Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on the geostrategic challenge of Islamism

First, as to the notion that Islamist terrorism is a rare, stable, lightning strikes sort of thing: nope, it has been steadily rising since the 1970’s. Currently it is running at 3,000 victims/month, just under half fatal -- and of course the median victim is a fellow Muslim, doubtless deemed an "apostate" by the Jihadists over one dispute or another.

It has potential to explode, both in Europe and the Americas.

The rule of thumb estimate is you are looking at 10% of Muslims who are Islamists. Pew polls show about 20 – 80% support depending on where in the world. Taking the 1.5 bn estimate, that is on order of 50 millions backed by 500 millions, the largest global military threat in history.

Second, what is playing out is tied to Islamic eschatology.

There is a black flag army hadith (from the other "holy book" of Islam, a collection of sayings and traditions of Mohammed) which points to an army from the direction of Khorasan, implying Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan, and that Mahdi is among this invincible army. If one has to crawl over ice and snow, one is to join them. They are to be in the Syria-Iraq zone and Prophet Isa (an Islamic, eschatological version on Jesus not at all like the NT Jesus) will join. ME conquest is envisioned, with associated prediction of a mass slaughter of Jews (Gharqad tree hadith). From ME, domination of the world.

The strategic events of recent decades and years in the ME suddenly fit a pattern. 

And of course the Iranian Republic sees itself as vanguard of the Mahdi, and seeks nukes in that context.

I summarise and do not give details and versions on points, and note that the black flag army hadith is not viewed as as strong as say the Gharqad tree one on the massacre of Jews. But the problem — observing black flags in abundance — is to persuade the militants that things are otherwise.

We are looking at jihad by raiding bands in that context, with infusions of assassin cult suicide attacks. In some cases I would not be surprised to learn that hashish (source of the name, assassin) is involved.

Beyond jihad by bands is organised full bore war under an acknowledged Caliphate. Which is exactly what Al Baghdadi is claiming to be. So the pledging of loyalty by various groups and individuals is a crucial move in the ideology and theology of Jihadism.

From Caliph we move to final Caliph, the world conquering Mahdi. Hence the 100 year plan, the settlement jihad strategy and the sort of projections in the map I first saw on 9-11 in 2001:

The answer in outline is to realise this is a rimlands (perimeter of the Eurasian heartland), choke points and pivotal resource [oil] based continental strategy. 

Where, I do not think a traditional, European-dominated heartland strategy is in view.  This was the concept discussed by Mackinder and others, with E Europe being key to dominance of a zone that thanks to improved land transport, was opening up as land for a potential globally dominant superpower:

  A view of global choke-points for sea trade:

Most likely, the African heartland is the targetted soft continental base of material and population resources to build up the bases and inventory for global subjugation — the view since 1904 has been that given railways and technologies that allow mobilisation of a continent, a dominant continental power can then build up bases and inventory to take up a maritime assault of unprecedented scale, achieving global domination. 

Eastern Europe has usually been the envisioned focal area, but Africa and China have been seen as other possible bases. Doubtless, India too . . . the second main base of the British Empire. Yes, Mackinder et al saw that as a possibility, though in context India and China while being abstract possibilities; are much less likely. 

Africa is the soft zone and for the Americas, Latin America and the Caribbean.

BTW, this may explain the recent Islamist focus on attacking and denouncing France; as France has been most assertive in blocking Islamist expansion southwards in Africa.

And of course Israel sits in the SW corner of Asia on a choke-point on the land bridge between Africa and the ME. Close to the Nile valley arterial line that bypasses the Sahara.

A Continental geostrategic thrust is logically and historically best countered by a maritime one. I will give no details here other than say, look to the past 500 years of history and particularly to Britain and the Royal Navy.

But jihad by bands, by settlement of enclaves, by pen, tongue and agent of influence settling in key institutions backed by oil money has to be defeated if such is to be undertaken.

The key nations have to be willing to recognise, this is a slow burn global, 4th generation war where multiple battlespaces and theatres of operation are simultaneously engaged.

Target hardening through creating a civilian marshals force to be in businesses, institutions, churches etc so that there can be a 10 second response to an attack, not the 10 - 30+ minutes for a SWAT team, speaks to that, on the jihad by bands battlespace.

As does taking up serious policing of no-go zones backed by stronger forces if the police are stalemated or defeated. (In France alone there are over 750.)

The information and influence battlespace must be engaged, and the unwelcome truth brought out and grounded. The signal failure of media and pundits, speaks volumes. In this space it has to become clear that the Jihadis are deluded and will manifestly fail, as they are not the strong horse. 

Though I will say, an evaluation has been made that an economically and socio-culturally suicidal west invites aggression.

For the USA, lessons from the Barbary Coast naval wars may teach more soundly than anything since.

On the intel front, the pivotal issue is not a general surveillance state [that opens up things that we do not need]. Instead, go back to the small wars corpus from generations back: build networks, scout, patrol, bring the money to back partnership and frankly to buy information.

But the info and influence battle has to be won, and the West will have to make serious amends for its decades long habit of cutting and running before the job is done.

I know, none of this is palatable.

I don't like it either.

Welcome to World War IV (the Cold War was No. III; or we can call this the renewed 1400 year war), already in progress.

And, with Iran clearly at nuke threshold.

We face global challenges. END