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Dawson & Amarasingam, Furnish & McCants

[ by Charles Cameron — multi-causal and single focus motivations not incompatible ]
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Tim Furnish offered a terse “File this under ‘duh.'” in response to a CNSNews report titled Study: Religion is ‘Primary Motivator’ of Foreign Jihadists Who Go to Iraq & Syria on Facebook today. In response to a comment, he elaborated: “I’ve done the same study about 37 times over the last 15 years.”

Tim’s right. But I also believe we need a more nuanced approach to the issue of motivation.

**

Here’s the passage from the study in question, Lorne Dawson and Amarnath Amarasingam‘s Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq:

The findings reported here converge with those of these other studies in terms of how people radicalize and become foreign fighters. However, they tend to diverge with regard to why they go. In the twenty interviews analyzed no one indicated, directly or indirectly, that forms of socioeconomic marginalization played a significant role in their motivation to become a foreign fighter. Moreover, the interactions with these individuals were so heavily mediated by religious discourse it seems implausible to suggest that religiosity (i.e., a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox) is not a primary motivator for their actions. Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives, and this reality should be given due interpretive weight.

There we are:

Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives

I couldn’t agree more. But then again, as Will McCants reminds us in Trump’s misdiagnosis of the jihadist threat (late 2016, but now twitter-pinned “because the causality question comes up constantly”):

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.

**

I’ve never been clear-headed enough to follow Aristotle‘s distinctions between material, formal, efficient, and final causes, let alone discussion of hypothetical causes that follow their effects, but it seems to me that the two statements above are easily reconciled if we understand that there are many causes for disgruntlement, to which a religious solution is in all cases present as disgruntlement turns to ISIS-sympathetic recruitment.

Religion (as Dawson & Amarasingam have it, “i.e., a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox”) is the sine qua non of jihadism.

**

So yeah, doh! — with multi-factorial causality earlier in the process..

44 Responses to “Dawson & Amarasingam, Furnish & McCants”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Interesting headline:

    Discontent, not religion, draws people to al Shabaab – study

    First para nevertheless reads:

    A new study of attitudes towards al Shabaab in Kenya has found no evidence that terrorist violence is directly driven by religion. Instead, al Shabaab – the Somali-based terror group that has wreaked deadly havoc in Kenya – exploits perceived historical, social and political grievances and draws on extreme interpretations of Islam to craft its propaganda narratives.

    The accompanying image is captioned:

    Muslim men read the Koran at Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque.

  2. David Ronfeldt Says:

    As I’ve tried to observe many times before, religious explanations for terrorism do not get at the core causes. Those have more to do with grievances (experiences, cognitions, other conditions) that get processed and structured through religious frames. The deep frame is not religion but something to do with tribal impulses and behaviors that show up across all religions.
    .
    If the tribal optic were to gain analytic primacy over the religion optic, all sorts of implications might ensue for designing strategic narratives, engagement strategies, media programs, etc. But this shift continues to remain so unlikely that I’ve wondered why. It could be that I’m just not good enough at making the case. But I’ve wondered about other explanations as well. Here are several I keep wondering about, tentatively:

    (1) It’s a matter of expertise. There is abundant expertise — indeed, a veritable industry — on religion to help sustain analysis and feed the media. In contrast, expertise on the tribal form is sorely lacking. Anthropology has preferred to disavow the concept, even helping put the Army’s once-promising Human Terrain System in tatters.
    .
    (2) It’s a matter of there being a religious-industrial complex. There really is an industry built around analyzing terrorism in terms of religion. And there are lots of jobs and businesses that belong to it. Millions of dollars in contracts too (including outsourcing that results not only in shoddy ineffective work, but also in expensive corruption — or so I read now and then).
    .
    (2) It’s a matter of cognitive boundaries. The resistance to applying tribal analytics to ISIS et al. may stem partly from a resistance to then viewing U.S. politics in tribal terms, or to viewing Christian Evangelical or Jewish/Israeli behaviors in such terms. Applying tribal analytics to terrorists and then realizing there are broader implications might be too discomforting for lots of people. So why not stick with more-of-the-same.
    .
    And so I ask: What, if anything, is wrong or weak or whatever with proposing that the religion optic has significant limitations, and that the tribal optic could outperform the religion optic in analyzing and countering terrorism? And if the proposition is sound, why has it been so inconsequential, so easy to neglect, so unable to gain traction? Surely it can’t just be because I’m a lone voice, etc. At this point, I’d really like to know better.
    .
    Any comments?
    .
    (By the way, I see I’ve been remiss in wishing you well. Keep recovering! I’m delighted to read you back in action.)

  3. Grurray Says:

    I always thought the Quran was as much a field manual as a religious book. When Muhammad instructs them to smite the necks of the infidel, it would’ve been an effective tactic against the superior Byzantine armor which covered most of their body http://tinyurl.com/qbyx793
    And not to mention the obviously terrorizing effect of it on the local conscripts that the Byzantines were heavily leaning on at that point.
    .
    David may very well be correct that some tribal dynamics common to all cultures are evident if we step back and analyze them, and in the long run we have to form a strategy with consideration of these root causes. However, lately we have had international conventions and interventions telling us that there are no tribes at all. Al Shabaab now has such a successful pipeline from Minnesota to Somalia because it was assumed that Somalis would quickly and easily assimilate. They haven’t. Isn’t this an example of a regressed tribal group exploiting the weaknesses of the more socially evolved Globalist network? There is a mismatch here that can used with devastating effects, and it has to be addressed.

  4. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Systematic conceptual references to tribes, tribalism, and tribalization have increased over the last couple years in analyses about political trends here in America.
    .
    For decades, ever since I became aware of TIMN and the importance of the tribal/T form, the usage I’d see most often for matters here at home was synonymic. Tribe-related words cropped up as substitutes or synonyms for words like partisanship, faction, incivility, polarization, and divisiveness, not to mention identity politics. Words like tribal and tribalism were tossed into write-ups and talks more as synonymic flourishes than as distinct concepts about significant patterns of thought and behavior. Tribe-like words seemed weighted with old anthropological baggage; few analysts saw merit in applying them to modern society.
    .
    Most conservative and many liberal/progressive analysts then preferred other concepts and categories — e.g., race, ethnicity, family, culture, identity — when writing about matters that I fit under the tribal form. For example, studies of identity politics in America pretty much began with Samuel P. Huntington’s book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004), and peaked recently with Mark Lilla’s “The End of Identity Liberalism”(2016). Neither uses a “T” word. Yet, these kinds of studies, along with prominent writings by Charles Murray and by Robert Putnam, plus J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy (2016), not to mentions scads of other writings, show that attention was increasing to tribal (and tribalizing) conditions in our society, even though these authors rarely or never used any T words.
    .
    Over the past few years, however, the usage of “T” words has become more systematic. Writers are increasingly recognizing that a distinct form of organization, thought, and behavior is at work, and that American society is becoming more tribalized. Explicit usage of T-words is increasing. I’ve see this in opinion columns in the New York Times (e.g., by David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Sabrina Tavernise), in articles I happen across or that colleagues point out to me (e.g., lately by such ideologically and politically diverse voices as Jonathan Chait, Deepak Chopra, Kathy Cramer, Michael Gerson, Jonathan Haidt & Ravi Iyer, Charles Murrray, Robert Reich, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Ben Shapiro, Charlie Sykes, Stephen B. Young). Also, a handful of fairly recent books have advanced people’s understanding while explicitly referring to the tribal form — e.g., Seth Godin’s Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008), Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), Mark Weiner’s The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom (2014), and Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (2016). Plus, a bunch of blogs I follow — e.g., The Archdruid Report, Cliodynamica, Contrary Brin, The Evolution Institute, Fabius Maximus, Global Guerrillas, Harold Jarche, The P2P Foundation, Social Evolution Forum, Spinuzzi, and Zenpundit — have increasingly and explicitly attended to the distinctive nature of tribalism and the deepening tribalization of America. (Actually, David Brin at Contrary Brin and John Robb at Global Guerrillas deserve special mention for writing about tribes and tribalism since at least ten years ago, ahead of just about everybody.)
    .
    By systematic — there’s probably a better term, but I just haven’t thought of it yet — I mean the writer is treating tribes as a distinct form of organization, a systematic way of thinking and acting. In the examples noted above, usage is generally limited. Tribalism or one of the other T-words always gets a sentence or two, and sometimes a paragraph or two; it may even be the theme of the entire writing. Except in a couple cases, the writer doesn’t provide a full analysis of tribal formations, tribalism, or tribalization. But the trend toward increasingly systematic usage is evident among analysts and journalists who are assessing what’s going on in America.
    .
    I’m encouraged to see this. Not so for analyses of terrorism. That’s what puzzles me. And that’s why I’ve reacted (over-reacted?) to this post about recent studies of terrorists.

