Category Archives: terror

17Islamization of Europe


Western civilization as represented by the European cultures is under threat from militant Islam.

 

A combination of falling birthrates among the native-born and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Moslem refugees from the Mideast are threatening to swamp the indigenous European culture.

 

Because the French census forbids asking religious questions, estimates of the number of Moslems there varies but may be as much as 10% of the total   population of 70 million, a third of whom described themselves as observing believers. Germany in 2015 was calculated to have 4.4 to 4.7 million Muslims [5.4–5.7% of the population]. But that was before Chancellor Angela Merkel permitted a million Syrian and other refugees to enter in 2016.

 

Optimists have suggested that the growing numbers of Muslims will assimilate to the powerful post-Christian, largely secular culture of the West. They also point to the many aspects of Islam which share the Judaic and Christian religious experience.

 

But that may well be wishful thinking, given the Moslem numbers and their tendency to form self-contained slums around the great European urban centers, incubators of Islamic extremism. Police fear to enter many of these and radical imams [Islamic clerics] in their mosques aggressively recruit young men to wage jihad against the West. The November 2016 bloody attack in Paris hailed from Molenbeek, a Brussels slum that has long been a hotbed for radical Islam, drugs and lawlessness.

 

It also ignores the fundamentals of Islam. Moslems debated the authoritarian aspects of their dogma – which advocated forced conversion and led to the conquest of much of the Mediterranean world.— during the so-called golden age of al-Anduls in present day Spain. But Ibn Rushd [1126 – 1198], often Latinized as Averroes, a medieval Andalusian polymath and cleric, lost the argument with more rigid Moslem theologians The argument came down to whether any individual act of a natural phenomenon occurred only because God willed it, or Ibn Rushd’s insistence that phenomena followed natural laws that God created, The latter, of course, was an important fundamental concept of the European Renaissances and the rediscovery of much of earlier Greek and Roman learning.

Since 2014 Europe has seen an upsurge of Islamic terrorist activity, a spillover of the Syrian Civil War linked to the European migrant crisis. Moslem radicals have used social media to encourage terrorism across Europe; including a number of “lone wolf” attacks..

The number of so-called “honor” crimes has escalated in Germany. Honor violence ranges from emotional abuse to physical and sexual violence to murder, usually carried out by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought shame upon a family or clan. Offenses include refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, entering into a relationship with a non-Muslim or someone not approved by the family, refusing to stay in an abusive marriage or living an excessively Western lifestyle. In practice, however, the lines between honor crimes and crimes of passion are blurred being any challenge to male authority. Elicit retribution is sometimes staggeringly brutal – as with a German husband who dragged his wife behind his car with their two-year-old child sitting in the backseat after plunging a knife into her several times.

The growing American debate over the qualifications and numbers of refugees to be admitted takes on some of these questions. Proponents of a more generous policy toward the refugees point to the U.S.’ strong tradition of assimilation. Others argue that conditions in the world and in America have changed radically; for example, rapid and cheap communications and transportation have reinforced ties between immigrants and their origins which did not exist in the past..

Sws-08-14-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Misplaced charity


Pres. Barack Obama’s proposal for what would be a substantial new entry of Syrian refugees is a major miscalculation of traditional American morality and generosity.
It is true that the 13.5 million Syrian refugees, half of them expelled or hounded out of their country, are a momentous human tragedy. And America has almost always responded to some calamities.
But the question of additional Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. is part of a challenging failing American immigration policy which has become an extremely divisive political issue.
While generally unrecognized, it has arisen because of the profound changes which have taken place in worldwide migration patterns and the traditional one of entry into the U.S. Rapid and cheap transportation and communication has changed the pattern of the lives of newcomers to America.
In the great wave of American immigration of the late 19th and early 20th century, Europeans abandoned their homelands with a desire to build a new life in The New World. Ties to the old country, while culturally deep, dissolved – and, indeed, some ethnic and religious groups such as the Jews did not want to look back on persecution. Even the Italians, with their celebrated family ties, came and for the most part to their new neighborhoods, only occasionally maintained their European ties, mainly for remittances for family to follow them.
In the 21st century, immigrants to the U.S. may have much of the same motivation. But large numbers come for economic benefits and either maintain their relationships with their home countries, return at frequent intervals, or, indeed, return to their original homelands.
Those New York City Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers, for example, rarely bring their families, and return on long “vacations” to their families with whom they are in constant contact through cheap communication. This group, like other migrants with similar patterns, have no intention of becoming ‘Americans” in the traditional way although they might acquire U.S. citizenship for convenience and profit. Important, often influential, groups such as these exist today at every level of American society including the highest echelons of business and culture in our major cities.
Another significant difference from past patterns of immigration is that welcoming ethnic or religious communities in the U.S. which once helped integrate the newcomers are no longer prominent if they exist at all. Syrian Moslems, for example, find little institutional aid from coreligionists when they immigrate to the U.S. And, in fact, some of the existing Moslem organizations are suspect with ties to the Moslem Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism. Ostensibly pursuing an electoral policy [The Brotherhood’s strategy of “One man, one vote – one time!”], Its attempt to establish an Islamic dictatorship was proved quickly to the satisfaction of the Egyptian electorate which welcomed the military back to power.]
On August First U/S. Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued “temporary protected status” to some 8,000 Syrian, many of whom had arrived in the U.S. illegally. He did so, he said, because ““Syria’s lengthy civil conflict has resulted in … [A]ttacks against civilians, the use of chemical weapons and irregular warfare tactics, as well as forced conscription and use of child soldiers have intensified the humanitarian crisis.” Another 7,000 Syrian refugees – many of them persecuted Christians and other non-Moslem minorities — have been admitted legally to the U.S. since Oct. 1, 2015. Obama announced in September that the U.S. would admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by Sept. 30, 2016.
But GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has attacked this decision, arguing that – as FBI Director John Comey has admitted – despite elaborate UN and US procedures to process them, little is known of the refugees’ background. Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] like other Mideast terrorists has made no secret of their attempt to infiltrate refugee communities. Only a few such subversives, given the gruesome “effectiveness” of suicide bombers, could defeat efforts to defend Americans against attacks such as took place in Orlando, San Bernardino and Ft. Hood by immigrants.
American charity might better be directed toward relief efforts for the Syrian refugees in the region. Oil-rich neighbors in the Persian Gulf have not met demands that they absorb, at least temporarily, Syrians [and other Mideasterners masquerading as Syrians] who have moved into Jordan, Turkey and Western Europe by the hundreds of thousands. [Germany took in more than a million migrants from the Mideast last year, and difficulties of absorbing them and with highly dramatized attacks on women and other crinmes, are now producing a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome].
Illegal migration from Mexico and Central America has already become a major problem for U.S. immigration policy, developing into a political football between the parties based on a still nebulous growing influence of Spanish-speaking voters. Adding the Syrian problem to this controversy neither benefits the humanitarian goals of its sponsors nor the formulation of new American immigration policies to meet a new world of migration.
sws-08-4-16

