As lawyers for both sides delivered closing statements inside the high-rise courthouse Monday afternoon, passersby stopped to watch the proceedings on their phones.
Michael Jones parked his motorized wheelchair outside the courthouse to livestream the court proceedings. Jones, 59, who is Black, said he was knocked over by Minneapolis police in his wheelchair three years ago, charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct — charges that prosecutors later threw out after seeing video of the incident.
Now social service director at Miracle Redemption Christian Center International Church, Jones said he sees the trial as a chance to hold police accountable — by convicting Chauvin of murder.
“Video is making a difference across the country, from Rodney King to George Floyd,” Jones said. “I hope we get justice because there’s more than enough video.”
During the trial’s lunch break, Jones watched as Floyd’s relatives emerged from the courthouse, joined by their lawyers and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. As Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna looked on, wearing a pink puffy coat and bows in her braids, his youngest brother, Rodney Floyd, 37, thanked residents and activists for their support.
Minneapolis truck driver David Embaye knelt near Floyd’s family, filming video on his phone as they spoke and smiling. But he wasn’t optimistic the jury would convict Chauvin.
“I don’t have faith in the system,” said Embaye, 30, who is Black, visibly upset. “We’ve seen what happened in the past.”
Some in the crowd outside the courthouse who had traveled from out of state during what they considered a historic moment were more hopeful.
“I hope to God, for America’s sake, that this verdict comes back guilty,” said activist Hakim Fontes, 50, of Boston. “If it doesn’t, I believe it will be a strong uprising.”
Charles Sims made a pilgrimage to the courthouse from Mississippi to meet the Floyd family. Sims, 38, a retired U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq, appeared in uniform and brush cut, holding a sign that said, “Great grandson of the creator of the Jim Crow laws, here to stand with the Floyd family.”
“I know the consequences of inaction,” he said. “I wanted to get ahead of the verdict, to see if we can end any of this needless bloodshed.”
Sims saw Floyd’s family and wasn’t able to meet them, but said he planned to follow up with one of their attorneys.
Across Minnesota, students staged a walkout Monday to protest racial injustice and another fatal police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Daunte Wright, 20, outside Minneapolis on April 11.
Principals and vice principals were with about hundred others as they marched to the courthouse to hang Black Lives Matter signs on the perimeter fence; they were led by Mauri Friestleben, principal at North Community High School. With Wright’s funeral scheduled Thursday and the verdict pending, Minneapolis public schools canceled in-person classes Wednesday through Friday.
Friestleben posted a sign on the fence that said, “Justice, mercy, humility.”
“We wanted the world to know we take responsibility. We’re saying not more,” she said.
Some of her students who walked out also came to the courthouse afterward for an evening protest march.
“What happened was traumatic,” said ninth-grader Charlotte Simmons, 15, who is Black. “Daunte Wright was a Minneapolis public schools student a couple years ago. We could have gone to school with him.”
Psychotherapist Diane Brady-Leighton brought a new sign to the march that she made after watching the closing argument by Chauvin’s attorney: “Stop scapegoating! Mr. George Floyd and the brave bystanders are not on trial!”
Brady-Leighton, 61, who is white, said she is hoping for a murder conviction.
“I want it to send a message that George Floyd’s life was taken unjustly,” she said.
But as she stood amid hundreds protesting outside the courthouse late Monday, Brady-Leighton said the case will affect the city long after the verdict is announced.
“Trauma ripples in the community,” she said. “It will be with us for years.”
Solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars will go far in helping California and the Biden administration meet their aggressive climate goals — but not far enough. As time runs short, scientists and government officials say the moment to break out the giant vacuums has arrived.
The art of industrial-scale carbon removal — sucking emissions from the atmosphere and storing them underground — has long been an afterthought in climate-action circles: too expensive, too controversial, too unproven.
But as the deadline to avert climate catastrophe barrels nearer, the Biden administration is making the technologies prominent in its plans, and California is scrambling to figure out how to put them to use.
It is no small undertaking. Installing sci-fi-type machinery to pull carbon from the air — or divert it from refineries, power plants and industrial operations — and bottle it up deep underground is a monumentally expensive and logistically daunting challenge. It is one climate leaders now have no choice but to try to meet as they race to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the central commitment of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to avert cataclysmic effects.
“To have any chance of holding warming below that level, you can’t do it simply by limiting emissions,” said Ken Alex, a senior policy advisor to former California Gov. Jerry Brown who now directs Project Climate at the UC Berkeley School of Law. “You have to sequester significant amounts of carbon.”
The recognition has pushed state regulators to start drafting blueprints for what could be one of the larger infrastructure undertakings in California history. Millions of tons of carbon dioxide would need to be captured and compressed into liquid form, at which point it would be either buried throughout the state or converted into materials for industrial uses such as manufacturing plastic and cement.
The state is essentially starting from zero. There are no large-scale carbon-removal projects operating in California.
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Pipelines need to be built, vast geological reservoirs deep underground need to be fashioned into carbon dioxide storage facilities, costly new technologies for vacuuming carbon from the air and factories need to be brought up to scale.
“We need to see some pilot projects and test them out as soon as possible,” said Rajinder Sahota, deputy executive officer for Climate Change and Research at the California Air Resources Board. “All of the modeling we have says if we don’t start investing in a significant amount of this in this decade, we will not be set up to reach California’s goal of carbon neutrality by mid-century.”
The acknowledgement has sparked a surge of interest from investors and energy startups trying to scale up technologies that only recently were considered a money sink. Among the most ambitious are the backers of a process known as direct air capture, through which giant fans suck carbon from the atmosphere.
The technology has been deployed in modest demonstration projects — including one in Menlo Park — for years but never at a scale large enough to make a meaningful dent in emissions. With the cost of running the machines on the decline and the willingness to consider increasingly outside-the-box solutions on the rise, as well as a new administration in Washington promising an infusion of federal subsidies, the vacuum approach is suddenly getting a lot of attention.
“The question had always been, could we fund a multi-hundred-million-dollar plant, find a site and get it built?” said Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering, a direct-air-capture company based in British Columbia. “The answer now is, fantastically, yes.”
California regulators are closely watching the progress of the hulking direct-air-capture facility the company is building with Occidental Petroleum in the Permian Basin of Texas. The 100-acre operation aims to capture up to 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Even if the Texas plant meets its goals, the carbon dioxide removed by it would reflect less than 1% of the emissions California needs to pull from the atmosphere to hit its climate targets, according to estimates by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“The models are telling us these approaches are essential, but we don’t yet know if they will be successful,” said Simon Nicholson, co-director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University in Washington. “There is lots of promise, lots of potential, but not yet lots of proof.”
There is also lots of consternation. The Carbon Engineering Texas project is a topic of hot debate among climate activists. To make the project pencil out financially, the carbon dioxide pulled from the air will be injected into the ground in a way that helps Occidental extract oil that can then be sold on the market.
Critics have long warned that fossil energy firms are looking to the technologies to delay the transition to more sustainable fuels. The oil generated at the Texas facility will likely qualify as an environmentally friendly fuel in California under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
Carbon Engineering is promising that oil extraction is not in its long-term future. The oil revenues, the company says, make it possible to get early plants built. The hope is the costs of the plants will get much cheaper as the technology is put to widespread use, making it economical to just bury the carbon dioxide in the ground.
The European company Climeworks has taken a different route, using modular units to build smaller operations across the continent. Its biggest, in Iceland, will go online soon, collecting 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. That would be dwarfed by what Carbon Engineering is projecting in Texas. But there is no fossil fuel component to the Climeworks projects.
“This is scalable,” said Christoph Beuttler, a manager at Climeworks. “We can get the costs down. Just imagine we were talking about solar panels in the 1990s and how far the prices have dropped. We think the same thing can be achieved here. “
California officials say direct-air-capture developers are eyeing where in the state they can build. Some are looking toward remote areas in Northern California where they could tap into geothermal energy, as Climeworks will do to power its Icelandic plant. Others are more focused on the deep underground basins of the Central Valley, suitable for storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide.
The vacuums are just one of many technologies California and other states are investigating in their sprint toward carbon removal. Back in Washington, there is a bipartisan push to allocate billions of dollars to the construction of pipelines and storage facilities for all the carbon dioxide lawmakers envision will be diverted underground in the coming years.
One of the first projects moving forward in California targets agriculture and wood waste that would otherwise be burned, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions. It aims to convert the waste into zero emissions power using a pioneering gasification process. The emissions created during production would be trapped and buried underground.
Other efforts are focused on the potential to trap greenhouse gases at factories for such things as cement and steel. Their production is emissions intensive due to the high heat temperatures needed and chemical reactions involved, and the only option for canceling out those emissions is diverting and burying the carbon dioxide.
“Some of these facilities cannot or will not be shut down, replaced or switched to carbon-free fuels quickly enough … to contain climate change at manageable levels,” said a recent report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory urging California to become a carbon removal leader.
The race to bring carbon removal technologies to market is getting a boost from billionaire Elon Musk. On Thursday, Earth Day, his XPrize will launch a $100-million contest aimed at inspiring teams of innovators to develop carbon removal projects capable of being scaled “massively to gigaton levels, locking away CO2 permanently in an environmentally benign way.”
Groups of scientists have meanwhile been drafting blueprints for California’s transition into the new technologies. An exhaustive study by Stanford and the Energy Futures Initiative identified 76 existing factories, power plants and other facilities in the state where carbon capture technology could be used to remove 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas annually by 2030.
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The report also noted the state’s landscape left it with adequate space to store more trapped carbon dioxide than most places in the country, with room to stow away 70 billion tons of it, mostly in the Central Valley. It could go into underground basins that extend for many miles across large swaths of the state, the report says.
California is getting to the party late. Other states began experimenting with carbon removal years ago, with most early pilot projects aimed at boosting the viability of fossil fuels — fitting facilities such as coal plants with carbon capture mechanisms. But California hedged, more focused on moving away from fossil fuels altogether.
The one big carbon capture project the state tried was a flop. The effort in Kern County aimed to revive coal at a time the fuel was already long out of fashion in the state.
“Bringing coal into California and then trying to clean it up was not a good start,” said Robert Weisenmiller, a former chair of the California Energy Commission. “It just got weirder and weirder. The costs kept going up, and it spiraled out.” The plug was pulled in 2016, before the plant went online.
Now, California is taking another crack at the carbon removal puzzle as it consolidates its position as the nation’s leader on climate.
“The state’s goal is to get to zero net carbon,” Weisenmiller said. “It is not enough just to reduce the emissions we put into the atmosphere. At the end of the day, you have to pull some out.”
In a 16th century Scottish castle, the overbearing Los Angeles Chicano who rarely says his name without attaching the appellation “the trillion-dollar man” is berating 24 students, each of whom paid $30,000 for the privilege.
Dan Pena, who turned 76 this year but remains a commanding presence at 6-foot-1, erupts into an expletive-infested lecture that careens between withering insults and strategies to become like him — successful in business and in life. Quoting him requires lots of bleeping.
“You, you in this room,” he begins in a videotaped lesson,“you’re taking your [bleeping] foot off the accelerator instead of pushing the gas pedal through the [bleeping] floorboard!”
“And we all know why; it’s easier,” Pena adds, shaking his head in exasperation, “and it’s hard to admit you have no [bleeping] self-esteem.”
With supreme confidence and politically incorrect bluster, Pena prods and pokes his students to transform them into hardworking entrepreneurs with skin as tough as rhino hide beneath tailored business suits.
It’s not lost on his students that the location — Guthrie Castle, in the golfing heartland of Angus, Scotland — is not a conference center. It’s his home, and when he’s not delivering blistering lectures, the graying Pena lives a relatively quiet Scottish-laird existence.
It’s all so improbable.Pena seemed bound for failure through his difficult youth in East Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley until he did something Americans do best. He reinvented himself.
Pena would reap a fortune in the oil industry and develop a sharply opinionated conservative nature that reflects not merely his gotta-keep-busy-to-get-rich personality, but also his us-against-them contempt for “sniveling, lazy, entitled and easily offended types who long for public approval and run for the hills when things get rough.”
Not many outside of the oil industry knew his name until 1983, when Pena was featured in a Times story about a tiny number of Chicanos de oro, wealthy Mexican Americans on their way to megafortunes.
“Pena is a dream of ethnic alchemy,” columnist Al Martinez wrote in the article that was part of a Pulitzer-winning series on Latinos. “Tough, smart and demanding to be heard — even his quick, flashing smile is noisy — Pena seemed destined to be rich.”
At that time, Pena was bidding to buy a refinery and petroleum terminal.
“If the oil refinery deal goes through,” he said, “I could either be rich beyond belief or lose everything. But you’ve got to dare. I won’t be picked on. I’m not a victim of the sombrero syndrome. Don’t try walking on Dan Pena.”
The man who would own a castle started life in a modest wood-framed house in a barrio just north of downtown.
His mother, Amy, of Austrian and Spanish descent, was from Mexico, and gave her son blue eyes. His father, Manuel, who was from New Mexico, wore pistols in leather holsters, one on each hip, and became one of the first Mexican American detectives in the Los Angeles Police Department.
VIDEO | 03:30
Businessman Dan Pena on his L.A. upbringing, work ethic and getting the chip off his shoulder
Times staff writer Louis Sahagun discusses being successful in business and in life with entrepreneur Dan Pena.
“When Chicago mobsters came to town back in the 1940s, my father and other guys would meet them at the train station,” Pena recalled. “Then they took them up to the Hollywood Hills, where some were severely beaten.”
It is said that Manny killed 11 people in the line of duty and was prone to take the law into his own hands.
(The senior Pena later left the LAPD to work with a secret unit of the CIA, according to Pena and historians. He oversaw an investigation into the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles and personally controlled the classification and use of every bit of evidence collected.)
“My father was a cold and brutal man,” Pena says, “and I was out of control as a kid. In grammar school, I tried to drop an aquarium on a teacher’s head from a second-story window. But by the grace of God, he moved. It hit him on the shoulder and dislocated his collarbone.”
A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.
His family moved to upper-class Encino when he was 10 so that he would be raised among high achievers.
Pena insists that his path to success, power, and money started in grammar school, when he was forced to wear a dunce hat.
When he got home, Pena said, “my father beat the hell out of me for getting in trouble at school.”
To hear Pena tell it, all the scolding “made me tougher.”
His teenage years went by in an alcoholic haze punctuated by run-ins with the law. Relatives joked, “If Danny ever focuses all that anger on a career, he’ll be a multimillionaire.”
They were right.
Pena traces his desire to make money to an Army hitch in Europe, where he saw American tourists flashing rolls of cash, staying in posh hotels and dining in 4-star restaurants.
After leaving the Army as a 2nd lieutenant,he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Cal State Northridge and took a job with a real estate investment company in 1971. By year’s end, he had been appointed sales manager with a six-figure salary and had cleaned out the department by firing 50 salesmen — a job he said had to be done. It earned him the name Hatchet Man.
When that company failed, Pena became a stockbroker, and then a financial planner. At 26, he replaced his Volkswagen with a Rolls-Royce.
He began looking at oil in 1982, when a friend became rich on soaring petroleum prices. Within months — driving himself “like a wild-eyed madman” — he founded Great Western Resources Inc., a Houston-based energy company, with an investment of $820 — and a bravado that made some competitors want to see him crushed.
A decade later, he was Great Western’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer, presiding over a company with $450 million in market capital.
He was already living in unapologetic opulence — vacations at European resorts, chauffeured Mercedes limousines, alligator-skin cowboy boots — when he was perusing a magazine featuring luxury-lifestyle products. He had just finished a routine 10-mile run near his home in Palos Verdes when he spotted “an ad for a castle in Scotland that was up for sale.”
“I knew from my Wall Street days that if you wanted to do business with financial institutions, you had to prove to them that you didn’t need their services,” he suggested in a tip sheet titled “33 Secrets for Success.” “So, the castle was to become the perception which would cause the business community to realize that we didn’t need their help since we had already arrived, which, of course, we hadn’t.”
He was unprepared, however, for the responsibilities that came with a 450-year-old castle. “Something breaks down every five minutes around here!” he groused in one of several interviews over Zoom. “It costs about $100,000 a month to maintain this estate because this place eats money!
“I’ve got broken pipes, ceilings falling down, wallpaper peeling — and a rug that’s been on the game room floor for 300 years!”
But maintaining the estate “has meant employment for locals and work for local businesses,” said the Rev. Brian Ramsay, minister of nearby Guthrie Parish Presbyterian Church, and a neighbor of Pena’s for more than three decades.
Pena supports local charities as well, but keeps it quiet. “During the present pandemic, for example,” Ramsay said, “he provided PPE and sanitizing for local volunteers and very generous donations to food banks in the Angus area.”
On a personal level, Pena “is always completely honest, which is both refreshing and sometimes challenging,” he added. “He is not one to mince his words nor suffer fools gladly, but I have also seen glimpses of deep affection for those he loves and a strong sense of justice, which show the depth of his personality.
”A most interesting character, indeed.”
That no-holds-barred personality also contributed to his departure from Great Western in 1992, when he was ousted by the board of directors. To hear Pena tell it, they were fed up with his flashy lifestyle and penchant for discussing controversial corporate matters with the press.
Beyond that, the company’s stock price had plummeted during the Persian Gulf War. Rumors had floated that the company’s largest investor, the Kuwaiti Investment Office, needed cash and was preparing to dump Great Western to get it.
“The board members complained that I should have known that Iraqi forces were going to invade Kuwait in 1990,” Pena said. “Hell, man, the CIA didn’t even know that was going to happen.”
Pena sued Great Western for breach of contract, among other accusations. Great Western countersued, alleging mismanagement, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.
A Houston jury in 1993 rejected Great Western’s claims and enforced Pena’s roughly $5-million golden parachute.
Then Pena reinvented himself. Again.
This time, it meant conducting business philosophy courses, what he calls the Quantum Leap Advantage, at Guthrie Castle.
Pena maintains that he could not care less that a lot of people are offended by his views and teaching style.
“I only have three regrets in life,” he says, without significant remorse. “I’m a combat-trained Army officer who never saw combat. I didn’t set my goals high enough — former Texas Gov. John Connolly once said I should have been the first Mexican American president. And one night when my mother was ill and afraid that she was dying, I yelled at her, ‘God damn it, mom, stop crying! You’re not going to die!’ She died the next morning.”
It sounds contrived at times. Some former students have accused Pena of luring vulnerable customers with false promises of profit and success.
But Pena’s acolytes often speak of him in nearly messianic tones. His “trillion-dollar man” moniker, he says, refers to the wealth amassed by his students.
“Driving onto the castle grounds for the first time was like approaching an energy of greatness,” said Dustin Plantholt, a documentarian who recently completed a film about Pena.
“True, some people get very emotional when he looks them in the eyes and screams, ‘You’re a wuss; a disgusting [bleeping] cry baby,’” Plantholt said. “Eventually they realize that he’s drilling into their weak sides so that they can toughen up and start to stand up for themselves.”
Among Pena’s first students was Ruben Navarrette, a journalist and Harvard graduate who, as he puts, “did not go on to make billions of dollars.”
“My wife says I worship the ground Dan walks on — and she’s probably right,” Navarrette said with a laugh. “He is a wise, old world-class teacher who can turn an ordinary person into someone extraordinary.”
Then there is Hector Padilla, 46, a former police officer turned real estate broker who was already worth $5 million when he took Pena’s program in 2015.
Padilla, president of HP Capital Investments Inc. in Inglewood, was only half kidding when said, “People go to Dan when they need an ass-whipping more than a hug. And, like many others who made it through his program, I have a love-hate relationship with him.”
“I sent him an email after I bought my first Rolls-Royce,” he recalled. “His response: Good for you, pendejo [dumbass]. You can do better than that.”
Pena recalled that he drove his Rolls-Royce to Lincoln High School, hoping to inspire the students, “and the kids there didn’t give a [bleep].”
He maintains L.A. ties — his brother, Vincent Pena, 61, is deputy chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department — and has a cab driver’s memory of Southern California’s streets and districts.
Pena’s legacy projects include an athletic scholarship at Lincoln High. A year ago, he added $100,000 to the reward offered for information on the wounding of two sheriff’s deputies shot in Compton.
Given the pandemic and hip and knee replacements, he spends most of his time at his castle. He relishes the warm memory of when his father came to Scotland.
“My father came to visit me at the castle,” Pena recalled. “Looking up in awe at the crystal chandeliers hanging from a vaulted ceiling, he shook his head and sighed, ‘C’mon, Danny, tell me this isn’t from drug money.’”
“Nope,” Pena replied. “Just oil and stocks.”
Then they were off on a grand tour of the castle and its treasures, including a wine cellar featuring a bottle of 60-year-old Macallan scotch that cost Pena $14,000.
Then there’s the huge oil painting in a gilded frame that Pena had commissioned: it’s a strapping Scottish nobleman — albeit with an unusually dark complexion — on the heath with a stalwart hunting hound at his side.
“That’s me,” Pena said with a smile. “I’m a Mexican American in a Scottish castle. But around here, people treat me as an American rich guy.”
Across five Western states — under farmland, windblown fields of grazing cattle and Great Plains plateaus — 400 aging nuclear-armed ballistic missiles stand at the ready. From a distance, the isolated, fenced-off areas look like they might be for wells pumping water, or fiber optic cable repeaters. What is underground, however, is neither water nor the internet, but weapons so powerful that if used or attacked, it could alter global climate and end civilization.
It falls to the Biden administration to decide the fate of America’s ground-based missiles — ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles — either extending their life, replacing them with newer models or filling the silos with concrete and ending almost 60 years of maintaining an atomic arsenal on the High Plains. The decision should be clear. Today, effective deterrence doesn’t require all three legs of a nuclear “triad” — ground- and submarine-based missiles, and bombers. It is best achieved by keeping warheads mobile at sea or in the air, not in holes in the ground whose location has not changed in decades.
Before the first Nixon-era arms control agreements, Washington and Moscow raced to produce more nuclear weapons. Then a series of treaties eventually limited both sides to the same number of deployed long-range nuclear weapon delivery systems and warheads, currently set at 700 and 1,550, respectively. Today each side achieves those limits with its own mix of bombers and sea- and ground-based missiles, striving for numerical equivalence.
For decades, U.S. nuclear policymakers have sized America’s arsenal by determining how many weapons were needed to survive an attack and still be capable of destroying hundreds of targets in Russia, and later China. Part of the calculus is having enough warheads and delivery systems to hit many targets with more than one warhead from multiple legs of the triad.
President Biden should challenge the “equivalence” and “redundancy” assumptions that underlie the current triad calculus. For too long, these givens have reinforced the mistaken belief that there could be a winner in a nuclear war. That idea has lost all credibility. As President Reagan concluded more than 35 years ago, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
In reality, nuclear weapons today have only one purpose: to deter the other side from using theirs while governments work to prevent their spread and ultimately end them as a threat to the world.
If there were any doubts, the latest studies about how nuclear war could alter world climate suggest that even what’s considered a small war — involving several hundred weapons — could produce “nuclear winter,” shattering the planet’s food supply and setting off an unprecedented famine with devastating global repercussions. The economic, social and governmental collapse would mean the end of civilization as we know it, suicide for humanity.
Those contemporary climate studies should be employed to force down the number of nuclear weapons in global stockpiles. It makes the most sense to determine the size of our arsenal not based on how many weapons another country has or might have, plus redundancy, but on the number we really need to assuredly deliver a few hundred warheads in retaliation and thus deter any nation from launching a nuclear war.
And, as the numbers necessary for a credible deterrent drop, so does the need for ground-based missiles in silos. Those who advocate for investing $100 billion in new, more modern ICBMs argue that their mere existence requires an enemy to target each one of them, making it more difficult to destroy our nuclear force than if we had only weapons deployed on submarines at sea and on long-range bombers. In short, they see ground-based missiles as “sponges” designed to absorb a nuclear attack.
Yet 400 nuclear explosions in the American West would surely risk triggering nuclear winter. Why would we deploy our forces in such a way as to invite that kind of attack? Mobile warheads at sea are more likely to survive a surprise attack and be available for retaliation than ICBMs.
To achieve deterrence, then, we should rely on warheads aboard submarines deployed stealthily at sea on “day-to-day” alert — Part 2 of the current triad. Rather than adding to or modernizing ground-based weapons, make whatever changes are necessary in our submarine-based forces to ensure their efficacy.
Critics of relying on the submarine force fear that fewer subs deployed with fewer warheads — even if invulnerable to attack today — could someday be found and destroyed. While that seems unlikely with existing anti-submarine warfare technology, a residual bomber force armed with cruise missiles would provide a credible hedge and would be enough to convince any rational nation that any nuclear war would be unwinnable.
We have an opportunity to resize and rationalize our nuclear deterrent, not based solely on a “traditional” set of military targets built around equivalence and redundancy but instead on what we need for a credible, survivable deterrent — taking account of climate science. We should fill those silos with concrete, not expensive new missiles.
Richard A. Clarke was assistant secretary of State for politico-military affairs from 1989 to 1992 and later served 10 years in the White House. Steve Andreasen was the National Security Council’s staff director for defense policy and arms control from 1993 to 2001 and teaches at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Has a new Cold War, this one pitting the United States against the People’s Republic of China, commenced? Rhetoric coming out of Washington, amplified by hawkish media commentary, appears to take a Second Cold War as a given, something perhaps even to be welcomed.
If Cold War II looms, how will it compare with its predecessor? Does the term “Cold War” aptly describe the contest now being joined? Or might the revival of the term itself represent a potentially fatal misstep?
The first Cold War, dating from 1947, centered on geopolitical competition with an overlay of ideology. The so-called free world, led by the United States, stood in opposition to the Soviet-led Communist bloc. Whatever the passing allure of Marxism-Leninism, that competition was never a contest between equals. Although the outcome may not have been foreordained, the West enjoyed huge political, economic and technological advantages that only increased as Communist regimes failed to make good on the promises of socialism.
Notably, however, even as the Cold War subsided in the late 1980s, the machinery that the United States had created to wage it kept on humming. As expressed by an imperial presidency, the size of the Pentagon budget, unaccountable intelligence agencies, a corruption-inducing military-industrial complex, a sprawling network of bases, unsavory allies and a penchant for armed intervention abroad, Cold War routines persisted. The Red Threat may have vanished along with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the apparatus devised to counter that threat endured.
As much or more than a professed commitment to democracy and human rights, the United States today is defined by that apparatus. In short, as Washington gears up to confront China, the national security state is eagerly headed back to the future.
Americans should find such a prospect deeply worrying. After all, what we’ve done so far by way of repurposing Cold War routines has cost the United States dearly, squandering American power and contributing to domestic dysfunction. The wreckage resulting from post-9/11 U.S. military exertions, for example, is yet to be tallied up. But this much we can say for certain: The trillions of dollars wasted and the many thousands of lives destroyed are gone for good, with precious little to show in return. This alone should give Americans pause before accepting a Cold War with China as inevitable.
Recall that at the onset of the original Cold War, the United States occupied an immensely advantageous global position. Apart from Washington’s well-honed capacity for waging war, those advantages have since diminished or disappeared altogether. The Biden administration’s stated ambitions, centered on repairing a badly frayed social fabric, amount to a tacit admission of that fact. President Biden can “build back better” or he can court a showdown with China. The days when the United States could do both are long gone.
Note too that China is not the Soviet Union. “Xi Jinping Thought” does not represent an exportable ideology. Unlike the Soviet leaders who railed against capitalism, China’s leaders embrace it, demonstrating a remarkable aptitude for harnessing the market to create wealth. The Soviet economy produced next to nothing that American consumers were interested in buying. Today, China produces almost everything that American consumers hanker to buy, which we do using money agreeably loaned by Chinese banks.
In Washington, denouncing Beijing’s authoritarianism may make for a good applause line. And Americans have good cause to be annoyed when Beijing jabs back by pointing out our own imperfections. Yet the reality is that our two nations are mutually dependent, and not only economically. As long as we share the same planet, that will remain inarguably the case, a point that climate change will surely drive home. There is no acceptable alternative to mutual coexistence.
Embarking upon a new Cold War will create barriers to coexistence, inevitably centering Sino-American relations on military competition and confrontation, probably for decades to come. Taiwan and the South China Sea hint at the potential dangers. Only those ignorant of the dangers and actual havoc stemming from the first Cold War could welcome such a prospect.
Reviving references to the Cold War stifles imaginations when fresh thinking is most needed. In the days and years to come, managing the U.S.-China relationship will undoubtedly be a delicate proposition, requiring greater wisdom and insight than the Washington establishment has shown in recent years. Styling that relationship as the centerpiece of a new Cold War may work to the benefit of the national security state and its retainers. But it will not benefit the American people.
We have entered a new era in global history and in the history of the United States. Retreating to some dimly remembered past does not present a viable option.
Andrew Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Despite recent setbacks in Michigan and elsewhere, the United States is gradually approaching the day when we may be able to declare the COVID-19 pandemic under control — within our borders, that is.
But that won’t mean the problem is over in the rest of the world — or even here at home in the long run.
Until there is worldwide control of the virus, the pandemic will continue to affect our health, our economy and even our safety from terrorism.
The first reason is obvious: The coronavirus won’t sit still. As long as there are large pockets of people passing the virus, it will mutate, and those variants, potentially less responsive to our current vaccines, will travel here from Brazil, South Africa and anywhere else they appear.
On that count alone, the world’s failure to deliver vaccines to needier countries is more than a scandal; it’s a crisis. Dozens of countries, especially in Africa, have received no vaccines at all.
The head of the World Health Organization noted last week that in wealthy countries, about 1 in 4 adults have been vaccinated; in poor countries, the number is less than 1 in 500.
To take one example, Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of more than 230 million, has vaccinated under 0.5% of its population.
Vaccine nationalism has been the rule, not the exception. Governments in rich countries have cornered as much vaccine supply as they can to take care of their own citizens, who not coincidentally are also voters.
Drug companies have rejected pleas from India, South Africa and other countries to waive patent protection for their vaccines. That’s understandable from a business standpoint — but if Big Pharma doesn’t do more to end the shortage, people around the world will blame the United States and other wealthy nations, not just Pfizer and Moderna.
And that takes us to the other, less obvious effects of a long-term pandemic — and there are many, as two recent reports from the U.S. intelligence community spelled out.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic marks the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II, with health, economic, political, and security implications that will ripple for years to come,” the National Intelligence Council’s long-range “Global Trends” report warned.
Let’s start with the economic impact. Our economy is recovering, but in poor countries the pandemic recession has a long way to go. The intelligence community reported that food insecurity worldwide is on track to more than double, from affecting 135 million people in 2019 to a projected 330 million by the end of 2021.
A prolonged pandemic would be “a profound economic tragedy for those countries,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said last week, “but [it] would also be a problem for America.”
Then there’s migration. When poor countries’ economies collapse, desperate people move to wealthier places — West Africans and Syrians to Europe, Guatemalans and Hondurans to the United States.
And if people in poor nations believe their governments are handling the pandemic poorly, some of those regimes will collapse, the intelligence community warned.
“Hard-hit developing countries are experiencing financial and humanitarian crises, increasing the risk of surges in migration, collapsed governments, or internal conflict,” the director of national intelligence’s annual threat assessment reported on Tuesday.
Failed states can turn into hotbeds of terrorism, as we learned at great cost two decades ago; the intelligence report noted that some countries have reduced their counter-terrorism efforts because they need to focus on the pandemic.
All that instability also presents opportunities, but not necessarily welcome ones. Assertive, autocratic governments like China’s may use the moment to shove weaker neighbors around. China is handling COVID-19 well; its neighbor the Philippines is not, and that could make it vulnerable.
Foreign aid to help end the pandemic isn’t an act of charity; it’s an act of self-interest.
Many global leaders understand this — but wealthy nations, including the United States, haven’t acted on it yet.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed putting the Group of 7 in charge of a multinational relief effort that could include a temporary patent waiver. “The cost will be at least $30 billion a year,” he wrote — but that, he pointed out, is “less than 2% of [President] Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.”
To be sure, the United States has provided $4 billion to a United Nations program that is trying to get vaccines to poor countries — without much success so far. But ending the pandemic is going to take much more than that.
The pandemic won’t be over anywhere until it’s under control everywhere. If Biden sees eradicating COVID-19 as Job One, he’ll need to lead a global effort before he can declare his mission accomplished.
The traffic stop that would end Daunte Wright’s life played out on a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer’s body camera. Officers appeared to try to handcuff him; then he slipped back into the driver’s seat.
Once again, a Black man died during a police encounter. In an instant, the world’s focus on Minnesota shifted from the trial of Derek Chauvin to a new outrage that brought street protests, promises of reform, and anguish over a relentless pattern of deadly police misconduct.
Military vehicles rumbled down city streets Monday as businesses hastily closed to comply with a four-county 7 p.m. curfew ordered by Gov. Tim Walz. As a massive police presence mobilized to prevent any repeat of the unrest after the death of George Floyd, President Biden called for “peace and calm.”
Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said that 40 people were arrested Monday night at the Brooklyn Center protest. Several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries from thrown debris; no protester injuries were reported, he said.
Residents and community activists of Brooklyn Center, a suburb north of Minneapolis, call for justice in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
Scenes from the second night of protest in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
President Biden began to fill the top posts at the Homeland Security Department on Monday, ranks hollowed out by his predecessor amid unprecedented politicization and record vacancies. Almost all have California ties.
With roughly 21,000 unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody as of Monday — including some 3,000 in ill-suited, overcrowded holding cells near the border — nominees to lead immigration and border enforcement agencies immediately face an additional daunting, if familiar, challenge.
ASeveral of Biden’s picks were long expected. But a few nominations — such as Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, a onetime California cop, for commissioner of Customs and Border Protection — were more unconventional.
