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Let them go to war

Written By: - Date published: 12:06 am, October 19th, 2014 - 35 comments
Categories: David Farrar, iraq, john key, Media, Syria, war - Tags: , , ,

Back when I was a teenager, a mate of mine decided that he was going to give up on school and would get in some combat. He was a bit of bigot and not exactly the brightest of people. So he went to Rhodesia and eventually worked his way into the Rhodesian Light Infantry. A few years later I heard that he’d been killed in action.

There seems to be a thing about young males and wanting action and excitement that has been around for quite a while.The obvious analogies in NZ history are the mass volunteers for the NZ civil wars of the 1860s and 1870s, the Boer war, and two world wars.

These were the people from my grandparents and great grandparents generations. Many of them volunteered out of an urge for action and duty, went to war, came back and then never ever talked about it except at the RSA – or after I’d done some basic training. They were the most solid citizens I ever ran across and had a rather strong aversion to any form of excitement.

My mate wasn’t the only one with an urge for action in my generation. A number of other kids I knew went off and joined up with various silly causes or joined our armed forces. At the time I heard about his death, I had been in the NZ territorials for several years. Fortunately I never wound up having to use the training I received.

John Key with his dumb and irrelevant attempts to prevent young hoons going off to get themselves some combat training and experience probably doesn’t get it. His version of the young mens risk appears to have just been to play around with other peoples money.

Probably the best explanation of this effect comes irreverently from the War Nerd*. Back in March he wrote about one of the foreign Jihardists being blocked from leaving the US. This young and stupid pillock below… Reading about him so reminded me of my mate from 40 years ago.

Nicholas Teausant


Last week the feds pulled a guy named Nicholas Teausant, who looks sort of like Napoleon Dynamite would if he was getting chemotherapy, off a bus going to Canada and charged him with planning to join the jihadist group I.S.I.S. in Syria. Nicholas (pictured above) had pretty much made their case for them by writing online comments like…

“I despise america and want its down fall but yeah haha. Lol I been part of the army for two years now and I would love to Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start” and adding modestly that he planned to become a “commander…in front of every single newspaper in the country.”

Lol pretty much sums it up.

Stories like this show up every few weeks, allowing thousands of Homeland Security people to justify their paychecks, and helping the terminally timid to remain frightened, which is their preferred state. But nobody bothers to ask the obvious questions about this alleged “homegrown jihadi” threat – questions like, “How many of these guys are there, actually?” and “What’s their real combat value?”

The answers to those two questions are simple: “Remarkably few, actually” and “Nil, as long as they’re fighting in a conventional war like Syria.”

The last few paragraphs essentially give the real state of the security world when it comes to these kinds of security ‘threats’. We have a security apparatus even in NZ who really have no particular use in normal times. However unlike our armed forces who spend a lot of time training for events like the Christchurch earthquake or public order like Timor (and the odd war), they seem to be averse to being regarded as an trained insurance policy. Instead they invent strange threats like the ridiculous and farcical Operation 8.

They trade on the fears of the timid (as measured by National’s pollster David Farrar), the fantasies of armchair generals (Cameron Slater being a prime example), and the need for our rather inadequate media searching for their next headline. So we wind up with the type of stupid law about passports that John Key is planning to put before parliament as he mindlessly follows the example of Tony Abbott over in Aussie who appears to mindlessly follow the strange protocols of US Homeland security.

Is it going to make people any safer here? Ah no. If restrained in NZ, these testosterone driven pillocks will just buy a fast car and will proceed to inflict car accidents on other motorists instead.

As the War Nerd points out talking about the profile of jihardists coming from other countries.

But once you get past the testosterone tilt of jihadi stats, you find that country by country, region by region, there are huge variations.

In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, jihadis are mostly from successful families.

In Australia, though, studies have shown that those who join jihadist groups are generally poorer and less-educated than the norm.

And in the US, where jihad is not just eccentric but reviled, recruits are very scarce, with the few who do appear falling into two groups: A few are serious young men with a family connection to jihad, and the remainder, those who have no family or ethnic link to jihad, are, to put it bluntly, scraped off the bottom of the barrel.

And that is it in a nutshell. How in the hell do you tell the difference between a kid of immigrants going off to see his family wherever or on the Hajj, against someone going off to joining an old family tradition. I’m pretty damn sure that the morons in the police’s operation 8 team who thought that “catapulting a bus on to George Bush’s head” was a viable threat to NZ security wouldn’t have a shit show of figuring that out.

The drips like Nicholas above? Let them go. If they survive then it will probably be the making of them.

If there’s anything unusual about Nicholas the Wannabe Warrior, it’s that he’s a poor specimen. He needed to look all the way to Syria to find some way to make a “snowflake” of himself. Most find a sanity-saving fiction nearer home—but then most didn’t have to live in a trailer in Acampo. That’s where Nicholas was living when he came up with the idea of making his name with I.S.I.S in Syria, and if you know anything about the boondocks of California, “Acampo” tells you a lot. Remember the Creedence song, “Stuck in Lodi Again”? Well, Acampo is on the outskirts of Lodi. People in Acampo would give anything to be stuck in Lodi; it’s like downtown Tokyo compared to Acampo. It’s not easy to be Nicholas Teausant of Acampo. Fight Club again: “We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.”

Like the War Nerd, I’m not surprised that we get a few kids going off for a life-defining experience. I’m just surprised that there are so damn few of them leaking out of the desperate places of the first world.

Once again—and I know I keep repeating this, but it’s something standard media rules make it almost impossible to acknowledge—once again, it’s not why Nicholas took to jihad (or tried to, the poor fool); what’s amazing, what’s odd, is that there are so few Nicholases signing up. What gravitational field keeps them in Acampo? There are ten thousand towns like Acampo in America, and hundreds of thousands across the Muslim world that make Acampo look like Palm Springs—but they’re not delivering a flood of jihadis.

It’s true there are some real jihadis going to Syria, fighting and dying there, but the numbers are very small—probably between 5,000 and 10,000 on the Sunni side, and fewer than that fighting with Hezbollah for the Alawites.

The scare headlines you see about the increase in their numbers comes from one of the oldest tricks in the statistician’s book: If the raw numbers are tiny, any increase is going to sound huge if expressed as a percentage. If I have one lousy jihadi fighting for me, and he talks his unmarriageable cousin into joining him, I can claim a 100% increase in jihadi support. Of course there’s another way of inflating your numbers, beloved of military propagandists everywhere: Just plain lie, claim to have a lot more men than you really do. That’s another standby in Syria, where every faction has its video team and PR flack, lovingly filming every dead enemy and tweeting ridiculous claims about your casualties (what casualties?) and theirs (thousands, nay, millions).

The other question war reporters should be asking about jihadis is, “So what?” Or, to amplify, “What is the real military value of a few hundred foreign amateurs in a conventional war like Syria?”

My answer would be, “Their net value is a negative integer, a large one.” Foreign troops aren’t easy to like, especially when they think they know how you should live. And foreigners who’ve only taken up arms for ideological reasons, with no particular skill in using them, are not much a help. Anyone with two arms can fire an AK, but that doesn’t make him a useful soldier—and most of the jihadis who end up in Syria are not ex-military but ordinary urban young men (again, their ordinariness is their key trait), with no special skills to contribute. So their inevitable alienation of Syrian civilians most likely outweighs their very marginal military value.


What is the military value of four amateurs in ski masks? The Sunni in Syria don’t need more men with AKs, they need a unified command and a little goddamn discipline, and these goofy foreigners are about the last people to provide any of that. What they’ll do is whine about the food and the toilet facilities like first-worlders always do, then get impatient, shoot some civilian for not praying loudly enough—and in general, make Assad’s job a whole lot easier. Their military value is negative you-name-it.

As for the fabled white-convert jihadis, those unicorns of jihad, their value is even less than that of these second- or third-generation Pakistani-British volunteers. So why do we keep hearing about them? Because they’re white, for starters. And because they’re so unlikely. The media love anything unlikely and white and potentially scary, no matter how lame the scare is.

If you’re Nicholas Teausant, sitting in your trailer in Acampo, that sort of attention is the biggest incentive of all to Google “jihad” and pretend to be the next Osama. Losers have a long tradition of joining up with whatever scares the rubes most. For Lee Harvey Oswald, it was the commies, or the Russians, or both; he didn’t really know, any more than Nicholas Teausant knows anything about Islam.

Sure our security people may want to keep an eye on them. But stop them – you’re kidding me! We can all only benefit from them going off to war

The probability is that they will learn something about themselves that they didn’t know – how good their potential life is if they work at it. If they come back (and most do), then people coming from combat zones are in my experience very unlikely to want much more excitement.

The ones that actually worry me aren’t the ones going off to combat zones. It is the ones who go off to be taught mind-bending philosophies or how to lower cars who are dangerous. Often both. But in both cases they are usually pretty useless at most things practical as our WOF inspections regularly prove. As has been proven time and time again, most bomb makers and terrorists are terrible technically.  You have a much higher probability of getting killed by a fool with poorly mounted brakes than someone with a Sarin gas attack or a fertilizer bomb.

The ones that could worry me because they are competent are the people who did significant amounts of science and engineering education. I did the former and usually work with the latter. We really know of a lot of ways to be very dangerous. However we tend not to be particularly susceptible to the siren calls of ideology or bigotry or their variants of religion, and far more interested in what we are doing than why the world is unfair to others. I know – I am a very strange exception.

What really worries me is that the paranoid and bigoted idiots who seem to wind up in our security services. They appear to be incapable of distinguishing between activities designed to enhance our democracy and society and those that are not. Because of the way that they interfere with the processes that blow off steam for our society and allow it to change.

Our best and brightest competent tech-heads don’t get particularly interested in politics until they or their friends and family start getting treated as social enemies by the chattering classes and their security pinheads. You see this in every country that has had real security problems, it isn’t until you get the techs interested that things start getting seriously dangerous. A few lo-techs going off to war aren’t going affect that.

Long after John Key has finished lying about the purpose of this legislation (just as John Key did over the metadata aspects GCSB bill last year – does anyone actually believe his denials? ) and had his photo-op with whoever it was designed to impress, we will find the security idiots interfering with legitimate activities like disagreeing with trade policy or wanting something done about climate change. Their use of poorly written and fundamentally dangerous laws to drag people through the courts as examples is the type of dumbarse thing that eventually causes effective “terrorism”.




* If you haven’t read The War Nerd, then I suggest you rectify your ignorance – at pando and exiledonline. I particularly recommend the topical “Here’s everything you need to know about “too extreme for Al Qaeda” I.S.I.S.” on the foolish over hyping of ISIS.

35 comments on “Let them go to war ”

  1. Clemgeopin 1

    A good and thought provoking article.

    On a related matter, as far as our country itself is concerned, in my opinion, we should never go into other peoples’ wars unless that is voted in by the UN.

    Here is a question: Why didn’t USA and its friends, including New Zealand, go to war against China to help Dalai Lama’s Tibet when China annexed it?

    • George Hendry 1.1

      A good question.

      Long ago when the Readers’ Digest (by DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace) always included an anticommunist article in every issue, there was one (from memory 1962 but unsure) titled The Rape of Tibet. But I guess it was only sabre rattling.

      As our ‘news’ has relentlessly portrayed Syria’s Assad in a negative light ; as I read somewhere earlier this year that the ‘Syrian freedom fighters’ were a US plot to overthrow Syria ; and as I’m rather more familiar with the US track record as a rogue state than much at all about Syria I’ve taken the liberty of assuming prima facie that Syria is engaged in legitimate self-defence.

      Any comments and citations would be welcome.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.2

      What about Rwanda or Darfur. But then west only likes to involve itself in civil wars if their is large amounts of oil involved

    • Chooky 1.3

      +100 Clemgeopin

      ..” we should never go into other peoples’ wars unless that is voted in by the UN”.

      ….”Why didn’t USA and its friends, including New Zealand, go to war against China to help Dalai Lama’s Tibet when China annexed it?”

      • SPC 1.3.1

        1. The Russian veto would have stopped any UN effort (the UN only went into Korea because Russia was absent from the UNSC at the time of that vote).

        2. In Korea they found it hard to defeat the Chinese.

        3. To fight China over Tibet they would have had to have gone through Korea – broken the cease-fire.

        4 See 1.

  2. Murray Rawshark 2

    Of course, there are a higher number who wander off to Israel and join the Infant Destruction Force, or who join the Aussie armed forces, or even the Americans, or private mercenaries such as the ones Shearer thinks should be paid by the UN. Neither Key nor the squirrels seem worried about any of them.

    • Morrissey 2.2

      Those who go to “fight” for the IDF against unarmed women and children in the Occupied Territories are pretty much identical to those who went to Rhodesia in the 1960s and 70s to defend Ian Smith’s regime.

    • Chooky 2.3

      +100 Murray Rawshark ….”a higher number who wander off to Israel”…are these to be banned also?

      …how and who defines a terrorist organisation?

  3. Ad 3

    There are plenty of stupid groups who won. In fact most of them were so extreme an ill- informed that stupidity is part of their definition. problem is the successful ones turn into tyrants.

    But proposing to let young men go to the ultimate boot camp as NZ’s own joyous eugenics programme goes too far. Iraq isn’t the Spanish Civil War. And Syria aint World of Warcraft. There’s no stable moral ground to evaluate anywhere there. Another moron without another gun stopped from generating another terrified village is worth stopping at our border.

    Occasionally, Customs and the SIS have a use. This is one of them.

    • lprent 3.1

      Well there is that humanitarian aspect. Somehow, I don’t think that is the argument in use.

      Of course it does mean that we have them here revving up badly tuned cars with inadequete mufflers on Friday night. And often those villages will produce a previously unsuspected cache of old AK47s to induce politeness.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        If I ruled New Zealand those young bucks’d all have Compulsory Rural Service.
        Up at 4.30 for milking
        Or 8 hours of fencing
        Or 8 hours of vine pruning
        Or 8 hours of dry stock herding

  4. les 4

    The U.S is in a constant state of war.The budget,the global bases and the military/industrial complex demand it.I guess controlling resources is a historical reality of empire.Trying to stop the few who want to travel to fight is a PR exercise in reality.Look at the usual double standard of paid merceneries deployed around the world.Same thing…just depends on whos ‘side’ you’re on.

  5. b waghorn 5

    It would be interesting to leap forward 10 years and see were foolish Nicholas ends up like a lot of foolish young boy s he may turn out to be a good contributing man . A lot of young men need protecting from them selves.

    • wekarawshark 5.1

      aka a lot of young men need a society that gives a shit about them becoming men instead of leaving them to fend for themselves in a US ghetto.

      • b waghorn 5.1.1

        Bang on it seem’s middle class white boys are meant to be successful with no help at all

  6. Lindsey 6

    We have always had a bunch of young fellows whose cranial capacity is vastly exceeded by their testicular capacity. We bred them like that for centuaries where we needed them as cannon fodder.

    I don’t have any problem with these testosterone laden lunkheads going off to fight somewhere else. Particularly as they have a 50/50 chance of collecting on those 200 virgins promised to those who die in this capacity.

    Howevr, I am a bit unsure about allowing the survivors to return.

  7. You see this in every country that has had real security problems, it isn’t until you get the techs interested that things start getting seriously dangerous.

    Cuba would seem an exception. Fidel was a lawyer, and Guevara was a doctor.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 7.1

      Most of the ‘revolutions’ since the 1950s were led by what could be called ‘technical professionals’, as those were the main tertiary courses available. Fidel being a law student would be an exception, but his father was a wealthy farmer.

    • lprent 7.2

      You misunderstand. The techs often aren’t the leaders of uprisings. The leaders are usually ineffectual without the techs. The Cuban revolution succeeded because they could keep trucks running, ammo arriving, mortars and artillery maintained, communications between groups maintained, and a multitude of other things happening that required technical skills.

      A state that hasn’t failed has those skills because they can pay for them. Insurrections require that techheads contribute them. They are notoriously slow to do so on the basis of some chattering fools philosophies. They do it when they see friends and family being harassed because they are proceeding down the path of peaceful change.

  8. war is an effective way for the plutocracy to weed out surplus labour, for the military-industrial complex to line their pockets, and for right wing governments to scare the people into giving up their freedoms.

    war is a fucking disaster for economies, human rights, and the environment.

  9. grumpyrawshark 9

    I’ll say it again, most folk have no idea that most wars are manufactured in the media.

  10. KJT 10

    Is it Eastasia or Westasia this week?

    I have forgotten………….

    • Oceania has always been at war with, i dunno, Antarctica?

      It’s really a #WarOnTerra

    • Murray Rawshark 10.2

      It has always been Eastasia. Westasia is our eternal ally. Thank you for volunteering for readjustment therapy at the Ministry of Love, run by Blubber Boy and Commandant Odgers, as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

  11. Huginn 11

    ‘We can all only benefit from them going off to war

    The probability is that they will learn something about themselves that they didn’t know – how good their potential life is if they work at it.’

    lprent – what are you thinking?????!!!!!!!!!!

    Daesh are slavers. They are openly selling captured women to foreign jihadis as ‘concubines’.

    Going to war in a far off, exotic land where the usual rules don’t count; where you get to wear black fantasy pirate pants; you blow things up; drive a tank; collect and use an assortment of firearms + sword; get to be a self-righteous arsehole to cowed locals who get their heads chopped off if they disrespect you; and of course – buy your very own devil-worshipping sex slave, (maybe even more than one because they’ll be really cheap . . .).

    I’m pretty sure that would exercise the imaginations of quite a few young men – & apparently even the odd 14 year old girl – but it isn’t going to war in anything like the sense of going to Rhodesia in the 1970’s or Spain in the ’30’s.

    It’s more like going to Cambodia to hang out with Pol Pot & commit crimes against humanity.

    Here is the October edition of the Daesh English language magazine Dabiq in which they give a gleeful account and justification of their enslavement of captive women:
    WARNING – the images are violent and offensive.

  12. Scott1 12

    I suspect that even going to Cambodia to hang out with pol pot and commit crimes against humanity would in practice not be nearly as much ‘fun’ as it sounds despite his very convincing advertising…

    Daesh are lots of bad things – but the suggestion made here is that it makes no practical difference whether we restrict our unbalanced youth from going there or not. In fact, it may well weaken them, thus indirectly serving the ends.

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