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.

My DIY on Syria: The Maze

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For me the real star of the teen dystopia movie The Maze Runner is the shape shifting reconfiguring maze.  The labyrinth changes every day.  The giant ivy covered stone walls grind slowly into new configurations, trapping the gladers in a complex puzzle.  Much like the American misadventure in the Middle East.  And unlike the gigantic shape shifting maze in the movie– its a puzzle that the US can’t seem to either solve or escape from.

Its no secret that I think Hassan Hassan is the best ME analyst around– he and Dr. Atran have been my greatest influences over the last two years.  Hassan inspired my Embracing Apocalypse series with his comment about how IS is multidimensional– past, present and future.  Part1 (past) and Part2(present) are written– im still working onPart3(future) which will incorporate a lot of my boring math/physics stuff like the arrow of time, LaPlace’s daemon and predestination, branes, bulks, AdS space, curvature of spacetime, entropy, complexity, chaos, etc.

But for today lets talk about the Maze.  Think about the realignment of factions as the walls of the labyrinth shifting in the Maze.  Hassan Hassan has an excellent piece on just that.

Notwithstanding what happens next in Aleppo, JFS has already made its entrance. Inside and outside Syria, support for the group appears to have risen. Many seem to be comfortable with showing support for a group that is supposedly no longer part of Al Qaeda, while others support it for its lead role in the continuing counterattack. This normalisation and show of support are at the heart of the group’s reconfiguration – and the Aleppo offensive was partly designed to achieve that.

 The social goodwill that the group has gained over the past two weeks should not be taken lightly. The way the situation looks for anti-regime Syrians is that, while the world stood by as nearly 300,000 civilians were under siege by the regime, and in violation of an understanding between Moscow and Washington not to support such a siege, it was extremists who again won the day. Also, despite the involvement of Russia, Iran and foreign Shia militias fighting under their command in Syria, those forces could overrun a well-secured regime base and break a siege within a few days.

In Syria Obama hoped to be the hero of a diplomatic solution– instead, he is once again the goat.  Michael Weiss, Hassan’s co-author says:

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And now the jihadis are the Heroes of Aleppo.

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Another recent realignment of factions just happened in Turkey– here is Hassan again on the new post (failed) coup alignments.

Ankara’s foreign policy will probably be more assertive in the coming weeks and months. Domestically, the episode shows that the mark Mr Erdogan has already made in the Turkish political landscape might be deeper than it is often made out to be. Mr Erdogan leads a ruling party that is increasingly entrenched, not only because of power-grabbing but also because it commands an increasingly committed social and political base, and whose detractors sometimes appear to be detached from reality. Whereas Mr Erdogan’s popularity has been on display after each election, the media portrays him as an insecure and embattled leader. For Mr Erdogan and his supporters, the attempted coup and its failure justified the policies he followed over the past three years to increase his grip on power, which will embolden them to push further.

And the Maze shifts again.  These two events demonstrate a remarkable lack of agility in Obama’s foreign policy.  Agile applications are a big Silicon Valley buzzword right now.  USG has actually hired the Scrum software guy to “agilize” the ponderous antiquated US military.  Obama had hoped for a soft coup– gulenism is supported by the RAND Building Moderate Muslim Networks initiative.  Most Americans do not realize that gulenism is a moderate, quasi-sufi variant of Islam– a kind of “reform” Islam.  The abortive coup smashed years of careful covert work by the US.  Gulenists even have a lobbyist group in the US– much like Israel.  Now gulenists have been wiped from the judiciary, academe, military, intelligence and police force.  And Turkey is free to develop closer ties to Russia while continuing on the path to islamize the country.

My obsessive interest is complex adaptive systems dynamics– as an observer my model of MENA is a landscape of sandpiles weakly or strongly connected by attractor and feed-forward networks– any realignment flows through all the alliances and enmities of the landscape.  IS and JF are complex interconnected emergent movements– they cannot be bombed away or droned away.  Syria is connected to Turkey is connected to Iraq is connected to Yemen is connected to Bahrain etc etc…

Right on cue– Hassan Hassan:

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US is desperately trying to stabilize the sandpiles, but the Second Law (of Thermodynamics) rules.  Its simply not possible.  So US stays trapped in the Maze.

I once thought Obama was skilled at 11-D chess…it turns out he has been zugzwang all along.  For now Incirlik is open– but Erdogan demonstrated that he can close it at will, and that he no longer trusts the US.  I just dont think the US will escape the Maze before the sandpiles collapse.  And this (from Turkey) is the result of Obama’s sneaky, covert, lead-from-behind gulenist crusade.  The signs have been changed from rule by the people to rule by Allah.

Takbir!

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Why You Cant Ever Find the Alligator

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 4.24.01 PMFlorida Frenzy continues with Disney swearing that it will find/kill the alligator that seized the toddler in the Seven Seas Lagoon– I’m unsure how that would be ascertained since the toddler’s body is intact.  Alligators normally roll with their prey in the water and tear off a limb or appendage to swallow.  But more importantly– there 1.5 million alligators in Florida and that alligator was behaving within the normal parameters of alligator behavior, as it continues to behave within those parameters.  They wont find it (and prove its the one)– but they may certainly sacrifice some other alligator in the name of closure and PR.

