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Memorial Day in Future Tense

What future threats are we overlooking?

By Will Offensicht  |  May 27, 2019

Memorial Day was instituted so that we would pause and remind ourselves of the men and women who gave their lives defending our nation from enemies in war.  Although it's also important that we remember the law enforcement officers and emergency responders who gave their lives defending us from domestic enemies, that happens on a different day.  As befits the "land of the free and the home of the brave," Memorial Day is observed by many groups planting flags on the graves of our fallen warriors.

Newspaper articles often focus on the spectacular invasion of France from England during World War II 75 years ago.  We see pictures of the D-Day landings and it's common to read interviews of people who participated even as their number diminishes with every passing year.

Fighting the Next War

It's been said that our generals are always perfectly prepared to fight the last war.  Since we aren't generals, instead of looking back, let's take a brief look forward to the sorts of conflict we can expect in the future.  The better prepared we are for the next conflict - and all of human history militates that there will always be a next conflict - the fewer flags we'll need to adorn graves with on future Memorial Days.

We at Scragged have no doubt that it is vital to maintain our military in a state of readiness to defend us from foreign enemies.  Unfortunately, many of our ruling elites do not seem to identify themselves as patriotic Americans.  Mr. Obama famously declared himself to be a "citizen of the world" when he was campaigning for the presidency in 2008.  We see these impulses toward globalization and merging all nations into a uniform blob of cultural sameness as treason.

Americans who desire to slash the military budget seem not to believe that anyone in the world would like to use force to take away the fruits our labor.  We have speculated that such people do not really believe that evil exists.  Mr. Obama told us that by talking nicely to the Iranians, he could get them to stop fostering terrorism.  Instead, they continued to support Hamas and have assassinated people in Europe.

Mr. Clinton promised us that if we admitted China to the World Trade Organization, China would become wealthy and start making nice in cooperation with other nations.  He was half right - the Chinese have certainly gotten rich - but every day we learn more about the dishonest menas by which they accomplished this.

For example, the Chinese government has urged Huawei, their major telecommunications firm, to insert back-door entires into the software in their communications devices.  Bloomberg reported that a Chinese military unit designed and manufactured tiny back-door microchips that were sent to Chinese factories that supplied Supermicro, one of the worlds biggest sellers of server motherboards.  Such deliberately-introduced hardware or software security vulnerabilities are very hard to find.

This is not without precedent; indeed, the Chinese learned from the masters, namely us.  Western Electric used to sell telephone switching systems in Europe.  The CIA persuaded the designers to insert special secret phone numbers that would connect anyone directly with CIA headquarters, regardless of being able to pay the phone bill.  More recently, we find that the NSA has been working with AT&T to facilitate data collection.

When the Soviet Union collapsed under Mr. Gorbachev, we were told that we no longer had to worry about conflict with them.  Mr. Obama famously ridiculed Mr. Romney when he suggested that Russia was a threat to our way of life.

Mr. Obama's actions showed that he believed that Russians were not a serious threat.  Although he knew that the Russians were interfering in the 2016 presidential election, he did nothing about it.  He also ignored Chinese efforts at information theft via the Internet.

Someone - we believe it to have been the Chinese - stole the entire government personnel database which contains detailed information about everyone who has or ever has had a security clearance permitting them to access classified information.  We were not at all surprised to find that people with longstanding clearances have been found guilty of revealing classified information to the Chinese - our own data helps them identify people who might be vulnerable to Chinese offers.  It seems to us that these nations do not have our best interests in mind.

The Best Defense is a Strong Offense

We hold to the ancient adage, "If you would have peace, prepare for war."

Fifteen hundred years ago, the Roman government had spent so much money on entitlements and neglected their army so badly that the city fell when the Gauls invaded.  They weren't prepared for war and ended up with no peace in Italy for nearly a thousand years.

Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have expressed this idea to mean that a leader who is planning war should put other nations off guard by cultivating peace.  The Internet and Google Earth make it hard to hide serious military preparations, but that doesn't mean that other nations won't be able to surprise us.

If Mr. Obama truly believes that the world is full of peaceful leaders who live on puppies, Play-Doh, and marshmallows, his counterproductive foreign policy actions might make sense.  In contrast, we believe that the Russians, the Iranians, and the Chinese have demonstrated that we need to be prepared for war with them via the Internet, with conventional arms, and in space.

The question is, how should we prepare for future wars?  Here are some points we believe require discussion if we're to minimize future flag-planting on fallen warrior's graves.

Know Your Enemies

We've written about the situation in Iran where the church is the state.  As with all non-democratic governments, whatever the top dogs say, goes, and people who express discontent disappear.

Whether for reasons of gaining more personal power or because they believe that Allah insists that they convert or kill all non-Muslims, the Iranian mullahs are determined to spread Islamic terrorism as far as they can.  They've been trying to buy nuclear technology and both the North Koreans and the Pakistanis are happy to sell to them.

Mr. Trump's strategy for containing Iran is to impose enough economic stress that they won't be able to afford to make trouble.  If their ordinary citizens, all of whom have enough access to the Internet to know how badly their lives compare with the rest of the world, rebel, so much the better.

Mr. Putin leads Russia as a gang leader would lead a city.  He has to be a bit more concerned with whether his citizens are content than the Iranians, but he is still pretty much free to run the country however he pleases.  Like Iran, his country doesn't generate enough domestic economic value and depends on oil and gas revenue for economic survival.

Russia has been known to put pressure on countries such as the Ukraine which buy energy from them.  Nevertheless, Germany is working with Russia to build a new pipeline to get more Russian natural gas to Germany.  Mr. Trump is trying to talk the Germans out of doing that, both to deny Russia the additional revenue and to keep the Germans from becoming dependent on Russian good will to heat their homes.

China is the most formidable foe we face.  Unlike Iran, China has nuclear weapons and unlike North Korea, they have the means to deliver a substantial number of them rapidly.

The Chinese government is smarter than ours - they recognize that they need a profitable private sector to fund their nationalistic ambitions, whereas our bureaucrats are content to drive businesses into bankruptcy through ill-considered regulations.  At four times our population and with centuries of tradition valuing educational excellence as the path to success, they represent formidable challenges to our technological leadership, particularly since we don't seem to be capable of keeping their electronic spies away from the best of our technology.

On the other hand, their one-child policy has resulted in their having some 70 million more marriageable men than women, which can lead to social unrest.  The women they do have seem to be more interested in building careers than in having babies, which will pose problems in the long run as China grows old before it grows rich.

One of our problems in dealing with the Chinese is that very few Americans understand the generic Asian moral code.  Their basic national motto is, "It's foolish not to take advantage."

When an earthquake brought down elementary schools whose walls had about half the rebar building codes required to support the concrete, parents who objected to the deaths of their children got in trouble with the police.  The purpose of becoming rich and powerful is so that you don't have to follow the rules as ordinary people must and if you're high up enough, you can use the police as your personal minions.

Mr. Ghosn's troubles with Japanese police are a continuation of boardroom politics by other means based on the same fundamental mind-set which our deep state has used to attempt to depose presidents.

Chinese business practices remind us of the phrase, "What's not nailed down is mine; anything I can pry loose wasn't nailed down."  Although often attributed to Collis Huntington, one of the Big Four railroad barons in the 1800s, the phrase was coined in 1910 by David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University.  He claimed that these words were the "motto of an exploiter" and used this sentiment to describe people whose business practices he disliked.  Tenured West Coast academics ensconsed in nonprofit universities have been criticizing for-profit businesses for a long time.

Imagine Mr. Jordan's astonishment were he to realize that he accurately summed up the attitude of the fiercely nationalistic government of the most populous nation on earth!  From the Chinese point of view, the fact that we leave secrets exposed to their Internet hackers means that we aren't serious about protecting them.

We prattle about cultural appropriation; they engage in wholesale technological appropriation.  Their essentially unfettered access to our technology coupled with their many world-class engineers backed by a determined, wealthy, and unscrupulous government makes them formidable adversaries.

What's more, Chinese individuals accept a degree of control over their lives that Americans would find unsettling.  China has always been ruled by an Emperor and the fact that the Chinese leader doesn't call himself that doesn't make his rule any less pervasive.

Boeing is foolish to have an assembly plant in China.  We suspect that their plant connects to the Boeing network.  This makes them vulnerable.  We can't imagine any employee saying "No" when asked by the police to turn over network access credentials.

