A libertarian’s foreign policy 3

What Muslims are doing to Christians is atrocious. The Muslims must tell themselves to stop it.

The hole in the political theory of libertarians is foreign policy. One of them is trying to fill it in. Senator Rand Paul has been speaking up for the Christians persecuted in Muslim lands, especially those in Syria. He’s still for non-intervention. But he’s showing that he’s not unconcerned about what’s going on out there in the dim and irrelevant Rest Of The World. He rightly analyses that what’s going on is – nasty. And he has advice for how that Muslim-on-Christian persecution problem should be fixed.

Cliff May reports and comments at Townhall:

Last month, at the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of conservative activists from around the country, Senator Rand Paul gave a speech [you can hear it all on this YouTube video] on what he called “a worldwide war on Christians by a fanatical element of Islam”.

The senator was careful [as almost all Western politicians always are] not to paint all Muslims with the brush of fanaticism. He stressed that only a minority of Muslims read Islamic scripture as mandating an armed struggle against Christians and other “unbelievers.”

How does he know that? If it were the case, it would mean that only a minority of Muslims read the Koran. Or that the majority of those that read it don’t take in what it says.

But because the global Muslim population is so large — more than 1.5 billion — even a relatively small percentage translates into tens of millions of jihad supporters.

Paul cited a few of the atrocities not making the evening news: a priest shot in the head in Zanzibar; churches bombed in Kenya; the beheading of three girls on their way to a Christian school in Indonesia; converts to Christianity murdered in Cameroon; churches burned and worshipers killed in Egypt; a pastor in Iran tortured and ordered to renounce his faith. …

All true. And he did not mention Nigeria, where thousands of Christians have been killed by a Muslim terrorist group calling itself Boko Haram (“book-learning is forbidden”), and where the random slaughter is on-going.* It is one of the few places where the Obama administration had something to say about the Muslim-on-Christian violence: it warned the Nigerian government, when it attempted to take military action against the Boko Haram terrorists, that it must not “violate their human rights”.

Syrian Christians, more properly called Syriacs, are widely believed to be pro-Assad. But that’s not quite accurate. A recent newsletter of the European Syriac Union states proudly that they were among those asking Assad for “their rights.” As a consequence, they have been seen as “the enemies” of the regime that continues to “attack, arrest, torture and imprison Syriac people.”

Syrian Christians have appealed to the U.S. government for assistance and … have been turned down. Paul argues: “We must work to ensure our country, our policies, our tax dollars, are on the side of ending this violence rather than encouraging those who perpetrate it.” But he never gets around to saying who or what he has in mind.

What he says instead: “How someone could believe that killing innocent people would further one’s cause is beyond me.” Is that really so hard to fathom? Both the Nazis and the Communists killed innocent people by the millions to further their causes. By now we should understand that totalitarianism is totalitarianism — whether [the ideology] is based on race, class, or religion.

It’s not entirely true that he didn’t say what might be done to discourage violence against Christians: he sensibly said that “not one dollar of US money” should go to any place where they burn the US flag, and no money should go to Pakistan where Christians are being held in jail – at least one of them on death row – for the offense of being Christian.

He also, interestingly enough considering the general pacifism of the libertarian movement, declared that “there are times when it is right to use military action”, for instance “after 9/11”. But he thinks (and we do too) that it would be wrong for the US to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war.

“Radical Islam will end only when Islam begins to police Islam,” Paul adds. Can you imagine Churchill saying Nazism will end only when Germans begin to police themselves? Can you imagine Reagan saying Communism will end only when Russians begin policing themselves?

Paul insists that “Islam needs to remember and recreate the good in their history.” But those waging jihad believe the best in their history was when there was an Islamic empire as extensive as Rome at its zenith, dominating, and often destroying, communities of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and other “infidels”.

The presumption of radical Islam, wrote Bernard Lewis (the world’s leading scholar of the Middle East before that field of study became extensively politicized and compromised), is that “the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule”. 

Western politicians have been reluctant to acknowledge this reality and act on it by developing a strategy aimed at defeating revolutionary Islam in both its Sunni and its Shiite variants. The best President Bush could do was to declare a global War on Terrorism — as if we objected only to the jihadis’ weapon [method, tactic] of choice. President Obama insists we’re fighting “violent extremism,” a term so nebulous as to be meaningless.

Yes, but it enables him to dissolve events like the Boston marathon bombing in the general problem of violent extremism soon to be practiced his administration alleges – by the Tea Party and US army veterans. But while those potential terrorists are named and pre-shamed in DHS reports and military training guides, Islam goes unmentioned. If you were to accuse him of never saying anything against Islamic terrorism, he’ll get members of the press to point out that he has emphatically condemned “violent extremism”.

Senator Paul has yet to improve on these flawed conceptual frameworks. “The ultimate answer must come from Islam itself,” he told his audience. “They will never accept us through force of arms. …

We don’t want them to accept us. We want to be rid of them.

“Somehow, though, they must come to understand that they must police themselves, that they must root out and destroy the sadists and killers who distort and contort religion to justify killing civilians and children.”

So Rand Paul found out nothing about Islam before making this foreign-policy speech!  It is no distortion or contortion of Islam, the killing of civilians and children. It’s what Islam does. It’s what the Koran – a military manual for ruthless conquerors and enslavers – requires Muslims to do. It’s what Islam is all about. He seems to think of “religion” as one big bundle with the golden rule and cheek-turning instructions tucked up inside it.

“Somehow, though, they must come to understand” is neither a policy nor a strategy. Senator Paul is to be commended for speaking out about the plight of Christians in Muslim-dominated lands at a time when so many other voices are silent. But if he would step back from the trees he’d see a deep and dark forest: attacks on Christians are battles in a “War against the West” being waged by the 21st century’s most lethal imperialists. If Paul seriously aspires to be a world leader, he would be well-advised to begin developing a response not based on retreat, passivity, and drift.

Another thing Rand Paul said was, ‘Make no mistake – this is about religion.”  He’s right of course. Ever more human suffering because of religion. (But that was not what he meant.)

The part of his speech with which we thoroughly disagree, and strongly object to, is an extended eulogy (as routine for politicians, when they make any criticism of Islam, as proclaiming that most Muslims are peaceful persons full of goodwill towards the infidel) on a purely mythical Medieval Islam, a beacon of cultural light; caliphates bristling with scientists and mathematicians, steeped in Greek and Latin learning, irreproachably tolerant.** Either he was only repeating this nonsense because he felt the politician’s need to do so, or he has really swallowed all that deceitful Muslim propaganda. He makes the case that as such an Islam existed once, it could exist again. Which would be a persuasive argument, if it were not untrue that it had ever existed at all.

 

* We have posted a number of articles on the murder of Christians by Boko Haram, the Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria. See for instance: More acts of religion in Nigeria, January 19, 2012; More Christians burnt to death by Muslims, July 11,2012; Another murderous act of religion in Nigeria, May 10, 2013; More Christians slaughtered by Muslims in Nigeria, September 30, 2013.

**There is a large body of literature refuting the Muslim claim to an enlightened Islamic Civilization in the Middle Ages. Some of the best articles are:  The Real Islamic ‘Golden Age’ by John O’Neill, who also wrote a book on the subject titled Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Culture; Who Is Really Being Dishonest About Islam? By Robert Spencer; ‘Islamic Civilization’ – The Biggest Lie Known to Man by Ali Hassan. On the intolerance of Islam throughout its rule over Christians and Jews the leading authority is Bat Ye’or. Among her magisterial books on the subject are: The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, 1980; Islam and Dhimmitude, 1984; The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, 1996. This great historian was chiefly responsible for making the word “dhimmi” known to the West.

 

America and the Taliban: a dialogue of the credulous and the cunning 1

There’s an old quip about the British Foreign Office, that just as the Ministry of Defence is for defence [British spelling], the Foreign Office is for foreigners. Another in similar vein: They found a mole in the Foreign Office – he was working for Britain. And who can forget if he’s once seen it the episode of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ in which an especially slithery FO official, informed by the PM that he’s being posted to Israel, protests, ‘But you know I’m on the Arab side!’ and the PM retorts, ‘I thought you were on our side.’

