The cloud of knowing (revisited) 1

President Obama openly promotes Islam both within the United States and abroad.

It seems that at first the plan to do this (or call it a conspiracy, since we are likely to have someone tell us that we are propounding a conspiracy theory), was being cunningly disguised as a plan to promote religion generally –  or at least those religions and religious organizations that “promote peace and human rights”.  As the World Council of Churches did, perhaps – when it had been penetrated, taken over, and manipulated by the USSR?

Did the Chicago Council on Global Affairs assist the plan?

In 2010, after a two year study, that institution found that “Western secularism feeds religious extremism“.

Is it still doing that? Did ISIS, for instance, arise as result of Western secularism?

Or has Western secularism become less “narrow, ill-informed and uncompromising”?

This article of ours was first posted February 24, 2010.

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Traces of some very abstruse reasoning emerge tantalizingly from the Cloud of Knowing – the thinkers who influence current US foreign policy. Secretive ends are being pursued. Can we discern what they are, or guess what they might be, from the clues dropped by the press?

The Washington Post reports:

American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

So, according to a body that calls itself the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, secularism “feeds” religious extremism. Presumably that means it nourishes it, energizes it, makes it stronger than it would otherwise be.

Now how could it do that? Does it drive the religious mad by simply being non-religious? And if so, is it to blame for that, or are the religious perhaps over-reacting?

Wait. It’s not any old secularism that is guilty of annoying the religious; it is specifically Western secularism. Other sorts – if there are sorts of secularism – are not bad, or not as bad.

Why? Apparently because Western secularism, in contrast to, say, Eastern secularism if it exists, is “uncompromising”. But how should not-being-religious compromise? Should it be a little bit religious? If so, how much? And would it then still be secularism?

One may begin to suspect that here is another formulation of the now familiar accusation from the left that the West has only itself to blame for being attacked by religious extremists – aka Muslim terrorists – because it is not Muslim. Or is that leaping too quickly to an as yet unwarranted conclusion?

Let’s proceed cautiously. As well as “feeding” religious extremism, this Western secularism also “threatens traditional cultures”. How? Does it proselytize non-belief? Not that anyone’s heard. Does it try to force non-belief on believers? Again, no, not noticeably. Then does its mere existence raise questions that endanger the belief of “traditional cultures” – in which case what would the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have it do to lift the threat from those intimidated folk?

Wait again – the list of accusations against this dangerous force called secularism is not yet exhausted. It also “fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights”.

Which groups would those be – could we have some names, please? And why can they only carry out their noble mission if they are encouraged?

Answers to these questions cannot be found in the Washington Post story.

What it does tell us is that it took this body two years to reach its conclusion. So we  should not brush it off as nonsense: in two years it is possible to go very deeply into grievances.

What’s more, the conclusion requires, and will elicit, action by the government of the United States.

The council’s 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious “capabilities gap” and recommends that President Obama make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy”. 

A serious capabilities gap? Not a mere pothole in the diplomatic road to perfect global accord? And it could be filled in by – what exactly? A state religion? No – that could not be the recommendation of 32 officials and scholars representing all major faiths.

Just a generalized religiosity then?

But how is religion, whether specific or a mere aura of sanctity assumed by the State Department, going to improve American foreign policy, soothe the extremists of foreign creeds, reassure traditional cultures,  and stiffen the backbone of groups (presumably different from the religious extremists) intent on virtuously promoting peace  and human rights?

We are not told, and can only hope that the Chicago Council’s report to the White House provides answers to these difficult questions.

Thomas Wright, the council’s executive director of studies, said task force members met Tuesday with Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and State Department officials. “They were very receptive, and they said that there is a lot of overlap between the task force’s report and the work they have been doing on this same issue,” Wright said.

Something is already being done by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships [and the State Department] to make religion in some way an integral part of US foreign policy? It would be most interesting to know what exactly.

DuBois declined to comment on the report but wrote on his White House blog Tuesday: “The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and the National Security Staff are working with agencies across government to analyze the ways the U.S. government engages key non-governmental actors, including religious institutions, around the globe.”

Ah! He’s not being exact, but there’s a clue in here somewhere.

The Chicago Council isn’t as influential as the Council on Foreign Relations or some other Washington-based think tanks, but it does have a long-standing relationship with the president. Obama spoke to the council once as a state senator and twice as a U.S. senator, including his first major foreign policy speech as a presidential candidate in April 2007.

It could depend on his sympathy then, with whatever it is they want done.

Michelle Obama is on the council’s board.

Again, ah!

Now we learn that the problem, however obcure it may seem to the public, has been troubling smart people for quite some time.

