Tag Archives: Islam

The Islam debate


The most difficult political and cultural debate since the decision of the Western alliance to destroy fascism in 1939 or the American decision to help resurrect Europe in 1945 has begun.

The discussion will be an intense examination of Islam and its role in the modern world.

It is an argument fraught with danger, not only for Islam, but for the democratic liberties of religion, free speech and economic well being of an increasingly interrelated world.

One could well argue that the debate is well underway, sotto voce. Certainly Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech was, if not the opening, one of the curtain raisers. Obama, in essence, extended the hand of friendship to the Moslem world. As part and parcel of his message, he not only accepted responsibility as he saw it for past American aggression against the Moslem world. But he denigrated, in the eyes of most American and international historians, the unparallel magnanimity of a rich and powerful U.S. since the end of World War II..

Even most Americans are unaware of the vast outpouring of U.S. resources, overwhelmingly private but official as well, which helped rehabilitate post-World War II Europe, and then went on to attempt, however unsuccessfully, the uplifting of what was then called “the third world” of poverty and ignorance in the pre-industrial societies.

But for many reasons – not the least the unrest produced by the beginning stirrings of modernity – the Arab and Moslem world beyond it went into a revolutionary period of upheaval and violence. It is a vast exaggeration to blame this movement from Dakar to Zamboanga on the decision of the Bush Administration to topple one of the most ruthless and cruel dictatorships the world has seen in Iraq’s Sadam Hussein. Likewise, the Obama decision to abandon the Iraqis to their own machinations with the sudden and complete withdrawal of American power only added to the tumult.

What is basic to the argument is the very nature of Islam.

The continued repeating of the cliché that Islam is a religion of peace does not alter the fact that history proves otherwise. The Arab acceptance of Mohammed’s preaching, according to their own and what other accounts we have, led immediately to warfare. Islam, first against Medina Jews who refused to accept Mohammed as the messiah, but thereafter, spread by the sword through the Middle East, crushing ancient Christian and other beliefs,. Tenets from forced conversion to death for those who Moslem believers who reject the faith are still part and parcel of the Moslem ethic and in the hadith, the literature surrounding Mohammed’s life, times and values.

A complicating factor, of course, is that the fundamental Islamic concept that the Koran, the store of Moslem teaching, is the word of Allah, the supreme being. Even though there has been historical research indicating at least some of the Koran predates Islam, that fundamental of the Moslem creed is basically different from both Christianity, Judaism and most other religions which accept even their holy writ as created by others. Thus the cliché that all three religions are “Abrahamic” and based in “the book’ is erroneous as is the Moslem claim that at times sanctifies certain relationships with others ‘of the book”, such as marriage. From almost the beginning of Judaism, and certainly of Christianity, exegeses of sacred texts has continued, although at times considered heresy and punished, It was this tradition which eventually led Martin Luther to success in his Reformation of the medieval Catholic Church and its Catholic Counter-Reformation which produced modern Christianity..

Today no matter how much non-violent Moslems refute the accusations that the Islamic terrorists – a name Obama and his associates refuse to use – have their roots in Islam, there is considerable contradictory evidence. Furthermore, there is also evidence that in recent terrorist episodes in the U.S., family members or other Moslems had information about the preparation for these outrages but either were sympathetic or intimidated into remaining silent. Some traditional concepts continue unreformed; for example, that Moslems who lie to nonbelievers are excused from moral stigma if the deed can be ascribed to fostering the fortunes of Islam..

There are numerous spokesmen today calling for a “ Moslem Reformation”. But they work at the margins of Islamic society and rarely have a foothold in the mosques, the halls of prayer, where inforunately too much of the recent violence has been plotted. Unquestionably, U.S. authorities responsible for the defense of the American people as their first and foremost responsibility, will have to servile domestic Moslem circles for possible terrorists in hiding. They certainly will have to examine as carefully as possible new migrants where agents of the terrorists may well be entering the U.S. as they have Western Europe as they have been publicly instructed to do.

. The bounds of this surveillance will have to be carefully monitored by human rights organizations. But if they are to assume that it is not necessary, as seems to be the case with the venerated but increasingly ideological National Association of Colored People [NAACP], then their role will not only restricted but useless. There are guidelines that might be adduced from the long fight against Communist penetration during The Cold War. But there is no way that the necessary pursuit of terrorism can be avoided unless and until there is an administration in Washington which is willing to declare an all-out war and is successful in destroying their sanctuaries to reduce “the victories” of the Mideast terrorists which unfortunately continue to draw malcontents and deranged adherents.

sws-07-15-16

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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

Islam: getting it right


by Sol Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sws-06-15-14

 

Does the U.S. have “a Muslim problem”?


