Trump’s Choice –John Bolton as National Security Adviser

March 23, 2018

Trump Taps John Bolton for NSA Post

President had discussed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s departure for ‘some time,’ White House says

Image result for John Bolton
President Trump’s Choice as National Security Adviser–The Neo-Con (Amb) John Bolton

President Donald Trump said he named former Ambassador John Bolton as his new National Security Adviser, succeeding Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor,” Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday. “I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.”

Mr. Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has openly discussed his interest in taking the national-security post in the Trump administration. He will be Mr. Trump’s third National Security Adviser in 14 months.

Mr. Bolton, who won’t need Senate confirmation to take the job, has been a controversial figure in Washington and has pressed the White House to take tougher positions on Iran and North Korea in editorials, television commentary and other conversations.

In a Fox News interview Thursday evening, even Mr. Bolton seemed taken aback by the news of his appointment. “I really didn’t expect the announcement this afternoon,” he said. “I think I still am a Fox News contributor,” he added, noting that he was “in limbo” until he takes over next month.

Mr. Trump last week conveyed his decision to replace Gen. McMaster to John Kelly, his Chief of Staff, according to administration officials. The President had sought a more graceful exit for his National Security Adviser than the one he afforded his Secretary of State, whom he fired over Twitter last week.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump began discussing potential successors for Gen. McMaster, according to former Trump administration officials. Mr. Trump met with Mr. Bolton last week and again on Thursday.

In a statement, Mr. Trump thanked Gen. McMaster for his service. “He helped develop our America First National Security Strategy, revitalize our alliances in the Middle East, smash ISIS, bring North Korea to the table, and strengthen our nation’s prosperity,” the President said. “This work and those achievements will ensure that America builds on its economic and military advantages.”

Gen. McMaster said in a Thursday statement that he was “requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service. Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside extraordinary service members and dedicated civilians.” He said he was “thankful” to the President and proud to have served on the National Security Council.

A White House official said the President and Gen. McMaster had discussed the national security adviser’s departure for “some time” and that the timeline had been “expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation.”

The announcement, coming so soon after the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior officials, left the West Wing in a downbeat mood Thursday evening, with aides offering gallows humor about the number of White House departures and jobs that needed to be filled.

The 69-year-old Mr. Bolton has urged the administration to strike first against North Korea and to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in columns published by The Wall Street Journal.

“North Korea test-launched on Friday its first ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting America’s East Coast. It thereby proved the failure of 25 years of U.S. nonproliferation policy,” he wrote in an August 2017 column. “It is past time for Washington to bury this ineffective ‘carrots and sticks’ approach.”

Last month, he penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First,” in which he argued in favor of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, calling the threat “imminent.”

Mr. Bolton has dubbed the Iran agreement the “diplomatic Waterloo Mr. Obama negotiated.” Mr. Trump faces a deadline in May to extend sanctions relief granted to Iran under the accord. The president threatened in January to pull out of the deal if Europe and Congress can’t find a way to address his concerns by then.

Democrats and some Republicans have previously suggested that if Mr. Bolton were nominated for roles at the State Department, they would oppose him, citing his foreign-policy views. Mr. Trump has considered Mr. Bolton for roles including Secretary of State.

“The problem with John Bolton is he disagrees with President Trump’s foreign policy,“ Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said last year on ABC. ”John Bolton still believes the Iraq war was a good idea. He still believes that regime change is a good idea. He still believes that nation-building is a good idea.”

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers praised the appointment of Mr. Bolton to the national-security post. Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) called him an “excellent choice.”

Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, a think tank founded by former President Richard Nixon, said he believed that Messrs. Trump and Bolton have “jelled” through conversations over the past year and predicted Mr. Bolton could be a forceful presence in the West Wing.

“Trump likes someone who will tell him straight how it is,” Mr. Kazianis said. “I don’t think Trump would have brought him in as national security adviser if he didn’t think it would work out. It could be a very strong marriage, where Bolton serves out the whole tenure of the administration.”

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had little chemistry with the president and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had little chemistry with the president and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Bloomberg News

Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates sanctions against Iran and North Korea, said Mr. Bolton’s appointment would likely be the final nail in the coffin for the Iran deal. Mr. Dubowitz expressed hope that the rise of a more hawkish national security team would actually make it less likely that the U.S. would start a war.

