Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 6, 2013

“The Department assumes the rights afforded by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, as well as the Fourth Amendment, attach to a U.S. Citizen even while he is abroad.”

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 6, 2013

As you have probably already seen, Michael Isikoff at NBC News has obtained a Justice Department white paper that argues under what conditions it is lawful for the government to kill a US citizen.

You can download and read the entire document here:  020413_DOJ_White_Paper

The Department of Justice authors conclude, “that where certain conditions are met, a lethal operation against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or its associated forces — a terrorist organization engaged in constant plotting against the United States — would not violate the Constitution.  The paper also includes an analysis concluding that such an operation would not violate certain criminal provisions prohibiting the killing of U.S. nationals outside the United States…”

The leaked document is only sixteen pages long.  It is thought to  summarize much more extensive legal briefs and studies.  It is worth your careful read before any of us begin our own analysis and commentary.

Here’s the original NBC News story:  Legal Case for Drone Strikes

Here’s a follow-on NBC News report on various reactions to the leaked report:  Legal Experts Fear Implications of Drone Memo

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 7 UPDATE:

According to the New York Times — an many other media — “The White House on Wednesday directed the Justice Department to release to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees classified documents discussing the legal justification for killing, by drone strikes and other means, American citizens abroad who are considered terrorists.”

“The White House announcement appears to refer to a long, detailed 2010 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in September 2011. Members of Congress have long demanded access to the legal memorandum.”

“The decision to release the legal memo to the Intelligence Committees came under pressure, two days after a bipartisan group of 11 senators joined a growing chorus asking for more information about the legal justification for targeted killings, especially of Americans.”

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8 UPDATE:

Further attention — if not much more insight — is available from yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing on the nomination of John Brennan.

Writing in TIME magazine Michael Crowley offers:

In one of the hearing’s most interesting exchanges, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine drew back further, asking Brennan whether some basic assumptions about the fight against al Qaeda should be challenged. Noting that the terror group continues to spread, Collins asked, “If the cancer of al Qaeda is metastasizing, do we need a new treatment?” Collins noted that even an experienced military official like former General Stanley McChrystal have begun wondering aloud whether America has become too reliant on drones, at the expense of breeding resentment and backlash within the Muslim world. (You can read about that and related issues in TIME’s recent drones cover story.)

“We have to be very mindful” of local reactions to drone strikes, Brennan answered. But he insisted that people in al Qaeda-infested areas have “welcomed” American strikes on terrorist leaders. It was another cautious and not terribly revealing answer. But Brennan’s response may have been less significant than the concern expressed by a senior Senator—a Republican no less—about America’s drone war. The Brennan hearing may have shed little light on Obama’s likely next CIA director. But it might have been a sign that, when it comes to our long counter-terror campaign, a long-acquiescent Congress is finally getting restless.

Mr. Brennan’s opening statement, video of the hearing and more is available from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence website.

One brief excerpt from Mr. Brennan’s opening statement:

I have publicly acknowledged that our fight against al-Qa’ida and associated forces has sometimes involved the use of lethal force outside the “hot battlefield” of Afghanistan.  Accordingly, it is understandable there is great interest in the legal basis as well as the thresholds, criteria, processes, procedures, approvals, and reviews of these actions. I have strongly promoted such public discussion with the Congress and with the American people, as I believe that our system of government and our commitment to transparency demand nothing less.

Also available at the Committee website are Mr. Brennan’s answers to several pre-hearing questions.  On pages 24-30 there are several issues raised and responded to which relate to the government’s use of lethal force against US citizens suspected of threatening the United States.

In the February 21 edition of the New York Review of Books, David Cole sets-out thirteen questions for Mr. Brennan to answer.   Happily there are meaningful overlaps between the Cole questions and those posed by the Committee.

Major media is covering the give and take during the hearing, but a video of the entire hearing is also available at the Committee’s website.

Thoughtful people have critiqued Mr. Brennan’s answers to the Committee as demonstrating how to spend hours sounding responsive and say nothing.   To my ear the answers were careful, nuanced, sometimes Talmudic.   Mr. Brennan is especially keen to remind people that, “I am not a lawyer.”  But his answers can be lawyerly.  When the issues are as complex as those under consideration qualified responses are justified.

October 25, 2012

The Presidential Debates: Substantial agreement on homeland security

The word “homeland” was used once,  the term “homeland security” not at all  in the three presidential debates.  But a close-reading of the transcripts does expose HS-related discussion.

Below are direct excerpts from the debate transcripts.  I have purposefully not identified who said what.  Where the candidates seem to mostly agree, I have only quoted one of them.  Occasionally a candidate asserted a difference that — at least to me — seemed either non-substantive or illusory.  I have not included these assertions.  There are subtle distinctions.  I have chosen excerpts that I hope bring these forward.

To me the distinctions — on these issues —  often run counter to each candidate’s stereotype. President Obama comes off tougher than the other side wants to admit, Governor Romney more reasonable than he is portrayed.  Debate posturing?  Meaningful insight?  My own eccentric tendency to see what is shared more than what divides?

FIRST DEBATE: THE FUNDAMENTALS

The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function…

The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents. First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people…

SECOND DEBATE: IMMIGRATION, DOMESTIC COUNTER-TERRORISM, AND RESILIENCE

Immigration

First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants… I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to — shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people — green cards, rather — to  people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal system works.

Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place… What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident…

If we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done. And what I’ve also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship…

Domestic Counterterrorism (or Whole Community or gun control)

So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement…

Weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally… Part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence… And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control…

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.

Resilience (?)

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded.

THIRD DEBATE: COUNTERTERRORISM, CYBER, AND DRONES

International Counterterrorism

But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism…

A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this: One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development. Number two, better education. Number three, gender equality. Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies…

The other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can’t continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation building here at home. That will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need…

We make decisions today… that will confront challenges we can’t imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So, we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty…

Cybersecurity

We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space…

International Counterterrorism (Again)

Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the — in the relatively near future. They also have the Haqqani Network and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us. And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild the relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met…

Drones

We should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world.

International Counterterrorism (Again)

There’s no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed. But there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States. And we want to shrink those groups and those networks and we can do that.  But we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that Al Qaeda is much weaker than it was…and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago.

I expect partisans of each candidate will complain I have obscured important differences.   In my judgment a narcissism of small differences is epidemic.   I have no interest in abetting the fever.  More interesting to me is — for good or bad — the considerable consensus that is articulated.

October 14, 2012

Malala and the Mullahs

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on October 14, 2012

According to The Guardian, Reuters, and others, a video was released on Friday in which Ayman al-Zawahiri praises the attack on the Benghazi consulate, calls for more protests against US diplomatic facilities, and encourages, “free and distinguished zealots for Islam to continue their opposition to American crusader Zionist aggression against Islam and Muslims”.  Similar statements have been made by AQ-affiliates in North Africa and Yemen.

An Al-Qaeda affiliate in Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’, has claimed credit for the assassination attempt on Malala Yousufzai (above), a 14-year old Pakistani girl who has campaigned to protect the right of girls to go to school.  The TTP justified its attack saying she was encouraging “Western thinking.”  Malala survived but is in critical condition.

It is in the self-interest of AQ, Salafists, and other religious extremists to characterize their struggle as combating an external threat presented by the United States and the West-in-general.   Westerners too often unwittingly play along and reinforce the message.  It is a false claim and a terrible trap.

The struggle that matters most is internal to Islam.

A teenaged classmate’s of Malala, interviewed on Pakistani television, said, “I am worried about Malala. The whole of Swat is worried about her. But every girl in Swat is Malala. We’ll educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”

In a Sunday column for Dawn, a Pakistani daily, Cyril Almeida is not as confident:

EVERYONE it seems has questions this week.

Some are of the stupid variety. What kind of human being would shoot a 14-year-old? Answer: a monstrous one. And there are a lot of monsters here.

How can anyone call themselves a Muslim and do this? Answer: Because they believe they are the true Muslims, not the weak-kneed moral relativists who pretend to be Muslims. A true Muslim does what needs to be done for the glory of Islam.

What kind of society teaches people to kill little girls trying to get an education? Answer: a sick and troubled society. A society that is in denial of the sickness in its midst.

Other questions are asked with a sly innocence. These are the more malign ones.

Why can’t we condemn all violence, by drones and by guns? Haven’t we had enough of killing? Can’t we now find a more humane way of ending the violence? Why don’t we try and understand this mindset instead of trying to destroy it?

These are malign questions because they are asked with a specific purpose.

The purpose is not to end jihad and violence, but to enable it, to perpetuate it, to make Pakistan the custodian of Islam, to create the perfect Islamist state in an imperfect world.

The trick the men with the malign questions have perfected is to sound reasonable.

See, we’re here on TV, talking things out, making our case, condemning all violence, trying to do our bit to make Pakistan peaceful and calm.

We all live here, we’re all the same. Let’s learn to understand why this is happening to us. It’s the Americans. It’s the Jews. It’s the Indians. Get rid of their influence and the wayward souls here will return to the fold.

They’re right about one thing: we all do live here. But we’re not the same, we don’t want the same things, and the men with the innocently asked but malign questions are not on the side of those asking in fear why this is happening to us.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that the difference isn’t as obvious as it should be.

Surely, both sides are well-meaning, people will ask. Surely, we can figure out a way to all live alongside in peace and happiness, people will say.

Yes, we could. But not if the rules are set by the other side.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that Pakistanis are not clear there is a continuum from the religious right to violent Islamism. It is not a difference of kind, only of degree.

The religious right creates an enabling environment for violent Islamism to recruit and prosper. And violent Islamism makes state and society cower and in doing so enhances the space for the religious right. One feeds off the other and together they grow in strength.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that the continuum from Jamaat-i-Islami to Al Qaeda, from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam to the Taliban is barely recognised, let alone understood.

If there is outrage at that statement, at conflating the two, that is a testament to the success and deep-rootedness of the denial, confusion and obfuscation.

The mullah of today is the same as the mullah of yesterday. What’s changed is that the mullah of today has his goal in sight and the means to achieve it. The means is the continuum from the religious right to violent Islamism — one feeding off the other and together edging closer to their goal.

For years now, the problem of Pakistan has been seen as a problem of the state. But perhaps what it really is is a problem of society. A decrepit and broken society whose decrepitude and brokenness the denial, confusion and obfuscation have masked.

There is surely a problem of the state too. A certain poverty of imagination and moral bankruptcy have fashioned a state that can no longer do what is right and necessary.

It’s not always about complicity and sympathy. Often it’s just about fear. In Balochistan, I have wondered why the state doesn’t just take out the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi killers. After all, there can’t be more than a few dozen of them.

I asked and asked until someone finally offered, “They’ll never forget. You take them on and eventually they’ll get you. Maybe while you’re serving, maybe when you’re retired, but they will get you and probably your family too.”

