Presidential Power and the Isil threat.

The future struggles with the past.The present is the key.where do we wish to go? how do we get there? Even Stephen Decatur had his doubts…

daedal2207's Blog

Graeme Wood’s analysis of Isis in the March 2015 issue of the Atlantic magazine when coupled with Mark Bowden’s article titled “Drone Warrior” from the September 2013 issue of the Atlantic offers some excellent insight into President Obama’s attempts at handling (and conceptualizing) the potential impact of radical Islamic behavior.Some of those on the left find evidence of “Bushobama”behavior.Many on the right find the failure to declare war on Islam weak-kneed and/or duplicitous.

It is reasonably clear that the Islamic state, by self declaration, is a modern day caliphate with all the rules and behavior dictated by religious dogma from the 15th and 16th centuries.President Obama minimizes the religious aspect and tries to see Isis as the jayvee team of Alqueda.Isis may have been but Isil is not.Is the President lying to us ?One of the things that is clear about our President is that he is a man of…

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  2. Regarding the organization that calls itself, “ISIS,” it is important to remember that they are a product of modernity. They have no connection to—and will never construct—a caliphate. The key words in your post are “by self declaration.” ISIS refers to itself as a caliphate, just as the Japanese referred to themselves as samurai; just as Hitler referred to his empire as “Aryan” (if he had known that, historically, Aryans were quite brown, he may have regretted that choice). When it comes to ISIS, ISIL, or more properly, “Daesh,” we must first remember the power of propaganda. The issue is that we have a tendency to fall into what is now being referred to as “faith-washing.” In essence, we tend to take ISIS at their word. Certainly, they use a lot of faith-based language, but so did the United States when we were at war with the “godless commis.” It’s nationalist propaganda. Daesh seeks to be a State. They are a political enterprise seeking physical and psychological presence on the world stage, and they have constructed a [religious] message to serve political ends. The brackets function as a fill-in-the-blank. President Obama minimizes the religious aspect because the religious aspect is of minimal importance, and because he does not wish to encourage their propaganda: did Roosevelt refer to the Japanese as “samurai?”
    Our ploy in this War of Words is to refer to ISIS as “Daesh,” which functions as both the Arabic pronunciation of the group’s initials, as well as being an Arabic synonym for, “something you squash under your foot.” This has nothing to do with Islam, and nothing to do with Sunni and Shia. In fact, Sunni and Shia has not been the root issue for hundreds of years. What we see in these militia organizations today is much more akin to the fascist movements of the 20th century. Every warmonger claims a moral stance, and Daesh is no different. They speak of the caliphate, but look at their actions: masked men and mass executions. That is certainly not Islam:

    Then, is it
    To be expected of you,
    If ye were put in authority,
    That ye will do mischief
    In the land, and break
    Your ties of kith and kin?

    Such are the men
    Whom Allah has cursed
    For He has made them
    Deaf and blinded their sight.

    –Surah 47:22-23

    Again, this has nothing to do with Islam. Additionally, Daesh may be smaller in number than Al-Qaeda, but they are also younger, and their propaganda is much better—which has bolstered their recruitment capabilities. Furthermore, I think the President has only strongly ENCOURAGED a ‘bomb the hell out of them’ mentality—and we have—but they rarely crowd together in one area (for good reason). Daesh, like most guerrilla militias, are good at moving. It will never be completed from the air alone.

    As for the idea that “a culture outstripped and puzzled by a devastating technology… pulls from the core of its own cultural belief system an antidote to the power of the foreign technology[,]” it is important to remember that any outmanned or outgunned force in existence will ‘pull from the core of its own cultural belief system’ a sense of hope, which acts very much like an antidote for the mind: Muhammad prayed before the Battle of Badr; Americans prayed on the U-boats to Normandy shore. It is not a millenarian response. It has been a part of the human condition from time immemorial. Hanukkah is about hope. And Hanukkah is not millenarian. One of Daesh’s attributes is, very ironically, the audacity of hope. We may not like that it cuts both ways, but it does. It is a mechanism of survival. In essence, there has been no ‘millenarian response’ from drones and certainly no response ‘from Islam[,]’ as nothing in existence can hope to speak of the individual ethical concerns of over 1 billion people. There has, however, been a response by Daesh, which may be summarized as ‘bring it.’ The Germans said the same thing after the bombing of Dresden. What else could they have said? What else would Daesh say? They are at war with us. But, unlike us, they volunteered for it.
    The ‘spin’ that you refer to seems to be similar to propaganda tactics mentioned earlier. However, the idea that Bush’s ‘spin’ and Obama’s ‘spin’ are anywhere near each other is completely ludicrous.
    Obama did not start the Iraq war. In fact, he was one of few senators who opposed it from the beginning, and clearly stated that he feared the outbreak of sectarian violence in Saddam’s power vacuum. Bush’s decision has been responsible for the loss of over 500,000 Iraqi civilians, as well as millions of refugees spread about in neighboring Middle Eastern countries; we have lost over 4,491 troops with over 32,000 wounded—all of which was over 2 TRILLION dollars. I could make a larger list, but all that was previously mentioned, as well as the financial crisis—second only to the Great Depression—will suffice to show the larger point. I do not attack him personally; I attack him factually based on the actions of his past. As for the present, Obama has already brought over 60,000 troops home, and has stated his intention to bring back 35,000 more by this time next year. He has killed Osama Bin Laden. He has helped to crucially avert a financial crisis (e.g.,‘cash for clunkers,’ bailouts, stricter financial regulation). He has insured over 8 million people. I could make a larger list, but all that was previously mentioned has sufficed to show the larger point. I am supportive of Obama factually, and it is those facts that make me fond of him personally. Bush and Obama are not different forms of the same man—they are different men. Unarguably, the climate of politics is unseemly; but the spread between men in the same climate can be measured. In history, it will be measured. As you said, “it’s the results that count.”
    As for Netanyahu, he is not ‘heading toward’ his own country’s fundamentalism. He is indeed a full-fledged fundamentalist. He is either driven by wrath or by fear, and any decision that is primarily motivated by either is a bad one. I could not believe his use of a cartoon bomb graphic depicting Iran’s nuclear readiness. Ridiculous. This man has no interest in peace; he made a speech to Congress before the Iraq war, and promised that removing Saddam Hussein would pacify the region. He is a fool.
    Peace is always possible, but it is always difficult. Compromise requires everyone’s participation, but it requires more from some than from others. In matters of diplomacy, it should always be expected that the society with the most to offer must offer more. That is, diplomacy will have to be extended from your side of the table. This is precisely what it means to be the bigger man. What do you expect to be offered from a people who have nothing? Israel is divided on this issue. However, recently, there has been more support for a less militant form of government. Only time will tell. But as long as there are still hours, it is never too late.
    Netanyahu’s decision to attend Congress without President Obama’s permission is a glimpse of the animosity they have for each other. And, based on the disparate differences in their character and in their actions, I am not surprised. In fact, I find it oddly reassuring that my assessments of their personalities have been verified and revealed to the public.