“Bolton is a believer in the robust use of all instruments of American power,” he said. “But perhaps the perception that Trump, Bolton and (Secretary of State nominee Mike) Pompeo are willing to use these instruments will make it less likely they have to be used. (Ayatollah) Khamenei, Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin and others become more—not less—aggressive when they perceive American weakness.”

The appointment also drew criticism from Democrats, some former diplomats and others, who said the addition of Mr. Bolton would heighten the risk of a future military conflict. “President Trump is assembling a war cabinet full of ‘yes men’ who will fan his worst impulses,” said Sen. Edward Markey, (D, Mass.).

A Senior Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a frequent commentator on Fox News, Mr. Bolton has cultivated a reputation as a brash conservative with an aggressive style.

He has pushed for limiting U.S. involvement in multilateral institutions and treaties, including the International Criminal Court, the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.

Recent Commentary from John Bolton

Mr. Bolton left his U.N. post after he failed to gain enough support in Congress to be confirmed in 2006. President Bush had originally used a recess appointment to put him in the role after his nomination had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster.

In addition to his U.N. post, Mr. Bolton also served in the Bush administration as Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005.

Gen. McMaster has been working with strained alliances both inside and outside the White House and has faced persistent speculation that he would be pushed out as soon as the White House settled on someone to take his place.

Gen. McMaster has little chemistry with the President and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations. Gen. McMaster would typically lay out multiple options for the President, explaining each one at length, and Mr. Trump would grow impatient, preferring more to-the-point discussions, the people said.

Gen. McMaster had told associates last week that he believed he was safe and that the President urged him to remain in the job until after the midterm elections in November. On Tuesday, he was one of a handful of U.S. officials in an Oval Office meeting between the president and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Another reason Mr. Trump has sought to speed the hiring of a new national security adviser is that he wants to have a team in place ahead of possible talks with North Korea later this spring. This past weekend, Gen. McMaster traveled to San Francisco for a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan to discuss plans for the summit.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at

Corrections & Amplifications
John Bolton is 69 years old. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated his age as 68 years old. (March 22, 2018)

Women, Politics and Online Abuse

March 13, 2018

Women, Politics and Online Abuse

by S.

“What needs to be addressed is how government-sanctioned platforms that could have been used to preach tolerance, love and respect are instead being used to spread evil gospels that preach hatred and overzealous bigotry.”
– Syerleena Abdul Rashid

COMMENT | The online abuse against DAP’s Syerleena Abdul Rashid is typical of the mob mentality of those who attack someone like Maryam Lee or anyone else that goes against the groupthink that certain quarters feel the need of defending.

When Gerakan’s Raja Sara Petra got into a skirmish with DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud of DAP a couple of years back, the online abuse she faced was horrific, considering the issue in contention was claims made by Dyana of how Umno had “cheated the Malays.”

While the mob mentality of the opposition revolves around specific narratives, that of establishment partisans usually centres on the role of race and religion and how opposition operatives, either political or social, are eschewing their traditional roles.

Image result for azalina osman said

If you read some of the comments whenever someone like UMNO’s Azalina Othman Said, for instance, says anything, and contrast this with the comments received by opposition operatives like Syerleena, both display a level of misogyny that ironically opposition supporters do not see or seem to understand.

Women who participate in politics from both sides of the political divide tell me that the level of abuse they receive online is far worse than the men, who more or less say the same thing. We are talking about a specific type of hate here.

When opposition women receive abuse from certain quarters of the online community, there are outpourings of sympathy, but when it comes to pro-establishment women, they are reminded that not to expect any sympathy when they put themselves in the position of being “criticised.”

Rational discourse impossible

And if you are a Muslim woman, it is very much worse. Last year the BBC ran an article titled “The online abuse hurled at Malaysia’s Muslim women,” which included quotes from not only Dyana (photo), but also Maryam.

It begins with this, and just gets more depressing: “‘We are seeing a trend where Muslim women (particularly Malay-Muslims) are targeted in a different way, especially when it comes to how they present themselves,’ says Juana Jaafar, a women’s rights advocate who followed the case of the 15-year-old girl. Juana says the attacks became so brutal for the girl, she was forced to delete her account and seek help offline.”

