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September 21, 2006


Fighting The Long War

By Marvin Hutchens | September 21, 2006

As should be evident to even the most disinterested observer, to win the 'long war' we must do more than just defeat the enemy on the battlefield. We have the military capacity to do that – so long as our military forces are free to engage the enemy with suitable force and in sufficient numbers. Likewise, our intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts are likely to continue to strangle the financial capabilities of the enemy, increasingly limiting his ability to operate and plan on the scale he desires. And further, our diplomatic and political efforts continue to work toward securing additional allies into the fold of our 'long war' – which is likewise their 'long war.' And still, the certainty of our victory is not yet apparent.

Why is that?

First among the reasons is that we as a society and as a nation have yet to fully engage in the war. This war requires more than an economic strangulation such as that which defeated an empire. This war requires something different than victory on the battlefields such as those we had in Europe or the Pacific. Ultimately, it requires more than the combination of the two, even when coupled with international and domestic policing efforts. Winning the 'long war' requires a battle we have been loathe to fight, and moreover, one that we have been ill prepared for. It requires that we fight and win a battle of ideas, a battle of values and a moral clarity that our enemies profess and we seem to hold in disdain. This war requires a knowledge of not only our enemy, but of ourselves.

The Situation

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 the US has taken certain concrete actions to limit the capabilities of the enemy. We've fought and killed innumerable enemy combatants in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. Major portions of our intelligence and security forces have been reorganized and focused on disabling the financial and logistical networks of al-Qaeda and ideologically aligned organizations world-wide. And we've shown a greater will to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against a resurgent enemy than the enemy believed we would – this despite the terrible loss of life and limb that accompanies such a decision.

That, however, is not enough.

Afghanistan remains vulnerable to attacks from an increasingly resurgent enemy. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have held on against the combined efforts of US and NATO forces. In neighboring Pakistan, political weakness, a powerful Baluch rebellion and popular support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda have limited President Musharraf's ability to engage the enemy. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are restoring their ranks and plotting against Afghanistan's nascent government and against our forces there, which are currently sized more for stabilization than warfare.

In Iraq, we found the potential of al-Qaeda, or similarly aligned organizations, working with Saddam Hussein or under his protection too great a threat to permit. Hussein's regime was defeated. The people of Iraq have stepped up to form a government despite their many real and perceived grievances and differences. Likewise, the enemy has sought to make Iraq the center of the battlesphere. The enemy has sought to exacerbate the ethnic and religious differences of Iraq's citizens in an effort to weaken their support for the US and, moreover, to create an environment conducive to their larger goals and objectives – our defeat and the establishment of a state from which he can plan, train and project their will. The final result for Iraq is not yet clear, and like Afghanistan – our support is vital.

Elsewhere – the war is largely seen as a challenge for the intelligence and police components of our forces. From here in the US to Europe to Western Africa to the Horn of Africa to the Levant through the Middle East and from the Indian subcontinent to the far reaches of the Philippines, our enemies plot against us. They are not all al-Qaeda. They are not apolitical or of uniform religious background or belief. Yet here, in our homes, in our offices, and in the halls of our political centers we are not yet at war with and, often not yet aware of, our enemies.

Our past experience has shown that we are slow to awaken to our enemies threats against us. Until we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, we believed that World War II was someone else's war. The Japanese enemy believed that we lacked the character and fortitude to fight a war in the Pacific. We awoke from our slumber and produced the means to defeat him, and further to lead the effort to defeat another enemy in Europe. Additionally, we produced the character and resolve that defeated both enemies simultaneously. These enemies fought for ideologies which stripped men of individual value, they fought for their life and often for their death. We fought for the lives of our brothers in the foxhole beside us, for our families at home sacrificing for a better – free – and prosperous future. Hope and the future were our allies – history and destiny were the allies of our enemies.

The Challenge

As in the past, we again failed to foresee the danger our enemies presented. This despite their statements such as:

"The call to wage war against America was made because America has spearheaded the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. These are the reasons for singling America out as a target." From Usama bin Laden's August 23, 1996 “Declaration of War Against the United States.”

