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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Romney in Jerusalem

by Sam Huntington

According to Professor Barry Rubin, Director of Global Research in International Affairs, Mitt Romney’s recent visit to Israel was an unqualified success. Rubin argues that it wasn’t so much what Romney said, as it was the level of his sincerity while saying it.

Did Romney say anything remarkably disparate from Barack Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Well, no … but Dr. Rubin urges us to consider two important caveats: first, no one in Israel trusts Mr. Obama, no matter what he says. Second, an unspoken rule of etiquette restrains Mr. Romney from engaging in partisan politics beyond America’s coastline. Generally, we do not air our dirty laundry in public —unless you are President Obama addressing the European Union in 2009.

In spite of Michael Tomasky’s assertion in Newsweek (readership: 2) suggesting Mitt Romney is too insecure to serve as President of the United States, Mr. Romney actually earned high marks among the Israelis. This is not something one is likely to hear about from the American media —for obvious reasons.

There is no mistaking the fact that Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu loathe one another. For his part, Obama has done what he can to undermine the Israeli position in the Middle East; Mr. Netanyahu refuses to allow the Obama administration to dictate Israeli policy. It has been a somewhat dichotomous relationship —and a dangerous one. If the American people reelect Obama in 2012, we should anticipate a massive conflict in the Middle East before the end of his second term. Mr. Obama, ever the narcissist, seems oblivious to this possibility.

Rather than pursuing Mr. Obama’s failed Middle East policy —that is to say, his attempt to find a solution by marginalizing a key player in the Middle East, Mr. Romney understands that Israeli participation is essential to resolving Middle Eastern questions. He assured the Israelis they must never fear the loss of their independence, but cautioned them to take seriously anyone who threaten to annihilate them. This too contrasts with Obama policy of rationalization. It has been singularly … irrational.

Throughout Mr. Romney’s speech, he signaled a detailed understanding of Middle Eastern realities. First, there is a deep hatred toward Israel and the United States; no amount of posterior smooching is going to change this. There are people, groups, and nations who will not be appeased, who will never agree to regional amity. Neither is the problem necessarily limited to the key players in the Middle East, such as Iran. The Russian foreign ministry has been up to quite a bit of mischief over the past several years. Mr. Romney well understands the role of Iranian dissidents in changing the behavior of the Iranian regime. In contrast, Mr. Obama’s decision to do nothing, to say nothing in support of Iranian dissidents may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

We should be pleased that Mr. Romney understands how mistaken it is to pursue policies of appeasement, particularly in the Middle East. He is a welcome contrast to Mr. Obama who, in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, encourages extremism and state-sponsored terrorism. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the so-called “Arab Spring.” In the short term, it was nothing less than an utter disaster for tens of thousands of innocent Muslims, From Libya to Yemen. It added to economic woes in the United States, a fact apparently lost on our Chief Executive. Finally, while Mr. Obama continues to remind us that Syria is on the verge of civil war, Mr. Romney told the Israelis, “The civil war has already arrived.”

As Mr. Obama’s policies remain the epitome of passive acceptance, Mr. Romney appears to favor a more pro-active approach to the Middle East. He told Israelis there are five factors that bind the United States to Israel. These are democracy, the rule of law, a belief in universal rights granted by our Creator, free enterprise, and freedom of expression. Mr. Romney added one further illustration: he reminded the Israelis that capitalism is the only economic system in the history of mankind to raise people from poverty and create a large middle class.

The landscape of the Middle East is rocky, barren, harsh, and unforgiving; it also provides the perfect metaphor for Middle Eastern politics. There may actually be no solution in the Middle East because the Islamic populations can no more help who they are, any more than we can help who we are. The fact is that Israel isn’t going to give up its independence; it isn’t going to give Jerusalem away to the Canaanites, it isn’t going to throw up its hands and move to Bermuda. It is also not likely that the Muslim populations will embrace democracy, human rights, religious freedom, or equal rights for women.

Nevertheless, I think it is true that there is still a chance for the Middle East —but as I said, not as long as Obama occupies the White House. Political scientist Amy Payne agrees: “Four years of President Obama’s foreign policy are having their full effect. After squandering time in sham “negotiations” with Iran and Palestine and abandoning Iraq to al-Qaeda, the President has made many situations more difficult—and urgent.

What is your point of view?


  1. Richard Cohen's recent essay about what Romney said in the Middle East. Excerpt:

    ...[I]f f you eliminate what would certainly be condemned as a racist explanation — Jews as inherently smarter than non-Jews — then you are left with culture: There was something in the Jewish experience — 1,000 or so years of persecution and being shunted into dishonorable occupations such as money lending — that prepared Europe’s Jews for the onset of capitalism. Countless books have been written to explain this phenomenon, which continues to this day with Israel’s intellectual domination of its region. In his new book, “The Future of the Jews,” Stuart E. Eizenstat provides an example: “Between 1980 and 2000, 7,652 patents were registered by Israelis in the United States.” The figure for the entire Arab world? 367.

    The cultural difference between Israel and its Arab neighbors is so striking that you would think it beyond question. But when Mitt Romney attributed the gap between Israel’s economic performance and the Palestinians’ — “Culture makes all the difference,” he said in Israel — the roof came down on him. PC police the world over raised a red card, giving him demerits for having the temerity to notice the obvious....

    More at the above link.

  2. No doubt Romney's trip was a huge success, especially the Israel visit. The MSM acted terrible, shame on them.

    Right Truth

  3. Michael Tomasky is an Obama fanboy. He pulls his head out of Obama's butt only long enough to grab a few gasps of air.

    Romney is imminently superior to Obama in every category, most of all wisdom, experience and maturity.

  4. The MSM is going to do everything they can to undercut and silence Romney's success in Israel and the ME.

    I honestly thing Obama is spoiling for another conflict over there.

  5. "I honestly thing Obama is spoiling for another conflict over there."

    One of my worst nightmares is that B.O. becomes so desperate that he some how becomes a "war time" president, which would all but assure his re-election. I don't see signs of this but I sure wouldn't put it past him!

  6. Romney is not everything I wanted in the Republican candidate; not by a long shot. But, Romney is orders of magnitude better than Obaama in any category you can name.

  7. Believe it or not the absurd notion of “cultural racism” is big in some quarters. One British sociologist condemns all criticism of Islam as “cultural racism” and says it is as bad as “physical racism.” Of course, a culture is chosen by a people over time. And all choices are subject to moral assessment. How can we change our behavior is our choices are exempt from critical scrutiny?

    Obviously “cultural racism” is an oxymoron. The article on wikipedia was only recently created and may soon be deleted (one hopes). However, it’s a staple of “multi-culturalism.” The idea that a culture (i.e. non-Western culture) might be inferior strikes terror in European leftists. Italian PM Berlusconi was taken to the woodshed for expressing the obvious shortly after 9/11.

    This nonsense will soon come to our shores. Be prepared.

  8. On his absolute worst day, Romney will make a better president than the failed Barack Obama. Anyone who cannot see that deserves to live in chains.

  9. He gave a wonderful speech in Poland as well, but all we heard about was the shouting by the media at Romney at a site considered sacred.

  10. There may actually be no solution in the Middle East because the Islamic populations can no more help who they are, any more than we can help who we are.

    Sam, this reminds me of a book I read 30 years ago about the relationship between Japan and the United States with this subtitle: Never the twain shall meet. I agree with many of your points of view respecting the utter failure of American diplomacy. I have lived it. There is no reason for us to expend one drop of American blood in the Middle East, nor donate one thin dime to a people who prefer living in the Stone Age. Still, we must honor our commitments, including our commitment to Israel. I’m not sure Obama knows much about honor …

  11. Though Romney has clearly defined that the United States will rightly support Israel he has crossed a number of lines which are unacceptable and a mistake.

    Declaring Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel is unwarrented and unprecedented. No country except Israel recognises this and by doing so Romeny has playing into the internal politics of Israel by giving support to Israel's far-right. Additionally, he has declared that he has taken a side in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

    He did exactly the same with his very mistaken pledge to back Israel if it decides to unilaterally attack Iran. On his return he was obviously told by the Military and his NATO allies that this breaches not only NATO protocols but the Charter itself and numerous bilateral treaties amongst NATO allies. We can add that he has only bolstered the far-right hawks within Israel which is bad considering the majority of Israelis do not support any such action.

    His mentioning Jerusalem and making comments about the differences between Palestinian and Israeli culture was an equally foolish step. He has convinced the Palestinian public that if he wins the elections that there will be no support for peace by the United States and that they will return to the "no questions asked" policies regarding whatever Israel decides to do. That Israel will get that veto regardless and that the only relations in the ME will be exclusive to Israel.

    Clearly Romney stated these foolish things to catch the Israeli-lobby group funding back home.

    Romney may or may not be better than Obama in economics and domestic social issues but like his GOP predecessors, other than perhaps McCain, he fails even before stepping in the door when it comes to foreign affairs.

    Damien Charles

  12. I am not a proponent of the United Nations as a governing body over the world. I am a nationalist. Perhaps a throwback to another Era, but that is nevertheless my point of view. So then, at such time as London, Paris, Washington, D.C., Moscow, and Tokyo become internationally managed city-states, then so too should Jerusalem become a ward of the statist community.

    And while we’re at it, let’s demand people refrain from calling al-Mamlakat al-Maghribiyyah Morocco, Nippon Japan, Pinyin China, and Hangul South Korea.

    It is right and proper that a government name its country whatever it wishes. It is proper that a duly recognized government have the right to identify or name its own capital city without the interference of globalists.

    I also believe that if the Palestinians wish to claim Jerusalem as their capital, they can do so immediately after they take it from the Israelis. Failing that, they should stop their incessant whining and become men. And let us dispense with the United Nations as soon as possible.

  13. Mustang,
    I’m not sure Obama knows much about honor …

    Not about the American concept of honor -- that's for sure.

  14. Jason,
    Yes, the term "cultural racism" is a euphemism. The Left is so fond of such buzzwords.

    Hope that all is well with you!

  15. The south lags behind the rest of America in nearly all categories.

    Does that mean southern culture is inferior or does this meme only apply to Israel/Palestine

  16. Duck,
    Your New England prejudice is showing.

    My mother used to say that Yankees are rude. I argued vociferously about that. Then you come along and prove her accurate. **sigh**

    Now everything about the South is wonderful. Neither is everything about New England. The last time I visited there not so long ago I encountered the rudest drivers ever.

  17. Oh, and Wade Michael Page was not a Southerner. Neither was James E. Holmes, for that matter.

  18. I am not so old, but I am try to remember when the UN last did something good for people. I can't remember one thing. So maybe they aren't worth their costs.

  19. Louis H,
    One year, the debate class that I taught debated the topic of Resolved: That the United Nations should be abolished.

    The students did their research very well and discovered that the only thing that the UN has done well is the World Health Organization.

  20. The MSM are going to do everything within their power to undermine and lie and cut Romney to the core.

    They want Obama and will do all they can do get him re-elected.

    They are a despicable bunch.

  21. I watched a good debate on TVE (Spanish main TV network) that discussed the value of the UN and it had a former deputy head of one of the UN Agencies, which one I forgot.

    In the end the result there was general agreement from everyone, including those with UN experience was that in the field of Health, disaster relief and education support in developing countries it had done very well. On the other hand, those areas involving conflict it failed.

    However, three points were made clear.

    The first is that when it came to politics and conflict, those nations with money or vetoes simply dominated when they wanted something in their own fashion.

    Secondly the UN Security Council and perhaps the UN Charter in their current formats no longer represented the world as it stands today. Permanent members of the SC basically can block what they want and so on.

    Thirdly, though with all the negatives, we forget that it is also a place for two or more countries with minor disputes or logistical issues to simply sit together and discuss bilateral subjects and that not only goes on constantly but smoothly and that has to be considered a success.

    From my perspective all the above tells a great deal. Simply put the international community needs to create a successor organisation and then allow the UN to cancel its charter and adopt the new one. Such a new UN or whatever we call it should not basically fool itself or others with claims of power and influence that it obviously cannot do. It should create a larger Security Council that can adopt a resolution that allows nations to join forces in conflicts and it should have no veto powers what-so-ever. If it has no success in a cause then it will be noted and filed away. Any General Assemply resolution will be just that, a symbolic basis for nations to use as political or social gain, nothing more as it can do nothing in the end if a country tends to ignore it. Most of all, the body should be simply a meeting place for nations to agree. Areas such as Health, Sciences and Disasters as well as International Charters and Jurispudence (the law of the sea, etc) should be the only real administration.

    Damien Charles

  22. I reject the notion that people or nations require a “United Nations” to help resolve contentious issues. As Mr. Charles tells us, this has been a significant disappointment. There have been far too many failures to include here.

    I also do not think the UN has been particularly successful in its world health efforts, dealing with famine, or responding to natural disasters. In some cases, yes … they have been successful. In most cases, they are utter failures.

    The imposition of UN sanctions is a travesty. No one believes UN sanctions are working. Lacking the will or capability to enforce any UN resolutions, it is a waste of time, effort, and paper.

    People have no problem understanding that mineral resources are limited. Everyone understands the deforestation issue. But there is another limited resource: other people’s money. It is time we set aside time to think about the cost of an inept UN. I don’t mean simply the money we wasted—I mean that, plus the human suffering left unattended in spite of the money spent. And I will never forgive the UN for the raping of those children in West Africa.

    This all makes me wonder, “Is this the best effort of our planet’s best and brightest?”

  23. I've admired the Jewish people since I was a small boy. It was in 1946 when I was only 7 years old that an old man came walking down our street, walked in to our porcha and sat down to rest for a bit. I went out to see who it was. He told me that he was just resting, and said that he'd been in a camp in Germany. Of course, I didn't know what that meant, so he showed me. The number tattooed on his wrist.

    He had a kind, gentle demeanor and after he'd rested up, he walked on. He knew that some day I'd realize what he showed me and saw no reason to give a child nightmares.

    Jews have great endurance and an ability to suffer and wait, like nobody else. They're also probably the smartest people on Earth. We need them as our allies a lot more than they need us, and if Romney made a hit over there in Israel, that might swing over the Jewish vote here that normally goes to the Dems.

    As to him making a mistake by declaring Jerusalem to be the capital city of Israel, that was no mistake, that was political courage and honesty the like of which I haven't seen since Reagan called the USSR an "Evil empire".

    D. Charles sure is concerned about the impact of Palestinian ire. To what purpose? Who in this country besides CAIR gives a damn what the Palestinians think, that bunch of terrorist Muslim scum. But thanks, Damien, for advising Romney on what he should say. Maybe you should get together with him and give him your guidance.

  24. I liked what Romney said about the cultural differences between Jews and Arabs and how that explains their economic performance. If he understands that he will understand why the Arabs make such poor partners for peace.

  25. "...Rather than pursuing Mr. Obama’s failed Middle East policy..."

    Yeah, damn him for ending the wars and killing Osama, khadaffi and descimating Al Queda.

    Romney would have us in Iran for oil in a heartbeat.

  26. "Romney's crowning absurdity — in Israel last week, Romney praised the Israeli healthcare system, noting that it costs just 8% of Israel's GDP while ours costs 18% of a much larger GDP. He said we should try to learn from it. Excellent point.

    How does Israel do it? Single-payer — essentially a government-run program."

    Romney appears to be very, very confused."

  27. Liberalmann,
    Obama hasn't ended the war in Afghanistan. Our military are still serving and dying there.

    The war in Iraq began in 2003, six years before Obama took office. I'm not sure that we actually won anything at all. Shari'a is ensconced in the new Constitution of Iraq.

  28. He has announced a withdrawal date, right? C'mon, dude. Keep up with the news.

  29. I'll say this for whatever it may be worth:

    Victimhood -- past or present -- does not automatically confer sainthood on anyone -- and certainly not on any particular Group Identity.

    The other day in another discussion on the topic of the Olympic Sports Competition, I expressed irritation that anyone would dare be so churlish and inhumane as to question the integrity of Lance Armstrong, whom I regard as an American Hero -- one of the greatest examples of courage, endurance and perseverance in this or any other time in history.

    KP, a most sober, decent, kind-hearted, strong-minded individual, rightly pointed out to me that, while he too held Lance Armstrong in high esteem, Lance's brave and triumphant fight against cancer was not enough to make him IMMUNE from SCRUTINY regarding the rules and regulations the other Olympic competitors must subject themselves to, and that if it can ever be proven conclusively that Lance Armstrong DID in fact give himself an unfair advantage by taking drugs that were not medically necessary at the time, his gold medal could -- and should be taken away from him.

    Regretfully, I admit, I had no choice but to agree.

    And so must it be with the Jews, who despite their perennial victimhood and the many remarkable qualities well described by Black Sheep, still must be held accountable for their own misdeeds just like everyone else.

    To claim that Jews have never been guilty of any misdeeds, and deserve no critical analysis, questioning of motives, or correction -- ever -- is incredibly naive, and frankly stupid.

    It is as idiotic -- and every bit as disingenuous -- as the claim that any and all objections to the policies endorsed by Barack Obama are "racist."

    ~ FreeThinke

  30. AOW,

    just as a clarification, Sharia is not a part of the new Iraqi Constitution.

    References to "Islam being the foundation of the country's laws and no law may contradict established provisions of Islam" does not mean that it is a Sharia legal system or that Sharia principles are the law.

    For example, when a country declares that Sharia is the basis for the law then they cannot use the word democracy in the same Constitution nor can it state that religious freedoms are to be respected. The Iraqi Constitution states also that:

    "No law that contradicts the principles of democracy may be established.[5]
    No law that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms may be established.[6]
    The Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and the full religious rights for all individuals and the freedom of creed and religious practices is guaranteed.[7]"

    Now what is practices by various leaders and officials is another matter, however, your reference is incorrect.

    I should remind people in general that Sharia is in fact a minority in the 56 Muslim Countries regardless of how much radicals and those that have it push and claim otherwise. Less than half do and of those that do AGAIN less than half actually have a fully blown theocratically run system, the majority have it only as part of their family law structure and are subject to appeal to a SECULAR high court.

    Go to Wiki and look up Constitution of Iraq for the full break up, I cut and pasted the above from it out of ease. Part of my past work was an EU/Asean committe looking into how varous laws in those two regions can be modified to allow for common practices and I took an interest in particular with laws in Muslim countries.

    Damien Charles

  31. Damien Charles,
    Some time back, I had a discussion with an Afghan about shari'a and democracy. He said that there was no contradiction between the two. Hmmmm....

    This fellow had assisted coalition troops and was credited with saving the lives of several whose helicopter had crashed. I am unsure as to how much education the man had, but he seemed to be literature, at least.

    There are degrees of shari'a application in Islamic countries.

    Did you see what recently happened in Mali? Shari'a?

  32. Damien wrote, “What I absolutely reject is agenda-based blindness to events for political purposes no matter what cause. Abuses by the Palestnian political and militant organisations in recent history is well documented and we can all condemn them as much as we must, but there is a global political hypocrisy when it comes to the past and some present deeds in modern Israel.”

    Who could not agree with this? We must endeavor to condemn equally all the times the Israelis blew up school buses filled with innocent Palestinian children on the way to school.

    But seriously, this really is at the crux of our problem. We cannot sit down with one another and discuss workable solutions when we are filled with the emotions caused by such heinous acts described above. But here’s the problem: terrorists know this. It is why they do terrorist acts. It would seem they have us right where they want us. If we are able to resist a human response to such acts, we cannot claim to be human.

  33. AOW,

    interesting how you mention Mali, have you understood what has happened?

    A country with a strong Islamic history and arguably very faithful people. They have (or we can almost say now had) the oldest Mosque in Black Africa. They are Sunni with strong Sufi connections. What has changed?

    Well what has changed is that radical militant Islamists arrived. They have the guns and the money and they are telling other Muslims that they must be like them. They are mostly Salafist and Wahhabists.

    So when you use Mali as an example, it only tells you that it is radicals of a certain sect of Islam that is the problem and not Islam itself or even Sharia as it is their version of Sharia.

    For those who do not know, which I am pretty sure is almost everyone on this blog, there is also a different version of Sharia to each group that claims to follow it. Sharia law and sharia principles in Saudi Arabia is nothing like what is currently forced down the throat of the people of northern Mali by this group. Sharia in say Iran is not at all like Sharia in other countries and what the Taliban consider Sharia is totally different again. Malaysia that has a dual Sharia-Secular legal system - Sharia for Family Law and only applicable to Muslims, is again nothing like Sharia Family Law in other countries that have it.

    The point being that you all need to understand the system, its varients and what is happening on the ground (and that they are not all the same or merit a blanket generalisation) before you can make a judgement or condemnation.

    That is why I laugh myself silly when I see people throwing the word Sharia around and it is obviously incorrect.

    Another point, it is incorrect to say "levels of Sharia" implemented in governments. That does not work because that simply cannot work. Yes less than half the countries have Sharia law but that does not mean that Sharia creeps into those who do not have it. The best example is say Algeria and Morocco, both having similar legal systems (I have studied and worked in both to a degree).

    Both countries have carbon copies of French Law based on the 1952 French legal code. From that point on, they have via their parliaments altered according to what suited their countries, however, as French criminal laws changed, both countries quickly adopted similar.

    As both countries are run by a Muslim majority their social, family and morality laws were modified to represent the basic tennants of their Islamic faith. Now does that mean it is Sharia or a from Sharia? The answer, and believe me that question has come up even within their own countries, is a resounding no! What has happened is that the Secular Governments and Parliaments have debated, redebated, argued, bickered, negotiated and modified what suits them and that in itself is contrary to what is Sharia. Again, the version of what is considered Sharia in their countries (they are neighbours and share cultural and historical ties) would be different to say what a Wahhabist stubbornly claims to be the only version, which is what he believes....

    As for Democracy and Sharia - actually no, though it has democratic tennancies, the basic concept of most Sharia systems includes a Shura Council - that may have elected (chosen by the ummah) people but lead by a theologian (not elected) and a court system to oversee that is entirely run by clerics. The best example of that is Iran with the Supreme Council being all clerics and the Sharia Court being superior to the Secular Court. Saudi Arabia itself sidesteps the entire issue by having a King with limitless control but he has to argue and sometimes prove himself to an unelected council of clerics.

    Hope that clears up some details for you.

    Damien Charles

  34. Jack Whyte, nice to see a comment without verbal abuse.

    I agree with most of your comments there. Though I think it is pointless mentioning that Israelis do not blow up children in buses on the way to school (as we know who did/does and who does not), I did not mention it as it suggests that lesser evils are excusable.

    My point frome the beginning is that in this day and age we should all not be hypocrits and judge actions for what they are and not put politics, sympathies and cultural or religious bais in the way of simple justice. My view is that Israel as a nation requires to go through a self-examination and its own cleaning of what skeletons are in its closet.

    By no way does that mean not to point out, target and condemn actions against those that attack or wish to destroy that country. The Palestinian community in general needs to do even more, purge itself of those involved in such actions and hate and unify itself in the direction of peace. Until it does that it certainly is unable to create a thriving nation and the worst case for them is that if the international community gives them a solid opportunity, they will miss the boat. They have shot themselves in the foot many, many times and can easily do it again.

    Damien Charles

  35. Damien Charles,
    I am aware of the history of Mali.

    This statement from you is an example of how the most fundamentalist form of Islam is on the rise:

    Well what has changed is that radical militant Islamists arrived.

    I googled Mali rise of wahhabism and got THIS, one of many hits.

    If -- and I'm saying IF and will use some of your terminology in the rest of this comment -- Islam is not to be hijacked by extremists, Muslims themselves need to take care of the matter. However, the problem is that extremists use methods that (a) are insidious and (b) recruits to extremism seem to be quite available.

    For example, I'm sure that you have noticed the recent slayings of Marines and other coalition forces this past weekend in Afghanistan. Reports thus far indicate that the perpetrators had been inside the coalition camps for some time -- to the point that the coalition troops trusts these particular Afghans. In at least one case of the weekend, the "revived" Afghan murdered three Marines while they were exercising in the gym without their weapons.

    Why is it that recruits to extremism can be persuaded to attack people that the recruits have worked with for some time? Possible answers, and I'm listing as many as I can think of with only one cup of coffee in my system, in no particular order:

    (a) These recruits were moles all along.

    (b) There is something in Islam itself that is very persuasive toward Wahhabism and Salafism.

    (c) As these recruits grow older, they are more concerned about their eternal life and latch onto certain verses in the Koran.

    (d) The recruits are sociopaths.

    (e) These recruits perceive Islam as under attack by the West. Frankly -- and this is my opinion -- we should be long gone from Afghanistan now. Immediate pullout! OBL is dead and gone.

    (f) The call of Islam is much stronger than personal relationships -- particularly relationships with non-Muslims.

    (g) These recruits see radical Islam's rise as proof of the will of Allah.

    (h) These recruits are jumping aboard a band wagon that appears to be winning.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts off the top of my head.

  36. BTW, it's not just Northern Africa seeing the rise in Islamism. See THIS, albeit dated about two years ago. Brief excerpt:

    SKOPJE, Macedonia -- An online music video praising Osama bin Laden has driven home a troubling new reality: A radical brand of Islam embraced by al-Qaida and the Taliban is gaining a foothold in the Balkans.

    "Oh Osama, annihilate the American army. Oh Osama, raise the Muslims' honor," a group of Macedonian men sing in Albanian, in video posted on YouTube last year and picked up by Macedonian media this August. "In September 2001 you conquered a power. We all pray for you."

    Although most of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority are Muslims, they have generally been secular. But experts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country's Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.

    It's a trend seen across the Balkans and has raised concerns that the region, which includes new European Union member Bulgaria, could become a breeding ground for terrorists with easy access to Western Europe. Many fear that radicalized European Muslims with EU passports could slip across borders and blend into society.

    At the center of the issue is the Wahhabi sect, an austere brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia and practiced by bin Laden and the Taliban.

    "Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years," said Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in Macedonia's Islamic community. He said Wahhabis were establishing a permanent presence in Macedonia where none existed before, and that "they are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria."...

  37. Damien Charles,
    To Jack Whyte, you mentioned in this day and age. That phrase should apply to the doings within Islam too -- no matter what sect of Islam. The world just isn't as small as it used to be! Things done in far off places resonate elsewhere.

  38. I have to say I don’t know very much about Islam. I have my own religious beliefs; I’m not interested in knowing the particulars of other belief systems. It just doesn’t interest me. Nevertheless, I believe western societies judge Islamic nations too harshly. Here’s how I see it: Muslim extremists are like the schoolyard bully, who goes out of his way to intimidate others and “be the boss.” Most people in these backward countries are illiterate, and I think they regard themselves as powerless to prevent the bully from always getting his way. I think Islam bullies cow most of these people; they are poor, they are sick, and they don’t live very long. Rather than wondering how to rid themselves of the bullies, I think they focus more on feeding their family one meal a day. They just go along with whatever the bully tells them. It must be a depressing life.

  39. AOW,

    interesting comments and points, some are obvious and some are worth debating. Before I respond to some of your points, the influence of Wahhabist groups around the world is well known and their funding is large enough to put themselves in all places, suc has with Albanians.

