Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
Biden is seen as trying to make a new bargain with Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the past few months, Erdogan has accelerated his accumulation of power through the usual machinations of a popular leader but with authoritarian tendencies, shucking elements of Turkey’s secular constitution. The recent failed military coup – apparently by the last remnants of the secularists who through military dominance have been the guardians of an effort to maintain the non-Islamic state – has been an excuse for increased repression and rampant anti-American propaganda.
The fear is that Erdogan is now turning his back on almost a hundred years when the country tried to move to a modern state with top-down Westernization. The abandonment of the state capitalist role for liberalization of the economy over the last decade had delivered unprecedented growth and prosperity. But that boom has ended, in part another victim of the worldwide economic slowdown.
Turkey had always been a model for other Moslem governments trying fitfully to break away from traditional Islam which combines government with religion. That struggle goes on among the 1.3 billion people in the Arab-Moslem world – from Morocco to Indonesia. And while no adequate response has yet surfaced, Turkey had been perceived to have made the transition. That now appears dubious at best.
But once again, the world is in one of those periods when 1500-year-old concepts of Arab-Moslem conquest and forced conversion has been part of the religion’s creed. That many, perhaps most, Moslems would ignore this concept is not enough to block a determined, fanatical minority from jihad – propounding the duty of a Muslim to maintain and spread his religion by whatever means.
Erdogan has played a clever game. He has managed, despite the bitter rejection by many outspoken European Union officials, to continue the hope of Turkish adherence to the Bloc. His flirtation with the Islamists — with such moves as reestablishing the death penalty — has now, however, vitiated that prospect.
He blackmailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for free movement of Turkish nationals within the EU, swapped for Ankara stemming the flow of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into Western Europe. But Merkel’s original welcome resulting in more than a million migrants entering her country last year is increasingly producing a backlash. Integrating newcomers with completely different cultural values has failed spectacularly, demonstrated in highly publicized crimes including rape.
Unlike the Europeans, Biden has the luxury of negotiating from a stronger hand, unlike the Europeans’ proximity and increasing problem of their growing largely unassimilated Moslem minorities. He can exploit Erdogan’s wildly fluctuating foreign policy which has failed in establishing a neo-Ottoman regime building on its once imperial presence in the region. A flirtation with Moscow – which supplies half its energy thereby running a huge trade deficit — is a feint aimed at Washington and its European allies. But just as they find themselves on different sides in the Syrian civil war, Erdogan cannot ignore Moscow’s threatening attempt to reinstall the Soviet role in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Biden has to come home with something. One trophy would be at least promises for Turkey to tighten its borders, stop permitting aid to flow to the Muslim terrorists, and promising a more active Turkish collaboration in fighting Daesh [ISIS and ISIL], hoping that Erdogan recognizes that his Islamicism will not protect him from rising Moslem terrorism. But getting Turkey firmly back into the Western alliance would require stronger leadership of those partners than the Obama Administration can muster.
Category Archives: jihadist
Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
President Barack Obama confirmed in his press conference Thursday that he has accepted as unavoidable the recurrent, periodic Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. That was the import of his answers to questions wherein he indicated that he would not modify what he considers his winning policy in the Mideast to “degrade and destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
His response to criticism and demands that the U.S. should undertake a more aggressive policy toward the Mideast source of Islamic terrorism was to warn about additional civilian casualties from any such American action. Yet he acknowledged that Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is accompanied by massive attacks on the civilian population. He mocked spokesmen, including inferentially the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have called for the kind of all-out military effort against ISIS that destroyed Nazism and held the Communists at bay during the 35 years of The Cold War. Obama’s response is despite the fact that most American military commanders and planners argue that ISIS falls only behind Russia as Washington’s principal threat.
In effect, Obama’s program of action accepts an unspecified duration when the current worldwide wave of terrorist activity would continue. His rationalization for accepting such a level of violence against the civilian population was that there has always been terrorist activity from many different quarters over the past decades and that it was therefore not a new phenomenon. The implication was that terrorism is a natural phenomenon and may not ever be completely eliminated.
Obama outlined at some length the failure of his continuing negotiations with the Russians to end their support of the Basher al Assad regime in Syria. However, he took no note of the limited Moscow commitment in Syria today compared with Soviet times because of Russia’s diminished military capacity. Admitting that negotiations with the Russians have not produced any diminishment of Moscow’s activities in Syria, he offered the admonition that should such activity continue, it would condemn Russia as an international pariah in world opinion. That such an epithet would have already been accepted in most democratic circles around the world did not seem to reduce for him the importance of such additional evidence coming out of the Syrian civil war. Nor did Obama’s concentration on the Syrian conflict take account of Russian aggression in the Crimea, its subversion among Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine, and its continuing threats to the Baltic states.
The President did argue that the U.S. military activity against Daesh in the Mideast, however successful, would require a more comprehensive program to meet ISIS’ ideological concept. Yet, he failed again, to grapple with that very problem, that is to meet the challenge of the terrorists’ allegiance to Islam which forms their ideological framework. Obama continues, as do most observers, to acknowledge but intellectually ignore that however perverted and distorted their view, the terrorists base their creed on their own version of Islam. Obama ignores that a discussion of Islam and its relation to the terrorists is critical to any examination of their ideology.
Like other important international spokesmen, in fact Obama refuses to advocate that the world examine and discuss whatever tenets that religion holds which produce the current wave of terrorism. Instead, he like others fall back on such clichés as “Islam is a religion of peace” and the obvious conclusion that most Moslems are not advocates of terrorism. What Obama and his supporters ignore is that the terrorists are not Christian Scientists nor Mormons, but while all Moslems are not terrorists, all terrorists are Moslems. They ignore the long history of Arab and Moslem holy war [jihad] to force non-believers [kafirs] or face death or enslavement.
Obama’s acceptance , in effect, of the current level of world terrorism will lead to further augmentation of ISIS as it spreads it network around the world, gaining psychotic and fanatical adherents of an aggressive version of Islam because of its “success” in terrorizing the civilized world.
In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.
Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.
The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.
However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.
In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.
Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them
As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.
Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.
The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.
There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.
It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?
The most difficult political and cultural debate since the decision of the Western alliance to destroy fascism in 1939 or the American decision to help resurrect Europe in 1945 has begun.
