A New Report, Harmony and Disharmony, was just released by West Point. It is dedicated to an understanding of today’s al-Qa’ida. It is a great reading with a lot of insights into that organization strenghts and vulnerabilities. This report is based on Jihadists documents and writings which many times are published on the internet.
In prosaic detail, the documents identify the al-Qa’ida recruitment criteria, the training program for “new hires,” and the tactics of information, political, and military warfare needed to defeat the Jews and Crusaders and restore the Muslim lands to the rule of the caliphate. Beginning with the Islamist battle to overthrow the secular government of Syria in the 1970s and 1980s, and following jihadists through campaigns in Africa, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Gulf States, and Afghanistan, these papers also reveal a high level of arrogance and intense ambition.
The al-Qa’ida vision, as reflected in the included documents, demands ruthless adherence to its leadership and teaching, and uncompromising hostility toward Jews, Crusaders, Buddhists, Hindus, and apostate Muslims. Apostasy is defined, of course, to include all those who disagree with al-Qa’ida’s interpretation of Islam. While the theology may seem reactionary, the organization insists on using modern management principles as well. Instruction is provided on applying information technology, manipulating the media, and researching the use of nuclear weapons for the cause of jihad.
Given the broad swath of time, place and organizational level from which they come, these Harmony documents reveal sides of the organization not widely seen before. The documents reflect meticulous operational calculations being made by the leadership over intended results and available opportunities for exploitation. The strategic discussions reflect a patient, organized, and determined foe that has known defeats, but one with the ability to learn from its mistakes. Readers will see how some operations they know all too well had been in conceptualization or even planning stages long before much of the West had heard the term “al-Qa’ida.”
Like other revolutionary ideologies that have emerged throughout history, the idea of al-Qa’ida—an organization which touts itself as representing the will of a broader constituency—has considerable appeal for those alienated by the penetration of global capitalism or those who feel victimized by corrupt, indifferent rulers. As the accompanying analysis seeks to demonstrate, the importance of al-Qa’ida’s myth-making machinery cannot be underestimated. A careful reading of the documents here dispels the fiction that some have come to accept about al-Qa’ida: that it is a coherent, unified organization informed by Islamic principles. There is perhaps no better and more objective way to understand the fractured and duplicitous nature of al-Qa’ida than by simply listening to what its own leaders have said.