Zakat’s role in funding terrorism

From the BBC:

Saudi Arabia is the chief foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the UK, a new report has claimed.

The Henry Jackson Society said there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations in receipt of overseas funds, hate preachers and Jihadist groups promoting violence.

Wednesday’s report says a number of Gulf nations, as well as Iran, are providing financial support to mosques and Islamic educational institutions which have played host to extremist preachers and been linked to the spread of extremist material.

At the top of the list, the report claims, is Saudi Arabia. It alleges individuals and foundations have been heavily involved in exporting what it calls “an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology”, quoting a number of examples.

When most people read a report like this, they assume that thousands of Saudis are intentionally handing over money to extremist and jihadist groups in the hope they will use it to promote or practice violence. Undoubtedly this will be true for some individuals and no doubt some organisations too, but these reports overlook a crucial point that I have only seen mentioned once.

That point was made in Steve Coll’s excellent and highly recommended Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden (emphasis mine):

The money flowing from the kingdom arrived at the Afghan frontier in all shapes and sizes: gold jewelry dropped on offering plates my merchants’ wives in Jeddah mosques; bags of cash delivered by businessmen to Riyadh charities as zakat, an annual Islamic tithe;

Operating in self-imposed isolation, major Saudi Arabian charities and such organizations as the Saudi Red Crescent, the World Muslim League, the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, and the International Islamic Relief Organisation set up their own offices in Peshwar. Funded in ever-rising amounts by Saudi Intelligence and zakat contributions from mosques and wealthy individuals, they, too, built hospitals, schools, clinics, feeding stations, and battlefield medical services.

Wikipedia describes zakat as follows:

As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, zakat is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth.

Zakat is based on income and the value of all of one’s possessions. It is customarily 2.5% (or 1/40th) of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as nisab. The collected amount is paid first to zakat collectors, and then to poor Muslims, to new converts to Islam, to Islamic clergy, and others.

Basically, in any wealthy Muslim country there is an awful lot of zakat money floating about, handed over by individuals as a matter of duty rather than choice. Inevitably, a portion of this cash will be purloined by people who will use it to further their own nefarious agendas. We see the same thing happening in governments: individuals are forced to hand over taxes ostensibly to pay for police, schools, and the army but the money gets hijacked and ends up going on diversity coordinators, lame arts projects, and the housing of child refugees with full beards and impressive combat records.

If you flood a place with money from a source which doesn’t get to say how it’s spent, you’ll lose control of it. If you lose control, some of it will get spent in ways you don’t like. I suspect a lot of this Saudi funding of terrorism is simply zakat money handed over to a charity in all innocence, and then dispersed by people who have made quite an art of diverting funds to extremist groups under the cover of legitimate, peaceful activities. That’s not to say there is no blatant funding of extremists going on in Saudi, but if you really want to tackle the issue you’ll have to either remove the obligation to pay zakat or ensure it is only distributed to groups which have been subject to thorough due diligence such that every Riyal can be accounted for.

Good luck with that.

Share

Appeasement

Three things caught my attention yesterday, all to do with appeasement.

Firstly Brendan O’Neill:

Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week, for example, I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me I was wrong to defend the use of the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’. That term has an Islamophobic bent to it, we’re told. It demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. You should just say ‘extremism’, not ‘Islamist extremism’. Don’t ever name the extremism, don’t label it, because you might hurt people’s feelings.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion.

Next Theodore Dalrymple in the WSJ:

Instead, we have gone in for what a Dutch friend of mine calls “creative appeasement.” Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects, there have been any demands for them. Thus, a public library in Birmingham, one of the largest known to me, has installed women-only tables, a euphemism for Muslim women only. Whether there was ever a request or demand for sex-segregated seating from Muslims is probably undiscoverable; truth seldom emerges from a public authority. But the justification would almost certainly be that without such tables, Muslim women would not be able to use the library at all.

The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu, the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged. Again, it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case, weakness is advertised.

This is not a local problem alone. Many European airports now set aside a room for “meditation.” The icon used to indicate it almost always carries more of an Islamic connotation than any other. A friend told me that when she went into one such room, she was told by a Muslim to remove her shoes, ecumenism being, of course, a one-way street.

Finally, the Cheshire Police (via Twitter):

Somebody please tell me what side our ruling class is on, because it sure as hell isn’t ours.

Share

Dick-waving across the sands

Well, the Qataris seem to have upset some people, haven’t they?

It looks to me as though this is less about terrorism as two regional powers wrangling for influence. Thanks to its enormous oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has for years been able to buy influence all over the world. e.g. funding madrasses housing extremist preachers, but also paying off governments to turn a blind eye to its rather questionable domestic, regional, and international policies. Iran has always squared off against Saudi for regional supremacy, but insofar as majority Sunni nations go, none of the others could come close to matching Saudi’s wealth and influence.

Then a couple of decades ago Qatar tripped over a giant unassociated gas field at the time LNG was becoming a big thing, and before too long we had Qataris popping up everywhere spending money and buying influence just as the Saudis did: Al-Jazeera media, Qatar Airways, the 2022 FIFA world cup, sponsorship of Barcelona football club, and the London Shard are among the most prominent of the little-known desert nation’s attempts to gain international recognition.

It has been obvious for a long time that Qatar had hoped to match Saudi Arabia in terms of buying influence and raising prestige abroad, and they were able to do so thanks to a much smaller population (2.2m versus Saudi’s 32m), which makes them much easier to buy off and/or control and leaves more surplus cash. Qatar also hoped to compete with Dubai as a regional hub where westerners can do business without feeling they are in a backward, oppressive shithole – as Abu Dhabi was also trying to do.

But like Saudi Arabia, Qatar has never quite been able to shake off accusations that it funds extremist groups and shelters terrorists. The Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was living in Doha when the Russians assassinated him, and rumours are always circulating that known terrorists are permitted to hide out in, or even operate out of, Qatar in return for ensuring the country isn’t attacked. I have no idea whether this is the case or not, and obviously I have no proof that Qatar sponsors terrorism, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if both were true, and I am quite certain that whatever Qatar is doing, Saudi Arabia has been doing the same thing for much longer.

Again like the Saudis,Qatar has managed to deflect most of the accusations by making sure they stand four-square alongside the Americans. ExxonMobil are heavily involved in the gigantic QatarGas II development, and have been the major international partner of Qatar Petroleum (the state oil and gas company) throughout the rise of the country’s LNG industry and subsequent enrichment. Whatever happens during this spat, we can be sure Rex Tillerson will know everyone involved on the Qatari side very well indeed.

Perhaps more importantly, Qatar is host to the biggest American military base in the Middle East. Something that rarely got mentioned in the discussions surrounding Al-Qa’eda and 9/11 is that Osama bin Laden’s primary motivation was his outrage at Saudi Arabia hosting American troops on its sacred soil during the first Gulf War, and subsequently keeping them there afterwards. The Saudis downplayed it, but the American army’s presence in their country was causing serious domestic resentment towards the ruling classes, but were more afraid of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s forces. As soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of power in the Iraq War, the American forces departed for Qatar. This was an enormously significant shift – and one that serves as proof that Saddam Hussein’s neighbours genuinely thought him a threat, even if liberal journalists in New York didn’t. But it also shifted the balance of power in the Gulf towards Qatar and away from Saudi Arabia. With Qatar being America’s base in the region, it had some leverage with which to deflect criticism of its conduct.

I suspect that, following Trump’s successful visit to Riyadh and his warnings about Islamic terrorism, the Saudis have taken the opportunity to take their uppity minnow neighbour down a peg or two, bringing along Bahrain and the UAE for diplomatic support (who will also be quite happy to see Qatar’s progress hobbled). The Saudis will know they can’t force America to abandon Qatar, but they can point a few fingers, pretend to Trump that they are doing something about terrorism, and reassert themselves as the more responsible of the Sunni petro-states that poison global politics with their money.

When all of this blows over, as I’m sure it will, the Saudis hope they will have gained some prestige and Brownie points at the expense of Qatar, and deflected some criticism in the process. Despite this rift, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be firmly united in opposing whatever designs Iran has on the region (although apparently Qatari forces, whatever they were, are pulling out of Yemen).

All in all, it’s just your typical story of treacherous bastards in the Middle East trying to squeeze an inch in on one other.

Share

If May is McClellan, we risk a Sherman

I was wholly unsurprised to see on French TV that another Islamist terror attack had taken place in London last Friday night. As I have said before, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan was absolutely correct when he said such attacks were simply part and parcel of living in a big city. Especially cities where people like Sadiq Khan are in charge.

Coming so soon after the attack in Manchester, in fact so soon that they’d not even managed to hold the pointless tribute concert for the first lot of dead before the second lot were being stacked up, I sense the British public are getting mighty fed up with this. A few attacks ago it was mainly right-wingers who were getting angry, with the lefties all toeing the government line about it being nothing to do with Islam and even if it is it’s our fault and we should light candles instead of do something meaningful. But I noticed after Manchester that the anger is now becoming universal, with even moderate middle class lefties starting to understand that these attacks will become weekly events unless something changes.

Theresa May has obviously gotten wind of this as well, and with an eye on an election which some polls suggest will be closer than she thought and it ever should be, she came out with this:

We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change and they need to change in four important ways.

First, while the recent attacks are not connected by common networks, they are connected in one important sense. They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism.

Possibly taking Donald Trump’s lead, May actually used the words “Islamist extremism”. To my knowledge, this is about as close as any western leader bar Trump has come to actually naming the problem. Unfortunately, she then undoes her own statement by saying:

It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.

Either Theresa May is an authority on Islam or she is simply parroting the same line every politician wheels out after an Islamist terror attack in the hope she won’t be called racist or upset “moderate” Muslims.

It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values – pluralistic British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.

And what values would they be, then? Freedom of speech? Freedom of association? Freedom to offend? Freedom from being totally fucked over by an incompetent state who considers itself infallible? If our own leaders – including Theresa May herself – work overtime to undermine these values, why would even moderate Muslims subscribe to them, let alone the headcases? As I said here:

If our leadership – and I use that term loosely – lacks the conviction to uphold the principles which supposedly define the West, why the hell should we expect Muslims to come out in support of them?

The ruling classes in the west have absolutely no confidence in their own culture, traditions, and institutions to the extent they are actively destroying them in the name of progress – yet they expect foreigners to abandon their own and adopt ours.

Second, we cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.

Ah right. This is where we get down to it. In order to get lunatic Islamists to adhere to British values we need to spy on the whole population. I expect a badly worded, draconian law will be rushed through parliament handing sweeping new powers to any state body that wants it on the grounds it will only be used in the most extreme cases, and within twelve months it’ll be used to jail a white man with tattoos for posting an offensive football chant on a fansite. If this is Theresa May’s answer to jihadist terror attacks, then she is very much part of the problem.

We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.

Cynics among us would say we’d be better off preventing jihadists from claiming asylum in Britain and allowing them to return to war zones to continue the fight.

Yes, that means taking military action to destroy Isis in Iraq and Syria.

Because military action has turned out so well in recent years, hasn’t it? How about we stop letting jihadists in, and deporting/jailing those we already have?

While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations.

You could start by explaining why you did nothing about this as Home Secretary, and instead viewed the ordinary British population as the enemy to be contained. Or is that a bit too embarrassing? And stamping out extremism: that’ll mean more arrests for offensive tweets, then.

But the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism, and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.

Insofar as I can see a split in the country it is between the ruling elites and everybody else. I repeat: May and her ilk are very much part of the problem.

So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need.

Which will be immediately used to keep ordinary people in line when the next wave of terrorist attacks occur. Does this woman think we’re completely stupid?

And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorist-related offences – even apparently less serious offences – that is what we will do.

And the decision to make something a terrorist-related offence will fall to plod. Expect ordinary people to be threatened with twenty years inside for failing to show enough deference to costumed thugs. Meanwhile the jihadists will continue on their merry way.

Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would.

Except the ruling classes, who will double their security detail at taxpayers’ expense.

We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.

Who’s we, paleface?

The ZMan had a good line on May’s speech:

What was revealed by this speech is that outside of the public eye, the people in charge of Britain have no emotional or moral attachment to the British people. As far as they are concerned, the people are just a burden, whether it is the hyper-violent oogily-boogily people that arrive over the channel or the native Brits.

The whole post is worth a read and, as is often the case with ZMan’s posts, there were several paragraphs I could have chosen to quote.

The bottom line is that, as I have been saying for a while now, the political classes might not be on the side of the jihadists exactly, but they are not on our side either. For all the talk about how we should be grateful to the police for responding to the attacks within 8 minutes and shooting the terrorists dead – and that is impressive – let’s not forget that they’d be just as enthusiastic in doing the same to us if our ruling classes demanded it. These are, after all, the same sort of people who sent a helicopter to a house where a song about Osama bin Laden was being played over a karaoke machine and arrested the occupants. Anyone who thinks police officers, or at least those who pay them, are on the side of the British public will delude themselves only until they step outside the guidelines of approved behaviour.

Theresa May reminds me in a way of George McClellan. The firm favourite of the ruling classes to lead the Union Army in the early stages of the American Civil War, he proved himself to be utterly useless except when it came to dithering and making excuses. Meanwhile the Confederate generals, who both knew how to fight and actually wanted to, ran rings around him. It took more than a year’s worth of defeats, blunders, and missed opportunities before Lincoln had had enough and fired him. Eventually the Union got its act together and employed the likes of William Sherman to ensure the South was not only defeated but utterly crushed, but it took them a while to get there. The point is people like Sherman, and the methods they employed, would never have been considered while the ruling classes preferred people like McClellan. It was only when events forced their hand did they change their minds.

At some point, May and the ruling classes will have to be removed and replaced by somebody willing to do the job of ridding the country of jihadist terror. It would be nice if this could be avoided by May & Co. actually doing the job, but it would also have been nice if McClellan won the war for the Union so people like Sherman didn’t need to get involved. The trouble is, in the case of McClellan there was little doubt that Lincoln wanted to win the war and was on the side of the Union. If only there was such clarity of position among our own ruling classes.

Nevertheless, May’s position is fast becoming untenable. The reason why she will win the election this week is because the position of the alternative candidates – and indeed all the ruling classes – are becoming untenable. Once May is PM next week it is only a matter of time before there is another attack. Cracking down on the internet will not prevent it, and nor will anything else that the ruling classes are threatening the general population with. May will have to answer to an increasingly angry population, and things might get so bad that even Brexit takes a back seat to vans full of jihadists mowing down pedestrians on London’s bridges. I doubt she will have the faintest idea of what to do other than to repeat what she said the other day.

The Americans showed signs of losing faith in their ruling classes by electing Trump, a household name but nevertheless a political outsider who promised to do things differently. Another few terror attacks in the UK and we might see the same over there. I have an inkling that the next prime minister, or perhaps the one after that, will be somebody who few today have ever heard of but won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Eventually, the population is going to insist their own Sherman is handed the task of stopping these attacks, the consequences be damned.

Share

Dirty Hands

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

H. L. Mencken

Indeed, and such tempting times are coming around rather too often these days.

A couple of weeks ago The ZMan put up a post on the subject of Venezuela, in which he observed:

The other thing worth mentioning is Venezuelans are not campus snowflakes. The murder rate is twice that of our worst cities. It’s hard to know the exact figures. The government is so corrupt, no one can trust their numbers. Even so, it is one of the most dangerous countries on earth. It is safe to assume that the people are willing to employ rough justice, but somehow they are unable to do anything about their government. There are protests and minor street rebellions, but not at a level high enough to destabilize the government.

I thought about this for a few days and eventually took it up with a Venezuelan colleague, who reckoned the middle classes are the ones protesting and the violent underclasses have yet to be completely hacked off with the government. This makes as much sense as any other explanation. Of course, even the violent underclasses are not suicidal and won’t attack the government head-on. Trying to climb the palace gates or charge a tank is stupid, and will get you killed. But perhaps they may not have to.

In looking at the footage of the protests in Venezuela, I wondered how the police were staying loyal and firing on the protesters. Presumably they are being paid, and the pay is worth it. Thus far, nobody has made them rethink this position. It appears that the police (and judges, and other agents of the government) can do their job and then go home at night without being too worried that their house has been burned down with their wife and kids inside. But if you look at Colombia in the 1980s or swathes of present-day Mexico, you can see that forcing people to rethink their day-jobs is quite possible.

However, in both Colombia and Mexico it took the opposition moving beyond mere protests and criminality into forming paramilitaries. Moving things closer to home, this is exactly what the IRA (or more accurately, the PIRA) did in Northern Ireland: formed a paramilitary and started picking off soldiers, policemen, judges, lawyers, and others who they believed were representatives of the government. They even attacked their families, thus raising the stakes even higher.

Unlike the Venezuelans, the IRA weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and resort to murder and intimidation. Perhaps we’re dealing with different cultures or a different situation, or perhaps – as my Venezuelan mate suggested – a different class of people. I didn’t know any IRA paramilitaries, but I can’t imagine they were middle class. One of the more minor reasons they lost their grip on the place was that the province got wealthier and the middle class grew: it’s easier for paramilitaries to recruit hordes of young men with no prospects, less so if they’re going off to university and into engineering jobs immediately after.

Clearly a lot of people are upset by the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, just as they were by the other dozen or so massacres that Islamists have carried out in Europe in the last few years. Nobody expects anything to change, and they won’t until the population has had enough. The government isn’t going to change anything, and – as Brendon O’Neill’s piece implied – their chief concern is the masses getting so angry that they start demanding something be done. So far the government has managed to keep a lid on things, but as these terrorist attacks keep mounting up and the same meaningless platitudes are mumbled by police and politicians after each atrocity, the harder this will be.

At this point, the British government will be hoping that the outrage over Islamic terrorism doesn’t get taken up by those who are willing to get their hands dirty and are competent. So far it is a section of the middle classes and a handful of rather dense skinheads who are the most upset, and neither poses much threat to a policeman smashing in somebody’s door for posting something nasty about Muslims on Twitter.

I noticed this morning that the army is being deployed around the country at “sensitive sites”, which I expect means places where politicians hang out. When the British first sent the army into Northern Ireland it was ostensibly to protect Catholics from Protestant violence, and they were welcomed by the Catholic communities. This didn’t last long, and soon British soldiers were seen as very much the enemy. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was ostensibly neutral but the IRA – perhaps with some justification – believed they were firmly on the side of the Protestants, who enjoyed the backing of the mainland government. This meant that The Troubles were as much about the maiming and murder of policemen and soldiers as unionist Protestants. It will be interesting to see what the army’s mission is, and whether this will evolve in a worrying manner, e.g. British soldiers being asked to “protect” hotbeds of Islamic extremism.

I think we’re about to enter into what will prove to be a rather interesting period of British history, in which two questions will be answered:

1) Are there enough people in Britain willing to get their hands dirty, as the IRA were?

2) Will they make policemen, politicians, and possibly even soldiers pay a heavy price for doing their jobs?

I am unsure about 1), but I suspect the answer is no. The middle classes are too large, their lives too comfortable, and they have little experience of violence. The criminal classes are happy to dish out the violence, but as in Venezuela they are not much interested in politics and aren’t going to take up the cudgels on behalf of anyone else.

But if the answer to 1) is yes, then I suspect the answer to 2) will also be yes. The first sign of things going badly wrong in Britain might not be a mob firebombing a mosque but a policeman or judge winding up in a ditch, throat cut, with a note stuffed in his pocket.

Either way, this isn’t going to end well.

Share

The Post-Terror Narrative

I didn’t bother to comment on the terror attack in Manchester because I said everything after the last one, and I know what is coming next (nothing). This Jihad Fatigue is a bugger to shake.

However, this article by Brendan O’Neill in Spiked is worth reading:

It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity. It is about suppressing strong public feeling. It’s about reducing us to a line of mourners whose only job is to weep for our fellow citizens, not ask why they died, or rage against their dying. The great fear of both officialdom and the media class in the wake of terror attacks is that the volatile masses will turn wild and hateful. This is why every attack is followed by warnings of an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ and heightened policing of speech on Twitter and gatherings in public: because what they fundamentally fear is public passion, our passion. They want us passive, empathetic, upset, not angry, active, questioning. They prefer us as a lonely crowd of dutiful, disconnected mourners rather than a real collective of citizens demanding to know why our fellow citizens died and how we might prevent others from dying. We should stop playing the role they’ve allotted us.

Go read the whole thing.

 

Share

The BBC on Beslan

From the BBC:

Beslan school siege: Russia ‘failed to prevent’ massacre

Given a massacre happened, I’d say so, yes.

In the siege, Chechen separatists took more than 1,000 hostages, the vast majority of them children.

It ended when Russian security forces stormed the building. Survivors say the troops used excessive force.

In all seriousness, and acknowledging that the siege would have been an enormous challenge for even the world’s most proficient counter-terrorism force, the Russian response was absolutely shambolic in the most woeful sense of the word. It made Nord-Ost look like Operation Entebbe.

And this:

Presumably the chap who does the bylines is Irish.

