January 5, 2017

“Truth is treason in an empire of lies.” – Orwell

Much of what Donald Trump said during the 2016 campaign seemed to be braggadocio, bombast, and on occasion, a kind of non-specific cranial buzz. Still, if you listened carefully, and ignored the ambient noise, there was always a message in most of his rhetoric; signals that were usually lost or ignored by a smug and hostile Fourth Estate.

Trump’s Signals

Immigration is a problem. Neither Mexicans nor Muslims are ideal immigrants, yet the former are to be preferred over the latter. The left coast and Hollywood, ironically, might fall into the sea without cheap labor and drugs from Mexico.

The East Coast is little better. Washington, DC is corrupt, a haven for patronizing, condescending, elite apparatchiks, right and left.

The DNC was trying to cook the Democrat Party primaries and general election. The press, broadcast networks, CPB, and the Intelligence Community get honorable mention as sous chefs.

The gruesome foursome now rationalizes defeat as a Russian conspiracy. Vladimir Putin put it best, “The American party that calls itself ‘democratic’ seems to have forgotten what democracy means.”

The Clintons are shameless frauds. Hillary is the most corrupt person ever to run for high office. Her loss is the country’s gain.

The Pentagon along with the Intelligence Community are not sacred cows; bovine, expensive, and proliferate maybe, but not sacred.

The EU and NATO, like Swedish hippy communes, might be globalist or Utopian experiments gone horribly wrong. Allies who will not pay or play should not stay. All coalitions, like sausage, have a sell-by date.

America needs to rethink foreign policy; towards Israel, towards Europe, towards Russia, and towards an irredentist Muslim world. Ideology and culture matter.

Russian alarm about NATO expansion is justified. Demonizing Russia, or isolating it from Europe, is strategic madness.

Recent trade deals favor foreigners. America has swapped jobs, core industrial skills, agricultural and industrial safety for a pocket full of domestic mumbles.

Obama’s only real claims to legacy are a failed health care boondoggle, a Muslim world in flames, and a touch of melanin, the latter a glass half-full at best.

American media, and the Intelligence Community, are not objective reporters anymore, if they ever were. Fake partisan news and propaganda are now joint ventures. The US State Department, for example, is now, by law, the official host to an American “Ministry of Truth” funded by defense appropriations.

Trump is correct also about the Washington, DC swamp. It needs to be drained.

Sooner is better.

Signals and Noise

During the 2016 primaries and election campaign, party elites and a sycophantic media engineered a gauntlet for Trump that ran from ridicule, to contempt, to hostility, to vindictiveness. All of which are now reduced to childish tantrums. Ironically, Michelle Obama claims that the White House needs “adult” (sic) leadership. Surely, given the post-election behavior of camp Clinton/Obama and the American left, she cannot be thinking of her husband, his spokesmen, his cabinet, or the Democrat Party.

How is the eleventh hour vote against Israel at the UN anything but juvenile or petulant rage? How is the 11th hour expulsion of Russian diplomats anything but adolescent sour grapes?

In any campaign, data and statistics are manipulated for advantage. The 2016 election might be a case study. Hard to believe that all that polling and all those statistical forecasts could have been so universally wrong without someone cooking the books.

Feint signals from the real world since the Trump victory provide anecdotal hints of a cultural sea change. Disparate icons such as Clint Eastwood and Henry Kissinger may not have been all in for Trump but both have made sober, if not optimistic, assessments of the next administration.

We know what Eastwood thinks after decades of millennial political correctness. And Dr. Kissinger says that Donald Trump represents an “extraordinary opportunity.”


The great failing of statistical analysis is that it seldom accommodates relevant factors which cannot be conveniently quantified. Such analysis will often ignore inconvenient truths too, arithmetic that might not support expected outcomes.

Trump campaign rallies were an example. Big Trump numbers were largely ignored whilst Mrs. Clinton’s often anemic attendance figures were seldom revealed. One day in Florida, a couple of Tim Kaine rallies had to be cancelled due to an interest deficit while a Trump rally a few miles away was drawing thousands.

The national TV networks could not believe their lying eyes. Minor anti-Trump protests might make the evening news, but huge enthusiasm gaps were seldom covered in any detail. Every good spin master knows that books are cooked with two sets of numbers, select facts and facts that are ignored altogether.

The old saw that claims “figures don’t lie, but liars still figure” comes to mind. Just as the Fourth Estate missed or misconstrued numbers and facts in the campaign, there are now some significant signals in post-election statistics, numbers that team Trump ignore at their peril.

Blue Wall Moves To Washington

The District of Columbia and surrounding bedroom communities in Virginia and Maryland supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 by wide margins. This is the federal government demographic; bureaucrats, contractors, and a host of camp followers living off the taxpayer dime.

The socialist heart of the left is still beating in Big Brother’s crib. Neither Pennsylvania Avenue nor the District of Columbia and suburbs is Trump country.

Mythology runs neck-to-neck with fake news in Washington. The non-partisan myth is the most pervasive, the shibboleth that suggests that the civil service, Foreign Service, the Intelligence Community, or defense officials are impartial, political eunuchs. In fact, the size of the federal behemoth, deficit spending and debt, is a function of entrenched socialist illusions, a bond that unites both political parties.

Bigger is always better inside the Beltway. Few souls get to, or thrive in, any federal office by arguing for less of anything.

District of Columbia voting habits are probative. Over 90 percent of the presidential vote in 2016 went to Democrats. Less than one in ten supported Trump. The District is half white and half black, yet both liberal demographics preferred Hillary Clinton. When Trump comes to town, the Beltway will be the new blue wall of active/passive political aggressors; a blue wall of press, politicians, apparatchiks, non-profits, lobbies, and associated contractors.

The DC civil service cohort and associated camp followers are many things. Good loser isn’t one of them. Trump has his work cut out in the capital and it begins with bureaucratic hostility and inertia.

Still, the president elect has the edge coming in. His critics continue to underestimate or misconstrue Trump and his game. Trump plays politics like the Patriots play football.

The best defense is good offensive – and stout leadership.

Trump’s early appointments are significantly offensive! The generals have landed. No accident that Marines are leading the charge. Battles to breach the new blue wall, the DC Beltway, and “make America great again,” will require more than a little hand-to-hand street fighting.

A new year indeed! Whether or not 2017 is “happy,” remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, America says God speed to the Trump beach head and Semper Fidelis to those valiant centurions on point in DC.

Take no prisoners!

Previously published in the American Thinker


Tags: the blue wall, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, 2016 election, Politics,  Civil Service, Democratic Party, fake news.

Regime Change in America?

November 18, 2014

Hold the champagne!

The recent mid-term election in America is not a sweep, a wave, or a revolution.  The same president is still in the Oval Office and the usual suspects still reign in the House and Senate. Sure, Harry Reid might get a smaller office, but his successor as House Majority Leader is not necessarily an improvement. In Congress, the most important values are stasis and tenure. Leadership on the Hill is usually an inherited position not a virtue like character. Pragmatically, you probably couldn’t slip a two dollar bill between the Republicans and Democrats on any major domestic or foreign policy issue.

Yes, that now includes health care too. Once a large government program is underway none dare assault the leviathan.  No matter how bad the program, the civil service jobs are always good. Both political parties agree the least that you can do for any social problem is to throw money at it.

The foreign policy planks of both major parties might be captured in two neologisms, Russophobia and Islamophilia. Republicans and Democrats are in a foot race to the right when the subject is Vladimir Putin and a mad dash to the left, can’t genuflect fast enough, if the subject is Mohamed or Muslims. Never mind that America has everything in common with Moscow and near nothing in common with Mecca.

There were two clear messages from election night, ennui and apathy. Americans are fed up with both parties. If there had been a “none of the above” box to check, nihilism might have won in a landslide. Again, as in almost any American election, apathy is the loudest voice in the public square.

Overall, about 35 percent of eligibles voted. Turnout was down in all states but twelve. If you think of an election as an opinion poll, we don’t know what most folks think. Those unwilling to say or play are a cipher, a true silent majority.

The mid-term elections might not be a champagne moment, but looking towards 2016, we can see the specters of three political futures: the Boehner/McConnell tag team, the Christie/Clinton tarantella, and the Obama legacy quest.

Boehner and McConnell on the bridge

Let’s not kid ourselves about the leadership in Congress.

If John Boehner wasn’t a congressman, he would probably be tending bar in Ohio. He has been a professional politician for nearly thirty years. He might be most notable for tearing up whenever he hears the words, “Mister Speaker.” Boehner is third in line of succession to the presidency.

Mitch McConnell is another professional politician who has served in the Senate for longer than Boehner has been in the House. Like Boehner, he is another invisible man with tenure. McConnell might best be known as “let’s make a deal” Mitch, the go-to-guy for collaboration on deficit spending.

Neither of these two would be thought of as leaders or visionaries in any forum where tenure was not the dominant value. And neither of them has shown the courage to think outside the box. Like most sinecures, a Boehner/McConnell stewardship represents more of the same, business as usual; profligate spending at home and Moscow bashing abroad – complimented by half-measures or appeasement with the Islamist menace.

The mid-term election in any case was not about Republicans, it was about failed leadership, the lack of tactical and strategic vision in Washington. Most Americans obviously would rather not vote than pick from the lesser evil. Such elections might change things at the margins, but that kind of change is never progress.

The Christie/Clinton Dance

Unlike Hillary Clinton for the Left, Governor Chris Christie on the Right is by no means a shoo-in as the next Republican nominee for President. However, as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Conference, Christie picked up some markers in the recent mid-term election. His guys won. The New Jersey governor may be an early front runner also because he is the most visible, and eager, aspirant in what appears to be an attempt to stake out the ‘moderate’ middle of the road. Hopefully the road will not be the New Jersey Turnpike again.

