Small Wars Journal

Assessing Two Countering Violent Extremism Programs: Saudi Arabia’s PRAC and the United Kingdom’s Prevent Strategy

Tue, 07/09/2013 - 8:00am

Assessing Two Countering Violent Extremism Programs: Saudi Arabia’s Prac and the United Kingdom’s Prevent Strategy

William Sheridan Combes

Throughout America’s War on Terror, the United States military and national security apparatus has demonstrated extreme lethality and efficacy in combat counterterrorism operations.  Arrests, drone strikes, and targeted killings have resulted in the deaths of al-Qaeda’s major operatives and ideologues, specifically Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.  These ideologues espoused a violent ideology for militant Islamists that believes in a selective interpretation of the Quran, opposes the beliefs of non-Muslims, and rejects political participation in both Western democracies and Middle Eastern institutions of government.[1]

Despite the successes of the aforementioned operations in neutralizing some of the main proponents of this ideology, these ideas still exist.  Due to the ubiquity of these ideas and their penetration into civil society, a few nations have sought to take a more comprehensive and non-violent approach to tackling violent extremism.  Authorities label these programs as countering violent extremism (CVE), and they exist in both Muslim and non-Muslim majority states.  Two such programs have gained notoriety for their effort to tackle militant Islamist extremism:  Prevention, Rehabilitation, and After Care (PRAC) program in Saudi Arabia and the Prevent Strategy in the United Kingdom (U.K.).  Through an analysis of PRAC and Prevent, we can contrast two different ideological approaches to CVE, see the importance of social welfare in implementing these programs, and understand the difficulty in evaluating the efficacy of CVE programs.  An analysis of these case studies—one found in a Muslim majority state and one not—will benefit the national security of the United States as policy makers implement and assess the country’s nascent CVE program.[2]

In order to properly assess the CVE programs found in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, we must first analyze some of the fundamentals of these programs and the intellectual debates surrounding these concepts.  Early scholarship on violent extremism placed it in the context of criminology and asserted that many terrorists were merely maligned individuals that could not reverse the deviant path down which they have traveled.  As counterterrorism experts Lorenzo Vidino and James Brandon characterized the previous mindset on radicalization, “’once a terrorists, always a terrorist’”.[3]  Yet, this consensus has changed dramatically over the past decade as radicalization has since been defined as a process or a spectrum. [4]  To radicalize, a person first engages in cognitive radicalization:  Where he or she “adopts a set of ideas that are severely at odds with those of the mainstream, refut[ing] the legitimacy of the existing social order, and seeks to replace it with a new structure.”[5]  A radicalized individual will move along the spectrum toward violence when that set of ideas justifies and prompts an individual to support or engage in violence for social change.

Most CVE programs seek to counter violent ideology along the entirety of the radicalization spectrum through the employment of radicalization awareness, de-radicalization, and disengagement. [6]  Therefore, radicalization prevention programs seek to raise awareness of a violent ideology and the behavior associated with the adoption of this ideology.  Awareness is proactive and its success relies on the entirety of society to understand radicalization and identify symptoms of this process in the populace.  De-radicalization and disengagement, on the other hand, are reactionary and target individuals.  De-radicalization is measured by an individual’s abandonment of militant views and disengagement represents an individual’s disconnection with a terrorist group.  Radicalization awareness, de-radicalization, and disengagement represent the three fundamentals of a CVE program and or strategy.  Two such programs, Prevent in the U.K. and PRAC in Saudi Arabia, have engaged in this comprehensive approach to violent extremism and developed comprehensive programs to check the rise of violence in their respective societies.

Saudi Arabia’s PRAC program grew out of domestic terror campaigns of the mid 1990s and early 2000s.[7]  From 1995 to 2003, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became besieged by a militant Islamist insurgency.  Saudi officials successfully crushed the militant Islamists with a brutal combat counterterrorism campaign.  Yet, Saudi officials understood that they could not challenge violent Islamist extremism solely with security measures.  Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the Interior (MOI) developed a CVE program to compliment the Kingdom’s robust combat counterterrorism operations.  The MOI designed this CVE program to “combat the intellectual and ideological justifications of violent extremism by engaging an ideology that “the Saudi [G]overnment asserts is based on corrupted and deviant interpretations of Wahhabi Islam.”[8]

PRAC exhibits an ideological approach to CVE driven by a blend of Islamic theology and state authority.  PRAC assumes that it can counter militant Islamist ideology by diffusing it within the framework of Islam and proving to extremists that their ideology has perverted true Islam.[9]  The ideological aspects of the program focus on the Islamic concepts of authority and understanding of religious doctrine to delegitimize the theological underpinnings of militant Islamist ideology.  Through education, PRAC seeks to strengthen a participant’s understanding of Islamic theology as practiced by the Saudis and the ways in which militant Islamist ideology warps true Islam.

In addition to delegitimizing the theological underpinnings of militant Islamist ideology, PRAC reaffirms state authority by placing it in the context of Islam.  The program proposes that the Islamic notion that da’wah (or call to faith) is also a person’s obligation to the government.[10]  Violating this da’wah nullifies an individual’s social contract with the Kingdom and contradicts Wahhabi Islam, which is the dominant interpretation of Islam practiced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Furthermore, Wahhabi Islam “stresses loyalty, recognition of authority, and obedience to leadership.”[11]  Therefore, PRAC’s ideological approach to CVE combines theology and civic responsibility, which is important for a “government that relies on religion for legitimacy.”[12]

In addition to its strong ideological approach, PRAC contains robust social welfare for detained militant Islamists.  The Saudis established PRAC’s rehabilitative program on the notion that the Saudi Government wants to assist those that have been duped by a deviant ideology; the program is not punitive in nature but rather rehabilitative for those victims of radicalization.[13]  PRAC invites detained individuals to participate in a process of education and counseling; the program also works under the presumption that those attracted to violent Islamist extremism have an “incomplete understanding of Islam.”[14] These clerics will properly educate the participants on subjects such as:  Takfir (accusations of apostasy), walaah (loyalty), bay’ah (allegiance), terrorism, the legal rules for jihad, and psychological course on self-esteem.[15]  Counseling ameliorates a detainee’s education by allowing the participants to engage clerics in Islamic dialogue.  The Advisory Committee, which manages the counseling program, values the relation established between the detainee and cleric.  Stressing the importance of a bond, the Advisory Committee will replace a cleric if it feels he has not established a rapport with the detainee.  The bond between detainee and state-sponsored cleric is crucial to a program that seeks to establish a new ideological framework through authority and trust.

PRAC also strengthens social bonds during the rehabilitative process by including a detainee’s family and offering social services to him and his family.  The Advisory Committee typically includes family members during de-radicalization.  Families “are briefed on the condition of their sons, their experiences, and how they have been affected.  Families are counseled on how to talk to their sons and persuade them to repent.”[16]  To accommodate the social need of a detainee, the Saudi Government will provide financial support in the form of lost salary, family healthcare, and children’s schooling for a detainee and his family during the detainee’s incarceration.  This vast array of psychological and financial support represents PRAC’s strong insistence on the social welfare of its detainees and that the Saudi Government “cares deeply about each person and that it will therefore do whatever it takes to support and care for someone.”[17]

Despite its comprehensive approach to CVE, one must wonder about the success of the program.  The Saudi Government has rated the program’s success at around 80 to 90 percent and acknowledged that 10-20 percent failure rate does not distinguish between detainees that failed or those that refused to participate.[18]  These dubious numbers imply that PRAC’s only failures are those individuals that did not participate.  PRAC authorities also have not indicated how the Saudis truly measure success.  Saudi officials boast that “a vast majority of prisoners who complete the program are not acting on their previously held beliefs” manifests itself in a recidivist rate of merely 1 to 2%.[19]  Yet, recidivism does not gauge how a person has undergone cognitive de-radicalization—just that person may not associate with terrorists or engage in illicit behavior.  Disengagement, therefore, does not truly measure de-radicalization.

Like PRAC, the U.K.’s Prevent Strategy seeks to counter militant Islamist ideology.  Prevent’s ideological approach, however, finds its roots in British values—not Islamic theology.  When British Home Secretary, Theresa May, introduced the new Prevent Strategy in 2011, she placed it in the context of the previous strategy’s failure:  An inability to separate a policy of integration from a policy of counterterrorism.[20]  The past strategy had wasted too many resources trying to promote Muslim integration into British society.  To May, integration did not sufficiently counter radicalization; she asserted that a successful strategy needed to challenge the ideologies behind extremism and terrorism and confront them head on—not try to delegitimize them through greater cultural participation.  Prevent defines extremism as a “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs.”[21]

This values-based definition of ideology reflects political discourse of right-leaning European political parties that reject the concept of multiculturalism and see it as a failure.  Prime Minister David Cameron has lamented that multiculturalism encourages different cultures to live “separate lives.”[22]  He has also argued that Britons should confront multiculturalism with “muscular liberalism,” which he defined as an enhanced pride in British-based values of human rights, democracy, and individual liberty.[23]  Therefore, the Prevent Strategy and counterterrorism officials seek to challenge violent ideologies by asserting their own ideology and not challenging violent Islamist ideology within the framework of Islam.

When countering violent extremism, Prevent combines an ideological thrust based on British values with a strong sense of social welfare.  One component of Prevent, Channel, has gained notoriety for implementation of social services to identify vulnerable individuals through a program of awareness and identification.  Channel is a police-coordinated, multiagency partnership that evaluates the referrals of individuals deemed at risk of succumbing to the allure terrorism.  The government does not evaluate a referral based solely on an individual holding “political opinions of having a commitment to faith.”[24]  Rather, indicators include “expressed support for violence and terrorism; possession of violent extremist literature; attempts to access or contribute to violent extremist websites; possession of material regarding weapons and/or explosives.”[25]

The referral process draws upon a wide range of partners and its framework is similar to other social services provided by the British Government.  Statutory organizations include local authorities, police, youth offending services, social workers, housing and voluntary groups.[26]  This grassroots approach to countering violent extremism leverages previous frameworks for addressing social concerns such as child protection and domestic violence and its success depends on a strong rubric for referrals.[27]

Employing British society to identify vulnerable person requires training and awareness—not merely a rubric for referral.  In order to better edify the British public, Prevent also consists of an awareness campaign to help the British public better identify some of the warning signs mentioned above.  Prevent offers the Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent in both physical and DVD form.  This program covers issues such as “the history of terrorism, radicalization as a social process, connections to other forms of extremisms, the al-Qaida [sic] narrative and factors which may contribute to vulnerability.”[28]  Boosting awareness through education and employing social services represents Prevent’s strong insistence on social welfare while confronting violent extremism.

The latest rendition of Prevent does not offer any statistical backing to the claim that its predecessor failed.  Rather, May’s Prevent merely alludes to one of the major the controversies that followed the original CVE program.  In its executive summary, the Prevent Strategy addresses the notion that “there have been allegations that previous programs have been used to spy on communities… Prevent must not be used as a means for covert spying on people or communities.  Trust in Prevent must be improved.”[29]  While the government codified a commitment to building trust, the same allegations of spying have followed the latest version of Prevent.  For example, one of the communities tasked to identify vulnerable people, the British university system, rejects the notion of observing and referring people deemed vulnerable.  The British Union of Students asserts “We're happy with information and awareness raising [sic]; what we're not happy with is the idea that teachers and lecturers are going to be trained to monitor a specific ethnic group."[30]  Despite government efforts to alter the reception of Prevent, segments of the British public feel that the strategy creates “suspect communities,” which deludes the ability to evaluate a program.[31]  Allegations of government spying make the Prevent strategy quite difficult to implement and even evaluate.  Trust and the public’s reception of a CVE strategy are paramount to a CVE dependent on society’s awareness of and vigilance toward militant Islamist ideology.

Alienating a suspect community is an issue only confronting the multicultural society of a non-Muslim majority state like the United Kingdom.  Therefore, the Prevent Strategy has more difficulty than PRAC defining the ideology with which militant Islamists operate.  Due to prevalence of a political discourse that disparages multiculturalism, the creators of the newest rendition of Prevent sought to define violent extremist ideology in terms of mores with which they have familiarity—British values.  Although Prevent’s ideological approach is rooted in British culture, its application in a multicultural society risks alienating moderate Muslims that may not subscribe to every tenant of British values.

PRAC, on the other hand, has the luxury of an ideological approach rooted in Islam itself.  Being a Muslim majority state, Saudi Arabia did not run the risk of alienating minorities and therefore crafted a CVE program with strong theological roots. PRAC also exploits tenets of Wahhabi Islam by merging theology and civic responsibility as a path toward rehabilitation.  A rehabilitated detainee will respect the authority of the Kingdom as well as Islam.  The two vastly different ideological approaches employed by Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom have national security ramifications for the United States as our nation institutes its CVE program.  The two case studies offer observers different approaches to an ideological framework in which to challenge militant Islamist ideology.

The United States can also observe the strong elements of social welfare in both PRAC and Prevent.  PRAC seeks to build a connection between the detainee and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by providing him or her with a wealth of social services—including counseling and financial support during incarceration.  Prevent seeks to identify vulnerable populations by educating the public and transposing the strategy onto existing frameworks of social services.  While the United States does not have the breadth of a welfare state like the one found in the United Kingdom, the United States can learn that CVE is a comprehensive attempt to stop terrorism and must utilize every facet of society to delegitimize violent ideologies.

Society also plays a large role in the success of a CVE program.  Prevent’s success depends on public support and participation in identifying vulnerable communities.  Like the United Kingdom, the United States is a multicultural society that celebrates the freedom of religion.  Therefore, CVE policy makers could learn about the potential cultural sensitivities and how to balance capacity building and alienation.

Finally, the United States can better evaluate its own CVE program by learning from the errors of PRAC.  While PRAC’s numbers seem impressive, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a major stakeholder in the program’s success, released these numbers.  Therefore, these numbers should not provide evidence of success until an independent agency verifies them.[32]  In a society as data driven as the United States, CVE policy makers should seek to hire an independent observer to ensure the policy’s success.  A true reflection of a policy’s success has great importance to the national security of our country.

An assessment of the two case studies found above will allow the United States to better calibrate its counterterrorism and countering violent extremism strategies.  Yet, one must wonder about the social welfare implemented by the two programs.  Does countering violent extremism belong in the conversation regarding the expansion of social welfare?  Is violent extremism merely a social scourge that government can cure by replacing the psychological and social voids of an individual previously inhabited by an ideology?  Counterterrorism studies would benefit from this type of approach and greater research into the social and psychological conditions that motivate individuals to assume violent ideologies like militant Islamist ideology.  Further research may also allow policy makers to make a cognitive shift away from the myopic prism of countering violent extremism as a threat to national security but view it more broadly as a social or public health concern.  A change in perception may allow practitioners to truly de-radicalize violent extremists.

The views expressed in this work are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of State, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.


Abbas, Hassan. "Are Drone Strikes Killing Terrorists or Creating Them?" March 31, 2013. (accessed April 20, 2013).

Aboul-Enein, Youssef H. Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Threat.

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010.

Awan, Imran. "I am a Muslim Not an Extremists": How the Prevent Strategy Has

Constructed a 'Suspect' Community." Politics & Policy 40, no. 6 (2012): 1158-1            185.

Bjorgo, Tore, and John Horgan. Leaving Terrorism Behind: Individual and Collective

Disengagement. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Boucek, Christopher. "Saudi Arabia's 'Soft' Counterterrorism Strategy: Prevention,

Rehabilitation, and Aftercare." Carnegie Endowment for Peace: Middle East Program, no. 97 (2008): 1-27.

Collins, Laura. "England, Their England: The Failure of British Multiculturalism and the

Rise of the Islamophobic Right." the New Yorker, July 4, 2011: 28-30.

el-Said, Hamed. "De-Radicalisation Islamists: Programmes and their Impact in Muslim

Majority States." The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Poltical Violence, 202: 1-47.

Gallagher, Ryan. "Counter-Terror Strategy Faces University Opposition."

the Guardian, March 16, 2012.

the Guardian. "Extremist Groups Given Money from Anti-Radicalisation Budget."

June 7, 2011

--"Counter-Terrorism: Prevention and Cure." June 11, 2011.

Horgan, John. Walking Away from Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Horgan, John, and Kurt Braddock. "Rehabilitating the Terrorists?: Challanges in

Assessing the Effectiveness of De-Radicalization Programs." Terrorism and Politcal Violence 22, no. 2 (2010): 267-291.

May, Theresa. Prevent Strategy. Government Document,

London: Her Majesty's Government, 2011.

McTernan, Oliver. "Prevent: Dangerous Policy Failure." the Guardian, May 10, 2011.

Porges, Marisa L. The Saudi Deradicalization Experiment. January 22, 2010.

(accessed April 11, 2013).

Sedgwick, Mark. "The Concept of Radicalization as a Source of Confusion."

Terrorism and Poltical Violence 22, no. 4 (2010): 479-494.

Spalek, Basia, and Lynn Davies. "Mentoring in Relation to Violent Extremism: A Study

of Role, Purpose, and Outcomes." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35, no. 5 (2012): 354-368.

Vidino, Lorenzo, and Brandon James. "Countering Radicalization." The Internationl

Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2012: 79.

The White House, "Empowering Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the

United States," August 2011, Washington, DC. (Accessed April 11, 2013).


[1] Youssef H. Aboul-Enien, Militant Islamist Ideology:  Understanding the Global Threat, (Annapolis:  Naval Institute Press, 2010), 1.

[2] See the White House, “Empowering Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” Washington, DC. Accessed April 11, 2013.


[3] Lorenzo Vidino and James Brandon “Countering Radicalization in Europe” The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, Kings College London, 2012, 7.


[4] This definition derives from a synthesis of scholarship that includes Vidino and Brandon’s definition and Mark Sedgewick, “The Concept of Radicalization as a Source of Confusion, “Terrorism and Political Violence, 22:4, 2010, 481.

[5] Vidino and Brandon, “Countering Radicalization in Europe,” 9.


[6] Vidino and Brandon, “Counter Radicalization in Europe,” 9.


[7] Hamed el-Said, “De-Radicalising Islamists:  Programmes and their impact in Muslim Majority States, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, January 2012, 35.

[8] Christopher Boucek, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘Soft’ Counterterrorism Strategy:  Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Aftercare.” (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008), 1.

[9] Ibid., 4.


[10] Ibid.


[11] Ibid.


[12] Marisa L. Porges, “the Saudi Deradicalization Experiemnt,” January 22, 2010.  Accessed April 11, 2013.


[13] Boucek, 11.


[14] Ibid., 14.


[15] Ibid.

[16] El-Said, “Deradicalising Islamists,” 38.


[17] Boucek, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘Soft’ Counterterrorism Strategy,” 13.


[18] Ibid., 21.


[19] Ibid., 1, 23.


[20] The Guardian, “Extremist Groups Given Money from Anti-Radicalisation Budget,” June 6, 2001.”


[21] Theresa May, “Prevent Strategy,” Her Majesty’s Government, 2011, 107.


[22] Lauren Collins, “England, Their England:  the Failure of British Multiculturalism and the Rise of the Islamophobic Right,” the New Yorker, July 4, 2011, 28.


[23] May, ‘Prevent,”28.


[24] Ibid., 57.


[25] Ibid.


[26] Ibid.

[27] May, “Prevent,” 57.


[28] Ibid., 57.


[29] Ibid., 6.


[30] Ryan Gallagher, “Counter-Terror Strategy Faces University Opposition,” the Guardian, March 16, 2012.


[31] See Imran Awan, “’I am Muslim Not an Extremist’:  How the Prevent Strategy has Constructed a ‘Suspect Community,’” Politics & Policy, 40:6 (2012), 1158-1185.

[32]  See John Horgan and Kurt Braddock. "Rehabilitating the Terrorists?: Challanges in Assessing the Effectiveness of De-Radicalization Programs." Terrorism and Politcal Violence 22, no. 2 (2010).


About the Author(s)

William Sheridan Combes works at the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Affairs Officer in information management and diplomatic history. Mr. Combes has cultivated knowledge of European politics and society while serving as a European desk officer and counterterrorism analyst for Western Europe.  He also holds two degrees in European history: A B.A. from Boston University and a M.A. from the Catholic University of America. Currently, Mr. Combes studies at the National Intelligence University (NIU), pursuing a Master’s of Science of Strategic Intelligence.  He would like to thank his instructor CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN and the NIU staff for for helping me with this work and encouraging me to publish with Small Wars Journal.


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Uh oh:

Scepticism over privatisation in cradle-to-grave Saudi state…

I wonder which shills looking to loot the Saudi privatization efforts will try and convince Americans to stay stuck in the Mid East. Assad and ISIS might be the way those losers make the argument to ordinary Americans, unaware of the real reasons....

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:32am

Of course:

<blockquote>A Treasury spokesperson said that the decision to start listing Saudi Arabia’s holdings separately was not linked in any way to recent warnings from the government of Saudi Arabia. Last month Saudi Arabia said that it could begin selling off its U.S. investments if Congress passes a law allowing the country to be held responsible in U.S. courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The break-out of the investments held by Saudi Arabia makes the country the <strong>13th largest foreign holder</strong> of Treasury securities.</blockquote>

Fortune dot com/AP (links no work), We Finally Know How Much U.S. Debt Saudi Arabia Owns

Think about all the DC consensus propaganda to the contrary. Shills.

The Mid East at this point in time isn't that important to larger American interests and that includes Saudi Arabia.

It's mostly outsiders and those that benefit career or money wise that want us to stay engaged.

That's the problem with Koch non-interventionist conferences that include Chas "the Saudis are wonderful!" Freeman.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:24am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>Marc Fisher of The Washington Post has an interesting story about the growing investment in DC real estate market by Qatar, citing the emirate's decision to pump $650 million into a massive downtown development project on the site of the city's old convention center. That got us to thinking about how the Connecticut-sized Persian Gulf nation, which boasts the world's highest per capita income thanks to its energy resources, is also growing its footprint on K Street.</blockquote>…

People invest in DC because they it's such a good market.

For influence.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:21am

What the heck is going on here?

"Great to welcome @MOD_Qatar to the five-sided puzzle palace!" Andrew Exum's twitter feed.

I know, I know Qatar isn't Saudi, but what the heck goes on in the Pentagon? Is this in anticipation of a Clinton presidency and Syrian regime change via funding rebels and Al Qaeda affiliates?

Will Americans ever have an American "desk" at the Pentagon or is it all outside influence agents?

Yeah, yeah, I know, air bases, etc. I'm half joking half serious.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 10:06pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Because whatever nonsense the Russians are up to, there is no way that the Saudis aren't playing around with that angle too.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 10:05pm

Link from @DanielLarison:

<blockquote>In 2014, consultants at the PR firm Qorvis developed content for the Saudi Arabia embassy’s YouTube and Twitter pages, and <strong>ran the Twitter account for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.</strong></blockquote>

Funny that should be in the Washington Post given the slant of their editorial pages.…

Given their unhappiness over Russian support for Assad, I wonder what Saudi money is doing in Eastern Europe or with NATO officials, etc.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:51am

Another article I saved. I don't go looking for the names but they turn up so often, especially Richard Fontaine (he's everywhere these days) and CNAS, you know? I look up things on Yemen and lots of similar names and think tanks keep coming up:

"Yemen's coming disaster

Its oil is expected to run out in 2017, but Yemen hasn't planned for its young, poverty-ridden population's post-oil future.

January 05, 2010| By Richard Fontaine and Andrew Exum"…

It all goes back to the HBR Boston Consulting paper from 2004, doesn't it, and the idea of the "tail" being an opportunity. Not a conspiracy theory, just lots of people having the same idea at the same time. It's all agenda driven, policy, it has nothing to do with keeping us safe.

Come on, Daniel Larison of The American Conservative....he writes a lot about Yemen but tends not to focus on how policy is derived in the hurly burly of DC.

From the article:

<blockquote>No amount of foreign assistance will cure Yemen's deeply entrenched economic, social and political problems. Yet in light of our compelling national interest in avoiding a failed state in Yemen, the United States has reason to devote even greater resources to the effort than it does today.</blockquote>

You don't say. Well, if the American people can't find their way to better information and self-educate, then what can we do? The press has completely abdicated its responsibility.

