West’s Choice of Strategy: Defending Itself From Terror Attacks or Combating A Radical Strategic Threat?

By Barry Rubin*

There are two basic strategies being put forth in the West and particularly the United States today in regard to the challenge from radical and Islamist forces. The narrower, terror-only strategy is a far more tempting one to follow. It is less expensive, less risky, and makes it far easier to claim success. That’s why it has such enormous appeal and is generally the one being adopted.

The Terror-Only Strategy

In this approach, the problem is defined as direct terror attacks on Western territory and facilities elsewhere like embassies. The enemy is those groups which directly target the West, meaning al-Qaida and its allies plus various independent local self-made terrorists (who are influenced, of course, by Jihadist propaganda).

Since these groups have no major state sponsor, this is a narrow counterterrorism strategy which does not require confrontation or conflict with any other country. It can be handled largely as a police and criminal matter. Success is measured by an ability to keep such attacks to an absolute minimum.

Moreover, it permits the luxury of ignoring attacks on or in other countries—including Israel especially—as not being a matter of much concern. [Even the United States has increasingly taken this stance. After the massive terror attack on Mumbai, India, Pakistan’s policy of sponsoring anti-Indian terrorism has been for all practical purposes ignored. U.S. aid to Pakistan climbs steeply with no conditionality about stopping attacks despite the fact that Pakistan has done nothing to punish the terrorists involved, much less the Pakistani intelligence officers who direct them. The Administration has conducted engagement of Syria with no serious reference to Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism against Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, or Israel. When Iraq protested Syrian involvement in a bloody recent attack the U.S. government declared its neutrality.

Thus, a whole category of terrorist revolutionary groups and their state sponsors can be ignored. If you don’t bother them, it is hoped, they won’t bother you. (This is not without exception, though, as Western states have been willing to put sanctions on Hamas, though these are under some challenge.)

This strategy also has an internal aspect. Since only those small groups which want to attack on their territory are the problem, it can be argued that the best defense is to work with Islamist groups which, no matter how extreme their ideology and their support for terrorism abroad, don’t engage in violence on your own territory.

While there is a sharp debate over the domestic aspect of the strategy–some countries like Britain and France are ready to work with “moderate” Islamists, others aren’t—it has clearly won out on the international front and has been adopted by the Obama Administration.

–The Anti-Islamist Strategy

This seems closer to the Bush Administration’s view and is thus considered discredited in most Western policymaking circles. The concept here is that radical Islamist forces threaten Western strategic interests and pose the principal threat of this era.

The other side here consists, of several different forces: an Iran-led alliance (Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, Iraqi insurgents); Jihadist terrorist groups (al-Qaida and its various affiliates and the Taliban); the Muslim Brotherhoods; and some countries with radical regimes (Sudan, Libya). The key problem is not whether these forces are engaged in direct violence against Western targets, they are at war with Western interests which they seek to destroy.

In this context, they may well engage in anti-Western violence in future. But more important, they are capable of seizing control of countries or regions thus wielding enormous assets. If they succeed—or are perceived by millions of Muslims as succeeding—the entire strategic balance in the Middle East would shift. Western interests would suffer a huge setback and the imbalance could escalate over time.

Obviously, this latter strategy is far less attractive to policymakers. Why get into a possible confrontation with powerful forces and large countries if that can be avoided? Why set the standard of success so high that you probably cannot reach it?

Of course, the problem is that the larger threat is by far the more serious threat. A shift in the balance of forces in such a strategic region, leading inevitably to the encouragement of subversive and violent forces in one’s own countries, is a far more dangerous situation than the occasional bombing or shooting.

But if you believe that it is adequate to deal only with direct violence against you, it can be argued that the best solution is to engage the radical forces at home and abroad, appease them, and avoid trouble. As President Barack Obama put it, he doesn’t seek victory over Iran but a solution to the problem, which is defined as Iran developing nuclear weapons without some agreement or at all.

Iranian involvement in subverting Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and other countries, or fighting Israel, for example, becomes part of the background which you take for granted. But then so is Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism against U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, too.

At home, the problem is three-fold. First, if you strengthen Islamist forces, since their goal is to transform the state and society there is a likelihood that they will be a far bigger problem in future, including involvement in violence.

Second, there are always violent spin-offs from these groups, based on the people they indoctrinate even if the main group refrains from violence. Where do Jihadi terrorists come from except through the ranks of such organizations?

Third, by empowering an Islamist leadership, such individuals and groups are more likely to emerge at the head of all, or most, of the Muslim community. This will defeat assimilationist and moderate tendencies and thus greatly magnify the power of the Islamists. In effect, the government tells Muslims: these groups are your leaders so follow them and their ideology. By doing this, massive damage is being inflicted on the host society.

Terrorism is not a movement or a doctrine or a goal but only a tactic used by revolutionary groups. Their ultimate goal is to seize state power and terrorism is merely one way of trying to do so. The question, then, is whether the problem is the use of a tactic or the goal of destroying existing governments and societies to replace them with a totalitarian regime.

Understandably, this limited terrorism-only strategy is tempting as a policy since it is so hard to do anything to solve the bigger Islamist threat. But doesn’t this choice also put the West in great long-term jeopardy, discourage more moderate Third World clients, and guarantee a far higher level of anti-Western violence in future?

That’s something most Western policymakers prefer not to think about, far less do anything about.

Left calls for an end to our involvement in Afghanistan.

Some on the left are calling for an end to our involvementt in Afghanistan.

We ran an article on “why we can’t leave Iraq” a couple of days ago.

On Senator Tom Hayden’s web site there are real-time counters of the cost of the two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s sobering to see it.

Tom Hayden was a hero to much of his generation, dashing, brilliant, self-effacing,

He brought a dignity and romanticism to some of the struggles of the sixties.

Tom Hayden should rethink his policy about Afghanistan.

Let’s just focus, for now, on the bottom line, the significance of the Afghan conflict.

Afghanistan is a complex culture with different nationalities and religions and backgrounds.

A 2001 population estimate was 26,813,057, though the effect of the war—with its casualties and refugees—makes estimating difficult.

In 1999 some 79 percent of the population lived in rural areas. Of the urban dwellers, probably about half lived in Kabul, the capital city. The nomadic population was estimated to be about 2.5 million people. During the war with the Soviets the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically, with as many as 2.5 million to 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

More than 99 percent of the population of Afghanistan practices Islam.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, we cannot in good conscience walk away from this situation leaving innocent women and children to being ruled by criminal, although allegedly religious, criminals.

Afghani rulers can be particularly destructive of life for women and girls.

Women are considered property, evil and sinful property.

They must be covered head to foot to hide their shame at being women.

Girls are not allowed an education, at least they weren’t under Taliban rule.

Progressives need to get this situation right.

If we leave Afghanistan, innocent women and children, mothers, daughters, sons, will be subjected to a brutal, criminal regime.

Moral people don’t walk away from this.

They stop it.

We are there now.

We have to protect these innocent people until the day they can run their own affairs and protect themselves.

Twenty years.

We put two generations, including women, through a normal education cycle.

We interact with the people like our soldiers are doing now, and demonstrate that there are better ways to relate to each other.

In 20 years they should be, as the kids say, “Good to go.”

Why We Can’t Leave Iraq

Michael Moore hecame wealthy by telling the unadorned truth.

And this is shocking, because we have not heard the truth. It’s new to us.

To realize that the government is basically controlled by less than 1% of the population. To realize that they do cynical things for their own profit.

The companies that own the media and  have long promoted the idea that the government should not be involved in helping people, immediately had the government bail them out when they needed money.

For all of their wealth, those who make the decisions often make bad decisions, such as the timing of the war in Iraq.

I don’t know why Bush went into Iraq, really, it’s anyone’s guess.

But it was a mistake, a classic mistake, becoming overextended by having too many fronts.

This is elementary.

No doubt Saddam deserved to die.

The brutal humiliation  and hanging was not excessive when compared to his crimes.

At the time, I agreed with those who said, about Iraq, “Go in, get Saddam, and get out.”

But we broke it, we’ve got to fix it.

Bush policies broke it, and Obama has to fix it.

Let’s cut thorugh the flowery language and face what we have to do, to safeguard the Iraqi cilvilians, mainly the women and children, who are most vulnerable to the brutality of the various militant criminals.

We need no other reason to be there than that we are protecting innocent people from brutal criminals.

We have to make Iraq a client state.

We run it, for their benefit, but we don’t allow oppression of women or children or brainwashing or any of the other activities for which the militant criminals are justifiably famous.

If we can have a generation or two of education and less exposure to the evil side of Islamic indocrination, they may actually be able to run their own country, with us as staunch allies for as long as needed.

But we can’t leave now.

Even though I want to, and you want to.

The way they will oppress innocent people who just yearn for a normal life, and most particularly women and children, if we leave without putting in place a structure that will protect universally recognized human rights, would be brutal and murderous.

In Iran, right now, clerics are having women raped and executed.

In Afghanistan the Taliban orders women to be covered head to foot, with only a thick guaze peephole to see out of.

In Gaza women are being forced into the dark ages, more and more enforced “dress codes”.

I won’t go into all of it here.

The Sharia way is well known, or should be.

Some will say, it’s not our fight.

Of course it is.

We should have dealt with Afghanistan first  but now that we are in Iraq it would be immoral to just walk away.

That’s why we are still there.

I think it is an encouraging sign that President Obama isn’t just pulling out and leaving the people to fend for themselves.

It shows that he is going to do what he believes is right, even if it is not politically expedient.

General Petraeus: How I see The Afghan Conflict

ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 7, 2009_ – As the president reassembles his national security team today as part of his ongoing review of the strategy for Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said the decision is likely to hinge on one of three approaches to reversing the insurgency’s gains.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus yesterday cited three basic ways to “change the equation in an area where insurgents have made progress,” as he conceded they have in Afghanistan.

“One, you can turn bad guys into good guys, or at least neutral guys,” an effort referred to as “reintegration of reconcilables,” he told attendees at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here. “You can increase the number of host-nation security forces. Or you can increase the number of coalition forces.”

Petraeus resisted defining exactly how many U.S. forces he believes are needed to support the mission — an issue under intense discussion within the administration. About 68,000 U.S. forces will be on the ground there by the end of next month, and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander on the ground, reportedly has asked for about 40,000 more.

The president will convene his national defense team again today, and later this week, to discuss this and other options for Afghanistan. Petraeus said he and his fellow uniformed participants have had “ample opportunity to provide our best professional military advice.”

McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who previously served as the ground commander in Afghanistan, are participating in the sessions by video teleconference. Anne Patterson, ambassador to Pakistan, also is participating.

“So this has been a very substantial endeavor,” Petraeus said. “It is moving quite rapidly. There is a recognition of the need to move through this.”

Although views of appropriate U.S. troop numbers vary widely, Petraeus said there’s little debate about two general principles: “Afghanistan obviously requires a sustained, substantial commitment” and more Afghan national security forces are needed.

The general resisted putting a precise timeline on when the United States will be able to declare its mission in Afghanistan completed, noting that it depends largely on how quickly Afghan national security forces can become fully developed.

That’s expected to occur by 2013 or 2014, he said, when Afghan security forces will assume the lead for security responsibility. But to be prepared for that transition, the Afghan National Army likely will need to grow to about 400,000 members, he said, more than initially projected.

Building the Afghan security forces isn’t a process that can be rushed, Petraeus told the group. “No question about the need to develop the Afghan national security forces as rapidly as possible, and likely to higher numbers,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that there are limits to how fast you can accelerate that development,” particularly of commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders.

Whether that happens as planned depends largely on the security situation, he said, recalling problems he encountered as commander of Multinational Force Iraq. When violence spiked there in mid-2006, “the Iraqi security force effort nosedived,” he said.

Petraeus said he’s committed to preventing a replay of that situation in Afghanistan. “It is hugely important that the security situation not undermine the Afghan security force effort,” he said.

Yet security has deteriorated in several key areas, he acknowledged. Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist elements that had been defeated and left the country, reconstituted over time and returned to Afghanistan, putting down roots and increasing insurgent activity.

Petraeus said he shares McChrystal’s assessment that the situation is “serious,” but that turning it around is “doable.” Additional troops that have arrived in Regional Command South in recent months already have made some tactical gains, he said.

“Reversing that cycle of violence, arresting the downward spiral in some of these key areas [is] very important,” Petraeus said.

Turning yesterday’s discussion to Iraq, Petraeus cited “very substantial progress,” with violence down to about 15 to 20 attacks a day, compared to a high of 180 in mid-2007.

He attributed the progress to the surge in U.S. troops that helped quell violence and laid the foundation for other progress to take place.

Keith Olberman Takes On the Insurance Companies

Today Keith Olberman came straight out and said what he believed about the insurance industry.

It is  a  sign that the moderates are making substantial headway against the aristocrat Republican Party, that many centrists are proudly reffering to themselves as “the left”.

Here I think Keith Olberman performs a real public service and tries to make the Health Care debate what it is, a matter of life. And death.

MFB

I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters’ bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they’d kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.

But I think you get the point. We don’t need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word “Dogs” is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.

You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.

If you will behave as if you are Republicans — as if you are the prostitutes of our system –you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!

Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.

Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/03/olbermann-slams-members-o_n_250580.html