Blogs: The Skeptics

Israel and Palestine Can Move Forward—But Not with Idealists

Declaring War on "Islamist Extremism" Is Nonsense

The Skeptics

Al Qaeda remains an enemy, but not much of one after nearly fifteen years. Moreover, by supporting Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen, Washington actually has weakened the forces against Al Qaeda and opened space for the ISIS, allowing both of them to expand their influence. Supporting one foolish war apparently makes another one necessary, in the three Congress members’ view.

Al Shabab is essentially a criminal gang operating in Somalia. It is made up of nasty folks, but they have little to do with America. The African Union already has militarily intervened in Somalia. There is no reason for the United States to take on responsibility for war on yet another continent.

The same rationale applies to Boko Haram, the vicious Islamic insurgency in Nigeria. Not every evildoer on Earth is America’s problem. Indeed, Boko Haram has won popular support because of the corruption, human rights abuses and incompetence of government forces. If anything, America declaring war on the group would reduce pressure on Abuja to reform. Moreover, U.S. involvement would aid Boko Haram in portraying itself as battling the enemies of Islam.

The Al Nusra Front and Khorasan Group are seemingly associated with Al Qaeda, but are actually focused on the civil war in Syria. Ironically, they are on America’s “side” in that conflict and have benefited greatly from U.S. arms surrendered by so-called “moderate” insurgents. While Washington has good reason to hope the two groups are defeated by friendlier regime opponents, or even by the Assad government, they have not attacked the United States. The best military policy in Syria is to stay out.

The Haqqani Network and Taliban are America’s opponents in Afghanistan. However, Washington long ago fulfilled its primary objectives in that tragic Central Asian nation—dispersing Al Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting anti-American terrorists. The latter aren’t likely to commit that mistake again, meaning the United States should withdraw from its forlorn attempt at nation-building and democracy-promotion in Central Asia.

Far from being Islamic extremists, the Houthis were known for religious moderation and are a Shia variant close to Sunnis. The group has never targeted Americans. However, the Houthis have been fighting Yemen’s central government since 2004, and gained military ascendency after allying with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom America long supported. The Houthis never have been controlled by Iran. It is Saudi Arabia—a totalitarian state which allows no religious liberty—which has turned the conflict into a sectarian struggle. Outside observers report that Riyadh is responsible for the bulk of Yemen’s civilian deaths: Washington would be more justified in declaring war on Saudi Arabia, which continues to promote fundamentalist Wahhabism around the globe.

Hamas is a malign organization, but has no global ambitions and does not threaten America. Israel is well able to confront its far weaker adversary. Washington should not declare war on countries, movements or groups just because an allied power might wish it to do so.

Hezbollah also is no friend of Israel, but is not a military enemy of America. Although blamed for the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks, exact responsibility is unclear. The organization was only emerging at the time and was not fully formed until 1985. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that it was his nation’s military “presence that created Hezbollah.” In any case, in 1983 the United States had become a combatant in Lebanon’s multisided civil war and bombed Islamic forces. Washington could not then claim immunity from attack. To target Hezbollah today also would put America at odds with the Lebanese government—the one Middle Eastern nation with a substantial Christian population, which exercises significant political power.

America has been at war every day since Congress passed the AUMF after the 9/11 attacks. The result had made America less safe, creating new enemies and triggering new conflicts. Yet Representatives Perry, Salmon and Lummis would authorize open-ended military action against a host of new groups that are not currently at war with the United States. The threat of terrorism would grow accordingly.

Instead, Congress should approve future military action only when Washington has no alternative course to protect America—its territory, people or constitutional liberties. The Founders wanted to restrain militaristic executives. They did not view war as just another policy option, but something to be avoided if at all possible. Wrote James Madison: “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” If anything, that is truer today than when America was founded.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image via U.S. Department of Defense, public domain.

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Lessons from the State Department Syria Dissent

The Skeptics

Al Qaeda remains an enemy, but not much of one after nearly fifteen years. Moreover, by supporting Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen, Washington actually has weakened the forces against Al Qaeda and opened space for the ISIS, allowing both of them to expand their influence. Supporting one foolish war apparently makes another one necessary, in the three Congress members’ view.

Al Shabab is essentially a criminal gang operating in Somalia. It is made up of nasty folks, but they have little to do with America. The African Union already has militarily intervened in Somalia. There is no reason for the United States to take on responsibility for war on yet another continent.

The same rationale applies to Boko Haram, the vicious Islamic insurgency in Nigeria. Not every evildoer on Earth is America’s problem. Indeed, Boko Haram has won popular support because of the corruption, human rights abuses and incompetence of government forces. If anything, America declaring war on the group would reduce pressure on Abuja to reform. Moreover, U.S. involvement would aid Boko Haram in portraying itself as battling the enemies of Islam.

The Al Nusra Front and Khorasan Group are seemingly associated with Al Qaeda, but are actually focused on the civil war in Syria. Ironically, they are on America’s “side” in that conflict and have benefited greatly from U.S. arms surrendered by so-called “moderate” insurgents. While Washington has good reason to hope the two groups are defeated by friendlier regime opponents, or even by the Assad government, they have not attacked the United States. The best military policy in Syria is to stay out.

The Haqqani Network and Taliban are America’s opponents in Afghanistan. However, Washington long ago fulfilled its primary objectives in that tragic Central Asian nation—dispersing Al Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting anti-American terrorists. The latter aren’t likely to commit that mistake again, meaning the United States should withdraw from its forlorn attempt at nation-building and democracy-promotion in Central Asia.

Far from being Islamic extremists, the Houthis were known for religious moderation and are a Shia variant close to Sunnis. The group has never targeted Americans. However, the Houthis have been fighting Yemen’s central government since 2004, and gained military ascendency after allying with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom America long supported. The Houthis never have been controlled by Iran. It is Saudi Arabia—a totalitarian state which allows no religious liberty—which has turned the conflict into a sectarian struggle. Outside observers report that Riyadh is responsible for the bulk of Yemen’s civilian deaths: Washington would be more justified in declaring war on Saudi Arabia, which continues to promote fundamentalist Wahhabism around the globe.

Hamas is a malign organization, but has no global ambitions and does not threaten America. Israel is well able to confront its far weaker adversary. Washington should not declare war on countries, movements or groups just because an allied power might wish it to do so.

Hezbollah also is no friend of Israel, but is not a military enemy of America. Although blamed for the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks, exact responsibility is unclear. The organization was only emerging at the time and was not fully formed until 1985. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that it was his nation’s military “presence that created Hezbollah.” In any case, in 1983 the United States had become a combatant in Lebanon’s multisided civil war and bombed Islamic forces. Washington could not then claim immunity from attack. To target Hezbollah today also would put America at odds with the Lebanese government—the one Middle Eastern nation with a substantial Christian population, which exercises significant political power.

America has been at war every day since Congress passed the AUMF after the 9/11 attacks. The result had made America less safe, creating new enemies and triggering new conflicts. Yet Representatives Perry, Salmon and Lummis would authorize open-ended military action against a host of new groups that are not currently at war with the United States. The threat of terrorism would grow accordingly.

Instead, Congress should approve future military action only when Washington has no alternative course to protect America—its territory, people or constitutional liberties. The Founders wanted to restrain militaristic executives. They did not view war as just another policy option, but something to be avoided if at all possible. Wrote James Madison: “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” If anything, that is truer today than when America was founded.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image via U.S. Department of Defense, public domain.

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Obama Must Ignore the Call to Increase Troops in Afghanistan

The Skeptics

Al Qaeda remains an enemy, but not much of one after nearly fifteen years. Moreover, by supporting Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen, Washington actually has weakened the forces against Al Qaeda and opened space for the ISIS, allowing both of them to expand their influence. Supporting one foolish war apparently makes another one necessary, in the three Congress members’ view.

Al Shabab is essentially a criminal gang operating in Somalia. It is made up of nasty folks, but they have little to do with America. The African Union already has militarily intervened in Somalia. There is no reason for the United States to take on responsibility for war on yet another continent.

The same rationale applies to Boko Haram, the vicious Islamic insurgency in Nigeria. Not every evildoer on Earth is America’s problem. Indeed, Boko Haram has won popular support because of the corruption, human rights abuses and incompetence of government forces. If anything, America declaring war on the group would reduce pressure on Abuja to reform. Moreover, U.S. involvement would aid Boko Haram in portraying itself as battling the enemies of Islam.

The Al Nusra Front and Khorasan Group are seemingly associated with Al Qaeda, but are actually focused on the civil war in Syria. Ironically, they are on America’s “side” in that conflict and have benefited greatly from U.S. arms surrendered by so-called “moderate” insurgents. While Washington has good reason to hope the two groups are defeated by friendlier regime opponents, or even by the Assad government, they have not attacked the United States. The best military policy in Syria is to stay out.

The Haqqani Network and Taliban are America’s opponents in Afghanistan. However, Washington long ago fulfilled its primary objectives in that tragic Central Asian nation—dispersing Al Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting anti-American terrorists. The latter aren’t likely to commit that mistake again, meaning the United States should withdraw from its forlorn attempt at nation-building and democracy-promotion in Central Asia.

Far from being Islamic extremists, the Houthis were known for religious moderation and are a Shia variant close to Sunnis. The group has never targeted Americans. However, the Houthis have been fighting Yemen’s central government since 2004, and gained military ascendency after allying with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom America long supported. The Houthis never have been controlled by Iran. It is Saudi Arabia—a totalitarian state which allows no religious liberty—which has turned the conflict into a sectarian struggle. Outside observers report that Riyadh is responsible for the bulk of Yemen’s civilian deaths: Washington would be more justified in declaring war on Saudi Arabia, which continues to promote fundamentalist Wahhabism around the globe.

Hamas is a malign organization, but has no global ambitions and does not threaten America. Israel is well able to confront its far weaker adversary. Washington should not declare war on countries, movements or groups just because an allied power might wish it to do so.

