HUMINT: A Continuing Crisis?

Author: W. R. Baker

Before Vietnam completely fades from memory and its lessons learned gather even

Vietnam

more dust, it might be worth exploring a few issues that will likely resurface again.

During the latter months of the Vietnam War (1971-72), the United States was actively sending units home, turning facilities and functions over to the South Vietnamese and to U.S. forces located elsewhere before the 29 March 1973 deadline for all U.S. forces to be out of the country. In January 72, President Nixon announced that 70,000 troops would be withdrawn by 1 May 72, reducing the troop level in Vietnam to 69,000.

Beginnings

I was assigned in 1971 to the 571st Military Intelligence Detachment in Da Nang, the unit primarily ran Human Intelligence (HUMINT) operations throughout I Corps in northern South Vietnam. I was quickly exposed to Viet Cong (VC), North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and friendly forces’ activity in our area of interest. As such it was evident that South Vietnamese forces that had taken part in Lam Son 719 in Laos were licking their wounds – even the much touted 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Division, garrisoned in Hue had been severely crippled in this failed campaign in 1971.

We also dealt with other foreign country units, i.e., South Korean, who left I Corps a few months after I arrived, in addition to ARVN commanders and secret police officials.

As we ran Unilateral and Bilateral agent networks, remaining U.S. units in I Corps and MACV, USARV, USPACFLT, 7th AF, 7th PSYOPS, and our headquarters (the 525 Military Intelligence Group in Saigon) all received copies of our Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs), as they applied to their Areas of Operations and Interest. Unit 101 was an ARVN intelligence unit that also received selected reports. Being responsible for the distribution of all these IIRs allowed me to know the status of the remaining units, which would aid me later during the Easter Offensive of 1972.

Shortly after arriving at my unit, it became clear that it had been content to operate without understanding the tactical and strategic situation in I Corps (the identifier that most soldiers continued to use after it switched into the newer term, which I will continue to use in this article), relying on XXIV Corps, which soon became the First Regional Assistance Command (FRAC), for area knowledge when it became necessary. “The advisory command, recalled Major General Kroesen (the FRAC commander), was ‘heavily weighted to provide administrative assistance and logistical advice’ with only a token intelligence and operations section.  It was neither manned nor equipped to monitor the combat actively or to provide tactical guidance.”1 The general and his staff failed to mention these “little” points to our intelligence organization. The rub, though, is that we were the only functioning intelligence unit in all of I Corps/FRAC during the Easter Offensive of 1972 and we didn’t know it!

I was very fortunate to work for an organization that didn’t inhibit new ideas – actually, this was not uncommon for intelligence units then and for the next few years after Vietnam ended. Trained as an Intelligence/Order of Battle Analyst, I began creating topical files on enemy units and equipment (the “old” Composition, Disposition, Strength, etc, of FM 30-5 that was drilled into us in intelligence school), while obtaining 1:50,000 scale UTM maps, which took up considerable wall space. Our unit was lucky to also have helicopter support from the 358th Aviation Detachment for 2-3 weeks every month for “ass and trash” missions. I would occasionally fill in for sick door gunners and visit our teams in Quang Tri, Hue, Chu Lai, Tam Ky and Quang Ngai, making notes on the physical features I saw to make changes to our maps, highlighting such things as avenues of approach, military crests, new physical features, friendly military positions, etc. This type of reconnaissance was supplemented by occasional trips by jeep, as well.

The maps were an immediate “hit” with our unit, as we and any visitors would be able to view and comment on where enemy units were positioned and other loci made while using the maps. The maps were obviously a tremendous asset during the Easter Offensive, especially since they were manually and accurately updated. Unexpectedly, an event occurred that made use of them beforehand.

As U.S. units left, so our presence would eventually follow and so would the amount of money that could be expended on our agents. So it fell to me to go through each agent’s reports and each net that we ran. I protested at first, but I was told simply that there was no one else qualified to do it because I knew the military situation in I Corps and had created topical files for each area and unit.

Well aware that this “paring down” of agents was a huge responsibility and what the consequences meant, I took 3-4 months’ worth of IIRs for each agent, my topical files and the appropriate maps and carefully waded through them all. What I found was eye-opening. Some of the agents had been reporting virtually the same events over and over, making little changes. Some agents rarely reported anything, while others sometimes described units located well outside their operational area. Some agents were mediocre and a few were exceptionally good – these reports were always valuable.

The next step was to rate all the agents, each net, and to justify the reasons for each rating. Having my recommendations affirmed by the area specialists and our leadership was gratifying. Little did we know that this was to become more of a plus in our accuracy and information reliability during the Easter Offensive.

The NVA/VC were “expected” to make trouble during TET (mid-February) 1972. Because nothing happened, the press took the intelligence and various other command organizations to task for not having any idea of what was going on and of being mere sycophants of the upper echelons. Events were to prove that the press weren’t too far off

Because we were such a small unit that was HUMINT-oriented, we were never asked for our opinion or intelligence. We had received virtually nothing about TET from anyone, but early the next month (March), we started getting various indicators from our own agents. It is important to understand that we never received intel from 7th Air Force, MACV, DIA or CIA: our information always went up but NOTHING came down – we were disregarded, just as HUMINT was and generally is today.

Hostilities Begin

The 324B NVA Division moved into the A Shau Valley in early-March, heading for its usual AO to the west of Hue to keep the 1st ARVN Division occupied. The 324B was a Military Region Tri-Thien-Hue (MRTTH) unit. As it moved through the A Shau, it linked up with the 5th and 6th Independent Infantry Regiments, also of the MRTTH. As time progressed, it was obvious that at least two regiments were moving northeasterly and could act as a blocking force along QL-1 (the main north-south highway in country), while the other two regiments confined 1st ARVN to Firebases Bastogne and Birmingham. There wasn’t as much as a single ARVN battalion able to defend Hue as the 324B engaged ARVN.

We started to receive information from across I Corps on targets and unit activity. Though we were generally a strategic unit and our IIRs were often not timely enough to act on, it was necessary to make or strengthen contacts to respond to the targets that were rapidly presenting themselves, which could just as rapidly move away. There had been no usual way for us to provide targets to air or ground forces before. We had gone out with 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division units to confirm some of our IIRs, but time was always critical as units and weapon caches moved, etc.

We had been coordinating with the local Special Forces unit when we received information on the “Salt and Pepper” VC propaganda team operating to the west of Chu Lai. I knew they had an on-call capability, so I would feed them information on newly developed targets, as well. I also had a friend that worked ARCLIGHT (i.e., B-52) targets in Saigon and would make sure the 196th Light Infantry Brigade would get infiltration and unit reports for their AO.