Mr. Obama’s conscience


The schizophrenic nature of the Obama Administration continues to run amok.
Polls, for what they are worth with liberal media sponsors, say the President’s approval rating is high; over 50% of the population admires him. But the Administration’s failures are becoming more apparent with each day.
It’s early but there are strong indications that the horrendous Orland mass shooting attack was a product of Mideast terrorism. And while the Administration claims gains in its declared war against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], the organization continues to expand its influence throughout the Moslem world. Inevitably, that means recruits will emerge among American Moslems for such attacks.
The Administration has failed to root out terrorist sympathizers among our native Moslem population, abandoning methods used so successfully by the New York Police department after the 9/11 attacks. Politically correct nostrums in and out of the Administration defy the logic that hidden terrorists exist in the community. Those who would reveal suspects are intimidated by some muddled-headed Moslem imams and pure and simple threats to their own lives. Nor has the Administration tackled the problem that our ostensible ally, Saudi Arabia, permits its closely aligned Wahabi Moslem fundamentalists to finance mosques and Moslem centers in the U.S. and around the world. Their doctrines reinforce traditional Islamic beliefs in forced conversion, the exclusion of other religious practices, and even political jihad and death to nonbelievers.
To examine and to argue against these beliefs among American Moslems and even foreign Moslem communities is not Islamophobia, a prejudiced and irrational attitude toward that religion and its followers. The truth is that Islam has never had its Reformation and Counterreformation and many of its adherents today nominally at least believe in concepts incompatible with American democratic values.
Any campaign to destroy Daesh and other manifestations of internationally organized Islamic terrorism has no alternative but to examine and openly discuss this problem. An ancillary is, of course, to provide security and protection to those American Moslems willing to speak out against misbegotten interpretations of their religion, or those which glorify instances of Moslem Jihad in its long struggle with the West. [The Crusaders, incidentally, were not a prejudiced aberration of the West as so often presented in arguments today, but an effort to defend native Christians and their sacred places in the Middle East.]
But living up to the requirements of its own declared war on Daesh is not the only problem of conscience for those in the Administration and its supporters.
Pres. Obama has now endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the next presidency. He does so with a host of contradictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its highly respected chief, James Comey, confirms that it is directing a criminal investigation of Ms. Clinton. Comey is somewhat protected from the narrower politics of Mr. Obama’s Democrats with his nine-year tenure. There is already enough evidence in the public record to charge Ms. Clinton with irresponsibly in using her private e-mail account. Such a charge has cost other public officials their careers. Much worse apparently is to come when more is known of why Ms. Clinton went to such effort to use nonofficial communications for official documents
It will be Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who must decide whether a prosecution goes forward. Ms. Lynch received the approval of Republicans as well as Democrats when Mr. Obama nominated her for the post because of her considerable record as prosecutor. But she is a member of the President’s cabinet and subject to his oversight and decisions. A decision not to prosecute Ms. Clinton, whether now, after her nomination, or after the election, would be a violation of the trust and duty demanded by her office.
These are issues which should be if they are not on Mr. Obama’s conscience. And they, more than his minimal legislative and administrative accomplishments, will be the historic legacy he seems so eager to advance in his last months in office.
sws-06-19-16

La France, les pauvres!


The French are going through terrible times.
As a principle target for the Moslem terrorists, Paris, with two bloody attacks in the past 18 months, now has unlimited security concerns, bracing for further attacks.
The government of Pres. François Hollande, a socialist mind you, has taken the country’s restrictive labor laws in hand to make that peculiar if highly personalized French work ethic internationally competitive. France’s unions – actually a smaller portion of the work force than in most countries – are in revolt, as much among themselves as with Hollande, with daily strikes in transportation and other services. The old former Communist CGT is leading the pack, often violently.
In that inimitable French sympathy for the downtrodden, the public is largely supporting the strikers. So Hollande has had to resort to extra-legislative action to get the ruinously restrictive labor laws off the books. They not only make firing a worker almost impossible but also block the organization of new businesses through hiring restrictions. Eventually he will have to tackle the 35-hour workweek which was adopted in 2000, supposedly to minimize unemployment and to enhance quality of life in an industrial system demanding more of workers. Most observers believe it has failed on both counts.
Most of the economic indicators are grim. In the first quarter, the economy grew at only a half percent. Ten percent of the workforce or over 10% is unemployed, a rate almost twice that of the rest of the European Community. The worst is that among the young the figure is closer to 25%. The French government is borrowing at a rate higher than theoretically permitted by the EC. France’s enormous overstuffed public sector accounts for almost 60% of its GDP.
To aggravate the situation even more, Paris and most of central France, is suffering a record flood. The Seine has burst its bounds and threatened the Louvre, the world’s most historic museum, with paintings being carted off for safety. [Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was housed on an upper floor.] The terrorist threat, labor snafus and the flood are bound to cut into tourism, accounting for 3% of the GDP as the most favored destination in the world with almost 90 million foreign tourists in 2013.
It is common for Americans to denigrate France and the French. The rapid collapse before the Nazis in 1940 set that pattern of thinking. But the French deserve better of us. It has to be remembered that American independence might not have been achieved without George Washington getting the help of the French navy at Yorktown. It was the autocrat Napoleon Bonaparte who took the French Revolution’s promises of liberty, equality and brotherhood to the rest of Europe where they remained, at least, as goals of future governments. Nor can it be forgotten that France led world technology through the 19th and early 20th century. That hideous monument to Gustave Eiffel’s engineering skill, still towers over Paris as well as his constructions all over the world, in Vietnam, for example, where his railroads are still remarkable engineering achievements. The Panama Canal was his concept, even if the French companies failed in their attempt to create it.
France, traditionally has accommodated large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. But it is now handicapped with an Arab Moslem minority, given sanctuary after Charles DeGaulle recaptured power by abandoning the French military bitter victory in the Algerian War. For various reasons, the seven million have resisted the normal francoization and former indigestible and depressed separate communities around Paris. [Hollande does have a female Moslem minister of labor.] But it is increasingly clear that all of Europe, including Germany, has a similar growing problem of absorbing Mideastern and African migrants.
France still has a great deal to contribute to the wealth of Western culture. And it will likely get through the current crisis with its own inimitable solutions. In the meantime, it deserves the sympathy of American friends, and where possible, their assistance.
sws-06-13-16

Refugees or Mubarizun


When we read Camp of the Saints in English translation sometime in the 1980s, we didn’t enjoy it much. It had been foisted on us by a friend, an old veteran of the political wars on The Hill. She saw it as a prediction of the future. But novels, after all, whether in the contemporary world, past golden eras, or in the future, have to have some verisimilitude. And this one didn’t seem to be in any way credible in its general thesis however well written and logical once you accepted one or two of its major assumptions.

Were we ever wrong!

If you have read the novel, you can’t be but comparing the current international geopolitical situation with its hypothesis. Said simply, it posits a takeover of Western civilization by hordes of migrants from what was then called “the underdeveloped world” as a result of a general misapprehension of guilt and innocence in relationships between Europe and the world of poverty in Afro-Asia [again a term that has disappeared].

Europe’s generous welcoming of what have been termed refugees from the destruction of the Syrian civil war was notable and praiseworthy. It is no secret that German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out the welcome mat in another effort to wipe out the memory of the Nazi holocaust leading to World War II. But as the numbers kept escalating and other European countries were more reluctant to take large numbers of the migrants, the problem is turning into a serious strategic miscalculation –and could even threaten Merkel’s tight hold on the German prime ministry.

Not only have the numbers continued to grow – but their character has changed from genuine “refugees” seeking asylum for families driven from their homes to an increasingly overwhelming cadre of young men, many from further east of Syria. The UN Refugee Agency, a forceful advocate for the migrants, counts one million arrivals in Europe in 2015. Furthermore, three nationalities are represented: Syrian [49%], Afghani [21%] and Iraqi [8%]. The most ominous admission by the agency, however, is that most were adult men [58%]. However sympathetic Europeans and Americans are to the strife of genuine refugees, dramatized by at least 3,800 lost at sea in their desperate attempt to reach Western Europe, a different crisis is developing.

The Erupeans have splintered over how to meet the growing crisis. The sudden and huge influx has led to temporary border controls to limit the flow. Turkey is demanding more after receiving a $3.3 billion Euro bribe to stem the flow. But for both Turkey and the Europeans, the problem is further complicated by some countries of origin, Pakistan, for example, which refuses to take back their migrants when they are halted in their flight to Europe..

Organized sexual attacks by bands of these migrant men on New Year’s Eve on women in Cologne and other German cities, and in Scandinavia have been suppressed by the mainstream media and government in an effort to prevent a backlash to refugees. But these events only dramatize the fact that integration of these young men will not come about easily. In fact, there is evidence of an organized effort to infiltrate the West by Moslem terrorist organizations – a terrible harking back to repeated attempts by mubarizun, the traditional Mohammedan warrior whose conquest of the Middle East and North Africa resulted in the spread of Islam and was beaten back in earlier times at crises moments by Christian Europe.

