tv Graeme Wood Discusses The Way of the Strangers CSPAN June 1, 2017 2:21am-3:26am EDT
welcome to huber dc. i am then. is the mic on cosmic my name is ben. i'm the cochair of the working and the national security and law and in my other life i'm a senior fellow at the brookings institute and i run l'affaire which partners with huber on these. those of you have been with these before i want to give you a little heads up and we will do this one differently neither i
nor jack will be conducting the interview and the reason for that is that when i reached out to graeme wood to come talk about his book, the way of the stranger, he informed me that sam had already reached out to him and invited him to hoover to talk about his book. it was an example of the one arm not knowing what the other arm was doing so we did talk joined forces and sam is going to be our guest post of what we at law call the hoover book soirées and what hoover caused security by the book. as always, this event will be podcast it on l'affaire and as always security by the book events we don't take audience questions in the interview itself because of the podcast, i know last time that really upset somebody and i want to say
sorry, not sorry, that's the way the event works. you are all, of course, invited after the interview segment to talk to the author, ask your questions, and have him sign your book. with that i will turn it over to sam and to graeme wood who well, let me introduce them both briefly. sam is a distinguished fellow at for and is senior fellow at the hudson institute and teaches. seven, this is a remarkable book and this is the only thing i'll say about the book. i couldn't recommend it more highly and i was very excited that he was coming here tonight. your national correspondent, at 20 i believe he also teaches at the yale political apartment and with that i'll turn it over to
sam and thank you all for comi coming. >> thank you, then, for this introduction and for the opportunity to organize this event together. we are here to discuss a fascinating book and i can't recommend it enough. it's an excellent book that takes us to a deep journey to the world of the islamic state. not just in the battlefields of the rack in syria, not just with the affiliates in the philippines and it's a journey that takes the author to japan to meet the islamic states support there, australia, the united states to meet one of the key politicians for the group in america, to the united kingdom, to norway, to egypt, my home country and latin america seems to be the only place that the islamic state so far has not
gone to search for its supporters. >> none of the frequent flyer programs that i participated in have any route they go to any of the places there. that's the only reason. >> you do mention in the book that there is a potential, maybe, in the future, for the islamic state they are but you get to the future of the islamic state later. i think the best way is to basically start by asking you what brought you to this book. why about the islamic states prospective. >> first of all, i'm very grateful for not one but two invitations to speak your and therefore, doubly honored by that. the origin of this book in some ways -- i started writing it in the same moment of confusion that a lot of people shared when the islamic state to the city of mosul and explain itself in its
propaganda in ways that were illegible to many people who are reading about it in the newspaper. they were getting a glimpse of the maxine. finding that the claims that it was making that the nature of the islamic state was mysterious. what i found was that in some ways, it was confusing but it echoed some of the things that i'd heard from jihadists, islamists i had spoken to previously. so, my efforts, what i wanted to produce was something that would explain the origins of the ideas of the islamic state and to do that in a way that would also eliminate the psychology, the characters of the people were attracted to it. i wanted to produce something sort of like an islamic state or islamic version where it would show historically where these ideas had come from and the
variations on them that were reflected in the islamic state. as you say, it meant that i had to look for people who could speak to 1 degree or another in the voice of the islamic state. to my surprise, these people walk freely among us. especially, when i started looking for them, they were in places like melbourne, tokyo, oslo, london and they had not yet been rolled up by the law enforcement agencies in these countries. as a journalist, this was a shocking availability. here in the 2000, when covering the rack, the insurgency in iraq, of course, i would have loved to have an interview with. [inaudible]
and that was not possible at the time. it was not possible to speak to some of the people for the intellectual leaders or operational leaders of al qaeda whereas with isys because of the radical openness, the way that it had tried to pull people in for many different places that meant they were voices out there of people who were officially in some cases and usually unofficially spokesman for the group and that's what the book is, my going to be a spokesman and asking them than most naïve basic questions like who are you? what you believe? how did you get so far outside the orbit of normal human behavior and thought? why are you so weird to my surprise, they were, in most cases, real chatter boxes.
they just went on at great lengths and invited me into their lives. this is an account of those conversations. >> you describe them that you are looking the origins of the islamic state and where it came from and, of course, we've had a long history of jihadist groups both locally and in particular countries, the trans- national jihadist movement but the islamic state is very different. its appeal, its propaganda, everything about it is different. what makes it so different in a jihadist universe full of many different groups? >> i think there are a few things. in the political program that it proposes, the emphasis that it is shared by some islamic groups but is emphasized much more strongly.
the emphasis on secretary and differences, especially hatred of the shiite, this is something that is shared with some other jihad groups but is emphasized much more aggressively, the intolerance of the islamic state in general is something up and cranked up to a notch that's not been seen before. there's also something about the wide net that the islamic state has cast that really differentiates it as well. although, ironically, and paradoxically it has been very intolerant of different types of islamic interpretation but at the same time has tried to say that all muslims, even ones that disagree with it in some way, are both welcome to join it and obligated to come to it. it's the strange combination of vicious, violent intolerance and
open door, big tent policy toward muslims everywhere that has turned different from some groups that have come before. >> yet, we didn't take it seriously. it the fall of the major city in a rack to finally for us to take it seriously. the jv team, but quoted line from president obama, why would be so blind at recognizing the danger that the islamic state would pose very differently from the typical dangers that we knew from. [inaudible] >> i think i can speak as a journalist and a member of my professionalism, that we take our eyes off the ball. the reporting from say, mosul, in particular, the last time i was in mosul was 2013.
mosul fell in the middle of 14. i am not aware of any other journalists that were in mosul between the time that i was there and the time of the fall of the city. this is incredible. this is a major iraqi city that for that extended period, well over a year, was not being watched, had no foreign correspondents in its reporting on the softening of the city over time by the islamic state so that they can be taken by possibly a group of 500 fighters, in the course of a week. there is simply an attention that was part of it. there was also, simply, the fact that we were getting used to a particular mode of attack that we associate with al qaeda. we were getting good at stopping it. as you know, thankfully, no september 11th since september s country. it was, i think, a feeling of
comfort that we had learned to deal with this enemy. as a result, i think, complacency that stop us from seeing that it had changed in a way that truly stood the threat on its head and it was a different tactic, different strategy that needed to be met in a different way. >> one of them, perhaps most dangerous ideas that we encounter in the book, outside of the violence and the bluntness of it is the idea that the muslim cannot feel complete cannot live a normal life in a non- muslim society. the australian doctor which you quote says in his letter to the australian muslim physician i have finally returned home, a country that probably never seen
or knew but that was home simply because it was ruled by the banner of islam as proclaimed by the islamic state. of course, this id is hardly new throughout the middle ages we found the effects of the various schools of jurisprudence argue about not living under the muslim and the palestinians were obliged to leave the state so that they were not full by the muslims -- how do you deal with such an idea it's a very dangerous idea that you cannot be a complete muslim without living under the rule of sharia. >> as you say, this is as you say a conversation that has taken place over the course of hundreds of years and what the obligations are of a muslim in terms of migration to places
where he would be ruled by an islamic government. that really speaks to one of the difficulties in dealing with the attraction of the islamic state. it is not a idea that has been conjured by the islamic state and its supporters just in the last few years that muslims have a religious obligation to live in a country that is ruled in some way where the religion is reflected in the government. it is something that they can look to in the. [inaudible] along this course about these obligations. the very fact that when tariq, this australian doctor, who had no long personal history of piety or interest in this long discussion, the fact that isis could point to that discussion and say to him, look, historically, muslims have been
concerned about the temptation of living in simple societies, non- muslim societies. so, if you are a muslim don't you want to be part of the tradition that is part of your patrimony? and for a certain segment of society that is apparently a very persuasive argument, almost everyone i spoke to is the islamic state supporter said that some variation of this that they felt empty inside, somehow unfilled and unfortunately, there are very few remedies to this feeling of existential emptiness that can be proposed by outsiders like myself. >> it's striking that the sentiment is increasing at a time when the world is becoming more tolerant towards muslims. it's understandable. [inaudible] given the experience of muslims
in spain after the conquest and all of that but it's just more striking that the growth of such sentiment compared to the 1960s and 70s when the wave of immigration began from countries of north africa, turkey to europe and now with the coming of the major theme of a nation that you cannot be a complete muslim without living under the banner. >> yes, it is ironic that if you ask most muslims who are living in non-muslim countries would say they feel perfectly free to practice their religion and that's fine. now, when the islamic state began invoking this long discussion of where muslims are allowed to live they look to the examples you point to. they look to. [inaudible] moving borders that represented the frontier of islam and a real
question about where one places oneself as that borders shifts. they had to look to a point where the sting station is seemingly much more applicable in order to have that conversation and articulate that obligation. >> there's been a lot of arguments and discussion about the role of the internet and radicalization and recruitment for the islamic state. you dismiss that sentiment. you say that recruitment rarely, if ever, happens online if the local guy, someone that you look up to and that leads the way to you in the islamic state. if that is the case, why have we been so unsuccessful in confronting this? why haven't we been able to pick up these local guys early on and stop the radicalization? >> let me spell out why i'm so
dismissive of the social media aspect of this. it's important but it's not quite what people think. there are many people who have the sense that if you read the wrong feet then you start getting put in and the next thing you're on kayak looking for tickets to turkey and then despite having never met anyone who has anything positive to say about the islamic state, social media, has contaminated you irrevocably. that just seems not to happen. what happens it goes more like this: you know someone who went there. that person has individually said to you that this is what you should do to, stresses that obligation and then the internet is a way for you to self educate on these issues after having already been told that it's something you need to be thinking about. it's it's not an unimportant
aspect of the process but it's not the original contagion in almost any of the cases that i've seen or anyone else has tracked. there is one way that seems to be very important which is the recruitment of women. it's been much more difficult in the past to recruit conservative women who have been less abilities to leave the house, meet strangers and so forth where online there's been an important part of why a 15-3% of the roots to the islamic state. actually traveled have been women. >> interesting. this appeal of the caliphate, you described there was a caliphate of the echinacea and to which all of these people belong to long before they actually made the journey and went to turkey. of course, the collapse of the caliphate or the end of the caliphate of ataturk created an existential crisis in the world of islam.
immediately "after words" we had many claimants for the title. [inaudible] that caliphate revival was in india and tunisia and in the sense that this appeals a died or dwindled, even early on immediately after ataturk abolished it we have the serious criticism of the idea for the need for the caliphate. trained by the egyptian. [inaudible] why has this appeal returned? what makes the caliphate, in particular, so appealing to muslims living all over the world today? >> that's a great question. i would make one quick observation about isis view of the caliphate. one comparison that would be helpful to the movements that you just mentioned. i think it's fair to say, in most cases, they were looking back to 1924 with the abolishment of the turkish
caliphate. isis view things a bit differently. there has been some mention of propaganda of 1924 and the extinction of the caliphate then is one of the key dates but often you see them actually looking much further back to the moment of last caliphate validity, 1258, is sometime mentioned. >> are you telling me the egyptian caliphate doesn't count? >> i'm sorry to break it to you. [laughter] at one point in the magazine and mentioned that we have not sent a caliphate since 1258. this is a remarkable claim. it means that most of the people who have historically, if you go to the wikipedia page and list of caliphate most of them are apparently not caliphs according to the islamic state.
what they have found is that they can try to revive this concept which has been in a woolly way attractive to other groups in the past in what they consider the most rigorous, most intolerant way that they can imagine. i think, they would think of it as a true caliphate, a caliphate with a robust sense that hasn't existed for a long time. of course, that flatters their caliphate, obviously. it allows them to say that they are doing something of world historical, universal historical importance. >> the key thing of the islamic state is the shift is that his comic is that it's the only eight caliphs and then it's fascinating because then were going way before 1258.
ulster history, who comes out appearing to have fulfilled all the criteria of piety and application of law and it comes down to pretty much there've just been seven or so and there's more checkboxes before we get to the last one. >> despite the islamic state, many of its opponents have refused to call it back as a bold line of course but it's been constant more derogatory terms and there's an attempt to always refus refused to acknowle
anything related to religious matters and get as you point out it doesn't quote its propaganda. it relies on the particular interpretations by the centuries. why can't we acknowledge that aspect of religion having an influence there? >> purely on the issue of nomenclature as most of you know even with the name of word islamic is an acronym so it's not quite the distancing from the islamic label that some of the opponents would like. why is there a desire to distance? nobody that is a muslim wants to be associated with the groups that call themselves. they will try to slip.
the manifestation itself. >> that is a regrettable interpretation to say that it is the only way to be islamic. this points to the conclusion that we can find it by calling them islamic we are saying that it's implied we understand it to be implied if it's the right kind of islamic, then evidently we have a view of islam that is different from the view of christianity or judaism in that it can only be one thing. if we set a group is christian, we wouldn't be implied in that it was the correct version of christianity or the only version of. so i think that we would likely call it crazy christian group, a christian group and leave it to our imagination how diverse it
can be. the same thing with the appropriate of the state and we call it the islamic state. islam is not christianity and its formation may take a different shape. it's from the intellectuals and people in the west and the religious resolution best selling points. you don't have to face that much that would lead to the results that people expect.
>> we are using the word reformation in the same way that it would be used then no except with the ignorance of history we would have no expectation that it would be nonviolent. it is extremely violent, and my goodness, the number of times in my discussions with supporters, they would say things that had parallels with the reformation that ceased to surprise me when they found something new to bring up in that type of comparison. it's never comforted me to find that that was the parallel that was occurring. millions of europeans and the end of that conflict, the result after the exhaustion of the
continent by violence. in the reformation movement it's possible they could have the same kind of trajectory. martin luther also found that they wer were over enthusiastic supporters that were going crazy and putting people in cages and doing things he thought his movement had gotten away from. so we might think of it as you more akin to the leaders and rebellions and other far out reformation figures. >> one of the most fascinating things i found in the book,
in this dynamic between its various components. >> in some ways these are consistent groups. it is odd that someone that viewed himself as a purist and was teaching other people that he was sending me to someone who was going to be teaching me the wrong things. now, i think the resolution to that paradox is purely practic practical. he was exhausted with me. but if you spend days and days with someone trying to convert them, eventually you need to have someone else work on that
and that's what he did. he sent me to alexandria because he said that there were people who will pick up where i left off and they won't be the end of your education. but on basic matters, what you need to believe, what books you need to read, they are good enough for now and i think what this shows, and this is before the existence, there is again a kind of impulse towards having the conservative versions of islam where it is an organization that would happily accept. possibly dealing that person as a deviant or in the need of correction. they are happy to bring people in of different muslim stripes.
>> there was one listing the groups that would be acceptable in the territory under these expressed conditions that you were to be and it listed a remarkable group. why is it that they are technically permitted and i thought well, the societies are permitted. they are a subset that is sometimes considered a school in itself. in other words, they didn't really mean that part, but they were casting a wide net of other types of muslims that were acceptable because once you get there we will take care of the details later. >> they are happy to see it accepted by the islamic state.
a noticeable trend you describe is the nationalism. there is the idea that there is no difference between an indonesian and egyptian except as the prophets proclaim yet they have their own understanding of the caliphate that is basically shaped the conditions. they were supported in an australian waste of the japanese
diet that have gone to the islamic state, when we asked him the virtues of the caliphate, he listed some japanese things for respect of privacy and yes, they said the national health service of the state. this is awed and i think it raises some questions about how we can escape our origin. people that were eager to wipe the slate clean and go to a place that day themselves would have had zero community where everything is different and yet the things they were envisioning in this caliphate of their imagination was completely ordained by the places they were coming from. so that is part of it.
there's also with the islamic state a practical question that turned out to be interesting about what it means for a cosmopolitan society within this society that then takes everybody into the cultures so they are all one. if we go by some of the reports of what it's like on the ground has become a very contentious issue. when it is successful and appears to followers of the group saying we have come in all different cultures and abandoned a source of great annoyance so you will find relatively few that have gone to the islamic state. why is that, some of them have come back and reported instead of being handed tools.
they are candidate keyboard perhaps. there are some to be exploited where the ideals are not meant by that reality. >> since no one can escape the locality, i cannot escape line. i would have to bring up egypt in the conversation. it is a city that you described as ill mannered. they illuminate extremely large on the book. they make the journey on various
occasions working there for various periods, learning and teaching. why is egypt so important and central to the world of islamism and jihad at? >> there is a dominance in the world having the largest arab population at the center of the culture in many different ways so unsurprisingly that is going to have outside influence on the islamic state. there is also in more recent dynamics, an important issue after the square revolution there was a moment. it could be planned, the communities could be formed in
possible today as well. they eventually got together in reality so you mentioned some of the figures. they come to him and learn at his feet. it was sort of like we talk about how it was a safe haven for the islamist groups and it was intellectual safe havens where people could find their teachers and get the message o
out. then there woul there were alree communities that form loyalties and they could just come together in reality. >> throughout the book you are looking for a counter message. what can become a counter to the islamic state for the background or reentered in america and you've also described his arguments that they wouldn't have moved the islamic state supporters. i raise this question because as you know there has been a constant discussion in washington about choosing various groups within the world of islam against the more radical ones. we then had a discussion and you
bring these up saying that in some ways they are in the position to have an argument with the islamic states despite beating the ones that are in a sense always disagreeing on timing. what is the way to counter them? first, let me state why i thought this tremendously learned guy, someone that i would hope would be persuasive if i happen to doubt that he actually would be to people that are part of the target audience the argument he gave to me was essentially to say i've been studying islam for 30 years. this is a religion like other great religions that require time to understand them properly
and impl implied if also they wd spend 30 years studying and memorizing the islamic text in mauritania and dubai, they would realize this and you see the obvious problem, most people do not have 30 years to spend on these topics and also most do not have the attention span that would make that an attractive proposition. so i think it is unfortunate that there is no shortcut in time or the personality types of isis. what i think we could start looking at is what is it that has caused someone to decide that isis is the right way, part of it is this radical democratization of interpretation that was offered
saying maybe you've come to islam late in your life. you don't need t to feel that yu are forever handicapped by your rifle. instead, your arguments are right perspective if you spent 30 years to cultivate and perfect them. they would often say to me when i would ask, you disagree with most of the intellectuals from your tradition. and certainly with most of the people who spent decades studying these topics, they would say you invoked authority from the position and of time. these things we have been told by our prophet you must accept the judgment even if it comes from a six-year-old boy.
we have the correct interpretation even if we do not have the pedigree and the time and the grade that would make someone follow. so, i think they are vulnerable to arguments that empower them as the newcomers. that doesn't give us a love of tools to offer them off ramps. the reason i brought this up as you say it differs only in that it says now is not the time for the caliphate. someday we will do this, but you are jumping the gun. they share the view that interpretation is something an individual can do and the reading of scripture isn't something that needs to be mediated by about three decades of study.
it's something that a newcomer to the state can do and there's a scholarly tradition that one can refer to but the fact you can't read for yourself and powers you from day number one and i think that is going to be the only type of condition that will be appealing to the target audience. >> but it's not a complete democratization. it is a particular school you can look and there are limits to guide. >> it's been very important. they would always say they have
it right. it's not because they are old or because a few generations back people also like them. it's because of the arguments they hold, rationality. one of the hardest things to understand about the islamic state is the importance of the question at the end of times in their talks. you describe them into that narrative. it's what they will do next. why don't we understand that and why can't we utilize that?
