Friday, May 18, 2007

Small Wars: Religion in Warfare II

In response to discussions here and here.

I think we are fighting over semantics and, possibly, by trying to make the argument with short, simplistic points, we are missing the obvious connections between both arguments.

The first we can essay from an old cliche, "all politics are local." In layman's terms, people first care about what is important to them, close at home, that affects them personally. After that, their concern branches out to other sociological groups based on a number of factors from political, economic, ethnic and religious affiliations among the many.

Therefore, in order to know whether religion is a primary motivator in the community and needs to be addressed, we first need to know what "community" we are speaking about (ie, global, national, province, city, town, tribe, etc) and how that community views or practices religion and faith.

As I noted in my comment to Smith and here
(and emjayinc alludes to above) it is about who holds the power in the community, who are the mavens or opinion makers (Malcom Gladwell, Tipping Points) and where the mosque, temple, synagogue or church and its leaders sit in relation to secular powers in the community.

In short, is the mosque above, beside or below the local secular power broker or social organization? How deeply does it inform the opinion of the people?

Who, what and how you address these power structures depends on its prominence. Since counterinsurgency is about pealing away local support, addressing this power (political?) structure, secular or religious, must depend on first determining how it is organized and its power.

For instance, to drill down to a likely scenario we would find in the field in either Iraq or Afghanistan, if we approached a village where the local, secular power was either absent or weak (such as depleted tribal leaders, no mayor and no secular security structure) and the mosque was the center of power, then we would need to engage the leader(s) of the mosque. In the case of this mythical village, the mosque acts, not only as the guide in faith, but the political power, the economic and security power.

If we engage the mosque, we will engage it on the political, economic and security levels. We will avoid, as much as possible, engaging it on a religious basis for numerous reasons, but let us first explore why the political, economic and security aspects are just as important to the mosque as religion.

The mosque, if it is in anyway performing its primary responsibilities, has the imperative to maintain the faith of the people. In order to maintain this imperative, it must maintain it's secular wealth and power. If the mosque was no longer able to intervene in or provide jobs, it may lose some of its power over the faithful. If it could no longer provide for the poor because the local community could not afford tithing, it may lose some of its power. If it could no longer organize the village for security, it may lose some of its power.

Therefore, it has an imperative to maintain that power. If it can be engaged and we work through the mosque to provide security, empower it politically and economically, it may be induced to at least refrain from supporting the insurgency, if not join the counterinsurgency efforts.

Thus, emjay and Kilcullen would be correct in saying that politics, not religion, is the basis through which we should engage.

If the mosque and its leaders resisted, invoking religious duty from its followers, then we would still not engage it on a religious basis, but instead, seek to displace it either through strengthening an existing, weak, secular power structure or building one from the ground up.

We should, if at all possible, refrain from engaging in religious opposition, particularly, if we do not share the religion. Our authority on the matter is nearly non-existent. Secondly, acknowledging it gives it legitimacy as an opposing ideology and force, thus weakens the secular imperatives we wish to enforce and influence.

Third, if we openly declare our opposition to a religion or religious concept, however egregious we may find some concepts, we may (and will) cause those who might otherwise stay on the sidelines or be persuaded by secular desires and arguments, to join in "defense" of this ideology.

We should be educated by our own experiences within the our own society, when it comes to religion, it is a social minefield that can cause otherwise opponents to solidify in opposition based solely on their relationship as co-religionists. The very thing that AQ, AAS and the rest of the Islamist conglomerate wishes to achieve in order to consolidate their power and base of recruits to commit a larger war.

Not that they are not able to convince some of this very idea, but the extent of it is a delicate balance, on the international, national and local theater.

To finalize the earlier supposition, the way in which we engage or are forced to engage the mosque or religion on the local level depends on its status within the community (and, in counterinsurgency, we should always be thinking from the community up, not central government down). Thus, if the mosque exists at the leisure and expense of the local tribal or other power broker, it is this secular power broker we would engage.

If the mosque and secular power are equal in stature in the community, then we must either engage both on the same level or seek to empower the secular, local power or, if the secular power is the opposition, empower the mosque. All of this depends solely on the political situation on the ground.

To imagine that we should engage the religious nature of a community without the requisite moral authority , even as a proxy on its face, is the epitome of arrogance.

1 comment:

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/18/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.