Charges of “Islamaphobia” notwithstanding, there are predictions that the flow will grow in the months ahead from the chaotic Middle East, North Africa, and burgeoning populations in Iran and Pakistan. Charging racism to those who publicly call for a change in strategy to meet the growing threat are not a proper response. And ultimately, as with every European crisis in recent history, American policymakers are going to be called on to lend a hand.

sws-01-25-16

 

New terrorist theater


 

A terrorist attack on an Indian military installation Saturday, Jan. 2, may have inaugurated a long anticipated but new front in the war against Islamic terrorism.

Two of a groupof four or five terrorist were killed in an attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force base, a critical installation on the India-Pakistan border, near the troubled Himalaya state of Kashmir. It was the second big terror attack Punjab, a border state, in less than a year. It came only a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, counterintuitively from a Hindu revivalist background, stopped off in Lahore, to confer with Pakistani Prime Minister Awaz Sharif, the first face-to-face of the two heads of government in 12 years.

While India’s 172 million Moslems represent only 14.2% of the country’s population, they have important historical roots, and in fact, it was they who inagurated agitation for independence from British colonial rule.Their numbers approach neighboring Pakistan’s 192 million, India’s twin cut out for a Moslem state on independence in 1947. Furthermore, with a higher birth rate than their Hindu and Christian compatriots, the Moslem population of India is expected to become the largest in the world by 2050, exceeding 18% [310 million] while the ratio tpoHindus will drop by almost 10%.

Indian Moslems are extremely diverse, on the one hand representing a disproportionate number of the country’s poorest, and on the other endowed with several regional elites. They are noteworthy for becoming adept at information technology. Many of the subcontinent’s immigrant technicians in Silicon Valley and throughout the U.S. industry are Indian Moslems [or Pakistanis].

Radical Islam historically has erupted in the community, notably when it supported in the immediate postwar period a Communist insurrection in the former Indian princely state of Hyderabad in the Indian central plateau [Deccan]. The state with a Hindu majority had been ruled by a Moslem prince.

There has been considerable apprehension in official circles and elsewhere that the current wave of Moslem terrorism would spread to the Indian Moslem population. The issue is enmeshed, of course, in the continuing feud with Pakistan with which India has fought four declared wars and continual clashes. Pakistani authorities, charge that the longtime Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru violated the terms of the division of the country by refusing to relinquish control of Kashmir, the Himalayan state between the two new countries.

In November 2008, the Lashkar-e-Taiba based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated attacks lasting four days across Mumbai [Bombay]. New Delhi charged there had been Pakistan government collusion. But as the international Moslem terrorist movement has spread, Indian leadership appears ready to recognize that such events have local roots.

Modi was enroute back to New Delhi after a visit to Afghanistan where the two countries vie for influence, India as a hedge against Pakistan, and Pakistan for “depth” in its always strategic concern for India. Modi’s unscheduled visit was seen as Indian acknowledgement that Islamic terrorism is a threat beyond any Pakistani government manipulation, a danger to both regimes. Observers on all sides expressed hope that the meeting signaled a new collaboration of the two governments against the terrorists.

But the rising tide of “lone wolf” terrorism in India will pose a new problem now for the U.S. [and the Israelis] who have been rapidly expanding their military cooperation. Strategy must also take into account the growing effort by Beijing to expand its influence in Islamabad where it has long been seen as a counter to India’s superior size and strength. Pakistan’s collaboration, for example, with China to build a new port on the Pakistani-Iranian border at the entrance to the Persia Gulf has been of concern to American naval strategists. If, as now seems to be the case, indigenous Moslem terrorist outbreaks are to become “routine:”in India, Washington strategists have new problems on their agenda.

sws-01-02-16

 

 

 

The scandal of Christian persecution


The lack of public outcry over the continued persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East is a scandal of enormous proportions. Only a few websites devoted to possible rescuing these victims dogs the internet. But pronouncements from public figures and even the leaders of Western Christendom are few and far between.

The fact is that Christians today face more persecution in more countries than any other religious group.

U.S. Christians sources estimate that 180 Christians are killed in 60 countries monthly for pursuit of their faith. Many of these are in notorious environments such as North Korea. But there are continuing incidents in nominally secular India, for example, where the current administration has its roots in Hindu chauvinism and in its twin, Moslem Pakistan.

But since 2011, of refugees official settlement in the U.S. just over 2,000 have been Muslim but only 53 Christians. It is true that particularly Syrian Christian refugees often more affluent, have made their way to the U.S. through ordinary visa channels and permanent residence. But the Obama Administration opposes legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees. That’s despite the fact that nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled, harried by extremist groups like the Nusra Front [an Al Qaida affiliate] and now Daesh.

The Obama Administration downplaying of Christians in the refugee crisis is based on its fear such support would be viewed and used by Daesh [ISI or ISIL]. Or that it might be considered in the U.S. as part of the argument of “the clash of civilizations”. As in his earliest public Mideast pronouncements, Obama has argued inordinately supposed “Islamohobia” and antagonism toward American Moslems and the world Islamic community. But the reluctance to take on the issue goes back to the Bush Administration when Condoleezza Rice told a refugee aid official the White House did not intervene in ‘‘sectarian’’ issues.

 

It’s also true that Mideast Christians, generally, suffered less under the former autocratic regimes – including Sadam Hussein’s Iraq – than they have under their successors which often have a strong Muslim cast. Syrian Christians, for example, tended to stay loyal to Basher al-Assad rather than join the originally peaceful opponents of his bloody regime. The various Christian sects, some “in communion” with the Roman Catholic Chruch, others related to Eastern Orthodoxy, and others unique to the region and India, do not want to give up their ancient claims to their historic homes.

But having said all this, the toll of Christians in the region has been horrendous. In many instances Daesh has simply beheaded locals where it has taken over traditional Christian villages. These ethnicities date back thousands of years even preceding their conversion as the earliest followers of Christ. They have been given the choice of converting, death flight, or paying jizya, a special tax on “followers of the book”, that is, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Obama did get around to referring to Christian and other minorities last fall when he said ‘‘we cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.’’ And when Daesh threatened to eradicate the Yazidis, an ancient syncretic sect combining elements of the region’s major religions, the U.S. beat back the terrorists with intensive bombing and Special Forces intervention.

But proposals to permit a large entry of Mideast Christians has been denounced as a violation of the constitution prohibition against religious favoritism. But in fact admission of refugees has often been based on a particular ethnic group targeted by oppressors abroad. And in this instance Christians constitute such a group.

The argument that more forceful rhetoric and more specific Christians worldwide, but particularly in the Mideast, must be made. The charge of “crusaders” – distorted as it is in all aspects – by Daesh and other Islamic terrorists should not be an excuse for not taking up the cudgels for an important and generally neglected human rights cause.

sws-12-15-15

 

Mr. Trump and the Moslems


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.

sws-12-09-15

From the head, but from the heart?


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.

sws-12-06-15

Obama’s illogic


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.
sws-11-17-15

Vive la France!


Vive la France!

There are perhaps three all engulfing observations to be made from the horrific events in France this past Friday evening as the Moslem day of prayer and rest ended:

  • The enemy we face is as barbarous as has been seen in human history, even compared with the terrible atrocities of the 20th century in their contempt for all human values.
  • Our effort to eradicate them has so far failed – and particularly our intelligence when such a massive and coordinated attack could occur in a major world city without its interception.
  • We must spare no effort now – no half measures as the Obama Administration has perpetuated against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] — in crushing them with the kind of all-out war we pursued during World War II when the Nazi foe represented the same kind of all-encompassing evil.

 

As the French and their allies, most of all the United States, continue to gather information about the attacks, we will no doubt discover interesting and informative details. They must be shared among the allies. We have a suspicion that all sorts of relatively minor considerations have prevented that being done adequately so far.

Among these constraints has been the artificial parsing of the character of the Moslem terrorists. There has been too much of why some are less objectionable than others. We have all the evidence in the world now that young men and women are drawn to these movements, despite – and indeed sometimes because of —  their ferocious brutality. It behooves us to think of them as all cut from the same cloth and therefore the necessity to eradicate them with total war from our own side.

