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Save the Date for this timely presentation on………

“A LOOMING GLOBAL DEBT CRISIS?”

with

Dr. Jerry O’Driscoll

The Ramada, June 6, 2017,  9:00 a.m.

Government debts at all levels in many countries have risen to alarming levels, leading some monetary experts to predict a global debt crisis. Dr. Jerry O’Driscoll will survey the growing debt that many industrialized countries, as well as Emerging Markets, have accumulated, particularly dollar-denominated debt incurred by foreigners. The risk is growing that these countries will be unable to repay the debt.

A country’s debt burden includes not only government obligations, but private debt (business and personal) as well. In the United States, not only is there a huge pile of government debt, but household debt just hit a record high. And, increasingly government entities at all levels are going deeper into debt, primarily driven by the perceived need to continuously increase entitlements, and compensation and retirement for government employees. The latter problem is particularly serious at the city/county level, as well as in states that now risk defaulting on debt (Illinois, for example).

As the burden of debt grows at all levels, more resources must be devoted to just servicing the debt. That leaves fewer resources for new investments that enhance productivity and stimulate economic growth.  Is there a way out of this conundrum, or must the world face the looming prospect of a global financial meltdown?

Dr. Jerry O’Driscoll is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. He was formerly a VP and director of policy analysis at Citibank, and, before that, VP at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He is a widely read expert on international economic and financial issues, writing for the WSJ and other business publications, and appears regularly on national TV.

No need to RSVP now—just save this date!

Summary of the presentation on….

Confronting North Korea

with

Dr. John Scire, Professor Xiaoyu Pu, and

Former Assemblyman Pat Hickey

North Korea has risen to become a major national security challenge for the United States and its allies.  While long regarded as a nuisance, Pyongyang was not seen as a major threat to the United States, its allies, or even China.  However, despite years of diplomacy marked by “strategic patience” and even offering “carrots” to the regime, nothing seems to have slowed down the North Korean quest for a nuclear weapons capability.

Our panelists agreed that North Korea has demonstrated it possesses nuclear devices and long range missiles capable of striking the continental United States.  The time is coming to consider more serious steps to moderate or even eliminate the North Korea nuclear weapons programs.

The most recent missile launch by Pyongyang occurred just a day after the election of South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in.  Moon has advocated reopening talks with North Korea, has refused to endorse U.S. missile defense in the region, and seems bent on relying on diplomatic negotiations and additional carrots in order to moderate the regime of Kim Jong-Un.  Interestingly, all of our panelists seemed to have basic agreement with the new South Korean President’s approach and, despite North Korean missile tests and other hostile actions, seemed to favor additional diplomatic overtures and not– at least right now– to consider strikes against North Korean military targets.

Pat Hickey on North Korean Society and Economy

Former Nevada Assemblyman Pat Hickey, who is also an Honorary Consul to the Republic of Korea, began the discussions by presenting an overview of basic factors regarding North Korea.  Hickey’s first slide, showing both North and South Korea at night, provided a striking comparison of the environment of both Koreas, with the North virtually dark and the South well lit up.  Hickey also noted comparisons of each country’s population, political systems, significant variations in per capita income/GDP, trade with neighboring countries and the U.S., and, most importantly, size of the armed services and military equipment.  Most striking in these comparisons was the absolute domination by Seoul in terms of economic output, but the vast advantage the North has in terms of military manpower and equipment.

Hickey pointed out trends within North Korea that will ultimately lead to the erosion of the “information blockade” that the regime has attempted to impose on North Korean society.  The regime’s information blockade is being broken down by cross-border movement, trade, and new technologies. “Marketization” is increasing the proliferation of mobile phones, televisions, radios, DVD players, and South Korean dramas and Chinese films to watch on them. It is possible to buy cheap Chinese DVD players for around $20, and DVDs themselves are available for less than a dollar and are commonly shared or even rented. USB drives are also growing in popularity, and are used with computers and the newer DVD players that have a USB input port. This makes it easier to share and watch foreign media without being detected, because USB drives are so easy to conceal. The markets also provide a rare gathering space that can act as a forum for news, rumors, ideas and even low-level or implied criticism of the regime.

 

North Koreans are learning more about the reality of life in in the outside world and the reasons for their own poverty, and they cannot unlearn these things, Hickey stressed. All signs indicate that this ‘education in reality’ will only continue, and will further empower the North Korean people to think independently from the regime.

Dr. John Scire on North Korea’s military and nuclear capabilities

Dr. John Scire, who has over 30 years of experience in the U.S. Army, addressed the military threat represented by the North.  Scire laid out more definitively the size of the armed forces of both countries and the– at least on paper– significant numerical advantages possessed by Pyongyang.  However, Scire stressed, the North Korean capabilities were mitigated by the age of the equipment, the lack of mobility, and the absence of a sophisticated transportation system to move troops.  Scire laid out a number of options that South Korea and the U.S. might pursue in bringing North Korea to the negotiating table, or, if necessary, eliminating the threat.  The options ranged from surgical nuclear strikes, a pre-emptive invasion by the Republic of Korea and U.S. troops, limited harassment operations, and full out nuclear exchange.  Scire’s analysis showed that the consequences of a conflict on South Korea would be enormous, and nearby countries such as China and Russia would likely also be impacted and perhaps involved.  Scire concluded that while he did not favor the implementation of a military strike at this time, he strongly advocated that the U.S. and South Korea prepare viable options for the conduct of a campaign that would quickly neutralize North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

John explained the quality of the North Korean forces and their concentration along the DMZ as “vulnerabilities.” He also focused on the necessity to take preemptive action if the North Koreans did not denuclearize. This included the “use of tactical atomic weapons on their atomic weapons’ sites.”

Dr. Xiaoyu Pu on China’s Relationships with Both Koreas

Dr. Xiaoyu Pu, professor of political science at UNR, specifically addressed the role that China might play in either ameliorating the tensions or acting as an ally in the case that conflict ensued.  Pu discussed the history of China/North Korea relations, in which, although beset by tensions, China still regards North Korea as a “buffer zone”.  More importantly, Beijing feels that any conflict on the peninsula would quickly escalate to involve China itself, including a massive refugee flow out of the North.  Within China public opinion leans toward a negative view of the DPRK and officials increasingly see that country as a strategic liability.

Dr. Pu pointed out that China does have a capability to restrain North Korea, as it is Pyongyang’s major supplier of energy and is the DPRK’s top trading partner.  Pu concluded that despite China’s traditional relationship with the North, he believed that the key to reducing tensions on the peninsula lie in greater U.S./China cooperation.  Pu, interestingly, thought that, like Nixon going to China, it was possible for President Trump to actually meet with the North Korean leader.  Doing so might give Kim Jong-Un the visibility and prestige he so badly wants and might lead to a reduction of tensions.

Is a Conflict with North Korea Unavoidable?

In the discussion that followed, all three participants agreed that a conflict with North Korea might not be avoided.  If such a conflict ensued, Scire felt that the U.S. could eliminate quickly Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities through a “Rolling Thunder” type of assault (full bombing strike).

Dr. Pu was asked why China could not be more helpful in alleviating tensions in the region.  He stressed that while a mutual aid treaty still exists, the top leaders of both countries have never met, and the two sides have increasing distrust between them.  And, in fact, China has not expressly stated that it will defend North Korea if a military conflict ensued, and Beijing has been quite critical of Pyongyang’s actions.  He said this is “not a normal alliance” but more like a “bad marriage”.  Further, Pu noted, China has supported sanctions placed on the North by the UN Security Council and for more than 20 years has had a formal relationship with South Korea.  Both Pu and Scire felt that common ground could be found between China and the U.S. regarding the need for eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.  Given Beijing and Washington’s common interest in preventing a major conflict between the Koreas that could easily go nuclear, they advocated for increased diplomatic overtures to the North and for both President Trump and President Xi to develop a more cooperative stance in dealing with the North Korean threat.

A record attendance was set by this meeting and it was clear that participants would welcome a further session on North Korea, particularly if the NSF is able to secure the presence of a high level current or former U.S. official who had responsibility for this region.

Dr. Tyrus W. Cobb  

Be sure and look at the comprehensive PowerPoint our speakers used in their presentations (link below).

