Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Islamist Grand Strategy

Yes, al-Qaeda has a highly-developed strategy. It was recently discussed at a lecture by a Princeton professor, and we are thankful for the copious notes taken by Tigerhawk. See the full analysis, it is fascinating and critical for us to understand.
It is, nevertheless, possible to say that al Qaeda has a grand strategy, even if it is not driven from bin Laden's cave. This is because the ideology of radical Islam incorporates a grand strategy. This radical ideology sets long-term political goals, and it marries means to ends.
How does radical Islam develop and communicate its strategy, and how does it execute? Through the web. There are thousands of pages of al Qaeda material available on the web. Doran has been reading this material and trying to absorb the view of the world that it reflects.

It is becoming clear that the militants who developed and shape the direction of this ideology do have a grand strategy, and that they have spent a lot of time thinking very deeply about their situation. For example, they assumed from the beginning that their organization would be very fragmented.

Al Qaeda's thinkers have reinterpreted Islam all the way back to the time of the Crusades (or even the time of the Prophet). They argue, for example, that Muslim victories in the Crusades were not attributable to Saladin, but to small bands of Muslim insurgents that laid the foundation for Saladin's victories. Their argument is that, in effect, al Qaeda-like organizations were at the source of Muslim triumphs a thousand years ago. These victories did not derive from the state, but from little bands of determined men. This reinterpretation of history shapes how they think about the war al Qaeda fights today.

Just as they are writing about Muslim victories a thousand years ago, Al Qaeda's intellectuals consider themselves in the middle of a very long term struggle. Al Qaeda is saying: “We are not revolutionaries. It is the next generation, or the generation after, that is going to carry out revolution in the Middle East.” It is therefore not quite right to say that al Qaeda is itself going to overthrow these regimes. Al Qaeda’s ambition is “to lay the groundwork for Saladin,” and “shift the balance of power between radical Islam and the states in the Middle East.” As most of TigerHawk's readers know, "al Qaeda" means "the base" or "the foundation" in Arabic.
Read it all, as they say.


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