We must ask, even demand, that the Moslem community mobilize too in opposing these rogue elements among their population. There can be no justification for any acquiescence or rationalizations among Moslems about the nature of these brutes and their actions. Whatever the origins of Islam and the fact that its articles of faith and history can sometimes be interpreted to justify violence against non-believers must be blotted out of our geopolitical and moral discussions.

Even more, the kind of two-cent sociology and psychology on the part of many Western spokesmen is abhorrent. It obscures the issues. Poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of freedom, inequalities among nations – none of these excuse these acts,  nor indeed, explains them. The old and well-known story of individuals who have risen out of poverty and misery to lead useful and exemplary lives despite all obstacles is too common.

Using the continuing inability of the Arab and Moslem world, for the most part, to modernize and accept the growing international code of moral conduct is not something that ought to be explained away, Worse of all, to hear U.S. and Western military men – whose training and purpose is to wage war professionally, not to be amateur psychoanalysts –lapse into this kind of sophistry is most disheartening and weakens our cause. The problems of modernization of the Arab and Moslem worlds are enormous and infinitely intricate; they will not be solved quickly, whether or not the West and the rest of the contemporary modern world undertakes more effectively to do so. But they can be no excuse for this continued barbarity, either against their own peoples or against the West.

There may be one even less comforting observation to be made on the events in Paris: the U.S. is probably only a little less vulnerable to such attacks than were the French. Unfortunately, democratic and open societies by their very nature are at the mercy of such barbarians unless and until they take the proper precautions to arm themselves against them. That day is long past here at home in the U.S., and we have only the vaguest assurances all the precautions that should have been taken have been effected.

The Parisian events as much as anything else is a warning for U.S. officialdom and the American people.

sws-11-14-15

 

 

 

 

Netanyahu –again!


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again: he has repeated what any historian of the Middle East knows, that the so-called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a buddy of Adolph Hitler’s. Netanyahu has a terrible way of reminding the world of awful truths at a time – has it ever been otherwise? – when most people including major politicians would like to look away.
One is reminded of an old very Jewish joke: Britain’s then general, Harold Alexander [the hero of the ordinary Tommy, not “the movie star” Gen.Bernard Montgomery] was making a protocol visit to a synagogue in Jerusalem. He was back in British Mandated Palestine to check out logistics for Britain’s see-sawing grim war in the Western Desert against legendary Nazi Gen. Erwin Rommel. The president of the Congregation made a little speech: “General, I want to you to know that everyday we pray 24 hours a day for an Allied victory in The Desert”. One of the little old congregants, in tallis and phylacteries, totters up, tugs the president’s sleeve, and whispers in Yiddish, “Don’t say that! If they lose, they will take it out on us”.
There was never any question of what would happen to the Mandate’s then small Jewish community if the Germans did break through. It was well known at the time that Hussein, the leader of the Arabs’ war against the Jews, had escaped British capture and was in Germany. [“Palestinian” did not designate the Arabs of the Mandate until the 1960s but contradictorily did the two Jewish brigades recruited in Tel Aviv fighting with the British in Italy].
Netanyahu, not for the first time of course, has been misinterepted, in that he did not suggest Hussein gave Hitler the idea of wiping out the Jews but simply that they had mutual ideas on the subject. [The Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, which gathered high Nazi officials to lay out the techniques of the Holocaust would only take place a year after the publication of the official photograph of Hitler with Hussein.] It’s likely Hitler had already considered the ways in which he would try to extinguish the Jews long before Husseini recommended burning them, if he indeed he did.
Does any of this have relevance today?
Does the fact that the Palestinians only became Palestinians recently mean that their cause is any less just?
One is reminded that Ferhat Abbas, the leading Algerian intellectual, only a few years before the beginning of the bitter war by Algerian Muslims for independence from France, had questioned whether there was such a thing as an Algerian identity. He, like so many other Algerians, unlike Arab Muslims as well as those to be called Pieds Noir [Black Feet], European refugees, who later flooded into metropolitan France, came to believe in their “nationhood” as he came to be its first president on independence.
But whatever the present day claims of “The Palestinians” to “an independent state, living side-by-side in peace” with a Jewish Israel, the long history of Arab aggression and institutionalized hatred of and warfare against the Jews in that tiny piece of land must be taken into account. At a time when the Mainstream Media, again, distorts the fundamental aggression of Arab terrorists, in personal attacks, often on civilian targets, it is well to be reminded of the long history of violence and who perpetrated it.
Yes, it will be argued that the Jewish state is a colonial manifestation, the imposition of a Western culture in an aggression on a “native people”. That appeals as such leftwing rhetoric has so often to some American “political pilgrims” [see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society]. They have in the last half century jumped from one miserable cause to another in search of perfection – Communist China, Castro Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and now, “Palestine”, only to be disillusioned by oppression and corruption. Fulsome examination of a blind loyalty to “the Palestinian cause” will eventually return the same results.
Netanyahu, as brutally frank as he sometimes is, was right to remind us of this little tidbit of history.
sws-11-25-15

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A grim anniversary


Fourteen years after a massive and highly sophisticated attack on multiple critical targets in the United States from a foreign invader, the outlook is grim:
The instantaneous rally of the American people in one voice after 9/11 demanding retribution and assurance of no repetition of these catastrophic events has been replaced with a cacophony of bickering about a confused and indecisive foreign policy.
The immediate response of the George W. Bush Administration to destroy the model for any sanctuary providing a base from which any such future attack might result has ended in two contentious, indecisive wars.
The possibility of a similar sanctuary being provided to new jihadists with the same intent not only cannot be ruled out, but in fact, seems almost inevitable given the continuing growth of radical Islam and new terrorist movements employing our own and most novel techniques for social interchange.
Mobilization for what must be seen as a long and complex war against Islamic extremism is beset with contradictory and failing effort. Perhaps most of all, there is a failure to identify correctly the ideological enemy as was done through an intellectual mobilization parallel to the arms buildup during The Cold War.
Worst of all is that even critics of current policies and failures suggest wholly inadequate remedies, if at all, such as Gen. David Howell Petraeus’ proposal that we play one Islamic terrorist faction against another, presupposing intelligence and Machiavellian prowess current U.S. leadership does not have.
This failure to cope with the continuing threat to the U.S. with a studied withdrawal from leadership wherever possible has led to a virtual breakdown of the post-colonial Arab and Muslim political structures. And that has led to a massive movement of displaced persons toward refuge in Europe. Their acceptance, however justified on humanitarian and economic grounds [with the catastrophic decline in Western birthrates and its labor force], is fraught. It is far from clear that post-Christian Europe, with its inability to muster a dedication to a new civic culture, including a failing European Union, can withstand this erosion of its traditions that will come with the onset of this new Muslim totalitarian infusion.
It is possible, of course, perhaps even likely, that the American people will reverse course in 2016, with a new visionary leadership. That happened, of course, after an earlier period of disenchantment and despair, with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s leadership was more psychological and emotional than highly evolved economic and political strategies despite all the attributes now accorded his rallying leadership.
That may not be necessary again. The U.S. is still the overwhelmingly superior power on the world stage with no likely immediate competitor. It still has abundant resources, and above all, a capacity for technological breakthroughs, that makes it possible to once again lead the kind of struggle against Islamic terrorism which eventually caused the Soviet Union to implode. But we are dealing with an old, if reactivated, enemy that always lurks inside the broader aspects of one of the world’s most important religions and its 1.3 billion nominal adherents.
Nor will abandoning “leading from behind” for a new leadership role work wonders quickly. The losses of the past decade will not be accommodated quickly, and to do so will require leadership and a new civil spirit to follow it that is not yet visible in American public life or in the beginnings of the campaign for the new presidency. Candidate Donald Trump may play on the long simmering frustrations and appetite for change, but he does not nor is he likely to provide the kind of informed leadership that is required.
There will be a great deal of oratory during the next few hours recalling the 9/11 tragic circumstances. But the country still awaits a clear and resounding call for a new understanding of our problems and a dedication to overcome them.
sws-09-10-15

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Kiev 2015: Madrid 1936?


All historical analogies are odious, some old dead white man has written somewhere. That is, comparisons from one historical period to another are obviously false because the conditions are always so different.
Yet there is a temptation to see to the growing crisis of Ukraine as analogous to the situation of the Spanish Republic at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Then, too, a democratic state – with blemishes – was under attack from aggressive local forces backed by foreign aggressors. Then, too, the Western powers, steeped in the self-righteousness of their “neutral” position, refused to help the beleaguered government and it fell increasingly into the hands of the Soviet Union and its local Communist puppets, the only source of foreign help. Generalissimo Francisco Franco and his putchists, on the other hand, were getting help from both Hitler and his Nazis and Mussolini and his Fascists. The result was a so-called “Nationalist” victory and a long dark night for Spain with an authoritarian, lackluster government lasting almost a halfcentury, and from which it still is recovering socially and politically.
The news that Russian arms and even soldiers in uniform are flowing into Ukraine from the Soviet – oops! Russia – is yesterday’s news. Having said all the right things, the Obama Administration is holding back on sending Kiev the arms Ukraine needs to stand up to the Russians and their puppets. It isn’t even clear whether the new dictator- man•qué Vladimir Putin is trying to carve out more territory for Moscow as he did in Crimea, or simply trying to dominate a Ukraine government as part of his aim to rebuild the Soviet Empire.
But the bad news this week is that Chechens, who have fought Russian domination in the North Caucuses since the end of the 18th century and with two wars since the Soviet implosion, are now fighting alongside Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine. It completes the analogy, however faulty. Nor is it comforting to know that some obscure Ukrainian neo-Nazis are also tagging along, giving just that much substance to Moscow’s claims it is not there but if it were, it would be fighting a holy war against fascists.
It might not have been inevitable – what is? – but the refusal of the Obama Administration and its Western allies to deny aid to the Ukrainians sends them to whatever quarter they can find help. But the presence of veteran Chechen Muslim guerrillas from around the world, with their ties to the jihadists elsewhere, is a disquieting new sign of the failure of U.S. and Western strategy. It’s time the Obama Administration woke up to that.
sws-07-09-15

The North Korean powderkeg


While the world’s attention is largely focused on the chaotic Mideast events, a timebomb is ticking in northeast Asia. Mysterious but heavily armed North Korea is a largely silent threat.
But central to the dangers Pyongyang poses for its neighbors and the rest of the world is the role of Kim-chung Un, the 32-year-old third generation Communist monarch. Kim has neither the experience nor the training for a totalitarian leader, now armed with intercontinental weapons of mass destruction. He was, after all, the second or third choice of his father, Kim-chung Il. And it is not clear whether his elder brothers eschewed the throne did because they wanted less onerous and dangerous lives. One at least may be in Beijing’s pocket as a possible replacement, if and when.
The notorious secrecy of the regime was revealed again with the announcement that young Kim will not be attending Moscow’s celebration May 9th of the Allied World War II victory. South Korean sources said Kim chose not to participate in “a freak show”. By that was meant Moscow’s isolation for what is the most heartfelt Russian cause, the memory of its 20 million military and civilians who died fighting Hitler. The Soviet Union’s old Western allies are boycotting because of Near-Dictator Valdimir Putin’s continuing aggression in Ukraine.
Moscow announced Kim’s change of heart was “related to [North] Korea’s internal affairs.” But there had never been official North Korean information on the visit, and in its not unusual routine, Pyongyang was mum on cancellation. There had been speculation that Kim – or whoever is running the regime – were hoping the Moscow visit might usher in a new period of closer relations with the Russians. Playing Moscow against Beijing in Stalin and Mao’s day for handouts, in fact, had been the source of headier times in Pyongyang.
But those “internal affairs” could be more spectacular. South Korea sources report 15 senior officials have been executed this year. That followed the disappearance last year of Kim’s uncle and a formidable wife who reportedly had been his chief advisers.
The Moscow trip would have been Kim’s international debut. Although he has been photographed inside his private jet, he is said to dislike flying. It was also considered strange that he would visit Moscow before Beijing, what with North Korea almost totally dependent for food on China for is 25 million people, always on the verge of starvation because of the diversion of resources to its massive arms projects.
More important, Beijing is virtually Pyongyang’s only friend. China tries to shield the North Koreans from the continual criticism and sanctions of the international community — even at the UN with its strange sympathy for rogue regimes. Beijing fears a regime collapse would send a flood of refugees into northwest China where at least two million ethnic Koreans help keep its Manchurian border a running sore with corruption and illegal crossings. Perhaps more important, the general assumption is that a Pyongyang collapse would result in a reunited Korea with strong ties to the U.S. [and Japan]. The Korean War, in part, reached its still inconclusive truce because of China’s entry on just that sort of speculation.
What the world might very well have in Pyongyang is that greatest of nightmares – a fragile and unstable regime with its hand on nuclear destruction.
sws-05-01-15

The Persian Thread


One thread runs through all the miasma of the tribal and ideological jungle of contemporary Mideast politics. Through it all is interwoven the power and influence of Iran.

With its 80 million people, its vast territory – the world’s 17th largest country, about the size of Alaska – and its abundant resources, Iran towers over all the other Mideastern territories [except Egypt and Turkey]. Despite its sudden cataclysmic downturn in fertility – a drop-off much deeper than Europe, Japan and China are also experiencing – Iran currently still has a young population that will reach 100 million by 2050.

But more than anything, Tehran is heir – unlike Egypt’s largely historical and tourist attractions – to the traditions of the ancient Persian empires dating from 500 years before Christ. Contrary to the primitive intolerance of the current regime, the Persians through the ages built remarkably strong political entities simultaneously using various ethnicities. [Again what a contrast to the neighboring puny Arab sheikhdoms, however endowed with petrodollars.] That thrust toward power is again a central issue in the region.

There is no dearth of evidence for Tehran’s aggressive ambitions beginning with worldwide terrorism that punctuated recent decades. Whether in the Beirut military barracks bombing of Americans and French troops [1983] or the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires [1994] or the bitter IED offensive against American forces during the Iraq war, Tehran’s gloved hand was there.

However vulnerable the ties, today Tehran has jumped the security fences first set up post-World War I by Britain and France, and then the U.S.. Its alliances extend to the Mediterranean with the Assad regime [if under siege] in Syria, Hezbollah that dominates ethnic-chaotic Lebanon, and even the scion of the bitterly anti-Shia Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas in Gaza.

Moving toward weapons of mass destruction with the help of other rogue states headed by North Korea and greedy merchants in Russia, Germany, Tehran’s mullahs are reaching for great power status. One suspects even their bitterest domestic enemies do not vouchsafe their country this role.

There is, indeed, growing evidence Iran may shortly be a “threshold” nuclear state, that is one able to produce nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in short order. Never mind its oft repeated threat to wipe out Israel, a bomb will give Tehran dominance in the region, possibly setting off a dangerous nuclear weapons race among the region’s inherently unstable regimes.

How is the world to cope with Iran as it again flexes its muscles in an effort to restore its ofttimes regional hegemony?

The U.S. once thought it could live with Iran as a regional super-power; Washington allied with Shah Reza Pahlevi, encouraged his stewardship of the area. He was seen as an important ally during the Cold War, blocking the old, old Russian ambition of reaching the warm waters. The U.S. was even prepared to tolerate Iran as a leader of the cabal to create an OPEC monopoly on world energy at higher prices. But in one of those moralistic flights of fancy. Amb. William Sullivan – who had already made his contribution to the debacle in Southeast Asia – helped pull the rug from under the Shah, buying into the false promises of the Muslim theocrats.

Looking back now, one could make the case that the seizure of Western oil in Iran and the Gulf states was the original sin. Their inability to efficiently absorb enormous wealth which flowed into their coffers was more than “a tax on the world economy” that the then Secretary of Treasury William Simon rationalized. Those dollars became the source of a major destabilization of the world order with huge surpluses in the hands of small backward populations led by tyrannical, shortsighted leaders. [One can only hope this aspect will perhaps to be tempered, finally, by the Americans’ shale revolution which is rapidly bringing down the real price of energy and defanging the Mideast’s hold on world oil and gas.].

