Author Archives: Richard Allan

Commentary—Racism and National Security– a Volatile Combination

The new cool in Europe is to be anti-Semitic especially new in Germany, according to Steve Emerson’s web site in an article written by Abigail R. Esman. And those throwing the bombs and horrific language are the old and new line Nazis but the new refugees fleeing from their own countries of oppression and violence.

When I was a child during the early years of WWII and in grammar school, it was at a time when my family didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Notwithstanding our own lack of funds, my grandmother would round up the kids of refugee families who were living on the wrong side of poverty and feed them lunch at the same time I came home for lunch. There was one boy I remembered well. My grandmother and mother would be trying to feed this gang and get us out in time to get back to school for the afternoon session, and he would stand up, pound on the table, and say: “I am rrrready, I am vating!” I wanted to respond, as young as I was—if you don’t like the service leave, but I dared not on more than one ground. Eighty years later I have never forgotten his arrogance and his sense of entitlement. Many years later, my father had a wonderful woman who cleaned his office. One day when she was complaining about having a bad cold and how expensive doctors were, he suggested she go to the emergency room of a local hospital a few blocks away. She looked in horror at my father and said: I ain’t gonna sit on bench with any of them spicks! This woman was black.

And now not only do we have vitriolic language pouring out of the White House, as I commented in my last blog, we have been introduced this week to a racist leader of the free world. The President of the United States.

The mandate of these Commentaries is the examination of national security. And we hold strongly to that directive. If we were to review the impact of racism or anti-any minority, we inevitably learn that we have simultaneously injured the very fabric that supports our national security. Pragmatically, we become less apt at fighting those who would attack or endanger our democracy in the form of traditional terrorism.

This reasoning is clearly supported by reality: once you have an attack by one segment of the population against another segment of that same community then vital security components must be diverted from one area of concern to another in order to maintain the safety of all. It does not take rocket science aptitude to understand the causal connection and the dilution of resources. Those who fail to do so, do at the risk of greater national violence that becomes endemic.

You may say if I and my neighbors call someone a “nigger”, a “spick rapist”, how have I diminished any portion of the security arrangements in my community? I haven’t physically attacked that “nigger or spick”, and thus trigger a response from law enforcement. The answer is so obvious:–words have consequence, and words inflame actions, and words incite people to act. There are people in this country who take at face value the truth of statements made by our elected officials. One of them being the President of the United States.

As reported in the New York Times, in 1923, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, told an immigration conference that an unnamed European country was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirables.” His comments gained traction among a segment of the American population but fell on deaf years on the vast number of Americans who knew different and were proved correct by history. Forty-two years later in 1945, we were the strongest and most powerful nation in the world. The difference between 1923 and 2018 is the world has shrunk, arms of violence are larger and more powerful, bombs are smaller and more lethal and we have reinvented terrorism on a grander and deadlier scale. The spoken and written word travels further and faster and to more people instantly. When you call a nation a “shithole” that message is transmitted to the entire world within seconds. There are and will be consequences.

We need only look at “Germany, anti-Semitism is not just widespread: it is growing, particularly among the country’s hip youth” Abigail R. Esman. And she writes –“anti-Semitic attacks and regular calls for “death to Jews” have plagued Europe in recent months”. In the “Austrian capital, officials fined three pro-Israel activists last month for waving an Israeli flag near a pro-Palestinian demonstration”…” a man wielding a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam.” And on New Year’s Eve, a man threw a rock at the window of the Amsterdam Chabad center. ” In an in-depth report for the Daily Beast, Josephine Huetlin describes the vast reach of German Jew-hate – from Muslim enclaves to far-right groups that support the up-and-coming political party, Alternatives fur Deutschland (AfD, Alternatives for Germany). “Indeed, AfD may signal the biggest threat going forward. According to Huetlin, AfD politicians believe that “the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country.”

By surfing the net, you can read the comments of those that support the Trump rhetoric, and they do so without question. If you want to support those thoughts and comments that is fine, but to do so without question and without any objective analysis is dangerous. Not merely to oneself but to others. Democracy is dependent upon independent thinking not mass adherence or abidance by a master’s call. To do so is frightening, dangerous and un-American.

It is not politically correct to say: We do live in dangerous times. And we do, and to make these times less uncertain and more secure it is imperative that we have leaders that think before they speak and leave knee-jerk analysis in the waste-bin. But equally important, it is imperative that we, as individuals, “think” before we follow.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary: Vitriolic Politics and National Security.

President trump is sucking the air out of decency and the greatness of diversity by his direct and unsupported attacks upon ideas and people. These unprovoked attacks have no place in the form of democracy practiced in the United States. They have had, in turn, a profound and direct effect upon our national security. That is a fact, not an opinion, not a political statement.

A functioning democracy does not require that we all love each other. That would be utopia and not reality. Reality requires that if we do not agree with the position of our opposition – to any degree—there is, at the least, respect in the discourse. However intense, extreme or passionate. That is how a democracy works, that is how it has worked up until the present. We live in a dangerous time and it has become more dangerous not of necessity. Let me explain.

From Election Day, November 2016 to the 19 November 2016, hate crimes in the U.S. spiked– the “civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges that there have been at least 700 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation since the election. It ranges from swastikas at a baseball field and a playground to Pennsylvania high school students shouting “white power” in the hallway. It is a vivid throwback to the days of segregation at a high school bathroom in Northern California.” That wasn’t all. In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, a wave of hate crimes and lesser hate incidents swept the country — 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days. By far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups. And there are identifiable groups being terrorized just seven miles from the White House who aren’t eager to talk about it. Not only do they fear the potential violence, but they also fear being deported because a goodly number are undocumented.

Muslims are among the groups President Donald Trump has repeatedly singled out and targeted. He ran on a campaign promise to ban them and continues to share controversial anti-Muslim videos on social media. That incites individuals and groups to take the law—unlawfully—into their own hands to execute judgement as they seem fit.

The President has claimed that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims. You can say that this claim is false. You can also say the President lied to inflame a segment of the white community—his voting base. The most glaring inaccuracies have to do with white homicide victims. Trump cast blacks as the primary killers of whites, but the exact opposite is true. That is Fact. By overwhelming percentages, whites tend to kill other whites. Similarly, blacks tend to kill other blacks. These trends have been detected, noted and written about for decades.

How the extreme right viewed the Trump election and how it would carry that victory forward was captured in the following quoted encapsulation:

“The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. ‘Our Glorious Leader             has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.” Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.” Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.”

     This makes Muslim-Americans, blacks and other minorities that much more vulnerable and exposed to not merely discrimination but violence in the Trump era. Trump inspired violence by words and deeds. Despite the rights of equality and free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, the minority see their own lives as being threatened in the streets of their own towns, American cities, and the universities and colleges they attend.

From the New York Times we learn: “There are fliers depicting men in camouflage, wielding guns and an American flag, appearing in men’s restrooms throughout Texas State University: ‘Now that our man Trump is elected,’ they said, ‘It is time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage.’ ”

What compounds the entire topic was underscored by a senior counterterrorism officer who sees casualties being escalated by our nation’s polices on weapons: “because our population of violent extremists has no difficulty gaining access to weapon that are quite lethal” said Nicholas Rasmussen, as he ended his five-year run at the National Counterterrorism Center, three of them as its director.

When we have domestic attacks on our own citizens or those who are peacefully in our country because of their ethnicity, country of origin, the color of their skin, the religion they might or might not adhere to, then you place in jeopardy all of us, because there is then a general collapse in the foundations that support our democratic fundamentals, traditions and civil rights. This applies to all of us. This type of violence is a direct attack on our national, domestic security. Terrorism is not limited to an attack by ISIS against our interests in some foreign city or country. Our security is in danger not merely from foreign forces from abroad attacking our national interest far from our national borders. But here, right at home. Americans –attacking other Americans—listening to the words and deeds of the President.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary—Protecting Our Civil Rights — The New Fight Against ISIS and Terrorism

Terror attacks are increasing in intensity and frequency, and it has become obvious that we must increase the invasiveness of our techniques in combating those elements. That, in turn, raises the issues of protecting our civil rights, which might be encroached upon in the process of counterterrorism activity. How we interdict violent terroristic attacks here and abroad and how we simultaneously protect our civil rights is not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. To understand the necessity of revisiting the methods of interdiction and its effects, it becomes important that we have some background in understanding the present nature of terrorism as it has evolved in recent times and as we shortly move into 2018. At the outset in our discussion we must ignore any slippery slope analysis. It does not enhance the depth of the discussion nor advance any meaningful analysis.

We should begin in June 2014. The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. By that summer, the Islamic State’s territory covered about a third of Iraq and between a quarter and a third of Syria. It has been estimated that ISIS had become the richest terrorist organization in the world. In response to ISIS’s overwhelming territorial capture, and within months, an American-led international coalition was fashioned to attack ISIS. Not surprising, one year later (September 2015), Russia began its military intervention in Syria, initially to prevent the collapse of the Syrian regime and later to support the regime in fighting not only ISIS but other rebel organizations, referred to as “terrorist organizations”. To expand its sphere of influence, Russia has entered into an agreement for air support rights with Egypt.

The ISIS crises came to an head in early 2015, with the commencement of an intense and non-stop military campaign for the next two and half years, up to the time of writing this Commentary ( early December, 2017). It can be said, on the ground the Islamic State no longer exits. Lost are most of its captured territory including the historic cities of Mosul and Raqqa including those areas along the Euphrates River in both Iraq and Syria. It would, however, be a terrible mistake to say we have defeated ISIS and all is well. It is not.

We have recaptured land seized by ISIS, but ISIS, as a terrorist organization (along with its immense wealth), has not been defeated. It remains a real, continuing and enormous danger to our wellbeing. ISIS motivated and inspired attacks here, at home and abroad, will continue, and if history is any judge, they will escalate in intensity and scope with the demise of its territorial loss, and as thousands of their fighters who already have returned will return to their homes with their hatred intact. In addition, there is no longer the question some of those fighters will join or rejoin with some faction of a-Qaeda from which they had initially belonged. As reported, it has already shown its ability to easily function in far-flung places, while openly conscripting new and trained fighters in areas marked by political, social neglect or oppression.

As I have written in the past, our civil rights, protected both at home and abroad, is the cornerstone of our democracy and individual well-being. They must be protected but cannot be used to lesson our ability to defend ourselves and thus be an avenue thru which we are attacked. It is equally essential we not hamper our ability to anticipate and defend against the enemy. ISIS. Not Islam. Not those “dudes”. Not those who create fake shadow targets thru the internet.

There is a subtle but elusive bond and trust between our national government and the population. It is that bond and the trust that has been created that protects our democracy. We must have faith in our government. And in return our government must be “of the people and for the people.” Any concept of a “big brother” government must be rejected; an idea that we merely cede our rights in return for protection must be rejected. Without ceding self to an authority, we at the same moment, must have in place a robust form of law enforcement that protects that fragile structure against internal and external threats. At this juncture it is essential that we have an enhanced counterterrorism mechanism in place, but as I will discuss below, with a respected independent national oversight authority as a counterbalance. Not the Attorney General appointed by a President, not individual state legislatures, not ad hoc civilian groups created for particular contentious events. We must create a congressionally constructed legal body, independent of any presidential control that is funded and answers only to a joint bipartisan congressional committee, with neither political party having a deciding vote.

We have moved far from the time when we made hard distinctions between domestic and international forms of terrorism. The line between legitimate forms of dissent and terrorism is not as ambiguous as in the past. We have come to a time when it is essential that we employ enhanced law enforcement tools to increase our ability to interdict a terrorist before (s)he attacks. Not after the attack. Concurringly, during any ongoing investigation, it is essential that there be in place a process for the civil rights protection for the target. We are long past the time of Hoover’s FBI.

As noted above, with the creation of an independent body of trained lawyers and investigators who will have the appropriate “standing” (notwithstanding not having been retained by the target of any investigation) to appear before a federal court on behalf of these person, and to maintain the necessary secrets of any enquiry will any hearing will take place in camera. The effect is that those persons or entities under scrutiny will then have legal representation without being notified of any ongoing probe. The aim of this approach is that with the risk of terrorist attacks increasing,(yesterday at Times Square in New York City) we require our national defense, to be more robust and intrusive in our terrorist investigation, and that might further encroach upon civil rights. In order to minimize that intrusion and to be as certain as possible that whatever invasive procedure is permitted by court order, there must be evidence that underscores the seriousness of the potential threat and necessitates the need for the enhanced counterterrorism techniques requested. For that we need something more than the Government’s mere unilateral claim and procedural request to a court.

What becomes vital in our democracy is an independent analysis and review of the government’s request. This is accomplished by the creation of an autonomous group of attorneys who would appear before the appropriate court and act on behalf of the targets without the target’s knowledge. A safeguard is thereby created to protect against the government’s potential overreaching and violating the targets civil rights but also to provide the government with the appropriate, more intrusive tools to counteract a potential attack.

Aside from the lone copycat who more often than not flies-under-the-radar, terrorism on a larger scale is becoming more sophisticated and complicated in method and structure. It is essential that we refine and improve our methods of investigation or we will lose in that battle.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Anti-Everyone– But Me. Plus a short comment regarding Turkey and China’s film industry– Fade Out

 

National security depends, in part, upon the cohesiveness of its citizens residing in and outside of its geographic boarders. If there is either internal strife creating a rupture within a country, causing a mass exodus of people attempting to escape their traditional home country or the attempted weaving of large numbers of new immigrants within the fabric of a society –it is clear that national security is impacted. For more years than I care to remember, I have measured so many aspect of my life by a simple measuring stick: You are only as strong as your weakest link. And this applies to the national security of any nation facing increasing violence from elements within and without a nation state.

A Nobel Laureate—what greater honor—an activist for democratic principles and a prominent member of Myanmar society has created waves of international backlash when warning her own community that Muslims had come to dominate other southeast Asian states, and that her country is now facing a dangerous situation. Parenthetically, there is a movement to have her stripped of her Nobel Laureate acclamation. But, that aside, her actions are a clear indicator of events happening around the world, and, in particular, I would like to focus on France and the continuing violence that is being called terrorism.. We could examine the white supremacist in the United States, but the scope and intensity of their continuing eruptions here doesn’t measure up to the events and actors we are witnessing in France. France presents a clearer account of what we are witnessing in other countries. There are varying elements within each country that are opening the gates to internal violence preceded by vocal hatred and intolerance, but whatever the cause of the violence, they create a serious challenge to a country’s national security.

In France, anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon notwithstanding the government’s public and constant pushback. But what is different in France, in its intensity and scope, is that the violence is the “French against French” –the French attacking their own. Not a civil war. An excellent article by James McAuley in the Washington Post discusses that country’s attempts to not merely cope with this phenomena but to challenge and meet head on the origins of “homegrown” extremism and terrorists. It is helpful, in reading the McAuley article, to be able to look at this issue from more than arm’s length (the potential for terrorism in the United States) in order to get a fuller and clearer understanding.

The white supremacist in Charlottesville chanting their anti-Semitic vitriol and then the intentional killing of a young protester is a far cry from the breath, scope and intensity of the fierceness that is being unleased in France. The attacks in Las Vegas and New York are beginning to form a mosaic that does not bode well for this country and its internal security. France is an illustration of what can happen if this type of behavior is left unchecked.

To those who might raise the flag of “freedom of speech” –that any proposed legislation or counterterrorism procedures to protect us against this type of escalating violence, but who support the right to spew hate speech — employ the slippery slope mentality to oppose any changes. Freedom of speech which we cherish beyond the words of the Constitution, like freedom of dissent, is not and has never been an unlimited right. And there is always the ability to put in place an oversight mechanism that controls the use of invasive surveillance and intrusions into the lives of our citizens.

Today, in France, where Jewish activists fear the growth of Anti-Semitism, it is becoming more socially acceptable to make anti- Semitic jokes and comments without fear of backlash, and looking back to the 1980s and early 2000s —the violence that erupted was often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Parenthetically, Jewish leaders in France today are now sounding the alarm of an essential change in the tone and intensity with the spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism.

In the last few years, more than 125 persons have died in France as a result of terrorism. There have been many terrorist attacks where there were no causalities. Some of those who have been killed were singled out as being Jewish. In some instance, and against the human cry, the government did not initially label those crimes as terrorism. We all remember the attack in Nice on Bastille Day in 2016 that killed 84 persons. And there were the attacks against the Jewish supermarket in Paris along with the devastating attack against those working at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.  But, a disturbing example of the French government’s use of with the term- “terrorism” occurred in the early hours of April 4, 2017. A African Muslim named Kobili Traore broke into the Paris apartment of his neighbor, a 66-year-old Jewish female doctor , and as he viciously beat her, he cried out the already well know phrase: “Allah hu akbar.” He then threw her to her death from her third-story balcony. It took months, with petitions and letters from prominent French citizens, to persuade the French Government to reconsider the labeling of this attack after their initial determination that is was merely the attack by an unhinged person.

There is a two prong approach to understanding the cause of increased cases of terrorism in France—first, it is a country that has the largest Jewish population in all of Europe where anti-Semitism has been breeding for generations, and second, France has historically been understood as the “standard bearer” of western secular liberalism, and thus has been actually singled out by ISIS as a key target. ISIA—has posted its view of France as an atheist power which while defending western ideals such as human rights, free speech and democracy is trying to impose them on the Islamic world. Both prongs have generated acts of violence, and both prongs are terrorism whether there were many or few Jewish persons who are the primary targets.

We in this country have started on that dangerous path by emulating our out spoken President. He has with his overt behavior made it socially acceptable and thus permissible to act out ones feelings. Against this background while the United States population comprises only 5% of the world’s population, we own nearly half (48%) of the estimated civilian owned guns worldwide. This is a staggering number and clearly a recipe for violence.

What we cannot escape—in this Country– is that there is and has been dormant racism of all types within our population, and when it is unearthed in the form of violence, it affects our national security.

Follow Up Commentary – It is always interesting, after writing a commentary, to return to a topic as the circumstances and events change.

Wanda: “And Fade Out”

Dalian Wanda, a privately held corporation, has gone under an enormous change since I wrote (China’s Trojan Horse in Your Neighborhood—11/14/16) of its massive financial invasion and attempted takeover of American cinema facilities. Wanda’s goal had been morphing from real estate development to entertainment and tourism major world player. His aim was to become the dominant world player with his acquisitions of American cinema chains and production companies. It is that goal that drove his overseas spending binge.

First, there was an outcry from Congress, but that seemed to go nowhere. Then, as one commentator said, the rug was pulled out from beneath Wanda by the Chinese government itself. The question is why? Wanda is headed by the second richest man in China, Mr.Wang. Why would his own government react as they did?

Mr. Wang, who owns Wanda, is held to be one of China’s wealthiest individuals, with a fortune that sits close to $31.4 billion. He is also ranked 18th in the world by Forbes. In China that is a singular achievement. All this achieved in what can be characterized as a country with an enormous bureaucracy and intense social and economic control — it is China. So what happened? Did Congressional outcry set up a second look by the Chinese government? I doubt it. Was it his extraterritorial spending too much of Chinese wealth being utilized outside his own country instead of internal investments? Or simply in the vernacular — was he getting too big for his britches for a very controlling government. He was clearly violating his nation’s investment law, but none-the-less, he was permitted to continue his overseas investments without interference by his own government.