    1. Often when there are many possibilities people will claim that there is only one. The emotional benefits (and downsides) are powerful. This dynamic seems to apply to every religion and every secular dogma. Desired sentiments are enhanced when we exaggerate that which supports and ignore that which weakens.
      In Alexander Thomas’s comments It is stated that ISIS – ISIL – Daish “is not Islam” – This organization is using religion as propaganda – It is a tool, an excuse, not a motivator. Alexander writes, “Look at their actions, masked men and mass executions. That is certainly not Islam.” Yes, this is a possibility, but it ignores thousands of years of history that demonstrates the power of religious motivation to create and to destroy, to wage hideous forms of war. Among many analysts, Robert Spencer in writings and interviews points to specific Koranic text that supports the faith and actions of this dangerous form of – yes, religious belief.
      Alexander tells us, “Obama did not start the Iraq war. In fact, he was one of few senators who opposed it from the beginning, and clearly stated that he feared the outbreak of sectarian violence in Saddam’s power vacuum” The main reason (but not the only reason) for war was concern that Saddam had WMDs. Saddam acted like he had WMDs. Saddam had killed thousands of Serbs by using WMDs. Every intelligence agency in the world (and most big name and small name Democrats) thought that Saddam had WMDs. But most important, as a general principal, would it be smart to prefer that our President ignore all the central intelligence sources and instead trust – what? (A special intuition? astrology? A spiritual leader?).
      Alexander writes: “As for the present, Obama has already brought over 60,000 troops home, and has stated his intention to bring back 35,000 more by this time next year. He has killed Osama Bin Laden.” Yes, he has done these things. How are they working out? Obama inherited a stable Iraq but it needed US-led discipline and troops for security. Bin Laden was killed, but information captured during that raid demonstrated an expanding Al Qaeda. Lt. General Michael Flynn (Just retired Head of the Defense Intelligence Agency) stated in an interview with Bret Bair that “Intelligence says not what we hear.” – It says just the opposite of what Obama has been telling the voters.
      About Netanyahu – “This man has no interest in peace; he made a speech to Congress before the Iraq war, and promised that removing Saddam Hussein would pacify the region. He is a fool. Peace is always possible” Explain how the following sentence cannot be true: The only participant for whom “peace is always possible” is that side willing to give itself to the aggressor’s wishes. History is filled with examples of aggressors and the conquered. Quite often the only two options have been those of war, or capitulation. Given so many volumes of historic example, why should we ignore today’s demonstrated intent of organizations who have openly declared a desire to destroy Israel and us?
      This letter by Alexander Thomas reveals an attitude apparently driven more by political advocacy than by analysis. But, as in our court system, let the debate rage – and maybe we in the jury may live closer to the truth.
      Don Spencer

  3. Truth exists. However, on most important issues we humans are not given the luxury of certain knowledge. So for the sake of wisdom we can be most certain that our central challenge has to do with process, conducting our efforts to “know” such that our guesses are accurate to the highest probability. Ideas need to face honest challenges in order to clarify the degree to which our guesses correlate with objective reality. Thank you for placing your ideas before us for inspection.
    I am going to challenge some of your guesses about our President:
    You write: “(Obama) is … bound to deliver a message that can be understood and which discourages a “bomb the hell out of all of them” sentiment from the American Public. Lumping all of Islam together puts Shiite and Sunni together in a way that is unjustifiable and wrong. It puts Sunni fundamentalists together with those Sunnis who embrace the twenty first century and who will work within treaties and organizations toward the betterment of their own people and the world.”
    I know of no significant group of Americans who want to “bomb the hell out of all of them”. Nor do I know of a group that “lumps all of Islam together”. If it is true that such a group doesn’t exist, Obama’s position is an argument (straw man?) with no basis in truth. If you have evidence that there is an American group of people who possess this “kill them all” attitude, share it with us. It does seem to be true that if a mind believes that the American people are incapable or cannot learn the common sense required to distinguish between various (killer and benign) sects of Islam, our leadership must be dictatorial rather than democratic in order for it to do what it believes must be done. The ease with which this President claims to possess new-found power that bypasses the house of the people seems to support this hypothesis about (the arrogance of) his beliefs.

    You write: “What we are seeing is in my view an aspect of millenarianism i.e. the appeal to a preordained superiority in spirituality to defeat a more powerful enemy. It is, in my view, the reason why air power alone cannot win wars; a people bombed into numbness become hardened and defiant.(London,Dresden,Berlin,Nanking,Tokyo) The Obama use of the drone while clearly effective has brought on a millenarian response from Islam. The worst aspect of this is Isil.”
    Yes, people like to believe that what they believe makes them somehow superior, and given that spirituality is structured out of relatively easy faith rather than subject to demanding evidence, leaps of faith are often chosen as a method of enhancement. And yes, attitudes of aggression and methods of defense will tap existing beliefs. Given that this is always the case, it seems that our healthiest process should be that of selecting with empirical evidence those beliefs that actually work to advance human life and should avoid those that actually stunt life.
    You claim that air power alone cannot win wars, but the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki quickly ended a big one. With new-to-history technological power Iran probably could end the existence of Israel with the air power use of only one or two atomic bombs. Alexander the Great didn’t need air power given that he, with primitive weapons, sometimes did “kill them all”. Those of us who actually support their beliefs with logic rooted in the rules of nature need to acknowledge that nature has allowed, and continues to allow in human nature a full range of viciousness (and humans can be vicious in the name of a vast range of imaginative justifications). There is no reason to believe that the leaders of Iran do not possess the full potential to slaughter innumerable others (including ourselves).

    As for the drones bringing about the threat we call Isil? With this hypothesis there is a time-line problem. The groups who believe in militant forms of Islam declared war on the west many years before Isil existed. Isil is only a prolific newer generation of this virus-like sentiment that takes advantage of weakness, wherever resistance is low. The beginning of this current hot form of extreme Islam’s war against the west could easily be linked to the Nov 4, 1979 taking of the American Consulate in Tehran. The failure to squelch it at that time can be viewed as a symptom of a continuing weakness among westerners. “Lines in the sand” are constantly violated – with the west consistently afraid of conflict. We (stupidly? ignorantly? cowardly?) keep trying to avoid a fight that must be fought. It appears that the longer we put off confronting this disease, the more powerfully destructive it is going to be.

    You mention that Obama is brilliant. Even if this is true, a brief review of history tells us that brilliant minds operating with sincerely-held beliefs have often engaged in deadly conflict with other equally brilliant and sincere minds. Logic then dictates an understanding that a brilliant mind can be driven by foolish and/or destructive beliefs. Patterns of results following Obama’s actions tell us that, brilliant or not, he may have absorbed doses of dangerously foolish belief. Good policies advanced by brilliance tend to result in a more powerful good. Foolish policies if advanced by brilliance are likely to be more powerfully destructive. (Even the best and fastest computer if programed with garbage is likely to spit out answers that are garbage.)

    Be they fast or slow, healthy minds should self-adjust to probable truths and not be locked into sentimental dogma.

    You write that: “It is particularly unseeming to invoke lack of love of country as a motive force.” It may “seem” like a personal attack, but it can also be an objective, logical observation of a position. Consider the fact that large portions of our citizenry can and do define differently the “America” that they love. America can be a place where maximum individual liberty to pursue happiness is guaranteed along with its resulting unequal outcomes. Or, America can be a place where government is empowered to forcibly redistribute more equally the product and income of our country. In an objectively logical sense the first vision of “America” cannot exist without the demise or compromise of the other vision – and vice versa. Therefore to that degree it is not reasonable to expect the followers of one camp to “like” or “honor” the other. Each can honestly observe that it is rational to dislike the other. As primary seekers of truth we should at least be honest about the dynamics impacting our world. I ask the question, which vision prevailing gives humanity the healthiest, most inspired future? This is a critically important debate!

    You write: “The prime minister of Israel invites European Jews to Israel and struggles to undermine a U.S. treaty with Iran. In the pursuit of this objective he isn’t hesitant to undermine Obama. … He fails to see that a co-prosperity sphere made up of Palestine and Israel is a better “Iron Dome’ than anything that can be structurally created. Perhaps such a sphere is impossible because of the lateness of the hour; nevertheless to attend and address the U.S. congress without the approval of a sitting President seems outrageous!!”
    There was a time in the Clinton years when Israel, in an effort to secure peace, offered massive concessions to Arafat but at the last minute was not only refused, but Israel suffered massive terrorist attacks. Is there really any doubt that if the Palestinians unilaterally disarmed there would be peace and if Israel were to unilaterally disarm it and its people would be destroyed?
    If it is true that the possible “treaty with Iran” poses a great threat to the future of Israel (and eventually the US) shouldn’t we enthusiastically seek the best arguments from both sides? Wouldn’t it be edifying if Obama himself, or a selected spokesman debated Israel’s prime minister? If one side fears the clarity of argument doesn’t this reveal a disturbing (deceitful) state of mind? Why is this President hiding the details? If recent leaks are true, (such as a sunset clause) there is justifiable reason to worry both for the future of Israel and the US fight against radical Islam (of which Iran seems to be a major facilitator).
    As for such an invite being “outrageous”; the “equal powers” given to Congress, the Presidency, and the Judiciary means that they have independent rights and duties. There is no obligation to neglect those rights or duties because another’s agenda may be more difficult to advance. In fact, this check and balance is exactly a major reason our founders created divided power.

    1. The reasoning behind this comment is confusing.A “bomb them all to hell”attitude is a variation on the universal”a plague on all your houses”. and is an understandable if not predictable human response.The existence or non existence of an organized group isn’t needed or required;.Its accompaniment by a reliance on gun,sword or bomb as a “final solution” cannot be surprising.This doesn’t work short of total extirpation of an enemy WW2 as an extension of WW1 is a good example of this.Hiroshima and Nagasaki
      come close to a sterilization of the earth solution and only shortened the time to eventual defeat of the Japanese with careful deliberation and promises to preserve the symbols of Japanese belief.Alexander the Great didn’t kill all his enemies. His tenure was characterized by extension of Greek citizenship and intermarriage.
      The founding fathers wisdom provided a platform to be built upon rather than a script never to be deviated from;since they could not predict the future.A strict constructionist posture has much in common with non revisionist, apostasy- phobic belief.and dogma.
      The recent buzz about the perception of the colors of a dress indicates that the human brain is diversely organized and we may be dealing from and with brains configured evolutionarily to interpret the same stimulii differently.if so we had best not hasten toward extirpation as a final solution.The use of time to explore appropriate action and to delay precipitous action is an essential concept.

      1. You are correct. It is indeed common to make broad generalizations such as “a plague on all your houses”. So common, that I worry about these only when such generalizations assume a place of power. That is why I am more interested in evidence that there is organization to such foolishness. In the service of unorganized broad generalizations, guns, swords, or bombs are not going to be of great danger. Arguing policy as if they are is akin to the use of straw man scare tactics.
        Last October a tour of the World War Two Museum in New Orleans demonstrated for me and all its visitors evidence supporting the argument that there were profound savings of life brought about by the timely use of the A bomb. Operation Downfall was going to be hell for both us and for them.
        I should have been more specific as regards Alexander the Great “killing them all”. I was thinking of Persepolis and its sacking where its reported that “all the men were killed” and the women enslaved.
        The “platform” (Constitution and its clarifying Bill of Rights) created by the founders was rooted in an understanding about unchanging aspects of human nature. Even so, it allows for a careful process of amendment.
        Perception and reality often diverge. That is why I like the scientific method, whereby we enhance the probability that what we perceive to be true is indeed true.
        If done well, this process of debate clarifies the middle point exactly between the following: He who hesitates is lost. Look before you leap.

      2. A good,astute analysis! The NAZI/Aryan relationship is an apt analogue.There are not too many who remember Krystal Nacht but the principal perpetrators were the brownshirts whose elimination came as a surprise to some observers.They were true believers but were low brow thugs tainted in the view of an elite by homoeroticism and drunken excess.The price of buying into an industrial elite and into an old Prussian aristocracy (anti Bismarck) was to slaughter them en masse.They were not insiders.If you are correct(and I think you are)there exists within Isis/Isil/Daesh an elite group whose aims are personal and political and the masses who follow them are expendable.The major difference is that there is no need to reconstruct an ideology.(Hitler’s search for an Historian/archaeologist to find evidence of an Aryan past that could be reliably projected forward).Within the structure of Islam there seems to be an abundance to be chosen from at the cost of calculated inaccuracy and falsification.
        One should not dismiss the millenarian response;it is a function of human mentation.We need to have a belief about where we came from and whither we are bound.The evolving human brain met wood and stone,copper,zinc and tin, then Iron .then plutonium and beyond.The brain changes the environment and the environment changes the brain.Total extirpation is not part of the story.The millenarian response gets us to the immortality which is part of the collective (band specific) expectation and is part of the survival of Armageddon like end of the known world expectation.

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