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Infinity Journal – New Issue Online!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Infinity Journal the “journalzine” (aaarrgh! call it a “”journal”) of strategy has a new issue online.  Free to read with registration, IJ’s latest, includes an articles by Nathan Finney and James Kiras. A sample:

Air-Sea Battle as a Military Contribution to Strategy Development (Finney)

As the United States continues to shift its political focus away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the importance of a rising China and the Asia-Pacific states to international stability continues to garner attention. A portion of this attention includes the military threats that are present and possible capabilities necessary to ensure stability and access to that area of the globe today and into the future.

For the U.S. military a set of concepts that are colloquially merged in the media under the phrase “Air-Sea Battle” are being developed to address these access threats and the possible military response to their use. While many, particularly in the world of political and military analytic punditry, continually conflate the concepts tied to Air-Sea Battle with strategy, they are in reality a military’s contribution to strategy development.

While strategy is the identification of a desired political effect and the means that are to be used to attain it while balancing the inherent risks, Air-Sea Battle is merely a starting point for the negotiation that ultimately leads to a strategy. These sets of concepts are designed to identify the operational access-related challenges created by other actors, the capabilities required to overcome those challenges, and possible operational means for employing those capabilities to achieve military success – regardless of the political effect desired. This paper is intended to assist in separating the issues that swirl around the Air-Sea Battle concepts, while also pointing out deficiencies in our common conceptions of strategy highlighted by these debates…..

I am pleased to see the formatting at IJ has become much more blog-friendly to those of us who might want to post on or critique IJ articles.

On behalf of Charles Cameron…..

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Zen here….

Charles Cameron recently made his 500th post here at zenpundit.com making Charles currently the most prolific of the three of us blogging here this year Not only prolific, but the range and depth of subject matter that Charles commands in the study of religious extremism, cults, apocalyptic movements, psychology and mytho-poetic culture and symbolism have enriched the national security, foreign policy and strategic orientation of the blog.  As have the dialogues Charles has opened here (and on twitter) with scholars like David Ronfeldt, Tim Furnish, Leah Farrall and Daveed Garstein-Ross.  Charles has shed light on subjects like the motivations of the Fort Hood shooter, Major Hasan or the  theological-political critique of the Pussy Riot protest against Putin that few other bloggers or analysts could have managed.

Sadly, it is my duty to report that Mr. Cameron, despite his active posting here, is facing some very significant health and consequently financial challenges that have come together  in a perfect storm. I know that Charles has many friends and former colleagues reading from all over the world who regularly enjoy his writing.

If you are one of these people, I am asking you to consider two options, if you have liked and feel that you have learned from what Charles has done here:

1. If you are a publisher, think tanker or private equity in need of  employing an analyst, writer, researcher or collaborator, that you consider Charles Cameron.

2. That you consider making a one time donation to help Charles defray the costs of his pressing medical expenses, which will help keep him posting here for your enjoyment.

Please send any offers and inquiries directly to Charles Cameron at:


The war and peace paradox, take 2: of wolves and music

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — second take on the paradox, this time featuring wolves, poetry, lions, honey, and Bach ]

eye-catching headline & image from the New York Times, 2008


I’m always trying to see war and peace — violence and gentleness, if you like — in counterpoint rather than in opposition. The distinction is a subtle one, I know, but that’s the task. I tackled it from one angle a few days ago in this earlier post, and imagine I’ll return to it again from time to time.


I was fascinated to run across two very different artists talking about wolves these last few days. Robinson Jeffers, in his great poem The Bloody Sire, sees the wolf’s violence (upper panel) as bringing speed and grace to the antelope:

while the extraordinary pianist Hélène Grimaud describes her first encounter with a wolf (lower panel) in terms of gentleness.

After that striking first encounter with a wolf, Grimaud went on to found the Wolf Conservation Center in upstate New York (see NYT article by clinking on image at top of this post).


There’s a longish and fairly erotically, religiously and violently charged story in chapter 14 of the book of Judges. Samson, so the story goes, took a liking to a woman of the Philistines, and despite his parent’s urgings went down to see her because, as he delicately put it, “she pleaseth me well.” Along the way he meet a young lion, and “rent him” — tore him apart with his bare hands — “as he would have rent a kid” — here meaning a young goat. Samson continued to like the look of the women of the Philistines, we are told, and on his next visit down to see her, “he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat…”

Samson, it seems, was a gambling man, and he soon proposed a bet and a riddle to his bride’s companions — for somewhere around that time they had married, a fact that the story teller omits to tell us in so many words — giving them seven days to solve it:

Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.

