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Archive for November, 2009

Still too Busy to Blog Properly….But Hey, Look What I’m Reading!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Were it not for guest posts, November would have seemed like I went on hiatus 🙂  Normal blogging will resume in a few weeks.

I did find time to pick up a few new books to read in the late hours of the night, one of which will be the subject of a book review by a new guest poster.


The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism by Howard Bloom

The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future by Vali Nasr

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America  by Rick Perlstein

The only thing these three tomes have in common is that the authors have a penchant for contradicting conventional wisdom, at least to a degree. 

Howard Bloom is an offbeat, pop science to pop culture master of horizontal thinking whose earlier work, Global Brain, I very much enjoyed and highly recommend. Bloom’s intellectual reach is first rate and he is one of the few writers who can take very difficult concepts from wildly disparate fields and tie them together for a lay audience with comprehensible analogies and anecdotes .

I put Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival on my list back after the high praise Thomas P.M. Barnett gave Nasr in his book, Great Powers – in my experience, Tom does not hand out comments of “brilliant” all that often ( Great Powers, BTW, is also a “must read” book for those interested in strategy and geoeconomics). I am approximately 80 pages in to The Shia Revival and I will say that as a writer, Nasr does not waste time getting to key points in explaining his subject – concise but not simplified.

Rick Perlstein, while far to the Left, has the uncommon quality among leftwingers of working very, very hard at the scholarship of attempting to understand conservatism and leading conservatives ( must be a legacy of attending the University of Chicago). Much like Orangemen in Ulster, eavesdropping on a Catholic mass, I suspect the essence of conservatism eludes Perlstein, but at least he takes the ideas seriously.  That Richard Nixon is Perlstein’s subject is an added draw, since Nixon’s foreign policy was an area of historical research for me. Very interested to see how Perlstein’s take on Richard Nixon compares to that of Robert Dallek and Richard Reeves.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear….”

Guest Post: RAND Islam and CIA Islam too…

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Charles Cameron has been guest blogging here in a series on radical Islamism and terrorism. A former researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, his most recent essay, an analysis of the powerpoint presentation of Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, appeared in the Small Wars Journal.

This post is a follow up to the previous Guest Post: On al-Awlaki: Constants on the Path of Jihad:

RAND Islam, and CIA Islam too…

by Charles Cameron


I came across a phrase today that al-Awlaki originated, and it intrigued me. The phrase was “RAND Islam” and it has a sibling, “RAND Muslims”. My source for the first term is an interview al-Awlaki gave to a California Muslim news journal, InFocus, from which I’ve extracted the following:

IF: One of your most recent lectures is titled “Battle of the Hearts & Minds,” in which you talk about lies and propaganda. Would you briefly summarize the point of this lecture for our readers?IA: There has been a plethora of reports from governmental and non-governmental sources on how to defeat what they perceive as the Islamic danger. For example RAND Corporation, which is a think tank affiliated to the Pentagon, has issued a couple of reports on this. They have openly stated that they are unhappy with the way Islam is and want to change it. They then proceed to delineate the characteristics of their version of Islam and how to promote it. They also describe the type of Muslims that they think might be willing to prescribe to this “Rand Islam.” Because they understand that the masses in the Muslim world have lost trust in the US, they state that the US hand in this effort should be hidden and that their Muslim stooges should be in the forefront.

IF: What tips would you give to Muslims living in the U.S. to win this battle of the hearts and minds?

IA: Muslims need to be able to tell the difference between the real Islam and the RAND Islam and they need to know who their enemy is. Living in the West, they also have a responsibility of refuting such attempts of changing the religion of Allah.

The second can be found in the lecture series titled “Battle of the Hearts and Minds” about which al-Awlaki was questioned in the IA
interview excerpted above, eg on p. 19:

We talked about some of the recommendations that were in the Rand report and how to deal with this issue of separating between the modernists or the Rand Muslims, and the extremists or the real Muslims, true Muslims.

and p. 25:

So it is our duty just as they are intending to change our religion and promote falsehood and to turn us to Rand Muslims, we need
to promote Al Haq.

