Fear of War: War by proxy?

Robert Greenwald film Drone Wars

CONTROVERSIAL ANY WAY WE GO: Whether we fight our battles “boots on the ground” or by proxy or through drone campaigns, the battles will be controversial. Activist filmmaker Robert Greenwald, whose earlier films have attacked everything from Wal-mart to the Koch brothers, released his latest film attacking the use of drones in early 2014.

The U.S. Senate approved yesterday a measure that would train and arm Syrian rebels to fight the ISIS militants. It was a rare show of unity with the House of Representatives who had previously voted in favor of the bill.

Is this war by proxy?

All week, we’ve talked about the rise of the Islamist militant group ISIS (or ISIL) and reactions to it. We’ve discussed the Pope’s proclamation that “war is madness,Americans’ fears of becoming victims of terrorism, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey’s comment about the possibility of U.S. boots on the ground, and the dilemma of sacrificing civil liberties for more security.

Many are trying to read the tea leaves of Dempsey’s remark. Was it planted by the administration? Was it just a hypothetical? Was it a prediction—or expectation?

Slate commenter Fred Kaplan said, “What’s worth a shudder is thinking about what his successor might do.” This means, of course, that the war against ISIS will extend beyond Obama’s presidency. He pledges to not put U.S. boots on the ground, but what will his successor do?

So far, it will be war by proxy: American airstrikes and local troops armed and trained by America.

Do you think that war by proxy will work?
Will we see more and more U.S. advisers in the Middle East?
Do you predict U.S. boots on the ground once again?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Fear of War: Sacrifice civil liberties for more security?

Balancing_Act__National_Security_and_Civil_Liberties_in_Post-9_11_Era___Pew_Research_Center

Click the graphic to read the entire Pew report.

National security and civil liberty are often at odds.

More of one means less of the other. Today, what’s your greater concern: that Obama’s latest anti-terror policies won’t go far enough to adequately protect the nation from external and internal threats, or that the policies will go too far in restricting civil liberties?

Since 2001, the Pew Research Center has asked questions about the tradeoff of security and liberty. In 2001, over half of Americans (55%) said that it would be necessary to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. Just over a third (35%) disagreed. My surveys of the greater Detroit region in 2003 revealed the same pattern: 55% of the general population was willing to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. But I also found out that 47% of Arab Americans were also willing to do so.

In the year since, a majority of Americans have felt that it’s not necessary to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. The peak was 2009, when 65% said so.

I predict a reversal, given the high level of fear that Americans now have of becoming victims of terrorism. The fact that some English-speaking Europeans and Americans have joined the ranks of the jihadists—and could return to do harm at home—is a key reason why we will see much more concern about beefing up security, and much less concern about government overreach and intrusion into the lives of private citizens.

How willing are you to give up civil liberties for more safety and security?

Have recent events persuaded you to emphasize security more than before?

Do you think it will be necessary to infringe on civil liberties to curb terrorism at home and abroad?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Fear of War: U.S. troops back on the ground?

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dempsey

This week, General Dempsey called into question the claim that no American military personnel will be deployed on the ground in the current crisis with ISIL.

“No boots on the ground” is a mantra with the Obama Administration. The president reiterated this theme in his recent address to the nation, stating that the effort to fight ISIL “will not involve American combat troops on foreign soil.”

But do you think we will see U.S. combat troops on the ground anyway?

Despite Obama’s pledge, voices are rising that advocate for the use of U.S. ground troops. In August, a Washington Post editorial stated that the administration “must put boots on the ground to stop the Islamic State.” House Speaker John Boehner recently said that the use of ground troops should not be ruled out.

The most telling remarks, however, came in the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that took place yesterday. Both Secretary of State Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) testified. As widely reported, the nation’s top military commander said that U.S. troops on the ground were a possibility, if airstrikes are not effective. (Here you can view the Department of Defense’s video of the hearing.)

A majority of Americans support airstrikes against the jihadist group, but only about a third say that combat troops should be used, too.

Do you support or oppose the use of U.S. troops to combat ISIL?

Regardless of your support or opposition, do you think that the U.S. “boots on the ground” is inevitable?

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Categories: Security

Fear of War: Could YOU become a victim of terrorism?

176 victim photos of the 9 11 attacks

176 VICTIMS ON “9/11″ This photo array comes from one of the many online displays of the nearly 3,000 victims in those 2001 terrorist attacks. It takes 17 of these 176-photo arrays to represent all 3,000 victims.

Diplomats from 25 nations gathered yesterday in Paris to discuss strategies for responding to the growing threat of ISIS (also known as ISIL), the jihadist group responsible for a wave of atrocities, including three beheadings of Westerners. While the focus is on a coordinated global response, almost half of Americans feel we are less safe at home now than we were before 9/11. Many Americans are worried about terrorist acts on our soil.

Personally, how worried are you that you—or a member of your family—will be a victim of terrorism?

Just over four of ten Americans (41%) say they are worried, according to a CNN/ORC poll taken about a week ago. Thirteen percent say they are very worried that they or a member of their family will be a victim of terrorism.

How well is the U.S. government doing to reduce the threat of terrorism?

Only 17% of Americans say the government is doing very well, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, with an additional 39% saying that the government is doing fairly well. Almost two of ten (19%) feel the government is not doing at all well to reduce the threat, more than double the number that felt the same way in 2013.

You can see some of the results from both polls I’ve cited in this aggregation of recent polls.

Of course, the results I’ve just reported might change as the response to ISIS unfolds. Already, well over 100 airstrikes have taken place.

How worried are you that you or your family will be a victim of terrorism?

Is the U.S. government doing enough to reduce the threat of terrorism?

Will the 25-nation response to ISIS reduce—or raise—the threat of terrorism at home?

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Categories: Security

Fear of War: Pope says ‘War is madness,’ but is it inevitable?

Spread of ISIL in the Middle East

THE SPREAD OF ISIL, (aka The Islamic State) as of mid-September 2014: GRAY is controlled by ISIL; SALMON is controlled by the Syrian government; MINT GREEN is controlled by Syrian rebels; GOLD is controlled by Syrian Kurds; YELLOW-GREEN is controlled by Iraqi Kurds; MAGENTA is controlled by the Iraqi Government. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia.)

“War is madness,” said Pope Francis in a papal Mass to remember the victims of the First World War. The Mass took place two days ago in northeast Italy, a scene of intense combat between Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops in the war.

“Greed, intolerance, the lust for power—these motives underlie the decision to go to war,” said the pontiff, “and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse.” You can read the pope’s entire message here.

Just a few days prior, Obama addressed the nation, outlining his strategy to deal with the growing terrorist threat. The objective, he said, is “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

Considering these and other international news stories in recent days: Do you fear a new round of war?

Many Americans feel unsafe. New polls report that more Americans feel unsafe now than at any time since 9/11. Almost half of Americans (47%) say the nation is less safe, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Almost all Americans (94%) say they have heard of the beheadings of the two American journalists, the poll reports—and this poll was taken before the claim of a third beheading, this one of a British journalist.

A clear majority of Americans (61%) favor military action against ISIS (which the administration calls ISIL, with the L that denotes “land” rather than “state”). These supporters say that military action is in the nation’s interest.

Four of ten Americans (40%) say that military action should be limited to air strikes, while about a third (34%) say that air strikes and combat troops should be involved. Only 15% say that we should abstain from military action.

Do you agree with the Pope that “war is madness”?
Do you think war is inevitable?
Do you fear a new round of war?

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Categories: Security

Star-Spangled Music Week: What did 1914 writers think about 2014?

Scientific American 1914 issue with Woodrow Winson quote on the cover

WHAT DID 2014 LOOK LIKE A CENTURY AGO? To many American journalists, the future looked rosy! “The door of opportunity swings wide before us,” Wilson wrote in this 1914 issue of Scientific American. As we see on this cover, journalists 100 years ago also took pride in America’s patriotic symbols.

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem. One-hundred years ago was the Star-Spangled Banner’s centennial.

What did Americans think then about the bicentennial in 2014?

This month, celebrations of the bicentennial abound. We’ve discussed the Smithsonian Institution’s “Raise a Glass to History” event this evening, the “Proudly We Hail” half-time show at the University of Michigan football stadium tomorrow, and the giant panda cub Bao Bao, winner of the Smithsonian’s Summer Showdown of American symbols. Yesterday, the 13th anniversary of 9/11, we paused to remember the victims of the tragedy, and the threat posed today by the jihadist group ISIS.

ISIS and 9/11 were beyond thought and imagination in 1914, even though World War I already was raging among the European powers. The world in 2014—as imagined in 1914—was a much more peaceful place, according to a 1914 editorial in the Baltimore Sun that was just reprinted. In fact, “the most signal advance which the world will make in the next century will be moral and intellectual in character….” Science and sociology would enhance human health and eradicate poverty. And so on.

The Baltimore Sun editorial was right in line with what other major American publications were predicting that year. President Wilson wrote a letter to Scientific American magazine about the nation’s future role in the world. “It will be a signal service to our country to arouse it to a knowledge of the great possibilities that are open to it in the markets of the world. The door of opportunity swings wide before us,” Wilson wrote. “Through that door we may, if we will, enter into rich fields of endeavor and success.” The Scientific American editors were so impressed that they quoted the first line of Wilson’s letter on the magazine’s cover.

Most predictions about the future prove wrong, but the Baltimore Sun writer 100 years ago got one right—and it’s about the Star-Spangled Banner:

“Let our hope and prayer be that a hundred years from now, whatever other changes time may have wrought, the people of 2014 may still see the same banner waving over them that waves over us, and still symbolizing the principles of justice, brotherhood and equality of opportunity.”

How will you mark the bicentennial of our national anthem?

Does it make you feel good to hear the national anthem—or see the flag flying?

Note: In case you’ve been wondering about the outcome of the Raise a Glass to History competition, the winner is Gunpowder Cream—a concoction made of pure maple syrup, aged rum, English Breakfast tea, lemon juice, whipped cream, and cinnamon.

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Categories: American SymbolsSymbolic Patriotism

Star-Spangled Music Week: A rising terrorist threat this Patriot Day?

September_2014__Photo_of_the_Day___The_White_House

DISCUSSING TERRORISM AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL—Prior to his address to the nation on Wednesday evening President Barack Obama met with Vice President Joe Biden and with bicameral leadership of Congress. Participants include: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, released for public use.)

Patriot Day was created by an act of Congress as an annual day of remembrance in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. The American flag is flown at half-staff on all U.S. government buildings and facilities around the world, and private citizens are urged to do the same at their homes.

Are you flying Old Glory at half-staff today?

The solemnity of Patriot Day 2014 occurs just before the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key when he witnessed “Old Glory” flying over Fort McHenry after 25 hours of British bombardment. So far this week, we’ve looked at the lighthearted side of the bicentennial.

Today, we consider the renewed concerns about terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Prior to September 11, 2001, attacks by foreign terrorists on the U.S. homeland were believed to be impossible. 9/11 shattered that belief. Now, thirteen years later, Americans are very worried about new terror attacks, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, especially after the beheading of two American journalists by the jihadist group ISIS.

Do you think that ISIS poses a threat to the U.S.? Almost half of Americans (45%) say that ISIS poses a very serious threat to the U.S., with an additional 22% saying that ISIS is a fairly serious threat. Only 10% say the group is not a threat to the U.S.

Is terrorism the most important problem facing the country? Today, 14% of Americans say yes, putting terrorism at the top of their list of the most important problems we face. Two years ago, only 3% said terrorism was the most important problem.

Do you think ISIS has terrorists in the U.S. right now? Over seven of ten Americans (71%) say yes, ISIS terrorists are here. Just over a quarter (27%) of Americans disagree.

Will you flag the American Flag at half-staff today?
How much of a threat do you think ISIS is?

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Categories: American SymbolsSecurity