1 november 2007

Opposing Jihadism - To fight the enemy one must know the enemy (Brigant)

This article is an attempted response to Professor Cogen's column entitled 'Opposing Jihadism - a onset for a cure'. It is very clear from the article that Professor Cogen is a professor of International Law. To summarise it in a couple sentences requires some generalisations but in essence I would summarize it as following: The West is at war with Jihadism with the centre of all evil being Iran. Jihadism uses private armies and their members should be put on trial before Military tribunals. NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as instruments of enforcing a security policy must crack down primarily against Jihadism and terrorism.

However, there are some problems with Cogen's article. Jihadism has many faces, Military tribunals works for States with a Western notion of Justice. Conventional military intervention against a private & covertly operating organization?

Jihadism's many faces.
There is no single face of Political Islam, especially its Jihadist branches do not entirely fall under Iran's policy of proxy-warfare. The Islamic world is mainly divided between Shia and Sunni Islam. Which is an element which falsifies Cogen's position.

Iran, the centre of Jihadist evil?
Certainly Iran uses Shia militia's in a proxy-war strategy such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon, it backs the Shia (Alawi) run regime ruling a predominantly Sunni (and multi-ethnic) Syria. Their actions in support of Shia militias in Iraq cannot be denied either. It however opposed the Taleban who are Sunni's (hence the initial co-operation between Iran and the US intelligence services) and supported Massoud's resistance which later was 'unified' under the 'Northern Alliance' or better known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan which is mainly Shia (has/had some ties with Iran). Making Iran allies in Afghanistan...

What about Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
Al Qaeda is a coordinating international Islamist/Jihadist organization with a Sunni background. Islamist and other actors with a lot of religious zeal received support from Egypt and Saudi-Arabia to go fight against the Russians in Afghanistan as a sort of policy to increase internal security (getting rid of troublesome radicals). After their role was played out in Afghanistan they scattered across the 'globe' and started to interfere in Yugoslavia, Chechenya and the Middle East. Wahabism forms a religious vehicle which assists in financing and with its conservative visions closes in on Islamist Jihadism. Saudi Arabia finances Islam globally in order to legitimize the Saud rulers, with it they also spread Islamism.

Qutb and Zawahiri are Egyptians who became the ideological masters of Sunni Jihadism. Qutb was executed by the Egyptians, Zawahiri was released by the Egyptians and fled across the Islamic world only to end up in Afghanistan alongside Osama Bin Laden, the rich Saudi. Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden combining religiously based ideology and commercial knowledge/financial assets led to the formation of a global organization called Al Qaeda.

Picking a fight with Iran will not solve the problem of Jihadism. Foreign policies by other States, regional or global actors, do not help either. Recent reports indicate Iranian and Chinese weapons arming Taleban fighters, why would they do that? Either they have an internal criminal problem or its a part of their foreign policy to tie down NATO in Afghanistan.
Iranian arming of insurgent factions in Iraq, criminal act or foreign policy to tie down the US?

Fighting Terrorism using Military Tribunals?
Terrorism is nothing new. It's not like before 9/11 there was no terrorism in the world. It's not like there was no terrorism in the world before the Palestinian-Israeli conflict started. Terrorism is part of the world except in our 'world' since we live in a world of security and justice, combined with democracy, Freedom, Constitutional Rights.

Cogen offers a solution to an important problem...how do we react towards captured terrorists as a society of Justice in a Western way. Cogen's solution is simple and beautiful: drag them before military tribunals. I would agree to that, but we're at war and their actions are not simply criminal actions. Indeed they are private militaries who are conducting a privately financed war against the West but also against the States that fall under the 'Islamic Civilization' for they are infidel/corrupt regimes. However, military tribunals are not going to stop them. It only solves a problem related to prisoners.

NATO and the SCO should fight a Dirty war?
A problem with Cogen's article is that the military solution to the terrorist threat is a multi-State response such as NATO and SCO. NATO was formed to fight armies of governments, to defend States against other States. NATO and the SCO will mainly use conventional military methods using the Geneva convention as a basis to battle against Terrorism. It is a war tied by a international legal system that is not fit to fight terrorism, using methods -even in asymmetric warfare- that involve mainly overt operations using large-scale military organisations.

I believe that in order to fight terrorism we must fight a 'dirty war' which falls outside the legal system. Organizations such as NATO can offer a possibility to coordinate and open windows of opportunity but their conventional military power should not be put to use (too often), as it is costly and requires popular support. I believe it may also be less efficiƫnt whilst also have foreign policy implications (being tied down).

What rather should be used is the old method of dirty warfare by units of the Intelligence community but globalised by co-operation. The intelligency communities of aligned States should coordinate intelligence gathering and launching of covert operations using own assets or proxies. The level of assets and governmental military force used depending on the situation. The idea behind is that military forces would not be stuck indefinately into a failed State performing security and reconstruction services.

In the case of Afghanistan this would have meant military support for the Northern Alliance which should have to conquer all of Afghanistan, with Special Forces & Intelligence covert Forces chasing down the real enemies that concern us (not the Taleban but Al Qaeda). We have now conventional forces stuck in a country lacking a good security and reconstruction policy being performed by foreign units representing the Afghan government. I believe the war being fought in Somalia by US Special Forces and their allies against Jihadist elements there is the way to go.
Intelligence gathering, striking, getting out. Hit hard and Run for the next round of battle.


