President Obama: Overcoming Fear ‘Most Powerful Tool’ to Fight ISIS

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama is right: Destroying Islamic State will take time and patience, not bluster.

“The only thing that they’re doing is talking as if they’re tough,” he complained last week. “If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, [they should] present a specific plan.” Jeb Bush said he would send U.S. ground troops into Syria to help local forces oust Islamic State from its capital of Raqqah, a measure Obama has ruled out. Nothing illustrates the importance of the topic of today more than the reaction of US President Barak Obama to the accusation that his Middle East policy is not working and the request of French President Francois Hollande for more powers from France’s National Assembly after the latest bombings in Paris that left over 120 people dead.

Hillary Clinton called for establishing “no-fly zones” and “safe areas” in northern Syria, which she diplomatically called “an intensification” of Obama’s policy. (Obama has called both ideas impractical.) And Donald Trump suggested that U.S. air power alone could do the job. “I would just bomb those suckers,” he said. (Military experts say he’s wrong — more bombing could set Islamic State back but wouldn’t remove it from the territory it holds.) Obama was right on one count: Most of those plans aren’t very specific. If you add to that the local contents of our purview today which are firstly, the use of the term – tarry awhile – by our Supreme Court to listen to the appeal of the Senate President on the jurisdiction and composition of the court trying him for false declaration of assets, and secondly the revelation by the former NSA that he was not even given a query before being declared to have awarded fake contacts running into billions of dollars, then you have an idea of the pot pourri we are about to enjoy and digest today. None of the candidates, for example, has offered a clear answer to the “day after” question: If U.S. forces conquered Raqqah, who would govern the city afterward?

I recall the words of my brother John, a French-American Medieval scholar and co-author of “Europe and Islam: Fifteen Centuries of History,” who wrote then from France: “This massive unity of public opinion and political will provides the United States with a tremendous opportunity and risk: the chance to capitalize on this good will and the danger of taking action that will splinter the forces that stand with us now.” Of course, we blew it, instead pursuing a foolhardy war under false pretense and prompting a 14-year ongoing nightmare: half a million Iraqi civilians dead, by one estimate, a deep and abiding rage against America and its occupation, and a mighty vacuum in the wake of Saddam Hussein that prompted the rise of ISIS and the biggest global refugee crisis since World War II. Now, the fury has exploded, again: 129 people dead in Paris at the hands of a twisted ideology forged in a cauldron of rage, disenfranchisement, perverse religious interpretation and cool military calculation. The candidates who favor deploying U.S. troops have suggested smaller numbers (10,000, for example) as part of a coalition that would include Syrian forces.

And again, the West is faced with a choice: lash out in vengeance, stigmatize certain immigrants, and seal off the borders, or devise a more measured response in keeping with values that for centuries have led refugees to Western shores. In terms of history he reminded me of Napoleon Bonaparte the French soldier and Emperor who is best remembered for the laws he made which formed the basis of the rule of law in Europe till today.The French President kept his cool and maintained that even though France is at war it would maintain the rule of law and not act arbitrarily in dealing with those who are falsely using religion to fake a war of civilization on a global stage as they did last week in France. Hof, a former Syria expert in Obama’s State Department, argues that the U.S. and France should build a multinational coalition — like the one that fought the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 — and defeat Islamic State on the ground. “Liberated eastern Syria would become, in effect, the mother of all protection zones,” Hof told me. “This will not be a walk in the park,” he acknowledged. Bush: “Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.” “The greater the hostility toward Muslims in Europe and the deeper the West becomes involved in military action in the Middle East, the closer ISIS comes to its goal of creating and managing chaos,” write Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid in “The War ISIS wants,” an article in the New York Review of Books. There is no doubt it would be adopted now especially as President Hollande has asked for a state of emergency for three months which the French Senate has adopted this week and the lower house would consider later.

Indeed the ISIS vision is already playing out across devastated landscapes in Iraq and Syria, in flotillas of rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean, and in the streams of refugees moving north into the heart of Europe. Compare this with the heartless retort of Syrian President Bashar Assad who said after the Paris blast that France was paying for its policy on Syria. Others have pitched lesser measures: looser rules of engagement, to allow U.S. airstrikes against targets where civilians may be present; more U.S. advisors to help Syrian forces on the ground; and increased military aid to Syrian opposition forces. Which was quite inhuman and callous indeed but is not unexpected from a leader who remains in office by force and not the will and support of his people who are fleeing in their thousands to Europe.

The US President stuttered on the view and insinuation that his strategy on Syria led to the emergence and rapid rise of global terrorism as with ISIS culminating in the fatal Paris bomb blast. To add to the US presidents horror on the accusation of a failed strategy were two events which are bound to affect his legacy as the first black US president and the chances of any Democratic Party presidential candidate succeeding him in the 2016 presidential elections in the US. Those policies include the West’s cozy coddling of various Arab dictators, its blind support for Israel’s brutal policies toward the Palestinians, and its own willingness to wage air campaigns, employ sanctions, or invade Middle Eastern countries whenever it thinks doing so suits its short-term interest. In addition the leading presidential aspirant for the Republican Party for now billionaire Donald Trump has bluntly asserted that the incumbent US president is a security risk.

Just after the attacks, a friend of mine, an American-born businessman based for two decades between Asia and France who worked and was educated in Paris (and who requested anonymity because of his business dealings), wrote a letter to a Paris-based friend. Yet the US cannot shirk its responsibility at home to its citizens on terrorism and security and to the civilized world where it peddles democracy, human rights and the market economy. Well, the ball is in the court of Barak Obama and I expect him as a lawyer to weigh his words carefully before reacting to Donald Trump’s verbal bombshell which might be more lethal politically than any bomb that ISIS and Boko Haram have used in recent times to kill innocent people worldwide. Which brings us to the two Nigerian issues mentioned before on the twin fight against terrorism and corruption in Nigeria as well as the workings of the strategies in place to prosecute the wars.

As horrific and unjustified as was what occurred, there is objectively a systemic problem with too much of the French populace and its current government…not acknowledging fully the issues of the Islamic populace at home. One can’t have allowed the migration initially, and then not truly allocate time, thought and resources to their well being, bringing them into la famille and by as effective of means as one may muster with serious, concerted and enduring efforts. Too easy otherwise to engender isolation, misunderstanding and ultimately hatred, lashing out in the most base means available, aligning with any cause that may give them voice and vengeance-though it comes at the cost even of their own lives. What circular nihilism, what mitigable tragedy. (See the full letter here.) Alejandro Portes, professor emeritus of sociology at Princeton and author of “Immigrant America” and many other books (full disclosure: He is also my father-in-law), believes the Paris attacks “were entirely anticipated by the explosions in the Parisian banlieus in 2005.” Most of the terrorists, Portes points out, are second generation citizens of the country.

Yet this fight against corruption which has not even started must be fought and won for Nigerians by all means by this Administration which won on the slogan of Change. Even an errant school boy should be allowed the right of reply on any suspicious misdemeanor not to talk of our former master spy and 007 on the war against both terrorism on his watch and against corruption after him. But he was discouraged, he says, “by the French official position that denied the existence of ethnic groups in the country.” The French enshrine laïcité, or secular culture, as “an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic,” according to its constitution, thus discouraging recognition of differences between social groups. “This denial,” Portes wrote me, “effectively blinded the state to what was taking place right under its nose.” Yet immigrants to France feel resentful not only for their social marginalization, but for what they perceive as laïcité’s inconsistent French secular values.

His importance can be likened in this regard to the wonder of the the students on the vast knowledge they ascribed to their headmaster in the classic poem Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith. The government may join a coalition to bomb Middle Eastern targets, it will support “Israel’s right to defend itself,” but you could go to jail for joining a pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Faults Surveillance Curbs…” The headlines, the explosions, the rivers of refugees, the armed immigrant camps, the haves locked safely (perhaps) behind towering walls bristling with razor wire: all seem to presage the West’s dystopian future straight out of the film “Children of Men.” Yet there is still a chance to get it right. Will she muster the courage to take pause, find her enlightened self as so formidably she has in her proud past and here now raise a torch for us all?

Or will we again revert to isolation and vengeance, squander the opportunity, the sympathy of all the world, Islamic and otherwise in this hour as we had fourteen years ago and abused. If France- one of the world’s modern pioneers of egalitarianism and humanitarianism, indeed often the world’s social conscience now will not, I wonder who will?

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