LTC Joseph C. Myers, Army Advisor to the Air Command and Staff College, speaks out about the firing of Stephen Coughlin:
MAJ (USAR) Stephen Coughlin is to my knowledge the only Islamic Law scholar on the Joint Staff…
He is a lawyer by training and a reserve Military Intelligence Officer. His first interface with Islamic Law began in Pakistan where he was investigating and prosecuting an intellectual property rights case about 10 years ago. Reviewing Pakistani property rights law, he kept seeing footnoted references to the Quran and sharia law…
I have long argued and wondered why our military from senior leaders down to tactical level are so unread and unstudied on Islam, jihad in Islam, even the topic of terrorism. I have often contrasted this unconscionable wartime state of affairs, with the due diligence the US military showed since I was a cadet at West Point 30 years ago, where we lived, ate, slept and drank Soviet warfighting doctrine…it was the threat we oriented on and we developed our own doctrine around — “AirLand Battle” in the early 1980’s.
Can anyone show me where the equivalent of the Soviet threat doctrine series for the global war on terror is published?
It has not been done.
Yet today we are in the process of prosecuting war, that from doctrinal perspective, we fundamentally do not understand. Over two years I have had 90 of the Army’s top majors come through ACSC, across all branches including MI and special operations forces, and only one had read a book with the title Understanding Terror Networks, that by Marc Sageman…
Just before Christmas I presented a lecture on Understanding Terrorist and Insurgent Support Systems to an interagency audience at the Joint Special Operations University, that included Joint Staff and Joint Command officers, DIA and other IC reps, DHS and law enforcement… there, two people had read Sageman’s work…two out of the special ops community. The third individual was Sageman himself.
More importantly we have not studied Islamic Law and few have seen or heard of even the English translation of it that has been in print for years, none had at JSOU or had read a work titled Understanding Jihad, War and Peace in the Law of Islam or even The Quranic Concept of War…I can go on but let me be frank.
This failure of intellectual preparation is a leadership failure, and it is as the 9-11 Commission warned, a failure of vision.
We have spent much intellectual capitol revamping and analyzing our own doctrine as it relates to counterinsurgency…it’s time we do our homework on the threat.
Coughlin has briefed senior Marine Corps leaders and staff and has presented his thesis in various military educational venues…by all accounts the veil of ignorance is lifted for all but only a few who are afraid to face what Islamic Law, doctrinal Islam, says and means with respect to jihad and how it plays out across the Islamic world from al Qaida, to the Saudi government, to Pakistan to the Muslim Brotherhood…
What Coughlin did was provide the epiphany in his over 300-page Joint Military Intelligence College thesis titled, “To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad” that is meticulously documented and powerfully argued.
In short, he argues we have in fact intellectually pre-empted our military decision making process and intelligence preparation of the battlefield process, the critical step 3-“evaluate the threat.” Strategically we have failed to do that by substituting policy for military analysis, for substituting clichÃ© for competent decision processes.
We began on September 12, 2001 with “Islam is a religion of peace,” which soothed ideological sentiments of many but has failed us strategically, short-stopped the objective, sytstemic evaluation of the threat doctrine.
“Islam is a religion of peace” is fine for public policy statements, but is not and cannot be the point of departure for competent military or intelligence analysis…it is in fact a logical flaw under any professional research methodology…you have stated the conclusion before you have done the analysis.
If one has studied the implication of the Holy Land Foundation trial discovery documents as I have, as a former DIA senior military analyst, and understanding as even Bill Gertz has written in his book Enemies about the dismal record of our counter-intelligence one has to wonder and question the extent we are in fact penetrated in government and academia by foreign agents of influence, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamists and those who truly in essence do not share our social compact.
The termination of Stephen Coughlin on the Joint Staff is an act of intellectual cowardice.
We can only hope he can be positioned in his next venue to continue to educate our military for the fight we are in — if we don’t understand the war and the enemy we are engaged against we remain vulnerable and we cannot win.
No victory in the war on terror.