Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: ISIS, Khorasan, and Psychology of Terrorism

by Micah Zenko
September 26, 2014

A map showing Islamic State ambition is displayed as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testify on the threat posed by the Islamic State on September 16, 2014. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) A map showing Islamic State ambition is displayed as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testify on the threat posed by the Islamic State on September 16, 2014. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)


Hearing on U.S. Policy Towards Iraq and Syria, U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, September 16, 2014.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I take it from your answer that we are now recruiting these young men to go and fight in Syria against ISIL, but if they’re attacked by Bashar Assad, we’re not gonna help them?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: They will defend themselves, Senator.

MCCAIN: Will we help them against Assad’s air…

HAGEL: We will help them and we will support them, as we have trained them.

MCCAIN: How will we help them—will we repel Bashar Assad’s air assets that will be attacking them?

HAGEL: Any attack on those that we have trained and who are supporting us, we will help ‘em.

MCCAIN: I guess I’m not gonna get an answer, but it seems to me that you have to neutralize Bashar Assad’s air assets if you are going to protect these people that we are arming and training and sending in to fight. Is that inaccurate, General Dempsey?

DEMPSEY: The coalition we’re forming, Senator, won’t form unless—if we were to take Assad off the table, we’d have a much more difficult time forming a coalition. But I think what you’re hearing us express is an ISIL first strategy. I don’t think we’ll find ourselves in that situation, given what we intend to do with the…

(3PA: The Pentagon spokesperson, Rear Adm. John Kirby further confirmed this statement during a September 25 press briefing, when he said, “The secretary was clear in his testimony that, once we have trained opposition forces, should they come under attack, we would defend them.” This is a tremendously consequential decision.)

Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room, U.S. Department of Defense, September 25, 2014.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven’t seen any movement by Assad regime forces to move into facilities or infrastructure that we’ve hit. We’ve also not seen a lot of, to be quite honest, haven’t seen much in terms of reaction by ISIL inside Syria as a result of these attacks. In other words, were not seeing a lot of movement or major muscle movement changes by them in just the last couple of days.

Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Feared Al Qaeda Group Targeted in Syria Was Plotting Terror,” Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2014.

U.S. defense officials acknowledged that they were seeking to kill top leadership of Khorasan and the Islamic State militant group. However, the attacks weren’t targeted at specific people because the U.S. didn’t have definitive intelligence that any of the leaders were in buildings that were struck.

(3PA: When the Pentagon spokesperson was asked about the effect of the attack on the Khorasan group sites, he replied, “Well, we know we’ve had an effect—again, we’re still assessing the attacks in Syria, so we know we hit what we were aiming at.”

Andrew Edgeclifee-Johnson, “The invasion of corporate news,” Financial Times, September 19, 2014.

But as journalists bemoan such PR obstacles, they rarely admit an important fact: the PRs are winning. Employment in US newsrooms has fallen by a third since 2006, according to the American Society of News Editors, but PR is growing. Global PR revenues increased 11 per cent last year to almost $12.5bn, according to an industry study entitled The Holmes Report. For every working journalist in America, there are now 4.6 PR people, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 3.2 a decade ago. And those journalists earn on average 65 per cent of what their PR peers are paid…

As trust in business has fallen, the appeal of telling stories that humanise companies has grown. The history of advertorials shows that brands have long wanted their advertisements to look like news, but as the subjects of news increasingly want to decide what counts as news, and as they get ever more skilled at doing so, they are posing a challenge to journalism’s traditional storytellers.

Barbara Salazar Torreon, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1979-2014,” Congressional Research Service, September 15, 2014.

The following list reviews hundreds of instances in which the United States has used military forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict to protect U.S. citizens or promote U.S. interests…

In 11 separate cases (listed in bold-face type) the United States formally declared war against foreign nations. For most of the instances listed, however, the status of the action under domestic or international law has not been addressed. Most instances listed since 1980 are summaries of U.S. military deployments reported to Congress by the President as a result of the War Powers Resolution…

Mary Beth Altier, Christian N. Thoroughgood, and John G. Horgan, “Turning away from terrorism: Lessons from psychology, sociology, and criminology,” Journal of Peace Research 51(5), 2014, pp. 647-661.

Consistent with Ebaugh, criminal desistance is conceptualized as a process by which individuals arrive at a state of criminal cessation, rather than a static event…

Research overwhelmingly suggests desistance from crime depends, in large part, on the development of pro-social bonds; that is, meaningful attachments and behavioral investments in conventional others who encourage criminals to conform to social norms and provide them with incentives not to deviate…(p. 653)

Indeed, disaffiliation from NRMs [new religious movements], like desistance, is conceptualized as a process that may occur over an extended periods of time…In the disaffection stage, one is confronted with dissatisfaction, which is managed for a period of time through various means, including repression, avoidance, rationalization, and redefinition…(p. 654)

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Peter Castle

    ISIS is evil and must be eliminated by force. See “Let’s Talk ISIS Into Peace” at http://t.co/x5bJ44gBxY.

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