Jerusalem Today

“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

– David Ben Gurion, Israel’s First Prime Minister

Jerusalem is a place like any other city. People live, work and shop, all things that you do in a normal life. But Jerusalem’s Old City is ancient and special in the hearts of Palestinians and Israelis.

The best vantage point is on the Mount of Olives, is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City. The Mount of Olives is a place for several key events in the life of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, it’s described as the place that Jesus ascended into heaven.

From the Mount of Olives, you can see the Dome of the Rock in all its golden magnificence, shining in the noonday sun.  The Dome is a key holy site for Muslims because it’s where they believe Mohammad ascended to heaven. Behind the Dome is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Church is built on the site, where most Christians believe, that Christ was crucified. Out of site from the Mount of Olives is the Western Wall, Jewry’s holiest place. The Wall supports the Mount where the Temple once stood.

Jerusalem’s significance is not in dispute, but it’s status. After nearly 20 years divided by barbed wire, Israeli soldiers took control of the whole city, East and West, in 1967.  The international community did not recognize what Israelis called the “reunification” of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Western Wall

All embassies stayed in Tel Aviv. East Jerusalem was accepted by the international community as the future capital of a Palestinian State. This was the agreement between a negotiated settlement of Israelis and Palestinians. President Donald Trump recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may undermine the regional stability. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will be rocked.

 

 

 

 

Why Trump Moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I direct to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the new embassy will be a magnificent tribute to peace.”

– President Donald Trump

Why did Trump move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem marks a major change in the American policy on the Middle East.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel is a seismic shift of seven decades of U.S.-led neutrality between Israelis and Palestinians. Both Israel and the Palestinian State claim Jerusalem as their capital. The move signifies that the U.S. recognizes Israel as the legitimate, sovereign and rightful heir to the ancient city.

Jerusalem is one of the holiest and ancient cities in the world. It is home to holy sites of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Jerusalem sits in the middle of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After the founding of Israel in 1948, the first Arab-Israeli War erupted. It resulted in the Egyptian occupation of Gaza and the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank.

For years, a brutal civil war erupted between Palestinian guerrillas and a series of reprisal attacks by Israeli commandos. The region was caught up in the Cold War. The Arab nations surrounding Israel were getting arms from the Soviets. America and France supported Israel.

For years, Jerusalem was divided between Israeli and Palestinian control with an occupying Jordanian force. In the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured East Jerusalem. In a matter of days, the Israelis pushed the Jordanians out of Jerusalem. Even though the Israelis signed an armistice, they continued to occupy the lands they had taken while the peace process was underway. The Israelis saw the capture of East Jerusalem as a “reunification” of their ancient capital.

The international community has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem. No countries have embassies in Jerusalem, but a few countries, including the U.S., have consulates there. All past Presidents have thought moving a U.S. embassy there would be too dangerous.

Many American conservative evangelical Christians believe a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem shows American support for Israel. Evangelical Christians make-up the biggest pro-Israel bloc in the U.S. American Christian support of Israel comes from the belief that Israel is the Holy Land promised to God’s chosen people, and God blesses those who bless the Jews.

President Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a recognition of the sovereignty of Israel. Recognition of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel places the U.S. on the side of the democratic and Jewish state. This bold move will have repercussions for both U.S. security and diplomacy in the region.

Farewell, My Father- My New Book

What follows is the rough draft intro of my new book “Farewell, My Father”.

“For we are strangers before them, and sojourners, as were all our fathers.

1 CHRONICLES 29:15

Book Description:

This is not just a book about a great man but a book about a special relationship between a father and his youngest son.

I did my best to write an honest portrait of my father. It’s a story full of love and kindness, also full of anger and regret. My father was one of the most extraordinary and complicated men I ever knew.

From taking on all comers in an improvised boxing ring at the VFW or rushing headlong to the scene of a car accident or a building on fire to help strangers to his death three months after being diagnosed with cancer, he was a colorful character.

I remember Dad coaching me on how to box– I was awful, to him rescuing me from drowning, or taking me with him along his quixotic long 200-mile drives, “just for a cup of coffee.”

Here is my dad in all glory, his telling of whopper stories, his tormented days leading up to his death. And here, too, is the darker side of a charismatic hero: the rages, the estrangement from his son, the courting of danger, and finally his too early death.

Father and Son holding hands

Preface

I have tried to write this book several times, but in memory, my father remains fuzzy and out of focus. It’s hard to write about a man you both love and revere in total honesty. In my memory, he remains edgy, like he has been photographed, not painted.

I remember immense amount about him, almost the day-to-day material of the last three months of life. So many of those memories and emotions remain undigested. At this point, I knew he was dying so I remember him with a soft focus and not the recollection of the strong man who shaped and dominated my childhood. If you use too much of a wide-angle lens the simple man becomes distorted.

In the end, this book is written by a son about his father. There is nothing unoriginal here. The son both loves and reveres the father. The father doesn’t understand the son but loves the son in his own unique way. Sometimes that love is so remote that the son hates him a little. This book is a portrait written in love, in all the sweets and sours, and ups and downs of an evolving relationship.

My father was a good man, who overcame incredible odds. He had an almost unbelievably tough childhood. His parents were Italian immigrants, and he grew up in the Great Depression. The Oto household had too many kids and not enough love. In school he suffered from severe and undiagnosed dyslexia– he saw numbers and letters backwards.  His dyslexia forced him to become a physical dynamo. Dad quit school at twelve years old in the eighth to take a full-time bricklaying job when his father grew too sick to work. This job gave him an extreme work ethic.

At fifteen, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army in 1949. He loved the Army because it was all about being physical.

In the summer of 1950, he was fighting for his life as a sixteen-year-old infantryman in the Korean War. He came back from the Korean War as an eighteen-year-old Sergeant First Class (the Army still thought he was twenty years old). Almost everyone in his chain-of-command had been wounded or killed in over a year and half of fighting. He received several medals for bravery and was wounded twice.

With Dad, I had two fathers. The first father was a decorated soldier, a real hero, who fought in a war, a physical and manly man. But there was another father, a loving dad who taught me to ride a bicycle, who taught me to be a man. Both fathers were the same man.

The second father is what I am going to write about. I called him Dad. Dad was the most important father to me and the one I loved the most.

From the time I was a young boy, I felt certain unspoken assumptions about the course my life should take. I felt it was my duty and obligation to carry on my father’s legacy as a warrior. As a young man, I joined the U.S. Army to be a soldier like Dad.

Dad died of cancer when I was twenty-one years old. In my innocence, I had a romantic notion that being a career soldier is what he wanted me to be. I later learned that the second father would have been happy with whatever made me happy. I spent my early adulthood trying to live up to the man behind the legend, a father who only existed in an image I created.

In 2003, at Fort Benning, GA, a retired general who served with my father in Korea made the connection with Dad when he read my last name.

“Your father was one of the bravest men I ever knew,” said the highly decorated General.

A kaleidoscope of emotions came over me. Dad had been dead for seven years. When I asked Dad about his wartime his answer was always the same, “I did my job.”

The man I remember was so much more. Dad was emotionally expressive mixed in with animal magnetism, and a lot of charm and appeal. Dad gave off the image of a man with prosperity even though he was dirt poor. His generosity and love of life was his prosperity. You knew he would look after you, support you and most importantly, show you a fantastic time.

Dad was a man of contradictions. He was stoic and silent about some subjects. Especially things that were unpleasant like growing up in the Great Depression or his wartime service. If he cried, it was internal.

If Dad was happy or angry his face, especially his eyes showed every emotion. No matter what he thought about you could see it in his eyes. His absolute emotional honesty was one of his best traits.

If he loved you, he let you know it. If he were angry, he would tell you why. If he was great, lousy or whatever you knew it. If he hated someone or wanted them out of his life, they knew it. He was never quiet about anything. Total candor, total emotion all the time. A tough guy with a mask. Vulnerable and neurotic. People are fascinated by someone who has no vanity, no sense of personal boundaries, who just says this is I am. Dad seemed to say, “Come along on the ride with me, it’ll be fun.” And sometimes it was.

Dad had a chip on his shoulder. He waged war on life. Dad never cared what other people or thought or did. Dad was the atomic bomb of having fun. He was a late middle-aged adolescent always having a good time. You loved him and wanted to be a part of his movie.

People loved Dad. His friends made allowances for his outrageous behavior because he was so charming. Dad seemed upset and troubled by his own faults. Getting old was hard for him. Dad had to reconcile his own myth with encroaching old age. He mourned the loss of his physicality. Dad’s slaying of this dragon was something to watch.

A little part of him thought that he was invincible, that he could take on or do anything, but it was cancer that killed him in the end and not war or a lifetime of poverty. He was a real character. Dad was kind, arrogant and quick-tempered, funny and dramatic, insecure and beset by doubt. Every situation demanded him to be at the top of his skill, the top of his personality.

Dad’s death immortalized him in my mind.  Dad died too early in my life, I spent twenty-five years in the Army trying to live up to him. His death is the reason I became a writer.

Is a Second Korean War Possible?

“South Korea has developed into one of Asia’s most affluent countries since partition in 1948. The Communist North has slipped into totalitarianism and poverty.”

– “South Korea country profile: Overview” (8 September 2015), BBC News, United Kingdom.

North Korea keeps testing more and more powerful missiles, and Kim Jong Un claims to be ready to annihilate America and its allies. Pyongyang seems more and more prepared to back those claims if need be. The Trump administration, like its three predecessors, rightly opposes a nuclear North Korea, the chance of a military confrontation or incident is growing.

Meanwhile, America’s strongest ally in the region– China has cut off almost all trade relations with its “client state” North Korea. This new development and stronger sanctions may impair the ability of leaders on both sides to manage the growing crisis of a possible war. Still, an actual war between an American-led coalition and North Korea seems far-fetched: The stakes are too high, and the disputes not severe enough, to prompt leaders of either country to start a conflict outright.

There are two main reasons for this. First, North Korea would never survive a nuclear exchange with the U.S. Second, the survival of his regime is the one thing Kim seems to care about the most.

North Korea seems to be following another more compelling model: Pakistan. As soon as Pakistan gained nuclear weapons in 1975, the world treated Pakistan with more respect.

North Korea has a long history of escalating and de-escalating tensions over the last 60 years. Pyongyang does this game of cat and mouse to broker deals of economic aid and concessions of U.N. sanctions.

This leaves the U.S. and its allies in a tricky position. Most diplomatic situations call for a carrot or stick approach. Unfortunately, with North Korea, neither the aid in the form of a carrot or stick in the form of sanctions has worked in the last decade.

Yet there is danger in complacency about the risk of war between the U.S. and North Korea, owing to the growing likelihood of crises along with advances in threats and rhetoric on both sides of the issue of a nuclear North Korea. These arguments can cause “crisis instability.”

