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Visiting the way stations of a new 'long war'

Colin Parkinson

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[/quote]
Jamieson also reinforces my view that both Iraq and Afghanistan are but ‘way stations’ on the long, arduous journey from Islam’s founding to its final clash with the dominant secular, liberal Western and secular, conservative Asian civilizations.  It is my belief that such a clash is inevitable – not between civilizations but, rather, between civilization, as we understand it, and a barbaric, medieval, Arab/Persian theocracy.

Some commentators, including Jamieson, argue that the Arabs and Persians (and West Asians and North Africans and Indonesians and, and, and …) are too deeply divided amongst themselves – on religious, linguistic and cultural grounds – to come together any time soon (say within the next two or three generations) to and launch an all out war between Islam and the West or the East.  That may be the case but strong leaders have united most of Islam in the past and I believe there is a cultural proclivity for many (most?) Muslims to submit to a high religious authority and submerge their religious and social differences in pursuit of a ‘greater Islam’ – Osama bin Laden’s caliphate.
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You have keyed into the main weakness of radical Islam, most Muslims inhabit a world quite different than Arabia and for the most part are not radicalized. They must be constantly maintained in their state of radicalization. Most governments are keying in on the radical leaders as they realize they are a threat to themselves regardless of their opinion of the US position.
The west must continue to promote moderate Islam in these countries and find ways to funnel money to moderates without contaminating them. It was through money that the Whabbi’s bought their way through the Muslim world, the average mosque and Iman preaching tolerance could never compete with a Saudi run Mosque and if they did, more earthly and violent techniques were used to shut them down. 
 

a_majoor

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The war might carry on in a series of spasms as our "attention" is raised or lowered

http://www.bloggingtories.ca/btFrameset.php?URL=http://cjunk.blogspot.com/2007/02/will-to-win.html&title=The%20Will%20to%20Win

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It All Comes Down to Will

Mark Burnell (author) ~ “The most valuable commodity of all is time and … patience is control. The reason time is so valuable is that it’s the one resource the poor have in abundance and the rich can’t buy. The West worries about the next financial quarter [or next election]; in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever there are many poor – that’s not a pressing concern. So when dealing with the West this is what they understand; that if they wait long enough they will prevail by default.”

Any sports fan knows that whenever two teams meet the outcome is unpredictable if neither side holds a massive advantage either in skill or training. Most often the outcome is a matter of will; victory goes to the side which can gain psychological momentum and maintain it. How often do sports commentators speak of momentum? … as in “the Eagles have momentum going into the second half!” The concept is so prevalent that we take it for granted and assume that when all things are equal, or not even that equal, the right psychology can win the game.

When it comes to war or even cultural clashes, those who study these know and understand that “will” is likely the most important factor in winning and losing. Sure, technological, numerical, or professional superiority play a vital roll, but in the end, clashes of this sort only end when one side loses the will to keep fighting. As long as the will to fight remains, conflict continues.

John Keegan in The Face of Battle, put it as follows:

    “Battle therefore … is essentially a moral conflict. It requires … a mutual and sustained act of will by two contending parties and, if it is to result in a decision, the moral collapse of one of them”


In a nutshell then, wars are won or lost when one side loses the will to fight.

Consider now the global war being waged by Islamic Totalitarianism. Consider it’s fanaticism; consider its unifying doctrine; consider the willingness of its followers to perish; consider its disregard for suffering and hardship; consider its historical grounding; and, consider its far reaching dispersal throughout the world. Then, consider Western Liberal society, with its short attention spans, its divisive political systems, its decadence, its nay-sayers, and its inner turmoil.


If the War on Islamic Totalitarianism comes down to a battle of wills, who do you think holds all the cards? Just this past year Canadian support for the mission in Afghanistan waned when Canada began taking casualties … since then there has been calm, and support has once again rebounded. The same can be said of American support for the mission in Iraq. It remained relatively stable until civilian casualties and military casualties in Baghdad escalated and became the daily sado-pornography in the media. Then, instead of increased determination, the American public recoiled and today support for the mission is at an all time low.

The lesson for Islamists is this: Kill civilians in any way possible in the most public way possible, and the Western democracies will lose the will to prevail. No matter the training, the weapons, or even superiority in numbers, the West does not have the will to fight a conflict in which death can be broadcast via the media.

Europe lost her will prior to World War 2; in fact, it can be argued that Europe experienced World War 2 simply because she had lost her will after World War One. America lost her will in Vietnam where she buried 57,000 brave soldiers, mostly draftees, and where she spawned an isolationist and pacifist bent that permeates her culture and media to this very day. Canada lost her will after decades of peace and almost total saturation of her institutions with leftist utopianism.

If Keegan is correct, as I believe he is, then we in the West won’t muster the will needed to defeat Islamic Totalitarianism until a true cataclysm assails us. It may take any number of forms, but until then, it is only a minority of Westerns who have the will to prevail. The rest want to go back to a blissful September 10th slumber, where they can focus on concocting myths about American hegemony, Global Warming, and International Zionist conspiracies. Not until they face cultural extinction will they muster the will to fight; and perhaps not even then.
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a_majoor

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From Celestial Junk



05 March 2007
Might, Will, Sacrifice

What does it take to win a war? A young Canadian soldier thinks out loud.

Might:

Ever since the ancient Greeks invented the decisive battle, westerners have held an important edge in warfare. Some historians have hypothesized that the Greeks invented the decisive battle simply out of necessity. Farming was a full time occupation in the Greek city-states, and there simply wasn’t extra time to spend mucking about with protracted warfare.

When differences arose, the Greeks found it simplest to line up in heavy armor with long spears and meet face to face. The battles would be gruesome, but short-lived, and there was never any doubt who the victor was. While easterners like the Persians of the era still fought a modified version of ‘hit and run’ stone age warfare, the Greeks had hit upon something new, brutal, and effective. Subsequently, the Greeks, Romans, and most westerners that followed employed the fearful decisive battle to great effect.

On many notable occasions, easterners found asymmetrical counters to the “western way of war”. The Parthians and Huns gave the mighty Romans quite a bit more than a headache with their mounted warriors. The powerful Muslim hordes used a mix of western warfare, eastern warfare, and a unique religious zeal to conquer their western enemies. Perhaps most famously of all, the mounted Mongol hordes swept aside all resistance, east and west, and carved out the largest empire in human history.

Still, the western way of war has proven ultimately to be dominant. Today, when it is coupled with western technical know-how and Roman devised, Napoleonic era perfected military structure, it is nearly unstoppable. While this once unique way of warfare has been exported to every corner of the modern world, newcomers have not the experience to wield it properly, and still hold a severe disadvantage even though they may brandish the same modern weapons and use the same tactics.

Yet, while the disciplined western soldiers and advanced western weaponry are without equal, the enemy may still hold cards in his favor.

Will:

A society’s will to wage war used to be measured primarily by how long they were prepared to fight, and die, on the battlefield. While the Greeks invention of the decisive battle may have been an attempt to avoid protracted war, their spiritual descendents, the Romans, certainly didn’t shy away from extended warfare. Indeed, the one winning characteristic of the Romans that carried them through impossible odds, and forged one of histories greatest empires, was their reluctance to quit.

This supreme Roman persistence was best characterized by their war with the brilliant Carthaginian general, Hannibal. Repeatedly Hannibal’s tactics decimated Roman armies on the battlefield. Yet when he failed to press his advantage strategically and conquer Rome itself, the Romans would raise a new army and march off to war once again. In the end, the Romans lost nearly every battle against Hannibal, save one. Their great victory was the one that counted, and the one that won the war.

Besides a basic societal will to carry on with a war, there is also another aspect of will, which was very much a mute point until the ‘enlightenment’ of modern societies. The will to inflict pain and death upon one's enemies is a very important feature of post-modern warfare. While our current western society is much opposed to warfare in general, there were no such qualms in ancient Rome.

The ‘barbarians’ that Rome faced in war were quite aptly named. The horrendous nature of Iron Age battles gave pause to none of the barbarians of the time. Indeed, it was often amplified after the fact as those unlucky enough to be captured were tortured before being slaughtered. In turn the Romans offered no quarter. To be sure, the Romans were famous for their ‘barbaric’ acts of slaughter. When they finally brought Hannibal’s Carthaginian Empire to its knees, and conquered its capital Carthage, they razed every single building, slaughtered or enslaved every single citizen, and plowed the soil where the city once stood with salt, to assure that no crops could be grown there in the future.

Today, we find much of western society almost unwilling to go to war at all. Massive casualties, on either side, are very much considered unacceptable. War-like activities are given creative new terms like “peace-making” and “police-action” to hide their true nature. This absolute aversion to warfare and the suffering of ones enemies is certainly a novel and very modern concept. Hardly more than 60 years ago, our society was willing to rain down explosives, firebombs, and nuclear weapons on non-combatant enemies, killing hundreds of thousands. Today, the deaths of a handful of non-combatants in combat can inspire the citizenery to topple whole governments.

While this enlightened, post-modern aversion to warfare may seem a noble and principled idea, it is unlikely to stand for long against the tide of modern day barbarians that have no such qualms.

Sacrifice:

In the past, our ancestors had few possessions to speak of. Life had few pleasures, and many necessities. Life was about survival. Likewise, warfare was often a simple matter of survival, or at least the preservation of ones freedom.

Early in Rome’s history, when the Etruscan era Romans faced off against Carthage, the army was made up of Roman citizens; the richest and most prosperous Romans. These men quite literally fought for their freedom, their way of life, and their empire. Likewise, the barbarian armies of western Europe that Rome fought were composed of every single tribe member, the men fighting up front with spears and the women cheering them on just behind the frontlines. In the truest sense, warfare was an ‘all for one and one for all’ effort.

All of this changed when the Romans invented the professional army. No longer would citizens fight for their rights, rather paid professionals did their dirty work. While this made for exceptionally efficient soldiers, those sitting in opulence in Rome forgot the meaning of sacrifice. Ultimately the ‘true Romans’ living in luxury would be forced to try to bribe and appease their ‘crude’ enemies, to no avail.

A very similar situation has arisen in the modern west. While the western soldier is a fierce and efficient combatant, only a tiny fraction of our society faces the hardship of soldiering and the spilling of blood in battle. What’s more, the soldiers fellow citizens often aren’t even willing to sacrifice the petty niceties of home in order to better equip the fighting men.

It remains to be seen whether the opulent west is willing to sacrifice what is necessary in order to combat societies where luxuries are few and life is cheap.

So where does the tally of might, will, and sacrifice leave us? To be sure, might is most visible, and leans heavily in the west’s favor, even though eastern asymmetrical warfare has dealt deadly blows in the past. A mere 60 years ago western societies had the will to see through the bloodiest conflict in history, whether or not they could do it again today is uncertain. Most worrying of all is the modern day West’s threshold for sacrifice. Can a society willing to give up so little overcome another that is destined to be much more numerous, and willing to give up so much more? Only time will tell.

Posted by Junker at 3:10 PM   

Labels: Geopolitics, War on Islamic Totalitarianism
 

a_majoor

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http://messopotamian.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html#1356420745443012906

FROM IRAQI BLOGGER ALAA, a mixed assessment of U.S. security strategy. "However, between the extreme course of total withdrawal and the present detailed involvement with daily operations; there is a middle way that few are talking about. Complete abandon and retreat by the Americans would indeed constitute defeat and a victory for the enemy, and would turn the tables completely and ignite a larger conflagration in the region. On the other hand the level of involvement of American and other allied foreign troops with detailed street to street policing, house searches etc. etc. should not continue indefinitely. . . . What must be realized is that as long as the U.S. is strategically present, the enemy has no hope of achieving any of his objectives. This enemy knows this only too well; and his prime objective is to bring about this withdrawal and retreat by all means. He pins his hopes on the internal situation in the U.S., and this is his most potent weapon. Therefore most of his actions and attacks are basically publicity stunts aimed primarily at the MSM and American and western public opinion."
 

a_majoor

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The arc of decision

If the United States leaves Iraq or not, (or even if the invasion had never happened in the first place) there is a broad outline to what the next 20 to 30 years are going to look like. Given the current political situation in the United States, I can forsee a series of regional wars in the arc, with pressure being applied during some administrations and being withdrawn during others (this is not a slap at the two parties, although consistency would be nice, domestic considerations will determine if an administration commits to war or not).

The arc runs from Somalia in East Africa, north through the Sudan and Egypt, then arcs across the Levant and into Southwest Asia. It passes through the Tran caucus, the “’Stans” and then curves south into the Philippines and Indonesia.

Within the arc are multiple pockets of resistance, from Ethiopia and Kenya in East Africa, and Israel, Christian Lebanon, secular Turkey and “Kurdistan” in SW Asia. Many of these pockets will resist radical Islam for their own survival, but the reality is they are particularistic in outlook and in many cases will not be inclined to cooperate amongst each other (indeed, may even look on each other with suspicion or as potential enemies). Alliance with these nations is fraught with difficulty due to their mutual antagonism as well as the great disparity of force between the radical Islamists and the individual nations concerned. Too little support will not change the situation, but attempting to carry the load for them is a recipe for disaster.

The rest of the population inside the arc is divided by overlapping religions and ethnic divisions, most of which are also mutually hostile. Much of the violence is inter communal, as the main factions are fighting to achieve regional hegemony. The victor of this contest will also have the ability to control the flow of oil from the region to Europe, India, Japan and China. Access to this wealth will provide the victor with a flow of wealth to carry out a broad range of actions to maintain their position.

The ability to control the flow of energy to major markets will have several potential consequences. For the consumers of oil, this may be an inconvenience or it may be intolerable and lead to a new series of conflicts for access to energy. For Russia, the ability to cash in on increased oil and resource prices will provide funds to remain solvent, but the long-term demographic decline of Russia and the proximity of large Islamic populations in the “Near Beyond” will certainly factor in Russian policy during the coming decades. It is quite possible Russia will provide overt or covert backing to Europe, India, Japan or even China to keep Dar al Islam destabilized and divert attention away from itself.

Where does the United States fit into all this? The key advantage the United States has in this conflict lies in the use of naval power to dominate the Indian Ocean, and using this ability to operate interior lines of communications against the arc of decision. Should America withdraw from Iraq, they still have the ability to operate containment missions, including strikes, SOF missions and even raids against any portion of the arc from the sea.

A radicalized Islam, especially if one faction gains regional hegemony and control over the energy supplies will require a response by the United States, although the nature and scope will be dictated by domestic political considerations. Using the naval power of the United States for force projection will allow flexibility of response, but relying exclusively on naval or air power will limit the United States to a policy of containment. Forces on the ground are still needed to influence events and maintain ongoing control of the situation.

It is possible that the Indian Ocean will become the focus of effort on both sides, with the Islamic radicals attempting to deny entry and operations through blockading the western approaches, terrorism and even the use of missiles to deny entry of American forces. American responses could include greater levels dispersion, stationing ABMs in Diego Garcia and mobile ABM systems on Aegis class cruisers and their successors.

Should American find an inspirational and unifying leader (another Ronald Reagan or FDR perhaps), there is the possibility of taking the war back to the enemy heartland. Potential allies exist, including Australia and India, which have certain affinities to the West as part of the Anglosphere, and Japan. Even if traditional ties of alliances and shared values are not enough, there is the overwhelming factor of national self interest, including protection against the forces of radical Islam and the need to access energy resources. These nations have relatively large and modern forces to contribute to the alliance as well.

Utilizing the interior lines of communication that the Indian Ocean basin provides, alliance forces are able to carry out actions anywhere in the arc of decision at the time and place of their choosing. While actions ranging from raids to campaigns are possible, it is likely that the alliance will have developed tools to accurately map the “human terrain” and the ability to apply force based on these social, political and economic “maps” to destabilize enemy societies and change institutions and modes of thinking to support or at least be neutral to the goals of the alliance.

Will there be peace at the end of all this? Like all major conflicts, this will reshuffle the deck, ending some of the causes of conflict but setting up the parameters for new conflicts to come.
 

a_majoor

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Spreading the conflict. Should the Western response be to try to engage on all cylinders, or to prioritize and only expend blood and treasure where it "counts". I am fairly certain that Somalia and the Horn of Africa can only be an active theater with the cooperation and support of one or more State powers; just look at how fast the so called Islamic Courts Union collapsed when Ethiopia sent a small contingent of troops into Somalia.

A bit of support for African nations threatened by Jihadis hosted by failed States, some SF and SOF "kinetic action" to keep the heads of the Jihadis down and provide detailed intelligence and most importantly, discovering the links between the Jihadi groups and their State sponsors and breaking the links (one way or another) should keep this area quiet. I stand by my prediction that without a State sponsor many theaters will devolve into regional conflicts with more limited impact on us.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/22/wqaeda122.xml

Al-Qa'eda target west from Horn of Africa

By David Blair in Addis Ababa
Last Updated: 2:38am BST 24/10/2007

Special report

In the rapidly changing battleground against international terrorism, the arid plains of the Horn of Africa are becoming a steadily more significant base from which al-Qa'eda's followers can launch their attacks.

# Core al-Qa'eda leadership growing

The Horn now ranks alongside the Middle East as the area of greatest concern to British counter-terrorism officials, coming second only to Pakistan, where al-Qa'eda's core leaders are ensconced.

Al-Qa'eda operatives based in the Horn, probably in the failed state of Somalia, could choose to target Britain, which has a large Somali community. Of the four men convicted for the failed bomb attacks in London on 21 July 2005, all were from the Horn and two were of Somali origin.

A few young Britons are also known to have travelled to Somalia in order to fight for the country's Islamist extremists. Meanwhile, al-Qa'eda may also strike in Kenya, which is filled with Western targets ranging from tourists to embassies.

Last week, America's embassy in Nairobi issued a new warning. "Islamic extremists in southern Somalia may be planning kidnapping operations inside Kenya," it said, adding that any abductions would be targeted at "Westerners", possibly tourists on the Kenyan coast.
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As the largest country in the Horn, Ethiopia forms the front line of this battle. Week after week, Ethiopia's security forces are in contact with their British counterparts. "The threats are real and immediate," said an Ethiopian government minister in Addis Ababa, the capital.

Until last December, a radical Islamist regime controlled much of neighbouring Somalia. These extremists, styling themselves the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), captured Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, and restored a measure of order after years of chaos.

While many leading figures in this movement had no links with al-Qa'eda, Mogadishu and the area of southern Somalia under their control became a magnet for foreign terrorists. In the annals of Islamist propaganda, the UIC was praised for creating the only truly Muslim state in Africa.

Weapons, funds and armed volunteers reached southern Somalia from across the Muslim world.

Some were probably al-Qa'eda operatives, linked to the network's core leadership, and a few were British citizens. Whether deliberately or not, the UIC was drawn into al-Qa'eda's nexus.

The Ethiopian minister said: "Al-Qa'eda was there and all sorts of international jihadists were flocking to Somalia. There were terrorists who came from many different parts of the world."

Last December, Ethiopia's army responded with a lightning cross-border offensive, toppling the UIC and capturing Mogadishu. Hundreds of Islamist fighters were arrested, revealing the scale of outside support for the UIC.

"I know for sure that there were some from European countries, including those carrying British passports,"

added the minister. Four Britons were arrested in southern Somalia and later released. Human Rights Watch believes that about 100 other suspects are still in Ethiopian jails, including one Canadian. It adds that Ethiopia has allowed American security officials to interrogate them.

The CIA uses Ethiopia for "extraordinary rendition", a programme which critics say allows suspects to be transferred to third countries for torture and mistreatment.

But Ethiopia failed to net all of al-Qa'eda's operatives in southern Somalia. Some leading UIC figures also escaped. Hassan Dahir Aweys, the movement's titular head who appears on an American "watch-list" for suspected terrorists, avoided arrest.

Aweys was once linked to an extremist group styling itself "al-Ittihad al-Islamiya". This organisation may have played a supporting role in al-Qa'eda's successful attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Despite being the subject of an international travel ban, Aweys now lives in Eritrea's capital, Asmara.

Locked with Ethiopia in a bitter border dispute, Eritrea backed Somalia's Islamists on the principle that "my enemy's enemy is my friend". President Isaias Afewerki's regime in Asmara is now harbouring Aweys and other fugitives linked to terrorism.

While Eritrea does not yet appear on America's list of state sponsors of terror, a Western diplomat in Addis Ababa said that day may not be "far off".

Elsewhere, terrorist suspects who were scattered by the UIC's overthrow may have found sanctuary and begun regrouping, possibly in remote areas of Somalia, along the border with Ethiopia, and in neighbouring Kenya.

They could soon be in a position to plan and execute attacks.

"At this point, the balance of forces is not in their favour, but they still try. They have never given up attempting," said the Ethiopian minister. "They are coalescing in a way that enables them to attack."

There is another key danger, which Ethiopian officials are anxious to play down.

When Ethiopia's army captured Mogadishu, heavy fighting forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Ethiopian forces are still deployed in Mogadishu, where they are widely hated as an occupying army. Islamist fighters are now waging a guerrilla war against them.

The violent suppression of Mogadishu may create the conditions for terrorism to thrive.

Critics predict that Ethiopia's operation will sow more hatred, radicalise Somalis and open the way for an endless insurgency.

Tom Porteous, from Human Rights Watch, said that Ethiopia's army had been guilty of "war crimes" in Somalia, adding: "I think that conduct will have a radicalising effect and it will play into the hands of the insurgents."

Despite its bid to portray the operation as part of the "war on terrorism", Ethiopia's real motives are more complex. Somalia has a longstanding claim to the Ogaden, a region of eastern Ethiopia populated largely by Somalis.

The two countries even fought a war over this territory after Somalia invaded in 1977.

By ousting the UIC from Mogadishu, Ethiopia removed a hostile regime which was dedicated to capturing the Ogaden.

At heart, despite its status as a key US ally in the struggle against terrorism, the overriding goal of Ethiopia's operation was securing its eastern frontier against subversion.

Ethiopia must live with the constant danger posed by having a failed state next door.

Yet the lesson from Afghanistan's chaos of the 1990s, which allowed al-Qa'eda to plant itself in a safe haven, is that failed states not only threaten their neighbours but also menace the world at large.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright
 

a_majoor

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The cultural alliance of the "Progressives" and the Islamists:

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2004/03/ichneumon-wasp-european-left-has.html

The Ichneumon Wasp

The European left has reacted to news that the suspects in the March 3 Madrid train massacre were Moroccans by blaming the United States, representing it as the vengeance of Al Qaeda which Spain brought on itself for helping America in Iraq. It was natural that Osama, who remembers the fall of the Abassid caliphate well, should recall how the Mongols erected a tower of skulls before every city sacked before sending word ahead that any resistance would suffer the same fate. And so the Spanish victims caused their own deaths by being tardy in submission. The Left is now the messenger boy of Islamofacism. They know their place.

In the early 1990s, cadres of the Philippine Communist New People's Army went to Mindanao to establish a "tactical alliance" with Muslim separatists. They brought their Maoist Red Books and some light machineguns, thinking to overawe the Islamic yokels with worldly wisdom obtained at the University of the Philippines and a few hoary tips from Soviet training manuals. Instead they found a hard core of thousands who had trained in Afghanistan and the Balkans, who scoffed at the rusty Communist machineguns and whose petrodollars made the paltry Euroleft donations seem like chump change. It was a moment of revelation. Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis describes a similar moment during the early meetings between ETA and Hamas. The home team had brought their pathetic assets to the table.

    The members of ETA said that although they had left in their sufficient arsenal a few hundred packages of dynamite, stolen a little earlier in two gunpowder magazines from France, they feared that it had begun to spoil. In spite of that, Hamas accepted the offer.

In return they were dazzled by a cave of wonders. The Islamists took ETA members to Afghanistan on forged Belgian passports, where they were trained in the use of MANPADS and given a few weapons via Greek freighters and a pleasure boat. That earnest was obviously convincing because somewhat later, the ETA sent 80 militants to Iraq for further training. The pecking order had been established and the coordination structured accordingly. In practice the relation between militants, even in the European and American Left, is governed by threat and intimidation. It is unnoticeable to the outer fringes of the Movement but grows increasingly more severe as one approaches the "committed" core. Among sympathizers in the media, entertainment and academic industries, obedience is largely enforced by social pressure or economic sanction. Closer in the pretenses are dropped and operational rules prevail. At the Central Committee level, as David Horowitz knows, decisions are enforced under penalty of death. Mercy is shown, within the Marxist IRA, by whether your kneecap is blown out from the front or the back. The arrival of the Islamists in the West, like a new gang arriving in town, has changed the dynamic considerably. They are given a wide berth by the Left, not merely out of a shared hatred for America, but out of fear -- pure operational fear. When the adnan or call to prayer is sounded from the bell tower at the state-funded University of Miami (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) to the approval of Leftist claques, there is a more than mutual admiration involved. People remember Salman Rushdie and the BBC Islamic prayer rooms have a certain preventive quality about them. The moribund Left knows who is boss and is selling the only thing they have remaining: access to media and cultural institutions, which suits the Islamofascists just fine. A division of labor has been established in which the Left provides the paralyzing injection on Western society leaving the jihadis a clear field within which to operate.

Steven Jay Gould, in arguing for the existence of natural evil, could find no better analogy than the ichneumon wasp, after which the monster in Alien was modeled, and which not coincidentally describes Islamofascism and its Leftist helpers.

    The ichneumon, like most wasps, generally live freely as adults but pass their larva life as parasites feeding on the bodies of other animals, almost invariably members of their own phylum, the Arthropoda. The most common victims are caterpillars (butterfly and moth larvae), but some ichneumons prefer aphids and other attack spiders. Most host are parasitized as larvae, but some adults are attacked, and many tiny ichneumons inject their brood directly into the eggs of their host.

    The free-flying females locate an appropriate host and then convert it into a food factory for their own young. Parasitologists speak of ectoparasitism when the uninvited guest lives on the surface of its host, and endoparasitism when the parasite dwells within. Among endoparasitic ichneumons, adult females pierce the host with their ovipositor and deposit eggs within. (The ovipositor, a thin tube extending backward from the wasp's rear end, may be many times as long as the body itself.) Usually, the host is not otherwise inconvenienced for the moment, at least until the eggs hatch and the ichneumon larvae begin their grim work of interior excavation.

    Among ectoparasites, however, many females lay their eggs directly upon the host's body. Since an active host would easily dislodge the egg, the ichneumon mother often simultaneously injects a toxin that paralyzes the caterpillar or other victim. The paralyzes may be permanent, and the caterpillar lies, alive but immobile, with the agent of its future destruction secure on its belly. The egg hatches, the helpless caterpillar twitches, the wasp larvae pierces and begins its grisly feast.

    Since a dead and decaying caterpillar will do the wasp larvae no good, it eats in a pattern that cannot help but recall, in our inappropriate anthropocentric interpretation, the ancient English penalty for treason — drawing and quartering, with its explicit object of extracting as much torment as possible by keeping the victim alive and sentient. As the king's executioner drew out and burned his client's entrails, so does the ichneumon larvae eat fat bodies and digestive organs first, keeping the caterpillar alive by preserving intact the essential heart and central nervous system. Finally, the larvae completes its work and kills its victim, leaving behind the caterpillar's empty shell. Is it any wonder that ichneumons, not snakes or lions, stood as the paramount challenge to God's benevolence during the heyday of natural theology?

This thing must never reach the stars.
 

a_majoor

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The roots of WWII were planted at the end of WWI, and the war can be said to have started in 1937 with major conflict breaking out between Imperial Japan and China, or perhaps with the Spanish Civil War, with Fascist forces aided by Germany and Italy and Republican forces aided by the USSR and an ad hoc coalition of "progressive" organizations.

The Long War looks like it has far deeper roots than commonly accepted:

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2009/Q1/view562.html#Friday

    Meanwhile, Hilaire Belloc wrote on Islam in his book _The Great Heresies_ in 1936, and had this to say:

        These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world?

        I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic _but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past:_ one might say that they are blinded by it.

        ............. For all these reasons (and many more might be added) men of foresight may justly apprehend, or at any rate expect, the return of Islam.

    The statement: men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past is worth engraving on plaques and hanging in planning centers and conference rooms.

    Belloc believed that the balance might be tipping toward Islam not so much militarily as because by 1936, the West no longer had strong beliefs of its own to weigh against the fervor of the muslims. The then-popular belief that had replaced Christianity in Western hearts was Nationalism. (By 1936 this was building up to an apocalypse.) A fuller quote is on http://m-francis.livejournal.com/

 

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Knowing and understanding that we are fighting against State actors who use Asymmetrical war is important to formulate effective responses:

http://spectator.org/archives/2009/03/13/osama-bin-elvis/print

Osama bin Elvis
By Angelo M. Codevilla from the March 2009 issue

All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama bin Laden. But tell that to the CIA and all the other misconceptualizers of the War on Terror.

Seven years after Osama bin Laden's last verifiable appearance among the living, there is more evidence for Elvis's presence among us than for his. Hence there is reason to ask whether the paradigm of Osama bin Laden as terrorism's deus ex machina and of al Qaeda as the prototype of terrorism may be an artifact of our Best and Brightest's imagination, and whether investment in this paradigm has kept our national security establishment from thinking seriously about our troubles' sources. So let us take a fresh look at the fundamentals.

Dead or Alive?

Negative evidence alone compels the conclusion that Osama is long since dead. Since October 2001, when Al Jazeera's Tayseer Alouni interviewed him, no reputable person reports having seen him—not even after multiple-blind journeys through intermediaries. The audio and video tapes alleged to be Osama's never convinced impartial observers. The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between colors and styles of beard are small stuff.

Nor does the tapes' Osama sound like Osama. In 2007 Switzerland's Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which does computer voice recognition for bank security, compared the voices on 15 undisputed recordings of Osama with the voices on 15 subsequent ones attributed to Osama, to which they added two by native Arab speakers who had trained to imitate him and were reading his writings. All of the purported Osama recordings (with one falling into a gray area) differed clearly from one another as well as from the genuine ones. By contrast, the CIA found all the recordings authentic. It is hard to imagine what methodology might support this conclusion.

Also in 2007, Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University's religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama's messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama's Wahhabism. Lawrence noted as well that the Osama figure in the December 2001 video, which many have taken as his assumption of responsibility for 9/11, wears golden rings—decidedly un-Wahhabi. He also writes with the wrong hand. Lawrence concluded that the messages are fakes, and not very good ones. The CIA has judged them all good.

Above all, whereas Elvis impersonators at least sing the King's signature song, "You ain't nutin' but a hound dawg," the words on the Osama tapes differ substantively from what the real Osama used to say—especially about the most important matter. On September 16, 2001, on Al Jazeera, Osama said of 9/11: "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation." Again, in the October interview with Tayseer Alouni, he limited his connection with 9/11 to ideology: "If they mean, or if you mean, that there is a link as a result of our incitement, then it is true. We incite…" But in the so-called "confession video" that the CIA found in December, the Osama figure acts like the chief conspirator. The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except perhaps to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicion. Its substance, the celebratory affirmation of a responsibility for 9/11 that Osama had denied, should also have weighed against the video's authenticity. Why would he wait to indict himself until after U.S. forces and allies had secured Afghanistan? But the CIA acted as if it had caught Osama red-handed.

The CIA should also have taken seriously the accounts of Osama's death. On December 26, 2001, Fox News interviewed a Taliban source who claimed that he had attended Osama's funeral, along with some 30 associates. The cause of death, he said, had been pulmonary infection. The New York Times on July 11, 2002, reported the consensus of a story widespread in Pakistan that Osama had succumbed the previous year to his long-standing nephritis. Then, Benazir Bhutto—as well connected as anyone with sources of information on the Afghan-Pakistani border—mentioned casually in a BBC interview that Osama had been murdered by his associates. Murder is as likely as natural death. Osama's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is said to have murdered his own predecessor, Abdullah Azzam, Osama's original mentor. Also, because Osama's capture by the Americans would have endangered everyone with whom he had ever associated, any and all intelligence services who had ever worked with him had an interest in his death.

New Osama, Real Osama

We do not know what happened to Osama. But whatever happened, the original one, the guy who looked and sounded like a spoiled Saudi kid turned ideologue, is no more. The one who exists in the tapes is different: he is the world's terror master, endowed with inexplicable influence. In short, whoever is making the post-November 2001 Osama tapes is pretending to far greater power than Osama ever claimed, much less exercised.

The real Osama bin Laden, like the real al Qaeda over which he presided, was never as important as reports from Arab (especially Saudi) intelligence services led the CIA to believe. Osama's (late) role in Afghanistan's anti-Soviet resistance was to bring in a little money. Arab fighters in general, and particularly the few Osama brought, fought rarely and badly. In war, one Afghan is worth many Arabs. In 1990 Osama told Saudi regent Abdullah that his mujahideen could stop Saddam's invasion of the kingdom. When Abdullah waved him away in favor of a half-million U.S. troops, Osama turned dissident, enough to have to move to Sudan, where he stayed until 1996 hatching sterile anti-Saudi plots until forced to move his forlorn band to Afghanistan.

There is a good reason why neither Osama nor al Qaeda appeared on U.S. intelligence screens until 1998. They had done nothing noteworthy. Since the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, however, and especially after director of Central Intelligence George Tenet imputed responsibility for 9/11 to Osama "game, set, and match," the CIA described him as terrorism's prime mover. It refused to countenance the possibility that Osama's associates might have been using him and his organization as a flag of convenience. As U.S. forces were taking over Afghanistan in 2001, the CIA was telling Time and Newsweek that it expected to find the high-tech headquarters from which Osama controlled terrorist activities in 50 countries. None existed. In November 2008, without factual basis and contrary to reason, the CIA continued to describe him and his organization as "the most clear and present danger to the United States." It did not try to explain how this could be while, it said, Osama is "largely isolated from the day to day operations of the organization he nominally heads." What organization?

Axiom and Opposite

Why such a focus on an organization that was never large, most of whose known associates have long since been killed or captured, and whose assets the CIA does not even try to catalogue? The CIA's official explanation, that al Qaeda has "metastasized" by spreading its expertise, is an empty metaphor. But pursuant to it, the U.S. government accepted the self-designation as "al Qaeda" of persons fighting for Sunni-Baathist interests in Iraq, and has pinned the label gratuitously on sundry high-profile terrorists while acknowledging that their connection to Osama and Co. may be emotional at most. But why such gymnastics in the face of Osama's incontrovertible irrelevance? Because focusing on Osama and al Qaeda affirms a CIA axiom dating from the Cold War, an axiom challenged during the Reagan years but that has been U.S. policy since 1993, namely: terrorism is the work of "rogue individuals and groups" that operate despite state authority. According to this axiom, the likes of Osama run rings around the intelligence services of Arab states—just like the Cold War terrorists who came through Eastern Europe to bomb in Germany and Italy and to shoot Pope John Paul II supposedly acted despite Bulgarian intelligence, despite East Germany's Stasi, despite the KGB. This axiom is dear to many in the U.S. government because it leads logically to working with the countries whence terrorists come rather than to treating them as enemies.

But what if terrorism were (as Thomas Friedman put it) "what states want to happen or let happen"? What if, in the real world, infiltrators from intelligence services—the professionals—use the amateur terrorists rather than the other way around? What is the logical consequence of noting the fact that the terrorist groups that make a difference on planet Earth—such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the PLO, Colombia's FARC—are extensions of, respectively, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Venezuela? It is the negation of the U.S. government's favorite axiom. It means that when George W. Bush spoke, and when Barack Obama speaks, of America being "at war" against "extremism" or "extremists" they are either being stupid or acting stupid to avoid dealing with the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.

In short, insisting on Osama's supposed mastery of al Qaeda, and on equating terrorism with al Qaeda, is official U.S. policy because it forecloses questions about the role of states, and makes it possible to indict as warmongers whoever raises such questions. Osama's de facto irrelevance for seven years, however, has undermined that policy's intellectual legitimacy. How much longer can presidents or directors of the CIA wave the spectra of Osama and al Qaeda before people laugh at them?

An Intellectual House of Cards

Questioning osama's relevance to today's terrorism leads naturally to asking how relevant he ever was, and who might be more relevant. That in turn quickly shows how flimsy are the factual foundations on which rest the U.S. government's axioms about the "war on terror." Consider: We know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) planned and carried out 9/11. But there is no independent support for KSM's claim that he acted at Osama's direction and under his supervision. On the contrary, we know for sure that the expertise and the financing for 9/11 came from KSM's own group (the U.S. government has accepted but to my knowledge not verified that the group's core is a biological family of Baluchs). This group carried out the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and every other act for which al Qaeda became known. The KSM group included the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings Abdul Rahman Yasin, who came from, returned to, and vanished in Iraq, as well as Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that bombing, who came to the U.S. from Iraq on an Iraqi passport and was known to his New York collaborators as "Rashid the Iraqi." This group had planned the bombing of U.S. airliners over the Pacific in 1995. The core members are non-Arabs. They had no history of religiosity (and the religiosity they now display is unconvincing). They were not creatures of Osama. Only in 1996 did the group come to Osama's no-account band, and make it count.

In life, as in math, you must judge the function |of a factor in any equation by factoring it out and seeing if the equation still works. Factor out Osama. Chances are, 9/11 still happens. Factor out al Qaeda too. Maybe 9/11 still happens. The other bombing plots sure happened without it. But if you factor out the KSM group, surely there is no 9/11, and without the KSM group, there is no way al Qaeda would have become a household word.

Who, precisely, are KSM and his reputed nephews? That is an interesting question to which we do not know the answer, and are not about to find out. Ramzi Yousef was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after a trial that focused on his guilt and that abstracted from his associations. Were our military tribunal to accede to KSM's plea of guilty, he would avoid any trial at all. Moreover, the sort of trial that would take place before the tribunal would focus on proving guilt rather than on getting at the whole truth. It would not feature the cross-examination of witnesses, the substantive proving and impeachment of evidence, and the exploration of alternative explanations of events. But real trials try all sides. Do we need such things given that KSM confessed? Yes. There is no excuse for confusing confessions with truth, especially confessions in which the prisoners confirm our agencies' prejudices.

The excuse for limiting the public scrutiny of evidence is the alleged need to protect intelligence sources. But my experience, as well as that of others who have been in a position to probe such claims, is that almost invariably they protect our intelligence agencies' incompetence and bureaucratic interests. Anyhow, the public's interest in understanding what it's up against should override all others.

Understanding the Past, Dealing With the Future

Focusing on Osama bin Elvis is dangerous to America's security precisely because it continues to substitute in our collective mind the soft myth that terrorism is the work of romantic rogues for the hard reality that it can happen only because certain states want it to happen or let it happen. KSM and company may not have started their careers as agents of Iraqi intelligence, or they may have quit the Iraqis and worked for others, or maybe they just worked for themselves. But surely they were a body unto themselves. As such they fit Osama's description of those responsible for 9/11 as "individuals with their own motivation" far better than they fit the CIA's description of them as Osama's tools.

More important, focusing on Osama and al Qaeda distorts our understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan. The latter-day Taliban are fielding forces better paid and armed than any in the region except America's. Does anyone suggest seriously that Osama or al-Zawahiri are providing the equipment, the money, or the moral incentives? Such amounts of money can come only from the super wealthy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The equipment can come only through dealers who work at the sufferance of states, and can reach the front only through Pakistan by leave of Pakistani authorities. Moreover, the moral incentives for large-scale fighting in Pushtunistan can come only as part of the politics of Pushtun identity. Hence sending troops to Afghanistan to fight Pushtuns financed by Saudis, supported by Pakistanis, and disposing of equipment purchased throughout the world, with the objective of "building an Afghan nation" capable of preventing Osama and al Qaeda from messing up the world from their mountain caves, is an errand built on intellectual self-indulgence.

Intellectual Authority

The CIA had as much basis for deeming Osama the world's terror master "game, set, and match" in 2001 as it had in 2003 for verifying as a "slam dunk" the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and as it had in 2007 for determining that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program. Mutatis mutandis, it was on such bases that the CIA determined in 1962 that the Soviets would not put missiles in Cuba; that the CIA was certain from 1963 to 1978 that the USSR would not build the first strike missile force that it was building before its very eyes; that the CIA convinced Bush 41 that the Soviet Union was not falling apart and that he should help hold it together; that the CIA assured the U.S. government in 1990 that Iraq would not invade Kuwait, and in 1996 that neither India nor Pakistan would test nuclear weapons. In these and countless other instances, the CIA has provided the US government and the media with authoritative bases for denying realities over which America was tripping.

The force of the CIA's judgments, its authority, has always come from the congruence between its prejudices and those of America's ruling class. When you tell people what they want to hear, you don't have to be too careful about premises, facts, and conclusions. Our problem, in short, is not the CIA's mentality so much as the unwillingness of persons in government and the "attentive public" to exercise intellectual due diligence about international affairs. Osama bin Laden's role may be as good a place as any to start.

Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University, a fellow of the Claremont Institute, and a senior editor of The American Spectator, was a Foreign Service officer and served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee between 1977 and 1985. He was the principal author of the 1980 presidential transition report on intelligence. He is the author of The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility.
 

a_majoor

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Fracturing the Islamic world and cleaning up the pieces might well be easier than what we are trying now. It might even be quite easy to do...

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LI14Ak01.html

Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior
By Spengler

Asymmetrical warfare was supposed to benefit the insurgents. For the price of a few flying lessons a gang of jihadis brought down the World Trade Center, a terrorist with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and powdered Tang can blow up an airplane, and a few pounds of plutonium can cripple a major city.

Meet the Reverend Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior. It appears that pinpricks can produce chain reactions in the Islamic world. The threat may be termed asymmetrical because Islam is more vulnerable to theological war than Christianity (or for that matter Judaism).

As the youngest of the major religions (apart from Sikhism), Islam must defend its historical narrative more fiercely than the older religions. Islam never withstood the withering criticism of Enlightenment scholars from Spinoza to the Jesus Project determined to discredit sacred texts. And because the Koran is not a human report of God's word, like the Christian and Jewish bibles, but rather the "uncreated word" of Allah himself, any challenge to its authority cuts at Islam's credibility. The fact that Islam has established neither a Magisterium in the Catholic sense, nor an authoritative tradition like that of Orthodox Judaism, leaves it decentralized, divided and fractious.

United States President Barack Obama, top US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus, the Vatican, and every talking head across the political spectrum screamed in unison until this Florida fringe preacher with a congregation that could meet in a double-wide listened, rather like Dr Seuss' Horton hearing the Who.

Enlightened opinion prevailed, but at high cost: L'Affaire Jones demonstrated that a madman carrying a match and a copy of the Koran can do more damage to the Muslim world than a busload of suicide bombers. Leftists liked to brag during the Vietnam war that a US$10 hand grenade could destroy a $10 million plane. What's the dollar value of the damage from a used paperback edition of the Koran, available online for a couple of dollars?

As George Packer wrote on the New Yorker website on September 10, "Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up ... One man in Gainesville who represents next to nobody triggers thousands of men around the globe who know next to nothing about it to turn violent, which triggers more violence ... it's so easy to get people to go crazy. If I wanted to, I could probably start another India-Pakistan war all by myself." Several of the world's intelligence services doubtless are thinking along the same lines.

Instead of trying to stabilize the Islamic world, suppose - just for the sake of argument - that one or two world powers set out to throw it into chaos. I am not advocating such a strategy, only evaluating its effectiveness.

It is a misperception that America is the main object of Muslim rage. Most Muslim rage is directed against other Muslims. Religious violence perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims is a routine feature of life in Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Of the 1,868 acts of religious violence listed by the Global Terrorism Database, all but a handful were conducted by Muslims on Muslims. America has done its best to suppress such violence. What if America (or Russia, or India, or China) were to incite it?

The Islamic world's claim on Western attention rests on its propensity to fail. America has spent a trillion dollars and 5,700 lives to prop up notionally pro-American regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention $2 billion a year to Egypt, and several hundred million each to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as well as smaller sums to other Muslim countries.

America will continue its efforts to stabilize fractious Islamic lands for the foreseeable future. Obama holds a personal as well as an ideological commitment to foster friendship with the Muslim world, and the Republicans will not admit that they were mistaken to commit so much blood and treasure to nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But America's attitude might change. Iraq may descend into civil war, especially now that the Americans have armed and trained 100,000 Sunni fighters in the so-called Sunni Awakening, Petraeus' "rent-an-Arab" strategy to contain communal violence until American troops could leave.

Pakistan's Punjabis might weary of the Pashtun tribes who have made common cause with the Taliban and Afghanistan. The Balochis, whose homeland is divided between Iran and Pakistan, might revolt successfully against both. Iran - particularly if an Israeli strike crippled its nuclear ambitions - might turn aggressive towards its neighbors. Lebanese Sunnis might have it out with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Some future American administration, though, might throw up its hands in frustration, and a future intelligence chief might whisper to the president, "If they want to kill each other, why not help them?" That was America's stance during the Iran-Iraq War. Divide-and-conquer served the British well; that is how they managed to rule India with only 3,000 regular army officers, most of whom spoke local dialects and donned local dress.

Unlike the British, America has little aptitude for manipulation. Americans believe that everyone is like them and that all movies have happy endings. To start with, Americans don't learn languages. According to the Modern Language Association's (MLA's) 2006 survey of instruction in foreign languages, American universities enrolled only 2,463 students in Arabic at the advanced level. Of those "advanced" students, perhaps one in 10 would become expert. Apart from immigrants, whom intelligence agencies employ only with great caution, the prospective hiring pool of advanced students in Arabic is measured in the hundreds.

Among other languages spoken in Muslim countries, the MLA reports the following number of students (but does not tell us how many are "advanced"): 0 Albanian, 94 Bengali, 243 Farsi, 301 Indonesian, 5 Kurdish, 5 Malay, 103 Pashto, 4 Somali, 624 Turkish, and 344 Urdu. Even if America set out to promote sectarian conflict in the Muslim world, it would have great difficulty making its intentions understood.

Russia has more urgent reasons to sow discord in Muslim countries, and centuries of experience in doing so. Simply because America has committed its reputation and resources to stability in the Muslim world, Russia has an interest in promoting the opposite. Russia views the world as a chessboard, in which pressure on the flanks increases its control of the center of the board. Moscow's on-again, off-again deal to supply Iran with an advanced anti-missile system, for example, represents a bargaining chip that it can use with Washington for a variety of purposes.

There is a deeper Russian interest in fostering Muslim weakness, though. Before mid-century the Russian Federation likely will have a Muslim majority. Russia already depends on 12 million guest workers, overwhelmingly from Turkey or from the Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union. Some analysts, for example Stratfor's George Friedman, predict that Turkey will challenge Russia for control of the Caucusus. At the moment, Russian and Turkish interests are linked. Turkey wants to export Russian oil and employ its surplus workers building Russian infrastructure. But this may not be true forever, and Russia must guard against the rise of a new Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey.

Turkey is a hotbed of prospective heresies, often rooted in ethnic substrata that resisted the mainstream Arabic model of Islam. Between 15% and 30% of Turks adhere to the Alevi sect, a nominally Shi'ite sect whose character is hard to define; different scholars attribute influences from Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and even Byzantine Christianity. The most prominent Alevi scholar in the West was the convert Muhammad Sven Kalisch at the University of Munster in Germany. Professor Kalisch since has repudiated Islam and resigned his position as chief instructor of Muslim pedagogues for the German school system, although he continues to teach at Munster.

Kalisch, as I reported at the time, scandalized the Muslim world with a 2008 paper claiming that the Prophet Mohammed was a figure of myth [1]. Citing the work of Western Koran critics, Kalisch claimed that the prophet's life was the fabrication of 8th-century apologists:

    It is a striking fact that such documentary evidence as survives from the Sufnayid period makes no mention of the messenger of god at all. The papyri do not refer to him. The Arabic inscriptions of the Arab-Sasanian coins only invoke Allah, not his rasul [messenger]; and the Arab-Byzantine bronze coins on which Muhammad appears as rasul Allah, previously dated to the Sufyanid period, have not been placed in that of the Marwanids. Even the two surviving pre-Marwanid tombstones fail to mention the rasul.

Islam, he concluded, was a revival of the old Gnosticism expunged by Christianity and embraced instead by the Arabian tribes. In spite of the provocative character of his claims, Kalisch was defended by the large community of Alevi Turks resident in Germany.

Kalisch appears to be the theological equivalent of a lone gunman. He devised his thesis quite on his own, and quashed the controversy he created by abjuring Islam. Nonetheless, he showed how simple it is to invent new Islamic heresies. With handful of provocateurs and a small amount of funding, his project well might have become more than a minor irritation. With a dozen scholars, a score of operatives on the ground, and a budget of a few million dollars, a competent intelligence service could have a handful of Muslim heresies merrily contending for the mantle of the prophet.

Turkey may have its own reasons to meddle in its neighbors' religious affairs. It wants to be the dominant Muslim power, and well may do so; it has the combination of people (over 70 million), economic capability and military power to do so, and does not want its historical rival Iran to become a regional hegemon. A quarter of Iranians are Turkish-speaking Azeris, and an ascendant Iran would have the means and motive to work enormous mischief in Turkey.

Far too much was made of the theology department at the University of Ankara, which Newsweek in 2008 hailed as "the new face of Islam". A new edition of the Hadith (narrations concerning the words and deeds of the Prophet Mohammed) and a desultory gesture towards modernization made the Ankara group celebrities for a moment - before Turkey turned towards a more fundamentalist reading of Islam under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At the time, Sunni fundamentalist websites denounced the Ankara theologians as agents of the Vatican, citing the presence in the department of a Turkish-speaking Jesuit [2]. That is ludicrous; perhaps more than any Catholic order, the Jesuits go to extreme lengths respect other cultures and religions. Although this particular accusation was the product of paranoia, paranoids still have enemies. If Turkish intelligence decided to employ its university theology departments to manufacture designer heresies for use in Iran, for example, the capability is in place.

This sort of speculation may seem fanciful at the moment. In the context of regional conflict, however, the prospect of asymmetrical warfare by religious means might become far more practical. There are so many ways in which the region might descend into religious conflict that it is pointless to make book on the scenarios. In another location I suggested that Petraeus' temporary success in the 2008 surge might lay the groundwork for a Thirty Years War in the region [3]. Weapons are there to be used, and theological weapons may turn out to be some of the nastiest means of war-fighting at hand.

Notes
1. Scandal exposes Islam's weakness Asia Times Online, November 18, 2008.
2. Tin-opener theology from Turkey Asia Times Online, June 3, 2008.
3. General Petraeus' Thirty Years War Asia Times Online, May 4, 2010.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman.
 
J

jollyjacktar

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Thucydides said:
Fracturing the Islamic world and cleaning up the pieces might well be easier than what we are trying now. It might even be quite easy to do...

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LI14Ak01.html

Oh.... I like this  >:D
 

a_majoor

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Another confused American response. If the pro democracy faction does not get some sort of support or encouragement, then the most ruthless may well become the winners in Egypt. If it is the government, they will probably be even less accommodating towards US interests while concentrating on keeping the lid on things.If some species of islamist hard liners come to power, then things only get worse.

The Bush administration's strategy of supporting democratic movements and allowing them to unfold is starting to look prescient:

http://www.smh.com.au/world/revolution-is-in-the-air-but-us-sticks-to-same-old-script-20110128-1a8e6.html

Revolution is in the air but US sticks to same old script
January 29, 2011
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Washington appears addicted to propping up tyrants, writes Paul McGeough.

Events in the Middle East are moving too fast for the Obama administration to think it can get away with Plan A and Plan B reaction strategies according to the regimes or leaders it wants to keep in and out of power.

Consider the response of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Hezbollah tightening its grip on power in Lebanon this week - Washington might have to pull its funding worth hundreds of millions for Lebanon, her office warned.

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But as democracy demonstrators were confronted by thousands of baton-wielding policemen in the streets in Cairo, there was no mention of pulling the $US2 billion-plus cheque that Washington writes for the octogenarian President, Hosni Mubarak, each year.

Instead, a rhetorical nugget that Mubarak's mouthpieces would use in their defence - ''our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable'' and then some namby-pamby words about how Mubarak was ''looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people''.

That response came on Wednesday - more thugs in and out of uniform in the streets, more tear-gas and 860 more young Egyptians banged up in prison because, Oliver-like, they had the audacity to stand in the streets and to ask for more. Such is stability.

Undaunted, Clinton tried again on Wednesday, when she called on the Egyptian authorities to cease blocking the communications on which the demonstrators relied. But on Thursday the Twitter and Facebook websites were inaccessible and mobile-phone users in Cairo said that it was difficult or impossible to sent text messages.

Clinton uttered the ''stability'' line early in the week - before the seriousness of what is unfolding in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria came in to focus. Consider how it might be interpreted by ordinary Egyptians - the human rights of 80 million people have been trampled for 30 years but what the US Secretary of State is most concerned about is the stability of the state.

