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Failing the Manwaring paradigm: Surprise over jihadist targeting Muslim oil transport and refinery assets


The wide surprise over the public posting of a two year old jihadist document sanctioning the targeting of Muslim oil transport and refinery assets is a failure on multiple levels:

  • Failure to read already published jihadist strategy documents
  • Failure to see the rising capacity of the "new jihad"
  • Failure to transpose the value to insurgents of attacking Iraqi electrical and oil infrastructure to other Muslim "near enemy" regions
  • Failure to grasp the value of a "twofer" attack against a neutral or "near enemy" state in which the attack damages the local apostate government while damaging US and European firms indirectly -- where an attack on US soil would be prohibitive
  • Failure to understand the impacts of the Manwaring paradigm to both attacker and defender

In June 2004, I addressed an infrastructure attack in Exceeding $100 USD a barrel in a stroke: attack Ghawar, Abqaiq, and Safaniya which drew on three items by John Robb at Global Guerrillas:

In March 2005, I noted the rising sophistication of jihadist strategists in Jihadist strategy formulation reaches maturity, uniting tactics, fulfilling doctrine to address grand strategy rather than mere tactical assault methods. The Management of Barbarism specifically "outlines future desired 'crusader and infidel' targets within and outside current Islamic lands, i.e., soft targets, economic interests, and petroleum facilities." Anyone not aware that petroleum pipelines, refineries and tideside shipping assets was ignoring a variety of jihadist websites and high street press articles, one of which is Alexander Zaitchik's It's the Pipelines, Stupid: How to bring down a giant, one blood vessel at a time., 27 January, 2005.

Robb has also done two more post-Abqaiq items of note:

The Manwaring paradigm is extraordinarily useful in understanding the threat and opportunity in Low Intensity Conflict (LIC)  - "Political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states... Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications."

In asking "Why has Islamist extremism been so pervasive, so easily franchised, and so difficult to extinguish?", Sherifa Zuhur observes that a "new Islamist discourse, produced by the Islamic awakening (sahwa Islamiyya) since the 1970s, has influenced and been influenced by a "new jihad," which has coalesced and evolved since the mid-1980s and 1990s. The new jihad, in turn, qualitatively has affected the capabilities of extremist leaders and the behavior of combatants."

Zuhur describes a New Jihad that is capable of strategic grasp, tactical excellence and rapid response to asymmetrical countermeasures:

It posits a World Islamic Front, promoting and aggrandizing battle against Western nations and local "apostate" governments, without sparing civilians. Members of this Front may appear at will... No-one need carry a card, or provide the authorities with recordings of cellular telephone calls to Afghanistan or Pakistan; instead... "they need to understand, al-Qa’ida is inside [in the heart]."

It is malleable and opportunistic, utilizing new types of alliances. Groups who aim at the "far enemy" (the United States, other Western nations, and Israel) may ally with groups seeking local autonomy, or with moderates.

It is not anti-modern. [Skipping philosophical underpinning] We can see quite clearly that today's jihadists are Western trained and possess technical and analytical skills. They use the Internet, cellular messaging, chat rooms and e-linked faxes more adeptly than larger organizations with physical recruitment centers. The pathologizing of terrorism causes us to say that their minds "work differently" than ours - when the issue is really one of different values and disassociative techniques. In other words, the jihadi believes, or convinces himself, that his immoral acts of violence are moral, but this in no way impairs the modern logic patterns of his brain.

In the face of this adaptation, what have we done beyond largely conventional applications of force of arms?:

The US has not taken stock of all the knowledge previously acquired about Islamist terrorists. Why not? 1) They have been too busy facing insurgents every day and simultaneously attempting to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq. 2) Those of us on this side of the great water have been too busy squabbling about whether Islam or "Islamic culture," as opposed to Islamist miscreants. Our lack of clarity is in part due to political factors; the stakes are high, if one teleologically addresses the issue, stronger arguments may be made for particular recommendations as opposed to others; and, 3) security studies, gravitating to current conflicts, had ignored regionally-produced assessments of Islamist threats. It seems they are too laden with detail, too bound by the specificities of particular movements to reveal, or expose the strategies of smaller-scale threats and relevance of local regime responses.

Yet we've had masters such as Max Manwaring repeatedly explaining that "the ultimate outcome of any counterinsurgency effort is not primarily determined by the skillful manipulation of violence in the many military battles that take place once a war of this nature is recognized to have begun." What has become the Manwaring paradigm rose as the SWORD model in the late 1980s.

The SWORD model states "that even though every conflict is situation specific, it is not completely unique [i.e., that] there are analytical commonalities at the strategic and high operational levels." The SWORD model is symmetric, applying equally "for a besieged government and its allies, and for a violent internal challenger and its allies." A series of dependent variables "determine the success or failure of an internal war" and may be "considered "wars within the general war." Every successful strategy on either side of the conflict spectrum has "explicitly or implicitly taken into account all the following strategic dimensions - or wars within the general internal war":

(1) a legitimacy "war" to attack or defend the moral right of an incumbent regime to exist; (2) a more traditional police-military "shooting war" between belligerents: (3) "wars" to isolate belligerents from their internal and external support; (4) the closely related "war to stay the course" - that is, the effort to provide consistent and long-term support to a host government; (5) intelligence and information "wars"; and (6) "wars" to unify multidimensional, multilateral, and multiorganizational elements into a single effective effort.

Protagonists violate the Manwaring paradigm to their peril, but perhaps one can excuse lay readers in missing the likelihood of oil field attacks. Consider Phil Battaglia (also here) casting his Iraqi experience in the Manwaring paradigm, observing that "coalition efforts are hampered by a lack of host government legitimacy, inability to limit outside support to the insurgents, weak host country military actions, and lack of unity of effort at various levels."

At every level, we have to recapture preeminence in executing the Manwaring paradigm. Our adversaries are ever expanding their capacity and their willingness to push the envelope. Closing with Zuhur:

The new jihad has broken with classical doctrines of jihad and "the law of nations" (siyar) as well as Muslim modernist or reformers' reconstructions of jihad in the 19th and 20th centuries. The classical doctrines of jihad specified the most permissable form to be between Muslims and polytheists or unbelievers waged "in the path of God... " However, strict rules applied to jihad; under the siyar, the Muslim "law of nations," it might be an individual duty as opposed to a collective duty, and was differently governed if it applied to land controlled by Muslims or non-Muslims. Ethics and rules of conduct were meant to limit brutality and the cycles of vengeance it could unleash, and yet we see today's jihadis engaged in vicious kidnappings, beheadings, and wide-scale attacks on civilians that would be forbidden under classical understandings of jihad.

Saudi Qaeda idealogue sets rules for oil war-Web
Mar 2, 2006 10:50 AM GMT

Document: al-Qaida Encourages Oil Attacks
Associated Press/Guardian (UK)
March 2, 2006 4:31 PM

Al Qaeda idealogue sets rules for oil war
Daily Times (PK)
March 03, 2006

By Andnetwork .com
Sapa-AP /rm
March 2, 2006

Saudi Oil Facilities: Al-Qaeda's Next Target?
By John C.k. Daly
Terrorism Monitor
Jamestown Foundation
Volume 4, Issue 4 (February 23, 2006)

Interview with Glenn Zorpette (Re-engineering Iraq)
NPR Science Friday
February 10, 2006
The hour starts with a medical discussion and then proceeds to Zorpette

Re-engineering Iraq
By Glenn Zorpette
Executive Editor
IEEE Spectrum
Feb 2006

Sherifa Zuhur
Publication 636
ISBN 1-58487-225-0
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
December 2005

Warding off Violence
Oxford Business Group
Kuwait, Volume 23
June 21, 2005


Article 5
May 13, 2005

America's Irregular Enemies - XVI Annual Strategy Conference
USAWC 16th Annual Strategy Conference titled America's Irregular Enemies: Securing Interests in an Era of Persistent Conflict
Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA, 12-14 April 2005.
Listed panels and available briefs for download

A Dozen Osamas: Islamist Threats and the Future of Counterinsurgency
Sherifa Zuhur
(Draft. Contact author for updated drafts,
Presented to "America's Irregular Enemies: Securing Interests in an Era of Persistent Conflict," U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Strategy Conference, 4/12-14, 2005

AL-QA'IDA BOOK ON MANAGING SAVAGERY source: Isralert subscriber/intelligence analyst Bruce Tefft
Source-Date: 03/08/2005

How to bring down a giant, one blood vessel at a time.
By Alexander Zaitchik
New York Press
Volume 18, Issue 4
1/26/2005 - 2/1/2005

The Manwaring Paradigm and the Iraqi Insurgency
Phil Battaglia
Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement
Volume 12, Number 2/Summer, 2004, pp 37-51

Max G. Manwaring
ISBN 1-58487-087-7
Publication 292
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
April 2002
If you must, a lighter version is here

Max G. Manwaring
Studies in Asymmetry
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
ISBN 1-58487-068-0
September 2001

Lethal Airpower and Intervention
By Mark A Bucknam
School of Advanced Airpower Studies
Air University
Maxwell Air Force Base
June, 1966
Neither Original or FAS mirror is responding
Cache retrieved on Feb 6, 2006 00:12:26 GMT

Joseph N. McBride
April 30, 1993
NWC IRP 93-004

Low-Intensity Conflict: Old Threats in a New World
Edwin G. Corr and Stephen Sloan, eds.
Westview Press, 1992
Review by Ernest Evans

Gordon Housworth

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