Friday the 13th in Paris

November 17, 2015

“The influence of the (Islamic) religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.”  –  Winston Churchill

Islamic fanatics struck another blow for cynicism last Friday night in Paris; wholesale and gratuitous slaughter in the name of some sanguinary Muslim god. History teaches few lessons these days.

We say “Muslim” god because most other religions forsook ritual religious slaughter centuries ago. Indeed, the nearest historical comparison is actually political. Before contemporary jihad, the Nazis were the last imperial movement to use industrial scale pogroms to underwrite an ideological message. Ironically, the EU now opens its borders to religious fascism, more virulent than the political strain that led to the Holocaust and associated carnage of WWII. Angela Merkel and the European Union do the ironic walk of shame here.

Alas, any distinction between politics and religion in a Muslim context is now moot. Politics are mostly religious in the Ummah and dystopic religion seems to be the only relevant politics permissible in much of the Muslim world.

Indeed, the irony is compound. The most egregious exporters of religious hate and sharia bigotry are putative EU/American “partners;” or allies; i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Arabia, and Persia. Withal, Europe and America are fatally impaled on the horns of the Shia/Sunni dilemma – by choice. Judeo/Christian tolerance now has all the earmarks of a suicide pact. Body counts, as Stalin prophesied, are now just another statistic.

Indeed, Islam today is both sword and shield.  Terror strikes and then retreats to sanctuary under a burka of global religious immunities. Somehow the larger bovine Muslim majority has no moral or civic responsibility for terrorists, passive aggressors (nee moderates), or those unassimilated and indigestible Muslim refugees. The EU and America are paralyzed by guilt and restraint that has no meaning for Muslim shooters and bombers. The new law of international war is now made by religious zealots while the “best” in the West assume the defensive crouch of infidel catamites.

In the after-orgy of post-Paris apologetics, few western leaders dared to mention Islam, Islamism, or the global jihad. The enemy is still the undifferentiated local, militant, terrorist, or criminal as if the ideology or motive that binds them all doesn’t matter. In the not too distant past, the threat was atomized as local phenomena like Black September, Fatah, Hamas, al Qaeda, or Boko Haram. The flavor of Islam du jour at the moment is ISIS or the Islamic state.

No matter the body count or venue, Europe and America refuse to recognize jihad as a global Islamic assault. And as with the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, the best response that Francois Hollande and France can muster now is a karaoke Marseillaise, a knee-jerk hymn to irrelevant if not discredited notions of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

Fey responses to terror are now routine in the West. Call it cultural appropriation. Summary executions are accepted by Islamist butcher and infidel victim alike. Atrocity has been routinized, now hallmarks of 21st Century practices in the East and tolerance in the West. Suicide bombers and their victims are joined by the same moral vacuity. The former have no moral compass and the latter are loath to exert any prudence.

Excuses are epidemic. Bernie Sanders on the looney Left actually believes that global warming and ISIS are wingmen. The Sanders pronouncement is of a piece with team  Obama’s flawed assessments where ISIS has been described as the “junior varsity.”

Exaggerating a threat might be a no lose hedge but underestimating an existential threat can be fatal. Just ask Paris.

Maybe Parisians should build a monument to terror too as New York and Washington did after the Saudi Muslim attack against lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.  Appeasement, withal, seems to be the new deterrence.

For those with the attention span to notice, global Islamic terror is the most obvious symptom that globalization is not working. Democratic civility and “one-world” comity are not ascending stars, especially in the Muslim world. Societies that venerate 7th Century absolutist monoculture or cult prophets are impervious to fact or reason – much less democracy.

With the possible exception of Kurdistan and a few of the former Soviet Muslim republics, the Ummah is morphing into universal dystopic theocracy.

The quest for Islamic monoculture is facilitated by three trends: a weak or indecisive West, dishonest assessments of the threat, and a generation of leaders in the West who fail to appreciate or defend the virtue, indeed, superiority of their own culture. Indeed, of the three, the most pernicious is the last, the notion that all cultures and religious beliefs are morally equivalent.

Culture is the synergistic interplay of positive national values which allow independence, civility, cooperation, tolerance, and peaceful productivity. None of these virtues can be attributed to most of the Muslim world today. Indeed, much of the Ummah is a cesspool of human depravities. Friday the 13th in Paris is just one of too many examples.

Days before the latest Paris slaughter, the President of the United States declared unequivocally that ISIS had been “contained.” Here again we have another triumph of false hope over experience. The White House, the Pentagon, and the American Intelligence Community still treat Islamism as a public relations problem to be “managed” largely with hyperbole, wishful thinking, and domestic mendacity. The Islamists win in places like New York, London, and Paris because they understand that real victories in real wars war come from the barrel of a gun not the mouths of fools.

Huntington was correct; the “clash of civilizations” is here. If the latest Muslim massacre in France does not underline that clash, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of losses or atrocity might have to be endured to convince the West.

Immigration, nonetheless, is not the only Trojan horse in the Muslim kit. The pathologies of Islamic culture are well recorded at the expense of women, children, ethnic and non-Muslim minorities. Alas, there is no single Islamic Trojan horse; the phenomenon today is more like a diseased herd at full gallop. Allahu akbar!

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This essay appeared previously in the Small Wars Journal, November 2015.

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Fear, Inertia, and Islam

October 10, 2014

“Veritas odit moras” – Seneca

The conventional wisdom about strategic inertia, doing too little or nothing, is that whatever might be done might make things worse. No proof is ever offered for such reasoning because none ever exists. The future is unknowable.

A forecast or estimate is not a prophecy, and both have shaky legs. Most deductive reasoning proceeds from asserted conclusions or lame assumptions in any case. The conventional wisdom, or beaten path, is often more convenient than it is wise.

Fear of consequence inspires inaction or timidity. Predators and aggressors thrive on panic, indecision, and weakness. The consequences of fear are well known. The associated behavioral evidence is well understood too.

Vertebrates, including humans, usually react to threats one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or faint. Autonomic experts now include related responses like arousal and acute or prolonged stress.

Although there seem to be six possible visceral responses to threat, one or more in combination is likely – and fight might be the most unlikely for modern men. You could argue that a typical human response to fear or threat is a series of half measures – some amalgam of indecisiveness that often confuses friend and foe alike.

The Islamist threat, terror and associated small wars, might be a case study of contemporary collective inertia, decades of half measures in the West where candid analysis and common sense policies are hostage to dread, the unreasonable fear that analytical truth or decisive political/military action will make matters worse.

Boko Haram, the Muslim slave traders of East Africa, is an example. Their depredations are euphemized as “child trafficking.” These Sunni Islamists were exempt from a “terrorist” designation for years until their atrocities went wholesale, seizing an entire girl’s school.

Government and academic analyses of the Egyptian based Muslim Brotherhood (al Ikhwan) suffered from the same immunities. Brotherhood affiliates and derivatives now girdle the globe.  Some peddle rhetorical imperialism while others (like al Qaeda and Hamas) are blatantly kinetic. Terror is a function of propaganda, the knife, the bomb – and passive victims.

Threat inflation is a no-lose hedge, underestimates can be fatal.

The Egyptian and Libyan examples are illustrative. Western Media, Washington, and Brussels tried to put lipstick on the Brotherhood pig (nee Arab Spring). A military coup was necessary to restore civility in Cairo. Any Janissary is preferable to every theocracy.

In Libya, a failed state was the price of regime change. Gadhafi doesn’t look so bad in retrospect. Europe and America now pay lip service to democracy in Arabia for all the wrong reasons.

Boko Haram and al Ikhwan are but two of the dozens of Sunni Islamist groups that are treated with deference or kid gloves. Now comes the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The American Commander-in-Chief (CINC) prefers to call the “new” threat ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant.

Clearly the White House, or John Brennan at CIA, is rebranding another Islamist terror splinter to mask the horrid truth about the latest mutation of Islam. Renaming ISIS also serves to fudge serial military folly and failure in Iraq and Syria. Oval Office spin is an easy sell to a Facebook or Twitter generation that might think the Levant is a hookah bar in Soho.

Indeed, the American air and ground war has now been expanded in Iraq and Syria by fiat, another knee-jerk response to Media, not moral outrage. (Is it possible to stop the “boots on the ground” nonsense? American boots never left Iraq – or Syria, if surrogates and mercenaries matter.)  Nevertheless, if ISIS had not posted beheadings on the internet, one wonders whether the White House or the Pentagon would have done anything differently.

The arts of policy, strategy, and tactics are communal human attempts to anticipate threats and develop political/military options that respond to or eliminate threat. If Washington and Brussels can be said to have any strategy, it is autonomic, reactive only to the moment, the atrocity or regime du jour.

