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Winning the Battle Against Al-Qaeda, Losing the War Against Jihad

Even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede.

by
Raymond Ibrahim

Bio

September 10, 2011 - 12:31 am
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It’s in this context that the Obama administration audaciously evokes the word “victory,” simply because yet another jihadist has been killed.

This, of course, is to be expected, considering the administration, which has a tendency to censor words — and thus knowledge — concerning the nature of the threat, just released a much vaunted policy paper on countering terrorism that never once uses the word “Islam(ism)” or “radical Islam,” while myopically fixating on al-Qaeda, one of countless jihadist organizations that seek to subjugate the West.

Despite its narrow approach, the administration itself has inadvertently conceded to the existential nature of the threat, as it has begun to acknowledge that lone wolf terrorists — jihadists who have no connection to al-Qaeda other than that they share the same worldview — are a greater threat.

As Attorney General Eric Holder put it, “the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born.”

Note how Holder ignores the most important factor to understanding and ultimately defeating jihadists — their motivation — by dismissing it as “whatever reason.” Even so, the administration’s acknowledgement of the lone wolf jihad proves one thing: it is doctrinal ideologies floating among Muslims around the world — not just the caves of al-Qaeda — that create terror threats.

So when counterterrorism chief John Brennan says, “Taking him out of commission is huge. There’s not another bin Laden out there. I don’t know if there’s another Atiyah Abd al-Rahman out there” — he can rest assured that while those two are gone, countless are the no-names out to emulate them, in a myriad of ways.

To conclude, by all means, target and kill terrorists, singly and collectively, and rejoice over it; but keep in mind that even if al-Qaeda were expunged from existence, while that would be a battle well won, it would not be the end of the war, which has been prosecuted in various forms and frequencies for fourteen centuries, and will not end with the elimination of this or that individual or organization.

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Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013. Ibrahim’s dual-background -- born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East -- has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
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