In just over 100 days, President Obama is on the verge of ensuring that militant Islam’s war on America will be waged for decades to come and its forces will never suffer manpower or money shortages. How did he accomplish so much in some little time? He simply behaved as all U.S. political leaders behave; that is, as an ignorant and arrogant interventionist.
With much ballyhooing, Bruce Riedel led a team that conducted the Obama administration’s “review” of Afghan policy. As is known, the team’s deliberations produced a wonder of either naiveté or stupidity, or perhaps both: 21,000 more U.S. troops to control a country the size of Texas, and a logistical system running vital U.S.-NATO resupply lines through hostile territory in Pakistan and — with Russia’s gleeful support for keeping America bleeding in Afghanistan — the Commonwealth of Independent States. The question must be asked how a man as intelligent as Riedel came up with a plan that amounts to massively reinforcing failure.
In surprisingly good English, the captive quietly answers: “Yes, all thanks to God, I do know when the mujahideen will, with God’s permission, detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States, and I also know how many and in which cities.” Startled, the CIA interrogators quickly demand more detail. Smiling his trademark shy smile, the captive says nothing. Reporting the interrogation’s results to the White House, the CIA director can only shrug when the president asks: “What can we do to make Osama bin Laden talk?”
The Australian soldier and anthropologist Dr. David Kilcullen’s new book — The Accidental Guerrilla, Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Oxford, 2009) — is receiving a good deal of attention as the manual with which the Obama administration will forge a successful conclusion to the U.S.-NATO campaign in Afghanistan. The title, The Accidental Guerrilla, refers to those locals living in an insurgent environment who pick up weapons and fight counterinsurgent forces because of tribal mores, because they like to fight, because the West has invaded, or because they are intimidated by what Kilcullen claims to be the limited number of dedicated insurgents or jihadists, in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan, or other Muslim locales. This being the case, Kilcullen argues, the U.S.-NATO goal in Afghanistan should be to split the “accidental guerrillas” away from the jihadists. Echoes of Kilcullen’s thesis can already be heard in public statements by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Afghanistan guru Bruce Reidel, and others who have claimed that up to 75 percent of the Afghan insurgents can be peeled away from the Taliban and its allies and brought over to Karzai’s regime.
On 25 March 2009, I participated in a “Doha Debate” held at Georgetown University under the auspices of the Qatar-Based Doha Foundation. The Oxford Union-style question before the house was: “This house believes that it is time for the U.S. administration to get tough with Israel.” The “no” team consisted of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and former Israeli foreign ministry adviser Dore Gold. On the “yes” team were myself and Avraham Burg, a former speaker of Israel’s Knesset. Each speaker made a 2-minute opening statement and then was question by the moderator, Tim Sebastian. Thereafter, the debaters fielded questions from the audience for about an hour, and then the audience voted. The “yes” team won 67-percent of the vote, the “no” team 33-percent.
In a recent issue of Newsweek, the journal’s inexplicably renowned Muslim-world and foreign-policy expert Fareed Zakaria had a cover story called “Learning to Live With Radical Islam.” To my surprise, I received a call from Newsweek editor Will Tacy, who said that the journal was canvassing other “experts” for a 700-word comment on Zakaria’s article and asked if I would write a contribution. I agreed, wrote an article of the requisite length, and submitted the piece before the deadline. Mr. Tacy acknowledged receiving the commentary, but I have never heard from him again — despite sending several notes and leaving voice-mail — and the piece was not printed.
Last December, I spoke to the nonpartisan Jamestown Foundation’s annual conference on al-Qaeda. My talk was a worldwide survey of how America’s war against Islamism had gone in 2008; an analysis of al-Qaeda’s current fortunes and growth potential; and an assessment of whether U.S. policies were adequately protecting genuine U.S. national interests as the Obama administration began. I concluded that 2008 was a year of setbacks for America, and that the future appeared rather bleak.
If America were blessed with a noninterventionist foreign policy, we could all thank Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for giving President-elect Barack Obama a thoroughgoing lesson in the absolute irrelevancy of Israel and Palestine to the national interests of the United States. More than a week into Israel’s invasion of Gaza, America is still alive and kicking and none of our citizens are dead, which is the way it should be, as this is their religious war and not ours. If stubborn noninterventionism were our creed — as the Founders intended — the Gaza war could continue for two more days or two more months and we could simply shrug and mutter “Who cares?” America could simply go on its way, rebuilding its economy and marveling over the madness of two religions fighting to the death over a barren sandpit at the eastern end of the Mediterranean.
Having watched John McCain and Barack Obama resolutely pledge their allegiance — and their countrymen’s lives and treasure — to the defense of Israel via AIPAC, the media, and personal meetings with Israeli leaders, it is worth asking what could possibly drive these men to so ardently commit America to participation in other people’s religious wars. This question is particularly important today as the Bush administration and the Israel-firsters continue to push for an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran.
Now that the dust has settled in the spat between journalist Joe Klein and the ideologues at Commentary, it is time to regret the ink spilled over the non-issue of “dual loyalties.” The idea that there are U.S. citizens who have equal loyalties to the United States and Israel is passé. American Israel-firsters have long since dropped any pretense of loyalty to the United States and its genuine national interests. They have moved brazenly into the Israel first, last, and always camp. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Norman Podhoretz, Victor Davis Hanson, the Rev. Franklin Graham, Alan Dershowitz, Rudy Giuliani, Douglas Feith, the Rev. Rod Parsley, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, Bill Kristol, the Rev. John Hagee, and the thousands of wealthy supporters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) appear to care about the United States only so far as Washington is willing to provide immense, unending funding and the lives of young U.S. service personnel to protect Israel. These individuals and their all-for-Israel journals — Commentary, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal — amount to nothing less than a fifth column intent on involving 300 million Americans in other peoples’ religious wars, making them pay and bleed to protect a nation in which the United States has no genuine national security interest at stake.