Monday, November 30, 2015

The Recruitment Priority at ISIS

From the glossy pages of ISIS numerous periodicals (see above), including an English-language version that seems to mirror the format and presentation of The Economist or Time Magazine, to the local presenters, reporters and personalities on radio and television productions emanating from production facilities in captured towns, to the ubiquitous reports and audio-visual footage traveling across social media and into slick, dedicated Websites catering to disenfranchised Muslims everywhere, ISIS clearly values their propaganda arms as much as they do their military prowess.
With a heavy participation of “foreign fighters” from all over the world, including lots of people with prior experience in mainstream media, ISIS considers its media division to be an essential part of their global conquest agenda. Cameramen, field producers, reporters and their coordinating bosses are accorded senior military ranks that mark their power and prestige within the overall hierarchy.
“Senior media operatives are treated as ‘emirs’ of equal rank to their military counterparts. They are directly involved in decisions on strategy and territory. They preside over hundreds of videographers, producers and editors who form a privileged, professional class with status, salaries and living arrangements that are the envy of ordinary fighters.
“‘It is a whole army of media personnel,’ said Abu Abdullah al Maghribi, a… defector who served in the Islamic State’s security ranks but had extensive involvement with its propaganda teams… ‘The media people are more important than the soldiers,’ he said. ‘Their monthly income is higher. They have better cars. They have the power to encourage those inside to fight and the power to bring more recruits to the Islamic State.’” Washington Post, November 20th.
In addition to entice recruits, ISIS media efforts also engage in spreading fear to their enemies, making threats and showing graphic evidence of their clear intentions. The Post provides one example of how this mass of video is secured. The necessary production personnel are “assigned” a story and off they go. “The assignments arrive on slips of paper, each bearing the black flag of the Islamic State, the seal of the terrorist group’s media emir, and the site of that day’s shoot.
“‘The paper just gives you the location,’ never the details, said Abu Hajer al Maghribi, who spent nearly a year as a cameraman for the Islamic State. Sometimes the job was to film prayers at a mosque, he said, or militants exchanging fire. But, inevitably, a slip would come with the coordinates to an unfolding bloodbath.
“For Abu Hajer [now in a Moroccan prison], that card told him to drive two hours southwest of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the caliphate, or Islamic realm, declared by the militant group. There, he discovered that he was among 10 cameramen sent to record the final hours of more than 160 Syrian soldiers captured in 2014.
“‘I held my Canon camera,’ he said, as the soldiers were stripped to their underwear, marched into the desert, forced to their knees and massacred with automatic rifles… His footage quickly found a global audience, released online in an Islamic State video that spread on social media and appeared in mainstream news coverage on Al Jazeera and other networks…
“Abdel­hamid Abaaoud, the alleged architect of the attacks who was killed in a raid in France, ad appeared repeatedly in Islamic State recruiting materials. The barrage of videos and statements released afterward made clear that the overriding goal of the Islamic State is not merely to inflict terror on an adversary but also to command a global audience.”
If the field video is not enough, ISIS recruiters have plenty of footage culled from Western networks showing most of the Republican presidential candidates making one anti-Islamic statement after another. With virulent GOP opposition to taking Syrian refugees (except perhaps the Christians) and Donald Trump’s endorsement of creating a database to track each and every Muslim in the United States, ISIS media moguls are giddy with the richness of such recruitment-friendly material.
Further, Western efforts to curb the reach of ISIS media have been an abysmal failure: “The United States and its allies have found no meaningful answer to this propaganda avalanche. A State Department program to counter the caliphate’s messaging has cycled through a series of initiatives with minimal effect. Islamic State supporters online have repeatedly slipped around efforts to block them on Twitter and Facebook.” The Post.
Indeed, as governments struggle against this ISIS media machine, the private loose network of cyber hacker/vigilantes, operating under the name “Anonymous” with diabolically masked spokespeople, have stepped into the fray to take down as much of ISIS media as they can get their cyber claws into. “Anonymous posted a video to YouTube on [November 14th]. In the video, a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, who claims to represent Anonymous, said the group intends to hunt down the members of ISIS, adding ‘we will find you, and we will not let you go.’
“‘We will launch the biggest operation ever against you,’ Anonymous said. ‘Expect massive cyber attacks.’” TechInsider, November 16th. (November 16th) tells us that one element of Anonymous has been reasonably successful in this regard: “#OpParis has taken down more than 2,000 pro-ISIS accounts so far, the hactivist collective said [November 15th].”
None of our anti-ISIS efforts are going to be easy. We’ve never faced a media/tech savvy effort at this level from any prior jihadist terrorists, and we have a long way to go to silence these rather effective communications that continue to recruit fighters from all over the world. It might help if, somehow, we could stop our own politicians from creating that recruitment video for them!
I’m Peter Dekom, and you really have to wonder how U.S. presidential candidates are going to defeat ISIS when their very words and deeds are the very basis for some of ISIS’ most successful recruitment videos.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Do Mexicans Still Love the United States?

The bluster of GOP candidates, wanting to seal our “brown border” from all those nasty “brown” people clamoring to get in, fills the autumn air. No worries about that “white” border to the north. Look south. The vision of construction workers (how many would be “brown,” by the way?) setting steel and concrete to build the biggest and baddest wall since China built the Great Wall! But think of the economic hardship that American smugglers of small arms (bought legally at gun shows where background checks are just not required) will have sending guns to cartels around, under or through that “brown” border wall! Oh, I guess they can enlist the engineers who built a solid, reinforced tunnel – a full mile long – to bust cartel superstar El Chapo out of a Mexican prison. Or get some of those kinky home-made drug submarine builders to help them make the return trip worthwhile.
Gotta keep all of those rapist/drug-dealing criminals out of the pristine United States of America. Clearly, we don’t need undocumented workers in the fields harvesting our crops where stoop labor is required; lots of Americans want to work there and almost as much in slaughterhouses, digging ditches and doing hard unskilled construction work or cleaning dishes and other nasty menial jobs that would go begging and unfulfilled if those workers were swept up in the largest Trump-inspired and massively most expensive labor sweep in ICE’s (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) history.
Ok, if they stay, they even have the temerity to let their kids go to school, then college, and too many of those become horrible drains on society as teachers, engineers, doctors, etc. Make sure that those “dreamers,” kids who were brought here when they were very, very young and have no life-experience outside of the United States, are shipped back to a land they do not know.
Oh, and perhaps we should make sure that we also keep people out of our country who come from lands that are clearly our enemy… no special dispensation for emigres like we had for defectors from the former Soviet Union or from Communist Cuba… We should never have let that happen. How did Marco Rubio’s father justify asylum in the U.S., just by stepping on to U.S. soil? That was and still is the policy from folks from Cuba. Who knows how many saboteurs and spies did we openly let into the U.S. that way? Let’s keep America for white Americans.
For a land of immigrants, we sure like to show the world how downright mean and inhospitable we truly are… not to mention well-armed and ready to use guns as national policy or even apply a subjective test (wherever there is a stand-your-ground law) when murder is just plain forgivably fine! So exactly how are Mexicans (and more than a few from Central America) feeling about moving here these days? Let’s use numbers from a credible source like a recent report from the Pew Research Center.
“From 2009 to 2014, more than one million Mexicans and their families left the United States for Mexico, while more than 865,000 entered the United States, Pew said. The figures include unauthorized immigrants… An increasing share of Mexicans says life north of the border is neither better nor worse than life in Mexico, Pew said… The overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, Pew said.
“The findings follow Trump's call for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, a plan President Barack Obama has said is too costly and un-American…
“More than 16 million Mexican immigrants have migrated to the United States in the last 50 years, more than from any other country, Pew said…From fewer than 1 million living in the United States in 1970, the number of Mexican immigrants peaked at 12.8 million by 2007, Pew said. The total declined to 11.7 million last year.
“Pew has been tracking flows for about 15 years, said Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a research associate who wrote the report. For its report, Pew analyzed government data from both countries…’ This is the first time that we have the actual evidence and numbers of people going back,’ she said.
“About half of all adults in Mexico believe those who moved to the United States lead better lives, but 33 percent say life is neither better nor worse north of the border, up from 23 percent in 2007, Pew said… Other reasons for the decreased inflow include the slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the recession and stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws at the border.”, November 19th. We are slowly (did I say “slowly”?) becoming a lovely land of paranoid hypocrites, violent and generally disliked by most nations on earth for our arrogance and bullying tactics around the world. We’re really good at shoving the helpless of the world around.
I’m Peter Dekom, and in the heartland of American Evangelical values, I kind of wonder why brotherly love, unconditional charity and not sitting in judgment of others have been thoroughly purged from any interpretation of the Bible.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The 10,000 Ton Gorilla in the Room… that No One Wants to Talk About

The money sucked down by corrupt officials, largesse siphoned off from the huddled masses, many living on the edge of survival, is staggering. As hard to believe as it might be, had all the bribes, corrupt transactions, misuse of governmental property, cronyism, nepotism, skimming and out-and-out theft been deployed for the benefit of the peoples of within those corrupt nations, states, provinces, cities and even neighborhoods instead of the corrupt circle of government officials, we probably wouldn’t have ISIS, the Taliban, FARC, etc., etc.
The problem seeps into the private sector as well, where bribing and skimming within the corporate world is almost as pervasive as disgusting as with those charged with the public trust. Hard for people with enough to eat in a comfortable house to risk it all to rebel, take up arms and embrace militant, murderous religious extremism. When they have nothing to lose, watch their leaders living luxuriously and not listening to their pleas… not so hard.
Corruption is a massive hard dollar tax on the rest of society. How bad is the problem? “A commonly cited World Bank estimate from 2005 places the total cost of corruption around $1 trillion annually.  Transparency International estimates that in developing countries alone, corrupt officials receive up to $40 billion in bribes each year, and nearly 40 percent of all business executives report that they have been asked to pay a bribe when dealing with a public institution in the past.  Some estimates place the total cost of corruption at more than 5 percent of global GDP each year- this amounts to $2.6 trillion, or 19 times larger than the $134.8 billion spent globally on official development assistance (ODA) in 2013.  At my day job [journalist], we produced a report using World Banks data in February 2014 that estimated private sector corruption alone accounts for $515 billion or more annually.  The point is, it’s hard to nail down the real cost of corruption, but we do know is that it is massive.” Daniel Runde writing in the January 22nd And as governments topple, those replacing those incumbents take their place at the hog-trough of corruption.
We also have our own issues. We seem to have serial “governmental” occupants in prisons across the land here in the good ole’ USA. Illinois for ex-governors, Louisiana for ex-New Orleans mayors, etc., etc. Senators, congress people, mayors, governors, regulatory board members, police officials, inspectors, etc. I remember a meeting at the New Mexico Governor’s conference room a few years back when a senior elected cabinet official failed to show up (he never missed these meetings). “Oh,” said my seat-neighbor with little or no surprise in his voice, “he’s in a holding cell under a federal bribery indictment.”
Some of American corruption has been legitimized. The right of the rich to use unbridled contributions to SuperPacs under Citizens United is nothing more than the legalizing influence peddling. According to a 2014 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, there are 16 countries in the world viewed as less corrupt than we are. If you want to look are global results, try this link: Pope Francis has been a champion of the poor and the oppressed, and he too has railed against corrupt officials in his own, humble way.
As the Pope arrived in Kenya in the last week of November (part of a three nation African tour), he decried the regional violence, bringing his prayers for peace in a nation threatened by terror attacks from the jihadist al Shabaab. He also had something to say about corruption. Even as government officials drive their Mercedes automobiles through Nairobi, the country is virtually bankrupt. Parliament itself had to shut its doors for lack of funds. Out of 175 nations measured by the above Transparency Index, Kenya’s massive reputation for corruption places it at 145, or among the worst. The counties where the US recently imposed a government? Iraq is 170, Afghanistan 172. Even worse. The US’ report card on regime change is terrible.
“[The Pope] arrived in Kenya at a time when public confidence in the government is plummeting, the economy is ailing, ethnic tensions are rising and corruption has spiraled out of control. Many Kenyans are hoping that Francis can lift their spirits…
“Kenyans are fed up with the excesses of their political class — five government ministers were fired this week in connection with allegations of graft — and many said they hoped the pope would talk about it.
