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There’s more than one way for a Muslim to have border problems

Monday, February 27th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Trump, Assad and Trump ]
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The first way, which is drawing a lot of fire these days, is via the Trump “Muslim ban” —

— but it ain’t the only way: angering al-Assad can also do the trick.

**

An alternative example of the first kind would give us this —

— in some ways it’s a closer match, since both Russo and Khatib were traveling to significant events where their work would be highlighted. On the other hand, the Muhammad Ali Jr instance is powerful by reason of the issue of his religion coming up..

**

Sources:

  • Guardian, US border agents ask Muhammad Ali’s son: ‘Are you a Muslim?’
  • Vox, The White Helmets cinematographer Khaled Khatib was coming to the Oscars
  • Guardian, Leading French academic threatened with deportation at Houston airport
  • **

    But then we could also juxtapose the alternative first examples with one another, making a DoubleQuote of two instances of problems with US border agents —

    — and yes, much of the world is looking on.

    A striking image from Scott Atran, Davos

    Saturday, February 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the importance of spiritual commitment ]
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    **

    Scott Atran, author of Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What It Means to Be Human, speaking at the World Economic Forum, offered this slide with the following comment:

    Our research with fighters shows that the US Government’s judgement is fairly mistaken about underestimating ISIS and overestimating the armies against it, because it denies th4e spiritual dimension of human conflict. Three critical factors are involved: sacred values and devotion to the groupz people are fused with; willing to sacrifice family for values; and perceived spiritual formidability. For example, among fighters on both sides in Iraq and Syria, they rate America’s physical force maximum but spiritual force minimum, and ISIS’ physical force minimum but spiritual force maximum. But – they also think material interests drive America but that spiritual commitment drives ISIS. The spiritual trumps physical force when all things are equal.

    Here’s the short clip from which that slide & comment are taken — Friday 24th February 2017, WEF Davos, Scott Atran analyses the limits of rational choice in political and cultural conflict

    Dawson & Amarasingam, Furnish & McCants

    Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — multi-causal and single focus motivations not incompatible ]
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    Tim Furnish offered a terse “File this under ‘duh.'” in response to a CNSNews report titled Study: Religion is ‘Primary Motivator’ of Foreign Jihadists Who Go to Iraq & Syria on Facebook today. In response to a comment, he elaborated: “I’ve done the same study about 37 times over the last 15 years.”

    Tim’s right. But I also believe we need a more nuanced approach to the issue of motivation.

    **

    Here’s the passage from the study in question, Lorne Dawson and Amarnath Amarasingam‘s Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq:

    The findings reported here converge with those of these other studies in terms of how people radicalize and become foreign fighters. However, they tend to diverge with regard to why they go. In the twenty interviews analyzed no one indicated, directly or indirectly, that forms of socioeconomic marginalization played a significant role in their motivation to become a foreign fighter. Moreover, the interactions with these individuals were so heavily mediated by religious discourse it seems implausible to suggest that religiosity (i.e., a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox) is not a primary motivator for their actions. Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives, and this reality should be given due interpretive weight.

    There we are:

    Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives

    I couldn’t agree more. But then again, as Will McCants reminds us in Trump’s misdiagnosis of the jihadist threat (late 2016, but now twitter-pinned “because the causality question comes up constantly”):

    The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

    **

    I’ve never been clear-headed enough to follow Aristotle‘s distinctions between material, formal, efficient, and final causes, let alone discussion of hypothetical causes that follow their effects, but it seems to me that the two statements above are easily reconciled if we understand that there are many causes for disgruntlement, to which a religious solution is in all cases present as disgruntlement turns to ISIS-sympathetic recruitment.

    Religion (as Dawson & Amarasingam have it, “i.e., a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox”) is the sine qua non of jihadism.

    **

    So yeah, doh! — with multi-factorial causality earlier in the process..

    New Article up at Divergent Options

    Monday, January 16th, 2017

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    I have a piece up at Divergent Options, a new national security site that aims to provoke thought regarding foreign policy with a concise template that distills the essence of foreign policy problems and provides but does not recommend options. As DO describes it:

    What We Do:  In 1,000 words or less, Divergent Options provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that describe a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

    Who We Communicate To:  Our intended audience is National Security Practitioners worldwide.  We keep our articles short and to the point because we know that Practitioners have a limited amount of time and are likely reading our content on a digital device during a commute, a lunch break, or in-between meetings

    My post is an effort to reconnect Syrian policy, widely regarded as a disaster by most foreign policy pundits, back to a coherent grand strategy.

    Syria Options: U.S. Grand Strategy 

    […]

    Background:  Aleppo has fallen and with it the last shreds of credibility of President Obama’s policy on Syria.  None of Obama’s policy goals for Syria since the Arab Spring revolt were achieved.  In Syria, the Assad regime has crushed western-backed opposition fighters with direct Russian and Iranian military ground support; the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) still controls swaths of Syrian territory[1] and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally Turkey has conspired with Iran and Russia to exclude the U.S. and UN[2] from Syrian settlement talks.

    Significance:  While Syria itself is of little strategic value to the U.S. beyond secondary implications for Israeli security, the utter failure of the Obama administration has brought U.S. diplomatic prestige to a nadir reminiscent of the Iranian hostage crisis or the fall of Saigon.  Worse, defeat in Syria occurred in a broader context of successful Russian aggression in Ukraine, uncontested Russian meddling in an U.S. presidential election, and perceptions of U.S. strategic concessions to Tehran in the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA[3]).  Should the next administration want to accomplish more than Obama, it is vital that they  1) address Syria within the context of increased Russian-U.S. competition and 2) seize the initiative in restoring the influence of U.S. leadership with substantive and symbolic policy changes in regard to Syria and Russia.

    Read the rest here.

    Happy Christmas: Of Shia & Christian in Beirut and Aleppo

    Sunday, December 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — season’s greetings ]
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    Posted by Rami Al Khal on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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    I trust you can see and hear this video, or at least click through to Le Liban c’est ça aussi : une chorale musulmane qui chante Noël dans une église and watch it. It presents, as the post in French tells us, a Lebanese Shiite choir singing Christmas carols in a church, and with it I offer you my Christmas greetings on behalf of one and all at Zenpundit, greetings secular, sacred, Maccabean, Nazarene, Muslim, or at the mall.

    **

    I’m, as you may know, in recovery from heart surgery and on kidney dialysis, and this year I received a very kind care package of renal-failure appropriate food from an anonymous source, so I’m reminded that while the mall, grocery store and food-laden table may not represent the “essence of Christmas” as my mother would have wished — the child born God to brighten our dark world — they can nonetheless represent generosity as well as commerce, a break in the relentless pursuit of dominance, human life as gift and giving.

    On this day, therefore, of commercial, charitable and Christian celebration, we wish you all, according to your varied natures and our own perspectives, happiness this Christmas in the teeth of winter and the world.

    **

    That Muslim voices are raised above in a Christian church in praise of the Christian nativity offers a glimpse of hope for mutual respect in the strife-and faith-torn Middle East — but such matters as the overlapping and interconnections of faiths are never simple, and by way or remembering something of the nuance, here’s a quick sentence from COL Pat Lang‘s post at Sic Semper Tyrannis yesterday, Christmas in Aleppo – Attention Joe Scarborough:

    One of our German correspondents on SST informed us the other day that there are now some Christian members of Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia militia. This would make sense because after the 2006 war against Israel Hizbullah assigned priority of its own reconstruction money to Christians in south Lebanon.

    **

    To quote Charles Dickens:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..

    Best wishes & blessings to all..


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