- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008




Despite a noisy campaign, neither presidential candidate ever really understood jihadist terror. Now it is essential that the origins and purpose of suicide-terrorism become fully apparent to the president-elect.

The core meanings of jihadist operations have little or nothing to do with criminality, deprivation or oppression, but rather are founded in fear, hatred and Islamist supremacism. These deeply held personal feelings derive from patterns of shared belief and indoctrination. A consuming horror of death, yearning for the ecstasy of anticipated union with Allah, grotesque joy from targeting “others” who “lack sacredness” and an abiding hatred of “apostates” and “infidels” are the real motivators that drive suicide bombers to their atrocities.

Suicide-bombing terrorism comes from centuries of Islamic doctrine, derived from what is held to be divinely revealed scripture. But declarations, charters and Islamist fatwas provide only an abstract of juridical texts compiled by Islamic scholars. These define jihad as just war against non-Muslims to establish the religion. This is not the understanding we expected from our presidential candidates, but it is what jihadist terror is all about.

The monstrousness of suicide terror-violence leaves humanity grasping for some explanation to bridge the gap between those who would deliberately inflict such anguish and ourselves. For many Americans, and likely for our president-elect, such barbarism defies not only language, but also the very definition of what it means to be human. The inexpressibility of pain impedes our ability to recognize terror-violence as evil and unforgivable. Instead, it is easier to fall back on widespread but legally incorrect celebrations of terrorists as “freedom fighters.”

Understanding jihadist terror-violence is a responsibility that carries legal consequences for those who swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It carries existential consequences for all who cherish a way of life based on the values of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem. For both citizen and policy-maker, the most important truth is that the jihadist terrorist fights not only to compel unbelievers to embrace Islam. The jihadist terrorist kills and dies to end the sovereignty of unbelievers, a sovereignty that prevents the supremacy of Islam from transforming Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam.

Jihadist terror is literally commanded by Allah in the Koran. “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power … to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies.” Early Muslims seized eagerly on such divine injunctions, launching a campaign of political assassination against local Jewish poets and leaders. These killings were followed by the siege and expulsion of Jewish tribes around Medina, the massacre of Jewish men, and enslavement of their women and children. Horrified, other tribes capitulated, fled or converted to Islam. Calculated, calibrated application of terror can work, and jihadist terrorists know it.

Jihadist terrorists long since adapted these lessons to modern asymmetric warfare. As Pakistani Brig. Gen. S.K. Malik wrote in his 1979 classic, “The Quranic Concept of War”: “Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved.” That this most fundamental of our enemies’ strategic philosophy is scarcely known in our national war colleges is to our detriment and leads to the absurd elevation of “cross-cultural competency” above formulating a basic enemy threat doctrine.

Jihadists struck terror into the hearts of Spaniards heading to the polls in March 2004: The government changed hands, and the new prime minister quickly pulled Spain’s troops out of Iraq. The British presented a tougher challenge, but after attacks on the London Underground and Glasgow Airport, Shariah is now an enforceable legal system in the United Kingdom. Here at home, our government’s fear of another September 11 cedes this war’s lexicon to the jihadist enemy, thus ensuring that the ranks of our counterterrorism cadre have no idea whom or what it is we fight, or why.

Our next president must recognize that the remorseless violence of jihadist terrorists springs from deformed images of the sacred and implacable hatred of the “profane.” The seemingly nihilistic obliteration of human flesh in a spray of nails and screws and flame is both an abstraction - self-sacrifice on the altar of expected immortality - and a shrewdly calculated tactic of psychological warfare. This tactic intends to destroy from within our faith in our values and ourselves. Our willful blindness allows the jihadist enemy to advance ever closer to transforming his or her random victims’ pain into jihadist power.

Before our next president can win the war on terror, this crucial fact must first be understood.

Louis Rene Beres is an author and professor of political science at Purdue University. Clare Lopez, a former CIA field operations officer, is vice president of the Intelligence Summit and a professor at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies.

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