Monday, June 04, 2007

Commentary by Hutch

Moslem Malaise Measured
A recent poll finally answered the question of how many Moslem there are in the United States. There were no reliable statistics on this before, as the government did not collect data on religion, and there is no Moslem organization doing an accurate count. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll found there are 2.35 million Moslems in the United States, and 36 percent of them are children. Moreover, two thirds of the adult Moslems were born in another country.

African-Americans made up twenty percent of Moslems, and tend to be more radical than the foreign born. Many of these are men who converted while in prison, and have long been seen as a major threat because of their criminal background and history of impulsive and violent behavior.

When asked about Islamic terrorism, seven percent of all American Moslems said it was sometimes justified, and one percent said it was often justified. Other surveys indicate that the kind of attacks that are "justified" tend to be those against Israel. Moslem media and politicians have been preaching virulent anti-Semitism for over a century now, and it only got worse when Israel was established sixty years ago. This is pretty nasty stuff, and you can pick it up on al Jazeera or the Internet, although the worst of it is only available on Arab language sites. Al Qaeda, which originally did not see Israel as a primary target, has since changed its mind, and found that Moslems conditioned to hate Israel, can be converted into general purpose Islamic terrorists. Thus there are nearly 24,000 American Moslems who often find Islamic terrorism justified, and it's this group that provides nearly all the recruits Moslem terror groups have obtained so far.

There are about ten times as many Moslems in Europe. According to the Pew poll, American Moslems are much more successful economically, and optimistic about living in a non-Moslem culture, than their European counterparts. The European Moslems are about twice as likely to justify terrorist acts. European Moslems are much less optimistic about their prospects in a non-Moslem culture. For that reason, Islamic leaders who back an Islamic takeover of Europe are quite popular over there.

Countries with higher percentages of Moslems also tend to have a higher proportion of people in favor of Islamic terrorism. There, the main reason for such violence is the "defense of Islam." Despite the fact that Moslems are attacking non-Moslems all over the world, Moslem media and politicians get away with proclaiming that Islam is "under attack." This item is hardly recognized in the West, which is supposed to be the chief aggressor. But in the Moslem media, there are endless screeds calling on Moslems to help defend Islam. How can this be? A lot of it has to do with cultural attitudes towards logic and fantasy. Even in the United States, you have a lot of people who believe in conspiracy theories, including ones about the 911 attacks being a plot by the U.S. government to get the nation into a war. This is believed by a majority of people in some Moslem majority nations, and a quarter of U.S. Moslems, do not believe that Arabs were responsible for the 911 attacks, despite forensic evidence, and al Qaeda leaders bragging about it on videos.

For many people, the world is what they imagine it to be, not what it really is. Attitudes like this can have fatal consequences.

Intelligence Operations: Killer Headlines
With the recent media exposure of covert operations against the Iranian government, the United States has suffered a serious setback in the global war on terror. In essence, a leak not only scrapped a plan to destabilize a state sponsor of terrorism, but it also placed CIA agents and their Iranian allies in danger. The Iranian people in general are now at greater risk because a military confrontation more likely.

The American plan was to destabilize the Iranian government through supporting various opposition groups. This is a logical step, given the general unpopularity of the mullahs among the Iranian people. If opposition groups can gain traction, there is a chance to end the Iranian nuclear crisis in a non-violent manner. For an example of similar covert operations, look at the operations against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Solidarity in Poland was one such group that became a major recipient of CIA support. With the exposure of the operation, this has been greatly set back. It goes beyond the fact that this particular operation has been compromised. One of the immediate effects is that now, Iranian president

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullah will claim that other domestic opposition groups are being funded by the United States. This will push them back in some areas, and it will also hinder their growth. After all, nobody likes a foreign government messing with their domestic political situation - and the folks who the foreign government are backing will have lower support within Iran. Well, the lucky ones will. The unlucky ones will end up in prison. The really unlucky ones will end up dead.

But the least-realized consequence is the fact that the Iranian people have now been placed at greater risk. This is because a non-military option has been taken off the table for a while. As Iran continues its uranium enrichment and progress towards a nuclear weapon, the United States will be facing a tough decision. Iran's nuclear program is of great concern because Iran not only has had generally bad relations with the United States (this is the predictable result of the storming of the embassy in Tehran back in 1979), but also because Iran is known to be a major sponsor of Hizbollah, a terrorist organization with a propensity for large-scale suicide attacks (like the bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983). In effect, Hizbollah can be seen as a delivery system for an Iranian WMD strike. What scares a lot of people about Iran is not that they seek nuclear weapons for deterrence (say, against an attack), but that they could provide WMD to Hizbollah, who then use it on an Israeli or American target.

When that happens, the United States will have to respond in kind. This would be a case where not using nuclear weapons would be seen as an act of weakness. The targets would probably be extensive (Iran has at least four major chemical weapons facilities, at least one biological weapons facility, plus the nuclear research program, which includes enrichment facilities in at least three locations). Even a limited strike would push the death toll into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and a limited strike would risk missing some of the Iranian systems. The only way to be sure Iran would be incapable of launching a second attack would be to wipe Iran off the map. The Iranian people would pay a fearsome price for the decisions of the mullahs and/or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The exposure of the covert operation will have many consequences, and will make dealing with Iran much more difficult. Not only was one operation compromised, others will have to lay low. Iran will also be expecting trouble. As a result, Iran will take measures to defend against future operations. This makes it more likely that the solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis will be a violent one.

Leadship: Venezuela Has a Plan
What is currently unfolding in Venezuela is yet another populist leftist leader taking his nation down the path of false hopes and economic destruction. It's a sad tale, that has been repeated many times in the last century. President Hugo Chavez has used a combination of corruption, confiscation, unfulfilled promises and terror to stay in power. But even with high oil prices, Chavez has to be careful. Corruption tends to "grow" and everyone dipping into the pie wants a little more with each dip. So even if the oil price remains high, the amount of goodies trickling down to his constituents at the bottom is in danger of completely drying up, which would be bad news for his popularity. That's why Chavez is taking a cue from Fidel Castro, and trying to make the United States appear as the implacable enemy of Venezuela. This provides Chavez with the cover he needs to create a police state. By taking over the mass media, and forming a new army (whose main loyalty is to Chavez, not Venezuela), the people hear no contrary messages, and have no way to threaten the new president-for-life.

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