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Adversary / Threat One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Talk about (or with?) them.

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Old 08-12-2015   #1
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Default Islamic State and Revolts from the Margins

Professor Paul Rogers has a short commentary, via Oxford Research Group, that:
Quote:
There are indications that what has been seen as a narrow series of extreme Islamist movements is now evolving into a much wider phenomenon of generic revolts from the margins. If so, this represents a far more significant transformation of security challenges than the “war on terror” that followed the 9/11 attacks.

(Later) What has recently become evident, however, is that there is something even more fundamental developing in a number of regions where extreme Islamist movements have taken root: they are being fuelled by a perception of marginalisation and exclusion which transcends Islamic State’s more narrow vision of defending Islam under attack from the Crusader forces of the West.
Link:http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.u...evolts_margins

I have long wondered whether the current US and Western allied focus on ISIS in Iraq-Syria, even if seemingly minus a strategy and impact, is a mistake.

I do not doubt that ISIS and its concept of the Caliphate is dangerous to many in the region and beyond, we seem to be ignoring the impact elsewhere. So back to Paul Rogers:
Quote:
In many countries, the marginalised majority has disproportionally large Muslim populations frequently aggrieved and amenable to proselytization. The Economist listed Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as countries facing jihadist groups and identified an endemic issue.
Citing The Economist article 'Jihafrica':
Quote:
from Mali and Nigeria to Kenya and Tanzania the story is the same: extremists emerge from and woo Muslim populations on the national periphery who are fed up with decades of neglect, discrimination and mistreatment by their rulers. Jihadists are able to exploit existing religious tensions and latch on to disgruntled Muslim communities.
Bill Moore has recently posted a cautionary note about developments in South-East Asia, see Post 14:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=5635

So far ISIS has shown no intention of making alliances outside the Muslim faith (I exclude the few "willing fools" who appear), that does not mean local movements could.
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Old 11-17-2015   #4
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from ISIS and Islam, beyond the dream

"Modern states and modern politics (not just all the complex debates about how power should be exercised, who exercises it, who decides who exercises it etc., but also the institutions and mechanisms that evolved to manage modern states and modern politics) mostly reached their current form in Europe. They did not arise from nothing. Many ancient strands grew and intersected to create these states and their political institutions. And there are surely things about this evolution that are contingent and would have been different if they had happened elsewhere. But there are also many features of modern life that are based on new and universally applicable discoveries about human psychology, human biology and human sociology. They have made possible new levels of organization and productivity and in a globalized world (and the Eurasian landmass has had some sort of exchange of ideas for millennia, but this process has accelerated now by orders of magnitude) it is impossible for any large population to ignore these advances and suvive unmolested by those willing to take advantage of these advances.

The modern world that has been created is not just one random "civilization" among many. It is the cutting edge of human knowledge and the human ability to apply that knowledge to good and evil ends. Whatever else it may be (and there is no shortage of people who feel it is too oppressive, too unfair, too fast, too anxiety-provoking, too inhuman, etc etc.) it is an extremely powerful and progressive culture. You can reject it, and countless people (including, it seems, many of the most privileged intellectuals of this very civilization) do reject many aspects of it. But it should also be noted that there are degrees of rejection. Most of the critics (but not all of them) are either critics-from-within, who only reject certain aspects of it, or non-serious critics whose wholesale contempt for the project is not matched by any equivalent personal commitment or serious consideration of alternatives. Most of them also seem unable to do without critical aspects of modernity. Aspects you cannot have without having far more of the rest than they seem to care for. To give two random examples, I have never met a multiculturalist liberal or leftist in the West (including those of Desi origin) who is willing to himself or herself live under the restrictive sexual morality and the community-centric balance of community vs individual rights characteristic of "traditional cultures'. And I have NEVER met an Islamist who did not want an air-force (you can work out for yourself all the other innovations and institutional mechanisms that would be needed in order to have a competitive indigenous air-force).

In fact, forget traditional cultures, just look at Maoist China and the Khmer Rouge, both of whom explicitly rejected modern individualism and mere meritocracy and insisted they wanted to be "Red rather than Expert". One ended up honoring the legacy of Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping over Mao, the other ended up on the proverbial "dust heap of history". There is a lesson (or several lessons) in those choices and their spectacular failure.

In short, the only people who can realistically stay outside of "our universal civilization" are either museum communities permitted to survive as quaint exemplars of bygone days (like the Amish) or VERY tiny communities that are so isolated and remote that they have escaped the maw of the Eurasian beast until now. Our universal civilization does not have to be seen as positively as Naipaul famously saw it, but it still has to be seen for what it is, a gigantic human achievement and a work in progress; all criticism and resistance being included within it (dialectics anyone?)

And it is important to note that this universal civilization is no longer exclusively European (and never was exclusively European for that matter). Soon, this universal civilization may be dominated by non-European people, a fact that Eurocentric PostMarxist intellectuals seem to have very great difficulty assimilating into their worldview. The institutions and ideas that developed in Europe (from earlier sources that came from all over Eurasia) in the last 400 years have been adopted and adapted already by several Asian nations (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan), with China not far behind and India set to follow. Muslims are not special enough to escape that fate. The only thing truly remarkable about the Muslim core region is the widespread desire to integrate huge elements of modern civilization while remaining medieval in terms of theology, law and politics. Of course we are not unique in this desire; there are Indians and Chinese and Japanese who "reject modernity" as being too European, and who insist they have an alternative path. Whether they do or do not is to some extent a matter of semantics, but Muslims are not unique in claiming that "we are a fundamentally different civilization". Where we are unique (for now) is only in our inability to generate a genuinely open debate on this topic; the tendency in the Islamicate core is for almost everyone in the public sphere to pay lip-service to delusional or formulaic and practically meaningless Islamist ideals and to avoid direct criticism of medieval laws and theology. This is unlike how it is routine for Indians to criticize Indian "fundamentalists" or Christians to criticize Christian ones. And for that we have to thank the blasphemy and apostasy memes more than any intrinsic unchangeability of Islamicate laws and theology.

- See more at: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksd....C5fl9Zlx.dpuf
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Old 11-19-2015   #5
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More on this theme. "Why do Muslims Blow Stuff Up"?

http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/201...-stuff-up.html

Relevant Excerpt:

But here is the point I really wanted to make:
I heard (more than 10 years ago) from an Islamist historian (PhD U Chicago) that the correct way of looking at lack of Hindu or African Pagan blowback is to regard them as weaker civilizations, unable/unwilling to contend for world-beater status (Hindutvadis are trying, with limited success, to alter this perception btw). His point was that Islamists sending terrorists and throwing bombs maybe wrong (in his opinion, it was wrong) because it may be tactically harmful to their cause or it may be morally unsound (he was not in favor of indiscriminate slaughter), but on the general point of fighting against the West, he thought the crucial difference is that the Islamic world represents real civiliazational competition; challengers who think they can and SHOULD fight in the big leagues...while Hindus and Africans are just waiting to be converted to more successful ideologies and are "not even invited to the party".
In short, that Muslims are different, but not in the way you think: they are not different in being more bloodthirsty (he believed, as a historian, that ALL great powers and dominant civilizations have been blood thirsty) but in thinking of themselves as a potential world power, not just "subalterns".

I think he was wrong (i.e. the world is not best described by the kind of clash of civilizations he subscribed to, and the Muslim world is in no position to challenge as some sort of outsider civilization, distinct from what Naipaul famously dubbed "our universal civilization").

But one should not think that sophisticated Islamists themselves have no such ambition.

Finally, the oil-kingdom and wahabiism are indeed proximate causes of the Jihadi upsurge, but they succeeded not just because they paid people (the US has paid billions for "counter-jihadist" propaganda, with little noticeable impact) but because their ideology could be presented as the logical culmination of classical Islamic themes. Which is why educated (therefore more susceptible to "logic" and rational argument) believing Muslims in Pakistan so frequently gravitate to Maudoodi-like figures, even if their own families were Barelvi/Sufi/grave-worshipping/Indian-inflected "moderate Muslims" just one generation ago.

I hope to write more later to expand on this point.
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Old 11-24-2015   #6
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An interesting post from Dr Ali Minai, a professor of computer engineering (specifically, complex adaptive systems) and President of the "International Neural Network Society", about modern Jihadism as a new form of war, on a new kind of planet.

http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksd...n-and-ana.html

Worth a read.
Excerpts:

the terrible truth that this is the first war of its kind – a brand new thing never before seen in history, and therefore one for which there is no prior wisdom. It is the first great conflict of the age of globalization, and its phenomenology reflects that of a complex, nonlinear, self-organizing networked world...

To understand why terrorism such as that practiced by ISIS works, we have to first separate it from its pale predecessors. Even late 20th century examples of what was labeled as terrorism – such as the actions of the IRA or the Tamil Tigers – were nothing like what we see today. First, in those cases and others like them, the tactic was used for a limited, well-defined goal, and was essentially an extension of warfare to a new dimension. This remains true today of many militant groups in various parts of the world that specific countries regard as "terrorist", and it is this fact that has given rise to the notion that "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". ISIS and Al-Qaeda are no one's freedom fighters! Their goal is not to liberate an area or humiliate a power; it is to remake the world..

The terrorists realize that their best chance of creating a new world order lies in the destabilization of the old one – not in any specific way, but simply to produce a cauldron of chaos in which an infinity of new orders suddenly become possible - perhaps even leading to a phase transition. They think that, with divine help, they can control what then emerges from this chaos. They may even believe for religious reasons that an order that favors them is foreordained. The fact that they are almost certainly wrong about this final outcome does not invalidate their initial insight. .

An especially effective aspect of the ISIS approach – whether by design or accident – is the way it exploits existing systems of government. Autocracies are, as always, limited by the imaginations of the autocrats, which are never very fertile, but democracies too face a crucial problem. Democracy is essentially a mechanism for institutionalizing normative decision-making, allowing the collective will to override the whims of tyrants and monarchs. The unspoken assumption in this is that the averaging process of democracy would cancel out excesses in all directions, leading to a moderate course in government. This is indeed a vast improvement over all other systems of governance seen through history, but the "averaging heuristic" has a fatal flaw: Human decision making is a highly nonlinear process and averaging does not necessarily lead to a middle course. In stressful situations, complex systems with positive feedback loops can gravitate to all-or-none outcomes representing extremes. This is how even the best of democracies can produce instances such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and McCarthyism. Until the advent of truly global, ubiquitous mass media, this could be checked to some degree through the discretion of "wise" leaders (e.g., Roosevelt's support of the Allies prior to Pearl Harbor), but in the modern era, leaders of democracies have virtually no discretion. Public opinion and looming elections are at the core of their decision-making today. With a reasonable knowledge of human psychology and a modest investment in resources (including a few individuals hankering for a short-cut to paradise and its virgins), an organization like ISIS can readily press the right buttons in the minds of voters, have the response magnified by the media – providing the crucial positive feedback – and achieve their goal of discrediting liberal humanist values. We are watching this jiu-jitsu trick unfolding before our eyes today as American politicians (for the record, almost all Republicans) line up to turn their backs on helpless refugees in the name of security. The genius of 21st century global terrorism is to align its goals with human nature. Natural human responses driven by fear, anger, loss and group solidarity are, therefore, likely to play into the terrorists' hands, as a few commentators have already pointed out. .

Devising and executing a strategy to counter jihadi extremism will require not only immense wisdom in leaders, but also flexibility – since many initial choices will be incorrect; self-confidence – since results will only appear slowly; and, above all, imagination at least equal to that of the adversary. From the public at large, it will require patience, maturity, and trust in each other and their leaders. War, intelligence and surveillance may well be part of the strategy, but most of it will have to be political and psychological – just as it in on the other side.

A critical challenge for the leaders of the new world is to arrive at a more inclusive, more resilient, and more inspiring vision of united humanity that does not degenerate into a mirror image of its adversary, and to educate those they lead in this new vision of the world. Given the experience of history, there is little reason to be optimistic. But without this geopolitical transformation, humanity will surely reach the brink of multiple catastrophes in fairly short order, and the societal dispensations that emerge after that will make today's problems seem like child's play.

My comment on that site was:

Excellent article.
Just as an aside, is there a (perhaps deliberately) unstated problem with this statement: "The counter-strategy must equally offer a concrete vision grounded in the values of humanism and individual liberty..." ?

As you know better than most, the "values" of humanism and individual liberty are not just somewhat contradictory (we can safely assume that ALL sets of values contain contradictions), they can also be superficial and ahistorical and their propaganda has frequently fallen short of the ugly realities of imperialism, nationalism, racism and greed. And this discovery (that they are sometimes superficial, ahistorical, internally contradictory and less than advertised in practice) is TOO EASY for educated people. As a result, armies of postmodern Leftists in the West (in their own minds, the standard bearers of this vision of common humanity) are also able to laugh at "liberal pieties" as they are imperfectly practiced and propagandistically oversold. ..Human nature (virtue signalling etc) does the rest. The "values" are in trouble from both sides..

I guess what I am trying to say, in my usual confused way, is that these values are under attack from BOTH sides. And while the powers-that-be usually have more real power and "real-world" impact, the internal loss of confidence and confusion in the HUMANIST camp may not be an insignificant factor either.
Things look dark at times.

But what is hard for individuals, may not be hard for evolution. I also remain an incurable optimist


As usual, I need more time to write something coherent
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Old 12-09-2015   #7
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Default Explaining ISIS by Will McCants

A short podcast (16 mins) of a SME William McCants @ Chicago speaking on 'The Power of an Idea' as part of an event on Terrorism: Behind the Headlines.

Link:https://www.chicagoideas.com/videos/876

His very slim bio:
Quote:
William McCants directs the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at The Brookings Institution. McCants is the author of 'The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State'.
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Old 12-21-2015   #8
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Default Modeling the chances of ISIS in country X..

This is a very amateur and undeveloped idea. I am just putting it out for comments.

Can we model if ISIS is coming soon to country X?

http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/201...r-country.html
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Old 12-21-2015   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
This is a very amateur and undeveloped idea. I am just putting it out for comments.

Can we model if ISIS is coming soon to country X?

http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/201...r-country.html
I wonder if it would be worth including Integration and Dispersion within a sovereign state as a measure of submission or risk to an existing national culture?
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Old 12-21-2015   #10
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I think a large number of variables can be added to this (all of them justified), but my thought was: what if you wanted only one or two variables? what would be the minimum that can capture the risk?
For example, affiliation with shariahist-Islam alone is clearly not enough. Populations strongly attached to that notion (as in Malaysia) do not seem on the verge of a major insurgency.
and so on...
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Old 12-21-2015   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
I think a large number of variables can be added to this (all of them justified), but my thought was: what if you wanted only one or two variables? what would be the minimum that can capture the risk?
For example, affiliation with shariahist-Islam alone is clearly not enough. Populations strongly attached to that notion (as in Malaysia) do not seem on the verge of a major insurgency.
and so on...
Agreed.

Maybe a better question I could ask might be:

What are the fewest yes/no and/or numerical range scoring questions needed to assess risk?

Everyone like elegant and simple, which is often the polar opposite of reality/humanity.
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Old 01-25-2016   #12
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Default Changes in modus operandi of IS terrorist attacks

A short (8 pg PPT) from Europol, the full title being:
Quote:
Changes in modus operandi of Islamic State terrorist attacks
Link:https://t.co/5mthVAPQDA

It was written after the latest Paris attacks and on a quick skim has few surprises. It does have some interesting passages on radicalisation after the Europol meeting's review:
Quote:
(Pt.6) An increasing phenomenon is that of Islamist “brotherhood gatherings”, analogous to other faction camps that have existed for decades with other religious movements. This is a relatively new concept for Muslims, which first surfaced only a couple of years ago.

(Pt.8) In view of this shift away from the religious component in the radicalisation of, especially, young recruits, it may be more accurate to speak of a ‘violent extremist social trend’ rather than using the term ‘radicalisation’.
(pt.9) A significant proportion of foreign fighters (20 per cent according to one source, even more according to another) have been diagnosed with mental problems prior to joining IS. A large proportion of recruits (estimates are as high as 80 per cent) have criminal records varying from petty crimes to more serious offences. Rates and types of offences seem to differ between countries. It may be that recruiters specifically target criminals with an inclination for violence, or that some criminals find that, in joining IS, it provides the opportunity to give free rein to their violent impulses.
I will copy this post to the thread on radicalisation:Studies on radicalization & comments
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Old 02-12-2016   #13
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Default Fishing for a blog post or essay..

there MAY have been another lone-wolf attack in Ohio. I am not really focusing on the attack (which may turn out to be completely unrelated to Jihad, or we may never know), but it got me thinking and led to a this series of tweets:

https://storify.com/omarali50/lone-wolves-and-psychos

So the question is this: What is the history of lone wolf terrorism? is there a proper definition? what started such sprees and what ended them? What ideologies/religions/circumstances make it possible or encourage it? What kind of person goes for it?
And so on. If this is already written somewhere, can we have a link?
Thanks
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Old 02-12-2016   #14
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There are two SWC threads:

1) Lone Wolves outside the USA:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=16226

2) Lone Wolves in the USA:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=17199

Within I've posted a lot IIRC by Raffaello Pantucci, whose special interest remains in the subject:http://raffaellopantucci.com/
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Old 02-12-2016   #15
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Default ISIS and the Use and Abuse of Early Islamic History

A month ago Professor Hugh Kennedy (SOAS, London) and an acknowledged SME on Islamic history gave a lecture @ Birmingham University - it was excellent. From the organisers summary:
Quote:
Hugh’s lecture interrogated the rise of ISIS, breaking down the often-quoted notion that Western intervention in the Middle East was the sole cause of the rise and popularity of IS. Instead, he linked this as one contributing factor with the failure of Middle Eastern nationalism and socialism. IS seeks to break both of these down; national borders won’t matter in the Caliphate, and neither will the will of the people – only the will of Allah.
Link:https://cesmabirmingham.wordpress.co...lamic-history/

Now there is a YouTube video (51 mins):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoYAPFPYqgw
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Old 02-19-2016   #16
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Default ISIS: a rhetorical pillar for the “theology” of jihadism.

An excellent article on the arguments used by ISIS to justify their jihad against:
Quote:
...the primary target of Isil and similar groups is not the West. It is other Muslims. Above all, Shia Muslims.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...fantasist.html

The full title and sub-title are:
Quote:
Anyone who thinks Westerners are flocking to Isil because of the Iraq war is a fantasist; Isil and its jihadist ideology uniquely exploit underlying conflicts and offer the conspiracy theory solution: none of this is your fault.
On radicalization:
Quote:
Radicalisation is complex phenomenon. There are as many reasons for radicalisation as there are radicalised young Muslims. Each one of them has their own story with a complex mix of reasons, more or less rational, for why they have come to have the radical world view. Nonetheless, we can also observe some strong patterns amongst those radicalised emerging from the increasing body of interdisciplinary research on radicalisation. For example, most come from unsafe, unstable social environments and have histories of petty crime, as well as drink and drugs problems. It is also notable that this tendency is especially acute amongst white Western converts. They may feel that their lives lack direction, but also feel disempowered and disenfranchised. They feel that they are not in control of their own destinies.
What an organisation like Isil offers them is instant reception. And moreover, a purpose. A direction in life.
Author's slim, UK bio:http://www.rai.ox.ac.uk/fellows/ibrahim
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Old 03-19-2016   #17
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Default ISIS: two essential reads

First a "one stop" explanation from the BBC 'Islamic State group: The full story' and then a Salon article, which includes a Q&A with Will McCants; with a sub-title:
Quote:
Simple-minded analysis of religion, history and our challenge in the Middle East leads to the wrong policy choices
The BBC:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35695648

Salon:http://www.salon.com/2016/03/19/the_islamic_state_would_not_be_with_us_today_if_th e_united_states
_hadnt_invaded_iraq_islam_religion_and_the_intervi ew_donald_trump_and
_ted_cruz_must_read_now/

Thread created for maximum visibility; there is a main thread already on watching ISIS.
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Old 03-24-2016   #18
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Default Malcolm Nance on defeating ISIS

Two options to learn Malcolm Nance's viewpoint, a short written article and a 48 minute podcast. He is an expert and author of akey book on Iraq; see an old, closed 2015 thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=22337

A slim bio:
Quote:
...former Arabic speaking naval intelligence counter-terrorism and intelligence officer Malcolm Nance. After spending 35 years participating in field and combat intelligence activity including both covert and clandestine anti & counter-terrorism support to national intelligence agencies...
The article which was written after Brussels:http://www.politico.eu/article/five-...evastate-isil/

Podcast via the Intl Spy Museum:http://s3.amazonaws.com/spy-museum/f...3_18_nance.mp3
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Old 03-27-2016   #19
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Default Moderator's Note

Six substantial threads have been merged here; they all refer to defeating ISIS beyond and on the battlefield. Several were "stand alone" threads and one had several posts in response.
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Old 03-27-2016   #20
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Default What next?

Jason Burke's column after Brussels has the headline 'The tyranny of Isis terrorism will not always be with us. But history shows that a new militant threat will emerge' and sub-titled:
Quote:
Is this now the new normal? In the capitals of the west, should we simply get used to living with routine fear? Jason Burke sees cause for hope in a weakening of Isis, but cautions that Islamic militancy does not begin nor end with that group’s savagery. He traces the shifts in extreme factions and twisted ideologies, and ponders how terror might next mutate
Link:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...eat-what-next?
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