Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Eschatology and intelligence

After viewing a documentary on Musab al-Zarqawi last night, I woke up this morning with a thought about Eschatology - the knowledge or doctrine about the final days of earth - and Intelligence.

It seems that Eschatology has become a new factor in world politics that intelligence analysts must take seriously. That is, it seems that with the rise of militant strains of political Islam there are forces whom seems to be spurred onwards by the thought about bringing about the final days and the rule of God.

I have already written about the Iranian president Ahmedinejad (all Danish experts I hear pronounce it "Achmedine-shot") and his alleged connections to a sect coveting the return of the 12th Imam. Furthermore it seems to be a desire for the final days that drives Zarqawi as well. The attack on the Shiite shrine in Samarra as well as the attacks on foreign troops and "collaborators" seems to denote a nihilist disregard for all others than Sunni moslems.

But how can eschatology be understood when doing an intelligence analysis?

First of all it can be understood literally: that we really have large groups of people who long for nothing more than total apocalypse, so that the new God-state can rise from the ashes. This really leaves intelligence analysis with some very grim outlooks. How do you do battle with people who longs for death? It doesn't help to kill them it seems.

Secondly it can be understood as a desire that will eventually crumble in the meeting with reality, namely privileges. When you have something that you care for or that you want to maintain, you are less likely to dream for the total destruction of everything. This was the strategy that was used around Europe to contain socialism and the workers' movements. If you bestow people privileges and power, they are less likely to topple the system that grants these privileges.

Third, the eschatologism can be seen as a rhetorical strategy. By aiming for the end of days in your official ideology you scare your enemies and gives your followers a clearly defiable goal to strive for. However, the political agenda must very different from ending it all - there is no idea in political manouvering if it is to destroy political life itself.

I know that there are studies, theological and otherwise, about eschatology and that the American far right as well as the Danish (far) right has been analysed that way. An obvious rhetorical and strategic task lies in that study.


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