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R2P is the New COIN: Slaughter on Authority and International Law

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Part II.

This is the second part of  a series analyzing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s ideas about “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, based on her Stanford Journal of International Law article, “Sovereignty and Power in a Networked World Order“, to better understand and critique the assumptions on which R2P rests. The topic will be Dr. Slaughter’s uses and conceptualization of “Authority” as it relates to international law and state sovereignty.

Slaughter is particularly concerned with sovereignty and redefining it in international law so that national sovereignty is in harmony with R2P and other au courant academic concepts of “global governance” that are outside the scope of this post. While much of Slaughter’s paper relates to description of empirical trends in the behavior of regulatory bodies in transnational and IGO networks or works of theory, for R2P or “new sovereignty” to be meaningful, it has to be expressed as a legal argument. Furthermore, that legal argument for R2P/new sovereignty must gain acceptance by being expressed by source(s) or forms that a majority of the international community regards as authoritative and binding.

To the unininitiated, international law as a field is something of an intellectual wonderland that bears little resemblance to how positive law functions judicially inside of a sovereign state. First, there is no Hobbesian global leviathan that can enforce international law. The UN is not the “parliament of man” and neither the World Court nor the International Criminal Court can directly compel sovereign states to do anything, and sovereigns retain considerable discretion of interpreting for themselves what international law means and requires them to do or not do. International law theory therefore bears greater resemblance, at times, to mediating theological disputes than it does to the kind of law cases people ordinarily encounter.

International law is most accurately described as a body of competing centers of legal authority that possess varying degrees of legitimacy and that attract voluntary compliance ftom state actors, including: binding international covenants, customary international law, precedent, rulings from internationally sanctioned institutions like the UNSC, the World Court, the WTO or the Red Cross and the consensus of government officials and experts in in international law. These do not all have equal authority or legitimacy – a clause in the Geneva Convention, a UNSC resolution or a concept like “diplomatic immunity” carries more legal weight in international law than an informal but common diplomatic practice or the opinion of a faction of law professors. The ambiguity and heterogeneous nature of international law leaves a lot of room for scholarly debate, litigation, for officials to “shop for opinions” and for ambitious ideologues to push novel theories as allegedly natural extensions of existing jurisprudence.

Slaughter’s legal justification for R2P and redefined sovereignty are in section II. where she leans primarily upon the authority of the ICISS ( International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty). As I am examining the ICISS section, I will break up the quoted text with comments:

….On the humanitarian side, Kofi Anana issued a challenge to all UN members at the opening of the General Assembly to “reach consensus – not only on the principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights must be checked, wherever they take place, but also on the ways of deciding what action is necessary, and when, and by whom.” In response to this challenge, the Canadian government, together with a group of major foundations, established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), headed by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General Mohamed Sahoun, and composed of a distinguished group of global diplomats, politicians, scholars and nongovernmental activists….

The ICISS has genuine, but very trivial, legal stature, having been brought into being by a single (!) member state of the UN and some very powerful and wealthy left-liberal American philanthropic foundations including the  Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Simons Foundation. The governments of the UK and Switzerland also gave financial support to the ICISS.  Politically, while the commissioners were prominent center-left statesmen, the ICISS advisory board tilted further to the international Left and toward elite “neoliberal” politicians. The ICISS was approximately as politically and philosophically balanced as would be an international small arms control commission composed entirely of members of the NRA.

The ICISS by itself is thin gruel in terms of legal authority, but has just enough substance to be legitimately served up on the table.  Once the foot was in the door, advocates for R2P were, over time, able to get it into the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (again, relatively minor in itself, but an additional precedent) and, more substantially, into UNSC Resolution 1674. Much like sediment, a new theoretical concept has to lay down legal particulates in order to become a durable and freely recognized part of international law by sovereigns. That kind of autonomous judgment by sovereigns is something R2P advocates would like to sharply curtail.

….In December 2001 the ICISS issued an important and influential report, “The Responsibility to Protect“, which essentially called for updating the UN Charter to incorporate a new understanding of sovereignty.

Dr. Slaughter has a gift for understatement. “Incorporating a new understanding of sovereignty” means irrevocably changing national sovereignty as the term has been traditionally defined and understood. This is not exactly a minor ambition in international relations, which is one reason why I tend to regard Anne-Marie Slaughter as a revolutionary or radical IR theorist and not as a “neoconservative”, as she is sometimes accused of being by left-wing ideologues. Slaughter expounds further:

….The ICISS seeks to change the core meaning of UN membership from “the final symbol of independent sivereign statehood and thus the seal of acceptance into the community of nations” to recognition of a state as a responsible member of the community of nations.” Nations are free to choose or not not to sign the Charter: if they do, however, they must accept “the responsibilities of membership” flowing from their signature. According to the ICISS, “There is no transfer or dilution of state sovereignty. But there is a re-characterization involved: from sovereignty as control to sovereignty as responsibility in both internal functions and external duties.

[emphasis in original] 

That’s the kind of “re-characterization” that George Orwell’s Winston Smith regularly undertook in his job at the Ministry of Truth. To where or to whom does the political locus of control then move? Cui bono?( Hint: read Slaughter’s fifth section).

“Sovereignty as responsibility” implies duties or obligations rather than decision making power and, indeed, earlier in section II, Slaughter uses the phrase “conditional social contract” in the introductory paragraph. Slaughter’s ICISS derived social contract however is not Lockean in nature, formed by and with the consent of the governed, but is instead drawn by the state from the collective authority of the community of nations and sovereignty is manifested to the degree with which the state is interactive and interdependent and has “the capacity to participate in international institutions of all types”. A community not just of nations, but one that is extended and buttressed by being interwoven by transnational, quasi-independent, “governmental networks” of former and current politicians and bureaucrats

If you are thinking that this formula shifts political authority and power away from a state and the popular sovereignty of it’s citizens and toward a vaguely defined, supranational community, you would be absolutely correct. Drawing on the theories of Abram and Antonia Chayes, Slaughter, argues that the connectivity and interaction of the modern international system is such that “sovereignty as autonomy makes no sense”.

Such a position requires a healthy contempt for the consent of the governed as well as a childlike faith in the wisdom, integrity and basic competence of a superempowered technocratic elite.

To continue:

….Internally, a government has the responsibility to respect the dignity and basic rights of it’s citizens; externally, it has a responsibility to respect the sovereignty of other states.

Further, the ICISS places the responsibility to protect on both the state and on the international community as a whole. The ICISS insists that an individual state has the primary responsibility to protect individuals within it. However, where the state fails in that responsibility, a secondary responsibility falls on the international community acting through the United Nations. Thus, where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.

As Slaughter is redefining sovereignty as the “new sovereignty” of interactive capacity championed by Chayes and Chayes, “respecting the sovereignty of other states” probably does not mean “non-interference in the internal affairs of other states”. Interference (albeit not necessarily military intervention) might be the natural default position from using the premise of “sovereignty as responsibility” or as a “capacity to participate”. Hey, we aren’t intefering in your elections, your economy or your social system – we’re just “harmonizing” (Slaughter’s term) your laws and regulations and increasing your capacity to participate!

One wonders what aspects of American life that R2P advocates see as being most in need of international harmonization?  That’s a subject we can take up in future posts, but in terms of military intervention and R2P, a few comments in regard to international law as well as “capacity to participate”:

First, under current international law, the legitimate pretexts for military intervention largely revolve around the right of self-defense or disturbance of international peace, as recognized by the UNSC.  While this is a fairly narrow set of pretexts, in practice they are sufficiently flexible to address most scenarios of violent conflict without also justifying military aggression bent on conquest. What was lacking in Rwanda and the Balkans during the 1990’s were not legal rationales for military intervention but political will among the great powers to do so.  I see little evidence that R2P would carry greater moral or legal weight with state decision makers to compel them to undertake major military interventions out of altruism than does the Genocide Convention (which unlike R2P, as an international covenant, is an inarguably solid part of international law). Or, for that matter, the emotional pull of horrifying media imagery of dying children.

Secondly, by greatly broadening the scenarios under which military intervention is allowed under international law, R2P incentivizes such conduct primarily where doing so is inexpensive and will further national interests rather than in the worst cases, like Rwanda, where they are expensive and risky while yielding no tangible benefits. The global military capacity to intervene is finite and instead of doing triage, statesmen will go for the low-hanging fruit in a now much larger set of cases for potential intervention. If R2P were taken seriously, North Korea, Burma, Congo, Somalia, Syria and perhaps Yemen would be ahead in line for intervention before Libya. 

Thirdly, in terms of “capacity to participate”, the net global capacity for military intervention is overwhelmingly American and the logistical ability to sustain a major military intervention for more than a few weeks is a complete American monopoly. On pragmatic grounds, R2P will never work orchestrated in so lopsided a fashion of “America and some of the West vs. the Rest”. Nor will not be politically tolerated by either the American public or most of the world’s population. Or by Beijing’s steely-eyed rulers, who would have to bankroll this catalogue of expeditions because America no longer can afford to do so. Perhaps we can put “R2P” on our tin cup and get a better interest rate.

Even acting as benignly-intended peacekeepers, the potential scale of R2P vastly exceeds our will, our wallet and our welcome.

Benedict XVI — a reading between the lines

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — Benedict XVI, Lutherans, ecumenism, C Peter Wagner’s “new paradigm” of Christianity ]

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI and Nikolaus Schneider (R), Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) attend the Ecumenical Service of the World in the church of the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt, September 23, 2011.  Credit: Reuters / Norbert Neetz / Pool

Earlier today, Pope Benedict visited the cloister in Erfurt which once housed Martin Luther, for an ecumenical meeting with leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a mainline Protestant coalition of Lutheran, Unified and Calvinist churches.

In the course of his presentation, the Pope made clear his admiration for Luther himself:

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the EKD here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians?

That’s a striking utterance from the holder of the office that Martin Luther so often assailed, writing (for instance):

St. Paul calls Antichrist the man of sin and the son of perdition, because through his precepts and laws he will turn all the world from God and prevent God and the world from coming together; he shall be a master of sin and all iniquity, and yet will retain the name and appearance of Christ and call himself Sanctissimus and Vicarius Dei and Caput Ecclesiae [“most holy one; vicar of God; head of the Church”], and persecute all who will not obey him. It is easy to recognize that the pope more than fits this description.

Things have clearly changed since that time, and the US branch of Lutheran World Ministries has proposed to its member churches:

That they officially declare that the Lutheran commitment to the Confessions does not involve the assertion that the pope or the papacy in our day is the anti-Christ.

It is not, therefore, the Evangelical Churches (ie mainstream Protestants like the Lutheran and Reformed churches) that Benedict is thinking of when he raised an issue that obviously disturbs him, saying:

The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.

The matter seems urgent to Benedict, precisely because, as he had just said:

It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

Catholics and Lutherans may still have their differences – but on “the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds” they have much in common – and it is of this common ground that Benedict says, “The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal” immediately before speaking of the new “form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability”.

The Pope continues:

This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The Pope is a diplomat, and he is expressing his concern as diplomats do, in a carefully worded, highly generalized and eminently tactful way. But can we read between the lines? What does the Pope mean by “this new form of Christianity”?

The “world” of Christianity is changing very rapidly, both demographically and doctrinally, and that’s putting things mildly. I hope to address some of these changes in a series of future posts on ZP — but for now, let me just say we should watch Pope Benedict’s future utterances closely for further signs of exactly what worries and what encourages him.


I cannot image, for instance, that Benedict would be altogether comfortable with what C Peter Wagner of the new Apostolic Reformation refers to in his forward to Bishop Bill Hamon‘s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: End Times Plan for His Church on Planet Earth as

my “paradigm shift” from traditional Christianity to an openness to the person and to the full ministry of the Holy Spirit.

This “full ministry of the Holy Spirit” includes, as the title of Harmon’s book suggests, the idea that Apostles and Prophets will arise in our times, which are the End Times.

In his book Apostles Today: Biblical Government for Biblical Power, Wagner states:

We are now living in the midst of one of the most epochal changes in the structure of the Church that has ever been recorded. I like to call it the “Second Apostolic Age.”

Wagner goes on to say, “The Second Apostolic Age is a phenomenon of the twenty-first century” and then identifies four “notable movements of the Spirit of God” that “have been building the foundation of the Second Apostolic Age for several decades.” These are (pp. 8-9):

  • The African Independent Churches
  • The Chinese House Churches
  • The Latin American Grassroots Churches
  • The U.S. Independent Charismatic Movement.

Is any of this beginning to sound like the “new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism” that Benedict mentioned – a “form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content”?

Let’s turn back to Bishop Bill Harmon for a moment. Hamon himself appears to be clear that he is both an apostle and prophet. In the body of the book which I linked to above – and not on the dust jacket, where over-the-top praise from an author’s friend is commonly found — he quotes one of his supporters, Dr Henry Ramaya of Grace Assembly, Fasan, Malaysia, who writes:

The global recognition and acceptance of bishop Bill Harmon as Father of the Apostolic-Prophetic movement speaks for itself.

and refers to Harmon as “the Apostle Prophet Statesman”.

Dr. Ramaya’s description of the apostolic and prophetic functions, also quoted by Harmon in his book, puts both the missionary and apocalyptic elements of this movement together in a nutshell:

The apostle is God’s vehicle of invasion like light invading darkness, and the prophet is God’s ultimate weapon of warfare. This end-time Apostolic-Prophetic Movement will climax into the apocalypse with a spontaneous outburst of joy because the missionary mandate will be fulfilled.

And one last quote, if I may.

According to notes published on the Elijah List, a listserve that supports the New Apostolic Reformation agenda, Bill Harmon told an “International Gathering of Apostles and Prophets” back in 1999:

We are seeing prophets and apostles coming forth for a strategic reason. … We are about to move from the dispensation of grace to the dispensation of dominion. We are about to see Jesus, not as the suffering lamb that was slain, but the roaring Lion who is King!

If we’d be well-advised to follow Pope Benedict’s further utterances, we should also take note of sources like the Elijah list, and critical considerations of the movement, like those posted on such Evangelical sites as Herescope.


Please note that I am not saying that Benedict’s remarks were directed specifically at the New Apostolic Reformation — they were diplomatic and highly generalized for good reason — merely that the NAR is a prominent, if not the preeminent, manifestation of the kind of shift that Benedict is talking about. The second section of this analysis, in other words, is simply one person’s attempt to “read between the lines”…

And did I really just promise to write a series of posts on demographic and doctrinal shifts within Christianity?

Also in the pipeline, a series on the psychological impact of ritual and ceremonial, whether of state, military or religious origin, and a series on the “other wing” of AQ’s jihad, the Ghazwa-e-Hind hadith, Pakistan’s ISI and related matters.

More on R2P

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Received a tremendous amount of feedback on this topic, mostly offline, but also on twitter and on other sites. Interestingly, of the minority who are strongly disagreeing with me, they tend to have their own problems with R2P doctrine. The next installment should be up tomorrow evening. In the meantime, here are a few more posts:

Bruce Kesler at Maggie’s Farm:

R2P: Right To Protect or Right To Preen?

….Neither COIN nor R2P are strategies. Unlike COIN, however, which is a set of tactics that may be applicable in some circumstances in pursuit of strategic goals (even if those goals may be arguable), R2P doesn’t have any operational tactics. R2P is more a clarion call to action, including actions that are contrary to US laws or popular will, in pursuit of internationalist goals for global governing as defined by transnational elites.

Further, R2P is cloaked in humanitarian rhetoric that allows liberal elites to preen, displaying their caring feathers, regardless of their ignorance of the military, regardless of the cost-benefit to US national security, and regardless that it isn’t their children being sent into harm’s way.

Lastly, R2P is reactive, not prescriptive of avoiding future threats to US security as a strategy must be. Much the same coterie who want to raise R2P to dominance over US foreign and military policies are largely dismissive of severely hobbling US allies or hollowing our military.

A brutally succinct assessment. 

Kesler, a veteran of the war in Vietnam and a former foreign policy analyst, is in sync here with many veterans whose experiences have made them skeptical of basing military intervention on grandiose idealism, along with the school of foreign policy realists. On the other hand, Anti-interventionists of all political stripes and backgrounds look askance at the assurance from R2Paternalistic advocates that enshrining R2P is not risky because such military interventions will be “rare” ( myself, I’d just like to see them done competently , in line with a coherent strategy, when the potential benefits significantly outweigh the costs).

Ken White, a respected senior voice at the Small Wars Council had this to say in an extended analysis of R2P in the comments section at SWJ Blog:

…. I’ll note that those whom Zenpundit rightly says will be “fired” will not be those who do the actual Protecting nor will they be the ones who pay the costs of such abject foolishness.

The R2P theory is the tip of an iceberg wherein the State — a State? — has overarching responsibility in all things and individuals have no responsibilities for them selves, indeed, no responsibility other than to act as the State directs. That is indeed monstrous.

In her paper linked by Zenpundit, Dr. Slaughter writes: “States can only govern effectively by actively cooperating with other states and by collectively reserving the power to intervene in other states’ affairs.” The first clause is possibly correct, the second is a road to unending warfare — quite simply, humans will not long tolerate it. I suggest that if that idea is applied to individuals, then I am endowed with the ability to get together with my neighbors and we can attack another neighbor whose only crime is to behave differently than do most of us. My suspicion is that will not work on several levels.

….She also writes: “The principal advantage is that subjecting government institutions directly to international obligations could buttress clean institutions against corrupt ones and rights-respecting institutions against their more oppressive counterparts.” Admirable. My question is what standard is applied to the determination of corruption and oppressiveness? What cultural norms are to be heeded and which are to be ignored? Who makes these determinations? If it is a collective decision, what precludes either mob rule or a ‘might makes right’ led possibly quite wrong determination…

Popular support for R2P may be inverse to the degree of public scrutiny the idea receives.

Down the rabbit hole: researching the “jikhad”

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Chicago Boyz – a meander on the perils and promise of research, jihad, typos, books and more ]
It begins with an email from Lexington Green saying I might be interested in a tweet he had posted earlier this morning:

The Insurance Journal tells us:

Defendants named in the complaint were Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo and Chechnya, Saudi Red Crescent Society, National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Company. Also included as defendants are three Saudi citizens connected to these organizations, Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Suleiman Abdel Aziz Al Saud and Yassin Al Qadi.

The case is Underwriting Members of Lloyd’s Syndicate 3500 v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 11-00202, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania.

Okay, I’m curious. I go to the complaint [.pdf] and start reading… and on page 9, I find:

That’s interesting. A DIA report, better look that up. But there’s no reference provided…

So I googled for “latent penetration” NEI which sent me back to versions of the court filing, and then for “latent penetration” and found that Robert W. Schaefer on p. 166 of his book, The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad, quotes [with minor variations] from what is obviously the same DIA document and in footnote 29, p 165 identifies it as “Declassified DIA intelligence report NC 3095345, October 16, 1998, 3 (obtained through the Freedom of Information Act).”

Onwards to locate NC 3095345, which can be found here [.pdf] and contains the following relevant text on p. 3:

So that’s the source of the description of AQ’s overall plan in the Lloyds complaint.

But what’s “latent penetration”? The DIA document even has it in quote marks – does that make it a technical term?

Back to Google.

