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Posts Tagged ‘Counter-Terrorism’

Ralph Peters had an excellent editorial on Afghanistan this week that I think lays out the problem with Obama’s half-surge:

Initially, Afghanistan wasn’t a war of choice. We had to dislodge and decimate al-Qaeda, while punishing the Taliban and strengthening friendlier forces in the country. Our great mistake was to stay on in an attempt to build a modernized rule-of-law state in a feudal realm with no common identity.

We needed to smash our enemies and leave. Had it proved necessary, we could have returned later for another punitive mission. Instead, we fell into the great American fallacy of believing ourselves responsible for helping those who’ve harmed us. This practice was already fodder for mockery 50 years ago, when the novella and film The Mouse That Roared postulated that the best way for a poor country to get rich was to declare war on America then surrender.

Even if we achieved the impossible dream of creating a functioning, unified state in Afghanistan, it would have little effect on the layered crises in the Muslim world. Backward and isolated, Afghanistan is sui generis (only example of its kind). Political polarization in the U.S. precludes an honest assessment, but Iraq’s the prize from which positive change might flow, while Afghanistan could never inspire neighbors who despise its backwardness.

This sounds right to me and accords with my own counsel in favor of a punitive raid concept of operations and my criticism of the facile distinctions made between Iraq and Afghanistan by Obama and other Democrats seeking to appear hawkish but also sensible and nuanced.

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There’s a lot of talk about the recent attacks in Bombay being India’s 9/11.  But there was another such attack by Islamic militants in July 2006, it killed over 200 people, and I wrote about it here.  In 1993, a series of bombings killed 250 Indians in the same city.  Neither event is exactly ancient history.

I am struck, however, about the massive death toll the modest number of terrorists–10 by the latest reports–were able to inflict.  Any open society, whether in Europe or North America risks these kinds of attacks.  What would stop a similar group with similar goals from shooting up shopping malls, sporting events, or country fairs here at home.

Coupled with the attackers’ unappeasable demands and the high cost of stringent security measures, they appear inevitable and likely to be repeated barring what has for some years become unspeakable.  The most cost effective and least draconian solution for societies like ours still appears to be (a) not let people from the world’s aggrieved and militant populations within our borders and (2) make life difficult and laden with suspicion with an ultimate goal of self-deportation or assimilation for those whom we improvidently have allowed in.  Yet this approach is treated as unspeakable, while strip searching 80 year old grandmothers at airports is A-OK. The values of equality and diversity trump all others, including genuine security and our historic liberties.

We are not India.  Pakistan is not on our border, nor is there any source of organized militancy to be found at home.  While there are aggrieved groups among America’s poor, various ethnic minorities, and home-grown losers in the trends of globalization, their organization is lacking and their grievances dispersed in all directions against what may loosely be called “The Man.” In other words, these are problems of our own making; the root cause is easily identified, but we are too scared of not living up to our au courant value of open borders.  I should think if the body count of these types of attacks climbs high enough in Europe and America, the current order will be exposed as a fraud, and both regions will be ready for what is now considered radical political change.  For now, we have meaningless gestures of condemnation by the Bushes and Obamas of the world, neither of whom has shown any insight or moral courage on the big picture issues.

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If Obama’s foreign policy is sometimes incoherent, Hillary’s is simply Bush-lite.  Her recent essay in Foreign Affairs reveals herself as someone who does not depart substantially from the globalist paradigm of Bush and President Clinton, with the main difference being her greater faith in “diplomacy.”  In a world where many nations’ interests involve knocking America down in prestige and power, this is simply wishful thinking of the worst sort.  It’s essentially the foreign policy espoused earlier by John Kerry.  It is vague about how she will fight terrorism, focusing instead on a policy of supporting the people that will clean up the pieces in the wake of an attack, the lauded “first responders.” 

The flaws in Hillary Clinton’s basic perspective are never more apparent than in her discussion of one of the major foreign policy failure of the last decade, the payoff deal given to North Korea to cease its nuclear programs.  This deal was brokered by Jimmy Carter and signed off by President Clinton and promised North Korea money to cease its nuclear arms programs after it had essentially threatened the West with its arsenal.  She writes: 

Like Iran, North Korea responded to the Bush administration’s effort to isolate it by accelerating its nuclear program, conducting a nuclear test, and building more nuclear weapons. Only since the State Department returned to diplomacy have we been able, belatedly, to make progress.

Actually, North Korea was undertaking all these programs after the deal when it promised it would not do so.  Nothing in Bush’s “axis of evil” remark could have set off such a massive undertaking.  The money paid off by the ’94 Clinton Deal enabled the North Korean regime by giving it much-needed financial and material support.  As I wrote earlier:

I can’t say I blame Clinton for not discovering North Korea violations and weapons plans earlier. The secret North Korean regime is notoriously hard for our spies to penetrate. But I do fault him for thinking he could bribe a criminal regime like this into behaving sensibly. The basic concept of the agreement was the problem, and the end result was more or less inevitable. Even the most minimally rationally black-mailer, once he’s been paid, has an incentive to seek more. And that’s exactly what North Korea’s been trying to accomplish ever since. Clinton’s plan was all carrot and no stick. Bush has been tasked with cleaning up a mess that he did not create, where he did not fail to negotiate real security guarantees, and under the threat of a far more substantial North Korean weapons capability.

On top of its flawed concepts, Clinton’s lengthy essay provides little guidance as to when and where diplomacy is necessary or unlikely to be of use, nor does it articulate when force is needed and under what circumstances she would use it.  For instance, does she embrace the “humanitarian wars” concept of President Clinton?  Does she think a UN mandate is always necessary (after all, her husband did not in Kosovo)? Does she recognize that certain irrational players on the world stage, such as A-Jod in Iran, may not respond to the same incentives as less ideological and religiously-tinged leaders?  Finally, does she recognize any inherent or at least structural tension between the Western World and the Islamic world?  She’s either silent or vague on these issues.  The world Muslim only comes up in referring to her support for “building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan.”

Bush has been a disaster on foreign policy because he is a liberal.  He believes in spreading democracy, the universality of American values, and the necessity of idealism in our foreign policy.  He also has been incompetent, using tough talk without backing up words with appropriate action, alienating potential friends like Russia, using democracy as a substitute for the necessity of real security in Iraq, and being diffident and inarticulate about the need for intelligence-gathering against al Qaeda.  There is no reason to think Clinton will not be worse in all these respects, even if she is accepted more readily by the Europeans. 

Let’s not forget that it is al Qaeda, China, Iran, and Russia who matter most in the next President’s foreign policy.  On all four matters, the first President Clinton, embracing a very similar view as Hillary was a disaster.  Al Qaeda grew in strength and planned 9/11 during his watch.  China grew stronger military and economically under his watch, and its increasing trade with the West did not liberalize its internal affairs as promised.  Iran continued to support terrorism during Clinton’s more mild presidency and was linked to the Khobar Towers bombing without any retaliation on his part.  Finally, Russia grew increasingly alienated from the West during Clinton and Bush’s presidency because both presidents desired to expand NATO, criticized Russia on Chechnya (where it’s fighting al Qaeda and its allies), and both meddled in Russia’s internal affairs and elections.  Clinton may not be loony on foreign policy, but liberals and conservatives alike should expect many of the same problems as Bush has had, coupled with the likely disappointments that the deus ex machina of diplomacy will foster.  These problems will persist because both Hillary Clinton and Bush use liberal ideas–the importance of the UN, democracy (including among our allies), and human rights–as guides when hard-headed realism about diplomacy and the use of force is needed.

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