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.

 

How I Learned to Love Trump: Aspects of the Trickster God

I am learning to love Donald Trump, his Foreign Policy at least.  And this is why.

In mythology, I love the Hero-Trickster the best.

Coyote (Maii’) is the most contradictory of the Navajo pantheon. He is a shadowy figure that can be funny or fearsome. Coyote is greedy, vain, foolish, cunning and also occasionally displays a degree of power. “In common with Tricksters generally, he serves to test the bounds of possibilities and order”.

Loki of Norse mythology has the same traits.  Generalized malice, chaotic behavior, and doing good works only by accident.

Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes behaves in a malicious manner towards them. Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, a mare, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman named Þökk (Old Norse ‘thanks’). Loki’s positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr and Loki is eventually bound by Váli with the entrails of one of his sons.

IOW, servants of chaos, disruptors of order…like DJT.

I worked very hard on Obama’s 2012 campaign.  On Obama’s election night someone told me that the victory was “magic in a bottle”– but it turns out to have been poison in a bottle for the rest of the world.  Over the years I watched in horror as Obama amped up droning and bombing and increased weapons sales to tyrants and dictators and military aid to juntas and Israel.  Something I never could understand was his Syria policy– until I read this Tablet Magazine article.  Obama is the servant of order– he tried to re-establish the equilibrium system broken by the Bush’s Folly (OIF) and the Arab Spring uprisings.  Obama’s plan was containment: to turn the Middle East into a giant steel cage death match with all the players locked in a forever conflict, but with Israel and the US watching complacently from the sidelines as weapons brokers.  How delightful to watch all their enemies rip each other to shreds: Assad, Putin, Iran, ISIS, al-Q, other islamic insurgencies, Turkey, Kurds, KSA and the Gulf States, Alawhites, Shia and Sunni, etc.  Too bad about the half million dead civilians and the 12 million syrian refugees though.

America’s settled policy of standing by while half a million Syrians have been killed, millions have become refugees, and large swaths of their country have been reduced to rubble is not a simple “mistake,” as critics like Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen have lately claimed. Nor is it the product of any deeper-seated American impotence or of Vladimir Putin’s more recent aggressions. Rather, it is a byproduct of America’s overriding desire to clinch a nuclear deal with Iran, which was meant to allow America to permanently remove itself from a war footing with that country and to shed its old allies and entanglements in the Middle East, which might also draw us into war. By allowing Iran and its allies to kill Syrians with impunity, America could demonstrate the corresponding firmness of its resolve to let Iran protect what President Barack Obama called its “equities” in Syria, which are every bit as important to Iran as pallets of cash.

America’s Syria policy can, therefore, be best understood not in the terms most familiar to Mideast analysts, such as “getting Assad to step aside” or “supporting the moderate opposition” or “paving the way to a peaceful transition and elections.” Rather, it is a strategic-communications campaign tightly run from the White House, whose purpose was and is to serve as a smokescreen for an entirely coherent and purposeful policy that comes directly from the president himself, but which he and his aides did not wish to publicly own. The goal of the president and his closest aides is to convince the Iranians that we would meet our commitments to them while confusing and obscuring the real reasons behind the president’s set decision of nonintervention in Syria from American legislators and the public alike.

I would add concealing his purpose from our NATO allies as well, who will suffer enormously from the burgeoning Islamic Diaspora.

In a recent interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon revealed that in 2013, Iran told President Obama that if he were to strike the regime of Bashar Assad following the latter’s chemical-weapons attack, the Iranians would collapse the talks over their nuclear program. Obama canceled the strike, of course, and later reassured Iran that the United States would not touch Assad. Solomon’s reporting confirms a critical fact about Obama’s Iran and Syria policies: They are one and the same. Or, stated differently, Syria is part of the price for the president’s deal with Iran.

For five-and-a-half years, Obama has maintained an unwavering position against intervention on the side of Assad’s enemies in order to set the stage for a U.S. realignment in the Middle East. To shield this ambition from view, and therefore from criticism, the White House launched an elaborate spin campaign whose purpose was to deflect and manage domestic and allied criticism while the president pursued his objective. In partnership with Russia, Obama has directly shaped the course of the Syrian war while single-mindedly working to actualize his vision of a new American alliance with Russia and Iran that will allow America to take a permanent vacation from the Middle East. While the end result of this effort may not be what Obama and his closest advisers hope, his actions are clear, and their consequences now appear to be locked in, no matter who comes after him in the White House.

But because of Trump, I think the policy may no longer be “locked in”.  The generals may ally with Trump– because the ones hes surrounded himself with believe US military power can solve any problem.  And Trump will be able to exploit bombing “ISIS” to raise his dismal popularity polling.  A popular misconception is that Putin wanted Trump to be elected– like everyone, Putin didn’t think Trump could be elected.  Putin wanted to deligitimize US democracy…and Trumps advisors were venal and inexperienced enough to fall into Putins web.  Putin and Obama both viewed Trump as a buffoon.  But he may not be…Trump may be an avatar of the Trickster God, a servant of chaos and a disruptor of order.  Like Nadim Shehadi said– deterrence by uncertainty.  I study complexity, especially non-equilibrium systems, what John Von Neuman called non-elephants…and I love chaos unconditionally.

See the resemblance?