Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Abu Bakr Naji's Management of Savagery

Solitary Fireman Standing Amidst Rubble and Smoke
Ground Zero of Destroyed World Trade Center
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm currently reading a translation by William McCants (Fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point) of The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which The Umma Will Pass, by Abu Bakr Naji.

Naji is another one of those jihadist intellectuals like al-Suri, but he has a strategy for seizing territory (through fomenting chaos, i.e., "savagery"), establishing Islamic law (Sharia), and using that base to expand the realm of Islam (Dar al-Islam) yet further. He regularly contributed articles to the online magazine Sawt al-Jihad (The Voice of Jihad), which used to be published by the al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula until its publication ceased in October 2004.

Naji's book on managing savagery has garnered much attention since becoming available online, both in its original Arabic and in the English translation by McCants, as the following three online summaries indicate.

Stephen Ulph, in the online journal Terrorism Focus,Volume 2, Issue 6 (March 17, 2005), hosted by the website The Jamestown Foundation, offers a different translation of Naji's main title: The Management of Barbarism (Idarat al-Tawahhush), and he also offers a summary of the book's strategy, based (I presume) on his own reading of the Arabic original:

Published by the Center of Islamic Studies and Research (an al-Qaeda affiliate), the 113-page work 'Management of Barbarism' aims to map out the progressive stages of establishing an Islamic state, from early beginnings in defined areas in the Arabian Peninsula, or Nigeria, Jordan, the Maghreb [i.e., North Africa], Pakistan or Yemen, and its subsequent global expansion. The author is Abu Bakr Naji, a name familiar from his contributions to the Sawt al-Jihad [i.e., The Voice of Jihad] online magazine.

Naji's strategy -- as I noted -- is to begin by fomenting chaos, which he prefers to call "savagery" or "barbarism" (cf. Arabic Tawahhush). The pseudonymous blogger Quay Fortuna, at Armageddon Cocktail Hour (a blog name reminiscent of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), summarizes Naji's conception of this first stage:

Naji's advocacy of causing chaos in weaker states in Africa [aims] to provide a foundation for world domination -- a scenario played out in Somalia, for example. By creating civil war, Naji aims to destabilize regions and then have jihadists enter and provide security for desperate peoples -- in essence, by employing a manufactured heroism strategy.

Fortuna nails it with his expression "manufactured heroism strategy": Islamists foment chaos, then emerge as heros bringing stability. They then reconstruct society on an Islamic basis. See also Bruce Tefft's March 8, 2005 report, "Al-Qa'ida Book on Managing Savagery," at Isralert.

On 2 March [2005], "Irhabi3," a new member in Al-Ikhlas forum, [an online Islamist site that takes its name from a Qur'anic sura on monotheism (sura 112),] posted a link to a new book "Managing Savagery -- The Most Crucial Period to Be Faced by the Nation," by Abu-Bakr Naji. The 113-page book was published by the al-Qa'ida-affiliated Center for Islamic Studies and Research. In the book, Naji presented an elaborate plan for the recreation of an Islamic Nation, starting in limited areas, and spreading worldwide. He called for scattered small attacks against "enemy interests" to cause security disarray, seizure of power by the mujahidin, and establishment of the Islamic nation.
These three summaries cohere with my reading of the book thus far. Let's see what Abu Bakr Naji himself has to say. On page 26 of the translation by McCants, we find Naji's definition of "the management of savagery":
As for a detailed definition, it differs according to the goals and nature of the individuals in the administration. If we picture its initial form, we find that it consists of the management of peoples' needs with regard to the provision of food and medical treatment, preservation of security and justice among the people who live in the regions of savagery, securing the boarders [sic: "borders"] by means of groups that deter anyone who tries to assault the regions of savagery, as well as setting up defensive fortifications.

(The stage of) managing the people's needs with regard to food and medical treatment may advance to (the stage of) being responsible for offering services like education and so forth. And the preservation of security and securing the borders may advance to working to expand of the region of savagery.

