Two Sides of the Same Coin

The New York Times has an article this morning regarding the difficulty Washington is having in sorting friend from foe in the wake of the”Arab Spring”.    The article mentions a State Department visit of Hani Nour Eldin, a now-member of Egypt’s Parliament, but also a member of a designated terrorist organization, Gamaa al-Islamiyya.

Pressed by reporters after the visa quickly became a Congressional controversy, a State Department spokeswoman, Victoria J. Nuland, said Mr. Eldin had been judged to pose no threat to the United States.

“It’s a new day in Egypt,” she added. “It’s a new day in a lot of countries across the Middle East and North Africa.”

The Times article then begins a full-court press of making the case for America’s (meaning George W. Bush’s) failure to delineate between Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Jihadists.

The overthrow of dictators across the Arab world and the rise of Islamists to new influence or power is forcing Washington to reassess decades-old judgments.

Which strongly suggests those judgments were somehow incorrect.  Indeed, the article goes on to assert:

In the decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans largely viewed the Middle East and Islam through the lens of the terrorism threat. The United States exercised stark judgments, encapsulated by President George W. Bush’s warning to the world nine days after the attacks: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Foreign Muslim scholars were denied visas because of outspoken views at odds with American policy. American officials did not always carefully distinguish between Islamists, who advocate a leading role for Islam in government, and violent jihadists, who espouse the same goal but advocate terrorism to achieve it.

While such words seem to provide some measure of comfort to those who might have been viewing the situation in the Middle East with increasing alarm, the very foundation of the assertion by the article’s author is an unfounded and foolishly optimistic premise.  The goal of the Islamists has never been simply for Islam to have a “leading role in government”, and the author of the article likely knows this.  So, indeed, should those members of this nation’s Foreign Policy team, including the President, his National Security Adviser, Secretary of State, and all those whose responsibility is the direction of American statesmanship.   There can be no other views expressed, at least publicly, that will not reinforce the fact that President Obama’s “Muslim Reset” and his ill-advised Cairo apology was a dreadful mistake that America’s enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere rightfully viewed as an act of submission and example of the naivete of an inexperienced and arrogant Chief Executive who lacks a basic understanding of Realpolitik and international affairs.

The premise of the Times piece (cloaked in the familiar meme of blaming the previous administration), that there are critical differences between Islamists and Jihadists, and that our failure to understand them was out of willful blindness, is shot absolutely full of holes by the publishing of a pamphlet by an Islamist group that spells out the true goals of the Islamists.  The United Muslim Nations International is an Islamist organization closely aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the publication in question, “The Global Islamic Civilization: The Power of a Nation Revived”, sheds some rather harsh light on the true goals of these Islamists:

None will resist, you will submit! Islam will conquer the hearts of all Christendom, this is a definite reality. Every government has surrendered to the Revived Global Caliphate and those nations who resist will be placed under a police state within their realm!

The author, Sheik Farook al-Mohammedi, spares no hatred for Christianity:

“Christianity should be destroyed and wiped from the face of the earth,” al-Mohammedi said. “It is an evil demonic and Anti-Christ system, all Christians are in complete Ignorance.”

“Islamic Power has returned upon the face of the earth and the Revived Global Caliphate has set eyes on the West to once and for all rid the world of Christianity and there is nothing you can do about it,” al-Mohammedi said.

While Farook al-Mohammedi is not Egyptian, and his organization is ideologically aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood but not actually a part of the Brotherhood (that we know of), Youssef al-Qaradawi is both.  What is Qaradawi’s contribution to the Islamist/Jihadist discussion?

Qaradawi advocates establishing a “United Muslim Nations” as a contemporary form of the caliphate and the only alternative to the hegemony of the West. He hates Israel and would love to take up arms himself. In one of his sermons, he asked God “to kill the Jewish Zionists, every last one of them.”

In January 2009, he said: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler.”

So, it would seem hearkening to a systemic extermination of an entire peoples is merely “advocating for a leading role for Islam in government” and should not, in any way, be confused with the “violent jihadists” who might use terrorism to achieve that leading role for Islam.   That should be nothing new, by the way.  The Muslim Brotherhood were open supporters of Hitler’s Third Reich, and have never moderated their views in any way.

The complete bankruptcy of those who continue to insist on telling us that Islamists and Jihadists are not the same thing cannot be overemphasized.   The failure (or refusal) of this Administration to face the facts about the nature of America’s enemies has been little short of criminal.  Blaming the last administration is sophomoric, and reeks of the immature and unprofessional atmosphere that is the shambles of American foreign policy.

Wiping out Christianity?  Calling openly for another Holocaust?  A police state for the non-believers?

It seems one can take Egypt’s Jibril telling us “There are no extremists” one of two ways.   Either he is lying because he knows we are too stupid and naive to realize it, or he doesn’t consider the above views to be extreme.    Perhaps both.   Whichever, those in our government who continue to insist on the differences between Islamists and Jihadists won’t believe either.

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“Our loved Egyptian night?”