The problem with all this online abuse, either from establishment or opposition partisans, is that it makes rational discourse impossible. Especially when it comes to reforming a religion or challenging the status quo, women, more often than not – especially those who are Muslim – are at the forefront.

Either conservative or liberal, Muslim women are targets for what they say by anonymous cretins, who have no problem spewing racial or religious filth and smugly thinking that are on the “right” side.

When someone like Syerleena criticises the religious institutions which have a profound impact on the lives of Muslims in this country, it is a broader criticism on religious institutions who are do not have the ability to sanction adherents, but which operate on a different level.

For example, I know of many women who self-identify as Hindu or Christian who have been on the receiving end of online and real-life abuse from their communities, because their activism challenges the status quo when it comes to the respective religion and cultures.

As more women participate in the political and religious process of this country, the more opportunities for online and real life abuse they face. Many political operatives in the opposition, for instance, have found themselves on the receiving end of state-sponsored online abuse.

I say state-sponsored because inevitably the fight against the patriarchy here in Malaysia revolves around the state-sponsored religion, which is used as a tool to enforce compliance and obedience in the Malay polity, with the state security apparatus having very little interest in carrying out their obligations towards women they deem are bringing shame to their culture and religion.

Lure of power

It is a good thing that Hindu, Christian and Buddhist religious institutions do not have the same power of the state when it comes to enforcing dogma, or it would be even worse. Can you imagine if the other religions enjoyed the privileges of the state as Islam does?

Seriously, can you imagine being under the watchful gaze of religious departments or religious police and having to be wary of your fellow countrymen who watch your every move and see nothing wrong in telling you that you are going against religion and culture. Can you imagine living like that every single day of your life?

If you have this power, especially of men over women, would you want to give it up? The state and its religious bureaucrats, certainly do not want to. The simmering tensions of what I refer to as the deep Islamic state certainly despises women and men who choose to go against the patriarchy.

I am encouraged that the opposition at least makes an attempt to tackle these issues. The opposition should have a clear strategy when it comes to women’s issues in this country. After all, if I am not mistaken, Muslim women are a big demographic when it comes to the education in this country, meaning there are more women in educational establishments, and thus are fertile ground to mine for votes and change mindsets, while the men in their community don their red shirts and fight the yellow peril.

Indeed, the women’s vote could be a major voting block for opposition operatives already operating under the restrictions and electoral legerdemain of the state.

To be honest, I am sick and tired of hearing how Muslim political operatives either defend the status quo or waffle on about how we need to respect religious differences.

I end this piece with an excerpt from an article by DAP’s Yeo Bee Yin last year about the patriarchy and the rape culture in Malaysia – “Deep down, at the core of UMNO’s Shabudin Yahaya’s ‘marrying the rapist’ and ‘nine-year-old can wed’ notions, are not only his personal perversion but also the manifestation of the deep-rooted patriarchy in Malaysian society.”


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Trade is the Republican Party’s last stand

March 12, 2018

Trade is the Republican Party’s last stand

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Image result for Dr. Fareed Zakaria

The tussle over tariffs is the most significant political battle taking place in America right now – much broader than a dispute over steel and aluminum imports. It is the Republican Party’s last stand against a total takeover by Donald Trump. Having ceded ground to the President on everything from personal character to immigration to entitlement reform, Republican leaders have chosen to draw the line at free trade. If they get rolled on this, Trump will have completed the transformation of the party.

“From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, every great theorist of capitalism has recognized that free trade is at the heart of what makes capitalism work. And they have all pointed out that tariffs are precisely the kind of government intervention – with the state choosing which industries to favor, which companies to reward – that produces inefficiency and corruption. But Republicans are now comfortable with government intervention, as long as it’s for the right people”.–Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Image result for milton friedman on capitalism and freedom

In recent weeks, Trump seems to have remembered that he is a populist or at least is playing one on TV. After campaigning as the tribune of the forgotten working class, he handed over his presidency to the establishment wing of the Republican Party, which proceeded to attack Obamacare, roll back regulations and pass a huge tax cut for companies and wealthy Americans. But perhaps to shore up his base before the midterm elections, or because he does actually believe some of his own rhetoric, he is now moving hard on tariffs – and also immigration.