The odd-couple coalition now arrayed against ISIS says all that needs to be said about the absurdity of what passes for foreign/military policy today. Five Arab autocrats are led by a liberal American administration, “flying” against a hirsute nation of Muslim madmen outfitted with the latest American armored weapons! Call it Clinton redux, war from 10,000 feet, two miles too far.

The propaganda war is even more confused than the shooting war. On the one hand the president laments that 80 some odd countries, including America, are sending volunteers to ISIS. Without missing a beat, he holds up an Arab coalition of ‘five’ weak, anti-ISIS autocracies as a solution. A few NATO procrastinators might also join the airshow too. Do the math!

The administration also fails to mention that the American taxpayer has been financing, training, and equipping the very Sunni terrorists who are now beheading Americans. So-called Muslim allies in Syria/Iraq morphed into ISIS just as surely as the mujahedeen morphed into the Taliban in South Asia.  When you consider precedents like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Libya; the Obama national security team seems to have a negative learning curve when the subject is blowback.

An administration that cannot, or will not, define the threat candidly is unlikely to be able to separate friend from foe. Yes, a phenomenon like imperial religious fascism is complicated and sensitive, but it is made more so by apologetics and rationalizations proffered in the name of misguided notions of tolerance.

Terror is often justified as tribal vendetta, a kind an understandable reaction to real or imagined injustice. Such ethical or legal arguments, like Orientalism, drive a stake through the heart of any moral equivalence for Islam. Revenge reduces the Islamist, and their culture, to a lowest moral/legal plane, a universe where true justice and civility is arbitrary if not impossible.

By any moral standard, contemporary Islam is both a growing problem and the unlikely solution. Neither tolerance nor justice is a growth sector in the Ummah. Washington and Brussels seem ready to bleed to death in slow motion before the clear evidence of this threat is accepted. The menace of theocracy is the mimber not the marketplace.

Alas for the moment, there is no plan, no strategic goals, and no consistent policies that might lead to long-term success for the West or reform in the East. Indeed, by his own admission, the American commander-in-chief still insists that we are not at war with a global theocratic civilization. Barak Hussein Obama seeks solutions where there are no “no victors and no vanquished.”

Where victory is off the table, half-measures become the menu. Inertia is always served lukewarm. When Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the UN and tells the world that ISIS and Hamas are “fruit of the same poisonous tree,” he tells a truth that the West does not want to hear.

The threat from the Ummah is atomized in Brussels and Washington because it is more convenient to treat terrorism and religious jihad, wherever it appears, as local “criminal” phenomena with local motives. Acknowledging Muslim Wars as a global, albeit decentralized, existential threat would force the West to admit that Huntington was correct. The clash of civilizations is no longer a speculation. The conflict within and without has been metastasizing globally for 50 years or more.

And civilization is not winning. ISIS is just one more symptom of religious irredentism and cultural decay in the Muslim world, one sixth of the world’s population.  For five decades now, the West retreats fearfully on most fronts behind a smoke screen of euphemism and apology.

Like all illusions of monoculture, Islamism is a greater threat to adherents than it is to infidels or apostates. Muslim “moderates” in such a struggle are mythical, largely an irrelevant, passive, and frightened demographic. If you staged a cage match between a moderate and a fanatic, what are the odds that any smart money picks the moderate?

There are more than a few realists who see conflict as a biological and cultural norm. Darwin, for one, makes a very convincing argument that biological evolution is, in the end, a zero-sum game. Samuel Huntington made a parallel argument for human social or cultural forces, “The fault lines of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.” Earlier, Douglas MacArthur dispensed similar wisdom about warfare, “There is no substitute for victory.”

Only hubris and fear allow men, or social democracies, to believe that political institutions, especially republics, are now somehow exempt from common sense and the self-evident axioms of military conflict.

If history, or reality for that matter, provides any precedents, war is the human condition past, present, and likely future. And conflict is not immoral by any scientific or ethical standard, nor is it sufficient. But it is often necessary. When war is necessary, picking the right side matters. Historical success, progress, and tolerant cultures are made possible by victors, not victims.

At the moment, the western democracies are both for and against Islam, at once defending the cultural and moral equivalence of Mohammed, the Koran, and Islam and at the same time killing or jailing the imperial Islamic vanguard in the name of saving the Ummah from itself. Playing two ends against the middle in a religious war isn’t strategy; it’s a dangerous game, a kind of Russian roulette.

Such absurdities might mystify even Kafka.

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This essay appeared in the October Small Wars Journal, the online forum for Special Forces/Special operations.

 

 


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.

Epilogue

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.

Why RAND?

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.


No Exits?

April 12, 2011

 

l’enfer, c’est les autres.” – Jean Paul Sartre

 

The American war, against an enemy whose name we dare not speak, has yet another front in Libya. We are not at war with Islam, according to the White House. Still, we now kill Islamists or Muslims on four fronts within dar al Islam; Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now North Africa. The American predicament has been described as Kafkaesque. A more appropriate analogy might be Sartre.

Jean Paul Sartre is the existentialist who defined hell as “other people.” For Americans and Europeans, the “others” all seem to be Muslims these days. In his signature play, No Exit, written during WWII, Sartre put the condemned in a windowless room. There, the guilty must endure the tedious company of other sinners. No hellfire, no brimstone; just the damned; sharing the worst transgressions of their venal lives, torturing each other for eternity.

There are four characters in No Exit: Joseph, Ines, Estelle, and Valet. Joe is an arrogant coward, a military deserter. Ines is a vicious lesbian, a wrecker of homes who relishes cruelty. Estelle is a society girl who marries for money, cheats on her husband, and kills her illegitimate child. The infanticide precipitates the suicide of her lover. Valet is the doorkeeper, a kind of concierge for the doomed.

Slowly the trio of sinners realizes that their personal hell is the companionship of other miscreants. Towards the end of the play Joe screams to be set free – and the one door in the room flies open. No one moves. None have the courage to leave the hell that they have created for themselves.

Such is the predicament of Europeans and Americans, trapped in four acrid corners of the Muslim world surrounded by insufferable companions. We all know how we got there and we torture ourselves daily with the ugly historical details. We remonstrate endlessly about who made the worst mistakes, yet none of us seems to have a clue about the end game or an exit strategy. In short, the two most advanced cultures on the planet are locked in a cage with the most backward; all trapped in hell of their own making. And like the cowards in Sartre’s play, no one has the courage to bolt for the exit.

There are several keys to the door of Islamist hell. The first is candor, some honest acknowledgement of the problem. No drunk ever gets well without recognizing the ailment. At some point, the West must realize that Islamism is a global strategic problem, not some aggregate of local crimes or series of isolated atrocities.

If the threat were recognized, a next step would be reality therapy. Europe and America have little or nothing in common with Arab, Persian, or Muslim cultures – and the gap is getting wider. The culture of which we speak includes law, politics, religion, and history. Call it a “clash of civilizations,” but the bottom line is basic cultural incompatibility.  Europe and America can not show a way forward for a Muslim culture that looks backwards.

The nut of the dilemma is captured in a word, Islam – literal and figurative submission. All notions of “peace” or co-existence are derivatives of submission. And the coin of compromise is Western values and law, not Islamic dogma or doctrine. The conflict between the West and Islam is a strategic zero-sum game. If we continue to delude ourselves about the nature of this struggle, we do so at our peril.

Relinquishing the “white man’s burden” is another key to the gates of Islamist hell. In their own ways, maybe Idward Wadi Said, Tariq Ramadan, Tayyip Erdogan, and Yusuf al Qaradawi are correct. Maybe Europeans and Americans need to stop corrupting, patronizing, and exploiting the Arab and Muslim worlds. Maybe the West needs to step back and allow the Ummah to solve its own problems, do its own nation building, and suppress their own insurrections.

If we can believe what they say about themselves, the goal of Islamist sects, Shia and Sunni in particular, is some sort of theocratic utopia. The ambiguous homophone, “eutopia,” is closer to the mark: good place and no place at the same time.  Surely the West can not save Islam from itself or the inevitable implosion. We probably shouldn’t try.

The nexus of the struggle within the Arab and Muslim worlds is the battle between secular and religious tyranny. The resolution of such dialectics might best be left to history and the natives. Who knows what form of government Muslims will choose after the blood dries? Many on the religious right and secular left seek martyrdom. If the West relinquishes its role as referee, surely the path to the hereafter can be paved with the bones of zealots of both political stripes. In either case, Europe and America do not have any dogs in that fight.

The West can not judge Muslims, nor should the West submit either. If Islamists prevail in ongoing, and likely, viral civil wars; so be it. The “Arab awakening” binds the suicidal impulses of the Muslim right and the liberal Christian left. We are assured almost daily, by pressmen and politician alike, that the children of this odd couple will be on the “right side of history.” So be it.

If conflict between the civil world and the Ummah then becomes inevitable; so be that too. A targeting problem is thus simplified. State actors, especially utopian theocrats, are much easier to dispense with than sub-national terrorists.

Whenever the specter of war with Islam is raised, we are reminded that Muslims are a fourth of the world’s population; surely we “can’t kill them all” say the appeasers. Instead of worrying about how many assassins need to be killed, we might remind the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council that the other three fourths of the world’s citizens (Russians, Asians, and Indians for example) might not be as squeamish about Muslim casualties as Europe and America have been. In any state-to-state conflagration, the Ummah has every military vulnerability and precious little capability.

The civil war in Libya provides an illustration. In spite of all their lavish expenditures, the Arab League has neither the will nor capability to mount offensive or defensive military operations – even when genocide looms. Arab military hardware and infrastructure comes from abroad. Their best air force is a static display and their best land campaign is a parade. Muslim armies, especially those of the Arab League, have two missions; regime support and repression. Few Arab armies could fight their way out of a harem.

So what is to be done?

Maybe it’s time to let Muslims resolve their own problems and let the Arabs, especially, redirect their wealth to positive change instead of horse races, soccer matches, golf tournaments, yachts, and Riviera palaces. Western intervention creates the worst of two worlds in dar al Islam; the ayatollahs, Imams, and autocrats have a convenient goat for any failures – and the social maturity of Islam is put off for yet another generation.

The only culture in the Levant worth European or American blood or treasure is Israel. Our commitment to the strategic defense of that one model of progress in the Middle East ought to be etched in stone.

For the moment, European and American politicians are frozen like the cowards in Sartre’s hell. The excuses of poltroons are real enough; fear, oil, and debt.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to believe that inertia will solve any of those problems. In the military arena, political temporizing has infected generals who have lost their nose for success. “What does victory look like?” is a universal refrain. Soldiers who can’t smell victory are likely to become experts on defeat.

The choices are clear. We can torture ourselves indefinitely over a past we can not change and pretend that there are no alternatives or exits – or we can leave Islam to the fate that all utopian illusions must suffer. Insha’ allah !

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G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF Intelligence officer who writes frequently about national security issues. This essay originally appeared in American Thinker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G. Murphy Donovan, check6dc@gmail.com

No Exit?

l’enfer, c’est les autres.” – Jean Paul Sartre

 

The American war, against an enemy whose name we dare not speak, has yet another front in Libya. We are not at war with Islam, according to the White House. Still, we now kill Islamists or Muslims on four fronts within dar al Islam; Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now North Africa. The American predicament has been described as Kafkaesque. A more appropriate analogy might be Sartre.

 

Jean Paul Sartre is the existentialist who defined hell as “other people.” For Americans and Europeans, the “others” all seem to be Muslims these days. In his signature play, No Exit, written during WWII, Sartre put the condemned in a windowless room. There, the guilty must endure the tedious company of other sinners. No hellfire, no brimstone; just the damned; sharing the worst transgressions of their venal lives, torturing each other for eternity.

 

There are four characters in No Exit: Joseph, Ines, Estelle, and Valet. Joe is an arrogant coward, a military deserter. Ines is a vicious lesbian, a wrecker of homes who relishes cruelty. Estelle is a society girl who marries for money, cheats on her husband, and kills her illegitimate child. The infanticide precipitates the suicide of her lover. Valet is the doorkeeper, a kind of concierge for the doomed.

 

Slowly the trio of sinners realizes that their personal hell is the companionship of other miscreants. Towards the end of the play Joe screams to be set free – and the one door in the room flies open. No one moves. None have the courage to leave the hell that they have created for themselves.

 

Such is the predicament of Europeans and Americans, trapped in four acrid corners of the Muslim world surrounded by insufferable companions. We all know how we got there and we torture ourselves daily with the ugly historical details. We remonstrate endlessly about who made the worst mistakes, yet none of us seems to have a clue about the end game or an exit strategy. In short, the two most advanced cultures on the planet are locked in a cage with the most backward; all trapped in hell of their own making. And like the cowards in Sartre’s play, no one has the courage to bolt for the exit.

 

There are several keys to the door of Islamist hell. The first is candor, some honest acknowledgement of the problem. No drunk ever gets well without recognizing the ailment. At some point, the West must realize that Islamism is a global strategic problem, not some aggregate of local crimes or series of isolated atrocities.

 

If the threat were recognized, a next step would be reality therapy. Europe and America have little or nothing in common with Arab, Persian, or Muslim cultures – and the gap is getting wider. The culture of which we speak includes law, politics, religion, and history. Call it a “clash of civilizations,” but the bottom line is basic cultural incompatibility.  Europe and America can not show a way forward for a Muslim culture that looks backwards.

 

The nut of the dilemma is captured in a word, Islam – literal and figurative submission. All notions of “peace” or co-existence are derivatives of submission. And the coin of compromise is Western values and law, not Islamic dogma or doctrine. The conflict between the West and Islam is a strategic zero-sum game. If we continue to delude ourselves about the nature of this struggle, we do so at our peril.

 

Relinquishing the “white man’s burden” is another key to the gates of Islamist hell. In their own ways, maybe Idward Wadi Said, Tariq Ramadan, Tayyip Erdogan, and Yusuf al Qaradawi are correct. Maybe Europeans and Americans need to stop corrupting, patronizing, and exploiting the Arab and Muslim worlds. Maybe the West needs to step back and allow the Ummah to solve its own problems, do its own nation building, and suppress their own insurrections.

 

If we can believe what they say about themselves, the goal of Islamist sects, Shia and Sunni in particular, is some sort of theocratic utopia. The ambiguous homophone, “eutopia,” is closer to the mark: good place and no place at the same time.  Surely the West can not save Islam from itself or the inevitable implosion. We probably shouldn’t try.

 

The nexus of the struggle within the Arab and Muslim worlds is the battle between secular and religious tyranny. The resolution of such dialectics might best be left to history and the natives. Who knows what form of government Muslims will choose after the blood dries? Many on the religious right and secular left seek martyrdom. If the West relinquishes its role as referee, surely the path to the hereafter can be paved with the bones of zealots of both political stripes. In either case, Europe and America do not have any dogs in that fight.

 

The West can not judge Muslims, nor should the West submit either. If Islamists prevail in ongoing, and likely, viral civil wars; so be it. The “Arab awakening” binds the suicidal impulses of the Muslim right and the liberal Christian left. We are assured almost daily, by pressmen and politician alike, that the children of this odd couple will be on the “right side of history.” So be it.

 

If conflict between the civil world and the Ummah then becomes inevitable; so be that too. A targeting problem is thus simplified. State actors, especially utopian theocrats, are much easier to dispense with than sub-national terrorists.

 

 

Whenever the specter of war with Islam is raised, we are reminded that Muslims are a fourth of the world’s population; surely we “can’t kill them all” say the appeasers. Instead of worrying about how many assassins need to be killed, we might remind the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council that the other three fourths of the world’s citizens (Russians, Asians, and Indians for example) might not be as squeamish about Muslim casualties as Europe and America have been. In any state-to-state conflagration, the Ummah has every military vulnerability and precious little capability.

 

The civil war in Libya provides an illustration. In spite of all their lavish expenditures, the Arab League has neither the will nor capability to mount offensive or defensive military operations – even when genocide looms. Arab military hardware and infrastructure comes from abroad. Their best air force is a static display and their best land campaign is a parade. Muslim armies, especially those of the Arab League, have two missions; regime support and repression. Few Arab armies could fight their way out of a harem.

 

So what is to be done?

 

Maybe it’s time to let Muslims resolve their own problems and let the Arabs, especially, redirect their wealth to positive change instead of horse races, soccer matches, golf tournaments, yachts, and Riviera palaces. Western intervention creates the worst of two worlds in dar al Islam; the ayatollahs, Imams, and autocrats have a convenient goat for any failures – and the social maturity of Islam is put off for yet another generation.

 

The only culture in the Levant worth European or American blood or treasure is Israel. Our commitment to the strategic defense of that one model of progress in the Middle East ought to be etched in stone.

 

For the moment, European and American politicians are frozen like the cowards in Sartre’s hell. The excuses of poltroons are real enough; fear, oil, and debt.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to believe that inertia will solve any of those problems. In the military arena, political temporizing has infected generals who have lost their nose for success. “What does victory look like?” is a universal refrain. Soldiers who can’t smell victory are likely to become experts on defeat.

 

The choices are clear. We can torture ourselves indefinitely over a past we can not change and pretend that there are no alternatives or exits – or we can leave Islam to the fate that all utopian illusions must suffer. Insha’ allah !

 

 

G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF Intelligence officer who writes frequently about national security issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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