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Achille’s Dark Heel

Raymond Kelly

John Arquilla

“The Internet is the new Afghanistan,” [New York police commissioner Raymond] Kelly said, as he released a New York Police Department (NYPD) report on the home-grown threat of attacks by Islamist extremists. “It is the de facto training ground. It’s an area of concern.”

The report found that the challenge for Western authorities was to identify, pre-empt and prevent home-grown threats, which was difficult because many of those who might undertake an attack often commit no crimes along the path to extremism.

The report identified the four stages to radicalization as pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization, and said the Internet drove and enabled the process.

Internet is “the new Afghanistan”: NY police commissioner, By Michelle Nichols and Edith Honan, Reuters, Wed Aug 15, 3:51 PM ET

Nevermind that this makes about as much sense as saying “the telephone is the new Afghanistan” or “talking is the new Afghanistan”. Of course the Internet enables that process! The Internet enables every communication process.

Let’s look beyond communication and information to what people think they know because of those things:

As the information age deepens, a globe–circling realm of the mind is being created — the “noosphere” that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin identified 80 years ago. This will increasingly affect the nature of grand strategy and diplomacy. Traditional realpolitik, which ultimately relies on hard (principally military) power, will give way to the rise of noöpolitik (or noöspolitik), which relies on soft (principally ideational) power. This paper reiterates the authors’ views as initially stated in 1999, then adds an update for inclusion in a forthcoming handbook on public diplomacy. One key finding is that non–state actors — unfortunately, especially Al Qaeda and its affiliates — are using the Internet and other new media to practice noöpolitik more effectively than are state actors, such as the U.S. government. Whose story wins — the essence of noöpolitik — is at stake in the worldwide war of ideas.

The promise of noöpolitik, by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, First Monday, volume 12, number 8 (August 2007)

This sounds almost like what the NYPD is saying. Continue reading