I'm Feeling Paranoid about Cyber-Terrorism at the Moment, and Keith Alexander Didn't Help One Bit

The only refuge?

by James A. Bacon

My sentiments regarding the Middle East periodically vacillate between “they’re crazy, leave ’em alone and let ’em all kill each other” to “the world’s too small, we can’t run away from the problem.” Last night I swung hard toward the latter perspective.

Keith B. Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency, and Robert S. Mueller III, former FBI director, spoke at the Richmond Forum last night on the topic of cyber security. And let’s just say, I’m not feeling very secure.

A major topic of the dialogue was the threat posed by ISIS. Right now, ISIS is on a roll. After suffering a setbacks in Kobani and Tikrit, the self-styled Caliphate has rebounded by capturing Ramadi and Palymyra. Tactical successes feed their propaganda and recruiting, many of those recruits are coming from Europe and North America, and some of those recruits have backgrounds in information technology.

At present, ISIS’ IT prowess has been limited mainly to sophisticated use of the Internet to recruit more jihadis. But a glimmer of their future intentions, said Alexander, can be seen in a recent cyber-attack that succeeded in shutting down a French television station. Admittedly, the station had left itself stupendously open to cyber-attack, so it didn’t require a great deal of savvy to break into its IT system. But it would be a mistake to think that ISIS capabilities won’t grow over time and that they won’t aim for more ambitious targets.

Think about it from ISIS’ point of view. If you wanted to do serious damage to America or Europe, you could invest your resources in bombing plots or shooting sprees — pinpricks — or you could do some serious, lasting damage by shutting down an electric grid. These people are not going to stop. They are at war with us not only because we have a (much diminished) presence in the Middle East but because they see Western Civilization as an enemy. It seems beyond ISIS’s capabilities to acquire a nuclear weapon, but all it takes is a few really smart guys with computers and an Internet connection to wage cyber war. And as long as they have a sanctuary like the Caliphate, they’re practically impossible to take out.

Americans are war-weary, and that certainly includes me, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of IQ points to imagine what would happen if ISIS expanded its zone of control, acquired some more oil fields, and could afford to hire some of the cyber-criminal geniuses operating out of Russia or Eastern Europe. I tell you, it’s almost enough to make me buy a cabin in the woods and stock up on canned food and ammo.

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  1. It’s as serious a problem as you describe, and one that Americans and their leaders remain utterly unprepared financially, politically, militarily and relentlessly to confront. The fanatic energy of ISIS is something Americans have never faced before; Europeans have in their religious wars, but before terrorism and its newly destructive tools.

    On one hand we have reasonably intelligent understanding of the complexities of exacerbating Sunni alienation in Iraq by aiding Shiite militants and Iran against ISIS, but still unenergetic policies of Obama there and in Syria and Libya. While the House-passed NSA bill stands as a rare example of a Congressional cohesion on that issue, the Senate may screw up. And we see no intelligent capacity for policy distinction and constructive policies amongst our Republican candidates — dogmatism by Sen. Paul, simplistic solutions of “toughness” by Perry, et. al, And Americans — my liberal friends included — have a clear preference for putting their heads in the sand.

    Not pretty. My expectation: we’ll have some Internet or other rude shock that will change the political dynamics here, albeit more likely with emotion instead of reason.

  2. larryg Avatar

    Reminds me of yesteryear when the talk was about the yellow and red hordes overrunning us if we did not stop them – there.

    but why would ISIS – any more a threat than Russia or China or North Korea or even Indonesia which has over 200 million of those nasty Muslims… ?

    If you want to conjure up a paranoid mindset of much of the world being against us – I don’t know what to say – really.

    I do not discount the threats – they are real and we’d be foolish not to take them seriously but the idea that they’re coming to get us and we have to go get them first – is lunacy and we have graphic evidence of the futility of chasing bad guys through failed nations… we kill thousands of our own young people and maim many thousands more, and make strident enemies of those who families are tortured and killed “collaterally” by our occupying forces – to include paid “contractors” and we wonder why they want to come get us?

    you want real trouble? Put some boots on the ground in Iran, or North Korea or Pakistan or the Ukraine and see what happens…

    we’ve got people in this country who cannot abide by the idea that we do NOT rule the world and we CANNOT make other countries do what we want and we act totally like a victim when we torture and kill them and they then gets pissed off at us.

    We kill untold more of our own people with guns and cars than terrorists do.

    we need some common sense and proportionality in our thinking which is sadly missing these days as every simple-minded sound-bite that comes our way turns out into a herd of idiots.

