Friday, November 27, 2015

The Depravity of the Far Right. Surviving the Age of Fear.

What gives terrorist leaders sleepless nights? It's not us. It's not their enemies. What they fear most is becoming invisible, boring - losing the support of their base, rich and poor alike. They need headlines, they need to stay in the public eye and they need to provoke over-the-top outrage and hyperbolic threats from the big bad Infidels, that's us. There's nothing better to keep those kids signing up and those cash stuffed envelopes pouring in.

Terrorists were tailor made for the far right. The 2001 World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks were perfectly timed for the arrival of America's first rabidly neo-conservative government, the Bush/Cheney regime. And so began the Age of Fear. It suited radical Islam and neo-conservative hawks perfectly, played straight into their respective hands. For both sides it was the answer to their dreams.

According to Foreign Policy CEO and editor, David Rothkopf, the Age of Fear has now given us its inevitable love child, Donald Trump.

"Trump has undergone a metamorphosis as a candidate from being a joke to a curiosity to a phenomenon to a full-fledged force with a chance to win. That he now seems to be unwittingly playing directly into the hands of terrorists by producing just the kind of rhetoric that is certain to stir outrage across the Islamic world and drive recruitment efforts upward — as he clearly has not concerned himself with either the lessons of past attacks or the moral implications of his proposed plans — is maybe the most disturbing development of this distended, perverse campaign so far.

"Nonetheless, Trump’s actions are even more unsettling because they are symptomatic of a broader, deeper, and much more profound problem. Terrorism has, since 9/11, mushroomed into a greater global threat than it has ever been before — and it has been a problem in one form or another since the dawn of history. But as bad as terrorism is, our reactions to it have triggered a kind of worsening risk spiral that has made the world a much more dangerous place. Not only are we playing into the terrorists’ hands, and thus giving them needed momentum, the countries of the world are reacting in such an uncoordinated and even conflicting fashion that new geopolitical fissures are emerging that are far more worrisome than any strike or campaign extremists could orchestrate.

"In 2002, the year after 9/11, there were fewer than 1,000 deaths from terrorist attacks worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department. This past year, that number was more than 30,000. Al Qaeda delivered a shocking blow to the United States in 2001, but it was a small organization, incapable of repeating such an attack. Today, the terrorists of the Islamic State have changed the game, controlling territory in Iraq and Syria, recruiting fighters globally, and essentially offering the world’s first open-source terrorist organization. Download a flag, embrace the name, and you are basically in. As open-source enterprises in other sectors have found, this is a great force multiplier. Suddenly, we are confronted with a “group” capable of brutality across many countries, and the threat posed by them and other terrorist groups that align with them or seek to rival them (see the recentNew York Times article on the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State) only seems to be growing.

"...since [the ill-conceived conquest of Hussein's Iraq] we have seen a stunning lack of strategy, coordination, or even coherent thinking about how to deal with the threat. We have had the “Obama doctrine”; a “light footprint”; the employment of a surgical approach when force was needed; massive overreach on the surveillance front; rhetoric about restraint; confusion about red lines; tactical half-measures; and strategic incoherence. In the Middle East, we continue to see a wide variety of approaches linked to some variation on the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” doctrine and a kind of national hierarchy of hatreds and fears. This is complicated by the proliferation of terrorist groups with conflicting agendas. So, in Syria, we have the real possibility that Bashar al-Assad’s regime helped stoke the fires of the Islamic State through prisoner releases, etc., to justify its cause — which seemed to have worked to some degree as we now have the world’s leading powers being more patient with the Syrian strongman if he will help fight the Islamic State. We might even see, after a political deal in Damascus (which will likely create an “Assad-lite” regime after a transition period and provide amnesty for the brutal dictator currently in power), an alliance between that regime and major powers and an al Qaeda spinoff, al-Nusra Front, to work to defeat the Islamic State.

"The problem stems not from the terrorists directly but from the conflicts and instability that are being left in the wake of our responses to their attacks. Invading Iraq was step one. Pulling out too quickly compounded it. Failure to address the issues of Sunni representation in that country compounded it and led to the rise of the Islamic State. Failure to address the problems in Syria when they were early enough to contain compounded it. Belated, uncoordinated halfway measures against the Islamic State were another problem. Failure to stand up to allies funding extremists compounded it. Conflicted policies in Afghanistan did too. Conflicting policies among allies on issues like Mohamed Morsi’s government, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iran nuclear deal, the future of the Assad regime, the situation in Libya, the situation in Yemen, inaction in the face of spreading threats in Africa, and a host of other related problems now have us in a grave situation. In the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya are in chaos. Lebanon and Jordan are bending under the weight of the refugee burden. Refugee flows are posing a major political challenge in the EU. Nationalists and political opportunists are inflaming the situation and further weakening alliances with their rhetoric. There is very little alignment and very serious conflict among a wide-ranging group of powers that are allegedly in some areas working together. This list of collaborators at risk of coming to blows with one another includes the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Israel, France, Iraq, and others."

And so we, the West, stand as a house divided - reactionary, incoherent and dangerously ineffective. We're losing this asinine War on Terror because it is creating fissures among us, divisions that can grow into chasms.  Europe is charting its own path that is often divergent from ours on this side of the Atlantic. They're increasingly fed up with Israel and its turn to the far right while Canada and the United States kowtow to Netanyahu and turn a blind eye to the Palestinians. These divisions create welcome maneuvering space for Russia and China to exploit.

Our political and military leadership have badly failed us with their embrace of "whack a mole" warfare, oblivious to the dangers that inflicts on us. They want to play "old war" or military war with jets and helos, tanks and artillery against enemies who know they don't need any of that stuff to win. Our leaders are too vain, too arrogant, too stupid to realize that even as they're winning all the battles they're decisively losing the wars. As T.E. Lawrence put it, we're 'trying to eat peas with a knife.' 

Still, whack-a-mole warfare has fueled the far right's Age of Fear. It's a convenient response to an engineered threat you really don't want to simply go away. There's no risk of victory in it. No one is even looking for some sort of victory which is why we just don't put any effort or resources into preparing for such a conclusion. It's so much easier to send a handful of fighters here and a shipload or two of bombs right after them. To revive a term I coined a while back, it's the "war of gesture."

Only it's worked out far better for the other side than it has for us. They're much better at fighting their wars, the wars that matter and determine outcomes. As the article notes, they've got this thing franchised now and it's growing even as we're pinned down in Afghanistan or in the skies over Iraq and Syria.

This article supports my earlier argument that we must stop getting into wars that we have neither the ability nor will to win, whack-a-mole wars that transform into wars without end that only nurture and expand those we seek to confront. This is beginning to resemble the movie, "Groundhog Day." That's not a good thing. Enough. Let's put the Age of Fear where it belongs. Bury it.

We're losing unwinnable wars and we're losing by our own hand. It's beginning to divide us and could soon tear us apart.


Anonymous said...

Noble sentiments. Unfortunately the right will never see things your way, because they're congenitally unable to do so.

Conservatism means keeping the status quo, while constantly pining for the good old days when men were men, women knew their place and foreign "wogs" lived like the savages the white men knew they were in little villages far away from them, and took orders without complaint from their superiors. If the natives got a bit uppity, then a genocide or two sorted things out. The occasional intellectual was tolerated much like a pet.

Conservatism also means reactionary, to oppose change and to loudly object to those demanding it. Conservatism means that no grand vision of a better future, no philosophy for bettering the vast majority of society. No, every man must stand on his own two feet and work to improve his individual condition. If that is at the expense of others, well too bad, because lazy wimps deserve what they get. Income redistribution is against the Golden Order.

The terrorists threaten to upset this applecart, so must be destroyed. Employing the strategy of disregarding terrorists so they fade from the limelight and become irrelevant cannot be condoned. Nope, we must go out there and obliterate these barbarians, right effing now, even if that mentality has gotten exactly nowhere so far. Anyone suggesting pussy-footing around believes in big government and free handouts.

We're not talking about even minor intellectuals here or them having any emotions beyond revolt and fear.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Now think in these terms about how our country has dealt with indigenous peoples, how harper told us Maritimers we were lazy slobs, how Albertans think the Good Lord magically made Alberta oil rich, while the rest of the whiners were punished with hard rock scrabble.

In other words, all right-wingers are endowed only with an I'm all right Jack mentality and no imagination beyond dreaming up ways to dispose of the dreamers who get in their way. Climate change, nah, it ain't happening. Burn more oil. Etc. etc. etc. Nihilism, pure and simple.

Don't hold any hope that this attitude will change. So things are very likely to come to a very sticky end. As they always have.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well that was certainly uplifting, Anon. Thanks.