The Counterfeit COIN of the American Occupation

As of 31 August 2021 AD/22 Muharram 1443, America’s long war in Afghanistan is over. I wrote about this yesterday. And I wrote, back in March 2020, in favor of us leaving. Most Americans thought it was time for us to get out, as well. Just not in the humiliating way that the Biden Administration did it–leaving massive amounts of functional military equipment for the Taliban to use or sell and, even worse, abandoning hundreds of Americans as well as military service dogs to the tender mercies of militant fundamentalist Muslims.

But as I said in yesterday’s article, “the US never had much hope of winning in Afghanistan.” Just a fool’s hope. Why?

Because we keep viewing Islamic fundamentalism, and its oft-attendant violence, as some sort of aberration that most people in majority-Muslim countries abhor–when in fact groups like the Taliban are insurgents against the Western-dominated world order and strict Islam is, for them, not only a way of life but a vehicle for throwing off infidel shackles.

At least it wasn’t this bad for our final troops. (“The Last Stand of the 44th Foot….,” from Wikipedia, public domain.)

Drawing on the final chapter of my latest book (The COIN of the Islamic Realm: Insurgencies & the Ottoman Empire, 1416-1916), let me point out what we needed to do to beat the Taliban insurgency there–but didn’t. As well as observe what they did successfully on the other side

In order for insurgents to come out on top, they must

  1. Delegitimize the target government and erode its domestic support
  2. Hang onto safe havens
  3. Obtain some measure of external support
  4. Degrade external support for the government.

The government, or occupying power, needs to

  1. Address the insurgency’s root causes
  2. Box insurgents into limited geographical areas
  3. Emphasize insurgents’ brutality
  4. Eliminate or expose insurgents’ reliance on any charismatic leader(s)
  5. Cut off foreign support for the insurgency
  6. Keep its own foreign support coming
  7. Incorporate some aspects of the insurgency’s agenda into governing.

The Taliban had no problem doing the first three of the insurgent priorities, and eventually pulled off the fourth one–at least in terms of help from the USA, the Kabul government’s foreign sugar daddy.

The US/ANG did have limited success, mainly with numbers 2 and 3. But even there, the Taliban always controlled large parts of rural Afghanistan. In fact, it could be argued that by the end it was American and/or Afghan government forces, holed up in Kabul and a few other major cities, that had been boxed in. Regarding the third point, the Taliban learned the value of good PR and cut down on their viciousness–at least in the last year, in order to facilitate American withdrawal (“see, we have abandoned rooftop parties for gays!”). But the most charismatic leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar–who, indeed, was considered the founder of the Taliban–died in his bed (of tuberculosis) in 2013, not at the receiving end of a US drone strike. Pakistan and Iran never ceased their financial and material support for the Taliban. During 2020 Kabul, at US instigation, even had meetings with the Taliban in efforts to throw them a few governing bones. But the insurgents didn’t want bones–they wanted the whole skeleton. And, most importantly, the arrogant American occupiers–blinded by their post-Enlightenment secularism, and the assumption that the people of Afghanistan wanted a government empowered by that ideology–never had a prayer of addressing the root cause(s) of the Taliban insurgency: Afghanistan’s people are more enamored of shariah law than any other on Earth.

From Pew, “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity,” August 9, 2012.

Going for the Eschatological Gold

There are a number of Twelver Shia traditions which relate to the theme that when the Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi returns, “the earth will uncover all its treasures and bring out its blessings.” The Mahdi’s followers are getting a head start on this gold rush, however. Javad Faroughi, a pious Twelver Shii Muslim, took first place in the Tokyo Olympics air pistol competition over the weekend. Faroughi is described as “a nurse at the IRGC-owned Baghiyyatollah hospital in Tehran” who “practiced shooting in the hospital basement.” After winning, he gushed “I dedicate my medal to Imam Mahdi and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.” Faroughi also revealed that he had served with Iranian forces for several years in Syria.

Since Faroughi belongs to the most fanatical and well-trained military organization in the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, one might question whether his small arms expertise was acquired solely in a hospital basement. Or if it was, whether his targets were inanimate ones. And whether “nurse” is his primary military occupation.

In any event, the still-occulted Muhammad al-Mahdi, as well his mini-me, Khamenei, must be happy with their current gold member. Especially since he seems to be a man with a golden gun. Perhaps even a gold finger.

Inside Jamkaran Mosque, Qom, Iran. No gold for the Mahdi–just prayers.

They Keep Using That Word….

One of my recurring social media posts–especially on Twitter–is to chide (OK, mock) hyperbolic headlines about some issue or other being “apocalyptic.” Here are three examples, just from today:

Enter “apocalypse” into Google’s search engine (which I slummed and used, temporarily–normally I stick to duckduckgo, but that doesn’t enumerate search results): “about 117,000,000 results.” Many of them would be as fevered as those examples above.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Not only do we live in an age when everything is the worst (or, much more rarely, best) EVER; but the media long ago abandoned any pretense of objectivity–or even rationality.

Cue Inigo Montoya:

Billy Preston and Ibn Khaldun

Earlier today The Stream published my latest article: “History: Will It Go ‘Round In Circles?” Other children of the 1970s will recognize that as the title of Billy Preston’s #1 hit from the summer of 1973. Therein I look at four prominent historians’ concepts of cyclical history–only one of whom is Ibn Khaldun–and how those comport with the Christian linear one. As the Fifth Beatle sang, history does “let the bad guy win every once in a while.” But does that mean that it’s “a story [that] ain’t got no moral?” And will it just go round and round in circles?

On this same topic, in 1992 Francis Fukuyama published the controversial, but highly influential, book The End of History and the Last Man. In it he argued that with the collapse of the USSR the preceding year, Western-style “liberal democracy” had proved itself the ultimate form of human government–and thus that political history was effectively over.

About that….

The Facebook Messiah?

Yesterday I blogged on a fellow arrested in Egypt for claiming to be the Mahdi. A story last night in The New Arab shed more light on this: “Egyptian ‘Facebook Messiah’ Arrested after Claiming to be Muslim Mahdi.” According to the latter, his name is Muhammad Habash and he had posted on social media–not just via a sign on his house–that he was the Mahdi, and that “helpers of the Dajjal” were hindering the promulgation of his message. Egyptian authorities arrested him for “spreading false beliefs about the Islamic religion and claiming that he was the promised Mahdi….”

The staff writers of this article do manage to admit that “over the course of modern and medieval Islamic history, many people have claimed to be the Mahdi….” And that Egyptian security forces had arrested similar Mahdi claimants in 2020 and 2017.

As I have explained at length, and many times–starting in 2005 with my first book, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden–the Mahdi is predicted in a number of hadiths; dozens (at least) of Muslim men over the centuries have claimed to be him; and belief in his imminent coming is held by at least 1/3 of the planet’s Muslims.

So how was Sayyid Habash spreading false beliefs? Although not in the Quran, the statements about the Mahdi by Islam’s founder are accepted by hundreds of millions in the Islamic fold. And maybe Habash really is the Mahdi–because when it comes to Islam’s militant “messiahs,” past performance may not always be indicative of future results.

By the way: if Facebook is so obsessed with preventing the spread of “disinformation,” why did its “fact checkers” allow Habash to make his eschatological claims on that platform?

The coming of the Mahdi, according to the cover of a book in my library. The dove belies the jihads he will wage.

The Sign–of the Mahdi

Less than two months ago I blogged on a Saudi who put himself forward as the Mahdi–and in the Grand Mosque of Mecca, no less. Well, the same thing just happened in Egypt, albeit rather more sedately. Egyptian police just arrested a certain “Muhammad” for claiming to be Islam’s major eschatological figure. But unlike that Saudi chap–or many previous militant Mahdis–this man had simply (if grandiosely) posted a sign on his house reading “the House of the Awaited Mahdi for Memorisation of the Holy Quran.” This may get him charged with “contempt for Islam.”

The Gulf News correspondent, Ramadan al-Sherbini, then throws in a reference to the (in)famous 1979 “siege of Mecca”–but gets a major element thereof wrong. Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of the occupation of the Meccan Grand Mosque, did not claim to be the Mahdi himself; he announced that his brother-in-law, Muhammad al-Qahtani, was. And the “security forces” which evicted them and their armed followers were French, not Saudi. Al-Sherbini also mentions the May 2021 Meccan Mahdi claimant.

Still, an addled (or pretentious) Quran teacher just posting a Mahdist sign would seem to be harmless. Maybe he was simply announcing his belief in the Mahdi’s coming–although you’d think Islam’s deliverer wouldn’t need Quran lessons. Clearly, Egyptian officials were telling this Muhammad:

if Allah was here, he’d tell you to your face–man, you’re some kind of sinner.”

The Mahdi! (Actually, Bluto from “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves,” 1937).

A Jihad By Any Other Name….

This morning The Stream published my 50th article: “A Guide for the Misled–on Islam.” Therein I give accurate definitions–not apologetic/media spin–for 20 key Islamic terms, and then provide four essential truths about the world’s second-largest religion. And I do so in a non-partisan fashion; in fact, some of what I write may anger conservatives–although most will run counter to liberal fantasies.

The Dome of the Chain, overshadowed by the Dome of the Rock. From my trip to Jerusalem, 2013.

War Worlds Worth Wrestling With

Over the last month or so I’ve guest-blogged at zenpundit.com, on the topic of military science fiction which I think should be on the various recommended readings lists for our armed forces–especially the officers. I focus on the excellent “Future History” series of books in the universe that grew out of (or, perhaps more properly, grew up to support) the 1974 novel by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, The Mote in God’s Eye. Here are the links:

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part I

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part II

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part III

War World: Jihad! edited by John F. Carr, and superb cover art by Alan Gutierrez.

Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is Now Terrorism–Especially If You’re White

Last weekend I spoke at the “Madison Forum,” a local (north Atlanta suburbs) conservative-libertarian group. Here’s the video link (which picks up a few minutes after I’d started):

Also, I published an article today at The Stream on this same topic: “Biden’s New Counter-Terrorism Strategy: A Lying’ Dog-faced, Pony Soldier of a Document.
18th century white supremacist terrorists, per Biden’s rubrics (“Declaration of Independence,” Wiki, public domain).

From Persia with Hate?

Yesterday Arab News ran an article entitled “Why Iranian Missiles Are Targeting Makkah [Mecca],” by Dr. Mohammed al-Sulami. He writes that the Houthis who have taken over most of Yemen “have been systematically targeting Makkah” with missile strikes, rather than Saudi military bases, at the behest of their Iranian patrons. Why? For two reasons, according to him. Secondarily, because the Houthis are “irrational” by nature–as are all such “militias,” whether Lebanon’s Hizbullah, pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, al-Qaeda or “Daesh” (ISIS). But primarily because the Houthis are doing Tehran’s bidding: trying to create violent chaos in Arabia, specifically in Islam’s holiest city, and thus spark the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi.

From Persia (but not Yemen?!) with Hate–for Sunnis and Infidels!

This is a version of the “hotwiring the apocalypse” thesis, which I have written about many times–on this site, in my book Ten Years’ Captivation with the Mahdi’s Camps, and most concisely in the article “Do Iran’s Leaders Want to Hotwire the Apocalypse?” Al-Sulami adduces two sources: an unlinked Iranian website with an article called “Akhir al-Zaman” (“the end of the age/time”), and a 2008 British Shii Muslim movie, 313 (referring to the number of martyred followers of Muhammad’s grandson Husayn). According to al-Sulami’s exegesis of these two sources, “the reappearance of the Mahdi will not be achieved unless chaos unfolds across Hijaz [western Arabia], because the existence of a powerful and harmonious government that is hostile to Shiites and the Mahdi is a major impediment” to Iran’s plan of coaxing him to manifest. Thus, the ayatollahs arm and induce the Houthis of Yemen to attack the Kingdom, specifically Mecca. But al-Sulami argues that the Yemeni pawns should not bear the brunt of the blame; rather, “the finger of blame should be pointed firmly at the Iranian regime.” For it is Tehran that “poses a real and grave threat to Saudi Arabia and the entire region.”

Observations:

  1. Dr. al-Sulami should have noted that while the Houthis are Shii, they are not of the same ilk at Iran’s Twelvers. Yemen’s Shiis are Zaydis, or Fivers. They don’t hold the same firm eschatological beliefs as their Iranian cousins. Twelvers are so called because they believe the 12th descendant of Muhammad, also named Muhammad, disappeared–but did not die–in the ninth century AD and will return as the eschatological Mahdi. Thus there can only be one. The Zaydis/Fivers, on the other hand, believe that their community has been led, across the centuries, by many mahdis, who are sent by Allah to deliver the true Muslim community. There are enough similarities between Iranian and Yemeni Shiis that they can work together, over against Saudi Sunnis (as well as Sunni ISIS and AQ groups). So in the final analysis the Zaydis are almost certainly lobbing missiles at KSA for prosaic political and military reasons, not apocalyptic ones.
  2. So is al-Sulami correct that the ayatollahs and their overseas operators–in this case, the Quds (“Jerusalem”) Force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps–are directing the Houthis missile strikes on Islam’s holiest city? Perhaps. I have argued, as in the aforementioned article, that Iran wants nuclear weapons, but not to use to hotwire the apocalypse by, in particular, attacking Israel. (Read it.) However, this Arabian apocalyptic pot-stirring might very well be something that some of the clerical regime wishes to carry out–since it doesn’t run the risk of an Israeli or American nuclear response, nor does it threaten to destroy Jerusalem, which is important in Islamic End Times machinations.
  3. Note that al-Sulami studiously avoids mentioning that the Mahdi is also a staple belief of Sunni Islam, derived from quite a few hadiths on topic. But since 1979, when a violent Mahdist movement tried to overthrow the Saudi Kingdom, most Saudi commentators have steered clear of broaching this topic. And KSA has seen any number of self-styled “mahdis” crop up in the years since–as I wrote about here just last month.