Bruce Riedel: The Intelligence War with al-Qaida.In line with the Topic for Chautauqua this week (Week Three [July 10-16, 2011] — American Intelligence: Technology, Espionage, and Alliances), this morning the lecture in the Amphitheater was by Bruce Riedel, senior fellow, Brookings Institution, former CIA officer. The title of his talk was: “The Intelligence War with al-Qaida.”

While I was familiar with a fair bit of what he said, I greatly enjoyed the outline he gave for the history of al-Qaida, as well as Pakistan’s role (past and current) regarding that terrorist organization. He is a very dynamic speaker, and gave a quiet engaging talk. Made me reconsider whether we should pick the Pakistan-themed week next year. Briefly.

Some highlights (from my notes; any errors are mine):

  • Estimated that $5 Trillion has been spent on the war with al-Qaida (inc. the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). $5 Trillion!
  • Drones in Pakistan used (as “covert action” by CIA) against terrorists. Not very covert now, as everyone knows about them!
  • It is hard for al-Qaida to operate in NW Pakistan due to the drone attacks. They are terrorizing the Terrorists.
  • Last *good* intelligence about the whereabouts of bin Laden before this past year or so was NOV, 2001. As of ~JAN 2009, his trail wasn’t just cold, it was frozen over.
  • Pakistan is the new focus of al-Qaida.
  • Pakistan has the 5th largest nuclear capability in the world (after US, Russia, China, and France. The UK comes in 6th).
  • A Major “syndicate of terror” is based in Pakistan. It is also a major base for al-Qaida, and al-Qaida makes use of this Pakistani terror syndicate. The syndicate also provided support to bin Laden at his compound in Pakistain.
  • The major Pakistani Military academy is about a mile from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Very hard to believe that the Pakistani army/intelligence didn’t know anything about it.
  • If Pakistani intelligence did know about bin Laden, how can we trust them?
  • If Pakistani intelligence did NOT know about bin Laden, that’s almost worse – as is speaks volumes about their (lack of) security – and they are a nuclear state!
  • It is almost certain, however, that the civilian government of Pakistan *was clueless* about bin Laden’s whereabouts. The Pakistani army/ISI is out of their control. Did I mention that Pakistan is the 5th largest nuclear capability? That is scary.
  • al Qaida in Iraq is not defeated, but is significantly diminished.
  • Saudi Arabia drove al-Qaida out of their country, but they fled to Yemen. Now Yemen is the fastest growing al-Qaida franchise. Yemen is a failing state, with poor government, major water shortage, etc. Nevermind the uprising earlier this year…
  • Pakistan’s ISI HELPS al-Qaida (though they deny it).
  • It is al-Qaida’s ideology (that the West is leading a conspiracy against Islam and Muslim nations) that primes the terrorist movement. But the Arab Spring is in direct contradiction to this, as it is the people of those Muslim nations themselves that are rising (mostly non-violently) up against their repressive governments/dictators.
  • al-Qaida is a Sunni Muslim fanatic organization. Iran is a Shiite Muslim fanatic nation. Iran is neutral on Pakistan. Shia Iran is not a fan of Sunni al-Qaida. But sometimes the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy (America). Thus Iran and al-Qaida have a complex relationship.
  • How to help Pakistan? Trade, not Aid. Pakistani textiles (Pakistan’s chief export) are tariffed by the US at 3x the rate of other importers, like China. Best way to help Pakistan is not direct aid, but to make the tarifs more fair, and in-line with those imposed on other importing countries.
  • The best way to destroy al-Qaida is to undermine the al-Qaida narrative, so (young) Muslims *know* that America is NOT the enemy; not Imperial.

Catholic Mass was at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at 12:10. Nice to be able to go to daily Mass:

Chapel of the Good Shepherd

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” — DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

“The Costly Grace of Christian Discipleship in the Life, Writings and the Espionage Activities of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” was the afternoon Interfaith lecture in the Hall of Philosophy by Geffrey Kelly, Professor of Theology, LaSalle University.

I only had (have) a cursory knowledge of Bonhoeffer, and Prof. Kelly’s talk just served to make me even more interested in pursuing Bonhoeffer’s writings. I’ve been contemplating taking a course on the writings of Bonhoeffer this Fall at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD. Now I’m thinking about it even more. Just have to work out the logistics, as there are two (very active) little kids at home…

Geffrey Kelly: The Costly Grace of Christian Discipleship in the Life, Writings and the Espionage Activities of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Highlights from the lecture (from my notes; again, any errors are mine):

  • Bonhoeffer was an ardent supporter of Operation Valkyrie – the plot to assassinate Hitler.
  • Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was a crucial influence on Bonhoeffer.
  • Bonhoeffer became a Pacifist during his study at the Union Theological Seminary in NY (he was there on a Sloan fellowship). He also met his first black man there (a seminarian). Not really sure yet how to reconcile his pacifism with his support for Valkyrie…
  • Bonhoeffer denounced “Cheap Grace”, i.e. Grace obtained with no cost. This is in contrast to “Costly Grace:, which will cost us out lives (“he who loses his life will live”).
  • The drive for National Security at all costs is Idolatry
  • The Church renounces Christ when it supports war. The Church must look after ALL victims, not just fellow Christians.
  • Christians should take a stronger stand for the weak.
  • Bonhoeffer’s brother-in-law was the Assistant Minister of Justice for the Nazi party. Thus, all of the letters, etc., denouncing Bonhoeffer went by him, and thus he could dispose of them before they got any further – thus protecting Bonhoeffer from the Gestapo, among others.
  • From one of Bonhoeffer’s writings: “The trouble with Germany is that they have taken in Hitler and rejected Jesus Christ.” The agents that (finally) arrested him ignored the manuscript he was working on, which was laying on a table in his rooms…the manuscript(s) survived because his niece ran upstairs, grabbed them, and buried them in the backyard.
  • Bonhoeffer was a double agent. He was ostensibly working for the Nazis, but was actually working on ways to undermine Nazi Germany.

Ants at Chautauqua
Some Ants by the side of the brick walkway between Hall of Philosophy and Amphitheater:

Our Chautauqua Digs, 2011.  Only a few blocks from...everything!

We are in the top apartment of this building. Quite nice digs! And only a few blocks from…everything!