The Arab Spring Has Become the European Flood

The Arab Spring was the hopeful term for a new beginning when there were anti-government protests and uprisings in the Middle East. I recall universal media support to the decision to provide air support to the rebels fighting Gaddafi’s forces in Libya until he was captured and summarily executed. The Obama Middle East foreign policy, which included the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and killing Gaddafi, has contributed to in a virtual flood of refugees out of the Middle East to Europe. One reporting site records that there are “…nine civil wars now going on in Islamic countries between Pakistan and Nigeria. This is why there are so many refugees fleeing for their lives. Half of the 23 million population of Syria have been forced from their homes, with four million becoming refugees in other countries…Some 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced by the Islamic State—Isis…”

From a USA Today article, “A record 522,124 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by sea this year, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday. The number is more than double the previous high set only last year. Of the estimated number of migrants who made the hazardous journey by sea, 388,000 arrived in Greece and 130,891 in Italy. They hail from countries that include Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Bangladesh, the IOM said. Last year, 219,000 migrants and refugees escaping war and poverty sailed to Europe.”

Many of the images of the flood of refugees are of women carrying or leading children to a safer place. However, many of the images are of young men who are of “military age.” My question is how many of them are Isis who are taking advantage of the situation to infiltrate receiving countries to create mischief or terrorism?

I would be curious whether President Obama thinks his Middle East policy has been a success. .

Refugee Ethics

A reader and frequent commenter sent me an article by Richard D. Lamm that appeared in the Denver Post. The story is told of Martin of Tours finding a starving beggar during a 13th Century ride and dividing his cloak and dinner with the desperate man. The question is asked “What if instead of one cold and starving beggar, there are 100?” Considering the world situation, what if there are thousands or millions? There is another report that ISIS has slaughtered another several hundred people after taking a city in Iraq, and thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced. I have difficulty imagining there is anyone remaining in Syria other than the various fighting organizations or a place for an “ordinary citizen” to live. Thousands of people are taking the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to escape the anarchy and terror of Libya (and perhaps wishing Gaddafi could return). Lamm mentions increasing population “…and political unrest in most of the Middle East and Africa guarantee continued massive migration from that volatile area. Is Europe’s only ethical response to take them all in?”

Lamm mentions that “…the U.S. has its own substantial pressure from south of its boarder (sic).” He then poses the ethical dilemma. “A moral response to an individual or manageable group might not make sense if there are hundreds of thousands. Sheer numbers can totally change the ethical implications.” “The maximum generosity of the developed world cannot absorb the staggering numbers fleeing political chaos, war, violence, and lack of economic opportunity.” Later in the article he writes, “No nation can be expected to commit social and cultural suicide. No ethics can demand what the ecosystem or social fabric of a society cannot support.”

I have fretted since the first reports of ISIS slaughters in Iraq that we as a nation should feel ashamed. Regardless of your beliefs about the justification of the second Iraq War, we did overthrow Saddam Hussein and established a fledgling democracy. We then decided we were “war weary” and withdrew our soldiers. The situation that evolved was predictable. There was an opportunity, perhaps a slim opportunity, to assist in establishing a stable and perhaps even prosperous country where people wouldn’t be slaughtered because they practiced the wrong religion. We instead chose to fulfill a political promise. Is there anyone out there who continues to believe withdrawing was the right thing to do? We also helped “decapitate” the dictatorship in Libya and then sat behind our comfortable borders while terrorists took over.

Perhaps we should be asking whether we’ve learned anything. Are we going to repeat what we did to Iraq in Afghanistan?   I understand the Taliban developed a motto after the announcements that we were going to withdraw on a schedule. “You have the watch and we have the time.”

The Samson Option

samson-optionThis is a fascinating book by Seymour M. Hersh. As suggested by the subtitle, “Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy,” the book is split between describing how Israel developed nuclear weapons and a succession of American Presidents mostly turning a blind eye toward what Israel was doing. Some of the information is astonishing, and I often wondered whether the information was fact or fiction. There seems to have been a significant amount of research in the form of interviews with Israelis and Americans who could have known the secrets that are discussed. My inclination is to present the book as factual, and that is mostly because that would make the book more interesting!

