A dozen years after the 9/11 terror attacks, America has yet to name the enemy or define the scope of the threat, and so our nation remains at risk. To make progress, we need fresh thinking. In that regard, I recommend a book edited by my colleague Elan Journo, Winning The Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism. You can read the introduction and first two chapters for free by clicking here. The book is available on Amazon.
Archive for Tag “Islamic totalitarianism”
From the Wall Street Journal:
Widespread U.S. embassy closures and travel alerts prompted by al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen show how the group has proved stubbornly resilient despite more than two years of American strikes against its leaders.
The high level of concern from U.S. officials underscores what many in the intelligence world have long warned. While al Qaeda’s central leadership may be weakened, the rest of the group has morphed into smaller entities and dispersed, which has made the threat harder to predict and track. This process was accelerated by the turmoil of the Arab Spring.
Beyond Yemen, al Qaeda in Iraq has reconstituted itself. Its branch in Syria is drawing in hundreds of foreign recruits each month. And in Mali, al Qaeda-linked fighters fled French warplanes and commandos and have set up a rudimentary base in the Libyan Desert outside Paris’s reach. [emphasis added]
Thankfully, Osama Bin Laden has been eliminated, but it was naive for anyone to expect the jihadist threat to dissipate. The Islamist ideology of al Qaeda (and other Islamist groups) continues to attract would-be jihadists.
Following massive public demonstrations, Egypt’s Islamist leader, Mohammad Morsi, is gone. But how much influence Islamists will have over governing the country remains an open question. One curious data point has already emerged. The Egyptian military laid out a “roadmap” that called for Mohammad ElBaradei, a former UN official and Nobel laureate, to take over as interim premier. But that move was blocked.
Who has leverage enough for that? The Al Nour Party, which the New York Times characterizes as an “ultraconservative” Islamist group. (For context: In a 2011 election wherein the Muslim Brotherhood’s party won about half of the parliamentary seats, Al Nour won a quarter, a considerable achievement for a newly formed party.)
The party’s ability to block Mr. ElBaradei from the premiership raised new alarms from liberals about what the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, might demand next, even after the expulsion of the more moderate Brotherhood.
. . .
Since its inception two years ago, the Nour party has campaigned more than anything else for constitutional provisions enshrining Islamic law, not just “the principles of Islamic law,” as Egypt’s charter read for three decades. Al Nour and other Salafist parties sought to give religious scholars a constitutional power to strike down any legislation that they deemed contradictory to Islamic law. But in the drafting of the country’s new Constitution last year, the Muslim Brotherhood sided with the liberals to block such a provision. Al Nour succeeded in preventing an express guarantee of equality for women from being written into the new charter, and it has defended prohibitions of heresy.
In response to the scandal surrounding NSA surveillance exposed by former Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden, ARI Executive Director Yaron Brook recorded a 10-minute video that draws attention to the wider context in which these programs need to be assessed. He makes two critical points:
1) The war we need to fight against al Qaeda and Islamic totalitarianism requires naming and targeting the enemy, defining victory, and setting a timeframe, not a massive spying dragnet on Americans.
2) A proper government is the agent of its citizens, not the master. In its role as the agent, the default should be openness, not secrecy; in very few contexts is it appropriate for the government to operate in secrecy. Only when the government can convince its citizens that secrecy is necessary for protecting their rights is it acceptable. With respect to the NSA surveillance programs, that burden has not been met.
Yaron Brook’s comments on the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, and NSA monitoring can be viewed by clicking on the video below:
1) Some background on the Turkish regime. Although the Turkish government has cultivated the reputation for being pro-Western, the trend has in fact been one of dwindling freedom. For a decade now, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party—the country’s Islamist party—has been consolidating power. In the most recent national elections, the party garnered over 49% of the vote, the highest percentage any party has earned in more than three decades. Turkey’s GDP has tripled since Erdogan was first elected—and that certainly contributes to his degree of popularity—but the economic gains have been accompanied by an insidious assault on the liberty of Turkish citizens. As I mentioned on this blog earlier this year, Erdogan has been methodically incorporating his party’s Islamic philosophy into the erstwhile secular state. The results have not been pretty, with one of the most noticeable casualties being the freedom of the press, as documented here and here by Human Rights Watch. Considering the character of the regime and developments so far, the protesters against Erdogan’s regime have demonstrated real courage.
2) The myriad protesters in Istanbul, Ankara, and elsewhere in the country have disparate grievances and interests. While it’s encouraging to see the people of Turkey standing up to Erdogan and his Islamist partners, it isn’t at all clear that they have defined objectives. The proximate spark for this spate of protests was actually a dispute between local residents and the government over a construction project. And, to further muddy the waters, environmentalists and leftists have been among the most prominent protesters. Social media, which Erdogan has called a plague, has proven an effective mass communication tool for protesters and gives us a window into what is happening on the ground in Turkey. Due in large part to its rapid dissemination through social media, this story of one Turk’s silent protest has captured global attention. This video revealing the tactics of the Istanbul police force has as well.
SIXTY-THREE years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights. That child’s story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine.
So wrote Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, in a 2011 New York Times op-ed. That vignette may seem a strange way to motivate an article—the story of refugees from what’s now 65 years ago?—but for Palestinians and their allies, it remains a live issue. For them, any meaningful discussion of the Arab-Israel conflict must address the fate of refugees. Unless Palestinian refugees are granted their alleged “right of return,” they insist, there can be no peace.
In the intricate, sometimes convoluted history of the Arab-Israel conflict, the “right of return”/refugee issue is just one thread. But it is a particularly revealing one. Explore it, and you can learn a great deal about the nature of the broader conflict and some of the reasons it has come to seem irresolvable.
A terrific resource on the subject is Efraim Karsh’s most recent book, Palestine Betrayed. In the latest episode of the podcast, I interviewed Prof. Karsh about his book.
We cover a lot of historical ground, and listeners keen to understand the Arab-Israel conflict will learn a lot about the backstory of the refugee crisis, what gave rise to it, and how the refugees’ plight has figured in the continuing conflict. We move from that backstory to more recent developments such as the notorious Oslo “peace process,” rolled out in 1993 and memorialized in an iconic photo-op on the White House lawn. That incongruous tableau featured Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with arch terrorist Yasser Arafat, with President Clinton looking on with delight.
One point I found particularly arresting in the interview has to do with that famous handshake and the ennobling of Arafat as some sort of statesman. Many at the time wanted to believe that Arafat, a pioneer of international terrorism, had abandoned the violent goal of subverting Israel and become a peace-maker. To Western audiences—notably at that ceremony on the White House lawn—Arafat portrayed himself a lover of peace. But Prof. Karsh has documented that Arafat was playing a double game. One example: He had pre-recorded a speech, broadcast that same day on Jordanian radio for Palestinian listeners, in which he explains the peace accord as a new, incrementalist tactic serving the same long-held goal that terrorism had served: not to achieve peaceful co-existence, but to conquer and supplant Israel.
A sample of some other illuminating points that come out in the interview:
- The timeline of key developments from the British Mandate in Palestine to the UN partition plan of 1947, and the ensuing war
- The improved standard of living and economic development of Palestine following the arrival of Jewish settlers, especially benefiting Arab inhabitants of the area
- How the invasion by nearby Arab regimes of the nascent Israeli state in the 1947-8 war had little to do with aiding Palestinians—and a lot to do with the regimes’ self-aggrandizing lust for conquest.
- Why the “right of return”/refugee problem persists, how it is magnified by Arab regimes, and how the “right of return” is understood by some as a means of dissolving the state of Israel.
image: public domain
LA-area conference: Europe’s Last Stand? Debt, Demography, and the Abandonment of National Sovereignty
Especially for readers in Southern California: June 9-10, I’m scheduled to speak at a conference hosted in Los Angeles by the American Freedom Alliance, “Europe’s Last Stand? Debt, Demography, and the Abandonment of National Sovereignty.” I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the talks and panels. Among the invited speakers are the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the scholar Daniel Pipes, and the writer Bat Ye’or.
From the event’s description:
The rise of debtor nations within the European Union has threatened the stability and ultimate survival of the continent’s currency; the emergence of restive Muslim communities has stirred fears of internecine civil strife while a troubling demographic gap (deaths not being replaced by births) all contribute to a sense that Europe is veering dangerously off course.
But even these fundamental economic and demographic concerns may pale next to the more serious collapse of self confidence, the muddying of political integrity, the evaporation of religious life and the failure to commit to the Enlightenment values and ideals upon which Europe’s civilization was built.
This important conference will examine how Europe reached its current predicament, where it will go from here and how it might rebuild hope for arresting any continuing decline.
image: Xavier Häpe/cc
Two years ago, Navy SEALs dispatched Osama Bin Laden in a spectacular raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The notion at the time was that the jihadists were done for, with Al Qaeda decapitated and its operations soon to be decimated.
But as I argued in my book (released in 2009), bringing Bin Laden to justice was essential but would be far from sufficient to thwart what we call the Islamic totalitarian movement, the cause of those seeking Islamic domination worldwide. The basic reason is that Al Qaeda is just one part of the movement, and Bin Laden was just one leader. If we conceptualize the forces we oppose as just Al Qaeda, or just the Taliban, or just random losers, etc., we fail to recognize that our enemy is moved by ideas and a common goal.
It remains to be seen whether the Boston bombers had contacts with jihadist enablers or groups; perhaps yes, perhaps no. But the fact remains that even without Bin Laden, the pernicious ideas fueling the jihad remain potent and continue to empower attacks against us.
[CNN reports that] Canadian authorities have arrested two men accused of planning to carry out an al Qaeda-supported attack against a passenger train traveling between Canada and the United States, a U.S. congressman told CNN on Monday.
“As I understand it, it was a train going from Canada to the U.S.,” Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee, said.
The news follows an announcement earlier in the day by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that they had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35.
The two men are charged with “receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran” to carry out an attack and conspiring to murder people on a VIA railway train in the greater Toronto area, Assistant Police Commissioner James Malizia said.
“When I speak about supported, I mean direction and guidance,” he said. [emphasis added]
Received wisdom after 9/11 was that Iran’s role in terrorism was confined to the Middle East. That was false then. It’s false now: Tehran has a well-established role as a global standard bearer and enabler for the jihadist cause, a point I argue in Winning the Unwinnable War. While the Iranian role in the alleged plot in Canada remains to be proven, on the face of it this fits with the regime’s modus operandi.
Michael Ledeen writes in the Wall Street Journal that with “an Iranian presidential election coming in June, President Obama may be presented with a second chance to get his policy right.”
In 2009, when massive protests followed Iran’s disputed presidential vote, Mr. Obama sat by as the insurrection was brutally put down by the Tehran regime. But the rage against the regime is still intense, and if similar protests explode in June, the White House should be prepared.
The president ought to know from the example of the Arab Spring that seemingly secure despots can be toppled by popular will. The coming elections offer a chance for America to demonstrate its belated support for the Iranian opposition, and Washington would do well to encourage the Iranian people to rise up in the coming months.
Ledeen points to evidence that some opponents of the Islamists’ regime are eager to rise up. Perhaps they are. Their bravery is laudable. And it would be wise for Washington to back them. But it beggars belief that now, four years later, the Obama administration would somehow adopt the correct policy toward protestors. What signs are there that the administration has learned from its failures in the last few years?