Category Archives: National Security

Remarks by John Lenczowski at IWP Commencement

The following remarks were made by IWP President John Lenczowski at The Institute of World Politics Commencement Ceremony on May 16, 2015.  More videos of the ceremony can be found here.

Good afternoon everyone. Let me first thank all those who have made this school possible:

Trustees, benefactors, faculty, staff, friends and helpers, the spouses and families of those who work for this cause, and ultimately, our students.

Today, as we celebrate our graduates, I want to talk about the challenges they face as most of them go on to serve the cause of peace, freedom, and national security.

America’s foreign policy today is in a crisis. The crisis is different than the challenges we faced in our recent wars which provided some measure of focus and energy. Today, it is a crisis of leadership concerning America’s values, principles, and purposes, which has resulted in the absence of coherent foreign policy goals and strategy.

One cannot have a strategy without goals. And one cannot set achievable goals unless they are consistent with our country’s values, principles, and purposes.

American foreign policy today is a welter of confusion. In some cases, it is marked by appeasement or an isolationist desire to withdraw from the world. In other cases, it is characterized by willful blindness toward unpleasant strategic realities or a reluctance to engage with the world in an energetic way. Much of this is born of the fatigue of flawed, utopian military and nation-building interventions of the past decade.

Our current leadership can neither deter Russia’s war of subversion against Ukraine nor help others resist it. As Russia seeks to demonstrate that NATO’s security guarantees are hollow and that the bonds of civilization that tie the West together are fraying, our leadership is unable to inspire confidence and unity among our allies.

Although our leaders talk about “soft power,” they fail to use it. They are unable to compete against ISIS for the hearts and minds of young Muslims. Although we are in a war of ideas, they have deployed no warriors of ideas, nor do they seek to recruit any.

They are afraid to identify the enemy ideology for what it is. They are incapable of favorably comparing a civilization grounded in human rights and freedom of conscience to an ideology of false martyrdom and self-destruction. Our governing elite has so thoroughly cut itself off from the Judeo-Christian roots of Western civilization that it is incapable of comprehending a challenge framed in explicitly religious terms.

hen it comes to Iran, our government is pursuing an arms control agreement with a hostile regime that has callously disregarded its other international obligations. This is wishful thinking.

Our current leadership does not acknowledge the rising threat from China. It says nothing to the American people about China’s enormous military preparations. Just one example: is anyone here other than our students aware of the Underground Great Wall — three thousand miles of navigable tunnels which are concealing China’s growing nuclear arsenal?

China has over 50,000 spies in our country as well as a massive propaganda and covert political influence apparatus here. Its cyber espionage is perpetrating the greatest theft of intellectual property in history. Where is the sense of alarm about all this from our national leadership?

What lies at the root of today’s leadership crisis is an alienation from the fundamental principles of our country and civilization and a widespread view that our country may even be is a malevolent force in the world. This alienation derives from the regnant philosophies of multiculturalism and moral and cultural relativism that undermine the necessary dedication to the values, principles, and purposes of America.

Too many Western intellectuals compare America with heaven when it should be compared with the other actual governmental systems out there. A truly honest comparison requires realism about the world and the human condition.

Too many members of our intelligentsia and governing elite also fail to appreciate what IWP students learn — namely, America’s capacity to acknowledge our failings and to work to prevent them from recurring. In contrast to other civilizations, America is the greatest experiment in social, political, and economic self-improvement in history.

It is a civilization that is rare, precious, and worth defending. IWP graduates understand something about America’s exceptional character and heritage.

The genius of the American system is the realism about human nature that underlies our Constitutional order. It is precisely the recognition of the fallibility of human nature combined with respect for the dignity of the human person that enables our system to endure and prosper.

That recognition of the flawed nature of man impelled our Founding Fathers to set up a rule of law, knowing that we will always be tempted to follow our baser instincts. To prevent power from concentrating in the hands of a single evil-doer, they set up a diffusion of power, a separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Understanding the foundations, purposes, and traditions of the American political order is the prerequisite for establishing foreign policy goals. That understanding should inform us that there are alternatives to utopian military intervention and nation building projects, other than isolationism or appeasement.

