• Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

    President Trump’s abrupt order three weeks ago to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria disrupted the meticulous, patient planning which was underway for killing al-Baghdadi, and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies, and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, senior officials said. Al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Trump’s actions. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Sunday that “The irony of the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is that it could not have happened without U.S. forces on the ground that have been pulled out, help from Syrian Kurds who have been betrayed, and support of a U.S. intelligence community that has so often been disparaged.” He added: “While the raid was obviously a welcome success, the conditions that made the operation possible may not exist in the future.”

  • Bomb Attacks Are Now a Normal Part of Swedish Life

    “Normalization” is a term that we have come to associate with domestic violence: the victim begins to think of abuse as a part of everyday life. Paulina Neuding writes that explosions have become so normalized in Sweden that SVT, Sweden’s equivalent of the BBC, did not even mention the three explosions in the country’s capital on its national news program that evening. The explosions were left to the local news. Wilhelm Agrell, professor of intelligence analysis at Lund University, has warned that the situation has become so dire that the integrity of the Swedish state is in jeopardy. “The state’s monopoly on violence, the actual token of a sovereign government, has been hollowed out bit by bit and no longer exists,” he wrote a few weeks ago. “The armed criminal violence is having effects that are increasingly similar to those of terrorism.”

  • With anti-Semitism on the Rise Again, There Are Steps Everyone Can Take to Counter It

    Keeping track of all the attacks against American Jews these days is just about impossible unless it’s your full-time job. Jamie Levine Daniel, Jodi Benenson, and Rachel Fyall, all professors of public administration, write that “As we work to train government and nonprofit leaders to address issues like anti-Semitism, we also have identified four simple steps that anyone can take to counter it.”

  • New UN Report on Online Hate Speech

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, recently gave a highly promoted speech about the importance of protecting freedom of expression online—which was immediately criticized as taking too binary a view of the issues and presenting a false choice between free expression and Chinese censorship. Evelyn Douek writes that by contrast, David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, in a 9 October report, offered a very real reckoning with the trade-offs involved in protecting free speech while dealing with the real harm caused by some forms of expression, and is an attempt to find guiding, consistent standards. “There is still a lot of work to be done, not least by the companies themselves, to make this a reality,” Douek writes. “But this latest report will be a useful and influential guide in that process.”

  • Concerns Persist about Fate of Captured Islamic State Terrorists

    Fears that Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria allowed untold numbers of captured Islamic State terror group fighters to escape may be overblown, according to U.S. officials. Since Turkish-backed forces crossed the border and began clashing with Kurdish fighters aligned with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), there have been reports of SDF-run prisons coming under attack and of IS fighters running free. But Wednesday, the U.S. insisted almost all of the estimated 12,000 captured IS fighters, including about 2,000 fighters from outside Syria and Iraq, were still behind bars.

  • They’re Not All Racist Nut Jobs – and 4 Other Observations about the Patriot Militia Movement

    The so-called patriot movement is grabbing headlines once again, as its members pledge to protect Trump supporters at the president’s campaign rallies across the country. The patriot movement is a fragmented and fractious coalition of groups that distrust the federal government. Members believe the government is impeding their rights and liberties – but the movement is not monolithic, and it less black and white. Despite public perceptions, few members of the various appeared to be mentally ill or outwardly racist. Instead, their grievances and principles stem from a range of motivations, personal circumstances and political philosophies.

  • Trolls Exploit Weaknesses of Social Media Platforms to Spread Online Hate, Report Finds

    Social media platform design enables online harassment, as trolls often carry out coordinated attacks on a target by leveraging key platform features, according to a new report. Such features include the ability to be anonymous online, to create multiple accounts by one person, the fact that there is no limit to the number of messages one user can send to another, and the use of personal networks as weaponized audiences.

  • German Domestic Intelligence Chief on the New Wave of Hate

    In an interview with Der Spiegel, Thomas Haldenwang, the director of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, discusses the new threat of extremism in the wake of the Halle attack and his agency’s need for greater authority in the monitoring of such threats. “What’s new is the international dimension,” Haldenwang said. “Right-wing extremism as we know it was long a particularly German phenomenon. But now, we see Anders Breivik in Oslo, Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, Patrick Crusius in El Paso, the perpetrator in Halle. It’s like links in a chain, almost an international competition. Another insight is that it appears that no deep ideology is needed to radicalize and develop plans for attacks. All that’s needed is this emotion, hate, incitement, the web-based instigation and this convergence of people who, on the basis of simplistic messages often rooted in fake news, arrive at this world view and think they have to strike immediately.”

  • Syrian Chaos Breathing Life into Islamic State

    Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria appears to be giving Islamic State new life, but U.S. counterterrorism officials caution the terror group’s next moves are far from certain. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, warn Islamic State is well-versed in using regional conflicts to its advantage, having done so in Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

  • What Can We Glean from a Bean: Ricin’s Appeal to Domestic Terrorists

    Just as policymakers have been slow to acknowledge and act upon the threat of domestic CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) terrorism, timely research on the issue is scarce as well. Ricin is one of the more dangerous agents of domestic terror. As government agencies acknowledge the threat domestic terrorism poses, policymakers and law enforcement should take ricin seriously as a potential weapon.

  • How to Protect America after the Syria Withdrawal

    President Trump’s impulsive, rash decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria has created a situation in which the United States is a far weaker position to fight ISIS. “The No. 1 U.S. priority in Syria is to maintain the detention facilities and encampments and keep pressure on ISIS. This will be difficult, given the Turkish assault as well as the deal the SDF has struck with the Syrian regime since the U.S. withdrawal announcement,” Joseph Votel and Elizabeth Dent write. “There is only so much America can do with no troop presence as other powers rush in to fill the void.”

  • Indecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    The American military presence in northeast Syria was always an anomaly, unlikely to be sustained indefinitely. The manner of its termination has nevertheless proven inept and unnecessarily costly. If the military advantages of partnering with the YPG were clear, it was equally clear that none of their neighbors would indefinitely tolerate an independent Kurdish state. Turkey was most agitated by this scenario given the Syrian Kurds’ links to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a designated terrorist group that has waged a low-grade insurgency against the state for decades. In the end it appears the Tump administration proved unable to choose among its competing interests in Syria, James Dobbins and Jeffrey Martini write. “Statesmanship requires the ability to choose between sometimes unpalatable alternatives. Statecraft requires a rigorous process of refining and a timely means of deliberating on those alternatives. These qualities have been notably lacking in charting the administration’s Syria end game thereby compounding the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.”

  • If Germany Can’t Stop the Rise of White Nationalism, How Can Canada?

    Between 2017 and 2018, anti-Semitic and xenophobic crimes both rose nearly 20 percent in Germany. In June, following the assassination by a neo-Nazi of Walter Lübcke, a conservative politician who supported Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, busted Nordkreuz, an extremist organization which compiled a kill list of 25,000 liberal politicians considered “pro-refugee” while also acquiring weapons, 200 body bags, and quicklime, which prevents the rotting that makes corpses smell. The BfV says that it is now tracking 24,100 known right-wing extremists in the country, of which 12,700 have been classified as violent. “That these developments are happening in Germany, a country known for an unflinching view of its own horrific past, might be considered surprising,” Sadiya Ansari writes. “And if Germany is struggling to contain this [extremists’] threat, what does that mean for countries that haven’t been as vigilant?”

  • From Hateful Words to Real Violence

    The Gilroy Garlic Festival. The Poway Chabad synagogue. The Charleston Emanuel church. The El Paso Walmart. One common denominator in these mass shootings and countless others? A perpetrator whose interactions in online white supremacist networks played a part in inciting, energizing, and detonating racial hatred into real violence, says UNLV sociologist Simon Gottschalk. Gottschalk has studied how interacting in online white supremacist networks can convert hateful words into real violence.

  • Bioweapon Threat Didn’t End in Cold War, Experts Warn House

    Picking apart flaws in the government’s system of monitoring for bioweapons, a panel of scientists warned House lawmakers Thursday that America is grossly unprepared for a bioterrorist attack. Asha George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, noted that U.S. funding for bioweapons protection has been on the decline since the end of the Cold War — this in spite of the relative ease by which terrorist groups can weaponize biological agents or, even more easily, get their hands on materials that have already been weaponized by the former Soviet Union.