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On Islam 1: Reuel Mark Gerecht

[ by Charles Cameron — on an impressive video, featuring Matt Levitt and Reuel Gerecht on Hezbollah ]

Matthew Levitt‘s contribution to a recent panel at the International Soy Museum was a tour de force. Levitt, whose work as a CT analyst has included stints with both the FBI and Treasury, was discussing his most recent book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God — both the book and his talk are strongly recommended.

It is, however, his colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht‘s contribution to that session that I wish to highlight here, because [starting at 44.40] he made a point about Hezbollah from his own CT experience that he still finds it necessary to make in 2013, some two decades after his service with the CIA commenced in the 1990s:

One of the things I was struck by when I came into the Agency, and I was struck by it on the day that I left the Agency, which was: you almost never had officers either on the clandestine side or in the directorate of analysis, the Directorate of Intelligence, talk about God. You just didn’t have that many people sort of put it together and talk about what actually motivated people.

You know, there was almost an assumption out there, Oh, the Iranians were upset with us because of our dealing with the Shah etcetera, but the actual analysis of the Iranian complaint against the United States was distinctly secular. Even the analysis of the Hezbollah was distinctly secular. And it never made any sense, particularly if you started to have some exposure to these individuals, and you suddenly realized that no, their motivations aren’t secular usually, their motivations are actually deeply spiritual, they’re religious, they’re about God.

— and [starting 53.04]:

There is a profound reflex in the West to look at a group like Hezbollah, and to look at their Iranian sponsors, and to take God out of the equation. Don’t do that. We wouldn’t do it with al-Qaida. Don’t do it with these groups either. If you do that, if you neuter them of their religious belief, if you look at it as just an ethnic movement, if you look at it as just a sectarian movement, if you look at it as just the Shi’a getting even in Lebanon, then you’re making an atrocious analytical mistake, which will bushwhack you, I guarantee you, over and over again. You have to keep God in this equation…

The one bright spot in this dismal account of the secular mindset blinding itself to religious passion is Gerecht’s statement: “We wouldn’t do it with al-Qaida”.


For more on the way our own worldviews can blind us to the worldviews of others, see my post on Gaidi Mtaani, together with the two follow ups to that post which I shall be posting here shortly.

8 Responses to “On Islam 1: Reuel Mark Gerecht”

  1. zen Says:

    Hey Charles
    This video about another CIA veteran and his views on Iran might be complementary:


  2. Piercello Says:

    Hello Charles,
    For another complementary take on the emotional logic of worldviews, secular or not, I offer this post:

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    A quick nod of thanks to Piercello for the link, before I’ve had time to read it.
    And Zen, that’s a fascinating interview. Abeit I have several posts still hanging fire in the draft stage, I will try to make a full post of my response to Baer, deo volente, inshallah, and the creek don’t rise.

  4. zen Says:

    Very good Charles – hope that you had a most enjoyable birthday!

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Many thanks, Zen — I did indeed! 

  6. david Says:

    I would also contend that it is possible for the adversaries of the violent Jihad to overlook the power of religion, let alone love. Especially when it is a government engaged in counter-radicalization.
    As we approach Christmas this story gives one hope: http://www.ibtimes.com/who-guards-most-sacred-site-christendom-two-muslims-1161517 

  7. larrydunbar Says:

    “Today, the church is home to branches of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as to Roman Catholicism.”

    Sounds about right. Putin, all Arabs and the Pope. 

  8. Charles Cameron Says:

    I have been interested in that business of the keys to the Holy Sepulchre since reading David Remnick’s account of Sari Nusseibeh in the New Yorker back in 2002.  Nusseibeh must have been at Christ Church shortly after my time there, and spent time as I did in the St Aldate’s coffee house & bookshop just across from Tom Quad.
    Of such small things are a sense of kinship woven. 

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