More on Dave Kilcullen vs. Smith

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

My very astute reader, Dominique, has left a smart and sweeping comment on my article Religion and Insurgency: A Response to Dave Kilcullen (which is followed up by article Smith Responds).  The response is important enought to warrant its own article.  The comment is published here entirely.

Just for the sake of clarity, let’s continue this a bit further.  I do not advocate – and have never advocated in anything I have published – that we expend attention, resources, effort, largesse, or the time of our armed forces to attempt to (a) change the minds of adherents of Islam, (b) tell Muslims what the Quran says, (c) evangelize Muslims, or (d) war against Muslims because they are adherents to Islam.  I am not charging you with this misunderstanding, but some of the commenters have made this error, failing to read my prose with a clear head and open mind.

My basic presupposition has been that there are some insurgents who are religiously motivated, mainly because they have told us so (and this, not in communications to us, but communications to themselves such as the letter from al Qaeda high command to Zarqawi that we intercepted).  This fraction is less than unity, but greater than zero.  For the sake of argument, I am willing, even, to grant my detractors the point that this fraction (FR, or fraction that is religiously motivated) is less than unity by a non-trivial amount, even though I am not sure that this is the case.  For this fraction FR, whether right or wrong, their hermeneutic forces them to do what they do under the rubric of religion.  For FR, religious commitment is more important than security or largesse.  Therefore, FR will not be amenable to our efforts at WHAM (winning hearts and minds).

The other insurgents (fraction not religiously motivated), FNR = 1 – FR, will be amenable to WHAM under this formulation.  It pays to understand enough about the culture and religion to know how to ascertain which schools of thought the fraction FR represents and how we might identify these subsets up front.  For example, given the religious motivation of Ansar al Sunna, it is a good bet that they are in the category of FR.

This is a simple formulation, and one that I think makes good common sense.  The readers and commenters who think I am calling for a holy war are reactionary, stolid and mentally dense.  Again, Dominique, you are not in this category, but some of my readers have been.  For those readers who are in this category, I can only say, please, try to keep up with me as the conversation advances and moves forward.  You’re slowing the train down.

Kilcullen, on the other hand, has proposed that there are no insurgents who are religiously motivated, and thus arrives at the conclusion that all insurgents will be amenable to efforts at WHAM.

The differences are fairly clear, and the reader can make up his or her own mind.  In the future, I will publish another article that discusses the published U.S. military doctrine concerning religion and insurgency and how this changed in favor of the more secular view after the events of 9/11.


You are currently reading "More on Dave Kilcullen vs. Smith", entry #521 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Religion,Religion and Insurgency and was published June 13th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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