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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Brennan’

Obama’s Head-in-the-Sand Speech About Terror

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University, “The Future of Our Fight against Terrorism” is a remarkable exercise in wishful thinking and denial. Here is basically what he says: the only strategic threat to the United States is posed by terrorists carrying out terrorist attacks.

In the 6400 words used by Obama, Islam only constitutes three of them and most interestingly in all three the word is used to deny that the United States is at war with Islam. In fact, that is what President George Bush said precisely almost a dozen years ago, after September 11. Yet why have not hundreds of such denials had the least bit of effect on the course of that war?

In fact, to prove that the United States is not at war with Islam, the Obama Administration has sided with political Islam throughout the Middle East, to the extent that some Muslims think Obama is doing damage to Islam, their kind of non-revolutionary Islam.

And how has the fight against al-Qaeda resulted in a policy that has, however inadvertently, armed al-Qaeda, as in Libya and Syria?

Once again, I will try to explain the essence of Obama strategy, a simple point that many people seem unable to grasp:

Obama views al-Qaeda as a threat because it wants to attack America directly with terrorism. But all other Islamist groups are not a threat. In fact, they can be used to stop al-Qaeda.

This is an abandonment of a strategic perspective. The word Islamism or political Islam or any other version of that word do not appear even once. Yet this is the foremost revolutionary movement of this era, the main threat in the world to U.S. interests and even to Western civilization.

If one wanted to come up with a slogan for the Obama Administration it would be that to win the war on terrorism one must lose the war on revolutionary Islamism because only by showing that America is the Islamists’ friend will it take away the incentive to join up with al-Qaeda and attack the United States.

Please take the two sections in bold above very seriously if you want to understand U.S. Middle East policy.

According to Obama:

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Tunisia that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Syria that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If a regime whose viewpoint is basically equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood—albeit far more subtle and culture—dominates Turkey that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

These and other strategic defeats do not matter, says Obama in effect:

After I took office, we stepped up the war against al Qaeda, but also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.

And yet the Taliban is arguably close to taking over Afghanistan in future. The group has spread to Pakistan. The rule of law in Afghanistan is a joke and soldiers there know that the Afghan government still uses torture.

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts.

Well, it is quite true that security measures within the United States have been largely successful at stopping attacks. But the frequency of attempted attacks has been extensive, some of which were blocked by luck and the expenditure of one trillion dollars. Country after country has been taken over by radical Islamists who can be expected to fight against American interests in future. Obama continues:

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us…

But he never actually defines it except to suggest that (1) al-Qaeda has spread to other countries (which does not sound like a victory for the United States) and (2) That its affiliates and imitators are more amateurish than those who pulled off the September 11, 2001 attack. Yet they got away with the September 11, 2012 attack.

The Secret Document that Set Obama’s Mideast Policy

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“We have to confront violent extremism in all of its forms.… America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.” –President Barack Obama, Cairo, June 2009.

“The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise….Resistance is the only solution. [Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance.” –Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badi, Cairo, September 2010.

WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT know and when did he know it? That’s a question made classical by the Watergate scandal. Now it is possible to trace precisely what Obama knew and when he knew it. And it proves that the installment of the Muslim Brotherhood into power was a conscious and deliberate strategy of the Obama Administration developed before the “Arab Spring” began.

In February 2011 the New York Times ran an extremely complimentary article on President Obama by Mark Landler, who some observers say is the biggest apologist for Obama on the newspaper. That’s quite an achievement. Landler praised Obama for having tremendous foresight, in effect, predicting the “Arab Spring.”

According to Landler,

President Obama ordered his advisers last August [2010] to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.

Which advisors? The then counter-terrorism advisor and now designated CIA chief, John Brennan? National Security Council senior staffer Samantha Power? If it was done by Obama’s own staff, rather than State and Defense staff, it’s likely that these people or at least one of them was the key author.

So should U.S. policy help allies avoid such sweeping change by standing firm or by helping them make adjustments? No, explained the report, it should get on the side of history and wield a broom to do the sweeping.

Lander’s article continued:

Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, [emphasis added] these officials said.

The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.