Surely there will be a host of other Republican candidates, but for the moment, among party stewards, Christie seems to be the guy to beat in the next national primary.

Unfortunately, if Mrs. Clinton runs, the optics for Christie are all wrong. The governor is large, loud, and conspicuously rude. He looks and acts like a bully, a macho stenotype that plays into the ‘war on women’ meme. If Hillary runs, she campaigns on her genitals. ‘First woman’ is going to be a lot more persuasive than ‘first black.’ People vote for images not issues anyway. A Jersey Shore heavy gives a liberal Press too much ammunition. Rude will not play well in flyover country.

The only way for Republicans to neutralize the genitals factor is to put a woman, a brown male, or both, on the ticket. Alas, the pale southern specter of the Bush clan is again in the mix. Any Clinton/Bush remix is sure to look like a rerun of Dynasty.

Still, Mrs. Clinton is the formidable politician for the moment. American voters are pregnant with the sentiment that the time has come for a woman – and that time is now.

Hillary has already outflanked clueless conservatives on foreign policy. She is running to the right of all comers in the race back to the Cold War in Europe. When Republicans trot out Russian stereotypes, it’s old hat. In contrast, Putin bashing by the Left reinforces the ‘tough broad’ persona that Hillary seeks to cultivate.

Mrs. Clinton may have blown Benghazi, but that’s of a piece with similar Bush era Republican pandering to Arabs and Muslims after 9/11. Russia and China on the other hand will be a free fire zone for both American political parties in the next two years. Hillary is knocking over straw men early.

Neither party is willing to recognize, nor confront in any meaningful way, the real security challenge of the 21st Century which is a 3rd World War which has already begun, the blitzkrieg of imperial religious fascism. All that Salifi cash doled out to former American officials, academia, and think tanks is insulating the Arabian sanctuary – and making Islamic swords like ISIS possible.

Qatar is hosting the next World Cup, the kind of validation that makes Islamism possible. Sanction Russia! Contain China! Where are the sanctions and restraints for irredentist if not barbaric Islam?

Expect Hillary to run against the Obama record in any case. If the Clintons can hold most women, most minorities, academics, and folks collecting a government check, her bandwagon starts to look more like a freight train – and conservatives start to look more like 2016 road kill.

Surveying the political landscape realistically, Hillary Clinton is already playing man-to-man with a full court press.  Conservative leadership, if we can torture a noun, is still in the locker room backslapping – or just snapping towels.

Legacy Quest

Playing the clock for legacy is all that remains for President Obama, a self-defined victim just a half step from ignominy.

Alas, the eggs of a lame duck are fertilized with ego, dangerous hubris indeed. The peril lies in any 11th hour foreign policy Hail Mary that might come at the expense of the American economy or allies like Israel. Surely there are few legislative miracles to be had with Congress now in Republican hands.

To date, Obama foreign policy is a tale of serial incompetence. Yet the White House still blows in Sunni and now Shia ears as we speak. Cutting Shia Iran some slack on nuclear programs might serve two purposes, Obama legacy and another eye poke for Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s the Chicago way.

With Obama, foreign affairs, as with most of his politics, are personal. National apologists have blithely ignored the Islam bomb in Sunni hands; why not rationalize a level Ummah playing field by appeasing the Shia at the expense of Israel? Desperate deeds and smaller men are constant companions. Or as another Kris used to sing, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

In the beginning, Barack Hussein Obama was thought to be the post-racial, millennial man. Indeed, Obama was the first world leader to get a Nobel Prize for wishful thinking about peace and arms control.  The president has delivered neither. Indeed, he has been so much worse than his two predecessors that the Obama era beggars comparison.

Legacy speculators are already claiming that Obama might be the worst president in modern history. Paul Krugman and Rolling Stone might disagree, but such debates are irrelevant for the moment.

Even a wounded politician is dangerous. Two years is a policy eternity. Weakness, compounded by ego, makes for a perilous mix. Misuse of executive orders puts the rule of law and separation of powers at risk at home. In the national security arena; the next 9/11, ISIS, or Ukraine fiasco could be a tipping point. A damaged president, an inert legislature, and a passive nation are as likely to be undone by ego, apathy, or enemies.

Both parties now elevate the Russian to ogre yet haven’t a clue about what to do with Islamic wolves. And the irony about economic sanctions against Moscow is that American Russophobia is damaging European allies too. The EU is not just on the brink of another Cold War; it’s more like the threat of another ice age in Game of Thrones. Winter in Europe comes early this year.

Irredentism seems to be a war of necessity for Islam. Going backwards with Europe and Asia is still an option for the West too. Myopic politics have no term limits.

Team Obama squanders energy on Russian and Chinese misdemeanors instead of cultivating a grand coalition of secular, dare we say rational, nations to focus on the war against imperial Islam – a war that civilization now seems to be losing in slow motion. If Islam were only a religion, it might be odious, but not necessarily dangerous. Unfortunately, Islam is largely a political construct where religion is not just inseparable from the state, but the mosque is too often a toxic well of imperial inspiration compounded by the regression of reason.

For the next two years Barack Hussein Obama, as the world’s most visible apologist for Islamism, will still be the most dangerous politician on the planet.


This essay appeared in the 11/16/14 edition of American Thinker


Bibi Netanyahu’s Lament

October 16, 2014

ISIS and Hamas are fruit from the same poisoned tree.” – Netanyahu at the UN

Benjamin Netanyahu is one of a kind among seasoned politicians. He doesn’t just think outside of the box, the Israeli prime minister makes boxes for men like Barack Hussein Obama. Take the perennial impasse in the Middle East, the so-called Palestinian problem. The atmospherics alone tell the story. Netanyahu has been to America a dozen or more times since Obama came to office. In that same period, the American president has been to Israel once and even then reluctantly.

The Israeli PM addresses the American president as ‘Mister President,’ Obama addresses the Israeli PM as ‘Bibi,’ a diminutive of Benjamin. In this, Barack Obama comes across as petty and immature. Surely, there’s no love lost between the two, their relationship is a little like an experienced adult trying to reason with an insecure adolescent.

My way or the highway seems to be Obama’s petulant premise for any domestic negotiation. In contrast, he seems to think the international world of Muslim pathology is win/win game. Foreign policy naiveté might be an attempt to channel the wisdom urban philosophers like Rodney King, “Can’t we just get along?”

Every time that the Israeli prime minister comes to Washington, he reminds the world, and Diaspora supporters, that Israel alone has been at the front in the fight against Islamic terror for 60 years or more. In contrast, the Mediterranean littoral is now littered with the debris of recent American failure, failures among putative Arab and Muslim “allies” of the Obama administration.

In all of this, the American president thinks he is on the right side of history. He likes to whistle in the dark too, telling the American people that they are safer since his national security team came to town. Netanyahu sees the world as it is, the best that might be said of Obama is that he is naïve, frightened, confused – or in way over his head.

Israel is a sovereign successful nation, a rich culture that predates toxic Islamic monocultural illusions by millennia. Indeed, tiny Israel and the Diaspora have made more artistic, scientific, and cultural contributions to humanity in 60 years than the Ummah has made in 500 years. Unlike Arabs, Ottomans and their historical subjects, Jews never cultivated empire – political, religious, or military imperialism.

Calling parts of the traditional Jewish homeland “occupied” territories is a little like calling New Mexico, California, or Scotland occupied. Land lost in war is often lost to history and the enemy. Israel has been more than generous, by any modern standard, with lands returned to ungrateful Arab neighbors who were defeated in existential wars. For Israel, the alternative to military victory is always extinction.

The Arab population within Israel lives better than Muslims in most any state with an Islamic majority. Indeed, most Arab countries are judenfrie by fiat and that includes the lands occupied by Fatah and Hamas. When the subject is Jews, the progressive West and the Islamic East see tolerance as a one-way street. Indeed, anti-Semitism is the bond that now unites the liberal West and theocratic East, a kind of macabre moral suicide pact.

Israel cannot trust fractious Palestine any more than Arabs trust Palestinians.

Any examination of the history of so-called Palestinians in states bordering Israel tells the tale of Arab duplicity. Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt have been ruthless in suppressing Palestinian militants. Indeed, you might argue that, until the advent of al Qaeda, most Muslim autocrats were happy to have the jihad focused on Israel.  Arabia, especially, was happy to let the Palestine chimera fester in the Holy Land.

Arabs care about Palestinian territorial claims in the Levant about as much as New Yorkers might care about Algonquian claims to Manhattan. For too many Muslims, Palestine is seen as the permanent drip torture that erodes the state of Israel.

Alas, the fascist wolf always goes for the weak and lame. Hence, those plump complacent Arab dictators who supported Fatah, Black September, the PLO, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and predictable grandchildren like ISIS, are now surrounded by Islamist carnivores.  You might buy a wolf, but he will never be housebroken.

For once, Joe Biden was correct when he recently called the Turks on similar double dealing in Syria and Iraq. ISIS is a created problem, a descendant of all the other “nefarious characters” that rampage globally in the name of religious war these days.  Biden conveniently failed to mention America, Europe, and Arabia as early co-sponsors of ISIS in the Levant. ISIS is simply another mutation of the global Islamic  jihad.

Bibi Netanyahu is too diplomatic to use a canine metaphor to describe metastasizing Islamic terror. Dogs are haram for Muslims. At the UN  on 29 September he instead compared religious terror to a tree; indeed, he used a Christian homily, a selection from the New Testament, Mathew 7:18.

Say nothing else about the Israeli prime minister, you would have to admit this guy knows how to work a room.

The prime minister’s simile was creatively ambiguous. Examples of bad fruit, Hamas and ISIS, are specified; however, we are left to wonder whether the “poisoned tree” is Islam, Muslims, or just the twisted beards who would behead infidels, apostates, and oil autocrats.

Nonetheless, beneath Netanyahu’s UN lament lay some new thinking on a new approach to the Palestine pot hole and the global jihad; withal, a new direction for Israel and the West.

Without equivocation, the Israeli prime minister calls Islamism a global fight, a threat to Arab regimes as well as the Ummah at large. He puts the burden for a Palestine solution where it belongs, with the Arab nation. Concurrently, he isolates Iran’s nuclear ambition as a threat to Sunni Islam and Israel. Netanyahu suggests that Shia and Sunni Islamists are branches of the same “poisoned tree.”

Heretofore, Israel and America have tended to atomize the threat, attempting to deal with individual manifestations while ignoring the larger phenomenon. A fractured strategy is manifest in whack-a-mole tactics where each terror group is treated as a local problem.

Yesterday it’s the West Bank, today it’s Gaza. Yesterday it’s Fatah, today it’s al Qaeda and Hamas, and tomorrow it’s ISIS. The anthology of firefights and factions is open-ended and global.

Trying to solve the Palestinian problem by talking to Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas is a little like trying to contain global terror by talking to the Taliban’s semi-literate Mullah Omar. Even if success could be had with one faction, little is done to solve the universal problem.

Without saying so much in so many words, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be suggesting that Israel ought to be negotiating directly with Riyadh and Cairo, indeed the Arab League, not Ramallah.  By implication, we might also suggest that America and the EU ought to bypass the UN and negotiate directly with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). If the OIC aspires to speak for the global Ummah, the time has come to speak with one voice.

Islamism is now a universal problem, the defeat of same requires a global solution. And if any boots are required on the ground, they need to be on Muslim feet. And the West doesn’t need to offer too many incentives, as Netanyahu says, for collective Muslim action. Without a new strategy or plan, the oft celebrated “moderate” Islamic majority will be devoured in short order by the beasts of Muslim hell. Ins’allah!


This essay appeared previously in the American Thinker and the Iconoclast




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.



The End of Reason

May 5, 2013

Presumption is the pride of fools, and it ought to be the scholar’s pride not to presume.” – Kedourie

Institutions are the product of good ideas. Unfortunately, over time, the institution often becomes the enemy of the idea. The subversive character of “success” has an ancient lineage in the history of human experience.

Athenian democracy may have been undone by cynical philosophers and egotistical generals. Ancient Greece cultivated both. Roman republicanism is thought to have been victim to Vandals in the north and then imperial Islam to the south. Another culprit may have been an avatar empire that grew too fond of mercenaries and tax exemptions. When Roman citizens stopped doing the heavy lifting, the graffiti was on the wall. Surely Christianity before Constantine was an inclusive institution, but when Catholicism (or Eastern Orthodoxy) became state religions, monotheism foretold an age where new ideas were dangerous.

The Communist empire collapsed from internal contradictions. Marx and Lenin made all the correct noises about noble principles, justice and democracy for example. Eventually, however, inept totalitarians spiked those promising ideals.

Most small enterprise disappears without a historical murmur. The rise and fall of these may be as natural as the change of seasons and tides. Yet, many institutions probably fade simply because they outlive their usefulness, become victims of financial success – or excess. Contemporary “non-profit” research corporations, think tanks, may fall into this category.

Perched high on the sea cliffs of Santa Monica, California, the RAND Corporation is the mother, indeed, the queen of modern think tanks. Yes, this is the very same firm that was satirized by Terry Southern as the “Bland” Corporation in Doctor Strangelove (1964). RAND managed to outlive ridicule because it was the product of a very good idea.

Towards the end of World War II, the Douglas Aircraft Company funded a small cadre of experts, whose purpose was to provide systematic analysis of strategic options, including nuclear planning. The president of Douglas and the commander of the Air Corps believed that a critical mass of intellects ought to be kept intact after the war. The advent of the Cold War seemed to validate such prudence. So a small group (approx 200) of mostly civilian specialists was sited in Santa Monica in 1948 that they might be as far from the political winds of Washington as possible. RAND is still with us today. Douglas Aircraft and the Air Corps are not.

In the early days, Santa Monica was indeed host to a band of independent intellectual giants; Bernard and Fawn Brodie, Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, John von Neumann and others. When Brodie or Kahn came to the nation’s capital with a dog and pony show, the Pentagon auditorium was standing room only. The brass and gold braid in the audience was blinding. Today a RAND power point ranger might have trouble filling a basement snack bar with corporals.

What happened to RAND might be a cautionary tale for all “research” foundations, those intellectual barnacles that now cling to city, state, and federal sponsors worldwide. The purpose of think tanks, simply put, is to study issues and policies that government apparatchiks are unable or unwilling to tackle. An optimistic view of this industry is underwritten by the belief that “outside” contractors provide objectivity or independence. In fact, what has happened to the industry, of which RAND is the charter member, is that financial success, or endowment, has become more important than focus, impact, or integrity. Indeed, RAND no longer sports the virtue that made her prom queen.

The advent of “RAND lite” was probably a function of a complex matrix of personalities and issues which began with Daniel Ellsberg, and was accelerated by exponential competition, revolving doors, and the toxic onslaught of political correctness.

The Ellsberg Affair

The history of the RAND Corporation falls into two eras; before and after Daniel Ellsberg. With an Ivy League PhD in economics, Ellsberg was a typical revolving door dervish, alternately working at the Pentagon and at RAND. In 1971, Ellsberg Xeroxed and leaked copies of a TOP SECRET Pentagon report that had originally been commissioned by Robert McNamara. Ellsberg had access to the report because he was one of the researchers. The study painted a very unflattering portrait of DOD’s, and particularly the Johnson administration’s, handling of the Vietnam War. Given the anti-war politics of the early 70’s, Ellsberg and the so-called “Pentagon Papers” became instant celebrities.

The Pentagon Papers thus came to be the most notorious and overrated national security study in the annals of such reports. On the one hand, the 7,000 page study was commended for its candor; still, the analysis did not reveal anything that skeptical citizens didn’t already suspect after the Tet Offensive of 1968; that is, that two administrations had been spinning a very tedious, unwinnable war. The Pentagon Papers didn’t impact policy much either, the war went on for another four years, until 1975 – when General Giap snuffed the light at the end of General Westmoreland’s tunnel.

The policy impact of the Pentagon Papers may have been marginal in Washington, but in Santa Monica the blowback from the Ellsberg leak was a game changer. Predictably, the RAND board found a new president, Donald Rice, another dervish who would later ride the revolving door and become Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon. Rice quickly saw the handwriting on wall and realized that the near exclusive corporate focus on national security was a shaky pole in a windblown tent. National security candor was hazardous also, an existential threat to funding!

Under Rice, the corporate ship came about and made flank speed towards the social sciences. Indeed, today RAND boasts that 50% of 1700 some odd employees (up from 200 in 1948) are doing social work. Their health care projects may be the largest of their kind in the history of such things. It might be too cynical to suggest that RAND got into the health care fracas for the same reason RANDites migrated to the Middle East; cultivating Arabs for the same reasons that Willie Sutton was attracted to banks. “That’s where they keep the money!”

Yet, more ominous than relegating national security, their strong suit, to the back burner, was the likelihood that RAND, after Ellsberg, had become gun-shy; and too willing to tell sponsors what they wanted to hear.

The Competition

If the Urban Institute and the Internal Revenue Service can be believed, there are now approximately 15, 000 non-profit think tanks servicing city, state, and federal governments in the US alone. That would be 30 think tanks for every state in the nation. This number does not include some 150,000 educational establishments which are separate IRS 501(c) reporting categories. Total annual nontaxable revenues for think tanks now approximate 28 billion dollars. The number is nearly a trillion if educational institutions are included. There is more than a little overlap. The growth rate of 501(c) (3) institutions was 60% in the last decade; twice the growth rate of all non-profits combined. Non-profits overall are now a multi-trillion dollar industry.

There are a number of conclusions that might be drawn here. The most obvious is that RAND now has a lot of competition, thus diluting the talent pool of “experts” available and presumably the quality of analysis. If Apple and Microsoft must go abroad to find first string intellects; think tanks like RAND may be playing with scrubs today.

And the numbers raise other questions. If 15,000 “outside” consulting firms are doing the thinking for government at municipal, state, and national levels; what justifies those thousands, if not millions, of super-grade government bureaucrats? And if there is no profit in “non-profits,” what is the explanation for the explosive growth of think tanks? Patriotism?

Part of the truth may lay with endowments; RAND, for example, may have one of the richest nest eggs outside of Harvard yard. And clearly, the designation “non-profit” is an oxymoron. The more appropriate designation would be “untaxable” – for reasons yet to be justified. Successful think tanks may be a lot of things, but like wealthy universities, they are not “charities” by any stretch of logic.

Financial success has allowed RAND to diversify the research agenda and expand their physical plants. The ideas of geographic isolation, and keeping politics at a distance, have been jettisoned with a vengeance. Mother RAND now has offices in Virginia (near the Pentagon), Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Mexico, England, Belgium, Qatar, UAE, and Abu Dhabi. For objective national security analysis, the last three locales are the most worrisome. Hard to believe that systems analysis or scientific candor will ever put petro-dollars or Islamic autocrats at risk.

When asked about analytical diversification, and the new geopolitical reach, an old RAND hand recently observed: “RAND has become just another Beltway (expletive deleted)! Now, the most profitable tool in their kit is a wet finger in the political winds.”

The Revolving Door

RAND’s financial success, like many elite private academies, may be a function of a distinguished alumni association. Any list of former members of RAND’s Board of Trustees, Santa Monica management (aka “mahogany row”), or senior analysts reads like a historical Pentagon “A” list. Names like McNamara, Schlesinger, Carlucci, Rumsfeld, Rice (Donald and Condi), Marshall, and of course, Ellsberg, all sport RAND connections. Over the years, RAND has been a placeholder of sorts for out-of-work political appointees. RAND is a good example of the post-war “military/industrial complex” of which Dwight Eisenhower spoke so persuasively. And to be fair, the satraps of mahogany row make no secret of their insider connections. Indeed, the available boilerplate on the internet celebrates the history and the personalities of the RAND/Defense Department matrix.

The pivot for the RAND revolving door may the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) and its long serving director, Andrew Marshall, a RAND alumnus from that golden era, the Kahn/Brodie days. ONA has schooled many a defense analyst, like James Schlesinger, who later went on to high office. Over the years, think tank CEO’s who presume to dabble in defense related national security matters are well-advised to genuflect at Marshall’s door.

Serving from the Vietnam era through the recent expedition to Afghanistan, Andy Marshall at 82 years of age is not so much the Delphic Yoda, to whom he is often compared, as he is like a Pentagon’s version of J. Edgar Hoover. Marshall knows where all the bodies are buried. More importantly, with a small elite staff, Marshall is still a dispenser of significant contract research monies. When he calls, masters of the universe in Santa Monica, or at the Pentagon, do not put Andy Marshall on hold. ONA reports directly to the Secretary of Defense.

Political Correctness

Any research should have three elements; scientific standards, a catalogue of potential unintended consequences (blowback), and an impact appraisal. The pharmaceutical or auto industries could serve as models. Drug trials and auto tests have measures of effectiveness; and the hazards of blowback (side effects or dangers) are clearly labeled, and advertised. And finally, chemists and engineers regularly assess the impact of their output.

True science always asks two questions; does this work and how well? The bonus from high standards in these, and similar industries, is their willingness to recall clunkers – or modify products that do more harm than good. Unfortunately, America seems to have higher standards for aspirin and seat belts than it does for national security research products.

The Ascent of a Priori

Strategy gurus, like Herman Kahn, used to scold his peers that, if national defense analysis goes awry, nothing else mattered. Indeed! Today there is more than a little evidence to suggest that a significant number of government, academic, and think tank analysts are cooking the books; that is, telling politicians what they want to hear – instead of what they need to know.

The problem is compounded by a timid generation of elected officials cowed by dubious notions of diversity, moral equivalency, and social leveling. Such qualities may be hard-wired in a generation where sensitivity trumps sensibility. Movers and shakers know what they believe and mostly they know what they believe got them to where they are. As a consequence, politicians in a democracy tend to confuse votes with validation. Contradicting the conventional wisdom of such a political class is hazardous duty.

And keeping a host of bureaucrats and federal camp followers on message requires a fairly consistent cueing system. In the national security arena, the obvious players are the usual suspects.

Unfortunately, the American cueing system now includes the Intelligence Community.
When Colin Powell, then Sectary of State, and George Tenent, then Director of CIA, appear before the United Nations and misrepresent ground truth in Iraq with the key judgments of a National Security Estimate (NIE), clearly policy cueing crosses some uncharted threshold.

The tone is set at the top. Cues trickle down. When a US president visits a host of Muslim capitals in his first term, but not Israel, a signal is broadcast. When a CIA Director (John Brennan) claims, nay insists that jihad is personal or ritual cleansing, he sends a message. When a US theater commander (David Petraeus) approves infidel hijabs, in lieu of helmets, for female soldiers, he provides a clue. When an Army Chief of Staff (George Casey) deploys to the Sunday chat shows to rationalize the unspeakable barbarity of a home-grown US Army jihadist; even dullards get the message.

The problem with policy cueing is that it is most likely to influence those listeners with the most to lose if they ignore the muezzin. Indeed, cueing is at the heart of the political correctness problem. A fairly consistent set of institutional signals now appears to have created an axis of appeasement. This axis includes the White House, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and more than a few “objective and independent” universities and think tanks that are subcontractors to government at all levels. RAND Corporation provides several recent examples of how the “private” sector responds to political signals.

War, Crime, and Anti-Semitism?

Hours after 9/11, George Bush allowed a plane load of Saudi elites to flee the US before the blood was dry at the World Trade Center. Never mind that most of the New York suicide martyrs were Saudis. The political cue here was meant for domestic and foreign consumption; to wit, America would not hold passive aggressors, sponsor nations, or clerical hate speech accountable for the atrocities of “extremists.”

The majority of Muslims were thus anointed “moderates,” on the authority of an asserted conclusion. All the while, fellaheen danced in the streets of Arabia. Future definitions of the terror threat would be confined to specific non-government agents like al Qa’eda or the Taliban. By fiat, Islamic terrorism was henceforth fenced as isolated phenomena with local motives; in short, jihad is represented as a perversion of, not a tenant of, a global Islamist theology – or Muslim politics.

This politically correct version of reality would be reinforced by a subsequent administration in a series of forays into the Ummah where Barack Obama would declare unequivocally that America, and NATO by extension, is not at war with Islam or Muslims. Never mind that NATO or American troops might be killing Muslims in four, or is it five, separate venues. “We are not at war!” is still the party line.

Then came “independent” analysis which backfills or rationalizes the political Esperanto. RAND report (MG-741-RC); How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qai’da, 2000 is an example. Notice the assumption embedded in the title; “counter” not defeat. The body of the report is devoted to asserting that terror (a military tactic) is best addressed by political, not military means. Separating war, an amalgam of tactics and strategy, from politics is not an assumption that Churchill, Eisenhower, or even Stalin would have made. A politically correct world-view turns logic inside out; where tactics are confused with strategy.

The report ignores the larger strategic phenomena of jihad bis saif and protected Islamist hate mongering. But the bottom line of RAND’s “systematic” analysis is the most revealing: “Terrorists should be perceived as criminals, not holy warriors.” Such assertions may be a kind of strategic masochism; but, not science nor even common sense.

How the West views Islam is more important then how Islamists act – or see themselves! By such logic, Arizona sheriffs might be deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan instead of the US Marines. And by such logic, where might genocidal Islamic felons, should they be caught, be tried; lower Manhattan?

Another RAND paper on the South Asia massacre, entitled “Lessons of Mumbai,” is an even better example of cooked books; a case where analysis and credibility is undone by evidence ignored.

The Mumbai attack was unique in two respects; a small Jewish center was targeted, the occupants were slaughtered; and the hotel hostages were then screened for religious affiliation – again, seeking Jews. It’s a safe bet that none of the Mumbai killers were ever stopped at an Israeli checkpoint or sold a building lot in east Jerusalem. This attack was planned and executed with motives removed from the usual; the India/Pakistan rift or the Israel/Fattah impasse. Mumbai was clearly motivated, in part, by a strain of virulent, contagious, and global anti-Semitism. No mention of this appears in Lessons of Mumbai’s “key judgments.”

The global bloom of anti-Semitism since the turn of the 21st Century is no accident. Those who ignore it, especially scientists at place like RAND, make it possible. Ironically, many of RAND’s most eminent researchers are or have been Jewish.

(This report also reinforces suspicions about non-profit excess. “The Lessons of Mumbai” paper is a mere 25 pages long, yet lists ten (sic) authors; an average of two and a half pages per analyst. Makes you wonder how many scientists are required to screw in light bulbs out in Santa Monica. Clearly, featherbedding is not just restricted to government operations.)

Some recent RAND national security analysis may actually qualify as apologetics. The 2010 paper entitled Would-be Warriors analyses the incidence of terrorism in the US since 9/11. The paper actually ends with the assumptions, concluding:

“There is no evidence (sic) that America’s Muslim community is becoming more radical. America’s psychological vulnerability is on display…panic is the wrong message to send.”

“No evidence” – or none that RAND can detect? If 16 US intelligence agencies didn’t connect the 9/11 dots beforehand, RAND’s statistical assurances ring more than a little hallow. Islamic terror didn’t begin with the barbarisms in lower Manhattan. And assertions about psychological vulnerability or “panic” are straw men or worse. Who sees such fears in the wake of the Twin Towers atrocity? Indifference or political apathy maybe; but surely no panic.

Nor does the RAND analysis account for the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) or the fact that this home-grown political movement was recently hijacked by radical Muslim Americans. The NBPP’s most recent outrage was to threaten to burn the city of Detroit at a city council meeting.

And on US Muslim radicalization; clearly RAND statisticians rarely audit student sentiment at any Los Angeles “occupy” rallies or any California campus when an Israeli speaker appears. Anti-Semitism is ever the canary in the geo-strategic coal mine.

The creation of veiled apologetics is not as worrisome as the pervasive misuse of such scientific reports, a trend which does nothing but devalue the currency of government financed analysis.

While the overall cast of RAND national security research is cautious and in many cases politically correct; the occasional old hand still puts mustard on his fastball. In 2003, Jim Quinlivan wrote an essay in the RAND Review (Summer, 2003), based on statistical analysis, that suggested American excursions against insurgents or terrorists in dar al Islam, were bound to end badly – using strict military measures of effectiveness. Unfortunately, such voices are seldom endorsed or underlined with corporate authority.

The Quinlivan essay was written shortly after 9/11 when “kinetic” solutions were all the rage; his paper flew in the face of the prevailing political winds. More recent RAND reports, as discussed above, tack with the prevailing winds. The difference is integrity.

The Fukuyama Era

The apparent political metamorphosis at RAND has always been more than a bit of a chimera. Early on, Hollywood and a few Santa Monica activists managed to brand RAND as a neo-conservative thought factory. RAND may have been sited on the “left coast” to be as far removed from Washington as possible, but RAND was not immune to the political smog of southern California. Ellsberg was an example, a known enthusiast of local radical activism after office hours. Even today, during think breaks, an employee might pump iron on muscle beach, play beach volleyball, skateboard on the strand, or cruise the head shops of Ocean Park. Since the Strangelove days, Santa Monica has become a kind of destination resort for left-leaning intellectuals.

Indeed, Rand’s most influential political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, now sits on the RAND Board of Trustees.

As a RAND analyst, Fukuyama jolted the world of political and social science with a 1989 essay, the “End of History,” in the National Interest – later to become a book of the same name. The Fukuyama thesis, briefly stated, is that the defeat of fascism, National Socialism, and the implosion of Communism were symptoms of the triumph of a liberal ideal – democratic socialism with a happy face. Ironically, in another day, RAND challenged the conventional wisdom. Now RAND is the conventional wisdom.

Fukuyama’s sentiments have Hegelian threads; in short, a belief that political consciousness evolves with time. Unfortunately, equating progress with the passage of time ignores more than a bit of history and contemporary reality; the Dark Ages and the irredentist vector of Islam today come to mind. History, or the passage of time, is a two way street; going backwards is as likely as moving forward. And like evolution in the natural world, political history is littered with dead ends and dead civilizations.

Nonetheless, to his credit, Fukuyama’s utopian positivism is, today, probably the dominant political idiom for most social democracies including America. The recent and ongoing revolts in the Arab world provide examples.

The belief that democracy is the default political setting in the Muslim world is almost universal among Western politicians, academics, and journalists. The two most common adjectives used during the ongoing Arab revolts are “peaceful” and “democratic.” Neither is underwritten by ground truth.

Surely, political optimists have confused change with progress; or worse still, confused revolt with reform. The best that can be said of the “jasmine” revolution to date is that it is, as Tennessee Williams might have put it, like “the sickly sweet smell of mendacity.”

Indeed, utopian is often confused with dystopian in a world view that fails to accommodate, or minimizes, the dark side of human nature and creeping national security threats. Fukuyama acknowledges the possibility of “political decay,” but seldom sees decay as irredentism. Indeed, Fukuyama, like RAND, has become a member of the “Islam is not at odds with democracy” lobby.

If your primary concern is religion; your world view is authoritarian, not democratic. The Ummah doesn’t get a vote on the Koran or Hadith. And the various interpretations of sacred scripture or the Prophet’s life are made by clerics and religious scholars, not the fellaheen. The adjectival Islam portrayed in the West (i.e. moderates versus radicals) does not exist for most Muslims. As the Turkish prime minister tells us; “Islam is Islam!” For Islamic party leaders like Tayyip Erdogan adjectives like ‘moderate’ are an “insult.”

The big tent mirage is another triumph of hope over experience. Islam is one tent. Spokesmen (emphasis on the second syllable) argue for tolerance only where Muslims are a voting minority. Polities with Muslim majorities may be ethnically diverse in some cases; but religious, sexual, or political diversity is rare. ‘Islamic republics’ are oxymorons where trivia like dress might be enforced with corporal punishment. Alas, a global Islamist movement, and its continuing barbarisms, metastasizes with the support of delusional western rhetoric born of asserted conclusions – and fear.

The most troubling assumption is religious moral equivalency; the conjecture that any religious belief or practice, and associated politics, deserves the same respect and protection as faiths which have, evolved with, and been enlightened by secular democracy. Apologists in the West refuse to consider unreformed Islam as the threat. Nonetheless, Islamic clerics, scholars and politicians are in fact at war with reason, science, and secular democracies.

In this, the aforementioned axis of appeasement and the Fukuyama world view may be cut from the same cloth. This is not to suggest that the appeasers are without critics. Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis, Paul Berman, and even the late Christopher Hitchens, are all informed and articulate skeptics who have provided candid assessments of Islamic theology and subordinate Muslim politics; now another variant of fascism dressed in a burka of religion.

Nonetheless, research on all things Islamic, with few exceptions, fails to consider religion as the nexus of all those Muslim wars. Indeed, clerical literalists are dismissed as radical or small minorities. However; the literal, (as in scriptural), and emotional, (as in survey), evidence of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, and anti western sentiment in Arab and Muslim communities is overwhelming. The Islamic mimber and cowering Muslim politicians are the problems. And the issue is not simply Jewish reputation among the dysfunctional majority at the UN. The strategic threat is survival – the specter of a 21st century Holocaust.

Elie Kedourie (1926-1992) laid a foundation challenging the conventional wisdom about Muslim “victims.” He more than any other scholar, warned about the pernicious effects of half-baked academic political theories, especially those applied to the Levant and Arabia, as a basis for policy. It is instructive on this point to note that the term “developing world” has replaced the phrase “third world” in the political science lexicon;” surely, like “Arab Spring,” another early euphemistic triumph of hope over experience.

Unfortunately, pragmatic (and mostly traditional) voices are often smothered with name calling, and neologisms like “islamophobia,” instead of reasonable discourse. Language often needs to be reinvented to accommodate quislings. Colonial guilt, self-loathing, and political correctness are, however, merely symptoms of a much larger problem.

The great cipher of the early 21st Century is the growing indifference or unwillingness of “scientists” in the West to defend the traditions and ethos that make reasonable discourse and modern science possible. Richard Rubenstein calls the phenomenon in Europe a surrender of cultural identity.

In another day, Kedourie took Arnold Toynbee and others to task for academic hubris, but the few critics of early political “correctness,” and other advocacy idioms, did little to alter a consciousness of who or what is responsible for the perennial pathology that plagues Muslim countries. If the West absorbs Muslim culture; Islamic values become crimes not virtues – immigration then becomes a kind of blowback imperialism. The major achievement of modern Islamism is that it has undone, for honest observers, the myths of religious and political moral equivalence. Suicide terror, religious war, and resurgent theocracy represent a trifecta of evidence that should speak for itself.


Possibly, the intersection of government sponsored study and policy has never been a crossroad for truth. In today’s analysis, facts seem to have two faces; truth and ignorance. Evidence might be used to establish the truth of a matter, but facts are just as likely to be manipulated or ignored; indeed, used to spread polite, yet false, narratives. Systematic cherry picking of evidence to support a prioi judgments is now a cottage industry among the social, environmental, and political sciences.


We use RAND Corporation in this discussion because that institution is representative of the think tank phenomenon; the outsourcing of national security analysis, policy, and responsibility. RAND was there at the beginning and continues to be a prominent player. It seems politicians and generals seldom think for themselves anymore. Outsourcing allows the elite to take bows for policy achievements while providing a convenient scapegoat for any failures.

To be fair, RAND’s strong suit, historically, was always technical. Santa Monica made substantial contributions to space, gaming, systems analysis, and communications technology. Unfortunately, that’s history. The great dilemmas of contemporary national security are moral, not technical.

Today’s challenges are not ‘why’ or ‘how.’ “Should” is the tougher nut. Here RAND and its many brethren have failed. Failures like the mislabeling of terror tactics, regime change characterization, factual cherry-picking, and the minimization of global jihadism are all symptoms of moral malpractice. Most analysis of Muslim terror, theology, and links to political dysfunction suffers from want of candor.

Such practices are now classified as a separate “science:” Agnotology – the cultural production of ignorance. Necrosis of objectivity is compounded by virulent strains of Islamism; not simply threats to democracy and freedom, but more significant as threats to a culture tolerance, logic, and reason.

Surely, any view of reality is a compromise between ideals and experience. Total objectivity is impossible. Unfortunately, politically correct national security analysis now corrupts scientific method on the one hand and underwrites a plague of distortion on the other.

Threat is a function of two things; capability and intentions. The dominant clerical factions of Islam, Shia and Sunni, have been crystal clear on intentions. And their military capabilities improve daily. A Sunni nuclear capability already exists, and the Shia bomb is waiting in the wings. Such facts do not require much study; unless the purpose is to dismiss the evidence.

Citizens expect politicians to hedge their bets. Similar evasions are fatal for science, research, and analysis. RAND was originally an acronym which stood for research and development. The RAND Corporation never did much “development” and now their “research” might be more political than correct.

The Intelligence Community may have already been compromised; and now think tanks seem to know more about making money than they do about making sense. We should expect nothing but cold candor from official Intelligence sources and “independent” national security analysis – or stop wasting borrowed money on both.

Time may show that RAND and Fukuyama are half right. The collapse of Communism, now followed by the rebirth of religious fascism, is the end of something –the end of reason maybe, but surely not the end of history as we know it. The liberal ideal is anything but triumphant. The Twin towers, Benghazi, and now Boston are reminders; not lethal enough yet to be wake-up calls, but we might do well to think of terror as down payments on the next big bang.


A condensed version of this essay appeared in the spring (2013) issue of Otechestvennye Zapiski: the Journal of Russian Thought.


More is Never Enough

April 6, 2013

‘Humankind cannot bear too much reality.” – TS Eliot

Barack Hussein Obama finally went to Israel. Before the trip, America had a schizophrenic, yet constant, Mideast foreign policy; stroking autocratic Arabs and alienating democratic Israelis.

Indeed, the ‘Brennan’ doctrine took sides in the Shia/Sunni nuclear competition, the Ummah Armageddon that haunts every Semitic nightmare. American solidarity with Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, has become a peculiar variety of national masochism.

Most Islamist terror originates with Sunnis. Irredentist Sunni theology originates in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and finds funding and sectarian solidarity in the Emirates, putative allies all.

And recall the first Islam bomb, a Sunni gift from another dubious ‘ally,’ Pakistan.  The Sunni nuclear threshold was breached 20 years ago while American Intelligence slept. This is the same Pakistan which harbored Osama bin Laden for ten years after 9/11. This is the same Pakistan which is always just a bullet away from dictatorship or theocracy too.

Ten years of South Asia weapons testing in the 1980’s hardly made a strategic ripple. Turning a blind eye to nuclear weapons in Pakistan is a little like ignoring a straight razor on a crowded playground.

Now the Islamic dystopia is converging on Mecca and Medina from two directions. And when Bashir Assad falls, the oil oligarchs will feel the heat from two sides. Shia theocrats and Sunni Islamists have the same target set. That over ripe Arab establishment is ground zero.

The ayatollahs of Tehran are buying time to build another bomb too. John Kerry, former anti-war zealot, is touring the Levant; threatening to intervene in Syria on behalf of Sunni Islamists – another US Secretary of State choosing winners and losers in the great minus-sum game.  America learned nothing from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Tahrir Square, and Benghazi.

The nuclear dimension of Islamic politics is unique in the annals of death wishes; a fascination with improved ways to kill coupled with suicide theology and cultural decay. Child marriage, misogyny, homophobia, and martyrdom flourish side by side at the expense of education and social maturity. Beyond symptoms; the core pathology, the modern incarnation of fascism, is dressed in a burka of religion – a perennial toxin in Muslim culture. 

Why would any rational Western democracy – apostates or infidels –continue to throw dogs into this fight?

No matter.  Americans and Europeans press on into the dark night of tribal feuds and religious quarrels. The ancient wars between modernity and irredentism metastasize today under a variety of labels; revolution, regime change, civil war, insurgency, and terrorism just to name a few.

Rather than face the ugly truth about the contemporary face of fascism, western politicians have manufactured an elaborate set of political illusions, a kind of strategic transference, if you will. The most pernicious illusion is the “two-state” solution.

The binary formula, an Israel beside a Palestine, is underwritten by several flawed assumptions, not the least of which is poor arithmetic.   There is no single representative of Palestinian interests. Israel’s proximate enemies are three in number, Hezb’allah, Hamas, and Fatah. Only Fatah pretends to make a deal.

And the four Arab nation states bordering Israel have probably killed more Palestinians than the IDF. Palestinian militias have been purged from Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Yasser Arafat was run out of Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia before Israeli indulgence allowed his return to the West Bank.  The terror vacuum in Lebanon was filled by Hezb’allah. Alas, all of those Arab states bordering Israel are capable of influencing Palestinian politics when it suits their needs.

Yet, who believes that a sovereign Palestine will be a good or pacific neighbor? Who believes that the UN, or the Arab League for that matter, needs another dysfunctional member?

Even if Israel could negotiate a settlement with non-state players, any agreement would have to be underwritten by four unstable, if not belligerent, Arab states. The likelihood of Israel accommodating one Muslim partner is slim; the probability of pleasing seven is near zero.

The Palestine dilemma has always been an Arab problem, but Arab governments have always preferred to let the refugees from lost Arab wars stew on the Israeli frontier in a pyric quest for sovereignty. Implicitly, that which could not be done by conventional force of arms, might be done by time, terror – and a poison pill like Palestine.

In sixty years, Israel has made numerous one-sided financial, humanitarian, and territorial concessions. Little of this is reciprocated at the borders where Arab state players, at worst, sponsor and, at best, ignore terror cells. Israel’s borders might be secured in a fortnight were it not for indifferent or duplicitous Arab neighbors.

Muslims within Israel live better than any minority in the Arab world, an Islamic world where Jews have been systematically purged. Twenty percent of Israelis are Arabs, living peaceably in Israel. The third holiest mosque of Islam survives in Jerusalem. How many synagogues stand in Mecca, Medina, or the Emirates? If Jews need to give more for peace; how much is enough?

Palestinians and Arabs are arguing for a Jew-free West Bank and Gaza; and ultimately a Jew-free Palestinian state. Where is the argument for Jewish human or civil rights in this edition of ethnic cleansing?

The two state formula isn’t a solution, it’s a symptom; a sign of moral cowardice and political charades. Israel is not likely to make a suicide pact with hostile neighbors and the Arab world is unlikely to give up the Palestinian cause; its favorite crutch, its favored excuse, and its favorite wedge issue.

And western political elites, right and left, can’t stop doing what doesn’t work either; endorsing a “two-state” chimera for example. Intemperate indulgence of Muslim rage prevails in America, Europe, and even parts of Israel. Social democracies, and their embedded dependencies, are the captives of fear – and excess. More of the same is always better.  Clear eyed candor is seldom an option.  Unfortunately, more is never enough when the threat is fascism underwritten by religious imperialism.


This essay appeared  in the American Thinker and the Iconoclast blog in early April.

Israel; Canary in the Mid-East Coal Mine

March 6, 2012


“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

Every time Benjamin Netanyahu comes to America, the world is reminded that Barak Obama has never been to Israel as president. After nearly four years, the leader of the free world continues to shun the only true democracy in the Middle East. During the same period, Mr. Obama has traveled to several autocratic, if not theocratic, Muslim countries to reassure them of America’s good will. Concurrently, the president prosecutes several small wars in the Muslim world with the expressed purpose of “stability” or “nation building.”

Americans and Europeans have been dying for such ephemeral objectives for two decades now. Yet NATO armies are still charged to respect not defeat a noxious ideology. At the moment, American troops and advisers are being hunted down and summarily executed in South Asia by Muslim “allies” for real or imagined insults to a holy book which inspires the worst atrocities of a new century.

No matter the many mobs that gather in the many Muslim capitals chanting “death to America,” no matter the many Muslim theologians that use the sanctuary of mosques to preach hate in the name of “god” and jihad; a politically correct generation of timid social democrats, here and abroad, continues to assure their constituents that Muslim scripture is simply being misused by a few radicals.

Now comes a Shia theocracy whose secular and religious leaders have publicly vowed to wipe “Israeloff the face of the earth.” Should they succeed; in an instant, the heretofore impotent Sunni world majority will be displaced by a more militant and less ambiguous Shia role model.

And Persia makes no empty threat as Teheran poses on the brink of nuclear weapons capability. Here again, the apologists are deployed – including a 16 member American Intelligence Community that can not muster the integrity to make a call on yet another Muslim bomb. These are the same covert institutions who have no problem with cyber-war against the bomb makers or opening a Pandora’s box of American tactical and strategic vulnerabilities.  If the history of weapons programs in North Korea,Pakistan, andIndia provide precedents, western Intelligence might make a call on Persian nuclear capability when missiles are inbound over Tel Aviv.

Our most kinetic response to the imminent threat from the Muslim minority, and a thousand lesser barbarities, from the Muslim majority is to apologize to the Sunni and “sanction” the Shia. Indeed, American and European infidels and apostates are consistently assured by a fearful political class that the West is not at war with Islam or Muslims. And now that Israel presumes to exhibit the courage to prevent the first holocaust of the 21st Century, America and Europe advise restraint and caution. Unfortunately for Israel, the threat is potentially terminal and time is not an ally.

American policy is, at once, a flawed assumption and a cultural insult. Granting Muslim stability a higher priority than Israeli survival is the assumption; and elevating Muslim culture to parity with Jews or Christians is the insult.  Moral equivalence is the problem, not the solution to epidemic political cowardice in the non-Muslim world.Israel has no good reasons, by virtue of history or evidence, to accept any American assurances, especially from an Obama administration. Antisemitism is ever the canary in the geo-strategic coal mine.


This piece was published in American Thinker and the New English Review on 6 March 2012.

Turkey, a fourth front against Israel?

June 7, 2010

“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.” – Edmund Burke

Turkey has long been held up as an exemplar of a model Islamic state; secular, moderate, democratic, and collegial. Nonetheless, the inherent contradictions of an “Islamic republic” may be coming home to roost in Anatolia – putting the lie to secular, moderate, and collegial.

Ankara, a NATO “partner”, has been backsliding for some time now; indeed, ever since the Islamists achieved power in democratic elections. The so-called “freedom flotilla” which attempted to run the blockade to Gaza a few days ago is the latest symptom of the march backwards. The convoy, masquerading as humanitarian relief, originated in Turkey with a political cargo of 700 pro-Hamas activists – spoiling for confrontation. The agitators got the fight they were looking for, and predictably, Israel is now vilified for defending its borders against hard core Islamist Turks and a small mixed bag of “progressive” nitwits.

Lest there be any doubt about Turkey/Hamas nexus in this contrived confrontation at sea, it should be noted that the unrealized port of debarkation in Gaza was festooned with Turkish flags and a gargantuan portrait of Recep Tuyyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister. The Turkish sponsor of the Gaza flotilla is the IHH (Isani Yardim Vakfi), a radical Islamist organization registered In Istanbul with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (al Ikhwan) and the Union of Good (Itilaf al-kahayr), a collective of Islamist funds which supports Hamas.

We might also note that Hamas itself is a militant step-child of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a network now operating in over 40 countries. The Brotherhood is illegal in Egypt where it has been responsible for countless assassination attempts and gratuitous acts of terror for nearly a century. Nonetheless, Hamas is held up as the people’s representative in Gaza. Never mind that the Hamas insurgency split the Palestinians into two irreconcilable factions. Yet, somehow Israel is supposed negotiate a two state solution with two groups of Arab fanatics, who can’t share the same tent, no less a country.

Caroline Glick’s 15 Oct piece in the Jerusalem Post ”How Turkey was Lost”, sounded an early alarm about the Turkish malignancy, a cautionary tale about confusing elections with democracy. She described Ankara’s back sliding since the election of Erdogan, head of the formerly outlawed Islamist AKP. Since Erdogan came to power in 2002, Turkey has given Hamas a reception usually reserved for heads of state, eliminated the visa requirements for Syrian travelers to Turkey, and now cancelled air exercises with Israel and begun joint military maneuvers with Syria. Glick seems to believe that the Turks have cast their lot with the Shiite Crescent. If what she suggests is true; we now have an Islamist fox in the NATO henhouse – and Turkey’s campaign for membership in the European Union has hit the hard rocks of reality.

