Trump’s Top Ten

December 10, 2016

There are many things that can be said about the election of Donald Trump and most will probably get said before 20 January 17. Beyond an unlikely candidacy and an even more surprising election, Trump, long before his inauguration, is an overachiever on many fronts. Indeed, a “Reelect Trump” bumper sticker was spotted in Easton, Maryland just a day after the election. Here are the top ten things Trump has already accomplished before his first term begins.

  1. He Hijacked a Major American Party

Just as the Democrats had a coronation planned for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Republicans had a tiara in mind for Jeb Bush too. Alas, Donald Trump beat the odds, and the party hacks, for the Republican nomination. The Grand Old Party has yet to recover from the insurgent coup.

Withal, Republicans need Trump more than Trump needs a party. Either the old guard adjusts to Trump’s pragmatism or Trump might start a new party. Clearly he has the votes.

The Democrats too were bull-rushed by the Clintons, then gob smacked by Trumpsters.

News on the left keeps getting worse. Democrats are now looking to the Minnesota caliphate for new blood, considering Representative Keith Ellison (D) as party chief. Elevating Ellison is a little like playing Russian roulette with five rounds in the cylinder. Ellison isn’t so much a progressive as he is an outspoken Islamist huckster and anti-Israeli demagogue.

Seems the DNC learned nothing from the election.

  1. He Bitch- Slapped American Media

There’s no polite way to put this. American press and broadcast shills, nationally and universally, tried to cook the 2016 primaries and general election with bias, lies, vitriol, hate, and racism. Both parties and the media insinuated, with little or no evidence, that the Republican nominee was a Kremlin stooge. Trump took it all in and gave as good as he got. He was correct throughout, the press, the federal cops, and Clinton Inc. are “crooked.”

When it counted, America’s productive “deplorables” turned out to be a lot more reliable than America’s dependent barnacles. If there is a demographic schism in America, the divide is between the makers and the takers. Score one this time for “makers” and family Trump.

Next time the media sneers at non-college graduates, blue collar men/ women, or “flyover country;” those cynics would do well to remember that folks with enough moxie to get a job and work for a living are the same citizens who get off their keisters and vote.

The press tried to lynch Trump for what he said while largely giving Hillary a pass on what she has done. Sensible voters took that double standard personally. The country will recover from Trump rhetoric long before voters will forget how badly the Clintons, print and broadcast “professionals” behaved.

Trust is a terrible thing to waste.

  1. He restored Political Integrity

When Hillary drones chirped “I’m with her,” Trump responded “I’m with you.” When the vice president elect was asked about Trump’s character, Mike Pence replied “you can’t fake good kids.”  When Hillary was asked about those huge “pay to play,” checks, she responded, “I took what they offered.” When Trump was asked about his presidential salary, he said that he will be a “dollar a year man.”

Even when the question is relative, character matters.

When asked if Trump might make America great again, deplorables across the country responded with a resounding “yes.”

 

 

 

  1. He Saved the Judicial System

With the election victory, Trump gets a judicial trifecta: some balance on the highest court and the opportunity to clean house at the Justice Department and the FBI. Recall that Justice Sotomayor suggested that race and melanin were unique sensitivities. Also recall that Justice Ginsberg campaigned very publically against Trump, an unprecedented breach of judicial temperament and discretion. With any luck, these two and the Keystone cops at the Justice department should be history or irrelevant under a new court and administration.

  1. He Torpedoed Immigration Inertia

For decades, both political parties have played kick-the-can with border security and immigration. Indeed, associated pathologies like drugs, crime, and terror have been neglected or minimized. Even after the Saudi 9/11suicide bombings, political paralysis prevailed. In the recent campaign, Trump used the now famous “wall” metaphor to illuminate the unalloyed stupidity of open borders and uncontrolled, unvetted immigration of refugees, Muslim or Mexican.

Trump has put an eminently logical question on the table. How do we have open borders and insure national security or the defeat of terror and the Muslim jihad?

A nation is safe, secure, and sovereign – or it is not.

  1. He Made Emigration Fashionable

Many Hollywood poseurs, low-rent music divas, media fan boys, and their big city cohorts have vowed to leave America if Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

Poor loser day is here. Flyover country is waiting. If left coasters are moving north this year, they need to start for Canada before the snow flies.

Note to Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg, and Amy Schumer: Please stop on the east coast and pick up Chuck Schumer, Chris Matthews, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. on your way out.

 

  1. He Reset the US Foreign Policy Agenda

Trump suggests adjustments to policy with Europe, Russia, Israel, and the Muslim world are needed. Winning is back on the table too. If the various Muslim small wars cannot be won with EU or Ummah partners, then new coalitions make sense. Israel is the indispensable moral center of gravity in the Middle East. Russia is the indispensable ally for defeating Islamism and the jihad.

Stand by for Putin/Trump and Netanyahu/Trump bromances to be consummated.

  1. He Burst the Globalism Bubble

If the fatally flawed assumptions of globalism and world government were wounded by Brexit, a Donald Trump presidency might be the coup de grace. By challenging feckless interventions, naïve foreign policy, weak trade deals, and flaccid partners/alliances; Donald Trump has turned US foreign/ military policy on its ear, all to the good.

New thinking and new players are long overdue. The true path to global diversity is national sovereignty, not the rote of EU or UN globalist conformity. Trump’s skepticism about utopian hokum is fresh air.

  1. He Cashiered Humanitarian Intervention

With Trump, disastrous small wars associated with so-called “humanitarian” interventions may be resolved or allowed to die on the vine. “In it to win it or out” might be the new doctrine from the start. If Europe and the Muslim world care not to finance or fight for the defeat of Islamism, so be it. The target set for America, Russia, and China is thus simplified.

Even James Clapper now agrees that America cannot save Islam from itself.

  1. He purged three Dynasties

Armed only with the wisdom of crowds, Trump brought an end to the Bush, Clinton, and Obama regimes. Call it regicide. Call it a political trifecta. Call it hiatus from breeding lawyers in the White House. Whatever!  The prospects for loony liberals and chronically constipated conservatives are greatly diminished in the next four, or eight, years.

If the president elect is as cost efficient as Commander –in-Chief as he was as a candidate, then America may be well served. In spite of an unprecedented media and Clinton Inc. bias blitz, Trump demonstrated that ground truth is the often the default setting in a digital world – if the internet, not the press, does the vetting.

Epilogue

The most obvious post-election irony comes from the mean streets of American cities, liberal urban sinecures where Clinton/Obama voters riot and vandalize in the wake of defeat, validating the worst about the American Left; first arrogant winners, now bad losers at every turn.

Maureen Dowd at the NY Times once pandered to Barack Hussein Obama as the “black prince.” As is their wont, the Times was only half right. Alas, the euphemistic prince turned out to be just another spooky “gangsta” from Chicago, a black swan who never flew, never set a better standard for America or arsonous constituents.

Withal, a quarter century national nightmare may now be over. There’s much to celebrate in 2016, thanks to “deplorables” across the land.

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Broken Arrow

March 22, 2015

Policy is a worldview, a kind of wishful thinking. Intelligence is the real world, a wilderness of untidy facts that may or may not influence policy. The policymaker thinks he knows the answer. The intelligence officer and national security analyst have the much tougher tasks of confirming or changing minds.

When Intelligence fails to provide a true and defensible estimate, a clear picture of threat, policy becomes a rat’s nest of personal and political agendas where asserted conclusions and political correctness become the loudest voices in the room.  American national security analysis has been poisoned by such toxins. An Intelligence report these days might be any estimate that supports the politics of the moment. Truth today is an afterthought at best and an orphan at worst.

