Afghanistan

Sometimes bizarre events are triggered close to home. Terry Jones, a preacher at a small church in Gainesville, has announced plans to burn copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Florida Pundit does not support burning of books. It is a tactic that has been used by Nazi and communist totalitarians to suppress opposing points of view. In so far as a book makes an argument that you disagree with, an appropriate response is a better argument. Burning books either signifies that you have run out of ideas or that you are reacting purely emotionally.

In any case, the announcement by one relatively insignificant preacher in Gainesville has unleashed protests around the Islamic world from Indonesia to Afghanistan where protesters were shouting “Death to America.”

General Petraeus, the commander of our troops in Afghanistan has condemned the planned book burning saying that it could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort. We certainly understand Gen. Petraeus’ concern which should give the preacher in Gainesville cause for abandoning his plans.

However, the biggest issue with this planned event is not the book burning itself, but the extreme reaction across the Islamic world. Reasonable people would recognize the insignificance of this pastor and ignore him. Instead, there is an expectation across a significant portion of the world’s Muslim population that non-Muslims have to adhere to Islamic codes of conduct and have to show universal respect to Islam and the books and institutions it considers holy.

Imagine someone announcing that they will burn Bibles in protest of some event or other. Our media yawns and moves on to a more interesting story. You certainly would not see protests erupting across the world and threats to non-Christians would be unimaginable. You can google “bible burning” or similar terms and find that it occurs occasionally, but there is no outrage comparable to what happens anytime someone does something to offend Islam.

A previous incident where more than 100 people were killed by Islamic fanatics was the 2005 publication of cartoons making fun of Islam by Danish cartoonists. Most Western media indulged in an orgy of political correctness. This even included a book published by Yale University Press about the controversy which refused to show any of the cartoons.

We live in a society where the right to free speech includes the right to express ideas that may offend others. You can respond to the offensive idea, but acting violently against the speaker or other innocent bystanders (for example, our troops in Afghanistan) is totally unacceptable, immoral and illegal.

Given the threat from terrorist who are claiming the spread of Islam as their cause, what is remarkable is how rare the media can find instances of hostility towards Islam. Americans are a tolerant people and are perfectly capable of distinguishing between radical Islam and Muslims that live peacefully amongst us and are integrated into American society.

We shouldn’t be afraid to speak out against followers of Islam when they behave badly and incite violence in reaction to an event, however ill-conceived, that cannot justify such a reaction if we want to continue to live in a free society.

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During the confirmation hearings for General Petraeus assuming command of our forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus skillfully communicated that the deadline for starting the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in July, 2011 is not something any military commander recommended.

In his testimony today, Petraeus started chipping away on the deadline that President Obama announced to appease his leftist constituency.

Petraeus is in a strong position to change the dynamics of the war in Afghanistan. No other general would have the credibility to say what Petraeus is saying without getting fired by our thin-skinned president. Eliminating talk of a deadline for withdrawal is key to success in the counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan.

No deadline for withdrawal does not mean endless US casualty. Without a deadline, Afghans will have more confidence that supporting the fight against the Taliban will not get them killed because of a premature US withdrawal. This leads to more success in fighting the Taliban which will reduce the number of US casualties.

We have had the American military for more than sixty years in Germany and Japan and for over fifty years in South Korea. There isn’t much objection to this because American troops are not killed in these countries. We may never get to the peaceful conditions of Germany, Japan and South Korea in Afghanistan, but a drastic decrease in casualties will make our presence there as long as needed less of an issue to the American people.

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President Obama’s today accepted General McChrystal’s resignation after the publication of an article in Rolling Stone magazine in which McChrystal and his staff were critical of administration officials. McChrystal never challenged Obama’s policy and most of the critical comments came from his staff.

The subordination of America’s military to elected civilian leadership is an important foundation of constitutional government. General McChrystal and his staff said nothing in the article that would constitute subordination. Nevertheless, it was an error in judgment to let a reporter hear what undoubtedly many in the military would say amongst themselves in private conversations.

President Obama could have asked General McChrystal to stay on as the leader in the war in Afghanistan without weakening the principle of civilian leadership over the military. There were differences of opinion on whether McChrystal should stay among conservative commentators. The strongest argument for retaining McChrystal was that we need continuity in leadership during a critical phase in the war.

Given Obama’s decision to accept General McChrystal’s resignation, appointing McChrystal’s boss, General Petraeus to lead the war was the best possible outcome. General Petraeus successfully turned around the war in Iraq and created conditions under which a democratically elected Iraqi government with all its imperfections could govern.

President Obama today gave a speech which has been described as the best speech of his presidency. He did indeed commend McChrystal on his outstanding service and he restated the mission in Afghanistan.

There are still issues with Obama’s policy. The most fundamental is that Obama has set July of 2011 as the date for American troops to withdraw from the fight against the Taliban. In a war, you simply cannot let the enemy know that if they hold out long enough, their opponent will withdraw. Afghans have no confidence that their government army will be ready to continue the fight on their own.

Given the credibility and respect that General Petraeus has among all mainstream Americans, he has the opportunity to convince the Obama administration to back off from a fixed withdrawal date and put in place a policy that we will withdraw only when the Taliban has been decisively defeated. We don’t have to stay in Afghanistan forever, but if we let our enemies know that we will not leave before the fight is over, the vast majority of Afghans who oppose the Taliban will not be afraid to support the fight against the Taliban helping us to a faster victory.

General Petraeus deserves our unambiguous support. We wish him well on his new assignment.

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The opposition to President Obama’s leftist policies consist of people that agree on a lot, but who also differ in some respects. The rational opposition consists of conservatives, libertarians and American centrists. Many in the Tea Party movement never were involved in politics before Obamacare and other plans to increase the power of the federal government motivated them to speak up.

If we are going to defeat Obama and the Left, we will need to be able to unite around the common goal to return government to its legitimate limited role. But we will also need to accept that we disagree in some areas and not everyone will be happy with every decision in a post-Obama American government.

We agree in many areas: lower taxes, less spending, taking the limitations the Constitution puts on government power serious again. The libertarian influence on conservatives is positive in areas like free trade.

One area where conservatives have a serious legitimate disagreement with many libertarians is foreign policy.

We all agree that national defense against external threats is a fundamental legitimate role of the federal government. We disagree whether this should include a forward posture that includes stationing American troops in areas of US interest throughout the world or whether defense should strictly start at our border.

I disagree with a lot of the discussion in the video below except for Deroy Murdock’s comments. We cannot expect to live safely in this world by withdrawing behind our borders. Our economy is linked to the rest of the world and we will not be able to maintain peace and prosperity in the United States if we abandon our legitimate interests in the rest of the world.

We have to learn from history. America’s isolationist posture in the 1930s delayed our entry into World War 2 until we were unprepared for an attack on Pearl Harbor. Our weakness emboldened the Nazi and Japanese militaristic enemies and prolonged the war and the resulting destruction. We recovered from the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century, but we could have done better.

After 9/11, we have had to learn to deal with new asymmetrical threats from Islamic terrorists that were supported by government like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The people in this video with a different view are rational people, but I disagree with their understanding of the world and some of their policy ideas. Barack Obama’s new policy of abandoning nuclear weapons development and promising rogue nations (other than Iran and North Korea) that we won’t use nuclear weapons to retaliate against a non-nuclear attack makes it important that we listen to our libertarian friends and stay united as much as possible on supporting a strong defense of America.

I present this video with the goal of helping to achieve clarity on our disagreements. We should listen to valid criticism, but also should try to persuade libertarians that the American consensus on much of foreign policy since World War 2 should continue to be our position.

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While none of us can predict the future and unexpected events are bound to develop, the following stories will be significant in their impact on American freedom, strength and security during 2010. Please continue reading this blog during 2010 if any of these topics are of interest to you.

1. Iran: Nuclear Weapons, Resistance to the Regime and Revolution?

mousavi--124507979745817300Iran will be a pivotal place in the struggle between Jihadism and free societies. During 2010, Iran will likely become a nuclear power led by a president with the declared goal of destroying Israel. The Obama administration is unlikely to use force to stop this dangerous development. Israel may act, but it is not clear whether it will be able to neutralize the threat of a nuclear Iran by itself.