As is often the case, Trump is more in line with his party’s base than most of its leaders. A recent Quinnipiac University poll finds that voters, like the Republican establishment, overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s tariffs. But most Republican voters support them. In fact, over the last decade, Republican support for free trade has dropped a staggering 20 points (while Democratic support has risen by 15). This is one of the sharpest reversals on major public policy recorded in recent history.

The new Republican Party is coming into view. It is a party skeptical about free markets. It is important to remember that it is not really possible to be in favor of capitalism and against free trade. From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, every great theorist of capitalism has recognized that free trade is at the heart of what makes capitalism work. And they have all pointed out that tariffs are precisely the kind of government intervention – with the state choosing which industries to favor, which companies to reward – that produces inefficiency and corruption. But Republicans are now comfortable with government intervention, as long as it’s for the right people.

It is also now a party that has developed a contempt for experts and expert analysis. In 1980, with liberalism ideologically smug and dominant, Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked that all the new and interesting policy ideas were coming from people like William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol on the right. Today, the Republican Party is led intellectually by the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Image result for irving kristol quotes

Consider that Trump’s tariffs are opposed by a remarkable array of scholars across the political spectrum, from the conservative Heritage Foundation to the libertarian Cato Institute to the center-left Brookings Institution to the left-wing Center for Economic and Policy Research. The White House barely offers serious arguments, instead providing a bogus justification for the tariffs, national security, even though China and Russia supply only a small portion of these goods to the U.S.

Despite research showing that previous protectionist policies have failed, that the steel industry has lost more jobs due to efficiency and automation than to trade, and that preserving one job in the steel or automobile industries through tariffs costs consumers a whopping $1.5 million, administration supporters no longer even offer a response. The data is simply dismissed as partisan spin or fake news.

Finally, the GOP is being transformed into a party that is hostile to foreigners and foreign countries. Under Ronald Reagan, the Republicans were the party of a generous immigration policy, strong alliances and faith in the advancement of democracy around the world.

Today, the party’s base doesn’t like foreigners or foreign countries. Even traditional allies like the Europeans are increasingly viewed with suspicion. It is bizarre to have chosen tariffs that mostly threaten American allies like Canada, the E.U., South Korea and Mexico. Trade does produce disruptions, especially severe ones in recent decades. The most sensible, cost-effective way to deal with them would be to provide subsidies to workers who lose their jobs because of trade, and invest in large scale retraining efforts. But that doesn’t quite have the bite that attacking foreigners and stoking trade conflict does.

Having transformed the party’s views on issues as diverse as immigration, fiscal discipline, foreign policy and law enforcement, if Trump wins the battle over trade with his party, he will have won the war. The Republican Party will be history. And given his long-demonstrated preferences in this regard, who knows, he will probably want to rename it the Trump Party.

Fareed Zakaria is published weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2018, on page 7.

Steve Bannon has a point, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria

January 14, 2018

Steve Bannon has a point, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Image result for Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury

The fire and fury over Michael Wolff’s book has largely centered on the personalities and power struggles within the White House. But behind all of that lies an important political development, one that explains the real rift between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Trump seems to have abandoned populism.

Remember candidate Trump? His signature issue was immigration, on which he promised an unyielding hard line, including a border wall and mass deportations. His “Contract with the American Voter” was brimming with populist measures, from tough actions against China to a trillion-dollar public works program. His economic plans focused on goodies for the middle class, from a 35 percent tax cut for middle-class families to deductions for child and elderly care. He called for severe restrictions on lobbying and for term limits on members of Congress.

Trump’s final campaign ad featured images of billionaire financier George Soros, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen and Goldman Sachs’s Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, darkly narrated by a Trump speech in which he warns against the “global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

Flash forward to Trump today. There is no wall, and the President now speaks of a “bill of love” that could offer a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants he once promised to deport. His relations with China have been decidedly chummy, as have those with another country he excoriated on the campaign trail, Saudi Arabia. The focus of his economic program has been to return vast sums of money to large corporations. Most of his tax law’s benefits go to those firms and to people in the highest income brackets.

Oh, and these economic policies are being designed and implemented by Blankfein’s former No. 2 at Goldman Sachs, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and a former Goldman partner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Image result for Steve Bannon


More so than the personality clashes between Bannon and Jared Kushner, and the gossip about who is up and down in the White House, this is the great divide that developed in the early months of the Trump administration. Bannon must have watched with incredulity as the candidate who campaigned as a fiery outsider against the Republican establishment essentially handed over the reins of his government to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell is quoted in Wolff’s book as saying, “This president will sign whatever is put in front of him.” Moments after Trump blasted Bannon last week, McConnell’s political team tweeted out a GIF of the majority leader beaming.

Image result for A Devil's Bargain

Where did Trump’s populism come from in the first place? To answer this question, the book to read is not Wolff’s gossipy confection but Joshua Green’s highly intelligent “Devil’s Bargain.” In it, Green points out that Trump originally had a mish-mash of political views that leaned in no particular direction. But he began going on talk radio and addressing conservative audiences and realized that it was not economics but social and cultural issues such as immigration that fired up crowds. Trump was initially “indifferent to the idea” of a wall, according to Green, but campaign aide Sam Nunberg is quoted as saying that when Trump tried out the idea for the first time at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January 2015, “the place just went nuts.”

Related image

Unencumbered by any deep ideology of his own or any ethical qualms — as demonstrated by his embrace of birtherism, for example — Trump was able to adopt these issues far more quickly than his 16 competitors in the Republican primaries. He distinguished himself by taking on the most hard-line positions, thus winning over the GOP base. That, in addition to his colorful, charismatic style, created a bond between him and a new bulwark of the Republican Party, the white working class, that appears, for now, unbreakable.

Image result for fareed zakaria

“…we appear to have a return to the 1920s, an era of unrestrained capitalism, giddy market exuberance, a shrunken state and dramatically rising inequality.”–Fareed Zakaria

I don’t agree with many of Bannon’s proposals, but he was surely right in recognizing the populist fury that runs through a large swath of the country. One wonders what will happen to it as time passes and Trump’s voters notice that they have ended up with something quite different than they had imagined. During the presidential transition, Bannon told Wolff that the Trump era would be like America in the 1930s, with a massive public works program that would get blue-collar workers back into shipyards, mills and mines. Instead we appear to have a return to the 1920s, an era of unrestrained capitalism, giddy market exuberance, a shrunken state and dramatically rising inequality. Is this what the laid-off steelworker in Ohio voted for?

Saudia Arabia puts itself in the bull’s eye

December 3, 2017

Targeting Islamic scholars from Malaysia to Tunisia, Saudia Arabia puts itself in the bull’s eye

By James M. Dorsey

Image result for crown prince mohammed bin salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters file

By declaring the Qatar-based International Union of Islamic Scholars (ILUM) a terrorist organization, Saudi Arabia is confronting some of the world’s foremost Islamic political parties and religious personalities, opening itself up to criticism for its overtures to Israel, and fuelling controversy in countries like Malaysia and Tunisia.

In a statement earlier this week, Saudi Arabia charged that ILUM was “using Islamic rhetoric as a cover to facilitate terrorist activities.” The banning of ILUM goes to the heart of the Gulf crisis that pits a UAE-Saudi-led alliance against Qatar and is driven by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s visceral opposition to any expression of political Islam.

The UAE for several years has sought with little evident success to counter ILUM’s influence by establishing groups like the Muslim Council of Elders and the Global Forum for Prompting Peace in Muslim Societies as well as the Sawab and Hedayah Centres’ anti-extremism messaging initiatives in collaboration with the United States and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

The ban appears to have been designed to position Saudi Arabia as the arbiter of what constitutes true Islam and marks a next phase in a four-decade long, $100 billion campaign waged by the kingdom to counter Iran by spreading for the longest period of time Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, that often served as an ideological inspiration for jihadist philosophy – an iteration ultra-conservatives have condemned.

ILUM “worked on destroying major religious institutions in the Muslim world, like the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar in Egypt,” one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning, charged Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a prominent Saudi journalist and columnist for Al Arabiya.

Al Arabiya’s owner, Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, was among the kingdom’s top media barons arrested in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent purge of members of the ruling family, senior officials, and businessmen under the mum of anti-corruption.

“The terrorism project hiding under Islam launched its work around the same time organizations which issue extremist fatwas (religious legal opinions) were founded. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State), these jurisprudential groups said they refuse to be local as they view themselves as global organizations that cross borders. The most dangerous aspect of terrorism is extremist ideology. We realize this well now,” Mr Al-Rashed said.

The Council of Senior Scholars, despite having endorsed Prince Mohammed’s reforms in a bid to salvage what it can of the power sharing agreement that from the kingdom’s founding granted his ruling Al Saud family legitimacy, is a body of ultra-conservative Islamic scholars.

Various statements by the council and its members critical of aspects of Prince Mohammed’s economic and social reform since his rise in 2015 suggest that support among its scholars is not deep-seated.

Prince Mohammed recently vowed to move the kingdom away from its embrace of ultra-conservatism and towards what he described as a more “moderate” form of Islam.

Speaking to The New York Times, Prince Mohammed argued that at the time of the Prophet Mohammed  there were musical theatres, an absence of segregation of men and women, and respect for Christians and Jews, who were anointed People of the Book in the Qur’an. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman! Do you mean the Prophet was not a Muslim?” Prince Mohammed asked.

Authorities days later banned pilgrims from taking photos and videos in Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina in line with an ultra-conservative precept that forbids human images. The ban was imposed after Israeli blogger Ben Tzion posted a selfie in Mecca on social media. Authorities bar non-Muslims from entering the two holy cities.

In a statement, authorities said the ban was intended to protect and preserve Islam’s holiest sites, prevent the disturbance of worshippers, and ensure tranquillity while performing acts of worship.

Founded by controversial Egyptian-born scholar Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of Islam’s most prominent living clerics and believed to be a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, ILUM members include Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the co-founder and intellectual leader of Tunisia’s Brotherhood-inspired Ennahada Party, and Malaysian member of parliament and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) head Abdul Hadi bin Awang.

Mr. Al-Qaradawi, a naturalized Qatari citizen who in the past justified suicide bombings in Israel but has since condemned them,  was labelled a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June as part of their diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. The UAE-Saudi-led alliance demanded that Qatar act against Mr. El-Qaradawi and scores of others as a condition for lifting the six-month-old boycott.

Mr. El-Ghannouchi was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2011. He was also awarded the prestigious Chatham House Prize. Mr. El-Ghannouchi is widely credited for ensuring that Tunisia became the only Arab country to have successfully emerged from the 2011 Arab popular revolts as a democracy.

The banning of ILUM has, moreover, sparked political controversy in Malaysia. Karima Bennoune, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, recently noted a deepening involvement of Malaysia’s religious authorities in policy decisions, developments she said were influenced by “a hegemonic version of Islam imported from the Arabian Peninsula” that was “at odds with local forms of practice.”

“Arab culture is spreading, and I would lay the blame completely on Saudi Arabia,” added Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

Critics of PAS  demanded that Mr. Bin Awang, President of the group, “come clean that he does not preach hatred” in the words of former PAS leader Mujahid Yusof Rawa, and called on the government to ask Saudi Arabia for information to back up its charges against the union.

Mr Bin Awang, referring to Saudi King Salman, asserted last week that he relied on the “Qur’an (for guidance) although the ruler who is the servant of the Two Holy Cities has forged intimate ties with Israel and the United States, because my faith is not with the Kaaba but with Allah.” One of the most sacred sites in Mecca, Muslims turn to the Kaaba when praying.

“Just like Qatar, PAS had tried to ingratiate itself with Iran in an attempt to cover both bases, along with Saudi. Now the chicken has come home to roost, and just like Qatar, global minnows like PAS find themselves caught in the middle between the two Muslim world influencers,” said Malaysian columnist Zurairi Ar.

Among other members of ILUM is controversial Saudi scholar Salman al-Odah, who was among clerics, intellectuals, judges and activists arrested in the kingdom weeks before the most recent purge.

With millions of followers on social media, Mr. Al-Odah, a once militant scholar, turned a decade ago against jihadis like Osama bin Laden and played a key role in the kingdom’s program to rehabilitate militants, but retained his opposition to the monarchy.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and  Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism

October 4, 2017

by David

Establishment Republicans have tried five ways to defeat or control Donald Trump, and they have all failed. Jeb Bush tried to outlast Trump, and let him destroy himself. That failed. Marco Rubio and others tried to denounce Trump by attacking his character. That failed. Reince Priebus tried to co-opt Trump to make him a more normal Republican. That failed.

Paul Ryan tried to use Trump; Congress would pass Republican legislation and Trump would just sign it. That failed. Mitch McConnell tried to outmaneuver Trump and Trumpism by containing his power and reach. In the Senate race in Alabama last week and everywhere else, that has failed.

Image result for trumpism and the philosophy of history

The Forebears of Trumpism–read

Trumpist populist nationalism is still a rising force within the G.O.P., not a falling one. The Bob Corkers of the party are leaving while the Roy Moores are ascending. Trump himself is unhindered while everyone else is frozen and scared.

Image result for trumpism and the philosophy of history

As a result, the Republican Party is becoming a party permanently associated with bigotry. It is becoming the party that can’t govern. And as a bonus, Trumpish recklessness could slide us into a war with North Korea that could leave millions dead.

The only way to beat Trump is to beat him philosophically. Right now the populists have a story to tell the country about what’s gone wrong. It’s a coherent story, which they tell with great conviction. The regular Republicans have no story, no conviction and no argument. They just hem and haw and get run over.

The Trump story is that good honest Americans are being screwed by aliens. Regular Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite that rigs the game in its favor. White Americans are being invaded by immigrants who take their wealth and divide their culture. Normal Americans are threatened by an Islamic radicalism that murders their children.

This is a tribal story. The tribe needs a strong warrior in a hostile world. We need to build walls to keep out illegals, erect barriers to hold off foreign threats, wage endless war on the globalist elites.

Somebody is going to have to arise to point out that this is a deeply wrong and un-American story. The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles, attracting talented people from across the globe, active across the world on behalf of all people who seek democracy and dignity.

Image result for trumpism and the philosophy of history

The core American idea is not the fortress, it’s the frontier. First, we thrived by exploring a physical frontier during the migration west, and now we explore technological, scientific, social and human frontiers. The core American attitude has been looking hopefully to the future, not looking resentfully toward some receding greatness.

The hardship of the frontier calls forth energy, youthfulness and labor, and these have always been the nation’s defining traits. The frontier demands a certain sort of individual, a venturesome, hard-working, disciplined individual who goes off in search of personal transformation. From Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass, Americans have always admired those who made themselves anew. They have generally welcomed immigrants who live this script and fortify this dynamism.

The Republican Party was founded as a free labor party. It believed in economic diversity, cultural cohesion and national greatness. The entrepreneurial economic philosophy was highly individualistic, but strong local communities built a web of nurturing relationships and shared biblical morality helped define common standards of character.

This American vision champions social mobility. The original Republicans were not for or against government, they were for government that sparked mobility; they were against government that enervated ambition. These Americans heavily invested in schools at a time when other nations were investing heavily in welfare states. These Americans built railroads and roads to increase mobility. They tore down social, racial and legal barriers to give poor boys and girls an open field and a fair chance.

Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it’s division — between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. Where there is division there are fences. Mobility is retarded and the frontier is destroyed. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.

The Republican Party is supposed to be the party that stokes dynamism by giving everybody the chance to venture out into the frontier of their own choosing — with education reform that encourages lifelong learning, with entitlement reform that spends less on the affluent elderly and more on the enterprising young families, with regulatory reform that breaks monopolies and rules that hamper start-ups, with tax reform that creates a fair playing field, with immigration reform that welcomes the skilled and the hungry.

It may be dormant, but this striving American dream is still lurking in every heart. It’s waiting for somebody who has the guts to say no to tribe, yes to universal nation, no to fences, yes to the frontier, no to closed, and yes to the open future, no to the fear-driven homogeneity of the old continent and yes to the diverse hopefulness of the new one.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 3, 2017, on Page A29 of the New York edition with the headline: A Philosophical Assault on Trumpism.