests are less likely to compete militarily. Although this has not proved to be the case in the past two World Wars, free trade has historically been a win-win situation for most parties.

Clash of Civilizations

In his 1993 essay entitled Clash of Civilizations Samuel P. Huntington specifically identified the conflicting ideologies of Christianity and Islam as the most diametrically opposed. In Arabic, the word Islam means “submission” and, as told by the Prophet Mohammed and interpreted by the Mullahs and Ayatollahs, all peoples of the earth are subjects of Allah. There is zero toleration for other religions. The practice of Christianity or other religions is forbidden in most Arab countries. To many adherents, the basic attraction of Islam is their belief that Muslims are morally superior to other faiths, particularly those living in open societies where alcohol, freedom of women and LBGT groups are offensive. Judging from the behavior of some Muslims when not under the watchful eye of others, there is a bit of hypocrisy here.

The wealthy countries of Islam, led by Saudi Arabia, fund the mullahs in Mecca to sustain their rule. The mullahs in turn use these funds to expand their fundamental Wahabbi version of Sunni Islam with new Madrassas and mosques in the Western World. Iran does the same on a lesser scale but provides funds and military support to Hezbollah and its terrorist activities which have claimed the lives of many Americans and their Allies.

The 21st Century

The most successful terrorist attack in history occurred on September 11, 2001 when eleven Arabian men brought down the two World Trade Center towers in New York City. It was a well designed and executed operation planned by Osama Bin Laden, the scion of a wealthy Saudi family who became obsessed with the Western influence in Saudi Arabia and the degeneration of the Royal family. To avenge this act, President George W. Bush authorized military action in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Osama was caught and killed by a US Special Forces team authorized by President Obama, these wars proved far more difficult and costly in life and treasure than had been foreseen, and became increasingly unpopular.

Although the invasion of Iraq resulted in the capture and death of Saddam Hussein, the post-war administration of the country was a fiasco, compounded by the premature withdrawal of all Allied Forces. The exclusion of Iraqi Sunni’s from the government led to the formation of the Islamic State which initially conquered about a third of the country and subsequently expanded into Syria. Despite the objections of General David Petraeus and Secretary Hillary Clinton, Obama refused to expel Bashar Al-Assad with the kind assistance of his friends in Russia. This situation is still unresolved.  Russia has been emboldened in Syria. As a result of these and other continuing problems, Obama decided to limit further US involvement in the Middle East.

Are we at war with Islam?

President Obama, and critics of Samuel Huntington, make a great issue that the West should not be at war with Islam, which they state is a benign and peaceful religion, of which the terrorists are only a very small sect. Further, we rely on the “peaceful” Muslims to help us identify and destroy bad Muslims. This is true, as far as it goes.

Looking at the barbaric Islamic State with its objective to create a new Caliphate and the terrorist activities they have conducted and inspired, their leaders certainly believe that Islam should rule the world. It is only the “politically correct” politicians, exemplified by President Obama, who fear offending the majority of “good” Muslims. President Obama’s decision to withdraw Allied Forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, and not to have ground forces deployed anywhere in the Middle East, was intended to not further alienate the Islamic populations.

It is clear from his unusual background, and the many Muslims (mostly Shar’ia) on his staff, that at the very least, President Obama has strong sympathy towards Islam. While we may not have not technically declared war on Islam per se, they have certainly declared war on us. Ayatollah Khamenei routinely cites this in his speeches.

Is Islam Winning?

By most meaningful criteria, Islam is gaining in the battle for global expansion. With an estimated 1.5 billion adherents, it is larger than Christianity. Primarily Islam is ahead in demographics, with Muslim women having far more babies than women in any Western nation. They have built many new mosques and Madrassas to educate their youth. Their terrorist attacks have been hugely successful in costing their enemies billons of dollars in anti-terrorism efforts and the war effort against Islamic State. The devastation of Syria has driven over two million refugees into Turkey and Europe. Finally, throughout Europe, many Muslims have established separate communities and, with exploding populations, are making inroads into influential positions in their host governments.

What Can Be Done?

There are several actions that could be taken by all governments interested in defeating the spread of Islam, beginning with the desire to do so. Stressing the inevitability of the ultimate victory of Islam is a major objective of their leaders and media.

Some Suggestions:

  1. Recognize the enemy. Call it Islamic Terrorism (Muslims do!);
  2. Restrict immigration. Each country should be able to determine whom they want to live within their country.
  3. Ban Sharia Law. All Muslims who live in non-Muslim majority countries should be made to abide by local laws. Christians and Jews (if they are allowed) cannot practice their religion in most Arab countries. Muslims emigrate to get a better life, which was created in large part by our legal system, certainly not Sharia law which still tolerates “honor killings” and other customs abhorrent in our societies.

Summary – The End of Pax America

The spectacular advancements in scientific knowledge and the improvements in the lives of millions of people that have been achieved during the past 100 years may well have surpassed all progress made in recorded time. They have essentially occurred during the period we call Pax Americana. While these achievements are attributable to many factors, the favorable climate which fostered this progress was certainly due to the advancement of individual freedoms, the core of the American heritage, and the preponderance of US military power. It would be a disaster to allow the philosophy of 7th century Islam to reverse this progress.

