America’s Limited Options
By Ted Belman (originally wriitten in June ’07)
Before 9/11, Islamists attacked American forces, ships, diplomats and Embassies from time to time with relative impunity. The enormity of 9/11 demanded that the US put an end to such attacks. Her first response which came within 24 hours of the attack was to enable planeloads of Saudi VIPs to leave the country. Thus even before determining who was responsible and what course of action to be taken, the Bush decided to absolve and protect the Saudis. Incredible, considering that 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis.
Nine days later, Bush identified the perpetrators as the “enemies of freedom” (how generic) and named al Qaeda as the culprit declaring that it follows a “fringe form of Islamic extremism” thereby absolving Islam also.
Although he grandly declared that “we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorists” he did no such thing except for invading Afghanistan.
I urge you to reread my article What War on Terror? which sets this out in greater detail.
President Bush studiously avoided the Islamic requirement of Jihad in the name of which al Qaeda was operating and the fact that Saudi madrassas and mosques all over the world emphasize this duty. Nor did he mention that al Qaeda is financed by individual Saudis and perhaps by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Instead, after invading Afghanistan, he substituted another enemy, namely those who were pursuing WMD. This change of target lead to the invasion of Iraq with disastrous consequences. When the Bush administration accepted that there were no WMD in Iraq (preferring not to pursue them in Syria) they shifted the rationale for invading to an humanitarian one pointing out the hundreds of thousands Iraqis, Sadaam Hussein had killed and continued to kill. Then, after Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy was published, democratization became the rationale or elixer.
Humanitarian intervention is never done for humanitarian reasons. Thus Rawanda wasn’t invaded to prevent the slaughter of the 800,000 Tutstis and Sudan is not invaded to prevent the slaughter of over 200,000 persons around Darfur.
There must be self interest before invasion is warranted. Thus Serbia was invaded not because of the alleged genocide (less than 2500 bodies have been found, being both Serbs and Moslems) but because of geo-political reasons. Similarly Israel is restrained from killing Arabs in self defense, not because anyone cares about the death of Arabs but for geopolitical reasons. Arabs kill thousands of other Arabs and no one cares but if Israel kills one Arab even in self-defense the whole world is up in arms. Nor is there any attempt to prevent the killing of Jews, just the opposite (look at the international support for Fatah and Hamas), once again for geo-political reasons.
Okay, at least the US is determined to stop the spread of WMD isn’t it? Not if it means going to war over it, it would appear. Furthermore Iran has been actively backing the slaughter of US forces in Iraq and the US has withheld criticizing Iran until lately, and even then half heartedly, and has certainly has not punished it for doing so.
In order to justify invading Iraq, the US adopted the policy of pre-emption. But pre-emption accomplishes only temporary relief. When you invade a country, be it Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran you do so to establish a friendly regime. If you are unable to do so, you must be prepared to stay to shackle the resurgence of an unfriendly regime. This is proving too onerous a task if not an impossible one. Thus the US is looking to cut its losses. None of the enemies of the US is going to let the US succeed in doing so. They will press their advantage to the hilt.
The most immediate issue facing the US is the fact that Iran, al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgents want to drive the US out of Iraq and, ultimately, the ME. The US must decide what its vital interests are in the ME and how best to protect them. Obviously the protection of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are vital interests. Can the US allow Iran to control Iraqi oil?
What is the strategic value of Jordan and Lebanon? For that matter, what is the strategic value of Israel? Is it a liability or an asset? The US is obviously committed to shrinking Israel to the Green Line thereby reducing its value as an asset in order to lessen it’s detriment as a liability. I believe this is the wrong choice. Any goodwill created will be short lived and the value of Israel as an ally will be permanently diminished to say nothing of the immorality of it. Furthermore, if Israel is weakened too much it may have to turn to the Samson option and this would be a disaster for the world.
But back to 9/11 and the US response.
The US managed to install the Karzai government but it isn’t strong enough to control the whole country, even with the help of NATO. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have regrouped in Pakistan and continue their efforts to chase NATO out of Afghanistan and retake the country. It is only a matter of time. Similarly, the US was better off in Iraq and more in control before she invaded it. I do not believe that this poor outcome was the result of poor management or insufficient troops. Given the desire of Iran, Syria and al Qaeda to chase the US out, it was a mission impossible from the start. The US should have included Iran and Syria in its invasion plans in order to win.
There is little doubt that as a result of the US declaring war on terror and invading Afghanistan and Iraq,
1. terrorist groups have grown stronger and have an abundance of recruits and money.
2. US deterrence is shot. Iran and Syria have learned that they can kill Americans with impunity and can stand up to it.
3. Mushariff has been weakened and Pakistan destabilized. Both were allies of the US
So what should or could the US do in response? Lob a few missiles? Hardly.
Bush has taken the first step by dropping the use of the phrase “war on terror” and now refers to the battle “as a global war of ideology against a network of terrorists”. He remains unwilling to finger the Saudi support for the Wahabbist ideology which leads to terrorism. To talk about root causes of terror, that has to rank way up there.
“the United States must do more to develop and support networks of moderate Muslims who are too often silenced by violent radical Islamists.”
“Instead of focusing on the Middle East, where most of the radical Islamic thought originates and is firmly entrenched, the report recommends reaching out to activists, leaders and intellectuals in Turkey, Southeast Asia, Europe and other open societies. The goal of this outreach would be to reverse the flow of ideas and have more democratic ideas flow back to the less fertile ground for moderate network-building of the Middle East.
“Partners in this network-building effort should be those who share key dimensions of democratic culture, the study says. The report recommends targeting five groups as potential building blocks for networks: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals; young moderate religious scholars; community activists; women’s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns; and moderate journalists and scholars”.
Daniel Pipes has long insisted that “radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution”.
Having said that, there are many, including Andrew Bostom and Hirsi Ali, who discount the potential of this effort succeeding either because of intimidation or because the “moderates “ are so few in number. (See also Alyssa Lappen’s Moderate and Radical Muslims: the Confused PBS View )
Perhaps the last word goes to Fjordman who in his column, Do we want an Islamic Reformation? wrote “The only way you could, even theoretically, create a peaceful, tolerant Islam would be to permanently ignore all teachings, contained in the Koran, the hadith and the sira, originating from the violent Medina period. I doubt whether this is practically possible, and even if it was, it would mean that Muslims quite literally have to get rid of half of the Koran, which again means that Mr. Wilder is correct.”
[Wilders has said provocative things such as that the country faces being swamped by a "tidal wave of Islamization," that if Muslims want to stay in the Netherlands, they should tear out half the Koran and that "If Muhammad lived here today, I would propose he be tarred and feathered as an extremist and driven out of the country."]
Nevertheless, I submit that such an effort as laid out by Rand Institute must be encouraged and supported with billions of dollars. But nothing short of a reformation of Islam will do. Islam must excise the odious (to the western mind at least) elements.
Secondly, it stands to reason that if the US is going to work actively to support the reformation of Islam, it must at the same time work to undermine contrary forces and influences. Laws must be passed which outlaws Islamists and the preaching of political Islam as subversive. Anyone or group advocating for political Islam must be imprisoned or deported Political correctness shouldn’t prevent honest criticism of the objectionable aspects of Islam. The exercise of free speech shouldn’t be restricted if it is offensive.
Given the threat Islam poses for Europe, Europe will no doubt be a positive force for this agenda. European officials have already backed a plan to profile mosques, It will now “map out mosques on the continent to identify imams who preach radical Islam that raises the threat of homegrown terrorism.”.. “The project, to be finished by the fall, will focus on the roles of imams, their training, their ability to speak in the local language and their source of funding”
The US must also stop playing footsie with Islamists in Kosovo, Chechnya, Gaza and elsewhere, where it uses them as proxies. The double game must stop.
Thirdly, the US must adopt a policy of containment of Iran. Iran must be prevented from developing nuclear bombs and expanding its influence. Furthermore the US must abandon the idea of getting the regime to change and instead, getting Iranians to change the regime.
Fourthly, Israel should be strengthened not weakened. Peace will only come by changing the paradigm. (See my article in Israpundit, The ‘peace process’ is in need of a paradigm shift ) Instead of clamouring for political rights, i.e., a two state solution, the US should pursue an humanitarian solution as described by the Jerusalem Summit. Such a solution would involve disbanding UNRWA and dealing with Arab refugees under UNHCR as all other refugees are dealt with. The former serves to perpetuate the problem whereas the latter solves the problem.
Fifthly, assuming a unified Iraq cannot be stabilized, the US should support a federated Iraq where oil revenues are shared but with considerable autonomy to each group. If not it should support independence for Kurdistan, including Kirkup. The US forces in Iraq should then be redeployed to Kurdistan. The US should work to achieve an accommodation between Turkey and the Kurds and make certain that Kurdistan is an ally of the US and not Iran. Furthermore the US should support the secularists in Turkey rather than Erdogan.
The debate currently in the US is about when to bring the boys home. It should be about how to win. The course of action I have laid out has a reasonable chance for success. It should be pursued with resolve.