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Jihad
September 14, 2006 8:08 AM   Subscribe

The Master Plan. For the new theorists of jihad, Al Qaeda is just the beginning.
posted by semmi (37 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 


"In June, 2002, bin Laden’s son Hamzah posted a message on an Al Qaeda Web site: 'Oh, Father! Where is the escape and when will we have a home? Oh, Father! I see spheres of danger everywhere I look. . . . Tell me, Father, something useful about what I see.'"
posted by hermitosis at 8:24 AM on September 14, 2006


The Wright article is excellent. Here's a thought-provoking bit from near the end:
Al Qaeda’s apocalyptic agenda is not shared by all Islamists. Although most jihadi groups approve of Al Qaeda’s attacks on America and Europe, their own goals are often more parochial, having to do with purifying Islam and toppling regimes in their own countries which they see as heretical. Many of these groups would be happy to see Al Qaeda disappear, so that their campaigns can be understood as nationalist guerrilla struggles with specific political goals.

This rupture has grown increasingly apparent in the past five years. Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, publicly denounced the September 11th attacks and condemned Al Qaeda’s use of suicide bombers, even though the tactic was employed in the 1983 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the barracks of American and French troops in Lebanon, both of which are believed to have been carried out by Hezbollah. After September 11th, leaders of the Egyptian Islamist organization, Gama’a Islamiya, which has worked closely with Al Qaeda in the past, publicly condemned Al Qaeda’s tactics and its goals of worldwide jihad. Even some of Zawahiri’s former colleagues in the Egyptian terror group he formed, Al Jihad, argue that Al Qaeda has undermined the cause of Islam by instigating anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and the West.
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on September 14, 2006


Christians also look forward to the whole world converted to their religion, but I think we can all see where it's a slight distortion of reality to suggest that we can't reason with Christians because they're out to convert us all. Yes, Salafi Islam looks forward to the conversion of the whole world, no doubt about it. But how do you go about that? Conquering new lands for Islam is the role of the caliph; it's a collective obligation, rather than a personal one. However, they do believe that the re-establishment of the caliphate is a personal obligation. They see themselves as fighting a defensive jihad against foreign occupiers and their puppets (which is hard to dispute). They want to replace those occupiers with a new, united caliphate. The world conquest thing is then taken up the caliph, under the rules of offensive jihad, which are bound by some very strict guidelines (unlike defensive jihad, wherein, essentially, "anything goes"). When we're fighting a regular state with a regular army, we're talking about a very different thing. Caliphs in the past also knew when to fight, and when to make peace, like any other politician. In a caliphate, the Salafis will not be the only voices in the 'Ummah. They certainly don't mean the tolerante caliphates of the past, but at the same token, any legitimate caliphate would be much more temperate than what they imagne.

Scheuer explained this all very thoroughly in Imperial Hubris, if you're not too keen on reading all the religious texts on the matter. Perhaps even more fundamentally, al-Qa'ida is fueled by the resentment that occupation breeds. They may well want to conquer the world, but the only reason they're listened to is because there's so much bitter hatred from so much mistreatment. Take away that, and it doesn't matter where al-Qa'ida wants to go after that, because they become powerless by virtue of being marginalized.

So, though this article does a slightly better job of explaining the whole "world conquest" angle than most of the glib slogans offered by our politicians, I still find this to be a somewhat disgusting example of lying with the truth.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:31 AM on September 14, 2006


Abu Musab al-Suri: “Without confrontation in the field and seizing control of the land, we cannot establish a state, which is the strategic goal of the resistance.”

Why would the Jihadists want to change their tactics now? The greatest strength of, say, the Iraqi insurgents is the irregular and asynchronous nature of their attacks. The biggest mistake they could make would be to field a conventional army--a target big enough for the U.S. to hit.
posted by Iridic at 8:37 AM on September 14, 2006


The biggest mistake they could make would be to field a conventional army--a target big enough for the U.S. to hit.

Exactly. The whole movement is rather self-defeating.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2006


Why would the Jihadists want to change their tactics now? The greatest strength of, say, the Iraqi insurgents is the irregular and asynchronous nature of their attacks.

The idea is that that is the 'second stage' First they drive out imperial powers with guerrilla warfare, then they field a conventional army to conquer land from other less hard-core Muslims (and shiites)

You can conquer a country through terrorism.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2006


By the way, the bush administration's lumping all Muslim militants together is incredibly stupid and self-defeating. We ought to be trying to find ways to cleave the movement and focus on a single group at a time.

It should be clear now that whatever Iraq was before the invasion, it's far far worse now. What the hell does bush think he's accomplished?
posted by delmoi at 8:50 AM on September 14, 2006


Al Qaedas are nice peoples...mostly.
posted by obeygiant at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2006


Something else that can be taken from this article, and many other well written articles regarding the last 5 years of Islamic terrorism, is that invading Iraq was an enormous geopolitical mistake for the US.

It is perhaps the single worst strategic decision in the history of the United States. It was like scratching a mosquito bite with a Bowie knife.

It has created a golden rallying point for Muslim fundamentalism worldwide, and has spawned thousands of new suicide bombers.

I have a sad feeling that this is all too complicated for many voters. There is only so much mind space, and I wonder if that man really killed Jon Benet.
posted by four panels at 9:00 AM on September 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Before Zarqawi became a member, Al Qaeda had killed some thirty-two hundred people. Zarqawi’s forces probably killed twice that number.

Huh, that's actually really intresting. 80% at least on 9/11 before Zarqawi.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on September 14, 2006


It has created a golden rallying point for Muslim fundamentalism worldwide, and has spawned thousands of new suicide bombers.

It wouldn't be the worse strategy to draw all your enemies into one spot.
posted by semmi at 9:09 AM on September 14, 2006


What would be the best way to increase recruitment into a movement that is born of the disaffected and the persecuted... create more disaffected and persecuted people.

Great fucking plan USA. Let's start a global war on a movement born of a religion that spans multiple countries and continents. That way we can have hotbeds of jihadis in multiple spots around the world. This is the problem with asymmetric warfare.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:20 AM on September 14, 2006


Can't we just agree that anyone who wants to see the world converted to a single unified belief system/way of life is a delusional wingnut?
posted by slatternus at 9:22 AM on September 14, 2006


Can't we just agree that anyone who wants to see the world converted to a single unified belief system/way of life is a delusional wingnut?

Well, I agree. Now if only we can convert the rest of the world to that belief we are onto a winner!
posted by twistedonion at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2006 [2 favorites]


It wouldn't be the worse strategy to draw all your enemies into one spot.

Only if you have a finite number of 'enemies'.
posted by delmoi at 9:37 AM on September 14, 2006


It wouldn't be the worse strategy to draw all your enemies into one spot.
posted by semmi


That's like making a really filthy spot in your house to attract all of the bacteria.
posted by Happy Monkey at 10:35 AM on September 14, 2006 [2 favorites]


Great fucking plan USA. Let's start a global war on a movement born of a religion that spans multiple countries and continents. That way we can have hotbeds of jihadis in multiple spots around the world. This is the problem with asymmetric warfare.

This is where I think the Vietnam analogy comes into play. Not as a cipher for the "unwinnable war" or defeatism from the Western/Capitalist/Liberal Governance perspective, but rather the day to day reality on the ground during the Vietnam war.

I remember thinking about the now probably cliched stories that US GIs have circulated: the 3 year old that walks up to you with a live grenade, the village they had to burn to the ground because they were sure it was filled with insurgents who were ready to kill them, never being sure who the enemy was, always knowing you could walk into your death any second.

It seems like that's what the War on Terror really is: the best possible plan to make sure that the entire world is like that, for everyone.

Can't wait, can't wait.
posted by illovich at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2006


That's like making a really filthy spot in your house to attract all of the bacteria.

That's a really good metaphor!
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:03 AM on September 14, 2006


There are five regions, according to Suri, where jihadis should focus their energies: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Yemen, Morocco, and, especially, Iraq. The American occupation of Iraq, he declares, inaugurated a “historical new period” that almost single-handedly rescued the jihadi movement just when many of its critics thought it was finished.

Very interesting article, although it should be noted that articles that lean too heavily on one person's writing or ideas, especially when talking about extremist ideologies, can get lost in their own reality.
posted by cell divide at 11:16 AM on September 14, 2006


That's a really good metaphor simile!
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 11:31 AM on September 14, 2006


That's a really good metaphor simile!

apt
posted by taosbat at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2006


actually, simile is a type of metaphor.

"metaphor" is a more general term for figurative language. (sorry to nit, but i'm all about the english.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2006


'disaster for Mid-East'
posted by taosbat at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2006


This will end well.
posted by scrump at 12:00 PM on September 14, 2006


Déjà vu
posted by taosbat at 12:06 PM on September 14, 2006


Interesting.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:14 PM on September 14, 2006


I agree with sonofsamiam. Much as we all love a good grammar debate, isn't jihad a more interesting topic?
posted by imperium at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2006


yeah, imperium--say no more of metaphors and similes...

i thought languagehat caught the most interesting bit of the article here. otherwise, at least this article is more thoughful than the usual schlock, and i can't really find any fault with most of the analysis, as far as it goes. i think it underestimates how much these problems can really just be chalked up to mammals fighting over territory, but then, this isn't intended to be that kind of analysis, i guess.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2006


Spengler has been saying for a while that the fundamentalists are pretty much doomed anyway. A subtler take on the usual "Islam is mired in the dark ages" schtick.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2006


He's saying that Islam is doomed, not the fundamentalists.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:00 PM on September 14, 2006


Speaking of Spengler, there is much that column has in tune with this earlier Ask Spengler (to an Israeli asking how to cope with anti-Semitism):

"[The Jewish] people, because it trusts in its self-created eternity and in nothing else in the world, truly believes in its own eternity. The peoples of the world, however, must reckon with their own death, be it at a point in time ever so distant, just as every individual must reckon with his own death." [quoting Franz Rosenzweig] ...

Hebrew is the only language spoken continuously for the past 3,000 years (and perhaps longer, but let us leave that to the philologists), and the Jews are the only people who have come down intact through history. Of the countless tribes and tongues extinguished by rapine and conquest, we know the names of only a small fraction. Only a fraction of that fraction has left behind a trace of their now-extinct language. An unfathomable amount of human striving has vanished into the mist - the fury of warriors, the devotion of priests, the passion of lovers, the anxiety of parents. Their unremembered lives have lost their significance....

The Jews ... recall indignantly every injury over three and a half millennia. That is a luxury no other nation possesses....

[quoting himself to a cultural conservationist]
I reported in this space that in the next decade, yet another 2,000 distinct ethnic groups would go extinct. Ignore the endangered Ewoks for a moment, and explain why the imperial peoples of the past two centuries -- Germans, Japanese, French, Italians, Russians, and so forth -- have elected to disappear, through failure to reproduce.

If (as Emerson said) "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation", what sort of desperation overpowers whole peoples who fear with good reason for their continuity on Earth? While you worry that the world some day will read Dante in Arabic translation (as once it read Aristotle), the Islamic world labors under an dreadful sense of its own fragility....

More than anything else human beings want their lives to be significant. The unbearable truth is that the lives of most people who ever lived are insignificant; those of many people who live today threaten to become so. ("I feel so insignificant," said the ant with Woody Allen's voice in Antz. "That's a breakthrough," said the ant psychiatrist. "You are insignificant.") Paranoia inverts this horrifying sense of insignificance. To the paranoid, everything is significant. Powerful forces conspire against him. He imagines himself to be a figure of great importance. Threaten his protective illusion and he may try to kill you. What he cannot bear is the notion that he truly is insignificant.

To cope with anti-Semitism, try putting yourself in the place of someone who has to cope with cultural extinction. Your problem, Uzi, is that you wish to live in an orderly and stable world. The actual world is disorderly and unstable. For most of the world's people modernity is a mortal challenge; for some of them it is a death knell.


I submit, as Spengler might agree, that the reactions of Jews, Muslims, and Americans to the present crisis is, for all three, an inability to cope with cultural mortality. Indeed, we can see the same direct connection in the "nativist" (scare quotes due to the ironic inversion, you work it out) politics of Tancredo et al. regarding a Mexican "invasion" of the United States. Some people, it would seem, are still true believers in Manifest Destiny, and can't believe that we built the world's greatest civilization only to lose it in a handful of generations to the people who were here first.

How much more fantastic (based in fantasy), then, must be the creation of the state of Israel.

Now, to veer back on-topic, jihad isn't about them hating our freedom. It's about them hating their own freedom, their own frightening maturity in the fact of history, their own responsibility for making a modern civilization. They can't reconcile the two things, and possibly neither can we, but I would wager that reconciling them is a necessity for survival.

And tee-hee. Spengler quoted Antz. Guess he doesn't just read German philosophy.
posted by dhartung at 5:01 PM on September 14, 2006


Al-Qaida joins Algerians against France
posted by taosbat at 7:21 PM on September 14, 2006


Christians also look forward to the whole world converted to their religion, but I think we can all see where it's a slight distortion of reality to suggest that we can't reason with Christians because they're out to convert us all.

jefgodesky, meet reality. Reality, meet Jef.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on September 14, 2006


Something else that can be taken from this article, and many other well written articles regarding the last 5 years of Islamic terrorism, is that invading Iraq was an enormous geopolitical mistake for the US.

It is perhaps the single worst strategic decision in the history of the United States.


Pretend for a moment that someone else was pulling the strings. That the decisions the Bush Administration have made were not made for the benefit of the USA as a nation, but to the benefit of other nations or other people.

What would you conclude?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:40 PM on September 14, 2006


He's saying that Islam is doomed, not the fundamentalists.

He's saying that the fundamentalists recognize the danger for what it is. Hence their reactions. Hence my comment. Sorry not to be clearer.

(Nicely put, dhartung)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:01 AM on September 15, 2006


Here is an interview :Lawrence Wright on how al Qaeda was formed and how 9/11 came to be.
posted by hortense at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2006


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