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This blog serves my columns as an archive, a place to add footnotes, and unedited previews and drafts of my weekly column for the Sky Hi News.(www.skyhidailynews.com) Often these drafts are posted on my Facebook page, The Muftic Forum, which is used as my main method of electronic distribution and comments from my readers.
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Middle Eastern governments
needed to fight ISIS are awakening . New winds are blowing thanks to both ISIS’
miscalculations and changes in our allies’ leadership.
US strategy is to
avoid Iraq II by keeping our engagement limited to air support, the spotters, trainers,
and equipment needed to help local allies on the ground engage in the actual
combat role and joint air support. It
has been an uphill climb for many complicated reasons to get our allies to join
us. That is changing.
The Nouri al- Maliki government in control post occupation
of Iraq became a Shia despot, refusing to share power with Sunnis and Kurds and
replaced the US trained military leadership with incompetent cronies. ISIS, comprised of Sunnis and Al Qaeda in Iraq,
exploited that. Only when al -Maliki stepped down in August 2014 could the US
begin to get the Iraqi army up to snuff and better equip the Kurds.
A complication is that our chief allies in the region are
Sunnis as are ISIS and are also engaged in a power struggle with Shia in Iran
and in Iraq. Arab Sunni kings and emirs
allied with the US had feared to jeopardize their hold on power since they had many
subjects sympathetic to ISIS.
When ISIS burned to
death a Sunni Jordanian pilot, it drove Arab Sunnis leaders and their streets
to turn against ISIS. It was a gross miscalculation on ISIS’ part who had hoped
to scare off military participation of US’ Sunni allies. Jordan’s chief religious leaders condemned
ISIS as un-Islamic and gave the King of Jordan political and religious cover to
engage wholeheartedly. The United Arab Emirates joined with Jordan.
Saudi Arabia had nurtured the Wahhabi-Salafist
puritanical violent jihadist form of Islam that permits killing of innocents.
ISIS embraced the same interpretation. Some Saudi princes were a source of
funding of ISIS. An elderly king did little to curb it. With the new King Salman, Saudi Arabian’s top
Muslim cleric February 23 denounced “terrorist groups...
who have opted for savage and barbaric practices”. King Salman proclaimed
is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology…It is a threat to our
Muslim nation and to the entire world.” Their next step: translating words to action.
An Egyptian secular military dictatorship replaced the
Muslim Brotherhood in a 2013 coup. The Christian Coptic community was subjected
to persecution. ISIS affiliates, trying
to position themselves as the savior of Islam against Christian crusaders,
beheaded Egyptian Coptic guest workers in Libya. If they thought Egypt would
not care, they miscalculated, and Egypt took to the air in revenge.
Turkey’s Sunni Islamist government asked for US military aid
to take the fight to Assad in Syria. However, Turkey still sees ISIS as the enemy of their
enemies, the Kurds and Shia, and allows ISIS foreign fighters transit to Syria.
Europe and Australia, after terrorist attacks in Paris,
Copenhagen, and Sydney began measures such as crackdowns and passport confiscation
to stop their citizens from joining ISIS. In Bosnia, 45% Muslim, moderate and
secular, a Salafist cleric recruiting ISIS fighters from unemployed rural youth,
A version of this appeared in the www.skyhidailynews.com March 13 2015.http://www.skyhidailynews.com/news/15289371-113/muftic-the-middle-east-rallies-against-isis
The US is embroiled in a domestic and foreign semantics war.
President Obama explained why he uses certain words of “violent extremists” to
describe ISIS in remarks at a White House conference February 18. He unleashed a firestorm from domestic
political opponents who pounced on the
President for not using “Islamic” as part of his ISIS tag. He was “adrift in denial” per Wall Street
Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Others questioned his love of country because
of his “different” background all because he did not use the same words they
It is not President
Obama that is in denial. Those in denial
are the ones who are blind to the fact that we are in a war for hearts and minds of
the rest of the over one billion Muslims who have not bought into ISIS’s
ideology or methodology yet. His critics are conducting a semantics war on Obama,
but Obama understands that the use of wrong words can hurt our efforts to develop an
effective alliance and undermine our campaign against ISIS.
We depend on Muslim
allies such as Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, and the Kurds to be the combat boots instead
of us. ISIS’
interpretation of Islam is not our allies’ and they are beginning to put their
abhorrence into military action. February 19th Obama called on 60
nations, including Islamic religious leaders, at a meeting at the White House to discuss
combatting the ISIS message. Ticking them and our allies off with hostile
remarks about their religion is not a sane strategy.