And we continue to fail despite their actions following this declaration.

These statements and the actions of our enemies are clear signs that the danger we face has not diminished. The increasingly weak or divided public support for the war shows that we have not received the wake-up call we apparently require. It might be best left to the sociologist to determine why this is so. Yet some matters are clear. We, the American public, were told to go about our business at the outset of the war. As if doing so would smite our enemies – we have. Or perhaps we went on about our daily lives, just as before because we knew not what else to do. We understood the enemy to be foreign in values, as well as location. We saw the enemy's base of operations destroyed and then a developing potential ally removed from power. We then we witnessed attacks short of our shores – in Beslan, Madrid and London, among far too many others. And still we live as if we have nothing to fear from these declared enemies of America.

This might be because we live in the 'now' more than generations past. It may be a result of our ever increasing opportunities for escaping into the unreal worlds of entertainment and fantasy. Or perhaps it is simply that we are a people busied by the mundane everyday of our lives and we've not been told in terms 'real' enough that we are at War. It is true that we've not declared War and entrusted our government with the powers and, moreover, the responsibility to defeat the enemy and protect our way of life.

As a primary aspect of his discussions of the war, the President has often spoken of the power of democracy in the battle of ideas. And while there is much truth in the spirit of his words, particularly when seen as a preventative measure against supplemental causes for sympathies toward the enemy's ideas, much more is needed. Whether it is our media, our diplomatic corps, our politicians or our vaunted 'experts' – our knowledge of the motivations, intentions and beliefs behind the enemy and his supporters is severely lacking. As such, we use terms which are likely to offend those who call Islam their faith. We often lump the Muslim faithful into groupings that are ambiguous at best and more often, simply wrong (contemplate the number of believers who consider themselves part of the salafi or muwahidoon while not sharing the willingness to accept violence to achieve religious or political objectives). And worst of all, we fail to present ourselves in terms which would aid us in bringing the average Muslim into the fold of those opposing what should be a shared enemy.

When we consider the oft-referred to average Muslim (or the moderate Muslim, liberal Muslim, or any other of the many terms used) we have much in common. More often than not, we share more in common with him than the enemy does (including his shared profession of faith). The enemy is more effective in reaching the average Muslim though. The enemy speaks to the average Muslim in terms he is sure to understand.

The enemy's message is built on the things the average Muslim values – the basic texts of his faith and the values of his cultural heritage. That message also plays heavily off the things the average Muslim does not support – such as the more banal aspects of our society, the perceived inequities of his native lands, and the privileged life and status of those who rule over him (as well as their relationships with the West in all its good and bad forms). And finally, the enemy's message takes advantage of the simple fact that few other messages are heard by his audience, as much of the highly Muslim populated parts of the world remain constrained by a limited press and government censorship. The enemy's message is often the only message delivered other than the repressive government's message.

And here we find the need to know the enemy – and to engage him more fully in the battle of ideas. For while much remains uncertain, we are certain that our enemy is not yet defeated and that he has declared war on us. We also know that every day that passes without our full engagement in this bloody conflict results in an extension of the war along with more death and greater risk to our future safety, security and way of life.

The Enemy

While the 'Long War' has just entered its sixth year, it remains far from over. Our enemy believes that he understands us. He knows that we do not know him and he is confident that we will never understand the devotion he has to his cause. He knows that he is not limited to a nation-state that – once defeated – will render him incapable of continued hostility. He knows that his tactics – terrorism, deception and propaganda – are not limited by the lack of a state or the ability to raise and fund an army. In truth, he knows these are his great enablers – and the keys to our weakness.

Who is he?

Our enemy is not terrorism – though we are right to oppose those who use such tactics. Nor is our enemy Islam – though our enemies profess a belief in the Islamic religion. Our enemy is not all Muslims - though far too often we appear to be opposed to all Muslim people. Muslims, adherents of Islam, are as varied and distinct in their beliefs as the sects of any other religion might be. Perhaps more so given their numbers – over 1 billion.

For the uninitiated, Islam is the name of the religion as presented by Prophet Muhammad. In the eyes of an adherent of Islam – a Muslim – it is the one and final revealed religion of God (Allah in Arabic) for all mankind. All Muslims, whether Sunni, Shi'a or Sufi, believe in a basic set of tenets (with slight variances) that include a statement of faith, prayer, giving to charity, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca.

At the highest levels, the Sunni and Shi'a are separated by their belief in who possessed the authority to rule the Islamic state following the death of Muhammad. The Sunni believing that the four 'rightly-guided' successors to Muhammad had that authority and the Shi'a believing in a bloodline-based caliphate, the caliph being the successor to Muhammad as leader of the Muslim ummah – or community (nation).

After the death of Muhammad, those who would become the Shi'a believed that his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, should have been the successor. He was eventually the fourth caliph and the last of what the Sunni consider the 'rightly-guided.' The largest Shi'a sect believes that there are twelve infallible Imam's who would follow Muhammad with Ali being the first. The twelfth Imam being the Mahdi. The Mahdi is believed, by the predominant Shi'a sect, to be in an occult state and will reappear, at a time determined by God, to lead (along with Jesus, Isa in Arabic) the Muslim faithful.

Again – we are not at war with Islam, either Shi'a or Sunni.

For our purposes here, we will only begin to explore the distinctions between Muslims and the enemy, who also profess such a faith. In a separate series of discussions we'll explore the religion and its many various forms. Likewise, we'll continue our discussion of the strategic aspects of the war, the things we know and the things we need to know in a continuation of this document in the coming weeks.

So – who is our enemy? He is al-jihadiyun. Or in our anglicized parlance – the jihadi.

The jihadi believes himself to be a Muslim, in fact an adherent of 'true' Islam. Moreover, he most likely believes that most who call themselves Muslim are falling short of their obligations as believers and may even go so far as to consider them apostates and, therefore, among the unbelievers.

Why is this? For the sake of brevity – it is his understanding of Islamic definition of 'tawhid' first and foremost. Tawhid is essentially the Islamic concept of the oneness of God (monotheism). However, the jihadi believes in an expanded form of tawhid that precludes him from obeying any other than God. The laws of man, even the participation in creating them, are outside the religion as they represent a form of submission to someone other than God. As such, the jihadi is isolated from any government (including an 'Islamic' government) that does not follow the known and agreed upon laws of Islam as derived from the Qur'an and the various approved hadith – the reported sayings and actions of the Prophet. When taken in conjunction with the jihadi's belief that it is an obligation on him to fight against that which is outside the religion, he is suddenly at war with the majority of the world.

While there are many more aspects of the jihadi's faith and in the imagery, metaphors and historical events that guide his actions that we fail to fully understand, the primary elements of understanding required to fight his message are found in these two radical interpretations of legitimate components of Islamic belief:

• Jihad fi sabilillah – the struggle for the cause of God, and
• Tawhid – the oneness of God.

Seeking to understand the jihadi or the ideas behind his actions has a significance beyond the mere attainment of knowledge. It is the key to countering the message of the jihadi in the ideological component of the war. His message has been far more refined than any counter-message of the US or our allies. It is, quite frankly, more refined and available to the average Muslim than traditional non-jihadist beliefs. And it is for this reason that the jihadi is able to find and develop additional like-minded believers in nations all around the world (including within our own prisons, universities and neighborhoods).

Here at ThreatsWatch we have been cautious – too much so for many – in both our tone and references to various aspects of the Islamic faith or the broader community of believers. Why? Because we believe, as we've stated before, that Islam and the average Muslim believer is also under attack by the jihadi and his ideological compatriots. And in order to defeat that enemy, the broader Muslim community must play a significant part – perhaps the critical part that has thus far been missing.

