Boiled Alive: What We Can Learn From a Frog
Jeanne M. McDonnell
Recent events have heightened awareness that we face an enemy who wishes to obliterate our way of life. Despite repeated attacks by radical Islamists upon our country, allies, and assets overseas; many of our top leaders have taken a disturbing turn to political correctness. They have ignored conventional wisdom to “know your enemy” and, even more alarming, have taken actions within the government and military to crush efforts to do so. Never having fought a religious war, strategic leaders don’t understand an enemy whose church and state is immersed. This essay discusses warnings our top leaders ignored, the dangers of political correctness, thwarted opportunities to “know our enemy,” and ideas on changing this deadly path. Unless this strategic myopia is turned around, at worst our nation may fall prey to the “boiled frog” syndrome. At best, we will suffer from future attacks from radical Islamic forces.
Boiled Alive: What We Can Learn From a Frog
As two bombs ignite and destroy during the 2013 Boston Marathon, the thoughts of many Americans went back to September 11th, 2001. During the hours following the attack, all eyes are on the President to see if he declares this a “terrorist” attack or something else. As two lay dead at the scene and many have sustained serious injuries to include lost limbs, why the focus on terminology? Mistakes made in the name of political correctness during the Benghazi crisis seemed to be hanging over the administration. Quick and thorough work by law enforcement agencies revealed Islamic extremists were responsible but not the kind most would expect. These young men were American citizens and raised primarily in the United States. As such, some may not consider this an attack by radical Islamists – but that would be a mistake.
September 11th, 2001 is a day that no adult American will ever forget. Although it was not the first time our nation was attacked, it was the most devastating in lives and property since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. American leaders reacted by increasing security at airports, stepping up intelligence efforts, and creating the Department of Homeland Security. President Bush ordered troops into Iraq and later, Afghanistan in an effort to ferret out Al Qaida. In the years since, the shock and pain of 9/11 has faded and Americans have tired of their young men and women coming home maimed or in a coffin. At the same time, there has been a concerted effort to promote Islam as a religion of peace especially by the White House administration. With the deaths of Osama bin Laden and other key Al Qaida leaders, is the United States safer now that it was eleven years ago? The events at the Boston Marathon would suggest otherwise.
There is a legend that if a frog is put into a pot of boiling water, it will survive by immediately jumping out of the pot. If the frog is put in a pot of room temperature water, it will stay there contentedly. If the heat is turned up slowly enough under the pot, the frog is not able to recognize the change in his environment and will eventually boil to death. Today, America is in danger of becoming a “boiled frog.”
Today Americans find themselves in a dangerous situation. Recent events such as the Boston Marathon and Benshazi attacks have heightened awareness that our nation faces an enemy who wishes to obliterate our way of life. Despite repeated attacks upon our country, allies, and assets overseas; many of our national and military leaders have taken a disturbing turn to political correctness. They are not thinking about this threat on the operational or strategic level and, even more alarming, have taken actions within the government and military to crush efforts to do so. Unless this strategic myopia is turned around, at worst our nation may fall prey to what has been called the “boiling frog” syndrome. At best, we will continue to suffer from future attacks from radical Islamic forces.
9/11 Was Not the Beginning
When Americans think about terrorist attacks against the United States, most people recall 9/11 or perhaps, the USS Cole. The attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, may also come to mind. Shortly after 9/11, there were comments that “everything changed.” However, for radical Islamic extremists, 9/11 was merely their biggest victory in a war against the United States that has stretched more than 30 years.
In 1979, the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, was stormed by Muslim militants who took 52 American hostages, holding them for 444 days. In 1983, 63 people were killed by a suicide truck bomber at the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. A few months later, 241 American service members were murdered in a similar attack at the Marine Barracks in Beirut. Again, radical Islamists claimed responsibility. During the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, an elderly disabled Jewish American was shot and thrown into the sea. Six months later, radical Islamists bombed a nightclub in Berlin killing three American service members. In the worst act of terrorism against the United States prior to 9/11, Libyan extremists bombed Pan Am Flight 103 which resulted in the death of 270 men, women, and children.
When the World Trade Center was bombed for the first time in 1993 by radical Islamists, it was treated as a criminal matter. Despite the deaths of six Americans and more than 1000 injuries, President Clinton and the majority of America did not recognize this was the first Islamic terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland. Later that same year, the bodies of 18 American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. The bodies were burned and mutilated by cheering bystanders. Al Qaida claimed responsibility for killing 19 service members and wounding hundreds of others during the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996. Two years later, American embassies were attacked by radical Islamists in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Kenya. Two-hundred and twenty-five people were killed and over 4,000 were injured in these attacks. Radical Islamists planned several attacks in the late 1990’s and 2000 called the 2000 millennium attack plots. Most were foiled. However, in October 2000, extremists were successful in a suicide attack on the USS Cole, while in port in Yemen. Seventeen Sailors were killed and dozens injured. As in the Boston Marathon case, each of these attacks was perpetrated by Muslim men between the ages of 16 and 40.
Despite this obvious pattern of attacks, most Americans have remained oblivious to the threat of radical Islamist. As hijacked planes brought the United States to its knees on that fateful September day, most Americans were unaware of the fatwa issued by Osama Bin Laden and others in 1998. Their interpretation of Islamic law claimed that the United States had declared war against God and his messenger and they called for the murder of any American, anywhere on earth as the “individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” The 9/11 Commission reported that “…the institutions charged with protecting our borders, civil aviation, and national security did not understand how grave this threat could be and did not adjust their policies, plans, and practices to deter or defeat it.”
America failed to respond to the threat much like the frog failing to feel the water heat up. On September 12, 2001, while Muslim nations celebrated the attack on the United States, Americans were ready to make sacrifices and changes to defend their way of life. Ironically, this feeling has faded in the last eleven years. Not only are threats to the American way of life being ignored, Americans still do not understand what radical Islam is and how even the majority of moderate Muslims will not condemn terrorist acts committed in the name of Allah. Even more ironic, our strategic leaders have made decisions that make us even more vulnerable to the threat of radical Islam.
Killing for Religion?
What would prompt young Muslim men and more recently, women, to give up their lives in order to kill Americans and their allies? During the attacks leading up to 9/11 and in many since then, the perpetrators called out “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is (the) greatest.” As Bin Laden said in his fatwa, radical Islamists believe that it is their duty to kill American infidels – those who do not believe in Islam. Their goal is to reestablish an Islamic Caliphate that has the Holy Koran as its constitution and governed by Sharia Law. A Caliphate is an Islamic community ruled by a Caliph, who is a successor to Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Sharia Law is the Muslim religious law. Church and state are one.
Whether a foot soldier or a strategic planner, radical Islamists are true believers whose religion drives every aspect of their lives and behavior. It is important to note that Islam teaches the believer can only get to paradise through their own deeds. Martyrdom and violence are acceptable and encouraged methods to achieve this goal. Many radical Islamists long for martyrdom which they believe provides them with an elevated place in paradise, seventy-two virgins, and allows them to secure relatives and friends a place in paradise. Radical Islamist’s devoted faith, their desire to rid the world of infidels, and encouragement of violence coalesce into a lethal weapon against the Western world.
The Dangers of Political Correctness
“Government officers need to stop hiding behind political correctness and keep the American people informed…radical Islamists overseas have repeatedly told us how they intent to infiltrate all areas of our society, and use the freedoms that are guaranteed under our Constitution to eventually replace it with Shariah law…yet we refuse to seriously confront the threat to our sovereignty and our way of life.” – Congresswoman Sue Myrick
Despite the threat to our lives and society, most Americans have been brainwashed into a mindset that it is important not to offend other cultures even at your own expense. Many are either afraid or not willing to speak out against radical Islamic ideology. In order to silence any criticism, those who have raised questions have been labeled “Islamaphobes” or a victim of “Islamaphobia.” With this social paranoia and the constant reassurances that Islam is a peaceful religion from the media and world leaders including the President, Americans have been lulled into complacency much like the frog as the water is heated up. Even worse, this mentality has been warped into making people believe that the actions of the United States and Israel are to blame for Islamic terrorist acts. One result is that colleges and universities in the United States and Europe have “…used free speech to provide Islamists with a forum (as if free speech meant the right to a platform) while denying a voice to critics of Islam (on the grounds that the university is supposed to be a “safe zone” for minorities).” Strangely, this political correctness does not seem to apply to Christians or those of the Jewish faith.
In many instances, the remarks of U.S. government officials make America look weak, confused, and unintelligent. As noted previously, a recent demonstration of political correctness by strategic leadership came from the current administration’s handling of the murders of U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Despite the attack occurring on September 11th and Libyan President Magarief declaring that it was a deliberate terrorist attack, the White House continued to deny it was an attack. Instead they blamed it on a small-time anti-Islam video that had been posted on You Tube. Even more disturbing was information showing the State Department had emails within two hours of the attack providing details and asking for assistance. Despite this evidence, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continued the party line saying, “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive.” Even though the You Tube anti-Islam video had nothing to do with the attacks, White House spokesmen called it “hateful,” “offensive,” “reprehensible,” and “disgusting.” By focusing on the video, the administration tried to appease the Muslim world and take the focus off the killings.
The Water is Heating Up
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” - Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is required reading for most military officers of all services during Joint Professional Military Education and has been for many years. The phrase “know your enemy” is literally pounded into their heads. After the National War College was started in 1951, the Cold War and the study of Soviet threat dominated the curriculum for the next forty years. War games were played over and over to see if how the threat posed by the Soviets could be met and what their strategies would be. Our military wanted to “know them” inside and out in order to defeat them.
When the United States finally woke up to the threat of radical Islam on 9/11, the military found a much more complex enemy. Unfortunately, the military did not respond quickly to Sun Tzu’s sage advice to “know your enemy.” Five years after 9/11, none of the military service colleges had a curriculum to systematically study the tenants of Islamic war fighting doctrine. Former Pentagon official William Gawthrop noted “…we still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered.” Other strategic analysts report that the U.S. government is not properly preparing its military officers, intelligence personnel, diplomats, and law enforcement representatives to understand the Islamic world, their culture, and how they think.
Why was our Cold War enemy the subject of intense study while there is a prominent lack of study of radical Islam? The biggest reason may be that the ideology of radical Islamists is totally entwined with their religion. Americans have been brought up believing in freedom of religion. Americans believe in separation of church and state. To question another’s religion is uncomfortable and does not jive with political correctness. A complete immersion of church and state is alien to Americans who have never fought a religious war and cannot recognize the intricacies of one. If a military college questions or studies Islamists as an enemy, there are repercussions for “insulting” a peaceful religion. The preponderance of peaceful Muslims in the world prevents the military and government agencies from truly understanding this threat. Defense leaders have become so fearful they have sacrificed the careers of highly decorated officers for following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to “integrate all sources of information to see the enemy as a whole.”
Stifling the Warnings
“We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management” – The 9/11 Commission Report
Steve Coughlin, an Army reserve officer, was the Pentagon’s top expert in interpreting the Koran and Sharia law and the way it influenced radical Islam. Coughlin provided key insight into the “whys” of radical Islam to the Joint Staff, Congress, military colleges, and more. In addition to analyzing the Koran and Sharia Law, he studied many of the hundreds of thousands of documents that were released during the Holy Land case trial in Texas. Despite his expertise, Coughlin was fired from his job in the Pentagon in 2008 after a confrontation with one of the Deputy Defense Secretary’s Muslim aides, Hesham Islam. Islam had asked Coughlin to soften his insights on Islamic doctrine. When Coughlin refused, Islam called him "a Christian zealot with a pen" and lobbied for his dismissal. The Washington Times reported, “Mr. Coughlin appears to have become one of the first casualties in the war of ideas with Islamism.” Coughlin’s job would not be the only casualty of political correctness.
On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan entered the crowded Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas. Shouting “Allahu Akbar,” he opened fire on dozens of people killing 13 and wounding 29. This did not come as a surprise to two of Hasan’s colleagues who had reported to Army officials that Hasan was a “ticking time bomb.” Congressman Jeff Duncan, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said “Service men and women are discouraged from pointing out things that they see … that should raise red flags. They are scared they will be labeled an Islamophobe.” In fact, both the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI were aware of emails between Hasan and known terrorists but both agencies failed to interview him. CBS News revealed the official report on the incident noted, “The FBI was too concerned about political correctness and did not launch an investigation…despite significant warning signs that he was an Islamic extremist bent on killing civilians…”
In 2004, the Joint Forces Staff College, part of National Defense University, started an elective course entitled Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism. Approximately 25 to 40 joint military officers attended the course three times a year. The curriculum had been approved for several years and there was a non-attribution policy in place at the college. However earlier this year, a student who was not enrolled in the elective went to the media and Muslim groups and complained the course was anti-Islam. The complaint went to General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who condemned the course before an investigation could even be completed. Non-attribution and “knowing your enemy” went out the door and the course was shut down. Despite the lead instructor inheriting the approved course that had been taught several years before his arrival, Lieutenant Colonel Dooley was fired and given a negative evaluation that most likely will end his career.
Regarding this case, Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, noted “In order to appease Muslims and the White House, General Dempsey and the Department of Defense rushed to punish LTC Dooley. In the process, they violated not only our Nation’s core principles of free speech and academic freedom guaranteed by our Constitution, but also, a number of the military’s own regulations…”
Much like the frog sitting in the water that continues to heat up, U.S. strategic leaders are not only ignoring the environment, they are intentionally stopping those who are trying to protect them. Political correctness has tied the hands of those military scholars who want to “know their enemy” as Sun Tzu recommended. Since the United States has never been in a religious war, its strategic leaders have not realized that the rules are different. It is not as easy as understanding the Cold War strategy of mutually assured destruction. This failure to understand radical Islam combined with political correctness has not only allowed them to gain ground – it has cost American lives.
Getting Out of Hot Water
The fight against radical Islam has been called many things including “The Long War” and “The War on Terror.” These terms carefully omit any reference to the faith of the perpetrators. What is correct is that this will be a long war. The enemy is patient and will move slowly, manipulating strategic leaders in the name of religious freedom and political correctness. The United States is sitting in hot water and failing to realize the temperature is increasing. In order to defeat this enemy, our strategic leadership needs to drop its fear of being politically incorrect and to understand who the enemy really is.
The 9/11 Commission Report noted “If the government’s leaders understood the gravity of the threat they faced and understood at the same time that their policies to eliminate it were not likely to succeed any time soon, then history’s judgment will be harsh.” Because of our strategic leader’s continued “lack of imagination” and political correctness, we are no closer to understanding our enemy than we were when the report was issued in 2004. Political correctness needs to be recognized by strategic leaders for what it is and the damage it is doing. It is a disgrace that American service members were afraid to come forward to report the radical views of Major Nidal Hasan because of fear they would be labeled as anti-Islamic. The firing of a Bronze-Star winner for carrying out his orders to conduct an approved course seems implausible. Removal from the Pentagon of the country’s top expert on the threat of radical Islam is mind-boggling. All this is happening even though the 9/11 Commission credited “lack of imagination” as a major contributor to the 9/11 attack. Putting a dent in political correctness will not happen as long as our strategic leaders continue to be the primary perpetrators.
Sun Tzu would turn over in his grave if he knew of the obstructions strategic leaders have placed in front of military analysts in their attempt to “know their enemy.” Top government and military leaders have to recognize the folly and dangers of their present course. The fight against radical Islam can only be countered by the West when they begin to “…methodically analyze the ideological religion that empowers it and forms its basis.” It is imperative that strategic leaders and the military understand the tenants of Islam and how it drives radical Islamists in their fight against the United States. Could an improved understanding of what motivated two Bostonian brothers to kill and maim have stopped the tragedy? We will never know. But what we do know is that unless strategic leaders take positive actions to know this enemy and to counter political correctness, the United States will continue to endure attacks and eventually become a boiled frog.
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