One of the perils of knowing I’ll be out of town and may forget to post something is that I’ll auto-post pieces weeks in advance. So that’s my excuse for 1) posting a piece on Putin and the EU that doesn’t factor in the Paris attacks, 2) posting two pieces on the same day, and 3) posting a Part III to my work-in-progress Gerald and Grace without posting Part II first. That’s a spectacular trifecta of fakakta posting by anyone’s blogging standards.
So lemme start making up for it.
The Paris attacks were as despicable as they were unsurprising. (You probably remember the mantra that “we fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here.” So, now that we’ve stopped fighting “over there,” what did you expect to happen?) Factor in the other attacks in Egypt and Beirut, there is every sign that ISIS is fully operational as a global network.
In my previous piece, I paint the far-right parties in the EU as threats to the EU and potential fifth columnists for Putin. That does not mean they are necessarily wrong. The EU is a cumbersome and generally listless bureaucracy that favors the politically connected and the elites and either ignores or demonizes dissenters, especially from the working classes of Germany, France and England. It is a direct result of the EU’s hubris that the far-right has gained popularity in those countries. Awash in self-righteousness, Angela Merkel’s ludicrous immigration initiatives, her politically correct name-calling and her defiance of common sense have alienated Eastern Europe, infuriated her own constituents and enabled an already significant terrorist threat to grow exponentially. When Germans are forbidden to post dissenting views to Facebook, it is not surprising that the politically incorrect fringes of the political spectrum will become more and more attractive to the rank-and-file citizenry. It is also not surprising that Putin’s friendship, support and influence might be a bauble too shiny for most of them to resist. Like Americans who, sick of Obama’s Hamlet, turn to Donald Trump’s Falstaff, I worry that, in a Europe already showing disturbingly totalitarian tendencies, a strongman like Putin seems a refreshing change from the limp-wristed elites in Brussels who have plunged the EU into economic, military and cultural decline. As the Obama administration fails to present an intelligence counterbalance to Putin’s war of influence, there are few reasonable alternatives for middle class Europe to pin its political hopes.
But whether or not Europe bends towards Putin’s will, the Paris attacks show that the US will have its own hands full. Despite Friday’s attacks, the Obama Administration’s plans to import 10,000 Syrian refugees remain unchanged. The administration promises “robust vetting” of the refugees, although, how you vet the background of anyone from a country in the midst of civil war, with no reliable records is anyone’s guess.
Under an administration that has tried for almost 7 years to fight wars with its feet firmly on the brakes, any attempt by France to invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty (the famous “an attack on one is an attack on all” section), presents a real political dilemma. Either the US will be committed to a full war against ISIS — a step that the Obama Administration embraces rhetorically more than practically — or the US skirts the issue and NATO fails to rally to the Article 5 call to action, in which Vladimir Putin will lick his lips and gaze hungrily at NATO small fry Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
A few other random thoughts on the attacks:
Charles Krauthammer has often said that the tension between freedom and security is permanent in the US because our position is never locked. There are times we lean more towards freedom and times we lean more towards security. The key is to understand when to dial one up and the other down. It is vogue lately to say that we dialed up too far in favor of security after 9/11. Hopefully, the Paris attacks will remind our short-attention spanned populace that we have not yet reached a tipping point where we can turn the dial back further towards personal freedom. If anything, we need to take the handcuffs off the NSA, push back against Russian propaganda and enable remember that the best defense against an asymmetric enemy is a good offense.
The French, whose signals intelligence agencies have much more latitude than the NSA, failed to spot the attack. They are overwhelmed and understaffed thanks to mass immigration. The US would be well advised to rethink our attempts to hamstring the NSA, encourage mass immigration and discourage assimilation.
John Schindler addresses the politically impossible reality that, since the French are so overwhelmed trying to track all the terror suspects they have, their only option might be to incarcerate suspects. It is worth remembering that both FDR and Abraham Lincoln did just that when the stakes got high enough. If the US doesn’t want to get to the point that we have to consider that again, we might want to start taking all the pre-emptive action we can — ranging from monitoring mosques to gathering metadata again. It’s a helluva better option than having to round up people, isn’t it?
Do we still wanna slash the defense budget? There are a lot of things government can do. There are only a few things government must do. Keeping the country safe is one of them, isn’t it?
It was touching to see that the Democratic candidates for president didn’t let the attacks alter their talking points on Saturday night. They all want the US to take in around 65,000 refugees using the unicorn of “proper vetting.” (See my response above.) And apparently, it’s OK to call these terrorists jihadists or Islamists, as long as you don’t say that we’re fighting radical Islam. (This kind of weak-kneed hair-splitting shows why boobs like Donald Trump catch fire — at least Trump’s ignorance doesn’t get in the way of making a straightforward statement.) When Hillary Clinton clung to the line that “saying radical Islam” lumped all Muslims together, I checked the DNC website to see if the party was against adjectives as well. I noticed that the candidates saved their martial tone for “Wall Street” (what about the non-exploitive elements on Wall Street? Aren’t we concerned with rhetoric about declaring war on “Wall Street” rather than just the “small, well-organized extremists” attempting to “hijack” a noble concept?) What else? Well, we need to reach out to Muslim countries. (I guess we’ve never done outreach to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.) Oh, and this is all climate change’s fault.
And how soon can January 2017 get here?