Career diplomats, at least in the First World, tend to lose sight of what their job is really all about – to look after the interests of their country in dealings with other countries – and instead come to believe that their high, almost priestly, calling is to maintain amicable relations with their foreign counterparts; so as soon as a conflict of interest arises, they are ready to negotiate the terms of their surrender. In Britain this standard maneuver is called the pre-emptive cringe.

A perfect illustration is the US State Department’s transactions with the Taliban. The history is related in some detail by Michael Rubin in Commentary (Taking Tea with the Taliban, February 2010). ‘The story the documents tell,’ he writes, ‘is one of engagement for its own sake – without any consideration given to the behavior or sincerity of an unambiguously hostile interlocutor.’

The exercise in futility, a dialogue of the credulous and the cunning, began in February 1995 when US diplomats met seven Taliban spokesmen in Kandahar. The diplomats wanted information. They got none. Therefore they reported that ‘the Taliban appeared well-disposed toward the United States’.

‘Later the same week, another US diplomat met a Taliban “insider” who told the official what he wanted to hear: the Taliban liked the United States, had no objection to elections in Afghanistan, and were suspicious of both Saudi and Pakistani intentions. This was nonsense, but it was manna for American diplomats who wanted to believe that engagement was possible.’

America wanted the Taliban to stop sheltering Osama bin Laden. When the Taliban took Kabul and became the de facto government of Afghanistan, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas W. Simons, met with Mullah Ghaus, who bore the title of Foreign Minister, to ‘discuss the fact’ that they were giving safe haven to terrorists. Ghaus said there weren’t any terrorists, but if the US would give the Taliban money, they might possibly be ‘more helpful’ to the US. What could he have meant – that they’d find some terrorists lurking about after all? Clarification was not requested, however, and by this hopeful suggestion Simons apparently felt much encouraged.

Even without getting American aid, the Taliban had scored a success. They had violently seized power, but were being negotiated with by the US State Department as a legitimate government. It was enough and more than enough to gratify them, and they had achieved it without making a single concession: they still sheltered bin Laden, and could carry on savagely torturing prisoners and making the lives of Afghan women unrelenting hell without it costing them anything at all.

The US was grateful to the Taliban just for being willing to talk, and the Taliban were grateful to the US for being willing just to talk – because they knew that as long as the talk went on, the Americans would do nothing else. It was a match made in diplomat’s heaven. But what the State Department or President Clinton thought they now had to bargain with, only heaven could tell.

In 1997 Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State and was eager to continue the engagement. ‘Diplomats met Taliban representatives every few weeks … What resulted was theater: the Taliban would stonewall on terrorism but would also dangle just enough hope to keep diplomats calling.’

The very refusal on the part of the Taliban to expel bin Laden seemed to the Clinton administration a compelling reason to go on talking. Not to talk to them would ‘isolate’ them, and that, the National Security Council reckoned, would be a dangerous consequence. Instead they were to be shown yet more goodwill by the US: they were given the money they’d asked for. Of course the funds were carefully labeled: this for providing schools for girls; this for sowing new crops in the fields that had hitherto grown only poppies for the heroin trade. The Taliban took the money, spent it on arms or whatever they liked, continued to deny education to girls, left the poppies in the fields, and pocketed the lesson that the more obstinate they were the more they’d get from the United States.

The US had no compunction about leaving the Northern Alliance isolated, ‘the group of one-time rebels and chieftains that constituted the only serious resistance to the Taliban’. In April 1998 the American ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, went to Afghanistan and deceived himself into believing that he brokered a cease-fire between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, while in fact the fighting between them intensified and continued until the US invasion three years later.

For yet more talks, the Clinton administration then welcomed Taliban delegates into America. The issues were again the treatment of women and terrorists using Afghanistan as a base. An ‘acting minister of Islam and culture’ explained that it was Islamic custom to treat women the way the Taliban did, implying that in the name of the American idea of multicultural tolerance Americans could raise no objection to it. As for bin Laden, they promised to keep him isolated and subdued.

So subdued was he kept that shortly afterwards, in August 1998, his al-Qaeda terrorists carried out their plots to attack the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Clinton retaliated by having a factory flattened in the Sudan, destroying a terrorist training camp with a cruise missile in Afghanistan – and continuing diplomatic engagement with the Taliban.

The Taliban were furious about the training-camp. Mullah Omar, ‘spiritual head’ of the Taliban, phoned the State Department and complained angrily about it. The plots had not been hatched in Afghanistan he insisted, and it was grossly unfair of the US to avenge itself on his country. But he was open to dialogue, he conceded – to the relief of Madeleine Albright. The Taliban’s ‘foreign minister’ Maulawi Wakil Ahmed, met the US ambassador to Pakistan, William B. Milam, and reiterated that they would not expel bin Laden, whose presence in Afghanistan he referred to as a ‘problem’, by which he might have meant for the Americans than rather than the Taliban, but the word made Milam feel hopeful. The ‘diplomatic pressure’, he concluded, was working, and must be kept up. So the talks continued.

When a court in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan found bin Laden not guilty of being involved in the East African attacks, a suspicion rose in the mind of Alan Eastham, a diplomat in the Islamabad legation. “It is possible that the Taliban are simply playing for time,” he wrote; but nevertheless he thought “it is at least [also] possible that they – some of them – are serious about finding a peaceful way out.” [My italics]

Unable or unwilling to see that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were two claws of the same beast, and disregarding all proofs that the Taliban were acting in bad faith, the Clinton State Department insistently proceeded with its pointless, fruitless, self-defeating dialogue. The Taliban and al-Qaeda ‘exploited American naiveté and sincerity at the ultimate cost of several thousand [American] lives.’ For while the talks were proceeding, bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were putting their heads together in Tora Bora to plot 9/11.

When George W. Bush became president, the talks were broken off. And when, after 9/11, America struck at Taliban-ruled, al-Qaeda-harboring Afghanistan, it won a swift military victory – but then lingered on to try and transform the primitive tribal nation with a long history of unremitting internecine strife into a peaceful democracy.

The Taliban fought back, and are winning. And President Obama is returning to the policy of engagement. His administration has revived the fiction that there is a good Taliban and a bad Taliban, and in their desperation to end the war without seeming to be beaten, they are trying to include the Taliban in the farcical ‘democratic’ government that has been established under American auspices. It’s a weird concept: you win a war if you empower your enemy, pretending that he has been born again as your friend.

Now General McChrystal will try to persuade America’s allies at a London conference that the surge he is planning with 30,000 extra troops will lead to a negotiated settlement. But the Financial Times of January 25, 2010, reports that the general acknowledges his ‘growing skepticism about [winning?] the war’.

This seems to be the best he is hoping for: ‘By using the reinforcements to create an arc of secure territory stretching from the Taliban’s southern heartlands to Kabul, Gen McChrystal aims to weaken the insurgency to the point where its leaders would accept some form of settlement with Afghanistan’s government. … But the general warned that violence would rise as insurgents stepped up bombings to try to undermine his strategy.’

The allies he needs to persuade at the conference ‘suffered a 70% rise in casualties last year ‘ and they doubt the credibility of the Afghan government. No wonder there is not much vigorous, confident hope to be detected in the general’s expectations of his allies’ response or in his own strategy if the FT report is to be trusted. It conveys deeply dispiriting indications of McChrystal’s state of mind. The one thing it claims that he and the Taliban agree on is that ‘110,000 foreign troops should go home’. The Afghan government, it says, has ‘little incentive to alter the status quo while atop a lucrative war economy’. And ‘with Barack Obama planning to start withdrawing US troops in mid-2011, the Taliban may believe it has far more resolve than the west’ – meaning, presumably, that it has only to wait and the whole country will be back in its bloodstained hands again.

McChrystal bears the responsibility of saving Obama’s face, which unfortunately is also America’s face. For this desperate if not entirely ignoble purpose the lives of brave soldiers in the magnificent fighting forces of the United States are now being hazarded.

Meanwhile bin Laden apparently lives and al-Qaeda grows, and they continue to plot death and destruction. It seems that diplomacy is not after all the most effective means of stopping them.

Jillian Becker January 26, 2010