If one has coherent values, principles, purposes, and goals, then what must be done to keep the peace is to use all the instruments of statecraft to handle every contingency that this world can throw our way. This is what we teach at IWP.

Our students learn these various arts, including military strategy, intelligence, counterintelligence, the art of diplomacy, the many arts of public diplomacy, political action, political warfare, and economic strategy.

When our leaders are aware of all the instruments in this orchestra, they have a greater range of options than only diplomacy or war. But a number of these instruments, such as counterintelligence and the many aspects of public diplomacy and strategic influence, have long been neglected by our foreign policy establishment and the academic world.

Of course, as any IWP student will tell you, this is not because the United States can’t use these instruments of statecraft — it has, numerous times, from the War of Independence to the Cold War.

Our counterintelligence community once used various methods to counter hostile foreign agents, disinformation, and covert influence operations — but then it mostly lost its institutional memory of how to do this. IWP grads are restoring that memory.

We used the many instruments of public diplomacy during the Cold War. We fought the war against hostile propaganda with the U.S. Information Agency, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

We waged the war of ideas with American libraries abroad, the Congress of Cultural Freedom, subsidizing foreign journals of opinion, and supporting free trade unions, whether in Italy after World War II or the Solidarity Union in Poland.

We were unashamed of American ideas. The ideas we promoted catalyzed the revolutionary changes that liberated hundreds of millions of people. We won that war of ideas!

From history such as this, IWP students have learned arts of statecraft that directly apply to current and future threats. They then fan out throughout our government and are raising the standards of professionalism in so many of these fields.

While these instruments of power must be used in our country’s defense, they also have the potential of being abused. So they must be exercised by people of character, virtue, and patriotism. That is why we at IWP care so deeply about what kind of people our students turn out to be.

True statesmanship is not only a matter of knowledge and skill, it is a matter of good character.

  • It means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
  • It involves cultivation of conscience.
  • It requires cultivation of the will and self-control.
  • It requires the development of good habits — because habits become destiny.

Character — especially when it applies to leadership in statecraft — begins with consciousness of certain necessary virtues.

First, there is the essential virtue of personal and intellectual honesty. This means commitment to the truth.

Here courage is essential — having the courage of one’s convictions — the courage to see the truth when all about you are willfully blind, and the courage to tell truth to power.

We teach our students that there are two kinds of people — mission oriented people and those who are interested in power, position, glory, and the satisfaction of one’s ego.

We want our students to be mission-oriented. And when they are tempted to intrigue to gain personal power and glory, we want them to resist the temptation.

So IWP teaches that humility is another essential virtue. And so is acute sensitivity to the dangers of hubris.

Humility keeps people on track to achieving a mission, because the mission is the cause higher than oneself.

Hubris derails you from putting the mission first.

Finally, there is prudence, the essential virtue of statesmanship. Prudence is the ability to exercise wisdom, reason, caution, and discretion in the conduct of policy. It is the application of universal moral principles to particular situations — which presupposes knowledge of those principles in the first place.

With prudence, one can discern good ends, achieve good ends, and ultimately be good.

With the education that you graduates have received both intellectually and, we hope, in developing your character, we expect great professional achievements from you, and especially the exercise of those virtues that make for statesmanship. With leaders like you, we really can reform the way America conducts foreign policy.

I am grateful for having had the chance to be your professor and to see how seriously you have taken your studies and your vocations. Congratulations for persevering and God bless you in your service to your family, your neighbor, your customer, and your country.

John Lenczowski
The Institute of World Politics Commencement
May 16, 2015

John Lenczowski comments on radical Islamism in Homeland Security Today

In a recent article for Homeland Security Today, John Lenczowski described what he considers to be the fundamental strategic problem in our nation’s efforts to counter the threat of radical Islamists — the failure to engage effectively in the war of ideas.

This ideological battlespace, he noted, “isn’t simply between Western ideas and radical Islamic ideas, it is a war between radical Islamists and those Muslims who reject the notion that killing innocents is morally acceptable as a way of promoting their faith in the world.”  Without engaging in this war of ideas, our nation is left with few options to counter the threat posed by Islamic extremists.

