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View Full Version : The Terrorists Are Losing, Says French Arabist



Scott Rosen
09-29-2004, 09:33 AM
Even though the US has botched Iraq.

The Terrorists Are Losing

September 29 2004

Looking at the gruesome images of beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq, it's easy to think that the Islamic holy warriors are winning. But a new book by a distinguished French Arabist named Gilles Kepel argues the opposite case. For all the mayhem the jihadists have spawned, he contends, their movement is failing.

Rather than waging a successful jihad against the West, the followers of Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction within the house of Islam. This internal crisis is known in Arabic as fitna: "It has an opposite and negative connotation from jihad," explains Kepel. "It signifies sedition, war in the heart of Islam, a centrifugal force that threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and ruin."

Kepel was in Washington last week promoting his book, and his comments provided a useful antidote to the political debate surrounding the visit by Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The struggle against Islamist terror is neither the rosy success story painted by Allawi and President Bush nor the disastrous free fall described by John Kerry. Instead, it is one unresolved battle in the long-term struggle summarized by the title of Kepel's new book, "The War for Muslim Minds."

Kepel believes that America has stumbled badly in Iraq, and he's sharply critical of U.S. policies there. But that doesn't mean the jihadists are winning. Quite the contrary, their movement has backfired. Rather than bringing Islamic regimes to power, the holy warriors are creating internal strife and discord. Their actions are killing far more Muslims than nonbelievers.

"The principle goal of terrorism - to seize power in Muslim countries through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity - has not been realized," writes Kepel. In fact, bin Laden's followers are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat; the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.

Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq - the kidnappings and beheadings, and the car-bombing massacres of young Iraqi police recruits - are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses. No sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that most of the dead from post-9/11 al-Qaida bombings in Turkey and Morocco were fellow Muslims.

A perfect example of how the jihadists' efforts have backfired, argues Kepel, was last month's kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq. The kidnappers announced they would release their hostages only if the French government reversed its new policy banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves in French public schools. "They imagined that they would mobilize Muslims with this demand, but French Muslims were aghast and denounced the kidnappers," Kepel explained to a Washington audience. He noted that French Muslims actually took to the streets to protest against the kidnappers and to proclaim their French citizenship.

Kepel believes that the war for Muslim minds may hinge most of all on these European Muslims. In countries like France, Britain and Germany, large Muslim populations are now living in secular, democratic societies. All the tensions and contradictions of the larger Muslim world are compressed into the lives of these European Muslims, but they're free to let the struggle play out in open debate. Thus, it's in Europe that Islam may finally find its accommodation with modern life.

Perhaps it takes an outsider - a Frenchman, even - to help Americans see the war on terror in perspective. Saturated in terror alerts and images of violence from Iraq, Americans may miss the essential fact that the terrorists are losing. And because we see this as a war against America, rather than one within Islam, we may miss the real dynamics.

David Ignatius is a syndicated writer in Washington.
Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant

Ian McColgin
09-29-2004, 09:44 AM
I happen to find this analysis quite interesting and apt with a caveat. The analysis indicates that the terrorists may be losing ground irregardless of US actions. We need to be mindful that they will lose ground faster if our actions are more internationalize, more correctly targeted and more just. We also need to remember that the trend can be reversed if the terrorists provoke us into even greater folly against moslem non-combatants.

Terrorism, as distinct from guerilla warfare, is a very weak weapon that only rarely advances the cause of the one to wield it. It is readily countered with justice.

Mrleft8
09-29-2004, 09:45 AM
Suddenly the conservatives are listening to the French?

Keith Wilson
09-29-2004, 11:19 AM
Interesting. Thanks.

I suspect he's right, and that the tactics are a result of frustration approacing desperation. Despite our blunders, the radical islamists don't seem at all capable of provoking an all-our war between the believers and the godless west (which of course they think they would win, with God's help. :rolleyes: ) Most Muslims are neither fanatics nor fools, and can see quite clearly what effect these tactics have.

[ 09-29-2004, 12:20 PM: Message edited by: Keith Wilson ]

Scott Rosen
09-29-2004, 11:20 AM
Ian,

I think it's safe to say that the US is doing some things right and others wrong. The difficulty is figuring out which tactics work, and which ones don't. I don't think the answer is as easy or clear as some people would suggest.

All's well that ends well, as the Bard says. If we "win" the war on terror, then our children's children can debate whether the Iraq invasion was necessary. Just like we debate whether the A-bombing of Japan was necessary to our victory in the Pacific.

The thrust of this Frenchman's point is that we should assess our tactics in terms of how well they promote the ascention of moderate and modern Muslim leadership and the development of free societies in the Middle East.

It's a good point.

[ 09-29-2004, 12:22 PM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

Alan D. Hyde
09-29-2004, 01:58 PM
A good, thought-provoking, post.

Thanks, Scott.

Imagine for a moment the various ways in which Lincoln was viewed in 1863: no, it's not the same, but a little long-term perspective is most helpful.

Alan

Chris Stewart
09-29-2004, 02:50 PM
Originally posted by Scott Rosen:
Looking at the gruesome images of beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq, it's easy to think that the Islamic holy warriors are winning. But a new book by a distinguished French Arabist named Gilles Kepel argues the opposite case. For all the mayhem the jihadists have spawned, he contends, their movement is failing.

Rather than waging a successful jihad against the West, the followers of Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction within the house of Islam. This internal crisis is known in Arabic as fitna: "It has an opposite and negative connotation from jihad," explains Kepel. "It signifies sedition, war in the heart of Islam, a centrifugal force that threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and ruin."
That suggests to me that we should be resolute in doing exactly what we are doing: helping to create free societies in Afghanistan and Iraq, capturing or killing terrorists wherever we find them, and putting as much pressure as possible on the remaining states that sponsor terrorism while supporting moderate Muslim states.

If the jihadis reaction to our efforts is creating a backlash among moderate Muslims, so much the better. We cannot win Muslim hearts and minds until the terrorists lose them.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
09-29-2004, 03:11 PM
Thanks, a helpful and constructive point of view.

It makes very good sense to me. But let me make one correction: in Libya, the Arab nation that I know best, having grown up there, the Islamists have never been in power, or anywhere near power -Moammar Qaddafi began as an (pan)Arab Nationalist
(I remember his inviting Nasser to Libya) and veered off into (pan) Africanism. He's Moslem but he's no "Islamist" and he has never allowed the Islamists a foothold. This is not least because the regime he overthrew, that of King Idris, derived its claim to legitimacy from the Sanussi resistance to Mussolini, which was somewhat Islamic in inspiration.

John of Phoenix
09-29-2004, 03:26 PM
When I was in Iran in 1979 my job was to train Iranian Cobra pilots the kill Iraqi tanks. I asked one of the commanders why they hated the Iraqis so intensely given that they're both Islamic. He responded rather cryptically, “In my country we have a saying, ‘My brother and I against our cousin, my cousin and I against our neighbor, my neighbor and I against the infidel.’”

That translates to - Iraqis want to rid themselves of the Satanic Army of Occupation, then they’ll deal with the Arab jihadis who have been killing so many Iraqis. Then they’ll settle the score between the Sunnis and Shiites and so on.

But WE are first on the list.

imported_Dutch
09-29-2004, 03:44 PM
Im still tryin to figure out what the hell a French Arabist is? Is it like an anglo-saxon or an Irish-protestant or a white-niggar or somethin?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
09-29-2004, 03:50 PM
My late father was a British Arabist so I'll answer that:

The term is used of diplomats and academics who speak fluent Arabic and who have specialised in the Arab countries during their career.

Most are indeed French or British, but there are some American Arabists. Alas, not very many, and they are not listened to often enough, because they tend to be found in Ivy League universities and in the State Department, neither of which are in favour with Goerge II.

John of Phoenix
09-29-2004, 04:13 PM
Juan Cole at the University of Michigan would be an American-Arabist (who is decidely not in favor with the administration but then it's mutual).

I would expect French Arabists would be quite common given their history with Algeria. Italians were a major influence in Libya at one time, there should be some Italian-Arabists. Or would they North-Africanists? Na, Arabists.

[ 09-29-2004, 05:16 PM: Message edited by: John Teetsel ]

George.
09-29-2004, 04:41 PM
Originally posted by Ian McColgin:

Terrorism ... is readily countered with justice.Hear, hear!!

