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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Threat to America's National Security

I had not seen a movie at the theaters for 13 years until I broke my drought with JFK in 1991. JFK was Oliver Stone’s re-enactment of what some say is the greatest conspiracy of the 20th Century – the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is one of those movies that you don’t want to see if you have faith in the purity of human government. Granted, the movie is a cinematic version of the events immediately preceding Kennedy’s death and a determined prosecutor’s effort to prove that his assassination reached into the highest levels of the American Government. However, Stone brings to bear enough information to make most reasonable people take a pause and consider, whether for a fleeting moment, the possibility of an American coup d’état of the 35th President of the United States.

An American coup d’état? Whether it is true or false, it is a heavy indictment to suggest that the United States military was behind the assassination of its own commander and chief.

This article is not about the JFK assassination or JFK, the movie; however, I want to use a discussion between Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland as my spring board to talk about a gap in our national security: New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, played by Costner, is approached by X, a former military officer, played by Sutherland to help him solve the mystery of the Kennedy assassination. He informs him that Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, which basically would have ended America’s involvement in Vietnam. However in less than two months Kennedy was dead and President Johnson signed NSAM 273, which effectively reversed NSAM 263. These top secret memorandums are pointed to by conspiracy theorists as evidence of a grand scheme to remove a sitting president.

Perhaps, but Sutherland also tells Garrison something that most American citizens either take for granted or have never considered – “The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison……is for war. The authority of a state over its people resides in its war powers.” Now this social theory could certainly be debated; however, one thing is for sure – any society that does not develop a national defense or has gaps in its national defense stands in peril of destruction from outside forces with sufficient strength to destroy their way of life. It has happened throughout history and will continue to happen as long as men with insatiable appetites for power have an influence in society.

This brings me to my related point: The United States is investing $100 billion in the space station, and within two and a half years we will no longer have a spacecraft to transport astronauts and supplies to and from the station. As a result of safety concerns and the 2003 destruction of space shuttle Columbia, NASA plans to retire the remaining three shuttles by September 2010. Consequently, the American space program will have to rely on Russia and the technology of other countries to reach the station until a shuttle replacement is available; projected to be sometime in 2015.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin regrets that his agency is in this dilemma and has said, “we will be largely dependent on Russia and that is a terrible place for the United States to be. I am worried, and many others are concerned.” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA, seems to be more troubled about America’s dependency on Russia – “This is a very serious betrayal of American interests. This will be the first time since Sputnik when the United States will not have a significant space superiority. I remain dumbfounded that we’ve allowed this serious threat to our national security to develop [emphasis mine].”

The space station, it must be understood, is first and foremost a national security post. Whatever other purposes it will serve, its primary objective will be a military outpost for the United States to develop and maintain military supremacy of outer space. And the notion that this country will have to depend on Russia for transportation puts us in a position of weakness where we must rely on the goodwill of the gangsters in Moscow. This is like a chess game where you see your vulnerability and your opponent sees it as well and will make every effort to exploit it.

What will the shakedown be in this instance? Will it be a doubling or tripling or even a quadrupling of the transportation fees? Or God forbid will it be the financial extortion plus political quid pro quo for transportation in exchange for American complicity in a Russian scheme? Who knows what it will be, but certainly the Russians understand their advantage for that five year period, and I have no doubt that they will take advantage of it.

Isn’t it ironic that President Bush campaigned on his national security experience and his ability to protect America from imminent dangers during his 2004 re-election campaign, but has permitted this threat to our national sovereignty? This is a serious lapse in executive responsibility, and for a country that has been at war since 2001, it could be argued that it is an impeachable offense. When Americans line up at the polls to elect a President, they cast their vote for the candidate who personifies courage, leadership, foresight and although he does not have to be the valedictorian of his graduating class, he must have a certain level of intelligence. And this failure of foresight certainly forces Americans to question whether they elected the most qualified candidate to lead and protect this great nation.

We live in a very complex world today, and the President of the United States sits in an office that imposes an unfair standard of responsibility on him (or her). As parents, as spouses, as employers, as pastors, etc., we are always faced with generally giving allowances for human frailty, because no one is perfect. However, the President has to deal with some of the world’s most complicated situations and he has to always respond correctly and efficiently, with no allowance for his own imperfection. And if not, he is excoriated severely by the press, the public, the opposing political party and sometimes by members of his own party.

The reason the President is held to such a high standard is because one error in judgement could bring the end of this society; or as we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of an entire American city. This is the dilemma that the President must face on an almost daily basis. During the Bush administration, we have witnessed some of the most colossal blunders ever from an American President: the poor planning for Hurricane Katrina; the Iraq War, which will cost America thousands of young lives and more than $1 trillion; the reckless spending binge that has increased the federal debt by nearly $4 trillion; the illegal, domestic spying; the multiple violations of the Geneva Convention; this nation’s fall, in the eyes of many world leaders, as a spectacle of unprecedented mismanagement; and now the national security gap.

Regardless of whether the organizing principle of any nation is its war powers, as X told Garrison in JFK the movie, America has a flank that will be defenseless to a formidable foe like Russia or China, or an oil-rich, Arab coalition that is able to ally itself with either of these communist superpowers.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

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