Sep 30th 2008

Neither candidate mentioned terror war in simplistic debate

by Sol Sanders

Sol W. Sanders, (solsanders@cox.net), is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World Tribune.com and East-Asia-Intel.com.

There were moments in what was intended as a highly touted debate on U.S. foreign policy by the two presidential candidates where one despaired of any cogency at all.

Sen. Barack Obama's insistence that Iraq and Afghanistan were separate entities, that Iran fit neatly into still another separate compartment, and that all that was needed was additional troops deployed to Afghanistan to solve that issue were bizarre. Obama, the candidate who spends a good deal of his time decrying a decision to take on Sadam Hussein's campaign to conquer the Persian Gulf, then demands a greater effort to attack what is obviously an even more difficult strategic and tactical environment in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pillorying the Bush Administration, and thereby Sen. John McCain, as responsible for a fiasco in Iraq whatever the view history will take, is not what is advertised as a forward looking mentality.

The war against terror was not mentioned.

A question on security and 9/11 went largely unanswered.

Neither candidate made clear the obvious: the U.S., dragging along the rest of a reluctant democratic world kicking and screaming, too fearful and preoccupied with other problems, is still engaged in an extended struggle with radical Islam.

That struggle is exceedingly complex: it involves fundamental intellectual issues, such as the very nature of Islamic belief and how it adapts to modern criteria of personal freedom and democratic government. It involves the psychological battle for the muddled minds of psychotic individuals caught in the frictions of traditional primitive tribal values and modernity. It involves, and this is where the debate floundered completely, an understanding that this is a universal struggle that not only concerns the 1.5 billion Muslims in their traditional environments but their progeny around the world. And until now, the voice of the silent majority of Muslims who abhor violence and its perpetrators has not been heard.

There was little or no acknowledgement of the changing environment of this continuing struggle.

Yes, there has not been another attack on the U.S. homeland such as 9/11. But whether this is, indeed, a result of the still unrevealed discoveries and defusing of plots, the measures taken to reinforce American security, or the incapacities of the Islamofacists, is not yet clear.

That there have been plots such as that in the U.K. which was to be an attack on transatlantic airliners that have been thwarted. That measures have been taken to firm up surveillance of airports and airlines, and to some extent ports, have been put into place. That the structures of Al Qaida in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan have been crippled is obvious.

But there is, unfortunately, growing contradictory clear evidence that the infestation of terrorism throughout the Muslim world is growing.

It may well be, as some have theorized, that there is no longer an overall plot headed by Osama Ben Ladin, if he is still alive. But there has been a proliferation of smaller Islamicist terrorist groups all across the globe inspired by the "successes" of Al Qaida - from Western Europe to Morocco and Algeria to Egypt to Pakistan to India to Indonesia to the Philippines.

Given the vulnerability of free societies, particularly the U.S. and Western Europe, with their concerns for freedom and personal liberties of even the accused, the possibilities for these groups however amateurish for effective terrorist action are virtually unlimited. Recent incidents such as the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad or the bombings in several Indian cities are only the latest manifestations of the fury and nihilistic fanaticism of those still plotting. Their cult of death is one the rest of the world which celebrates life has difficulty combating.

Furthermore, there are over-arching trends that are perhaps even more important that the individual incidents themselves, bloody and hurtful as they are:

There is growing evidence that having failed, at least for the moment, in Iraq the radical Islamicists from all over the world have mobilized and moved into the difficult frontier areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan to concentrate on the destruction of Pakistan.

Indian Muslim radicals, until now partially unrecognized out of New Delhi's state of denial, have now begun to initiate the kind of domestic terrorist activities that could destabilize a government virtually unprepared for them.

There is growing evidence of radical Muslim organizations in Bangladesh, in an atmosphere where a military takeover of a bankrupt civilian government has now failed, and where progress toward stability is at best questionable.

There is growing radicalization and exploitation of older ethnic or territorial disputes all over the world - whether in Russia's Dagestan and Ingushetia [and, of course, the long smoldering Chechenia] or Indian Kashmir or Sudanese Darfur.

There are growing social and religious controversies with the growing Muslim population of Western Europe - in part, producing new and extremely valuable operatives for the Islamic radical movement able to operate in Western environments for the international radical Muslim networks. These social and political issues which are extremely difficult of resolution, whether the introduction of sharia concepts into Western society or the simple act of women wearing a partial veil, are in their way threats to traditional European state-church relations which had long thought to have been resolved.

