Lara Logan Is Right!

Lara Logan, well respected, courageous journalist (as in REAL journalist), has given lie to the administration’s contention that Al Qaeda is ‘on their heels’. She is correct! She is correct on the details and more importantly she is correct on the context.

Fox News pointed out that in the last two days the President has eliminated the claim that “Al Qaeda in on its heels” from his stump speech. Ask yourself this question; if the US with the massive amount of resources dedicated to intelligence and counter terrorism has not gotten it right, how is it that Lara Logan got it right?. Or, ask yourself; if the intelligence community does have it right, why has the President put such influence on statements he knows to be a gross falsehood? Are you comfortable with that?

As always the messenger must be killed. Administration surrogates, contended that Ms. Logan must have been ‘affected’ by the fact that she was sexually assaulted in Tahir Square during the ‘Arab Spring”. The implication being that she can no longer see straight and suffers from some manner of psychological dysfunction. No doubt she was affected; no doubt one of the effects is clarity of vision regarding what evil looks like, up close! Ms. Logan is deserving of tremendous respect for getting back up on the horse that threw her, we can put her picture in the dictionary next to courage.

Recall, that the administration claimed that less than 150 Al Qaeda operative are left in Afghanistan. That contention misses the point. There is barely a dimes worth of difference between Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Taliban is resurgent, the ideology is the same, and Americans continue to die at their hands. The question to the administration is; do you really know so little about Jihadism that you can actually separate the belief systems of Al Qaeda from other violent Jihadist groups that claim the Al Qaeda ideology as their own? No one with any level of expertise on the subject will make that contention; the reverse is true.

In the aftermath of the first 9/11 all we heard was that Al Qaeda had ‘morphed’, become decentralized and was more of an ideological force than an organized terror organization. We heard that independent splinter groups were the wave of the future. That simply means that the number of ‘official’ Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan or anywhere else is a meaningless metric. Ms. Logan correctly points that out.

The Taliban in Pakistan is resurgent. Al Qaeda in Iraq is resurgent, same goes for Yemen. Reports of Al Qaeda affiliated groups fighting in Syria is accepted as fact. Same goes for Egypt where traditional constraints applied to Salafist groups by Mubarak kept them under control. That is no longer the case. Bin Laden and Zawahiri both claimed to be influence by the Muslim Brotherhoods founders. What can you project will be the case in Egypt in the future?

Ms. Logan understands that the group of the day that garners our attention is not the key factor. The ideology is. She understands that Jihadist ideology is a dominating force in the Middle East, and elsewhere.

We have not even approached the ability to mitigate the impact of Al Qaeda and general Salafist ideology in the Arab World or anywhere else for that matter. We have failed to effectively fight the war of ideas, failed to elevate moderating influences such as the Green Movement in Iran, failed to understand the power of Islamic faith. Failed to understand that in the Muslim world, today’s ally is tomorrows enemy; literally, tomorrow!

Lara Logan does understand it; up close and personal. Lara Logan paid an extreme price for that knowledge and insight. Lara Logan is right!

  • Mike

    Landreaux:

    Landreaux, I share your anger and that of Ms. Logan. I generally agree with most of what you say in these posts concerning Islam. But they leave me with questions.

    With respect to Islam, contemporary liberalism has often failed to stand by it’s best traditions. This is especially true in Europe, where far too much leeway has been given to medieval Islamic culture. You and I agree on this, I think.

    But to agree that fundamentalist Islam is a deadly threat to freedom and the future of mankind is one thing; agreement on a long range strategic plan for dealing with it is just as important. That strategic plan is what I find missing in your work.

    In previous posts, I have compared Islam to medievel European catholicism. There are important differences, but that is a seperate discussion. Like Islam, the catholic church was deeply intertwined with goverment and brutally intolerant of heresy and apostasy. The process by which our ancestors freed themselves from this power and emerged into democracy began about 1520 when Luther initiated the reformation. Europe then suffered about 130 years of religious wars. No nation established religious freedom as a fundamental principle until 1789 with the ratification of the US constitution. It took over 250 years, and even longer in Europe.

    In the west today, the majority of the population remains Christian, but freedom of religion and speech has divided Christianity into numerous sects, no one of which has the power to enforce its theology or leadership on the rest. The pope can’t kill me for disagreeing with him. Freedom of speech has become a sacred principle, and Christians agree that even an atheist has the right to advocate his position.

    Clearly, the power of fundamentalist Islam cannot be broken by military force. Clearly, it will not be broken overnight. We have good reason to hope that it won’t take three centuries as it did in the west, but it is undoubtably a long-haul proposition. There is only one thing that will break that power—freedom of thought and speech.

    The ‘arab spring’ was a long awaited and, by many, a long dreaded occurance. Intelligent, educated middle easterners long ago forsaw the inevitable result of free elections—the ascendence of theocrats to power. They saw what the revolution in Iran produced. I have no doubt that many, maybe most, of the young progressives who first gathered on the square in Cairo understood this as well as you or I do. But they cast the die, knowing that they were starting a long dangerous learning process for the Egyptian masses. I think they were right to cast the die, to take the chance, to start the learning. I think it would have been wrong of us to try to delay the learning process by continuing to support the secular tyrant in power.

    I believe that if we look closely for our best friends in the Islamic world, we will find them in Iran. The Iranian people have been learning the bitter lesson for 30 years and are ripe for democracy. Ironically, Iran may turn out to be the first breaking-point for fundamentalist Islam. We can hope.

    Islam is not going to disappear. The masses there are going to continue to be Muslims, just as the masses have continued to be Christians in the west. The elimination of Islam is not an option at this point in history. Such great fundamental memes are not eliminated so easiily. The only reasonable goal is the breaking of the political power of Islam, and that goal will be reached in the same way it was reached here in the west, through free speech.

    Crude mockery of Islam doesn’t help. It must be allowed, but wherever it appears it should be condemned for the childish, destructive nonsense it is. Xenophobic bellicosity doesn’t help, and should be talked down.

    We agree about who and what the enemy is. What I would like to hear from you is whether we have any agreement on long term strategy for defeating that enemy. If we have common ground there, we might begin some productive discussion about the details of tactics.

  • Landreaux

    Mike,

    There is a lot here, however, I believe it is one of the most important discussions we can have. The long term strategic plan begins with confidence. We must re-energize our self confidence in our systems and moral center. We must fight the war of ideas much more effectively. We must stop apologizing and we must recognize that the movement to convince us that all ideas are ‘equal’, that all are worthy of our respect and are, somehow, all benign is chimera.

    I have frequently encountered the argument that medieval Catholicism is somehow equivelant to today’s Islamic world view. Absent a long discertation, Christain faiths and thinking have evolved, it’s not in the Medieval period anymore and Islam is, frozen 1,000 years ago as perfected and beyond additional interpretation. You said it all when you commented that the Pope can’t have you killed for disagreement. In Islam they can have you killed for disagreement, it’s a fundamental part of the Islamic belief system.

    Secular tyrants are a big part of the negative perception of the U.S. in the Arab world with some justification. I don’t like the idea of supporting tyrants, the problem is a reality and we are now seeing and will continue to see the impact of non tyrannical states. The unfortunate impact will be, more tyranny this time based on both politics and religion. I agree that freedom of speech and thought is the answer, the problem however, is that there is not an Islamist controlled government anywhere that tolerates free speech and thought, it is anathema to Islam. It will take another revolution to turn back the tide that we are seeing now and I am hard pressed to project how and when that may happen; I just don’t see it. I’ve studied Islamic thought for a decade and just don’t see how, from our point of view, any good comes of what is happening now.

    The Iranian people could have been turned in our direction. We missed the opportunity. Our refusal to speak out in support of the Green Revolution will go down in foreign policy history as one of the most significant mistakes we have made.

    One does not have to mock Islam, one has to only repeat and communicate what Islamic leaders say in their own words. Islam is, as a matter of faith, expansionist, imperialistic and intolerant. In the evaluations of the great religions the one that expresses abject intolerance of other views is Islam. Keep in mind that what is said in English, or French or Spanish is ALWAYS different than what is said in Arabic or Farsi.

  • Mike

    landreaux:

    Thanks for the response.

    Let me begin by saying I agree totally with your first paragraph. Democracy and freedom of speech are better than tyranny and the violent suppression of ideas and we need to say so without apology.

    Concerning medieval Catholicism: for the purposes we are discussing the comparison is apt. Medieval Catholicism was every bit as as ‘expansionist, imperialistic and intolerant’ as Islam. If Christianity has evolved, it has not done so of its own volition; we the people wrested power from it, and the theocrats had to compromise with us. Many a martyr’s tortured flesh went up in smoke before the victory was won. The name of the god is of no signifigance; if Yahveh or God or Allah is giving me my marching orders, I’m not going to care what the people want or what they say. I’m going to discipline them to god’s will if I can.

