All-out US war on ISIS–both sides of the issue

This excellent article in The Atlantic comes out against the idea of a”smash and leave” war against ISIS of the type the US tried and failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It warns that just defeating ISIS militarily at great cost and then withdrawing–as opposed to staying and supervising–would accomplish worse than nothing: It would drive ISIS underground, the next radical Islamist group would rise up to take its place…and then what?

In exceptional style these days, though–the Atlantic article links to the opposing arguments throughout. So with this one source, you can spend as long as you like researching the thinking of leading military and political science minds about the issue.

Here is another point that isn’t developed but warrants close consideration. Anyone my age who’s had to take off shoes at an airport should agree:

In our view, U.S. politics overreacts to terrorism—an important problem but not an existential threat to the American way of life unless Americans’ own reactions make it so.

The article advocates containment of all the radical Islamic threats. Where it stops, though, is just before defining what exactly that means , and a clear prescription of what should be done instead of all-out war.

It does mention the humanitarian efforts that can be undertaken, but I believe those are the key to repairing the damage to the West’s image in the Mideast starting from its colonial heritage and extending through the disastrous “smash and leave” operations of the immediate past, especially the US-led war in Iraq.

For a fraction of the money being spent on military operations, the US and its allies could be helping the millions of refugees from the region’s conflicts, allowing them to stay in the region instead of flooding Europe, for example, and giving them acceptable lives while they’re waiting for the dust to settle so that they can return home–which is what the vast majority of them want to do.

It’s worthwhile noting that impoverished refugee camps are crucibles for radical political and religious behavior, so that the camps themselves could generate a security threat in the not too distant future.

Concentrating on helping the refugees is a win-win-win-win deal. It gives aid to the people who are in need, it overrides their drive toward Europe, it refurbishes the damaged image of the West, and it contributes to security.

No other policy offers so many wins.

Turkey invades Syria–US caught in the middle: Mark on the radio

So Turkey is sending tanks and warplanes across its southern border into Syria, ostensibly fighting ISIS but really fighting Kurdish forces there. I talked about this a few minutes ago with host Bob Bartolomeo on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.

I can’t help but make this comparison: Vice-president Joe Biden is in Turkey when Turkey invades Syria and battles Syrian Kurds. After Israel, the Kurds are the best US ally in the region. Biden warns the Kurds to withdraw. OK. In 2010, Biden was visiting Israel. The Israelis announced the next step in a well-known plan to build some apartments in a Jewish neighborhood that straddles the old border between Israel and the West Bank. Biden went apoplectic, and the “new settlement” announcement caused a mini-crisis in Israel-US relations.

Just goes to show…nothing makes sense in this region. Turkey’s invasion puts the US in a tough spot, watching one ally clobber another. As usual, the problem is that the US, as a matter of law, has to deal with governments and countries at the expense of other parties. It can’t come out and say, OK, the Mideast is undergoing a historic realignment where the old borders and old countries will fade, and how about if we get out ahead of this and back a sovereign homeland for the Kurds, who are now split among Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran? Why not? Because it’s borderline illegal under US law, and it goes against the habits of centuries of diplomacy of dealing government-to-government.

Except when it comes to the Palestinians. The world has accepted that the Palestinians deserve their own state. They have a good legal basis for that–the 1947 partition approved by the UN called for a Palestinian state, but that was swallowed up by Jordan. But…if the Palestinians deserve a state, so do the Kurds, all the more so.

It’s time for the West to get ahead of history for a change.

Israel and the Palestinians in the context of Mideast realignment

Here’s my article on folding the Israel-Palestinian conflict solution into the overall realignment that’s underway in the Mideast. It’s in the form of an op-ed in the Algemeiner.

One of the main points–one of many, if I may be so bold–is that the Israel-Palestinian issue gets solved as the rest of the borders are being set, not as a precondition or as a first stage. Many of us have known for decades that the Israel-Palestinian issue is not the key to resolving everything that’s wrong with the Mideast. The past five years of regional turmoil and realignment have had absolutely nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians (much to the Palestinians’ dismay)–so now it’s obvious what a minor role this conflict plays in the region.

Maybe one day we’ll see a tenth as many activist groups pushing for a regional solution as we see today obsessing over a conflict that could have been resolved years ago if one side or the other did not think that the “world” would support its maximalist position.

Focusing on the Israel-Palestinian conflict as if it has overriding international importance is, as the youngsters would say, soooo 20th century.

Melanoma cure–where’s the news coverage?

A cure for the deadliest form of skin cancer is in the works, but you’d never know it if you don’t read the Israeli press. That is totally baffling. Where are the world headlines?

Tel Aviv University researchers say they have found the key to blocking the spread of melanoma, according to this news release. It was put out A MONTH AGO. Just now, the Israeli press started picking up on it, with this story in Haaretz, this one in The Times of Israel and this one in The Jerusalem Post. There are others.

BREAKING NEWS: Agence France Presse is the first foreign outlet to write about this. Here it is in the Daily Mail. Ten hours after I asked, still no response from The Associated Press or Reuters.

It’s a full day later, and now there’s this on Yahoo News by a well-known writer on health issues. Still nothing on the AP or Reuters wires, and no response to my query. I guess the possibility of beating one of the most dangerous diseases in the world isn’t that important to them.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Caught early enough, it can be treated. But if left to metastasize through the body, it is often fatal. It’s estimated here that 75,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma cancer this year, and  10,000 could die. Israel claims an 85 percent cure rate for melanoma, but that’s attributable to early detection and Israel’s health care system, which provides medical access to all its citizens. While there are treatments, up to now there’s been no cure for metastatic melanoma. If this is a step toward a cure for melanoma, it’s A HUGE DEVELOPMENT.

I know all the hoops that responsible news outlets have to jump through to report on medical claims like this. They require an outside expert, not connected to the research, to comment. The science desk might have to weigh in.

But that is done, and stories are written, about developments that are nowhere near as significant as this one. So I ask again: Where’s the coverage?

I honestly have no idea what the answer to my question is. I imagine this post will attract a string of people who are convinced that the reason is the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic foreign press, or the fact that the story has no Palestinian angle. I don’t think so. It’s more likely that this amazing story slipped through their fingers because of downsizing and understaffing, as has happened in the past. I’ll ask around, and I’ll post any responses I get here.

In the meantime, though, it’s important to note that there are things to be said about Israel that have nothing to do with Palestinians, Gaza, rockets, terrorism or settlements. When explaining what Israel is and what it isn’t, we need to keep our eyes open for such stories..

Russia and Iran in Syria, why it matters: Mark on the radio

Iran says the Russian air force has wrapped up its week-long series of airstrikes in Syria launched from a base in Iran. I talked about this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh. In the short term, US forces could get caught in a crossfire. In the long term, Russia is likely to get caught in a Syrian “quagmire,” a term that dates back to Vietnam, and the US should put its resources elsewhere

You’ll hear P.J. ask me if US policy in the Mideast should still be driven by the two traditional factors–Israel and oil. The brief reply is no and no.

P.J. didn’t ask how all this fits into the aftermath of the nuclear deal with Iran. He was right not to ask–it has nothing to do with that deal. We need to get away from the idea that everything Iran does is aimed at undermining the nuclear accord and screwing the West. And even if it were–it would be in our interest to make it worthwhile for Iran to change its behavior–not harp and complain and beat our chests with “I told you so.” Here’s more on that vital issue.

ISIS whack-a-mole in Libya: Mark on the radio

It appears that Libyan forces, aided by US airstrikes, have driven ISIS forces out of their headquarters in Sirte, on the Libyan coast. You’d think that’s a good thing…but it might actually make the situation worse. I discussed that a few minutes ago with host Bob Bartolomeo on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

Where do the fighters go when they’re driven out of a city? They go somewhere else. Libya’s government–oh, wait, the full name of that, whenever it’s referred to in the media, is the Fragile Government, since it has no more support than the larger militias and is failing to govern a country that has for all practical purposes ceased to exist as an entity–Libya’s fragile government has warned Italy that ISIS fighters are on their way there to join a radical leader and carry out attacks in Europe.

So treating ISIS as a military problem alone is the wrong way to go about this. Short-term, there needs to be intelligence and infiltration. Long-term, there needs to be humanitarian assistance and programs to refurbish the image of the West so that radical Islam based on hatred of the “infidel” is not so attractive. The sooner we start, the better.

Millions of charity dollars go to Hamas “military wing”

World Vision has been financing the Hamas “military wing” in Gaza to the tune of $43 million, according to an indictment against the charity’s Gaza director, who’s in Israeli custody. I discussed this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh. We talked about this case and the larger implications of who’s doing what, charity-wise, in this part of the world.

$43 million is a lot of money for Hamas “military” activity, which is made up of rocket attacks on Israel, suicide bombings against Israel, and digging tunnels under the border to send terrorists into Israel.

As P.J. said, “How would you like to find out that money you gave to a charity…is going to terrorists?”

An additional element of this is that World Vision, like many other organizations over here, is supported directly by governments, as well as private donors. Two governments–Germany and Australia–have cut off their contributions to World Vision, indicating that they consider this indictment and these serious charges to be credible.

There are other gtoups whose stated agenda is to demonstrate against and undermine Israel. Here’s a link to the video I mentioned in the broadcast of a father sending his 3-year-old son toward Israeli soldiers at one of the demonstrations underwritten by foreign-financed groups. The soldiers greeted the boy with a high-five, not gunfire.

One negative aspect of this distortion of charitable work is that it’s likely to affect contributions to legitimate charities that are helping people instead.

Don’t destroy ISIS–it’s better as weakened: Expert

Here’s a refreshing view of the ISIS threat from an Israeli security expert. I’ve known Prof. Efraim Inbar for many years, and I’ve found that his analysis is level-headed, sensible and devoid of politically motivated wishful thinking.

In this article on the website of the BESA think tank he directs, he notes that a ISIS picweakened ISIS is better than one that’s destroyed by the West. I’ve noted many times that if the West takes on military missions in the Mideast, the results are counter-productive, turning the targets into “victims” and focusing “resistance” against the “imperialists.”

Efraim takes it a step further, explaining actual benefits of preserving a weakened ISIS on  the field. The only place I differ from his conclusions is his implication that it’s either-or. Either ISIS fights on, or it’s destroyed and exports its terror around the world. To some extent, both can coexist on the same plane, and that’s what we’re seeing now.

That said, he makes significant points and opens up the ISIS debate into a new direction here. It’s definitely worth considering.

Digging a moat around Fallujah: Mark on the radio

Seriously…the Iraqi army is digging a moat around the city of Fallujah, taken back from ISIS a month ago. All that’s missing is the water. I discussed this a few minutes ago with host Bob Bartolomeo on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.

The battle for Fallujah was one of the cruelest in the whole decade, dating back to 2004. First ISIS massacred opponents, including civilians, and then the conquering forces–spearheaded by Iran-backed Shiite militias, massacred more people and drove civilians out of the city.

The Iraqi government forces came across cages like these, where ISIS militants held their opponents, probably before killing them.

fallujah cages

The level of barbarity in Iraq, more than a decade after American-led forces invaded and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, is almost unfathomable to a Western mind. Getting involved in such a conflict cannot turn out to anyone’s benefit, least of all the US.

There is one area where the West can help. It’s estimated that 85,000 civilians fled Fallujah during the fighting. The Iraqi authorities are pre4paring electronic ID cards for everyone there, a step to keep the militants from returning–but in the meantime, they’re stranded in tents in desert refugee camps. The Red Cross says it needs $17 million to keep them alive.

Just as a contrast, and we discuss this on the radio, the US has spent $1.6 BILLION to “train” the Iraqi army. Look what a bargain it would be to help civilians instead, and build some good will.