In the above recitation of rise and falls of civilizations, one date noting the beginning of the end of Pax America could be November 4, 2008, the day that Barrack Hussein Obama won the election for the Presidency of the United States. Many of his actions over the past eight years confirm his belief in international government (e.g. the UN) and his rejection of American exceptionalism.

On November 8, 2016 American voters will go to the polls to elect a new President and many members of Congress. Both Presidential candidates have expressed positions against further foreign involvements (e.g. Pacific Trade Treaty) other than to quickly defeat Islamic State. While this is a necessary objective, that alone will not continue human progress. We need to restore a positive view towards more international involvement, not less. Otherwise, that date above will accurately describe the end of Pax America. That would be a very sad day for the civilized world.

   Byron K. Varme  

Byron K. Varme
Executive Director

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Year End Commentary

December 15, 2015

Members and Friends

For the past seven years President Obama has described numerous global attacks by terrorists as anything but the obvious title, “Islamic Terrorism”. He has continuously reminded us that not all Muslims are terrorists (certainly true) although almost all terrorist attacks have been made by Muslims (equally true). However, the latest acts of Islamic Terrorism, namely the Paris massacres and most recently the carnage in San Bernardino, may be the tipping point in the process of the US government mounting a meaningful response to global Islamic terrorism.

It is painfully obvious that the policy of “political correctness” (i.e. to do nothing to offend the sensibilities of any Muslim) has been a colossal failure. The question is how best to respond. The first step is to recognize that there is indeed a fundamental difference in the cultures of the Western democracies and Islamic theocracies. This is not a new revelation.

The Clash of Civilizations

The Foundation of International Freedom was organized in 2006 largely on the belief that our Western civilization was engaged in a historic clash of civilizations, as described in a 1993 article in Foreign Affairs by Professor Samuel P. Huntington. In this article he set forth the premise that the fundamental conflicts in the world had become clashes between six major cultural groups, and he noted that they were particularly prevalent between Muslim and non-Muslim countries.  

The differences between the two cultures are indeed very real. The Western World, in which the authority of the government is basically granted by the people, is in direct contrast with the rule of the Shar'iah laws that govern Saudi Arabia and other ultra-conservative Islamic states. Countries that have embraced the rights of individuals and free markets have provided a standard of living for their citizen far exceeding the subjects of the Arab states and other totalitarian governments. Of course, the ruling monarchs and their entourage enjoy fabulous wealth, and understandably are reluctan to relinquish and authority that might threaten this arrangement. President Assad of Syria is the "Poster-boy" of this club of dictators.

However, the Islamic and Western cultural heritages do not have to “clash”. Each can go its own way, as long as one does not seek to forcefully impose its way of life on the other. Western businessmen have worked in Islamic countries for many years, living within the restrictive edicts of the host countries. As an example, the Arab Emirates have used their wealth with Western expertise to create a thriving modern society with minimum conflicts. Most Muslims regard IS as a threat to their core beliefs.

Muslims in the West

Muslims have lived peacefully in Western countries for many years, quietly practicing their faith while becoming fully integrated and model citizens in their host countries. However, the flood of recent arrivals in Europe and Scandinavia has established separate Islamic communities surrounding major cities. These areas have established Shar’iah law and have become breeding grounds for terrorists. The significantly higher birth rate within Muslim communities has created a demographic situation whereby Muslim activists use free elections to change their host societies to accept Islamic traditions.

 It is particularly ironic that any Muslim emigrants seek to replace the Western societies which have been so successful in offering better lives and opportunities for its citizens with the repressive life under Shar’iah law. Under Shar’iah law women are treated as second class citizens, homosexuals can be killed and honor killing is accepted. The effort to approve any use of Shar’iah in the United States should be regarded as sedition and should be legally prohibited.  

Syria

The civil war in Syria began five years ago by a large segment of the population of 23 million in protest against the oppression by the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad.  After stating that “Assad must go”, Obama erased his famous “Red-Lines” and accepted Putin’s offer to allow Al-Assad to continue in power if he agreed to cease gassing his fellow-citizens. Realizing that there were many other ways to kill them (e.g. barrel bombs) he quickly agreed and Russia became our de facto partner in the debacle. The result has been that the fighting has continued, killing over 250,000 Syrians and over two million refugees have fled to Europe, dramatically expanding the immigrant crisis and increased Islamization of their host countries. This has been a specific objective of Islamic State.

Iran

Since the fall of the Shah is 1979, Iran has become essentially a Shi’a theocracy under the regimes of the Supreme Leaders, Ayatollahs Ruhalla Khomeini and now Ali Khamenei. Iran, with a majority Persian population, is actively seeking to expand its influence with the weak Iraqi government. The Iraqis of southern regions are predominantly Shi’a Arabs, living in an area blessed with some of the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world. The prospect of Iran controlling these fields and the potential income is a major incentive.

