Sunday, April 15, 2007
they tell me of a pie up in the sky waiting for me when i die:
Another point of weakness for the Islamic State of Iraq/Al-Qaeda in Iraq: it's... not a state. One would think that declaring a state, as al-Q did in October in Ramadi, would be an excellent, excellent thing for the enemies of al-Q, as it forces al-Q to provide governance tasks clearly beyond its capabilities. Once it can't deliver, it looks weak, it invites ridicule, and the entire sordid enterprise is hurled into debasement. If ever al-Q tries to declare, say, an Islamic State of the Northern Maghreb, competing jihadist bands -- to say nothing of the broader, non-radicalized population -- can point to the ISI and say, erm, well, you know how that turned out the last time... What's not to like?

Not long ago, an AQI jihadist named Uthman bin abd al-Rahman al-Timimi felt compelled to address the problem. His communique, Informing the People About the Birth of the Islamic State of Iraq, doesn't bother defending the ISI's record of governance. Instead, Timimi opts to redefine statehood so radically that the ISI can meet the standard set out merely by its declaratory existence. Brian Fishman of West Point's Combating Terrorism Center translates and summarizes Timimi's arguments here. (PDF)

According to Fishman, Tamimi relies heavily on a concept of Islamic governance unfamiliar to, say, readers of Khomeini, who wrote the book on it. In short, catering to the populace's material needs gets dismissed as un-Islamic, as "improving their conditions is less important than the condition of their religion." In this sense, the ISI is a purely ideational construct: Tamimi argues that the state doesn't need to have a fixed address, since the internet can provide all the contiguity the faithful require. All the ISI really needs to do to meet the conditions of statehood is to provide spiritual guidance; fight its enemies; and adjudicate disputes in an Islamic manner. In other words, there's no difference anymore between a terrorist group and a terrorist state. The caliphate needs no trash collectors. Even the Taliban had a jobs program.

It helps that the ISI engages in such wholesome activities as repeatedly attacking its former allies among Sunni Iraqi insurgent groups. But Tamimi's explication of al-Qaeda's model of Islamic governance is a gift from the heavens in its own right. No amount of U.S. propaganda could do as much toward demonstrating to the world's Muslims -- even the world's non-al-Qaeda jihadis! -- that the end-state al-Qaeda has in mind after its generations of war with the U.S. and its allies won't offer anything to those it rules. Under the caliphate, who will run the web servers?
--Spencer Ackerman
Could we PLEASE make you Chief of Counter-Terrorism in the WH? You, seemingly alone, have it right.

Or principal deputy advisor to Karen Hughes?

Never mind.
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