Country facing major security issues in future

I am increasingly uncomfortable about how national security issues are being handled in the United States. In particular, the lack of concern among Republicans about national security has me both puzzled and apprehensive. I don’t mean to question the patriotism of ordinary Republicans. I have absolutely no doubt about their loyalty and commitment to our country.

At lunch in a diner on Alfred’s Main Street earlier this month, I saw their commitment to America and its values. Two booths down, was a former Marine who earned three Purple Hearts in Vietnam. Across the aisle was a family whose son served in a special operations unit. In a corner booth was a mother whose son recently graduated from the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School (OCS) and has been assigned to training as a Marine Corps pilot. And I think of my own son, who just recently began his Marine Corps training at OCS in Quantico, Va.

I have no idea how many others having lunch around me either served or have family members serving. People around here really don’t talk a lot about it … serving is just something people do.

I also have no idea what their political affiliations are nor do I care. They are good people and I respect them for how they live their lives, not because of a label someone tries to slap on them.

National security is deeply personal to me and those around me. For families across Western New York, national security is not some abstract issue discussed in Washington, D.C., where it is left in the hands of representatives we don’t know and who don’t know us. National security is intensely personal because it directly involves our sons and daughters, our nieces and nephews, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives … all those loved ones who made a commitment to America not just with words but with their actions.

Those who have chosen to serve deserve leadership that respects and honors what they have given and may be asked to give in the future.

Unfortunately, I see little such respect from Tom Reed and his fellow Republicans in Congress. Reed’s actions and inaction over the past seven years has clearly shown his utter lack of concern for active duty military personnel and veterans. He has supported or been silent when Republicans in Congress proposed changes to the GI bill that would hurt serving military and veterans, planned to scrape the Veterans Administration and hand it over to for-profit companies, or voted for a tax bill that unfairly penalizes New Yorkers who serve their country. Reed and his colleagues in the GOP seem more interested in giving tax breaks to the 1 percent who never seem to have enough money to satisfy them while ignoring the 1% who are prepared to sacrifice everything for their country.

Reed is unwilling to confront those who attacked our democracy and will do so again. While even Steve Bannon calls the actions of some treasonous and unpatriotic, Reed is silent. Even when Reed does speak, it is double-talk designed to defend and protect those people who would work hand-in-hand with those who wish harm to America.

The most serious threat facing American democracy comes from an old enemy eager to avenge its defeat at the end of the Cold War and intent on humiliating the United States. The Russian threat is just as real as the 9/11 attacks or the Japanese bombing of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The Russian attacks use new weapons, tactics, and strategies, but they are a clear and present danger to the United States. The Russian approach to warfare at the beginning of the 21st century uses information technology as a strategic weapon that may actually be much more dangerous that earlier attacks.

Those earlier attacks left dead bodies and burning buildings and ships that shocked Americans into action when they saw the horrific images. Cyber warfare doesn’t have the same shocking images, so it is much easier to ignore. But cyber attacks can have devastating results — through electronic warfare, hackers can bring down vital infrastructure, like electrical grids, attack government security systems, and hack into our democratic institutions.

It is clear that Reed can’t or won’t see the danger, nor do many of his fellow GOP members of Congress.

America deserves better. The security of our nation is too important to leave it to a man who doesn’t seem to care about the issue as long as his personal and professional security as a politician is taken care of. I have no personal animosity towards Tom Reed nor do I care about his political affiliation. I do care that time and time again Reed has demonstrated that America’s security and the security of military personnel and veterans is unimportant to him.

For more than four decades, I have chosen to stay out of political campaigns. However, I cannot in good conscience remain silent as the United States faces a dangerous old enemy.

Reed is clearly unwilling or unable to serve the interests of our country as a whole, so I’ve had to look elsewhere for the leadership we desperately need.

After carefully considering potential candidates for the 2018 congressional elections, I decided to support Tracy Mitrano. Mitrano has the clarity of vision on national security issues, understanding of the threat to the United States, and depth of experience in the field of cyber security we need.

To me, national security is much more than an abstract policy question.; it is personal, as it is for many of my friends and neighbors. Although I am reluctant to engage in a public political discussion, I feel that I must speak out in defense of my country, out of respect for the men and women who have volunteered to serve America, and to honor those who served in the past to protect my right and the right of all American to say what they believe.

Peter von Stackelberg is a researcher, writer, and futurist. He has worked with organizations like Shell, Exxon, General Motors, Honda, Nokia, NASA, and many others identifying and analyzing technological change and its economic, social, and political effects. He lives in Alfred.