Drums of War

Thankfully, the U.S. stays away from wars. That is unless there seems to be no way out. Yes, I know that the basis for going to Iraq for those proven “Weapons of Mass Destruction” Saddam had turned out to be a bit iffy. Hindsight always being 20/20 indicates that war was probably a mistake — a “probable” mistake that cost 4500 Americans their lives. But that’s a conversation for another day.

The Drums of War have suddenly begun to sound again: this time again in the Middle East. Even as the Obama Administration quietly turned the U.S. into a “cash cow”  by sending $150 Billion to Iran as part of that Iran Peace Deal in an effort to coax the Middle East rogue nation out of their nuclear weapons activities, those drums continued to sound and are getting louder today.

The U.S. has tried many ways to nudge the leaders of Earth’s #1 terrorist power away from conflict. Current National Security Advisor John Bolton sent a mind-boggling message to Iran’s leaders in 2015 when it appeared Iran was preparing to attack American allies. Bolton’s message stated that to stop Iran from bombing, the U.S. should bomb Iran. Thankfully no bombing occurred on either side. But the sparring and rhetoric between both nation’s leaders is continuing and is escalating every day.

Meanwhile, the citizens of both countries are praying that the war stays away. This while American intelligence reports alerted military leaders once more that Iranian attacks may be imminent. The U.S. military has responded to this intelligence by sending an aircraft carrier group into the Mediterranean to send Iran a message while getting close just in case Iran starts some type of military conflict.

At Home in Congress

While this is going on, many Americans look on in horror as several members of Congress continue their rhetoric targeted at the greatest ally the U.S. has in that part of the World: the nation of Israel. Last weekend, Palestinians lobbed more than 400 rockets into Israel that killed several Israelis. No one knows for sure if those rockets were actually provided by Iran, but such has happened on multiple previous occasions and experts deem their involvement in this latest incident as “probable.”

Muslim Extremism in the Middle East is once again the probable source of the latest conflict between Muslims and Jewish people. Such conflicts have existed for centuries. The U.S. has always in similar situations sided with Israel. But the new “look” in Congress may signal a change in that policy. This has many Americans concerned as well as are foreign leaders across the globe.

But one Muslim religious leader has decided to take-on these U.S. legislators who have been sending mixed signals regarding U.S. support for Israel.

That Iranian-born Australian Shia Muslim imam, known as the “imam of peace,” called out freshman Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib on Saturday for remaining silent amid that onslaught of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

“Remember that time Omar and Tlaib condemned Hamas’ terrorism?” Imam Mohamad Tawhidi tweeted. “Neither do I.”

Tawhidi, who is the president of the Islamic Association of South Australia, was responding to the nearly 600 rockets that have been fired into Israel from across the Gaza border this past weekend. The Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has already claimed responsibility for three Israeli deaths, according to The Jerusalem Post. Neither Omar nor Tlaib have commented on the attack.

Omar and Tlaib became America’s first Muslim congresswomen when sworn into office in January. Their time in office has been full of allegations of anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiments.

Omar has defended anti-Israeli statements, such as ones invoking Allah to expose Israel’s “evil doings” and faced criticism from both sides of the aisle for promoting age-old anti-Semitic claims such as that Jews’ support of Israel is paid for and that they have dual loyalty to the U.S. and Israel.

Tlaib has also received widespread criticism for her ties to anti-Israel and terror-affiliated activists. Pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israel activist Abbas Hamideh attended her swearing-in ceremony and private dinner, and Tlaib hosted in her congressional office Joe Catron, an avowed supporter of multiple Palestinian terrorist organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollah and Hamas.

She is also a member of multiple anti-Semitic social media groups, including the “Palestinian American Congress,” where members frequently demonize Jews and Israel. The founder of the aforementioned Facebook group, Maher Abdel-qader, is a Palestinian activist and was a key fundraiser for Tlaib’s congressional campaign.

Omar and Tlaib both fundraised with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a well-known pro-Palestinian organization with ties to Islamic terror groups. The U.S. Department of Justice listed CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in funding millions of dollars to Hamas. Additionally, the United Arab Emirates named CAIR a terrorist organization along with al-Qaeda and the ISIS in 2014.

Both the Minnesota and Michigan congresswomen deny they are anti-Semitic. However, they promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to punish Israel by economically depriving the country for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Anti-Defamation League describes BDS as “the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”

Tawhidi has condemned the duo’s anti-Semitism in the past, specifically while visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

“The American Congress should not be a platform for Islamist members of the American government to preach their hate against the Jewish people,” Tawhidi said in February. “The Jewish people will remain a minority and have remained a minority. If this situation continues then this minority will be persecuted once again and we need to make sure that this never happens.”

“It’s very sad to see what is happening within the American government,” he continued. “People like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, absolute frauds and Islamists, promoting hatred against the Jewish people.”

Is Anything Scarier?

The answer is a resounding “Yes.” We have recent history with war in the Middle East. America learned a lot from both wars in Iraq. And certainly much was learned from the drastic changes in contemporary war in the U.S. struggle with Syria and ISIS. War is different than ever before. It has changed. Yet its devastation and severe costs of human life, social and actual infrastructure, and dollars and cents keep most from testing it as being a logical answer for conflict. But still the strongmen of the World speak freely of war as not just rare possibilities but as near certain probabilities. It’s the same concept as the bully in the schoolyard staking out his territory and power.

But even with U.S. ships in the Mediterranean and drawing the line in front of Iran, the scariest potential war that faces the U.S. is NOT against a foreign foe or even several, it’s a war from within. Yes, the Drums of War that sound the loudest are those marking a second U.S. Civil War.

It’s easy to imagine that a second civil war might proceed like the first: two particular factions with state militaries against each other along specific strategic fronts. Generals would choose a side, those with the most troops and firepower at their disposal would claim victory. The outcome, we imagine, would likely be a winner-take-all restructuring of the United States.

But that’s not really how wars are fought in the 21st century. Indeed, much of the last century was about deconstructing the habits of large-scale, state-driven conventional warfare. As networks distribute power to the edges, warfighting shifts further away from a handful of central forces and towards a web of small actors. Warfare now often comes from ideologically and economically diverse communities whose suffering and fear is preyed upon by stealthy bad guys. They become guerrillas, rebel factions, proxies, and insurgencies. Sometimes they look more like tribal conflicts composed along racial, religious, or economic lines, often on top of crises that push violence to become a necessary solution. But they are rarely simple two-sided conflicts.

To dismiss this possibility here in the U.S. risks missing the signs of coordinated disruption and violence. If we keep thinking in terms of opposed armies, we’ll fail to develop successful strategies for recognizing and containing such a new hybrid type warfare.

For the United States, the shape of future internal conflicts will be as de-centralized. A 21st century homeland conflict would likely be made up of numerous diverse factions organized by digital tools around ideological networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups engaging in light skirmishes along the edges of their networks, mixed with high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they replace with ugliness and severity. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less regional and far more ideological.

Furthermore, digital networks erase the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can access the literature, claim allegiance in some distant suburb, and start whipping up violence against their targets. Both Antifa and the Alt-Right are a mix of different groups loosely coupled under their respective brand names with local chapters spread across global networks. These are not top-down hierarchies. They’re stealthy and shapeless with the capacity to grow quickly then disappear.

As an example, consider ISIS. One simply cannot explain the speed and scale at which the Islamic State formed without that network effect. And it can happen again and in the United States.

Just as we risk missing the signs of networked violence, thinking in terms of a classic civil war can blind us to the many actors working to disrupt the U.S. from within and beyond our borders.

Behind the extremists are often additional layers of those who hate the liberty and freedom of the United States: oligarchs, transnational criminal networks, and foreign powers wielding them on both sides towards their strategic goals. We’ve seen this with Russian-backed Facebook groups organizing right wing protests in the U.S., and in the increasing regularity of information warfare originating from adversarial governments. They don’t want or feel the need to invade the U.S. from the outside, but to use these types of networking to attack the U.S. from within using angry and disenfranchised Americans!

With this in mind we can picture what a modern U.S. civil war might look like. More sporadic and unexpected conflicts but with fewer deaths. Factions popping up like mushrooms, taking different forms but coordinated across invisible networks. Waves of information warfare. Chaos and accelerated violence with a healthy immune response from the local and national authorities. The outcome (and probable goal) would likely be a split of the republic into smaller, more manageable alliances, though it may just as easily harden an increasingly unilateral federal government. This is essentially how Russia waged its internal war against Ukraine.

To counter this threat in America it’s critical to establish more formal practices for identifying and tracking domestic extremism — with an honest recognition that young, white males on both ends of the political spectrum are the most likely to commit violence. In doing so there must be inclusion in looking for likely participants from all factions. Likewise, we must formalize intense network analysis to map and track these groups across their digital territories and to identify their backers, funders, and agitators. Finally, there needs to be a very serious conversation about how to regulate Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter as platforms for influence, instigation, propaganda, and recruiting.

For now, America is held in line by the strong rule of law and a good-enough economy that most people still have something to lose by choosing violence. But as our government and corporate leaders continue to attack the rule of law and economic opportunity, the norms deteriorate  and the space for evil spurred by anger becomes bigger.

Are we headed to the second U.S. Civil War? My gut says the likelihood of a second U.S. civil war in the next five years is between 20 and 40 percent but trending upward significantly. And with the vitriol and hatred being spewed daily by the 2 dozen in number and growing Democrat presidential candidates, the possibilities for anger rising to the level of internal war are steadily increasing. God help us!

This 65 year old grandfather of 6 does not want to sit on the sidelines and be forced to pray every day for the safety of my 6 grandsons while they wage war, especially against fellow Americans. War is the direct product of Men and Women who simply refuse to discuss resolutions to differences because of hardness in their hearts. Burying a few teenage children is too great a price to pay for the pride that instigates those deaths. But stopping a civil war is a process that requires mutual agreement. I’m fearful that there aren’t enough people in D.C. that really care to do the right thing in regard to many issues we are dealing with today, yet alone to stop a war.

“Wisdom dictates reasoning, reasoning dictates compromise.” Hopefully that will be the song this in Washington will sing in this circumstance.

 

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