ISIS and US: Believers vs. Agnostics
Political leaders, East and West, are separated by more than custom, tradition, or practice. The divide is cultural.
Put aside for the moment obvious things like power differentials or even notions of winning and losing. The Caliph of the Islamic State is obviously having a better year than any politician in the West if anyone keeps score these days. The Friday the 13th Paris pogrom and that sabotaged airliner full of Russian tourists clearly go into the win column for Caliph Baghdadi. Kinetic failure in the West is again manifest: no Intelligence, no warning, no defense, and no real coalition. Canada defected from the deployed anti-ISIS team just days before the recent Paris massacre.
Put aside for a moment obvious considerations like strategy too. The Muslim sword is as keen on strategy as it is about goals. Strategy, if there is one, for the celebrated “60 nation” fantasy coalition led by team Kerry/Obama is some combination of spin, apologetics, ephemeral “crisis management,” and punitive air strikes. Real military strategy in Europe and America, alas, has been an orphan since George Patton’s Jeep accident.
Where success is demonized, winning is apostasy.
With few visible coalition troops on the ground, save special operators, allied tactics are moot too. Relevant tactics for the moment are Islamist. The Muslim kit now includes: immigration, open borders, airline sabotage, suicide bombings, beheadings, gang rape, slavery, forced conversion, iconoclasm, media manipulation, financing, and recruitment. Indeed, while the fantasy American cabal boasts 60 stealth partners, ISIS has 90 nations which actually put real fighters, and God knows what else, on the killing fields. Gruesome Jihadi tactics are now a global export.
Eurocentric press coverage helps to atomize the threat. The jihad in black Africa is near invisible yet actually sees more casualties of late. Mali is a recent example.
Frontline recently found, filmed, and interviewed the faculty and student body of an ISIS training school in Afghanistan. Somehow, wired media shills are able to find jihadi base camps but the 17 agencies of the bloated American Intelligence Community and those uncountable DOD agencies cannot.
So let’s grant those “nefarious characters,” as DCI Jim Clapper likes to euphemize Islamic terrorists, the obvious: serial operational victories, coherent strategy, and devastating tactics. Our purpose here is to speak of more important things, real differences between East and West in these Muslim wars, fundamental considerations like belief; indeed, the kind of faith that alters the vector of history.
The Ummah, apostates notwithstanding, is a decentralized culture of true believers. Europe and America have no similar unifying faith or ideology. A legacy of Greco/Roman and Judean/Christian heritage to be sure, but neither plays much of a role in European or American thinking these days. Indeed, the West has all but forfeited the ideological conflict, granting moral equivalence to repressive enterprises like imperial, colonial, and even fascist religion. Recall that at one time or another America has provided material or political support to Fatah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, a host of al Qaeda affiliates, and most recently Shia Hezb’allah. The latter literally translates as “Party of God.”
Yankee tanks might be used now against Israel by Sunni and Shia jihadi alike. America is now the arsenal of social democracy - and Islam.
Given the usual ambiguity, if not duplicity, that characterizes relationships with kefirs, today’s Muslim ally or “moderate” is tomorrow’s jihadist. Indeed, the loyalty of tribal or religious Muslims often only lasts as long as the baksheesh holds out. Team Kerry/Obama often complain about Russia strengthening ISIS in Syria and then fail to mention that the Islamic State Army is fighting with equipment and ammunition that were made in America.
How many Palestinian “partners” are Fatah, or worse still, Hamas? How many Persians are Hezb’allah? How many Afghan mujahedeen are now Taliban? How many Egyptians are Muslim Brotherhood? How many Saudis or emirate dilettantes are al Qaeda? How many black Africans are Boko Haram? And we dare not ask how many Sunni Turks, Syrians, Somalis, or Iraqis are ISIS because an Islamic State census now would require a global survey that would have to include migrants to Minnesota. ISIS is being “contained” in the same sense that the Fatah, Hamas, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and al Qaeda have been defeated.
Belgium gives the lie to any notions of containment. The Muslim cells that struck in Paris were orchestrated in a section of Brussels that is a stone’s throw from HQ EU. Molenbeek was a known safe haven for jihadists. And now, consistent with death wishes, the EU plans to replenish Islamist losses in Molenbeek with more unvetable Muslim refugees from the Levant. You can’t make this stuff up.
A Schengen zone, like globalization, is another one of those ideas where wishful thinking has always been at odds with experience or prudence.
Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post flails Americans about “moral” responsibilities for refugees, yet has little to say about the now chronic atrocities of Muslim thugs. For Twitter naïfs like Marcus, the bigotry of low expectations is burka, blinder, and worldview.
Belief in the West is often certified by polls, head count evidence if you will. The most recent Pew survey of Muslim support for ISIS is an eye opener on two counts. Pollsters still spin the numbers, but the bad news speaks for itself anyway. A recent Pew headline claims that the majority of Muslims do not approve of ISIS. However, the poll didn’t include key states: the tribes of Arabia, North Africa, Afghanistan, and much of the Levant. Even in places like Pakistan up to 70 percent of the population have positive or ambiguous sentiments about the Islamic State. If Pew numbers were normalized with data for states excluded, ISIS support with Muslims globally might range, conservatively, between 20-30 percent, in fact revealing a support base of up to 500 million righteous souls.
Anecdotal evidence is even more probative. When Turk soccer fans the other day were asked for a moment of silence to honor recent French terror victims, the plea was met with hoots of derision and chants of “allah’hu akbar.” Turkey is just another NATO partner in the same sense that Islam is just another religion.
While perfidious Turks and Arabs are embraced, Russians and Israelis are vilified, stiff-armed, and boycotted.
Withal, for agnostic Europe and America, facts about theology or Islamic beliefs play no role in jihad threat calculus. France and the internet hackers of Anonymous have declared war on ISIS. The American national security establishment, in contrast, has declared war on intelligence critics like Edward Snowden. Indeed, blaming Snowden for intelligence deficits today is of a piece with crackpots like Bernie Sanders blaming ISIS depredations on global warming or unemployment.
Since the latest Paris atrocity, both the FBI and DHS have claimed that there are no known “credible” threats to America. In the same time frame, ISIS has released at least two videos specifically targeting New York and Washington, DC. Clearly, the same clueless apathy that enabled 9/11 is alive and well inside the Beltway today.
Meanwhile, James Comey, incumbent FBI director, blames dotcom encryption for performance anxiety or clue deficits midst federal agents and analysts. Recall that Comey was once an opponent of warrantless wiretapping. Comey and his colleagues in the Intelligence Community are now loath to admit that data collection isn’t the real problem. NSA is awash in data. The problem is analysis, all those self-imposed political mandates that now prevent any federal analyst, no matter the evidence, from calling a Muslim spade a spade.
The American national security establishment is in denial, unable to admit that the ideology of sharia and jihad, indeed Islamic culture, is a very real part of the struggle. We are regularly lectured that radicals, militants, and jihadists are not Islamic. We are led to believe shooters, bombers, and butchers misread the Koran or misinterpret so-called prophets like Mohammed. Yet these same apologists, John Brennan at CIA is on point here, seldom tell us what Koran or Hadith readings or interpretations are misread. Indeed, the very notion that CIA, DOD, or the White House is capable of determining what is or is not Islamic is preposterous.
Islam cannot be “a great religion” or culture, without the same moral accountability as other polities. Calling jihadists “criminals” is a little like confusing a head cold with the Ebola virus.
Muslims, like any other religious culture, are rightfully judged on their behavior and accomplishments, or lack thereof, not on wishful thinking, 7th Century holy writ, or “prophets” with dubious pedigrees.
The dystopic future which Samuel Huntington prophesied is not so much a “clash” now as it is a unilateral surrender in the world of ideas. All things being equal, the West now celebrates self-mutilation, a universe where any vile theology is the equal of any other. The West is a culture that has disarmed unilaterally at best -- or capitulated at worst.
Difficult as it is to be cynical about the home team, ideological castrati are now the ascendant leadership cohort in Europe and the Americas. Mohammed’s madmen, in contrast, are motivated by belief, ideas for which they will die. Civilization east of Islam doesn’t know what it believes anymore, surely nothing worth fighting for. The coalition of the unwilling is content to simmer in a stew of guilt, fear, apology, and false hope.
“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.” - M. Albom