There is a pecking order in academia. Particularly amongst those employed in “research-oriented” institutions of higher learning. “Hard” sciences—think biology, chemistry, and physics—always draw a winning card over “soft” sciences—like anthropology, political science and sociology. One set of professors wears white lab coats and draw large research grants…the other shuffles about in worn tweed sport jackets with leather elbow patches and begs for attention. No need to tell you who is in the former or latter category.
Well damn if that pecking order may be about to suffer a reconsideration. At least in General McMaster’s National Security Advisor’s office. You remember McMaster, the poor bastard who replaced Mike Flynn—the man previously fired for failing to run the worst-performing element of the US Intelligence Community…the Defense Intelligence Agency. McMaster, needless to say, was not filling “big shoes,” but he should have seen what comes next as obvious writing on the wall.
While we were all bore-sighted on Donald Trump’s latest Twitter message—wisdom in 140 characters, bet Plato would have offered thoughts on such “intellectual” truncation—wise heads in Tunisia were already starting to sweat return of the jihadi.[i]
Seems Tunisia—home of “Arab Spring” and a model for Islamic moderation[ii]–is now worried all those disgruntled youth who left to join ISIS are about to come home.
Nothing spurs a longing for mom’s cooking than a good ass-kicking from angry Kurds and flyboys operating at 15,000 feet. To bastardize the old WWI ditty—“Who doesn’t want to return to the farm once you watch Raqqah burn?”
Yes, Raqqah, defacto capital of al-Baghdadi’s new Islamic caliphate. Next stopping point for a bastardized coalition of US, Turkish, Shia and Kurdish militias. Forget the Iraqi army…they will stay out of Syria so as to have time for licking wounds suffered in a piss-poor attempt to liberate Mosul. And don’t expect any assistance from Assad’s troopers, they will remain huddled beneath Moscow’s umbrella—the bastard step children Putin will almost certainly leave out of his will.
All of which leaves Tunis between a rock and a hard place. Imagine trying to govern as your nation is flooded with war-grizzled jihadi looking for another place to realize their besotted ambitions. Best open the jail gates and commence police-state ambitions—or there will be riots in the streets. McMaster’s life just became that much harder. And all the “hard” scientists at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) won’t be able to save him from the consequences. Seems you can’t “beam” radicalized youth to another galaxy, you have to deal with them here and now.
Time to root out the anthropologists and sociologists. The Pentagon knows how, they did it in Afghanistan—called the enterprise Human Terrain Mapping. Just hope they kept some of the tweed jacket types on retainer.
This is the new battle for hearts and minds in al-Baghdadi’s Middle East…in his new caliphate. That which is lost in the physical world can be conquered in ideological debates among disenchanted youth. Don’t think the Tunisians have a problem?…go look up the 60,000 foreign volunteers who marched into the Spanish civil war—or the crazed Europeans now fighting with the Kurds.[iii]
Perhaps al-Baghdadi is right, that which is lost today may be won tomorrow. Ideas live forever—their realization is only a matter of time. Life imitates Osiris.