  3. larryg Avatar

    has it ever occurred to anyone that ISIS could go after Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Russia, China, etc?

    why would they target mostly only us?

    yes, we have terrorists in Europe or even Japan.. and other countries but are we confusing terrorism of all variants with ISIS terrorism?

    we have thousands of missile in the ground and under the sea capable of literally destroying the world 10 times over and we spend about 1/2 our total income tax revenues for “defense” more than the next 10 countries in the world including all our major allies and major adversaries and this is where we find ourselves at this point in time.

    we cannot afford health care for a decent education for our own people because of the amount of money we have to spend to “protect” ourselves and even then – it’s not enough – we still have to conjure up “the end of the USA as we know it”.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Where does the Constitution directly discuss the federal government providing heath care or running public schools and higher ed?

      The federal government’s job is providing for the national defense, according to specific language in the Constitution.

      I do agree, however, that the role of the U.S. is not to direct the rest of the world.

  4. Larry speaks for many, of course, in viewing ISIS as just more of what we’ve seen before, with the notion that we learn from our last war, stay out, focus on our obvious problems here at home and so forth. We are, as a body politic, very reluctant, perhaps unable to process and respond to something new, which ISIS is. No need to panic, but neither is there reason for complacency that we’ve seen all this before — yellow hoards, communism and the Red Scare, etc.

    Again, we’re prone to put ISIS into some old context, and as we do, we mislead ourselves when what we really require is mobilized intelligence and firm resolve to understand and confront something new and very dangerous. (Signing off to dock lamb tails.)

  5. larryg Avatar

    ISIS is new – no question about it – but they are no more or less capable of going after us cyber-wise and other means that others.

    if we want to be paranoid – let’s do it right -and suspect any/all of our enemies from North Korea to Iran of wreaking similar and equivalent havoc.

    what exactly should we be doing that we’re not already doing? Putting boots on the ground in the MIddle East?

    okay -then let’s be clear that’s what we are saying and not beat around the bush about it.

    otherwise – what should we be doing that we’re not already doing for cyber-security for China and North Korea or terrorists like Timothy McVeigh as well as Boston Bombers..

    again – I do not discount it – but I’m asking for some common sense…if we can’t show how ISIS is any more potent or capable than many others.

    ISIS has not a single air craft carrier or submarine so they’d get here how ? through social media recruitment? And they alone have the ability to use that means so we should focus our efforts on eradicating them?

    see – the more you talk about this -this wackier it gets… and that’s why the folks who “worry” about it – usually stop at the point where they say we are underestimating the threat

    all due respect – Malcolm – I must say I’m a bit surprised … but convince me…

  6. Larry, you suffer from a failure of imagination — just like your ideological soul mates accused George W. Bush of doing for failing to anticipate and prevent 9/11.

    As for your usual misinformation… No one is suggesting that ISIS isn’t gunning for Europe. To the contrary, I specifically said, “If you wanted to do serious damage to America or Europe…” As an extension of the Western world, that includes Australia and New Zealand.

    Then this statement: “But why would ISIS [be] any more a threat than Russia or China or North Korea or even Indonesia which has over 200 million of those nasty Muslims… ”

    Alexander and Mueller discussed state actors like Russia, China and Iran, and they did not discount the danger from them, especially in the areas of cyber-theft and cyber-spying. But the first two are relatively advanced economies that are vulnerable to cyber counter-attack, so they have to be careful and measured about how far they push us. ISIS is different because they see themselves at war with the U.S. and the rest of Christendom (as well as Shia apostates, Hindus and pretty much the rest of the world). ISIS (a) has an apocalyptic mindset and doesn’t care what kind of retribution we bring down on them, and (b) has such a primitive infrastructure that there’s really not much we could do even if we wanted to. Cyber-attacks are the perfect form of asymmetric warfare.

    Then you said, “You want real trouble? Put some boots on the ground in Iran, or North Korea or Pakistan or the Ukraine and see what happens…”

    What does that have to do with anything?

    I sense that you are so opposed to ever putting “boots on the ground” in the Middle East — a sentiment I understand, trust me, I would love for us to wash our hands of the place and leave forever — that you are willfully discounting the ISIS threat simply because you want your little fantasy to be true.

    Malcolm is like you in that he appears to have no desire to for the U.S. to get re-engaged in the Middle East. But at least he is realistic enough to recognize the threat that ISIS poses. He’s not engaging in magical thinking — close my eyes and the threat will go away. If I read him correctly, he acknowledges the nature of the two bad choices — getting more deeply involved or risking cyber-attacks — and choosing the latter.

    1. larryg Avatar

      I never blamed Bush for 911 – until a double standard was used for this POTUS.

      and I never said ISIS wasn’t gunning for others – I ask how they were different from other threats. why are they more of a threat?

      you say ISIS has nothing to lose so they are a bigger threat? how does that make any sense what-so-ever if places like North Korea, or Iran or even proxy actors from Russia and China can act?

      do that make any sense what-so-ever? Do you have to so carefully construct your “threat” so it discounts obvious realities that also exist?

      re” what does boots on the ground have to do with anything?

      are you deaf and blind Jim ? have you hear the neocons like Graham and McCain, Cheney, etc?

      you tell me Jim – what EXACTLY do you MEAN by “re-engage” if it is not boots-on-the-ground.

      be honest.. don’t weasel.. say what you mean.. I do expect an honest answer.

  7. larryg Avatar

    the entire conversation is corrupt and here’s why.

    over and over and over -we hear the litany of the threat and how we are underestimating it and how we’re not doing “anything”.

    but then – where is the “here’s what we should be doing” part from the complainers?

    not just on this issue – but especially so on this issue.

    I think when the discussion focuses on criticism and lays it out in chapter and verse – but then says nothing about what should be done – is wrong.

    and that’s putting it mildly.

    It’s fine to be a critics to be in opposition – as long as you have an alternative idea.

    it’s NOT fine to use your objections as a de-facto political cudgel – then say it’s up to the other side to come up with solutions.

    I have never heard such loony logic as this so much as of late.

    be principled. stay your opposition – do it – but then come back with something besides blaming the other side for both the problem AND not having a solution. I find that whole tactic to be politically and morally cowardly.

    It’s EASY to say what you don’t like – whether it’s immigration, health care, marriage and ISIS…but it’s not okay to make the complaint then blame – then walk away.

  8. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I wonder in the people living through previous 30-year wars, or even 100 years wars, understood they were in them at the time? This particular war can be timed as starting with the Iranian hostage crisis so we’ve sprinted past 30 years.

  9. larryg Avatar

    Good Observation Steve – but I thought it started before then –

    ” The 1953 Iranian coup d’état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup, was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, masterminded by the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project) and backed by the United Kingdom (under the name “Operation Boot”).

    Mossadegh had sought to audit the documents of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation (now BP) and to limit the company’s control over Iranian petroleum reserves. Upon the refusal of the AIOC to co-operate with the Iranian government, the parliament (Majlis) voted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry and to expel foreign corporate representatives from the country.

    Following the coup in 1953, a military government under General Fazlollah Zahedi was formed which allowed Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran (Persian for an Iranian king),[8] to effectively rule the country as an absolute monarch. He relied heavily on United States support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.”

  10. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    No argument that the foundations were laid decades in advance (as with all wars), and we reap what we sow. But historians will look at the storming of American Embassy in Tehran as the starting point. Of course the victors write the histories so the Farsi version might differ.

    1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

      If the embassy storming was a response – e.g. we were reaping what we sow – then wouldn’t the starting point be where the seeds were sown?

      “Of course the victors write the histories so the Farsi version might differ.”

      Wait, I thought the winners were going to write in Hebrew. Or was it Russian. Maybe it was Spanish. I think it was VietNamese for a while. Then it was going to be Mandarin. For brief period in the 80s it was Japanese. Of course, Spanish is also a popular choice.

      History is just littered with victors who aren’t…

  11. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    Call me shortsighted or unimaginative or whatever, but ISIS presents no real threat to the United States in any existential way. Certainly not enough to justify gearing up and going into a region where only two US administrations have acquitted themselves with anything resembling competency: Jimmy Carter with the Camp David Accords and firmly securing relations with Egypt and George H.W. Bush for having a military action with a definitive mission with a definitive ending carried out to completion with a minimum amount of disruption to and blowback from the rest of the region. I’ll give Nixon partial credit for helping open things up with Egypt re: the Suez Canal.

    Until I see evidence that there is a politician in line for the White House that can move into the region and make things better more than worse I say we stay home. If cyberterrorism is a threat from a bunch of people holding land who are barely able to keep the power and water running then our national problems are much, much larger than ISIS and we should invest heavily in doing what it takes to keep our digital network secure – after all, defense wins Super Bowls and security operations. If they want to waste time and money attacking our computer network, let’s just build a nice big wall for them to throw eggs at until they tucker themselves out and leave the ground fighting to people in the region who have a physical reason to be afraid. Call me back when they have the capacity to keep even a small server farm operating for more than 24 hours.

    So come back from the woods. Your ammo isn’t going to be any good against keeping ISIS out of your banking data, and God knows you’ll be more of a threat to yourself out there.

  12. Darrell Avatar

    Imagination? What’s that got to do with it? Right after 9-11 America was willing to go the ends of the earth to wipe out the terrorist horde. Don’t you remember the ultimatum Bush gave Pakistan?

    As we were gearing up, many of us cautioned that this had better not turn into another Vietnam. But of course, this whole deal turned into a humanitarian mission, with billions spent on building schoolhouses guarded by unarmed German/French and whoever NATO forces while the usual countries did the heavy lifting. So here we are a decade later, calling for more American boots on the ground to clean up a mess that shouldn’t have been in the first place.

    The way I see it, this whole UN NATO cr@p is for the birds when it seems there are only 2 or 3 countries willing to put things on the line against what anyone can see is pure evil. Well, maybe it’s time for someone else to answer this call. Let the EU bureaucrats put their a$$ on the line for a change.

  13. larryg Avatar

    I sometimes wonder if we really know the history – would it affect our opinions about the ISIS threat.

    ” In August 2013, 60 years after, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) admitted that it was in charge of both the planning and the execution of the coup, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, as well as pro-coup propaganda. The CIA is quoted acknowledging the coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”

    CIA finally admits it masterminded Iran’s 1953 coup

    Now the thing is – if you are an Arab and you KNOW this history – how do you feel about the US continuing to be involved in the affairs of your country?

    Now our guys who either ignore or don’t know that history say we “causing” the expanding ISIS threat by not being over there to battle ISIS – to keep them from coming here.

    Think about that in terms of the Arabs perspective.

    We can’t seem to help ourselves – the more we mess up over there – the more we say we have to be involved in their affairs because they want to hurt us, behead us, mess up our computer networks, etc.

    Really? I would say we must be one of the more obtuse people on the face of the planet…. to be that dense… but we have continue to believe that we are innocent victims of “evil”.

    Now if folks think this is a “leftist” perspective on my part – then so be it but somewhere in my mind I think there is a crap load of hypocrisy and denial of reality… involved.

  14. I remember listening to Don Rumsfeld back in the 1980s when he was liaison to Iraq when they were partners with us against Iran. Then he was Secretary of defense when we invaded Iraq for some reason. Also, I remember back then Russia was occupying Afghanistan and we were funding the Taliban to help them get Russia out. Rumsfeld was involved too.
    Then more recently I remember President Obama drawing a red line that Syria must not cross when they were planning to use chemical gas to go after those who were fighting against them. President Obama seemed to have won that one but later we learn that those fighting Syria were ISIS among others. Now we are teaming with Iran, Iraq and Syria against ISIS.
    During all this we cheered when the president of Egypt whom we had long supported was over thrown by the Muslim Brotherhood whom we thought were freedom fighters. And we cheered when Libya fell to the Muslim Brotherhood.
    And I could go on and on but things are getting clearer to me. What the heck are we doing trying to control that part of the World. Alexander the Great tried as did the Romans and the French and English and look where we are today.

    1. I totally agree with you. The Middle East is out of control and beyond our ability to “fix.” So, what’s the alternative? Bug out and let what happens happen? All scenarios are terrifying.

  15. I more fondly remember Ike these days. Interstate roads, community colleges and in his last address to congress he said he feared the “Military Industrial complex” more than he did the USSR.Boy was he smart…but he did fight two wars and got us out of the Korean War fast and so much more. I would sure vote for Ike today.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Keep in mind that the Interstate system grew out of DDE’s frustrations moving military equipment and supplies by existing roads. Little did he know that we’d later build roads and transit to enrich nearby landowners – who make big campaign contributions to elected officials of both sides.

    2. Lionel Hutz Avatar
      Lionel Hutz

      This, of course, ignores Ike’s (and the Dulles brothers) approach of “Rollback” as opposed to Containment as the preferred and stated method of confronting the USSR, the effects of which were what got the US entangled in Vietnam.

  16. larryg Avatar

    re: ” What the heck are we doing trying to control that part of the World.?”

    it’s an excellent question that sounds a little innocuous…

    but in reality – we’re sending young people to do the deed and the ones not killed return missing limbs , eyes and suffering serious mental and psychological damage.. that is a horrible tragedy and an expensive one also.

    yes, we go through that “thank you for your service” and similar acknowledgement of their sacrifices but then we want to go right back again –

    I have to admit – we went from war with the two most despotic and terrorizing countries on the face of the earth and in less than a generation they have become model nations and close allies ( Germany and Japan) and we did manage to save 1/2 of Korea… and somehow – we have managed to reconcile with Vietnam… so perhaps there is some hope with the Middle East but it just feels wrong – the way we’re going about it and the results are … nothing short of horrific…. we use words like Caliphate and “metastasize” rather than repair and recover and reformation (none of these words are quite right – perhaps others can find more appropriate words to describe how Japan and Germany went from ISIS-like to Allies.

  17. What would the American response be to Canada bombing a variety of targets inside the United States which Canada considered hotbeds of anti-Canadian plotting? What would the American response be to Mexico sending raiding parties into the United States to capture or kill US citizens they considered anti-Mexican insurgents?

    Obama is doing both of these things. Obama has launched drone strikes against the following countries (percentage of of population Muslim in parentheses) : Afghanistan (99.8), Iraq (98.9), Somalia (98.6), Pakistan (96.4), Yemen (99.0), Libya (96.6) and Syria (92.8).

    Since inauguration Obama’s drone strickes have killed nearly 2,500 people including hundreds of innocent civilians and even a couple of American hostages.


    Meanwhile, Obama has put boots on the ground long enough to kill a variety of people. Just a week ago Obama sent US Army Delta Force commandos into Syria to capture or kill Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ equivalent of a finance minister. He was killed in the attack.

    Now … what do you think is going to happen? What would happen if the same things were being done to the United States? There would be a violent response.

    Obama’s attacks aren’t episodic. In the six years after he was inaugurated Obama ordered 456 confirmed strikes against seven different countries. That’s a strike ever 5 days for 6 years.

    You wonder why Jim Bacon doesn’t worry about China, Russia or North Korea attacking us? Maybe it’s because we’re not actively at war with any of those countries. Obama is actively at war with much of the Muslim world. Why would a reprisal surprise anybody?

    A cyber-attack would be inconvenient but it would be rather quickly resolved in my opinion. Even if you could take some large part of the electrical grid down it would only stay down as long as it took to close the vulnerability and restore the un-corrupted software. It’s a very rare virus (like Struxnet) that actually breaks physical devices. Arguably, you could hack into airplane “fly by wire” systems and do some real harm but I assume those systems are pretty well locked down from attack outside the airplane.

    If you want something to worry about – worry that ISIS will make good on their threat to acquire nukes from Pakistan, North Korea or some other miscreant state. If they do acquire those weapons, where would they be used? Oh I don’t know – which country is bombing them every five days?

  18. Some final thoughts, with which few of you will agree (except maybe Jim).
    — We’ve not sought to “control” the Middle East but to keep the peace that will on one hand protect Israel and on the other to allow us to get its oil.
    — But clearly we’ve made monumental mistakes, one being to aid (probably not, according to a Foreign Affairs article, to foment) the replacement of Iran’s Mossadegh in 19523 (on Ike’s watch). Another, much worse was invading Iraq, which stands as the most egregious and costly error since Vietnam.
    – But having “broken” Iraq — and messed up its governance under our inept “Vice Roy” Bremmer, we left it way too soon. That was on Obama’s watch, and came as he promised. But the government was broken and Sunnis were badly shunned in and out of the military and it was a recipe for the trouble we’re now in.
    — ISIS is an entirely new danger because it is not a nation state and is freed from that interest and vulnerability in its relentless fanaticism.
    It’s my view — I who cheered Ike at a whistle stop in 1952 and had his picture on my wall — that America, with all its failures, still stands as the only possible force for democracy and individual freedom abroad, because the UN can’t, the Europeans have opted out, China and Russia have zero interest in that pursuit, and extremist Islam wants to squash it wherever it can. That doesn’t mean we send troops wherever there’s trouble, but it does mean we intervene in places like Rwanda (where we didn’t) to prevent genocide, and elsewhere when smaller special forces can make a difference.

    But we’re increasingly (albeit understandably) inwardly focused when we might be more broadly concerned about the world around us, and our indispensable role in it, while taking care of our problems here at home as well. Which we’re not doing!

    Having worked and lived in developing countries as a USAID contractor over more than 15 years and seen the value of America’s aid as well as military contributions that’s my perspective.

    1. We have been doing this since WW2. We still have 30000 troops in S. Korea after 60 years and we have given them special trading partnership. So we are protecting them and paying them to be on our side. And over in the Bosnia area we intervened on one side and then all the people who we fought with were treated as special and got easy admission into the USA and two blew up the Boston Marathon last year. And we jumped into Somalia and lost but took 50,000 plus Somalians in and relocated them in Minneapolis where the largest Muslim community in the USA resides. And over 30 have left in recent times to go and fight for ISIS. So we are doing it to ourselves. Trying to run every country…George Washington etc. pledged not to get involved in overseas wars and that worked for a 100 years.

  19. larryg Avatar

    I just don’t think we are focused inward. We are exceptionally wary of how we’d get more involved knowing full well that any kind of a physical presence will probably not help but inflame worse.

    yes we broke it – but can we really fix it with more of the same things that broke it?

    and as far as drones go – the argument is not that drones don’t kill innocents – they do – but do they kill more innocents than a bomb attack or a firefight between Americans and insurgents hold up in civilian housing, etc?

    what kind of logic compares drones negatively against even worse ham-fisted warfare?

    finally – the fact that ISIS – IS not a nation state – seriously calls into question exactly what a physical presence would be expected to accomplish…are we expecting them to just chase after – without regard to borders?

    I have no problem with humanitarian interventions – by the way -especially if we are invited by at least one party – like we did do in Bosnia but also well recognize the unsatisfying resolution – which is about the best you’re gonna get… unless you are going to occupy and nation-build.

    so I don’t think we are inward – I think we remain unconvinced of the favored interventionist strategy that others favor and I think that reluctance is well advised.. this is not the time to make things worse.

  20. I much appreciate this dialogue.

    I might just note that we led NATO intervention in the defunct and embattled Yugoslavia, belatedly, after the massacre of Bosnians that the UN (Dutch) troops failed to prevent, with bombing from 50,000 feet! There followed humanitarian aid, some of which continues.

  21. larryg Avatar

    we do have to ask ourselves – what did we do or not do in Bosnia that did not result in beheadings and threats to terrorize our cities and bring down our internet.

    When we are invited in and/or have the support of other countries and we are protecting people and providing humanitarian aid – we have a lot more justification and support from home and abroad and most of all the people we are interacting with.

  22. Larry, I have to say that Bosniak’s practice of Islam, like that of Albanians, is and was entirely different from that of the Sunni and Shiites in Iraq and the Middle East generally. These were and are largely “moderate” practitioners of Islam, if indeed they practice at all. There is absolutely no connection between the vicious behavior of ISIS, or the Taliban before them, or the fanatics in Nigeria, and Western or US influence. I’m more than surprised at the inference that we’re somehow to blame for their brutality!

  23. larryg Avatar

    Malcom – there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world including about 240 million in Indonesia – the 4th largest country in the world.

    I do not attribute the brutality to Islam but rather to a vicious civil war – similar to what we saw in Ireland for some number of years… and I can name a few others.

    I don’t see ISIS as much different than North Korea if we got ourselves in a war with them.

    I don’t dismiss ISIS nor the Taliban (who we used to support) – they are the worst of mankind… but unless the other folks who live in those countries want us there – we just create more recruits for them because our Armed Forces are a ham-fisted blunt force that kills innocents who get in the way.

    If the non-ISIS still want us there in spite of that – then fine – but we cannot change a country that does not want us there – and at that point – we need strong NATO support or we are on our own – and when we do things that way – we mess up.

    Surely you remember the days of McCarthyism… and how – anyhow who did not buy the “they are going to invade us and kill us” narrative were considered closet communists.

    right? you do remember don’t you?

  24. On April 2, 1917 a reluctant President Woodrow Wilson went to congress to ask for a declaration of war on Germany and its allies. This was the beginning of America’s 100 year war which was something the founding fathers had hoped to avoid for the powers in Europe were well known for their commitment to warfare and most famous was the 100 year war at a time just before Columbus discovered the new world across the Atlantic.
    America followed the direction of Washington, Jefferson and Adams and avoided jumping into European wars until Wilson did in 1917. That was a war that should never have occurred for King George V (Great Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany) and Tsar Nicholas II (Russia) were first cousins, and grandchildren of Queen Victoria. And they dictated World War I. And they drew us in for the first time in our history.
    That war was won by the English but the turmoil it fostered led to decades of vicious war for half a century. The after fact of that war created the Nazis, Communists and Fascists and the aftermath continues to this day.
    So why not follow the founders’ direction and not get involved in overseas wars?

  25. larryg Avatar

    I personally do not think we should never be involved in overseas wars. There are times and places where we must – but my list is a short list. WWI and WWII and toss up for Korea and No for Vietnam..yes for Bosnia and no for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    but anytime someone says “they’re coming to get us and we have to kill them now” … I’m suspicious heard it too many times before.

  26. Believe it or not WW One was over oil. The economy had begun the transition from coal to oil and Churchill was Sec of Navy in England. He converted their warships from coal to oil but learned that the English had little access to cheap oil.
    One the other hand Germany and Austria had a deal with Turkey which controlled what is the Middle East oil now. And there was a railway to get the oil to central Europe pretty easily.
    And at the end of WW One Britain and France gained control over the Middle East oil.
    Also, as any Australian will tell you they were a colony and England conscripted over 60,000 Aussies to help in the war. And they did that to India and Canada. And finally Churchill figured a way to get the wayward colony USA to fight for them in the WW I.
    So it goes today we fight for oil even as the OPEC takes prices down to keep companies from investing in an energy self-sufficiency America.
    Well it never stops. Do you want to know who started the war before WWI? And how come England was involved in all those European wars?
    Who knows?

  27. larryg Avatar

    oh geeze.. you mean it was not about Germany invading other countries in Europe who had no oil?

    Oh come on … geeze…

    Have you been viewing Three Days of the Condor again? 😉

  28. How about some history?
    “The conversion of the British Navy under Churchill to oil from coal meant a high risk strategy as England had abundant coal but no then-known oil. It secured a major concession from the Shah of Persia in the early 1900’s. The Baghdad rail link was increasingly seen in London as a threat to precisely this oil security. The British response to the growing German disruption of the European balance of power after the 1890’s was to carefully craft a series of public and secret alliances with France and with Russia—former rivals—to encircle Germany. As well, she deployed a series of less public intrigues to disrupt the Balkans and encourage a revolt against the Ottoman Sultan via the Young Turks that severely weakened the prospects for the German Drang nach Osten. The dynamic of the rise of German assertiveness, including in addition to the Baghdad rail, the decision in 1900 to build a modern navy over two decades that could rival England’s, set the stage for the outbreak of a war in August 1914 whose real significance was a colossal and tragic struggle for who would succeed the ebbing power of the British Empire. The resolution of that epic struggle was to take a second world war and another quarter century before the victor was undeniably established. The role of oil in the events leading to war in 1914 is too little appreciated. When the historical process behind the war is examined from this light a quite different picture emerges. The British Empire in the decades following 1873 and the American Century hegemony in the decades following approximately 1973 have more in common than is generally appreciated.”

  29. larryg Avatar

    why would Britain switch to a fuel they did not have – in the first place?

    have you got a link that supports this line of thinking ?

    Who started the war in Europe and how long after that did Britain get into it? WWI and WWII?

    okay – so you say this is history – give me a link that discusses it.


  30. Everybody was shifting from coal fired boilers to oil by that time. America had oil popping out of the ground in Texas and other places and Eastern Europe had fairly easy access to what is now Iraqi and SA via railroads through Turkey. But Western Europe did not have easy access to oil.
    See this link.. https://iakal.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/the-first-world-war-for-oil-1914-1918-similarities-with-the-2014-oil-wars-100-years-later/

    1. larryg Avatar

      my mistake – a CREDIBLE link from an authoritative source ..sorry.

      and say again – what the timeline was for England getting into the war…

  31. ElSidd Avatar

    Earlier larryg ponders
    “ we use words like Caliphate and “metastasize” rather than repair and recover and reformation (none of these words are quite right – perhaps others can find more appropriate words to describe how Japan and Germany went from ISIS-like to Allies.”

    How about “Occupation and Reconstruction”?
    The Allies occupied West Germany for 10 years post WWII, Japan for 7 years (Okinawa 27).

    The current chaos in the Middle East wascreated 100 years ago.

    The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 – History Learning Site
    http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk › … › The Middle East 1917 to 1973

    1. larryg Avatar

      El Sidd … do you know what it means when you go to a website and there is no “about us” and it purports to be about history?

      I’m sure you did not realize that some folks make up history, right?

      here’s an authoritative timeline:


      August 1 Germany declares war on Russia.[5]

      August 2 Germany invades Luxembourg.

      August 3 Germany declares war on France. Belgium denies permission for German forces to pass through to the French border.[7]

      August 4 Germany invades Belgium[8] to outflank the French army.
      Britain protests the violation of Belgian neutrality, guaranteed by a treaty;
      German Chancellor replies that the treaty is just a chiffon de papier (a scrap of paper).

      The United Kingdom declares war on Germany.[9]

      The United States declares neutrality.

      at any rate –

      The Allies occupied West Germany for 10 years post WWII, Japan for 7 years (Okinawa 27).

      and I acknowledge that and I note the word “Allies”.

      how many countries in the Middle East would we have to invade and occupy to “reconstruct”?

      I don’t think we’d be any more successful at that that we were with Vietnam… we’d be dealing with an insurgency embedded in the civilian society… and the more we engaged them -the more innocents would be killed – “collateral” damage they call it but it’s not something (asymmetric warfare) that traditional army can deal with other than to offer up our young to have their arms and legs and heads blown off or PTSD or worse.

      Somehow there is an attitude that using our young for cannon fodder is okay because that’s better than being beheaded…

      any idea how many we now have in the VA that were sliced and diced in the Middle East?

  32. ElSidd Avatar

    How about this:
    Sykes-Picot Agreement | 1916 | Encyclopedia Britannica

    Wikipedia an “authoritative” source? Not allowed as a resource in most student reports.

    The event that starts WWI is the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip.

  33. larryg Avatar

    think you got you link title screwed up with your link but if you wanted to edify the Sykes–Picot Agreement – it’s here also:


    but aren’t we getting confused between who started WWI and why and other history?

    For instance, there’s not a word about Germany in that write-up.

    Now – if you wanted to point out the imperialistic, colonizing behaviors of England and Europe with regard to much of the rest of the world from India to Africa to the Americas – you’d be certainly dead on correct and I’d agree that they had a serious hand in the downstream dysfunction of the Middle East – with ample help from us in later years.

    but how does all of this justify our current actions?

  34. ElSidd Avatar

    …but aren’t we getting confused between who started WWI and why and other history?…

    There is a big difference between examining root causes of historical events and the factual event that triggers conflict/war.

    …For instance, there’s not a word about Germany in that write-up…

    Germany was not a party to the Sykes-Picot Agreement

    …but how does all of this justify our current actions?…

    Who is justifying current actions? Sometimes it is helpful to learn how a situation came to be. The timeline for the current disaster in the Middle East is 100 years old-and can be traced thru many secret treaties, agreements, arrangements, outrights conflicts and wars.

  35. larryg Avatar

    ” jwgilley | May 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Reply
    Believe it or not WW One was over oil. The economy had begun the transition from coal to oil and Churchill was Sec of Navy in England. He converted their warships from coal to oil but learned that the English had little access to cheap oil.”

    that was after this:

    larryg | May 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    I personally do not think we should never be involved in overseas wars. There are times and places where we must – but my list is a short list. WWI and WWII and toss up for Korea and No for Vietnam..yes for Bosnia and no for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    of which are part of this :

    ” My sentiments regarding the Middle East periodically vacillate between “they’re crazy, leave ‘em alone and let ‘em all kill each other” to “the world’s too small, we can’t run away from the problem.” Last night I swung hard toward the latter perspective.”

    from which views were exchanged on why we should or should not get more involved physically in the Middle East.. today.

    so what is your view?

    do you agree with Jim Bacon?

    do you think we have to go after ISIS before they come and get us?

  36. I once worked in Robina, Australia and most of the older people were still angry at the Brits for treating them like a colony and forcing them to produce a certain number of soldiers to fight what they called “Churchill’s war.” And the Brits got over 600,000 soldiers from India in addition to those from Canada and South Africa. And then they called us a lost and misguided colony.
    Churchill always considered the US as a misguided colony.
    So while different historians see different things in the Wars it was and is about oil….and will be for some time as we are now laying off more than a 1,000 Petro Engineers as SA lowers and lowers the price of oil and puts more and more pressure on our companies who are not supported by the government and must make a profit.

  37. larryg Avatar

    okay – so sorta reading between the lines here… you contend that:

    1. – we’re in the middle east because of oil

    2.- we have to be there or else we’ll be harmed for lack of access to oil?

    not putting words in your mouth.. just tweak/adjust to suit your exact views.

    I’m not of this view at this point – but could be convinced if credible data provided .

    so … we have to go into the middle east and go after ISIS – because of oil?


    I wonder if Jim Bacon feels that way also.

  38. Part for oil and maybe part for what Prez Ike called “The Military Industrial Complex” which according to his last address to the nation he “feared more than the Soviet Union.”
    And maybe because since George H. W. Bush we have not had a President who has gone to war or for that matter ever held a full time, real life job.
    H. W., Reagan, Carter, Ford, Johnson, Kennedy, Ike, Truman and Nixon to name a few all had real life experiences including being in the military and in some cases fighting for America.

  39. larryg Avatar

    very confusing….

  40. Sorry for the delayed answer to your question, Larry. Yes, I do indeed remember McCarthy — watching the hearings that essentially destroyed him, dismayed by Ike’s ignoring McCarthy’s criticism of Marshall, and so forth. Not our finest hour, except for the final result and his demise!

  41. Yes and Ike jumped on McCarthy in the news conference indicating he would accept the Rep nomination. (He could have had the Demo nomination too.)
    Ike lectured a reporter but in reality was talking to McCarthy in real time and especially about accusing General Marshall of being a communist. Ike gave him a real tongue lashing. I reread it about two years ago…no presidential candidate has ever done anything like that. And Stevenson said after the election “Strange things happen on the way to the White House!”

  42. larryg Avatar

    and jw and Malcomb don’t see some correlation between being “soft” on communism and “soft” on terrorism?

    i.e. – ” if we’re serious about ISIS – we have to go root them out”?

    yes? no? thoughts?

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