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ArticlesTranscripts | | Asia, Borders, Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, Cyberterrorism, Defense Budget & Programs, Economic Security, Europe, Foreign Policy, Middle East, Nuclear Deterrence, Russia, Shariah Threats to American Law, Waging War

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Mark Helprin is best-selling author and Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.

Listen to the audio version here.

 

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Welcome to Secure Freedom Radio. This is Frank Gaffney, your host and guide for what I think of as an intelligence briefing on the war for the free world. We are having this conversation on the eve of one of the most important political debates in American history, that between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the presidential election of 2016. I am thrilled to have with us for a very wide-ranging and informative conversation about topics that should feature prominently in that debate given their importance to the future of this country, our guest will be Mark Helprin, a prize winning, bestselling and extraordinarily accomplished author, commentator, pundit, and essayist. A man who has given tremendous thought to issues involving the security of the United States and the challenges thereto for decades. And I am privileged to call him a friend as well as a great inspiration. He has recently written an important piece in the Wall Street Journal that touches on some of the subjects we’ll be discussing today and I’m thrilled to be able to do so with Mark Helprin. Welcome back, Mark. Good to have you.

MARK HELPRIN:

Thank you, Frank. May I just make one point. That I am not Mark Halperin, who is a creature of television. I was here way before he was and I think he should go to St. Helena or Tristan da Cunha and just shut up. People tend to confuse me with him, but I am not he.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

It is Helprin, not Halperin. And at an altogether different intellectual and, well, literary pedigree, indeed. Political, as well. Mark Helprin, correctly identified. Let me ask you, first and foremost, Mark, about this essay in the Wall Street Journal. I really think that since the end of the Cold War at least, it is one of the most thoughtful, most, well provocative pieces I’ve seen about the need for nuclear deterrence and the challenges to ours. Extraordinarily timely and well done as always. Give us a flavor of what you wrote about there.

MARK HELPRIN:

Well, the very root of it is this, that since the end of the Cold War, the United States has neglected its nuclear posture and Russia and China and even now Iran have not. And this – and we have, because we have fallen for the untruth that it’s not a safer world and that there’s no possibility of a nuclear exchange or nuclear war. And you get – I am surprised myself that, for instance, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and a lot of other people who were the wise men of the nuclear age and understood deterrence and the variations of nuclear strategy, have come out for nuclear zero. Nuclear zero is impossible, given that you can store enough nuclear charges, warheads, to wipe out the United States, for example, in a space volumetrically equivalent to a Manhattan studio apartment. You can always hide things. And as we know, even the Iranians are experts at hiding things. We’re always surprised by countries that have hidden their nuclear apparatus. For instance, Israel. The CIA thought that Israel got nuclear weapons in 1968 or 1969. I know for a fact that Israel had nuclear weapons in 1964. The United States didn’t know that. We were surprised by North Korea’s nuclear tests. We were surprised by India’s, probably by Pakistan’s, I don’t really recall the specifics. But the point is that these things are relatively small given the size of big countries and especially countries that have enormous cave networks and that are secretive to begin with in their culture and in their governance. So nuclear zero is impossible because one can hide enough nuclear weapons easily to then say, well, my opponent has no nuclear weapons, but I have enough to destroy the world. So therefore, you have to do what I say. I cannot understand why Henry Kissinger and people like that think that nuclear zero is possible. That said, people who were not involved in any kind of nuclear thinking during the Cold War, such as president Obama, have completely swallowed this idea that we can get to this. And we have been progressing toward it. We in the United States have been reducing the number and the quality and not modernizing our nuclear weapons. While Russia and China have been doing just the opposite. And there’s – and one of the points that I made in the article which is really, really important is that we see the nuclear balance in regard only to Russia. Whereas China, which is a rising power that we fence with almost every day in a semi-military, paramilitary sense in various locations, from the – from, really, from the East China Sea down through the South China Sea and even, in a sense, in the Indian Ocean and Africa, China has no restrictions, no one’s ever given any thought to the Chinese nuclear arsenal. And I don’t mean no one. The Pentagon knows about it. But it – why not bring China into a regime of nuclear control as Russia and the United States have entered? Russia only halfheartedly and it cheats. And the United States with great enthusiasm, going even beyond the requirements and wanting, essentially, to disarm ourselves.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

