Saturday, November 28, 2015

Putin or Erdogan? Who do I wish would win - ex KGB or the Islamist?


I am in a bind. I cannot make up my mind who I wish would win in this confrontation.  Ex KGB vs Islamist, what a choice!

In reality, Putin’s explicit support for Iran’s nuclear program and sale of A-300 defense systems to Iran should make this a no-brainer.  For Israel and the world Putin’s actions are much more dangerous than Erdogan’s. Any yet, when you look at the stupidity of the Obama administration and all other co signatories of the Iran Deal, they all share the blame. Then there is Ukraine. But here again Putin’s policies are very much the consequence of the vacuum Obama left. Then years ago Putin had no intention of conquering Crimea.

Erdogan is an Islamist who despises Israel and the West. Already at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2009 Erdogan showed what he stood for when he accused Israel of killings in Gaza and stormed out of the meeting after Peres quoted to Erdogan from the Hamas Charter “The day of judgement will not come about until the Moslems kill the Jews, when the Jews will hide behind stones” (42:07 into the video). Only two days ago Erdogan praised the Palestinian stabbing wave against Israel.  Turkey continues to support ISIS openly.
In his support for Iran Putin is making the same mistake the USSR did with the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. Erdogan richly deserves to be taught a lesson, but would it not be nicer if it were to come from a leader in the West with guts and principle? Alas, there is no such leader. Even Israel came up with the absurd apology to Turkey two years ago.

Or should I look at this as the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 when the West had no desire in seeing any side win?  But Russia is much stronger and the inroads Putin has made in Syria will create real problems very soon.  On the other hand, in contrast to Erdogan, Putin has had a balanced policy towards Israel and the Jews, except in the question of Iran going nuclear.

What a mess! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dry Bones: Russian Insult?

State Department: Iran Deal Is Not ‘Legally Binding’ and Iran Didn’t Sign It

National Review


President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal that his team negotiated with the regime, and the deal is not “legally binding,” his administration acknowledged in a letter to Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) obtained by National Review.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter.

Frifield wrote the letter in response to a letter Pompeo sent Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he observed that the deal the president had submitted to Congress was unsigned and wondered if the administration had given lawmakers the final agreement. Frifield’s response emphasizes that Congress did receive the final version of the deal. But by characterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, it is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.

“The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments,” Frifield wrote to Pompeo.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discouraged his nation’s parliament from voting on the nuclear deal in order to avoid placing legal burdens on the regime. “If the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is sent to [and passed by] parliament, it will create an obligation for the government. It will mean the president, who has not signed it so far, will have to sign it,” Rouhani said in August. “Why should we place an unnecessary legal restriction on the Iranian people?”

Pompeo cited that comment in his letter to Kerry, but Frifield did not explicitly address it in her reply. “This is not a mere formality,” Pompeo wrote in his September 19 letter. “Those signatures represent the commitment of the signatory and the country on whose behalf he or she is signing. A signature also serves to make clear precisely who the parties to the agreement are and the authority under which that nation entered into the agreement. In short, just as with any legal instrument, signing matters.”

The full State Department letter is below:

Letter from State Department Regarding JCPOA

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Off topic: The twin paradox

In Modern Times historian Paul Johnson writes: ‘The modern world began on 29 May 1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse, taken on the island of Principe off West Africa and at Sobral in Brazil, confirmed the truth of a new theory of the universe “

The new theory of the universe was Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity which was submitted to The Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in November of 1915, one hundred years ago.

I have never learned tensors  so I will not write about General Relativity which due to my lack of math knowledge I never fully grasped. But here is a quote from Feynmans Lectures on Physics on a phenomenon from the Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity which is easier.   

16–2  The twin paradox

To continue our discussion of the Lorentz transformation and relativistic effects, we consider a famous so-called “paradox” of Peter and Paul, who are supposed to be twins, born at the same time. When they are old enough to drive a space ship, Paul flies away at very high speed. Because Peter, who is left on the ground, sees Paul going so fast, all of Paul’s clocks appear to go slower, his heart beats go slower, his thoughts go slower, everything goes slower, from Peter’s point of view. Of course, Paul notices nothing unusual, but if he travels around and about for a while and then comes back, he will be younger than Peter, the man on the ground! That is actually right; it is one of the consequences of the theory of relativity which has been clearly demonstrated. Just as the mu-mesons last longer when they are moving, so also will Paul last longer when he is moving. This is called a “paradox” only by the people who believe that the principle of relativity means that all motion is relative; they say, “Heh, heh, heh, from the point of view of Paul, can’t we say that Peter was moving and should therefore appear to age more slowly? By symmetry, the only possible result is that both should be the same age when they meet.” But in order for them to come back together and make the comparison, Paul must either stop at the end of the trip and make a comparison of clocks or, more simply, he has to come back, and the one who comes back must be the man who was moving, and he knows this, because he had to turn around. When he turned around, all kinds of unusual things happened in his space ship—the rockets went off, things jammed up against one wall, and so on—while Peter felt nothing.

So the way to state the rule is to say that the man who has felt the accelerations, who has seen things fall against the walls, and so on, is the one who would be the younger; that is the difference between them in an “absolute” sense, and it is certainly correct. When we discussed the fact that moving mu-mesons live longer, we used as an example their straight-line motion in the atmosphere. But we can also make mu-mesons in a laboratory and cause them to go in a curve with a magnet, and even under this accelerated motion, they last exactly as much longer as they do when they are moving in a straight line. Although no one has arranged an experiment explicitly so that we can get rid of the paradox, one could compare a mu-meson which is left standing with one that had gone around a complete circle, and it would surely be found that the one that went around the circle lasted longer. Although we have not actually carried out an experiment using a complete circle, it is really not necessary, of course, because everything fits together all right. This may not satisfy those who insist that every single fact be demonstrated directly, but we confidently predict the result of the experiment in which Paul goes in a complete circle.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Western kindness is killing democracy

The West can no longer afford to play the compassionate democrat when it faces an enemy which respects no ethical rulebook whatsoever.

Belgian soldiers and a police officer control the documents of a woman 
in a shopping street in central Brussels


The horrific attacks ignited a potent demonstration of solidarity throughout the Western world. Global landmarks have been bathed in illuminated Tricolor flags, social media has been awash with tributes and moments of silence have been observed in major capitals. This determined sense of unity in the face of terrorism is entirely admirable, yet useless if it remains the sum total of the West’s response. The time has come to truly comprehend that Western democracy faces nothing less than a bitter and bloody fight to shape the future of the world. The battle against jihadist Islamism cannot be fought with demonstrations of goodwill.

Kindness and compromise is simply no match for suicide bombers. The West can no longer afford to play the compassionate democrat when it faces an enemy which respects no ethical rulebook whatsoever.

The latest Paris atrocities have conclusively demonstrated the utter folly of any attempt to appease, accommodate or “understand” the demands of Islamism. The murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in January was foolishly portrayed by some as a response to religious defamation.

In fact, the Western requirement for logical cause and effect has long insisted that terrorist attacks are a cry for justice at perceived wrongdoing.

But the murderous assault on Paris’ restaurants, bars, sports and leisure venues show that the jihadists’ only goal is death.

There is no discussion, no conversation to be had, because Islamists quite simply have no grievance. Their target is Western existence.

Consequently, there is no magic solution, no gesture which could be made that could ever turn off the poisonous tap of terrorism. While the West places supreme value on difference, diversity is the enemy of Islamism. The fanatics have handed the West a stark choice which can no longer be ignored. You are either with us or you must die.

To think that the carnage of Paris demands a mere reaffirmation of Western values is a fairytale- like delusion. Freedom and liberty have no automatic entitlement to defeat evil. In fact, it is these very Western principles which are viewed by the jihadists as the “Achilles heel” of its enemy. It is no surprise that one of the Paris terrorists seemingly infiltrated Europe posing as a Syrian refugee, taking advantage of Western beneficence.

To the Islamists, Europe’s eager embrace of the downtrodden is a weakness waiting to be ruthlessly exploited with devastating results.

And it is just one example of how Islamists keenly pounce on Western compassion to further the downfall of the civilized world. The terrorist group Hamas routinely uses human shields to protect its weaponry in the Gaza Strip, safe in the knowledge that Israeli forces will modify their operations out of concern for civilian life. Meanwhile, NGOs which should be a conduit for aid and relief are instead cynically enlisted as part of a complex network to finance terrorist groups including al-Qaida. At the same time, international bodies such as the United Nations, established as a democratic forum to solve global issues, are routinely hijacked as a platform for despotic regimes to garner international respectability.

Western freedoms are indeed precious, but left entirely without restriction they are inevitably abused by a determined enemy. Freedoms and rights can no longer be treated as sacred cows if the West and indeed democracy is to survive.

Democracies have continually evolved to best serve the needs of their time. Even in today’s world, the lack of any single uniform democratic system is further evidence that democracy is molded to suit specific circumstances. Consequently, limiting selected rights would not mean the loss of democratic meaning and purpose.

Far from it.

The brutal fact is that democracy must adapt or die. Intelligence services must be handed the tools needed to conduct effective surveillance on terrorism suspects, even if such powers compromise personal privacy. In what amounts to a war situation, security forces must be permitted to eliminate enemies, even when no complete judicial process is possible.

Europe will be required to re-introduce strict border controls in order to keep civilians safe, even if it restricts freedom of movement. And yes, above all, Western governments must commit themselves to using unrelenting military power against the Islamists in order to stop the forces of darkness in their tracks.

Major world powers have already honed in on Syria as the hornets’ nest of Islamic State.

But air-strikes can only achieve so much, they cannot deliver victory. This will require the commitment of Western military might, including ground forces. Such a campaign risks many casualties, both military and civilian, but the West can no longer fool itself into thinking that the defense of democracy can come without a price.

We may wish for an alternate reality, but wishing is not enough. We are immersed in a battle for civilization whether we like it or not. And the rules are clear – this is a zero sum game. There is no negotiation, no compromise. The West must adapt, it must take the fight to the enemy. Freedoms will be curbed and lives will be lost, but without such sacrifice Western democracy is destined to become nothing more than a long-forgotten empire.

Ari Harow served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until earlier this year.

Colonel Richard Kemp was commander of British forces in Afghanistan and head of the international terrorism team in the UK Prime Minister’s Office.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fits the description

Last Thursday, in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, author of Submission, called French President François Hollande an “insignificant opportunist” and Prime Minister Manuel Valls a “congenital moron.”

What are the chances that a well known American novelist, say Phillip Roth, might call US Secretary of State John Kerry a “congenital moron”? After all, Kerry fits the description much more than Valls.


Related posts:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Brussels on lockdown because of ISIS, but what about the Iranian nuclear threat?

The Iranian nuclear threat?  What’s that?  Have not seen it mentioned in the media since the Iran Deal got enough votes in Congress.

So the city of Brussels is weighing extended lockdown  amid worries over Paris-style attack as suspected bomber remains on the loose.  A jihadist terrorist has paralyzed a whole city.

But the threat of a nuclear attack from Iran which would annihilate hundreds of thousands is so far beyond the horizon of perception that nobody is even mentioning it any more. 

Raising the terror threat the day Iran gets the bomb will not help.  

Fear has engulfed Europe


French police during a raid in search of the perpetrators
of the Paris attacks 

This is my fourth visit to Europe this year. And it's not the same Europe. I've been in France when journalists and Jews were murdered, during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher supermarket. And no, it's not the same. At the time, Europe thought these attacks were a one-off, but now it is starting to realize this is not an isolated incident, it's a serious disease. The terror attacks in Paris  caught me at dinner, five minutes away from the theater where a mass slaughter was being committed.

And while my train from Hamburg was making its way to Hanover, on Tuesday evening, it turned out the city was in a state almost complete curfew as a result of alerts about a bomb in an ambulance, which led to the cancelation of the soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands.

On Wednesday, I managed to land in Marseille before security forces decided to evacuate the airport. Hundreds of people were standing outside. The weather was excellent. Landed planes remained on the runway. It wasn't clear what was happening, and no one was allowed in or out. Shortly after that, as I write these lines, a Jewish rabbi was stabbed in Marseille by ISIS supporters.

And on it goes. According to the Schengen Agreement, there is no need for passports or border control for flights inside Europe. This week, that changed. The European Union is turning into a Europe of separate states. Border control is back while the Schengen Agreement continues to exist - but only on paper. Security checks are becoming more and more serious, and the lines grow longer. The economies of the free world are going to lose billions. The terrorists already managed to achieve something. There's an increased presence of police or soldiers in airports and malls and they do surprise ID checks. I haven't seen police carding any blonde-haired women. The suspects, naturally, are only people with a "Middle Eastern look." It's called ethnic profiling. This is discrimination. Is this even allowed? There are endless debates about the matter among human rights activists and legal experts. Israel's Supreme Court also debated this issue. But now, there is no longer need for debate. Fears, whether real or not, create new rules.

Europe is currently going through what Israel went through in the 90s.

When four Arabic-speaking young men boarded the train in Germany, the body language of those sitting in the car changed. 99.99 percent of these young people have nothing to do with terrorism. One of them sat next to me while I was working on my computer. I noticed him curiously glancing at my screen, and we started talking. I told him I was typing in Hebrew. For a moment, I thought I had taken an unnecessary risk. After all, I have no idea what's going on in his head.

He is one of the refugees who recently arrived in Germany. His English was as bad as my Arabic. They were on their way to another city in Germany, where they have friends. They have no home, no family, no livelihood, and they do not know the language - life doesn't seem very hopeful. But for him, for them, they have reached the Promised Land. Germany has turned into a country that millions in Muslim and African countries dream about, but very few get to realize that dream. 

The conductor comes in to check our tickets. He doesn't dare approach them. There was no need for words - new situations create new codes of conduct.

How long will this last? What the hell can be done about these masses? How big is the threat they pose? These are the questions Europe is dealing with these days. There is no one answer. In Germany, like Sweden, arson attacks against refugee centers have turned into something of a routine. Hand-in-hand with the Europeans' commendable hospitality, xenophobia develops. It won't solve any problem, but racism is rearing its head.

The increasing flow of refugees only serves to further exacerbate the existing fears. After all, a young man who came into Europe with the masses of refugees, going through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, all the way to Germany - was one of the perpetrators of the massacre at the Bataclan Theater. British intelligence estimates that two out of a hundred refugees could have ties to terror activity or one of the jihad organizations. Even assuming that wasn't true, even assuming only one out of a hundred has ties to radical groups - we're still talking about thousands.

How can people deal with the refugees and the fears they create, I asked Dr. Clemens Heni, a Berlin-based intellectual, a Christian, and a researcher of anti-Semitism. An imam came to one of the refugee centers in Berlin to speak to the young refugees, he told me. He wasn't one of the moderate imams, and some of the young refugees complained that they did not come to Germany in order to listen to radical preaching. After all, some of them escaped this very radicalism. The problem was that the nice imam was sent by the institution. Someone wanted the young refugees to have a sympathetic ear and a spiritual guide. Despite complaints from the refugees, the imam continues visiting the center. It turns out the Germans' good intentions also include stupidity.

How can people deal with the refugees and the fears they create, I asked a political science professor in Hamburg, who had me over for a lecture about the Middle East. We have no idea what is about to happen, he told me with candor. It was a lot better than the clichés spewed by most intellectuals, who believe it's only a matter of hospitality and good will that would make hundreds of thousands of refugees - soon to be millions - magically turn into productive, responsible citizens.

It is true that experience from over the last few decades has shown that some groups of immigrants, like Hindus and Chinese, can acclimate, while in some groups, and we can't mention which, quite a large percentage create their own closed communities and oppose acclimation. But facts can never confuse people who believe. And it doesn't matter whether they are ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing a shtreimel, or intellectuals wearing a fashionable scarf.

At cafés and restaurants in many cities in Europe, life goes on as normal. But it's an illusion. Something is brewing under the surface, the atmosphere is changing. The Jews are the first wind vane to indicate which way the winds are blowing. "I was born in Riga," told me a Jewish woman from Cologne. "I lived in Israel for only a few years, but circumstances led me to Germany. This week, for the first time, my son told me he is not allowed to say he is Jewish. He understood the situation before we even explained it to him."

"We came to Cologne," she continued, "because we were told it was different."

It was true. But now, like every other city in Germany, Cologne is changing. Jews came to Cologne along with the Romans. It used to be one of the oldest communities in Europe, if not the oldest. But no one is left now from that old community - they either ran away, or were murdered. Now, the title of the oldest community belongs mostly to the Jews of Eastern Europe.

"We're considering moving to Israel," she concluded.

Some claimed this week that the terror attacks were meant to drive a rift between the Muslims and the old-timer Europeans, perhaps even to scare the latter away. White Flight is a known phenomenon. It happens in neighborhoods populated by immigrants and foreigners. Terrorism raises the number of asylum seekers - and it goes both ways. There are those escaping to Europe and those escaping from Europe.

The continent has been suffering from brain drain even before, and regardless of, the terror attacks in Paris. Young Europeans are leaving for the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Jews, meanwhile, are once again fleeing to the land of Israel mostly out of distress. This is exactly what is happening right now. But there is only one problem. If the Israelis are telling the Europeans: "Now you feel what we feel," then what is the point of fleeing to Israel? Just so they could feel the same fear? The thing is that Israel, despite all of its woes, is still home.

One thing that hasn't changed, for now, despite the massacre in Paris, is the old tunes. There was no need to count to ten to hear the same old tunes again: Terror is a result of discrimination; of misery; of despair; of the sins of the West; of colonialism and Christianity, Zionism and, in general, we must not forget that Israel is to blame. It oppresses, it's a militant state. It drives the oppressed to turn to terrorism. The Swedish foreign minister was not alone with her absurd claims; there are more and more comments of this sort being made in recent days.

These absurdities were joined by the usual parade of clichés: The Muslims? They're actually moderate. You can always find the interviewee de jour carrying a "Not in my name" sign. He will join the condolences, he will condemn, he will say this was not what Islam is about, and that the murderers are betraying true Islam. And Barack Obama sent out a similar message this week, as he always does. Islamic terrorism? There's no such thing. There simply isn't. On this issue, the American administration does as the Communist Party's mouthpiece Pravda used to do: It rewrites reality. And reality, unfortunately, insists on striking back with full force.

For the sake of our collective sanity, we must abandon this parade of delusions and clichés, for some facts. Well, there isn't just one Muslim that opposes terrorism - there are thousands. No, not thousands - millions. Perhaps even hundreds of millions. Except the issue is slightly different: Who controls the Muslim communities in Europe? Moderates or radicals?

Let's take the story of Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, a moderate and brave imam who is against radicalization and sermons of hatred. He was accidentally presented as the head of France's imams. Inshallah. The day that happens, we could take about change. But it's not happening. Far from it.

Chalghoumi issued repeated warnings about Qatar funding radical imams, who are radicalizing the younger generation and making it more dangerous. He also dared, in the past, to meet with an Israeli ambassador. Left-wing websites, like l'Expression dz, Agora Vox and Egalite et Reconciliation, have turned him into a pariah.

Chalghoumi supported a law banning women from wearing headscarves in public, while the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) took the opposite stance. Chalghoumi was once again made into a pariah. He needed bodyguards around the clock.

The UOIF is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Their superstar is Tariq Ramadan, who turned into the ideological star of young Muslims in Europe. He's leading them by the nose to become more and radical. He's an intellectual and a smooth talker, he is the sweetheart of the European left-wing that is nurturing him. But he was and remains an Islamist, who supports the "resistance" of global jihad groups all over the world. As always, he is immediately invited to every possible panel, so he could condemn terrorism. And straight after this condemnation comes the "but," which is comprised entirely of accusations against the free world, colonialism, discrimination, Zionism, and so on. Countries like Canada and the United States weren't buying his sweet talk and would not let him into their borders to incite. But then came Obama, and canceled the ban against him. After all, there is no such thing as Islamist terrorism, so Ramadan can't be supporting something that doesn't exist. Stupidity won, once again.

Chalghoumi on the one hand, and Ramadan on the other hand, are only two of the prominent figures in Muslim circles in Europe. It is true that Chalghoumi is a pariah while Ramadan has turned into a symbol, but the more important question is what do the Muslims in France think. Well, there are many polls that point to alarming support of terrorism.

The most serious poll appears to be the one from Pew, conducted in 2007. According to the poll, 35 percent of French Muslims support suicide bombers. Among people aged 18-29, 42 percent support suicide bombers while 19 percent think it is "sometimes justified." In Britain, 35 percent of young people justify terrorism.

If we take into consideration the shock in the education system in light of the refusal of many Muslims to condemn the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo murders, then there is concern - but only concern - that a more current poll would point to far graver results.

It's all fine and dandy when many Muslims, most definitely many of them, condemn the Paris attacks and carry signs proclaiming that "We Stand Together," but there are many others, millions, in France and in other European countries, that are becoming more and more radical.

Those who demand boots-on-the-ground are also delusional. Is it really that easy or that simple? Was it easy for Russia when it found itself sinking into the Afghan quagmire? Was it easy for Israel to deal with Hezbollah? Is it easy for Israel to eradicate Hamas? The Islamic State, much like al-Qaeda, Hamas, and all of the other jihadist organizations, cannot be eradicated. This is also about perception.

If France wanted to really make a difference, it should have clamped down on the radicals a long time ago, just like Israel should have banned Raed Salah, and the other supporters of destruction and bloodshed, a long time ago. But it didn't happen because the belief that "we need to let them blow off steam" is as common in Europe as it is in Israel.

We have to admit: In communities where Chalghoumi and his like are outcasts, and Tariq Ramadan and Raed Salah are heroes - the fight against jihad is far from over. Where intellectuals from the forces of progress show understanding towards and justify terrorism - and that happens a bit too often in the free world, including in Israel - the fight against jihad becomes much harder.

Europe is entering a new era. It's a bit more anxious than Israel, which is already accustomed to such situations. It reminds me of a quote from American intellectual Sam Harris: "The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet." It's not just that the Europeans have yet to realize it. In Israel, as well, we have to admit, there are those who insist on not realizing it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Obama’s phony war

Tell me: What’s a suicide bomber doing with a passport? He’s not going anywhere. And, though I’m not a religious scholar, I doubt that a passport is required in paradise for a martyr to access his 72 black-eyed virgins.

A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the terrorists. Why was it there? Undoubtedly, to back up the ISIS boast that it is infiltrating operatives amid the refugees flooding Europe. The passport may have been fake, but the terrorist’s fingerprints were not. They match those of a man who just a month earlier had come through Greece on his way to kill Frenchmen in Paris.

If the other goal of the Paris massacre was to frighten France out of the air campaign in Syria — the way Spain withdrew from the Iraq war after the terrorist attack on its trains in 2004 — they picked the wrong country. France is a serious post-colonial power, as demonstrated in Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic and Mali, which France saved from an Islamist takeover in 2013.

Indeed, socialist President François Hollande has responded furiously to his country’s 9/11 with an intensified air campaign, hundreds of raids on suspected domestic terrorists, a state of emergency and proposed changes in the constitution to make France less hospitable to jihad.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, titular head of the free world, has responded to Paris with weariness and annoyance. His news conference in Turkey was marked by a stunning tone of passivity, detachment and lassitude, compounded by impatience and irritability at the very suggestion that his Syria strategy might be failing.

The only time he showed any passion was in denouncing Republicans for hardheartedness toward Muslim refugees. One hundred and twenty-nine innocents lie dead, but it takes the GOP to kindle Obama’s ire.

The rest was mere petulance, dismissing criticisms of his Syria policy as popping off. Inconveniently for Obama, one of those popper-offers is Dianne Feinstein, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She directly contradicted Obama’s blithe assertion, offered the day before the Paris attack, that the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL) was contained and not gaining strength. “I have never been more concerned,” said Feinstein. “ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.”

Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as, “I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.” An “entire” discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa.

And “We have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL.” Yes, and what would we do without Luxembourg?

Obama complained of being criticized for not being bellicose enough. But the complaint is not about an absence of bellicosity but about an absence of passion, of urgency and of commitment to the fight. The air campaign over Syria averages seven strikes a day. Seven. In Operation Desert Storm, we flew1,100 sorties a day. Even in the Kosovo campaign, we averaged 138. Obama is doing just enough in Syria to give the appearance of motion, yet not nearly enough to have any chance of success.

Obama’s priorities lie elsewhere. For example, climate change, which he considers the greatest “threat to our future.” And, of course, closing Guantanamo. Obama actually released five detainees on the day after the Paris massacre. He is passionate about Guantanamo. It’s a great terrorist recruiting tool, he repeatedly explains. Obama still seems to believe that — even as ISIS has produced an astonishing wave of terrorist recruitment with a campaign of brutality, butchery and enslavement filmed in living color. Who can still believe that young Muslims are leaving Europe to join the Islamic State because of Guantanamo?

Obama’s other passion is protecting Islam from any possible association with “violent extremism.” The Islamic State is nothing but “killers with fantasies of glory.” Obama can never bring himself to acknowledge why these people kill and willingly die: to advance a radical Islamist millenarianism that is purposeful, indeed eschatological — and appealing enough to have created the largest, most dangerous terrorist movement on Earth.

Hollande is trying to gather a real coalition to destroy the Islamic State, even as Obama touts his phony 65. For 11post-World War II presidencies, coalition leading has been the role of the United States. Where is America today? Awaiting a president. The next president.

Dry Bones: The War

Michel Houellebecq: How France’s Leaders Failed Its People

Paris — IN the aftermath of the January attacks in Paris, I spent two days transfixed watching the news. In the aftermath of the Nov. 13 attacks, I hardly turned on the television; I just called the people I knew (no small number) who lived in the neighborhoods that were hit. You get used to terrorist attacks.

In 1986, there was a series of bombings in various public places in Paris. I think Hezbollah was behind those attacks. They occurred a few days, or maybe a week, apart; I’ve forgotten exactly. But I remember very well the atmosphere in the subway that first week. The silence inside the cars was absolute, and people exchanged glances loaded with suspicion.

That was the first week. And then, soon enough, conversations resumed, the mood returned to normal. The prospect of another imminent explosion was still there in everyone’s mind, but it had retreated into the background. You get used to terrorist attacks.

France will hold on. The French will hold on, without even needing a “sursaut national,” a national pushback reflex. They’ll hold on because there’s no other way, and because you get used to everything. No human force, not even fear, is stronger than habit.

“Keep calm and carry on.” All right, then, that’s just what we’ll do (even though, alas, there is no Churchill to lead us). Despite the common perception, the French are rather docile, rather easy to govern. But they are not complete idiots. Instead, their main flaw is a kind of forgetful frivolity that necessitates jogging their memory from time to time. There are people, political people, who are responsible for the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in today, and sooner or later their responsibility will have to be examined. It’s unlikely that the insignificant opportunist who passes for our head of state, or the congenital moron who plays the part of our prime minister, or even the “stars of the opposition” (LOL) will emerge from the test looking any brighter.

Who exactly weakened the capacities of the police forces until they were totally on edge and almost incapable of fulfilling their mission? Who exactly drilled into our heads for years the notion that borders were a quaint absurdity, and evidence of a foul and rancid nationalism?

The blame, as one can see, is widely shared.

Which political leaders committed France to ridiculous and costly operations whose main result has been to plunge Iraq, and then Libya, into chaos? And which political leaders were, until recently, on the verge of doing the same thing in Syria?

(I was forgetting: We didn’t go into Iraq, not the second time. But it was close, and it looks as though Dominique de Villepin, then minister of foreign affairs, will go down in history for that reason — which is not nothing — for having prevented France, for the one and only time in its recent history, from participating in a criminal operation that also distinguished itself for its stupidity.)

The obvious conclusion is scathing, unfortunately. For 10 (20? 30?) years, our successive governments have pathetically, systematically, deplorably failed in their essential mission: to protect the population under their responsibility.

As for the population, it hasn’t failed at all. It’s unclear, at bottom, exactly what the population thinks, since our successive governments have taken great care not to hold referendums (except for one, in 2005, on a proposed European constitution, whose result they then preferred to ignore). But opinion polls are allowed, and for what they’re worth, they more or less reveal the following: that the French population has always maintained its trust in and solidarity with its police officers and its armed forces. That it has largely been repelled by the sermonizing airs of the so-called moral left (moral?) concerning how migrants and refugees are to be treated. That it has never viewed without suspicion the foreign military adventures its governments have seen fit to join.

One could cite many more examples of the gap, now an abyss, between the population and those supposed to represent it. The discredit that applies to all political parties today isn’t just huge; it is legitimate. And it seems to me, it really seems to me, that the only solution still available to us now is to move gently toward the only form of real democracy: I mean, direct democracy.

Michel Houellebecq is the author, most recently, of the novel “Submission.”

Michel Houellebecq: Après les attentats à Paris, quelle démocratie pour la France?


PARIS — Au lendemain des attentats de janvier, j’ai passé deux jours, sans pouvoir décrocher, devant les chaînes info. Au lendemain des attentats du 13 novembre, c’est à peine si j’ai allumé ma télé ; je me suis contenté d’appeler les gens de ma connaissance qui habitaient dans les quartiers touchés (ce qui faisait déjà pas mal de monde). On s’habitue aux attentats.

