Commentary Magazine


Topic: Marc Gerecht

Give Americans a Break Already

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

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Heavy Meddle in Iran

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

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Cut the Gordion Knot, Already

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

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Avoiding Reality, Excusing Our Enemies

Reuel Marc Gerecht in a must-read column explains:

A concern for not giving offense to Muslims would never prevent the French internal-security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), which deploys a large number of Muslim officers, from aggressively trying to pre-empt terrorism. As Maj. Hasan’s case shows, this is not true in the United States. The American military and especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in great part inattentive because they were too sensitive.

Moreover, President Barack Obama’s determined effort not to mention Islam in terrorist discussions—which means that we must not suggest that Maj. Hasan’s murderous actions flowed from his faith—will weaken American counterterrorism. Worse, the president’s position is an enormous wasted opportunity to advance an all-critical Muslim debate about the nature and legitimacy of jihad.

The disinclination to recognize the role that jihadism plays in the motives and actions of terrorists like Hasan leads us to avoid looking in the right places for signs of danger. Surveillance in a mosque? CAIR will (and has) raised a stink. Fire or discipline a Muslim for running a slide show on jihadism? Good luck finding a supervisor willing to take that one on. We avert our eyes, look for alternative explanations, and do little to change the way we assess threats and what constitutes a red flag (a  chummy e-mail relationship with a radical imam, for example).

Gerecht is right that part of the reluctance to identify Hasan as a Muslim terrorist stems from the Obama team’s damage-control mentality. (“The Obama administration obviously doesn’t want to get tagged with an Islamist terrorist strike in the U.S.—the first since 9/11. The Muslim-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report, which unambiguously named the enemy as ‘Islamist terrorism,’ now seems distinctly passé.”) But it is also at odds with Obama’s international initiative to ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World” and suggest that much of the world’s ills stem from American insensitivity and missteps.

Imagine, Gerecht posits, if Obama were to challenge his listeners with some hard questions rather than merely feed Muslims lines so they can continue “blaming non-Muslims for their crippling problems”:

He could ask, as some Muslims have, why is it that Islam has produced so many jihadists? Why is it that Maj. Hasan’s rampage has produced so little questioning among Muslim clerics about why a man, one in a long line of Muslim militants, so easily takes God’s name to slaughter his fellow citizens?

Well we can dream, can’t we? The 11/5 terror attack should be a wake-up call. That it hasn’t been (so far) suggests just how deeply the Obami are invested in denying the essence of the threat we face.

Reuel Marc Gerecht in a must-read column explains:

A concern for not giving offense to Muslims would never prevent the French internal-security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), which deploys a large number of Muslim officers, from aggressively trying to pre-empt terrorism. As Maj. Hasan’s case shows, this is not true in the United States. The American military and especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in great part inattentive because they were too sensitive.

Moreover, President Barack Obama’s determined effort not to mention Islam in terrorist discussions—which means that we must not suggest that Maj. Hasan’s murderous actions flowed from his faith—will weaken American counterterrorism. Worse, the president’s position is an enormous wasted opportunity to advance an all-critical Muslim debate about the nature and legitimacy of jihad.

The disinclination to recognize the role that jihadism plays in the motives and actions of terrorists like Hasan leads us to avoid looking in the right places for signs of danger. Surveillance in a mosque? CAIR will (and has) raised a stink. Fire or discipline a Muslim for running a slide show on jihadism? Good luck finding a supervisor willing to take that one on. We avert our eyes, look for alternative explanations, and do little to change the way we assess threats and what constitutes a red flag (a  chummy e-mail relationship with a radical imam, for example).

Gerecht is right that part of the reluctance to identify Hasan as a Muslim terrorist stems from the Obama team’s damage-control mentality. (“The Obama administration obviously doesn’t want to get tagged with an Islamist terrorist strike in the U.S.—the first since 9/11. The Muslim-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report, which unambiguously named the enemy as ‘Islamist terrorism,’ now seems distinctly passé.”) But it is also at odds with Obama’s international initiative to ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World” and suggest that much of the world’s ills stem from American insensitivity and missteps.

Imagine, Gerecht posits, if Obama were to challenge his listeners with some hard questions rather than merely feed Muslims lines so they can continue “blaming non-Muslims for their crippling problems”:

He could ask, as some Muslims have, why is it that Islam has produced so many jihadists? Why is it that Maj. Hasan’s rampage has produced so little questioning among Muslim clerics about why a man, one in a long line of Muslim militants, so easily takes God’s name to slaughter his fellow citizens?

Well we can dream, can’t we? The 11/5 terror attack should be a wake-up call. That it hasn’t been (so far) suggests just how deeply the Obami are invested in denying the essence of the threat we face.

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New Allegations against Iran

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

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Not Surrender Monkeys Anymore

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute have published a fascinating new paper based on their recent talks with counterterrorism officials in Europe. Their findings contrast with the crude stereotype that so many American conservatives have of the French as “surrender monkeys.” Gerecht and Schmitt write: “France has become the most accomplished counterterrorism practitioner in Europe.”

France, they note, has been facing the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism since the 1980’s and has done an impressive job of marshaling its resources to defend itself. What’s the secret of French success? Gerecht and Schmitt point to the fact that the French “grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist investigative magistrates (juges d’instruction).”

The last office, whose most famous holder is Jean-Louis Bruguière, was created in 1986 and is utterly without parallel in the American system, because it gives a single magistrate the power to use both intelligence and police services to stop terrorists before they strike. Magistrates even have the power to lock up French citizens when there is not enough evidence to convict them of a crime.

For all their carping about America’s supposed civil-liberties abuses, the French have concentrated more power in the hands of their counterterrorism officials than we have. And it’s paid off. Gerecht and Schmitt conclude:

“We underscore the power of the French state since so much post–Patriot Act commentary in the United States suggests that enhanced police powers—for example, the sequestration of terrorist suspects without immediate access to attorneys, or the use of wiretapping and physical surveillance that falls far short of ‘probable cause’ of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) standards—are counterproductive to counterterrorism efforts since they corrode our collective trust in the law and are ineffective in any case.”

In fact, as they stress, the kind of steps the French take work. And yet in the more than twenty years since this system was created, “France has not gone down the slippery slope into tyranny. France’s society, its politics, and many of its laws have actually become much more liberal and open.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute have published a fascinating new paper based on their recent talks with counterterrorism officials in Europe. Their findings contrast with the crude stereotype that so many American conservatives have of the French as “surrender monkeys.” Gerecht and Schmitt write: “France has become the most accomplished counterterrorism practitioner in Europe.”

France, they note, has been facing the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism since the 1980’s and has done an impressive job of marshaling its resources to defend itself. What’s the secret of French success? Gerecht and Schmitt point to the fact that the French “grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist investigative magistrates (juges d’instruction).”

The last office, whose most famous holder is Jean-Louis Bruguière, was created in 1986 and is utterly without parallel in the American system, because it gives a single magistrate the power to use both intelligence and police services to stop terrorists before they strike. Magistrates even have the power to lock up French citizens when there is not enough evidence to convict them of a crime.

For all their carping about America’s supposed civil-liberties abuses, the French have concentrated more power in the hands of their counterterrorism officials than we have. And it’s paid off. Gerecht and Schmitt conclude:

“We underscore the power of the French state since so much post–Patriot Act commentary in the United States suggests that enhanced police powers—for example, the sequestration of terrorist suspects without immediate access to attorneys, or the use of wiretapping and physical surveillance that falls far short of ‘probable cause’ of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) standards—are counterproductive to counterterrorism efforts since they corrode our collective trust in the law and are ineffective in any case.”

In fact, as they stress, the kind of steps the French take work. And yet in the more than twenty years since this system was created, “France has not gone down the slippery slope into tyranny. France’s society, its politics, and many of its laws have actually become much more liberal and open.”

Read Less




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