Tag: ISIL

The President and ISIL

With recent pushes into Kurdish territory and the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya, there is a growing fear that ISIL is growing more and more powerful. The President has asked for an authorization for the use of military force (finally). I’ll get to that in a moment. But my first concern is that he’s been making the argument, yet again, that ISIL doesn’t represent “real” Islam, even dragging out the old arguments about the Crusades as a moral equivalence.

The thing is that ISIL doesn’t agree with him. They are not like Al-Qaeda, which was an amorphous terrorist movement dedicated to bringing about the caliphate but operating within the modern world. ISIL wants to create the caliphate right now and the caliphate they want to create is violent, barbaric, medieval and based heavily on old-school Islam and literal interpretations of the Koran:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

(You really should read that entire article. Think Regress has posted a lame response that basically ignores Wood’s point: that while many Muslims don’t take the Koran’s more violent texts at face value, organizations like ISIL do.)

When the President says that violent extremists like ISIL are not the real face of Islam, he is both right and wrong. The face of Islam can be one of tolerance and peace. But it can also be one of intolerance and violence. Islam has gone through periods of enlightenment and gone through periods of horrific fundamentalism. At this point in history, it hangs in the balance caught between hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims and violent sects that, while a minority, wields enormous power and influence. We’ve seen in pre-war Afghanistan and in the ISIL-controlled territory what these people want: beheadings, slavery, crucifixion, stoning. Their ideology recognizes no authority other than “pure” radical Islam. Whether they represent a minority or not is beside the point. The Nazis were never a majority in Germany. The Communists were never a majority in the countries they ruled with an iron fist. But they were able to control massive parts of the world and enormous armies through violence, intimidation and bloodshed.

The “most Muslims are good” argument, while based in truth, has no practical meaning. Most Germans are good people. We still had to defeat them in two wars. Most Russians are good people. We still had to fight a dangerous and tense Cold War against the Soviet Union. Most Japanese are good people. We still had to drop two atom bombs on them. It doesn’t really matter what the vast majority want when the monsters have the floor. The problem is that while most people are good, they are also easily persuaded or coerced to do bad things or stand aside while bad things are done. This is true of everyone in the world. There is not a religion or country that isn’t capable of doing horrible things. The question is: who is in charge? We’ve seen what happens when people like ISIL are in charge: entire regions of the world become unspeakably violent.

The President has finally asked Congress to recognize the semi-war we’ve been fighting for a while. I think they should do so, but with some limitations. A land war is not necessarily going to solve ISIL (although letting them overrun Baghdad or Kurdistan — as they’ve threatened to — would be a disaster). In fact, it could play right into their apocalyptic prophecies. But I do know that we can not disengage. It’s important that we keep ISIL and AQ from reconciling (which the President’s rescue attempt threatened to do). The longer ISIL survives and the more territory they conquer, the more legitimacy and power they will accumulate in the eyes of radical Muslims. Stopping them might mean air support, training, weapons and/or money to the forces opposing ISIL. If that means what we end up propping up one side in a bloody decades-long struggle for the soul of Islam … well, that’s what it means. We have a national interest in preventing the rise of ISIL to a real caliphate. The only way it will end is when this supposed peaceful majority rises up and ends it.

Benghazi Eternal

Like an illegal alien, I have decided to “step out of the shadows” and lay down a quick post. The reason why is that I’ve noticed quite a bit of crowing today about the House Intelligence Benghazi report from some of my friends. As much as I know how the fascination some people have over the whole thing perplexes them, I read the report and will explain why the conspiracy theories are not going to stop.

There are two important aspects of Benghazi. The first is the one I’m personally more interested in: what the nature of the CIA’s activities there were and why Ambassador Stevens was there when the security situation was deteriorating and he had even noted this himself.

The only thing the report really says is that the CIA totally wasn’t there to collect weapons and send them to Syria (which, as we know now, would have provided them to ISIS). Instead, they were just gathering intelligence about foreign entities who were doing it.

So the questions I have are:

1. Why did this operation require the presence of an ambassador?
2. Who was moving these weapons to Syria?
3. Was the CIA enabling or facilitating these foreign entities?

Keep in mind that the report doesn’t say that the CIA was actually trying to stop the flow of weapons to Syria and it’s obvious to us now that they weren’t going to call in any airstrikes against those “entities” who were doing it, right?

This report makes the claim that there were no “specific” threats about the attack on the compound and even says right in the beginning that the “CIA ensured adequate security” for the facilities at the Annex. Obviously not, or Stevens would hardly be dead. If anything, the locals the CIA itself had hired to guard the facility appear to have aided the attack. Once the rescue operation was underway, their team couldn’t even get to the hospital to recover Stevens’s body. Their intelligence about whether the militia guarding the hospital were friendly was even wrong.

The headline that the media is going with today is that there was “no intelligence failure” but that isn’t true. There WAS an intelligence failure because the CIA couldn’t even see an attack coming right under its own nose in a jihadist-controlled area and still doesn’t entirely know who did it or why. Their job is to get that kind of information. That they don’t have it is an intelligence failure.

So what you have with that first aspect is:

1. We still don’t know what the CIA’s operation in Benghazi was intended to accomplish or why Stevens was involved.
2. The CIA and the State Department practiced the worst sort of incompetence before, during, and after the incident. It’s really clear when you read the report that this is true.
3. Absolutely nobody has ever been held accountable for the failures.

The lack of accountability is pretty typical of these types of reports, I might add. The political-bureaucratic class always protects itself. And that goes to the second important aspect of Benghazi: the failure of policy and resulting political ass-covering. The report is pretty gentle on the Obama Administration for sending Susan Rice out to blame the whole attack on a stupid YouTube video.

The truth is that the White House had enormous inventive to avoid the impression that this was a “failure of policy.” In fact, its entire Libyan policy (which never even had the blessing of Congress) has since turned into a disaster with our embassy in Tripoli abandoned and ISIS now setting up shop in Libya to take over and expand their war even further. Benghazi was just the first evidence that the policy was a failure.

In 2012, Obama and his Administration were telling us that bin Laden was dead and al-Qaeda was heading for strategic defeat. He was ending the wars and that was pretty important for his re-election.

As we know now, al-Qaeda was not on the run and one of its affiliates or some of its sympathizers helped kill our Ambassador. At the same time, the Administration was totally ignoring what was going on in Iraq. Proving that he learned absolutely nothing from what happened in Benghazi, Obama dismissed ISIS’s strength and got to be surprised by one of his policy failures all over again not less than 2 years later when they suddenly overran Mosul.

Again: zero accountability for it.

I don’t know whether or not the House Intelligence Committee knows what the CIA’s true role in Benghazi was or if they’ve just decided that it’s better not to share that information. Either way, to believe this report, you have to suspend your disbelief about the credibility of the CIA. Nothing I read in this report gives me any reason whatsoever to do so and there’s plenty that leads me to doubt it.

We’re being asked to trust people who have consistently proven that they don’t deserve it; by their lack of cooperation, poor transparency, and appalling incompetence. And that is why the Benghazi conspiracy theories aren’t going away.