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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #41
    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    I've seen similar questions being asked in various BAAs and SBIRs, but its a question (in its most basic form) that's been asked by all ruling powers throughout history. Where will the threats to our power arise from and what can we do to prevent it? There's the biblical example of Pharoah and Herod attempting to intercept the rise of a great threat to their power (Moses and Jesus) by killing all of the first born children in their kingdom. That clearly didn't work, and no similarly motivated strategy has worked for any government since.

    Posen wrote:

    "The activist U.S. grand strategy currently preferred by the national security establishment in both parties thus has a classically tragic quality about it. Enabled by its great power, and fearful of the negative energies and possibilities engendered by globalization, the United States has tried to get its arms around the problem: It has essentially sought more control. But the very act of seeking more control injects negative energy into global politics as quickly as it finds enemies to vanquish. It prompts states to balance against U.S. power however they can, and it prompts peoples to imagine that the United States is the source of all their troubles."

    We need to lighten our touch, and change our global strategy; and part of that change is not pursuing the fool's errand of trying to predict and control every possible factor which may lead to future threats. The chaotic nature of life doesn't permit such control.

    At the end of the essay Posen recaps his points with a brief summarizing statement:

    "The United States needs now to test a different grand strategy: It should conceive its security interests narrowly, use its military power stingily, pursue its enemies quietly but persistently, share responsibilities and costs more equitably, watch and wait more patiently. Let’s do this for 16 years and see if the outcomes aren’t better."

    I wholeheartedly agree.
    If I were king (and I realize I can't be since John Fishel is), I'd create a director for long term/emerging threats on the National Security Council to try to use interagency assets to identify and respond to emerging threats. One of the first things I'd do is commission research on the actual mechanics of strategic threat recognition in the United States.

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    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post

    The war which has been imposed upon us and the rest of the West in general is an Islamic war of aggression. Islam is at war with anything and everything that is non-Islamic. Even Muslims who do not tow the ideological pure line are considered apostates and deemed good fodder for immediate, cold-blooded slaughter.

    A religion-based ideology can only be addressed or countered in like manner. Apples to apples.

    That's my 0.02 worth.
    This is an issue that has recently been the topic of much discussion on another site I frequent, so I'll pose the same issue. If Al Qaeda's brand of terrorism is indeed a global insurgency, do we not play into their hands by painting this as a war between religions?

    Let me explain. The prize in this "global insurgency" is the people, as it is in all insurgencies. We currently have a vocal (and violently active) subset of the world Muslim population (how large or small is debatable). This vocal subset seeks to harness all of Islam in a war against the West. However, another subset is either opposed to this or at least neutral. If we subscribe the theory that this is indeed a war of religion, as Al Qaeda argues, then we force those Muslims that haven't chosen a side to choose the side antagonistic to us.

    I don't believe that Islam, in and of itself, is out to conquer the West or Christianity or anything else. I do believe that some have determined that the use of Islam can provide a valuable tool in their fight against the West. I just don't believe we should take actions, or pursue strategies, that make this tool more effective for Al Qaeda and their ilk.
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  3. #43
    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
    This is an issue that has recently been the topic of much discussion on another site I frequent, so I'll pose the same issue. If Al Qaeda's brand of terrorism is indeed a global insurgency, do we not play into their hands by painting this as a war between religions?

    Let me explain. The prize in this "global insurgency" is the people, as it is in all insurgencies. We currently have a vocal (and violently active) subset of the world Muslim population (how large or small is debatable). This vocal subset seeks to harness all of Islam in a war against the West. However, another subset is either opposed to this or at least neutral. If we subscribe the theory that this is indeed a war of religion, as Al Qaeda argues, then we force those Muslims that haven't chosen a side to choose the side antagonistic to us.

    I don't believe that Islam, in and of itself, is out to conquer the West or Christianity or anything else. I do believe that some have determined that the use of Islam can provide a valuable tool in their fight against the West. I just don't believe we should take actions, or pursue strategies, that make this tool more effective for Al Qaeda and their ilk.
    I've been struck in a discussion board I frequent where most of the participants are "red state" non-experts just how many subscribe to a manichean, Islam versus Christianity, end of the world sort of perspective. I guess I didn't think that much about it until I started hearing the same thing from presidential candidates like Giuliani and Huckabee.