The irony of elections in a country with a Muslim majority is that it often represents the camel’s nose under the tent; opening the door for religious opportunists to hold the one election that could be the last. On this score, Algeria evokes hot flashes of déjà vu. Islamists might be fanatics, but they’re not morons; they will use Western institutions to undo apostates and infidels. Such are the vicissitudes of democracy. And such is the dilemma also in Afghanistan; where the choice is between the corruptible Karzai and the incorruptible Taliban, Mullah Omar. Not too many good options in this neighborhood. If Omar ever ran in a UN supervised election; he might win in a landslide.

The big problem with Afghanistan, like Iraq before, is its potential for distraction. The only accomplishment of elections in Iraq was to reverse the sectarian poles – and assist Iraq in becoming the second Shiite nation in the Crescent, another potential ally for theocratic Tehran. Over time, American good intentions have managed to do to Iraq what the ayatollahs could not.

Land-locked Afghanistan is not an immediate, or should we say proximate, threat to America or Israel. Afghanistan has six neighbors; five of which are Muslim states, all with a vested interest in neutering the Taliban and al Qaeda.  As Bernard Lewis has reminded us so many times; Islamic fundamentalism is more of a threat to dar al Islam (the Muslim world) than it is to the West.

Elections in Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan could be meaningless. And another UN supervised circus proves nothing. Nation building might better be done by the natives. If we can’t influence electoral probity in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates; why do we think we can do it in Kabul?   With Turkey now backsliding, the European Union pandering, and the White House apologizing; someone might ask why another American kid should die in any Muslim backwater to underwrite another election.  Indeed, the larger question should be: why does the West need to save Islam from itself?

The difference between the Bush and Obama brands of Islamic illusions are negligible. The Turkish slide to the theocratic side drops one of the last veils covering the “moderation” myth. Turkey, on a larger scale, is similar to Algeria; Islamists will use elections to come to power, but their objective is not pluralism, moderation, or any notion of democracy as we know it.

The exposure of Islamic irredentism in Turkey may be a blessing. Turkey was long thought to be a progressive influence in the Muslim world, a bulwark against the worst instincts of Islam. Indeed, Turkey was thought also to be a friend and ally of Israel. The Turkish attempt to break the Gaza blockade is a signal event; non-state Sunni actors in the terror campaign against Israel are giving way to Turk and Persian state sponsors. Ankara and Tehran may now take the lead in the jihad against Israel and the West.

Indeed, the Turkish flotilla fiasco opens a fourth front against Israel. Shiite and Sunni terror groups torment Israel from three directions on land; and now an unapologetic Muslim state sponsor agitates on the high seas. Arabs and Persians make common cause when it comes to Israel and now the Turks have joined the anti-Semitic axis on a sea-going front. These “freedom” flotillas have a lot more to do with intimidating Israel than they have to do with assisting Gaza.

The seismic signals from Turkey may provide some incentive for America and its allies to reexamine alliance membership and strategy – in the war “we are not having with Islam.” Ankara’s NATO participation was long thought to be a reward for modern democratic institutions. Now, other questions need to be answered; did we let a Muslim democracy into NATO or has the Western alliance been suborned by a theocratic 5th column? More importantly, if and when the Israeli navy meets another “freedom” flotilla off Gaza, this time with a Turkish naval escort; what’s the NATO battle plan?

Whistling in the Dark

May 22, 2010

“Courage is the resistance to fear, the mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

Dennis Blair’s commentary for the opinion pages of the Washington Post on 18 December is a world class contribution to the literature of denial. His assessment of American national security since 9/11 is notable only for what it ignores. The Director of National Intelligence uses the fifth anniversary of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act of 2004 to celebrate a 16 agency US Intelligence Community that is not lean, mean, agile, or effective.

Let’s deal with denial first. Mr. Blair wastes an opportunity by writing about Intelligence reform without once mentioning “Islamic” terrorists or two costly wars in progress in two “Muslim” theaters. Reading his assessment, you could be led to believe he can not or will not identify the threat or the enemy. It is as if the words Islam and Muslim had been stricken from the strategic vocabulary. In this he is not alone.

The President, speaking in Cairo and Istanbul, exhibited the same reticence. Reading the Cairo transcript one might conclude that the sources of genocidal Islamic rage are things like French dress codes. In a similar vein, the Secretary of State, more recently, in Berlin described bin Laden and al Qaeda as the “core” of the administration’s national security concerns. Mrs. Clinton’s false narrative seeks to narrow the threat to one man and one terror group. Clinton also repeats a chestnut often offered by her husband, former President Bill Clinton:

“And we do bear some of the responsibility, frankly, for helping to create (sic) the very terrorists that we’re now all threatened by.”

Mr. an Mrs. Clinton are fond of arguing that the United States, and Israel by implication, are at the heart of Islamist angst. Ironically, this is the same rationale that has been provided by ayatollahs, imans, and mullahs for the past half century.

A clear picture of the Obama national security doctrine is emerging as we sift the specifics from the President, from Secretary of State Clinton, and now from the Director of National Intelligence. For the moment, this doctrine appears to have three components; denial, threat minimization, and guilt. We should first believe that Muslims and Islamists do not share what they so obviously have in common; we should also accept bin Laden and al Qaeda as the only “core” issues; and, adding insult to injury, we must recognize that we Americans (and Jews) are two of the sources of Islamic jihad, terrorism, and the quest for kalifa.  Corollaries to this doctrine are provided by the policies for Iraq and Afghanistan; both of which could charitably be described as exit strategies with expiration dates.

This policy of denial, if not appeasement, should be a winner in Europe and at the United Nations, but it leaves a lot to be desired if the safety of America (or Israel) is a concern. Indeed, if the Sunni threat can be reduced to a bearded man and forty thieves in a cave somewhere in Pashtunistan, then surely the nuclear menace from Shiites and Iran is a kind of strategic chopped liver.

Mr. Blair’s holiday manifesto, after ignoring the Islamist menace, provides a definition of Intelligence strategy with a bizarre wish list of primary concerns:

“The new (US) National Intelligence Strategy provides the blueprint …  for effectiveness…  and a focus on cyber security, counterintelligence and … problems such as pandemic disease, climate events, failed states … scarce natural resources…(and) such issues as energy, trade, drug interdiction and public health… Continued commitment and investment in this reform are vital.”

Does cyber security include those unsecured downlinks from reconnaissance drones in Iraq and Afghanistan which are being hacked? Does counterintelligence effectiveness include that Muslim Army major who shot up Fort Hood? And what do disease, climate, natural resources, and public health have to do with an enemy that might make all those other concerns irrelevant. What Mr. Blair’s intelligence “strategy” seems to lack most is focus.

The Director of National Intelligence goes on to tell us:

“It has been famously argued that information is power and, therefore, should never be shared. The Sept. 11 attacks showed the fatal flaws in that logic. Our nation is becoming safer every day…..”

Who is it that says information shouldn’t be shared? And speaking of 9/11, how are we doing with bin Laden and Mullah Omar after a decade of looking? And who among us feels safer every day?

Those “stovepipes” which Mr. Blair celebrates are part of the problem also, not the solution. He fails to mention that the major element of the “reform” he celebrates was the addition of two new stovepipes; the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center. The 16 separate Intelligence agencies are still defended in the name of analytical diversity; yet when the diverse fail to converse, we are led to believe that “sharing” solves the problem.

Mr. Blair’s celebration of sharing didn’t anticipate the catastrophic failure to communicate a week later; precisely the flaw that allowed the “underwear” bomber, Mr. Abdulmutallab, to board a Detroit bound Northwest Airbus with nearly 300 souls on board on 25 December. Tragedy was averted by a few courageous passengers and crew, not an alert Intelligence Community.

Other than “sharing”, the key word in Mr. Blair’s 18 Dec argument may be “investment,” a shop worn euphemism for bigger is better. In this arena, Blair seems to be oblivious to the “tumescent threat” a bloom that sinks many an enterprise. Institutions may be the product of good ideas, but when size becomes unmanageable, the institution often becomes the enemy of the idea. If Mr. Blair’s analysis provides any clues, the bloated US Intelligence Community may have reached a tipping point.

In his analysis, Mr. Blair also fails to mention Israel, America’s lone democratic ally in theater. This omission is becoming part of a pattern. President Obama has visited two major Muslim capitals since coming to office. He has yet to go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. One of the lessons that Mr. Obama might take away from a visit to Israel would be an appreciation of virtues of compact, focused Intelligence efforts.

Israel is often characterized as the “canary in the coal mine.” If we read the signals coming from the Oval Office, we might think about changing the metaphor from canary to sacrificial lamb.

And if Dennis Blair’s analysis of the national security threat and associated Intelligence requirements on 18 December represents the best thinking of the American 16 agency consortium, he and his colleagues, like the White House, are whistling in the dark.

(This article appeared in the 18 Dec 09 edition of American Thinker)


G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF Intelligence officer and author of “Escaping the Wilderness of Mirrors,” an argument to privatize national estimates, which appears in the December edition of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.

What is to be done?

May 20, 2010

“The most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.” –  George Orwell

At the start of the 20th Century, Vladimir llyich Ulyanov penned a short polemic called “What is to be done?” In this essay, he laid the intellectual foundation for a rebellion and a future that was to become the Soviet Union. Lenin argued that while revolution might be made in the name of the proletariat, the heavy lifting was actually done by an elite “vanguard” of intellectuals. This oligarchy would latter bloom into such institutions as the Politburo, Central Committee, the Congress of People’s Deputies, Committee for State Security (KGB), and other euphemisms for nomenklatura. Lenin also rejected moderation; setting the stage for the Bolshevik/Menshevik split, a long civil war, and a delusion of world revolution – the Internationale.

