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Archive for November, 2015

Verifying Data In Syria

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Washington Examiner 11/18/2015


Lynch contradicts her FBI director on screening of Syrian refugees

Attorney General Loretta Lynch insisted that the Obama administration has the ability to run effective security screenings on Syrian refugees, despite testimony from the FBI last month. In October, FBI Director James Comey told a House committee that checking refugees against a database won’t accomplish much. “We can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing showing up because we have no record of them,” Comey said.

The administration, as usual can’t get their story straight. FBI director and attorney general at odds. Truth is a rare commodity in Obamaland.

States Close Doors To Syrian Refugees

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

In the aftermath of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, governors across the United States are attempting to shut their doors on Syrian refugees looking to find a safe haven in the country.

As of Monday evening, more than two dozen governors announced opposition to policies that would permit Syrian refugees to enter their states amid concerns they could have ties to terrorists.

Thus far, states whose governors oppose more Syrian refugees include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin, who will take office Dec. 8, also said he opposes resettlement efforts.

The movement, which was overwhelmingly spearheaded by Republican governors, came after French prosecutors discovered a Syrian passport on one of the suspected Islamic State suicide bombers in Paris. That finding raised concerns that terrorists are embedding with refugees to enter Europe and other nations.

The series of attacks in Paris on Friday night left more than 130 dead and hundreds others injured. French President François Hollande called the attacks an “act of war” and launched airstrikes against ISIS.

President Barack Obama sharply pushed back against the growing number of states attempting to undermine his policies surrounding Syrian refugees, saying Monday at a press conference in Antalya, Turkey, that it would be “shameful” and “not American” to close America’s doors on Syrian refugees.

“When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” he said. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

In September, Obama vowed to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States next year.

As of Nov. 3, there were more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Those issuing executive orders to block refugees pushed back on the president’s narrative while announcing their decision.

“Michigan is a welcoming state, and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

In a letter addressed to the president, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity. As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”

While their responses send a clear message to the president, John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said the practical implications blocking refugees are limited.

“Governors can certainly order state agencies to stop doing anything to assist federal authorities with their resettlement efforts, but they cannot stop federal authorities from continuing those efforts, nor can they stop immigrants who are lawfully admitted to this country from moving to and settling in those states,” Malcolm said. “They can, however, ask state law enforcement authorities to keep an eye on the refugees who settle in their states, so long as those authorities do so within the bounds of the Constitution.”

“It’s abhorrent for the federal government not to consult with and consider the interests of the states,” added Jim Carafano, a foreign policy expert at The Heritage Foundation. “Particularly the views of governors, as it impacts the welfare and public safety of their citizens.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott addressed those concerns in a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. In that letter, dated Nov. 16, Scott wrote:

It is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state support. Therefore, we are asking the United States Congress to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees (the total possible number of refugees pending for state relocation support at this time) to Florida, or anywhere in the United States, without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may post to our national security.

In response, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation on Monday afternoon that would suspend issuance of visas to refugees from countries with a high risk of terrorism until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security meets certain standards. Those standards include fingerprinting and screening all refugees, implement a tracking system “to catch attempted overstays,” and enhancing security measures that are already in place.

“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door. The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks,” Paul said in a press release.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also called to suspend the refugee program.

“The Syrian refugee program should be suspended until the American people are satisfied that they know exactly who the president is admitting into the country via this program,” Burr said. “There is simply too much at stake, and the security of the American people should be our top priority.”

This article has been updated to reflect the growing number of governors who do not wish to permit Syrian refugees into their state.

The Real War

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

The Real War
Newt Gingrich

Originally published in the Washington Times

Friday night’s attack in Paris was another reminder that we are in a real war.

It is vital that we understand what the real war is and who the real enemy is.

The real war is not geographic and it is not defined by ISIS. The real war is worldwide and the real enemy is Islamic supremacy in all its forms. The center of gravity is not Syria. The center of gravity is the internet.

We are confronted by a virus that is closer to epidemiology than to traditional state-to-state warfare. We will have to eradicate this virulent religious intolerance and violence here at home and across the planet. This is an extraordinarily difficult challenge.

Our elites have been hiding from the real war and the real challenge because it frightens them. They keep trying to redefine the problem so it can be solved without rethinking what we are doing.

Month after month the problem grows harder, the danger grows bigger, and more radicals are recruited. The elites wring their hands and hide. Each major attack leads to anguish, statements of sympathy and expressions of condemnation, but prompts no change in strategy and no effective action. These elites could be called the ostrich generation. They bury their heads in the sand and hide from reality.

Now let’s put last weekend’s tragedy in the context of the real war. Paris was, of course, only a skirmish in the larger war.

In the last two weeks, a Russian airliner was bombed in Egypt a terrorist stabbed four people in California after planning to behead someone and praising Allah and carrying the ISIS flag, scores were killed by car bombs in Lebanon, people continued to be killed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan….and eight terrorists carried out very visible, ruthless attacks in Paris.

Paris was so vivid, so symbolic, and so well televised that it became the center of attention.

Suddenly French President Hollande announced that these coordinated attacks by eight terrorists were an “act of war.” He promised to fight with “all the necessary means, and all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies.” Hollande promised a “pitiless” effort.

There are three key questions about President Hollande’s sudden militancy.

First, why wasn’t the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish grocery store back in January an act of war?

Second, does this declaration of war by the French President mean that victory is their goal and they have thought about how painful and expensive the Russian experience in Chechnya, the Israeli experience in the Palestinian territories, the Pakistani experience in the northwest frontier and the Egyptian experience of trying to police the Sinai have been?

Third, are they as prepared to wage war at home against the internal enemy as they are to bomb Syria? This week’s announcement by the Interior Minister that some mosques that teach sharia and jihadism would be closed was a good start. There are, however, an estimated 47 mosques dedicated to sharia and jihad in the Paris region alone. Closing all of them would be a historic struggle.

First we have to define the real war and the real enemy.

Then we have to define victory and establish a strategy to achieve victory.

Then we have to ensure we have the systems and structures to implement that strategy.

If we don’t do all three, we can’t expect to start winning the real war.

The End of Europe

Friday, November 20th, 2015


Unless Europe is willing to affirm, defend, and promote its roots, it has no future beyond a dystopia of non-judgmentalism, managed decline, and increasing religiously inspired violence.

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In his Mémoires d’Espoir, the leader of Free France during World War II and the founder of the Fifth Republic, General Charles de Gaulle, wrote at length about a subject on many people’s minds today—Europe. Though often portrayed as passionately French to the point of incorrigibility, de Gaulle was, in his own way, quintessentially European.

For de Gaulle, however, Europe wasn’t primarily about supranational institutions like the European Commission or the European Central Bank, let alone what some European politicians vaguely call “democratic values.” To de Gaulle’s mind, Europe was essentially a spiritual and cultural heritage, one worthy of emulation by others. Europe’s nations, de Gaulle wrote, had “the same Christian origins and the same way of life, linked to one another since time immemorial by countless ties of thought, art, science, politics and trade.”

On this basis, de Gaulle considered it “natural” that these nations “should come together to form a whole, with its own character and organization in relation to the rest of the world.” However, de Gaulle also believed that without clear acknowledgment and a deep appreciation of these common civilizational foundations, any pan-European integration would run aground.

Today’s European crisis reflects the enduring relevance of de Gaulle’s insight. This is true not only regarding the quasi-religious faith that some Europeans place in the type of supranational bureaucracies that drew de Gaulle’s ire. It also applies to the inadequacies of the vision that informs their trust in such institutions. Until Europe’s leaders recognize this problem, it is difficult to see how the continent can avoid further decline, whether as a player on the global stage or as societies that offer something distinctly enriching to the rest of the world.

Economics, Migration, and Values

In our time, three phenomena tend to come to mind when considering Europe’s contemporary problems. One is the economic difficulties troubling not only small European nations, such as Greece and Portugal, but also large countries, such as Italy and France. The second is the influx of migrants likely to continue sweeping across Europe’s borders over the next few years. As the Paris atrocities have demonstrated, no amount of political correctness can disguise the fact that the migration issue cannot be separated from the problem of Islamist terrorism. And that raises a third matter, which is on everyone’s mind but which few European leaders seem willing to address in any comprehensive way: is the Islamic religion, taken on its own terms, compatible with the values and institutions of Western culture?

Not far beneath the surface of these issues are important cultural questions. In his book Mass Flourishing, Nobel prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps has illustrated how certain value commitments and the ways in which they become institutionalized have helped shape national and supranational European structures that prioritize, for instance, economic security through the state over liberty, creativity, and risk-taking. This is one reason why many European politicians, business leaders, and trade unions regularly invoke words like “solidarity” when opposing economically liberalizing reforms. The notion that solidarity can be realized by means other than extensive regulation apparently escapes them.

Similarly, the fact that most of the migrants presently surging into Europe come from religious-cultural contexts quite different from Europe’s own historical roots has inevitably led many to wonder whether some of these migrants can—or are willing to—integrate themselves into European societies that presumably want to remain distinctly Western in their values and institutions. Since the 1960s, many migrants to nations such as Sweden, Belgium, and France have not assimilated. In some cases, they live almost extra-territorial existences, as anyone who has visited les banlieues of cities like Brussels, Lille, or Stockholm knows. To enter the Brussels district of Molenbeek, from where at least one of the Paris terrorists came, is to pass into a different world: one of drugs, unemployment, and, above all, radical jihadist sentiments.

One reason why de Gaulle let French Algeria go in the early 1960s was that he was unconvinced that France could successfully integrate several million North African Muslims and remain a cohesive Western society. The demonstrable failures of various multicultural policies in many Western European countries since that time underscore that he had a point.

What Roots, Whose Roots?

An even deeper question raised by these issues concerns what precisely Europe’s leaders are asking migrants to integrate themselves into and why migrants should bother to do so.

In recent years, somewhat unlikely figures such as Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and France’s Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve have described their nations as historically Christian countries. Looking across the political spectrum, however, most European politicians—especially in Western Europe—avoid such language. Instead, one typically hears expressions such as “the democratic constitutional state,” “tolerance,” “human rights,” “common European home,” and “pluralism.” Much of this terminology is associated with what the secular German philosopher Jürgen Habermas calls the project of “political liberalism,” which he describes as “a species of “Kantian republicanism.”

It’s not that democracy, tolerance, or pluralism are problematic in themselves. What really matters is the normative basis upon which these ideas and institutions are based and the cultural formations that surround and give them meaning. There is every difference between, for instance, (1) a society that roots human rights in natural law reasoning and Judeo-Christian humanism, and (2) a community that explicitly rejects such foundations and grounds human rights in democratic consensus and the levelling egalitarianism of which Alexis de Tocqueville was so critical. In recent writings, Habermas himself has stated that, by themselves, post-Enlightenment philosophies have experienced difficulty in providing the necessary ballast for many of the concepts and structures that such philosophies claim to support.

So how might this play out with regard to Europe’s economic and migration challenges? An idea of solidarity informed by Jewish and Christian faith clearly indicates that concern for neighbor can’t be outsourced to welfare states. It also forces one to recognize that people needing assistance have both bodies and souls; they are not purely material beings. This concept of solidarity doesn’t deny a role to the government. But it does require personal commitment that goes beyond just giving money—or voting for other people to give their money—to support more, probably ineffective, welfare programs.

Imagine a Europe unafraid of insisting that it has a specific culture rooted in Judeo-Christianity and the various Enlightenments into which newcomers are expected to assimilate. Migrants entering such a continent would be likely to develop specific expectations of what it means to be European. Contrast this with a Europe that affirms the self-evidently false claim that all cultures and religions are basically the same, or that refers endlessly to diversity and tolerance but roots such things in the contemporary cult of non-judgmentalism. The first Europe doesn’t require newcomers to become believing Jews, Christians, or fledging philosophes. It does, however, have a basis for explaining why those unwilling to accept this culture should look elsewhere for a permanent home. By contrast, the second Europe can have no principled objection to significantly diluting or even abandoning Western culture in the name of tolerance.

Goodbye to Europe

When Lieutenant de Gaulle went to war with millions of other young men in August 1914, Europe ruled, literally, most of the world. Over the succeeding four years, it tore itself apart, only to repeat the exercise twenty years later. In the process of doing so, Europe’s nations greatly damaged their civilizational credentials and gradually lost their hegemonic status—not just politically, but also culturally and economically.

Today’s Europe is a much smaller place. As the European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, observed in an October speech, the EU’s share of global GDP is declining. Europe’s aging populations, he added, have fallen from an estimated 20 percent of the world population in 1914 to a mere 7 percent today. Internally, many European nations’ public finances remain in a perilous state. Likewise, most Western European countries’ unemployment levels show little sign of falling. Just one week later, as if to drive home the point, Juncker stated, “The European Union is not in a good state.” This, he noted, is “above all visible with regard to the migration problem.”

European nations are not unfamiliar with large-scale internal migrations or even with considerable numbers of migrants arriving from outside their borders. Indeed, former European colonies such as America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand illustrate how immigration can benefit host nations. But failure or even unwillingness to maintain control of sovereign borders is another thing altogether. Europe is now paying—and will continue to pay—a high price for this. Why, however, protect sovereign borders when you’re unwilling to say that Europe means anything at all beyond non-judgmentalism, an autonomy devoid of serious ends, and easy access to bountiful albeit increasingly unaffordable welfare systems—all presided over by a political class that promises everything to everyone as long as they remain in charge? Put another way, which of these things is actually worth protecting, let alone promoting?

Charles de Gaulle and plenty of others had another vision of Europe—a Europe that knew its roots and believed that it had concrete content to offer the rest of the world. Much of that content is reflective of Europe’s genuine plurality, which EU bureaucrats routinely gloss over. As de Gaulle stated in a 1962 press conference:

I do not believe that Europe can have any living reality if it does not include France and her Frenchmen, Germany and its Germans, Italy and its Italians, and so forth. Dante, Goethe, Chateaubriand belong to all Europe to the very extent that they were respectively and eminently Italian, German, and French. They would not have served Europe very well if they had been stateless, or if they had thought and written in some type of integrated Esperanto or Volapük.

It is hard to imagine contemporary European politicians speaking like this today. That illustrates the extent to which many European leaders—political, economic, and religious—and a good number of Europe’s citizens have invested their hopes in the bloodless administrative structures that promote top-down technocratic solutions to problems that simply cannot be solved through such means. The problem is that without an animating, morally uplifting vision—be it a humanism informed by and rooted in Judeo-Christianity, de Gaulle’s Europe des Patries, a confidence that one belongs to a civilization with a unique character worth preserving, or some combination of these things—Europe’s moral and cultural hollowing-out will continue amidst an Indian summer of managed decline and self-loathing. This makes it vulnerable to agitation from within, whether it’s from hard nationalists of right and left, or those who wish that the siege of Vienna and the battle of Tours had turned out differently.

At the end of his life, de Gaulle was pessimistic about Europe’s long-term fate. He didn’t think it would succumb to the then very real Soviet threat. Communism, he believed, contradicted key aspects of human nature; hence, it couldn’t last. But the death of European self-belief, already well advanced among many of Western Europe’s intellectuals, according to de Gaulle, was a far more serious long-term threat to Europe.

Unfortunately, I fear, le général will be proven right.

Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute.

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Vast Changes on the National and World Scenes

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Vast Changes on the National and World Scenes

So many important events have occurred in the past 72-96 hours. The vicious, terrorist attack on the city of Paris by ISIS looms large for the future of the Middle East and the position of the United States in the world, plus an anticipated similar attack on the United States by ISIS. The following are some of the responses to the events. There are many others, and the next week or two might be equally filled with tumultuous occurrences.

William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved