June 4, 2008

Talking Islam 3.5: Response to Thomas Joscelyn (and Wolf Howling)

Hatched by Dafydd

The proprietor of Wolf Howling ("GW") left a cryptic comment on Big Lizards wondering whether I would like to respond to his post... in which he critiques both a Big Lizards post and (wait for it) the response to that post on the Weekly Standard website.

Needless to say, I had no idea the Weekly Standard had done such a thing. But it made some sense, as my earlier post had attacked a small section of a book review by Thomas Joscelyn of that revered magazine. For some unfathomable reason, he chose to respond there, where he has an audience of tens of thousands, rather than commenting on our rather obscure blog with its audience of tens of hundreds.

I was going to respond to Joscelyn first, as befitting his august personage; but after reading the relevant post at Wolf Howling -- Much Lizardly Ado About . . . A Little Something -- I realize that GW's point is a necessary precursor to my response to TJ: It gives me the nudge to expand upon what I meant by an "ideological counterinsurgency" -- that it's not merely some minor linguistic changes suggested by a couple of memos, useful though they may be, but a much larger enterprise that will require total committment by our government and many other allied governments.

But every journey starts with a single crawl... and it's self-defeating to hoot and jeer at the crawler because he didn't start with a sprint.

So let's start with Wolf Howling. Here, on a nutshell, is Mr. Howling's critique of (what he believes to be) my position:

Dafydd is right, we absolutely need an ideological counterinsurgency. Defeating al Qaeda physically and stopping Iran’s deadly meddling throughout the Middle East are only treating the symptoms. Both could go away tomorrow, yet our nation will still not be safe from terrorism in the long run at the hands of radical Islamists. That is because the ideology underlying "radical Islam" is what has to be countered. And on that issue, we have failed utterly because have never defined "radical Islam...."

Understand that among those who favor Dafydd’s approach are most of the Wahhabi / Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the U.S. Those organizations have spared no expense and no effort to get the U.S. to stop making a connection between Islam, terrorism and jihadism. I fully realize this is not what Dafydd is advocating, but the danger of only going forward on the semantics is that you obfuscate the true nature of the problem and allow the Wahhabists and Salafists off the hook. Their goal is simple -- they want to metasticize in the West without challenge. Without the first step of utter and absolute clarity about the Wahhabi / Salafi / Khomeini sources of Islamic terrorism, mere semantic changes will only further obfuscate the issues -- with a net gain to the Salafists.

My only response to this is that, when I said the semantic changes out of DHS and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) were a good first step, I meant a good first step for them: That is, I'm glad they have finally realized that an ideological counterinsurgency is just as important for winning the Long War as a military counterinsurgency... both are necessary, urgent, and long overdue.

On the larger issue, I agree with Wolf Howling completely; these linguistic changes cannot be the sum total of the ideological counterinsurgency, and I certainly never meant to imply that they should. He's also right that if they become the entirety, if we fail to confront directly the terrorists' arguments that Islam demands (their understanding of) jihad, then we're in for several very grim decades indeed, with no guarantee that we will win.

But I don't for one moment believe that even the State Department thinks that these minor (but helpful) semantic changes fulfill our duty to respond to the ideology of death. I'm sure they understand we need more... but I'm not at all sure they're on board the full campaign I (and probably you) envision -- and that is definitely a problem.

I believe we need to undertake a full-scale propaganda campaign:

  1. We -- by we, I mean everybody who opposes the radical militant Islamists -- must clearly identify the schools, both physical facilities and schools of thought, that teach/preach the radical interpretations of Islam that theologically underpin the Islamic death cults;
  2. We must counter those schools and their arguments with alternative interpretations that are just as theologically sound... which means, I am convinced, working with Islamic scholars and clerics who have already been doing this for many years, including (a non-exhaustive list):

    • The "Quietist" school of Shiism, whose spiritual leader at the moment is Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf;
    • The Indonesian Sunni organization Nahdlatul Ulama -- the largest Moslem organization in the world with perhaps as many as 40 million members -- which is headed by Abdurrahman Wahid, a.k.a. Gus Dur;
    • And the Turks, who are currently opening schools around the world that are teaching a non-violent (or at least much less violent) sect of Islam to counter the influence of the Salafist/Wahhabist schools financed and run by radical Saudi clerics.

