Are Jihadists Better Strategists Than Free Governments?


The following brief article was published in: The American Ideological Society.

2007: Strategic Thinking Needed
in Fighting Global Jihad

by Jeffrey Imm

The United States of America has some of the smartest leaders in government, military, and business in the world. Yet the American government has failed to collectively use this formidable brain-power 5+ years after the attack by Jihadists on the American homeland to develop a truly strategic plan to fight the global threat of Jihad and Islamist extremism. In one of the most complex wars in American history, rather than starting with holistic, big-picture thinking towards the challenges and prioritizing resources and actions accordingly, America has spent much of the past five years after 9/11 in reactive and bureaucratic churning.

Why has the United States government been so incapable of addressing this national blueprint and study group for addressing Jihadist and Islamist threat? There are multiple problems here:

1. Reactive, tactical thinking for quick-fix approaches to the Jihadist problem and achieving "homeland security".
As virtually all of the government planning regarding the Jihadist problem has been a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, it is predictable that such thinking would be highly tactical, reactive, and focused on near-term protective and military measures. This was perhaps excusable or at least understandable 1 to 6 months after the 9/11 attacks. It is now 5+ years after 9/11 attacks, however, and this excuse has long since run its course. But the government approach towards addressing the Jihadist problem is no more robust or strategic than it was in the early months of 2002. The organizational approach to "homeland security" is based on such reactive thinking, and has developed a bureaucracy based on such organization. Yet there has been no determination as to what the term "homeland security" even means in a larger sense other than a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, and certainly not as a component in a larger government blueprint regarding Jihad and global Islamism. Thus, there is no "homeland security" for the economy, culture, demographics, and dozens of other war components vital for winning the long term war.

2. Believing that fighting "terrorism" itself is an end, when terrorism is only one tactic in a larger, global Jihadist strategy. Thus, we have a "War on Terror", and neither the true enemy nor the true threat is clearly identified. Furthermore, the focus on both military objectives and "counterterrorism" lack context within a well-defined war strategy and blueprint regarding Jihad and global Islamism, which has uses many other tactics other than terrorism to meet its objectives. While it is acknowledged that no terrorist attacks have taken place on the American homeland since 9/11, Jihadists have been and continue to use communications tactics, demographic tactics, political tactics, and economic tactics quite effectively against the USA and the rest of the world. We are hampered by the language which makes "counterterrorism" and "counterintelligence" sound unnecessarily robust, when we are really only addressing measures against a single tactic of war in both cases. We would not fight a military war with only anti-tank or anti-aircraft measures. Moreover, we would not fight any war solely on a military front. But in this war, the American government has thus far only prioritized military and counterterrorism activities.

3. Institutional failure in investigating what the Jihadist problem is and fully understanding it or developing a shared understanding that can be used for strategic planning. The American government seems to believe any serious investigation into Jihad and Islamism will be counterproductive to winning the hearts and minds of Moderate Muslims in fighting terrorism. This argument makes sense if America is only fighting "terrorists" and "terrorist activity". But the facts are that Jihadist terrorist activity is funded, supported, and based on larger Islamist organizations - ranging from educational centers to charities to political groups. Ignoring the basis for Jihadist terrorism leads to an endless pursuit of trying to cure symptoms without ever acknowledging or treating the source of the symptoms. America did not fear offending Germans in fighting Nazism or offending Russians in fighting Communism. Like past wars in fighting totalitarian ideologies, a thorough understanding is needed of these and a comprehensive, strategic war plan against every tactic is needed against such Jihad.

4. Mistaking the use of strategic assumptions in tactical approaches to issues as "strategic thinking" on the larger threat. For example, Michael Chertoff has frequently indicated that one of the strategic assumptions of DHS is to prevent a nuclear attack on American soil, with appropriate tactical emphasis on this. Such strategic assumptions in general tactics in an element of a war are not the same as an overall strategic thinking in fighting the larger war, and looking at all aspects of the war (economic, energy, communications, cultural, demographic, etc.). But this surface-level of strategic assumptions in both counterterrorism and in military engagements are as far as the American government is currently going. Situational strategic assumptions are not the same as a long-term, big-picture, war strategy. Objections to strategic thinking and planning are plentiful and well-rationalized. The multitude and rationalization for these objections, however, do not make them any less wrong. And it is precisely this lack of strategic thinking and planning that Jihadists are truly counting on. As Bin Laden has repeatedly stated, he hopes that America will bankrupt itself pursuing individual avenues of military conflict against Jihadists:

"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah".

In 2007, it is time for the American government to step back, evaluate and identify the scope of the threat of global Jihad and Islamism, and wisely prioritize the best way to use our limited resources to fight this generational war. The fight against Jihad is a marathon, not a sprint, and America needs to fight smarter to win.

The original article by
Jeffrey Imm was published on the Counterterrorism Blog:

2007: Strategic Thinking Needed in Fighting Global Jihad


Anonymous 11:56 PM  

Beautifully written

Overall strategy is key approach


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