Introduction to the Second Edition of
The Hour of Maximum Danger
E LaMont Gregory MSc Oxford
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its
hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us
would exchange places with any other peopl or any other generation. [for] The energy, the faith, the devotion which we
bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
The first edition of The Hour of Maximum Danger (2005) was written as an executive summary concerning the growth and advance of radical Islamic terrorism at the dawn of the second term of the Presidency of GW Bush. The executive summary suggests that the creation of an anti-terrorism capability that envisioned a battle, of at least two decades, 2005 – 2025, should be the highest priority of American military, intelligence and security agencies. Unfortunately, those who advised Bush, suggested that putting in place a several decades long anti-terrorism regime was unnecessary, since given the resources being brought to bear against radical Islamic jihad at that time, and concluded that Islamic terrorism could not last another decade, no less two or more. Therefore, while this author’s highly-thoughtful contribution was well received, the strategy and planning for a decades-long regime of anti-terror activities was not, in the view of Bush’s advisors, warranted. The Obama administration ignored the advice altogether, because Obama envisioned that after his Cairo speech, a conversation would ensue between the extremes of Islamic thought and western leaders, and that would replace the bomb with dialogue. Only, towards the end of the Obama administration, did the president begin to envision the reality of troops having to be in place for decades in some of the most perplexing situations in some of the most troubled nations. And now, Donald Trump must decide, whether radical Islamic terrorism and insurgency is waxing or waning. The battle for Aleppo, will in the annuals of history, stand as a failure of the Obama administration, while the battle for Mosul will test the resolve of the emerging Trump administration. First the leaflets, then the bombs if necessary, ought to be the way forward for the US backed forces posed to take control of Mosul. But, at this juncture, it is highly unlikely that the US backed Iraqi forces will not commit the same degree of destruction and a level of civilian casualties as the Syrian regime and their Russian backers occasioned in the battle for Aleppo. And, it must also be remembered that those wise advisers that suggested to Bush that a decades-long regime of anti-Islamic terrorism and insurgency strategies, tactics and campaigns were unnecessary, are now the top advisors to the Trump administration.
plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
the more things change, the more they stay the same
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
There have been and there will be many volumes of literature written about the US presidential election of 2016. Some of it will represent scholarly (peer-reviewed) attempts to unravel what happened and how, and while that is true, the clear majority of what will be written about this presidential election cycle, like much of the debate during the election itself, will be diatribe, that is, yet another forum for invective, pure and simple.
There were a number of key junctures during the presidential election of 2016 which loom large. The kinds of events which some have described as akin to the reaction of a recruit to a drill sergeant’s voice calling out their name in such a way that causes them to halt mid stride and for their heart to actually skip a beat. Among these, the Comey letter to congress approaching the final week of the election concerning the ongoing Clinton private server email investigation will stand out as one of the more significant.
The Comey letter stands out because it resonated with the electorate. The concept that something, some event, happening or occurrence resonates with the electorate is worthy of further exploration.
Also, and significantly, among the occurrences that resonated with the electorate was when Trump suggested that the president was reluctant to use the words radical Islam, because the use of that language might in someway grant religious legitimacy to terrorists. Both Obama and Clinton, according to Donald Trump, "disgracefully refused to even say the words Radical Islam," even to describe the most blatantly horrific acts of terror against civilian populations (non-combatants). And, the reason for the refusal Donald Trump stated, in what rests as a damning condemnation, was not the issue of giving religious legitimacy to terrorists, but simply that [Obama] could not mention what the problem was, i.e., radical Islamic terrorism, because he did not see or understand the true nature of the actual problem.
Thus, in very few words and without offering much in the way of a detailed explanation, Trump had succeeded in making the argument that the reason there were so many acts of terrorism and why their prevention seemed beyond the ability of the current administration, was that the current administration did not understand the problem well enough to place it in its proper framework. Trump suggested that at the heart of the waves of terrorist attacks were those who embraced the philosophy and tactics of a radical Islamic terror regime, of which ISIS (Al Qaeda) is at present its most identifiable face. ISIS tends to attack when provoked, sooner or later. And generally, sooner when its religious beliefs are involved.
What the electorate had also witnessed was that Donald Trump could frequently inject some pretty outlandish comments into the discussion of some very crucial issues. There will be ample time to critique Trump-speak, because he will provide additional opportunities if he is unwilling or unable to stop tweeting, as he assumes the office of president in January 2017, however, such an undertaking is beyond the scope of this current contribution.
A little recent history might be helpful to further develop this line of reasoning, to wit:
After the events of 9/11, President Bush, British Prime Minister Blair and most of the other western leaders paraded a series of Muslims (those who practice an Islamic way life (religion)) before their respective citizens to deliver a singular message, and that was that Islam was a religion of peace. And interestingly, very little else in the way of an explanation for the events of 9/11 was ever to be forthcoming.
Trump, in a style that is now characteristically his own, using very few words, but in an accusatory manner, had provided something that the public had yearned for, that is, an explanation as to why the events of 9/11 had taken place and why so many acts of terrorism had occurred since. It was evident to the Trump camp that a large segment of the electorate harbored the notion that there should be something more substantial said about 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks. But since such explanations have been lacking, that reality (lack of adequate explanations) had been percolating (resonating) in the thoughts and discussions of many Americans for a period of some15 years.
And, unlike other Trumpisms put forth on the range of issues that presidential elections inspire, this one went largely unchallenged, save a statement by President Obama, suggesting that “We know who we are fighting, we know who the enemy is, and that will not change whatever we call them,” and Hillary Clinton’s reversal and subsequent willingness to utter the words, radial Islam.
The President’s retort, like the language of Bush before him, still suggested to the electorate that they should just trust the administration (the government), as they had the battle against terrorism well in hand. While that same electorate witnessed on an almost weekly basis one horrific terrorist attack after another, with most of the attacks of recent vintage being either conducted, directed or inspired by ISIS.
What was not stated in those early days after 9/11, while the idea of a peaceful Islam was the main and enduring official story line, was that 44 years earlier Sayyad Qutb, after studying in Colorado and at Stanford University in California, returned to Egypt and with the assistance of the Muslim Brotherhood and an individual who would become a founding member and second in command of Al Qaeda, convened the first international jihad conference at which the idea that the United States had to be destroyed was firmly incorporated into thinking of the most radical adherents of the Islamic Revivalist Movement, and in fact, the conference passed a resolution declaring war against the United States.
Also in the mid-1950s, and this might come as something of a surprise to those who embrace the idea that Vietnam was the ignoble first defeat of the mighty US Army, when they come to the realization that that badge of honor belongs to Eisenhower’s utterly humiliating defeat in Syria, and the demise of the Eisenhower Doctrine.
And, we must consider a Clinton-ordered missile attack on a suspected Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan, which failed to kill Bin Laden, as the precipitating event that sparked the tit for tat revenge, which is what spurred plans to bring forward the second attempt to bring down the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. You demonstrate an ability to strike in my backyard with sophisticated weaponry, I will demonstrate the ability to turn your sophisticated technology into the means for me to strike you in your backyard.
It is interesting to appreciate how the perpetrators went from believing that the Towers were being supported centrally by structures beneath the buildings, to understanding that the uniqueness of the World Trade Center Towers was that their external walls formed the main support structures for the buildings.
During the trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, the perpetrators were told how stupid they had been, and how little they knew about the United States that they were hell-bent to destroy. If they had known, the prosecution lambasted, anything about the US, they would have known that every building before its construction is approved, must have a plan approved and on file, as to how the building will be brought down once it reaches the end of its service life. And, had the bombers known that they would have realized that the buildings were supported by their external walls, and at the end of their service life the building would be emptied and a series of explosions would be initiated at the top of the structures and the buildings would crumble under their own weight and create a pile of rubble at their base, with minimal damage to any other buildings in the immediate area.
Of course, the 1993 bombers did not know that, because they knew so little about an open society where such information is readily available to the public.
Having learned how the buildings would be destroyed at the end of their service life, a Pakistani Al Qaeda strategist planned the use of hijacked planes full of fuel to provide the explosions at the top of the structures, before the end of their service life, and the rest, as it is said, is history.
It is also important to realize the size of the forces which ISIS (Al Qaeda) can muster in battle or as support to its terror, insurgency and military campaigns, realistically numbers some three million individuals. And, as such the radical Islamic group ISIS (Al Qaeda) forms the largest non-conventional fighting force on this planet, and by far. The armies of China and North Korea are larger, while US military forces represent a smaller force, by some 700,000.
Western security authorities, when confronted with this rather large number, often counter that three million is in fact a small fraction of the approximately two billion or more adherents to the Islamic faith on earth. But, the former has precious little to do the later. At three million, ISIS (Al Qaeda), is potentially the seventh largest combination of active, reserve and paramilitary force personnel in the world; after North Korea with 7.6 million, South Korea at 6.6 million, followed by Vietnam with 5.5, India 4.7, China 3.5, and the Russian Federation 3.3 million, respectively. By way of comparison, US force strength, divided between its two standing armies is approximately 2.3 million.
Once the reality of the size of ISIS (Al Qaeda) forces is considered, Donald Trump’s promise to destroy ISIS falls squarely into the realm of the many other promises he made on the campaign trail. They are full of thunder and fury, but signify nothing.
The people of New York City, San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Nice, Islamabad, Quetta, Bali, Toronto, and scores of other cities, are well aware of how profoundly murderous and unsettling radical Islamic jihad terrorist campaigns can be.
It is apparent that the debate on the use of the words radical Islamic terrorism helped Trump achieve electoral success. But his undoing will come as he tries to keep his promise to destroy ISIS. Remembering that one of Trump’s easily defeated primary opponents, Ted Cruz, suggested that he would carpet-bomb ISIS. Given the global distribution of the radical Islamic organisation, it is difficult, in fact, it defies rational discernment, as to exactly where Ted Cruz intended to begin his carpet-bombing campaign to destroy ISIS.
It is just as possible that Cruz intended to extend to ISIS, something that they already possess, that is, the means to bomb according to their own conscience.
Perhaps, and collaterally, such strident talk about the use of unremitting force has given credence to the aerial bombardment of Aleppo and Mosul, while ISIS is hiding among the civilian populations of these cities.
Donald Trump, for lack of an alternative, represents the right wing of American politics. It should also be recognized that ISIS also represents the right wing of Islamic society.
This author has often made the observation that an illiberal will not protect the United States against the extremist right-wing of American society, and cannot secure the United States against ultra-right-wing organisations like ISIS, because they sympathize with homegrown right-wing extremists, and are largely blind to the actual nature and the subtle nuances of the threat that foreign originated right wing, especially religious extremism, poses to the United States.
It is difficult for an American anti-Semitic organisation to appreciate fully that ISIS is also an anti-Semitic organisation that is hell-bent on the destruction of all Americans. And that the American anti-Semitic organisation is actively giving aid and comfort to ISIS, by providing the means for ISIS to claim correctly that there are Americans who agree with their anti-Semitic stance. The support for the president-elect by these organisations must been seen in the light that they give aid and comfort to the sworn enemies of the United States, and that is in fact and in law an act of treason.
And in this sense the ultra-right in American society is very much like their ISIS counterparts, since both harbor the belief that any opinion contrary to their own is not just an alternative view point, but a threat to society and a way of life.
If the current Republican Party in the United States and itsltra-right counterparts in Europe do not vehemently oppose their own extremist ultra-right supporters, neither America nor Europe will have much success in opposing ISIS. Because being able to mount a campaign against ISIS would require an equally vigorous campaign against indigenous ultra-right extremism, which considering the election of Donald Trump in the US, is highly unlikely.
The appointments (subject to confirmation) Trump has made to such departments as defense and justice, preclude any such undertaking against American ultra-right extremist groups, and as suggested by this author, the inability or unwillingness to go after the one, curtails the ability to go after the other.
In other words, the election of Donald Trump is rather good news to ISIS. Trump accused Obama of creating ISIS, and now he will be the president that helped to sustain them.
A sad commentary, but a true one.
And, the very idea that in modern America and Europe, there would be a vigorous campaign against indigenous-right-wing extremist groups, while the strength of the ultra-right of the political spectrum grows, is simply a bridge too far.
The second edition of The Hour of Maximum Danger will be available shortly everywhere, electronically as well as in print.
E LaMont Gregory MSc Oxford