Is Everything a Threat to National Security?

I was recently sent a gun camera video clip of an American aircraft, presumably a helicopter, “degrading” (what a wonderful euphemism for slaughtering) a unit of ISIS troops after dark.  The fighters, who seemed confused, were mostly taken out by canon fire from the helicopter, though a few guided weapons were called in, a seemingly pricey way to kill one man.  Though I understand that dehumanizing the enemy is valuable to any military, I am normally uncomfortable with this video game warfare, but not this time.  The victims in this case have in effect dehumanized themselves, making traditional bad guys, like the Huns or Mongols or Waffen SS, look relatively benign.  Evil exists in the world, and this is it.

Guys with small dicks

Guys with small dicks

Consequently, I am delighted to see my country participate in blowing these guys up, even if it means the military will clamor for more money.  After all, we bear some considerable responsibility by taking out Saddam Hussein, who for all that he was a thug did maintain a seemingly stable and secular state.  All we did was leave another thug, this one of the Shia persuasion, and a sham Iraqi army equipped with American weaponry just asking to be stolen.

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

But is ISIS really a threat to American national security?  They are definitely a threat to Turkey because of its long frontier with Syria and Iraq, and Turkey seems finally to be waking up to the danger and has announced it will respond if ISIS destroys the Suleyman Shah Shrine commemorating the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Oddly enough, though this shrine is in Syria, it is legally part of Turkey and technically would trigger a NATO response if attacked, which of course would involve the US.  They are obviously a threat to Iraq, but it has never been clear to me why this jury-rigged and now collapsing state is a major concern to the security of American citizens.  They could threaten Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, which because of oil do involve American interests, but most of these places have serious if small military forces and immense amounts of money.  Lebanon, the new Kurdistan and Jordan are friends and already swamped with refugees, but what they have to with the security of the American homeland is not immediately apparent.

Ottoman tomb in Syria

Ottoman tomb in Syria

ISIS is theoretically a threat to Israeli security, but the opinion of the American Congress notwithstanding, Israel is not the United States and to my mind is an ally of questionable value.  She also has perhaps the strongest military in the region and is clearly willing to employ it, regardless of civilian casualties inflicted on the Arab populations.  The Israelis in fact seem disinterested, knowing that Washington cannot call upon them because of the bad publicity, and Tel Aviv had never shown much concern over Muslims killing one another.  As Prime Minister Netanyahu just demonstrated in a speech to the UN, they have their own interests, Iran and Hamas.  The possibility that Iran might obtain a nuclear weapon and then be so inconceivably stupid as to use it on Israel was clearly a much bigger concern for Bibi.  And while Hamas, an organization midwifed by Israeli security services, is a loathsome group, comparing them to ISIS as he did is like comparing a Brown Bess musket to a Kalashnikov.

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Of course Washington has not claimed that we risk seeing an ISIS expeditionary force landing on American shores; the threat is the export of jihadists from the so-called Caliphate, trained terrorists who will kill Americans.  There is no denying this, but unless they are able to kill large numbers of citizens this would appear a rather expansive definition of “national security.”  Domestic security in the wake of 9/11 is such that it is now extremely unlikely that any attack even remotely close to that scale could take place, and in any case if the deaths of thousands of Americans is a national security question, we have far more compelling issues.  According to the FBI, in a five year period – 2008 to 2012 – 45,105 Americans were murdered with firearms, yet the government seems disinclined to take any real action on this issue.  In the same period 52,793 Americans died from drunk driving, but this is never mentioned as a threat to national security.  Apparently it only counts if some foreign ideology is involved.

One would suppose that the people who are directly threatened by ISIS, the Turks and sundry Arab states, would be the ones most concerned about stopping these sociopaths, but ancient tribal hostilities prevent that.  Turkey – or at least Recep Erdoğan – would like to see ISIS destroy the Kurds, even though the jihadists are the greater danger and new oil-rich Kurdistan offers an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation.  The Gulf states, medieval kingdoms with 21st century weaponry, are reluctant to attack fellow Sunnis, who are in fact attacking the Alawites (a Shia group) in Damascus, and are afraid of Shiite and non-Arab Iran.  Iran, which has no qualms about killing ISIS Sunnis, is reluctant to cooperate with the Gulf states and especially the United States.  The government in Baghdad seems more interested in maintaining its sectarian-based political power than protecting their rump state, which actually makes them more like the American Congress than their medieval friends.

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Threat to national security

Well, ISIS may not be a threat to American national security, but for once my government is bombing people who seriously need killing.  The Taliban are medieval creeps and al-Qaeda are anti-American jerks, but ISIS is truly evil and an offense to civilization.

This is ISIS

This is ISIS

 

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And It’s One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?

Even what little information about the situation in Afghanistan that dribbles out of our increasingly coy and entertainment-oriented media suggests, at least to a reasonable and non-politically warped person, that things are not going all that well for the freedom-loving saviors from the West.  Our soldiers continue to be blown up in areas declared secure, and well organized strikes take place in Kabul itself.  More telling, the number of attacks on “NATO” troops (this is clearly an American war) by members of the Afghan military and security forces we are training is increasing.  Reports of Afghan officials departing the country with suitcases full of money abound, and the “democracy” we are building charges rape victims with adultery.  And the word is that the Pentagon and White House are annoyed with the pessimistic reports coming out of the CIA, reports which are of course classified.

Well, suspicions are confirmed by an intelligence report leaked in Germany, where Berlin is painting the same rosy picture as Washington, Chancellor Merkel having as much political capital as President Obama invested in a war that has precious little to do with American security and absolutely nothing to do with German interests.  Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, has issued a report on the situation in Afghanistan and the prognosis for the next two years, and though it is marked “classified/confidential” because it so at odds with what both the German and American governments are saying, it has been leaked.

Both governments are claiming that no more combat troops will be needed after 2014, only trainers for the Afghan army, which of course is killing Americans on a regular basis now.  According to the BNDreport, at least 35,000 troops will be required to stabilize the country, and “stabilize” hardly suggests creating a state that can stand alone.  The analysis also found no evidence that the Taliban is willing to enter serious negotiations, especially with the government in Kabul, and is just biding its time.

Afghan President Karzai is the target of particular criticism.  His main goal appears to be maintaining power, not just for himself but also his family: he is positioning his brother to succeed him as president.  His government is thoroughly corrupt, and despite assurances by himself and by Washington he has implemented no reforms, nor is there any evidence that he intends to.  He is certainly willing to deal with the Taliban in order to secure his position, which hardly sounds promising for Afghan women.  But the US must defend him as the democratic reformer, since abandoning him would be an admission of a failure that has cost us a trillion dollars and the lives of more than 2000 soldiers.

Of course none of this is surprising for anyone familiar with Afghan society, which has not changed since the British – and probably Alexander – were there.
The “country” is occupied by several ethnic groups that share a tradition of mutual hostility, and corruption and nepotism are ingrained in Afghan society.  The Afghanis are accustomed to rule by petty kings, tribal leaders and warlords, and it is questionable whether democracy could work even were the country not facing the Taliban and sundry religious whackos coming out of Waziristan.  Even a cursory knowledge of Afghan history would have strongly suggested that attempting anything more than bombing the Taliban and supporting a friendly warlord was complete folly, but the Congress and the White House, motivated by political considerations, have traditionally paid little or no attention to the actual experts in the State Department.  You would think that the British at least would know better, which they probably do, but when Washington speaks Europe must listen.

The prosecution of this war has become positively surreal.  A growing majority of Americans us want to leave immediately, and the vast majority of the citizens of our NATO allies never supported the war in the first place.  The Afghanis, while traditionally hospitable to guests, are also traditionally hostile to foreign soldiers in their land, and they practice a religion that requires conduct seemingly impossible for westerners to adhere to.  We are allied with and provide huge amounts of money to Pakistan, whose people hate us more and more and whose intelligence service is actually aiding the people we are fighting.  And as a breeding ground for international Islamic terrorism Pakistan now leads the world, although the ideological underpinning, Wahhabism, emanates from Saudi Arabia, another of our friends and one of the most oppressive countries on earth.  Finally, while the Taliban government sheltered international terrorists, for which reason we blew them away, they had no real grudge against the US.  They probably do now.

So why are we still there?  Primarily, I suspect, because no politician will ever admit the failure of a policy he is associated with, and everyone was associated with this clearly failed policy of turning Aghanistan into a democratic civilized nation.  But also because neither party, especially those wimpy Democrats, wants to look weak on terrorism (it used to be communism), even though most Americans could not care less, especially since they appear to have forgotten the war altogether.  A true leader in the government could easily make the case that not only is this war an incredible waste of lives and money, but it also actually damages our security by squandering military resources and producing new jihadis by the thousands.  But when was the last time you saw a serious leader among our political class?  Besides, our politicians are all dependent upon big money, which includes the people who make immense profits feeding Mars.

So, for two more years Americans and others will continue to die in some god-forsaken place that has nothing to do with our security and where everyone hates us.  And all because politicians in Washington are afraid of being castigated, not by the voters but by the other party.  Vietnam is beginning to seem like a sensible war:

And it’s one, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop’s Afghanistan.

H.R. 4133: the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation and Screw the Taxpayer Act

On May 9 the House of Representatives passed a bill that could have a dramatic impact on America’s foreign policy and will certainly cost us a lot of money, but since any news of this legislation was virtually absent from the mainstream media, very few Americans are aware of it existence.  H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was slipped through the House under a rules suspension that allowed a quick vote with virtually no debate.  The bill had bipartisan backing, being introduced by Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer and two particularly loathsome Republicans, who seem to owe their primary allegiance to Israel, Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.  (Actually, the bill had “tripartisan” backing, since the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Tel Aviv’s powerful instrument in America, helped write it.)  The vote was 411-2, only Ron Paul (R) and John Dingell (D) voting against.  How odd that our increasingly dysfunctional and divided government could achieve virtually unanimity on a bill, one that most Americans will never hear of.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence and honesty already knows what actions counter to our interests Israel’s stranglehold on Washington has forced upon us, but this bill represents a mind-numbing escalation of commitment to a state whose foreign and domestic policies are at odds with what this country presumes to stand for.  In essence the bill is a blank check from the American taxpayer, who will now be obliged to support Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over all its neighbors combined, of course leaving it to Israel and its Congressional supporters (which is to say, almost all of Congress) to decide exactly what that vague phrase means.  Certainly, one thing it means is that we will be sending more of our money out of the country in order to support activities of extremely questionable legality and morality.

The legislation also affirms our commitment to the “security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”  This is an interesting development in our “passionate attachment” (G. Washington) to Israel.  We have of course spent decades squandering our money and international credibility on an “ally” whose value to American security and interests (apart from domestic politics) is not at all clear and which continually violates the international law we are pledged to uphold and the basic values that we trumpet to the world.  But now we have pledged (for the first time in our history, I believe) to guarantee the religious/cultural nature of a foreign country.

One might legitimately ask why we should care, unless it was to criticize an oppressive government, which we cannot do anyway in the case of Israel, but more than that, what exactly does this mean?  When the Muslim minority in Israel’s citizen body becomes the majority, as it inevitably will, will the US have to intervene?  When Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are formally incorporated into Eretz Yisrael will we have to help enforce apartheid or deport all those Palestinians?  If a majority of Israeli citizens voted to declare Israel a secular state, would we have to prop up a minority government?  And exactly what is a “Jewish state,” especially when the majority of inhabitants of the state in question do not practice Judaism?

The legislation requires the US to supply all sorts of equipment for the “defense” of Israel.  Of course, Israel has always been able to utterly smash its enemies, requiring only resupply from a compliant Uncle Sam, and the only potentially threatening neighbor whose military might be improving is Egypt, whose major supplier, America, is hardly likely to provide her an edge.  Included in the list are refueling tankers and bunker-busting bombs, which are obviously offensive weapons, unless of course your definition of defense includes preemptive strikes against other countries, which it does in the eyes of Israel – and increasingly the United States.  What are now called “preemptive strikes” were traditionally labeled “wars of aggression.”  I wonder if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor can be called a preemptive strike?  After all, American naval power was a threat to the continued existence of the Japanese Empire.

One particularly frightening part of the bill is the expressed desire for Israel to play an increased role in NATO, included a presence at NATO headquarters and involvement in NATO exercises.  The clear intention is that Israel ultimately become a member of NATO, thus dragging the entire European alliance into her wars and making it complicit in her continued violation of international law.  With that Israel could attack Iran or any other country with impunity, because if the victim dare fight back, the United States and the rest of NATO would be required to come to her aid.  This would be placing an assault rifle in the hands of an ill disciplined child.  But it is hard to imagine Turkey signing on to this plan, and one hopes the majority of European members would also object.  Of course, then Congress would begin looking at an actual treaty with Israel, though given the utter subservience of our politicians to Israeli interests, it would hardly be necessary.

One final slap in our face.  Washington has agreed to put up an additional $680 million (beyond the $3.1 billion we pay every year) to help Israel pay for her Iron Dome anti-missile system and the new F-35 fighter.  Israel has also requested another $168 million for security measures, while the Obama administration has asked for $99.9 million on top of that.  And to make sure poor Israel does not run out of American money the Iron Dome Support Act, introduced by Berman and the ever vigilant Ross-Lehtinen, would require our Treasury to keep shelling out the money.  And here is the joke on us: Israel has this year cut its defense budget by 5% and intends to do the same next year!  Oh, there is a second joke: the United States has absolutely no rights to the technology being developed for the Iron Dome system, which will be marketed to the world by Israel.  Perhaps we can get a special deal.

We have become a silly nation.