Posted on November 05, 2015 in Countdown

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Not Like That

“Don’t Be a Puppet,” is a countering violent extremism (CVE) program that was supposed to be rolled out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) earlier this week, but has been indefinitely put back on the shelf. The initial rollout of this program was quickly derailed by a firestorm of criticism from Arab and Muslim advocacy groups who contended that the program is extremely problematic as it could generate increased discrimination against Arab Americans and American Muslims. Some argued that it would be more appropriate for the Department of Education, and not the FBI, to introduce such a program. The bottom line is that this newest CVE program is problematic because the very concept of CVE is fundamentally flawed. It is a concept that is based off of faulty and repeatedly discredited assumptions based on “radicalization theory” and so-called “indicators of radicalization.” The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, FBI, Department of State and the National Counterterrorism Center are all federal bureaucracies already involved in federal CVE efforts. We do not need to add any more federal agencies to this already dizzying bureaucratic web. Doing so only strengthens the credibility of a flawed federal program and further wastes taxpayer dollars. There are real counterterrorism threats we must confront and videos for high school kids—or other headline-grabbing CVE efforts—are not going to cut it. 


The Quiet Americans

President Obama has ordered at least 50 special operations forces to Syria in an effort to fight ISIL in the region. Although this seems like a contradiction to the President’s “no boots on the ground” comment in 2013, the White House insists that the special operations forces will be deployed only to “train, advise, and assist.” According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the “no boots on the ground” comment only refers to Obama’s refusal to send combat troops to take down Assad. The entire narrative with that comment was that Obama wasn’t going to repeat President’s Bush’s mistake by sending combat troops overseas (aka to Iraq) to take down their president (aka Saddam Hussein) because as we learned, that was a big mistake. The Administration also maintains the claim that sending special operations forces has no significant impact on the ground in Syria because this effort only continues the ongoing airstrikes against ISIL. This order comes during a new round of diplomatic talks in Vienna on the future of Syria, increased Russian military involvement in the region, and increased pressure on the United States to fight ISIL more actively. 


Diplomacy In Absentia

It would stand to reason that to have successful negotiations on resolving the Syria conflict you would need to have all parties to the conflict at the table. Once again another meeting was called in Vienna and once again dignitaries from around the world sat together to discuss the fate of Syria. This time there were some notable parties absent. Neither the Syrian regime nor any elements of the Syrian opposition were in the Austrian capital to participate in the meeting. Not to be completely left out of the fate of Syria, the UN special envoy Staffan De Mistura arrived in Syria to hold separate meetings with Syrian regime officials and the opposition to relay the proceedings of the talks in Vienna. No agreement was reached in Vienna on the future of Bashar al Assad, though several leaders present noted some progress while others may be leaving the process altogether. Regarding the lack of agreement on the fate of Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “we cannot allow the differences to get in the way of diplomacy to end the killing.” We can certainly agree with that. 


State of the Debates

Last week’s Republican debate raised more concern over the way debates are sanctioned than the issues being asked of candidates. Although CNBC proved to be a poor moderator of the ten presidential hopefuls on stage, that shouldn’t mean that the candidates themselves can run the debates. In their post-debate reaction to the questions asked by the moderators, twelve of the Republican presidential candidates have negotiated new debate terms they hope to present to television networks. In a meeting on Sunday night, every candidate was in agreement that they were going to bypass the Republican National Committee to renegotiate debate processes, but by Monday night four candidates—Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Chris Christie—decided against the united front. Trump said he would rather deal with the networks himself, while Fiorina gave up on a prospect of change by saying, “We need to understand that the media is not going to be fair.” Christie put it bluntly by saying, “stop complaining… and let’s just go.” Kasich brought the most reason, perhaps, by saying, “we are used to answering tough questions all the time,” which each candidate should be used to by now. We’re going to have to agree with President Obama on this one, though, when he said, “if you can't handle those guys [CNBC moderators], then I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.” Getting upset for being asked unfair question has united the Republican candidates, but threatening to protest the debates to get what they want is not the solution. 


Don't Buy Into It

Over the weekend a Russian plane flying out of Sharm el-Sheikh crashed in the Sinai peninsula killing all 224 passengers aboard. Like us, we’re sure you’ve been reading the swirling theories about the crash. UK officials said it was likely there was “an explosive device on board the aircraft.” U.S. officials revealed that a military satellite picked up a ‘heat flash’ over Sinai, and Russian officials said the plane broke up in midair. Following the crash, ISIL’s Sinai affiliate dubiously claimed responsibility for the crash. The facts are still being uncovered but regrettably much of the media has been lending undue credence to the terrorist organization’s claims. In a second message ISIL’s Egyptian affiliate said “take the crashed plane and search it,” but again provided no specifics. It is very likely that ISIL could have had nothing to do with this crash. Though while the investigations continue the group is taking advantage of the confusion and the coverage of their supposed involvement is elevating their profile. The press, which has largely been skeptical about ISIL’s involvement in this crash, should take care not to buy into ISIL’s opportunistic claims.