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Thread: Understanding the Enemy

  1. #1
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Understanding the Enemy

    One thing that we seem to not yet have a handle on is what the true nature of our enemy is. After reading 3 Cups of Tea, I started given some serious thought to GEN Bashir's comment that the enemy was ignorance.

    I'm not sure if you've ever watched a suicide bomber's video where he gives his testimony before martyrdom, but it is intense. In Zaganiyah, we started recovering the videos after the blast. These were our neighbors blowing themselves up so it became a bit personal. After we redeployed, non-religious teenage girls from Diyala River Valley began volunteering or being coerced. I wanted to understand why because that is the only way to stop it- not counter-IED measures- a holistic approach...I read through every translated document available on Open Source that I could find.

    Here's my take:

    In the same parallel that x is a function derived from y and depicted numerically on a graph, the Arab world is a wonderful, mystical land full of multiple paradoxes competing and contrasting directly with traditional western rational thought, norms, and values. This land that provided the world with Hammurabi’s law, algebra, and three religions coexists within the same mosaic that introduced honor killings, suicide bombers, and assassins. This cradle of civilization ebbs and flows in the persistent and unrelenting current of conflict with modernity while defying western utopian dreams of perpetual peace. This land contradicts and conforms in a beauty unresolved leaving most unfamiliar unnerved striving to determine some rhyme and reason to it all.

    What is al Qaeda? The active absence of hope and passion skewed in anger. Tumbling, spiraling down, the Islamic Revolution unfolds in search of deep introspection. Nearly four score past, Sayyid Qutb questioned his isolation, unhappiness, and loneliness. Bitterness derived from grievances revealed, theorems proposed juxtaposed to uneducated masses; Muslim Brotherhood evolves. All for naught in distaste for compassion. Self-denial self-inflicted for naught in the lack of creativity, curiosity, and thought. No renewal of the mind, the martyr self-destructs. Who will teach the children to read? Temporal thoughts temper tolerance tolerant to teaching towards temperance. Anarchy ensues. Victims victimized verily refusing validation.

    Most of this can be described by The Sayyid Qutb Reader by Albert Bergesen.

    Today, two authors suggested a radical approach to defeating AQ.

    How to Beat al Qaeda at Its Own Game

    By Frank J. Cilluffo, Daniel Kimmage

    You've probably never heard of Badr Mish'al al-Harbi, but to many, he's a hero. The star of a June 2008 Internet video called "The State of Islam [Shall] Endure," Harbi appeared under the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Kuwaiti to sing the praises of martyrdom. Two months earlier, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas had profiled him, describing the young man as brave and pious. Today, there are 2,000 Google Arabic hits for his pseudonym.
    Harbi's ticket to stardom came postmortem: On April 26, 2008, he blew himself up during a series of al Qaeda attacks in Mosul, Iraq. Soon after, Harbi's comrades in arms succeeded in turning him into an online hero. The victims, Iraqi Muslims, became a statistic.

    The story of Badr al-Harbi is a case study of a battleground in the "war on terror" that has long been ignored: the struggle to control the narrative. Contrast the murderer-hero's popularity with the anonymity of his victims, and it becomes clear that al Qaeda has mastered and monopolized the storytelling.

    Although elaborate tales such as Harbi's might appear to border on fiction, al Qaeda's control over the publicly told narrative has real consequences across the world. Terrorist radicalization and recruitment are a byproduct of the movies, songs, poetry, essays, and books that tell an emotionally charged story with distinctive vocabulary, clear-cut heroes and villains, and larger-than-life symbols. The story al Qaeda and its ilk tell is about a forceful response to victimization. It works by tapping into real and perceived grievances and peppering the narrative with analogies that fuse history and myth into a powerful sense of identity and purpose.
    They may be onto something. The real question is- Is it really this simple?

    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 04-14-2009 at 11:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Yes Mike it really is that simple.

    And better use of Voice of America, radio and TV, could help turn this whole war around.

    We are talking psyops and better propaganda, which we have thus far done a punk job on.

  3. #3
    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default I try to relate

    this in terms the family can understand. I get them to think, what if a foreign nation was here in the States? How would you react? If one thinks in terms of the number of people who would have the conviction to do whatever necessary to win vs. those who would take no stance, is it really any different? How would our media operate differently? Think of the psyops you would develop, the propaganda opportunities.
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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    Default Some sources of understanding

    Starting with the enemy, Zawahiri's "Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents", found in the Al Qaeda Reader (with other important statements), is required reading.

    There are theological holes (from the Islamic perspective) in his arguments; but they have to addressed by Muslims - not Christians, such as George, JMM and MikeF.

    For a different kind of martyr, study the pre-Constantinian Christian martyrs, who as pacifists were willing to die for their faith; but not to kill for it. Then fast forward to the Jesuit Order (not pacific) and its martyrs - as to which, the Jesuit Relations (Thwaites English translation) are a ready source.[*]

    While I agree with the content of the message which the authors in Mike's link want to convey,

    The story of al Qaeda's victims must be told compellingly and exhaustively -- from the World Trade Center to the weddings, funerals, schools, mosques, and hotels where suicide bombers have brought untold grief to thousands of families, tribes, and communities throughout the Muslim world. That narrative could tap online social networks, creating a Facebook of the bereaved that crosses borders and cultures. A series of public service announcements, timed after attacks, could detail the innocent lives snuffed out by al Qaeda.

    A recent symposium hosted by the secretary-general of the United Nations points the way forward: an international, multilingual effort to sponsor networks of Web sites, publications, and television programming. The United Nations can and should play a significant convening role, bringing together victims to help meet their material needs and raising awareness by providing platforms through which to share their stories.

    The U.S. government also has a critical role to play in creating a framework for victims' stories. No single agency will lead; the days of centralized, top-down communications campaigns are over. Nongovernmental organizations and millions of private citizens will make this work by adding their own experiences to the tales. Adopting this kind of decentralization, the Obama administration can make a clean break with its predecessor's strategy.
    I believe that message will be effective only if it is delivered and controlled by Muslims.

    --------------------------
    [*] One could also contrast the Canadian Jesuits' cult of martyrdom with the culture of the CFM-Canada, which was often at odds.
    Last edited by jmm99; 04-15-2009 at 04:22 AM.

  5. #5
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    You've probably never heard of Badr Mish'al al-Harbi, but to many, he's a hero. The star of a June 2008 Internet video called "The State of Islam [Shall] Endure," Harbi appeared under the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Kuwaiti to sing the praises of martyrdom.
    Never heard of him, and exactly how many people think he's a hero. What is more, how many of those people can actually exert operational and strategic influence.

    Sorry, I can't take this stuff seriously. It's an argument without evidence, and like a lot of stuff that sounds good, leads you no where, unless you enjoy rubbing your chin, about all "wicked problems" and "complexity" some cling to in order to promote agendas.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    jmm99 How do you know all this stuff? I am amazed.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Agendas

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Never heard of him, and exactly how many people think he's a hero. What is more, how many of those people can actually exert operational and strategic influence.

    Sorry, I can't take this stuff seriously. It's an argument without evidence, and like a lot of stuff that sounds good, leads you no where, unless you enjoy rubbing your chin, about all "wicked problems" and "complexity" some cling to in order to promote agendas.
    I'm sorry you feel that way Wilf. I don't have any answers that is why I ask the questions. The only agenda is that maybe people will talk about it. That's it. Personally, I think you and others here come the closest in defining anything towards pragmatic, realistic answers.

    My counter-argument would be that if we don't talk about it, it will lead us to nowhere. Furthermore, no "solution" currently being implement is supported by evidence.



    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 04-15-2009 at 01:43 PM.

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    Default Hey there, Chicago ...

    I read a lot in certain areas that are of special interest to me. Move a bit outside of those areas and I'm a total dummy - which means I listen up a lot to what others say.

  9. #9
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    I'm sorry you feel that way Wilf. I don't have any answers that is why I ask the questions. The only agenda is that maybe people will talk about it. That's it. Personally, I think you and others here come the closest in defining anything towards pragmatic, realistic answers.
    ...and I am sorry not to be more constructive. It was not your agenda I was referring to. Your question is one worth asking, but I strongly caution against assuming all the questions and observations posed by such articles are worthwhile.

    If there is merit in understanding an enemy, it is in how to break his will and subvert his arguments, not understanding him, so as you can empathise with the SOB, and live happily ever after.

    Until the enemy gives up the policies you find unacceptable, his physical defeat has got to be the primary purpose.

    That is as close to being pragmatic and realistic as I might ever get.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default So, in British India ...

    from Wilf
    Until the enemy gives up the policies you find unacceptable, his physical defeat has got to be the primary purpose.
    the appropriate tactic was physically to defeat Gandhi ?

    Not a very strenuous task, based on his photographs.

  11. #11
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Compromise

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    If there is merit in understanding an enemy, it is in how to break his will and subvert his arguments, not understanding him, so as you can empathise with the SOB, and live happily ever after.

    Until the enemy gives up the policies you find unacceptable, his physical defeat has got to be the primary purpose.
    As usual, I agree with you, but we do not seem to want to use our nuclear weapons as a true deterrance so I'm just looking for other alternatives.

    JMM may be onto something with the Gandhi stuff.

    And no, I have not joined the "Go Nuke or go home crowd."

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    the appropriate tactic was physically to defeat Gandhi ?

    Not a very strenuous task, based on his photographs.
    Good one...but that was Politics, that never became war. Gandhi was a lawyer. The British had already crushed the violent means, and what many don't know is Gandhi implicitly threatened violence. He always told the British they did not have enough troops to suppress an Indian wide violent rebellion.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
    Yes Mike it really is that simple.

    And better use of Voice of America, radio and TV, could help turn this whole war around.

    We are talking psyops and better propaganda, which we have thus far done a punk job on.

    I don't think so, and don't agree that better propaganda (via VoA) is the answer. Sometimes, folks see through that for the sham work that it is. Often, the simple fact remains that our ideas and constructs just don't translate over. Add to that the fact that within societies such as the tribal, Arab, and Islamic one we worked so hard to shape and control in Iraq, any message coming from us is going to be ignored and downplayed, and information operations can be a tall order.

    Providing accurate facts that get ahead of jihadist information, is sometimes the best that we can do, methinks.

  14. #14
    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default Just wondering

    How we think we can:

    a. Figure out another culture

    b. Figure out why they do what they do

    c. Figure out how to change them

    When we can't even do it in our own country.

    That just might be the problem, stop putting so much thought into, crush their "nuts" and eventually they'll get tired of it or run out of people......
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

  15. #15
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Ultimately

    Quote Originally Posted by ODB View Post
    How we think we can:

    a. Figure out another culture

    b. Figure out why they do what they do

    c. Figure out how to change them

    When we can't even do it in our own country.

    That just might be the problem, stop putting so much thought into, crush their "nuts" and eventually they'll get tired of it or run out of people......

    That leads to the real questions we don't seem to want to ask...

    1. What are we doing?

    2. Is it possible for this to work?

    3. Why are we doing this?



    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    That leads to the real questions we don't seem to want to ask...

    1. What are we doing?

    2. Is it possible for this to work?

    3. Why are we doing this?



    v/r

    Mike

    I think we often don't like to ask the questions because framing them the right way is hard, or permits a sense of weakness to invade...and finally we often do not like the answers that are likely to arise, even if they speak the truth.

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    That leads to the real questions we don't seem to want to ask...

    1. What are we doing?

    2. Is it possible for this to work?

    3. Why are we doing this?



    v/r

    Mike
    Unfortunately what works for one will not work for the next, but is there a common ground that can be exploited?
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

  18. #18
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default I wish I knew

    the answers to those questions, but I don't.

    However, my concern is if they are not asked, then we will continually do the same thing over and over again.

  19. #19
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    That leads to the real questions we don't seem to want to ask...

    1. What are we doing?
    2. Is it possible for this to work?
    3. Why are we doing this?

    v/r
    Mike
    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I think we often don't like to ask the questions because framing them the right way is hard, or permits a sense of weakness to invade...and finally we often do not like the answers that are likely to arise, even if they speak the truth.
    Very good points, JC.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    the answers to those questions, but I don't.

    However, my concern is if they are not asked, then we will continually do the same thing over and over again.
    Pulling off of JC's comments, and getting back to the original post, have you noticed that few in the US (or outside it) buy into the narrative offered? Most "answers", if they aren't of an "X=Y" form, tend to be implicit stories, i.e. they have a meaning, moral and story line attached to them. The story about bringing democracy to _____ (fill in the blank) isn't selling well, mainly because there is a lot of comptetition.

    Will we do the same thing over and over? Probably... most cultures do.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  20. #20
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I don't think so, and don't agree that better propaganda (via VoA) is the answer. Sometimes, folks see through that for the sham work that it is. Often, the simple fact remains that our ideas and constructs just don't translate over. Add to that the fact that within societies such as the tribal, Arab, and Islamic one we worked so hard to shape and control in Iraq, any message coming from us is going to be ignored and downplayed, and information operations can be a tall order.

    Providing accurate facts that get ahead of jihadist information, is sometimes the best that we can do, methinks.
    Concur with all. Exactly right in my experience. No evidence you ever produce will convince most (not all) anti-western Arabs that the Israeli's didn't commit 911, and that the British SIS didn't murder Princess Diana.

    Try and tell folks who believe in UFOs that they don't exist.

    ...and I don't think it is the job of any Army to alter beliefs. It's to make the cost of acting on those beliefs too high, for most people to risk.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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