A typical modern critic was as likely to grasp or report the substance of a book – good or bad, and whether or not he liked it or approved of it – as it was that a chimpanzee would appreciate a thermometer. He’d worry it, nibble on it, look through it, try to clean his ears with it, or use it to fish for maggots.
Private Detective Chess Hanrahan, in Honors Due (2011)
In October 2014, Mark Tapson published on FrontPage a review of an online document which qualifies as an enemy’s threat doctrine. It was reprinted on The Counter Jihad Report.
In the spring of 2004 a strategist who called himself Abu Bakr Naji published online The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Ummah Will Pass (later translated from the Arabic by William McCants, a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center). The book – what the Washington Post calls the Mein Kampf of jihad – aimed to provide a strategy for al-Qaeda and other jihadists. “The ideal of this movement,” wrote Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker, “as its theorists saw it, was the establishment of a caliphate that would lead to the purification of the Muslim world.”
By that Naji doubtless meant a planet that has been conquered by Islam, scoured clean of all unbelievers, with the Ummah lording it over what few recalcitrant infidels have survived, all the others having been made extinct. What astounded many was the unabashed endorsement of such savagery as a military policy by Naji.
The manifesto proposes that the jihadists exhaust an overstretched America through a patient war of attrition and a manipulation of the media to dismantle the superpower’s “aura of invincibility.” It demands that the enemy be made to “pay the price” for any and all attacks carried out against the jihadists, even if the retribution takes years, in order to instill in the enemy “a sense of hopelessness that will cause him to seek reconciliation.” No mercy must be shown: “Our enemies will not be merciful to us if they seize us. Thus, it behooves us to make them think one thousand times before attacking us.”
Shocking violence is a key element of that strategy. “The beheadings and the violence practiced by [the Islamic State] are not whimsical, crazed fanaticism, but a very deliberate, considered strategy,” writes British analyst Alastair Crooke. “The seemingly random violence has a precise purpose: It’s [sic] aim is to strike huge fear; to break the psychology of a people.” For example, Naji recommends that in instances in which hostage demands are not met, “the hostages should be liquidated in a terrifying manner, which will send fear into the hearts of the enemy and his supporters.”
Naji believed that “we need to massacre” others as Muslims did after the death of Muhammad. “We must make this battle very violent,” the book says. “If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us, that will be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength.”
In short, there is a method to the madness, a cold, calculated purpose to the savagery of ISIS, which did not exist at the time “Management of Savagery” was published. ISIS’s alias is Al-Qaeda. However, ISIS and Islam are names President Barack Obama is reluctant to pronounce in public, which ingloriously but appropriately reflects the nature of our inept and misdirected warfighting policy against ISIS in particular, and against Islam in general. As though to underscore the fact that Islam radically re-defines Western terms so that they mean the opposite of what is understood, Naji clarifies what he means by the term “mercy”:
Some may be surprised when we say that the religious practice of jihad despite the blood, corpses, and limbs which encompass it and the killing and fighting which its practice entails is among the most blessed acts of worship for the servants… Jihad is the most merciful of the methods for all created things and the most sparing of the spilling of blood.
Tapson reveals the “stage” or “phase” policy of Naji’s overall strategy. It comports with Stephen Coughlin’s insistence, in Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of JIhad, that to effectively fight the enemy, one must first grasp and integrate into one’s own warfighting doctrine a sound knowledge of that of the enemy.
It is immediately apparent from reading it that the logic of the work and the worldview of the author is [sic] significantly different from that familiar to many in the West. The structure is both more circular and multi-active than linear and sequential, and the world is viewed through an Islamic and eschatological lens. This is important because although beating ISIS militarily may be straightforward, in order to defeat the movement we have to defeat them in terms that they recognize, and the logic of their campaign plan and narrative may not be apparent to us. A force can be defeated militarily, but a movement is only defeated when it recognizes itself as defeated in its own terms; the narrative of any campaign must reflect this. (Italics mine)
A PDF copy of The Management of Savagery can be found here.
On the other hand – on the side of Western civilization – we can also cite John David Lewis’s Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, published in 2010, in which Lewis stresses throughout that victory over an enemy must move from demoralizing him to causing him to concede defeat and surrender. I reviewed this important work in 2012 on Rule of Reason.
Lewis…does not immediately discuss 20th century conflicts, but wars of antiquity, using them as overtures to his discussions of the Civil War and World Wars One and Two, underscoring the need, in warfare, of a government to have the will to identify an enemy and his morality or ideology, and then the will to fight the war on its own terms, and not those of the enemy. What is more, the attacked nation must be willing to eviscerate the enemy's will to fight on to foreshorten the conflict and possibly establish a peace beneficial to the former opponents. (Italics mine)
But to accomplish the demoralization, the loss of will to fight, and concession of defeat in an enemy, the enemy’s total doctrine or ideology must be understood trunk, root, and branch. This is a policy our current intelligence and military communities refuse to adopt from a politically correct notion that do so would offend the enemy’s sensibilities and reflect,” among other things, “Islamophobia,” probably racism, and the hubris of “imperialistic superiority.” Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, writes Lewis, were not defeated until they felt they were defeated. It took two atomic bombs to wring a surrender from Japan.
And there is evidence that Nazi Germany was crying uncle before American tanks were rolling into Germany. But FDR, in apparent accommodation to Josef Stalin, brushed off German High Command overtures to sue for peace to allow the Soviets to “share in the glory” of defeating Germany and also to allow them to gobble up half of Germany and most of Eastern Europe. See my three Rule of Reason reviews of Diana West’s American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character here, here, and here in which she offers that evidentiary hypothesis.
Diana West emailed me this cautionary note:
“We don’t know FDR actually received these messages — for example, if you recall in the case of the AP Berlin bureau chief Louis Lochner, Soviet agent and White House advisor Laughlin Currie is the one who blocked his efforts to reach FDR personally.” [Concerning the German High Command’s willingness to negotiate a surrender coupled with the removal of Hitler.]
Stephen Coughlin, in Part VIII, “Our Ignorance,” of Catastrophic Failure: (pp. 443-484), dwells on the depth and nature of our ignorance of our Islamic enemy. But suppose that ignorance is a consequence of a policy that favors the postmodern mantra that true, incontrovertible knowledge is impossible.
While reading “Assumptions, Presuppositions, and Fraud” in Part VIII, “Our Ignorance,” I suddenly recalled something from my early philosophical readings. In a critique of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, in which he argues that we can't know reality – or the “real” reality because our minds’ subjective senses distort what we see – one thinker proposed, as a counter argument, that if that is true, then Kant must include his own book, and the words in it, which would lead one to conclude that Kant’s pretzel-like, brain-disabling assertions are pure gibberish. If what we see on a page doesn’t reflect the “real” page or even the words on it, what are we unable to see? The unprovable. The indemonstrable. The nonexistent.
Had that logic ever occurred to Kant? Would he concede or not that the “truth” of his assertions, by his own hypothesis, was no more provable or valid than anyone else’s? That the book in our hands and the words in it were but the distorted products of our inadequate sense organs? Kant’s was the ultimate philosophical con, using the “stolen concept” of “reason” and the demonstrable evidence of his books and words to put over an attack on the Enlightenment, which he opposed.
Unfortunately, Kant continues to exert a powerful, tenacious, and destructive influence in Western culture today. This I particularly true, as I can see, in Coughlin’s description of how analysts must assume that what they think they know is just subjective, baseless suppositions and assumptions “in the absence of facts” – which Kant declared are unknowable, a claim with which the threat doctrine designers and enforcers seem to agree, whether or not they have ever heard of Kant.
Under the subtitle, “The Doctrinal Template,” Coughlin states:
The deliberate decision-making process that the U.S. military uses to fight its wars is intended to begin with a doctrinal template analysis of the enemy. Until it was disabled in 2009, U.S. doctrine on threat analysis was based on an institutionalized preference for facts as the cornerstone of threat analysis. It was Sun Tzu: Know the enemy, know his doctrine, and know yourself. This doctrine was reflected in its simplest form in an older edition of Army Field Manual 34-130, Intelligence Preparations of the Battlefield… We would call it “classic IPB.”
The IPB Manual dictated that all threat analysis begins with an evaluation of the enemy’s stated threat doctrine based on his doctrine [e.g., in the published Management of Savagery], given his order of battle. This phase of threat analysis is designed to generate a doctrinal template of the enemy based on what he could or would do if able to fully execute his doctrine, unconstrained by the environment or by an opposing force. (P. 445 brackets mine; bolding the author’s)
Coughlin then discusses some doctrinal practices and fallacies.
No blue in the red. The language of military planning includes what are known as blue and red models. Blue models represent the strengths and doctrines employed by the United States and its allies; red models refer to the doctrines and strategies of the enemy. By orienting our models entirely on abstractions, we commit the fatal error of confusing our blue expectations with red realities. (p.446)
However, writes Coughlin, there’s a catch and the ingredients of a delusion:
Model-based warfighting can sustain itself almost indefinitely on the assumption that it serves as a reasonable proxy for fighting a red enemy. All it consists of, however, is mapping blue capabilities to blue expectations based on blue projections. And on and on – until, that is, a real enemy decides to assert himself. Our exclusive reliance on war fighting processes based on blue modeling has rendered us incapable of knowing real enemies. In the postmodern narrative, there are no enemies. Today, Sun-Tzu has little value beyond being a good source for signature block quotes. (P. 447)
Find the Islamic Terrorist
In the War on Terror, it is incumbent on us to incorporate stated jihadi motivations – as the jihadis express them – into our threat doctrine. Unfortunately, when such an analysis is done, it doesn’t support the preferred explanation of our senior civilian and military leaders. When they contemplate the actions of the enemy, they ascribe a completely different motivation to him – generally expressed in terms of “violent extremism,” usually in furtherance of “underlying causes” – that is invariably based on behavioral models that service blue expectations.
As noted earlier, in order to maintain the “violent extremism” narrative, discourse must be reduced to a fourth-grade level of speaking. “We are fighting violent extremists.” “Why are they extreme?” “Because they resort to violence to achieve their goals.” “Why are they violent?” “Because their extremist views forced them to become violent.” Through this syllogism, any disagreement can be framed in terms of “violent extremism.” (pp. 450-451)
And what exactly is “violent extremism”? A “violent extremist”? Coughlin explodes the idea:
In actual usage, it turns out that violent extremism can mean anything you want it to mean, as long as it has nothing to do with jihad. The “violent extremist” narrative is important to analysts in the War on Terror because it fills a need to create value-neutral models. It allows them to pretend they are talking about something when, in fact, they are talking about nothing. Because the Countering Violent Extremis (CVE) narrative reduces analysis to incoherence, it is a nihilist construct. (p. 451)
Coughlin asks some important questions about why our strategy against jihad is so irrational, incoherent, and ineffectual.
But if we are not fighting the war according to our strategy, then whose strategy and to what end? If there is any possibility that our current, strategically unmoored state is someone else’s desired outcome, what strategic advantage would that person have (at our expense)?....[W]e have yet to understand what we are doing. But somebody does and is benefitting from it. (p. 452; Italics the author’s)
Al-Qaeda? The Muslim Brotherhood? The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)? CAIR? The ISNA? The ICNA? President Barack Obama? Obama has shown that he is reluctant to charge Islam with any doctrinal responsibility for terrorist acts committed in this country. Or anywhere else, for that matter. He has simply perpetuated President George Bush’s narrative that Islam has been “hijacked” by terrorists, to be sure, but by terrorists who have purportedly misinterpreted Islam or put a perverted meaning on the Koran’s many violent verses – that is, on the verses that abrogated the earlier, banal, non-violent verses. And if no doctrinal responsibility can be attached to Islamic terrorism – if Islam and Sharia cannot be named in any threat analysis or by the FBI or by military intelligence – then, indeed, everything and nothing can be held responsible, and the issue sinks into a thousand-tentacle mishmash of theoretical but unknowable causes.
Coughlin has no use for “complex” threat models. An enforced allegiance to “complexity,” he argues, only hamstrings threat analysts in their jobs. They are expected to produce answers that resolve nothing but abstractions that are not anchored to reality – or to the enemy. A Jackson Pollock painting of drips and smears and blobs may be said to be complex, but does it mean anything? You can attach any meaning you wish to one of his canvases – everything but madness. That would be offensive to Pollock and his followers, and indicative of a phobia for abstract art. But a rational observer would say: Pollock doesn’t “do” art. Coughlin would likely agree with that prognosis.
We don’t do intelligence anymore. Today, we collect a tremendous amount of raw data. We denature it, break it into data bits, and pour it into a soft-science mold, following the pre-determined path prescribed by the model. The data on which our understanding should have been based now serves to buttress whichever theory is in vogue.
This process allows us to concentrate on models without having to identify the threat while sounding very scientific, academic, and sophisticated. It is the illusion of knowledge where none exists. A form of scientism, it’s the gnostic knowledge of our time thinly wrapped in a veneer of science. Because we don’t have to define the actual threat, no one has to worry about being reprimanded because they failed to accurately identify real groups that publish real doctrines that call for the killing of real Americans. (p. 453)
I think we're lucky that our current echelon of threat analysts have not yet projected an Amish jihadi assault on a Lancaster, Pennsylvania mall by driving their horse-drawn buggies on the sidewalks to mow down shoppers, or Pentecostal jihadis wearing suicide vests assaulting a packed Mormon temple. But, then again, the equally ethereal scenarios they are projecting have nothing to do with Islam, either, even though the Islamist supremacists say it has everything to do with Islam. But given the preference for what Coughlin calls a pseudo-reality that allows the analysts to duck and dodge Islamic jihad, it’s only a matter of time.
If you could imagine the three monkeys rolled into one, you’d have a consciousness that was conscious of nothing, as a matter of choice. The insensate monkey doesn’t “do” reality. And you can't ask him how long he expects to remain alive in that condition. You won't get an answer because he can't hear or see you. To him, you, the individual anchored in reality, don’t exist.
Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad, by Stephen Coughlin. Washington DC: Center for Security Policy Press, 2015. 788 pp.