As I noted, the article was quite explicitly complimentary (and that’s an understatement) about how Obama knew what was likely to happen and was well prepared for it.

But that’s precisely the problem. It wasn’t trying to deal with change but was pushing for it; it wasn’t asserting U.S. interests, but balancing them off against other factors. In the process, U.S. interests were forgotten.

If Landler was right then Obama did have a sense of what was going to happen and prepared for it. It cannot be said that he was caught unawares. This view would suggest, then, that he thought American strategic interests could be protected and broader instability avoided by overthrowing U.S. allies as fast as possible and by showing the oppositions that he was on their side. Presumably the paper pointed out the strength of Islamist forces and the Muslim Brotherhood factor and then discounted any dangers from this quarter.

One could have imagined how other U.S. governments would have dealt with this situation: by helping friendly governments retain control, encourage them to make reforms, and if they fall, work  to ensure the triumph of moderate, pro-democratic forces that would be able to prevent the formation of radical Islamist dictatorships.

Such an approach would have been easy and in line with historic U.S. policy. We have every reason to believe that the State Department and the Defense Department favored such an approach.

What to Expect From Obama’s Visit

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Jodi Ruderon, the New York Times’ Israel correspondent wrote about President Barack Obama’s March 20-22 visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority:

For more than two years, many Israeli and Palestinian leaders have placed blame for their stalemated peace process not only on one another but on a lack of engagement by the Obama Administration. But now that President Obama and his new secretary of state have signaled plans to visit, both sides still remain skeptical that much will change.

While I’m grateful that she concluded what I’ve been saying now for about thirteen years—no progress is going to be made and every knowledgeable person on both sides knows it —I am baffled by the beginning. I have never heard any Israeli or Palestinian, leader or intellectual or just plain individual, ever say such a thing. It is nonsense given the fact that Obama’s strenuous efforts during his first two years in office got nowhere.

The history of what actually happened between 2009 and 2011 has been forgotten, just as the Palestinian torpedoing of peace between 1993 and 2000 has been forgotten. Obama tried, the Arab states wouldn’t help, the Palestinians threw pie in his face (as I wrote at the time), and Israel offered full cooperation. Since then, the Palestinian Authority is strutting with its newly received–from the U.N. General Assembly–state. Contrary to the 1993 Oslo agreement, this was achieved without any compromise, concessions, or agreement with Israel. So on top of everything else, the P.A. feels no motivation to negotiate anymore, not that it did much since 2000. But should we all try? Sure, just don’t do any more damage and in your own interest don’t waste too much time and money.

All of this should be merely academic since we are told that Obama’s visit will focus on Syria and Iran. So what does Israel want to tell Obama and what is he likely to offer or do?

Syria: Presumably, Israel’s leadership will express a consensus view that its main concern is not who governs Syria but how they behave.

There’s no sympathy for the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship which has long sponsored terrorism against Israel. In addition, it is widely recognized that the regime’s fall is a defeat for Iran which would be losing its principal ally. The situation has also opened gaps between Iran and Turkey, which has been very friendly toward Iran (a point that the Obama Administration has ignored). And if Israel ever did attack Iranian nuclear installations, an anti-Iran Sunni-ruled Syrian regime is less likely to do anything in response.

In addition to all that, a successful revolution would weaken Hizballah in Lebanon which at the moment is the biggest threat on Israel’s borders (Hamas is more likely to attack but less capable of doing serious damage), and can well mean that the Lebanese terrorist group will be too busy and insecure to renew the kind of attacks seen in 2006 and earlier years.

Yet what will replace the current government of Syria? Israel will stress that it worries about a Muslim Brotherhood regime that will try to step up the conflict with Israel, including backing its own terrorist clients in Lebanon and Hamas. Another point—which the Obama Administration doesn’t seem to comprehend (though some of its officials worry about this)—is that such a regime would be permissive toward Salafist groups wanting to attack Israel across the border, along with a high degree of anarchy in that part of southern Syria having the same effect.

Israel will also warn that lots of weapons, including some very advanced ones, are pouring into Syria that will not be secured after the civil war ends and that will end in the hands of terrorists to whom they are either sold, given, or even directly armed by the American-Turkish-Qatari-Saudi strategy. They might point to Libya as an example of this process. Perhaps some future U.S. ambassador to Syria and other operatives will be murdered trying to get some of those weapons back.