The article, which outlines the problems the U.S. faces in its anti-extremism efforts, is entitled “Obama Schedules ‘Violent Extremism’ Summit, But Still Unable To Acknowledge Islamist Jihad.” It was authored by Amanda Vicinanzo, alumna of The Institute of World Politics and Senior Editor at HS Today, and Anthony Kimery, HS Today Editor-in-Chief.

Please click here to read the article.

Lessons from the Sony hack attack

Globe - 180x190This piece by John Lenczowski was originally published by The Washington Times on December 18, 2014.

The hacking attack of Sony Corp. and the compromising of its intellectual property should send a wake-up call to American business. If Sony can be hacked, so too can our companies that make defense technologies. This attack reveals that the very innovations that give us our competitive edge in the world, both commercially and strategically, are gravely at risk.

In November, the Pentagon announced the Defense Innovation Initiative, which is designed to promote fresh thinking about how we can maintain our military superiority through technological innovation, despite tighter budgets and the corrosive effects of two long wars. Unfortunately, this strategy will fail unless both government and business place higher priorities on technology security policy and counterintelligence.

Two of our adversaries are stealing our technology at levels that exceed those of the Cold War. China in particular is using commerce as a cover for massive espionage, the fruits of which are deployed with amazing efficiency in the greatest military buildup on the face of the earth — a buildup consistently underestimated by our government.

Simultaneously, Russian industrial espionage continues at enormous levels and fuels Moscow’s military buildup.

Read more

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the China threat

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement amongst 12 prospective signatory countries that promises to be high on the agenda of the new Congress.  There are many benefits auguring to the United States from this agreement, so long as the U.S. government remains vigilant in preventing predatory mercantilist trade policies by selected countries designed to undermine specific U.S. industries.  There are some, however, who advocate that China should become an eventual member of this agreement.  I disagree.

As a matter of fact, I believe that so long as China’s ruling Communist Party continues to maintain a monopoly lock-hold on political power within the country, American commercial relations with China should be limited.

China has used international trade, and especially its commercial relationships with the United States, as a vehicle to achieve a multitude of strategic purposes that are inimical to U.S. national security and international peace, particularly in the East Asia neighborhood.

China uses its commercial relations with us to sustain a massive military buildup, the details of which have consistently been underestimated by the U.S. intelligence community.  Mostly under the cover of commercial relations — but also including the visits of students and scientists — China has some 50,000 spies in the U.S.  In any recent year, they have made 5,000 visits annually to all of our most sensitive national laboratories, where a “visit” consists of a stay ranging between two weeks to two years.  Shocking amounts of our most advanced scientific and technological developments are being stolen in these various ways.

This is not even to speak of the avalanche of cyber espionage, which, in itself, constitutes the greatest theft of intellectual property in world history.  This technology has gone into the construction of new road-mobile ICBMs, new stealth aircraft, new hypersonic missiles, anti-ship missiles designed to sink American aircraft carriers, anti-satellite weapons, neutron bombs, and various laser and directed energy weapons.

For those who are unaware of Beijing’s seriousness of purpose, the Chinese Communist Party has constructed the Underground Great Wall, a network of an estimated 3,000 miles of underground tunnels, through which trucks can drag road-mobile ICBMs and which conceal China’s burgeoning nuclear arsenal.  Whereas the U.S. government believes that China has some 300 nuclear weapons, Russian intelligence believes it is more like 1,500.  Don’t believe the statistics you hear about China’s military expenditures.  All of these figures are unambiguously deceptive in the same spirit as the deceptions of the old Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, China’s commercial relations with so many American enterprises have politically neutralized large portions of America’s business elite.  The result is that it is ever harder for influential circles in our country to come to grips with China’s inimical strategic purposes and its burgeoning strategic capabilities.

It is time for members of the new Congress and those who aspire to the Presidency of our country to start telling the American people the truth about these intentions and capabilities.

Let us make no mistake about the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions: it wants to restore the ancient tributary state system and to make America one of those states paying tribute to the Communist “Middle Kingdom.”

