Archive for April, 2012


April 14, 2012

Washington Times on April 13, 2012 published a review of Dennis Prager’s new book“Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (Broadside Books, 448 pages). Excerpts of the review below:

Mr. Prager argues that three incompatible value systems are competing in the world: leftism, Americanism and Islamism.

It is important to define leftism, Mr. Prager says, because it is what might be called a “stealth religion” (not his phrase) that receives much of its support because the media and academics present leftism as the normal and accepted way to think, challenged only by “rightists” or “conservatives.”

Another reason Mr. Prager needs to define leftism is that it usually is not presented as an overall ideology – normally speaking more about goals than about values.

It is even more important, Mr. Prager says, to define and advocate Americanism because many people who believe in its values do not articulate or teach them. No other country advocates for American values, and in the United States, leftists who don’t share American values dominate the press, the universities and the educational system.

The trinity that summarizes American values, according to Mr. Prager, is stated on American coins: “liberty,” “In God we trust,” and “e pluribus unum” (from many one). Leftists, he asserts, are more concerned with equality of results than with liberty – that is, personal freedom – which Mr. Prager says explains why much of the left has been so tolerant of leftist dictators – from Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez – as well as Islamist tyrants.

A central leftist value, even for religious leftists, is to exclude religious values and any recognition of God from public discussion. Americans traditionally, back to our founding generation, have believed that some kind of religion is essential to America’s well-being. In his book “Americanism,” David Gelernter goes further, arguing that Americanism is a religion replacing Puritanism and that the United States is a biblical republic.


E pluribus unum, which originally referred to the federal principle of the United States, Mr. Prager uses to stand for the principle of welcoming all kinds of individuals to join in the “unum” of the American community. Leftism, Mr. Prager says, divides us by its emphasis on dealing with people as members of separate categories defined by gender, race and class, rather than as individuals. It also rejects the idea that our “unum” has any special virtue or any special responsibility to the world.

Mr. Prager also argues that the traditional American understanding that “right and left share the same ends and … differ only in their ways to achieve that vision” is no longer true. Right and left, Mr. Prager says, “differ in their vision of America.” Therefore, America can be united “only when the great majority affirm either left-wing or conservative values.” If this radical view is correct, it is a great challenge to the American political system and it may be part of the explanation for the polarization of politics and intellectual discussion observed in recent years.

Mr. Prager carefully states that he does not think leftists are unpatriotic. Mostly they love America but think it should be, in President Obama’s words in his 2008 campaign, “fundamentally transformed.”

“Still the Best Hope” makes an important contribution by encouraging believers in Americanism to stand up for their values and helping them understand the ideological challenge they face.

The reviewer of this book is Max Singer. He was a founder with Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute and was its president until 1973. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and at the BESA Institute of Bar Ilan University in Israel


April 12, 2012

Washington Times on April 11, 2012, published a report on Norman R. Augustine, who was voted one of the “50 Great Americans,” holds 28 honorary degrees, and received the Defense Department’s highest civilian decoration (Distinguished Service Medal) not just once, but five times.

At different times, Norman R. Augustine was CEO of Martin Marietta; CEO of Lockheed Martin; chairman of the Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program; chairman of the National Academy of Engineering; chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association; chairman of the Defense Science Board; and chairman of the American Institute of Aeronautics.

He has modestly given his book the title “Augustine’s Laws.” And when he has something to say, the powers that be listen carefully.

This week in Washington, Mr. Augustine triggered alarm bells about America’s continuing decline in the global educational sweepstakes. Since 2000, he said, “one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs – 5.5 million jobs – have disappeared. 42,000 factories have closed. Further, it is no longer simply factories that are moving abroad. The list now includes research laboratories, administrative offices, financial offices, prototype shops, and more.”

Six years ago, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine formed a 20-member committee of public and private university presidents, Nobel laureates, CEOs, former presidential appointees and the head of a state public school system – and produced a document that became known as the “Gathering Storm” report, after the first line in its title.

Some of its recommendations were included in Congress‘ stimulus bill, but the “problem,” as Mr. Augustine sees it, “is that this is not a Sputnik, 9/11 or Pearl Harbor moment. It is the proverbial frog being slowly boiled.”

In China, seven of its eight top leaders hold degrees in engineering. One of them, Premier Wen Jiabao, said, “Scientific discovery and technological inventions have brought about new civilizations, modern industries, and the rise and fall of nations. I firmly believe science is the ultimate revolution.”

In the “Nation’s Report Card,” said Mr. Augustine, “67 percent of U.S. fourth graders were scored ‘not proficient’ (the lowest ranking) in science. By eighth grade the fraction had grown to 70 percent, and by twelfth grade it reached 79 percent. Seemingly, the longer our young people are exposed to America’s K-12 education system, the worse they perform.”

