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Of Note: Tim Furnish, & Trump’s National CT Strategy

[ by Charles Cameron — and a few ppl whose views on trump’s strategy document I’d also like to read ]

  • Tim Furnish, Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King
  • Trump, 2018, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Obama, 2011, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Tim Furnish, Sectsploitation: How to Win Hearts and Minds in the Islamic World
  • **

    I wanted to draw your attention to our blog-friend and sometime contributor Tim Furnish‘s post, which offers a lucid introduction to the Trump administration’s National CT Strategy paper, situating it in contrast to the Obama admin’s version, and linking it to a very helpful breakdown of what we might call (remembering William James, but in mostly lower case) the varieties of Islamic experience.

    Let me just say that from my POV:

    1) Tim Furnish has a way superior understanding of the said varieties than John Bolton ever will have — plus he has a taste for pop culture asides!

    2) that the key issue to be further explored could be expressed in terms of the overlaps, Venn diagram-wise, between “literalist”, “mainstream” and “authentic” Islams.

    That’s a project I’ve been circling for more than a decade, and the closer I get, the more subtleties arise to be considered. Still circling in..

    Thomas Hegghammer, JM Berger, Leah Farrall, Adam Elkus, Will McCants and John Horgan are others whose varied voices and opinions regaarding the new CT Strategy text I’ll be watching for.


    Tim’s essay and associated matters: Warmly recommended.

    Zen — pray chime in.

    6 Responses to “Of Note: Tim Furnish, & Trump’s National CT Strategy”

    1. Zen Says:

      Hi Charles
      I discussed this a little bit with Dr. Furnish on Twitter.
      As I think we have discussed before on other occasions, the US elite has a great difficulty going back to the Iranian Revolution of processing religiously motivated politics or violence, understanding religious belief of a fundamentalist/literalist/extremist nature (be it Muslim, Buddhist, Dominionist) greatly favoring a euphemistic bucket called “extremism”. Or attempting to downplay it altogether and mislead the public which led to comical reality-avoidance of calling religiously motivated Islamist terrorism “workplace violence” at one point. The urge to reframe events in secular terms seems to be a deeply class characteristic of the US elite and their educational experience. Consequently, the chances of an official US document honestly discussing how quite orthodox Sunni precepts believed by hundreds of milli9ns of peaceful Muslims also provide a ready template for a cycle of radicalization is not in the cards. No GS-10 to GS-15 dude tasked with churning out this boilerplate strategy paper is going to stick their neck out just to have a technically accurate discussion on Islamic theology no political appointee wants to touch with a ten foot pole. Two alleged allies, KSA and Pakistan regularly push out rhetoric that is hard to dist8nguish from AQ.
      Nor are there a ton of USG ppl operating at the PhD level of Islamic history and Quranic study able to have that kind of discussing that can be distilled enough for layman policy makers to use it for strategic advantage. There are some but operationalizing their insights strategically vice compartmentalizing them into tactical operational advisor analyst boxes in separate agencies is a hump that we have failed to get over in 17 years of war.

    2. Charles Cameron Says:

      Will McCants is a stellar counter-example, along with some others at the West Point CTC, and there’s similar good work coming from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, but yes, on the whole it’s as you say. How do you think CIA compares with, say, DOD and other agencies in terms of your para 2? And FBI as a CT agency? I’d hope CIA and FBI at least would be way better informed — thinking of Ali Soufan here, and his example while investgating the USS Cole incident — of course he’s now retired and heading up his own private CT firm.

    3. zen Says:

      Agree on McCants.
      The problem is not with the talented folks who are dedicated terrorist hunters (Nada Bakos), analysts (Soufan), SF operators (Gant) and dozens of SME with rare fluency in difficult languages, arcane subjects and intel capabilitues. The problem is that we do not use them at the right level. We have tried “fusion centers”. They had successes, but overall their potential was not realized/maximized for the same reason special operations forces are not maximized – they are most often used to solve tactical problems rather than strategic ones and they are micromanaged bureaucratically in a risk averse fashion.
      To have a genuinely strategic effect you plug a high-powered “fusion” team laterally with something on the order of a NSC Deputy’s Committee group or a Combatant Commander so that their input is direct on policy planning and theater or global campaign strategy.
      This cuts out a whole lot of VIPs who have titles but lack SME from the loop, which is why it rarely happens except when some super-VIP insists on it and personally has it pulled together, usually temporarily.

    4. Charles Cameron Says:

      Sounds right to me..

    5. Timothy Furnish Says:

      I totally missed this. Thanks for your kind words.

    6. Charles Cameron Says:

      Glad you found it, Tim.

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