Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wars Within Wars

by Jonathan Spyer

A YPG fighter fires at ISIS forces [photo by Jonathan Spyer]
With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end. However, the situation in northern Syria, exemplified by the conflict in the canton of Kobani, an area stretching from the Turkish border to south of Kobani city, and from Tell Abyad in the east to Jarabulus in the west, casts doubt on Assad's optimism.

Kobani is under Kurdish control, but cuts into a larger section of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a jihadist organization. ISIS aims to hold a clear, contiguous area stretching from Syria's border with Turkey into western Iraq, where it controls territory in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar. The existence of the Kurdish canton of Kobani interferes with this plan, and since March ISIS has launched daily attacks against positions held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) at the edges of the enclave. The Kobani situation offers a window into the Syrian conflict, a fragmented reality where in large parts of the country the regime is little more than a memory, and well-organized rival militias representing starkly different political projects are clashing. Last month, I traveled to the Kobani enclave, entering from the Turkish border with Kurdish smugglers. The road was short but perilous—a sprint toward the border fence in the dark and a rapid, fumbling climb over it.

Kobani was the first of three cantons established by the Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) since the Assad regime withdrew from much of northern Syria in the summer of 2012. There are two other such enclaves: the much larger Jazeera canton to the east, which stretches from the town of Ras al-Ain to the border with Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and the smaller area around the city of Afrin further west. In all three of these areas, the PYD has set up a Kurdish-dominated autonomous administration. The intention of the Kurds is to consolidate their independent government and eventually to unite the three cantons.

In the meantime, however, the stark reality of siege conditions in the Kobani canton was immediately apparent to me. The main electricity supply had been cut off, with only intermittent power from hastily rigged-up generators. The water supply, too, had been interrupted, and the local Kurdish authorities were busy digging wells in the hope of reaching natural springs located deep underground.

Yet for all this, life in the city functions in a way closely resembling normality. The two hospitals in the city lack medical equipment and medicines, but they are open. "We are improvising, we are innovating, and we are not dying," a doctor told me at Ayn al-Arab hospital in Kobani city. The school system is functioning, too, and in northern Syria at present these are no small achievements.

The Kurdish enclaves are almost certainly the most peaceful and best-governed areas in Syria. However, the Kurds are aware of the precariousness of their achievement. Ali, a member of the Kurdish Asayish paramilitary police, told me that "Assad doesn't want to open another front now. But if he finishes with the radical groups, then he'll come for us, inevitably." In the meantime, as one PYD official said, "We take a third line, neither with the regime nor with the Free Syrian Army. We hope in the future to unite all the cantons. We accept a role for the Arabs, so we don't see a problem with this. And right now, we have one goal—keeping out ISIS."

The PYD's "democratic autonomy" project in northern Syria put it on a collision course with ISIS, which is trying to lay the basis for an Islamic state run according to its own floridly brutal interpretation of sharia law. The resulting conflict then is not simply about territory, or who will rule northern Syria; it is also about how this land will be ruled.

Mahmoud Musa, a Syrian political analyst and a refugee from the town of Jisr al-Shughur, told me that "there are three serious and well-organized forces in Syria today—the Assad regime, ISIS, and the Kurds." The last two regard themselves as at war with the regime. In reality, the rival mini-states they have carved out of a fragmented Syria are mainly in conflict with each other.

ISIS has emerged as one of the strangest and cruelest of the many political-military movements now active in Syria. I spoke with a young Kurdish man named Perwer who had spent a week in ISIS captivity. He was arrested at the Jarabulus border crossing, while returning to Syria from Istanbul. First detained by members of another Islamist unit, the Tawhid Brigade, he was then handed over to ISIS and kept for five days in one of the movement's jails in Jarabulus town, just west of the Kobani enclave.

Perwer related that a Kurdish man who had been caught raising the YPG flag in a village near the border with the Kurdish enclave was tortured to death. He also noted that among his fellow prisoners were Arab residents of Jarabulus held for drinking wine. They too were tortured. The Kurdish prisoners were regularly insulted and called apostates by the ISIS guards, who came from a variety of countries. Copies of the Koran were handed out to the Kurdish detainees, and the days in their crowded cell were broken up by prayer sessions, in which ISIS would seek to instruct their Muslim captives in what they regard as the correct method of Muslim prayer.

ISIS's mini-state reaches from the edges of Kobani to deep inside western Iraq. I visited the frontlines on the eastern edge of the Kobani enclave, where the positions of the YPG and ISIS push up against each other. In Tell Abyad, the two sides are camped in abandoned villages, where the ruined landscape has a slightly lunar quality. Eyewitnesses told me that ISIS forced the villagers to leave when the fighting began. Young fighters of the YPG moved carefully around their positions in the abandoned village, ever mindful of the presence of ISIS snipers. In places, the two sides are less than 500 meters apart. ISIS favors mortar fire by night and sniping by day. This has taken a toll on the male and female fighters of the YPG. Around 80 of them have died since the fighting erupted in March. Many more ISIS men, however, have been killed in their wild and uncoordinated attacks.