Confronting North Korea (2)

NSF Colleagues:

We just learned this morning that North Korea successfully fired an intermediate-range nuclear missile that can reach the mainland United States. This means that North Korea may be just one year rather than the expected five, from having an ICBM capable of striking the US.

This makes our NSF session tomorrow that much more relevant!

We expect record attendance and, unfortunately, may have to cut off reservations soon. If you haven’t RSVP’d by noon today, you may not be able to attend.

Another problem–the Ramada is resurfacing their parking lots, and we aren’t sure if they will be finished by tonight. There is plenty of parking in the back areas, but finding a space will be an issue. Come early!

This from the Ramada today:

“The entire Casino Parking Lot will be completed by end of day today.  Hotel Parking Lot – Concrete will be done this morning there may be a small section in the back of the parking lot that will be closed.  I would let guests know …  The Hotel and Casino are repaving the parking lots, Tuesday the entire Casino Parking lot will be open along with 90% of the Hotel. For your convenience the Hotel Front entrance will be open for drop offs.”

This is the final announcement for the timely presentation on….

CONFRONTING NORTH KOREA

With

Dr. John Scire, Professor Xiaoyu Pu, and 

Former Assemblyman Pat Hickey

Tuesday, May 16, the Ramada, 9:00 a.m.

For decades North Korea has been a “2nd-tier” crisis for the United States, as America focused its diplomacy and war-fighting capabilities on other global “hot spots”. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Kosovo, Yemen, Sudan, etc., all took precedence. Every President since Bill Clinton has played for time, hoping that either the regime in Pyongyang would collapse, or even evolve into a normal country. At times we and regional allies have even propped up the regime by relaxing sanctions or providing food aid. Nothing seems to have worked, and North Korea remains a totalitarian country run by a mercurial, unpredictable and provocative ruler, Kim Jong-Un.

The most dangerous challenge from North Korea comes from its possession of nuclear weapons. Since 1994, the leaders in Pyongyang have at various times agreed to halt their uranium and plutonium-based nuclear programs. Every American president–Bush, Clinton, and Obama–have employed a variety of sticks (mainly sanctions) and carrots (food and monetary aid). Various governments in South Korea have done the same. “Engagement” has clearly failed to influence the regime in Pyongyang, as Kim Jong Un has accelerated the pace of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, tightened its borders, sent a team of assassins to kill his half brother in Malaysia, and restricted internal supplies of food to achieve political aims. The result—most of the populace can barely find enough food to survive.

Yet North Korea’s nuclear program continues to grow. The fourth nuclear test this past January forced the U.S. and South Korea to apply more stringent financial and diplomatic pressure. Yet the nuclear tests continue, as have attempts to launch medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. While North Korea has not yet demonstrated the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and successfully mate it to these missiles, there is little doubt that within 3-4 years Pyongyang will have an ICBM with a nuclear warhead that can hit the United States.

Our distinguished panel of experts will take a deep look at the North Korean regime, its internal politics, its relations with regional powers such as China, Japan and South Korea, and American plans to change the regime’s direction (either by force or persuasion).  Dr. Pu is an assistant professor of political science at UNR and former China and World Fellow at Princeton University. Former Nevada Assemblyman Pat Hickey serves as Nevada’s Honorary Consul for the Republic of Korea. He also is an adjunct professor in political science at UNR, and the Executive Director of the Charter School Association of Nevada. Dr. John Scire is an adjunct professor of political science at UNR and spent 8 years in the Army Reserve working with the South Korean Military on Psychological Operations against North Korea.  He served more than 30 years in the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps in infantry, intelligence and psy-war assignments.

We envision this as the first of a two-part series on the North Korean challenge, with the follow session featuring a US Ambassador to a country in the region or senior military official with experience in the Pentagon’s planning for conflict with North Korea.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.

Summary of the presentation on….

Syria and the War Within Islam

What Should the U.S. and Its Allies Do Next?

with

Brigadier General Joe Shaefer, Foreign Service Officer Ted Morse,
Colonel Dick Hobbs and Steve Metcalf

The Forum was very fortunate to have four experts with extensive experience in the Middle East to discuss the ongoing war in Syria as well as the internecine conflict within Islam.  General Joe Shaefer provided an extensive overview of the regional conflicts (his comprehensive PowerPoint and those of other speakers are attached), with Ted Morse, Steve Metcalf and Dick Hobbs providing additional insights into the regional social, religious and political challenges.

In retaliation for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians, President Trump launched a retaliatory attack using Tomahawk cruise missiles to inflict heavy damage on the airfield the Syrian bombers departed from.  Our experts addressed the larger questions of what further actions President Trump should take and what the U.S. role should be in a country that has engaged in six years of religious, political and ethnic conflicts and a resulting massive refugee exodus.

Shaefer kicked off the program by describing the complexity of the conflicts in Syria.  He suggested the involvement of foreign powers was undertaken without extensive analysis and consideration of the influence outside powers might have.  Foreign policy decisions flow from perceived national interest, but intentions should be tempered by capabilities. He used a “Bad Bar” foreign policy analogy, one in which a nation wanders in “poorly prepared and culturally blind”.  This is the kind of thinking that gets the U.S. in trouble.  Typically, according to Shaefer, when addressing what to do about regional conflicts, the Joint Chiefs of Staff lay out what is needed to resolve the situation.  Invariably, however, that request is reduced by the civilian leadership and the U.S. winds up going in with too few people and weapons.  In most instances the U.S. also does not have an exit strategy.

Shaefer noted there are many domestic groups involved in conflicts in Syria and numerous outside powers, as well.  With respect to the latter, only the U.S. has the capability to influence the outcome of events.  While Russia has some capabilities, it can, at best, be an irritant by extending the conflict; however, it cannot drive outcomes, despite its close relationship with Assad and Iran.  The conflicts in Syria are of low intensity and permit President Putin to show strength.  However, given the financial cost to Russia and the difficult economic times at home,  Moscow’s involvement may well backfire with the Russian population.  Shaefer felt that the involvement of Russia in Syria will prove a serious strategic mistake.  Likewise, Iran can intervene on behalf of Assad (whose Alawite regime is Shia) but cannot decisively defeat the Sunni opposition groups.  73% of Syria is Sunni and only 13% is Shia.

SYRIA final Gen Shaefer and Ted Morse

Shaefer did not feel Syria was an existential issue to the U.S.  America’s concerns would be better served dealing with humanitarian issues than seeking to gain political influence.  Given that the U.S. has no vital national interest in the conflicts, that the people can begin rebuilding today as long as their lives are safe from retaliation and that Russia invited the U.S. to cooperate, it would be wise for Moscow and Washington to desist from aiding by any of the combatants, to provide humanitarian assistance and to create safe havens to which noncombatants can escape.  In addition, Shaefer would like to see more involvement, both military and economic, by impacted Sunni regimes in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.

Ted Morse asked, “How does one stop a six-year war in Syria?  You don’t, using more war” he said.  “So what comes next?”  Morse said the first step should be the creation of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to identify what carrots or sticks could be useful and how that might influence the course of the conflict and diplomacy.  Second point:  Morse felt strongly that America has only one over-riding VITAL national security interest in Syria:  the US should lead the destruction of the ISIS leadership and headquarters, because it is a violent threat to America and our allies.  Morse believed this would not defeat ISIS worldwide, which will require a different strategy long term.

As Shaefer said, there are over 200 different groups involved in the Syrian conflicts, which are constantly changing.  “Someone is always angry.”  Morse said there are at most 10 important factions currently fighting in Syria.  The one common point of agreement is that ISIS must be destroyed.  This will require assistance by the Sunni nations in the region.

Morse felt that this war would be very costly to all the outside nations involved.  It was interesting to note that all three Army participants – Shaefer, Hobbs and Metcalf – were less in favor of increased military action, even against ISIS, than was the diplomat here!  Morse’s third and only other point was as follows:  the war in Syria will not be won on the battlefield. Therefore, “the US should re-engage the other proxy supporter, Russia, and jointly return to the Geneva diplomatic peace process”.

