Posts Tagged ‘world politics’

North Korea has finally developed and tested via a successful launch an International Continental Ballistic Missile, ICBM, that is capable of reaching the United States. At this stage in the fledgling North Korean missile program, the only state that the missile can hit is Alaska but it won’t be long before Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angles will become targets. Parallel development of a nuclear weapon that can be transported by one of these missiles is ongoing. Even if a nuclear payload is not available a conventional bomb can be transported on the ICBM and can ultimately cause damage to our beautiful nation.
Another threat leaves North Korea clean when it comes to launching a missile on the West. It will let some other country do the dirty work. North Korea will be able to dismantle and sell its’ weapons of destruction to countries that wish to do harm to Western nations. If transport is not available for the weapons, North Korea can sell the technologies and then let rogue nations build their own missiles much as a child designs and builds an erector set. The nuclear warhead will come later and we are then in a huge and complex mess as countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Germany become easy targets for North Korean Technology that is launched from reprobate locations in the Middle East. North Korea becomes a double winner in this scenario. Western countries are hit and harmed while North Korea’s coffers are filled with foreign money funded by the sale of the sinister weapons.
It appears that the decision is simple; let’s hit them and hit them quick. Not so quick my friend. There is no way short of a nuclear strike that we could hope to neutralize the North Korean Military. Nuclear attack is not an option. With a standing army of 700,000 and several million reservists, we can damage the beast but not destroy it. North Korea is waiting for provocation and they will not be satisfied to take a defensive posture. North Korea will move south and with speed. So where will the North horde go. It will wear out tanks speeding to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Seoul is only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries and contains ten million residents. The loss of life would be catastrophic. While the North Korean army would take large losses it would continue to function as it moves south. I worked with Koreans in Arabia and the Koreans are a tough race, very tough. The North Korean army can take a lickin and keep on ticken.
Another concern is China. While China has become a major world economy there is all ways that isolated chance that China will enter the campaign and support North Korea just as it did during the Korean War of the 50s. This is almost incomprehensible but if that happened we could see an escalation that could pull the Mid-East into the conflict as an opportunity to strike a blow against the West. Then we have to ask what will Russia do and who will they side with.
Korea is quit complex and it is not a new issue. It began when America had a warship stopped, boarded, captured and taken to North Korea in the 1960s. The USS Pueblo’s crew was eventually released, but only after the Unites States paid ransom. Since then North Korea held America at lower esteem and America thought it could negotiate itself out of any conflict. We fooled ourselves and for the last forty years North Korea has built one of the largest armies in the world while laughing at America and the West. We have really painted ourselves into a corner and we can’t wait for the paint to dry to walk out.

 

Several weeks ago I heard that the epic movie Benn Hur was being remade.  In fact this remake is the fifth version of the movie.  Last week the critics had their chance to review the movie and this is further proof that it is easier to be a critic than an author.  The critics have been less than kind to this remake.  I first saw Ben Hur as a child and even though it has been over half a century the movie was monumental at the time it was made and remains so today.  The “Ten Commandments” and other epic movies of that time brands a positive image on one’s psyche that lasts a lifetime.

The actual movie and the acting in the movie does not rank in there with the 1959 version.  In fact it is unfair to compare the two.   There is no way that a movie that starred great actors such as Charlton Heston and Steven Boyd and directed by William Wyler has a chance of a remake that usurped this epic.  The current movie’s acting is good and the use of new graphics was very effective; however, the original 1959 movie surpassed anything placed on the big screen.

What is lost in the discussion of the movie that is outside the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, outside the technical conversation of the cinematic aspects of the movie and outside the social media discussions of the beauty of actors and shallow comments on clothing and personal aspects of a cast member; this movie has lessons to be learned in a world of chaos.  It provides a message of hope and how we can ultimately find a life of coexistence among diverse cultures, religions and races.  This is the true story of Ben Hurt  that is lost in the grandeur of chariot races, epic sea battles and life in ancient Israel under Roman rule.  This is the message that producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett has provided for us.

Today our world is plagued with gaps between members of society that threaten the fiber of our great nation.  A nation based on tolerance of another man’s beliefs is being tested daily.  The movie Ben Hur gives us a glimpse of what can happen when tolerance can take place.

The movie begins with a Roman youngster that has been adopted by a Jewish family.  There are no preconceived conditions for the child living with the Jewish family and the Roman was allowed to follow his own pagan religion.  Later in the movie the head of the family, Ben Hur,  was forced to be a galley slave by the Romans.  His own step brother, the Roman, was instrumental in committing the Jew to the galleys.  This is the most despicable life among the Roman prisoners and never did anyone return from the oars of the Roman ships.  Ben Hur did become free only to be captured by an Arab tribe.  Centuries later this was the same group  that would become the Islamic faith.  The Jew, Ben Hur, became close friends with the Arab tribe and the tribal leader wagered most of his wealth to give Ben Hur a chance for freedom.  So we have Jews fighting Romans and Jews forming alliances with what would become Islam and then the Jew, Ben Hur, came face to face with Jesus and felt the love and forgiveness of a new religion.

As the movie ends the Jew Ben Hur reconciles with his pagan worshipping Roman step brother and they both live their lives with the Arab tribe.  Men of color lived with Caucasians.  Pagan worshippers shared a home with Jews and Arabs and all were influenced by a new religion, Christianity.

What was ultimately displayed in the movie was that forgiveness for past indiscretions and being tolerant of another man’s beliefs will allow mankind to thrive and grow.  What a powerful message to a nation that is looking to recreate itself when the old nation was so much better and what is happening to it today.

 

Unless you have been living in a cave or stranded on a deserted island for the last year, you know that we are in the middle of a presidential election year.  Like all other election years since the beginning of the 1800s the presidential candidate for a political party is selected at a convention that is composed of party members from across the country.  Behind the scenes leaders of the party are developing strategy to defeat the candidate of the other party.

Over time change happens.  When political parties become so out of touch with main stream America and do not provide the communication to the party members with a clear agenda of what the party wants to accomplish, change will take place.  Today this is what we are witnessing in the Republican Party and I find it interesting to observe what is transpiring around us.  The Republican party is transforming itself, not from changes from the party leadership but from the rank and file members that make up the party.  The party leadership is either adopting the change and moving with it or some members are ignoring what the members are saying and refuse to embrace the new face of the party.

The members of the Republican Party have selected the individual that they want to see as President.  This is contrary to what the Republican leadership hoped for and right up to the moment of the convention there was discussion of ways to keep Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee.  The hue and cry of the common party member silenced this attempt and Donald Trump is the official Republican candidate.   The convention that officially selected him was in contrast to what we have seen in the past.  First, it was more of a family convention than a presidential convention as primary speakers were the Trump “kids” and this threw a new spin on the contest.  Present were former candidates but what was more apparent was the lack of certain Republican leaders that are sitting this one out.  The message is clear from the common man on the street that out there building this country that they have selected the candidate of their choice and the total party should be behind them and accept the path of the party that the new party is heading.  Two former Republican Presidents no endorsing the candidate of the party is unheard of.  Then there was the Ted Cruise speech and the fact that he refused to endorse Trump yet still spoke at the convention.  It will be interesting over the next few years as to how this works for him and his own political career.

The Democratic campaign is shaping up to be as dysfunctional as the Republican and it appears that change is on the way for that party as well.  I am writing this on the eve of the convention and what appeared to be an exciting event is living up to its’ hype.  First, this set of super delegates that does not have to be elected sways the selection of the Democratic candidate in the direction of how the party leadership wants it to go.  Hillary Clinton is the apparent nominee and while she appears to be the candidate of choice for the party elite, Bernie Sanders came in a close second with the super delegates going in a separate direction.  Now Wiki Links released documents that showed that the head of the Democratic National Committee showed favoritism toward Clinton.  Now how good is this turning out to be and the convention is shaping up to be as exciting as the Republican Convention.  Then add the revelation that the Head of the Democratic Central Committee, will not be allowed to speak at her own Convention.  How dysfunctional is that.

Times are changing and so are the political parties.  In a time of social media, instant news reports and people wanting change just for the sake of change; we are witnessing a transformation of both major political parties.  The time of back room politics and power plays by unknown power brokers is in for major change.

Last year I said that this is going to be an interesting race for the White House and sit back and enjoy.  So far it has not disappointed. The next four months will be an interesting and important time for the future of the country and the world.

 

Four thousand four hundred and ninety-one American military died in the last war in Iraq. A much larger number were wounded, some severely.  The numbers of Iraqis that died are unknown but estimates range from as low as one hundred and fifty thousand and as high as one million.  Today this war is a major point in the presidential elections and for the most part is being tossed around for political gain instead of looking at what lead to the war and what the real failing was.

The men and women that compose the United States Military are a noble people that should be thanked for all the sacrifices they make to keep America free and are ready to come to the aid of oppressed anywhere in the world.  That is who we are and that is what our country is all about.

The war in Iraq that ultimately toppled the tyrannical reign of Saddam Hussein did not begin on March 20th 2003 when America invaded Iraq.  Nor did it begin in January of 2001 when Operation Desert Shield changed to Operation Desert Storm and the world coalition forces threw out Iraq from a defeated and destroyed Kuwait.  The framework for what led to the war began years before Desert Storm when Saddam Hussein seized power of Iraq.

In 1968 Hussein became the head of Iraq.  One year later he entered the national assemble and had the names of 68 members read out loud as members that were threatening to overthrow his government.  The 68 were arrested and 22 sentenced to death.  The firing squads were composed of high ranking leaders of his political party.  A clear message was sent that his rule was final and any attempt to oppose it would be met swiftly and brutally.  The age of Iraqi government terror and intimidation was in full force.

At the same time that he was gaining power in Iraq, the country also signed an agreement with the Soviet Union.  He was gaining power and would accept no threat to this power.  In the north of Iraq is the area inhabited by the Kurds.  Kurds are very industrious and independent.  Today they are the most pro-U.S. sect in the Middle East and is the best deterrent to ISIS.   The Kurds were also a threat to Saddam and he mercilessly handled the situation.  Saddam’s army surrounded Halabja and launched gas attacks on the Kurds.  Anyone seeing the faces of dead children in the streets will never forget the brutality of Hussein.  It is estimated that he killed 183,000 of these citizens of Iraq in an attempt to exterminate the Kurds.

The regime controlled all movement within the country.  Checkpoints were everywhere and government papers were required to move from section of Iraq to another.  Brutality was everywhere.  A video surfaced of Saddam’s two sons going duck hunting and a colleague was used as the dog to swim out and retrieve the ducks.  The would shoot beside him as sport.  Several years later the man asked to leave the country.  For speaking blasphemy, he was taken out and had his tongue cut out.  When the coalition forces demanded Saddem leave power, one of his ministers recommended that he step down temporarily and then be reinserted.  The minister was taken into custody and following the pleas of the minister’s wife for her husbands return Saddem said he would be returned the next day.  The next day a body bag was dropped off at the minister’s front door with the dismembered minister’s body inside.

Hussein also snubbed his nose at the West just before his invasion of Kuwait.  Two British journalist were arrested and charged with espionage.  One was a woman and the other a male of Iranian linage.  British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher demanded the return of the British citizens.  The woman returned to England and Saddam bragged in his parliament that Thatcher demanded the return of the male journalist and he was, in a body bag.  The journalist had been hanged.  How does an international community work with a dictator such as this; one that had previously tried to develop a nuclear complex that was bombed by Israel before nuclear weapons could be developed?

Following the end of Desert Storm much of the peace negotiations was performed by General Norman Schwarzkopf.  He stated that there was no representative from the State Department and mistakes were made.  One of these was allowing Iraq continued access and use of helicopters.  The State Department should have been leading these negotiations or at least advising.

