Small Wars Journal

U.S. Counter-Ideological Campaign

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 1:22am

A Small Wars Journal and Military Writers Guild Writing Contest Finalist Article

U.S. Counter-Ideological Campaign

Ryan Basford

The world is currently plagued with mass movements that continue to interrupt and contradict hundreds of years of significant progress towards the co-existence of productive and benign civilizations.  In the words of Kierkegaard, we live forwards but we can only understand backwards. To establish a hunger for faith in those who cannot live without it is by no means a new method of recruitment. Although, with recent advances in technology these voices are able to reach the disillusioned in far greater numbers than ever before. A majority of these mass movements initially operate within non-kinetic means. It is for this reason that we must interject in the same manner. And thus, the world is in dire need of a transcendental ideal that encompasses both naturalistic and contemporary scientific principles. Until this transcendental ideal is established, America and its allies will not be able to fully immerse themselves into the current and future psychological “Holy Wars” by means of a counter-ideological campaign.

Before being discovered, America was presented in the dreams of poets and in the investigations of scientists. Even though the Lockean and Humean principles that our Nation was founded upon have been largely disproven, it is our responsibility as the pioneers of the free world to establish a philosophical theory that creates a nexus between nature and the factual knowledge of our time. It is evident that man is not be considered a “blank tablet” nor an absolutely free and independent mental substance, having no need of his fellow men, except to preserve his private property. [1] Contrary to the recent successes of communism by way of China, the philosophies of Marx and Kant are just as invalid. The most important difference between the philosophies of the former to latter is that we consider our history in terms of “is” rather than “ought.” Our Founding Fathers foresaw the potential latencies that would inevitably surface with global interests and advances in technology. Once developed, America and our allies must step back and allow this mythology to evolve and develop so that it can truly encompass all cultures. Much like the wisdom portrayed by Washington following the establishment of our new nation. This philosophical theory must create a bridge between perceived reality and the speculative transcendental.

To further extrapolate on Thomas Hobbes, simply the belief in a transcendent ideal is the privilege of absurdity to which no creature but man is subject. This belief will most likely never evade the existence of our species. “In an inherently chaotic universe, where humans alone recognize that death is unavoidable, there is an overwhelming psychological impetus to overcome this tragedy of cognition: to realize “why I am” and “who we are”.[2] It is this psychological impetus that has incessantly fueled mass movements since the creation of mankind. The religions of early human history were incredibly effective because they were very particular to people of a certain region and way of life. Thus, the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is. What Pascal said of an effective doctrine: it must be contrary to nature, to common sense and to pleasure. [3] The only ideology that will hinder the probability of greater conversions is one of a doctrine that incorporates a planetary mythology with eternity and the ability to merely exist. This would be an ideology that represents a truly divine experience, one which encompasses the corporeal and the temporal; a simultaneous unification of subject and object.

We have in our midst an overly effective doctrine applied with the most rigorous and unrelenting methods to convert the disillusioned, the frustrated and the rejects into True Believers. Their conversion success is a direct result of the nature of their sectarian ideals and the methods in which they distribute them. The dogma in which they uphold is the most stringent in terms of defying nature, the factual knowledge of our time and basic human rights. Although, this illusion of a jihadi archipelago continues to attract the disheartened and provides them with the ardent dedication for which they so desire. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: They pray not only for their daily bread but also for their daily illusion. Generally, the frustrated are in a constant battle between self-deniability and the incessant need for meaning in their dull and futile existence. It is in this struggle that these movements manifest themselves. In convincing them that their cause is one of a higher and eternal calling, they establish a duality in which the end is the means in itself. It is vital that we remove ourselves from these perpetual dualities of “right and wrong” or “good and evil” to continue the progress in terms of the merger of Eastern and Western Civilizations.

It is an undeniable fact that time will inevitably destroy the culture in which the jihadists are so desperately defending. Technological innovations continue to progress towards a shared global consciousness. “Twenty years from now, we’ll have nanobots, because another exponential trend is the shrinking of technology. They’ll go into our brain through the capillaries and basically connect our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud providing an extension of our neocortex. Our thinking will then be a hybrid of biological and non-biological means. The last time human beings expanded their neocortex was two million years ago when we became humanoids and developed these large foreheads… It’s a quantitative expansion of neocortex, but that additional quality of thinking was the enabling factor for us to take a qualitative leap and invent language and art and science and technology,”. [4] This expansion of the neocortex will be the most significant evolutionary achievement in the history of the human species. This would essentially transform the speculative theory of global consciousness into a tangible reality that societies would be able to access at will. As this technology continues to develop, it is pivotal that the relevant entities take early and substantial action in regards to the beliefs that these societies hold most dear. The most plausible and realistic approach is through education.   

It can be argued, that the behaviors and practices of the self-proclaimed caliphate are a result of the members doubts rather than their steadfast beliefs.  The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. [5] This iron wall is coming in the form of Western influence and has been forged and molded in the scientific theory. Aristotle explicitly states that even “the soul must fall within the science of nature.” [6] And therein lies the root of the problem and the single most poignant variable in the successes of their persuasion. To the rational mind, it would be absurd to sacrifice one’s life for a transcendent ideal simply because the ideologies in which they represent do not fall within the confines of nature. It is obvious why the organizers of this jihadi archipelago do not commit these sacrificial acts themselves. The fanatics and the faith-hungry masses, however, are likely to invest such speculations with certitude of holy writ, and make them the fountainhead of a new faith. Jesus was not a Christian, nor was Marx and Marxist. [7] This jihadi ideology was a fabrication of a benign religious doctrine established out of fear of extermination and bears no relevance to eternity or the divine.

As this shared global consciousness becomes more and more of reality, we can undoubtedly presume that volunteers will continue to fight and die in the way of Allah. Our present reality and that of the future is bleak if we do not attempt to otherwise persuade the already disillusioned. “This should reveal the danger in bringing together differing moral ideals and religious values. At their worst the clubs of the savage, the swords of the conquistadores, and the bombs of the Nazis can break only the skulls of some men. It takes ideals and religion to enter into the imaginations and emotions of all and lay waste to their very souls. Not until man’s cherished beliefs are captured can his culture be destroyed,”. [8] The most immediate and logical way to prevent the persuasion of these volunteers is through education. Emerson eloquently addresses this acute certainty in that, “The wise man needs no church, for he is the prophet.” 

It is evident now more than ever that the democratic process is not perfect. The educational system has been and continues to be a key point of failure of this process. America must remove itself from this perpetual duality of “believing in or not believing in God” to allow for the implementation of these basic beliefs into the education system. “Democracy, therefore, if it is to function and preserve itself, must be accompanied by two conditions… The first requirement is universal education. The second is that this education must concern itself not merely with applied science and literature and art and practical matters but also with man’s basic beliefs concerning the nature of himself and his universe,”. [9] The distribution of these most basic philosophical principles to the masses will contribute to a gradual digression from the dichotomies most frequently associated with the celestial and divine.  Only then can we utilize the idea of America and this new basis of consciousness as a “Door of Perception” into the realm of world understanding.  

The apocalyptic scenario fabricated by the radical Sunni Arabs is nothing more than a drastic form of propaganda to create the illusion of a connoted experience. “The mystery has been reduced to a set of concepts and ideas, and emphasizing these concepts and ideas can short-circuit the transcendent, connoted experience. An intense experience of mystery is what one has to regard as the ultimate experience,”. [10] It is incredibly important that we understand the historical significance and vitality of this self-proclaimed caliphate. The declaration of both a caliph and a caliphate is a proclamation of war against all infidels across the globe. They have acknowledged the location and means in which they intend to wage this Holy War. They distribute their global jihadi terrorism narrative by utilizing various social media platforms. Contrary to their effective use of recent technological developments, the concepts and ideas in which the Islamic State epitomizes is a direct reflection of the early leaders of Islam. For this reason, it is pivotal that we have a comprehensive understanding of these teachings. One of the most prominent contemporary interpretations of this international jihadist doctrine is General S.K. Malik’s book, The Quranic Concept of War.       

Critical themes of Malik’s work is that “just war” or jihad in Islam is inherently spiritual warfare, religious warfare, and to the extent that Islamic forces have spiritually prepared themselves, they will “strike terror into the hearts” of Islam’s enemies. This terror as Malik describes in detail, is both physical and metaphysical, because Islamic warfare is intrinsically part of a cosmic struggle for the reign of Allah’s will on earth between the forces of God, dar al-Islam, and that of dar al-Harb, those who dwell in ignorance and darkness of the true knowledge of God. [11] Suffice to say, this is the most chilling conclusion drawn from this work which is so highly proclaimed amongst certain Islamist leaders and theologians. This deceptively proclaimed cosmic struggle is the justification for the proclamation of war against all those who refuse to “shun their false ways and return to the true path.” It is for this reason that we must approach all those who falsely interpret this Holy text with the ferociousness and malice in the form of a counter-ideological campaign.   

In the Quranic Concept of War General S.K. Malik himself states that “the Muslim military history has it that disunity amongst the Muslim ranks was one of the biggest factors responsible for some of their worst defeats.” He continues, “terror… is basically related to the strength of the human soul. It can be instilled only if the opponent’s faith is destroyed. Psychological dislocation is temporary; spiritual dislocation is permanent.” This permanent dislocation has clearly begun given the extent to which these Islamic leaders have gone to protect their faith from the inevitable grasp of science. “In war our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep terror away from our own hearts… Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him,”. [12] Fortunately, this terror, laid upon the foundation of the scientific theory, has already taken root amongst the most devout followers. This is increasingly evident as one examines the caliber and capacity of spiritual enlightenment that a follower of this movement frequently engenders. It is incredibly ironic this theology, which so firmly believes in divine dualities, is only relevant in the moral end of the spectrum.

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.” [13] As the power of all true art and science continues to evolve this most radiant beauty will begin to appear in more developed forms. It is for this reason that America, and consequently the rest of humanity, must come to the recognition of the most noble and relevant mythology. According to Joseph Campbell, the only mythology that is valid today is the mythology of the planet― and we don’t have such a mythology. The closest thing I know to planetary mythology is Buddhism, which sees all beings as Buddha beings. The only problem is to come to the recognition of that. There is nothing to do. The task is only to know what is, and then to act in relation to the brotherhood of these beings.[14] This task is easily attainable by creating a nexus between what is, the factual knowledge of our time, and nature.

Mr. Campbell continues, “Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the worlds, are within us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other.” [15] It is vital that we return to this most elementary conception of religious principle. “On the level of understanding, on the level of charity, and on the level of artistic expression, an individual has it in his power to transcend his social tradition, to overstep his bounds of the culture in which he has been brought up.” [16] This transcendence that Huxley speaks of is only possible when man is presented with the opportunity to inwardly reflect on himself and his relation to the planet and the cosmos. Most importantly, the sense of this cosmos must be verified and within the confines of the factual knowledge of our time. Because in the words of Carl Jung, religion is a defense against the experience of God.

The intention of this article is not to develop any type of relevant mythology. It is merely to provide a means of perception and to invigorate the senses of those willing and capable of such a development. This development is an absolute necessity to ensure the continued progress in terms of the merging of Eastern and Western civilizations. Even if one’s scientific and philosophic intelligence puts old doctrines behind one, one’s emotions, feelings, and habits and even one’s conscience carry them on. It is precisely for this reason that religious conversion, as well as education, is necessary in society.[17] This is an incredibly daunting task. One can draw many parallels between this inevitable conversion and the once developing idea of America in that it currently “resides in the dreams of poets and in the investigations of scientists.” In conjunction with the willing and able entities, America can pioneer the final counter-ideological campaign. “That means to live, dying every day. Do it, and you will find out what it means to live completely today. Isn’t that what love is? You don’t say, “I will love tomorrow”, do you? You love or you don’t love. Love has no time, only sorrow has time― sorrow being thought, as in pleasure. So one has to find out for oneself what time is, and find out if there is a “no tomorrow”. That is to live, then there is a life which is eternal, because eternity has no time.” [18]

This life is a reflection of eternity and until this realization manifests in the various societies across the globe, the future of humanity is destined for failure.

End Notes

[1] Northrop, F. S. C. “The Meeting of East and West: an Inquiry Concerning World Understanding.” The Meeting of East and West: an Inquiry Concerning World Understanding, Macmillan, New York, 1946, p. 474.

[2] Beyond Convergence

[3] Hoffer, E. (1951). The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements (p. 80). New York: Harper and Row.

[4] TED Talks

[5] Hoffer, E. (1951). The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements (p. 83). New York: Harper and Row.

[6] Northrop, F. S. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding (p. 279). New York: Macmillan.

[7] Hoffer, E. (1951). The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements (p. 140). New York: Harper and Row.

[8] Northrop, F. S. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding (p. 22). New York: Macmillan.

[9] Northrop, F. S. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding (p. 101). New York: Macmillan.

[10] Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. D. (1988). The power of myth (p. 261). New York: Doubleday.

[11] LTC Joseph C. Myers, Intro: Quranic Concept of War

[12] Malik, S. K. (1979). The Quranic concept of war (p. 59). Lahore: Wajidalis.

[13] Philip Frank, Einstein: His Life and Times(1947), chap. 12, sec. 5- “Einstein’s Attitude Toward Religion.”

[14] Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. D. (1988). The power of myth (p. 28). New York: Doubleday.

[15] Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. D. (1988). The power of myth (p. 46). New York: Doubleday.

[16] Huxley, A., & Hazard, J. (2013). The divine within: Selected writings on enlightenment (p. 124). New York: Harper Perennial.

[17] Northrop, F. S. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding (p. 482). New York: Macmillan.

[18] Krishnamurti, J. (1976). The awakening of intelligence (p. 102). New York: Avon Books.


Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. D. (1988). The power of myth (p. 261). New York: Doubleday.

Hoffer, E. (1951). The true believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements (p. 80). New York: Harper and Row.

Huxley, A., & Hazard, J. (2013). The divine within: Selected writings on enlightenment (p. 124). New York: Harper Perennial.

Krishnamurti, J. (1976). The awakening of intelligence (p. 102). New York: Avon Books.

Malik, S. K. (1979). The Quranic concept of war (p. 59). Lahore: Wajidalis.

Northrop, F. S. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding (p. 279 & 474). New York: Macmillan.


About the Author(s)

Ryan Basford entered the United States Navy in 2012 as a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. While at the academy, Ryan was a two-year starter at offensive tackle for the Navy Football team. Upon graduating, he served as an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy Preparatory School. He is currently serving as an active duty Surface Warfare Officer. He served onboard the USS Barry (DDG-52) as the Auxiliaries Officer and is currently serving at Coastal Riverine Squadron Four as the Weapons Officer. Ryan recently returned from a seven-month deployment to the 5th Fleet AOR with CRS 4. He currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife Emily and his son Warren.