Beyond the Cusp

March 19, 2014

Where is Our Winston Churchill Now That We Need Him?

Sir Winston Churchill over his years in military and public service identified three preeminent threats to the Western World. His most obvious and best known threat was, of course, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi threat to Europe and the world. Churchill was ridiculed and driven from Parliament being accused of being an old and befuddled warmonger for his incessant warnings about the threat posed by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. When the eventual truth was revealed when the Nazis invaded Poland after taking Austria and Czechoslovakia leading to World War II and Britain demanding the crazy old Churchill come and save them. The first warning came from one of Churchill’s earliest of writings when he was stationed in the Sudan where he named Islam which he identified as existing such that “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.” He further observed Islam to be a “militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step.” The last one came during the twilight of his career in a speech given on March 5, 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri which became known for the phrase he coined during that speech, the “Iron Curtain.” The phrase came near the middle of the speech when he stated, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere.” Where just a few weeks back if one were to name the main threat facing the Western World and world peace the selection would have likely included Iran near the top of the list followed by China and North Korea. That includes the remaining two threats identified by Winston Churchill and recent events have brought an addition to the list of threats as Russia has taken on expansionism by annexing the Crimea Peninsula taking it from the Ukraine by force. That brings to the front the menace Churchill had referred to in his “Iron Curtain” speech. The continuing veracity of the dire warnings and protestations in our time ring as echoes from the wise words of a great spokesman and leader who did not rise to fulfill his destiny until late in his life, but without the doddering old fool that was driven from the British Parliament where would out modern world be today? And worse, what would it look like had the British Isles not been under Churchill’s steadfast leadership and raw nerves of steel and resolute never say die attitude which gave a small set of islands the backbone to withstand the furies of hell unleashed by the Nazi war machine.

 

Now that I have likely proven that I find Winston Churchill to be one of the greatest men in all of history and the defining leader of the twentieth century, could somebody please point me to who might possibly fill similar shoes today when we once again have a world under duress from threats coming from all directions. Everyone is concerned with the awakened and ill-tempered Russian bear from its hibernation and stretching its paws towards Europe once again taking the Crimean Peninsula from a weakened and in disarray Ukraine which was defenseless against the invading force, a mere force of 6,000 troops, though there had been more than sufficient reserves should they have proven necessary. But the growls of the Russian bear are far from the only threat and may have some stiff competition from other nations which have also taken advantage of a world with a weak United States which has taken a noninterventionist foreign policy believing that if the United States took a passive and altruistic approach the world would appreciate the kinder, softer, hands-off policies giving nations the breathing room to act without the United States pressing them on their agendas and actions. We saw this more accepting approach with the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program where the United States forced an agreement which allowed Iran great amounts of wiggle-room with the belief that by respecting Iran and trusting their stated intentions that such trust would produce a willing and cooperative Iran and that respectful trust would produce an Iran which would eschew the pursuit of nuclear weapons. When the Chinese government declared an increase in their maritime borders in the South China Seas which included within their claimed waters where two Islands claimed and recognized generally as belonging to Japan, the United States instructed all civilian airlines and ships to respect the Chinese extended boundary and contact the Chinese as requested should they be transgressing the waters or airspace now within an extended China. To Washington’s credit, there was one pass made by United States naval vessels without requesting clearance from the Chinese, but these ships did simply pass through the waters and did not linger or otherwise really challenge the Chinese claims and demands. But the United States has shown far more than a more passive approach in the world and what has become obvious is far more troubling than being more passive and less imposing of United States policy in the world.

 

In so many cases the United States passivity regarding foreign policy would have been welcome compared to their spineless and timid approach to the real threats, actual attacks on personnel and unfolding conflicts we have seen all around the world. There was the constant retreating “red line” concerning Syrian use of chemical weapons until the United States had pretty much red lined itself backwards completely out of the picture. After allowing United States President Obama to squirm and be shown as the paper threat he is sufficiently long enough that the entire world was shown the reality that there is no United States force to be feared, then Russian President Putin saved the day by providing President Obama an exit from his cornered position but by doing so installed Russia as the preeminent power and only real super power which was willing to use their available military capabilities and forces. There was the crisis in Benghazi where the United States Ambassador to Libya along with one of the embassy assistants along with two former Navy Seals who without orders proved to have more presence of applied force than the entire remainder of United States military force as no orders to engage in rescue, and possibly an actual bonafide stand-down order, were ever given to the numerous military assets which were within the general theater and available. About the one foreign policy that has any force from President Obama has been to the detriment of almost every former ally of the United States throughout the Middle East, especially Israel and Egypt.

 

The latest threat the world is struggling to get a grip on is Russian forces under orders from President Putin taking control over the Crimean Peninsula and possibly posing an immediate threat to the rest of the Ukraine. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a moment of unprecedented clarity compared President Putin’s aggressions including their occupation of the two provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia in 2008 and the ongoing invasion of Crimea to the occupations of Czechoslovakia and Austria before they then invaded Poland forcing the start of World War II. There are some, including former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who firmly believe that Russia and Putin are not anywhere near finished and will be satisfied with just Crimea and possibly not even with taking the Ukraine as well. One truth that is obvious is that Russia will not simply settle with annexing Crimea as there is no actual land bridge between Russia and Crimea without crossing over the Ukrainian borders. This will require that the Russians also take control of at least a fair share of eastern Ukraine and if Putin is going to have to take the risks and have to actually militarily acquire any part of the Ukraine, especially as the Ukrainian military is readying their defense of the remainder of their country, then he will simply continue until he had completely defeated the Ukrainian military in order to assure that they would not pose a threat in the future and in the process annex the rest of the Ukraine. It would be difficult to judge which former Russian leader who used military force on the Ukraine and its people Putin most resembles, Catherine the Great or Stalin, except that I believe I remember an interview with President Putin where he spoke of his admiration for the strong leadership that was Stalin. The real question is will President Putin be satisfied with just the Ukraine or will knowing that he has a free hand to take as much as he desires and not expect any resistance from the United States and realizing that he has Europe cowed as he holds control over the gas and oil they require to survive.

 

If President Putin, Vlad the Invader, is really chomping at the bit to reassemble the Warsaw Pact nations under Russian rule and reverse what Vlad the Invader refers to as the greatest calamity of the twentieth century, the fall of the Soviet Union, then we should try and come up with what would be his most likely order of attack. The first three plums Vlad the Invader would likely take after he pockets the Ukraine without arousing any real opposition would be Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These three nations are ripe fruit just sitting there ready for Vlad the Invader to pluck and would likely take well under a week. Beyond these three Vlad the Invader will be pretty much out of easy pickings and his next move would probably prove to be more problematic. It is anybody’s guess whether an invasion of Belarus would prompt a response from the rest of the world. It is quite possible that even if the rest of the world sits shaking in their boots that Poland and likely Romania would take such a move very ominously as a direct threat to their security. Rumania would realize that if Russia under the rule of Vlad the Invader were to absorb Belarus, then Moldova would not pose much of an impediment to Vlad the Invader preventing him from opening a front to take Rumania next. If the world decides to avoid taking real and forceful measures to force Vlad the Invader to return to just simply President Putin before he decides to invade Poland, then the world would begin World War III for the exact same reasons that it responded to both German, and what many forget, Russian encroachment, dividing up Poland between Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin’s Russia starting World War II. The question is, once this domino theory of Russian reconquest of the former Soviet dominated states, will another power also begin to exercise their military might which they have been expanding and building over the last decade to satisfy their expansive desires and ally with Russia just as Imperial Japan allied with Nazi Germany. The state in mind is Iran which has threatened Israel and the United States but has closer and more immediate desires sitting right off its borders; namely the oil fields right next door in northeast Saudi Arabia. Iran and Russia are already fairly close allies and such a united front would make sense as both Iran and Russia have designs on gaining more control over oil. How far will Vlad the Invader go and will it take actual military confrontation to end his expansionism or will it continue and also spur Iran to act on their expansionist designs. This is already boding ill, how much further will these threats go, how will they end, and will it take a new Winston Churchill to make the defiant stand and who would this new Winston Churchill be; those are the big questions and fears.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 30, 2013

