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The Apocalyptic Style of Geopolitics

Mar. 20th, 2006 12:47 am New Site

This blog will be retained for archival purposes; the most relevant content will be integrated into my new personal site. Thanks for dropping by!

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Jun. 30th, 2005 08:04 pm Jungian Perspectives on Terrorism

I've narrowed down my PhD topics to three choices: one will become the dissertation, the other two will become other projects (books or multimedia projects). The first concerns the 'relational' turn in Counterterrorism Studies, and the implications for the psychology of suicide bombers, terrorists, and networks. Carl Jung's Aion (1954) has been helpful, although the War on Terror has a more complex cultural matrix than Classical Greek and early Judeo-Christian sources. Monash's David Wright-Neville commented to me recently that Jungian scholars have done some of the most interesting work on the post-September 11 'politics of fear'. A couple of quick Web links:

'On the Apollo vs Dionysian Conflict' (Malcolm Wm Timbers): Timbers notes the 'messianic' nature of religions and how charismatic individuals can 'awaken' archetypes in followers. "A terrorist is an individual who is in a state of possession by an unconscious factor that is reacting negatively against something that provoked it," he observes, a description which parallels Charles T. Tart's description of dreaming you are awake. "A possessed terrorist sincerely believes that his evil deeds, if not in service to the highest good, represent a necessary sacrifice against a greater evil": Timbers' comment echoes how recent terrorists---Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Mohammed Atta---have framed their actions in opposition to an Other which threatens to engulf the individual's identity: Great Power politics, environmental catastrophe, 'decline' narratives of Islam. "In order to understand the psychology of terrorism one must understand that the terrorist believes that his belief system represents the One and Absolute good": failure to comprehend Plato's Agathon.

'Focusing on Shadow Theory/Causes of Terrorism' (JoAnn Murphy): Murphy suggests the Western media's depiction of terrorists is partly rooted in a Shadow dynamic; that Cold War 'triumphalism' was a case of Shadow blindness, which September 11 remanifested; and that we need to collectively stop projecting and 'own' our Shadow.

'Terrorism: A Jungian View' (John Van Eenwyk): Eenwyk defines terrorism as the fusion of post-traumatic stress syndrome and the eruption of the Jungian Shadow. This definition has implications for Schema Therapy and newer, still controversial treatment modalities like Eye Movement Desensitization Routine. Eenwyk's analysis of images parallels Andrew Silke's insight on how 'contagion' violence may influence potential terrorists. Randal Marlin and Jacques Ellul have further insights on sociological propaganda as a motivational force. Finally, Eenwyk closes with advice on four strategies of dealing with the Shadow (engagement; incubating the opposites; encouraging transcendence; monitoring the unconscious for behaviours, dreams, and fate) that are worth further investigation.

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Mar. 25th, 2005 11:50 pm Leaderless Resistance and Terror Networks: Further Sources

I quickly assembled the following reading list for a class (21 March 2005) on ‘leaderless resistance’ and ‘terror networks’ as part of Monash University’s Masters of Counter-Terrorism. The readings included selections from John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s Networks and Netwars anthology; Louis Beam’s classic on Leaderless Resistance; Simon Garfinkel’s analysis Leaderless Resistance Today; Maura Conway’s study Reality Bytes (on ‘terrorist use of the Internet’); and Beverly Hill and George E. Marsh II’s study Recruitment by Extremist Groups on the Internet. Three resources not on the list are Gabriel Weisman’s www.terror.net and Cyberterrorism reports; and the PBS Frontline episode CyberWar!. This list was assembled and presented before the Red Lake High School shooting incident later that same day. Hill and Marsh II’s study foresaw why shooter Jeff Weise visited Nazi.org a year before the shooting took place (Weise’s postings, writings and animated film).

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Mar. 12th, 2005 05:59 pm Debating 'World War IV': Part 1

I started Monash's Masters of Counter-Terrorism Studies several weeks ago. The early classes have covered definitions of terrorism, terrorist profiling, the constructivist school of international relations and norms.

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Nov. 26th, 2004 10:31 am Reality Tunnel: Middle East Forum

Current Reading: Johan Galtung's Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1996).

I'm exploring another reality tunnel: the Middle East Forum's perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq War and Islamist terrorism. Amongst the fiery rhetoric and group beliefs (on the US-Israel relationship) are some useful insights. I'm also struck by how MEF, like any group, begins each meeting with a plea for its own survival. MEF also cites a Boston Globe commentary that founder Daniel Pipes gave an 'early warning' on Islamist terrorism that if heeded would have prevented the September 11 terrorist attacks. This has become the norm in conservative American politics.

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Nov. 8th, 2004 07:43 pm The Power Of Nightmares

From a note to Sohail Inayatullah's Macrohistory course:

The BBC recently screened Adam Curtis' controversial three-part documentary series The Power of Nightmares, a genealogy of how the Political Islamist (Sayyed Qutb) and American Neoconservative (Leo Strauss) worldviews have informed the War on Terror. Curtis created debate.

