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On IS ecumenism? Two tweets in short order REDUX

September 29th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- among jihadist groups in Syria, are the scales tipping towards unity or disunity? ]
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SIF JN & ISIS

**

Yesterday I posted the following DoubleQuote, with sources, on our alternate site while Zenpundit proper, this place, was temporarily down:

SPEC clint watts & guardian

Sources:

  • Clint Watts, tweet
  • Clint Watts, Did Obama Just Unify America’s Enemies?
  • Guardian, tweet
  • Guardian, Isis reconciles with al-Qaida group as Syria air strikes continue
  • I noted that Clint Watts published September 26, The Guardian confirmed his point on 28 September.

    And I asked:

    Unforseen .. really? .. consequences?

    **

    Since that time, other respected analysts have commented on the idea of an IS / Jabhat al-Nusra rapprochement:

    SPEC Zelin & Lister

    Sources:

  • Aaron Zelin, tweet
  • Charles Lister, tweet
  • I am still of the opinion that foreseeing unforeseen consequences is of the essence of successful strategy and policy-making — that wisdom comes from insight, foresight, the roots of which are by their nature holistic, cross-dsiciplinary, and systems dynamic.

    **

    As for myself — irony alert — ecumenist, romantic, hearkener back to a glorious past that I am, I can’t resist already-ancient images such as the one at the head of this post, or this one:

    ISIS and Jabhat w Harakat Sham al-Islam

    The image atop this post is taken from Pieter van Ostayen‘s blog, A strategic mistake ~ ISIS beheads a member of Harakat Ahrar as-Sham of November 13 last year. He comments, cautiously:

    Here is picture from a while ago, the Syrian Islamic Front, Jabhat an-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and as-Sh?m (ISIS) posing as brothers in arms.

    The question is how long that will last. Since a few weeks the amount of anti-ISIS propaganda is in a steep rise; this all culminated when al-Jazeera published an audio file by Dr. Ayman az-Zaw?hir?…

    The image below is from another van Ostayen post, Some Calligraphic Group Logos ~ Syria, from March 10th of this year.

    Van Ostayen identifies the flag in the middle as that of Harakat Sham al-Islam, flanked by the flags and fighters of ISIS and Jabhat an-Nusra.

    In a post dated December 22 2013 on Joshua LandisSyria Comment blog titled Moroccan ex-Guantánamo Detainee Mohammed Mizouz Identified In Syria, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi writes of his version of the same image:

    Now I have identified another Moroccan ex-Guantanamo detainee: Mohammed Mizouz, going under the alias of Abu al-Izz al-Muhajir. He appeared only many hours ago in a video where he makes a speech on the necessity for the unity of the mujahideen, appearing alongside fighters from both Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra in Latakia.

    In his caption, Al-Tamimi identifies his version as a “Screenshot of video of Abu al-Izz al-Muhajir’s speech. He is in the center under the Harakat Sham al-Islam flag with the Qur’an directly in front of him.”

    **

    It is of the nature of trees to branch, and humans do much the same: we too are a fissiparous species.

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    New Post at The Chicago Progressive

    September 28th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    Musician, producer, professor and friend of mine, Joe Tortorici has a brand new e-zine start-up on the arts and social  commentary, The Chicago Progressive.  I will be contributing short ( 500 words or less) posts on national security.

    Granted, I am not a political “progressive”, being more of a cranky realist-libertarian, Boydian, conservative pragmatist, but the important problems in national security today are substantively less Democrat vs. Republican than Smart vs. Dumb. The bipartisan strategic track record since 1991 is less than impressive and since 2001, extremely poor.  We can do better  and that will start with conversations across political lines that are usually impossible on domestic issues but were of critical importance in past foreign policy successes.

    Here was my piece:

    AMERICA’S STRATEGY  TO BATTLE ISIS

    President Obama’s strategy against the genocidal ISIS “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria has been the subject of much criticism, some of it informed, much of it not, from pundits on both the Left and Right. Translating foreign policy goals into an effective military strategy is always the most difficult task for an administration and historically, short of WWII, American presidents generally find crafting strategy for a limited war to be very hard, and fighting a foreign insurgency the hardest of all.

    The President’s strategy, a cautious effort at hedging and balancing competing U.S. priorities, has clear pros and cons. First, the positives:

    • Risk in blood and treasure are deliberately minimized by reliance on airpower, trainers, aid and proxies instead of masses of American soldiers. This is not Iraq 2003 Redux;
    • America is playing to its strengths—targeted firepower, intelligence sharing, training and arming local fighters—against a fast-moving, elusive, insurgency;
    • Minimal intervention means American allies like the Iraqi government are forced to actually fight in their own defense against ISIS and work out their political problems instead of passing the buck to the U.S.;
    • One proxy, the Kurdish Peshmerga, are highly motivated to fight, and do, in relatively well-disciplined units;
    • ISIS is a strategically isolated and a morally abominable enemy without real allies, not an underdog or object of world sympathy.

    Now for the cons:

    Read the rest here

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    Anyone at State any good at nasheeds?

    September 27th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- how AQ messages potential ISers -- as usual, when there's an overlap between divergent ideas, I start thinking ]
    .

    Brubeck Berlin

    **

    I was reading, once again, today about the US social media campaign in a WAPo piece, Digital War Takes Shape on Websites Over ISIS:

    Along with its surprising military success, the Islamic State group has demonstrated a skill and sophistication with social media previously unseen in extremist groups.

    And just as the United States has begun an aggressive air campaign against the militants, Richard A. Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, believes the United States has no choice but to counter their propaganda with a forceful online response.

    “Sending a jazz trio to Budapest is not really what we want to do in 2014,” said Mr. Stengel, referring to the soft-edged cultural diplomacy that sent musicians like Dave Brubeck on tours of Eastern-bloc capitals to counter communism during the Cold War. “We have to be tougher, we have to be harder, particularly in the information space, and we have to hit back.”

    Then I came across this quote from Thomas Joscelyn at LWJ, inder the header Analysis: Al Qaeda attempts to undermine new Islamic State with old video of Osama bin Laden:

    Al Qaeda’s senior leaders have not directly addressed the Islamic State’s claim to rule over a caliphate stretching across large portions of Iraq and Syria. Instead, they have sought to undermine the Islamic State’s ideological legitimacy in a variety of more subtle ways.

    Subtle, I like subtle. My question, as I juxtapose AQ’s approach with that of Richard Stengel at State, is whether there’s anything we can learn from our AQ adversaries about social messaging as CVE?

    Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t — but “know your enemy” is a significant aphorism, and the juxtaposition of approaches is surely worth considering.

    **

    Just for the record:

    I’ve said it before — I don’t really put much stock in solo “leading indicators” — I take much sharper notice when there are two indicators with a significant associative link or overlap between them.

    And I’m not seriously suggesting the State Dept should be recording anasheed.

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    Zeynep: Failure of Imagination as an Existential Threat

    September 27th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- @zeynep nails it on imagination ]
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    Zeynep Failure of Imagination

    **

    The always readable Zeynep Tufekci has a post up with the above header, but it’s not the main thrust of her post, fascinating & deeply personal as that is, but the audacity of that subhead — “Failure of Imagination as an Existential Threat” — that gets me.

    That subhead has so so so many potential applications. Brava, brava!

    Now, tell me again, who in the natsec arena takes imagination seriously?

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    DoubleQuote: Genocide Memorial Church before and after

    September 27th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a quick note on the DQ format used to illustrate church "before and after" attack, montage in Pudovkin / Eisenstein, and cognition ]
    .

    **

    Pondering these images, I see that while they do clearly represent “before and after” when juxtaposed, they do not represent “cause and effect” as such. The cause of the visible changes is not itself present, although implied. Even so, the viewer is liable to jump from a non-causal double image via the implied causal connection to an emotional response — “the bastards!” or something of that sort.

    I’ve been interested in the intellectual and emotional responses generated by juxtapositions at least since I first read about montage, Pudovkin and Eisenstein in a class on film directing at UCLA some decades back. It is one of the great issues in film — Eisenstein wrote:

    to determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema

    It’s more than that, though — it’s one of the great issues in cognition and metacognition.

    We’d do well to put some bright minds on the task of understanding it.

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