The Message

What message should we present to Muslims? This would, of course, be dependent on who the speaker is. Yet, certain things should be apparent no matter the speaker. First – recognition of Islam and its believers as a faith separate from and distinctly suffering due to the action of the jihadi. By no means should this prevent evangelism or anything like that, for those so inclined – instead merely an admission that being a Muslim does not make one a terrorist or a jihadi and that the faith itself is not the root of the issue. Likewise, “we” includes some portion (far too small) of the Muslim population already – and our inclusion of their understanding and their established relationships in the community of believers should be a major objective.

For the US and its allies to win this war, we must address the Muslim believer in terms that reflect both our ideals and his perception of us. By using terms such as 'salafi' or 'wahhabi' to describe our enemies – many, particularly those who believe themselves to be a follower of early Islamic tradition (prior to the development of the madhab system) are wrongly thrown in with our enemies. The consequence of this is should be clear. Rather than hearing us, these men and women, who are often simply seeking a pious life, turn us off and turn instead to the few alternative sources available to them. Perhaps the single most prominent among the alternatives are the religious proselytizing groups who profess the jihadist ideology. If the average Muslim's faith is largely inherited, and their personal knowledge of its deeper roots is limited, as is the case for much of the Muslim world, it is not a stretch to imagine such a believer being led toward the jihadi's view. Add to that the many 'softer' influences such as economic and political disparities, and it becomes even easier to see them seeking resolution through the jihadi's Islam.

We must find the means to communicate with the millions of Muslims who as of yet have taken no stand in this war. While we favor democracy and the democratic republic which protects our own individual lives and liberty, we should not impose a form of government on any people in the Middle East or elsewhere. Their traditions, faiths and values should be the primary determining factors in the formation of their states or governments. From these shared traits nations with internal unity can be formed. And that unity of purpose and values may serve as a guide for them – a guide to peaceful co-existence with the non-Islamic and Western world. They will and should become the army that defeats the jihadi, and forever the defenders of their faith from the false and blasphemous notions of the jihadiyun.


It is not within the scope of this piece to offer a complete solution to the ideological battle that must be addressed. In lieu of that – let's begin the discussion of how best to encourage the the Muslim world to engage in the war against the jihadi. We must understand that the concept of jihad is, and ever will be, a part of Islam. Most Muslims understand this to be primarily a personal struggle to overcome their more base nature and to live a more holy life.

We should recognize that the just war we fight against the jihadi – just as the personal jihad a believer fights against his more base nature – will not be won through force as much through education, understanding and engagement. This does not deny or in any way lessen the significance or necessity of our military and police actions against the jihadists worldwide. But only when we have engaged Muslims will they be prepared to join the fight against those who have subverted their faith – for now they are both afraid of the jihadi and isolated by our combined ignorance.

When considering this war, it should be clear to all that it is not a hunt for Usama bin Laden, nor was it to be the removal of the Taliban or the primary leaders of al-Qaeda. It must be a proactive defense of our people and resources, an offensive attack on the jihadi and his ideology and a direct engagement of the nearly 1 billion Muslim men and women who are neither jihadists nor at war with the world.

Political efforts to isolate the war in Iraq as something other than a major front in this war, and other efforts to minimize the extent to which our enemy is prepared to go to see our destruction are particularly damning. We have not discussed Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Venezuela, Hizballah or Hamas and the policy challenges they present or their potential impact on the war. Nor have we discussed our quasi-allies and their complicit or duplicitous policies. This is because the first steps in addressing the war has to be at home. Each of us must commit to doing what is necessary to win this war.

As a people, we will determine only our part in this war. We will elect the future leaders of this 'long war' and we will raise the next generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who will take up arms to defend our shores.

Time is not on our side. Understanding, moral clarity and force of will should be.

[TW Note: As mentioned above, the issues brought up in this commentary will be addressed further in two series. One will look into the various aspects of Islam, its sects, history and traditions – particularly compared with that of the jihadi. Another will explore the strategic aspects of the war and what we must do to win it.]