For those who lived through the World War II prelude and the Cold War, the current American dilemma dealing with Islam is all too familiar. To the extent historical analogies are valid, countering Islamic radical infiltration resembles nothing so much as a century of struggle against Communism before the Soviet Union, as Lenin would have said, was consigned to history’s dustbin.

In the bitter climate of The Great Depression – for younger readers, do go to that marvelous reportage of John Steinbeck – reform was not only fashionable but critical. The movers and shakers were a strange lot, drawn from all parts of American society and all ideologies. An example was blossoming of the 30s trade union movement, as a veteran labor leader once told me, I think correctly, advanced by three factors: government [the New Deal’s Wagner Act], socialists and Communists [“community organizers” of those days].

As the years go by, us old reprobates are handed more and more proof of the incredible penetration of Moscow espionage. James Jesus Angleton, the intelligence community’s old Cold Warrior stalwart, may have been paranoid but, as the saying goes, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t persecuted. But, perhaps more importantly, the Cambridge University scandals dramatize as no other single episode widespread subversion of Western thought as well as institutions by Stalinists flying under two false flags of reform and anti-fascism.

Why is any of this relevant dealing with today’s Islamicist threat?

Muslim “moderates” and their apologists present Islam as another Abrahamic religion not all that different from Christianity or Judaism. [Do not the latters’ holy books, too, drip with blood and hatred?] The answer, not so simple but enough for this brief apologia: Islam never had its Renaissance, its Reformation, its Counter-Reformation, its haskala, its Enlightenment, its scientific revolution.

Meanwhile, by accident of history and geology, the industrial West has transferred vast resources to primitive Persian Gulf tribal societies. Just oil revenues alone of half a trillion dollars annually finances fanaticism – bereft of its civilizing Persian [Zoroastrian] and Indian [Hindu, Buddhist] agglomerations – to spread hatred with a “we-they” syndrome so virulent no Western psychiatrist could have imagined it. In effect, the West nurtures subversion of our civilization – as so often it helped the Soviets through Russian Communism’s many death defying crises.

Our problem, then, is not so simple as distinguishing between Islam as religion and a political creed. It would be no easier than earlier on sorting out Communist motivation from true “reformism” — or often simple naiveté. Distinguishing between Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s spot-on denunciations of Communist infiltration at the time was difficult when “McCarthyism”, the accusation of slander, was flung about, often, by partisans of Communists appearing before his inquisition that refused to identify their true beliefs and exploited his excesses.

That comes to mind now with charges from Muslim organizations, including unindicted co-conspirators aiding terrorists, who scream “Islamaphobia” when any attempt is made to ferret the real intent of those seeking to subvert US institutions. For those Muslims who take their cue from parts of the sunnah/hadith – sayings and activities of the prophet Mohammed – dissimulation is permitted when dealing with non-believers, even “People of the Book” [Christians and Jews]. It was so with Communists using Marxist “ethics” even against their “social fascist” [social democrat], sometime partners.

That’s why U.S. and state governments are in difficulty sorting out Islamicist tendencies. Much the same miasma as during the long fight against Communism, its state power and its influence as an ideology dogs the current scene. Prisons and the military have succumbed to fanatics posing as chaplains. Our most prestigious universities accept benefice from the Gulf states in exchange for defending their authoritarianism and obscurantism. Mosques and madrass [religious schools] are often financed and encadred by radical preachers sabotaging our values. Our crusaders [pun intended] for freedom of the internet inadvertently permit terrorist digital recruiting. To a degree, Ron Paul is right suggesting we have reaped a whirlwind we sowed – alas! but with petrodollars and technology transfer rather than the geopolitical offenses he and others pretend.

This has all, of course, been compounded by a President who — for example in his Cairo speech written and poorly researched by a very young man without knowledge of the 1400 years of Islam and eons of Mideast history – serves up misplaced sentiment, logic and politics to further befuddle an already critical issue.

sws-11-25-11

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 Pakistan conundrum


Everything about Pakistan from its very beginning has been anomalous.

It was dreamed up by romantic poets but survival has depended on a stolid military drawing on British Indian Army professionalism. Its parameters were defined by Islam but its secularist elite sought a nation-state where none had ever existed. Its ethnic and linguistic diversity matches the Indian subcontinent’s endless array of races and cultures. Originally it grouped noncontiguous areas – East Bengal [Bangladesh], 1500 miles across India, seceded in 1971. From the beginning disputed borders included the world’s bitterest dispute, Kashmir.

Pakistan survived the first decade’s chaos after the 1947 British Indian Empire Partition with a million deaths and 25 million “population swaps” and began to modernize. Laissez-faire economics and signing on American anti-Soviet military pacts contrasted sharply with India’s Moscow alliance and catastrophic Soviet planning. But grasping feudal elites intertwined with repeated military takeovers brought on by near breakdowns — plus three and a half wars with India — generated a descending spiral.

Still, although among the world’s poorest, Pakistanis have produced brilliant entrepreneurs and talented professionals, many prospering in a 10-million diaspora [now suffering jihadist infiltration, particularly in Britain.] They remit more than $10 billion annually helping keep the country afloat.

But now, for all the U.S.’s satisfaction and strategic and tactical gain in ending Osama Ben Ladin’s career, one outcome is further erosion for Pakistan. Whatever your favorite conspiracy theory, Islamabad looks weak, incompetent and conflicted to its own people and the world. A fanatical jihadist minority had already been murdering its most popular secular politicians – including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, wife of President Asaf Ali Zardari. Xenophobia arising from poverty and instability grows. [Only hours after the American raid, Karachi, Pakistan’s megapolis port-city of 20 million – and pivot for U.S. Afghanistan logistics — was paralyzed by political assassination only tangentially related to Ben Ladin.]

Nothing so characterizes these problems as “a victim syndrome” dominating Pakistan’s collective psyche — as it does the rest of the Muslim world. With some justification, Pakistanis see themselves used by Washington during the early Cold War [including as a base for U2 spy Soviet Union overflights], abandoned until time came to scotch Russia’s age-old drive to the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan, abandoned after the Soviet Union’s implosion until Islamabad’s cooperation again became essential to blowing al Qaeda’s Afghan Taliban sanctuary.

Current American withdrawal speculation feeds this old complaint and, although whispered, emphasizes Islamabad’s reliance on its “all weather” alliance with China. From Pakistan’s perspective, even the purportedly unofficial A.G. Khan nuclear proliferation network, a major friction point with Washington, bought Chinese missile technology [much of it “borrowed” from the U.S.]. That gives Pakistan at least a temporary advantage facing much larger, better armed India, always at the heart of Pakistan nightmares — and strategies. It’s reciprocated: before the Abottabad blood dried, Indian Chief of Army Staff V.K. Singh publicly claimed India could replicate the American raid. Pakistan’s Chief of General Staff Pervez Kayani’s immediate rejoiner: further American incursions would not be tolerated. Others threatened an Indian foray would be “catastrophic”; Pakistan recently talked of tactical nuclear weapons deployment.

Not only has Washington waffled, but it has fantasized. In the Bush II years, Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice announced henceforth Washington would treat each country separately without regard to their relationship. But when the Obama Administration named Amb. Richard Holbrooke as the essential coordinator for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Washington caved immediately after New Delhi demanded his purview exclude New Delhi.

These complications show why Capital Beltway blather about Pakistan is not only irrelevant but dangerous. Yes, it would be satisfying to end massive U.S. aid — $7 billion in non-military since 1951, $1 billion arms and training annually since 2005. But then what?

Conspiracy theories – ranging from top level Pakistanis having safehoused Osama Ben Ladin to complicity of those same officials in the raid – will continue to proliferate. Soon Pakistan’s vast population [250 million] could again retreat to the edge of the U.S.’s consciousness. Yet Pakistan would be sidelined only at the world’s peril as the long-arm of 9/11 and other terrorist events, many including Pakistanis, have proved. Washington policymakers must help formulate how to prevent a nuclear-armed Pakistan turning into a failed state, threatening everyone — not least India’s 1.3 billion and its own Pakistan-size Muslim minority.

sws-05-06-11

Foreign policy by prayer


In a region noted for miracles – Israel’s prosperous if beleaguered survival, despite attempts to mobilize 360-million Arab enemies, is a recent example – prayer could be a way to make U.S. policy. Although she now contributes only by inheritance, former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice voiced that possibility, woefully, recently: “…We have only one choice: to trust that in the long arc of history those shared beliefs will matter more than the immediate disruptions that lie ahead and that, ultimately, our interests and ideals will be well served.“

To quote John Maynard Milord Keynes, in the long run we will all be dead.

Reality is the Obama Administration cannot continue to abdicate America’s responsibility, leaving a worldwide vacuum to be filled by every would-be amateur Metternich. Obviously, policy is made with many unanswered questions. But leadership requires sorting possibilities, and decision-making, usually accepting the best of poor alternatives.

In all the uncertainties facing Egypt’s future, and indeed, the whole Arab world, by encroaching poverty pitted against rising expectations, none is so mysterious as current U.S. policy.

The talking heads more or less confirmWashington was unprepared for Cairo’s implosion. Okay, as some of us over 35 know, human events are largely unpredictable. Who could have guessed immolation by an unemployed vendor in tiny Tunisia, hardly respectable among the macho Arabs, would topple the dominoes?

But Egypt was notorious as a classically fragile third world country. There was always potential drama in rising unemployment, underdeveloped or depleted natural resources, literally thousands of years of bureaucratic malfeasance. Ruled by a highly personalized military dictatorship, no secure succession was in sight to its 83-year-old, ill, reactionary head. Yet Cairo dominated culturally a region because of its fossil fuel resources critical to the U.S. and the world economy. Yet destabilization came as a surprise? Yes, the U.S. is in a period of overwhelming domestic concern. Fickle Washington is notoriously a one-issue theater – and the Obama Administration is still winding down two wars. But surprise?

Looking for an explanation, the inevitable conclusion is the foreign policy establishment – in and out of government, for with the Inside the Beltway revolving door they are indistinguishable – is incompetent. Why?

“Group think” dominates analyses. Fads and instant expertise – instead of the long, hard, slog through history and anecdotal information – preclude originality. Even the Pentagon, supposedly noted for realism, bought into the most primitive “scientism”: the hypothesis scientific method could be applied to social problems. It spent tens of millions of dollars on “software” replacing the old crystal ball, the alchemist’s puttering, the Gypsy soothsayers on Manhattan’s Second Avenue, or the oracle of Delphi but didn’t see this coming.

Even now most media chatter trots out tired clichés. Basic problems are ignored or obfuscated. Not even the right questions are posed, at least not publicly:

1] How is any Egyptian regime going to meet growing unemployment and unrest among a notoriously young population? Will the new regime reverse largely protectionist, corrupt Murbarak policies which inhibited foreign investment and technological transfer. [Read the labels: Highly valued Egyptian cotton is made into sheets, towels and garments in India, China, Bangladesh – any place but Egypt!]

2] Fatuous rationalizations about Islam dominate the politically correct discourse. No one, probably including the Muslim Brotherhood itself, knows the fanatics’ strength in the new environment. But can there be any doubt a movement grounded in radical political and primitive Islam, threatens all modern values? Even if analyses arguing the Brothers are currently ambivalent are correct, will the obviously difficult days ahead not stir its original bowels of fanaticism as has happened elsewhere?

3] With continued military dominance likelihood, how far have the jihadists penetrated its lower echelons? Is a sergeants’ revolt likely – just as Gamal Abdul Nasser overthrew the original 1952 military coup instituting failed pan-Arab nationalism and a Soviet alliance? Doesn’t anyone remember Pres. Anwar Sadat was assassinated during a military review by the Brothers’ intellectual offspring in “borrowed” uniforms?

4] Most important, what role can America actually play? Is it wise to continue making public statements, often contradictory within 24 hours? Wouldn’t a quieter diplomacy – if such can be conducted given Washington’s official blabbermouths and wikileaks’ assistance – be more effective? Given past history in Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, etc., isn’t the influence of the Pentagon on Egyptian military – despite the annual $1.5 billion aid bribe – questionable? Is America’s “soft power” being mobilized? coordination between policymakers and propaganda, official and unofficial, in a world of instant replay?

Pres. Barack Obama’s ideological proclivities will have to give way to realism if the U.S. is not to stumble further. Nothing was clearer when his feathers were ruffled by admonitions from old Egypt-hand Amb. Frank Wismer advocating a transition with Mubarak.

Running American foreign policy is not community organizing agitation, but a hard-headed, facts-based choice of always difficult alternatives. Choices have to be made, quickly, quietly, and judiciously. Harry Truman had it right: constitutionally and historically the presidency of the U.S. is a strong executive, and it sometimes doesn’t matter as much what the decision is but that it be made.

sws-02-18-11

The peek-a-boo burqa!


Transparent burka – Ghent photographer Filip Naudts will soon open the exhibition ‘La clé du boudoir’ (the key to the bedroom), featuring famous Flemish people. The image advertising the exhibit shows Gorcha Davydova, a Flemish-Kazakh stand-up comedian, in a transparent burka. In another photo Davydova appears as Maria Magdalena, stripped to the waist. Naudts: This photo is not meant in any way as a statement. I do not want to provoke anybody, not offend anybody’s feelings, but I will not curtail my artistic freedom. The burka is indeed worn by Islamic women, but in spite of that, they do not yet have a patent on that piece of clothing. (NL)

Posted By Esther to Islam in Europe at 2/01/2010 08:56:00 AM

Ye Olde Crabb sez:

Ahah! just another Scottish joke about what is under the kilt.

The Obama Administration’s Anti-terrorist Lie


The attempted bombing of NW 253 gives the lie to the Obama Administration’s policy of trying to down play the continuing threat to internal American Security.

The White House’s belated statement from the President’s vacation in Hawaii has had to acknowledge this, reverting to former nomenclature, naming the incident as a terrorist threat. But when not blaming the problem on the former administration, repeating old cliches without meaning.

But it is an about face for the Administration’s effort from its inauguration to minimize the threat, to refuse to use the Bush Administration’s slogan of a war on terrorism It substituted the tongue twisters of the Administration’s principal spokesman on the issue, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano. These would have been a joke had the issue not reflected a failure of analysis and policy far more serious.

A return to the policy of treating terrorism as primarily a police function has now been dramatically shown to be inadequate in the face of the growing international challenge with its domestic manifestations.

For the security of The Republic, the Administration needs to take a deep breath, review its decisions of the past year, and launch a new and more throughgoing policy of facing a growing domestic threat to peace and security.

That should start with Sec. Napolitano’s resignation as the responsible for the continuing inadequacy of policy.

Whatever further investigation will demonstrate by way of failures of government and airlines security precautions in the Northwest 253 affair, the fact remains that the Obama Administration from its inauguration has tried to minimize the threat.

The recent series of terrorist episiodes inside the U.S. — including the massacre at Ft. Hood — have demonstrated not only that the threat continues to exist but that it may have taken on new and sinister domestic aspects. That includes the discovery of young American Muslims joining jihad forces in Pakistan and Somalia, an American and a permanent resident allegedly playing principal roles in the Mumbai Massacre, and, of course, the refusal to investigate/dismiss a military doctor who had shown every evidence of sympathy with the killers before he, himself, became the most significant terrorist since 9/11.

The President’s campaign rhetoric has seduced his Attorney-General into bringing battlefield prsioners into the civilian courts. That is an affirmation of the old, failed former concept that terrorism was essentially a subject for our civilian justics system, and not an act of war fought with war strategies and tactics. The New York trials will give the jidahists enormous propaganda opportunities, cost enormous amounts for enhanced security, and present a new domestic target for terrorism. [There have been attempted near-successful escapes by terrorist suspects from New York City federal prisons.]

Spending vast new sums to modify a state prison in Illinois in an effort to meet the Guantanomo conundrum is equally ridiculous. Given their fanaticism, it beggars common sense to argue a Stateside prison would be any less of a provocation for the jihadists. Yet, it will infinitely complicate their judicial status and present new problems for local as well as federal officials..

In the political gambit to close Guantanamo, caution has been thrown to the winds. The knotty problem of the Moslem Uighur prisoners has been “solved” by sending some of them to ministates [Bermuda, Palau] where their security would be up for grabs. Worse still, six captured terrorists have been released to Yemen. The failed Yemen regime has a long history of permitting escapes of terrorist suspects, its own threatening internal terrorist threat — now enhanced by ties to Iran as well as Al Qaeda. Indeed, early reports say the Northwest Arlines bomber, while a British-resident Nigerian, was armed in Yemen.

All of this flies in the face of logic.

The President has made extending an open hand to Muslims and Muslim regimes — even those like Iran whose leaders have continued to call the U.S. their enemy — a strategy for achieving peace. So far, that strategy has produced little.

But whatever its aptitude in the coming months, the domestic threat of terrorism from foreign and native killers must receive a higher priority. It must not be confused by a false politically correct attitude which ignores the relevancy of ethnic backgrounds and indoctrination [some of it domestically that needs to be curbed].

The beginning of such a policy is to replace Napolitano who never really had credentials for the job in the first place. The new secretary should be a person of stature — hopefully crossing any political boundary necessary — and with experience and understanding of a growing security problem. If Obama still clings to his campaign rhetoric of bipartisanship, there would be no better candidate for the job than Rudi Giuliani.

Without such a new policy, strategy and tactics, the sacrifices of our young men in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terror will go for naught.

The time for action has long since passed…

The Mahdi crashing a White House Party


“The Washington Post

Monday, January 04, 2010 2:06 PM
Subject: Breaking News: Third uninvited state dinner guest confirmed
News Alert

Secret Service confirms third uninvited guest at state dinner

Investigation reveals that individual went to the hotel where the Indian
delegation was staying and arrived at the White House with the group.

You don’t think it was The Mahdi, do you?