It is far from clear as McCain insisted that the "lessons" of Iraq can be applied "whole hog" to the Afghanistan problem. Indeed, the very fact that it is so intimately tied to the internal problems of Pakistan would indicate that it is true only in the broadest sense.

Part and parcel of the overall problem is the growing power of an Iranian state, the world's number one sponsor of terrorism in the name of Islam, as it moves toward developing nuclear weapons. McCain's proposal to mobilize U.S. allies for economic warfare outside the confines of the UN Security Council - restricted as it is by the Russians and the Chinese - presupposes a cognizance of the peril which thus far Paris, London and Berlin have only exhibited at best in rhetoric. German trade with Iran, for example, is snowballing at a time of such peril.

Obama may have now modified his earlier positions on trying to deal without preconditions with the Iranian mullahs and other pariahs but his initial naïve reaction - which McCain properly identified - of indiscriminately lumping together the wolf and the lamb in Georgia suggests a predisposition to untenable amateur positions in statecraft.

As always unforeseen events are likely to dictate the challenges of the new president of the U.S. Just as the financial crisis has discombobulated programs for the economy, the next few weeks even preceding the election would likely do the same for foreign policy stratagems and policies. But, for the moment, neither candidate has exhibited the kind of perspicacity a world facing an overarching threat to its values as well as its safety has a right to expect.


Copyright: WORLDTRIBUNE.com


Below a YouTube video clip of the first Presidential Debate 2008,

subject: Lessons From Iraq/Afghanistan


If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com. Please note that Facts & Arts shares its advertising revenue with those who have contributed material and have signed an agreement with us.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jan 21st 2022
EXTRACTS: "The fear is that Moscow is backing itself into a diplomatic corner where the use of force is its only way to remain credible." ----- "The Ukrainian population has also been mobilizing in support of the troops since the seizure of Crimea and the war in Donbas. And according to a poll taken in December 2021 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 58% of Ukrainian men and almost 13% of women declared that they are ready to take up arms. A further 17% and 25% more said they would resist through other means. In what would be a classic case of asymmetrical warfare, resistance from Ukraine’s population could therefore prove a serious thorn in Moscow’s side."
Jan 12th 2022
EXTRACTS: "While at the time of writing, the outcome of Djokovic’s visa troubles was uncertain, the double standard of rules raises a much bigger question about the philosophy of law: can the application of a rule be so unfair that we have no valid reason to follow it?" ------ "......a rule that doesn’t treat like cases alike can’t be a law at all. This is because a key requirement of a legal system is that it needs to be stable, which means that people need to know what the law is and when it applies. If a rule doesn’t treat everyone equally, then it does the opposite and increases doubt and uncertainty about what the law even is. And if enough rules exist that create uncertainty about what the law is and when it applies, the system will collapse. A rule that undermines a legal system in this way can’t really be law at all, and legal officials shouldn’t create or uphold them."
Jan 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranking tennis player, has just been granted a medical exemption to take part in the Australian Open. Djokovic, who has won the event nine times (one more victory would give him a record-breaking 21 major titles), refused to show proof of vaccination, which is required to enter Australia. “I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not,” he told Blic, a Serbian daily, calling it “a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.” The family of Dale Weeks, who died last month at the age of 78, would disagree. Weeks was a patient at a small hospital in rural Iowa, being treated for sepsis. The hospital sought to transfer him to a larger hospital where he could have surgery, but a surge in COVID-19 patients, almost all of them unvaccinated, meant that there were no spare beds. It took 15 days for Weeks to obtain a transfer, and by then, it was too late."
Jan 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "The protests that erupted across Kazakhstan on January 2 quickly turned into riots in all of the country’s major cities. What do the protesters want, and what will be the outcome of the country’s most severe civil unrest since independence in 1991? "
Jan 7th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....one wonders how Chinese President Xi Jinping views Russia’s intervention in Kazakhstan, which shares a nearly 1,800-kilometer (1,120-mile) border with China, especially in light of Putin’s earlier comments diminishing the history of Kazakhstan’s independent statehood. (He has shown similar contempt for the independence of Belarus, the Baltic states, and Ukraine.)"
Jan 7th 2022
EXTRACT: "The problem with history as propaganda is not that it makes people feel good or bad, but that it creates perpetual enemies – and thus the perpetual risk of wars."
Jan 5th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....a scenario in which Trump (or one of his allies) is designated president by the House of Representatives after the 2024 election probably belongs in the realm of political-thriller fiction.  Now consider the unlikely event that Trump were nominated and won a clear Electoral College or popular-vote majority in 2024. Rather than establish the white-nationalist dictatorship of progressive nightmares, an elderly second-term Trump would most likely be an even more ineffectual figurehead in a party dominated by conventional Republicans than he was in his first four years. If Italian democracy could survive three terms of Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister, American democracy can survive two terms of Trump. None of this is to suggest that American democracy is not under threat. Populist demagogues like Trump are symptoms of a disease in the body politic. The real threat to American democracy is the disconnect between what the bipartisan US political establishment promises and what it delivers. This problem predates Trump by decades and helps to explain his rise. "
Jan 4th 2022
EXTRACT: "This month, the world’s major central banks shifted gears and announced plans to tighten monetary policy. But there was one notable exception: the European Central Bank, which says it does not intend to raise interest rates in 2022, even though it is well aware of today’s inflation risks." ----- "Does this mean that the ECB is “soft on inflation,” occupying a dovish outlier position among the world’s major central banks? Is Germany’s bestselling tabloid, Bild, justified in bestowing on ECB President Christine Lagarde the mocking sobriquet “Madame Inflation”? No and no.
Dec 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "By the grim metric of fatalities in the first 10 years of a dictator’s rule, Kim Jong Un has yet to match the records set by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, or father, Kim Jong Il – the two tyrants who reigned by terror in North Korea before him. For now, the number of people Kim Jong Un has personally ordered killed – such as his uncle in 2013 and half-brother in 2017 – is likely to number in the hundreds." ---- "Concrete numbers of how many have died from starvation and malnourishment-related conditions such as diarrhea and pneumonia under Kim are difficult to come by. But as a scholar of Korean history, I believe the young dictator – who turns 38 next January – has the capacity to surpass even the ghastly death tolls of his two familial predecessors."
Dec 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "But have enough Conservative backbenchers reached the conclusion that Johnson should be removed as party leader? There is a historical precedent which throws light on the present situation. This was when Margaret Thatcher was sacked as leader of her party – and consequently lost her job as prime minister – in 1990. She had a loyal following in the party and had won three elections in a row, but even that couldn’t save her when polling showed that the Conservatives were heading for a serious defeat under her leadership. ---- "That said, if Thatcher’s experience is anything to go by, at present the Conservatives are not going to sack Johnson. It took 18 months of seriously deteriorating polling for a revolt over Thatcher’s leadership to finally succeed – and she almost survived the leadership challenge. The present hope among Conservative backbenchers will be that the party can recover next year."
Dec 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Although Johnson has a well-deserved reputation for maintaining an arm’s-length relationship with the truth, many voters seem to have priced this in to how they perceive him. Moreover, Conservative Party insiders, and those who previously worked with Johnson in journalism (his career before politics), have always known that he was unlikely to follow any rules that did not suit him. This rather large personal failing was apparent even in his boyhood, as a remarkably prescient school report by his Eton College housemaster noted. “I think,” Johnson’s teacher wrote, “he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.” "
Dec 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "This puts US Democrats in a difficult position. What is a political party to do when the other main party has been taken over by self-appointed holy warriors? To treat them as a loyal opposition worthy of engagement in a spirit of compromise and respect becomes almost impossible. Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Joe Biden have sometimes been criticized by their own supporters for not fighting dirty and giving Republican fanatics a dose of their own foul medicine.  That would be a mistake. All legal means should be used to stop extremists from wrecking democratic institutions, but those institutions won’t survive if all parties turn politics into a matter of life and death. In a quasi-religious war, the far right will almost certainly win; they have more fanatics and, in the US, many more guns."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "In contrast to the index for consumer goods, which measures only the prices of final products, industrial producer prices capture all intermediate stages of production. They therefore have a certain prognostic significance for consumer prices, even though the final products won’t show such extreme spikes. ----- These new inflation figures are so extreme that the ECB’s position looks like willful denial. Germany is currently experiencing the strongest inflation in a lifetime. And the situation is not much better in other European countries. In September, France reported an 11.6% annual increase in industrial producer prices, and that figure stood at 15.6% in Italy, 18.1% in Finland, 21.4% in the Netherlands, and 23.6% in Spain."
Nov 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "So it could well be that, despite the faster spread of the infection, its ultimate health, social and economic impact proves negligible. We simply do not know at this point. But detecting more uncertainty than before, financial markets have reacted with panic. For example, the S&P500 tumbled 2.3% on Friday November 26 only to rise 1.1% on Monday November 29. Most markets gave up between 2% and 4%, which is a pretty substantial one-day fall."
Nov 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Momentous changes are casting a long shadow on China. The country’s political system will soon undergo a profound reform, pending final approval (a quasi-formality) at next year’s congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). President Xi Jinping, the Party chairman and the “navigator” of the country, has decided on a new course, abandoning the principle of collective leadership. Xi is leading China away from the path taken by Deng Xiaoping after the terror of the Cultural Revolution, and back toward a system of absolute rule by one person without term limits, as under Mao Zedong."
Nov 25th 2021
EXTRACTS: "”The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal”. ---- “China accounts for more than half of the world’s coal consumption, and has the largest amount of coal-fired generating capacity under construction. Pressed about why his country would not do more in Glasgow to help save the planet, China’s chief negotiator pointed to the commitments in the Communist Party of China’s current Five-Year Plan. So, our future now depends on the CPC’s program. The tragedy for the world is that the Party cannot be phased down, much less phased out, despite the fact that it is a huge threat to the future of all of us.” ------ “To save the planet, robust democratic leadership must be phased up – not phased down, let alone phased out. Rather than merely keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best, we should start by calling out the appalling behavior of dictatorships such as China and Russia.”
Nov 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The transitory inflation debate in the United States is over. The upsurge in US inflation has turned into something far worse than the Federal Reserve expected. Perpetually optimistic financial markets are taking this largely in stride. The Fed is widely presumed to have both the wisdom and the firepower to keep underlying inflation in check. That remains to be seen."
Nov 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "S&P projects that companies are planning to install 44 gigawatts of new solar in 2022. The year 2020, despite the onset of the pandemic, saw a record-breaking 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity installed in the U.S. So given the bids out there already, it appears that in 2022 solar installers will more than double their best year ever so far. The U.S. currently has 100 gigawatts of solar electricity-generating capacity, so in just one year we are poised to add nearly 50% of our current total. A gigawatt of power can provide electricity to about 750,000 homes. So the 44 new gigawatts we’ll put in next year have a nameplate capacity that would under ideal conditions allow them to power 33 million homes." ----- "Not only is there a lot of good news on the green energy front but there is good news in the bad news for fossil fuels. S&P finds that coal plants are being retired way before the utilities had expected. Some 29 gigawatts of coal retirements are expected from 2020 through 2025. "
Nov 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Zemmour’s way of thinking stems from a tradition going back to the French Revolution of 1789. Catholic conservatives and right-wing intellectuals, who hated the secular republic that emerged from the revolution, have long fulminated against liberals, cosmopolitans, immigrants, and other enemies of their idea of a society based on ethnic purity, obedience to the church, and family values. They were almost invariably anti-Semitic. When Jewish army Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused of betraying his country in the notorious scandal of the 1890s, they were on the side of Dreyfus’s accusers. ---- Germany’s invasion of France in 1940 gave reactionaries of this kind the chance to form a French puppet-government in Vichy. Zemmour has had kind things to say about the Vichy regime. He also has expressed some doubt about the innocence of Dreyfus. ---- None of these views would be surprising if they came from a far-right agitator like Jean-Marie Le Pen. But Zemmour is the son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Algeria who lived among the Muslim Berbers."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "performed strongly in last month’s parliamentary and regional elections. Officially, Communist Party candidates took 18.9% of the popular vote for the State Duma (parliament), compared to nearly 49.8% for the Kremlin’s United Russia party. But the Communists refused to recognize the results, insisting that the vote was rigged. And, indeed, some experts estimate that they should have gotten around 30% of the vote, with United Russia taking about 35%."