Friday, August 29, 2014

Cameron raises the threat level in Britain to "severe", surprising Obama; maybe Scotland referendum is even affected!


The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, delivered a stern warning to the world today before a press conference in which he announced that Britain was on “severe alert” for a terror attack, probably from radicals returning from fighting with ISIS.  This alert level is the second from the top, that would have corresponded to US “orange” level during the Bush days.  CNN has a detailed story an applicable video here. Right off the top, one wonders how this could affect Scotland’s vote for secession in September.

The speech came behind President Obama’s surprisingly soft-pedaled press statement late Thursday afternoon, where he fumbled “a snap from center” and said there was no detailed plan to act in Syria. It seems that Obama was not aware that Cameron was about to raise the threat level in Britain.  You can imagine how conservative papers are reacting; the Washington Times  calls this “A Tale of Tow Cities”, one in which terrorists imagine spoiled westerners should take their turn facing a world described by Charles Dickens.  So did Chairman Mao. Perhaps this is a guilt trip.

Cameron said that raising the threat level would enable law enforcement to become more aggressive in keeping radical fighters from returning to Britain.  It would facilitate cancellation of passports and visas.   Cameron also gave a very mixed view of free speech on the Internet.   This needs to be watched closely.

The self-radicalization of some young men, partly through social media (although these claims may be overstated) seems to demonstrate the cultural divides in western society, particularly with at least two young men from Minnesota (New York Daily News story ).  I lived in Minneapolis from 1997-2003 and saw the Hmong and Somali communities, but had no clue that this was happening to any extent in a blue, liberal area (but then again, there is the problem in the Anoka school system).  The Minneapolis Star Tribune's own coverage on this issue is extensive, the latest being here
   
The media played a video where an American is shown somewhere in the desert as talking like this was “Disneyland”, sleeping under the stars.   The young men, who often do not achieve well in American public school culture, drift and find that Islam gives their lives some meaning.  They say they are going overseas to fight for “women and children”, something they see someone like me as too cowardly to do (unless I’m really disabled).  But then they seem to have no idea that ISIS intends to do the opposite, to slaughter women and children who don’t practice their form of Islam.  This seems to be a cognitive failure.   They seem “stupid.”  They are easily duped. But we can remain aloof or contemptuous of them at our own ultimate peril, given the asymmetry of our world.  

Fox news (and other sources) report finding a trove of plans for a bioterror attack (using weaponized bubonic plague) on an ISIS "laptop of doom" (in northern Syria, analyzed in Turkey), link here. The actual article appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine Aug. 28, 2014, by Harald Doornbos and Jeenan Moosa, link here. This magazine is rather pricey in print, and is usually found in Barnes and Noble stores.  

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