In Jarabulus on the western side, the frontline villages are still inhabited. Some of the local Arab clans are backing ISIS. A sort of de facto mini-transfer of populations has taken place in the area, largely, though not solely, along ethnic lines. I met a couple of Sunni Arabs among the ranks of the YPG fighters. There are also Kurdish volunteers among the ISIS men, including some commanders. They hail mainly from the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan, in particular from the Halabja area. Yet these details aside, it is clear the main dynamic of the conflict in this area is ethnic and sectarian, with Kurds faced off against Sunni Arab Islamists. The attitude of the YPG fighters to their ISIS enemies combines a certain contempt for their military prowess, with a sort of fascinated horror at their savage practices.

"They outnumber us, often. But they lack tactics," said Surkhwi, a female fighter and the commander of the Kurdish fighters in the village of Abduqli. "We think many of them take drugs before entering combat, and they attack randomly, haphazardly. They desecrate bodies of our fighters, cutting off heads, cutting off hands. They don't respect the laws of war," Surkhwi told me. "We also know that ISIS look at us women fighters as something not serious, because of their Islamic ideology. They think that if they are killed by a woman, they won't go to paradise."

The YPG fighters themselves, meanwhile, are clearly experienced and well trained. While interviewing one YPG commander, Nohalat Kobani, I had the chance to witness his troops in action. The position in the village of Haj Ismail where we were conducting the interview came under attack from small arms fire as we were talking. I followed the YPG fighters as they raced to their positions to return fire. The coordination and discipline were impressive. The YPG blasted back at the ISIS position, 500 meters away, with rifles and a medium-caliber machine gun. After a while, the shooting from the other side stopped. Nohalat Kobani, a large, corpulent man and a veteran PYD activist, was amused and unperturbed by the incident. We recommenced our interview as soon as the shooting stopped.

I met two ISIS fighters in an apartment in Kilis in the south of Turkey, two days after the skirmish at Haj Ismail. It was strange to be sipping tea and smoking with men whose comrades had been shooting at me a short time earlier. It was also fascinating to gain an insight into the appeal that ISIS has managed to exercise over some Syrians, and the way that the movement views the situation in northern Syria.

Both men were Syrians. Abu Muhammad was clean-shaven and wearing a black tracksuit. Abu Nur sported a short beard. I remarked to my contact afterwards that I would never have taken them for Islamists. He told me that ISIS men customarily shave their beards and adopt western dress when entering Turkey from Syria, so as to avoid the attention of the Turkish security services and police.

Abu Nur outlined his reasons for joining the organization. He had been a member of the Northern Storm militia, a notoriously corrupt non-Islamist militia group that had controlled the Bab al-Salameh border crossing from Turkey. The incident that had compelled him to leave Northern Storm and join ISIS, he said, was Senator John McCain's visit to Bab al-Salameh in the spring of 2013. Abu Nur explained that he is suspicious of foreign governments using Syrians for their own ends, so when fighting began between ISIS and Northern Storm in his hometown of Azaz, he joined ISIS, which laid waste to his former colleagues in the subsequent weeks. He had stayed with ISIS, he told me, because it "imposes sharia, acts against criminals and robbers, and has no contact with any foreign government."

When I asked Abu Muhammad about ISIS's practice of cutting off hands and heads as lawful punishments, he told me that "the media have exaggerated this. In certain areas they cut hands off, in others not," he said. "We have tried our best to apply sharia law. Of course there have been some mistakes."

ISIS has recently carried out a strategic retreat in parts of northern Syria, which in some ways resembles the earlier redeployment by the regime. In January of this year, under pressure from other rebel brigades, ISIS began to withdraw its fighters from Idleb and much of Aleppo provinces, concentrating them in its Raqqa stronghold and further east. Abu Mohammed explained the reasons for ISIS's redeployment. "If there are powers against me, I have to retreat and protect my back. And perhaps in the future I will return again."

ISIS rules over large swaths of western Iraq's Anbar and Ninewah provinces, where its fighters are engaged in an insurgency against the government of Nuri al-Maliki, who has been employing sectarian tactics against the Sunnis. So there is a strategic logic to ISIS contracting its forces and drawing down in northwest Syria. The problem for the Kurds is that the Kobani enclave falls within the area that ISIS still seeks to dominate.

Abu Muhammad expressed the matter clearly: "The YPG wants to establish a Kurdish state. This is completely unacceptable. We want the caliphate, something old and new, from the time of Mohammed. The Europeans created false borders. We want to break these borders."

Still, ISIS's plan to destroy the Kobani canton is unlikely to succeed. The Kurdish administration and its militia are capable and well organized, and will continue to defend the enclave's borders with weapons and supplies smuggled from across the Turkish border. There are veterans of the Kurdistan Workers' party war against Turkey advising the PYD on both civil and military matters. They appear more than able to stave off ISIS, and to continue to develop the institutions of their autonomy.

Bashar al-Assad may please himself with the farce of elections, but the wars within wars, competing worldviews, and irreconcilable projects, in northern Syria are testimony to the fact of the country's fragmentation. They reflect also the rapid change still underway in the Middle East, as old ideas and regimes contract and fade, and new contenders for power make war among the ruins.

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Invest in and secure the Jordan Valley

by David M. Weinberg

In his final speech to the Knesset in October 1995, just two weeks before he was assassinated, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin presented to the Knesset his vision for a Palestinian "entity" that would be "less than a state." Rabin made it clear that Israel would "not return to the June 4, 1967 lines" and he pledged that Israel would retain control over the Jordan Valley "in the broadest meaning of that term." He also explicitly stated that Israel would not freeze building over the Green Line.
By contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state; has largely frozen settlement building; and insists only upon "maintaining Israeli military forces along the Jordan River." Netanyahu's cautious formulation -- Israeli forces along the Jordan River -- means something other than full sovereignty, and clearly less than what Rabin intended.
Tellingly, Netanyahu has failed to promote the development of Jordan Valley settlements. I have learned that Netanyahu has even quietly hinted to prominent businessmen that they might not really want to invest in the development of hotels on the north shore of the Dead Sea.
Netanyahu's government also has turned a blind eye to the seizure by Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub of 5,000 dunams (two square miles) of land near Jericho for lucrative date tree plantations, nurtured with water stolen both from Mekorot pipes and from Jericho's residential drinking water lines.
All this tells me, worryingly, that Netanyahu is not truly committed to keeping the Jordan Valley under Israeli control. This is deeply regrettable, since the Israeli residents of that area are true pioneers, and only full Israeli control of the entire Jordan Valley region can provide Israel with sufficient security for the long-term.
On recent tours of the Jordan Valley Regional Council and the Megilot Regional Council, organized by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, I learned of the sacrifice and incredible agricultural productivity of the 6,000 residents and 27 communities in these areas -- most of which were established by the Labor Party. Regional council heads David Elhayani and Motzi (Mordechai) Dehaman are heroic figures that have steered their communities through decades of disadvantage, political neglect, and security adversity.
I also learned that the Jordan Valley is indispensable to Israel's national security, despite some recent punditry which argues that Israel no longer needs the Jordan Valley as a shield against aggression from the east.
It's true that the conventional military threat to Israel from the east has currently diminished -- with the end of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the weakening of war-torn Syria, and the impressive stability of Jordan despite the turmoil in the Arab world. Yet this is a very short-term perspective, motivated by the desire to convince the Israeli public that the Jordan Valley is militarily dispensable. This perspective ignores the immense potential for escalated political upheaval in the region, including possible jihadist destabilization of Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, who was head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, IDF deputy chief of staff, and National Security Adviser to the prime minister, has cogently and clearly laid out the argument for defensible borders that necessarily include the Jordan Valley.
Dayan says that Israeli security requires three things: fundamental strategic depth; room to wage war against the threat of conventional attack from the outside; and room that allows for effectively combating terrorism.
The minimal strategic depth and indivisible air space required is the 65-kilometer (40-mile) average width of Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
As for room to wage war, that is the Jordan Rift Valley, which ranges from six to 14 kilometers (four to nine miles) wide. The mountains on the valley's western edge (which range from 900 to 1,400 meters high) create a physical defensive barrier that is traversable only through five mountain passes. Thus, even a limited IDF force deployed in the valley should be able defend Israel against an attack from the east.
Furthermore, the Jordan Valley is the eastern buffer zone that prevents the West Bank mountain region from becoming a full-blown terrorist entity.
Additionally, Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, has argued for years that if Israel wants to maintain a defensible border along the Jordan Valley it needs to secure the road from the coast to the valley, via an undivided Jerusalem and via the West Bank city of Maaleh Adumim. This is the only west-east axis with a Jewish majority, and the only safe route via which Israel can mobilize troops from the coast to the Jordan Valley in a case of military emergency.
Thus Maaleh Adumim is the linchpin in establishing an effective line of defense along the valley against aggression from the east. Bolstering the populated Jewish corridor from Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim (including the five kilometer [three mile] connecting strip of land known as E1) is necessary to secure the road to the Jordan Valley and prevent the division of Jerusalem.
Some American and Israeli officials argue that Israel can achieve security on its eastern border by the placement of early detection systems in the Jordan Valley and by the deployment in the valley of foreign forces. That was the essence of the plan proposed by U.S. General John R. Allen on behalf of Secretary of State John Kerry. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon reportedly dismissed the plan out of hand, and Dayan concurs.
Dayan says that experience proves that no warning system can replace the defensive space of the Jordan Valley, and that Israel must never rely on foreign forces. Foreign troops will not risk their lives in the war on terror, and they will be the first to flee the region should a crisis develop.
In fact, Dayan says that Israeli negotiators of the past 20 years have approached security and diplomacy with their heads screwed on backwards. Israel must move, he says, from a policy of "security based on international agreements and diplomatic guarantees" to a policy of "agreements based on security provided by Israeli forces deployed in defensible spaces." We have to think of defensible borders, he explains, not only as markers that ensure Israel's security needs, but as key building blocks which guarantee that peace treaties will be sustainable.
Elhayani has a 10-year plan to triple the population in the Jordan Valley. He should receive full government backing. With the Kerry process dead-ended, Israel should move to reinforce its presence in areas well within national consensus -- such as the Jordan Valley and the E1 corridor.

David M. Weinberg


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Desperate Antics to Obstruct the Truth About Benghazi

by Joseph Klein

The Democrats and their media acolytes who are pushing back against a full investigation of the Benghazi scandal are in full circle the wagons mode. They are trying to make investigating this scandal into some sort of late night joke against Republicans, but instead are looking more desperate by the day.

Many Americans do not believe the Obama administration’s account of what happened leading up to and during the September 11, 2012 attack. They smell a cover up. According to a Rasmussen poll earlier this month, 59 percent feel it is unlikely the administration has revealed all of the details surrounding the tragic attack.

“Seventy-two percent continue to believe that it is important to find out exactly what happened in the Benghazi matter, with 46 percent who say it is ‘Very Important.’ Twenty-five percent consider more information about the Benghazi case unimportant, up from 19 percent in January, but that includes just 7 percent who say it is ‘Not At All Important,’” said Rasmussen.

Distrust of the Obama administration was stoked by the recent revelation of an e-mail written by then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes showing White House involvement in concocting the bogus anti-Muslim video explanation for the killings. The purpose of this intervention by the White House was to prepare then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her Sunday TV show appearances on September 16, 2012, with the goal of pushing the video narrative even though senior officials at the State Department and intelligence personnel on the ground knew early on that a pre-meditated terrorist attack was the real cause.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made a fool of himself yet again when he tried to claim with a straight face that the Rhodes e-mail had nothing to do with Benghazi. It’s all old news anyway, he intoned.

Bill Clinton has tried to blunt criticism of his wife’s conduct as Secretary of State by saying that the State Department’s own Benghazi investigation, which was led by retired Adm. Mike Mullen and former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering, “looked into what was wrong. They gave 29 recommendations. She took ‘em and started implementing them.”

That may be true, but Bill conveniently left out the fact that Hillary’s hand-picked Accountability Review Board failed to interview her. When she finally appeared before Congress to testify, Hillary responded to questions with a question of her own: “What difference at this point does it make?”

The mother of one of the Americans murdered in Benghazi by the jihadists, Sean Smith, refuses to accept such cold indifference. She wants the truth: “How can Hillary sit up there and say ‘What difference does it make,’ when she is the person that made the difference? She is the one that would not allow any security there; she is the one that was responsible.”

Bill Clinton’s defense of his wife’s lack of responsiveness to pleas for more security before the September 11, 2012 attack — despite repeated prior jihadist attacks on Western facilities and personnel — was to say that “No one had advance notice that this would happen as nearly as I can tell.” It must all depend in his mind on what the words “advanced notice” mean.

Susan Rice, now serving as President Obama’s National Security Adviser, wants to put her infamous Sunday show appearances behind her for good. When asked at a foreign policy lunch on May 14th whether the House select committee investigation on Benghazi would reveal anything new, she flippantly responded, “Danged if I know.” Actually, that’s the answer she should have given on those five Sunday talk shows if she had been asked why a UN ambassador with no knowledge of what happened in Benghazi was shoved in front of the cameras. She was sacrificed so that her boss Hillary Clinton, who had been briefed on what was happening in Benghazi in real time by the number two State Department official in Libya, Gregory Hicks, would not have to do the lying.

Rice also parroted the Democratic line, used by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as justification for his decision not to form a Senate select committee, that 25,000 documents have already been turned over to Congress. “It’s hard to imagine what further will come of yet another committee,” she said.

Rice might have had a reasonable point except for one tiny detail she left out – a key e-mail linking the White House to preparation of her misleading statements to the American people on national TV was not among those thousands of e-mails turned over to Congress. It was only turned over very recently after court action. It is not unreasonable to assume that there are other incriminating e-mails lurking in the files of the State Department and White House. They may provide answers to questions that the select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, in a turn-about, posed to reporters during a press conference when he asked them if they had been doing their jobs:
•Can you tell me why [Ambassador] Chris Stevens was in Benghazi that he was killed? Do you know? Does it bother you whether or not you know why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi?
•Do you know why we were the last flag flying in Benghazi, after the British had left and the Red Cross had been bombed?
•Do you know why requests for additional security were denied? Do you know why an ambassador asking for more security, days and weeks before he was murdered and those requests went unheeded? Do you know the answer to why those requests went unheeded?
•Do you know why no assets were deployed during the siege? And I’ve heard the explanation, which defies logic, frankly, that we could not have gotten there in time. But you know they didn’t know when it was going to end, so how can you possibly cite that as an excuse?
•Do you know whether the president called any of our allies and said, can you help, we have men under attack? Can you answer that?
•Do any of you know why Susan Rice was picked [to go on five Sunday talk shows after the attacks]? The Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] did not go. She says she doesn’t like Sunday talk shows. That’s the only media venue she does not like, if that’s true. Why was Susan Rice on the five Sunday talk shows?
•Do you know the origin of this mythology, that it was spawned as a spontaneous reaction to a video? Do you know where that started?
•Do you know where we got from no evidence on that, to that being the official position of the administration?”
Much of the mainstream media could not care less about the truth. They act like an extension of the Obama White House. And they are auditioning for that same part in helping Hillary Clinton fend off embarrassing questions that might interfere with her quest for the White House in 2016.

Chuck Todd of NBC News, for example, said on May 13th that “all the questions have been answered. There’s just some people that don’t like the answers.” Then perhaps NBC News will enlighten us on the answers to Rep. Gowdy’s questions above.

Left-wing commentator Eleanor Clift wins the prize for the most idiotic media criticism of further investigation into what happened in Benghazi. She claimed last Sunday that Ambassador Chris Stevens “was not ‘murdered;’ he died of smoke inhalation in that safe room in that CIA installation.” She then doubled down on her ludicrous claim during a radio interview on May 13th:
“I was taking issue with the sort of glib use of the word ‘murdered.’ My point is that it was a very chaotic event. The CIA was involved, which is why there was a lot of confusion initially, and that all the questions that this special committee is raising have been asked and answered in previous investigations.”
The jihadists who set the fire that killed Ambassador Stevens were not out on a lark. They intended to kill. In any case, by committing the felony of arson which resulted in Ambassador Stevens’ death, the jihadists committed what is known in the law as felony murder.

Then there is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who accused Republicans of using Benghazi to subject poor Hillary Clinton to “voodoo.” Maybe he is on to something, given Hillary’s possible health problems:
The enemies of Hillary Clinton, by that I mean the partisan enemies, have got their voodoo doll. It’s called Benghazi. Every time they put the pin in, they hope it hurts Hillary. Every time they say the word, they hope it scares her.
The only thing that scares Hillary and the Obama administration is the truth. Their partisan defenders are doing everything possible to keep the American people from knowing the truth about what really happened before, during and after the tragic attack on September 11, 2012 that murdered four brave Americans who were serving their country.

Joseph Klein


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Liberals Must Refute the Leftist Bigots on Campus

by Michael Curtis

Tis the season of Commencement discontent. Let me count in alphabetical order the number of universities affected by the growing intolerance of bigots on campuses in North America.  Among them are Azusa Pacific, Brandeis, Brown, California, Concordia, Haverford, North Carolina, Rutgers, Smith, and Swarthmore.  Withdrawals by individuals to be honored or invited to speak, whether due to university action or voluntary, are now as familiar as leftist indoctrination of university students.

There is always an excuse, a feeble excuse, for the protests, whether the rationale is an action or a supposed action by the person to be honored, or some controversial words written or spoken. Among those absurd excuses are: the attempts by administrators to restore order when a protest was disrupting campus life, criticism of some features of Islam, International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies that predated the tenure of the recipient towards developing countries, police racial profiling in New York City, views on immigration policy, disapproval of abortion.

The objects of the intolerance are not extreme political activists, but prominent and distinguished members of the professions and society. They should be named. Robert L. Birgeneau, a former Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley who is in fact admired for liberal social views. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, the first woman to hold this position and one of the most powerful women in the world. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born activist who has made critical and controversial remarks about the religion of Islam and the ideology of Islamism from which she has herself suffered. Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and Provost at Stanford. Charles Murray, distinguished author known for controversial views on race class, and intelligence. Raymond Kelly, former New York City Police Commissioner. Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank.  These multiple incidents today are reminiscent of the event in 1983 when Jeanne Kirkpatrick, political scientist and former US Ambassador to the United Nations, was denied a platform at Berkeley.

Although these distinguished people would exemplify the diversity that universities claim to foster, their offence was that they did not agree, or were thought not to agree, with the protestors. They have offended the ideological conformity of the protesting intolerant bigots who would be numbed by hearing views other than their own. The arrogance and close-mindedness of the protestors prevents them from listening to alternative points of view.
The goal of inquiry and research at colleges is to search for truth and challenge accepted points of views. But the dominant mode of protests and of much teaching in the social sciences and humanities is a form of leftist fascism, preventing speech with which one disagrees. The politically correct norm at present is not conservative or status quo views, but rather the opposite, radical intolerant ones. Do those intolerant protests help the growth of social justice?  Both practical activity and highly perverse intellectual argument suggest an answer.

The impetus to leftist politicization occurred in 1964 when the radicals in the University of California Free Speech Movement occupied the administration building in Berkeley, the first such “conquest” in the country. It led to the reshaping of curriculum in an overtly radical direction, and hiring of faculty who leaned towards those changes. It has also led to incredible ignorance, stupidity, and bigotry.

The case at hand is that of the several hundred students at Smith today whose protests led to the withdrawal of Christine Lagarde from Commencement. Their absurd message was that the IMF “was a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries. This led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” The young women at Smith were not informed about or thought it unimportant to mention the “oppression and abuse” of hundreds of women, not by the IMF, but by honor killings every year in Muslim countries.

The current protestors have taken to heart the answer, even if they cannot take time from their protests to read the actual text, given in 1965 by Herbert Marcuse, who taught for a number of years at Brandeis, in his essay Repressive Tolerance. Among his more engaging conclusions was that, “the objective of tolerance would call for injustice towards prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions.”  This logically meant rigid restrictions on teachings and practices with which he disagreed in educational institutions. Perhaps Marcuse did not specifically suggest the shouting down or forbidding of intellectual opponents, but his advocacy of repression or limitation of expression has been taken by the present day bigots to its logical conclusion.

Many objective studies have indicated the host of problems on campuses today: the highly disproportionate number, by very large margins, of far leftist members of university faculty, and sometimes administration; raucous and highly active leftist student groups; one sided teaching if not indoctrination in class and in texts used in many of the social sciences and in history courses; a preponderance of radical campus guest speakers; the incessant activity of radical Islamic campus organizations.

Sixty-five years ago Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote The Vital Center, a book aiming to support liberal democracy against the ideologies of communism and fascism. Though it is not directly relevant to today’s campus intolerance, the book is pertinent for its practical suggestion to “restore the balance between the individual and community.” There is an urgent need for a balance today in campus behavior and for a vigorous response to the changes in recent years in that behavior. Free speech and free thought are being limited by the actions of leftists, many of whom are aging radical revolutionaries left over from the 1960s, and the students they have indoctrinated. The desirable features of intellectual diversity, essential for any real university, are declining. It would be reasonable to argue that this issue of intellectual diversity is as important, and perhaps now more important, than the issues of racial and gender diversity.

A distinction must be drawn between the radical leftists on one hand and true liberals, a group that on the issue of intellectual freedom would include conservatives today. Liberals have to make their voices heard on campuses. They must proclaim themselves as supporters of real tolerance on campuses, the right of speakers who are not leftists to be heard, that ideological indoctrination by faculty and choice of textbooks should be criticized, that conservative faculty or speakers should not be confronted by a hostile environment, that speech codes that ban politically oriented speech be abolished, and even that administrators should question the self-perpetuation of their radical faculty and appoint real liberals and even conservatives.  

It was encouraging and gratifying that some members of the Smith faculty did, if belatedly, issue a statement that Christine Lagarde’s withdrawal represented a “lost opportunity” for informed diverse discussion on campus.  It was the Smith women themselves who lost this opportunity.  Liberals must make sure that students elsewhere do not suffer in the same way. They should have courage, stand up to the bullies and ignorant bigots, and be on the frontlines proclaiming what Max Weber called “the ethics of responsibility.”

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

A Review of the Late Barry Rubin's Book: Silent Revolution

by Lloyd Billingsley

“The idea that tens of millions of Americans could be, in effect, turned into anti-Americans seemed insane. But it happened, didn’t it?”

In Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance, historian and political scientist Barry Rubin answers that question in convincing style and considerable detail. What happen was a “break from all American history” and “an ideological defacing of liberalism” on the part of the “Third Left,” the heir to both the Old Left of the 1920s-1950s and the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s.

As Rubin sees it, the Third Left took over liberalism, portrayed its only opponent as reactionary right-wing conservatism and claimed that their radicalism represents all that is good in America and a correction to all that is evil. The new radicalism also claims a monopoly on truth and a right to fundamentally transform America. This altered approach, Rubin explains, “was one of an unprecedented degree of statism, an imperial presidency that went far beyond Richard Nixon’s dreams: record high levels of government regulation, taxation and debt.” It was “a different system from the one through which America achieved success and prosperity. Yet the fact that such changes were occurring was everywhere denied even as it was happening.”

The timing was also significant. Across the globe, regimes following the Old and New Left’s model were collapsing. At the very moment in human history when it became obvious that the far left’s ideas had failed and that statist big government, ever-higher-regulation policies did not work, it became possible for the first time ever to convince Americans that these things were precisely what the country needed. And at the very time in human history when Western civilization and liberal capitalism were so obviously the most successful in history – recognized as such in the Third World and most of all in formerly Communist China – a camouflaged radical movement convinced many of those benefitting from the system that their own societies were in fact evil and failed.

According to Rubin, it became possible to convince Americans their society had failed because the Third Left “put its emphasis on infiltrating the means of idea and opinion production.” The Third Left shunned the factories and focused on foundations, NGOs, popular culture, publishing and journalism. Reporters “routinely used politically charged language that would have gotten them fired in earlier times” and mass media were out to “protect the image of anyone on the left side.” Rubin cites the portrayal of Ted Kennedy, involved in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and Bill Clinton of Monica Lewinsky fame, as heroes on women’s rights while others who had done nothing were “accused of waging a war on women.” Likewise, Rubin notes that Time magazine ridiculed Arianna Huffington when she was a conservative in 2001 but in 2006, when she turned to the far left, the same publication extolled her. “Such lessons put across the point that those who cooperated with the Third Left would be rewarded; those who crossed it would be destroyed.”

The Third Left’s subversion of bedrock American institutions such as the news media has only become more emboldened. A more recent example Rubin cites is the 2009 JournoList scandal, a product of the machinations of former Washington Post star pundit Ezra Klein. Influential writers, academics and members of the press on the confidential JournoList list-serv spoke of how to be most effective in ensuring Obama’s election victory in 2008. They told colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by calling Obama’s conservative critics racists. Rubin also cites Ryan Donmoyer of Bloomberg News who said, “Is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and the rise of the Brownshirts?”

Yet, says Rubin, “not a single serious investigation was conducted about Obama’s earlier life.”

In the universities the Third Left “drew heavily on Marxist historians from the Communist era – like Howard Zinn – and the New Left generation.” History became a revolutionary tool for discrediting American society and “showing it is unworthy of continued existence.” As in Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, the USA is responsible for Cold War and the USSR is innocent. “This is a staple of university history courses,” says Rubin, “despite the fact that the documents show a very different story.”

The author also notes that when Naomi Schaefer Riley of the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote of the low quality of Black Studies programs she was “quickly barred from the publication.”

From their new power centers the Third Left “sought to roll back the great liberal democratic revolution in human society. Anger, hysteria and class warfare replaced pragmatism and logic.” As Rubin observes, “the demonization of Christians, Republicans and large areas of America by an intolerant elite is one of the most absurd features of the terrible distortion of reality so powerful in the contemporary United States.”

The Third Left’s goal was “to convince Americans the exact opposite of what their experience proved: that the country had fundamentally failed and the old leftist solutions were the answer.” In the Third Left view, wealth was not created by individual enterprise and workers but stolen from poor foreigners and oppressed nonwhites. In a divide-and-conquer strategy, the Third Left declares America evil and “and the people are broken up into warring groups.”
The United States has been transformed into a county of castes, something like a medieval society, while the goal of equal treatment of citizens and the attempt to reward individual merit were overthrown in favor of special privileges. Every male and white person becomes guilty and can only attain innocence by backing the destruction of their own “privileges” by backing the Third Left and “Progressive” liberal agenda.
Barack Obama “came to symbolize the silent revolution,” but readers of Rubin’s book will find no conspiracy theories. For Barry Rubin, Obama is “just another product of the ideology and indoctrination that grown-up 1960s radicals had systematically spread to his generation and its successors.” By radicals he means people like Bill Ayers, Van Jones and Bernardine Dohrn, who back in the day said that young Americans should “use their strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of empire.”

Rubin shows how Obama’s mentor Frank Marshall Davis called himself a “progressive” to conceal the reality that he was a Communist. Rubin charts Obama’s radical professors and finds no case of him challenging any orthodoxy of the left or criticizing any Communist regimes. Obama emerges as the Third Left’s self-hypnotized Manchurian candidate, shrink-wrapped in statist superstition, hostile to America like his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright, and certainly not a liberal.

If Obama was a liberal, asks Rubin, “why did he repeatedly denounce the greatest accomplishments of liberals and call for a completely different approach?” Obama also opposed the American priority of protecting individual liberty from government control, “something liberals had never done.” He mocked a healthy skepticism of too much government as a bumper-sticker idea that doesn’t work. Even the liberal Warren court, Rubin says, was not “radical” enough for Obama.

Obama’s pronouncements appear in a different light when separated from his multicultural studio audience and cheering section. For Obama, “[a] free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.” As Rubin notes, “But it had always thrived under fewer rules than Obama wanted, while it had plummeted with the level of rules and definition of fair play Obama had imposed during his first term.” No worries, because that plays into the Third Left’s self-perpetuating system.
The economy would decline, constantly adding to unemployment payments, food stamps and other government programs, which in turn gave the Third Left more reasons to blame capitalism and the greedy rich for not having met society’s needs: to demand even higher taxes; to raise taxes, and to increase government spending.
Rubin believes that the radical forces and ideas of the Third Left will “continue to hold the commanding heights” even after Obama leaves office. The result “may be a very long term and even permanent change of the United States into something else, a nation far less affluent and far less free.”

That is the fundamental transformation the president and the Third Left want. It does seem insane and the author wonders, “Will there be a U turn?” That is, can tens of millions of people be turned back into pro-Americans? Barry Rubin passed away in February and does not chart the prospects for such a turnaround. A good place to start would be for Americans to read Silent Revolution and acquaint themselves with the true nature of those who call themselves “liberals” — and start pushing back.

Lloyd Billingsley


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Arabs: We Want Democracy - Like Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh

"How many Arab leaders would be left if they went on trial of similar cases of bribery and corruption?" — Zuhear al-Karim, Arabic CNN.
"If Olmert were in Kuwait, his case would have been shelved and he would have received a senior position in government." — Yasalam, Al-Aan.
"Law is above all and this is real democracy. Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East." — Saad Sayad, Arabic CNN.
The Tel Aviv District Court's decision to send former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for corruption has prompted calls in the Arab world for endorsing Israel's standards of accountability, transparency and justice.

Reacting to the sentencing of Olmert, many Arabs expressed hope that the day would come when their countries would learn from Israel that no one is above the law, even if he or she is a president or prime minister.

Sufian Abu Zayda, a leading Fatah official and former Palestinian Authority minister, praised the court verdict; he said it shows that in Israel, no one is above the law.

"This verdict provides further evidence that the judicial system in Israel is fully independent in the wake of the separation between the legislative, executive and judicial authorities, as well as total freedom of the media," said Abu Zayda, who is considered an expert on Israeli affairs.[1]

The praise for Israel's democratic system does not mean that Abu Zayda and other Arabs have become pro-Israel and are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist.

But while they continue to hate Israel and seek its destruction, many Arabs do not hesitate to express their admiration for the independence of Israel's judicial system.

Comments posted by Arabs and Muslims on the Internet this week revealed how eager they are for their countries to endorse Israeli democracy. Similar reactions were also published when an Israeli court sentenced former Israeli President Moshe Katzav to seven years in prison for sex-related offenses.
Soon to be reunited in prison? Israel's former President Moshe Katzav (l) and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (r) are pictured here during happier times.