    They have far more credibilty than we; but we must be careful not to buddy up to them too closely, lest we create an obvious line of attack against them by our enemies. Nobody trusts a sock puppet (except maybe Glenn Greenwald).

  3. And most important, we must get both State and Defense on board with the program... and also Congress. I'm afraid this will be the hardest task, but it's vital if we're to present a unified front against the enemy. About the only hope would be if the Senate would confirm a "John Bolton"-like nominee as Secretary of State, one who could actually clean house in that wretched, out of control bureaucracy, whose Statethink has swallowed up my second favorite gal, Condoleezza Rice.

(Note that the memos also caution against using the word "Islamist" because it's too easily confused with "Islam," especially by listeners whose native language is not English. But I'm addressing an English-speaking audience of above-average intelligence here, so I'm not going to avoid the term.)

I certainly never meant the linguistic changes to be the entirety of our ideological counterinsurgency; but I do welcome them as an indication that both DHS and State are finally, belatedly, realizing that we desperately need a propaganda offensive (and that there is nothing inherently offensive about propaganda) -- one that is always truthful, because a lie discovered is catastrophic; always respectful of contrary opinion, because a challenge unanswered is a challenger unpersuaded; and relentlessly pro-American and pro-West, because we should never pay for the privilege of being smeared. (I wish VOA followed this rule!)

They see the need for a propaganda offensive; I don't think they're ready yet for the propaganda offensive that we actually need. Just as Moslems can change, so too can bureaucrats.

But it won't be easy, because one characteristic of the West is the reflexive self-destructive tendencies of large portions of it... mainly the Democratic Left, which includes many elements within America and our government. The last time the Democratic Left was solidly behind America was during World War II... when we were allied with the Soviet Union. Most European countries will not follow us down the road of a pro-West propaganda blitz; they're too busy gnashing their teeth about the failings of Capitalism, democracy, and liberty to notice that we're in an existential war with Islamic death cults that want to obliterate us -- and raise in our place a world-wide sharia-state.

So we'll have to go it more or less alone; the U.K. might help, and we'll get sporadic aid from this or that European country that happens to be somewhat more conservative at the moment (France, perhaps, or Italy now that Berlusconi is back; maybe Germany). What we really need is a president who is a hugely effective communicator, and who is on board for the propaganda campaign.

I'm not sure that John McCain is up to the task; but after Barack H. Obama's liberal-fascist moment yesterday after the last primaries, I doubt he's even sure which side he's on.

Regardless, the last thing in the world we should do is heap scorn and mockery on the heads of those professionals at the Department of Homeland Security or the National Counter Terrorism Center who are actually trying to get the ball rolling on such a project. And that segue brings me to the response by Thomas Joscelyn to our Big Lizards post...

Joscelyn was evidently -- annoyed? ticked off? incensed? -- perturbed by our post here, where I rhetorically took him to the woodshed for, in my opinion, unfairly attacking civil servants who were "finally doing something right on the urgent task of confronting the terrorist ideology," as I put it in our first post on this subject. He defended himself hotly in a post on his Weekly Standard blog yesterday.

(Since I cannot imagine that he ordinarily reads Big Lizards, I presume someone sent him a link.)

Mixed messages

Let's get one point out of the way immediately. Joscelyn wrote:

First, he claims that I misrepresent this January 2008 memo from the Department of Homeland Security. He says that I "never actually read the memo itself" and that the term "'jihadist' was not banned"; instead "the memo suggests caution." Here is what I actually wrote: "Just as Willful Blindness was released, the State Department and other agencies published an edict banning the use of the word 'jihadist' (as well as similar terms) from the government's lexicon."

And here's the problem: I never referred to this DHS memo Dafydd cites either directly or indirectly in this sentence or anywhere else in my review. (And, by the way, I actually had read this DHS memo, which is logically and factually flawed in many ways.) I was referring to an even more recent memo accepted by the State Department, which endorsed the ban--that's right, ban--of the use of terms like jihadist.

I accept the correction; I was wrong to leap to the conclusion that he was responding to the memo from the Department of Homeland Security we already linked in previous posts, when in fact he was responding to a memo written by the Extremist Messaging Branch at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), and released through the State Department. I apologize to Mr. Joscelyn, and I have corrected our earlier post to take this into account.

However, the NCTC memo makes exactly the same argument as the DHS memo as to why we should use certain words and not use others. This is the argument that Joscelyn fails to engage, and indeed does not appear even to understand. Thus, all of my points still apply with minimal modification.

And as to this supposed "ban," he is correct that the NCTC memo says, "Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahideen' in conversation to describe the terrorists," which sounds pretty emphatic.

But not so fast; on the very first page, that same memo says this:

The following set of suggestions regarding appropriate language for use in conversations with target audiences was developed by the Extremist Messaging Branch of the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC] and vetted by the interagency "Themes and Messages" editorial board at the CTCC. This advice is not binding and is for use with our audiences. It does not affect other areas such as policy papers, research analysis, scholarly writing, etc. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness among communicators of the language issues that may enhance or detract from successhl engagement.

Joscelyn writes, "Sounds like a ban to me;" I say, sounds like a non-binding suggestion.

The blunting of the snark

The next matter appears trivial, but in fact, it cuts right to the problem I have with Joscelyn's response to the memo(s) -- and with the responses of Bruce Thornton at the National Review and Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch. Joscelyn tries to score a "touch" against me, but in fact reveals that he simply doesn't get my point:

Second, Dafydd apparently believes that we should call this conflict the "war against global caliphism," or some such. He uses the phrase repeatedly. (Ironically, the web link to his posts on the "war against global caliphism" contains the phrase "war on global jihadism)." [Not ironic; easily explained by the time evolution of that category title. See below.] In that case, he should not be too fond of the NCTC memo, which was approved by State and other agencies, either. For example, the NCTC memo notes:

Avoid the term "caliphate," which has positive connotations for Muslims, to describe the goal of al-Qaida and associated groups. The best description of what they really want to create is a "global totalitarian state."

Will Dafydd submit to the NCTC's will, and avoid using the phrase "war against global caliphism"?

I feel such a temptation to say, "well there's yer problem right there!" (I never resist temptation.)

Yes, I have been using the phrase "war against global caliphism." Up until about a year ago (June 29th, 2007), I used "war against global jihad." But that month, I read articles by Col. David Kilcullen, then the senior counterinsurgency advisor to Gen. David Petraeus (then commander of MNF-I) and by Jim Guirard (following up on the Kilcullen article), both on Small Wars Journal; together, they called for "a [new] lexicon to better describe the threat" America and the West face from militant Islamist terrorists and what the DHS memo suggests we call Islamic "death cultists."

I saw where Giurard was heading with this and thought it an excellent idea. So as a first cut at not using bin Laden's vocabulary to describe bin Laden, I changed our category title from "war against global jihad."

Nota bene: Changing the title only changes the title; it doesn't automatically go through thousands of blog posts changing any earlier reference to "global jihadism"... which is why Joscelyn found earlier posts that contained that phrase.

He thought this anomalous somehow, as if it would have been more proper for me to scrub the site of all evidence of my evolving thinking. That's not how we work here at Big Lizards; we believe in transparency... when we change our minds, we don't make stealth corrections: I actually blogged about making this change before I did it.

I hope this clears up the supposed "irony" that puzzled Joscelyn.

I first changed the category title to "war against global hirabah," (unholy war); then I decided that was was too obscure: Calling them "hirabis" was akin to calling them "disestablishmentarians" or "vampires;" you can't just say it, you have to take ten minutes explaining.

I was still looking for a pithy but entirely accurate and truthful phrase to describe who -- and what -- we were fighting. I settled (with misgivings) on the "war against global caliphism." I figured the most salient feature of the revolutionary, radical enemy I was trying to name was that he wanted to overthrow all existing order, particularly democracies where people could choose their own lives, and impose a world caliphate. But I've never truly been satisfied with that term either.

But the point is that I'm not encased in amber; I'm not eternally wedded to any particular term -- nor should any of us be, including Thomas Joscelyn: We should use whatever term best describes the enemy, without adding to the neurolinguistic problem by using his own, self-congratulatory vision of himself as a "holy warrior" (mujahideen) fighting a "holy war" (jihad) against the Great Satan (us).

Far from being "not... too fond of the NCTC memo" because it suggests not using caliphate, I appreciate the guidance by actual experts (as should Joscelyn); I didn't know that it was also flattering to the terrorists; now that I do, I'll stop using that, too.

It has nothing to do with "submit[ing] to the NCTC's will;" submission is the hallmark of Islam, not Americanism. (In fact, I believe the very word "Islam" translates to submission.) But as a patriotic American -- and out of pure self-interest as a person who really prefers living in a free democracy than a sharia state -- I will freely choose to use a better term, as soon as I can think of one. (And when I do, you'll still be able to find earlier posts that use the old phrase. C'est la guerre.)

But I cannot imagine Joscelyn switching for any reason. He and many other conservatives are locked in embrace with whatever terminology they first learned; they act exasperated, even infuriated, when told they should change it, no matter how good the reason.

I believe Joscelyn objects to the memos not because the suggestions they made were inherently bad; rather, his main objection is having to switch at all! That would explain why he never articulated any actual argument against the terms themselves: His core objection is that they're not the ones he's always used (or at least used for so many years).

This may well be the defining difference between us: He wants to continue using the familiar term he's comfortable with, whereas I want to use what works best today, in this conflict. Even if that means change.

Jihad or not jihad, that is the question

And that brings us to Joscelyn's non-response, where he doesn't engage the root of my first post:

Third, and most importantly, "jihadist" and similar terms are appropriate. The government's argument to the contrary is simply wrong. For example, the authors of the NCTC memo argue that using "jihadis" to describe our enemies "unintentionally legitimizes their action." Dafydd picks up on this argument (via the DHS memo I didn't cite [which is also made by the NCTC memo Joscelyn did cite]) when he writes that calling our enemies jihadis is not a smart move "because it confers upon the militant Islamists exactly the legitimacy they crave."

This is wrong for too many reasons to list here. [Oh please, give it a stab, Mr. J.] U.S. policymakers are not granting unintentional legitimacy to the terrorists by calling them jihadis. The jihadis already have legitimacy in the eyes of many because their actions are explicitly endorsed by leading Islamic clerics. [Parenthetical comments and emphasis added.]

All right; "in the eyes of many." But what about the millions of other "manys" who do not look to radical Islamic clerics (leading or not) for moral guidance on jihad? What about those sitting on the fence, with their mugs on one side and their wumps on the other, unsure what to think? They may notice that the terrorists always seem to have their theological enablers (Zawahiri, Khomeini, Sadr), but they also their opponents -- who are also respected clerics. So who's right?

Linguistical tactics can certainly change the dynamic of a debate; but they only have a determinative effect on a small subset of listeners. Most people have already made up their minds, and they only listen to confirm what they already believe. But there are always those who really aren't sure, and they can be won over by the right word -- or lost by the wrong.

That subset may be critical, depending on how near a philosophical tipping point we are. Anent Iraq, for example, it didn't take many passive supporters to create the ratline of safe houses and supplies, informants and intelligencers, that the terrorist groups needed to operate. Consequently, it didn't take a large conversion to flip al-Qaeda or Iranian hegemony into American victory.

In Anbar, Baghdad, Baqouba, Diyala, and other Iraqi provinces in late 2007-early 2008, we contacted Sunni "Salvation Councils," connected them to each other, and supported them in an uprising against al-Qaeda: We turned enough Sunni Iraqis that AQI finally collapsed into ruin. Later, we did the same with the Shia in Basra and the Sadr City slums of Baghdad City, and the Iran-backed militias in Iraq are steadily losing ground as well. We're well on our way to complete victory in Iraq, what Osama bin Laden called the central front in the war between al-Qaeda and the West.

We didn't do this by a mass conversion of radicals to mainstream Islam; the Sunni and Shia are likely just as religiously Islamic as they ever were. Rather, this fight was fought on the definitions: They had to convince themselves that the terrorists were not fighting on the side of God but on the side of their own ambition, or on the side of external, power-mad nations like Iran.

Again, such a paradigm change doesn't occur as a mass movement; it begins with a small cadre of respected insiders, who then, over the space of time, persuade their tribes and their coreligionists. But we may have helped them along by not undercutting them, by not routinely calling their al-Qaeda enemies "holy warriors" fighting a "holy war" against the Great Satan, thus contradicting what tribal leaders and members of the Salvation Councils were arguing.

If changing our lexicon, as Col. Kilcullen and Jim Guirard suggest, can help turn a small cadre away from the terrorists and towards us, help even a little, then why try to laugh it off the stage?

To attack the linguistic approach of the DHS and the NCTC, Joscelyn needs to demonstrate (not simply assert) one of three conditions:

  • That the new approach will have little good effect. But if it will do no harm, either, why not do it -- along with other things?
  • That it may have a good effect; but there is something better we can do, which will have a much greater good effect, yet is fundamentally incompatible with the linguistic approach. If this is his argument, then what is this "something better," and why is it incompatible with the memos? Joscelyn is mum on both these questions.
  • Finally, he can argue that the government's approach will actually have a negative effect. But if that's his argument, shouldn't he be prepared to explain exactly what that bad effect is? Again, he enunicates no downside to this approach.

Those are the only rhetorical options; all else is mishnah.

Now getting back to Wolf Howling's point, I certainly agree that the linguistic changes suggested by the memos are not enough to qualify as an ideological counterinsurgency.

Heck, they're not even enough to fully meet Col. Kilcullen's call for a "new lexicon." He was primarily talking about a new way for our military to approach the sort of counterinsurgencies we're fighting against ideological Islamic terrorist groups... for example, Kilcullen objects that the phrase "major combat operations" -- or as the doctrine was actually termed, Phase III Decisive Operations -- "actively hinders innovative thought" by misleading commanders into thinking that the tank, artillery, and massive infantry actions of early 2003 would literally be "decisive;" when in fact, as Kilcullen puts it, the most critical phase would actually be the post-conflict nation-building and counterinsurgency.

Kilcullen's new lexicon would go far beyond what the memos suggest; but it surely encompasses such a minor linguistic change as well.

Hearts, minds, and stomachs

Joscelyn argues that "many" Moslems have already made up their minds that terrorism against the West is holy war. This is certainly true... but it's also a non-sequitur, since nobody has ever argued that there is not a large group of Islamic clerical terrorist enablers. Even the militant Islamists and terrorist collaborators in CAIR admit that much!

But does Joscelyn accept, even now, that there are many Moslem mugwumps? That for many of them, "jihad" and "mujahideen" are entirely positive terms that help legitimize the death cultists and human sacrificers?

If he doesn't accept this premise, then does he believe there are no undecideds? Does he dispute that for these undecideds, words like "jihad" and "mujahideen" have mostly positive connotations -- as they do for most Moslems, according to the DHS memo (which Joscelyn has also read)?

Or does he believe -- most likely, I think -- that nothing we say or do can possibly have any effect on these undecideds; that they pay attention only to Moslem clerics? If so, then I wish he would straightforwardly make that argument... because I simply don't buy it as is.

We have always insisted that a critical element of warfare is to win the "hearts and minds" of those on the enemy side who are not totally committed to his cause; that tactic presupposes that such persuasion is at least possible.

It seems to have been possible among some Germans in Nazi Germany, among some citizens of Warsaw Pact nations, and among many North Vietnamese: In all of those conflicts, we had many allies within the enemy ranks, just as they had a number of their own allies within ours.

Are Moslems uniquely immune to the lure of such Western -- and not necessarily anti-Islamic -- concepts as democracy, security, and tolerance of individual opinion? I don't believe this, and I'm sure that Thomas Joscelyn doesn't either. But if we agree that such propaganda is sometimes effective, and that there is no inherent reason why that general rule wouldn't apply within the Islamic world... then why not try using it?

What can we possibly lose by refusing to call terrorist butchers and their depraved human sacrifices "holy?" Why should we continue to provide four-part harmony to their self-serving song of themselves? If Joscelyn will answer that question, I promise to ponder his argument deeply (as deep as I'm capable of being).

The only remaining question is whether we have the will -- the stomach -- to inaugurate an all-out propaganda campaign to win whatever hearts and minds we can, hoping they will form the nucleus of the only real, long-term solution to our problem: an Islamic Enlightenment, similar to what Christianity went through in the eighteenth century.

Bottom line

I cede Joscelyn his first point, that he was thinking of a different memo (NCTC's) -- whose argument was nevertheless identical to several decimal points to the one I thought he meant (DHS's).

On his second point, he is correct that I have changed my own use of language as I read new arguments why our lexicon matters; but the reason is not that I obey orders and "submit" to the will of my masters, but rather that I don't consider some phrase I'm currently using to be an "eternal verity" that can never change. I always consider the opinion of those more expert than I that there may be better terminology to use... and so should everyone, including Mr. Joscelyn.

Rhetoric should be a movable verity, one that changes as circumstances change... yet always strives toward the ultimate goal.

But Thomas Joscelyn loses the most important point by default: There is no reason to mock these memos as mere semantics -- when semantics can have such a large impact on a small but critically placed group of Moslem mugwumps. The linguistic change may do some good; it fits in well with what a recognized military expert on the pointy end has suggested; the changes were designed by other recognized experts within the government bureaucracy; and not even Thomas Joscelyn has articulated any bad effects such a change would cause... other than repeating his mantra that we have "fail[ed] to name the enemy" because we use a different name than the familiar, comfortable one Thomas Joscelyn prefers.

Color me unrepentant, unregenerate, and uncowed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2008, at the time of 5:55 PM

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The following hissed in response by: GW

Thanks much for the response, Dafydd. Upon rereading the posts, I see the mistake was mine. I have updated the post at my blog (which, being really obscure, gets tens of readers on a heavy traffic day) and a few comments, the jist which I include here.

You mention Grand Ayatollah Sistani and his quietist school of Shia Islam as one of the sects that we need to be supporting as an alternative to Iran's velyat e faqi. Just to add, I think that goes to the heart of the most critical reason for remaining in Iraq and insuring the sovereignty of that nation from the predatory acts of Iran. I wrote in an earlier post:

The greatest threat to Iran today comes from a democratic Iraq on its border that honors the traditional Shia practice of quietism - i.e., maintaining a wall between mosque and state, to put it in American terms. Iran is a deeply troubled country of 60 million people held under the rule of a medieval theocracy by ever increasing repression. The theocracy itself is illegitimate when looked at in terms of a millenium of apolitical Shia tradition - a tradition shredded in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini and his velyat-e-faqi, a new philosophy justifying and requiring theocratic rule. And indeed, the most popular religious figure in both Iraq and Iran is now Grand Ayatolah Ali Sistani, an adherent to the quietist school. This is deeply problematic for Iran.

. . . Since 2003, Iran has won tactical victories in both Gaza and, just days ago, Lebanon. But in Iraq, the theocracy of Iran is facing a mortal threat to its legitimacy and an enticing example of democracy to its deeply troubled populace that, not a decade ago, appeared on the edge of a counter-revolution. . . . Indeed, unless the U.S. leaves Iraq and allows the Iranians to resume their Lebanization of Iraq - something that would happen if troops are withdrawn too soon, as General Petraeus noted days ago in written testimony to the Senate - Iran's theocracy is far more threatened by their peaceful neighbor than by Saddam Hussein or the Taliban. . .

(See here). I have no doubt that if Iran dominates Iraq, you will see the quietist school extinguished following the death of the 80 year old Grand Ayaollah Ali Sistani. Following the 1979 revolution, Iran executed, jailed or placed under house arrest all clerics who still honored the quietist school and who spoke out against the velyat e faqi. Indeed, when Khomeini died, none of the Grand Ayatollah's in Iran were deemed sufficiently wedded to the velyat e faqi philosophy (or in the case of Khomeini's original designated successor, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, he was deemed too highly critical of how it was being imposed) to succeed Khomeini and keep the revolution alive. Khomeini's successor, the current Supreme Guide, Khamenei, was chosen for his position even though he was only a mid-level cleric. This shows both the extent to which Iran will go to impose its system and it shows just how bastardized the system is.

As to Turkey, I don't know if you have seen it, but the BBC ran an excellent article on efforts by Turkey to reinterpret the Hadiths (see here). We will have to see how that pans out, but if it is extensive, it could mark a major step towards an Islamic Enlightenment.

And lastly, as to your statement that "the only real, long-term solution to our problem [is] an Islamic Enlightenment, similar to what Christianity went through in the eighteenth century," I could not agree more. As an aside, I would just add that a little over a year ago, I wrote a lengthy essay (see here), positing precisely that point - that what Islam most needed was to go through its period of Enlightenment. I explained in that essay why it had not yet happened but how the tools for such a revolution in Islam exist within the religion itself - in the Koran, in the Hadiths, and in the accepted practice of ijtihad. At any rate, I concur. We fail to do all we can to support such a revolution at our own peril.

Again, Dafydd, thanks much for taking the time to make a response.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2008 9:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: Chris Hunt

This is a debate that needs to take place as part of a larger one about our goals and strategies for the Long War, including whether the American public believes sufficiently in the concept of the Long War. As in any conflict, our goals and strategies will change according to the prevailing conditions.

I would suspect that critics like Joscelyn, Thornton, and Spencer are afraid that, given the evidence of halfheartedness on the part of a large segment of our government and leadership, that any change is inevitably a degradation of support for or belief in the Long War. That is, any change from the status quo is inherently negative. This is one of the costs of the hyperpartisanship that has consumed the Democratic party for the last several years, and their unwillingness to state definitively and unequivocally their thoughts and plans on this subject.

The above hissed in response by: Chris Hunt [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2008 5:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: RattlerGator

Fantastic post, Dafydd, and equally good response by you, GW. Chris, I presume you're correct but now is no time for a fear of that sort to slow our effort to engage and clarify the battle that must be diligently fought.

The above hissed in response by: RattlerGator [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2008 6:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Great job, info and debate Dudes!

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2008 7:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: GW

There is an article at Front Page Magazine by Walid Phares that you might be interested in (see here). He argues strongly for the ideological component to the war, though he is highly critical of the semantic changes being suggestd by DHS standing alone.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2008 8:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


...though he is highly critical of the semantic changes being suggestd by DHS standing alone.

Well that's the subtextual danger, isn't it? If this semantic change (I prefer linguistical, since they're obviously thinking in neurolinguistical terms) makes DHS and the NCTC say, "There, we've done our bit for the ideological counterinsurgency; now we can move on to more important diplomatic overtures!" -- then yes, that would be a very bad thing.

But if this is just getting the tip of the iceberg into the tent, and they see this as one element of a longer and more ambitious campaign, then we've turned over a new corner.

We'll just have to wait and watch...


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2008 3:15 AM

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