The story begins with a description of how the U.S. shared high resolution images from a spy satellite called the “KH-11.” It seems a bit odd that the Israelis supposedly promised not to use the images for military purposes but used them to develop targets in the Soviet Union. They also used them to target and destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak twelve miles north of Baghdad in early June 1981. The bombing raid was accomplished with F-16s that had been purchased from the U.S. “for defensive purposes only.” The bombing brought about worldwide protest and was the first Middle East crises for the Reagan administration. President Reagan asked his national security advisor, Richard Allen why the Israelis had bombed the facility and was told “Well. Boys will be boys.” The real answer was that Menachem Begin had said that it was necessary to prevent Iraq from developing a nuclear weapon. He said Iraq having nuclear weapons would result in “another Holocaust.” He then added, “Never again! Never again!” Nine hundred Jewish defenders had committed suicide at Masada in 73 A.D. while Samson had killed himself and his captors by pushing apart the temple pillars where he was chained. “For Israel’s nuclear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of saying ‘Never again!’” Continue reading

Bosnian Serbs Erect Statue for Assassin Who Started WWI

Recent commemorations of the beginning of World War I led me to reflect on the difficulties or impossibilities of overcoming centuries of ethnic hatred. One news report described how “Artists and diplomats declared a new century of peace and unity in Europe …in the city where the first two shots of World War I were fired…” Not everyone saw it that way. Another report described Bosnian Serbs unveiling a statute of Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb teenager who killed Crown Prince Ferdinand after Ferdinand had travelled to Sarajevo to inspect his occupying troops.

A hundred years of time have not resolved the divisions. Austrian President Heinz Fischer said “Europeans have learned that no problem can be solved by war. Milorad Dodik, president of the Bosnian Serb half of the country called Princip “…a freedom fighter and the Austro Hungarian empire was an occupier here.”  He added that the people are still divided in “…this country which is being held together by international violence.” An actor portraying Princip posed in front of his statue with a pistol as people shouted “shoot at NATO” and “shoot at the EU.” Continue reading

Iraq after American Troops

I’ve been reading about Iraq after American combat troops were withdrawn in December 2011, and it isn’t a pleasant story. Almost 1,000 people have been killed in September 2013 in Iraq “…as car bombs have become a near daily occurrence in a country seeing its worst surge of violence in five years.” Iraqi civilians have been “…caught in a resurgence of al-Qaeda terrorism that has been growing since the United States pulled out forces two years ago.” Continue reading

Muslim Brotherhood Origins

I’ve been baffled trying to understand the basis of Islamic terrorism and what I have been hearing about the Muslim Brotherhood.  One example of my confusion was how the young men who flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11 after living in the U.S. in complete freedom and tolerance could have enough hate to do what they did. I recently read the book “The Closing of the Muslim Mind” by Robert R. Reilly (that is reviewed on this date) and it provides some answers. I remain conflicted that any God could want the murder of people innocent except that they haven’t read the book of the chosen God and lived their lives strictly by his teachings. However, Reilly’s book explains why there are Islamists who are not conflicted by that. Continue reading

The Closing of the Muslim Mind

muslim_mindThe subtitle of this book by Robert R. Reilly is “How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis,” and the author certainly documents the basis for that subtitle. I did not enjoy reading this book for several reasons. It provides the Islamic words to interpret various descriptions and meanings, and I found that quite distracting.(Page 43 has 14 examples, to include fard for duty and mubah for permitted.) I was also disappointed early when the author announced that he was going to focus strictly on Sunni beliefs and was not going to discuss the “Shi’ites…except tangentially…” I was disappointed there wouldn’t be any help for me understanding the differences between those two groups.

The best of book is Chapter 8, “The Sources of Islamism.” It answers many of my questions about the Muslim Brotherhood and its widespread influence. The origin of the Muslim Brotherhood is traced back to the shock among Islamists over the abolition of the caliphate by Kemal Ataturk in 1924. (I have done a commentary including discussion of that event that I intend to post with this review.) The Muslims decided this must have been caused by their lack of faith. The only solution was to restore “…Muslim faith to a pristine condition.” In late forties and early fifties Sayyid Qutb traveled from Egypt to college in Greely, Colorado. He was disgusted by what he saw as a materialist and degenerate culture. He traveled back to Egypt and became a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He went to the gallows in 1966 smiling, and that image inspires his followers today. It is worth noting that there were periods in the development of the Muslim Brotherhood that they modeled themselves after the Nazi Brownshirts and later were part of the Communist party in Egypt. Continue reading