Washington Times: Building America’s future in space will strengthen national security

‘Star Trek’ hit the airwaves 55 years ago, but the U.S. future in space will be equally as innovative

In September 2019, the then-U.S. Air Force Space Command (before the re-creation of U.S. Space Command and creation of the Space Force) sponsored a workshop titled “The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy.” As one of the many authors, presenters and participants, I can attest to this exercise’s value for the future of American national security. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that we titled the best outcome for the United States (out of eight future paths, two of which would spell catastrophe for the United States) “Star Trek.” This 2060 future was one where there will be a robust human presence in space. There will be an enormous economic opportunity and, most importantly, it will be led by the United States and our alliance partners.

Now, in 2021 we are observing the 55th anniversary of “Star Trek,” and one can expect a panoply of odes, eulogies, parodies and parallels. Space Force has already been accused of copying Star Fleet’s delta, whereas “Star Trek” copied the delta used before “Star Trek” by the Army Air Force and NASA.

This is a great example, albeit cosmetic, of the problem that critics have of Space Force. They believe that by linking the U.S. Space Force to “Star Trek,” they will somehow discredit the organization. Perhaps, they are trying to take a page from attacks on President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative when instead of debating its many merits, they thought they would castigate it with the moniker “Star Wars.” 

We can pause here and offer a lesson in strategy and tactics. If you want to discredit something associated with space in the American public’s eyes, especially potential recruits, don’t use the two most fantastic visions of space and space opera to do it. One would have loved to be in the meetings where someone voiced their proposal and said, “We don’t want Space Force, so what you need to do is convince all those children that if they join, they will be going warp speed and wielding lightsabers.” 

If your demographic is people with no vision and imagination, you have yourself a winner.

William Shatner’s article, “William Shatner wants to know: What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?” Military Times, Aug. 26, 2020, created a stir as he advocated naval instead of Army and Air Force rank by using science fiction standards. His more profound argument revolved around the need for heroes in the public mind, and this would best be done by linking Space Force with science fiction like “Star Trek.”

“Star Trek” offered a vision that was a victory for democratic values. It served and continues to serve as a foil to the anti-hero dystopia that passes for much futurism today. Star Trek exhibited the absolute nature of American values by recoiling at the horror of genocide (“The Conscience of the King”), harpooning futuristic tyrants (“The Apple”) and hippie culture (“The Way of Eden”).

More importantly for Americans is that “Star Trek” represented an American vision of the future. This is not merely a representation of American patriotism but the universal values America champions. This ranged from the cosmetic where Capt. James T. Kirk was from Riverside, Iowa, to “Star Trek” promoting the values of liberty, right reason, frontier spirit and the dignity of human rights.

Star Fleet played the role of a futuristic military and exploration mission. This was akin to the American Army and Navy’s 19th-century exploits and was the sword and shield of these values. Star Fleet promoted a neo-manifest destiny broadening Thomas Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” adversaries like the Klingons and Romulans are totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorships bent on destruction and conquest.

My favorite episode that expresses all of this is –- ”The Omega Glory,” where the USS Enterprise’s landing party finds itself thrust into a planetary war between the Yangs (Yankees) and the Kohms (Communists). The Yankees eventually defeat the Communists, and Kirk discovers that their worship words are the American Pledge of Allegiance and the U.S. Constitution. In the famous ending speech, Kirk states: “Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since … 

“‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!”

I have read countless reviews of this episode from pseudo-intellectual critics who decry the episode as “the worst.” They complain that it is overly patriotic, racist, and impossible for a planet to develop such a parallel conflict. 

Kirk, whose hero was Abraham Lincoln, is a good starting point for dismissing this episode’s critics and a “Star Trek” link to the American future. Lincoln, whose classical conservative roots stressed the Declaration of Independence’s universality, founded under the fatherhood of God and under God’s natural law. Lincoln understood that these values transcended time and space and were literally universal. One has to pity the uneducated rabble for their mistakes of ignorance. It is precisely the point that a space dominated by western powers will be a space dominated by the universal values based on the natural law of life, liberty and property.

The creator of “Star Trek,” Gene Roddenberry, a former bomber pilot and policeman, was incredibly proud of “The Omega Glory” when he stated, “It is deserving of a bit of promotion because of its unusual nature and an unusual patriotic theme toward the end of it, plus an unusual aspect involving East-West conflict.”

The Star Fleet of the 1960s upheld the classical liberal values of America’s founding, with statecraft’s classical conservative tools. We should embrace it as the template for the future, an unabashedly American-led one.

This piece originally ran on The Washington Times on 18 March 2021.

Washington Times: Only beneficiaries of the left-wing riots and Capitol attacks are America’s enemies

American’s tendency to combine an inward-looking obsession with a historical disdain for foreign affairs often produces a false sense of reality. Foreign threats to the United States were and are as great as ever. Russia’s resurgence, China’s rise, Iranian terrorism, and North Korea’s nuclear fantasies continue.

Part of any adversary’s quiver is the use of a false flag. A “false flag” plan is an operation conducted primarily by one nation-state, masquerading as another nation-state or group to bring about the desired result where they are not implicated.

These operations have ranged the gamut from targeting individuals to betray their nation by posing as an ally. China is notorious for having its espionage agents pose as Taiwanese to convince pro-Taiwan individuals to acts of espionage or when the Soviets used a pro-Czarist false flag to kill Sidney Reilly, a British officer whose life inspired James Bond.

The next level would be when individuals are used to create a political or diplomatic incident. Nero blamed Christians for the fires that destroyed Rome in 64 AD and then used those fires to justify the persecution of the Christians afterward. The most infamous modern false flag operation was concocted by the Nazis when they used communist dupes to burn down the Reichstag. This allowed the Nazis to enact emergency powers paving the way for the Nazi dictatorship.

The most significant false flag operations were used to justify World War II. The 1931 Mukden incident designed by the Japanese and the 1939 Nazi Operation Himmler created the conditions for a war of “self-defense.” A more sophisticated false flag operation is when it is used to manipulate public opinion. The Soviets did this through a web of assets and activity during the Reagan years by push/pulling anti-American, anti-nuclear “peace groups” in Europe and the United States.

The above operations will be debated, possibly forever. The line between evil state action and bizarre conspiracy theory is a fine one. Naturally, the very nature of a covert operation is to create two conditions. One gives the offending actor plausible deniability. The other is that the action is so “absurd” that rational people will not believe it.

We have even placed such operations into our popular culture with the infamous quote from Palpatine in Star Wars, who engineers the destabilization of the Republic and then states, “It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!”

Was the attack on the U.S. Capitol a false flag operation? My answer is as complicated as the event itself.

The only beneficiaries of the summer riots, the Capitol attacks and the current left-wing violence in the Pacific Northwest are America’s adversaries, both foreign and domestic. We already know about Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean cyber-attacks fomenting division in the United States among our citizens. Just as those on the right were willing to accept the links between Antifa and foreign adversaries, those on the left must be willing to take whatever links are found with the extremists who broke into the hallowed halls of Congress.

An effective false flag operation would entirely separate the actors from the intentions, which was how the Nazis used communist terrorists, and the Soviets used western peace activists.

The FBI is investigating a suspicious payment of half a million dollars made in bitcoin by a French national who died shortly after the attack to key figures in what the media has dubbed the “alt-right.” NBC News highlighted the long-standing link between extremist groups and Russia.

We know that the Russian and Chinese government and their proxy outlets have used the incident to denigrate the United States abroad and insult U.S. institutions. Some analysts have argued that some of the tactics used in the U.S. Capitol attack were similar to those used by Russia in the Ukraine and Crimea.

Another suspicious issue is the number of stolen devices and documents that may have classified information, particularly those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat. SOFREP reports that their sources in the Pentagon told them that several laptops with classified information were stolen. There have also been questions raised as to whether or not surveillance equipment may have been left behind.

The FBI indicates that the question of foreign involvement is severe enough to provoke an investigation.

It is too early at this juncture to confirm or dismiss the level of foreign involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is far too early for the popular media to ignore it. It has been 88 years since the Reichstag Fire, and we are still debating its origins. A profitable intelligence operation by nations that have been running covert operations for over a millennium would seek to cover their tracks and redirect blame.

A simple rule in both diplomacy and intelligence is asking the question of gain. Who has gained from the unrest and violence that has engulfed America from the spring until now? We know the answer is not the American people, and both political parties have suffered the stain of their extreme ends.

The answer points to the actions of extremist groups, which, as history indicates, benefits foreign adversaries whose low bar of risk with a considerable reward, even if propagandistic is great. The silver lining in all of this is that this issue can bring about true American concord as patriots unite against the republic’s foreign and domestic enemies.

This piece originally ran on the Washington Times on 1 Feburary, 2021.

Washington Times: U.S. lacking focus on partnership between Iran and North Korea regimes

Attention must be directed to root problems, not nuclear weapons data points

President Trump’s administration gave great attention to two toxic triangles that this author highlighted, though ignored by the mainstream media. They dubbed the first of these the “Axis of Resistance,” a self-declared malevolence of Iran, Syria and Hamas.

The second underscored by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton was the “Troika of Tyranny” calling out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

These were categories of evil that share duplicity, violence, atrocity, dictatorship and terrorism.

We are now witnessing the debate of U.S.-Iran relations reach another fever pitch about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This has always been a morass that deviates one’s attention from the actual story. As important as Iran’s weapons program’s issue is, it fundamentally misses the more significant point: the Iranian regime itself. The root problem is the Iranian regime. The symptom is their nuclear weapons program.

However, not addressing the root problem leaves in place Iran’s Shiite empire-building in the Middle East, their collaboration and alliance with Syria and Russia, their state sponsorship of terrorism, their atrocities against their own people and their missile program.

Related to the media’s misdirection over the Iranian situation is the relationship between Iran and North Korea. This relationship began with the fall of the shah’s government in 1979, when Iran joined North Korea as an enemy of the United States. In the 1980s, Iran purchased ballistic missiles from North Korea, often facilitated by China.

As North Korean missile technology and nuclear weapons research amplified, so did Iranian missile capability, which evolved from missiles with a range of 300km in the ‘80s to a breakthrough in 1995 when Iran received the Nodong missile with a range of 1,300km, allowing Iran to hit Israel. This relationship was a two-way street as Iran provided North Korea with oil and missile test data.

North Korean and Chinese teams frequently were in Iran to train and test, illustrating this toxic relationship. In 2010, Iran received 19 BM-25 missiles with a range of 2,000 miles (3,218 km), placing NATO countries under threat. North Korea’s ability to use Iran as a testing opportunity enhanced its own ability to develop long-range ballistic missiles.

Thus, Iran and North Korea created a synthesis of production, experimentation, testing, development and deployment that allows both to become a nuclear weapons power with ICBM capabilities ultimately. The vaunted and now resurrected JCPOA did nothing to stop this. This relationship is currently helping both parties develop submarine and cruise missile technology.

The relationship has fostered cooperation and exchange in the realms of intelligence, underground facility production and special operations warfare. Both nations seem incredibly interested in potential EMP strikes against the United States.

Further, this partnership extends to dangerous state and non-state actors such as Syria and Hezbollah. The dark possibilities range the gamut from Iranian and North Korean officers training Syrians arming ballistic missiles with their own chemical weapons to the scenarios where one day Hezbollah has a nuclear device are not as far fetched as wishful thinking would desire.

The nuclear threat looms large as another two-way street developed over centrifuge, enrichment, uranium and plutonium. It is clear that North Korea is facilitating Iran, becoming a nuclear weapons power while the United States and Europe debate an agreement dead before it was created.

One of the easiest paths of deception is to become obsessed with statistics rather than intent. Experts from all sides can have logical debates about when North Korea and Iran will have a deployable ICBM or when a “break-out” on a particular nuclear timeline will occur. These are not relevant for the serious policymaker. We have understood the strategic intent of the North Korean and Iranian regimes for decades.

There is long-standing proof of a toxic partnership directed at the heart of the American people. Future policies need to address the root of the problem, not become sucked into a vortex of never-ending debates about data points leading nowhere.

This piece originally ran on Washington Times on 28 November, 2020.

The Washington Times: The conservative fallacy

The past few weeks have highlighted one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative movement, namely that it has endorsed modernity. There is nothing modern about conservatism. Conservatism is based on a belief in the organic and unchanging nature of man. At its core are traditions, obligations, responsibilities, faith, reason and duty. These virtues are immutable, unchanging and eternal.

It is summed up in the simple phrase, “God, Family, Country.” Conservatives owe many obediences; the highest is to God and that which is closely related: Obedience to the truth. This takes a variety of forms, but one of the most important is obedience to history as it was, not revisionism.

There are five illustrations where conservatives, in a futile attempt to appear modern, have brought about strategic failure.

The first is over the Electoral College. The rising star of the Democratic Party, a self-declared socialist, recently summed up the new left’s attack on the Electoral College by arguing that it is a vestige of slavery. Conservatives were immediately indignant. Few conservatives attacked this nonsense with the actual foundation of the Electoral College. They talked about big states and small states and also political tradition; some even suggested that it was good that it has transitioned.

The Electoral College is one of the last vestiges of republicanism (as in a Republic) remaining in America. It was designed to put a stop to mob rule, a currently popular term. The House is the chamber of sentiment, the Senate is the chamber of reason, and the presidency is the guardian of the Constitution. Due to this, the president was never intended, nor should he be, elected by a popular majority.

The second is over Iraq. It appears that the left wishes to bring this up at any point where foreign affairs are discussed. The mistake made early on by conservatives was to only focus on the weapons of mass destruction which the American intelligence community assured President Bush were active. However, Iraq was more than that. It was one of the worst state sponsors of terrorism; it had engaged in chemical weapons attacks against its own people, and it was preparing for expansion once the UN sanctions were lifted.