The same question I’ve asked in KP and Fata. Why can’t they wipe this out? This isn’t a foreign army operating; these aren’t alien areas; yes, it was always going to be a slow grind, but why are the results so obviously patchy? Ask and ask and eventually — after theories and philosophies of missing holistic strategies and drivers internal and external — an answer comes. “Because they don’t know. They don’t know if that’s what’s really wanted. And because they don’t know, they’d rather live to see another day, to go back to their families.”

The state is a broken project. The foot soldiers are fearful because the high command is locked in denial and the certainty of old ways.

But perhaps it is society that is broken too. A society that laments its misfortune but can’t see the cause. A society that sees evil in its midst but never its facilitators. A society so manipulated by denial, confusion and obfuscation that the grotesque can masquerade as salvation.

Mercifully, the violent Islamists aren’t very bright. The shoot a little girl, they flog a teenager, they do terrible things that make Pakistanis recoil in horror.

But perhaps they can afford to not be very bright. Because they have the men with the innocently asked but malign questions.

They have the mullah to deny, confuse and obfuscate and lull society into believing the problem is without when it really is within.

It’s not always about us.  We are usually no more than an excuse.  But too often we respond in a way that reinforces the excuse and encourages our adversaries.

September 22, 2012

One day: a range of reactions, not all bad

Filed under: Radicalization,Risk Assessment,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 22, 2012

On the second Friday since four Americans were killed in the US Consulate at Benghazi,  two weeks since a  virulently vapid video produced in the United States caught the attention of millions of Muslims, and on the first Friday since Parisian cartoonists insisted on their right to be provocative there were a range of reactions.  Three caught my attention:

In Pakistan what the government had tried to orchestrate as peaceful protests spun out of control.  According to DAWN:

Friday which was designated by the government to demonstrate love of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and condemn the anti-Islam video produced in the US by some extremists was hijacked by our home-grown extremists who turned it into a day of unbridled violence, killings, arson and robbery.

At least 23 people were killed and over 200 injured and violence in some places continued till late in the night.

The internal security system virtually collapsed, giving way to tens of thousands of violent protesters to rule the streets in several cities, from Peshawar and Islamabad to Lahore and Karachi, burn down shops, cinema houses and police vehicles, and ransack whatever else that came in the way. (MORE)

In Lebanon thousands peacefully protested. According to The Daily Star:

Peaceful demonstrations took place throughout Lebanon Friday in protest of an anti-Islam film and a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, amid strict security measures across the country.

France closed its embassy and consulate Friday, and many French schools did not hold classes in anticipation of protests against the publishing of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad by a French satirical magazine earlier this week.

This came days after an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. outraged many Muslims, who took to the streets in countries across the world.

Several thousand supporters of the Sidon-based Sheikh Ahmad Assir gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square to rally against the insults to the Prophet. (MORE)

In Benghazi tens-of-thousands of ordinary Libyans confronted and, for the time being, expelled a terrorist militia considered complicit in the consulate attack.  According to The Telegraph:

Cheering protesters in Benghazi have stormed a base occupied by a militant Islamist group accused of complicity in the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, saying they were ‘reclaiming it for the nation’.

The direct action against Ansar al-Sharia, a group whose members were seen at the consulate building where the ambassador, Chris Stevens, died last week, followed a “Rally to Save Benghazi” by activists angry that the government and security forces had failed to take on militant groups.

There had been a similar but smaller protest in the capital, Tripoli, earlier. The crowd in Benghazi numbered 30,000, leading to fears of violence as the heavily-armed Ansar al-Sharia, or “Supporters of Sharia”, staged a counter-protest.

However, the Islamists were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and the protesters moved first to evict Ansar from a hospital for which they had been providing security.

Later in the evening, chanting “Libya, Libya” they moved on the main base further from the city centre, taking it over without resistance and setting fire to cars found inside. Police and members of the official army parked outside did nothing to intervene. (MORE)

Some reports suggest at least ten Libyans were killed in clashes with Islamist militias before the evictions succeeded.

Elsewhere rallies and protests were comparatively small and peaceful.  In Cairo where several hundred had threatened violence last Friday, only “dozens” protested peacefully this Friday.   According to Reuters,

Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said it showed how polarized the West and the Muslim world had become.

Gomaa said Mohammad and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.

“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”

As a friend headlines in a still-to-be-published piece: Newsflash: All Revolutions Involve Chaos.   There will be many chaotic days ahead.  But yesterday’s very mixed results are worth our attention.   From this distance we too often hear and see only the worst.  Reality is more complicated.

September 15, 2012

Key questions and some early answers

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 15, 2012

Friday morning just as mid-day prayer was beginning across the heart of the Muslim world Mike Hayden, retired Air Force General, former Director of the National Security Agency and former Director of the CIA, appeared on CBS This Morning.

At the top of the interview he set out a helpful framework for observing what would unfold.  Hayden offered,

“How many people demonstrate in how many cities?”

“How close to American installations are they allowed to get?”

“How violent are they?”

“What do these governments… do to protect Americans and American installations?”

“We are going to learn an awfully lot about how much power, how many legs this movement has.”

I might want to edit Mr. Hayden’s comment to reference “these movements have”, but otherwise let’s look at how his questions were answered.

How many people demonstrate in how many cities?

The  Friday demonstrations were quite wide-spread, ranging from Morocco to Indonesia.   There were related protests in Australia and elsewhere on Saturday morning.  Precise numbers are difficult.  But media reports most often estimated hundreds rather than thousands.  In Cairo Bloomberg News report “more than 1000 people” joined the protests. By Saturday morning Egyptian police out-numbered protesters in Tahrir Square.

How close to American installations are they allowed to get?

In Tunis and Khartoum the embassy perimeters were temporarily penetrated during clashes with security forces.   But even in these two cases host governments demonstrated considerable commitment to containing the demonstrations (more below).

How violent are they?

The “protests” ranged from signs and shouts, to throwing rocks, to petrol bombs, to looting a school, to a sustained attack by the Taliban on Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan.   Other than the Taliban attack and raids on Sinai peacekeepers, there was apparently no repeat of the para-military operations that seems to have characterized the capture of the US Consulate in Benghazi and the death of diplomats there. (I heard rumors of an organized after-sundown attack in Sana, but cannot find it confirmed.)

Below is a map developed by Max Fisher at The Atlantic.  He explains, “I’ve charted the violent protests in red and the protests that did not produce violence in yellow. It’s an imperfect distinction; I’ve counted the stone-throwers in Jerusalem as a violent protest but the flag-burners in Lahore as non-violent. But it gives you a somewhat more nuanced view into who is expressing anger and how they’re doing it…”

 

What did the (host) governments do?

Police and security forces were effectively deployed.  Attacks were condemned.  Arrests were made.   In Egypt — allegedly after a push by the White House — significant steps were successfully taken by both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood to dampen demonstrations.  Despite the domestic political risk from Salafists, the current Islamist government decided to deploy its political and religious legitimacy to fulfill international — and some would say, religious — obligations.  They have also been proactive in framing the issue by having State media highlight condemnations of the offending video by Secretary Clinton and others.

What did we learn?

Well… you tell me.

September 12, 2012

Four are killed in Libya: An epidemic of idiots, an etymology of idiocy

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2012

Sam Bacile is very sure of himself (and smart enough to use a pseudonym).  He is sure that the Prophet Mohammed was a fraud and worse.   Mr. Bacile is sure “Islam is a cancer” that threatens the world.  He has made a (bad) film to share his certainties.

Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor. (Hebrew Bible, Proverbs 3:34)

In recent days the film became available in an Arabic translation.  Some who have now seen the film’s trailer — or heard rumors of it — are sure the film reflects official American disdain for Islam.   In response they have protested, rioted, and murdered.

When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them. (Quran, Al-Anaam 6:42-43)

An idiot in Los Angeles shares his idiosyncratic notions.  Once only a few neighbors would have been annoyed.  Today his ravings or their echoes are heard 7000 miles away.  Most appropriately ignore the ignorance.  But some other idiots take offence and respond with violence.

On a day dedicated to the memory of murdered innocents,  my representatives — the representatives of my nation and my values — are killed.  I am offended.  I am angry.  I hunger for  retaliation (literally “return like for like”, especially evil for evil).  The President promises, “Make no mistake, justice will be done.”

But with each permutation this idiocy threatens to make idiots — violent idiots — of more and more.

For the ancient Greeks an idiot (idiotes) was — among other things — a man who neglected civic obligations to focus on private affairs.   The term could also be applied to those who were patently self-interested in how they engaged civic life.

Aristotle argued, “The citizen in an unqualified sense is defined by no other thing so much as by sharing in decision and office.” (Politics, Book III, 1275a22) An idiot does not know how to share. An idiot does not know how to ask an authentic question. An idiot does not know how to listen sympathetically to an answer with which s/he disagrees. An idiot does not know how to frame, shape, and make a decision that will be shared by others. The idiot is blinded by and bound to the limits of self.

Idiots are sure of themselves in a way that is possible only for those lost inside themselves.

Timothy McVeigh was an idiot.  Anders Breivik is an idiot.  Mohamed Atta was an idiot.  James Holmes is an idiot.   Last night a gang of idiots committed murder in Benghazi.  These are each extreme examples of a global epidemic of self-absorbed, self-justifying, self-referential, self-assertive idiocy.

I am not immune.  I too can be an idiot.  Too often I mistake my own belief as the Truth.   I am strongly inclined to assume my personal experience as universal.  I conflate and confuse private and public realities.   I am unable or unwilling to honestly engage the different reality of another… and for this failure I often blame the other.  Regular readers have seen me make all these mistakes.  In my obsession with etymology I am probably being an idiot here and now.

There is disagreement on effective therapy. But many agree the typical rhetoric of  policymaking, strategizing, and analyzing  feeds the disease with self-assertion (and talking points).  Especially in matters of life and death a purposeful stepping out of  our selves is an essential discipline.  Take a walk, get a coffee, bum a smoke, tell a joke…

I read poetry. Reading poetry requires a patience and attention outside-the-self. I am not advocating poetry instead of policy.  I’m advocating the poetic as a complement to the political, practical, and policy-oriented thinking that dominates our professional lives.   Intentionally step outside the box before you decide.

The situation of our time
Surrounds us like a baffling crime.
There lies the body half-undressed,
We all had reason to detest,
And all are suspects and involved
Until the mystery is solved
And under lock and key the cause
That makes a nonsense of our laws.
O Who is trying to shield Whom?
Who left a hairpin in the room?
Who was the distant figure seen
Behaving oddly on the green?

… Delayed in the democracies
By departmental vanities,
The rival sergeants run about
But more to squabble than to find out,
Yet where the Force has been cut down
To one inspector dressed in brown,
He makes the murderer whom he pleases
And all investigation ceases.
Yet our equipment all the time
Extends the area of the crime
Until the guilt is everywhere,
And more and more we are aware,
However miserable may be
Our parish of immediacy,
How small it is, how far beyond,
Ubiquitous within the bond,
Of one impoverishing sky,
Vast spiritual disorders lie.
Who thinking of the last ten years,
Does not hear howling in his ears…

There are two atlases: the one
The public space where acts are done,
In theory common to us all,
Where we are needed and feel small,
The agora of work and news
Where each one has the right to choose
His trade, his corner, and his way,
And can, again in theory, say
For whose protection he will pay,
And loyalty is help we give
The place where we prefer to live;
The other is the inner space
Of private ownership, the place
That each of us is forced to own
Like his own life from which it’s grown,
The landscape of his will and need
Where he is sovereign indeed,
The state created by his acts
Where he patrols the forest tracts
Planted in childhood, farms the belt
Of doings memorised and felt,
And even if he find it hell
May neither leave it nor rebel.
Two worlds describing their rewards,
That one in tangents, this in chords;
Each lives in one, all in the other,
Here all are kings, there each a brother…

Our news is seldom good: the heart,
As ZOLA said, must always start
The day by swallowing its toad
Of failure and disgust. Our road
Gets worse and we seem altogether
Lost as our theories, like the weather,
Veer round completely every day,
And all that we can always say
Is: true democracy begins
With free confession of our sins.

Excerpts from New Year Letter (January 1, 1940) by W.H. Auden

Auden dedicated this poem to Elizabeth Mayer.   I dedicate these thoughts to two men and a woman who I know did not sleep last night and may not sleep again this night.  To you and your colleagues, best wishes dealing with the idiots.

May 3, 2012

Reading over two terrorists shoulders

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 3, 2012

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released 17 of the documents retrieved from the compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed.  In addition to English translations and the original Arabic versions  –  posted online today at 9:00 AM EST — the CTC has issued a short report contextualizing the documents.

See: Last Year at Abbottabad.

While you’re at the CTC site scan their other publications.  Good stuff.

Many HLSWatch readers will also be interested in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs staff report on the radicalization of Zac Chesser.  Please access: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism.

In July 2010 I posted a piece entitled: Could you or I have talked Zac Chesser out of violent extremism? Arnold Bogis (not yet a fellow poster) and I had a quick exchange on the question.  In the Senate report there is  a tantalizing reference to Chesser almost being talked back from the edge.

Each set of resources offers fascinating insights into terrorist realities.

I recently discovered a cache of letters I had written (rough drafts) and received (in reply) from the early 1980s.  I came away wondering about the vagaries of memory and the often fluid nature of what purports to be real.

It’s a tad intimidating to think how these posts and comments may be read thirty years from now.  If we’re lucky these bytes may prove even more fragile than the thin airmail paper I found in a long forgotten file.   Based on all three examples, humility ages more gracefully than its opposite.

March 22, 2012

Attribution error, actor-observer bias, correspondence bias, and counter-terrorism

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 22, 2012

Why did US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales apparently massacre sixteen Afghan villagers, including nine children?

Why did 17 year-old T.J. Lane by all accounts kill three and wound three other Chandon High School classmates he may have barely known?

Why did someone, probably Mohammed Merah, dismount  from his scooter, chase an eight-year old girl into a  school courtyard, grab her hair, and shoot her point-blank in the face?  One of four he killed that day.

Why do I — perhaps you too — bring rather different predispositions to each of these events?

One Washington state neighbor said of Sergeant Bales,  ”A good guy got put in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  Financial troubles, family troubles, brain-injury and more have been offered as possible explanations.

“We are all shocked and horrified by the actions of T.J.,” his aunt, Heather Lane, said in an email posted online Tuesday by The News-Herald in Willoughby (OH).  ”We wish we could offer some answers concerning this horrific act. We have none.”

According to The Telegraph, Mohammed Merah “told police he was acting in revenge at Israel for killing Palestinian children and at France for having troops in Afghanistan.”

The more we self-identify with the perpetrator the more we are inclined to empathize —  even excuse — his actions.   If we recognize ourselves or something we value in the act or actor we are ready to consider context as a contributing factor.  We may speak softly of justice with mercy.

The more an accused murderer — or other miscreant — looks, sounds, or behaves unlike us the more we perceive purposeful evil emerging from the very otherness — racial, ethnic, religious, political, or whatever — that differentiates us from them.  We may speak gravely of avenging justice.

This differentiated  judgment depends on the proposition that I am good.

We may admit, “I make the occasional mistake.”  I have  unintentionally hurt others. I can be careless, distracted, sometimes self-absorbed.  I have been forced to make some tough choices.  But certainly none of this undoes my essential good-ness.  What I value…  the way I engage reality… my essential worldview is good and true and beautiful.

Someone with different values, understandings, or worldview is therefore bad, false, and ugly proportional to their deviation from me.

Whatever else happened with Bob, T.J. and Mohammed, this self-justifying logic had a role in the sub-strata of murderous motivation.  For an awful hour or more the “other” — man, woman, or child — became little more than a troubling antithesis to be removed to make way for more truth, more goodness, more beauty as defined by Bob, T.J., or Mohammed.

I feel this way more often than I like to admit, sometimes regarding comments to this blog.  When another’s take on an important aspect of reality (important to me) differs fundamentally from my own it is tempting to push the “trash” button conveniently placed beneath each comment.  It is especially tempting because I have a trash button and they (you) don’t.

Pulling the digital kill trigger may seem to pale in comparison to murder. But the ethical distance is not huge.  Either I recognize and honor the dignity of the other — especially the irritating, annoying, even frightening other — or I don’t.

In a highly mobile and digitally networked world we increasingly encounter otherness.  How we choose to engage the other calls for something far beyond the tourist’s easy tolerance.

Based on what little we know of Merah, it is tempting to dismiss him as heartlessly as he dispatched seven victims.  In doing so I reinforce my own differentiation, my own claim to being good.  Assuming Merah’s murders are confirmed, he deserves to be condemned.   Am I willing to hold myself equally accountable?

I am unlikely to commit murder.  But when I do not listen carefully or purposefully ignore or fail to notice — even worse, if I twist the other’s intention in a self-interested way — I propagate a virus of violation.

The proposition I am good is a deception.   Often I am not good.  Usually my understanding and actions are flawed.

I recognize myself in Bob Bales and T.J. Lane and Mohammed Merah.   We share the same narrow wire and are in relationship… whether we like it or not.

March 12, 2012

Holder v. New York Times on Due Process

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 12, 2012

Last week HLSWatch reprinted Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University’s School of Law.  In those remarks the Attorney General noted:

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.   This is simply not accurate.   “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.   The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

The lead editorial in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) New York Times maintains that judicial review is essential to the executive’s purposeful use of lethal force against a citizen.

Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution “are not one and the same.” This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.

The administration should seek a court’s approval before killing an American citizen, except in the sort of “hot pursuit” that justifies the police shooting of an ordinary suspect…

The complete editorial is available at: The Power to Kill.

February 23, 2012

Jeh Johnson on the belligerent citizen

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 23, 2012

The DOD General Counsel spoke at Yale on Wednesday evening.   According to CNN:

The targeted killing of those suspected of engaging in terrorist activities against the United States, including American citizens, is justified and legal, according to the Defense Department’s chief lawyer.

Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson is the first government lawyer to officially weigh in on the legal justification for killing a U.S. citizen since American born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a CIA missile fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle last September.

In comments Wednesday night during a speech at Yale University, Johnson made no mention by name of al-Awlaki or the classified CIA drone program.

“Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” Johnson said.

Benjamin Wittes at the Lawfare blog provides a transcript of Mr. Johnson’s prepared remarks.

 

Seeing Syria

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 23, 2012

Screenshot of inteview with a reporter in Homs who has since been killed

Today both the New York Times and USA Today give above-the-fold attention to Syria:

Ghastly Images Flow From Shattered Syrian City (New York Times)

Activists ensure that the world sees Syria’s bloodbath (USA Today)

Each newspaper is also running related stories.

This week, for the first time, I perceive American media is beginning to give the situation in Syria the attention it deserves.  If and how this might influence American public opinion and policy is yet to be seen.

Beginning last May I have made regular references to Syria in this blog.  At first I was restrained.  This is a homeland security blog, after all. Since September I have been less and less restrained.  For the last few weeks I have been preachy and insistent.  Some have complained.

Last week Arnold Bogis asked the obvious question, “What would you have the U.S. do?” (See last two comments in the linked chain for his question and my answer.) A short version of my answer:  We should at least pay attention.  We dare not fail-to-notice the murder of thousands.

Finally our media has begun to notice.  As a result, I will again adopt a more restrained approach to referencing Syria at HLSWatch.

Arnold did not follow-up on my answer, but he could have — quite fairly — asked again, “But what would you have us do?”

I do not have an adequate response.  Some self-righteous bluster would, probably, make me feel better.   But that would help no one else, certainly not those being bombarded in Homs.

It is helpful that more will now see what is happening.  I hope wiser, perhaps braver men and women will find an effective way to really help.

February 18, 2012

Syria on Saturday

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 18, 2012

Earlier today several thousand residents of Damascus participated in a funeral procession as an act of defiance aimed at the Assad regime. As of 0600 (Eastern) there are several breaking news stories of mourners being killed. According to the Associated Press:

Syrian troops have fired on mourners taking part in a massive funeral procession in the capital… Several people were wounded by gunfire in the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh. Tear gas was also fired on the Saturday procession mourning three people killed by security forces following protests in the area a day earlier. An eyewitness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the procession numbered around 15,000.

Thursday the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn human rights violations by Syrian authorities. The resolution was passed with 137 nations in favor, 12 against, and 17 abstentions.

According to a UN statement:

The Assembly called on Syria to abide by its obligations under international law, and demanded that the Government, in line with the 2 November 2011 Action Plan of the League of Arab States, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February 2012, without delay, stop all violence and protect its people, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.

The language of the resolution closely mirrored that of a text vetoed by China and the Russian Federation in the Security Council two weeks earlier…

By other terms of the text adopted today, the Assembly expressed its full support for the Arab League’s decision to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, including through a “serious political dialogue between the [Syrian Government] and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition”. Reaffirming its strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, it further reaffirmed that all Member States “should refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.

Perhaps in response to the United Nations action, on Friday Syrian forces seemed to step up their action. According to The Daily Star (Lebanon):

Syrian troops intensively shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in the restive central city of Homs Friday and killed at least five people, activists said… Activist groups said tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets after Friday prayers from Daraa in the south to Aleppo and Idlib in the north and Deir el-Zour in the east to areas around the capital Damascus. The Local Coordination Committees said security forces opened fire on some protests.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), “Syria has become a magnet for foreign fighters, with al-Qaeda aligned jihadists streaming across the border from Iraq and rebel soldiers from the Libyan city of Misrata crossing in from Turkey…”

In testimony on Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said, “We believe that Al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.”

During a British-French summit held in Paris on Friday there was considerable nostalgia for the entente cordiale that contributed so much to toppling Qaddafi. But Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy were also clear on preconditions to any military intervention in Syria. According to The Guardian, “Cameron said the situation in Syria was “appalling” and said the government was “butchering and murdering its own people”. He said that Syria was different to Libya in three ways: in Libya the west had a UN resolution, the Arab League was calling for action, and the opposition represented the whole country, he said.”

From The Telegraph’s report on the Paris summit:

They did not rule out joint military action in Syria but said the current circumstances were not right. “The main obstacles are not to do with such and such country’s attitude at the UN,” Mr Sarkozy said. “The fact is we cannot bring about a revolution without the Syrian people. We cannot bring this about if the Syrian opposition does not unite and organise to help us help them.”

There is increasing international discussion of a “protected zone” in Northwest Syria to incubate a more unified opposition. Many are pointing to Idlib province immediately adjacent to Turkey. The Free Syrian Army has had more freedom of movement in Idlib than in most other venues.

But Turkey — essential to the survival of any such enclave — has made it clear it prefers what it calls a “Mediterranean corridor.” According to the Sabah newspaper (Turkey):

Foreign Affairs Minister Davutolu has already relayed his concerns to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ankara is in favor of a humanitarian aid corridor being established via the Mediterranean and suggests that instead of designating a route through Turkey, the British base in Cyprus be used for this purpose.

In this morning’s edition of Hurriyet (Turkey) Illan Tanir writes,

One of the biggest obstacles preventing the international community from giving a decisive outside push to overthrow Bashar al-Assad is its inability to see a viable, unified alternative for the post-Assad period… The U.S. in particular has played a significant role in attempting to unify the Syrian opposition, by conditioning their recognition of the SNC as the legitimate government of Syria on providing more assurances towards minority groups. The U.S. has been engaged in facilitating talks to unify the Syrian opposition since before the SNC’s formation, and it was the main organizer of the talks between the SNC and KNC last month. The U.S. appears to be the only power with interest in pulling this off in a non-sectarian manner, as especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in one way or another, have interests in supporting Sunni Islamist groups.

On February 24 Tunisia will host a meeting of the “Friends of Syria”. Much will depend on how effective these friends are in convincing the various Syrian enemies of Assad to be friends with each other.

February 13, 2012

Syria on Monday

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 13, 2012

Earlier today the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made a report to the General Assembly regarding the situation in Syria.  Below is a small bit from the start of the report.  Please access the link for her full comments.

The violent Government crackdown on peaceful protests demanding freedom, dignity and social justice in Syria has continued unabated for eleven months now. While no exact figures can be provided due to our lack of access to the country, credible reports indicate that Syrian security forces killed well above 5,400 people last year, including civilians as well as military personnel who refused to shoot civilians.

Due to extreme difficulties in substantiating the events on the ground, it has become almost impossible for my Office to update the death toll in the past two months. However, we are certain that the number of dead and injured continues to rise every day. Tens of thousands, including children, have been arrested, with more than 18,000 reportedly still arbitrarily held in detention. Thousands more are reported missing. 25,000 people are estimated to have sought refuge in neighbouring and other countries. And more than 70,000 are estimated to have been internally displaced.

While the protests have remained largely peaceful, reports of armed attacks by anti-government fighters against Syrian forces have increased, also with consequences on civilians. According to the Government, some 2000 military and security personnel have been killed.

I am particularly appalled by the ongoing onslaught on Homs. Since 3 February, in further escalation of its assault, the Government has used tanks, mortars, rockets and artillery to pummel the city of Homs. According to credible accounts, the Syrian army has shelled densely populated neighborhoods of Homs in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas. More than 300 people have reportedly been killed in the city since the start of this assault ten days ago. The majority of them were victims of the shelling.

The full report is available from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

–+–

Even as Syrian artillery continued to fire into residential areas of Homs and other cities, there was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for the Arab League’s proposal to deploy UN peacekeepers.   Initial reactions by the United States, United Kingdom and Russia all noted that “peacekeepers” require peace as a precondition.

February 12, 2012

Syria on Sunday

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 12, 2012

Emerging from consultations in Cairo on Sunday, the Arab League is calling for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission to end the 11-month conflict in Syria.

In a resolution seen by the BBC but not yet officially released, the Arab League scrapped its observer team, suspended last month, and said it was ending all diplomatic co-operation with Syria.

Damascus “categorically rejected” the resolution, a Syrian envoy said.

The League’s moves come a week after a UN Security Council resolution on Syria was vetoed by Russia and China.

The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Cairo says the resolution contains the toughest language on Syria by the Arab League so far and makes it much more likely that the issue will return to the Security Council.

Continue reading the BBC story

UPDATE (1435 Eastern):

An English text of the resolution is available at the Arab League website, but the site is unstable and pages are not fully loading.  I expect this is due to significant demand.  Worth checking later this evening.

MONDAY UPDATE:

The English text has disappeared.  The original Arabic text is available at: http://arableagueonline.org/wps/wcm/connect/dbd065804a2433d984769c526698d42c/7446.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Following is the best English language summary  I have found of the Arab League resolution:

At the conclusion of its meeting in Cairo, the Council issued Resolution No. 7446 on the “follow-up developments of the situation in Syria,” which  rejected and condemned the continued killings and violence in Syria and the continued retention of the military option, which is contrary to the obligations set forth in the resolutions of the Council of the League of Arab States and the Arab Plan of Action. (Palin note: The reference to the “military option”  is ambiguous and I don’t have the Arabic to confidently clarify.)

The Council of the League of Arab States calls on the United Nations Security Council for a resolution to form an Arab peace-keeping forces jointly with the UN to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire. It was also decided to stop all forms of cooperation with the diplomatic representatives of the Syrian regime in each member state and in international bodies and conferences.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed to end the monitoring mission of the Arab League, due to problems under the protocol signed between the Syrian government and the Secretariat of the League, and drew the call to the Secretary-General to name a special envoy to pursue the political process proposed in the framework of the Arab initiative.

The Council welcomed the offer of the Tunisian Republic to host the Conference of Friends of Syria to be held on 24.02.2012, and decided to open channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and provide all forms of political and material support to it. The Council also call on the Syrian opposition to unite and engage in serious dialogue to advance its coherence and effectiveness prior to the Tunis conference.

The resolution emphasized the validity of the economic boycott with the Syrian regime, except those directly affecting the Syrian citizens in accordance with the decisions of the Council of the League on this issue.

February 11, 2012

Syria on Saturday

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 11, 2012

Robert Ford, the US Ambassador to Syria has posted to the embassy’s Facebook page satellite photos of Syrian armor and artillery.  The Ambassador claims, “the regime is using it to pound civilian apartment buildings and homes from a distance.”  (The US embassy in Syria has evacuated Damascus.)

According to The Guardian: ”The indiscriminate shelling is killing mostly civilians,” said Fawaz Tello, an Egyptian-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council. ”Assad cannot push his troops into street fighting … so he is content with shelling Homs to bits until civilian losses pressure the Free Syrian Army to withdraw and regime troops can enter these neighbourhoods without taking any serious losses,” Tello added.

Al Jazeera has launched a live blog featuring several videos claiming to show events unfolding inside Syria.

According to The Daily Star (Lebanon), “Shock waves from the Syrian uprising reached new levels in Lebanon Friday as armed clashes rocked the northern city of Tripoli and rattled the country. Gunfire and rocket propelled-grenades were exchanged between the pre-dominantly Alawite Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and mainly Sunni district Bab al-Tabbaneh.”

Monday the United Nations General Assembly will receive a report on the situation in Syria.  This weekend Saudi Arabia is pushing a resolution for General Assembly consideration.  According to the BBC, the draft “ ”fully supports” the Arab League peace plan published last month, which called on Mr Assad to hand over power to his vice-president, and make way for the rapid formation of a national unity government including the opposition. While calling for an end to the violence by all sides, it lays blame primarily on the Syrian authorities, which are strongly condemned for “continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

In a speech at George Washington University (Washington DC) on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Minister insisted, “Will we wait and see after [last week’s] Russian and Chinese veto [on a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria]? No, never. As Turkey, we will not simply watch a massacre taking place in our region even if everybody remains silent and indifferent.”

Nihat Ali Özcan explains in the Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey),  “The way to decrease civilian casualties and establish lasting peace is through accelerating regime change. But this does not seem possible without military support “from outside.” Even though there are some desertions from the military at the moment, instigating a disciplined and effective struggle and achieving success in a short time does not seem possible. In that case, who would provide help and how? The U.S. does not want to engage in this. The U.K. and France are not keen. The Arab League seems a little unsure and rocky. It is true that Turkey is in everybody’s mind. So here is the question: How and under what conditions could Turkey intervene in Syria?

“It seems the Turkish government’s position regarding intervention in Syria “has come to a specific maturity” thanks to the hard work of the U.S., U.K. and some Arab countries. Erdoan, Gül, Davutolu and Arnç keep signaling this. Thoughts like “Muslims [Sunni, of course] are being killed” or “the al-Assad regime is cooperating with the PKK” are useful arguments for preparing the Turkish public for an intervention. Despite all those efforts, the Turkish public still does not seem entirely ready for the intervention idea.”

The Syrian situation is principally a matter of US foreign policy.  But the perceived role of the United States vis-a-vis Syria could — almost certainly will — morph into a homeland security issue.

February 8, 2012

Real-time coverage of Syrian situation

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 8, 2012

Map is reposted from BBC

Emboldened by Saturday’s non-decision by the United Nation’s Security Council some perceive the Syrian government is ready to do “whatever it takes” to shut-down further protests, especially in the hot-house of Homs.

The question now being asked in many world capitals is whether intervention is prudent or even possible if the Syrian government undertakes an all-out massacre.

Just in case you want to know more, both The Telegraph and The Guardian are blogging real time coverage.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9064047/Syria-uprising-live.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/feb/08/syria-assad-siege-homs-live

THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE

The Telegraph’s Alex Spillius has spoken to a US State Department official who warns the international community may be forced to “militarise” the crisis. (The story is near the top of Thursday’s “Most Viewed.”)

He writes:

The official from the State Department told The Daily Telegraph that while the White House wants to exhaust all its diplomatic options, the debate in Washington has shifted away from diplomacy and towards more robust action since Russia and China blocked a United Nations resolution condemning Syria.

While I don’t know what Mr. Spillius was told in the hallway, here’s what the State Department spokesman said at Wednesday’s regular State Department briefing:

QUESTION: Are you able to tell us whether or not the Pentagon is part of this conversation on the U.S. side?

MS. NULAND: We often have asked the Pentagon to use its assets in certain circumstances, both consensual circumstances and more difficult circumstances, but I really don’t want to speculate on exactly how this might be moved. But as we’ve said repeatedly, we are not looking for military options, if that’s what you’re getting at, in Syria.

For further background on why military intervention is unlikely see a post by Scott Clement in The Cable:

Don’t Count on a Syria Intervention: In the end, Americans just aren’t interested in getting involved in promoting democracy overseas.”

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