Posts tagged ‘ISIS’

Numbers without any Meaning

President DFF was out spreading lies again this weekend, oh, and using totally misleading numbers. I have discussed before numbers like the national debt which have no meaning whatsoever until compared to our earnings. Example: I only have $10,000 is total debt is meaningless unless we know your income to service that debt. If you are jobless, you are in deep kimchi. National debt has no meaning until we know the nation’s GDP (earnings). This discussion is part of my never-ending crusade to promote critical thinking.

As a project manager I was involved in building the Chemical Demilitarization Facility in Tooele Utah. It was a massive concrete facility to take apart chemical munition and then destroy the chemical nerve agents (and blister agents). Progress and schedule are almost everything in construction (along with safety and quality). So in our monthly progress meeting I am looking at a slide that says the contractor placed 100 tons (I am making these number up) tons of concrete and 40 tons of steel this week (Yes these were heavily reinforced walls). Say what? Big numbers, but meaningless unless you know what was scheduled that month. Numbers are always relative to something else to be meaningful. A restaurant rated as a 5 is only meaningful if you know it is a 10 point scale. If it is a 5 point scale, you may pass over something wonderful.

Obvious right? So there is President DFF out spewing numbers this weekend which he thought were really, really big in his limit vernacular, but were either meaningless or misleading because we don’t have the rest of the story. This is probably okay with the Trumpets as anything he says or does is just peachy. But for the rest of us whose brain has not been eatened by some horrible stupid virus, we need the context. So here is some examples from the NYT this morning fact checking the guy:

“ISIS, we have 98% of the land back.”

True, but what has he done in policy or approach other than continue on Obama Administration policies? Nothing. This is one of his trademark tactics, taking credit for other people’s work as you will see in the following.

“So we’ve created three million jobs since Election Day. Nobody thought that was possible.”

Actually it was totally expected since Obama created 2.6 million jobs during the last 13 months of his administration, and he is taking credit for Obama’s job numbers from November through January which was about 500,000 jobs, so in comparison to Obama he only created 2.5 million jobs. We are on the same curve basically with the same slope.  Where is the massive improvement from the tax cut and slashing regulations?  Oh those numbers.  I guess those of us who did not think that was possible were those of us that thought the economy would crash by now under President DFF, but that is coming.

“African-American unemployment two months ago reached the lowest level in history and last month it went up a little bit, right? And I made the mistake, because I didn’t know it went up, and it wasn’t quite as good but it wasn’t historic. So I was in a different month and I said un employment is the lowest level in history. They killed me. Because it was the previous month. But here’s the good news. The new month brought it down to the lowest level. So now it’s the lowest level.”

Same lie.  He is taking credit for a trend that the economy under President Obama was on, decreasing African-American unemployment steadily from 16.4 percent in August 2011 to 7.8 percent in January 2017, right before Mr. Trump took office.  Get the trend (no pun intended).  And one might ask, as part of critical thinking, what has President DFF done for African-Americans?  What policy directly affected them?  None.  Once again he is taking credit for what his supporters would never give President Obama credit for.

Now here is one that is a lie, and should worry you:

“We spent $7 trillion in the Middle East over a 17-year period, $7 trillion as of three months ago”

First it is false. Best estimate we have according to the NYT is $1.88 trillion between 2001 and 2017.  That is still a lot of money, whose spending started by who again?  No, not Obama, Bush.  The $7 trillion number comes from extending out the costs to 2053 and includes veteran’s care, terrorism-prevention spending, etc.  So first, he does not understand the numbers he is spewing, and second if he is going to get that down are we going to cut veteran’s care and terror prevention?

So the conclusion here is that either he does not understand what the numbers mean, or he does not care and just lies to puff up his ego.  But what is really sad is that I would bet it would not be just the Trumpets who did not get these lies, but a large part of the American public that does not think critically.  Time to start.