However, it also provided the best option for democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration knew this before the invasion but did not communicate this until later. It, therefore, appeared as an add-on, instead of the core that it was. Now, many conservatives who endorsed the war backtrack and backslide. This emboldens the left and only makes their radical agenda in foreign policy easier to attain. Conservatives need to support the actions of President Bush boldly, and assertively.

The third is over the Second Amendment. The NRA is on a roller coaster about whether to rely on the actual foundation of the Second Amendment or what they think will appeal to the masses. They and their allies have made a colossal blunder by focusing on hunting, personal defense, and target shooting instead of the foundation illustrated by John Locke and the Founding Fathers. Namely, that a government that owns a monopoly of arms is a government that can impose tyranny.

A free people armed is the last best check on an illegitimate government. Whether some think this is too far-fetched for the American people to understand or not is difficult to say. However, it frames the debate with the truth and defeats all naysayers Only a fool would argue that a future American government could never be a tyranny.

The fourth one is over the moaning over gridlock. There are many platitudes about bipartisanship and the failure to accomplish this legislative item or that. However, what the electorate needs to be reminded of is that the alternative to a system that could radically change — was tyranny. This is not to argue that gridlock is inherently good, but it is to illustrate that this is the cost to avoid the excesses and extremes of almost every other civilization. By not characterizing it in these terms grants the extremists the ammunition to engage in radicalism.

The final fallacy is over great men. The “out-of-fashion” historian Carlyle argued, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He correctly argued that it is to the heroic figure that we owe so much. Conservatives should stop apologizing for the great men of civilization. The recent Winston Churchill controversy, the yearly wringing of hands over Christopher Columbus, and the continued, methodical and strategic attempt to destroy the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln should not be met by apologies, but by righteous anger.

The critics do not understand, nor are they able to match the trials and tribulations of these men. They know nothing of the perils of the Battle of Britain, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, or the crossing of the Atlantic. The left well-full knows that if they can knock these men off their pedestals, the rest of Western civilization will follow. In the end, out of fear, they are the biggest believers in the great man theory of history. If not, they would not try so desperately hard to destroy their reputations.

Conservatives have always warned of the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. This is one of the fundamental values, and it does no good to anyone, especially the American electorate, when those that pride themselves on guarding the truth of the past do not themselves hold it as sacred.

Lamont Colucci is associate professor of politics at Ripon College and author of “The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future” (Praeger, 2012).

This piece originally ran in the Washington Times on 23 October, 2018.

 

Washington Times: Right Thinking on Grand Strategy

This article was originally published in the Washington Times on Wednesday, August 22 2018

In the pages of World Affairs from 2015, I wrote an article that condemned the then-contemporary strategic thinking as being anything but strategic. The American national security establishment’s obsession with counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency is going to come back to haunt us since great power conflict never ceases.

In fact, many of the same international relations problems of 1914 were revisited in 2014, and the article’s intent was that the centennial of World War I provided a good marker for our own reassessment. As I also pointed out, Russia had adopted a “Putin Doctrine” designed to modernize its military, increase the use of covert operations and espionage, utilize energy and economic intimidation, promote fear on its borders and project power into the Mediterranean, Atlantic and the Arctic.

It is in this light that one can analyze the recent decision by the American government to resurrect two concepts from the Cold War and proactively push NATO into the 21st century with a new benchmark.

The first of these is the reactivation of the United States Navy’s Second Fleet. It was deactivated in 2011 as part of a string of Obama-era decisions that mirrored Bill Clinton’s attempts to take a “holiday from history” in the 1990s. It took years to recover after the Clinton years, and it will take even more effort to do so from the Obama era.

In May 2018, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson stated, “Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex That’s why today, we’re standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic.” This decision is designed to send a clear message to Russia that the United States recognizes the serious strategic threat that Russia poses and is taking aggressive and concrete measures to ensure that both the Atlantic and the Arctic are not endangered. This is a clear response to Russian actions in the Baltic, the Arctic Circle, and off the east coast of the United States.

More importantly is the creation of NATO Joint Force Command for the Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

Although this new Atlantic Command is portrayed as ensuring logistical and communication integrity among NATO, it is clear that it is designed to project power. Finally, a new American initiative titled the Four Thirties pushes NATO into the 21st century. The Four Thirties is a plan that by 2020 NATO should be able to get “30 battalions, 30 squadrons, and 30 ships ready for deployment in 30 days.”

From the 19th century onward, American strategic thinking has been dominated by navalism. This idea promoted by strategists like Alfred Thayer Mahan and adopted first by President Theodore Roosevelt understood that a great power’s ability to protect itself and project power could only be accomplished by the ability to project naval power. This attitude goes in and out of favor depending on whether or not a particular president understands this foundational argument such as Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush and Trump or whether they want to wish great power conflict away as Carter, Clinton and Obama.

The problem is that it often takes decades to repair the damage of the latter’s actions. It is important to note that two of the three NATO reforms are commands that should never have been deactivated. It was the short-sighted attitude of administration’s that failed to understand the very basics of international affairs and foreign policy.

Although we are now on the cusp of taking strategic naval thinking into space, a delayed move, it is heartening to know that sound decisions to counter potential great power aggression is going beyond rhetoric and into action.

• Lamont Colucci is associate professor of politics at Ripon College and author of “The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future” (Praeger, 2012).

The Washington Times: How North Korea flouts international sanctions

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The Syrian civil war has dropped off of most people’s radar. When it does intrude, reports primarily concern themselves with tactical advances of one side (currently victory favors the Assad regime) or the other. Some reports highlight the human rights atrocities and the effect of the war on the civilian population.

A U.N. report was delivered to the U.N. Security Council on March 1, 2018, which has not been publicly released, but obtained by the author, highlights the military cooperation between North Korea and the other rogue regimes. Further, the report also highlights cyberwarfare (including attacking the U.N. panel of the report) designed to steal military secrets and conventional weapons sales.

It highlights four methods that North Korea uses to flout international sanctions: “exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system.”

Although the relationship with the Assad regime in Syria over WMD (weapons of mass destruction) cooperation is the most critical, the report also illustrates the North Korean military relationship with Mozambique for conventional weapons and parts, as well as a murky military relationship between North Korea and Sudan, despite official Sudanese denials.

More disturbing is the relationship with the genocidal regime in Burma. This includes not only banned conventional weapons but ballistic missiles. The panel continues to be concerned about Angola, Uganda, Libya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. These military deals emanate from North Korea’s governmental unit that engages in this, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

The U.N. report makes clear that North Korea does not need to rely on foreign engines for its ballistic missile program, indicating the upward advance of its domestic arms capabilities.

It is the relationship with Syria that is most concerning. There is history to this alliance dating back to the 1960s when North Korean pilots flew missions for the Syrian air force and when the elder Assad imported missiles and North Korean experts to assist in Syria’s weapons program. North Korean soldiers assisted Syria against Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Syria leaped into nuclear weapons in the 21st century. As a result, in 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. This North Korean/Syrian complicity is reinforced by the fact that at least 10 North Koreans were killed in that attack.

Currently, North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development. The report highlights 40 North Korean shipments from 2012 and 2017 to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons. The report also demonstrates North Korean personnel operating chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria. Interdicted shipments by U.N. member states confirm this pattern of behavior.

The report does not explain the geo-strategic situation. North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold: It seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons; it understands that a strong Assad regime can frustrate American foreign policy goals; American attention drawn to conflict in the Middle East weakens it position in East Asia; it provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell, and bolstering the Assad dictatorship hurts America’s ally Israel.

Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh stated, “The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

It is clear from the report that the much-touted sanctions regime is failing, providing a thin veil for U.N. member states like Russia and China that continue to assist North Korea’s trade exports in iron, coal, steel, silver, copper, zinc, nickel and imports of oil. It outlines elaborate efforts by North Korea and complicit partners to use false flags and documentation, evasive travel routes, transshipment and ship-to-ship transfers.

The U.N. report should be publicly and widely disseminated, but more importantly, it is the final nail in the vampire’s coffin of the 2013 agreement that the Assad regime abandon chemical weapons. It provides proof positive that rogue regimes such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and now Burma, bolstered by Russia and China are the prime actors of instability dooming the world to further chaos and violence — this is state terrorism at its worst.

The Washington Times: Choosing favorites in ‘Star Wars’

On May 25, 1977, the original “Star Wars” movie, “A New Hope,” made its debut. It immediately had an impact that is hard to measure, especially on the generation that would, unfortunately, be called “X,” itself a seemingly sci-fi moniker.

Watching that film and the subsequent two sequels, there was no question whom one would root for. Everyone wanted the forces of the Republic to win, cast as science fiction versions of the American revolutionaries. The dark side, represented best by Darth Vader, was no British officer serving George the III, but a minion of the likes of Hitler or Stalin.

The Force has a good side and an evil side. The dark side represents violence, torture, repression, death — evil. The light side is attracted to order based on morality, ethics, courage and justice. The dark side is attracted to order based on power, treachery and greed.

It is, therefore, astounding to witness the rise in popularity of the dark side among the makers of the “Star Wars” movies and merchandising offshoots. There is a reason that the dark side’s foot soldiers are called “storm troopers,” and that young Darth Vader commits mass murder of children in Episode 3. This is a disturbing trend whose roots run far deeper than movie criticism. Now is the right time for consideration since on Dec. 14, “The Last Jedi” will hit the silver screens, arguably the most anticipated movie in years.

The effect on children is worth considering. We have Disney stores that give equal time to toys and costumes of the dark side; we have video game companies like Electronic Arts whose expected blockbuster game, Star Wars Battlefront II, forces players to take the role of a dark side champion, and a host of department stores that promote equally, if not more partiality given to the evil side, toys and games that enhance the “coolness” of Vader and the storm troopers.

As a father and a “Star Wars” fan who has watched this trend over time, the appropriate reaction can only be a reprise of the famous phrase, uttered by Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” It is not something that can be accurately quantified, not in dollars and cents, not in psychological studies. The very fact that any sane person could venerate Darth Vader (before he recants at death), Emperor Palpatine (who gives Caligula a run for his money), or Grand Moff Tarkin (who kills every man, woman and child on an entire planet, regardless of the brilliant performance by Peter Cushing,), is beyond comprehension.

The primary cause of all this is an attempt by the left to force moral relativism down the throats of every American, combined with a dogma called Red Puritanism, in which there are no absolute goods except for the laundry list they have created: multiculturalism, tolerance, atheism, socialist realism, skepticism, activist science, anti-Western ideology (extra piety points for being anti-American) and collective white guilt. There are no immutable goals except for those prescribed by their dogma: ending white privilege, destruction of conservatism, the cult of victimization, a reduction of American military power, and the glorification of anything that shocks.

One can anticipate four criticisms of this analysis. The first is that I am overreacting to a pop culture science fiction movie. Americans in this camp should realize the power of epics, storytelling, legends, myths and language. “Star Wars” changed all of this from 1977 onward and continues today with the release of the newest film.

Second is that only a political scientist or historian would read so deeply into a movie. Perhaps, but perhaps not. The “Star Wars” franchise has millions of followers, generates billions of dollars, and consumes untold hours of conversations and, dare one say, heated arguments. It has the lasting power of a story like “The Lord of the Rings” upon the Western, especially American, psyche. It is debated and discussed more than any other fictional story among large sectors of the population, perhaps more than any current debate or issue in politics today.

Third is the idea that moralizing against “Star Wars” is antithetical to free choice because no one is forced to root for Team Vader. This is reasonable if you embrace the relativistic argument that one can be as easily attracted to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or militarist Japan as to America in World War II or the Cold War. Only as a historical parallel can this argument make sense, but it falls under its own intellectual weight.

Finally, one can argue over which ideas filmmaker George Lucas is attempting to promote. Whatever his politics (reportedly anti-Nixon, anti-Republican and anti-conservative), they are not as relevant as the impact of the films’ cultural phenomena.

One does not need to lapse into hysteria to raise these concerns, nor is there any solution that could or should be mandated by government or the entertainment industry. However, that should not stop those who prefer the virtues of the Force to the dark side from asking Americans to reflect on the effects of their silver screen infatuation.


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The Washington Times: Assessing Chinese imperialism

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If you have not heard of One Belt, One Road you are missing what could be the landmark tale of this entire century. It is a saga of China’s grand strategy that could threaten American interests at every level.

Begun in 2013 as an initiative by President Xi Jinping, One Belt, One Road (OBOR) has received a tremendous amount of attention. The program has been primarily aimed toward what appears to be a massive economic endeavor. Divided along a land-based route titled the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and a sea-based route, the Maritime Silk Road (MSR), it is an overt attempt by China to enter the 21st century as a global power. The debate among many Western circles is whether or not this titanic economic venture has militaristic and imperialistic overtones.

This is a surprising question since the historical Silk Road was all of the above. Started by the Han dynasty, the Silk Road was used to knit together an economic and military power, creating what some historians dub the Pax Sinica, fielding an army of over a million and extending into East and South Asia. It seems a dubious proposition to compartmentalize Chinese objectives, and the real question is not whether China will use the One Belt, One Road project for political and military influence, but how.

The OBOR project could be the largest diplomatic, military, economic initiative of the modern age. It is exactly in line with contemporary Chinese strategic statements that desire a “harmonious world” system by taking advantage of a period of “strategic opportunity.” Driven by nationalistic chauvinism, a climate of resource unpredictability, the endorsement of the “First Island Chain” policy fits the goals of OBOR completely. It is where the PRC seeks to initially dominate East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and beyond. Chinese foreign policy is the textbook example of international relations realism and to expect China to compartmentalize its goals would be foolish, dangerous and childish.

OBOR can become the umbrella for every major Chinese strategic goal worldwide under the guise of an economic development plan that can coerce or cajole many of their third world interests.

This should be of special concern as the United States is questioning its commitment to various free trade regimes that were also designed not only for economic benefits but also for American grand strategy imperatives.

OBOR would eventually engulf over 60 countries and 65 percent of the world’s population with costs ranging from “low ball” estimates of $900 billion to highs of eight trillion dollars. It is not only foreign investment, but Chinese bank credits, and aid packages that are often under the auspices of the Chinese-dominated Asian Infrastructure and Investment bank. The land route envisioned stretches from Singapore to Madrid, Spain. The sea route extends from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, to Jakarta, Indonesia, toward ultimately the port of Piraeus near Athens.

None of this is happening in a strategic vacuum, China’s $147 billion military budget, focused heavily on the American targeted anti-access/area-denial strategy, the deployment of its first aircraft carrier, the new naval base on Hainan island, a massive increase in land-to-sea ballistic missiles, massive investment in modernizing China’s strategic nuclear arsenal, arms and missile technology proliferation, anti-satellite missiles, space weapon research, and the continued use of the North Korean regime as a bargaining chip, let alone her exhaustively chronicled actions in the South China Sea. It is no wonder there is concern among China’s neighbors, specifically Japan and India attempting to create alternative land and sea routes.

There are many areas of special military concern regarding One Belt, One Road. Number one among these is China’s first major military outpost in Djibouti, Africa. This is linked to their lease on port facilities in Darwin, Australia, the naval facility at Gwadar Pakistan, the training of Special Forces in Kazakhstan, recent activity in Sri Lanka and Chinese economic and military activity in Afghanistan. It is more than curious that Frontier Services Group, formerly Blackwater, has received a contract by the Chinese government to set up a base in Yunnan province to train security personnel for OBOR related endeavors.

One Belt, One Road is not limited to Terra Firma as China is attempting to create a rival to U.S.-dominated GPS with its own BDS alternative that would link to OBOR’s routes.

Finally, Chinese military doctrine is keeping pace by indicating that China’s military will reserve the right to intervene where and when future OBOR assets are threatened.

It would be comical to think that China would not use the massive presence of Chinese citizens and infrastructure and utilize this for intelligence gathering, covert operations, Special Forces insertion, and eventually overt military activity. One Belt, One Road gives the world a glimpse of an alternate future where the Pax Americana is no more, and America retreats from the scene. Americans cannot claim to be taken by surprise and must react with the dynamism, innovation, and power that the world associates with the American spirit. If, however, we choose to isolate ourselves, ignore OBOR, or lead from behind, the Chinese will not only achieve their economic and military dominance, but may fill in the vacuum left by the apathetic United States and be well on their way to one day dictating to us, terms of negotiation on every and all fronts.

The Washington Times: Subverting the role of the treaty in American diplomacy

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It is ironic that the contemporary discussion concerning American diplomacy should focus on the Paris Climate Accord. Students of history will appreciate that in 1778 that the first grand diplomatic debate of our country, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, centered on France and is considered the first cornerstone treaty in American history.

It is important to hearken back to those initial debates because these ghosts haunt our decisions today. The American Congress was concerned about such a treaty, even in that desperate year of 1778 because they knew that America’s word had to be binding, and that future American foreign policy would henceforward be governed by any such treaty. It is not an accident of history that during the only two World Wars, the focus of American military policy was the defense and liberation of our oldest ally, France.

It is in this vein that we should reject President Obama’s penchant for actively subverting the treaty process and engaging in dangerous executive agreements that distort the constitutional requirements of Senate approval. This is not to reject altogether the use of executive agreements: Diplomacy is fluid and the expediency of any given time may require the president to utilize executive agreements to protect and promote American vital interests.

However, when such diplomacy is potentially multipresidential as is the case of the Iran deal (formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), or multigenerational as is the case with the Paris Climate Accords, then it is clear from any originalist argument that this is what the Founders wanted. Further, treaties create stability and credibility that no executive agreement can ever come near.

Although international relations between nations require both treaties and executive agreements, treaties signal the intent of longevity. They hold any single president and Congress accountable to the past whereby a prior Congress and president spent months, or years, debating the merits of binding American foreign policy down a specific path. They negate the vagaries of any given lapse of judgment and force the American government to do something it often does poorly — look at American interests from a long-term strategic objective. NATO, the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, and the mutual security treaties with South Korea and Japan are all clear examples. These treaties, from Presidents Truman to Trump, continue to govern American foreign policy and have created the strongest alliance of western democracies in world history.

In contrast, Mr. Obama engaged in dangerous adventurism through executive decisions designed to subvert the authority of the Senate and the American people. If the Iran deal and the Paris Accords were as important as the previous administration claimed and were the lynchpin of the Obama diplomatic legacy, then why were they not crafted as treaties, sent to the Senate and by that action, allowed the constitutionally proper voice of the American people to be heard?

