- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Al Qaeda has adapted and regrouped, and is operational again. Many analysts believe the criminal terrorist group is planning a cocktail of attacks that would eclipse those on September 11.

Today, al Qaeda is much more than a handful of operatives directed by Osama bin Laden. It is an ideology of violence persuading alienated Muslims that Islam is under attack and must be defended by all means.

As a result, a new generation of terrorists is being born. The Glasgow doctors, Fort Dix Six and the terror cell recently arrested in Germany are a simmering phenomenon that should be called “Jihad 3.0.” What is being hatched from al Qaeda’s sanctuaries on the Internet, in Wazeristan and in Iraq is a terrorism swarm. Imagine bees swarming, doing their own thing individually, for one purpose, and you have a pretty good idea what Jihad 3.0 could become.

It is the vision of Abu Mas’ab al Suri, the jihadists’ innovative trainer and ideologue. Fortunately, he was captured two years ago, but he left behind a 1,604-page doctrine that guides terrorism’s future.

Al Suri’s “Call for Global Islamic Resistance” is a strategic document that details a “leaderless resistance” based not on an organization or even a network, but on a system. The system al Suri defines offers a glimpse of fifth-generation warfare: self-selected, unconnected and empowered cells and individuals with enormous destructive capacity.

The plan is to inspire alienated Muslims to kill Americans and Europeans wherever and however they can. Imagine a Washington, D.C., sniper in 10 U.S. cities at the same time. The plan may be to unleash this swarm following the next attack. The “homegrown” cells recently rounded up may have simply been testing the water.

Some doubt al Qaeda can trigger a widespread violent uprising. The vast majority of Muslims reject violence. However, there are beginning signs of unrest. A Pew poll in May of Muslim-Americans found that 5 percent had a favorable view of al Qaeda. The same poll found 7 percent believed suicide bombings to be sometimes justified in defense of Islam. Even in the United States, where Muslim Americans are well-integrated in society, these trends cannot be ignored.

What’s driving the disaffection is not religion. This is not a “clash of civilizations,” though the radicals would like it to be. What is driving radicalization in the Muslim world is an almost universal rejection of U.S. foreign policy, our support of Israel, support for authoritarian Arab regimes, and the war in Iraq. The radicals have seized on this sentiment and are recruiting alienated Muslims through the Internet in their living rooms.

Our government seems incapable of providing a counter-narrative plausible to radicalizing Muslims. That’s just what we must do if we are to prevent the swarm of Jihad 3.0. What is urgently needed is a new narrative a strategic communications strategy to drive a wedge between the violent extremists and the Muslims they seek to radicalize.

We must reach out to mainstream Muslims with every element of national power: diplomatic, economic, educational, etc. We’re not doing a good job of that today. Ideas will prevent radicalization, not military power. To defeat a global Islamist insurgency, we need nothing less than a global counterinsurgency.

If we do not define ourselves to the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, the radicals will continue to define us and successfully recruit their new “swarm.” Only Muslims themselves can defeat a global insurgency. They must understand the radicals to be the criminals they really are, and that al Qaeda is seeking to hijack their religion. The terrorists have killed more Muslims than Americans. Al Qaeda’s vision of a world governed by 7th-century puritanism would lead to economic depression, poverty and violent conflict that would plague Muslim families for decades if not centuries.

The Muslim community has a proud history. In earlier times, it led major scientific and cultural achievements. Those days can return if Muslims join the rest of the world in peacefully promoting the fruits of globalization.

We have a responsibility to engage the Muslim community in a dialogue to break down barriers and end the bitterness that divides us. To do that we must achieve a political consensus domestically that eludes us today. If we fail, we will relegate our children to a future of terrorism, fear and diminished civil liberties.

These observations are neither fearmongering nor profiling but an honest appraisal of trends we all wish would go away. It is a clarion call to both political parties that we are running out of time to stop this terrorist train. Our current homeland-security policies are merely defensive. That is a prescription for failure. Our great military can never defeat terrorism’s actual “center of gravity”: the violent radical Islamist ideology. Likewise, a “War of Ideas” seems a trite phrase. But changing minds of those not yet radical is the only answer to this great issue that threatens world stability. It’s past time to get on with the job.

Mike Walker, chairman of Plexus Scientific Corp., served as acting secretary of the Army and deputy director of FEMA in the Clinton administration.

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