September 14, 2006


Ahmadinejad Meets Queen Isabella

By Steve Schippert | September 14, 2006

Iran set forth beyond their borders a flurry of reasonable men equipped with reasonable messages, seeking to address the fears of the West while it debates Security Council sanctions that seem as near and elusive as the perpetual horizon. Intent on enabling critics of those who fear a nuclear Iran, the mullah regime set their statesmen to sea. Surely now the fearful may be labeled as the small-minded worriers who pleaded and warned Christopher Columbus that he would fall off the edge of the earth, taking with him his crew and Queen Isabella’s ships.

In route to Cuba, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, set to be handed the reigns of the Non-Aligned Movement’s ‘Group of 15,’ pronounced that indeed Iran was now prepared for serious negotiations. Speaking from Dakar, Senegal, another G-15 member, the Iranian president said, "We are partisan to dialogue and negotiation and we believe that we can resolve the problems in a context of dialogue and of justice together. I am announcing that we are available, we are ready for new conditions." With the unreasonable nature of the old conditions of the past three years, the fair-minded must concede that new conditions are certainly in order.

In Washington, arms flailed about as America’s statesmen continued down the path of alarm. "We've seen this game before from the Iranians. They want to stretch things out,” pleaded State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack. “They want to say well, we'll have a meeting on Thursday. No, let's have a meeting next Tuesday. And it keeps going on and on and on. And at some point, the world has to say look: we've given you the opportunity here and it's time to act. It's time to act through the Security Council, and it's time to impose sanctions on Iran."

But this passion can be counterproductive, dangerous and disruptive to process. Addressing such passion, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calmly tendered, "I don't believe there will be sanctions because there is no reason to have sanctions. It would be preferable for the U.S. officials not to speak in anger." Such vitriol surely has no place in international relations.

Already in Havana ahead of his president, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki assured the Non-Aligned Movement and the world of Iran’s “readiness to resume the negotiations without any preconditions with the interested countries to clarify outstanding issues with the purpose of increasing confidence and transparency." Dismissing the angry Americans, embracing the Non-Aligned Movement’s G-15 and extending a reasonable and diplomatic olive branch to all willing Europeans, Mottaki presented before them all the horizon.

But the adamant Americans seem unwilling and unprepared to be flexible. Speaking to the cancelled meeting scheduled for Thursday between Ali Larijani and the EU’s Javier Solana, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bemoaned, "It is my understanding that -- perhaps not surprisingly -- they have canceled the meeting for now. That should tell us something." But what the American foreign policy leader fails to realize is that scheduling on Saturday a meeting for Thursday is precisely the kind of precondition that Mottaki is attempting to address.

And Mottaki’s Havana embrace was kindly returned, as Egypt stood beside the Iranian foreign minister and informed the world that indeed the NAM had received from Iran "very strong assurances that the objective is not nuclear weapons." Reminding all of Iran’s continued commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Egyptian foreign minister pointed out that it is certainly Iran’s right to have nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. "We have to believe them until it is established otherwise," he said. After all, it’s the only reasonable approach to take.

But the Americans Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey, is headed to Singapore seeking to persuade attendees of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to reconsider financial dealings with Iran. Unconvincingly, Levey attempted statesmanship to veil the typical American aggressiveness by assuring that "We're not here to make any specific requests of anyone." His department has already seen to it that sanctions were slapped on Iran’s Bank Saderat.

In the midst of his speaking tour in the United States, former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami addressed Iranian domestic affairs in a speech at the Kennedy School of Government. One grave concern was that, despite the pleading objections of President Ahmadinejad, Iranian college professors are quitting in droves and simply walking away from Iranian students. "Iran is in dire need of as many university professors as it can get. I believe that Iran should extend its welcome to professors from different countries, even non-Islamic and secular countries," Khatami said, leaving open the possibility of a cultural exchange with Israel.

Even still, the Americans stand at the shores screaming their tired warnings in vain towards the Queen’s now distant fleet. But Isabella had long been convinced.

And alas, the horizon never once approached those sailing vessels. Only discovery and a successful quest that changed the nature of the world.

September 11, 2006


On 9/11, Islam and the Nature of the Enemy

By Kirk H. Sowell | September 11, 2006

As we contemplate the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans continue to grapple with the issue of who or what is the enemy, and why did this happen. Why was the United States attacked, and who is truly to blame? Is the enemy Islam, or a form of Islam? Why did this happen; was it because of some specific set of U.S. foreign policies which could be changed, or was it because of a broader movement which made it inevitable?

No, the enemy is not Islam. But it is important to understand why this is the case, for it is certainly not the case that the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Islam, as some have suggested. Al-Qaeda and similar groups are unimaginable without Islam. Nor is the enemy “terrorism,” for while the phrase “war on terror” is diplomatic, it is imprecise, as terrorism is but a means used by the enemy. Herein I will argue that the enemy should be understood to be a movement based on an ideology of state which is derivative from Islam, but certainly not synonymous with it. While bearing both resemblances and contrasts with previous Islamic movements, this movement – be it called radical Islam, militant Islamism, jihadism, Islamic fundamentalism or something else – has been empowered by the transportation and communication revolutions inherent in modern globalization. Neither al-Qaeda nor the 9/11 attacks would have been possible without it.


Is the enemy Islam? If not, what is the enemy?

In the fall of 1529, the Austrians had their hands full facing down the greatest threat imaginable to them, the armies of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans had come to control most of southeastern Europe, having recently taken Serbia and then Hungary, although with some difficulty. The Ottoman sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, pressed on to the heart of Europe in the hope of taking Vienna. After a three-week siege he withdrew, and that in part due to the weather.

Contemporaneous with the Ottoman assault on Europe, the Naqshbandi Sufi brotherhood, like the Turks of Central Asian origin, were spreading through the Middle East. A mystical movement which stressed the spiritual search for God’s truth, the Naqshbandis also respected Islamic law and were thus accepted by the Ottoman state. It would not have occurred to the Austrians that the Naqshbandis were their enemies, assuming they were aware of the Muslim mystics at all. Yet were the Sufis not Muslims, did they not pray, fast, give alms, attend to the Hajj and worship only one God, just as the Ottomans?

The enemy then was, not Islam, but a state based on the ideology of Ottomanism. Turkic peoples migrating from Central Asia first took a military role under the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu’atasim (r. 833-842). Over the centuries Muslim rulers became more dependent upon them, culminating in the rule of the Turkic Seljuks, who consolidated control of Iraq, the old Abbasid center of power, in 1055. In 1071, Turkic warriors defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in Anatolia, and by 1301 a Turkic ghazi named Osman established sufficient control over Anatolia to found what we know as the Ottoman Empire. Ottomanism was not a perversion of Islam, as its jihadist impulse dated back to the early caliphs and, if oral tradition is to be believed, to the Prophet Muhammad himself. Ottomanism was not synonymous with Islam, but rather it was a movement, an ideology of state which adapted selected Islamic principles for the service of imperial power.

So it was with al-Qaeda. For present purposes, the modern history of radical Islam can be dated to the Saudi-Wahhabi Pact of 1744, in which the tribal leader of the powerful Al-Sa’ud reached an agreement with the religious ideologue Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab in which the Saud would have political and military power and Abd al-Wahhab’s followers would be placed as jurists and religious authorities in areas conquered. The movement was terrorist from the beginning, attacking Sunni Muslims for refusing the rule of the Saud and wantonly murdering Shi’a Muslims, who they considered heretics and not true Muslims. Despite reversals over time, a third revival of the movement led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The establishment of the Saudi-Wahhabi state was complimented by the 19th century rise of the Deobandi movement in British India (modern Pakistan), which eventually gave rise to the Taliban, and the 1928 founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which gave rise to a number of radical Islamist groups, most prominently the Palestinian Hamas and the Jordanian Islamic Action Front. The three movements augmented one another, with Saudi-Wahhabi finance supporting MB activities in Arab countries and establishing thousands of madrassas, or Islamic schools, in Pakistan, a country which for the most part had no other education system. Often MB members served as Wahhabi foot soldiers, being educated in Saudi institutions and then sent abroad. One of them was a Palestinian, Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Usama bin Laden.

