Defending the Civilized World: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Jan. 24, 2017— In an inaugural address that was more purposeful than poetic, President Trump last Friday vowed to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism…
How Trump Could Help a Broken Middle East: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Jan. 23, 2017— As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo.
Is Europe’s Jihadist Problem Generating Empathy Toward Israel?: Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA, Jan. 12, 2017— Is terrorism softening European attitudes toward Israel?
What Do They Want? Graeme Wood Speaks With Supporters of ISIS: Dexter Filkins, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2017— In early 2011, as American forces were packing up to leave Iraq after eight years of fighting and occupying…
Sarsour's Defenders Choose to Ignore March Organizer's Liberal Critics: IPT News, Jan. 25, 2017
Trump’s History-Changing Vow to Eradicate ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’: Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Jan. 23, 2017
A Moderate Muslim Goes to Ottawa: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Jan. 17, 2017
How American Charities Fund Terrorism: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 12, 2017
Clifford D. May
Washington Times, Jan. 24, 2017
In an inaugural address that was more purposeful than poetic, President Trump last Friday vowed to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.” I hope we can agree, across party and ideological lines, that those are worthwhile objectives. But let’s acknowledge, too, that achieving them will require a much more strenuous and strategic effort than previous administrations have undertaken.
The least likely place for uniting nations: the United Nations, an organization that has never managed even to define terrorism. A few U.N. members fight terrorism day after day (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, Israel). Others, however, condone and even sponsor it (e.g., Iran). The U.N. includes representatives of both the civilized and uncivilized worlds, and cannot be said to prefer one over the other.
Our Europeans allies are civilized — perhaps to a fault. Many embrace moral relativism as expressed in the mantra: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Bringing Europe into a meaningful union against terrorism will require a heavy lift. A straightforward definition of terrorism: violence intentionally directed against noncombatants for political purposes. That should, indeed, be seen as a barbaric practice. But terrorism is not the enemy. It is only a weapon the enemy deploys.
Most contemporary terrorism is, as Mr. Trump suggested, driven by “radical Islam,” an adequate term for a variety of ideologies rooted in totalitarian, supremacist and medievalist readings of Islamic scripture. Those who understand this also grasp why the Islamic State and the Islamic Republic of Iran are more alike than different.
Not for the first time is America threatened by such totalitarian foes. The goal of the Communists was domination by one class. The Nazis sought to establish the supremacy of one race. Today, the Islamists fight for one religion uber alles. They want all of us, Muslim and “infidel” alike, to obey Shariah — Islamic law as they interpret it. And if you don’t think they’ve been making progress over recent years you haven’t been paying close attention.
To defeat the Nazis and their allies required battles on many fronts from North Africa to the South Pacific. World War II, though relatively brief, was exceedingly lethal: More than 60 million people killed, about 3 percent of the world’s population at the time. The Cold War followed. In 1946, diplomat George Kennan sent his “Long Telegram” from Moscow analyzing Joseph Stalin’s ideology and intentions. Largely on this basis, President Truman, in 1947, decided to “contain” the Soviet Union and assist those threatened by communist aggression.
Three years after that, as military strategist Sebastian Gorka recalls in his 2016 book, “Defeating Jihad,” a State-Defense Policy Review Group was established under the chairmanship of Paul Nitze, then director of policy planning in the State Department. It produced NSC-68, a 58-page National Security Council report on the USSR, its “fanatic faith” and its determination to “impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world.”
NSC-68 explained why the Soviets were unlikely to sincerely embrace peaceful coexistence: “The United States, as the principal center of power in the non-Soviet world and the bulwark of opposition to Soviet expansion, is the principal enemy whose integrity and vitality must be subverted or destroyed by one means or another if the Kremlin is to achieve its fundamental design.” On this basis, Truman implemented a robust set of policies, including covert actions and psychological warfare, aimed at weakening the Kremlin and frustrating its imperialist designs.
Fast forward to 1983, when President Ronald Reagan came to the conclusion that containment had proven insufficient and attempts at detente unavailing. He accused his predecessor, President Jimmy Carter, of “vacillation, appeasement and aimlessness.” It is sometimes said that Reagan’s strategy was “We win, they lose.” In fact, that was his desired outcome. The essence of his strategy was articulated in National Security Decision Directive 75. “NSDD-75 was an extraordinarily ambitious, across-the-board assault on the Soviet Union,” in the words of Paul Kengor, author of “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”
To the disapproval of many academics and State Department officials, Mr. Reagan would call the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and exert pressure — diplomatic, political, military, ideological and, not least, economic — on a regime that was not as strong or stable as it looked to most observers, the CIA included. On Dec. 25, 1991, three years after Reagan left office, the hammer-and-sickle flag that had flown over Moscow since early in the 20th century would be lowered for the final time…
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Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post, Jan. 23, 2017
As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo. Unlike Barack Obama, he will not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for just marvelously being Obama. Neither will he be grandiosely addressing the “Muslim world,” as Obama did in Cairo during his first months. But he might be rather more welcome in the capitals of Muslim countries than one might expect.
