Tag Archives: Damascus

The War on Terrorism goes on


If the Boston Massacre and the growing Syrian Civil War jihadist outrages had not made it self-evident, the bloody attack on innocents at the Nairobi, Kenya, mall provide new evidence that the international terrorist conspiracy continues virtually unabated. The perpetrators were Islamic jihadists, apparently members of the al Shahid thugs in neighboring Somalia who call themselves adherents of al Qaeda. So, despite all the obfuscation of the Obama Administration and its adherents, The War On Terrorism goes on and Washington will be forced to fight it under whatever name and probably with growing resources.

Just as in the more than four decades of The Cold War, the outcome is not assured, no more than its length. The fanatics who wage a campaign to gain world dominance in the name of Islam are if anything even more single-minded of purpose and willing to sacrifice themselves than the utopians turned state terrorists of the earlier 20th century totalitarianism. That they tend to fall into internecine feuds and mutual self-destruction will not spare the world of their violence even if, luckily, it is likely to rule out  any new and coordinated central command such as Osama Bin Ladin once attempted.

But the continued upsurge of this violence means that despite the other myriad overwhelming problems which bedevil policymakers in Washington and the other capitals of the civilized world, carrying on a complex and difficult program to meet the terrorists’ challenge will not go away. The significance of the Nairobi episode, which is still not resolved and analyzed at this writing, is that it does show that the terrorist infection is not only alive but that it is continuing to spread. Like the Muslim extremist  threat in Mali and Nigeria, the terrorists have now shown their tentacles reach beyond the Middle East and Central and South Asia into Black Africa. And almost simultaneously with the Nairobi explosion, there was an attempted jihadist takeover of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines and a bloody attack on a Pakistani Christian church, both virtually blacked out in the mainstream media. These episodes show that the network of Islamic extremists stretches from one end of the umma [the worldwide Moslem community] to the other, and even when not directly linked, draw their intellectual vigor and sometimes material resources from one another.

The Syrian crisis has complicated the already confused strategies to effectively combat the jihadists. Unfortunately, a relatively spontaneous uprising against decades of unrestrained brutality of the al Assad family dictatorship has fallen under the shadow of international jihadist volunteers who are flooding in from all directions to fight it – not excluding second and third generation Muslims from all over the democratic West including the U.S and Australia. Their growing presence among the opponents of the regime and the Obama Administration’s fumbling of the issue of the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by Basher Assad has further muddied the waters.

But whatever the outcome of the Syrian struggle, these new volunteer jihadists will provide a new reservoir of terrorists, as did a similar liberation war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, a new cadre of bloodied fanatics to return to their own countries or to the next terrorist front for new violence. Willy-nilly, al Assad’s support by Iran’s state terrorists in their effort to dominate the region and Pres.Vladimir Putin’s desperate ploy to reassert Soviet grandeur by supporting Damscus is further aggravating the terrorist picture. Both Moscow and Tehran believe they have a stake in exploiting the centuries-old bitter feud between the two principal wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia. In addition to attacks on non-Muslims and Islamic innocents, the result is likely to be a welter of explosive intra-Muslim conflicts, vitiating the possibility of one central command, but contributing to the general bloodshed of noncombatants.

There will not be any easy answers to the problem of combating this growing international menace to peace and stability, which could reach across continents as it did on 9/11 to the American homeland. But an effective campaign relies on three general categories of government activity:

Somehow the open societies of the West, inherently vulnerable to terrorism, will have to learn to take more protective measures, short of limiting the freedom which is their essence. The bumbling bureaucracy of air travel security, for example, needs a surgical overhaul. Too much effort and money is being expended on unnecessary gateway inspection procedures. New technologies will provide more inspection efficiency. But the introduction of common sense at the highest administrative levels appears a necessity. The airlines, themselves, should assume an increasing role in filtering out possible saboteurs. Without such programs, the terrorists are going to continue to be a jump ahead of security measures.

