[ by Charles Cameron — why grokking is an important quality in analysts and diplomats, policy-makers and journos ]
Update on the long-running diplomatic snafu between S Korea and Japan:
Welsh imam explains why sex slavery is okay:
And here we are in 2016 CE.
I keep, keep, keep saying this: whether we’re dealing with Japan in WWII or ISIS today, we need to understand that worldviews differ, that the differences matter — and that knowing that intellectually is not enough, we need to be able to know it in the holistic, visceral-to-intellectual way Heinlein’s character Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land called “grokking“.
[ 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:
[ by Charles Cameron — further hints from the HSM Press twitter stream, following on from part 1 on bullet-proofing ]
As of Monday morning 11am California time:
I now think it’s clear that the twitter stream I was commenting on in this post and the first in the series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements — although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.
I am leaving the post up (a) for the record, and (b) for whatever minor interest it may still have.
I won’t be presenting the rest of these tweets in graphical form, since that would be labor intensive and I’m trying to be conservative about my labor, but there’s one more Sun Tzu quote I noticed in their stream, and we’ll come to it.
In the meantime, HSM Press tweeted on a variety of topics, all of which seem relevant to them:
Let’s note first the importance given to prayer in these tweets:
our mujahideen just prayed salat dhuhr! #westgate #alshabaab #Nairobi
our mujahideen are preparing to pray salat maghrib! #westgate #AlShabaab #Nairobi
The Qur’an is cited:
and kill them wherever you find them! ring a bell? #westgate #AlShabaab
Their Islam is a religion of peace —
yes islam is a religion of peace! thats undebatable. the debate here is who hit first? #westgate #AlShabaab
dont blame islam! islam never told you wage war on another country! #westgate
— but peace comes arms-in-arms with justice.
There are matters of logistics:
we tweeted arrival of 2 squads and they are replacing our first two now. hooo-ah! #Westgate
update: our third mujahideen squad just crossed the border, enroute to #garisa and other undisclosed locations. #Westgate #AlShabaab
Here’s that other Sun Tzu quote, along with a mention of training camps:
the first thing they taught us in training camps: know your enemy! #AlShabaab #Westgate
and there, making a fine DoubleQuote, is Margaret Atwood‘s nifty variant on Clausewitz:
“War is what happens when language fails.” #westgate @nairobi
Now, about those “training camps”?
have we mentioned we trained in this same building months ago! our mujahideen know every corner of this building! #alshabaab #westgate
our mujahideen are all under 25 years old. 7 of them having completed training in black water facility in north california! #Westgate
So they train with Blackwater / Academi and in situ, eh? And they’re all under 25 — when they started naming namesa bit later, they identified at least one 27 year old, but you get the drift — and at least one is a young woman:
our female combatant took out 15 kenyan soldier! what an amazing woman! #Westgate
They count the cost — though unlike AQC in the case of 9/11, they don’t do so to show what a huge ROI they have, just to be glad it wasn’t a flop:
the vast amount of time, money and dedication we contributed to this operation were glad it was carried successfully! #westgate #AlShabaab
They call it an op here, but their view of its size and importance is pretty flexible as to scale…
It’s a game — the “war as game meme” once again!:
lets see how yall enjoy this game! #westgate #alshabaab #Nairobi
They also call it a war:
this is a war and its not going to end well. #westgate #AlShabaab
It’s not a Jihad, though:
#JIHAD is a big word to use for this drill. #kneyans you will know when jihad is happening its unevitable! #westgate #AlShabaab
It’s gonna get worse:
you call few hundred death a deadly attack. well see what a deadly attack is. brace yourselves #lenya #westgate #AlShabaab
— and hey, it looks as though they have their eye on S Africa as a target further down the road:
#southafrica gere we come!!! #Westgate
Those are the tweets I found interesting on a first read. HSM followed up with the names and home cities of three American participants, and then their feed was suspended and I was invited to return to my home timeline…
Credit goes to JM Berger for getting Twitter to be a whole lot quicker in disabling their feeds, but it’s all a bit whack-a-mole, and I suspect they’re probably back up by now, under some variant name or other.
[ by Charles Cameron — a speech worth close attention ]
I bypassed several opportunities to hear or read Malala‘s speech today, until Shivam Vijtweeted that she had mentioned Badshah Khan. That caught my attention — Khan is not the most well-known of figures, but he’s one that I admire — and when I watched Malala’s speech, I found him in some pretty significant company:
I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.
In these times of religious conflict too, it is worth noting that this young Muslim woman speaks, on her sixteenth birthday and before the UN General Assembly, of the inspiration she has received not only from fellow Muslims — from the Prophet of her own faith, Muhammad, from the Father of her Nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and from Benazir Bhutto, whom she terms shahid or martyr — but also from Buddha, Christ, and Gandhi, a Hindu.
As my regular readers know, I make a habit of noting patterns where I can find them, so I was struck by one rhetorical trope in particular within Malala’s speech:
Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.
The relationship is a subtle one: darkness is juxtaposed to light not as silence is to voice but as being silenced is — while in the third clause, pens and books is to guns as darkness is to light, a powerful and thought-provoking juxtaposition.
Today’s main sighting concerns the rape of the young medical student in India, one of many tragedies in the tapestry of griefs and joys we all live with, and perhaps one that will make an incremental shift in global awareness.
It seems to me that India has had her share of violence both during and after Partition — most recently the Babri masjid takedown in Ayodhya, the Gujarat riots, two major sets of bombings in Mumbai, swathes of India under Naxalite influence, and so forth.
The author, Dinesh Sharma, quotes blogger Nilanjana Roy — the other person whose writing on the subject had particularly moved me — to list earlier instances of anti-woman violence:
Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women.
For some, amnesia becomes a way of self-defence: there is only so much darkness you can swallow.
When I’d first read that on Roy’s blog, I’d been saddened as much by my own ignorance of the named events as by the litany of sorroes Roy put together.
But it was Sharma’s invocation of Draupadi that triggered this post:
Draupadi, heroine of the Mahabharata epic, is bold and forthright even in adversity. Her husband Yudhisthira succumbing to his weakness for gambling, stakes and loses all (in a rigged game), including his wife. Draupadi challenges the assembly and demands to know how it is possible for one who has staked and lost his own self to retain the right to wager her.
Duryodhana, the winner of the bet, insists that Draupadi is indeed his to do with as he pleases and orders that she be disrobed. Furious at this insult to her honor, Draupadi loosens her coifed hair and vows that she will not knot it again until she has washed it in Duryodhana’s blood. As she is disrobed, the more her sari is pulled away the longer it becomes. It is this event which turns Draupadi from a contented, but strong willed wife into a vengeful goddess.
Until I saw the title of Sharma’s piece, I hadn’t thought of Draupadi — but she’s the quintessential figure of the woman wrongly treated in the rich mythology of the subcontinent, and thus offers the appropriate background against which to see the terrible event.
Draupadi is celebrated for her devotion to Krishna, the anonymous woman raped in the recent incident on a bus for her devotion to education, medicine, healing…
As Sharma says:
The perennial question has to be asked – “Who will protect Draupadi’s honour?”
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