Friday, October 30, 2015

The Strategic Tradition of Sunni Jihadism

Tiny Battles Gazette has a killer bit on the Sunni Way of War - or rather the Sunni Strategic tradition.

Here's a few money shots...

The three waves of jihadi military strategy have been ever increasing in their totality. Qutb envisioned a small group of jihadi cells that would seize control from regional Arab government leaders. Bin Laden and al-Suri envisioned more popular revolutions, both regional and global, led by a jihadi vanguard. Naji and ISIS leadership envisions a movement: the mobilization of the entire population towards the singular goal of establishing and expanding the Islamic State.

This is demonstrated by repeated calls from ISIS to Muslims of any kind, including administrators, engineers, and doctors as well as fighters to join their banners.[xlviii] This vision is no less than a repetition of the French Revolution’s somewhat successful attempt to mobilize the entire nation of France to further the goals of the Revolution and thus is a significant change in the stream of jihadi military thinking.

For Clausewitz, the total mobilization of French society was the political change that spurred an advancement in warfare towards his theoretical concept of absolute war which Napoleon came the closest to reaching. Like the revolutionary cockades of France, the Islamic State fastens its black flags to anything it can: police cars, ambulances, traffic cops, bureaucrats, even in its nursing homes.[xlix] The Revolutionaries rewrote history, designing a new calendar and outlawing legacy institutions like the Church. The Islamic State recently destroyed a local, older version of France’s arc de triomphe, rewriting history with bombs rather than laws. ISIS is not a vanguard of eventual societal revolution as is al Qaeda. It is the revolution.

This trend towards an attempted application of absolute war along with the apocalyptic vision of the Islamic State (a vision shared by, among others, Abu Musab al-Suri) is a worrying development. ISIS has taken jihadi military strategy the along the spectrum towards absolute war. They have adopted ideas of their predecessors and rejected others while learning from their mistakes and failures.

Whether the Islamic State ultimately succeeds or fails, they have pushed the envelope of jihadi military strategy to heretofore unprecedented heights and those that come after them will go even further. The overriding concern for policymakers then must be that the Islamic State and similar groups do not under any circumstances acquire weapons of mass destruction as their rationality after such an acquisition is unpredictable.

Furthermore, a simplistic strategy of attrition- whether of Islamic State fighting cadres or their leadership- will be ineffective due to both the decentralized nature of their organization inherited from al Qaeda and the obvious fervor of their adherents, exemplified by their self-professed “love of death.”

Lastly, it is no mystery that a central pillar of jihadi strategy is their goal of drawing the United States into intractable conflicts that expend its blood and treasure. Why the United States has walked into this trap is the only mystery.