Friday Water Cooler

Mary Habeck of the American Enterprise Institute believes “a poor definition of the enemy, an incorrect view of its objectives, and the adoption of a strategy that will not defeat the latest evolution of this adaptive organization” are the primary reasons why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda.

At the root of the problem is the Obama administration’s tendency to view al Qaeda only through the lens of 9/11 and to recognize its core mission – to impose its extremist version of shari’a and govern territory – which has resulted in the administration fully understanding its goals and desires.

“The misreading of the enemy and his objectives has led to the adoption of a strategy, centered on counterterrorism, that cannot defeat al Qaeda. The set of techniques known as counterterrorism is ultimately based on attrition—that is, killing or capturing the members of the terrorist group. Counterterrorism and attrition work best against small groups that are incapable of mass recruitment and therefore cannot replace themselves, are unable to hold territory, and lack the capacity to set up shadow governance. None of this is true of al Qaeda today,” she writes.

Syria, Not Ukraine, Is Greatest Threat To International Order Mark Malloch Brown, a member of the British House of Lords and a former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, contends it is not Vladimir Putin’s moves into Crimea and Ukraine which threatens the international order, but the ongoing war in Syria.

The current rules-based international system remains seriously threatened by the civil war in Syria.

“Not only are millions of lives in jeopardy; the global framework of human rights and humanitarian law is on trial as well. Now these risks are in danger of being overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine, with confrontation in the United Nations Security Council threatening to subordinate Syria in the pecking order of international problems,” he writes.

Rep. Buck McKeon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, writes in his Washington Post op-ed that American inaction contributes to the weakening of the international order and may, in fact, be creating a situation in which war is the only option.

He posits that while no one is eager for a new war, Obama’s “provocatively feeble” foreign policy heightens the likelihood that we risk war through our own indecision.

“Rather than acknowledge this legitimate anxiety, the president has created a dynamic in which he bravely confronts political opponents who don’t exist. On the world stage, inertia has consequences. And we have felt the consequences across the globe. Storms clouds are forming in some regions, lightning is striking in others. I worry that those storms might eventually reach our shores,” the congressman suggests.

Is NATO Expansion At The Root Of Putin’s Discontentment?
Edward Joseph argues that by accepting the excuse that NATO expansion is responsible for Putin’s anger – and therefore was a mistake – is actually making it harder to formulate a coherent response.

“Just as the origins of NATO expansion were benign, so too has been its impact on Russian security. More than anything, NATO and EU accession required aspirant countries to incorporate liberal, western values like pluralism, civilian control of the military, rule of law and respect for human rights,” he writes, adding that Russia uses the excuse of protecting the ethnic Russian minority as a means to justify its intervention in Crimea and Ukraine.


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