Category Archives: Turkey

What to do about Turkey?


Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
Biden is seen as trying to make a new bargain with Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the past few months, Erdogan has accelerated his accumulation of power through the usual machinations of a popular leader but with authoritarian tendencies, shucking elements of Turkey’s secular constitution. The recent failed military coup – apparently by the last remnants of the secularists who through military dominance have been the guardians of an effort to maintain the non-Islamic state – has been an excuse for increased repression and rampant anti-American propaganda.
The fear is that Erdogan is now turning his back on almost a hundred years when the country tried to move to a modern state with top-down Westernization. The abandonment of the state capitalist role for liberalization of the economy over the last decade had delivered unprecedented growth and prosperity. But that boom has ended, in part another victim of the worldwide economic slowdown.
Turkey had always been a model for other Moslem governments trying fitfully to break away from traditional Islam which combines government with religion. That struggle goes on among the 1.3 billion people in the Arab-Moslem world – from Morocco to Indonesia. And while no adequate response has yet surfaced, Turkey had been perceived to have made the transition. That now appears dubious at best.
But once again, the world is in one of those periods when 1500-year-old concepts of Arab-Moslem conquest and forced conversion has been part of the religion’s creed. That many, perhaps most, Moslems would ignore this concept is not enough to block a determined, fanatical minority from jihad – propounding the duty of a Muslim to maintain and spread his religion by whatever means.
Erdogan has played a clever game. He has managed, despite the bitter rejection by many outspoken European Union officials, to continue the hope of Turkish adherence to the Bloc. His flirtation with the Islamists — with such moves as reestablishing the death penalty — has now, however, vitiated that prospect.
He blackmailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for free movement of Turkish nationals within the EU, swapped for Ankara stemming the flow of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into Western Europe. But Merkel’s original welcome resulting in more than a million migrants entering her country last year is increasingly producing a backlash. Integrating newcomers with completely different cultural values has failed spectacularly, demonstrated in highly publicized crimes including rape.
Unlike the Europeans, Biden has the luxury of negotiating from a stronger hand, unlike the Europeans’ proximity and increasing problem of their growing largely unassimilated Moslem minorities. He can exploit Erdogan’s wildly fluctuating foreign policy which has failed in establishing a neo-Ottoman regime building on its once imperial presence in the region. A flirtation with Moscow – which supplies half its energy thereby running a huge trade deficit — is a feint aimed at Washington and its European allies. But just as they find themselves on different sides in the Syrian civil war, Erdogan cannot ignore Moscow’s threatening attempt to reinstall the Soviet role in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Biden has to come home with something. One trophy would be at least promises for Turkey to tighten its borders, stop permitting aid to flow to the Muslim terrorists, and promising a more active Turkish collaboration in fighting Daesh [ISIS and ISIL], hoping that Erdogan recognizes that his Islamicism will not protect him from rising Moslem terrorism. But getting Turkey firmly back into the Western alliance would require stronger leadership of those partners than the Obama Administration can muster.
sws-08-16-16

Shame on us!


The almost total absence of public mourning for an 85-year-old Christian priest whose throat was slit by Islamicist terrorists while he led prayer in a small church in Normandy, France, is a scandal.
Even the French have demonstrated less feeling for this horrendous deed than one would expect from an event which took place in the village which once hosted the trial of Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine and a saint of French Christianity.
There was no moment of silence in the U.S. Democratic Convention, not unexpected given its total avoidance of the worldwide terrorist threat. One could have expected that Pres. Barack Obama, too, would have made a special effort to acknowledge this incident, so gratuitously evil as to be virtually indescribable. But that might be charged to his continuing effort to obscure the terrorist threat by refusing to name its origin in Islam and his elaborate courting of the terrorist mullahs in Tehran.
Searching for the answer to our question is the general concern above all others of the American and European political elites to avoid any hint of criticism or Islam. To be accused of Islamophobia now is an accusation in the Establishment which ranks above all others by the moral standards of those believers in bien pensé Being “politically correct” bans any negative reference to Islam.
Not only is this errant nonsense but it is a continuing impediment to the forceful pursuit of a worldwide campaign to end Islamic terrorism. Moslems, above all, must concede that the terrorists now among us who pledge their loyalty to Islam as a religion must be confronted on that ideological score..As the crude phrase has it, not all Moslems are terrorists, of course. But all terrorists are Moslems.
What is it, indeed, that however twisted in the history and practice of Islam which can be misinterpreted, if you will, into a rational for the kind of killing of innocents that took place in Etienne du Rouvray, in an almost empty church, involving three parishioners, two nuns and a very old priest. Knife-wielding ISIS terrorists interrupted the service and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel and recorded their crime to use to attract new followers.
The truth is that much of the rationale which is constantly mouthed by our leadership about Islam simply is not true. It is not one of the three Abrahamic religions. It is a totalitarian concept which demands total adherence on the part of its believers for whatever its tenets as expressed by its largely uneducated clergy. The test of Greek knowledge which early was applied to Judaism and was a part of early Christianity was rejected almost a thousand years ago by Moslem theorists. The few Moslem voices who oppose Islamic terrorism are nevertheless reluctant to take on the problem of the political movement Islam represents.
Since its founding in the Arabian deserts, Islam has not been a religion of peace is so often stated. It has, in fact, from its origins been spread largely by the sword with the death of “non-believers” and those Moslems who have rejected its principal tenets.
The history of Europe shows how since its founding 1500 years ago, organized Islam – when it has existed – has challenged the political status of the European states. At its high points of strength, it has come near overpowering European armies and putting the West to the sword of forced conversion.
Yes, it is true, that Islam has absorbed – after its initial brutal and primitive organization among the Arabs – some of the rich philosophical background of its conquests such as from the Persians. But it remains, largely, a religion of conquest wherein now reside many, perhaps a majority, of supposed adherents who reject this concept. But it is also true that often through intimidation and intellectual confusion this vast majority refuses or fears to publicly oppose its ignominious concepts.
Until this problem of the fundamental relationship between Western societies and the peaceful Buddhist societies of Asia is addressed, there is no hope of defeating the continuing worldwide terrorist threat.
sws-07-30-16

Obama, you are there, nicht wahr?


Angela Merkel, Germany’s long-lifed chancellor, is noted for her Teutonic precision in public statements. So one cannot ignore her remarks after meeting Pres. Barack Obama on his present loop around the Europe. Over and over, she repeated the importance of the U.S. participation in Alliance strategies. The meaning might have been charged off to the ordinary polemics, except that the tone had a new quality. Merkel seemed to be ending each such assertion with an unspoken “that’s right, isn’t it?”
The German chancellor perhaps was hoping against hope that Obama assertion of American withdrawal from old leadership commitments to postwar Europe wasn’t true. If so, she was not only disappointed. For in an unusual public display of disagreement over policy, the two outlined their basic disagreement over Syria with its inundation of migrants and refugees for Europe.
Merkel, increasingly exposed to bitter opposition after continuing difficulties getting the rest of Europe to bear its share of the burden, is facing a crisis over the inflow. More than a million migrants invaded Germany last year, not only Syrians but other Mideasterners and Africans anxious to taste the fruits of the European welfare state.
Merkel has been trying to close the door she so righteously opened to all and sundry – a policy seen as a reflection in part of the guilt for the Nazis’ race policies. The business community at first welcomed the new labor recruits with a general German consensus. But as the numbers have increased, with the prospect of a continued flow, and the difficulties and cost of settling the newcomers, more and more Germans are questioning the policy.
But Merkel’s implied question was for a much larger question. In effect, she was asking how far Obama’s withdrawal of American leadership will go, and inferentially, whether another president in 2017 will continue that strategy. That Obama contradicted his own policy was probably irrelevant. He had, for example, taken a heavy hand in Britain arguing against Brexit, the U.K. pulling out of the European Union. But he offered nothing to amend his own erosion of Britain’s historic “special relationship” with the Americans. [British politicians, too, were quietly shaking their heads over the former university lecturer’s confusing the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with that of the European Union.]
Through smiles and reaffirmation of agreement, the division of Germany and the U.S. over Syria was laid out unusually forthrightly. Merkel has repeatedly called, and she did so again in this meeting, for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria. The theory is that Syrian “moderates” would herd refugees into areas protected through military intervention, if necessary, by the Western powers. Obama has continually and emphatically rejected this strategy, even when it was proposed by American critics of his Mideast policy. That’s despite he was simultaneously announcing another increment in the renewed U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Instead, Obama put the emphasis on Sec. of State John Kerry’s conference for a negotiated political settlement. That, of course, runs up against the hard reality that the civil war in Syria centers on the continuance in office of Basher al-Assad and his bloody regime. One of Obama’s “red lines” once called for Assad’s immediate departure, but like his other “red lines, it has now been eroded into a compromise for Assad to remain through a transition period. Most observers give Kerry’s conference little hope of success. And Merkel and her supporters argue that until the moderates can claim a bit of territory, they have no real voice. And, of course, there is the problem of the continuing flow to an overwhelmed Germany and Europe. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is blackmailing Berlin with the threat that he will renege on his pact to curb illegal migration to Europe if Brussels blocks his request for visa-free EU entry for his 78 million Turks.
All of this to say that Obama’s planned retreat from what he saw as overextended American commitments to leadership abroad is leaving no end of doubts and chaos in its wake.
sws-04-24-16