The companions, of course, could not solve the riddle, since they had not seen the lion, nor its carcase with its swarm of bees and honey… but they pleaded with his new wife so piteously that she pleaded with her new husband so piteously that he revealed the secret to her, and on the seventh day her Philistine companions won the bet and answered Samson’s riddle:

What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?

To which poor Samson replied:

If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

The marriage didn’t last — and, we are told, “his anger was kindled…”


I certainly heard this story intoned in chapel at one school or another, but recognized neither the eroticism nor the violence nor the significance of the religious enmity between monotheistic Jew and pagan Philistine…

But my mother did make us pancakes on rare and wonderful occasions, and on them I lavished farm butter and Tate and Lyle‘s glorious Golden Syrup, with its image of Samson’s lion and the honey bees:

and the Tate and Lyle motto: Out of the strong came forth sweetness.

It’s that sweetness — that image of the lion and those bees more than the Biblical story itself — that I remember…


I am grateful to Steve Engel for bringing Robinson Jeffers’ poem to my attention this last week, and to J Scott Shipman of this blog for introducing me to Hélène Grimaud’s playing of the Bach Chaconne on YouTube:

Out of the strong came forth sweetness indeed.

How many recruits is a typo worth?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — how do you measure the potential cost in human lives of something as nebulous as a typo, a slip of the tongue, some idiot clip from a movie that only a dozen people ever saw before it reached YouTube and was widely broadcast on Egyptian TV? ]

Here are two images of a Daily Mail (UK) headline, as it first appeared, and as subsequently corrected:

Here’s my question:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many new recruits to the jihad — and how many human lives, ours, theirs and total — is a typo worth?

Come to think of it, who gets the hate — the Israelis, the Brits, ISAF, the US, whoever’s irritating and nearby?


Where I got this from:

Hat tip: Islamophobia Watch
Original source: The Daily Mail

The Messianic Mahdist Moebius strip — or maybe Maze?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick look at some confusing clashes between messianisms, with specific reference to the MUJAO — also the late Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr sounding an ecumenical note ]

image: Dajjal, from Okasha Abdelmannan al-Tibi's The Whole Truth about the Antichrist


Tim Furnish opens his book Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden, with the words:

One man’s messiah is another man’s heretic.

What he doesn’t state outright, which is also true, is that all too often that heretic is the anti-Messiah.


I use that term “anti-Messiah” deliberately, because in discussing Islamic end times beliefs, the term “Antichrist” is frequently used by both Christians and Muslims to refer to the Muslim “equivalent” of the Christian Antichrist — ie the “deceiving messiah” or Masih al-Dajjal, whose coming at the end of days is predicted in Islamic apocalyptic narratives in negative counterpoint to the coming of the Mahdi, in much the same way that some Christian apocalyptic narratives predict the coming of the Antichrist in negative counterpoint to the return of the Christ.

This issue was brought home to me once again today when Aaron Zelin pointed me to this tweet from Afua Hirsch [ @afuahirsch ], West Africa Correspondent for the Guardian:

Frankly, I think that’s a very natural question to raise, and one that has an even more intriguing answer.


One other note, which I’ve separated out between asterisks here because I think it’s a crucial one at that:

by Afua Hirsch’s account, Mali’s Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has the apocalyptic fever…


Strange things happen when different views of the end times, as prophesied one way or another in various branches of all three Abrahamic religions, clash.

Here’s where I see the moebius strip effect, whereby apocalyptic figures are turned into their opposites by rival sets of beliefs:

Some Muslims call the Dajjal (literally, “the deceiver”) the Antichrist — here, for instance, is a video clip of Sheikh Imran Hosein, whom I have discussed on Zenpundit before, quoting a hadith or tradition of the Prophet from the Sahih Muslim collection, and using the term “Antichrist” without further comment in his translation of the term Dajjal —

While some Christians call the Mahdi the Antichrist — as does Joel Richardson in his book currently issued under the title The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast. Reviewing the book in its first edition under its earlier title, Dr David R. Reagan sums Joel’s basic points succinctly:

Joel Richardson in his book Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah argues that the Mahdi will be the Antichrist of the Bible and that the Muslim Jesus will be be the False Prophet of the Bible who serves the Antichrist and his purposes. Both will be destroyed when the true Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation.

