The world has been so deeply immersed in the election politics of the United States and the resulting bifurcation of Donald Trump's America that an alarming development in the Middle East, which is high on his priority list, has seemingly been overlooked. (Reuters Photo/Mike Segar)

Commentary: Donald Trump's America Now Sleeping With Enemies


NOVEMBER 13, 2016

The world has been so deeply immersed in the election politics of the United States and the resulting bifurcation of Donald Trump's America that an alarming development in the Middle East, which is high on his priority list, has seemingly been overlooked.

Shariah fighters under the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, which consists largely of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, are now using chemical weapons against Syrian troops and civilians in Aleppo, even as they hide behind religious symbols to fool Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other allies.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says his country has asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send a fact-finding mission to Aleppo following the discovery of evidence of chemical weapons used against Syrian troops and civilians.

This should not be taken as a single country's issue of grave concern. It is just a matter of time before the Islamic caliphate menace becomes a domestic nightmare for the United States.

And this is going to consume much of America's energy as the al-Qaeda trained militants' use of chemical weapons could inspire homegrown radicals to assemble a dangerous force within the United States to further weaken the divided nation from inside.

From a national security perspective, outgoing President Barack Obama's generous and democratic policies have led to the rise of internal radical Islamic threats against which ACT! for America has been cautioning for years to the deaf ears of the US administrations.

Many Americans have been led to downplay the reality that the United States was attacked by jihadists only when the twin towers were brought down in the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy because of George Bush's tough stance on the Middle East crisis. This is a dangerous simplification of the actual threat now creeping across America.

Americans should never forget that they have been attacked since 1979 by Iran in the hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter. Under Ronald Reagan, US marines were butchered in Lebanon by Hezbollah. Under George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, America was attacked also after the Taliban had trained over 10,000 al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan with the United States being their eventual target. And this manifested in Benghazi, Libya, and the Sept. 11 tragedies under George Bush Jr. Only then did America wake up from a long sleep and it was already too late.

In March this year, in front of the watchful eyes of the Obama administration, the FBI busted the biggest known radical Islamic terror cells in California, Minnesota and Alabama, involving African-Americans plotting to commit terror attacks inside the United States and overseas.

It is a bit surprising that the recent alarm bell to salvage the world from further Islamic State danger was chimed in the Kremlin, instead of the White House or other NATO centers of power. It was Russia that alerted the world that the shariah militants were shifting to chemical weapons, thus the battlefield against terror has now expanded beyond the military's traditional sphere of action. And such militants can easily produce chemical weapons inside the United States to turn the so-called American Dream upside-down and change it into a breeding nightmare.

In facing the threat of "global Islamic radicalism," as ACT! for America president Brigitte Gabriel puts it, Americans have no other choice but to unite. No matter whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, black or white, the threat is already inside your home, she warns.

At this critical juncture, the United States and its NATO allies need to cooperate with other major powers rather than suspect them based on outlandish geopolitical threat perceptions. Western European allies of the United States need to realize that the biggest immediate threat to their existence will not come from advancing battle ships and nuclear-powered submarines from Russia, China or India, or roaring bombers in their airspace; instead it will come from the already creeping terror cells that are slowly devouring them from inside.

Geopolitical analysts in member states of the Non-Aligned Movement, such as Indonesia, were a bit surprised to learn that amidst such a growing global menace, NATO countries are busy spying on Russia and China when their real enemies are already inside their own homes.

A Russian anti-submarine naval fleet recently repelled an approaching Dutch submarine for provocatively maneuvering in the Mediterranean. The provocation shows a lack of understanding of who should be defined as friends and who are the real nightmarish enemies in the present-day global war of ideologies.

Ideological concepts of war and threat perceptions of the world's major powers need to be redefined now as interdependency among nations grows stronger to become the axiom for international relations.

Despite the combined might of Western Europe's military and strong backing from the United States, the plain fact is that Europe's original identity has drastically eroded; its Christian values and bastions have been systematically destroyed while democracy and secularism have only aggravated the continent's defenseless submission to radical ideologies.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen surprised Asian geopolitical analysts even further when she urged Donald Trump to get tough on Russia during the week that the State Duma was ratifying Russia's agreement with China on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, which would benefit Europe and Asia as well.

Seen from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, which is home to the world's largest Muslim population and yet is not an Islamic country based on its constitution, NATO countries and other global powers need to seriously redefine their threat perceptions to fit the current trend of a massive permeation of radical ideologies in societies around the globe.

A military buildup will not suffice, nor will the outdated Cold War legacy of geopolitical bifurcation. If radical ideologies are the common enemies, a stern and all-out joint response by the major powers is the right answer.

China's leadership of Interpol should lead to its taking the lead in combating global terrorism. Its strategic role along with Russia and India in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) needs to be bolstered further through intense cooperation with NATO countries' anti-terror agencies as well as similar structures in Asia.

In the fight against this creeping global menace, failure would be the sure outcome and radicals would dominate every country in the coming decade if the approach is still based on Cold War partitioning policy.

It takes more than just a military approach to end the menace. The weapons of the enemies are not in their hands, but in their heads. Military arsenals cannot wipe out radical ideologies in their heads. Missiles cannot destroy the conviction of radicals that they are right in pursuing a global caliphate by cutting off people's heads.

While repressive actions are necessary to stop their actions of merciless killing in the name of a merciful God, preventive measures are no less important to stop the permeation of their dangerous ideologies into the global society.

The world is waiting to see correct translations of Donald Trump's campaign speeches on national border security and anti-terrorism policies. And just because of that it is necessary to send the message to Washington that repressive policies are insufficient and may even add fuel to the fire, even internally, if implemented without careful consideration.

NATO and other global powers also need to use social weapons to effectively preempt the fire of global radicalism. The SCO has in fact started to explore such ideas during its meeting in Sochi, Southern Russia, in April this year. More such dialogs are needed to involve Western and East Asian strategic thinkers and policy drafters for a common direction in the battle against terror by radical groups.

This is not an easy task given the fact that people regarded as terrorists in one place are being praised as heroes and role models in another. The issue is far more complicated than Alvin Toffler's theory on the Clash of Civilizations.

Politically, nations will go against one another when religious convictions are tampered with. Perhaps finding common ground based on long-term economic and social interests would be less stormy waters to sail through.

Against that backdrop, analysts in Indonesia are hoping that Donald Trump will come up with some breakthrough that will not add fuel to the fire, if indeed he knows what to do.

Pitan Daslani is a senior political analyst and former journalist at the Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe, Radio Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands and Yomiuri Shimbun. He can be reached at