∙ Part 1: Baby It's Cold Outside video stream
∙ Part 2: The Phantom Victory video stream
∙ Part 3: The Shadows In The Cave video stream

Curtis posits this as an 'intergroup conflict' (Howard Bloom) between two elite groups of Vipra (intellectuals) whose nightmarish visions reshape the political landscape. Pareto and Mosca's point about elites is an undercurrent to episode one. This is a good example of the Critical layer in Causal Layered Analysis (applied to the Western security discourse of counterterrorism) with satirical imagery and editing. Curtis' thesis has been rejected by some American conservatives.

A central point in episode 2 is that the West's understanding of Al Qaeda came from the FBI's 1998 case into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Under US laws the FBI needed to posit a criminal organization (a la the Mafia) to try Bin Laden. Curtis interviews author Jason Burke, who argues that Al Qaeda must be understood as a loose network underpinned by an idea, rather than a hierarchical organization with bin Laden as leader.

Curtis highlights Sarkar's point that Vipra may end up controlling Ksattriyans (warriors) via ideologies. The 'current of transmission' from Sayyed Qutb to Ayman Al-Zawahiri is documented. Curtis doesn't mention Fred Polak's important work on social imaging; he does observe that both groups had success because of their dystopian future visions---and that they gained currency when the general public became skeptical of linear visions (particularly the Comtean 'faith' in science and progress). Near the third episode's end some of Curtis' interviewees talk about the shift from Positivist 'evidence-based' science to 'What If?' speculation---the latter is not explored, and would have been if Curtis had been aware of Futures Studies and Counterfactual History.

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Nov. 5th, 2004 07:48 pm Arafat

I've started another blog at Loudwire that deals with Disinformation editorial issues and digital reportage.</p>

Slate has two great 'backgrounder' pieces on PLO chairman Yasser Arafat: Survivor Palestine by William Bass, and Arafat's Legacy by David Kenner. The latter has links to further articles by Richard Falk and Robert Wright.

The other highlight of today's research was ASIO's Annual Report for 2003-04 (PDF), which I'm reading through now. The format suggests that Australia's domestic intelligence agency has adopted Kaplan and Norton's Balanced Scorecard for reporting purposes. The report style suggests the Minto Pyramid Principle (used by McKinsey and other blue-chip consulting firms).

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Oct. 19th, 2004 02:17 pm Documenting The Politics Of Fear

British documentary film-maker Adam Curtis has caused a furore in Britain, claiming in his three-part series The Power of Nightmares that Al Qaeda has been used to create a climate of fear in Western nation-states after the September 11 attacks.

This suggests the potential for a Foucaultian or Nietzschean genealogy of how the 'terror network' meme arose, how it was perceived by different governments as a threat, and how it has shaped counterterrorism discourse. For scholars Gavin Kendall and Gary Wickham, 'Foucaultian research requires: (a) a 'how' question, (b) a decision about an appropriate archive for investigation; (c) a preference for programmatic texts, and (d) the commitment to keep digging until one finds the relative beginnings of a practice.' (Kendall and Wickham, 'The Foucaultian framework' in Clive Seale, Giampietro Gobo, Jaber F. Gubrium and David Silverman's Qualitative Research Practice, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks CA, 2004, p. 144).

Kendall and Wickham's criteria sets some useful research limits. The 'how' question is the most interesting. The 'appropriate archive' would have to be 'open source' material---propaganda, security communiques, press coverage, government statements---and rapidly changing Web sites. The 'programmatic texts' would be provided by Osama Bin Laden's fatwas, Sayyid Qutb's philosophy texts (and other religiopolitical theorists), and Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri [see The Road To Al-Qaeda]. Where to locate 'the relative beginnings of a practice' is a difficult one, and depends on the timeframe.

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Oct. 18th, 2004 04:31 pm The Sociology Of Evil

Thomas Cushman's essay The Sociology of Evil and the Destruction of Bosnia landed in my e-mail box this morning. It's not an easy read but a rewarding one. Amongst the insights is Cushman's observation on how the pattern of in-migrating Albanians and out-migrating Serbians affected the conflict, how Milosevic 'inserted himself into history', the link between autonomous agency and evil, and how the mythic past is used as a political symbol to rewrite the present and to create a future vision. Here's a key quote:

'In terms of the temporal plane of history, what distinguishes so much of the social action in the Balkans is the way in which history resides so close to the surface, always ready to be taken into consideration as the justification for this or that act in the present.'

Many of Cushman's insights have been echoed by others, notably Saskia Sassen in Guests and Aliens (New York: The New Press, 1999) and Michael Ignatieff's Blood and Belonging (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994). Without mentioning it Cushman is using the Futures Triangle to describe his past-present-future relationship.

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Sep. 29th, 2004 12:23 pm Literature Review: Graham Fuller (Islamists) + Mary Habeck (Jihadists)

Current Reading: Mark Wilson and Kenneth Corey's Information Tectonics: Space, Place and Technology in an Electronic Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

I'm gathering materials for a future thesis on counter-terrorism and futures studies. I'll be posting some quick comments on articles, books and interviews I come across.

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