The North Korean Crisis: Immediate Considerations

Real Clear Defense, By Michael J. Del Rosso, Brian Kennedy & Stephen Meyer, August 17, 2017: (H/T John Guandolo)

Whatever respite there may be between North Korea and the United States, make no mistake that the possibilities of a nuclear conflict with North Korea and, by extension, the People’s Republic of China, remain.  As our nation faces this threat, there are very few options to deter this perilous situation. This does not have to be the case. We have an opportunity to remedy long standing vulnerabilities.

Strategic nuclear affairs are poorly understood by the American public and their representatives in Congress. Few know that the condition of our nuclear arsenal is suspect, our missiles defenses are of uncertain effectiveness and coverage, the probability for nuclear deterrence failing is quite high, and our national civil defenses are severely atrophied.

The United States is at this point because members of Congress have relied upon military leaders and defense experts, who over time, seemed driven by political correctness and flawed nuclear deterrence theories. As a matter of policy, the United States has decided to leave the American people vulnerable to missile attack and to rely, instead, on the threat of nuclear retaliation. This policy was continued at the same time both the Russians and Chinese proliferated nuclear weapon and ballistic missile technology to the likes of Iran and North Korea and built or are building their own missile defenses.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have presided over the systemic national security failure to address the threat of ballistic missile attack that now confronts President Trump. This failure presents an existential threat to the United States that must be immediately addressed.

A factual threat analysis will show that the United States should:

  1. Introduce a robust and more certain, multi-tier, national missile defense capability that includes introducing both Space-Based and Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV)-based Boost Phase Interceptors (BPI) which can be rapidly developed using existing, mature technologies. Unlike existing ballistic missile defense systems, BPIs are less expensive and have a higher kill probability, targeting missiles in the most vulnerable phases of flight. Why deploy both basing schemes? Because we have committed adversaries who threaten the further existence of the Republic and it is about time America respond proportionately.
  2. Harden our critical infrastructure to the effects of a nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.
  3. Modernize our nuclear triad for enhance deterrence.
  4. Reintroduce national civil defense down to the community, household, and individual level. This initiative should be instituted immediately no matter what other courses of action are decided upon. It is immoral not to alert the U.S. population of the probability and severity of the risks they face and educate them on how to mitigate that risk. A prepared population adds to our overall deterrence.
  5. Re-evaluate the responsible executive branch agencies’ decision-making processes and methodologies by which risks from threats and hazards are rank-prioritized and recommendations for risk-proportionate mitigation and response activities generated.

The Threat

Russia and the People’s Republic of China both possess large arsenals of intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. According to defectors, these warheads are currently targeting the major cities of the United States and that of our allies in Europe, Asia, and Israel. The revolution in precision guidance gives these weapons decapitating, first-strike thermonuclear capabilities against our nuclear forces. For more than 20 years both the Russians and the Chinese have been modernizing the lethality of their warheads and expanding their arsenals.

Of concern are nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) devices that detonate at 100 to 150 km altitude.  Indeed, Kim Jong-un’s threat of final doom is likely based on a single NEMP.  A single NEMP permanently destroys power and communication infrastructures over many hundreds of miles and does not require either re-entry or precision guidance.

We must assume that North Korea possesses NEMP devices.

In 1995 the Russian military think tank that serves the Russian General Staff, known as INOBIS, issued a paper recommending that Russia deliberately proliferate missile and nuclear weapon technology to nations hostile to the United States.  The rationale was that nuclear proliferation would balance growing U.S. power, and thwart Washington’s efforts to establish a New World Order dominated by America.

In 2004 Russian flag officers gave testimony to the U.S. Congressional EMP Commission that super EMP weapon technology in fact “leaked” to North Korea; and it is being developed with help from Russia, China, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In 2013 South Korea’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), said in a report to parliament that North Korea was using Russian technology to develop electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons aimed at destroying military electronic equipment south of the border.

We also must assume that North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile is now capable of attacking the United States with an NEMP device.

