Saturday, February 21, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, February 21

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


President Obama held a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Feb 10 at the State Department. After a day of highlighting local outreach programs involving city governments and local Muslims, leaders from abroad heard a series of speeches by the President, Secretary Kerry, Attorney General Holder and National Security adviser Susan Rice. None of these talks dealt with a strategic ordering of nations and states in a Mideast convulsed by an intra-Sunni war of identity in the midst of a escalating Sunni-Shiite war on multiple fronts. Mr. Holder said research has been initiated to study the similar profiles of young people joining urban gangs at home and those joining extremists abroad. He didn't mention young males. Susan Rice said there had to be particular focus on women and girls because who better can alert us to upcoming violence than the watchful eye of a mother. President Obama said fighting extremism must include refuting the "ugly lie that the West is in a war against Islam."


The President is correct in saying we are not fighting Islam. He is painfully wrong in not naming our enemy as a distinct religious movement within Islam. His correct instinct not to enlarge the identity of our enemy is fatally compromised by not isolating it by a precise definition. This ambiguity can only hurt Muslims who need to be clearly distinguished from that brand of Islam we are trying to find and destroy. A brilliant widely-read article in the Atlantic provides a good start in understanding the apocalyptic underpinnings of ISIS.


Understanding the religious nature of our enemy should drive us to better assess the cultural religious loyalties of our most natural allies in this war which Congress is now debating to authorize. This must begin with a clear understanding of the great disaster of baby boom diplomacy: enmity with Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia is an indispensable ally we need in this war, and we must approach them as a nation conceived in Christendom. Our century of battle with their atheist Communist leadership bled the world; our fraternity could heal it. But first we must understand the colossal strategic errors that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both parties and almost all American  public men have shared in this blunder.  It will take a few real statesmen to put us back on the right path.  The enlargement of NATO has drawn us into an entangling alliance with a European Union which is imploding. Our agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev was based on a promise to Russia that the peaceful reuniting of Germany as a nation-state depended on no eastern expansion of NATO. That buffer zone didn't exactly work out.  A serious geostrategic debate  of US/NATO-Russian relations during the Clinton and Bush years might start by considering  Robert Parry's argument: Why "Blame Putin" doesn't work for the Ukraine Crisis.


America's intellectual elite of power couples deeply identify with the dying  Euro-superstate of libertine atheism. They mean it when they say "we are all Charlie Hebdo." The EU, and its military extension NATO, have replaced the old Soviet Union as the dominant form of the godless state. The Eurocentric bias of our first black president and his feminist State Department is mindful of the last synod of Catholic bishops when a German cardinal dismissed the African bishops for their taboo-driven thinking on sexual matters. There is the same disconnect between America's irreligious officials and the very religious Nigerians in forming an alliance against the deadliest of Africa's Sunni terrorists. The anti-Christian and anti traditional  bias of our governmental elite is a tired white racialism masquerading as the modern West. A Nigerian bishop bemoans the linking by the Obama-Clinton team of military support against Boko Haram with capitulation on homosexuality.

Christianity has created great nations to the East and West, to the South and North. Christian culture has fostered wide-radius brotherhood which is the basis of civilized nations and concerts of nations. We must reform ourselves and reassert the protective presence of fraternity to be worthy of what Pope Francis called an ecumenism of blood. The Libyans who killed those 21 Christian workers from Egypt have now definitely answered Hillary Clinton's question of "What difference does it make?" in regard to who murdered our ambassador in Benghazi. We are entering a religious war and to fight it properly we will have to reform ourselves as a Christian nation. The painful inadequacies seen in the desolate speeches of our highest officials at the CVE summit are countered in this reflection by Rod Dreher on atheist, secular, and religious.


Our theme this week is to define the enemy, begin to define ourselves again, and to discourage alienating nations that should be powerful allies. Finally, we must not be fooled by those pretending to be our allies who have very different goals than our own.

The US has signed a deal with Turkey to arm Syrian Sunnis. But we should not forget that both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are much more interested that those Syrians direct their energies against the Shiite State and fight against Assad. The one piece of advice that former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft had for the Senate panel in their joint testimony this week was: do not make Assad and the portion of Syria he controls into your enemy. We can be assured that advice will not be followed by the new Sunni "moderates" who have not been willing to replace their deep antipathy  toward Assad with a fighting will against ISIS.

Speaking of allies, the Cooperation Council for the Arab states of the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and United Arab Emirates) is not forming a military alliance to take on Al-Qaeda in Yemen which many analysts say is the group most likely to launch attacks against the US homeland. They are instead agitating to militarily oust the Shia Houthis of Yemen who are willing to fight Al-Qaeda. Our so-called allies among Sunni monarchies are much more interested in their war against the Shia governments of Iran, Syria, and now the  regional government in Yemen. That is understandable in terms of their long-term hatreds. But should their enmities drive US policy?  Bahrain is majority-Shiite, but they are ruled by a Sunni king who was aided by troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in quelling the Bahraini uprising of their Shiite subjects. Iraq is the only Persian Gulf state not part of the Cooperation Council. The Shiite-majority government that followed the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein  has been a target of Sunni jihadists from throughout the region since they emerged as the elected rulers.


It is not clear if either presidential contenders Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush will be able to clearly see this problem. Mr. Bush's family has deep personal ties to the Saudis. He isn't hiding it. “We have to rebuild our relationships with allies and key relationships in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf states and of course Egypt. We will not be successful unless we invest in the much-needed coalitions and partnerships and develop the personal relationships that make it possible to garner worldwide support,” he said at a foreign policy speech this week in Chicago. If you think that Democrat populist Hillary Clinton will put an end to such old boy rich-man diplomacy, then read these interesting figures from the Wall Street Journal of foreign contributions to the Clinton endowment fund:
"A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn't specify how much. Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range. United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014."

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