Remember when the Russians left? Maybe they are smarter than us. I listened to parts of the Presidents speech only because my Donald Trump over flow light is on and I can only take so much. I found it interesting that a man who has never served his country can think he can inspire the troops. His flights of fantasy were there for all to behold as he talked of an all-inclusive military when on the campaign trail he bashes Mexican immigrants and his famous tweet on transsexuals. But the fantasy I thought was the biggest was thinking we will make a difference.

Let’s throw some more boys and girls into that meat grinder because I don’t like to lose. And like every one before him, no grand strategy, just fighting till the Afghanis are ready. How long have we been building facilities for them and getting them ready? Well I started working on projects over there about 2005 so at least since then. And they are never ready. If we were going to really do this where is the grand strategy and the funding? I fear we have a man devoid of the lessons of history, ready to repeat its mistakes over and over.

And what of this war? Is it really conflated to the ISIS car attack in Barcelona as he did last night or is it a civil war with the Taliban? I do care about the rights of women and a stable country, but at what price, and where is our national interest? I fear his has nothing to do with the rights of women or democracy, but not losing, oh, and did I mention the vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan? But we lost Vietnam, which he conveniently forgot last night and it turned out that our national security was still in tact.

So before we go back into a war of attrition and the odds are on the home team, what is the goal, what is the strategy to get us there, and is it really in our national interests. We don’t seem to care about Somalia. Wait, what about Argentina? For that matter what about Ukraine? For all the reasons laid out there before about fighting someone else’s war, why are we going back into Afghanistan? Unless they become a training camp for ISIS, why is it our blood to bring them into the 21st century? No, I think the Russians knew when to quit and we don’t. That is the problem being lead by a man ignorant of history.

The Donald or the Economy?

Actually I think Tom Friedman yesterday took care of the Donald who suggested jokingly to people who wouldn’t know a joke if it hit them in the head (Donald Trump) that they use their 2nd Amendment rights to deal with Hillary.  Who needs debate when you have guns?  Then of course there were the surrogates out trying to tamp down the fire.  What a craven bunch.  At this point it should be clear the man is a lunatic, and the Republicans who can’t seem to not hang on to him, unfit for office, any office on grounds of lack of judgement, much less principles.  But wait there is more!  The Donald said President Obama was the founder of ISIS and “crooked Hillary” was the co-founder.  Hmm.  Who invaded Iraq again?  Oh, my brain hurts.

As I noted yesterday, Susan Collins pulled the plug, but is still unclear why her party nominated him.  She is apparently unclear on a lot of things.  Asked who she will vote for, she wasn’t sure.  The safe bet for Republicans was a third Party candidate so they can claim there is still validity in their economic and social nonsense, just that Trump is unfit to serve.  Gail Collins came to the rescue:

Here’s the bottom line: There are only three things you can do when it comes time to elect a president. You can stay home and punt; you can choose between the two major party candidates; or you can cop out by doing something that looks like voting but has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the race…The only third party that might have a line on all state ballots is the Libertarian, whose platform includes eliminating Social Security, ending gun control and wiping out drug laws.

I could add public education, and most government investment in all things you care about.  I have always looked at libertarians as a crazy fringe of well off people.  Well off because their ideas only work if you can wall yourself off from everyone else.  Let people and the market place provide their own schooling except what happens to the poor kid whose parents dump him.  Who worries about him?  Oh right, religious organizations.  What happens when one religion dominates over another?  What happens when using your property rights you affect your neighbor’s property rights?  It goes on and on and becomes quite clear this is utopian madness.  The Greens?  Well they want to do away with vaccines, should I say anymore?