But how to deal with this new set of chessmen continues to be a central problem of U.S. efforts to maintain world peace and stability. And perhaps the greatest unknown in the whole equation is trying to deduce what path the Obama Administration thinks it is pursuing.

There apparently is one train of thought with the career diplomats which sees U.S. benign neglect as the best answer to the Mideast problems. That would have been the inspiration for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of a “pivot” from U.S. concentration on the Mideast to deal with the growing potential threat of a nascent China. That was soon grabbed by the White House speechwriters as an answer to the self-evident failures of Obama’s initial outreach to the Moslem world which elicited only scorn and the false hopes of “the Arab spring”. It soon became all too apparent that the tarbaby with which Washington has been ensnared could not be wished away. [The President has just announced new reinforcements for ground troops in Iraq which he said he wouldn’t commit.]

And so the mystery of what the Obama Administration thinks it is doing in the Middle East continues.

Its rejection of an alliance of minor powers as a counter to Iran’s growing power based on the bilateral U.S.-Israeli alliance is all too obvious, even before Jerusalem’s latest Hamas engagement. Now, of course, Washington finds a tacit alliance between Israel and Egypt and even the Gulf states against the Muslim Brotherhood with whom so many of Obama’s advisers were infatuated. It has had to double back to try to create an alliance to destroy one of the Brotherhood outgrowths, ISIL, and even toys with unacknowledged cooperation with Tehran to defeat it, if slowly.

Obama’s advisers earlier had rejected the possible option of Iranian regime change in 2009, even when a near revolution erupted after falsified elections brought out the old Persian values and young activists calling for American help. Obama’s much ballyhooed personal relationship with Turkey’s pretended strong man, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Persians’ old, traditional cultural and political competitor, collapsed in the face of Ankara’s pipedream of recreating a version of the old Ottoman Empire’s domination of the Arabs. Even when the Egyptian public turned against an elected Moslem Brotherhood administration, supporting a military coup, Obama found it impossible to abandon support for that Sunni ideological mother of so much Mideast violence.

So the No. 1 mystery of the region is not the constant shifting of loyalties and alliances but the intent of American policy.

Obama has publicly hinted that he could salve the thousand-year-old Sunni-Shia vendetta. That might be an expression of a strategy of building a balance of Shia Persia against the Egyptian-Turkey-Gulf states Sunnis. If that were the intent, the Obama seers have blown it with their naïve expectations of “the Arab spring”, their flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and subsequent antagonism of the Egyptian military and false hopes for Turkish leadership.

There is some circumstantial evidence on the other hand that the Obama Administration is thinking that there is an inevitability about the Iranian hegemony in the area, and that a deal can be struck with it. How else to explain the constant unrequited supplications to the mullahs [including the most recent “secret” personal letter from the President] and the refusal to support Iranian dissidents?

That presumably would be the rationale for what looks like a negotiation to permit Iran to retain a capacity to enrich uranium, ostensibly for a nuclear power industry, but which would make them a “threshold” nuclear weapons state. For any but the most idealistic observer, it is hard to rationalize the past history of this fanatical Muslim regime’s secret nuclear efforts and any hope that it would abide by such an agreement, or, indeed, that UN or other surveillance would be more effective than in the past.

With the outlook for salvaging any of Obama’s domestic agenda poor what with not only a Republican-led Congress but a reinvigorated GOP, it could well be that Obama would turn to foreign policy in his two lame duck years of office. That is why the mystery of the Persian thread as it winds through the Obama Administration is a political conundrum of moment.

sws-11-09-14

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.

With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.

That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.

The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.

The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]

To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.

Two points need to be made quickly:

The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.

Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.

That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]

Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.

• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.

• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.

• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.

• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.

• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.

• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.

• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.

It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.

sws-10-05-14

Saving NATO


 

It was one great historical irony that when NATO’s famous Article 5 – an attack on any member is an attack on all and demands their assistance – was invoked, it would be not in the aid of the European states for which the Treaty was designed but for the U.S. Nor did the 9/11 attack come from NATO’s anticipated enemy, the Soviet Union, but the new international jihadist terror network.

Thus history’s most successful alliance – it protected Western Europe at the highwater mark of Communism both without and within for a half century until the Soviet Union imploded — met a new challenge in far-off Afghanistan. Yes, the German contingent spent too much time drinking beer and refusing night warfare, most of the Europeans sent token forces, and “the Anglo-Saxons” [certainly not excluding the Australians!] as usual carried the weight to a quick military victory despite outrageous rules of engagement. And, with the current kind of political impasse in “nation building” in Kabul, the longest war in U.S. history might still come to less. But the Treaty obligations worked.

Now, almost two decades after Moscow seemed a convert to a new universalism of free elections, an independent judiciary and media, a civil society and market economics, the European leadership is back to square one. A lying, hypocritical Russian dictatorship in all but name – if basically weak — has challenged with naked aggression the whole benign concept of what the Obama Administration keeps preaching is a new universal morality. Somehow, Putin doesn’t seem to have heard that sermon.

No, the Russian threat it is not now against a member of NATO. Only now, belatedly, has Kyiv decided to press for admission. But with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s infamous remark that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what is his goal. It is the restitution of domination of the Soviets over the old Tsarist Empire including much of eastern and central Europe [and Central Asia].

A good deal of fiery rhetoric from all the usual suspects in the West including the President of the United States as been launched against this new threat to more than a half century of relative European peace and stability. And even a learned professor, Dr. John Mearsheimer, is now willing to argue that it was all the fault of the U.S. and European leadership that Putin has been seduced into naked aggression. The fault, we are told, is that too many including our liberal government and media elite, had accepted pronouncement that the nature of world affairs had changed. [It certainly doesn’t take a call up of a lot of examples of the new horrors to make the case that human nature and world affairs hasn’t changed all that much.] But it hadn’t and so we should have recognized, this contrarian interpreter insists, that winning the 30 million people of Ukraine to Western values and prosperity was a trap we set for ourselves: we were messing around on Putin’s doorstep. We should have known better. But his obvious contradiction is clear: if one believes that international power politics are what they always have been [and by and large, I do], expressions of power and the will to use it, why would it have not been incumbent on the the West to welcome Ukraine and strengthen it precisely so it could resist potential aggression from a Russian neighbor dedicated to the old values?

If NATO falls away, it would have not been the first successful human institution to have fallen into decay precisely because of its success. At the moment, that certainly seems the case. America under the Obama Administration has chosen to join a multilateral cheering section rather than to lead a military alliance. The Europeans, for the most part, refuse to maintain their military effort at agreed standards of expenditure and discipline. Turkey, once looked to as a reservoir of strength for both its birthrate and historical fighting skills, has turned into the ragtail end of the alliance, often defying Brussels’ policies at the same time it asks for additional NATO support along its eroding Syrian border.

But most of all, NATO has no answer to anything less than an all out Russian aggression which, of course, however ad hoc his strategy, Putin will not choose.

Instead, whether by design or because of the nature of his regime, Putin has borrowed all the old tools of Hitler’s strategy which sapped European democracies’ will in the 1930s leading up to the final denouement of the attack on Poland and World War II. He has harked back to old territorial claims, only enforced in the past by Tsarist and Soviet power. He has claimed extraterritoriality for Russian ethnics in former Tsarist and Soviet territories liberated in the 1990 implosion. He has sent “volunteers” masquerading as locals to aid insurgencies he has initiated. And he has taken the old Josef Goebbels’ advice that the bigger a lie the easier the propaganda can be sold. [That has even brought the ultra-conservative Pat Buchanan as well as professors to his side.]

The miracle on the Don, in fact, is that a corrupt, inefficient and unstable Ukraine has nevertheless been able to achieve initial victories against the insurgents. It gives the lie, at least in part, to the generally accepted hypothesis in the Western media that Russian-speakers necessarily sided with Moscow in its effort to undermine Ukrainian unity. The word creeping out of relatively large numbers of prisoners taken by Ukrainian forces and deaths of Russians in the fighting being masked by the Moscow regime further confirms that not for the first time the Western mainstream media have it all wrong.

Perhaps the most serious threat to the cause of reinforcing a NATO peace is in diplomatic circles. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked the talk, and to some extent, given her country’s corrupt dependence on Russian energy, walked the walk, she is now becoming the principal negotiator between the West and Moscow. There is a growing suspicion that she – with the tacit agreement of American Secretary of State John Kerry who appears less and less competent – are acceding to Putin’s calls for an imposed Ukrainian “federalism”. Confederations, however accommodating they might appear to libertarians and other democrats, are the most difficult form of government. A Ukrainian federation, with its history of unique top-down bureaucratic government, might well lead to just the sort of watered-down independence that Putin aims to dominate, rather than another outrageous carving out of territory such as his grab of the Crimea.

Unfortunately, a pattern established in Ukraine could be all too much a template for all of the former Soviet-occupied Eastern and Central Europe – save perhaps the increasingly prosperous and successful Poland. Most have significant Russian-speaking minorities. Only tiny Estonia is bestirring itself to begin the kind of mobilization of military force that could make any Moscow feint difficult if not embarrassing. [The memory of The Winter War comes floating back; a defeat for the Finns but probably as much as anything a sacrifice which maintained their independence and eventually their incorporation in the European prosperity sphere.]

It doesn’t take a military genius nor, indeed, an amateur strategist to understand that NATO now needs to move quickly toward not only reinforcing its overall shield but in stiffening the resolve of its more exposed members in Eastern and Central Europe. That would include polished boots on the ground, a generally significant expansion of U.S. presence – including the re institution of the anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic which Obama so cavalierly dismantled in his “flexible” approach at winning Putin’s friendship.

That’s the agenda awaiting the world but above all Washington at the meeting this week in Wales. Only the wildest optimist can hope it will be met.

sws-08-31-14

Islam: getting it right


by Sol Sanders

“Intelligence failures” – fundamental mistakes in evaluating a geopolitical situation – are not rare among state intelligence organizations. They are unfortunately common enough and have cost the lives of millions.

They are a reflection of what after all is a human endeavor with all its frailties. A technician’s intercept of a Japanese naval signal, in the infancy of radar, is ignored with disastrous consequences on Dec. 7. Failing to check a driver’s license more carefully when he is stopped for speeding fails to nab a 9/11 plotter. Placing the briefcase loaded with a bomb a few feet too far fails to kill Hitler costing more thousands of lives.

Such failures are only marginally reduced by the introduction of all the new techniques of the digital revolution since the opportunity for error is so great in these complex situations involving individual peculiarities as well as the presumed overriding political considerations.

Yet there are larger intelligence “failures”, those that result from a fundamental misunderstanding of a much larger cultural environment, whether it be the whole frame of reference of an opponent or constructing a seemingly logical scenario without all the facts. A case of the latter, for example: in 1937 Washington almost went to war with Japan over “The Panay Incident”, sinking of an American ship of the Yangtze Patrol thought to be an expression of Tokyo’s militarist aggression but actually the result of the smuggling activities of a corrupt Japanese admiral. That, of course, did not preclude the outbreak of that war a few years later.

Washington’s surprise and shock at the most recent events in Iraq are the quintessential example of the former, in this instance an inability to judge events in the context of the Muslim world.

For whatever reason, Pres. Barrack Obama and his national security team – despite the extraordinary credentials in Arabic studies of CIA Director John O. Brennan – are bent on misinterpreting the Islamic world. On that basis, Obama’s attempt to reach out for a new relationship with Arab and Islamic countries, expressed in his 2009 Istanbul and Cairo speeches, has come to naught. Instead, that simplistic outreach has further confused issues.

Neither Obama’s flattery nor efforts at appreciation of another culture have been successful. That is in no small part because his premises fundamentally distort or ignore history. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had a Koran in what was probably the most diverse and perhaps the largest library in colonial North America. But after years of trying to persuade the West Europeans to join the infant AmericanRepublic in suppressing piracy and abduction on the Barbary Coast, he ordered the U.S. infant navy and Marines [a standing army he had opposed] into action against Muslim warlords he could not understand but refused to knuckle under to.

Islam has not, as the President insists, played a role in the ideological formation of the American ethos. The Judeo-Christian ethic of The Founders and the founding documents owed no allegiance to Islam. It was an alien culture with which Americans have had only minimal contact until relatively recent decades.

Furthermore, all of this false rationalization is part and parcel of an attempt to equate Islam with “the other Abrahamic religions”. That, again, is a complete distortion of reality. For even where it is practiced in moderation, Islam’s fundamentals cannot be equated with contemporary Christianity and Judaism. Both of these beliefs have evolved through centuries of accomodation to Hellenism and modernization in their European existence. Islam has not, for example, given up its right to a fierce monopoly where its adherents hold political power – something now rejected by various Christian confessions after a painfully long history of bloody religious war.

Furthermore, in an excess of tolerance, any attempt to examine and relate Islam to current events is denounced as “Islamophobia”. Often the denunciations come from organizations with pretensions to representing Muslims residing in Western democracies but with hidden connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and other intolerant Islamic organizations and concepts.

Perhaps more than anything else, this misapprehension of Islam and its relation to the West explains the latest monumental failure of Washington “intelligence”. Despite entreaties from the al-Maliki government in Baghdad for months for help against a foe it recognized, Washington appears befuddled with the sudden blossoming of a crisis of the regime The threat is further magnified by the enormous commitment of blood and resources by the U.S. during its war against Sadam Hussein and the suppression of a sectarian civil war. That war was, too, initially based on the assumption that having fiddled with weapons of mass destruction earlier, Sadam was at it again – a belief shared if mistakenly by all the major allied intelligence organizations.

That is why the now seemingly sudden emergence of a barbaric terrorist force threatening to take over Iraq, one of the most important of the Arab states with its vast petroleum resources, has come as such a surprise for the Administration. All this is a repetition of the Administration’s attempt to minimize the importance of Muslim terrorism riding on the coattails of one of the world’s major religions. And that misperception has resulted in its inability to anticipate or to cope with political events, whether in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and now Iraq.

The President’s attempt to end the conflict with Muslim terrorism by unilaterally announcing its demise will fail of course. Unfortunately, Muslim terrorism is alive and well in half a dozen countries with every expectation that it will continue to make the U.S. and Americans one of its principal targets. The current advance of a terrorist group in Iraq with a significant number of international participants, many recruited from America and Europe and Australia, is only a manifestation of that general continuing problem for U.S. policymakers.

Probably even more damaging, by failing to acknowledge the traditional role of violence and conflict in the history of Islam, the Administration has further handicapped those forces in the West and in the Muslim countries seeking modernization. The fogging of issues has permitted essentially antidemocratic organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood to mask their real intent. It blinded the Administration to the growth of what was intended as another religion-based tyranny under former Pres. Mohammed Morsi, then its reluctance to accept his popular overthrow by the military reduced Washington’s ability to influence the new Egyptian regime. In Syria, Washington was unable to see that the popular resistance to the Assad dictatorship was coming under the domination of international Muslim fanatics which has now spread to Iraq, not only threatening that government and its neighbor Jordan, but with the possibility of providing the kind of sanctuary for attacks on the U.S. as took place in the Taliban’s Afghanistan on 9/11.

To quote the old cliché, ideas have consequences. Failure to deal with the relationship between Islam and the Muslim terrorists which threaten American interests in the region – and even the U.S. homeland as in 9/11 – is likely to cost dearly.

sws-06-15-14

 

Foreign Policy 101


In a revolutionary world environment, foreign policy of a great power – and especially the lone superpower – is bound to be full of inconsistencies. Interests are far-flung and constantly demanding new priorities. But one does not have to refer to Machiavelli to recognize rules of the road which when violated are costly and in the case of the U.S., destabilizing for the entire world.

Again, those guidelines are often internally contradictory in the nature of generalizations.  But a knowledge of and adherence to them is essential to pursue a foreign policy, and, in this instance, of the superpower, the United States, and world peace and stability..

That we living through cataclysmic times does not have to be extensively argued. Suffice it to say that the digital revolution alone has made it harder than ever to distinguish between reality and perception by exaggerating – to quote Sec. Donald Rumsfeld – unknown unknowns. A recent former CIA operative hired by a Swiss bank to prevent fraud put it to me succinctly: the ability to reproduce almost any document [or signature] has led to almost unlimited financial hoax.

