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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Pipes’

The Worrisome Future of Special Operations

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I just had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with a Council on Foreign Relations group at the United States Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Its commander, the famed Admiral William H. McRaven, started the briefing, followed by his staff.

I expected to learn about Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and their air force and marine counterparts. I thought I would hear about the exploits of this 67,000-strong command operating in 84 countries, maybe even about the taking down of Osama bin Laden. But that was not to be. Instead, he and the other officers talked at length about their new mission, starting with the command’s motto, “You can’t surge trust.”


Cover of the SOF “operating concept” booklet, not online.

It took some time for it to sink in because of their turgid language, but here’s a key paragraph from the Operating Concept for special operations forces (SOF) that was handed out to the CFR group:

The Special Operations Forces Operating Concept captures the essence of the SOF heritage as it could be – as it should be in the year 2020 and beyond. The concept moves beyond the first decade of the 21st Century, when SOF primarily supported large-scale contingency operations by conducting counterterrorism operations to find, capture, or kill our adversaries. Although of great value to the Nation, these operations were never intended to be decisive. Operating through the Global SOF Network in support of our Geographic Combatant Commanders and Chiefs of Mission, SOF now have the opportunity to achieve strategic outcomes by working with and through interagency and foreign partners to understand and influence relevant populations.

Translated into English, this says:

Special Operations Forces used to be about capturing or killing America’s adversaries; its new mission is to shape public opinion.

Or, it the words of a bullet point in the Operating Concept, the goal is “Elevating SOF non-lethal skills to the same level of expertise as lethal skills.” As radical a shift as this is, at least I could comprehend it. Not so the following graphic, “Strategic Appreciation – 2.0,”which was projected onto a large floor for most of our briefing and which makes no sense to me: Comments: (1) I came away from this briefing unsure if the special operations leadership really believes this stuff or is mouthing it to distract the public from discussing its real mission. (2) If it’s sincere, I worry about our future defense.

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.  / The Lion’s Den

 

Obama’s Foreign Fiasco

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.

It’s a privilege to be an American who works on foreign policy, as I have done since the late 1970s, participating in a small way in the grand project of finding my country’s place in the world. But now, under Barack Obama, decisions made in Washington have dramatically shrunk in importance. It’s unsettling and dismaying. And no longer a privilege.

Whether during the structured Cold War or the chaotic two decades that followed, America’s economic size, technological edge, military prowess, and basic decency meant that even in its inactivity, the U.S. government counted as much or more in world developments than any other state. Sniffles in Washington translated into influenza elsewhere.

Weak and largely indifferent presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton mattered despite themselves, for example in the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 or the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1990s. Strong and active presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had greater impact yet, speeding up the Soviet collapse or invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

But now, with Barack Obama, the United States has slid into shocking irrelevance in the Middle East, the world’s most turbulent region. Inconstancy, incompetence, and inaction have rendered the Obama administration impotent. In the foreign policy arena, Obama acts as though he would rather be the prime minister of Belgium, a small country that usually copies the decisions of its larger neighbors when casting votes at the United Nations or preening morally about distant troubles. Belgians naturally “lead from behind,” to use the famed phrase emanating from Obama’s White House.

Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo was a very long time ago.

Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo was a very long time ago.

Qatar (with a national population of 225,000) has an arguably greater impact on current events than the 1,400-times-larger United States (population: 314 million). Note how Obama these days takes a back seat to the emirs of Doha: They take the lead supplying arms to the Libyan rebels, he follows. They actively help the rebels in Syria, he dithers. They provide billions to the new leadership in Egypt, he stumbles over himself. They unreservedly back Hamas in Gaza, he pursues delusions of an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Toward this end, the U.S. secretary of state made six trips in four months to Israel and the Palestinian territories in pursuit of a diplomatic initiative that almost no one believes will end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Doha, now more influential than Washington in the Middle East.

Doha, now more influential than Washington in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of defense called Egyptian leader Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi 17 times in conversations lasting 60-90 minutes, yet failed in his pleas that Sisi desist from using force against the Muslim Brotherhood. More striking yet, Sisi apparently refused to take a phone call from Obama. The $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt suddenly looks paltry in comparison to the $12 billion from three Persian Gulf countries, with promises to make up for any Western cuts in aid. Both sides in Egypt’s deep political divide accuse Obama of favoring the other and execrate his name. As dozens of Coptic churches burned, he played six rounds of golf. Ironically, Egypt is where, four long years ago, Obama delivered a major speech repudiating George W. Bush policies with seeming triumph.

Obama’s ambitions lie elsewhere – in augmenting the role of government within the United States, as epitomized by Obamacare. Accordingly, he treats foreign policy as an afterthought, an unwelcome burden, and something to dispatch before returning to juicier matters. He oversees withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan with little concern for what follows. His unique foreign policy accomplishment, trumpeted ad nauseam, was the execution of Osama bin Laden.

So far, the price to American interests for Obama’s ineptitude has not been high. But that could change quickly. Most worrisome, Iran could soon achieve nuclear breakout and start to throw its newfound weight around, if not to deploy its brand-new weapons. The new regime in Egypt could revert to its earlier anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism; already, important elements in Egypt are calling for rejection of U.S. aid and termination of the peace treaty with Israel.

As an American who sees his country as a force for good, these developments are painful and scary. The world needs an active, thoughtful, and assertive United States. The historian Walter A. McDougall rightly states that “The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years” and its civilization “perturbs the trajectories of all other civilizations just by existing.” Well not so much perturbation these days; may the dismal present be brief in duration.

Daniel Pipes and Islamic ‘Essentialism’

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Has there been an unexpected “harmonic convergence” regarding Islam between Daniel Pipes, the historian, and unabashed Zionist, and Edward Said, anti-Israeli, Arab polemicist?

Daniel Pipes’ recent essay in The Jewish Press (originally published in the Washington Post) derides “those who focus on Islam itself as the problem”—identifying Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders by name.

Most of his essay re-affirms (without hard doctrinal and historical facts) the arguments Pipes has discussed before: Islam’s prophet Muhammad was not an “Islamist,” and was not responsible for “Islamism,” which is a “modern extremist variant” of Islam; an “unbearable” discordance between “pre-modern accomplishment and modern failure” caused the “psychic trauma” which engendered “Islamism” in the 1920s; and a mere 10-15% of Muslims support “Islamism.”

Pipes concludes his latest iteration of “Islam Versus Islamism” by attacking those (such as Ali, Sultan, and Wilders) who reject its premises for their ostensibly uninformed “succumbing” to what he terms “a simplistic and essentialist illusion” (emphasis added) of the Muslim creed. Ironically, Pipes’ latter claim of “essentialism” re-packages the post-modern incoherence of Edward Said, as demonstrated brilliantly by Philosophy Professor Irfan Khawaja. As Khawaja observed in 2007:

If Said thinks that Islam is different from other abstract nouns, he needs to tell us why… And yet, as we have seen, he often treats abstract nouns in an essentialist fashion. So it should follow that Islam can be treated the same way. And yet that is precisely what he takes to be the cardinal sin.

Adding insult to irony, Said (a Pipes nemesis, as Said’s comments, extracted here, reveal) accused Pipes himself of “essentialism,” largely, one assumes, for frank comments by the latter on Islam—not “Islamism”—as an inherently, even “immutably” political ideology!

Circa 1983, in his In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power, Pipes noted, “[T]he press and scholarship too often…ignore Islam’s role in politics.” He warned:

Approaching Islam in politics with the Christian experience in mind is misleading. Because the community of Christians shares almost no political traits, there is a mistaken predisposition to assume Muslims do not.

Elaborating on this yawning gap between Islam and Christianity, Pipes highlights, appropriately, the unique impact of Islam’s religio-political law, the Sharia:

Islam, unlike Christianity, contains a complete program for ordering society…Islam specifies exact goals for all Muslims to follow as well as the rules by which to enforce them…Along with faith in Allah comes a sacred law to guide Muslims, in all times and places. That law, called the Sharia, establishes the context of Islam as a political force…Adjusting realities to the Sharia is the key to Islam’s role in human relations…Mainstream Muslims (that is, Muslims whose faith is acknowledged as valid by a majority of other Muslims) follow legal tenets so similar to each other that their differences can be ignored.

