Archive for the ‘muslims’ category

Human Rights In A Time Of Popularism

March 13, 2017

Over the past weekend, news headlines featured the reports that Turkey wanted to send diplomates into the Netherlands in order to campaign before Turkish residents living in the Netherlands. The diplomates purpose was said to be aimed at gaining votes for a change in the Turkish Constitution which would increase current Turkey President Erdogan’s power. By US standards, this request seems off base and should be denied. Hmmm.

American’s gut reaction, however, is based more on our sense of isolationism, that is the American public square is off limits to other nations’ political squabbles. Americans do not expect other nations to have an opinion on US politics and for sure, do not want any interference in our internal affairs (for example, the rumored Russian activity in Trump’e election). But what if a foreign country only wish to “spin” their local politics in the US press and attempt to raise favorable sentiments? Who cares?

The Dutch situation, however, is different. The Turkish intervention was aimed at convincing Turkish citizens who were living and working in the Netherlands to vote (absentee) in a Turkish elections. What’s wrong with that?

Popularism is flowering across Europe and in the Netherlands, right leaning politicians are taking every opportunity to remind Dutch citizens that Turkish guest workers are taking Dutch jobs. Post World War II a number of countries, the Netherlands and Germany in particular, invited guest workers from Turkey to come and work. For a complex set of reasons, the guest workers did not assimilate into the greater society. Go along and get along seemed to be the accepted way of life and today there are second and third generation Turkish residents in both Germany and the Netherlands who do not speak their host country’s language. Hmmm.

Popularism, itself, is a bag of many things. Xenophobes, bigots, and religious extremists often live comfortable under this umbrella. Promote discontent, label a minority as the trouble maker, and then promise (without proof) you will fix this mythical problem, and voila, a politician might get elected. Sound familiar?

But in Europe, there is a much more subtle problem under the surface. Turkey wants to become an EU member and gain full entry to the common market. For Turkey this would give their economy a great boost and would enable even larger numbers of Turkish citizens to move freely into other EU countries and compete for jobs. Oh, and by the way, if the Turkish citizens did not find employment right away, they could claim social benefits in their host country. Hmmm.

Most current EU member States have not had much concern when the migrating workers carried Spanish, Italian, Polish or even a Lithuanian passports. A Turkish passport is something else again. Why?

No surprise, most Turks are Muslim.

The Muslim religion presents a different theology, of course, and for religious intolerants, this is sufficient enough. But there’s more.   Muslims bring with them a different sent of customs, including Sharia law, dress codes, and sharply different views on women’s rights (as seen by Europeans).

Most Western people also consider religious freedom to be a core human right. Most modern western people consider woman’s equality and suffrage a human right. So how exactly does one reconcile these two opposing views? How does a country have laws which grant women the right to wear what they wish (within broad standards of decency) and turn an eye the opposite direction when another women is told she must wear a certain religious garb whether she wants to or not?

In times of plenty, a tolerant society would find ways to accommodate Islam. Genital mutilation, stoning, or multiple wives, however, represent a step to far in most tolerant Western societies. While these societies might allow relative free exercise of religious freedom, these practices would be banned.

But, in times of slow growth or decline, the idea of someone from another country coming in a taking work from another citizens is too much to expect. Turkey as an EU/Common Market member has its supporters (those who see gaining access to Turkish customers), but the realities of local country economics when framed in the conflicts of religious customs, it becomes a piece of cake for populists politicians to short circuit any dialog and pitch secular muslims as the same as fundamentalist.

It would be wise not to look down ones nose and say that would not happen in America. Think about the demonization of Mexicans who don’t follow Sharia law, don’t have different rules for women, and dress for the most part indistinguishable from other Americans. And worse, Mexicans are good workers, family oriented, and are church going people. Isn’t that what the idealized American is?

Populist politicians are pickers and choosers. They are also close to rudderless and pick issues which will yield the most votes. And while that might sound great to someone if the issue fits their hot button, one must remember that this populist leader will jump upon a new issue in the future if that serves their purpose better.

Your populist leader may not be your friend for long.  Hmmm.

Trump Whistles

January 30, 2017

A familiar technique amongst hate mongers, and frequently employed in communications is what’s called “dog whistle” language. The term refers to  a high pitched whistle sound which dogs can hear but whose frequency is too high for humans. The dog whistle sound is conditioned into the dog’s behavior so when the whistle is sounded, the dog performs as trained.

We may no be seeing the advent of the “Trump Whistle”. Over the weekend, the Trump Administration issued two executive orders which seemed analogous to dog whistle statements. First, the 3 month ban on US entry from any non-citizen coming from one of nine countries and the second was a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The three month ban was sited as a defense against terrorism even though all previous Muslim terrorists came from other countries and there were no recent incidents prompting this type of response.

The Holocaust statement omitted any mention of the 6 million Jews who died during this period. The statement instead talked about all the people who perished as if the Holocaust happened and some Jewish people just happened to get caught up in a bigger problem. Hmmm.

Many individuals, organizations, and news media pundits have reacted to these two orders calling into question whether they are valid. Some argue that Country X should not be on the list, or this type of traveler should not be covered. The Holocaust statement has been denounced as insensitive and out of step with past precedents.

Hmmm, so what, that’s not the point.

Any thinking person knows that since 9/11, there have been no deaths or destruction caused by non-US persons within our borders. While that does not preclude a potential future terrorist event, there is scant evidence that current security measures are insufficient. And why the US Government which is planning to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would omit connecting the Holocaust to Jewish people is unfathomable, unless…

The Trump Whistle is a communication device intended to send a message to certain groups of Americans on one hand, and on the other hand to distract the bulk of Americans, as if they didn’t hear the real message.

Some conservative Christians are only too delighted to see the heathen Muslims called out as different and of course somehow lesser humans. And Holocaust deniers were glad to see President Trump remembered their dislike for Jews.

So while mainstream America was shocked at the two unnecessary executive orders, there is a group of Trump supporters who smiled and said, that’s our man in the White House.

Islamist Terrorist On Obama’s Watch

June 18, 2016

I saw this summary on Facebook.  The summary lists 10 incidents where someone of Muslim faith murdered someone who was not a Muslim.  Sadly there was a total of 91 who lost their lives.  The Facebook implications was that President Obama, in some way, has been complicit in enabling needless American deaths.  Hmmm.

During this same period, hand guns have taken the lives of over 180,000, traffic accidents another 180,000, and deaths from slips and falls accounted for another 180,000 or so.

President Obama has not done much on these preventable deaths either.  I wonder what he has been doing with his time?

It is mind boggling that so many people connect these terrorist inspired random acts with a specific Obama Administration policy (or lack there of) and seem to say, “if only the President had done this or that, these acts would not have taken place”.  I wonder what those anti-terror policies would look like?

One might jump to the conclusion that the policies must be aimed at Muslims.  On the other hand, each of these incidents involved the use of guns.  Hmmm.  I wonder whether these anti-Obama fans who circulate these posts are thinking about a sharp curtailment on the availability of guns?

I think not.

For common sense purposes, one must keep in mind the low number of deaths, the lack of any connectivity between them, and  the lack of prior indicators which might have predicted the incident each provoked.  In comparison to other gun related deaths, traffic deaths and home related accidental deaths, these 91 don’t even make the radar screen.

Oh, and one more point.  If these sad, senseless deaths of 91 Americans justify a political statement, then I wonder what type of statement the 3000 or so Americans who lost their lives on George W Bush’s watch on 9/11?

Belgium – How Could You Have Been So Unprepared?

April 6, 2016

To listen to US Congress members, the GOP Presidential primary leaders, and talk show talking heads, one would think that Europe in general and Belgium in specific, know diddli-squat about national security. Do you know that someone can travel from Germany to France to Spain and then to Portugal and no one needs to verify his “papers”. Hmmm. I wonder whether that like traveling from Boston to Houston and then onto Los Angeles?

Those pointing a finger at Belgium believe that Europe’s lack of border checks between European countries is paramount to an abdication of police duties. Once a terrorist gains entry to any European country, the terrorist has free movement across borders to any other European country. Now that I think about it, it is the same in the US.