Additionally, North Korea has two satellites, KMS 3-2 and KMS 4, which are presently orbiting at an altitude of 300 miles. Their trajectories put them over the continental U.S. daily. Their payloads may be NEMP devices waiting to be used. Erring on the side of caution, consideration should be given to shoot them down preemptively so that the debris field falls upon a benign area of the earth, with WC-135C Constant Phoenix “sniffer” aircraft on the ready to sample the debris paths for radiological indications of the payloads.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the flawed agreement with the Obama administration, continues to pursue the building of nuclear warhead technology.  It is very likely that they already possess a handful of nuclear warheads acquired from Russia, China, North Korea or Pakistan.  The quality and reliability of these warheads are questionable, and their numbers are insufficient for power projection. For this reason, Iran is seeking to build nuclear warheads. It is believed every nuclear test conducted in North Korea has included Iranian scientists.

Iranian nuclear war fighting doctrine scenarios include the use of their Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile launched from a freighter ship. Twice during the 1990s, the Iranians conducted successful tests from a barge in the Caspian Sea where they launched such a missile. In both tests, the warheads exploded in the high atmosphere simulating an electromagnetic pulse attack.

If the Iranians can deploy the right kind of nuclear warhead on such a missile, and if they are able to detonate one over a region of the United States, they could destroy some or all of the electric and electronic infrastructure of the United States.  Such a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere destroys both critical microelectronics and the large transformers that distribute electric power through the three major electric grids of the United States.

A highly successful EMP attack could result in a sovereignty ending event. A less successful attack could mean the destruction of the U.S. economy. Because the missile was launched from a ship, attribution of the culprit may not be immediately possible.  If an adversary were to launch an EMP weaponized missile from a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, not only are there no missile defense assets in place to defend against it, we even lack southern-facing radar to detect such a launch.

Finally, the Russians and the Chinese, in addition to their own nuclear ballistic missile arsenals, have spent decades developing their surrogates, Iran and North Korea, into existential, nuclear threats to the United States and the West. They have given them material and technical support and may have even transferred nuclear warheads to them directly.

The purpose of these actors’ nuclear arsenals is to destroy the civilian population of the United States, exert influence over a U.S. President with nuclear blackmail, and check the strategic capabilities of the United States.

Re-introduce Civil Defense

It should be something of a scandal that we have left the people of the United States undefended from a nuclear attack. Even more so because the Russians have their own national missile defense, however crude, it may be, and the Chinese are building their own missile defense as well. Both Russia and China believe that if war comes, they should be able to win. In October 2016, Russia performed a three-day nuclear war training exercise in which 40 million people engaged in civil defense drills. China also maintains extensive public shelters for nuclear war protection.

In contrast, national Civil Defense capabilities no longer exist in the United States. The logic behind abandoning Civil Defense, explained in declassified Presidential Decision Memoranda from the Kennedy administration, might best be described as immoral; politicians thought it would be “destabilizing” for Americans to be stronger and more survivable than the Soviets.  In the early decades of the Cold War, billions of dollars were spent understanding how to mitigate nuclear weapons effects. For the past several months the state of Hawaii has started to reintroduce this knowledge. The rest of the nation should follow suit, immediately, including community, household, and individual resiliency and preparedness. Leadership and informed citizens are primarily all that is needed. Civil Defense is a very cost-effective means of mitigating nuclear weapons effects and saving millions of American lives. It also contributes to America’s overall deterrence.

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Michael Del Rosso is Vice President of the American Strategy Group

Brian T. Kennedy is President of the American Strategy Group

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute

Caroline Glick: McMaster’s Policies Completely Contradict Trump’s, Natural Continuation of Obama’s

AP/Getty

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Aug. 11, 2017:

Jerusalem Post contributor Caroline Glick criticized National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s leadership of the National Security Council on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.

Glick said the problem with McMaster is that “in key issue after key issue, particularly in relation to the Middle East,” he “opposes the things that the president ran on and that he was elected on.”

She quoted Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the world’s leading activists against Islamic supremacism, writing in the Wall Street Journal that “President Trump, during the campaign, insisted that it was necessary to go after the political ideology of radical Islam, and he’s just completely stopped.”

“She called on Congress to pick it up and take it on since the president seems to have lost interest in it,” Glick said of Ali’s article. “Whether it’s Iran and countering Iranian influence and rising hegemony in Syria and in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and, of course, Iran’s nuclear weapons program, these are very, very key issues for the United States and for all of its allies in the Middle East. And on all of these issues, in practice, we see that the policies that the National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, is pushing are at loggerheads with – completely contradict – the policies that President Trump ran on and continues to say that he wants.”

“For instance, I wrote in my column in the Jerusalem Post this morning, the United States special forces are fighting side-by-side with the Lebanese armed forces, which are controlled by Hezbollah, to the side of Hezbollah, which is a global terrorist organization, against ISIS,” she said.

