Sleepless in Seattle: Clueless in DC and New York
It is hard for the average American, to answer tough questions about terrorism or Mid-east politics. It is natural, then, to rely on “experts” in government, the press and academia to give responses to the following queries:
- Is Islamic extremism a growing force inside the United States?
- What chances are there to develop more peace and stability from the political upheavals that have been called “Arab Spring”?
- How can we work with the Syrian government or against the Syrian government to end the bloodshed in that country?
- Is Iran making atomic bombs? What does that mean? Could we try to stop it?
- Can we employ Islamist Turkey to negotiate with Iran, and are the Turks more useful in fighting terror than Israel?
- Is the Muslim Brotherhood a moderate organization, and does it make sense to help them gain control of Egypt?
- Would solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem help the rest of the Mid-East, ands should the US press Israel to find a “two-state solution” with the PLO?
These are all good questions, but anyone who tracks the responses and the results over the last two years will see that many of our most highly regarded experts have been calamitously wrong time after time.
President Barack Obama directed his homeland security people and the US military to stop using the terms Islamic extremism and Islamic terrorism, even there are clear signs such phenomena are rising. The New York Police Department alone foiled more than a dozen Islamic terror plots recently, but it was the Associated Press that won a Pulitzer Prize for a series attacking the NYPD for supposedly harassing Muslims.
Like AP and the New York Times, Obama worries more about staining an entire segment of the population—Muslims—than protecting the non-Muslim majority. A 60-page US Senate report shows that the Fort Hood terror attack (where 13 were murdered) could easily have been prevented, had US officials acted on warnings, instead of brushing them aside as politically incorrect.
Islamic terror attacks have risen in the US during Obama’s term, but the Obama team—particularly Attorney General Eric Holder—has moved to stop prosecutions and investigations of Muslim groups that are believed to help finance the Brotherhood. A set of indictments—the second round of the Holy Land Foundation case—that was pending in Texas was set aside.
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton feel “Arab Spring” is in the air, bringing democracy to the Mid-East. They pulled the rug out from under President Husni Mubarak. Obama-Clinton and many media “experts” were sure Mubarak would be succeeded by modern democrats. Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood took over.
Key Obama aides pretend that the Brotherhood is really moderate. Muhammad Morsi, a Brotherhood leader who is Egypt’s president, says he wants to build a caliphate—an Islamic empire—whose capital is Jerusalem. He just opened Egypt’s border with Gaza, allowing Hamas and other terror groups to move freely in and out of the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel.
Such terrorists have already attacked Israel and Jordan from Sinai, and they blew up gas pipelines to both countries. Egypt’s new regime just made that all much easier. This may also make it easier for terrorists to attack the nearby Suez Canal where supertankers carry cargoes of oil. Think of what that means for fuel prices in the US.
Egypt’s president Morsi and his colleagues speak about imposing Islamic religious law, inhibiting tourists, curbing the rights of Egypt’s ancient Christian community, and threatening to break the peace treaty with Israel, unless Israelwithdraws totally from the West Bank. Obama-Clinton have smiled at this, inviting Morsi for talks.
Obama-Clinton sided with Turkey and kept Israel out of recent NATO exercises and two high-level counter-terror forums in Istanbul and Madrid. Turkey’s Islamist leader Recep Erdogan is a favorite of Obama. Erdogan likes to help Hamas. People close to him were behind the attempt to crack the arms blockade Israel imposed on Gaza to impede the terror by Hamas. Can we imagine what Americans would think of an ally who tried to help the Soviets run the arms blockade of Cuba in 1962?
Obama-Clinton have been similarly clueless about Syria. They sent an ambassador there, deliberately ignoring the strong objections of Congress, just in time for Bashar Assad’s commencement of the mass murder 20,000 of his own citizens. Obama can claim that many in the US intelligence community also liked the idea.
Paul Pillar, the CIA’s longtime top Mid-East desk officer wrote in 2011 how the US could “do business” with the Assad regime for mutual gain. Dr. Pillar also wrote a National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 that claimed Iran was not aiming for nuclear weapons. The CIA became the butt of jokes from all other agencies. In 2000, Pillar wrote a book ridiculing the idea of a terror threat to the US.
That is quite a record, but others at CIA, the State Department, and many leading voices in the press and academia can match it. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman often says—without any proof—that total Israeli land concessions to the Palestinians will engender peace throughout the Middle East.
There are many problems with Friedman’s analysis: there is no link between the Palestinians and most problems in the Mid East. Also, the “Palestinians” are not really sure who they are and who their leaders are, but they almost all reject the idea that Jews/Israelis are a people deserving a state of their own.
Israel made great concessions and gotten exactly the opposite of peace.So, Tom. Friedman’s analysis fits Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
We see that same kind of behavior by our top policymakers and experts: Let’s be kind and not call them insane. Just clueless.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He is an ex-reporter, correspondent and editor respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, and The Jerusalem Post. He served Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and as advisor to Israeli negotiating teams in 1991-92 at the Madrid Summit and thereafter. He teaches at Bar Ilan University.