In early March, we had information concerning the forthcoming Offensive of major importance. “Moreover, among the reduced number of enemy documents that were exploited were detailed orders of battle and COSVN plans for the spring offensive”2 contained in our IIRs. Even this information wasn’t enough to convince other intelligence agencies, nor command elements, that a major event was going to take place.

Throughout March 1972, the pace of incoming information quickened to the point that it was obvious that a major offensive was going to take place, but this time (and unlike TET 1968) it would involve main-force units, to include tanks – something the NVA had never done before! “One example of the close-mindedness of some senior military commanders was the total disregard (MG) Kroesen and (Gen) Westmoreland among others showed toward intelligence predictions of an enemy frontal assault along the Demilitarized Zone.”3

“John M. Oseth, who was then serving as the G-2 adviser to the 3rd ARVN Division, acknowledged that although there might have been isolated agent reports of an impending invasion, the general consensus, at least at the division level, was that the threat of enemy attack though present, was not great.”4

“The most prevalent problem in this regard was an unwillingness on the part of commanders to heed warnings of massed armor and heavy artillery.”5

“…and in spite of at least four separate human resources who claimed that there would be a ‘great offensive’ in the near future, American military personnel for the most part were dubious about any impending large-scale attack. Information from theses human sources proved to be both detailed and factually accurate as the Offensive took its course.”6 Undoubtedly, this was our northernmost network of agents.

As the IIRs arrived, it was obvious that we needed to report our compiled information in an expeditious manner. Again, I was asked how best to do this and we went with an Intelligence Summary (INTSUM) format, which allowed us to report virtually everything with a minimum of format. There had never been an INTSUM used by the 525 MI Group before, undoubtedly because there had never been a tactical situation arise before like the Easter Offensive of 1972. An INTSUM was later imposed by the Group on all its detachments, twice a day.

Just prior to the Offensive, many of the major NVA units crossing the DMZ, their commanders and their probable avenues of approach and initial objectives were developed and reported in our INTSUM.

Though not specifically cited, South Vietnam’s Joint General Staff was said to have issued an alert for the end of March based on intelligence reporting. This implies that our INTSUMs were used by at least one organization, though it was not an American one!

In fact, even the ARVN had little idea of the I Corps situation for days afterwards and the U.S. FRAC commander was caught dumfounded. LTG Ngo Quang Truong, ARVN I Corps Commander (beginning 3 May 1972) wrote, “Although there was general agreement in the intelligence community – Vietnamese as well as American – that an offensive in early 1972 was highly probable, some observers of the Vietnam scene, perhaps those not as well informed as those of us privy (my emphasis) to the most reliable estimates, were influenced more by what seemed to them to be the illogic of a major North Vietnamese attack at this time.”7

Our reporting was ignored until after the offensive began on the morning of 30 March 1972.  The exact time the Easter Offensive started depended on where you were located. One thing is certain, the NVA had acquired the M46 130mm Field Gun from the Soviets and they used it throughout the morning and very accurately.

In the first few hours of the Offensive, the first two Americans died. Both were US Army Security Agency soldiers assigned to the 407th Radio Research Detachment/8th RR Field Station. Bruce A. Crosby, Jr., and Gary P. Westcott were both working atop FSB Sarge when a rocket apparently blew up their bunker, killing them both.

As it was, the MACV commander, the U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, the MACV J-2 and others were visiting their wives out of country. The Secretary of Defense was headed for Puerto Rico to play golf and the Senior Advisor of Team 155 to 3rd ARVN was also headed out the same morning that the Offensive began. The South Vietnamese warning was obviously not believed or didn’t make it into the U.S. command elements anywhere in the country.

Just below the DMZ, the newly organized 3rd ARVN Division occupied the northern and western firebases. The 2nd ARVN Regiment was taken whole from the 1st ARVN Division, while the 56th and 57th ARVN Regiments were entirely new 3rd ARVN Division units, composed of deserters and malcontents from within South Vietnam.

In an odd twist of fate (or design), 3rd ARVN’s 56th and 2nd Regiments were coincidently turning off their comms and swapping firebases when the NVA began their extensive artillery preparation of the battlefield, which began the invasion. The problem-plagued 56th Regiment was to occupy the western and northwesterly facing firebases to lessen the effects of something called “firebase syndrome,” after having only spent a few months in one of the northern firebases! Both regiments were on the road when the shelling began – well exposed in the open to NVA artillery.

Eventually, elements of the 56th ARVN reached Camp Carroll, the lynchpin of the western firebases and the major artillery support location in northern South Vietnam.

We were the only unit providing current intelligence for the first few weeks of the Offensive – primarily due to the bad weather across northern I Corps keeping winged-aircraft away and because FRAC was no longer in the intel business. Knowing that the USN destroyers were providing gunfire support in the waters off the DMZ (e.g., the U.S.Buchanan, DDG 14, in its resolute support of Captain Ripley and the Dong Ha Bridge), we tried to provide them with our INTSUMs (via the FRAC and NILO, who also supported the local SEALs). We also knew the destroyers would be in contact with PACFLT, who would also converse with MACV about the current situation.

The first day of the Offensive quickly became a Friday and a Saturday heralding the beginning of April and there was proverbially no rest for the weary. By Saturday, every ARVN firebase north of the Cam Lo River had fallen, from where the 57th ARVN had already been routed. But the first Sunday of the month (2 April 1972) was to be the most memorable.

Three key events were to occur within 1 ½ hours of each other on this Easter Sunday afternoon of 1972.

The first major incident occurred at 1520 when the LTC Phan Van Dinh surrendered all of his 56th ARVN Regiment at Camp Carroll to the 24th NVA Infantry Regiment/304th NVA Infantry Division and a tank company. The exploits of LTC Camper and MAJ Brown, who tried to convince LTC Dinh not to surrender are well-known. Dinh’s cowardice didn’t end with his surrender of Camp Carroll, as the next day he broadcast on Radio Hanoi to the military in South Vietnam to lay down their arms because the NVA was sure to win. The fall of Camp Carroll compelled the firebase at Mai Loc to be evacuated minutes later as the 66th NVA Infantry Regiment pressed their attack. The whole western defense line crumbled.

On the U.S. Army side, MG Kroesen wrote several statements in Quang Tri: The Lost Province that directly bear on this particular event. “The surrender (of Camp Carroll) has never been explained” and “…unidentified personnel of the regiment made radio contact with the enemy to arrange surrender terms.” LTC Dinh was the traitor who made the call and the arrangements. Another Kroesen error also mentions that the 56th lost two of its battalions and three artillery batteries, while “a third battalion refused to surrender and fought its way to Dong Ha.”8 This statement directly contradicts Camper and Brown’s MFR, as well as any other known documents and makes one wonder where this information originated. Not one battalion even attempted to fight its way out and there was a report that most of the 56th had been executed in the vicinity of the Rockpile, northwest of Camp Carroll.