Israeli Position Regarding Syrian Chemical Usage Responses

If one listens to the mainstream news coverage to learn where Israel stands regarding the concept of military responses to the Syrian’s use of chemical weapons in their civil war, you likely have ended up confused. Depending on where you tuned or read you may have heard anything from Israel is on the verge of joining in any attack on Syria to Israel has announced they are taking no preparations to attack Syria and have no intentions of interfering in the Syrian internal conflict or you may have heard that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has threatened to launch an imminent attack on Syria. Just to set the record straight before explaining why all of the confusion, the simplest answer to where does Israel stand on the presumed use of chemical weapons by Bashir al-Assad; Israeli leadership has spoken with almost unanimous certainty that Israel is not concerned with what Syria does within their borders and has absolutely no intentions of taking military steps regarding Syria unless provoked by Syrian attacks upon Israel.

 

Even when Prime Minister Netanyahu has been pressed by the world’s media outlets over anything regarding the Arab uprisings and especially the unrest in Egypt and Syria, he has taken great care to make clear that Israel has no opinions officially about any of these events and does not and will not interfere in any internal affairs of her neighbors or any other nation unless they were to strike Israel first. Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to comment on the election of the Muslim Brotherhood backed candidate a little over a year ago in Egypt beyond saying he hoped the two leaders would agree to continue to have peaceful relations and that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt would remain enforced. When President Morsi was removed from office by the Egyptian military leadership and an interim government was placed in Cairo Prime Minister Netanyahu again expressed no opinion beyond his hopes that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty would continue to be respected by this new government and looked forward to any peaceful interactions which might take place. Netanyahu once again went to great lengths to not express any opinion one way or the other on whether he saw the change in the Egyptian Presidency as a positive or negative event as he regarded any such change as an internal Egyptian matter and none of Israel’s business.

 

When the civil war broke out in Syria a little over two years ago Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged the following guidelines on the Israeli position regarding these events; Israel would not take any position on whether or not Bashir al-Assad should be dethroned or continue in office as the President of Syria. The Israeli Prime Minister took no positions on the rebel forces and stated that Israel was not planning on taking any responses to the violence taking place within Syria as long as the violence did not attempt to be extended across the border and threatened Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu did reserve the right of preemptive intervention should any weapons which would serve as game changers in the balance between Israel and Hezballah and would not permit transfers of such weapon systems to Hezballah by the Syrian regime. Such transfers have been addressed and Israel has been credited with having taken appropriate steps along the lines of their promise to prevent any such weapons transfers. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied her responsibility in these preemptions that prevented weapons transfers to Hezballah but responsibility for these attacks were assigned Israel by leaks coming from administration spokespeople for United State President Obama. Some have theorized that these leaks accusing Israel of striking weapons stores and convoys preventing their transfer to Hezballah from Syria into Lebanon or off of the docks in Lebanon in one case pertaining to Russian provided weapons in order to try and embarrass Israel and prevent their continued defensive actions preventing further weapons systems transfers.

 

Israel has released intelligence reports but only after similar reports had been released by Britain, France and/or Turkey on the use of chemical weapons within the Syrian civil war theater though Israel did not go beyond affirming that the chemical weapons had been introduced to the battlefield. At no point has Israel threatened to attack Syria or interfere in any way in the civil war strife that is plaguing Syria even after affirming the use of chemical weapons. Israel has remain restrained limiting their actions solely as a response to any cross border attacks which struck IDF or civilian targets within Israeli borders which has resulted in some relatively isolated exchanges of fire in the Golan Heights between the Israelis and whichever entities has fired upon Israeli targets. As far as the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, Israel has taken the position that any use of chemical weapons is an unjust and immoral act to be condemned every time such has been utilized but Israel while condemning the use of chemical weapons, Israel has also said that it is not nor would be their place to act in response to chemical weapons deployment within Syria as that is the responsibility of the United Nations and other world bodies who are assigned responsibilities for such offences. Yet, somehow there are many people in the mainstream media, political circles, world leaders and people from around the world who have been stating as fact that Israel is calling for an attack of Syria by the United States and her allies and prepared to assist in such an attack. Nothing could be further from the truth; there are not now nor have there ever been any plans, threats, calls, or instigations to push for or partake in any assaults or other military actions or options against Syria and Israel has stated their refusal to join any military actions against Syria. Israel has simply claimed that should Syria and her allies of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Hezballah or any others attack Israel in any manner, then Israel will respond with equal or greater ferocity as is the right of any nation to an unprovoked initiation of violence against their forces, people, and borders.

 

That is the only Israeli mention for her use of force, as her rightful response should she be attacked. On the other hand, not only Syria but Iran and Hezballah have all stated loudly and proudly that should the United States or any Western Powers attack Syria then as a response they will attack with everything in their arsenals and great ferocity Israel. They plainly stated that whether or not Israel was a participant in the attack on Syria or whether or not Israel supported or not the attack on Syria was of no consequence as their response in any event would be an attack with the intent of complete destruction of Israel, Israeli cities, the Israeli people, and especially chosen for special mention was Tel Aviv which was promised to be left burning should one bomb or rocket be targeted at Damascus. Israel has taken the following actions thus far, which some have referred to as military preparedness, placing a second Iron Dome antimissile unit in the northern area of Israel and activated their Arrow II ballistic missile interception systems in case of ballistic missiles beyond the abilities of Iron Dome are launched. Israel has activated defensive units and called up some reserves, far from a full call-up, all as a precaution well within reason. No troops have been moved to the Syrian or any border, no increased patrols, simply activation of defensive units and a precautionary ready response force which would not be sufficient for anything beyond a minimal response intended to provide the necessary time for a general call-up should any attack actually be launched against Israel.

 

Now for the reality check on this great amount of tumult of the last few days over the presumed use of chemical weapons in Syria, what exactly is the world going on about. There may have been a third use, if one is counting the times that either the British, the French, or both have detected and reported the utilization of chemical weapons in the field of battle within Syria. This time the United States has agreed and has claimed that this use crossed President Obama’s “Red Line” over chemical weapons use which the other two times such was reported did not cross. This attack has been reported to have caused between a few hundred deaths to as high as four or five thousand deaths as well as thousands of casualties suffering various severity of chemical weapons contamination. This requires a military response while the murder of well over one-hundred-thousand innocent civilians thus far over two years of conflict and many millions of refugees who have fled across Syrian borders into Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and even Israel, yes, Israel where some dozens of severely injured have crossed or even been sent by medical officers within Syria who were unable to treat the injuries as to their nature or severity have been taken in by Israel and treated before being returned or allowed to go to refugee camps in Jordan. What is wrong with this picture? A couple of thousand die from chemical weapons attack compared with approaching two-hundred-thousand murdered by conventional weapons including bullets, mortars, artillery rounds, tank shells and other conventional means and no response is required. Apparently the world can only care about innocents who have been injured or murdered by particular weapons and no matter the toll of people being killed or maimed by normal means are acceptable while if one single person is poisoned by chemical weapons and their ilk is reason to mobilize the world as that is an atrocity. Was not the silence to mass murders by a most basic of weapons in Rwanda where literally millions were cut down with machetes a teachable moment? Apparently that lesson though brought into the sphere of world public discourse by rightfully appalled human rights activists who were witness to the horrors that the world ignored. Apparently they also were not murdered by the correct kind of weapons thus their lives did not deserve to be protested. Sometimes one must ask where is our indignation, our compassion for our fellow humankind, our sense of morality and our rightful indignation when personal power is placed above human lives. We are still far from any kind of world where the age of enlightened universal human rights replaces the divisions and animosities which are practiced so liberally in the world currently. As was said by Joseph Stalin (I don’t believe I am quoting Stalin), “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 28, 2013