I consider it to be one of the most egregious acts of malfeasance on the part of people like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and, oh, by the way, Sam Nunn and Bill Perry, the former Secretary of Defense, the Democratic elements of this gang of four, as it’s been called. And it seems to me that the Republicans sort of went along with this program, even though the know better. And I’ve actually had people tell me that Henry Kissinger has acknowledged that this isn’t going to work and it’s just kind of something he lent his name to but doesn’t really believe. This is a terrible disservice and I think you’re right to call them out on it.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yes, it is. And, you know, it goes to something that’s even more basic, which is that the public understandably does not want to be immolated in a nuclear war. But people don’t understand and there are whole ideological fronts that depend upon this, depend upon a lack of understanding of it, is that you don’t have an arsenal of nuclear weapons in order to use them. You have them because you’re forced to have them to deter the use of them. People don’t understand deterrence. If the American public understood deterrence, we would have no problem. But, unfortunately, there’s always a chorus of people saying, well, the generals want more toys because they love war. Well, they don’t love war. They’re the ones who have to fight war and die in war and what they understand better than anybody, really, is that if you are well-armed then you won’t have to go to war. And this is – that’s the basis of our entire political misunderstanding of national security.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Yeah, it really speaks much beyond this question, narrowly, of nuclear strategy, nuclear deterrence, and so on, but having with considerable distinction, served in the Israeli armed forces, Mark Helprin, you know whereof you speak where these are the people who least want war. They very much want to see it prevented and deterrence is, of course, critical to that. We’re going to have to pause in a moment, but just to finish one further thought, you mentioned the very, very telling point that it’s not hard to secret away large numbers, even, of nuclear weapons, let alone just what you need to destroy most countries. But you also observe in this piece in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Helprin, that your ability to hide even the delivery systems for these kinds of weapons, long range missiles, for example, in countries like Russia and China or even North Korea for that matter, is not that challenging a problem.

MARK HELPRIN:

No, I mean, what you need – see, we, that United States does not have mobile missiles. We foreswore them. And it was a terrible decision. All our missiles are fixed. And with the precision guidance that’s available now, and has been for at least a decade or maybe two decades, those are vulnerable targets to a first strike. But Russia and China have had mobile missiles for a very long time.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Hey Mark, hold the thought. We’re going to have to come back and develop this a little bit further. We will do that with Mark Helprin, right after this.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Our guest is Mark Helprin, distinguished author, commentator, experienced combatant, and a man we turn to with regularity to discuss the big issues of our day. Consider this your debate prep as we’re speaking on the eve of a very important debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about the sorts of issues that should be, well, front and center in the course of this national election and the decisions associated therewith. Mark, you were talking about concealing the means by which countries could deliver devastating nuclear attacks on this country and that it’s just not that hard to conceal even the platforms for this attack, let alone the weapons themselves. Finish that thought, if you would.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, the transporter erector launchers are the size of, about the size of a moving van. And they move around like a move – you know, they actually can go over terrain that’s not a road, if they have that kind of drive, and Russia and China have enormous networks of caves. China has five thousand kilometers, roughly three thousand miles or more of caves in which it houses its nuclear infrastructure. It could have an unlimited number of these.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

These would be tunnels, I think, right?

MARK HELPRIN:

Tunnels, yeah, tunnels. It’s a tunnel system and sometimes linked to caves. And in Russia they have tunnels and caves because both of those countries were very attentive to civil defence while we gave it up. And by the way, can I just say something very quickly here? Just cause it’s a myth that I’d like to dispel. The left always makes fun of children being told to hide under their desks during a nuclear attack. I was told to hide under my desk. I lived thirty-five miles north of New York City. And they said, isn’t that ridiculous? You know, hiding under your desk. What’s a nuclear – well, the main effect beyond ground zero of a nuclear blast is a pressure wave which collapses buildings. And when a building collapses, such as in an earthquake, what you want to do is get under a structure which will prevent you from being hit by debris falling above. So it made perfect sense, but it’s ridiculed. But it was actually the right policy. And we find analogies to that in almost every other area of defence, such as, oh, if only the Air Force had to hold a bake sale the way we do to support education, well, we spend many times more on education in this country than we do on the military.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

You’ve mentioned intellectual fronts that have been much engaged in this. One that comes to my mind, particularly aggressive at the moment, is something called the Ploughshares Fund, run by a fellow by the name of Joseph Cirincione. We now know that they were instrumental in putting over on the American people the fraud of this so-called nuclear deal with Iran. They are now promoting several disarmament schemes. Including the elimination of the land-based leg of our nuclear triad, the four hundred and fifty Minuteman missiles that are still in those fixed silos you spoke of earlier. And, as worrisome, eliminating the capacity of the rest of the force to launch in a prompt way this so-called de-alerting. Would you talk about these ideas as well?

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, I mean, actually the Minutemen should be disposed of and they should be replaced by mobile missiles because that would make them far less vulnerable. The Chinese have a mobile missile on a tail that is essentially invulnerable because without real time satellite spotting and guidance, we wouldn’t be able to hit it. And it also has a much longer range than the Minuteman-III, which is what we rely on. We should be modernising our land-based leg instead of getting rid of it. And in conjunction with that, you realise that by moving to the Ohio-class submarine, which is a ballistic missile submarine carrying nuclear missiles, we only have maybe four or five, sometimes four or less submarines at sea at any one time. So the most invulnerable leg of the nuclear triad is the submarine. And we’ve put all our eggs in two or three baskets. If an enemy were to hit the two sub bases, they would hit – they would finish the other submarines that were not at sea most of the time, cause they’re only about fourteen or – we used to have forty-five SSBNs, nuclear submarines, that that makes it much more difficult for an enemy to conceive of a first strike. So we have a much reduced sea leg. The land leg is vulnerable. And the air leg, the bombers, are actually, at any one time, only at a maximum have half a dozen bases. They have four bases where they live and then they go on stations sometimes as a diplomatic message in other places. But you’d only have to hit half a dozen bases to get rid of these bombers, some of which are almost as old as I am. And I’m going to be seventy very soon.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

We have essentially gone out of the nuclear weapons business. Would you talk a little bit about the state of our armed – our nuclear forces?

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, we, you know, those of us who have computers, which is just about everybody now, may remember in the early days the eight inch floppy disks. Remember, I used to have to put them in the freezer when they would crash in order to stabilize them and then put them back into the machine. That was a long time ago. That’s how our Minutemen electronics are run, with those eight inch floppy disks. Now. The stuff is very old, it’s not modernized, and we don’t test it sufficiently to know about the reliability. We have – we don’t have civil defense. And of course, we don’t have sufficient anti-missile resources. What’s the point of that? The point of that is to protect our ability to launch a second strike, which would mean that it would be very difficult or impossible for an enemy to launch a first strike against our own missiles. People think that missile defense is primarily to protect cities. Well, it isn’t because you can’t really protect cities and industry. Simply because as Bomber Harris said, the bomber will always get through, more or less. But if you can degrade an attack against your retaliatory capacity, then you can bring nuclear stability by dissuading an enemy from attacking your assets that would then hold him hostage. So that’s the main purpose of missile defense. It’s defensive and it’s stabilizing. And yet we have been told now for thirty years or more that missile defense is destabilizing, which it isn’t.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

The idea that really took hold back in 1972 when we embraced this treaty that, as you say, held that missile defences were destabilising and therefore essentially banned them, and once we decided to that, it didn’t seem to make much sense to spend vast sums on other kinds of defence, leadership defence, civil defence, passive defences and so on. And as a result – even air defences, and as a result we wound up essentially leaving the nation extraordinarily vulnerable to the so-called mutually assured destruction notions.