“This is President Obama’s policy, was to try to get the United States to help Iran to take over Syria, without allowing the American people to know that, by saying, ‘Well, we’re fighting ISIS in Syria,’” she explained. “Allow Iran and Hezbollah to take over Syria and present an existential threat to Jordan and a massive strategic threat to Israel and to U.S. interests, in the name of fighting ISIS.”

“This, we see, is a policy that President Trump continues to implement,” Glick said with dismay. “It’s a very, very troubling thing.”

Glick was further troubled by the way Western media is allowing McMaster supporters, “from the Council on American Islamic Relations to the Anti-Defamation League” to frame coverage of his move away from President Trump’s policy agenda.

She further implicated “Soros-funded groups that are working day and night to undermine and subvert, with the hope of destroying this president.” These forces have conspired to forge a media narrative that claims people only oppose McMaster because they are “racist or Islamophobic or what have you.”

“In other words, they’re turning this into the same thing that the left always turns their policy disputes into, which is the good guys against the racists, and everyone who opposes them is essentially a non-person, and we mustn’t listen to them,” said Glick.

“It’s even worse in a way than just saying this is a partisan squabble and this is domestic politics,” she said. “What they’re trying to do is dehumanize the people who oppose McMaster, in order not to have a substantive discussion. That’s what we see the left doing everywhere, all the time, throughout the United States and throughout the Western world. You don’t win by substance because your substance is antithetical to what most people want, so what you do is you say that anyone who opposes you is a racist. Anybody who opposes you is the enemy of the good, and, therefore, all right-thinking people have to be on your side, against their side.”

“It’s interesting that this is the dynamic that’s taking place around McMaster. It would seem to me that, particularly for the president himself, who knows these things, this should be just a glaring red light. The fact that yet again yesterday he embraced McMaster, sitting next to Vice President Pence at his golf club in Bedminster, is an indication that something is awry, and I don’t really know what it is,” she said.

“Again, it’s very troubling because the problem here is not whether H.R. McMaster has a temper or is just the nicest person in the whole world. The problem is that he is pushing and getting implemented a policy, in relation to Israel in particular – and Israel as an American ally in the Middle East, no less Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and so on and so forth – that is a natural continuation of Barack Obama’s policy of realigning the United States away from its allies in the United States and in favor of Iran and Hezbollah,” she charged.

LISTEN:

Sessions: 4 Charged in Leaks, Warns Intel Community and Media

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 4, 2017:

The message could not have been any clearer. The crackdown is here.

Attorney General Sessions appeared together with Dan Coates, the Director of National Intelligence, to offer some blunt words. Sessions and Coats head the National Insider Threat Task Force.

Sessions described the “leaks to both the media and “even unauthorized disclosures to our foreign adversaries” as a serious threat.

“Since January, the Department has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations compared to the number pending at the end of the last Administration,” Sessions said. “And we have already charged four people with unlawfully disclosing classified material or with concealing contacts with foreign intelligence officers.”

“Today, I have this message for the intelligence community: The Department of Justice is open for business,” the Attorney General warned.

That’s a very direct message. And an extremely unusual one. It indicates just how bad things have become.

Sessions also said that the FBI had “created a new counterintelligence unit” to manage leak cases. And, in another warning that has the media worried, he made it clear that they were not off limits.

“One of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” he said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans.”

“We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice,” Sessions concluded. “We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer.”

Furthermore, the DOJ will begin looking into Obama Inc’s use of the DOJ to blackmail companies into moving money into leftist slush funds.

Trump Shuts Down CIA Support for Syrian ‘Rebels’ After Years of Chronic Failure

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 24, 2017:

The announcement last week that the Trump administration was shutting down the “covert” CIA program of arming Syrian “rebel” groups couldn’t have come too soon.

As I’ve reported here in more than three dozen articles over the past three years, the CIA support program had suffered chronic failures, including defections of groups “vetted” by the CIA defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, and leakage of weapons provided by the CIA into the hands of those same terror groups.

The pinnacle of this failure came in Obama’s last few hours in the White House in January, when he ordered the bombing of a terror training camp that also hosted fighters from a CIA-“vetted” group embedded with Al-Qaeda. That same CIA-“vetted” group officially partnered with Al-Qaeda a few days later.

