Tag Archives: ISIL

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.

Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.

To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.

The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.

The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.

Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.

Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.

The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.

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Obama “evolving” on Syria


It looks like another of Pres. Obama’s policies is “evolving”.
The announcement that Ankara has agreed to permit its NATO airbase at Incirlik to be used for bombing missions against Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] in Iraq not only makes them more efficient and cheaper. It became necessary with the gap sequestration has produced for American power projection. It seems definite now that there will be no aircraft carrier in the region from which to launch for several months this fall with their retreating to Norfolk for overlong deployment and refitting.
Meanwhile, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved away from his somewhat ambiguous position after a suicide bomber of Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] pulled off a deadly attack in chaotic southeastern Turkey. There is a suspicion that part of the new arrangement with the U.S. includes Erdogan’s longtime proposal for a neutralized zone in northern Syria, perhaps a “no-fly” zone used earlier in Iraq. That would bring American bombing into Syria as well as Iraq [which some of the U.S.’ allies, including the U.K., are already doing.]
Erdogan moved because his position was becoming increasingly difficult with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey. Its border towns have been used for entry into Syria by volunteers from the rest of the Muslim world and the West [including the U.S.] for one of the many groups in the Syrian civil war. The fact that at the same time Turkish forces have cracked down on Daesh’s supporters inside Turkey, Erdogan has moved against representatives of the Marxist–Leninist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a guerrilla group that waged a 30-year-long insurgency against Ankara on behalf of Turkey’s 20% minority Kurds. Ankara’s fear now is that the Kurds, who are the most effective force in Iraq fighting the Daesh with American support, and the Kurdish minority in Syria will make common cause for an independent Kurdish state.
If, as now seems the case in the Mideast’s shifting alliances, Daesh has made a deal with the Turkish Kurds – the suicide bomber was a Kurd – then Erdogan has a bigger problem. And he is trying to press Washington into supporting any new action he is being forced to take in the border areas and perhaps in Syria.
That, of course, may drag Washington into a more forceful campaign against Daesh – something Obama’s Republican critics in the Congress have been calling for. It’s clear that the relative weak bombing campaign has been only partially successful in stemming Daesh’s gains. It has been relatively ineffective without adequate American military resources on the ground in Iraq to direct the campaign, and the additional complication of basing it on aircraft carrier launches and bases further afield.
It now remains to be seen if the new arrangement with Ankara includes an additional effort on the ground by both the Turks and the Americans to trim Daesh’ sails, and speed up any effort to destroy it. The nominal allegiance of other Islamic terrorist groups from West Africa to Indonesia could take on real strategic significance given Daesh’s brilliant exploiting of the internet. And that may well dictate a U.S. effort to smash the movement quicker than the promise to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” which the President made 10 months ago. The lack of progress so far certainly suggests Confederate General Nathan B Forrest’s first admonition for war, “get there fustest with the mostest”.
sws-07-24-15

Barbarity


It is not the first time leaders of the civilized world have had to cope with a slide into barbarism which not only threatens international peace and stability but the very foundations of modern morality. Nor is it the first time that American leadership has been reluctant to take on the task of halting the destructive force.

The horrendous beliefs and actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now styling itself as a Caliphate or the Islamic State, is almost  nihilistic as they persecute and kill Muslims — whom they regard as renegade — as well as Christians and Yadizi.

At the same time, we are witnessing another failure of American leadership to seize the issue and pursue it with maximum force. As part of the reluctance of the current American administration to recognize the continuing threat of Islamic extremism, it has historical analogies. It recalls the 1930s-40s’ determined obliviousness to the rise of Hitler and his destruction of European Jewry and the death of millions of Polish and Russian civilians, as well as more recent failures to cope with Kosovo or Rwanda massacres until they reached their zenith.

It is in the nature of ordered societies with democratic traditions to fail to comprehend the abilities and the growth of the enemy. Too often they “project”, as the Freudians would have it, their own beliefs and modus operandi on the competitor or enemy. [Pres. Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry keep up an infernal litany about how Russia’s Vladimir Putin is mistaken in not applying the new norms of international conduct. That’s as though Putin does not know he is challenging what he sees as their restrictions on his behavior.]

In the current scene in Iraq-Syria-Gaza, with the Obama Administration reluctance to be involved, taking halfway measures, using the camouflage of partially effective humanitarian relief, the unfolding events are all too historically typical. Local beheadings, burial alive of victims, recruitment of young psychopaths is all too typical of recent events in the region.

But the threat is of a larger character and as dire as that posed by Fascism and Communism in the 20th century. For this squalid fanaticism is cloaked in the rationalization that it is based or lives in one of the major religious groups, Islam, with its more than 1.3 billion nominal adherents around the world, in a dozen different cultures. This particular evil, Islamic terrorism, despite the President’s professions of victory, is on the rise and spreading throughout the Muslim world at a rapid pace, even acquiring converts in the democratic societies.

The Obama Administration’s obfuscation of events is further obscured by the current intellectual climate in the U.S. with its enormous influence on world culture. It starts with the whole PC concept, the idea of what is “politically correct” – rationalizing group thinking which abhors and rejects criticism of its basic assumptions. [That speaker in opposition are denied their right to platforms in our most prestigious universities is an affront to the whole tradition of Western discourse and civilization.]

They include the notion that violence and counter-violence are no longer part of the human condition even though daily confronted with evidence to the contrary. Or they may include false definitions of what is Islam and the history of that religion and its more aggressive tendencies for the last 1600 years. It’s no wonder that the nomenclature for “politically correct” – if not its essence – arose among the Communists who were prepared to accept the adherence of important names in the arts and other celebrities so long as they called themselves Communists and echoed its political line even if they affronted some of its fundamental beliefs. [Picasso was the archetypical example.]

A corollary in the general PC agenda is the ability – and the irony — of the Islamicists to deflect criticism and action by their appeal to religious tolerance, now accepted in the Western world for several centuries. Radical Islam has the option, according to some twisted Muslim doctrines, to lie and practice deceit if it is in the promotion of Islamic conquest and conversion. The enemies of the whole American system of civil institutions among the jihadists, therefore, are able to exploit the accusation of “Islamaphobia” to prohibit an open and vigorous debate over the fundamentals of Islam and its relation to this generation of radicals and jihadists and other religions and cultures. This is coupled alas! with less than a hearty chorus of denunciation and avoidance of the jihadists by leaders of Muslim institutions of higher learning and its “clergy”. On the other hand, the fanatic jihadist preachers have full rein to all the avenues of publicity and propagation and recruitment including the new social media.

The second failure of logic — and thereby action — comes out of a false concept of deep intellectual thought which places our leadership above the everyday reactions of individuals. A superficial knowledge of history and application of a secular morality permits large sections of the American elite including the Washington bureaucracy to believe it understands the vast complication of issues thus permitting it to rise above them. By “understanding” all sides of the issues, it argues, it is able to take more judicious positions. That results in false “parities”.[The less than competent Ukrainian state is as “guilty” as their Russian-sponsored domestic enemies; because the Israelis spend their resources and effort on defending their population and therefore reduce casualties; they are on the same footing as Hamas “rising up against its restrictions” and suffering heavy casualties, the Moslem Brotherhood’s professions of commitment to democratic values make them the equal of Egypt’s military dictatorship trying to rescue a nation-state from chaos and poverty; Japan’s remilitarization in the face of a North Korea and Chinese Communist threat puts it on a par with Beijing’s outrageous territorial claims, etc., etc.]

This moral and intellectual ambiguity leads to a failing strategy.

It ignores the well known fact that once engaged in battle, the vagaries of warfare make the outcome always dubious, despite obvious seeming disparities of weaponry. Famous battles throughout history have often, if not mostly, been decided by narrow margins of victory, often later disguised by facile historians with a straight-line backward projection to decision-making. [The Greeks did lose against superior Persian numbers and weaponry at Thermopylae but prepared the victory at Plataea.]

Therefore, “a measured response” in Iraq-Syria now is as likely to fail as those calculated responses led to the Korean stalemate and the final political defeat in Vietnam.

But this time the stakes may be greater for the insidious infection of jihadist conflict is universal, growing, and destined to be with the world for a generation at least. Then, of course, since nothing succeeds like success, the future depends on whether the U.S. and its allies throughout the civilized world can give the jihadists a knockout blow somewhere on the many fronts of the conflict – not excluding the ISIL as a primary target.

sws-08-10-14

Israel: remaking the Mideast again?


Events are drawing Israel into a major war with neighboring Arab terrorist organizations to result in another total reordering of Mideast relationships.

Comparison of the current scene with the eve of the Six Day War in 1967 is almost unavoidable. Then, too, a reluctant Israel waged a preemptive action because of what it saw as an existential threat from an alliance of Arab neighbors.

As great as the possibility for another complete regional redispositioning is, the outcome of events is even more unpredictable than it was in 1965. Today’s situation is vastly different:

First, Egypt, the largest and traditionally the leading Arab state, will not be the tripwire which brought on Israel’s preemptive strike then. This time Cairo could well be a benevolent neutral if not an ally in any new encounter between Israel and its principle enemy, the radical Arab Islamicists. Cairo’s military junta is waging a ruthless campaign against the jihadists, voted into power but which it dislodged with considerable popular support.

Secondly, the prospect of a Soviet Union intervention is missing – and a clash of the then two superpowers – which hung over the earlier events. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s nuclear arsenal notwithstanding, his ability to influence events in the region with conventional military forces and aid is marginal. In part, that is because his imbroglio in Ukraine having produced early victories is now turning into a Russian disaster.

Thirdly, the ambivalent position of the Obama Administration despite all its public protestations of loyalty to a U.S. ally, is a sharp contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s profound pro-Israel sympathies at a time when the U.S. Left had not made a bogus Palestinian crusade a central issue.

And, fourthly, there is a new aggressive and potentially nuclear-armed Iran, dedicated to the destruction of Israel, mobilizing long suppressed Shia minorities throughout the region in a Muslim sectarian conflict. Tehran’s mullahs have been able to bridge the historic Arab-Persian divide to bolster Arab Shia and even non-Shia allies.

Instead of the pan-Arab ideology so successfully evangelized by the charismatic Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.— however dented by the earlier Egyptian defeat in 1956 – the cement of any anti-Israel alliance today is radical Islam. Rather than the artificial national entities drawn by the World War I victors, Jerusalem today faces on all sides fanatical regional guerrilla organizations evolved into threatening major organized terrorist entities.

In the south, Hamas, a child of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood so favored by the Obama Administration as a “moderate” political force, has crossed over the sectarian line in the past to accept Iranian aid. Despite what is a tacit combined Israeli and Egyptian embargo, it has accumulated a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. In the north, the Hezbollah with its roots in southern Lebanon, is now bloodied with its significant participation with Iran in salvaging the al Assad regime in Syria. Both these organization now could inflict far more pain on Israel’s civilian population than the artillery, mortar and rocket attacks of ’67.

On the east, the always fragile Jordan, beset with enormous destabilizing refugee flows from both Syria and Iraq and the growing seduction of its own majority Palestinians by the radical Islamicists, now faces the ultra-fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on its once secure border with Iraq. ISIL’s claim to restoration of a trans-national caliphate, a Muslim empire headed by a religious figure invoking 7th century codes of justice, may not be sustainable. But its announcement in the half of Iraq it tentatively controls with like-minded allies is a powerful rallying cry for traditional Muslim jihad, holy war against all “non-believers”. That appeal to ruthless and bloody fanaticism, always just below the surface in traditional Islam with its validation in Koranic text, is cutting through yesterday’s regional allegiances.

Washington has not caught up. Obama’s tentative choice to meet the new threat in the area incrementally – dribbling advisers to a crippled Baghdad government – is not likely to stem the tide of success against the jihadists’ bandwagon. There is already evidence that the new ultra-radical Muslims have adherents in both the Israeli-Occupied West Bank and under relatively more moderate Hamas’ nose in Gaza. Washington indecision confirms the belief throughout the umma [the Muslim world]that the U.S. is no longer the major factor in the region’s power struggle. They see an American retreat providing the opportunity for dedicated minorities to determine events.

Thus, Israel faces the same dilemma as in 1967, that is, whether to wait for the always powerful fissiparous tendencies of Arab and Muslim societies to tear themselves apart or to move before a new and aggressive enemy tyranny consolidates. In that earlier conflict, by happenstance as much as design, Israel established itself as the region’s military “superpower”. That, in turn, produced however recalcitrant and imperfect, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Their defection from the anti-Israel front formalized the division of the Arabs despite their profession of unity which had been one of the sources of the Israeli victory.

Today the Arabs are no less divided. And, in fact, the Syrian civil war has not only set Muslim fanatics against a pretended secular if dictatorial regime, but because of Damascus’ Alawite [an offshoot of Shia] leadership and the Iranian Shia mullahs’ support, it has set off a new regional test between the majority Sunni regimes and long oppressed Shia Arab minorities.

Their tactics, claiming as many Muslims as non-Islamic lives – from suicide bombings to kidnappings – strike deep at the vulnerability of Israel’s Western-style civil society And whether targets are a relatively new light rail system in Jerusalem or vacationers on a foreign beach, Israel’s growing prosperity and sophistication as a leading world industrial society make it all that more susceptible.

Ironically, Israeli leadership today – while as contentious and disputatious as ever – is probably freed from two of the principal concerns on the eve of the Six Day War in deciding strategy. Regard for the UN – even then under the hapless leadership of Sec. Gen. U Thant – is less a consideration. UN peacekeeping in the region, as elsewhere, has come and gone with little if any effect. One suspects, too, that despite frequent public obeisance to the Obama Administration for the U.S.’ invaluable source of military hardware, no one in Jerusalem is blind to its pro-Muslim sympathies and its incompetence.

Obama’s insistence on prioritizing Jewish settlements in the traditional sites of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, the basis of Israel’s legitimacy, was a guarantee of failure of Israel-Arab negotiations. [No one seems to ask if there is to be a two-state solution with a 1.8 million Israeli Arab minority, are Jews to be excluded from the proposed Palestinian state?] In continuing to insist on direct negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abas who has had to concede the growing power of the Islamicists by a coalition government with Hamas, Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry appear totally at sea in the Arab desert.

Yet Jerusalem has other deepening concerns. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and a subsequent kidnapping and brutal murder of an Arab teenager – perhaps by Israeli vigilantes in retribution – are dramatizing a deterioration of the domestic scene. The civil strife in predominantly Arab northern Israel is further evidence. The fact that Hamas cannot or will not control escalating missile strikes against southern Israel and the new ISSL threat to Jordan are forcing the Israelis into consideration of more dramatic action to preserve their stature. While future action might become a full-fledged invasion, or even reoccupation. of Gaza, it is likely as in 1965, to coincide with developments on the other “fronts”.

Assuming the Israeli military superiority, including the tacit endorsement of Cairo and the Gulf states to action against the jihadists, a new perspective would unroll in the Mideast. But given the incredible complex of cross currents [as in 1967] the outcome is totally unpredictable.

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