Pakistan and Delusions about Negotiating on Jihad
By Jeffrey Imm
Would America find it a shocking news revelation if a white supremacist organization had members supporting Ku Klux Klan terrorism? Would the FBI go to white supremacist political groups to fight the Ku Klux Klan, or seek white supremacist leaders to convince KKK members to change their thinking? But when it comes to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Taliban, and Jihadist organizations around the world, this type of nonsensical thinking has become a common argument among many international relations circles, including American government leadership, because nearly 8 years after 9/11, such leadership continues to refuse to clearly define the enemy threat and ideology.
The American media and government seem to think it is major news that members of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's intelligence organization (ISI) have reportedly been supporting the Taliban and Jihadist activities. They are surprised that a nation, where polls consistently show that 75 percent support the implementation of "strict Sharia law," would have individuals that support a group such as the Taliban whose goal is to enforce Sharia law and work towards restoring a caliphate. They are surprised that a nation whose government officials call for making "blasphemy" an international crime punished by death would have individuals that support attacks in other countries. Where do they think members of the Pakistan Taliban come from? What ideology do they think inspires the Taliban?
Responding to new that CIA sources and other reports claimed links between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's ISI and the Taliban, Pakistan's Prime Minister Gilani stated that he was "pretty sure" that the ISI contained no pockets of Taliban sympathy. When further reports by the International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal alleged links between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's ISI to the bombing of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, an Islamic Republic of Pakistan government spokeswoman Sherry Rehman stated: "There are probably still individuals within the ISI who are ideologically sympathetic to the Taleban and act on their own in ways that are not in convergence with the policies and interests of the government of Pakistan."
What policies and interests are they not acting in convergence with? Enforcement of Sharia?
This week, while President Bush has been praising the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as "a strong ally and a vibrant democracy," the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's federal government has been meeting with the Pakistan Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) government on plans to implement Sharia law throughout the Malakand Division and Swat regions, as part of the so-called "peace" agreements with the Taliban in that area. The move to expand Sharia law throughout parts of the NWFP and Pakistan tribal areas has been in progress for months. But our president continues to claim that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is our "strong ally." Is it going to build a "vibrant democracy" based on Sharia?
The delusions about the Islamic Republic of Pakistan serve as a microcosm for the delusions about global Jihad and the unwillingness to recognize its basis in Islamic supremacism. As 9/11 served as the tactical wake up call for Americans on Jihadist's tactical threats, Pakistan serves as a strategic wake up call on Jihad's ideological basis in Islamic supremacism and the dangers of our continuing denial about it. But are the American media and government listening? Not really. They are shocked, they want to stop funding to Pakistan, etc., but they won't actually mention the word "Sharia" or the phrase "Islamic supremacism" in any reports, let alone the term "Islamist."
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But it is just an "extremist" problem, right? U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates certainly thinks so, and his mantra is "the enemy is extremism." In the June 2008 National Defense Strategy approved by Secretary Gates, the Defense Department makes it clear who the enemy is: "violent extremists." What are "extremists"? Well, the National Defense Strategy [sic] won't really tell you that - clearly defining the enemy isn't part of such a "strategy." Robert Gates' Defense Department report simply seeks to find a term that no one can disagree with, and since "extremists" could mean anything or nothing - it fits perfectly for a so-called defense strategy document that fears to even name the enemy. Even Osama Bin Laden is against "extremists."
Compliant with the NCTC/DHS "terror lexicon" recommendations, you won't find the terms "Islam," "Islamist," "Islamic," "Jihad," etc., in this 2008 National Defense Strategy -- just "violent extremists." While the Taliban was busy during June trying to turn parts of Pakistan into a Sharia mini-state, Robert Gates' Defense Department was busy compiling a "defense strategy" that refuses to identify an enemy. Clearly the Taliban are not the only problem that the United States has in this war.
Moreover, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not the only government agency with individuals who may be sympathetic to pro-Taliban individuals. In the July 31, 2008 Washington Times, Bill Gertz provides an interview with James K. Glassman, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, who is working on programs to "push back against violent extremist ideology." Clearly Mr. Glassman got the NCTC/DHS "terror lexicon" memos too. Then Mr. Glassman goes on to praise Sayyed Imam al-Sharif (aka "Dr. Fadl") as a credible voice against extremists (whatever that means). Mr. Glassman fails to mention that al-Sharif calls for "Jihad in Afghanistan [that] will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing." This is the same Taliban that the American media are so outraged that Pakistan's ISI is reported to have been supporting. But Mr. Glassman is paid by American taxpayers as an American government employee to further promote individuals like al-Sharif to fight so-called "extremists," and the Washington Times prints his comments without rebuttal or challenge.
Americans can find the challenges in our relationship with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as an educational lesson if they are willing to think beyond the tactical monofocus of a "War on Extremism" (W.O.E.). We won't get this insight from some analysts, however, because such international relations and counterterrorism analysts are monofocused on who, what, where, and when, but with a complete and total disregard as to WHY. The lesson in America's challenges with Pakistan is that WHY always matters. Moreover, without an answer as to WHY, you have no national defense strategy.
In addition to refusing to identify the enemy's ideology, some have also been waging a disinformation campaign that there isn't any meaningful connection between Jihad and an enemy ideology. Non-interventionist Marc Sageman makes this argument claiming that Jihadists are just "thrill" seekers. National Security Advisor Steven Hadley, urging patience with Pakistan, has called for more education in Pakistan and has launched schools in Pakistan areas, ironically, where Jihadist activity has since increased. The 2008 National Defense Strategy makes the argument that America needs to "understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies" (page 8). Counterterrorism analyst Farhana Ali tells Newsweek that women suicide bombers are primarily acting to "avenge the loss of male family members," ignoring that such women Jihadists kill other women and children. This same analyst claims that pro-Pakistani Kashmir Islamic women protesting against kufar (infidels) are fighting for their "freedom," while the Pakistan Taliban promise "every woman not wearing Hijab would be disfigured with acid."
In addition to such disinformation efforts, there are those who would embrace Islamic supremacism as a political Islamism with which we can negotiate. The fallacy of this can also been seen in the failures with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that has now become a haven for Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and where Pakistan government staff are reportedly aiding the Taliban against U.S. soldiers, while American government leaders have been negotiating with this Islamic republic. What clearer example could there be of why negotiating with Islamic supremacists is an impossible tactic? Yet, while a Sharia mini-state is being created in Pakistan, the West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) publication "Sentinel" published a June 2008 article by Peter Mandaville calling for engagement with Islamists as "a potential component of counter-terrorism solutions." Counterterrorism analyst Matthew Levitt makes a similar Cold War tactical argument that "political salafists have credibility when it comes to deradicalizing others." Arguing for engagement tactics that have clearly failed with Pakistan, these analysts claim that if we negotiate with Islamists using political methods to achieve their goals, it will prevent "violent extremism" (aka "radicalism") from growing.
But there are no grays when dealing with supremacists. We can't compare supremacists to statists and believe that, like during the Cold War, we can persuade them gradually to move from Communism to Socialism, etc., based on degrees of supporting state management over individual freedoms. The challenge of supremacism is more than just a threat to liberty; it is also an unwavering denial of equality. Identity-based supremacists may use different tactics (terrorism, propaganda, elections), but their supremacist ideology remains the same. In addition to America's historical experience with fighting white supremacism, America's more recent struggles with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan should teach us this lesson. But that would require that we acknowledge that an ideology of Islamic supremacism exists in the first place and that our values of equality and liberty together are worth promoting.
The desire to avoid identifying an enemy ideology is based on both denial and a fear of confrontation. Identifying an enemy as "extremists" is believed to "build consensus," but it is a consensus that means nothing, since the term "extremist" means nothing. Seeking to wish away an enemy ideology by blaming Jihad on "thrill" seeking, lack of education, poverty, "grievances," or revenge gives false hope and comfort for those in denial who believe that we can talk our way out of war with Jihadists. It is a sad era for America, home of the brave, when our Department of Homeland Security seeks to promote "progress" over "liberty", and when our Department of Defense claims that its mission includes promoting "prosperity" and "opportunity," but is distressingly silent on the values of equality. The primal American value that "all men are created equal" remains our primary defiance to supremacist ideologies.
When it comes to the values and identity of America, the only thing we need fear is fear itself. We must not fear confrontation of supremacist ideologies over our values, based on disinformation that we can engage with supremacist individuals to end "violent extremism." The continuing challenges in America's relationship with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan prove how this short-term tactic does not and will not work. America's own history also shows that such a tactic won't work, and the only thing that supremacists understand is confrontation.
The root problem comes back to acknowledging that there is an Islamic supremacist ideology behind Jihadist tactics, not just "extremism," not just terrorism for "thrills", not just "lack of education," not just "grievances," and not just desire for revenge.
If we didn't understand the problem before, Pakistan should be America's wake up call on why we have no choice but to defy Islamic supremacism.
As American soldiers are attacked in Afghanistan with the support and aid of those in the Pakistani government, don't we owe them our own courage to honestly identify the enemy ideology? Don't we owe our fighting men and women the courage of our convictions in supporting equality and liberty that we will defy -- not engage with, not pander to, and not submit to -- the enemy's ideology?
Their lives are on the line.
We must show them that the war against Islamic supremacism is our war too.
Sources and Related Documents:
August 2, 2008 - Wall Street Journal: U.S. Ties Pakistani Intelligence to Attack in Kabul
August 1, 2008 - International Herald Tribune: Pakistanis aided attack in Kabul, U.S. officials say
August 1, 2008 - BBC: Pakistan denies Kabul bomb link
August 1, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: 'ISI accusation taken seriously, will be resolved'
August 1, 2008 - AP: Pakistan denies ISI behind Indian embassy attack
July 31, 2008 - Washington Times: Inside the Ring - War of Ideas
July 31, 2008 - Washington Times: Pakistan probes Taliban collusion -- Prime minister sees no spy ties
July 30, 2008 -International Herald Tribune: CIA outlines Pakistan links with militants
July 30, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: Taliban warn 'un-Islamic' businesses of dire consequences -- Says women to wear hijab or be ready to get burnt with acid
July 30, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: Body for amendments to Nizam-e-Adl Regulation
July 30, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: US Senate body approves $15 billion aid - to Pakistan
July 28, 2008 - AP: Bush hails Pakistan as strong ally
July 2, 2008 - Crossroads in History: The Struggle against Jihad and Supremacist Ideologies -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
June 10, 2008 - Pakistan and the Growing Threat of a Sharia Mini-State -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
Pakistan and the Growing Threat of a Sharia Mini-State - Sources and Related Documents
June 9, 2008 - AP: US think tank: Pakistan helped train Taliban, gave info on US troops
RAND "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan" full report (PDF)
June 6, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: US urges patience as Pakistan evolves anti-terror plan: Hadley
January 4, 2006 - Pakistan Daily Times: FATA colleges breeding ground for militants
May 22, 2008 - Another Pakistan Deal with the Taliban Jihadists -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
May 16, 2008: MEMRI - Pakistan Takes Steps Towards Shari'a State In Seven Districts
April 16, 2008 - Pakistan Daily Times: NA resolutions condemn anti-Quran film, cartoons
October 31, 2007 - BBC: Pakistan militants firm on Sharia
Terror Free Tomorrow: January 19-29, 2008 Pakistan Poll
Terror Free Tomorrow: August 2007 Pakistan Poll
June 2008 - U.S. National Defense 2008 document (PDF)
April 13, 2008 - Gates: Enemy in Iraq is extremism
April 14, 2008 - Who is America Fighting - Jihadists or Extremists? -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
October 22, 2007 - Osama Bin Laden Message Urges Jihadists to Unite in Iraq -- addressing OBL against "extremists" -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
July 16, 2008 - False Reports of Jihadists "Quitting" or Abandoning Islamic Supremacism -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
March 17, 2008 - Jihad, Islamism, and Non-Interventionism -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
July 30, 2008 - Newsweek: Commentary: Why Women Become Suicide Bombers - by Farhana Ali
July 28, 2008 - McClatchy Newspapers: Female suicide bombers kill at least 57 in Baghdad, Kirkuk
July 28, 2008 - KUNA: Baghdad blast toll up to 24 dead, 52 injured
Damsels of Death: Female Suicide Killers in Iraq -- by Phyllis Chesler
July 23, 2008 - Live from Kashmir: Women in Black Call for Freedom -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Farhana Ali
June 2008 - West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel: "Engaging Islamists in the West" by Peter Mandaville (page 5)
July 17, 2008 - The Way Back from Islamism -- Counterterrorism Blog - by Matthew Levitt
March 14, 2008 - National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) - Counterterror Communications Center (CTCC) Memorandum, Volume 2, Issue 10 - "Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide to Counterterrorism Communication"
January 2008 - Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties - Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims