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Posts Tagged ‘middle-east’

Originally published in the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus
July 26, 2015

The City of Burlington has recently hired a new chief of police, Brandon Del Pozo, who was previously a New York Police Department beat patrolman, precinct commander and NYPD representative in Jordan, where he investigated terrorist events in an attempt to broaden the NYPD’s knowledge of such activities.   

 During the course of his approval process, he was sharply questioned on a paper he had written 15 years ago that examined profiling in police work. Fortunately for Burlington, this highly qualified and thoughtful individual ultimately passed muster and was unanimously hired by the City Council.    

The threat of terrorism in this country is very real. While al-Qaida could conceivably mount another operation like 9/11, it is more likely that ISIS or one of its affiliates will manage to radicalize one or more Americans and encourage them to commit less dramatic but highly effective acts of terrorism.    

What we are facing are self-motivated individuals who, through their own initiative, independently join the ranks of radical Islamists. The result is that U.S. law enforcement, whether national, state or local, is faced with the extraordinarily difficult job of somehow finding and disrupting self-motivated individuals bent on terrorist acts, before those acts are carried out.    

The process of self-motivation is largely passive. Those who go that route simply log onto jihadi websites and learn what they want to know without necessarily having any direct, traceable contact with other radical lslamists. A perfect example of this is the self-radicalization of the Tsarnayev brothers and their attack on the Boston Marathon. Moreover, in the wake of the Snowden revelations, finding these highly random apprentice terrorists through legal technical intercept operations is likely to be a daunting task.    

Radical Islamists, or those like al-Qaida and ISIS, represent only a tiny fraction of Muslims worldwide. We tend to think of Muslims mostly as Arabs, but, in fact, totaling around l.6 billion souls, they are also in the old Yugoslavia and Albania, Africans throughout that continent, Chechens in Russia, central Asians across the southern edge of the old Soviet Union, Iranians, Indonesians, Malaysians, Turks, Kurds, Pakistanis and Indians as well as Bangladeshis. And they have minority groupings in many other countries around the world, including the United States and Israel.    

So when it comes to counterterrorist operations, there really isn’t any such thing as racial profiling. Radical Islamic terrorists can be just about any color, any race. The only thing they have in common is their religion. So, to be honest, if you see radical Islamic terrorism as a real problem, you have to look closely at Muslims.    

And the truth is that the vast majority of Muslims have reason to be more terrified by radical Islam than do non-Muslim Americans. In fact, most of the people murdered by ISIS in the Middle East have been Muslims of one sort or another who, most importantly, are not sufficiently pure in the eyes of ISIS. Moderates understand this and are our natural allies.   

So, when we look carefully at Muslim populations in America in the hope that we can find members of those communities who recognize the unity of interest that they have with non-Muslim Americans, are we profiling? Is what we are doing wrong?    

America has had this problem over and over in the past. When that has been the case, we have not hesitated to profile our logical targets. We have asked sympathetic members of hostile groups to help us in the difficult task of overcoming these threats. Why should it be any different today?    

It is through relationships with American law enforcement organizations that American Muslims ultimately can best protect themselves against radical Islam. They are the people in America most likely to be able to assist in the extremely difficult process of trying to identify self-radicalized Muslims who are intent on committing terrorist acts. They are the strongest potential allies we have in this struggle.    

As long as they see the U.S. government as opposed to radical Islam and not opposed to moderates, they will be able to find ways to help us. As we continue to withdraw our military personnel from the Middle East where they are, unfortunately, viewed even by moderate Muslims as enemies of a broader Islam, we will find American and other moderate Muslims more and more willing to help is in the struggle with fundamentalist Islam. 

 

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus

May 17, 2015

As a result of unspecified warnings from the radical Islamic State (ISIS), the U.S. has just increased the security level at domestic military bases. The upgrade came shortly after the FBI director spoke out on the increasing threat of jihadi attacks here in America against U.S. military and police elements by home-grown terrorists.

This announcement may make some Americans feel a bit safer, but how many of us understand that this is precisely what ISIS would like to see happen? It is in their interest to see the U.S. government do anything that creates fear in the U.S. population, particularly when they don’t have to mount an actual operation to get it done. All they have to do is make us think something is up, and they can raise our fear level literally without risk.

Anything the jihadis can do that will create fear is fair game if it impacts the willingness of Americans to support the continuation of our activities, particularly military, in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the two administrations we have had since 9/11 have done little to calm the population and a great deal to make us fearful.

Further, it is an unfortunate fact that both administrations have been driven by a CYA (cover your posterior) mentality. The thought process involved here is that it is better to make public frightening information and have nothing happen, than to do nothing and have something bad happen. That has added to our level of fear since 9/11.

ISIS, like al-Qaida, has the primary goal of forcing the United States out of the Middle East so they can establish their own rules without our interference. To do that, both organizations realized that they had to realize major dramatic, terrorist accomplishments in order to pressure us into leaving.

For al-Qaida the major impact operation was 9/11. But, given who they were, al-Qaida was pretty much limited to operations originating outside the United States. As a result, the pace and extent of their post-9/11 operations dropped off sharply. In addition, we mounted a program of drone and other attacks on al-Qaida, which destroyed much of their leadership and, even more importantly, forced them to look almost constantly over their shoulders, seriously diminishing their effectiveness.

For ISIS, it has been a far different situation. They have benefited from the fact that the United States has been fighting on Arab lands for 15 years and that, in the process, we have thoroughly alienated much of the region’s population and worldwide supporters. This has given them a flexibility not enjoyed by al-Qaida, and they have taken advantage of it in many ways, perhaps most importantly in the area of propaganda.

They have very astutely gone about the recruitment of thousands of sympathizers from abroad. This number has included Europeans and North Americans and in our case, has given them access to a number of sympathizers here in America, a new and potentially effective Fifth Column. Now ISIS can remotely direct operations here in America against their favorite targets. And think how much easier that will become when American sympathizers who have gone to Syria to fight for ISIS start to come back to the States. Not only will they be easy to direct, but they will be hardened fighters already trained to the teeth through their Syrian activities.

ISIS will undertake any operation that will create fear. Whether the targets are malls, police or the military, whatever terrorist activity weakens the resolve of Americans to continue Middle East operations will be favorably considered.

Worldwide experience tells us that terrorism is best countered by a combination of police and intelligence work and that military confrontation is highly counterproductive. Given that reality, there is a potentially viable course of action for us on this issue.

What America could most profitably use, and probably for political reasons will never get, would be an internal security service without arrest powers, built along the lines of Britain’s MI5. It would provide a unified combination of intelligence and law enforcement now lacking here.

Short of that, or of military withdrawal from the Middle East, we can and should materially beef up our counterterrorism law enforcement operations under the FBI against ISIS sympathizers here at home. Second, and more critically important, we need to find a way to keep Americans who have gone to Syria to fight for ISIS from returning to the United States, for if they are somehow allowed to come back unimpeded, they will present us with unimaginable problems.

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Originally published in The Rutland Herald and the Barre Times Argus

 
Normally, an armed attack on an American diplomatic installation abroad and the death of four American officials in that attack would evoke unanimity in our domestic political structure. This time in Libya it has not.

But, wait, it’s election time, and anything that either party can do between now and the November elections to humiliate or undermine the opposition is fair game for the politicos.

When the matter of the anti-Muslim film produced in America and the general Arab and Muslim reaction to it hit the press, it was portrayed as exactly what it really was: a series of attacks on U.S. installations in the Middle East by a wide variety of angry Arab groupings unleashed by a nasty film in countries where such attacks would not have been permitted under the regimes in power prior to the Arab Spring.

A good starting point in trying to understand this issue comes with acknowledging what the Arabs/Muslims think of us. A Pew Research Center poll in July 2011 reported that “Muslim and Western publics continue to see relations between them as generally bad, with both sides holding negative stereotypes of the other. Many in the West see Muslims as fanatical and violent, while few say Muslims are tolerant or respectful of women. Meanwhile, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia generally see Westerners as selfish, immoral and greedy — as well as violent and fanatical.”

In short, Arabs/Muslims, because they are firsthand observers of more than a decade of U.S. foreign policy that has relied primarily on military intervention, have good reason to dislike Americans, if not for who we are, then certainly for what we have done to them.

Once American politicians had enough time to decide how to react to the attacks on our installations abroad, the political decision was apparently made by the Romney campaign to use it to attack the White House. And so they did. Where the White House had reacted initially by going after the filmmakers on the grounds of bad taste and bad ethics, the Romney campaign decided to castigate the White House for not dealing with the event as a terrorist attack.

To the amazement of some, the White House immediately reversed course and bought into the “terrorist” appellation. All this really did was to take off the table an examination of who really profited from the event and could therefore have had reason to precipitate it.

Much has been made of the premise that the attackers were affiliated with al-Qaida or that they were members of some other jihadi group wishing to attack U.S. interests. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant.

The only thing that is relevant is that the United States and its Western allies are now in a position in the Middle East where the local population can be provoked against us at will and on a moment’s notice. That means that when such a provocation exists, whether in the form of a film of highly dubious origin, a Salman Rushdie “Satanic Verses” or a Danish newspaper cartoon, we can logically expect retaliation.

Whether that retaliation comes in the form of peaceful demonstrations or violent attacks, we can and must be sure that we are prepared for the kind of focused violence that we experienced in Benghazi from jihadis who are not given to peaceful activities.

It is a simple fact that given the sort of cover provided by the recent demonstrations over the American film or any other activity deemed sacrilegious under the Quran, violent, fundamentalist jihadi groups will be prepared to take advantage of the situation with the most violent tactics they can think up. The simple fact of suddenly calling them “terrorists,” however that may resonate with a terrorist-punch-drunk America, will change nothing.

This situation will not change until we find a way to change our foreign policy for the area in a way that makes us far less concerned with pre-emptive war and far less threatening to Muslims in general. Only under those circumstances will truly radical Muslim jihadis lose what little support they have in Islam and moderate Muslims find the active support they will need to govern in their countries.

Absent that change, we can look forward to a period where the hostility felt by Muslims against America and the West will cause continuing problems of the kind we have just witnessed in Benghazi. And starting them up will be a simple matter for the jihadis or anyone else who believes they will profit from fanning hatred between Muslims and the West.


 

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