I recently posted about Jihadi theorist and practitioner Abu Musab al-Suri, in response to a recent review essay about a biography of al-Suri.
Zenpundit opined that al-Suri appears to be the Islamic terrorist movement’s “John Arquilla, William Lind and Louis Beam rolled into one”, and that “he probably would have made a fine blogger had he not also been – well – a sociopathic nihilist.” Agreed, though I would expressly add “homicidal, sociopathic nihilist”.
Several facts stood out about as-Suri. One was that his politico-military thought is not so much Islamic, and certainly not traditionalist, as a mélange of Islamic themes mixed with other revolutionary and radical thinking originating in the West. Also, he encouraged a massively decentralized Jihad, cell-based, self-starting, networked but not hierarchical, with al Qaeda as a source of inspiration and doctrine but not command and control. Only such a hyper-dispersed effort could wage a bottom-up struggle against the USA and its allies, which enjoy so many advantages in terms of surveillance and destructive power.
With this on the mind, I was therefore struck by the following passage from a review-essay which discusses Olivier Roy’s Globalized Islam: The Search for the New Ummah (which I have not read):
Islamic militancy has become infused with Third World theories, Marxism, fascism, and nationalism. It cannot escape the whirlwind of ideas that has drifted over the decades into the Middle East. All militant websites seemed to urge for a peripheral jihad in the frontiers (Chechnya, the Philippines island of Mindanao, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kashmir) and for an imaginary ummah (Islamic society) in which they hold dominion under the guise of piety. He points out that many of these websites originate not from the periphery but from Europe, Malaysia and even North America areas in which there is access to technology. This is a key observation: for the Islamic militants, a cell requires access to free societies and western technologies to propagate and acquire tools for their rejectionist movements.
The Jihad cannot be based in the lands of the existing Ummah. If it is limited to the technical means, and even the intellectual means, available there, it is doomed. First, it would be trapped in a backwater, waging a struggle against the ruthless police states of the “Near Enemy”, where it has already repeatedly suffered defeat. Second, without the network-enabling technology which is densely available in the developed world, as well as useful non-Islamic-derived ideas, an effective strategy such as the one al-Suri was seeking cannot be developed and executed.
The developed countries can only be effectively attacked to the extent their enemies are permitted a lodgment within their own borders.
Sending Western troops to fight Jihadis in Waziristan may or may not make the USA and its Allies more secure. But rooting out the Jihadis in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Munich is essential.
UPDATE: My copy of Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri just arrived. Flipping through it, I must say it looks very good. Perhaps, once I’m done with it, yet a third post will be in order.
7 thoughts on “The Networked Jihad: Parasitic on Developed World Technology, Information, Ideas”
Islamism -save for the Saudi Wahabbist movement- has from the inception, been sparked by the West. The original Islamists Mohammed Abdub and al-Afghani were modernizers trying to renovate decaying Ottoman and Persian societies and regenerate the ummah. The 1920’s saw the influence of European totalitarian ideas – more western influence, unfortunately for the worse – seep into the Mideast and into Islamist and Pan-Arab nationalist circles alike. The only ideological movement since has been toward Salafi “purism” and creeping takfirism. It’s a dead end.
“It’s a dead end.”
But the problem in the meantime is that the jihadi dead-enders are (1) a nagging and expensive problem for the non-Islamic world, which is the source of their ideas and technology, and (2) akin to a debilitating chronic illness in the Islamic world, where the tyrannical rulers use them as an excuse not to liberalize, and the jihadis cause all kinds of serious problems every chance they get against the “Near Enemy”.
Basing jihad in Muslim societies doesn’t work if it makes those societies targets. Afghanistan under the Taliban was a dead end; the Taliban were doomed once we decided they were a threat. But jihad from Muslim societies may be viable under other circumstances. The Iranian mullahs decided a long time ago that possession of nuclear weapons would insulate them. So far it appears they are right.
It’s true that the jihadists, all varieties of them, are weak in that they are parasitic on our civilization. However, from the jihadist POV the West is weak because its elites do not believe in themselves or their countries or cultures. This is more true in Europe and the UK than it is here, but there is more than enough lack of cultural self-confidence everywhere in the West to encourage its enemies.
While I agree that it is necessary for us to root out the jihadists in our midst, I think that it’s at least as important to counter the suicidal tendencies (which, to be fair, their proponents do not see as such) of western societies. The most dangerous enemy lodgment is in our beliefs.
We will probably survive but only if we want to. It’s not a sure thing. Another big question is whether enough of us will become alert to the magnitude of the threat to forestall WMD attacks on western cities that might lead to genocidal response. This question, rehashed for years on the Net, has yet to penetrate public consciousness.
“The Iranian mullahs decided a long time ago that possession of nuclear weapons would insulate them. So far it appears they are right.” They already have a form of nuclear deterrance, a “sloppy” form, as Tom Barnett puts it. Nuclear weapons insulate anybody. That is why everybody wants them, especially the countries who have been specifically and publicly added to the Axis of Evil. I am hoping the upcoming electoral defeat of Ahmadenijad will lead to detente with Iran. Our long term enemies are the Sunnis, especially the Saudis, who fund the Islamist movement.
“The most dangerous enemy lodgment is in our beliefs.” Even if true, and I tend to agree, the means and methods and the target audience are unrelated to the jihadis, and in fact this set of tasks should be undertaken even if the Jihadis did not exist.
“WMD attacks on western cities that might lead to genocidal response.” Most people have no awareness of this issue.
Only states can make nukes. States have assests to lose. States therefore want nukes primarily as defensive trump cards. I think any state is highly unlikely to give a nuke to terrorist. It defeats the whole point of having nukes. It is provocative rather than neutralizing. Nukes = peace — so far. I hope it stays that way.
I am hoping the upcoming electoral defeat of Ahmadenijad will lead to detente with Iran.
What would make you think that were it not for A’jad, detente would be possible. Are you aware of how Iran plays on this silly Western notion of not taking Iran at its word?
Iran playing West for fools. West says Ok.
I get so frustrated with people (in general… not with you Green) who should know better about Iran. After all these years of Iran playing us for fools.. and our politicians are practically begging for more. Sometimes . I feel ashamed of living in a country with so many of its leaders who are completely stupid.
Our long term enemies are the Sunnis, especially the Saudis, who fund the Islamist movement.
Both sects are our enemy. The only difference is that Shias are relatively passive.. they are waiting for the Mahdi to come ,and under his banner they will conquest the world.
The Sunnis take a more pro-active approach.
Only states can make nukes. States have assests to lose. States therefore want nukes primarily as defensive trump cards. I think any state is highly unlikely to give a nuke to terrorist. It defeats the whole point of having nukes. .
A statement like “only states can make nukes” is begging to be shown to be false. And I believe it will be some day.
It is provocative rather than neutralizing. Nukes = peace — so far. I hope it stays that way
I believe that is just wishful thinking.
Khomeini , Qom , 1980
Vince, your comment is way too long. Write a post on your own blog and link to it. I will delete any such screeds in the future. This is your first, last and only warning. No comment in response to this instruction will be permitted.
[Comments deleted. I told you not to comment here again. Jonathan]
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