21 March, 2006

Zawahiri's advice

Following up on some ideas we discussed in class today, I recommend the Global Guerrillas blog as a place to find unconventional wisdom that is actually wisdom. In particular, the reference to Zawahiri's contribution to Al-Qaeda's grand strategy is here, and the original source of the interview he cites is here. A small sample:

...in late 1997 they decided to form a completely new strategy based on global and cosmic confrontation with America….

TM: What do you mean by “cosmic”?

SF: Global and full scale confrontation! They decided to conduct their actions relying not on their own resources but by manipulating those of their enemies. In short they decided to convert their enemy into a powerful tool for their own use...


...they decided that this idea of confronting the Americans in the Arabian Peninsula is not going to produce anything. Zawahiri impressed upon Bin Laden the importance of understanding the American mentality. The American mentality is a cowboy mentality-- if you confront them with their identity theoretically and practically they will react in an extreme manner. In other words, America with all its resources and establishments will shrink into a cowboy when irritated successfully. They will then elevate you and this will satisfy the Muslim longing for a leader who can successfully challenge the West. Zawahiri advised Bin Laden to forget about the 12 page statement as nobody had read it and instead issue a short statement identifying every American as a target. Even though this was controversial from an Islamic perspective, Zawahiri argued on pragmatic grounds that it had to be sanctioned. The statement in February 1998, which was only 3 or 4 lines, effectively sanctioned shedding the blood of every American.

TM: It seems that Zawahiri had a huge transformative effect on Bin Laden.

SF: Yes! If Bin Laden had persisted in solely attacking U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia he would have shared the destiny of those groups in South America and Africa that nobody cares to remember anymore. This challenge to American identity itself was a result of a huge transformation...

Read the whole thing. It's worth the time.

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