    I suspect if I looked more closely at the late 1940s and early 1950s, I'd see the same phenomenon. During times of challenge, extremism gains legitimacy and moderation is deprecated, even delegitimized. I compare it to the witch trial in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the only way to gain attention is to stake out a position even more extreme than the person who went before.

    Islam makes a useful "witch" because its violent extremists claim to speak for the religion and many Americans don't know enough about it to recognize what does and does not represent defining characteristics of it.

    One of the most bizarre discussions I had in that "other" board came when someone floated out the line from the Koran about slaying non-believers. I pointed out that there are some pretty bloodthirsty and down right genocidal divine instructions in the Bible as well. The other discussants were absolutely shocked that I couldn't see what was to them a perfectly clear distinction: the legitimization of violence in the Bible was God's instruction while that in the Koran was not. I guess I am just too thick to see what to them was an obvious point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    I've been struck in a discussion board I frequent where most of the participants are "red state" non-experts just how many subscribe to a manichean, Islam versus Christianity, end of the world sort of perspective. I guess I didn't think that much about it until I started hearing the same thing from presidential candidates like Giuliani and Huckabee.
    I see this happen at Blackfive.net, Townhall, and pretty much every Republican-oriented board that I infrequently visit. I still can't get used to hearing it, and, to be honest, I find it a little bit frightening. Religious wars last a very long time because both sides believe that they have a mandate from their respective Higher Powers to kill the nonbeliever.

    The other frightening aspect to the "War on Islam" faction is that these are 21st century Americans who are advocating it. Granted that what's said in the Comments section of a political blog is often written in a more exaggerated style due to the anonymity of the medium, but still, this type of fear-mongering should have ended a long time ago.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default There are fanatics on each side of both

    the ideological and religious divides. They bear watching but no support in equal parts.

    The rabid right will kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out, the rabid left sees no threat other than said rabid right -- the truth, as always is probably somewhere in between.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    the ideological and religious divides. They bear watching but no support in equal parts.

    The rabid right will kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out, the rabid left sees no threat other than said rabid right -- the truth, as always is probably somewhere in between.
    I agree completely. Fanatics of any stripe are equally abhorrent and dangerous.

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    Great article and thanks for the link. Agree wholeheardetly. We've burnt the Army to ash over the last 17 years, we need to take a long pause and realize that military actions has definitive limits for countless reasons.

    I think there are two counteracting forces at work in the world right now. Globalization and the rise of non-state actors. The patient who gets to feel the brunt of these two forces is the nation-state - both globalization and the rise of non-state actors pull the nation state apart from two different spectrums. Globalization pulls it apart from the economic angle, and the non-state actors pull it apart from the political, religious and cultural angles. Globalization really means homogenization - you see the same stores, brand names and the like everywhere you go. On a personal level, I hate this but you can't stop progress, even if its not progress.

    I think Americans like "either/or" scenarios way too much. We reduce everything to this dichotomy, and the world is much, much more complex and grey. I suppose the media could be blamed, but in reality it's a matter of self education and not trusting what is put out in front of you as gospel.

    The Moslems are no better and no worse then most of us in the world. There is a small minority of Qtubists who are deluded into thinking they are the new blend of Leninist/Mohammedanian vanguard of religious revolutionaries. They tend to die a lot, mainly by choice. Isolate them through good propaganda (I mean IO), and increase the standards of living in Islamic countries and they will die off.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Great article and thanks for the link. Agree wholeheardetly. We've burnt the Army to ash over the last 17 years, we need to take a long pause and realize that military actions has definitive limits for countless reasons.

    I think there are two counteracting forces at work in the world right now. Globalization and the rise of non-state actors. The patient who gets to feel the brunt of these two forces is the nation-state - both globalization and the rise of non-state actors pull the nation state apart from two different spectrums. Globalization pulls it apart from the economic angle, and the non-state actors pull it apart from the political, religious and cultural angles. Globalization really means homogenization - you see the same stores, brand names and the like everywhere you go. On a personal level, I hate this but you can't stop progress, even if its not progress.

