September 14, 2012

What A Mess! - Other Voices

Here are a handful of stories (excerpts provided) that echo, elaborate, buttress points made earlier on this blog. You'll notice the authors discuss the true basis for fundamentalist Islamic anger, the danger to the U.S. of appearing and/or actually being weak, and the importance of 'getting our act together' with realistic foreign policy.

- At the heart of Muslim street violence is the frustration of the world's Muslims over their steady decline for three centuries, a decline that has coincided with the rise and spread of the West's military, economic and intellectual prowess. 
- Frustration with their inability to succeed in the competition between nations also has led some Muslims to seek symbolic victories. 
- Yet the momentary triumph of burning another country's flag or setting on fire a Western business or embassy building is a poor but widespread substitute for global success that eludes the modern world's 1.5 billion Muslims. 
- For Islamists, wrath against the West is the basis for their claim to the support of Muslim masses, taking attention away from societal political and economic failures. For example, the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference account for one-fifth of the world's population but their combined gross domestic product is less than 7% of global output—a harsh reality for which Islamists offer no solution.
- Mainstream discourse among Muslims blames everyone but themselves for this situation. The image of an ascendant West belittling Islam with the view to eliminate it serves as a convenient explanation for Muslim weakness.
- Once the Muslim world embraces freedom of expression, it will be able to recognize the value of that freedom even for those who offend Muslim sensibilities. More important: Only in a free democratic environment will the world's Muslims be able to debate the causes of their powerlessness, which stirs in them greater anger than any specific action on the part of Islam's Western detractors.
- Until then, the U.S. would do well to remember Osama bin Laden's comment not long after the Sept. 11 attacks: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." America should do nothing that enables Islamists to portray the nation as the weak horse.

The Global War, Michael Ledeen
- No serious person believes that an obscure movie shown to less than a dozen people many months ago was the “cause” of the simultaneous assaults in Cairo and Benghazi.
- Whoever masterminded [the string of attacks] has scored a win against the United States, and signals to our friends and enemies that killing Americans incurs no cost. 
- All will see an America that apologizes to our killers as we retreat from Afghanistan and slash our military power.
- If we do not support revolution within Iran, we will get more of these attacks, and more dead Americans. In the end, we will fulfill Churchill’s prophecy to Chamberlain on the day after Munich: you thought you had to choose between dishonor and war. You chose dishonor, and you will have war. We may yet have time to choose honor — support those who have already risked their lives to defeat our enemies — and avoid the big war relentlessly engulfing us.

The Abandonment, Charles Krauthammer
- What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable — “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.
- A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, “the same conditions that helped trigger World War II — years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real.”
- This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president’s rebuff of the Israeli prime minister’s request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.
- The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. 
- The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.
- Yet at the same time that it does nothing, the administration warns Israel sternly, repeatedly, publicly, even threateningly not to strike the Iranian nuclear program. With zero prospect of his policy succeeding, Obama insists on Israeli inaction, even as Iran races to close the window of opportunity for any successful attack.
- Not since its birth six decades ago has Israel been so cast adrift by its closest ally.

[A sampling of views from the German Press about the Middle East violence against American embassies]


  1. Quite simply, where is the Lybian/Egyptian leadership in instructing and rebuking. That's the fulcrum to lean on in most of these instances. We can maintain a dual track of appropriate response and still not forget the "Hearts and Minds" lesson from Vietnam. Do not internalize the duty of that government to fully own the actions of their people. That needs to be our main message. If you want stature.. fine, but your sovereignty is the opportunity cost if you don't take accountability for the actions of your people. This applies all the way up the line to the Chinese North Korean mischief.
    There is an illustration I like to use of how a 15lb dog can actually keep a bone from the tug of an 180lb man because of the way its teeth are structured and how it plants it's feet. You are stronger, but you end up having to pick the dog up off the floor because it is structured to resist and wait you out. But if you push the bone at the dog, it begins to choke and lets go quickly.
    Many of these countries and movements have vague aspirations, but aren't willing (for a variety of reasons) to fully participate in a full blown relationship of truly governing their own footprint. Many good examples of this; Pakistan for one.
    We should really concentrate on "seeding" allies in Africa to have a platform to work from. Im wandering now.

  2. On second thought.. Im not done.
    We should expect right here a sustained (and to the extent possible) sincere campaign by these governments in messaging their people of our support.
    To make the litmus test to Libya be ensuring our consulates safety?! That is what's owed, not the appropriate response of an entity that's well-intended. Your people get out of line... YOU wear the black hat. And with that...

  3. I wish I were more optimistic about the motives, aspirations and principles of the Egyptian and Libyan governments. The Muslim Brotherhood has cornered power in Egypt. They have little interest in currying favor with the US. In Libya, the central government has very little control over (and perhaps little interest in gaining control) the country. In many cases where authoritarian regimes are in charge the primary objective of the ruling elite is to fill their bank accounts. So long as they control the means of wealth and have a monopoly on physical power where it is relevant to control access to the wealth (oil, diamonds, strategic minerals, etc.) the rest of the population can starve to death. Where power is not centralized, as in Saudi Arabia, accommodations are made and deals are stuck. In the Saudi example, the Saudi family controls the mechanisms of formal government and has the allegiance of the military. The Wahhabi religious establishment holds power over the people as keepers of the controlling religion. The Saudis assist the Wahhabis to maintain their position while the Wahhabis use their religious influence to sustain Saudi political control. All of it is possible because the Saudis maintain exclusive control over the oil wealth. Quid pro quo is the name of the game. During the Cold War, such regimes will play the US/West and the USSR off each other, leveraging the desire/need of each major power to cultivate allies in key regions. In today's environment, the US competes with local power centers in each region. Our leverage? Money and military might. Our spendthrift ways and extraordinary levels of debt at home blunt our ability to spend money overseas where influence is bought and will soon neuter our military might if sequestration is fully implemented. I concur that we should not get sucked into 'owning' local problems. It will take clear-eyed analysis and a steely will to reassert US influence in these trouble regions. Otherwise, we must write-them off by default and suffer the consequences. I have zero confidence the current Administration will successfully deal with the problem. Given the paralysis in DC, there isn't time between now and the election to do anything meaningful. If Romney wins, we'll have the lamest of lame-duck Congresses and an ineffective Presidency until the new team takes office. If Obama wins, we'll see more of the same. Either way, we'll not have much impact on events in the Middle East for another six months. The only exception? What we decided to do vis-a-vis Israel and Iran.