For why most of the Middle East academic establishment in the US has proven itself so utterly and completely bankrupt so as to ensure that under no circumstances whatsoever should it be trusted with anything relating to US national security.
UPDATE: Just because I'm in vindictive mood today:
The Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines is just a small mafia gang of 90 persons that lives on extortion. It could no more overthrow the Philippines government than David Koreish could have taken over Texas.
Except that Bush probably wasn't just talking about Abu Sayyaf, which is actually estimated at 200-500 members by our own State Department. Rather, he was probably also talking at least in part about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which, as ICT notes:
... Is currently the largest Islamic separatist group in the Philippines, with an estimated 15,000 members. The MILF seeks to establish an independent Islamic state comprising Mindanao island (the second largest of the Philippine islands) Palawan, Basilan, the Sulu archipelago, and the neighboring islands. In support of this aim, the organization has carried out a campaign of attacks against civilian and military targets throughout the southern Philippines.
Recently, the group has been in the spotlight due to revelations of links between key members and Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaida network. In 1999, the group's leader Hashim Salamat, admitted to recieving "significant funding" from bin Ladin. As many as several hundred MILF members from Mindanao are believed to have trained at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, and to have established ties with al-Qaida commanders. A number of the Jemaah Islamiah members arrested in Singapore in 2000 admitted to having trained at MILF camps, while one of the al-Qaida "consultants" who advised the Singapore cell had formerly worked as an explosives expert for the MILF.
Sorta helps to put things in context, no?
Moving right along:
I don't actually think that terrorist analyst Marc Sageman found many, if any, persons engaged in international terrorism from Kashmir. There has been a lot of political violence in Kashmir, but there are two sides to it, and heavy-handed Indian military tactics have killed a lot of Kashmiris. The UN had decreed that a referendum would be held in Kashmir on its future, which India has ever since 1948 refused to allow.
This is such a crock, especially when one takes a look at the character of several of the major Islamist groups fighting in Kashmir according to the prestigious Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
First, the Lashkar-e-Taiba:
Senior al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubaydah was captured at an LT safehouse in Faisalabad in March 2002, suggesting some members are facilitating the movement of al-Qaida members in Pakistan ... The LT maintains ties to religious/military groups around the world, ranging from the Philippines to the Middle East and Chechnya through the fraternal network of its parent organization Jamaat ud-Dawa (formerly Markaz Dawa ul-Irshad).
All of this, incidentally, is irrespective of the LeT role in carrying out terrorist attacks well outside of Kashmir or its role in the London bombings - the latter being a line of analysis that Juan himself supported at the time! But now that he wants to bash Bush, the Pakistani terrorists active in Kashmir are back to being post-colonial fighters and the Indians are mostly to blame for the violence.
Then there is the Jaish-e-Mohammed:
Pakistani authorities suspect that perpetrators of fatal anti-Christian attacks in Islamabad, Murree, and Taxila during 2002 were affiliated with the JEM ... Most of the JEM's cadre and material resources have been drawn from the militant groups Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI) and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM). The JEM had close ties to Afghan Arabs and the Taliban. Usama Bin Ladin is suspected of giving funding to the JEM.
And the Harakat ul-Ansar:
he HUA trains its militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Kashmir. Harkat leadership is reportedly working with Osama Bin Laden. At least seven HUA members were killed and two dozen were wounded during hte 1998 attack on Bin Ladin's training camps inside Afghanistan. Other militants killed in the US attacks were members of Lakshar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The HUA and a few other militant groups were using Bin Laden's Afghanistan camps to provide military training to their members. Harakat-ul-Ansar is claimed to be fighting in Kashmir, the Philippines, Bosnia, Tajikistan, and the Middle East.
Juan then continues:
Likewise, Chechnya is a rugged area of clannish Muslims that the Russians conquered in the 19th century, and where they committed a sort of 19th century genocide in the course of "pacifying" it. Chechen demands for more autonomy after the fall of the Soviet Union were greeted by Yeltsin with enormous brutality, and Putin has not been wiser.
Yet the demands of the Chechen jihadis now go far beyond mere autonomy. In the words of Amir Ramzan:
Q: From your words I can assume that you operate not only in Chechnya but all over the North Caucasus.
R: Yes, very much so. Not only we carry out raids to various areas in the Caucasus, but we also form local Jama'ats, militant sabotage groups locally. We are joined by a lot of Kabardinians, Dagestanis, Karachaevans, Ingushetians and even Ossetians (Muslims).