Alas, corrupt Intelligence is the midwife of strategic fiasco. Four contemporary failures provide illustrations: revolutionary theocracy, the Islam bomb, imperial Islamism, and the new Cold War.

Back to Theocracy

The Persian revolution of 1979 was arguably the most significant strategic surprise of the last half of the 20th Century. Yes, more significant than the fall of Soviet Communism. The precipitous fall of the Soviet Bloc, however, was another bell weather event unanticipated by Intelligence analysis. The successful religious coup in Iran, heretofore an American client regime, now provides a model for all Muslim states where the default setting among tribal autocracies is now theocracy not democracy. In the wake of the Communist collapse, Fukuyama argued that the democratic ideal was triumphant, an end of history as we knew it, the evolutionary consequence of progressive dialects. Fukuyama was wrong, tragically wrong. History is a two-way street that runs forward as well as backwards.

The fall of the Soviet monolith was not the end of anything. It was followed by profound regression, an era of religious irredentism. Worrisome as the Cold War was, the relationship with Moscow was fairly well managed. Who can argue today that East Europe or the Muslim world is more stable or peaceful than it was three decades ago?

The Persian revolution of 1979, not only reversed the vector of Muslim politics, but the triumph of Shia imperialism blew new life into the Shia/Sunni sectarian fire, a conflict that had been smoldering for a thousand years or more. The theocratic victory in Tehran also raised the ante for Israel too, now confronted by state sponsored Shia and Sunni antagonists, Hezb’allah, Fatah, and Hamas.

Shia Hezb’allah calls itself the party of God! Those in the Intelligence Community who continue to insist that religion is not part of the mix, have yet to explain why God is only part of the conversation on the Islamic side of the equation.

Global Islamic terror is now metastasizing at an alarming rate. More ominous is the assent of the Shia clergy, apocalyptic ayatollahs, a lowering of the nuclear threshold in the Middle East. Sunni ISIS by comparison is just another tactical terror symptom on the Sunni side – and yet another strategic warning failure too.

Tehran is in the cat bird’s seat, on the cusp of becoming a nuclear superpower. Nuclear Iran changes every strategic dynamic: with Israel, with Arabia, and also with NATO. A Shia bomb is the shortcut to checkmate the more numerous, albeit more primitive, Sunni. Iran will not be “talked out” of the most potent tool in imperial Shia kit – and the related quest for parity with Arabian apostates.

The Islam Bomb

The Islam bomb has been with us for years, in Sunni Pakistan, although you might never know that if you followed the small wars follies in South Asia. The enemy, as represented by American analysis is atomized, a cast of bit players on the subcontinent. First, America was fighting a proxy war with the Soviets. When the Russians departed, the enemy became the murderous Taliban followed by al Qaeda. Both now make common cause with almost every stripe of mujahedeen today. In the 25 years since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan has been reduced now to a rubble of narco-terror and tribalism. If we can believe bulletins from the Pentagon or the Oval Office, America is headed for the Afghan exit in the next two years – maybe. Throughout, the real threat in South Asia remains unheralded – and unmolested.

Nuclear Pakistan is one car bomb, or one AK-47 clip, away from another Taliban theocracy. This is not the kind of alarm that has been raised by the Intelligence Community. Hindu India probably understands the threat, Shia Persia surely understands the Sunni threat, and just as surely, Israel understands that a Sunni bomb is the raison d’etre for a more proximate Shia bomb. Who would argue that the Sunni Saudis need nuclear “power”? Nonetheless, Riyadh is now in the game too.  The most unstable corner of the globe is now host to a nuclear power pull.

The American national security establishment seems to be clueless on all of this. Indeed, when a unique democracy like Israel tries to illuminate a portion of the nuclear threat before the American Congress, the Israeli prime minister is stiff-armed by the Oval Office. If Washington failed with Pakistan and North Korea, why would anyone, let alone the Israelis, believe that Wendy Sherman is a match for the nuclear pipedreams of apocalyptic Shia priests.

Alas, the motive force behind a Shia bomb is not Israeli capabilities or intentions. Israel is a stable democracy where any territorial ambitions are limited to the traditional Jewish homeland. Israel is no threat to Persia or Arabia.  Pakistan, in contrast, is like much of the Sunni world today, another internecine tribal or sectarian wildfire waiting for a match.

The advent of the Islam bomb in Asia was not just a strategic surprise, but the step-child of strategic apathy. The folly of taking sides with the Sunni has now come home to roost. Iran is about to go for the atomic brass ring too, with the Saudis in trail, and there’s not much that America can/will do except mutter about secret diplomacy and toothless sanctions. Of course, there’s always the option of blaming Jews when appeasement fails.

Imperial Islam

The Ummah problem, the Muslim world, has now replaced the Soviet empire, as Churchill would have put it, as the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” There are four dimensions to the Islamic conundrum: the Shia/Sunni rift, intramural secular/religious conflicts, kinetic antipathy towards Israel and the West writ large, and the failure of analysis, especially strategic Intelligence, to unwrap the Muslim onion in any useful way. Imperial Islam, dare we say Islamofascism, now threatens secular autocracy and democracy on all points of the compass.

Islamic imperialism is a decentralized global movement. Nonetheless, the various theaters are united by tactics, strategy, ideology, and objectives. The tactics are jihad, small wars, and terror. The strategy is the imposition of Shariah Law. The ideology is the Koran and the Hadith. And the objective is a Shia or Sunni Islamic Caliphate – for infidels, a distinction without difference.

Muslim religious proselytizers and jihad generals in the field make no secret of any of this. The problem isn’t that some Muslims dissent from this agenda, the problem is that the West, especially national security analysts, cannot/will not believe or accept what Islamic imperialists say aloud, about themselves. The enemy is hiding in plain sight, yet the Intelligence Community doesn’t have the integrity or courage to make a clear call.

Noted British criminal psychiatrist Theodore Dahlrymple captures the bizarre logic of appeasement:

“Racial, religious and cultural identity are morally important in politics, precisely what so many people would like to deny because it can so easily unleash the vilest political passions. Something that is true, say our people of goodwill to themselves, could have nasty consequences; therefore it is not true.”

Propaganda provides many of the strategic “tells” in any conflict. The Nemstov murder in the shadow of the Kremlin provides an example. The knee-jerk reaction of politician and pundits in America was to implicate Russian culture, the Kremlin, or Vladimir Putin.

Contrast the Nemstov blame game with any or every recent Islamist atrocity and the nuclear race in the Ummah. With these, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend Islam, more concern for Islamism and the religious equivalence shibboleth than the nuclear threat or Jewish, Christian, and apostate heads that are now literally rolling on a global scale. In a recent US State Department brief, we are told by State Department spokesman Marie Harf that Islamic terrorism might be attributed to “unemployment” (sic).

Cold War Redux

The West can no longer take yes for an answer. The deliberate resuscitation of the Cold War midst a host of tactical defeats in the Ummah is probably one of the worst foreign policy choices on record.

The old Soviet Union: took down the Berlin Wall, relinquished former satellites, dismantled the Warsaw Pact military alliance, and purged East Europe of nuclear weapons. In response, America and the EU dismantled Yugoslavia, taking the Muslim side we might add, and aggressively expanded NATO up to the traditional Russian border. The “End of (totalitarian) History” as we knew it wasn’t enough. Any vestigial associations with Moscow were relentlessly undermined. The American sponsored coup, orchestrated by Victoria Nuland at the US State Department, with likely help from the CIA, in Ukraine is the best and most recent example.

The “regime change” strategy in Europe has degenerated into some petulant version of nuclear chicken with the Russians. The American embassies in Moscow and Kiev regularly host anti-Putin dissidents in Ukraine and Russia

Regime change folly has lowered the nuclear threshold in South Asia, the Mideast, and now East Europe. Sevastopol and Kiev are side shows. The real target for Brussels and Washington is Moscow – and the Putin regime. The idea that the Kremlin or Russians can be undone or manipulated by: black operations, cyber war, sanctions, propaganda, or provocations is naïve and reckless. Putin is not a Pahlavi, Gadhafi, Assad, or Yanukovych.

Russians were very helpful in ridding Syria of chemical weapons and clearing the Ukraine of nuclear weapons.  Moscow and Putin have the potential also to be very useful against terror, nuclear proliferation, and resolving the Levant lunacy too.

House of Representatives minority leader Pelosi recently lamented losing the “public relations” war with Russia. The American Secretary of State responded that Russian Television (RT) was responsible (sic). The more believable narrative spun by the Kremlin might be closer to the mark. Truth is a powerful ally, especially when it’s coupled with propaganda.

The origin of the new Cold War may have domestic origins. Neither major American political party has a clue as what to do with the metastasizing Muslim problem. Indeed, both sides gag on words like Islam, Muslim, or Mohammed. As 2016 approaches, both parties desperately need to change the subject and find a foreign policy to run on. Regime change in Russia seems to be the consensus choice for American demagogues, Right and Left.

The idea that domestic “politics stops at the border” was always honored more in the breach than anywhere else. The politics of personal destruction is a time honored tradition in America, especially on the Left. That standard has now been folded into the foreign relations bag of tricks. Henry Kissinger claims that “demonization” is not policy. That may be true in any real politic sense, but the Putin bogyman is an ideal straw man for the next American presidential election. Proxy war abroad seems to be the safe sex of domestic politics.

What Now?

The American Intelligence Community is now the largest (17 agencies and uncountable contractors) and most expensive data collection and processing complex in history. Unfortunately, this gold-plated leviathan is undone by inferior analysis; indeed, estimates and reports that are more political than prudent. Withal, existential functions like strategic warning may be in freefall.

The obvious solution would be to take the strategic warning and national estimative functions out from under the IC, and the Executive Branch, and give those tasks to some apolitical body, assuming of course that an impartial forum might be sustained beyond the control of any branch of government. Realistically, it’s hard to believe that any American political party would sponsor an independent and uncontrollable voice of candor or objectivity.

Nonetheless, there are small things that might be done to make a huge difference. During the Cold War, USAF Intelligence ran a service of common concern for the IC called “Soviet Awareness.” The purpose of that program at Bolling AFB was to educate novice intelligence officers and FBI agents about the Soviet threat. The program included Russian history, the rise and spread of Communism, Marxist ideology, and Soviet military capabilities.

Ironically, the inter-agency program that answered the question “why we fight” was discontinued by James Clapper when he became the USAF Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Clapper is now the Director of National Intelligence. The Soviet Awareness resources were reallocated to the information processing function. Today there is no awareness program of common concern on Russian, Islamist, or any other threats.

Clapper threw the threat baby out with the Soviet bathwater. Indeed, in most service schools, discussing Islamic ideology or religion is off limits. If any soldier or Intelligence officer were to ask: “Why do we fight?” the answer today would have to be, “trust me.”

The real tragedy of Intelligence failure today is the burden born by American veterans, servicemen and women: the dead, crippled, and maimed.  “Why we fight?” is a leadership deficit, the forgotten readiness issue. Troops don’t have a clear picture of the enemy or the ideology in play in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Arabia, the Philippines, and Africa. They will know even less about the rationale for serving in East Europe should another conflict be engineered with Russia.

Indeed, the Pentagon and the Oval Office throw lives at small wars that generals and politicians have no intention of declaring, justifying, or winning – by their own admission.  The Commander-in-Chief says the he seeks outcomes where there are no victors or vanquished. Indeed!

Traditionally, we like to think of collection and associated clandestine operations as the sharp end of the Intelligence spear. In fact, analysis is the cutting edge. Unfortunately, that edge is gone today. You could do worse than think of Intelligence analysis as the Broken Arrow in the national security quiver.

We may not know why we fight today, but there is little mystery anymore about why we fail.

                                                                                       Epilogue

The importance of information is seldom self-evident. Even if significance were obvious, information is still not knowledge. And clearly knowledge is not wisdom. Just as surely, only conscience allows an analyst to know the difference. All key judgments must be accompanied by courage and conviction too; courage to communicate to policy mandarins, or voters, with enough force to prompt action. Repetition is often the midwife of acceptance.

Good data and good analysis might be necessary, but never sufficient. Bridging the gap between analysis and acceptance is often a bridge too far for the timid. The national security continuum is a perilous enterprise. The messenger is always in danger of being shot. Alas, truth is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care who gets hurt.

Nonetheless, changing minds is the object of any good Intelligence. Policy and action is only stimulated by an altered consciousness about the subject at hand. Prudent policy is a function of correct data, honest analysis, moral certainty, and rhetorical skill – written or spoken.

Alas, none of these self-evident, common sense observations, with the possible exception of abundant evidence, play much of a role in American threat analysis these days. A very expensive and growing Intelligence Community  is now the weak link in the national security chain. Any speculations about the catastrophic failures of American foreign policy in the past fifty years should begin with the “wilderness of mirrors,” James Angleton’s metaphor for Intelligence praxis.

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  1. Murphy Donovan was the last Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence, the directorate that staffed the associated Soviet Awareness Program. He served under General James Clapper.

Images:

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Wrong Wars and Wrong Enemies

April 30, 2014

Freedom of the Press is at once a virtue and a vice. The virtue is underwritten by the belief that candor and an informed electorate make for honest government. Press freedom becomes a vice when journalists choose to be government surrogates; enablers of half-truths, evasions, or lies. There may be no better example of this dark side of the First Amendment than the ongoing CBS/CIA collaboration to spin the Benghazi fiasco. You might recall that, with Dan Rather on point, CBS was the network in 2004 that sought to discredit George Bush with fake records. Seems the Rather spin chair is now occupied by Charlie Rose, double-dipper extraordinaire for two networks; CPB and CBS.

If you want to understand how cozy American journalism and national intelligence has become, you might audit Washington’s newest odd couple: Charlie Rose of CBS and Michael Morell late of the CIA. Both seem to be “front running” for Hillary Clinton so that she is not damaged by fiasco Benghazi in 2016.

Michael Morell was a former deputy and sometimes acting director of CIA. He was also the Svengali of the infamous Benghazi talking points. Before his 2 April testimony before Congress, and the Rose interview  the next day, Morell was the invisible man in the cover-up. In fact, he was the go-to guy at CIA during the brief David Patraeus tenure and aftermath. Recall that the Petraeus sex soap opera overlapped the Benghazi charade and Obama’s 2012 campaign finale.

Morell was “retired” last June after the White House finally admitted that the former CIA deputy director had unilaterally altered the now infamous Susan Rice talking points just before the November election. Truth often makes a tardy appearance when it “doesn’t matter,” to steal Hillary Clinton’s sentiments on the subject.

Morell joined Charlie Rose at CBS News in January. Morell also collects a sinecure from Beacon Global Strategies, a revolving-door consultancy staffed largely by former Democrat Party appointees. Beacon Global is a likely bull pen for a Hillary campaign and/or regime staffers.

Those who insist that American Media outlets are politically neutral might also contrast the Sunday chat show coverage of Susan Rice’s Benghazi spin on 16 September 2012 with the Michael Morell’s tortured Benghazi confessions during the first week of April 2014. Rice appeared on most network Sunday shows prior to the election. Yet, not a single Sunday talk show, including FOX, mentioned the recent Morell confession before Congress and the subsequent Charlie Rose soft ball interview a day later.  Administration spin gets wall-to-wall coverage before the election; but, when mendacity or “mistakes” are examined after the fact, somehow political journalism is AWOL.

The original September 2012 Benghazi talking points were drafted by a CIA HQ analyst at Langley at the request of congressional Intelligence Committees because members needed some cover with constituents over the neglect and malpractice in Libya.

The neglect involved CIA and State Department failure to respond to field requests for improved security. The incompetence centered on the failure to respond to US agents in peril at two facilities in Benghazi as three sequential Islamist attacks were underway. Indeed, General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon claimed he didn’t send military help to Benghazi because Hillary didn’t ask. The lying played out when previous security requests and even the word “Islamist” was stricken from the after-action draft that was supposed to chronicle the FUBAR fiasco.

Morell now admits that he altered, without consulting field agents or HQ analysts, as much as fifty percent of those now infamous Susan Rice talking points. Morell also admits that General Petraeus, upon seeing the bowdlerized report, concluded that it was useless.

Morell dispatched the talking points to national security principals anyway and Rice took them to the Sunday morning airways. Withal, Morell insists that the White House didn’t have anything to do with “substantive revisions.” We are supposed to believe that Rice led the Sunday damage control charge without Mrs. Clinton or Mister Obama approving the strategy or tactics of what was clearly a very sensitive political defense.

Throughout the Benghazi flail, Clinton and Obama behaved like cat house piano players, ignoring tarts and bouncing bedsprings alike. If adult supervision was absent that controversial September weekend, what specifically were the President and Secretary of State doing during the Benghazi circle jerk? We still don’t know.

Morel would also have you believe that anyone in the tedious and untimely Intelligence review and coordination chain can delete evidence or alter conclusions. It took the 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community a week and four lives to just admit that the tragedy was an attack and not a “demonstration.” Indeed, CIA Director David Patraeus, presiding over eleven versions of the talking points, concluded that the final memo was flawed, if not deceptive. Yet, it was disseminated anyway to a national audience. So much for candor and professionalism in James Clapper’s world.

This is not to absolve Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, or Hillary Clinton at Foggy Bottom. Clearly these women were push-back principals, the trio who in concert p***y whipped Morell, chastened him to extract any mention of previous warnings or obvious security negligence. Ultimately, defending the White House and State Department on the eve of an election came at the cost of what little was left of public trust in the American national security establishment.

The Dogs That Didn’t Bark

What was the purpose of those two clandestine compounds in Benghazi? What did Libyan Islamists know that the American national security community pretended not to know? Alas, those facilities in Libya were probably attacked because they were shipping Muammar Gaddafi era surplus arms to the anti-Assad Islamist “opposition” in Syria.  If the Libyan office of al Qaeda knew what the NY Times knew, then it’s safe to assume that even janitors at CIA were aware of the motives, opportunity, and inspiration gun running provided to Benghazi jihadists.

And today, much of Allah’s wet work in Libya and the rest of North Africa is yet to be done. After all, the African jihad needs weapons too.

So let’s reconstruct. With one voice, CIA and Morell tried to deny the role of Libyan Islamists in the killing of American agents. With another scheme, CIA was/is providing Libyan arms to Muslin jihadists in Syria. The boondoggle in Benghazi illustrates both the incoherence and the incompetence of foreign policy in the Obama era. Similar schizophrenic policy prevails at the Justice Department. The real enemy for the Obama national security team seems to be sunshine.

In short, Americans are kept in the dark by mushrooms like Morell at home while gasoline is thrown on narco-traffic, gun running, and global jihad abroad. You can’t make this stuff up!

Clearly, Michael Morell and CBS deserve each other. Morell cinched his place on the Washington walk of shame when he admitted to Rose that he dismissed key eye witness accounts from the field, even a video, from Benghazi in favor of spin from swivel-chair warriors, the ass-kissers that cluster inside the Beltway.

Two Heroines

However, there are some dim flickers of journalistic integrity midst the Obama era smog. The Media haze obscuring anything remotely critical of team Obama is penetrated at times, mostly by heroines.

Sharyl Attkisson is the former CBS reporter who did the investigative work on “Fast and Furious,” that gun running scheme in Mexico sponsored by the Holder Justice Department. Attkisson also provided refreshing candor on the Libyan fiasco. Alas, Sharyl resigned under pressure from White House and CBS flacks. She may have taken the last vestiges of CBS objectivity and integrity with her.

Nonetheless, Ms. Attkisson still provides the best dissection of  Morell’s tap dance on Capitol Hill. She knows ‘sources and methods’ bat guano when she sees it. Atkinson is now writing a book about Obama era adventures which, insh’allah, should appear before the next American election.

On another beat, Carlotta Gall has specialized in Muslim wars for a decade or more. Her latest book, The Wrong Enemy, breaks ranks with usual administration drivel about Islamist terror as a criminal enterprise with local motives. Ms. Gall calls a Muslim war a war – from Chechnya to Afghanistan. Finally, a serious mainstream journalist recognizes the global Islamist menace and the role that protected Muslim sponsors, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, play in war from South Asia to the Mediterranean.

The sopranos are hard to hear in Washington midst the bull frog chorus, but distaff dissonance might eventually change the national night music. When a ‘journalist with giblets’ award makes its debut, Attkisson and Gall should be at the top of the queue. Truth does not care whose feelings get hurt.

Recent crises reflect just how much partisan politics has corrupted national Intelligence and journalism. With the American Left, too well represented among government shills and Press partisans, truth puts sacred cows at risk; the Obama past and the Hilary future in particular. The thought that President Obama’s legacy is failure or that Hilary Clinton could be denied the presidency, again, seems to be a mainstream Media nightmare.

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Foxtrot Golf Whisky ?

October 9, 2013

The Decline and Fall of National Security

Two unlikely sets of institutions are playing key roles in the decline of American foreign policy effectiveness: Intelligence agencies and military commands. The CIA and DOD, agencies that were heretofore above politics have lost their objective moorings. Contemporary guardians of national security have been suborned by partisanship, in the process, fostering a kind of soft sedition; analytic and operational incompetence.

The Intelligence Colossus

If a casual observer were to attempt to find fault with Intelligence in the 21st Century, he might identify size, complexity, and politics. Since World War II the American Intelligence Community (IC) has grown exponentially, 17 agencies in the US alone today and an expensive host of intermediary managers and commercial contractors. Unfortunately, national Intelligence products, now a kind of communal inertia, do not justify the exorbitant investment in collection and processing of raw data.

The Colin Powell UN speech in the run-up to the Iraq War and the now infamous Benghazi talking points are recent egregious examples “Intelligence” products corrupted by politics. If the purpose of Intelligence is to support the political flavor of the day, why not just subcontract analysis to Madison Avenue?

“Big” was not always the best thing you might say about US Intelligence. Time was when warning or analytic failures had consequences. Pearl Harbor is an example. Ironically, the sub-rosa Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was cashiered by Harry Truman immediately after WWII. Truman was not fond of a large Intelligence establishment or large political egos. It probably didn’t help that OSS chief William “wild Bill” Donovan was a prominent Republican lawyer. Politics are ever-relevant.

Parts of the OSS were salvaged by the National Security Act of 1947 which created a then modest Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). But the Intelligence Community didn’t get a real boost until 1961 with the publication of Roberta Wohlstetter’s Pearl harbor: Warning and Decision, a volume that is still required reading for Intelligence acolytes. Wohlstetter’s encyclopedic study established several benchmarks for Intelligence still relevant today.

Foremost was the axiom that warning is usually an analytic or political, not a data failure. In today’s argot it would be “failure (or unwillingness) to connect the dots.” Sixty years later, on 11 September 2001, analytic failure, not available evidence, was still the weak link. The only difference between Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 Twin Towers warning debacle is cost and the size of the Intelligence legion; alas, still a toothless dog that doesn’t bark.

And the warning problem is complicated today by design. Analysis is hamstrung by the Brennan Doctrine, an a priori policy that rejects evidence which might link terrorism, sedition, and Islamist wars with Muslim ideology or politics.

“How you define a problem shapes how you address it.” – John O. Brennan

The very word “Islamism” has been struck from threat discussions. Where there is no distinction between church and state, religion is the center of gravity. Trying to analyze terrorism and contemporary small wars without mentioning Muslim political motives or Islamic doctrine is a little like studying WWII without mentioning Japanese Imperialism or German National Socialism.

Warning and Decision is still de rigueur for other reasons. A careful reading of official CIA reviews reveals that conclusions about the “under funding” of Intelligence functions are, for CIA, the attractive parts of the Wohlstetter narrative. Ironically, truly talented analysts like Wohlstetter still do not work for Intelligence agencies. The best minds do not work for Intelligence because such analysts would be difficult to manipulate, hence politically unreliable.

The Military Establishment

Senior soldiers, however, are exceptionally reliable. Wet fingers are standard issue on the Pentagon side of the national security equation these days. Political correctness has tarnished more than a few brass hats since Douglas MacArthur was fired. Admiral Mike Mullen’s recent social pandering and General Martin Dempsey’s Benghazi mendacity speaks volumes.

Military literature is equally disingenuous. Two subjects dominate military journals and training manuals today: counterinsurgency (COIN) and an excursion called Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW); foxtrot golf whiskey.

COIN

Counterinsurgency (COIN) is official US military doctrine, a lame legacy of Vietnam. Counterinsurgency is warfare or intervention on behalf an incumbent or allied regime. Yet COIN doctrine seldom accounts for the enemy view — phenomena like coups, revolution, or civil war. The Pentagon avoids such terms because the US military has no charter or doctrine for regime change. The rhetorical dishonesty over the recent “coup” in Egypt makes the point well enough. And at the expense of logic and clarity, any discussion of jihad is officially proscribed by the brass too; no matter how many GIs might get killed by jihadists. With the Brendan doctrine, Jihad, or holy war, is still ritual cleansing.
Since Vietnam, most small Muslim wars might properly be called civil, or better still, religious wars. If Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, or Syria had anything to do with counterinsurgency, the West should have armed the Ayatollah Khomeini, Mullah Omar, Sadam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and Bashar Assad. On the E-Ring, COIN and regime change seem to be synonymous. Military analysis, such that it is, is trying to square this circle with some profound naval gazing. Strategists are calling for a ‘fourth generation’ model of warfare.

4GW

Unfortunately, the new doctrine keeps many of the inanities of Army and Marine Corps official guidance. Foremost is the inability, or unwillingness, to precisely describe the enemy by name, nation, associations of nations, or ideology. And calling 3rd generation warfare a “war on terror” is a little like calling WWII a war on blitzkrieg. Tactics and the enemy are different things: tactics are ephemeral; enemies are kinetic until they are defined and defeated in detail.

The 4GW crowd also talks of collapsing the enemy’s “center of gravity,” but the center for Islamists, and the broader Muslim base, is religion. A CJCS that has stricken Islam from the discussion is not likely to assault “one of the world’s great religions,” much less try to neutralize imams who might insist on Sharia law — or target clerics sponsoring holy war, lethal jihad.

4GW aficionados also support a Fabian strategy. Fabius Maximus Cunctator (280-203 BC) was a Roman general who used defensive delay and attrition tactics to bleed Hannibal’s expeditionary forces during the Punic Wars. Fabius is thought to be the father of guerilla war.

Fabian Defense?

Ironically, the Fabian fad is a page out of Osama bin Laden’s cookbook: extend the infidel armies and kill with a thousand cuts. War is curious politics; Islamists are defining our strategy? If so, 4GW is truly cunctative; too late for a flaccid flag corps that already offers “transition” and “stability” as passive strategic objectives.

Imagine a high school athletic coach who would use such banalities instead of words like victory! We remember Bolingbroke, not Hotspur, because Henry IV knew how to win. Douglas MacArthur struck the same cord: “There is no substitute for victory.” Life, war, and politics are zero-sum games — history is the tale of winners and losers.

American diplomatic and military operations are starting to look like T-Ball or scoreless soccer; no winners or losers, yet all participants get a medal or a promotion. John Brennan and Martin Dempsey might tale a bow here.

The Fabian debate is another nickel and dime argument. What’s required is a new global strategy, not another small war tactical salad where universal threats are ascribed to vague local grievances.

If diplomacy is the only answer, then new strategy is required there too. Here two attack vectors recommend themselves; abandon the “two-state” chimera in the Mideast and engage, dare we say confront, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Israel needs to negotiate directly with the Arab League, not individual terror surrogates like Fatah. And America needs to confront the OIC, not individual Muslim states like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Syria. If Fabian strategy is a good idea, then it is the Arab League and the OIC, not America, that needs to be put on the defensive.

The burden for killing autocrats or defeating Islamist “insurgency” needs to be shifted to the faithful, that celebrated “moderate” Muslim majority, the citizens of the Arab league and the OIC. God knows the US Department of Defense sells Muslim autocrats enough firepower to police zealots.

The question that futurists need to ask is; why are American and European infidels obliged to make the world safe for Islam when only Muslims can save the Ummah from itself? Answer that question; then worry about the reform of inert military doctrine and fanciful national strategy.

And as a practical matter, any policy reform would require regime change in America: at Intelligence, at Defense, and at the White House.

                                                                                                      ………………………………..

Tags: CIA, DOD, the Intelligence Community, John Brennan, General Martin Dempsey, Islam, Islamism, Israel, the Arab league, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, 9/11, Roberta Wohlstetter, and Pearl Harbor.

This essay appeared in the 10/09/2013 edition of American Thinker


Checkmate in Baghdad and Geneva

October 4, 2013

“Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” – JFK

War is a messy business. Serial wars get even more untidy over time. Often, it’s hard to know where one begins and another ends. Such is the case today as the Arab spring looks like another Muslim winter. America and Europe stumble from one conflict venue to another wondering what happened to all those rosy assertions about jasmine, justice, moderation, and modernity. The Islamic world is a mess and no one has a clue as to where or how the sequential mayhem ends. In Syria, the nanny states of the West are again perched on the brink of another sectarian and/or tribal abyss.

Nonetheless, the optimism of intervention still prevails. Today you hear argument after argument about the responsibilities of power and success – or preaching about very selective humanitarian concerns.  If you read enough foreign policy analysis you might come to believe that someone has the answer, or that somehow Europe and America have the “responsibility” to make the Third World well. Never mind that the very words “developing” and “emerging” have become geo-political oxymorons, triumphs of hope over experience.

Ironically, the grand strategy, if there is one, when you strip away the boilerplate, can be summarized with a single word – that word is “more.” More is the mantra of imprudent expectations; bailouts at home and flailouts abroad. If one “investment” doesn’t work, surely the original sacrifice wasn’t big enough. No thought seems to be given to developing a new game plan. More aid, more pandering, more troops, more drones, or more missile strikes; but never more common sense. It’s always more, and more is never enough.

And now ‘more’ is accompanied by “red line” moralizing, the color coded version of chicken. Alas, the no-fault/default cultures of Europe and America are unlikely enforcers of any kind of norms and standards in the less civilized world. The West insists, ironically, on measures of accountability and restraint that have been abandoned in Europe and America. Political decay, especially in the First World, has consequences.

All the rhetoric about global responsibility is a rehash of the “white man’s burden” trope. Worse still, the hand-wringing and preaching seems to validate “orientalism,” guilt driven theories that excuse and forgive Muslim pathology because the chaos is thought to be the results of European racism, colonialism, or exploitation.

Ironically, much of the confused strategic rhetoric originates with senior military officers and the Intelligence Community.

Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has sought to redefine most wars as either guerilla, insurgent, or conventional conflicts. Conventional conflict is a distant third in most deliberations. Real wars might have to be declared and put to a vote. Unfortunately, the accepted taxonomy ignores ground truth and the worldview of likely opponents.

Most wars in the troublesome Muslim world are in fact religious wars, conflicts where the nexus is a clash between religious and secular values. The most obvious evidence of religious war, external to the Muslim world, occurs at the tectonic plates of religion, those borders where Muslim and non-Muslim polities meet. South Asia, North Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus region, Thailand, and the Philippines are obvious examples. Even China has pockets of Muslim irredentism.

When ayatollahs and imams rant about “jihad,” or holy war, they have few illusions about the nature of contemporary conflict. Indeed, most Muslim clerics seem to grasp global strategic reality better than American generals who insist on parsing various Muslim wars into local insurgencies with local motives. Religion has become the invisible camel in the infidel tent.

The most celebrated version of the official US military view in these matters is contained in Army Field Manual 3-24; Counterinsurgency, the doctrinal bible that David Patraeus helped write and subsequently rode to four star notoriety. Unfortunately, like too many of his over-schooled peers, General Patraeus is more likely to be remembered for his social life than his military insights or battlefield achievements. Equally misguided was the US Marine Corps decision to adopt the Army manual in the interests of tactical ecumenism.

Religious war is now a global phenomenon, thanks in part to the failure of flag officers to acknowledge that threat. The Pentagon doesn’t have any official guidance for religious war beyond political correctness.

Within the Ummah, modern wars are of two types; civil and proxy. Contemporary revolutions in Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, the Sudan, Somalia, Mali, and Egypt are religious civil wars. These in turn are of two classes; sectarian (i.e. Shia vs Sunni) or secular/sectarian. Secular military dictatorships, Egypt today for example, have been in the clerical crosshairs since Mohammed’s time. Libya and Syria are examples of secular oligarchies where tribal rivalries created opportunities for Islamists.

Syria is a prominent example of modern proxy war, where principals (Russia and the US or Iran and Israel), once removed, are attempting to settle old scores or exploit a regional opportunity. Any notion of moral “red lines” or WMD thresholds in Syria is just another flight from reality, a veil for political egos and hidden agendas.

The American Ranch Hand campaign (1962-71), which poisoned Southeast Asia for nearly a decade, was the most egregious, sustained modern use of chemical warfare. Granted, the putative aim of the Agent Orange campaign was defoliation; still, the net effect was to poison civilians and water sources under the canopy. No American administration is well-positioned to point fingers at Syria when the US Air Force, the Pentagon, and the White House have yet to acknowledge or accept responsibility for the mutilation of a generation of American GIs and several generations of Vietnamese children.

We might also recall those gassed Kurds and Persians (1988) of recent memory who perished from indifference if not complicity. Or we could mention the million or so Rwandans (1994) who fell to tribal clubs and cutlery. Such events barely make the evening news in the West. With these and Vietnam, ‘moral’ superiority about chemical warfare or genocide, if it ever existed, is a void not a high ground.

The recent gas attack in Syria is not an exception, nor is it a rule. Identifying culprits is probably irrelevant.  Nations adhere to international conventions or “norms” as it suits their interests. Credible force is the only reliable sheriff or deterrent. And a false flag prologue is often the pretense for the use of force.

Clearly there is more than a little overlap in any conflict taxonomy. Nonetheless, the need for a new vocabulary for the age of intervention is underwritten by two indisputable facts: religion underwrites much of the typology and too many conflicts are misrepresented as insurgencies when they are in fact civil wars. If Libya or Syria were true insurgencies, America should have sent guns to Gaddafi and Assad.

The ‘insurgent’ paradigm suits the politics, not the reality, of modern war. Terms like Islamic, religious, or “civil” war are avoided because the US military has no charter, doctrine, or legal authority for intervention in overseas internal disputes; and surely no moral authority for taking sides in religious rivalries. The Sunni tilt in American foreign policy since 1979 speaks for itself, a grim litany of blowback and failure.

At a minimum, you could argue that American intervention has made Shia fanatics, Hezb’allah, the Taliban, and now a global al Qaeda possible. Recall that America helped create a vacuum in southern Lebanon for Hezb’allah to fill. Recall also that clandestine support to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the Soviet era made the Taliban possible. Imprudent signals to Islamists made the recent Muslim Brotherhood electoral success possible in Egypt too. In the geo-political arena, unqualified support for Saudi and Emirate oil oligarchs makes Salifism and related religious fascism possible worldwide.

The incompetence of intervention has more than a little to do with the caliber of American generals since Korea. Surely, David Patraeus was no guerilla fighter like Joe Stillwell and Martin Dempsey is no cavalry officer the equal of George Patton. At Benghazi, American military honor was compromised by timidity, if not bureaucratic cowardice. General Dempsey claims that he did not act because Mrs. Clinton didn’t give him a green light. Under Dempsey, the military ethos changed from “no man left behind” to “cover your behind.” Victory is no longer a staple of any flag officer’s resume or vocabulary.

The Intelligence Community is also part of the rhetorical decay. While at the White House, John Brennan literally scrubbed any reference to Islam, Islamists, jihad, or holy war from public and administration conversations about national security. He actually convinced most government departments, contractors, and the Press to delete any language that might suggest linkage between terror, religious war, and Islam. The Director of National Intelligence now refers to Islamic terrorists as “nefarious characters.” At CIA, Brennan is now well placed to police the language and analysis of National Intelligence Estimates.

And the chickens of strategic decline are home to roost as America again sides with the Sunni in Syria. Dithering in the West for two years has allowed Bashar al-Assad to regain the tactical advantage on the battlefield. And strategically, the Alawite regime now has a clear victory.  American gun sights have been lowered from regime change to “let’s make a deal.” Never mind that time is as good a gift to Assad as any aid from the Persians and Russians.

And the proxy war is a disaster. Vladimir Putin throws a ‘Hail Mary’ in Syria, and Foggy Bottom and the White House morph into cheer leaders. Worse still, the American administration embarrasses itself by trying to take credit for the Russian initiative. Say what you will about Putin, he is a better friend to Syria than Obama is to Israel. When the next “red line” is in the works, it might have to be drawn around Israel.

The Russian strategy may look a little like a deus ex machina, but compared to the Obama amateurs, Putin plays the great game like Winston Churchill. And putting John Kerry in  a diplomatic cage match with Sergei Lavrov is like watching  a bear  toy with a cocker spaniel. Checkmate in Baghdad and Geneva!

…………………………………………

The author provided intelligence support to Ranch Hand at Tan Son Nhut AB in 1968 and 1971. He writes occasionally about the politics of national security.

 

 


Political Revolt and Religious Reform

May 8, 2011

“Revolution is a transfer of power; reform is the correction of abuses.”  Lytton

 

Scholars and politicians are still trying to make a case for Muslim “democracy” in the wake of an ongoing viral Arab revolution.  These arguments, as they have since the beginning, are underwritten by two grand assumptions; a “moderate” Islamic present and an enlightened Muslim future. If asserted conclusions and wishful thinking were evidence, such speculations might be supportable.

The predicate of “moderation” imagines an Islam that is ecumenical and tolerant; in short, a culture of persuasion, not an imperial political ideology. Such assumptions tend to ignore the realities of global militants, jihad financiers, and aggressive proselytizers.

Fearful politicians and an uncurious Press reserve most of their anguish for relatively minor and geographically remote groups of Muslim radicals such as Arab al Qaeda and the South Asian Taliban. The Pyrrhic victory laps associated with the recent summary execution of Osama bin Laden are symptomatic. Concurrently, the larger international Islamist movement grows apace, largely unexamined and unchecked.

Global terror attacks now number over 50 thousand incidents per annum; and most anti-secular insurgencies worldwide, while nearly exclusively Islamic, are dismissed as unrelated or isolated events with local motives. Islamic terrorist organizations now number in the dozens and more than a few operate globally. Petrodollar financing of mosques, religious schools, and religious cultural centers also operates beneath the radar of international concern. Religious proselytizing organizations such as Hizb al-Ikwan al-Muslimum (Muslim Brotherhood), Hizb ut Tahir (Party of Liberation), and the Tabilighi Jamaat (Society for Faith Propagation) now have a gross membership in the hundreds of millions.

PEW surveys of Arab attitudes towards jihad, terror, Jews, and religious law reveal significant support for the Islamist agenda. In some countries those sentiments exceed fifty percent of the population. The most facile defense of irredentist Arab attitudes are the blanket claims, like those made by White House advisors, that negative sentiments are  “unislamic” or  fringe phenomena, not representative of  true Islam or genuine Arab opinion. Islamic leaders seldom make such fatuous claims about “moderation,” yet factual terror statistics and factual opinion surveys seem to have little impact on non-Islamic apologists.

More than a few militant groups, work several facets of the jihad imperative; violence and good works. Hamas and Hezb’allah (Party of God) are two prominent examples – bloody sedition masked under a burka of community service.

Nonetheless, the largely unwarranted assumptions about Muslim moderation are not near as troubling as forecasts or wishful thinking about Muslim “democracy.”

It is religious reform and tolerance, not political revolution that makes democracy and republicanism possible. Islam does not recognize a distinction between church and state. Indeed, contemporary Islamic clerics and scholars hold that religious/secular distinctions create a “hideous schizophrenia” in the West – the source of all European and American degeneracy. Such dogma offers few prospects for renewal, internal or external to dar al Islam.

Developed societies do not find the sacred and profane mutually exclusive. For too many Muslims, such enlightened tolerance is neither a virtue nor a likely future.

 The Christian Experience

 The keystone for secular/religious harmony is the admonition to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” found in the synoptic gospels (Mathew 22:21). Indeed, the early Christian tradition followed a polytheistic Roman model which, short of political revolt, was very tolerant – and at one time, republican. Indeed, the man Christians knew as Saint Paul was in fact, unlike Christ, a literate rabbi and a Roman Citizen. He lived in three worlds and thrived.

Up to the time of Constantine, few people made a distinction between Jews and Christians. A Christian was a kind of reform Jew.  Early Christian theologians, and later Enlightenment philosophers, were admirers of Greek and Roman secular notions of democracy and republicanism: Albertus, Augustine, Aquinas, and (especially) Erasmus were prominent.

The seeds of civilization were first embalmed in sectarian amber with Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313 AD); a proclamation whose net effect made Christianity the state religion of a fadingRoman Empire.Constantine, weary of internecine wars in Europe moved the Roman capital to the Bosporus where classical civility awaited its fate at the hands of the Ottomans.

The end of the Roman Byzantine epoch was forecast in 1054 AD when the western and eastern rites of the Christian church excommunicated each other – a divide which persists today.  By 1453 AD, the lights of Constantinople were dimmed by Mehmed II after a siege that lasted less than 60 days.

If Constantine had the gift of prophesy and could have foreseen the tyranny of Holy Roman Emperors and corrupt Catholic Popes, he might then have given polytheism, and the entire Greek and Latin pantheon, a second look.  Monotheism was a hop, skip, and jump from religious monoculture, a straitjacket that was not undone inEurope for a thousand years.

Rome and Constantinople did not perish from a single cause. Indeed, the decline of both was slow enough that Western Europedidn’t rouse itself from the dogmatic stupor of the Dark and Middle Ages until it was too late. The last vestiges of Classical Rome, and many Greek antecedents, were devoured by monotheistic cannibals; Christianity on the north and west and Islam to the east and south. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment barely saved Europeand Christianity from themselves.

Much of the problem with historical religious tyranny is the assumed superiority of monotheism and the infallibility of associated clerics or “prophets.” Orthodox or fundamentalist monocultures are invariably authoritarian and characteristically intolerant. In the modern Arab world, autocratic secularism and religious exclusion often share the same pulpit.

Diversity and pluralism are celebrated as secular virtues, yet somehow these values don’t travel well with doctrinaire monotheists. True cultural diversity would include religious practices, not just racial demographics. Ecumenicism, another value attributed to Islam, is also a one-way street as any non-Muslim pilgrim to Tehran,Riyadh, orMeccawould discover.

A thousand years after the fall of Rome, but mere decades after the fall of Constantinople, the Christian Reformation challenged both an absolute Church and a host of absolute monarchies. Here, many of the key Enlightenment players were clerics. Luther and Erasmus were seminal; two monks ordained into the same Augustinian order. It was Erasmus who most notably disputed Fra Luther’s determinism and argued to retain key Catholic ideas of choice and free will.

The American Experience

The ink had hardly dried on Luther and Calvin’s absolutism, notions of predestination and fatalism, when a thousand apostates bloomed. Many Christian free thinkers fled from the intolerance and religious wars of Europe to the relative freedom of the British and French colonies in America. Once there, the Protestant varieties of Christianity continued to multiply, many of them restoring Catholic values that Luther had rejected. Prominent among these were free will, redemption, clergy, and good works.

It was left to Americans to fire the forge of democratic ecumenicism; a furnace where freedom, republicanism, and the best common law traditions of Judaism and Christianity would be alloyed.

Most of the European Enlightenment gloss that was to grace the boilerplate (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) of the American experiment would have been unknown to most citizens of the original colonies. Indeed, the various state assemblies and elected representatives were created a century before the 1776 war against England. The Virginia House of Burgesses first sat in 1619. A “burgess” was a free man.

The 13 American republics were as much a product of secular neglect as religious reform. England cared little about colonial governance as long as imperial commerce and revenues were assured.  Indeed, the Church of England had little influence before the Revolution and less after. And the early democratic pretensions of the states were limited; the voting franchise was restricted to property owning, white males.

Nonetheless, the early American republics were unique in two respects. The choice of government, if not governors, was a bottom-up phenomenon. And religious tolerance was not so much a choice, as a necessity. The young American democracy developed in tandem with two religious “awakenings,” in fact an American religious reformation which produced a diversity of Christian sects inAmerica that Luther and Calvin could never have imagined. The spires of Christianity and Mogen Davids of Judaism, the American religious mosaic, are still visible today in every town from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The story of how the “Awakenings” changed Puritan thinking was best told by Nathanial Hawthorne in the fictional Scarlet Letter.

Hester Prynne is not simply the story of a fallen angel redeemed. The back story is even more fascinating. Hawthorne was writing in midst of the Yankee critique of Luther and Calvin. In the process of trying to reform Catholicism, Puritan zealots had rejected beliefs in free will, penance, and good works. Hawthorne, a writer with Puritan roots, and his fictional adulterers, helped to restore these core values to American variants of Christianity. In the end, Hester’s scarlet letter becomes: a red badge of courage, an affront to clerical hypocrisy, a symbol of personal responsibility for moral choices, and ultimately, an icon of good works; the path to redemption – in this world, if not the next:

“…the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril.”

Europe took its “democratic” cues fromAmericafrom that point forward.  Historians seldom note that the US Constitution never mentions democracy. Republican founding fathers had little faith in the wisdom of crowds.

Subsequent, political and commercial success in Europe and America was made possible, not by the decline of religion, but by the rise of reform; republican reforms that released the constructive energies of true political and spiritual diversity.

The Civil War was America’s great secular renovation; it was made possible by diverse religious campaigners that insisted on social justice. The abolitionist movement,Lincoln’s Republican Party, and the Underground Railroad began, and were sustained, by the conscience of congregants.

Europe might well take credit for social “democrats” as these were linear descendants of Luther, Calvin, Marx, and Lenin. Ecumenical Judeo/Christian republicanism, however, was a product of the American experiment, and the wellspring of Yankee exceptionalism.

How the French went wrong, just a few short years after the American Revolution, is another story. The Richelieu precedent and religious homogeneity probably didn’t help – or possibly Voltaire died too soon and Robespierre lived too long. The French Catholic monopoly survived in any case. To the south, in Spain, a stifling secular/religious oligarchy prevailed through a bloody Spanish Civil War and well into the 20th Century.

The Russian Revolution of the early 20th Century was in many ways similar to the French. The Slavic upheaval began with all the usual cant about freedom and democracy, but the face of reality soon became terror and totalitarianism. The great error of Marx and Lenin was to make an enemy of the Church, instead of cultivating and harnessing the energy of congregants, Communists created a massive spiritual fifth column in Eastern Europe. With that, the “revolution without guns” of the late 20th Century became, as George Keenan forecast, inevitable. Ultimately, the old believers ofEurope swept the secular atheists of Marxism into “the dustbin of history.” Today, the Russian prime minister wears a crucifix.

Religious contributions to American and European success were not limited to Christians. Jewish gifts to the development of democracies were substantial.

The Jewish Experience

The conflict between theocratic Jews and secular Romans reached a boiling point in the First Century (66 AD), a tipping point during the Second Revolt (132 AD). For most Jews, the Diaspora was an opportunity to turn lemons into sorbet. They did this by adapting themselves to 19 centuries of secularism in exile while retaining local diversity of religious traditions. In spite of, or because of, depredations, Jews made exceptional artistic and scientific contributions to a world of nation states. They “rendered unto Caesar” on a global scale while preserving a unique and, at the same time, a value-added culture. The keys to Jewish success were acceptance, however pragmatic, of secular authority in public affairs – complemented by traditional tolerance of spirituality.

Like the American experience, necessity was the mother of Jewish invention; tactical assimilation served a larger strategic goal of cultural survival. The Jewish Diaspora is the gold standard example of symbiotic secular and religious values in a successful society. Tension between the sacred and the profane is both necessary and sufficient for survival and progress. All success is a product of perseverance, competition, and struggle. Conflict is good – and inevitable. Utopian religious or secular monoculture is not just impractical; it is also impossible.

The great danger of Islamism is not that it might succeed, but the damage it does before it fails.Israelis likely to be the first casualty.

Today, we again hear national politicians and prominent Muslim clerics, reviving a primitive bigotry, as they talk of “wiping Jews off the face of the earth.” What are we to think – that such declarations are signs of moderation? No rational world can fail to recognize the historic and global contributions of Jews, the symbolic significance of Israel, and the categorical imperative (to borrow a thought from Emanuel Kant) to defend them both.

The Islamic Experience

Too much of Islam has never evolved or repaired the depredations of orthodoxy. Utopian monocultures, religious or secular, are impossible in this world – and possibly the next. Short of radical reform, Islamism is doomed to ruinous failure.

The sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity were written by many hands; insuring degrees of observance and a rich diversity of interpretations. The holy texts of Islam come from a solitary source – or at least that’s the claim.  The genius of Talmudic and New Testament commentary is the daily effort to make them relevant to a developed world. Republican democracy is impossible without such religious pluralism and complementary political diversity.

There are too many examples of sovereign religious and political absolutism in the Arab League, so it is instructive to look elsewhere; examine a nation likeTurkey, a NATO member; and every apologist’s favorite Muslim “moderate.”

Turkey is an instructive example of contemporary Islamic backsliding and intolerance. Put aside for a moment the ethnic cleansing of apostate Kurds and infidel Christian Armenians. Put aside also associated genocide denials. Consider instead the erosion of Kamalist secular values and the systematic intimidation of the military since the Islamists came to power in 2002; a military long thought to be the guardian of secular values is now cowed by clerics. Consider also the fate of the Eastern Rite Christian church in Anatolia. The Erdogan government has closed the last Christian Orthodox seminary inIstanbul by fiat; virtually guaranteeing that one of the oldest congregations in Christendom, without clergy, will be suffocated in a generation.

Mehmed II showed more mercy to the Christians of Constantinople in 1453. And the Church of Rome shows as much concern for their Christian brothers in Turkeytoday as they did in the 15th century. Then as now, Europe may be, as Oriana Fallaci claimed on her death bed, its own worst enemy. Admitting modern Turkey to the European Union makes about as much sense as making Somalia the 51st American state.

Tayyip Recep Erdogan is not just the prime minister; he is also head of Turkey’s largest religious party, a party which garners well over three fourths of the national vote. And Erdogan is Islamism’s most eloquent spokesman on the subject of moderation. The prime minister claims that the adjective “moderate” before the noun “Muslim” is an insult:

“These descriptions are very ugly; it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”

The Turkish prime minister does not abide the notion of moderation, how arrogant is it for Western journalists, politicians, and academics to insist on perpetuating this myth?

If theocratic monoculture is the price of racial pluralism, then claims about Islamic diversity are a social fraud. And if European and American commercial imperialism was a crime against Muslim history, surely Islamic religious imperialism is a crime against the future. Freedom and democracy have always been impossible without religious reform.

Epilogue

The world is both enriched and bedeviled by spirituality. Religion is a basis for ethics in classical education and an ancient curb-level contributor to common law. Too frequently, Western scholars and politicians are uncomfortable with religion; unable to recognize its potency and unwilling to condemn its excess.

The European and American Enlightenment is a telling example. Academics wax eloquently about the political and scientific contributions of John Locke, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, but few are inclined to value the spiritual reforms of Disiderius Erasmus, Roger Williams, Jonathan Edwards, John Carroll, or Abraham Geiger.

History is usually written by self-proclaimed agnostics, timid academics with little sympathy for spiritual grass roots, or the people who actually make history. At the same time the academy will defend the moral equivalence of political Islam in the name of ecumenicism; literally defend intolerance in the name of tolerance. The complicity of Islamist right and the secular left is one of the great ciphers of the new century.

For good or ill, political scientists are often too eager to ingratiate themselves to an “ism” or a political fad. The politically correct view of Islam today, now mandated apparently from10 Downing Street and the White House, is that militant Islam and national security threats are mutually exclusive. The belief that democracy will follow Arab revolts appears to be, like Islamophobia, another neologism.

White House papers insist that the language of national security analysis be altered so that no link between religion and threat can be established or implied. Somehow the religious incantations and the bombs of suicide assassins are unrelated; and now Muslim revolution is inextricably linked to democracy? Such scenarios divorce evidence from reason. Monolithic religion, like totalitarian politics, has always been a threat to civility and human progress. There is little evidence to suggest that contemporary Islamic imperialism is any different.

The “awakenings’ of American history were religious reforms. The carnage in the Arab world is a lot of things, but religious reform is not one of them. Indeed, the images from Arab television (chanting mobs of burkas, green banners of jihad, and contorted faces of clerics like al Yusuf al Qaradawi); reveal an Arabia that is not so much awakening as sleep walking back through history.

Revolts may change regimes, but only reform will correct historical error.

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The author attended Catholic schools in the Bronx and New Rochelle, New York. This essay appeared in the 7 May 11 edition of Global Politician.