The butchier-than-thou vibe of the last GOP debate reached its apogee when Chris Christie proclaimed his no-fly zone over Syria and then threatened to shoot Russian planes out of the sky. Rand Paul was impressed. "If you want World War Three," he said, "there's your candidate."
Actually, on the fifth anniversary of the Arab "Spring", I get the feeling World War Three is coming with or without Chris Christie - for the same reasons that World Wars One and Two came: the order enforcers can no longer enforce order, and the provocateurs know it, and in that kind of environment stray peripheral threads can unravel the entire geopolitical quilt.
The talk at the Republican debate was mostly about ISIS, about bombing them, killing them, strongarming our Arab "allies" into stepping up, sending special forces, no, wait, thousands and thousands of ground troops... But it's worth bearing in mind this salient point, per The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Syed Rizwan Farook, the man at the center of last week's massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., might have plotted an attack as far back as 2012 with one of his longtime friends, senior law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
In addition, the F.B.I. revealed Wednesday that Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were discussing jihad and martyrdom online in 2013 before they were married and she came to the United States.
The new timeline suggests that the couple were considering violent action before the Islamic State rose to prominence in 2014 and began trying to inspire sympathizers to carry out attacks in the West.
In other words, long before they'd ever heard of ISIS, they were looking for infidels to kill. As the old country song has it, Syed and Tashfeen were violently extremist before violent extremism was cool - before ISIS. So were Charlie Hebdo's killers: They were trained not by ISIS but by AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). ISIS is not the problem, but merely a manifestation of it - the latest and most sophisticated manifestation, but a mere manifestation nonetheless.
My view of the Arab "Spring" remains what it was five years ago. As I said to Megyn Kelly on live TV an hour after Mubarak resigned, this is the dawn of the post-western Middle East - and more broadly the post-American world. The "Facebook Revolution" went, predictably enough, the same way as the Iranian revolution: All the western-educated intellectuals come home and assure the world's media that there's nothing to worry about, the theocrats are pussycats. So in Egypt we were told that moderates like Mohamed el Baradei would get together and there was no chance of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, just as we were told in 1979 that Mehdi Bazargan et al would be calling the shots and Khomeini and the ayatollahs had no real interest in governing. And then the moderates get shoved aside - as they were in Iran by the mullahs, and as they were in Libya by the tribal militias, in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, in Syria by ISIS, in Yemen by the Houthi... And, even in Tunisia, where the "Spring" began, the tourist hotels are empty since the jihad boys gunned down Europeans sunbathing on the beach.
What the media call the Middle East, the foreign ministries always used to call "the Near East" - because, in the old joke of British Arabists, it's nearer than you think. Today it's nearer than it's ever been: asks the Swedes and Finns; ask a truck driver in Calais, as he dodges "refugees" waiting to leap aboard at the mouth of the Channel Tunnel. The implosion of the "Spring"-sprung states has loosed population displacements unseen since World War Two. ISIS matters because its leaders have a shrewder geostrategic grasp than poor old bin Laden ever did. Metternich liked to say that "the Balkans begin at the Landstrasse" - in eastern Vienna. Today the dar al-Islam begins in the Commercial Road in London's East End, and the Amiralsgaten in Malmö. And so ISIS finds allies in Scandinavia, and France, and Australia and Canada and America with far greater ease than our gazillion-dollar outreach programs have succeeded in doing in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many of the Republican candidates sound too anxious to repeat the mistakes of the past 14 years. Lindsey Graham is perhaps the most absurd exemplar: a man who favors massive military deployments around the planet, but open borders at home. And so he wound up, even as he was threatening to loose tens of thousands of soldiers upon their lands, apologizing to the Muslim world because Donald Trump is a big meanie. Perhaps Graham would be more amenable to sanity if we couched it in progressive terms: The "safe space" ought to be western civilization - which means that accelerating Muslim immigration into the west will only make our cities an ever bigger unsafe space for ISIS and others to exploit. The problem in San Bernardino is not just the "radicalized" Syed and Tashfeen, but the semi-radicalized revert neighbor and the hemi-semi-radicalized dad who told Syed to lighten up about the Jews because Israel wouldn't be around in another two years and the wives procured through Green Card fraud and the locals cowed by political correctness into looking the other way as Muslims build pipe bombs in the garage. None of this is in the national interest of the American people. But Fieldmarshal Graham wants a blitzkrieg overseas and a home front that allows US citizens and their mail-order brides to choose what side of the war they want to be on.
By the way, what does "vetting" even mean? In a multiculti world, you can believe everything Caliph al-Baghdadi does - that infidels are unclean, that women are the property of men and should be forbidden to feel sunlight on their faces, that homosexuals should be tossed off the roofs of buildings, that apostasy should be punishable by death, that Sharia should be introduced in western nations, and that the Islamic crescent should one day fly from the White House and Buckingham Palace and tthe Élysée and St Peter's. And Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have no problem with that, as long as you don't actually build a pipe bomb or blow up an airliner.
So there is no actual way of "vetting" anybody until after you've left a big pile of body parts all over the floor.
I'm with Tony Abbott: I like western civilization. I regard Common Law as superior to Sharia, so I would rather people who wish to live under Sharia remained in the many countries where it already operates, rather than adding Austria and Ireland and Denmark to the list. A schizophrenic strategy of ineffectual war overseas and celebrating one's tolerance of the avowedly intolerant at home will ensure we lose.