Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Pipes’

Daniel Pipes’s summation of Yaakov Amidor’s study on counterinsurgency

September 14, 2008

Must Counterinsurgency Wars Fail?

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
September 14, 2008

[WT title: “Can Counterinsurgency Win?”]

When it comes to a state fighting a nonstate enemy, there is a widespread impression the state is doomed to fail.

In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy concluded that victory in Vietnam was “probably beyond our grasp,” and called for a peaceful settlement. In 1983, the analyst Shahram Chubin wrote that the Soviets in Afghanistan were embroiled in an “unwinnable war.” In 1992, U.S. officials shied away from involvement in Bosnia, fearing entanglement in a centuries-old conflict. In 2002, retired U.S. general Wesley Clark portrayed the American effort in Afghanistan as unwinnable. In 2004, President George W. Bush said of the war on terror, “I don’t think you can win it.” In 2007, the Winograd Commission deemed Israel’s war against Hizbullah unwinnable.

More than any other recent war, the allied forces’ effort in Iraq was seen as a certain defeat, especially in the 2004-06 period. Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, former British minister Tony Benn, and former U.S. special envoy James Dobbins all called it unwinnable. The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report echoed this view. Military analyst David Hackworth, among others, explicitly compared Iraq to Vietnam: “As with Vietnam, the Iraqi tar pit was oh-so-easy to sink into, but appears to be just as tough to exit.”

The list of “unwinnable wars” goes on and includes, for example, the counterinsurgencies in Sri Lanka and Nepal. “Underlying all these analyses,” notes Yaakov Amidror, a retired Israeli major general, is the assumption “that counterinsurgency campaigns necessarily turn into protracted conflicts that will inevitably lose political support.”

Amidror, however, disagrees with this assessment. In a recent study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience, he convincingly argues that states can beat non-state actors.

This debate has the greatest significance, for if the pessimists are right, Western powers are doomed to lose every current and future conflict not involving conventional forces (meaning planes, ships, and tanks). The future would look bleak, with the prospect of successful insurgencies around the world and even within the West itself. One can only shudder at the prospect of an Israeli-style intifada in, say, the United States. Coincidentally, news came fromAustralia last week of an Islamist group calling for a “forest jihad” of massive fires in that country.

Victory over insurgencies is possible, Amidror argues, but it does not come easily. Unlike the emphasis on size of forces and arsenals in traditional wars, he postulates four conditions of a mostly political nature required to defeat insurgencies. Two of them concern the state, where the national leadership must:

  • Understand and accept the political and public relations challenge involved in battling insurgents.
  • Appreciate the vital role of intelligence, invest in it, and require the military to use it effectively.

Another two conditions concern counterterrorist operations, which must:

  • Isolate terrorists from the non-terrorist civilian population.
  • Control and isolate the territories where terrorists live and fight.

If these guidelines are successfully followed, the result will not be a signing ceremony and a victory parade but something more subtle – what Amidror calls “sufficient victory” but I would call “sufficient control.” By this, he means a result “that does not produce many years of tranquility, but rather achieves only a ‘repressed quiet,’ requiring the investment of continuous effort to preserve it.” As examples, Amidror offers the British achievement in Northern Ireland and the Spanish one vis-à-vis the Basques.

After these conditions have been met, Amidror argues, begins “the difficult, complex, crushing, dull war, without flags and trumpets.” That war entails “fitting together bits of intelligence information, drawing conclusions, putting into operation small forces under difficult conditions within a mixed populace of terrorists and innocent civilians in a densely-populated urban center or isolated village, and small tactical victories.”

Following these basic precepts does lead to success, and Western states over the past century have in fact enjoyed an impressive run of victories over insurgents. Twice U.S. forces defeated insurgents in the Philippines (1899-1902 and 1946-54), as did the British in Palestine (1936-39), Malaya (1952-57), and Oman (1964-75), the Israelis in the West Bank (Operation Defensive Shield, 2002), and most recently the U.S. surge in Iraq.

Counterinsurgency wars are winnable, but they have their own imperatives, ones very distinct from those of conventional warfare.

Posting on Pipes article: The enemy has a name

June 20, 2008


Posting on Pipes article: The enemy has a name.


Dr. Pipe could be trying to pinpoint the enemy, Islamism, but would be missing the wood for the trees.


Radicals are acting like an army committed to protect the civilians, the moderates.


Both have their roles cut out. And still both are part of one society.


When the chips are down, Muslim world unites at different levels with remarkable speed and unity of mind and purpose. The more Muslim world is subjected to stress and trauma, the more it reacts out of a sense of self-preservation.


Bush’s war on terror was more of an imperialist campaign to conquer the world that remained to be conquered. So there was no reason to restrict its focus to one face. For Bush, the enemy has many faces. Under the circumstance, Dr. Pipes’ analysis is reduced to a narrow self-serving proposition.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



The Enemy Has a Name

by Daniel Pipes

Jerusalem Post

June 19, 2008


If you cannot name your enemy, how can you defeat it? Just as a physician must identify a disease before curing a patient, so a strategist must identify the foe before winning a war. Yet Westerners have proven reluctant to identify the opponent in the conflict the U.S. government variously (and euphemistically) calls the “global war on terror,” the “long war,” the “global struggle against violent extremism,” or even the “global struggle for security and progress.”


This timidity translates into an inability to define war goals. Two high-level U.S. statements from late 2001 typify the vague and ineffective declarations issued by Western governments. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defined victory as establishing “an environment where we can in fact fulfill and live [our] freedoms.” In contrast, George W. Bush announced a narrower goal, “the defeat of the global terror network” – whatever that undefined network might be.


“Defeating terrorism” has, indeed, remained the basic war goal. By implication, terrorists are the enemy and counterterrorism is the main response.


But observers have increasingly concluded that terrorism is just a tactic, not an enemy. Bush effectively admitted this much in mid-2004, acknowledging that “We actually misnamed the war on terror.” Instead, he called the war a “struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.”


A year later, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London transport bombings, British prime minister Tony Blair advanced the discussion by speaking of the enemy as “a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam.” Soon after, Bush himself used the terms “Islamic radicalism,” “militant Jihadism,” and “Islamo-fascism.” But these words prompted much criticism and he backtracked.


By mid-2007, Bush had reverted to speaking about “the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East.” That is where things now stand, with U.S. government agencies being advised to refer to the enemy with such nebulous terms as “death cult,” “cult-like,” “sectarian cult,” and “violent cultists.”


In fact, that enemy has a precise and concise name: Islamism, a radical utopian version of Islam. Islamists, adherents of this well funded, widespread, totalitarian ideology, are attempting to create a global Islamic order that fully applies the Islamic law (Shari’a).


Thus defined, the needed response becomes clear. It is two-fold: vanquish Islamism and help Muslims develop an alternative form of Islam. Not coincidentally, this approach roughly parallels what the allied powers accomplished vis-à-vis the two prior radical utopian movements, fascism and communism.


First comes the burden of defeating an ideological enemy. As in 1945 and 1991, the goal must be to marginalize and weaken a coherent and aggressive ideological movement, so that it no longer attracts followers nor poses a world-shaking threat. World War II, won through blood, steel, and atomic bombs, offers one model for victory, the Cold War, with its deterrence, complexity, and nearly-peaceful collapse, offers quite another.


Victory against Islamism, presumably, will draw on both these legacies and mix them into a novel brew of conventional war, counterterrorism, counterpropaganda, and many other strategies. At one end, the war effort led to the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan; at the other, it requires repelling the lawful Islamists who work legitimately within the educational, religious, media, legal, and political arenas.


The second goal involves helping Muslims who oppose Islamist goals and wish to offer an alternative to Islamism’s depravities by reconciling Islam with the best of modern ways. But such Muslims are weak, being but fractured individuals who have only just begun the hard work of researching, communicating, organizing, funding, and mobilizing.


To do all this more quickly and effectively, these moderates need non-Muslim encouragement and sponsorship. However unimpressive they may be at present, moderates, with Western support, alone hold the potential to modernize Islam, and thereby to terminate the threat of Islamism.


In the final analysis, Islamism presents two main challenges to Westerners: To speak frankly and to aim for victory. Neither comes naturally to the modern person, who tends to prefer political correctness and conflict resolution, or even appeasement. But once these hurdles are overcome, the Islamist enemy’s objective weakness in terms of arsenal, economy, and resources means it can readily be defeated.




Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists? – by Daniel Pipes

March 12, 2008 

Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists?

by Daniel Pipes


March 4, 2008

Philip Bennett, managing editor of the Washington Post, offered a franker set of views than perhaps he intended when he spoke on March 3 at the University of California-Irvine’s Center for the Study of Democracy about media coverage of Islam, as reported by Alan Blank in the Daily Pilot. Bennett, Blank writes,

 thinks news organizations ought to hire more Muslim reporters. To illustrate this point he drew mainly from quotes of notable colleagues and statistical polls, rarely giving his own opinion directly. “Six of 10 Americans, according to a 2007 ABC Poll, don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam,” Bennett said. He attributed this to the lack of Muslims working in American newsrooms. “At the Post I want more Muslim readers and I want more Muslim journalists.”

 Bennett assumes, with touching naïveté, that to be Muslim is know Islam. Less touching is the assumption that not to be a Muslim is not to know Islam. This fraudulent expectation of special insight from one’s status, religious or otherwise, needs strenuously to be rejected.

 Bennett’s thinking gets worse from here:

 Words poorly translated from Arabic to English are a big source of confusion caused by the lack of Muslim voices in the American media, according to Bennett. Zeyad Maasarani, 22, a Muslim reporter for California’s most circulated Muslim publication, Southern California in Focus, agrees with Bennett that terms like “jihad,” “madrasa” and “hijab” are a big source of the public’s misunderstanding of Islam. “Jihad means holy war, which is the definition that most Americans know, but it also means struggle, and valiant attempt,” Maasarani said

 Unreported here is that Southern California in Focus is affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the continent’s leading Islamist organization. More importantly, madrasa and hijab are simple terms that most politically aware readers understand, while jihad is more accurately understood by the simple “holy war” translation than through complex interpretations – as I have at some length argued elsewhere.

 Finally, Bennett unintentionally revealed the appallingly primitive state of understanding of Islam in his own institution:

 One such word that has been contentiously debated in newsrooms is “Islamist,” which generally refers to a political movement governed by Islamic law. Bennett said at the Washington Post editors still have not decided whether to add it to their style book. Some argue the word is a useful distinction for movements like Hamas and Hezbollah, but others at the Post argue that it is too vague and should be omitted in favor of a more specific description.

 Comment: It’s all very well for Bennett to sniff patronizingly at the knowledge of Islam among average Americans, but I am impressed with their learning curve since 9/11 as well as their common sense. Far less impressive to me is a group of sophisticated editors that cannot even, after all these years, decide to use the word Islamist. Someone has a problem understanding Islam, but it’s Philip Bennett, not his readers. (March 4, 2008)

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   Posting on Dr. Daniel Pipe’s website: (not approved by Dr. Pipes yet)  

Monday, March 10, 2008 

1. Being knowledgeable about Islam and being malicious about Islam are two different and distinct criteria. The whole lot of non-Muslim scribes appears to be mixing the two to come out with distorted picture of Islam and Muslims. Muslim writers in Media, at least, leaving out the fringe and the bought out, can make good contribution to the subject which is now engaging the attention of the US and western world in general. I have no hesitation in accepting that hundreds and thousands of non-Muslims have spent their lives studying Islam, Muslim world and Arabic too, just to get some insight into the esoteric world that so differs from the Western society. Not all of them are bigoted and scare-mongers. Some do have made a career out of their hatemongering. A balanced view of Islam and Muslims promoting a more positive approach to the study and practice of Islam should be a welcome suggestion and should not be off-handedly rejected on distorted illogical argumentation. Philip Bennet’s suggestion is more accommodative. Dr. Pipes’ rejection is typical of his tangential logic to put down any unsavory initiatives. Readers can make their own judgments. 

2. Instances abound, where the wordsmiths are busy day and night in propagating the special meaning of any word, be that English or Arabic or any language, through constant usage and hammering their agenda to convey their own needs. Dr. Daniel cannot categorically deny that words from one language or country or region, travel to different language, country, group and region are not subject to such treatment of completely denuding the word of its original definitive meaning or usage. Brown has pointed out to that phenomena and he is on much solid ground than Dr. Pipes. 

3. The usage of ‘Islamist’ is user driven new meaning that some Muslim baiters have been promoting, just as an exercise in hair-splitting. This is an attempt to move from the obnoxious collective profiling of Muslims, to a more subjective definition to give a respectable color to their negative exercise in camouflaging their bigotry under the trappings of high scholarship. 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai