There is no way to begin my post today with anything other than an acknowledgement of the fact that this is the tenth anniversary of the most horrendous terror attack the United States has ever know.
I salute the memory of the thousands inside the Twin Towers who died that day, and the bravery and selflessness of those who rushed to help, whether as professionals such as firefighters or volunteers.
Along with the memorials and the painful recollections, however, it is critical to ask, “And so…?” Where has the last ten years led the United States?
In this regard, I’d like to share the thoughts of Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and editor of the Journal of International Security Affairs.
In a piece called “Defining Terrorism Down: A decade later, a wider war on terror is needed,” he addresses the very serious problem of a US that minimalizes the current struggle against terrorism. Read it and take it to heart. Lives are on the line here. (All emphasis has been added.)
“Listening to the rhetoric of the White House, it would be easy to get the impression that Washington is just days away from declaring ‘Mission accomplished’…
“Such triumphalism, however, is both premature and unfounded. After all, the contemporary terrorist threat confronting the United States and its allies is considerably larger than just al Qaeda. America today faces a trio of distinct – and daunting – strategic challenges.
“The first is the Sunni jihadist front embodied by al Qaeda, its affiliates and its ideological fellow travelers…while al Qaeda may be down, it decidedly is not out…the organization remains relevant, operating through regional franchises such as North Africa’s al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its Persian Gulf branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. More dangerous still, the group’s ideology has become a source of inspiration for a diverse network of radical cells and “‘one wolves’ the world over, which have shown both the ability and the resolve to take up al Qaeda’s war against the West as their own.
“The second challenge confronting the United States and its allies is a state-centric, mostly Shia global movement that is tethered to one nation: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nearly all of the groups that make up this radical collective (from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to Iraq’s disparate Shia militias to various Palestinian rejectionist groups) rely extensively on Tehran for economic, political and ideological support. The scope of that assistance is staggering…
“Perhaps America’s most important contest, however, lies within the Muslim world itself. Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion. Its adherents already make up as much as one-fifth of humanity, and…its ranks are poised to swell in coming generations. Although those who hold the most extreme interpretations of the religion are a distinct minority, a substantially larger percentage has proved itself sympathetic to at least certain elements of that worldview, from support for the spread of Shariah to antipathy toward the United States. Islamists of all political stripes understand this state of affairs very well and, as a result, have made it their mission to court, engage and exploit this constituency. That, in turn, makes Islam’s ‘undecided voters’ – those who have not yet become irreconcilably opposed to the West – the center of gravity in the current conflict and the place where our struggle against the extremist ideology of our adversaries will be won or lost.
“Washington, however, has been woefully slow to adapt to these challenges. During the George W. Bush era, America’s post-Sept. 11 offensive against al Qaeda and its Afghan hosts, the Taliban, set in motion a sweeping worldwide counterterrorism campaign that for a time put the United States on the offensive…
Since taking office, Team Obama has taken a rather different tack. President Obama undoubtedly deserves credit for the May killing of bin Laden…His administration also has become noticeably more aggressive in prosecuting the tactical campaign against jihadist elements in a number of theaters, including South Asia and Southwest Asia. At the same time, however, the White House has waged a persistent campaign to downgrade the intellectual parameters of our current struggle from a comprehensive ‘war on terror'” to a more modest series of ‘overseas contingency operations.’
The results are more than merely semantic. The Obama administration’s latest counterterrorism strategy, released publicly in late June, paints a simplistic picture of the contemporary threat, focusing exclusively on the state of America’s campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates…
“…the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy represents nothing so much as an exercise in deliberate minimalism. It defines down the contemporary threat arrayed against the United States and its allies and enables official Washington to declare imminent victory against it. Strategically, however, such an approach is both counterproductive and deeply dangerous. That is because the past decade has shown radical Islam to be a phenomenon that is far-flung, resilient and complex. We ignore its scope – and its menace – at our own great peril.”
Caroline Glick, writing in “The war America fights,” also looks at problems inherent in the way that the US is fighting terror.
Beyond the fact that “the US has unevenly applied its tactic of denying terrorists free rein in territory of their choosing,” she pinpoints two major concerns. And these are concerns that I, too, have addressed time and time again. (Here, again, all emphasis has been added.)
“…since September 11, 2001, the US has steadfastly refused to admit the identity of the enemy it seeks to defeat.
“US leaders have called that enemy al-Qaida, they have called it extremism or extremists, fringe elements of Islam and radicals. But of course the enemy is jihadist Islam which seeks global leadership and the destruction of Western civilization. Al-Qaida is simply an organization that fights on the enemy’s side. As long as the enemy is left unaddressed, organizations like al-Qaida will continue to proliferate.”
“[The refusal of US authorities] to acknowledge the nature of the enemy has paralyzed their ability to confront and defeat threats as they arise. For instance, US Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was not removed from service or investigated, despite his known support for jihad and his communication with leading jihadists. Rather, he was promoted and placed in a position where he was capable of massacring 12 soldiers and one civilian at Fort Hood, Texas.
“Had the US not been in denial about the identity of its enemy, Hasan’s victims would likely be alive today.
“So too, the US’s refusal to identify its enemy has made it impossible for US officials to understand and contend with the mounting threat from Turkey. Because the US refuses to recognize radical Islam as its enemy, it fails to connect Turkey’s erratic and increasingly hostile behavior to the fact that the country is ruled by an Islamist government.
“… the US’s refusal to reckon with the fact that radical Islam is the enemy fighting it bodes ill for the future. Quite simply, America is willfully blinding itself to emerging dangers. These dangers are particularly acute in Egypt where the US has completely failed to recognize the threat the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes to its core regional interests and its national security.
“The last problem intrinsic to the US’s War on Terror is the persistent and powerful strain of appeasement that guides so much of US policy towards the Muslim world.
“This appeasement is multifaceted and pervades nearly every aspect of the US’s relations with the Islamic world.
“The urge to appeasement caused the US to divorce the Islamic jihad against the US from the Islamic jihad against Israel from the outset.
“Appeasement has been the chief motivating factor informing the US’s intense support for Palestinian statehood and its refusal to reassess this policy in the face of Palestinian terrorism, jihadism and close ties with Iran.
“Appeasement provoked the US to embrace radical Islamic religious leaders and terror operatives such as Sami Arian and Abdurahman Alamoudi as credible leaders in the US Muslim community…
“Appeasement stood behind the US’s bid to try to entice Iran to end its nuclear weapons programs with grand bargains.
“It motivated US’s decision not to confront Syria on its known support for al-Qaida and Hezbollah as well as Palestinian terror groups…
“It motivated US’s decision not to confront Syria on its known support for al-Qaida and Hezbollah as well as Palestinian terror groups…
“WHEN A nation engages in appeasement at the same time it wages war, its appeasement efforts always undermine its war efforts. This is particularly the case, however, in long-term wars of containment such as the one the US is fighting against Islamic terrorism…
“…the US’s moves to appease its enemies empower them to keep fighting.
“Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are far stronger militarily today than they were on September 11, 2001. Hamas controls Gaza and would likely win any Palestinian elections.
“Hezbollah controls Lebanon.
“Iran is on the verge of nuclear weapons and is poised to become the predominant power in Iraq. Its Egyptian nemesis Hosni Mubarak is gone.
“Ten years ago Iran and its terror allies and proxies could have only dreamed of having the presence on the Western Hemisphere they enjoy today.
“The US was able to win the Cold War through its policy of containment because throughout the long conflict there was strong majority support in the US for continuing to pursue the war effort…
“The US government’s moves to appease its Islamic enemies undermine the domestic consensus supporting the War on Terror. And without such domestic solidarity around the necessity of combating jihadist terrorists, there is little chance that the US will be able to continue to enact its containment strategy for long enough to facilitate victory.
“…since it came to power in January 2009 the Obama administration has worked intensively to confuse the American people about its nature, necessity and goals. President Barack Obama dropped the name ‘War on Terror’ for the nebulous ‘overseas contingency operation.’ He has rejected the term ‘terrorism,’ and expunged the term ‘jihad’ from the official lexicon. In so doing, he made it impermissible for US government officials to hold coherent discussions about the war they are charged with waging. Meanwhile, the public has been invited to question whether the US has the right to fight at all.
“Today the events of September 11 are still vivid enough in the American memory for America to continue the fight despite the administration’s efforts to discredit the war in the national discourse and imagination. But how long will that memory be strong enough to serve as the primary legitimating force behind a war that even in its limited form is far from won?”
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch reflects the same attitude when he writes, “A Decade Out, We’re Losing: The US has handed the reins to the jihadists through its policy of endlessly appeasing Muslims.” (Emphasis added)
“Ten years after 9/11, the war on terror is far from over, and we are losing it.
“We were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Islamic jihadists who explained, in writings they left behind, that they were committing mass murder in the name of Islam, inspired by the teachings of Islam, and in defense, as they saw it, of Islam…
“Yet 10 years later, it is not only the height of political incorrectness to speak about the motives and goals of those who attacked the United States on that terrible day. It is explicitly against United States government policy to look into such matters.
“Ten years after 9/11, we have a President who has communicated in numerous ways that the United States’ new primary response to Islamic jihad terror is to redress what Muslims perceive as grievances. Barack Obama has even declared: ‘I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.’
“Obama’s policies toward Islamic terrorism proceed consistently from the assumption that the conflict between the West and the Islamic world is entirely the West’s fault, and that he can thus bring that conflict to an end by means of sufficiently generous overtures to the Islamic world.”
Perhaps you will feel alarmed after reading all of this. Sickened. Spittin’ mad. But this is how you should be feeling. Be alarmed, and sickened and spittin’ mad enough to keep this post, think seriously about it, and share it widely.
If you love American, push for this to be a major focus of presidential debates and at the core of decisions on who should next be president of the US.
Spencer assures us, “Losing” is not the same as “lost.” Be part of the effort to turn around a deplorable situation.
Now, the “catch-up” that has been waiting for some days:
The “social justice movement”/”housing protest” held a final major series of demonstrations last Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night). It was supposed to be the finale of the protest phase of the push to find solutions to the problems that were highlighted. Events were held in a variety of places, and the numbers were definitely large; but I will not cite the numbers provided as I’ve learned again and again that such figures are often inflated.
A host of commentators see this movement as having the political goal of infusing left wing persons, parties, and policies into the government.
After this, tents were supposed to be folded (although this has not been done cooperatively in all cases) and negotiations with the government are now supposed to follow.
Today the JPost has run an editorial on this issue. It suggests that the Trajtenberg Committee — which has been charged by the government with meeting with the protesters and developing recommendations for solutions — is lost before it even begins. Chair of the leftist Histradrut labor federation, Ofer Eini, it seems, has already mocked potential Trajtenberg solutions because “all” that it will be doing is reallocating some two to three billion shekels, moving it from one budget line to another. Eini, you see, is annoyed because the Committee’s brief is to stay within budget parameters. But he would like to see expenditures of some 20 billion shekel each year beyond what is in the budget. That is, he wants to see the government go seriously into debt.
It is not going to happen, because Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is trained in economics, and Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, and others in the government know better. They know this would be the way to disaster. The irony is that Standard and Poor’s has just raised Israel’s credit rating from A to A+. This is not about to be undone.
And what of that wearisome subject, the Palestinian Arabs and the UN?
A few days ago, the PLO let it be known that the Palestinian Authority was without the legal jurisdiction to speak on behalf of all the Palestinian people at the UN — only the PLO could do that.
Shortly thereafter, a number of Palestinian Arabs factions or a coalition of activists — they have been only vaguely identified — submitted a letter to the UN offices in Ramallah urging UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to “add his moral voice in support of the Palestinian people.” The letter was carried by a woman who has several sons in Israeli prisons. Cute.
The PA has let it be known that this was not an official act and that Mahmoud Abbas, conducting himself on behalf of the PA — apparently in disregard of the PLO statement — would be submitting an official request to the UN soon.
Frenzied last minute attempts by the US government to bring Abbas back to the negotiating table have, of course, been futile.
Two points worth making with regard to the PA/UN issue. First, at long last, there was a formal statement from the US regarding the fact that it would veto a PA request in the Security Council.
Then I want to note a news item from last week indicating that in recent months the Shin Bet (Israeli security forces) have arrested dozens of Hamas terror suspects belonging to 13 different terror cells in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. A number of terror attacks were planned, including one 2-1/2 weeks ago that was supposed to include a suicide bombing in Jerusalem and abduction of an IDF soldier.
Very simply, Hamas is seeking to bolster its strength in Judea and Samaria. PA security forces — some of whom have been supported and trained by the US precisely for the purpose of responding to Hamas — either are not able to do so, or (very likely!) have no will to do so. Give the PA a state, and in due course it will go the way of Gaza. But the world pays this possibility little mind.
And then…Turkey. On September 2, the UN Palmer Commission presented its long-delayed report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident to Ban Ki Moon. A day prior, the contents had been leaked.
The report concluded that Israel faces “a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
The report acknowledged that the Israeli Navy “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, requiring them to use force for their own protection.”
However, it further concluded that Israel’s force was “excessive,” and that it would be appropriate for Israel to issue of statement of regret (which Israel had already done). No apology was called for.
The further recommendation was that in the interest of stability in the Middle East relations between the two countries should be repaired.
Turkey’s response to this, however, has been enormously hostile and belligerent: Apologize, Ankara told the Israeli government, or face repercussions.
Diplomatic relations with Israel have been downgraded by Turkey, so that the ambassador, Gabi Levi, is now persona non grata, and all diplomats above the “second secretary level” (the lowest level in the Israeli foreign service) have been ordered out. There apparently remains some question as to whether an Israeli military attache will be permitted to remain in the country. (Israel would prefer that he remain in order to keep channels of communication open.)
Israel travelers were severely harassed in the airport in Istanbul (although there was some question as to whether orders came from the government on this).
There has been serious saber rattling by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who last Thursday said that Turkish war ships would accompany the next flotilla and that in time Turkish ships would move to break the Gaza blockade directly. He has since backed down from some of this.
The good news here is that Netanyahu did not budge with regard to the Turkish demand that Israel apologize, saying that foreign relations cannot be conducted on the basis of threats. In fact, last week he went to a naval base in Haifa and addressed “officers and comrades-in-arms” who were involved with the Mavi Marmara, telling them that “we are proud of you. We salute you.”
A remaining problem to be dealt with is the potential legal liability of individual officers involved Israel is working on this.
Shin Bet, I will add in closing, saying that Hamas has established a command post in Turkey.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.