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


Ahmedinejad II: The Doomsday Scenario

The Shiite branch of Islam is a fascinating, catholic religion - brilliantly and insightfully described in Roy P. Mottahedeh's "Mantle of the Prophet", which is part fiction, part facts (Oversat i en fremragende udgave til dansk "Profetens Kappe. Lærdom og Magt i Iran." (København, Forlaget Vandkunsten, 2005 - tak Laura).

It features a messianic figure, the 12th Imam, who disappeared around the turn of the last millenium, but is said to return and bring an era of righteousness.

This week in the danish weekly Weekendavisen, it is speculated that the Iranian president Ahmedinejad is supporter of an escatological cult of revellers of the 12th Imam and that he foresees the return of the Imam in 2007, during his own presidency.

This is not exactly an element that fits well with the more rhetorical/realist analysis that I have launched on this page, but it is an interesting (however paranoid and scary) thought. When you think about it, when have those escatological cults ever had any political influence for real?

Another observation of the article by Rasmus Christian Elling, however, is that Ahmedinejad belongs to the generation of Iranians who fought Iraq in the 1980s and that this generation, militarized and tired of the appeasement towards the west of prior governments, now are getting into control.


Den store prins

Fra Maltes Spalte (Universitetsavisen)

"...Og så skal gruppeeksamen snart afskaffes! Du er ALENE! Og så til jul!


What is President Ahmedinejad doing? A sketch for analysis

Today it struck me that the recent statements by Iranian president Ahmedinejad are a very interesting object for a rhetorical and political analysis. However, busy as I am with christmas and dissertation, I will only draw up some basic elements for a further analysis - hopefully I'll get back to it sometime after New Year. If you have some brilliant insights over the Christmas-duck, please don't hesitate to comment.

He has stated a number of quite controversial things, mostly concerning Israel and jews but also a number of actions could be seen as symbolic communication as well as perhaps more practical matters.

December 2005: Statement: Holocaust is a myth
December 2005: Statement: Move Israel to Germany/Austria
Statement: Wipe Israel off the map
Replaced a lot of moderate diplomats around the world
A reputed purge of opponents in the administration

The situation
Iran is in a tight spot at the moment. A disenfranchised youth and general population has given up on political reforms, it seems, as well as the external pressure has risen after the US has label Iran as bad boys. The nuclear programme still strikes up quite a fuss, but it is probably seen by many as a right and a plight of the Shia-state, along the lines of the notion of the "Islamic Bomb" that Pakistan built. The trouble in Iraq has proved a mixed blessing for Iran, providing influence on the southern parts, but potentially destabilising Iran itself and inspiring its Kurdish minority. At the moment the country is at a low-point of its relations with the western world.

The man
Ahmedinejad (or Ahmadinejad whichever source you use) is known as a hardliner, even more hardline than the clergy that was deemed quite conservative and stiff during the previous president.

Seen from a rhetorical/political perspective a hardliner seems to have a number of communicative/symbolic duties to perform: He has to reaffirm his firmness, he has to inspire confidence in the hard line and - preferably - he will have to show results without pushing the country into a less diserable position.

The plot
So what is he doing, then, anoying the entire international system and seemingly sticking his cheek out for a retaliatory blow one way or the other?

Initially it would seem that Ahmedinejad is consolidating his position internally by creating agonism, opposition to Israel. Knowing quite well that there is cheap points to be had here, he exploits the palestinian cause as men such as Ghaddaffi and Saddam Hussein before him. Furthermore he knows that he is already in a bad position with the outside world, so short of a war he can't really lose anything. Therefor the more belicose utterings might be designed to put him in a better position when negotiating the atomic issue in the future. If the west fears a steeled Iranian leader, they might be more inclined to give consessions. This analysis would hold more true with the EU case than the American one.

If this initial analysis is right, it would be a logical next step for him to open negotiations. Preferably in secret, so that he wouldn't lose face if they went badly - and so that he could present a fait accompli to the international society. We here remember the shop-worn example of Nixon (another hardliner) and his remarkable opening to China.


State and Local Intelligence in the War on Terrorism

A new and interesting(looking) report from the good people at RAND: State and Local Intelligence in the War on Terrorism - explores how regional intelligence departments can aid the federal effort.

The strategic ... conscript

As you all know, the USMC general with the bad-ass name, General Krulac, has written on the Strategic Corporal - a realisation that in today's media saturated society a NCO and the decisions he take can have a major impact on the strategic level.

Today we see an example of the Strategic Conscript, as a Danish former conscript in Danske Artilleriregiment in Skive, who has written a coloumn for the Danish paper Politiken, accusing an officer of lecturing in POW treatment by saying "Shoot them instead of taking them prisoner".

This is of course a wrong statement to make, one that reveals that particular officer's lack of chivallery - but it is not surprising. It is the kind of thought that is rampant in SOFs, as well as among the more cynical officers (though I must admit I read it as if he has urged the conscripts to shoot straight before they get into a situation where they can take prisoners, not to shoot prisoners).

However this becomes a 'strategic' problem when it is revealed by a conscript, an unblemished son of the people who speaks out with his just moral conviction. The Danish military is not able to defend the stance and thus are automatically in a position of defence. In a professional army you wouldn't have this kind of problem as the soldier would feel like an employee and don't go to the media like that. On the other hand you will probably have more problems with cruel mistreatment of prisoners...


Tidsskrift for Søfartsvæsen

I have just had my essay on the diplomatic uses of the new Danish Flexible Support Ships published in 'Tidsskrift for Søfartsvæsen'.


MA at last

After my letter's week-long detour with the postal service to the Northern Denmark, It's official. I am now Master of Arts in Intelligence and International Security. And even a distinctive one, they tell me.

Now I just want to get over with my Danish toil and labour and become Cand.Mag...


Mytho-terrorism and rhetorical image analysis

James Der Derian is one of the most interesting IR writers I know of. He strangely enough covers the same areas that I am interested in: IR, intelligence and rhetoric.

I just fell over a somewhat interesting new article he wrote on the imagery-nature of terrorism: Imaging terror: logos, pathos and ethos

With free-flowing prose like "When holy war comes to Hollywood, the truth is hard to come by" and unorthodox views it is an interesting take on how to interpret international terrorism and the war upon it.

On Mytho-terrorism:
Mytho-terrorism has similar characteristics to other forms of violence like wars or revolutions that bind together the deprived, the weak, the resentful, the repressed or just the temporarily disadvantaged. The difference, however, that gives mytho-terrorism its spectacular power as well as anticipating its eventual failure, is the targeting of innocent victims in the name of a higher good. Conducted for an imagined collectivity, looking backwards to a supposed Golden Age, or predicting a future paradise, mytho-terrorism undermines a political order through asymmetrical violence but is unable to generate public legitimacy for any earthly alternatives. It relies on a perpetual struggle, a jihad or holy war.

Mimetic relationships:
The obvious must be restated: this is not to claim any moral equivalence between Bush and Bin Laden but rather to identify a mutual pathology in operation, the kind of mimetic relationship that often develops in war and terror. People go to war not only out of rational calculation but also because of how they see, perceive, picture, imagine and speak of each other: that is, because of how the construction of difference of other groups, as well as the sameness of their own, takes on irreconcilable conditions of hostility. Neither Bush nor Bin Laden is the first to think that mimesis might be mined for political advantage, only to find themselves caught in its own dynamic. From Greek tragedy and Roman gladiatorial spectacles to futurist art and fascist rallies, mimetic violence has regularly overpowered virtuous intentions as well as democratic practices. The question, then, is how to break this mimetic encounter of mythoterrorism?

On semiotics as 'counter-terrorism':
So what is it about? Here?s an historical clue: ?semiotics?, or the study of signs, emerged in the 16th century in the arts of war and medicine. It referred to new methods of military manoeuvre based on visual signals, as well as new medical techniques for identifying pathological symptoms in humans. From day one signs had the power to kill as well as to cure. In the 21st century we need to develop a new semiotics for the images of the war against terror. Otherwise we will continue treating its most morbid symptoms with morality plays rather than finding a cure for the all-too-real disease of imperial politics.

Der Derian, James, 'Imaging terror: logos, pathos and ethos', in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp 23 ? 37, 2005