Over time Hussein would brag that he was building his arms.  A Russia that had collapsed and could not object to a Desert Storm coalition became a new ally of Hussein.  I have heard that when it was apparent that the United States was going to invade Iraq there were a large number of military flights leaving Russia empty and returning from Iraq full.  You can only speculate what was loaded on the planes.

So the question is, “Should have we not intervened in Iraq or if we did intervene should have we done more to win the peace.”  Was this a military failure or was it a State Department failure to leave a democratic well-functioning Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

For you that grew up in the 1950s, 60s and 70s you remember the word “Cold War”.  This was truly not a war where America was fighting one enemy in a real shooting war.  Instead it was a proxy war where the two powers, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), opted to support puppet governments or actually go to war against countries supported by the other power.  Military alliances were made.  The United States is a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.  Russia, the leading USSR country, had a military alliance referred to as the Warsaw Pact Countries.  NATO had member countries that were democratic in nature.  The Warsaw Pact was made up of countries that embraced Communism.  At the heart of the military deterrent was a storehouse of nuclear devices on both sides with enough potential destructive power to destroy the world several times over.

The Cold War began about 1947, two years after the end of World War II.  It ended in 1991.  Soon after World War II ended the Russians began plans for total domination of the world.  The first confrontation of the forces of the West (NATO) and the forces of the East (Warsaw Pact) was in Berlin and the Berlin air lift.  Germany had been divided with half being occupied by the USSR and the other half by NATO countries. Berlin, Germany’s capital, was split between the two factions but access to the city was controlled by the USSR.  The USSR cut off land routes to the capital from the West.  The Democratic West refused to be held ransom and the Berlin Air Lift began.  Instead of sending fuel and food and resources to Berlin by rail and truck the allied countries opted to fly it in.  The Soviet Union refused to attack the air craft for fear of a military escalation.  In one year 200,000 flights went into Berlin with supplies.  Finally the Soviet Union withdrew the cutoff of Berlin.  This was only the beginning.

Competition was intense.  I recall the launch by Russia in the mid-50 of the Russian Sputnik, the first satellite.  This was followed by launches by America.  Then Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut into space followed by America’s Alan Shepard. The final race in space was achieved when the United States landed a man on the moon.  Space was not the only competition taking place.  The Olympic games would be a poster child for athletic pride between East and West in general and Russia and America specifically.  While America dominated the summer games the Russians controlled the winter games.

Military competition began soon after World War II.  The Soviet Union backed the communist in China, supported their takeover of the country but China never joined the USSR or Warsaw Pact.  The Soviet Union supported North Korea and its’ invasion of South Korea.  It took a concerted coalition of free countries to curtail the invasion and thousands of American gave their lives.  The Soviet Union never officially entered the war but China acted as a proxy country for the USSR.  The USSR was active in South America and Cuba as it attempted to overthrow democratic countries and impose Communism.  Cuba was a great success story for the USSR and sat 90 miles from America’s door.  In 1961 the Cuban Missile Crisis took place and it is only now being understood that the world was extremely close to a third world war.  It took the leadership and strong will of a young John Kennedy to thwart the threat when Russia was sending nuclear missiles to Cuba.  Russia continued to export its ideology to other parts of the world.  Civil wars were conducted on the horn of Africa while America took on the threat in South East Asia. Eventually both sides realized the economic impact to their countries plus the constant threat of a devastating war no one could win was wearing on a world enjoying increasingly better life styles.  I still remember the pictures of air raid training where children were taught to get under their desks in the large cities during air raid training.  Also present to our local community was the small sign on the courthouse that identified it as a nuclear attack shelter and the meeting at Farmerville High School for the adults to show how to build nuclear shelters.  I slipped in the back and watched the weekly meetings led by Principal Horace Nolan.

Then is 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, suddenly and abruptly.  The final war was not guns and ships and planes but instead was economics.  Ronald Reagan took the Communist to their knees and for once, the world saw peace.

All this is coming to an end.  While America has been asleep at the wheel Russia has retooled and in a surge of nationalistic fervor and under the leadership of a demagogue, the Cold War is resuming.  The Ukraine has been invaded by Russia and we provide rhetoric.  Russia is active in Syria and nothing has happened except the death of civilians and the propping up of a despot that America despises.  The future of the world will be interesting, dangerous and uncertain.