    I think Americans like "either/or" scenarios way too much. We reduce everything to this dichotomy, and the world is much, much more complex and grey. I suppose the media could be blamed, but in reality it's a matter of self education and not trusting what is put out in front of you as gospel.

    The Moslems are no better and no worse then most of us in the world. There is a small minority of Qtubists who are deluded into thinking they are the new blend of Leninist/Mohammedanian vanguard of religious revolutionaries. They tend to die a lot, mainly by choice. Isolate them through good propaganda (I mean IO), and increase the standards of living in Islamic countries and they will die off.
    I just signed off on a very interesting forthcoming publication by my Islamic studies expert. Among other things, she explains why the word "Qtubists" (which is in wide circulation) is wrong. I'll pass along the link when the study comes out. I learned a lot from it myself (in my eternal quest to rebut those hundreds of people who consider me uneducable).
    Last edited by SteveMetz; 12-10-2007 at 01:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Great article and thanks for the link. Agree wholeheardetly. We've burnt the Army to ash over the last 17 years, we need to take a long pause and realize that military actions has definitive limits for countless reasons.

    I think there are two counteracting forces at work in the world right now. Globalization and the rise of non-state actors. The patient who gets to feel the brunt of these two forces is the nation-state - both globalization and the rise of non-state actors pull the nation state apart from two different spectrums. Globalization pulls it apart from the economic angle, and the non-state actors pull it apart from the political, religious and cultural angles. Globalization really means homogenization - you see the same stores, brand names and the like everywhere you go. On a personal level, I hate this but you can't stop progress, even if its not progress.

    I think Americans like "either/or" scenarios way too much. We reduce everything to this dichotomy, and the world is much, much more complex and grey. I suppose the media could be blamed, but in reality it's a matter of self education and not trusting what is put out in front of you as gospel.

    The Moslems are no better and no worse then most of us in the world. There is a small minority of Qtubists who are deluded into thinking they are the new blend of Leninist/Mohammedanian vanguard of religious revolutionaries. They tend to die a lot, mainly by choice. Isolate them through good propaganda (I mean IO), and increase the standards of living in Islamic countries and they will die off.

    I see a connection between black/white thinking and feeling overcome by Globalization. My theory is that if individuals would expand their mental horizons, they'll feel better about the expansion that Globalization is bringing to us.

    Regarding Muslim extremists, they're clearly a minority or the world would be engulfed in the flames of religous fanaticism by now (considering how many Muslims there are in the world).

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    We have to label the radical Sunni terrorists as something. I hear Salafist/Wahhabist/Qtubist - I'll be interested to see what her definition of "right" is.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    We have to label the radical Sunni terrorists as something. I hear Salafist/Wahhabist/Qtubist - I'll be interested to see what her definition of "right" is.
    They are out of the salafi tradition (although, of course, not all salafis are extremists). Some but not all of them are out of the wahabist tradition. Qtub influenced them but, according to my professor, developed a critique of the West and call for piety, but not an ideology of "war."

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    Default Labeling

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    They are out of the salafi tradition (although, of course, not all salafis are extremists). Some but not all of them are out of the wahabist tradition. Qtub influenced them but, according to my professor, developed a critique of the West and call for piety, but not an ideology of "war."
    All correct but in the interest of labeling I would recommend irhabists (versus salafis and/or wahabis for the reasons Steve gives or as jihadists because that puts a single meaning on jihad, which is inaccurate and misleading) and continued use of extremists as an effective descriptor of them (versus terrorists as a trite label for their intent).

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    All correct but in the interest of labeling I would recommend irhabists (versus salafis and/or wahabis for the reasons Steve gives or as jihadists because that puts a single meaning on jihad, which is inaccurate and misleading) and continued use of extremists as an effective descriptor of them (versus terrorists as a trite label for their intent).

    Tom
    I guess we can say what we want but my professor is quite critical of attempts by non Muslims to shape or promote the Arabic words that Muslims use. I myself stick to "extremists" or "militants." Of course, there are problems with that as well since the category would include both Osama bin Laden and Richard Perle.

