If you were to discover a melanoma on your forearm, would you take a pen-knife to your arm and try to extract it? After all, you do need to get rid of the cancer, kill the cancer cells, every last one of them, right? Such an approach is preposterous, yet somehow, when the threat emanates from Baghdadi gangsters, such thinking is called "wisdom." The reason the former example is preposterous is that when it comes to dealing with cancer, there is such a thing as expertise.
Thus, when presented with a melanoma, one would see an oncologist. Similarly, to rein in the threat from triumphalist Islam, there is such a thing as expertise, and to be successful, we would need to take counsel from those with such expertise. Stating this does not mean that any particular political philosophy or any approach has a monopoly on it or that non-experts should not weigh in. Indeed, both Jack Keane and Andrew Bacevich could be considered experts despite having diametrically opposed approaches.
With an eye towards listening to experts, Brig. Gen. Huba Wass de Czege (ret.) has an article at Small Wars Journal on defeating the Baghdadi Gang. A select distillation of Gen. Wass de Czege's points:
- Don't promote their propaganda. Part of their propaganda is their name: "Islamic" advertises that joining them would be an expression of piety for any Muslim and "State" advertises that they have a rightful place among the nations. As such, we should not call them what they call themselves. Rather, we should ascribe a name to them that advertises that they are just common gangsters, albeit uncommonly deadly common gangsters, hence the designation Baghdadi Gang (BG).
- The goal should be to destroy BG's governing structure, bring its operatives to justice, leave behind an extremist-resistant indigenous force capable of bringing order to where BG currently reigns, and establish a precedent for responding to similar threats in the future.
- Shutting down BG's recruitment efforts and financing are as critical as physically hindering their operatives in Raqaa.
- An important lesson from the Afghanistan War is that while the Taliban were expelled from Kabul, they never lost their legitimacy, particularly among the Pashtuns. This continued hold on legitimacy allowed them to continue the fight.
- One characteristic of war is that when the fighting stops, prior participation in the war is not in and of itself a crime, though it is possible to actions committed while fighting to be crimes. In contrast, fighting on the side of BG is in and of itself a crime. Thus there is a difference between the campaign against BG and war. We should further refrain from promoting BG's propaganda that they engaged in a "holy" war.
- Four lines of effort are required against BG. These are 1) Building an alternative to rule the areas currently ruled by BG that the locals will consider legitimate. 2) Defend the occupied population from BG's armed propaganda. 3) Destroy BG in place with a combined NATO and Sunni Arab force. 4) Build a globally legitimate judicial process to prosecute BG criminals. All four lines are critical.
- Legitimacy is granted from below, not imposed from above. The occupied population will initially welcome those overthrowing the tyrants as liberators, but will quickly turn on the "liberators" if the liberators do not quickly demonstrate that they are better than what came before. The experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate this.
- Destroying BG should start with occupying the rural areas. This would give us the ability to deny them freedom of movement and lines of communication without getting involved in urban fighting and the resulting non-combatant casualties. During the occupation of the rural areas, the civilian population of the BG-occupied cities would have the opportunity to flee BG-occupation, reducing the civilian presence for when the urban stage of fighting begins thus giving allied forces a freer hand to operate.
I recognize, of course, that this is from the article that you pointed out to me a few days ago. And although there is plenty here to chew on, I want to start with this:
"Don't promote their propaganda. Part of their propaganda is their name: "Islamic" advertises that joining them would be an expression of piety for any Muslim and "State" advertises that they have a rightful place among the nations. As such, we should not call them what they call themselves. Rather, we should ascribe a name to them that advertises that they are just common gangsters, albeit uncommonly deadly common gangsters, hence the designation Baghdadi Gang (BG)."
This is problematic for at least three reasons.
1) The name ISIS, as you well know, is an acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and has already established itself above Obama's prefered ISIL. Getting people to use "Baghdadi Gang" as the preferred terminology is simply not likely to happen.
2) Suggesting that ISIS is Islamic is not a matter of propaganda, but of the truth. Not only is ISIS Islamic, it is Islam on steroids. While most Muslims are not necessarily fans of ISIS, this does not mean that ISIS is not Islamic. It is Islamic and almost everyone beyond the White House knows that it is.
3) By veiling the Islamic nature of ISIS through terminology such as "Baghdadi Gang" it becomes considerably more difficult to fight political Islam as a coherent, semi-integrated movement with many branches and strains.
The enemy, after all, is not just ISIS, but al-Sharia and the desire on the parts of millions to resurrect the Caliphate.
I keep suggesting that the rise of political Islam in recent decades is the most significant geo-political movement in world history since the demise of the Soviet Union. ISIS is simply its most significant recent manifestation.
2) There's a difference between acknowledging that Baghdadi and his fellow gangsters derive their inspiration from Islam and verifying Baghdadi's claim that supporting his gang is a measure of piety for any Muslim.Delete
The enemy, after all, is not just ISIS, but al-Sharia and ...
Leaving behind an "extremist-resistant" indigenous force addresses that.
It would help if you would look to what some military thinkers have to say about methods of addressing triumphalist Islam. As to Wass de Czege's credentials, read about his track-record in forming American military doctrine (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2003/04/force_majeure.html ).