 

Saudi Arabia has been a unified country for eighty-four years.  While many envision Saudi Arabia as a warrior country populated with fanatics running around carrying AK 47s screaming at the top of their lungs on dusty streets, nothing could be further from the truth.  While these are visions in parts of the Middle East nothing could be further from the truth in Arabia.

Saudi Arabia began to form itself into a country when King Ibn Saud took his warrior force mounted on horseback and over ran town after town and tribe after tribe until he had consolidated control of the now established Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  He had a unique method of maintain control.  Instead of trying to control by military might, he would marry a tribal leader’s daughter from a defeated tribe and when a male child was born he would declare the child to be a prince and thus a part of the ruling class.  This sealed the kingdom.

One of the main obstacles to turning the desert land into a unified country was to oust the Ottoman army and its’ rulers from the country.  The Ottomans were a Turkish dynasty that had ruled Arabia for hundreds of years.  When the Saudis defeated the Turkish army at the Hufuf Fort at the Al Hasa Oasis Ibn Saud did not opt to put the captured men to the sword.  At the time it was not uncommon to have done so.  Instead he marched them east across the sand dunes to the port fort at Al Uquair where they boarded ships for Turkey.

In the past the Saudis were famous for negotiating instead of confrontation.  As the country developed into a financial power based on crude, the Kingdom could leverage its negotiations with the aid of money.  Arabia built a military but preferred to not deploy to any hot spots.  Instead it would provide logistical support in the form of material goods and funds.  In 1967 the Arab countries sent forces on a quest to destroy Israel.  In only seven days Israel defeated the armies from the countries that surrounded it.  Saudi’s participation was light in comparison to Iran’s and Iraq’s forces.  It has been noted that the Saudi fighter aircraft stationed in Jeddah, the closest base to Israel, sent its’ planes east to Dhahran so that they would be out of range of the Israeli fighters.

In 1999 Saudi hosted a meeting in Jeddah to promote a brokered settlement between Iraq and Kuwait.  The talks collapsed but Saudi announced that they had “adjourned” and both sides agreed to come back together to talk at a later time.  That night Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Even though Iraq crossed into Saudi at least twice the forces would not go to the aid of Kuwait until an American led coalition attacked the Iraqis six months later and launched Desert Storm.

What Saudi could all ways count on was America to provide safety and security.  When I arrived in Arabia in 1978 the American presence was evident.  There were training programs to provide American assistance.  Operation Peace Hawk and Peace Shield brought Americans to Arabia to help build the military.  These people were welcome to a truly peace-loving country.  In the early 1980 we would go from Aramco to Al Khobar and play softball at the Northrop or McDonnell compounds.  These were leased facilities for the men and women that worked for these defense contractors that provided everything from aircraft maintenance support to survival training for pilots.

Over time this has changed.  America’s foreign policy has morphed into observing and talking about mid-east issues instead of being actively involved.  The Teddy Roosevelt world of “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick” has been replaced with “Speak Softly, Carry a Stick but Don’t Use It  and Make Sure Everyone Knows You Won’t Use It”.  This has left our allies wondering what we would really do in a case where they were in real jeopardy.  Arabia is a prime example of this confusion with American policy and they have decided it is time to act and act alone.

Last year Saudi began bombing Yemen when Iranian  backed dissidents toppled the government.  They did so without American support, American backing and without seeking American approval.  Sad that a staunch ally of the United States, the strongest in the Mid-East, felt it could not count on the great United States and decided they would act alone.  They are still bombing and with more ferocity than we are with our war against ISIS.  Now Arabia has made an even more bold statement and it is one that we need to take notice of.  Last week Saudi Arabia announced that they will send troops to Syria to fight ISIS.  This is no idle task.  They will have to cross Iraq to get to the enemy.   Supply logistics will be enormous and placing an army on the ground hundreds of miles from home for the first time in the countries history shows two things.  First, ISIS is a credible enemy that must be destroyed.  Second, America cannot be counted on to stop this threat and Saudi is going to war where it can be won, on the ground.

