Donald Trump Needs a Dog

March 13, 2017

Barack Obama era national security acolytes, now serving under Donald Trump, are not doing much to help with or clarify American foreign policy or national security futures.

The Ummah provides the best example.

Just days after the Trump inauguration, the newly minted CIA director, Michael Pompeo, flew off to Saudi Arabia to present Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, with a medal for “counterterrorism” efforts (sic). Saudi Arabia is America’s most generous arms customer, indeed the largest buyer worldwide.

The ties that bind America to Arabia are first pecuniary and then political.

Yes, the same Saudi Arabia that produced the 9/11 terrorists, the same House of Saud that finances and arms global Sunni jihad and terror in the Levant and North Africa, and the same Arabia that exports the worst kind of Islamic irredentist theology to the rest of the world gets another azimuth kiss from an American Intelligence nabob.

Irony here is beyond satire. The medal in question is named after George Tenet. Tenet is the CIA director who, with Colin Powell’s help, fabricated the fake intelligence that gave America the ongoing 30 year religious war in Iraq; a war we might add, that reversed the sectarian power poles in Iraq from Sunni to Shia.

A White House that claims that America is not at war with Isalm, now doubles down with Saudi Sunnis against Shia Yeminis in another proxy religious war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has long denied complicity with Islamism, Sunni terrorism, or wars motivated by a 1400 year old religious schism. Now Riyadh has a CIA medal provided by team Trump to prove it.

Meanwhile over at the National Security Council, newly christened director, H.R McMaster, is apparently laying down a companion party line about Islam with White House staff. General McMaster cautions that terms like “radical Islamic terror” are not helpful. According to the General, “terror is not Islamic.”

Like many millennial era flags, the new national security advisor seems to have succumbed to the Obama thought police. Surely not all Islamists are terrorists, but virtually all terrorists these days are Muslims, Mohammedans who kill in the name of their god, their prophet, and Islam – the “religion of peace.”

“Allah hu akbar” is what an Islamist chants at a beheading, bombing, and other sanguinary rituals. Links between terror and Islam are more real than any links between US Army generals and analytical theology.

Who is McMaster to pontificate on what is or is not Islamic? The national security advisor is not an imam, ayatollah, prophet, priest, or religious scholar. Based on recent sermons, he’s not much of a historian either.

Over at the Department of Defense, another scholarly warrior seems to be confused about real threats too. The new Secretary of Defense, like Obama era staffers, shoots from the hip at the “Russian” chimera and personalizes the assessment with trash talk about Vladimir Putin.

At confirmation, General James Mattis rose to every leading question from John McCain, the Senate’s most notorious Kremlin baiter. Mattis swallowed McCain’s practiced political demagoguery hook, line, and sinker.

Mattis also failed to distinguish between a threat that actually kills Americans today and a threat that might. Worse still, General Mattis’ sweeping indictments of “Russians” fails to distinguish between a proud nation and a regime that doesn’t fit the globalist EU/imperial NATO business plan.

NATO began as an allied mutual security pact and the EU began as a modest economic condominium. Both institutions have strayed far from original designs and the world is not safer place because of it. Brussels is now populated by political autocrats and imperial janissaries. Hat tip to a Turk or Ottoman model.

If sweeping vile assessments of Muslims are unacceptable, why is sweeping slander about Israelis or Russians allowed?  Is selective bigotry at the Pentagon now a military virtue?

Indeed, after leaving the military, Mattis claimed that Israeli “settlements” and “apartheid” made his job at CENTCOM more difficult. The general’s also says that there was “a price to be paid” for backing Israel, a sneer that is vintage David Petraeus.

General Mattis claims that “Russia needs to prove itself.” In contrast, apparently, no Islamic country, especially Palestinians and allied Arabs, need to prove anything to America, the world, or the new Secretary of Defense.

The sad truth of the European Union and NATO today is a tragic combination official Islamic tolerance and official indifference to parallel anti-Semitism. The western migration of fascist Islam comes again at the expense of European Jews. The worst history is often invisible to historians.

Mattis also gave the Senate a selective recap of Russia/American relations as a closer to his testimony. The self- described student of military history failed to mention the last world war where, without Russian sacrifice, the battle with secular fascism would not have been won. The United States lost less than half a million casualties in WWII. Russia lost more than 20 million souls.

Witty caricature accepting that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it but suggesting that those who do learn must submit to others repeating history

Now that Europe and America are confronted with fascism again, this time religious, General Mattis and other Obama holdovers are still confused or mute about who or what is a genuine threat in the 21st Century.

The best guarantors of civil and human rights are independent, democratic nation states with common cultural and civic values. Monoculture anywhere has always been the enemy of liberty and true diversity everywhere.