So with the Donald taken care of, craven Republicans identified, and third-party choices exposed for what they are, I will return to the economy.  Ross Douthat, the other conservative writing for the NYT, said this yesterday:

Long before Donald Trump, the Republican Party had an obvious problem. Its core economic agenda — tax cuts, free trade, deregulation and a promise to shrink the federal leviathan — was seen by many Americans, including many of the party’s own voters, as distant from their concerns and too skewed toward the rich:

Basically, reform conservatives tend to think that the Republican Party’s longstanding commitments to free markets, free trade and entitlement reform are all well worth preserving. But while pursuing this broadly Paul Ryan-ish agenda, we think the party needs to offer more direct support to working Americans who have struggled with stagnant wages and rising health care and education costs. And the obvious way to pay for this support, ultimately, is to be less monomaniacal about sweeping tax cuts for the rich.

Nice try Ross.  See, they still are stuck in the fiction about the market place.  In fact it is neither good nor evil, but it is not a solver of all problems because it focuses on short-term profits.  Health care provided universally by most of the world is cheaper and more effective than ours and none of them use private insurance.  Global warming is unaddressed unless government tips the profit scales because the market place goes to where it can maximize profits, not save the planet.  Just an example.

But the real flaw in the logic is that the market place is free.  The market place is chaos unless tamed by rules and what we are really talking about is whose rules to benefit whom.  While there is a glimmer here of recognition that the Holy Trinity of Republicanism (lower taxes, small government, and less regulations) might need some adjustment, they still have not faced up to a very gray world where their Holy Trinity gets it wrong most of the time.

Republicans still want their lower taxes, smaller government, less regulations as an approach to solve economic inequality when that very same approach has driven economic inequality.  Sadly the rules of how the market place functions has to change so that more of us benefit from growth and profit.  They aren’t there yet and only Progressives seem to be addressing this.  Just keep in mind that no solution is perfect and there are no easy answers (like all trade agreements are bad).  We need an open mind to look at every angle which right now is anathema to the Republican Party that has eschewed critical thinking for faith=based thinking. I would not be looking to them for solutions to anything.

A Morning Perusal

Well the first day of insanity is over.  Did you watch it?  Me neither, although I did channel surf through it a couple of times.  So what do we know.  First there is the platform, probably the biggest attempt at regression this country has ever seen:

Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim phobia and fantasy wall across the Mexican border are front and center, along with his protectionist views, which deny long-held positions of the party. No less alarming is a raft of planks that ideologues pushed through to banish any notion of moderation and present-day reality from the party’s credo.

This majority has triumphed in securing retrograde positions that include making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a “clean” energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing “family values” judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.

The platform also makes homophobia and the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people a centerpiece. It repudiates same-sex marriage, despite strong support for this constitutional right in the nation at large. The party invokes “natural marriage” and states’ rights for determining which bathrooms transgender people may use, and it defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers.

Then there was the attempt to release delegates from their pledged votes, quashed in a way that could further cause dissent within the Party.  Next was Melania Trump’s speech that according to some sources was lifted from Michelle Obama in 2008.  What was the significance of the white dress?  Purity? Oh well.  Then there was the Op-Ed this morning by David Brooks basically saying the Donald is unhinged and we could elect an unhinged President.  Like that was a surprise?  Welcome to the party David.

As I would pass through the convention on my way to a baseball game (A’s won!), I would see the talking heads interviewing basically fat old white men about how wonderful everything is going.  Do they ever get tired of being the front people for the spinners.  I saw little real critical analysis maybe except on MSNBC very late in the evening when they had one (yes only one) Democrat on to point out all the hypocrisy and fluff.  Was there any discussion or fact checking going on?  Only in print journalism which only old guys like me read.

So on day one, if you step back and take in the big picture, here is what I see:  A Party not much different that the Taliban or ISIS except they haven’t blown anything up yet except the Constitution.  Basically they have gone beyond just believing their economic ideas about the market place solving all problems as a religion.

They have brought in real religion to use government to make others follow their ideas, whether it is discrimination toward gays/transgender or women’s right to choose.  They will use religious test to see who gets into the country and by extension to make a religious test for citizenship.  Let’s not forget everybody be afraid, the world is coming to an end and only the Donald can save it with “law and order”. Oh, and their leader, the Donald,  a narcissist who gets more vindictive by the day, and seems to have less and less control over himself as his defense mechanisms kick in when reality is pointed out to him.  Basically it is a Party about tearing down everything the Founders built.

And the News Media happy reports none of this as they pretend all this is normal and people just have different opinions.  Yep, we are going over the cliff and this was only day one.  What oh what will we get today that everyone will pretend is normal political dialogue?  I think I will go lose golf balls at the golf course.

The ISIS Strategy

We hear a lot about how President Obama does not have a clear strategy for defeating ISIS.  I would agree, but I understand the problem.  I will put it this way:  Say we defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, then what?  It is the ‘then what’ that is so hard.  If you don’t fill the vacuum and put something in place that removes the hopelessness that creates ISIS recruits, you are just clearing the decks for round 2.  

Now I have opined that they only real way to deal with Islamic terrorists is for the Islamic community to soundly reject them as part of their religion.  By soundly I mean root them out, throw them out, turn them in, cut off their support structures.  That would be the most effective way, working with Western governments, to stem the tide of terrorism.  Of course Western governments would also have to find a better way to integrate these Muslims into their societies.  Their will always be outliers, like the San Bernadino attack, but if their were an active and loud repudiation of these acts from most of Islam, it might just have made them stop and think.

But back to the war in the Middle East.  Republicans are telling us they will be much tougher offering war crimes as a solution.  Bernie wants to avoid entanglement, and Hillary, if her past tells us anything, wants a more aggressive approach. All, except the Republican War crimes (bomb them till the glow, torture everyone) might have short term benefits, but that is not the question.  The question is what then?  What comes after?

In Iraq there was no al Qaeda, we created them by putting in a Shiite government and exiling all the Sunnis.  When we recognized our mistake, the damage was done.  The issue is whether Shiites and Sunnis can work together.  So far the question has been answered as a firm no.  And as long as their are warring parties vying for control, the opening for the next al Qaeda, ISIS, or whatever is there.  The real question is how do you bring a 5th century theocracy into the 21st century, with a basic understanding of humane rights, tolerance, and Justice not defined as retribution?

If I had the answer to that one, I would not be sitting on top of a hill in the middle of a vineyard in Apple Hill.  I would be beating down doors to get someone to listen to me.  There must be an answer because the blow back from the on-going strife in Europe and the spread of ISIS to other countries is simply not acceptable.  One thing is for sure, continuing to arm them is a major mistake.  I frankly don’t have much hope for the Middle East for many years to come as you see riots in Pakistan protesting the death by hanging of a murderer who killed a government official who criticized blasphemy laws.

In America, well most of America, we take religious tolerance for granted.  But even here we have a tendency to backslide if we are not careful.  See states trying to pass anti-gay laws or refusing to follow the law giving them equal rights.  We evolved during the Elightenment to take religion our of government.  It may be another three or four hundred years before East Asia gets there or they simply kill each other off.  So if our end game is to be involved over there for another three or four hundred years while they learn the lessons of the West, good luck with that.  Now you see why an ISIS strategy is so hard.  

See It’s Not a Religion or Maybe It Is

To a question posed last night by Chris Mathews on why the Right is demanding that the President use the term radical Islamic terrorists, the terrorist expert pundit and Muslim answered:

“I think they believe that Islam itself and the tenets espoused by groups like ISIS, they think that Islam itself is radical, and that these people are radical

ISIS is not radical Islam. This is not Islam. ISIS is a cult, that is a segment that is completely un-Islamic The Muslim Jurisprudence credential organization will tell you that. And by using this dangerous rhetoric, I hate to say this, this endangers our service members overseas.  This endangers our intelligence office who are trying to defend us with our allies.  This rhetoric is absolutely not going to play well in our allies capitals, but it plays very well in Raqqa Syria where ISIS has its headquarters.”

By the way, Chris totally agreed with this assessment, which is clouded by his own religious belief, but I will get to that in a moment.  Now I would agree with the idea that branding all Muslims is “dangerous rhetoric”, but on the first part, ISIS is not radical Islam, he is dead wrong.  And in this error, he fails to understand the primary motivation for new recruits.*  And by ignoring this we give up our best tool at taking them on and defeating their ideology.   We are in denial because our own religious underpinnings could lead to the same radicalism and does.  We are in denial because we don’t want to understand that religion itself can be just as dangerous as it is helpful.

But I am not the only one who sees this and I pretty much documented that argument in a blog (Islamic Terrorists, Terrorist, or What is Religion anyway).  Here is a quote from Professor Jerry Coyle who is an expert on Religious texts:

There is no true version of Islam that you can put your finger on. If you want to be legalistic about it you can say, well, the true religion is what is in the scriptures, and in that case Christianity, even though you have to reach back to find it committing things like inquisition. Even Christianity has an Old Testament that explicitly sanctions and approves of terrorism, of terrorism of innocents, of adultery, rape, genocide. How do Christians write that off as not being true Christianity when it is in the Old Testament in black and white?

The problem with saying that there is a true faith and the true Islam has been hijacked by ISIS is not true. What has happened with Christianity is that it has become tamer over the centuries because it was hijacked by the Enlightenment values, the secular Enlightenment values that have gotten rid of all these horrible statements in the old testament. That’s what needs to happen to Islam. It needs to be hijacked by Enlightenment values. In fact ISIS does not hijack Islam at all.

Today, the NYT had an interesting piece by Rukmini Callimachi and the thrust of it was that ISIS’s grand strategy is to draw us into a ground war in the holy land.  This fulfills an Islamic prophecy:

The group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region. Should that invasion happen, the Islamic State would not only be able to declare its prophecy fulfilled, but could also turn the occurrence into a new recruiting drive at the very moment when the terror group appears to be losing volunteers.

…The group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region.

This is why recruiting is so easy.  It is part of their basic Islamic narrative.  To say ISIS is not Islam is to misunderstand the whole recruitment strategy.  We can’t quite come to grips with saying bad things about a religion, but we must if we are going to combat this.  Saying it is a perversion of Islam falls on deaf ears for good reasons.  It isn’t.  So we have to take on those basic ideas. but similar to not taking the basic ideas of the Old Testament, we just choose to ignore them.  It scares us because we have to come to grips with how much of it is nonsense.  So what else is nonsense?

As Professor Coyle noted, we were tamed by the Enlightenment.  But we never came face to face with saying much of religion is rubbish.  To fight ISIS where they live, we are going to have to do that and I am not sure we are up to it. We are weighed down by our own baggage.

*Note:  I actually find quite a similarity between denying ISIS is Islam, and Donald Trump doesn’t represent Republicans.  Both are in denial about what their religion is about.

If Everyone has a Gun, Someone is Going to get Shot (Part II)

First this little tidbit to get your morning going:

The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

Yep, the whole world is festering with unhappy souls, and we are arming them to the teeth.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Okay, I promised to solve the Middle Eastern crisis in one simple blog.  You know, it is a great responsibility and not easy trying to save the world from my iPad in the morning, usually in one page or less.  But somebody has to do it because our mainstream press asks really important questions like, “Marco, what non-politician would you like to sit down and have a beer with?”  If that weren’t bad enough, he answered Malala who is probably underage and a Muslim (doesn’t drink).  I rest my case on the brain trust that is running for President on the Republican side.

Okay, the common perception is that ISIS is the problem.  So the easy answer (see Lindsey Graham) is to send in our troops and wipe them out.  However, we have the vacuum problem.  Who fills the vacuum after we go or do we just stay there forever being the policeman of the world? It’s what we did before. You get the problem.

But there really is a more fundamental problem which many have pointed out has to be dealt with or the problem just keeps raising its ugly head. This problem is the lust for  religious totalitarianism that cannot abide any other beliefs.  It is not just Islam, Christianity has this in its blood stream also, but we have a more tame version where if you don’t believe the “right” way you are just damned to hell.  God will get you in the end and that is good enough. That’s actually a comforting thought for us atheists since we think God is a figment of the imagination anyway.  And I am always reminded of priest and pastors who are “right” thinking, sexually abusing their flock.

The good news, like Christianity, most Muslims are quite happy with live and let live, so part of the solution is to mobilize them against the more crazy Muslims.  When we see shows like The Book of Mormon, being played out as The Book of Mohammed, we know we have arrived.  All kidding aside, just getting the discussion going without death threats within the Muslim world would be a big start. So whatever we do, that has to be part of the solution.

The next thing we have to do is recognize that what we have been doing does not work, period.  And from Libya to Yemen to Syria to Iraq and Afghanistan, our many varied approaches have yielded very little unless of course you manufacture and sell arms or more sadly, if you are in the medical rehabilitation field.  Oh, and it has worked swimmingly if you sell dilapidated boats to refugees.  So we have a region in chaos, millions migrating to Europe, and ISIS and al Qaeda exporting war to our shores.  Not what I would call a success.

So we throw everything we think we know away.  That includes established borders and who are our friends and foes.  Next we have to lay out our goals.  I know this is Project Management 101, but apparently those in charge could use a little.  Here would be my goals:

  1. Destroy ISIS and al Qaeda (and the idea of intolerant religions)
  2. Separate the warring factions and quit trying to get them to hold hands (Iraq)
  3. Stand behind our American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (did I forget minority rights (Think women here)?)
  4. End the refugee crisis

For Goal 1, we make whatever deals we have to except allowing a war criminal like Assad to remain in power.  If we do let him stay in power, it will be self-defeating and violate Goal 3.  There are going to have to be some Americans involved and NATO has to step up to the plate, along with primarily Arab ground troops.  This includes putting the screws to Pakistan who have nurtured al Qaeda and the Taliban in their territories.

As part of this, we are going to have to establish a no-fly zone and using NATO  forces secure it so the refugees do not have to go to Europe (Goal 4).  This will also require massive humanitarian aid, to build a modern place to be safe while the nuts can fight their wars elsewhere.  Cause trouble and out you go. This could even become a proving ground for a modern Arab government, but tightly managed by NATO to ensure no backsliding.

To make the deals to in fact get an Arab force to fight ISIS and al Qaeda (and maybe Assad), they have to know that they get some of the spoils.  Since we have seen how promising an inclusive government does not work, they get to control the areas they win (Goal 2).  Iraq would probably become three areas (remember Joe Bidden said this years ago), Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.

Syria could go the same way.  Turkey is in for a rough comeuppance. Since they have facilitated the flow of oil and people into and out of Syria. Russia is not going to like this, but they either play along or get confronted.  Better now than later.  They can either play and have a role in a new Syrian government or they become part of the problem. The whole pack of nations has to clamp down on the flow of money and arms.  Remember this is a world solution to a creeping cancer.

Finally, the big one, Goal 3.  This is really what brings the Middle East into the 21st century and makes us a more civilized world. We help them separate and survive only as long as they promote the values of life, liberty, and happiness.  If they become like Saudi Arabia, they are just a ticking time bomb and will eventually go off, and not peacefully.  If we are going to solve this, we have to recognize that some cultures are not just different, they are destructive to the human spirit.  We have to use our force, influence, and money to become the good guy again.

One last thing.  We are not going to be the policeman of the world.  If it doesn’t work out, we walk away and let them fester in stupidity.  The only time we (NATO) get involved is if like ISIS, they start posing an international problem.  Then we squash them.  See, that was not so hard. Now with this framework in hand, and France now probably fully on board, let’s see if we can make some headway because this is a world problem and only a world solution will work.

An Important Insight

We are starting to have a real discussion about what the problem is with ISIS and al Qaeda and how to deal with it. I have my opinions, but they are pliable.  They are pliable because it is such a complex problem that does not lend itself to easy answers.  Send in the Marines!  We did that last time and when we left, the vacuum was filled by terrorists.  Are we to be there forever?  Can non-Muslims really solve anything?  Sunnis, Shites, Kurds, Russian pride, Iranian fear of Sunnis and Saudi Arabia, Turkish fear of the Kurds, and boundaries that don’t make sense make it a complex mix and the answer is not just send in the calvary.

There is an extreme opinion that the problem at the heart of everything is Islam.  I have expressed that myself, but I am biased against most religions. There is criticism that Democrats can’t say radical Islamic fundamentalism for fear of alienating all Muslims.  But I won’t give you my argument tonight, but  Maajid Narwaz, a Muslim, who wrote in the Daily Beast today something we ought to all think about in regard to al Qaeda and ISIS.  Here are a few quotes and then I will make my point:

Recognizing this as an insurgency affects entirely how we react to it. We cannot simply shoot or even legislate our way out of this problem. Unlike war, counter-insurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant enough levels of support within the communities it aims to survive among. Recognizing the source of that support means avoiding the apologism of the far left or the sensationalism of the far right. Both of these reactions will render us blind to the real wellspring of this insurgency’s appeal: the Islamist ideology, as distinct from the religion of Islam.

President Obama, and many liberals, shy away from calling this ideology Islamism. Their fear is that both Muslim communities and those on the political right will simply hear the word “Islam” and begin to blame all Muslims. Instead, the mantra that is repeated is “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.”

ISIS did not radicalize those 6,000 European Muslims who have traveled to join them. ISIS propaganda is good, but not that good. No, decades of Islamist propaganda in communities had already primed these young Muslims to yearn for a theocratic caliphate.

…Islam is what Muslims make it. But it is as disingenuous to argue that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam” as it is to argue that “they are Islam.” ISIS has something to do with Islam. Not nothing, not everything, but something. If you’re going to talk to a jihadist—and believe me, I have spoken to many—you’re not going to find yourself discussing Hitler’s Mein Kampf. You’ll be discussing Islamic texts.

…Islam is a religion, and like any other it is internally diverse. But Islamism is the desire to impose a very particular version of Islam on society. Hence, Islamism is Muslim theocracy. And where jihad is a traditional Islamic idea of struggle, jihadism is the use of force to spread Islamism. Defined in this way, it becomes easier to understand how this global jihadist insurgency seeks to recruit from Islamists, who in turn operate among Muslim communities.

…We should be able to distinguish Islamist extremism from Islam by clarifying that Islam is simply a religion and that Islamism is a theocratic desire to impose a version of that religion over society. And once we do that, we are then able to clearly identify the insurgent ideology that we must get understand, isolate, undermine, refute, and provide alternatives to.

Okay where am I and where do I think Maajid is going with this?  Maajid is a Muslim and I am an atheist.  And in that distinction we see the same thing.  Maajid, I believe, finds comfort and truth in his religion.  I find religion nonsense, although I recognize its utility.  But both of us have no need to conquer the world with our beliefs.  In fact we see the utility of the diversity of beliefs.  My view is that Islamism is no different than those who wish to legislate their religious beliefs into our U.S. constitutional system.  Conservative right wing religious organizations want to prevent you from excercising rights they find religiously objectionable.  They are not content with the freedom to abstain, they must make sure you do too (Hobby Lobby).

What we see is the intolerance of religious belief.  And the point Maajid is trying to make is that the seeds of this theocracy of belief is in the religion itself.  To deny it is to not be able to face head on the real problem.  Islam is not inherently evil nor is Christianity from my atheistic point of view.  But the seeds for it being used for evil are within the religion and unless we face that head on, we are spinning our wheels.  Amen brother.

Oh, and one other thing.  The media is all over how maybe these insurgent radical jihadist groups are combining forces.  Get a grip.  These are really small groups with radical and deadly tendencies that can cause havoc in civilized society because they are not afraid to die.  But they will never work together because in the end each is seeking power through their fantasy of religion and they are never going to agree on whose fantasy is the right one. In reality it is just another power trip.  If they were successful in establishing a caliphate together, it would be a short period before they would be warring against each other in a fight for whose vision of the perfect caliphate is right and who was in charge.  Or as it ever was.

It’s Time to End Islamic Fundamentalism

If you read my blog yesterday, you probably thought I was just venting.  We do not want to get bogged down in another war in the Middle East.  But I was drawing a rational conclusion.  ISIS is no longer a regional threat.  The nature of the conflict has changed and so must our approach.  Apparently I am not the only one who has come to this conclusion as Roger Cohen, writing for the New York Times has come to a similar conclusion:

The only adequate measure, after the killing of at least 129 people in Paris, is military, and the only objective commensurate with the ongoing threat is the crushing of ISIS and the elimination of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq. The barbaric terrorists exulting on social media at the blood they have spilled cannot be allowed any longer to control territory on which they are able to organize, finance, direct and plan their savagery.

And like me, he sees this as a NATO imperative which will not be easy:

The battle will be long. Islam is in a state of fervid crisis, riven by the regional battle of Sunni and Shia interests (read Saudi Arabia and Iran), afflicted by a metastasizing ideology of anti-Western hatred and Wahhabi fundamentalism, seeking a reasonable accommodation with modernity. The scourge within it can probably only be defeated from within, by the hundreds of millions of Muslims who are people of peace and are as appalled as any sentient being at the Paris slaughter. Their voices need to be raised in unambiguous and sustained unison.

My point is very simple.  It is now a different threat and one we can no longer wait out.  America acting alone is folly, but if the rest of the World mobilizes to remove this cancer from the face of the earth, it can be done.  It is really a war about the future of mankind, and sadly I must now say it is time to fight it.

Monday, Not So Deep Thoughts

The storm is now being called the once in 1000 year storm in South Carolina.  I wonder if it has anything to do with God being angry because they agreed to lower the Confederate flag?  I wonder if any one is stopping to ask why now, unless we are altering our climate? Hmm.

Hillary has come out with a plan to try to regulate guns by bypassing Congress.  Now the both sides do it crowd may want to step back and see which side is unanimously against doing anything.  And the one thing we know, which is not opinion, but we know, is that fewer guns result in fewer incidents of gun violence.  The issue is how to get there.  That is where the opinions come in.

Russia really has the short-term advantage in Syria.  Their strategy is really quite simple, shore up Assad.  Our strategy is … ?  Well we want Assad to go, and we want to defeat ISIS who opposes Assad, and … ?  See the problem here? I know what the Russians end game is, I have no clue what ours is.

I saw where Matt Damon was under attack for saying the obvious.  If we don’t know an actor’s sexual proclivities, it is easier to suspend our disbelief in any role they might play.  Somehow that got translated into gay actors should stay in the closet.  I actually thought it meant that a person’s sexual choices really should be private and no one else’s business. Watching old Rock Hudson movies knowing now he is gay, makes it much harder to buy into the romance.  That is all he was saying.

I see where the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal has been reached.  Since we have basically already approved it, now maybe they will actually let us read it and see what we are in for.

Well, another Amtrak derailing.  What you expect on a system we refuse to invest in and runs on 50 year old technology.  Kind of a model for our entire infrastructure and the refusal by Republicans to invest in it.

Paul Krugman tells us this morning that Republicans have no energy plan but big oil, and hey, more coal.  Actually if you can tell me if Republicans have any plans except cut taxes, small government, less regulation, or said another way, keeping everything just the way it is, I will eat my hat.  That does not include fantasy plans like walls, mass deportation, or rescinding Obamacare without an alternative.

Finally, here in California, the Governor signed a bill approving brew bikes, which allows you to tour Sacramento breweries on a 15 person brew bike (and imbibe if local government allows) that is pedal propelled.  You know, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the suds.  Happy Monday.