We suspect that any Chinese would have to get government permission and to swear fealty before being allowed to apply for work at Boeing.  Given that all credentials including birth certificates are issued by the Chinese government, how can Boeing trust a resume?  Given that the Chinese government has announced a desire to compete with Boeing in passenger aircraft, how prudent is Boeing being?  Do they truly believe that their Chinese competitors won't take advantage?

The fact that he's homed in on technology theft in his trade war with the Chinese suggests that Mr. Trump understands this.  He seems not to share Mr. Clinton's illusion that the Chinese would reciprocate nicely if we were nice to them - after all, not taking advantage would be foolish.

Questions for Today

It was an act of war when Iranian mobs invaded our Tehran embassy during the Carter Administration.  This merited a strenuous response.

Mr. Carter dithered, temporized, attempted an unsuccessful rescue, and otherwise did nothing.  We are convinced that a vigorous response, like President Reagan's sending a missile to Mr. Gaddafi's palace to remind him that the American military knew where he lived, would have moderated Iranian sponsoring of terrorism.  Attacking our embassy was, after all, widely recognized as a blatant act of war.

Iranian actions since the invasion of our embassy made it clear that they can not be relied upon for peaceful cooperation.  We believe that although we must intercept and kill terrorists wherever we find them and cut off their funding, we must also strive to make life as unpleasant as possible for nations which sponsor them as Mr. Trump is doing via sanctions and cultivating Middle Eastern nations whose leaders regard the Iranians as mortal enemies.  Is this a good idea?

The Afghan government which we sponsor seems to have lost the hearts and minds of the people.  Letting the Taliban take over and open a series of terrorist training camps isn't a particularly appealing prospect.

We're told that there are billions of dollars worth of minerals hidden under the Afghan mountains and we know that the Chinese know how to handle rumbustious Muslims.  What if we turned the place over to them?  They could use the minerals and they have no more interest in the Taliban running training camps in their back yard than we do.

We are amazed that Mr. Obama did nothing about Russian involvement in the 2016 election, but to be fair, Russians have attempted to mess with our elections going back to their revolution in 1917.  Instead of having to send spies here, they can now do it from the comfort of their living rooms via the Internet.  What's an appropriate response?

Chinese million-dollar supersonic missiles have made our multi-billion-dollar carrier battle groups less useful in the China Sea.  If they stand off far enough to be out of missile range, they're too far away for their expensive airplanes to be useful in the Chinese theater - they have to go to China and come back, whereas cheap missiles make a one-way trip.

We hope that our navy has an ample stock of high-powered, accurate missiles to make the Chinese think at least thrice about messing with us.  WW II showed that battleships were obsolete and they were replaced by aircraft carriers.  Are carriers obsolete?  If so, what should replace them?  Space-based lasers?

Russians are engaging in cyber war and are seeking economic leverage over Europe.  Mr. Trump is trying to persuade the Germans not to let their energy supply be held hostage by the Russians with limited success so far.  The Germans appear to feel that the Russians are no threat to them in spite of what the Russians have done in the Ukraine and in Georgia.

The Chinese have tested a missile that can attack satellites in orbit and can take out satellites with ground-based lasers.  Our economy depends on our space infrastructure.  We don't know whether Mr. Trump's "Space Force" is the right approach to defending it, but we must do something to deter aggression there .

Science fiction writers have known for a long time that a solar-powered maglev launcher on the moon could drop serious rocks anywhere on earth.  Now that many nations and private citizens have the ability to reach the moon, should we do something about that?  If so,what?

It's clear that there are billions of tons of valuable minerals in space and that multiple billionaires have set their hearts on going after them.  Solar-powered space mining and refining may make such industries on earth less necessary, but how would we ensure that the incoming loads of steel and other materials would always land in the proper place?

Some of these scenarios sound like a sci-fi movie - yet sci-fi movies have a way of becoming reality in a few short decades.  Perhaps carriers are no obsolete; perhaps death satellites and smart rocks flung from the moon aren't the best use of taxpayer dollars.  We'd be foolish not to at least as the questions, though, if we don't want to suffer from another Pearl Harbor or 9-11.

Whatever happens, we cling to ancient wisdom, "If you would have peace, prepare for war."