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi David:
    .
    To what extent do you see “honor-shame” culture as synonymous with, or distinct from, your tribal formulation?

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    I hope that last comment of mine wasn’t too abrupt — I’m still waiting for a return to clarity, so not writing much.
    .
    David, in Al Qaeda and its affiliates: A global tribe waging segmental warfare? you wrote:

    As individuals, families, clans, and tribes as a whole assert their place and maneuver for position, maximizing honor — not power or profit — is normally their paramount motivation. This emphasis is often thought to flow from the fact that tribes arose in subsistence times, way too early for power or profit to matter. But there must be more to the explanation, for the pattern persists in modern sorts of tribes and clans. Wherever people, even powerful rich people, turn tribal and clannish, honor — as well as its concomitants: respect, pride, and dignity — come into serious play in social interactions. Thus, warlords and warriors fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other tribal zones are renowned for the value they place on upholding codes of honor and avoiding shameful humiliation. Everybody wants to gain honor for themselves and their lineage, clan, and tribe; no one can afford to lose face, for that would reflect badly not only on them as individuals but also on all their kin. (If the word were in a dictionary, it might be said that tribes and clans are deeply “honoritarian.”)

    And Jim — I know you quoted David in One Tribe at a Time (link is to the book version, on a quick search, I can’t find link to the original paper):

    Today, as in ancient times, social ideals about egalitarianism, mutual caring, sharing, reciprocity, collective responsibility, group solidarity, family, community, civility, and democracy all hark back to tribal principles.” (Tribes First and Forever, Ronfeldt p. 59)
    .
    The honor of an Afghan woman can never be compromised. ..

    I very much hope you’ll chime in here if you so wish..

  7. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Thanks for your new comment and quotes. But I’ve already drafted the following:
    .
    Yes, there is overlap between the two. But I would subsume honor-shame culture under the tribal form, as I understand it in terms of TIMN. The tribe (or “T”) form is basically about kinship, identity, and belonging; about family and community; about pride, honor, respect, and dignity principles; about “us” versus “them”; not to mention revenge and retribution, et cetera. There is more going on than just “honor-shame” and “culture”.
    .
    Honor-shame dynamics often show up in explanations of terrorism (e.g., writings by Richard Landes). But so do lots of other factors that are not exactly about honor-shame culture or even about religiosity: for example, an individual’s search/need for a sense of identity, or belonging, or agency, or feeling a part of something collectively bigger and more meaningful, etc. I do not have a list of all such factors handy that researchers and analysts have studied. But as I recall, most fit the tribal paradigm quite well, despite which religion seems to be at stake, and despite the fact that terrorism researchers rarely use any T-words.
    .
    The leading proponent I know about is Richard Landes, writing at his blog The Augean Stables (I neglected including it in my list and will correct that in future posts) and in the magazine Tablet. I’ve enjoyed and learned from his writings about honor-shame dynamics, triumphalist religiosity, millenarianism, and cognitive warfare. I’m way behind in attending to them, but here are some quick points apropos your question, based on three of his articles I just dug out of my files.
    .
    In “Final Battle”, which is about “cognitive war”, he says that “Muslim apocalyptic movements like al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other jihadi groups are winning an information war that the West barely recognizes exists.” Those are good point (they apply to Russian infowar too). He goes on to say more about this “aggressive assault from radical Islam” and how the West has responded, to make the claim that our understanding would “profit from being understood in terms of a larger millennial framework.” I agree, and he (as well as you and others) have done valuable work on this. But, I say again, a tribalism-oriented framework also merits application. Evidence for this appears when he next writes about “weaponizing a lethal narrative in order to demonize our enemy”, and about “genocidal hatred”, and about using “weaponry we have — like the jihadis’ honor-shame sensitivities — instead of allowing jihadis to bully the West into backing down for fear of provoking them”. In my views, those are all tribal impulses and expectations, more so than religious or millenarian ones.
    .
    In “Honor-Shame Jihad”, he discusses how honor-shame culture permeates Palestinian society and lies behind the wars going on. He depicts it in terms of “zero-sum” thinking, and notes that “Their priorities were clear: sooner the honor of the elite than the dignity of the people”, and that “negotiations will not work. The Palestinians cannot make any significant concessions to Israel without losing honor.” Again, this fits the tribal paradigm.
    .
    In “Triumphalist Religiosity: The Unanticipated Problem of the 21st Century”, he suggests that “we look at a matter not so much of theology (Islamism), or even exegesis (of the Qur’an’s notably problematic passages), as of “religiosity” – a particular “style” of living one’s religion, the way one’s religious convictions affect the way one treats others, both co-religionists and outsiders.” Yes, religiosity is a worthy framework. But I’d recommend also testing it out with a concept like tribalness. And indeed, in his follow-up elaboration about “triumphalist religiosity”, he notes a variety of traits that look fundamentally tribal to me: e.g., respect for themselves, power over others, humiliation and persecution. He bluntly states that “There is a close correlation between triumphalist religiosity and tribal warrior, honor-shame culture: They both rejoice in victory and in revenge.” Throughout, “It is the need for visible and special honor that drives triumphalist religiosity.” That looks like a hotbed of extreme tribalism to me.
    .
    I’m not saying he is wrong — in many respects, he is right — to use a religiosity framework this way. Yet, these matters would also fit readily under a tribal (tribalization, tribalism) framework, in my view to different and better effect.
    .
    My concern about the imbalances I see in terrorism analysis is heightened by news that the Trump administration aims to double-down on making Islam and “radical Islamic terrorism” into the key explanation and culprit. From a TIMN perspective, that’s not correct and may distort and mislead analysis, policy, and strategy. The appeals and dynamics of extreme tribalism are the underlying factors, not religion. More to the point, what’s going on isn’t radicalization so much as reactionization. The terrorists we face are not exactly radicals; their reversions to tribal dynamics make them reactionaries more than radicals.
    .
    Thus I keep wishing at least some researchers and analysts would start recognizing the tribal optic and thereby improve the ecology of terrorism analysis. Otherwise, it may continue moving not so much in an upward spiral, but more as though going round and round a Möbius strip, with religion optics on one side and disaggregated sets of social, cultural, and psychological optics on the other side, trading who seems on top for awhile (or would my comment be more effective if I dropped this late-occurring metaphor?).

  8. Jim Gant Says:

    Wow…
    .
    I am deep in thought. Two of my favorite thinkers (Charles and David R.) on my favorite thinkers web-site (Zen).
    .
    I will get my thoughts together and add them to this post soon.
    .
    I have not spent my life studying tribes, terrorism, or Islam. But I did risk my life to be among them all.
    .
    Let me think…
    .
    Jim

  9. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    Jim,
    .
    I worked downrange out of FOB Fenty (Jalalabad/Torkham) and out of Camp Lemonnier as a professor to US forces. I tented with tribal Afghans and Africans, like you, to better understand their minds and souls so that I could pass that knowledge back to my “students.” I’d been studying tribalism, terrorism, and Islam since the 80s, when I had “worked” in the jungles of Central America. I have also risked my life to be among those I “study,” who ended up, more than often, studying me.
    .
    See my articles at SMALL WARS JOURNAL and JOURNAL OF TERRORISM RESEARCH.
    .
    I was witness to some of your work in Afghanistan. My goal lately has been to understand the biocognitive and neurocognitive substrates of tribal social organisations, to find accurate, lucid ways of explaining the biological constraints of MORAL TRIBALISM.
    .
    I have long wanted to be in conversation with you directly.
    .
    Much Respect,
    .
    Quiggle

  10. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    Jim,
    .
    What do you make of this idea: From the Warfighter’s perspective, there are vital neuro-cognitive lessons in the ILIAD worth heeding. The Warfighters who taught me how to interpret the epic “in sector” in Afghanistan and Africa not only heeded but augmented these lessons, especially senior non-commissioned officers, who tenaciously seized upon Homer’s classic as an in-the-battlespace manual for maintaining and protecting their Warfighters’ psychic resiliency amidst the turmoil of war fighting. These NCOs read the ILIAD rigorously from the deployed Warfighter’s perspective.
    .
    As we derived a combat psychology from the ILIAD, we noted that neither Sun Tzu nor Clausewitz fully understands how the psycho-tropics of combat can undermine — or, if effectively managed, support — tactical and strategic aims. Only Homer describes the inextricable interactions between combat-altered neuro-cognitive modalities and tactical performance. Both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz tend to describe war-fighters as robotically rational beings whose battlefield comportment is controlled exclusively by the executive centers of their own and their command’s collective cognitive terrain. In the sense of psychotropic literacy, the ILIAD is a far more valuable FM than either THE ART OF WAR or VOM KREIG.
    .
    When first reading the ILIAD, combat-salted NCOs typically experience a shock of recognition. They discover that Homer relentlessly reiterates a stubborn and irreducible truth about war, a truth that they’d experienced on the ground in Falluja or Jalalabad or East Africa or Columbia. That war is a drug is a now dog-chewed cliché. But Homer does not describe war as a powerful drug. In the ILIAD, Homer depicts war as many different kinds of drugs, a full frontal assault on the warrior’s limbic system, on his autonomic, sympathetic, and parasympathetic nervous systems. Technically defined, a psychotropic is any substance or activity that affects mental activity, behavior, perception, or mood. Homer depicts War itself as dispensing a donkey load of class A drugs.
    .
    War in the ILIAD, which is not only embodied by Ares, deploys a fully stocked arsenal of neurotechnologies, neurotropic agents, interventional neuro-stimulatory devices — cognitive-motor stimulants, somnolent-tranquilizing agents, mood-altering agents, affiliative agents, epileptogenics — that weirdly affect the nervous system (especially the parasympathetic nervous system) of Warfighters, altering his or her cognitive, emotional, motor and physical capabilities, distorting and/or sharpening sensory and cognitive perception, profoundly influencing individual and team judgment, morale, unit cohesion, and overall tactical performance. Much of the ILIAD is devoted to describing in unforgettably graphic, metaphorical language the extreme psychotropic states of Warfighters. It mercilessly describes the consequences — sometimes detrimental, sometimes beneficial — to military goals of those altered states of Warfighter consciousness.
    .
    As Homer depicts it, combat triggers many different psychotropic responses, many different extreme altered psychic states, because the true nature of combat is, as Homer witnessed it, deviously Morphean. Homer’s descriptions of combat psychology consistently reveal the four neuro-physiological characteristics that human beings evolved inside their skulls as they evolved their skills at killing: a contagious limbic system dominated by the amygdale; oxytocin-based moral tribalism; a complex array of neuro-homornes that prime mind and body for aggressive behavior upon the perception of a threat to the oxytocin group (Dunbar’s famous 150) or injustice committed to or by a member within the group; a highly sensitive dorsal striatum that rewards group members, neuro-hormonally, for “altruistic punishment” of those who threaten the wellbeing of the group (cohesion and order), both defectors from within and non-tribal enemies from without. In the terms of Lt. Colonel David Grossman’s “Warrior Science,” the dorsal striatum makes sheepdogs feel good for defending sheep from the predations of wolves.
    .
    In other words, Homer views human war as originating in human anatomy. That is why his war “Gods” often appear to possess the warriors they visit, as when Athena takes possession of Diomedes or when she guides Odysseus on a covert recon mission behind enemy lines.
    .
    In the cognitive terrain of the ILAD, each hyper-psychogenic condition possesses its own, distinct characteristic or “bio-power.” Within the battle realms of the ILIAD, changes in neuro-cognition and neuro-physiology — commonly called “neuro-morphing” — are typically embodied as a specific character, such as Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, or Zeus.
    .
    Psychotropic Havoc: Combat’s Nefarious Pharmacopeia
    .
    If war were only one kind of drug, activating only epinephrine or adrenaline, increasing pain tolerance, combat vigilance, and physical stamina and strength — this is a typical misunderstanding among civilians — human behavior in war would be much easier to predict, understand, and manage. But the gods and goddesses of combat promiscuously dispense many psychotropics. Therein lies the enduring value of Homer’s “god machinery” to deployed combat leaders.
    .
    Consider, for example, basic training. If combat dealt in only one class of psychotropic, BT would be much easier to design to entrain a recruit’s brain — neurological realism — to operate with at least minimum psychic and cognitive efficiency under actual combat conditions. Basic training, especially in its best practices where it employs bottom-up social technologies like ritual and drill, can trigger high doses of oxcytocin in recruits, flooding their basal forebrains, dissolving their ego identity network, thereby inducing a recruit’s “I” network to morph into and meld with the “We” neuro-network of his unit and to identify nearly completely with her immediate social group, losing all sense of ego boundaries with fellow recruits. In this regard, basic training is far more effective at achieving the ego-boundary loss required for BT group-bonding than LSD.
    .
    Considered from the viewpoint of evolutionary psychology, basic training in all of today’s branches, as well their kith and kin in our national security agencies, activate a Warfighter’s altruistic pre-adaptations (pre-programmed learning) and awaken his or her capacity for loyalty, courage, self-sacrifice, in-group empathy–the panoply of military core values. For the most part, BT does create platoons that pass the hand-grenade test: Were a hand grenade thrown into a circled up company, each Soldier or Marine would instinctively throw himself upon the grenade to save his brothers-in-arms. Basic training does fuse, at the neurological, cognitive, and socio-psychological levels of reality, non-genetically related individuals into virtual families who share bonds that tend to be stronger than most families today, at least during basic training and combat operations. BT does effectively create a collective cognitive illusion that Richard Weaver calls “congeniality,” “The essence of co-operation is congeniality, the feeling of having been born together.”
    .
    However, due to legal and ethical limitations rightly placed upon “realism” in basic, neither basic nor other forms of post-basic, MOS training can fully activate the complete spectrum of psychotropics with which combat assaults the neurophysiology of Warfighters. BT can be dangerous. It can be life threatening. But BT cannot be capriciously dangerous or whimsically life-threatening, as real battlespaces always are. Suicide bombers in the DFAC, IEDs along transit routes, ground-to-air rocket attacks, abductions and beheadings are not real threats during BT. By law, they cannot be components of any training regimen.
    .
    In Homer’s language, basic training can woo and bed Aphrodite; however, basic can only entice Ares, who will lurk about the edges with a sneering smile but never fully enter the compound. Ares is lured only with real blood letting, real wounds, real corpses for his attendants, like Strife and Discord, to feed upon. This is why Zeus reviles him: “Shifty lout. Don’t sit here by me and whine./You’re the most loathsome god on Olympus./You actually like fighting and war.” And yet, Ares and the drugs he pushes, adrenaline/epinephrine, are indispensable combat motivators.
    .
    Combat-dosed NCOs know the limitations of realism in basic. They know also that the battle-space activates a witch’s brew of psychotropics that BT does not and can not activate. By contrast, they know that a heady neuro-active brew unique to combat zones interacts with, profoundly influences, and alters the collective nervous system of themselves and their Troops, often in bizarre ways and at unpredictable moments, sometimes dangerous to military aims and sometimes beneficial to military aims. Simply being present in a battlespace is of orders of magnitude different — neurologically, cognitively, socio-psychologically — from any terrain covered in basic, let alone in the civilian world.
    .
    Homer depicts the incommensurability between the two realms, of the being there and of the not being there. The effective Warfighter, especially the NCO, knows the profundity of the difference, a difference in degree and kind; moreover, he or she knows how to spot the onset of psychotropic alteration in his Troops. In this regard especially — psychotropic literacy and awareness in combat — the ILIAD is an indispensable FM for NCOs.
    .
    These remarkable leaders were continuously surprised to discover in the ILIAD’s depiction of the Warfighter’s “mind on combat” that Homer relates war’s psychotropic facts without moral censure, without apology, without any ideological axe to grind—-with unflinching equanimity.
    .
    Within a readership community that was refreshingly absent of ideological imperatives to subjugate these NCO’s experience of the ILIAD to strict moral condemnation of warfighting, we enjoyed unexpected hermeneutical liberation. Our “Hermes” could travel where he pleased, without or politically correct pass-cards or PC EP checks.
    .
    We were free to develop an instructive and immediately useful interpretation of the ILIAD’S machinery of Gods and Goddesses, which has traditionally been the strangest and most difficult-to-understand part of the war epic. We not only developed a method for interpreting the ILIAD. We not only developed a method for using the ILIAD to help us interpret our experience of neuro-morphing in combat. We also used the ILIAD as a field manual for negotiating the psychic terrain of the battlespace.

  11. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    Jim,
    .
    If you wish to contact me: Goatrope@gmx.de

  12. Mark S. Weiner Says:

    A great comments thread–thanks to all.

  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    For your convenience, here are links for pieces by Doyle Quiggle and Richard Landes:
    .
    Quiggle:
    .
    Socratic Warfighters: Courage in the Grey Zone
    .
    The Cognitive Delusions of a Top Secret Clearance
    .
    Analyzing the Bio-cognitive Substrates of Social-Identity Formation in Islamic Extremists
    .
    Own Goal FBI Cogwar: Post from Doyle Quiggle [posted on Richard Landes’ site]
    .
    Landes:
    .
    Final Battle
    .
    Honor-Shame Jihad
    .
    Triumphalist Religiosity: The Unanticipated Problem of the 21st Century

  14. Grurray Says:

    Not to be impious, but we learned in the Thucydides roundtable that honor was only one leg of the stool of motivations, the others being fear and interest. In Jim’s One Tribe at a Time, he mentions showing a video of the WTC buildings coming down to the tribal chief in order to demonstrate our motives for being there was to avenge the grave challenge to our honor.
    Blowback can be minimized if we demonstrate a clear moral purpose. Interest can be stimulated by promoting our honorable intentions. Fear of a morally superior position can be instilled to overcome honor-fueled – or hormone-fueled, as it were – retaliations.

  15. Jim Gant Says:

    To everyone involved in this post…thank you. It has brought back many memories and made me do some hard thinking. I am at work crafting a post. Trying to work through a head full of experiences and ideas and then articulate them clearly. These are complex, dangerous and often confusing times. However, these times offer us (the United States) an opportunity. The larger question is of course – an opportunity to do what? Clearly, the current ‘mental model’ that we are using to combat violent extremism is not working. But I digress…Will be back on soon with my best reply…:)

  16. zen Says:

    One advantage of adopting jihadi-zed religious ideology for a young man in a tribal or clan-based society with in-group marriage customs is a swifter acquisition of status and power. A wait of years for inheritance and time to make one an elder, a head of household, a tribal qadi, an accomplished poet or long study to become an imam or quranic judge can be vaulted in a short time. .
    .
    Seniority is undercut while customary rules of greatest interest to a proud young man of few accomplishments, the superficial social ones seen in the village square or market, are emphasized with himself and other rootless young men as the enforcers. The theology itself (what Olivier Roy calls broadly “neofundamentalism”) is very simplified and reified compared to learning traditional Islamic jurisprudence, allowing for instant expertise and the Islamic equivalence of “cheap grace”. A potent lure.

  17. zen Says:

    Jim – I’m looking forward to it!

  18. Charles Cameron Says:

    Indeed, me too.

  19. RIchard A Landes Says:

    i’ll be leaving a longer comment later, but meantime this excellent conversation has inspired a talk on honor-shame dynamics and violence in millennial movements.

  20. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    What’s intructive here about the capture of Geronimo, an iconic American figure mangled by the tragedy of tribal shame and honor, is how it overlapped with US involvement in the Philippines/The Spanish War. The leaders of the Philippine Expeditionary Force had all been Indian fighters who’d worked very diligently with Indian Agents in the Far West, men like Major Merritt, General Otis, General Marcus Miller, and, of course, General Henry Lawton who had personally bound Geronimo’s hands. The forerunner organization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which most certainly operated what we would today call anti-terror/COIN, contributed its Indian experts to US efforts the Philippines.
    .
    When we look at how McKinely’s expeditionary force approached the Philippines both militarily and politically, we see that they extrapolated from their amassed experience of fighting Indian Wars in North America to deal with different (but, to their eyes, VERY similar) tribal configurations in the Philippines. To them, the Philippines was an extension of Indian Country. And they approached its “natives” as if they were Apache and Comanche. Counterinsurgency, more than CT, however, eventually began to dominate US efforts on the island after the first phase of warfare (1902). But many of the issues we are dealing with in this blog, including religion, were inherent to US operations in the Philippines.
    .
    What tends to get overlooked by historians of the US War in the Philippines is that, after Mckinely’s assassination, Taft instructed Secretary of War Elihu Root to enfold the Division of Insular Affairs into the Bureau of Insular Affairs, and BOTH were then placed under the command of the War Department. Why important? Because the staff of the War Department’s Philippine branch had all been Indian Agents and Indian Fighters. It was THEIR operating premises about the dynamics of tribe, tribalism, honor/shame, religion, nationalism, and insurgency (political violence) that influenced US policy in the Philippines and that got lodged in long-term intuitional memory.
    .
    What I am getting at here is not so much how we are always fighting the previous war, but how many of our assumptions about the dynamics of tribe/clan honor/shame had become part of the memory of our defense-related institutions long before Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s continuity of institutional memory I am seeking, our memory of tribe, tribalism, honor/shame.
    .
    The projection of the memory of tribal warfare from AO onto another (the continuity from the last Indian war fought against Geronimo over to the Philippines) becomes especially apparent in the figure of Professor Dean Worcestor who was made the lead strategist for counter insurgency in the Philippines. It was his job to win the hearts and minds of rebellious Philippine tribes. His view of tribalism, clannism, and honor/shame dynamics continued to work unawares on US defense wonks, policymakers, and strategists right on up to Vietnam. I am NOT claming he has influenced our thinking about CT, directly, but he certainly is a forgotten influence upon on our thinking about COIN.
    .
    Worcestor’s primary tactic of pacification in the Philippines was to target and disrupt clan and kinship societies. Very much like the sociologist Maine who sets up a binary opposition between contract-based societies and clan-based societies, professor Worcestor viewed CLAN society as the OPPOSITE of civilization. He viewed clan/kinship/tribal affiliations (especially those reinforced by religion) at THE primary obstacle to the advance of civilization and to the formation of viable nationalism. THAT was the real enemy, according to Worcestor, in the Philippines.
    .
    Recall, Professor Worcestor was the first ethnographical expert to systematically study and categorize the 80 plus tribes of the Philippines. The rhetorical point of his report was to show that the Philippines had NO national self-consciousness, not even under Spanish colonial occupation; that, in fact, no such nationalistic impulse would ever become socio-psychologically possible as long as the Philippine clans remained in tact as clans, tribes, kinship societies. So, he recommended busting up kinship societies.
    .
    He primarily waged cognitive warfare: He ran IO campaigns deliberately intended to make the Philippine tribal peoples feel ASHAMED to be tribal/clannish–uncivilized. He played their own sense of honor against themselves. He quite deliberately aimed to open psychic wounds in tribes so that he could persuade them to abandon clan affiliations and, instead, sign on with a US-guided program of nationalism. He effectively used SHAME as a cogsci weapon to get them to prefer a unions of words (contract-based society) to a union of affection (clan).
    .
    Worcestor’s THE PHILIPPINES, PAST AND PRESENT (1914) is a mother-source of US thinking about the dynamics of tribalism, honor/shame, counterinsurgency, and stabilization operations as applied to foreign cultures. It was read for many decades as a handbook by diplomats and colonial statesmen.
    .
    Worcestor’s tome embodies and recommends the accumulated US experience of Indian Wars, even more than does Roosevelt’s The Winning of the West, as an experience of tactically and strategically shaming tribes/clan for being tribal and clannish, for NOT being civilized, that is, for NOT accepting contractual relationships OVER clan ties.
    .
    I always find it peculiar how we completely overlook our collective memory of fighting insurgency and terrorism as we closed down the frontier of the North American Continent. We have two centuries of confronting the intractable dynamics of clan/kinship/honor/shame.
    .
    For better or worse, Worcestor, who had subdued the Kalingas and the Ifugaos, was one of the first Americans to think as strenuously as we are thinking about clan, tribe, tribalism, honor-shame, and political intervention. I find it peculiar how we tend to neglect our accumulated experience of dealing with the dynamics of tribes/clan political stability when we discuss those same issues in a contemporary context.

  21. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Mark — That’s an illuminating example of how tribal and Islamic dynamics may entangle in some fundamentalist settings, presumably in ways that may also occur in fundamentalist settings involving other religions.
    .
    Doyle — Wow, that is interesting and insightful indeed.
    .

  22. RIchard A Landes Says:

    a great deal of what to think about here. generally, i think terms like religion and honor-shame are easy to box in according to our cognitive proclivities. honor-shame is at once a subset of tribalism where its dynamics dominate most activity, but those dynamics do not disappear in hierarchical societies (aristocracy has and fights over honor, commoners/manual laborers have no honor), and so on right up to the present. so h-s is a much larger and pervasive phenomenon than tribalism.
    .
    as David R. notes, part of the problem with an h-s analysis is that it can be turned back on the West which thinks it’s outgrown such things (and then, generously, turns to other cultures and says, “and of course you have too.” the list of writers he first mentions like editorialists at the NYT almost invariably use “tribalism” in just such a way. (Progressives are ever-ready to see their own societies as driven by such emotions; rarely see it in themselves.)
    .
    on the basic issue, what’s motivating, i find McCants multiple factor analysis at once right and something of a recipe for inaction. it’s impt to understand that when we talk about the religious motivation for Jihad we not think of our own (for many scholars very paltry) experience of religion. not only is Islam a different religion from either Judaism or civil-society compliant Judaism and Christianity, but the jihadis are not “becoming religious” they’re joining an apocalyptic millennial movement that seeks world domination. “That’s no orrrdinary rabbit/religion.”
    .
    First, i recommend everyone read Arthur Mendel, Vision and Violence, his amazing analysis of millennialism’s fatal attraction to violence. https://www.press.umich.edu/23402/vision_and_violence
    .
    Second, Laurent Murawiec’s The Mind of Jihad, which has a brilliant discussion of what he calls Manichaean Tribalism. https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Jihad-Laurent-Murawiec/dp/0521730635
    .
    So I’d take McCants’ list and feed it into an analysis of apocalyptic dynamics of conversion. These concerns lock into a jihadi vocation in all kinds of ways and have supremely satisfactory answers across the boards (vengeance, dominion, humiliation of the other, solidarity, divine favor). but the way to fight global jihad and the triumphalist Islam that gives it its millennial vision, is to understand that wherever they have come from in terms of needs and unfulfilled desires, the jihadis live in apocalyptic time, where everything – including Islam’s world conquest – is possible.
    .
    Maybe what we need, Doyle Q. is an search for the psychotropics of apocalyptic millennialism (LSD + Crack?), a Homer for the millennial warrior.
    .
    thank you all for the time you put into your comments. learned a great deal.

  23. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    The most vexing aspect of Geronimo’s life-story for many historians to accept is his conversion to Christianity. Most dismiss it. Or they claim that it was only momentary. That conversion, momentary or not, reveals that Geronimo’s deeply conflicted at a meta-cognitive level. If he was not fighting for a specific religion, per se (though he was steeped in his tribe religious practices), then he was certainly religiously motivated, as in, seeking for a meta-cognitive means by which to organize his own honor/shame compulsions. To dismiss that aspect of his motivational structure is to misunderstand Geronimo entirely. I have no idea how any of this that might shed light on the dynamics you’ve got in the crosshairs. But I really like the term “tribal optic.”
    .
    Revisiting Dean C. Worcestor’s writings, especially his early notebooks, the ones he kept while living among tribes in the Philippines and which became his first official report is worth the effort. That report formed the soil from which US COIN doctrine later sprouted. Of that I premise am gaining certainty.
    .
    For short biographies of the US Generals who fought in the Philippines and who had also fought in the Indian Wars — Generals Otis, MacAurthur, Chaffee, Bell, Merritt, Smith — see Heitman’s HISTORICAL REGISTER AND DICTIONARY of the UNITED STATES ARMY (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903.)
    .
    Sec. of War Elihu Root’s journals are also VERY worth reading.
    .
    Like many, I tried to understand the Philippines as a crucible experience for our experience of the COIN-type conflicts we’ve got entangled thereafter, but then I realized that our Philippine efforts were themselves an extrapolation of earlier conflicts with tribal dynamics. I retrofitted a “tribal optic” onto that experience, so to speak.

  24. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    Richard, yes, once we get the psychotropic contraints of “apocalyptic millennialism” figured out, we will then better understand (and accept) our own satisfaction contraints when offering explanations of the specific cultural mechanisms and social technologies (narrative/religion) that send one group on a “trip” down the rabbit hole and send another group on a “trip” to the Sham.
    .
    A Homer for the millennial warrior is what I was getting at. What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed. Thank you for that expression, RL.

  25. RIchard A Landes Says:

    maybe Blake can offer some insights. Four Zoas.

  26. Doyle Quiggle Says:

    What we are convergently seeking is the “feasible region” of 21st century jihadism, but I often feel like I’m choosing my own constraint-satisfaction parameters for this operation, which is why I’m driven down into the biological substratum. They provide the constraints. Or am I fooling myself with that?

  27. David Ronfeldt Says:

    A quick response about one point:
    .
    Richard — You write that “h-s is a much larger and pervasive phenomenon than tribalism.” Uh-oh, does this mean we’re gonna fight over whose framework is bigger than whose? I’ve not mentioned the TIMN framework much in comments here. But briefly, the tribal or “T” form is the first and forever form — it persists in various ways, good and bad, as the other forms (hierarchical Institutions, Markets, info-age Networks) arise. Aristocracies and their clannish concerns about identity, honor, etc. are part (remnants) of this persistence of the tribe form. So, at the societal level, honor-shame culture is not bigger than tribalism; it’s a part of it.
    .
    Honor becomes less of a big deal as the later TIMN forms take hold. But in many societies, the later forms do not take hold properly; they remain penetrated by the tribal form, resulting in all sorts of distortions and incapacities.

  28. RIchard A Landes Says:

    i’m okay with this formulation. ours is bigger than each others’.

  29. larrydunbar Says:

    “The forerunner organization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which most certainly operated what we would today call anti-terror/COIN, contributed its Indian experts to US efforts the Philippines.”

    *
    Exactly. Further, a Native American author, whose name and link I have lost, said that “the original American-led reconstruction entity known as the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which never really got off the ground during its brief and troubled existence” (quote taken from the book Great Powers by the author Thomas PM Barnett) was really based on the entity Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    *

    The Native American author (from, I think, the University of Berkley) also said, in an interview that I watched, that when Condoleezza Rice found out about the basis of the entity she had it quickly changed.

    *
    So the Bush administration not only stood-down the stabilizing force in Iraq, the Iraqi military, but also destroy the COIN operation that the US military had put in place. A true Rule-set Re-set (Thomas PM Barnett).

    *
    Does anyone here love what’s going on in the Philippines today?

  30. Charles Cameron Says:

    Alex Thurston at SahelBlog has some remarks that may give us pause in “Tribal Dynamics” and Wannabe Gordian Knot-Cutters:

    Reading Crisis Group’s latest report on Yemen, two sentences jumped out at me:
    .
    Western analysis tends to explore [al-Qaida]’s relationship with local tribes but less often examines the group as a tool for Yemen’s political elite to resort to subterfuge for financial and military gain. Yemenis, by contrast, view domestic political dynamics as fundamental to understanding and countering AQ and similar jihadist groups.
    .
    This observation about Yemen can be broadened to discussions of “counterinsurgency” in general. At policy-oriented conferences and in my reading, I’ve repeatedly run into the idea that attending to “tribal dynamics” is the key to understanding and solving conflicts, particularly in terms of stripping away local support from jihadists. Western analysts who glom onto the “tribal dynamics” hypothesis tend to speak as though they’re Alexander ready to cut through the Gordian Knot – as though they can slice through complexity with a single analytical tool.
    .
    It’s also remarkable how superficial the analysis of “tribal dynamics” often is. Whether the subject is Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc., the template such analysts like to apply is simple and generic: a lot of talk about “honor and shame,” “revenge and feuds,” pre-modern societies, and so forth. Funny: if we’re talking about ultra-local dynamics, then how come the same framework can supposedly be applied in extremely different places? Are all tribes fundamentally the same? If analysts know the “local” so well, why do they so rarely provide any details about the specific tribes, situations, and customs involved? Analysts in this vein talk as though all you need to do is show up, find an old shaykh under a tent, remember not to eat with your left hand, butter him up about honor, and you can magically solve the world’s worst conflicts.
    .
    Additionally, as the quoted passage suggests, the emphasis on “tribal dynamics” is almost always a de-politicizing maneuver – a conscious or unconscious flight from the messiness of politics. It would convenient if conflicts could be solved just by appealing to shaykhs under tents, because that would eliminate the necessity to sort through the incredible complexity of state failures, elite infighting, ethnic and sectarian conflict, historical memory, etc.
    .
    At the end of the day I don’t think there’s a sword that can cut through these Gordian Knots. Conflicts are complicated. Societies are complex. Power is fickle and diffuse. Sometimes you don’t get a sword: you just have to try to pull the strings you can find. ..

  31. Charles Cameron Says:

    I don’t know whether it’s my continuing recovery from heart surgery, some of the meds I’m on, or a side effect of dialysis, hut I’m still not thinking as clearly and indeed enthusiastically as before, just don’t seem to catch the clarity of the (supposed) right thing to say which precedes most of my writing. I therefore haven’t responded until now to Richard Landes’ generous offering of an opportunity for me to comment when he wrote:

    maybe Blake can offer some insights. Four Zoas.

    As I recall (always a risky opening sentence these days) it was over discussion of our mutual interest in William Blake as an apocalyptic visionary that Richard and I first felt special kinship, so that brief mention of Blake was clearly mine to run with, but I’m still limping..
    .
    Blake, though, and the four zoas.
    .
    In a post here titled Apocalypse Not!, I referenced Blake’s apocalyptic reading of the world in discussing the book of Revelation, the culminating scripture of Christian apocalyptic – and indeed of the Bible, ending as it does with a new heaven and new earth in a positively Joycean return to the (earlier) new heaven and earth in the beginning, Bereshith, ie in Genesis:

    The imagery of this final book of the Bible does not show us the usual world of our senses, but a realm of great symbolic beauty, far beyond the reach of unaided eye or camera — as the great literary critic Northrop Frye notes, when he calls the book “a fairy tale about a damsel in distress, a hero killing dragons, a wicked witch, and a wonderful city glittering with jewels” in his Anatomy of Criticism, p 108.
    .
    Like the works of the English visionary William Blake, Revelation is more poetic than literal, visionary in the best sense — and it is hardly surprising that Blake is among its foremost illustrators:
    .
    The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)
    Blake, Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, The Tate Gallery

    [continuing..]

  32. Charles Cameron Says:

    [continuing..]
    .
    Blake is more than a little strange, to be sure. He sees things like this:
    .
    Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car 1824-7 William Blake 1757-1827
    .
    Do you? Do I?
    .
    In another post titled Oh, and did I mention the apocalypse / terror connection? I ask the not unreasonable question Was William Blake crazy?
    .
    Crazy: yes / no. Visionary: plainly.
    .
    And one more thing.

    Theologian Thomas Altizer writes of Blake that “From the beginning, he rebelled against God, or against the God then present in Christendom” — perhaps thinking of Blake’s own words in The Everlasting Gospel:
    .
    THe vision of Christ that thou dost see
    Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
    Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
    Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
    Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
    Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
    Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
    Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
    Socrates taught what Meletus
    Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,
    And Caiaphas was in his own mind
    A benefactor to mankind.
    Both read the Bible day and night,
    But thou read’st black where I read white.

    .
    — and then calls him “the most radical of all modern Christian visionaries”, explaining that “no poet or seer before him had so profoundly sensed the cataclysmic collapse of the cosmos created by Western man” —

    [continuing..]

  33. Charles Cameron Says:

    [continuing..]
    .
    ..and this brings us, specifically, to Blake’s vision of the Four Zoas, which Richard mentioned.
    .
    Here too I will let an earlier post speak for me — it’s from move 4 in my long-since abandoned attempt to make a glass bead game out of a comment by Edward Said and the constantly shifting, always remaining conflict(s) in the Middle East:
    .
    Let’s start with Blake’s own illustration of the Four Zoas:

    ogormanblake.jpg

    Wha?
    .
    Okay, it’s a mandala — and a Venn diagram. But what’s it about?
    .

    Here’s what William Blake said in a celebrated letter to Thomas Butts:
    .
    Now I a fourfold vision see
    And a fourfold vision is given to me
    Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
    And three fold in soft Beulahs night
    And twofold Always.
    May God us keep
    From Single vision & Newtons sleep.

    .
    Here’s a commentary on Blake’s notion from a fascinating paper by Marcel O’Gorman:
    .
    Several Blake critics have attempted to unravel Blake’s use of term “fourfold vision.” Accoring to Jerome McGann, beings of single vision see the world in absolutes. Life is a prison term that ends in a final, discrete annihilation. Men of twofold vision see the world dialectically, according to contraries. Threefold vision enables one to recognize the contraries and see that they are not absolute, but that the boundaries of good and evil shift according to each individual. In Milton, Blake defines threefold vision as a peaceful state, and he associates it with Beulah:
    .
    There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True This place is called Beulah, It is a pleasant lovely Shadow Where no dispute can come. Because of those who Sleep.  (M 30:1-3)
    .
    Beulah and threefold vision are identified with sleep, restfulness. But fourfold vision involves activity, not sleep. Fourfold vision is generation and destruction, life and death, or even life in death. Evidently, Blake’s understanding of death is unconventional, to say the least. For Blake, death is considered as part of the creative process, a part of life.

    [continuing..]

  34. Charles Cameron Says:

    [continuing..]
    .
    I don’t want to say much more at this point – both because of the writing fatigue I mentioned in the first section of this comment, and because my grasp on Blake is frankly still at base camp..
    .
    I do wish I had my copy of Kathleen Raine, Blake and Tradition, to hand – her 2 volume Bollingen Series masterpiece – but I’m afraid it’s in storage,
    .
    In passing, I’d just note that the Letter to Butts (with O’Gorman’s explanation as quoted), and indeed Blake’s use of a diagram by way of illustration, show an extraordinarily keen analytical and abstract mind at work -– not something you’d naturally expect in an artist whose other work is as ”surreal” as the two other Blake illustrations I’ve posted upthread.
    .

    Maybe if we label Blake a “conceptual artist” rather than a lunatic, a Christian, or a romantic, we’d get a different and useful angle on the man.
    .
    Richard? All?

  35. Grurray Says:

    I believe they correspond to Ezekial’s Wheel?
    One post-modern theory I recall is that the four angels are a recurring archetype that represent obstacles that tradition imposes in the name of living up to an impossible ideal.
    I don’t think Blake felt quite that way though. I always got the impression he wasn’t too keen on modern progress and that the four archetypes were subdivisions resulting from a lost unified ideal.