Even in the Trump world of employing reckless hyperbole to make a general point, the campaign promise to “temporarily ban” Muslim immigration was inexcusable. Likely he meant that admitting 10,000 Sunni Muslims from an ISIL-controlled refugee camp in Syria poses different security issues that taking 10,000 Christian software engineers from Kerala, and to pretend that all immigrants from all parts of the world are identical is both false and foolish. Certainly Canada’s selective immigration policy has never taken that view.
Nevertheless, the Muslim ban is fairly cited as evidence that Trump’s relations with the Islamic world will be rocky. Perhaps. But as Obama takes his leave it is fair to ask what happened to the great religion-and-politics project of his presidency. Obama thought that his Muslim father and his childhood years in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, would endear him to Muslims and lead to a rapprochement with the West. Yet much of the Muslim world today is worse off after Obama.
Certainly that’s true for the part of the Muslim world that Obama focused attention on — the Middle East. Given his Indonesian roots, it remains a mystery why so little effort was made to include the experiences of Indonesian Muslims in the global conversation about Islam and violence. It is a more hopeful tale. Jakarta, rather than Cairo, would have been a better place from which to address the Islamic world, and might have helped displace the Arab terrorist as the malevolent face of Islam in popular imagination.
Nearly half of the world’s Muslims live on the subcontinent — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh — but little attention was paid to what lessons, for good and for ill, could be learned from those massive Muslim populations. Aside from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama showed very little interest in the subcontinent in terms of global security, despite the fact that Muslims encounter pluralism there more than elsewhere. Indeed, the great engagement promised by Obama with the Muslim world really meant a disengagement with the Middle East. American troops would be greatly reduced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would “lead from behind” on the Arab Spring, and would make a deal to lift sanctions on Iran. The great withdrawal would remove the American finger from the Islamic eye.
What Obama did not see, or chose to ignore, is that an American vacuum would be filled by someone. By early in Obama’s second term, it was clear that the candidates were ISIL on the Sunni side, and Iran, together with its allies in Moscow and Damascus, on the Shia side. The price of disengagement in Iraq was the rise of ISIL. The price for a deal with Iran was allowing Assad and Putin to brutally seize control of Syria. Obama willingly paid both prices.
The most haunting failure of Obama’s engagement with the Islamic world is that so many are desperately trying to leave it. The millions of Syrian refugees are largely Muslim, desiring at all costs to get out of Syria and into Europe. The Mediterranean Sea has become a watery grave for tens of thousands fleeing life in Muslim lands. As Obama leaves office, the pathologies of the refugee resettlement have turned northern European populations against both refugee resettlement and continued Muslim immigration. On the whole, Muslims are less secure, less free and less welcomed after eight years of Obama. It’s not all his fault, but it does mean that his central religion-and-politics realignment failed to improve the lives of actual Muslims.
Who knows what Trump will bring? There is the possibility that he might make things worse. But not necessarily. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt want a Middle East dominated by Iran. They might welcome Trump’s skepticism over the nuclear deal. The Gulf states consider Israel a greater force for security and stability than the various Iranian proxies in the region, and would welcome American diplomacy that did not seek to isolate Israel. While many Arab states have shut their border to Syria’s refugees, Turkey and Jordan have been overrun, and would no doubt welcome any alternative to Obama’s consignment of Syria to the tender mercies of Assad and Putin. Trump’s rhetorical hostility toward Muslims is not welcome. But it might prove more welcome than the eight years of rhetorical peace and actual suffering.
JTA, Jan. 12, 2017
Is terrorism softening European attitudes toward Israel? When a Palestinian terrorist used a car to ram and kill an Israeli soldier in eastern Jerusalem in 2014, the European Union urged “restraint” and, without condemning the attack, called it merely “further painful evidence of the need to undertake serious efforts towards a sustainable peace agreement.” The statement by EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini was “a typical EU reaction, which blames the victim for getting attacked,” Oded Eran, a former ambassador of Israel to the European Union and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, said at the time.
Two years later, however, European officials had a much different reaction to a similar attack in eastern Jerusalem, which killed four Israeli soldiers on Sunday. “The European Union condemns the murder of these four young Israelis, as well as any praise or incitement for terrorist acts,” Brussels said in a statement, which unlike the 2014 communique omitted any reference to the fact that the attack happened in an area of Jerusalem that it considers occupied.
Unusually, following Sunday’s attack the Israeli flag was projected on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Paris City Hall, signs of solidarity with the Jewish state permitted by local authorities. Rotterdam City Hall flew the Israeli flag at half-mast. To Eran and other observers of Israeli-EU relations, this change in tune is indicative of greater understanding and empathy in Europe to Israel’s fight against terrorism following a a wave of terrorist attacks on the continent beginning in 2012.
“I think it’s a new development that sincerely stems from the change in the mind of many people in Europe, in government and beyond, who now understand better than a few years ago the impact and influence of terrorism on the daily lives of innocent victims,” Eran told JTA on Wednesday. He was referring to the cumulative effect of at least a dozen major attacks on Western European soil since 2012 in which local or foreign jihadists killed hundreds of victims using methods long associated with Palestinian terrorists.
Last month, a terrorist whom the Islamic State terrorist group described as its “soldier” killed 11 people, including one Israeli tourist, at a Berlin Christmas market by plowing a stolen truck through the crowd. In July, a similar attack claimed over 80 lives in Nice, France. Days later, an Afghan man injured four people with an axe on a train in southern Germany.
These events happened just months after the murder of over 30 people in a series of explosions in Brussels in March, and fresh on the heels of a horrific series of bombings and shootings that left 130 people dead in Paris in November 2015. The Israeli government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, have been persistently drawing an equivalence between the attacks in Europe and attacks against Israelis by Palestinians. “The terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris,” Netanyahu said about the November 2015 Paris attacks. “It is time for states to condemn terrorism against us like they condemn terrorism anywhere else in the world.”
Some European leaders clearly see his point. Following the Berlin attack, German President Joachim Gauck said as much in a reply he sent to a condolence message from Gauck’s Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin. “You and your country are in a position to understand fully what being threatened by terrorism means for a people and a nation because in your country it has become almost a daily phenomenon. We know that you can feel with us and commiserate,” Gauck said.
Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Avraham Nir-Feldklein, further drove home the message in a statement following the projection of the Israeli flag on the Brandenburg Gate, a gesture initiated by pro-Israel activists. “We all find ourselves facing the same terror, from Nice through Berlin to Jerusalem, but together we will stand against evil, and we will prevail,” he wrote. On Twitter, the German Foreign Ministry shared a picture of the projection, stating it was “in solidarity with Israel.” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, by contrast, described the gesture in her city merely as a “tribute to the victims of the attack” in Jerusalem.
Muna Duzdar, an Austrian state secretary, insisted in an interview Wednesday with JTA that “Europe always understood that Israel has a right to defend itself and have security,” and that greater empathy in Europe for terror victims extends not just to Israel but to victims around the world. But following the attacks in Europe, “now we’re having the situation that we have daily terrorist attacks. I wake up and there’s an attack in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Germany. No country is left unaffected. And it might be that someone who was affected himself has a better understanding of this.”
Duzdar, who was born in Austria to Palestinian parents and heads the Palestinian Austrian Society, rejected during the interview claims that the attack was not a terrorist incident because it was directed against soldiers on land that Palestinians consider occupied. “This attack targeted human beings, and as far as I understand it was a jihadist who did that, whose intention was to attack people,” she said.
In Belgium, the firebrand anti-Israel columnist Dyab Abou Jahjah, who for years justified violence against Israelis and Americans in the pages of the De Standaard daily, was fired Monday for defending Sunday’s Jerusalem attack on social media. “An attack on occupation soldiers in occupied territory is not terrorism! It is an act of Resistance. #FreePalestine,” Abou Jahjah wrote. In a statement, De Standaard editor-in-chief Karel Verhoeven wrote that Abou Jahjah “has placed himself beyond the borders of acceptable debate” by endorsing violence.
Yet the gestures of empathy toward Israel will not likely carry over to EU policy, according to Eran, the former ambassador. “These gestures are heartwarming and indicative of a positive change, but there is a clear distinction between empathy and policy in the corridors of the European Union, which is likely to remain as critical as ever of Israeli settlements and continue to oppose them on every international arena,” he said.
New York Times, Jan. 19, 2017
In early 2011, as American forces were packing up to leave Iraq after eight years of fighting and occupying, one of the war’s most hideous byproducts was lurching toward what appeared to be certain death: Al Qaeda in Iraq, which had recently renamed itself the Islamic State in Iraq, had seen most of its leaders killed and its membership whittled to a handful of dead-enders, who were huddled in sanctuaries in and around the northern city of Mosul.
But then the Americans departed, and a vast uprising against the government across the border, in neighboring Syria, took off. Suddenly, the Islamic State in Iraq, led by an ambitious former graduate student who called himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saw its fortunes brighten anew. Baghdadi dispatched a handful of fighters to Syria and within a few months they were running operations across much of the country. Iraq promptly returned to chaos, and in April 2013, Baghdadi, presiding over a vast fief that stretched from the Iraqi desert to the outskirts of Damascus, rechristened his group yet again — as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — and appointed himself caliph. Tens of thousands of volunteers from around the world flocked to defend his far-off kingdom in the sand.
In the years since, ISIS’ breathtaking lust for anarchy — temple-smashings, beheadings, crucifixions — has inevitably prompted the question: What do these people want? The usual answers — money, power, status — do not seem to suffice. Graeme Wood, a correspondent for The Atlantic and a lecturer at Yale, believes he has found something like an answer, and that it can be located in the sacred texts, teachings and folklore of early Islam. In “The Way of the Strangers,” Wood, through a series of conversations with ISIS enthusiasts, shows that many of them claim to want the same thing: a theocratic state without borders, ruled by a leader who meets a series of strict qualifications, and who adheres to a brand of Islam that most people — including most Muslims — would find stifling and abhorrent.
The most novel aspect of Wood’s book is that he shows, convincingly, that the stifling and abhorrent practices of the Islamic State are rooted in Islam itself — not mainstream Islam, but in scriptures and practices that have persisted for centuries. There’s no use denying it. “For years now, the Islamic State and its supporters have been producing essays, fatwas, . . . films and tweets at an industrial pace,” Wood writes. “In studying them we see a coherent view of the world rooted in a minority interpretation of Islamic scripture that has existed, in various forms, for almost as long as the religion itself.” That goes for the most barbarous practices as well: “Slavery has been practiced by Muslims for most of Islamic history, and it was practiced without apology by Muhammad and his companions, who owned slaves and had sex with them.”
Wood has obviously studied the old Islamic texts. And he makes clear, in the conversations he has with Islamic State supporters, that they have, too. The value of “The Way of the Strangers” is that it gives the lie to the notion, repeated so often in the West as to become a cliché, that ISIS zealots are betraying Islam, and that their practices are un-Islamic. They are Islamic, and in that sense, the end-state of their murderous program is not hard to discern.
The Islamic State, such as it is, is a dangerous place, and Wood’s book amounts to a tour around its far edges, where it can be safely traversed. And so we sit down with Hesham Elashry, a suit tailor in Cairo who tries to convert Wood to his Salafist ways. We meet Yasir Qadhi, a Houston-born scholar who abandoned his hard-line views and earned a Ph.D. at Yale. We tag along with Wood as he travels to Footscray, Australia, to meet a jihad-minded young man named Musa Cerantonio, who writes about ISIS on Twitter and Facebook, and who follows an obscure strain of doctrinaire Islam, popular in the Islamic State, known as Dhahirism. And we trace the path of John Georgelas, a.k.a. Yahya Abu Hassan ibn Sharaf, a native of Plano, Tex., who rebelled against his middle-class upbringing, converted to Islam and made the pilgrimage to Syria in 2013 to join the Islamic State; he was wounded soon after and since then has been one of the group’s chief propagandists. Together, Wood’s conversations amount to a thorough discussion of the theological underpinnings of the Islamic State…
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Sarsour's Defenders Choose to Ignore March Organizer's Liberal Critics: IPT News, Jan. 25, 2017—By all accounts, last Saturday's Women's March protests generated huge crowds in Washington, D.C. and in similar rallies throughout the country.
Trump’s History-Changing Vow to Eradicate ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’: Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Jan. 23, 2017—The establishment media has been too involved with comparing crowd sizes to take any significant notice, but Trump’s words heralded a change that was momentous — and could make all the difference in our civilizational struggle against the global jihad.
A Moderate Muslim Goes to Ottawa: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Jan. 17, 2017—On Jan. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a decision that made ripples throughout the world. From Singapore to India, to the BBC and beyond, the only news from Canada that made headlines was about Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-born refugee who arrived on our shores in 1993 and rose to become our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
How American Charities Fund Terrorism: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 12, 2017—As the president-elect has repeatedly made clear, his first full day in office will be a busy one. He has promised to effect a wide array of changes. But what about his second day? If he has some free time, we have some suggestions.