Danielle Pletka

The world after Mubarak

February 10, 2016  |  Blog

Five years ago, Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his de facto position as Egyptian president for life. At the moment, at least for those fighting to wrest back their vote from one of the Middle East’s most entrenched dictators, it was a fleeting high point in an Arab Spring that has torn apart the Middle East, reshaped the map and the politics of the region and roiled governments oceans away.

Without rehearsing the sad course of events in Egypt, including the failure of secular liberals to capitalize on the popular movement unleashed in Tahrir Square just over half a decade ago, it is nonetheless not too soon to ask whether overthrowing Mubarak (not to speak of Qaddafi, Assad, Saleh et al.) was the best choice, particularly for secular liberals and minorities.

I would argue yes, though the ranks of dictator nostalgics have grown apace as millions have fled their homes, Sunnis have turned on Shi’ites (and vice versa), and hundreds of thousands have died. Why yes? There seem to be so many indications that the region was better off under the tyrants we knew so well. Simply this: Hundreds of millions cannot live under a yoke of oppression without consequence. The world’s great democratic powers cannot be complicit in tyranny without paying a heavy price, morally for sure, but also practically. Whether it is Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany or the many other vile dictatorships that now lie on the ash heap of history, all must eventually fall. And if they must fall, it is inevitable there must be a period of transition. That is where we are today.

Efforts to stuff the genie back in the bottle, whether by the Saudis with their new Mubarak — General Abdel Fattah al Sisi — or John Kerry and his newfound tolerance for Bashar al Assad, will not work. They are only a short expedient to take us back to where we began, with the instability wrought by oppression. Still, those of us in the West and the Middle East who continue to believe in the imperatives of political and economic freedom, against the backdrop of nightmares now playing out across the Arab and Persian world, are engaged in an almost Sisyphean fight. The region’s leaders have successfully framed the future as a binary sort between Islamist terrorists and secular despots. Decades of assaults have decimated the ranks of liberals, and they are no match for the Sisis or the ISISes.

What to do? The prerequisite for success, notwithstanding the parrotlike claims of Barack Obama and team, is to defeat our enemies. That means stepping up the fight dramatically against ISIS and al Qaeda. The second step is to restore the faith the people of the region once had in the fundamental morality of American leadership. That means doubling and tripling down on the humanitarian fight, particularly but not only in Syria, including (yes, I’m saying it again), a no fly zone, safe zones and more.

The long term fight, however, is the one for the sustainable future of the Middle East, the future that does not drag the United States back into periodic wars or invidious partnerships. That requires a vision for what lasts — not simply an American vision, but a shared vision. A vision that recognizes there are only a few real elements to lasting peace and stability: political and economic freedom. The economic piece receives all too little attention and must be addressed. But the political piece too is a must. One will not last without the other.

How do we get there? First, we must want to. Second, we must make choices that put American power on the side of those who share that vision. Third, we must leverage our might to help a transformation take place over decades. It will be slow — the Soviet Union stood for seven decades — and it will be hard. Still, there is no credible case to be made that either religious or secular dictatorship works. The change has begun. How it continues is not simply up to the Arab and Persian worlds. It is also up to us.

Mike Rogers

National Security First

February 1, 2016  |  Blog, Honorary Chairman Mike Rogers, News

On Monday as you go to caucus, remember that the first duty of your pick for president is as commander-in-chief of our military.  The threat matrix arrayed against the United States is as bad as I have ever seen it, and our relationships around the world with our allies are the weakest they have been in years.  The name of the candidate you write on your caucus ballot may soon be leader of the free world, so remember that without safety here at home, and peace abroad, our prosperity cannot be assured.

After leaving Congress last year, I founded Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS) to educate Iowans on vital issues of national defense, and urge presidential candidates to go behind campaign talking points and deeply discuss the threats facing us.  APPS has hosted 26 forums in four early nominating states, eight in Iowa alone.  We have had 14 different candidates talk with thousands of politically active Americans who are asking tough questions of those men and women seeking to be our next president.

We have also reached out to thousands of caucus goers and voters through social media and digital engagement, because we know that national security is the most critical issue we face today.  Iowans agree.  In a recent polling commissioned by APPS, 44% of Iowans see national security as the most serious issue in this election, with 60% citing terrorism as the biggest threat this country faces.  Be sure that as you caucus, national security is your first priority; choose a candidate that has the temperament and experience to lead us through dangerous times.

Recent attacks in San Bernardino, Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris, and continued threats from terrorism make this an issue of global importance.  Instability in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq provide safe havens for terrorists to plan, recruit and finance operations.  Our current strategy to fight ISIS is clearly not effective enough, and the next president must have a detailed plan to address this failing.

The Iranian nuclear deal has incentivized an arms race in the Middle East, and freed billions in frozen assets for the Ayatollah, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Quds Force.  Iran is the world’s largest state exporter of terror and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our troops in Iraq by providing IED materials to militias.

The threat from terrorism is great, but our “peer competitors” are also advancing their own interests, at the expense of the United States, our allies, and the neighbors of those aggressors.

China is expanding beyond its coastal waters, building island fortresses in an area claimed by its neighbors, and its naval publications talk about creating a blue water navy to project more power outward.  To that end it is building its second aircraft carrier.  China is also establishing its first overseas military installation in the horn of Africa.  Meanwhile, the Chinese army and intelligence services steal billions in American intellectual property through cyberespionage, and then turn those products over to Chinese companies to directly compete against us in the international marketplace.

Russia has proven itself willing to invade and occupy its neighbors to expand its military reach, seizing vital waterways by annexing Crimea, and increasing its territory in the country of Georgia a few years ago.  Putin has expanded his presence in Syria, and shown a willingness to attack Syrian and American interests directly by bombing U.S. trained rebel forces.

The next president will have a world to help repair, while defending us here at home.  It is your responsibility to help choose that next commander-in-chief.  Think “national security first” as you exercise your duty on Monday.

Mike Rogers is host of the Westwood One radio program “Something to Think About,” a CNN national security commentator, a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and is the past chairman of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Originally appeared in The Iowa Republican: http://bit.ly/1P98Br7

Mike Rogers

Securing our GPS infrastructure

February 1, 2016  |  Blog, Honorary Chairman Mike Rogers, News

Today Americans use GPS to casually find the closest Starbucks, or in instances as complicated as plotting shipping lanes amid changing channels. However this vital system is in dangerous disrepair and worse, susceptible to cyberattack.

The forebear to our GPS technology today was originally designed for the Department of Defense to scrutinize military movements, but evolved into the navigation and mapping tools we all now enjoy.

This once classified military technology was released to the public more than two decades ago and was quickly adapted and widely disseminated for civilian use. It has become second nature to use Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, and other apps contingent on GPS technology. Not only are GPS-based tools convenient, we are increasingly reliant on them; try to find a bi-fold paper map at a gas station today.
However, this vital tool is in danger. Not just from Chinese missile systems, which are capable of targeting the GPS network of satellites, but increasingly from our own gross mismanagement and under investment. A Government Accountability Office report from a few years ago said it expected GPS satellites to begin crumbling as early as 2010.

In the last year we have also seen a slew of prominent cyber thefts and destruction of digital property by hackers, both in the government and private sector. The GPS system is as susceptible to these threats as our other government networks and remains largely “unhardened” to these attacks. While the Air Force has begun the development process to rectify the cybersecurity issue with its GPS OCX program, it has fallen behind schedule and over budget.

While that tune is familiar in Congress and the Pentagon, this program should not be dismissed out of hand. Too much of our economy is at stake to allow the GPS system to be disrupted by an attack. Whether it seems to present a challenge to hackers, or is a necessary prepping of the battle space by a future adversary, a halt in services to the GPS system would damage the U.S. economy and our way of life.

We saw the Russians use cyberwarfare to damage Georgian systems prior to their invasion in 2008. They have prepped the battle space by diminishing Ukrainian capabilities as well. The Chinese, North Koreans and Iranians have all used cyberattacks to intimidate political opponents or punish enemies.

Military use aside, the American economy would be extremely challenged by an attack on our GPS capabilities, and our government, pressed by many critically underfunded programs, has let one more slip through the cracks. But unlike the Joint Strike Fighter or a list of other over budget military programs, GPS is directly used by a majority of Americans, and by multiple industries. The financial services sector even uses GPS to manage part of its computer systems responsible for timing trades, something critical to Wall Street and main street businesses.

The GPS OCX program will help protect our country’s prosperity and security moving forward. Air Force General Roger Teague, the director of Space Programs acquisition, said it would be “the most hardened information assurance system ever delivered by the Department of Defense.”

Next time you’re finding the route to your grandmother’s for Christmas, remember why GPS was developed, and at great cost. Today our country needs functional, cyber-hardened GPS services more than ever. The Air Force must maintain funding for this infrastructure, ensure appropriate management of those resources and continue the development of the GPS OCX program. Abandoning the project halfway through is a further waste of money, sends a dangerous message to our nation’s adversaries, and could be a potentially perilous decision for our future.

Rogers served in the House from 2001 to 2015, and was chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is host of the Westwood One radio program “Something to Think About,” a CNN national security commentator, and a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Originally appeared in The Hill: http://bit.ly/1nIOnOB