William Church, Managing Director, CIWARs
America is losing the Islamic State Terrorism War because it is still fighting the last war, the Bin Laden War.
The Bin Laden War
First, let's start with a definition of the Bin Laden War. This war had specific characteristics. Osama Bin Laden wanted complete top down control. His hallmark was large attention-getting events. Embassies and of course the World Trade Center characterized the Bin Laden Wars. He was an educated, privileged class Saudi. He knew that the "West" prized thinking, logic, and planning and these types of attacks would shake his enemy.
OBL came from the Bin Laden Construction family. If any government worldwide wanted a large complex infrastructure project completed there was only one company to call: Bin Laden.Therefore, considering his father built large buildings doesn't it makes sense that structures and not people were his target: ( I recognize people were killed and not just the structure.)
- World Trade Center twice
- Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
- Yemen Hotel
- Battleships USS The Sullivans and USS Cole
- The Freighter Limburg
None of these attacks were against people, but obviously humans were killed but the target was the structure of the state. The Bin Laden Construction Company built buildings and his son destroyed buildings. All of that ended, when the United States invaded Afghanistan and ran OBL into the ground. After 2003, there were very few attacks on the scale of the Bin Laden War between 1992 and 2003. Also, lets be perfectly clear. The tactics used to stop the Bin Laden War worked. Invade, disrupt command and control, destroy financial sources, and kill the leadership.
The 1991 Invasion of Kuwait to remove Iraq and the Bin Laden War are probably the only two examples of winning wars for the United States post World War II.
The enormous mistake by President Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff was not to recognize--in terms of terrorism--a new war had started, and that was the Islamic State Terrorism War, which is not to be confused with the war on the ground against Islamic State fighters.
The Al Qaeda transition to The Islamic State War and the Islamic State Terrorism War
After 2003 with the exception of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta (there is always an exception) there was a shift of tactics like we saw in classic guerrilla warfare in the Delta of South Vietnam. This started the soft target years. Bombs in market places, suicide trucks into housing complexes, the Bali bombing and the terrorism of Iraq too many to count. Daily bombs blew up people shopping or walking on the street.
The Al Qaeda Transition Terrorism War lacked the brilliance of OBL. It lacked his ability to be logical and connect dispersed dots and put together a battle plan. But it also lacked his funds. In some ways, I have characterized these types of war as the Lost and Found Wars. They were awash with mortar shells, weapons, mines, hand grenades, explosives so "why not use them" best sums up the thinking. They did not have to go out and buy anything. They did not have to go and import explosives. They had people who knew explosives right on site.
The Islamic State War
The Islamic State War war started when three crucial factors came together. Syria's Assad lost control of his territory in no small thanks to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States. A new leader emerged--Abu Bakr--with the vision to create a new caliphate and tie into ancient Muslim zeitgeist. Finally, the collapse of effective control of the Iraqi government.
All three of these factors allowed Abu Bakr to swiftly move across the Levant and turn the Al Qaeda transition to The Islamic State War and the Islamic State Terrorism War. The Islamic State War was a totally symmetrical war--a term by the way I am beginning to doubt its usage. Battlefields, uniformed soldiers conducting movement against other uniformed soldiers.
Precisely, it was the Syrian Red Line moment when the Islamic State was still the JV team that can be marked as the crucial start of the war. This was not just a failing of President Obama. it was complete and absolute breakdown of international order: the United Nations, Europe and the United Kingdom. Chemical weapons were used in violation of international law, the Syrian population was being eradicated at genocide levels and Assad had lost control over nearly all of his territory. Yet the World Leaders could not be bothered and the Islamic State turned from the JV team into a 50,000 person strong fighting unit.
A full world order intervention with United Nations mandate would have taken up the space that the Islamic State would have eventually seized. it would have been in place as a blocking force against the Islamic State's push west from Iraq, and it would have been available, on the ground and ready to go to assist the failing Iraqi government if they had agreed. Instead, it sent a message to Abu Bakr that he had a green light. It was a Munich moment.
The real cowardice--by the entire international community-- is the failure to enforce the prohibition against chemical weapons as a norm. In addition, it is a human rights failure that would have prevented the death of another 150,000 civilians. The lesson here is that every time the world turns its back on its human rights principles it leads to a larger disaster.
The Islamic State War and the Islamic State Terrorism War
Currently the United States, Europe and Turkey are reeling from the Islamic State Terrorism War; however, they cling to the tactics of the Bin Laden War and the Islamic State War. These tactics are summed up in one misguided phrase: Cut off the head of the snake. This strategy worked perfectly in the Bin Laden War because there was a head on the snake. There is zero evidence to suggest that Abu Bakr or any of his lieutenants-which by the way are being killing at a fast rate--directed the attacks in San Bernardino, Canadian Parliament, Ile de France, Belgium Airport, and Orlando. However, it is necessary to make the distinction between the attacks in Europe and North America. The attacks in Europe had an association with the Islamic State but the attacks in North America are more frightening because there is no recognizable connection.