MARK HELPRIN:

Let me tell you just a little story about that, which is a little bit skewed, but in 1996, I wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal called “What to Do About Terrorism”, really, in which I brought up the possibility of Islamists using airplanes to crash into skyscrapers. And this was on the top of the page of the Wall Street Journal. No one paid any attention to it and, subsequently, I was at a meeting, I can’t say what it was, because it was a pledge of confidentiality, in which there were many high officials. And my role at the meeting that I chose for myself was to bring this up and to ask for an air defence, cause we had abandoned air defence once we entered the missiles age cause we figured we didn’t really need it against bombers, although – even though the Soviet Union kept bombers and we could have had a need for an air defence. But I was ridiculed in that meeting. And the officials who were responsible for this kind of thing said, you know, essentially, don’t be ridiculous. What, are you crazy or something? And then a couple of years later, we had these airplanes crashing into skyscrapers.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Mark Helprin, we have to pause for another moment. We will be right back with more with one of the great thinkers of our time on matters of national security, Mark Helprin, straight ahead.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Welcome back. We are visiting with Mark Helprin, the author of more books than you can shake a stick at, most of which have been translated into numerous languages. In Sunlight and in Shadow, one of the most recent of them. And I commend all of them to you as well as his essays, which have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, most recently in the Wall Street Journal. He is a prize winner for this work of many eminent awards, including the National Jewish Book Award, the Prix de Rome, and the Peggy Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Mark, let me pick up on a point that was sort of a theme throughout the first two segments of our program. I’m pretty sure that if there is any attention paid to national security at all in the course of the debate, a feature of it will be the discussion of Vladimir Putin. Whether his conduct, his ambitions are something that we can somehow, you know, make common cause with or whether they are likely to pose, for the foreseeable future, a very significant threat. What are your thoughts?

MARK HELPRIN:

In the 90s, I remember speaking to various senators about defense issues. And they all said, well, you know, we have the information and Russia’s finished. It’ll never be back. And this is just illogical and anti-historical. And since that time, Russia has come back and in a big way. For one, they never neglected their nuclear posture. They have problems with production and execution. But they have very good scientists and good technological ideas and they make sure, they’ve always made sure, they’ve made sure since the collapse of the Soviet Union, except for a very short period, to put their resources into their nuclear establishment. So that they’ve been forging ahead when we have been deliberately neglecting and downgrading our nuclear weapons. Now, this dovetails very importantly with what has always been a question that most Americans don’t understand. Because it’s simply not discussed. And I doubt very much that in the debate, the first debate or the second or the third debate it will be brought up. Which is Soviet and, subsequently, Russian nuclear doctrine. Nuclear states have different nuclear thresholds. And the Russian and, previously, Soviet threshold has always been publicly declared much lower than the American. They can – the Soviets considered nuclear weapons as a type of artillery. Now this may have been partially a bluff simply to scare us. And it was – and it came about at a time when we had nuclear artillery, too. But we removed our nuclear artillery and announced that we weren’t going to use it, you know, in a conventional war. They didn’t. They keep tactical nukes even now. The nuclear crisis in the early 80s was based upon their view of short range nuclear weapons as essential to their entire military posture.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Specifically, intermediate range nuclear forces as they were called.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, the SS-20 at the time. They terrorized Europe with it. And these days, they have been making tremendous show of the use of nuclear weapons. They send nuclear bombers on practice runs towards the United States, they make demonstrations of short range weapons such as when they fired from the Caspian Sea into Syria to show us that these weapons, which are dual-nuclear capable, those missiles, can be used at a short range. And their doctrine has always been different from ours. And Putin rattles his nuclear sabres as a matter of course. And part of the reason that he does this is because Russia does not have soft power, what we call soft power, which is a ridiculous term, by the way, which is simply an excuse for not recognizing that the – that when you come down to it, diplomacy depends upon force in the end. Diplomacy is a way to avoid force, but you have to have force backing it up. The only soft power that Russia ever had, really, was its gas supplies to Europe. And other than that – and that’s, by the way, going to be – that could easily be totally obviated by our gas supplies, which we could send to Europe, but other than that, it has no soft power. So it relies on hard power.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