At the present rate of improvement, it will take about 150 years for public school students to catch up with their private school counterparts in the U.S., he said, “and this says nothing about catching up with the children of China, Finland, Taiwan and India.

Mr. Augustine’s explanation: Almost 70 percent of fifth- to eighth-grade students in U.S. public schools are taught math by teachers who possess neither a degree nor a certificate in math. And fully 93 percent of students are taught physical sciences by teachers with neither a degree nor a certificate in the physical sciences. “In fact,” he adds, “over half the nation’s science teachers have not had a single college course in the field they teach.”

After a major study of the ever-widening education gap, Management Consultant McKinsey & Co. concluded that “if U.S. Youth could match the academic performance of students in Finland, our economy would be between 9 and 16 percent larger.”


April 11, 2012

Fox News on April 9, 2012, published an AP report that the U.S. Navy said it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program. Excerpts below:

The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, said Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.

The two carriers will support the American military operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia’s coast and in the Gulf of Aden, Cmdr. Derrick-Frost said.

The warships also patrol the Gulf’s strategic oil routes, which Iran has threatened to shut down in retaliation for economic sanctions.

The deployment of the second aircraft carrier is “routine and not specific to any threat,” Cmdr. Derrick-Frost added. She did say how long the Navy will keep the increased military presence in region.

The Enterprise is based in Norfolk. It is the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and is now on its last mission. The Enterprise was commissioned in November 1961 and is scheduled to be deactivated this fall.


April 9, 2012

Newsmax on April 3, 2012, published a Thompson/Reuter report on this year’s frenzy of oil and gas exploration in newly accessible Arctic waters that could be the harbinger of even starker changes to come. Excerpts below:

If, as many scientists predict, currently inaccessible sea lanes across the top of the world become navigable in the coming decades, they could redraw global trading routes — and perhaps geopolitics — forever.

This summer will see more human activity in the Arctic than ever before, with oil giant Shell engaged in major exploration and an expected further rise in fishing, tourism and regional shipping.

This was an event at Washington DC think tank the Centre For Strategic and International Studies last week.

With indigenous populations, researchers and military forces reporting the ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap might disappear completely during the summer season as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier.

That could slash the journey time from Europe to Chinese and Japanese ports by well over a week, possibly taking traffic from the southern Suez Canal route..

There are fledging signs of growing cooperation — the first ever meeting of Arctic defence chiefs in Canada later this month, joint tabletop exercises on polar search and rescue operations organised through the Arctic Council.

Norway and Canada, for example, have spent recent years quietly re-equipping its military and moving troops and other forces to new or enlarged bases further north.

Having largely withdrawn most of its forces from the region in the aftermath of the Cold War, officials and experts say the United States is now only just rediscovering its significance.

For the first time, some officers worry the United States is losing its foothold as new rivals such as China prepare to muscle in.

“We are in many ways an Arctic nation without an Arctic strategy,” United States Coast Guard Vice Adml Brian M Salerno told the same Washington DC event.

The United States has yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which many countries use as the basis for discussing thorny Arctic territorial issues.

Arctic experts point to at least nine separate disputes within the region, from disagreements between the United States and Canada over parts of the Northwest passage to fishing conflicts that also drag in China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and others.

Russia in particular is seen to be keen to assert its presence in a region in which it has long been the dominant power.

It operates almost all of the world’s 34 or so icebreakers — albeit many of them ageing Cold War-era vessels, some powered by nuclear reactors that Western experts say could be a major danger in their own right.

“They have cities in the Arctic, we only have villages,” says Melissa Bert, U.S. Coast Guard captain and currently a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “We simply need more of a presence there.”

Norway and Russia in particular have long had awkward relations over the Svalbard islands, broadly internationally agreed to be Norwegian but with a growing population of Russian emigres.

This year, Oslo announced it was creating a specialist “Arctic battalion”, explicitly linked to a similar move by Russia’s military just across their shared border.

Some of the most awkward choices, however, will be faced by the Arctic’s least powerful states.

Greenland, one of Europe’s largest countries but with one of its smallest populations — less than 57,000 people — could face particular challenges.

As its territory opens up more for exploration and mineral extraction, it could find its population swelling rapidly, driven by an influx from Asian investor-countries, notably China.

Nevertheless, some experts believe that if handled properly, the opening of the Arctic could benefit many if not all countries in the northern hemisphere.

“I see the Arctic as ultimately more of a venue for cooperation than confrontation,” says Christian le Miere, senior fellow for maritime affairs at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. “China, Northern Europe, Russia will all benefit in particular from the new sea routes. The only real losers will be countries much further south that cannot take advantage.”


April 4, 2012

BBC on April 4, 2012, reported that the US has formally sent to trial five suspected al-Qaeda terrorist believed to have planned the 9/11 terror attacks. Excerpts below:

The five Guantanamo Bay inmates, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be tried by a military commission.

They will face charges including terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy, murder and destruction of property.

They could face the death penalty if found guilty, the Pentagon confirmed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four others – Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi – are expected to be tried together, the Pentagon added.

They are accused of planning and executing the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, which saw hijacked planes strike New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

A total of 2,976 people died in the attacks.

The suspects are:

• Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the most high profile of the suspects, has allegedly admitted to masterminding the 9/11 attacks and others. Captured in 2003, he has been at Guantanamo Bay since 2006

• Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who allegedly helped locate flights schools for the hijackers

• Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, allegedly helped nine of the hijackers enter the US

• Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, of Saudi Arabia, is said to have helped set up some of the hijackers with money, clothes and credit cards

• Waleed bin Attash, a Yemeni, is said to have been a bodyguard to Osama Bin Laden and trained some 9/11 hijackers


April 3, 2012

The American Enterprise Institute recently pointed to the danger of the declining number of USAF bombers. Excerpts below:

If the United States lacks the necessary force structure to preclude armed conflict, it is questionable whether the US military would be able to prevail in a war.

When executing a military campaign in the western Pacific, size matters. Not only would there be a significant number of targets to strike, but the long distances between targets would spread combat assets thin.

For example, when the United States launched Operation Linebacker II—its final major air campaign of the Vietnam War—the Air Force operated B-52 strategic bombers out of two locations: Utapao Royal Navy Airfield in Thailand and Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. Although Utapao was actually a smaller installation than Anderson—able to accommodate only one third of the total B-52 force (51 at Utapao versus 150 at Anderson)—the U-Tapao crews actually flew nearly half the total number of bombing missions during this period.

The reason is simple. Thailand is virtually next door to Vietnam, while Guam is roughly 2,400 miles away. This meant that bombers based in Thailand were able to fly more sorties, or operational flights, in a given day than those based in Guam because they did not have to spend as much time in transit over the Pacific.

Today, US long-range strike capabilities are predominantly based out of Guam and areas beyond. During the Vietnam era, the United States had more than 500 B-52s.3 Today, the Air Force has only 134 combined B-1s, B-2s, and B-52s.

Of these assets, the B-2s are the only long-range strike aircraft that can penetrate enemy air defenses, conduct their missions deep within enemy territory, and survive.Given the force generation demands of a sustained air campaign, as few as four or five B-2s would likely be employed at a given time. These aircraft have not been in production for more than a decade, so existing aircraft are nearly two decades old and combat losses cannot be replaced. Its stealth attributes will be increasingly challenged when operating in increasingly sophisticated threat environments, as former Air Force Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley noted during an address to the Air Force Association.

The B-1 and B-52s predate modern stealth technology and would be restricted to a stand-off role. The United States lost fifteen B-52s during the twelve days of Linebacker II. Since that time, air defenses in the Asia-Pacific domain and elsewhere have grown far more lethal and complex. Although fighter assets could be used to conduct some attack missions, they lack sufficient range to strike targets deep within a country like China and lack the payload capacity of a bomber.

Although the advent of precision guided munitions enables individual aircraft to strike multiple targets on an individual sortie, successful air campaigns require parallel concurrent attacks to subvert an enemy’s war-making capacity through a massive collapse of key centers of gravity—command and control, infrastructure, logistics, and specific military units. Striking these targets gradually empowers an enemy with time to compensate for individual strike damage.

Considering that the average theater campaign has 30,000 enemy targets, it is also not financially feasible to strike such a high volume of enemy positions with expensive stand-off, or long-range, munitions like cruise missiles.

Numbers matter, and it is important to consider that hundreds of aircraft-dropped GPS-guided bombs, such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, can be acquired for the cost of one standoff cruise missile. Additionally, stand-off assets are generally less effective against mobile and time-sensitive targets. Their aim-point coordinates are set before launch, and when fired at range, their time before impact is normally measured in hours, not minutes.


April 2, 2012

Washington Post on March 30, 2012, published an AP report on a statement by Japan’s defense minister. He ordered missile units to intercept a long-range rocket expected to be launched by North Korea if the rocket or its fragments threaten to hit Japan. Excerpts below:

The Unha-3 rocket is expected to fly past western Japan after its launch from North Korea’s west coast sometime between April 12 and 16. The plan has raised concerns that a failed launch, or a falling stage of the rocket, could endanger Japanese lives or property.

The order from Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka came at a meeting of Japan’s national security council and followed earlier instructions for the military to prepare to intercept the rocket if it enters Japanese territory.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura urged people to stay calm, saying the military is preparing “just in case.

“We don’t believe anything would fall over Japan’s territory. Please carry out your daily lives and business as usual,” he said.

A statement from the Defense Ministry said Japan would send destroyers equipped with Aegis missile defense systems to the Pacific and East China Sea and deploy mobile Patriot missile launchers in Okinawa. An interceptor missile unit is also likely to be deployed in Tokyo, although the capital is far from the expected flight path.