Adam responds to some questions from his recent post. This is a few days old because I forgot to post it, but the info is still relevant:
Answers to Some of the Questions Raised in the Islamic State Post
Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
For tonight’s entry in (M)Ad Homonym Theater I wanted to try to answer a couple of the questions that were raised yesterday in the comments to my post on ISIL. The first of these will be BettyCracker’s question on the best way to break the chain of neutralization and drift. I want to approach this one very carefully. I am not applying this empirical theory in a very systematic way. Rather I had been asked, back in 2010, by someone I was providing support for with the Department of Defense (DOD), if I could provide a socio-cultural explanation for why we had a small number of Muslim-American and Anglo-Muslim youth suddenly trying to get to Pakistan and Afghanistan to join al Qaeda (AQ), as well as a small number who actually made it to Somalia to join al Shabab or to Yemen to join up with the AQ affiliate there. When I dug into the news’ reporting on the four or five youth that were stopped from going to Pakistan/Afghanistan – I think they were from the DC suburbs – and the ones that made it to either Somalia or Yemen, what struck me was the similarity to what Sykes and Matza had theorized. The more recent examples with ISIL and the other Syrian rebel groups, such as the one that Anne Laurie wrote about last night, also strike me as good examples of neutralization and drift. Essentially, I’m eyeballing it…
Now that the caveats are out of the way… There have been a number of attempts to incorporate solutions rooted in neutralization and drift into either crime reduction or delinquency diversion over the years. Some of these are built into the concepts of restorative justice, as well as many other programs, which seek to reinforce established norms in order to prevent techniques of neutralization from leading to drift. As one might imagine, and as with a lot of the attempts to translate criminology’s vast empirical explanations for crime, deviance, and delinquency, we are a lot better at diagnosing or explaining the problem than we are at prescribing solutions to them based on our theoretical explanations. Where I see the possibility of utilizing the recognition that we are observing a form of neutralization and drift is to connect it to engagement with communities – leadership, other elites and notables within the communities who could function as role models, and as many other community members that can be reached – to counteract the most likely neutralization techniques. There are five of these, but the three that seem to be most likely in play here are: denial of victim (retribution against perceived injustice/the victim had it coming), condemnation of the condemners (action against perceived hypocrisy), and appeals to higher authority (religious, ideological, etc). According to Sykes and Matza, using these techniques provide one with episodic relief from conformity to norms allowing for drift. As a result the solution is to try to remove the salience and validity of these appeals and provide other, more acceptable, and less negative and destructive outlets for periodic forays away from conformity.
Linnaues asked what I meant by reactionized. When I was in grad school I was exposed to writings on ideology that broke up the spectrum (from Left to Right) as Radical; Liberal with breakouts for Classic, Economic, and Social; Centrist (moderate is often used here); Conservative with breakouts for Economic, Social, and/or Religious; Authoritarian; and Reactionary. Moreover, the best way to graphically display this was to use a horseshoe with the two ends actually closer to each other than they are to the center, rather than as a left right continuum plotted along a line. Since then I have read a lot of other things that provide even better and more nuanced explanations of ideology, such as Professor Robin’s and Professor Altemeyer’s work, but what always stuck with me was how reactionary was defined as the belief in an imagined golden age in the past and the attempt to reconstruct it in the present. This was contrasted with radical, which is the belief in an imagined, better future and the attempt to create it in the present. In both cases one could attempt to achieve one’s utopia, whether of the past or future, violently, non-violently, or as a combination. When you look at the type of Islam that is propagated by the hardcore believers within ISIL, or by bin Laden or Zawahiri, what they are promoting is a return to an imagined, glorious past. The reality of that past is not what they have bought into. However, they think it was how they conceptualize it and believe that they can recreate it. Most problematic – they are willing to use force to get there. I hope that clears the usage question up.
Suffern ACE: Sorry I was unclear, my worry is for the Muslims who have come from Europe, more than for those who have come from the US as 1) there are much more of them and 2) Chechnya is in Eastern Europe, so there is a proximity concern as well.
Villago Delenda Est: Yes, ISIL is one of the negative effects. The only Islamic extremists in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were in his prisons or those from other states he was sheltering for his own foreign policy purposes. He did not tolerate religious extremists within the Iraqi populace as they were a threat to his dictatorship. He was, like the rulers in many other parts of the Middle East, more than happy to fund them where they would be someone else’s problem, but he was ruthless with them when they were found within Iraq. ISIL grew out of AQI, which developed in the social, political, economic, and security vacuum that we created in Iraq.
Chris: Some of the Awakenings folks were able to form political parties or join Ayyad Allawi’s coalition and get into either provincial government positions or into the Iraqi parliament. A lot of them, however, were rolled up. When I was in Iraq in 2008, as the US was getting manipulated on how the provincial elections were going to be done, PM Maliki was regularly rolling up or trying to roll up Awakenings groups that were involved in fielding candidates for those elections. I remember reporting in Iraqi and regional news on these operations for Awakenings folks in Wassit and Diyala Provinces (My brigade’s operating environment was in between the two). Moreover, because Iraq belonged to the Iraqis and we were beginning to transfer sovereignty by mid 2008, we began to transition control of the Sons of Iraq to the Iraqi government. As many as possible were supposed to be incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces, this never really/properly happened. At the same time PM Maliki was setting up his own version that would be loyal to him as part of the attempt to coup proof himself. The Awakenings and Sons of Iraq folks are still in Iraq. They are the tribal Sunnis and some of the tribal Shi’a. A good deal of the tribal Sunnis are exploiting ISIL to get back at the Iraqi government, which they perceive as anti-Sunni. Others, such as the ones who won political office in Anbar Province, have made public appeals for US help against ISIL. AQI, ISIL’s progenitor, really mistreated the tribal Sunnis. They attempted to both impose their understanding of Islam and short circuit the kinship relations. This worked in Afghanistan, because kinship dynamics under the Pashtu do not look anything like those among the Iraqis. It also worked because religion and kinship were not blended in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq – many of the sheikhs I did engagements with are also imams. Members of the Anbar tribes have long memories…
Mnemosyne: actually I did type it quickly and did NOT proof it properly before sending it across. I promised John I would get it to him yesterday morning. I had a 1:30 PM meeting that was an hour away and was rushing to meet both the commitments I had made. And as is the case with anything anyone writes: it is always easier to catch other’s errors than one’s own; especially, when one is working in a hurry. You are not incorrect that clean writing or precise writing should have few, if any errors – factual or stylistic. However, the homonym errors that so assaulted your senses are some of the most common ones made when working in haste. As for my dissertation, two theses, and every report, assessment, research note, etc that I do professionally, I usually write them in crayon on construction paper. Actually, I have two or three folks proof them for me to make sure I do not miss anything. That’s just good practice. What always amazes me is when we all manage to miss one little thing. Apparently each of us are not as dumb as all of us combined…
* Adam L. Silverman most recently served as a civilian subject matter expert with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Security Dialogue and US Army Europe. Prior to that he was the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College from JUL 2010 through JUN 2014. He was deployed in Iraq as the Cultural Advisor for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division in 2008.