I just watched Wolf Blitzer (CNN) interview some AF droid about Omar Mateen– this perfectly groomed, perfectly plastic Ken Doll/GI Joe clone blamed public opposition to bulk surveillance for proto-terrorists slipping through the net.  NEWSFLASH: Bulk surveillance doesn’t ever catch lone wolves (or lone alligators).   Because just as the alligators are behaving strictly within the norms of alligator behavior the proto-terrorists are behaving strictly within the norms of US citizen behavior.   Even down to buying an AR-15.  Is everyone that buys an Ar-15 a proto-terrorist?  Is every muslim a proto-terrorist?  Aye, there’s the rub.

The FBI reportedly had a million pieces of data on the Tsarnev brothers.  Patriot Act bulk surveillance post 9/11 didn’t catch them.  Bulk surveillance also didnt catch the Sandy Hook shooter, the Aurora theater shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, the Charleston church shooter.  This is emergent behavior and undetectable before the event because pre-event behavior is within the norm.  I like to call them flash terrorists.  The SanBernardino shooting was obviously a workplace shooting, linked to IS at the last moment.  The Pulse shooting was a hate crime linked to IS at the last moment.  If anything, IS seems extremely proficient at turning personal pathological psychologies into socio-political weapons.

How to solve this problem?  Let IS sympathizers go to Sham.  Take their passports, let them go.  The reason US/UK/France/Brussels etc cant let them do that is because they would succeed in building an islamic state, much like the Israelis succeeded in building a jewish state in the 50s.  And that cant be allowed.

The question for me is how long are the American people going to tolerate this state of affairs?  Domestic terrorism is just agent meeting opportunity– and opportunity is American gun culture.  Flash terrorism is on display in Israel everyday– but with knives instead of guns.

So think of Disney’s problem in trying to find that one terrorist alligator, even after the event.  Even more impossible to find a terrorist alligator before the attack.  All the alligators are Alligator Normal.  And here is the crux of the problem of bulk surveillance– proto-terrorist behavior is American Normal, right down to buying an Ar-15.

عندما يحلّ الظلام يتساوى الأعمى والبصير

 

 

Terrorist Alligators: You Never See Them Coming

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 3.14.55 PMIts really amazing to me what unaware assholes Americans are.

For example, in sheer numerics, every day in Aleppo is an Orlando…much like every month in Iraq under OIF was a 9/11.  But the amazing covalence of the story of the toddler sadly alligator-snatched off a Disney beach and the massive slaughter of LGBTs inside the Pulse nightclub is just simply remarkable.  I expect to get a lot of haterade over this but the isomorphism is so striking.

Alligators, much like native Americans, have been hunted, their habitats extinguished, and corralled into ever shrinking display arenas where they can generate profit.  Mirable dictu, continuous exposure to hairless monkeys and their young gawking at them has resulted in a reduction of the natural fear wild animals should feel for h. sapiens.

Visiting the Bahamas as a kid my dad often railed at the local dive shops’ exploitation of the guided “shark dives”, where scuba divers sat on the ocean floor back to back, armed with only a knife and a can of shark repellant, while the guides chummed the sharks all around them.  My dad said the dive shops were teaching the sharks to associate humans with feeding and removing the fear of humans.  Evolution and adaptation to available food sources.

Much in the same fashion 9/11 removed the “media halo” of the invincibility of America.  This idea is explored at length in Idarat al Tawahhush, which is basically a field manual for crashing a superpower.  A big part of the US islamic terror problem is media sensationalism.  The crush of journos mobbing the Pulse nightclub story has naturally reached out to inflict 24/7 coverage of the local and accessible alligator story, probably causing financial harm to Disney, but amplifying the Pulse event as well.  And publicity is gasoline on the fires of terror.  “Successful” terror events spawn more terror events.  Adam Lanza was reportedly going for a body count record.

The problem is, even meta-surveillance never sees the alligator until the attack.  Or the terrorist.

The same as the Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech killer, the Fort Hood killer, the Tsarnevs, the Hebdo killers, the Paris bombers, the Brussels bombers, the SanBernardino slayers, and now Omar Mateen.  But islamic terror seems especially good at recruiting the broken, the beaten and the damned into allegiance.  Does anyone see a trend here?  Islamic terror is on the rise in the 21st century, in both frequency and amplitude.  Giving bayah to IS amplifies and legitimizes whatever grievances the attackers are holding.

How does one drain the swamp when the swamp is America’s backyard?  If you cant flag ALL the potential attackers (and you cant), the optimal solution is to restrict opportunity for mass slaughter.  And that means regulating assault weapons as a first step.  America is in the process of stinging itself to death like a partly crushed scorpion.

Unjust America stumbles about the world, never considering the second and third order effects of military and political actions.  But just as its not possible to get all the alligators out of Florida, its not possible to find every proto-terrorist in America.  The proto-terrorists, whether RW redbrain tendency, sexually frustrated social pariahs, or islamists nominally motivated by the endless Sunni slaughter perpetrated by the USA, they are all submerged in the American socio-cultural swamp.

And you just never know when the Alligator is coming for you.

 

 

Bar-Yam Global SOF Immune System and Starship Troopers Attacks

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 9.03.26 AMSo this happened– Dr. Taleb said the Islamic State can’t be beaten by conventional forces and Dr. Bar-Yam said that distributed nodes of SOF modelled as a kind of globalized immune system could beat IS.  Here is the West Point talk where Baryam describes his model.

Two large problems– 1) its first necessary to displace the pre-existing local immune system (ie Islam) where islamic insurgencies represent indigenous T-cells and leucocytes–( a task that the US is failing epically at )– and 2) command/control nodes are locally centralized.

The attack that killed the Navy SEAL this week represents an IS adaptation that explicitly demonstrates just how fragile Bar-Yam’s model is.  I’m calling this a Starship Troopers attack.  Starship Troopers is a movie that (satirically) describes an earth war against ferocious aggro giant insects bent on dominating the galaxy.  There are many layers to explore in Troopers, but I’m focusing on a single event, where Earth is losing the war until “Carl” discovers the Arachnid troops are directed by “Brain Bugs” protected by insulating layers of Arachnid soldiers– much like US SOF “advisors” are insulated from the battlefront by layers of brown indigeneous shock troops (YPG/Pesh/Iraqi army) from combat.  So all IS has to do is punch through the “insulation” and kill the “brain” (advisor pod).

Warfighting is adaptive and evolutionary in nature– strategies and counter-strategies are emergent.  While designing the strat to take out the Twin Towers Osama Bin Laden is reported to have watched Black Hawk Down dozens of times.

Perhaps Yaneer Bar-Yam should watch it at least once.

Ta-Nehisi, T’challa, and Me

I have always loved comix– its how I learned to read! Sneaking comix from my older brothers’ Marvel stash.  And I have always loved Ta-Nehisi Coates– his writing is just astonishingly beautiful.  So now that TNC has begun to write Black Panther for Marvel, I’m ecstatic.  And I can’t wait for the movie in 2018.

But the most interesting thing I read in the WIRED article is this.

The plot involves a terrorist attack on Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda, which spurs a popular revolt. How influenced were you by the ongoing war on terror?

A lot. I was also influenced by the recent wave of revolution through the Middle East and the American Revolution. Once these revolutions are done they might be perceived as heroic, but it doesn’t always look heroic at the time. It might look downright villainous. I mean, the American revolutionaries tarred and feathered people.

The first incidence of a public figure (excluding Dr. Atran) acknowledging that islamic “terrorism” is actually a revolutionary movement.  Much as we perceive the French Revolution as heroic in retrospect, the aristos of the time certainly viewed it as terrorism.  They even called it “the Terror”.  The aristocrat blood pooling around the guillotine is analogous to IS beheading Americans and Brits on viral videos– a demonstration of a government unable to protect its citizens, much like T’challa in Wakanda.  There were even pet names for the guillotine:

L’abbaye de monte-à-regret : (The Abbey of the Reluctant Climb),
Le Rasoir national : (The national Razor),
Le Vasistas : (The fanlight),
La Veuve :(The Widow),
Louisette or Louison : (from the name of the inventor Antoine Louis),
Madame La Guillotine : (Mrs. Guillotine)
Mirabelle: (from the name of Mirabeau),

Like probably the American Revolution was regarded as terrorism by King George and brit citizens.  Ta-Nehisi plans to explore this more in the Black Panther series.

What’s your take on the politics of Wakanda?

Wakanda is the most advanced nation on earth—in certain renditions of Black Panther, these guys came up with a cure for cancer—and yet it has the most primitive form of governance on the planet: absolute monarchy. The one case an absolute monarch can make is “I keep the people safe.” What happens in a country where that’s no longer true? How do the people feel about that? That’s the story we’re telling.

That is a very interesting to me because thats one of the goals expressed in Nājī doctrine– that the unbelievers will no longer be safe– neither in their international tourist playgrounds nor in their home countries.

I’ll leave you with Robespierre.

​​​​​‘Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue…’

Maximilien Robespierre, On the Principles of Political Morality (1794)

 

The Cloud and the Land

I don’t think I’m very smart…I’m just extragood at pattern recognition.  And there seems to be a global pattern of insurgency, resistance, rebellion and self-determination emerging.  Anti-establishment sentiment– whatever you want to call it.

In America, Trump and Sanders have tapped the vein.  In MENA its ISIS and Nusra– Trudeau in Canada, Corbyn in the UK.  Greece, Spain, Portugal.  Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria.  The top down control systems are banging themselves to pieces and the resultant chaos fields are high growth petri dishes for revolution, insurgency, civil war.  Why is this happening?  What has changed?

Its the cloud– billions of globally connected nodes, tides and ebbs of information.  The cloud has changed the power distribution.

And what of the land?  Right now its supersaturated with weapons in MENA.  And right in the middle– Israel– with ~200 nuclear warheads, a hairtrigger hyperparanoid temper and an apparent deathwish.

The global geopolitical landscape is deforming under the influence of the cloud and demographic shift– we are entering an age where the cloud moves the land.  And things will never be the same again.