A Constructed Complex Adaptive Invasive Strategy for Cultural Transmission

Here is a really salient article from Nadim Shehadi on the current KSA v Qatar confrontation, where he breaks down the nuances of the conflict.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia, between whom the conflict is most bitter, are also the closest: they share the same Wahhabi beliefs, and Qatar’s ruling family, the Al-Thani, claim direct descent from Imam Abdul Wahhab himself.

While Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, together with Egypt, are leading the charge against Qatar this time, they also have their own differences. A conference in Chechnya last year, in which the UAE played a prominent part, brought together about 100 Islamic scholars including ones sponsored by the Egyptian government, who declared that Salafi and Wahhabi doctrines are not part of mainstream Sunni Islam, effectively excluding both Saudi Arabia and Qatar from the definition. This is equivalent to delegitimizing the Al-Saud’s claim to their rule, much worse than any sin that Qatar has committed.

Their disagreements are serious. At the root of the dispute is a policy debate on how to deal with issues such as the various forms of radical Islam. Their similarity lies in that they all firmly believe that they are the main target of Islamist radicalism whether Sunni or Shia. Where they differ is in how to deal with the phenomenon, with approaches ranging from appeasement to co-option and suppression. They have different policies wherever the Muslim Brotherhood is involved, so they support opposing sides in Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Syria and Palestine. Qatar acts much like marginal states in Europe, such as Norway or Switzerland, maintaining relations with all sides while trying to play a mediating role.

The problem with salafi and wahhabi doctrines is that they provide a nourishing intellectual, cultural and emotional substrate for jihadism, and also that they are an integral part of Islam.  Jihad is in the DNA of the Quran…and oppression of the ummah acts like a trigger for the expression of salafi-jihadism.  And its impossible to get rid of jihad without rewriting the Quran.  Currently the GCC countries are pointing the finger at each other over the spread of islamic terrorism– who is the biggest terrorist enabler.  I think it depends if spreading wahhabism is equivalent to spreading salafi-jihad (aka islamic terrorism)?  Since it is the basic substrate.

The biggest challenge the Gulf states face is not invasion by Iran, it is their population’s growing sympathy with radicalism and this is linked to Iran’s actions in the region. Images of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp together with Hezbollah and other Iranian-sponsored militias ethnically cleansing areas of Sunnis in Iraq or participating in starvation sieges in Syria expose the failure of the rich Gulf states. This in turn serves to delegitimize Saudi claims to leadership of the Sunni Muslim world that radical movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State group are challenging.

I think Shehadi’s analysis is very cogent in the restricted neighborhood of the ME, where there is a Shia/Sunni conflict, but its interesting to observe what is happening in the broader theater of dar ul Islam.

In the broader theater, Sunnis are massively dominant in places like Indonesia and Africa, where the Shia/IRG is not a neighborhood threat.  There are for example, 80 million sunni muslims in Nigeria, and there are 202.9 million sunni muslims in Indonesia.

 

I thought these comments from Dr. Davidson were very interesting.

He is citing data from this article about Jakarta’s recent election.

JUST A FEW months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong. Using the pretext of an offhand remark the governor made about the Koran, masses of enraged Muslims took to the streets to denounce him. In short order he lost the election, was arrested, charged with blasphemy, and sentenced to two years in prison.

This episode is especially alarming because Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has long been one of its most tolerant. Indonesian Islam, like most belief systems on that vast archipelago, is syncretic, gentle, and open-minded. The stunning fall of Jakarta’s governor reflects the opposite: intolerance, sectarian hatred, and contempt for democracy. Fundamentalism is surging in Indonesia. This did not happen naturally.

This is a persistant adaptive strategy of invasive cultural transmission.

Saudi Arabia has been working for decades to pull Indonesia away from moderate Islam and toward the austere Wahhabi form that is state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis’ campaign has been patient, multi-faceted, and lavishly financed. It mirrors others they have waged in Muslim countries across Asia and Africa.

“The educational network spreads itself.”  That’s very good.  Indonesia has a large “malleable muslim majority”– 202.9 million muslims.

In his book, Shadow Wars, Dr. Davidson also writes about how KSA exploits the hajj to fund terror groups.

This shows that KSA’s demonization of Qatar as a terrorist-funder is really just misdirection.  What Qatar does sponser is anti-KSA dissent.  Like Shehadi’s description of Qatar as the Switzerland of the GCC, Qatar hosts al Jazeerha, saudi dissidents, bahraini and yemeni dissidents, and the MB.  This is also an example of  how KSA’s physical possession of the ka’bah is used to exploit the hajj as a conduit to fund minority or sectarian muslim demographies to destabilize the ruling regime, (Dr. Davidson’s second strategy).

Here we have House Muslim & perpetually wrong pundit Shadi Hamid on Whats Different About Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia — not going to be that way much longer IMHO.  Actually, doesnt the Jakarta election blow up his whole thesis?  Indonesians used the blasphemy law on the books to sentence the ex-governor to 2 years in prison.

What distinguishes Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as their electorates, isn’t some readiness to embrace the gradual privatization of religion. The difference is that their brand of Islamic politics garners much less attention in the West, in part because they aren’t seen as strategically vital and, perhaps more importantly, because the passage of Islamic legislation is simply less controversial domestically. There has been a coming to terms with Islam’s role in public life, where in much of the Middle East, there hasn’t — at least not yet.

This is entirely wrong– KSA is exploiting the shariah “on the books” to transform univerisities to wahhabist institutions, to sentence the ex-governor, to pull Indonesian culture and society in the direction they want it to go.

I would love to have data to measure the spread of wahhabism through Indonesian culture– in contemporary Indonesia KSA is employing the first strategy…seeding the large malleable muslim population with wahhabism using educational and clerical networks.  This is a complex adaptive strategy using a mixed system of oblique, lateral and vertical transmission, and its condensed and amplified by the convolution of education and religion.  KSA is funding universities and mosques– two primary and co-dependent centers of social influence.  The strategy of offering scholarships and study in Mecca to the brightest students– brilliant.  An engineered meritocracy where wahhabism becomes the highest layer of the clerical class structure.

I would employ Cavalli-Sforza’s useful criteria-

Relationship of teacher and taught.

Age differences of cultural generations

Numerical relation between teacher and taught

Complexity of society, social structure and hierarchial layers

If I could get a capture I could build the transmission matrices to do generational iterations.  How cool would that be?  We are entering A Golden Age of Data, where data is going to be cheap and abundant and available to all.

Even to Shadi Hamid.

Editor’s note:  I’m told the Chechnya conference that UAE participated in was organized by Kadirov (Putin), and run by largely Sufi scholars.  Probably not very influential on the main [sunni] population of dar ul Islam, and directed explicitly at Putin’s current growing problems in Chechnya and Inghusetia.

 

Islamic Diaspora

Diaspora, defn:

A diaspora is a large group of people with a similar heritage or homeland who have since moved out to places all over the world.

The term diaspora comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “to scatter about.” And that’s exactly what the people of a diaspora do — they scatter from their homeland to places across the globe, spreading their culture as they go. The Bible refers to the Diaspora of Jews exiled from Israel by the Babylonians. But the word is now also used more generally to describe any large migration of refugees, language, or culture.

 

From Wired magazine.

These are the outflows from just the first half of 2016, the top 19 countries for refugee outflow.  Note that the top 16 out of 19 are ME and Africa nations.  Unshockingly, war creates refugees.  The ongoing Syrian conflict seems to be still generating ~ 1 million refugees per year.  And the greatest outflows are from majority muslim countries.  This is an undesirable side-effect of US endless (and futile) “war on terror”.  Look below to see the percentage of the 21.3 million refugees that are children– over half.

The US accepts only a tiny fraction of the global refugee population– and is hugely complicit in generating the global flood with its truly awful foreign policy.  US is also contemplating a border wall to choke off immigration from south of the border, although mexicans and south americans are nearly all economic refugees, and not from war zones…or muslim.

But this is why non-action on Syria is not an option.  What US FP has done in MENA is basically create a factory for mass production and dissemination of “radical islamic terrorism”.  Consider that some tiny fraction of the ~ 100 million muslim children could become radicalized– what is .01 percent of a hundred million?  Ten thousand prospective terrorists embedded in their host populations.  Just one terrorist can do horrific damage.

Terrorism is a demand for justice in an unjust world.  Thats why a solution for the ME and Africa is critical over the next 30 years.  The choice btwn secular democracy and islamic government in majority muslim nations was never an option– the only option is a choice between different forms of islamic government.

Thats why the islamic diaspora of the 21st century is going to change the world in ways we cant begin to imagine.  It will spread islamic culture and the Quran all over the world.

To paraphrase the immortal Sewell Wright– migration is gene flow. .. and meme flow.

 

Why Rod Dreher is Woefully Wrong

The intransigent stupidity of the Right never fails to amaze me.  Normally I dont read pundits like Rod Dreher but these were linked on seriously slow-witted Shadi Hamid‘s TL.  Consider these two articles from “The American Conservative”: The Douthat Scenario is Coming True and Islam is the Last Badass Religion.   Both articles comprise a sort of protracted moan about the decline of christianity in the US.  Unsure what Dreher is recommending– possibly Christianity as a state religion? But wouldnt that be anti-constitutional?

Anyways, I can enlighten these simpletons about cause with science (see Pascal Boyer: Religion Explained and Scott Atran: In Gods We Trust).  Although it seems Hamid should know this (since he claims to be muslim) the core difference between Islam and modern christianity is the method of salvation.  Indeed Hamid even discusses this in his sillie book, but only in the context of the separation of church and state.  The thing about salvation by faith alone is there is no penalty for defection.  Once upon a time (before the born-agains, protestants and evangelicals) Catholicism was “badass”.  Because the penalty was excommunication.  But now– theres no penalty– murderers and rapists on death row can be born again with Jesus and go right straight to heaven.  Secular atheists dont believe in heaven so its even easier for them.  And then there is the “no religious affiliation” cohort.

Peter Beinart– Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent.

Islam requires both works and faith, something christianity jettisoned a while back.  And being a martyr is definitely a major work.   Heres Dreher, still not getting it:

That’s something I respect about Muslims in general: they take their faith a lot more seriously than we Christians do. The only forms of Christianity that are going to survive the dissolution now upon us are going to be those that are serious about the faith, and incorporate it into disciplined ways of living. What would it mean for Christianity to be “badass”? Not violent, or intimidating, or cruel, but serious and countercultural. This is one reason that Orthodox Christianity is so attractive to men. It sets serious challenges in front of you — fasting, prayer, and so forth — and expects you to rise to the challenge. It’s not rigidly dogmatic and moralistic, certainly, but it’s not sentimental either. It sees the Christian life as a pilgrimage toward God in which we die to ourselves every day. That’s not Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That is the faith.

Good luck reinstating salvation by works into fat lazy xenophobic American christians.  Because that is what it will take.  The other problem is demographics, which political “scientists” like Shadi Hamid never talk about.  Although there is rough global numerical parity between christians and muslims, the distribution is vastly different, as is the TRF (total reproductive frequency).  Muslim populations are more concentrated, younger, and make a good case for religion emphasizing muslim over race, while it is very apparent that white christians are not the same as black christians, or south american christians the same as african christians.   In christianity race mostly trumps religion.  And Islam is growing by attracting new adherents while christianity is losing reps to “unaffiliated”.

And finally here is a new paper “The Evolution of Extreme Co-operation via Shared Dysphoric Experiences”.  Certainly right now MENA is one big war zone full of many dysphoric experiences for sunni muslims.

One type of extreme co-operation is obviously martyrdom.

So unless Dreher has an idea for giving the Benedict Option some teeth (listening to an atheist and a maftoon dissing Islam isnt going to cut it) christianity will continue to decline vis a vis Islam.

tant pis, but that’s how evolution of religion works.

 

 

VietCong Ghosts of Mars

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 9.21.02 AM In my serial quest to find a good mashup to describe in cultural shorthand what is happening in MENA today…I’m going to revisit the US experience in VietNam.  Amazingly, in this excellent 11k word essay by Dr. Atran, where he compares the Islamic State to Bolsheviks, French revolutionaries, and Nazis, there’s not a single mention of the VietNamese revolt against French colonialism (analogous to the “Arab Spring” revolt against Assad) and resultant US failwar with the VietCong.  In both cases the collapse of a quasi-stable western-friendly government leads to (not a vacuum, as the political “scientists” claim) a chaos field, where the bottom-up emergent substrate trumps any attempts at externally imposed topdown control.  The parallels are gobsmackingly obvious– Mosul 2014 to Da Nang 1975, the 350k ARVN, (also equipped and trained by US) to the 300k Iraqi army– both collapsed in routs.  The VietCong even captured large quantities of Made-in-the-USA mecha, much like IS has equipped itself with ghanima from the arms-race saturated ME.  The long deep enduring scars the US sustained (60k US troops dead, 100’s of thousands with what we now call PTSD) perhaps casts a dark shadow across history– obscuring the lessons that we failed to learn back then.  The US is haunted by VietNam– where as Kissinger unequivocably states, the US lost.

  • We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win. The North Vietnamese used their armed forces the way a bull-fighter uses his cape — to keep us lunging in areas of marginal political importance.

    • “The Vietnam Negotiations”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 2 (January 1969), p. 214; also quoted as “A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla army wins if he does not lose.”

In this astonishingly bizarre article from my hero Dr. Bar-Yam he amazingly advocates using SOF as an immune system style response in MENA– totally ignoring the fact that IS and shariah as Rule of Law are local emergent processes– the mujahiddeen are obviously the T-cells and leucocytes fighting off a regional secular democracy infection in the body of MENA.  Dr. BarYam says:

The immune system most naturally corresponds to special operations forces that have the expectation of being embedded in local contexts and serving highly complex, (i.e., diverse) roles. The existence of high fine-scale complexity forces, including special operations forces and integrating diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, and the extensive engagement with non-combatants, training of local forces, non-lethal force, psychological warfare, economic incentives, and economic support, reflects the natural extension of the complex fine-scale actions that are needed for achieving local and global objectives of complex warfare.

This made me laugh.  Its pretty clear that SOF forces are still an attempt to impose topdown external controls on an indigenous emergent process– salafi-jihadism, which is basically encoded in the Quran, which is read by (soon to be) billions of humans.   Complex warfare being analogous to homo sap. nervous system, I get that, I even like that– but there is no way to pretend SOF forces are an emergent process, or that they can win against an emergent process with a bottomless pool of youth recruits.  There is no way SOF forces can win at all in the Age of Internet connectivity– Bush’s folly and the disastrous COIN policy prove that emphatically.

Doesn’t an emergent complex system always beat an imposed/installed complex system?

Like Dr. Atran eloquently explains in his essay, western-style “liberal democracy” cant work–

As history and empirical studies show, what matters in revolutionary success is commitment to cause and comrades. Even in the face of initial failures and often devastating defeats, this can trump overwhelming material disadvantages. In 1776, American colonists were frustrated not over economics but over a perceived denial of truths ‘sacred and undeniable’ (Thomas Jefferson’s original words for the Declaration of Independence). They were willing to sacrifice ‘our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour’ against the world’s mightiest empire. Britain sent a naval force of 30,000 men against the fledgling revolution in New York, home to 20,000 inhabitants, and at first almost crushed George Washington’s army. Haggard remnants of the colonial army were heading for home when Washington addressed them with an inspired appeal: ‘You will render that service to the cause of liberty… which you can probably never do under any other circumstances.’ The army fused together in the harsh winter at Valley Forge, henceforth able to withstand any adversity.

But the sort of liberal democracy initiated by the American Revolution has never been very good at adjudicating across religious and ethnic boundaries, especially when, as in much of the Middle East and Central Asia, such boundaries are tribally based. Democracy took root in Britain’s American colonies, which had the world’s highest standard of living at the time and unprecedented opportunities for people other than Native Americans and African slaves to strike out on their own into virtually limitless territory, relatively free to realise their aspirations.

Liberal democracy is simply never going to take hold in majority muslim populations.

I think I have a better model than Dr. Bar-Yam’s immune system analogy.  Growing up, John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars was a part of the family DVD collection…one of the alltime kid favorites– scifi, gorror and Ice Cube!  Peak.  In the movie Mars is 80% terraformed when a scientific expedition opens a door to an underground structure of the dead martian civilization.  This releases a windbourne possession plague that turns the local miners into headchopping martian-language-raving maniacs, bent on eradicating earth invader presence on Mars.  The possession plague seems to be a planetary auto-immune response to Earths mining/terraforming of Mars– and what Earthers thought was a dead civilzation comes roaring back with a vengence.  Much like the Islamic State.

So the question I really wanted to ask Dr. Atran is this– what is the counternarrative to revolution?

[Atran] cited the Deash terrorist group as one of the most dynamic and effective fighting forces since World War II, because its followers are spiritually committed to its religious narrative, not lured by financial incentives.

However, the group may be hindered or defeated by a spiritual counternarrative that is of an equal force to theirs, Atran argued.

The problem is… there’s no space to create a “spiritual counternarrative ” in the same space occupied by Assad and Israel.  This Sarah Helm excellent reporting on IS in Gaza should terrify anyone hoping for peace or even bare stability in the ME.

Moreover, if Hamas fails to crush the Gaza jihadists, ISIS would have a foothold in the Holy Land, posing new and unpredictable dangers, not only for Gazans themselves, but for Israel, the region, and for the West’s wider war on the Islamic State. In such a sequence, Israel will be expected to find the “solution” and will almost certainly bombard Gaza yet again and with perhaps greater ferocity.
Except that Israel is already demographically underwater itself– and as the last round of “grass mowing” proves, bombing just isn’t effective anymore.  And the most polarizing event that could occur– is Israel openly allying with the US Coalition to defeat IS.
Atran himself despairs of crafting that “spiritual counternarrative” even among western youth.

The Islamic state dominates discourse now among youth throughout the Muslim world. The overwhelmingly majority are opposed but with so many fragmented voices, and nothing to compete by a long shot.

And there is also a weakening in the fabric of open societies. It has been undermined by an unrelenting attack on its values as hegemonic, rendering them relative in the minds of our own young, even relative to those of a murderous sort. This is especially evident in Europe, where there is a much deeper and wider “understanding” for the Islamic State than you might imagine among educated youth, tired of the staleness and corruption of their political elites (in France the same power players have been around for 40 years, with little variation in change of gov’t). There is also a restlessness after 70 years of peace that is palpable to me.

It is a much deeper problem in our open societies that IS is exploiting, and which I see no one in power addressing. Of course, there are the problems of the middle east, africa, and the revivalist movements in the Muslim world at large. But it is the total confusion in the West that scares me much more.

As my daughter told me while she was listening to the gunfire at the Bataclan around corner from her apartment and from the cafe just below, and her friends texting her “we’re still alive but don’t go out,” – “we have no answer to this,” she said, “and our culture, the one of the cafe and the rock concerts that are so much a part of our life in the neighborhood, in a weird way was saying to me, as some my friends in fact did, that they could understand why young Muslims would want to go out and shoot people, only they were shooting mostly those who would probably have said yesterday, before our other friends were being killed, that they understood. Yes, they now condemn the killings, but not really what was behind them or what they were aiming at. There is no wall of resistance to this, there is only paralysis, confusion, and everyone reacting with disbelief and rationalization in their own way.”

The clarity, certainty and inner spiritual strength of the Islamic State cuts through this like butter.

Perhaps in the end the equation comes down to either a viable counternarrative, or the VietCong Ghosts of Mars.