Ironically, sometimes the press knew more than the generals. For instance, the Stars and Stripes had this to say about the fall of Camp Carroll. “The most crushing blow to the South Vietnamese Sunday was the fall of Camp Carroll, which had been pounded with hundreds of artillery, rocket and mortar shells since last Thursday. ‘Field reports said some government troops may have escaped and those left ran up a white flag of surrender. ‘All American advisors had been evacuated from Carroll by helicopter just before it fell, sources said. ‘It was not immediately known whether the four long-range 175mm artillery guns at Carroll were destroyed or fell into Communist hands.”9 A battery of four 175mm guns, a 155mm Howitzer battery, two 105mm batteries and numerous quad-50s and twin-40s were lost to the enemy. In their haste to surrender, none of these weapons were rendered useless.

One of the 175mm guns remains on display in Hanoi. The forfeiture of all the artillery in Camp Carroll without a fight represented the almost complete loss of all indirect fire assets in northern South Vietnam, with the exception of U.S. naval gunfire off the coast.

Even more outrageously, Kroesen wrote that the surrender of Camp Carroll “had not shaken the morale or confidence of the other defending forces to any noticeable degree.” The reverberations of a surrender of a whole regiment were quickly and keenly felt across the country. American advisors assigned to II and III Corps have written of the instances of cowardice and of turncoats after the Camp Carroll surrender occurred in their areas.

The second major incident was the Bridge at Dong Ha, which was blown at 1630, after various contradictory orders. The ARVN leadership didn’t want the bridge blown in order to use it for a counterattack, but the 3rd ARVN was not up to the task with NVA tanks attempting to cross the bridge. Marine Captain Ripley and Army Major Smock ended up blowing the bridge after great difficulty, with the assistance of the U.S.Buchanan which was laying close in-shore supporting them. The Buchanan is credited with destroying at least four PT-76 tanks. Though Team 155 Senior Advisor and a South Vietnamese I Corps commander (who was not assigned to I Corps at the time) all credit ARVN for blowing up the bridge, it is obvious that Ripley and Smock brought the span down under the eyes of the Buchanan.

The final major event of that Easter occurred some 20 minutes later, at 1650, when an EB-66, call sign Bat-21, was shot down south of the DMZ by SA-2/Guidelines located SOUTH of the DMZ in South Vietnam. Only one of the crew made it out of the aircraft, parachuting right into the attacking 308th NVA Division’s area. An immediate 27km no-fire zone was automatically imposed around the crewman (an Air Force lieutenant colonel). As Dong Ha Bridge was just blown, the invading NVA were forced to move west to the Cam Lo Bridge to cross or ford the Mieu Giang River, adding to the number of enemy troops in the area.

Though the no-fire zone was reduced, many enemy troops, trucks and tanks were able to cross the bridge at Cam Lo because it was not blown for 12 more days. The no-fly zone was a great matter of concern to ARVN and their advisors (et al), who chafed at the protection one man was receiving as the NVA moved without molestation in the area.

These three major events also show some of the major problems that occurred in Vietnam. The creation, training, and deployment of the 3rd ARVN Division was an open invitation to the NVA to strike at the key to the western firebases.  The changing dynamics of the battlefield which caused Ripley and Smock to act, undoubtedly saved lives by forcing the NVA to find a crossing to the west. The knowledge that SAMs and AAA had set-up shop in South Vietnam were known to USAF. The NVA had also created and improved the road network through the DMZ into South Vietnam allowing the NVA an easier entry into the South, which was observed and reported by 1st MIBARS during the year before.

As can be imagined, contact with our agents became increasingly more difficult as the Offensive continued, especially the northern most network in South Vietnam. The NVA divisions roared through the DMZ and Laos, primarily fighting in a regimental organizational structure.

Dropping the Ball

There were many senior officers who quite literally dropped the ball in not embracing the intelligence given them and acting upon it.

We will begin with COL Donald J. Metcalf, Senior Advisor of Team 155, advising 3rd ARVN Division. His U.S. War College Paper is an interesting bit of equivocation.   The first few pages have to do with why he didn’t know the Offensive was coming and the role of intelligence. For instance, “I contend that among all the items of intelligence produced prior to the attack, a small fraction indicated that such an offensive might occur, but other equally sizable and equally believable fractions indicated that something less might occur. ‘The sources available to me were the G2’s of the 1st and 3rd ARVN Divisions, and the American estimates produced by XXIV Corps, and they were in general agreement that the enemy would repeat the dry season activities of previous years….”  Past activity patterns, he wrote “can cloud the observer’s vision…” and “may have led informed persons in the intelligence community to give less credence than was warranted to (other) indications….”10 A not so nice way of blaming intelligence for the mistakes of a professional combat commander, it seems.

What COL Metcalf forgot to mention is that one the 571st’s Teams was co-located on Quang Tri and they were also recipients of our INTSUM, as well.

Kroesen states that, “Only a superficial study of the map, the foot mobility of the enemy, and the history of prior years was needed to conclude that these preparations would require two to three months.”11 Yes, general, but there were many reports of vehicular Ho Chi Minh Trail activity and of NVA activity above the DMZ and let’s not forget the 1st MIBARS reports that stated the NVA were expanding and improving roads below the DMZ, too. As for the history of previous years, one wonders why, “It’s always been this way” is an excuse? General Kroesen’s FRAC also received our INTSUMs, though he admits his intelligence capabilities were limited, one would have thought he would have prized any information (especially in light of some of his statements).

MACV, PACFLT, 7th AF, CIA, DIA, JCS, the South Vietnamese JGS and even the Secretary of Defense had no expectations of a North Vietnamese offensive. All had preconceptions, helped along by the NVA who showed the U.S. and South Vietnamese what they expected to see. Americans still became KIAs and WIAs (as did the ARVN and South Vietnamese Marine Corps-SVMC), though only a couple of U.S. units remained in-country after all the U.S. divisions left. The indiscriminate artillery shelling of thousands of civilians caused thousands of deaths, as well.

One of the reasons given by some high-ranking individuals was that they never thought the North Vietnamese would break their agreement of not striking from the DMZ. This, despite the years of the North Vietnamese and VC lying only adds to the incredulity that the Easter Offensive of 1972 was allowed to happen.

“(John Paul) Vann (who commanded II Corps/SRAC), ever the doubting Thomas, stated on 7 February 1972 that ‘Intelligence gathering is the chief problem’ and that ‘Nearly all reliable intelligence is limited to US S.I. (Special Intelligence) Channels.”12 Don’t listen to all of your intelligence personnel at your peril.

Aftermath

Having had this HUMINT experience, as I continued my MI career for a few more years in an all-source, multi-service environment, I found that HUMINT was often derided by commanders and analysts alike. Just as in Vietnam (and WWII before it), SIGINT was all knowing and all-important, with HUMINT relegated to a last-place position. I was to find years later that the remaining SIGINT units in Vietnam did have indications of some kind of NVA activity, but none of it was disseminated to other intel units. The question becomes why weren’t U.S. and ARVN/SVMC units warned?

LTG Michael Flynn, in his The Field of Fight, wrote about human intelligence and interrogation being “essentially nonexistent” at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk. He goes on to mention the “politicization of intelligence” and “don’t deliver bad news to your leaders” and how this “appears to be going in our intelligence system today regarding our fight against Radical Islamists….”13

Perhaps we need to relearn our lessons learned, again?

End Notes

  1. USMC in Vietnam, 1971-73, p. 48-49.
  2. Thomas H. Lee, “Military Intelligence Operations and the Easter Offensive,” (USA Center of Military History, 6 September 1990), p. 25.
  3. Ibid, p. 32.
  4. Ibid, p. 4.
  5. Ibid, p. 6.
  6. Ibid, p. 14.
  7. LTG Ngo Quang Truong, The Vietnam War, An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals, (TX, Texas Tech University Press, 2010), p. 610.
  8. MG Frederick J. Kroesen, “Quang Tri, The Lost Province” (PA, USA War College, 16 Jan 74), p. 8.
  9. “Reds Push Deeper South” (AP), (Stars & Stripes, 4 April 1972), p.1. & p. 24.
  10. COL Donald J. Metcalf, “Why Did the Defense of Quang Tri Province, SVN Collapse?” (PA, USA War College, 23 October 1972), p. 3 & p.4.
  11. Kroesen, p. 4.
  12. Lee, p. 30.
  13. LTG Michael T. Flynn and Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight, (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2016), p. 34-35.

About the Author: W. R. Baker

W. R. Baker

W. R. (Bob) Baker graduated with the first 96B/Intelligence Analyst class at Fort Huachuca, AZ in 1971. He was then assigned to the 1st Battalion (which soon became the 571st MI Det.), 525th MI Group, headquartered in Da Nang, Vietnam. His further assignments included positions at Fort Bliss, Texas; two tours with the European Defense Analysis Center (EUDAC) in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany; and the 513th MI Group in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

He left the US Army and worked as an analyst for Interstate Electronics, Northrop-Grumman and Xontec defense contractors before teaching in primary and secondary schools.

Mr. Baker has a bachelor of science degree in Government from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton. He has authored other Easter Offensive articles and is currently writing a book on this subject.

 

 

 

Korea-A Cold War Lesson

June 24, 1950, marked the beginning of the Korean Conflict, the Korean War. It was the

A special thanks to all the Korean War Veterans on this the 67th anniversary of the start of that war. The Korean War Memorial

first conflict fought under the auspices of the fledgling United Nations with General MacArthur in charge.  Over 36,000 American died in Korea including 33,652 battle deaths and 3,262 “other deaths” in the war zone from illness, accidents and other non-battle causes according to the 1994 edition of Service and Casualties in Major Wars and Conflicts. Well over 7,000 Americans remain missing. More than 400,000 South Koreans also perished during this ‘conflict.’ Continue reading

Remembering Sacrifice

Etienne Murphy

“In America, you don’t fight because you hate what is in front of you. You fight because you love what’s behind you.” Pete Hegseth, May 27, 2017

A Memorial Day post dedicated to Etienne Murphy and all the men and women who died in all the U.S. wars. Army Specialist Etienne Murphy, of B Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers was killed in a vehicle rollover on May 26, 2017, in Syria. According to the This Ain’t Hell blog,  “Murphy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and enlisted in the

Arlington National Cemetery-220,000 graves receive flags

Army from his hometown of Snellville, Georgia, in June 2013, according to USASOC. After training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Murphy served in 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, at Fort Drum, New York. In October 2015, Murphy volunteered to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, successfully completing airborne school and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1.” Army Specialist Murphy leaves behind a wife and two small children. And, there are millions of men and women like Army Specialist Murphy buried around the world. America’s global footprint in not in lands conquered, it is in the dead we left fighting for others’ freedom. Continue reading

The Vietnam War and Remembrance: (April 30th, 1975-April 30th, 2017)

[Editor’s Note: An individual who can witness, nay live through, decades on the battlements of hell and emerge with wisdom and beauty are to be welcomed. Those who speak with clarion voice allowing others to learn from that experience are to be celebrated. Thank you Kim Roberts.]

April 30, 1975—April 30, 2017. Then and Now. Photos of him the day we met, and of us

The way I am today. Taken with two girl friends two weeks ago

more than four decades ago when he was alive, then my current picture taken two weeks ago with friends from the Sadec Flower Village in Vietnam to America. Love and War. Destiny and the magic of life. Over four decades have gone by the window of my life, literally as swiftly as whiffs of fragrance in the whirlwind breeze–from the fresh scent of Spring essence to the intense, spicy, and aromatic Summer heat then transitioned to the soft, intimate touch of flurry Autumn leaves dispersing in the air, and ending it all with a silky, tendered scent of Winter rain drips. Life has been both a curse and a blessing, nonetheless, no regrets.

We met in April 1968 at a Military Chapel in Dong Tam, Vietnam, one year short of five decades ago, while taking communion. On April 30, 1975, he frantically tried to get me out of Vietnam to no avail. Taking a leap of faith, I planned an escape from Vietnam and succeeded. Months later, I was a tattered refugee in America beginning to build a new life. Survival, Love, and War. And hundreds, if not thousands, of other events in between. Oh, what a life! Continue reading

Merry Christmas and Thank You to All Who Serve or Have Served

Author: Unknown

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So slumbered I, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Trooper, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment. It’s freezing out here!

Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really alright,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,”
Then he said, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures. He’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The Red, White and Blue American Flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

Spc. Mitchell Eidsvold (left), Spc. Michael Hons (center), and Sgt. Scott Jenson (right) of the 191st Military Police Company race towards the finish line of the Fallen Soldiers Memorial 12K run, while wearing full combat equipment and carrying the American Flag. The run took place in Devils Lake, N.D. on June 23, 2012. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brett Miller, 116th Public Affairs Detachment) (Released)

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

The Taiwan Straits Crisis – Leadership Makes a Difference

In 1979, President Carter recognized Beijing. While many viewed this change in foreign

Taiwan welcomes U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 (Wikipedia)

Taiwan welcomes U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 (Wikipedia)

policy as a victory, Taiwan did not. Along with the South China Sea, parts of Vietnam and other areas in Asia, China believes it owns Taiwan. To make political hay on the China deal the U.S. had to forsake Taiwan. To that end, foreign relations with Taiwan was severed. However, moral courage flagged and the U.S., like a codependent partner, adopted the Taiwan Relations Act that formally kept relations with “the people of Taiwan”.  Through this act billions in trade and weapons have been transacted.

A simple ten minute phone call between President-elect Trump and Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president sent shivers through the press and federal government. Oh my, China is upset. Before we jump to the conclusion that the world is about to end, it might benefit us to understand China has something to lose as well. On the other hand, Bob Dole, a lobbyist for the Taiwanese government and deep ties to the military industrial complex allegedly arranged the now-famous ‘telephone’ call. The lobbying swamp in Washington D.C. is indeed deep and wide.  Perhaps it is time to be codependent no more. Of course, non-stop undeclared wars will bankrupt the state financially and morally.  More than once the U.S. and China have come perilously close to blows over Taiwan. Close, but no blows were launched.

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) The inventor of spread spectrum technique and frequency hopping. Why we have cell phones and wifi.

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) The inventor of spread spectrum technique and frequency hopping. Why we have cell phones and wifi.

Sixty years have come and gone, but the sun has yet to set on the Taiwan Straits Crisis. Stranded on the rocky island of secrecy amid the storms of the Cold War (1947-1991), the mists of time should not be permitted to veil the lessons that must be learned.  In the U.S. during the early 1950s, Eisenhower was in office, China was engaged in a civil war, the Soviets were antsy, and the Air Force longed to hear the words  ‘the pickle is hot’ indicating they were free to unload armaments. The only thing missing from the high-tension plot was a bevy of brilliant beauties unless, of course, you consider Madam Chiang Kai-shek and Hedy Lamar.

Like a fine dining experience, the Taiwan Straits crisis unfolds in courses paired with the appropriate drink. In the late 1920s, China engaged in a great civil war. Following the final gasp of the Qing Dynasty in 1917, China was an unwieldy briar patch. From the political vacuum of swirling cultures and societal chaos coupled with the sheer size of the country, two primary competing forces emerged; Mao Tse-tung who would be at the helm of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) with a Communist agenda and Chiang Kai-Shek (ROC) who would lead the forces that did not want communism.

Both leaders were nasty pieces of work. Each was brutal and inhumane during their respective rule. Mao Tse-tung, wins the prize for the greatest mass murderer the world has ever seen.  According

to the Heritage Foundation’s Lee Edwards, Ph.D., “…an estimated 65 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s repeated, merciless attempts to create a new “socialist” China. Anyone who got in his way was done away with — by execution, imprisonment or forced famine.”…[1] Chiang Kai-Shek

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) (1897-2003)

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) (1897-2003)

, with about 10 million deaths on his soul, is no piker.[2] The battles between Chiang and Mao raged for a decade between 1927 and 1937. Chiang Kai-shek finally pushed Mao Tse-tung into Shaanxi, a remote rocky, barren site in northeastern China when, in July 1937, Japan invaded China. Chiang Kai-Shek won the first round.  Back in the west, the upsets in China were noted and then fell into obscurity with the burning challenges of the Great Depression, the advent of WWII and the early portents of the Cold War (1947-1991). Course one is served.

WWII signaled the rise of the United States as a major player on the military stage. China was viewed as a ‘victim’ of the Japanese. The U.S. and Britain were practically giddy over the dream that, after the war, China would become the lynch pin of stability in East Asia and a strong western ally. Beginning in 1941 the U.S. pumped millions of dollars into the region. By 1943, treaties between the U.S., Britain, and China were rewritten, signed and the U.S. had boots on the ground. About then harsh reality settled in as the U.S. tried, without success, to mend the Chinese fences between Mao Tse-tung’s Communist factions and

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), President, Peoples Republic of China

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), President, Peoples Republic of China

Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist factions.  By the end of WWII, the Marines were told to hold Beiping (Beijing) and the northern city of Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion. Recently retired General George C. Marshall attempted to negotiate a truce between the PRC and ROC factions in 1946. It quickly fell apart as neither the Communists nor the Nationalists were of a mind to compromise and the U.S. withdrew to deal with the European challenges of reparation. Back in the U.S., the division over whether to intervene on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek or not was beginning to deepen and harden. The second course was served with red wine.

Beginning in 1949, Mao Tse-Tung activated the military plan he had been formulating for years in his virtual prison in Shaanxi. By October 1949, Mao had bowled over Chiang Kai-shek’s forces, which fell like ten pins, and Chiang retreated to Taiwan where he formally established the Republic of China. Meanwhile in the rest of the world; Russia detonated its first nuke…gasp… and, in the U.S., the Republicans and Democrats were at it hammer and tongs over the victory of Mao’s Communists on mainland China and the Nationalists’ fate on Taiwan. Nuclear War became a real specter and the U.S. was anticipating the silly season, election time. Just in case the plate was not full enough, in June 1950, the Communists launched a second offensive with its opening salvo in Korea.

In the debate over what to do about the changed military situation in Korea following the second, and massive, Chinese military intervention in late November 1950, Marshall opposed a cease-fire with the Chinese – it would represent a “great weakness on our part”-and added that the United States could not in “all good conscience” abandon the South Koreans. When British Prime Minister Clement Attlee suggested negotiations with the Chinese, Marshall expressed opposition, arguing that it was almost impossible to negotiate with the Chinese Communists; he also expressed fear of the effects on Japan and the Philippines of concessions to the Communists. At the same time Marshall sought ways to avoid a wider war with China. When many in Congress favored an expanded war, Marshall was among the administration leaders who, in February 1951, stressed the paramount importance to the United States of Western Europe.[3]

 The infighting within the U.S. political and military establishment was intense. General MacArthur,

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right) At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right) At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

who oversaw the Allied occupation of postwar Japan and led United Nations forces in the Korean War disagreed strongly with the now retired General Marshall on how best to address the Communist aggression in East Asia. MacArthur was in favor of using all available force, including nukes, to back the Chinese Communists and Stalin off. Eventually, the rift grew so deep and open that the popular MacArthur managed to get himself fired by Truman. The Republicans in Congress went nuts and, in January, 1953, Republican President Eisenhower was sworn into office. This course was finally over and it was served with hard liquor.

The fourth course is light by comparison. In 1954, Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC occupied the islands of Taiwan and, further north, the Dachen Islands; these island groupings are very close to mainland China and the waters between them are known as the Taiwan Straits. To this day, both sides of the Chinese Civil War still view the Islands as strategically important because they present a launch platform from which to invade

Taiwan Straits

Taiwan Straits

mainland China. From time-to-time in the early 1950s they bombed each other. The Korean War kept the Chinese warring factions separated through the presence of the U.S. Fleet. The U.S. ‘maybe’ switch of sentiments that would have allowed Mao to retake the islands turned to a definite ‘No’ as a result of Korea. After the Korean War in September 1954, the PRC tried the U.S.resolve when it began bombing the northern islands. The United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan, which promised support to the ROC if the PRC engaged in a broader conflict.[4]  Like pieces on a chess board forever advancing and retreating, the confrontations continued throughout 1954. In 1955, Congress passed the ‘Formosa Resolution’, giving President Eisenhower the authority to defend Taiwan and the northern islands. The U.S. let it be known far and wide that Taiwan would be defended against communist attack. A quiet deal on the side was struck with Chiang Kai-shek to defend Jinmen and Mazu, in trade for his exiting Dachen. By 1955, the PRC inexplicably backed down and the pressure was off.

By 1958, the U.S. was center stage with its decision to intervene in Lebanon. Mao and the PRC

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894-1971) First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894-1971) First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964

took full advantage of the spotlight to resume bombing of Jinmen and Mazu. When Taiwan could not re-supply their military bases on the off-shore islands, the U.S. did so. The U.S. intervention brought an abrupt end to the bombardment and, once again, eased the crisis. “Eventually, the PRC and ROC came to an arrangement in which they shelled each other’s garrisons on alternate days. This continued for twenty years until the PRC and the United States normalized relations.”(See Footnote 4). Dessert has been served.

The snifter of good cognac and a cigar is in recently released documents that illustrate the internal contest Eisenhower fought to control the military. On January 12, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced that the United States would protect its allies through the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power” during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. This doctrine was a reflection of the deep divide that opened with the perception that the Truman administration was weak on Communism. The Air Force was anxious to proceed with strategic ‘massive retaliation’[5] and had battled the other branches of the military that argued for a more tactical approach.

Two serendipitous events, one on the U.S. side and one in the Soviet Union, kept the world from a headlong dive into the shallow pool of total nuclear annihilation in the 1958 Taiwan Straits Crisis. First President Eisenhower required the Air Force to plan initially to use conventional bombs against Chinese forces if the crisis escalated. Secondly, the Soviet Union’s Khrushchev’s war-like notes to Eisenhower backing the PRC with nuclear threats came on September 6, 1958 only AFTER the Chinese resumed the Sino-American talks and the threat of war was winding down. The timing of the Soviet war noises was not lost on either the Chinese or the Americans.

The U.S. is facing the same choices as it did in the 1950s. This time, however, the hot-to-trot protagonist is the Navy, not the Air Force. Eisenhower was strong enough to understand what was going on and stand the Air Force down, when necessary; Khrushchev was strong enough to delay the saber rattling until the threat was minimized. The Air Sea Battle Plan (ASB) is a current operational concept, not a blueprint for war with China. Having gotten the disclaimer out of the way, the Navy is proceeding to implement it and it is important that the citizens of the world understand it.[6] The lessons from Taiwan include the value of waiting before striking with the mother lode of destruction. The value of choosing leaders wisely becomes crystal clear with a lens that looks back through time.

 

 


[1] The Heritage Foundation; February 2, 2010; Lee Edwards, Ph.D.; The Legacy of Mao Zedong is Mass Murder; http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2010/02/the-legacy-of-mao-zedong-is-mass-murder

[2] University of Hawaii; November 1993; R.J. Rummel; HOW MANY DID COMMUNIST REGIMES MURDER?; http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM

[4] U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian; The Taiwan Straits Crises: 1954-55 and 1958; http://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/TaiwanStraitsCrises

[5] George Washington University National Security Archives; The Air Force and Strategic Deterrence 1950-1961; http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb249/doc09.pdf

[6] Defense News; Apr. 24, 2013; WENDELL MINNICK; Planning the Unthinkable War with China: An Aussie View of AirSea Battle; http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130424/DEFREG03/304240011/Planning-Unthinkable-War-China-An-Aussie-View-AirSea-Battle

One for the Good Guys

The Cold War Warrior studies the legacy of the Cold War through many lenses;

Ohio State Garden of Constants

Ohio State Garden of Constants

memories of uniformed and non-uniformed participants, historic events, and through various government bureaucracies.  A high-profile legacy is today’s global Islamist terrorism (NOT all Muslims).  There is an indirect thread that links this class of terrorism to WWII.  However, a strong and unbroken chain manacles the current terrorist activity directly to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and Western Civilization’s response.  Without diving into the murky waters of the Soviet Invasion, suffice it to say the U.S. and other Western countries failed to understand the Islamic and tribal cultures into which they were diving.  Thus, the diplomatic and subsequent warfighting efforts were and are disastrous.

Investigators work around the scene Monday afternoon on the campus of Ohio State University after an attacker allegedly drove a car into a group of students near Watts Hall and then got out of the car and attacked them. (David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com)

Investigators work around the scene Monday afternoon on the campus of Ohio State University after an attacker allegedly drove a car into a group of students near Watts Hall and then got out of the car and attacked them. (David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com)

On November 28, 2016, the Monday after the U.S.’s Thanksgiving holiday, the University of Ohio was attacked by a lone Somali refugee, a legal resident of the United States.  Cleveland.com’s Karen Farkas reported, “Eleven people were injured during a car and knife attack at Ohio State University early Monday and the suspect was then killed by police, authorities said. An hourlong (sic) campus lockdown was lifted at 11:14 a.m. All classes were canceled for the day…”

Terrorism isn’t the only legacy in this story.  There is another, far more proud, American legacy and its story lies behind the closed doors of the hour-long lockdown.  Written by journalist John Gray, it is a tale of duty, honor, and country.

“Lost in all the chaos at Ohio State University today was something that most people probably missed. About an hour into it, when everyone was “sheltering in place” all over campus, CNN took a phone call from a young woman who was locked inside a classroom right near where the suspect was hurting people. She said she was a graduate student and she and many others were huddled together scared and not sure what was happening outside. Then she said something made me tear up.
She said casually to the TV anchor over the phone, “But we happened to have a few ‘military guys’ in my class and the minute we got the text message alert of an ‘active shooter on campus’ they moved the rest of us away from the door and then all of them stood guard right by the door.” She said they were standing there as she spoke making certain if a shooter or someone with a knife or whatever calamity tried to come through that door, they would be the first thing he’d see and they’d stop it and protect the other students or die trying.
These guys weren’t armed, I’m guessing they weren’t in uniform, they were just students who happened to have military training. Those “military guys” instantly put themselves on the clock and assumed the position to protect those unarmed, vulnerable students.
I thought that was impressive. I thought that was brave. I thought that was oh so very American.
I also thought you’d want to know.”
John Gray

There will be other posts that examine U.S. Foreign Policy legacy and the terrible price we pay when policy fails. For tonight, I am once again proud to be an American and thrilled to share the military legacy that serves to protect the people, the nation and what we, the United States represents. We are a good people. The men and women who wear and wore the uniform are good the ‘Good guys’.

 

About John Gray:

John Gray graduated with honors from LaSalle Institute, Hudson Valley Community

John Gray

John Gray

College and SUNY Oswego.

Celebrating his 25th year on television John has covered many big stories including the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Pope’s visit to America and has reported on a number of Presidential campaigns. However, his favorite stories involve helping people right here at home. John volunteers with a dozen local charities including, ALS, M.S., Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes, Hospice, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters to name a few.

He has won numerous awards for his television work and writing, most recently winning a prestigious Emmy Award. He has been awarded “Columnist of the Year” honors from both the Associated Press and New York News Publishers Association and received the Business Reviews 40 Under 40 Award and H.V.C.C.’s ‘Most Distinguished Alumni’ award.

John’s passion is writing and for nearly twenty years his Wednesday column in The Record and Saratogian newspapers has become a local favorite. He also writes a popular monthly column in Capital Region Living Magazine. John has three children and a German shepherd named ‘Max’. In his spare time John enjoys rollerblading, golf and travel.

Cold War II

“Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.  A little voice inside mydeadhead head said ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back…’”

“America can never be conquered.  It can only be brought down from within.”

“…Keep on rockin’ in the free world…”

The Cold War started before the guns of World War II had cooled.  All of us served in one capacity or another in that forty-four year non-conflict.  Many served when the war heated up nearly to the boiling point in faraway Korea and Vietnam.  Many lost life or limb and came home with unseen wounds and scars.  Many served with Army and Air Force units in Europe. Many served in the Marines and Navy around the world.  We won that war.  We thought it was over and we were right, but now it’s come round again.

For hundreds of years Russia has cast a covetous eye to the west and south.  While she has abundant natural resources one she has always lacked is warm water ports.

Murmansk Port

Murmansk Port

Much of Russia’s western ports (Murmansk) are located above the Arctic Circle and are iced in much of the year.  Vladivostok is on the Pacific coast and off the beaten track.  She has a major naval base on the Crimean Peninsula at Sevastopol but her Black Sea Fleet would have to force its way through both the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles Strait to get to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately the Atlantic.

For much of the nineteenth century Great Britain and Russia engaged in what was then called the Great Game.  Russia took and annexed Central Asia with the goal of moving on India which was then the greatest jewel in Britain’s colonial crown.  Great Britain moved an army into  Afghanistan to block Russia.  Unfortunately for Britain, the Afghans didn’t (and still don’t) appreciate foreigners on their soil with guns in their hands.  Britain lost an entire army.  One doctor managed to make it back to India to tell the tale.

In October, 1917, the government of the Romanov Czars fell to the Bolsheviks.  Russia morphed into the Union of Soviet Socialists.  Once the Bolshevik (Communist) party had assumed control of the country they continued the programs the Czars had started with an additional goal of taking the Baltic states.  Regardless of who holds power in Russia the goal always remains the same.  In 1939 the Stalin government signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.  Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1942.

By the Spring of 1945 the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (the United States and Great Britain) had driven the German Wehrmacht back into Germany and had captured Berlin.  The war had cost the lives of millions of Russian citizens.  The Soviets had overrun the Balkan States, Eastern Europe and roughly half of Germany.    Stalin occupied the Eastern Europe.  He installed puppet Communist governments in each.  They would serve as a buffer zone for the Soviet Union in the event Germany tried to invade again.  This coalition was known as the Warsaw Pact. Western European countries led by the United States and Great Britain set up their own alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is where many of us came in.  NATO and the Warsaw Pact maintained a state of watchfulness on each other for more than forty years.    Many of us were there.

To make a long and complicated story short, the Warsaw Pact came apart and the Communist government of the Soviet Union fell in 1991.  Democracy was tried, but after

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

generations of strict Communist governance the Russian population wasn’t comfortable with freedom.  Many yearned for a strong leader.  That leader appeared in the person of one Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999.

Putin had served the Soviet Union as a KGB operative in East Germany (he speaks fluent German).  With the fall of the Soviet Union he resigned (rank: lieutenant colonel) and entered politics in Saint Petersburg.  He very quickly worked his way up to become Prime Minister and President Boris Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor.  On 31 December, 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president.  Putin stepped up to replace him and has never looked back.

Putin has shown himself to be the reincarnation of a combination of the Czars and the Communist Party premiers.  Political opponents have been tried for various crimes and imprisoned.  Ditto political dissidents.  Reporters that have been critical of Putin’s activities have been murdered and the crimes remain unsolved.  While he hasn’t (yet?) gone to the genocidal extremes of Stalin, Putin obviously intends to not only maintain power in Russia, but he also plans to extend Russian hegemony.

“So, what does any of this have to do with a Cold War that’s long over?” I hear you ask.

I’m glad you brought that up.  In 1941 Imperial Japan knew that they couldn’t fight and defeat the United States.  They did know that if they could strike and defeat the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack that the United States would be unable to rebuild and strike back before Japan had attained her strategic goals.  They obviously misread and underestimated the political will of America’s leadership and the ability of her people to build the war machine that would ultimately crush them and turn two of her cities into radioactive rubble piles.

Putin is thinking along the same lines, I think.  He wants to reestablish the East European buffer zone against NATO. He also wants to reestablish the old Russian empire.  He knows he doesn’t have to strike the United States or NATO militarily to attain his goals.  He’s judged the leadership of both and found them weak.  He’s already seized the Crimea from Ukraine and sponsored a revolt for roughly a third of that country to secede and reattach itself to Russia.  The Russian (I very nearly typed ‘Soviet’, old habits die hard, I guess) air force is busy bombing rebel and civilian targets in Syria to help prop up the Assad regime.   He has, in fact reignited the Cold War.

Putin knows he can never conquer, much less invade, the United States.  He also knows that to accomplish his short term and long term strategic goals the United States must be kept out of his way.  The best way for him to do this is to divide the United States politically and to keep us divided.  Up until this election cycle he’s only had to sit back and watch us divide ourselves.  For the last eight years we’ve become expert at doing just that.  Since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 we’ve become every bit as divided as we were in 1860. The one big difference is that we’re not divided geographically as we are politically.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Until Obama was elected I had never heard of demands that an elected president show his birth certificate.  Did I miss something in the forty-eight years that I’ve been eligible to vote?  I had never heard of demands for any president before Jimmy Carter to show proof of their citizenship. I’ve been a life-long Republican.  These days I’m referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by people that haven’t been voting nearly as long as I have.  I learned in the Army that when we saluted an officer we saluted the rank, not the man.  I believe that the office of President is owed a certain amount of respect whether one agrees with his politics or not.  Although I didn’t (and wouldn’t) vote for him I believe that Barack H. Obama is the legally elected president of the United States.