Turkey’s thuggish regime


The descent of Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration into a brutish tyranny is rapidly becoming a problem which The White House will have to face. That the Washington Brookings Institution almost canceled Erdoğan’s speech after his security detail manhandled American and Turkish reporters is illustrative of what has been happening in Turkey for months.
Now the London-based Amnesty International documents Erdoğan’s expulsion of refugees back into Syria – including unaccompanied small children – among the degeneration of Ankara policies. Obviously this violates Erdoğan’s blackmail of the Western European powers to halt the flight of refugees to Greece in exchange for massive payments to bolster a flagging Turkish economy. Some 2.7 million migrants have reached Europe since the Syrian conflict began; another 151,104 crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece this year alone while 366 drowned trying. Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency warned that Greece’s overburdened asylum system is close to a collapse, further adding to its continuing economic crisis.

Turkish and EU leaders in March agreed on a deal curbing the influx that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. And the Turks are hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. But the new agreement with the Europeans, principally Germany, is supposed to allow one legitimate Syrian refugee to migrate to Europe in exchange for every migrant [not necessarily a true refugee] Ankara takes back. This all will cost the Europeans $3.3 billion, ostensibly to pay Ankara’s costs. Germany has already said it will take the first Syrian refugees with children in this strangest of new developments.
Whatever the outcome of the refugee pact, however, what has to concern Washington policymakers is Erdoğan’s internal policies and his relationship with his terrorists in the region. He has turned his back on his earlier effort to negotiate the decades-long insurgency, resulting from Ankara’s refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its huge Kurdish minority. That’s doubly complicated by the fact that Ankara is waging a campaign against the Kurds inside Syria who are Washington’s only successful weapon against the Basher Al Assad government, ostensibly as much a target for the Turks as the U.S. and its allies.
Pres. Obama in the early days of his administration sought to ignore Erdoğan’s Islamicist past; the President even saying he was one of the few foreign leaders with whom he had intimate relations. The relationship has soured with Erdoğan following increasingly Islamicist policies at home and playing footsie with both Hamas and Hezbollah, both on Washington’s terrorist list and Israel’s mortal enemies.
When Erdoğan turned up for an international meeting in Washington last week, the White House first refused to see him shuffling him off to Vice Pres. Joe Biden as a diplomatic snub. But then, in typical Obama fashion, the President accorded him a private session on the edges of the international meeting on nuclear proliferation.
There’s little hope Sec. of State John Kerry’s international peace conference on Syria is going to make much progress soon. Germany’s idea of swapping open access to Turkey’s 75 million people by dangling eventual EU membership doesn’t yet seem likely to produce better policy in Ankara. As an important NATO power, with that treaty’s importance again growing with renewed Moscow aggression [despite candidate Donald Trump’s warped understanding of international affairs], finding a U.S. strategy to handle Erdoğan and his critical role in the Mideast chaos is dire.
sws-04-04-16

Moslems, Islamists, Terrorists and Islam


 

The time has come, and indeed, has long passed for a frank and open discussion of the growing confrontation between the Western democracies and the Moslem world.

Were there no other issue than the fact that there are some 1.3 billion world inhabitants who consider themselves Moslem, whatever their differences, the issue is moot. Now the combination of the continuing chaos in the Arab and Moslem world and the massive Moslem migration into the formerly non-Islamic societies requires it.

It perhaps goes without saying that the issues are complex and fraught.

Islam, despite its hundreds of millions of peaceful adherents, has never been a “religion of peace” as so many contemporary politicians espouse, including Pres. George W. Bush. From its very origins, Islam – a political as well as a religious movement – has confronted the Judeo-Christian West, more often than not relying on its sword to settle ensuing arguments It is equally false, as Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly said, that Islam has played a great role in the development of the American ethic; indeed, the opposite is true when the first U.S. armed conflict abroad was a war against pirates espousing the Islamic cause on “The Barbary Coast” of North Africa.

In the current explosion of old arguments, Moslems are far more likely – given their inferior military and other effects of stable government – to seek other means than military to win arguments and concessions. In fact, the most powerful transnational organization in the Islamic world today is the Moslem Brotherhood whose origins lie in a strategy of using such Western institutions as representative government to gain influence, power. However, as the brief regime of Egypt’s Pres. Mohammed Morsi proved, the Brotherhood concept is “one man, one vote, one time”.

The cliché that Islam is an “Abrahamic” religion thereby sharing the concepts of Christianity and Judaism today toward the two other beliefs is false. Yes, Islam does borrow from the Jewish and Christian legends but it has never met the test and modifications of the Jews through 19th Century Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the Christian Reformation and the Counter-Reformations. Ironically, the highly influential 12th century Spanish Moslem philosopher Averroes [Ibn Rushd] contributed mightily to the origins of modern syncretic Christianity, but Islam lost the 12th century debate to the fundamentalists from which it has never recovered.

Toleration of all religions is a foundation of modern democratic society. In countries today where Moslems are in the majority, such tolerance is next to zero. Even Pakistan, with its enormous inheritance of British Indian law and pluralism, restricts Christian practice, and there is almost monthly violence – often deadly — against “nonbelievers”. The concept that, sharii, the great and ambiguous body of Islamic law, could have precedence over the American Constitution is unacceptable.

How, then, is the West to respond to these new demands of Moslems as individuals and sometimes as organized entities to participate in the power structures of the nation states created even in Afro-Asia by the European world?

The only response is that Moslems and their faith must meet the requirements of modern tolerant and pluralistic democracy in the same way as other religions and philosophies. The current tendency to accommodate Moslems and Islam through special courtesies is mistaken and can only lead to disaster. This is true not only in legal and political terms but also in the world of culture. When Simon & Schuster create a new imprint called Salaam Reads targeted to young Moslem adults, it is a misplaced effort. The publisher says it is to help integrate these new arrivals into our culture. But Simon & Schuster do not have Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist subsidiaries. And they are abandoning the essence of the American concept that the U.S. was created as a place that welcomes immigrants from all over the world precisely so they can have the freedom to believe what they wish live unbound by birth or class or government restriction – or incentive.

Nor can the great bulk of Moslems be excused from facing the cold fact that Islam, however falsely, is the foundation on which the contemporary world’s greatest threat to peace and security arises. They, above others, must be able to discuss openly and honestly why this is the case, and what concepts remain still unpurged from Islamic belief that give rise to these attacks on the civilized world.

Open covenants openly arrived at was not just a cliché which Woodrow Wilson hoped would be the foundation of the peace after World War I, but is as appropriately applied today to the problem of Islam and Islamic terrorism. Ignoring or obfuscating the problem of Islam in the 21st Century is as much a threat to world peace and stability as the acts of terror themselves.

sws-01-27-16

 

 

 

 

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

 

The new old sick man of Europe


For a century European politics was dogged with “the sick man of Europe”: the collapsing Ottoman Empire and its implications for the major powers. That’s not the case now, of course. Multi-ethnic empires are a thing of the past, their death rattle came with the Soviet Union’s implosion. But policies of the Ottomans’ successors, the Turkish Republic, are sucking the Europeans further into the Middle East’s swamp.