Following are some of the comments posted on Arab media and social websites in response to the Olmert verdict:
  • Ali Al-Kadi: "We salute Judge David Rosen [who sentenced Olmert to prison]. We wish the Arabs had 22 judges like David Rosen!" [Al-Quds Al-Arabi][2]
  • Mohammed Akash: "O Muslims, look at the fairness of this judge and where you are. You must learn from our enemy, Israel. Long live the fair Israeli judicial system."[Al-Quds Al-Arabi][3]
  • Manji Dalali: "This is one of the secrets behind Israel's victory over the Arabs. We must learn from our Jewish Zionist enemy the principles of fair justice. "[Al-Quds Al-Arabi][4]
  • Ibrahim - Libya: "We Muslims are in great need of a decent judicial system to punish our thieves and corrupt leaders. May God help us." [Al-Quds Al-Arabi][5]
  • Hassan Jamal: "I wish Arab countries do the same for their corrupt leaders. I wish the Arab people will do the same for their countries and get rid of corrupt officials, including presidents and kings." [Al-Quds][6]
  • Mohammed: "Of course Islam is the best religion. But the regimes that claim to endorse Islam are practicing repression and corruption. Meanwhile, Israel is among the democratic countries and is better than all the Arab and Islamic countries when it comes to respecting its people and combating theft of resources." [Al-Wasat News][7]
  • Adel: "This is the secret to Israel's success; it has become a symbol of justice because it has made justice one of its major bases of power. We, on the other hand, are doing the opposite. We continue to cover up cases of corruption and do not do anything about them." [Echorouk Online][8]
  • Abu Zeid: "I live in Israel and am familiar with its laws. In this state, no one is above the law." [Al-Arabiya][9]
  • Sami Dirani: "Israel is the enemy of the Arabs...but it practices democracy - something the Arabs do not know. That is why Israel is stronger and more advanced than the Arabs, who are busy slaughtering each other. Some [Arabs] are dying of starvation, while others are swimming in pools of dollars." [Al-Hayat][10]
  • Hani: "The hadith [prophet's sayings] states that we should seek education, even if it is in China. And I say to Muslims, 'Learn justice even if it's from Israel.' I wish the day would come when our leaders would be brought to trial and have our money taken back from them." [Assawsana][11]
  • Yasalam: "If Olmert were in Kuwait, his case would have been shelved and he would have received a senior position in government." [Al-Aan][12]
  • Rahhal: "The Zionists have more justice than our thugs and so-called Muslims." [Al-Aan][13]
  • Kabir al-Muhandiseen: "This is how states are built. This is the secret to Israel's strength and steadfastness." [Al-Aan][14]
  • Muhasabah: "In Israel, they hold their officials accountable and send them to prison, while we Arabs glorify the corrupt." [Al-Aan][15]
  • Zuhear al-Karim: "How many Arab leaders would be left if they went on trial for similar cases of bribery and corruption?" [Arabic CNN][16]
  • Abdo Shehatah: "The Jews continue to prove, every day, that they have real democracy in this world." [Arabic CNN][17]
  • Saad Sayad: "Law is above all and this is democracy. Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East." [Arabic CNN][18]

[1][2][3] Ibid.[4] Ibid.[5] Ibid.[6][7][8][9]الفساد-يدخل-أولمرت-إلى-السجن-6-سنوات.html[10]السجن-ست-سنوات-لرئيس-الوزراء-الإسرائيلي-السابق-ايهود-أولمرت[11][12][13] Ibid.[14] Ibid.[15] Ibid.[16][17] Ibid.[18] Ibid.

Khaled Abu Toameh


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Stunning Election in India

by Thomas Lifson

India may be at a historic turning point, as voters delivered a sweeping victory to the BJP party led by Narendra Modi, as predicted on these pages more than 2 weeks ago. This represents a repudiation of the Congress Party, the heir to the Gandhi-Nehru semi-socialist political machine that has ruled India virtually since independence.  

While the American mainstream media has virtually ignored this embrace of free markets and anti-jihadism, the Obama administration will soon be forced to back-peddle and deal with a man it has barred from receiving a visa to visit the United States.

Modi’s party has achieved an absolute majority in the Indian parliament, and will have the support of some other parties as well, and thus will be able to govern the world’s largest democracy and implement a reform agenda.

As governor of the state of Gujarat, Modi compiled an excellent record of reform and economic growth, so his party’s taking control of the national government bodes well for India turning around its faltering economic growth.

The American visa ban was based on unproven allegations that Modi was somehow implicated in a riot of Hindus, responding to Muslim violence. Now that he will be the head of state, there is no question but that the Obama administration will retreat from its unfounded ban. And there are substantial risks that if President Obama’s anti-Modi stance persists, India will cozy up to Russia, something the Russian government-controlled website eagerly anticipates:
The Modi administration will deepen ties with both: Russia to counterbalance the United States and Japan to counterbalance China. The Modi-led India should also see a huge fillip in trade and economic ties with these two countries. 
While the American media are reticent to cover what amounts to a sweeping victory for conservative/free market/anti-Islamist forces, overseas media are giving the victory substantial coverage. The left wing UK Guardian is apoplectic, headlining that Modi “bludgeoned” his way to victory.

For his part, Modi is moving to dispel fears that he will be divisive as the leader of India. Al Jazeera reports:

Speaking to supporters, Modi thanked the nation, and immediately addressed concerns his pro-Hindu leanings would sideline minorities.
"The age of divisive politics has ended, from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin," Modi said. "We want more strength for the wellbeing of the country ... I see a glorious and prosperous India."
"I want to take all of you with me to take this country forward... it is my responsibility to take all of you with me to run this country," he added.
Incoming Prime Minister Modi knows well that only two+ years remain of the Obama presidency, and we can hope that ties between the US and its natural ally India will not be seriously damaged in that time frame.

Meanwhile, watch for India to embark on free market reforms that should empower its talented populace to achieve economically the promise that has slumbered for too many years.

Thomas Lifson


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