Will McCants comes closest to my own sense of the business with his invocation of symbolism and his words “self-inflicted decline” — this is an ouroboric moment, the (yes, self-inflicted) death of the birthplace of ISIS, a homecoming with a vengeance.
ISIS denies responsibility:
Apparent attempt to inflame sentiment against Coalition: ISIS claims it was US airstrike that destroyed iconic Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul. pic.twitter.com/nbtUi9htz2
Indeed, the Atlantic has a piece titled Who Blew Up Mosul’s Al-Nuri Mosque? — but points out that ISIS might prefer its founding edifice destroyed to its certain capture and propaganda use against it:
New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi notes ISIS has not shied away from using mosques for battle purposes, and suggests its destruction could be aimed at preventing coalition forces from taking control of it themselves — a move that could be of symbolic importance given the landmark’s role in the self-proclaimed caliphate’s founding.
And there we go again — “the self-proclaimed caliphate” — ouroboric from start to finish.
All this takes place on, of all nights, the Night of Power!
[ by Charles Cameron — two powerful graphic images, one simple truth ]
From a purely graphic angle, the two images mirror one another quite nicely, and arguably the meltdown is the cause for the need to scream.
I generally try to avoid politics, but when it leaks over into the same religious issues I’ve been studying and writing about here for a few years now, I’m liable to voice my opinions.
I’m a loser in Trunp‘s terms by vocation, whether I follow the dictum “go and sit down in the lowest room” (Luke 14.19) or am “content with the low places that people disdain” (Lao Tzu 8), so it won’t bother him when I point out that contrary to his recent statement that President Obama was the founder of ISIS, which he’s doubled down on —
I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
— he’s just plain wrong, as John Schindler — far from an admirer of Hillary Clinton — reminds us in today’s detailed and thorough Observer piece mildly titled No, Obama Is Not the Founder of ISIS. Some choice paras:
It’s not every day the presidential nominee of the Republican Party calls our commander-in-chief a “founder”—that is a terrorist, a traitor, and “MVP”—of the global Salafist caliphate, an organization that commits mass murder and even genocide. Not to mention that ISIS seeks to kill Americans with gusto at home and abroad.
Trump’s claim is so absurd as to render terror experts speechless. In the first place, ISIS was born in a practical sense in 2006, when elements of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq fused with bitter-enders from the Saddam Hussein regime that the United States overthrew in its invasion of Iraq three years before. Back then George W. Bush was president and Barack Obama was a junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.
None of this is to defend Obama’s track record against ISIS, which in column after column here I’ve lambasted as incompetent and lackadaisical. His pseudo-war on that murder gang and its imaginary caliphate has been a train-wreck of quarter-measures, muddled strategy, and outright lies. Obama ought to never live down his dismissal of ISIS as the “JV team,” but that’s a far cry from “founding” the Islamic State.
There’s no doubt that Obama’s withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in 2011, hailed as a great victory at the time, was strategically harmful and enabled ISIS’s meteoric growth in the Middle East. However, the president had little choice there, since the democratically elected Iraqi government in Baghdad demanded that the U.S. military leave their country. Not to mention that withdrawing our troops from Iraq was supported by Donald Trump.
Saying Obama and Hillary “founded” ISIS therefore is a ridiculous claim that deserves to be taken no more seriously than related tinfoilisms like “Jews did 9/11” or “My cat is the Illuminati.” It’s therefore deeply alarming to see the GOP nominee say it—repeatedly.
It’s not difficult to see where Trump gets such wacky ideas. Mike Flynn, his national security guru, has repeatedly come close to saying the same, hinting that Obama wanted ISIS to succeed. Flynn is a retired Army three-star general whom Obama fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency with ample cause.
Since then, Flynn’s gotten cuddly with the Russians, regularly appearing on their propaganda network RT, even admitting he’s taken Kremlin money for a photo op with Vladimir Putin. This is where things get really interesting. “Obama created ISIS” has been a Kremlin trope for a couple years now and it’s frequently trotted out by Putin’s mouthpieces and online trolls. When your campaign is riddled with people on the Kremlin payroll, with deep ties to Moscow, it’s not surprising that the candidate starts mouthing their disinformation.
[ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”
I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.
And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.
Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..
If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.
In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.
Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.
The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us
a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities
— down to our own times.
What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.
The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:
Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.
Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.
Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.
The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.
And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being real – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.
The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.
Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..
Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?
He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:
Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.
— and had the final, pointed word:
We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.
Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.