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The Challenge of Looking Beyond The Islamic State: Trump’s Foreign Policy Inheritance

21 Dec

jihadists

Is the Islamic State Worth Destroying?  From a moral standpoint, one can’t help but answer the question in the affirmative.  How can one sit idly by, as the world did when Fascism spread throughout Europe and Southeast Asia?  Then again, none of the major powers really became heavily involved until either a surprise attack befell them, and/or their treaty obligations with another major power required them to act.  Even then, the British merely sent an Expeditionary Force and the U.S. steered clear of major combat operations in Europe, until the enemy’s weaknesses could be favorably exploited.  Nonetheless, acting against modern-day fascists is a worthy cause.  And fascism is precisely the term to describe the so-called Islamic State and their ilk.

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Syrian Penetration of the Southern European Front: Observations and Implications

19 Apr

Syrian Penetration of the Southern European Front: Observations and Implications

Recently, I had occasion to travel to southern Europe.  Specifically, I was on the border of Greece and its northern neighbor, Macedonia.  I was rather interested in gauging the Syrian refugee issue from the standpoint of a passerby.  What I noticed was that all along the road leading from the border toward Thessaloniki one could see gas stations filled with tents, kids playing soccer, women cooking on open fires and men walking along the road; a few of whom were hitchhiking (shown below).

What stood out to me was the sheer number of military age males, many of whom were equipped with cell phones.  The experience generated two questions.  First, where do desperate refugees acquire the funds to purchase cell phones and data/voice plans that would work in Europe?  Secondly, is it possible that the men were merely innocent victims in Syria’s half decade of civil war?

One can only surmise that the first question could be answered with the discovery of additional evidence.  Nonetheless, it is curious.  The second question, however, seems to be more thought-provoking and the answer is partially known.  As anyone keeping up with the news can plainly see, the latest source of attacks in Europe have come from the Arabic-speaking conflict zones.  The Islamists who carried out assaults on Western Europe apparently mixed in with the majority of innocent refugees.  What the men have in common with each other is that they are all fighting age.  What they also have in common is an allegiance to the latest (and most powerful) iteration of political Islam: The so-called Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh).

One may be inclined to believe that the presence of military age males with cellphones among women and children is insufficient evidence of the potential for terrorism to materialize as they move into central and Western Europe.  That is a fair guess.  Yet guessing incorrectly has deadly consequences.  To wit, if one casually peruses YouTube for Syrian war videos, one will notice that not only are there no moderate forces, but nearly all interviewed fighters espouse some degree of Islamist sentiment.  In fact, most videos are posted by various Islamist elements; be they IS, Jabhat al Nusra (the al-Qa’ida branch in Syria), or any of the dozens of other smaller fighting units.

Hence, military age males coming from Syria (and other regional conflict zones of a similar sort) could not entirely be dismissed as mere victims of violence.  With the exception of a number of non-Arab Kurdish factions, it would be counter to the Arab men’s survival instincts to imagine that they fought alongside moderate Arab militias.  This is plausible for one important reason: there are none.  The Free Syrian Army has patently been shown to be a farce and, oddly enough, the Syrian government forces are the only Arab moderates, if the term could be applied at all.

Although the Macedonian government gets it right in not allowing the undocumented to transit through their country without papers that carry them to the other side, this country of limited size and wealth will likely suffer the fate that awaits them when a few bad actors unlawfully slip through the cracks.  As I left Macedonia, it was relayed to me by some civilians that they encountered two Arab men approximately 8.5 miles inside of Macedonia, in a mountainous area that is inaccessible by vehicular means.  The Arab men asked in English where the road to Serbia could be found.  Startled, the civilians pointed in the opposite direction, toward Greece.  Hopefully the Macedonian border guards have since scooped them up.

Beyond Macedonia

While I was at a major train station, Praterstern, in Vienna a few days after my Macedonia/Greece border observation, I noticed something else.  When the sun went down, young Arab males were hanging out at the main exit/entry point to the station.  What they were doing was staring folks down, playing loud Arabic music and generally being rowdy and rude.  For someone to imagine that they are merely displaced and alienated by Austrian society one could easily, yet incorrectly, conclude that their behavior is a result of their isolation; shifting the blame to Austrian society.  This is precisely the sort of tactic that (Leftist) refugee sympathizers typically employ: blame the nation to which an external and unyielding population has sought to establish itself.

Promoting narrative fallacies is bad enough, but the policy implications are far worse.  As I saw pro and anti-immigration protesters gathering in Thessaloniki (Greece) I wondered why it was that anyone would intentionally invite potential terrorists, along with the poor and destitute, that an economically failing country could not afford to absorb.  The myth that poverty causes terrorism has been debunked time and again, as is clearly evident by the billions of poor folks around the world that never choose the strategy as a viable option.  Indeed, even if it were true, it would run counter to one’s own argument to willfully welcome large numbers of poor immigrants who have nothing in common (language, religion, culture, and national experience) with the host country’s inhabitants. Rather, terrorism is caused by those who see fit to employ it as a tool.

At present, terrorism isn’t being used by Swedish Christians, Chinese Buddhists, or Israeli Jews.  Everyone knows who is doing it, but too many are afraid to utter the words describing the faction: Islamist Supremacists/Jihadist Ideologues.

 

Photographic Evidence:

 The Gas Stations in Which Refugees Were Readily Observed:

The Gas Stations in Which Refugees Were Readily Observed

 

The Scene from the Northern Location:

The Scene from the Northern Location

 

 The Scene from the Southern Location:

The Scene from the Southern Location

Military Age Males Walking Roadside:

Military Age Males Walking Roadside

David Firester, Expertise Sought and Offered

7 Apr

Recently, I was cited by Metro News as a terrorism expert.  They had asked me to comment on the new terrorism laws that recently passed in the New York State Senate and were headed to the assembly for a vote.  The paper did an excellent job of quoting me in context.  I thought, however, that I would offer my full sentiments on the matter for which I was contacted.  What follows is a more robust and complete statement of my expert opinion on the topic.  I hope you enjoy!

I was asked two fundamental questions and my answers were as follows:

  1. Do you think that Inc. Penalties for crimes relating to aiding terrorism, using social media to further terror recruitment/cyber terror/, as well prosecuting those who would remain silent with knowledge of terror plots, such as happened in San Bernardino, will have any impact on our ability to combat terrorism here? 

These proposed laws seem to serve two important goals.  First, some would enable citizens to alert the authorities when it appears that another is engaged in advancing terrorist aims either by inciting violence, or condoning it for terrorism’s sake.  Secondly, the bills appear to horizontally extend the impact of laws, which are already on the books, while adapting them to meet the changing threat landscape.  Some examples follow.

Extant laws covering larceny and money laundering may cover traditional crimes that center on personal greed, but terrorists seem to be motivated by a different set of incentives.  Certainly, traditional crime may involve a cyber component, but crafting legislation to go beyond mere criminality is a responsible means by which to deal with someone who is serving broader terrorist aims.  A specific example would be one who steals a credit card and goes online to fraudulently purchase, say, a laptop or pressure cooker, but if it turns out that one has purchased the components of a homemade bomb it is worth having a law that addresses this unique circumstance.

Another example would be grand larceny in the second degree, which is a class C felony.  All that is required in this instance is that the value of the sum stolen equals $50,000 or more.  Money laundering in support of terrorism in the second degree is already a class C felony and the monetary threshold is merely $25,000; the same charge in the first degree is a class B felony and the threshold in that instance is $125,000.  Most of the bills under consideration by the New York State Assembly either propose new, or enhance current, legislation that might result in a C felony conviction.  Only one, cyber terrorism, proposes that an A felony be charged and in that instance it deals with mass injury as a result of terrorist activity.

With regard to making a terroristic threat against a police officer, one must bear in mind that offenses, such as assault, are already treated as more serious when they are committed against a law enforcement officer.  This specific bill codifies, and increases the penalties for, combining threats that one directs at both civilians and police officers.

  1. What types of approaches would work? Is there a best strategy to help keep people safe? 

Of late, there has been an increase in cases in which Americans with no prior connection to jihadist terror have somehow demonstrated an ability to radicalize rather quickly.  Although it is difficult to know if the new laws would deter would-be terrorists, it is important to convey to jihadist aspirants that their nefarious intentions can result in more serious punitive measures.

In order to successfully fight terrorism, both at home and abroad, the law is an important tool for police and prosecutors, but also for civilians determined prevent attacks such as the Boston bombing or San Bernardino combined assault.  This proposed legislation enables our frontline law enforcement officers the ability to defend the citizenry, which is their primary function.  However, there are some significant gaps in our defenses.  Specifically, there is no national database of jihadist identifiers, which enable law enforcement to quickly and accurately connect the dots that would raise suspicion levels to a degree worth pursuing in the criminal realm.

Detecting a genuine jihadist threat is important for law enforcement.  So is establishing whether a new threat has emerged and whether it has been detected elsewhere.  As a nongovernmental entity, Jihad Intel seeks to provide law enforcement with the ability to ameliorate the natural shortcomings of the law as it is written.  It lends assistance to those whose job it is to do the dot-connecting, by serving as an open source clearinghouse for jihadist Symbology.  The tool itself may also be used by civilians, who notice something that appears to be associated with terrorism.

Your question specifically asks what approaches and strategy are appropriate.  The answer is that laws by themselves are insufficient.  A “whole of society” approach is needed.  Many crimes are solved when citizens feel comfortable speaking with the police, who then determine whether a criminal or terrorist act is afoot.  The private sector can enhance the speed and efficiency of the public sector where budgetary constraints inhibit progress.  The bills under consideration do seem to serve a more holistic strategy to combating terrorism.

The Islamic State and al-Qa’ida have specifically called for the targeting of both civilians and the police.  In some instances they have been successful.  It is wise to adopt legislation that meets the threats emanating from our enemies abroad.  A major component of their strategy is to penetrate our society and generate terror from within our borders.  The best strategy seeks to neutralize one’s adversary’s strengths.  This legislation is a means by which to do so.

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