And, even as the focus sharpened, the administration refused to tell the truth about the despot upon whom Washington relies - ''Egypt is a strong ally,'' the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, replied when asked if the administration still supported Mubarak.

And, in a week in which the Middle East's historic self-started wave of democracy protests came to a head, Barack Obama might have used his State of the Union address to cheer along all the protesters; and perhaps to warn all the leaders, country by country, of the fate that awaits them.

Instead he confined his specific remarks to Tunisia, saying: ''The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.'' So, in a region of 333 million people, where to varying degrees a good 325 million are under the heel of unelected leaders, the US President addressed only little Tunisia.

The lame excuse offered to reporters was that Cairo erupted late in the drafting process of the speech but that last ''aspirations of all people'' phrase was a recognition that ''what happens in Tunisia resonates around the world''.

By current American thinking it would never do to have Islamists in power in the Palestinian Occupied Territories or in Lebanon and therefore they heed every despot's warning that the Islamists are waiting in the wings across North Africa and the Middle East.

But lost in the lunge to protect US strategic and commercial interests by propping up the region's dictator class is any realisation that that support is what leaves the youth of the region under-educated and under-employed and, thereby, ripe for the picking by Islamist and other underground movements.

In Tunisia the revolutionaries are still searching for a leader who can articulate their demands. And this week a leader flew in to Cairo - searching for a revolution. That was the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, whose return to Egypt underscores a challenge brought on across the region as much by the local community as the international community - the grooming of those who might form a half-decent opposition.

Tracing an arc through Obama's approach to the Middle East, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies professor Fouad Ajami described the President's foreign policy pragmatism as ''a break of faith with democracy''.

Alluding to the suppression of demonstrations in Tehran after the contested 2009 presidential election, he wrote in Lebanon's Daily Star: ''American diplomacy was not likely to alter the raw balance of power between the regime and its democratic oppositionists. But the timidity of American power and the refusal of the Obama administration to embrace the cause of the opposition must be reckoned one of American foreign policy's great moral embarrassments.''

The Mubarak machine's contempt for popular aspirations and whatever the US might think of them was on full display yesterday when Safwat el-Sherif, the head of the ruling National Democratic Party, feigned obliviousness to the reality of political power in Egypt as he lectured the protesters - ''democracy has its rules and process - the minority does not force its will on the majority''.

Abdel Moneim Said, a stooge government-appointed publisher, echoed Hillary Clinton's midweek ''stability'' comment when he told reporters: ''I can't think of anybody that I know that has any concern about the stability of the regime.''

Finding the right policy mix to influence events without being accused of interfering is a fine balance that some observers have concluded eludes the Obama administration.

''It's about identifying the US too closely with these changes and thereby undermining them; and not finding ways to nurture them enough,'' Aaron David Miller, of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, told The New York Times.

Meanwhile, observers on the ground in the region shake their heads. ''People want moral support,'' said Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Doha Centre. ''They want to hear words of encouragement - right now they don't have that. They feel the world doesn't care and is working against them.''

His point seems to be this: it is time Washington thought in terms of investing in people in the region, not in dictators.

 

Journeyman

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I would argue that the media reporting on Egypt may be a tad oversimplified. It's not simply protesters, 'Oliver-like,' asking for more.

With the Egyptian police no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, Hamas is pouring in personnel and weapons for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is fully engaged in the rioting -- in addition to supplying demonstrators with food, drinks, and first aid.

I've heard reports (unconfirmed) that government security forces in plainclothes are destroying public property in order to support the premise that the protesters represent a public menace, 'justifying' further military intervention; currently it remains an internal security-led response.

This morning al-Jazeera reported that Mubarak has designated Ahmed Shafiq as the new prime minister. Shafiq is the former commander of the air force and minister for civil aviation. This follows immediately after having appointed Omar Suleiman, former Egyptian intelligence chief, as vice president, a position that has been vacant for the past 30 years.


So rather than seeing this as "oh those poor oppressed people, against that nasty old dictator," I suspect there are several games afoot.

One is that there is a great influx of radical islamists behind the protests, given Mubarak's ties to the Americans and his willingness to deal with Israel.

Concurrently, I suspect that the military is managing Mubarak’s exit; he is losing control, while the military is ascendant (and messing with Mubarak's plans to be succeeded by his son, Gamal). The military will try to keep confrontations with the demonstrators a police/internal security matter, while juggling the the political infighting.

 

observor 69

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New York Times

January 29, 2011
Urging Restraint, U.S. Military Faces Test of InfluenceBy ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — The officer corps of Egypt’s powerful military has been educated at defense colleges in the United States for 30 years. The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil. Egypt permits the American military to stage major operations from its bases, and has always guaranteed the Americans passage through the Suez Canal.

The relationship between the Egyptian and American militaries is, in fact, so close that it was no surprise on Friday to find two dozen senior Egyptian military officials at the Pentagon, halfway through an annual week of meetings, lunches and dinners with their American counterparts.

By the afternoon, the Egyptians had cut short the talks to return to Cairo, but not before a top American Defense Department official, Alexander Vershbow, had urged them to exercise “restraint,” the Pentagon said.

It remained unclear on Saturday, as the Egyptian Army was deployed on the streets of Cairo for the first time in decades, to what degree the military would remain loyal to the embattled president, Hosni Mubarak.

But among the many fears of the United States was the possibility that, despite the army’s seemingly passive stance on Saturday, the Egyptian armed forces would begin firing on the protesters — an action that would probably be seen as leading to an end to the army’s legitimacy.

“If they shoot on the crowd, they could win tomorrow, and then there will be a revolt that will sweep them away,” said Bruce O. Riedel, an expert on the Middle East and Asia at the Brookings Institution, who predicts that in any event, Mr. Mubarak will step down.

A possible successor — and a sign of how closely the military is intertwined with the ruling party — is Omar Suleiman, head of military intelligence, who state media said had been sworn in as the new vice president.

Mr. Riedel, a former C.I.A. official who led the 2009 White House review of United States strategy in Afghanistan, said that the Egyptian military would be a critical player in any negotiated settlement to remove Mr. Mubarak from power.

At the Pentagon on Saturday morning, American military officials said that the Egyptian Army was acting professionally and that they had no indications that it had swung over all to the side of the uprising. At the same time, the officials noted, the army has not cracked down on the protests.

“They certainly haven’t inflicted any harm on protesters,” said Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They’re focused mainly on protecting the institutions of government, as they should be.”

United States military officials said there was no formal line of communication between the Joint Chiefs and the Egyptian military, although they said there might be conversations if the crisis deepens. Admiral Mullen had been scheduled to meet on Monday in Washington with Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, who is both the Egyptian defense chief and the chief of staff of the Egyptian Army. But General Enan was the leader of the delegation of senior Egyptian officials at the Pentagon and had left abruptly for Cairo on Friday night.

The question now is how much influence the United States has on the Egyptian military and exactly what, given the chaos on the streets of Cairo, it would like the Egyptian armed forces to do other than exercise restraint.

“Are relations good enough for us to raise questions about excessive repression?” said Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert on the Egyptian military at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Yes. Is it a force that will listen to us if there is a military takeover and we want them to move to a democratically elected government as soon as possible? They will listen. But this is a very proud group of people. The fact that they will listen doesn’t mean we can in any way leverage them.”

American military officials said on Friday that they had had no formal discussions with their Egyptian counterparts at the Pentagon about how to handle the uprising. “No guidance was given,” said Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “In other words, we didn’t say anything to them about how they should handle it, and they didn’t tell us about how they were going to handle it.”

But, General Cartwright said, “hallway” discussions did take place with the Egyptian military about the protests, and American military officials said contingency plans had been made should American Embassy in Cairo have to be evacuated.

Unlike the feared Egyptian police forces, which had mostly withdrawn from central Cairo on Saturday, the army is considered professional, not repressive and a stable force in the country’s politics. Egyptian men all serve in the army, which for the most part enjoys popular support.

But the military is also loyal to Mr. Mubarak, who led the air force before becoming president. The three other presidents who served since the 1952 military coup that overthrew the monarchy have also been generals.

“The Egyptian military is the regime, and the regime is the Egyptian military,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “Mubarak’s successor is likely to either be his son, someone else from the military or someone blessed by the military.”

Since 1978, the United States has given Egypt $35 billion in military aid, making it the largest recipient of conventional American military and economic aid after Israel.

Egypt now receives about $1.5 billion in United States aid annually; the Obama administration warned Mr. Mubarak on Friday that it would review that aid.

Most recently, Egypt bought 24 F-16 fighter jets from the United States as well as a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/middleeast/30military.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print



 
 

Journeyman

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As noted above, the internal security forces have been replaced by army troops, tanks, and APCs. During the day, the F16s overflew Cairo several times, (showing presence, not threatening).

Again, from following on al Jazeera, the crowd seems to be largely milling about and chanting....with people taking their pictures in front of the armoured vehs. While the Egyptians have a very high opinion of their military, things can obviously get ugly in stand-off situations.

The military is representative of the society as a whole. There is concern about the number, and radicalization, of islamists in the ranks -- particularly at the LCol/Col rank level, where they could do the most damage. The fact that their presence is known, but they've not been purged, suggests that they're not particularly radicalized. However, this may be an opportunity to rise up against policies they believe to be wrong, ie - ties to the US and Israel.
 

Old Sweat

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in my opinion, no one can make any sort of prediction of how this will turn out with any degree of certainty. It is late afternoon there now, no leader seems to be emerging, the US administration is, so far, keeping quiet, and all we can do is wait and see. A wild card is the Israelis. Their ideal situation is probably a return to the staus quo, but they too should probably keep a low profile.

I wonder what the executive jet traffic out of Egypt looks like?
 

Journeyman

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Old Sweat said:
in my opinion, no one can make any sort of prediction of how this will turn out with any degree of certainty.
:+1:

As for a non-military leadership candidate, while I avoid betting on anything that can talk, my money would be on Mohamed ElBaradei -- Nobel Prize; former DG of the International Atomic Energy Agency; outspoken democracy campaigner within Egypt.

I suspect the various factions are looking for an "interim" leader, post-Mubarak, until 'their' group can take control. ELBaradei seems to be one of the few with high enough stature, and who is least offensive to most factions.

Of course, free opinions are worth every penny  ;)
 

Old Sweat

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Our combined opinions and ten bucks will get us started at the Brew Pub. After I posted, I mused to myself that many post-revolutionary phases in countries without a democratic tradition begin with a moderate being appointed. He is soon overthrown by whichever bunch of thugs can gain the upper hand, and they in turn clamp down on the population and run the country for their own benefit. The Russian revolution and at least one of the Mexican revolutions are examples of this, as is the French Revolution to a lesser extent, at least in the lack of looting of the treasury. Others, of course, have the strong man take over from the onset, usually because of his bloc's overwhelming power. See Mao and Castro.

I wonder if there is any group in Egypt able to gain enough control to cement its position. Maybe the army will step in to "protect the nation" a la Pakistan, or even Ghana a few decades past.
 

a_majoor

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Another working model would be Turkey, where the Army works behind the scenes to maintain a secular democracy (or at least their version of one). The Army (and Armed Forces in general) has the ability to operate on its own and enough clout in the society/economy/culture etc. that they could take on this role while various poltical parties acceptable to the military are allowed to contend for office, pass laws etc.
 

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The following story from the online expat edition of the Daily Telegraph is reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act.

Egypt crisis: Will Barack Obama trust 80 million Egyptians?
Mubarak's days are numbered and the US is in a quandary: can it trust a new regime's foreign policy – the implications are huge for the West and Israel, writes Richard Spencer.

It started with a doctored photograph. On show were the statesmen of the Middle East, all the big players. Resolute of brow, they marched purposely up a White House red carpet last September towards the waiting cameras. In the middle was President Obama. To his right was the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and to his left, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and King Abdullah of Jordan.

And there, two steps in front of the others – the clear leader of the group – was President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Egypt is historically the leader of the Arab world, so maybe his position seemed justified. But when the picture was carried by the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram it caused hilarity. Everyone knew Mubarak was not at the front because they had seen it on television. He was beyond Mr Netanyahu, and if anything slightly behind his colleagues. The attempt to give him face, courtesy of Photoshop, was laughable.

So, too, as it now turns out, was Mubarak's determination to stay in power after 30 years in office by rigging a series of presidential and parliamentary elections. In December, his ruling party won a landslide of Saddam Hussein proportions. Yet Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, issued nothing more trenchant than some mildly deprecating remarks and President Obama gave the diplomatic equivalent of a wry shrug even as the man who for decades had been a lynchpin of US policy in the Middle East cut an increasingly absurd figure. In Washington, they are now playing a panicked game of catch-up as mobs on the street say what America failed to see – that it was time for Mubarak and his chums across the region to go.

There are similarities between Tunisia and Egypt; but even by Middle Eastern standards the spectacle of an 82-year-old president pressing for yet another term while entering his fourth decade in office was extreme. There is little doubt that Mubarak will now go. The appointment of his security chief as vice president (the post he held himself before taking power) hints that he has given up the idea of installing his son Gamal as successor. The only question is whether he flees in the next few hours or days, or holds on for a more controlled transfer of power. That timing will be crucial for Egypt's short-term interests – from basic questions of law and order to the foreign investment and tourism which provide so many jobs.

America, though, will be looking at the wider picture. The concern in Washington and European capitals is to maintain Egypt's difficult, but broadly stable, alliance with the West.

What comes next? Ask the young men thronging the streets and squares of the capital, and nobody seems to have a clue. "We don't hate Americans," said Ali Abunil, 30, yesterday, a marketing executive for a pharmaceutical company who had defied the curfew to spend the night in Tahrir Square. And this was reflected in posters held up by marchers all week. "America, we don't want to hurt you," they said. Nearby, a middle-aged man screaming "America out" was hauled away by friends. "We are not Iran," said Mr Abunil. "We are not Afghanistan. Egypt is different."

However, probe a little further and the picture becomes more problematic for President Obama, and the country the United States is sworn to protect, Israel. Khaled Awad, 38, an electrical engineer, was typical in his views. "Most people believe that as long as a country supports Israel that much, people cannot be happy with America," he said.

What would he do with Israel? "It cannot survive. Sure, I don't want to terminate the Jews, but this is not their country."

For most of his rule, Mr Mubarak has portrayed himself as a bulwark against two Middle Eastern forces; anti-Israel militarism, and Islamist politics, whether in the semi-establishment guise of the Muslim Brotherhood or the radical form of al-Qaeda. The latter's second in command, Ayman Zawahiri, is Egyptian. The protesters say this argument is wearing thin. Egypt's variegated society, its liberal, secular middle classes, its bloggers and tweeters, and its religiously devout shopkeepers and farmers all want democracy, however it turns out.

"The regime says that if the Muslim Brotherhood governed the country it would be a monster, so bad," Mr Awad said. "But they are themselves that bad."

Many people do not like the Brothers but, rightly or wrongly, believe they can be trusted to enhance, rather than limit, Egypt's freedoms. In free elections they would win a substantial number of seats.

In a novel of another great American dilemma, A Quiet American, Graham Greene invented a protagonist, the hapless agent Pyle, who tries to engineer a third way in Vietnam between pro-Western dictatorship and communist revolution. There is something familiar and appealing about the idealism of those demonstrators who think that a third way can be found for Egypt and the wider Middle East. Proud nations could pursue independent policies, legitimised through the ballot box. Egypt has, after all, 7,000 years of history.

President Obama and, in his own way, George W Bush before him, are also Pyles. Bush argued vociferously for democratic reform in the Middle East. Obama, in a speech in Cairo in 2009, presented a more pragmatic approach – support for the citizenry, but less criticism of the dictators. Much has been made of that difference, and the argument has been made that Obama's shift put him behind the march of history, first in Iran after the 2009 elections and now in Egypt.

It is true that Washington's responses seem tame, but in reality the difference is overplayed. America faces the same fundamental dilemma that the former power Britain failed to resolve in the decades leading up to the Suez Crisis. Do you trust 80 million Egyptians to determine their own foreign policy, in this most vital of regions? It takes a braver superpower than Britain to say yes.

In a former age, British armour surrounded the royal palace to stop the king siding with Nazi Germany. Now the balance of power is maintained in more subtle ways, but another turning point has arrived nevertheless.

As for Egypt, so for America's other allies. Consider that doctored photograph once more. Mr Abbas has presided over some economic growth in his small West Bank fiefdom, but he and his Fatah movement do not speak for Hamas-run Gaza, and still less for the angry millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. In Jordan, King Abdullah rests on the laurels of his astute father, the late King Hussein, and the West loves his telegenic Queen. But the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition in Jordan, as in Egypt, stands above such sentiments.

And that leaves Mr Netanyahu. In an idealist's world, democratic legitimacy in its neighbours would impel Israel's leaders into concessions they have hitherto been unprepared to offer and the elusive Middle East peace deal would finally be struck. President Obama may still believe that. Neo-Conservative ideology under Bush was said to be driven by the idea that lancing the boil of tyranny would create an environment in which Israel could breathe more freely.

It is hard to see how ejecting Mubarak will achieve that. Israel rarely turns conciliatory in the face of uncertainty. This makes the choice for Obama all the more stark; not just between democracy and stability in the Middle East, but between democracy in the Arab world and his mastery of America's most visceral alliance.

In the real photograph in September, it was Obama who was, naturally, a pace ahead of his visitors from the Middle East. The old joke had it that when Western leaders came to office and told men like Saddam Hussein it was time to quit, invariably it was they who had gone while the dictators remained. With President Obama facing re-election next year, the others in the picture must have thought a few weeks ago the same outcome was likely. Now they are not so sure. The big question for Western policy is this: will a similar gathering of leaders still be possible once the Egyptian crisis has resolved itself?
 
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