Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rolling Up Al Qaeda in Iraq's Media Cells

This is good news. Hopefully we will be able to keep this up:

"Since the surge began, we’ve uncovered eight separate al Qaeda media offices and cells, have captured or killed 24 al Qaeda propaganda cell members and have discovered 23 terabytes of information," said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Forces Iraq in a press briefing. Most recently, four members of al Qaeda's al Furqan media cell in Mosul were captured, "including the media emir of Mosul, the former head of Mosul’s media cell who had established the al Qaeda communications hub in Baghdad, a foreign terrorist from Saudi Arabia who is proficient in video editing and special effects, and a computer graphics specialist," the Armed Forces Press Service reported. Cells have also been broken up in Baghdad, Diyala, Tarmiyah, Samarra, and Karma.

The Mosul cell members echoed recent statements made by Osama bin Laden on the dire situation in Iraq. "(They) have indicated that al Qaeda propaganda efforts have been degraded in recent months,” Smith said. "There is almost nothing left of (al Qaeda in Iraq)."
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The video editor and graphics technician are the lowest ranking and most easily replaceable members of the media cells, according to Nick Grace, the host of Global Crisis Watch and an expert on al Qaeda's media operations, in an interview with The Long War Journal. "The cell members are entry-level positions in al Qaeda's media wing, and start off in the field with al Furqan or al Fajr," said Grace. "If they show skills they may then graduate to work for As Sahab, al Qaeda's parent media organization, and work in Pakistan." Grace also noted the effort al Qaeda put into its propaganda programs and likened the city cells to local television news stations subordinate to US television networks.

The al Furqan Institute for Media Production, along with the al Fajr Media Center, is one of two al Qaeda media organizations that operate inside Iraq. A recent Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe study on insurgent media described al Furqan as "the primary media production center for ISI [Islamic State of Iraq]/Al Qaeda. It produces virtually all ISI/al Qaeda films, audio and videotaped addresses, and the ISI/al Qaeda-affiliated periodical Biographies Of Notable Martyrs. An al Qaeda-affiliated center, al Furqan distributes its products to websites through the al Fajr Media Center."
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The scope of al Furqan's operations was highlighted during a raid on one of its offices in Samarra in June 2007. The cell "produced CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products and contained documents clearly identifying al Qaeda in Iraq's intent to use media as a weapon," said Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, a spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq during a briefing in July. "The building contained 65 hard drives, 18 thumb drives, over 500 CDs and 12 stand-alone computers. ... In all, this media center had the capacity of reproducing 156 CDs in an eight-hour period and had a fully functioning film studio."

US forces also found "a sampling of other propaganda documents: a letter that gives instructions on how to use the media to get out the al Qaeda message most effectively; an al Qaeda activity report highlighting car bomb, suicide, missile, mortar, sniping and IED attacks; a propaganda poster that encourages filming and distributing videos, showing al Qaeda attacks on coalition forces; and a pamphlet and a CD cover of their sniper school."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Marching

The long march through the institutions continues.

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

“The University of Delaware’s residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students’ private beliefs,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

The university’s views are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to “sustainability” door decorations. Students living in the university’s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a “diversity facilitation training” session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that “[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.”


Via Instapundit

CRB: Winning the War of Ideas

Robert Reilly has an essay on how to wage the war of ideas and a critique of American public diplomacy over at the Claremont Review of Books:

American public diplomacy is in disarray. We are not winning—indeed, we are hardly waging—the war of ideas, and it is vitally important that we do, because in our war against the radical Islamists the final victory will take place not on the battlefield but in the minds of men.
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First, in order to fight a war of ideas, one has to have an idea. This is not as simple as it may sound. A war of ideas is a struggle over the very nature of reality for which people are willing to die. Therefore, one must formulate the ideas that are so central to one's life that one is not willing to live without them. For a nation successfully to project such ideas, there must be a broad consensus within it as to what those ideas are.

Second, one cannot go into a war of ideas until one understands the ideas one is at war with. Such wars are always conducted in terms of moral legitimacy. The defense of one's ideas and the attack on those of the enemy are conducted with moral rhetoric. "Axis of evil" is a perfect example, as is "the great Satan." All moral differences are at root theological.

Third, wars of ideas, by definition, can only be fought by and with people who think. This defines the natural target audience for this war, the so-called "elites." The term "elite" is not determined by social or economic status, but by intellectual capabilities. Trying to use ideas to influence people who do not think is an exercise in futility. Such people are led and influenced by those who do think.

Fourth, along with a consistency of purpose, one must have the organizational and financial means for conducting a war of ideas over the course of generations. Ideas, when they are profound enough to form the basis of a civilization, or its negation, have a prolonged gestational period. K.P.S. Gill, India's foremost authority on counterterrorism, has said that, in Kashmir, radical Islamists taught their doctrines in madrassas for two decades before the occurrence of any terrorist acts. After this period of gestation, the war of ideas was already won in the minds of the students who then formed the cadre of Islamist terrorist organizations. The same is true in other parts of the Islamic world. The war of ideas requires institutions that are capable of countering this kind of indoctrination over similarly lengthy periods, i.e., decades.
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The State Department should concentrate on the implementation of the broad range of the president's policies. Public diplomacy should concentrate on the longer-range goal of winning the war of ideas.

We need a central U.S. government institution within which policy, personnel, and budget can be deployed coherently to implement a multifaceted strategy to fight the war of ideas over an extended period of time. Without it, the U.S. will remain largely absent from the field. In this time of crisis, a new USIA-like organization should be created that can articulate and promulgate American ideals to the world and counter hostile propaganda. This new cabinet-level communications agency, independent of the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA, could maintain a strategic focus on aiding Muslim liberals and moderates, and not get lost in daily "spin" control. It would be staffed by people who know substantively what the "war of ideas" is about and have the regional expertise to operate across the Muslim world and in other vital regions. Its director should report to the president.

Currently, annual U.S. public diplomacy expenditures approximate McDonald's global budget for promoting its burgers. This is roughly half of what Saudi Arabia has spent yearly for the past two decades to spread Wahhabism throughout the Muslim world and here. This $1.4 billion (1/365th of the Pentagon's budget) is grotesquely inadequate and needs to be trebled for starters.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Notes

I'm going to be moving in a few weeks and have been absorbed in off-line activities and so I haven't had as much time for blogging. I'm moving back to the DC area again to study video/audio production. The goals are to improve upon my experience of producing audiobooks for the past couple of years to get a job, continue working on my business, do some kind of strategic citizen project, and maybe make a documentary film. So we'll see how that all works out. A lot of things are up in the air right now.

The day after posting about The Ghost Mountain Boys I was doing some used book shopping and found MacArthur's Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign by Stephen Taaffe, which I read over the next few days. It is a good narrative of this forgotten campaign. If I have enough time I'll try to write something more about it.

Here are some good posts from around the blogosphere that are worth reading:

Counterpropaganda Techniques by Cannoneer No. 4.

The OSS Morale Operations Branch in Action, 1943-1945 posted by PurpleSlog.

The Ku Klux Klan Insurgency at Net Wars. The proprietor of this blog has gone off to Army officer training and so is not posting now, but there's a lot of good stuff in his archives.

I was a Card-Carrying Libertarian: Confessions of a Black Sheep Republican by Vodkapundit's Stephen Green.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Today's Quote: Tigerhawk on Modernity

I admit it, I love modernity. I've never been one to hanker for days of yore when life was simple, teeth were rotten, and lifespans were short. I remember thinking this way at least as far back as junior high school, when I read an essay by Isaac Asimov on the subject. He recounted having encountered somebody who said that he wished he lived in ancient Athens, to whom Asimov replied "Why would you want to be a slave in the Athenian silver mines?", or words to that effect. His point was obvious -- unless you are an aristocrat, there really is no better time and place than modernity.
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Many Westerners, including most modern leftists (as opposed to the original Marxists), do not believe in "progress" in the sense that they believe that the human condition has changed rather than progressed. Worse, they often regard change as a bad thing, usually for reasons that strike me as romantic rather than thoughtful. This leads them to be cavalier about the value of such things as economic growth, the spread of technology, and the modernization of social institutions in the parts of the world that have not yet modernized. That leads them to campaign for social and economic policies that propose to slow down progress. Opposition to the idea of progress unites anti-globalization activists, "hair shirt" environmentalists, and ideological anti-Americans. This thinking explains, for example, why many left-wing environmental activists advocate solutions to climate change that will obviously crush economic growth. They just do not value it.

Yes, modernization is -- as a professor of mine once said -- "the universal social solvent." He meant that it blows apart traditional societies, and in that something is certainly lost. So much more is gained, though, that we should fight tooth and nail to sustain progress rather than put an end to it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Maritime Strategy

The Navy has released its new maritime strategy and Steeljaw Scribe has a very interesting post by the team leader of the development of the strategy describing how it was done.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ghost Mountain Boys

The New Guinea campaign during World War 2 is one of the least known. So it was good to find The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea--The Forgotten War of the South Pacific by James Campbell and will definitely add it to my list:

Lying due north of Australia, New Guinea is among the world’s largest islands. In 1942, when World War II exploded onto its shores, it was an inhospitable, cursorily mapped, disease-ridden land of dense jungle, towering mountain peaks, deep valleys, and fetid swamps. Coveted by the Japanese for its strategic position, New Guinea became the site of one of the South Pacific’s most savage campaigns. Despite their lack of jungle training, the 32nd Division’s Ghost Mountain Boys were assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign: march 130 miles over the rugged Owen Stanley Mountains and protect the right flank of the Australian army as they fought to push the Japanese back to the village of Buna on New Guinea’s north coast.

Comprised of National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, reserve officers, and draftees from across the country, the 32nd Division lacked more than training—they were without even the basics necessary for survival. The men were not issued the specialized clothing that later became standard issue for soldiers fighting in the South Pacific; they fought in hastily dyed combat fatigues that bled in the intense humidity and left them with festering sores. They waded through brush and vines without the aid of machetes. They did not have insect repellent. Without waterproof containers, their matches were useless and the quinine and vitamin pills they carried, as well as salt and chlorination tablets, crumbled in their pockets.
Exhausted and pushed to the brink of human endurance, the Ghost Mountain Boys fell victim to malnutrition and disease. Forty-two days after they set out, they arrived two miles south of Buna, nearly shattered by the experience.

Arrival in Buna provided no respite. The 32nd Division was ordered to launch an immediate assault on the Japanese position. After two months of furious—sometimes hand-to-hand—combat, the decimated division finally achieved victory. The ferocity of the struggle for Buna was summed up in Time magazine on December 28, 1942, three weeks before the Japanese army was defeated: “Nowhere in the world today are American soldiers engaged in fighting so desperate, so merciless, so bitter, or so bloody.”

Lawfare

Libertas has an interview with attorney and documentary filmmaker Brooke Goldstein about her film The Making of a Martyr. The interview is worth reading in its entirety, but I have excerpted below her response to a question about lawfare which has become an important non-violent tactic for radical Islamists. Goldstein is part of The Legal Project at the Middle East Forum established to counter Islamist lawfare. She is a good example of how private citizens can take action against radical Islamists.

Goldstein: Lawfare is defined as the pursuit of strategic goals through aggressive legal maneuvers. Lately analysts, researchers, media outlets, charitable groups and authors dedicated to publishing and exposing issues of concern regarding counter-terrorism, have found themselves on the receiving end of a series of targeted lawsuits.

These suits, whose claims range from defamation to workplace harassment, are designed to bankrupt, punish and intimidate Defendants into silence and have an overall chilling effect on the exercise of free speech within this country.

For example, Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of the book “Funding Evil,” was sued for defamation in a Plaintiff-friendly U.K libel court by Saudi billionaire Khalid Bin Mahfouz, whom Rachel cites as providing financial support to terrorists. Rachel lost on default and was ordered to pay a significant amount to Bin Mahfouz while her important book is banned from being sold in England.

Bruce Tefft, a former anti-terrorism consultant for the NYPD, was sued by an Egyptian John Doe Muslim police officer for workplace harassment after he sent out emails to a voluntary recipient list of NYPD officers about the threat of Islamic radicalization within our country. Ironically, a few weeks later the NYPD released its own report confirming Tefft’s fears. Nonetheless, Bruce continues to rack up legal costs defending himself in what looks like a frivolous suit designed to discourage the free flow of information within our justice system.

Sometimes just the threat of suit is enough to intimidate parties into silence. When Bin Mahfouz wrote a letter to Cambridge University Press threatening to sue over Robert Collins and J. Millard Burr’s “Alms for Jihad,” the publisher ceased print, destroyed books, requested that libraries do the same and released an apology letter claiming facts they had once proliferated as true, to be false. Even though both authors sent supporting documents to back up their claims against Mahfouz, and despite the fact that Burr is a former State Department employee and well respected intelligence analyst, Cambridge Press capitulated and refused to disseminate information of grave public concern. The Legal Project, at the MEF, of which I am director, was launched to counter such attacks on by arranging for pro-bono representation of citizens who are unfairly targeted with malicious and frivolous suits.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today's Quote: Eugene O'Neill

When I was on the Squarehead square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself -- actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. Then another time, on the American Line, when I was lookout on the crow's nest in the dawn watch. A calm sea, that time. Only a lazy ground swell and a slow drowsy roll of the ship. The passengers asleep and none of the crew in sight. No sound of man. Black smoke pouring from the funnels behind and beneath me. Dreaming, not keeping lookout, feeling alone, and above, and apart, watching the dawn creep like a painted dream over the sky and sea which slept together. Then the moment of ecstatic freedom came. The peace, the end of the quest, the last harbor, the joy of belonging to a fulfillment beyond man's lousy, pitiful, greedy fears and hopes and dreams! And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on the beach, I have had the same experience. Became the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see--and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning! Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone, lost in the fog again, and you stumble on toward nowhere, for no good reason!

From Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Promoting Freedom through Film"

I argued in a recent post that we need pro-liberty production companies and as chance would have it I just discovered one: the Moving Picture Institute, founded by Thor Halvorssen who is also one of the founders of the excellent Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

[The Moving Picture Institute] “focuses on movies that will make a difference in the struggle for American values. We are unlike any other foundation promoting the principles of American freedom. We exist to nurture the development of filmmakers through a major internship program to provide crucial support for filmmakers through production grants, whether it’s for a feature film, a narrative documentary, or a short film.”

MPI, he continues, “eschews the labels ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ or ‘libertarian.’ That allows so many people who might have disagreements over this or that particular issue to all come under the same umbrella.”

But there’s no question about the organization’s purpose: “We view the film industry as unconcerned with exploring the idea of liberty or developing a distinctive and nuanced portrayal of deep-seated American values like freedom of speech, freedom of association, and, especially, the free enterprise system.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Politics is a Completion of War"

Something to think about:

It's now believed that several leaders of the Muslim establishment in America last decade conspired to infiltrate the U.S. political system, change Middle East policy and gradually Islamize America. At the same time, they hatched a plot to fund overseas terrorists.

Of course, they couldn't do this out in the open. So they set up benign-sounding nonprofits and charities to "camouflage" their traitorous activities, say U.S. prosecutors who cite wiretap transcripts and other documents uncovered in a criminal probe of the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in America.

During a secret meeting at a Philadelphia hotel, the charity's president and other prominent Muslim leaders were recorded allegedly plotting ways to disguise payments to Hamas terrorists as charity.

"I swear by Allah that war is deception," said Shukri Abu-Baker, now on trial in the federal terror-funding case. "We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart. . . . Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you're leaving while you're walking that way. Deceive your enemy."

Another participant at the Hamas summit was the founder of the Council on American Islamic-Relations, or CAIR, the largest Muslim civil-rights group in the country and an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror-funding case.

Adding to Abu-Baker's point, Omar Ahmad compared the deception needed to fool the infidels with the head fake in basketball. "He makes a player believe that he is doing this while he does something else," Ahmad said. "I agree with you. . . . Politics is a completion of war."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Political Activism as a Form of War

The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war. But if that is not what you are interested in then you need different models to categorize the forms of war based on what it is you are trying to do. For me I'm more interested in which forms of war are available to us right now. So the sequence of emergence over time is irrelevant. Today we can wage the forms of war identified in the generational model as 2G, 3G, and 4G, but not 1G. With the exception of 1GW the emergence of the succeeding generations did not make the previous generation obsolete, rather they gave war-fighters more options for waging war in different circumstances and for different purposes. So for someone looking at the various options available for accomplishing a particular mission or policy it doesn't matter which came first.

Once 4GW appears, an interesting thing happens: the main contest is not on the battlefield but what takes place in the realm of politics, society and culture. Because of this, political activism becomes more important than military action in that arena. As this phenomena continues to evolve, what would, in the past, have been wars fought with armies will be conflicts fought through non-violent political activism, without a battlefield component at all. Would this be a new generation of war? I don't know, it might not make sense to categorize it as war at all. But it would certainly be an option available to governments and civil society actors and so has to be included in thinking about war in the contemporary world. Within this context, political activism as war doesn't make 2G, 3G, 4G obsolete, rather it expands the potential means for individuals, civil society groups, and governments to accomplish goals, by exploiting the opportunities created by contemporary political, social, economic, and technological innovations.

This is one of the reasons that I have become more interested in political activism. After all once we recognize that politics and civil society have become the arena of conflict then the proper area of study moves from military history to the history of political movements to glean insights into how to organize and take action to counter a 4G, 5G, social netwar campaign or to initiate a campaign of our own. Unfortunately there is not the same kind of literature analyzing the strategies, tactics and organization of political movements that is the equivalent of the study of wars and battles. I have also noticed that many people interested in military affairs seem to be very resistant to the idea of considering political activism within the context of thinking about forms of war.

Curtis at Dreaming 5GW asks whether George Soros' political operations are a kind of 5GW or just normal politics. I think we have to consider the possibility that it may be both. If we had a radical Islamist group that was doing exactly what Soros is doing, even if it was not connected to terrorist organizations and so was doing nothing illegal, then I think it would be more clear that this is a form of waging war against a society via politics. What we are lacking is that category to describe activity that is like war in some respects but not quite war and is like politics in some respects but is more than just normal politics. Without that category we have a hard time comprehending certain types of activities and understanding which of our institutions should be mobilized to deal with it.