The U.S. government will talk about the prospects for democracy in Syria, how the Muslim Brotherhood there is going to be moderate and pragmatic, and how the aim of U.S. policy is to use the Brotherhood to restrain the Salafists.

After Afghanistan

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Some wars are lost in a matter of moments, others stretch on indefinitely. The defeat in Afghanistan crept up silently on the national consciousness and even though we are negotiating with the Taliban, the “D” word is hardly used by anyone.

According to Obama, in one of his interminable speeches which all run together and sound the same, there really isn’t a war, just a mission, and the old mission is now becoming a new sort of mission, and the missions, all of them, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, have been successful which is why we are wrapping them up, except that we aren’t really. And that’s about as clear as the message from the big white building with the neatly mowed lawn out front gets, except for the part about how its occupant singlehandedly parachuted into Pakistan, killed Bin Laden, and then stopped off for some curry and a humanitarian award.

Had McCain won in 2008, we would no doubt he hearing a lot about the “D” word and the quagmire in Afghanistan. But the “Q” word doesn’t really get mentioned either. No war has been lost. Only a mission is ending. And missions, unlike wars, can be defined in so many creative ways that it’s hard to know what to make of them. It’s easy to tell when a war has been lost, but a mission can never be lost, only renamed. And renaming is what Obama did to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Those wars weren’t lost; they’re only hiding out in the history books under new names and identities.

Wars are usually remembered according to the proclivities of their historians. The history books tend to record the Republican presidents of the last hundred years as either losing wars or winning wars that weren’t worth winning. Democrats however usually win every one.

The Korean War and the Vietnam War were not that far in perception at the time, but are worlds apart in the history books. Had John F. Kennedy lived to serve out two terms and then passed on the big chair to his brother, would the history books even record that the United States lost the Vietnam War? Or would it, like Afghanistan, have gone down as a story about a difficult temporary intervention that ended successfully under the leadership of a wise and caring president?

It is difficult to imagine the left’s narrative of the last century with such a big and meaty chunk taken out of it. What would have become of Oliver Stone’s career without the JFK assassination and the mythology of a cruel and senseless war in Vietnam? Or imagine the last decade if Biden and Gore had managed to talk Clinton into going after Saddam. As entertaining as such speculations might be, renaming missions and tampering with the history books does not alter the outcome of wars.

From the early days, the left had gloated that Afghanistan would become another Vietnam. And like the appointment in Samarra, in attempting to escape that Vietnamness, it repeated many of the follies of Vietnam and few of its triumphs, failing to press the advantage while expending thousands of lives based on abstract theories hatched by the bright boys in Washington and fraudulent books passed on by the wives of generals to their husbands.

We are now in the Afghanistanization stage, hanging around a country for no particular purpose, except that we aren’t very good at departures and the men who made this mess still think that Karzai and his crew can make this work if we provide them with some more training and air support without being shot in the back.

And when we have finally left and Karzai’s cobbled together government collapses, its ministers absconding to Paris and Pakistan with suitcases full of stolen aid dollars, what comes after the war?

The old conflict aimed at denying Al Qaeda one base of operations had been outdated a few years after it began. That was something that Bush instinctively understood and that his critics have only slowly become aware of. Al Qaeda is not a country or an ethnic group. It is a religious vanguard that was always meant to serve as the core of an international Islamist terrorist movement. That function had been fulfilled long before an old man watching porn in a covert compound with no authority over anyone except his many wives was finally put down the hard way.

Why the CIA Director is Wrong: Islamism Scarier than Al Qaeda

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

It’s time, a dozen years after September 11 and following Islamist coups in the Gaza Strip; Islamist electoral revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Turkey; and a probable Islamist victory during the next year in Syria–to rethink completely our view of Al Qaeda.

First, Al Qaeda wasn’t involved in any of these events or in several more big developments we could list. Second, Al Qaeda hasn’t disappeared, contrary to the Obama Administration’s claims. And third, the American homeland is now demonstrably well-protected from terrorist attacks so consequently while success on this front remains important it need not be the top U.S. strategic priority.

So let me propose a new way of looking at things:

Aside from being a problem of counter-terrorism—that is, of law enforcement—Al Qaeda is no longer important. It certainly isn’t strategically important nor is it important for the biggest and most essential U.S. national interests. That doesn’t mean Al Qaeda should be ignored. Yet combating it is relatively manageable.

This alternative view is especially significant at a moment when the new CIA director is the father—and the president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense the avid fans—of a theory that places Al Qaeda at the center of the world stage. Basically their theory goes like this:

Al Qaeda is terribly evil and a threat to America. It must be fought. But all Islamism—except for Al Qaeda—can be moderated and won over by a sympathetic U.S. policy. The Islamists are the best people to handle and defeat Al Qaeda and by giving the people what they want–Islam running the society–their desire to commit terrorism or attack America will subside. After all, if the United States shows itself to be Islamism’s best friend, why should Islamists be angry at it? This strategy began with Obama’s Cairo speech which was a profoundly pro-Islamist statement, and that’s why he invited Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders to sit in the front row.

In other words, put your enemies in power and they are no longer your enemies. Moreover, once Islamists get into power they will get entangled in party politics, paving roads, running schools, and doing all the other things that governments do. They will lose their radicalism and certainly stop using violence.

Now there’s a lot to say against this theory. It either hasn’t worked historically on other radical ideologies—Nazism, fascism, Communism—or at least only after a very long time in power (including millions of victims) often mixed in with military debacles. It can be said to have worked with radical Arab nationalism but only after 50 years and multiple military defeats. This was also the precise theory that underpinned the 1990s’ Oslo peace process and assumptions about Yasir Arafat settling down to become a great and practical statesman. And that didn’t work either.

Moreover, it ignores the fundamental extremism, anti-Americanism, antisemitism, anti-Christian, and anti-women tenets of Islamist philosophy, which are rooted in reasonable (but not the only possible) interpretations of Islam. And it also leaves out the power gained once radicals take over institutions. Sure they’ll be running the schools but that doesn’t mean they will become entangled in planning curricula so much as to persuade people they should grow up to be radical Islamists and jihad warriors.

Finally, all Islamists want Islamist rule and the application of Sharia as the law. Some will talk and do nothing; others will talk and organize; others will use violence, and among those who organize there are those who can seize state power—in Muslim majority countries—and those that will fail. The Muslim Brotherhood is brilliant tactically; Al Qaeda has only one note in its orchestra, endless struggle and terrorism rather than political maneuvering and building a mass base.

Usually, as you can see, when I talk about this issue I stress the non-Al Qaeda side of the equation. But it’s time to reanalyze Al Qaeda also.

The importance of Al Qaeda in the history of Islamism is actually more marginal than it might seem from the massive study and headlines it generated. Al Qaeda had three innovations of importance:

First, that the movement be international, fighting simultaneously on all fronts. While the Muslim Brotherhood had been an international group it had a limited number of branches, only four of real significance. However, this only succeeded because Al Qaeda’s organization—especially after the U.S. destruction of the center in Afghanistan and long before Osama bin Ladin’s assassination—was so loose. Basically, local groups could simply affiliate with Al Qaeda without being its actual creation. Being active everywhere and not concentrating one’s forces is a formula for survival but also a recipe for ultimate defeat.

Obama’s Anti-Zionism

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Were Barack Obama re-elected, I predicted two months before the Nov. 2012 presidential vote, “the coldest treatment of Israel ever by a U.S. president will follow.” Well, election’s over and that cold treatment is firmly in place. Obama has signaled in the past two months what lies ahead by:

* Choosing three senior figures – John Kerry for State, John Brennan for the CIA, and Chuck Hagelfor Defense – who range from clueless to hostile about Israel.

* Approving a huge gift of advanced weapons – 20 F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks – to the Islamist government in Egypt despite the fact that its president, Mohamed Morsi, has becoming increasingly despotic and calls Jews “blood-suckers, … warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Reiterating the patronizing 35-year old tactic relied upon by anti-Israel types to condemn Israeli policies while pretending to be concerned for the country’s welfare: “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

* Ignoring evidence of Cairo importing Scud missile parts from North Korea.

* Rebuffing the 239 House members who called for closing the PLO office in Washington in response to the PLO’s drive for state-observer status at the United Nations.

Asked about Obama’s nomination of Hagel, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor who, despite his astringent criticism of Obama nonetheless endorsed him for re-election, offered an astonishing response: “I thought that there would come a time when [Obama] would renege on … his support of Israel [but this] comes a little earlier than I thought.” Even Obama’s pro-Israel supporters expected him to turn against the Jewish state!

These anti-Israel steps raise worries because they jibe with Obama’s early anti-Zionist views. We lack specifics, but we know that he studied with, befriended, socialized, and encouraged Palestinian extremists.

For example, a picture from 1998 shows Obama listening reverentially to anti-Israel theorist Edward Said. Mr. Obama sat idly by as speakers at an event in 2003 celebrating Rashid Khalidi, a former Palestinian Liberation Organization public relations operative, accused Israel of waging a terrorist campaign against Palestinians and compared “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden.

Ali Abunimah, an anti-Israel agitator, commended Mr. Obama in 2004 for “his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” code words for distancing the U.S. government from Israel. In turn, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Abunimah for his obsessively anti-Israel articles in the Chicago Tribune, urging him to “keep up the good work.”

Abunimah also reveals that, starting in 2002, Obama toned down his anti-Israel rhetoric “as he planned his move from small time Illinois politics to the national scene” and Obama made this explicit two years later, apologizing to Abunimah: “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.”

And Obama dutifully made the requisite policy changes, if in a cramped and reluctant manner (“I have to deal with him every day” he whined about Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu). He supported Israel in its 2008-09 and 2012 wars with Hamas. His administration called the Goldstone Report “deeply flawed” and backed Israel at the United Nations with lobbying efforts, votes, and vetoes. Armaments flowed. The Israeli exception to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remained in place. When Ankara canceled Israeli participation in the 2009 “Anatolian Eagle” air force exercise, the U.S. government pulled out in solidarity. If Obama created crises over Israeli housing starts, he eventually allowed these to simmer down.

Recalling what Obama said privately in March 2012 to the then-Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev (“This is my last election and after my election, I have more flexibility”), there is every reason to think that, having won that re-election, things have now “calmed down” and, after a decade of caution, he can “be more up front” to advance the Palestinian cause against Israel. Returning to the present: Netanyahu’s likely re-election as Israeli prime minister this week will mean continuity of leadership in both countries. But that does not imply continuity in U.S.-Israel relations; Obama, freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.

Obama’s CIA Pick and His Romance with Islam

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

One of the first things Barack Obama did after taking the oath of office (which he actually did on Sunday, January 20, as prescribed by the Constitution) was to submit a list of candidates for cabinet-level posts. One of these was Secretary of Defense, and his nominee was Chuck Hagel. I’ve had a lot to say about Hagel’s views about issues related to Israel, all bad.

But this post isn’t about Hagel. It is about another cabinet-level appointment, that of John O. Brennan, Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser (actually “Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Assistant to the President”) as head of the CIA.

What do we know about Brennan? He held several important posts in the CIA, including station chief in Saudi Arabia from 1996-99. His academic background includes the study of Arabic and Arab culture; he received a B.A. in political science from Fordham University, including a year abroad at the American University in Cairo, and an M.A. in Government specializing in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Arabic ‘fluently.’

Now there is nothing wrong with having this kind of background. After all, insofar as the threat of terrorism is a major concern, and the fact that almost all terrorism today emanates from the Arab and Muslim world, the CIA director can’t know too much about it.

But on the other hand, there is the phenomenon of the ‘Arabist’ — the Westerner who studies Arabic and is so taken by the culture that he adopts the Arab worldview and politics. T. E. Lawrence is probably the most well-known, but contemporary examples abound (for example, the academic Juan Cole).

If you  believe that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism is related to specific grievances held by ‘extremists’ who are exploiting the essentially peaceful religion of Islam for their purposes, then possibly having a CIA director who is an Arabist is not a problem.

But on the other hand, if you believe that we are experiencing the beginnings of a true civilizational conflict between Islam and the West, then it could be a big problem indeed.

So is Brennan an Arabist in this sense? I’m not sure.

In February 2010, Brennan spoke to Muslim students at NYU in a meeting ‘facilitated’ by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). His talk can be found in these four video clips: hereherehere, and here.

In the first one, he says that Islam is “a faith of peace and tolerance and great diversity,” something which I suspect the Coptic Christians of Egypt would dispute. He can be heard speaking in somewhat rusty Arabic. He describes meeting Muslim students from various countries including “Palestine,” and refers to “al-Quds, Jerusalem” — where, he says, the three faiths for whom the city is holy show that they can coexist despite tensions. (But he fails to note that this has only been the case since the city has been under Jewish control!)

Later, he discusses at length the problem of prejudice against Muslims in America and the need to protect their rights, but he does not mention the very real lack of rights experienced by non-male or non-Muslim populations in Muslim-controlled lands.

He praises the Saudi monarchy for the stewardship of the holy cities of Islam and the haj, but does not talk about the brutal, medieval darkness of that kingdom where slavery flourishes and petty thieves have their hands cut off.

He praises ISNA and other Muslim organizations for working to protect the rights of Muslims, but does not mention their involvement in fund-raising for Hamas or other terrorist groups, or their connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, he criticizes the U.S. government for interfering with the obligation for Muslims to practice zakat — charity.

Brennan is 100 percent on board with the Obama policy that our enemies consist only of “al-Qaeda and its extremist allies,” organizations that have distorted the peaceful nature of Islam. In fact, he opposes the use of the word ‘jihadists’ to refer to Islamic terrorists, because:

They are not jihadists, for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify, for a legitimate purpose. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.

As I argued in response to similar remarks in 2009 — Brennan misunderstands the nature of our enemy:

Doubtless Osama bin Laden believes that his jihad against the U.S. is a “holy struggle for a moral goal.” But Brennan’s definition leaves out the historical meaning of ‘jihad’ as an expansionist, offensive struggle against non-Muslims, an aspect which is still very much part of the concept in the minds of many present-day Muslims (for an exhaustive and persuasive analysis of this topic, see Daniel Pipes: “Jihad and the Professors“)…

… jihad in this sense was highly important in the past and has been reemphasized by modern Islamist thinkers like al-Banna and Qutb.

Brennan clings to the idea that we can somehow undercut the spread of violent Islamist ideology by employing economic development and education to fight the “ignorance” that allows al-Qaeda to recruit:

I think Brennan underestimates the pull of the militant Islamist ideology itself, especially in Arab cultures. After all, the leadership of radical groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, etc. are all well-educated, and in the case of bin Laden, quite wealthy. It can be argued that in some cases — like the Palestinian Arabs, who have probably been the recipient of more Western ‘development’ aid than any other similar group — there are religious/cultural pathologies that work against political stability and economic development, as well as making the culture fertile ground for radical ideologies.

So when Brennan suggests that we need to attack these ‘conditions’ as well as fight ‘extremists’, he misses two points:

  1. The ‘extremists’ are not just a small group of crazies, but part of a significant faction of fundamentalist Muslims who — while they may not themselves engage in violent jihad — accept the ideology of militant Islamism which promotes it. As long as this is the case, there will always be a supply of ones whoare violent.
  2. Unless the cultural and religious issues that make it hard for societies to develop in what we Westerners see as a positive direction (democracy, economic development, fair allocation of resources, etc.) can be counteracted, Western attempts to ameliorate poverty, lack of education and political repression will be seen as so much cultural imperialism.

Since 2010, militant Islamism has made great advances in the Middle East, and it is becoming harder and harder for those like Brennan to claim that it is a distortion of the peace and beauty that is “mainstream” Islam. Has he changed his thinking?

We may find out. Unlike the position he holds today, his new job requires Senate confirmation.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Obama to Nominate Frum Chief of Staff for Treasury

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

There are those who think a politician cannot be charged with anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism if the politician appoints Jews or Israelis to high positions. President Obama has just handed such people another shield to hold up against those charges.  Bloomberg and other news sites are reporting that tomorrow, January 10, Obama will nominate his Orthodox current chief of staff, Jack Lew, to head the Treasury Department.  Lew would replace the out-going Timothy Geithner.

