Thursday, September 06, 2007

Al Qaeda In Iraq - Kagan

In the spirit of Sun Tzu ("if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles"), read this article by Frederick Kagan. I learnt something new and had reinforced a lot of latent knowledge.

Like Paul Berman, Kagan starts with Sayyid Qutb and his radical interpretation of the Koran as well as those elements of Marxism-Leninism that most suited his purpose. His fundamental premise is that all law (and he means all law) comes from God, and that a secular state is a blasphemy, is polytheistic.

Thus the importance of the concept "takfir", which designates the process of declaring a person to be an unbeliever because of the way he practices his faith.

The takfiris insist that anyone who obeys a human government is a polytheist and therefore violates the first premise of Islam, the shahada (the assertion that "There is no god but God"), even though Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history. The chief reason al Qaeda has limited support in the Muslim world is that the global Muslim community overwhelmingly rejects the premise that anyone obeying a temporal ruler is ipso facto an unbeliever.
It is no accident that it is Muslims who have suffered the most by far from terrorism guilty as they are of not being "true Muslims, but unbelievers". This applies to Sunnis, and even more to Shia. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Queda in Iraq (originally called "Movement of Monotheism (as opposed to polytheism) and Jihad") saw the Shia as apostates and therefore worse even than Crusaders and Zionists. He attempted, with some success, to ignite their fury against the Sunnis so as to bring the Sunnis into the sectarian fight as well as the one against the invaders.

Kagan carefully maps the differences between al-Queda in Iraq and al-Queda in Afghanistan, which in turn illuminates the former's initial success and their subsequent failure. Finally, he looks at the successes in Anbar province and with the surge. (According to this site, he published a paper in December, 2006, outlining the tactics eventually adopted in the surge. A PowerPoint-type presentation of this paper is available here.)

My summary has been very lean. Read the whole thing. Like his brother, Robert, he writes without hysteria or platitude, but with conviction. If you want more about Paul Berman's book, Terror and Liberalism, and about Sayyid Qutb, look at the this summary I wrote a little while ago.

1 comment:

Hazar Nesimi said...

This indeed true comment, irrespective of what i think of Kagan. Modern Takfiris (Salafis( can be thought as latter day Kharijites, most extreme and totalitarian sect. They share a lot of similarities.

Most extreme Kharijites in those times pronounced Takfir on all other Muslims, considering them to be Kuffar ('unbelievers') who could be killed with impunity. Their distinctive practices included:

A test of sincerity required of each new recruit, in which the neophyte was required to cut the throat of a captive enemy.Religious murder (إستعراض not only of men, but also of their wives and children was allowed and encouraged. They were eventually defeated by Khalif, but some of their groups carried own, and the ideology was revived in 18th century.

Remember all the massacres of all villages in Algeria..As for Shia ... well you cold imagine..