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May 13, 2008

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JJackson

So if we legalise marijuana the risk is it might act as a gateway drug to the hard stuff but it may also isolate the vast numbers of soft drug users from the pushers and bring them in from the cold. Probably worth the risk seeing as, at the moment, the only people that are talking to us at all are repressive regimes that should be on a ‘sponsors of internal state terrorism list'.

Leo

I think that you need to pick up on the latest comments by Hammam Saeed, the new leader of MB in Jordan, in which he threatens Jordan and other regimes with destruction if they do not "follow the way of the Prophet".

Some sources assert that he supports Hamas in Gaza and is taking a more confrontational approach to King Abdullah.

Do you see this in contradiction to your information that the MB in Egypt are sincerely trying to act through democratic means?

Anthony B

all due respect:

-you clearly have decided on your conclusion before your evidence has proven anything. the dice are loaded, in other words. sometimes this is acceptable. for example, without proof I can confidently predict that when you finish your 'research' your hypothesis will end up proven. sarcasm aside, this is the sort of argumentation that one trains undergraduates not to do. one assumes that professors will do better. the best I can say is I appreciate your honesty in so clearly telegraphing that you don't intend to seriously question your own assumptions.

-you claim your argument makes 'intuitive sense.' what does that mean, for god's sake?

-you claim correlation doesn't equal causation, but who are you kidding with your assumption that there is any degree even of correlation here? your argument is, at best, an unsubstantiated assertion.

-your "simple observation" is that "where the MB is strong (Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine for example), AQ has had a hard time finding a point of entry despite serious efforts to do so, while where the MB is weak (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon) it has had more success."

-is this a serious observation? Start with your first 'case.' You begin this post referring to al-Zawahiri's polemics against the MB. You do, of course, know the (Egyptian) organization which he once headed, and which merged with al-Qaeda, and would therefore seem to fit under the rubric of an al-Qaeda-style group, no? The idea that such a group, that has been quite powerful in Egypt, dragging it into a virtual civil war, doesn't contradict your 'observation' is...eye-opening.

-I could go on with virtually each of your cases that you say correlate with your intuitive observation. Either they obviously contradict it, or the actual story is quite complicated and doesn't come close to even correlation, much less causation.

The long story is that if you don't cook the books and predetermine your research outcomes you wouldn't make such baseless empirical 'observations' and glibly pass them off as anything other than cocktail party chatter.

aardvark

Leo - Himam Said definitely comes out of the hawkish wing of the MB and his election was a surprise, if explicable in terms of the unusually rough treatment at the hands of the Jordanian government the last few years. For decades, the MB played exactly the "loyal opposition" role for the Hashemites, but that's broken down badly over the last few years. Check out the campaign against the Jor MB, including takeover of its major charity wing and the manipulation of elections - this would fall into the "degrading of the firewall" side of the ledger. There's also enormously complicated issues related to Hamas and the contentious politics of Jordanian-Palestinian relations, all of which would need to be taken into account.

Anthony - I assume that you know that Zawahiri's EIJ comes out of the legacy of the most crucial split within the Egyptian MB (over Qutb's ideas), which led the mainstream organization in one direction ("Preachers not judges") and the various Qutb-inspired splinter groups in the other. Look at the MB's behavior during the 1990s insurgency - its opposition to the violent jihad, which partly drives Zawahiri's deep resentment - and its current ideological stance.

As for cooking the books, I'm actually arguing against myself here: I've been one of those in the past arguing for the "MB firewall" thesis, but I'm not satisfied with any theory which doesn't specify causal mechanisms and submit to empirical tests. If I just wanted to prove the case by assertion, I'd hardly bother to raise the question in the first place. So what are the assumed mechanisms, and can they be tested? Those are important questions - I don't claim to know the answers, but I do think they should be investigated. I've spent a lot of time looking at the MB empirically (both on the ground and in their documents, interviews, etc) but there are vast gaps in my - and most everyone's - knowledge about, say, the attitudes among the mass membership of the organization (as opposed to its leadership and prominent activists). As I mentioned above, I suspect that the MB's role re AQ will play out differently in different contexts - which would lead to a differentiated policy recommendation rather than a "one-size fits all" either "pro" or "anti" MB.

thanks for comments, all three

Carleton Wu

one assumes that professors will do better

Thinking that 'real' research starts from a completely agnostic position merely reveals that you have no experience with the practical implementation of research in the real world. Very rarely do researchers approach their subject matter without preformed ideas of what they might find- the distinction to be made is between those prepared to be contradicted by the evidence, and those unprepared to do so. Having preformed ideas is a natural consequence of being 1)well-informed and 2)curious about the subject. Having unshakable ideas is more related to one's weakness of ego.
In fact, I would think that agnostic experimentation is typical of the undergraduate, or younger. Something on the order of "Im going to mix these two chemicals together and see what happens!" is high school chemistry. "I believe that this reaction will be catalysed more effectively by this new substrate than the industry standard X" is the sort of experiment performed by adults.

arifJAA

I would tend to come down on the side of Daniel Pipes on this; that ultimately the movements that are working within the system (to destroy it) may be more dangerous than the outlaws.

My goal is save America and my civilization, not just to stop (the tactic) of terrorism.

To answer your question further, attempting to work with Islamic movements or terrorists in general will always explode in your face. Think further of Indian Intelligence's initial support for the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) or the Brits support for Protestant Paramilitary movements in N. Ireland.

Let's remember too...the Hamburg cell that committed 9/11 was initially recruited and radicalized by MB refugees from a vengeful Assad regime that drove them out after a campaign of terror against his Baathist regime.

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