“Francis did not address the subject directly in his short, upbeat speech Wednesday night at State House, Kenya’s equivalent of the White House. But he did say, to a burst of applause: ‘The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good.’” New York Times, November 25th. Later in his Kenyan trip, he added: “Corruption is something that eats inside, it’s like sugar, it’s sweet, we like it, it’s easy…‘Please… Don’t develop that taste.” Perhaps it is a Darwinian reality that those who get to the top of the food chain take what they can, but a strong governmental structure with severe oversight capacity can moderate that tendency.
The Taliban and ISIS, imposing a horrific and ultra-violent Sharia law on their subjects, rose to power as fierce opponents of the corrupt prior regimes that bilked their subjects and then ignored their pleas for help under severe conditions of drought. Iran’s religious revolutionaries (who subsequently fallen to 136 on the Transparency Index) toppled a mega-corrupt Shah (also installed by the United States). Each of these societies was incented to take action by corruption.
The world is suffering from increasingly scarce resources and overpopulation (with no place to go), and corruption rubs the faces of badly-led nations’ residents in the dirt of undeserved corrupt privilege. Until we address such epidemic unfairness, we can expect those oppressed by its vileness to act as they always have: war and instability are the constant and otherwise unstoppable result.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it’s high time the world started paying attention to the obvious… and begin doing something about it.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Maybe It’s in the Waffles or the Chocolates

Belgium is a critical as a venue for both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO headquarters is in Brussels, that nation’s capital, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations, one of NATO’s two strategic military commands is located in nearby Casteau, Belgium.  Brussels is also the effective capital of the European Union. “Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council, as well as a seat (officially the second seat but de facto the most important one) of the European Parliament.” Wikipedia.
It is an exceptionally important venue to global politics, and roughly a quarter of that city’s population is Muslim... and growing. Someday in the not-so-distant future, they will be the majority. And like most of Europe, there has been a massive failure to assimilate this population. Belgium could easily become an Islamic nation, with a mixture of moderate and extremist views.
As recent events have so clearly illustrated, Belgium has the highest per capita number of identified terrorists and potential terrorists of any EU nation and is woefully underprepared to meet that threat. It has foundered in a massive shutdown of schools, universities, public transportation systems, sporting events and many, many business operations as they searched for high-level fomenters of the Paris attacks who made Belgium their base of operations. What is going on here?
First, you have to understand that Belgium is a very uncomfortable melding of geo-ethnic societies, French-speaking Walloons in the south and Flemish-speakers (close to Dutch) in the north, with more than a few German-speakers in the east. Historically, pieces of Belgium were territories of various other European nations and monarchs.
The last incarnation the created modern Belgium took place following the French Revolution: “The French Revolutionary wars led to Belgium becoming part of France in 1795, bringing the end of the semi-independence of areas which had belonged to the Catholic Church. After the defeat of the French in 1814, a new United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, which eventually split one more time during the Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839, giving three modern nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.” Wikipedia. Belgium has been mired in a quest for its own identity in modern Europe, struggling to remain independent and neutral in the twentieth century without much luck. Its ethnic factions also have never completely gotten along.
Germany ignored Belgian “neutrality” during WWI. It was simply on the pathway toward France under Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. That lesson was apparently not fully appreciated when WWII simmered years later. As Belgium again attempted neutrality in the nascent years of Germany’s WWII invasion of Europe, the Nazi blitzkrieg (lightening war) sliced highly mobilized troops and tanks through Belgium into the heartland of France, putting a harsh end to that attempt to avoid the firestorm that embraced the rest of Europe.
So now we look at the bureaucratic quagmire that defines modern Belgium, the ineptness that allowed a couple of terrorists to shut down an entire country. “A month before the Paris terrorist attacks, Mayor Françoise Schepmans of Molenbeek, a Brussels district long notorious as a haven for jihadists, received a list with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area.
“The list, based on information from Belgium’s security apparatus, included two brothers who would take part in the bloodshed in France on Nov. 13, as well as the man suspected of being the architect of the terrorist plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Molenbeek resident who had left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State in early 2014… ‘What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists,’ Ms. Schepmans said in an interview. That, she added, ‘is the responsibility of the federal police.’
“The federal police service, for its part, reports to the interior minister, Jan Jambon, a Flemish nationalist who has doubts about whether Belgium — divided among French, Dutch and German speakers — should even exist as a single state…
“Flemish nationalists, ever eager to show that Belgium in its current form does not work, have jumped on the mess, with Karl Vanlouwe, a member of the Belgian Senate, writing in the newspaper Le Soir on Tuesday that ‘20 years of laxity’ by the French-speaking Socialist Party had turned Brussels into a ‘rear base of Islamic barbarity.’
“The perennial dysfunctions of a small country with just 11.2 million people would not normally transcend its borders, but they are now blamed for having helped turn Belgium into a hub of terrorist activity that is threatening lives as well as the Continent’s troubled enterprise of integration and intelligence sharing.” New York Times, November 24th.
If Belgium is becoming a frontline against radicalization, is there anything that they are doing about it? After all, ISIS is not just recruiting soldiers for the now; it is creating attractive YouTube and comparable videos aimed at children, their soldiers of the future. Some Muslim communities have taken it upon themselves to establish after school programs to administer what they call “vaccinations against radicalization.”
Their counter-attack is to use the Qur’an itself to teach non-violent Qur’anic values, allowing that the Paris shootings and bombings were “un-Islamic.” In one such classroom, for example, the correct phrase from the Qur’an was “If you murder one person, it's as if you killed all humanity.” But it’s the local community, and not the divided government, that is attempting to mount a stand against the otherwise twisted view of Islam. Without a savvy, clever media program to attract younger viewers, ISIS will continue to have their way with their intended recruits.
It is staggering that such internecine political struggles within Belgium’s leadership have effectively rendered a major European power a waddling helpless sanctuary to terrorists with mayhem on their minds. But then, you only have to look at how deeply divided we are as a nation, reflecting in the wanton ramblings and outrageous erroneous “facts” spouted by our own presidential candidates, reflecting our own internal irreconcilable differences.
I’m Peter Dekom, and as we confront global asymmetrical warfare by religious zealots with no seeming moral limitations, we need not only to understand our enemy… but our allies as well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bureaucrats Are Getting Older and…

According to the November 10th Washington Post: “The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 [excluding the military] dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show. Overall, about a third of the private-sector labor force was born between 1980 and 1995, but younger workers make up only a quarter of federal, state and local government employees.” Obviously, conclude the experts, millennials seem to be rather turned off by the prospect of a government job. For those with key earning skills, the rolling freeze on government pay has pushed compensation way below comparable private sector pay, as much as 35%.
With angry presidential candidates screaming about how much they intend to slash governmental jobs, perhaps the once-assumed job security associated with public service work has also vaporized. Lower pay and frozen pay levels plus the imminent threat of downsizing cannot be viewed as attractive by super-qualified younger job-seekers. More than a few government studies have supported this seeming generational turn-off to government work.
But contrary to assumptions that millennials don’t cherish job security anymore, with pressing student debt and global instability, more recent studies suggest otherwise. And their attitude about government work may also have been misinterpreted. “[A] new study out [November 10th] from Deloitte Consulting debunks many of these [negative millennial] assumptions, concluding that the picture for millennials in government is actually a lot brighter than anyone thought.
“Deloitte decided to question some of the conclusions of its own inquiry on the subject, done last year with the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. It showed the number of federal employees under 30 at their lowest levels since 2005, dropping by more than 45,000 people since 2010…
“The new study looked at data from U.S. Census Bureau on the public sector workforce and the National Opinion Research Council at the University of Chicago. Here are four myths the report debunks about the youngest public servants at the federal, state and local levels:
“1. They have higher turnover rates than older generations.
“The studies that support this view are often based on tenure — how long employees have held their jobs — rather than true turnover rates, Deloitte found. But the tenure measure is a problem, since millennials tend to go into government at older ages than previous generations.
