Jawboning the Jihad
by G. Murphy Donovan (January 2022)
Kaaba Stone veneration in Mecca
“To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.”
– Will Durant
No one abuses or misuses language better than a politician, except maybe a political “scientist.” Calling the study of politics, science, is in itself more than a bit of a reach. Serious study is to political science as Plato is to graffito, free-forms of daily invention. Nevertheless, in the age of social mediums, banal clichés often become memes or even movements overnight. The “Arab Spring” comes to mind. Climatological or seasonal metaphors are a thing in our age of environmental angst these days, and just as ephemeral.
Not too long ago, the media and the academy were euphoric about Arabia, or the Muslim world generally, emerging from a long dark night of religious tyranny into the warmth of secular, if not enlightened democracy; the so-called “Arab Spring.” All the while, it was much too dangerous to actually say or write that one third of the world’s population had been living in the dark since the 7th Century. Today, any serious debate about persistent Muslim recidivism, Islamist threats, or perennial jihad is dismissed as “racism.” Never mind that Islam is an absolutist ideology, a politicized religion, indeed a kind of theofascism, not a race or a class of people.
In the debate about Islamism, facts and logic are often irrelevant. Never mind the obscenities of 9/11, the slaughter in Benghazi, beheadings in the Levant, the Laura Logan rape in Cairo, the recent triumph of the Taliban in Kabul, or the Islam bomb now on both sides of the Sunni/Shia schism; all signal events for a modern, “moderate” (sic) Islam.
The Arab Spring euphoria peaked in the Obama era. Barack Hussein’s first foreign policy stumble as US president was to launch an apology tour in Arabia, taking a knee in Cairo, a kind of strategic genuflection after 9/11.
Professor Marc Lynch, of George Washington University, minted the “Arab Spring” metaphor. GW is one of those “second tier” schoolhouses that cluster inside or near the capital Beltway. Lynch, an Obama Democrat, anchors the “two-state” or pander lobby in Washington. At best, Lynch is anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic. He pedals the apartheid slur about Israel, loudly and often, in left-leaning establishment journals like Foreign Policy.
And now with Biden, a Winter of discontents descends on Washington in the wake of the Abraham Accords. No talk now of “Spring,” or sunshine for that matter. Trump era policy can’t possibly be an achievement if you are reading DC demagogues like Lynch. And so goes analysis in political science, a lot like weather, climate, and meteorological arguments; ounces of fact larded with pounds of bile, bias, or wishful thinking.
If you lose the Middle East foreign policy thread in Washington, just remember that a Democrat White House equals Spring, a Republican Oval Office equals Winter. Yes, it’s that simple for the academy and media allies these days. We are now led to believe that historic treaties and Arab/Israeli reproachments like the Abraham Accords are ignorable, irrelevant, or counterproductive.
Honest analysis, and truth, about Islam and Israel these days is hostage to a host of such shibboleths, the most prominent of which are fear, demographics, moral equivalence, and the two-state fantasy.
Appeasers are literally terrified about jihad and Islamism. Alas, the real global terror threat is the fear that energizes appeasement, immigration policy, and imprudent atrocity tolerance in the West. Note that Islam’s migrants travel on a one-way street, always from East to West.
For the ayatollahs and imams, to be sure, victory by a thousand cuts will still be a win.
Recall that Saudi jihadists trained in America before 9/11 whilst team Clinton’s FBI was asleep at the wheel. After 9/11, team Bush repatriated resident Saudis even before the smoke cleared at the Twin Towers. When it comes to the Muslim wars, American national security impotence is bi-partisan.
The late Director of CIA, John Brennan, actually argues that religious jihad is not war, but rather a personal “spiritual” struggle for Muslims, not warfare. Brennan confuses Muslim mayhem with Catholic soul searching. Any attempt to link terror, religious war, or theocratic coups to global Islam or theology is dismissed as racism, again conflating biology and ideology. Global jihadists have no need to apologize for atrocities. American Intelligence oligarchs, like Brennan, do that for Islam.
Apologists go to any length to create a space between alleged “moderates” and unspecified jihadists (aka radicals) in the Ummah. Muslims (1.5 billion) represent a third of the world’s population. That number, that demographic threat alone, is simply too big, or terrifying, for the West to accept, no less confront.
Moral equivalence is the pink elephant in the approach/avoidance clinic. Scholars and pundits take great pains to claim that Islam is just one of the world’s three “great” Abrahamic religions. Hindus and others, apparently, are just chopped liver. Allegedly, Jews, Christians and Muslims are united by common roots. The Abrahamic trope gives Islamic imperials, terrorists, and jihadists cover under a contrived burka of moral equivalence.
The object of the Abraham shibboleth is tolerance; tolerance for Islam, not Judaism or Christianity. Muslim states are happy to oblige. Conflating an Islamic “republic” with true republics is like confusing astrology and astronomy; worse still, misrepresenting theocracy as democracy. Israel is the lone tolerant democracy in a Levantine swamp. Unfortunately, Israel is also the canary in the geopolitical coal mine. If we can mix some more metaphors; without Israel, the cradle of civilization is just another third world “sierra hotel.”
Unfortunately, whence Israel, so goes the democratic West.
Bogus moral equivalence enables cultural decay and here, if anybody is keeping score, recent rot now includes; Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and now Afghanistan, just to name the most visible. Pakistan too, with the first Islam bomb, is always one bullet away from recidivist theocracy. The success of the Taliban and ISIS next door in Afghanistan, suggests the days of Islamic janissary in Islamabad are numbered.
The CIA gravy train in south Asia ran/runs through Pakistan. It’s not likely that the Taliban or ISIS will forget Pakistan’s perfidy and double dealing. The Indian sub-continent now has an official state sponsor for Islamism too. Kabul is host to the Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS just to name some of the nastier tribal thugs with global reach.
Worse still, Sunni and Shia Islamist factions, now have nuclear leverage with state sponsors like Pakistan (Sunni) and Iran (Shia). None of this bodes well for enlightened globalism or progressive democracy worldwide.
The most pernicious trope propagated by American Intelligence and academic fakirs is the notion that dividing Israel into two states will assuage Arab or Muslim angst. The division of India in 1947 into religious cantons should be a cautionary tale about the imprudence of sectarian surgery. Beyond ignoring ugly precedent, the notion that Palestinians are the key to peace in the Levant or anywhere is another common fiction. Neither Americans nor Israelis have answers to historic and persistent Muslim civic or religious pathologies in spite of what the Muslim Brotherhood or Edward Said tell us.
The root of conflict within and without the Muslim world is the Shia/Sunni schism. (Sam Huntington takes a legacy bow here.) Medieval militants on both sides of the grand religious rift seek to overthrow hereditary, tribal, mostly autocratic, sometimes secular regimes who have strayed from Islamic religious orthodoxy. With the Shia, the vector of futures in Persia was resolved by theocratic coup in 1979, freeing Iran’s ayatollahs to focus their hate on Arab and Sunni apostates and neighbors.
Apostates are priority one targets for jihadists. Kafir kills just keep a keen edge on the swords of the Prophet. The less visible strategic war is not with, but within Islam. America and Israel are caught in the crossfire, perennial if not potential road kills.
Taking sides in a family feud is always a dicey proposition.
Arabian despots, for their part, are now caught in a pinch too, between home-grown and Persian jihadists. The recent rapproachement between Israel and Arabia may be a child of necessity. Nuclear capability gives Tehran strategic parity with the Israelis and an equalizer for Sunni numbers. Iran’s nuclear card might be taken but not given. Any assurances, to the contrary, from the ayatollahs will be like getting a get-well card from your bookie.
Seems that Arabia now sees Israel as a buffer, proxy, or surrogate against an existential threat from Persians. Why not a marriage of convenience that shifts the burden of confronting Shia militants and the Islam bomb to the Israelis? Hopefully, Israel appreciates the calculus. American national security plodders prefer not to think about it.
In any case, with Afghanistan, we have another breach birth theocracy, quickly relegated to yesterday’s news. Journalists and national security pundits are back to whistling in the dark and romancing the Kaaba Stone. Jawboning the jihad is a symptom of weakness, a flaccid American tactic that just whets the appetite of Mohammed’s strategic cutthroats.
Muslin religious imperialism, Islamofacism if you will, is on a roll. The West is losing the ongoing “clash of civilizations,” albeit in slow motion. The difference in the 21st Century edition of East/West clash will be an Islam that has a strategy and a goal; and knows how to get there. The best that America and the West will do is hope for the best and endure the rest.
G. Murphy Donovan is a former Intelligence officer who writes about the politics of national security.
Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast
Excellent and realistic analysis.
Oversimplified, biased analysis of some deep-rooted issues
I'd be willing to bet that if Donald Trump took the tour of the Middle East Obama did you'd be singing praises to its vision and boldness instead of calling it a knee-taking. Also if you want to talk Afghanistan, you might mention the fact that it was Donald Trump who negotiated with the Taliban (!) and agreed that withdrawal deal, and therefore bears a large share of the blame for their rise to power. Maybe the incumbent messed up the execution of the pullout, but it was Trump's brilliant idea.
G. Murphy Donovan
Ouch! Why is it that best specious arguments, or critiques, are always made by Anonymous. How much courage does it take to own what you write - or believe?
Yo! Semite Sam
I'm in complete agreement with your comment to "oversimplified".
This was a very good read. As to Oversimplified's criticism -- he does have a point as to Afghanistan -- to a point, of course. But I am not sure I understand the "if Donald Trump took the tour of the Middle East Obama did you'd be singing praises to its vision and boldness." Trump didn't make such tour because it would go against his grain: being apologetic towards the sympathizers for the 9/11 attack and seeing them as someone to whom America should apologize and appease as if they had real grievances, and seeing them as anything other than a bunch of crazies was not his thing. I dislike Obama -- to put it politically correctly, for this word does not describe the intensity of the feeling -- because he was incompetent at best, treacherous at worst. How else to explain his Iran "deal"? How else to explain that he did not support Iranians protesting against the ayatollahs in 2009? To use your analogy -- what if Obama put a further squeeze on the ayatollahs instead of giving them the legal path to a bomb in 15 years? I would have loved him, I assure you, instead of despising him as I do. But he was just not made of the right stuff, and his thinking was utterly crooked. So hypotheticals about "what would have happened if..." just do not work. Sober accounting for actual Facts is the only way to think. And this article fits that bill pretty well. And the boisterous, colloquial style is a huge plus -- at least as far as I am concerned...
G. Murphy Donovan
Well said, Lev. And yes DT wanted out of Afghanistan, as did I. We're talking about manner of, not fact of. We can't fight Islam's wars. As to blame, I subscribe to the naval standard. If it happens on your watch, you own it, captain.
As always, factual with context. Pessimistic and realistic. Vote RIGHT!
You amaze me, Colonel. Excellent metaphors and absolute perceptiveness of argument don't always go together--but yours always do. And why is it so hard for correct-thinkers to see that Islam is indeed not a coherent Abrahamic faith but a variety of fascism instead? Perhaps I do fascism a disservice? I'd rather live in Benito's Italy than in any Muslim state, any at all.
G. Murphy's is the specious complaint
Dear G, I'm not sure what you're complaining about - to listen to you one would think I'd said something I would be ashamed to repeat in person, which I find laughable. Contrary to your claim, you and Mr. Tsitrin found my points worth discussing. The complaint is also a bit rich coming from somebody who's applied a bit of obfuscation to their own signature. Have a nice day.
1. No immigration for the duration. Deport down to the second cousin and sink the boats. 2. Islam must be legally decertified as a legal religion in all Western nations. It does not meet the criteria of a religion in our lands, it does meet the criteria of a political conspiracy. 3. No religious detente until Pope Benedicts Regensburg questions are answered by Qom and Al-Azhar and answered so the violence against kuffars is haram.
The genius of much of GMDs writing is his uncanny ability to both coin excellent memorable and accurate metaphors as Samuel Hux indicated in his comment and at the same time see, through the futile sham and shame of the glib attempts to paste over the failures of invented slogans such as the ~Arab Spring” so dear to the State Department and Building Back Better” (to prove they can handle alliteration) in order to portray Biden’s inability to develop any coherent policy for his new administration. As a writer who has received such anonymous rebuttals or those representing fictitious organizations, I can wholeheartedly concur that they immediately alert readers that they are worthless. The writers do not have the courage of their convictions and are acting as shills. They are worthless. I call upon editors to reject them everywhere. In my 15 years writing for New English Review, I cannot recall if they ever constituted more than one percent of readers’ responses. The charge of “oversimplification” is the second strategy of those who cannot abide the truth. Yes, nuance is important but writers who have any character and talent seek to occasionally sacrifice the many ifs, ands, perhaps, maybes, althoughs, and buts that typify academic theses and great historical tomes. Murphy’s choice of the phrase ~jawboning” implies just this. The historical and literary allusions of the great Hebrew hero Samson in Judges 15:16 when he declares with a brilliant double entendre “With a donkey’s jawbone, I have made donkeys of them”, in killing a thousand Philistines. Amazingly, this play on words works in both Hebrew and English
Doesn't Drink Koolaid
Dear Norman, I've heard the word "shill" used in argument before, but only by conspiracy nuts. I'm also failing to understand why the name of a commenter is of such interest to you and G. Several people contribute to this website using more or less concealed names. The author of this piece is one, Ibn Warraq and Theodore Dalrymple are others. It doesn't bother me because I'm only interested in arguing points. Why is it such a big deal to you?
G's analysis is simplistic
First of all, there's a lot more going on in the countries of the "Muslim world" than Islamism. G's mentions of tribal, autocratic, etc. forces are an admission of that, and in most places it's those forces rather than religion that are the dominant ones, and have been for a long time. Second, Islamic theocracies (of which G cited Afghanistan as the supposed latest example) don't exactly dot the map - Of the other two countries which could be called that, one is a longtime western ally. Third, G throws out a list of names of Middle Eastern conflict zones, but he fails to present any sort of cohesive argument for why we should see them all as links in some well-planned Islamist strategy of world conquest (a funny claim). On the contrary, in all of the conflicts he drops a mention of, the causes of conflict differ, only in one (Iraq) can Islamic extremists be seen as the primary driver, and in most (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen) the Islamist players have faced (local) opposition and have suffered setbacks. I don't necessarily disagree with the argument that some westerners fail to understand just how intolerant and ruthless people in certain other parts of the world can be. But overall, I would say this piece doesn't advance that argument well and doesn't show any convincing understanding of what's going on in the Middle East. Its main aim seems to be grinding ideological axes and flaying the author's ideological enemies.