The “Birther” Movement that tried (and still tries) to prove that Obama can’t be the legally elected president because he is ‘technically’ an American citizen.  The ‘Birthers’ believe that Obama was born in Kenya.  Apparently there was a conspiracy when he was born to some day make him the president so that he could drag the country to Hell.  They also believe that he’s Muslim. I haven’t read in the Constitution that any particular religion disqualifies a person from holding office, but I digress. One of the leaders of the ‘Birther’ movement has been one Donald J. Trump. He has kept pouring small amounts of gasoline on the birther fire since it’s conception although he denies it in spite of video and audio evidence to the contrary (“Who you gonna believe?  Me? Or that lying video?”)

Now Trump is the Republican candidate for president.  Against all expectations he managed to defeat a very qualified GOP field of primary candidates.  He made every possible mistake that a candidate could possibly make and still won the nomination.  The only insult that he hasn’t thrown at his opponents is to accuse any of them of bigamy (see Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel) but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did.  To say that Trump has run a very unconventional campaign would be the understatement of the millennium.  Trump has proved time and again that he is not qualified to hold the office of president (Nuclear Triad? Why can’t we just nuke ISIS?) yet his supporters don’t care.  They claim that during his campaign rants that Trump says what they’re thinking.  That thought alone makes me very nervous.

One of the few people that Trump has not insulted (besides his supporters) is Vladimir Putin.  Trump claims that he has never met Putin (depending on which Trump interview you believe) but that Putin has said nice things about him so he believes that Putin must be a nice guy.  Trump even defended Putin during the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.  Evidently, Putin is a very nice guy.  He’s done more to advance Trump’s presidential hopes than probably anyone else.

Russian intelligence services have hacked Democratic Party computers as well as those of Clinton’s campaign staff.  They’ve passed hacked emails to Wikileaks which has posted them on the internet for the world to see.  Trump has read these emails to the crowds at his rallies.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t care that they’re stolen goods.

So, we have a foreign power openly interfering in American politics during a presidential election year.  I have to wonder why.  My theory is that Putin wants an American president that he can not only manipulate but can possibly push around using whatever tricks he learned in the KGB.  Trump thinks he’s a lady’s man.  He believes that rich as he is he’s entitled to any woman he wants.  He took the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.  According to Russian intelligence sources, they have plenty of dirt on Trump.  A possible honey trap wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility; the Russians are masters at that.

Before any of this information came out Trump had publicly announced that the United States pays too much into NATO.  He said that in the event of a war in that region he would have to check the balance sheet of the affected countries to see if they’d payed their dues before we would come to their assistance.  Possibly he didn’t realize that we have ground units in Poland?  Would he at least try to get them out of harm’s way or would he sacrifice them to ‘Nice Guy’ Putin?  I believe that if Trump is elected president he would leave the door to Eastern Europe wide open to Putin’s strategic ambitions.  Eastern Europe would be on its own and some of the blood shed would be American.

I’m obviously not a Trump supporter.  I haven’t been since I listened to his announcement that he was tossing his hat into the presidential ring.  The man disgusts me to be perfectly honest.  There are many more reasons that I don’t want to see him sitting in the Oval Office, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll stick to the cold war that’s been reignited.  I believe that if/when Trump takes office his butt won’t even have time to warm his chair in the Oval Office before Putin starts making his moves.

Perturbation-1992 The Last Election of the Cold War

Perturbation: a disturbance of motion, course, arrangement, or state of equilibrium; especially:  a disturbance of the regular and usually elliptical course of motion of a celestial body that is produced by some force additional to that which causes its regular motion” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Binary Star system

Binary Star system

Today, November 1, 2016, President Obama’s approval rating is 54% per Gallup. Without a doubt, President Obama is a very popular president.  In comparison, George H.W. Bush basked in the glow of the successful prosecution of the Persian Gulf War with an 89% approval rating at the beginning of the 1992 election season. At the time Bush was so popular that Democratic top tier contenders like Mario Cuomo waved off the opportunity to run and, in the vacuum, Democrats Jerry Brown (California Governor and reformer), Bill Clinton (Arkansas governor and centrist or New Democrat), Tom Harkin (Iowa Senator and populist), Bob Kerrey (Nebraska Senator with a business and military background), Paul Tsongas (Former Massachusetts Senator and fiscal conservative) , and L. Douglas Wilder (Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, African-American)  signed up for the Democratic primary battles.

Perturbation in the Democrat-Republican binary star system appeared when Ross Perot, a cheeky, independent, Texas billionaire who eventually drew about 19% of the popular vote entered the race. If anyone had cared to listen, Ross Perot was playing to a large portion of America’s working class population afraid that the trade impact of NAFTA, the North America free Trade Agreement, would result in loss of American manufacturing jobs and the secondary fear of increasing national debt.  Although on the ballot in all 50 states, Perot eventually sunk himself by withdrawing, then re-entering the race.

The Democrat-Republican binary star system was further vexed by an asteroid belt of candidates from the: Libertarian Party, New Alliance Party, Natural Law Party, U.S. Taxpayers’ Party, Populist Party, Lyndon LaRouche’s candidacy, Socialist Workers’ Party, Ron Daniels candidacy, the Workers League, the National Rainbow Coalition and a host of twelve others with party names like “Looking Back” and “Apathy” who had ballot access in one or more states. Continue reading

Wilson’s Contribution to the Cold War

“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

seed-plot of all other virtues.” — John Locke

Oft quoted in my youth, I lost contact with John Locke’s advice over the years.  Ricochet’s Daily Shot and a strong ‘cuppa’ re-awakened Locke’s view of truth in an explosive burst of energy that rocked my head and dragged me to the dreaded keyboard.  Loving truth and finding it in the labyrinth of life are two entirely separate actions tangled together in a Gordian knot suspended above each individual’s ‘La Vida Loca’.  President Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to a future, unforeseen Cold War is a leading example of my search for truth in the political rabbit warrens of war and peace.  Actions, ego, and being “the smartest guy in the room” have consequences—good and bad.

Was there a line of people eagerly awaiting support and ‘lessons learned’ about ditching colonial yokes, freedom, self-determination, and the rights of individuals from the United States? Although difficult to say with any certainty, the U.S. was, at that time, admired for its triumph following a bitter fight with its colonial master, England.  We know that the U.S. commitment to trade rather than conquest as a prime directive was a new, novel, and successful model.  We also know that the WWI Paris Peace talks in 1919 attracted

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) - U.S. Signal Corps photo

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L – R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson
Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) – U.S. Signal Corps photo

slightly fewer than twelve present and future leaders from various colonies testing independence and sloughing their colonial bonds. Some, including Nguyễn Sinh Cung (Hồ Chí Minh) from Vietnam, attempted to meet with Wilson.[1]   It had, after all, been a mere 136 years since representatives from the rebellious colonies in North America and England gathered in Paris to sign the 1783 treaty with England to end the American Revolutionary War.  The United States had been tested by a great Civil War and found wanting.  It’s model, however, provided for growth and society to take cyclical steps toward a more perfect union. The new model was battle tested and  tough.  How quickly we forgot. Continue reading