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Archive for February, 2017

Originally published in the Rutland Herald

 

America’s success in domestic counterterrorism depends on two critical elements: The extent to which the American people descend into “terrorist paranoia” and the extent to which we alienate our Muslim citizens and residents.

Fifty years ago terrorism was seen primarily in dissident national groups working against the nations in which they lived.

Today the world of terrorism has changed. The primary authors of 21st Century terrorism are found in radical Islam.

The dominant radical Muslim terrorist modus operandi used to be operations mounted from abroad against enemy countries in which terrorists were recruited, trained, equipped and directed on trips from their homelands to radical Muslim centers abroad.

Now, those operations are conceived and run autonomously from abroad, mostly from Syria and Iraq. The recruited terrorist may never leave his home country. The recruitment, training, provisioning and execution of the operation are likely to be run entirely remotely via encrypted internet from abroad. All of this complicates our efforts to counter terrorism at home.

These realities have reinforced the decades-old international conclusion that the only truly effective counter-terrorist measures are intelligence and law enforcement operations.

The best allies that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have in the conduct of current counterterrorist operations are moderate Muslims. In a perfect world, one in which they are living undisturbed lives, moderate Muslims are the most likely people to be able to provide critical information on the potential terrorist activities of radical Muslims living in the same country with them.

It should be stated clearly here that there is no coercion involved. Moderate Muslims are appalled by the activities of their radical cousins and see them as a threat to their own peace and well-being. They are natural enemies of the radicals and see the national law enforcement and intelligence personnel and organizations of the countries in which they live as their natural allies – the only organizations that can protect them from the radicals.

All of this requires a relatively benign environment in which moderate Muslims feel comfortable and unthreatened. In a hostile environment, if American personnel are involved, the moderate is faced with a dilemma. Does he support the American who he sees as part of the group creating the hostile environment, or does he support the fellow national and Muslim, regardless of his radical positions? US experience in the Middle East indicates that, as often as not, under these conditions, the radical will be supported over the American.

As long as the moderate Muslim feels comfortable and unthreatened, he will be anti-radical. When that changes, all bets are off. He may be drawn to the radical side simply because they are former co-nationals or co-religionists. At that point even moderates can become dangerous to our country.

How then do we alienate or threaten these moderates? We can indiscriminately single them out as somehow dangerous.We can denigrate them and their religion. We can identify them and expel them from our country. We can refuse them entry, even when they have endangered their own lives by supporting our troops in the Middle East as translators and interpreters. We can refuse entry to all Muslims, including those whom we have already vetted exhaustively and judged not to be threats to America. In short, through executive order and popular harassment, we can make their lives almost unbearable.

In addition, some in America are clearly interested in causing a high level of anxiety in our population when it comes to terrorism. Every act of terrorism carried out anywhere in the world is tweeted and reported extensively in the media. It seems to be working. Even though the likelihood of being injured or killed by a terrorist is miniscule, particularly when compared to automobile, gun or virtually any other kind of death, we hear constantly about vigilance and terrorism. We are being converted to terrorist paranoia.

It would seem safe to say that a combination of terrorist paranoia and the disaffection and alienation of our own Muslim population will have a profound affect on our country. We are already beginning to see indiscriminate anti-Muslim acts taking place around the country, fed by administration actions and negative statements.

The current administration’s stressing of the “growing terrorist threat” and the increasing discomfort of moderate Muslims in America will likely prove important factors in our ability, or lack thereof, to control the level of radical Muslim terrorism here at home. We desperately need those moderates on our side.

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Why Your Vote Counts

Originally published inThe Rutland Herald

 Those of us who are not highly partisan voters are faced this year with a choice between two unusually unattractive candidates. Some of us will take a deep breath, suck it up and vote for the one we believe to be less unattractive. Others say they simply will not vote at all.

The polls would seem to show that many of those who have made the decision not to vote are younger people who facing their first or second elections.

Those who plan not to vote are the voters who really need to take a second look. Why? Simple. Because there will be a number of Supreme Court justices appointed by the next president.

The Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to overrule, if necessary, the actions of the president and Congress. In that context, the court has ruled in Citizens United that corporations and wealthy individuals may contribute, virtually without limit and at will, to political parties and candidates, in effect diluting the strength of the individual American’s vote.

Additional Roberts court rulings materially affect our lives in the areas of securities fraud, affirmative action, banking, campaign finance, wiretapping, the loss of personal freedoms, picture IDs for voters, and voting rights.

Where does the Constitution ban abortions? It bans murder, but does not tell us when abortion slides into murder. The court tells us that. What makes them more competent than medical doctors or ministers?

There is serious dissent, particularly in the law-enforcement community, about Roberts court decisions on gun rights. The Constitution protects gun ownership as follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In the face of massive annual gun deaths, it’s hard for the vast majority of Americans to understand how that enables the decisions that the Roberts court has made that curtail any and all attempts, not to take handguns or semiautomatics away, but to make gun ownership safer.

Additionally, against the Jeffersonian dictum of the “separation of church and state,” a phrase accepted by virtually any American who can understand the Constitution, one now sees the current court edging into a practice of favoring one religion over other belief systems in matters of taxation, schools and monuments.

Where does all of this lead us? It leads to one extraordinarily important fact of American life that is all too often overlooked by voters. When we vote for presidential candidates, we are voting for future Supreme Court justices, almost all of whom, depending on our political and philosophical leanings, will make decisions that will make life either better or more contentious and difficult for large groups of our citizens.

What it says is that when you cast your vote for president, whether or not you like him or her, you had better be absolutely certain that your candidate shares your values and philosophy. If you truly believe that the Roberts court has improved life for all Americans, vote for a Republican, the more conservative the better.

Why? Because the president elected in 2016 will appoint up to five new justices. Four of the current members of the court are now over the age of 70. The Scalia seat is already open.

On the other hand, if you believe that wealthy individuals and organizations should not own either parties or candidates; that women should have control over their bodies; that Americans are often venal, cut legal corners and must be monitored to comply with existing laws; that we are in the process of losing our personal freedoms in the forlorn hope of gaining security; that we need to have background checks for gun purchasers and rule out those who are criminals or insane; that there is no place in the land for those who would underhandedly and illegally curtail anyone’s voting rights; that there should be more equity in the lives of all our citizens and that we need to decrease, not increase, the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots in America, then you need to pay attention to what the candidates are saying right now.

Your choice for president will be gone in four or eight years, but your vote will change the political posture of the court for decades to come, either for better or for worse. You had better make it count, for it will directly affect you, your children and grandchildren for most of your lives.

 

 

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Originally published in THE RUTLAND HERALD                      

 

Vladimir Putin is a Russian who understands Russian history. He is swayed only by his pragmatism and has a very precise picture of what he wants for Russia in the world today.

President Donald Trump has a sparse record on the policy level and can only be measured by his statements since the beginning of the primary campaign.

Keep in mind that Russia is still very much our enemy. The fascinating thing is that Putin’s stated goals seem to be almost completely in harmony with those of Trump. Precisely what are those goals?

NATO

If Putin could write his own ticket today he would want to see the end of NATO, which has been a thorn in the side of Russia since its inception in 1949.

Trump has called NATO “obsolete.” There is concern here and in Europe that Trump’s comments will not only undermine the European Union, but benefit Russia, which would prefer a weakened NATO and a strained Europe-U.S. alliance.

Trump, in his distaste for NATO, has made it abundantly clear that he opposes the membership of any of the former Soviet satellite countries in that organization. What this has done is strengthen right-wing political movements in those countries, movements that oppose the E.U. and NATO and their countries’ involvement with them.

EUROPEAN UNION

Putin will revel in Britain’s exit from the E.U. and in the chaos it causes. The political swing to the right resulting from the xenophobic European reaction to the refugee flow and the concomitant move away from European political cooperation is clearly approved by Putin. Such is the case in countries like Austria, Italy, Sweden, France, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Trump shows little love for the E.U., saying recently that he had a “very bad experience” in which “getting the approvals from Europe was very, very tough.” Trump seemed to be referring to an E.U. ruling against a wall he wanted to build at an Irish golf course he owns because it would endanger protected snails.

Trump has negatively dismissed the 28-member E.U. as a “vehicle for Germany.” European officials and analysts say the Trump administration seems to be trying to rewrite the terms of the U.S.-E.U. alliance in ways that are potentially destabilizing for Europe.

SYRIA

The flow of refugees from Syria, the rest of the Middle East and Africa to Europe does not bother Putin because that flow also further weakens the E.U. and, through that, NATO. That partly explains the continuing heavy involvement of Russia in the Syrian conflict.

Trump’s Syria strategy, as seen by Foreign Policy, would be a “disaster.” The president-elect wants to fight the Islamic State and to cease support to those fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The main effect of those policies, however, would be to eliminate the moderate opposition to the Assad regime, empower extremism and create chaos across the Middle East.

EAST EUROPE

The historical Russian preoccupation with border states like Estonia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, all of which are showing indications of dissatisfaction with E.U. involvement, is of critical interest to Russia today. One of the causes of that discontent, migration from the Middle East and Africa, is something the Russians would clearly like to foster.

US DOMESTIC

Putin would do everything possible to weaken the United States. He would love to see ethnic and religious divisions in the United States grow. He clearly revels in the dissent that now exists in our political system between Republicans and Democrats.

Given the first few days of his administration, it is clear that Trump wishes to continue the ideological and political divide that has plagued this country for far too long. His recent edicts on Muslims in the U.S. have provoked widespread, divisive demonstrations around the country. His moves in foreign policy have exacerbated the same national divisions.

US INTERNATIONAL

Putin would want to see America to withdraw from the world, particularly from areas like the Middle East where Russia has had unmet goals for centuries. He would do everything possible to see us lose our ability to affect events abroad.

“America First” — we all know that to be a cornerstone of Trump’s overall policy. What it means in terms of our foreign policy is that we will withdraw from the world. No longer will America be a dominant force, politically economically or militarily, in the international arena.

If you agree with Russian policies as reflected here, then there is no problem. If you do not, this administration’s policies are a real cause for worry.

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