Never invoking “Islamism,” Pipes concludes, with this lucid assessment of how Islam, since its advent, has been a creed imbued, singularly, with politics:

[I]n Islam, where, in Max Weber’s view, “an essentially political character marked all the chief ordinances,”…[the] connection to politics has been immutably deep from the very inception of the religion

Great Western Orientalist scholarship, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, supports Pipes’ 1983 understandings of Islam as indissolubly linking religion and politics. Moreover, these seminal analyses and contemporary polling data debunk his now oft repeated formulations. As elaborated in detail elsewhere:

–Muhammad really was a jihadist—or in Pipes’ current terminology, an “Islamist,” waging aggressive, proto-jihad campaigns to conquer the Jews, Christians, and pagans of the Arabian peninsula and bring them under nascent Islamic law.

–Great Western Orientalist scholars long ago established the inherently political nature of Islam, and also made plain that the modern era Islamic “revival” was evident at least four decades before “the 1920s” advent claimed by Pipes.

–The religio-political totalitarianism of the Sharia—which includes the eternal institution of jihad war against infidels, as well as dehumanizing laws and punishments for non-Muslims and Muslims alike—is well-characterized.

–Contemporary polling data demonstrate the overwhelming appeal of Sharia states to ordinary Muslims—77% of Muslims from the most populous societies, i.e., Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Nigeria, pooled—debunking Pipes assertion that only “10-15%” of Muslims are Islamists.

Report: US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The commentariat universally rejected my Apr. 11 column arguing that Western governments should “Support Assad” on the grounds that he is losing and we don’t want the Islamist rebels to win in Syria but prefer a stalemate. An Arabic website in France threatened me.

Fine. But the Wall Street Journal today reports in “U.S. Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now” by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes that the Obama administration is in fact following my counsel. To start with, the U.S. government fears “an outright rebel military victory”:

Senior Obama administration officials have caught some lawmakers and allies by surprise in recent weeks with an amended approach to Syria: They don’t want an outright rebel military victory right now because they believe, in the words of one senior official, that the “good guys” may not come out on top.

Of course, fearing a rebel victory gets in the way of ousting the current regime, its goal, leading to a self-contradictory muddle:

This assessment complicates the White House’s long-standing push to see President Assad step from power. It also puts a spotlight on the U.S.’s cautious approach to helping the opposition, much to the frustration of U.S. allies including France and the U.K., which want to arm Syria’s moderate rebels. The result of this shift, these officials say, is the U.S. has sought a controlled increase in support to moderate rebel factions. … “We all want Assad to fall tomorrow, but a wholesale institutional turnover overnight doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” a senior U.S. official said. “The end game requires a very careful calibration that doesn’t tip the meter in an unintended way toward groups that could produce the kind of post-Assad Syria that we aren’t looking for.”

Trouble is, Washington is attempting to thread a needle that it lacks the finesse to achieve:

Administration officials fear that with Islamists tied to al Qaeda increasingly dominating the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, too swift a rebel victory would undercut hopes for finding a diplomatic solution, according to current and former officials. It would also shatter national institutions along with what remains of civil order, these people say, increasing the danger that Syrian chemical weapons will be used or transferred to terrorists.

Officials say it will require delicate maneuvering to restrain the influence of radicals while buying time to strengthen moderate rebels who Western governments hope will assume national leadership if Mr. Assad can be persuaded to leave. … By strengthening moderates, the U.S. wants to put pressure on Assad supporters to cut a deal that would preserve governing institutions. …

Comments: (1) Obviously, I am pleased to learn that the Obama administration quietly has a adopted a sensible policy toward Syria. (2) Let’s hope that its unrealistic plan to guide the “good guys” to rule the country will fade with added experience; and that it will instead follow a balance-of-power approach such as I advocate.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, April 17, 2013, under the title, “US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now.”

The Case for Supporting Assad

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Analysts agree that “the erosion of the Syrian regime’s capabilities is accelerating,” that step-by-step it continues to retreat, making a rebel breakthrough and an Islamist victory increasingly likely. In response, I am changing my policy recommendation from neutrality to something that causes me, as a humanitarian and decades-long foe of the Assad dynasty, to pause before writing:

Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

Here is my logic for this reluctant suggestion: Evil forces pose less danger to us when they make war on each other. This (1) keeps them focused locally and it (2) prevents either one from emerging victorious (and thereby posing a yet-greater danger). Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.

This policy has precedent. Through most of World War II, Nazi Germany was on the offensive against Soviet Russia and keeping German troops tied down on the Eastern Front was critical to an Allied victory. Franklin D. Roosevelt therefore helped Joseph Stalin by provisioning his forces and coordinating the war effort with him. In retrospect, this morally repugnant but strategically necessary policy succeeded. And Stalin was a far worse monster than Assad.

The Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 created a similar situation. After mid-1982, when Ayatollah Khomeini’s forces went on the offense against those of Saddam Hussein, Western governments began supporting Iraq. Yes, the Iraqi regime had started the hostilities and was more brutal, but the Iranian one was ideologically more dangerous and on the offensive. Best was that the hostilities hobble both sides and prevent either one from merging victorious. In the apocryphal words of Henry Kissinger, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”

Applying this same logic to Syria today finds notable parallels. Assad fills the role of Saddam Hussein – the brutal Baathist dictator who began the violence. The rebel forces resemble Iran – the initial victim getting stronger over time and posing an increasing Islamist danger. Continued fighting endangers the neighborhood. Both sides engage in war crimes and pose a danger to Western interests. In this spirit, I argued then for U.S. help to the losing party, whichever that might be, as in this May 1987 analysis:

In 1980, when Iraq threatened Iran, our interests lay at least partly with Iran. But Iraq has been on the defensive since the summer of 1982, and Washington now belongs firmly on its side. … Looking to the future, should Iraq once again take the offensive, an unlikely but not impossible change, the United States should switch again and consider giving assistance to Iran.

Yes, Assad’s survival benefits Tehran, the region’s most dangerous regime. But a rebel victory, recall, would hugely boost the increasingly rogue Turkish government while empowering jihadis and replacing the Assad government with triumphant, inflamed Islamists. Continued fighting does less damage to Western interests than their taking power. There are worse prospects than Sunni and Shi’ite Islamists mixing it up, than Hamas jihadis killing Hizballah jihadis, and vice-versa. Better that neither side wins.

The Obama administration is attempting an overly ambitiously and subtle policy of simultaneously helping the good rebels with clandestine lethal arms and $114 million in aid even as it prepares for possible drone strikes on the bad rebels. Nice idea, but manipulating the rebel forces via remote control has little chance of success. Inevitably, aid will end up with the Islamists and air strikes will kill allies. Better to accept one’s limitations and aspire to the feasible: propping up the side in retreat.

At the same time, Westerners must be true to their morals and help bring an end to the warfare against civilians, the millions of innocents gratuitously suffering the horrors of civil war. Western governments should find mechanisms to compel the hostile parties to abide by the rules of war, specifically those that isolate combatants from non-combatants. This could entail pressuring the rebels’ suppliers (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and the Syrian government’s supporters (Russia, China) to condition aid on their abiding by the rules of war; it could even involve Western use of force against violators on either side. That would fulfill the responsibility to protect.

On the happy day when Assad & Tehran fight the rebels & Ankara to mutual exhaustion, Western support then can go to non-Baathist and non-Islamist elements in Syria, helping them offer a moderate alternative to today’s wretched choices and lead to a better future.

Palgrave Macmillan Participates in ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

I published a book, The Hidden Hand, with St Martin’s Press in 1996 and had a good experience with the house. Which gives me the more reason to be appalled to see the message that St Martin’s corporate successor, Palgrave Macmillan, sent out today, “Debating Israeli Apartheid Week“:

In conjunction with the 9th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week, take a look at our featured titles from our distribution partners Pluto Press, I.B. Tauris Publishers and Zed Books, bringing attention to this moment of the Palestinian struggle.

Comment: (1) This is another sign, as if more were needed, of the corruption of Middle East studies. (2) I am breaking all relations with Palgrave Macmillan. (March 11, 2013)

(The “learn more” link above takes the reader directly to the “Israel Apartheid Week” website.)

 

Mar. 12, 2013 update: Amy Bourke, Corporate Communications Manager at Palgrave Macmillan, wrote me the following note today under the subject line “Palgrave Macmillan response”:

Dear Mr Pipes

Palgrave Macmillan would like to express our regrets for the e-mail sent in error on Monday morning.

While many of our authors have published seminal works debating various aspects of the Israeli/Palestine conflict, and Palgrave Macmillan is committed to promoting scholarship, research and debate on this difficult topic, we would never endorse one particular political point of view. The wording used in the e-mail is unacceptable, and the e-mail does not represent the views of Palgrave Macmillan, distribution partners or its employees.

The e-mail was sent without having gone through the usual checks and processes, for which we sincerely apologise. We are working with the team involved to find out how this happened, and to ensure it does not happen again.

I hope you will include our response on your blog – do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

Kind regards

Amy

Amy Bourke
Corporate Communications Manage
Palgrave Macmillan, Scholarly

Congratulations to Palgrave for its quick and complete reversal. I am happy to renew ties to this important publishing house.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and the National Review Online, The Corner, March 11th, 2013 and updated March 12, 2013.

Daniel Pipes: West Must Oppose Islamism (Video)

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

African-American Student Starts Pro-Israel Group in New Orleans

Monday, January 14th, 2013

There hasn’t been a lot of good news recently for pro-Israel watchers of campus culture, but in the unlikeliest of places, by the unlikeliest of Zionists, there is finally good news to share.

The University of New Orleans has nearly 13,000 undergraduate students, fewer than 100 of whom are Jewish.  There are no Jewish studies courses, there are no Jewish services available and there is no kosher food available on campus.  But what UNO does have is Chloe’ Simone Valdary.

Valdary, a sophomore, majors in international relations.  Her particular interests are history, religion, philosophy, politics and current events.  Although she is Christian, Valdary decided to write a major paper her freshman year on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The research she did for her paper alarmed her, and Valdary resolved to do what she could to fight Jew-hatred.  She created an organization on Campus, “Allies of Israel.”  There are currently only nine members of the group, but the membership is likely to soar soon.  Their first major event will be held on January 28.

For their kickoff event Valdary chose to aim high.  She contacted Dr. Daniel Pipes, the executive director of the Middle East Forum, and one of the best known and respected authorities on the Middle East and radical Islam.  To the delight of the Allies, Pipes agreed to be the keynote speaker at their upcoming Declare Your Freedom event, which she describes as a “pro-Israel, pro-America event.”

The goal of this project, Valdary told The Jewish Press, is to publicly express a pro-Israel position, but also to talk about how to combat anti-Semitism in innovative ways.  She has a number of ideas she is already working on which she believes will have a real impact on the widespread hatred of which she only recently became aware.

In an announcement for the January 28 event, Chloe wrote:

In ‘The Town Beyond the Wall,’ author Elie Wiesel writes, “…to be indifferent, for whatever reason, is to deny not only the validity of existence, but also its beauty. Betray, and you are a man; torture your neighbor, you’re still a man. Evil is human, weakness is human; indifference is not.” I was moved by these words when I first read them during my freshman year in college. It was this writing along with the Scriptures and other sources that inspire me to try to inhibit this great injustice, Jew hatred, if you haven’t guessed it, that is permeating the globe.

Pipes will talk about the threats Israel faces which non-Israelis and non-public officials can act against.  Such as, Valdary said, “the delegitimization of the state as made evident through such campaigns as BDS.”

There is no formal Jewish organization such as Hillel at the University of New Orleans, but the Allies of Israel has a faculty advisor and several area rabbis and Chabad leaders have become involved with the group, which was formed with aid provided by CAMERA’s Campus Activist Project (CCAP).  CAMERA is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

***

Not only is Valdary an unlikely Zionist activist because she is not Jewish, she is also African American.

So how did a nice non-Jewish New Orleans girl like her become focused on the Jewish world?  Valdary said it happened because she read – and loved – the Leon Uris book “Exodus,” the summer before she started college.  That book inspired her to write the in-depth research paper on the Arab-Israeli conflict in her spring semester.  As she tells it, the research opened her eyes and she became increasingly intrigued “by the level of anti-Semitism that facilitates the conflict.” She then decided

to explore the conflict in the context of the constructivist paradigm of international relations which looks at norms and ideas and value systems.  It was through this research that I really began to discover how much anti-Semitism permeates the Middle East, and it really began to terrify me because many people are unaware of this phenomenon.  It is a distant one that doesn’t much affect us here in the USA and that distance often dissuades people from getting involved.

Okay, but how is it that this non-Jewish, non-white young woman found the question of hatred against Jews so compelling?

Her answer sounds like something that should come from a much, much older person.  But older doesn’t always mean wiser, and this 19-year-old has much to teach her elders.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/african-american-pro-israel-group-on-new-orleans-campus-fighting-antisemitism/2013/01/14/

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