Then it all seemed to fall apart. His real estate empire is a mere fraction of what it was. You might remember last year, when he visited Hollywood and bragged that Wanda would soon beat Hollywood at its own game, and with the carrot and stick promised generous rewards to those who would work with him. At this moment, at least four of the entertainment deals, including the $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary Entertainment, have already closed. But, and that is a big “but”, the Chinese government’s ban appears to prohibit loans even to those units for day-to-day operations or for restructuring.

At his point, the Chinese Government has played a very open hand, and it was a long time in coming—all to the benefit of the United States. The Chinese government has directed its banks to loan him no more money, even if it means he will default on his overextended investments. As in the movies, in time, he will “fade from the scene”, and I predict he will sell off his stakes in Hollywood. From a US national security point of view: that is very good news.

In Istanbul-Turkey— An Ally who “ain’t our friend”

It is a given: Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Not because we like each other and have similar democratic national and international views but because Turkey is our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It provides badly needed strategic and tactical cooperation with U.S. military operations in the area. Nevertheless, since the attempted coup, the repressive Turkish government, headed by Erdogan, has moved further and further away from its democratic heritage and more toward a dictatorship with scores of its citizens being arrested and detained—from army officers, the judiciary, to journalists, to the person in the street, to his demand that the US government extradite a cleric into the hands of the repressive regime. It has violated every provision of NATO’s founding treaty regarding human rights. As of July 2017, the Turkish government has arrested 228 journalists and convicted an additional 25. Turkey today has become the worldwide leader of incarcerated journalists.

Last month, The Turkish lira slumped as much as 6.6% against the U.S. dollar, continuing as the mutual irritation between the two “allied” nations escalated. The latest incident spilled into a dispute over visas between the two countries.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara had announced it would cease processing most kinds of visas for Turkish citizens after Turkey detained two Turkish nationals employed as USA consular staff .Turkey’s embassy in Washington D.C. quickly responded–tit-for-tat, saying it would halt visa applications for Americans.

 

In addition, The Department of State has warned U.S. citizens of the continuing threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. Due to the persistent threat of terrorism, the U.S. government has restricted travel by U.S. government personnel. In addition, Washington has warned US citizens to carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time.

But for Turkey’s most vital geo-political, strategic military position the situation between the two countries would only deteriorate at a faster rate than is now occurring.

Richard Allan,

Editor

 

Commentary— Turkey: Our Morality and National Security

 

In 2005, as I was flying into Istanbul, a dear friend, Joe Serio, was leaving after attending an international security conference. I remember his comment at the time: “I think things might change here.” How perceptive of today’s Turkey, as we are sitting in the viewing stands witnessing the slide into moral cowardice by a United States’ administration on two security fronts– internationally and at home. Both affect our national security. I will address the first.

This blog and its commentaries are concerned with our national security. Not to promote the idea of isolation as a means of self-protection from the violence surrounding us, but as part of our interaction with the rest of the world — from North Korea to ISIS to Afghanistan and onto any unrest that might have an impact on our lives. Today, Turkey is on the opposite end of a very long national strategic fence of international partners. The history of Turkey has turned increasingly and dramatically ugly within the last decade.

In 2005, when I arrived in Istanbul, this was a beautiful city of charm, great food, exciting architecture and artifices with a different sight and smell at every turn, and notwithstanding my friend’s comment, one felt no sensation of what was to become of this country. Today a geographic anomaly, Turkey is a mass of land that has one-half of this nation sitting in Asia and the other in Europe. The Bosporus, with its amazing bridge spanning both worlds, cuts the nation in half but does not affect its culture or intensity of daily life. Every day brought a different sense of this country from the phony rug salesmen to the kids running thru the streets delivering tiny cups of coffee to the stunning mosques. We slept in a monastery turned hotel, walked the spice markets, and could easily have extended our stay beyond that week but for a boat we had to catch on our way, eventually, to Athens.

Politically, Turkey was a secular country in the midst of a Muslim world. In 2001, the country’s Constitutional Court had the power to ban and to declare that a pro-Islamic political party was far too anti-secular. A stunning move, when we think of our own democratic process. Parenthetically, the following year Turkish men were no longer to be regarded, under the law, as head of the family. But at year’s end, the population went to the polls and gave the PK (Justice and Development Party) — an Islamic based political group — a sweeping victory. A stunning political change. Only to be followed by the newly elected pro-Islamic government ramming through a constitutional amendment that allowed the now infamous president, Eayyip Erdogan, to become its prime minister– although he had been barred from any public positon due to having a previous criminal record. We must remember that all through this period there is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighting for an autonomous, self-governing Kurdish state within Turkey, and at the same moment the country was seeking future EU membership. The seeking of EU membership is to be a long rocky road with EU concerns regarding Turkey’s human rights stance that have only worsened.

Between 2006 and 2007, Parliament rushes through anti-terror legislation that raises the EU’s concerns regarding civil rights issues, and EU then freezes Turkey’s membership application. At the same moment, toward the end of 2007, Turkey launches a number of air strikes against the Kurdish PKK movement, not in Turkey but inside Iraq. The political issues spiral down. By 2010 there is a poorly organized and executed coup, with hundreds of army officers arrested by Erdogan, that severely cripples the army’s internal power. By June of the following year Erdogan moves into his third year in office and takes control of the army. By 2013, mass anti-government protests are felt around the country because of the nature of the government’s non-democratic rigid and dictatorial methods of governance. The police respond to the protests with violence, and the Prime Minister, Erdogan, responds with dismissive distain. And protestors die. By the end of the year, the future can almost be predicted: The pro-Islamic Erdogan government fires police officials who seek to protect the population from government corruption. This, was followed by Erdogan being elected President of Turkey. The election is declared valid. The Islamic population has turned its back on secularism and in turn democracy.

Then, slowly, one can see the movement toward what can now be truly described as a dictatorship, with democracy to be hurriedly buried. Last year, the government placed Turkey’s largest opposition newspaper under state control, the prime minister was forced out by Erdogan in his continued grab of dictatorial power, thousands of soldiers (!) and judges (!) are imprisoned on mere suspicion of their possible involvement in the failed coup, and the government in order to prevent the dissemination of hard news, closed dozens of media channels and 16 TV channels. In July 2016, the President of Turkey accused two United States military commanders of siding with the coup plotter or being the masterminds behind the coup. In April of this year Erdogan has extended his powers.

Where the United States is today: A survey was conducted between mid-February and early May of this year and found that 72 percent of the Turkish citizens who participated in the survey see us –the United States– as a threat to their security, greater than that of Russia and China. That conclusion is obvious and reasonable because of the total eclipse and suppression of an open and free press in Turkey. The population is only permitted to read what the government selects. Our Secretary of State, under the moral leadership of our President, see tensions “in tone” between the two countries being reduced. How can we accept the notion that the negative tone between these two nations has been ratchetted down, and not upward, notwithstanding the arrest of thousands upon thousands of civilians on the pretext of their alleged involvement or support of the failed coup?

Turkey is a member of NATO—its military bases and air space of operation are utilized by US-Allied forces. Our alliance with them in NATO requires the United States to come to their aid if they are attacked. In addition, and this is a crucial point: Turkey is an “autocratic” government, and its recent passage of a constitutional referendum all but destroyed the remaining vestiges of their civil rights. This has made it mandatory for the EU to stop—and stop they did of all further considerations of Turkey’s admittance to EU.

Let’s be clear with regard to the EU; we are talking of “civil rights”, and an “autocratic” is despotic and tyrannical. Yet we look to Turkey as an NATO “ally”. The prevailing excuse for this relationship can only be the “expediency of war”. Why are we committed to the protection of a nation that violates the civil rights of its citizens and operates a repulsive, tyrannical administration?

Our nation can conduct whatever warfare necessary in the mid-East without the help or assistance of Turkey. We are large enough, strong enough and imaginative enough to undertake whatever is necessary to protect our national security interests anywhere in the world. Will it be more difficult without a Turkey in the equation: yes, but neither will it be impossible nor improbable.

Where are our commitments to international morality?

Shame on us.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

Commentary: Addendum-Afghanistan Why Are We Still There?

 

How the scene can change when different eyes exam the landscape. When politicians view a military operation, not only are expectations altered but wins and losses on the battlefield are measured by different criteria—often not at the cost of lives. Military personal access the cost of battle not thru the periscope of headlines but in the number of causalities, Most often “Politicians” never participate in the wars they have voted for nor the sending of their kin into battle.

The Afghanistan war is the longest war we have ever participated in, and as I have written just one month ago (Afghanistan—The Exit Door, July 6th 2017), at a tremendous cost to human lives and a trillion dollars of our taxes. We have succeeded at the goals initially set out for our military commanders, and yet we move forward—more troops more material. Why today: What United States’ national security is at risk in Afghanistan? Why today: What do we risk at home if we withdraw from this particular battlefield?

If the answer is withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and not committing an additional 4000 military personal, Iran will fill the political and military vacuum we have created. If the answer is upon withdrawing our troops we will have encouraged, empowered and enabled the terrorist to regroup, strengthen and take their acts of horror abroad to our shore and those of our allies. If those are our reasons, then first we should engage more directly and forcefully with Iran’s duplicitous leaders. Second, if we are fearful of those who are hostile to us and are planning or engaged in undermining siting governments then we should be engaged in many more venues than Afghanistan.

Since July 6 of this year, when I proposed that it was time for us to withdraw from that field of battle, the following has and is transpiring—all “not good”.

What is Afghanistan—it is neither a secure nor stable nation but one run with an openly corrupt political system, and as noted by the Washington Post, the Taliban’s “return from the dead.” Afghanistan is not a pretty country, extremely poor, landlocked, highly dependent on farming and livestock, and the country flows in and out of severe droughts. Their population has now lived thru 10 years of Soviet military occupation and presently, a 16 year war involving the US and NATO. The question is why we are there and the answer is clear and it is not the threat of its exportation of terrorism. Second, if it is because of the threat of Iran’s intentions to fill the vacuum created by our departure and its support for the Taliban siege, then we should plan to be there for decades of boots on the ground and that is untenable.

Besides oil and gas, Afghanistan is estimated to have significant coal reserves (probable reserves of 400 million tons), and more important, and as President Trump keeps referring to, there are important non-identified mineral deposits “he would like to get his hands on”. Afghanistan’s significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential and important transfer route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion-dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan; clearly, these plans have now been thrown into serious question with the present level of violence. Trump’s predecessors also struggled with the mission of attempting to stabilizing that country and bringing U.S. troops home. Bringing the troops home were the operative words.

Bringing the troops home is NOT the present administrations’ goal. Nor do we have a political goal that has been articulated. To the contrary, at this moment, more troops are poised to be poured into that country and this administration, and the president has clearly indicated the desire to declare a “victory” to the Trump brand, and political base support. A political message is not in our national security interests. But there is more. At what cost?

A U.S. plan to improve Afghan intelligence operations was found to be a $457m failure, as was the Afghan’s ability to maintain its own security and stability. Although the President gave the Pentagon complete authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan (after his defense secretary, James Mattis, suggested the war was being lost) his complaints of a failure of military success are belied by his own failure to set a strategic and political ground plan. After the July, meeting there has been no declared policy or military strategy.

Then a NATO convoy was attacked in Kandahar. The attack caused serious casualties. It came as Afghan authorities in western Herat province tightened security, ahead of a mass funeral for the victims there of an attack the previous evening that killed 29. A suicide attacker opened fire inside a mosque packed with worshippers at evening prayers, before detonating his explosives. And American troops were killed either by Afghan soldiers or Taliban fighters.

In July, at a meeting in the White House, the President’s frustration was expressed–he voiced his negative attitude and hostility toward “experts” and his own military advisors. You might remember during one point in his campaign for the White House, he expressed his dismay with military commanders and our intelligence community: “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me!” The July White House meeting was a two hour top level meeting in the situation room in which these thoughts and others were expressed:

  • The President continued his complaint that our NATO allies have “not been helpful”.
  • How could the United States “get a piece” of Afghan’s mineral wealth.
  • He repeatedly insisted that our top commander in the region be fired.
  • The President also fumed that a decade ago China had purchased mineral rights in Afghanistan, which this country had supported, and has since been vigorously mining copper outside of Kabul. Why weren’t we in there “grabbing” the natural mineral resources —as China is earning trillions of dollars in rare minerals, while we fight their wars against the Taliban?
  • This is the mindset of the President’s remarks shortly after being inaugurated, when he complained that the U.S. “didn’t grab” Iraq’ oil when our military forces left that country in 2011.

The July the meeting over, the President, as our commander-in-chief, left without making any decision regarding our nation’s political or military strategy. At this moment the United States has no policy plan for our place in Afghanistan. It left those that had participated in the meeting “unnerved”.

The fact is that you cannot win every confrontation that faces our nation, even if you are the United States. That is reality. We were forced out of Vietnam and our national security has not been affected. Then there is the reality that some nation states are not at this moment capable of entering into the 21 century, and the United States cannot force their democratic development in an arbitrary timetable. There is the reality that “grabbing” the natural resources of counties incapable of maintaining their own security is a form of colonialism—not national security.

There are realities and there are hopes. The reality is that Afghanistan is not crucial to our national security; the reality is that Iran is crucial to our national security; the reality is that there is an unacceptable conflict between what is necessary for the United States national security and a public relations tweet of “victory” or the “grabbing” of the natural resources of others.

Being in Afghanistan is not in the United States security interest. Confronting Iran is.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary – Wanda: “And Fade Out”

It is always interesting, after writing one of my commentaries to see the follow up within weeks and months as the landscape is changing.

Dalian Wanda, a privately held corporation, has gone under an enormous change after I wrote (China’s Trojan Horse in Your Neighborhood—11/14/16) of its massive financial invasion and attempted takeover of American cinema facilities. Wanda’s goal was the morphing from a real estate developer to an entertainment and tourism major world player. His aim was to become the dominant world player with his acquisitions of American cinema chains and production companies. It is that goal that drove his overseas spending binge.

First, there was an outcry from Congress, but that seemed to go nowhere. Then, as one commentator said, the rug was pulled out from beneath Wanda by the Chinese government itself. The question is why? Wanda is headed by the second richest man in China, Mr.Wang. Why would his own government react as they did?

Mr. Wang, who owns Wanda, is held to be one of China’s wealthiest individuals, with a fortune that sits close to $31.4 billion. He is also ranked 18th in the world by Forbes. In China that is a singular achievement. All this achieved in what can be characterized as a country with an enormous bureaucratic government and intense social and economic control — it is China. So what happened? Did Congressional outcry set up a second look by the Chinese government? I doubt it. Was it extraterritorial spending too much of Chinese wealth being utilized outside his own country instead of internal investments? Or simply in the vernacular — was he getting too big for his britches for a very controlling government. He was clearly violating his nation’s investment law, but, none-the-less, he was permitted to continue his overseas investments without interference by his own government.

Then it all seemed to fall apart. His real estate empire is a mere fraction of what it was. You might remember last year, when he visited Hollywood and bragged that Wanda would soon beat Hollywood at its own game, and with the carrot and stick promised generous rewards to those who would work with him. At this moment, at least four of the entertainment deals, including the $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary Entertainment, have already closed. But, and that is a big “but”, the Chinese government’s ban appears to prohibit loans even to those units for day-to-day operations or for restructuring.

At his point, the Chinese Government has played a very open hand, and it was a long time in coming—all to the benefit of the United States. The Chinese government has directed its banks to loan him no more money, even if it means he will default on his overextended investments. As in the movies, in time, he will “fade from the scene” and I predict he will sell off his stakes in Hollywood. From a security point of view: that is very good news.

Richard Allan,

Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary—Afghanistan—The Exit Door?

 Every once in while it is a good idea to stop for a moment and look at a world map. I found myself away from my daily anchor — home and my desk top computer, and the volume control on the television set in the home I was visiting was broken. For a long moment, this all produced a senior moment seizure– I lost my internal vision of a world map. In particular, I lost those counties in the world where there is the constant drone of violence. It was a very uncomfortable senior blank page.

What I was trying to do, because of a three sentence news spike I had overheard, was to have a clear, arm’s length view of Afghanistan, and its unending cascade of violence. It is there that American boots have been mired in its mud for far too long. What triggered my thinking was I had just learned that an Afghan had infiltrated an army camp and opened deadly fire on American troops.

Over the years, our government has attached different –supposedly catchy phase names — to the various groups of our soldiers sent to that and other countries. I immediately ignore them as being inane, mindless and really not inspiring. They are not and do not change the real facts on the ground. U. S. soldiers have just been killed by enemy fire within a supposed safe military compound.

By taking command of an I-pad, I was able to look back at our long history in Afghanistan. What became vivid was last 320 months of our presence there. That number – 320 months translates into 15 years — stood out in bold letters. I was stunned. To put that number in perspective: a child of 10 at the start of that war would now be an adult of 25.

Forty plus years before our 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, this then not very know nation, began its slide into chaos beginning initially with civil wars, then a political vacuum filled by our Cold War enemy the Soviet Union (who was then defeated on the battlefield), along with our own international indecisiveness and political nativity and finally our headlong rush into a black-pit-no-exit war. A war that now enters its 16th year.

“War” by definition means death.

Our present administration has abdicated its decision making process to the generals and admirals with regard to the scope and dimensions of our involvement in this war, and not our civilian leaders who have always been the historical-constitutional designated leaders of this nation, As with all our military decisions today, the Commander-in-Chief has delegated this responsibility.

In 2001, on the front page of every newspaper and magazine, was pictured a recognizable thin, bearded man in white flowing garb, always holding an assault rifle.  Osama bin Laden. It was in April of 2001 that our then president spoke to the nation and told us that we had demanded that the Taliban, in Afghanistan, extradite Osama bin Laden and oust the al-Qaeda from their nation. All the requests were denied, and the US then launched, on October 7, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom with the UK at our side. We went to war to save the Afghan people.

Ten years later Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Three years later (2012), NATO finally devised an exit “strategy” (not withdrawal) from Afghanistan with the Americans announcing, in 2014, that its major combat involvement would cease at that year’s end. But! In early 2017, we have 8,400 American troops that remain in that war torn nation as “military advisors” for counterterrorism operations. Unofficially, the number of our troops stationed there is closer to 10,000. And, as I write this commentary, the US has announced deployment of 1,500 troops from Fort Brag this week, with an additional 3 to 5 thousand troops sent in the months ahead to shore up our military position. The Pentagon announcement also indicated that the troops deployed will be stationed closer to the fighting zones, as the fourth combat fatality this years was confirmed by the Pentagon. Reason, more boots on the ground forces are needed to carry out more strike missions. This new turn of events comes on the heels that ISIS has declared war on the Taliban. All this without any “formal plan” for the US to leave Afghanistan.

 Operation Enduring Freedom has cost America 2,346 lives on the battle field and 20,092 with injuries that will not fade with time. The cost in dollars in relationship to lives is a meaningless calculation. General Nicholson, the commander of the “Resolute Support and US Forces”, views the battle field, at this moment, a “stalemate”. Why do we remain there?

According to the US commander of our forces in Afghanistan, there are about 800 ISIS solders holding out in the southern part of the country that are waging “a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence” against the Afghan people.

Let us be very clear, our being in Afghanistan is not in any sense similar to our assisting the governments of France or England in their fight against the terrorism of ISIS in those countries. Afghanistan can best be described as a largely illiterate, feudal nation of competing tribes with pockets of Islamist militants and no real central government as we understand that concept. The reality on the ground is with ben Laden dead, Al-Qaeda has moved to other countries for its safe haven, and it is the Taliban who now controls more territory, as I look at the map, than it had before our invasion.

The American people have spent 800 billion dollars on that—the longest war in American history. And we have been unable, because we are incapable of building a central government from a country of competing tribes. Around the world there are ISIS strongholds of men and women willing and capable of committing themselves and their bodies to their cause. Does that mean, with our generals in Washington now in command, we are to engage in an armed struggle with each of those separately staged ISIS groups? I think not. If we leave now the terrorist will regroup and attack? This argument is true around the world, and that cannot be a reason for us to say in that unstable nation.

Our initial thrust for the 2001 invasion was to be rid of ben Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that was accomplished.

So why are we still there? We “won”. Didn’t we?

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: Cultural Correctness and National Security

    Outside of the law school, where I taught for many decades, each morning there was one of those short aluminum food carts that sold the right type of softy bagels and large containers of great tasting coffee. I would buy my fix as I entered the building early each day of my work life.  Now, today in retrospect, I should not have bought my bagel from him. Nor the coffee.

Why, you ask? My reasoning today is that I should have mounted a protest and picketed his stand until I drove him into oblivion.  How dare he sell bagels, let alone good Columbian roasted coffee?  Was he welcoming each morning? Was he polite to my sleepy mumblings? Were his prices appropriate? Did I get the right change each morning? Yes, yes and yes.

So why my seemingly incoherent and inappropriate rant?  My tongue-in-cheek answer is: “He was from Egypt!—Look at him– He is an Arab.  Racist! “– you say! Me? A racist? And why these thoughts in a Commentary devoted to security and counterterrorism issues. Obviously, how we view and treat our neighbor is part of our national security, and we presently are witnessing the rise of what I view is a dangerous “Portland” syndrome: a clash between cultural correctness and National security. Let me explain.

We live in a dangerous world. And that danger grows exponentially. “Manchesters” are akin to wildfires. Where next? How to respond? How do I protect my family? Must I point a finger of blame? Should I point a finger of blame? There is a group of American billionaires who have purchased tracts of deserted land and abandoned military missile silos only to spend millions of dollars more to transform them into homes—self-contained shelters—so that when disaster strikes this country, they will be safe and secure.   I live in a high rise apartment building, and periodically our children council us to have gallon jugs of water on hand– “just in case”. Just in case of what? And all they do is roll their eyes at me.

Now, in Portland they understand what diversity means. Portland would like you to revert to segregation. Maybe that’s an overstatement. What a group of socially misguided so called activists believe and have been able to enforce (pathetic) is that white people should cook white food and only those with an appropriate cultural-DNA attachment can be allowed to cook food of their “ own culture”. Two white women set out to learn how to cook the best Mexican food possible. They picked the brains of as many Mexican women who would talk to them. And in time they assembled what they believed to be the best of the best of Mexican cooking. Then the cultural food Gestapo stepped in and closed them down. They were co-opting the culture of others and for profit, no less! They were white; white people do not cook Mexican food for public consumption.

Both sides of my ancestral chain come from the Ukraine and both sides cook an eastern European “Jewish” pot-roast. Trust me, they don’t cook it the same way in Naples. My wife can trace her linage to the 1400s, and they never made pot-roast from the Ukraine. My wife’s pot roast, learned at my Ukraine mother’s side, leaves my mother’s version in the dust. Why—my wife took the recipe (and I am keeping that secret) one step further.

I fear now that the Portland food segregators will descend upon our New York City apartment and demand my wife stop cooking her pot roast. I fear now that what MLK fought for, what all civil rights activists died for, is being buried in regression. We condemn white police for shooting black people. We demand more integration in our local law enforcement, greater education, greater understanding of the culture of others so that we can understand and accept the norms of others. Understand: This is all part of national security. Nothing less. The further away we push our neighbor, the less secure we are.

I spend most of my waking day reading and researching issue that I believe is necessary for us to understand the world we inhabit. The word “world” has different definitions for me depending upon the context of their use. “World” could be the apartment house where I live, or a city, or even the globe we spin on our desk. “World” can also be a neighborhood and, this is where I return to my “bagel guy”.

Trump doesn’t want to let the “bad dudes” in, ICE wants to throw everybody out, sanctuary cities want to let everyone hide– and then there is me.

The thing I love about my country is I don’t have to travel too far to see and feel and –most important – eat all things that are found in some faraway-distant land. It’s all here; we can all participate; we can even try to make some of these foreign “things” ourselves.

Think about it~~ these opportunities strengthen our security not diminish it. How marvelous it is that we can have at one moment both the commingled and separated segments of the lives’ of others absorbed in all aspects of our own daily life. This cultural embrace not only enriches us but binds us together, providing not only a perceived ‘sense’ of secure but real fact-based security. It is called–National Security.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

Commentary: Coming To Your Neighborhood — ISIS

Today it is hard to keep up with the headlines and to form rational responses. Though neither you nor I are making decisions that will affect our government; we are seeking information to regulate our emotions and intellectual responses to events as they unfold. Do we moan, do we cheer; do we reach out to text? Do we rant on Facebook? And in the midst of the United States’ political-constitutional-tornado there is international violence. ISIS is high on that list.

As you turn to any map of the turmoil created by ISIS, the very first thing you will notice is that on the ground their control has diminished and continues to do so drastically. Yet their attacks and battles rage on—on two fronts, as I will later discuss. A year ago it was reported that ISIS had lost at least three Syrian cities and towns within a short six weeks. That trend has escalated. On the ground, nearly three years after the resurrection of its caliphate, the Islamic state is on the cusp of complete dislodgment from Iraq, and in Syria its remaining centers are faced with imminent destruction. But, please, do not stand and cheer. The dangers they pose are not over, not by “a long shot”.

It is important to remember how ISIS morphed into the power it exerts. It did not merely create itself one day when a couple of jihadists decided they needed a vehicle to attack all non-believers. History teaches us (if we listen) that with the demise of one terrorist group, there is so often a small number within the embattled group that decides it must fight on. Or within a movement there is a divergence of views, and one segment decides it must go “its own way”. Their “cause is too important”, the dying group was “mismanaged”, or their focus was “misdirected”. Find a reason and you will find the creation of a terrorist group in a different form and, in many instances, more deadly.

For ISIS it began in late 1999, and became more deadly than al-Qaeda. In an excellent 2014 article written by Aaron Y. Zelin for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: “The war between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement”, we are introduced in great detail to the social, economic and educational backgrounds of both groups. Although they ultimately become fierce competitors in their war of terrorism, my conclusion is that they are really two ends of the same stick: Destroy those who do not “believe”. Who is ISIS– initially they were called the J Amaat al-Tawhid WA-i-Jihad (JTWT) who in late 1999 were the forerunners who command today’s headlines.

We have all seen the words: Caliphate and Caliph. In Arabic Caliphate means “succession” and, as an institution, it came into being upon the death of the prophet Muhammad. The “succession”, or who was to succeed the prophet Muhammad was the issue that split the Arab world between the Sunni and Shias. The nasty politics of control. One writer has said that ISIS is a “charter member of al Qaeda in Iraq”. Another writer has called ISIS a franchise of al-Qaeda. Not quite true. Two very different men, with very different social and educational backgrounds, were pressed to create groups propelled by violence and vision with the same goal: destruction of the non-believers. The caliph embodies both a political and religious leader and, it is he who becomes the successor (caliph) to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Once appointed, his power and authority is absolute.

Although I am sure that President Trump in the months ahead will claim credit for the demise of ISIS, it was military operations planned and placed into execution during the Obama era that started its destruction. And while ISIS may be described as terminally ill in Iraq and Syria, please let us not celebrate too soon.

Visualize this: the antlers of deer have the amazing ability to grow back, and this is one of the most extreme examples of regeneration. With ISIS, although they may be in the process of defeat on the ground, they will and have already regrown their “antlers” (far beyond Iraq and Syria), and evidence of that has been its attacks in Europe. Think of an octopus whose bulbous body has been killed but whose severed tentacles live on as separate deadly arms. Think last night in Manchester, England

John Esposito, a professor of religion and international affairs, correctly noted that the caliph, as the successor to the prophet, is the head of the early transnational Islamic empire. The word “transnational” has important significance– it reflects that the Caliphate and Caliph transcend national boundaries and are supreme throughout the world—they govern by erasing national boundaries. Do not doubt for a moment that ISIS does not have exit plans in either Iraq or Syria and will carry their movement through its franchises and believers in Europe and, at some moment in the not distant future, here in the United States. They have already demonstrated that ability and their terror. Manchester, England. To conclude otherwise is sheer folly.

As I was about to review my initial draft of this Commentary, two things occurred. First, I came across a must read article  posted on- line in Politico magazine written by Bayan Bender ( Letter from Israel –5.22.17) and, second, as I finished rereading Mr. Bender’s conclusions, my screen flashed the initial reports of the Manchester bombing . I felt as if I was reliving the horrors of the Paris attacks in 2015.  I became more convinced of my initial thoughts and expanded my conclusions.

The “transnational” component of ISIS and the Caliphate in particular is not understood by most: the extent of its mission. Its mission reaches far beyond the Mideast. Each attack outside the Mid East is not a mere thrust to test either its own capabilities far from home or our resolve or our ability to resist its movement. Second, understanding the transnational aspect of ISIS and its caliphate is fundamental to our combating its force and presence. ISIS, notwithstanding its loss on the battlefield, is in the process of weaving is presence into the very frabric of our daily life and is doing so with the force of each explosion. Do you go or allow your child to go to that concert? Do you spend an afternoon in Trafalgar Square? Do you walk the Boulevard St. Germaine in Paris? And at the very same moment how do we plan our next moves? Fear, it is claimed, allows ISIS to win. But bombings and death are real.

Upon rereading Mr. Bender’s article in Politico, my focus has shifted a bit. Both the Trump and Obama administrations have been myopic and appear to be able to focus on one threat-object at a time and fail to understand the entire peril we, as individuals and nation, face. Iran is a formidable enemy—nothing less. Its capabilities and influence overshadow that of North Korea. Iran should be more than in our vocal condemnation of its action but also in our gun sights. Iran’s present and future plans clearly evidence their ever present involvement in the violence in the Mid East. They are a major player in the chaos in that part of the world. At the very same moment, we should be planning our engagement in Syria and Iraq with a greater understating of the combination of fighting forces in those war-torn countries. Mr. Bender writes: “the United States has failed to understand the competing interests and constantly shifting alliances among what the IDF estimates are between 400 and 500 different groups fighting in the Syrian civil war—including underestimating the level of local support ISIS actually has. Take Mosul, for example. Mosul is a million-citizen city and the largest estimate said [there were] 8,000 militants. You can’t control a million-people city with 8,000 people if you don’t have some support within the population.”

This is a powerful indictment of what we do not understand in the terrorist we face today. Which threat is the more potentially deadly for us as a nation and individuals? Mr. Bender writes that the Israelis believe it to be Iran. We should allow, they claim, ISIS and al-Qaeda to destroy each other in their fierce competition for domination. But then we must recognize that Israel has more to fear from Iran than ISIS or al-Qaida. We, though, live thousands of miles away from Iran’s weapons, and we do not have the internal security systems in place as does Jerusalem. We need to stop both the bombastic, uncontrollable language pouring out of the White House and the escalation of forces and, stop for a moment and to reassess what is actually happening and the interplay of the various tribes on the ground in Syria and Iraq. Could we be competing with ourselves?

There are some 12,000 ISIS foot soldiers that remain in the Mid-East. How many of them have made their way to the European continent? How many of them have crossed the boarders from rural areas in Canada and live quietly in the United States? How many of them are men and women who were born and raised in the United States but who have an affinity to their cause? How many have become motivated to carry that belief, to wear vests of bombs or fill their pickup truck with bombs and drive through Times Square, or deliver saran gas to the subway lines of New York or attend a concert at Madison Square Garden or any other city with a congested area of “just people” ? And the answer is not how many of these persons do in fact exist, because it does not take too many to create deadly havoc. One man, some help and with one vest, Manchester, England. Where Tomorrow?

So by the end of this year, when it is announced, by whoever is president of the United Sates, that ISIS has been defeated, keep two things in mind: However defeated they may be on the battle field now raging in the Mid-East, they are far from defeated in the death and destruction they are capable of inflicting here at home. And, second, please let us not ever forget in the 21st Century: terrorism is and will be a fact of life for us and generations to come.

Richard Allan,

The Editor