Thursday, May 05, 2016

Patrick Poole: The Quranic Concept of War and Terror

Leading terrorism thinker Patrick Poole writes about Pakistani Gen. S.K. Malik's The Quranic Concept of War at his personal blog:

http://patrickpoole.blogspot.se/2005/12/quranic-concept-of-war-and-terror.html

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2005

The Quranic Concept of War and Terror

UPDATE (01/19/07): In lieu of having hard copies of Gen. S.K. Malik's The Quranic Concept of War presently available, due to the present demand, we are making the book available online in PDF. Also, be sure to read LTC Joe Myers' excellent review article published in the Winter 2006-2007 edition of Parameters: The US Army War College Quarterly. We hope to have hard copies of this volume available for purchase in the near future.

I'm presently reading S.K. Malik's The Quranic Concept of War in my ongoing studies on Islamism and terrorism. This book, very difficult to find (I had to order it from Pakistan - perhaps now I'm on some watch list; yeah, like I wasn't on it before...), is perhaps the best analysis available on the Islamic philosophy of war. I had seen it referenced in several journal articles, and with my interest in military strategy and tactics, I ordered it.

What Malik is usually cited for is his frank discussion on the role of terror in the implementation of war in the Quran. And it isn't just confined to "combat" as we understand that term today. Here's the quote usually cited:
“In war our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep terror away from our own hearts… Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him.” (p. 59)
This is a stunning and telling statement. His war doctrine states that terror is not a means, but an end. But this is usually where the analysis of Malik's argument stops in the American military journal articles. Why impose terror on an enemy as a thing good in itself? On the very next page, he describes the role of terror:

"It (terror) can be instilled only if the opponent's faith is destroyed...To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy, it is essential, in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate his Faith" (p.60)Here we see in explict terms the religious dimension to terrorism. According to Malik, terror is designed to shake the faith of the enemy. Terror is a counter-religious attack. When Al Qaeda targeted the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Capitol for the 9/11 attacks, these were not military targets. Even the Pentagon was a symbolic target. And what were they targeting? The core elements of the American civic religion: materialism (economy), military strength, and democratic values. The terrorists understood that bringing the Twin Towers down wasn't going to collapse the economy; destruction of the Pentagon wasn't going to make military decisions and strikes impossible; and attacking the Capitol wasn't going to end American democracy. These were strikes designed to shake our faith in our values.

Now I think their analysis of what makes America tick is slightly off, but not too much. I think they would do much better to instill terror by shooting up a bunch of shopping malls in fly-over country, but don't tell the FBI I said that. Such an attack would shake middle America's sense of security. I hate to say it, but the terrorists understand the nature of battle much better than we do these days. They knew when they dragged those two American soldiers' bodies through the streets of Somalia that President Clinton would cut and run. And it's a bipartisan problem. When terrorists killed hundreds in the Beirut attacks on the Marine barracks and the US Embassy, we communicated to the world what our threshhold level was for war pain when President Reagan withdrew the troops. In our secularist age, the transcendent and symbolic has been forgotten. But the capacity remains within us nonetheless. That's why propaganda works. And it is working for terrorists, with the help of the American mainstream media.

But something else I picked up thus far in Malik's book is actually in the preface:

"Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the … verses in the Qur’an to be able to contend that world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is sufficient answer to make, if one were to point out, that the defiance of God’s authority by one who is His slave exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law, is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity, which has been created "Kanafsin Wahidatin" that is, like one, single, indivisible self. It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means (if it would not respond to other treatment), in order to save the rest of Humanity…" Allah Buksh K. Brohi, "Preface", p. xix.Here we see expressed Islam's view of the their doctrine of man and the question ofthe One and the Many. Unlike Christianity, which sees each individual human as bearing inherently the image of God, Islam sees God's image in man as a potentiality. It is possible for us to bear God's image (if we follow Islam), but isn't in us inherently. And Brohi's comment shows that the individual only has meaning and value within the whole. Their totalist/unitarian worldview demands the unity of humanity under the banner of Islam. No diversity is acceptable or tolerable. There is no basis for human rights, except for Muslims. As he makes clear, Humanity is "one, single, indivisible self." Now this is absurd on its face, but they are being entirely consistent in the application of their monist theology. All individuality must be absorbed into the one because individuality isn't real; it is an illusion. This belief undergirds ALL revolutionary thought, whether Islamic or Enlightenment. This is why the doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely essential to defend and explicate for us as Christians. When we give up the Trinity, we give up Humanity and Individuality. With the Trinity, both the unit and the individual have meaning and purpose.

And Brohi is honest about the consequences. The cancerous (non-conforming parts of humanity) must be "cut off" surgically. I don't know if you've ever been in a hospital in a Muslim country, but they are far from surgical about anything (speaking from personal experience). They are talking about surgery with a sword, not a scalpel.

I wouldn't suggest buying Malik's book unless you've read Hart on Strategy or Clausewitz. You would probably waste your money. But I can recommend a few good articles. There is an excellent, brief overview of the Islamic doctrine of Jihad that has been prepared by the Naval Chaplain's Service. Lee Harris wrote an article in Policy Review after 9/11 to explain the role of symbolism, entitled "Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology". He later expanded this thesis into a book, Civilization and Its Enemies. I would also recommend Paul Sperry's article in yesterday's FrontPageMag, where he discusses the shift in the Pentagon's message to begin to state that terrorism, as we're facing it today, is in fact a function of Islamic ideology. No more "religion of peace" nonsense. And you might want to take a look at a recent article in Parameters, the US War College quarterly, that talks about "Why the Strong Lose".

This last article reminded me of a quote I read several years ago by Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (who is a regular on Fox News). He wrote an oped in the Washington Post in the aftermath of the Al Qaeda bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (which fortunately I kept, because I can't find it online), and commented on the nature of the war we were fighting. Here he is chiding the Clinton Administration for the weak military response to those attacks. Remember this was three years BEFORE 9/11:

"A serious attack would have involved risk to pilots and aircraft, and Washington wants to conduct military operations on teh cheap, at least politically. During a past interveiw, bin Laden pointed to our precipitate withdrawal from Somalia after we won a street battle and suffered a handful of casualties. He claimed Americans are cowards who retreat as soon as they are bloodied. He is wrong about our troops, but right about our government."As Iraqis vote today in their elections, take a moment to remember that freedom always comes at a price - a human price. Wars, by their very nature, are about killing; and despite American technology, when we assert ourselves militarily, we will lose good men and women. It is that simple. Our enemies understand this and have made that calculation themselves. If we can't finish this war in Iraq, we no longer deserve to consider ourselves a superpower. We ought to be like the French, and begin to discuss with terrorists the terms of our surrender with Al Qaeda. But if not, we must be aware of the strategy and the resolve of our enemy. I hope to write an extended paper on Malik's war doctrine after I finish the paid writing project I'm presently working on. I'll be sure to make it available here.

UPDATE: One article I forgot to mention is The New Arab Way of War, by Australian Royal Air Force Captain Peter Layton. He cites the first Malik quote above on terror; yet again, doesn't draw the religious connection. His short analysis on the tactics, as opposed to the strategy, of Islamic terrorists is particularly helpful. I don't agree with all his conclusions about what to do. I think he ignores the doctrinal issues related to Islamic society I noted above, and thinks too much within the outdated nation-state paradigm. We are engaged in a civilizational conflict that exhibits religious and cultural presuppositions. And just like Muslims, we are very mixed on what values we hope to defend. That's a great place to start the discussion.