    Now your points,

    (a) Those recruits could be molls but they could also be blackmailed or simply responding to the obviously strong tribal loyalities. Either way, the issue is improving the vetting process.

    (b) You say that "There is something in Islam itself that is very persuasive toward Wahhabism and Salafism." I disagree totally, Salafism and Wahhabism is puritanical, thus it is taking references and events in totally puritanical way, in fact al Salaf means "pure". By saying that it is somehow an element in Islam that appeals to them is like saying that it is an element of Christianity that creates puritanical Christian groups.

    (c) Your comment about people getting older and relating to the teachings of the Koran is about as much as it would be to any Christian or Jew getting older and a bit more spiritual. I think though that it is not more so for Islam than any other faith and there is enough cases of overt displays of faith by youths, including suicide bombers.

    (d) "The recruits are sociopaths". I would think that anyone who is willng to preform such acts are such or are pressured in some other form. I would say it is thier leaders that have the sociopathic tendancies.

    (e)" These recruits perceive Islam as under attack by the West. Frankly -- and this is my opinion -- we should be long gone from Afghanistan now. Immediate pullout! OBL is dead and gone."


    (f) "The call of Islam is much stronger than personal relationships -- particularly relationships with non-Muslims."

    No, that is not the case at all, only the ultra-conservatives such as Salafi and Wahhabi demand a break with non-Muslims. The reality on the ground in most 56 Muslim nations and amongs Muslims in the West is quite the opposite. As an example, and a simple one, how many of the 56 Muslim nations do not want to deal with, trade, sign agreements with and associate with non-Muslims? None.

    (g) "These recruits see radical Islam's rise as proof of the will of Allah." That is why they are also radical. In the same fashion, most Muslims consider such a view as abhorant.

    (h) "These recruits are jumping aboard a band wagon that appears to be winning."

    I am sure that is what they are told.


    Damien Charles

  40. Robert Sinclair,

    I think much of what you say is true. However there are some other factors involved as well.

    Not all are poor but are under various pressures that make them either respondant to or do not speak up against radicals. Such pressures are tribal loyalties, peer presure, fear of being branded one of the enemy and similar.

    Also there are factors such as cultural, political and recent historical that has a great deal to do with the support for radicals. For example many Arab and Asian Muslim countries have had the worst taste of colonialism and though they must take their own responsibility for their nations, their economies, demographics and even the leadership has been to a degree hang-overs from their colonial pasts. "The current generation remembers what their parents say" is an expression in Arabic is often said on Al Jazeera.

    Recent history and politics has, for example has everything to do with Israel and nothing to do with Islam. Anti-semitism was on an equal footing with the West (and less during the 30's and 40s as well know) but on the creation of Israel jumped to unheard of levels. The references to destorying and the radical clerics talking about Jews out of context has everything to do with Pan-Arab nationalism and if by some miracle a Palestinian nation is created, within 10 years it will all return to normal.

    Muslim communities are also very good in confusing thier own cultures with being actually "Islamic", such as the wearing of the "niqab" (face covering) and the full burqa. Also using Islam as the excuse for honour killings, spousal abuse, child marriages and so on.

    In the end you are right and with a bit on knowledge and logic the hard time given to Muslims is unjustified except in one singular case. That is the question, why do Musims themselves not raise up and speak against radicals? The above reasons are valid to a degree but it is also to do with one Islamic principle called Taqfir. Taqfir is calling another Muslim an apostate or a bad Muslim. Most groups in Islam consider that to be haram or a sin, but certain groups such as Salafis and Wahhabis (most radicals and militants are from these two groups) have somehow chosen or made it appear that they can. The problem is they believe that if they denounce these radicals that they are committing Taqfir and so they do not.


    Damien Charles

  41. Damien Charles,
    I knew that you'd disagree with Point B. However, I did say "something."

    Is there something similar in Christianity too? Yes. However, there is no longer the uniting of church and government in the same way as days of old, AND there is the New Testament. Overall, if I go with your view that there isn't something inherently "wrong with" Islam, the Bible is easier to understand than the Koran is. In my view, it is much harder to quote the Koran out of context than it is the Bible, plus Christians read and scrutinize and discuss the Bible instead of memorizing reams of verses without delving into different interpretations thereof. I've never participated in a Koran study at a mosque, but I know for a fact that Bible studies in churches are, well, quite analytical.

    I mentioned Point F because of some personal observations of well-integrated Muslims who changed -- and I'm speaking of a change that happened before 9/11 and coincided with their involvement with a particular mosque here in the D.C. area.

    In my experience, some older people become more entrenched in their atheism instead of the other way around.

    The will of Allah concept is very powerful, I think -- something along the lines of Calvinism back in the old days. I rarely hear any Christians say "God willing," but Muslims say "Allah willing" so much of the time. Just ritual on the part of Muslims? Part of the time, I think, but not all of the time.

    Once, following a stamped at the Hajj, the Grand Imam said, "There was nothing that we could do. It was the will of Allah." Wow. Talk about throwing up one's hands and avoiding responsibility and accountability.

    Radicalism and Dominionism have ebbed to the point of being negligible for quite a long time now. I can't say that radicalism and Islamic supremacism is as much on the wane. In fact, since the Iranian Revolution and the Arab Spring, those ideas have ramped up.

  42. Robert,
    The going along and the illiteracy that you mentioned are certainly contributory factors.

    However, some of the most radical Muslims are also among the most literate.

  43. Damien Charles,
    Along the lines of some of what we have been discussing in this thread and dated August 13:

    ...Meanwhile, the union representative of the area, Niaz Ahmad, justifies the printing of such material. “Who are the Taliban? They are the defenders of Islam and they follow the true Islamic Shariah. What’s wrong with what they do?” Ahmad asks.

    According to Muhammad Shafiq, a media consultant based in Peshawar who frequently visits Afghanistan, “People here in Pakistan and in Afghanistan already have a lot of anti-American sentiment. Such literature reinforces those beliefs and helps Taliban get recruits and funding.”

    Go to the link for more information.

  44. Damien Charles,
    Have you heard about THIS?

    Do you have additional information? In English or in Spanish -- if you can find the online links.

  45. AOW,

    sorry, I was over in London for a few days for a seminar and only got back today. I think the info on the Spanish plot is probably fully out and equally available to you than here. I gather that the authorities in a few countries combined and have been watching this group for some time, which is a good sign that they are on top of things.

    Your quote about this union rep supporting the Taliban shows the influences that people have and how each person claims that they represent the truth.

    One thing that you mentioned is very true within the Muslim world. That is this the simple fact that the level of discussing Islamic interpretation is a no-go area and it has been like that for exactly one century now.

    The last real discussion on interpreting their Koran and haddiths was in 1912 and before that it was in 1875 and roughtly every 25 to 39 years before that. The 1912 Conference of Scholars, Mufties and "intellectuals" was in Cairo at Al Azhar, the one before that in Istanbul. Some historians say it was colonialism breaking up and the first world war that stopped it, others say that before it was the management by the Ottomans that allowed it and once they finished, the fear that discussion would take away power from the clergy was the reason. The latter sounds logical.

    The current Mufti in Istanbul said on a program by Germany's AD Channel (I think) that the two biggest issues facing Islam is that there is no debate and there is no internal criticism, full stop. Even he, ironically, pointed out that the only critics within Islam are the radicals criticising every other Muslim.

    He's got it right when you think long and hard about it, if there was internal debate and wide-spread self-critcism, the clergy would have no political influence and the use of faith as a motivator would be gone. Terrorist groups would be political and nationalist only and we would be discussing that right now.

    Damien Charles

  46. AOW/Sam,

    a bit off topic but I just came back from London for both a conference and to be present at the court decision about the right to die that was recently announced. I do not know if it became news over your side? http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/16/locked-in-syndrome-right-die

    That is something I would be interested in getting views from others on. The entire subject for me was very emotive and personally a clash with my morals even though it was members of my own firm that represented one of the two applicants.

    Just in case your not aware, two persons with "locked-in syndrome", an extensive neurological and physiological disorder wished to be able to have an assisted death (euthanasia/assisted suicide take your pick) and appealed to have it legal, or at least have the blame put on them and not on any doctor or nurse present. In our client's case, or the right to travel to Switzerland and have it done there. The court basically said that they could not excempt any medical professional from being present or even providing advice to such an event or to allow medically assisted travel to another country for that purpose.

    As a Catholic the issue and value of life is critical and thus I ulitmately did not support the case (and thus was not involved even though there are two cases waiting here in Gibraltar, as there are many in globally) but I also lived through my own mother's miserable and painfully lingering death. She died from a brain cancer and it took two and a half years and we consider that her actual death took that long. A Dutch friend's brother had something similar and after a tribunal of two doctors and a medical lawyer agreed, a surgeon simply visited his house and gave him a needle after his family said goodbye. I think deep down that I felt jealous.

    Anyone wish to raise the topic as a thread?

    Damien Charles

  47. I see no point in persisting with an unbearable, un-treatable and terminal condition. Often the [suffering] is not limited to the afflicted individual but to all who care. I could elaborate about personal experience with family and friends but I think that we've all been there.


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