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

May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "But even a resounding Russian defeat is an ominous scenario. Yes, under such circumstances – and only such circumstances – Putin might be toppled in some kind of coup led by elements of Russia’s security apparatus. But the chances that this would produce a liberal democratic Russia that abandons Putin’s grand strategic designs are slim. More likely, Russia would be a rogue nuclear superpower ruled by military coup-makers with revanchist impulses. Germany after World War I comes to mind."
May 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "For citizens of states that are members of NATO, taking all possible steps, short of all-out war, to ensure that Russia does not conquer Ukraine is not even an altruistic sacrifice. It is a long-term investment, for themselves and their children, in freedom, democracy, and the international rule of law."
May 4th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....a remarkable transformation is taking place in Ukraine’s army amounting to its de facto military integration into Nato. As western equipment filters through to the frontline, Nato-standard weaponry and ammunition will be brought into Ukrainian service. This is of far higher quality than the mainly former Soviet weapons with which the Ukrainians have fought so capably. The longer this process continues and deepens, the worse the situation will be for the already inefficient Russian army and air force."
May 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: " The conventional wisdom among students of the Russian arts and sciences is that Russian culture is “great.” The problem is that, while there are surely great individuals within Russian culture, the culture as a whole cannot avoid responsibility for Putin and his regime’s crimes." ---- "Russianists will not be able to avoid examining themselves and their Russian cultural icons for harbingers of the present catastrophe. What does it mean that Fyodor Dostoevsky was a Russian chauvinist? That Nikolai Gogol and Anton Chekhov were Ukrainian? That Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an unvarnished imperialist? That Aleksandr Pushkin was a troubadour of Russian imperial greatness? May these writers still be read without one eye on the ongoing atrocities in Ukraine?"
Apr 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "The following day Lavrov met his Eritrean counterpart, Osman Saleh, in Moscow. Eritrea was the only African country to vote against the UN resolution condemning the invasion. In this refusal to condemn Russia, Eritrea was joined by only Belarus, North Korea and Syria. Even longstanding allies such as Cuba and China abstained. It’s an indication of Russia’s increasingly limited diplomatic options as this war continues."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Although the milestone lasted only for a brief time, it points to a future in which California runs on 100% wind, solar, hydro and batteries, a future that will certainly arrive even faster than the state plans. As it is, California is ahead of its green energy goals." ...... "A world of 100% green energy and electric cars is not only a healthier and more comfortable world, it is a world where oil and gas dictators like Vladimir Putin are defunded."
Apr 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Kazakhstan’s authorities have also showed uncharacteristic leniency in allowing public rallies in support of Ukraine. Thousands of protesters holding banners reading “Russians, leave Ukraine”, “Long Live Ukraine” and “Bring Putin to trial” marched across the capital, Almaty, wrapping monuments to Lenin and other Soviet-era figures with yellow and blue balloons symbolising the Ukrainian flag."
Apr 15th 2022
EXTRACT: "People’s identification with the Soviet Union appears to have a clear and growing basis in Russian public opinion. Surveys we have conducted throughout the Putin period show that Soviet identification among the general population – something that had been steadily declining after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – began to increase in 2014, when the Russian government annexed Crimea and supported rebellions in the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. By 2021, almost 50% of those surveyed identified with the Soviet Union rather than the Russian Federation."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Worse yet, the Hungarian government has effectively been helping Putin by prohibiting the shipment of weapons to Ukraine across its borders. Hungarian public TV spreads Russian disinformation day and night. The day before the election, an assembly of ordinary people expressing solidarity with Ukraine was framed on state television as a “pro-war rally.” "
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "It may well be that the Russian army’s fate has already been sealed in what is likely to be a long war. The single qualification to this may be that Russia could default to escalation using “weapons of mass destruction” of one form or another – whether tactical nuclear warheads or chemical weapons."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACTS" "Ukraine and Russia produce a substantial amount of grain and other food for export. Ukraine alone produces a whopping 6% of all food calories traded in the international market. At least it used to, before it was invaded by the world’s largest nuclear power." ...... "When it comes to cereals like wheat, corn, rice and barley, the big players talk about millions of metric tonnes, or MMTs. A single MMT of wheat contains about 3.4 trillion food calories,." ....."Ukraine produced about 80 MMT of grain (a category that includes wheat, corn and barley) in 2021, and is expected to harvest less than half of that this year. A shortfall of 40 MMT is enough missing calories that a country like the UK could only make it up by having everyone stop eating for three years. That’s the thing about tonnes of grain: a million here and a million there and pretty soon you’ve got a real issue on your plate."
Apr 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "I don’t even know the little girl’s name. All I do know is what a friend of a friend wrote on Viber: that her relative, a senior nurse in one of Kyiv’s hospitals, “saw in the morgue a child with 20 varieties of sperm on her small body.” Since this information was conveyed in a private conversation, there is no reason to doubt its veracity."
Apr 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russian society has so far failed to stop Putin, just as German society failed to stop Hitler. And so, like a poisoned chalice, that task has fallen to the West, as it did in 1939. The West must now treat Putin and his regime the same way that Winston Churchill treated Hitler: Don’t talk to him, just defeat him. Dead-enders such as Putin are too fanatical and desperate to be reliable negotiating partners."
Apr 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: "From 1807 to 1814 on the Iberian peninsula, Napoleon had to fight Spanish, Portuguese and British armies while beset by ubiquitous, ferocious insurgents. He described this war as his “bleeding ulcer”, draining him of men and equipment. It is the west’s aim to make Ukraine for Putin what Spain was for Napoleon. In the absence of a negotiated settlement, Ukraine and Nato will continue to grind away at Russia’s army, digging away at that bleeding ulcer and prolonging Russia’s agony on the military front, as the west continues its parallel assault on its economy. If Putin’s plan is to proceed with the Korea model, he will fail. There is a strong possibility that Putin has only a limited idea of how badly his army is faring. So be it – he’ll find out soon enough that there is now no path for him to military victory."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Policymakers expected that the country would be able to secure its energy supply entirely from renewable sources, so they resolved to phase out coal and nuclear energy simultaneously. The last three of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants are set to be shut down this year." ---- ".... the share of wind and solar power in Germany’s total final energy consumption, which includes heating, industrial processing, and traffic, was a meager 6.7%. And while wind and solar generated 29% of the country’s electricity output, electricity itself accounted for only about a fifth of its final energy consumption." ----- "If Germany suddenly halted Russian gas imports, gas-based residential heating systems – on which half the German population, approximately 40 million people, rely – and industrial processes that rely heavily on gas imports would break down....."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "For Putin, the past that matters most is the one the dissident author and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted: the time when the Slavic peoples were united within the Orthodox Christian kingdom of Kievan Rus’. Kyiv formed its heart, making Ukraine central to Putin’s pan-Slavic vision. ---- But, for Putin, the Ukraine war is about preserving Russia, not just expanding it. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made clear, Russia’s leaders believe that their country is locked in a “life-and-death battle to exist on the world’s geopolitical map.” That worldview reflects Putin’s longstanding obsession with works of other Russian emigrant philosophers, such as Ivan Ilyin and Nikolai Berdyaev, who described a struggle for the Eurasian (Russian) soul against the Atlanticists (the West) who would destroy it. ---- Yet Putin and his neo-Eurasianists seem to believe that the key to victory is to create the kind of regime those anti-Bolshevik philosophers most detested: one run by the security forces. A police state would fulfill the vision of another of Putin’s heroes: the KGB chief turned Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe, is struggling to export last year’s harvest, and may be unable to produce much this year either. In addition, the war has caused a global fertiliser shortage, which will push up food prices around the world too. Coming at a time when the global pandemic had already increased food insecurity and depleted resources around the world, many countries may not be resilient to a major food crisis brought on by the war. Back-to-back global catastrophic events like this have not happened for close to 100 years." ----- "Another useful analogue is the case of Germany during the first world war. When war broke out in 1914, the German authorities had anticipated a short conflict – not too dissimilar to Russian assumptions a few weeks ago. Just like in Ukraine now, the first world war severely disrupted German farming."
Mar 31st 2022
EXTRACT: "The horrors of World War II – the death camps, slave labor, and inhumane experiments on people – produced a global commitment never to permit such crimes to be repeated. This began a transformation of international politics whereby appreciation of the value of every person’s life and dignity ensured that even most authoritarian governments at least paid lip service to human rights.  ----- But the Soviet Union and many of its successor states, particularly Russia, never internalized this change. More than three decades after the USSR collapsed, most post-Soviet countries are still governed according to the old “imperial” paradigm. So, it should come as no surprise that we are now witnessing a clash between fundamentally different sets of values and ultimate goals for statehood."
Mar 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Referencing past legacies as a justification for present-day political decisions is often effective – such appeals trigger emotional reflexes and contribute to thinking about politics in terms of rivalry and defence. The irony within the tragedy of the current situation is that Putin will assuredly go down in history as the figure that did more to unite the Ukrainian people (albeit against Russia) than any other in recent memory."
Mar 24th 2022
EXTRACT: " Despite the death and destruction that Russia rains down daily on them, the vast majority of Ukrainians are bullish about the future: 77% believe the country is moving in the right direction, 93% think they can beat back Russia, and 47% expect to win in the next few weeks.  Ukrainian policymakers are no less bullish, driving a hard bargain in negotiations with the Russians. Several factors account for this remarkable optimism."