Q: That means that those in Russia who say that you want to create a caliphate in the Caucasus from sea to sea, are right?
R: Yes, it is so. Since they are unwilling to negotiate with us, then we'll be doing what we can. And there is a lot we can do. Next year the war will seize the entire Caucasus from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Apart from Ossetia and Ingushetia, this year another guerrilla war has already started in two areas of Dagestan bordering Chechnya. I swear by Allah, this is only the beginning. Russian authorities are well aware of this and this is why they are trying to organize formations of the local residents in the area who could resist us effectively. Similar process is taking place in Chechnya. But it will come to absolutely nothing. Having reached a certain level of confrontation inside Chechnya, Russia will sooner or later have to withdraw its troops beyond the Terek River, for instance. In that case we will need no more than two weeks to destroy all the pro-Russian puppet formations.
He then asserts that the Algerian government has won its war with radical Islamists:
The Algerian military government won its costly struggle against political Islam during the past decade and more, in which perhaps 150,000 persons perished. The Islamists were roundly and decisively defeated. This victory requires the US to do what, now?
Well in case Juan hasn't noticed, Islamist violence in Algeria is thankfully on the decline but it certainly isn't over with just yet. Indeed, it is attacks like these that Juan repeatedly cites to highlight what he regards as the US failure in Iraq. Indeed, it is the continuing threat of the GSPC outside of Algeria that prompted the Pan-Sahel Initiative.
As for Pakistan, it is ruled by an elite that has thrown in with the US repeatedly in the past few decades, and did so again after September 11. Pakistani police and military have worked with the FBI and CIA to capture over 600 al-Qaeda operatives, including big fish like Abu Zubayda and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. This situation requires the US to do what, exactly?
Actually the Pakistani elite felt badly burnt by the US after the Cold War and had been drifting heavily in the direction of China ever prior to 9/11. Right now, the US has an excellent relationship with the Musharraf government but still suffers from the problem that General Musharraf, for all his talents, has been unable or unwilling to implement the kind of reforms needed to fully dismantle the institutional support for jihad in Kashmir in his country.
It is true that Bin Laden taunts the US about withdrawing from Lebanon and Somalia when hit in those places. But Bin Laden's childish taunts do not change the fact that the US was right to withdraw in both places. No amount of Marines in Lebanon would have made a difference in 1983 (the Israelis made the big mistake of trying to stay in southern Lebanon, and just got themselves blown up and driven out). Bush senior was wrong to send US troops to Somalia in the first place; they had no defined military mission there. And, Bin Laden's taunts are slyer than Bush reads them, since they are designed to draw the US into a quagmire in the Muslim world where Muslim radicals can do to US troops what they had earlier done to Soviet ones in Afghanistan. The taunt is a trap. Bush is too thick to avoid the trap being laid for him.
So there you have it, then. Don't intervene militarily anywhere in the Muslim world because Muslim radicals are such a powerful force that they'll send US troops home by the thousand in bodybags.
And yet ...
Yeah, except that at no point have the radical Muslim fundamentalists ever come anywhere near taking over any of those countries. It is like saying that the Weathermen dreamed of a revolution against the US government in the late 1960s. So what? Small fringe groups dream big dreams.
The fact that Juan compares the threat posed by radical Islamists to that posed by the Weathermen is one of the primary reasons that makes his line of analysis so off the mark. The body count from a single al-Qaeda attack is more than the Weather Underground were able to inflict during the entirety of their miserable existence from 1969 to 1975.
And then he defends the Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan!
Yes, because the United States sent them $5 billion dollars and strong-armed the Saudis to match it, and undermined and overthrew the Socialist government in Afghanistan, which had made women's education and literacy among its prime policy goals and which tried to implement land reform, etc. It was a brutal regime, but less brutal than the Mujahidin or holy warriors bankrolled by Reagan and Bush senior, in whose terror training camps many "Arab Afghans" gained their expertise in bombings, cell formation, and other terror techniques. The Taliban were just second-generation Mujahidin.
Not surprisingly, he leaves out Carter in his discussion of who funded the Afghan mujahideen. One of the more amusing arguments from Cole is this insinuation that all Muslim states have a guaranteed sovereignty that the US must respect, though it appears the USSR need not.
Bin Laden set his sights on Iraq in 1990, when he offered to gather the Mujahidin and Arab Afghans to get Saddam out of Kuwait and overthrow his godless atheist socialist government. King Fahd told him "no." The only difference between then and now is that then the Baath regime was strong enough to stand against various Muslim fundamentalist challenges, and now Bush has thrown Iraq into chaos, of which the fundamentalists are taking advantage. Bush's overthrow of the Baath also discredited secular Arab nationalism, driving many Iraqi Sunnis into the arms of the radical Salafi Sunni revivalists. The difference is Bush's ineptitude, not any change in Bin Laden. If Bush was worried about al-Qaeda taking over Iraq, he should have left it alone and not destabilized it.
Note that the radicalization of the Iraqi Sunnis is attributed entirely to Bush and the US invasion, not Saddam's own campaign of religious radicalization in order to justify his Islamist credentials during the 1990s. Must be nice when you can blame all contemporary problems on just one man.
Another interesting thing about Cole's remarks is that they more or less argue that the Western rationale for supporting Saddam in the 1980s because he was a bulwark against the spread of Islamic extremism was more or less correct. If you want to buy into that, that's fine, but it makes it more than a little difficult for him to take up the stance of moral outrage whenever someone displays that famous picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.
Yes, al-Qaeda does want these things. But then the Christian Identity Movement in the United States wants to establish a massive fortified refuge for persecuted white people to escape oppression at the hands of what they in their looney tunes way consider the evil, minority-dominated Federal Government. That crackpot fringe groups have big plans and ideas is not surprising, and we only have to worry about them if it looks like they might actually succeed.
But who thinks this particular crackpot plan is in any way feasible? Look at America's friends in the Middle East-- Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, etc., etc. Which one of them is on the verge of being taken over by al-Qaeda? Why, al-Qaeda had to plan out 9/11 from Europe because it could not operate in the Middle East! An al-Qaeda meeting in Cairo would have had more Egyptian government spies in attendance than radical fundamentalists!
Actually, al-Qaeda planned 9/11 mostly out of Afghanistan. In answer to Juan's question, an al-Qaeda victory in Iraq could easily leave Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait open to al-Qaeda coups, as could Pakistan in the event of a successful assassination of General Musharraf and his senior deputies.
(Green above shows governments friendly to the US. Reddish brown is Arab nationalist governments. Yellow is a Shiite theocracy. None of these regimes is friendly to radical al-Qaeda).
Sudan is an Arab nationalist government?
A wise leader has to be able to judge the moment, and to see things in proportion to their importance. Bin Laden is simply not a Hitler. There is no country in which he or his minions are about to become Chancellor. It is a joke to think that Zawahiri, who is not even respected by the Egypt-based al-Jihad al-Islami, has any chance of taking over Egypt! Al-Qaeda is not even an organization. It is a loose set of radical ideas that small fringe groups can take up at will. It is not German National Socialism. It is the contemporary Ku Klux Klan.
I find this quite interesting given Cole's earlier ethusiastic endorsement of Imperial Hubris, which argues pretty much the exact opposite of this tripe. Then again, he's on one of his anti-Bush screeds, so I guess we shouldn't expect anything on the order of consistency with his previous arguments on the subject he purports to be an expert in.
This line is the most lunatic thing in Bush's speech. It is outrageous. It is the Big Lie. Syria has a secular Baath Arab nationalist government. The regime killed 10,000 Muslim activists at Hama in 1982. It tortured al-Qaeda members for the United States after September 11. Syria, a small country of only 18 million, has no ability to harm the United States and it most certainly is not in alliance with radical Muslim fundamentalists!
Not one, Juan? Then how exactly should one explain Syrian sponsorship of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. An overly intellectualized view of the Syrian regime prevents Juan from accepting this even when readily-recognized facts go against his arguments.
As for Iran, its brand of fundamentalism is Shiite. Al-Qaeda is made up of Sunnis and Wahhabis, who despise Shiites. Iran supports the new, Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. It supported the Jan. 30 elections. It supports the new constitution and the referendum. Iran hated the Taliban and very nearly went to war against them, backing the Northern Alliance instead. The Shiite Iranians hate the radical Salafis like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has called for a war of extermination against the Shiites.
I'm sure they do. Most US allegations, however, tend to focus on the Revolutionary Guards, who have shown themselves willing to work with the Marxist PKK in the past despite their own concerns about Kurdish separatism and the complete suppression of communism inside Iran proper. What this might indicate is that the Iranians, for all their fanaticism, are far more capable of pragmatic thinking than Juan is willing to give them credit for.
