In these “dog days of summer” and with congress out of town, intelligence warnings have provoked an unprecedented closure of our embassies and consulates, associated overseas travel alerts, and presumably preparations to deal with jihadi attacks at home and abroad.
These sobering events suggest it is time to reconsider our policies for dealing with jihadi terrorists and protecting the American People at home and abroad against failures of past policies-especially in view of the dysfunctional features of the Federal Government that prevent the common defense called for by the Constitution.
When a young SC farm boy, I thought the “dog days of summer” referred to the hot, humid, sultry days of summer-before air conditioning. Recently, I was not sure what it had to do with man’s best friend. So I googled . . . and learned the term had nothing to do with our furry, four-legged friends lounging in the shade.
Apparently, the “Dog Days” date to when our Greek ancestors, after nightfall, studied the sky in the dark-no electricity. They looked up at the billions of stars, none brighter than Sirius-this time of year, part of the Canis Majoris constellation, hence Dog Star. After a long night of wishing on falling stars, Sirius would finally awake from his slumber, rise, stretch, and bark with the sunrise as the earth proceeded in its orbit around the sun.
When the philosophers of ancient Greece were eclipsed by the warriors of ancient Rome, the Dog Days evolved to include a new ritual-the sacrifice of a brown dog to mollify Sirius, who was believed to be responsible for the hot, sweaty weather. Contemporaries of the Greeks and Romans, the ancient Egyptians connected Sirius rising to the season of the Nile’s flooding, and thought of the star as a watchdog for the event.
The Dog Days were fraught with evil: “The Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” (From Clavis Calendaria, A compendious analysis of the calendar, illustrated with ecclesiastical, historical, and classical anecdotes.)
Impressed??? Or maybe you already knew. Whatever.
What about our current “dog days?”
Tactical Warning?, Some folks argue that our Republic is most safe when congress leaves town-so for the next six weeks, perhaps we will enjoy a period of safety while our representatives check in with the folks at home and the President campaigns for Obamacare and his other initiatives.
On the other hand, as congress wound down another unproductive session, the intelligence community (IC) warned of eminent al-Qaeda attacks, reportedly days after al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, urged his followers in a speech posted on jihadist websites to attack U.S. sites as a response to American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. He also is reported to have anointed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the founder of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and recently elevated to the number two slot in al-Qaeda, to lead the attack. This “message from the top” suggests that al-Qaeda is not just a dispersed mob of terrorists setting their own agenda for terrorism.
Whatever its additional information, the IC’s warnings led to an unprecedented U.S. response.
The Obama administration closed for at least a week 19 embassies and consulates in Muslim countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. The State Department issued a travel alert, urging all U.S. overseas travelers to take extra precautions throughout August, especially when using public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure-notably subway and rail networks, airplanes and boats.
Joint Chiefs Chairman, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said on Sunday’s ABC News that the threat, which appears to be “more specific” than past threats, is intended “to attack Western, not just U.S. interests.” Notably, Al Jazeera reported that Britain, France, and Germany also announced plans to close their embassies in Yemen for several days.
European governments cited heightened security concerns related to possible jihadi attacks during the closing days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (ending today) and the three-day Eid holiday that follows. Interpol also issued a global alert asking each of its 190 member countries to help track over a thousand terrorists who escaped in a wave of prison breaks (with al-Qaeda and Taliban help) over the past week or so – including in Iraq, Pakistan and Libya – and requested help in determining whether any operations “are coordinated or linked.”
You did hear about the jihadi raids on prisons that released up to one-to-two thousand prisoners-including many hardened, trained jihadi operatives to return to their prime mission, didn’t you? Wonder where they are now?
This picture stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s repeated claim that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been eviscerated by U.S counterterrorism operations. Indeed, it provides persuasive evidence supporting others’ claims that, if anything, today’s metastasized al-Qaeda is stronger, not weaker. And al-Qaeda is not the only sponsor of jihadi attacks.
On last Sunday’s TV News shows, several senior members of congress-Republican and Democrat-vouched for the serious nature of the threat and supported the administration’s action. Notably, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the “chatter” among terrorists was “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”
Representative Peter King (R-NY), who serves on both the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, noted on ABC’s This Week that while an attempted “enormous” attack-which could be a series of combined attacks-may likely happen in the Middle East, “It could be in Europe; it could be in the United States.”
So, we’re closing our embassies and consulates in Muslim countries-wonder what we are doing here at home?
The threat information came just over a month before the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In some studies of the possible significance of the date, September 11, it has been noted that September 11, 1683 was when Muslim armies were turned back from Vienna. Maybe September 11 has meaning for the jihadi terrorists. Last September 11, a jihadi attack on our Benghazi consulate killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi-after the Ambassador’s requests for additional security went unanswered. While congress continues to seek information on just what happened last year, maybe we’ll be better prepared this September 11.
On Sunday’s CNN’s State of the Union News report, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) observed, “Benghazi was a complete failure. The threats were real there. The reporting was real. And we basically dropped the ball. We’ve learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right.”
Maybe. September 11 is still over a month away and after the current alert is alleged to be over. Stay tuned . . .
So, Are We Ready?
Apparently, our response to these warnings is currently scheduled to end before the first anniversary of Benghazi-which is 12 years after 9/11.
What are the chances the warnings will be extended to prepare for this September 11th?
And who says this threat is primarily from al-Qaeda?, , For my part, I remain particularly concerned about Iran-certainly allied with al-Qaeda (and others), but with its own agenda of gaining and possibly using nuclear weapons-of both Uranium and Plutonium designs-on Israel and the United States.
Iran’s new President, Hasan Rouhani, just officially sworn in, is alleged to be a moderate. Nonsense. The 76 Senators who just sent a letter to President Obama are on target in urging the administration to bring “a renewed sense of urgency” to the Iranian nuclear issue. Stay tuned to see if anything more happens than renewed diplomatic attempts to dissuade Iran not to cross Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “red line.”
At least the senators identified Iran’s real power in urging “Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon Iran’s nuclear weapons quest.” But from my perspective, don’t hold your breath.
Those who believe this fiction about moderate leadership in Iran probably also believed Mohamed Morsi was a moderate when he was sworn in as President of Egypt-and even after his new “constitution” declared its consistency with sharia. They probably also believe Army Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is a moderate-and that as he now forms a new government after leading the coup (by another name, of course) replacing Morsi, he will appoint other moderates to rewrite the constitution more to the liking of those seeking freedom.
Where did the Muslim Brotherhood go? Probably not quietly into the night.
Make no mistake, the recent U.S. and allied actions have signaled to the jihadi terrorists our weakness and ignorance of the mortal conflict into which we are sinking-they are achieving their objectives as we abandon our freedoms at home and the battlefield overseas.
So, as we are leaving the area to prosper in the “Arab Spring” we naively helped to create, will they abandon their long-term game-plan to achieve a global caliphate and leave us alone? Hope so, but then, as someone said, “Hope is not a strategy.”
I suspect the leaders of al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups are smiling in their satisfaction over the unprecedented U.S. demonstrated inability to protect our interests in their neighborhood-and are contemplating their next steps.
Meanwhile, we are destroying our ability to defend ourselves at home. No clearer indication of that is an August 3rd Washington Post-repeat Washington Post, not Washington Times-editorial entitled “A decaying defense is no defense.”
I encourage you to read this recounting of our sad situation which in summary, from my perspective, notes:
* Defense Secretary Hagel’s sobering report on the Pentagon’s deep funding problems will fall tens of billions short of what is needed to fulfill President Obama’s articulated strategic mission for the national defense.
* President Obama’s latest budget proposes $150 billion in defense cuts over 10 years, which SecDef Hagel claims could be managed. Sequestration, however, requires $500 billion in cuts over 10 years.
* Even assuming Congress would permit what SecDef Hagel sees as rational cuts – and that is unlikely – these wouldn’t come close to satisfying the demands of the sequester. Instead, the DoD would have to choose between maintaining technological sophistication or numerical strength.
* If it chose the former, Mr. Hagel explained, it would keep a “technologically dominant” force, but one “much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world.” The other option would result in a larger force capable of international deployment but with aging weapons systems that rivals would have an easier time matching.
* Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in testimony last Thursday that either way would “mark a significant departure from the missions our nation has been accustomed to being able to accomplish.”
* President Obama can’t act as though DoD’s sequester cuts are equivalent in consequence to every other item in the budget. The country’s defense is a core responsibility of the federal government, and its armed forces are critical to the nation’s ability to exert leadership, maintain alliances, defend human rights and preserve the nations safety.
My Bottom Line: I’d say we have a ways to go to be ready to deal with the world we are in.
Perhaps we should begin by listening a bit to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who is rethinking his views about exporting democracy, including by force, on cultures that are unprepared for it. Click here for his August 5th Washington Times article. Perhaps we also should collectively reconsider Samuel P. Huntington’s advice that I quoted last week, which might be paraphrased as follows:
“Even if current regimes fall, there will still be a fundamental clash between Islam and the West; the more the two civilizations intermingle, the worse the tensions will be; and the West would be wise to keep its distance from Muslim affairs.”
Whatever results from such a reconsideration, we are stuck with the world we have made-and must find an appropriate way ahead. And that means protecting our interests here at home for sure.
One More Time: Our Missile Defense and EMP Concerns:
Returning to Iran in particular-and the state of our overall defenses as summarized by the Washington Post, we need to deal with the vulnerability of the U.S. homeland to attacks by Iran and/or their jihadi surrogates as their ability to attack us directly grows. As we have laid out in our previous emails, there are three areas of great concern if/when Iran gets nuclear weapons and can mate them to ballistic missiles:
* Nuclear-armed ICBM attacks over the North Pole-we need to strengthen our current defenses especially for the Eastern Seaboard; congress is aware of this problem.
* Nuclear-armed Satellite attacks over the South Pole-we are vulnerable to this mode of attack today; and it appears to be being ignored.
* Nuclear-armed short, medium, or intermediate range missiles launched from vessels off our coasts-we are vulnerable to this mode of attack, but could employ Aegis ships normally near or off our coasts to provide limited defenses if we trained their crews to do so.
* Nuclear-armed short, medium, or intermediate range missiled launced from the south-from the vessels in the Gulf of Mexico or from Latin America-and we are totally vulnerable and will require the deployment of effective defenses to counter such attacks.
All of these attack modes can be used to detonate a nuclear weapon above the United States and create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could cause irreparable damage to the key large transformers of the electric power grid-and that under certain well known conditions could cause a complete failure of the electric power grid for an indefinite period. The ultimate result anticipated by credible experts could be that the consequent chaos would lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year.
Funding is needed to support the development and deployment of effective defenses-and that presents a problem, among the many implied by the Washington Post. But as was the Washington Post bottom line, the primary objective of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. This is a problem that must be addressed.
Or perhaps you would like to return to the ancient “dog days of summer” and contemplate the majesty of the heavens without the pleasures provided by electricity? That condition is what your representatives in Washington are negligently preparing for you.
Don’t forget the natural condition that could destroy the electric power grid will be produced one day by a major solar storm. The only question is “Will we be prepared when it occurs?”