My friend Jon Basil Utley, who I have known since we met years ago at functions hosted by the Cato Institute, took time recently on The American Conservative website to address some disturbing events in the world of foreign policy. Jon discusses a conference on terrorism held by the Jamestown Foundation. At the conference, Gen. H.R. McMaster outlined a foreign policy vision of Iran and the Arab world that look strikingly similar to the failed policies of the past. Jon writes (abridged):
A disturbing exchange occurred during the Jamestown Foundation’s 11th annual conference on terrorism at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last month. Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, was asked if he thought Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s newly announced domestic reforms would include an effort to rein in the Wahhabi clerics who have been fanning the flames of Islamist radicalism for years.
Hoffman, an expert on the subject, replied that it really didn’t matter much anymore because Wahhabi teachings had taken on a life of their own throughout vast stretches of the globe, and Saudi action or inaction probably wouldn’t affect the course of that movement.
This could strike many as all the more disturbing given that the European Parliament in Strasbourg identified Wahhabism in 2013 as the “main source of global terrorism.” Based on Hoffman’s observation, it isn’t likely to be subdued any time soon.
Gen. H.R. McMasters, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, told the conference that the president’s anti-terrorism efforts consisted mainly of denying safe havens to terrorist organizations, cutting off funding and rooting out, or responding directly to, terrorist ideology. He said—without elaboration—that Iran continues to foment sectarian violence and directly strengthens jihadist networks “across the Arab world.”
The conference opened a window on recent developments in thinking about the threat of terrorism emanating from the Middle East. Much of it ran counter to views expounded by TAC writers and editors, who have attempted to get attention focused on America’s role in agitating Mideast Islam through military actions there and regime change activities. The conference didn’t touch on the possibility of addressing terrorism through the kinds of containment approaches advocated by TAC’s military strategist, William S. Lind. Nor did the discussion linger over Patrick Buchanan’s oft-expressed observation that “they’re over here because we’re over there.”
For this observer, one point of interest was how little of America’s vast defense budget goes to supporting the so-called war on terrorism. Most of it now seems more designed for war with China and/or Russia, while Congress seems to use the terrorism threat as a way to pad and expand Washington’s military budgets. But it could be argued that Washington itself created much of the terrorist threat. For example, the Boko Haram threat increased greatly by the weapons it got after the U.S. contributed to the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi regime. America’s destruction of Iraq brought about ISIS (and Iran’s growing regional influence). In Syria, ISIS got many of its weapons from CIA deliveries of advanced weaponry to supposedly “moderate” forces, particularly anti-tank weapons to neutralize the Syrian Army’s forces and so prolong the civil war. Unending war is Washington’s rationale for unending multi-hundreds of billions of dollars.
Jon Basil Utley is the publisher of The American Conservative. Here’s some more about his life from the magazine’s website:
Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with language studies in Germany and France. He first worked for American International Group insurance in Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia. He was founding editor/publisher of The Bogota Bulletin. Later he worked in finance and insurance in Peru. Then he became a foreign correspondent in South America for Knight Ridder newspapers. For 17 years, starting during the Reagan Administration, he was a contract commentator about communism and third world issues on the Voice of America. After the collapse of communism he worked with the Atlas Network on supporting the creation of free market think tanks in Russia and Eastern Europe. He managed an oil drilling partnership in Pennsylvania and later worked in real estate development. He has written for the Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, Journal of Commerce, Miami Herald and other papers. He was associate editor of The Times of the Americas, and a contributing editor to Conservative Digest. Utley was born in Moscow. His father, Arkadi Berdichevsky, a Russian trade official, was arrested in 1936 and later executed during the Soviet purges. His English mother, Freda Utley, escaped Russia with him. They immigrated to America in 1939, where she became a prominent anticommunist author and activist.
For more detail on Jon, read this interview by Barbara Hollingsworth of cnsnews.com.