This is how he explained it February 18: “Al Qaeda and ISIL …are
desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious
leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam… And they propagate the notion
that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam. That’s
how they recruit…. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious
legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists
and we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with those who perverted Islam”.
are not words of a person in denial or “clueless about radical Islam”. They are the words of someone thinking
Where the critics go very wrong is complaining that his words
dictate his military strategy. His actions speak louder than words. Look at what he is asking: war powers to take
on ISIS, even at the risk of turning off his liberal supporters. He is planning
to put more boots on the ground, limited to special forces, spotters and
trainers. The air war is already in full swing.
There is a legitimate debate about whether to give the
President the option of a mass invasion
and occupation of Iraq again. If the proponents of a re-enactment of the Iraq
invasion and occupation get their way, this time there would be no end to
occupation. Twelve years of occupation did not work. Other than Iraq II, the critics have offered no
workable alternative except more of the same he is already doing. They need to
do better than just throwing verbal bombs at the President.
A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi News Feb 27, 2015 http://www.skyhidailynews.com/news/15173021-113/muftic-semantic-war-on-obama-misses-target
all of the GOP field of potential candidates for president lack foreign policy
experience. That is alarming. Whoever
is elected to the White House will assume the mantel of the leader of the Free
and Western World and must be able to command respect of our allies if they
have any hope to lead them. Given the threats from Russia rising and ISIS
inflaming, this is not the time for amateur hour, steep learning curves, and on
the job education. Too many mistakes in
judgment calls based in ignorance while learning the ropes could be
catastrophic for national security.
GOP governors set about lately to fill gaps in their resumes before they begin
their campaigns for the White House. They failed the” worthy of respect” test. They were nearly laughed out of England.
A four day visit of courtesy calls and viewing
ancient architecture does not bestow credentials of foreign affair expertise on
anyone whose total career has been absorbed by state and local issues. In fact, the governors’ ignorance became
painfully obvious when they incorrectly assumed they are on the same page with
their host country. The idea of gaining foreign policy experience
is to listen and learn, not to lecture their hosts about what the people they
are visiting should think. Stump speeches and campaign modes should be left at
Gaining knowledge of beliefs held by
foreigners does not necessarily mean agreement, but it is helpful in watching language
and semantics when abroad to make a better impression, to win friends and
Scott Walker of Wisconsin this month refused to deny the concept of creationism
in an appearance on British television. Interviewers’ faces could not mask their
raised eyebrows and disbelief.. Walker confirmed what the more secular
Europeans believe: America
is full of science deniers still stuck in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. What
sells in Kansas on this issue gets few buyers in most of the world.
Christie of New Jersey likewise stumbled when he pandered to a fringe group
that opposed measles vaccines. He
allowed it was fine for parents to have a choice in vaccinating their kids. Sen.
Rand Paul, though not in the UK, voiced something similar, linking measles
vaccines to autism for which there was no scientific evidence. Both had to do some quick back peddling.
shrillest voice criticizing the careful semantics President Obama uses in
referring to Muslims has been Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. He is the same governor who, while visiting
the United Kingdom. lectured the English that there were some parts of Great Britain that were no go zones for British police because
they were controlled by Muslims. That tidbit was news to the British, but it
certainly hyped Muslimphobia back home.
most Americans usually do not make foreign policy the main factor in voting
choices, it might be different in 2016, especially if we have not yet defeated
ISIS. The GOP needs to vet its
candidates very carefully if they have any chance of beating a hawkish former
secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. A version of this was published in the www.skyhinews.com February 19 2015 http://www.skyhidailynews.com/news/15106518-113/muftic-gop-candidates-short-on-foreign-policy
I constantly ask
myself why there are those so many determined to deprive people of their health
insurance? For the 56th time,
the GOP dominated House voted to repeal the ACA (Obamacare) last week. It was a futile exercise because President
Obama still has the veto power. Do they just not care that insurance was
unaffordable for millions before the ACA or are there other reasons? I can
speculate on the answers.
Ideology plays a big role. I often hear expressed fear of
federal government taking over. Small government is always better. States’ rights should prevail. Private enterprise should always do it instead.
There are those who do not want any government to mandate them to do anything,
much less help anyone else to be able to afford health insurance.
The old status quo was tolerable, say some. Emergency rooms
are good enough care; preventative care is not that important. So what if
charity care and unpaid medical bills hike everyone else’s premiums. It is ok
those stuck with unaffordable medical bills lose their homes or go bankrupt.
Deficit hawks care
more than anything that the ACA will run up the deficit in the next ten years. At
least that is how Senate Republicans interpret a recent government report.
Prior year reports showed it would reduce the deficit. Next year could show
something different. Legislative tweaks
with payfor strategies and tackling entitlements are tougher to do.
However the reason for Obamacare in the first place was private
sector insurers had already failed to cover so many and states other than
Massachusetts were unwilling to provide a solution. So far the GOP
has failed to agree among themselves on a comparably effective replacement.
there are partisan loyalists and Obama haters whose main motivation is to
cripple President Obama. There is a lawsuit now before the Supreme Court which
could rule that subsidies issued through the federal web site were illegal;
only subsidies could only be provided through state exchanges. The chief
plaintiff bringing the suit, David M. King, thinks the president is an “idiot” and has posted altered images
of the first lady in Middle Eastern clothing. A Court ruling against Obamacare would mean
80% of the 9 million beneficiaries of the ACA who receive those subsidies
through the federal exchanges would be unable to afford their health insurance
premiums. That the thirty five states
refusing to set up state exchanges would reverse themselves is slim since they
have state houses controlled by Republicans hostile to Obamacare.
a failure? In spite of reparable computer glitches, the ACA is doing what it
was designed to do even part of the way to full implementation. By the end of 2016, 24 million fewer Americans
will lack insurance, per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Independent factcheck.org concluded premiums
for employed and individuals have risen at a much lower rate than in the Bush
years even accounting for the recession’s effect, nor will the ACA cost
thousands for everyone insured. Fewer adults reported medical bill problems. Destroying
Obamacare would reverse those gains. A version of this was published in the www.skyhidailynews.com
I grew up in a fearful world and it
is still one…only the players have changed and it is a much more complex world now
that cries for new strategies. There are those who are quick to criticize President
Obama as ignoring the dangers of Islam
or being feckless without a strategy, but they are vague about what they would
do differently. They instead monger fear and hark to Cold War days.
Fear is a political
tool. It can be a powerful message to rally political support. It is easy to
communicate and to grab emotions or to silence opposing views as being soft on
something or are not living in their real world as they perceive it .
Hyping fear was not a strategy that ended the Cold War. It
took patience, faith in ourselves, strength, and a cold calculation that spending
the Soviet Union into financial ruin in an arms race would end it. Yes, the Reagan strategy worked.
Times have changed since the Cold War I experienced. One
size of tactics and attitudes do not fit all. It is a multi-polar world of
threats, not a bi polar one. The nuclear threat still nags us, but many of our current
adversaries are not in an arms race, but use low tech tactical methods and
modern media. Terrorists often come from poor, oppressive countries and have
little to lose. Immigrants to the West feel alienated. Sunni and Shia are fighting for the control of
Islam. New generations have access to
the internet and demand better governance and prosperity.
In contrast, prosperity
in Russia and China has given their leaders much more to lose in war now than
before and more than ever, their leaders depend upon popular support. That is
why President Obama’s foreign policy
uses economic sanctions as a tool and beefing up NATO as an implied threat to
halt further Russian land grabs.
These realities call for smart strategies tailor made for such
currents. This should not become a religious war between Christians and Islam
in the same way we pitted capitalism against communism. Insulting their religion or ginning up
Muslimphobia is what ISIS hopes we do.
It empowers them, a relatively small cult of Islam, to recruit many others
to their cause. As Pres. Obama said in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN
February 1,” we should align ourselves with the 99% of Muslims who reject the
extremists.”, which explains his careful wording about practitioners of
terrorism that some on the right wrongly
interpret as ignoring the threat.
There are alternatives to combat boots and occupation: Tough
homeland security and building effective alliances. Zakaria
in a January 22 Washington Post column advocated a realistic counter to deal
with radical Islam. Increasing
intelligence and counterterrorism (including carefully targeted drone strikes),
improving integration of Muslims living in the West, and resilience, meaning “terrorism doesn’t work if we are not terrorized, .. bouncing
back and returning to normalcy” and not overreacting to ISIS beheadings. Per that latter point, I award the best responses to terrorist attacks:
“Boston Strong” and “Je suis Charlie”. A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News...February 5, 6 2015 http://www.skyhidailynews.com/news/14899100-113/muftic-hyping-fear-wont-stop-terrorists