Therefore, we have a two prong terrorism war developing. The European version where they went to Syria and returned and attacked. The North American version where individuals feeling displaced and disconnected and in some cases disgusted with dominant North American culture and values attack without direction or control.
CIWARS believes the Islamic State Terrorism War is in a transition from the European Version to the North American version. This transition cripples all known counter-terrorism methods. There are no email or telephone communications to intercept. If they have a co-conspirator they are family or close knit. This foils the now obvious tactic of the FBI trying to insert a co-conspirator. Only the most mentally uncontrolled would fall for that today. It is impossible to profile everyone who watches an Islamic State website or video feed today because they are two numerous and there is no way to sort out the curious from the criminally intent and this brings up the most significant point.
The Islamic State is not the source of these attacks. The Islamic State did not direct these attacks. San Bernardino, Orlando, Boston are the new norm, and I doubt that the United States leadership grasps the kick in the gut reality of that statement.
The United States can wipe out the Islamic State, and all other terrorism groups and these attacks will continue as long as the idea or belief behind these attacks continue. The United States is still fighting the Bin Laden War and it needs to recognize there is a new reality.What fuels the North American version of the Islamic State Terrorism War? The Islamic State has given them voice, not direction, to express the alienation felt in American society.
It is total rubbish to label them as radical Jihadist. They are not radicals. Identifying them as radical Islamists is the same as fighting the Bin Laden War.
Lets make this point much clearer. None of the attackers in Boston, Orlando, San Bernardino, or even the Fort Hood green-on-green attack thought they were bringing about the new Caliphate. None of them thought they were involved in a war to bring about Judgement Day. They were expressing solidarity with this ideal that Muslims must have, or need political and social space and after all that is what the Caliphate symbolizes.
Caliphate is a place for Muslims to live without interference. Their pledge to the Islamic State was a symbolic way of saying, "Muslims need a place to practice Islam freely." At the core of this problem in the United States and especially France is the melting pot view of America and France. You will become American. You will become French. Think about the absurdity of that statement for a Muslim. That American or French view says you must stop being a Muslim. Give up your relationship with Allah.
The United States and France are largely Christian nations that bear no resemblance to Islamic life. A vast amount of American-Christian culture confronts a Muslim or restricts a Muslim and since many Americans have not lived in an Islamic country this view is missed. It is not saying that American lifestyle is against Islam. It is saying that Muslims need the social and political space to be Muslims in America.
Here are some examples. In Ramadan, in Islamic countries, there is no eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. You can not walk down the street munching on a sandwich. It would be offensive. There is a sense of shared Resistance in the fast. Muslims are resisting the physical to focus on the spiritual. None of this sharing takes place in the United States if a Muslim works in a Christian culture. A sense of alienation develops.
Praying five times a day is not optional as it is in Christianity. It is vital. It must not be skipped. It is a Muslims' way of bowing before God/Allah and saying everything comes from Allah. When you see a Muslim prostrate himself in prayer and then rise and prostate himself again he is reminding himself that Allah knows that he will make mistakes and that he must constantly return to Allah in obedience. During the prayer a Muslim repeats the 99 names of Allah: Compassion, Peace, Forgiveness, and Righteous. This is a reminder to embody those names. This is the core.
In the American work place it is difficult to keep to prayer times without producing alienation. Even going to the toilet produces this feeling that you are different because the differences of how the cultures cleanse. Even getting new unsolicited followers on Twitter is jarring and I can hopefully assume it must be for some Christians also. It is a constant bombardment of men and women who are displaying their body parts in the most obvious way and these are not people in any way looking to be paid for sex. These people are acting according to the norms of American society.
If the United States is going to be truly a nation of tolerance and freedom then the norm must be to have space for all forms of public religious daily practice. Being American can not be defined by one cultural norm as it is today. This produces alienation not only in the religious sphere but in the ethnic or race sphere. Since most military leaders and lawmakers are white Christians I can assume there is no awareness of the alienation from that cultural norm.
A thoughtful Muslim leader, Tariq Ramadan, summed it up very nicely. "No where in nature is there uniformity. It is not the norm. We must have unity with diversity." This is what changed Malcolm X's heart. He went to Pilgrimage in Mecca and he saw white, brown, yellow, and black Muslims coming together in unity. In essence Tariq Ramadan is saying a Muslim can only live in America or Europe if there is space for a Muslim to practice his faith openly, without judgement, without hindrance, without discussion, and with the understanding that we all do not have to be uniform to be American or French.
The United States will never defeat the North American version of Islamic State Terrorism because its root can not be killed with bombs, bullets, or drones. The Islamic State, in theory not practice, is a lifeline to the belief that a Muslim can have space to be Muslim. I would like to repeat that. For North American Islamic State Terrorism, as currently displayed, it is not about supporting the practice of some radical, strict form of Islam. Look at the individuals. Some did things they would be stoned to death for if they truly went to the live in the Islamic State.
Our Islamic State Terrorists are striking out through alienation. You can not bomb that away.
William Church, Managing Director, CIWARS
Ilham Kocache, Managing Editor, CIWARS