Concerning the Iran deal, former Secretary of State John Kerry stunned many when he admitted that the reason it was not submitted as a treaty was that the administration knew it would not pass. He also stated, “We’ve been clear from the beginning. We’re not negotiating a ‘legally binding plan.’ We’re negotiating a plan that will have in it a capacity for enforcement.” An administration known for its mental gymnastics receives another gold medal. It has been claimed that one of the reasons the Obama administration engaged in this was for expediency. The Obama administration cited a variety of treaties that the Senate has refused to ratify, notably the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In both cases, it is highly questionable if these are advantageous to the United States. But here is the point: The Founders intended bad treaties to be defeated, and they intended that long-lasting diplomacy would be based on treaties and not fiat. Both the Paris Accords and the Iran deal should be required to pass the test for treaties: They commit multiple presidential administrations, they are multigenerational, and they will require America to be a credible partner, even if others are not. America has always rejected the full force of European realism. Every nation knows that if America commits, America keeps its word, but that commitment must be made in a procedurally and constitutionally sound manner.

All that the Obama administration achieved did not enhance American interests, but was a series of calculated moves to shore up the administration’s political base. The Obama administration knew full well that any executive agreement made by any president could be overturned by any future one. Now the situation has been muddied, in part because many of our allies do not fully understand American history, political culture or constitutional law. The United States specifically avoided ad hoc diplomacy during our formative years. Rather, it engaged in hard-nosed diplomacy and only made international agreements after much soul-searching and debate. Foreign policy’s No. 1 currency is credibility. Lose that, and it takes generations for it to return.

The Washington Times: Invoking the roots of Western civilization

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There has been much analysis made of President Trump’s June 6 speech in Warsaw. Left-wing commentators have expressed sentiments indicating that the speech was “without substance,” “bland” and “lacking” in a laundry list of policy priorities. Conservative commentators have focused on its emphasis on Western civilization and confirmation of NATO. What seems to be missed is how much the speech returns the American conservative movement and the Republican Party to its foreign policy and philosophical roots.

First, from the post-World War II period onward, reaching maturation under the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower, both the Republican Party and the conservative movement championed the plight of Eastern Europe, often focusing on Poland especially in 1953 and 1956. It was here that the Republican Party’s stance advocating that democracy, human rights and American national interests were intertwined, ever more uncomfortable with the policy of containment and seeking an alternative. This alternative became known as “rollback” and liberation. Though this policy would have difficulty in becoming airborne, it would become the central heart of President Ronald Reagan’s attitude toward the philosophy of communism and the Soviet state. Again, Poland was the epicenter of this thinking. It is, therefore, fitting that a Republican president returns to a place that helped to define the entire party and movement.

Second, both the party and movement have continuously warned against the ideological power of extremism and the need for America to champion the counter-attack. It was the conservative movement’s anti-communism that created the cement for a coalition that would become the modern Republican Party. It is now that same philosophy that makes the unambiguous case against Islamic extremism.

Third, the speech warned about Russian power and expansionism. This may seem obvious in a country like Poland, but it was the conservative movement that recognized quickly that FDR’s attempt at a grand alliance, would fail. It would fail not only because of communist aggression, but also Russian imperialism. The Republican Party was often castigated by the left and many in the Democratic Party for being overly anti-Russian. This liberal attitude of appeasement toward the Soviets was as equally entrenched as the Republican Party’s warning over Soviet and Russian adventurism. It is, therefore, a laughable tragedy that the liberal movement wishes to engage in Soviet-style revisionist history by treating any warnings about Russia as its own. It is perhaps the most cynical and hypocritical attempt in the entire life of the modern liberal movement.

Fourth, Mr. Trump issued a caution against the ravages of a big government and big bureaucracy. One can’t bemoan the totalitarian and authoritarian horrors of dictatorship and then embrace the “road to serfdom” at the same time. The Poles know full well that the small horrors of a bloated bureaucracy and unreasonable regulations may not be as horrific as the gulag, but they stem from the same attitude. It was this warning made most famously by Reagan that also built another pillar of modern American conservatism.

Fifth was the president’s emphasis on God and faith, and how they are intertwined with freedom and vitality. It was faith that saved Eastern Europe from being erased by communism, and it has been the conservative movement and Republican Party that continues to be the champion of traditional religion in the naked public square.

Lastly was the emphasis on Western civilization and Atlanticism. This concept has been written and spoken of consistently. However, it has been the conservative movement and the Republican Party that has never shied away from the pride of knowing the superiority of Western values and civilization, and its translation into practical policies such as NATO. This championship of Western values on the international stage for the Republican Party began with President Theodore Roosevelt and has continued ever since. In an age when one side of the American political coin has embraced multicultural relativism, it is the other that emphasizes that at the core of all the benefits we enjoy, as Russell Kirk illustrated, is the inheritance from Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, London and Philadelphia.