>> they will show up where the scripture says they have to show up and stand. that isn't quite how they think of it. they've shown as they've lost territory over the years considerable interpretive creativity when things haven't worked out the way they said they would work out. but in this apocalyptic strain as being the ultimate source of incredulity from people who are secular people and have a hard time believing someone could believe in liberal terms this is how history would unfold. they bring up the fact that first this will happen and they name identifiable cities and
towns in the present day saying that after that, it's been said that this would happen first. i thought this must be a put on. you can't be serious if you think all of this will unfold like this. my incredulity was strained to be honest by how often i would hear it and the seriousness that people would describe these prophecies to me. every time i thought you don't really believe this. he's speaking about the islamic state that has done the following things and will do the following things. like i say, i don't think that is just going to open the playbook in a way that will allow us to destroy them but at
least having the ability to take what they say may counter. >> is talking up a sign that the end of times. the best-seller every kid had to read and the like. these were the most available books in the market. let me move to the future as we come to the end of the conversation. this is what it would mean the end of the islamic state would live on. you suggested a trip to the philippines looking at possibilities. it's been mentioned as a potential new ground for the caliphate. how do you see the future as it
continues to shrink. >> is a given that will happen. there are a few stages that will happen with interest. the larger more important city but it's been the capital. and that is where the families have been raised and the tens of thousands have gone to create a utopia. once that's the polls, we will see an explosion of information
for what the islamic state has meant to these people. it will be a horrific experiment for social security to see what does it mean for people that have devoted their lives and have given up everything to bring their families to a utopian community, what does it mean for them to see those prophecies destroyed for their eyes. it would be like a compound except on the scale of the whole city that is something we have to look forward to in 2017. it's not the new capital of the islamic state or that there would be a chuckle paradise version that people will go to although some have already tried to do that. but instead, what is the template of the islamic state when it tries to move into
territory that has designs on. and it is a pretty good case for that where they've looked for places like libya and nigeria and there is a pre-existing political discontent that it can produce typically attach itself to and then offer the squabbling pre-existing groups with the ability to band together and unify and accept the islamic state as the banner under which they will actually claim territory. unfortunately, the philippines is not the only place that this could happen. we could see them yemen and it's a fairly long list.
>> it doesn't have the same appeal. it's one thing to have them between. it is as i mentioned in islamic history. it seems to me you have to find somewhere in the middle east where it still matters. >> it doesn't have the same ring to it. it's more attractive although it is a very nice place in a way that i agree there has been an attraction to the isys caliphate
because of the geography that it commanded and the specific places as being prophesies to the greatest countries and greatest places where these apocalyptic showdowns will happen. so if it happens a lot, then it happened up there rather than starting out. i hope a lot of people that are perhaps on the fence about what they thought about going to the caliphate wasn't even consider instead of moving off to the
city. >> but the ending islamic state by its free nature has been a constant search for the methodology that can bring the dream to life. the failure of one methodology and group getting to the next one. in a sense, we thought the enemy that we were conferencing was only to wake up that day and discover the transformation. we continu continued the face oe enemy only to discover the transformation to the transnational. and that's territory of proclaiming the caliphate is no longer a successful one, what is the future, what is the new
trend for the new kids on the block that will be there that we would confront the next decade. >> i don't see a movement that will succeed and to try to outdo it. it would be a difficult margin to work on. instead we would want to look at how the states successors might rewind the strategies that were discarded in the state and perhaps claim they were discarded prematurely. al qaeda would be the perfect example of this. they have a moment right now where it can say we told you so.
it will look good briefly and then it will be destroyed which is exactly what they told all qaeda about september 11. there's a moment that they can say we are still around. we are still a threat and will try to revamp our strategy, but it was discarded prematurely so that is perhaps one of the directions that this is going. >> host: this was a fascinating discussion to say the least. it gives the audience a glimpse into depth of knowledge and formation and discussion inside the book. one of the things you keep reminding yourself is how you control your self in those interviews and you are meeting these people.
column on hugh hewitt, the radio talkshow host. that's coming up today. people schedule schedule is on book tv .com. now are going back inside to hear from the authors on syria. >> welcome to telling serious stories. my name is jeffrey and i'm a cultural writer for the los angeles times. i've been based in rome and berlin and is a cairo bureau chief. i've written two novels, shadow man and thomas surgeons. thank you for being here. in the strange times, strong journalism with good book and challenging ideas are critical.