The War on Terror Spectator

The War on Terror Spectator

America’s Dilemma in Iraq

By 6.20.14

To think of mass graves is to think backwards in history—Babi Yar in Ukraine or the one million Jews still being unearthed from the Treblinka death camp. To see similar images today, shown in vivid color photos right down to the grains of sand in the makeshift ditch, is startling. Yet that’s exactly what the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has provided us, along with boasts that the dead are 1,700 Shias from the Iraqi army.

The country that once concealed Saddam Hussein’s mass graves is once again the site of anachronistic brutality, but this time with a modern twist. ISIS has proven savvy at using social media to broadcast its destruction across the world. Earlier this year they released photos of two men in neighboring Syria suspected of being spies, covered in blood and crucified on crosses.

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In Search of a Strongman

By 6.19.14

A Middle Eastern proverb tells of a Bedouin chief who believed that consumption of fowl would increase his masculine dignity and bought a turkey. One morning, he found his turkey was gone from its usual place outside his tent. The chief called his sons together and told them that his turkey had been stolen by bandits. "Find my turkey!" he told them in rage, but they laughed and departed.

The next morning, the chief awoke to find that his camel had been stolen. His sons came to his tent of their own accord to make a plan for its recovery, but the chief just told them, "Find my turkey."

The next day, the leader's daughter was raped, and his sons descended upon his tent in rage. "How could this have happened?" they asked. He replied, "None of this would have happened if you had found my turkey."

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Iraq’s Deadly Geography

By 6.13.14

The demographics of the Middle East have long clashed with the region's geography. Nowhere is this clearer than in Iraq, where the arbitrarily drawn borders enclose three distinct ethnic groups. Now, with violence from Syria spilling into Iraq, the region, and the world, are learning a tough geography lesson.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS, is demonstrating the power of a good mission statement. As even the group's name suggests, ISIS plans to establish a state of extremist Sunni Islam from Syria—where the group gained infamy fighting Bashar al-Assad—into Iraq. Their efforts so far have been alarmingly successful.

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How Foreign Is Our Policy?

By 4.1.14

Many people are lamenting the bad consequences of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and some are questioning his competence.

There is much to lament, and much to fear. Multiple setbacks to American interests have been brought on by Obama’s policies in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Crimea and — above all — in what seems almost certain to become a nuclear Iran in the very near future.

The president’s public warning to Syria of dire consequences if the Assad regime there crossed a “red line” he had drawn seemed to epitomize an amateurish bluff that was exposed as a bluff when Syria crossed that red line without suffering any consequences. Drawing red lines in disappearing ink makes an international mockery of not only this president’s credibility, but also the credibility of future American presidents’ commitments.

When some future President of the United States issues a solemn warning internationally, and means it, there may be less likelihood that the warning will be taken seriously. That invites the kind of miscalculation that has led to wars.

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Another Galling Betrayal

By 2.19.14

The Afghanistan government’s recent release of dozens of imprisoned terrorists, many of whom had killed Americans, was a galling betrayal of those Americans who died defending Afghanistan against the Taliban terrorists — as well as those Americans who have returned home with arms or legs missing, or with minds traumatized beyond repair.

If we learn nothing else from the bitter tragedy of the war in Afghanistan, it should be that we should put an end forever to the self-indulgence of thinking that we can engage in “nation-building” and creating “democracy” in countries where nothing resembling democracy has ever existed.

It would be a feat to achieve one of these objectives, but to achieve both at the same time is a gamble that makes playing Russian roulette look like a harmless pastime.

F.A. Hayek said, “We shall not grow wiser until we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.” Nothing is more foolish — and immoral — than sending men into battle to risk their lives winning victories that are later lost by politicians for political reasons.

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Why Syria Is Forcing British Intelligence Into Hard Choices

By 1.23.14

These are busy and difficult times at New Scotland Yard, Thames House, Vauxhall Cross and “the doughnut.” Over the last few days, British Police have separately arrested two men and one woman at London’s Heathrow Airport, another man at London’s Stansted Airport and a further woman in North London. The common theme? The suspects travel/intended travel either to or from Istanbul. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here. Turkey is Europe’s launching pad for the Syrian civil war.

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Obama’s CYA Strategy

By 12.13.13

The concept of American “forward defense posture,” in use by the Pentagon since the Cold War, has kept major U.S. military units assigned to Europe (mostly Germany) and Asia, with smaller commitments elsewhere as events dictate. It has been estimated that there are several hundred (up to 700, according to the Russians) U.S. military installations of all types currently in existence worldwide. The strategic issue of forward defense is not really arguable; it is the size of each commitment and length of stay that is the real and recurring question. Pertinently, that is the issue with Afghanistan.

Differing arguments have been made for keeping the American military presence in Afghanistan below 10,000 combat and support troops — or, depending on the advocate, above 15,000. It is no longer a matter of defending Afghan territory from Taliban incursions. That supposedly is the Afghan Army’s job. The stated aim instead is to restrict the ability of the radical Islamist groups, e.g. al Qaeda, from regrouping and using areas of Afghanistan as a training ground and operational jumping off point for attacks against international targets.

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Nigerian Jihad

By 7.19.13

In the populous African nation, Islamism is gaining power.
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