The U.S. Need Not Choose between Fighting Terrorism and Countering the Threats from Russia and China

Since the Obama administration announced a “pivot to Asia,” strategists at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom have spoken of placing less emphasis on combating jihadists and more on containing a revanchist Russia and an aggressive and empowered China. Such an approach, writes Matthew Levitt, creates a false dichotomy that can lead to dangerous conclusions:

[F]or all the talk of a shift away from counterterrorism and toward great-power competition, the reality is that with a modicum of strategic planning the two are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive, efforts. The few military deployments necessary to maintain an effective counterterrorism posture are the polar opposite of “endless wars” in terms of size, cost, and risk, and should be pursued in support of international coalitions and local allies. Beyond their counterterrorism value, such alliances will prove critical to pushing back on great- and near-power competitors.

Syria, in particular, provides [a] clear example of a small, inexpensive, low-risk military deployment that yielded high counterterrorism dividends and prevented the spread of a dangerous regional conflict. In contrast, [as one expert put it], “the Kremlin’s primary motivation in Syria was limiting American influence in world affairs and projecting its own great-power status.”

Withdrawing the small deployment of U.S. forces from Syria—which President Trump announced he planned to do several times—would create a power vacuum that Russia would fill. For example, shortly after U.S. troops abandoned a military base near Aleppo, Russian forces took over the U.S.-built facility.

An increasingly common manifestation of interstate strategic power competition is the use of militant and terrorist proxies. Consider the extensive role of Shiite militias in Syria acting as proxies of Iran and Russia, Shiite militias operating as Iranian proxies in Iraq, [and] Russian mercenaries fighting in Libya with Russian government logistical support. . . . Pushing back on Russian and Chinese adventurism around the world will include areas of operation where counterterrorism tools and partnerships can play critical roles in a broader interstate competition.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: China, Russia, Syrian civil war, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter