Even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede.September 10, 2011 - 12:31 am - by Raymond Ibrahim
So long as the West focuses on names and faces in the so-called “war on terror” — as opposed to focusing on ideas and motivations — so long will it possibly win battles, even as it slowly loses the war.
The unfortunate fact is that, even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede, since al-Qaeda has never been the source of the threat, but simply one of its manifestations.
To get a better perspective on the overall significance of the latest killing of an al-Qaeda member, consider how at the turn of the 20th century, the Islamic world was rushing to emulate the victorious and confident West — best exemplified by the Ottoman empire itself, the preserver and enforcer of Islam, rejecting its Muslim past and embracing secularism under Ataturk. Today, 100 years later, the Muslim world has largely rejected secularism and is reclaiming its Islamic — including jihadist — heritage, lashing out in a manifold of ways. Consider how many Islamist leaders, organizations, and terrorists have come and gone in the 20th century alone — many killed like bin Laden — only for the conflict between Islam and the West to continue growing by the day.
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.
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.
Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam specialist and author of The Al Qaeda Reader, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. To receive his articles, sign up on his mailing list.Read more at pajamasmedia.com