Some Things Ought To Be Looked At As Clearly As Possible-Islamism

From The Atlantic:  ‘U.S. Forces Eliminate Key ISIS Official

‘In a statement released on Saturday, the Obama Administration described the mission as a success, and said no American forces or Syrian civilians were injured. But the raid also illustrates some of the larger strategic difficulties faced by the United States in its fight against ISIS. As Joshua Keating noted in Slate, the U.S. typically uses drone strikes rather than ground forces in targeted assassinations, an indication that the mission was to capture Sayyaf alive’

It’s important to remember the work many are doing on our behalf.

I’d say the current administration is having to use special forces and drone strikes as quietly as possible because, you know, there’s still a war going on with Islamic radicalism, which can become organized and focused enough to strike us here at home.  The logic behind this war hasn’t changed much, and for the record, I remain open to other options in analyzing the problem.

Simultaneously, the base for this President tends to the anti-war, activist, and at times quite radical when it comes to what it sees as legal and moral institutional authority.  Let’s just say the military establishment is to be looked at suspiciously, if at all, amongst many there.  Naturally, this base must be assured a peaceful, progressive future is in the cards, and its interests are at the table.

As a result, the dirty work is still being done by those on the front lines, while the continual goal of transforming the military according to many of the same ideals through policy are pursued a progressive President, while this President can barely acknowledge what the military often must do.

There’s plenty to criticize, of course, when it comes to bloated military spending and procurement (all across the government, and in police departments as well, honestly), as well as a lot of vigilance on the part of the citizenry and elected officials to send the right signals up the chain, by decent, everyday folks in and out of the government and in the armed forces to keep it lean and effective, incentivized properly.

Most importantly (stop me if you’ve heard this before): It’s important to keep in mind the flip side to much of this utopian, progressive idealism, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishmentarian radicalism etc. is not utopia, but usually a harsher realism when utopia fails to emerge, a potentially more repressive authority, and a more corruptible, poorly functioning establishment and set of institutions.

Many folks there have all the moral certainty needed to be in charge of you, rest assured.

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On that note, fortunately, the elder Tsarnaev, the failed professional boxer cum online jihadi searching for roots is already dead, and the younger has now received the death penalty.  I can’t say I find myself caring too much if he lives or dies, and if the people of Massachusetts so deem it.  So be it.

Here’s some video from the gym owner where Tamerlan trained.  Let’s not forget his criminal activity, nor the myopic denial of his parents that anything had gone wrong:

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Statistically speaking, very, very few Muslim immigrants in the U.S. will radicalize in such a fashion, but all it takes is one to deliver very serious consequences, not only to innocent lives, but to our institutions and what choices we face in handling our freedoms.  The general qualities of the Tsarnaev family, its history and its choices, have a lot to do with the eventual bombing and the fact is that the religion of Islam was the springboard for the radicalism.  Mom had a lot to do with it.

The risks and rewards, costs and benefits, and how much we can actually control when it comes to individual immigrants wouldn’t be a bad starting point for discussion.

Though for a more muddled, ideological debate, in this blog’s opinion, with all the troubles of Britain and Australia’s radical Muslim communities, one key ingredient seems to be a more entrenched Left, promoting victimhood, solidarity and class warfare.  Multiculturally inspired laws and constant activism in the mainstream don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.

Remember those Sydney protests?:

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Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed:  Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Repost-From Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security Council

5:00 discussion here.

Well over ten years ago now, we willingly decided to pretty much ignore the U.N. and the U.N. security council with our decision to invade Iraq.  It’d be nice to think that a better system would have forced us to balance our interests against those of other powerful and influential states with some stake in the claim.  But make no mistake, the U.N. has got serious problems and seems at times hopelessly outdated and inefficient…attractive to secular humanists and idealists, inclusive of rogues and dictators, and creating lots of bad incentives.

As a result we (and we aren’t the only ones) have to rationally pursue the majority of our self-interest outside the U.N. and still must find common ground and form alliances as we did in Iraq.

Boots On The Ground Against ISIS, Or No?

Matthew Continetti-‘Don’t Authorize Obama’s War:’

Perhaps we’re getting to that six-year point when the politics of the nation start becoming all about the next election and the changing-of-the-guard.

Continetti:

‘Far better for us all if the Congress refused the president precisely because he is unserious and untrustworthy with the security of the United States and the world, and spent the remaining two years of his presidency making the case publicly and robustly for the roll back of ISIS and the removal of Assad, an end to the Iranian nuclear program, a military buildup, and a renewal of the alliance system and of American support for Western principles of liberal democracy’

I suspect if the President wanted to fight ISIS the way a new AUMF implies might be necessary, he’d already be doing so.  Rather, I think he wants to cement the idea the U.S. troops will be very limited on the ground and thus, his legacy.  Hence, Continetti’s piece.

So, is a lower probability, higher-risk strategy of withdrawing most American military influence from the region while simultaneously working alongside strategic non-allies working (mostly Iran…the Moscow, Tehran, Damascus alliance…and by proxy Hezbollah and old Revolutionary Guard types)?

Do we have closer relations with our allies as a result?  Have we set up incentives that would lead to the ‘international community’ the President so often invokes while using American military leverage to gain it?

As posted:

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, on liberal internationalism (addition: which is probably a few ticks center-ward of further Leftward progressive, semi-radical peace and democracy advocates)

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Two Monday Links On Syria And Iran

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What The MSM Is Failing To Tell You’

Full piece here.

‘Hizballah is an Iranian proxy operating for many years now in and out of Lebanon and, more recently, in Syria. Its past forays have extended all the way to Buenos Aires, and not long ago to Bulgaria. It is part of an Iranian-supported, and in many cases Iranian-directed, network that also includes several murderous Shi’a militias operating on Iraqi territory.’

Now that Syria and Iraq have fallen apart, and ISIS is filling in, Hizbollah, what’s left of Assad’s regime, and higher-up Iranians are managing what they can of their interests, and continue to run guns, ideology, influence, and terror, if necessary, around the region, and further afield:

This particularly threatens the Saudis and the Israelis:

‘…contrary to what most Westerners think they understand, Saudi Arabia from the start has been a ruling biumverate: The Al-Saud has worked the temporal, political side, and the Al-Wahhab has worked the spiritual, religious side. Each respects the others’ domain. We care about the Al-Saud because we see succession in the Al-Saud part of this arrangement, but we don’t know the names of and don’t pay any attention to changes in the Al-Wahhab part.

Why do these people care about what we think, one way or the other:

‘Great powers are in the protection business. The United States, as a great power, deserves a more formal and less misanthropic description of the same thing: U.S. grand strategy since the end of World War II has included prominently the suppression of security competitions in the world’s main regions, so as to minimize opportunities for would-be regional hegemons—the Soviet Union in Europe and the People’s Republic of China in Asia—to profit from mayhem.’

Now that we’ve pulled out…

‘And the United States? It’s too late. Having abdicated responsibility to suppress such a major regional security competition, there is no way now to get back to relative stability. Not that it would have been easy or cheap for the Obama Administration to do its duty effectively, and not that its predecessor did not make the situation worse; but abdication is now yielding bad and much more expensive options, whether of passivity or activity, in all directions. At least for the duration of the Obama Administration, respect for American power and trust in American judgment are all but gone. We have made ourselves, in effect, spectators; we are not likely, however, to enjoy the show.’

That’s a vital issue as to what this last election in the U.S. was about:  Will we lead?  To whom, to which ideas or principles, organizations and institutions, laws and contracts do we entrust our interests and military capabilities?  With whom can we do business?

*What about all the budgetary waste and undoubted overspending in D.C?

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans, but they were conditional and required competence: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Links On Iran & Afghanistan-Happy New Year!

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest:

‘So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.’

and:

‘Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?’

I don’t think Obama’s speaking to the region per se, so much as a group of like-minded, internationalist semi-radical democratic peace protestors bending the arc of history towards justice.  I’ve heard the crew meets every third Tuesday at the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public library (kidding, kidding).

As for Iran, we’re still doing business with a bad, generally untrustworthy lot, though the options have never been good (there are many people we could potentially do business with in Iran, but as in Cuba, they’re indisposed at the moment).

At what cost?  Garfinkle:

‘It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.’

Transcript of Obama’s interview with NPR here.

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As for Afghanistan (and Pakistan, the FATA, and Waziristan, and our limited influence there, too), we’re scheduled for troop withdrawal, but not so fast:

From accounts I’ve heard, what doesn’t often reach the American public is how fierce the fighting in Afghanistan has been, how much we’ve asked of our troops in fulfilling such a broad mission, and how we still haven’t reached our objective, which is to prevent further attacks on our soil.

Corruption runs rampant, illiteracy remains high, and decades of war have ruined the infrastructure.  Under such conditions, and with so many different ethnic and linguistic groups, it’s tough to provide basic security and incentivize the good in people, allowing interested local village elders, farmers and decent folks have a shot at stability. Afghanistan was most recently headed by a thuggish gang of religious purists, warlords and opium-traffickers, and will probably soon be again.

Truly brutal people.

Many of these guys, whose ancestors likely fought against the British, and a few elders who fought against the Soviets, are now aiding or abetting the enemy, and/or are fighting our troops. It’s their backyard, after all, but it’d be much better not to have these local and tribal grievances become the fuel for an international fire, and the opening for the Taliban to fill back in. If so, this opens the door to the global ambitions of Islamist franchises.

Which means we could be right back where we started.

Interestingly, the concerns of Western secular humanists and global peace-workers actually line-up pretty well with traditional, conservative, pro-military supporters:  We’ve got to keep thinking about solutions and a larger strategy when it comes to this region.

It’s not really over, even though this is the longest war we’ve ever had:

Vice had some coverage:

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From Walter Russell Mead: ‘Hastily Leaving Afghanistan Won’t Encourage Taliban To Make Concessions:’

‘And there are still lots of countries in the region that don’t want Afghanistan to fall under Taliban rule again: Iran, Russia, China, and India all think this would be a terrible outcome. We shouldn’t assume that Mullah Omar is going to get everything he wants’

Sarah Chayes’ Essay From 03/01/2007:  ‘Days Of Lies & Roses

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

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I’d like to see how this has held up:

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

Both men wanted to see more leadership out of the Obama administration.  They both argued that there needed American led involvement of some sort in Syria.  It’s a bad neighborhood, and we’ve got to provide leadership and side with the rebels as best we can.

Hill pushed further to suggest that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either.  If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism.  If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

I wanted to contrast this vision with Francis Fukuyama’s then new piece, entitled ‘Life In A G-Zero World,‘ where if I’m not mistaken, Fukuyama is ok with such a diminished role for the U.S:

‘It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate.’

and:

‘The regional military balance has already shifted toward China more than many American allies would like to admit. Moreover, while the basic American commitment to Tokyo under the US-Japan Security Agreement remains sound, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk military conflict with China over some uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific is not at all clear.’

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To some degree, I think both analyses are right, in that we either renew our ideals and pursue exceptionalism, confronting and pushing against those who don’t share our ideals and interests as we have in the past (including the threat and potential use of military force), and/or we re-adjust and recognize the roles of others, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily share our ideals and interests and we can’t necessarily trust anyone to look out for our interests.

This requires us to cooperate and rely on international institutions to some extent, but also institutions which have serious design flaws, poor incentives, and can bind us in treaties and obligations for which our interests can be poorly served.

What I don’t want to see is a continued squandering of our leverage and our strength, mainly at the hands of what I see as a rather utopian and naive worldview, held aloft by tempered, but still rather Left-leaning democratic radicals and activists, who claim peace but see many of their own worst enemies in the West itself, and who still must deal with the world and its political base as it is.

What’s the best way forward?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Addition:  Walter Russell Mead thinks Fukuyama gets Japan right.

Related On This Site:  From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Richard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’Niall Ferguson At The Daily Beast: ‘China Should Intervene in Syria, Not America’…From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy