Friday, February 13, 2015

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Remember when the ROMAN Catholic Church was just about the only defender of civilization?

Good times, good times ...
Alluding to an attack on a French magazine that left 12 people dead in reprisal for satirical depictions of Muhammad, Pope Francis today condemned the violence, but also said there are limits to free speech — especially when it involves religion.
In particular, the pope said, one shouldn’t abuse freedom of expression to “provoke” or “offend” others deliberately, and also shouldn’t be surprised when they react to such taunts.
Even in the case of a dear friend, Francis said, “If he says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose. That’s normal."
It is?
"People who make fun of, who toy with other people’s religions, he said, risk running into “what would happen to [that friend] if he said something against my mother.”

On Thursday, Francis was asked a question by a French journalist about how to balance religious freedom against freedom of expression, and he immediately linked his answer to the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
“You’re French, so let’s talk about Paris, let’s speak clearly,” he said.
“One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God,” Francis said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”
That said, Francis also insisted that free speech does not imply total license to insult or offend another’s faith.
“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” the pope said, speaking in Italian.
“Every religion has its dignity … and I cannot make fun of it,” the pope said. “In freedom of expression there are limits, like in regard to my mom.”
Well, the Pope justifying a violent response to an "insult" should help put to rest all inaccurate meme that Jesus Christ was a "pacifist," if that whole Driving the Money Changers Out of the Temple with Whips Thing did not do so already. But ... wow! What a sad day for the Catholic Church!

Noah Rothman:
No, it’s not “normal.” The individual moved to violence over an insult has lost control, and that’s unacceptable. It is unequivocally wrong to hit someone in the face regardless of the circumstances that led to that outburst, which is a lesson that parents around the world teach their children every day. Good luck now, mom and dad. When even the Pope says it’s “normal” to go on a violent rampage because your feelings were hurt, those opposed to this uncivilized behavior have lost the ability to appeal to moral authority.
When broadcasters effusively praise the bravery of the Charlie Hebdo journalists but refuse to show the work they are praising for fear of retribution from either extremists or attorneys; when the head of the Catholic Church can find some sensibleness in religious violence; when those who speak their minds are imprisoned for doing so, you know that Europe is on the verge of a new dark age.
And instead of fighting it like the Church did after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Church will be leading it.

Are the stakes that high? Indeed, they are. Victor Davis Hanson:
Western civilization’s creed is free thought and expression, the lubricant of everything from democracy to human rights.
Even a simpleton in the West accepts that protecting free expression is not the easy task of ensuring the right to read Homer’s Iliad or do the New York Times crossword puzzle. It entails instead the unpleasant duty of allowing offensive expression.
Westerners fight against pornography, blasphemy, or hate speech in the arena of ideas by writing and speaking out against such foul expression. They are free to sue, picket, boycott, and pressure sponsors of unwelcome speech. But Westerners cannot return to the Middle Ages to murder those whose ideas they don’t like.
“Parody” and “satire” are, respectively, Greek and Latin words. In antiquity the non-Western tradition simply did not produce authors quite like the vicious Aristophanes, Petronius, and Juvenal, who unapologetically trashed the society around them. If the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo loses the millennia-old right to ridicule Islam from within a democracy, then there is no longer a West, at least as we know it.
Law Professor Jonathan Turley gets it:
Of course, people can insult the faith of others. It is called free speech and you are not allowed to punch someone (or in the most recent case, massacre people) out of a sense of legitimate outrage. Clearly, Pope Francis was not condoning the massacre. He remains a leading voice for Peace and tolerance. However, the discussion of limits on free speech in the West has spawned a trend toward greater criminalization and prosecution for unpopular writers and speakers, including a crackdown in France after the march in support of free speech.
Pope Francis added that people who make fun of religion “are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.” Presumably, the victims are Charlie Hebdo would be considered such “provocateurs,” precisely the image advanced by Muslim extremists insisting that they were incited to violence.
I still admire the Pope but he is less inspirational on free speech, particularly anti-religious speech, in making these comments. Ironically, free speech is the greatest protection of the free exercise of religion. It is the right that allows people of faith (as well as people who are agnostic and atheist) to speak out about their values and beliefs. That freedom comes with a certain covenant of faith in free speech: that we all can speak our mind without fear of prosecution or retaliation.
And David Harsanyi describes the slippery slope the Pope has just endorsed:
Someone should ask the Pope if provocateurs should expect an asymmetrical response? For instance, if Gasparri uttered a curse word against the Pope’s mother, should he expect to his family blown up? That would be a more pertinent analogy.
But let’s take it further. Where are the limits? Why does “mockery” hold a special distinction in our debate? And what constitutes contemptuous language or behavior towards another faith? For instance, can we intentionally criticize another person’s faith without expecting to be punched? What if that faith is in direct conflict with the beliefs of your own set beliefs—beliefs that deserve, according to the Pope, the same respect as any other? Is it ever worth getting punched in the face?
What if one of these faiths is unable to live in free and open society because the principles of their faith conflict with those of others? What if one religion feels mocked by the things that other religions put up with in society—like wearing skirts above the knees, or eating pork sausages, or failing to accept that Muhammad is the Prophet? What if those of a certain faith feel this is ridicule towards them? What if they believe it worthy of retaliation? Should the rest of us avoid these things so as not to upset anyone?
As a proud ROMAN Catholic (That's right! Not just Catholic - ROMAN Catholic! All the way back to the ROMAN EMPIRE! Julius Caesar! SPQR, baby!!!), I am deeply offended by the Pope's provocative statements on this issue.

Because he made statements that offended me, do you think he'd mind if, in response, I punched him in the nose?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You can't solve the problem if you refuse to identify the problem

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: Let’s stop using “radical Islam” to describe radical Islamic terrorists.

