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Economic and Religious Influencers in the Era of Population-centric Warfare
Eric M. Burlingame
The United States Special Operations Command is currently reorganizing itself as it shifts from conducting kinetic warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq to conducting population-centric warfare globally. Central to this shift is the establishment of the Global SOF Network, which is intended to provide better integration and thereby a greater footprint for SOF operations globally through improved resource sharing. However, success in these efforts is dependent upon the fielding of what will always be a limited number of SOF Operators, Operators skilled at recognizing core-framework Influencers and how such compete in the four “markets” or “environments” of the Integral Approach, as relates to the relationship development and maintenance that is the purpose of SOF engagements.
US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is currently shifting its focus from conducting kinetic warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to conducting population-centric, human domain, warfare in virtually every corner of the world, the infrastructure of which will be the Global SOF Network now being established. However, success of SOCOM’s Global SOF Network initiative will be almost solely dependent on the quantity, and more importantly the quality, of personal relationships established and sustained by a new breed of SOF Operator, an Operator knowledgeable of and adept at engaging the root Influencers of individuals, groups and communities. And though many would have us believe the core-framework Influencers on human thought and beliefs are religion, politics, government or some combination of all these, these Influencers are in fact only minor subsets of the whole – integral – individual. The true core-framework Influencer common to all aspects of human thinking and belief systems is the Economic Influencer, which is itself composed of nothing more complicated than the psychological need to work and provide a living for one’s family. This means ultimately, success at the human domain warfare of the Global SOF Network initiative will require SOF operators conduct engagements which effectively address the Economic Influencer through support for strong secular governments, bodies politic, and security organizations and practices emphasizing and supportive of economic expansion.
Unlike the world of 1987 when United States Special Operations Command was established, a world where the vast majority of humanity lived within a short distance of the community and culture they were born into, today’s world provides for virtually global mobility and access to almost the sum total of human knowledge. This fundamental and ongoing shift in human civilization requires SOCOM and its subordinate commands must utilize entirely new tools with which to model human behavior and to impact societal and individual Influencers. And where it was once enough to recognize a single Influencer, such as an ideological commonality, within an individual or community in order to gain value from a specific engagement, it is now necessary to utilize a whole-of-person, whole-of-community or rather an integrated-whole approach. To this, “[i]n the past two decades, a radically new theoretical framework for organizing the world and activities in it has started to achieve prominence and widespread recognition. Known as the Integral Approach, it has been used in everything from business to medicine, psychology to law, politics to sustainability, art to education.” (Wilbur, ix)
The Integral Approach separates everything into five elements which are quadrants, levels, lines, states and types. This paper does not go into a detailed analysis or description of the Integral Approach, rather it focuses on the element of the four quadrants, as they relate to Influencers and the Global SOF Network. In the Integral Approach, the upper right quadrant represents the Exterior-Individual and “Behavior”, while the upper left represents the Interior-Individual and “Intention”. The lower right quadrant contains the Exterior-Collective, the “Social”, and finally the lower left contains the Interior-Collective, the “Cultural.” The value of the Integral Approach and its four quadrants is that all thoughts, beliefs and actions, can be mapped to a single quadrant while being contextually and relativistically reflected in the other three simultaneously. More importantly, what this model demonstrates is that no action or thought is singular or isolated in nature, each is intentionally enacted by an individual externally according to an internal behavioral trait which is itself shaped by the internal influences of culture, and all of which externally fits within and in turn composes society.
Wilbur states, “[a]pplications of the Integral Model have recently exploded in business, because the applications are so immediate and obvious. The quadrants give the 4 “environments” or “markets” in which a product must survive...” (Wilber, 29) This concept of four integrated “markets” in which individual Influencers such as religion, politics, government and security must compete with all other Influencers provides the SOF Operator and SOCOM with the ability to develop highly targeted and effective tools with which to address personal engagement and metrics with which to measure such engagements for effectiveness. And there can be little doubt that with obviously limited resources being set against rising fundamentalism and radical political ideology, efficiency of engagement is increasing in criticality. To this, the Integral Approach provides a framework within which to more appropriately identify and value individual Influencers and to determine the specific impact of a given SOF Operator as they engage with counterparts, individuals and communities. More importantly, what the Integral Approach demonstrates is that religion, politics, governance and security, are only individual Influencers and not the actual “environment” or “market” in which these Influencers must compete, as is most widely believed. This concept of markets if very important as an understanding of how Influencers compete with one another within and across markets-environments, Influencers the Global SOF Network can impact such as governance, security and economics, provides SOCOM with the ability to far better target its limited resources.
