Preventing another Paris

The West must fight Islamist terror as ruthlessly as possible, using both liberal and conservative tools, while setting aside the weaknesses of each ideology.

We must crush rejectionists like the Islamic State (conservative) and strengthen our moderate Muslim allies (liberal). We must neither assign collective responsibility (as conservatives sometimes do), nor shrink from the reality that Islam, unlike other religions, is disproportionately being used as an excuse for violence (as liberals sometimes do). We must act slowly and deliberately (which conservatives dislike) but with a clear moral goal in mind (which makes liberals uneasy).

Right now, we are failing at many of these tasks.

Source: What Will Prevent Another Copenhagen? – Opinion – Forward.com

The above is taken from an unusually balanced piece from The Forward, which holds a place as one of the most liberal of Jewish mainstream publications. This is not about letting either the far Left or far Right call the shots on terrorism. It is about capturing the best of both approaches and integrating them.

There is no guarantee that this approach will do any better than any we are using now. There will be peace when the fields that grow violent extremists lie fallow and infertile.

A Ray of Hope on France

This atrocity will not, on its own, be enough to purge extremism inside France or the United Kingdom or Belgium or the Netherlands or Germany or anywhere else. But it must, in time, be the beginning of that overdue purge.

Source: You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you – Spectator Blogs

To Arms?

What we’ve seen in Paris this weekend is not an attack, or an incident, or a tragedy. It’s war, and war, like it or not, is fought with guns. Because terrorism works precisely by striking at random, it’s silly to expect the police to be able to protect everyone at all times. When there are men out there teaming up to kill you, the rational and prudent thing to do is to at least make sure you have a chance to fight back.

Source: What Happened in Paris is War, and the Only Way to Fight a War is With Firearms. If You Live in Europe, Get a Gun. – Tablet Magazine

Food for thought.

Let me say up front that I don’t think you end terrorism simply by arming your populace. Terrorist use a range of weapons and tactics, and a pistol – even a .45 – won’t stop them all.

But it is pitifully easy for a terrorist to acquire a gun, even in countries where private ownership of firearms is strictly circumscribed. All a terrorist need do to inflict dozens of casualties is to find someplace with no cops, release the safety, and open fire.

Let us, for the moment, ignore the author’s overt point and delve into his meta-message: in a war against an enemy able to bypass formal national and civil defenses to inflict casualties against the populace, government monopoly on the ownership of firearms is inadequate and perhaps indefensible.

At the very least, this opens the door for auxiliary and private security forces, with trained and licensed personnel, to carry firearms. Would the Copenhagen attacks have succeeded if Dan Uzan had been armed while standing watch outside the synagogue? What if the guards at the Bataclan had been packing, and had known what to do when trouble showed up toting AK-47s?

France, much less Europe, is not ready for an armed populace. They probably won’t be until we in America can find a better way to retain our firearms as a bulwark against tyranny while eliminating accidental deaths and curtailing gun homicides. Accidental gun deaths in the US last year claimed five times more lives than the terrorists did in Paris last weekend, and that alone inveighs against just selling a gun to every man-Jacques in the street.

But the asymmetrical threat of terror demands asymmetrical responses that, if nothing else, raises the difficulty and cost of terrorist acts. Armed protection in public gathering places is a good start.

But the real issue is that it is time for the leaders of Europe to stop relying upon time-honored tools forged to meet different threats. It is time to get creative and a little ruthless, to come up with ways to make terror too costly for ISIS to imagine. And the answer is not airstrikes. How many more innocents must die before Europe truly understands that armies, police, constraints on speech, and appeasement of Islamists do not constitute a defense against the most serious threat Europe faces today?

 

Do We Need More Carriers?

America’s Aircraft Carrier Challenge | The Diplomat.

Professor Robert Farley offers a balanced meditation on whether America really is suffering from a “carrier gap.” In so doing, he reminds os of the high cost in dollars and people that each carrier represents.

I am a navalist of long standing (“speak softly and deploy a big fleet”), and I have a soft spot for flat-tops, born perhaps of my long studies of the Second World War. Yet in the face of evolving military technology and doctrine, it is getting harder to see these incredible machines as anything other than large, very expensive targets.

The Navy needs to do some soul-searching about the carriers, and we as citizens need to get over our sentimental attachment to these beasts the same way we had to fall out of love with battleships 75 years ago. Only then do our political leaders have a hope of overcoming the politically powerful naval aviation community and the huge contractors who make a fortune building carriers, carrier systems, and carrier-based aricraft.

 

10 Truisms about our National Defense

The Five-Sided Foxhole

Defense needs to become an issue in the next election, but perhaps not in the way most people think.

Here are 11 truisms about our national defense to guide our thinking and that of the candidates:

1. We need to defend the United States and her possessions against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

2. We also have obligations to fulfill under a series of mutual-defense treaties with a handful of nations.

3. Doing both of the above does cost money, and we can reasonably expect to pay a bare minimum of 2% of GDP and as much as 4% of GDP on defense.

4. A ridiculous amount of money going into defense is being wasted.

5. Much of that waste can be eliminated, but only by dismantling much of the procurement bureaucracy created since WWII, while at the same time dismantling the effective chokehold that the top five defense contractors have built on the services.

6. There is a tremendous amount of Congressional pork built into the defense budget as well. This, too, must be eliminated.

7. The problems we face in fixing defense cannot be solved simply by slashing budgets, but with a realistic and sustainable defense posture.

8. All of this begins with a grand strategy promulgated from the top that provides the guidelines for the kind of military we must have.

9. This mess dates back to at least 1939, and it is unreasonable to expect it to go away in a period of less than two consecutive presidential terms. For that reason, the work cannot start too soon.

10. The first step is to elect a President who understands the above, and who places the well-being of the nation ahead of personal interest, and who has enough savvy and clout to compel a majority of Congress to lime up behind him/her.

How Bill Broke a Promise to Russia

The first Bush administration promised Gorbachev that Nato would not move ‘one inch to the east’, in the words of the then secretary of state, James Baker. But Bill Clinton ignored the Russians’ wish to keep a cordon sanitaire and his predecessor’s promise by pushing Nato expansion to the east – betraying a trust, in Russia’s view. The eastward march of Nato continues. One can only imagine the American response if the roles were reversed.

via Jackson Lears reviews ‘Hard Choices’ by Hillary Clinton and ‘HRC’ by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes · LRB 5 February 2015.

Clinton: Adventurista

But Clinton’s hawkishness is a matter of moral and intellectual conviction. In Hard Choices, she tries to construct a coherent rationale for an interventionist foreign policy and to justify it with reference to her own decisions as secretary of state. The rationale is rickety: the evidence unconvincing. Recent history becomes a series of rescue missions, staged opportunities for heroism worthy of Hollywood: mobs of brown-skinned extras look up to see helicopters – we are saved! The Americans have arrived! Such are the dreams that hover unarticulated in our political unconscious, allowing our leaders to redefine war as humanitarian intervention.

via Jackson Lears reviews ‘Hard Choices’ by Hillary Clinton and ‘HRC’ by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes · LRB 5 February 2015.

Getting Out of the Failed-State Repair Business

To Prevent and Resolve Violent Conflict, “We Need a Ground Game”
James Rupert

United States Institute of Peace
F
ebruary 13, 2015

This is an in-house softball interview with the incoming president of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Nancy Lindborg. For those who do not live inside the Beltway (either literally or virtually,) Lindborg spent five years with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and 14 years at international relief NGO Mercy Corps.

The article is a capstone, to be sure, and Lindborg points in some good directions. Clearly, she wants to get us out of the habit of addressing failed states by sending in airpower, special forces, and aid workers.

We need to think about fragility [of states and their institutions], and the flip side is greater resilience. So that when conflicts do happen, from the community level up, and from the government level down, conflicts can be managed and not become violent.

Absolutely right. Our foreign policy establishment on both sides of the aisle and both inside government and outside remain focused on state building as a means of peacekeeping. Unfortunately, our record of state building in is abysmal, and we still have no clue how to go about turning failed states with poor or non-existent institutions into stable countries.

Lindborg’s statement of principle is a good start, but it lacks substance. Yes, fortifying locally-created institutions seems to be a lot better than imposing our own. But we are offered no case studies, no roadmap, no clue at how to do all of that, and especially to do it in places where the institutions are essentially the machinery of kleptocracies, or where there are no institutions at all.

Allowing chaos to fester in failed states does the world little good. But if we are going to do much more than simply try to contain that chaos, we are going to need to come up with a new playbook. In the meantime we have to stop playing frontier marshall and end our habit of writing blank checks in American blood and treasure in the vain belief that we make things better just by being there.