The discussion will be an intense examination of Islam and its role in the modern world.
It is an argument fraught with danger, not only for Islam, but for the democratic liberties of religion, free speech and economic well being of an increasingly interrelated world.
One could well argue that the debate is well underway, sotto voce. Certainly Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech was, if not the opening, one of the curtain raisers. Obama, in essence, extended the hand of friendship to the Moslem world. As part and parcel of his message, he not only accepted responsibility as he saw it for past American aggression against the Moslem world. But he denigrated, in the eyes of most American and international historians, the unparallel magnanimity of a rich and powerful U.S. since the end of World War II..
Even most Americans are unaware of the vast outpouring of U.S. resources, overwhelmingly private but official as well, which helped rehabilitate post-World War II Europe, and then went on to attempt, however unsuccessfully, the uplifting of what was then called “the third world” of poverty and ignorance in the pre-industrial societies.
But for many reasons – not the least the unrest produced by the beginning stirrings of modernity – the Arab and Moslem world beyond it went into a revolutionary period of upheaval and violence. It is a vast exaggeration to blame this movement from Dakar to Zamboanga on the decision of the Bush Administration to topple one of the most ruthless and cruel dictatorships the world has seen in Iraq’s Sadam Hussein. Likewise, the Obama decision to abandon the Iraqis to their own machinations with the sudden and complete withdrawal of American power only added to the tumult.
What is basic to the argument is the very nature of Islam.
The continued repeating of the cliché that Islam is a religion of peace does not alter the fact that history proves otherwise. The Arab acceptance of Mohammed’s preaching, according to their own and what other accounts we have, led immediately to warfare. Islam, first against Medina Jews who refused to accept Mohammed as the messiah, but thereafter, spread by the sword through the Middle East, crushing ancient Christian and other beliefs,. Tenets from forced conversion to death for those who Moslem believers who reject the faith are still part and parcel of the Moslem ethic and in the hadith, the literature surrounding Mohammed’s life, times and values.
A complicating factor, of course, is that the fundamental Islamic concept that the Koran, the store of Moslem teaching, is the word of Allah, the supreme being. Even though there has been historical research indicating at least some of the Koran predates Islam, that fundamental of the Moslem creed is basically different from both Christianity, Judaism and most other religions which accept even their holy writ as created by others. Thus the cliché that all three religions are “Abrahamic” and based in “the book’ is erroneous as is the Moslem claim that at times sanctifies certain relationships with others ‘of the book”, such as marriage. From almost the beginning of Judaism, and certainly of Christianity, exegeses of sacred texts has continued, although at times considered heresy and punished, It was this tradition which eventually led Martin Luther to success in his Reformation of the medieval Catholic Church and its Catholic Counter-Reformation which produced modern Christianity..
Today no matter how much non-violent Moslems refute the accusations that the Islamic terrorists – a name Obama and his associates refuse to use – have their roots in Islam, there is considerable contradictory evidence. Furthermore, there is also evidence that in recent terrorist episodes in the U.S., family members or other Moslems had information about the preparation for these outrages but either were sympathetic or intimidated into remaining silent. Some traditional concepts continue unreformed; for example, that Moslems who lie to nonbelievers are excused from moral stigma if the deed can be ascribed to fostering the fortunes of Islam..
There are numerous spokesmen today calling for a “ Moslem Reformation”. But they work at the margins of Islamic society and rarely have a foothold in the mosques, the halls of prayer, where inforunately too much of the recent violence has been plotted. Unquestionably, U.S. authorities responsible for the defense of the American people as their first and foremost responsibility, will have to servile domestic Moslem circles for possible terrorists in hiding. They certainly will have to examine as carefully as possible new migrants where agents of the terrorists may well be entering the U.S. as they have Western Europe as they have been publicly instructed to do.
. The bounds of this surveillance will have to be carefully monitored by human rights organizations. But if they are to assume that it is not necessary, as seems to be the case with the venerated but increasingly ideological National Association of Colored People [NAACP], then their role will not only restricted but useless. There are guidelines that might be adduced from the long fight against Communist penetration during The Cold War. But there is no way that the necessary pursuit of terrorism can be avoided unless and until there is an administration in Washington which is willing to declare an all-out war and is successful in destroying their sanctuaries to reduce “the victories” of the Mideast terrorists which unfortunately continue to draw malcontents and deranged adherents.
Originally posted on June 13, 2016 |
While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.
There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.
The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando.
It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures.
But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.
Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.
But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve.
Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.
Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.
The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.
Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed foreign policy speech was a minor disaster.
Not only did Trump fail to set out a succinct foreign policy philosophy and agenda, but the speech itself [even with a teleprompter] was a failure in his effort to move to a more “presidential” persona. One can only suppose that the address was the product of several of his relatively undistinguished foreign policy advisers which were never quite molded into a whole. [Signicantly, none have so far taken credit] The speech meanders from the overview to specific foreign policy conundrums and then back again, repetitiously.
Far be it for us to be recommending what Mr. Trump should be espousing as his approach to the myriad problems of American policy overseas. But the outline of what those problems are — if not their solution – can be presented relatively concisely.
Paramount, of course, is the problem of an Islam which has gone berserk – again as so many times since Mohammed’s lifetime 1500 years ago – threatening the entire world, not the least the 1.3 billion Moslems, with terrorism. Its origin and nucleus lies in the Mideast and there is where it must be attacked and destroyed rather than an attempt to contain its tentacles around the world.
Secondly, nuclear proliferation with the ensuing threat from unstable regimes continues to be a high priority. That, of course, includes Pres. Barack Obama’s supposed pact with Tehran, as well as a relatively unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan. There is the possibility of new nuclear powers arising in the Persian Gulf now feeling abandoned by their U.S. ally to the threat of Iran’s growing regional hegemony.
The renewed threat of Moscow aggression, even though it now comes from a power much inferior to the old Soviet Union, is pressing. How to reinvigorate NATO in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, and threats in the Baltic, is part of this bundle. It obviously calls for the reinstitution of the anti-missile defense system, with its bases in Poland and Czechia, which was abandoned as one of the first steps in Obama’s withdrawal of the U.S. from world leadership.