Chris Stewart
09-29-2004, 05:30 PM
Originally posted by George.:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Ian McColgin:

Terrorism ... is readily countered with justice.Hear, hear!!</font>[/QUOTE]In general usage, justice effectively means punishing people who have already committed a crime. The criminal justice system is largely premised on deterrence (if you commit a crime, we will punish you), hopefully setting the punishment so that it will deter most people who might commit a crime. The most severe punishment possible is the death penalty - if you commit this crime, the state will kill you.

However, punishment, even capital punishment, is not an effective deterrent for someone who is willing to die in the commission of a crime. How can "justice" possibly deter suicide bombers?

Similarly, "justice" works by incarceration and rehabilitation. How can one rehabilitate someone who is commanded by Allah?

I think justice is completely ineffective in combatting terrorism. Terrorists should be treated the same way pirates were. Killed whenever and wherever they are found. To the extent possible, terrorism should be countered proactively by prevention rather than reactively by arresting and trying the terrorists.

And when more Americans were killed in the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon than were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, those attacks were not crimes, they were war.

Alan D. Hyde
09-29-2004, 05:34 PM
"Pirata est hostis humani generis." Sir Edward Coke

***

Alan

Elmer Jenkins
09-29-2004, 05:50 PM
"All's well that ends well, as the Bard says. If we "win" the war on terror, then our children's children can debate whether the Iraq invasion was necessary. Just like we debate whether the A-bombing of Japan was necessary to our victory in the Pacific."

How do you "win the war on terrorism?"

For every one of these assholes we kill or capture, there are more that are trained to hate the US. Hell, look at North Korea. Those people are trained to hate us from birth! Brainwashed! Why aren't we doing soemthing there? They have operational nukes! The reason is because it doesn't fit in with corporate America's plan. There is no oil in North Korea.

The so called war on terrorism cannot be won. This isn't like the second world war where we had an indentifiable enemy. The war on terror is Bush's excuse to make money. Plain and simple.

Terrorism will always be around and probably even more so now that the United States invaded the wrong country.

As much as I hate to say it, my prediction is Bush will win and re-instate the draft and then invade Iran. There are going to be a lot of souls lost over there. We will get bogged down in it and finally withdraw. What makes Bush think he can bring peace and democracy to the Middle East? They have been fighting over there for eons. He is an ignorant SOB.

[ 09-29-2004, 07:16 PM: Message edited by: Elmer Jenkins ]

Ian McColgin
09-29-2004, 05:55 PM
My view of justice includes such novelties as spreading the blessings of industrial democracy and not just exploiting the extractable wealth and human resourses of weaker nations.

My view of justice includes engaging those who would harm us rather than gratuitously inflicting 'collatoral' casualties.

Being of fundamentally christian mindset, I've a fairly dark view of the corrupt nature of humanity, of the vast gap between our gross selves and the imago buried so deeply within.

The extent of pickpocketing at public hangings of pickpockets pretty much prooves that deterrance is not really the motivation for lawful behavior.

The ability of our soldiers to take a tacit blessing as permission to violate our laws and standards regarding prisoners shows that we've a constant need to help each other, lead each other, in moral behavior.

No one thing is the total answer but there are some things that are never the answer. Terrorism is never the answer. That includes the de facto terror of responses that are guarenteed to inflict high casualties on innocents.

alteran
09-29-2004, 06:10 PM
Originally posted by Elmer Jenkins:
[QB He is an ignorant SOB.[/QB]Ignorant SOBs seldom recognize themselves.

Sometimes they just start using an alias and hope no one notices.

Elmer Jenkins
09-29-2004, 06:21 PM
I hope you don't have a child or kinfolk of draft age Al. Think about that when you pull that lever. You may be signing their death warrants. Shipping them off to fight in a war for corporate America.

http://www.bushflash.com/gif/toucher.gif

[ 09-29-2004, 07:30 PM: Message edited by: Elmer Jenkins ]

alteran
09-29-2004, 07:02 PM
Originally posted by Elmer Jenkins:
I hope you don't have a child or kinfolk of draft age Al. Think about that when you pull that lever. You may be signing their death warrants. Shipping them off to fight in a war for corporate America.

http://www.bushflash.com/gif/toucher.gifPay attention MMike. Two of my three sons enlisted in the Air Force. You would know that if you have been reading this forum for more than a few days.

And by the way MMike do you work for "corporate America"??

Elmer Jenkins
09-29-2004, 07:12 PM
Sorry Al. I hope your sons return safely.