Just one degree of separation
October 27th, 2009

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, advised Sun Tzu

Something very interesting is happening blogwise. An Australian intel analyst blogger, Leah Farrall, and an insurgent strategist blogger, Abu Walid, are now holding a debate in public across the blogs. It began a day or three ago. And they’re not the only ones.

I’ve guest-blogged about this over at Zenpundit with an emphasis on the intelligence side of things, but it’s equally fascinating in terms of the development of conversation on the web.

Let’s start with Leah. She’s been a counter terrorist intel analyst and Al-Q subject matter expert for the Australian Federal Police, she’s currently working on her PhD thesis on “Al Qaeda and militant salafist jihad”, and she blogs engagingly and very informatively at All Things Counter Terrorism.

Abu Walid al-Masri is someone she’s been studying for years. He’s one of the leading figures in the interwoven tales of Al Q and the Taliban, a veteran muj from the Afghan fight against the Soviets with “a reputation as a skilled and pragmatic strategist and battlefield tactician”.  He was an early member of Mullah Omar’s circle, has served as a correspondent for Al-Jazeera, and has penned a dozen books. Leah reckons he’s written “the most comprehensive and accurate of all memoirs or first hand accounts of al Qaeda and more broadly the history of Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion”

And now he’s responding to her blog posts with his own, repeatedly.

That’s pretty astounding, a historic moment at the intersection of internet and the military — and it’s breaking news.

What adds to the fascination is the fact that this week, two other somewhat similar events have been taking place. The UK-based Sunni Salafist supporters of the recent Baluch action against the Iranian IRGC who call themselves the Sons of Sunnah have begun to rewrite their blog posts in response to posts on his own blog from “Ibn Siqilli” of Views from the Occident — a graduate student at Indiana who monitors jihadist traffic with a keen eye for their graphics.

And John Robb, the author of Brave New War who blogs at Global Guerrillas, was astounded this week to receive email from Henry Okah, whom Robb considers “hands down the most innovative and successful guerrilla entrepreneur in the world today”.

I haven’t seen this before. And the recipients seem surprised — Leah said “to say that I am blown away by this would be a pretty massive understatement” and John wrote “This made my decade”. I’d be interested in any precedents.

When Teilhard de Chardin spoke of the noosphere, I don’t think he quite had this in mind. Sir Tim Berners-Lee probably hadn’t thought of this. This conversation between Leah and Abu Walid is far more intimate than a denial of service attack. This is communication across the barricades, across the lines. This is close-to-real-time, informed conversation with someone “in the know” on the other side.

And it’s happening just as easily and naturally as one blogger talking things over with another…


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