There are economic measures the American government needs to take to enhance any effort at defeating the terrorists. The sanctions against Iran, much too long coming in their current growing intensity, point to the enormous impact U.S. Treasury controls can have directly and indirectly on an adversary. The shale revolution with the enormous increases in domestic gas and oil production have now made it possible for the U.S. to do more than try to persuade those in the Persian Gulf states, including individual Saudis as well as officials in Riyadh, and the outrageous troublemakers in Qatar, to end their direct and indirectly financial support to the terrorist networks. What is require simultaneously, of course, but hardly likely, is an about face in the Obama Administration’s war on  fossil fuels, which nevertheless has ironically not haled new record production and possible exports.

Any attempt at taking security measures, of course, must ultimately rely on enhanced intelligence. Repeated efforts to reform the American intelligence community have only added additional layers of bureaucracy without, it seems, increasing actual benefits. If “stove-piping” – excluding necessary interchange among the various  intelligence bodies – has been somewhat eliminated, the Snowden treason episode and the Washington Navyyard Massacre are evidence that the whole system of “need to know” security precautions which once dominated government operations has fallen afoul of the digital revolution  Furthermore, it is clear that many of those who are entrusted with the war on Islamic intelligence have an inadequate knowledge of the history of the religion and its adherents. Unlike the British who in their imperial heyday could depend heavily on their academy for such resources, the U.S. faces a generally unrealistic, antagonistic and disloyal professorate with its hangers on from the parlor Marxist politics of the 1960s.

This leads to the a general failure reaching to the highest echelons of the Obama Administration which in its effort to reduce international tension has taken an idealistic and unrealistic attitude toward the problem of Islam and its radical appendages. Islam is not and never has been “a religion of peace”, from its earliest conquests in the Arabian desert to the subjugation of former Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu and pagan societies of the Middle East, North Africa and India. There are hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims, of course. But the idealization of an officially tolerant Islam, for example, in Berber-ruled kingdoms in Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries, is pure fiction. Islamic regimes have always condemned non-believing citizens, at best, to an inferior status with onerous tax burdens. Islam has never had its Reformation or Counter-reformation, nor its haskalah, having largely rejected Greek learning in monumental debates almost a thousand years ago. Unless and until the majority of Muslim intellectuals and spokesmen for Islam parse the indivisibility of their religion with the implanting of a sharia state, the seeds of jihadism and accompanying terrorism are planted wherever the religion prevails.

Therefore, an important element – perhaps the most important — in an effective and continuing defense against Islamic terrorism is a more realistic understanding of this relationship of the Muslim faithful and the jihadists. It is incumbent on American Muslims, for example, to halt their wailing about a nonexistent victimization. Since 9/11 – contrary to what might have been expected in another society less tolerant than the U.S. – they have seen little “Islamphobia”. Rather, such highly placed individuals as Ms. Huma Abedin, principal assistant to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have an obligation publicly to explain and renounce their family relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood, an original source of inspiration for much of the current jihadist leadership.

It is in the nature of the American system of government, unfortunately, that none of this is to be accomplished rapidly, even given the growing urgency for an effective reform of the efforts for dealing with terrorism. The wake-up call of 9/11 has been hushed, ironically, in the enormous vitalilty of U.S. society and pursuit of happiness which is the ultimate American goal. But unfortunately the problem of terrorism, even in the homeland, is not going to go away.

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Americans abroad — in the Mideast


Behind the Desert Storm

Pavel Stroilov

Price World Publishing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1932549676

$19.95, Publication date Aug.1, 2011

One cannot read this book without recalling that wonderful aphorism of Otto von Bismarck: “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Almost on every page is an illustration of the blundering American policymakers blabbing their way through conversations in the jungle of Mideast problems with their native interlocutors, seemingly oblivious to realities demonstrated for all to see all around them. In the short term, of course, Washington did luck out with the immediate collapse of the Sadam Hussein tyranny in The First Gulf War.

For those of us – not Orientalists but the ordinary variety of human beings – who try to follow events in the region, there are not that many totally surprising moments here. Who did not know the perfidy of Washington’s Arab allies? We knew that not only Saudi Arabia but the so-called Bathist Arab Socialist regime in Damascus joined the most extensive alliance in history for their own narrow interests – not for the love of liberty for the relatively tiny sheikhdowndom [cq] of Kuwait which had been attacked and bested quickly by Sadam. Contrary to Washington’s perennial wishful thinking – aided and abetted by the usual Sovietologist suspects in the academy who have never called a shot right yet — most of us sensed, too, that Mikhail Gorbachev was not a “reformer” but another Communist apparatchik trying to save what was left of the system on the eve of the Soviet implosion. [In all transparency, this writer whipped out a book on that hypothesis, Living Off the West: Gorbachev’s Secret Agenda and Why It Will Fail {Nov 1990}, never anticipating Gorbie would blow it so quickly!] Nor did many of us underestimate the scheming, venal, anti-Americanism of Francois Mitterand – perhaps the only politician in European history to reverse the peregrination of that old French adage, “Heartless if not a socialist at 20, headless if a socialist at 40”.

But what a young Russian “nerd”, a student/programmer who has stolen one of the most fascinating archives in recent diplomatic history, has given us is documentation for all those old assumptions – and much more. This observer, for example, never had any doubts about Jimmy Baker’s fierce anti-Israel monomania verging on anti-semitism. But I had always assumed we were dealing with a hard-nosed, clever by half as the British would say, cynical manipulator who knew from where the world’s oil supply was coming. Instead, what is revealed in these pages, is a total amateur, buying into every trap Moscow, Paris, Baghdad and London, can lay for him, sometimes to be saved, by of all people, Brent Scowcroft, a fellow traveler in most of his prejudices.

Washington finally lucks out, Bismarckian fashion, apparently, mostly because having – as Joe Alsop used to say – marched up the hill with flags flying, drums rolling and trumpets flaring, pulling together the most sophisticated fighting machine the world has ever seen [as noted repeatedly by the Chinese Communists], there was nothing to do but use it to break Sadam.

Stroilov lays all this out with several footnotes and documents text on every page. We are told that as a student he worked on papers Gorbachev was withdrawing from state, KGB and other Soviet files. Gorbachev, who comes through these pages, too, as a pigmy who never got through Machiavelli 101, apparently intended to use them to prove that he was a martyred political genius, defeated by the likes of that ruffiian and drunk Boris Yeltsin and the evil intent of the U.S. But, Stroilov says, Gorbie decided after a few leaks that there should be no further releases – perhaps sensing they would prove the opposite.

Meanwhile, Stroilov says, under the sponsorship of the noted dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, and the former KGB operator, Alexander Litvinenko whom Russian émigré circles believe Vladimir Putin had murdered in London with radioisotopes, he smuggled the whole lot out of Russia. If –and some intelligence mavim in Washington are prepared to to believe his story, his bonafides, and the integrity of his 50,000 documents — he is going to tell what really happened in the waning days of the Soviet empire, there should be much, much more to come as we saw in a recent Der Spiegel lifting germane German material

Regrettably, the book, itself, is less than its parts, mainly because Stroilov – and one feels for him – cannot contain his anger, his contempt and his sarcasm for most of the leading characters, not least the Soviet players. The narrative leaves out too much for those of us who are not Sovietologists, but pounds too many obvious points too many times too heavily. The epilogue – a cri de coeur for Western democrats not to repeat the follies of Iraq, Act I and II, but to support the intent of “the Arab Spring” – is no less naïve than the players he describes. He, like the rest of us, has no hard solutions for the intractable problems of Arab/Muslim society, not least a rambunctious youth bulge seeking jobs as much as new free societies, perhaps too ready to accept the totalitarian temptation of Islamic fundamentalism.

— Sol W Sanders

A version of this book review appeared in The Washington Times, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011

The grim Arab summer


Among nations, as in private lives, there are self-evident long-term trends, often cataclysmic, but with unforeseen tripwires for timing the unpredictable denouement. At the moment notable among these is continued failure of modernization among the 1.3 billion Arab/Moslem world.