Juan then proceeds to argue that Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the US occupation of Iraq give al-Qaeda's ideology (since the actual organization isn't a threat, per him) credibility, though his reference to the "creeping Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Jerusalem" leaves one wondering what exactly he thinks about the former issue. He also argues that the US withdrawing from Iraq won't prompt any serious strengthening of al-Qaeda (a view accepted nowhere in counter-terrorism circles, even those that disagreed with the invasion) and that no one seriously believes they can beat the US. Color me quite skeptical on that particular note.
His repeated attempt to draw an analogy between al-Qaeda and the terrorist groups of yesteryear once again reaffirms that he really doesn't know what he's talking about:
It is ridiculous to attempt to scare the American people into thinking that there is this huge, Soviet-style challenge out there, when in fact "al-Qaeda" is a few hundred or at most a couple thousand local misfits and fanatics. The enemy is fishermen in Mombasa, Bedouin first-generation intellectuals in the Sinai, British school teachers meeting in a gym in Leeds, part-time seminarians in Indonesia. This asymmetrical enemy is not like Soviet communism. It is like the Baader Meinhoff gang and other small terrorist organizations.
Baader-Meinhof only killed 30-50 people from its inception in the early 1970s to its 1998 dissolution. Zarqawi kills more people than that in Iraq in an average week, though Juan can't accept that since it conflicts with his belief that the man doesn't exist or isn't a threat so that he can frame the militant opposition to the US presence in Iraq within the context of a grassroots nationalist campaign among the nation's Sunnis. Except, of course, when he needs to criticize Bush on the grounds that the war in Iraq has increased the terrorist threat, at which point Zarqawi once again emerges as a force to be reckoned with.
Then he proceeds to personalize the argument:
You aren't waging a global struggle. You are spending a billion and a half dollars a week on a war of choice in Iraq. That, you asked for. You told interviewers way back when you were governor of Texas that you wanted to "take out" Saddam one day. You said in another speech that he tried to kill your Daddy. It seems to me that you have some sort of personal vendetta with Iraq. I doubt you even had ever heard of Usamah Bin Laden in 1998 when you were giving that interview about taking out Saddam. As for the struggle against al-Qaeda, I can't see that you are putting any significant resources into it. You neglected Afghanistan. It is back to producing heroin for a living, which may well turn into narco-terrorism. Although you claim to have stopped some al-Qaeda operations, you haven't in fact been able to stop al-Qaeda from hitting a whole string of targets, including London. You are just causing a lot of trouble in Iraq and playing into Bin Laden's hands there.
Had Juan ever heard of bin Laden before 1998?
He then proceeds to argue that the US should force Israel to destroy its nuclear program. How exactly we're supposed to do this is beyond me, but then he doesn't appear to understand the differences between having a dictatorship with nuclear weapons and a democracy having them.
Then he argues that he isn't really going to believe anything Bush says in any event while invoking class warfare:
As for the rest of your speech, it is all made up as you go along, just like your whole administration. You are a fanatic about a few things like Iraq and "weapons of mass destruction" and Syria and Iran, but you don't actually seem to do much governing. When Katrina hit you were asleep at the switch. Your main accomplishment is to throw so much dust in the eyes of Americans that they let you push a million people into poverty last year, while reducing the taxes on the super rich by some enormous factor. Syria is a small weak country and I can't see that it has any power to do anything to the United States at all. The National Intelligence Estimate is that Iran is at least 10 years from having a nuclear weapon, assuming it is working on one, which is not proved (and you lied to us about Iraq being at work on one, so why should we pay any attention to you on this issue?)
In which case he should simply just write one two minute hate a day and repost it as needed. His arguments about Syria or Iran concerning their WMD capabilities are a red herring, given that Bush's speech had to do with both of them being state sponsors of terrorism, not WMD threats to the US.
Then we get the fact that Juan simply doesn't believe that Bush's speech has much of a relationship to reality, which here again is one of the reasons why I think he removes himself from serious discussion on this issue. If he doesn't think that there's any relationship between the Kashmiri, Filippino, Chechen, or Algerian conflicts and the broader issue of al-Qaeda or international terrorism, then he's ignoring a whole wealth of research on the subject by any number of serious people on the subject because it doesn't fit with his worldview.
Reality-based community indeed.