Graeme Wood’s Six Weird Tricks for Defeating ISIS

I started reading Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers with anticipation.  After all, he initiated my foray into blogdom with his article in the Atlantic on “What Does ISIS Want?”

But with dawning horror I read the escalating error cascade of cultural chauvinism and institutionalized frat boy snark that Graeme decided to run with.

Here’s my first cut at correction:

  1. Wood appears to interpret Bukhari/Muslim “stranger” (the title quote) as being odd or weird.  Stranger in this context means one who has left his tribe for the tribe of the Ummah, for a wider memetic tribe.  Muhammed’s first act was to unite the warring tribes under the banner of Islam.
  2. I first noticed Cole Bunzel when he wrote Paper Caliphate– I asked him if he had read Naji’s Idarat al Tawwahush.  His response was “why would I be interested in a war manual”?  This is like a historian studying China’s Cultural Revolution and being ignorant of Mao’s Little Red Book.  Shouldn’t “scholars of jihad” be interested in a manual of jihad?  Using western “jihadologists” to analyze ISIS is truly weird– Nājī and Setmarian (islamic jihadist scholars) spell out the why, how, and what of jihad in their books.  The idea of targetting youth of all nations, and of leveraging and creating chaos is explicitly delineated.  The idea of “flash terror” as informed by ISIS ideology is also absent from Graeme’s book.
  3. Pretending ISIS is a unique phenomenon– now thats really weird– ISIS is an instance of islamic insurgency, and wont be the first or the last one going forward–  muslims will make up a quarter of the world’s humans by mid-century.  May I recommend Bacevitch for an analysis of proximate causes?
  4. Wood’s choice of Mizot as a “Taymiyyan scholar” is also puzzling– Ibn Taymiyya’s greatest contribution to al Islam is his tafsir— the exegesis of the Quran that forms islamic jurisprudence.  Its why tyrants ban Taymiyya’s works when they can.  To use a complex adaptive systems analogy, jihad (also the Caliphate) is in the DNA of the Quran– Taymiyyan tafsir allows the “gene expression” of jihadism to be carried through to the 21st century.  Also the “dick” quote shows an embarrassing lack of scholarship in another of Wood’s sources.   Using back-bench western “scholars” like Mizot and House Muslims like Shiraz Mahr to try to rewrite the Quran is pure idiocy– the Quran emerged to be specifically immune to that sort of tinkering.   Its recursive and self-defining, and has 163 bit n-gram entropy (the largest Heegner number)– but information theory is not what Wood and the jihadologist guild are selling though– they are selling the fantasy that islamic insurgency can somehow be ended without addressing the initial causes.
  5. Wood also seems to believe that initial causes are irrelevant to the rise of ISIS and other islamic insurgencies.  Jihadism is a response to oppression and tyranny.  Unless the initial conditions change America will find itself in a forever war against a quarter of the world’s humans.  Given demography and population dynamics, its a war the US can never win.
  6. This is the most puzzling of all– Wood cites Mccants and Bunzel ( the frat boiz of the jihadologist guild)–  and none of the people that actually do have an understanding of ISIS– Dr. Atran, Hassan Hassan and Abdel Bari Atwan.   Although I do approve of Filiu’s inclusion.  Now that is a really weird trick indeed.

It seems Wood’s book is simply unserious sensationalism, pruience over Abu Yayah’s marriage, calling Cerantonio a dork, designed to promote sales and obscure the real problem going forward.

Is the US really prepared for infinite police action, at least until we run out of money or our democratic republic collapses into civil war?  How ironic that the US practice of fomenting civil war in the headfake of “democracy promotion” is going to end so ingloriously.  What happens when publicity-and-chaos loving ISIS soldiers start attacking the overseas assets of Donald Trump that he refuses to divest himself of?  Will the US send military force to protect Trump assets?

All I can do is fall back on one of my old gamer axioms…

You Are Not Prepared.

What IS Really Wants: Chaos

This a response to two excellent Atlantic articles by Graeme Wood: What ISIS Really Wants and What ISIS Really Wants the Response.  Woods article is the first honest attempt I have seen to understand the Prophetic Methodology.

Bismullah.  Let us just dispense with the sillie ISIS/ISIL acronyms unless you want to go with ISISLLN to add the wilayats of Libya and Nigeria– its going to get out of control.

It is foolish to argue that IS is NOT Islam– there are many variants, many schools.  If you believe (as I do) that the uncreated revealed Quran is outside time and space then it must contain all possible versions of Islam– a kind of islamic many worlds theory.  IS represents jihadi-salafism, an islamic tradition dating from Ibn Taymiyya and the Mongol invasion.

I was surprised to learn Will McCants translation of Abu Bakr Naji’s Management of Savagery has been around for four or five years.  It exquisitely details the goals and strategies of the Islamic State and the roadmap.  Cole Bunzel recently mocked IS as a “paper caliphate” but he couldn’t be more wrong.  Naji doctrine is a shellscript for propagating and executing jihadi-salafism, and it has been running in the background since 2004.  Naji speaks to the use of violence, unviolable blood, both warfighting and administrative jurisprudence, superpower collapse, destruction of the “media halo” (NetWar) and creation and management of savage chaos.

therefore, the management of savagery is defined very succinctly as
the management of savage chaos!! –Naji

There have been millions of words written by cottage industry “jihadologists” laboring in the American Terror Economy in seemingly vain attempts to determine what IS wants and how they plan to get it. ( And millions of runs of simulation code written by the wargaming quants that toil in the sub-basements of the Pentagon.) Its really very simple.  IS wants Chaos.

In Nonlinear System Dynamics the basic model looks like this–

NLSystem–> NLSystem Collapse–> Chaos –> Emergent Order

AKA what Dr. Strogatz calls Sync.  In Syria the Assad regime collapsed and militias emerged in the chaos field.  IS is the dominant emergent order, the strongest militia, even joining the chaos field in Iraq to the one in Syria by demolishing an artificial border, Sykes-Picot.

But Naji advocates a more active management style– its really brilliant.  Cole Bunzel in his Brookings panel stated his belief that IS management is highly talented and unique, and the best way to defeat IS would be to remove it.  But in Naji leaders are selected for both battlefield and governance skills– like transformers they can apply either warfighting jurisprudence or administrative jurisprudence as the situation demands.  There is a very deep bench of talent in IS.

Probably the response I most agree with is this– from Graeme’s Muslim emailer:

[The] enemies of the Muslims may be aware of what the Muslims are planning, but it won’t benefit them at all as they prefer to either keep their heads in the sand, or to fight their imaginary war based upon rational freedom-loving democrats vs. irrational evil terrorist madmen. With this in mind, maybe you can understand to some degree one of the reasons why many Muslims will share your piece. It’s not because we don’t understand what it is saying in terms of how to defeat the Muslims, rather it’s because we know that those in charge will ignore it and screw things up anyway.

My position is that the mathematics favor IS succeeding in their goals, both the mathematics of demography and of nonlinear and complex systems dynamics.  Next I will write about how social sciences also support IS, about NetWar and Social Network Theory and Antifragile Hydras.

IS embraced Chaos in the very first issue of Dabiq— props to Pieter Van Ostaeyen

The Prophet of God (Praise be upon him) said: the [last] hour will not come untill the chaos (Harj) increases. They said:  and what is Harj O Prophet of God; he said: the killing, the killing.

PROTIP for the jihadology industrial complex–  Ignore IS system dynamics wizardry at your own peril.