Wrong Wars and Wrong Enemies

April 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dogs That Didn’t Bark

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

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

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

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

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

Two Heroines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Images:

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Humanitarian Imperialism

March 30, 2014

 “The best minds are not in government.” –  Ronald Reagan

Hard to believe that it has been a quarter of a century since Ronald Reagan began to dismantle the ideological wall that divided Europe. Harder still to believe that American politicians, Right and Left, are trying to resuscitate the Cold War – or something hotter.  Recent events in the Ukraine seem to be giving the citizens of Europe and America hot flashes of deja-vu.

At the tactical level, US policy has devolved to “regime change.” At the strategic level, US policy is simply incoherent, if not nihilistic; swapping corrupt oligarchs for neo-fascists or religious zealots.  The logic for supporting recent coups have little to do with common sense – or democracy. And with Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and now the Ukraine, language needs to be coined to avoid words like coup.

By any other name, a coup is still a coup. And using a post-facto ‘election’ to legitimize a coup is a little like putting a new hat on a dead cat. The Kerry/Obama team is giving subtlety and sovereignty bad names.

When Vladimir Putin, tongue in cheek, says there are no Russian troops in the Ukraine, he mocks John Kerry and Victoria Nuland who orchestrate dissidents in Maidan square, in some cases neo-fascists who did not get their way on the bail-out treaty with the EU.

The auction for the Ukraine is now closed. The price doubled overnight, from 16 to 35 billion dollars and counting. Politicians break it, now the taxpayer gets to pay for it. Kerry is now offering to buy the next Ukrainian election too.

Speaking of elections, Europe and America might need referendums at home on  future bailouts, foreign and domestic.  The EU and US look like the “two broke girls” of Capitalism.  Angela Merkel might be the only European politician with any jingle left in her jeans these days.

When Putin says he protects Crimean Russians, again with a sneer, he mocks Samantha Power’s, now Barak Obama’s,  humanitarian interventions. The fast track to imperialism is paved with words like “humanitarian.”

When Russia sponsors a referendum in the Crimea, the Kremlin pre-empts, indeed ridicules, the EU sponsored presidential election to be orchestrated by Kiev in May 2014.

When demagogues like Hillary Clinton compare Russian behavior to Nazi Germany, she mocks Allied history and the sacrifice of 5 million Russians in WWII. Russian blood chits, we might add, that made the Allied victory over Nazis possible in 1945.

The name of the game in the Crimea is not the Ukraine in any case. Maidan Square and the Crimea are merely board pieces, according to Vicky Nuland at the State Department; moveable parts in another Great Game – Europe versus Russia redux. Back to the future, indeed!

The pillars of Obama foreign policies are now explicit; Russophobia on one hand and Islamophilia on the other. Indeed, a renewed Cold War with Russia, sponsored by a lame duck, allows Media shills to change the subject. With the Ukraine in the headlines, the domestic health care debacle and those failed Muslim wars fade to background noise.

 Russophobia

Yes, Russophobia! The pragmatic gains of the Reagan era have been set aside for an irrational fear of all things Russian. Never mind that the difference between Putin’s Russia and Gorbachev’s Soviet Union is like the difference between caviar and carp.

America and the EU have nothing in common with Arabia and greater Islam save oil, debt, and indigestible immigrants. Yet, Americans have much in common with Russia: history, religion, art, literature, sports, dance, dogs, music, science, space travel, adult beverages, recreational sex, and almost all things cultural, including Nureyev in tights and Sharapova in shorts.

Russia, the EU, and America also share a common enemy, that insidious fifth column: domestic and global Islamism.

The Cold War, until a few weeks ago, was over. The Warsaw Pact has been dead now for some two decades. Projections about a new Russian empire are fantasies. It is NATO and the EU that aspire to expand to the Russian border. Putin is no eagle scout, but he’s no chump either.  Unlike European and American demagogues, Putin knows the difference between defense and offense.

Islamophilia

Russians are not killing Americans. Putin is not a BFF, but Russia is not the enemy either. The West cannot say the same for Arabs and Muslims. Islamism is the sanguinary enemy whose name we dare not speak.

Pandering Americans, Europeans, and now the Chinese, are complicit in the spread of Islamic political terror. Non-Muslims are killed with such regularity, world-wide, that the civilized world has come to accept each new atrocity as a fair price for assuaging the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Indeed, European social democrats and the American Left now seem to believe that even Israel itself might be a small price for submission.

Russia has no illusions about militant Muslims. Indeed, you could argue that Putin has literally rebuilt the Russian Orthodox Church as an ideological barrier against the spread of toxic Islam in Russia. Would that Europe or America support Judaism and the rest of Christianity with such unapologetic aplomb.

