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.
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.