Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jihadica: pullulating mosquitoes, the swamp, whack-a-mole, the camel, and no cigar.

Jihadica is an amazing website. Its contributors, from what I can gather, seem to be remarkably intelligent and learned analysts who can read (and understand) one or more of various relevant languages in the sphere of terrorism analysisincluding Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and probably several others.
They probably also work for various think tanks and/or government agencies, and Jihadica represents a kind of moonlighting venue for their work, as well as perhaps a useful storehouse for the fruits of their labors possibly even pragmatically related to their day jobs.

And yet, for all their amazing work, one gets a sense, after spending some time reading through some of their archives, of something rather odd, and monumentally misplaced about their whole enterprise. I would plot their analytical position at approximately somewhere in the low to middle asymptotic range: i.e., they continue to guide their analyses by the overarching axiom that Islam is not the problem, and that most Muslims are good (or at least harmless and therefore jihadistically insignificant) people.

However, because they have their
extremism detector set on high and are apparently willing to notice a massive and globally widespread array of data indicating such extremism, they themselves put a paradoxical strain on their guiding axiom. I mean, one can detect, gather, sift through and analyze only so much data, over the years amounting to veritable mountains spread out all over the world in a bewildering variety of venues from caves to deserts to villages to cosmopolitan cities far and wide, from Syrian radio, to Iranian cassette tapes, to Egyptian television, from Al Jazeera, to the Worldwide Web, and from the exotic Orient right into our own backyardbefore a reasonable man would pause, take a breath, and ask himself whether his guiding paradigm which he continues to maintain isnt beginning to look a little ridiculous.

The tensional juxtaposition of Jihadica
s guiding axiom with the sheer quantity and quality of data increasingly conflicting with that axiom leads its theoreticians to resemble madly industrious taxonomists trying to catalogue and organize an explosion of data dizzyingly complex and exponential in its mutations, pullulations, variety, causes, effects and dispersal. A considerable relief of their exhausting industry could be gained by simply rejecting their guiding axiomnamely, that Islam itself is not the source of all this massively myriad data they are studying. Their taxonomy thus acquires the burden of a great deal of needless protean complexity by their implicit insistence that Islam itself is not the problem, and that the problem is really extremist perversions of Islam reflecting implausibly explicable and seemingly randomly generated epidemics of radicalization of otherwise ordinaryand therefore of course heretofore harmlessMuslims.

The analysts at Jihadica resemble dizzyingly scrupulous beekeepers, or madly versatile mosquito-swatters engaged in the quixotic project of forever trying to triangulate, ferret out, and swat the myriad permutations of jihadists that keep pullulating out of the swamp of the Ummawhile yet somehow, strangely, at the same time, they never seem to account for that swamp; and indeed, regard it as a benign, placid lake, or a Pacific Ocean of the mythical Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims. Whence all the mosquitos, then? Perhaps the millions of mosques around the world...?

Indeed, the folks at Jihadica seem to continue to proceed about their analytical business as though there were no swamp at all, as though all these multifarious
jihadists just pop out of nowhere. And the government think tanks and agencies that, apparently, avail themselves of the analytical expertise (such as it is) of the Jihadica analysts react accordingly (from the Bush era into the Obama Drone Policy), with nothing more analytically sophisticated than a doggedly elaborate Whack-a-Mole Strategy, which by now must be taking on comic proportions (think Buster Keaton, or the Keystone Kops, or the Three Stooges).  It seems likely that theyJihadica analysts and their governmental employersimplicitly accept the PC MC etiology: that the jihadists pullulate out of the larger societies of Muslims through the magical process of radicalization which, of course, is a reaction to all the bad things the West has done to Muslims over the years, decades, even centuries back to the Crusades and fast-forwarding through Colonialism, continuing right up to the present day with all our greedy globalist Capitalist “meddling in their lands (a simplistic historical explanation matching exactly that of the one put forward by Muslim apologists).

At any rate, I recommend to my readers that they take a look at the Jihadica website and nose around a little there. A curious experience, at once sobering and comical, will begin to affect any reasonable reader who takes the time to comb through a little of their archives: They will notice that the analysts there are doing complex yoga, pirouettes and dance-steps all calculated in complex ways to avoid the obvious conclusion that the Jihadism they are studying is normative, baseline, grassroots and mainstream among Muslims. The overarching question that seems to guide the efforts of the Jihadica analysts is:

Why is a certain number of Muslims in various places all over the world turning to jihadism?

The proper question that should be guiding them, however, is this:

Given that Islam is centrally and directly an inspiration for the globally dangerous mission of Jihadism, why do most Muslims seem to be relatively harmless?

s a rhetorical question, of course. Appropriately, it should reflect the guiding principle that Muslims are guilty until proven innocent and, closely related to this, that there exists a wide variety of ways for ordinary Muslims of every walk of life to advance Jihad, reflecting a wide spectrum from more or less passive enablement on the low end, to active participation on the high end, and many shades in between of collusion. As long as one assumes axiomatically, as do apparently the Jihadica analysts, that Islam and Muslims per se have little or nothing to do with the problem they catalogue as Jihadism, then a great deal of activity that serves to help the Jihadists will escape their radar.

The question guiding the Jihadica analysts, however, does not seem to be rhetorical, and that
s one problem with it: they are sincerely concerned with trying to figure out an answer to their question, all the while studiously avoiding the camel in the room: Islam. They have thus developed a complex taxonomy of Isms (Islamism, Jihadism, extremism, Salafism, Deobandism, Sahwism, Qutbism, etc.), supplemented by an impressive sub-taxonomy of the multitudes of various terrorist groups and associationsbut to what end? It all seems calculated to try to fend off the taxonomic Kingdom from which the seemingly multifarious phylums, classes, orders, families, genuses, and species of "jihadism" have permuted:  Islam. 

Their about page articulates the target of their analyses: “militant, transnational Sunni Islamism, commonly known as Jihadism”. Notice their pithy definition includes two Ismsextra buffer to make sure that the Sunni and the dreaded combination of the letters I-s-l-a-m within their definition does not lead the reader to think to blame Islam itself. The definition is a textbook example of the phenomenon of asymptotic analysis, which essentially means: Getting closer and closer, but still no cigar. Sometimes the asymptotic analyst seems to care about the cigar—as is the case with Hugh Fitzgerald—and sometimes they dont—as is obviously apparent with regard to the Jihadica analysts: They seem to be positively suppressing any tendencies in their analysis that might move them toward the cigar. I.e., the reader gets the impression that their complex taxonomy is actually calculated to obfuscate the real source of all the taxonomic categories and subcategories, Islam, rather than to reveal it. This, of course, would not be for sinister motives—at least not on the part of the non-Muslim members of Jihadica—but simply because as bipedal oxygen-breathing carbon-based life forms on Earth in the early 21st century, they are PC MCs.

The sheer quantity of data they keep uncovering, the vast global diaspora it reflects, the wide range of types of Muslims involved from cave-dwellers & goatherders to businessmen, politicians, clerics, doctors, engineers, teachers and students, men, women and childrenall have a cumulatively comical effect on the effort these Jihadica analysts maintain to keep avoiding that Camel in the Room, and to keep pretending not to notice the swamp they are floundering in all the while madly and industriously cataloguing all the myriad mosquitoes appearing out of the blue all around the world.

As long as the Jihadica analysts, through their project, effectively hinder any analyses of that camel and that swamp, in turn serving to hinder policies that might be directed to doing something about that camel and that swampbecause the swamp, being Islam itself and the mainstream community of Muslims around the world, cannot possibly be connected to the Jihadists who are endangering us, you seetheir otherwise impressive work tends to have a counter-productive effect on our overarching priority of steering the West back to its former rationality so it can recognize the proper nature and dimensions of this inveterate enemy.


The Jihadica analysts seem to be experts at detecting the Jihadist mosquitoes that keep popping up, which I suppose is better than ignoring them altogether. I do not doubt that on one level this sort of taxonomy is helpful in our fight against Muslim terrorists. But as long as Western intelligence is, at best, only swatting at the mosquitoes while more or less willfully ignoring the swamp whence those mosquitoes pullulate, the Jihadists have only to worry about dodging our swatters and our sprays of insecticide—and have only to worry about trying to stay out of view of intelligence analysts who try to detect them. As long, however, as the West continues to follow its paradigmwhether PC MC or only superficially better the asymptotic model of the Jihadica analyststhe Jihadists need not worry about the West actually getting wise to the real source of their nourishment, breeding, inspiration, recruitment and tactical support: Islam and Muslim communities around the world.

Not only that; it gets worse:  like bacteria or viruses that mutate into forms more resistant to our efforts to fight them, the Muslims on the front lines of the Jihad will continually learn from our tactics that only target the detectable terrorists, and they will adjust their counter-tactics accordingly, increasingly learning which kinds of Muslims we think are harmless and "moderate".  This counter-tactic has a grimly high likelihood of succeeding in the future, only because our Western intelligence analysts (like those at Jihadica) have made it impermissible to suspect all Muslims prejudicially; insisting, rather, on superimposing a casuistry based upon an artificial axiom -- itself simply a second prejudice to replace the more rational one I propose -- that concocts a fantasy-based model of distinctions among Muslims whereby the Harmless or "Moderate" Muslim is endowed with an apodictic ontological reality which has real consequences in our increasingly reckless, if not suicidal, policies that are supposed to be protecting our societies.

Further Reading:

Our incompetent analysts: Vahid Brown

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