"Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. "1
Obama, when he voiced the above in his Inaugural Address (January 20, 2009) did not say precisely how extensive, how large, how virulent that far-reaching network was, but he may have known he would have a hand in shaping in every dimension the conflict involving it.
Obama goes on to say this:
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."
Then a little later, and with Presidental butt firmly planted in the Oval Office, came the realpolitik.
"The snub marked a fresh low in US-Israeli relations and appeared designed to show Mr Netanyahu how low his stock had fallen in Washington after he refused to back down in a row over Jewish construction in east Jerusalem."2
I may bet my co-religionists remember that.
Today, however, I wonder if the same was not by design and mutual.
The conservative press and right-aligned anti-Jihad have weighed in factually and heavily on the Obama Administration's perfidious liaison with almost all things Muslim Brotherhood (short of such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the violence-inciting cleric who fled Virginia for Yemen and bought a missile for his bloody capacious mouth).3
Let's move on.
Remember this exchange?
In one pointed confrontation on foreign policy, Obama bluntly challenged McCain's steadiness. "This is a guy who sang bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, who called for the annihilation of North Korea — that I don't think is an example of speaking softly." That came after McCain accused him of foolishly threatening to invade Pakistan and said, "I'm not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Sen. Obama did."4
Perhaps a certain somebody not only adept at debate but perceptive about a whole scene took a lesson -- or already had that lesson -- ahead of the need for it.
I have found the Obama Administration the most opaque in memory, one guaranteed to promote discomfort among all who have been raised with a version of "Talk straight. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Act accordingly."
We're aware of the difference between image and substance in politics, but it's generally a little different, more about in-house promises and betrayals. Here things are a little different: we have a President on reach-out and a vigorous conservative press rightfully and righteously dogging him every step of the way.
Here's a good example and fit perfect to my thinking: in a recent editorial in The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick asks, "Why is the Obama administration shunning potential allies and empowering enemies? Why has the administration gotten it wrong everywhere?8
Glick's tone alone may be helpful to what I believe are the two underlying tenets of the Obama Administration in its ownership of the "War on Terror" and ownership of the official American state relationship with Islamic-majority states and their constituent elements.
1. Orchestrate everything and be careful to keep the front stage lit and the back stage dark.
2. With regard to the "War on Terror", produce the least war possible with Islam while pressing closely and persistently with all active representatives.
In autocratic states, the idea of a "double story" covers the behavior of providing the public with a convenient, encouraging, and generally patronizing narrative while stealing from the same mercilessly and shamelessly.
In good ol' democratic American -- proven across generatons to swap out its leadership every two, four, and eight years -- and with an election coming to help with 20/20 hindsight Obama's moves have been most suited to the above noted modus operandi:
a) extend to Islam the hand of peace;
b) give Israel the cold shoulder, even snub the Prime Minister, and make sure all of that makes Big Media news;
c) distill out "the terrorists" where possible, investigate, "sting", and kill (drone operations in Pakistan; CIA and military administrative proxy counter-terrorism in Somalia) as necessary;
d) draw the Muslim Brotherhood into power and, well, see how they like it;
e) make way for change in the direction of the statements laid out in the Inaugural Address.
One more thing:
f) drive the right wing absolutely nuts!
If this view fits, it makes sense of many things, including Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer: ""This administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past," Barak said, later adding "it doesn't mean that we agree on everything."5
This is a view that also fits a) the DOD-IDF entanglement in the new F-35 fighter program that redounds to Israel's credit as regards control and customization of critical cockpit avionics, b) delivery and debugging (watch those fuses, guys) of the GBU-28 bunker busting bombs (plus chit-chat about aerial refueling for long-range operations), and c) mutual mumness on notable hacks of computer systems associated with Iranian nuclear-involved projects.
This is also the view that fits the continuing American commitment to Somalia in its full court press against Al Shabaab.7
One could take this state by state, Yemen to Syria, with always the same result: state destabilization leading to internecine conflicts with the Muslim Brotherhood surfacing and stepping up to its plate to perhaps show the world what it really is all about.
That's a scary thought, but it seems to be what is happening.
The good news for Obama: while Obama may be held to his own Inaugural words -- again, "To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy" -- it's really the Muslim Brotherhood and so many conflicted parties that have been handed the test.
For this first term in general, the story on the surface -- we might call it "Obama Abandons Israel!" -- shouts louder and more in the direction of the general public than the defense procurement minutae that actually makes more sense but to a much smaller community of defense and security tracking geeks.
And that may be as planned from Obama's first day in office.
A Sideshow Called "Shimmer"
The arrival of pain brings with it a certain set of questions.
! What is it?
! How large is it?
! Where is it?
! How dangerous is it?
In 2005, Daniel Pipes took a whack at answering "How Many Islamists?"6
Pipes' answer then was 10 to 15 percent and provided his reasoning. Since then, he's updated the piece as various polls have weighed in on the issue.
I've been using the term "islamic Small Wars" to describe the internecine warfare within Islamic-majority states and along the many troubled interfaces between the Ummah and others that have to do, more or less, and perhaps superficially with how humans should live (more substantially, perhaps, with who has power over whom).
Be that as it may, within that framework, the term "shimmer" applies to the guerilla-style, low-intensity, "hard" and "soft Jihad" observation and observed paranoia created by the mirage-like presence of a thing that appears and disappears in common awareness and consciousness.
Everyone knows the inscription on the verbal shield: "Islam is the Religion of Peace!"
And the good among the believers may thank 9/11, London, Madrid, and Mumbai for fixing that forever in the kaffir mind and then go on to add to those atrocious events the sorry history and current image of violence soaking through the regions most heavily invested in so peaceful a way.
In releation to the thesis of "producing the least war possible," Obama has stepped off with a bold defense of Islam and of Muslims -- and he's patronized Muslim interests in the Middle East Conflict, most notably with his stance, or absence of it, on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (which it is, but he's not saying and pushing) -- and a related integration of the same, among them persons of intense popular interest into his Administration (lately, Huma Abedin has been in the hot spot, but last year around this time Tarek Fatah's mention of three Brotherhood associated personalities in the White House made the conservative rounds, one of which I've referenced here9) .
In effect, by handing Al Qaeda to the military and attempting to keep the Brotherhood (by right-side standards, suspect relations) to himself, Obama has responded to "shimmer" in his own way, limiting military activity in the War on Terror, improving the cost-benefit ratio of that effort directly, producing greater preparedness for wider field operations if necessary, and widening the scope for social interaction and normative processes to do their thing, would only they would do it favorably and altogether more quickly for the ideals associated with liberal and open democracies and human rights worldwide.
Shimmer involves sighting the army that isn't on the horizon -- and then is -- and then fades again from view.
Shimmer may interact with the Obama double-story in this Orwellian way: the worse the Administration's stance looks for Israel, the worse it really is for those in Islam who most want to destroy the Jews, convert the kaffir, and create the caliphate, i.e., Obama's discomforting "realignment with Islam" may serve to draw away more moderate and temperate energies from less contained personalities and their organizations.
Is it working?
The experience of the regime in Iran may provide benchmarks for this strategy. It has been rightly made a pariah among states; it has been taught that it cannot fully control its technology over which it seems to express the greatest need for autonomy (what else is new?) and state pride; and its pockets may not reach quite so far as they did a few years ago, which is not a good thing for a state running on patronage.
The whole world has been and will be watching the fate of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
In essence for the post-9/11 environment, the presence, expansion, and inclusion of Islam in the American quilt and elsewhere in the world will continue being troubled by questions about adherence to faith and modification and reformation of the same.
Alternative: no modification but social accommodation by Muslims within pluralist and secular cultural and political environments -- that would be Earth, of course -- as a work around, but in the long run, this because Buhddists, Christians, Hindus, and Jews and and world full of others have no want of enslavement or subordination to Muslims.
The faithful of many faiths, and the unbelievers, whoever and wherever they may be, will stay, but the Dhimmi concept will most certainly have to go.
I don't have a crystal ball but may cautiously suggest this much: the possession of strong good conscience sufficient to forestall excess, reduce barbarism, extend compassion and aid to all in need, and contribute to a common global human defense will grow across many channels and divisions.
To prattle on, greater consciousness and conscience itself may represent evolutionary preferences, and that's not going to be adequately expressed or represented by any cultural or religious monolith.
We're a most clever, gregarious, and inventive species.
Do note: the Jews have experienced and promoted the broadest range in good and great ideas and inspirations, and they're not about to be alone in that.
6. Pipes, Daniel. "How Many Islamists?" Daniel Pipes Blog, May 17, 2005 (last update: December 28, 2010).
Kaufman, Joyce. "Interview with Pamela Geller on Infiltration in the Federal Government." July 26, 2012.