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The Coughlin Affair

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Imagine trying to fight a war without a clue as to what motivates your enemy or governs his strategy for your destruction. Actually, you don’t have to work too hard to get your head around such an insane idea; it is the current practice of the United States government.

This is not, of course, the way it is supposed to be. According, for example, to the Pentagon’s own guidelines as reflected in the Army’s Field Manual 34-130 dealing with Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), one of the first tasks in any conflict is to “Evaluate the threat.” This job requires military personnel to “update or create threat models: convert threat doctrine or patterns of operation to graphics (doctrinal templates); describe in words the threat’s tactics and options; [and] identify high value targets.”

Such guidance is eminently sensible and needed, not only at the tactical or battlefield level, but also at the strategic level. In fact, most national security practitioners would find it, well, unimaginable to try to do otherwise.

Yet, Stephen Coughlin, one of the very few people working for the U.S. government who has rigorously studied the current “threat doctrine” – the wellspring in the traditions, practices and Shariah Law of today’s totalitarian ideology known as Islamofascism – is, as of this writing, still being cashiered at the end of next month.

Worse yet, the individual who seems to be most responsible for shutting down Mr. Coughlin’s essential doctrinal analysis and training by driving him out of the Pentagon – one Hesham Islam – seems to be staying in a sensitive position working for the Defense Department’s Deputy Secretary, Gordon England. This notwithstanding serious questions raised about Mr. Islam’s public biography, conduct in relation to Muslim outreach, the Coughlin affair and his top secret security clearance.

To recap: Coughlin is the author of an impressive 330-page master’s thesis on the subject which was recently accepted by the Defense Intelligence University. He currently works under contract to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a job for which he is well suited as an Army Reserve Major, trained strategic intelligence analyst and attorney. His thesis brilliantly argues that jihad, or Islamic warfare, is rooted in the Islamists’ Shariah Law. According to the Army doctrine, it is the enemy’s conception of his doctrine that is the basis for developing threat templates and the threat model – not our uncritical assumptions about what “root causes” inspires him. As Maj. Coughlin observes, we are not at war with a “theory of terrorism.”

Maj. Coughlin has developed an intimate understanding not only of the “enemy threat doctrine.” He has also analyzed its “order of battle” including, notably, the various front organizations operated in America by the Muslim Brotherhood. Documents entered into evidence last year by the Department of Justice in the course of the Holy Land Foundation terrorism conspiracy trial offered insights into the stated objective of the Brotherhood – namely, the destruction of the United States from within. The Justice Department has also named names, identifying among many others, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) as a Muslim Brotherhood front.

Unfortunately, thanks to Hesham Islam, ISNA has been of late the preeminent vehicle for Pentagon “outreach” efforts to the American Muslim community. When Mr. Coughlin warned the Pentagon leadership of the error of such contacts, he was pressed by Mr. Islam to desist. Shortly after the former refused to do so, his contract with the Joint Chiefs of Staff was not renewed because, as one unnamed officer told the Washington Times’ Bill Gertz, it had “gotten too hot” to keep Mr. Coughlin on the job.

Some in Congress who have taken an interest in the Coughlin affair have been led to believe that Mr. Coughlin’s contract was not re-upped for reasons having nothing to do with his altercation with Mr. Islam, that he was getting a job in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and that Mr. Islam was going to be leaving the Pentagon. It appears they have been misled.

As of now, the Defense Department’s best hope for understanding – and drawing the appropriate insights from – the Islamofascist threat doctrine will be separated from the government at the end of March. An appointment that would allow Maj. Coughlin to continue his vital work in a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense is reportedly being blocked by Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman or one of his subordinates.

Meanwhile, serious questions about not only Mr. Islam’s possible ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization but his truthfulness in describing his personal history seem to have gone unanswered. One of America’s most accomplished investigative reporters, Claudia Rosett, was unable to confirm various colorful claims made by this Egyptian expatriate on a Pentagon website. The Department’s response to date has been to remove the page from that site. Mr. Islam evidently remains what Deputy Secretary England has called him: “a close personal confidante.” In the counter-intelligence heyday of the Cold War, would outreach to suspected Soviet front organizations have been so blithely dismissed?

In the current War for the Free World, it is nothing less than a scandal that America is still trying to win it with so much confusion about the doctrine of our enemies, to say nothing of having some fact-based hypothesis and understanding of those who may seek to replace our constitutional order with a Shariah Law-based one. As Maj. Coughlin argues, “If we fail to align the enemy to his doctrine,” then our strategies and comprehension of the threat will likewise be “misaligned.”

Steve Coughlin’s insights and capabilities are needed today more than ever. Effective congressional intervention, including hearings, may be required to ensure that the services of those who understand the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk are retained. No less importantly, individuals who express sympathy for or otherwise abet the purposes of one of our enemies’ most insidious and successful instruments, the Muslim Brotherhood, have no place in the United States government.

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