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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Talking 'bout Al Qaeda

Found as Symposium: Al Qaeda: What Next? by Jamie Glazov: Sample from Dr. Rohan Gunaratna:
The globalised world of the West with its material-centric norms has no emotional and dogmatic equivalent to the young host society Islamists who are amidst of an ethnic identity crisis or a racial or religious contention. The cognitive vacuum of the young Islamist is thus vulnerable to the messianic ideas of jihad and the epithets that encourage 'martyrdom' for the false promise of a heavenly inheritance. The promise is lucrative to the alienated young Islamic individual since the material milieu around him is deceptive and he is made to be convinced that the only hope is going to be the cyberspace emotive idea of being a devout Muslim in an irreligious world.
May I also suggest heading over here to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and downloading the "Executive Report" of their Militant Ideolgy Atlas which is in pdf format? As noted in the Foreward by General Wayne Downing:
Dr. William McCants and his team of researchers from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) help us understand this opponent with the publication of the Militant Ideology Atlas. This report, and its accompanying compendium, is the first systematic mapping of the ideology driving the actions of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and other violent actions around the world. Using a robust research methodology and critical analyses of the Jihadis’ most widely read texts, the Atlas gives us a highly nuanced map of the major thinkers in the Jihadi Movement and their most salient areas of consensus and disagreement. In short, this report identifies who the most influential people are among the Jihadi thinking class, what they are thinking, and where the movement is most vulnerable ideologically.
Significantly, the report uses these empirical findings to identify powerful messages and influential messengers that can turn different constituencies against the Jihadis. These constituencies range from benign mainstream Muslims to the most violent Jihadis. The recommendations of this report establish a baseline against which strategic communications campaigns can be calibrated and adjusted.
An old adage warns, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” The CTC’s seminal contribution offers a valuable resource that will greatly inform our assessment of where we want to go in this fight and the best routes to get there. It promises to be useful to policy makers and all those involved in charting the way ahead in this difficult struggle.
Some recurring themes noted by the CTC researchers:
1. Jihadis want unity of thought. They reject pluralism—the idea that no one has a monopoly on truth—and the political system that fosters it, democracy.
2. Jihadis will fight until every country in the Middle East is ruled only by Islamic law. Once they are in power, the punishments of the Qur’an (such as cutting off the hand of a thief) will be implemented immediately. Not even Saudi Arabia has it right; the Taliban state was the only state that was closest to their vision.
3. Jihadis contend that the violence they do to their own people, governments, and resources are 1) necessary, 2) religiously sanctioned, and 3) really the fault of the West, Israel, and apostate regimes.
4. The Jihadi cause is best served when the conflict with local and foreign governments is portrayed as a conflict between Islam and the West. Islam is under siege and only the Jihadis can lift it.
5. Countries in the Middle East are weak; they cannot remove tyrants or reform their societies without the help of outsiders. Jihad is the only source of internal empowerment and reform.
And, of course, I still find the thoughts of Eric Hoffer in The True Believer to be relevant:
The True Believer, though, is not solely concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany, but with the origination of all mass movements, destructive or creative. And more importantly, it is concerned with the main ingredient of such movements, the frustrated individual. The book probes into the psychology of the frustrated and dissatisfied, those who would eagerly sacrifice themselves for any cause that might give their meaningless lives some sense of significance. The alienated seek to lose themselves in these movements by adopting those fanatical attitudes that are, according to Hoffer, fundamentally "a flight from the self."
You can tie this mass movement process to the "non-integrating gap" as Thomas P.M. Barnett does in The Pentagon's New Map
Think about it: Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are pure products of the Gap—in effect, its most violent feedback to the Core. They tell us how we are doing in exporting security to these lawless areas (not very well) and which states they would like to take “off line” from globalization and return to some seventh-century definition of the good life (any Gap state with a sizable Muslim population, especially Saudi Arabia).

If you take this message from Osama and combine it with our military-intervention record of the last decade, a simple security rule set emerges: A country’s potential to warrant a U.S. military response is inversely related to its globalization connectivity. There is a good reason why Al Qaeda was based first in Sudan and then later in Afghanistan: These are two of the most disconnected countries in the world. Look at the other places U.S. Special Operations Forces have recently zeroed in on: northwestern Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. We are talking about the ends of the earth as far as globalization is concerned.
And want do the Jihadis want? To remove the possiblity of shrinking the gap as their path to power.

Just some Saturday morning thinking linking.

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