Sebastian Gorka: Dreams of Fighting Jihad

Counter-terrorism has been a pop field for some decades. As vague as what it purports to counter, it has generated a pundocracy of sorts, guns and mouths for hire across the US imperium and its associate powers.

Much of this resembles the various fictions common during the Cold War: the notion that insurgencies could be defeated from the outside; the teeth chattering idea of a global Communist threat directed with intellectual clarity from Moscow or Beijing.  Human minds were, like puttee, pliable before the doctrinaires and ideologues. If you were told how to think, you would behave accordingly.

False rationalism pervades this entire field.  And there are few in this area more misguided on this point than Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant, former Breitbart editor and member of the White House Strategic Initiatives Group created by Stephen Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Gorka recipe for defence, spiked with anti-Islam fervour and dislike for misguided eggheads, neatly fits the Trump view of the world, though he remains, unlike his boss, a true ideologue.  Fake news, not to mention old-fashioned bias, is repeatedly alleged, and on that score, he is not always wrong.  (The assertion that networks can be pristinely objective is a fantastic one that needs debunking.)

Where the world of make-believe impresses itself upon Gorka is any rational assessment of the presidency and its meagre achievements so far. Calling them “fabulous”, Gorka repeatedly makes remarks to the extent that reporting on the inner workings of the Trump world bear “almost no resemblance to reality.”[1]

This enables us to then assess what resemblance to reality Gorka assesses when it comes to his pet subject: the Global Jihadi scourge. On several fronts, Gorka fails to supply his audience with any explanation as to whether there is such a global jihadi problem, let alone what form it is meant to take.  To do so would naturally entail having to describe a fantasy, even a conceit.

A spate of murderous drive-down spectaculars in European cities instigated by assailants either inspired by Islamic State or some other group with apocalyptic credentials is hardly evidence of a globally coherent world strategy. Had there been a unified leader of Islam, a fact hardly tenable given its various sects and internal contradictions, then assertions of a global jihadi front might hold some water.

Gorka’s Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War reads much like the screeds on modernisation theory churned out during the initial stages of postcolonialism.  As long as money, bubble gum and US ideas of liberal capital were filling the nationalist void in the Third World, favour towards communism would be stemmed.  Such an argument ignored the obvious point that nationalism was the driving force to begin with, with communism being conscripted to that end.

Similar errors in analysis are made in dealing with the “Global” Jihadi problem.  Categories are conflated; entities reduced to a common denominator of world revolution.  The attacks of 9/11 were acts of “jihadi terrorism… but, more importantly, that event was linked to communism.  It was linked to fascism.”[2]

This stunningly hollow reasoning would tend to neglect that US involvement in funding the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, not to mention propping regimes of such brutish reputation as Mubarak’s in Egypt, might also have had their share. Ideology, as ever, provides refined blinkers.

In Defeating Jihad, Gorka claims that the United States was caught unawares, and as chief defender of Freedom’s lands, “It is time for the America that vanquished the Third Reich and the Soviet Union to rise from its slumber.”

Tiresome moral references aspiring to clarity are made.  “It is time for us to speak truthfully about those who wish to kill us or enslave us.  It is time again to speak the words ‘evil’ and ‘enemy’.” The next error on equating threats follows.  “And it is time to draw a plan for victory, calling on strategies that have proved themselves against other totalitarian foes.”

Fictional formulas sell well in this field. Jihadists are rendered monolithic miscreants of the global order, requiring expunging. They are like Soviet-styled politburos, posing “existential threats” to the American way of life.  For Gorka, with his revamped neoconservative slant shaped by his own taste of Hungarian communism, it is all painfully clear. If only people were willing to listen to his revelation that Islam has a central motor, a vehicle for world domination that needs to be stopped in its tracks.

Essential, then, is a similar “Long Telegram” in the mould of former Soviet scholar, US diplomat and author of the doctrine of containment, George Kennan.  “If George Kennan had been a senior diplomat in the US embassy in Baghdad during the rise of ISIS in 2013 and had been asked to explain what was happening in the Middle East, his reply would have been practically the same as the Long Telegram.” Or perhaps not, as Kennan subsequently saw his analysis hijacked, condensed and ironed out for ideological purposes during the Truman administration.

Gorka finds it easy to plot a timeline of Islamic violence, claiming that the Jihadism of the last 30 years can be squarely rooted in the anti-modernism of various writers that gained traction in the nineteenth century. But this is hardly remarkable.  What is unfortunate is Gorka’s reading of history as having meaningful signs and parallels, showing the way for those bedazzled by faith.  Having gazed at its movement, he finds true meaning. It is precisely why such zeal is not merely dangerous, but ultimately worn.


[1] http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/319343-trump-aide-says-leaked-stories-bear-almost-no-resemblance-to-reality

[2] http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/sebastian-gorka-donald-trump-white-house

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita