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National Security & Muslims

Last month, lawmakers in the state of Minnesota introduced legislation to invest $2 million in youth development schemes aimed at the state’s Somali-American population. The House minority leader Paul Thissen noted that such programs have a “positive impact” on the community and lawmakers should “continue that progress by passing this legislation.”

Around the same time, $300,000 of federal and private funding was being allocated to six groups in Minnesota working on mental health and after-school sports. This funding was also aimed at helping the state’s Somali-American population.

Such interest in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population should certainly be welcomed by all. Who, after all, could possibly be against state and federal investment in local communities? Unfortunately, in this particular case, the government’s interest is less in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population and more in the hope that these programs would deter its members from becoming terrorists.

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The Making of a Terrorist

Published on teleSUR as
The Surveillance State and the Making of a Terrorist

New York Times has published a lengthy profile of the Islamic State bomb-maker involved in the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris. In the latest attack in Brussels, Najim Laachraoui demoted (or promoted, depending on one’s feelings about life) himself from bomb-maker to suicide bomber, blowing himself up along with 15 bystanders. Much of the article, focusing on Laachraoui’s “radicalization,” follows the soporific pattern mainstream media outlets have by now mastered in their coverage of “homegrown” terrorists.

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Terrorism: Theirs and Ours

One esteemed scholar of terrorism is very worried. William Braniff is concerned about the possibility of the Islamic State exploiting technology for nefarious ends. A mercilessly violent ideology aided by thoroughly modern technological means will spell disaster for the US in this latest phase of the War on Terror. The FBI’s recent battle with Apple illustrates how important it is to underscore exactly what technological platforms law enforcement should be able to monitor if it is to prevent this horrific disaster from unfolding.
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The Left’s Destructive Self-Indulgence of Idealism

As Bernie Sanders’ campaign continues to gain momentum, a few sober-minded adults have seen fit to chide his supporters for their idealism. These members of the reality-based community claim that Sanders’ supporters are unwilling to accept that politics, as any undergraduate will tell you, is all about compromise. One simply cannot conjure up House and Senate majorities that will raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, make higher education free, and pass a single-payer healthcare system. Sanders, if he were to be elected president, would have to operate within the world as it exists rather than the world as he wishes it to be.

As Paul Krugman wrote a few days ago, “while idealism is fine and essential — you have to dream of a better world — it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends.” He warns Sanders supporters not to “let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.”

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The End of American Hegemony?

Omar Waraich has a recent article in DAWN on the declining US influence in Pakistan. According to Waraich, there has been a “sharp decline” in US influence in Pakistan since 2011 because “the region is no longer important to the US.” The Obama administration is merely hoping for the least bad outcome in Afghanistan, no longer considering it a priority. While terrorism is still a threat, “Af-Pak” is no longer the central front, having been unceremoniously displaced by the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East.

Not only has US influence receded in Pakistan, it has also receded globally. Waraich believes “the US’s two-decade-long unipolar moment has now likely come to an end.”

The end of American hegemony has been a fashionable topic as of late. Fareed Zakaria wrote an awful book on the subject in 2009. Just yesterday the Boston Globe published an article by Stephen Kinzer on the US as a “fading superpower.” And here is Noam Chomsky from a few years ago issuing some important qualifications on the same topic. It seems to be a popular topic of discussion across the political spectrum.

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The Gray Zone and the Clash of Barbarisms

Recent attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California have led to some unduly assessments of terrorist threats faced by Western societies. British Home Secretary Theresa May was quick to label Islamist militancy the greatest terrorist threat in British history. Referring to the Islamic State, former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confessed to Foreign Policy that he believed the United States was “up against something … we had never seen before.” US Senator Lindsey Graham was much more apocalyptic, telling an interviewer that the Islamic State “will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world.”

That these exaggerated appraisals have become common among politicians is unfortunately no surprise given the irrational fear of terrorism prevalent in the West. Each new attack serves only to compound this fear and leaves even less room for sober analysis. Politicians attempt to outdo each other with hawkish proposals to defeat one or other extremist group and an accurate diagnosis of the problem falls to the wayside.

Jason Burke’s book The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy is a welcome antidote to contemporary hysteria about terrorism as well as an insightful account of the history and evolution of Islamist militancy. Throughout the past decade and a half, Burke has remained an indispensable guide to various strands of political Islam and what he now characterizes as the “monumentally misconceived” War on Terror. His previous books Al-Qaeda and The 9/11 Wars are essential readings for anyone wishing to understand the nature of al-Qaeda and the foundering responses to Islamist militancy which exacerbated the very problems they were supposed to solve. In his new book, Burke turns his focus to the threat Islamist extremism poses to the West.

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Worse than Defeat: UK in Afghanistan

If we truly wish to understand the depth of British failure in Afghanistan–and by extension the folly of a knee-jerk military response to, well, everything–consider the following news report:

Afghanistan’s Helmand province could fall to the Taliban after months of heavy fighting, with 90 members of the security forces killed over the past two days, the deputy governor of the volatile southern province warned on Sunday.

Mohammad Jan Rasulyar said unless President Ashraf Ghani took urgent action, the province, a Taliban heartland that British and American troops struggled to control for years, would be lost

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