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    I would suggest that folks on this thread take a deep breath, check any urges to thump on sacred books of any sort at the door, and then resume discussion.

    That does not involve checking one's deity at the door but rather refraining from invoking him in every post. The original line of this thread was useful. Let's see if we can get back to that without running down too many rabbit holes.

    Thanks.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default What about the anti-globalization networks?

    Now I know these folks all have the PR image of tree-hugging loons with Che t-shirts and an aversion to basic hygiene, but what happens if they become the "next thing?" After all, they developed a great deal of the vaunted "global insurgency" framework (diversified networks and leadership structures, communicating via the internet, and so on). I'm wondering how things might look if more of them buy into the ELF-type mindset.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    With respect to the thread title "After al-Qaeda?", perhaps this current article by Ali Eteraz is germane to the gist of the discussion?
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 12-10-2007 at 07:39 PM.

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    CTC has now released a report based on the documents provided at the link in my earlier post:
    The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is pleased to present the report, Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qa’ida from 1989-2006. Based on a collection of al-Qa’ida documents recently released from the Department of Defense's Harmony Database, in addition to the previously released documents utilized in the Combating Terorrism Center’s two prior Harmony reports, this report analyzes the history of al-Qa’ida’s internal and long-running debates over the strategies and larger goals of the jihadi movement. Many of these documents, captured in the course of operations supporting the Global War on Terror, have never before been available to the academic and policy community. Cracks in the Foundation includes a richly sourced account of the ongoing struggle between different factions among al-Qa’ida’s leaders and specific recommendations for effectively exploiting weaknesses arising from these internal struggles. We have provided brief summaries of each of the released documents, and the full texts of the released documents can be accessed via hyperlinks within the report, both in their original Arabic and in English. We hope this report will serve as a useful resource in our collective efforts to better understand and combat al-Qa'ida and its affiliated movements.
    Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qa’ida from 1989-2006

    For those who don't feel like slogging through the entire 78 page pdf at once, CTC was thoughtful enough to break it down so you could access it in chunks:

    Foreword

    Introduction

    Part I
    1990-1996: Al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia


    Part II
    1996-2001: The Taliban Refuge and the War with America


    Part III
    2001-2006: Dispersal, Reconsolidation and Problems in Iraq


    Conclusion

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    Default The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus

    RFE/RL, 4 Feb 08: The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus: The Virtual Network Behind the Global Message
    Key Findings
    - The ”original” Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden accounts for a mere fraction of jihadist media production.

    - Virtual media production and distribution entities (MPDEs) link varied groups under the general ideological rubric of the global jihadist movement. The same media entities that “brand” jihadist media also create virtual links between the various armed groups that fall into the general category of Al-Qaeda and affiliated movements.

    - Three key entities connect Al-Qaeda and affiliated movements to the outside world through the internet. These three media entities — Fajr, the Global Islamic Media Front, and Sahab — receive materials from more than one armed group and post those materials to the internet.

    - Information operations intended to disrupt or undermine the effectiveness of jihadist media can and should target the media entities that brand these media and act as the virtual connective tissue of the global movement.

    - While video is an important component of jihadist media, text products comprise the bulk of the daily media flow. Within text products, periodicals focused on specific “fronts” of the jihad are an important genre that deserves more attention from researchers.

    - The vast majority of jihadist media products focus on conflict zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

    - The priorities of the global jihadist movement, as represented by its media arm, are operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and North Africa.

    - Jihadist media are attempting to mimic a “traditional” structure in order to boost credibility and facilitate message control. While conventional wisdom holds that jihadist media have been quick to exploit technological innovations to advance their cause, they are moving toward a more structured approach based on consistent branding and quasi-official media entities. Their reasons for doing so appear to be a desire to boost the credibility of their products and ensure message control.

    - In line with this strategy, the daily flow of jihadist media that appears on the internet is consistently and systematically branded.
    Complete 28 page paper at the link.

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Thanks Jedburgh

    paper is virtually winging its way through my IO mates as I speak

    very useful

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