As I understand it, increasingly, Putin has really put forward this notion that he can use nuclear weapons early in a conventional conflict to de-escalate that conflict.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, this is nothing new. This was previous Soviet doctrine. And as an example of the, an extreme example of it, Mao said, big deal, you know, we don’t care if we lose fifty million people. You never know when we would use nuclear weapons. And that’s when China had virtually de minimis nuclear weapons. Now, it’s developing very fast, increasing like crazy as we go down. Now, there’s another point to be made here, it’s very important. As the United States, in the view of the current president administration, reduces its nuclear arsenal and always asks for more reductions and goes farther than even required, what that does is sends out a message to every small, medium country in the world saying, well, if you just give a little effort, you can have nuclear parity with the United States.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

To say nothing of the bigger countries that are going to exceed us if they haven’t already done so.

MARK HELPRIN:

Absolutely. Our efforts at making a non-nuclear world have encouraged proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of people like the Iranians who have much less reluctance to use them.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Yeah, one of the things that you’ve developed very importantly in this, I think, really seminal article in the Wall Street Journal was this idea that we are actually incentivising people to engage in not only nuclear build-ups, but quite possibly, the use of them by signalling this kind of irresolution and weakness on our part. And this is, again, at the heart of what, it seems to me, should be debated very directly. I can’t imagine the American people would stand for it if they knew the truth.

MARK HELPRIN:

But the problem is that not only do we generally incentivise them by reducing our arsenal to the point where it’s very possible for them to achieve nuclear parity with the United States, therefore changing the entire complexion of the international system, but in addition, we pay for it. We’re paying for the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon capacity and we have ensured it and we have agreed in this agreement, which, by the way, they have not signed, but we’re keeping to it, they don’t have to, they haven’t signed it, we have agreed to protect their nuclear infrastructure. The United States has agreed with Iran to protect it, ostensibly, from Israel. Which is such lunacy that it’s so far beyond any sensible thing that people don’t even see it as what it is.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Mark, let me just ask you to drill down a little bit further on China. In addition to the nuclear build-up we’ve been discussing, of course, the Chinese have been engaging in very aggressive behaviour in the South China and East China Seas. You’ve written about this in the past and I know have given a lot of thought to the future trajectory of China. There are certainly some indications that the Chinese are in trouble, economically, politically, the party and so on. How do you net this out?

MARK HELPRIN:

The Chinese economic instability – and they still have a growth which is three, more than three times our economic growth, granted, they start from a lesser base, but in the past thirty years their economic growth has been so spectacular that it’s not that much of a lesser base. Even though they have three times the economic growth that we have, they are stagnating and they are in a very unstable condition economically. And it’s possible that their economy may crash. And I don’t see this as being something that we would want, because among other things, what it would do is mean – it would mean the government would have to exert, as it is now, steadily exerting more control and reverting more to a militant patriotism.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Social engineering, as they call it. Mark, we have to pause for just a second. We’ll be right back with more with Mark Helprin on the sorts of issues that should be debated tonight and in the future by the American people. Straight ahead.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Welcome back. We are visiting for this full hour of debate prep with Mark Helprin, a tremendously impressive intellect and author and commentator and essayist. A man whose insights have graced the pages of all of the most important periodical and other journals of our time, including most recently the Wall Street Journal. We’ve been discussing, in particular, the dangers associated with failing to attend to our nuclear deterrent in the face of what the Chinese are up to and, Mark, you were just beginning to develop this point about what else the Chinese are doing that should also be of great concern to us. Finish that thought, if you would.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, the resources available to China are such that they don’t have to considerably slow their military development even if they’re in a crisis. Even if they’re in an economic crisis. Because they have increased their people’s standard of living by so many fold over the last thirty years. That a pause in it, in which they devote much more of their resources to the military build-up to keep it going at the rate that it’s going or maybe even less is not inconceivable. In fact, it’s probably what they would do. And coupled with their being more militant because they would want to direct the people’s energies away from regime change internally and toward an outside enemy, such as what happened in the Korean War, which, by the way, they are now commemorating with much more verve than they have since the end of the Korean War, which is a very frightening sign, that’s not going to – their economic troubles will only make it worse in terms of military confrontation with the United States. Especially if, as we are doing, we are doing nothing. Because this so-called pivot is pathetic. We’ve decided to pivot towards Asia, but we have very little to pivot with. If we neglect the build-up of our forces, and essentially – I hate to use the expression, build them down when we pivot, it’s meaningless. It’s paper tiger. Our pivot consists of — we say we’re going to put sixty percent of the fleet in the Pacific. Well, the fleet is so small, you know, the fleet is three hundred and – roughly three hundred and eighty major warships, so adding another ten percent would be another thirty-eight ships in the Pacific. That’s not much. Especially since the Chinese control the entry to the Panama Canal and they can cut that. In which case, they essentially cut the Navy in half if there’s a conflict in the Pacific. But without getting too much into naval strategy, they are developing very fast and we are standing still in the Pacific. And the pivot does not impress them.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Yeah, paper tiger, of course, is a term that the Chinese, I think, have used to describe us in the past. And it does not bode well.

MARK HELPRIN:

When we were the paper tiger. Now, we are.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Yeah, and they see us as such. Mark, I want to switch quickly, pivot, if I may, to another threat vector about which, again, you’ve given a lot of thought. For want of a better term, the global jihad movement. There’s a lot of talk, of course, in official Washington, we’ll hear it, I’m sure, tonight in the debate, about the Islamic State. Often to the exclusion of anything else. And it seems to suggest a lack of comprehension of the true magnitude of the threat. Give us a sense of what you think is up there.

MARK HELPRIN:

Well, you know how in a bullfight the bull sees the red flag and it charges at the red flag and meanwhile the matador steps out of the way? The Islamic State is a great big red flag for the United States and, of course, it should be completely wiped out and it is barbaric such as very little that we’ve seen since Nazism. But it is a distraction because what’s really going on there is that Iran has built a bridge from Afghanistan, which is very far away, all the way to the Mediterranean. Because you have Iran, you have Iraq, which is controlled by the Shia and by Iran, too, and then Syria, which is controlled by Iran. So you have this toxic bridge that we once tried, the United States, at the peak of its power, after World War Two, we tried to make such a thing, calling it CENTO, the Central Treaty Organisation. Putting together Turkey, Iran – Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. To make a barrier to what we were afraid of at that point, which was Soviet expansion towards the Persian Gulf and warm waters. We couldn’t do it. The United States, at the peak of its power, when we were so much stronger than any country or group of countries in the world, we were unable to make that bridge across the Middle East. Iran has now made that with our help, courtesy of this current administration. And they control that –

FRANK GAFFNEY:

When you say with our help, you mean, obviously, not just the political legitimacy that the Obama administration has conferred on them, but actual, you know, transfer of something on the order of a hundred and fifty billion dollars, a fair amount of it in cash, as well as this guarantee, as you say, of protection of their sites against the Israelis’ attack?

MARK HELPRIN:

Abstention, too, abstention. In other words, while they were doing this – it’s just like in the movie Serpico, when they wanted to get rid of Serpico, they simply didn’t come to his aid. So as Iran is – has taken control of Iraq and Syria, we haven’t done anything. So that’s how – that’s the main method of aid that is –

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Apart, of course, from these relatively small attacks against the Islamic State we are not doing much.

MARK HELPRIN:

No, and that’s Iran’s enemy, too, you know. We’re fighting against its enemy, essentially. Doing its job for it.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Okay, but broaden the lens beyond Iran. We’re also, Mark Helprin, witnessing attacks throughout the West, including in this country, by jihadists of various persuasions and the hijrah, moving over a million people into Europe and many more, apparently, headed our way. Material support for terrorism being provided by the Saudis and many others. Give us a sense of the complexion of this challenge to Western Civilisation as you see it and how should we be thinking about it in the course of this election?

MARK HELPRIN:

The first thing is to identify in a strong light exactly who the enemy is. And since the Bush Administration, you know, the George W. Bush Administration, we have failed to do this. As is said, the enemy is militant Islam. And most Muslims are good, peaceful people. But Islamic doctrine is not peaceful. Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam divides the world into the world of Islam, or submission, and the world of harb, or war. And this is consonant with Islamic doctrine since the very, very beginning. And without recognising that, we will not recognise that there is war going on and we are the only ones who are confused about it.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

It does underscore the point that while there are many Muslims we would call good Muslims, doctrinally they’re regarded as apostates by those of – the authorities of the faith and those adhering to it, strictly according to shariah. But when you look at the various actors in this mix, militant Islam as you put it, one of the groups that we’re told is not militant and is therefore not a threat, namely, the Muslim Brotherhood. Would you talk about them and in particular their operations in this country?

MARK HELPRIN:

They have been a radical component of Islam, a militant component of Islam, since their founding. They Egyptians have been essentially putting them down since the beginning and trying to survive them. Wherever they go, they are in favour of, essentially, jihad. And they pretend not to be. This is part of Islamic doctrine. It’s called taqqiya. You can lie to the infidel and –

FRANK GAFFNEY:

If it advances the faith, for sure. Mark, one more pause and we’ll be right back with more with Mark Helprin on the Brotherhood and the state of American national security, right after this.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Mark Helprin is our guest. He is a prize-winning author many times over, notably, I encourage you to check out In Sunlight and in Shadow, A Soldier of the Great War, A City in Winter, and so many other terrific books, including non-fiction and books for children. An extraordinarily accomplished repertoire. And Mark, we were talking about the Muslim Brotherhood and you were describing its tradition of militancy in the service of imposing shariah and the caliphate. And yet we have this absolutely bizarre, now, and rather fulsome penetration of our government as well as other civil society institutions by the so-called leaders of the Muslim community in the United States. What should we be thinking and doing about it?

MARK HELPRIN:

Well, I mean, one thing we don’t want is to go the way of Europe in which this is the – if you look at it broadly, it is the most incredibly destabilizing thing in Europe. France, Germany, to some extent England, the Scandinavian countries, Italy, they’re all overwhelmed by the giant forced immigration, which is more like an invasion from the Middle East. Now a lot of these people are genuine refugees, but if you look at the composition and, you know, just look at any news story, videos, of who’s coming in, you see that about eighty percent of them are angry young men who are very aggressive.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Military age young men at that.

MARK HELPRIN:

Yeah, exactly. And they look pretty fit, too. And so the question is, whom are they leaving behind? The women and the children in the war zone? And okay, it’s understandable, but if you are a strong young man, you have the power, you know, to push on and go someplace and possibly make a new life. But these people feel entitled and the Germans in particular have made them feel entitled. The Germans made the decision to take them in because of the German demographic crisis. Maybe Angela Merkel also, being the daughter of a pastor, felt this kind of liberal, moral obligation to help these people, but I don’t think that’s the main thing. She is the chancellor of Germany and she knows what she’s doing. They have a terrible demographic crisis. They won’t be able to support their aging population. So she brought them in just the way the Germans brought in the Turks, just the way the French brought in the Algerians. For labor. And to solve their demographic problem. And this was a huge mistake because it destabilizes Europe such as nothing since we’ve seen since World War Two. And it is a beachhead. If you – I read the French press almost religiously and it is just absolutely frightening what’s going on in France. It also invites the rise of the old right in Europe. And the rise, also, you can’t discount the rise of the old left, either. So Europe is becoming totally destabilized. It’s the last thing that we want.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Mark, I do want to just say, in light of all of these challenges, we’ve talked about the nuclear threats, we’ve talked about what the Russians are up to, doctrinally and otherwise, we’ve talked about what China has in mind, particularly as it experiences difficulties at home, we’ve talked now about the jihad and its various manifestations. This is clearly a time when the American people must be mindful of these security threats. If you were to lay out for the debaters tonight the question of what America should do about all this, could you be as precise as possible? Briefly, but as precise as possible about what your prognosis would be and what we should in fact now be debating?

