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Thread: Hoffman vs. Sageman: Myth of Grassroots Terrorism

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Hoffman vs. Sageman: Myth of Grassroots Terrorism

    Bruce Hoffman comes out with a brutal review in Foreign Affairs of Dr. Marc Sageman's new book: Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the 21st Century.

    Basically he argues that Sageman radically underestimates al-Qaeda Central's organizational strength and reach, and thinks that Sageman's methods lead him incorrectly to focus entirely on spontaneous jihadists inspired by rather than controlled by al-Qaeda. Hoffman believes that the main terrorist threat remains al-Qaeda and its associated organizations, rather than Sageman's theory of a disassociated movement of individual and small groups.

    I haven't read Sageman's book, but Hoffman has him dead to rights on the historical inaccuracies (according to Hoffman, Sageman apparently believes that Gavrilo Princip was part of a 'leaderless' movement of anarchists, while the PIRA began life in a New York City bar). Thoughts?
    Last edited by tequila; 04-28-2008 at 05:10 PM.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Bruce Hoffman comes out with a brutal review in Foreign Affairs of Dr. Marc Sageman's new book: Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the 21st Century.

    Basically he argues that Sageman radically underestimates al-Qaeda Central's organizational strength and reach, and thinks that Sageman's methods lead him incorrectly to focus entirely on spontaneous jihadists inspired by rather than controlled by al-Qaeda. Hoffman believes that the main terrorist threat remains al-Qaeda and its associated organizations, rather than Sageman's theory of a disassociated movement of individual and small groups.

    I haven't read Sageman's book, but Hoffman has him dead to rights on the historical inaccuracies. Thoughts?
    I have read Sageman's book and I can see where he may have fallen into a trap that can catch both social scientists and journalists. He wanted to rely on empirical evidence but to do that requires assuming that the evidence he can get his hands on--basically interrogations of captured terrorists--reflects the population of terrorists as a whole. That may or may not be true (I haven't read Bruce's review, so I don't know if he says that).

    Journalists hit the same problem--they rely on people who will talk to them, which are often people with a gripe. Thus they may end up with a portrait that is more negative than reality.

    That said, I have no idea what the solution is (unless we get the full AQ phone roster).

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    ROTFLMAO.... I have read Leaderless Jihad this should be interesting.
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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Hmmm ... if this is the case then I am due for an buttkicking from both parties. I followed up Sageman's article that was based on his book in Foreign Policy this month with one of my own that half agrees with him, but I argue both are correct. There is a leaderless structure that is spontaneous AND there is a robust and rested AQ senior leadership organization that still has loyal followers and a modern financial distribution system ... each side reaches out and touches each other at critical points in the global Jihad but thats no reason for Hoffman to savage Sageman. Play nice!
    Last edited by Abu Buckwheat; 04-28-2008 at 07:23 PM.
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    I think that Hoffman is discussing the company-owned branches and Sageman is discussing the franchise branches. AQ is part franchise and part multi-national enterprise. They license their name to criminal gangs in places where they lack the organizational ability and strength to assert themselves. In safe havens, they establish greenfield networks. Hoffman is right. Sageman is right (except for historical inaccuracies). Everybody wins! Well, except for victims of terrorism. But other than them...

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    Default A Not Very Private Feud Over Terrorism

    NYT, 8 Jun 08: A Not Very Private Feud Over Terrorism
    A bitter personal struggle between two powerful figures in the world of terrorism has broken out, forcing their followers to choose sides. This battle is not being fought in the rugged no man’s land on the Pakistan-Afghan border. It is a contest reverberating inside the Beltway between two of America’s leading theorists on terrorism and how to fight it, two men who hold opposing views on the very nature of the threat.

    On one side is Bruce Hoffman, a cerebral 53-year-old Georgetown University historian and author of the highly respected 1998 book “Inside Terrorism”. He argues that Al Qaeda is alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years. In his corner, he said, is a battalion of mainstream academics and a National Intelligence Estimate issued last summer warning that Al Qaeda had reconstituted in Pakistan.

    On the other side is Marc Sageman, an iconoclastic 55-year-old Polish-born psychiatrist, sociologist, former C.I.A. case officer and scholar-in-residence with the New York Police Department. His new book, “Leaderless Jihad”, argues that the main threat no longer comes from the organization called Al Qaeda, but from the bottom up — from radicalized individuals and groups who meet and plot in their neighborhoods and on the Internet. In his camp, he said, are agents and analysts in highly classified positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.....

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default The most accurate summary ...

    may be this:


    “The danger of this ‘either-or’ argument could lead us to the mistakes of the past,” said Baltasar Garzón, Spain’s leading antiterror investigatory magistrate. “In the ’90s, we saw atomized cells as everything, and then Al Qaeda came along. And now we look at Al Qaeda and say it’s no longer the threat. We’re making the same mistake again.”
    (From the same article.)
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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Sageman v. Hoffman. I think they are arguing over nuts and berries while the forrest burns down around them. I've read two of Sagemans books, seen his lecture on "Leaderless Jihad", and I've read Hoffmans book too. It is a perspective and point of view difference. Quite silly the vitrol that has been tossed around but not unusual in academia. Neither author is really providing actionable base theory. If I could get a select dozen of the SWC around a table for a day we could exit with actionable plans to wipe AQ off the face of the earth. Problems v. Solutions.

    ETA: Yes I know that sounds grandiose, but ... After reading several dozen books on terrorism I was struck by the epiphany that.... They all discuss the problems and not even ONE discusses the solutions. Now I'm grumbling.
    Last edited by selil; 06-11-2008 at 02:15 PM. Reason: ETA: Explanation of delusions of grandeur
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Sageman v. Hoffman. I think they are arguing over nuts and berries while the forrest burns down around them. I've read two of Sagemans books, seen his lecture on "Leaderless Jihad", and I've read Hoffmans book too. It is a perspective and point of view difference. Quite silly the vitrol that has been tossed around but not unusual in academia. Neither author is really providing actionable base theory. If I could get a select dozen of the SWC around a table for a day we could exit with actionable plans to wipe AQ off the face of the earth. Problems v. Solutions.

    ETA: Yes I know that sounds grandiose, but ... After reading several dozen books on terrorism I was struck by the epiphany that.... They all discuss the problems and not even ONE discusses the solutions. Now I'm grumbling.
    Sam

    I worked aniti-terror in the early 90s and soon discovered that it was a cottage industry on the cusp of going global, meaning that we did not do solutions. We did threats. Threats by definition had to grow and they always had to be a surprise. Therefore we could only speculate about those threats and how they were growing around us.

    This is very remmiscent of that experience. It is intellectual "rice bowl" stuff.

    Tom

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    If I could get a select dozen of the SWC around a table for a day we could exit with actionable plans to wipe AQ off the face of the earth. Problems v. Solutions.
    Not to far off Sam, like I said on another thread a million bucks and the all the brains here and we could pretty much take out any country we wanted. Someplace that has beaches,beer and bikinis.

    Tom you are so right, no money in solutions just make the problem bigger and require more college degrees and you have life time employment.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Not to far off Sam, like I said on another thread a million bucks and the all the brains here and we could pretty much take out any country we wanted. Someplace that has beaches,beer and bikinis.

    Tom you are so right, no money in solutions just make the problem bigger and require more college degrees and you have life time employment.
    My understanding was that the Small Wars Council spends more time UNDER the table than AROUND it.

    But (semi) seriously, this reminds me of an idea that I've tried with no success to sell my boss on. With a change of administrations coming up, we ought to build a collaborative SWC National Security Strategy using a wiki method.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default I'm having one of those moments

    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    I worked aniti-terror in the early 90s and soon discovered that it was a cottage industry on the cusp of going global, meaning that we did not do solutions. We did threats. Threats by definition had to grow and they always had to be a surprise. Therefore we could only speculate about those threats and how they were growing around us.
    A number of years ago, I looked at the welfare system in Ontario and realized that it was set up to keep people on welfare in part as a way of increasing the demand for social workers (and growing government departments budgets). This has a very familiar ring to it .
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi Tom,



    A number of years ago, I looked at the welfare system in Ontario and realized that it was set up to keep people on welfare in part as a way of increasing the demand for social workers (and growing government departments budgets). This has a very familiar ring to it .

    It's hard for any organization (or parent for that matter) to define their own irrelevance as their strategic objective. Imagine if the mission statement of the U.S. military was to create a world where it was no longer needed!

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    It's hard for any organization (or parent for that matter) to define their own irrelevance as their strategic objective. Imagine if the mission statement of the U.S. military was to create a world where it was no longer needed!
    Have you been reading my mind, Steve ?!?!?

    Oh, I do agree with you; it's almost impossible for any organization, at least if it uses the rational-legal bureaucratic framework as its organizational genotype, to define its mission as eliminating the need for it.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Last Sunday the military ch. had a program about Private Armies and of course the PMC Exective Outcomes came up and how good-fast-and cheap they were. Which is the very reason they became such a threat to conventional country based militaries. During the interview of their former CEO about every other word was "we were unconventional in our approach to the problem." Don't know how true everything he said was but I think there are some lessons to be learned

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Another review

    A different review of Sageman's book and rather long. Makes a number of critical remarks, although mainly about the US scene: http://www.tnr.com/toc/story.html?id...2-41464a553c0a

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al-Qaeda’s continued core strategy and disquieting leader-led trajectory

    Hat tip to a Tweet. A new article by Professor Bruce Hoffman and his Spanish colleague / analyst Fernando Reinares, on a Spanish website (in English) and entitled 'Al-Qaeda’s continued core strategy and disquieting leader-led trajectory'.

    Their conclusion:
    Conclusions: Today the conventional wisdom argues that, much like bin Laden’s killing, the Arab Spring has sounded al-Qaeda’s death knell. However, while the mostly non-violent, mass protests of the Arab Spring were successful in overturning hated despots and thus appeared to discredit al-Qaeda’s longstanding message that only violence and jihad could achieve the same ends, in the years since these dramatic developments commenced, evidence has repeatedly come to light of al-Qaeda’s ability to take advantage of the instability and upheaval across these two regions to re-assert its relevance and thereby attempt to revive its waning fortunes.

    The final chapter of al-Qaeda’s long and bloody history has yet to be written. Since the September 11 attacks to the killing of bin Laden in 2011, it has proved to be a highly resilient organisation capable of adaptation and adjustment that, despite grievous leadership losses and diminished resources, was still able to harness the energy of its constituent parts and marshal the powerful narrative and ideology that sustains the collective movement, to carry on the struggle proclaimed by bin Laden in 1988. These characteristics ensure both that the final battle against al-Qaeda has not yet been fought and in coming years the movement may assume new and different forms that could not have previously been anticipated or predicted and that therefore will require an entirely different approach and means to finally eliminate it.
    Link:http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/w...ed-trajectory/
    davidbfpo

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