Perhaps the defining moment of the U.S. support for Syrian “rebels” debacle came last year when CIA-backed groups were fighting against groups backed by the Pentagon:

The Washington Post announced the cancellation of the CIA support program last week, claiming without evidence that the move was made to placate Russia:

The termination of the program was confirmed by SOCOM Gen. Tony Thomas at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday:

Gen. Thomas specifically refuted the Washington Post‘s Russia tie-in to the announcement:

But as I reported here at PJ Media back in February, the CIA had already begun shutting down the weapons pipeline to the “rebel” groups.

Predictably, the “rebel” groups began flocking to Al-Qaeda as soon as the CIA pipeline began to slow.

In response to the program cancellation announcement, cheerleaders of the “vetted moderate rebels” complained that the U.S. hadn’t supported the groups enough.

But that talking point was rebutted by Obama nearly three years ago.

In an August 2014 interview with Tom Friedman in the New York Times, Obama dismissed the notion that more weapons would have given the “rebels” any kind of edge and expressed frustration at the inability to find enough “moderates”:

With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Even now, the president said, the administration has difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: “There’s not as much capacity as you would hope.”

And yet, just a month later the GOP congressional leadership passed $500 million in additional funds for an eventual U.S.-backed, Pentagon-trained army of 15,000 “vetted moderates” to combat ISIS. In less than a year, that half-billion dollar boondoggle approved by Congress turned into a disaster. By July 2015, fewer than 60 fighters had been successfully vetted and trained — costing taxpayers nearly $4 million for each fighter.

[…]

By any objective measure, the CIA’s assistance to the Syrian “rebel” groups has been a complete catastrophe.

The CIA’s botched handling in both Libya and Syria should serve as a cautionary tale to the Trump administration about the follies of ill-informed intervention. While those policies may have been driven by the best of intentions, the results have been horrifically bad.

And contrary to the program’s defenders, these efforts are very likely responsible for drawing Russia and Iran deeper into the region.

As the Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, continues to make gains against the opposition’s positions, and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the north of the country pressure ISIS, we can only expect that the opposition will grow even more dominated by the terrorist groups because they have largely been the only game in town. And it’s likely that continued CIA support would have accelerated that radicalization process, not delayed it.

A few of us lonely voices have said this is where the Syrian war was heading all along. And the cancellation of the CIA’s support program is at least a tacit recognition that we were right.

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Report: Trump Ending Obama’s Covert CIA Program to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Huang

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 19, 2017:

President Donald Trump is reportedly ending a covert CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebel forces that dates back to 2013.

According to a report by the Washington Postthe president made the decision almost a month ago in an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

The Post frames this as a huge victory for Russia, citing the decision as an aspect of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.” The Post notes that Russia targeted some of these Syrian fighters with airstrikes when it intervened in the Syrian civil war and quotes an unnamed “current official” who bluntly declared, “Putin won in Syria.”

However, the same report notes that even supporters of the CIA program have “questioned its efficacy,” admits U.S. leverage against the Assad regime has grown “limited,” concedes that ending the program was not a condition for the cease-fire agreement Trump reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and notes that Jordan supports Trump’s decision.

Even a former Obama administration official, Ilan Goldenberg, described Trump’s decision as “probably a nod to reality.” However, he added that ending all support for the Syrian rebels would be a “huge strategic mistake.” Pentagon programs to assist rebel forces are said to remain in effect, including a plan Trump approved in May to arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Washington Post piece quotes some American intelligence officials who say it was President Barack Obama’s failure to respond to Russian intervention against increasingly successful rebel forces in 2015 that set the stage for Assad’s eventual triumph.

The Obama administration also gave up on some high-profile efforts to train and equip a proxy force in Syria, most notably a $500 million effort that ended in absolute disaster and became a laughingstock across the Middle East.

The Washington Post also fails to mention that a distressing number of the weapons shipped by the CIA to Syrian rebels under Obama ended up in the hands of black marketeers and terrorists. Some of those weapons were used to kill Americans. The ability of the U.S. government to “vet” Syrian rebels and keep American equipment away from terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, has long been questioned.

Sometimes the rebels Obama provided with weapons openly threw in their lot with al-Qaeda and its Nusra Front franchise because they had the best chance of defeating the Syrian military and its allies.

Spicing up reports of this decision with dark insinuations about Trump’s ties with Russia does not conceal the cold truth that regime change in Syria is very unlikely, and it was President Barack Obama who made it that way – not that much enthusiasm for plunging the United States into Syria’s civil war, and possibly ending up in combat against Russian and Iranian forces, could be found in any corner of the political spectrum.

