21 May 2009
Engaging with Osama bin Laden in Swat
Guidelines for target acquisition by Special Forces
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This is a contribution to the unique conjunction of strategically significant factors in May 2009. These include the invasion of the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold, by the Pakistan Army assisted by US military advisors (SWAT Teams). This notably follows the unusual shift in US military strategy with the announcement on 12 May of the appointment of Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, reputed for his skills in directing covert operations and targeted assassinations in that arena. The region is recognized as being the highly probable location of Osama bin Laden, the person most wanted on the planet by the most powerful person on the planet. Inspired by the possibility of a Poetic Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran an unexplored strategic opportunity? (2009), the latter had held a poetry strategy session, in the guise of a "party" (Ewen MacAskill, Obama to host poetry party at White House, The Guardian, 12 May 2009), undoubtedly as a contribution to the "fresh thinking" and "fresh eyes" required of the new approach. It has only recently been recognized that Osama bin Laden is a skilled poet (Michael Hirst, Analysing Bin Laden's jihadi poetry, BBC News, 24 September 2008).
To assist in such rethinking, the period also saw the first appointment of a woman Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, by the principal ally of the US in the Afghanistan-Pakistan arena. In addition, the BBC is sending Simon Armitage, previously tipped for that laureate position. to the arena (BBC plans to send poet to Afghanistan battlefields, The Observer, 24 May 2009), The action in the SWAT Valley is in process of displacing millions of people -- all heavily armed with the unique poetic weapons of the Pashtun language. As a contribution to this engagement, and given the early British strategic learnings in that arena as part of the Great Game (on the North West Frontier), the following guidelines have been slightly adapted from one of the few relevant poems to emerge from British experience in the SWAT Valley, namely that by Edward Lear (The Akond of Swat)
The poem focuses on the local leadership in the former princely state of Swat. through the Akond (or Ahhoond). Given the challenge of locating Osama bin Laden, and his promotion of the Muslim faith, there is the strong probability of his association with that Muslim clerical role and its involvement in madrassas. The Akond of that time was a Sufi ascetic with a highly charismatic and warlike personality who united the Swatis. Of additional strategic significance at this time is the launch on 20 May of a long-range missile by Iran, immediately following the meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the nuclear threat of Iran. The fact that Akhoond is a Persian name for a Muslim cleric should reinforce, within the intelligence community, the strategic connection with the leadership of Al-Qaida. The poem, lightly adapted, focuses on the challenge of identifying (aka "profiling" for SWAT Teams) Osama bin Laden -- given insights from the original challenge of identifying the Akond in the period of the Great Game.
The poem reinforces the elusive and imaginary qualities associated with the Akond, the principality of Swat, Osama bin Laden, and -- by extension -- Al-Qaida. It has long been argued that Al-Qaida is itself more an idea than an organization, as conventionally understood and readily targeted -- perhaps better written as "Al-Qidea". Given the association of the Akond with the subtleties of Sufism, it is appropriate to note the possibility that both Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida may be primarily associated with other "dimensions" -- however these are to be understood. More conventionally this is, for example, indicated by the question of mathematician Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man: Can man live in three dimensional space? 1981), as discussed separately (Social organization determined by incommunicability of insights).
It is appropriate to note that the role of Akond (or Akhund) is linked to various understandings of Akhundism regarding the role of Islamic jurists with which the clerical role of the Akond is associated. These understandings characterize the mystical belief of the Twelvers in the twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imāms. The differences in understanding variously define the guardianship mandate of Islamic jurists in any rule by Islamic jurisprudence. There is however a major challenge to comprehension of any such spiritually significant set of twelve, as explored with respect to "Israel" (Generic Reframing of the 12 Tribes of "Israel", 2009).
These traditions may indeed imply a challenge of comprehending significance associated with more than three dimensions, as discussed elsewhere with respect to the 4th dimension (Engaging with Globality through Knowing Thyself: embodying engagement with otherness, 2009). This challenge is intimately related to that of self-reflexivity and mirroring, presumably with its strategic implications (Stepping into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns, 2008; Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criterion of species maturity? 2008). For those appalled by Osama bin Laden, is there a case for learning from the recent incident of Josef Fritzl, who also attracted universal opprobrium (Looking in the Mirror -- at Josef Fritzl ? Global conditions on reflection, 2009)?
Osama bin Laden's seeming withdrawal into the rocky fastness of the North West Frontier, evading over years the highest modern detection technology, is reminiscent of the Irish tradition of an ancestral race (the Daoine Sidhe) who "withdrew into the stones". This might be consistent with the contemporary interdimensional hypothesis articulated by J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallée. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden may be long dead, as argued by David Ray Griffin (Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? 2009; Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive?, Global Research, October 2009) [see also Mike Rudin, Is Osama Bin Laden dead or alive? BBC News, 9 January 2010].
Ironically the production of nonsense poetry by Edward Lear (Nonsense Books) constitutes a healthy reminder that things may not be what they seem and other factors may indeed need to be taken into account. Osama bin Laden may indeed be "located" in a place Where There is No Time and Nothing Matters (2008). Lear's focus on an array of questions points to the merit of further exploration of the cognitive complexity implied by the questioning process, notably in relation to the challenges of emerging strategic complexity (Conformality of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential psychosocial implications, 2006). In a self-reflexive context it suggests the possibility of his apophatic identity (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008).
A kataphatic identity for Osama would then be erroneous, suggesting the necessary strategic learning to be, as noted by Donald N. Michael (Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn, 1997), the "requirement to embrace error":
This would then raise a final question regarding the closure of the above poem:
Is it in error, or is it NOT?
Sam Alexandroni. Clerics and Elephants. New Statesman, 5 March 2009 [text]
Shaheen Sardar Ali. Emptied of its poetry - Swat: a laboratory for testing a bomb called 'strategic depth à la religious bigotry'. Let Us Build Pakistan, 1 February 2009 [text]
Douglas J. Feith and Justin Polin. The Sufis of Swat valley. LiveMint.com (Wall Street Journal), 25 May 2009 [text]
Haroon Rashid. Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pashtuns. BBC News, 21 February 2005 [text]
Robert Sampson and Momin Khan Jaja (Editors). The Poetry of Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pashtuns. Rahman Baba, 2005 [text]
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