Islamic Terrorism: Beyond an ‘Al Qaeda’ Movement

Summary: The Global Swarm Continues
StrategyUnit has focused on the fact that “Islamic Terrorism” (for lack of a better, shorter term) as it exists today is very much the global guerilla movement that John Robb has been writting about.

The recent arrests in Toronto, aborting a potential attacking, and a recent article by Michael Scheuer (author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War), reinforce the position that Islamic Terrorism is an organic, decentralized beast. Its bigger than Al-Qaida, bigger than Bin Laden and bigger than the now deceased al-Zarqawi. Al-Qaida does have an important role, but as the instigator, the proclaimed vanguard, of a wider Islamist social movement.

Global Swarm

Indeed, as StrategyUnit has noted: “As this war is more of cross between an insurgency and a social movement, there maybe no clean cessation of violence in the near or distant future. And in this conflict, there will be no battlefields, but rather our adversaries will be attached as a Global Swarm as Global Guerillas.”

The Toronto 17
The 17 potential terrorists arrested in Tortonto has direct connections to Al-Qaida and were, like the July 7 Londong bombers, homegrown groups. While the details are coming out, the Internet played a major role in communication, indoctrination (recruitment) and training (bombing making).

The suspected terrorists were, luckily for us, inept. A group of “foreign looking” men doing weapons training in the open and later buying three tons of fertilizers (not a fact easy to hide) are not the hallmarks of terrorist masterminds.

Bin Laden – Status: Success or Failure

Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War, notes that many experts have written off Bin Laden as a failure:

Over the past two years, U.S. and Western commentators have concluded that Osama bin Laden is largely irrelevant as the leader of the worldwide Sunni insurgency. Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria, for example, has said that “by now it is surely clear that al-Qaeda can produce videotapes but not terrorism…And the bad guys are losing” (Newsweek, March 15, 2004). James S. Dobbins at the National Review added that bin Laden “made many threats of course, but was never able to back them up, creating an unbridgeable credibility gap” (National Review Online, September 28, 2005). The new CIA chief, General Michael Hayden, has described bin Laden’s recent audiotapes as a public relations campaign to prove he is still alive. “These attempts,” Hayden said, “may be an attempt on their part [bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri] to kind of re-establish authenticity with their followers” (AP, February 5). Finally, from Sarah Lawrence College, Fawaz Gerges all but dismisses bin Laden’s relevance, arguing that “we are in the throes of the beginning of a new wave [in the Muslim world]–the freedom generation–in which civil society is asserting itself” (Christian Science Monitor, February 4, 2004). In short, these arguments assert that the situation has improved.

But indeed, this is not the case. Scheuer correctly points out that Bin Laden, sees himself and Al-Qaida as the final means, but the “match” to light the Ummah (Islamic World) on fire, motivating it against the West:

“[Bin Laden] has never claimed that al-Qaeda could achieve this goal by itself. Quite the contrary, he has consistently maintained that al-Qaeda is only the vanguard of the large-scale movement that is needed to achieve this goal.”

The recruitment of Europeans to fight in Iraq, the Madrid and London Bombings, the abortive attempt in Toronto, the recent alliance of “”Islamist leaders in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Jerusalem” all point to the face that the “flame” is alive and thriving.

Conclusion
The recent Toronto arrests shows that the threat is still very real and is far more diverse than a threat “from over there”, but it is a threat that can be as homegrown as meatloaf and apple pie (for you American readers).

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