Even the cynical notion of arming unsavory Syrian insurgents against Assad and letting them bleed each other out proved to be a disaster because it led to a humanitarian horror show and a flood of refugees that may have changed Europe forever. Those who insinuate Trump is doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding by ending the CIA program to arm Syrian rebels should be prepared to explain their strategy for achieving something other than a bloody stalemate, civilian slaughter, and an endless flow of refugees. Clearly, no one associated with Barack Obama had any such strategy.

President Trump Reverses Obama’s Anti-Christian Refugee Policy

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Klein, July 19, 2017:

After declaring that Christians have “been horribly treated” by the refugee program under former President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump has reversed the Obama administration’s disgraceful discrimination against Christian refugees.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department refugee data, during the period from January 21, 2017 – President Trump’s first full day in office – through June 30, “9,598 Christian refugees arrived in the U.S., compared with 7,250 Muslim refugees. Christians made up 50% of all refugee arrivals in this period, compared with 38% who are Muslim.”

From April through June 2017, Iraq was “the only Muslim-majority nation among the top six origin countries.” The number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. from January 21, 2017 through June 30, 2017 was 1779. Comparing the number of refugee admissions from Syria for the entire month of January with the entire month of February 2017, the number dropped by nearly half. By June 2017, the number of refugees admitted from Syria was about 26 percent of the already low number of 673 admitted in February.

By contrast, Pew Research Center reported that in fiscal year 2016 – Barack Obama’s last full fiscal year as president – “the U.S. admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002.” Overall, the number of Muslims admitted as refugees exceeded the number of Christians who were admitted.

Of the 12,486 refugees from Syria admitted to the United States during that same fiscal year by the Obama administration, about 99 percent were Muslim and less than 1 percent were Christian. Estimates of the Christians’ proportion of the total population of Syria have ranged from 5 to 10 percent since the onset of the Syrian civil war. Muslims made up 87% of Syria’s total population.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry declared in March of last year that the Islamic State had been committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the Obama administration decided that Christians and other refugees belonging to minority religious faiths did not deserve any priority for admission to the U.S.  In fact, the Obama administration discriminated against Christians. It admitted proportionately less Christians relative to the total number of refugees from Syria than even the lower end of Christians’ estimated proportion of the total population of Syria. Incredibly, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, approximately 96% of the Syrian refugees admitted to the United States by the Obama administration were Sunni Muslims even though ISIS and al Qaeda jihadists are themselves Sunni Muslims. The ideology of Wahhabism fueling the jihadists’ reign of terror, exported by Saudi Arabia, is of Sunni Muslim origin.

Obama followed a deliberate anti-Christian refugee policy, while condescendingly lecturing Christians to remember the misdeeds he says were committed in the name of Christ many years ago. During a National Prayer Breakfast in 2015, for example, Obama said: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Obama’s walk through his version of Christian history somehow balances out in his mind the genocide committed by jihadists against Christians on his own watch.

Obama not only insulted Christians who have been facing persecution and death on a mass scale at the hands of Islamist terrorists. He twisted history in trying to invoke his moral relativism. He conveniently left out that the Crusades were a response to Muslim invasions that had resulted in the capture of two-thirds of the old Christian world and that Christian churches took a leadership role in the fights against slavery and segregation.

Thus, it was no surprise that Obama sharply criticized the suggestion that persecuted Christians be given preference for admission as refugees. He said that “when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted… that’s shameful.”  Obama added: “That’s not American, it’s not who we are.”

Obama’s refugee policy was both “shameful” and “not American.” It discriminated against Christians and other non-Muslim minority religious groups who needed refugee status protection the most, while vastly favoring the one group of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries who needed protection the least– Sunni Muslims. The policy ignored the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defined the crime of genocide as including “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a religious group.” (Emphasis added)  Obama’s refugee policy also ignored the fact that “refugee” is defined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as including “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted” because of that person’s “religion.”

Christians and other religious minorities seeking refuge from genocide and persecution in Syria and other Muslim-majority countries are clearly the most at risk today if they are forced to remain in those countries. Any just refugee policy for the United States must be based on the principle that those most at risk receive the highest priority in admission decisions. President Trump has tried valiantly to correct the misdeeds of the Obama administration by following that principle, which explains at least in part his administration’s reversal of the number of Christian versus Muslim admissions. When refugee admissions to the United States resume after President Trump’s temporary suspension order expires, President Trump should continue to undo the Obama administration’s inexcusable discrimination against Christian victims of Muslim jihadist persecution.

Trump’s Anti-Cairo Speech

In Warsaw, the president delivered the antithesis to the fallacious, appeasing lecture Obama preached to the Egyptians.

National Review, by Victor Davis Hanson, July 11, 2017:

Obama’s Cairo Address, June 4, 2009

About five months after the inauguration of Barack Obama, the president gave a strange address in Cairo. The speech was apparently designed to win over the Muslim world and set Obama apart from the supposed Western chauvinism of the prior and much caricatured George W. Bush administration.

Obama started off by framing past and present tensions between Muslims and the West largely in the context of explicit and implied Western culpability: past European colonialism, and the moral equivalence of the Cold War and disruptive Westernized globalization.

In a pattern that would become all too familiar in the next seven years, Obama reviewed his own familial Muslim pedigree. This was his attempt to persuade Islam that a president of the United States, no less, now uniquely stood astride the East–West divide with a proverbial foot in both America and the Middle East.

Obama nobly lied that Islam had been “paving the way” for the West’s Renaissance and Enlightenment (neither claim was remotely true). Equally fallacious was Obama’s additional yarn that Muslim Cordoba was a paragon of religious tolerance during the Spanish Inquisition (it had been liberated by the Reconquista Christian forces nearly 250 years before the beginning of the Inquisition, and by 1478 few Muslims were left in the city). The message — its veracity was irrelevant — was that a humble and multicultural Barack Hussein Obama alone had the historical insight and cultural background and authenticity that would allow him to serve as a bridge to peace between two morally equivalent rivals.

Obama then rattled off a series of relativist, on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand, split-the-difference remedies to the current tensions with radical Islamism (all couched in vague euphemisms). The proposition was that the West should accept blame, and so should the sometimes culpable Islamic world. Only then would good compromises follow — given the assumption that conflict always arises out of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than that the guiltier side of a dispute knows precisely why it has chosen an aggressive and hostile path.

Seven years later, Obama’s outreach and his successive lengthy recitals of all the bad things America has done in the world and all the good America has done to encourage and placate Muslims (including redirecting NASA to the agenda of Muslim outreach) had come to nothing.

Indeed, the years of Obama’s presidency saw a sharp uptick in jihadist attacks against Europe and the United States, the rise of ISIS in Iraq, the genocide in Syria, and a series of appeasing gestures that spiked tensions, from the false red line in Syria to the bombing of and skedaddle from Libya to the disastrous and deliberate laxity in diplomatic security that culminated in the tragedy in Benghazi. Obama left office having alienated the moderate Sunni Arab nations, appeased an anti-Western Iran, and abdicated American power in the Middle East. Calm did not follow. For Middle Easterners, the Obama era meant that the United States was a lousy friend and a harmless foe, the common denominator being that one could ignore the pretensions of such a naive rhetorician.

A realist might have asked Obama, “If the president of the United States did not believe in the singularity of his nation, then why in the world would foreigners?” And if the nominal head of the West contextualized his culture when abroad, then why wouldn’t its autocratic enemies see that concession as weakness to be exploited rather than magnanimity to be reciprocated?

The Trump Antithesis

Donald Trump’s speech in Poland was an implicit corrective to Barack Obama’s Cairo speech. Whereas Obama had blamed the West for many of Islam’s dilemmas, Trump praised the singular history and culture of the West. (His implicit assumptions might have been that “better than the alternative” was good enough, and American sins are those of humankind, but its remedies are uniquely Western.)

Whereas Obama listed supposed cultural achievements of Islam (most of them of dubious historicity), Trump rattled off examples of Western exceptionalism, its unmatched culture, values, and concrete achievements, all of them persuasive:

We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers. We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.

While Obama was in an Islamic country and Trump in a Western one during these respective speeches, the difference in tones transcended location and marked antithetical historic strains of Western culture. Obama believed that the crisis of the West originated in its arrogant, “high horse” historic overreach, and clingerism; this hubris demanded a corrective deference to equally brilliant or indeed superior alternate cultural paradigms.

It never would occur to Obama that immigration (a concrete arbiter of culture) is a one-way pathway for a reason. Muslims seek out Europe and the United States to relocate, not vice versa. Immigrants seek to live among non-Muslims rather than with only Muslims — again, for a reason.

The world outside the West depends on Western-driven technology — again, not the other way around. The top 20 universities in the world are not in the Middle East, Africa, China, or Latin America. Western influence that transcends its population and geography is the logical result of a system that promotes self-criticism and rationalism, free expression, market capitalism, the rule of law, and consensual government rather than gender apartheid, tribalism, autocracy, statism, and religious intolerance.

There is again a reason why there is not a single church in Riyadh but plenty of mosques in the West, and why blasphemy or being gay can get you killed in Iran but not in Dayton, Ohio. Muslims can walk into the Vatican; not so Christians into Mecca.

Trump had his own but quite different worries, namely that the West should rightly be more, not less, confident and assertive: “Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we don’t forget who are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget.”

Trump saw complacence, laxity, and perhaps even decadence as the crisis of the West. In historical terms, Trump’s speechwriters would say that the Greek city-state lost at Chaeronea in a way it had not 142 years earlier at Salamis — because of an insidious enervation of will, and because laxity largely became a dividend of material bounty and license. In Periclean fashion, to avert such decline, each generation must pass on more than what it inherited:

The Warsaw Uprising] heroes remind us that the West was saved with the blood of patriots; that each generation must rise up and play their part in its defense and that every foot of ground, and every last inch of civilization, is worth defending with your life.

Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield — it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory. . . .

I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.

From the pessimistic Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle to the glum Roman critics like Petronius, Tacitus, Juvenal, and Suetonius to the German nihilists such as Hegel, Nietzsche, and Spengler, the inherent challenge of the West was rarely the permanent end of freedom and material wealth. Instead, the difficulty has been largely that we have the burden to use properly our bounty and must decide how to handle unchecked personal liberty and comfort.

Capitalism enriches a society but also risks enervating the senses and the spirit by shrinking human aspirations into material acquisitiveness. Consensual government entails responsibilities as well as rights — if it is not to descend into individual excess as citizens forget that they often should not do what they are legally entitled to do. In the Western war between personal liberty and mandated equality, hoi oligoi struggle to convince hoi polloi that they are not the enemies of the people but their co-benefactors, even when many among the former care little for the interests of the many.

Trump is president at a time when only about 63 percent of the American work force is employed. Entitlements are at unprecedented levels and are increasingly divorced from demonstration of undeniable need. Fury breaks out not from cutbacks in largess, but from modest decreases in promised but unsustainable increases.

The law is seen an encroachment on personal expression and thus ignored when it demands sacrifice. Poverty is redefined not so much as material want but as coveting something that someone wealthier does have but otherwise does not need.

Logic is the key to knowledge, but when it poses as the final arbiter of all natural inquiry without deference to the mysteriousness of god, it creates a self-destructive Oedipal arrogance that man can become his own deity. In such a landscape, how does such a civilization of individuals so eager to live the good life defend itself against a wretched jihadist so ready to die in order to welcome a sexual paradise to come?

How does one give up urban metrosexuality and the world of Pajama Boy to change diapers and raise children?

In a world of Facebook and Google, why would a U.S. Ranger be admired for his physical strength and elemental courage? And in a Western world where the government declares it is not just the arbiter of fairness but also the deliverer of equal results, what corner of life is left untouched from the all-powerful and moralistic state?

Byzantium perished not from a dearth of Greek Fire, but from a dearth of people willing to fight from inside its walls against the hundreds of thousands below, each one promised material pleasures in the hereafter for killing Christian Westerners. How is a suburbanite expected to die in a god-awful place like Fallujah, when he is told that computers and lasers make the dirty war of the past obsolete?

The billionaire, thrice-married, and creature-of-luxury Donald Trump, in his 70th year, was warning the West in Poland that precisely because it is very rich, extremely wealthy, singularly leisured, and technologically sophisticated, it faces the most peril — amid failed enemies who hate those who are more successful for encouraging their own taboo desires for something that they cannot create.

In sum, Trump’s anti-Cairo message is that only a disciplined, strong West — confident in its past and sure of its present success — will deter enemies, appeal to neutrals, and keep friends. Trump should not have had a need to deliver such a self-evident but now rare message. That he alone had the courage to state the obvious — and was criticized for doing so — reminds us that the corrective to our Western malady is seen as the problem, not the cure.