With improved long-range missiles, North Korea can target and strike the United States. In a crisis, the inhibition and danger of war could give way to the impulse for Kim to gain advantage by striking first, even pre-emptively, before being taken down by the U.S. Thus, the real test is not whether barriers against a war with North Korea are strong enough in peacetime but whether those barriers will hold up in time of growing tension and crisis.

Of course, North Korean and American leaders could instantly intervene to stop a conflict before it got out of hand and went nuclear. But here, too, complacency would be a big mistake. Because both North Korea and the U.S. have increasingly potent but vulnerable strike forces. For North Korea, it would be the end of the Kim regime (more important to Kim than his citizens), and for the U.S., it would be the instant death of millions of innocent South Koreans well within strike range of North Korean missiles and artillery. Once war begins there is an motivation to “use ’em or lose ’em.” A war could escalate fast and become even harder to stop.

A recent study done by the RAND Corporation indicates that a significant fraction of U.S. forces involved in a war with North Korea, including aircraft carriers, would destroy North Korean military forces within hours of a spiraling armed conflict. The American response would be like the Iraq invasion of 2003 or the 100-hour war of Desert Storm, except now the weapons are better and American military leaders have extensive combat experience from a decade and a half of war. North Korea would be destroyed, but not without a significant loss of life– millions of innocent North and South Koreans.

How ready is the U.S. for a war with North Korea?

The military balance in the western Pacific favors the U.S., but this is shifting with a growing Chinese presence with its island building campaign in the South China Sea. But for now, the crisis with North Korea has the U.S. and China as allies.

The U.S. does have impressive military capabilities that are far greater than North Korea. North Korea only has to concentrate on missile development and trying to maintain its starving army. The U.S. faces other threats, such as China and Russia, a growing nuclear Iran (all quasi-allies of North Korea) and the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

A War with North Korea Book Cover

Although North Korea’s military disadvantage is shrinking as its country starves, it would suffer immense harm– much more than the U.S.– in the event of a war. A Second Korean War could harm bilateral trade and damage the world economy. Virtually all of South Korea’s, China’s and Japan’s trade is seaborne, would be disrupted by a U.S.- North Korea war in the Pacific.

The U.S. gross domestic product could fall by 4 to 12 percent in the first year of a Second Korean War, the Pacific (South Korea, Japan, and China) could drop by 25 percent or more. Because Kim’s regime’s legitimacy depends on strong economic performance and a cult of personality, political unrest could follow hardship. Millions of North Korean refugees could flood South Korea (has a 200-mile border with North Korea), China (an 850-mile border with North Korea) and Russia (a 12-mile border with North Korea). This development would be the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

What should American policymakers do about this?

Simply letting North Korea gain control over the Sea of Japan with the threat of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because of the vital importance of those waters, some 25 percent of world seaborne trade passes through them in a month. Also, U.S. allies (mainly Japan and South Korea) and in the Pacific would lose confidence if the U.S. doesn’t stand up to a nuclear North Korea.

The U.S. cannot threaten its way out this crisis. An arms race in the western Pacific favors North Korea because of its ability to concentrate on using medium-range missiles to strike allies in the region, and its capabilities can target U.S. forces in the Sea of Japan and South Korea.

But there are steps the U.S. take to reduce the danger. The Pentagon could deploy less vulnerable forces, such as submarines and drone carriers. Of course, this will take years to transform U.S. forces in the western Pacific. The problem with North Korea is urgent and now.

Meanwhile, given how perilous a North Korea-U.S. crisis is, U.S. leaders should continue to engage with their North Korean counterparts in search of a way to satisfy the interests of both powers, and others, especially China. This agenda would be hard, take time and not necessarily succeed, given that North Korea is unwilling to give its nukes.

What must be done now is to ensure that Washington and Pyongyang have a direct and active channel between North Korean and American leaders to defuse a crisis before the logic of striking first kicks in and causes the unthinkable. This direct channel must remain open not only in a crisis but to prevent escalation if hostilities were to erupt.

What are the options?

Ever stronger sanctions. The downfall of the Kim regime or military confrontation risks enormous casualties. Doing nothing is dangerous especially considering Kim’s erratic behavior. Kim has executed top advisors including his own uncle. As long as Kim is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons.

North Korea faces its greatest crisis since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Kim Jong Un faces the defining choice of the future of his nation: compromise, collapse or possible nuclear war. One way or the other, his time is running out.

Lastly, American and allied leaders should insist that their military commanders have options to respond, if necessary, to early and escalating strikes in the event of a war with North Korea.

North Korea- No Good Options

As the situation with North Korea grows more urgent and intense, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29 that, in theory, could reach Washington D.C. or New York City. This rocket test is a significant milestone for a country that has pledged to annihilate America. There are no indications that Pyongyang is stopping anytime soon.

So what can the U.S. and its allies do?

There are really no good options on the table. Mostly you are choosing from bad to much worse. For over twenty years, the North Korean nuclear problem has bedeviled four U.S. Presidents from both parties.

Now with North Korea ratcheting up the pressure, Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to South Korea in April 2017 said, “the era of strategic patience is over.” There are three main options, but each has a severe downside.

  1. Military Attack on North Korea

The U.S. has used strategic bombing in the past like Kosovo and in Libya. The North Koreans are experts at hiding their artillery and missile launching stations.

An unprecedented, strong show of force in the Western Pacific will do two things:

  1. Putting more troops will continue to put Kim Jong Un on notice. Nothing says you are “committed” to peace like tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the region.
  2. More troops and a stronger military presence continues to put pressure on the Chinese diplomatically and economically to make sure the North Koreans know we are serious.

China continues to play both sides of the fence. They are an unreliable ally when it comes to North Korea.  This pressure would force the Chinese to take action with their “client state.” When it comes to war, the Chinese would not be unaffected with a second Korean War.  A significant American troop commitment in South Korea would make China reign in North Korea.

What about a cyber-threat from North Korea?

Cyber is now the fourth dimension of war after air, sea, and land. Cyber-threats give the North Koreans unlimited range. Using high speed and small signature means, that can cripple America. Imagine a cyber-attack that targets the vulnerable infrastructure of the United States like in the movie “Live Free or Die Hard.” A cyber military strike that takes down the entire U.S. computer and technological structure. This computer hack would disable the economy of the United States (and the world). The North Koreans could inflict casualties similar to a nuclear bomb.

Can we hack North Korea?

If the U.S. attacked North Korea with cyber-attacks, almost nothing would happen. If you look at a satellite image of North Korea and South Korea, there are some big differences. North Korea is almost entirely dark outside of Pyongyang, its capital. South Korea looks like Fifth Avenue on Christmas Eve. North Korea has very limited power structures. Outside of Pyongyang, there would be almost no threat. The ramifications would be small. The North Korea power grid is very limited. North Korean society doesn’t depend on a central infrastructure. North Korea is a very backward country. Most North Koreans don’t have running water or central heating in their homes or businesses. North Korea is mostly rural without power.

North Korea is a primitive, almost third-world country. Most of its technology dates from 20 years ago or later. Most of the weapons that the North Koreans are using don’t need computers or at least very advanced ones to fire their weapons. North Korea’s aircraft and missile guidance systems have the latest technology.

What about a pre-emptive air strike on North Korea?

Russia and China are quasi-allies of North Korea. The Chinese will hold back. The Russians won’t react as long as we don’t threaten them.

If we attack any North Korean targets, it will trigger a war with North Korea immediately attacking South Korea. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is within conventional artillery range of North Korean batteries are just over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Whatever action the U.S. decides to do it has to be done with a great deal of planning. This planning will minimize South Korean casualties.

There are always military options. In this scenario, there are no good options.  Any military action will get an immediate response from North Korea. This also includes limited air strikes on North Korean military facilities.

The North Koreans will answer our attack with a counterattack across the DMZ. The Korean War (officially we are in a “ceasefire’) will fire back up again. Either limited air strikes or an all-out war, the first thing the North Koreans will do is to attack south.

Strategic Map
  1. Economic Sanctions and Pressure

China is the ally with the most sway over North Korea. The majority of food and energy coming into North Korea comes from China. Beijing sees aggressive sanctions as a step towards the eventual collapse of North Korea.

China does want the government in Pyongyang to collapse because it would yield to a massive wave of refugees. Plus, if the two Koreas were reunified, China would end up with a major U.S. ally on its southern border.

Multilateral negotiations helped to curb North Korea obsession of nukes in the past. In 1994, North Korea signed the Agreement Framework that suspended North Korea’s nuclear program for almost a decade.

  1. Direct Diplomacy

Does diplomacy matter? Are Presidential trips, diplomatic visits, and international summit meetings nothing more than pomp and circumstance and feel good measures that signify nothing?

President Richard Nixon’s trip to mainland China, which began on February 21, 1972, tells us something different. This historic visit started the slow process of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Communist China.

In a world where Americans get their iPods and iPads from China, and the Chinese government regularly buys U.S. Treasury notes, allowing Washington to run up a trillion-dollar deficit, a single presidential trip was called “a week to change the world.” That’s precisely what happened with President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972.

History is usually the story of epic battles and courageous last stands against overwhelming odds, but diplomacy is just as crucial as sweeping battles. Diplomacy allows the U.S. to deal with diverse countries and complex cultures as in China, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Foreign and international relations during the Cold War kept the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. out of World War III.

Wars that are avoided, like in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and treaties that are signed by bitter enemies like the United States and North Vietnam ended the American involvement in Vietnam. New agreements that are forged in friendship with warring nations is the mandate of the United Nations.

What’s the Problem with North Korea?

Diplomacy only works if both sides are willing to have a conversation and an agenda. The North Koreans only want to have a conversation about the world, accepting their status as a nuclear power.

Kim at the control.
Credit: AP News

In 1972, President Richard Nixon made a dramatic step in normalizing relations with China. It was the first step in a slow process of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Communist China in almost thirty years.  Over the next forty years, that relationship would ebb and flow, but the two countries would remain reluctant allies.

Trump’s trip to China in November 2017, was a brilliant move to drive a wedge between the world’s two last remaining communist powers. Closer diplomatic relations with China can be used as leverage by the U.S. in dealing with North Korea, particularly on the issue of nuclear weapons.

Also, a massive U.S. military buildup in the region allows the United States to make use of the Chinese as a counterweight to North Korea. Despite claims of communist solidarity, China and North Korea are, at best, strongly distrustful allies.

President Trump plans is to use China to contain North Korea’s nuclear aggression. China desires another ally in the world with an increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. welcomed the possibility of making North Korea more malleable to U.S. policy requests (such as North Korea signing a peace treaty to disarm its nuclear program in exchange for U.N. aid and food).

President Trump scheduled the travel to meet with the region’s leaders to reassure them and the world of the U.S. stance on a nuclear North Korea. The message of the trip was clear- Either they needed to do something to contain the threat of North Korea or the U.S. will.

What does North Korea want?

North Korea wants recognition of its status as a nuclear power. More than anything China, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. want Kim Jong Un to come to his senses.

Kim is obsessed with his regime’s survival. In 2003, Muammar Gaddafi disarmed Libya’s nuclear program. No doubt Kim watched the deposed leader of Libya be captured and killed eight years later. The lesson learned was give up your nukes, and you give up your power. North Korea sees disarmament as an “invasion tactic” of the west.

In the end, a deterrence and containment policy like we had with the Soviet Union during the Cold War maybe out our only option. The job of the international community is to break the logic of Kim and nudge Pyongyang towards rethinking its nuclear goals.

North Korea Building

The Case Against North Korea

“China is the one, the only one, that can control Kim Jong Un, this crazy, fat kid that’s running North Korea.”

– U.S. Senator John McCain

North Korea has fired 23 missiles in 16 tests since February, including its most advanced weapon so far- an intercontinental missile that is said to be capable of reaching the mainland of the U.S. The last test was done on Nov. 29.

This latest act of aggression by North Korea is the most powerful case to date that Kim Jong Un’s outlaw regime stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions. Kim has no intention of revealing or surrendering his nuclear capability. Kim’s threats against the United States and its allies with his weapons of mass destruction presents a very clear and present danger to America and its allies.

The crisis with the North Koreans goes back to the 1950s. North Korea has never acknowledged and doesn’t believe that the Korean War (1950-1953) has ended. Pyongyang views the United States and South Korea as active combatants in a continuing war, a war which North Korea continues to escalate tensions.

As American military forces in the region build, President Trump needs to let diplomacy work before a fateful showdown with a nuclear North Korea. But diplomacy only works when both parties can agree on an agenda. The U.S. wields great power, and its military might would crush North Korea in the span of a few days. North Korea would never survive a nuclear exchange with the U.S.– this is the worst possible outcome with millions of innocent North and South Koreans dead.

The most convincing evidence against Kim is his continue testing of missiles despite international pressure to stop him. This is the “smoking gun” of the intent of Pyongyang– to annihilate America.

North Korea has again been designated a state sponsor of terrorism because it sells rocket technology to enemies of the United States. Also, Pyongyang is suspected of assassinations on foreign soil, including Kim’s own half-brother in Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia in April, 2017.

Foreign ministers around the world are calling for the extending and strengthening restraint against North Korea. President Trump has kept faith with his commitment to work through the United Nations, and U.S. allies like Japan and China, to resolve the crisis. As tensions continue to build, he has taken every possible effort to let the U.N. Security Council take the lead in dealing with Pyongyang. North Korea still has a chance to change course.

North Korea is a seemingly impossible challenge for U.S. policymakers. Kim runs an outlaw regime that is dangerous and very petty. The heightened tensions seem like an almost unsolvable crisis.

The tragedy of Otto Warmbier, an American citizen who died on June 19, 2017, is just one example of how North Korea treats people it doesn’t like. The North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 is another.

North Korea is a dangerous player. On March 26, 2010, the North Koreans sunk a South Korean ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors. Later that same year on November 23, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island with artillery and killed almost a dozen innocent people. The biggest alarm for the administration’s case against North Korea is Kim’s defiance before the is his continuing testing of missiles to threaten America.

The following reasons are why North Korea is a serious threat to U.S.:

  1. North Korea does have the capability of a direct nuclear attack on the mainland United States.
  2. North Korea has provided direct weapons and technology to other nations (Syria and Iran) that wishes to harm Americans and U.S. national interests.
  3. North Korea has a record of supporting terrorist groups with “global reach.” North Korea, Iran, and Syria have all worked together on their nuclear capabilities. Iran and Syria train terrorist groups to kill Americans.
  4. North Korea has test-fired two dozen missiles over or at U.S. allies. North Korea represents a threat to U.S. and other U.S. allies in the region.

President Trump and his team have placed squarely before the Security Council the fateful questions of how it should respond. Kim Jong Un is a tyrant and liar who controls some very dangerous weapons. Kim has failed to cooperate with the U.N. in the past and has actively sought to thwart and deceive them.

In the past “strategic patience” was essentially doing nothing about a nuclear North Korea. Negotiations with North Korea simply does not work. For the past fifty years, we have given them fuel, food, and aid, and the Pyongyang usually promises to play nice at the last minute.

Almost immediately and routinely North Korea breaks their word. A U.N. Resolution passed against North Korea with fifteen to nothing. That voted included China and Russia, traditionally North Korea allies. Over the years as North Korea has acted out, no action was taken. The response of the West has always been a weak reaction that leads to negotiation.

America is very good at using military power to project its foreign policy goals. The problem with using military force is that you sometimes make mistakes and you create enemies, and you get bogged into another quagmire. The best example is the 2003 U.S.–led invasion of Iraq. We are still dealing with ISIS almost 15 years later.

The problem with North Korea is that there is no magic bullet. The best way to prevent a nuclear North Korea is to prevent Kim from turning his missile tests into an area of strength. That needs to be done on the diplomatic end. So, we need to keep doing that until all other options have been exhausted.

A War with North Korea Book Cover

Keeping strategic priorities focused on containing a North Korean nuclear threat first. Then, if necessary, you go after Kim Jung Un or his weapons of mass destruction capability. It’s high time that we force Kim Jung Un to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. But, in doing that, as always, the use of force should be a last resort.

Israel on the World Stage

“Israel was not created in order to disappear- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”

– President John F. Kennedy

Known as the Holy Land, Israel is home to many sites holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews like the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Al-Aqsa Mosque. These are sacred places of world’s three greatest religions. Israel is the home of modern Jews, where old and new meet in cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Blessed art thou, oh Lord– in Hebrew.

Our father, which art in heaven– in Latin.

God is great. There is no God but God– in Arabic.

To the world’s three principal monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Israel is hallowed ground. Yet, the state of Israel is equally and very much a part of the material, modern world. A world of high technology, of robust parliamentary democracy. The spiritual, the material, the physical are all a part of the modern Israel, and it accommodates them all.

The honey-colored stones of Jerusalem, Israel’s political and spiritual capital breathes the long checkered history of the Holy Land. Jerusalem is a city besieged, captured, laid to waste and rebuilt, over and over again down through the centuries.

Jerusalem was first declared Israel’s capital over 3,000 years ago by the legendary King David, but became so again only after the state of Israel was reborn in 1948. The rebirth of the nation of Israel was the crowning achievement of political Zionism. Zionism was a movement launched by a visionary Viennese journalist named Theodor Herzl (1860-1904). Herzl dreamed of a land where Jews would not be an alien and often despised minority, but a home in their own promised and ancestral land.

The dream of Israel may have remained a dream, but for two World Wars.

World War I destroyed the Turkish or Ottoman Empire, of which Palestine was apart. The end of World War I, brought a declaration from the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, that after the Allied victory, that the Jews would be allowed to establish a homeland in Palestine.

The inter-war years saw the rise of Nazi Germany, whose leader, Adolf Hitler, had an obsessive hatred of the Jews. Hitler plunged the globe into World War II, after his invasion of Poland in 1939. World War II ended with the destruction of Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. Nazi Germany ended, but not before the slaughter six million European Jews in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust drove the survivors of Jewry, under the leadership of the charismatic David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), into the enormous effort needed in the rebirth of a Jewish State. But there were other claims on the Holy Land, both spiritual and material.

There the world’s Christians, whose Redeemer lived, taught and died there 2,000 years before. And there were Muslims who believed their founding Prophet, Mohammad, ascended from Jerusalem to heaven. Most loudly, there were the Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, whose people had lived in Palestine during the almost twenty centuries of Jewish exile from their homeland. Back by their fellow Arabs across the Middle East, the Palestinians claimed the Holy Land was theirs by right.

The issue of statehood was resolved in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The struggling, infant Jewish state defeated the combined armies of its Arab neighbors. Later, with generous assistance from America, consolidated its place in the world in the next few years. Now, despite five more wars and decades of terrorist attacks, the Jewish state is clearly a permanent fixture on the world stage.

The Holy Land

The North Korea Conundrum

Why does Trump need to continue to pressure on a nuclear North Korea?

If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy in the last 15 years is that military intervention can seem simple, but it is in fact very complex. A military invasion has the option for intended consequences that not even the best planner can anticipate.

So I am glad that the Trump Administration is studying all the options on North Korea. President Trump and his team of experienced advisors are taking the time to arrive at a smart policy rather than shooting first and having to ask important questions later.

The national-security issues surrounding North Korea goes deeper than just nuclear weapons. The problem with Pyongyang is a much larger issue. North Korea is experiencing a genuine awakening with having a nuclear capability. Kim Jung Un, the profanity-prone, paranoid tyrant, is leading his citizens to the precipice of an unrecoverable disaster. Kim’s story is as fascinating as he is terrifying. A nuclear North Korea with Kim at the helm is a recipe for destruction.

For the U.S., this current situation presents a compelling opportunity. For nearly seven decades, North Korea has regarded Washington as the ultimate enemy because it was the principal supporter of South Korea, the region’s leading democracy. North Korea wants nukes to even the playing field with America, a country that represents everything North Korea hates. The U.N. (with significant U.S. help) defeated them in a war nearly 70 years ago. Kim’s obsession with destroying America and unifying the Korean Peninsula has produced a very real national-security problem: the rise of a nuclear North Korea that directly threatens the U.S.

North Korea’s first argument against the U.S. is that supports the “tyranny” of the government of South Korea. Kim’s view is ironic seeing how Kim oppresses his own people and more than a quarter of North Korean have died from starvation and famine while he pursues a nuclear missile at the expense of his citizens.

Now in the latest crisis, the U.S. has a chance to break the dysfunctional dynamic that produces so much hatred and violence, but at what cost? A war with North Korea will cost over a trillion dollars and leave millions, …yes millions, dead while devastating the region. The war would cause the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and make Syria’s refugee issues seem very, very small. The outcome of the war would be terrible. The result would be mass slaughter of North and South Koreans.

The Trump Administration has properly aligned itself with hopes and aspirations of the world by asking China to intervene. President Trump has called on allies from all over the region to engage in severe reform and sanctions against North Korea. It would be great if Kim would step down, but that will never happen. For Kim to survive a war with America would be a humiliation for Washington at the moment in history when the world is watching. Kim right now faces sanctions and isolation with his continued nuclear tests. All of this makes Kim anxious to stay in power. This crisis has been an opportunity for the U.S. to align with partners in the region- South Korea, Japan, and China- to contain a nuclear North Korea.

