An interesting, internet-based movement brought to my attention by reader A.A. is the 910 Group. It declares itself to be a nonpartisan defense of Western core values and civilization, asking only one thing of prospective members: devoted opposition to what it calls "the Great Islamic Jihad in all its forms."
I gather from their specific comments that what they mean by that formula is 'terrorist violence executed by people who believe in a radical version of Islam, plus also the political movements driven by the same goals.' They expand on what they mean by their movement by an assertion of things you can't believe and be one of them:
There’s no room for responses like these:I’m opposed to radical Islam, BUT…I guess it's point number three that troubles me. If all it means is "It doesn't matter what your cultural values are, terrorism is still wrong," OK.*You have to understand the root causes of terrorism.Nuh-uh. Nope. No way. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances.
*The problem of Israel and the Palestinians has to be solved first.
*It is a legacy of Western imperialism and colonialism.
*It is important to understand and be accepting of different cultural values.
*Sometimes terrorism can be a legitimate form of resistance against oppression.
If you subscribe to any of the above dependent clauses (or their numerous cousins), then you don’t belong here. This is no place for equivocation; those who have come here recognize the gravity of the present danger.
Root causes don’t matter. Historical grievances don’t matter.
Violence against civilians for religious or political purposes is always, everywhere, and under all circumstances WRONG.
Asserting otherwise destroys the civic and moral fabric of our common society, and we emphatically reject it.
Resist the jihad. Encourage the overthrow of tyrannical Islamist regimes. Work to stop and reverse the encroachment of Wahhabi fundamentalism throughout the Western world.
On the other hand, it appears to suggest not being interested in the Islamic understanding of why these acts are lawful. The use of the phrase "Great Jihad" is a good example of that lack of interest, as I'll explain below. That is foolish -- and I say that as a dedicated fighter, and a man who believes the military is the 'last man standing' in terms of being an effective branch of the US government. If you scroll down to 'the Executive' there, you'll see for example how I think the US military is now doing diplomacy better than the State department. It's a military response we need. But ADM Fallon's work wasn't done with disinterest toward the cultures of the region -- I have personal reason to know how interested PACOM and its subordinates have been in the cultures of their region.
Take the phrase, "the Great Islamic Jihad." I have to wonder if they didn't know, or have forgotten, or simply do not care that the phrase "Great Jihad" has a meaning in Islam separate from the 'jihad of the sword.' If you declare yourself against "the Great Jihad," a Muslim will have every reason to ask -- doesn't that mean you're really against Islam itself? Aren't you saying that you oppose anyone converting to Islam, or living an Islamic life? In other words, isn't your interest the elimination of Islam?
This plays into the problem. The Muslim understanding of Mohammed's war's, as explained in the same link, is that they were defensive: that Mohammed put up with more than a decade of abuse without fighting back, and were granted permission by Allah to fight back only when the destruction of themselves or their faith was at risk:[The Quarish] would either annihilate the Muslims or compel them to return to unbelief. In these circumstances came the earliest permission to fight, in verses 39 and 40 of chapter 22, which read:The average Muslim understands Islam's wars in that way. If you go on declaring yourself to be against "the Great Jihad," he will understand you to be saying that you are like the Quarish -- that you intend to force him to return to unbelief (that is, by banning the practical side of Islam) or destroy him."Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is able to assist them - Those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, in which Allah's name is much remembered, would have been pulled down. And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause".Indeed, war with such a pure motive as to establish the principle of religious liberty was truly a jihad, a struggle carried on simply with the object that truth may prosper and that freedom of conscience may be maintained.
Better results could be achieved by saying that you believe that the terrorist groups who claim to be waging jihad by the sword are, in fact, murderers -- and are therefore not 'waging jihad' but slandering Islam. It is important to show how the attacks they claim to be "defensive" are actually aggressive; that the United States, while not exactly a friend to Islam (being a secular state), is not opposed to it either; and to show where we have helped Muslims and their nations, as a counterweight to the examples (given lurid daily play in the press) where we have fought in such places.
This is the Special Forces' mode of waging war -- to isolate the extremists from the 'sea in which they swim,' to paraphrase Mao. In that way, they either die of a lack of oxygen, or they become easier to catch and kill.
This isn't a theory with no practical side I'm putting before you. Read "Francis Marion"'s blog for a window into how it is playing out, every day, in the Philippines. He is a Special Forces operator there, waging our war in a region in which there are numerous Islamic forces under arms. Some of them are friends of al Qaeda and our devoted enemies; some are merely interested in local autonomy, and will take help from whomever will give it; and all of them depend on the support of a local population.
You'll see him engaged in operations against the first set (Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf), being circumspect with the second set (MNLF/MILF); and helping spread cheer among the locals -- for example, in his mission as a Special Forces soldier to aid the Philippine Girl Scouts.The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were sponsoring the Philippine Girl Scouts for a two day event at our location and my team assisted by teaching a few classes. Green Berets have a reputation for womanizing and having a team in close contact with a few hundred teenage girls can put a lot of commanders into a nervous sweat.That's a combat operation, to use his words.
Events were over before I returned and had a chance to settle in so I did not participate but, from what I have seen and heard, this was one of the most effective combat operations we could have performed. In typical teenage girl fashion, the girls identified a few favored U.S. soldiers. They would wave and giggle as they walked by or swoon when their favorite soldier was announced. It was cute and these guys continue to get teased but the effects have gone far beyond our base camp. These guys have achieved celebrity status here.
Now, when we drive the streets, the girls run out and shout out the names, or nicknames, of the soldiers they recognize. This may have some effect on our egos but, more importantly, it is a tactical victory. Having a few hundred adoring fans will make the terrorists think twice before targeting us and also adds several hundred extra sets of eyes that can warn us of possible danger.
I feel safer.
I suspect the 910 group and I agree on more than we disagree. These things are important, however. If you don't get them right, you push us into a very different kind of war -- one I have no wish to fight, though I would fight it if it came.
We are wiser if we avoid it. Francis Marion is right, and it is his mode of war that will be most effective in so many parts of the world. We should think on how we can support him and men like him in their missions. Understanding how to support missions like his requires taking extra care -- but he deserves it.