While it may be more apparent than real, Washington must confront the growing military power and what appears to be the growing chauvinistic elements in the Beijing regime. The Chinese economy, miraculous as the last two decades have been, is fragile, and perhaps now poised for a major default. But an ambitious Chinese military is building a blue water navy that challenges the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific where it has maintained the peace – with the major exceptions of the Korean and Vietnam Wars – for more than half a century. The challenged will have to be met and subtly.
There are a whole host of critical foreign economic issues that could be bundled as the fourth main preoccupation for any foreign policy agenda. Trump’s popularity is in part an expression of the resentment of the loss of American manufacturing and its jobs for the skilled and semi-skilled. Readjusting trade relations, particularly with China, which has aggressively taken advantage of American initiatives to include “a rising China” in the world economic system, has to be addressed. The growing failure of the effort to unite continental Europe politically – as well as Britain’s growing ambiguous relationship with the European Union — is impacting on the economic collaboration which was its origin and America’s huge trans-Atlantic commercial and economic interests.
There is the hardly acknowledged problem of the growing power and influence of the United Nations and its secretary-general, a role which was never defined in the early days of the organization and remains ambiguous today. That is true even though the secretary-general has become, willy-nilly, an important arbiter of world politics and the unanticipated crises that arise from it. While Washington has the official capacity to play a major role in defining UN policy at every level, it too often is left to bureaucratic maneuver rather considered as major policy.
And this, of course, leads into the whole growing need for a redefinition of how foreign policy is made in the U.S. government, Congressional critics of the amorphous but constantly growing National Security Council and its usurpation of the roles of not only the State Department but the Pentagon and its direction of American military forces is a constitutional issue at the heart of the Republic that must be solved.
It may be, as Mr Obama and his supporters have argued that it is a time for a complete overhaul of the American foreign strategy that has, for the most part, insured peace and stability for more than half a century. But to do so requires a more analytical survey of the world’s problems and the U.S. role that Obama and his advisers have given us.
Nor was not what Mr. Trump gave us in this speech.
For an Administration which supposedly excels in its appreciation and manipulation of the media, the current presentation of Pres. Barack Obama’s activities is not only onerous but inexplicable.
All Europe and the civilized world is in mourning in sympathy with our ally Belgium. As blood is still being scraped off the walls of the Brussels airport waiting room and a nearby subway station, our president is going to baseball games and exhibiting his art of the tango.The fact that the terrorists explosions have blown dozens of victims into disintegration and that there are a substantial number of missing Americans among the unidentified intensifies the horror on both sides of the Atlantic.
The President has made what are seemingly pro forma brief statements about the depth of the tragedy and his intention to make the destruction of the terrorist network his highest priority in policymaking. But his insistence that the terrorist threat is not “existential” to U.S. security belies the seriousness with which his Administration treats the problem.
His social behavior on the current Latin American trip, which for important reasons of strategy he might be correct in not ending, is inexcusable. And the Administration has announced no real new political and military strategy to fulfill his promise to annihilate Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]. Administration claims that the terrorists have lost ground are obviously false with their continued attacks – now more than 175 – around the world and their growing amalgamation of terrorist groups in Africa and Asia.
A minimum action by the President might have been some new statement of coordinated policy and strategy within the North Atlantic Treaty Organizaation [NATO] iwith the psychological boost of its hesadquarters only a few thousand feet from the scene of the bombins. One has to harken back to how rapidly its members came to the U.S. assistance after 9/11 under Article 5 which pledges all of us to mutual defense. The comparison with Washington’s response to the growing European crisis is all too obvious.
The President’s partisans and supporters argue that the chief aim of the terrorists is to disrupt.our normal lives and purposeful routines. To lend unwarranted importance to their acts of violence would accomplish just that purpose, it’s argued.. That logic does not hold up. The incredible complexity of American life has, indeed, not been much affected by these terrorist episodes despite their horrendous psychological impact. But that does not mean their continuance will not eventually erode the American lifestyle. Especially if the reports of the growing number of returned Syrian jihadists and the squeleched plots uncovered by he FBI are taken into account.
They argue, too, that to put overly much significance to these events with the President’s attention would create a hysteria that might result in additional prejudice and even violence against our own Moslem minority. But the charge of Islamophobia against every effort to search out the origins of Islamic terrorism impedes an important part of the effort to eliminate it. The terrorists, after all, are not drawn from Southern Baptists or Mormons and their relation ship to some aspects of Islamic thought must be analyzed if it is to be defeated at the intellectual level..
Nor, again as the President’s apologists argue, is it counterproductive to pressure our Moslem allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to investigate the origins and pursue the terrorists. It is no secret that Saudi funds finance mosques in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world that tolerate imams [religious] spokesmen who advocate religious hatred and even violence. Qatar, which has played all side of the complicated Middle East political scene, is a chief sponsor of the Moslem Brotherhood, the fountainhead of the Moslem terrorist sects. [That is despite its hosting one of the most important U.S. military bases in the region.] Reforming Moslems who want to eliminate terrorism – which after all has taken many more Moslem victims than non-Moslems – welcome our aid in examining and eliminating the aspects of their religion which breed the violence.
The President’s social actions could be called largely irrelevant to the current political scene and the struggle against Islamic terrorism [which the Administration, of course, still refuses to name]. But gestures and behavior are important aspects of the political scene. And Obama’s obtuseness is going to contribute to the difficulties of eliminating this worldwide scourge.
There is a wild Russian folkdance, like so many Russian cultural artifacts linked to the Tartar Occupation, called the kasatka [ka-zatch-ka]. In one of its many forms, it tests the dancer’s calisthenics by having him crouch but fling out each leg and foot alternately, testing his balance and the nerves of those aroumd him.
Vladimir Putin, old secret service operator that he is with some inherited talents of the Soviet regime but steeped in Russian folkways, has been dancing a katsatka around Pres. Barack Obama. And the effect is as usual unnerving to the encircled and annihilates whatever more formal and customary dance routine the imprisoned spectator might have pursued.
When Obama first suggested an aggressive American role in Syria, but then quickly reneged, Putin saw his chance. After his aggression in George, Crimea and Ukraine, and continuing threats elsewhere, he had unnerved the European Union and the U.S. It was to the point that they, however reluctantly, threatened formal resistance. And they did go as far as sanctions against the Russian leading lights around Putin.
But Putin has enough sense of history to know that bluff can often be successful, especially if like lies – as Hitler’s propagandist Josef Goebbels said – they are ambitious enough. So Putin plunged into Syria, set up the beginning of bases on the coast, and backed his would-be host, the collapsing regime of Basher Al Assad. The effort had great psychological and propaganda value, for Syria had once been the Soviet Union’s Mediterranean anchor, and a return there hinted at a return of Moscow to world leadership.
So the kasatka began. Putin’s oncoming disaster at home with the West’s sanctions and the collapsing oil price for Russia’s only export certainly left Putin in a precarious crouching position. But he flung his military, however much its technological stars and nuclear armory, still the decrepit carcass of the once grand Soviet war machine, far overcommitted into the Syrian row. His aircraft indiscriminately committing atrocities against a highly vulnerable civilian population, and his highly trained special forces encadred al Assad’s old professional French-styled Syrian army, were able to turn the tide against the multi-head opposition. That was especially true since neither Washington nor its allies could pull together demoralized Syrian democrats, and all were trying to keep their distance from al Assad’s main jidhadist opposition.
But then with a new kasatka thrust, Putin grabbed Obama’s gallivanting Secretary of State’s effort to set up an armistice and peace conference. The armistice gave Putin some respite from his overtaxed kasatka thrusts. His dance had so wearied Kerry & Co. that the conferees agreed to gather in Vienna, even though they clearly had totally opposite positions: Washington was demanding that al Assad go, the Kremlin had staked its successful dance on his remaining in office. With the long and ugly history of such conferences throughout the post-World War II history, between the West and the Communists, it was clear Putin’s kasatka meant he would whittle down the American/EU position. With successful negotiations always Washington’s primary target, negotiating with an opponent who does not give ground, ultimately always means the U.S. makes the concessions.
So Putin’s kasatka continues. The latest fling of the limbs is to “order” the Russian military out of Syria. Crouched as he is, he dearly needs to end his commitment before it collapses. But his kasatka presents this as great concession of a noble and enlightened opponent, and, of course, he has made no firm commitment on date nor which and what he will withdraw. In fact, as so often happened with Soviet promises of cooperation, the withdrawal might not take place at all, were he not in an overextended position that he needs to withdraw.
The kasatka never quite ends with any final tour de force. Usually the dancer is so exhausted he just leaves off. That may well be the case with Putin’s dance around the bemused Obama, trying desperately to make something of historical moment of the few months of his last tenure in the presidency. After all, the kasatka has achieved its purpose – it’s rescued Putin from economic collapse, at least for the moment, and has bolstered his flagging domestic support by a feint at the old Soviet international glory.
The chaotic Middle East is taking on convolutions which bring it ever closer to a clash among the major powers.
- Despite his rapidly deteriorating economy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is taking an increasingly aggressive role in supporting the Basher Al Assad Syrian regime and its Iranian partners. His efforts to strengthen the Damascus regime have kept it alive but show no signs of a significant victory against its opponents, some of whom represent jihadist goals with liaison to international Islamic terrorism.
- Israel’s security on its northern border is deteriorating as its traditional Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah – with a long record of terrorism against the U.S. – becomes increasingly embroiled as an Iranian ally in Syria. Hezbollah’s operations beyond the Middle East, especially in Latin America in league with local guerrillas and drug traffickers, are a growing challenge to American influence and stability there.
- A seemingly leaderless explosion of individual terrorist acts against Israeli civilian and military targets has assumed new significance with an attack by a U.S.-trained Palestinian Liberation Organization security official on Israeli military. The knifing attacks are generally by teenagers schooled by UN-supported Palestinian educational institutions where anti-Semitism is standard curriculum. They are an expression of the collapse of secular Palestinian leadership which is hanging on Israeli security support. The growing strength of the Muslim terrorists Hamas, again being rearmed by Iran, are now infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza.
- Saudi Arabians are persuaded of their abandonment by the Obama Administration in its pursuit of agreements with Tehran. In the face of an Iranian attempt at Mideast hegemony, Jeddah is lashing out militarily with the support of its traditional Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. But explosions of Sunni-Shia violence, including in the Saudi’s southeastern oilfields, and its see-saw battle in Yemen against Iranian-back rebels is inconclusive at best.
- Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] continues to recruit young Muslims, even in the West and the U. S. Those who remain in their homelands present the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist massacres resembling the almost daily occurrences in the Mideast. Despite effective continued FBI surveillance and discovery of terrorist plots, it seems only a question of time until new episodes such as San Bernardino and Ft. Hood will erupt in the Homeland.
The Obama Administration’s strategic response to this growing catastrophe is an incremental injection of small special forces teams in the Mideast conflicts. Sec. of State John Kerry has carried on frenzied whirlwind diplomatic activity. [Are secretaries of state now being judged by how many flight miles they put in?] And he has persuaded all parties to attend a Syria peace conference. But no one believes in its success with parties – including the U.S. and the Russians — pursuing directly contradictory goals.
Not even the other Republican candidates for president appear prepared to adopt Jeb Bush’s formula for a massive all-out military effort to destroy Daesh as a threat to U.S. national security. Meanwhile,Yeltsin pretends to have a common enemy with Washington in the Daesh terrorists, but Russian initiatives in Syria have been largely limited to direct support of the al Assad regime. Israeli, and American interventions in pursuit of their own direct security – for example, transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria by Iran – run the risk of confrontation despite intense communications to control the traffic. The continued violation of Turkish sovereignty by Russian fighter-bombers and Ankara’s past winking at jihadist communications through its territory pose a growing problem for NATO and Washington.
Despite its continued professions of loyalty to the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the Obama Administration moves closer to the growing antagonism and pro-Palestinian policies of the Europeans. Paris, for example, now threatens to recognize a non-existing Palestinian state if bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians do not go forward, an exceedingly unlikely phenomenon given the lack of a viable Palestinian negotiating partner.
The latest sign that the Obama Administration is moving away from Israel is its adopting the Europeans’ designation [and implied boycott] of Israeli manufactures from the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank which employ tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the “Palestine” cause has united old European anti-Semites with the traditional left for the creation of a Palestinian state which would be a direct threat to Israeli security.
Whether this turmoil will await a new approach, at least one generally anticipated, by a new U.S. president in another year before some unintended action ignites a larger explosion, remains problematical.
Rather suddenly, the northern European Scandinavian democracies and Finland have reversed their policies toward the limitless wave of migrants from the Mideast and North Africa besieging Europe.
It’s not uncommon for the Scandinavians — particularly the Swedes – to claim great humanitarian credentials while they betrayed their neighbors. Some of us at the wrong end of Sweden’s excellent 90mm Bofor artillery remember all too well Stockholm’s role in WWII. It claimed neutrality but was a critical supplier of high quality munitions to the Nazis, permitted them to cross Swedish territory when they invaded Norway, and often rejected the flood of refugees all around them.
Norway, in turn, which fell into the role of “a white sheikh” with the discovery and exploitation of North Sea oil, has been all too anxious to deliver political nostrums to others. Its “mediation” in Sri Lanka’s civil war, until it was finally shaken off after a decade, muddled those issues and led finally to a bloodbath. But this record hasn’t stopped the Scandinavians from presenting themselves as the moral arbitrators of the Western world with a high vaunted social democractic model that has created vast if unacknowledged social problems.
Rather suddenly, Sweden announces it will reject up to 80,000 asylum seekers who have arrived since last year, half of whom officials admit will be forced to leave against their will. Furthermore, Stockholm calls on police and migration authorities to prepare for a sharp increase in deportations, and to arrange charter flights to their country of origin. That may turn out to be difficult since some countries of origin, most prominently Pakistan, are refusing to take backtheir former residents. Sweden is also organizing other EU countries, including Germany, to discuss cooperation to make sure flights are filled to capacity. Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum applications last year, by far the biggest influx in the EU as a proportion of the population.
Sweden’s move follows Denmark – which had seen its longtime open border with Sweden suddenly snapped closed for identification of each entrant – announced it not only was slowing accomodation of migrants but was confiscating their assets to help finance their accomodation. Norway has begun deporting arriving migrants through its Arctic border with Russia. The interior minister of Finland, a much more realistic player given its long history of fighting off Russian aggression, said Helsinki also intends to expel about two-thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers it originally accepted in 2015..
Until now, the Nordics had trumpeted their open door to all migrants, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now under attack within her own conservative coalition for her earlier welcome mat. But the arrival of more than a million migrants in Germany alone – a very large majority of them young single men and not the highly advertised families with women and small children – and predictions of an increased flow in 20916 have brought on an immigration crisis.
Germany’s elaborate social welfare program, a goal of many of the migrants, is breaking down under the impact of so many sudden arrivals with their growing demands – often reinforced with local rioting. The dramatic not atypical Mideastern male attack on New Year’s Eve female celebrants in Cologne and other large German cities, originally ignored by the mainline media, is reinforcing the new mood of resistance to the migrants. That’s despite their welcomed arrival by European Union businessmen facing a growing labor shortage due to a demographic slowdown in all the industrials societies.
Having accelerated the migrant flow with announced liberal policies of accommodating them, the Europeans now face a crisis: how to bloc a tsunami of migrants, the majority of whom are seeking economic opportunity rather than escape from refugee status, without violence and bloodshed.
The Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.
The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.
Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.
In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.
Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.
Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.
Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].
But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.
Southeast Asia’s multi-ethnic player, Malaysia, with its carefully balanced Malay majority but dynamic Chinese and Indian minorities, is in crisis. A lack of resolution could not only jeopardize the country’s 30 million people but destabilize the region, especially neighboring Singapore with its Malay minority within an Overseas Chinese majority, Indonesia and Thailand..
The followup on the murder of Kevin Morais, a public prosecutor investigating corruption involving Prime Minister Najib Razak, has brought on crisis after crisis. Morais’ family has charged the government snatched Morais’ body from the hospital and cremated it without an independent post-mortem. Morais had been seconded from his ministry to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which is investigating the hundreds million dollar theft of government funds linked to the Prime Minister’s private bank account.
Morais, 55, Sept. 2 was dragged from his car after it had been rammed as he drove to work. Kidnapped after the collision, his body ended up in a cement-filled oil drum dumped in a nearby river. His car was burned but eventually found with the identification numbers erased. Accidentally, a security camera along his route caught the hijacking and kidnapping along with identification of seven men, including an army major, who were arrested for the crime. The government claims it had permission from one of Morais’ brothers for the cremation but another brother, a hotelier resident of Atlanta, Georgia, charges it is all part of the growing financial and political scandal.
Malaysia’s police and legal system has been wrestling for months with attempts by the Najib government to subvert investigations into hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up in the prime minister’s personal account. The money as mysteriously then disappeared. The embezzlement was linked to accusations of near total mismanagement of Malaysia Development Bhd., a state-backed investment firm. Najib has fired a number of top officials including his own deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, as the scandal has snowballed. Meanwhile, Najib’s allies have waged what one member called “a scorched earth policy” to halt leaks by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officials..
Attorney General Mohamad Apandi Ali, a former United Malays National Organization state treasurer, the ruling party which is Najib’s coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian politicians, before being elevated to public prosecutor and then the judicial bench, was rushed into handling the negotiation. He was drafted in August just as veteran Abdul Gani Patail was about to file charges against Najib for corruption. Apandi has denied that Kevin Morais was working on the case when he was abducted and murdered but it is generally believe he was and that was the source of his murder.
Although unrelated directly, Najib has been flirting with the more conservative Moslem elements in the country, some of whom remain outside the ruling coalition. Last year Malaysian police discovered a plot for bombings against a Danish-owned brewery and other targets. The police said a group of 19 had planned to announce a caliphate among radical Moslems in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
A full-fledged insurgency among the minority Malay-speaking population in southern Thailand has ties to Malaysian orthodox Moslems. Indonesia Islamic terrorists, with deep roots in some areas of the country going back to pre-independence, have attacked Western targets. In 2000 a bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange was followed in 2002 by a deadly attack which killed 202 people [including 164 international tourists] in the Bali resort town of Kuta.. More recently attacks have shifted to the sefurity forces.
Sharing linguistic [Malay] and other cultural traits, there is a close affinity of all these groups in the region. A further breakdown in governance in Malaysia could well spread quickly throughout the archipelago. Continued failure by Najib to root out financial malfeasance could result in further degeneration and embolden Islamic terrorist organizations who claim to be precursors of a “pure” – if brutal – new society.
The voice from the dead [former fellow travelers who went out of style with the Soviet Union’s implosion], The Guardian, tells us that the lawyers for the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo are unhappy. Why? Because they say the White House is not doing enough to fulfill Pres. Barak Obama’s campaign promise to close the prisoner of war camp.
Obama has insisted over the years that Guantánamo and its method of dealing with terrorist captives or suspects is extra-legal, a violation of American Constitutional practice, and most of all, a recruiting tool for the Islamic terrorists. However, the fact is that its very sophisticated propaganda – especially now that of Daesh [ISIL, ISI] – hardly mentions the issue.
Some of you with longer memories will remember that Obama promised to close Guantánamo down on his second day in office. And he has flown much rhetoric in the past few weeks about his intent despite Congressional law which forbids him to transfer its occupants to U.S. Mainland federal prisons. The Congress reinforced its aversion of transfers to U.S. prisons in the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] which the President has signed.
Congress” toughening stance came about, in part, because of what critics of the Administration see as the controversial swap of five senior Taliban prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held by the Islamic terrorists. Fragmentary reports suggest that some if not all of these have returned to combat against the U.S. and its allies. Now Bergdahl, who got a Presidential Rose Garden reception as some kind of hero on his return, faces an Army court martial on desertion and other charges.
Despite all this, The New York Times reports that Sec. of Defense Ashton Carter would try and push 17 transfers of lower-level detainees through by the end of January. That’s’ despite what many interpret as Carter and The Pentagon’s opposition to the Obama attempt to close it down. There are still 106 prisoners left in the pokey, 86 of whom the lawyers estimate could be transferred to their countries of origin But this pattern would not close down the installation before Obama leaves office, much to the lawyers; chagrin. Now Administration spokesmen have made the issue of the high cost of maintaining fewer and fewer prisoners as one of their main talking points for closing it down and transferring or releasing its inmates.
There is no doubt that there are problems at Guantánamo. In the fog of war – and the action in Afghanistan was full-fledged warfare whatever its euphemistic titles – there is little doubt that there were mistakes, perhaps innocents picked up as seeming collaborators in guerrilla actions.
But it is our position that the bulk of those apprehended and confined at Guantánamo are prisoners of war. It is a different kind of war, in part because the enemy is not a full-fledged state. In earlier wars, the pattern has been for the U.S. as with its adversaries to hold prisoners until the conflict is resolved. Granted that may be a long time coming, or even that the end may not conclude with a signature, as Obama has said, on a surrender document on a battleship somewhere.
We think the military trials of the Guantánamo inmates should be speeded up. If there are, indeed, innocents who should be released, well and good. But common sense tells us that former fighters, who have had time to network with other prisoners and improved their skills by reading and studying, should not be released to return to battle. Despite Obama’s assurances that has rarely been the case, objective reports indicate that the majority – not the minority – of those repatriated have returned to the fight. That is not the way to win a war, no matter how unconventional it may be.
The leading candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination – at least for now – has done it again.
He has taken a growing concern of the American people, not adequately met by the Obama Administration, and blown it into a bombastic slogan which benefits no one but the most vociferous of Donald Trump’s supporters.
The Donald is absolutely correct in suggesting that there could well be a security problem of admitting more Syrian refugees and economic migrants from other Mideast and South Asian countries. There is already enough serious reporting of the efforts of Daesh [or ISIl or ISIS] and other Islamic terrorist groups to infiltrate the flow of migrants reaching Europe and welcomed by Pres. Obama. It is also clear, from the horrendous event at San Benardino that the U.S. government and local police do not have an adequate vetting procedure for sorting out who is who. A point, again, well taken by Trump in his fiery statement.
But by taking the issue and turning it into another stadium rousing shouting match, Trump has done two things: he has made it more difficult to examine an exceedingly complex problem with serious and quiet undertaking. And he has given those who argue that any effort to examine the Islamic origins and connections of the current world terrorist threat is “Islamophobia”.
Some have argued that it is unfair to the great mass of the estimated less than thee million American Muslims and their coreligionists throughout the world to even examine the relationship despite the fact that the terrorists claim their allegiance to the faith. Perhaps even worse, Trumps’ blast – backed by repeated warnings of spokesmen for the Obama Administration against any evidence to the contrary – has exaggerated the possibility of a backlash against our innocent Moslem population. And, again, that contributes to the inability to examine the origins of the terrorists and their motivations.
It’s never going to be easy. But if the growing threat of homegrown and foreign directed and inspired terrorism is going to be met successfully, its origins in Islam are going to have to examined clinically. And the Moslem community, who knows better than any outsider can hope to learn the intimacies of conversion from law-abiding to “radical”, are going to have to be enlisted more successfully in its uprooting.
Trump’s blanket call to eliminate all Moslem immigration into the U.S. is an unlikely gambit at best. Such outright discrimination violates the spirit of the Constitution and many of our laws which insists on no favoritism for any religious concept – although accepting the role of belief in God.
It is valid, as others have argued that our vetting of the immigrants at this moment is not sufficient and successful. And until a more systematic way of looking at migrants, sorting out true refugees from economic migrants and possible terrorist suspects, a “pause” may be necessary. Others said this quietly long before Trump took up his rabblerousing cry. Somehow we are going to have to get back to that very difficult task.
But whatever onus lies with The Donald for demagoging an issue, responsibility certain lies with the Obama Administration spokesmen who have refused to recognize publicly the growing threat to our stability, and have, instead, raised the specter of anti-Moslem prejudice and violence where none has existed since the events of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist episodes involving Moslems.
We are still a long way from the November 2016 polls. The heat of the current exchanges suggest that it is going to be a long and difficult debate, especially after it assumes its next dimension, the struggle between Republican and Democrat nominees. Unfortunately, Obama’s role as president rather than leader of his party, has not always been evident. Perhaps the most important next step is for the President, himself, to lean back and accept his role as moderator and keeper of the public order and drop the role of partisan leader so evident in his most recent speeches and statements. After all, as he has said, he has no more elections to contest.
What was most striking about the President’s speech from the Oval Office – only his third in seven years – was that it “read” but did not “speak”. For despite his fame as an orator, the talk somehow lacked the appeal to a country thirsting for encouragement as well as reassurance. The nuances in the speech – and they were everywhere, whether in a questioning of the Congress’ intent or the attribution of the barbarism of San Bernardino to laws governing weapons – were couched skillfully. But they might well have been lost for many of his listeners who wanted more than anything else, an emotional appeal to match the tragedy which had taken place and the fear that more might be in store.
One had hoped for more. There was a striking and troubling brief photograph of the president during his recent meeting with his national security team at a conference table. After panning over the table, the camera had caught the President slumped in his chair at the head of the table, looking both worried and exhausted. For a staff which spends so much time carefully shepherding the imagine of the chief executive, it was a naked and revealing glimpse. It seemed to indicate that the events at San Bernardino had finally broken through the wall of self assurance and unreality which has insisted for months – more than a year now – that the U.S. had and was pursuing a strategy for victory in meeting the Mideast terrorists. Instead, the country had been presented with a dramatic instance in which the terrorists were willing and capable of launching a bloody attack. That it was an attack on a commonplace event in a relatively “ordinary” city in our country had made it all the more dramatic and threatening.
There was little in the speech, except its presentation from the Oval Office after a significant relative silence that indicated the White House has yet understood the magnitude of the threat to the country from Mideast terrorism. The President trifled with the truth when he insisted there was no evidence thus far of ties to the international conspiracy in the event at San Bernardino. Even before the evidence which the FBI and CIA have accumulated and for good reason may not want to dispense, we already know that the perpetrators of this barbarism had allegiances and some connection beyond their own capabilities. Where would the considerable financing necessary for the vast array of weaponry have come from? Or the instruction in how to use these weapons and make bombs? Certainly not from the commonplaces of their workplace or the relatively modest resources the couple had from their employment.
Nor was the long harangue about the need to reinforce our arms control laws – whatever the argument for them – relevant. There were no illicit weapons purchases connected with the events at San Bernardino. The fact is that in this instance as in most of the earlier episodes of terrorism, the perpetrators have had all the qualifications necessary to acquire the weapons. Whether the individual, reportedly a friend of the couple, who purchased the long rifles used in the affray did so remains to be revealed, but it seems unlikely at the moment. This horror had little if anything to do with the ability of individuals in our society to purchase guns and the President’s emphasis in this speech on that aspect was irrelevant and misplaced.
But, leaving all these arguments aside, the most important aspect of the President’s speech was its coldness, its somehow lack of a heartfelt rendering. Honed and manicured, the language and the presentation were not the answer to the country’s emotional need at the moment. Nor do we yet know, given all the rationalizations about the campaign against Daesh that he included, whether the San Bernardino massacre is as it must be considered a new turn in attacks on the homeland that must be answered by more than the campaign thus far in the Mideast.
The refusal of Pres. Barack Obama to explicitly name terrorist acts goes far beyond style; it increases the danger to American security.
Calling the massacres of innocent Americans by deranged followers of the Mideast fanatical regimes by any other name than Islamic terrorism not only confuses the issue of who and what they are but also inhibits efforts to prevent their attacks.
The spectacle during the last 48 hours of obvious pressure from the White House on the FBI and local police to avoid naming the violence as terrorism was outrageous. But more important it could make it less likely that these officials would pursue and expose all possible links as quickly as possible to the international terrorist networks. In the last few hours, it has, indeed, become clear that such links do exist – if, perhaps for good and adequate security reasons, officials do not want to reveal their details.
Obama’s obfuscation becomes increasingly difficult to explain, and certainly to rationalize. One can only speculate on its origins.
By not labeling these outbreaks against law and order, perhaps he thinks he reduces their importance. But calling attacks based on twisted religious prejudice workplace violence does not change their character.
Perhaps even a greater purpose behind Obama’s strategy is an attempt to deflate any characterization by the terrorists and others that there is a conflict between the West and Islam itself. After all, whatever the character of its multitudinous sects, the “umma”, the body of Moslem believers, constitutes a huge segment of the world’s population, perhaps now more than 1.3 billion. Unfortunately it also parallels our effort to help raise a large part of the world still mired down in ignorance and poverty.
A third and exceedingly important aspect of Obama’s tactics could well be his fear that by naming the terrorists for who they are would increase the possibility of a backlash against those Moslems living in the West who do not identify with the terrorists, and, indeed, their fellow Moslems throughout the world who are striving for a peaceful existence. Yet, as the latest horrendous episode in San Bernardino so dramatically demonstrates, it is important to name these events for just that reason. If they are to be prevented, it is important that their origins in Islam are examined with intense scrutiny, and despite the general consensus that the radicalization of the individuals involved are often inexplicable, it is important to try to deduce their origins in order to prevent further occurrences.
In fact, however twisted from the thinking of the mainstream of Islamic philosophy and practice, these individual lunatics derive their inspiration from their adherence to what they consider religious principles. That makes it exceedingly important that other members of the Moslem community be mobilized to the fullest extent in combating these outbreaks. For it is they, if not alone certainly because they are more knowledgeable about their coreligionists than others, who could be the most effective in exposing them before their attacks.
By attempting to break the link between Islam and the terrorists, Obama is contributing to a not surprising reluctance of the greater Moslem community to take up the fight – for their own safety, and alas! often for rationalizations which deny the roots of the whole aberration. It is disheartening, for example, to hear one California Moslem leader publicly accuse the U.S. government of being in part responsible for creating these terrorists. True enough, past American support for reactionary governments in the Middle East has contributed to the lack of their modernization and the welfare of their people. But there is no justification much less explanation in this line of reasoning. That is true even though, the fact that the terrorists’ trail so often leads back to the theology of the supporters of the Saudi Arabian regime and often to financing from those quarters must be taken into account in any effort to stamp out this scourge.
The silence which has fallen on the White House in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino event is, hopefully, a sign that Obama is about to make an about face in his and our fight against the terrorists. Only an all-out campaign to destroy Daesh and other centers of terrorism in the Middle East, with their inevitable psychological, propaganda, and perhaps direct links, to their collaborators in the West, is a defense against this major assault on American stability. But the phenomenon here must first be identified.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.
Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.
To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.
The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.
The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.
Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.
Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.
The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.
Events of the past few days have confirmed our suspicion that the war effort against the Islamic terrorists by the Obama Administration and its Western allies has been dawdling at best.
That the French were able to immediately identify an area where other terrorists were holed up after the bloody six-point massacre that presumably had come as a surprise indicate their intelligence was good but their policy implementation was limping.
That U.S. planes finally took on the fleet of oiltank trucks that have been moving petroleum for Daesh [ISI or ISIL] to black markets and funding their barbarism showed equally how irresolute has been our bombing campaign.
It is hard to imagine that either of these actions could not have been taken earlier with their devastating impact on the enemy. Yes, France had to strengthen its abilities to go after the enemy with emergency decrees, now to be followed up with legislation. But draconian French laws of arrest and prosecution, compared to those in the U.S., are well known and certainly could have been used earlier.
Satellite photo reconnaissance as well as drone activity must have shown The Pentagon for the more than a year that the war against Daesh has been underway, where and how oil was being moved to market – with the Turks, by the way, looking the other way as it passes through their territory Why was a strike against these trucking fleets not considered until now? And did the U.S. command prejudice its attack with leaflets alerting drivers, as we are told, to the coming attack?
All of this to say, had it not been self-evident before, that The Obama Administration has not been fighting a war against Daesh, but a reluctant sporting action.
Pres. Obama, indeed, is still insistent that he has a strategy, that it is a longterm one to “degrade and destroy” Daesh. But as Daesh now turns it emphasis to attacks outside the Middle East against targets in Europe and perhaps in America as well, that is not only not realistic but is a very dangerous approach to a growing problem of international security and a threat to the U.S.
The Western alliance has forgotten one old and simple fact of life. Nothing succeeds like success, and success for Daesh is the destruction of civilian life through terrorist activity. So long as they continue to make “progress” – that is, to continue to stage terrorist attacks or claim credit for them in the rest of the world from their sanctuary in Syria and Iraq – they will attract adherents. Obviously, and unfortunately, there are enough deranged and disoriented young men and women in the Islamic world to fill their ranks.
That fans at a Turkish soccer match booed and hissed and shouted “Alah Akbar!”, the cry of the jihadists, during a soccer game when a moment of silence for the French victims was called, is one more terrible indication of the tacit support for the terrorists among the Islamic populations. Various opinion polls too, as well as fragments of interviews by Belgian radio, have shown rationalizations for the terrorist if not sympathy among local Moslems there and in France, many of them born and reared in Europe.
The task before the U.S. and its allies is not only the elimination of Daesh and the end of its terrorist activities, but the speed with which the crippling disease among the Moslem populations around the world is dispatched. Daesh has already made tentative alliances with other terrorist groups in Libya, Central Africa and Indonesia. However, tenuous those alliances – and we have the spectacle of various jihadist groups fighting one another in the Syrian Civil War – permitting them to continue to function and spread their propaganda is an international menace which must be dealt with and as soon as possible.
The confusion in the President’s thinking and strategy about the current terrorist crisis is frightening in its implications.
As the tragic events in Paris confirm, surprise remains one of the most important aspects of warfare, in this instance by the Islamic terrorists of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] against the U.S. and the West. Yet Obama persists in announcing publicly that under no circumstances will be commit significant ground forces again to the Middle East for his “destroy and degrade” campaign. It is irresponsible to reveal such an important aspect of strategy to your enemy who examines every public statement and private rumor to assess his actions..
Obama’s penchant for refusing to use “Islamic”, and condemning those who do as “trying to make terrorism a Muslim problem rather than a terrorist problem” is one of his greatest handicaps in his effort “to degrade and ultimately destroy” Daesh. Refusing to identify the enemy makes it all the harder to fight a foe which has an intellectual rationale as well as brute strength. The fighters for Daesh are not recruited from Methodists or Vedantists but from Islam, and to the chagrin of most Moslems, it has its roots in Islamic scripture. To refuse to examine thbis aspect increases the difficulties in dealing with the terrorists. It also obscures the urgent necessity for Moslems to seek their own solutions to the threat in their midst. Once and for all, Moslems must come forward in the largest numbers with a determined leadership to end the long history of their religion being used for aggression.
Nor is it beneficial to the cause of victory to continue to insist that it will be a long struggle. That may be the case, but in repeatedly alluding to difficulty of making progress in destroying Daesh, he encourages the enemy and discourages a war-weary American public. His own claims of progress are ludicrous given the Paris events. Perhaps Daesh has had to relinquish territory, as Obama claims, but he ignores the growing, nominal zat least, allegiance of other terrorists in Central Africa, Indonesia and Libya to the Daesh “caliphate”. If nothing else, this acts as a recruiting tool for Daesh’s forces in Syria and Iraq and will inevitably lead to more international coordination.
Perhaps most distressing of all in Obama’s remarks to the media in Turkey was his arrogance — or perhaps his defensiveness — in refusing to acknowledge his earlier public statement denying Daesh importance. No one expects a formal mea culpa, but to get on with what he describes as a “comprehensive campaign”, it is important to recognize and build on earlier mistakes. Obama compounds this with a snide campaign against his critics, and, worse, a refusal to consider their arguments. In a single sentence, he accepts that there must be “a serious debate”, but then refers to anyone who is critical as those who “pop off.”
In this regard, he relegates any discussion of the security issues of taking in an increasing number of refugees as ill-conceived and racist. Obama claimed that there must be a commitment, quite rightly, to America’s tradition of concern and hospitality, with “rigorous screening security checks”. But the director of the FBI and others have recently explained that given the difficulties of securing Syrian data any such intensive examination is near impossible. There is, after all, mounting evidence some of the participants in the Paris massacre came into Europe as a “refugees”. In fact, the Obama Administration has done little if anything to increase the size and scope of the bureaucracy which carries out surveillance.
None of this bodes well in the coming months for what looks to be a growing struggle with Moslem terrorism.