In the past, the United States was the “glory of the world”, mainly after it came to the aid of Europe in the Second World War, the victory over Germany and Japan in 1945, and the American success in establishing a democratic state in South Korea (1953) following the war against the communists, who were allied with China and the USSR. However, the glory of the U.S. has faded during the last generation. Historians point to Vietnam as the beginning of the process of decline; the war lasted 16 years (1959-1975), cost the lives of almost 60,000 American soldiers and ended in a disastrous American rout and Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, falling to the Vietcong, the militia of communist North Vietnam.
The Vietnam War left parts of American society with a lack of will to fight for the values of freedom and democracy, especially if it’s a question of fighting in countries outside of the U.S. The U.S. military took part in several wars since 1975, but in the Middle East its performances were not always satisfactory. As a result of this, the military strength of the U.S. does not make much of an impression in the Arab and Islamic world, and even back in September of 1970 the terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine did not hesitate to hijack American and British jets to Jordan and blow them up for all the world to see.
In 1973 the American ambassador, his deputy and the deputy ambassador of Belgium were kidnapped in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan by the Palestinian organization “Black September,” and were executed on the personally telephoned orders of Yasir Arafat. Despite the fact that the Americans recorded the discussion and knew all of the details in real-time, the humiliation by the terrorist silenced them and Arafat subsequently became (with the help of a few bleeding-heart Israelis who were taken in by his charisma and his lies) a “darling of the peace groupies.” He mocked the Americans, fooled them without blinking an eye, and they believed him.
The Iranian audacity towards the U.S. knows no bounds: In October 2011, Iran attempted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, no less than the capital of the U.S. The Iranians have no problem calling the U.S. “the Great Satan,” which has only one meaning: that holy war must be waged against the U.S. – a jihad for the sake of Allah, which will only end with the destruction of the U.S. government and the conversion of its citizens to Shi’ite Islam.
In April 1983 Hizb’Allah – the long arm of Iran in Lebanon – blew up the U.S. embassy in another breach of its sovereignty and killed 63 people. In October of that same year, Hizb’allah demolished Marine headquarters in Beirut killing 241 American soldiers and citizens. The American reaction was to flee from Lebanon, which very much encouraged Hizb’Allah and its patrons in Iran and Syria, and caused the United States to appear as a country without a backbone. A month before this, in March of 1983, Hizb’Allah attacked the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, and in June, 1985 Hizb’Allah organized the hijacking of an American passenger jet of TWA. In June, 1996 Hizb’Allah carried out an attack on an American military base in Saudi Arabia. All of these attacks, carried out by Shi’ite Hizb’Allah with Iranian inspiration, were left unanswered by the Americans.
Qadhaffi’s Libya also contributed its part to aggression against the U.S. with the attack on the disco in Berlin where a number of American soldiers were killed as they were enjoying a night out in 1986. The aggression was answered with an attack on Qadhaffi’s palace, and although his adopted daughter was killed, he did not stand down: In 1988, he organized a revenge attack on a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing almost 300 people. What was his punishment? Nothing, until 2011, when the United States was dragged into attacking Libya, almost reluctantly.
On the Sunni side of the Islamic equation, they saw the American weakness toward Iran and Hizb’Allah, and also decided to increase the pressure on the U.S.: in August, 1990, Saddam Hussein disregarded U.S. warnings and invaded Kuwait, one of the West’s main suppliers of oil, claiming that Kuwait is a province of Iraq. The West was outraged, and led by the U.S., in January, 1991, it entered a war that successfully liberated Kuwait, but did not liberate Iraq and the world from Saddam Hussein. This war caused the detractors of the U.S. to draw two conclusions: One is that the West goes out to war not for idealism but rather for interests, and in the case of Kuwait, oil was the causative factor. The second conclusion is that the West is afraid of causing regime change, no matter how bad the regime may be, because of the fear that the successor will be even worse. However, in this war there was an additional American failure. There were Americans, perhaps CIA operatives, who hinted to the Shi’ites in Southern Iraq that if they rebel against Saddam, the U.S. will support them and overthrow him. In March 1991 the Shi’ite rebellion against Saddam (who had been vanquished in Kuwait) began, but he put down the rebellion with great cruelty, costing the lives of tens of thousands of Shi’ites, and the U.S. did not lift a finger. The effect of the American betrayal of the Shi’ites of Iraq at that time continues until today to influence the way the Shi’ites in Iraq relate to the U.S.
In October 1993, an American commando force entering the city by helicopter, tried to capture two terrorists in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. The helicopter was shot down by the Somalis, who then killed 18 American soldiers and defiled their bodies. All of this was recorded on camera without fear of enraging the Americans.
Bin Laden, after his mujahedin succeeded in throwing out the Soviets from Afghanistan and accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union, decided to turn the American weapons against the U.S., the world leader of heresy, permissiveness and materialistic culture. In December 1992, jihadists attacked hotels near the port of Aden where U.S. soldiers were housed. In February 1993, the first attempt to collapse the twin towers was carried out in New York. In August 1998. U.S. embassies in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and Dar as-Salam the capital of Tanzania, were blown up, killing 224 and leaving thousands of wounded. In 2000, al-Qaeda attacked the frigate USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 soldiers. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda organized a series of attacks in the United States on symbols of commerce and government, which caused about 3000 fatalities.
In the aura of the beginning years of the new millenium in which the U.S. was perceived as vulnerable despite its great strength, Islamist terrorists did not hesitate to slaughter American citizens and soldiers on camera, for example, Daniel Pearl in 2002; Nick Berg, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley in 2004.
As a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001 the United States entered into an all-out war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, which sponsored the organization. A blitz war brought about the collapse of the regime and the dismantling of hundreds of al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led coalition achieved total control of the entire area of Afghanistan within months, but today – after more than eleven years of Sisyphean fighting, and at the cost of much blood and treasure – the soldiers of the United States and their allies control only about 5 percent of the country’s area. It seems that Afghanistan is about to become the second Vietnam.
Later, an international coalition led by the United States conquered Iraq in 2003, but since then, organizations who adopted the ideology of al-Qaeda, challenged the stability that the U.S. tried to create in Iraq, by carrying out hundreds of attacks that killed thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens. Iran, its eastern neighbor, also entered into the Iraqi turmoil, training, arming and financing Shi’ites who remembered well the American betrayal of March 1991, and between the years 2003 and 2008, caused many American fatalities. American intelligence had innumerable proofs of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, but the U.S. never ventured to even the account with Iran for this, because of the fear that it would have to open a new front, in addition to those of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Indeed, the greatest American failure to date is Iraq: the president of the United States, George W. Bush, announced on May 1, 2003 – five weeks after the war in Iraq broke out – “Mission Accomplished.” The number of American fatalities was then about 170. After another five years had passed, four thousand five hundred Americans had fallen by the time the war was indeed more or less over, and the Iraqi political system that the Americans created is unstable and fragile. Over all, American taxpayers poured into Iraq more than a trillion (a thousand million) dollars. President Obama, as he promised, withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, and as a result of the American flight, Iraq today is effectively controlled by Iran: Despite the international ban on Iran to export weapons, and on Syria to import them, Iran supplies the murderous regime in Syria with weapons, ammunition and fighters who are air-lifted over the skies of Iraq. The Americans know this and don’t do a thing.
Another American failure, no less important than the failure in Iraq, is the failure to stop the military nuclear program of Iran. We only need remember the Soviet missile crisis in Cuba (1962) to see the difference between then and now: Then, the determination shown by John F. Kennedy caused the Soviets to fold up within two weeks, while today, the softness that the world presents – led by the United States – vis à vis Iran, has enabled the Ayatollah state to progress in their military nuclear program for more than 15 years.
In the past, Iran has conducted exercises where missiles were shot from submarines, and with the use of these missiles equipped with a nuclear warhead under the waters of the ocean it will be able to dictate to the whole world the conditions of its surrender. The world condemns, denounces, warns and threatens, but all of these threats are just empty talk, as long as there is not a credible threat behind it. Economic sanctions are not effective when dealing with fateful quest of dictatorial regimes, because they know how to shift the painful effect of the sanctions onto the citizens, thus the ruling elite remains untouched. Nevertheless, the U.S. under Obama is afraid of drawing red lines for the regime of the Ayatollahs, who are hurtling ahead towards acquisition of the bomb, which may be able to reach as far as New York, not just Tel Aviv.
Thus, in a continual process of declining strength, the U.S. has become a paper tiger in dealing with the Arab and Islamic world. The Islamic bandits draw strength from American weakness, and it is precisely Obama’s attempts to engage the Islamists, beginning with the Cairo speech (June 2009), that increase the Islamists’ demands from him. Obama also took the opportunity to openly reveal his political ineptitude: On the same day that he was Mubarak’s guest of honor, he met in Cairo with the bitterest rivals of the president of Egypt, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and this was no less than a knife in the back of his host. Insulted and hurt, Mubarak did not attend Obama’s speech, offering the weak excuse that his grandson had died a short time before.
On this background of American weakness are additional facts, which the people of the Middle East see well: North Korea does as it pleases with its nuclear plans and missiles, despite Western and Japanese objections. In the past, the U.S. acceded to the nuclearization of India and Pakistan, and even forgave the head of the Pakistani nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, for establishing a black market for nuclear instrumentation, materials and knowledge, and distributing his wares to the highest bidder. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, its nuclear scientists searched for a livelihood in other countries, and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Pact became an almost worthless piece of paper, mainly because the United States under Clinton “fell asleep on the watch” for the years of the 90’s.
The murder of the American ambassador in Libya this month was only another link in the chain of American failure to understand the Middle East: ironically, the ambassador who was the liaison between the American government and the rebels against Qadhaffi was the target of the automatic fire of the Libyan Islamists who dragged his body through the streets of Benaghazi.