Share

Preaching Extremism with Impunity

Happenings in France:

A mosque in the eastern suburbs of Paris was ordered closed on Tuesday because authorities deemed it “a threat to security”.
The mosque, located in Torcy in the Seine-et-Marne department, was deemed by authorities to be “a threat to public order”.
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said the mosque had “become a place where radical ideology was advocated”.
“Some of the preaching was openly hostile to France’s laws and was inciting hate to other religious communities, primarily Shia Muslims and Jews.”
He added that there was a risk of “a breeding ground that threatened security and public order” in France.
In the official police order for closure, Imams were said to have “legitimized armed jihad” over the past two years, “calling on members to pray for jihadists to destroy the enemies of Islam in France and around the world”.

I have a Muslim friend living in a European capital, and I occasionally meet him and speak about the issue of extremism being preached in mosques across Europe. He hails from an Arabic-speaking country where mosques are carefully watched by the authorities and Imams are licensed by the state.

He told me he once went to a mosque in the city where he now lives and was amazed, absolutely staggered, to find extremism being openly preached and leaflets being handed out in support of jihadists in Syria and Iraq. He said back in his home country this wouldn’t have been tolerated for one second: the mosque would have been shut down and the Imam thrown in jail. He said that this particular mosque was hardly unusual.

What he could not for the life of him understand was why the authorities in the west allow these places to remain open, preaching extremism. He says western governments, rather than hassling moderate Muslims and the general population, should simply start rounding up the obvious extremists who preach their poisonous creed with impunity. He said if they are local they should be jailed and if they are foreign they should be deported immediately.

Although I am fully wedded to the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and due process I could not help but think my friend did have something of a valid point. It’s all very well us telling moderate Muslims that they should do more, but they might well turn around and ask when we intend to do start doing something about it. As I have said before, why should moderate Muslims put their heads above the parapet and tackle the extremists in their midst when the host governments can’t even bring themselves to admit there is a problem?

Share

Trump and Nato

What’s Trump up to now?

US President Donald Trump has said Nato is “no longer obsolete”, reversing a stance that had alarmed allies.

Let me just park that there for a second and quote a paragraph from ZMan’s latest offering:

Another thing about Trump  that makes him an extreme outlier in national politics is that he is not an ideologue. Most of our politicians are quite stupid. All of their intellectual energy is focused on the endless scheming and game playing that is politics. What passes for ideology in American politics is really just a laundry list of policies aimed at buying votes from interest groups. That’s why they sound like robots. They stick to the script, even in the face of a public revolt, because that’s the safe and easy way to do it.

That’s not Trump. He is not married to any policy. In the campaign, he would regularly say something one day and then take it back two days later when it proved to be unpopular. It is safe to assume, for example, that Trump has zero interest in health care. He’ll sign off on anything that is popular with the voters. He’s also willing to dump a bad policy without worrying a bit about being called a hypocrite or inconsistent. Trump is practical about these things. If it does not work, he tosses it aside and moves onto to the next thing.

This will be terribly frustrating for partisans, but Trump is a goal oriented guy.

I don’t disagree with any of that, and I think it is a good thing that the United States finally has a President who might borrow the words of Keynes and say “when the facts change, I change my mind.” Of course this would mean that Trump is also prone to manipulation by vested interests (and many believe this is happening right now over Syria), but I think on balance it is better to have a flexible President who listens to his advisers rather than a narcissist like Obama who is convinced he’s the smartest one in the room and is interested only in his “legacy”.

But that doesn’t mean that everything Trump changes his mind on is good, though. Let’s get back to his remarks on Nato:

Mr Trump has repeatedly questioned Nato’s purpose, while complaining that the US pays an unfair share of membership.

Nato was formed for one purpose: keeping the Soviets out of western Europe. If we assume the Russia inherited Soviet regional policies along with their embassies, nuclear weapons, and permanent seat on the UNSC, that means Nato exists to keep the Russians out of western Europe.

There are some people who believe there is nothing to fear from Russia and nobody in the west should bat an eyelid if Putin & Co go around invading neighbours and annexing peninsulas, and that is fair enough. In that case, Nato has no reason to exist. There are others, like me, who think Russia’s regional ambitions are a concern and Nato should continue in the role it was originally formed to play. It is important to understand that confronting Russia over, say, the annexation of Crimea or sabre-rattling on the Estonian border is very much consistent with an overall aim of keeping Russia out of western Europe. It is better this confrontation happens in the east at an early stage than on the borders of Austria and Germany later on when the west has no choice and the Russians have the wind at their backs.

However, if this is the purpose of Nato then it is imperative that each of its members pulls its weight and commits itself fully to the military and diplomatic aims of the organisation. If they continue to do what most of them have done for the past few decades, i.e. rely on the Americans to provide 99% of the military capability and sit there carping about American warmongering while at the same time undermining them diplomatically by doing cosy business and political deals with the Russians then the organisation, as Trump originally said, really is obsolete and should be wound up pronto. I was hoping Trump’s statement would force the Nato member states to carefully consider where their long-term interests lay and to decide the future of the alliance accordingly.

But this:

At a joint press conference with Mr Stoltenberg, Mr Trump said: “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more Nato can do in the fight against terrorism.

“I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.

“I said it [Nato] was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

How the hell is Nato useful in the fight against terrorism? From what I can tell, most terrorism we see in the western world today is a result of two things:

1. Failed Muslim-majority states in the Middle East and elsewhere.

2. Extremely poor government policies in western countries which border on negligence if not outright treason.

Nato is of absolutely no use in tackling either of these. I don’t even think the assault on Afghanistan that kicked the Taliban out of power should have been a Nato mission: a “coalition of the willing” would have been good enough. Sure, there was some symbolism there but all it achieved was to muddy the waters as to what Nato’s purpose is. Things were already rather opaque when the organisation was used to attack Serbia over Kosovo: regardless of the rights and wrongs of that mission, it should never have been carried out under the banner of Nato. It allowed the Russians to claim, with some justification, that Nato is not merely a defensive organisation (although I don’t believe for one second they genuinely think it represents an offensive threat to Russia).

In short, Nato ought only to exist to fight Russians trying to get their mitts on western Europe (or roll tanks over its allies and up to its borders); if the member states don’t want that then it is obsolete. Shying away from its primary purpose by pretending it can be used to fight terrorism doesn’t change this analysis, regardless of what Trump is now saying.

Earlier this week Nato welcomed Montenegro as its 29th member nation.

Which is as much proof of the organisation’s obsolescence as you need.

Share

War Preferable to Immigration Controls

Robert Tracinski has some ideas about how to deal with Syria:

If Syria seems too far away, too brutal, too primitive, too wrapped up in its own internal strife between equally unappealing factions—well, that’s exactly what I thought about another conflict a few years back. It was the mid-1990s, and the conflict was in Afghanistan. And that part about how this was irrelevant to American interests? That didn’t end well.

It turned out that the chaos in Afghanistan was not so remote as to be none of our business, because it provided a breeding ground, safe haven, and international recruiting program for terrorists who wanted to attack the United States. We found that out on September 11. Well, actually, we found it out before then, when al-Qaeda staged big attacks on US citizens and assets in East Africa and Yemen. But it took September 11 to make the threat undeniable.

So here we are, sixteen years later, sitting back and watching the Islamists recreate exactly the same conditions. There is a zone of constant warfare and chaos that allows terrorists to establish themselves. There is a new safe haven where a brutal terrorist group seizes state power, or quasi-state power, and puts themselves forward as a champion of Islam and a model of successful jihad. They call on supporters from around the world to rally to their banner, and then they support or incite terrorist attacks back home in the West—in Paris, in Brussels, in Sydney, in San Bernardino and Orlando.

I’m just a dumb engineer, but wouldn’t stopping terrorists trained in Syria from carrying out attacks in the United States involve limiting the ability to travel from Syria to the US and enhancing the screening of those that do? In other words, doing that very thing that Trump tried to do and was struck down by regional courts citing the effects it would have on tourism?

I’ll believe the US and European nations are taking the threat of Islamic terrorism being imported into their countries seriously when they put far greater controls on who comes in and what they do once they are there. But Tracinski has a better plan:

For example, when it comes to pushing the Russians out of Syria now that they’re ensconced there, there’s a straightforward model for that: Afghanistan. Of course we shouldn’t challenge the Russkis directly, because that would risk escalation into a great power war. But we can give very substantial covert support to select groups of rebels—far more than the half-hearted, going-through-the-motions efforts so far—and make Syria a quagmire the Russians can’t sustain. Russia is a shrunken shadow of the Soviet Union and in far less of a position to maintain a serious effort in Syria over the long term.

What could possibly go wrong?

All of this to avoid having to admit that the immigration policies of the United States and Europe have failed and are endangering its citizens.

Share