Eleven years ago Dr Walid Phares wrote an Op Ed in the Washington Times warning about future strategies of the Jihadists. Between 2002 and 2004 he published more pieces projecting the global expansion and urban Jihadism. In 2004 he wrote a book, published in 2005 outlining the global strategies of the global Jihadists, as they actually occurred in the following decade. Reflecting on a decade long research in the 1990s and years in the Middle East studying the phenomenon during the Cold War, Dr Walid Phares wrote: "To put it bluntly, yes, future jihads have already started. Now the United States and the international community have an opportunity to win the battle of "foresight" after they have realized in hindsight what was missed in the 1990s. By looking forward, I will attempt to analyze al Qaeda's (and other offshoots') strategic thinking with regard to future wars against the United States and its allies. There has been a fundamental misunderstanding about al Qaeda's ultimate goals. Strategic questions, such as what the jihadists want to achieve for the next decade or what al Qaeda's long-term plans are, are yet unanswered."
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(Document Re-published in 2013, almost ten years later)
Has the Future of Jihad Already Begun?
by DR. WALID PHARES September 11, 2013
To put it bluntly, yes, future jihads have already started. Now the United States and the international community have an opportunity to win the battle of "foresight" after they have realized in hindsight what was missed in the 1990s. By looking forward, I will attempt to analyze al Qaeda's (and other offshoots') strategic thinking with regard to future wars against the United States and its allies. There has been a fundamental misunderstanding about al Qaeda's ultimate goals. Strategic questions, such as what the jihadists want to achieve for the next decade or what al Qaeda's long-term plans are, are yet unanswered. Is the "international army of holy war" seriously aiming at conquest of the West or at rebuilding what was lost in the past? Do jihadists really want to restore the caliphate that ruled the Islamic world (and significantly, parts of what we now call the West) for over a thousand years? An inquiry into such questions would help determine what the United States and its allies need to do to win this war.
In the text that follows, I attempt to answer such critical questions as: What are al Qaeda's future strategies against the United States? How long will this war last? Is the United States secure on the inside? Will it have to engage the jihadists worldwide in multiple campaigns, and if so, where? Do al Qaeda and its nebulous allies - including potentially non-Sunni groups such as Hezbollah - have a world strategy to defeat the United States? How is victory defined by jihadists? What are the critical components of U.S. victory?
I show that the jihadist strategies include a deep infiltration of America's government, defenses, and its youth. Jihadi doctrines do not rule out the acquisition and the possible use of weapons of mass destruction.
The war is expected to last more than a decade. I argue that the United States is mobilized domestically for this war but is not yet fully secured. It will take mass cultural adaptation to fight jihad. America must win the war of ideas - it must capture the minds of the women, youth, and elite that form the foundation of the future. Americans must learn a higher, more difficult truth about the terrorists - and also about what and who allowed the jihadists to be successful until September 11 and beyond - so that they can begin the actual resistance. Washington's perception and planning for the global war on terrorism is only beginning. Many aspects of our response to and understanding of the jihadists need to be changed or developed: our national education, our justice system, our intelligence agencies, our political alliances around the world, and our spending policies. Some myths will have to be broken, and many realities must be unearthed.
A U.S. policy on jihad will have to be shaped; it will have to have its own men and women dedicated to it, and it must fought at all levels worldwide. We can compare America's position today to the end of 1942. We have declared war against the new enemy and made some initial inroads, but the tide has not reversed. From their centers, the enemies are still waging global war against the West and the United States. In sum, major sacrifices are still ahead of us, and gigantic efforts and events are yet to occur. The high point of the conflict is yet to come.
The last four years created a major breach in how Americans and westerners look at world politics and international relations. The latest presidential election showed how issues of security, insecurity, and uncertainty prey on the minds of voters.
Images from overseas have changed the perceptions of viewers and readers: Beheadings, mass graves, and the statements made by the vast networks of jihadists and other radicals have brought home the weighty question of future holy wars against the United States and the West. Americans are now preoccupied by two wars: the jihad that has been launched against them and the war on terrorism that has been directed at the jihadists. Collectively we are searching for the answer as to which one shall be successful.
The answer is that al Qaeda has a world strategy - but it is not what we have thought or been led to believe it was. It is shaped by intellectual forces wider than the membership of the organization and far older than the cold war. The "system" at war with America is in fact centuries old and cannot be defined solely in terms of countries, regimes, or leaders. I call this system the "mother ship." I have seen its mechanisms at work, its complexities, and its long-term vision. The jihadists' vision of defeat has not yet been understood by the West. Jihadists do not see the death of Os am a or loss of Fallujah as a defeat. Neither do westerners correctly understand the jihadists' vision of victory. In jihadists' view, Allah determines both victory and defeat.
So then, why and how did the jihadists establish the basis for the new war against the United States? It is crucial to analyze bin Laden's thinking, which can be done only from a jihadist perspective.[i][i] As will be shown in this book, the vision of a 9/11 attack was one decade old, but the ideology that led to it stretches far into the past. Osama built his vision upon sources that have also to be examined.
Reading, listening, and absorbing Islamic fundamentalist literature for over twelve years has enabled me to understand the mindset of Osama bin Laden and therefore the strategic planning of his organization. One of the least understood chapters of the war on terror is what can be considered the "thinking mode" of al Qaeda and other jihadists: What do they factor into their planning? How deep is their penetration of the western system, and since when? Who helps them from outside the organization? Was their assault on Manhattan and Washington only a raid? Or was it a trigger to a wider chain of events they thought would happen? From reading their declarations, websites, and chat rooms, the deep and strategic goals they had in mind are beginning to surface. From this knowledge base we can learn lessons about their future strategy and also plan our own.
Another important dimension of the struggle is al Qaeda's reaction to U.S. reactions, especially in the 1990s. From a jihadist perspective, what was the meaning of the first attack against the Twin Towers in 1993? When was the decision for this first assault made, and why? Why were there attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia and against the Khubar Towers in the mid-1990s? Was al Qaeda the sole attacker?
Then, in 1996 and 1998 came the jihadist formal declarations of war against America - incredibly, an event hardly noticed by the western media. I will demonstrate that this declaration was the watershed that set the September 11 attacks in motion. Who were the clerics behind that move? The attack on the USS Cole and the millennium plot moved the plan forward, but these attacks were only the tip of the iceberg. Based on my careful analysis of the video and audiotapes aired on al Jazeera and on other media, I assert that al Qaeda's plan was and remains more comprehensive than what is commonly believed. English-only analysts are at a big disadvantage when dealing with information from the Arab world. Not all of what was said in Arabic was translated, and not all of what was translated was understood in context.
Bin Laden had a plan, a substitute plan, and a counterplan. This book unveils them all. Al Qaeda strikes, but it then analyzes the subsequent reactions of its enemies. It has a long-term vision, but can revise its tactics as necessary. This book shows the real al Qaeda; I will also show how the dominant political culture in the West has helped to obfuscate it.
TEN QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
A better understanding of the past leads us to a clearer analysis of future trends. Such analysis opens up the way for a series of critically important questions. To recap:
1. Do they wish to destroy the enemy (us) or absorb it?
2. Do they want to attack the West and the United States before they accomplish their goals in the Muslim world first? (A crucial question, leading to many others.)
3. Will it be possible to conclude peace with the jihadists? What would doing so entail?
4. What are al Qaeda's priorities in the struggle against the United States?
5. What weaknesses and holes do the jihadists see in America and the West, and how would they use them?
6. Are the governments in the United States and other western nations ready for these future wars?
7. What would the next generations of Americans, today's children and youth, have to face in these wars?
8. What should the United States and the West do to avoid future jihads?
9. Why wasn't it already done in the past?
10. Are the jihadists alone, or do they have the backing of other powers and states?
My goal in writing this book is to help answer these questions. My first objective is to show that the future is very much about the past. The future of America depends on our understanding of the historical roots of jihadism. This is not a war with an enemy with whom governments can sign peace treaties or establish new frontiers. We are facing forces that link directly to ancient and modern history. Their ideology was born decades ago, but was inspired by doctrines from the Middle Ages. America has never engaged in a conflict with deeper roots in the past. Today's terrorists see the world with different eyes and minds from all Americans-and from most communities worldwide. To fully understand their mindset, we must learn about the terrorists' history and their reading of history. The future of U.S. national security, international relations, and world stability lies in the hands of those who are first to learn about the terrorists' relevant history. That is the key to their code, but it is not a secret one; it was simply hidden for too long by our own elite, which denied the public this fundamental knowledge. By severing the historical roots from contemporary conflicts waged by the terrorists, and by camouflaging their real long-term intents (which are also linked to their vision of history), our elite blurred or even blinded our vision.[ii][ii]
In this book I make the case that a central obligation in the war on terror, waged since the fall of 2001, is education of the public: the American public first, but international public opinion as well. The outcome of the conflict will be decided by how well citizens understand the threat. The Islamic fundamentalists' jihadist strategies are not fully centered on classical state warfare. The resources of regimes have been merged with the capabilities of networks. The jihadists' presence is fluid and their actions are stealthy until the final stages of an operation. But ironically; jihadists emerge, grow, and develop almost entirely in the open. If we look at their public manifestations and thinking, whether in chat room conversations or media like al Jazeera, we can begin to understand their objectives. And if we learn about their past and deeper history, we can understand their current and future strategies.
Many among us wonder about the global strategy of the jihadists. In this book, I not only show the existence of a global jihadist strategy, but I also uncover its several different components. Not only are the terror plans frightening; they are already underway on a global level. I show that terrorist and jihadist strategies against the United States and the West started earlier than most of us generally think, that terrorists have been more successful in infiltrating than we expect, and that they are readying themselves for far larger strikes than they have mounted in the past.
My aim is to participate in the global effort to educate the West about past mistakes in judgment that led to the terrorist advances. But more important, I hope to convey an urgent message to the reader: From what we now know regarding what really happened, and from what we know could have happened, comes a terrifying picture of what could happen around the world if the appropriate policies and measures are not taken.
*This piece is an excerpt adapted from Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America, published in 2005 by Palgrave/McMillan. Author Walid Phares authorized its publication by Family Security Matters on the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks
Dr Walid Phares is an advisor to members of the US Congress on Terrorism, and teaches Middle East Studies in Washington DC
[i][i] Adapted from an op-ed by the author. See Phares, Walid,"The 9/11 Hearings and the Failures of the 1990s," FrontPage Magazine, March 26, 2004: "The 9/11 Commission could have transformed the country into an adult nation, if the debate had concentrated on the investigation of the real root causes that allowed the jihad terrorists to massacre thousands of Americans on that fatal morning of September 2001."
[ii][ii] Adapted from an op-ed, Phares, Walid, "Blinded by Convention: How America Missed the Jihadist Threat," Washington Times, June 9, 2002.
Dr Walid Phares is an advisor to the US Congress on Counter Terrorism, and the author of ten books including Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America and The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. Dr Phares appears on national, international and Arab media. He teaches at several universities and briefs US Government agencies on Terrorism and the Middle East.
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