The issue then becomes one of clearly defining what an Influencer is in order to recognize it within a given quadrant and across quadrants and to understand how to most effectively impact through SOF Operator engagement. Most definitions identify an Influencer as a power affecting a person, thing or a course of events, one which operates without any direct or apparent effort on the part of the individual, group or organization. Religious and political beliefs and ideologies are just such and are certainly powerful Influencers, but when seen from the perspective of the Integral Approach, these are but component pieces of the whole and not the most influential of Influencers in any single or across any or all quadrants. In fact, “…the great religions entered history, not so much as religions in the narrow meaning of that word, but rather as civilizations. Each staked out for its adherents a way of life – a life-world that encompassed not only things that we now consider distinctively religious, but also regions of life that the modern world divides into economics, politics, ethics, law, art, philosophy, and education.” (Smith, 151) That being said, there is one Influencer, which Smith denotes above, present and competitive in all four quadrants, a core-framework Influencer, which not only effectively competes but is also that which supports all other Influencers. And that core-framework Influencer is Economics.
III. ECONOMIC INFLUENCER
Durkheim in his seminal work on primal rights and the roots of the religious individual and society, states, “[h]owever little importance the religious ceremonies may have, they put the group into action; the groups assemble to celebrate them. So their first effect is to bring individuals together, to multiply the relations between them and to snake them more intimate with one another. By this very fact, the contents of their consciousness is changed. On ordinary days, it is utilitarian and individual avocations which take the greater part of the attention. Everyone attends to his own personal business; for most men, this primarily consists in satisfying the exigencies of material life, and the principal incentive to economic activity has always been a private interest.” (Durkheim, 347-348) The importance of Durkheim’s work to the Global SOF Network is in identifying the Influencers of religion and politics are themselves but extensions of the individual and group’s pursuit of societal interest, and not of the Economic Influencer that consumes most of human thought, time and endeavor. Smith states this in even simpler terms, “[w]ork is the staple of human life. The point is not simply that all but a few people must work to survive. Ultimately, the drive to work is psychological rather than economic. Forced to be idle, most people become irritable: forced to retire, they decline.” (Smith, 37) To this could be added, when not provided the opportunity to support ones family through economic expansion, when not gainfully employed, individuals turn to other Influencers such as religion and politics, due to what Marx stated concerning religion, namely that it is, “the opiate of the masses.”
The great irony of the first part of the 21st century, is that the economically advanced and secular Western world is at war with radical elements from the economically repressed and religious Islamic world. The irony arises from the fact Muhammad believed strongly in economic growth and that the Koran speaks directly to economics as a critical component of a “just” and “whole” society, “[j]ust as the health of an organism requires that nourishment be fed to its every segment, so too society’s health requires that material goods be widely and appropriately distributed. These are the basic principles of Islamic economics, and nowhere do Islam’s democratic impulses speak with greater force and clarity. The Koran, supplemented by the hadith, propounded measures that broke the barriers of economic caste and enormously reduced the injustices of special interest groups.” (Smith, 249-250) The great economic stagnation and imbalance which exists in many parts of the world, where SOF must engage and where fundamentalist and radical ideology find support, where not dependent on outright tyranny or lack of a strong nuclear government, is due to an incorrect and dangerous belief the Influencers of religion and politics are or should be the core Influencers on the individual and human civilization and the willingness on the part of some to constrain daily life to these Influencers alone.
Confucius however, discussed this very issue twenty five centuries ago, “No state…can constrain all its citizens all the time, nor any large fraction of them a large part of the time. It must rely on an acceptance of its will, an appreciable confidence in what it is doing. Noting that the three essentials of government were economic sufficiency, military sufficiency, and the confidence of its people…popular trust is by far the most important, for “if the people have no confidence in their government, it cannot stand.”” (Smith, 178) Confucius makes no mention of the religious or political Influencers. And for a demonstration of the importance of this absence and of the Economic Influencer itself to stability and security of a people and a region, “…we must look not to China’s twentieth-century politics but to the East Asian economic miracle of the last forty years. Taken together, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, all shaped by the Confucian ethic, constitute the dynamic center of economic growth in the later twentieth century…” (Smith, 192) To this should be added China’s economic expansion which has taken place since Smith wrote this statement in 1991. This observation is not intended to overlook the many conflicts within Southeast Asia, such as in Southern Thailand, or Mindanao Philippines. However, these nations, which are not Confucian based, have large disparities between the wealthy and the poor and in the areas where the conflict is greatest, almost completely stagnate economies which has made the local people less inclined to resist the encroachment of radically supported Islamic elements.
That being said, success of SOCOM’s Global SOF Network requires a movement away from the traditional over emphasis on religious and political Influencers, to include the religio-political derived Western concept of Democracy, from models which provide these Influencers with far greater import than is warranted and towards models and bodies of practice that accentuate the core-framework Influencer of pure Economics. To this, and drawing upon the Integral Approach or Model, the Global SOF Network would realize improved success rates by emphasizing strong secular governance or “social systems” capable of impacting, “…exterior systems…such as ecosystems, geopolitical systems, modes of techno-economic production…and all of the visible, exterior, concrete aspects of collectives or systems.” (Wilbur, 223-224) This is not to say the Global SOF Network can forgo the traditional Influencers of security and governance which SOF has historically emphasized in its engagements, however movement away from the belief that the Influencers of religion and politics as prime Influencers towards the acceptance of the primacy of the Economic Influencer will greatly empower SOCOM and the Global SOF Network.
IV. SECULAR GOVERNMENT
The scientific, cultural, economic and societal strength of the West was derived directly as the result of an intentional effort on the part of the architects of the modern world, such as the founding fathers of the United States and philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Locke and Hobbes, who believed in the power of secular governance and free markets, in freedom and the responsibility of individual choice. These modernists understood that, “[t]he religiously orthodox impulse views God as the ultimate judge of good and evil, regards sacred texts as divinely revealed and hence inerrant and timeless, and sees the deity as playing an active role in people's everyday lives. In contrast, the modernist' impulse views individuals as having to make moral decisions in the context of the times, sees religious texts and teachings as human creations that should be considered in cultural context along with other moral precepts, and regards individuals as largely determining their own fates.” (Davis and Robinson, 4) These thinkers exist even today, and even in the Islamic world. The power and import of secular and modernist thinking and of the primacy of the Economic Influencer is being recognized and supported even by those who helped created the modern Islamic state in Iran, such as Abdolkarim Sorush, a former Khomeini supporter, “Islam must develop its fiqh, so as to accommodate the modern industrial world, and evolve a philosophy of civil rights and an economic theory capable of holding its own in the twenty-first century.” (Armstrong, 184-185)
The difficulty in developing any philosophy today, in the era of political correctness in the West and Fundamentalism in the Islamic world, is that society is by its very nature composed of categories, “I vs You”, “Us vs Them”, “[s]ociety is possible only if the individuals and things that compose it are distributed into different groups, that is, classes, and if these groups themselves are classified in relation to each other. Society presupposes, therefore, a self-conscious organization that is none other than a classification.” (Durkheim, 339) Durkheim goes on to describe the core problem faced by SOF Operators engaged in the support of those whose philosophy is towards secular governance and security, “[t]his organization of society is naturally communicated to the space it occupies. To prevent collision, a fixed portion of space must be allocated to every particular group. In other words, the total space must be divided, differentiated, oriented, and these divisions and orientations must be known to every mind.” (Durkheim, 339) The result of this categorization and partitioning – staking out and a defending of a logical, philosophic, moral or physical space – inherent to society and the subsequent division along categorical lines, such as specific religious or political Influencers, leaves the SOF Operator with a dilemma composed of two parts. The first part is years, decades, generations and even centuries of conflict between parties defending these very spaces staked out by their unique societal categorization have led to completely divergent ways in which Influencers are conceptualized and expressed. The second part is the requirement to know and possess the capacity to translate the Influencers common between individuals, groups, and communities in order that these societal subsets may go on and work collectively where before they were isolated from and often at open conflict with one another.
The sum result of this is that the SOF Operator must find a means by which to gain common interest amongst and between individuals and groups, and directly in the space they currently occupy, in which they have clearly defined the “me-mine,” “we-ours,” “…[T]he cooperation of several people in pursuit of a common goal is possible only if they agree on the relation between this goal and the means to attain it, namely if a similar causal relation is granted by all the participants to the enterprise.” (Durkheim, 339) Religion and politics, as either ideology or Influencer, have never provided enough similar causal relation for a large enough subsection of societal categories to stand up as a unified people for any period of time, which unification represents itself as a strong body politic and as strong local and national government. In fact, the religious and political Influencers have been used most as a means by which to perpetuate difference, defend narrow societal categorization, and thereby as justification for prolonged conflict, abuses and scientific and economic stagnation. At the root of the issue of narrowly defined societal categories, are the finite resources contained within the “space” controlled by such societal subset as a given population, and as only “finite” resources exist, the barriers must be defended in order to protect such resources. And though freedom of religion, and support of free markets have proven collectively, in the form of secular governments, and over protracted periods of time, to be concepts capable of bringing clearly defined, staunchly defended and conflicting societal categories together into a unified, stable people, the problems created by “finite” resources continues.
This means that central to the efforts of the Global SOF Network must be an understanding and ability to communicate the fact the core-framework Influencer of Economics, when coupled with another core-framework Influencer, Freedom, is not a zero-sum game, resources are unlimited and as such not owned by only a few, representative of ownership which must then be fought over. This is true even in the Muslim world as Smith states, “[t]he model that animates Muslim economics is the body’s circulation system. Health requires that blood flow freely and vigorously; sluggishness can bring illness, blood clots and occasion death. It is not different with the body politic, in which wealth takes the place of blood as the life-giving substance. as long as this analogy is honored and laws are in place to insure that wealth is in vigorous circulation, Islam does not object to the profit motive, economic competition, or entrepreneurial ventures – the more imaginative the latter, the better.” (Smith, 249-250)
As is well understood by SOCOM and many in the Special Operations community, historically the Economic Influencer has found its greatest ability to improve the standard of living, and thereby generate security and stability, when enmeshed in greater communities and societies represented by strong secular governments emphasizing and supporting individual freedom and private property. As an example, Armstrong discusses the Golden Era of Islam and how such was made possible by the strong secular government established under the Abbasids. “But however un-Islamic it was, the new caliphate was a political and economic success in these early days. The caliph’s role was to provide his subjects with security, and under Harun al-Rashid, when the caliphate was at its peak, the empire enjoyed an unprecedented peace…Harun al-Rashid was a patron of the arts and scholarship, and inspired a great cultural renaissance. Literary criticism, philosophy, poetry, medicine, mathematics and astronomy flourished not only in Baghdad but in Kufah, Basrah, Jundayvebar and Harran. Dhimmis participated in the florescence by translating the philosophical and medical texts of classical Hellenism from Greek and Syriac into Arabic.” (Armstrong, 55-56) An emphasis on the establishment and support of secular, not always read democratic, governments, governments which are strong supporters of the Influencer of Economics, the root of all Influencers, need be the overriding principle of the Global SOF Network, providing for the similar causal relation necessary to widespread and popular, local support for secular government.
However, emphasizing the Economic is difficult for the very reason Durkheim puts forward, “…economic activity is the preponderating one, and iris generally of a very mediocre intensity.” (Durkheim, 214-215) Which is quite unlike the religious or political Influencers which stir up the passions and drive individuals and communities to emotions, emotions easily manipulated and controlled by those who would use the disenfranchised to obtain their own political and economic objectives. That being the case, success of the SOF Operator as they engage in fostering and supporting strong secular governments through the application of traditional SOF operations enhanced by Economic knowledge transfer and relationship development will require a thorough understanding of the positive and constructive side of the emotion laden Influencers. Smith provides insight for the SOF Operator in the era of the Global SOF Network in his conversation regarding the importance of primal rites, found in such practices as religion, government and legal function, “[r]ather than being attempts to produce extraordinary effects…, primal rites work mainly to maintain the regular and normal; they are rituals of cooperation. As such they have both economic and psychological sides. While articulating economic facts and needs, they also sustain confidence in the processes of nature, spirituality conceived and determined, and renew hope for the future.” (Smith, 375)
Success of the Global SOF Network as currently proposed will be heavily dependent on application of highly efficient SOF Operator engagement models and metrics which demonstrate efficiencies as real Return on Investment. These models can be developed through the application of the Integral Approach which identifies the four independent yet interrelated “markets” or “environments” in which all individual Influencers must collectively compete. These markets, the Exterior-Individual representing “Behavior,” the Interior-Individual or “Intention,” the Exterior-Collective, “Social,” and the Interior-Collective which is the “Cultural” are not to be confused with Influencers, such as religion or politics, security or governance, rather they are environments in which these Influencers must compete. There is however a single unifying, a core-framework Influencer dominate in all four markets or quadrants and upon which all other Influencers depend, and that is the Economic Influencer. Greater awareness of the power of the Economic Influencer, a shift away from belief in religion and politics as prime Influencers, and support of the Economic Influencer by SOF Operators as part of the Global SOF Network will greatly enhance engagement efforts and provide for real, measurable and sustainable returns. This will require SOF Operators concentrate engagement efforts on support of secular government, government emphasizing the security and sound governance supportive of freedom and property rights, both of which are essential to economic expansion and all of which is directly measurable through improvements in local standards of living. All of this will require the next generation SOF Operator possess a far broader base of knowledge than traditional SOF education and experience provides, for as Ricard and Thuan state, “[n]o one can ignore the close relationship between science, power and economics.” (Ricard and Thuan, 16)
Armstrong, Karen (2001). Islam: A Short History. New York: Random House.
Unlike the far greater number of religions which articulate a clear distinction between the everyday external world and the spiritual inner world Islam is a religion which believes the manner by which one lives their life shoud be a direct reflection of Islam and Allah's will on Earth. The author discusses Islam as a historical religion and highlights the influence of Islam on the politics and development of the Islamic world and how the many different peoples, cultures and politics of the region in turn influenced Islam. The author discusses in depth how Islam has been reflected in the political and social justice systems of the region extending from Muhammad to modern day.
Davis, N. and Robinson, R. (April 2006). The Egalitarian Face of Islamic Orthodoxy: Support for Islamic Law and Economic Justice in Seven Muslim-majority Nations. American Sociological Review, V71, N2, pp. 167-190. American Sociological Association. Journal
The authors present the two religious-economic belief systems dominate in seven modern Islamic states. The first system is derived from religious orthodoxy, is communitarian in nature, and puts forward that the State and individuals are subject to timeless laws and God's will. Adherents to this system believe the State is responsible for providing for the poor through economic intervention. The second system is composed of modernists which are individualistic in nature. In this system economic individualism is promoted whereby the individual is responsible for their own economic well-being. When these two systems are then set against the requirement to provide for the poor as measured by shari'a law, the authors conclude the balance is towards the first system and communitarianism.
Durkheim, Emile (2001). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Print
Durkheim's work centers on the Aborigines of Australia and their primative belif system and how such is an analog for all belief systems, for the social need within humans to collect around a shared belief system. It is argued in the book that religion provides for the moral code around which human social interactions may occur and upon which these interactions depend. Durkheim's work has been highly influential for more than a century and has greatly impacted the fields of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociology and modern economics.
Jaffee, M.S. (December 2001). One God, one revelation, one people: On the symbolic structure of elective monotheism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, V69, N4, pp. 753-775. Oxford University Press. Journal
This article focuses on the symbolic foundations of monotheism as relates to three of the world's largest monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Particular emphasis is placed on how the following of selective prophets, by nature, establishes an environment prone to rivalry and conflict between these belief systems. The author posits the conflict between these belief systems is not the result of failed ethics but of the use of symbol systems used to express the respective models for monotheistic practice.
Smith, Huston (1991). The World's Religions. New York: Harper One. Print
Smith provides a broad view of the world's leading religions and several native traditions which provide insight into current and the earliest belief systems of Earth. Where other works focus on the structural and ideological differences between faith systems, Smith emphasizes the internal nature of these systems, the commonalities and nuanced differences. Similar to the work done by Joseph Campbell which emphasized the shared Myths of belief systems, Smith discusses the shared and divergent core concepts of humanity as played out by each major religious system.
Ricard, M.and Thuận, T. (2004). The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet. New York: Three Rivers Press. Print
Ricard, a biochemist educated Tibetan monk, and Trinh, a Buddhist raised astrophysicist discuss the essential answers sought by Buddhist practice and scientific discovery. The conversation identifies a great number of commonalities between concepts of Quantum Physics and those of Buddhism. This commonality is further strengthened by demonstrating how ancient and modern Buddhist thought is assisting scientific discovery while scientific discovery is assisting Buddhist practice. The confluence of these two major contemplative and experiential belief systems, science and Buddhism, is leading to a growth in the number of Buddhist practitioners in the West.
Wilber, Ken (2006). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integeral Books. Print
Integral Spirituality attempts to provide a modern basis for spirituality, one that takes into account the many advances in science and the sweeping changes to human civilization. Wilber demonstrates the interface between the Enlightenment of the East which emphasizes higher states of consciousnes and the Enlightenment of the West which focuses on psychodynamic psychology. The author argues each are contributing to a new spirituality which moves beyond modernity and post-modernity.
Wood, Linda, August 2008). Contact, Encounter, and Exchange at Esalen: A Window onto Late Twentieth-century American Spirituality. Pacific Historical Review, V77, N3. Pp. 453-487. University of California Press. Journal
This article discusses the contributions of the Esalen Insitute of California, which was a hotbed of cross-fertilization related to spirituality, science and religion. The Esalen Institute drew upon the heavy East-West interface in San Francisco, providing leaders and participants from around the world the forum to share their scientific and religious beliefs. The author discusses the impact of the Esalen Institute upon modern religious and spiritual practice and development of new and shared symbols, memes and themes.