In the world of international relations something similar is equally true. But, again, there are basic dictum which are as old, at least, as the European nation-state and apply today as they always have. Many are commonsensical. To be unacquainted with them is to introduce new and additional volatility in an uncertain world.

America’s role Because of its size, its population and continental breadth, and its economy, the U.S. under any conditions would play a major world role — disengaged as well as engaged. But there are important additional nonphysical aspects. The Founders, however conservative their personal backgrounds [with the unresolved problem of black slavery], constructed a new nation on ideology rather than ethnicity, race or language. They believed that they were creating a new and unique beacon of liberty and justice harking back to Greek and Roman institutions as well as a Judeo-Christian ethic.

That, in essence, is “American exceptionalism”. To associate it with such more precise policies as “interventionism” or “isolationism” is to misunderstand completely. All one has to do is hark back to the 1930s debate of America’s world role in which both poles invoked U.S. singularity, whether Midwest agrarian populist isolationists, or East Coast industrial and financial bureaucratic interventionists.

Furthermore, it might not make much difference whether the concept is valid.the fact that it has been accepted as a part of American foreign policy for more than 200 years – however much hypocrisy one might charge – makes it is an important part of any discussion. Perhaps that is why Pres. Barrack Obama had to make the sharpest possible break with his earlier [presumably] offhanded remark in Europe denigrating the whole concept. But he did so now “with every fiber of my being. ” – indeed a turnabout!

America’s tools The most important if the most nebulous of tools in making foreign policy is the prestige of the United States abroad.[So-called opinion surveys, especially those in countries with widespread illiteracy are ridiculous.] More than half a century of overwhelming domination of the world scene, especially the two decades since the implosion of the Soviet Union, have contributed to an overestimate, if anything, of the U.S.’ power and ability to solve problems.

But there is a general talking heads consensus that belief has eroded significantly for whatever reason – policies of the current Administration or the accumulation of debris from two indecisive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a welter of unidentified “mistakes” to which Obama has continually referred. That may be true, but that also depends on the strength of American prestige at its zenith, if, indeed, that point is behind us. My own reading from conversations with informed foreign friends at home and abroad is that the belief in American omnipotence, for better or for worse, is alive and well.

If I am correct, then American power arises in no small part from Harvard University’s political scientist and former government official Joseph Nye has called “soft power”. Americans who have not traveled abroad or those who have accepted internationalization of U.S. fashions as the norm are often unaware of how that influence permeates foreign cultures. However, some of the clichéd ideas concerning American influence are equally irrelevant; e.g., the idea that a U.S. education automatically makes a returned foreigner sympathetic to Washington policy. [Some of the most virulently anti-American politicians abroad have been – and continue to be – products of at least a partial American education, a tribute perhaps to our tolerant institutions.]

In the best of all worlds formal U.S. diplomacy would exploit these cultural levers. That is rarely the case. The massive efforts of American propaganda, for example, that accompanied The Cold War have been largely abandoned. Just as it demoralized a more efficient consular service, incorporation of United States Information Service by State has been a disaster. Libraries which once were the most important U.S. cultural activity [aside from American movies] in backward countries have disappeared without an organized digital replacement.

Less difficult to define, of course, are four other major instruments in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations: formal diplomacy, economic warfare, the U.S. military and clandestine espionage and “special” operations.

Unfortunately, over the years, U.S. diplomacy has taken on more and more the attributes of its traditional European model. As it has done so, for the most part, American embassies abroad deal with their counterparts in a bubble to the exclusion of any attempt to cultivate a wider public. [In many countries, with authoritarian governments, of course, this may not be a choice.]

Worse still, U.S. diplomats suffer from what the French call déformation professionelle – if you are a lawyer, your first instinct is to litigate, if you are a surgeon, you instinctively want to cut, etc. And if you ae a diplomat, you first seek to negotiate. But since a successful diplomatic outcome requires compromise, what do you do when your opponent refuses to budge? You  extend unilateral  concessions  to achieve “success”, including abandoning prematurely “the military option”.

Much is made of the fact that U.S. military expenditures are more than the sum of most other major military powers. The argument is fallacious. Unfortunately, our European NATO allies have cut back their military expenditures, too often already eaten away by non-fighting bureaucracies. Or, for example, the French in their desperate pursuit of a policing francophone Africa have had to rely on U.S. transport.

In a sense that the one and only time NATO’s famous Article 5 has been invoked in Afghanistan is unfotunate– answering the 9/11 attack on the U.S. that required all partners to come to a member’s aid.  For the intervention in an siolated pre-industrial soceity was always destined to be inconclusive otherthan t eliminate the immediate source of violence against America’s heartland.

Ironically, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine may have restored some relevance of that concept, for the Europeans if not for a war weary American public.

All that notwithstanding, the mere threat to use U.S. military in a given crisis – what the geopoliticians call “strategic ambiguity” – is perhaps American policymakers’ most potent weapon. A generally quiet if dramatic example has been the guarantees to Taiwan which permitted development of the first democratic and prosperous society in Chinese history. [However, recent Washington foot-dragging on arms and accomodation of the current Taipei government for economic collaboration with the Mainland may have put it in jeopardy.] Were the Chinese Communist to have bases on Taiwan, it would be a game-changer in the increasingly delicate Northeast Asian powder keg with a rapidly accelerating North Korean drive for WSM and an. aggressive Beijing posture.

To name specific conditions and dates when American military power is to be used [or withdrawn] is perhaps the greatest weakness of the current Administration’s foreign strategies. It prepares the ground for the opponent’s counterstrategy. Even worse is to rattle the cage of a potential opponent – whether Pres. Obama with an announced on-and-off “limited blow”, as against the bloody Syrian regime or Defense Sec. Chuck:Hagel’s latest provocative public denunciation of Chinese adventurism while at the same time cutting back military budgets.

Waging the U.S.’ economic weapon is also a mixed bag. International trade has increasingly become a larger part of the U.S. gross national product, producing jobs as well as profits. And because since 1985 there is more foreign investment in America than U.S. equity abroad, the Treasury has had to trim its use as an instrument of foreign policy. A tax structure which has U.S.-based multinationals holdings in the tens of billions in profits stashed overseas also weighs heavily.

Still, Americaneconomic sanctions – especially when they are applied to third parties – can be crippling as Tehran found out before the Obama Administration loosen the bolts as incentive for a hoped for negotiated settlement..

Clandestine American operations abroad are part and parcel of any effective foreign policy. But certain conventions, however false, have to be adhered to. Yes, everyone knows Washington is listening to their mail but to tell the world as Edward Snowden and his pal Glenn Greenwald did is not only to prejudice important sources of information but to raise doubts for those who would want secretly to collaborate with the U.S., including foreign intelligence organizations. It is no secret that because of its superior facilities, Washington quietly has sometimes done “favors” for those allies.

For the White House [it says] to accidentally reveal the name of a station chief is inconceivable; not that in virtually any country there has always been unacknowledged cognizance generally of who he was. [Our old joke was that he could always be identified because he collected “art”, had a wife named “Magda”, and stacked all Praeger’s books in his shelves – and wore U.S. Navy officer shoes.]

Perhaps the most important and incalculable element in the search for an effective foreign policy is political will. When presidential candidate Barrack Obama — whose team showed incredible smarts at manipulating the media so it seems hardly an accident — prominently carried a copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World so it could be photographed, friends and enemies got an unmistakable  signal.

Defensive backpedaling, even in front of an audience as important as West Point’s graduation class, will not be enough to avoid new crises through miscalculations, the kind which have brought on most wars. Nor must a policymaker wallow in what used to be called “mirror imaging” – assuming your opponent’s motivations are yours.

After the longest war in U.S. history, Obama is unilaterally calling an end to violence in Afghanistan – and, in fact, to “the war on terror”. Is he so certain a sprinkling of Al Qaeda splinters of increasing sophistication in a half dozen other countries – including their recruiting some of our native-bred — will do the same?

sws-06-01-14