The FBI uses the term “latent penetration” – maybe I’m onto something! In their Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS) [.pdf] on p. 58 they offer the “following list of TOTs is applicable to latent friction ridge searches transmitted to the FBI”:


I have to admit – a Latent Penetration Query sounds like just the thing I’m after – but the FBI appears to think of “latent penetration” in terms of fingerprints…

Okay, next up. A quick look at David Waterman and Andrew A. Weiss‘ book, Vertical Integration in Cable Television, (AEI, 1997) tells us:


That’s all a bit above my head, and in any case I don’t watch cable TV… and the networks in question aren’t terrorist networks, they’re cable networks…

When I add the word “terror” into my search, however, I get directed to Prof. Kostogryzov Andrey‘s paper [.ppt] addressing the question of a “methodical approach for the evaluation of systems vulnerability in conditions of terrorist threats” for a symposium at the University of Texas, Arlington – which sounds promising.

Searching the good professor’s powerpoint for “latent penetration” takes me to slide 36, however, where I read:


To be honest with you, I don’t feel any closer to understanding “latent penetration” beyond a sort of general “potentially getting inside the opposition” kind of sense.

So let’s get back to NEI – which is what the Lloyds transcription has in parens immediately after the quote-marked phrase “latent penetration” – what’s that about?

Well, on closer examination, it looks as though Lloyds got that wrong, and the DIA document — compare their E’s and F’s in the typed excerpt above and I think you’ll agree — actually says NFI…

Phew! NFI.

What’s that?

The DIA probably classifies its acronyms, but this particular document has been declassified and NFI hasn’t been redacted, so perhaps the Free Dictionary acronym finder will be able to help…

I quickly dismiss such possibilities as National Fatherhood Initiative and get down to my three basic possibilities:

NFI … No Further Information (available)
NFI … National Foreign Intelligence
NFI … No Freaking Idea

The last of these describes my own feelings at this point, although “freaking” would be the milder way to put it. So it’s down to guesswork: I’ll go with #2.

Okay: according to this particular DIA report, AQ “seeks to establish a worldwide Islamic state” by means that include “latent penetration” — I still have only the vaguest idea [OTVI] what that means — and “control over nuclear and biological weapons (Jikhad)”.


The DIA docu self-describes thus:


Variant spellings, okay…

But I’m wondering if “Jikhad” is one of them…

Back to the search engines, where I discover the word does have prior art in a terrorist – indeed, a specifically AQ — context, to wit:


$149.95, call it $150 on Amazon, and available for free shipping

Well, you can’t judge a book title by its cover, so I have an inquiry in to the good folks at the University of Calgary library, which has a copy – but I’m guessing “Jikhad” is a typo in both cases, aren’t you?


And what grand purpose does all this serve?

None, you may think – the complaint has been withdrawn, as Lex tells us, “without prejudice” – so the issue is, if I may use a legal term despite the fact that IANAL, “moot”.

Unless one is interested in the prices of books these days, or the frequency of spelling vagaries on their printed covers, or possible Arabic words bearing on terrorism that one hasn’t run across previously, or fingerprints, or the reliability of a document of which LTC Schaefer notes (p. 165, n 29):

It is important to note that no evaluation of the information detailed in the report is included in the declassified version; and anyone who deals with intelligence will tell you that text without context is pretext. It is entirely possible that this document was passed to U.S. Intelligence by the Russians in order to bolster the evidence linking the Chechens with Al Qaeda.

On second thoughts, we can learn something here about care in reading sources – about the transmission errors that commonly crop up when texts are translated or transmitted – and about the importance of context.

Text without context is pretext.

That whole paragraph of LTC Schaefer’s is worth the price of admission.

Musa al-Sadr: an honorable death

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — Libya, missing cleric ]


image of Musa al-Sadr by Sajjed-Al-Hadi, DeviantArt

Robert Worth, in a New York Times piece titled The Surreal Ruins of Qaddafi’s Never-Never Land today, describes a conversation with one “Omar” who used to work for Libyan intelligence, and mentions in passing “the murder of Musa Sadr, an Iranian-Lebanese cleric who disappeared in Libya in 1978”.

In parentheses, Worth notes:

(Omar said Sadr was beaten to death after daring to challenge Qaddafi at the dictator’s home on matters of theology.)

An honorable death.

I wrote about the significance of Musa al-Sadr in Return of the Vanished Imam?

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