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Adversary / Threat One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Talk about (or with?) them.

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Old 09-22-2010   #1
Rex Brynen
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Default Shariah is coming! Shariah is coming!

From the Centre for Security Policy, Shariah: The Threat to America (An Exercise in Competitive Analysis—Report of Team ‘B’ II):

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Today, the United States faces what is, if anything, an even more insidious ideological threat: the totalitarian socio-political doctrine that Islam calls shariah. Translated as “the path,” shariah is a comprehensive legal and political framework. Though it certainly has spiritual elements, it would be a mistake to think of shariah as a “religious” code in the Western sense because it seeks to regulate all manner of behavior in the secular sphere – economic, social, military, legal and political....

...as this report documents powerfully, our leaders have failed to perceive – let alone respond effectively to – the real progress being made by the Muslim Brotherhood in insinuating shariah into the very heartland of America through stealthy means. Team B II believes that the defeat of the enemy’s stealth jihad requires that the American people and their leaders be aroused to the high stakes in this war, as well as to the very real possibility that we could lose, absent a determined and vigorous program to keep America shariah-free. To that end, Team B II sets forth in plain language who this enemy is, what the ideology is that motivates and justifies his war against us, the various forms of warfare the enemy employs to achieve his ends, the United States’ vulnerability to them, and what we must do to emerge victorious.
The team was lead by retired Lieutenant General William G. "My God is bigger than yours" Boykin. As far as I can see, it contains no actual experts on Islam or Islamic law. That may explain the factual inaccuracies and rather hysterical, paranoid tone.
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Old 09-22-2010   #2
Tom Odom
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Is Allen Arkin gonna play the Imam?

I mean really, "concerned with the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time: the legal-political-military doctrine known within Islam as "shariah," is more than a little hysterical.
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Old 09-22-2010   #3
SteveMetz
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When questioned as to why there were no actual Muslims on the group or consulted for the report, Patrick Poole used archetypical talk radio logic: 1) call the questioner a liberal; 2) create a nonsensical straw man and demolish it.
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Old 09-22-2010   #4
Tom Odom
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Default The Liberals Are Coming! The Liberals Are Coming!

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Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
When questioned as to why there were no actual Muslims on the group or consulted for the report, Patrick Poole used archetypical talk radio logic: 1) call the questioner a liberal; 2) create a nonsensical straw man and demolish it.


Eureka! Shariah is really a liberal plot for a totalitarian regime! Brilliant!

Can a I have Guiness, please?

I mean if that's still allowed before Shariah takes over...

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Old 09-22-2010   #5
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Interesting discussion on:

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2...i-sharia_m.php
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Old 09-23-2010   #6
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It's very sad that Boykin and Soyster were part of this. Some people are just hard wired for fear and hate. They've been lost without a mission since the demise of the Soviet Union. In the absence of a real demon, they concoct one out of whatever raw material is available.

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Old 09-23-2010   #7
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The basis of U.S. Grand Strategy since at least 1945 has been rooted in the defeat, denial or containment of some threat. Without a threat to fill the role of opponent, U.S. Grand Strategy falls apart.

We have been struggling since the collapse of the Soviets to find some bogeyman who is ready, willing and able to fill this role. We've interviewed and tried several reluctant candidates, but none really work the way the Soviets did. Oh for the good old days...

At a conference at Duke last year on Grand Strategy I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of some of our brightest minds on this topic. Finally I asked Dr. Gaddis of Yale, "Does a Grand Strategy requires some threat to counter, or can it be cast in positive terms to promote something instead"? I could hear the wheels turning all around this room full of PhDs; but no one really had an answer. It was almost like no one had ever considered the possibility of such a thing.

Of late we have been attempting to shoehorn "Islam" in various ways into this role of opponent. Personally, I think it is time to decide what it is we are for, and promote that. This is more likely to build us the alliances we need to counter real threats once they emerge. Emerge they will, but our current approach is not the best way to prepare for them.
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Old 09-23-2010   #8
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The danger is that whacko stuff like this report numbs our ability to identify real and serious threats from extremism and hence makes us less safe.

Last edited by SteveMetz; 09-23-2010 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 09-23-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
At a conference at Duke last year on Grand Strategy I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of some of our brightest minds on this topic. Finally I asked Dr. Gaddis of Yale, "Does a Grand Strategy requires some threat to counter, or can it be cast in positive terms to promote something instead"? I could hear the wheels turning all around this room full of PhDs; but no one really had an answer. It was almost like no one had ever considered the possibility of such a thing.
There are actually several countries with such grand strategies. Their grand strategies are consistent and robust, but not extremely obvious because some of their choices appear to be passive.

I think France's grand strategy needs no bogeyman (although they are occasionally in violent conflict with some smallish powers).
Germany's and Japan's grand strategies need no bogeyman either.
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey: same.

Pakistan, USA, North Korea, Syria and Iran depend heavily on their ability to point at an external threat (for domestic stability and in the case of the USA also for maintaining their international networks).
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Old 09-23-2010   #10
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What is "Extremism" though? If denied legal venues to address legitimate grievances, then one is forced to take "extreme" measures to create change. Certainly when populaces are held in conditions of poor governance there will be many with less than noble goals who step forward to exploit such situations for their own ends; but they are more "opportunists" than "extremists."

Governments create these conditions, not those who emerge to exploit them. When we promote and protect those same governments, we redirect focus at ourselves. I suspect most populaces would prefer employing effective legal means of promoting change, but such means are pretty scarce in the countries where so many of these "extremists" come from. Simple Cause and Effect, and until we stop labeling the effect (extremism) as the cause (governance), we will continue to be one significant step behind on this one.

The extremism that concerns me is the version that sits in power over much of the Middle East. We know its wrong to promote governments so contrary to our national principles and ethos, yet we also know we cannot simply walk away from relationships that help secure critical LOCs and resources. We need to find a new balance point. First step is to identify the extremists we need to focus the most on; and those are primarily the current governments of that region. I think we can out compete AQ as the champion of the oppressed, that we have more to offer through enabling legal and peaceful evolution of governance than he does through violent revolution of governance.

We'll see. Current focus appears to be to reinforce the status quo, and build their military capacity to more effectively suppress their populaces. Then conduct "nation building" to presumably buy off these same populace so that they will stop complaining and lending their support to these extremists organizations. "Denial" is not just the name of the river running through the heart of much of this...
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Old 09-23-2010   #11
Tom Odom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
The danger is that whacko stuff like this report numbs our ability to identify real and serious threats from extremism and hence makes us less safe.
Steve

Great to see you posting! Agree on the impacts of agenda driven thinks tanks; maybe I will someday get a chance to sit down with you and relate the series of visitors through MND-B in 2009, all of whom came with a solution looking for supporting "facts".

Bob,

Playing the role of Mr. Obvious, I would add that the void you remark on is exacerbated by the 4 to 8 year cycle of electoral posturing with regards to foreign policy. In the interest of fairness, one can make the case that our own makes us lack of clarity makes us damn near impossible to fully understand. Whether that is a good thing is of course equally debatable.

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Old 09-23-2010   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
The basis of U.S. Grand Strategy since at least 1945 has been rooted in the defeat, denial or containment of some threat. Without a threat to fill the role of opponent, U.S. Grand Strategy falls apart.

We have been struggling since the collapse of the Soviets to find some bogeyman who is ready, willing and able to fill this role. We've interviewed and tried several reluctant candidates, but none really work the way the Soviets did. Oh for the good old days...

At a conference at Duke last year on Grand Strategy I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of some of our brightest minds on this topic. Finally I asked Dr. Gaddis of Yale, "Does a Grand Strategy requires some threat to counter, or can it be cast in positive terms to promote something instead"? I could hear the wheels turning all around this room full of PhDs; but no one really had an answer. It was almost like no one had ever considered the possibility of such a thing.

Of late we have been attempting to shoehorn "Islam" in various ways into this role of opponent. Personally, I think it is time to decide what it is we are for, and promote that. This is more likely to build us the alliances we need to counter real threats once they emerge. Emerge they will, but our current approach is not the best way to prepare for them.
As posted in another thread.....would a Pakistan/India(and possibly China) Conflict offer both a threat that must be contained from spreading(outside of just maximizing the political/economic/military attrition of combatants) as well as the opportunity to promote(and dictate) the global recovery?

Is their an excessive focus on Islam and Iran as a threat...when it could quite possibly come(and rather quickly) from a less expected direction?
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Old 09-24-2010   #13
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Since it seems appropriate to this discussion, below is a draft of an essay that will appear in the next JFQ. Since this is just a draft, don't quote it. This is actually a very toned down version. The original took direct aim at those exploiting public hostility toward Islam, including political leaders like Palin and Gingrich, and the Islamophobia industry represented by people like Pamela Geller, Patrick Poole, and Daniel Pipes.

Islam, Domestic Politics, and the Crumbling of American Strategy


In the early years of the Cold War, Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, urged that politics stop "at the water's edge." When facing a major threat--as the United States was at the time--Americans should set aside partisanship, at least in foreign policy and national security strategy. This was sage advice but seldom heeded. The norm was for foreign policy and national security strategy to be used as partisan ammunition, particularly against whoever happened to be president and, by association, other members of the president's party. The reasons for this lie deep within the American strategic culture and political system. As a general rule, Americans are not deferential to public policy experts. The public believes that it should play an important role in formulating policy even on issues where it is not particularly well informed. Expertise is deprecated with the assumption that common sense can substitute. Simplicity is lionized and complexity disdained. Clearly the populist instinct runs deep in American political culture, its ideas advanced by the media in their never-ending quest for a larger audience and politicians in pursuit of votes.

This is good to a degree--it is part of what makes the United States and Americans special. But the intersection of public opinion, domestic politics, foreign policy, and national security strategy is treacherous. Since most Americans have little knowledge of, interest in, or understanding of world affairs, they are vulnerable to exploitation by pundits and politicians looking for a cudgel to use against a sitting administration. To resonate with a mass audience, issues are simplified to the point of caricature. This not only hinders serious policy discussions, but also confuses and antagonizes foreigners, whether allies or enemies (or those trying to decide whether to be allies or enemies). Any domestic consensus which does emerge from this tumult is fleeting and fragile. It may form during a major conflict or crisis, but quickly crumbles as the perception of danger declines. One has only to look at the precipitous decline in the approval rating of George H.W. Bush soon after the 1991 war with Iraq. America loved him but only briefly. Historically, rip-roaring partisanship rather than consensus is the American norm. And today, the United States is once again in a crescendo of this phenomenon. This has a very dark side: growing domestic hostility toward Islam is undercutting the foundation of America's global strategy.

(continued)
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Old 09-24-2010   #14
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The Forward and Indirect Strategy

For a while after September 11, American politics did stop at the water's edge; public anger and fear dampened partisanship. But it did not last long. As Iraq slipped into protracted and bloody counterinsurgency President Bush's opponents understood that the conflict there was his greatest political vulnerability. They had no qualms about using it against him despite the effect that their criticism had in Iraq or elsewhere in the Muslim world. Ironically, though, even while attacks on the Bush handling of Iraq intensified, there was consensus on his broader strategy for dealing with al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. Partisan disagreement focused on the the execution of the strategy rather than its foundation and assumptions. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that the conflict with Islamic extremists would be won or lost in the psychological realm--in the complex, shadowy world of attitudes and perceptions. Both agreed that a forward defense was best--that extremism should be stifled at its source. And both agreed that the best way to do this was by mobilizing support and strengthening partners in the Islamic world. Direct American action, including the use of military force, was sometimes necessary but ultimately victory would come when partner states were stable, prosperous, and capable and thus could control extremism on their own. Hence the strategy was both forward and indirect.
"Success," as the Bush counterterrorism strategy stated, "will not come by always acting alone, but through a powerful coalition of nations maintaining a strong, united international front against terrorism." In addition to building partner law enforcement, intelligence, and military capacity, this included altering "the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit." The essence remained psychological. "In the long run," the Bush strategy added, "winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas. Ideas can transform the embittered and disillusioned either into murderers willing to kill innocents, or into free peoples living harmoniously in a diverse society." President Obama, while committed to changing some of Bush's methods, largely adopted this strategy. The 2010 National Security Strategy stated:
Where governments are incapable of meeting their citizensí basic needs and fulfilling their responsibilities to provide security within their borders, the consequences are often global and may directly threaten the American people. To advance our common security, we must address the underlying political and economic deficits that foster instability, enable radicalization and extremism, and ultimately undermine the ability of governments to manage threats within their borders and to be our partners in addressing common challenges.
But this was a peculiar consensus. Even though the basic contours of the strategy against terrorism and extremism were accepted by both a Republican and Democratic administration and had wide support from Congress and the American public, it was precarious largely because it was constructed on questionable assumptions formed in the traumatic months after September 11 and never seriously analyzed. For instance, the strategy assumed that most governments and publics in the Islamic world shared the American threat perception, believing that extremism was inextricably related to terrorism and hence illegitimate. The strategy assumed that Islamic governments and publics saw the American role much as Americans themselves did. The United States, Americans believed, wanted only to see extremism controlled and terrorism extinguished. Certainly, they thought, Muslims must understand this. And, perhaps most importantly, the strategy assumed that what Americans consider misperceptions common in the Islamic world--that the United States primarily sought to exploit the Islamic world's resources, to impose its values, or to promote Israel's security--could be changed by "strategic communications" and assistance. Differences were simply misunderstanding. Americans, in other words, saw their power as benign and their motives as pure, and believed others did as well.

These assumptions, having been formed in haste during a time of deep national trauma, were deeply flawed. Partners in the Islamic world have steadfastly demonstrated different priorities than the United States, often tolerating extremism that only threatened America (or Israel, Europe, Australia, Russia, or India) rather than themselves. Witness Pakistan's tolerance of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and Saudi Arabia's acceptance of extremists, at least until they threatened the regimes in Islamabad and Riyadh. Much of the Islamic world rejected terrorism which targeted other Muslims, but did not automatically associate what Americans consider extremism with terrorism. Many Muslims distinguished legitimate extremism, even extremist movements which used violence, and illegitimate extremism. American strategy did not. The assumption that anti-Americanism could be fixed by strategic communication and assistance has not proven true. It resists strategic communications and foreign assistance. While the Obama administration has been able to moderate some of this, it remains a powerful force, particularly in Pakistan, the most important Islamic nation in the struggle with violent extremism and a major recipient of U.S. assistance. And counter to American assumptions that closed political systems spawn anti-Americanism, the more democratic a government in the Islamic world, the more it reflects and responds to the deeply anti-American and anti-Israel sentiments of its public and the less likely it is to attack extremism directed only against outsiders. A closed political system like those in Egypt or Saudi Arabia can, to an extent, ignore public opinion. They normally exercise control over their military and intelligence services. More democratic states like Pakistan cannot, thus making them vulnerable to the whims of public opinion and willing to overlook any relationship that their militaries and intelligence services has with extremists.

The notion that public diplomacy and strategic communication would address these problems also proved false. Ultimately it does not matter whether the perceptions of the United States which are common in the Islamic world--that Washington is in the thrall of Israel, deliberately seeks to keep Islamic nations weak by any means available, and wants to politically dominate the Islamic world so as to exploit its resources--are accurate. The naive American trust in the power of objective truth does not work in a deadly struggle with extremism. Beliefs matter more than reality. Hostility, anti-Americanism, and misperception are simply parts of the strategic terrain, as immutable as mountains or swamps. Changing deep set perceptions and attitudes is like changing physical terrain: it may be possible over an extended period of time and at great cost and effort, but is normally not the wisest course of action. Yet the United States continued to rumble along with a strategy based on wishful thinking rather than cold reality.

(continued)
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Old 09-24-2010   #15
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Undercutting the Strategy

For a few years after September 11, the fissures and faulty assumptions in America's global strategy were papered over and held in check. Islamic partners were willing to cooperate to a point given the benefits involved. This gave Americans the impression of progress. But cooperation was fragile and thin, based more on an expectation of material gain than shared priorities and perspectives. And the United States was able to teeter along with a flawed strategy because because opposition from the element of the American public most likely to oppose the partnerships in the Islamic world--the political right--was held in check by Republican control of the White House. As long as it was George W. Bush and his administration arguing that extremists were not representative of Islam--something that President Bush stated often--the right muted its anger and hostility. Criticism would only strengthen Bush's critics. But with a Democratic president, the gloves came off. Politicians and pundits on the right found that public anger and hostility toward Islam was a useful tool to mobilize their constituency and attack a president whom a significant portion of Americans believed to be a secret Muslim. Just as Iraq was President Bush's vulnerability, Islam is President Obama's.

Before the 1970s, the vast majority of Americans thought or knew little about Islam. Most probably did not have an opinion one way or the other. But two things changed that. One was the Iranian revolution and its vociferous hatred of the United States. Seeing Iranian clerics hissing that the United States was "the Great Satan" while hypnotized crowds screamed in assent was an eye opener for Americans. Second was the adoption of terrorism by the Palestinian movement and Hezbollah. For many Americans, including a number of fundamentalist Christians, opposition to Islam because a component of the support for Israel which, they believed, the Bible required.

These things sparked a distrust, apprehension, and outright fear of Islam which, of course, grew immensely after September 11. In the anger of that time, hostility began to move from the political fringe toward the mainstream, and to grow in power. In recent years this has taken a number of forms. One end of the spectrum is inhabited primarily by people driven by the psychological need to hate something, whether propagandistic bloggers, talk radio hosts who stoke fear and anger to boost ratings and income, or small-time fundamentalist ministers who believe they are implementing divine writ. These people are simply hard-wired to hate. With the demise of the Soviet Union, they had no bete noire until what they saw as dangerous and aggressive Islam emerged to replace godless communism.

The other end of the spectrum was at least more sophisticated in its thinking. Probably the best known example was the "clash of civilizations" argument of the imminent Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington. Huntington contended that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the global security system would be dominated by conflict between Islam and the Christian West rather than between competing ideologies both originating within the West (communism versus democratic capitalism). Huntington argued that the conflict between Islam and the Christian West was not a transitory phenomenon or the result of a fixable misunderstanding, but flowed "from the nature of the two religions and the civilizations based on them." With the end of the Cold War and, importantly, the resurgence of Islam, it developed into an "intercivilizational quasi war." America leaders, Huntington wrote, "allege that the Muslims involved in the quasi war are a small minority whose use of violence is rejected by the great majority of moderate Muslims. This may be true, but evidence to support it is lacking." His own position was clear: "The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power." While Huntington's position was attacked virulently within academia, it demonstrated that hostility toward Islam was not limited to America's political fringe. Just as anti-communism had its hate-fueled John Birch wing and its intellectual advocates from Paul Nitze to Ronald Reagan and William Buckley, hostility toward Islam has a populist component and an intellectual one.

Admittedly, Americans remain divided on their attitude toward Islam. Polling data shows that 49% of Americans now have a negative view of Islam--the highest number on record. Of course, Americans themselves would say that means that a majority does not. But ultimately what matters for the U.S. global strategy is whether the publics and elites in Islamic countries believe that Americans are hostile toward Islam, not polling percentages. Given the psychological dynamics of the situation, all it takes is periodic outbursts of anti-Islamic sentiment, particularly those with support from American elite figures, to sustain the impression of hostility by Muslims abroad. Call it the Abu Gharib syndrome--one negative event can counteract dozens of positive ones or majority support. This is unfortunate, but it is the reality of cross-cultural communication.

But despite the perception of growing American hostility toward Islam, U.S. strategy persists in assuming that there is no basic incompatibility between Islam and Western civilization, only misunderstanding. Policymakers have not come to grips with the dissonance between domestic hostility toward Islam (whether real or perceived) and a global strategy based on winning support and building partnerships in the Islamic world. Now with extensive and opposition to the planned Cordoba House Islamic center in New York City, demonstrations against mosques across the country, and Koran burning ceremonies by fundamentalist ministers, passions are boiling. Muslims abroad are well aware of this. In September 2010, for instance, Afghans demonstrated to protest the highly publicized planned burning of Korans by the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center. Even General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, warned that this threatened American service members. It all undercuts the idea that America's war is only with terrorists and not all Muslims. They feed the narrative of al Qaeda and its sympathizers that America and the West are at war with Islam itself. Condemnation of the Cordoba House by well known figures, including a number of prominent political leaders with electoral ambitions, mosque attacks, and Koran burning make a major contribution to the strategic communication of al Qaeda and other extremists.




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Old 09-24-2010   #16
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Today American strategy has hit the wall, crumbling in the face of growing public hostility toward Islam. There are only two solutions. One would be to try and re-cage the tiger by constraining domestic mistrust and hostility toward Islam at least enough to sustain the global strategy. This would require Republican leaders in particular to return to the messages of the Bush administration--that extremism does not represent or reflect Islam in general, and that despite recurrent anti-Americanism, U.S. partnerships in the Islamic world are making progress and can be sustained. Republican leaders, in other words, would have to abandon a theme which energizes and excites their political base, and give up on the notion of reviving the emotions of September 11 as elections approach. This is unlikely. Equally importantly, leaders and publics in the Islamic world would have to control anti-Americanism. Countries like Pakistan would have to recognize that they cannot be shrilly anti-American while expecting massive U.S. assistance. Again, this is unlikely since anti-Americanism in Pakistan and across the Islamic world has become legitimate and institutionalized. It sells papers and attracts viewers for the media. It makes politicians popular. Ironically for Americans, the growth of a free press and the process of democratization in the Islamic world has fueled and will continue to fuel anti-Americanism.

The alternative is to accept the notion that irresolvable differences exist between the United States and the Islamic world and that the clash of civilizations is a reality. Americans could stop ignoring blatant hypocrisy such as criticism of opposition to the Cordoba House at the same time that Islamic nations prevent the building of Christian churches, or vehement anti-Americanism combined with a demand for more American assistance. Americans could stop ignoring the misinformation which abounds in the Islamic world where any conspiracy theory about the perfidy of the United States, no matter how bizarre, finds a ready audience, even among the educated.

If this happens, the United States would be forced to craft a new global strategy based on at least a major if not a total disengagement from the Islamic world, shifting to a close rather than forward defense against terrorism. In the rubric of the Cold War, the United States would substitute roll back with containment, mirroring decisions made in the 1950s when the infeasibility of roll back became clear. While a solid argument can be made for this, it is important to think it through. It would, for instance, require disengagement from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. Afghanistan and Iraq might remain democracies, but would certainly become intensely anti-American, their leaders recognizing that public support is more important to the retention of political power than U.S. assistance. Iran--as the modern founding father of anti-Americanism--would certainly become more influential (although not hegemonic, given the Sunni-Shiite and Persian-Arab divisions).

Most nations in the Islamic world would be officially anti-American. A few, particularly those facing a major threat to the regime and able to disregard public opinion (i.e. closed political systems) might sustain some type of cooperation with the United States, but it would be tenuous. Even this would undercut the basis of American strategy since even though al Qaeda needs some sort of sanctuary or base, it does not need any particular sanctuary or base. It could simply move to nations which heed the demands of their publics to end cooperation with the United States. Some of these would allow an al Qaeda presence, whether openly or clandestinely. Across the Islamic world, Al Qaeda would grow in prestige and popularity claiming, whether rightly or wrongly, that it drove the United States out of the Islamic world. Much of the public there would believe it. Al Qaeda would welcome many new recruits eager to be part of the perceived victory. In such a strategy, the United States would "fight them here" because it could not "fight them there."

Ultimately this might prove better than the current American strategy. The consideration which long inspired American involvement in Southwest Asia--concern for access to oil--now seems obsolete. Oil will be available at market prices no matter how anti-American the governments in producer nations. Disengagement from the Islamic world would allow the United States to make major cuts in the size of the military and the defense budget, thereby providing an opportunity to lower taxes, pay down the national debt, or invest in infrastructure and education. The United States could fend off even a strengthened al Qaeda. After all, America's vigilance and defenses are far superior to what they were in September 2001. Every indication is that these things rather than involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are what has prevented another terrorist attack in the United States. The United States could launch long range spoiling attacks against known al Qaeda bases or sanctuaries. While these might not be as effective as having allied governments controlling extremists for the United States, they might suffice. And, if the close defense was effective, it would not matter whether anti-Americanism reached new peaks in the Islamic world. Disengagement would be a risky strategy but, potentially, one with significant payoffs.

This is, however, speculative. Still, a few things are clear. American domestic hostility toward Islam will grow, particularly in the electioneering leading up to 2012. Hostility toward Islam has fused with political opposition to President Obama. (Hostility toward Islam is highest among Americans who oppose Obama.) Hostility toward Islam has become an integral part of the political battle between the left and right. But it is also clear that the American public cannot be anti-Islamic and expect Islamic nations to serve allies in the fight against extremism. This dissonance cannot be ignored or wished away. It cannot be papered over it with a bit more foreign assistance and more adept strategic communications. This is akin to painting a rusting hulk.

Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Whatever the context of his statement, he might well have been commenting on current U.S. strategy. Reality now calls. If a clash with Islam is inevitable, then current U.S. strategy is paralyzingly flawed. A new strategy must reflect the inherent antagonism. This would represent the greatest shift in American strategy since the emergence of the Cold War. Unfortunately, neither of the feasible strategic options--continuing on with a deeply flawed strategy or totally abandoning it--is appealing. Both abound with risk. But the rising tide of domestic hostility toward Islam will soon force the United States to choose. Americans have ignored the fissures and dissonance in their global strategy for nearly a decade now. Now that time has passed. Dangerous times lie ahead.
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Old 09-24-2010   #17
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So much of the current American angst with Islam is rooted in Cold War strategies as implemented in those Islamic states seen as critical hedges against Soviet expansion due to their location; those seen as critical suppliers of oil; and those seen as occupying key terrain along critical LOCs. The wild card in this mix was/is our commitment to sustaining Israel as a nation. It has created a witches brew.

We now find ourselves in bed with some of the shadiest dictators and monarchs on the planet; who have come to act with ever increasing impunity under the umbrella of U.S. protection and enriched with foreign aid or petro dollars. At the same time we find ourselves at odds with those Islamic states that have had the fortitude to either resist or throw off our influence. Countries like Iran or Libya. Added on to all of this is this growing trend of individuals and organizations rising from Muslim populaces to challenge poor governance at home and also to attack those who work to keep such poor governance in place.

If our populace mis-understands the problem it is because our leaders do as well, and this is equally true on both sides of the aisle.

Al Qaeda is a symptom, an organization for their times. They are political opportunists with an agenda to advance and a willingness to employ any degree of illegal violence necessary to achieve it. They also are empowered by the tools of globalization to enable a networked approach to global unconventional warfare and sustained by a rich base of poorly governed populaces. These populaces do not have to stretch their imagination too far to buy into the linkages of Western manipulation and influence to their current challenges of poor governance at home.

For the US., playing the political blame game won't help; and neither will aggressively attacking the symptoms of the problem with a mix of counterterrorism and nation building tactics.

The U.S. must restate the problem. The U.S. must take responsibility for the effects of its role in the Middle East over the past 60+ years. Once we have that cathartic moment, not unlike step one in 12-step program, we can begin to get better.

We can employ our influence to encourage meaningful evolution of government where such is required (on local terms, not ours)

We can become the champion of the oppressed people of these regions, standing on the principles contained within our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights rather than more recent corruptions of that founding Ethos to justify our behavior. We can implement a form of "soft-UW" that encourages very effective non-violent approaches; over the violence offered by AQ. By out-competing AQ we render them moot. By attacking them we validate and strengthen them at the same time. (Like cutting up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean...it makes sense, but the actual effects are the opposite of those intended)

Or, placed in the terminology of my community: We must put the Liber back in De Oppresso Liber.
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Old 09-24-2010   #18
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
...

Al Qaeda is a symptom, an organization for their times. They are political opportunists with an agenda to advance and a willingness to employ any degree of illegal violence necessary to achieve it. ...
Which agenda, to bring this back to the original post, is their own, radical version of Sharia.

There have been a lot of good points raised on this thread, but one that should be added is that Nations (in the capital letter sense) have interests. They also have culturally determined morals and ethics to govern how those interests are pursued. For all the talk of "international community," there is absolutely no consensus on what those morals and ethics should be. (which is why I've always thought talk of "international community" a useless form of intellectual [self satisfaction].)

Whether we like it, or want to acknowledge it, or not, there are:

a. Groups of radical, violent ideologues who draw inspiration, or at least political cover, from a specific religion they have be interpreted as requiring intrusion into all aspects of life. (Not my interpretation, it's theirs.) These groups completely and absolutely reject any notion of internationally accepted morals and ethics in any dimension of human experience.

b. A significant number of people have adopted this radical interpretation as a way of explaining their circumstances in life, whether that be the unpopular American teenager or the impoverished and brutalized Yemeni peasant.

c. There are Nation states that find it in their interest to promote and even encourage these groups as a tool in advancing what they have determined to be their national interest. That interest may be establishing a regional hegemony (Iran) or a tool for redirecting domestic frustrations (Saudi Arabia).

I agree, it's not time to push any panic button over some grand international conspiracy to impose Sharia on the world. But I think it might be short sighted not to recognize that that is a major motivator to many of the people drawn to the violent movements.
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Old 09-24-2010   #19
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Disengagement would be a risky strategy but, potentially, one with significant payoffs.
Steve, a nice article but with two significant caveats.

1) I don't think you've established that Islamophobic sentiments have become dominant within the American political establishment. It might have found a receptive audience in large segments of the American population, but that's a far cry from actually becoming influential over either the policy community or the political community as a whole. Americans generally don't vote on foreign policy, and while there is a lot of free-floating hostility out there that can coalesce around cultural markers, that's not the same as formulating a new foreign policy direction. American alliances with Muslim countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are deeply embedded. Anti-Americanism in both places has run far higher in the past than Islamophobia has in the U.S., but that has not prevented Turkish or Saudi elites from deepening the alliance further for much the same reason --- domestic constituencies often have greater priorities than the relationship with the U.S.

2) Even assuming your point about anti-Muslim feelings becoming a driving force in American foreign policy, I cannot see how this leads to inevitably to disengagement/containment or smaller defense budgets. There are enormous domestic political constituencies invested in larger defense budgets. A forward-leaning Islamophobic American foreign policy is also possible, based on aggressive military action against supposed threats (which would now extend to a far greater spectrum of Muslim 'enemies') and a greater tolerance for civilian casualties.
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Old 09-24-2010   #20
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Steve, a nice article but with two significant caveats.

1) I don't think you've established that Islamophobic sentiments have become dominant within the American political establishment. It might have found a receptive audience in large segments of the American population, but that's a far cry from actually becoming influential over either the policy community or the political community as a whole. Americans generally don't vote on foreign policy, and while there is a lot of free-floating hostility out there that can coalesce around cultural markers, that's not the same as formulating a new foreign policy direction. American alliances with Muslim countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are deeply embedded. Anti-Americanism in both places has run far higher in the past than Islamophobia has in the U.S., but that has not prevented Turkish or Saudi elites from deepening the alliance further for much the same reason --- domestic constituencies often have greater priorities than the relationship with the U.S.

2) Even assuming your point about anti-Muslim feelings becoming a driving force in American foreign policy, I cannot see how this leads to inevitably to disengagement/containment or smaller defense budgets. There are enormous domestic political constituencies invested in larger defense budgets. A forward-leaning Islamophobic American foreign policy is also possible, based on aggressive military action against supposed threats (which would now extend to a far greater spectrum of Muslim 'enemies') and a greater tolerance for civilian casualties.

In this quintessentially pyschological conflict, I don't think it matters whether America actually IS Islamophobic. What matters is whether a large segment of the population in the Islamic world believes it. And since the publics there are already prone to believe that, all it takes is the occasional Koran burning or mosque protest to sustain the perception. People in the Islamic have difficulty believing that Gingrich, Palin, Boykin, Gaffney and Fox News don't reflect the dominant position within the American public and elite. Remember that a hefty portion of the public in the Islamic world already believes that Israel and American Jews control public opinion. Again, the reality (or unreality) of this matters less than the perception.

Being Americans, though, we think like Americans. We believe that if we can show polls to people in the Islamic world demonstrating that 51% of Americans don't have negative attitudes toward Islam, that will suffice. I don't think it will.

And my point was that the more democratic governments in the Islamic world become, the more anti-Americanism will influence their policies. Just compare Turkey's relationship to the U.S. today to its relationship under the military junta. Same with Pakistan.

I believe that means that our best partners are going to be despots like Mubarak and the house of Saud. The more democracy grows, the less receptiveness to us.

Is that a basis for a global strategy?

On defense budgets, I agree with you. I simply suggested that shifting from the forward strategy in the Islamic world would give us the opportunity to shrink it. We may eschew that opportunity and simply find some new mission or threat to focus on. Maybe the Navy and Air Force will win out and China will become our focus threat.

Last edited by SteveMetz; 09-24-2010 at 02:07 PM.
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