And the phrase “RAND Islam” has a cousin,”CIA Islam” — which was applied, curiously enough, to al-Awlaki himself by a one-time rival,
Al-Faisal, as Brian Fishman noted in a post on Jihadica yesterday.

Al-Faisal’s lecture on al-Awlaki is listed as “CIA Islam – Sheikh Faisal’s Takfeer of Anwar Awlaki” on www.archive.org. On the recording, Faisal explains that his lecture is about a preacher named “Anwar” from the Masjid al-Rabat in San Diego. He then proceeds to play sections of Awlaki’s lecture for his audience before refuting its points. The voice on the tape seems to be that of Anwar al-Awlaki.


I am going to concentrate on “RAND Islam” here, because al-Awlaki’s lecture series titled “The Battle of Hearts and Minds” takes off from a RAND corporation publication, “Building moderate Muslim networks”, quoting its two opening sentences run together as one, “The struggle under way throughout much of the Muslim world is essentially a war of ideas, its outcome will determine the future direction of the Muslim world” — and references another, “Civil Democratic Islam” (RAND monographs MG574 and MR1716 respectively).

To give his readers a sense of what he’s talking about, he quotes a 2005 piece from US News & World Report:

Today Washington is fighting back after repeated missteps since the 911 attacks, the US government has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched, since the height of the cold war. From military psychological operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself.

That’s the overview, that’s what concerns him in this lecture –that’s his evidence that the US is attacking Islam itself, and not just two
nations that happen to be majority Islamic.

A couple of notes: Al-Awlaki seems at times to confuse the two RAND reports he’s reading, since he references RAND author, Sheryl Benard (five times mentioned and five times mis-spelled “Bernard” by al-Awlaki’s transcriber), and her report, “Civil Democratic Islam”
immediately before quoting from another RAND report (unnamed at that point) which he quotes to show the kind of Muslim that Benard herself, and presumably the RAND corporation, Department of Defense and US Government likewise, wish to encourage: “RAND Islam” in short.

And Sheryl Benard really annoys al-Awlaki — he says she’s “a Jew married to an apostate, it can’t get any worse!” And he’s prepared to
mis-quote her, as when he suggests that one of her recommendations is “We should publish and distribute the works of Rand Muslims at subsidized costs” (p. 14) — when Benard had written (under the heading “Support the modernists first”) “Publish and distribute their works at subsidized cost”. But I don’t think there was an intent to deceive there, just a quiet in-joke for his readers — he had quoted the same bullet-point correctly earlier (p. 9) .

Here’s one specific thrust in al-Awlaki’s lecture that I think would merit detailed study on its own:

From that second RAND monograph, “Building Moderate Muslim Networks” (of which Sheryl Benard is second of four co-authors) al-Awlaki extracts what is effectively a catechism for the mode of Islam he opposes. Indeed, he manages to turn the RAND listing of “Characteristics of moderate Muslims” into both a “RAND Muslim” catechism and, via his responses to the questions she posts, into a counter–catechism for his own version of Islam (RAND MG574 pp. 66 – 70).

I believe this double catechism deserves serious consideration.


I would be failing in my self-imposed duty to ferret signs of end times thinking in jihadist literature if I didn’t mention that there’s at
least one passage in “Battle of the Hearts and Minds” (p. 20) where al-Awlaki not only makes use of the Qur’anic citation I’ve noted before to the effect that while those who oppose him may scheme, Allah is “the best of schemers” (Qur’an 3.54) — he also makes a quiet reference to the (Khorasan and Mahdi-related) tradition of the march of the black flags on Jerusalem:

 So they are failing, and Miss Bernard and her cronies at Rand and Pentagon should know that their plan would fail because Allah is the best of planners! And that the fundamentalists and extremists, whom they despise, are not only going to win in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they will continue their march, until they drag your people, the Jews, out of the Holy Land and plant their black banners on the roof tops of Jerusalem.