Sigh! Allahpundit. Again:
The fact that the French, land of the so-called cheese-eating surrender monkeys, have no qualms about using the phrase while our own leadership hems and haws makes Earnest look that much more pathetic. More than that, it’s a reminder that the strongest impulse among America’s ruling class in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre has been to self-censor. The media, with rare exceptions like Fox News, won’t show the cover of the new issue; the White House suddenly is uncomfortable mentioning Islam at all in connection with terrorism. Ironically, I think this cycle of radical Muslims murdering people followed by ever greater official sensitivity to mainstream Muslims reinforces public perceptions that there’s a link between two rather than undermines them. Never did Americans hear the phrase “Islam means peace” as much as they did after radical Muslims knocked over the World Trade Center. Same with media self-censorship: Not until jihadis started burning embassies and machine-gunning cartoonists did American media collectively decide that “sensitivity” to the beliefs of mainstream Muslims was very important indeed. It’s one long, absurd good-cop, bad-cop routine made possible by America’s political and media elites, all of whom seem to think the real threat comes from non-Muslims who are angry at Muslim communities, not vice versa.

Why Americans no longer trust journalists

In a nutshell:
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, both America's paper of record (The New York Times) and its network of record (CNN) have declined to show Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad on the grounds that they might offend Muslims. The decision to forgo publication of these highly relevant news images has sparked a robust debate about free speech, religion and media ethics. One question that seems to have been glossed over is whether or not the media have any obligations to the preferences of a religious group, or any group of people, in the first place.
As previously noted, the Times has a history of publishing artwork and cartoons that have offended both Jews and Christians. See its coverage of "Piss Christ" in 1999, which very much offended the Catholic League; an Iranian exhibition of "anti-Jewish art" in 2006; and an Iranian cartoonist's "anti-Jewish caricatures" in 2010. So, at least up until Dean Baquet's tenure as executive editor, which began last year, the Times' policy against "gratuitous insult" did not preclude offensive religious images.
The image of the prophet Muhammad, however, seems to occupy its own category, with its own rules. Last week, Baquet told me via email that as editor of the Times he had to consider "the Muslim family in Brooklyn who read us and is offended by any depiction of what he sees as his prophet." [sic] When I replied, "I just wonder about the Jewish family in Brooklyn," Baquet responded as follows:
I would really do some reporting --- I did -- to make sure these parallels are similar for the two religions. You may find they are not. In fact they really are not.
Baquet's argument, if I'm reading him correctly, is that a cartoonish depiction of Muhammad is more offensive, categorically, than a cartoon that depicts, say, anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews trying to fabricate a Holocaust that, per the cartoonist, never took place.
In other words, Piss Christ is OK, but Muhammad is not. Denigrating a person who many people believe is the prophet of God is a no-no, but denigrating a person many believe is the Son of God is hunky-dory. Oooooooohhhhhhhhh-kaaaaaaaaayyyy ...

And it's hard to miss just how much arrogance is dripping from Baquet's attitude. As if he has a right to determine what is offensive and the Jewish family in Brooklyn does not.

Allahpundit nails it:
The double standard laid bare. If you’re a devout believer of whichever faith and eager to see less blasphemy in the media, as many Americans are, there’s no other conclusion to draw here than, “I need to be much, much angrier.”

Some of us knew this back in 2008

Leslie H. Gelb:
Here’s why America’s failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing. It wasn’t just because President Obama’s or Vice President Biden’s absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is—with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War.
He ignores the main problem, though: that to Obama, this is not a bug, but a feature. And it won't get any better until Obama is removed from office.

Friday, January 9, 2015

You can't solve the problem if you refuse to identify the problem

In the wake of the barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo, we have seen temporizing and moral relativism from the usual sources, and a flash of "coming together" that will ultimately be meaningless if it is not followed with actual action that has actual teeth. The underlying problem is an abject refusal of many, especially in our foreign policy establishment, to even consider the possibility that the problem may be not with us, but with the people who are attacking us.

But others are not so blinded by political correctness. A taste:

Roger Simon:
After the brutal mass murders at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the airwaves and  the Internet are filled with pundits and “experts” wondering whether this horrendous act is the work of al-Qaeda, ISIS or were these evil maniacs “self-radicalized,” as the new phrase goes.
I have news for them – there is no difference!  Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Muslim man on the street all work from the same play books; they need no outside advice.  And those play books are the holy texts of Islam, the Koran and the Hadith.  All you need to know is there.
Egypt’s el-Sisi is right.  Islam is in desperate need of a reformation, because right now it is not even a religion.  It is a virus.
What the world should do now is nothing short of an intervention, just how we would treat a drug addicted or alcoholic relative.  Unfortunately, given the terrified international leadership, that isn’t in the offing.  They are more likely to call the murder at Charlie Hebdo “workplace violence,” as ludicrous as that sounds and is.
Davis Harsanyi, in a column titled "Stop Pretending Terrorism Has Nothing To Do With Islam":
Detesting ideas and hating people are not the same thing. Muslims are, and should be, protected equally under the liberal principles everyone else enjoys. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to our discourse, Islam is given a special dispensation from the standards that apply to everyone else who operates under these rules. A criticism of a faith – and the customs and philosophy that go with it – has been transformed into an act of racism.
I’ll never understand why so many on Left feel compelled to provide the most pervasively illiberal ideology on Earth this kind of cover. Nor, for that matter, why so many of my fellow atheists reserve their venom for Christianity (a religion that made secularism possible) while coddling an ideology that would surely destroy it.
You might imagine that once the media itself was attacked, the madness would end. But you would have been wrong. These moments are instructive in separating genuine liberals – Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the Somali-Dutch opponent of radicalism), or Maher, etc. – from the authoritarian leftists who try and stifle speech, the ones that chill speech by purposefully confusing bigotry and discourse, and perhaps the worst kind, those who try to pretend there is moral equivalency between our world and Team Civilization. (And boy, some of them fail hard.)
To prove that all faiths share the same propensity for violence, apologists must cast a net over the entire breadth of human history. My guess is that any reasonable person would concede that few groups in history are innocent. (I’m sure not all the Amalekites had it coming – and for this I apologize.) But the thing is, if you have to reach back to 1572 to make a connection between Catholic hostility and modern Islam, you’ve already lost the argument. In this world, today, right now, when it comes to religious violence there’s really only one game in town.
Amir Taheri, in a column titled "Stop Giving Modern Islam a Free Pass":
[H]owever, there was little sign that a genuine debate on the roots of the tragedy might start anytime soon. Whenever the discussion edged close to the core of the issue, the usual suspects of multiculturalism and political correctness intervened to put it on a different trajectory.
It seemed almost mandatory to assert that the attack, carried out by a three-man commando of French-born jihadists of Algerian origin, had nothing to do with Islam. The obvious question went unasked: If so, then why did the president and prime minister — indeed the whole political elite — keep reassuring the “Muslim community?”
The self-styled spokesmen for ­Islam, including a string of imams in a variety of folkloric garbs, played the same comedy by insisting that the three jihadists represented only themselves and that Islam is a religion of love and peace.
On the “love and peace” note, it’s remarkable that none of the “community leaders” and “spokesmen” was prepared to ­label the three murderers as ­jihadists or even terrorists, let alone “enemies of mankind.”
Instead, echoing President Obama, they all described the killing squad as “violent extremists.” Even Hassan Chalghoumi, a Tunisian-born cleric regarded as France’s “most moderate imam,” would go no further than describing the killers as “misguided individuals.”
Some “Muslim spokesmen” tried to spin a web of confusion by using words and phrases many French adore — “alternative narratives,” “ historic concepts,” “discourse.” They recalled France’s 100-year colonial presence in Algeria, though the Charlie Hebdo attackers had never been to Algeria and made it clear they were seeking revenge for the Prophet.
In a Europe 1 Radio interview, Tariq Ramadan, a former adviser on Islam to the government, even insisted that the attack should remind the French that all lives are of equal value, including those lost by Muslims in Syria and Iraq. In other words, if France takes part in the fight against ISIS, it must expect attacks on its citizens.
Non-Muslim talking heads, meanwhile, warned against racism and Islamophobia, praised religious tolerance and dwelt on the merits of multiculturalism and alterite (otherness) for all communities. Leftist commentators tried to inject a dose of class warfare into the debate by harping on the poverty in heavily Muslim neighborhoods.
On Thursday, Iran’s minister of Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati implicitly justified the murder of Charlie Hebdo staff: “Press freedom can’t justify insulting religion,” he said. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham went further: “Freedom of expression should not include disparaging what is sacred.”
Glenn Reynolds: "There are, of course, plenty of good Muslims. But they’re not driving the bus."

Roger Kimball:
[T]hese two French Muslims, since identified as Said Kouachi (34) and his brother Cherif Kouachi (32), were on a mission. They targeted Charlie Hebdo because the irreverent magazine had repeatedly made fun of Islam and its founder (it has done the same to other religions and indeed to other establishment figures in general, but with less incarnadine results). Back in 2011, after the paper published the famous “Danish Cartoons” of Mohammed, other partisans of “the religion of peace” firebombed the offices of the magazine.  Its editor, Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, was given round-the-clock police protection as a result. It wasn’t enough. The Kouachi brothers knew exactly who they were looking for. When they shot their way into the office of Cahrlie Hebdo, they rattled off a list of names of journalists and cartoonists, including Charbonnier’s. When they found them, they murdered them. Now at last, they proclaimed, “the prophet has been avenged.”
Think about that. The prophet, i.e., Mohammed, the revered founder of Islam, has been “avenged” because 12 people have been murdered in cold blood. Why? Because a magazine published some satirical cartoons of said prophet.
Which brings me to the second Muslim manifesto I mentioned.  This, too, was an extraordinary effusion, notable for its honesty about the realities of Islam in the world today.  But unlike President al-Sisi’s speech in Cairo, this manifesto was not a call for an accommodating revolution in Islam. On the contrary, it was a warning to infidels (that would be you and me, Virginia) that the French journalists (and their bodyguards) reaped what they had sown.
I refer to the “opposing view” op-ed by Anjem Choudary, “a radical Muslim cleric in London and a lecturer in sharia,” in USA Today yesterday. “Why,” the article’s dek asks, “did France allow the tabloid to provoke Muslims?”
You know what happens when Muslims are provoked. They start murdering people. One or two, if that’s all they can manage, thousands if they happen to get their hands on a few airliners. “Offend” them and they kill you. If you let them.
This ravening specimen of intolerant, theocratic rage doesn’t put it quite like that, of course, but he is pretty frank. “Contrary to popular misconception,” he begins (are you listening, President Bush?), “Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone.”
He’s right about that, you know: “Islam” means “submission” not “peace.” And Choudary’s frankness does not end there.  About the first thing Barack Obama did on assuming office was travel to Cairo as part of his world-apologize-to-tyrants-tour. At the University of Cairo, he gave a famous (now infamous) speech in which he asserted that Islam and America share core principles, “principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
Tolerance, eh? Barack Obama ought to have asked Anjem Choudary about that. “Muslims,” Choudary wrote in USA Today,  “do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people’s desires.” How does that accord with “tolerance”? Choudary is clear-eyed about that, too. “In an increasingly unstable and insecure world,” he writes, “the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.” You said it, Anjem! Even as I write, Riaf Badawi, a Saudi blogger, is receiving 50-lashes in public, part of a sentence that includes a 10-year prison sentence and 1000 lashes (50 every Friday for 20 weeks, if he lasts that long). And what heinous crime did Badawi commit to merit such barbaric punishment? Why, he “insulted Islam.” So our “friends” and “allies” the Saudis are subjecting him to something out of a twisted medieval melodrama.
Badawi might well die from the prolonged torture he is being subjected to. But he might survive. Which in a way, I suppose, shows that, from an Islamic perspective, the Saudis are being lenient. I suspect that Anjem Choudary would not be so accommodating. To besmirch the “honor” of Mohammed is a grave crime against Sharia, i.e., Islamic law, Choudary points out, and the “strict punishment if found guilty . . . is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, ‘Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.’”
Oh, I see. So that’s all right then?
According to Anjem Choudary, France is responsible for the deaths of those 10 journalists and 2 policemen because it allowed Charlie Hebdo to “provoke Muslims.” It thereby, he suggests, “placed the sanctity of its citizens as risk.” His conclusion? “It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.”
My conclusion is a bit different. I believe it is time that the insane and murderous ideology of Islam is recognized for what it is, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. USA Today got a lot of pushback for publishing  Choudary’s drooling apology for murder. I am glad that they did, for it reminds us in vivid terms exactly the sort of thing we in the so-called liberal West are up against.
Islam in its current configuration denies those values. Perhaps the “revolution” that President al-Sisi hopes will eventually take place and carve out a place for Islam among the civilized religions and political systems of the world. Until that day, however, the sane response to Islam is not to pixelate images that Muslims find “offensive,” as The Daily News just did, to its shame. Nor is it to redact news stories in the hope that they will not (as Anjem Choudary put it) “provoke Muslims,” as The New York Times just did, to its shame. Were I (per impossible) editor of The New York Times, I would run those cartoons of Mohammed on the front page of the paper every day for a month. The sane response is to say No to any form of Islam that does not accommodate itself to the animating principles of liberal Western society. That means no to polygamy, no to murdering people who apostatize from Islam, no to stoning adulteresses, no to murdering homosexuals and Jews, no to treating women like chattel, no, in short, to the entire rancid menu of insanity that is contained under the rubric “Sharia.”

A powerful call for a Reformation of Islam

While all civilized people are focused on and outraged by the Islamist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo -- more on that anon -- perhaps a far more important event that occurred on New Year's Day is flying largely under the radar. A certain speech by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the highlight of a series of blog posts by PJMedia's Roger Simon:
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made an extraordinary speech on New Year’s Day to Cairo’s Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry calling for a long overdue virtual ecclesiastical revolution in Islam.  This is something no Western leader has the had the courage to do, certainly not Barack Obama, despite his Muslim education.
Accusing the umma (world Islamic population) of encouraging the hostility of the entire world, al-Sisi’s speech is so dramatic and essentially revolutionary it brings to mind Khrushchev’s famous speech exposing Stalin. Many have called for a reformation of Islam, but for the leader of the largest Arab nation to do so has world-changing implications.
Here are the key parts as translated on Raymond Ibrahim’s blog:
I am referring here to the religious clerics.   We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before.  It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible!
That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!
Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.
All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands. [bolds mine]
This is potentially huge. One of the facets of Islam I have highlighted in the past is the fact that Islam was founded some 600 years after Christianity, so one could say that Islam is some 600 years behind Christianity. Put another way, while it is 2015 for Christianity, it could be considered 1415 for Islam. Christianity in 1415 was about a century before what is traditionally considered the beginning of the Reformation -- and the massive convulsions in Christianity -- in the form of Martin Luther's 95 Theses. So if one uses the Christian Reformation as a measuring stick, it is almost time for Islam to have a Reformation of its own.

Jonah Goldberg explains how huge this could be:
Words are cheap, particularly in a region where the currency is measured in blood. But al-Sisi has also backed up his words with deeds. On Tuesday, al-Sisi attended a Coptic Christian Christmas Mass, the first time anything like that has been done by an Egyptian president. He spoke of his love of Christian Egyptians and the need to see "all Egyptians" as part of "one hand."
Is al-Sisi the "Muslim Martin Luther" people have been waiting for? Almost surely not, for the simple reason that the Muslim Martin Luther was always a Western idea ill-suited to Muslim realities (which is why some of us have argued Islam needs a pope more than a Luther). Al-Sisi, a military man, not a cleric, could be more like an Egyptian Atatürk — the Turkish strongman who modernized and secularized Turkey a century ago (and whose work is currently being dismantled by the soft-Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan).
Or maybe we're just in uncharted territory? Who knows? What is clear, however, is that this is a big deal.
Simon agrees, saying "That’s pretty radical stuff in a country where many Coptic churches have been burned and Christians encouraged to flee the country." Simon also suggests that al-Sisi should be considered for the Nobel Prize:
Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize virtually for no more than being elected president — and then made a hash of everything.  El-Sisi came into power by something of a coup over the Islamofascist Morsi — and then has worked hard to make peace, rein in and seal off Hamas, turn Qatar from the Islamist camp, etc., etc. — far more Nobel-worthy than anything Obama ever even dreamed of.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If at first you don't succeed, pretend that you did.

The Iranian mullahs are cheating on the preliminary nuclear deal they reached with John Kerry:
The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
A U.S. delegation informed a U.N. Security Council panel of experts monitoring Iranian sanctions in recent months that Iranian procurement agents have been increasing their efforts to illicitly obtain equipment for the IR-40 research reactor at the Arak nuclear complex.
The American allegations, which have never before been reported, come more than a year after the Iranian government pledged as part of an interim agreement with the United States and other big powers to scale back Iran’s most controversial nuclear-related activities, including the enrichment of high-grade uranium, in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. They stand in stark contrast to recent remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly credited Tehran with abiding by the terms of the November 2013 pact, which bound Tehran to suspend some of its work at Arak. “Iran has held up its end of the bargain,” Kerry said last month in Vienna as he announced a seven-month extension of the timetable for big-power talks.
The allegation is also sure to add to the mounting congressional unease over the administration’s ongoing talks with Tehran. Many lawmakers from both parties believe that the White House is making too many concessions to Tehran to cement a deal that it sees as central to the president’s legacy. With the GOP slated to take over the Senate next month, Iran hawks like Arizona Republican John McCain and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk are already promising to push through a new package of economic sanctions, a move that the White House believes would scupper the delicate talks with Tehran. Both men are likely to see the new U.N. allegations as proof that Tehran simply can’t be trusted to abide by the terms of a future deal.
Privately accused Iran? Why would the US accuse Iran only privately?
Obama administration figures used the annual Saban Forum on Middle East issues in Washington this past weekend to launch their counter-offensive against efforts to pass new sanctions against Iran. Both Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the event to tout the wisdom of the decision to allow the negotiations with the Islamist state to go into a second overtime period instead of the finite period they promised a year ago when they were extolling the virtues of a weak interim deal that we were told would soon be followed by an agreement that would end the nuclear threat. But Kerry’s talk of progress toward a deal and Biden’s stereotypical bombast about Iran not getting a bomb on this administration’s watch was given the lie by the report published today in Foreign Policy detailing American charges that Iran is already going on a spending spree buying material that could be used to produce nuclear-weapons grade plutonium for a bomb.

Well, surely, the leaders of our foreign policy establishment are willing to admit being wrong on this if by doing so they protect US interests. Right?
This is significant in and of itself as evidence of Iran’s intention to push ahead toward a bomb on both uranium and plutonium based plants. But it is even more significant because one of the administration’s principle talking points against further sanctions is that the existing laws (to which the administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming) are not only working but that Iran isn’t cheating on them or the interim accord. The evidence of Iranian activity not only debunks these assurances, it also illustrates that U.S. intelligence about what Iran is doing, which is crucial to monitoring compliance with any further agreements on Iran’s part, may not be up to the task of discovering what is really going on in their nuclear facilities.
That all of this is going on while the Iranians have successfully strung along American diplomats in the nuclear talks further diminishes the credibility of the pledges uttered by both Biden and Kerry. At best, Biden’s boast about a bomb not happening on Obama’s watch might be true. The weak agreements the president has promoted in order to vainly pursue his long-sought goal of détente with Iran may not result in an Iranian bomb being produced before January 2017. But the erosion of the sanctions and the West’s agreement to tacitly recognize an Iranian right to enrich uranium, combined with an inability to do much about Arak, force Tehran to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to find out about their military-applications research, or to get the Iranians to negotiate about their ballistic-missile program may lead to one being produced on the watch of his successor.
All of these developments make it obvious that the only thing that can rescue diplomacy with Iran is for the U.S. to increase pressure on Tehran, not to play nice with the regime, as Obama always seems inclined to do. Last year, the administration beat back an effort to pass more sanctions that would have shut down Iran’s oil trade but would not have gone into effect unless diplomacy failed. The result of their conscious decision to play with a weak hand was a predictable failure. Faced with similar results as last year, the Obama foreign-policy team is undaunted and is pulling out the stops again to foil the majority of both Houses of Congress that want more sanctions.

Well, never fear. With John Kerry, as Glenn Reynolds says, the country is in the very best of hands.
Kerry is like a gambler who has lost everything, but figures if only he is given one more round at the craps table, he can win big. American national security, however, is nothing with which to gamble. Especially when a gambler is desperate, the house will always win. In this case, however, the house is not Washington, but rather Tehran.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caligula names his horse ambassador to Hungary

The legend of the Roman emperor Caligula (actually his nickname; his real name was Caius) naming his horse consul is becoming more and more applicable to the Obama administration. First, you have John Kerry in the role of the "Dumbest Individual In a High Government Position Since Caligula's Horse -- and Probably Before That." Now, Obama names as US Ambassador to Hungary a soap opera producer:
Colleen Bell is a Hollywood supporter of Barack Obama. She is known as the producer of the wildly successful television soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has uncharitably characterized the show as “her masterwork.” Her true masterwork is in the fundraising department; she raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s reelection from her friends in Hollywood.
Obama duly rewarded Bell with appointment as the United States ambassador to Hungary. Okay, she earned the appointment the old-fashioned way. Her appointment remained pending in the Senate all year; she was only confirmed to the position by the Senate (under its new no-filibuster rule) earlier this week.
So, who cares that she can't actually identify any US interests in Hungary. She gave Obama a lot of money. And she's ... a soap opera producer!

So, it's obvious why we would want her as an ambassador, right?
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was unable to provide a cogent explanation for why Colleen Bell, a former soap opera producer, just became the U.S. ambassador to Hungary:

"Josh, I wanted to ask you about something else that happened today in the Senate," said ABC's Jon Karl in today's White House press briefing. "You had some of your ambassadors confirmed after a long, long process. One of those is Colleen Bell, confirmed as ambassador to Hungary. If you can remind me, what are Colleen Bell's qualifications for ambassador? Was it that she was a soap opera producer, is it that she gave hundreds of thousands of dollars -- or helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Obama reelection campaign? Why was she chosen?"
"As it relates to Ambassador Bell," said Earnest, after taking a shot at the Senate for being to slow to confirm Obama's picks, "she is somebody who retains the confidence that -- well, let me say it this way -- Ambassador Bell has the president's confidence that she will do an excellent job representing the U.S. and maintaining the important relationship the U.S. has with the government and the people of Hungary."
Karl followed up, "But where does the president get that confidence from? I mean, in her confirmation hearing she couldn't even name a single strategic interest the U.S. had with Hungary?"
"Well, she certainly is somebody, again, that is--has had her own distinguished private sector career--"
"As a soap opera producer," Karl interjected.
"Well, and as somebody who obviously has succeeded in the business world and she is somebody that the president has confidence will be able to maintain our relationship with the government and the people of Hungary," Earnest said.
Right now, Caligula's horse is looking more competent many members of the Obama administration.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We can only hope

Michael Totten asks if these are the last days of the Communist Party in Vietnam. A taste:
Vietnam’s government still calls itself the Communist Party, but I saw more market capitalism in Vietnam than anywhere else in the world, including the United States where the economy is much more heavily regulated. It’s a little confounding.
“What does the word communist even mean anymore?” I asked a Vietnamese man named Huy in Hanoi. He calls himself Jason when talking to Americans because it’s easier to pronounce, so I’ll refer to him as Jason from here on.
“Communism today just means we're run by one political party,” he said. “Some people complain about that, but it doesn't matter to me as long as the government creates a good business and living environment, and it does. I don't want different political parties competing with each other and creating a crisis like in Thailand.”
The Thai military overthrew the elected government in May of 2014.
“If you were unhappy with the government, though, could you criticize it in public?” I said.
He laughed. “It's okay. We do it all the time. We're in a public place and I'm not keeping my voice down. You can criticize the government all you want as long as you don't take any action. Protesting the government isn't allowed, but we have had a lot of protests against China recently. We do get anti-government protests sometimes, though, even in Hanoi. It happens in Hanoi more often than in Saigon. People in the south don't give a shit, but people in Hanoi do it more often. The protests disappear quickly, though.”
A li'l more:
The Vietnamese government’s respect for human rights is hardly ideal and would be intolerable if ported over to the United States, but it is improving and it is currently better than at any time previously. That’s something, isn’t it? Surely it’s at least worth pointing out.
The country enjoys no freedom of the press, but foreign newspapers and magazines are available. So is the Internet, which includes information from everywhere about almost everything. That’s not enough—foreign newspapers and websites rarely cover local Vietnamese issues—but it’s also not nothing. At least people have a decent idea what’s going on beyond their borders, unlike the poor souls slaving away in North Korea with nary a clue.
Demonstrations are against the law, but some people go out in the streets and demonstrate anyway. At some point—it’s all but inevitable, really—so many people will demand change simultaneously that fear of doing so will be vaporized.

Impossible to say for sure, but the country could be one screw-up, reform, or mass protest away from blowing wide open. The timing of historical hinge moments is always unpredictable. No one could have predicted that Tunisia’s Mohammad Bouazizi would set himself on fire and trigger the Arab Spring, but it happened and something like it was bound to happen eventually. Authoritarian regimes can only achieve stasis and stability until they can’t. They always fail in the end.
The human rights record of every country on earth must be judged by the same standard. At the same time, it’s only fair to give a nation points for improvement if the improvement is genuine. One should not expect an authoritarian regime, let alone a totalitarian one, to snap its fingers and transform itself instantly into a Jeffersonian democracy. That’s not how history moves.
Pete Peterson—former prisoner of war in Vietnam, former Democratic Congressman from Florida, and the first US Ambassador to Vietnam after the war—agrees.
“When I was ambassador,” he told me, “I wanted to measure progress rather than compare the country to a 100-percent ideal. It did get better, and it’s still getting better. If you were to graph it, you’d definitely see the progress.”
Citizens aren’t fleeing the country by the millions anymore. Re-education camps no longer exist. Landlords are no longer executed. Facebook is no longer banned. Local people aren’t prohibited from speaking with foreigners anymore. Uncensored foreign newspapers and Web sites are available to everyone.
“There are still abuses, though,” Peterson said. “The government doesn’t tolerate opposition and dissidents are nipped in the bud at once. There is a lot of censorship, including self-censorship. Nobody wants to be the tall poppy that gets smacked down.”
The United States nevertheless had friendly relations with Vietnam, as it should. The war is long over. Our two countries share the same strategic vision for Southeast Asia, and our two peoples, despite a terrible history several decades ago, genuinely like each other.
I asked Peterson what he thinks is the biggest misconception Americans have about Vietnam, and I wholeheartedly agree with his answer.
“Not just Americans,” he said, “but people all over the world have no idea how huge Vietnam is. It’s not a wide spot in the road we can ignore. It’s the 13th largest country on earth and it has an enormous military, economic, and strategic capacity. It should not be ignored, but it is. And our blind spot—if we aren’t careful—could create a vacuum that’s filled by someone or something that we do not like.”
Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Japan 1937

China is building an "airstrip capable" island in disputed waters of the South China Sea:
China is building an island at least 3,000 m long on Fiery Cross Reef that could be the site for its first airstrip in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Satellite imagery of the island taken on 8 August and 14 November shows that in the past three months Chinese dredgers have created a land mass that is almost the entire length of the reef.
Fiery Cross Reef lies to the west of the main Spratly island archipelago and was previously under water; the only habitable area was a concrete platform built and maintained by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The new island is more than 3,000 m long and between 200 and 300 m wide: large enough to construct a runway and apron. The dredgers are also creating a harbour to the east of the reef that would appear to be large enough to receive tankers and major surface combatants.
The existing structure on the reef's southwestern edge was home to a PLAN garrison and had a pier, air-defence guns, anti-frogmen defences, communications equipment, and a greenhouse. The concrete structure is currently not attached to the new island, but if previous Chinese land reclamation projects in the Spratlys are any guide, it is only a matter of time before it is joined up.
The Spratly Islands are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. All but Brunei occupy islands or have built structures on reefs and shoals to assert their claims.
The land reclamation at Fiery Cross is the fourth such project undertaken by China in the Spratly Islands in the last 12-18 months and by far the largest in scope. China has built new islands at Johnson South Reef, Cuateron Reef, and Gaven Reefs, but none are large enough to house an airstrip in their current form.
Here is the satellite image of the island from Jane's:

Why would China do this?
China has been at a distinct disadvantage compared with other claimants in the Spratly Islands as it is the only claimant not to occupy an island with an airfield. Taiwan has Itu Aba (Taiping) island, the Philippines has Pagasa island, Malaysia has Swallow Reef (a reef on which it reclaimed land and built an airstrip), and Vietnam has Southwest Cay.
The work at Fiery Cross thus brings parity but is likely to cause alarm among the other claimants. China has previously shown it is willing to spend blood and treasure to assert its territorial claims in this region. Given its massive military advantage over the other claimants in terms of quantity and quality of materiel, this facility appears purpose-built to coerce other claimants into relinquishing their claims and possessions, or at least provide China with a much stronger negotiating position if talks over the dispute were ever held.
It seems that China is also taking advantage of the weakness of the US, in the form of the Obama administration's stupidity:
This development comes just days after American officials crowed over the inking of a deal between Beijing and Washington that would decrease the likelihood of military confrontation between the two Pacific naval powers. This despite the fact that the PLA has developed and deployed two brigades of “carrier killer” missiles, a system that the United States reportedly does not have the means to counter. Adding to the apprehension surrounding China’s regional ambitions, the White House has omitted in its annual reports to Congress developments relating to the PLA’s augmentation of its nuclear arsenal since 2010.
“The complete absence of these reports, combined with the administration’s patterns of conciliatory outreach towards Beijing, make it seem like the Obama administration doesn’t want to put public pressure on the Chinese government for its aggressive military developments designed to threaten the U.S.,” The Hill’s Rebeccah Heinrichs reported earlier this month.
America’s aborted pivot to Asia should redouble in the coming months, but it will be doomed to failure if it does not center on a military component. The only way to deter the aggression of revanchist forces in Moscow and Beijing is to confront them with a set of credible military disincentives which might dissuade them from engaging in bellicosity. In the absence of that policy or something similar, Russia has invaded a European state, and China is laying the groundwork for the acquisition of sovereign territory in the Pacific.
Sound familiar?
Yup. Japan 1937.

We are not so much avoiding war as we are delaying it until the cost will be catastrophic.

So Chuck Hagel is resigning as Secretary of Defense

For someone of his total stupidity and cluelessness concerning the defense of the United States (though he's a genius compared to his boss), I have just one thing to say:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gathering seashells from ISIS

Not since the Roman Emperor Caius -- better known as Caligula -- ordered his legionaries to collect seashells as spoils of his war with Neptune has the leader of a major world power waged as laughable a military campaign as Obama is waging against ISIS. Max Boot:
RAND’s Benjamin Lambeth summed up the Afghan air campaign as follows: “[D]uring the 75 days of bombing between October 7, when Enduring Freedom began, and December 23, when the first phase of the war ended after the collapse of the Taliban, some 6,500 strike sorties were flown by CENTCOM forces altogether, out of which approximately 17,500 munitions were dropped on more than 120 fixes targets, 400 vehicles and artillery pieces, and a profusion of concentrations of Taliban and al Qaeda combatants.”
Now compare with the statistics on the current U.S. aerial bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. According to Central Command, in the 59 days between August 8, when the campaign started, and October 6, the U.S. has conducted 360 strikes utilizing 955 munitions.
That’s a big difference between dropping 17,500 munitions in Afghanistan and 955 in Iraq/Syria. So rare are U.S. strikes today that Centcom has actually taken to issuing press releases to announce the dropping of two 500-pound bombs.
The bare numbers understate the actual difference, moreover, because the U.S. was dropping heavier bombs from heavier aircraft such as the B-52 in Afghanistan which have so far not been utilized in Iraq/Syria. Moreover, the effect of strikes in Iraq/Syria is not as great because Obama has refused U.S. Special Operations personnel permission to go out into the field alongside indigenous forces to call in airstrikes as they did so effectively alongside the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. This is to say nothing of the fact that in neither Iraq nor Syria is there a ground force as effective and organized as the Northern Alliance capable of taking advantage of U.S. airstrikes to attack ISIS on the ground.
Why are we not putting more into this? As Boot explains, "[T]he lack of will exhibited by the commander in chief who has claimed as his goal the eventual destruction of ISIS but refuses to commit the resources necessary to achieve that ambitious objective."

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff agrees:
Perhaps other reporting will show that our air attacks were more substantial than what the military has revealed so far.
Or perhaps we will learn that a more aggressive, more constant assault on ISIS from the air was not feasible. But as of now, it appears that the air attacks were sporadic and that a substantial opportunity to degrade ISIS (to the extent that it can be degraded from the air) was squandered.
If so, this would be consistent with our concern that Obama’s “war” against ISIS may represent no more than an unserious attempt to “check a box” for political purposes before the upcoming election.
In any event, Obama’s decision not to deploy ground troops makes his “war” on ISIS problematic enough. If, in addition, his air campaign is to be half-hearted, the effort becomes a bad joke.
Almost as bad as Caligula's seashells.

Death by Multiculturalism

Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon has an outstanding piece (as usual) describing how Obama is surrendering in the philosophical war against ISIS and Islamism in general:
The Obama administration is failing to wage ideological war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) terrorists over fears that attacking its religious philosophy will violate the constitutional divide between church and state, according to an in-depth inquiry by the Washington Free Beacon.
Instead, the task of countering what President Obama called the “warped ideology” of ISIL is being farmed out to foreign states and Muslim communities that often share some of the same goals as the groups the administration calls violent extremists. This approach allows the administration to avoid identifying links between terrorism and Islam.
“While the government has tried to counter terrorist propaganda, it cannot directly address the warped religious interpretations of groups like ISIL because of the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Quintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House counterterrorism strategist for the Obama administration.
“U.S. officials are prohibited from engaging in debates about Islam, and as a result will need to rely on partners in the Muslim world for this part of the ideological struggle,” he said in an email interview.
Obama announced last month for the first time that his new counterterrorism strategy includes programs aimed at countering ISIL’s ideology. But a review of administration efforts shows very little—if anything—is being done to defeat or destroy the terrorist group’s religious ideology in a war of ideas.
This is the result of a fundamental -- and perhaps willful --  misunderstanding of Islam. Forget for the moment the violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam right now. There are two fundamental truths about Islam that non-Muslims frequently do not understand:

1. Of the Abrahamic faiths, whereas the Bible and the Torah are viewed by their adherents as a collection of stories that reveal the Word of God -- this is something of an oversimplification, but you get the idea -- but Muslims view the Qur'an as the literal Word of Allah. As in, the words in the Qur'an were exactly those spoken by Allah to Muhammad. That's it. No room for reinterpretation.

2. The Christian Bible has specific invocations (i.e. "Render unto Caesar") for the separation of Church and State. There is no such separation in Islam. Islam is to be an all-encompassing philosophy. Put simply, Islam is not and has never been "just" a "religion" - it is and always has been a political movement as well.

This is why our First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech don't quite match up with Islam. Because Islam or at least Islamists think religion and state should be the same, the political elements of Islam which should be subject to regulation by the state are instead viewed by the uninformed (with encouragement by Muslims) as merely "religious" and given a pass.

And, as usual, Obama and his "national security team" are among the most un of the uninformed:
Obama announced last month for the first time that his new counterterrorism strategy includes programs aimed at countering ISIL’s ideology. But a review of administration efforts shows very little—if anything—is being done to defeat or destroy the terrorist group’s religious ideology in a war of ideas.
At the United Nations on Sept. 24, the president asked the world body to come up with a plan over the next year designed to counter ISIL and al Qaeda’s ideology. He said ending religious wars through an ideological campaign in the Middle East will be “generational” and led by those who live in the region. No external power, the president insisted, can change “hearts and minds,” and as a result the United States would support others in the unspecified program of “counter extremist ideology.”
The administration’s so-called soft power approach to countering Islamist terrorism also appeared to have difficulty with clearly defining the religious doctrine behind the ideology of the resurgent al Qaeda offshoot now rampaging its way across Iraq and Syria.
Obama stated in a speech on Sept. 10 that ISIL is “not Islamic” despite the group’s use of a fundamental Islamic precept of jihad, or holy war, in expanding its reach and imposing anti-democratic, hardline Islamic sharia law in areas it now controls.
Analysts and statements by the president and other administration spokesmen also indicate the administration may not clearly understand ISIL ideology, a required first step in developing a counter to it.
Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist, said the major problem for the administration in countering ISIL ideology is that most senior officials hold “post-modern” and “secular” views.
“As a result, they have almost no ability to understand the drivers of violent terrorists which are religious,” said Gorka, the Horner chairman of military theory at the Marine Corps University.
“When you don’t take religion seriously, it’s almost impossible for you to comprehend the philosophy of a suicide bomber, or someone who cuts off the heads of people in the name of jihad,” Gorka said.
Senior State Department officials have expressed the view that ideology plays no role in Islamist terror and is spawned instead by “local grievances” such as poverty or other economic and social privation, Gorka said. “That is utterly fallacious. If that were true, half of India would be terrorists,” he said.
Why might Obama and his "national security team" think this way? In a word: Multiculturalism:
The Obama administration, under pressure from domestic Muslim advocacy organizations, has adopted a politically correct approach toward Islam and terrorism that has resulted in removing mentions of Islam from its current policies and programs. Instead, counterterrorism programs and policies are carried out under the less-specific rubric of “countering violent extremism” (CVE).
Discussing Islam also has been placed off limits in many government and intelligence community counterterrorism programs as a result of pressure groups and Muslim advisers who insist such topics would violate constitutional separation of church and state issues.
That pressure has inhibited the U.S. government from addressing Islamist ideology in a significant way, critics say. Instead, the government has been forced to indirectly counter claims by terrorists, such as the false notion that the United States and the West are at war with Islam. It used public diplomacy programs and global “messaging” campaigns whose effectiveness has been questionable, to try and counter such claims.
James Glassman, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said “absolutely,” that the administration is hampered by concerns over First Amendment constitutional religious issues from conducting aggressive counter-ideology efforts against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIL.
“There is reticence, especially at State, to criticize a noxious political ideology based on a religion,” said Glassman, now with the American Enterprise Institute.
Glassman said from the start, Obama has played down the war of ideas in the struggle against terrorism.
During the transition from the Bush to Obama administration, “I was told by the Obama operatives assigned to State that the term ‘war of ideas’ was not to be used,” Glassman said.
“The war of ideas had been my focus at State, but the administration had no interest in continuing the work we were doing,” he said. “Ideology provides the environment and the justification for the activities of al Qaeda and ISIL. It must be dealt with—just as we dealt with communism from 1945 to 1990. It’s a long battle.”
Among those campaigning to ignore the Islamic elements of ISIS are our purported "allies" in the Middle East:
Obama told the United Nations in a speech to the General Assembly Sept. 24 that “extremist ideology” has spread despite more than a decade of military and intelligence efforts to kill al Qaeda leaders. Groups such as ISIL and al Qaeda have “perverted one of the world’s great religions,” he said.
The world, and specifically “Muslim communities,” the president said, must now take steps to “explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.”
However, most of the Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, so far have not denounced the ISIL ideology and do not appear to be engaged in counter-ideological campaigns designed to discredit the motivating force behind the group.
In other words, Obama may have dismissed ISIS as "not Islamic," but many of those countries that are "Islamic" don't seem to agree. So the question becomes, just how much does the ideology of ISIS differ from actual Islam?

And just how can we expect to win this war -- to the pitiful extend Obama is fighting it as an actual war -- if we refuse to identify the enemy because of "Multiculturalism?"