On Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder (all too conveniently skipping town ahead of the solidarity march) declared "we must attack the underlying causes of Islamic radicalism!" Isn't that what we have been doing, obviously ineffectively, for the past 14 years?
Since the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, whole forests have been destroyed feeding the endless reams of well-intentioned treatises prescribing solutions to vanquish the threat to the West from Islamic radicalism. They have included major military operations, a so-called Middle East Marshal Plan for the Middle East, Arabic radio music stations, entrepreneurial summits, U.S.-mandated elections, toppling tyrants... the list goes on and on.
What is your latest, best idea, Mr. Holder? A February White House Conference on Extremism... hmmm. Hollow optics always trumps effective strategy from this White House when it comes to the Middle East.
Last week's Paris terrorism reminds me of Yogi Berra's twisted adage: "It's Déjà Vu all over again!" Yet another Al Qaeda sleeper cell awakened in a western democracy by a jihadi cult of murder that promises paradise instead of damnation for taking innocent life all in the name of Islam -- leaving several terrorists holding an entire nation hostage.
Where and when will the next atrocity occur? French and U.S. authorities warn of other sleeper cells.
By any objective measure the rampage at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher Market in Paris constituted a horrendous breakdown in French intelligence. The Kouachi bros and their Al Qaeda confederates were infamously known to French and U.S. counter-terrorism authorities for years... and yet, French police decided just several months ago that the brothers did not constitute a sufficient menace to justify continued surveillance. That decision will haunt the French for years to come.
The shock wave from Paris is the latest in a growing wave of jihadi-inspired terror against Muslims and westerners in recent months in France, in Europe, in the Middle East and across the globe.
In March, 2012, 3 Jewish children, a rabbi, and 3 French soldiers were murdered in Toulouse against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism against France's half a million Jews stoked by Islamists. In May, a French national jihadi murdered 4 visitors to Belgium's Jewish Museum in Brussels. Then there were the attacks in Ottawa (October), in Sydney (December), in London (May), and in New York (November). Nigeria's "goryfied" radical Islamist Boko Haram wiped out a whole village last week. Pakistan is sinking into a terror-laden trap. In the past three months in Saudi Arabia, a Dane, a Canadian, and two Americans were attacked, and one of the Americans killed at a Riyadh gas station -- attackers inspired by ISIS videos calling on Muslims to kill westerners. In Abu Dhabi, an American school teacher mother of three was stabbed to death in a shopping mall. Yemen is disintegrating into the bloody hands of AQAP -- under a wave of Al Qaeda-inspired suicide bombings that have killed thousands in recent weeks. And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even mentioned the mile-long list of interrupted outrages that have been foiled by tips, luck, and/or the hard, inadequately rewarded grinding work of intelligence and counter terrorism officials.
The hand-wringing begins anew. What to do? How to unravel the radical riddle? Are we next? Are there sleeper cells about to be activated in the U.S.? What do we know about the so-called "lone wolves" who are just a gun or hatchet away from yet another murderous jihadi assault?
For 15 long years I have personally immersed myself in the history and theology of Islamic-based terror. I co-founded the first Arab-language television production company (Layalina Television) after 9/11 to create original programs to mitigate Arab/Muslim hostility toward the West - a feel good endeavor that was well intentioned and did reach millions of Arabs, but admittedly a drop in the bucket.
And since 9/11, the U.S. government has funded hundreds of millions of dollars in "public diplomacy" initiatives to tranquilize Bin Ladenism. A new Arab television station (Al Hurra), entrepreneurial training, emissary missions, inter-faith dialogues...and on and on. Add to that our latest "war against ISIS" and the endless drone strikes against (AQIP) in war-torn Yemen, attacks on the Khorasan Group in Syria, the fight against Al Qaeda in Mali, Nigeria, and now, after a NATO effort to topple Gadaffi feeble efforts to prevent the dismal disintegration of Libya into a jihadi jungle.
The Arab world, having failed the promise of the Arab Spring is now being torn apart by the first-in-centuries intra-Islamic war between Sunni and Shiite, imposing a whole new overwhelmingly complex dimension to our feeble efforts to diffuse the call to jihad.
It is fair to admit that no Muslim leader or coalition has come up with the magic potion to defeat the toxic Islamic jihadi cult of murder inspired by Al Qaeda and its franchisees. A few days ago, Egypt's President Al Sisi called for a "religious revolution" to rebuke and refute Islam's ill-begotten jihadi theology -- a courageous declaration against the cancer that is within Arab societies and emigre communities. Yet so far, no sermon from Cairo's venerable center of Islamic studies Al Ahzar University has eviscerated the jihadi agenda. The lure of salvation for fanatically defending the faith is proving irresistible. And tranquilizing the venom of Sunni hatred of Shiites (and vice versa) battling for the mantle of Muhammed's rightful inheritance is beyond western civilization altogether.
It is so maddening that no Muslim leader or group of leaders have even tried to marshal the mass following to rebuke and destroy the jihadi justification of terrorism, murder, and the taking of innocent lives in the name of Islam. And I am not talking an isolated sermon or three from one Imam.
That is JOB #1 no matter what else is done. The narrative has been left to fester far too long.
Are we doomed to suffer Islam's schisms and Arab decimation for the foreseeable future? Unfortunately, the outlook is bleak. The 21st century history of the Arab world will likely be known as the 100 year struggle to reconcile Islam's relationship with its Middle East believers in a globalized world. As ISIS and Al Qaeda soul-snatchers feverishly compete for the hearts and minds of thousands of Arab, European, and Americans to join their Jihadi crusade, more imagination and determination is in order.
There are no short cuts either. Even if Syria's fiendish Bashar al Assad was evicted from Damascus on a magic carpet tomorrow the blood-lust unleashed by the Ayatollahs, their Shiite Iraqi puppets, Bin Laden's believers, and ISIS's Al Baghdadi, will not be vanquished by western arms or by Arab governments for decades to come.
It is time to acknowledge that the torrent of anti-jihadi fire retardant the West unleashed against this evil after 9/11 has proven ineffective. All of the good talk and inspired ideas have not adequately choked off the flame's oxygen.
What is common-sensibly realistic in every sense of that word to help reverse the threat in the coming months? Here are a few practical ideas:
1. Hearts & Minds: In the battle over information between ISIS/AQ and the West, the jihadis are winning. I am sick and tired of hearing how slick ISIS's social media is. Where is the U.S. social media website depicting the gruesome atrocities inflicted by ISIS against Muslims, Christians, and other innocent civilians including crucifixions of Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians, the first-hand accounts of rape, massacres, mass burials, the child slavery, torture and corruption. The State Department's Center for Strategic Counter-Terrorism Communications - the lead anti ISIS propaganda operation in the U.S. government - deploys inside-the-Beltway cyber-Pablum instead of Seal Team Six-style videos designed to shame and discredit jihadi wannabees. Nothing the State Department has produced offers any real promise to neutralize ISIS and AQ. It's like tossing Howdy-Doody into a knife fight (to paraphrase James Baker).
2. The "No Boots on the Ground" Charade: There are several thousand U.S. military "advisers" now in Iraq. If Al Qaeda's Khorsan Group in Syria poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, well, doesn't it border on a dereliction of duty not to authorize U.S. ground troops to decimate it? Enough with the mission creep logic. OK Mr. Majority Leader McConnell, how about creating a bi-partisan task force to work with the Obama Administration to remove the fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda from partisan politics.
3. Islam Is Not Untouchable: It is high time for a candid, honest, yet reasoned public open discourse in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the U.S. on the barbarity of jihadi Islam and its evil genesis. How many Muslim clerics and academics have publicly contested Sayed Qutb's jihadist criminalization of Islam (Islam's Karl Marx)? Islamist apologists (i.e., Hollywood liberals, yes you Ben Affleck, running amok) fearing accusations of Islamophobia, or naively falling back on the half-truth that Islam is a peaceful religion, are conflating bigotry with truth-in-believing.
Fortunately, modern Islam is producing a new "Justice League" of fearless rational Islamic academics -- the Silicon Valley equivalent of modern, honest Islamic entrepreneurs -- who must be given a bigger social media pulpit -- such as Mohamad Khorchide of Germany. Prof. Khorchide has incontestable credentials to confront the Quranic-inspired jihadi pestilence -- and there are more like him, but they must be enlisted and empowered in a campaign that is constant, consistent, and collaborative to reach the jihadi wannabees of Europe and the U.S.
4. Counter-terrorism Border Controls: Shame on us if returning Americans with curious visa or entry stamps between the ages of 18 and 35 and who have been abroad for more than 3 weeks are not subjected to an interrogation that would make even Israeli border guards blush. And, for good measure, are we sure we are doing everything we can with our allies to ferret out U.S. citizens traversing European/Turkish airports between the ages of 18 and 35 who have not re-entered the U.S. after a two or three week trip allegedly to visit grandma? And as for Turkey's facilitation of the jihadi underground express, time to take off the Kerry kid-gloves with Erdogan. It is intolerable that Ankara continues to play a double game with the West...pretentious protestations of support while enabling jihadis to slip back and forth across porous southern Syrian-Turkish borders.
Bin Laden may be gone. Its Afghani command post may be in rubble. But Al Qaeda is not even on the ropes in North Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula. The struggle against ISIS and Al Qaeda has entered a more ominous and complex era. Until Islam reforms itself -- and that could take decades -- if not a century -- cool, hard-headed containment quarantining the region is the best defense against a Middle East that must ultimately heal thyself.
To my anguished French friends who are in our thoughts: Lafayette, nous sommes Ici!