The recent downing of a Russian aircraft darting in and out of Turkish territory has dramatized a situation everyone knew but few – most of all the Obama Administration – wanted to face. After a spectacular leap forward with liberalization of its economy, Turkey now faces both external and internal threats including economic stagnation. Ankara’s woes pose additional problems for the European Union, wrestling with obstacles in what was thought to be the inevitable economic and hence political continental integration.

From its outset the Obama Administration had courted Turkish Pres.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, believing him the model for a modernizing Muslim world. As a popular mayor of cosmopolitan Istambul, he supposedly represented “moderate Islam”. Obama had reached out, apologizing for what he perceived as a history of American foreign misadventure, making him one of his principle foreign contacts.

But oncein national leadership Erdoğan has moved toward authoritarianism, flirted with Islamicists, and in lost control of his southeast border with chaotic Syria. He has looked away as body traffickers have used Turkey as a base for flooding Greece and Europe with destitute migrants, alternately moving recruits to Daesh and other Islamic terrorists, and fed them by permitting black market oil trafficking, some of it apparently close to his family.

With his hold on majority parliamentary power in jeopardy, Erdoğan deliberately created an atmosphere of insecurity. He abandoned peace efforts with his huge Kurdish minority, further complicating the the U.S. and the Persian Gulf Arabs’ efforts to use the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as their most effective local force against Daesh [ISIS or ISUIL]. The Europeans have just forked over $3.2 billion to finance Turkish refugee camps. But neither party believes this will staunch the migrant flow, much less as promised, be a new beginning for negotiations for Turkey’s European Union membership. The latter seems now increasingly unlikely, not the least with concern growing over Muslim minorities in Europe growing.

Erdoğan has restarted the Turks’ centuries-old feud with Moscow, ignoring a growing and extremely profitable bilateral commerce. As the plane incident proved, the Russian presence in Syria — supporting Erdoğan’s one-time friend but now bitter enemy Damascus’ Basher al-Assad – adds to the threat to peace.

Obama, meanwhile, has new promises that Turkey will close its Syrian border with the help of American forces. That commitment, too, seems less than realistic with Washington only reluctantly dribbling ground forces into the region to support an anemic bombing campaign. If Erdoğan uses his victory in the November 1 election to continue to pursue recent policies, it will add to the deteriorating Mideast situation.

It’s incumbent now for the Obama Administration using Turkey’s NATO alliance membership – seen as it ultimate defense against Russia – to pull up its socks. Ankara’s fulfillment of promises to police its Syrian border are essential to any American effort which Sec. John Kerry has been leading in Vienna talks to find a political solution to the Syrian catastrophe. Cooling the Syrian confrontation, in turn, is essential in avoiding a general breakdown and an even more general war. We can only hope that the Obama Administration will move more quickly out of its posture of “leading from behind” to get a handle on the situation.

sws-12-03-15  

 

 

Paris II


Events of the past few days have confirmed our suspicion that the war effort against the Islamic terrorists by the Obama Administration and its Western allies has been dawdling at best.

That the French were able to immediately identify an area where other terrorists were holed up after the bloody six-point massacre that presumably had come as a surprise indicate their intelligence was good but their policy implementation was limping.

That U.S. planes finally took on the fleet of oiltank trucks that have been moving petroleum for Daesh [ISI or ISIL] to black markets and funding their barbarism showed equally how irresolute has been our bombing campaign.

It is hard to imagine that either of these actions could not have been taken earlier with their devastating impact on the enemy. Yes, France had to strengthen its abilities to go after the enemy with emergency decrees, now to be followed up with legislation. But draconian French laws of arrest and prosecution, compared to those in the U.S., are well known and certainly could have been used earlier.

Satellite photo reconnaissance as well as drone activity must have shown The Pentagon for the more than a year that the war against Daesh has been underway, where and how oil was being moved to market – with the Turks, by the way, looking the other way as it passes through their territory Why was a strike against these trucking fleets not considered until now? And did the U.S. command prejudice its attack with leaflets alerting drivers, as we are told, to the coming attack?

All of this to say, had it not been self-evident before, that The Obama Administration has not been fighting a war against Daesh, but a reluctant sporting action.

Pres. Obama, indeed, is still insistent that he has a strategy, that it is a longterm one to “degrade and destroy” Daesh. But as Daesh now turns it emphasis to attacks outside the Middle East against targets in Europe and perhaps in America as well, that is not only not realistic but is a very dangerous approach to a growing problem of international security and a threat to the U.S.

The Western alliance has forgotten one old and simple fact of life. Nothing succeeds like success, and success for Daesh is the destruction of civilian life through terrorist activity. So long as they continue to make “progress” – that is, to continue to stage terrorist attacks or claim credit for them in the rest of the world from their sanctuary in Syria and Iraq – they will attract adherents. Obviously, and unfortunately, there are enough deranged and disoriented young men and women in the Islamic world to fill their ranks.

That fans at a Turkish soccer match booed and hissed and shouted “Alah Akbar!”, the cry of the jihadists, during a soccer game when a moment of silence for the French victims was called, is one more terrible indication of the tacit support for the terrorists among the Islamic populations. Various opinion polls too, as well as fragments of interviews by Belgian radio, have shown rationalizations for the terrorist if not sympathy among local Moslems there and in France, many of them born and reared in Europe.

The task before the U.S. and its allies is not only the elimination of Daesh and the end of its terrorist activities, but the speed with which the crippling disease among the Moslem populations around the world is dispatched. Daesh has already made tentative alliances with other terrorist groups in Libya, Central Africa and Indonesia. However, tenuous those alliances – and we have the spectacle of various jihadist groups fighting one another in the Syrian Civil War – permitting them to continue to function and spread their propaganda is an international menace which must be dealt with and as soon as possible.

sws-11-1915

 

Turkey: another “Syria”?


Turkey is rapidly catching the Syrian disease – that is, a Mideastern country not only torn apart by internal factions but a playground for contending international forces.
But as an important member of the NATO alliance, Turkey plays a much more critical role in relations between the European Union, the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive Russia.
The analogies with Syria grow stronger even as the outcome is still as murky as the outcome appears there.
In Turkey, too, the “original sin” appears that from his once overwhelmingly popularity, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan developed egomania.
As the very successful mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan once allegedly said “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” His stop seems to be creating an authoritarian state. But his streetcar’s trolley has jumped the wire with the loss of his parliamentary majority in June 2015 elections. And polls indicate he won’t get new majority in elections he has now called for November. With increasing domestic violence, it has become problematical whether they can even be held.
Like Syria’s Basher al Assad, Erdogan has refused to meet his considerable opposition with compromises. The economic boom is staggering. He has virtually abandoned an attempt to join the European Union after his potential Western partners dragged their heels earlier with doubts about whether Turkey met the requirements of free governments.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s foreign policy which was to have only friends in all directions has turned into the exact reverse: he has growing disputes with all his neighbors and the major powers, including the U.S. That’s despite the fact that Pres. Barack Obama once called Erdogan one of a handful of leaders with whom he was on intimate terms.
Proof of the U.S. rift came with the announcement Washington [along with Germany] is withdrawing its Patriot missiles which Erdogan requested when his once highly advertised relations with Syria’s al Assad fell apart. The Pentagon’s official explanation is they need modification. But given Obama’s policies, there is a suggestion it is because Obama didn’t want to be dragged into Turkey’s increasing difficulties on its Syrian border, despite NATO assurances of support.
Washington’s relations with Ankara are also trapped in the Kurdish problem. Erdogan abandoned his efforts to bring the decades-old bloody Kurdish PKK insurgency to an end, in part because of the success of a Kurdish-led party. [The Kurds are at least 20%, maybe a third of Turkey’s 75 million]. But the Kurds inside Syria, whom Erdogan says are linked to his own internal enemies, are Washington’s only effective internal force against Daesh [the purported ISIS or ISIL caliphate]..
When Russian aircraft penetrated Turkey’s space in support of Assad [whose own airforce earlier had wandered in too], Erdogan threatened to cancel a growing economic exchange with Moscow including a giant nuclear power plant and cooperation to transmit Russian gas to Europe through a new pipeline across the Black Sea [which would eliminate Ukraine].
Erdogan abandoned his very profitable military alliance with Israel in a flurry of insults to Israel leaders and sponsorship of Hamas in Gaza whom the rest of the world calls terrorists. His strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood put him at odds with Egypt whose President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is trying to root out after overthrowing a Brotherhood regime.
Heavily dependent on Iran for gas, Erdogan has tiptoed around his growing differences with Tehran. But while he has lined up against the mullahs’ ally in Damascus, there are accusations – that certainly have alarmed Washington and the EU – of less than maximum efforts to cut off aid and recruits flow to Daesh,.
The question now is whether Erdogan will make a radical turn toward reconciliation. If not, there’s growing concern among Turkey’s friends that the country is moving toward growing chaos. A murderous bomb explosion this past week in the capital Ankara could signal that new level internal violence.
sws-10-10-15

