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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fighting An Idea With An Idea

For John, BLUFWe can contain the ISIL problem, but we can't kill our way out of it.

On the 5th of September The Boston Globe under Mr Bryn Bender's byline, published "US wants more from Saudis in fight against extremists".  The lede is:
The US battle against the self-described Islamic State is being complicated by concerns that Saudi Arabia has helped support extremist Sunni elements — both spiritually and financially — even as the Saudis call themselves friends and allies of the United States.
This sort of skirts the real issue regarding our fight against ISIL.  At the core of ISIL is an idea and that idea can only be countered with another idea, an idea good enough to win back the young men and women who have signed up for ISIL.  Here is the third paragraph.
“The Muslim leadership in Saudi Arabia would rather spend their time writing [religious edicts] on the color of women’s fingernail polish” and has failed to deal with the crisis “inside of their religion,” said James B. Smith, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2013.
Ambassador Smith hits on an important point.  The religious leaders in Saudi Arabia are only playing around the edges of the problem at this time. And I don't think Egypt gets it either
The grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, fiercely attacked the Islamic State (IS) yesterday [Sept. 8], describing its members as “criminals tarnishing the image of Islam.”  He said IS and other terrorist groups are “products of colonialism serving Zionism.”
Imam Tayab does not seem to grasp that this is a fight for what it means to be a Muslim.  He puts forward a vision for Islam, but to the degree he blames ISIL on Zionism and the West, to that degree he misses that the threat is to him and the Egyptian Government.

Here is a graphic insight into the problem we face, from a senior US officer in Afghanistan around 2002.

In Afghanistan when things were relatively quiet an Allied SoF unit made an interesting assessment at one of the remote villages.  All was quiet and it should have been a quick stop but they stayed.  A small herding village had an enormous new mosque & Madrasa complex adjacent.  Over time they discovered that the town was 99% illiterate and the Madrasa offered the only hope for their children to have a different or better life. Rules of the Madrasa were:
  1. No girls
  2. Boys must be committed to the Madrasa at approximately age 4 and would not be allowed to see their parents again until around age 12, and then must continue the program to completion.
The particular cleric was unknown.  Some checks showed that the texts used were off the scale in terms of radicalism.

The Allied Task Force spent 6 months securing supplies and permissions to set up an abandoned building as a school, secure texts, recruit mothers to teach...  Building an alternative took considerable time and effort in one of the hundreds of villages in the area.  I don't know if the effort was sustained or not.  It is to be noted that the Taliban placed a high priority on terrorizing and to destroy such efforts.

My impression is there are two parts of this.  One, per the Boston Globe article and comments, to understand the phenomena.  Two, disrupting the growth and evolution of said phenomena is then possible, but incredibly difficult and long term.

As one of my friends (a progressive Democrat with ties to the Administration) put it:
It just seems so strange to be talking about a religious/cultural fight without talking about the religion or the culture, even to note that it is a fight within the regional family.
Too right.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The response from the Arab Muslim leadership seems to be that this is a fight for the West to wage.  The problem is, we are foreigners and while we can kill our way to a diminished threat, we can't make it go away.  In fact, we can create new ISIL fighters along the way by our actions.  I would refer you to David Kilcullen's book, The Accidental Guerrilla.

1 comment:

Raising Sunshine said...

In a society where women are not allowed to learn how to read, what happens to the significance placed on reading lessons for her son when her husband dies. The clerics rise to power precisely because they CAN read, and an entire village can easily become ensured by a dishonorable cleric using his interpretation of the Koran, which may be completely false, thinking that this man is preaching holiness. Such a cleric in an effort to maintain his grip on the community would systematically select boys who would side with him, and weed out those too smart or honorable to carry on his misdeeds.

Do not be deceived. Saudi Arabia is behind the rise of ISIS, and the disruptions in Egypt for one express purpose: when ISIS is strong enough in conjunction with the Saudi control of Egypt they will all turn on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs both who are considered Semite cancers to be removed. Why else would the Palestinian refugee camps be set up in the first place, excepting the belief these refugees are somehow inferior to the citizens of Jordan, Syrian and Lebanon? And the Saudi's end game is to secure the oil fields just off the coast of Israel prior to their oil fields being exhausted in less than 10 years. Also, the oil fields of Iraq and Iran are also vastly depleted with respect to the virgin oil fields currently in Israeli hands.

Proverbs teaches us that the worst of fears for any human in this life is a rich man contemplating certain poverty in his future. He will stop at nothing to remain rich, or worse in an effort to compensate against such a certain poor future, he plots to become even richer.

Israel needs to drop every other concern and bring those oil wells up and running ASAP, excepting only environment safety issues involved in the drilling of the oil fields. BP has experience drilling in the soft sands of the Mexican Gulf and knows what can go wrong. I personally would suggest Israel contact them…yesterday. Lastly, Israel should share the wealth among its legal citizens who reside in the country properly for at least 9 months out of the any year, regardless of religion.