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Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
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Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

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Prof Dawson writes:

There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

    **

    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

    **

    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    **

    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

    **

    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!

    More than 26,500

    Friday, March 30th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — despair at the human condition, and rejoicing ]
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    On the one hand:

    On the other:

    What impresses me enormously:

    Dr. van Hulst was among more than 26,500 gentiles — 5,595 from the Netherlands — recognized by Yad Vashem for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

    Year’s End Musings

    Saturday, December 30th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — wry thoughts at the year’s turning ]
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    The best of prophetic moments of the past twelve months according to Propheccy News Watch, and a glimpse of the Atlantic’s this and that..

    **

    Prophecy News Watch:

    Obvs. the right place to go for a go-to report on the year in prophetic signage, Prophecy News Watch gives us a detailed breakdown of the past year, noting:

    Pieces of the eschatological puzzle continue to manifest daily. Even signs that are primarily Tribulation events are casting a shadow today. As I perused news stories of the year, I selected 15 items that tell us time is short. The King is coming soon. Don’t ever doubt that.

    Zechariah 12.3 isn’t the most commonly quoted of end times verses, and it’s a bit obscure at first sight:

    And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

    Still, that’s PNW’s first and foremost of 15 notable signs of the times for the past year, and PNW signals it in context:

    Jerusalem became a greater “burdensome stone” with Donald Trump’s acknowledgement that this is truly Israel’s capital and holy city. See Zechariah 12:3. Greater controversy will surround her in the year ahead.

    It looks like Zechariah (who?) had a point. And whether Zechariah (yes!) was thinking of Trump’s declaration “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” on December 6th as the “that day” which PMW’s Zechariah quotation implies, or maybe December 21st when, as the Guardian put it, the UN “delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” — well, that’s an open question — perhaps both..

    **

    Here’s a Christian point of view. According to al-Jazeera in a piece entitled Palestinian Christian leaders denounce Trump’s decision:

    The US move is offensive to “Christians and Muslims around the world who consider Jerusalem as an incubator of their most sacred, spiritual and national heritage”, Atallah Hanna, the archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox church, said in a statement on Saturday.

    “We, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he added.

    “The US gave the occupation what it does not deserve.”

    Pastor Hagee sees it differently, attributing “biblical timing of absolute precision” not just to the President’s December 6th proclamation, but to the actual movement of the embassy, which should occur in the next couple of days, or miss the once-in-fifty-years nark:

    He [Hagee] also talked with the president about the significance of moving the embassy in this “Jubilee Year.”

    “…I told him that God measures everything in modules of 50 years,” Hagee explained to CBN News. “And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter.”

    “I said, ‘If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel,'” he continued.

    “‘And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.’ I said, ‘This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision,'” Hagee said. “Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.”

    If 2017 is tthe Jubilee Year, we have two Jubilee Days remaining to us for moving the embassy, today included!

    **

    Ah, yes — the Atlantic!

    The Atlantic has also been recapping past events and articles at year’s end. It struck me as wryly amusing that they made The Case for Humility in 1918, just before the end of WW I — with some surprisingly prescient commentary:

    Before our educational system can furnish us the help that it should, the Humanist must learn … to abandon his faith in the mechanical and quantitative methods which belong to science, and to set about the task of reinstating the past in the present.

    And again:

    Examine the record of the nineteenth century, of the epoch which closed three years ago, and you will find that it is a record of increasing absent-mindedness on the part of men and nations who imagined that they were doing one thing but who were actually engaged in doing something else. They imagined that they were making the future secure by their feverish activity; they imagined that they had only to devote themselves to science and to industry in order to be happy. But, as a matter of fact, the whole tendency of their activity was to make the future insecure; and their blind faith in science and industry is being repaid by the unspeakable misery of war.

    The Atlantic then brought us up to speed in 2014 with The Case for Corruption: Why Washington needs more honest graft:

    Once upon a time, the budget process was reasonably regular. In fact, it was conducted under what was called regular order. The budget-committee chairmen would do some horse trading to build a consensus within each chamber, the House and Senate would then pass those budgets without too much ado, and the two chambers would work out their differences in a conference committee. Then the appropriations committees would do more or less the same thing, making sure to spread around enough pork-barrel goodies to get their friends paid off and the budget passed. The president and the congressional leaders would be involved throughout the process, every now and then calling a budget summit, but most of the real work would go on behind the scenes.

    In the past few years, by contrast, regular order has been replaced by regular chaos. Public ultimatums supplanted private negotiations, games of chicken replaced mutual back-scratching, and bumptious Republican House members took to dictating terms to their putative leadership. Last fall, after one tantrum too many, Congress seemed exhausted. As part of a deal to reopen the government, it returned the task of setting the next fiscal year’s budget to the budget and appropriations committees, sending them off to a smoke-free smoke-filled room to cut a deal.

    Sigh — one can’t help smiling at that phrase, “a smoke-free smoke-filled room” — beautifully, concisely, evocatively boustrophedonic!

    **

    Boustrophedon — to and fro, as the ox ploughs — oh joy!

    Happy New Year to all!

    This I must watch on Netflix

    Monday, August 28th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — continuing in the pesky socratic tradition ]
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    **

    Here’s the possible parallelism, d’you dare say it’s a moral equivalence, are the scales even close to equal, or isn’t that the moral point anyway?

    Just a few years after the destruction of European Jewry, the soldier wonders, have we now become oppressors? Have the Arabs now been sent into exile?

    Here’s the whole paragraph:

    In 1949, Yizhar Smilansky, a young Israeli veteran, national legislator, and novelist writing under the pen name S. Yizhar, published “Khirbet Khizeh,” a novella about the destruction of a lightly fictionalized Palestinian village near Ashkelon, some thirty miles south of Tel Aviv. Writing from the point of view of a disillusioned Israeli soldier, Yizhar describes the Army’s capture of the village and the expulsion of its remaining inhabitants. The time is 1948, the moment of Israel’s independence and its subsequent victory over five invading Arab armies that had hoped to erase the fledgling Jewish state from the map. It would be forty years before the New Historians—Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and Simha Flapan among them—marshalled the nerve and the documentary evidence required to shatter the myth that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs had all voluntarily “abandoned” their cities and villages. Yizhar was there to bear witness in real time. He wrote from personal experience; he had been an intelligence officer in the war. In “Khirbet Khizeh,” Yizhar’s protagonist is sickened as he comes across an Arab woman who watches as her home is levelled: “She had suddenly understood, it seemed, that it wasn’t just about waiting under the sycamore tree to hear what the Jews wanted and then to go home, but that her home and her world had come to a full stop, and everything had turned dark and was collapsing; suddenly she had grasped something inconceivable, terrible, incredible, standing directly before her, real and cruel, body to body, and there was no going back.” Just a few years after the destruction of European Jewry, the soldier wonders, have we now become oppressors? Have the Arabs now been sent into exile? And why can’t I bring myself to protest? “Khirbet Khizeh” eventually became part of the Israeli public-school curriculum.

    **

    Source & resource:

  • David Remnick, How Do You Make a TV Show Set in the West Bank?
  • Netflix, Fauda
  • **

    With any luck, I’ll report back at some point. It seems to me that a love of the individual Palestinian should nest within a love of the State of Israel as the circles in the tai chih symbol rest within the swirls of the opposite colors. But what a charged topic!

    A koan!

    Graeme Wood and a symmetry in Dallas

    Monday, August 14th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — on writers and analysts, via Dallas, Syria, Wagner, Bayreuth, Hitler and Israel ]
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    The symmetry is between two men that Graeme Wood has profiled in The AtlanticRichard Spencer and John Georgelas aka Yahya Abu Hassan, leader of the alt-right and early American proponent of ISIS, respectively:

    Both men are the only sons of wealthy north-Dallas physicians. They both bloomed late, intellectually and politically, and overcompensated by immersing themselves in books and ideas with gusto uncommon among their bourgeois demographic. Both admired Ron Paul, and both saw their home country as a broken land — and themselves as its savior.

    They are also both young.

    You can read about them both in greater detail in Wood’s twin accounts here:

  • Wood profiles Richard Spencer, His Kampf
  • Wood profiles John Georgelas, The American Climbing the Ranks of ISIS
  • **

    When I worked at John L Petersen‘s think tank The Arlington Institute, the boss often used to ask me for a “leading indicator” — and I’d reply that one data point seldom meant anything to me, whereas two in parallel or opposition might indicate a trend. My motto became “two is the first number” — a mantram I’ve repeated here from time to time [1, 2, 3], finding notable backup in Aristotle, Carl Jung, and the Ismaili Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’, as reported in my post It is always good to find oneself in good company.

    Graeme Wood must feel some satisfaction in having written profiles of two such opposite yet well-matched men as Georgelas and Spencer — I certainly take delight in the pairing — and the parallelism is truly quite striking. Yet to deduce a trend from the observation that both are “only sons of wealthy north-Dallas physicians” isn’t grounds for alerting the FBI to profile — let alone surveil — all other such only sons.

    Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.

    And yet, and yet.

    Graeme Wood is a writer, not an analyst, and while the specifics here — “only son”, “north-Dallas physician” — do not in themselves provide “actionable intelligence” for intel purposes, the two stories as Wood spells them out enrich our analytic understanding of the drivers that may be in play in the recruitment of extremists and terrorists.

    **

    I have a small and tattered pamphlet in my desk, 1876 – 1896, Die ersten zwanzig Jahre der Bayreuther Bühnenfestspiele by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who later married Richard Wagner‘s daughter Eva von Bülow.

    Chamberlain’s pamphlet about Wagner’s operas and the theater he built for them in Bayreuth, published there in Bayreuth in 1896, is not his best-known work, however. That would be his two-volume work, Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, or The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century — published in the same year, 1899, as Freud‘s Die Traumdeutung — which was to provide Nazism with some of its anti-Semitic ideology. Of similar interest, his 1905 Aryan Worldview.

    Chamberlain’s letter to Hitler in 1923 has to my ear some resonance with discussions of Donald Trump today:

    Now I believe I understand that it is precisely this that characterizes and defines your being: the true awakener is at the same time the bestower of peace.

    You are not at all, as you have been described to me, a fanatic. In fact, I would call you the complete opposite of a fanatic. The fanatic inflames the mind, you warm the heart. The fanatic wants to overwhelm people with words, you wish to convince, only to convince them-and that is why you are successful. Indeed, I would also describe you as the opposite of a politician, in the commonly accepted sense of the word, for the essence of all politics is membership of a party, whereas with you all parties disappear, consumed by the heat of your love for the fatherland. It was, I think, the misfortune of our great Bismarck that he became, as fate would have it (by no means through innate predisposition), a little too involved in politics. May you be spared this fate.

    **

    I am chasing down byways of history and culture here to be sure — and it is not my intention to make a facile comparison between Trump and Hitler. But Wagner — surely it is interesting to note that not only were Hitler and Chamberlain obsessed with Wagner’s operas, but Graeme Wood’s account of Spencer notes that at one point Richard Spencer worked as “a gofer at the Bavarian State Opera”.

    Echo? Parallelism? Kinship?

    Wagner is a cultural influence of connsiderable strength — as an Alex Ross article in the New Yorker, The Case for Wagner in Israel, notred in 2012:

    In recent decades, musicians have periodically attempted to play Wagner in Israel, setting off impassioned protests; Na’ama Sheffi’s book “The Ring of Myths: The Israelis, Wagner, and the Nazis” gives an account of them. At an Israel Philharmonic concert in 1981, Zubin Mehta, after giving audience members an opportunity to leave the hall, conducted the “Liebestod” from “Tristan und Isolde” as an encore; in response, Ben-Zion Leitner, a Holocaust survivor and a hero of the First Arab-Israeli War, walked in front of the podium, bared his scarred stomach, and shouted, “Play Wagner over my body.” Similarly charged scenes unfolded when Daniel Barenboim led the “Tristan” Prelude in Jerusalem in 2001. This past summer, an effort by the Israel Wagner Society to present a concert at Tel Aviv University created yet another media frenzy; in the end, the university withdrew its permission, and plans to move the event to a Hilton subsequently fell through. The Israeli conductor Asher Fisch, who was to have led the concert, has personal reasons for campaigning against the unwritten ban: his mother, who was forced to leave Vienna in 1939, felt that if her son could conduct Wagner in Israel it would amount to a final victory over Hitler, and he still hopes to realize her dream.

    **

    An author’s skilled meanderings in cultural associations may not make for actionable intelligence, but they do provide invaluable context for the overt tides and little known undertows of human history.

    Which in turn affect us all, and which we in turn may wish to affect or deflect..


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