Greece: the real question


When the Euro was being proposed and in its early days, some of us had a question: could a common currency be possible within a group of countries all of whom maintained their own individual economic, monetary and fiscal policies?
When we got an answer back, which wasn’t too often, it came in myriad voices.
On one end were those who “promised” us that in some mysterious way this fundamental problem would be solved. At the other end of the spectrum were a few brave if somewhat idealistic souls who advocated the abolition of individual nation states for at least a federal if not a unitary political union for which the common currency would be a handmaiden.
In between, were all the spoken and unspoken solutions, verging from a seemingly commonsense vow that progress toward a commanding central bank and one policy would emerge out of the various European institutions – the bureaucratic European Commission, the nominal multilateral executive, the Council of Ministers and the relatively powerless European Parliament. In addition, this Christmas Tree was decorated with an additional four high-sounding named institutions such as the European Court.
Britain, of course, in the usual pragmatic way of the Anglo-Saxon constitutional process, opted out. It would not and could not abandon sterling, if no longer a challenge to the dollar as a world reserve currency, still served as a handmaiden to The City and the continuing profitable dominance and profitability of London as a leading world currency exchange.
Of course, in what could have easily been predicted would be the new order, each country went its own way. There was even continual conflict between Paris and Berlin, the two central pillars of the new money, with France always flirting with “dirigisme” – central planning – and Germany pretending, at least, to be a full-fledged market economy.
But while the big boys discussed the major issues interminably, the cat was away and the mice, they did play. It was far too easy for Athens [and to an extent Lisbon, Madrid and even Rome, a major EC player] to use their unlimited draw on the common currency to finance lifestyles to which they would like to become accustomed but for which they were either incapable of producing or for which they were unwilling to work hard enough to attain.
True, much of the Greek mess is historical. It has always been easy – with some tjustification — to blame it on the hated Turks’ Ottoman Empire heritage, but now a hundred years away.
Yet no one now speaks above the intense and infinitely complicated negotiations to trim Greece’s exceseses without killing its economy altogether, a game in which Athen’s shrewd if amoral leftwing government pulls the cat’s tail and dares it to take a fatal snap that would destroy the figment of a voluntary association of free nations.
sws-07-06-15

Rebuilding America’s role


The growing clash between the Presidency and the U.S. Senate– including prominent Democrats as well as Republicans—is the opening guns in an effort to restore American world leadership. After the aberration of the Obama renunciation and repudiation of American world dominance, Washington has little choice but to return to its role of world leadership. The growing chaos engendered by the Obama withdrawal is all too apparent.
Spokesmen for the parallel themes of decline and fall of American power are already retreating in the face of the catastrophes brought on in various regions by the willful withdrawal of U.S. power. [Fareed Zakaria, with his “Nationalist” Muslim Indian background so appealing to the Obama camp, whose book The Post-American World {2009} was prominently displayed by a campaigning Barack Hussein Obama, is now making a quiet if unannounced intellectual retreat. However, his hypercritical views of a U.S. past as CNN’s principal guru sets the tone for its worldwide coverage, in a sense ranged against the beneficent general influence of such international media conglomerations which form such an integral part of American “soft power.”]
Anticipating such a development, the return of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy, must include an analysis of a series of world strategic developments, some anticipated and others growing out of largely unanticipated changing conditions. But the obvious concern over arming the Iranian mullahs, leaders of world terrorism, with nuclear weapons becomes the totem of the emergence for a new American strategy.
The transformation to a new more sophisticated role from the long and costly Cold War had already been anticipated but effort to meet it was interrupted even before it could begin by the dramatic events of 9/11. Then there was the miasma of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fought inconclusively at Washington’s choice as much as by conditions on the ground. All this has been followed by whatever lasting effects the Obama interregnum– still to be evaluated as it winds down in these last two years—will add to the additional challenge.
But there is plenty of evidence everywhere that the vacuum created by a supposed lead from behind U.S. role over the last six years has led to near chaos in many regions of the world. And neither the increasingly benign attitudes of the Europeans nor the overestimated power developments in China and India would substitute for the application of U.S. power and strategic calculation to maintain world peace and stability. Nor, the Obama Administration’s hopes and efforts notwithstanding, can the corrupt and bloated UN bureaucracy be a substitute as world government.
For those still unknown leaders who will have to reformulate American leadership in the relatively near future, the task is as large as it is at the moment indefinable.
For one thing, there is every expectation now that a new, cardinal enemy has presented itself: Islamic terrorism. But unlike the Soviet threat, it may well not be targeted in a single capital, and in fact, may present different levels of threat in different parts of the world– not excluding domestic terrorist operations in the U.S. itself.
But the initial victories of the terrorists—to what extent aided and indeed abetted by the Obama Administration’s policies history will have to determine—is going to accelerate as is always the case with a ruthless new force in the world. That will be a scene including the allegiance of young recruits. They lend the Islamic terrorists a powerful if uncontrollable weapon against the West generally and especially Europe, in particular. Its very existence, however, the so-called lone wolf terrorist, will pose a particular and peculiar new problem for American strategists as well.
At the same time, Vladimir Putin’s old-style 19th century aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and his feints against the Baltic States mean that the promise of the Soviet collapse was not fulfilled. True, there is no longer a centrally directed world Communist movement with its constituent states—some of them formidable such as East Germany. But a “normal country: has not taken the place of the old Soviet empire. Moscow can and does in the face of a disunited Europe and with its nuclear arsenal present a continuing major challenge to American policymakers. [Ironically, the attempt, still in its early stages, of Putin to rebuild Russian conventional arms and its military industrial base could reduce the threat of a Moscow fallback on nuclear weapons in any unforeseen crisis.]
The remarkably effective North Atlantic Treaty Organization which played such a pivotal role in the defeat of the Soviet threat is now up for grabs, ironically having survived its critical test—at least nominally– by its commitment to routing out al Qaeda in Afghanistan post-9/11. It thus fulfilled the commitment of an attack on one as an attack on all but may have been the final flowering of a brilliant strategic concept.
The continuing irresolution in Western Europe—with falling military budgets and hesitation in the face of Putin’s challenge—presents Washington with a new strategic environment. Nowhere is it more demonstrable than in the case of Turkey, the geographically critical NATO ally on whom the alliance also had depended for its large human reserves. Ankara leadership flirts with the Islamicists and purchases Chinese weaponry while at the same time demanding NATO support for its defense on its fragile Syrian-Arab border. [One could make the case, of course, that for much of its life, France played a similar divisive role inside NATO with its flirtation with the Soviets and nominal withdrawal of its forces from NATO command. Yet there was never any doubt of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s dedication to a Europe independent of Soviet control, whatever its relationship to the U.S. At the moment, Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not give an equal assurance of his opposition to the Islamicists.]
China, with its ambitions to redress twohundred years of colonial subjugation, is an unknown quantity. The remarkable economic progress, earned through an open door for foreign capital and technology, is nevertheless fragile. Its collapse could produce total disorder in China and now would have a huge effect on the world economy.
The reconstruction of American post-Obama leadership will have to take place on three different levels. The continued maintenance and rapid technological progress of weaponry, which may have slowed during the Obama years, will have to be restored. Given the level of American military technical sophistication and its worldwide leadership that may be the least difficult of the new challenges, working with dual purpose activities throughout the economy.
More critical and difficult will be the apportionment of resources to the various elements of the worldwide threats to peace and security. Traditional military balances, as with a possibly resurgent Russia, will have to be juxtaposed against the growing threat of Islamic terrorism. Despite optimistic predictions in many quarters – not the least among the Obama Islam experts with their generally minimal view of terrorism [including a woeful effort to avoid conflict with the greater Islam by identifying the problem directly] –the threat of Islamic terrorism may take on aspects of the Cold War. The very fact that the threat is so diverse and at different levels of violence will make for more difficult formulation of counter strategies.
One important asset in the American effort will be the use of “soft power”, often applied to the world scene even without Washington orchestration. The dominant cultural role of the U.S.—often underestimated if sometimes at odds with Washington policy—is so great that its effect and implications are often underestimated in any effort to achieve the worldwide geopolitical balance. At the moment, for example, the Chinese Communist leadership is waging a bitter if nebulous campaign against the employment by Chinese intellectuals and state institutions of Western [read American] methodology in studying, analyzing and finding solutions to political, economic and social problems. That sort of intractable U.S. influence, while often not an instrument guided by American policy, will be critical in the restoration of Washington’s worldwide leadership.
Perhaps the greatest handicap to the resumption of the U.S.’ world role will come—as it so often has in the past—from the competition of unresolved domestic issues. Ironically, the heritage of American racial conflict and discrimination has received a fillip from the Obama years with the U.S.’ first black president’s narrow effort to exploit rather than heal outbreaks of racial tension. Growing income inequality, as a political rather than an economic problem for U.S. society, appears to be rearing on the American domestic scene for the first in the 200-year history of the Republic.
The accidents of the American domestic political scene may or may not throw up leadership capable of meeting these challengers or at least striking a balance between them as the U.S. almost inevitably reassumes its world leadership role.
sws-03-9-15

Obama is cool


No, I do not wake up in the morning with that question foremost on my mind. But rarely does a day pass without my putting the question to myself: Why does President Barak Hussein Obama still command the support of half the electorate?
Of course, one immediate response could be that the polls – given that they are largely in the hands of the Liberal Establishment who form the base of his support – may just not be accurate. But they are so consistent, sometimes reflecting a little downward movement in moments of particular crisis, that one pretty much has to accept that is the judgment to half the population which thinks at all politically, that is, that he is doing an adequate job after six years in training.
One might well ask in riposte: Why is it important given that the President is now a lame duck with only two years to go in office and facing Republican majorities in both houses of the Congress? Theoretically, his ability to govern is going to be limited.
The answer is, of course, were his popular following not so large, one might hope that he would be forced into taking a more conciliatory approach to opposition leaders – including some in his own party. That, rather than his confrontational style in full display in the state of the union message – how many times does he have to remind us he has veto power? – is further evidence that legislative progress will be negligible in finding solutions to the nation’s woes [in the narrow sense that is at all possible].
The state of the union message, while delivered with his usual rhetorical brilliance, was a tissue of half truths at best. [On domestic issues and the headlines on foreign crises obfuscation is the least one can use in describing them.] And one has to assume that many if not most of his audience outside the Congress, however apolitical, knows that from personal experience.
For example, his claim of lower unemployment is a statistical anomaly since in fact so many disappointed job seekers have withdrawn from the labor market, that participation has been trending down and is now at only 62.7%. I doubt that most people have to be told of that state of affair, especially the working poor, hit hard not only by the cyclical unemployment – the slowest recovery since World War II – but also by growing structural unemployment brought on the digital revolution.
The President’s claim that the war on terror and the advance of Islamic terrorism – both of which he refuses to name — has been blunted is equally and obviously absurd. He was lucky in that the victory he touted in Yemen only in September was overtured hours after his speech by pro-Iranian forces.
Now, apparently, we have to hope that a tussle between them and their ostensible Sunni opponents, al Qaida of the Arabian Peninsular – also Yemen based – will fight it out in near chaos. [Don’t bet on it! Sunni Hamas, offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, has nevertheless taken Iranian weapons on the Israeli and Egyptian doorstep.]
It’s no secret to military observers that whether or not the airwar against ISIL [the Islamic State]which has taken over huge tracts of Syria [their headquarters where we do not bomb] and Iraq has been feeble compared to any such campaign historically. [Perhaps the Administration’s decision to now refer to the Islamic Sate as Daesh, its Arabic acronym will help?]
In any case, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a member of NATO, is being forced to admit that reinforcements – including candidates for training for a return to their native countries as “lone wolf” terrorists – are passing through its border with Syria along with logistics for, uh, Daesh. It was only months ago that Obama was in constant communication with Erdoğan as his announced favorite among all foreign leaders.
Almost as the President spoke, Russia’s Vladimir Putin was flaunting additional aid to the rebels trying to tear off another chunk of Ukraine. Russian propaganda aimed at the Russian ethnic populations of the Baltic states hints at a showdown there. As members of NATO, they already face Moscow’s provocations. It could put NATO’s “one for one and all for one” essence on the table as it has not been since.our allies joined us [f hardly enthusiastically] in Afghanistan after 0/11 to root out al Qaida.
Again, the average American voter – however sophisticated – can not be expected to know these details, or indeed, given the current economic situation be intent on studying them. Besides, he reads or listens to a kept media which, by and large, ignores them or muddies the waters as well. [Although one has to note that even Tom Friedman, one of the Administration’s favorites as spokesmen for the always apologetic New York Times got off the reservation, at least temporarily, to criticize the Administration’s continued refusal to associate “Islam” with the terrorists.]
But that would be to deny the common sense of the American audience. The financial records being broken by the Hollywood film, “American Sniper”, despite vicious attacks on it by the usual leftwing and anti-military suspects in Hollywood itself and beyond, suggests that public still has its bearings. A film [I haven’t seen it] which apparently illustrates the horrors of war as much as the bravery and dedication of one soldier as an example of the incredibly overtaxed and professional American military is getting a vote of confidence.
So back to our question? Where does the President’s support come from?
I am afraid I have a hypothesis which suggests some very ugly things about the current American scene, not the least of our self-appointed political, academic and artistic elite.
My old friend, Mike Macht [where are you now, Mike?] had only a half joking hypothesis about the growing chaos and discrepancies of the post-World War II world, especially after the halcyon 1950s. Mike argued that since the Victorian Era, there had been a worldwide deterioration of style. And that explained more than many more dialectical analysis what was going wrong in the world. Hitler, was, indeed, among so many other things, uncouth.
The joke has come back to me as I have watched the chief executive of the United States chewing gum at a meeting of Asian leaders. Or there was – posed? – the photograph of the leg and foot on the hallowed Oval Office desk. Or there was the video of a giggling selfie production at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, a worldwide honored figure.
An absence of style?
Yes, for us old fuddy-duddies, perhaps. But much of this, apparently, is considered not only appropriate but welcomed to a generation of younger Americans who look like they are at the beach when shopping at Walmart’s. Carefully contrived crude “throw away” lines in a prepared speech which ignore the November elections seem to fold into the pattern. And so does conversation – in the rarer and rarer instances when it replaces “texting” – in which “like” or “you know” in every other sentence has replaced articulation of arguments.
The New Oxford Dictionary tells me that the adjective that describes such people and such action is now “cool”. An example? According to the OED: “if people want to freak out at our clubs, that’s cool”.
I suspect that the same people who voted for the first Afro-American president twice, in no small part to assuage their hidden racism or their guilt for living in all-white upper class suburban neighborhoods, are attracted by a president who is, whatever else, “cool”.
sws-01-25-15

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

Strategy, any one?


 

“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”

In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:

Domestic

Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html   Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.

Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.

Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:

 

  • Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
  • Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
  • Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
  • Asking  Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
  • Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
  • Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.

To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]

Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.

Mideast

            Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.

“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.

Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.

Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.

Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.

Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up  Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.

Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.

“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.

Europe

Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.

Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.

Establish a NATO base in Estonia.

Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].

See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.

Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.

East & South Asia

Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.

Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.

Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.

Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.

Latin America

Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.

Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.

Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.

Africa

Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.

If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.

But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.

sws-09-07-14

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

The “New” Middle East


As usual, there are more questions than answers about the current Middle East situation. And, for that matter, there is difficulty following the gyrations of Obama Administration policy.

But there is growing evidence a defiant Israel, stoic in the face of Hamas’ ability to exploit the misery of its own making for Gaza’s 1.8 million and growing pressure from the Obama Administration for an indecisive ceasefire. Jerusalem appears dedicated to the destruction of the most dynamic terrorist organization in the Mideast. Successful demilitarization of Gaza would not only remake the Israel-Palestine relationship but could be the world’s first conclusive victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. In a rapidly evolving situation, not only changing conditions but loyalties and alliances is breathtaking.

Here are some basic considerations:

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset with the typical domestic Israeli ideological in-fighting, from peace advocates on the left to proponents of reoccupation of Gaza on the right. But he rides a wellspring of domestic support, despite heavy casualties, for refusing a temporary compromise with Hamas such as those in 2008, 2009 and 20012 . Furthermore, what is seen now as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004-5 unilateral Gaza withdrawal and destruction of its four Israeli Settlements has further discredited “land for peace” – that is abandoning 1967 conquests of the locales of the historic Hebrew kingdoms for a “two state solution”. But the Israeli public is still absorbing the evidence of a major intelligence failure in underestimating Hamas’ capacities with its sophisticated tunneling operations. That surge of suicide bombing, mayhem and kidnapping was planned for September 2014 Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year]—to take advantage of a Jewish holiday, an echo of the Arab surprise of the 1973 Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] War. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Jerusalem with the tacit concurrence of Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Mohammed Abbas’ Fatah movement, will have the stomach for completing of Hamas decimation.

Iran

Destruction of Hamas would be a severe blow to Tehran’s mullahs, who have used it as a further diversion from demands by the U.S., Israel and other American allies to halt the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was not only that Hamas represents part of the strategic pincers in the south with Iranian supported Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north against any Israeli attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapon potential. But the ability of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to jump the deadly 1600-year-old sectarian divide to support Hamas as a product of the ultra-anti-Shia Sunni Moslem Brotherhood. The Tehran-Gaza alliance unites Islamic terror in a way not seen before. Even Iran’s traditional enemy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now reaching for ultimate power in the Turkish presidential elections this fall as he moves closer to the Brotherhood, had also become one of Hamas’ patrons. Will the Tehran mullahs watch this asset fall apart, or would they, for example, finally unleash Hezbollah and its missiles on Israel’s north in order to try to rescue the Hamas remnant?

Egypt

Contrary to the 2012 Gaza ‘truce” when Mohammed Morsi rode the wave of a Moslem Brotherhood electoral victory, Pres. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees Hamas as an enemy. The ruling Egyptian military is in a brutal campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood’s domestic political and paramilitary following. Furthermore, Hamas’ Iranian connection on Egypt’s doorstep imperils Cairo’s traditional political and cultural leadership of the Arab and Muslim world. Tacit military cooperation with the Israelis is restoring Egypt’s control over Sinai and presumably would close the smuggling routes for longer-range Iranian missiles and other weaponry reaching Hamas through the Red Sea and Sudan. It remains to be seen if al Sisi can maneuver a ceasefire/truce in tacit cooperation with the Israelis which will dismantle Hamas’ military as a minimum while all the while paying enough homage to Gazan victims to quiet the Arab Street’s overall sympathies for the Palestinian cause.

Qatar

This tiny little Gulf sheikhdom with only 2 million people – if the highest per capita income in the world from its enormous gas reserves – has taken a hit. That’s because Qatar’s al Thani family’s high stakes game of playing all sides included being the principal backer of Hamas. It was not only Qatar’s financing but IT controls which permitted Hamas to launch thousands of missiles at Israel from its sophisticated tunnels, protecting them from air power and preparing a growing terrorist plot against Israel. While Qatar played a principal role in the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” in toppling Muamar Qadaffi in Libya, it is the principal funder for the jihadists against Washington-backed moderates seeking overturn of the al Basher regime in Damascus. Qatar also was middleman in swapping of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years by the Taliban/ Although it has the smallest military force in the region – 11,800 conscripts – Washington sold it $11 billion in weapons earlier this year including anti-aircraft missiles and looking forward to a major fighter purchase later. This was the price for use of a major air base where Washington strategists attempt to coordinate defense for all the Gulf states against an increasingly menacing Iran. Washington reached agreement to continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base at least through 2024, having moved there when Saudi Arabia reversed course after originally hosting U.S. forces during the Gulf Wars. Qatar’s bitter feud with Saudi Arabia, restrictions on the use of the base and meddling in its Gulf neighbor’s domestic politics limit that cooperation. A collapse of Hamas could prejudice the whole shaky network of Qatar’s activities, perhaps demanding a new American strategy to oppose Tehran in the Gulf rather the dawdling talks extended for four months which are neither inhibiting Tehran’s weapons progress, and now lightened sanctions, are restoring its economy.

UN

Admission that three UN Gaza schools stored Hamas armaments [then returned to Hamas] is finally giving currency to the region’s greatest “secret”, the 70-year-old effort of the UNRWA, a highly paid international secretariat [including Hamas members], with the collaboration of neighboring Arab states, to cultivate a “refugee” status for Palestinians. UN operated schools have preached anti-Semitic hatred and jihad against the Israeli state. Simultaneously while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, shorn of all their possessions, the oil-rich Gulf states imported millions of labor from South and Southeast Asia, largely refusing Palestinian Arabs emigration or naturalization. Recent events have forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into condemnation of Hamas violation of repeated attempts at cease fire in contradiction to the UNWRA. Slowly the barbarity of Hamas’ strategy of deliberately exposing Gazans to additional jeopardy from Israeli aerial and ground bombardment in order to exploit world sympathy is seeping through a media unable to report actual conditions in Gaza for fear of their reporters’ lives. For example, CNN interviews with spokesmen for Hamas have without identification taken place in one of the area’s largest hospitals. Some UN officials – for example, from the head of the UN Human Rights organization condemning the U.S. for its participation in developing Israel’s Iron Dome defense and suggesting Washington should aid Hamas in a parallel effort – may finally be bringing some semblance of balance into mass media reporting in the area. It remains to be seen whether Washington, as the disproportionate bankroller of UN activities and massive direct payments to the Palestinians, will use its leverage to reform the aid-giving process. U.S. .Sec. of State John Kerry’s proposal – apparently “demanded” in a bitter conversation by Obama with Netanyahu – to use Qatar and Turkey as mediators in a Gaza ceasefire outraged the Israelis and their American supporters. The effort to cut out Egypt, the traditional mentor for the Gazan Arabs, appeared to be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s flirtation with the Moslem Brotherhood and its cool relations with the Egyptian military. But, almost immediately, including public statements, Washington flipped back to endorsing Cairo as the mediator, including a role for Mohammed Abbas and his West Bank Palestinians. Cairo’s backing by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab League has not only strengthened what had been seen as Abbas’ fading role but that of the Palestinian “moderates” despite their public caterwauling in defense of Hamas.

Washington, momentarily, has few options but to wring its hands over the civilian carnage in Gaza and to hope that others will find the basis for ending the crisis successfully, that is, with the demilitarization of Gaza.

Sws-08-02-14

The end of a geopolitical model


Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of “The Turkish model” is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey’s image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.

But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 Turkish million immigrants to Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live.

Erdogan, without daring to acknowledge it publicly, turned his back on the top-down secularization of Mustafa Kemal, the general-politician-philosopher who founded the modern Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Over the past decade, Erdogan nibbled at Atatűrkism’s basic building blocs – political authoritarianism, state capitalism and anticlerical tenets. He even edged into recognizing the multiculturalism of the Anatolian peninsular instead of Atatűrk’s Ne mutlu Turküm diyene! [How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk!]. That included not only the ancient, cosmopolitan megametropolis Istanbul [Constantinople] [14 million] at the crossroads of Europe and Asia where Erdogan’ S political career began as mayor. He also hesitantly recognized the identity of Turkey’s 15 million Kurds who have waged guerrilla war and terrorism for autonomy or independence for more than three decades. But simultaneously he moved toward more and more conservative Muslim concepts, appealing to rural Anatolia which had given him his big parliamentary majorities. That process is seen as a threat by the Alevi sect, another disproportionately wealthier 20 percent of the population, whose Sufism is considered apostate by many in the orthodox Sunni majority.

Erdogan’ policies – particularly his continued economic liberalization –ushered in a period of growing prosperity and optimism about the country’s future with continued if diminishing hope of entering the European Union. Most critically, he adroitly broke the hold of Atatűrk’s secularist heirs in the military. He probably ended the possibility of another of the half dozen coups by the military whose intervention had prevented political chaos and kept more outspoken Islamic forces at bay.

But in the process – and not least because of his egotism – his tactical skills were less than a strategy, bereft as it has been of consistency and integration. His foreign policy aiming at neo-Ottoman regional leadership has collapsed. Overall progress has been at the expense of growing destabilization Perhaps much of that was inevitable in a rapidly growing and changing society. But now the exploding corruption scandals and more importantly, the in-fighting inside his Justice and Development Party [AKP], a coalition of Muslim-oriented political groups, could bring down the regime as well as his administration.

But the culmination of these Turkish events has much larger implications:

  • ·        The increasing instability and possible collapse/transformation of Erdogan’s administration again puts the question of whether there can be a modern state in Muslim-majority lands without a formal break with traditional Islam.
  • ·        Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s reliance on Erdogan – in 2011 more telephone conversations with him than any other foreign leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron – is another sign of the failure of the American administration’s Mideast policies.
  • ·        The growing economic crisis in Turkey, a result of reaching a development plateau and the growing political instability, puts into question for other Muslim states economic liberalization which permitted growth but [as in Iran] fed a new reactionary Muslim-oriented middle class..
  • ·        Turkey’s growing instability is writing finis to its effective participation in NATO, and may, indeed, point to the growing inability to turn the spectacularly successful anti-Soviet alliance into a broader security and peacekeeping coalition.
  • ·        Turkish instability is going to further imperil assimilation of the 10 million Turkish émigrés in Western Europe, recruited, especially in Germany as gastarbeiter, but who now constitute a growing European social and political problem in a period of extended high unemployment and growing Muslim fanaticism.

Islam has never had its Reformation or its Counter-Reformation paralleling Christianity in the West. Its religious thinkers for at least a half millennium have largely been ignored Greek logic and philosophy and its Roman progeny, the foundations of Western – and increasing universal – law. Orthodox Islam calls for no separation of church and state. In fact, orthodox Muslims demand the reestablishment of a worldwide ruling religious leader such as the Ottoman Empire’s sultan who also as caliph was the commanding religious figure. In majority Muslim countries, both Sunni and Shia ecclesiastics refuse the hard fought fundamental of Western democracies, equality of all religions before the law – including minority Islamic sects. Turkey’s role as the most successful example of a predominantly Muslim country advocating that concept – and rejecting much of sharia, traditional Islamic law — is now crumbling. Advocacy by Asian and African leaders of emulating Ankara’s road to modernization is not likely to be heard in the future.

That has implications for American policy. Obama had accepted that old hypothesis and said that Erdogan was one of his closest friends. It was to him in part that the Arabists surrounding the U.S. president sought counsel. But Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams of becoming the go-to for the area’s regimes, has gone a glimmering. Instead, Turkey is at odds with virtually all its neighbors, especially Egypt and Israel, and, of course, Syria. There the al Assad regime now under siege after Erdogan effusively courted it only a few years earlier is driving tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey as well as the surrounding countries. Furthermore, the corruption accusations link some perpetrators to the mullahs of Iran – the Turks’ historic competitor for influence through the Mideast and Central Asia. As the internal conflict among Turkish Islamicist groups likely intensifies, Now Washington will find itself hard put – if it already has not done so – to pick sides.

Abetting the crisis is the rather sudden turn in Turkey’s economic outlook, after its gross domestic product more than tripled during Erdogan’s office. Now the trade deficit is widening dramatically, the lira is devaluating at a rapid pace, unemployment is increasing, and the political turmoil has taken a toll of the stock market, discouraging foreign investment as well as fueling a capital flight.

What may be even more significant longer term is that the liberalization of the economy which began in the 80s before Erdogan’s arrival at the helm has produced a new and growing class of entrepreneurs. They, like their Persian counterparts as a result of reforms by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, seeking a new orientation from their peasant backgrounds, tend toward religious obscurantism.

The growing Islamicist sentiment of the Erdogan administration itself – including accusations that growing opposition to his government among Turkish groups is plotted by kafir [unbelieving foreigners] including the Americans – is distancing Turkey from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It will add to NATO’s renewed conundrum of its future role with the messy U.S.-led alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Erdogan’s threat to go to the Chinese for new weapons, which would create security lapses in integration with NATO, has further put into question the allegiance of one of the alliance’s most loyal members in time past. With Western Europe’s dramatically falling birthrates, Turkey’s army was seen in Washington and European capitals as an important element in any NATO peacekeeping effort. Given the growing decline in most of the European military budgets, Brussels had looked to Turkey’s young population [more than a quarter under 14] as a stalwart partner. That hope vanishes as the political crisis matures.

Although a first generation of immigrants to Western Europe seemed to be assimilating, their offspring have in more than anticipated numbers turned to radical Islam. There is a growing number of second and third generation Turks [and European-resident and native Arabs] who have joined the jihadist-led opposition to the ostensible secular regime in Syria’s civil war. Mosques in Europe, many supported by the militant Wahabbi sect of Saudi Arabia, have become hot houses for the spread of radical Islamicism and recruitment for jihadist terrorism. If the once secular regime of Turkey continues to move away from its Atatűrk traditions, as seems likely whatever the result of the current political crisis, it will have an adverse influence on assimilation of these immigrants.

Overall, this Turkish crisis inevitably becomes an integral part of the instability sweeping the Muslim umma [world] from Casablanca to Zamboanga, an accelerator in the age-old struggle for modernization in that impoverished and retrograde cultural environment. At the moment, the forces of reaction [and terrorism] are winning in the face of the incapacity of Muslim modernists [or “moderates”] and the Obama Administration to offer an effective counter to a romantic call for a return to simplistic, medieval orthodoxy [Islam=”submission”]. That, unfortunately, as 9/11 tragically proved, produces a growing threat not only to the future of Muslims themselves but to peace and stability throughout the world.

sws-12-28-13

Dealing with Islam


A decade after 9/11 the U.S. still puzzles over how to deal with an Islam of 1.3 billion people, most of whom either cannot or refuse to move into the modern era. This American [read broader Western] inability to find an ideological approach will enhance a threat to U.S. security long after troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The problem is profound, involving the history of Christendom’s relations with Islam for one and a half millennium. Recently new complications arise from declining Western populations seeking immigrant labor, welcoming large numbers of Muslims, again, often either unable or unwilling to integrate into a heterogeneous West. This aggravates external security, not least because many sophisticated Islamic leaders condone deception [taqiyya] about their aims. In a traditionally open, sometimes to the point of naiveté, American society, this adds additional burdens on law enforcement and the justice system.

Washington’s armed attempt to root out state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan not only has taken an enormous toll in lives and treasure, but produced war’s inevitable “collateral damage” used by the terrorists to misrepresent U.S. aims. In a world where simply the charge of “colonialism” precludes serious discussion between advanced and backward societies, Washington, even were it capable, cannot impose its values as it did after World War II on Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan.

Nor is there an economic determinist solution. Even where development has taken place – in Lebanon or Algeria or the Gulf sheikhdoms – cultural advancement is stymied, even retrogressing under tutelage of subsidized reactionary preachers. And although private capital [globalization] has brought industrialization quickly to many new corners of the world, cultural factors block what the economists used to call “take off” in the vast Arab belt and Persia despite incredible raw material resources [oil and gas].

A new test of Islamic renewal is underway in recently “liberated” eastern North Africa and, probably soon in Syria. Rebellion driven by the youthful demographic bulge has blown away the old despots. But the best organized to fill the leadership vacuum are political incarnations of Islamic totalitarianism led by Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood. That will further imperil Egypt’s 85 million, a third of the Arab world with a traditional claim to lead Muslims culturally, relying on foreign handouts after Pres. Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of protected crony capitalism.