I have personally used the term "Islamic Junta" in conversation. It preserves the dubbing of Baghdadi's gangsters as "Islamic," but it conveys the threat they pose while not legitimating their claim to constitute a state.Delete
I don't see any reason to dignify their claim to be a state. Has anyone ever questioned if someone else recognized that Al Qaeda is Islamic just on the basis of not including the word "Islamic" in the name they call it?
"There's a difference between acknowledging that Baghdadi and his fellow gangsters derive their inspiration from Islam and verifying Baghdadi's claim that supporting his gang is a measure of piety for any Muslim."
I agree and certainly that is not my intention.
"It would help if you would look to what some military thinkers have to say about methods of addressing triumphalist Islam. As to Wass de Czege's credentials, read about his track-record in forming American military doctrine (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2003/04/force_majeure.html )."
I do not doubt his credentials, although I am unfamiliar with man's work beyond this article.
Please keep alerting us to the work, text-based or audio, produced by the military thinkers that will forward the discussion.
I suppose that my primary concern is that once we start talking about the aftermath of a possible bloody elimination of ISIS - which, queasy as it makes me to say, I fully support on humanitarian grounds - there is a tendency to hedge because who really knows what the results might be?
It is disturbing to think what would have happened if Roosevelt's advisors had told him not to invade Nazi Germany because, y'know, G-d only knows what horror might replace it.
As for "Islamic Junta" I like it and may start using it and you make a good point concerning not validating the notion of ISIS as a state. This does not mean that I intend to stop using "ISIS" but it is a good point.
"Has anyone ever questioned if someone else recognized that Al Qaeda is Islamic just on the basis of not including the word "Islamic" in the name they call it?"
I don't think so.
I suppose that what I really want to stress, on this cool, cloudy and wet morning, is that for many of us the fight is not against this or that particular Islamist group, like al-Qaeda, but with the entire Islamist movement and, therefore, the Islamic nature of that movement needs to be emphasized.
This, as I am sure that you are aware, is not an indictment of Islam, but an indictment of those who wish to shove Islam down the throats of the rest of us.
Er...judging by what Maajid Nawaz says, IS would probably not mind being called "Islamic Junta."Delete
Do you not think there is something rather "Orwellian" about pretending that by giving something a different name it changes anything meaningful? Do you really think IS will find it more difficult to recruit people because a bunch of Western commentators start calling them by some other name?
The reason they are good at recruiting is because they are seen to be strong. Not because of their name.
We could also spend time discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but it's probably not particularly useful.
If you want to stop IS looking attractive to young people, you have to make them look like they are being defeated. That requires some kind of military action from the West, plus, most importantly, an alliance with Sunni Muslims. Sunni Muslims need to fight IS.
Sitting around debating what we should call them is pointless if no one is stopping them doing what they are doing. And stopping them would require taking down the Assad regime; they have a symbiotic relationship. And are helping fund IS by buying oil from them. The complexities are really staggering.
I would recommend anyone who is really interested to read Kyle Orton's blog. He knows more about ISIS than most.
Cancer kills its host which then kills the cancer. I prefer that approach. Let them all annihilate each other to extinction. So far their efforts are focused on killing whomever is closest to them, which is for the most part other Muslims. Where's the downside? You can't kill a zeitgeist - because even if you get rid of these loons another group will pop up tomorrow.ReplyDelete
Good article Sar.ReplyDelete
Fighting ISIS is different from the generic "War on Terror" or even the war on "Islamic Extremism", because they hold territory and because of where that territory is and who else has a vested interest. Gen. Wass de Czege's points are all good ones, even if a bit oversimplified. We are going to have to strike some regional deals and we are going to have to offer the Sunnis something better than ISIS as a bulwark against Iranian Shiite expansionism. At the moment too many see ISIS as their best bet.
Baghdadi is replaceable. Most of the State's security apparatus has been put in place by former Iraqi professionals. Baghdadi is a figurehead. Calling it BG will both never happen and a waste of time. Calling them Daesh works. It mocks them. They hate it. That's good enough for me.
This is interesting, and not too dated: Council on Foreign Relations. Speakers:
Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Audrey Kurth Cronin, Distinguished Service Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University; Author, "ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group," Foreign Affairs
Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans, U.S. Department of Defense (2009-2012)
Another FASCINATING lecture is Audrey Kurth Cronin, on How Terrorism Ends. I think it's a Georgetown lecture. Mike, you'll appreciate it. It's smart.
PS. I think I'm done with the other blog. Dayenu with the bs. ;-). And I just discovered I can post here (as long as I switch browsers). Good enough.
Via Maajid Nawaz:Delete
1) Those insisting we use Arabic acronym "Daesh" in English, instead of ISIS, have missed the point entirely. ISIS *is* the English for Daesh.
2) "Daesh" & "ISIS" mean *exactly* the same. IS hate being shortened to an acronym, because they want you to refer to them as "Islamic."
Personally, I would be very surprised if "renaming" them for any purpose, however well-intentioned, made the slightest difference to anything.
Other measures, though, are infinitely more important.