Naji will break this down into a list in a moment, but first, we should note his conception of "savagery," found on page page 27 of the translation:

[The condition of a region of savagery] is more nebulous than chaos, in view of its corresponding historical precedents and the modern world and in light of wealth, greed, various forces, and human nature, and its form which we will discuss in this study. Before its submission to the administration [i.e., the management of savagery], the region of savagery will be in a situation resembling the situation of Afghanistan before the control of the Taliban, a region submitting to the law of the jungle in its primitive form, whose good people and even the wise among the evildoers yearn for someone to manage this savagery.
Naji implies that "savagery" is a Hobbesian state where life is so "nasty, brutish, and short" that people will willingly submit to the security offered by Islam's absolutist rule. Next -- and also on page 27 -- Naji lists the ideal form for meeting the requirements for managing savagery:

- Spreading internal security

- Providing food and medical treatment

- Securing the region of savagery from the invasions of enemies

- Establishing Sharia justice among the people who live in the regions of savagery

- Raising the level of belief and combat efficiency during the training of the youth of the region of savagery and establishing a fighting society at all levels and among all
individuals by making them aware of its importance....

- Working for the spread of Sharia science (putting the most important aspects before those of lesser importance) and worldly science (putting the most important aspects before those of lesser importance).

- Dissemination of spies and seeking to complete the construction of a minimal intelligence agency.

- Uniting the hearts of the world's people by means of money and uniting the world through Sharia governance and (compliance with) rules which are publicly observed, at least by those in the administration.

- Deterring the hypocrites with proof and other means and forcing them to repress and conceal their hypocrisy, to hide their discouraged opinions, and to comply with those in authority until their evil is put in check.

- Progressing until it is possible to expand and attack the enemies in order to repel them, plunder their money, and place them in a constant state of apprehension and (make them) desire reconciliation.

- Establishing coalitions with those with whom coalitions are permitted, those who have not given complete allegiance to the administration.

Thus does Naji set forth his strategy for seizing territory, establishing Islamic law, and using that Islamic base to expand the realm of Islam still further. How might this expansion take place? See John B. Dwyer, in "Know Your Terrorist Enemy" (February 22nd, 2006), who reviews the translation by McCants for The American Thinker and provides a possible scenario:

The plan: conduct "vexation and exhaustion" operations such as bombing tourist sites and oil facilities. This will create a security vacuum as regime forces concentrate at those places, which will then be exploited by terrorist cadres moving into unprotected regions or cities to take over day-to-day administrative duties .... Once established, these cadres will network with each other and "move towards a caliphate [i.e., an Islamic empire]."

We currently observe this sort of disruption occurring in a number of areas throughout the world where Islamic insurgencies are taking place (e.g., Mindanao, southern Thailand, Kashmir, and Chechnya). While insurgencies have local conditions, such as the one in Chechnya, where the Chechen people have long had nationalist aspirations against Russian domination, we see that Salafist Islam (i.e., the puritanical Wahabi version of Islam that we find in Saudi Arabia) exploits the local conditions in its efforts to globalize Muslim insurgencies.

But just as local conditions vary, so will local applications. As Trefft notes, Naji himself "discusses the subject ... [merely] in general, and only goes into details when absolutely necessary ... [otherwise leaving] the minute details ... to the experts and to the actual leaders in the field."

I've been assuming that this jihadist process will be undertaken in areas of what used to be called the Third World, but how might local application work in Europe itself, where demographic trends project large Muslim populations by mid-century? Expect Islamists to press for autonomy in Muslim dominated areas, to demand the right to apply Sharia in their own communities, to put pressure on non-Muslims to move out of Muslim areas, and to use intimidation to destabilize neighboring areas. Expect Islamists also to use radical versions of multiculturalism and local elections for political office as legitimate channels in pushing their agenda.

Will the Islamists find success? Perhaps not, but even if not, their failure won't come from lack of striving.

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At 12:29 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

The last part of your post strikes a chord with Sunday's Observer. Apparently, the UK is about to ban two "terrorist" organisations, one of which opposes murderous acts. The fear is more to do with intellectual terrorism and the threat of ideas. A secondary article looked at education in the UK. A "radical version of multiculturalism" is not the perceived threat, it is the retreat into single-sex and single-religious schools" where multiculturalism can become virtual, something taught and something that never works because pupils have no understanding of it. When this fails, is is feared that fundamentalist ideas will gain appeal. In the UK, as in the case of the 7/7 bombers and the communities where they came from, it was the failure of multi-culturalism (rather than anti-racist strategies)that produced a weak ideology which could then be exploited and replaced with something else. "Managed savagery" is a chilling term...as is the wish to exploit the vulnerable. It devalues Islam terribly and all the honest Muslims who practise civility. A post to reflect on!

At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on the accompanying picture, are you trying to imply that parties are attempting to destabilize the US in order to establish Islamic states within? Or was it just a random Al-Qaeda association with no significant meaning?

I'm not trying to flame, I just want to try to avoid approaching your commentary without jumping into an "us vs. them" mindset.

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

John B., I chose the photo for two reasons:

1) It shows the result of an archetypal Salafist Jihadist attack.

2) It rather effectively portrays an image of savagery.

As for Al-Qaeda's motives, I would say that they are mixed. While they would be pleased to see the U.S. turn to Salafist Islam (and in fact made some post-9/11 remarks about conversions to Islam spiking upward as a result), I doubt that they expect that anytime soon. Islamization would have to be a long-term aim.

The short-term goal would be more like what al-Suri describes: "resisting the occupation." In Bin Laden's view, the U.S. was occupying Saudi Arabia (due to the presence of American troops there) and was supporting the 'Zionist' occupation of 'Palestinian' land.

Crucial to understanding Al-Qaeda is to recognize that the organization has maximal long-term aims and minimal short-term goals.

Naturally, they would be happy to see their maximal long-term aims achieved in the short term, and some statements by Bin Laden implied that he thought that a succession of effective strikes at vital targets would bring the American economy crashing down -- perhaps producing the era of savagery that Abu Bakr Naji describes? Naji's text has been called "Al-Qaeda's Playbook," so we ought to consider that Naji's writing could reflect Bin Laden's thinking.

Anyway, these were some of my reasons for selecting this particular photo, a lone fireman, overwhelmed by the chaos around him in the aftermath of a Salafist Jihadist attack.

Thanks for the query.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, I'm not so familiar with the British context, so I don't know about the schooling issue. Do you have links to the Observer articles?

I used to think of myself as a multiculturalist but eventually came to see that what I really held to was not a vision of a multicultural society but of a multiethnic society. (My maternal grandmother was a quarter-Cherokee, so there's a personal element to this for me.)

I suppose that "multiculturalism" is a contested term and deserves an "if-by-whiskey" response.

If by "multiculturalism," you mean a fragmented society, Balkanized into mutually antagonistic communities, each one certain of its own superiority, then I am against it.

But if by "multiculturalism," you mean a society enriched by the presence of various cultural traditions within a context of equality before the law and respect for individual rights, then I am for it.

I don't mean you, of course. I mean 'you.'

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:26 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Sorry, I don't have links as the ideas came straight from the paper. By "multiculturalism" I mean your second definition. Your point is a good one about "multiicultural" or "multi-ethnic". Education goes for "culturalism" which really means a mish-mash, what is derisively termed the "steel-pans" and samosas" approach. By sharing a bit of everything, there is a belief that the whole will be respected. What I find disturbing is the intellectual power in what you describe. Islam is a persuasive religion. The weak educational ideologies that the UK possesses, especially in the deprived inner-cities, is not enough. What has disturbed the UK so much is that one of the 7/7 bombers was a teaching assistant in a multicultural area. His fanaticism was never detected. He could hold radical thoughts and yet pass through that world of innocents unnoticed. There is a fear that the "law of the jungle" can suddenly ignite...from beyond...and what might happen then if extremism provided the rational for a divided society. It happens in the UK in another form: the right wing has infiltrated poor White communities to provide an anti-foreign dream of liberation. What you describe is just another form of a seed already sown.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dan, don't paste articles on my blog. If you want to call attention to an article, suummarize its points and link to it.

I've deleted what you pasted under the heading "US Occupation Going According To Plan: The Jihadi Plan" and have linked to it at The Galloping Beaver, which is what you should have done.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

P.S. Just in case anybody is wondering, the "Dan" addressed in my note refers to none of the commenters above.

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone explain to me in what way ( except for the brand of religious madness) - the dialectics of the above book differs from the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion pathocracy?

Who the hell was the first one to adopt the machiavellian prescription?
Seems like Islamists are just catching up with the well known triad of creating problems (chaos) in order to offer own solutions... But they're just epigons of better masters of the art.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, are you suggesting that The Management of Savgery is as much a forgery as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

If not, then I don't see much point in comparing an authentic document with a forged one.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

however some tries, it will always be almost impossible to get a handle on the islamist and where are they really comming from.
Little knowldge of the cultural/historical and social context of the middle eastern political and religious discourse would always be the greatest block for any western mind when struggling with the modern islamic global resistence movement.
my sincere adivce give up lads and try your hands on something else more simple.

omer ibn hajaj

At 4:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Omer Ibn Hajaj. Perhaps I'll try my hand at something simpler, like subatomic physics.

Jeffery Hodges

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