What a few months ago seemed an irresistible wave of rising expectations forcing a renaissance in Tunisia, Egypt, and other “moderate” Muslim societies, has stymied

But it has had economic and political consequences. Others, unforeseen, are bound to come along, but for the moment:

  • The bloodiest of all retrograde Arab dictatorships in Syria is doomed, its mostly reluctant advocates notwithstanding. Saudi Arabia, chief expositor of a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil foreign policy, appease [and fund] it. Washington and Paris cower, fearing Basher al-Assad’s demise might lead to something even worse than his purported secular tyranny. Damascus’ strategic partners — Iranian, Lebanese and Palestinian Islamicists – using it as a trampoline to Mediterranean power, can only wring their hands. Turkey dreaming of an alliance ushering in Neo-Ottoman glory is befuddled with an onslaught of refugees.
  • Egypt, long Islam’s cultural center, flops back into a new lap of corrupt if camouflaged military government. Collapse of tourism and crippled local industry threaten minimal growth achieved during the Mubarak era with a yawning, unemployed youthful demographic bulge. Army leadership, shrewd enough to continue a half-peace with a formidable enemy, Israel, nevertheless, flirts with populist anti-Semitism while enriching itself through protectionist, crony state capitalism rather than opening up to investment, technology transfer and rapid growth.
  • Pakistan, largest self-proclaimed Muslim state of 200 millions ironically conceived as an Islamic modernizing force in dying British Imperial India despite its confessional moniker, implodes. Its military, only Pakistani “national” entity, has suffered a lethal blow from the unilateral surgical American strike killing Osama Ben Ladin. The related perception of impotence and/or incompetence complements rising opposition to the generals’ corrupt incestuous relationship with greedy Punjabi feudal elite. Washington influence seeking to foster make-believe democratic parallel civilian government feeds anti-Americanism. Beijing siphons off massive U.S. aid to one of the world’ poorest populations through an anti-India alliance even as Chinese “aid” projects come under terrorist attack.
  • The Obama Administration, buying into Muslim victimization mythology reinforced by the President’s own pesudo-Marxian historical view, has no strategy for dealing with the energy fulcrum Persian Gulf powers wield however haphazardly on world economy. The Administration’s muddled “alternative energy” policies – not excluding the crassly politically motivated band-aid release of strategic reserve oil – is ever more irrelevant in the face of vast new fossil fuel discoveries [shale gas and deepwater drilling] and potential [e.g., Arctic oil].
  • Libya encapsulates Mr. Obama’s failing attempt to wind down Pres. George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism”. Refusing the full weight of American arms to NATO’s effort, initiated by the Europeans, risks temporary resumption of Muammar Qadaffi’s long history of terrorism against Americans. In the bargain, “Libya” dramatizes long ignored NATO inadequacies with its increasing dependence on American muscle.
  • Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal announcement touched all domestic 2012 electoral bases, but it offered no solution to the fundamental question: having taken on Islamic radicals, Washington has not struck the lethal blow. There is no Hitler bunker suicide, no Japanese militarists’ surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, the Osama drama notwithstanding. Probably unconsciously, Pres. Obama has taken a leaf from old Sen. George Aiken’s rejected Vietnam playbook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Aiken: “declare victory and come home”. Later modified by Pres. Richard M. Nixon and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger to “a decent interval”, it failed, demoralizing the U.S. military and undermining domestic self-esteem for a generation while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives without accomplishing its geopolitical goals of mollifying the Soviets or welding an effective Chinese alliance.

Leaked efforts to contain spreading Islamicist virus in Yemen with Special Forces drops armed with unmanned aerial vehicles, ipso facto, insures the fight will continue long after the highly publicized if incoherent Inside-the-Beltway “debate” over counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism is, again, out of fashion. Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA [Rtd.], a principal if scientistic participant, after all, soon will be charged with clandestine warfare. Whatever Mr. Petraeus’ success at Langley, Mr. Obama or his successor at 1600 Pennsylvania, can not long avoid the basic problem, election or no election: protecting the U.S. from continuing Islamic terrorism.

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