En 1986, une série d’explosions a eu lieu, à Paris, dans différents lieux publics. (C’était le Hezbollah libanais, je crois, qui en était responsable.) Il y a eu quatre ou cinq attentats, séparés par quelques jours, parfois par une semaine. J’ai un peu oublié. Mais ce dont je me souviens parfaitement c’est de l’ambiance, dans le métro, la première semaine. Le silence, à l’intérieur des rames, était total ; et les regards des passagers se croisaient, lourds de méfiance.

Ça, c’était la première semaine. Et puis, assez vite, les conversations ont repris, l’ambiance est redevenue normale. L’idée d’une explosion imminente était toujours là, dans l’esprit de tous ; mais elle était passée à l’arrière-plan. On s’habitue aux attentats.

La France tiendra. Les Français tiendront, sans même déployer un héroïsme particulier, sans même avoir besoin d’un « sursaut national ». Ils tiendront parce qu’il n’y a pas moyen de faire autrement, et parce qu’on s’habitue à tout. Et parce qu’aucune puissance humaine, ni même la peur, n’est aussi forte que l’habitude.

Keep calm and carry on. Eh bien d’accord, c’est ce qu’on va faire (même si nous sommes bien loin, hélas, d’avoir un Churchill à notre tête). Contrairement à une idée répandue les Français sont plutôt dociles, plutôt faciles à gouverner. Mais ils ne sont pas pour autant complètement idiots. Leur principal défaut résiderait plutôt dans une sorte de frivolité oublieuse qui rend nécessaire, périodiquement, de leur rafraîchir la mémoire. La situation fâcheuse dans laquelle nous nous trouvons a des responsables, des responsables politiques ; et ces responsabilités politiques il faudra bien, tôt ou tard, les examiner. Il est peu probable que l’insignifiant opportuniste qui nous tient lieu de chef de l’état ou le demeuré congénital qui fait office de premier ministre ou même les « ténors de l’opposition » (LOL) ressortent grandis de l’examen.

Qui, exactement, a diminué les effectifs des forces de police, jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient complètement sur les nerfs, et rendues presque incapables d’accomplir leur mission ? Qui, exactement, nous a seriné au fil des années que les frontières étaient une absurdité vieillotte, signe d’un nationalisme rance et nauséabond ?

Les responsabilités, on le voit, sont largement partagées.

Quels responsables politiques ont engagé la France dans des opérations absurdes et coûteuses ayant pour principal résultat de plonger dans le chaos l’Irak, puis la Libye ? Et quels responsables politiques s’apprêtaient, il y a très peu de temps encore, à faire la même chose en Syrie ?

Enfin j’oubliais, c’est vrai que nous ne sommes pas allés en Irak ; pas la deuxième fois. Mais il s’en est fallu de peu, et il semble bien que Dominique de Villepin restera dans l’histoire uniquement pour ça — ce qui n’est pas rien — pour avoir empêché que la France pour une fois, pour la seule et unique fois de l’histoire récente, ne participe à une opération criminelle doublée d’une connerie.)

La conclusion qui s’impose est malheureusement sévère : nos gouvernements successifs depuis dix (vingt ? trente ?) ans ont lamentablement, systématiquement, lourdement failli dans leur mission essentielle : protéger la population placée sous leur responsabilité.

La population, elle, n’a nullement failli. Au fond, on ne sait pas exactement ce qu’elle pense, les gouvernements successifs s’étant bien gardé d’organiser des référendums (enfin sauf un, en 2005, mais ils ont préféré ne pas tenir compte du résultat). Les sondages d’opinion, cependant, restent autorisés, et, pour ce qu’ils valent, révèlent à peu près les choses suivantes. La population française a toujours maintenu sa confiance et sa solidarité envers ses forces de police et ses armées. Elle a dans l’ensemble accueilli avec dégoût le prêchi-prêcha de la « gauche morale » (morale ?) sur l’accueil des réfugiés et des migrants. Elle n’a jamais envisagé sans suspicion les aventures militaires extérieures auxquelles nos gouvernants ont jugé bon de l’associer.

On pourrait multiplier les exemples de la faille, devenue abyssale, entre la population et ceux qui sont censés la représenter. Le discrédit qui frappe à l’heure actuelle en France l’ensemble des partis politiques n’est pas seulement massif : il est légitime. Et il me semble, il me semble bien que la seule solution qui nous reste serait de se diriger doucement vers la seule forme de démocratie réelle : j’entends, vers la démocratie directe.

Michel Houellebecq est l’auteur de Soumission.