The objective threat to the West and Asia comes from religious fascism.  Cultural arrogance does not allow the West to admit that political Islam and freedom, irredentist Islam and democracy, are mutually exclusive ideas. And sadly, a misguided sense of humanitarian imperialism rationalizes interventions in the Ummah, expeditions that usually fail. The West cannot save Islam from itself. Nonetheless, westerners seem willing to sacrifice a host of Enlightenment values and young lives on the altar of good intentions.

Manufactured crises, like the Ukraine, are studies in weak or incompetent leadership. Alas, the Obama/Kerry cocker spaniel is no match for the Putin/ Lavrov Rottweiler. NATO leaders have not been the equal of ayatollahs and imams since 1979 either. Jimmy Carter’s ghost still haunts the American Left. Putin should send a case of vodka as a thank-you to Foggy Bottom for providing the Kremlin an excuse to return Sevastopol to Rodina.

John Kerry is the daffiest US administration duck, scion of the Jane Fonda wing of the American Left. Who sends an anti-war “activist” to a Mid-East fracas or East European brawl? Nobody wins a real street fight with their mouth – or frequent flyer miles.

And the American Right is not blameless; excusing terror, regime change folly, the recent litany of imperial failures. In the 2012 US election campaign, there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between candidates, Right and Left, on US foreign or military policy. Indeed, Mitt Romney and most Republicans couldn’t say “me too” fast enough. And neo-conservative sycophants are led by foreign policy loose cannons like John McCain who believes Moscow might be “sanctioned” into submission.  As if sanctions were working with true pariahs like North Korea or Iran!

McCain seems to be the captain of a latter day light-headed brigade; oblivious to what Russians already have; legitimate border concerns, a compliant Crimea, a comparatively robust economy, and a space bus for American astronauts – and a choke-hold on all of Ukrainian and a third of European energy supplies. Demonizing Putin here only strengthens his hand there. The Russian president enjoys genuine popular support like no politician in the West.

The Outlook

The Cold War is making a comeback; this time without deterrence. The nuclear threshold is lowered when conventional capabilities are reduced to a level of assured impotence. Secretary of Defense, Charles Hagel, has unveiled a plan to abandon tactical missions like A-10 close-air-support in favor of unproven and costly technology like the F-35 problem child. Wishful thinking is a poor substitute for facts, performance, or experience. Cyber warfare (see STUXNET) and global drone strikes blur the lines between limited and general war.

Such contractions are not lost on Islamist tacticians or strategists. For the Pentagon, all recent combat is tactical where Islamist motives are defined as local (see almost any RAND Corporation report on the subject).  Ironically, those tactical resources for future fights are on the chopping block. As with speculations about Russia, American myopia fails to accommodate the Islamist world view. For too many Muslims, the struggle, indeed the jidad bis saif, has been global since 632 AD.

With a future US Army under 500,000 troops, America should have just enough soldiers to get into a fight, but not enough to win. And with a small all-volunteer force, every trooper should have enough rotations in the Ummah to get maimed or be killed – in vain.  A small Army in isolated cantons, like air travel, is another target rich environment for terrorists.

Let’s end with a question. How long will it take for the Oval Office, the Intelligence Community, or a complicit Media to acknowledge that the latest airliner “mystery” over the Indian Ocean might be an act of terror, probably another atrocity in the name of jihad, the prophet, or Islam?

The future is Malthusian. The nuclear threshold has been lowered, small war humiliations are more likely, and Islamic terror will continue to be ignored or excused. Politicians care little about how many lives it takes to lose. Yet, the glyphs of the Barak Hussein Obama era are not just appeasement, retreat, and defeat.  The real handwriting on the wall is unilateral disarmament in the world of tactical and strategic ideas.

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Images:

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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25910834

 

 


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.

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


Political Revolt and Religious Reform

May 8, 2011

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Christian Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jewish Experience

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

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

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

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

The Islamic Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Vinegar Joe and the Village People

November 2, 2010

“The fear of war is worse than war itself.” – Seneca

Saving Islam from Itself

Sometimes the past provides instructive precedent. Yet just as often, history is meaningless for those who choose not learn from it. Several generations ago, soldiers saw a necessary relationship between war and winning.  Today’s brass seems to have foresworn goals like victory for more ambiguous objectives like “stability.” Joe Stillwell must be rolling in his grave.

Stillwell was an iconic, albeit unsung, hero of WWII. At the start of the war, among his peers, he was thought to be one of the best and most demanding troop commanders on active duty. His soldiers called him “Vinegar Joe.” Between wars, Stillwell had several tours as military attaché in China, acquiring a fluency in Mandarin. George Marshall assigned Stillwell to the China/Burma Theater.