Nowhere is Washington’s conundrum more apparent than in current deteriorating relations with Turkey, now falling away from its post-World War II alliance with Western Europe and America in search of a new role as Mideast regional leader. Although it never quite reached application elsewhere, the 20th century post-Ottoman Caliphate top-down, Leninist secular revolution, had been seen as a model for intellectuals as far removed as Iran and Pakistan. But Ankara’s contemporary Islamic politicians, building on an empowerment from a hinterland far from old cosmopolitan centers, have recast the Turkish model.

Their still unresolved relationship between Islam and modern government puts the whole question of where the Turkish experiment is going into question. The ruling AKP Justice and Development Party reached its current dominant position not least because of a thriving if always fragile fast-growing economy, benefiting long stagnant regions. But its political ambitions have conflicted with its economic model. Its militant advocacy of the Palestinian cause [including the radical terrorist Hamas in Gaza] has produced a nasty blowup with Israel. A UN inquiry, as always, has only aggravated the falling out from what had been an opportunistic if mutually advantageous strategic and commercial relationship with new markets for Israel and technological transfers for the Turks. Washington has been unable to defuse the escalating blowup between its two most important allies in the region.

Ankara’s strategies zigzag: for example, okaying NATOs’ antimissile deployment but denying Washington’s aim to protect Europe and the US from Iranian weapons of mass destruction, its vacillating role as conveyor of gas to Europe, its failure to win entry to the European Community, its refusal initially to join NATO’s war against Qadaffi. Ankara could even jeopardize NATO’s southeastern anchor with its flirtations with Beijing and Moscow, casting a new pall on the alliance’s always ambiguous future. Thus Turkey, once the poster child for Islamic accommodation, could become the most serious part of the West’s failed efforts to meet the longterm challenge which stretches out far beyond the immediate effects of 9/11.

 sws-09-09-11

 

 

Nowhere is Washington’s conundrum more apparent than in current deteriorating relations with Turkey, now falling away from its post-World War II alliance with Western Europe and America in search of a new role as Mideast regional leader. Although it never quite reached application elsewhere, the 20th century post-Ottoman Caliphate top-down, Leninist secular revolution, had been seen as a model for intellectuals as far removed as Iran and Pakistan. But Ankara’s contemporary Islamic politicians, building on an empowerment from a hinterland far from old cosmopolitan centers, have recast the Turkish model.

Their still unresolved relationship between Islam and modern government puts the whole question of where the Turkish experiment is going into question. The ruling AKP Justice and Development Party reached its current dominant position not least because of a thriving if always fragile fast-growing economy, benefiting long stagnant regions. But its political ambitions have conflicted with its economic model. Its militant advocacy of the Palestinian cause [including the radical terrorist Hamas in Gaza] has produced a nasty blowup with Israel. A UN inquiry, as always, has only aggravated the falling out from what had been an opportunistic if mutually advantageous strategic and commercial relationship with new markets for Israel and technological transfers for the Turks. Washington has been unable to defuse the escalating blowup between its two most important allies in the region.

Ankara’s strategies zigzag: for example, okaying NATOs’ antimissile deployment but denying Washington’s aim to protect Europe and the US from Iranian weapons of mass destruction, its vacillating role as conveyor of gas to Europe, its failure to win entry to the European Community, its refusal initially to join NATO’s war against Qadaffi. Ankara could even jeopardize NATO’s southeastern anchor with its flirtations with Beijing and Moscow, casting a new pall on the alliance’s always ambiguous future. Thus Turkey, once the poster child for Islamic accommodation, could become the most serious part of the West’s failed efforts to meet the longterm challenge which stretches out far beyond the immediate effects of 9/11.

sws-09-09-11

The West: mugged by reality


Encounters between the so-called Peace Flotilla and Israeli Defense Forces have far reaching implications beyond the conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinians and their supporters.

Those concerns eventually will dictate the course of the U.S. fight against terrorism. Basic trends are now obscured by Washington’s desperate attempt to minimize friction with the umma, the whole of the 1.3 billion Muslim world.

But the clash has dramatized an ugly reality: a world torn apart by Islamic fanaticism verging on nihilism is increasingly abetted by old European and American leftism. That is further compounded by an attenuated economic recovery in the West. And that, in turn, threatens what has been until now rapidly growing export-led Eastern economies.

This economic and political devil’s brew includes:

  • Turkish government knowledge/participation in the Flotilla operation, is a touchstone which casts doubt not only on Ankara’s role but questions hoped for rapid modernization of other Muslim societies
  • NATO’s eastern flank crumbles as member Turkey courts Iran, Russia and Syria and other pariahs, in an effort to establish regional hegemony.
  • Israel poses a moral, political and military dilemma for the West as multidirectional hostile forces threaten Jerusalem’s existence, forfeiting any possibility of major compromises from the Jewish state — including land for peace.
  • Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s outreach to the Islamic world has failed — all signs pointing to growing radicalization and no evidence of emerging strong reformist leadership.

All these issues are complex, of course, and there will continue to be conflicting evidence. VIP voices will deny these interpretations because geopolitical reality is always difficult to acknowledge. But just as the collapse of European welfare statism has proved those critics clairvoyant who argued against creating socially dependent societies, so inevitably will the true nature of the present conflict become self-evident.

As anti-Nazi German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoeller acknowledged so long ago, the Jews – this time in their own country — are the canary in the mineshaft.

That Jerusalem underestimated the capacity for violence is intriguing. The Turkish activists’ affiliation to known Istanbul terrorists was well-known. Counter-intuitively, caution led the Israelis to incur casualties, grist for propaganda of the new alliance of red and green, the traditional Western radical left and Islamicist sympathizers. Their attempt to portray their provocative voyage as a mercy rescue ignored Gaza’s large food and vitals stocks provided through additional European and American aid millions., actually flowing through Israel and Egypt.

The Israelis now facing rapidly arming terrorist neighbors – Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north, and an increasingly unstable Jordan to their east – can take no new gambles on their security in any “peace process”. Israel’s Gaza withdrawal has proved a strategic catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the Tehran mullahs who arm these groups are moving relentlessly toward nuclear weapons at some indeterminate date. However credible Tehran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map, a nuclear Iran would dominate world oil and gas, a constant threat to regional stability and the world.

Turkey’s new role as an apologist for Tehran means turning its back on its half-century alliance with the U.S. It returns to an equivocal position, much like that during World War II when former German Chancellor Franz von Papen made Istanbul the Nazis’ overseas intelligence center.

As with more than one contemporary administration around the world [perhaps including the U.S.], it is hard to judge how much Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan’s policies are Michaevelleian and how much amateur hour. But clearly a half century of top-down Kemalist secularism is fading rapidly under attack from a new Anatolian, conservative Muslim middle class — ironically in no small part created by huge post-World War II American aid. As an anti-Soviet ally, Washington pumped more than $12.5 billion in economic and $14 billion in military aid [in unadjusted dollars] into Turkey. This does not include vast sums spent on and from U.S. bases and training programs. In riposte, Turkey, of course, blocked US/NATO base transit during the Iraq invasion.

Although Ankara now runs a bilateral trade deficit because of energy dependence on Moscow, Turkish companies are investing heavily in Russia. In return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant — ominous given Moscow’s collaboration in helping to lay the groundwork for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Unlike the Korean War, and even Vietnam, where Turkey played a role, its 1800 troops in Afghanistan are smaller than Holland’s contribution and restricted to training. So much for calculations that its high birthrate and military tradition would make Turkey the principal NATO European fighter pool.

It was in Turkey, of course, where Pres. Obama launched his celebrated foreign policy initiative, an attempt to dialogue with a hoped for strengthening moderate Islam. Pres. Obama’s reiteration of American support for Turkish entry into the European Union rings hollow today with membership out of the question. To the contrary, how to deal with radicalization of Europe’s growing emigrant Muslims – including Turks — has become a chief West European headache. And nowhere has new, effective reformist Muslim leadership arisen.

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