From the 1950s through the 1990s Islamists fought bloody and uniformly unsuccessful wars against secular Arab states, one of them involving the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri believed that he had learned a lesson – as America was the world’s great power, it did no good to fight the local secular regime, it was necessary to strike the source itself. He was a long-time ally of bin Laden, and the two men merged operations in 1998. Bin Laden adopted Zawahiri’s thinking, and a plan pushed by Khaled Shaikh Muhammad, the planner of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, would end with the attacks of September 11.

The parallel drawn here is not based on vague resemblances, but upon the fact that modern radical Islamists model themselves on Muslims in earlier centuries who fought to establish the caliphate which would implement Islamic law and spread the borders of Islam through conquest. Bin Laden himself drew the connection in an October 7, 2001 video in which he referred to the “humiliation” that Muslims had endured for “more than eighty years.” This was a reference to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, resulting from having lost the First World War in 1918. That the Ottoman state had been the “Sick Man of Europe” for over a century and that bin Laden and his band of fanatics bore little resemblance to the Ottomans’ forbearers is beside the point; bin Laden and those who are like-minded view modern radical Islam as the vanguard for the return of the caliphate.

This is the history of our enemy.

While the Ottomans represented a dignified civilization which usually made war consistent with Islamic rules of law, modern radical Islam is different, so no moral equivalence should be implied between the two. Otherwise, what the world faces today is very much like the threat that faced by the peoples of Europe and the Middle East in the Turks in the 13th century – an energetic movement unattached to any established state and bent on reestablishing the glory of the early Islamic caliphates by force.

Radical Islamists do not need to come even close to achieving that grandoise goal in order to be a massive threat. The Shi’a Islamic revolution in Iran has given way to a state capable of maintaining extensive terrorist operations on every inhabited continent, while the weak and impoverished emirate of the Taliban in Afghanistan was able to provide a base for attacks on the United States, at home and abroad. Now the Taliban-dominated areas of Waziristan, Pakistan have become al-Qaeda’s primary base, while Hizballah’s substate entity in Lebanon and Hamas’ proto-Islamist state in Palestine offer bases for attacks on Israel. The Ottoman state started small as well, and the enemies we face are ambitious.


There is a final, catalyzing element which makes modern Islamic terrorism different from all Islamic movements, indeed all militant movements, of the past, and that is globalization. The revolution in transportation and other technologies has made it possible for a small group of individuals to inflict damage on advanced societies vastly disproportionate to their numbers and means.

There is a second element to the catalyzing effect of globalization, and that is the communications revolution. When British forces under Herbert (Lord) Kitchener defeated the Mahdist movement in the Sudan in 1898, there was no uprising in Muslim sections of India, no protests in Istanbul pressuring the Sultan to break his de facto alliance with London, no revolt in Egypt or other signs of solidarity with the armed Islamic Sudanese campaign anywhere in the Muslim world. Today, attempts to take the war to Islamic terrorists in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan give rise to jihadist recruiting from Indonesia to sub-Saharan Africa to European converts to radical Islam in Belgium. A global jihadist consciousness exists today which could not possibly have existed previously.

Given the existence of a movement based on establishing an alternative global order along the lines of an Islamic order believed to have existed in the eighth century, conflict was inevitable. As the guarantor of the modern global order, it is logical that the United States would be the focus of their fury. The specific operations leading to 9/11 could have been stopped, but the global war was inevitable. If it were China rather than the United States which was the world’s leading power in the 1990s, then China’s western province, which has traditionally been inhabited by Muslims, would be a center of militant activity, China’s navy, which would have to safeguard the sea lanes upon which its economy depends, would face motor boat bombs, and its airlines would be targeted by hijackers. Even as things stand, France, Russia, India and China are all targets to a degree, despite the wide variations in their foreign policies. The ideology of state which is radical Islam seeks to replace them all.

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