Belmont Club

The Fourth Continent

The New York Times calls the closely-spaced attacks on tourist beach resorts in Tunisia, a mosque in Kuwait and a gas plant in France an attack by ISIS on “three continents”.  The writers suggest the attacks reveal an ISIS “global strategy”  which is known to consist of three pillars.

  • inciting regional conflict with attacks in Iraq and Syria;
  • building relationships with jihadist groups that can carry out military operations across the Middle East and North Africa;
  • and inspiring, and sometimes helping, ISIS sympathizers to conduct attacks in the West.

The media has forgotten to mention the Islamic state’s attack on Kurdish Kobane “five months after the extremists were driven from the area with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes,” Liz Sly of the Washington Post reports.  “By nightfall, most of the militants had been captured, killed or surrounded, and Kurdish forces were reported to be restoring order. But the attack was a reminder of the Islamic State’s continued ability to upset the battlefield even when it appears to be on the defensive.”  It is also a reminder of how bogus the president’s supposed victories are.

Responding to allegations that Ankara passed the ISIS strike force through its line “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied allegations that authorities in Turkey facilitated an Islamic State (IS) attack on the Syrian border town of Kobane, which has resulted in what a monitoring group has described as a major civilian massacre.”  Regional politcs has been screwy for a while.  The borders which the 4ID was forbidden to cross are not so off-limits to passage by Islamists.

The Atlantic calls it the recent attacks a triumph of the “leaderless Jihad”. “The Times and others have pointed out that the attacks came three days after an ISIS spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, appeared to call for heightened violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in an audio message. Charlie Winter, a researcher at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, posted excerpts on Twitter.” The Atlantic believes, that to paraphrase Marx,  “a spectre is haunting the West — the spectre of islamism.”

But the Atlantic puts the case too high. As Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan show in their book, The Rise of ISIS, as an historical force it is both an idea and a political movement. ISIS is the joint expression of Islamic sectarian conflict, despair at the failed politics of dictatorship in Africa and the Middle East, the Frankenstein monster of the intelligence services of Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf states and the ineptitude of the West. Besides that, it is also an apocalyptic idea which attracts Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Persians and rootless Westerners. A recruit told Weiss and Hassan why he had joined.

A great number of ISIS members who were interviewed for this book echoed similar sentiments — and hyperbolic appraisals — of the terror army, which has mastered how to break down the psyches of those who it wishes to recruit, and then build them back up again in its own image. Abdulsattar’s reference to “intellectualism” may seem bizarre or even grotesque to a Western observer, but it refers to ISIS’s carefully elaborated ideological narrative, a potent blend of Islamic hermeneutics, history and politics.

What he described was no different from the total moral and intellectual immersion explained by Communists who later abandoned their faith in Marxism-Leninism. “We have thrown overboard all conventions, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logic; we are sailing without ethical ballast,” Arthur Koestler’s Rubashov remembers in Darkness at Noon after facing his own interrogation by Party commissars. Minutes later, Rubashov is shot by the very dictatorship to which he had given his life for forty years.”

These two powerful paragraphs fail only in omitting the revivalist sense of the Jihad. ISIS represents not only what its followers see as new, but also promises to give back to them a lost heritage; a identity submerged by a Westernism they have to reject and despise.  It is a rebellion against not everything that modern political correctness holds profane — and therefore sacred; a hatred exceeded only by their contempt.

A dozen ISIS-affiliated Arabs who conform to this political category might even be described as secular or agnostic (many say they don’t pray or attend mosque) and expressed deep objections to us about the atrocities being committed by ISIS. Nevertheless, they see it as the only armed group capable of striking against the “anti-Sunni” regimes and militas in Syria, Iraq and beyond. By way of justification, Salim told us that violence has always been part of Islamic history and always precedes the establishment of strong Islamic empires, including the Ummayads, Abbasids, and the second Ummayad kingdom in modern Spain.

As for the Obama administration, the guiding principle remains, “what me, worry?” Denial is not only a river in Egypt it is SOP in the White House.  “The State Department could not confirm whether the Islamic State was behind bloody terrorist attacks that rocked three continents Friday, though the extremists themselves celebrated the attacks across Twitter”, the Washington Examiner said.

Spokesperson John Kirby cited the newness of the attacks while explaining that the State Department cannot answer whether the terrorist group was involved or coordinated Friday’s gruesome spate of attacks.

Islamic State supporters lacked the State Department’s reticence, gleefully trumpeting the attacks with a hashtag celebrating “Bloody Friday,” reported Vocativ. “This Friday is a holiday for the Muslims,” one Islamic State supporter wrote.

But as Alex Ward at National Interest writes, president Obama isn’t totally clueless. The White House actually has an official plan for fighting ISIS — except that it’s not working. Obama laid out his plan in speech on September 10, 2014.

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way. …

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces.

No one who has followed developments can fail to see how wide of the mark Obama’s strategy is.   What recent attacks on three continents have done is warn the administration how empty it is since a large scale attack on America can no longer be discounted. NBC News reports that authorities are on the lookout for an attack on the Fourth of July.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities share a growing concern of an ISIS-inspired attack in the country through the July 4 weekend, sources told NBC News.

The threat “is based on both intelligence and analysis,” the intelligence and law enforcement sources said, declining to go into detail.

The analysis of the threat is based in part on the “new normal” of ISIS planning, which uses social media to encourage followers worldwide to attack on both small and large scales.

Information regarding the Fourth of July threat came before Friday’s terror attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, the intelligence and law enforcement officials said.

A Washington elite accustomed to adjusting reality by manipulating the narrative is now up against the limits of pretense.  Even if there is no attack on the Fourth of July, there will be more attacks across the North Africa and the Middle East and most certainly, Europe. Not that such attacks are ikely to change the administration’s approach. As the recent attack by Chinese hackers on OPM has shown, the administration really has only one response to everything. Deny and double down. It will continue to do this until it breaks itself, on three continents or four.

Perhaps the most interesting response to the rise of ISIS is a Foreign Policy article by Rosa Brooks, “a law professor at Georgetown University and a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department.” She writes: “Can Gay Marriage Defeat the Islamic State?”

I was thinking about two sets of images this morning: one from an Islamic State-controlled city in Iraq, the other from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

The first set of images, from early June, shows masked gunmen surrounding a crowd of people, mostly men. Some of the faces in the crowd show fear or hatred; others are studiously blank. … The second set of images shows another crowd, thousands of miles away from the first. This crowd is full of men and women, all ages and all races, and they’re waving American flags and rainbow-colored flags….

Do you want to fight the Islamic State and the forces of Islamic extremist terrorism? I’ll tell you the best way to send a message to those masked gunmen in Iraq and Syria and to everyone else who gains power by sowing violence and fear. Just keep posting that second set of images. Post them on Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and in comments all over the Internet. Send them to your friends and your family. Send them to your pen pal in France and your old roommate in Tunisia. Send them to strangers.

Ms. Brooks will be disappointed to learn this strategy has already been tried by the Coca-cola company. It’s called “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”.

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They’ve changed the tune, but everone still thinks it’s about the tune. Watch the tunes. Everybody, watch the tunes.


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