In order to fight the war against Jihadism (rather than On Terror) we must first get involved into political mapping of the enemy and possible allies (coalitions of the willing, proxies). We can use Military tribunals against prisoners to sound the trumphet of Justice. However to win the war, we must fight it as dirty as the enemy does.

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At 1/11/07 18:11, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Deze reactie is verwijderd door een blogbeheerder.

At 1/11/07 19:47, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Changes made. How about you make yourself known, then I can send the articles to you to read them. :).

At 1/11/07 23:14, Anonymous Anoniem said...

remove me:
"Nothing needs to be known about me, except that I exist."

pretty difficult to contact you as well ;-)

At 2/11/07 12:19, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Hmm, thought I placed a contactadress (email) on me blog. Guess it got wiped out during one of the changes.

At 3/11/07 04:07, Anonymous Anoniem said...

@ Brigant

You make an interesting analysis of Cogan, and I agree with your broad conclusion. Some further comments.

1) Obviously jihadism has many faces and mapping them is useful and needed. I think that Cogan's focus on Iran is justified because Iran is a major state where jihadists are in power. This means that they have direct access to conventional military power and to sizable resources (based on oil). Elsewhere in the muslim world, jihadists are not formally in power. While it is obvious that there are links between certain jihadist groups and certain elements in 'government' in other countries, I do not believe that this is comparable to the Iran situation. I suspect that western governments have more leverage with those governments than they do with the theocracy in Iran. Also, the prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of shiite Iran, and thus potentially in the hands of its various proxies, presents a threat of a totally different order than the current various forms of sunni terrorism.

However, if the Pakistani government were to fall (again)in the hands of sunni radicals then all bets are off...and Armagheddon would be truly around the corner. So, besides Iran, Pakistan remains a source of major concern. Also, a major argument for preventing a nuclear Iran AT ANY COST, is the near certainty that sunni Arab governments will seek to go nuclear too if the Persians succeed in doing so.

2) I don't understand your position with regard to military tribunals to deal with private armies or terrorist cells? Cogan makes sense in that regard. And, while it is true that such tribunals are not going to "solve" the problem of jihadism at large, western governments do need a realistic method of dealing with jihadist terrorists IN THE MEANTIME. The bigger problem will never be truly solved until the muslim world achieves a cultural revolution towards tolerance and democracy. That means not in my (remaining) life time, and perhaps not in yours either.

3) I agree that Nato cannot win an asymmetric war unless it fights 'dirty' too. But, as you know, today it is really only (or near totally) the 'anglo-saxons' who are doing the actual fighting against jihadism in a variety of places around the world. Unless the rest of Nato 'shapes up', this war will drag on much longer than it otherwise would. Which means that the biggest obstacle to victory today is a 'cultural' one, and mainly in Europe. In addition, there is also the constant threat that American political will can falter (again). After all, the USA is a democracy, with a 'free' (not manufactured) public opinion, with elections and regular power alternation. The conclusion therefore, should be that this 'long war' will be longer the longer it takes for western public opinion to make the necessary 'cultural transformation'. There are few signs that it is doing so in time before cataclysmic events will eventually 'force it'. Which is too bad, but very likely this is what will happen in the foreseeable future.

At 3/11/07 18:00, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

It was not really an analysis but a response.

1)Are Jihadists in power in Iran or is Political Islam in power using war-by-proxy methods? So I'm guessing we have a regime with a basis on Political Islam rather than Jihadism using a lot of rethoric but little force. Using proxies to protect and enlarge its sphere of influence. Iran signed the NPT and thus is not allowed to have nuclear weapons, regardless of the type of regime. Pakistan is indeed a probleem. Sunni regimes are already playing with nuclear energy.

2)I follow Cogen on the Military tribunals. It solves a problem related to 'POWs'. But threatening them with military tribunals is not going to help us solve the problem nor fight the war. War is not a judiciary problem but a political problem, requiring political solutions. Their motivation isn't purely religious (imperialist, gaining some souls) but also political (failing states/regimes).

3) Europe's armed forces have been scaled down during the time of 'Utopian Global Peace' after the collapse of the USSR. European Union States combined have 2 million soldiers, thats quite larger than the US. Our problem is that we need reinvestment, upgrade efficiency, search economies of scale and form nucleas of military coalitions but we're stuck in a paralysing debate on how to organise this.

Part of the European Union, thus loosing sovereignty or a intergovernmentalist agency/structure (keeping sovereignty). Either Defense Policy part of the European Union or a NATO-like structure.

The problem with NATO is that its still a US organisation, still fully under US command, still being 'vassals to the US'. If NATO can't let European forces perform and command independantly and on equal footing then NATO is doomed. A European Defense Community/Agency should focus on mutual defense of the EU-members (and closest associates) territory. NATO should have US and European partners on equal footing performing offensive (global) operations, their intelligence and SF communities working together fighting the 'dirty war' without too much 'mediatisation'.

4)Cogen's column is automatically undermined because of his ties (co-founder) with 'European Friends of Israel'. You know what this means, 'Cogen is Pro-Israeli' so his opinion should be disregarded. Dragging Iran solely into the fray undermines the importance of his words.


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