Ironically, while tilling the ground for revolution, Lenin was also sowing the seeds of internal contradiction that would eventually bring down the Soviet Union and put the lie to Communism.  His brand of socialism made all the right noises about equality, pluralism, and democracy; yet, the truth became the face of Joseph Stalin – a dictator. For fellow travelers in the West, the first doses of reality therapy came from two quarters; a British author and a minor American Foreign Service officer. In 1945, George Orwell lampooned socialism as an Animal Farm where some critters would inevitably be more equal than others. And George Kennan argued, in a 1947 Foreign Affairs essay, that if the spread of Communism were “contained” by means short of nuclear war; it and the Soviet Union would implode from the weight of contradictions. Oddly enough, Kennan couldn’t overcome his background as a diplomat; he spent the rest of his life complaining that “containment” didn’t mean military force.

Nonetheless, the combined pressures of containment, deterrence, and flexible response provided the policy synergy necessary to hold the line and prevail in the Cold War. By the late decades of the last century, a revolution without guns was underway. In 1987, Ronald Reagan blew on the Berlin Wall and the animal farm imploded.

A new debate about the fate of the world arose soon after. By 1989 the optimists were represented by Frank Fukuyama who argued in the End of History that the demise of Fascism and Communism represented a triumph of tolerant democracies. Like Hegel before, Fukuyama saw history as an evolving rational unity. Alas, equating the passage of time with progress doesn’t explain regressions like the Dark Ages, National Socialism, nor the irredentism of contemporary Islam.

Samuel Huntington responded to Fukuyama’s optimism with The Clash of Civilizations, a more pessimistic view of Islamism. Huntington was half right; clash yes, civilization no. Ayatollahs and Imams seldom refer to Western culture as civilization; and “civilization,” as the West knows it, is hardly the goal of Islamists. Like every other war, the clash is political, not cultural. The goal of Islamism is to replace secular with theocratic; while replacing bikinis with burkhas could still be a lesser social objective. Islam, in its most animated forms, is an aggressive political ideology.

The Afghanistan War is now nearly a decade old. The White House has concluded its “top to bottom” policy and objectives review. The narrowly focused results were announced on 1 Dec 09 at West Point. Charitably, the new plan could be described as an exit strategy with an expiration date. The problem with any extended effort in Afghanistan is its potential to obscure or encourage more dithering on existential threats – like Iran.

So what is to be done?

The first step might be a dose of reality therapy. We must recognize the conflict with Islamism for what it is – a global conflict. There are no wars of “choice” (Iraq) or “necessity” (Afghanistan) and no separate archipelagos of terror. This is a single phenomenon with unitary tactics, strategy and objectives. The enemy is not a bearded man hiding in a cave somewhere or simply AL Qaeda, as many administration sources have suggested. The foe is an extensive and remarkably effective net of decentralized proselytizing and fighting cells which have secular and theocratic state sponsors. Their reach is global and that includes domestic sleeper cells.

If we can bring ourselves to rebrand the threat, we might rethink our alliances. Oriana Falacci may have been correct about the “cicadas,” her acid characterization of the European Union. At the moment, we may have more in common with the state Capitalism of Russia, the market Communism of China, the democratic pluralism of India, and the social security state of Japan. Other partners might include South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Israel; but the big four would be a start. The US has more of a future with any of these nations than any nation in the Muslim world – and possibly much of Europe.

The recent Ali al Megrahi pandering to Libya by Great Britain is a symptom of how viral European appeasement has become. The one person convicted in the Lockerbie mass murder has been granted amnesty. If a few bombs on Spanish trains can change a government in Madrid, imagine what changes might be wrought in Europe with   nuclear weapons in Sunni and Shiite hands? We can let the Norwegian Parliament’s pandering associated with the last year’s Nobel Peace Prize speak for itself.

We might also rethink our strategy and tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every measure of effectiveness; force to force, force to population, and strategy to strategy metrics suggests that ground war can not possibly result in anything that approximates victory or even stability in Iraq or Afghanistan (see appendix below). Contrary to White House claims, save technology, the war plan for South Asia is little different from our strategy in Vietnam or the Soviet strategy in their Afghan war. Making forays against terrorists or insurgents from defensive cantonments, with extended lines of communication, then as now, cedes most of the initiative to the enemy. The imperative is to move from defense to offense and let the Ummah (Islamic world) do the nation building and stabilize their insurgents.

To this end we should gift the so called “war on terror” to Islam; their problem to solve – or else. Jihad doctrine, fighters, finances, and moral support all originate within Muslim world. All Muslims are not terrorists, but just as surely nearly all terrorists and their supporters are Muslims. If Islamism is a greater threat to Muslims, then Muslims should carry the burden of fighting.

Instead of wasting precious lives and expensive munitions on remote mountain roads, we might contemplate the occasional shot across the bow, or more if necessary, over Tehran, Damascus, Cairo, Riyadh, Karachi, or Tripoli. Surely such offensive initiatives put our energy sources and debt service in play, but Muslim autocrats have even more to lose; and we might make that clear.

If our cities are at risk, then their cities must suffer the same anxiety until the madness ends. The alternative is an endless, one-sided, war of attrition against the West by Islamist rules, on their turf – all of which is designed to bleed Dar al Harb (literally “house of war” or we infidels) into submission.

Recent arguments have parsed the Afghan front into two options; a war on terror (specifically against al Qaeda) or a war on insurgency (aka “nation building”). Choices here are distinguished by troop requirements; the Biden option argued for less troops and the McChrystal option called for more. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade, neither strategy offers a clear path to victory or stability.

Afghanistan not only represents another potential graveyard for Western empire, but it is a tactical distraction from a larger strategic question. We need to ask ourselves why European and American troops need to die in any political desert to save the Islamic world from itself. If Iraq was a distraction from Afghanistan, we should ask also why Afghanistan is not a distraction from the existential threat from Iran.

We might also serve notice also on Muslim co-religionists worldwide that those who advocate or rationalize jihad of the sword, kalifa, sharia, anti-Semitism and other seditious polemics will not be welcome to America as immigrants, teachers, students, or visitors. The Bill of Rights was written to protect America not some global village. In short, kill two birds with one stone; turn the Islamic population bomb, “revenge of the cradle,” back on itself and end the oxymoronic policy of tolerating intolerance in the name of tolerance.

And finally, we need to be crystal clear on the question of future Holocausts. No theocratic state or their “non-state” actors should possess the capability to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. We can take Islamists at their word on their intentions; it’s their growing military capability, those weapons of mass destruction, which need to be neutered. The idea that passive missile defense in Europe, or in the Mediterranean, will act as a deterrent is an assumption and nothing more. There is no evidence to suggest that defensive missile technology works or that “supreme rulers” in any theocratic state subscribe to Deterrence or any other rational actor theories.

Israel can not do anything about her geography or her history; and to be candid, Israel has done more with her modest sand box in fifty years than Persia or Arabia has done in the last five hundred years with all of the Levant and North Africa. Ralph Bunche once said that “when two peoples claim the same land, someone has to lose.” Indeed! We need make it clear to Americans and the world that our immutable policy on Jews and genocide is “never again”.

There are more than a few practical advantages to adopting the foregoing policy initiatives. As a group they are deficit neutral; indeed, there is every reason to believe that there might be Mid-East and South Asia dividends if we turn “nation building” over to the natives. The new American administration ran on the slogan; “change we can believe in.” Surely, like Lenin at the start of the last century, Barack Obama is the most articulate and persuasive revolutionary of the new century. The world is still waiting to be told; “what is to be done?”



The following is a brief summary of (operations research) measures of effectiveness, statistically based ways of assessing the probability of military success; success is defined as victory or stability. None of these measures comes remotely close to a positive reading for a ground war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

S. J. Deitchman, “A Lanchester Model of Guerrilla Warfare,” Institute for Defense Analysis, 23 May 1963: Lanchester models of force ratios are thought to apply best to conventional warfare. However such modeling has established a number of axioms: all other things being equal (which they seldom are), a bigger force is a better force; technology does offset the numbers; but numbers still matter in important ways.

James T. Quinlivan, “The Burden of Victory; the Painful Arithmetic of Stability Operations,” Rand Review, summer, 2003: The combined Iraqi/Afghan populations are over 50 million; suggesting more than a million trained personnel might be required just to stabilize these two countries of the Ummah. Or in the words of a mathematician: “The extremely low force ratio for Afghanistan, a country with a larger population than that of Iraq, shows the implausibility of current stabilization efforts by external forces”. This is the polite way of saying there are not enough US troops in the field to do the job – nor is an adequate force likely to be deployed. For a government contractor, Quinlivan’s candor is rare, indeed.

Ivan Arrequin-Toft, “How the Weak Win Wars; A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict,” International Security, summer 2001, pp. 93-128: Toft’s strategy to strategy findings are consistent with force to population models. Yet, it is less clear that Islamists are weak or small, but Toft’s bottom line is hard to dispute; “If history is any guide, the insurgents (Islamists) will win”.

Aside from the low probability of success, Afghanistan has the same “distraction” potential that Iraq had. For the moment, Iraq and Afghanistan are still secular states; Iran, on the other hand, is a theocracy about to go nuclear. Our inability or unwillingness to prioritize the targets in the Islamist threat matrix is the most alarming and dangerous development of the new century.


This essay appeared in the  20 May 10 edition of Family Security Matters.