The long twilight struggle

Sometime late next year, a young man or woman who was not yet born on September 11, 2001, will raise their right hand and join the U.S. armed forces.  Given the tempo at which those forces have operated the past 17 years, that young person likely will be sent quickly to the Middle East in some capacity.

There, they will form part of the second consecutive generation to fight this “war.”  Unlike my uniformed cohort, they will have no memory of the events that led to them being there.  Nor will they have a concept of a time when the TSA didn’t exist, and the government didn’t conduct constant surveillance.  For them, America has always been at war.

The same will hold true of their contemporaries who stay in civilian life.

So what have we accomplished thus far, at the expense of nearly 7,000 dead and almost $3 trillion?  Very little, it would seem:

…Al Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, U.S. policies in the Mideast appear to have encouraged its spread.

What U.S. officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that Al Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

In fact, a good case can be made that the resilience of jihadi groups in the face of the most technologically sophisticated military force on the planet only underscores the righteousness of their ideas.  In swatting bees with sledgehammers, we’ve only increased the size of the swarm, with no vision of how this is supposed to end:

There is a stunning lack of strategic vision in America today. The range of foreign policy activities, beyond so-called “traditional diplomacy,” extend across military power and include everything from financial aid to information to exchanges of all kinds. These instruments are, however, seemingly applied without synchronization or thoughts about end states. The different bureaucracies often work together only on an ad hoc basis and rarely share collaborative requirements and communications with their respective oversight committees in the Congress.

Our few and feeble attempts to articulate vision have been badly flawed, and rarely considered the cultural and political realities of where we were fighting.  I was in Baghdad when the Bush administration declared our objectives there were a stable, unified, democratic Iraq.  A quick wit in our section soon had those diagrammed with a triangle on a marker board with the caption “pick any two.”

While pursuing this quixotic endeavor abroad, we have also failed to secure our own borders or effectively increase scrutiny of those entering our country.  The 9/11 hijackers covertly but legally entered the United States.  Now we have a veritable open fifth column of Islamists spreading the influence within the country.  Since many young Americans have been conditioned to believe their nation to be a blight on history, it’s difficult to mount an effective ideological defense.

Our continued thrashing about in the world only underscores our nation’s diminishment.  One measure of “just war” — a pillar of Western thought rarely referenced in the general public these days — is whether a conflict results in improved circumstances.  Can anyone say that Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen… or the United States are better off after a generation of warfare?  Is this likely to change when the sons and daughters of the original military force are the ones doing the fighting?

Seal the borders.  Deport the disloyal.  Bring our troops home.  That’s a coherent proposal, and at least has the benefit of not yet having been seriously tried.  Anything short of that is insanity — defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  That’s no way to honor the memory of those who died 17 years ago… or the tens of thousands of American servicemen dead or disabled since then.

tribute-in-light940x380

Advertisements

Never forget September 11, 2001

Sixteen years.  That’s how long it’s been since the worst terrorist attack in American history.  A total of 2,996 people dead or never accounted for.  Symbols of American power struck without warning: both World Trade center towers and the Pentagon.  The actions of informed passengers on a fourth plane likely averted a strike on the White House or Congress.

An entire generation had horrifying visions of previously unimaginable events happening in their own nation, with memories firmly etched into their minds.

They say time heals all wounds. And for the families of those lost that day I hope there is some measure of truth in it. But there is a flip side: such events fade in the public consciousness, such that they no longer inform or shape how the nation acts. To quote the opening of the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring,”

“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth…” (click “continue reading” below to continue)

Continue reading

Being the weak horse

It turns out yet again that at least one of the attackers in Saturday’s killing spree on London Bridge was known to be a radical and associate of a radical imam.  What’s more, in this particular case the attacker was even featured in a British TV documentary called “The Jihadist Next Door!”  ((words — even profane ones – fail me here! — Jemison))

The British authorities confirm he was “under investigation.”  I’m sure that will be a comfort to the grieving families of the deceased and the scores of people who will now live with the terror of that night.

Mao Tse-Tung was something of an authority on insurgency warfare (he conquered China by using it).  One of his maxims was “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”  Importing large numbers of Muslims to the West has provided that “sea” in which the jihadi “fish” flourish.  I’m not saying all Muslims are guilty of these accelerating atrocities, only that the presence of large numbers of them, complete with cultural infrastructure, gives our enemies considerable support.  Separating the “sheep” from the “goats” is the rub in fighting an insurgency (see: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan), and it’s never an easy task.  It’s even harder when you continue to import part of the problem (note well that at least one of Saturday’s attackers came to Britain as a young boy when his family filed for asylum).

Right now, jihadism looks like Osama bin Laden’s proverbial “strong horse and Western security agencies look like they’re ready for the glue factory.  In the same way inner city kids look up to drug dealing gangsters because they have no other model of success, the hundreds of thousands of young Pakastani, Somali, Yemeni, Syrian, Afghani and other nationalities flooding the West can be prone to see jihad as “manly defiance” of a Western Civilization they’ve already failed to adopt.

Mao outlined three phases to insurgency warfare: organize and recruit, undermine the legitimacy of government, attack all out when strong enough.  In my view, we’re well into phase two of this insurgency, and our governments look weaker and more ineffective by the day.  So what do we do?  If we’re to succeed, we have to steel ourselves to some distasteful but necessary steps:

Most Muslims are peaceful people who disapprove of terrorism, but many are not. Opinion polls show a large and consistent minority  of 20% to 40% approves of at least some form of terrorism. Support for ISIS generally is low, but much higher for Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. By any reasonable count there are a few hundred million Muslims who in some way approve of terror, although very few of them would take part in terror attacks. But they are the sea in which the sharks can swim unobserved. They may not build bombs, but they will turn a blind eye to terrorists in their midst, especially if those terrorists are relations. They also fear retaliation from the terrorists if they inform.

The way to win the war is to frighten the larger community of Muslims who passively support terror by action or inaction–frighten them so badly that they will inform on family members. Frightening the larger Muslim population in the West does not require a great deal of effort: a few thousand deportations would do. Western intelligence services do not even have to deport the right people; the wrong people know who they are, and so do many of their neighbors. The ensuing conversation is an easy one to have. “I understand that your nephew is due for deportation, Hussein, and I believe you when you tell me that he has done nothing wrong. I might be able to help you. But you have to help me. Give me something I can use–and don’t waste my time by making things up, or I swear that I’ll deport you, too. If you don’t have any information, then find out who does.”

In the end, this is simple: show resolve, close the border and start deporting thousands now, or end up fighting tens of thousands later.  As the organizer of “Sherman’s March” noted in the 1860s, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”  So, are we in a “War on Terror” or not?  On this day in 1944, thousands of young men stormed ashore at Normandy.  Do we even possess this kind of grim determination anymore?

Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ in D.C. Mordor, and the jury is still out on whether he’ll have any success.  Just as necessary is draining the “sea” in which these known human time bombs are ticking.  Given that the UK alone has been hit three times in less than two weeks, one would think this would be the top priority.

That it isn’t tells us all we need to know about “leaders” in the West.

I wonder why that is?

Ohio State University seems to be the scene of the latest outbreak of Sudden Jihad Syndrome:

An Ohio State University student posted a rant shortly before he plowed a car into a campus crowd and stabbed people with a butcher knife in an ambush that ended when a police officer shot him dead, a law enforcement official said.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, wrote on what appears to be his Facebook page that he had reached a “boiling point,” made a reference to “lone wolf attacks” and cited radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Naturally, there was no way to anticipate such action.  After all, Artan had come from Somalia to America by way of Pakistan, like all good peaceful immigrants do.

Even with such a distinguished travel record, Artan claimed in the student newspaper to be concerned over how students might react to him praying during the Muslim prayer times.

I wonder why?

After all, for the life of me, I can’t think of a single reason why Americans would be concerned about Muslim immigrants…

To invert Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gorbachev, “Mr Trump, build up the wall!” And roll up the welcome mat for a while.

Confronting reality

This is a longer-than-usual post.  Only read if you have time to think (not emote) it through.  Much time has gone into synthesizing my thoughts on the topic (hence the dearth of posts lately)

I’ll give Donald Trump this: he knows how to get people talking.  Unfortunately, most of what I’ve been reading online (while not having much time to blog) has been pure emotional reaction and not careful consideration.

If we, as a people, are to set good, solid policy that will “secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity,” we must rise above gut reactions and soberly assess the regrettable environment in which we find ourselves.  I’ve already stated on this blog that I find Trump personally distasteful.  He is not what I envision when I imagine ‘presidential,’ with one important exception: he does not fear the backlash from saying what he thinks.  If only more of our alleged ‘leaders’ (who, in truth, are mere followers of what certain chattering classes have deemed ‘acceptable’) would do the same.  Our political ‘elite’ has yet to get the fact that this one element alone accounts for most of Trump’s popularity.

But I’m not writing today to blog about Trump the man.  I’m writing about some of the things he’s said, and it’s high time Americans learn to separate the two.  Failing to do so has already turned this election cycle into one long fallacy of ad hominem appeals.  That’s not how you arrive at informed judgments.

So here we go: The Donald has proposed that we ban immigration by Muslims and/or from Muslim countries until we can get a handle on the jihadist problem.  Naturally, half or more of the electorate immediately shrieked “Hitler!” (has there ever been a more rapid example of Godwin’s Law?) and started quoting Martin Niemöller.   This is what’s known as ‘false equivalency.’  Preventing a foreign group of people from immigrating TO your country is undeniably NOT the same thing as rounding up a group of people already IN your country and sending them to gas chambers.  So get off the fainting couches, folks.

“But… but… that’s discrimination!”  the shrinking violets protest.  So is ANY limitation on immigration, since that means some people are allowed to come and others are not.  Let’s get to the heart of the issue, then: is there an automatic, inviolable right for anyone in the world to be able to move to the United States?  If you say yes, then you might as well leave your house unlocked every day and open so anyone whose economic condition is not as good as yours can move right in.  Otherwise, I call hypocrisy.  Claiming a nation has no right to secure its borders and bar entry has economic and social consequences every bit as much as claiming families have no right to secure their home and property.  The consequences of the former take longer to manifest, but 50 years after the Immigration Act of 1965 it should be apparent to anyone with a clear head that these consequences are already occurring.

“But… but… you can’t discriminate against Islam, because it’s a religion of peace!”  Like hell it is (and I mean that in the most literal sense).  There are individual Muslims who may be peaceful (I’ve met–even befriended–a number), but Islamic civilization and society is one a long, sad history of repression, regression and violence against outsiders.  Historically, there is no denying that when Islam is allowed to take root in a new land, it provides a growth medium in which extremism and jihad flourishes until that land is under submission to the same misery as the rest of the Dar-al-Islam.  Therein lies the problem: individual Muslims may not pose a threat, but Islam itself does.  We don’t have to like that fact any more than we like the other imperfections of this world.  We DO have to confront it, though.  As a system Islam does not seek to coexist; as soon as it is in a position to do so (say, through mass migration of its adherents…), it seeks to dominate.  Our nation’s early leaders were far more clearheaded about the incompatibility of this militant cult with Western Civilization:

Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus.  (John Quincy Adams, 1830)

“But… but… it’s unconstitutional to single out a specific group and refuse them entry!”  Thus does ignorance blather on yet again.  First of all, the Constitution and its protections apply to citizens of the United States, NOT to the entire world (unless people are suggesting we are responsible for all of humanity at all times and places.  Ready to take on that burden?).  In our historically generous spirit, prompted by the influence of Christ on our society’s development, we do seek to treat even foreigners according to the general principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  That’s all well and good.  But what happens when allowing the “pursuit of happiness” by foreigners directly threatens the “life and liberty” of those already in America?  Our government cannot and should not be neutral in such instances: its first duty is to its own people and their descendants (the machinations of traitorous globalists notwithstanding).  We used to understand this, which is why we didn’t allow unrestricted immigration from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at the same time we were at war with their societies, and why (Democrat) President Jimmy Carter barred travel to the U.S. by Iranians after their new (Islamic fundamentalist) regime became fond of the phrase “death to America.”

“But… but… Trump’s also proposed rounding up Muslims in the U.S., like we did the Japanese.”  He’s done no such thing.  Trump is but the blowhard center of a raging national conversation that, frankly, is long overdue.  Those around him sometimes seek to add or subtract their own agendas.  For instance, it was a reporter, not Trump, who suggested a Muslim-American database.  You can legitimately choose to criticize Trump for not dismissing the notion, and for some serious ambiguity in his follow-on communication, but it was not his talking point to start with.  As for his comment that we need to look at mosques very, very carefully, events in France should suffice to show the man has a solid point.

To sum up, there are a large number of Americans who believe we should continue to allow the immigration of large numbers of people whose social system has historically been highly problematic, and that once in the U.S. we have to treat them with kid gloves and not keep an eye on their community.  This is simply a national suicide wish painted over with a veneer of humanitarianism.

