The Middle East Is Just The Opening Act
by Dr. Richard L. Benkin (October 2012)
The flames have subsided though the smoke and anger remain. The Obama administration has made it clear through its inaction that there will be no response to the murder of its ambassador. Empty threats and assurances of justice never realized do not count as deeds; nor do belated actions carried out months later for political reasons. For the players, it is further confirmation that Islamists can whip up populations, cause deaths among them and their targets, and pay no price for it. Have we shown ourselves to be the “paper tiger” that Mao called us?
Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa leave little doubt that the foreign policy of President Barack Obama has been a deadly failure. His determination to “engage” the Iranians, and after that failed his refusal to take action that would actually have an impact on the mullahs, has left the Islamic state possibly six to seven months away from nuclear capability. His effusive praise for the “Arab Spring” has given Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood and brought us four dead Americans. The murder of Chris Stevens in Libya was the first killing of a US ambassador since Jimmie Carter’s administration. Hmmm.
What happened in the Middle East is serious, but it might only be the opening act to an anti-American drama that could be unfolding for years if we do not change course; not in the Middle East but in South Asia, the land mass between Iran and China with familiar countries including India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The numbers alone are compelling: one in every five people on the planet lives in South Asia; one in every three Muslims calls it home; two nuclear powers angrily eye each other across a common South Asian border; and one of them, India, is an emerging economic giant. In comparison, the Middle East (Israel excluded): is home to only one out of 20 people and less than one in five Muslims; has just one nuclear power, and one nuclear wannabe; and is where economic muscle is but a technological advance away from collapse.
South Asia has its own versions of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is home to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar e Taibi. Islamist political parties like Jamaat e Islami carry a lot of weight. And, of course there is the Taliban. The Obama drumbeat of late about “moderates” in the Muslim Brotherhood is a mere reprise of his 2009 call to “reach out” to “moderate Taliban” and it likely will prove similarly naïve and fruitless.
South Asia contains another dynamic missing in the Middle East: Communism. India, the emerging giant that will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2020, faces a violent Maoist insurgency, which has made common cause with Islamists. In 2005, Nepalese Maoist provided safe haven for fleeing Al Qaeda terrorists and were rewarded three years later with the reigns of that country’s government. That same year in the south Indian city of Kerala, Muslim and Maoist leaders agreed to “join hands” in their common fight. The Chinese sponsor already occupies areas of India, including Arunachal Pradesh with its massive hydroelectric resources.
I spend a lot of time in South Asia, primarily to help Hindus in and from Bangladesh. They face a relentless jihad to eliminate them to which the world turns a blind eye. But when doing so, I spend a good deal of time talking with Muslims in the area—good guys, bad guys, and people just trying to scrape by. What they tell me should disturb us all.
In 2005, a young Muslim from South Asia said to me in a message and again over the phone that whenever people need a human rights champion, they looked to the United States—not to Europe, not to Iran, not to China, but to the USA. During South Asian trips in 2007 and 2008, I knew that I was safe in doing certain things principally because I am an American. It is not that people were “afraid” of me or us, but as I was told time and again, people knew that doing something untoward could turn into an international incident. Certainly, they expected a US response and so did their governments.
Of late, what I have been hearing from Muslims is quite different. Leftist and Islamist professors are more aggressive with their anti-American vitriol; not only from the podium but also in private classes and conversations. Islamists have been more active in attacking Hindus in India, carrying their ethnic cleansing jihad across the border from their havens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. This year saw massive attacks in the far Northeast state of Assam; last year and the year before in Deganga near the West Bengal capital of Kolkata. But these high profile actions are not nearly important as that which I and others hear from ordinary Muslims who have not engaged in violence or taken public stances excoriating the United States. What many have told me loud and clear—and what is getting louder and clearer—is that they do not believe that the US is a reliable ally anymore. The most sophisticated among them point to “what Obama did to the protestors in Iran,” encouraging them to stand up then leaving them to face Ahmedinejad’s furor unprotected. They see no US response to blatant anti-American actions by Pakistan, in fact, quite the opposite. While then Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani encouraged Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to ally his country with China once the United States leaves the region; the only US response area Muslims saw was more US dollars flowing into the Pakistanis’ pockets.
The general impression that the vast majority of South Asian Muslims convey to me is that under the Obama regime, the President’s naiveté has led to multiple missteps that have strengthened our enemies. Pakistan is the poster child for that impression in South Asia. “Everyone here knows that all that US money is going into people’s pockets or to fight India,” more than one of them told me. They find it incomprehensible that the US lists Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) as a terrorist organization yet continues to pour billions into the coffers of those who fund it. When I was in India earlier this year, one Muslim told me that they consider Obama’s unqualified embrace of the Arab Spring “a gift.”
Muslims just trying to feed their families and with no ideological axe to grind are finding it less and less appetizing to oppose the radical Islamists in their midst. The rule of law in South Asia is inconsistent at best while massive corruption is the rule. Local officials boast about the amount of graft they get for maintaining open borders. I have seen India’s sacred cattle smuggled to Bangladesh for dinners. I have watched Indian border guards sit by idly while illegal arms, drugs, and counterfeit bank notes flow unabated from Bangladesh and Nepal. Worse, I have extensive testimony about how terrorists and others finds an easy route into the Islamists’ next target, India. Life is difficult for people on both sides of the borders, regardless of religion; and offers of a “job” that involves smuggling contraband or jihad often looks like the best chance of feeding one’s family. Besides, according to area residents and asylum seekers, saying no is not really an option. Many refugees who fled to India from Bangladesh, hoping to find a safe haven now find themselves and their families under attack from the same groups that forced them across the border.
One result has been decided demographic and power shifts in certain areas of India. The isolated northeast states are becoming bereft of their non-Muslim populations. As the same process grinds on in West Bengal, I see evidence in the disappearance of roadside Hindu temples that used to characterize border areas of West Bengal now overwhelmed by Bangladeshi infiltrators. Terrorist attacks in India’s major cities continue almost unabated, and Islamists operate unmolested in the North and in Kashmir.
Encirclement? You be the judge. The countries bordering India are:
Pakistan (Islamic state and hostile to its core; source of terrorist attacks)
China (Communist and hostile—major economic competitor)
Bangladesh (Islamic, hostile, and incapable; source of infiltrators and attacks)
Myanmar (Communist-friendly junta)
Nepal (Communist, poverty-stricken; conduit for smuggling and terror attacks)
Bhutan (Small, weak; passive except for its expulsion of Hindus)
In part, our enemies have taken advantage of policies by the left-center Indian government; but their supercharging fuel over the last three years has been “US policies of weakness.” One South Asian Muslim captured what several have told me. “Look, I have to protect my family and get by. If you were me, would you stick your neck out for someone far away who doesn’t protect its allies; or would you go with the people here who definitely will chop off that neck if I don’t join them?”
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