Staunchly pro-Israel and pro-American leaders and organizations have harshly criticized the president’s most recent nominations for three of the most significant positions in the U.S. government. Claims against all three have centered on their documented inclinations towards conciliation and negotiation with the most intractable Islamist and repressive governments, including Iran and Syria, and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, while at the same time exhibiting a decided frigidity towards the Jewish State.  Those claims have been leveled against Senator John Kerry (R-MA) for Secretary of State, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NB) for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan for Director of the CIA, all of whom have encountered fierce resistance in certain sections of the staunchly pro-Israel community.

It is unlikely that Lew’s nomination will be met with hostility by the pro-Israel crowd, but that is not because he is an Orthodox Jew who strives to maintain his Shomer Shabbat life despite his demanding position.  Rather, a cursory review of Lew’s professional and academic background reveals a candidate who appears eminently qualified for what is a non-foreign policy position.

Lew was born and raised in Queens, New York, received degrees from Harvard College and Georgetown Law School, and spent most of his career in the public sector, including two stints heading the Office of Management and Budget, and serving as an aide to the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill (D-MA). His private sector positions have included managing director for Citigroup and as an executive vice president of New York University.

In his role as right hand man to the president, the Orthodox Lew was useful in using that hand to reach out to, and smooth down the feathers of, those mainstream American Jewish organizations and leaders for whom such outreach is meaningful. It was widely reported that Lew assisted Obama in making calls to the heads of such organizations, in trying to derail “Jewish” criticism of the Hagel nomination.

While Lew is unlikely to face hectoring from pro-Israel forces, what he will face as Treasury Secretary is more than sufficiently harrowing.  It will be his job to try and tame the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling.  That limit was reached on December 31, at which point the Treasury Department began using “extraordinary measures” to keep the government operating.  But those measures will be exhausted within the next few weeks, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As the president’s chief of staff, Lew was already used as the president’s kosher imprimatur, but the Treasury Secretary is a higher profile position and one that sets policy, whereas chief of staff ostensibly controls access to the president, but is not an independent policy-making position.

An in-depth article about Lew which ran in November’s National Journal, reveals a man who very much shares this president’s views of government and spending priorities.

If Lew became Treasury secretary, members of the business sector and political observers say, it would send two messages from the administration to Wall Street and the financial community. First, that they don’t have an ally or one of their own in Washington. Second, that the White House intends to keep close watch over tax policy and international financial decisions.

The choice would make the Treasury job  an extension of the White House’s economic team.  “And [appointing] Jack Lew suggests that [Obama] is going to continue to be the principal economic spokesperson because Jack Lew is not Mr. Outside. He’s Mr. Inside,” says Rothkopf, the former Clinton official.

And in the most recent fiscal cliff negotiations, Lew was seen by some as being particularly obstructionist.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was reportedly irked by Lew’s intransigence.

Still, Treasury is hardly a position like Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense from which decisions that have an existential impact on Israel will be made.  Domestic spending issues are more frequently the focus of centrist Jewish organizations which tend to be dominated by Democrats, for whom a fiscal conservative might be a lightening rod.  Lew is unlikely to raise the ire of non-partisan pro-Israel organizations.

Of course, if Lew is moving to Treasury, who will be the president’s next chief of staff?  So far the names being floated include Denis McDonough, currently a deputy national security adviser, and Ron Klain, who had served as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff.

If Lew’s replacement is Denis McDonough, sparks may yet fly.  McDonough has been fingered as one of the people most likely to have altered the famous CIA talking points on the attacks on Benghazi. The alteration of those points, it has been claimed, led the Obama administration to publicly blame the murderous violence on a crude little video which Muslims deemed insulting to their prophet, rather than immediately acknowledging that it was a planned attack by an al Qaeda affiliate against the United States on the anniversary of 9/11.  It is hard to believe the White House would want to bring the focus back on Benghazi, although most news sites which have mentioned McDonough as one of Lew’s likely successors did not even make the connection.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/obama-to-nominate-frum-chief-of-staff-for-treasury/2013/01/09/

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