MARK HELPRIN:

The first thing that I would do would be to turn to the American people and say, look, we have so many problems across the spectrum. And we are passionate about them. And we’re such a huge country, which has always been protected by the seas, that we tend to look inwardly. But in fact, if we lose our military power, the power to deter, the power to keep peace in the world, the power to attract allies, and specifically the nuclear power, in which case we would be able to deter a nuclear blackmail or first strike or control of our fate by powers that are stronger in a nuclear sense, if we lose this, all the problems that we have, economic, social, constitutional, etcetera, will be irrelevant. Because we will find ourselves in the position of a country that has to dance to the tune of other countries or one specific country in the future that will be able to force its will upon us. And this is something that Americans find hard to understand. Because we’ve seldom been in this situation. The last time, really, was the War of 1812. I guess Pearl Harbor reminded us of the possibility of it. But we have to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world. The hard power in the world. And we have to keep our hard power up, otherwise we will suffer. And we mustn’t neglect it in favour of the problems that affect us immediately right now. All of that will go away and be flushed away as if in a big storm if, in fact, we face an enemy that is beating us in a military sense in a war someplace where we’re going to be really, really brought down many, many notches.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Alternatively, if we find ourselves confronting a superiority, on the ground, in the air, at sea, in space, in cyber, that is so crippling that it has the effect of compelling our submission, and I think this is another part of this that, again, it’s so foreign to our experience, which has largely been informed, particularly, as you know, Mark Helprin, of late, by this notion that we’re the world’s only superpower that – to the extent that people have paid any attention to all of this at all, they’ve been, I think, lulled into a false sense of security. So in closing, we’ve got, as you say, a world of challenges. We’ve got a trend line of growing aggressiveness on the part of various adversaries who’ve been emboldened and to some extent even empowered by us. Is it too late?

MARK HELPRIN:

It’s not at all too late for us to make the course corrections because of our – the size of our economy, our experience, our – what’s left of our military infrastructure, which has been consolidated into too few military contractors. But no, it’s not too late at all. Given our resources, given our per capita GNP, given our technology, etcetera. Not late at all. The question is, will we? Do we have the will? And that might be the problem.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Will we have the will and, ultimately, will we have the leadership to exercise that will? Mark, in the remaining last minute, can I ask you about one – in a way, it seems to me a sort of microcosm of what we’ve been doing – there is this initiative that the president is determined to pursue as soon as, I guess, next weekend. That is to relinquish the last bit of control the United States has exercised over the internet. Do you have any thoughts on the advisability of that and whether it, in fact, is sort of symptomatic of where we find ourselves today in the kind of course correction that’s needed?

MARK HELPRIN:

It is symptomatic. And there is absolutely no good reason why we should hand it – hand over any kind of control to countries that are dictatorships, that don’t have freedom of speech, and that didn’t invent the internet, and are not the seat of it, as we are.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

And have sought for a long time to exercise control over it in ways that would be harmful to freedom, and freedom of speech among other things.

MARK HELPRIN:

It’s surrender is what it is. And for no good reason.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

This is one, I think, one of the other things that needs to be debated and I hope that will be the case. Mark Helprin, thank you so much for your insights, for the incredible contribution you’ve made to the culture and the national debates over many years. I look forward to these conversations in the future, but particularly appreciate this very timely one with you today. Keep up the good work, my friend. Come back to us soon. I hope the rest of you will come back to us again tomorrow. Same time, same station. Until then, this is Frank Gaffney. Thanks for listening.

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