Monday, November 23, 2015

Fear is the enemy of rational action

Thanksgiving is celebrated with remembrance of the Pilgrims founding their colony and surviving.  They were, after all, our first refugee/immigrants from tyranny. Other than Columbus Day, we celebrate few others who arrived later.  We forget that waves of immigrants were often met with scorn, prejudice, or rejection based on fear that they were Papists or socialists or had different traditions. Eventually we absorbed them into the American culture and they embraced our values.

 Ambitious politicians have exploited fear to fuel their rise to power, especially in times of threats from abroad.  Fear is a powerful force that is the enemy of rational action.    Unfortunately, fear sometimes caused us to commit acts contrary to ideals, laws, and Constitution.  Worst of all, because of fear, we may be led to strike out blindly only to repeat failed strategies.

To draw on Franklin Roosevelt’s oft quoted words:” We have nothing to fear but fear itself”’, we need leadership that does not deny the feelings of fear nor spooks the herd to panic and bolt over the cliff. We need leadership that addresses and reassures public concerns, and devises plausible, workable strategies weighed against possible counter-productive actions.  That is the rational approach; but we are not getting that from either side of the aisle.

We have some examples of what fear can do.  We have hung our heads in shame, as we did after our realization of the injustice we did to internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.  Fear of weapons of mass destruction was hyped to the public by some members of the Bush administration post 9/11 to motivate support for the ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq.  Invasion and occupation of Iraq upset the balance of power, gave rise to Iran’s regional domination, and created a backlash that gave birth to ISIS and the new generation of 20 something terrorists behind the Paris attacks.

President Obama was highly criticized for his “tone” in response to the Paris events.  He could have reassured scared Americans by indicating he understood their fears as Roosevelt did.  He could have announced he would increase the amount and intensity of what he was already doing. His strategy mostly resembled his critics ’proposals, anyway. He did not. Instead, he played down the threat and derided his critics. That made him appear disconnected from the public and reality and he is suffering in the polls. Fortunately for him he is not up for re-election.

However, sometimes national interests or basic American values may not be in sync with public opinion. Often forgotten was that the majority of public opinion was opposed to taking in Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Pres. Roosevelt, looking at a third term run, read the polls.  Boatloads of the refugees  were turned away from the US .  We need leadership that extolls our values and applies them to current situations even if it is not momentarily popular or vote getting.

Stampeding the public  to start fascist-like registration lists of all US Muslims, or only to admit Christian immigrants in defiance of our Constitution, would fulfill the goal of ISIS, to realize  their religious destiny of a war between the West and Islam, and it would serve the terrorists as a  recruiting tool..

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News  November 27, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The battle of the 20 something nerds has begun: ISIS v Anonymous

The battle of the 20 something nerds has begun. ISIS attacks on Paris were about that generation. The perps, thr victims, the communication technology were mostly theirs. Joining against ISIS is also an ally from that generation...a group of secret, controversial skilled hackers who work outside the law worldwide. Let them get to work. May they out-fox ISIS and do what Silicon Valley will and cannot do.

Anonymous - Operation Paris Continues #OpParis JOIN US: - Connect with Anonymous - Subscribe ● http://www.yo…

The opening salvo:
It appears ISIS may have fought back with a disinformation story aimed at discrediting Anonymous:

While I do not usually quote wikipedia, this may help us older folks  get a better grasp of Anonymous for those of us who wonder.  They are in a sense the Robin Hoods of the Internet. .

 I am grateful for my 20 something grandson who tuned me into them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Turning away refugees because of their Syrian origina is not the first time that has been advocated, sadly. The US did it to boatloads of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

The 31 governors who recently declared Syrian refugees were un-welcome, their settlement should be unfunded, and especially Muslims should be excluded, reminded me of another ugly chapter in US history. As the Nazi's were about to close the German borders, Jews climbed on ocean liners for Cuba and then to the US...and both turned them away. Those governors, mostly Republicans, say they fear vetting is inadequate and say we ought to wait for a while to get it right first . They conveniently neglect to note that the vetting process for refugees to be allowed into the United Sates takes two years and scrutiny by multi federal agencies..

For a first person accounting, visit

Messaging and tone cut both ways for the GOP and the President

That the President delivered his remarks after the G20 meeting was indeed a missed opportunity to demonstrate world leadership.  Immediately after his vigorous defense of his strategies, he was hit for his “tone”, not for the substance of his strategy..  The problem is that the GOP does have a tone that is politically smart, but strategically empty. The President has a substantive strategy, but it is politically deficient. Both parties need to retool and show what they would do or are doing otherwise, or pointing blaming fingers.

Here is the GOP  unspoken platform so far: “ Even if the President has stated his strategy, we will  deny he has any.   We should be fearful, resent foreigners because of their religion or their language or their color of their skin, and always criticize any Presidential action whatever it is.  Instead, let us wave the American flag and threaten action, whether it worked in the past  or not or whether or not the US has the political will or ability to carry it out.”  That may be politically smart, but it does nothing to show a better ability to solve the issue they identified,  demonstrate leadership ability,  or are in touch with reality.

 If the GOP proposes more of what the administration is already doing, then they have admitted the President’s strategy is correct but he needs just to do more of it and execute it better.   If they demand the US take  world leadership, then they should not limit his ability to strike diplomatic and military alliances, even with Russia or Iran,Turkey, and NATO. The President should not be criticized for taking advantage of an opportunity.  ISIS has given him a gift, since it has given countries previously unwilling to put ISIS at the top of their enemy list, to change their priorities. ISIS may have goaded the bulls to their detriment with their having been behind terrorist attacks in Ankara,Turkey,  the Russian passenger plane,  or Paris. 

Here is the President’s  spoken and unspoken platform so far: “ I cannot reassure you that we can doing anything to assuage your fears  It is hard to combat a bomber wearing a vest;  it is going to take years for whatever I am doing to work” .  That  message is bad politics, but it may be realistic strategy.

The President  should reassure the fearful public that he is understanding their fears in the wake of the Paris attacks  and is taking  additional steps immediately  even if it is already being done , has been done, or  already is his part of his strategy. He should put his message in clear  bullet points  of positive statements.  He should not put it in context of answering GOP criticisms or challenging them.  He has done that enough. Leave that up to others in the future.. 

For example, while citing successes when the public only sees failure, say he will delay admitting Syrian refugees for a year and up our vetting game by asking for more funding and focus,  and that is in effect what is being done anyway. If he agrees with carving up safe havens  for refugees near Syria, he talks about how he would do that. Instead of touting token increase in special ops, in Syria and Iraq,  he should underline the total of special ops already involved now , what their engagement rules are, and  say we will send more, even if he had it in plans anyway. Instead of saying we have shadowed x number of Homeland Security’s identified suspected domestic terrorists, and stopped x number of plots,  he should say we are increasing manpower and techniques to disrupt or hack their communications,  even though that is his current policy on the date of the statement.