So the U.S. must follow through in its efforts to get contain Kim, pulling all the diplomatic levers and seek maximum multilateral and international support to stop Kim from getting nukes. If the North Koreans ask for assistance and aid to feed its starving people in exchange to stop testing missiles, then Washington should move in that direction.

The U.S. military is already directly in the conflict by beefing up its presence in the region. This buildup really makes little difference. Kim’s main advantage is not in the air but on the ground. He has tanks, armored vehicles, a fanatical 2 million-man army devoted to him, and massive firepower all pointed at Seoul. The basic question is how to shift the balance away from Kim and towards resolution without bloodshed.

What kind of war would the U.S. wage against North Korea?

There is no doubt that the U.S. military is ready and able to defeat North Korea. The American military is at its very best in maneuver warfare. Just look at Desert Storm and the first three weeks in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The American approach to warfare is not on overpowering an enemy but on outflanking him, targeting his weaknesses and destroying him. Nobody does this better than the U.S. military. The post-Vietnam army was built, deliberately, for short, conventional, decisive conflict just like the one we face in North Korea. Moreover, we know the terrain, the people and the culture better than other foreign places in the world because we have been on the Korean Peninsula for nearly seventy years.

What should the U.S. do about North Korea?

  1. Military planners are urging President Trump to go slow with North Korea. Make sure that all avenues of diplomacy have failed before launching a military option. A nuclear North Korea with weapons of mass destruction is a scary thought.
  2. Don’t go to war without NATO or the United Nations.

Our greatest threat is from the unpredictability of North Korea. We don’t know what Pyongyang will do next. We don’t really have a good system for combating a rogue nuclear threat.

There is no doubt that we would wallop North Korea in a conventional war, just as we did in the Korean War (1950-1953). The war with North Korea never really ended. The war ended in a ceasefire and armistice. North Korea has been a major seller of rocket technology to Iran and Syria. So, it is a sponsor of terrorism.

North Korea Conundrum

America is very good at using military power to project its foreign policy goals. The problem with using military force is that you sometimes make mistakes and you create enemies, and you get bogged into another quagmire. The best example is the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. We are still dealing with ISIS almost 15 years later.

The problem with North Korea is that there is no magic bullet. The best way to prevent a nuclear North Korea is to prevent Kim from turning his missile tests into an area of strength. That needs to be done on the diplomatic end. So, we need to keep doing that until all other options have been exhausted.

Keeping strategic priorities focused on containing a North Korean nuclear threat first. Then, if necessary, you go after Kim Jung Un or his weapons of mass destruction capability. It’s high time that we force Kim Jung Un to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. But, in doing that, as always, the use of force should be a last resort.

 

Moses, Egypt, and the Promised Land

The ancient town of Beersheba is significant for one more reason in the Bible. Jacob after learning that his son Joseph was still alive passed through Beersheba on his way to Egypt. Jacob and all the families of his son stopped at Beersheba to make sacrifices to God. It was the closing of a chapter. God’s people would spend the next 400 years in Egypt.

Beersheba

The Hebrews would grow into a great nation in Egypt. They would await their return to a land that God had sworn to them. The relied on God’s faithfulness to stay faithful to the covenant He made. By the time, that God had chosen Moses to be the leader who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God’s people had grown to a vast number. No one knows for sure how many Israelites there were. Some Biblical scholars say as many as two and a half million.

The Hebrews were indeed a nation. They had endured many generations of harsh slavery, God had not forgotten them and had heard their cries for deliverance. God’s answer was Moses. Moses was God’s chosen Deliverer to lead His people through the Red Sea.

Moses was an orphan, a murderer, a shepherd and a reluctant orator. He was also a religious leader, a lawgiver, a prophet and a historian. The authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed to Moses.  Moses is the most important prophet and historical figure in Judaism.

The Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea are dated to around 1250 B.C. The Exodus is the most dramatic and pivotal event in the Old Testament. It marks the liberation of God’s people but not their entry into the Promised Land. That would come 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt.

Moses

Literally, on the doorstep of the Promised Land in Kadesh- Barnea the newly freed Israelites refused to go on. Despite the reports that the Promised Land flowed with milk and honey, Hebrew spies also reported the land was filled with giants.

For their faithlessness, God condemned the Hebrews to stay in the desert until that generation had passed away. Moses also died and did not go into the Promised Land. His death is the final event recorded in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible. Moses’ death concluded the 40-year prohibition on entry into the Promised Land.

Joshua, Moses’ brother, was raised up to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He was commissioned to conquer the Land of Canaan. Afterwards, the land was allocated to Israel’s twelve tribes. In Joshua Chapter 10, we read about a group of Canaanite armies that had joined together against Joshua, the Israelites and their allies the Gibeonites. One by one the Israelites destroyed these city-states for rallying against them.

The tel of Lachish is one of the largest and most significant mounds of the Biblical period in Israel. Lachish is the site for some fantastic and very reliable archeological discoveries. Lachish was assigned to the tribe of Judah.

As the centuries went by, God’s people became established in the land they had been promised. By the 10th century B.C., Jerusalem, or the City of David, was the capital city of Israel. Over time Jerusalem became the target of the Assyrians and Babylonians owed a debt of gratitude to the fortress of a town in the south called Lachish.

Lachish was one of the several fortified cities guarding the canyons or wadis leading up to Jerusalem in the north. To lay siege to Jerusalem or the surrounding region of Judah, an invading army would first have to take Lachish. Lachish guarded the final mountain pass to Jerusalem.

The easiest way for an attacking army to lay siege to Jerusalem was to conquer Lachish. Taking Lachish would make sure that your army was safe from a counterattack on your flank. This reason is what made Lachish built for war. Since the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C., Lachish became a mighty walled fortress. There was a six-chambered gate similar to the ones built at strategic locations like Megiddo.

Under Israelite King Rehoboam (c. 930–915 B.C.), grandson of David, the kingdom of Israel became divided due to high taxes. The ten northern tribes broke away to form the Kingdom of Israel in the North. They made their capital Samaria. King Rehoboam and the remaining tribes of Benjamin and Judah became the Kingdom of Judah. Their capital remained in Jerusalem. Rehoboam reinforced Lachish even more. In time, besides Jerusalem, Lachish became the most city in the Kingdom of Judah.

Back east, in modern day Iraq, in the Kingdom of Nineveh, a king named Sennacherib rose to power. Sennacherib and his Assyrian army first attacked the Kingdom of Israel in the north. They were able to conquer Israel with Samaria being taken in 721 B.C.Next on his list was the Kingdom of Judah. In the revolt of 701 B.C. of King Hezekiah against Assyria, Sennacherib attacked the Kingdom of Judah. He laid siege to Lachish.

We know this for a fact because the event is uniquely recorded. First, you can read about it in the Bible. Second cuneiform prism chronicle the same events. The third source is the significant archeological evidence found at Tel Lachish. Fourth are incredibly detailed reliefs that were uncovered in Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh.

They are now displayed at the Israel Museum. The victorious Assyrians cover their win in the Lachish Reliefs. King Sennacherib would bask in the glory of his victory over the Israelites. At Tel Lachish, archeologists have discovered the Assyrian battle layer, which included hundreds of Assyrian arrowheads. There were approximately 1500 skulls in nearby caves.

Excavation also unveiled a stone and dirt siege ramp that the Assyrians built up to the city wall. Assyrian infantry used the ramp to charge the wall into the city. You can see the siege ramp in the Assyrian Lachish Relief. Sennacherib and the Assyrians continued to Jerusalem after sacking Lachish. Jerusalem was never taken. Over time the Assyrian empire began to disintegrate. That didn’t mean that Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah were in the clear.

In the 7th century, B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians became the dominant power in the ancient Near East. It was Nebuchadnezzar’s turn to thump on the rebellious Judeans. The Babylonians took Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but before they did, they had to defeat Lachish once again. This battle is confirmed in the Bible as written by the Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 36:6-7-

6 Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem

7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the remaining cities of Judah, that is, Lachish and Azekah, for they alone remained as fortified cities among the cities of Judah that remained.

The mound and broken artifacts of the ancient city of Lachish reinforce the story of the Bible. Lachish also closes another chapter in Israel’s story. The nation of Israel had begun as a family.  The Patriarchs dealt directly with and were faithful to God.

Then came the Exodus where they transferred into leadership by prophets and military leaders. Then once the Hebrews were settled into the Promised Land, they were led by a King after they begged God for one.

As Israel’s leadership change so did their loyalty. They tended toward rebellion and idolatry. It wasn’t long until Israel was split in half and endured famine and constant warfare almost destroyed the nation. Later the Israelites were carried off into exile.

A nation in exile was probably was not the picture that Abraham had in mind when God promised him that his descendants would be a great nation. God never abandons His people. The Lord’s promises were pointing towards something greater. Something amazing that no one could have ever imagined- Jesus Christ.

Why did Trump move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I direct to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the new embassy will be a magnificent tribute to peace.”

–  President Donald Trump

Why did Trump move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem marks a major change in the American policy on the Middle East.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel is a seismic shift of seven decades of U.S.-led neutrality between Israelis and Palestinians. Both Israel and the Palestinian State claim Jerusalem as their capital. The move signifies that the U.S. recognizes Israel as the legitimate, sovereign and rightful heir to the ancient city.

Jerusalem is one of the holiest and ancient cities in the world. It is home to holy sites of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Jerusalem sits in the middle of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After the founding of Israel in 1948, the first Arab-Israeli War erupted. It resulted in the Egyptian occupation of Gaza and the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank.

For years, a brutal civil war erupted between Palestinian guerrillas and a series of reprisal attacks by Israeli commandos. The region was caught up in the Cold War. The Arab nations surrounding Israel were getting arms from the Soviets. America and France supported Israel.

For years, Jerusalem was divided between Israeli and Palestinian control with an occupying Jordanian force. In the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured East Jerusalem. In a matter of days, the Israelis pushed the Jordanians out of Jerusalem. Even though the Israelis signed an armistice, they continued to occupy the lands they had taken while the peace process was underway. The Israelis saw the capture of East Jerusalem as a “reunification” of their ancient capital.

The international community has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem.  No countries have embassies in Jerusalem, but a few countries, including the U.S., have consulates there. All past Presidents have thought moving a U.S. embassy there would be too dangerous.

Many American conservative evangelical Christians believe a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem shows American support for Israel. Evangelical Christians make-up the biggest pro-Israel bloc in the U.S. American Christian support of Israel comes from the belief that Israel is the Holy Land promised to God’s chosen people, and God blesses those who bless the Jews.

Jerusalem

President Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a recognition of the sovereignty of Israel. Recognition of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel places the U.S. on the side of the democratic and Jewish state. This bold move will have repercussions for both U.S. security and diplomacy in the region.

 

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