“The state and local government turnover rate for 25 to 34 year-old employees was approximately 5 percent in 2006, but declined to less than 3 percent in 2013, the study found.
“2. They’re less passionate than older workers about their jobs in government.
“The Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of federal workers shows that millennials have the same morale as older workers, and in recent years it’s been low. But young people in government are not distinguished by worse morale than anyone else.
“3. They don’t stick around — they’ll decamp to the private sector in a heartbeat.
“Various experts have sounded this alarm, Deloitte says, but the data doesn’t bear it out. It shows a decline in government workers age 20-35 who plan to look for work in the coming year.
“Millennials do like public service. But obstacles get in the way of government keeping them for at least a chunk of their careers, chief among them the slow hiring process.
“4. It’s harder to recruit them for public service than previous generations.
“The study says there’s no conclusive answer to this right now. Hiring officials worry that millennials are harder to recruit because they have so many options at nonprofits and private companies. But the number of students getting degrees in public administration is up.
“A tightening labor market after the Great Recession has made it easier for young people to be choosier about jobs, the report says. The supply of millennials entering government is not keeping up with older generations. But part of the problem is that government is hiring less overall. And partly because of this slump, recruiting for public sector jobs is slipping. ‘We’ll have to say that the jury is still out on the difficulty of recruiting millennials into government jobs,’ the study concluded.” The Post. But we need their new ideas!
Sure some accommodations in benefits packages need to allow more employee choice among millennials, but when they are welcomed and actively recruited, moved into meaningful roles within government, they do in fact like the work and find public as compelling as any other generation. It also might be nice if politicians would stop generic bashing of civil servants, cease castigating results when Congress itself has purposely defunded or underfunded the government agency charged with implementation. Maybe politicians should defund themselves; think about the savings there!
I’m Peter Dekom, and a change in the demographics of government (new ideas, new attitudes, new values) has to be part of the “big change” everyone seems to think that our public bureaucracies really need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The ISIS Edge

Without its own air force, so far at least, ISIS has learned to deliver precisely targeted bombs using lots of makeshift suicide vehicles, each capable of carrying at much as ten tons of concentrated high explosives. To deflect the possibility of light artillery or small arms from stopping such bombs-on-wheels, the driver’s compartments of each of the vehicle (top row of images above) are heavily armored. Once ISIS has penetrated the peripheral defenses of a targeted city or town, the trucks are driven into the plotted enemy targets and detonated with devastating results.
To minimize the impact of drone strikes taking out senior military commanders, ISIS has decentralized its control and command structure – not really controlled by leader al Baghdadi, who has simply relegated himself as spiritual head of ISIS – into six (and growing) separate command groups in Syria/Iraq, each able to set its own military agenda without authorization or direction from al Baghdadi or any other central military commander. Each such military grouping has its own built-in replacement hierarchy, designed to keep the military machine rolling smoothly should any commander be killed. Such decentralized structures also operate in Libya and even allow small sleeper cells or lone wolves to wreak sabotage on their enemies, as we have seen in Paris recently. Can we keeping cutting off the hydra-heads of their military until their capacity to strike is finally eroded? Quickly? In a year? Over many years?
They have found the new smart phones, especially IOS and Android based, able to provide beautiful images easily uploadable to the Web and use new easily accessible apps to cloak their communications from Western intelligence agencies. I’ve already blogged about their competence with mass and social media to create a highly effective recruiting paradigm that has worked brilliantly for them.
Noting how few Arab allies, especially Sunnis, are willing to take on a military confrontation with ISIS, and reveling in Western reluctance to field “boots on the ground” in any significant numbers, ISIS has instead figured out how to minimize damage from air strikes with an incredible network of underground facilities, caves and bunkers (such as the ones shown in the bottom row of images above), some capable of storing larger attack vehicles as well.
Through an efficient system of taxation of conquered Sunnis, the looting of captured banks or other sources of stolen wealth, ransom money from kidnappings, the sale through the black market of precious antiquities, a small revenue stream from the few remaining functioning oil wells and continuing contributions from sympathetic Muslims all over the world, but particularly from regional sources providing guilt money (or hopefully buying “protection” should ISIS conquer their lands as well). Can we really dry up their financing? And if so, when?
Need more to worry about? “Isis is ‘aggressively pursuing the development of chemical weapons,’ creating a team dedicated to research and experiments, according to Iraqi and US intelligence officials… Iraqi officials have raised concerns that a large area controlled by extremists, since the group overran parts of Iraq and Syria last year, has left authorities largely in the dark about ISIS activities.
“A senior Iraqi intelligence officer, with first-hand knowledge of Isis' chemical weapons programme, told The Associated Press anonymously: ‘They now have complete freedom to select locations for their labs and production sites and have a wide range of experts, both civilians and military, to aid them.’… It also believed the group are working in conjunction with scientists in Iraq and Syria to create more sophisticated weapons.”, November 20th.
Every day, even as a few towns are recaptured by anti-ISIS forces, ISIS is digging in, and is now encouraging terrorist attacks globally. Are they getting stronger and more entrenched? Or are they reaching beyond their immediate region to spread terrorism as a sign that their local efforts have peaked? One way or the other, they have lost much of their fear of attacks from the air regardless of the sophistication of the weapon systems deployed against them.
Every day, ISIS is getting a bit more difficult to dislodge. They have shown surprising administrative skills over their conquered lands, getting local Sunnis back to living their lives (within ISIS new rules), opening shops, getting farms (those not lost to the drought) back on line, and even using local banks to implement their new currency to fuel “normalcy” under their aegis.
For those who fear that letting in Syrian refugees into the United States will bring new risks to our nation, please know that there are already enough fully operational sleeper cells here capable of wreaking havoc without a trickle of minor reinforcements. With over 100 American citizens fighting for ISIS, trust me, they are rather well-informed of our vulnerabilities already.
Remembering that ISIS is just one (albeit a powerful and mega-successful one) of the jihadists willing to take on the West and regional opponents, President Barack Obama’s fear, that deploying Western boots on the ground in the Syrian/Iraqi theater will result in a rolling effort of such extremists willing to spread their military campaign to so many other theaters of war within the Islamic world (and into West), is stalling a movement to that extreme military possibility. Americans seem to be uniformly opposed to any mass deployment of U.S. forces to the region, but are we deceiving ourselves as to what it will take to stop the cancerous malevolence? Is patience our only realistic path, given our proclivity to attack and quickly regret such decisions resulting in unilateral withdrawal and a failed overall mission?
Are we stuck with embracing the Shiite enemies of the Sunni world, Iran and its satellite Iraq, plus our Russian nemesis and the litany of angry European powers as our “allies of necessity”? Is ISIS really getting so much stronger such that any delay will make crushing them that much more difficult? If arch enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia cannot find a path to détente, is the any hope of taking out ISIS and stabilizing the region? Without getting regional allies from both Shiite and Sunni powers to shoulder a large part of this burden, would Western efforts to crush ISIS yield another Iraq-like debacle? Do we remotely have the staying power? Really? Can we tolerate the collateral damage?
What does Sunni/NATO “ally” Turkey’s shooting down a Russian fighter (one flyer dead, the other captured), over what Turkey’s calls their airspace after repeated warnings, do to complicate a regionally coordinated attack against ISIS? Did a Russian rescue helicopter get shot down? Will Russia retaliate to what Vladimir Putin called a “stab in the back”? Does this make a “no fly zone” over Syria too difficult to implement?  Will Russia ever abandon its bombing raids over the anti-Assad Syrian rebels in favor of only attacking ISIS?
In light of the above litany of facts about ISIS, what would you do? You could just embrace an expedient political slogan promulgated by both parties and watch ISIS revel in the obvious result. And yes, this is a huge mess that is going to take the same kind of effort that defeated Hitler in WWII… without, hopefully, our embracing the kinds of Hitlerian policies of religious targeting and persecution now advocated by serious presidential contenders. But we need strong local partners ready to commit ground forces. And of course, we cannot let “them” redefine “us” and our true values.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I am tired of a group of blubbering fools, from both sides of the aisle, who have very seriously underestimated ISIS and its threat to global stability.