by SWJ Editors
Understanding the al-Qaeda Enemy in Three Volumes
by Dr. Donald J. Hanle, Small Wars Journal Book Review
Sun Tzu's admonition to the general that in order to defeat his enemy, he must know his enemy as well as he knows himself was never more true than in the current struggle between the West and the Salafi jihadist organization known as al-Qaida and its allies -- hereafter referred to as the al-Qaida Associated Movements (AQAM). Although the war had most certainly begun not later than Osama bin Laden's 23 February 1998 declaration of war on the United States, and probably much sooner, it took the events of 9/11 to ensure the American population and their government were fully aware of their status as a co-belligerent in an armed struggle between the last remaining superpower and a small, fringe element of the Islamic faith. It has been seven years since that fateful attack and many -- to include many who are in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security -- are still struggling to understand this enemy and devise a coherent strategy to defeat them.
Three works recently published by the Naval Institute Press provide an outstanding compendium examining AQAM ideology, strategy and doctrine. The first two works, The Canons of Jihad: Terrorists' Strategy for Defeating America and A Terrorist's Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab Al-Suri's Islamic Jihad Manifesto, both edited by Jim Lacey, afford a superb view of not only who these Salafi jihadists are, but what makes them tick. What makes these works so important in the war against AQAM is that it affords the West a means to understand our enemy by examining the evolution of their own ideology and strategic thought through their own words. The third work, entitled The Terrorist Perspectives Project: Strategic and Operational Views of Al-Qaida and Associated Movements, edited by Mark E. Stout, Jessica M. Huckabey and John R. Schindler with assistance of Jim Lacey, is an assessment of AQAM ideology and strategic/ operational views with recommended countervailing strategies for the U.S. and the West to adopt to defeat AQAM in the cognitive domain of war.