All globalist or utopian schemes, now including the EU, have been failures. General Mattis is wrong about NATO too. Sort of nuclear Armageddon, NATO provides little stability for the Mideast, Africa, or anyplace beyond Europe for that matter.

Mattis seems to have misread the Brexit and Frexit graffiti now defacing the walls of the European Union.

Candidate Trump ran on a tougher line with Islamists and a softer line with the Kremlin. Such policies are heresy for the establishment, right and left, in Washington. Any diminution of the Russian threat is a clear and present danger to the DOD budget and legions of Intelligence and defense industry federal contractors.

No big Russian threat, no big funding.

Obama era rear echelon warriors have yet to get the message from Trump or appreciate the angst of “deplorables” in the heartland. Maybe the new commander-in-chief needs to speak louder – or carry a bigger stick

President Trump has few friends in the media, few friends among Obama holdovers, and fewer friends or loyalists midst permanent or deep state government bureaucrats inside the Beltway. Washington D.C. and the surrounding suburbs voted for Hillary Clinton by a margin of nine to one. Those votes, like California, were votes for a deep state where change is either “progressive” – or anathema.

And those who claim that establishment apparatchiks, including the Pentagon, are “non-partisan” are delusional. The only currency in the nation’s capital is politics. The most lucrative politics are found now in the defense and Intelligence bowels of the permanent state.

Obama era military relics are no exceptions to partisanship. Outsiders, critics, and reformers are not welcome in Washington, especially at the Pentagon. National security and Intelligence Community leaks now underwrite the anti-democratic, anti-Trump resistance on a daily basis.

Donald Trump is trying to reform or change a federal autocracy that is populated with Clinton and Obama loyalists. For those weaned on the nanny state, reform is just a turd in the establishment punchbowl.

Willingness to serve in government should never be confused with loyalty, especially inside the Beltway. Harry Truman said it best. If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.

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Images:

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http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/philosophy/history/learning_from_history.html

 

 

 


Adieu Voltaire

January 17, 2015

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Some wag suggested that Voltaire was murdered the other day in Paris. If this is true, then surely it was a mercy killing. Men like Voltaire and Daumier would be out of place in Francois Hollande’s Fifth Republic anyway.  Euro- socialism and traditional Gallic chauvinism are now complicated by Anti-Semitism and Islamophilia. Jews seem to be holding their own as pariahs, but the French romance with Mecca and Muslims is starting to break bad.  A dozen or more body bags will do that.

To distinguish between a Jew and a Muslim in France, and in Europe at large, is to separate a culture of life from a cult of death. Jews are ever a model of tolerance, achievement, and assimilation, and at the same time true victims of bigotry in every sense of the word. Muslims, for the most part, are neither tolerant nor assimilated. Yet, somehow the Jew is still ostracized and the Muslim plays the victim, even in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Muslim sensitivities everywhere are now more important than truth or justice anywhere.

Alas, none of this has much to do with justice or morality anyway. France and many other naïve Europeans have surrendered pride and identity to Brussels and in turn volunteered to be colonized by a 5th column of Arab/Muslim religious imperialists.

It’s hard to calculate the price of cheap labor when the real currency is common sense, identity, or culture. The Arab no-go slums that surround Paris are testimony to French venality, the blowback from communal Europe, and all those associated social or economic fantasies.

With assimilation off the table, open borders become the open wounds of cultural decay. Urban necrosis in Paris and London, and many other European capitals, is a self-inflicted wound.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, a British Sunni Imam in London crowed on the Fox Network that the key to Muslim rage was sharia, that arbitrary amalgam of contrived history, false prophets, and social toxins. Imam Anjem Choudary’s suggestion to “submit” was nonetheless superfluous. European and American journalists have been on their knees since oil was fifty cents a gallon.

Starting with Daniel Pearl, and continuing with the recent spate of beheadings by ISIS, we see video after video of journalists on their knees literally pleading for their sorry apologetic lives, denouncing their homelands, and then being butchered anyway. Journalists are a special obsession for Islam because professional writers are now the iconic representatives of cowering democracies.  No group has done more to rationalize and sanitize the barbarity that is Islamic imperialism.

You would think that Islamists would embrace their Media co-conspirators in Europe and America; Arab “spring” propagandists and Palestine pimps for example.

Au contraire! For the devout, the apostate must be put to the sword before the infidel. Apologists and traitors are reviled by both sides.

Fear is the dominant ethic of modern journalism; fear to mock Mohamed or the Koran, fear to document the clear links between atrocity and religious dogma, fear to publish the graphic evidence of beheadings, fear to expose slavery, abuse of children, and rampant misogyny, fear to offend Arab dictators, fear to offend ayatollahs and imams, and now the fear to publish the very satire that precipitated the death of real heroes. American and European editors also fear that things might get worse, a dread that now has all the earmarks of inevitability.

An amateur video about prophetic pedophilia was used to justify the slaughter in Benghazi and now provocative cartoons are used to justify the carnage in Paris.  “Piss” Christ is rationalized as high art in New York City but any mockery of Mohamed’s yen for little girls is regarded as justifiable capital blasphemy.

Yes, the Charlie Hebdo journalists were rare exceptions in a trade where timidity is the norm and candor is a vice. Any offense, real or imagined, is the real peril for modern journalists, the tar baby of political correctness. Truth is now any pablum that pacifies gutless editors and their clueless readers.

The feigned indignation, mock shock, and hypocrisy of private and public Media outlets over the latest outrage is mind boggling. There’s nothing new or startling about the bloodbath in Paris or the carnage that is sure to follow. Pander precedents are now legendary: the bloody trail from Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo is now a well-travelled venue of liberal, artistic, and literary shame.

The Associated Press, Washington Post, or NY Times are no more likely to publish the evidence for which their French colleagues died then they are to refuse to wear head scarfs in Dhār. The BBC, American PBS, and the Fox Network are not likely to show any satiric cartoons about Islam either. The Charlie Hebdo raid, like the 9/11 attack, is thus another win for the prophet’s vanguard, another nail in the coffin of civility.

In a Media culture where there seems to be no bottom, CNN might be the worst. The Jane Fonda network used a day of “mourning” followed by a Sunday “unity” day rally to market the “moderate” Muslim majority myth ad nauseam. Islamist shills like Christiane Amanpour and Fareek Zakaria trotted out the usual tired, asserted conclusions about what most Muslims believe. Putting a Shia American and Sunni American on point to cover another Islamic atrocity is probably just a another happy coincidence for cooked books.

The apathetic Muslim majority are guiltless today in the same sense that the majority of French Parisians were guiltless in the Holocaust during WW II.

The West is now impaled on the horns of the dot.com dilemma: on the one hand governments and internet industries who exercise no restraint in collecting information; and on the other hand analysis, public and private, which ignores or twists facts for fear of offending the guilty.

Small wonder then, that the humiliation of democracies like France, England, and America is now a blood sport for the Ummah. The official response in America is prophylactic self-censorship. The Associated Press (AP) and the Obama White House have revised the official and public rhetoric of politics to eliminate words like Islamism – as if there were no links between deviance and devotion.

François Hollande, a metrosexual in the Chirac mold, called for a moment of silence the day after the latest Muslim blitzkrieg. That moment of prayer in Paris, however, was no tribute to slain journalists or freedom of the press.

Where timidity is a value and courage a vacuum, “silence” is the perfect word to capture European and American cowardice. Silence is the preferred response to jihad, Islamism, and Islamo-fascism.  Alas, silence is acceptance and silence is submission.  And ultimately, silence is the sickly sweet sound of surrender.

France also sponsored a day of “unity” on Sunday, 11 January, unity against Islamic terror. At least 40 world leaders and millions of ordinary Frenchmen marched. Even Benjamin Natanyahu came from Tel Aviv.  Washington was absent. No senior politician from the Barack Obama regime attended the “leadership” gathering.

The unity march in Paris was a gathering of world leaders, statesmen and citizens who marched to oppose Islamic terrorism. Mister Obama and his national security team do not qualify on either count. With no leadership and no strategy on the terrorism issue, their sympathies, by default, lay with Islamic reputation not French victims.

Obama and Biden were probably watching football on 11 January in silence. AWOL on Benghazi and now AWOL in Paris, team Obama continues to be “under achievers and proud of it.” The Obama regime will go down in history as an example of how democracies are capable of voting for failure.

Europe is not “Charlie.” America is afraid too. Both are weak. Voltaire and Charbonnier are now a pas de deux, both rolling in their graves.  La Belle France. and America are starting to look like museums for ideas.


Bibi Netanyahu’s Lament

October 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This essay appeared previously in the American Thinker and the Iconoclast

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Rot and Rhetoric

June 9, 2013

I suppose you could argue that all language is political at least to the extent that writers or speakers do not necessarily share the same assumptions, or motives, as readers and listeners.  Then, of course, there is the problem of euphemism, a kind of polite mendacity. We seldom say what we mean for fear of being mean.  Phrasing like “politically correct” is at once a cliche and an oxymoron.  Things political are seldom correct.

And when political language becomes news; it’s a safe bet that the thought police have unleashed the howling dogs of rhetoric. Several recent examples come to mind.

Early in Barack Hussein Obama’s first term, John Brennan was unleashed to CSIS to lecture assembled scholars on the correct usage of language associated with all things Islamic. Any politician who aspires to cook the rhetorical books does well to start with the academy and government subsidized think tanks. Sympathetic Press coverage helps too. Redundancy is reinforcement.

At CSIS, Brennan sought to sever any linkage between Muslims, terror, and jihad in Washington – and elsewhere.  The then White House advisor actually argued that the very term jihad had many meanings, including ritual “cleansing.”  There was more than a grain of literal truth to the Brennan claim: the Arab attack on New York was indeed a bath, a bloodbath. The Brennan spin on the word “Islamist” was a kind of housecleaning too, an attempt to alter history and minimize future threats.

Thought police understand the value of consistency and repetition. Any lie repeated often enough, as Joseph Goebbels was fond of saying, assumes a life of its own. Truth is a function of retailing and retelling. When President Obama was asked subsequently about jihad in Mumbai, he almost quoted the Brennan CSIS pitch verbatim.

Still, John Brennan’s early assignment was more than a bit of a stretch.  Most terror, certainly the strategic variety, originates with Muslim groups or countries. Global terror is now accompanied by intramural carnage as the Arab “spring” morphs into an Islamic winter. The cold winds of irridentism, some say religious fascism, still blow across Africa, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Turkey.

Withal, you might think that any attempt to separate Islam from terror, or Muslims from backward looking Islamist, would be dead on arrival; a little like trying to reboot modern history, a little like painting Catholics out of the Inquisition or absolving German, French, and Scandinavian quislings for the Holocaust.

Never underestimate the power of persistent political spin and the capacity of fearful journalists to forget and conform.

There was a time when English language style manuals were confined to good usage not politics. The other day, the Associated Press (AP) issued a revised style manual which could have been written at the Executive Office Building – or at the CIA.  Two revisions prominently tack with political winds blowing from the White House and the Intelligence Community: revisions to terms such as “illegal immigrant” and “Islamist.”

AP will no longer use the adjective ‘illegal’  to describe immigrants who enter the country in violation of law, nor will the term be used to describe those who remain with expired visas. Thus the 9/11 hijackers, many of whom were visa overstays, might be described today as students, guest workers or martyrs, but not criminals.  After all, not a soul, no Arabs nor Muslims, have been convicted of anything associated with the Twin Towers massacre after ten years of diligent investigation. Arabs, especially Saudis, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The word Islamist is also about to go the way of the Yo-Yo too. Apparently, such loaded language might suggest religious zeal; implying that imperial terror and global political crimes might be traced to prophetic admonitions, the Koran, Muslims, or political Islam. The logic of revision here is similar to the double-think associated with terms ‘illegal immigrant.’ Labeling any negative deductions about terror as presumption or guilt by association is a kind of rhetorical preemption.  

Surely genocidal terrorists, nee Islamists, have no more to do with intolerant clerics or religion than a stroke might have to do with brain damage. And why shouldn’t logic have the same elasticity as language? Truth is simply what you are willing to believe, isn’t it?

Rhetorical acumen is not without rewards. Brennan is now the Director of CIA, a position from which he may become Chef de Cuisine in the analytic kitchen too. Brennan is cut from the same cloth as his predecessor, David Petraeus. The erstwhile general was a reliable soldier in the appeasement wars until he literally stepped on his crank. Before Paula, there were hijabs, instead of helmets, on US soldiers in Afghanistan.

And Brennan is not without domestic institutional allies either. In January, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) petitioned AP to have the word “Islamist” stricken from the vocabulary of journalism. And now the AP style manual is revised to suit those religious sensitivities. Any organization with the hutzpah to merge adjectives like ‘American’ and ‘Islamic’ in their title is a force to be reckoned with. Secular America and theocratic Islam share values in the same sense that prey and predator share.

Surely the Brennan spin, the CAIR complaints, and the now revised AP Style Manual are cuts from the same cloth. Cause and effect for such cultural drift is seldom obvious. Yet, the substance and logic of all three arguments is remarkably consistent – and consistently wrong. Withholding judgment about theocratic political movements grants pernicious religion equal standing with secular democratic government.

But now it’s a done deal. So let’s give credit where credit is due. AP copy is used in 17,000 newspapers and by 5000 TV outlets worldwide. Their product services 120 countries. The Associated Press might be the most profitable non-profit multi-national wire service on record. Any victory there in the global war of words is a big win.

Corks are popping over at Langley and the fellaheen at CAIR are crowing over the AP capitulation. Words matter. Language is the vehicle for cultural values. And strategic mendacity, like truth, is a value of sorts.  John Brennan and the editors at AP would do well to remember that political decay begins when great nations stop doing all those things that made success possible. The rot begins with rhetoric.

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This essay appeared in the 9 June 2013 edition of American Thinker.

 

 

 

 

 


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.

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

 


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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