And then comes the ridiculous film, produced in the U.S., that no one with minimal taste would continue to watch after the first minute. In the United States, freedom of creativity, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are protected by law, and these freedoms are considered of utmost value in the eyes of most Americans. These freedoms afford the creators of films the full right to create and say in them whatever they want (short of libel), including criticism of historical figures and religious ideas. Despite this, U.S. authorities quickly arrested the creator of the film, only because of the current storm and turbulence in the Muslim world. The United States has again proved that it is vulnerable to extortion and will surrender to violence if it comes from a Muslim source.
Islamic zealots sense the American weakness and increase their pressure. The Americans have adopted the culture of “political correctness” that makes them “be nice” even if the one they are dealing with is not nice at all. They enable Islamic organizations to act freely in the U.S., to establish mosques almost without limitations and preach violence against the “infidel” in these places, under the right of freedom of expression, of course. People who are identified with radical Islam come and go in the White House and serve as “advisers” to the president and the secretary of state. During the past generation, the State Department has led the conciliatory and defeatist policy of the United States, which has brought the superpower of the past to be only a paper tiger in the eyes of the Arab and Islamic world.
Since last year, by instructions from above, all American investigative authorities – CIA, FBI and others – have been forbidden to ask people whom they are investigating questions about their faith, and all training programs for investigators have undergone censorship by an obscure committee, whose members are not known. Islam, which has an ideological platform for many of the terror activities that were carried out against Americans in the U.S., has ceased to be a matter that can be investigated or to asked about or related to in any way. Thus, for example, the terrorist event at the Fort Hood base (November 2009) in which Nidal Hasan (a Palestinian Muslim) murdered 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded 31, has become “violence in the workplace,” and the attempt of a Pakistani to set off a car bomb in Times Square in New York (May 2010) has become a “traffic accident.” There are Americans who believe that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were unexplained “flight accidents” in the best case, and a conspiracy of the CIA in the worst case. Accuse a Muslim of terror? G-d forbid, because this is a collective accusation; it is not “politically correct” and the Muslims might be insulted or even become irritated.
The ignorance of the administration in the eyes of the Middle East has been proven over the past three years, when more than once, people of the government issued statements such as, “The Muslim Brotherhood is mainly a secular movement,” “Iran can be persuaded by diplomatic means to stop enriching uranium,” “There is no proof of the existence of a military nuclear program in Iran,” and “Islam is a religion of peace.” When the heads of the American government speak like this, the Muslim Brotherhood on the Sunni side of Islam, and the Iranians on the Shi’a side, know that they have nothing to worry about. The “Great Satan” has lost its teeth and its will to use its horns. Usama bin Laden is gone, but his ideology is alive and kicking in the hearts of far too many people, in the world in general and in the U.S. in particular. Ask Shaikh Awlaki.
The processes of erosion that American society is undergoing are clear: On the day that the U.S. ambassador was murdered in Libya it was mostly the news programs that dealt with it, but interspersed with these, it was business as usual: shallow reality shows, cooking programs, interviews about trivial matters, and of course, programs dealing with business and the stock market. The fact that the sovereignty of the United States had been violated in the break-in of the embassy, and the terrible murder of the U.S. ambassador, were not enough to shake the United States from its routine of “eat, drink and be merry.”
The U.S. is quickly losing its will to defend its values, and in the Middle East this fact is clearly evident: The Kuwaiti parliament held a meeting on the subject a year ago: “Should Kuwait become part of Iran or not?” The discussion was based on two assumptions: One is that the day may come when Iran may try to take over Kuwait either militarily or by “persuasion,” and the second is that in the situation of ideological weakness that characterizes the U.S., and the economic crisis which is burdening Europe and the U.S., there is no chance that the Western world will again arrive with all of its armies to rescue Kuwait from conquest, as was done in January 1991. Therefore Kuwait is today considering whether to join with Iran, in order to spare itself from the horrors of war and the suffering of occupation, and to achieve better conditions by willingly joining with Iran. Then what would happen with the Kuwaiti oil? Would the U.S. honor the “free will” of Kuwait to join Iran? And what would happen afterward to the other Emirates?
The conclusion that Israel must draw from all of this is clear: Its security must not depend on the ever-dissipating American determination, because some Americans who determine policy have the tendency to throw their friends – as in the case of Mubarak – under the bus. There are more than a few people in the American political community who are not at all convinced that Israel’s existence serves the interests of the U.S., and especially if their support of Israel might anger the Muslims. Therefore, Israel must place before her neighbors a real, concrete and credible threat, because in the Middle East peace is given only to those who can not be vanquished and freedom is given only to him who is ready to fight for it. The Middle East is no place for bleeding hearts, and especially those whose glory has passed and is no more. The Arab and Islamic world knows how to appreciate and honor only those who honor themselves, who know how to draw a clear red line and then be willing to battle anyone who desires to harm them, to go to battle in order to guard the freedom of their region and their global glory.
However, the malaise of the U.S. is not terminal: In the times of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, the father, and George W. Bush, the son, the U.S. had a different image, because then at least, there was the will to cope with the problem-makers, not to appease them and not to surrender to them. Those were the days and those were the people. Are there any left like these? Where are they?
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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