April 26, 2006


Al-Qaeda jihad vs US 'long war' (Paul Reynolds, 4/26/06, , BBC News)

We...now have two almost simultaneous documents from the leading forces in the war and they are worth comparing.

There will be those who say that any comparison is odious but no professional intelligence officer I know would allow emotion to obscure analysis and it is on that basis that I proceed. [...]

The al-Qaeda leader lists about 20 struggles worldwide. It is important to know what they are. [...]

It is evident that Bin Laden has lost none of his determination in the years since 11 September 2001 ("the Manhattan conquest").

His manifesto is characterised by absolutism. Even the fight in Iraq is pitched in terms of protecting "monotheism", which is an implied rejection of the Iraqi majority, the Shias, according to Islamic scholars. [...]

Critics are already saying that the Pentagon will no doubt also demand the big-ticket items like new jet fighters and heavy equipment for the army.

But the thinking behind the review is to configure forces to better prevent or counter the kind of surprise attacks launched by al-Qaeda and its network of networks.

What the review does not get into, because it is not meant to, is the place that military tactics occupy in the wider strategy in such a long war.

The document does allude to this at the end by stating: "The United States will not win the war on terrorism... by military means... simultaneous, effective interaction with civilian populations will be essential to achieve success."

And of course the lesson from the Cold War is that it was not won by military means, though military strength certainly played a key role. It was won by one system collapsing.

That last is the only bit that approaches genuine insight here. The real takeaway is that the jihad movement is in the midst of an existential crisis, with pretty much the entire Islamic world liberalized or liberalizing to one degree or another. Its long war, which we could maybe date from the 80s, looks to be ending in collapse by the late aughts. Meanwhile, for America this is just the latest chapter in The Long War that has lasted for centuries. Islamicism is just the latest and last absolutist ism to claim that it offers a viable alternative to liberal parliamentary democracy and not only is it the weakest of the challengers so far but, coming so late in process, it finds few who take its claims seriously--unlike its fellow ideologies -- communism, nationalist socialism, etc. In effect, the system has already collapsed, all al Qaeda has left is faux military means. It can run around like a chicken with its head cut off -- and C-4 strapped to its back -- for awhile, but it's already lost the War.

Sudan, torn by war, could be vulnerable to al-Qaeda, experts say (Mohamed Osman and Alfred De Montesquiou, 4/24/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Sudan dismissed Osama bin Laden's renewed calls for “jihad” in its troubled Darfur region, saying on Monday that it will not harbor terrorists or allow foreign interference in the country. [...]

The call made headlines in most of Sudan's newspapers Monday, but Khartoum's leadership seemed eager to dissociate itself from bin Laden, who was based in the country through much of the 1990s but thrown out in 1996.

“We are not concerned with such statements, or any other statement that comes from foreign quarters about the crisis in Darfur,” Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Eldin Mohammad Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the Al Sahafa newspaper.

Sudan will cooperate with the international community to solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis “and we will not host any terrorist,” the spokesman said.

Osama no friend of Palestinians: The Islamic fundamentalism purveyed by al-Qa'ida is the enemy of moderate Muslims and secular Palestinians (Richard King, April 26, 2006, The Australian)
That sympathy for the Palestinian cause is widespread in the Islamic world is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said. But bin Laden is also very aware that Palestine is a hot-button issue in the West, where many liberal and left-wing commentators seem willing and even eager to believe that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is attributable to American support for Israel. His pronouncements from the mid-1990s on are peppered with references to the Palestinians, but in recent years they have become more frequent. In my view, the reason for this is simple: these references have fallen on fallow ground.

Take, for example, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, published by the left-leaning Verso Books. This book is a collection of bin Laden's pronouncements from 1994 to 2004, required reading for anyone interested in the real objectives of al-Qa'ida. And yet certain editorial decisions would appear to betray a hidden agenda.

For example, bin Laden's first major pronouncement (December 1994) is headed "The betrayal of Palestine". But the statement has less to do with Palestine than it does with the hated House of Saud and its tendency to put big business before Islam. The volume's editor, Bruce Lawrence, has chosen to give the issue of Palestine a prominence that the text does not warrant.

Probably Lawrence takes it for granted that bin Laden is motivated by the Palestinian cause. If so, he is certainly not alone. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who said that she had a soft spot for bin Laden. I pointed out that bin Laden probably didn't have a soft spot for her - a female liberal and a lover of music - and that the kind of society he'd like to create would be a pretty grim place for her and her daughters.

Hamas rejects bin Laden message (Al-Jazeera, 23 April 2006)
Hamas and a Sudanese rebel group have distanced themselves from a statement from Osama bin Laden condemning the West for its actions in both countries. [...]

Bin Laden also called "upon the mujahidin and their supporters in Sudan and its surroundings - including the Arabian Peninsula - to prepare to lead a prolonged war against the "crusader robbers in western Sudan".

Ahmed Hussein, from the Justice and Equality Movement, a Sudanese rebel group, said: "We categorically reject these declarations.

"His words are completely disconnected from the reality in Darfur. Bin Laden is still preaching the theory of an American-Zionist conspiracy when the real problem comes from Khartoum, which is a Muslim government killing other Muslims."

He warned that such comments risked "encouraging the Khartoum regime to perpetuate injustice and its strategy against Darfur".

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2006 8:19 AM


Posted by: Ptah at April 26, 2006 8:52 AM

The main thing, then, is to kill them off quickly before they do any more damage. The "suitcase from Allah" might be a last gasp, but it would also be a destructive one.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 26, 2006 9:38 AM

Thank you for that last sentence. Few point out that a kamikaze attack isn't a sign of strength, but one of pathetic weakness, a long scream denying the truth that their end is near.

Few willingly become martyrs just before their side is victorious.

Posted by: Mikey at April 26, 2006 10:21 AM

We caught a few minutes of some PBS documentary last night that, amazingly, had interview after interview of Iraqi people talking about what Zarqawi's terrorist men had done in their town and to their family members in 2004. One comes away thinking it's a shame we're too civilized to treat the barbarians as what they are.

Posted by: JR at April 26, 2006 10:54 AM

"the latest and last"?

I thought you understood human nature better than that oj.

Posted by: Shelton at April 26, 2006 11:00 AM

It seems that you and Mark Steyn (or even Dan Simmons: http://www.dansimmons.com/news/message.htm)
have rather different views of the nature of "the enemy." Steyn seems to think that we're going to lose this war, because not enough of us believe with sufficient conviction in our Western values and religion (Christianity) as the Islamists/ics. I almost can hear you replying with a "if their religion wins, can realize a more virtuous, God-fearing City of Man/God, within the End-of-History parliamentary democracy system, so be it," (based on this book review of yours, which I thoroughly enjoyed): http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1002).

I think you have the best blog out there. But I must say you have a much higher confidence in Islam's ability to reform than do I. As W.T. Stace once showed me, all cultures are not equal, certainly not from an ethical point of view. I would say the same about religions (whether this is because religions unavoidably possess or spring from a cultural aspect, I do not know.) If I must be honest, I would state that I believe that Christianity is generally speaking a somewhat superior religion to Islam. Even John Paul, speaking kindly and honestly as always, wrote: "Islam is not a religion of redemption." (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.92; I recommend this chapter, "Mohhammed".)

I urge you to promote this discussion by perhaps writing an in-depth essay for publication on why you think Steyn is wrong (his recent City Journal and other essays) and why you think Islam is not only intrinisically a virtuous religion that values the worth of the individual (in the same way Kant and your old Professor did/does), but can reform itself. I do not think the West, as she still exists, is being unreasonable in her effort to accommodate Islam. But perhaps you would use "the West" in scare quotes and argue that they are we and we are they. I don't know. But I look forward to more discussion from you and to your favoring us with a comprehensive essay on the subject, hopefully appearing in the Wall Street Journal or City Journal, etc. It just feels like the discussuion hasn't really happened yet, except in privileged corners. Instead, we're still trying to name the war, or agree that there is one. Thanks, Mr. Judd.

Posted by: Respectfully, at April 26, 2006 1:03 PM


Recall that Mr. Steyn would consider Europe to still be The West, which I don't. Secular Europe is not just a lost cause but the real enemy and will indeed be a better place when it becomes Islamic.

As for why Islam can and will Reform, try here:


Posted by: oj at April 26, 2006 1:09 PM

Thank you. I will read it.

We are in agreement regarding Europe, by the way, although let's not forget there are many sincere believers still living there (perhaps soon to be facing a decision on whether to emigrate for their children's sake).

Posted by: Res at April 26, 2006 1:15 PM

thanks for the Dan Simmons link. It was a great little short story with a very sharp point.

Posted by: Patrick H at April 26, 2006 4:57 PM

An item that's important to remember is that while ordinary Muslims may be sympathetic to him, the Powers that Be in Muslim countries see him as threat to their power. Why would either Fatah or Hamas welcome a third player in their struggle for power?

Leadership of the Muslim world is one of the items at stake here, which is also why the US might be able to use Sunni dislike of an Iranian (Shi'ite) bomb to rally other Middle East governments to favor a strike. If the regions other governments give us a public thumbs up, it matters little whether Russia, China, or Europe object to force.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 26, 2006 6:59 PM

But we're on the Shi'a side, not the Sunni.

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2006 7:17 PM