Arrias on Politics: Not Self But Country

It’s said that real love only comes with sacrifice, that real love requires placing some cause or some one first, and truly giving of yourself for that person or cause.

Several stories have “percolated out” following the two recent US Navy collisions at sea which include a number of sailors who gave their lives for their ship and shipmates…

But we’ve also heard that several senior Navy officers were aware of training shortcomings, particularly on ships stationed in Japan, and did little to correct the problems. If the stories are correct, they were apparently willing to “sign off” on these shortcomings, allowing ships to engage in activities for which officers and crew were arguably not prepared. And so, two collisions and 17 deaths.

Is this the same military that conducts incredible midnight raids to rescue hostages – or kill a terrorist; operates submarines under the icecap; flies fighter jets against any threat; or move tens of thousands of tons of material around the world at a moment’s notice?

The cognitive disconnect between the image of extreme professionalism of our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that has become part of the tapestry of the nation, and this suggestion that admirals were apparently unconcerned with the declines in readiness, insufficient training, and personnel; of the operators of huge, complex systems with out-of-date qualifications – represents a chasm seemingly too wide to bridge.

How can the same bureaucracy that produces the best special operations personnel, the best fighter pilots, the best submariners – in the world, be run by admirals (and generals) who seem to fall so far short, and who’ve adopted such a laissez-faire attitude to our national security?

The short answer is that admirals and generals are human. They’re neither ten feet tall supermen and intellectual titans, nor are they conniving, self-serving seekers of ever-greater fame. Instead, they’re all remarkably human, with all the strengths and weaknesses that go along with being so. And they’ve always been so; the difference is not in them; perhaps the difference is in those they serve.

Not only has there been a steady decline in the percentage of Congress and other senior officials who’ve served – though with a slight up-tick since 2001; but there’s been a steady decline in the percentage of the citizenry who’ve served.

With service comes a host of things, among them a greater appreciation of the frailties and limitations of senior officers, and a greater appreciation of the difficulties of running a large military organization.

That appreciation is essential to Congress – and the citizenry – understanding that every sergeant, even the ones covered in medals, isn’t Sgt. Rock, every ship captain isn’t John Paul Jones, every general isn’t George Patton. More importantly, Congress – and the citizenry – needs to be able to recognize the difference between Sgt. Bilko and Sgt. Rock.

There are all sorts of steps that might be taken to address the immediate problem: fewer admirals and generals, with clear responsibility for readiness and training; slower promotions to allow greater development of professionalism; longer tours to allow focus on war-fighting skills, etc.

But we need citizens who understand that. There are many reasons why a draft should be looked at warily, but the understanding of both the capabilities – and limits – of our military (and our government) that a draft would bring is one very large reason to consider its merits.

But there’s an additional reason; one that arguably outweighs mere understanding.

Many in our country seem to like America, but they’ve never sacrificed for her and as such can only with great difficulty ever love truly her. This is particularly true among certain segments of our society, those that fashion themselves to be our leaders: whether in politics, fashion, culture, high finance or technology. Their love for America often appears to be conditional; they’ll love America when she is great, when America makes them proud, when America rewards them.

GK Chesterton once observed that Rome wasn’t loved because she was great, she was great because she was loved.

If we wish to fix our many problems – in the economy, the military, or the government as a whole – if we wish to make our country great, we must first love her; and to love her we must be willing to sacrifice for her, and to do that we need to understand, truly understand, those sacrifices.

We must first love her; only then can she be great.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: A Most Dangerous Man

An East Asian country: threatening its neighbors while making snide and outrageous comments about the US and our allies, building an ever larger nuclear force, ruled by a man who sees no limits to his powers and who has, in the last several months, replaced all his senior military leadership to insure loyalty to him.

Not North Korea or Kim Jong Un; the country is China, and the leader is President Xi.

Over past decade or so the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy and Air Force have expanded at a prodigious rate; the navy on a path to 500 ships in the next decade or so; the air force introducing several new fighters and a new bomber in the last 5 years; the Army introducing new tactical ballistic missiles; and the strategic forces introducing a new ICBM just last year.

China is attempting to extend de facto control over the entire South China Sea and control transit of that sea; they’re now using the same language to justify action in the South China Sea towards the southern islands of Japan.

In June, China moved several army units into border territory between India, Bhutan and China, attempting to establish de facto control over a small piece of land called the Doklam plateau, whose ownership is disputed. The plateau itself is meaningless, its position is not. At the southern end of Tibet’s Chumbi Valley, Doklam would give China operational and tactical overwatch of the Siliguri corridor, the strip of land that runs between Bhutan and Bangladesh, connecting the bulk of India with eastern India. Also known as “the Chicken’s Neck,” the corridor at it’s narrowest is less than 20 miles across.

There’s no other real reason for China to be interested in the plateau; its sole purpose is to be able to threaten India. Thankfully, India called China’s bluff and as of last week China seems to have withdrawn their personnel. Beijing backed off; but they’ll be back.

At the center of all this is President Xi, who’s also preparing for the 19th National Party Congress this fall. During the Congress it’s believed Xi will take steps to establish himself as president for life…. However he colors it, his intent is to retain and expand his power. While paying lip-service to democracy, Xi is after power.

Meanwhile, North Korea detonated another nuclear weapon. Early estimates placed it in the 100 kiloton range (5 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb; a 100 kt weapon would create complete destruction in a circle about 3-1/2 miles across). China did manage to condemn the test and call for the North to adhere to UN resolutions.

The fact is, China routinely issues proforma statements of concern, yet in remarkable demonstrations of moral equivalency where there is none, also has repeatedly called for the US and North Korea to take steps to reduce tensions, in particular calling for the North to end missile tests (testing offensive weapons) while insisting the US halt the deployment to South Korea of THAAD (a defensive system). The Chinese foreign ministry also commented that it would be unwise for China to cut off North Korea’s oil supply or even close the border as it might cause a confrontation between China and North Korea.

In other words, more of same.

Yet, North Korea is following a path that, at the minimum, Beijing passively endorses. Given the breadth and depth – and speed – of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs, the Chinese had to have been complicit. We’ll never know the full extent of China’s support, but there can be little doubt that China has been involved, and that a nuclear-armed North Korea is part of Beijing’s plans for flexing their power and containing the West.

Beijing is playing aggressive geopolitics. North Korea and North Korean nuclear weapons are part of that game. We must deal with North Korea. But to do so, we must realize that they’re a proxy for China in a much bigger “game.”

There’s much to do, and a number of specific programs (missile defense on the one hand, hardening critical infrastructure, to name two) need to receive additional funding. But we must begin by recognizing that we’re in a very real confrontation with a determined China.

President Xi is pushing and pushing hard. A de facto cold war has already begun between China and the West. It’s time for us to recognize that fact and act accordingly.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Reconstruction

Here’s a quiz: What song did President Lincoln have the band play shortly after the surrender of Lee’s Forces at Appomattox?

In 1869 President Grant, filling various positions of his administration, nominated James Longstreet as Surveyor of Customs for the port of New Orleans. General James Longstreet, West Point class of 1842 (Grant was class of ‘43) served with Grant in Missouri and in Mexico. Longstreet went on to command various units in the Confederate army, ending the war commanding the 1st and 3rd Corps of Lee’s army. But Longstreet was a firm believer in Reconstruction; the New York Times hailed the nomination as an important “gesture of reconciliation.”

Reconstruction. Reconciliation. Those are interesting ideas.

Grant was a strong believer in both. He wrote: “[B]ut for the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, I believe the great majority of Northern people, and the soldiers unanimously, would have been in favor of a speedy reconstruction on terms that would be the least humiliating to the people who had rebelled against their government.”

Grant, like Lincoln, believed that through a strong reconstruction effort, and the end to persecution of southerners for any part they played in the rebellion, we could rebuild the nation, and place the sins of the past behind us. Lincoln was, of course, assassinated by fanatics who would not let go. Andrew Johnson became president and he was uninterested in the sweeping Reconstruction that had been germinating at the end of the war – and which arguably would’ve required Lincoln’s leadership and moral authority to implement. For four years Johnson fought Congress’s efforts to implement meaningful political change in the South, while Democrats quickly regained control. President Grant tried to enforce Reconstruction and for several years was successful, but eventually, Democrats in Congress put together a coalition that hamstrung Reconstruction and forced Grant’s hand. Reconstruction ground to a halt by the end of Grant’s second term.

It’s worth remembering, as we continue to work ourselves into a frenzy, that Grant (and Lincoln’s) concerns about Reconstruction – not only of the south but of the nation as a whole, embraced the concept of reconciliation, reconciliation that included not only the law, but also embraced civility. The southerners were, as Lincoln and Grant both said on more than one occasion, once again our fellow citizens.

Herman Wouk ends his epic “War and Remembrance” with the comment that “the end of war lies in remembrance.” He is, in part, correct. We must remember how wars start, what leads us into wars, their horrible cost, and try to not repeat past mistakes.

But, he’s partly wrong. A large part of seemingly every war is anger over past grievances, wrongs committed by men we’ve never met, against relatives who were long dead before we first drew breath.

In trouble spots around the world we see time and again how people won’t let go of ancient hurts. They hold grudges about sins they never experienced, committed by people they never met.

Consider this quite true story related by an associate: an old man from the Balkans lamented that “they [the Serbs] killed my gramps.” The word he used for gramps was generic, meaning any male ancestor past his father. Several drinks later, as his anger expanded to fury, he finally revealed that “gramps” had died in the 1830s. Yet he couldn’t let go; his anger at the Serbs was visceral and profound. He “remembered” that wrong – committed against a man who’d been dead more and a century when he was born – every day. He nurtured the hate, keeping it well “fertilized” and well “watered.”

That particular remembrance is something we need to avoid.

The only way to end such anger is to, quite simply, forget it. Leave the past to the past. As the Good Book tells us, let the dead bury the dead.

Yet today there seems to be many in our society obsessed with grievance. No crime, no matter how old, can go unpunished; no sin must ever be forgiven. That way not only madness lies, but ruin. Lincoln once said that this nation would never be destroyed from the outside. But it could be torn apart from within. We need to take that wisdom to heart.

As for Lincoln: Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox on 09 April 1865. On the 10th a crowd formed in front of the White House, a band among them. Lincoln asked the band to play Dixie, as he “always liked the tune.”

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Equal Justice

If there’s one idea that encapsulates the Founding Fathers goals, it’s this: Equal Justice. A responsive government that worked – literally and figuratively – for the citizens, was a means to that real end: a political system wherein everyone – everyone – was treated the same.

Last week a Congresswoman opined that Vice President Pence would be impeached, just as soon as they finished impeaching President Trump, because ‘Pence would be no good.’

As no charges have been brought against President Trump, never mind any sort of impeachment vote in Congress, never mind any hint of Mr. Pence having done anything wrong, one might well ask what this really means.

Such comments – and they’re legion, and other behavior (the incessant leaks, the continual shopping for judges to issue injunctions even after Supreme Court rulings, the “sniping” commentary by elected officials, etc.), should concern everyone, whether you love Trump or hate him, because this isn’t how our government works. But, that’s precisely the issue: those saying and doing these things, the people insisting that there must be new forms of justice – to include some members of Congress – they don’t care. They use the words of government, but what they seek is simple power.

There’s more to this than simply: “one side won the election, the other lost.” After all, we’ve had 57 presidential elections and chosen 45 different presidents. To be sure, there’ve been hotly contested elections: 1800, 1812, 1828, 1861, etc. But, there’s something decidedly different since last November, and we need to look at what lies behind it all.

Not to get too esoteric but, there’s an important philosophic point to make: if you hold certain beliefs, you can’t meaningfully hold certain other beliefs. You can’t be for both government healthcare and free markets, for example. Further, to hold certain beliefs, we need to understand them. That means we need common values and a common understanding of what words mean.

Important words – justice, fairness, equality – either have an accepted, fixed meaning – or they don’t. You can’t believe in equal justice and also believe the definition of justice is ever changing. If justice is a fixed mark, we can hold our leadership accountable to that mark. But if justice is flexible, defined by the leadership, then we’ll never be able to hold accountable our elected or appointed leaders.

Yet that’s precisely the real struggle, a struggle over the nature of government and the understanding of virtually all values. And the philosophy that’s driving this intellectual struggle, that’s driving the progressive movement, is postmodernism.

Michel Foucault, the late French philosopher and a leading proponent of postmodernism, stated: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against— Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.” This idea, the meaningless of reason, truth and knowledge, is central to the philosophy of postmodernism.

Postmodernism doesn’t speak about an “independent reality,” nor about “absolute truths;” for postmodernists there is no objective knowledge. Everything is subjective, and “histories” are collective; individuals are only identified inside social groups (sex, race, ethnicity, wealth, religion, etc.), and histories emphasize conflict between groups.

Therefore the only things that matter are these social groups (sex, race, etc.), and the conflicts between the groups. But that really means power. And because there’s no objective truth, no absolute right and wrong, there can be no meaningful attempt to be on the side of truth or right. Instead, what really matters is who wins.

There is, of course, the other side; Reverend King observed that: “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” But in the postmodernist world there can be no right, no good, no morals, for there is no agreed, objective truth, no reason, no knowledge.

Western Civilization, evolving for over 2,000 years, is predicated on absolute truths, on clearly defined justice; where, despite our failings, the citizens work towards a single ideal of justice. Postmodernism asserts that justice of even 50 years ago is different than today, there are no fixed truths, and can be no fixed definition of justice. And that would mean the power of government could be wielded without meaningful restraint.

Washington, Lincoln, King et al envisioned a society based on justice, equal justice. But equal justice requires objective truth. Postmodernists insist there is no such thing. We need to choose which side we’re on.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Herman Kahn, Captain Kirk, and Kim Jong Un

Editor’s Note: We are publishing this morning from St. Louis, where the annual Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems (DoDIIS) conference is being held at the convention center. Travel and flight arrangements were great, (“Saint Louis in August!”) though our arrival seemed to catch the hosting hotel- I won’t defame it by name- completely by surprise. Traveling downtown in the cab, we passed the exit for Ferguson, flashpoint for some previous violence and making me think of the vehicular attack on Antifa counter-protestors to a alt-right demonstration about the preservation of a century old statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA, 41 miles south of Refuge Farm. With the specter of war looming elsewhere, Arrias presciently talks about an issue that has both international and domestic implications.

– Vic

Herman Kahn, Captain Kirk, and Kim Jong Un

Herman Kahn, the 20th Century Strategist, in his work “On Escalation” introduced the concept of an “escalation ladder,” which began with various political acts and escalated – if unchecked – to nuclear attacks on each other’s cities. 52 years later the “ladder” remains valuable in understanding how a crisis might develop. But it contains a fascinating warning; in his own discussion of the defects in his metaphor, Kahn referenced the game of “Chicken,” noting: “This is a game in which it is usually better to be opposed by a good player than a poor one!”

His point is obvious: the poor player won’t know when to veer to the side.

Which brings us to Captain Kirk. In the episode “A Taste of Armageddon,” Kirk encountered two planets engaged in a centuries-long war in which, in order to prevent the devastation and horror that accompanies war, attacks were computer simulated, and casualties identified, and then those named were directed to report for – real – execution by their own government.

This kept the war from “destroying” their society.

It also, as Kirk noted, kept them from a meaningful understanding of the horrors of war, or a reason to end it. As Kahn might say, the leaders of these two planets were poor players of the game.

Consider this: last week was the 72nd anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (06 and 09 August 1945).

In two invasions immediately prior to the bombings – Iwo Jima and Okinawa – the Japanese army had simply refused to surrender. On Iwo Jima 99% of the Japanese forces were killed. On Okinawa the numbers were slightly better: between 10-14% surrendered. Additionally, on Okinawa between 25 – 35% of the civilians died. Compared to other wars and other battles, these numbers are incomprehensible.

This led US Army planners to forecast monstrous losses in any invasion of Japan — for the US it would mean many more casualties than we’d already suffered in 4 years of war; for the Japanese it would mean a minimum of several million more dead, and an utterly destroyed society.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus became the best of a number of very harsh options. For the Emperor, they represented one final opportunity to “veer” out of the way.

War is hell, as Gen. Sherman observed. But sometimes it’s the only option. And once started, what was once unthinkable may, in fact, become the best path ahead.

The horror of war should keep us from choosing that path until it’s truly the only option. The North Koreans – and the Chinese – need to remember that as we try to deal with this current crisis; and prevent a worse future crisis.

In short, neither try to make war antiseptic, nor couch your diplomacy in terms that downplay what might happen.

So, if it’s acceptable that our “near future” (perhaps 10 years) includes a North Korea with 100 or more nuclear weapons, and perhaps 20 or 30 ICBMs and 50 intermediate ranged missiles that can target Japan and Guam, than we must simply talk our way past this current situation; kick the can down the road.

But if the thought that North Korea will soon possess a capable nuclear arsenal is terrifying and unacceptable, than we need to apply pressure now to prevent that future. That entails risk. But that risk now may well be one we need to accept in order to prevent a far worse future.

This leads us to Kim Jong Un. We mustn’t confuse ourselves and believe he’s stupid; he isn’t. But he may well be misinformed, and he almost certainly doesn’t understand what he’s facing in the US nuclear arsenal. He is, to return to Kahn’s warning, probably a poor player of this game of nuclear chicken.

So, what might we do?

From the military perspective it would seem we’re prepared.

Diplomatically it appears our key allies are “in synch” with our efforts.

China continues to play it’s own game – and will. We should tell them that, as the key enabler of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, we hold them in large part responsible for this mess and any possible outcome.

But finally, we need someone the North trusts to go to Pyongyang and explain to them what really happens if they fire one nuclear weapon at US territory.

Kim needs to understand just how this particular game of chicken can end.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Equal Justice

If there’s one idea that encapsulates the goals of the Founding Fathers, it’s this: Equal Justice. A responsive government that worked – literally and figuratively – for the citizens, was a means to that real end: a political system wherein everyone – everyone – was treated the same.

Last week a Congresswoman opined that Vice President Pence would be impeached, just as soon as they finished impeaching President Trump, because ‘Pence would be no good.’

As no charges have been brought against President Trump, never mind any sort of impeachment vote in Congress, never mind any hint of Mr. Pence having done anything wrong, one might well ask what this really means.

Such comments – and they’re legion, and other behavior (the incessant leaks, the continual shopping for judges to issue injunctions even after Supreme Court rulings, the “sniping” commentary by elected officials, etc.), should concern everyone, whether you love Trump or hate him, because this isn’t how our government works. But, that’s precisely the issue: those saying and doing these things, the people insisting that there must be new forms of justice – to include some members of Congress – they don’t care. They use the words of government, but what they seek is simple power.

There’s more to this than simply: “one side won the election, the other lost.” After all, we’ve had 57 presidential elections and chosen 45 different presidents. To be sure, there’ve been hotly contested elections: 1800, 1812, 1828, 1861, etc. But, there’s something decidedly different since last November, and we need to look at what lies behind it all.

Not to get too esoteric but, there’s an important philosophic point to make: if you hold certain beliefs, you can’t meaningfully hold certain other beliefs. You can’t be for both government healthcare and free markets, for example. Further, to hold certain beliefs, we need to understand them. That means we need common values and a common understanding of what words mean.

Important words – justice, fairness, equality – either have an accepted, fixed meaning – or they don’t. You can’t believe in equal justice and also believe the definition of justice is ever changing. If justice is a fixed mark, we can hold our leadership accountable to that mark. But if justice is flexible, defined by the leadership, then we’ll never be able to hold accountable our elected or appointed leaders.

Yet that’s precisely the real struggle, a struggle over the nature of government and the understanding of virtually all values. And the philosophy that’s driving this intellectual struggle, that’s driving the progressive movement, is postmodernism.

Michel Foucault, the late French philosopher and a leading proponent of postmodernism, stated: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against— Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.” This idea, the meaningless of reason, truth and knowledge, is central to the philosophy of postmodernism.

Postmodernism doesn’t speak about an “independent reality,” nor about “absolute truths;” for postmodernists there is no objective knowledge. Everything is subjective, and “histories” are collective; individuals are only identified inside social groups (sex, race, ethnicity, wealth, religion, etc.), and histories emphasize conflict between groups.

Therefore the only things that matter are these social groups (sex, race, etc.), and the conflicts between the groups. But that really means power. And because there’s no objective truth, no absolute right and wrong, there can be no meaningful attempt to be on the side of truth or right. Instead, what really matters is who wins.

There is, of course, the other side; Reverend King observed that: “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” But in the postmodernist world there can be no right, no good, no morals, for there is no agreed, objective truth, no reason, no knowledge.

Western Civilization, evolving for over 2,000 years, is predicated on absolute truths, on clearly defined justice; where, despite our failings, the citizens work towards a single ideal of justice. Postmodernism asserts that justice of even 50 years ago is different than today, there are no fixed truths, and can be no fixed definition of justice. And that would mean the power of government could be wielded without meaningful restraint.

Washington, Lincoln, King et al envisioned a society based on justice, equal justice. But equal justice requires objective truth. Postmodernists insist there is no such thing. We need to choose which side we’re on.

Copyright Arrias 2017
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Tell No One


Dean Acheson (President Truman’s Secretary of State) once advised President Kennedy that he – Kennedy – needed to carefully consider when he would use nuclear weapons, and once having established his threshold, he should tell absolutely no one. (Hopefully, every President since then has engaged in that most serious of efforts).

There are two key pieces to this consideration: identification of your threshold for use of nuclear weapons; and telling absolutely no one. The second piece is important because once two people know, that threshold will find its way “out.” And once the threshold was known, others would be tempted to work right up to the edge. And that would seriously threaten our security.

This is important because North Korea launched another missile. There’s so much going on, here and around the world that will affect all of us for decades. But this particular capability needs to be addressed now.

As you may recall, on July 4th North Korea launched a missile that was assessed to have the range to reach Alaska. Some were quick to point out that the missile couldn’t reach the “lower 48,” as if somehow Alaska (or Guam) counted just a little bit less.

In any case, to prove the point, on the 28th North Korea fired another missile in a high loft trajectory that appears – depending on the warhead weight (soon a nuclear warhead) – to have a range of approximately 6000 miles. 6,000 miles means Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and parts of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

It’s been noted, by me and others, that China isn’t going to help solve this problem. After all, they helped create it. Russia is also more than willing to let us struggle with this problem, and cause us to expend assets that might be best used elsewhere.

They are well aware that we don’t want a war and a consider it a horrible idea.

But we need to make it clear to all that, horrible or not, war isn’t inconceivable. We need to make it clear to all, especially to Pyongyang and Beijing, that we have every intention of defending ourselves and our allies: the Republic of Korea and Japan.

How exactly we do that is an excellent question. We’ve tried all the standard concepts: move additional military forces to the region; place sanctions against the country and individuals; work to strengthen our allies; and further sanctions in the UN. In each case North Korea continues their weapon development programs. And China continues to find ways around all our efforts, supporting the North, both economically and technologically. We’ve even engaged in talks and offered help to the North, going so far in 1995 to begin building two nuclear reactors to ensure the North had adequate electric power.

And at each stage the North has continued to work on its various weapons programs.

This is no intelligence failure; we’ve been aware of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development programs for more than two decades. Like the frog in cool water sitting on the stove, we’ve watched and yet haven’t changed our strategies or policies even as those policies and strategies have failed to stop North Korea’s efforts.

Several weeks ago Charles Krauthammer noted that one of the pillars of US foreign policy since World War II ended, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, has failed. North Korea has nuclear weapons, Iran may also have them within several years (perhaps purchased from North Korea), and we need to now look at new strategies and policies to keep the peace.

One suggestion is that we consider moving nuclear weapons back to the Western Pacific, perhaps moving them into South Korea. Perhaps we might even begin talks with South Korea and Japan suggesting they consider building their own nuclear arsenals.

It’s worth noting that we could begin such talks today, even if President Trump has no intention of actually proceeding down that path. No one needs to know; just as with Acheson’s advice to Kennedy, Trump need tell no one.

We’re entering a much more dangerous world. Policies of the past have failed; we need new policies, new approaches. Thoughts that were inconceivable just a few years ago must now be considered. But we must do so now.

We’ve run out of time.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Moon Man

Editor’s Note: I was on the road again this weekend, and more road confronting me later this week to attend a wedding that affirms my faith in the strength of love, and in a larger sense, the goodness of women and men.

So, expect me to be a little erratic on the information stream the next few weeks. Looming is the car show in Indiana named for my Dad, a first meeting with my grand-daughter, a very strange conference in St. Louis that you will hear more about than you want to know, and a deferred trip to Pearl Harbor as the Fall comes on.

We will see how much of this I can actually accomplish, since a simple drive our through Thoroughfare Gap to The Plains of Virginia and thence to the farm in Culpeper was about the limit I could handle this weekend.

Not to mention actually doing the laundry, but that is another story entirely. Instead, let’s look back to an anniversary with Arrias that was largely uncelebrated, and should rightly be a centerpiece of our society, and a mark of what we can coomplish when we put our minds to it.

We could do anything back then- land wars in Asia excepted- and now we can’t even maintain our infrastructure and rely on Elon Musk to do it for us.

– Vic

Moon Man

Some years ago I found myself sitting at an airport gate, waiting for a connecting flight. As there were several gates around the sitting area, there was a bit of churn.

As I sat, a man walked in, and was almost immediately surrounded by a small crowd, all talking excitedly. I recognized him as the head-coach of that year’s Super Bowl winner. I then noticed another man who’d just walked in and sat down, across the waiting area from me. He was perhaps 60, wore reading glasses, and carried a valise overflowing with papers and notebooks. He looked around the room, noted the commotion around the head coach, and then his face lit up in what can only be called a boyish grin. That’s when I recognized him, and I almost went over and introduced myself. But, it occurred to me that he quite enjoyed the irony of his anonymity and so I left him alone.

Shortly thereafter he rose and boarded his airplane.

That man was Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on another heavenly body. Navy fighter pilot (78 combat missions over North Korea), test pilot, engineer, 7 flights in the X-15. He walked on the moon.

Last week was the 48th anniversary of that first moonwalk. I asked several people if they knew what day it was; they didn’t. I looked in vain for stories on the Internet or elsewhere.

A few years ago NASA’s director said it would take 10 years to return to the moon; the first time we went we needed only 8 years. The truth is our manned space-flight program is a mess. Currently, the US can’t even put a man into space; US astronauts go to the International Space Station riding on Russian rockets.

This is more than simply a failing of our space program; it’s a failing of our education system. We talk about STEM programs, but recent college graduates know little hard science, and even less history of the nation and the figures who produced the hard science that put 12 men on the moon. Or developed the CT Scan and the MRI, or the laser, or microcircuits. Unfortunately, you can’t develop the next generation of anything if you don’t understand where the current generation came from.

During the 1980s there was a bumper-sticker that read roughly: “Wouldn’t it be great if schools had all the money they needed and we held bake sales to buy a bomber?” In 2014, when total US national security spending was less than $600 billion, the US spent $634 billion just on public elementary and secondary schools. Costs for high schools and colleges were hundreds of billions more. The “hope” of the bumper sticker seems to have come to pass; total US spending on education now exceeds $1 trillion, and substantially exceeds all national security spending.

For four decades we’ve focused on input: how much money we spent on students, how many personnel worked at each school managing this, that or the other program, etc., but we’ve lost sight of the outcome: well-educated citizens.

We live in the information age. Do high school graduates know the fundamentals, just the fundamentals, of how an Intel processor works? How is data stored in a hard drive? What does a router do? What does a server do?

We all want responsive government; do our recent graduates understand the Constitution and how representative government works?

What about economics? Do our graduates understand the benefits and risks of deficit spending? The consequences of a sustained 2% inflation rate? The pros and cons of graduated tax rates?

The US faces a host of problems, among them: a resurgent China, Islamic terrorists, a nuclear-armed North Korea. At home we have a huge and growing federal debt; federal, state and municipal retirement programs and medical accounts that will all be in the red within 20 years; an infrastructure that needs constant attention.

Our many problems have solutions, solutions that might even help us conquer the stars. But none of our problems can be addressed without an educated, informed citizenry. And for decades our education system has failed both our students and our nation.

We’ve tried throwing money at our problems; that didn’t work. It’s time to try something else; let’s try getting back to basics.

Armstrong said of himself: “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer.” Let’s make some more Neil Armstrongs.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Healthcare, the Nobel Peace Prize and National Security

Healthcare, the Nobel Peace Prize and National Security

My primary care doctor just told me he’s leaving his current practice, as did my last doctor a bit over a year ago. The reason both walked away is the administrative burden of our current healthcare system.

Yet, I read an article the other day that claimed that if the nation had a single-payer system we would save $500 billion per year on… administrative costs. Well, the doctors I know (and the doctors they know) are quitting because of the intrusive, administratively burdensome mess generated by the “Affordable Care Act.” Further, my own (30 year) experience working for the Department of Defense suggests the one thing you could guarantee was that, short of some draconian actions, rising administrative costs and complexities were the only certain things under the sun. In short, anyone who thinks we’re going to save administrative costs by expanding government’s role in healthcare (or anything else), has no experience with government at any level, ever.

The point is important because that $500 billion per year is the key projected savings that would supposedly make a single-payer system cost effective. It’s also worth noting the single-payer system would provide healthcare to an additional 40 million people, but there’s no substantive discussion about producing more graduates of nursing schools, or medical schools, or of expanding current residency programs. So, consumption will increase (more people receive healthcare) but the number of people providing healthcare will remain basically unchanged. And costs will go down? Sure.

So, it’s important that we – the nation – address the current problem now, before it becomes a crisis. But the concern extends far beyond healthcare.

In China, (where they have nationalized health care (and de facto government control of everything else)), they “managed” to let a Nobel Laureate die. Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken critic of the Xi regime, died last week of cancer, having been moved from prison to a hospital only last month, and then apparently having been selectively denied proper care.

The point is that China, despite its repeated claims to being a great, peaceful and modern country, remains an oligarchy that brooks no opposition, and is intent on expanding its hegemony, first in the immediate seas around East Asia, then to all the Western Pacific, and eventually, well…

Put it this way, China just established a military base in East Africa and their naval units conducted live-fire training in the Mediterranean Sea.

China is also threatening India over disputed borders, and while busily insisting on its good intentions is, in fact, assisting North Korea’s evil leader. Nor has China forgotten the Middle East, announcing just this past week its intention to extend overland trade routes through Pakistan and Iran and on through Syria to the Mediterranean.

The long and short of it is that the world, after nearly three decades with few great powers confrontations, is now facing two aggressive great powers – Russia and especially China, and several rising powers (Iran and North Korea) that have ill intentions to the US, the West and our allies.

Copyright2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: North Korea is a real problem; maybe China can help?

On July 4th Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s autocrat, watched his engineers launch a missile into the Sea of Japan. Shot in a ‘high loft trajectory,” the rocket flew about 600 down range but rose more than 1700 miles. This trajectory, if flattened out (like a baseball player hitting a “pop-up” versus hitting a shallower fly ball) would allow a re-entry vehicle – a warhead – to reach Hawaii and Alaska.

In short, Kim has an intercontinental ballistic missile. Does he have a nuclear warhead that fits atop this missile? If not now, soon.

So, what now?

As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, “our nuclear non-proliferation strategy” has failed. North Korea has nuclear weapons; others will follow. Ukraine had nuclear weapons, surrendered them on a promise from President Clinton, and is slowly being reduced by Russia. Libya had WMD, surrendered them, then was virtually destroyed by Obama, Clinton et al. North Korea paid attention; it’ll never voluntarily surrender its nuclear weapons.

(Did Iran pay attention? We’ll see in a few years…)

So, who helped North Korea?

What country provides 90% of North Korea’s trade? Keeps them alive when times get tough? Has defended them against UN Sanctions? Who even sold them the truck that carried the missile fired last week?

The answer: China. (As Damon Runyon observed: “the race isn’t always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”)

China also helped Pakistan with their nuclear weapon program (search “AQ Khan” on the internet), probably helped Iran, and probably was helping Libya and Syria, both of whom had nascent WMD programs. Expecting China to help disarm North Korea is expecting the leopard to change its spots.

So, while President Trump tried to “play nice” with China, China is part of the problem; to contain North Korea means containing China. China helped create this problem; China likes this mess, likes that it’s consuming US attention, as China pursues its strategy. China wants to make it too hard, too expensive, for the US to sustain its presence in the Western Pacific; China wants South Korea, Japan and others to recognize China’s hegemony, pushing the US out. North Korea is their proxy, a tool to use against the US. Any solution to contain North Korea must begin with recognizing that fact.

Further, we must recognize that our actions will have strategic implications for decades as other countries consider whether to acquire a nuclear arsenal. The old strategy failed because we – the West, the US, UK, and France failed to stop various nuclear weapons programs before they came to fruition. We must learn from that failure.

So, what to do?

Begin with a broader strategy, one encompassing all of East Asia, a comprehensive containment of both China and North Korea, while working to eliminate the Kim regime, and unifying the Korea peninsula under Seoul.

– Offer allies and friends (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia) deals on weapons, training, aircraft and ships

– Negotiate stationing additional reconnaissance and attack aircraft in these countries

– Deploy additional military assets to Korea, Japan and Guam

– Condemn China’s efforts to strong-arm East Asia, insisting on the rule of law – Last year an international court ruled China’s claims to certain SCS islands were without standing; China responded by threatening the Philippines

– Announce a third party embargo; anyone — including China — trading with North Korea cannot trade with the US

– Close international banking loopholes that allow North Korea to move money through other countries

– Cancel Chinese participation in any US military exercise

– Review Chinese acquisition of any US corporations

– Aggressively expand US Missile Defense testing and training

– Work with India, Saudi Arabia, et al to apply pressure on Chinese movements into SW Asia and the Indian Ocean

– Fund development of a new generation of nuclear weapons

Finally, change the “tone” of the dialogue; deterrence only exists when the “other guy” believes you have the will to inflict real punishment. So:

Conduct a nuclear weapons test, sending the world a clear signal of US seriousness. Then, announce plans to begin discussions to move nuclear weapons back into the western Pacific.

The old strategy has failed. For our own future security, the US needs to demonstrate a new strategy and a new level of will. The time to do that is now.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com