Colonel Dick Hobbs could not attend the meeting, but his position was presented by Steve Metcalf.  Hobbs underlined that President Trump strongly feels that the Mideast is of marginal interest to the United States in that fracking and the shift to alternative energy globally has resulted in reduced demand for Mideast gas and oil.  That has contributed to economic instability in a region already backward in science, technology, agriculture, education, and medicine.  In this atmosphere of declining economies, the support of the people for their governments has diminished, which has made them more willing to look in other directions like Muslim extremist groups.

NSF 26Apr17 Syria Hobbs

Hobbs, even more than Shaefer, said that the U.S. simply cannot afford to fight these protracted wars of no end, particularly with no real Muslim allies in the region.  Therefore, he would be very cautious in committing further U.S. military forces and economic assistance.

Following his presentation of the Hobbs position, Steve Metcalf offered his “Restraint” proposal – one that is U.S. military-light and diplomatic-heavy.  He acknowledged that the U.S. and its Western allies have a significant national interest in stemming the refugee flow due to the economic, social and political burden on Europe, a major economic market.  He stated the number of U.S. military personnel in the region, currently 6,000, is growing, but that they should instead be replaced by the forces of regional states so Muslims would be dealing with Muslims.  Furthermore, he felt Stinger missiles should be provided to two to four well vetted Syrian rebel teams on a highly controlled basis to demonstrate the vulnerability of Syrian air power.  That would force Assad to the negotiating table for a cease fire, at which an agreement could be reached to hold elections, co-managed by the UN, in three years.  A three year window would provide time for healing, for the strengthening of government institutions and for the growth of political parties.  It would also permit a joint force of the Syrian military and Syrian rebel militias, supported by select regional air and ground forces from the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt, to clean out ISIS and other violent jihadist groups.  Not having implemented the Stinger strategy in early 2016 has permitted the deaths of nearly 150,000 Syrian noncombatants.

Steve Metcalf Slides

Metcalf stated the U.S. is pursuing a “whack-a-mole” strategy against violent jihadist groups instead of addressing the roots of the problem:  economic instability in regional states and the need for an Islamic reformation.  Shortly after 9-11 Osama Bin Laden predicted that violent jihad would “bleed America by a thousand cuts,” which is precisely what has been happening.  The violent verbiage in the Koran, written over a century after Mohammed’s death, gives legitimacy to one wanna-be leader after another as they use the supposed words of Allah to whip up dissatisfied populations to join jihadist movements.  Given that Western nations are perceived by the people of the Mideast to be primarily Christian, the participation of Western ground military forces strengthens jihadist recruiting efforts by fueling propaganda to fight the Crusades circa 21st Century.  Hot links to a 7Oct15 paper on Metcalf’s proposal and the summary of a 10Dec15 presentation are included in the last of his attached slides.

The moderator asked FSO Morse if his recommendation that we focus on destroying ISIS would only be “doing the dirty work for the Shia”.  Morse replied that diminishing ISIS would assist the Shia, but stressed that destroying radical Sunni groups was a high priority for everyone in the world..  He felt that, while there have been at least 25 failed UN peace meetings to solve the civil war, the situation was so serious it required American leadership.  Metcalf had reservations, particularly given so few allies in the region were willing to assist.  The Syrian rebels were fighting Assad; Assad, the Russians and the Iranians were fighting the Syrian rebels; the Turks were fighting the Kurds; and the U.S. and some Kurds were fighting ISIS.  He felt an adequate regional ground force to fight ISIS simply would not exist until the Assad regime and the rebels reached a cease fire and formed a joint force to clean out ISIS and other violent jihadist groups in Syria.

Various opinions were expressed by members of the audience as well as the panelists.  One area of disagreement was the role of the moderate Sunni states.  Some expressed feelings that Saudi Arabia, as the seat of Wahhabism and Salafism, was certainly no friend.  Other participants drew attention to the growing danger Moscow would realize by involving itself in an area of religious conflict at a time the Muslim population in Russia was growing rapidly.  One participant, Tamara Zuniga-Brown, has spent much of the past year in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq.  She stressed that our efforts need to be less focused on military involvement and more on improving education; especially empowering women.  She found that by being “on the ground” in these conflict areas she was able to create relationships that fostered greater affection for the U.S. than did our military actions.

It was a comprehensive session and we encourage everyone to review the presentation slides of the participants in the links above.