By Robert G. Rabil, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Robert G. Rabil is associate professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University.
The popular uprising in Syria against the Alawi-led minority regime of Bashar al-Assad poses a serious challenge to U.S. national security in the Middle East.
As it fights for its survival amid escalating violence, the Syrian regime risks not only the deepening of civil strife in the country, but also provoking sectarian strife in the region, potentially drawing in U.S. military involvement. Washington has thus far been cautious in dealing with Syria, favoring strong words and sanctions against the regime and supporting Arab efforts to stop the violent military crackdown. But this could change as conditions in Syria deteriorate.
The recent arrival in Syria of Arab observers, as part of a Syrian-endorsed Arab League plan to stop the violence, has been met with mixed emotions. Syrian opposition members rejected the plan, which was mediated by Iraq, on the grounds that it will give the bestial regime another chance to continue its brutal policies.
Read Rabil's full opinion piece in CNN's Opinion section
Mitchell D. Silber is the author of 'The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West'. He is also the Director of Intelligence Analysis for the NYPD. His thoughts do not necessarily represent the opinions of the New York City Police Department.
Just over two years since al Qaeda Core launched the most serious plot on American soil since 9/11 (the Najibullah Zazi NYC Subway Plot of September 2009), al Qaeda’s leader and founder Usama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s most recent “Number 3” Attiyah Abd al Rahman, and the al Qaeda instigators of the Zazi Plot – Saleh al Somali and Rashid Rauf – are all dead - a result of a combination of efforts by U.S. Special Forces and drone strikes. In addition, this fall, Anwar al Awlaqi, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s dual-hatted English language propagandist and chief of external operations, was also killed in a drone strike. The natural question to ask, as the calendar approaches 2012, is: wither the al Qaeda threat?
The recent past may provide some useful insights. One of the most important findings of a forensic study of the sixteen most serious al Qaeda plots against the West since 1993 is that al Qaeda plots against the West are almost always underpinned and manned by Westerners - who travel overseas to al Qaeda or an al Qaeda ally/affiliate and then are turned around opportunistically and sent back to target the West. Whether it was the 1999 LAX Millennium Bomber (Montreal), 9/11 Pilots (Hamburg), Shoe Bombers (London), July 7 and 21 2005 London transit system bombers (Leeds and London), 2009 NYC Subway Bombers (New York) or 2009 Underwear Bomber (London), the key operatives from the plot originated in one of the great cities of the West.
By General Michael Hagee, USMC (Ret.) and Admiral James Loy, USCG (Ret.), Special to CNN
EDITOR'S NOTE: General Michael W. Hagee, USMC (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006, and Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002, and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. They are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
The next Commander in Chief will face a complex and difficult set of global challenges. Recently, many candidates for president have spoken of the need to listen to the advice of military leaders on national security, and we appreciate the respect shown to our men and women in uniform. As former Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps and Coast Guard, we believe our nation needs a smart power approach to national security that embraces a strategic investment in our foreign assistance programs.
When both of us entered uniformed service more than 40 years ago, the primary threats to America’s security were nation states with advanced militaries. Today, our country faces a different array of threats and potential adversaries – from rising powers and rogue nations to terrorist and militia groups that thrive in environments of deprivation and stunted development. FULL POST
By Brian Flynn, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Brian Flynn is the brother of Lockerbie victim J.P. Flynn and vice president of Pan Am 103, an advocacy organization. He is a business adviser.
Many times I've watched in dismay as crowds of Moammar Gadhafi supporters gathered to wave flags in front of Libya's former dictator - in particular, two years ago, when the convicted murderer Abdul Al Megrahi returned to his home country under the guise of near-death, to be welcomed as a hero, banners waving, Gadhafi embracing the man who helped him kill my brother.
We watched in jaw-dropped horror as these two conspirators embraced in front of what we believed to be a throng of paid political cheerleaders.
We'd often heard that part of the way Gadhafi kept up the sparkly image of a happy, well-led people was to pay them to show up and look as though they were viewing a god. It's classic imperial propaganda: Make sure the little people show the love when the cameras are on. It's a method designed by Joseph Goebbels and painstakingly perfected by Gadhafi.
EDITOR'S NOTE: General Hugh Shelton served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001. He is a member of the National Security Advisory Council of the US Global Leadership Coalition.
By General Hugh Shelton, USA (Ret.), Special to CNN
As our nation comes together to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we find ourselves with a poignant opportunity to reflect on the lives lost and the dramatic changes we have seen around the world over the last decade.
On that tragic day, I was serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the principal military adviser to the President of the United States. I will never forget the personal sense of loss all of us felt as we processed the events of the day – devastation on a scale that had seemed unimaginable even the day before. But what I will also remember is what happened the day after.
In our first National Security Council meeting after the attacks, our intelligence and law enforcement leaders briefed the President, telling him that the attacks were planned and executed by al Qaeda. In the dramatic pause after this information was presented, all the eyes in the room seemed to turn towards myself and the Secretary of Defense. The silent question that hung in the air was obvious – what are we going to do about this?