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19 January 2006

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marcus

Mr Lang,
Am I wrong to think that it was a bad move to answer this proposal. After all, isn't Al Quaida a criminal organization? as opposed to a sovereign nation?
Why would we even acknowledge assuming that there are people in the service that understood the message for what it is.
Proof of more incompetency?
This is my humble opinion, am I far off the track?

W. Patrick Lang

Marcus

We should have ignored it, not because they are criminals but rather because it is pointless to answer it. pl

P O'Neil

If the UK had followed Marcus's proposal not to negotiate with criminal organisations, they would not have been able to engage the IRA.

In general, the Irish troubles might be a useful guide for those running the "war on terror", especially given the finacial and political support the US gave to the IRA.

I'd suggest at least two observations:

1. The political costs of internment outweigh the benefits.
2. Dialogue (if not actual negotiation) is always required.

I'm sure Patrick has more...

W. Patrick Lang

P O'Neil

You are right. In an insurgency, once you decide that you can't suppress the rebellion by force then you must make a decision to negtiate with your opponents while continuing to to put military and police pressure on them.

The age old practise of criminalizing your opponents in situations like this is self limiting and self defeating.

none of this applies to the Jihadis. They are not reconcilable to us and must be destroyed. pl

P O'Neil

I'm not sure if this is the place to discuss this - it's your blog so I guess you'll tell me - and I don't know much about the subject, but I have been at the sharp end of a bit of action.

Why aren't jihadis reconcilable to us? Why can't we do a bit of talking with them? At the very least talking to the point where their supporters waver? In other words, why are they different to the IRA? Apart from the fact that they have attacked the US rather than say the UK?

W. Patrick Lang

O'Neil

Their objection to us is not politicsl. It is religious. They see us as the other half of a moiety. In their view they are the people of God and we are sinners who reject God and who stand in the way of the realization of God's will.

The IRA have always been political, some mixture of Fenian nationalism and socialism depending on the individual or sub-group. It has always been possible for there to be Protestant IRA people.

There could never be a non-Muslim jihadi. pl

ked

Col. Lang, You can't make this point about the distinct nature of faith-based war-making often enough (especially w/ Islam, these days). It is distinct from other forces that give rise to conflict, distinct from "using God" in mustering support (& cannon fodder) in conflicts that are essentially nation-state or economic at the core.

People who have been brought up in a culture of Reason do not seem to get this very easily. So much so, they risk being overcome by radical theocracies in their own lands. Thank God that the Pat Roberts of our world can't help but reveal their true nature. So far...

W. Patrick Lang

ked

You are correct. I have always been interested at the phenomenon of incomprehension about this. I was "lucky" enough to have been raised in the atmosphere of pre Vatican 2 US Catholicism. The nuns taughtyou to accept a world view with which Dante Aleghieri would have been comfortable.

One of my friends and colleagus was raised in a revisionist branch of the LDS church which had similar attitudes.

We find it amusing that we are well fitted to understand the jihadi mind. pl

CJ

Pat -

I've no doubt about the only solution for the true jihadi's is a one way trip to paradise. It must be true, however, that there ranges of commitment or basis of commitment among those grouped into the jihadist movements? Are there "issue" radicals among the hardcore jihadis who are either following those doctrines because it is a convenient catchall or viewed as a viable outlet for unaddressed problems? I've heard the various local jihadi movements having contingents of followers motivated more by local grievances as opposed to the desire to restore the caliphate per se. If normalization of life in parts of the Middle East could somehow be accomplished, one would suppose the radicals would lose their support. Of course, this is the "draining the swamp" argument all over again. But is there a grain of relevance there?? Might there be some peripheral groups to contact - before dropping a bomb down the chimney of their house?

CJ

W. Patrick Lang

cj

Jihadism is a self screening system. Those who are not focused on salvation and religion are not welcome among them. Those who are "issue" radicals are not real jihadis. The fashion among the neocons now is to resurrect the old search for those who are masquerading as religious fanatics but are really agrarian reformers or politically brethren of the neocons. This is all an illusion and a joke to the jihadis who think those who think them political are useful idiots.

The "caliphate?" Those who keep saying that this is what the jihadis want are betraying their own incomprehension. This reference to a theocratic state means little. The goals of the jihadis are not political. They are spiritual. Would they be glad to see all Muslims live in one community sure, but that would be symptom of godliness and not a goal in itself. pl

CJ

Ok, by your definition, jihadis are true spiritualists - isn't a certain vision of the Caliphate or the Taliban or the Iranian government a power structure propped up by spiritualists? Are you suggesting they have no interest in such power? That would be radical!

Is there a rough calculation of how many true jihadis there are? Or is it hard to seperate out, given the chaos and those who in turn view the jihadis as useful idiots themselves. Are the jihadis as potent and prevelent as they appear, or are their actions amplified by the happy circumstance of the chaos that surrounds them?

cj

P O'Neil

Sorry guys, but I'm just not sure I buy into the religious/ political distinction.

First, for the people directly involved, I've yet to see any evidence that they see their cause any differently to another ideology e.g. marxism in its heyday.

Second, to defeat a terrorist group you need to win the hearts and minds of the passive (and not so passive) supporters. To "drain the swamp" as it were. All those people aren't the raving religious fanatics you describe the core as. If you can get to the majority, the minority will - eventually - whither away. They might do a bit of damage before they go, but go they will.

ali

I'd point out London (British is inexact here) had been talking to PIRA almost since the organization was founded. They never admitted they were doing this, brazenly insisted there could be no deals with such scum and never honored the Troubles with term war. They've only recently abandoned the convenient fiction that Sinn Fein were a separate political organization from PIRA.

London has a history of capitulating under very modest threats and did many very stupid things during the 30 years of the Trouble but these fictions kept options open and were cleverly used to subvert the enemy. Such institutional cowardice and brazen deceit may seem un-American but DC could learn from the English trickster.

Institutional dishonesty also has its risks. The same people last year were pretending that N.Ireland is a solved problem while Belfast saw the worst riots in 20 years. They were also crowing over their finesse in handling the natives in Basra just before it became evident they'd handed the place over to a bunch of sectarian thugs. I wonder where they got that idea from?

P O'Neill

Ali,

I'm sorry if there was any crowing over Basra.

I do agree that the US has much to learn from studying the troubles e.g. the benefits from not repeating mistakes such as internment.

I am a little baffled by your comment that "London has a history of capitulating under very modest threats". Could you give me some examples? Perhaps you feel that a professional army well funded by the US never really amounted to much on the streets of London?

W. Patrick Lang

P.O'Neil

As you wish. Let me know how this works out for you. pl

W. Patrick Lang

cj

The "spititualists" thing amuses me. I have an image of Victorians sitting around a round table holding hands in the dark.

Is the word "religious" so difficult to deal with?

If you do not acceptthese people on their own terms, you will never understand them.

An attempt to understand the jihadis from an IR/poly sci. point of view is both ludicrous and useless. pl

nykrindc

I think you are incorrect in this Col. Lang. Bin Laden's truce offer was simply meant to demonstrate to the Arab masses that he has given us every opportunity to avoid an attack, and we have ignored his every appeal. As such, the coming attack is now legitimate. That was one of the main criticism's bin laden received following 9/11, he didn't provide us a warning that an attack was imminent, he didn't provide us the opportunity to surrender, or convert to Islam. In Islamic rules of war, that must be done to legitimize an attack. See M. Scheuer here.

http://jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2369367

Al-Qaeda's Completed Warning Cycle - Ready to attack?

cj

Pat -

I'm getting an image of Osama hunched over a Ouija board in his parent's rumpus room..

cj

W. Patrick Lang

New Yorker

Don't post other people's writiings on my blog as arguments. If Mike Scheuer wants to argue with me he knows where I am.

I said that I thought the intended audience was in the Islamic World.

The fact that he is "warning" us is of no importance. we should be well warned by now.

pl

W. Patrick Lang

cj

What doea that mean, that you think Bin Laden is not motivated primarily by religion?

Stay away from Ouija boards. pl

cj

Pat -

I'm asking.. You seem to be saying that the rank and file jihadi is motivated solely by his religion - striking at apostates and crusaders to support their vision of pure Islam, sacrificing him/her self primarily as a religious act. But by being leaders, don’t Osama and his ilk have a broader charter in mind? I’m sure they are as true believing as their foot solders, however their scope is broader. Post Soviet Afghanistan was the perfect canvas for their vision and I can’t imagine they are not interested in seeing the same twisted theocratic dominance spread over a wider area.

This latest offer of a truce, given it is pitched to the locals, would be evidence of the greater purview of that leadership. As leaders, their core religious motivation must be tempered by larger issues. Thinking politically, strategically – with still the fanatic vision in mind - they have to consider the damage they are doing to their cause with indiscriminate attacks against fellow Muslims. If the people of the region turn against them, whether jihadis would ultimately throw them on the fire as less than pure believers, achieving their larger organizational goals becomes impossible.

If the region is in increasing turmoil, there will be no shortage of useful idiots for creating someone’s chaos. You are not inclined to policy, but I’d ask you how do we increase normalcy in the region? It may naïve, but I find it hard to believe that given options, the vast majority of people would prefer to lead a reasonably peaceful, normal life as opposed to wearing a belt full of explosives or killing their neighbors. The true fanatics will always be among us: we can only hope that they are limited to occasional acts of lunacy. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is much by way of palatable short term policy that can bring that about such normalcy in the ME region. I once heard someone quote Pres. Bush saying he would let conflict “clarify” the Israel-Palestinian peace process, as opposed to engaging in the talks. In Iraq we have engaged the larger issues head on, unfortunately either because it was untenable in the first place or mishandled in the second, it seems there is a good chance that conflict is going to clarify the situation. As with Vietnam, that will be an expensive clarity. I guess the problems is that solutions are complex, costly and take time and thought.

CJ

Happy Jack

I believe the Colonel is trying to say that "Islam is the solution" isn't just a catchy marketing slogan. It's a way of life.

searp

I'd like a serious discussion about the level of threat that UBL and the Jihadis represent. PL has said that the jihadis do not represent an existential threat; I agree.

However, there is a lot between that and no threat at all. My view: the jihadis represent a serious threat if there is any possibility of them acquiring either a state or a nuke. Failing that, they are a lethal nuisance.

They don't have the popular support of Hizbullah, Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Their popular support in this country is nil.

Comments?

Keone Michaels

Although it might seem naive I keep wanting to the west to engage in "truce" negotiations as a means of seizing control of the message. A tactic, plain disinformation at it's most base, perhaps reframing the debate in the west's favor at it's best.

Isn't this just what the president of Iran has done recently with his "holocaust conference" brouhaha? It seemed to me a brilliant move despite how it appeared to historians.

ikonoklast

This is sort of flaky, but for the sake of argument assume that the Jihadis are similar to abortion clinic bombers in the US. Some Christian extremists actively support them. Some moderates tacitly accept the violence, believing the end justifies the means. Some others abhor the practice while working through other methods to achieve the same goal. Some just live their lives while agreeing that an abortion ban is necessary and right. All act as they do, believe the way they do, in obedience to their god. No compromise on the issue is acceptable; it's about sin and injustice. (Another parallel would be Abolitionists and Bloody Kansas.)
So I would imagine that "your average Muslims" may look at the Jihadis in a similar light - extremists, sure, but doing what Allah commands. The calls of complete outsiders - infidels - to change your viewpoint are only going to stiffen your position.
This grossly simplified analogy is only about religious attitudes and mutual cultural incomprehension. However, "draining the swamp" would have no effect whatsoever that I can see. Changing core belief systems is not as simple (!) as providing a better standard of living or different political framework.
There's no communication going on in any event. I would guess that a buzzword like "democracy" sounds about the same to a strict Muslim as "caliphate" sounds to many of us - something that inspires a certain amount of trepidation. And for sure bin Laden and others are savvy enough to capitalize on this queasiness. The White House markets the conflict in similar fashion - Scott McClellan from a press conference last week:

"This is about an ideological struggle. This is an evil ideology that is based on hatred and oppression. This is an ideology that the terrorists want to spread throughout the broader Middle East. They want to create safe havens. This is a group of people that deny people their political and religious freedom."

If you take the above statement, intended for internal US consumption, substitute "Christian/Western" where "extremist Muslim" is implied, and you can see how we may come across. True or not, these assertions are perceived as, or can be framed as, a pronouncement about American hegemony, establishing a beachead for dominating the entire Middle East culturally and politically. A "crusade," with all the nasty overtones that word holds, being fought in conjunction with Israel to destroy their way of life.
Even if the truce offer was not just propaganda, I can't see how any dialogue could be effective at this point. And is compromise even possible? The whole situation looks hopeless, but bad as it is at least it's not an existential threat.

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