Another complaint involves European security services not talking to each other. Hmmm. Does that remind one of 9/11? And critics suggest the number of police jurisdictions found in Belgium and Brussels are too many. But how does that compare to the DEA, DHS, FBI, AFT combined with State, County, and local police units. Life is complicated.

Most Americans hearing these self-serving critique of the European and Belgium security services think these foreigners have something to learn… and none better than the US to teach them. Hmmm.

As in most of life, things are the way they are for reasons. If one thinks things should be different, one must begin by understanding why things are the way they are.

Europeans and Belgians are not mentally challenged nor are they lazy. Rather they carry memories of authoritarianism common through out the histories of these countries and most recently dramatically demonstrated when the NAZIs occupied other countries during World War II. The Nazis were simply good at knowing who you were and where you were suppose to be, and if that wasn’t what they thought best, one paid a heavy price.

The recent rise of muslim terrorists, not withstanding previous colonial bouts with the IRA, Algerians, Moroccans, and Turkish extremists, has undoubtably raised the stakes in keeping track of residents who wish to act on a different agenda. The world has seen a steady increase in criminal, bordering on terrorist, activities for the last 50+ years. Plane hijackings, suitcase bombs, ransom demands, and now suicide bombers have become more frequent and more sophisticated each year.

The socialization of weapons know-how coupled with the availability of physical weapons of all types (if one has the money to afford them) has changed the balance of power. Do it yourself, buy them pre-made, or inherit them from a friend, with guns, explosives, or dare I say, poisons plentiful, is a wonder that anyone who wants to be a killer or a terrorist can obtain the tools of the trade easily.

So, the terrorism threat is not really about ISIS (as fear mongering candidates would like us to think). Separatists, anarchists, and religious zealots have all offered the disconnected a cause to give their lives meaning. And for sure ISIS does attempt to provide that type of meaning but ISIS is just another group in a long list.

We must not overlook, that it takes money, methods (training, communications), and means (guns, explosives, lethal materials) to carry out terrorist activities. Someone is providing money (even if it is someone else’s money), someone is providing weapons and lethal materials. And, of course, someone must be the person willing to give up their life to carry out the terrorist act.

The GOP political spin attempts to assign causality to ISIS (and Europe and Belgium are just too dumb to know this). Get rid of ISIS and the problem vanishes, we are told. Wrong.

The world is awash in weapons and lethal materials. Money seems also to be no obstacle, either to be available or to be delivered to feed, house and cloth terrorist and to pay on-going businesses which manufacture weapons or lethal materials. Why don’t these politicians focus on the tools of the terrorist trade and seek to shut down these operations?

The most likely answer is that the real world is far too complicated for a five second sound bite and not nearly enough of a message to rouse fear in voters. In other words, those criticizing Europe and Belgium appear unable to understand the breath and depth of terrorism and far more interested in leveraging fear to their political advantage.

I suspect Europe and Belgium could teach the US (and certainly the GOP candidates) a thing or two about how the world really operates.

Brussels’ Message

March 23, 2016

Terrorists have performed once more the unthinkable. Suicide bombings were carried out at the Brussels International Airport and at one stop in the Brussels Subway system. Reports list as many as 35 fatalities. Innocent people with no known argument with the attackers. Why do people do this, and what can be done to stop this happening again?

I know Brussels. I never lived in Brussels (unless Sofitel rooms count). I did live nearby in Germany and traveled many times through out Belgium and in particular Brussels for business and for pleasure. By American standards, Brussels and most of Belgium are easy places to visit. Almost everyone speaks english as a second language. The pace of life is very pleasant. Brussels and the Grand Place district are full of tourists, shops, and wonderful places to eat.

The airport is smallish (compared to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Charle DeGaulle. It was formerly the home of Sebena Airlines (Belgium National Carrier). Sebena offered some of the poorest customer service in Europe and Belgians never seemed to mind. Maybe that was due to a quirk in the population’s personality. Belgians don’t make trouble for others.

Belgium’s official language is not one but two. Roughly, the north speaks Flemish (Dutch) and the south (Walloons) speak french. Belgium has a split political make up too. National budget expenditures are split roughly 50-50 so if new road is built in the south, then one is also built in the north whether they are needed or not.

The Belgians are outwardly hospitable people. With its central location, Brussels has been selected as the seat of the European Parliament and home for many of the European Commission agencies. Symbolically, Brussels could be seen as the capital of Europe.

Again, why do people do this?

The perpetrators of the recent Paris attacks and the prime suspects in these bombings are Muslims of North African ancestry. One might see this incident as unintended by-product of European colonial days. The civil wars in North Africa generated a lot of refugees, some who held dual citizenship resulted in a lot of North African muslims relocating to Europe. Now their children, a second generation, call Belgium home but have not assimilated very much at all. They stand on the outside while living inside.

What goes on inside their heads is a bit of a mystery. Rationally committing mass murder makes no sense and makes even less sense if it requires someone to lose their own life in the process.  And making this sacrifice based upon the fairy tale that life will be much better in “paradise” is total lunacy. So we must conclude that these acts are not rational ones.

If history is good for anything, it must remind us that these Muslim terrorists do not have an exclusive hold on irrational acts. You can read that just about all other religions, races, and ethnic groups have committed one atrocity after another, on yes, some outside group. Outrageous acts against others is not the exclusive domain of Islam.

My guess is that these Brussels terrorists decided to explode their bombs so that “others” were killed or maimed. “Others” were people whom they did not know. “Others” were everyone not part of their close circle of friends and associates. “Others” were people who did not count.

There remains plenty of future terrorist living in European countries, who live there but are not part of the national social fabric. For them, everyone else looks like “others”. These latent terrorists just sit there waiting for something or someone to turn them loose in order to kill the “others”

Brussels’ message reminds us of the power of assimilation and the dangers that lurk in the hands of those “outsiders”.

Delivering The Mail

April 16, 2015

In an amazing feat of audacity, a Florida postal worker flew his ultralight from Harrisburg, PA to the steps of the Capital in Washington, DC. The pilot landed his craft without incident and was immediately arrested. The pilot explained that he was protesting the obscene amounts of money currently transforming the US political process. I guess this 60 year old individual feels strongly about the corrosive effect of unlimited money.

Listening to the evening news, the postman’s campaign financing protest was lost in their exploration of how anyone could have flown so close to the White House and the Capital. And if that was not enough, the Press reported that the postman had describe his intention about a year ago and had been contacted by local newspapers and Federal investigators. Money in politics, I guess, is both not newsworthy or attention getting for the Feds. Hmmm.

For Russia and China, this was probably a non-event. Would either country be pushed to the point of taking military action against the US, they could employ submarines, long range aircraft, and intercontinental missiles.

But for any of the dysfunction Middle East regimes, this incident may have been a wake up call. Al Qaeda wrote the first chapter in unconventional warfare with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now their successors have been given a demonstration on how a small, unobtrusive aircraft could deliver a knock out punch to both the White House and the Capital.

Hmmm.

Mutual deterrents kept the cold war powers at bay even though there were conservative war mongers in the capitals of the major powers. With the emergence of Muslim radical groups who apparently possess nothing they wish to protect, the major powers have no mutual deterrent tools to combat them.

One would hope that the light bulb would go on in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing that it is high time to move beyond the cold war, and work together to contain, defang, and ultimately domesticate these radical Muslim threats before they possess weapons of greater mass destruction.

A New Foreign Policy Strategy?

February 1, 2015

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote a piece titled “America’s Strategy Deficit”. Hmmm. What does she mean?

Reading her opinion column doesn’t help a whole lot. Ms Noonan recounts the opinions of several present or former Generals as well as several former Secretaries of State. All of whom find fault with the present Administration’s grasp of a coherent strategy. Ms Noonan offers no suggestion about what that may be but drives home the point that the Obama Administration does not understand the world correctly.  Hmmm.

A little history might help to begin.

President Obama inherited a foreign policy that was like a ship had been bouncing along a rocky coast.  In 2008, the US foreign policy had come to rest stuck in on Middle East/Islamic beach unable to move.

We can see in 2015, that the assumption supporting the Bush foreign policy were patently wrong and the tools used to implement it were clearly inadequate. So to understand President Obama’s foreign policy one must start here.

Briefly, President Obama decided to “stop digging” in order to get out of Bush’s hole. This policy also fit the President’s personality which is risk adverse.  Obama sees the world as overly complicated and compensates for the global unknowns by waiting to see “how things played out”. There have been no information or events during President Obama’s term that supports the view that Bush had it right and Obama has it wrong.  So if Obama is wrong about the world, who should we consult to find the correct views? Why has the world become so difficult to understand?

Following WWII, there was but one country wealthy enough to provide global leadership and also grow its own economy at home. The US saw the world as divided in two camps, the communist world and the “free world”. Foreign policy was called “containment” and its goal was to keep the communist ideology from spreading beyond its current boards (largely the Soviet Union and China). This type of foreign policy was succinct and actionable. What few paid attention to was the simultaneous reality that the world also was divided along the lines of manufacturing capability too. The “West” grew more and more capable of producing “goods” while the “communist world” fell further behind.

This all changed suddenly. Along came the Japanese decade where Japan, propelled by its electronics and automotive industries conquered western markets. The Japanese seemed unstoppable but their secret to success was finally discovered.

The Japanese had mastered quality manufacturing.

Of course as it turns out, any country who follows quality principles (such as put forward by Deming, Juran, and others) can make high quality, lower cost goods. China and most of Southeast Asia have become the world’s manufacturing hub without firing one bullet.

So what’s the point?

The worlds trading partnerships have been reordered. Russia has opted to be a natural resource exported (oil and gas). China has chosen to be the 10,000 pound gorilla in the low cost, high quality manufacturing world. And thanks in part to Bush Administrations Middle East policies, the oil exporting countries from Morocco to Iran have been turned upside down with their indigenous “have nots” now seeking “more of the pie” in countries like Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. So tell me what’s the obvious US foreign policy so far overlooked by US strategic thinkers?

The world has changed but conventional US thinking has not.  The US  still pursues destruction of communism, keeping oil available and at predictable prices, and above all maintain the openness of world shipping routes.

Witness, expanding NATO’s boarders (and threatening Russia in the process), attempting to keep China from expanding its territorial ambitions into the South China Sea (and posing economic and security damage to countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan), and increasing US Southeast Asia alliances with nations we have previously disdained due to their internal policies (which has created all sorts of contradictory situations where human rights might be concerned). It is not hard to draw the conclusion that US foreign policy is on the wrong path.

Ms Noonan’s view of a US “strategy deficit” is only half the proposition. The more important half is “what should the US foreign policy be”.

If foreign policy is left to the Generals, it would be “boots on the ground”. If left to the politicians, it would be something for everyone (and results for no one). If left to the State Department professionals, it would be more of the same.

If left to our presumed allies, it would be more American money and lives while quietly diverting more and more wealth to their countries. What should we do?

You won’t find the answer here. Rather I would propose we consider that following:

  • America is wealthy enough and militarily strong enough to outlast our next strongest competitors unless we spend our way into bankruptcy. The combination of an open society and free enterprise makes the US economic model more durable and more competitive in the long run than other systems on the globe today. So there is no need to panic.
  • No religion anywhere in the world is our enemy. All religions are so internally flawed that the US secular society can prevail and be seen with envy from all other societies. We, of course, must not misinterpret this as a justification that any religion practiced in the US is superior to any other in the world.  Basically keep religions out of the equations.
  • From time to time, the US will be forced to use military forces with any foreign policy, to either defend itself or to achieve its foreign policy. As a safety precaution, the US must augment its volunteer Army with “drafted” civilians whenever US forces are committed for more that 90 days. Equally important, all employment of military force, must be funded with new designated proportional taxes on the US population. We should avoid any further conflicts where the expense is borrowed and the wars are fought with a narrow cut of Americans. This will force our leaders to think before committing the military.

In my opinion, these three simple principles will lead whatever party is in power to adopt and follow foreign policies that make sense. Every day that goes by is witnessing the rise of stronger military and economic threats to US national interests. Ms Noonan is correct is suggesting it is time to think what the US strategies should be.