Biden’s nominees, announced Monday by the White House, would fill posts that reflect the broad mission of the federal government’s third-largest department. In addition to the commissioner for CBP, which oversees the U.S. Border Patrol, Biden also selected heads for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, charged with overseeing asylum cases and the legal immigration system; and the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, which safeguards elections.
One particular omission was notable. As Biden works to roll back former President Trump’s immigration crackdown, he has yet to name a director for one of DHS’ most high-profile divisions: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security’s interior enforcement agency.
“It’s a hard job to fill,” said Leon Rodriguez, USCIS director under the Obama administration.
John Sandweg, former acting ICE director and general counsel at Homeland Security, said that although it’s important that the top post at ICE be filled, CBP and USCIS “are the priority.”
“They are the DHS components hit hardest by the border surge,” he said.
Some half a dozen federal judges and the Government Accountability Office ultimately found several of Trump’s appointments for Homeland Security leaders to be unlawful. The Biden administration has resisted calls from progressive wings to disband or dismantle Homeland Security, Border Patrol and ICE, and instead pledged better training and oversight for agents and officers.
With Republican lawmakers, in particular, heading to the border almost weekly for a backdrop to their criticisms of Biden’s immigration policy, some of his nominees may face a confirmation fight in Congress.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the first immigrant and first Latino to serve in the Cabinet post — who faced his own opposition on the Hill — praised the picks Monday, calling them “an extraordinary group of individuals for critical leadership positions.”
Here are some of Biden’s top picks on immigration and security:
Chris Magnus Nominee for Customs and Border Protection Commissioner
Although past heads of CBP — one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the world — have tended to have decades of experience in federal law enforcement, Magnus has a long career as a police officer outside Washington.
Currently serving as police chief in Tucson, a southern Arizona city near the U.S.-Mexico border, he has also worked in as broad a swath of the United States as Lansing, Mich.; Fargo, N.D.; and Richmond, Calif., before the Arizona post.
In 2006, when the Richmond City Council was debating whether to declare an emergency over a rising homicide rate in the refinery town across the bay from San Francisco, the city brought in Magnus to serve as its police chief, the son of an art professor and a piano instructor, who was known as a proponent of community policing techniques. When he took the job, he pledged he would personally visit the scene of every homicide, The Times reported then. After a decade with Magnus as chief, Richmond recorded its lowest homicide rate in more than 30 years.
Five years before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring spurred worldwide protests over racial injustice and renewed debate over police reform, Magnus held a “Black Lives Matter” sign alongside community members demonstrating in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Mo. — and the Richmond Police Officers Asson. accused Magnus of illegally participating in political activities while in uniform.
He said he was paying respect to “the very real concerns of our minority communities.”
The White House on Monday said Magnus has a reputation as a “progressive police leader” known for “evidence-based best practices” and “insisting on police accountability.” The administration also highlighted his 15-year marriage to husband Terrance Cheung, and his family history as the son of an immigrant from Norway.
If confirmed, Magnus will join predecessors at CBP under the Trump administration who were also connected to California, though they had near-opposite priorities from the current White House.
Mark Morgan, Trump’s last commissioner, a former Marine, FBI agent and Los Angeles Police Department officer, served as Border Patrol chief for six months under President Obama, and was in fact fired by Trump shortly after his inauguration. Once he became a fixture on Fox News, the Trump White House brought him back to lead ICE, and ultimately, CBP — in an acting capacity. He increasingly played the role of attack dog for Trump’s political agenda on immigration, as he continues to do.
Morgan followed Kevin McAleenan, a lawyer and former Obama administration official tapped as acting Homeland Security secretary after one of many ousters at the department during Trump’s administration. Raised in Los Angeles, McAleenan joined CBP and worked on counterterrorism programs and served as director for Los Angeles International Airport before heading to Washington.
Notably, both helped implement some of Trump’s most controversial policies, from family separation to Remain in Mexico, as they faced sharp increases in migration to the southern border, in particular by Central American families. The numbers then rivaled those of Biden’s first months, which Magnus would confront.
Given Tucson’s closeness to the border, the Biden administration said of Magnus, “he has extensive experience in addressing immigration issues.”
Ur Jaddou Nominee for Citizenship and Immigration Services director
Born and raised in Chula Vista, Calif., Jaddou is a well-known immigration lawyer and former aide to California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (D-San Jose). She most recently served as director of DHS Watch, an accountability project at America’s Voice, a nonprofit immigration advocacy group.
If confirmed, Jaddou will be charged with carrying out Biden officials’ promises to speed up asylum processing, echoing past pledges to hire more asylum officers and streamline applications and interviews, even as growing numbers of Central American families arrive at the border.
Although many migrants are being quickly expelled under a Trump-era pandemic policy without a chance to claim asylum, today, applying for the protection takes almost two and a half years on average. Biden inherited from Trump a record backlog of 1.3 million cases in immigration courts.
It’s a challenge familiar to Jaddou, also an adjunct professor at American University. She was chief counsel at USCIS during the Obama administration, which too saw spikes in primarily Central American families and lone migrant kids migrating north.
“Ur is the seven-time Oscar winner star out of central casting for this job,” said Rodriguez, the former USCIS director.
Prior to her time at USCIS, Jaddou served as counsel to Lofgren, who herself is a former immigration attorney, as well as at the State Department. She holds a master’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from UCLA.
Jaddou, too, is the daughter of immigrants, according to the White House: Her mother is from Mexico, and her father is from Iraq.
Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan immigration advocacy group, said Jaddou and Biden’s other picks “will bring needed leadership to parts of the administration that have their work cut out for them.”
Jen Easterly Nominee for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director
With hyperfocus on the border and political debate over immigration, the public — and many politicians — tend to overlook the other aspects of Homeland Security’s mission.
Yet the department is also grappling with the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in January, domestic extremism as a top threat, and what intelligence officials believe to be the most extensive hack ever against the U.S. government. The hack targeted some 250 outside businesses and major federal agencies, according to the intelligence community, which said it suspects the ongoing computer breach to be an “intelligence gathering operation” that originated in Russia.
Easterly is charged with “ensuring preparedness and response to operational risks” at Morgan Stanley, according to the administration’s announcement, and led the cyber policy team for the presidential transition.
She previously served as a counterterrorism official at the White House and National Security Agency, and is an Army veteran with more than two decades serving in intelligence and cyber operations.
“CISA has found itself at the forefront of two significant, national cyber incidents in just the last few months,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said Monday in response to Easterly’s nomination.
A critic of Biden’s immigration policy, Katko offered rare Republican praise, saying Easterly “brings substantial credibility and a reputation of working productively between government and the private sector to increase the cybersecurity resilience of the nation.”
The last director of CISA, Christopher Krebs, was fired in a tweet. Krebs vouched for the reliability of the 2020 election as Trump continued to promote baseless claims of fraud and refused to recognize Biden’s victory.
Trump said his own appointee’s statements were “highly inaccurate.”
The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on George Floyd and ruled his death a homicide testified Friday that the force used by Minneapolis police, including neck compression, was too much for Floyd in part because of underlying heart problems.
“In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner.
Baker, who was called by prosecutors in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin, said on several occasions that stress from the police use of force, not heart disease and drugs, was the main cause of death.
“Those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out into your body, specifically things like adrenaline. And what that adrenaline is going to do is it’s going to ask your heart to beat faster,” Baker said. “It’s going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation.”
In June, Baker identified the cause of Floyd’s death May 25 as “cardiopulmonary arrest” that occurred during “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Chauvin’s defense has argued that Floyd died of cardiac arrest brought on by drug use and various chronic health problems — not as a result of the former officer kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Baker’s much anticipated testimony Friday also revealed that he found bruising and abrasions on the left side of Floyd’s face.
“These would be entirely consistent with the left side of his face being pinned against the asphalt or road surface he was on the night before,” Baker said.
Baker said that although the toxicology screen of Floyd’s blood found methamphetamine and fentanyl, he concluded the drugs were not a direct cause of Floyd’s death.
He explained that the drugs found in Floyd’s system were part of the “significant conditions” assessment of the death certificate, meaning they played a role in his death but were not direct causes.
Before Baker performed the autopsy of Floyd, video of the incident in south Minneapolis spread around the country, igniting protests against police brutality. Because of the intense media attention, Baker said, he did not watch the video of Floyd’s final moments before he conducted the autopsy.
“I was aware at least one video had gone viral on the internet. But I intentionally chose not to look at that until I had examined Mr. Floyd. I did not want to bias my exam by going in with preconceived notions that might lead me down one pathway or another,” Baker said.
The testimony from Baker came a day after medical experts testified that Floyd died of a lack of oxygen from being pinned to the pavement with a knee on his neck. In his autopsy report, Baker did not list lack of oxygen or asphyxia as a cause of death.
In questioning Baker, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, further asked whether the placement of Chauvin’s knee would “anatomically” cut off Floyd’s airway.
“In my opinion it would not,” Baker responded, but he noted that he is not an expert in video observations.
Earlier Friday, prosecutors called retired Hennepin County Medical Examiner Lindsey Thomas to testify. She agreed with Baker’s listing of Floyd’s cause of death, saying “the primary mechanism of death is asphyxia, or low oxygen.”
“This is a death where both the heart and lungs stopped working. The point is, it’s due to law enforcement subdual, restraint and compression,” Thomas said. “The activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death.”
Chauvin faces murder and manslaughter charges.
The proceedings Friday in downtown Minneapolis concluded the second full week of testimony by witnesses called by the prosecution. Pool reports from reporters inside the courtroom portray a panel of jurors taking diligent notes. Most days a Floyd family member is present in the courtroom.
Several police officers, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand this week, calling the actions of Chauvin out of line with department policy.
“Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped,” Arradondo told jurors.
Philip Mountbatten, the rakish naval officer who captured the heart of a young Elizabeth Windsor and became the lifelong consort to the British queen, has died in England at age 99.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement Friday just after noon in Britain. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
The death of the Duke of Edinburgh ended the longest marriage of a reigning monarch in British history, an enduring alliance that outlasted the Cold War, 15 prime ministers, war and peace in Northern Ireland and Britain’s union with Europe — followed by its shattering decision, 43 years later, to leave it.
It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“He was the longest-serving consort in history, one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an address outside 10 Downing St., citing in particular the prince’s actions during “the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking.”
“From that conflict he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the postwar era,” Johnson said. “Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
The flag above Buckingham Palace was lowered to half mast, and the official announcement of the prince’s death — just two months shy of his 100th birthday — was posted on the palace gates.
During the pandemic, Prince Philip and the queen had been staying at Windsor Castle, west of London. Though he enjoyed robust health for most of his life, he was hospitalized for a month this year, from Feb. 16 to March 16, during which he underwent a heart procedure.
He was also treated for chest pains in 2011, was hospitalized for two days in 2017 and was hospitalized again for 10 days in 2018 for a hip replacement. He was forced to give up driving in 2019 — at the age of 97 — after smashing into another car while driving his Land Rover.
Prince Philip never held the official title of Prince Consort, as did Victoria’s Prince Albert, but he nonetheless was Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidant, most reliable political advisor and the undisputed master of the royal household for more than seven decades.
Philip was known equally as a curmudgeon and a charmer who could quickly put nervous guests at ease with an easy (and sometimes outrageous) one-liner. Courtiers, his own children and the queen herself backed down under the quick flash of his temper, and guests at Buckingham Palace were expected to stay up to speed with his lively intellect and encyclopedic command of facts or were hastily dismissed as not worth the duke’s time.
While Elizabeth presided over affairs of state, Philip championed dozens of charities, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has promoted self-reliance, physical development and other personal accomplishments for more than 6 million youths all over the world.
He also set down the ground rules for the rearing of the royal children, wrote books about horses and equestrian sports, oversaw the palaces and handled hundreds of official engagements every year until he finally retired from his official public schedule in August 2017. (“Unveil your own damn plaque,” read a cartoon drawn specially for the occasion, to Philip’s delight.) He was nearly always at the queen’s side during more than 73 yearsof marriage.
“Prince Philip is simply my rock. He is my foundation stone,” the monarch said at a lunch in 1997 honoring their 50th wedding anniversary. “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years, and I and his whole family … owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
Philip, for his part, seldom talked about his own contribution to the royal enterprise, though he was known on rare occasions to reflect on what he had given up to be the man who walks two paces behind the queen, the husband of one monarch and the father of presumably the next, with no historic role of his own.
“It was not my ambition to be president of the Mint Advisory Committee,” he told the Independent on Sunday newspaper in 1992. “I didn’t want to be president of [the World Wide Fund for Nature]. I was asked to do it. I’d much rather have stayed in the navy, frankly.”
His chief contribution in the end was simply to have been there: a man of keen rationality and wide reading who in some ways intimidated the queen, who was not legally answerable to anyone, and who was available as a voice of reason and dissent when all around her had a habit of agreeing with her.
“He had a slight reputation for pushiness and being opinionated … and he is as right-wing as ever, but there’s never been the slightest suggestion that he influenced the queen in that way,” said Robert Lacey, the British historian best known for his work on the award-winning drama “The Crown.”
“We can now see he was free to state his own opinions because he had no constitutional responsibilities,” he said. “So that made him a particularly strong and useful pillar for the queen.”
A former government secretary told the Daily Telegraph in 2001 how the Duke of Edinburgh had once quizzed him about a policy issue in his department.
“ ‘What’s the object of the exercise?’ he asked me. I stumbled through the answer and tried to explain that the aim was a bit of A and a bit of B. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but which is it — A or B?’ I replied, probably rather incoherently, that it really was a mixture of both. ‘I’d always thought that what was wrong with this country was that all the best brains went into the civil service,’ said Prince Philip, ‘but that was before I met you!’ — and walked away.”
He also had a knack for the painfully politically incorrect remark. Amid the recession of 1981, as more Britons sought public assistance, he observed: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.” When the royal couple were introduced in 2002 to a teenage army cadet who had been blinded in an Irish Republican Army bombing, the queen asked the 15-year-old boy how much sight he had left. “Not a lot, judging by the tie he’s wearing,” Philip quipped, as the crowd fell silent.
But Philip was also the ultimate salt-of-the-earth English country gentleman. Royal hunting weekends would not be complete without the sight of Philip, his head wreathed in smoke, barbecuing the day’s take of pheasants. He was an enthusiastic sailor, polo player and carriage driver who went bolting with his horses around the royal estates until well into old age, when Elizabeth begged him to give it up. (The Daily Mail carried photos of the prince once again at the reins of his carriage in November 2017, prodding his horses around Windsor Castle at the age of 96.)
Philip, grandson of Greece’s King George I, was the product of a royal family that had strong blood connections to most of the other monarchies in Europe. He came into the world as Prince Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg of Greece and Denmark on June 10, 1921, on the kitchen table of the royal holiday villa on the island of Corfu.
Barely 18 months later, with his grandfather killed and his father threatened with a firing squad by a revolutionary court, he was evacuated with his family on a British warship and wound up in France. Philip was eventually shuttled off to a series of top-flight British schools at the behest of his English relatives.
He made a success of it, which was a good thing, because his family was self-destructing: His father abandoned the family to take up life as a playboy, his mother fell into mental illness, and his sisters were married off to German nobles, one an aide to Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, or SS.
“It’s simply what happened. The family broke up,” he said when asked about it years ago. “My mother was ill, my sister was married, my father was in the south of France. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”
From the tough and austere Gordonstoun school in Scotland, Philip took the advice of his uncle and mentor, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and entered Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. From there, he amassed a creditable service record as a naval officer during World War II.
But it was a short interlude during his time at Dartmouth that sealed his future. The royal family paid a visit there with the then-13-year-old Elizabeth, a distant cousin of Philip, and Lord Mountbatten appears to have arranged a meeting. The princess was, by many accounts, entranced by the handsome 18-year-old cadet, exactly as Lord Mountbatten had hoped.
Philip was invited to spend Christmas with the royal family at Windsor Castle in 1943, and what might have been a girlish crush before eventually evolved into a full-fledged romance.
Philip took the name Mountbatten, the anglicized form of his mother’s name, Battenberg; became a citizen of Britain and was received into the Church of England. On the eve of his wedding, he was showered with titles: Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich and, ultimately, “his royal highness.”
On Nov. 20, 1947, a nation still weathering the debilitating and depressing aftermath of World War II brightened at Philip and Elizabeth’s fairy-tale wedding in Westminster Abbey, complete with a shining carriage parading the couple through the streets.
The two danced that night to “People Will Say We’re in Love,” their favorite song from the musical “Oklahoma!” — a melody that was to become their theme song through the years.
After the births of the couple’s first two children, Charles and Anne, an event occurred that would change their lives forever: the death of Elizabeth’s 56-year-old father, King George VI. Philip was 30, his wife just 25.
Philip’s successful naval career came to an abrupt end. With the stately coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953, Philip swore a new kind of allegiance to his wife.
Philip as a father could be stern and brutally unforgiving of weakness. He insisted that Charles attend Gordonstoun as he had, turning the sensitive boy’s school years into what Charles would later describe as a misery. He was impatient with what he saw as his eldest son’s softness and extravagance, sometimes reducing the young man to tears with a cutting remark.
And it was Philip, Charles’ biographer Jonathan Dimbleby revealed, who urged Charles to marry Lady Diana Spencer, though the prince didn’t know her well (and was probably still in love with Camilla Parker, who had been deemed unsuitable as a royal mate).
“Philip felt he was raising a future king,” Lacey said.
In the end, the royal couple saw three of their four children go through painful divorces.
Philip, perhaps even more than his wife, worried that the marital troubles of the royal children splashed daily in the tabloids could erode the aura of mystery, respectability and impeccable standards surrounding the palace, without which he did not believe the monarchy could survive.
In a series of warm but frank letters to Diana as her marriage was breaking up, Philip urged the Princess of Wales to stay the course.
“We do not approve of either of you having lovers. Charles was silly to risk everything with Camilla for a man in his position. We never dreamed he might feel like leaving you for her,” he wrote in one of his typewritten letters, which he usually signed, “Love, Pa.”
But he also asked the princess: “Can you honestly look into your heart and say that Charles’ relationship with Camilla had nothing to do with your behavior towards him in your marriage?”
This presumption that wives cause their husbands to have affairs raised red flags for the many who speculated that Philip carried on a series of liaisons during his marriage, with a well-known author, an actress, a Russian ballerina and even another member of the royal family. All of the subjects of the rumors denied them, suggesting that Philip seemed interested in playful banter and intellectual conversation, not affairs.
When Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 with Egyptian playboy Dodi Al Fayed, his father, billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, former owner of Harrods department store, publicly accused Philip of ordering the princess’ murder. An inquest found “not a shred of evidence” to support the allegation, but not before six months of hearings that filled the British tabloids.
More recently, Philip found himself in the crosshairs of “The Crown,” which in its second season in 2018 opened for public re-examination the prince’s partygoing ways and the painful impact that rumors of his purported infidelities had on the steadfast queen.
And Philip was largely silent when Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle appeared in a sensation-causing interview last month with Oprah Winfrey during which Meghan spoke of the racism and icy response to her concerns about her mental health she experienced from some in the monarchy.
Well into their 90s — preparing to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary, the first British monarchs ever to do so — the couple were confronted in 2016 with perhaps the biggest challenge of Elizabeth’s reign, Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union.
Britain had linked its future to Europe under Elizabeth’s watch, in 1973, and throughout the fractious “Brexit” campaign that sundered public opinion and threatened to divide the United Kingdom, there were persistent questions about how or if the royal family would respond.
The Sun had a bombshell story saying Elizabeth had made private remarks skeptical of the EU on two occasions, and the Guardian came back with a report that the royal family was so upset over the story that there were plans afoot to have Philip make a public statement urging Britons to stay the course with Europe.
In the end, no statement was made. The queen and her consort maintained their usual stance of constitutional neutrality — rulers who don’t quite rule, who preserve the monarchy by remaining rigorously outside the most important decisions confronting the British state.
Philip, for his part, always seemed a bit mystified about what he was actually supposed to do as the husband of Elizabeth II.
“There was no precedent. If I asked somebody, ‘What do you expect me to do?’ they all looked blank. They had no idea,” he told the BBC when he turned 90.
Somehow, he managed. By the time he retired from public life, he told the interviewer, it was high time. “It’s better to get out before you reach the sell-by date.”