Let us conduct our wars within the law

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria.President Obama has embarked upon a war against the Islamic State. This war should have been unnecessary. But the President failed to reach a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government and failed to prevent the Maliki government’s marginalization of the Sunnis within Iraqi society and the exacerbation of Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions. The result has been a power vacuum that was filled by the Islamic State’s arrival as the putative “rescuer” of Iraq’s Sunnis.

The President is conducting air strikes, not only in Iraq, but also in Syria, and he is sending increasing numbers of American troops to serve in various training and advisory capacities.

The problem is that he is doing all these things on a very weak to non-existent legal basis. He is arguing that he can legally conduct these actions against the Islamic State on the basis of the 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against “those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” But the Islamic State was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

In addition, the War Powers Resolution gives a President 60 days to gain Congressional consent and requires that he end hostilities within 30 days if these are being conducted without such consent. This 90 day period has expired.

Some people argue that Congress has implicitly given its consent by permitting some monies to be spent for these purposes. However, a dangerous precedent is being set. War is too important an enterprise to be conducted in disregard of both the Constitution and an explicit act of Congress.

If we are to be involved in a war against the Islamic State, our elected representatives should make an explicit decision to this effect, and hold themselves accountable to the people. Any such decision should be based on a forthright evaluation of the vital security interests that are at stake, and how success in this enterprise is to be defined. Congressional abdication from serious discussion of these issues risks giving this President and future Presidents excessive discretion in a matter on which the Constitution requires Congressional action.

Russian agents of influence and the war on fracking

“To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
-Sun Tzu

Soviet2500 years ago, Sun Tzu said that to defeat your enemy without using force is the acme of skill.  So, how does one do this?  It involves the use of various arts of statecraft that are not well-cultivated in the United States.  But the Russians have long cultivated them.

During the Cold War, the Russians conducted various types of covert and overt influence operations using agents of influence, disinformation, and forgeries (together called “active measures”), as well as propaganda, and offensive counterintelligence operations.  Their targets included: the national strategic leadership of NATO countries, as well as of other countries throughout the world; various non-governmental groups that had influence over governmental decision-making; the media, including the film industry; educational institutions at all levels; churches; unions; and the public at large.

Putin’s regime has not forgotten these techniques.  It has been using them blatantly in its attempts to annex Crimea and pry off several other provinces from Ukraine.  It has been using agents of influence to corrupt the decision-making of many of its neighboring countries.  It has used its intelligence services to bribe members of Parliament and other government officials in these countries.

The West has not been exempt from Russian “active measures.”  As Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the General Secretary of NATO, charged a couple of weeks ago, Russia has been using these various techniques to influence environmental organizations in Europe to oppose the domestic production of shale gas, specifically for the purpose of keeping Europe dependent upon Russian gas and vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail.

The General Secretary of NATO is not usually prone to making serious charges of this sort without solid intelligence — charges that some could interpret to be a conspiracy theory.

Does this mean that every Western European environmental organization is a Russian agent?  By no means.  But it does mean that there are people within some of these organizations who are Russian agents of influence or are influenced by them.

This was exactly the case with the so-called “peace” movement during the Cold War.  Then, the Soviets organized numerous front organizations, most of whose members were innocent people of goodwill who feared nuclear war and sought nuclear disarmament.  But these front organizations were also invariably filled with people who were directly doing Moscow’s bidding.

The U.S. government used to collect intelligence on these various techniques and would vitiate their effectiveness by declassifying the intelligence about them and publicizing them.  This was a decisive non-military dimension of the national security strategy of this country, which has been completely junked by recent administrations.  If the U.S. is to spare itself from excessive vulnerability to these types of strategic influence, we should reconstitute intelligence collection and analysis and expose these strategic influence operations. We should also reconstitute our counterintelligence capabilities, in order to protect against these “active measures.”

If the Russians won’t forget the lessons of Sun Tzu, is it wise for us to do so?

Soviet Influence Activities: A Report on Active Measures and Propaganda, 1986-87

The Voice of America Shouldn’t Be A Whisper

Putin’s propaganda machine is in high gear, while the U.S. scales back the VOA. Why?
The full text of this article can be found at the website of the Wall Street Journal. 

Vladimir Putin’s action against Ukraine validates the historic relationship between propaganda and aggression. Having seized control of major broadcasters, his henchman are censoring websites and telling Russians in Ukraine that “fascists” in Kiev are planning to round them up and kill them. Russian provocateurs whip up protests against Ukraine’s government. U.S. correspondents report that Ukrainians and Russians are being “brainwashed” by Russian disinformation.

All this is designed to motivate Russian armed forces and secure public support on both sides of the border for Mr. Putin’s efforts to “protect” Russian Ukrainians not only in Crimea but throughout the country. Moscow has a virtual monopoly on the narrative. The question is how far must Mr. Putin go before the West, and particularly the U.S., returns to the airwaves in full force to counter the Kremlin’s propaganda.

Read more

Acting on Ukraine

kyivIn dealing with Putin’s Russia, the U.S. needs a new “reset” — of its own policies and tactics.
The full text of this article can be found on National Review Online.

What should the United States do — in a way that avoids war — in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea? It is a legitimate and vital question. But it is like asking what do you do now that you have been dealt the worst hand of cards possible whereas, in earlier rounds, the hands you were dealt were much more favorable. Whenever I hear this question, I ask myself: Why should our nation’s leaders only now be thinking seriously about Ukraine, when they should have been thinking about it seriously for a very long time?

RUSSIA AND ITS “NEAR ABROAD”

We have long known about the Russians’ strategic intentions in Ukraine and in the other countries they call the “near abroad.” Their national-security doctrine argues that Moscow has the “right” to intervene militarily to protect “Russian-speaking people” wherever they live in neighboring countries. This doctrine, which is completely contrary to international law, was officially ensconced in Russian policy all the way back in the first two years of post-Soviet Russia.

For two decades, we have witnessed Russian meddling in the internal affairs of the former captive nations that are now independent, sovereign states. This includes: pervasive intelligence penetration; the buying up of local companies by corporations controlled by the FSB (Federal Security Service) or the Russian mafia; the use of energy blackmail; the financial and other support of political factions and individual leaders within these various nations; and the continuation of Russia’s divide-and-conquer policy. This policy entails pitting one ethnic or religious group against another — and even inciting pogroms by one ethnic group against another. Examples included pitting Azeris against Armenians, Meskhet Turks against Uzbeks, Abkhazians and South Ossetians against Georgians, Gagauz and Russians against Moldovans, Russians against Estonians, Lithuanians against Poles, and now Russians against Ukrainians and Poles against Ukrainians.

Russia has also sought to cast the shadow of its power over Eastern/Central Europe, mainly through pervasive intelligence and commercial penetration. In addition, there have been increasing questions over the past two years about whether the Polish presidential aircraft that crashed in Smolensk, Russia, in 2010 had been sabotaged.

Read more

Willful blindness about Chinese aggressive moves

Chinese dragon

Photo by Eva Heinsbroek

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal on February 22 that “an outspoken intelligence officer” for the US Pacific Fleet has ruffled feathers in Beijing and Washington by issuing warnings about belligerent Chinese intentions in the South China Sea.

Captain James Fanell, Director of Intelligence and Information Operations for the Pacific Fleet, stated at a maritime security conference that China is training for a short, sharp war with Japan, and that he expected China to start using its new aircraft carrier to enforce its expansionist territorial claims in the South China Sea.  As a result of his comments, Captain Fanell is described as “one of the US military’s most outspoken hawks on China.”

It is also reported that US defense officials have been debating whether to reprimand Captain Fanell for making these public remarks at a time when the Pentagon is trying to “ease tensions between China and Japan and improve military ties with Beijing.”

Having worked in the government, I well understand the importance of exercising great care in what one says about sensitive security matters when occupying an official position.  But it is irresponsible  that anyone would consider reprimanding Captain Fanell for articulating a very well-founded concern.

Is it “hawkish” to voice what is arguably a very reasonable fear of aggressive behavior by a rising power?

It would be not unreasonable to come to such a conclusion if one were utterly unaware of China’s relentless military buildup, its constant theft of American military technology, its expansionist territorial claims throughout the East Asian region, and its pointedly aggressive actions to enforce those claims in certain key potential flash points.

South China Sea mapA pattern of Chinese aggression

  • China is claiming jurisdiction over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea in a dispute with Vietnam.

  • It claims the Spratly Islands (also in the South China Sea) in a dispute with the Philippines and Vietnam.

  • As part of its efforts to enforce its claims on the Spratlys, China built structures on Mischief Reef in the 1990s, which could be characterized much more as military installations than the “fisherman’s shelters” that China claimed they were.

  • China has also deployed military vessels to enforce a claim on Scarborough Shoal – also in the South China Sea but very close to the Philippines.  Just a few days ago, Chinese ships fired a water cannon at fishermen in Scarborough.

  • China has been intensifying its claim of an exclusive Economic Zone, particularly in conflict with those of Japan and South Korea.  Among the assets at stake are natural gas fields in the region.

  • Then, just this last November, China unilaterally established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which grossly overlaps those of China and South Korea.

  • The ADIZ was intimately associated with China’s claims on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea (which China calls the Diaoyu Islands) which have been under Japanese jurisdiction since 1895 (with the exception of a period of US control for 27 years after World War II.  Here, China has been regularly deploying naval vessels to challenge Japanese jurisdiction.  In response, Japan has been manifesting a greater spirit of rearmament and determination to resist Chinese expansionism than has been seen in half a century.  If there is a serious potential flashpoint that could erupt into war, this is it.

Downplaying threats: realism or willful blindness? 

When one beholds the totality of Chinese military preparations and expansionist claims, just in the South and East China Seas (let’s not even talk about such Chinese claims as that of the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh), it is by no means hawkish to warn that the Chinese are likely to continue their expansionist behavior in such a way that may even risk armed conflict with one of its neighbors – particularly Japan.  This is only realism.

The problem here is that so few people are aware of what China is doing.  Virtually none of our national leaders are issuing a peep about this.  And so, for the uninitiated, a statement like Captain Fanell’s would seem to be not only undiplomatic but reckless speculation.

In fact, what is reckless is the willful blindness of just about everybody else involved.

Our national strategic leadership is surely aware of Chinese behavior, and to give it some small credit, it did deploy two unarmed B-52s to pass through the Chinese ADIZ in the immediate wake of its announcement.

But what is at stake here is not so much a few rocks, reefs, or even gas fields that may fall within the claimed sea territories.  This happens to be one place in the world where the likelihood of drawing the United States into an unnecessary war is arguably greater than anywhere else on earth.  Should China’s aggressive advances be met with a proportional response from Japan, the possibilities of war would be enormous, and we must not forget that the United States has obligations under the terms of mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Similar silence about Soviet aggression

There is a tendency in American diplomacy to downplay major international security threats in hopes that diplomacy can give the aggressor a face-saving exit from the extreme and dangerous positions it has taken.

But this is wishful thinking and it never works as hoped.

I am reminded here of how, during the Cold War, the U.S. Department of State kept as a classified secret the record of years of Soviet aggressive behavior against the U.S. Military Liaison Mission in East Germany (MLM).  Our MLM, which had been established as part of the Quadripartite Agreement over Berlin, involved the deployment of military intelligence personnel to monitor the other powers’ military presence in the region.  Over the course of several years, the Soviets had perpetrated numerous attacks against members of our MLM, including attempts to use heavy trucks to run their smaller vehicles off the road at high speed.

In 1985, the Soviets opened fire on an MLM vehicle and hit Major Arthur Nicholson, a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer.  The Soviets made him bleed to death over the course of eight hours, while preventing his American colleagues at gunpoint from intervening to save his life.

While the consequence of this attack ended up being more severe than those of earlier attacks, this was simply part of a consistent pattern of Soviet aggression which the State Department completely concealed from public knowledge.

Why should this have been a classified secret, except to conceal it from the American people so that we would not erupt in anger over the treatment of our officer?  The hope, of course, was that by keeping it secret, we would reduce tensions with Moscow in such a way that might ultimately result in peace.

The Soviets never paid any price for their criminal aggression.

Why the silence about China?

The same spirit is at work with Chinese behavior.  Not only is our national leadership effectively mute about China’s strategic purposes and the development of massive military capabilities to realize those purposes, but large swaths of the American business community avert their eyes from these strategic realities in the interest of not rocking the boat of their business relationships with the regime and its favorites in the Chinese “private” sector.

A not-insignificant portion of the academic community of China specialists also censor themselves, for fear of not getting a visa to return to China to do fieldwork.

Finally, it should not go without mention that major organs of the American media, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post receive huge subventions from the Chinese propaganda apparatus to publish and distribute “China Watch” supplements to their newspapers, and all too often, we see only a sprinkling of the facts about the almost daily developments concerning Chinese expansionism in East Asia.

As the Chinese accompany their regional moves with a massive military buildup, the U.S. administration is supervising a major reduction in our defense posture.  U.S. action in this sphere only sends a signal of provocative weakness to Beijing.

If this pattern of Chinese behavior is to be stopped, if war is to be deterred, China must be sent signals of strength and national will.  The Japanese are starting to do this.  The question is whether we will.

The first step toward such a policy is for the President and senior Congressional leaders to tell the truth about the strategic challenges that the U.S. faces from China, and that China’s neighbors are facing in the East Asian region.  With no articulation of truth, our leaders will never build a national consensus to develop the kind of deterrent force and credibility necessary to deter war.

The fact remains that telling the truth is never as destabilizing as covering one’s eyes and censoring oneself about strategic developments inimical to the strategic interests of the United States.

I happen to be part of a Google news group on China led by Captain Fanell, and I am exposed to an avalanche of emails on a daily basis from a myriad of credible sources about these Chinese developments. Captain Fanell knows the facts.  The rest of the world barely sees any of them.  If anything, Captain Fanell’s warnings can be considered responsible and moderate, in light of Chinese behavior.  Rather than being reprimanded for having the courage to tell the truth when our national leaders won’t, he should be rewarded for taking a leadership role when true leadership at the national strategic level is missing.

The sabotage of electricity means national catastrophe

power cablesImagine what life would be like if our current electrical infrastructure were destroyed.

Last week, thanks to the Wall Street Journal, the American public was informed about an extraordinary attack that took place last April near San Jose.  Several snipers, their identities apparently still unknown, performed a highly disciplined and damaging assault on a major electricity substation, knocking out 17 giant transformers that provide power to Silicon Valley and its environs. 

If these terrorist saboteurs had had more time to continue their attack, they could have caused a blackout lasting anywhere for months to possibly even years in a region hosting one of the most critical sectors of the American economy.

This was an attack of military sabotage that required extensive knowledge and training.  It targeted one of the most strategically important yet extraordinarily vulnerable installations in our nation’s critical infrastructure. 

The vulnerability of the 2,000 such transformers that are the central nodes of America’s electrical grid have been well-known to our homeland security establishment for a long time but, thus far, nothing has been done about it. 

The vulnerability not only involves this kind of kinetic military assault, but also potential cyber attacks, the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by solar activity, and an EMP that can be generated by the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear weapon 50 miles above American soil.

An EMP, from whatever source, could not only destroy the electrical grid in huge swaths of the United States, but also the electrical circuits in every computer and modern vehicle, including the trucks that bring food from the farms to the processing plants and then to the wholesalers’ warehouses and then to the grocery stores and restaurants.  Because American metropolitan areas do not have huge warehouses with stores of food sufficient to sustain the local population for months on end, serious studies of the effects of an electromagnetic pulse posit the possibility of up to 100 million deaths due to starvation and lack of clean water (which requires electricity to be pumped into your home).

Given the catastrophic consequences of widespread and prolonged electrical blackouts, it is amazing to me that our federal and state governments have done nothing to protect the most critical components of our nationwide electrical system, especially given that such protection can be secured at least for the 2,000 transformers at very modest cost. 

Apparently, no federal or state government agency has legal authority to impose such protection on the investor-owned private electric utilities that own and manage the grid.  If indeed it is true that no such legal authority exists, one of the highest public policy priorities in this nation is to pass legislation that would supply such protection.  This is a cost that should not be borne by individual utilities; rather, it should be a homeland security expenditure by the US government that is no different in concept than US naval protection of those sea lines of communication which are the conduit for the importation of foreign oil.

The absence of protection of our electrical infrastructure comes as close to reckless negligence as anything in our public life.