But I ask you this: which is more humane… to stop the continued mass immigration in the first place, or to allow it to reach a point where Americans may one day beg not just for databases but for the wholesale roundup and violent removal of that community (as was done with the Japanese)?  The former option causes inconvenience and hurt feelings; the latter is a road we don’t want to go down as a nation.  So why continue a status quo that leads that direction?  As for the Syrian refugees, the excuse everyone wants to use to prop the door open for everyone, would it not be equally humane to carve out a safe place for them to live in their own homeland?  How many of those touting their plight so earnestly would be willing to join the military and be the boots on the ground in the Middle East to protect them?  …That’s what I thought.  Since we know ISIS and others intend to take advantage of our open doors, exactly how many dead Americans is this utopianist posturing worth to you?

You see, ultimately a lot my take on this is influenced by my time in the military (at least I admit and try to control for my biases).  I spent an inordinate amount of time away from my family after 9/11 under the idea that we would fight Islamic extremism “over there” so we wouldn’t have to fight it “over here.”  How’d that work out for us?  If America submits to the “we are the world” utopian impulse that allows our nation to be overrun with immigrants not just from the Middle East, but from many places whose culture and norms are incompatible with our historic form of society, it owes an apology to every servicemember who died trying to keep the nation both independent and secure.

You want to “thank me for my service?”  CLOSE THE FREAKING BORDER.  And if you want to ensure nobody calls it discriminatory, here’s a suggestion: STOP LETTING ANYBODY IN.  (Maybe there’d be more jobs for Americans, then.)  Be serious about confronting the problems, or stop complaining when a jihadist shoots up a neighborhood, or mass immigration continues to cause American workers’ wages to plummet.

We’ve got enough problems here already.  We don’t need to import more.  My biggest concern about Trump is that he’s a harbinger.  You don’t have to like the messenger (I don’t), but the message cannot be ignored, unpleasant as facing reality is.  Most importantly, if our ‘leaders’ don’t figure this out soon, the next standard bearer for these concerns may be the actual devil that people currently want to cast Trump as.  If our ‘leaders’ want to reduce the growing nationalist sentiment, then it’s high time they take care of the nation.  The longer we put our heads in the sand about the world we now live in, the worse it will be in the very near future.

Civil and profitable discussion is welcome in the comments.

The reign of the ‘god of this world’

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  2 Cor 4:4

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”  Isaiah 5:20

From Thursday’s New York Times (caution: difficult reading ahead):

QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God…”

Tragically, it is — drawing him closer to the ‘god (lower-case “g”) of this world,’ who is running amok in our day.  Anyone who can look upon the atrocities of ISIS, or the holocaust of unborn children in the West, and state that evil doesn’t really exist–that the term is merely a social convention based on outmoded religious beliefs–is indeed “blinded.”  Fatally so.

There are many who look upon ISIS and others, like the Westboro Baptist Church, and conclude the problem is faith itself.  Sadly, they too lack discernment.  The Enemy is shrewd — whether you serve him directly or become spiritually indifferent as a result of those who do, either way he draws souls away from the salvation Christ came to offer.  Those who believe the elimination of ‘religion’ is the path to peace don’t realize that the evils of the linked article is the default setting of a world that is enslaved by sin.  They literally risk throwing out the baby–the Christ child, the only hope of redemption–with the bathwater.

But for those of us with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear,” we know there is only One solution for this.  While it may eventually involve physical confrontation, far above the mere dabbling with airstrikes and symbolic but ineffective gestures, the real solution involves seeking to draw near to Jehovah, our creator, sustainer and savior.  It involves praying for the Spirit to bring revival — and not just in America.

The battle lines are being drawn, both abroad and at home.  May the God (uniquely capital “G”) of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter and Paul watch over us.  Our nation does not deserve it, but unlike those who serve hellish spirit the Times unwittingly wrote about, we serve a God of love, mercy and grace.

And the battle ultimately belongs to Him.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”    Ephesians 6:12-13

“Fighting” fire with fire

Several recent developments have called to mind the old question of whether “the ends justify the means.”  I believe in this day of popular TV shows like “24,” (a show, incidentally, that I refuse to watch) this is a question that isn’t asked nearly often enough.

Yesterday, the hoopla was over the Senate’s release of their ‘investigation’ into CIA interrogation methods.  I note it’s interesting that, six years into the current administration, the report just happens finally to be released on the day when Jonathan “Americans are stupid” Gruber was being grilled by a panel in the House of Representatives.  If you think this was a coincidence, you’ve not been paying attention to the “dense pack” strategy of scandal releases that obscure just how low Washington has sunk.  It is also the latest example of how “Blame Bush” is still this administration’s default get-out-of-jail-free card (never mind that much of what they blame him for has continued, or accelerated, under the current regime).

Suffice to say, our ‘government’ is all political theater and no substance whatsoever.  Which is why unelected bureaucrats of various stripes are now the real power.

Many of those unelected decision makers reside in the intelligence community which, by its very nature, is a paradox: to serve its function requires a certain level of secrecy and anonymity.  But for it to serve a free society, there must be limits and accountability.  Our nation has wrestled with this since cementing the national security state apparatus in place following World War II, and over time it seems the ‘balance’ has skewed ever farther towards latitude — particularly after 9/11.

I’m not going to debate the exact content of the Senate report, because it’s compromised by partisan hype.  That said, I don’t think there can be any doubt at this point that our government has engaged in behavior over the last 13 years that would have horrified earlier generations of Americans.  Let’s face it: if we’re now all but publicly strip-searching Americans at TSA checkpoints, what do you THINK we’re doing to non-Americans who become “of interest?”  Most of the arguments made by those who favor wide latitude in ‘interrogation’ are emotional, not rational ones.  Ignoring the evidence that torture rarely yields good information, there is something visceral about the public’s desire to treat our adversaries, real and imagined, with abuse that we can rationalize.  “Heck yeah, waterboard those so-and-sos,” goes the rallying cry of the “24” viewer demographic… never once questioning whether our public servants might occasionally round up the wrong people, or have bad information themselves.  (To think they don’t is to ascribe a level of perfection to our government that is dangerously naive.)

The same dynamic applies to law enforcement as well–we support levels of force against others for various petty offenses that we would never want turned on us.

We’ve forgotten the teaching: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  Speaking only for myself, I certainly would not want to be on the receiving end of these “enhanced interrogation methods.” If I were, whether innocent or not to start with, I would forevermore be the enemy of those who applied them to me (God is still working on me about the whole ‘forgiveness’ thing in some areas…)In short, it’s tragically myopic for former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to ask whether we are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them, while running torture centers that are hardening those already disposed to hate us, and quite possibly making new enemies of those who are the victims of bad information or circumstances (not to mention their friends and families…).

The ends alone do not justify the means.  The moment we accept that, we have become something far different than the ideal America portrayed in Schoolhouse Rock.  An America founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” by God should not decide that some can be treated less humanely than others.  One does not successfully fight barbarism by becoming barbaric, or crime by behaving in a criminal fashion.  This may be the greatest challenge of the various wars-without-end (including the War on Drugs) in which we’ve found ourselves.

It is not just government falling prey to this temptation of expediency, either.  Advocates across the political spectrum are trading truth and standards for whatever immediate political gain they believe can be had by cutting corners.  This is how you get advocacy theater masquerading as journalism, as with the recent Rolling Stone piece about the University of Virginia, or the ridiculously unfounded claims in a biography that are excused because she’s been annointed the “voice of her generation.”  Even as the details of the original story unravel, there is a chorus attacking those looking into it, as though somehow certain allegations are automatically above reproach.  Worse, some actually take the position that details don’t matter — that the ‘central narrative’ is true simply because it has been asserted.  This reminds me of the infamous “fake but accurate” summary retort when it was discovered Dan Rather’s hit piece on then-President George W. Bush’s former service in the National Guard turned out to be based on a falsified memorandum.  Whatever happened to admitting you’re wrong, and seeking to do better next time?

This is not just a problem on “the left.” The behavior may or may not be more prevalent there, but as partisanship has increased, both sides have become more likely to take the lower road to advantage.  Politics are now viewed as a war for power that has become far too concentrated, and the old saying is that truth is the first casualty of war.  It should be clear we no longer live in a culture that values dispasionate objectivity, truth, or compliance with a standard (such as the Constitution, for instance) that is larger than the whims and passions of the moment.  And we wonder why the nation is falling apart at the seams?

To those in the trenches: remember that if you choose to fight fire with fire, you’re mostly doubling your chances of getting burned.  It’s easy to be emotional and respond from your gut.  Be better than that.