    You say “We must re-energize our confidence in our systems and moral center”. Are we to do this only with words? Are we to say to the people of the Islamic world, “we believe in democracy for ourselves, but not for you, because we believe you will misuse it”? I said elsewhere on this site that I hold the principles embodied in the Bill of Rights as sacred as any Muslim holds the Koran. I think that’s what re-energizing our moral center means in practice. Our enemies believe with all their hearts that the future of mankind is a global caliphate, ruled by themselves. I believe the future of mankind is global democracy, and I believe we should fight as hard for that as they fight for their brutal, anachronistic caliphate.

    I voted today. I’m sure that by your lights I voted for the wrong man. But no matter who wins, you and I will abide with the results and begin preparing for the next election. We’ll do that because we respect the people’s right to elect the wrong leaders. That right is imbedded in the very idea of democracy.

    You do not hesitate in your support for the green revolution in Iran. Nor do I. The Iranian people overthrew a secular tyrant and turned power over to theocrats. They have had three decades of oppression to teach them that they made a mistake. People learn through experience, and they usually learn the hard way; I know that has been true for me.

    We are talking about strategy, not tactics, about long term goals, not what is convenient this year or next. I would not begin to deny that the ‘Arab spring’ holds many inconvieniences and dangers for us. But to have propped up Mubarak, and to continue to prop up the next secular tyrant would be only to delay the inevitable and expose our professed principles as a hypocritical sham.

    If you have no faith in the ability of the people of Islam to establish democracy, I ask you to give me your alternative strategy. Are we to ignore the aspirations of restless masses, ignore the courage of the tens of thousands who recently demonstrated against the child-murdering Taliban in Pakistan, abandon the democratic-minded young in Egypt who are even now struggling against the new theocracy? I know you don’t advocate that, but if you don’t believe the people of Islam can eventually achieve democracy, how can you establish a strategy? Are you not reduced to short term thought and perpetual tactical maneuvering?

    I look forward to your response.

  • Landreaux

    Mike,

    I don’t have as much time for response as I’d like but, here goes. To compare current day islam with Christianity of a thousand years ago is stretching the bubble a bit. The context is completly different. Different most especially from a technological point of view. I always warned my daughters, as they studied history, to be sure that they made the attempt to judge historic situations based on as broad as possible understanding of the context of the times. Histories best lessons are not static, they occured within a framework.

    No, not only with words, deeds and messages. Clear messages that demonstrate our self confidence. This is especially the case in terms of foreign policy which should be exclusively a case of promoting our own self interest. It’s what every other country does, in our case the self interest is broad but friends and opponents alike must understand that we operate in our self interest. I believe that basic tenent has been lost of late.

    I believe in promoting democracy as well, but we may disagree on the method. Democracy must be a widly held desire of the people involved. Voting is not democracy. Or best approach is to serve as the best example we can and to support those who see democracy in a much broader context than just the ability to vote. Democracy has to be a burning desire, fueled by sacrafice.

    It’s not me that lacks faith in in Islam to achieve democracy; it’s Islam. The leading Clerical voices in Islam are consistent; “Islam and democracy” are not compatable. Democracy is a system ‘made by men’. Islam is deigned by Allah, in Islam there is no comparision. This system and these interpertations will eventually ruin Islamic economies, that perhaps will be a tipping point.

    Recent polling in the Middle East is OVERWHELMING! The people want Islmaic Sharia, not democracy. It’s not me saying this it’s them. If they insist on it we must protect the borders of Western Culture and perhaps leave them to their own devices for a decade of two.

    Yes, perpetual tactical maneuvering is going to be required, I’m OK with that as long as the strategic imperitives are clear. That strategic imperitive, in my mind, is to educate and protect the West and anyone who wants to come along on that particular ride.

    Our examples and our success helped defeat Communism we can do it again but it is far in the future. I will likely never see the final result.

  • Mike

    Landreaux:

    I appreciate your time constraints. Unfortunately, I can’t work anymore, so I have plenty of time to read, think and write. Please feel free to answer at your liesure. I’m in no hurry.

    I must confess that I don’t understand the point of your first paragraph. It’s the first time since I began reading you that this has been the case. I think that may be because you were hurried, and if so, I repeat that I’m in no hurry.

    Nevertheless, let me address what I think may be your concern. I assure you that I am not so naive nor so ignorant of history as to think medieval Christendom and present day Islam present us with an exact parallel. The differences are important and worthy of discussion.

    Of the three ‘religions of the book,’ Christianity is the only one not founded by a warrior caste. Muhammud was a warrior throughout his career as a ‘prophet’. Jesus of Nazareth, on the contrary, was a man of peace. His message of love and forgiveness, and especially his attention to the poor unlettered masses, were long hidden from the laity of Europe by the church, but with the reformation and the translation of the bible into the vernaculars these messages were widely dissiminated. They tended to inspire a democratic spirit in protestantism. The Catholic church remained, and remains to this day, a rigid top-down heirarchy. Protestant congregations tended to take for themselves the right to remove and replace unsatisfactory pastors. While European governments were still totally dominated by their aristocracies, protestant churches were providing an object lesson in bottom up power, and this fact played no small part in the emergence of political democracy in the west. There are no such messages to inspire bottom-up power in the teachings of Muhammud.

    The rigid and corrupt heirarchy of the medieval church made an easy target for Luther and his comrades. Islam presents no such easy target. The Ulama is dispersed and interspersed throughout the communities of the Islamic world.

    Now,I am not arguing against my own position. I am just trying to convince you that my comparison of today’s Islam with medieval Christianity is not naive or based on a shallow knowledge of history. I believe we cannot make good decisions about today without understanding the history that led up to today. This is true both in domestic and international affairs.

    I am going to have to retire for the night. I’ll address your other points in the morning.

  • Mike

    Let me try to clear up what I think is a misunderstanding of my position. I do not believe that Islam will become democratic. The Catholic church has not become democratic; it’s no more democratic than it was in the 12th century. It’s simply lost the power to punish dissent. The Catholic heirarchy had no more use for democracy than the Islamic clergy does. They didn’t change; the culture around them changed and left them behind. To say that the Islamic world can achieve democracy is not to say that Islam can become democratic. The history of Turkey may give us some clues.

    You say that voting is not democracy. I totally agree. This is exactly what the ‘Arab spring’ is going to have to learn. Democracy requires broad and unwavering adherence to a set of sacred principles—especially freedom of speech, press and assembly. I’ve had some experience arguing this matter of freedom of speech with Muslims. I know it’s going to be a hard nut to crack. But I’m not claiming that this thing is going to be easy, for anybody.

    At the beginning of this discussion I said that what I found lacking in your writing was a strategic approach. I don’t just believe, I am certain that lack of strategic vision is the road to defeat in international affairs just as it is in war. The enemy has a clear goal and a strategy. They plan to conquer the world for allah by conversion and conquest. They will, of course, never achieve the goal; they will never win the world for their atavistic god and his dark age prophet. But in a world economy ever more dependent on fragile technology and global trade they can do almost unimaginable damage. Before this is all over, we may remember 9/11 as a minor incident.

    Their intention is to destroy our way of life and replace it with theirs. I say we should destroy their way of life and replace it with ours. They have an offensive strategy. We need an offensive strategy.

    I really don’t think we’re that far apart. You complain that our government didn’t do enough to support Iran’s green revolution. That may well be true. But why should we support it in the first place if democracy is impossible in the Islamic world? I think you see, as I do, that Iran is the most likely place for democracy to make an advance because it has experienced long bitter years under an Islamic theocracy.

    We need to use our greatest advantage. No one in the west wants to live under Islam. Millions in Islam crave the freedom and prosperity that our democratic system provides. An effective strategy for dealing with the theocrats cannot ignore this fifth column in the heart of the enemy’s territory. They should be the heart of our strategy.

    You say democracy has to be a burning desire fueled by sacrifice. There are brave people today suffering imprisonment and torture at the hands of our common enemy. What more can we ask of them? I think we owe them something. We owe them our assistance in their struggle for freedom in the world of Islam.

    It doesn’t matter that you or I won’t see final victory. The story of human progress has been written by people who never saw the fruits of their labor.

  • Bob

    Mike;

    Just a quick note to say how much I enjoy reading your post.Although we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum I find some of your views intriguing and well thought out.In a few circumstances they had me re-thinking my position on certain issues.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers!
    Bob

  • Mike

    Bob:

    I appreciate your kind words. The political spectrum nowadays is not so much a spectrum as a chasm across which the right and left throw curses and insults at one another. I keep coming to this site because I find here at least a few people from both sides who actually listen to each other and argue their positions like adults.

    Thanks, and my best wishes to you.

  • Bill Hedges

    Mike _ yOU ARE LIVING IN A GLASS HOUSE…

    You going to stop ? You complain BUT I keep pointing out your “insults” & “name calling.” What did you put in your comment about Sarah ? Matters not was another who used the “b” word from your personal life. You put that word in your comment.

    Sure I use buma. Will continue. Then I am not complaing LIKE YOU ARE…

  • Steve

    Interesting comments. Thanks Landreaux and Mike.

    Here is a line of thought for you.

    “Murmurs From The Coming Caliphate.”

    Pan-Islam, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt, 80+ million people, large well equipped army, (thanks American infidels) Libya, 6 million people, disorganized, no army, Oil, sweet-sweet crude oil, Muslim Brotherhood, Pan-Islam.