The Islamic State Works, But That’s No Reason for Peace

An armed man waves an Islamic State flag in Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014
An armed man waves an Islamic State flag in Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014 (Reuters)

It’s hard to be fair to totalitarians. The vast majority of us English-reading folks have no concept of totalitarian systems beyond the hard-jawed stereotypes of Nazi movie villains, Thought Police boogeymen of Nineteen Eighty-Four or Kim Jong-un-like buffoonery. We take for granted the innate moral superiority of our systems so often that we rarely think about the reality of daily life under a dictator or a would-be caliph. When we do think about it, we resort to the lazy caricatures utilized in any story that needs a bad guy.

The fall of Sirte in Libya has pushed the Islamic State out of its would-be African capital and revealed much of what life is like under their rule. The intense interest in the group has given us glimpses into its daily life. And there is an uncomfortable truth within it: by many metrics, the Islamic State works. Read more “The Islamic State Works, But That’s No Reason for Peace”

Staying Rational in the Wake of Orlando

A highly individualistic culture like the United States lends itself quite readily to bursts of emotion; citizens feel compelled, rightly or wrongly, to show that they feel as much as anyone else, if not more.

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, this pattern reasserts itself once again in America.

But succumbing to anger or depression or any extreme emotion while trying to decide on policy is always a mistake. Here’s how to stay rational — and support good geopolitical decisions — in the wake of murder. Read more “Staying Rational in the Wake of Orlando”

While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama waits backstage before participating in a panel discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, March 29 (White House/Pete Souza)

While Donald Trump was hectoring the man he hopes to succeed next year for supposedly falling short in the fight against Islamic terrorism, President Barack Obama reminded Americans on Tuesday that his administration is gradually eradicating the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It’s unclear to what extent the group was involved in the shooting at a Florida gay nightclub this weekend that killed nearly fifty people. It rather looks like the shooter, Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan descent, was motivated by anti-gay bigotry more than anything else and only professed his allegiance to the Islamic State at the last minute.

Whatever the Islamic State’s role, Obama is determined to root it out. But — and this is what separates him from many Republicans, including Trump — he is not losing his mind and pretending that a ragtag band of jihadists in the desert of the Middle East poses an existential threat to the United States. Read more “While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State”

NATO Could Destroy Islamic State So Why Don’t They?

An Italian F-16 fighter jet prepares to take off from Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia, November 3, 2011
An Italian F-16 fighter jet prepares to take off from Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia, November 3, 2011 (IDF)

NATO is the most powerful military alliance in human history: it combines three of the world’s seven nuclear-armed powers and tops it off with the conventional power of the world’s lone superpower. It has potentially formidable military powers within it: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom could all well rearm to much success should they so choose.

And the Islamic State just set off bombs right near their headquarters.

A wholly reasonable and often asked question will be: Why doesn’t NATO do something? Why, when so powerful and so unassailable, doesn’t the mighty military alliance annihilate the Islamic State?

This article is intended to help frame those conversations as friends, family and Facebook randoms begin asking just that. Read more “NATO Could Destroy Islamic State So Why Don’t They?”

Republicans Should Stop Frightening Voters

Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas campaigns in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 21
Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas campaigns in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 21 (Gage Skidmore)

Fearmongering has become such a staple of this year’s Republican presidential nominating contest in the United States that we may be starting to take the hyperbole for granted.

We shouldn’t, though, because it’s scaring the living daylights out of ordinary voters.

Michael A. Cohen reports for World Politics Review from the first presidential primary state of New Hampshire that voters there have been led to see the self-declared Islamic State — “an organization that has never launched a direct attack on America and whose acolytes have killed fewer Americans than gun violence does in a single day” — as a direct threat.

It’s not hard to understand where this distorted view comes from, he argues. Read more “Republicans Should Stop Frightening Voters”

Republican Criticism of Islamic State Strategy Feckless

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Republican presidential candidates lined up almost unanimously on Tuesday night to condemn Barack Obama’s strategy for defeating the fanatical Islamist group that calls itself the Islamic State.

Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who is ahead in the polls in the first voting state, Iowa, took the Democratic incumbent to task for supposedly letting “political correctness” get in the way of fighting the militants. There is a simple strategy for defeating them, he said during a debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas: “We win, they lose.”

Which, of course, is not a strategy at all.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both from Florida, were more sophisticated in their criticisms, but only a little. Read more “Republican Criticism of Islamic State Strategy Feckless”

Obama, Republicans See Terror Threat Differently

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama talks with advisors at the White House in Washington DC, December 5 (White House/Pete Souza)

While Republicans have ramped up their war rhetoric in the wake of recent Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in America and France, President Barack Obama insists his incremental strategy is the right one and working.

The reason the two sides are calling for such different courses of action, Peter Beinart argues at The Atlantic, is that they see the militant Islamist threat in fundamentally different terms.

Since George W. Bush, the majority of Republicans have thought of the War on Terror as something of a Third World War. Nine days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Bush described the perpetrators as “the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the twentieth century.”

Most of the Republicans who seek to replace Obama in 2016 still see the fight against Islamic terror in such epic terms, if not more so. Read more “Obama, Republicans See Terror Threat Differently”

British Lawmakers Back Strikes Against Islamists

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

British lawmakers voted to bomb Islamic State positions in Syria on Wednesday after a ten-hour debate that split the opposition Labour Party.

Prime Minister David Cameron had asked Parliament to allow him to expand strikes against the fanatical Islamist group after it claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in NATO ally France last month that killed more than 130 people.

Denouncing the militants as “medieval monsters,” butchers and rapists, Cameron urged lawmakers to “come together” to back military action.

“The House should be under no illusion that these terrorists are plotting to kill us and to radicalize our children right now,” he claimed. Read more “British Lawmakers Back Strikes Against Islamists”

Former Defense Secretary Questions Party’s War Planes

Former defense secretary Robert Gates delivers a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington DC, June 24, 2010
Former defense secretary Robert Gates delivers a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington DC, June 24, 2010 (DoD)

Former defense secretary Robert Gates criticized the war plans of his own party’s presidential candidates on Sunday when he argued that putting tens of thousands of American troops in Syria is “not a near-term solution” to defeating the Islamic State militant group there.

“It would take months and months, even if you decided you wanted to do it, to put the logistics in place, get the troops trained and so on,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Gates, a Republican who served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, did not single out any one candidate for criticism. But nearly all the Republicans seeking to replace Obama in 2016 have called for more expansive military action against the fanatical Islamist group that claimed responsibility for killing more than 130 people in terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month. Read more “Former Defense Secretary Questions Party’s War Planes”

Germany Deploys Frigate, Jets to Fight Islamic State

A German Tornado jet takes off from Rostock-Laage Airport, May 20
A German Tornado jet takes off from Rostock-Laage Airport, May 20 (Bundeswehr/Oliver Lang)

German ministers announced the deployment of Tornado jets, a refueling aircraft and a frigate to the Eastern Mediterranean on Thursday to support the American-led fight against the self-declared Islamic State there.

The country, Europe’s largest, has so far shied away from supporting the war against the fanatical Islamist group in Syria, citing the absence of an international mandate.

It has supplied Kurdish forces fighting the militants in the north of Iraq with military equipment. Read more “Germany Deploys Frigate, Jets to Fight Islamic State”