As a result of the recent Iran nuclear treaty, most sanctions are about to be removed and the $150 billion which has been withheld will be released. All the while, Iran continues to develop long range ballistic missiles, whose only real utility is to carry nuclear weapons. Its nuclear program may or may not be on a temporary hold. Meanwhile, Iran continues to sponsor conflicts in Yemen and along with Russia, is the primary supporter of Bakar Al-Assad in Syria. Russian air power has kept him in power for the last six months.

Islamic State (IS, ISIL and its affiliates, or “Daesh”)

Following the withdrawal of the American-led coalition forces from Iraq, the Shi’a led government of Nouri Al-Maliki proceeded to disenfranchise the large Sunni population of the country. These actions created the vacuum which resulted in the formation of Islamic State. Mohammed Al-Baghdadi’s stated objective is to create a new Caliphate, declaring himself the new Caliph. The last Caliphate was the Ottoman Empire which until 1924 encompassed most of the Middle East. Thus, the term Caliphate represents the pinnacle of Islamic culture, which has great appeal to the pride of many followers. Using barbaric methods unseen since WWII, IS proceeded to capture Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq providing them a large source of funds looted from the banks, individuals and from oil production.

IS Sponsored Terrorism

Through the use of sophisticated social media, IS has been highly successful in attracting new recruits from countries around the world. They have also expanded the reach of the proposed Caliphate by establishing affiliates in Libya, Tunisia, and Nigeria (Boko Haram). In addition, IS has actively sought to export terrorist acts by individuals living abroad. The Muslim team of Syad Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, who committed the San Bernardino massacres of 14 co-workers, are examples. Potential terrorists are difficult to identify and security authorities expect more attacks in the future.

In an excellent article entitled “How to Beat This Enemy”,[1] Maajid Nawaz states “Islamism is not Islam, but an offshoot of Islam. It is a Muslim theocracy”. He further states that “Islamic State’s leaders insist that the U.S. and the rest of the West are waging global war against all Islam and Muslims. This is obvious nonsense.”

To further this false premise, a major objective of IS terrorism is to promote a backlash against Muslims now living in the Western countries to disrupt the peaceful co-existence with the new host countries. Their reasoning is that to the extent that IS attacks create this backlash, IS can be seen to be the protector of Islam (especially Sunnis) against the “Infidels” thereby driving more malcontent youth into their web. Until the Islamic State ceases to exist, it will continue to sponsor terrorist attacks and recruit new followers. Like cancer, the longer it exists, the faster it will spread.

World War III

Seventy four years ago Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The following day this action was declared an Act of War which brought the US into World War II. Since the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, there have been 27,401 terrorist attacks around the world by Muslims (See www.thereligionofpeace.org). These cumulative attacks in many countries over this long period of time constitute acts of war waged by fanatical Jihadist against countries they consider enemies of Islam, or simply “infidels”.

Each country that has been attacked by Islamic State terrorists has justification for a military response to destroy IS. Although the United States military and our allies in the coalitions have been engaged in a modest effort for some time, the US should recognize that we are indeed at war specifically against the Islamic State. The objective should be to destroy IS as quickly as possible.

How to Defeat Islamic State

Most military experts concur that IS will not be defeated without the use of ground forces. Thus far, the Iraqi Army has failed dismally in its efforts to regain significant lost territory, primarily because the local populations are predominantly Sunni Arabs, distrust the Shi’a government. Ideally, the majority of the ground forces should be from the Arabic countries that will benefit from the elimination of IS (e.g. Kurds, Jordan). NATO military forces have unique qualifications to assist in the effort. The campaign should also include the use the new weapons of global conflicts, including financial and cyber warfare, social media and any other means to diminish the attraction of Islamic State.

Regarding the probability that our military will sustain losses, an Army veteran once told me, “Our citizens are in either one of two classes, either sheep or sheep dogs. The duty of the sheep dogs, our military, is to defend the sheep”. Most of our service people are volunteers, proud of their vocation, and willing to undertake dangerous missions to protect our country and all others of good will. The decision to  “slip the dogs of war”, to destroy Islamic State will be welcomed at home and with our European and Middle East allies. Most people of good will, no matter whether Christian, Muslim or any other faith, concur that tyrants who maintain power over their countrymen by sheer brutality should be deposed.

The gold standard for waging war against Middle East tyrants was established by President George H. W. Bush in the Gulf War in 1991. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the diplomatic community began efforts to induce him to withdraw his forces from Kuwait.  While these talks were going on, the Pentagon drew up plans to liberate Kuwait by military force. When diplomacy finally failed, President Bush gave the orders to implement the war plan. Ground action began on February 24, 1991 and following liberation of Kuwait and a rout of the Iraqi army, a cease fire was called four days later.  A grateful Kuwait government subsequently reimbursed the US for most of the costs involved. 

Although some politicians argue that our government should only undertake actions which directly affect the United States, or colloquially stated, “Our dog is not in that hunt”. While we should carefully assess what is possible to achieve, free countries should do all they can to assist the helpless and defeat tyranny wherever found. It is just the right thing to do.

   Byron K. Varme  

Byron K. Varme

Executive Director


[1] Wall Street Journal Review, December 12-13, 2015

Blog 2-14-2017