Hezbollah also is no friend of Israel, but is not a military enemy of America. Although blamed for the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks, exact responsibility is unclear. The organization was only emerging at the time and was not fully formed until 1985. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that it was his nation’s military “presence that created Hezbollah.” In any case, in 1983 the United States had become a combatant in Lebanon’s multisided civil war and bombed Islamic forces. Washington could not then claim immunity from attack. To target Hezbollah today also would put America at odds with the Lebanese government—the one Middle Eastern nation with a substantial Christian population, which exercises significant political power.

America has been at war every day since Congress passed the AUMF after the 9/11 attacks. The result had made America less safe, creating new enemies and triggering new conflicts. Yet Representatives Perry, Salmon and Lummis would authorize open-ended military action against a host of new groups that are not currently at war with the United States. The threat of terrorism would grow accordingly.

Instead, Congress should approve future military action only when Washington has no alternative course to protect America—its territory, people or constitutional liberties. The Founders wanted to restrain militaristic executives. They did not view war as just another policy option, but something to be avoided if at all possible. Wrote James Madison: “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” If anything, that is truer today than when America was founded.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image via U.S. Department of Defense, public domain.

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House Republicans Still Don't Understand How to Defeat Terrorism

The Skeptics

Al Qaeda remains an enemy, but not much of one after nearly fifteen years. Moreover, by supporting Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen, Washington actually has weakened the forces against Al Qaeda and opened space for the ISIS, allowing both of them to expand their influence. Supporting one foolish war apparently makes another one necessary, in the three Congress members’ view.

Al Shabab is essentially a criminal gang operating in Somalia. It is made up of nasty folks, but they have little to do with America. The African Union already has militarily intervened in Somalia. There is no reason for the United States to take on responsibility for war on yet another continent.

The same rationale applies to Boko Haram, the vicious Islamic insurgency in Nigeria. Not every evildoer on Earth is America’s problem. Indeed, Boko Haram has won popular support because of the corruption, human rights abuses and incompetence of government forces. If anything, America declaring war on the group would reduce pressure on Abuja to reform. Moreover, U.S. involvement would aid Boko Haram in portraying itself as battling the enemies of Islam.

The Al Nusra Front and Khorasan Group are seemingly associated with Al Qaeda, but are actually focused on the civil war in Syria. Ironically, they are on America’s “side” in that conflict and have benefited greatly from U.S. arms surrendered by so-called “moderate” insurgents. While Washington has good reason to hope the two groups are defeated by friendlier regime opponents, or even by the Assad government, they have not attacked the United States. The best military policy in Syria is to stay out.

The Haqqani Network and Taliban are America’s opponents in Afghanistan. However, Washington long ago fulfilled its primary objectives in that tragic Central Asian nation—dispersing Al Qaeda and punishing the Taliban for hosting anti-American terrorists. The latter aren’t likely to commit that mistake again, meaning the United States should withdraw from its forlorn attempt at nation-building and democracy-promotion in Central Asia.

Far from being Islamic extremists, the Houthis were known for religious moderation and are a Shia variant close to Sunnis. The group has never targeted Americans. However, the Houthis have been fighting Yemen’s central government since 2004, and gained military ascendency after allying with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom America long supported. The Houthis never have been controlled by Iran. It is Saudi Arabia—a totalitarian state which allows no religious liberty—which has turned the conflict into a sectarian struggle. Outside observers report that Riyadh is responsible for the bulk of Yemen’s civilian deaths: Washington would be more justified in declaring war on Saudi Arabia, which continues to promote fundamentalist Wahhabism around the globe.

Hamas is a malign organization, but has no global ambitions and does not threaten America. Israel is well able to confront its far weaker adversary. Washington should not declare war on countries, movements or groups just because an allied power might wish it to do so.

Hezbollah also is no friend of Israel, but is not a military enemy of America. Although blamed for the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks, exact responsibility is unclear. The organization was only emerging at the time and was not fully formed until 1985. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that it was his nation’s military “presence that created Hezbollah.” In any case, in 1983 the United States had become a combatant in Lebanon’s multisided civil war and bombed Islamic forces. Washington could not then claim immunity from attack. To target Hezbollah today also would put America at odds with the Lebanese government—the one Middle Eastern nation with a substantial Christian population, which exercises significant political power.

America has been at war every day since Congress passed the AUMF after the 9/11 attacks. The result had made America less safe, creating new enemies and triggering new conflicts. Yet Representatives Perry, Salmon and Lummis would authorize open-ended military action against a host of new groups that are not currently at war with the United States. The threat of terrorism would grow accordingly.

Instead, Congress should approve future military action only when Washington has no alternative course to protect America—its territory, people or constitutional liberties. The Founders wanted to restrain militaristic executives. They did not view war as just another policy option, but something to be avoided if at all possible. Wrote James Madison: “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” If anything, that is truer today than when America was founded.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image via U.S. Department of Defense, public domain.

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