American foreign policy’s “God gap”has been noted in recent years by others, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

Well, she has been associated with a few faiths in her time – Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism. So perhaps she would be especially aware of a shortage of religious belief in the State Department. Could have struck her forcibly when she assumed office.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple [read something very politically correct that he’s written here], president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.

Come now, politics can hardly be avoided by a Council of Foreign Relations. But you say that religion is “the elephant in the room”? And it is “at the nexus of national security” ?

The Chicago Council’s task force was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Who is Richard Cizik, and what is the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good? According to Newsweek he was the Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals for nearly 30 years, and then, towards the end of 2008, he announced “the formation of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a group devoted to developing Christian responses to global and political issues such as environmentalism, nuclear disarmament, human rights, and dialogue with the Muslim world”.

Hmm.

“Religion,” the task force says, “is pivotal to the fate” of such nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, all vital to U.S. national and global security.

So the particular religion they have in mind is Islam?

Not necessarily … don’t jump to conclusions …  it could also be  .. hmmm-mmm … Hinduism and …  Christianity and … who knows what?:

“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.” Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.

All of which feel threatened by Western secularism? Are crying out for it to compromise a little?

But okay, mostly Islam:

U.S. officials have made efforts to address the God gap, especially in dealings with Islamic nations and groups. The CIA established an office of political Islam in the mid-1980s. … During the second Bush administration, the Defense Department rewrote the Army’s counter-insurgency manual to take account of cultural factors, including religion.

Could that have had something to do with the shooting of soldiers by an “extremist” Muslim officer at Fort Hood? Just wondering.

The Obama administration has stepped up the government’s outreach to a wider range of religious groups and individuals overseas

… even, say, the Dalai Lama if he’ll use the back door

…  trying to connect with people beyond governments, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Very hush-hush stuff this.

The effort, he said, is more deliberate than in the past: “This issue has senior-level attention.”

He noted that Obama appointed a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference …

The envoy being a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer [see our post The trusted envoy, February 20, 2010], and the Organization of the Islamic Conference being a major instrument of the Ummah for the conquest of the non-Muslim world, chiefly by methods of “soft jihad” in Europe …

… and created a new Muslim outreach position in the State Department. In the past year, he said, embassies in Muslim-majority countries have held hundreds of meetings with a broad range of people not involved in government.

Huh? Muslim-majority countries have had hundreds of meetings with individual people not involved with government? What people? Why? To what end? How does the government know about them?

Whatever was going on with that, it was apparently too “episodic and uncoordinated”. Now there must be something more programmatic, more official, more formal, more defined, and definitely involving government:

To end the “episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world,” the task force recommended:

— Adding religion to the training and continuing educationofall foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. …

— Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

Leaving aside the code words “human rights” and “peace” which in such a context as this usually mean “leftism” and “Islam” – diplomats, and military and even economic officials should deliver health care?

But here comes the stunner. (Remember that “clarify” in diplomatic talk always means “take it back and say something more to our liking”.)

– Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.

Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS A FORM OF IMPERIALISM?

We give up. Such nuanced thought is beyond our grasp.

The end of Internet freedom? 2

It is a fearsome thought – that the freedom of the Internet may be coming to an end.

How can it happen?

Arnold Ahlert has investigated that question:

U.S. officials [have] announced plans to relinquish control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages Internet infrastructure to the so-called “global community.” Despite denials from the administration, the consequences of that move do indeed include the possibility of the Internet falling under U.N. control.

That reality has been pursued for years by pro-censorship factions led by Russia and China. As such, enormous questions exist about the future of the Internet under the stewardship of international interests — questions that the Obama administration seems wholly unconcerned with.

There we disagree. We reckon that Obama and his gang very much like the idea of bringing the Internet under the control of the UN. “I CANN and I will” is a likely motto for them in this context. 

Ahlert goes on, informatively:

The consequences of relinquishing control of the Internet involve more than censorship. U.S. security could be jeopardized as well. “Under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us,” former Bush administration State Department advisor Christian Whiton warned. He also sounded the warning on the possibility that any U.N. control of the Internet could engender taxes. “While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton said. “If the U.N. gains control what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.”

Since the birth of the Internet, which grew out of a Defense Department program that began in the 1960s, America has always played the principal role in maintaining the master database for domain names, the assignment of Internet protocol addresses and other critical Web functions. That technical system is called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). An agency within the Commerce Department, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), has contracted out IANA’s operations to ICANN on a biennial basis since 2000. The latest contract expires in September of 2015.

NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling denied the possibility of a U.N. or equivalent type takeover, insisting that ICANN must meet four conditions to make the transition. “We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” Strickling said in a conference call. He has asked ICANN to begin the process for making a formal transition that must “support and enhance the multistakeholder model” and “maintain the openness of the Internet.”

