It is a pithy, fact-packed, well-linked overview of “the Islamist Terror Threat”. Seven key takeaways are highlighted in this week’s product:
- “ISIS is fueling an unprecedented tempo for law enforcement authorities combating the homegrown Islamist extremist threat.”
- “ISIS’s global expansion has unleashed a wave of violence around the world – including against Western targets.”
- “Al Qaeda and its affiliates are regenerating their terror networks and capitalizing on power vacuums.”
- “Foreign fighters converging on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq pose a continuing threat to the United States and our allies.”
- “The massive refugee flows out of Syria remain vulnerable to terrorists seeking to exploit the crisis to infiltrate the West.”
- “Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred overseas continue to pose a threat to U.S. national security interests.”
- “The world’s leading state sponsor of Islamist terror, Iran, continues to sow instability and is poised to gain additional resources in the coming months as a result of sanctions relief.”
I hope this gives you a fair sense of the document’s scope and tone. If so, this is a comparatively quiet preface for what becomes a portentous cascade of approaching doom.
Earlier versions of the Snapshot have been sent to me. I have, however, previously chosen not to reference here. My reticence has been more aesthetic than anything else. The information provided is credibly-sourced. The cumulative effect can be powerful.
But I also feel manipulated. There is a sense of complexity concealed, complicated networks converted to straight lines, some dots connected by erasing other dots, whole categories expectorated.
Given that this is a report of the “Majority (Republican) Staff” there are certainly partisan points being scored. But most of us are now adept at filtering such obvious self-interest.
Much more troublesome, at least to me, is a pattern of facts being selected and framed (and excluded?) per a preexisting construct. Dogmatics instead of discovery.
But so what, isn’t this always true of all of us? Some sort of intellectual scaffolding is needed just to organize otherwise exploding experience. We are required to exclude in order to minimally comprehend.
Perhaps the problem — and this Snapshot is only one minor example — is that we can surreally confuse our tools (frames, concepts, theories) for the ground of being the tools are meant to plow, seed, cultivate, and harvest. We are as farmers so enamored of powerful high-tech tractors that we now challenge others to noon-time races, rather than tend our fields dawn to dusk.
Rather than ask, we insist. Rather than wonder, we disguise doubt. Rather than observe carefully, we argue loudly. I will confess, the sound of these engines roaring — the anger false or real, snide swipes, insistent self-righteous certainty — is for me less and less tolerable.
From near the close of Candide:
“Let us work,” said Martin, “without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”
The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man…
Out of context these lines are easy to misconstrue. In the very full context of Voltaire’s novel, to work together without disputing is to (at least) put aside intellectual preconceptions for honest observation and caring relationships, making our best effort to learn and do good on the basis of what we observe and with whom we are in relationship.