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Bryen Participates in NRO and New English Review Symposia

Shoshana Bryen

National Review Online: In the face of the murders in Libya, who can lead?

Shoshana Bryen: The violence in Egypt and Libya — now spreading to Morocco and Kuwait — is an indication that the U.S. is unable to buy leverage. We bombed Qaddafi and undermined Mubarak on behalf of the revolution, but it has not engendered warm feelings toward us — or our president — in their successors. (In Morocco, they’re carrying signs that say “Death to Obama.”) Revolutionary movements either have, or are co-opted by people who have, well-developed ideologies and agendas. The Muslim Brotherhood was forged over the course of decades spent in Egyptian jails. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Hamas, and Hezbollah know what they want to achieve, and it has nothing to do with representative democracy. They can’t be bought by a few months, or even years, of American largesse or by America’s dumping of Israel. This should be a warning about what we think we can accomplish by arming the “Syrian rebels.”

President Obama wanted our troubles in the region to be the fault of President Bush, but it wasn’t true. The problems in the Middle East are the result of festering tribal, religious, and ethnic hatreds fueled by oil money, a reasonably educated public, and better communications.

America’s problem is that it fails to understand that the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. He is only closer to me than my enemy, and only for now.

New English Review: Is The War Against Islamic Terrorism Over?

Shoshana Bryen: “War” against any pathology is doomed. The Wars on Drugs, Poverty and Terrorism have no matrix for success, so you wouldn’t know when you’d won; you could never stop fighting. President Bush’s formulation, “The war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them,” got to the heart of the symbiotic relationship between terrorists and their sponsors – terrorists need money, territory, arms, passports, etc. that can only be supplied by states; states need the ability to commit mayhem with plausible deniability (i.e., Saudi support for al Qaeda). The war would be won when the territory across the region is governed by sovereigns who decline support for transnational terrorist organizations. Without such support, you would still have isolated incidents – a man in a marketplace with a grenade – but the large-scale, country-changing, spectacular terrorism of 9-11 or Bali or London would be almost impossible. This does not mean those governments would be our friends, be democratic, like Israel, be secular, and/or not have wars. It simply means that support for al Qaeda and other such would dry up. To the question of whether we’re winning – no. Particularly in the past two years, the Obama administration has withdrawn from Iraq (which was fragile), overthrew the Libyan government (which was anti-al Qaeda and now supports al Qaeda across North Africa and in Mali), and welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood while doing nothing to constrain Iran or Saudi Arabia (who support opposite sides, but both of whose sides hate us). The incentive for governments to withhold support for anti-Western or anti-Israel terrorism has been reduced, not increased by the Obama Administration.