Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Winning the Battle Against Al-Qaeda, Losing the War Against Jihad

September 13, 2011 8:03 am 0 comments

President Obama.

So long as the West focuses on names and faces in the so-called “war on terror”—as opposed to focusing on ideas and motivations—so long will it possibly win battles, even as it slowly loses the war.

As we approach the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, we win another battle with the recent slaying of al-Qaeda’s number 2. According to the Associated Press, “U.S. and Pakistani officials said Saturday that al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the U.S. believes to be on the verge of defeat.”

Splendid news. However, some context:

Before Osama bin Laden, the face of al-Qaeda, was killed, it made sense to announce, by way of prelude, the killing of various al-Qaeda members, such as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Abu Ayub al-Masri , Abu Laith al-Libi, the notorious Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and any number of other “Abus” (and “Ibns”); it also made sense to exult, even if with hyperbolic headlines—”al-Qaeda receives devastating blow”—by way of saying the noose is tightening around bin Laden, who was next.

However, with the killing of bin Laden—the snakes head, the face of terror, the heart of al-Qaeda—it is becoming a bit redundant for the administration to continue boasting over the killing of yet one more al-Qaeda member; just as it is redundant to continue asserting that al-Qaeda is on the “verge of defeat.”

After all, any number of analysts insisted that with the killing of bin Laden, al-Qaeda was as good as dead, thereby implying that whether this or that member gets killed is irrelevant. Peter Bergen, for example, declared that “Killing bin Laden is the end of the war on terror. We can just sort of announce that right now…. It’s time to move on.”

More to the point: the administration’s inordinate focus and optimism over the killing of the latest al-Qaeda member (one can place past and future names here ___) ultimately exposes its myopic approach—an approach that tries to localize the problem, to give it a face, to treat it as a temporal and tangible entity that can be defeated through arms.

The unfortunate fact is that, even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede, since al-Qaeda has never been the source of the threat, but simply one of its manifestations. The AP report obliquely reflects this: “Senior al-Qaida figures have been killed before, only to be replaced,” even as the Obama administration is optimistic that “victory” is at hand.

To get a better perspective on the overall significance of the latest killing of an al-Qaeda member, consider how at the turn of the 20thcentury, the Islamic world was rushing to emulate the victorious and confident West—best exemplified by the Ottoman empire itself, the preserver and enforcer of Islam, rejecting its Muslim past and embracing secularism under Ataturk. Today, 100 years later, the Muslim world has largely rejected secularism and is reclaiming its Islamic—including jihadist—heritage, lashing out in a manifold of ways.

Consider how many Islamist leaders, organizations, and terrorists have come and gone in the 20th century alone—many killed like bin Laden—only for the conflict between Islam and the West to continue growing by the day.

It’s in this context that the Obama administration audaciously evokes the word “victory,” simply because yet another jihadist has been killed.

This, of course, is to be expected, considering the administration, which has a tendency to censor words—and thus knowledge—concerning the nature of the threat, just released a much vaunted policy paper on countering terrorism that never once uses the word “Islam(ism)” or “radical Islam,” while myopically fixating on al-Qaeda, one of countless jihadist organizations that seek to subjugate the West.

Despite its narrow approach, the administration itself has inadvertently conceded to the existential nature of the threat, as it has begun to acknowledge that lone wolf terrorists—jihadists who have no connection to al-Qaeda other than that they share the same worldview—are a greater threat.

As Attorney General Eric Holder put it, “the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens—raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born.”

Note how Holder ignores the most important factor to understanding and ultimately defeating jihadists—their motivation—by dismissing it as “whatever reason.” Even so, the administration’s acknowledgement of the lone wolf jihad proves one thing: it is doctrinal ideologies floating among Muslims around the world—not just the caves of al-Qaeda—that create terror threats.

So when Counterterrorism chief John Brennan says that “Taking him out of commission is huge. There’s not another bin Laden out there. I don’t know if there’s another Atiyah Abd al-Rahman out there”—he can rest assured that while those two are gone, countless are the no-names out to emulate them, in a myriad of ways.

To conclude, by all means, target and kill terrorists, singly and collectively, and rejoice over it; but keep in mind that even if al-Qaeda were expunged from existence, while that would be a battle well won, it would not be the end of the war, which has been prosecuted in various forms and frequencies for fourteen centuries, and will not end with the elimination of this or that individual or organization.

Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam specialist and author of The Al Qaeda Reader, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →