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Of Note: Tim Furnish, & Trump’s National CT Strategy

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — and a few ppl whose views on trump’s strategy document I’d also like to read ]
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  • Tim Furnish, Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King
  • Trump, 2018, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Obama, 2011, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Tim Furnish, Sectsploitation: How to Win Hearts and Minds in the Islamic World
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    I wanted to draw your attention to our blog-friend and sometime contributor Tim Furnish‘s post, which offers a lucid introduction to the Trump administration’s National CT Strategy paper, situating it in contrast to the Obama admin’s version, and linking it to a very helpful breakdown of what we might call (remembering William James, but in mostly lower case) the varieties of Islamic experience.

    Let me just say that from my POV:

    1) Tim Furnish has a way superior understanding of the said varieties than John Bolton ever will have — plus he has a taste for pop culture asides!

    2) that the key issue to be further explored could be expressed in terms of the overlaps, Venn diagram-wise, between “literalist”, “mainstream” and “authentic” Islams.

    That’s a project I’ve been circling for more than a decade, and the closer I get, the more subtleties arise to be considered. Still circling in..

    Thomas Hegghammer, JM Berger, Leah Farrall, Adam Elkus, Will McCants and John Horgan are others whose varied voices and opinions regaarding the new CT Strategy text I’ll be watching for.

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    Tim’s essay and associated matters: Warmly recommended.

    Zen — pray chime in.

    Tanglewood vs Versailles: of gardens and explanations

    Friday, August 11th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — critiquing the star diagram, celebrating the insights of Peter Neumann and team on violent radicalization ]
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    I seem to remember that my grandmother’s house and garden was named Tanglewood — and certainly, the palace and gardens of Louis XVI are known simply as Versailles!

    French ornamental gardens represent one way to go about life, and English wild ramblings quite another — personally, I prefer the English way.

    So..

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    To be honest, I find this diagram all too neat and well-mown…

    People, after all, have grievances, ideas, and needs, and are the ones who resort to violence — and indeed, grievances are ideas, and sometimes born of needs. I could go on — but a five-pointed star with kinetic arrows folded into a graphically beautiful sort of Moebius arrangement is elegant and perhaps overly simple?

    Compare that gorgeous, tidy star with Will McCants‘ paragraphs:

    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.

    If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

    That’s more to my taste.

    **

    None of which is to denigrate Peter Neumann‘s contributions to our understanding of violent radicalization — see for instance his subtle and compelling “Myths and Reality” presentation:

    Mind-blowing first paragraph, academic paper

    Saturday, August 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — this motive for terror in Mumbai totally blindsided me ]
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    Young Ajmal Kasab, from the village of Faridkot in the Punjab, in Mumbai, now deceased

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    Consider this:

    Strapped to a gurney and visibly shaken by the bloodied bodies of his fellow terrorists strewn about, Mohammed Jamal Amir Kasab, aged twenty-one, begged his police interrogators to turn off their cameras. They refused, and Kasab’s recorded confession provided the world with a glimpse into the individual motivations of the young men behind the four days of attacks in Mumbai, India. Kasab explained that he “joined the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba only for money.”1 His was not solely an individual decision, however, and the money he earned from participating in the attacks was not intended to be discretionary income. According to Kasab, his father had urged him to join so that Kasab and his siblings could afford to marry.2 Kasab recounted that his father had told him that his participation would mean that the family would no longer be poor and that they would be able to pay the costs required to finalize a marriage contract. One of the police officers, seemingly ignoring Kasab’s response, pressed, “So you came here for jihad? Is that right?” Crying, Kasab asked, “What jihad?” Lashkar-e-Taiba deposited the promised money in his father’s account after the successful attack; for his participation, Kasab was hanged in 2012 by the Indian government. Whether his siblings were subsequently able to contract marriages as a result of the funds provided by Lashkar-e-Taiba remains unknown.

    The paper, by Valerie M. Hudson and Hilary Matfess, is published by MIT Press in International Security, Volume 42 Issue 1, Summer 2017, p.7-40 under the title, In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict.

    How little we know, how little we suspect, how diverse the world is, how varied the motives at play, even in matters that we study and feel we’ve grasped.

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    The paragraph above stands as a fitting anecdotal confirmation of Will McCants:

    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.

    If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

    On the Night of Power, in Mosul

    Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — figurative self-destruction by ISIS at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul ]
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    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.

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    ISIS denies responsibility:

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    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.

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    All this takes place on, of all nights, the Night of Power!

    More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

    Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]
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    Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

    Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)

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    It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

    It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

    Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

    Angaelos’ response:

    As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.

    **

    And here is Angaelos again:

    Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
    By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

    Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

    I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

    This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

    You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

    You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

    Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

    This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

    [ .. ]

    What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.

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    I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

    Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.

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    To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

    A Message to Those Who Kill Us

    What will we say to them?

    THANK YOU

    The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

    You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

    You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

    We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

    We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.


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