The most serious issue raised by this first, hasty skimming of al-Awlaki’s “Battle of the Hearts and Minds” is that of the impact of US (“kufr”) attempts to turn Islam away from the jihadist path (to use a shortcut phrase for now) on the sort of da’wa (preaching :: da’wa or “call” :: recruitment) that al-Awlaki is doing.

If he had read the rest of the paragraph he quoted from US News, he’d have found the words “U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle” — and so they should be — imagine for a moment the response if the Saudis poured “tens of millions of dollars” into an attempt to remake Christianity or the US Constitution in a manner more to their liking… by means both overt and covert.

The analogy is not exact by any means — the US is attempting to bring acts of horrific violence to a close, the Saudis have no comparable need to change Christianity or the Constitution — but it may give one a sense of the emotion that a well-placed description of US attempts to support “RAND” — ie “moderate” — Islam might draw forth from impressionable young believer…


Given time, I could go on. In effect, this post is either a note to myself that further research would be profitable, or a plea for further
research on the part of others, perhaps at RAND — or CIA?

Guest Post: On al-Awlaki: Constants on the Path of Jihad

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Charles Cameron has been guest blogging here in a series on radical Islamism and terrorism. A former researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, his most recent essay, an analysis of the powerpoint presentation of Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, appeared in the Small Wars Journal.

al-Awlaki: Constants on the Path of Jihad.

by Charles Cameron


Jarret Brachman, formerly Director of Research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, spoke on CNN today about Anwar al-Awlaki, the Imam of a mosque in Falls Church, VA, where Major Nidal Hasan apparently prayed in 2001 (as, it seems, did several of the 9-11 hijackers at some point), with whom Hasan later had an extensive email correspondence.

The program referred in particular to a volume of al-Awlaki’s lectures titled Constants on the Path of Jihad, and Brachman commented:

 I refer to what Awlaki puts out as “Radical Islam for Dummies”. … From the Yemen, Awlaki is able to put out these “how-to” manuals, and the jihadis on the internet right now are referring to the Fort Hood shooter as al-Qaeda’s version of a predator drone — and you can say that Awlaki is perhaps the guy at the end of the remote control, at least ideologically.

I got hold of a copy of the Constants on the Path to Jihad and even given my strong sense that jihadism is in some sort of apocalyptic mode, was surprised to note that the “First Constant” in that document is “Jihad will continue until the Day of Judgment”.

That’s an eschatological statement on the face of it, and one that Awlaki links with both Jewish and Christian expectations of the Messiah in his first paragraph in that section:

The entire world is standing against one ritual of Islam and that is Jihad. Many nations, especially the powerful ones, are mobilizing on various fronts (i.e., religious, political, social, economical, media, popular mass etc.) to fight against Jihad fe Sabeelillah. In terms of religious strength, we see that the USA and Israel are working for the State of Israel for a religious purpose: the descent of the Messiah. In terms of political strength, diplomacy around the world is concerned with fighting “Islamic terrorism”. Every single government in the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, is united at the political level to fight against Islam (specifically, Jihad). On the media front, they are doing an excellent job of deceiving the masses on what Islam really is. They are giving Islam a face in this Country which is a very deceptive one.

While linking it in his last paragraph with the return of ‘Isa / Jesus, together with an event that follows Jesus’ subsequent death, and strangely echoes the Christian dispensationalist notion of the pre-tribulation Rapture:

On a side note, Jihad will end when ‘Isa rules the world. Why’s that? Because ‘Isa will fight kufr and there will be no more disbelief whatsoever. And after ‘Isa’s death, there will be no more Jihad because Allah will take away the souls of the believers and leave all the kuffar left on earth to go through the Last Hour. In addition, there is no Jihad against Ya’juj and Ma’juj because there is no capability of fighting them; they will be destroyed by a miracle.