Empty Threats

President Obama has managed to take the full might and power of the United States of America and make it as impotent as a child who threatens to hold their breath until they turn blue. Once again this week President Obama stepped up and reiterated his willingness to act should Bashir Assad or either rebel group utilize any of Syria’s extensive stores of chemical weapons. His actions were necessitated by reports of possible use of said chemical weapons as reported by the intelligence agencies of France and Britain. These reports coincided with a more strongly worded statement from the head of Israeli military intelligence that President Bashir Assad had indeed used his chemical weapons. The Israeli communicated that they had proof that Syrian troops had released Sarin nerve agent on two occasions and not just military grade tear gas whose use had been reported earlier. This was likely stressed as President Obama had discounted the use of the military grade tear gas as not being sufficient to cross President Obama’s red line on chemical weapon use. The Israeli report was initially confirmed by United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who later retreated from his position claiming to have been surprised by the Israeli claim as they had not informed him while he had been visiting Israel earlier on the week. So, where does that leave things?

 

The thing about the Israeli claim is it was backed up by the Syrian rebel forces which are currently receiving nonlethal supplies from Western powers when they admitted to knowledge that Israeli agents were working within Syria and would quite likely have first-hand evidence of any chemical weapons use. For the rebels to actually admit to the presence of Israelis inside Syria is a rather bold statement that would not be issued lightly. Despite the mounting evidence that Bashir Assad has resorted to using his chemical weapons, President Obama has chosen inaction and a simple restatement of his initial threat that any use of chemical weapons by either side would result in immediate action by the United States. When the initial reports of potential use of chemical weapons was issued by Britain and France President Obama requested clarification as to which chemicals were known to have been released. When it was then reported that there were suspicions of possible caustic chemicals as well as the aforementioned tear gas, President Obama dismissed the rumored use of caustic agents dismissing them as equally possible industrial chemicals such as chlorine being accidentally released as a result of the use of explosive munitions. When President Obama backed off these initial reports it might have been understandable that the American threshold to qualify as chemical weapons use was higher than that of their European allies and Israel. But with the reports of Sarin gas being released on the battlefields of Syria one might expect a reaction from the United States at least somewhat stronger than words, especially a stale repetition of the President’s original warnings. Does President Obama really believe that setting a red line and then when it is violated, simply resetting the red line will gain respect from the likes of Bashir Assad, a treacherous dictator who has already murdered tens of thousands of his own countrymen and sent millions into exile will recoil in fear from mere words that President Obama has given indication he never intended to back with actual actions?

 

And Bashir Assad is far from the only world leader watching to see if President Obama is a credible leader who backs his words with actions. There is always North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, another one who likes to hear himself threaten. The one thing absolutely necessary to keep the likes of Kim Jong-Un impotent is to mean action when one threatens to use it. If Kim Jong-Un expects for a minute that any threat of action by the United States is not going to be actually executed, then he is very likely to act on his threats in the belief that there would be no real consequences. And Kim Jong-Un is not the most dangerous of threats on the international stage. There is Iran and the Ayatollahs with their nuclear project which thus far words have proven to be less than useless, yet here too President Obama appears to be satisfied to talk until a nuclear Iran is a verified fact and a half a dozen cities around the world lie as smoldering ruins. With new leadership in Mainland China there is a need for the words of the President of the United States to have great weight, not great doubts. It is for exactly such reasons that President Obama must not allow his word to become a matter for questions rather than being taken at face value and his every word heeded. It is for reasons of credibility that President Obama may find necessity requiring him to act against the Syrian chemical weapons threat. It is not necessary for United States military forces to put boots on the ground as all that is required to fulfill President Obama’s warnings against the use of chemical weapons would be to destroy the chemical weapon storage facilities. My bet would be that should President Obama decide to commit a couple of B-2 stealth bombers, as he did in a show of strength to Kim Jong-Un, to actually bomb the Syrian chemical weapon stores, Israel would be more than agreeable to provide accurate coordinates and might even offer to turn off the Syrian radar grid, though such would not be really necessary with stealth bombers. The old children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me,” does not apply in the realm of world politics where words can do one great harm, even break more than bones.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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