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04 June 2017


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What you write is true, but not really relevant to the Jihadhi wars in the Levant as they are political, not religious in nature. Think Northern Ireland.

Obama's attack on ISIS is doomed to fail for military and Geo Political, not religious reasons.

As a real matter he has only two ways of defeating ISIS. One is military cooperation with Tehran, which would mean ceding Iran more influence in the Levant than the US is ready to do.

The other is making a deal with Erodgan to allow regional Kurds to use Turkey in the way he has allowed Jihadhis to use it in the past.

That is a space to organize, arm, train, be financed, and get logistical support. The US will have to pay for all of this as the Gulf States won't, and of course neither will Erdogan. In fact the US will need to pay Erdogan as well.

30 million regional Kurds can make an excellent military and after a few years of organization and training should have little trouble with ISIS.

But if you want boots on the ground in the end you will have to pay for them, either that or give Tehran what it wants in the region.

Duncan Kinder


What you say is correct and shall continue to be for so long as Islam continues to exist, ie: well into the long range future.

However, it also was correct for the first 200 odd years of the United States existence without its generally being a serious problem/obsession to the degree which it has been this century.



Your argument is just another version of the social sciences inspired rubbish that denies the importance of culture. So, in your universe Hizbullah is just another competing political group and the opposition against the Syrian government is political and not religious in nature. This Sunni struggle against an Alawi dominated government is really about civil liberties? for you, Erdogan is shamming his Islamism. Nonsense. pl


Douglas Kinder

Islamic revivalist hostility is cyclic. In recent centuries, surges of jihadism have been followed by bloody and costly defeat by the West followed by some period of quietism followed by... The US had no areas of interaction with Islamdom after the Barbary Pirates triviality until the Moro War in the Philippine and that was unimportant to American life. (Unless you fought in it) Post WW2 we were in their faces and they in ours. pl



In the countries under discussion culture dominates politics and business and not the other way around. Have you ever tried to make a business deal in one of these places? pl



"Think Northern Ireland." You think that wasn't religious? One must distinguish between religion as a vehicle for liturgy and religion as expression of group identity based on belief in differences. pl

different clue

Duncan Kinder,

In today's high population high technology world, people are able to reach out and touch eachother in ways that were not possible in the past.
What if a jihadista decided to go to Liberia to catch some ebola so he/she could then fly to the West with it? What if some jihadistas figured out how to infect themselves with MERS or SARS and fly to the West with it? Such things are possible now.



You mean the Kurd's who have been fighting Turkey for decades? They would take only "a few years of organization...." Is that a few years longer than we took with the 30 million Iraqi's? How'd that turn out?

FB Ali

What makes you think the Kurds are prepared to act as US mercenaries in waging war on the IS?

Their only interest is to establish and maintain a state of their own. They have fought the IS when it sought to encroach on their land and people, and will do so again if necessary. But they will not fight someone else's war.

You seem to exaggerate the 'value' of money. Perhaps everything can be bought in America, but that is not the case in much of the rest of the world.


Where is Charles Martel when you need him?


as I can remember, US tried to pay Erdogan in 2003 Iraq invasion but Erdogan wasn't for sale at that time.

If he wasn't for sale over a baathist sunni dictator, why do you think he can be bought over a salafist insurgency that he is covertly supporting?


culture dominates politics and business

I would be greatful if you would expand some on how this plays out, maybe with an example or two. Obviously I've never conducted business in any such area. Thanks in advance.



I am unable find the link to an item you posted some time ago, a report on the history or origins of Islam. One of the topics you mentioned, IIRC, was that during the period in which Islam originated, the Arabian peninsula and nearby regions were under pressure from long term drought. (If you recall the link that I'm referencing - it was either a series of slides, or a report - would it be possible to repost that link?)

The topic of 'drought' reverberated when I read the recent link you posted to William Polk's history of modern Syria - in recent years, extreme drought has been a severe problem in Syria. It has fundamentally disrupted rural segments of the population; this in turn has impacted urban populations. If population and climate pressures continue to increase, as they appear likely to do, it seems inevitable that conflict will escalate.

I have no experience of the Arab world, and consequently no real way to get a sense of the literacy rates, or education styles, that jihadis from many different nations would bring to discussions (and interpretations) of the Qur'an.

Europe has a tradition of hierarchical religions and 'received wisdom' handed down by experts; this authority rests on a tradition of monasteries and archives and long-term repositories of written documents. This tradition also produced - after the Protestant Reformation - a powerful cultural move toward widespread literacy (in order to read 'the Good Book').

In contrast, although there have been valuable libraries in the Arab world, overall the Middle East seems to have (historically), a much larger segment of its population living in nomadic communities.

This would be expected in an arid environment, where presumably the 'carrying capacity'* of the land requires that people be on the move fairly constantly in order to find enough forage and food. If I understand correctly, this historical pattern suggests that Islam had to be interpreted locally, or 'on the move' - Islam would probably have been passed primarily orally from one generation to another. A nomadic lifestyle would not place a very high priority on accumulating repositories of written documents, so each generation would interpret the spiritual teachings in a fashion relevant for their own lives.

Am I reasonably accurate? Or way off base...?
(I am trying to get some historical context for the way in which the Qur'an is interpreted locally, within small groups - but I may be wildly misinterpreting.)

I am trying to get some sense of how the educational backgrounds and historical traditions of the jihadis would tend to bias their interpretations of the Qur'an. My concern is that there may be minimally-literate fighters, who will defer to extremist views if they perceive those 'religious authorities' to be particularly scholarly, or knowledgeable. If that proves to the the case, then it seems highly likely that extremist interpretations of the Qur'an will be powerfully reinforced in a 'brotherhood' of fighters.

The 'perfumed ladies' will become less relevant by the month if this proves to be the case.

However, all this is mostly guesswork on my part.
If this comment is too long, or too extraneous, I trust you will not publish it.

Regards, rOTL

*carrying capacity = minimal amount of land required to sustain... a cow, or a horse (or a person). In some regions of my state, an acre would sustain a horse; in more arid regions of my state, it would require up to 10 acres to supply enough food for that same horse.


Although "Jihad" is translated roughly as "religious feuding" by our newspapers, some Muslims translate this as "struggle"--Life is Struggle. Cognate Buddha's "Life is Inefficient Suffering". But I sometimes prefer "Challenge"--"Life is Challenge"--as more understandable.

Human beings are driven by meaning & purpose, the chance to make a difference. This inspiration feeds one's soul. A young man cannot tell the difference between glorious patriotism and sophistry for slaughter. Young men everywhere will always have the need to challenge themselves, to protect the weak, to prove their worth. Therefore, jihad will continue indefinitely.

Especially in the face of no counter-arguments by peace-seeking learned scholars.

Bodies also require bread, and an organized army that pays a reliable salary is attractive to unemployed poor populations. A second prong for indefinite jihad.

We are not being competitive, both at the soul and body levels. And no wonder: although Peace is cheaper than War, war is more exciting and gets the big bucks. The skill of effective peacemaking goes begging in the US. No one else is doing it; perhaps the better guys at the Pentagon could establish a Dept. of Peace so as to save American lives & money?

Peter Brownlee

Thank you for this -- I can scarcely believe the repeated insolence of lecturing others on what their religion "really means". Perhaps it is time to invoke the genocide/crimes against humanity tropes rather than venture into the faith thickets and pointlessly insulting those whom we presumably wish to persuade.

Also, "western" tribes are singularly unaware of their own tribal customs yet are hypersensitive to the same sort of things in others.

I am not sure what to think of this but it might be useful here:

"Crusade ideology was almost identical to jihad, as the warrior who was killed fighting for the faith was supposedly guaranteed admission to heaven. The passing of time showed that this was an aberration in Christianity. In the Tradition, war is always an evil, even if necessary for self-defence. Jihad has also had its critics and interpreters in Islam. For the Sufis it was to be understood to signify the interior, moral warfare to be undertaken by all believers, not as 'holy war”' The suicide bomber and the Islamic fundamentalist are a world away from the Sufi sages. The Sufi movement is also a later development in Islam, owing much to Middle Eastern Christianity. It is a minor player in the global Islamic world.

"In these times, when Muslim extremists target Christians, Jews and Westerners, and the suicide bomber is called a martyr, it might be helpful to recall the decisions of the Council of Elvira (305 AD) which dealt with those young Christian hotheads who were engaged in vandalistic acts against pagan shrines and idols, although they were more like the modern street graffitist than the suicide bomber. Canon 60 of that ancient Church Council declared:

"If anyone breaking idols is killed in the process, since this [kind of act] is not written in the Gospel and would never be found occurring in the time of the Apostles, he is not to be called or received into the ranks of the martyrs.

"Maybe Islam needs something like Canon 60 of the Council of Elvira, or something a good deal stronger.

"All people of good will hope that we are not witnessing a clash of civilisations. However, while there may be no clash of civilisations occurring, the social and cultural worlds involved are very different. Both Islam and the West have serious questions to ask of themselves. Islam needs to ask itself about the meaning of the fundamentalism within its spiritual world, while the modern West needs to ask itself about the moral life and development of its citizens. Neither examination will be easy. Honesty never is."


But maybe it's all just another manifestation of "jihad vs. McWorld".


Piotr, Poland

@ Col Lang

You are probably right, Colonel. Jihadism looks like cyclical phenomenon
We had 18th century jihadism (Wahhab+Ibn Saud) near 100 years of calmness. Then 19th century jihadism (Sudan's Muhammad Ahmad "Mahdi" etc) and again near 100 years of relative calmness, probably ended with Russian invasion on Afganistan and awakening of Islamism as an side effect of it.

Mahdi's jihadism was stopped by English army conquered Omdurman (Umm Durman)
What could stop jihadism for the next 100 years? Seems we can't do it militarily now.
Would cultural or religious changes in Islam be those factors tranqulizing jihadism? If so, we should wait for years for the real change, as those social and psychological phenomena works very slowly...


I think northern ireland was historically a mix of the political and religious (indivisible 300 years ago). More recently it was primarily economic, but with a religious ideological wrapper.

So perhaps there are similarities.

Ursa Maior

"culture dominates politics and business and not the other way around"

Excellent point Colonel. This kind of mirror imaging plagues the minds of both USA and EU decisionmakers. At least most are affected.


Well said. Keep the lessons coming— informed, erudite, and above all, based on experience, not cant. Perhaps somewhere someone is listening.


Ignoring another belief on what something is or isn't can be called vanity. But there has to be a point where one can say something is or isn't. Saddam Hussein ran elections, Gaddafi considered Libya a "peoples Republic" but no one would argue that both men were anything but dictators despite their supporters claiming otherwise.

There has to be a point, even a forgiving and distant line in the sand, where one can say this is no longer what it claims to be.

So while IS's claim to be on a jihad to bring back the Caliphdom cannot be strictly called "unIslamic" its tactics, methodology and actions are clearly contrary to both the teaching of the Quran and the Prophet.

Yes one can argue that many Islamic traits of peace, mercy, justice etc. are ethereal enough to be open to interpretation there are other aspects that simply are not, no matter which school or scholar you follow.

Forced conversions, the rules of war set by the Prophet himself such as the prohibition of killing the wounded, elderly and children, men and woman of the cloth, the sanctity of places of worship, and the protection from the execution of POWs or hostages have all been broken time and again by IS.

The notion of Jihad will never die because it is part and parcel of Islam. And its existence shouldn't be a worry or a problem as it is supposed to be an honorable act. Simply calling something a Jihad and then behaving as a righteous
asshole doesn't a Jihad make.

And lets face it, when Ayman Al Zawahri calls you a bunch of crazies you know you are on the extreme of something.

Until the world, and especially the Arab world wakes up to the financing of schools and the brainwashing of children bu Wahabi oil money and counters that there will always be poor, easily led people who will believe what they are old and are too ignorant to question. It is putting an end to the ignorance that will end the existence of IS and Al Qaida, not F-16s or tomahawk missiles.



"...there has to be a point where one can say something is or isn't." You make my point. You have a view of Islam based I suppose on how you were raised to think. At the same time you insist that others' versions of Islam are invalid because they differ from yours. As I recall you are Shia or half and half Lebanese. You must know that the Shia/Sunni divide continue to exist because of irreconcilable difference with regard to scripture and sharia. These differences have often led to war between the ever changing groups. Indeed Shiism's greater tradition is that of the Battle at Karbala against the Ummayads and their supporters with its bloody finale still celebrated every year by Shia beating themselves bloody with chains, etc. Can you really watch the never ending violence between Shia and Sunni and among the variety of smaller groups and say that Islam is not various rather than a universal faith? Well, I suppose you can but as I say you make my point. pl



Perhaps old friend, perhaps. pl



As I recall you are a Catholic Englishman so I suppose that view is comforting. I don't see how you can think that the IRA Provo's were anything but a Catholic Irish nationalist group in which the Catholic part was key to their identity. The regular IRA were/are a different matter. pl

A. Pols

It seems that we have a culture clash going on and the position of "We can kill our way to a state of relative quiet in which the jihadi impulse is suppressed for some time, perhaps a long time", shouldn't be ignored. Sometimes it comes to that, but it's just sooo indelicate to say so openly. During the "River War" campaign it was considered just a needful thing when dealing with "Mohammedan Fanatics".


A. Pols

Hey. I am an indelicate guy. Ask any of the academics who know me. Their gasps of horror when I challenge some library savant ring in my ears. pl

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