S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sageman on Leaderless Jihad --

Jihad and 21st Century Terrorism,
A Discussion with Marc Sageman on Leaderless Jihad, was a program held at the New America Foundation on Feb. 20, 2008. {This link can provide full video or audio of the event. Here is the link to Sageman's 32 page power-point presentation; it includes his main lecture ideas.} To quote the synopsis:

In the post-September 11 world, Al Qaeda is no longer the central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks or recruits terrorists. Rather, it serves as an inspiration for individuals and other groups who have branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name.

Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer in Afghanistan in the 1980s, builds upon his bestselling book, Understanding Terror Networks, to explain how Islamic terrorism emerges and operates in the twenty-first century. In the recently published Leaderless Jihad, Sageman rejects the idea that certain individuals are predisposed to terrorism. He argues that the individual, outside influence, and group dynamics come together in a four-step process of radicalization that begins with traumatic events that spark moral outrage.

Today's is a follow up to yesterday's post, "Fear innoculations" -- I happened on to this story after reading Kevin Drum's post* that referred to an Op-ed piece by David Ignatius at the Washington Post (2/28/08). Here is what I wrote:

Fear about "what will happen to us" in our country need not be as endemic as currently seems to be the case. There are antidotes to this national poison. The venom of fear-mongering can be neutralized by using the following pain relievers. Here are my prescriptions:
  • Healing compound -- Knowledge and information is an important antidote that raises alternative possibilities. The very best example of this is a dissenting view to the concept of the Global War on Terror (GWOT for short). I learned about it from the Washington Post's Op-ed piece by David Ignatius, titled "The Fading Jihadists." Ignatius says, "Politicians who talk about the terrorism threat -- and it's already clear that this will be a polarizing issue in the 2008 campaign -- should be required to read a new book by a former CIA officer named Marc Sageman. It stands what you think you know about terrorism on its head and helps you see the topic in a different light."

Today's post begins a series laying out the most important new ideas and ways of thinking I learned from Marc Sageman -- (see "32 page power-point," pdf link above):

Section I -- "Evidence based research"

The author used the scientific method (p.3 pdf) about a group of 400-500 terrorists. The sample consisted of the 19 men who attacked the U.S. on 9/11/01, plus those who are somehow linked to them through some kind of relationships. To quote: "evidence based terrorism research, open source data" was used to reach his conclusions: "Specific threat to the U.S. -- 9/11 perpetrators as index sample, -- 400 biographical fragments, -- Trial transcripts> OSC> Academic papers". He looked for evidence mostly outside of the U.S. -- in Europe and elsewhere -- because those trials were public, unlike those here and in Cuba.

Sageman's sample consists of men who are distinguished because they attacked "the far enemy." That designation applies to people who came from Middle Eastern repressive regimes "propped up" by the West, "the near enemy" Middle East (infidel) Muslims. The thinking was that the "far enemy" had to be driven out of those countries before there was a chance to take down the central governments. The primary goal of Al-Qaeda has been to establish Salafist states. So far, the three main efforts to do that - in Afghanistan, Algeria and Al-Anbar in Iraq, have been unsuccessful.

Characteristics of the research sample -- (see pp. 4-15 of pdf above). Most were from middle class families of origin. The vast majority were not devoted to Islam as youth, but secular. Almost all received a secular education (in order of dominance): Technical (Engineering, etc.), High School/Vocational, or Humanities. Most of them had a lack of job opportunity because they were unskilled. Less than half were professionals. All were underemployed. An amazing 73% were married; two-thirds of those had children. A big majority, 90%, had no criminal record. Some had a history of political activism.If there was a record of major crime it was for robbery or drugs. Petty crime (the Maghreb logistic cells), was for credit card fraud, false documents, insurance fraud or drug traffic (more common now). Antisocial Personality Disorder, the sociopaths, included only two, Abu Masab al Zarqawi and the leader of the Madrid bombers, according to Dr. Sageman.

To be continued -- "The process became radicalization, mobilization and evolution of the threat over time."

My links:

  1. *Washington Monthly's Political Animal, Kevin Drum recently posted about Leaderless Jihad (2/28/08).
  2. Here is the Washington Times article (2/19/08).
  3. The Economist wrote an excellent review on 1/31/08, "Al-Qaeda/ how jihad went freelance," HT to PennPressLog.
  4. David Isenberg wrote a most useful lengthy review, "A fresh look at terrorism's roots" for Asia Times online on January 19. HT to War in Context for the link.
  5. Leaderless Jihad is an link that contains a full book description and several good reviews.
  6. Book TV on C-SPAN2 showed Sageman's presentation twice last night.
  7. Dr. Marc Sageman -- Speaker's Bio from the University of Pennsylvania. To quote:

    Marc Sageman is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from Harvard, he obtained an MD and a PhD in Sociology from New York University. After a tour as a flightsurgeon in the U.S. Navy, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1984. He spent a year on the Afghan Task Force then went to Islamabad from 1987 to 1989, where he ran the U.S. unilateral programs with the Afghan Mujahedin. In 1991, he resigned from the agency to return to medicine. He completed a residency in psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1994, he has been in the private practice of forensic and clinical psychiatry, and had the opportunity to evaluate about 500 murderers. After 9/11/01, he started collecting biographical material on about 400 al Qaeda terrorists to test the validity of the conventional wisdom on terrorism. This research has been published as Understanding Terror Network earlier this year. He has testified before the 9/11 Commission and has become a consultant to various government agencies on terrorism.

View my current slide show about the Bush years, "Millennium," at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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The Future Was Yesterday said...

Terrorism could be ran by Mickey Mouse, and it would make no difference to those who think war is a staple of life.

Carol Gee said...

Future -- You are right. Do you think that, if 9/11 had not happened, that we would be in some other right now? I think so. Thanks for being a faithful reader, my friend.