There are both hopeful signs coming from world headlines and distressing indicators from those same headlines.
In Wales, NATO has pledged, in words to be followed by both deeds and dollars to support Ukraine, amid the flurry of venom spewing from Putin's rhetoric about the dangers of Ukraine's moving closer to NATO and Europe. Underneath these headlines, there is the serious risk that few if any of the commitments made by NATO leaders will be delivered, given the scant delivery on the commitment of 2% of GDP as a targeted minimum for NATO members. Politicians love to hear the sound of their "churchillian" rhetoric, as if their speechwriters were ever able to emulate the English bulldog. They also love to hear the sound of hands clapping when they say what the people whose arms are supporting those hands want to hear. Promising to the Baltic states protection against a potential Russian invasion, as Obama did prior to his arrival in Wales, may make good television for the global audience. He seems to be apprised of the risks in the Russian ambitions, and able to assess them and deliver a soundbyte that eminently captures the spirit of the moment.
However, there remains to be serious 'down and dirty" negotiations that would have to include Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Cameron, President Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin as well as probably the United States' Secretary of State, John Kerry, in order to tie up all the loose strings on any sustainable agreement for lasting stability in eastern Ukraine. Given that Russia refuses to acknowledge that the "bear" is even an active participant in the conflict over the future of eastern Ukraine, preferring to push forward into the spotlight the Russian "separatists" (those whom Obama says Putin is arming, financing, training and advising), one has to wonder how substantive negotiations can or will take place with only a phantom of the Kremlin at the table.*
On the Islamic terrorism front, the former Al Qaeda cell of that movement announced today that it is setting up "shop" in India, as a formal protest to the abuses Muslims have suffered under a Hindu government. Having rejected the more violent and brutal ISIS segment of the Islamic jihad (or having been rejected by that segment of the jihadi movement), former Al Qaeda operatives now feel some competitive urges to re-establish their bona fides as part of the world-wide attempt to dominate wherever and when they can. One of the more distinguishing aspects of the two sides of the Islamic terrorist movement is whether or not the killing of all those who are not ascribing to the Sunni interpretation of the Koran is necessary and compulsory. ISIS seems to believe and to act as if they believe that such killings are both necessary and valid, whereas the former iterations of Al Qaeda under Osama bin Ladin did not.
Whatever their different "takes" on their goal of establishing a world-wide caliphate, these terrorists are sparking push-back even from Muslim Imams, one of whom has called for other Imams to come forward to denounce ISIS and especially their recruitment of western agents, all of them with valid passports and all of them accessible to their home countries following their tour of duty in Syria and Iraq. Prime Minister Cameron has proposed new legislation that would make it possible for authorities to seize their passports should they attempt to regain entrance into Britain, and to make it more difficult for new recruits to join the jihadi movement in the first place. Both Cameron and Obama took out a joint op-ed in the British Telegraph today, telling the world that neither intends to be "cowed" by the Islamic terrorist movement.
Translating that sentiment into both policy and action, including the cessation of private funding, for example from individuals currently living in Saudi Arabia, and the decision to deploy airstrikes into Syria, without collaboration with President Assad, also an enemy of ISIS, and the decisions to ramp up intelligence gathering, including enhanced sharing of that intelligence, increased surveillance both at home and abroad of the intricate details of the plans of ISIS and Al Qaeda, not to mention Al Shabab, Al Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the training camps of Yemen....these are all speculation at this point. And without a concerted action among a large group of countries, all of which are potential targets for ISIS attacks, we could be receiving invitations to the television version of spraying insect repellent on an insect-infested field and watching the targets flee only to re-establish their colonies and return to bite those who sprayed the insecticide in the first place.
Only, these "insects" carry a venomous virus for which only God has any credible antidotes. All the research institutes committed to their diligent pursuit of digging deeply into the minds, hearts and belief systems of these jihadists cannot anatomize the precipitate of their intransigent wills, all of which are committed to the cause up to and including their own much sought-after deaths as suicide bombers.
Some even find their "calling" as assassins, callously and brazenly be-heading two American journalists before television cameras with the avowed purpose of wreaking revenge on Obama for his airstrikes into their camps in Iraq not to mention the secondary and reportedly successful purpose of recruiting new agents for Allah's jihad.
Rhetoric against ISIS or Al Qaeda, or any of the other cells of this cancer will prove useless, and will be even more hollow if the rhetoric has the impact of generating confidence that this monster can and will be easily or quickly slain.
Slaying dragons, the preferred role of western heroes, is neither called for against ISIS, nor will such a strategy succeed. Putin may think his bravado is impressing his audience back home, but if the Russian economy fails to generate the fruits and vegetables that his people have grown accustomed to putting on their tables in the middle of the polar vortex, then perhaps his bravado will have outlived its political life.
Equally, western leaders who believe and speak as if they can and will reduce Putin to a blithering compliant signatory to a sustainable peace deal with Ukraine, and who tell their national and global audiences that they have found the strategy to eradicate Islamic terror, will suffer serious and negative push-back from their electorate, and their inner circles.
We are living in a time when not only is the world under a powerful microscope and transmission technology making whatever happens available in a nanosecond to everyone on the planet, we are also living in a time when hollow rhetoric is so despised and so denigrated and so fraught with political suicide, that only those with the courage and the character to utter profound words like "We do not have a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria"....as Obama has already done to the anger of his critics on the Republican side, will have any chance of being believed by those whose trust is the only thing sustaining him for the remainder of his second term.
Tolerating the actions of the Mayor of Detroit, for example, who just this past Labour Day weekend hosted an Islamic conference in his city, at which too many speakers whose views are too close to those of the Islamic terrorist movement were not only invited to speak but warmly welcomes by the Mayor, is not the way forward. Appeasing the Islamic terrorist movement, a movement far too willing to jump at any opportunity to "sell its propaganda" no matter the venue or the purpose of the convention, is not the way to exercise leadership by avoiding the charge that we are not in a war against Islam.
All voices that concur with the Islamic victimhood in western democracies have to be cautioned, if not silenced, if recruits are not to continue trickling into the arms of the killing-training camps of ISIS. And the sooner the Muslim Imams join the fight against the Islamic terrorist jihad, bringing their mosque followers with them, the more secure we will all feel, including those Imams who are responsible for the future health of their mosques, all of which are under threat so long as this scourge continues.
*It is not incidental that the French government has postponed the delivery of its warship to Putin, given the Russian-generated turbulence on the world's globe. We applaud their courage and their fortitude.