From Raymond Ibrahim of FrontPage:

According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids—or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax.    Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”

This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641.  Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity.  While most Western academics argue otherwise, according to early Muslim writers, the great Library of Alexandria itself—deemed a repository of pagan knowledge contradicting the Koran—was destroyed under bin al-As’s reign and in compliance with Caliph Omar’s command.

Read the rest.    It is to weep.

“Their blood will not go in vain.”

So says Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate who is now the President-elect of Egypt.   As if the so-called “Arab Spring” and the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt was a cry for Islamic Fundamentalism rather than freedom.

Interesting article from NBC News, providing the most hopeful spin on the situation.

But let us remember that the Muslim Brotherhood are still staunch Islamists, who once heartily supported National Socialism, the Final Solution in particular.  Interesting that they have never moderated their views publicly.   They have also broken most of the rules they agreed to follow when they entered the political process.

Now, we are told, we have the Army trying to keep this candidate in check:

The generals, who oversaw Mubarak’s departure, have repeatedly said, both to Egyptians and to their close U.S. ally, that they will return to barracks and hand over to civilian rule. But they present themselves as guardians of Egypt’s security and long-term interests and moved to block the Islamists from taking more than a share of power.

Sounding ever more familiar, isn’t it?    Israel may already be seeing the shape of things to come.   The Muslim Brotherhood was best positioned to both inflame the unrest and instability in Egypt, and to take advantage of that instability and power vacuum to seize power.  They did so, rather predictably, amid the promises of tolerance and moderation that seldom last long.    And now they seem to be revising the narrative to make those in Tahir Square who suffered at the hands of the Mubarak Regime, fallen heroes of the Islamist victory.    We are left with a contest for power between the Army, the most powerful political institution, and the Party, the most powerful social institution.

Perhaps events will surprise us, and the Islamists didn’t hijack the “Arab Spring” into an orchestrated and successful effort on the part of Islamists to seize power across the Middle East.   Just the same, though, how does one sing die Horst Wessel-Lied in Arabic?

Another blast rocks Iran

On Monday, a second nuclear facility, this one outside of Isfahan, had an “accident”. The facility converts yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then transferred to Iran’s nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom for further refining into fissionable material.

Original report of Isfahan explosion on Iran's Fars website, later taken down. Photo from haaretz.com

The original article appeared in the Times of London, you can read the article in the Australian without needing the Times subscription. They say that satellite photos of Isfahan clearly show “billowing smoke and destruction.” I missed this earlier, but the first incident killed General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

**whispers “let’s keep Israel as a friend, shall we?”

Uniformly Stupid? Part 2

See Part 1 here.

I’m on the road, so I’ll be doing some “best of” posts. Right now, this is the most searched for post. 

While most people in the Army spend just about all their time in a working uniform like the ACU, there are occasions when something a little more formal is needed.

Since the late 1950s the standard Army Service and Dress uniform for most soldiers has been the Army Green Uniform. Folks in the Army almost universally refer to it as “Class A’s”.

When the uniform jacket is removed, the Army Green Uniform can be worn as the Class B uniform, suitable for most office environment jobs. When I served as a recruiter, most days we wore the Class B.

No, that's not me...
No, that's not me...

The problem with the Army Green Uniform was simple. It was ugly as sin in church. There was an alternative, however, one with a great history dating back practically to the first days of the Army. The Dress Blue Uniform.

Female Officer and Male Enlisted Service Dress Blues
Female Officer and Male Enlisted Service Dress Blues

There’s a reason why the trousers are a different shade blue from the coat. Back in the days of the Old West, when cavalry troopers wore the blue uniform as there work clothes, they would routinely remove their coat, roll it up and carry it strapped to the back of the saddle. The trousers faded from the sunlight and wear and tear, but the coat didn’t. Hence the difference.

Service Dress Blues were always an optional item for enlisted personnel. You could buy them, but you didn’t have to. Since they cost a lot of money and there were relatively few occasions to wear them, most junior folks did without.

Back in 2005 or so, the Chief of Staff of the Army made the decision to do away with the Army Green Uniform and modify the Blue uniform to replace it.The new variations are shown below.

The Army Blue Uniform
The Army Blue Uniform

Personally, I wish they had done this about 25 years ago. I always hated the Green Uniform, and as soon as I could, bought a set of Blues. And anytime I had a chance to wear them, I did. One fairly common occasion was the “Dining Out”. A Dining Out is when a unit, typically a battalion, has a formal banquet, with spouses and sweethearts invited*. This is a social occasion run on military lines- the colors are presented, the chaplain gives the invocation, there are a couple of (usually brief) speeches, and maybe some awards and recognitions. Then there is usually some dancing. The important thing is, your best girl gets a chance to put on her best dress and go out to be seen. Chicks dig that.  Since a lot of guys didn’t own Dress Blues, they made do with the Army Green Uniform with a white shirt and a bow tie.

Your author, center, in Dress Blues, flanked by two friends in Class A's.
Your author, center, in Dress Blues, flanked by two friends in Class A's.

Incredibly, I managed to save this picture, but lost the picture of my date. You’ll have to take my word for it that she was stunning. Really. The two guys in the photo were great friends and fellow warriors, but neither was all that attractive….

*You could invite your spouse, or your sweetheart, but NOT your spouse and your sweetheart…

The Army of the Future

The invaluable War News Updates (if you aren’t reading it every day, you are just wrong!) brought this article on the future of the Army to my attention. Go read the whole thing. I’ll wait.

After Desert Storm, where the Army (and the rest of the services) displayed an ability to annihilate any near-peer competitor on a conventional battlefield, the Army looked to leap ahead in technology. Our opponents, however, looked for ways to fight us while avoiding a conventional battlefield. Neither course of action should be surprising. Both sides were playing to their strengths.

But the Army’s attempt at transformation ran into two huge obstacles. First, the enemy didn’t cooperate. As we’ve seen in Somalia, The Balkans, and of course, Iraq and Afghanistan, our enemies are not willing to fight a conventional campaign. Secondly, the Army’s plan for transformation, the Future Combat System, was something of a bridge too far. The FCS wasn’t a procurement program. It was an umbrella for about 30 different procurement programs, none of which were built on fully mature technology. It was also a very long range plan. And it is somewhat useless to plan a 25 year procurement strategy. Technology, threats, domestic politics and policy and doctrine all change at a far more rapid pace.

The FCS program was rendered moot more by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than by anything else though. The low-intensity conflict, the threat of IEDs, low tech enemies and the fact that so much of the fighting took place right among crowds of noncombatants were all factors that mitigated our Army’s enormous edge in conventional maneuver warfare.

Over the last decade, the operational side of the Army had to learn to fight these types of wars, and had to pry loose the money to buy equipment suited for them. Among the most visible of these purchases are MRAPs and improved body armor, but a host of smaller items had to be bought as well, such as improved radios and esoteric items such as improved bandages. And as the Army became embroiled in these wars, less emphasis was paid to the conventional war of maneuver.

There is an intellectual tension about which way the Army should train  and equip for the next war (and there will always be a next war).

Mr. Ludes also questioned the suggestion that the opposition between conventional and counterinsurgency capabilities is a false choice. “The demands of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it harder to develop leadership with experience and training to conduct maneuver warfare,” he said.

As an example, he noted there had recently been a dearth of brigade-level conventional warfare exercises at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and that the brigade that staged them there had itself been deployed.

It has long been my opinion that the Army needs to maintain that heavy, conventional war of maneuver capability. It is a lot easier for a heavy maneuver unit to downshift to COIN operations than for a light COIN force to fight on a heavy maneuver battlefield.

Further, take a look at the pace of operations in Desert Storm versus the current war in Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact is, you have to get it right the first time in a war with a near-peer enemy. You won’t get a second chance. But in a COIN war, you have time to make mistakes, readjust your force, and reshape the battlefield.

Let’s take Iran for an example. If we end up having to fight them, will it be a conventional war, or a COIN war? Iran has a large conventional army. It also has a large psuedo-army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. What might a war with Iran look like? I have a strong suspicion it would look a lot like the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It would begin with a rather conventional fight, and quickly develop into an insurgency, as defeated forces turned to a guerrilla campaign.

I’m not arguing for an either/or proposition. There has to be a balance. It would be foolish for the Army to discard the wealth of tribal knowledge it has gained in the last decade. But we need to make sure we don’t discard that tribal knowledge we gained throughout the Cold War, either. Let’s hope the Army can strike the right balance.

Iran

I’ve held off on blogging about it. There’s not much I could add that others haven’t said, and said better.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it a great deal. For 30 years, the people of Iran have chafed under a regime that did nothing to fulfill the promises of the ‘79 revolution. That’s a very common problem with revolutions. Most fail, not in overthrowing the regime, but in establishing the institutions needed to form a stable government.

Our own revolution is a poor template to use for most nation states. We threw off the yoke of a distant power. Those that sided with the British were for the most part, somewhat tepid in their support. And they had a safe haven to move to, Canada, when the revolution succeeded. And most of the institutions of a successful government were in place here. We already had a tradition of several hundred years of common law to build upon.

But in any event, it is clear that a huge swath of the population of Iran has felt betrayed by their government. This started as a protest over the rigged elections. And why? Because the Iranian people just may have noticed that their neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan, after being invaded by the Great Satan, suddenly got to have free and open elections. But Bush was Evil.

Where this will go, no one can say. Should the protesters succeed, they will still have to deal with a huge chunk of the population that has just seen its rice bowl knocked over. Remember, there are many thousands of folks who either made their living via the regime, or were granted some level of power or prestige by it. They will not be very happy in whatever replaces it. That’s a big part of why revolutions so often go awry when trying to establish order. They must use repressive measures just to stay afloat, and in the process, risk becoming the very things they sought to damn.

In any event, I am concerned that our government has taken such a weak position, instead of reminding the whole world that we stand for freedom, and stand with any and all who seek to popularly depose an illegitimate regime.

I don’t know how things will turn out. No one does. But I can certainly pray that freedom and liberty just may gain another toehold in the Middle East.