Saturday, November 21, 2015

A follow-up

My most recent post was harshly critical of Obama's handling of our problems with terrorism, and my criticism was largely about what America should not be doing rather than what it should be doing.

As I said during the post, I do not pretend to have all the answers. One of the reasons I'm leery about suggesting specific military actions is that my military expertise, such as it is, does not come from military experience and shouldn't be called expertise. Another reason is that I am not privy to any of the intelligence that goes into military decision-making.

Nonetheless, after being so critical, I do feel compelled to discuss some things we should be doing as a matter of general policy, and here they are:

Secure the borderS
It is inarguable that having an open unchecked border is a recipe for disaster against the kinds of enemies who wage jihad against us. The situation in Europe demonstrates this.

Republicans have been Some conservatives have long been saying that border security should be made part of our national defense policy. They have been right to do so, but haven't been 100% right because they use the word "border" in its singular phase, though in reality our nation has not one, not two, but three borders -- and the one everybody stresses about happens to be the one which is least concerning.

Our border with Mexico is less than 2,000 miles long and passes almost entirely through barren desert. This makes people walking or motoring across it extremely visible; and if they are walking, the aridity of the desert makes them extremely vulnerable to dehydration, which can be fatal and is thus a major impediment to entering successfully.

Conversely, the border between our Lower 48 states and Canada is almost 4,000 miles long and thickly forested for much of that distance. This means that people sneaking across are extremely difficult to see and under little to no risk of dehydration.

Meanwhile, the border between Alaska and Canada stretches more than 1,500 miles; and while its northern reaches are inhospitable due to Arctic cold, its southern ones are forested and have a comparatively mild climate. In other words, this border also offers up vast areas where people sneaking across would be difficult to detect and under little to no risk of dehydration. Further, terrorists could use it in one of two ways: to sneak into Alaska so as to carry out attacks against civilians, oil fields, and military bases; or to sneak into Canada so as to later sneak across the other U.S.-Canada border with the purpose of carrying out attacks in the Lower 48.

Securing our southern border should not be overly difficult because we can easily surveille it both electronically and manually, using drones and satellites and helicopters. Based on what we see, we can then direct various authorities -- Border Patrol, National Guard, sheriff's departments, whatever -- to intercede and turn people back. If we do so forcefully and publicize it, the flow will slow. We don't need a wall (sorry Trump) but even that idea is not far-fetched when you remember that the Chinese built one two centuries before Jesus walked the earth. Securing the southern border would be challenging but the challenges would be far from overwhelming.

On the other hand, securing our northern borders presents challenges so enormous they cause migraines when you try to figure out how to meet them. Those borders are where terrorists are more likely to try to enter (they're not stupid) and therefore it would be a colossal mistake to forget about them while focusing our energies on the southern border. It would be like a football coach telling his offensive linemen to block only one side of the line of scrimmage when he calls for a drop-back pass.

Just say no
You can probably tell from the above segment that I don't believe we should accept the wave of Syrian refugees we are being prodded to take in. What you might not be able to tell is that I'm unhappy about turning them back.

The bleeding heart impulse to provide shelter to the weary and assistance to the impoverished is admirable, and is enshrined in American culture from the Underground Railroad to "The New Colossus." Based on first-hand accounts written by people who have actually walked among the Syrian refugees in Europe, I have no doubt that the majority of them do not mean us harm.

Unfortunately, there is no credible doubt that terrorists are among them, posing as refugees specifically so they can reach our soil and kill innocent people once they are here. Even if only one percent of the 10,000 people we are being asked to accept turn out to be terrorists, that means 100 terrorists will be here. Need I remind you that it took only 19 to pull off 9/11, and 8 to carry off last week's Paris attacks, and 4 to carry off 2005's London bombings? Need I remind you that it takes just one suicide bomber to rip apart diners at a sidewalk cafe and close down entire sections of a city?

Again, there is no credible doubt that there are terrorists ensconced among the refugees, and may I add that there is no credible reason to believe we can weed them out by "vetting" them? Nidal Hassan was cleared by our vetting process, but went on to become the Fort Hood Killer. Two Iraqi "refugees" were cleared by the process and later found to be members of al Qaeda. In Colorado Springs, more Iraqi "refugees" who were cleared by the process went on to gang rape a woman in 2012.

Officials from the FBI, CIA, and DHS acknowledge that our multi-layered vetting process is essentially useless against people coming from a nation like Syria. Last month, Michael Steinbach (Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division) testified before Congress that in Syria "there is a lack of information" and "all of the data sets, the police, the intel services that normally you would go (to) and seek that information don't exist."

Yes, we should do what we can to help innocents in dire straits -- but not by knowingly endangering our own citizens who are also innocent. People who are unmoved by that argument should still take a moment to consider that simple math and basic logic make it clear we can not allow everyone who claims refugee status to enter this country and reside here.

We have plenty of space and plenty of heart, we are suffering from a shortage of jobs to begin with, and lots of us who do have jobs are suffering from long-term wage stagnation. Plus, our population is saddled with a mountainous aggregation of consumer debt; our federal government is running deficits that are flagrantly unsustainable; and plenty of our state and municipal governments are on the same bad track as our federal government. Some, whence comes the resources to pay for all the costs related to housing, clothing and feeding these refugees for an indefinite period of time?

Like Rich Lowry pointed out over at Politico, as recently as 2014 there were 410,000 refugees from the Central African Republic and we accepted just 25 of them (0.006 of one percent); there were 610,000 from South Sudan and we accepted only 52 (0.009 of one percent); and there were 2.5 million from Afghanistan and we took in only 789 (0.03 percent of one percent). So what makes Syria so special that POTUS insists we take in 10,000 of its refugees (10.0 percent) even though we routinely take in far fewer from other nations, in terms of both percentages and raw numbers? Has POTUS forgotten that he himself once stopped accepting any refugees whatsoever from Iraq?

Fight alongside
Based at least partly (and probably largely) on information provided by us, France has been bombing ISIS near its nerve centers within the borders of Syria. And Russia has joined them while we have not, which is shameful. It makes us look tentative and weak in a part of the world where looks are of tantamount importance.

Of late, our Islamist enemies have watched our words and actions, judged them against one another, and concluded that we are a toothless tiger with a spine made of soggy linguine. From the phantom red line regarding Assad, to "leading from behind" in North Africa, to supinely accepting our ass-kicking in Benghazi, to giving nuclear-horny Iran everything it wanted in what were laughably called "negotiations" concerning its nuclear program, we have demonstrated time and again that we are ripe to be punched and unwilling to stop anyone from punching us. That is a major part of the reason the world is so unsafe and unsettled right now.

We have ambiguously said we "stand" with France. Well, to Hell with that. Instead, let's say we are going to kick ass with France and then let's promptly follow that up by bombing the everlasting crap out of ISIS and saturating the media with video and photographs. The complicated, convoluted War on Terror will not be won solely by bombing ISIS -- but for us to finally say we are going to do something and then follow.the.fuck.through on what we say will make things much better and greatly increase our chances of winning.

Pivot to Iran
Contact the the Islamists in Tehran, point out how mercilessly we just bombed ISIS, and let them know that such bombing is the bare minimum they will face if they are ever caught attempting to develop nuclear weapons or are ever detected launching any objects toward the South Pole (such launches are the route that would be taken to cripple us with a nuclear EMP).

Meanwhile, restructure our missile defense systems to cover objects launched toward the South Pole (which they currently do not) and tell the Islamists that if we ever see something launched in that direction, we will shoot it down in addition to bombing the crap out of them.

Embrace the good Muslims
While making it clear that jihadist Islam is our enemy and that we will stamp it out without pity, we should also make it clear that those who practice peacefully and with tolerance for other faiths are our friends.

We should publicly champion Raif Badawi (who I wrote about at the end of this post) and publicly pressure the Saudis to set him free. We should offer as much sympathy and mercy for the victims of Beirut's November 12th attacks as we do for the victims of Paris's November 13th attacks. We should express regret that we did not stand behind the Lebanese citizens who, in the so-called Cedar Revolution, sought to overthrow their country's Syrian-controlled dictatorship ten years ago. And we should express regret that we did not stand behind the Iranian citizens who sought to overthrow their country's murderous dictatorship in the so-called Green Revolution of 2009-2010.

...I do not expect that any of this will happen under our current president, but one can still hope.