Unconstrained Analytics, Aug. 4, 2015:
Stephen Couglin has written a new report, “Exploiting Ignorance in the Post Subversion Phase: Assessing “What ISIS Really Wants” in Light of the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Narrative.”
In it, he analyzes The Atlantic article, “What ISIS Really Wants,” as well as the Foreign Policy article, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.”
Coughlin says that the Atlantic article supports narratives that continue to justify the outsourcing of the production of America’s information requirements in support of the counterterror effort to non-U.S. actors, in this case Middle Eastern, in much the way that the Muslim Brotherhood controls the domestic debate through the “countering violent extremism” (CVE) narrative.
Cast as an effort to work with our partners in the Middle East to counter the burgeoning ISIS information juggernaut, the actual effect of “What ISIS Really Wants” is to further wrest control of the information requirements that drive America’s counterterror effort and keep them vested in non-U.S. actors.
Despite its earnest and facially neutral designation, the CVE is, in effect, a sophisticated information campaign executed through the skilled imposition of a disarming pseudoreality.
As the duty to know national security threats is subsumed in the Article VI requirement to “support and defend against all enemies,” the very willingness to outsource our information requirements constitutes, by itself, a national security breakdown of strategic proportions. As with the Muslim Brotherhood domestically, the outsourcing works itself through the CVE.
Read the Report:
Exploiting Ignorance in the Post Subversion Phase: Assessing “What ISIS Really Wants” in Light of the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Narrative (pdf)
So who is Quintan Wiktorowicz? A former assistant professor of international studies at Rhodes College,57 Wiktorowicz became the White House Senior Director for Community Partnerships on the National Security Staff under the Obama administration.58 Wiktorowicz helped devise the administration’s new “countering violent extremism” strategy,59 which is based on his notion of why people become extremists60 premised on “social movement theory.”61
In 2011, Wiktorowicz was involved, as were McCants and Braniff, in the administration’s policy of purging law enforcement training materials that addressed the role of Islam and jihad in the counterterror effort.62
While no longer in the administration, Wiktorowicz spoke of the great danger posed by ISIS in October 2014, when addressing the need to outsource our information requirements and counter-ideology efforts to Muslim organizations abroad. Outsourcing this capability to non-U.S. entities is necessary, Wiktorowicz reasoned, because it violates the First Amendment for American analysts to analyze and counter ISIS (also called ISIL) based on the Islamic doctrines that unquestionably animate that group as well as al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood:
While the government has tried to counter terrorist propaganda, it cannot directly address the warped religious interpretations of groups like ISIL because of the constitutional separation of church and state. U.S. officials are prohibited from engaging in debates about Islam, and as a result will need to rely on partners in the Muslim world for this part of the ideological struggle.63
It is important to restate what Wiktorowicz said to draw out what it means:
1. Because the First Amendment prohibits U.S. officials and analysts from even discussing ISIS doctrines understood to be based on Islamic principles;
2. The Obama administration advances the policy that the United States turn national security issues concerning clear and present dangers to America over to third party nations beholden to Islamic principles;
3. Thus eviscerating the Article VI duty to undertake direct threat analysis in furtherance of “supporting and defending the Constitution against ALL enemies;” Those driving today’s “quietism” narrative based their reasoning not on Islamic sources but rather on Western behavioral models. Exploiting Ignorance in the Post Subversion
4. Thereby subordinating U.S. national security to whatever third-party nations and entities are willing to support based on non-U.S. interests and objectives that may or may not be friendly to America or supportive of America’s interests and objectives.
First, there is no such First Amendment bar to undertaking competent threat analysis. Second, Wiktorowicz is not an attorney. And yet this novel legal theory directly undermines the Article VI requirement to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies.”
Could Wiktorowicz be relying on the Brotherhood for his legal reasoning? On 18 December 2014, the Brotherhood64 wrote to Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor, demanding that the “White House should immediately issue guidance to address impacts on religious exercise, freedom of expression and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” including:
• Prohibit federal employees from using or promoting CVE training and CVE training materials that single out expressive conduct, including through alleged indicators or predictors of violent extremism or “radicalization” that focus on patterns of religious observance, political activism or religious beliefs.
• Prohibit federal employees from implementing any program, directly or indirectly, that has the effect of defining participants by reference to religion.65
Contrasting his recognition of the lethal effectiveness of ISIS’s threat doctrine with a ridiculous First Amendment theory, Wiktorowicz—as an immediate consequence of that prohibition—manufactures a follow-on requirement to outsource critical information requirements to third-party state actors beholden to shariah standards.
Yet, if Wiktorowicz held to his own rules, how could he state that ISIS’s interpretations of Islam are “warped” and use that conclusion to justify a decision to outsource our information requirements?
Beyond this, if what Wiktorowicz said on the prohibition and subsequent outsourcing of intelligence requirements is true, then the duty to support and defend the Constitution is necessarily subordinated to whatever third-party state actors are willing to provide in light of shariah considerations as understood by Wahhabis. This effectively subordinates America’s national security to shariah considerations. Wiktorowicz continues:
Not enough resources are being devoted to the counter-ideology component of the administration’s strategy. The long war is the war against violent ideologies and there hasn’t been the resource investment since 9/11.66
If what Wiktorowicz said on the prohibition and subsequent outsourcing of intelligence requirements is true, then the duty to support and defend the Constitution is necessarily subordinated to whatever third-party state actors are willing to provide in light of shariah considerations as understood by Wahhabis.
The former White House counterterror strategist went on to say that “as a result of this and other factors, we’re seeing the reincarnation of al Qaeda as ISIL in Iraq and Syria.”67
In effect, Wiktorowicz attributes the rise of al-Qaeda to our failure to counter the very ideology the CVE prohibited the counterterror community from discussing on the ridiculous claim that it violates the First Amendment. It is through the CVE that the threat language of groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood was purged from our national security and law enforcement sectors.
Hence, it is because of the CVE and not in spite of it that the threat vocabulary defining this enemy has been purged, leaving us defenseless and unable to counter ISIS in the information battlespace or, it seems, anywhere else.
How does one allocate resources to counter an ideology that one is not allowed to discuss?68 For Wiktorowicz, the solution is obvious: the Obama administration should increase resources to the counter-ideology effort through the funding of partners in the Muslim world “who can push back against the ideology.”69 This “push back” should be understood in the context of Wiktorowicz’s counterterror construct, which holds, among other things, that the First Amendment would likewise bar due diligence and quality assurance assessments of our “partners’” counter-ideology efforts regarding any activities that involve Islam. This is the context in which we should consider the role that think tanks like the Brookings Doha Center may be playing, as reflected in its sub-rosa influence on the Atlantic article. Enter Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
When validated, the most disturbing aspect of the CVE will be the realization that national security elites beholden to the oath to support and defend the Constitution have been manipulated into taking active measures to suppress true threat analysis that is supposed to be undertaken in support of the primary intelligence mission: to know the enemy. Such are the consequences of infantilized thinking.
As it stands, America is fighting the counterterror war according to narratives that declare actual fact-based threat analysis unconstitutional on religious grounds yet allow imams abroad to serve as the arbiters of our counter-ideology campaigns based on language requirements and legal doctrines that are not our own.
Now, with Congress set to vote to institutionalize the CVE in the national security establishment, it is time to ask whether this is the wisest decision.