Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 1990 and the War for Modernity

August 1990 and the War for Modernity
Austin Bay

The Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait stunned Washington and the world. Within days, the Bush administration (George H. W. Bush) deployed American military units to thwart further assaults by Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard Corps and forge an extraordinary political coalition dedicated to liberating Kuwait. Operation Desert Shield had begun.

Desert Shield is not over. A great struggle for the terms of modernity in the Middle East continues and will do so for at least another three to four decades.

Desert Shield connects to Desert Storm. The decision to not topple Saddam led to the murders of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of Iraqi Shia Arabs and Kurds who rebelled after Desert Storm "cut off and killed" Saddam's military forces in Kuwait.

That led to "dual containment" of Saddam's Iraq and the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in Iran. U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia (enforcing U.N. Iraqi sanctions) gave Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida a militant recruiting tool: The American infidels threatened Moslem holy sites in Saudi Arabia, so destroy the Saudi regime and kill Americans. Sept. 11 killed Americans and ignited the Global War on Terror.

Pinpointing Aug. 2 as the beginning of this struggle, though narratively convenient, obscures a larger context. U.S. Central Command was the primary military instrument the coalition used to wage the Gulf War. Its roots lay in the Carter administration's Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). RDF had several predecessors, including a plan named Armor "C" Package -- the "sea-borne" delivery of U.S. tank units to "somewhere in southwest Asia."

The RDF was built to respond to an attack by the Soviet dictatorship on the Persian Gulf. As 1990 began, the U.S.S.R. still existed, but the Cold War had ebbed. In July 1990, a month before Saddam's invasion, the West German mark became legal tender in East Germany; the red threat had drowned in red ink. Liberal democracies chalked up a slow but big win in Europe.

Saddam saw himself as the successor to the Soviet Union. He styled himself as the next "anti-American" option, but in reality he simply offered another anachronistic dictatorship of elites built with tyranny's usual tools: murder, ethnic division, economic corruption, denial of free expression and a brutally enforced collective ideology. He was also into genuine imperialist warfare -- he coveted Kuwait's oil, gold kiosks and Mercedes dealerships.

A key artifact is Saddam's speech delivered in Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 24, 1990. Hallmarked by bombast, Baath Party rhetoric and macho posturing, the speech provided a window into Saddam's strategic assessments prior to the Kuwait invasion. In retrospect, it may have been much more: at the least a rhetorical test of American reaction, at the outside a violent megalomaniac's warning that he was a global leader and intended to go to war to prove it.

Saddam began with the usual "pan-Arab issues," the "loss of Palestine" among them. He then sketched his vision of recent history. After World War II, France and Britain "declined." Two superpowers arose, the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and "global policy continued on the basis of the existence of two poles that balanced in terms of force."

"And suddenly the situation," Saddam said, "changed in a dramatic way." The Cold War ended. Saddam then proceeded with a rambling proposition that America was "fatigued" and would fade, but "throughout the next five years," the U.S. would be unrestricted.

The U.S., in Saddam's view, was strong but weak, without staying power. The speech implied defeating the U.S. entailed scraping the scar of Vietnam and threatening massive U.S. casualties. "Fatigue" and domestic self-recrimination would stall U.S. power. One crucial line stands out: "The big," Saddam said, "does not become big nor does the great earn such a description unless he is in the arena of comparison or fighting with someone else on a different level." (Translation: If a minor-leaguer wants to move up, he takes on the majors.)

Saddam's assessment differs little from the 1950s Soviet threat, "We will bury you." Osama bin Laden's "weak horse, strong horse" metaphor echoes Moscow and Saddam. Sept. 11 was bin Laden's bid to "fight on a different level." At their miserable, daily, functional level, little distinguishes Saddam's Iraq from Iran's mullocracy, a Soviet dictatorship or an al-Qaida caliphate. Whether atheist or theocrat, the routine is murder, corruption and enforced collective ideology. This commonality, and shared anti-Americanism, are two reasons the world's so-called progressive leftists coddle al-Qaida and the Taliban.

World War I's aftermath created the conditions for fascism, communism and, yes, al-Qaida-brand terror religion (Qutbism, is a name for it). In various guises, America has been at war with totalitarianism since at least the 1930s. Aug. 2, 1990, was a dangerous moment in that war. And the war continues.

Why Does Obama Tell Muslims America Is Nation of 'Non-Believers'?
Terry Jeffrey

Why has President Barack Obama on at least two occasions told specifically Muslim audiences that America is a nation of -- among other things -- "non-believers"?

The Pledge of Allegiance says America is one nation under God, our national motto says in God we trust, the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights and since the time of George Washington our presidents have placed their left hands on the Bible as they raise their right hands and swear to defend our Constitution.

The Census Bureau's official Statistical Abstract of the United States says a miniscule 0.7 percent of American adults -- or 1,621,000 out of 228,182,000 -- are atheists.

If you accept the Pew Hispanic Center's March 2005 estimate that there were 11 million illegal aliens in the United States back then -- and assume for the sake of argument there are still roughly that many today after another half decade of unsecured borders -- then a person randomly passing you on an American street is about seven times more likely to be a foreign national illegally residing here than an atheist.

If representation in the resident population is the measure, than it is more plausible to say America is a nation of foreigners than to say America is a nation of non-believers.

Yet President Obama has virtually made a mantra of saying that Americans are, among other things, "non-believers."

In his inaugural address, Obama said, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers."

A week after his inauguration, in an interview with Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television network based in the United Arab Emirates, Obama said: "So what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I have come to understand is that regardless of your faith -- and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians and non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people have certain common hopes and common dreams."

On Nov. 7, 2009, four days before Veterans Day and two days after U.S. Army psychiatrist and radical Muslim terrorist Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 12 U.S. troops and one civilian and wounded 29 others at Fort Hood, Obama took pains to publicly state his belief that the American veterans who fought in Muslim territory at Ramadi, Iraq, and Kandahar, Afghanistan, included "non-believers."

"In tribute to those who fell at Ft. Hood, I've ordered flags flying over the White House and other federal buildings to be lowered to half-staff from now until Veterans Day next Wednesday," Obama said in his weekly address. "Veterans Day is our chance to honor those Americans who've served on battlefields from Lexington to Antietam, Normandy to Manila, Inchon to Khe Sanh, Ramadi to Kandahar. They are Americans of every race, faith and station. They are Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers."

On Aug. 13, hosting an Iftar dinner for Muslim guests at the White House, Obama not only suggested that he approved the building of a mosque next door to Ground Zero in New York, but he also said this: "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. "

Is Obama's repeated declaration -- including to Muslim audiences -- that America is, among other things, a nation of "non-believers" truly accurate? Does it comport with Obama's professed strategy of reaching out to the Islamic world and improving America's standing there by increasing understanding of our true nature as a nation?

The answers are: No and no.

In America, we have no established religion, and the First Amendment guarantees its free exercise, but we are and always have been an expressly God-fearing nation.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote of our God-given rights in the Declaration, later said in his "Notes on the State of Virginia": "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

The Census Bureau does not ask Americans their denomination, but relies on the American Religious Identification Survey, which interviewed 54,461 American adults in 2008, to estimate the nation's religious demographics. ARIS discovered that 76 percent of Americans said they were Christians, 1.2 percent said they were Jewish and 0.6 percent said they were Muslims.

Fifteen percent said they did not affiliate with a religion -- which is not an indicator of disbelief in God. Only 0.9 percent said they were agnostic and only 0.7 percent said they were atheists. Obama's insistence on giving the 0.7 percent atheist population equivalent status in his public declarations to America's Christians and Jews, whose religious tradition is central to our nation's worldview and heritage, may help promote non-belief in the United States, but it surely does not promote the American cause in the Islamic world -- where our radical Muslim enemies, starting with al-Qaida, falsely claim Americans are infidels.

Certainly, Obama is not purposefully seeking to diminish America's standing in the Muslim world. But his words -- on their face -- seek to diminish God's standing in America.

To read another article by Terry Jeffrey, click here.

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