  36. Charles Cameron Says:

    Yup on Ezekiel.
    .
    The four zoas literally means the four living beings, both in the book of Revelation (lion, man, ox, eagle, Revelation 4.6-8) and in Ezekiel (1.18) where however they have only four wings apiece, and then as liberally applied to the writers of the four gospels by Irenaeus, Jerome, Gregory the Great and elsewhere.
    .
    The “wheels” ofr Ezekiel’s vision are also the “chariot” (merkabah, cf the present day Israeli tank), the foundational image of “Merkaba mysticism”, precursor to Kabbalah.
    .
    Blake’s zoas are the disjunct parts of the original Adam (cf Adam Kadmon).

  37. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Richard — Clever finesse, so your formulation is acceptable for now. Also, thanks for pointing out Laurent Murawiec’s The Mind of Jihad (2008). I think it matches well what I’ve tried to argue. I knew him a bit when he was briefly at Rand.
    .
    Charles — Stimulaing posts.
    .
    As for “tribal dynamics”, Thurston makes good points that they should not be overemphasized and may depend on particular context, and that analysts should not be superficial in analyzing them. I’d agree with that (and I presume Jim Gant would too). That’s not an argument again illuminating tribal dynamics, but against doing flawed analysis. That’s how I read Thurston’s critique, which is useful to see.
    .
    As for Blake’s Four Zoas, first I’ve seen them, but they remind me of drawings I’ve wanted to do about TIMN. Depicting a T+I society would mean drawing two circles, one for T and one for +I. Their overlap and relative sizes would indicate which form is strong, which penetrates which, the tribal dynamics or the hierarchical institutional dynamics. Then, for more advanced societies, add a circle for the market form +M, and show all three circles of this T+I+M society, sized and intersecting. This is done with a three-fold Venn diagram. Now, looking ahead, add a circle about the rise of a new network-based sector +N, depicting a future T+I+M+N society. Actually, it can’t be drawn in two dimensions, like the others. To show all four forms/sectors intersecting and interacting requires a three-dimensional molecular drawing. If Blake means for all Four Zoas to be interrelated, and I gather he does, then his drawing is a good attempt, but it’s flawed, because somewhere an interaction is missing from his fourfold depiction..
    .

  38. Jim Gant Says:

    My observations are based on my experience in Afghanistan in Konar Province in 2003 and then again from 2010 until 2012. I spent a rotation in Helmand in 2004 but nothing I learned there applies to this conversation. I am currently in the middle of writing One Tribe at a Time II (OTII) which will describe what happened with the tribal engagement strategy we implemented using One Tribe at a Time (OTI) as its guide. (The details of that experience can be found in the book American Spartan). If I had written OTII in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 it would be much different from what I am writing now. I needed time to recover from everything that happened and to frame the experience objectively. I also know that will be very hard to do as there was so much emotion and feeling that went into my time there. What I learned has very broad implications for Special Forces, unconventional warfare (UW), special warfare (SW), counter-insurgency operations (COIN) and cross-cultural relationship building but my experience is specifically with rural Pashtun tribesmen in eastern Afghanistan. On with the post…
    .
    I was moving along well with OTII until I started trying to write chapter four. Chapter four deals with the Taliban. Sounds straightforward. The reality is far from that. Who is the Taliban? I thought I had the answer to that question many times, only to have that image shattered by experiences on the ground. When my wife (Ann Scott Tyson, who spent over a year with me on the ground in Konar) and I try to explain who the Taliban were – it gets murky and is hard to accurately articulate. In the context of the tribe we were living with, the Taliban and the Taliban were not the same thing. Far from it. The Taliban is what one reads about in the many books written about them and the “enemy” that is briefed in US military circles. The Taliban is who actually exists out there in the frontier areas and to the Pashtun’s I lived with is a mix of lost brother, lost tribal member and confused Muslim. Who is Taliban can change not only daily but moment to moment. To survive and to have mission success, I had to not only become a member of a tribe and, as far as possible, become Taliban. I had to understand the specific psychology of both. Know yourself, know your enemy, know your friend. I could navigate freely within the tribe, which utilized tribal ethos with the strongest aspect of that being the honor-shame operating code. Pashtunwali trumped Islam (no pun intended) from the perspective of the tribe. Islam was a contributing factor to becoming radicalized – but it was not the most important nor was it the most common. Islam (as preached in the violent extremist world) was a springboard. It was used as a propellant to flame a fire that was already present. “Radicalization” in the context of the groups we were fighting in eastern Afghanistan had as much to do with social status, economic status, and the tribal operating code as anything else. The ineptness of the Government of Afghanistan (GIRoA) played a role as well. Of course, in many instances, the way that we (US) conducted operations and our inability to understand Afghan culture writ large played a contributing factor as well. If I could go back and do it again I would army myself with a greater understanding of Islam. I had read the Koran and understood the importance of it, but I chose not to engage within the religious spectrum because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to do so. It has taken many years of study and my own spiritual journey to have the confidence to talk about either Christianity or Islam (thank you Charles C. for your many great posts about religion). However, in retrospect, I missed a huge opportunity. I was approached countless times about becoming a Muslim, as many Afghans felt it was their duty, but I always let it pass although in a very humble and respectful manner. So, in closing on this topic I agree that Islam is a contributing factor in radicalization (when twisted and perverted) – but not the sole factor.
    .
    Now on to the comments. David R. was one of the first people who helped me frame what I had learned in Konar in 2003 and all the studying I had done about tribes in Afghanistan. (Thanks David R. along with Steven Pressfield and Mac McCallister who guided my earliest study of tribes and tribalism). I agree with him that we would likely be more successful in understanding terrorism (violent extremism) if we used a tribal framework rather than a religious one. As David points out:

    If the tribal optic were to gain analytic primacy over the religion optic, all sorts of implications might ensue for designing strategic narratives, engagement strategies, media programs, etc. But this shift continues to remain so unlikely that I’ve wondered why.

    I have wondered why as well.
    .
    I have also noticed the widespread misuse, misunderstanding and downright hostility to the use of the word tribe. The fact that the word tribe causes so much controversy shows that it is much less understood than religion, which by default makes religion a much easier model to use.
    .
    To Charles C’s question about the honor-shame code and tribal formulation – in my experience it was the honor-shame operating code that was almost (but not exactly) synonymous with the tribal operating code. However, I do know that was not the fact in all of Afghanistan nor even in the urban areas in the east. The people in Jalalabad (although they described themselves in terms of what tribe they were from) did not have the same mind-set or behavior as the people in the tribal area where I lived – although separated by only 30 miles or so. And Charles – so glad you are back on your feet and on back up on Zenpundit. I enjoy your work immensely and hope to hear from you soon on other “spiritual” matters. Welcome back!
    .
    As Mac McCallister, who is one of my biggest tribal teachers says so accurately in COIN and Irregular Warfare in a Tribal Society – “it is about shame and honor not hearts and minds.” And he mentions three other key points about the honor-shame operating code:

    1.Honor is a finite resource and exchanged like currency. 2.Zero-sum exchange. One gains honor at another’s expense (and imposes his shame). 3.Honor is not for sale (misplaced assumption of “hearts and minds”). Honor can only be exchanged for honor and/or the imposition of shame.

    I found Mac’s analysis of the honor-shame operating code to be “spot-on” in the areas where I operated. I would love for Mac to jump in here. His voice is always insightful. He knows his stuff as well as anyone I have ever worked with. Mac!?
    .
    Of course, there were other very important aspects of Pashtunwali (the tribal operating code) that had to be understood. Melmastia (hospitality), badal (revenge), nanawati (protection if asked for in the proper context) and namoos (a man’s woman, land and gun) to name just a few.
    .
    As an aside, the longer I stayed in Konar, the more Pashtun I became. It was an incredible experience but an extremely difficult and life-changing thing to do. I was living in an operating culture – not studying one. I became a part of the tribe and they became a part of me and family. The tribal chief, Malik Noor Afzhal (Sitting Bull) considered me his son. I was a part of the tribal Jirga and was consulted both privately and publicly. Of course, this had many different impacts and implications – not all of them positive on me as an individual. After we had been there about a year, one of the patrols I was leading hit an IED (outside of my tribal area). I hit 13 IEDs in my career and I disarmed or destroyed many more. Only three went off behind me. I am convinced to this day that the insurgents specifically targeted a vehicle behind me because they knew exactly what they were doing. This strike was the worst I had ever had to deal with because it was a direct attack on my honor. My wife, my best American friend, and my closest Afghan brother were in that vehicle. I had never felt anything like that. Not because my men and I hadn’t been attacked before – but because this time they had attacked my nang (honor), my namoos (my wife) and it caused me great anger and grief. This type of attack was peghor (dishonorable) in my eyes and heart. It caused me to feel beghairat (without honor). Since honor was the most important part of my life at that time as well as my most precious asset, I had to answer the attack, not just in terms of the threat posed by this IED cell to my men and the mission, but because they had attacked my honor. It was incredibly painful and impacted me in a way that nothing had ever impacted me in combat.
    .
    In a larger context than eastern Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and ISIS have taken all the “best” (most useful to their ideology and goals) parts of tribal, cultural and religious operating codes (not to even mention the apocalyptic beliefs of ISIS) and weaponized them in a way that we (the US) just can’t fight. They are operating in another domain than we are. They have twisted and distorted all the operating codes that we may use in such a way that we just can’t understand them or their mindsets. It is just not in our DNA to be able to do so. That makes it almost impossible to combat them. Often, our policies play right into the hands of violent extremists. For example, the recent restrictions on travel ordered by President Trump were the topic of an Op-Ed I wrote in the Seattle Times recently. My part of the war in Konar, the war in Afghanistan, the war against al-Qaeda and ISIS and the war against violent extremism is a psychological and political one. We must realize this. We will continue to be on a treadmill until we run ourselves to death – until we come to grips with what this really means. As I told Doyle Q. in an email the other day,” Knowledge and understanding is what we are lacking. It is not an issue of not having enough intelligence and firepower. It is an issue of not having enough intelligent firepower.”
    .
    To Grurray: Your comment is correct. I showed Malik Noor Afzhal the video of the twin towers collapsing for several reasons. First, he asked me why the United States had come to Afghanistan, and although at the time I did not understand the operating codes that I was under and influenced by, I did know at a very basic level, that they would understand two things: 1. Honesty and 2. Revenge (badal). I was right on both counts. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t change how I introduced myself and my team to the people of Mangwel in 2003. On a personal note, my mission was to “kill and capture anti-coalition militia” and to take it a step further my country wanted blood after 9/11 and I saw it as my duty to give it to them – so that’s how I operated. It would take much more combat, study and reflection to understand that more bombs and bullets would not win in Afghanistan. The success that Tribe 33 and Tribe 34 (my SOF elements call signs) had in Konar in 2010 – 2012 was rooted in the warrior code that my ODA and I operated under in 2003. All the people in Konar (tribes and Taliban alike) knew we would fight. So, when I said, “We didn’t come here to fight, we came here to help the people.” It resonated with them. And, because of the deep relationships I built with tribal leaders in Konar, when I asked the Taliban to come down and talk to me – they did. Reintegration (I actually called it rapprochement) was an essential pillar of what I was trying to accomplish. I still believe that reintegration is a key component to any success we might attain in Afghanistan. But again, you are right that there were other and maybe better ways to have approached Malik Noor Afzhal – I just don’t know what they are and I sure didn’t in 2003.
    .
    To Zen: You posted –

    One advantage of adopting jihadi-zed religious ideology for a young man in a tribal or clan-based society with in-group marriage customs is a swifter acquisition of status and power. A wait of years for inheritance and time to make one an elder, a head of household, a tribal qadi, an accomplished poet or long study to become an imam or quranic judge can be vaulted in a short time.

    I had not thought about this in this context but I sure should have. I asked myself many times about the “why” of the effectiveness of the Taliban recruiting and thought I had covered most of the bases. This one sheds light on what I used to just think of as a young man in a rural tribe in eastern Afghanistan trying to attain honor. But you are right. It is more than that. It is about status as well. Joining the Taliban (or al-Qaeda or ISIS) gives someone who doesn’t have anything to really speak of – immediate status. Great point.
    .
    On another point, I enjoyed Warlord, Inc. a lot. My experience in Afghanistan was as much about my relationship with Malik Noor Afzhal as it was about my relationship with Haji Jahn Dahd the famous Konar “warlord” and the chapter on Warlord Governance by Daniel Biro was very good. Your chapter on 5GW was the driving force behind my work on “Super-Empowered Operators and the Future of Warfare” in regards to what type of special operations soldier is not just needed in the future – but right now in Afghanistan and Syria/Iraq. I have been trying to out all my thoughts on this together for quite some time.
    .
    Zen, keep up the great work!
    .
    To Doyle Quiggle: It is great to be linked-up on email. Much to discuss! You have given me much to think about and I will answer your post once I have digested it. I look forward too many conversations in the future. On another note, I consider myself an amateur historian and have read many books about Geronimo. I have found him to be a fascinating and powerful man on many levels. I did not know him. I knew of him. I did however fight alongside Sitting Bull…..:)
    .
    Richard A Landes: I will check-out Vision and Violence and The Mind of Jihad!
    .
    I do agree with Alex Thurston’s comment:

    At the end of the day I don’t think there’s a sword that can cut through these Gordian Knots. Conflicts are complicated. Societies are complex. Power is fickle and diffuse. Sometimes you don’t get a sword: you just have to try to pull strings you can find…

    I often use ‘Gordian Knot’ to try and describe what it was like out there on the frontier. I did the best I could with the authorities, approvals, resources and knowledge I had. My success most often came while working within a tribal operating code, however, I would be the first to say that the particulars of the tribal operating code I was working within would not work everywhere. Time, distance, and circumstances are constantly changing.
    .
    I’m now off to read some William Blake and ‘The Fellowship’ a book that my good friend Zen suggested I read. It came in the mail today…:)
    .
    Thanks to everyone for the great posts it has been stimulating to say the least.

  39. Jim Gant Says:

    I see my italics didn’t get posted when I brought my comments over from my word document.
    .
    When discussing the Taliban – I am talking about the Taliban and the Taliban (in italics).
    .
    Same word two different meanings/groups.
    .
    Best,
    .
    Jim

  40. Charles Cameron Says:

    Fixed — I hope I got it wright.

  41. zen Says:

    Superb comment Jim – I need to digest this a bit, but yes, I’d love to hear Mac McCallister weigh in here too. I have not seen him on social media for a while but he’s more than welcome here.
    .
    Going to gather my thoughts before commenting further

  42. RIchard A Landes Says:

    my sense – and i’m speaking as a medievalist who is trained in piecing together a picture from small fragments – is that Jim Gant is right when he says: “al-Qaeda and ISIS have taken all the “best” (most useful to their ideology and goals) parts of tribal, cultural and religious operating codes (not to even mention the apocalyptic beliefs of ISIS) and weaponized them in a way that we (the US) just can’t fight.” But let’s mention the apoc beliefs bc they’re the vortex in which a new tribal identity is formed, of Caliphaters militating for the global caliphate. That, esp in the disruptive conditions of globalization, offers the only kind of identity that can compete with the (increasingly problematic) tribal. Voluntary groups replace organic communities. All apocalyptic communities are voluntary, and they create the most “tribe-like” solidarity among the true believers. Also recommend Stuart Green’s Cognitive Warfare and his discussion of Caliphaters (he doesn’t use the term which i just made up) as identity entrepreneurs. http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2014/04/28/stuart-green-cognitive-warfare/

  43. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hm. Off the top of my head — Richard:

    All apocalyptic communities are voluntary, and they create the most “tribe-like” solidarity among the true believers.

    Are all apocalyptic communities liminal, then? Do they enter liminality as one enters a rite of passage (time is ending) which can never be exited (no time for that, so to speak)? Cf Victor Turner on St Francis’ failed attempt at forming a permanently liminal community of Franciscans?

  44. RIchard A Landes Says:

    apocalyptic is an impossible balancing act. it’s a powerful drug that one inevitably comes down (or dies) from. Turner’s right about both Francis’ effort and its inevitable failure. Francis, of course, thought he was operating at the end of time.

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