By the way, in the 80s and 90s, the LA Times basically reprinted Saudi Pak propaganda on Kashmir, not that the main problems aren't local and related to Indian governance/military presence.

They would basically print press releases from Human Rights organizations introduced by who knows who and who knows how.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:26am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

With the exception of John Nagl (and of course General Petraeus due to certain behaviors), the rest of the CNAS surge and AfPak crew have made it into the permanent government bureaucracy, just like the neoconservatives who never leave thanks to their shifting between industry, government and think tanks.

I predict someone will be Secretary of Defense in the future, I mean besides Fluornoy. It's strange, isn't it, one guy the fall guy for the public? Wonder what really happened.

Cheer up militarists, your budgets will get everything your little hearts desire.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:20am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>Congress' battle to revoke Saudi Arabia's sovereign immunity could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. – and Israel.</blockquote>

The immunity argument I could see but I still don't understand the Yemen policy or how we got ourselves into a half-regime change mess with Assad.

Well, it looks like you in the military who are hankering for yet bigger budgets will get all your treasury emptying dress come true. Please don't militarize the Russian-Baltic borders and blow up the world, Dr. Strangeloves.

I never realized how many people needed an external enemy to feel whole as a human being.

Years ago, someone complained around here that the commenters (in the old Carl Prine commenting days) asked why people were paying attention to low level employees of think tanks and permanent State bureaucrats. Because you never know where people will turn up or how they will continue similar behavior. The Deep State.

I remember well Anne Patterson's comments regarding AfPak.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:15am

I thought I ran across an article in that worried if the Saudis lost immunity, the Israelis in particular might be in trouble.

<blockquote>In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on March 4, <strong>Anne W. Patterson, an assistant secretary of state, and Andrew Exum, a top Pentagon official on Middle East policy</strong>, told staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops and civilians could be in legal jeopardy if other nations decide to retaliate and strip Americans of immunity abroad. They also discussed the Saudi threats specifically, laying out the impacts if Saudi Arabia made good on its economic threats.</blockquote>…

I'd love to know the opinion from proper legal scholars. Administration officials always have a policy to protect and defend.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:06am

Naseem Nicholas Taleb doesn't seem impressed by the Saudi threats to pull money (which may not be threats, they may be directed at the American public so that DC doesn't have as much pressure to act):

The tweet is about how the Saudis tried to blackmail the Lebanese over a Saudi prince caught drug smuggling and they told them to go ahead and pull their money.

He's got others that explain how it's an empty threat anyway for many reasons.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:06am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

What does a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy do?

Would that person have anything to do with our Yemen policy and the blockade? Why is the food crisis so underreported in our media? Would that office help the military-to-military exchanges with the Saudis?

Some time ago, Richard Fontaine and Andrew Exum had an article about Yemen that sounded like the old AfPak stability stuff, we need to help them rebuild, engage militarily, etc.

Yeah, I know. But it's one of the 'I should rest' times so it's not as creepy as it seems to look this stuff up. At this point, it seems a lot more interesting (and reading Defense Industry Daily) than anything in a journal. The academics always give the best advice but Consensus Washington is a political and money making place, uninterested in knowledge. Shame.

Why are some of the feminists of privilege, so to speak, in DC, so touchy about their lack of intellectual and other diversity? Too bad some comments of mine disappeared because of a glitch. It's much worse in terms of concrete knowledge and it's the feminists of color who make the most effective case.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:00am

It's a 2009 article in the Washington Post (by Prince Turki) and as I said in another thread it's as if the entire American political conversation was dictated by the points made:…

I summarize the To-Do list for you all:

1. Karzai is a problem (he plays ball with people who are not entirely Saudi proxies like pro-Iranian or neutral warlords)
2. Abdullah Abdullah is a Tajik and it's our proxy, the Pashtuns, that matter.
3. Concentrate on Al Qaeda (that's okay but the way in which the Taliban is preserved as a proxy force for the Saudis is like their proxies in Syria).
4. Fix the Durand Line
5. Whose is left out? "Convene a meeting of the security-intelligence departments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia."
6. Push Indian and Pakistan to fix Kashmir (I doubt they care but it's a sop to the Pakistanis.
7. Take on the heroin trade (problems in the Kingdom?)

How did I miss this? How did we all? I suppose official Washington with its internally focused on domestic ideologies DC think tanks and journalists hadn't the emotional diversity to pull it off.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:58am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

If your diplomats were more practical and focused on real so-called deliverables instead of selling Brand Britain, you'd realize he's the more potentially interesting candidate for going abroad in the quiet ways that matter.

He may be a show piece for all I know but whoever is advising him isn't entirely stupid.

Really disappointing BBC coverage. Could have mentioned policy changes and tie them in with the visit including domestic diaspora groups.


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:56am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

British friends:

What did they threaten you with if you didn't play ball?

Your celebrity press (naturally) is just stupid with its coverage of the Royal visit to India. BBC was surprisingly stupid too.

The cultural and economic Asia pivot by the UK may be the only way to get out of that loop, a balancer to relationships with the Gulf.

They pay so much attention to the dresses and less to the substantive speeches (who writes them?) by Prince William.

I never pay attention to those two but it made sense given the whole shift to Asia thing. Damn, the BBC was disappointing.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:53am

U huh. That 2008 article in the Washington Post by Prince Turki ("To Do List for Afghanistan": negotiation with the Taliban, negotiate Kashmir, bring together everyone but the Iranians to discuss regional political issues, etc.) looks more and more interesting:

<blockquote>Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration that it will sell up to $750B in treasuries and other American assets if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Kingdom to be held responsible in U.S. courts for any role in 9/11.

.The threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers, the State Department and the Pentagon, and the Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the measure's passage.
However, several outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis would follow through, stating that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling their economy.</blockquote>…


Tue, 04/12/2016 - 9:00am

Go onto Utube and search 'Bitter Lakes '


Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 8:18am

Wikileaks and Panama Papers but no 28 pages:

Foreign Government Involvement in 9/11 Shouldn’t Stay Secret

FACT: 28 pages documenting specific indications of foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers are being hidden from the American people.

Fakes. 99 percent of foreign policy types are big fat fakes.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 7:38am

In reply to by RantCorp

I haven't watched it. Thanks for the heads up, it looks interesting but I can't watch it from the link?


Mon, 04/11/2016 - 4:15pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


Have you watched the BBC documentary 'Bitter Lake'? There are a few mistakes here and there historically but IMHO Curtis presents an interesting insight on how heavily the HoS is beholden to the Fruitcake and presses the point with considerable intelligence. The link is :

It is a POV very few journalists examine in detail and I imagine he didn't get much work after this came out in Jan 2015.



Mon, 04/11/2016 - 4:13pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

repeat post

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/11/2016 - 9:51am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I think I saw an Aparne Pande article on how the Indians have cultivated the Saudis, and world!, you better watch out! The Indians have global sway!

You'd be better off cultivating the British but Indian strategists are as good as DC consensus strategists and can't see the forest for the trees.

That is some hard sell in India with the Royals, desi. Subtle.

No, desi, I'm talking to you: British brothers and sisters....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/11/2016 - 9:48am

The next time the Indians whine that we Americans--or the British-- don't attack terrorism at its roots, keep this in mind:

<blockquote>It is in this context that Modi traveled to Riyadh. The relationship with Saudi Arabia is one of the key pillars of India’s Middle East policy. A major source of oil, jobs and remittances, it is also a destination for over 400,000 Indians who go to the country for Hajj or Umra every year.
In addition, in recent years, there has been more security cooperation, with Riyadh handing over individuals wanted in India and the two countries working together on countering money laundering and terrorism financing.</blockquote>…

Everyone fails the Saudi test.

I still think India has traditionally had a population reservoir relatively protected from Saudi largesse (not entirely) and this is the reason we don't see more radicalism. Don't you remember what they did to you in Kashmir--and the West where they served to push a certain angle on Kashmir as the source of all troubles in the region because of their strange battle with the Iranians, their own people, etc.?

And the New York Times, LA Times, American progressives, weirdly American conservatives, and Chas Freeman all fell for it? American Empire he doesn't like, Saudi Empire might be okay....

Nice one desi. You'd better watch it. They bring themselves with themselves.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 10:58am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Isn't it a funny coincidence that the language in the Military Times article is so similar to the language of official DC and its think tanks and bureacracies? Quite a coincidence.

As long as I'm at it, this is the best thing I've seen at War on the Rocks in ages:

<blockquote>Douglas A. Ollivant is a Managing Partner of Mantid International, as well as a Senior Fellow at New America and a contributor at Al Jazeera America. He worked for the “War Czar” at NSC-Iraq in 2008–9. Mantid International has business interests in southern Iraq as well as U.S. Aerospace and Defense industry clients.</blockquote>

I am 100 percent serious. That's the way one of those blurbs should be written after every article in every policy oriented magazine or website. I sort of forgot I used to look at his Twitter account so I looked again. It says something about "recovering COIN" expert or something like that. I respect that.

It's honest. Gold standard blurb. Should be the "industry" standard.

As a tangent, what's the Thayer group? West Point is outsourcing leadership training to a consultancy? That's almost as good as paying for both sides of the women in combat suit; the peace operations brigade and others duking it out. Crazy town,DC. No wonder everyone else is moving on, no one trusts American leadership and Hillary Clinton is playing from a playbook that is so 90s, we might as well resurrect Borders bookstore.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 10:38am

Military Times, Sept. 29 2015

<em>Saudi Minister: There's a military option to oust Assad</em>

<blockquote>Adel Al-Jubeir told a small group of journalists the military option could be lengthier and more destructive, but the choice is entirely up to Assad and whether he accepts the political roadmap agreed to by key nations in 2012. That deal would have him hand power to a transitional government.</blockquote>

Good old Adel Al-Jubeir. There's a true friend to America, didn't he help us understand the sunni tribes during the Surge in terms of the larger picture in Iraq? I bet he did. Oh, I'm not talking about the suffering people on the ground, but the way in which he must have painted the strategic picture.

Radicalization, root causes, refugees, super scary Muslims-en-bloc, lack of assimilation. So goes the conversation. Funny how it all settles back into the same pattern, our national discussions in the West. Look over here, don't look over there.

The Saudis are flirting with bankruptcy?

<em>Saudi Arabia could be bankrupt within five years, IMF predicts</em>- The Telegraph (UK)

Great. We'll be bailing those losers out because what other option would we have. Perfect, they spend cash creating disorder, we pay to prop them up because they truly are too big to fail, and they go back to paying for disorder. Fan-friggin-tastic.

Chas Freeman was gloating some time back about the Saudis crushing the fracking industry and how that showed the Saudis and the Middle East remained key. I thought the opposite, I thought, "we have options. If push comes to shove, we have options." A lot of people like we Americans to forget that.

The PREVENT strategy is working pretty good? According to War on the Rocks. Interesting, because I thought that there was more success in stopping people coming back into the UK from Syria.

Interesting days ahead.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 10:04am

Miss P (Pundita blog) thinks that after the Paris atrocity the Saudis are going to change.

I don't know. I posted this under the changing the "Macho" male culture of the American military article:

<blockquote>Just as there are influence agents fanning out across media outlets today following the Paris atrocity to make sure that the focus remains on Russians in Ukraine, NATO as an organization, or theAssad regime change, right after 9-11 the airwaves were filled with those that said the US had empowered the Northern Alliance and must remember to focus now on the Pashtuns. To remember that the Taliban insurgency was purely local and due only to local politics with no regional or global causation and that must be the focus.

The influence agents, it seems to me, included the Saudis and the so-called Sunni allies, the Pakistanis, the get Russia and get Iran crowds, and the Pashtun aristocracy crowd in DC that wanted a piece of the governing action.</blockquote>

Do you think they will? Or will it be the same mess of conflicting agendas that will prevent consistent work against ISIS, including military action?

The President hasn't conducted containment even if he uses that word, containment wouldn't ignore the Saudis, Gulfies or Turkey, a NATO member.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 9:51am

Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the lot, it's all so similar. Maybe I shouldn't have made fun about proxy stuff:

Don't hold back Miss P (Pundita blog):

<blockquote>The newest creative excuse from the Obama regime for funding terrorists and staging proxy war in Syria was explained in Adam Entous' November 4 report for The Wall Street Journal, U.S., Allies to Boost Aid to Syria Rebels:

U.S. officials said the Obama administration is pursuing what amounts to a dual-track strategy, which aims to maintain military pressure on Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian supporters while U.S. diplomats see if they can ease him from power through negotiations. U.S. officials said the pressure track was meant to complement the diplomatic track by giving the U.S. leverage at the negotiating table.

That is exactly the dual track Pakistan's military has been pursuing against Afghanistan's government. Rawalpindi also wants leverage at a negotiating table at which they know they don't belong. By orchestrating increased Taliban attacks in Afghanistan this past year, they want to put the government there in a more receptive mood to being ruled from Rawalpindi.

Will the Obama strategy work with Syria? The well-informed Sic Semper Tyrannis has been war-gaming the combat situation in Syria for the period 1 November - 2 February, 2016, then February 2016 and they're now up to June 2016. I'll add my two cents here to the war game.

The belief among Alawite Syrians that the United States is responsible for the unrest in Syria continues to spread among all Syrians. By the end of this year the United States accomplishes precisely what Pakistan's military did: Just as everything bad that happens in Afghanistan is blamed on Pakistan, by February a Syrian won't stub his toe without saying the Americans did this to me.

By June returned Syrian refugees will be holding rallies to praise Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Army for their great victory, with a little help from the Russians, over the terrorists and their American backers.</blockquote>

Okay, I'll quite spamming you for now but does anyone care about any of DC's factions any more from feminists to anti feminists to this think tank or that?

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 8:54am

I'm sorry War on the Rocks people, but John McCain? No, I get it but this is where I'd rather comment on dead threads on a quiet blog/journal than hurry up to the Borg. If you have to, you have to, but I don't have to. You learn to0 many bad habits you have to unlearn if you spend too much time with the Borg, however well-meaning. On the other hand, someone has to do it, it might as well be you young people. Just try and keep a little bit of your soul in the process, they have a way of corrupting everything good.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 8:43am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

This aside only makes sense to the voices in my head but I had a little look around that El Snarkistani site the other day (well, I'm old, I'm sure there are better ways to reference these sites but I am not going to change) and the Barnett Rubin praise is interesting. Top notch academic so it makes sense but the line from academics to policy is fraught.

The advice to calm down about Kunduz is good advice, reasons given being:

1. Afghans don't want to go back to Taliban rule.
2. The nascent institutions are weak and corrupt but in a head to head fight however weak, the Army isn't going to be beat by the Taliban.
3. And this is my favorite: there are warlords and old NA fighters that are going to fight....Oh really? Thanks for that.

Think about number 3 in the context of the advice given, the concerned chin pulling on "how the global community must care about nukes in the region" (paraphrasing a Rubin tweet; it's like aid ain't fungible and the right hand don't understand the left), and most especially the quotes I pulled from various 2001 interviews about how important the Pashtuns are and how we empowered the NA.

Actually, in 2001, we empowered both Taliban and NA leadership which is the odd paradox of it all these years later....,not just because they got away but because we literally strengthened their hand with our rhetoric, the Bonn agreement and our Pakistan policy. All are correct, that's the thing of it. It's a coindinista cointra world when it comes to diplomacy because regionally it is more than AfPak and China.

Heritage in the 80s is interesting if the Rubin stuff interests....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 8:33am

From the Conservative Middle East Council:

2014 Policy Lecture

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal
A Saudi Perspective of Middle East Events

Audio is available on the site. I took a quick listen the other day. It's almost as if you can hear official DC talking, the same indignation about Assad, the same rhetoric, all of it. It's uncanny. Not really, but you know what I mean.

Stephen Walt often says that the Saudi lobby pales compares to the Israel lobby but I always think there is something missing in that formulation. A hard topic because there are only so many ways to measure things and measuring influence in areas non-material--although the policies of maximizing arms sales is material enough--is difficult.

Chas Freeman has a little profile from 1991 in WMREA and in it he laments how little share of Saudi business Americans really have. Cut to today, it's as if official deep state DC, rumbling on, has had its say while we all yak about COIN and proxy wars and everything....

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 11/08/2015 - 11:29am

What a magical wonderful Kingdom is Saudi Arabia, says Chas Freeman:

<blockquote>Saudi Arabia levies no taxes on its citizens, other than the religious tithe on wealth known as “zakat” — a two-and-a-half percent annual donation of capital to charity and other public purposes. All Saudis enjoy free education and medical care from birth to death and can pursue these benefits at home or abroad, as they wish. The Kingdom has no elected parliament, though it does have elaborate informal mechanisms for consultation with its citizens on policy and personal matters. Saudi Arabia reverses and thereby affirms a basic principle of American political philosophy, “No representation without taxation.” Most Saudis seem to like being on the payroll rather than the tax roll.</blockquote> -, one of those Sarasota learning lectures.

Hard to believe ordinary Americans don't want to be Saudi proxies against Iran in Syria.

Real Clear Politics has an opinion piece out of Chatham House from something like the "American Desk"? It's the usual about how the US should invest in education in Pakistan, spend its money liberally on nation building. I always wonder how much of this is due to relationships with the Saudis and Gulf countries? The language is awfully similar to that of various British military writers in your own American military journals from the Cold War, etc.

Chas Freeman more than once mentions how Pakistani nuclear weapons can be used to reassure the Saudis. I suppose not everyone in DC or in NATO countries minds the increasing nuclear arsenal.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 07/07/2015 - 12:45pm

From The National Interest:

<blockquote>We cannot and should not shirk our responsibility in acknowledging the role we have played in the rise of IS. The emergence of IS cannot be properly understood without considering the impact of both the invasion and destruction of Iraq and her infrastructure, on bogus charges. Add to that embarrassing list of foibles: the demobilization of the security services and military leaving a dangerous power vacuum; the installment of a criminally sectarian, political administration in its wake which alienated <strong>our Sunni allies</strong>; and embarrassing political mismanagement following the conflict which only compounded the problem. These are ugly legacies that haunt us as IS rampages in the Middle East, and increasingly at home.</blockquote> <em>7/7 Attacks and the New Type of Terrorism</em>

What would we do without our Sunni allies. The author makes good points but it is only part of the story.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 06/20/2015 - 3:04pm

On wikileaks and Saudi cables:

I wonder if there will be any evidence for a theory I had about the Saudis maybe pushing on the "Pashtun angle" as their own within-government proxy in Afghanistan, of if they have been trying to manipulate the system politically to ensure any governance in Afghanistan respects their interests against Iran, a sort of Taliban 2.0? Again, I am talking about taking an issue that has merit and matter, and somehow distorting it? Think about my usual example of Kashmir so that the issues of Indian held Kashmir were highlighted while Pakistan held Kashmir buried? If you study American newspapers or advocacy journals, I wonder what the ratio of articles would be?

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 12:46pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Dr. C. Christine Fair has an article at War on the Rocks that takes aim at a couple of Washington Post reporters that fell for the standard India-Pakistan arguments, the equivalency that focuses on Partition, the Valley in Kashmir, etc., to the exclusion of other factors causing instability.

Where I disagree with Dr. Fair is in her adoption of the hawkish language of some Indian parties that are rabble rousing for domestic brownie points, to increase budgets, for ideological reasons. When one moves from the academic to the policy world, I find Dr. Fair's argumentation to contain logical inconsistencies. What she suggests won't work.

Just because a nation is "South Asian", it doesn't mean that we can't look at multiple factors directing behavior just as we do with our own country and our own system.

And to bring it back to Saudi Arabia, if you were to use the language of, say, nuclear proliferation, how many people expressing concern are really trying to push another agenda? Regime change in Syria, etc.?

Go big or go home in terms of ISIS is strange argumentation. Go home better, don't get too heavily involved bad but not terrible, go big, terrible.

Why am I doing things this way? Again, over the years, I've learned it's better to do your own study because the Borg twists and turns you around.

Good advice for those poor young Washington Post reporters. And who in the American system really likes to talk about how the propaganda game works unlessits in high profile regions? Right and Left gets you nowhere.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 12:36pm

On language and its uses in argumentation:

Again, what I've learned over the years is that when some parties make an argument, they have another agenda in mind.

For instance, when Saudi Arabia made arguments for removing sanctions on Pakistan in the 90's, they were looking for to cultivate various camps within Pakistan, military or civilian, to reassure their clients that they had pull in Washington and to stop a lot of whining being directed their way.

So when you all read over the years that the Pressler Amendment and sanctions on Pakistan somehow "turned" its military officers off of the US because they couldn't come to the US to train and therefore become wonderfully pro-American due to mil-mil relations, other agendas were in mind and there were many, many such agendas. As many as parties within the DC consensus. This is only one:

<blockquote>On February 27, 2003, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts signed a settlement agreement with Raytheon Company, dismissing a civil complaint against Raytheon for violations of U.S. export control laws. The complaint, which had been filed on February 27 in U.S Federal Court in Boston, charged Raytheon with committing fraud against the Customs Service and the State Department in a scheme to export military communications equipment to Pakistan from 1990 to 1997 without a license to do so from the State Department. Export of the equipment in question is controlled by the State Department under the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).</blockquote>

I bring this up in this thread because the same things are going on with Saudi Arabia today, language about Syria and Yemen and Iraq that have nothing really to do with the overt public arguments being made about fears of this or fears of that.

Everyone has an agenda. Isn't that how the saying goes? I don't mean Raytheon, just the entire mess of things inside the Borg.

(I tried to log into the Council and answer some PM's but I had trouble so apologies for that.)

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 9:00pm

Consortium News has a nice series on this topic, the current shielding of our Sunni allies as we try and balance Saudi Arabia and Iran (Leon Hadar is correct, why do we spend so much time on the Mid East? Even with oil, it doesn't make sense strategically but the Saudis spread the cash around and Americans have a complicated relationship with Israel and NATO-well, Europe often wants us to police the 'south' for them even if they didn't want it to go so far as the Iraq War).

I can't post the links, but it's Robert Parry's Consortium News. I don't follow everything, I don't really do right vs. left anymore.

What is interesting is that the older journalists, those that came of age during Nixon and Reagan seem less likely to be played by some of the current "South Asia" stuff because they remember how people in the West covered for the Chinese and Pakistanis and so on when it came to the development of nukes. So, for a lot of you younger folk interested in the preparations others do for an unconventional warfare in terms of study (the first step in your doctrine?) you have to make your own study. I don't think the "system" is going to fess up any time soon....

I screwed up too, I focused so much on the Pakistani angle that I forgot to tie it into the Saudi-Iranian rivalry even though I should know better because I am always asking you to break down the Kashmir insurgency from an outsider unconventional warfare point of view, where you look at global, regional and local factors, including the sophisticated narratives created that subtly put people off the track by creating a wrong impression of what is going on.

I'm talking about historical study of Kashmir because the situation is vastly changed today, especially with the Chinese and the changing Iran/US situation.

Walter Russell Mead talks at the American Interest about how the Saudis don't have the asymmetrical assets the Iranians do, but that's not true. They have us. They have NATO and Western allies, including even retired generals soft on their elite....

Remember, the propaganda angle takes place in the hearts and minds of our decision makers too, and how they are cultivated.

I'm sorry this is so messy but I have other things to do and I always have so much rattling around in my head....LOL. Help! Help me, someone! Help me to understand this....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 8:23pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Why so many of the "COIN" bloggers and others I've followed focus on Snowden and ignore the chilling effect the news of NSA phone searches have on lots of everyday Americans is beyond me. These things make a difference in a democracy, this feeling that maybe you could put a foot wrong just by searching the wrong thing, talking to the wrong person, etc. What a bunch of fakes some national security and military watchers are. I am sorry but it's just true....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 8:20pm

Uh, am I going to end up on some no-fly list because of my online search history or something? LOL:

So, I'm thinking:

1. The Saudi-Iranian rivalry added to Kashmir violence and insurgency back in the day.

2. I think how <em>insistent</em> so many people have been about how the key to Afghanistan is the PASHTUN insurgency and how it is imperative to negotiate with the Taliban (not saying that is wrong or a bad idea, just thinking in terms of the propaganda games everyone used to play with Kashmir, including the US and the UK in shielding their "sunni" allies when it came to sponsorship of terror. Including creating whole narratives that didn't fit the ground truth via media, a subtle manipulation, etc.)

I decide to search media appearances for different Saudi officials and diplomats right after 9-11 and look for anything with Pashtun. Well, right after 9-11 Saudi diplomats were all over the air waves and much of his commentary seems strange in retrospect, "it's about values, not policy," etc.

I randomly click on a link that catches my eye and I don't remember exactly what but it's in Arabic and English and someone is going on and on about how he supported the Muj in the 80s and now Karzai wants them to disarm in Afghanistan and the Pashtuns should fight back.

Was I on some recruting site or something? What was that about? The Saudis were opened their embassy in 2002 in Afghanistan, didn't they, and started doling out big cash.

Were they manipulating the Pashtun angle or something? I didn't really read more than a sentence or two, it's just on my mind these days.

Did the Saudis push to have their own sort of proxies in place and so stressed the Pashtun angle so that it became the main focus without people even realizing what else was going on besides a genuine concern for counterinsurgency?

What really happened out there in 2002 or so?

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:36pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

And the sad thing is that a bevy of retired Generals think that continuing on with these relationships--doing what they learned in 1985, nothing more, nothing less--represents DEEP THOUGHT ON THE FUTURE OF AMERICA!!!!


Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:34pm

I have to take the link out, again with the comment disappearing.
This is cute:

<blockquote>Le Pen’s commitments for the 2012 election included, at the bottom of the list, the ambition to “Restore France’s diplomatic and military independence.” This statement – left unspecified in the program – might refer to her longtime call for a French withdrawal from NATO, <strong>the Qatar and Saudi Arabia claim</strong>, or her call for a more robust defense budget. </blockquote> War on The Rocks, THE FRONT NATIONAL AND THE FUTURE OF FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY

Everyone thinks everyone is out to screw everyone.

Americans: You are trying to use NATO to push the EU as a trading bloc! Want us to protect your back while YOU pivot to Asia economically!
French: The EU is American hegemony! You screw us over to get better deals FOR YOU!
British: The Americans are screwing us over on the EU! Do you know how much we invest in your country?
Americans: Yeah, thanks for nothing on NATO by the way, whispering in our ears to get involved in Syria and stay in the MidEast while cutting your defense budgets! Who are you all fooling on the Saudis and the Gulfies? Nice of the Qataris to be so interested in British education.
British: Ha, like you should talk. Any retired Generals asking for the 28 pages to be released. Oh, wait a minute. Don't do that.

Without the Soviet Union, these trends are only going to intensify.

There is more to life and national power than words, or the ability to deploy them.

Wonder if the current British arms manufacturers are against investing in the British Navy as opposed to things they can sell to the Saudis, etc? I don't really understand that lobbying world and maybe that is a nonsensical suggestion.

None of this makes sense on any level except bureaucracies never die, and I don't really understand the Atlanticist lobbies within the UK and France very well, although for sure as in most things there are factions fighting it out for a variety of reasons, good and bad.

No one tell the Cold War nostalgics, for some people it always is about having just the right enemy, it has nothing to do with protecting a nation.

The best way to improve these relationships is not to continue with forms that have passed their sell-by date.

Good luck with that, eh?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 12:49pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I forgot to include the link for that article about Prince Charles and now I can't remember which article I lifted the excerpt from. Sorry, maybe the BBC? There are lots along similar lines if you look. Apologies.

I don't mind him making a case, it is what he is supposed to do, I guess. Dunno, not British. I do mind the fact that so many Americans seem to need the US to be out and about in the world looking for monsters. The Cold War and our Unipolar moment that embedded these feelings in a significant number of Americans? Most often partisans who don't much get involved in the nitty gritty details but have a general feeling that America will be less if it is not exactly as it was in, say, 1955. But when we said good bye to the frontier and the West of American frontier life, we moved toward things that were then viewed as not quite "real" America too. One more turn of history's wheel doesn't mean we are more or less, just different.

Is it simply lack of imagination? Or fear? Maybe it's easier as an immigrant, a seventies-grade schooler watching Little House on the Prairie and realizing how America constantly changes.

Perhaps it is the fears of a still relatively young nation, no longer in the first flush of youth. Who are we now?

This is in the realm of too much information, but I've had to reinvent myself so many times I sort of can't imagine the fear of it. For a certain type of (often male) America-American with very set ideas his or her whole life, perhaps this is frightening? But we are actually in good strategic shape if we don't do too many stupid things. Very good shape indeed.

PS: I'm just talking things out, not putting anyone down. For sure, people talk about Americans this way all the time, they always dissect us. That's why some so easily cultivate American diplomats or military.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 12:26pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The big boots interventionists (the guys that got nothing correct in Iraq or Afghanistan) are funny, aren't they? It's almost as if nothing else really matters except a lot of American boots on the ground, the excuses are just that, excuses.

First we remove Saddam. Now we have to stay forever and right the Sunni-Shia rivalry and all the other things that are going on. Why does this appeal to a certain type of military person? Psychologically, I mean? It's not an argument, it's a feeling about security (Colin Gray has a wonderful article on this subject in the latest Infinity Journal).

More food for thought (assuming thought is what one is looking for):

<blockquote>So while on the surface the Germany approach may be seen as another example of irresponsible German free riding, of pursuing policies whose costs are going to fall on the shoulders on the United States, one wonders whether the Germans are playing here a more cunning diplomatic game.</blockquote>…

The rest of the Leon Hadar article is similar to the post from Pundita I keep linking here; the EU as a trading bloc plays on security fears and piggy backs on NATO.

Peter Hitchens often says the same. There is a German blogger that I sometimes read--Moon of Alabama--who is very good at seeing through American propaganda but it never occurs to him that the situation is more complex than "America wants to stay a European hegemon." For sure that is true, but all these other things are true to.

A big messy battle.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 12:18pm

An Arab Envoy Makes His Case:

<blockquote>Prince Charles is expected to discuss his assessment of leading Arab royal families during a meeting with Barack Obama that will cap an unusually political visit to Washington for the heir to the British throne.</blockquote>

An Everday American (that would be me, Madhu) Wonders How Strategy Is To Begin When Past More Real Than Present?

<blockquote>The problem is that the United States is beginning to exhibit the same need for imperial entrenchment in the Middle East that Britain experienced after World War II, when it started reducing its military footprint in the region and got fed up with trying to resolve the conflict between Jews and Arabs.

The Brits ended up passing the Middle East torch to the Americans. But now, despite mounting federal debt and military fiascoes in Iraq and Libya, Americans seem to be stuck in the region as a declining hegemonic power, while the British (and French) continue free-riding on U.S. power. The “special relationship” has proved to be one-sided.

It’s true that the British have been more inclined to deploy troops to Iraq and Afghanistan than other U.S. allies have been, and the British joined the French in playing an active role in Libya. But in reality much of the military, and by extension financial, burden of “doing the Middle East” still falls on the United States, with Britain and other NATO members resisting pressure to increase their military budgets. </blockquote>…

The reverse it true as well, whenever anyone in the UK or Europe suggests going his or her own way militarily, we step into stomp on that idea.

But it's really just various camps in various countries duking it out in terms of what each nation should do in an ideal situation. Blaming it solely on one or the other misses out on the messy multifactorial nature of things.

Such as Germany playing around with the EU in Eastern Europe and contributing to disorder and rising militarism which somehow gets missed when discussing the expansionary feelings--and behavior-- of some in the US and UK (via NATO).

But from an ordinary American point of view (some anyway) we have the following:

We are remain stuck in Europe and the MIddle East while others are eager for contracts with the Iranians and Chinese (many of whom did better than the US in Iraq, the hawks are very bad business machiavellians, it seems) and will get them as we pay for security while others get contracts.

The hawks will say, but we should push them to pay more, but, no, (and hawks get their pray, so not a good name for that camp in the US, they never get anything), we should be more prudent about where and when we involve ourselves as Americans.

No need to be upset with anyone else, we did this to ourselves.

Sometimes I wish I'd played the game and studied something else besides medicine and squawked about American Exceptionalism and played the game and said fashionable things and made intellectual eyes at the Washington Consensus.

Who am I kidding? I am very glad I did no such thing although I see how seductive that world is and how easy it is for even the well-meaning to become enmeshed.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:03pm

What's with this Chas Freeman piece (from a talk, actually) at Lobelog?…

He seems almost in a panic that the Mid East may not be all that importan--relatively speaking--to the US in the future. His nasty little dig at American fracking. Well, that stuff will still be there and what are future reserves supposed to be for the Saudis? Maybe we Americans will get the last laugh. What a funny, panicky little piece.

Events are what they are. Populations, economics, even energy politics in a way, is shifting eastward (witness some of our NATO allies joining a Chinese-led bank. Hey, it's a tough world out there and everyone looks out for him or herself. Smartest decision ever, playing the Chinese off of the Soviets, continuing on in NATO post Soviet Union, and then transferring manufacturing overseas....)

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 11:49am

From the

<blockquote>Historically, Kashmir has been dominated by Sufi Islam, a mystical branch of the faith that the puritanically minded abhor. But Al Kindi plans to change all that. In a region already wracked by internal division and foreign pressure, he represents yet another potentially destabilizing force: orthodox Salafism, aggressively expansionist and imported from Saudi Arabia.</blockquote>…

The Indians should be careful with the Saudis and their supposedly new relationship with that nation (oil is oil, and everyone is susceptible). The problem with the Saudis is that they bring themselves with themselves.

Maybe one reason Indian Muslims seem so different is that they have been relatively protected from the Saudis, a relatively protected reservoir with the exception of Kashmir and its Valley.

The "get Iran" crowd hasn't really thought that one through, have they? Then again, they are still persisting in the idea that supporting anti-Assad forces will somehow not affect any campaign against ISIS/ISIL/IS when that is part of how it all started. Or that we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again by somehow "allying" with the Sunni tribes like this is 2007 or something.

Oddest psychology ever, the DC consensus and American defense intellectuals, civilian or military.

PS: At first, when I started looking at Kashmir and its insurgency, I was looking at it form the perspective of a member of an ethnic diaspora.

But then, as an American, which is what I am and old-fashioned enough not to believe in dual citizenships, I started to see that it was helpful to break through the intellectual traps set by various foreign policy camps in the US, right or left, interventionists or non-interventionist, etc. No, really, there is something there that is so outside what Americans are taught that it serves as kind of an intellectual, well, it frees you up somehow, It's the strangest thing.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 2:13pm

This War Nerd piece is interesting in lots of different ways. I am actually curious about how one holds difficult opinions in 'closed' systems as I've said in my other comments down the thread:

<blockquote>There are, believe it or not, ex-cops from North Carolina with an interest in bodybuilding, and rich kids from Egypt, also with an interest in bodybuilding; there are Australian pimps and thugs, and a lot of ordinary young men, quasi-jocks, the middle of the curve. Almost the only common feature of all these profiles is that they hark back to a day when men ruled and women obeyed; beyond that, it’s impossible to get much of a fix on the whole miscellany of dreams and grudges pouring into Syria.

If we narrow it down to UK volunteers going to Islamic State, you get a more manageable sample, but not one that helps understand Jihadi John much. Most UK volunteers are from Pakistani or Bangladeshi families, rather than Kuwaiti like Emwazi.

Kuwait is a strange place, and it’s given its share of jihadis to the cause. <strong>I had the unique experience of being fired, half an hour after starting work, by a room full of Kuwaiti Army officers, one American “revert” (convert to Islam), and a screaming Mauritian midget, because I allegedly showed a pro-Hindu bias in a column I wrote on Kashmir long ago. </strong>So yes, I’m familiar with the somewhat tender sensibilities of Kuwaitis. (Though to my total non-surprise, it was my fellow American who snitched on me, photocopied an old War Nerd column and started the inquisition. Americans are the world’s leading snitches, in my rather considerable experience.)</blockquote>…

One of these days I have to revisit the way in which American newspapers and "thought leaders" were introduced to certain topics about "South Asia" (read: Kashmir) back in the day....none of which absolves any military occupation but a lot of people were, er, attempting to influence opinion in one direction and this tactic goes back to the very beginning, to 1947, and gets picked up in different ways by different parties during different times.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:38pm

Why is it so hard to be honest about things in the foreign policy world? I mean, ask reasonable questions about how scholarship occurs when there are complicated human relationships that govern funding, access and the like? I suppose just like we physicians, people in the field don't like questions being asked. It makes everything uncomfortable.

For instance,

<blockquote>Stanford Report, June 11, 2008

Stanford solar research receives $25 million grant


Saudi Arabia's new science and technology university has made another large grant to Stanford researchers, this time revolving around solar power.

The $25 million grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, spans the next five years beginning this month and will fund a new center at Stanford, the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics.</blockquote>

Can't embed links. You'll have to search for the link, Stanford Report from 2008.

I know I sound like I'm trying to slime a scholar but this is actually a serious issue for many researchers in many fields, especially with money coming from outside the American (or Western) system.

None of this means I think the work isn't good but I want to understand how to properly study and deal with systems that are very different from our own.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:31pm

So, I'm just trying to educate myself. I don't mean anything by highlighting the Fuller comment below and I'm just curious how one studies closed political systems, if you see what I mean.

I have to take out links because the site doesn't like the comment if I don't remove it:

On fieldwork in 'closed' states:

<blockquote>Saudi Arabia, homeland of Osama bin Laden and many 9/11 hijackers, is widely considered to be the heartland of radical Islamism. For decades, the conservative and oil-rich kingdom contributed recruits, ideologues and money to jihadi groups worldwide. Yet Islamism within Saudi Arabia itself remains poorly understood. Why has Saudi Arabia produced so many militants? Has the Saudi government supported violent groups? How strong is al-Qaida's foothold in the kingdom and does it threaten the regime? Why did Bin Laden not launch a campaign there until 2003? This 2010 book presents the first ever history of Saudi jihadism based on <strong>extensive fieldwork in the kingdom</strong> and primary sources in Arabic. It offers a powerful explanation for the rise of Islamist militancy in Saudi Arabia and sheds crucial new light on the history of the global jihadist movement.</blockquote>

Amazon blurb,to: Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979 (Cambridge Middle East Studies)

by Thomas Hegghammer

"in the kingdom"

That kind of fieldwork has to be tough to do, even with Arabic. Tough to get at things, I imagine. But I wouldn't know.

Well, that's what I've noticed with the scholarship in South Asia, that it is hard to get visas, hard to get at areas, hard to get at people, and hard to study, that's all. So when a person looks at scholarship and tries to look at the larger picture, it is hard to step back and understand.

For instance, Patrick Cockburn's observations that I've mentioned before versus others who study the region and say, well, that Saudi Arabia is doing its best and there isn't proof that it is supplying any kind of oxygen, money or otherwise, to sectarianism and violence in the region.

It is hard because some systems are secretive and, even if they are not, it is very hard to track monies. Also, media study is complicated, especially the type that you find in the homes of overseas diapsoras.

For instance, WoTR has a book review by an Australian counterterrorism expert (?, is that the correct designation), Leah Farrell, I believe.

The micro study is very important but it has to be linked up to larger trends and I'm not sure that is always done. I thought some of her comments about South Asia in the past were a bit perplexing.

PS: And by perplexing, I really mean strangely incurious about everything outside of the micro study of individuals.

Seems to affect some people, especially a sort of New America Foundation type....

And it's an old story with the UK, especially, although, that's not incuriosity or naivety as with the Americans and others. They know what they are doing, I think, but it never seems to work out for them or anyone else. Eh, we Americans are the same.

PPS: As long as I am going to go up to the line, I might as well go over it. How does the need to get the approval of authorities affect scholarship? It sounds like I am being petty, but I am not. It's a valid point.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:10pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Oh no, it looks like I'm calling out the specific commenter that I highlighted. No, no, I sometimes don't pay attention to names. I forgot to read names of authors sometimes, I just don't pay attention all the time. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

I was thinking of different South Asian or Middle Easter analysts, and, mostly, the voices in my head. Oops.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 11:35am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I don't much care for the concept of Muslim world as I've said before. Populations not worlds. Lazy stuff left over from a kind of soft colonial perspective of managing peoples deemed important to projection of national power.