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Footnoted readings 03 – Violence, theirs and ours

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on analysis by symmetry, asymmetry, comparison, form ]
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Vijay Prashad

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Vijay Prashad writes in Jadaliyya under the title Violence: Theirs and Ours and sub-head Binaries:

I have spent decades thinking about the asymmetry of reactions to these sorts of incidents in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I have written about them, indignation as the mood of these essays. But this is spitting into the wind. It is futile on Facebook, for instance, to make the suggestion that the 2016 Karrada bombings in Baghdad (Iraq), which killed over 300 people, should have driven people to turn their profile pictures into Iraqi flags (as the world had done after the 2015 Paris attacks, when 137 people were killed). “Je Suis Charlie” is easy to write, but not #AmiAvijit. Eyes roll when these gestures are urged, whether through bewilderment at their meaning or exhaustion at their sanctimoniousness. After all, the eye-roll suggests, how could one compare a satirical French magazine with obscure Bangladeshi bloggers who have been hacked to death? It takes an immense act of will to push editors to run stories on tragedies that seem distant even from the places where they occur. All eyes focus on the latest attack in Molenbeek, but few turn with the same intensity to look at the tragedies in Beirut or in Cairo.

Okay, what interests me here is his mode of analysis by form: Prashad pays specific and repeated attention to binaries — symmetries and asymmetries. I think that’s a key move in analytic terms, and you can see it in play, again, in the way he phrases his concluding paragraph:

From Lord Baring’s Violent Shock to George W. Bush’s Shock and Awe: this cannot be terrorism. It is the business of rational states. Terrorism is what the others do. Always.

Violent Shock :: Shock and Awe.

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Agree or disagree with Prashad’s analyses as you will, his method is one that I too have been focusing on here at ZP for a while now — that of emphasis on form as a clue to analytic significance.

Binocular (camera) vision, Mosul

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — ISIS vs journo, fighter vs reporter ]
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An intriguing use of DoubleQuote thinking — from opposite sides of a conflict moment:

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These images are even more striking when seen in full:

ISIS pov:

Raineri pov:

Kudos, Daniele Raineri.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Two more tweets of interest from Elijah Magnier

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — angels as force multipliers for ISIS, and the cross restored ]
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I used a tweet from Magnier in Prophetic dreams, Dabiq now, Mosul back then, and another in my comment on The map borders on the territory? Turkey, Palestine. Here are two more..

The first updates us on the Qur’anic concept of angels, rank on rank, supporting the Muslims at the Battle of Badr (Qur’an 8.9):

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And before I show you the second, let me remind you of this, from November of last year:

mosul-church

Now the situation is blessedly reversed:


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