HOW TO BEAT THE GLOBAL ISLAMIST INSURGENCY
By Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier
From a military perspective, such incoherence exists because planners have not based their strategy on a detailed threat analysis of the enemy, its objectives, and its strategies. A coherent approach is not only necessary to achieve military goals but also to rally the public support needed for a sustainable longterm struggle in the defense of freedom.
Academics can obfuscate arguments and hide behind a facade of political correctness, but military and strategic planners have no such luxury. Their decisions can cost lives, so they must define threats clearly. In the global war on terrorism, the threat is clear: militant Islam (or Islamism), an intolerant, extremist philosophy that seeks to change the world order.  Modern Islamism has developed from a number of theological trends. Some, such as that developed by the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran and their Lebanese Hezbollah proxies, grew out of a radical interpretation of Shi'ism. Other Islamist groups have their roots in the radical Deobandi or Salafi (Wahhabi) interpretations of Sunni Islam and organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood or Jama'at-i Islami. Diversity of origin should not obstruct singularity of mission, however. Political Islam preaches intolerance and espouses an order antithetical to secular Western constitutional democracy, individual freedom, religious tolerance, and human rights. 
If the U.S. government is to develop successful counterinsurgency strategies, its policymakers and military strategists must understand the Islamist insurgency's mixture of subversion, propaganda, and military pressure. U.S. counterinsurgency strategy should be comprehensive. Any effort that lacks an ideological component will fall short. Militant Islam is competing for the minds of the Muslim masses; Washington must, too. While Western media focuses upon the latest acts of Islamist terror or questions over the human costs of military actions, Islamists recognize that the side that best promotes its ideas will be the victor. The ideological component in the strategy to defeat Islamism will be key to Western constitutional democracies' success.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government continues to fumble its public diplomacy. When State Department and Central Intelligence Agency policies fail to match and even contradict White House rhetoric, the effectiveness of U.S. efforts in the Middle East suffers. The U.S. government is also hampered in its battle to win the ideological struggle when it is unable to make its voice heard. In Iraq, the U.S. government simply ceded the airwaves to its opponents. Before the first bombs fell on Baghdad, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel was set to operate throughout Iraq, with correspondents and equipment spread throughout the country. Al-Manar, the satellite channel of Lebanese Hezbollah, also operated freely throughout Iraq. The Iranian government inaugurated Al-'Alam, an Arabic language television station for Iraq, months before coalition forces launched their own television station.  As a result, both Sunni Islamists and Iranian proxies had a virtual free hand to shape the news for the Iraqi audience.
Saudi officials, the primary financial backers of militant Islam, have long understood the need to fight and win the battle for ideas. They sponsor the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), not only in Iraq and the Middle East, but also in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.  In the mountains of northern Iraq, IIRO mosques have sprouted up in small towns and villages where not a single dollar of American aid money had been spent more than a year after the fall of Baghdad. Given the organization, dedication, energy, and financial strength of opponents to the community of secular, constitutional, and democratic states, U.S. strategy will fail if it focuses only upon capturing and killing insurgents, but ignores the battle of ideas.
If an ends, ways, and means approach is applied to the Islamist insurgency, multiple stages of planning and execution become evident. In the first phase, Islamists utilize charismatic teachers and propagandists to incite the masses to overthrow "corrupt puppet" governments. They seek to turn indoctrinated Muslims against secular rulers and initiate either rebellion or one-man, one-vote, one-time elections.  At present, in almost every country in the world, Islamist missionaries are working to spread their interpretation of Islam. While Iraqi groups like Abdul Aziz Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Ibrahim Jaafari's Da'wa Party seek to implement Islamist rule after an election victory, other groups, such as those in Fallujah and Mosul, seek to ignite revolution through violence. Decisions to stage dramatic attacks like those of September 11, 2001, or smaller attacks, such as beheadings in Riyadh or bombings in Baghdad, become mere tactical decisions on the part of Islamist strategists. So, too, is targeted terror, such as recent Islamist attempts on the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. 
As Islamist insurgencies progress, and as they triumph over national governments, insurgents move from revolution to consolidation. For example, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini spent more than a year consolidating his control and creating new institutions, doing so during the period between the departure of the Shah and Khomeini's formal declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The seizure of the U.S. Embassy was not only meant to symbolize the Iranian revolutionaries' antipathy toward the United States, but it was also a tactical decision on Khomeini's part. The hostage-takers at the Embassy, apparently with Khomeini's tacit support, selectively leaked documents in order to tarnish and marginalize competitors within the revolutionary coalition.
Within the context of the global Islamist insurgency, the first two phases — sparking and consolidating revolution — need not be synchronized. Attacks on oil workers in Saudi Arabia and foreign businessmen in Pakistan signal that both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are in the initial stages of an Islamist revolution. Attempts to enshrine Islamic law as the basis for governance in Iraq indicate that both Sunni insurgents and followers of firebrand Shi‘ite clerics like Muqtada al-Sadr seek to consolidate gains they made through terror.
The global Islamist insurgency has not yet reached its final stage, in which an Islamist government or Islamist governments work to re-establish a pan-Islamic caliphate. While such an objective might seem farfetched, groups ranging from small and local to and large and global acknowledge this "back to the future" idea to be their ultimate goal. Many lament Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's formal abolition of the Caliphate, in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire's collapse.  Many Islamists see the secular states which arose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire as illegitimate relics of the West. Should Islamists successfully spark revolution in countries like Syria, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they may seek to advance their goals by taking control of their predecessors' caches of weapons of mass destruction or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, by seizing control of its oil exports. In all cases, the insurgents' end state is the establishment of a pan-Islamic caliphate that is able to dominate through force, coercion, and demographic pressure. 
The Islamists' global insurgency has already put governments on the defensive. Not only the Pakistani and Egyptian regimes, but also the Jordanian and Turkish governments are reluctant to support the United States publicly in its pursuit of the war on terror. Part of this may be because they are upset with U.S. policy toward the Palestinians and Washington's decision to intervene in Iraq, but such popular anger only reinforces the fear of antagonizing a reinvigorated Islamist constituency. Even passive support is sometimes lacking. These governments offer only lackluster condemnations, if any at all, of Islamic terrorism, so as not to offend large segments of their populations.
After military theoreticians evaluate an opponent using ends, ways, and means analysis, they seek to determine the "center of gravity," which military theory teaches is crucial to the development of a successful counterinsurgency strategy.  The center of gravity is the means or source of power that enemies use to accomplish their goals. If an adversary's center of gravity is neutralized, then it cannot achieve its objective. U.S. military planners thus work to disrupt an opponent's center of gravity by targeting its critical requirements. 
In the Islamist insurgency's pre-revolutionary and revolutionary phases, there are two centers of gravity: Islamist cells and religious schools (madrassas). Among the critical requirements for these centers of gravity, are an ideology to inspire recruits; a fertile environment in which to recruit, command and control leadership; legitimacy-providing sponsorship from either a state, political party, or media outlet; funding; sanctuary; and access to supplies, including everything from paper for pamphlets to C-4 plastic explosives.  Damaging any of these weakens the center of gravity. If the attacks are of sufficient quality, the center of gravity deteriorates to the point that it ceases to function. In traditional military parlance, these critical requirements are the "fronts" or "lines of operation" in the war on terrorism.
Of these requirements, ideology is the most important. Fortunately, it is also the most vulnerable. Discrediting Islamist ideology should be the main component of the U.S. counterinsurgency plan. When Egypt was at the height of its Islamist insurgency in the mid-1990s, the Egyptian government subtly undercut the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology and legitimacy with a comedy that mocked the Islamists. The legendary Egyptian actor ‘Adil Imam portrayed a naive, unmarried Islamist terrorist under the tutelage of a polygamist Machiavellian religious leader. Injured in a car accident, he is brought to a middle class household, where he salivates over women in miniskirts and learns about soccer.  More than a decade after its release, Al-Irhabi (The Terrorist) remains among Egypt's most popular — and most effective — films. Much of the thought behind the U.S. government-funded Radio Sawa is that bombarding the Middle East with popular Western culture will more effectively win the hearts and minds of the masses than will dry recitation of news or analysis targeted more toward the elite. 
Center-of-gravity analysis suggests that a successful strategy should focus upon the critical requirements of ideology and the environment. U.S. military force does have a role. But, swatting individual mosquitoes can only bring victory if the United States simultaneously works to drain the swamp. Victory requires an approach that leverages diplomacy, information operations, economic leverage, and military pressure in a focused and coordinated effort.  For example, discrediting militant Islam's ideology, while both promoting tolerant interpretations of Islam and defending Western values, is an informational and diplomatic effort not suited for military action.
Rumsfeld also advocates a multidimensional approach. On September 7, 2004, he explained:
In the war against terrorism, it is not enough for the United States to have the best ideology. It is not the best idea that wins, but rather the best-promoted one. Most Iraqis, for example, presumably would like to live in a country that is tolerant and democratic. But the inability of the U.S. government to establish an effective television network in Iraq ceded valuable momentum to Al-'Alam and Al-Jazeera. Since Islamist ideology is the base of both the Shi‘ite and Sunni insurgencies in Iraq, convincing the populace of the vacuity of the Islamist ideal provides the key to the movement's downfall. Promotion of the virtues of tolerance, moderation, freedom and constitutional democracy, while discrediting militant Islam's ideology, is vital to U.S. victory.
U.S. strategic communications, therefore, become essential to waging a battle of ideas, itself a major component of the global war on terrorism. In military parlance, strategic communication synchronizes actions that include public diplomacy, public affairs, public relations, outreach, information operations, and psychological operations. Strategic communication is the overarching concept that unifies and focuses the right message to the right audience with the intent to shape perception. But, are U.S. strategic communications working in the global war on terrorism? Not always. There have been a number of failures in strategic communications. Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer appeared frequently on television, for example, even though such exposure was counterproductive to the U.S. mission, since it reinforced notions of occupation rather than liberation.
The Coalition Provisional Authority also bungled strategic communications during its daily press conferences. Coalition spokesmen — more often U.S. or British officials rather than Iraqis — would often refer to the threat posed by "foreign fighters" in Iraq.  While such explanations were effective for an American constituency, their impact on an Iraqi audience was far different. After all, from an Iraqi perspective, Coalition military forces were more foreign than the Syrian or Iranian fighters. With poor choice of words, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor may have unintentionally established equivalency between Coalition troops and enemy foreign fighters. A bit more cultural and linguistic care can go a long way. Retired Marine Colonel Nick Pratt, Director of the Program on Terrorism and Security at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, had extensive experience both in the Middle East and with the Afghan mujahideen at the time of the Soviet occupation. He suggested co-opting Arabic terms to better define the insurgents. For example, Pratt suggested that both the U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces "should refer to the socalled ‘foreign fighters' who are killing increasing numbers of innocent Iraqis and our military personnel by the most appropriate Arabic and Islamic names possible, the Mufsid al-Usama, Osama's evildoers, [or] Mufsid al- Saddam." 
Princeton Professor Emeritus Bernard Lewis urges cultural considerations, rather than direct translation, in order to win the propaganda battle. In April, 2004, a year after the fall of Baghdad, he told the Atlantic Monthly:
Western political correctness and willingness to allow Islamists to claim to speak on behalf of Islam also undercuts strategic communication. Today, Wahhabism provides the backbone of the Islamist movement. This has less to do with its theological legitimacy than with substantial Saudi financing. Bernard Lewis suggests:
Islamist thought grew through the twentieth century, largely as a reaction to modernization, the comparative technological and military supremacy of the West, and the relative decline of the Muslim world. Islamist doctrine holds that it alone provides an antidote to such decline. 
Moderate interpretations of Islam provide a resource to erode such exclusivist interpretation. Moderate Islam, in brief, serves as an antidote to militant Islam among Sunnis and Shi‘ites alike. In the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, a small number of clerics adhering to a minority theological strain hold the reins of government. However, the majority of ayatollahs believe that secular power is by nature corrupt and that religious clerics might give advice, but should remain separate from government. If the U.S. government facilitated the broadcast into Iran of traditional Shi‘ite sermons, these might help undercut the religious legitimacy of the Islamic Republic.
As important as strategic communication is abroad, it is also necessary at home. Failure to define the threat has undercut the U.S. response. An informal survey conducted with the vice presidents of a major U.S. company illustrated such failures.  Highly educated, worldly and abreast of the news, they, nonetheless, believed that the only objective of the global war on terror was the capturing or killing of one person, Osama bin Laden. This is false: the first objective is to attack and destroy terrorist networks, not to focus on one person or organization.  More than three years after Bush declared war on terrorism, such misstated public perception shows the failure of U.S. strategic communications on the domestic front.
Another example of the U.S. government's inability to effectively shape perception was the controversy surrounding the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence. Rumsfeld created the office in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in response to concerns that the United States was losing international public support for the war on terrorism, particularly in Western Europe and the Middle East.  Granted, the Pentagon may have been a poor place to locate such a public effort, but mischaracterization of the office's mission led the administration to disband it, leaving vacant an important component of the fight against terrorism.
While leadership is key to military success, the Pentagon's failure to delegate responsibility effectively, especially on the civilian side, hampers the overall mission. In 2003, both the New York Times Magazine  and New Yorker  published inaccurate stories regarding prewar planning. While there was a desire to respond in both instances, the civilian chain-of-command was simply unable to formulate a response within the news cycle.  The Pentagon's sheer size — the building houses over 20,000 employees — also contributes to an obstructive attitude toward rival Pentagon components, let alone other federal agencies. The political weight necessary to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and achieve unity of effort to counter the global Islamist insurgency successfully requires management above the federal department level.
Interagency operators need a plan, organization, and leadership to focus their efforts. This might be best achieved by creating an interagency board, possibly within the National Security Council, to lead the effort combating the enemy in the global war on terrorism.  The board's leader would need sufficient authority to direct and compel cooperation between the cabinet secretaries and ensure coordination. Given the global stakes and immediate threats to U.S. national security, the board's leader might even be the Vice President or a special Senate-confirmed deputy. The board chairman would need to enforce discipline over the process and end, not only the State Department versus Defense Department feud, but also the Central Intelligence Agency versus White House feud. While an argument could be made for the National Security Advisor to assume this role, it would be a mistake to choose positions over personalities. During the first term of the Bush administration, for example, Condoleezza Rice simply could not compare to Donald Rumsfeld in terms of management experience and persuasive skills. Her replacement for the second term, Stephen Hadley, is most regarded for strengths other than management skill. President Bush hired Rice on the basis of her loyalty and intellect. He hired Rumsfeld for his leadership.
The war on terrorism needs the equivalent of the 1941 Atlantic Charter or the 1950 NSC-68 statement that successfully guided U.S. strategy during the Cold War.  With a clear policy directive, officials might more effectively provide the public a clear and consistent goal, a declaration outlining the war's aims and moral imperatives. Winston Churchill understood this when, in 1941, he commented on radio:
 The 9/11 Commission Report (New York: W.W. Norton Co, 2004), p. 362; Sayyeed
Abdul A'la Maududi, Jihad in Islam (Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications, 1937),
 Bernard Lewis, "Islam and Liberal Democracy," The Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1993,
p. 3; The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 50.
 Counter-Insurgency Operations (London: Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom,
July 2001), p. A-1-1; Dictionary of Military Terms Joint Publication 1-02
(Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, The Pentagon, June 9, 2004), p. 262.
 A'la Maududi, Jihad in Islam, p. 9; The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 362.
 CNN.com, Aug. 31, 2004.
 The Washington Times, Nov. 29, 2004.
 Agence France-Presse, Feb. 24, 2003.
 Simon Henderson, "Institutionalized Islam: Saudi Arabia's Islamic Policies and the
Threat They Pose," prepared testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Subcommittee, Terrorism, Sept. 10, 2003.
 Arthur F. Lykke, Jr., Military Strategy: Theory and Application (Carlisle
Barracks, Pa.: U.S. Army War College, 1989), p. 3.
 Edward Djerejian, "The U.S. and the Middle East in a Changing World, Address at
Meridian House International," June 2, 1992, in U.S. Department of State
Dispatch, June 8, 1992.
 Jang Group Online, Dec. 26, 2003.
 Andrew Mango, Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey
(Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2000), pp. 407-8, 534-5.
 A'la Maududi, Jihad in Islam, p. 8; idem, quoted in Mehdi Mozaffari, "Bin Laden
and Islamist Terrorism," Eurolegal Services, London, Nov. 25, 2004; Sayyid
Qutub, "When Comes the Help of God and Victory," Ar-Risalah, Sept. 25, 1951;
Michael Doran, "Somebody Else's Civil War, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2002, p.
22; The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 48-50; Mark Woodward, "A Theology of
Terror: The Religious Thought of Osama Bin Laden, The Taliban, and Hizb
Al-Islami," Essex Association of Professional Institutions, Dec. 22, 2004.
 Joe Strange, Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities Second Edition
(Quantico, Va.: Marine Corps War College, 1996), p. ix; Doctrine for Joint
Planning Operations, Second Draft, Joint Pub 5-0 (Washington, D.C.: Office of the
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2002), p. IV-12-3.
 Strange, Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities, p. 3.
 The Observer (London), Apr. 24, 1994.
 "U.S.-Funded Radio and Television Make Significant Gains in Middle East
despite Anti-American Sentiments," Broadcasting Board of Governors,
Washington, D.C., June 2004.
 The Boston Globe, Sept. 8, 2004; Rumsfeld, "Remarks at the International
Institute for Strategic Studies."
 American Forces Information Service, Sept. 8, 2004; The Boston Globe, Sept. 8,
 The Boston Globe, Sept. 8, 2004.
 Brigadier General Mark Hertling, quoted in The Age (Melbourne), Oct. 29, 2003;
Paul Bremer, quoted in The Scotsman (Edinburgh), Feb. 16, 2004.
 E-mail from Pratt to author, Mar. 11, 2004.
 Bernard Lewis, "Islam Interpreter," interviewed in The Atlantic Monthly, Apr.
 Financial Times, Aug. 10, 2002.
 Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, Islamic Supreme Council of America,
Islamic Extremism: A Viable Threat to U.S. National Security," lecture at the
U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., Jan. 7, 1999.
 Conversations with five vice presidents of American Standard by author, Army
War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., June 2, 2004.
 "Progress Report on the Global War on Terrorism," the White House, Sept. 2003,
 The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2002.
 James Fallows, "Blind into Baghdad," The Atlantic Monthly, Jan.-Feb. 2004, p. 53.
 David Rieff, "Blue Print for a Mess," The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 2,
2003; contrast with Richard Lowry, "What Went Wrong?" The National Review,
Oct. 25, 2004.
 Seymour Hersh, "Selective Intelligence," The New Yorker, May 12, 2003. Hersh
based his reporting on Karen Kwiatkowski who has had close contact with the
Lyndon LaRouche organization. See, Michael Rubin, "Web of Conspiracies," The
National Review Online, May 18, 2004.
 Interview with Michael Rubin, Washington, D.C., Nov. 2004.
 Based on discussions of interagency coordination issues in March and April 2004
at the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command in Camp As-Salayia, Qatar.
I would like to acknowledge Colonel Harry Tomlin, U.S. Army War College,
Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Weaver, U.S. Central Command, J5 Plans, and Major
Tom Fischer, U.S. Central Command, J5 Plans. A similar concept is contained in
"National Interagency Contingency Mechanism," by Colonel Darrell Herriges,
assistant deputy director of strategy and policy (DDS&P) J5, Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Mar. 18, 2004.
 "NSC 68 United States Objectives and Programs for National Security," National
Security Council, Washington, D.C., Apr. 14, 1950.
 Joel H. Wiener, ed., Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire
1689-1971: A Documentary History, vol. 2 (New York: Chelsea
House/McGraw-Hill, 1972), p. 1192-3.
The Middle East & the Arabs
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier served on the Global War on Terrorism Planning Team at U.S. Central Command between January and April, 2004. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent official Army, Defense Department, or the U.S. government policy.
The foregoing article by Colonel Eikmeier was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2005, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.
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