 

On March 6th, 1836 between one hundred and eighty – two and two hundred and fifty-seven men were huddled behind the walls of a crumbling adobe mission beside the Mexican town of Bexar.  These men had come to Mexico from the United States to settle or seek adventure.  For thirteen days these men  had been under siege by a Mexican army bent on kicking the Americans from Mexican Territory.

The men l had fought minor skirmishes for twelve days. They knew that they could not hold out with the resources they had, so they waited for help.  Total surrender was not an option.

They were outnumbered by the Mexicans.  The besieged were good shots but still might makes right and they were outnumbered by as much as ten to one.  During the siege couriers were sent out to rally support.  For twelve days the men waited behind walls for reinforcements.  A few men did arrive but the main force would not come to the rescue.

On the thirteenth day the Mexican forces began a full frontal attack.  Twice they were repulsed as the besieged forces held off the superior numbers.  It is unknown at what point in the siege did the defenders begin to come to the reality that no one would be coming.  Many of the defenders were there for a noble cause and had no expectations of monetary gains.  These men must have felt abandoned as they asked themselves where is the army that will come to save them.  This army of salvation would not come and on the third attack the walls were breached and all defenders were killed.

This noble effort exemplifies the spirit that built America.  The sacrifice of the men behind the walls led to great things.  “Remember the Alamo” was the battle cry that rallied Texas forces to defeat the Mexican Army. This led to the independent republic of Texas which later was annexed by the United States to become the largest state until Alaska gained statehood.

The lack of forces to come to the aid of the besieged was a dark part of the Texas fight.  It must have been gut wrenching to the defenders to realize that they were alone.  This would not be the last time for this to unfold.  In 2012 Libya had deposed its’ tyrannical leader, Miramar Gadhafi.  Armed groups vied for control and Al Quadra was one of these groups. During the spring and summer of 2012 Al Quadra launched skirmishes that failed to kill western diplomats and other westerners.  America had a foreign mission in Benghazi and this was visited by the American Ambassador to Libya.  He was dedicated to supporting the freedom of Libyans and wanted to help grow Libya into a democratic country.

The United States, the owner of the greatest assortment of military might in the world, had a handful of contract security men in Benghazi.  These men were from trained elite military units and had left the military to become contractors for the CIA.  These men exuded the spirit of an America that had gone to war and won for over two hundred years.  Honor was placed above all else.  They knew that if anything went bad the might of the United States and its’ military  could be relied on to come to the rescue.

On Sept 11th the American Diplomatic Mission was attacked and the men at the CiA annex, the contract security men, went to the aid of the men under attack.  Reminiscent of the Calvary arriving on horseback, the former SEALS, Rangers and Marine came to the rescue; unfortunately too late.  The Ambassador and an Aid had been killed.

The American  warriors fought their way back to their CIA compound where militant Libyans were massing for an attack.  Pleas began to go out for assistance.  A convoy was prepping to come from Tripoli.  Lack of planning slowed the arrival.  Then the attacks began.  Superior numbers of forces attacked the CIA compound.  America was at its’ finest hour as six men using training obtained in the military held off a superior force.  These defenders were sure that America would not abandon them and help was on the way.

Targets were “painted” with lasers by the defenders so that laser guided missiles would hit their targets.  Even if missiles were not launched a pass over of fighter jets would have the effect needed.   If anyone has ever been buzzed by one of these aircraft they understand the unnerving affect of the earth shaking noise emitted when a jet passes over at low altitude.   Like the men at the Alamo the reality of the situation must have eventuallysunk in and it was understood that there would be no missiles, no drone strikes, no fly over; no help. This was America at its’ worse.  Men that lived by the creed, “No man left behind” must have wondered, what has happened.

When it was all over, two of these noble American’s died and the flag draped coffins of these two and the two state department officials arrived at Dover Air Force base among a very poignant and somber homecoming.  America at its’ best, America at its’ worse.