Stillwell’s jungle campaigns were overshadowed, then as now, by  Admiral Nimitz, General MacArthur, and ultimately by an Air Corps B-29 over Hiroshima carrying a single bomb called Little Boy. The great achievement of Stillwell and his air commander, Claire Chennault (of the Flying Tigers), was that they tied down the core of the Japanese Imperial Army in China while Nimitz and MacArthur spilled guts and garnered glory in their Pacific island hopping campaigns.

Stillwell did not suffer fools gladly. He and George Marshall got along well enough, but he made no secret of his disdain for British and Chinese “allies;” the timidity of Lord Louis Mountbatten and the posturing of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Vinegar Joe’s acerbic personality didn’t help much either. In the end, Roosevelt fired Stillwell at the behest of Chiang Kai-shek in the closing days of 1944. Six months later, the war was over. A little more than a year after that, Stillwell died quietly in bed at the Presidio from cancer.

Surely, the Second World War produced more flamboyant generals, like McArthur and Patton, but Stillwell set a standard for competence and modesty.

Surviving photos of Joseph Stillwell (right) reveal a man who looked more like an aesthetic than a warrior; thin as a rail, balding, and bespectacled. Even his dress uniform was austere, just US lapel insignia and stars on his shoulders. Stillwell knew that real leaders had no need to wear a resume on their chests. “Fruit salad” and vinegar were a poor mix.

If Joe Stillwell’s ghost walked into a Joint Chiefs meeting today at the Pentagon, it would be a little like watching Leonidas meeting the Village People. And to be honest, most of the colors are awarded for attendance, not achievement. It’s always easier to give soldiers a ribbon than it is to give them a promotion or raise.

And this emphasis on appearances is not without penalty. Recall the sad tale of Admiral Boorda, the late Chief of US Naval Operations, who committed suicide after it was discovered that he had awarded himself a Vietnam combat ribbon that he had not earned.

The hazards of emphasizing form over substance are not limited to personal humiliations. Looking good seems to be the new being good; a heretofore merit based military culture is absorbing an ethic of political correctness at the expense of victory. This new military idiom has very significant tactical and strategic implications. Admiral Mike Mullen, at the Pentagon, and General Dave Patraeus, in Afghanistan, provide examples.

Mullen is in danger of becoming the JCS Chairman best remembered for adopting the gay “rights” tar baby. The administration is hostage to a campaign promise and wants some high profile uniformed officer to win over Mullen’s four star peers. So far it’s tough sledding.

Clearly the White House and Congress are playing “kick the can” with the gay issue. Mullen and the Chiefs should be smart enough to punt the problem back where it belongs. The Pentagon has more important things to do in wartime. If the Congress wants to advance the ball, they might pass a law to retract “don’t ask/don’t tell” and surely the brass will salute smartly. Indeed, the President himself has recommended such an approach.

If gay issue is a tactical distraction, the political correctness of General Dave Petraeus has strategic implications. The Patraeus political digressions make former ISAF commander General Stan McChrystal’s loose talk look like prophesy. The difference between these two flag officers is candor; McChrystal had it and Patraeus does not.

The latter has become a megaphone for several politically correct misrepresentations; blaming Israel, Afghan withdrawal ambiguity, and suggestions that terror groups, including the Taliban, might be appeased – in the interest of “stability” or political solutions.

The blame Israel canard was on full display when Patraeus, as CENTCOM commander, dispatched a team of staffers to several Arab countries in order to take the pulse of the Arab street. The team returned and prepared a briefing that suggested America could or should make a deal with terrorists on Israel’s borders: Hezbollah, Fattah, and Hamas. Never mind that none of these Arab groups can manage to partner with each other, least of all Israel.  Now Patraeus has apparently carried the appeasement paradigm to South Asia where talk of making deals with the Taliban is rampant.

The Petraeus argument has three facets; victory is impossible, all possible solutions are political, and the key to political stability is a radical change to the long-standing policy of American/Israeli solidarity. A sordid axiom of the Petraeus worldview links Israeli intransigence to American casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The attempt to link Israeli domestic policy to NATO casualties worldwide was later repeated by Vice President Joe Biden on his trip to the Mid-East. The military and political logic here comes perilously close to a classic anti-Semitic argument.

The CENTCOM analysis and its derivatives are fatally flawed on several counts. Legitimate pollsters audit Arab sentiments on a regular basis; anti-Jewish sentiment consistently registers in the upper 90th percentile. And scholars who have audited historical paranoia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in Arabia and the larger Muslim world agree that these phenomena pre-date the state of Israel by millennia.

Any connection between American foreign or Israeli domestic policies and future casualties in Iraq or South Asia is unsupportable too.  General Petraeus should know that there are no military operations analyses which measure events which might or do not happen.  Indeed, if a thread links Islamist terror worldwide, it is anti-Semitism, not opposition to Israeli policies. The Mumbai attack which struck a Jewish center in India is illustrative. Pakistani jihadists were instructed that “the lives of Jews (not Israelis) were worth 50 times those of non-Jews.”

There is no evidence that any kind of Israeli/Palestinian settlement would have any impact on Islamism worldwide. The historical evidence suggests just the opposite. Since the end of the Vietnam War, US forces have intervened on behalf of Muslims on a dozen occasions.  There are few if any indications that such human and material largesse altered radical opinions, terror tempos, or the intensity of the propaganda jihad.

The Patraeus/Biden analysis fails to consider unintended consequences; the abundant evidence that appeasement will be seen as weakness or a lack of resolve. Islamists define victory as the elimination of Israel and the submission of the West. Beyond appeasement, General Petraeus’ objectives reflect no such clarity.

The crux of the modern flag officer dilemma is modesty – or lack of it. The tendency of senior officers to regale themselves like refugees from the HMS Pinafore is merely an image problem; the treacherous waters of politics and political correctness are far more troublesome. No serving military officer should be asked, nor should they accept, any mission which asks them to campaign in domestic culture wars. No flag officers should be asked to fight for, or front for, changes in foreign policy. And no soldier should believe that ambiguous delusions like “stability” are a substitute for victory.

The military is the blunt instrument of policy; it is not a test bed, nor is it a policy think tank. Surely, military officers should provide discrete and confidential advice, but this should not be confused with consent. The Joint Chiefs and their subordinates execute national policy; they do not make it or approve it.

Joe Stillwell had more than his share of disagreements with his peers and President Roosevelt. He didn’t like his assignment and his theater allies were less than helpful. Nonetheless, Stillwell held the Japanese by the nose while others kicked their azimuth.  He never lost sight of his duty as a soldier; making the most of what he had and winning by inches.

To this end, Vinegar Joe’s heirs might consider two suggestions. For appearances sake, the wearing of decorations, save the highest medal, purple hearts, and most the recent campaign ribbon should be optional. Real warriors don’t need chest hair or fruit salad.

And in the interests of strategic clarity, General Patraeus should understand that the struggle with Islamism is not binary; i.e. military or political. The Islamic threat, like a pentagon, has five facets; ideology, religion, culture, politics, and violent jihad.

Any general who no longer believes in winning or victory in any of these venues ought to keep that sentiment to himself – or find another line of work. On his worst day in the jungles of Burma, Vinegar Joe would have never told his troops; “We are not here to win”.

We seem to have bought into the Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn” analogy, the notion that, if we break anything in the Islamic world, we own it. Ironically, it was Powell’s disingenuous presentation to the United Nations which justified the second Iraq war and subsequent occupation. The difference between the strategy of George Bush senior and his son is this question of occupation or presence on Muslim soil after, or if, the shooting subsides. For the moment, the Obama administration and General Patraeus seem to have accepted the occupation paradigm. It’s hard to believe that any politician will bring the “nation building” definition of victory into another presidential election cycle.

So the question remains. Assuming we are at war with Islam or Islamists, or both; what does victory look like? Victory may look a lot like disengagement or, better still, redeployment and a reprioritization of targets within the Islamist threat matrix.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to strategic energy sources. That threat has been neutralized. Afghanistan is a threat to itself and possibly will continue to be one of many terror sanctuaries. All the while, the threat to Israel and the Levant is obscured by the smoke from these small wars. Unfortunately, the Islamist threat in the Middle East is existential; Iraq and Afghanistan, in contrast, are merely troublesome.

Yet, by accident or design, NATO is now stuck in the muck of Islamic nation building and there’s very little evidence that the alliance is capable or inclined to cope with another contingency – such as a perfect storm over Israel. That storm is forecast by a convergence of interests: Persian nuclear ambitions and the growing conventional capability of Arab non-state radicals encircling Israel.

Thus victory for NATO might look like Iraq and Afghanistan in the rear view mirror. Victory might even look like candor, an admission that the Islamist threat is not limited to South Asia or bin Laden and al Qaeda.

When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia funded half the clandestine war against the Communists. Now that the threat comes from co-religionists, the Saudis have another standard.

Victory might also look like reassignment of responsibility; i.e. re-gifting the expense and manpower for the war on terror, counter-insurgency, and nation building to the Arab League. Only Muslims can save Islam from itself.

The goals of fanatics have been crystal clear for 50 years. They seek to circumscribe the influence of reason, freedom, and democracy in the West. Indeed, the Islamist definition of victory is captured in a word: submission. Fanatics also seek to eradicate the state of Israel. Our goals should have similar clarity. We might put the Muslim world on notice, Arabs and Persians in particular: Europe and America will defeat any threat to democratic institutions including Israel – no matter the cost.

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This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of the New English Review. The author  also writes at Agnotology in Journalism.


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?”

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Appendix;

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.

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