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Defeating Jihadism Requires More Than Killing Terrorists

Sept. 1 2017

On August 21, the president outlinined a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and announced a plan to send more troops there. Henceforth, he said, the objective of the war will be “killing terrorists” rather than “nation-building.” Yet moments later he added that victory will entail “obliterating Islamic State, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.” And all that, writes Elliott Abrams, can’t be accomplished solely by killing bad guys:

What’s entirely missing in the new policy is an understanding that Islamist extremist groups have not just guns but ideas—what the president called an “evil ideology.” To defeat their guns, our own military efforts in support of local police and military operations are necessary—and here the president was quite right to continue and to expand those efforts. But policemen and soldiers cannot provide the ideas that are needed to defeat Islamist extremism. Put another way, the president’s emphasis on “killing terrorists” is right, but he has overlooked the other half of the necessary formula: preventing those who are killed from being replaced by new armies of extremism. He did at one point say we will “dry up their recruitment,” but he did not say how we plan to do this throughout the Muslim world. . . .

The president said that “we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society,” and added: “We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives.” The straw man here is obvious: we must stop trying to make Afghanistan look like, say, Connecticut! . . .[But] our goal has been far more pragmatic: to promote domestic political arrangements that will be stable and will be successful in controlling territory and preventing the rise of violent groups that can threaten the United States and our allies.

Anyone, including the president and his advisers, who thinks all of that can be achieved without the slightest concern for the domestic political arrangements—vicious tyranny or benign rule, brutal repression or a decent respect for human rights, regimes that rule only by force or governments that are legitimate in the eyes of their population—is repeating a formula that failed us repeatedly in the Middle East, helped lead to the current crisis, and will eventually produce more terrorism.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Afghanistan, Donald Trump, Jihadism, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount