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.
Tim’s essay and associated matters: Warmly recommended.
[ by Charles Cameron — opposite extremists at opposite extremes — for JM, if he ever gets time to read / view / hear it — with a personal note to cleanse the palate at the end ]
An essay, expressed in musics.
Indeed, a Janis Joplin-driven explanation of the bookRajneeshi and Incel passions, offered to JM Berger as he’s publishing what will no doubt be a powerfully argued and fascinating account of a wide range of extremisms, Extremism (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series):
extremism arises from a perception of “us versus them,” intensified by the conviction that the success of “us” is inseparable from hostile acts against “them.”
Buy this book, okay?
Sexuality, pure & full-throated.
First, her voice torn raw:
“Move Over” is the only song on the 1971 album “Pearl” that Janis wrote on her own. If the lyric doesn’t strike you as particularly suggestive, just listen to the way she sings it and you’ll see what we mean.
Now multiply by this, drawn from Janis‘ letters:
She fell in love at a heartbeat; her sexual appetites are perhaps best described as ravenous (she had female as well as male lovers), her judgment frequently awry.
Sex, plenty of it — you’d think she’d move from jaggering via satisfaction to satiated.
And sex, the absence, the vacuum, the abyss,
Second, her heart torn, shredded:
This line is all I need:
Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman:
and this brilliant comment I overheard:
she would make love to 25,000 on stage, then go home alone..
Janis is a Rajneeshi at heart and in behavior, an Incel in blues and loneliness..
Given that, that strength, that compulsive pull, that driven drive —
Zero Sex, the absence, involuntary
The Incels — those who are involuntarily celibate — can’t get none — perceiving themselves shunned by those who attract them __
Oh how, how man needs a woman I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman
He’s lost in the wilderness
He’s lost in bitterness
He’s lost in loneliness
That last stanza, with that line in it, could be an incel anthem.
I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman..
Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman..
The raw reality of it: a child’s wail — see how much you can bear to see —
That’s the involuntary celibate, Incel, pieced together out of Janis and James Brown, the extreme in inward-twisting, self-pitying, child’s wail version of the blues ..
This boy, this young man, a day or so after making this video, went out and killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., in an attempt as “the prefect gentleman” to get his revenge on the hottest blondes in UC Santa Barbara. And became, for some, a hero to be emulated.. And emulated he was.
The SPLC report counts Rodger among 13 alleged alt-right killers whose actions left 43 people dead and more than 60 injured since 2014.
Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six students in the college town of Isla Vista in 2014, was the first “alt-right killer” to strike in recent years..
Sex raised hopefully to the power of the infinite:
And then I hear that howl against the backdrop of the recent documentary about the Rajneeshis, encouraged by their guru to explore their sexuality to the sacred, to satiation..:
Wide-open their hope, shut-down their finale.
And finally, JM, Something Other and more personal
A martini to cleanse the palate..
Now I want to watch, intend to binge-watch Brideshead Revisited, the Jeremy Irons version, for some very un-American, upper-class-snobbish, public-school-boy, Roman-Catholic-gay historical-throwback art-level Britishness:
Dropping you in at an odd, a very strange, indeed extreme in a dozen ways from Sunday, luncheon:
I who have been beaten — four, with a bamboo cane, at Wellington College, (a sort of military academy slash prep school) — for doing the Times crossword in place of my math moework. Ah yes, and when I came up to Christ Church, Oxford, dunked in Mercury, that college’s Tom Quad pool, after exacting the price of a glass of port from my tormentors, almost twenty years before the film from which this excerpt was taken, was filmed.
For I too am Anglo and Roman Catholic and Buddhist and Taoist and a snob — at least until I meet you or you, and humanity breaks in.
And a creature of sexuality, defeated by sickness and old age..
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. I’m pretty sure ISIS was AQier than AQ in the day, and that even earlier, there was a splinter group within AQ that was “more extrem”. Might have been Zarqawi, in which case our two examples collapse into one..
“Extremier than the Extreme” — within its own extreme context, it can be one helluva claim to make!
While we’re on the subject..
There’s also the oft-noted Horseshoe effect, whereby opposite expremes come to resemble one another:
This one, Revolutionary > Dictator > Dictator is well known because of the frequency with which Revolutionaries come to resemble the Dictators they overthrew.
A concatenation of horseshoes of this sort would give you Revolution > Dictatorship > Dictatorship > Dictatorshipad nauseam, with a Dictatorship currently in power, and a Revolution constantly brewing.
The framework was derived from a detailed analysis of the ideology that spawned Christian Identity, a violent white nationalist belief system. In two follow-up papers, I applied the framework to the ideology of ISIS.
That research will be an even bigger focus in the year to come, including through the new book, another book in the works, some exciting projects in the alt-right space, and some major research projects I hope to announce soon. Thanks for following, and stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/RfVeSXUyuP
Pre-orders are now open for my next book, Extremism, out in September. I think it's going to spark some much-needed debate about what kind of people we call extremists and what kind we don't. Here's the opening paragraph… https://t.co/OTciSQH99Npic.twitter.com/ZyEUZPQRj5
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 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.
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.
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
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:
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)!
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.