Since the fraudulent presidential election last June, the internal, democratic Iranian resistance has grown despite the regime’s brutal attempt to silence protests through intimidation, jailing of dissidents and outright murder. The opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mosavi, a member of the regime during the 1980s has become a more vocal opponent of the regime after the election and could become Iran’s equivalent to Russia’s Boris Yeltsin who started as a communist and ended up leading the breakup of the Soviet Union and its replacement with 15 nations including a Russia that attempted to achieve democracy.

ayatollah-hossein-ali-montazeriThe resistance movement has stepped up protests in the last weeks of December after the death Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, once the designated successor to Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian Islamic Republic and, more recently, the leading religious leader opposing the regime. Earlier this week, the Iranian dictators killed a nephew of Mousavi, further escalating tension.

Revolutions are hard to predict, but there is at least the possibility that the Iranian resistance could overthrow the 30-year-old repressive regime before fanatics who believe in provoking an apocalypse to hasten the arrival of the “hidden Iman” gain nuclear weapons.

2. Economic Recovery: Long-Term Prospects, Fear of Inflation and the Impact of Unsustainable Government Debt

obamar228531_909709The US economy appears to be headed toward a recovery despite unprecedented, heavy-handed control exerted by the Obama administration over more and more areas of economic activity.

Can the recovery be sustained despite new and continued threats of more government control and record taxation and spending? Will inflation become a serious issue given the lose money policies of the Federal Reserve under Time’s Person of the Year Ben Bernanke?

Will the private economy again be able to generate jobs for the tens of millions of Americans that lost their jobs during the recession?

The short-term news may be positive, but dark clouds hang over this recovery.

3. Security and Terrorism: Will Washington Get Serious Again Before It Is Too Late?

war-on-terror-posterThe Jihadist terrorist attacks at Ft. Hood and on a plane landing in Detroit on Christmas Day have shown how utterly clueless Obama and his advisors are. They treat these acts as isolated criminal incidents despite clear evidence that they are part of a continued international Jihadist movement.

Will they see the light and let us move on from recognizing the obvious to seriously thinking about how a free society can survive given that technology today can give a handful of fanatics unprecedented power to cause mass murder and wholesale destruction?

In addition to “traditional” attacks using guns and explosives, chemical, biological and nuclear threats remain real and become more likely each year. Even more frightening scenarios that could be perpetrated by rogue regimes with a few nuclear weapons include an electromagnetic pulse attack on the US.

4. Continued Growth in Opposition to Obamaism and the November 2010 Election

dc-tea-party-sept-12-2009_mega_01The Tea Party movement started early in 2009 in opposition to unprecedented spending in Washington and all the initiatives to control more of the American economy. The likely passage of Obamacare practically guarantees, that Democrats will sustain heavy losses in the November 2010 Congressional elections.

Will Republican leaders become more effective in explaining these issues and presenting the alternatives or will the Tea Party movement end up supporting third party candidates that will inevitably divide the opposition to Obama?

5. The Final Shape of Obamacare and Its Impact on Cost of and Access to Health Care

obamacareWhile it is hard to see how passage of some form of Obamacare can be avoided, Democrats are sharply divided on issues like the public option and taxpayer funding of abortions. The left wing of the party opposes current legislation that has provisions required to keep the support of more “moderate” Democrats. Will this coalition between Democratic factions hold and how bad will the final legislation be?

6. The Global War on Terror: Iraq, Afghanistan and New Fronts

us_military_collage_zus6The US involvement in Iraq is winding down. Will the Iraqi government be able to avoid a return to the violence of a couple of years ago?

In Afghanistan, Obama is supporting a moderate surge in US forces. Will this be enough to drive back the Taliban and al-Qaeda or will they just hunker down until the withdrawal of US forces starting in 2011 that Obama has already announced?

Finally, the Christmas Day underwear bomber has started drawing attention to the fact that there are other centers of Jihadist terrorism like Yemen. Will there be an attack originating in Yemen or another center of Islamic fanatics that will force the administration to act?

7. Global Warming Alarmism After Climategate and Copenhagen

Al GoreThe changes for drastic imposition of new regulations controlling carbon-based energy has fizzled after the Climategate scandal and the failed Copenhagen summit.

France’s supreme court struck down a new law on carbon emission just this week.

The chances of major cap and tax legislation passing the Senate are practically nil.

Despite these positive developments, the left has invested heavily in the global warming hysteria as a new way to impose national and international controls on human freedom. Stories about impending doom due to supposedly man-made global warming won’t go away in 2010. Expect more fear-based emotional appeals and other attempts to revive the global warming movement.

Just based on what we know about these stories, 2010 is bound to be an interesting year.

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