I am not suggesting the apocalypse is imminent here, just that it is prominently placed in al-Awlaki’s work.


A further note: It appears that al-Awlaki’s lectures were posted in the form of a group of .mp3 files on the Islamic Awakening forums on 27th December 2005:


[Zen  – Note: As this is an Islamist site, some readers might not want to casually click through on a work computer for cybersecurity reasons, so I have not embedded the link in the text.]

I do not have access to the .mp3s, but the .pdf version carries an epigraph that includes the phrase, “The shaheed is granted seven gifts from Allah: 1) He is forgiven at the first drop of his blood…” This is the same hadith which I noted in my commentary might in part explain Hasan’s willingness to attend lapdancing clubs, shortly before the shootings at Fort Hood.

Hasan might therefore been aware of this hadith at any point after 2005 via this web posting (someone would need to find, download and play the .mp3s to be sure) or from whenever the text version first became available — the point being that these lectures, in English, were in circulation by the end of 2005.

The End of Defense and the National Interest

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Dr. Chet Richards announced that DNI is set to adjourn sine die.

DNI set to close 

 Probably on Monday, November 23, depending on how my travels work out. Please go ahead and download any thing you’d like to keep — I’d particularly recommend Boyd’s briefings and the 4GW manuals. I have great faith in the growing number of bloggers and commentators who cover many of the same subjects we did – check out a few of them in the “Blogs” and “Other Sites” sections on the right.

DNI started in March 1999 with a grant from Danielle Brian and the folks at the Project on Government Oversight. Its original purpose was to house the growing collection of Chuck Spinney’s commentaries on the foibles of our defense program (when you read these, keep in mind this was during the Clinton era.  We were not associated with any political party).  If you’re interested in strengthening our position in 4GW, I’d suggest a generous donation to POGO.  You could also run for office.

I’d like to thank Danielle, Chuck, Marcus Corbin (our original project officer at POGO and the person who commissioned A Swift, Elusive Sword), Ginger Richards (who designed and operated all the various versions of the site), Bill Lind and all of our other contributors, and all who have taken the time to compose comments.

Chet Richards,


This is a shame, but everything has its time.

DNI served as an important counterpoint to the “conventional wisdom” in military affairs long before the growth of the now influential  defense/.mil/intel/COIN/national security blogosphere. In addition to hosting the entertaining jeremiads of William Lind, Dr. Richards was the steward of the legacy of the great American strategist Colonel John Boyd and the benefactor of the 4GW School of strategic analysis. DNI was not only a resource for scholars and strategists interested in Boyd’s theories, it was a forum for vigorous debate at a time when unconventional views on military reform were unpopular as well as obscure.

Personally, I have learned much from both DNI and from Dr. Richards whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2007, at the Boyd Conference at Quantico ( where I met other blogfriends and readers including Shane Deichman, Dan TDAXP, Shlok Vaidya, John Robb, Adam Elkus, Dave Dilegge, Frank Hoffman, Don Vandergriff, Frans Osinga, Ski, Isaac and Morgan). This event subsequently led to much good reading, writing, discussion and still more new friends now too numerous to mention here.  The keynote speaker that day was Col. Frans Osinga, whose magnum opus  Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd is still the most comprehensive and detailed text on John Boyd’s strategic thought that we are ever likely to see.

Consequently, as a regular reader, I would like to thank Chet both for his hard work over the years as editor of DNI and for his occasional advice and contributions to various projects and discussions that have occurred in this section of the blogosphere. Dr. Richards appears to be very busy with his business consulting these days and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

DNI will soon be gone, but it will not be forgotten.


Joseph Fouche is a step ahead on the Boyd downloads

Here are the 4GW manuals (temp).


James Fallows on Chet Richards and DNI

Planet Russell on John Boyd and DNI

Confucianism Revisited

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Strategy and  “The Rectification of Names“.

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