ICANN itself wants to get out from under U.S. oversight, and their effort has been abetted by European officials whose promotion of a globalization campaign has intensified in the wake of fugitive Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Administration’s overarching surveillance programs. An NTIA official denied the connection, insisting U.S. stewardship of the Internet was always intended to be temporary.

Regardless of which scenario is accurate, ICANN’s motive is transparent. The organization has elicited the wrath of many in the business community who believe their decision-making is aimed at accommodating the industry that sells domain names, and whose fees provide the lion’s share of ICANN’s revenue. They believe ICANN’s contract with the U.S. mitigates some of those abuses, and that international control would amount to no control at all.

There is little question that the selling of domain names is a huge business, one with enormous potential for fraud. As a 2012 article in the Washington Post revealed, several groups have been out to get control of names that would give them a huge advantage over their competitors. Examples include Amazon bidding for control over all the Web addresses that end with “.book,” Google for “.buy.” and Allstate for “.carinsurance.”

They further sounded the alarm about Donuts Inc., a company with close ties to a documented Internet spammer. Donuts Inc. bid $57 million for 307 new domains, including “.doctor,” “.financial” and “.school.” At the time, David E. Weslow, a D.C.-based lawyer who represents several major corporations, contended that such top-level domains would precipitate a ”Wild West for fraud and abuse.” Law enforcement officials agreed, noting that the rapid expansion of new domains would increase the likelihood of cybercrime, even as identifying the perpetrators would become more difficult. In 2012, there were 22 “top level domains.” Here is ICANN’s current–and vastly expanded–list.

ICANN manages that list via an international structure of governance comprised of “stakeholders” that include governments, corporations, and civil society activists. Under its contract with the NTIA, it could theoretically be forced to render a website nameless, effectively removing it from the Internet. When that contract ends, a new form of global governance will take its place–one that has yet to be determined. There have been several efforts over the course of the last decade to transfer control of the Internet to the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), whose website claims it is “committed to connecting the world.” Yet those efforts have been led by Russia and China, two countries whose commitment to “connecting the world” begins and ends with censoring content inimical to their interests.

Unsurprisingly, both believe the only stakeholders that really matter are countries. That’s because under the current contract, nations can only suppress Internet content. They can’t prevent websites from registering domain names. If those parameters change, domain name registry could be censored under the auspices of protecting one’s national sovereignty.

ICANN president Fadi Chehade dismisses that concern as well as others. “Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize the security and stability of the Internet,” he promised. He called the Obama administration’s decision “historic”.

Republicans weren’t buying it. “While I certainly agree our nation must stridently review our procedures regarding surveillance in light of the NSA controversy, to put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because–to be blunt–the ‘global Internet community’ this would empower has no First Amendment.”

Former Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), who sponsored a unanimously-passed 2012 resolution to keep the Internet free from governmental control, concurred. “We’re at a critical time where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is proving he is capable of outmaneuvering the administration. … As they digest it, I think people are going to be very upset,” she contended.

As if on cue, Amnesty International revealed that Russia instituted a media blackout that included blocking a number of Internet sites in the Russian Federation prior to secession vote in Crimea. That censorship was enabled by an amendment to the Law on Internet Information signed by Putin on Feb. 1, giving the Prosecutor General’s office the authority to block websites that publish any calls for activities considered to be unlawful.

An op-ed by Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), reveals what’s at stake. He notes that two years ago, on the 25th anniversary of the registration of the first .com domain name, his company released a report revealing that “the annual global economic benefit of the commercial Internet equaled $1.5 trillion, more than the global sales of medicine, investment in renewable energy, and government investment in R&D, combined.” He believes all of it would be at risk if the Obama administration doesn’t resist giving up control of the Internet. He contends such a move would bring about a “splintered Internet that would stifle innovation, commerce, and the free flow and diversity of ideas that are bedrock tenets of the world’s biggest economic engine.”

Nonetheless, the effort has its defenders. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WVA) called the move “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.” Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a hard-left group promoting itself as a public interest vehicle, concurred. “This is a step in the right direction to resolve important international disputes about how the Internet is governed,” he said.

This so-called step in the right direction is anything but.

It is useful to remember that along with Russian and China, the EU criminalizes free speech, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference [now the Organization of Islamic Co-operation – ed.] is determined to silence those who resist terror and jihad.

Steps are being taken towards the disaster even as we speak .”Discussions for laying out the appropriate transitional process” are starting this month in Singapore.

ITIF’s Daniel Castro sounds the ultimate alarm, one that should concern every American. “Yes, Internet architecture is technical and, frankly, quite boring to outsiders,” he acknowledges. “But it is an issue with huge consequences that demands attention from policymakers. It is too important to get wrong. And if the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever.”

It obviously has not been safe with the Obama gang. They were bound to give it away. They are no more for freedom than are Russia, China, or the Organization of the Islamic Conference.