Tuesday, 10 June 2008

This is not a rolling news service

David Thompson reads The Guardian so that I don't have to.

I used to read it, in the days when they were a bit clearer on the need to stop murderous dictators. In those times however, the story was of the West's failure, a tale that fitted very well with the paper's world view.

I still read The New Yorker, but not every issue. This story I'm glad I saw, Lawrence Wright on dissent within the radical Islamist movement. He's written a lot of other good pieces for the magazine in recent years. An interesting one in connection with the most recent article is a short item from 2006 on the relationship between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the main Al Qaeda leadership. Longer articles by Lawrence Wright that stand out in my memory are a profile of Al Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri from 2002, and an article about how Islamic terrorists use the Internet from 2004. 

The debate within Islamism on the use of violence, described in his most recent piece, takes place in part via the internet as well as in books, pamphlets and newspapers. Another old New Yorker article underlines the centrality of media networks for Al Qaeda, a 2006 article by George Packer on David Kilcullen. The centrality of media networks to Islamist terrorism suggest that dissent within the movement may be highly significant, in that it can spread via the same means.

Also written by George Packer in 2006 was The Lesson of Tal Afar, about a successful US counterinsurgency operation in one town in Iraq in 2005. That operation served as one of the models for the surge of 2007, and the officer in charge of it, Colonel HR McMaster, is interviewed in a clip available here. Highly recommended viewing.

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