We were talking about the Sufyani just the other day, right? Here’s a stunner to spin your head a further 180 degrees — the Sufyani as a second (and more dangerous) Dajjal than the Dajjal:

While the great Dajjal focuses on atheism and fights Christianity, the Islam Dajjal, Sufyan, fights Islam, which is the only true religion before Allah, openly. Therefore he is regarded as more frightening.

There’s also a question of one and / or many Antichrists in Christianity, of course — see 1 John 2:18:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

And hey, bear with me, I’m not done yet: members of the Ahmadi school quote a hadith from the Sunan Ibn Majah collection which says:

There is no Mahdi but Jesus son of Mary.

Ibn Majah, however, also has a hadith in which it is stated that at the time of the Mahdi’s advent he will invite the returning Jesus to lead the evening dawn prayer [as quoted here]:

…while their Imaam will have advanced to pray the Fajr prayer with them, Eesa, the son of Mary will descend [at the time of the Fajr prayer]. The Imaam will draw backward so that ‘Eesa would go forward and lead the people in prayer. However, ‘Eesa would put his hand between his shoulders and say to him: “Go forward and pray, as it is for you that the call for the prayer was called, so their Imaam would lead them in prayer.”



I think so, unless you are paying close attention.

My own recommendation would be that the phrase “the Islamic Antichrist” should be replaced by “the Islamic equivalent of an Antichrist” when referring to the Dajjal, and “the Mahdi viewed as Antichrist” when referring to the Mahdi.

I know, I know — the chances of changing people’s verbal habits across the board are pretty slender.

But have I made things seem complicated enough?


This whose business naturally gets just a tad more complicated once one adds in the Sunni concept — I am not sure how widespread it is, but it would make a fascinating topic for research for someone with the requisite language skills — that the Mahdi of the Shiites will be the Dajjal of the Sunni… as shown in this screen cap of a YouTube video.

[Rafidi means one who has deserted the truth, and is a derogatory term, in this case used by Sunnis to disparage the Shiites.]

Or this one — with its equation of the Shiites with the Jews:

Of course, Christianity too has its share of internecine apocalyptic mud-slinging: Rev. Ian Paisley (long-time leader of the Ulster Unionists and Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster) interrupted Pope John Paul II‘s speech at the European Parliament to denounce him as the Antichrist — while Rev. JD Manning gives Oprah Winfrey that title


Everything I have described above is dualistic in nature and sectarian in its specifics. It comes as something of a surprise, then, to find the late Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr quoted as writing:

The Mahdi is not an embodiment of the Islamic belief but he is also the symbol of an aspiration cherished by mankind irrespective of its divergent religious doctrines. He is also the crystallization of an instructive inspiration through which all people, regardless of their religious affiliations, have learnt to await a day when heavenly missions, with all their implications, will achieve their final goal and the tiring march of humanity across history will culminate satisfactory in peace and tranquility. This consciousness of the expected future has not been confined to those who believe in the supernatural phenomenon but has also been reflected in the ideologies and cult which totally deny the existence of what is imperceptible. For example, the dialectical materialism which interprets history on the basis of contradiction believes that a day will come when all contradictions will disappear and complete peace and tranquility will prevail.

The point is made even more clearly in a speech given by the Iranian scholar Muhammad Ali Shumali:

So, our own camp comprises of people who have this understanding: First of all, they are the people who believe in the Ahl al-Bayt. Yet, in our camp it is possible for there to be people who work for the Ahl al-Bayt without knowing the Ahl al-Bayt. This is also something very important. You may have a non-Shia who works for the Ahl al-Bayt better than many Shias. Indeed, you have some Shias that work against the Ahl al-Bayt. You may even have non-Muslims who are working for Imam Mahdi—for the cause of Imam Mahdi, for justice, for many things—and they may not even know who Imam Mahdi is. So it is not that whoever is not a Shia is not in our camp.


I believe that the majority of the people of the world are not against us; it is just our failure to present our ideas and to convince them that what we have is for all mankind. I think in particular, in the case of Imam Mahdi, we must do the same thing: we must not present Imam Mahdi as a saviour for the Shias. Imam Mahdi is not a saviour for [just] the Shias. Imam Mahdi is a saviour for all mankind…


And then you see what you yourself see, and believe what you yourself believe.

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