George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘Islam

STAY OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE

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The USA has not been blessed with leaders with a clear-eyed, long-term geopolitical view of the interests of the country for decades, and that record, along with the consistent ineptitude of the present administration, makes inaction preferable to action on a number of fronts. Iraq is descending into a chaotic civil war, due to the precipitous disengagement of the Obama administration and a total lack of strategic vision. There is no question that the blunders of the Bush administration are responsible for instigating these problems, but in that case at least half the blame belongs to Saddam Hussein himself for so successfully faking WMD capabilities in order to be perceived as a more formidable force in the region. That posture backfired, as did his removal. Sadaam was an awful dictator, but he counterbalanced the equally odious Iranian regime, which became the principal beneficiary of his demise. Broader strategic thinking would have made that outcome obvious. 

More importantly, Sadaam was a secular leader who checked religious extremism as long as he was in power. The same dynamic is at work in Syria now, where the US currently has zero credibility or respect, having drawn a  “line in the sand,” which it then ignored.  A wiser, long-term geopolitical understanding would have informed us of the saliency of the religious extremism in the two branches of Islam, and guided our strategic thinking accordingly. This is a long term, historic conflict that could still last centuries. Do we want to be part of that? At this stage, given the bumbling proclivities of our leaders, I think the best course for the US is to use this as an opportunity to get out of the line of fire. By that I mean ceasing to be enemy number one to extremists on both sides of the Islamic rift.  We have managed to fumble our way into that position, and it is now time to extricate ourselves. 

There are many countries in the world with an “Islamic problem,” meaning either a restive minority population or conflict with an aggressive neighbor. The US is not one of them, and a cursory examination of global borders makes that obvious. There is no inherent reason for the US to be at odds with any of these players, but for inserting ourselves into their affairs. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the left, it’s not about oil. We are more self-sufficient in this hemisphere than most other countries, and would be even more so but for the anti-energy policies of this administration, which sooner or later will be undone. The people who depend on mideast oil are the Japanese, the Europeans, and increasingly, the Chinese. Consequently what happens in the area is of far more consequence for them than it is for us. 

As for cultural conflict, Europe has a large, unassimilated Muslim population. Russia, and even China have restive Muslim minorities. Thus, the problems are far more acute for them, so why should the US wind up being the Great Satan? Bin Laden (who primarily targeted the US for stationing forces in Saudi Arabia, which are now gone) is dead and most of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack are accounted for. The Muslims are not our problem, and the more we disengage from conflict with them the less we would be targeted. Their main goal is obtaining power within the Islamic world. They are basically a headache for the existing regimes, who until now have managed to deflect such hostility onto the west. We are not sufficiently ruthless for this kind of conflict.

This does not mean cutting and running, but making a realistic policy that in essence says you don’t bother us and we won’t bother you, for if you do you will be annihilated with overwhelming force.  We would basically make an offer they couldn’t refuse. Let the CIA do its job for a change and come up with accurate information on these movements. Given the nature of the present administration I do not see a better path. 

We have paid dearly for all of this, not just in lives and treasure, but in terms of our own liberties. We now have a massive security state that is adept primarily at inconveniencing us at airports. Yet the end result is a situation no better than it was before, and given the instability in the area, arguably worse. We need to focus on rebuilding strength at home, where our way of life has deteriorated significantly. I am not suggesting isolationism here, but realism, as per Theodore Roosevelt’s axiom, speak softly but carry a big stick. 

 

ISLAM AND THE MODERN MILITARY

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The Egyptian military removed the Muslim Brotherhood government following massive protests against increasing Islamic rule, deteriorating economic conditions, and the near collapse of major institutions, which have become completely dysfunctional.  The administration once again was tone deaf when it came to facts on the ground. Thanks in part to an airhead ambassador, it has managed to wind up on the wrong side of events, a fact that was not lost on the crowds, which singled out the President and ambassador for scorn on their placards.  For despite the distress of a number of western leaders, this was not a banana republic coup d’état, but part of an extra-constitutional tradition relatively widespread in the Islamic world, from Turkey to Pakistan. It is essentially based upon the premise that when civilians screw up the government the military has to intervene.

It is important to understand the context and prevailing conditions. It would be nice if western leaders stopped mouthing platitudes about democratic government and instead recognized the dynamics in play. In any modern constitutional state there is more than majority rule; constitutional protections are also included, i.e. for minority rights. One such minority consists of Christians in the Middle East, who face continuing persecution in many countries while western officials remain silent, to their everlasting shame. Religious minorities are far more likely to be protected in a secular state than under a government that is religiously oriented. Thus Muslim minorities, for example, are not persecuted anywhere in the west.

In the Islamic world it is the military that has served as the guarantors of the secular state. This model began in Turkey, which is usually cited as representative of a successful modern Islamic country. This in large measure is due to Mustafa Kemal, the father of modern Turkey, who, in a remarkable departure, began what essentially was a process of de-Islamification of the state in favor of a secular, western-style government. The guarantors of that tradition were the military, which would periodically intervene whenever civilian government rule came near collapse, at least until the present government in Turkey, which has instituted a major purge of senior military officers. They can no longer intervene even as the government becomes increasingly autocratic, resulting in the recent mass protests throughout the country. But at least the Turkish government had the good sense to backtrack and make some effort to accommodate the protestors. In Egypt the military did intervene in order to protect the secular, constitutional state, apparently with considerable popular support and no intention of wielding political power on a long-term basis.

Why is it that the military is the bulwark of a secular, modern state in these societies? The answer lies in the nature of the order that must prevail in a large scale, formal organization if it is to function effectively. That order must be rationally based, regardless of dogma. A military has to be organized to achieve its objectives based on information and facts, and to have the capacity to master sophisticated modern weapons, communications, and command systems. In addition, functions must be assigned rationally otherwise nothing works. In a backward society the military is often the only viable institution with these characteristics, and much of the Islamic world is relatively backward. That is the reason this does not apply or occur in advanced countries, where we would not want the military to act in this capacity. The underlying population structure is different when most of the citizens are middle class, prosperous, and educated and there is a vast array of rationalized institutions. The more these characteristics appear, the more a society moves towards stable constitutional government.

Large segments of the people demonstrating in Egypt are young, educated, and middle class. They were chafing under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. But if people object so strongly to religious governments, how or why do they elect them?  When there is a large, backward peasantry they tend to gravitate towards religious parties, evident in both Egypt and Turkey. The reason for this is that people anywhere tend to opt for traditional rectitude when given a choice, and therefore those claiming to represent it. Thus, when people vote for Islamist parties they are choosing what they perceive as championing the moral basis of their societies. They only become disenchanted after the religious parties, once in power, make a mess of things because of the prism through which they view the world. When rational organization becomes subservient to values, be they religious or ideological, nothing works. Basic services can’t be provided, normal business can’t be conducted, the economy tanks, and government is perceived as completely incompetent.

These are realities that have to be taken into consideration when crafting foreign policy. The situation on the ground is usually more complex than presumed and things get bungled as a result. It’s time we realize that if the preconditions of constitutional democracy aren’t there, it isn’t going to materialize. That also means we can’t impose it from above or outside if the population does not have the characteristics necessary to sustain it. The truth is that most people in these countries are more interested in a better life. Only when they have some semblance of that will they begin to strive for democratic government.

 

Written by georgesarant

July 8, 2013 at 7:40 PM

ACTS OF WAR

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The attacks on our embassies around the world are clearly being orchestrated. How did Al Qaeda flags suddenly appear all over the world at the same time? Contrary to what the administration is saying, this is not just about an obscure, anti-Islamic film. It is a coordinated assault on the United States.  It is now apparent that the Libyans provided advance warning three days before American personnel were murdered, but these warning were ignored. The Libyans themselves are more pro-American than just about anyone in the Muslim world. But there, as elsewhere, there is a Salafist fundamentalist Islamic movement that demands a literal interpretation of the Koran and wants to take things back to the 7th century. Now these guys can scream and demonstrate against presumed offenses, but even they do not bring RPG’s to a demonstration. The goofy “film,” or at least the idea of it, no doubt did enrage many Muslims, but  all of this was just an added bonus for Al Qaeda, which organized these attacks beforehand, specifically for September 11 as part of its continuing war on the United States and the west.

The administration’s apology tour and outreach to Muslims policy is in shambles. The President thought all he had to do was simply make a speech in Cairo and his charisma would move the masses, but the end result is that he is actually less popular in the Islamic world today than George Bush was. But this fumbling has been obscured by the media’s dutiful diversion of attention from the actual substance of things that are happening to focus on an alleged  Romney mistake in  criticizing the administration. They were actually recorded coordinating questions to Romney, which he, unlike the President, actually answered. Any remaining credibility these partisan hacks may have had has now all but vanished.  On top of this we have the left-wing response, which right away is seeking to curtail our rights of free expression in order to accommodate external foes, rather than to defend our way of life. The government has hauled in the creator of the video for questioning, allegedly on other grounds, while at least Google has courageously refused to bow to pressure to take it off of You Tube.  When will they understand that, to paraphrase Pericles, we may not be interested in the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is interested in us?

These brazen assaults are a result of the government’s desire to be loved, which  betrays a fatal weakness. For it has stood Machiavelli on his head by choosing to be loved rather than feared, and has wound up with neither. It will not use any terminology regarding the “War on Terror.” But the security breach at our consulate was an act of war, as are the continuing attacks on our embassies and should be responded to accordingly.  Al Qaeda is targeting American diplomats, and Americans, around the world, and we should be responding to them as we would to an attack on the homeland. But respect for the US has fallen to such an extent that we can’t even get some countries to allow our Marines in  to defend our embassies, and instead are withdrawing personnel. Is it even safe for us to be traveling now? It is time to dispense with the illusion of being loved and instill some real fear in our enemies, for that is the only way to gain any respect.

 

Written by georgesarant

September 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM

NO MOSQUE AT THE WTC!

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I belonged to and was married in a small church in the shadow of the World Trade Center. St. Nicholas had been a former tavern and was rectangular in shape, made a perfect form fill between the two WTC towers. If there were fifty people in it, it was crowded, but it was a charming little space in the midst of great towers. That church was destroyed on September 11 along with the World Trade Center.To me the building of a mosque on this hallowed ground is doubly offensive and I think we must be prepared to prevent it by whatever means necessary. It is a desecration and offense to the memory of all those who died that day as well as all those who continue to die in the fight against radical Islam. It belongs there about as much as a cathedral in Mecca.

Yes despite overwhelming public opposition the political class is supporting this abomination in the name of religious freedom. Mayor Bloomberg, Governor-in-waiting Andrew Cuomo, and President Obama have all expressed support for this project, and deserve to be turned out of office on this basis alone. For implicit in their position is a contempt for public opinion similar to the attitude taken by elites towards the tea party protests. They “know better” than the ignorant mass of people who have been led astray by right-wing cheerleaders to upend the “proper” world view. This is how things work in Europe, where elites govern as they see fit, largely ignoring the public will. For example the public in many countries supports capital punishment, but the ruling class opposes it so it is banned.

There are even some “conservatives” who share this elitist world view, i.e. when it comes to someone like Sarah Palin. But never has the gap been wider between the government and the people on a whole range of issues. These rascals deserve to be voted out in November producing a clear message.

I would argue further that the mosque supporters, who generally are the same people quick to ban Christian symbols from the public square, show the need for a constitutional amendment. This amendment would explicitly recognize the Christian foundation of this nation. I advocate this even though I am personally agnostic, because it is an undeniable part of our heritage. In the past it was not necessary to state the obvious, but as liberals have chiseled away at our traditional foundations, largely through the courts, it has become necessary to restate the basic tenets of America.

 

Written by georgesarant

August 14, 2010 at 6:42 PM

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WELCOME TERRORISTS!

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There are three foiled terror plots currently in the news, designed to kill as many Americans as possible. All of the perpetrators are Islamic radicals. It is hilarious to hear the clueless mainstream media refer to Najibullah Zazi simply as a “Colorado man,” rather than say, an Islamic terrorist immigrant. Never mind that he just got there in January, and apparently traveled freely to Pakistan for terror training. A Somali immigrant returns to Somalia for a terror bombing and is referred to simply as an “American.” This kind of nuanced language is a major part of the problem we face. Unless we forthrightly recognize that the problem is specifically Islamic extremism, we will continue to be vulnerable. We should not take too much comfort in the fact that Zazi was caught before doing any damage. That may have less to do with great intelligence work and more to do with the fact that he was an unusually stupid terrorist, like the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, But eventually there was a second.

It is utter lunacy for western countries to keep importing large numbers of Muslims without increased scrutiny. If that means discrimination, so be it. To discriminate means to be selective, and to discriminate between one thing and another. Do we really want Muslim extremists? There has to be a more rigorous screening process. The only country to do so is the Netherlands, where potential immigrants are tested as to their capacity to adapt to the Dutch way of life.

This is not to say that most American Muslims are suspect. In most cases these are people who have left Muslim countries precisely because of repression and wish to live in greater freedom. They will adapt as most immigrants have. But we cannot ignore the reality that what threatens us emanates from Islam and we must become far more vigilant.

Written by georgesarant

September 26, 2009 at 7:11 PM

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THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

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In the course of little more than half a century Europe has managed to swap 6 million Jews for 20 million Muslims. The former were assimilated into European culture, and their murders were an incalculable loss as well as a monstrous crime. The latter are largely unassimilated, and due to “multicultural” encouragement will continue to remain so, while outgrowing the declining European population. In many countries they have the audacity to aggressively assert their cultural autonomy and are out of control in the most tolerant countries, i.e. Britain and the Netherlands.

The only ones who have really gotten it right so far are the French. There the state encourages assimilation, considers everyone French, and does not maintain ethnic, religious, and racial statistics for nefarious purposes as the US does, and officially insists upon a single standard for everyone. Unlike Obama, and for that matter, Bush, they discourage Muslim headscarves and other outward signs of religion in public institutions. The downside of this fastidious public secularism, which dates back to the French revolution, is that the traditional Christian culture of Europe gets lost in the mix, but is offset by a cultural nationalism that is peculiar to the French. There the damage done to much of the western world by self-hating leftists has been mitigated by an appreciation for and encouragement of French culture. This can sometimes be overdone with a silly degree of chauvinism* when it comes to language and new terminology, but they at least have developed policies that will ensure the survival of the nation, including family-friendly policies to support a sustainable birth rate.

Virtually every other country in Europe is facing a disastrous combination of population decline, unassimilated immigrants, and low growth. The only hope for Europe is the populist right, and gains in the recent elections show that the Europeans are beginning to seriously consider their predicament. For it is clear that to have a future European countries must again believe in themselves- in their history, culture, and way of life.

*A term that is originally French, originating with a19th century man named Chauvin who was known for extreme, over-the-top nationalism. Parenthetically I saw a comment by a young airhead referring to a man as a “shovinist” without a clue as to the real meaning of the term. How things degenerate over time! .

Written by georgesarant

June 12, 2009 at 10:06 PM

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