Al Qaeda Will NEVER Win! What Al-Qaeda wants, and Conflict Differences between Christianity and Islam is not the problem
Ever since 9/11, and the commencement of "War on Terror", Al Qaeda has been on the headlines forever. To prevent them from winning, you must understand what are their goals, and thus, prevent them from accomplishing it. Furthermore, understanding of these goals and their reasoning leads to an inescapable conclusion: Al Qaeda can never win, because what they want is impossible.
So what does Al Qaeda want?
The main reason Jihadists, such as Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, launched the 9/11 attack is to show that United States is not invincible. The giant can be hurt, and the masses in all the Muslim countries should rise up and overthrow their own governments so all the Muslim nations can reunited to form a new Caliphate, and throw off the chains of the "Crusaders" forever.
Needless to say, that did not happen. One US city suffered a big blow, but the US countered by tossing out the Taliban out of Afghanistan, a main base for Al Qaeda, and forced Bin Laden to run and hide in the mountains, then deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq as well. And Jihadist will NEVER win, for a very simple reason: they want to turn back the clock to something that was, and that simply cannot be done.
The Jihadists hope to establish a new Caliphate, a new Islamic power that will rival the US and the former USSR. This was stated as the reason by both Osama bin Laden and his deputy commander. Why?
- they see the encroachment of Western Civilization as a 'corruption' of their core values
- they resist any attempt to secularize the religion of Islam
- they lament for the "good old days" of the Persian Empire, one country under Allah, the true God
- they don't like the way US has been bossing the various countries around the world, esp. Muslim countries
- they think the Western powers is helping Israel oppress the Palestinians (the truth is far more complicated)
To to prevent them from winning, all one must do is prevent the unification of the Middle East, into a Caliphate. No unification, no caliphate, and Al Qaeda cannot win.
So what are the chances of that happening, if we do nothing? Quite good, actually. Islam itself is divided. You have the Sunni vs. the Shiites, the fundamentalists vs. the secularists / moderates, the pro-Westerns, vs. the anti-Westerns, the Mid-easterners vs. the Asians vs. the Africans (yes, those are the three largest groups of Muslims in the world). There is no such thing as "united Islam", and there likely never will be.
The countries that the Jihadists want to overthrow (not the US, but the moderates, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, and so on) are not about to just hand over control to the Jihadists. Those countries and their rulers will use all of their powers at their disposal to hold the Jihadists at bay, conventional, or non-conventional. That's why US is helping them to make sure they don't cede control to the Jihadists, like Afghanistan did. However, Afghanistan was mainly caused by the Soviet invasion, and the vacuum left after their withdrawal. US could have stayed and tried to stabilized the situation after the Soviet departure, but we are there simply to "contain" the Soviets, and thus we simply left, and that caused our own problems decades later. Talk about unintended consequences coming back to haunt us!
Still, there is a big difference between them never winning, and losing. So why is Al Qaeda doomed to failure? They are fighting on the wrong battlefield, and trying to turn back the clock by denying knowledge. One of the biggest problems is their view of women, vs. Western view of women.
Women and Islam
One of the biggest problems the Jihadists find with Western Civilization, and therefore, the United States, is the status of women. Basically, they see the family the traditional way from 100+ years ago: women should stay at home and make babies, not out and about. (Incidentally, that is a lot like some fundmentalist Christians as well) That view is untenable, due to advancement of technology, because traditional family can no longer be maintained, due to changing times, mainly due to economic changes due to those technological advances.
It was but a few hundred years ago that parents will bury about 75% of their children before the kids even reach puberty, and often, the mother will die at childbirth due to complications. A mother can give birth to ten children, and maybe three out of ten will make it to adulthood. Thus, women are kept at home, working the household and making babies.
You NEED a large family because agrarian society is labor intensive. Even children can contribute to simple labors. Due to farming. Having more MALE children means more land can be farmed, which in turn leads to more wealth. Marriage is an economic necessity, as a single woman cannot farm the fields alone. She need men and sons. Thus, the society became patriarchal. The social conventions enforced that. That is what a "traditional family" is: man farms, children (mainly male) help, woman stays home, clean, wash, cook, almost nonstop, all the simpler labor that would not significantly affect childrearing and childbearing. There are that many mouths to feed and clean and all that. Daughters are to be married off as bargaining chips. If no husbands can be found, daughters may even be sold.
Industrial age came along, and advances in medicine means infant mortality rate dropped, and changing labor market means children is now worth less and less economically. They don't really contribute much as laborers, as they don't have training or expertise. What's more, the rising educational requirement of industrial age means it actually cost money to to raise children. As people started to live longer, and more children survive, birthrate started to drop dramatically, esp. among the industrialized nations. Marriage, as an institution in the industrial age, start to lose its economic values. Women now are more equal, because physical strength is less important, with machinery assistance. Women are accepted into a lot of positions, even flying fighters, during WW2. if you have the training to run the machinery, it doesn't matter if you are man or woman. So now women are far less dependent on men for economic reasons.
Then information age came along, and by now marriage has lost almost all its economic values, and in fact is a PENALTY. (see "marriage penalty" in the US due to tax laws). Educated women can often support themselves AND have children without needing to marry (or they can rely on welfare). Thus, marriage is now for LOVE, not money. With a lot more free time, due to modern conveniences, children are doted on, and birthrate dropped even more, as the income needed to support a large family is hard to come by. So you get issues like gay marriage and civil unions rising to the forefront.
Modern women nowadays are far more interested in their own rights, because they have a lot more free time. Modern women are not going to accept the Jihadist view that women should stay at home, make babies, rely on men, and all that. They will think about how they're being treated, esp. if they are exposed to any sort of Western values.
The only way Al Qaeda can hold back the tide is by preventing all technology and information from getting through. That means they will remain poor, poorly equipped, poorly educated, and only money from big financial backers kept them equipped and running. They may get occasional converts who are educated in technology, but they are not likely to take over nations, which require far more money. Thus, they can do damage to a few neighborhoods here and there with terrorist acts, but again, they cannot hold back progress.
Barbarian vs. Citizen?
The more I look at the situation, the more I am reminded of an essay written by John W. Campbell, called "Tribesman, Barbarian, and Citizen, (ed) Analog May 1961". In it, he described three stage of human societal evolution, from tribalism to barbarianism, then from barbarian to citizenship. At each transition, the two stages are polar opposites, and each is horrified at the other. The struggle between Al Qaeda and the Western Civilization is very reminiscent of the transition between barbarianism and citizenship. I am going by memory, so I beg forgiveness for any mistakes.
So what did Mr. Campbell say about barbarianism and citizenship? The typical barbarian would be the Viking. The leader of the barbarian group is the bravest and the best of all barbarians. As soon as the leader is no longer the bravest and the best, someone will take his place, probably by killing or exiling the existing leader. They are the ultimate individualist. Everybody else follow the leader because they want to, and because they don't know any better. The citizen, like the Roman legion, would be the opposite of the barbarians. Barbarians see the citizens as weak, follow "orders" to leaders who may not be the best or the bravest, and they actually VOTE! And thus are beneath contempt. Citizens like Roman legion, on the other hand, sees the barbarians as easily defeated individuals who cannot unite for their common good. And we all know what happened to the barbarians.
So how is this resembling the situation? The horror each side sees the other. Each saw the other as the devil incarnate, Well, at least Al Qaeda does... They do call American the Great Satan, do they not? The West sees a lot of Muslim customs as weird or downright offensive. The situation is made worse by media coverage. A PBS study all over the world have revealed that while Al Qaeda and other Jihadists make up less than one percent of the Muslim population, they receive a MAJORITY of media coverage, and thus a distorted picture of Islam was presented to the world.
The Jihadists only made the situation worse by publicizing the aspects that made them look ever crazier by Western standards. Do you know what is a "fatwa"? A "fatwa" is a religious rulings made by an Islamic religious figure, such as a mullah. However, the Westerners seem to think it's some sort of a threat, because most fatwa's that were publicized are those issued by Jihadist mullahs who issue some sort of ruling that "authorizes" attacks on Westerners, such as the authorization of attack on Salman Rushdie a while back when he wrote a book that offended some Muslims.
Few Westerners realize that Islam, like Christianity, is not set in stone. As there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of sects or branches of Christianity, there are many different versions and interpretations of Islam. Lunatic fringe exists in every religion, and Islam is no exception. The fact that they can pervert their own Koran, their holiest book, to justify killing of innocents, against edicts of their own Prophet Mohamed, are signs of their "fringe" status.
Perversion of edicts left by Prophet Mohamed
Modern Jihadists have perverted the definition of Jihad, and many of the edicts left by Prophet Mohamed.
Jihad, literally, means "struggle for one's faith". However, the struggle is both internal, AND external. Internal struggle would be against temptation and sins, while external struggle is against threats to the faith and the faithful.
The jihadists, such as Al Qaeda, have claimed the word for fight against the West. They think they are fighting threats against the faith, but just what exactly have attacked their faith? Nothing in recently memory. The struggle that was supposed to be internal, was externalized,
Jihadists are also manufacturing the threat, by naming all western powers as "crusaders", to reignite the East vs. West conflict during the Crusades.
Furthermore, Prophet Mohamed himself have issued orders for "laws of war", such as no attack of prisoners, elderly, women and children, and so on and so forth. These rules have always been followed by Islamic armies, such as those lead by King Saladin, during the Crusades, even when the Western armies have not always abide by them.
It was only during recent years that some Al Qaeda leaders started reinterpreting Prophet Mohamed's orders as "not applicable to infidels", even though Prophet Mohamed have never made any distinction between infidels and the faithful for his edicts. Other perversions, such as lying to "infidels", ignoring "people of the book" even though Prophet Mohamed have left orders to treat "People of the book" (i.e. Christians) with respect, as they are "brothers", were also recent reinterpretations, specifically against Prophet Mohamed's edicts.
So What Can Be Done?
Education is the key to defeat Al Qaeda and all Jihadists, not weapons.
Teach the real Islam, not the "lunatic fringe" version, in competing schools to those madrassas (Koran schools) funded by Jihadists. Pay the government locally, either directly or through NGOs to create these schools. This will, in the long-term, "drain the swamp" and dry up their source of recruits. If the school were attacked, that just shows the Jihadists are not Muslims at all.
Jihadists are attempting to fight ideas with weapons, and we are fighting back with better weapons. However, weapons cannot defeat ideas, just as they cannot succeed with their methods. To defeat ideas, you need better ideas, and that's why we need to fund schools.
Funding schools also has a beneficial side effect: education helps employment, and overall economic condition. If we fund schools, and improve economic conditions in Jihadist hotbeds, we can keep Jihadists to a mere nuisance.
Education also will teach that there is a civilized way to resolve conflicts, such as voting, peaceful protests, and such. By ensuring these peaceful protests venues are protected, and declaring terrorism illegal, this will also contribute to eventually dry up the recruiting pool.
This is not a short-term solution. The short-term solution is to kill the leaders, which the US and others are effectively doing.
Al Qaeda, and other jihadist elements, are essentially the "lunatic fringe" of Islam. They have perverted their own faith, ignoring the changing times, to chase a pipe dream that simply cannot happen. They cannot win. However, they cannot be defeated through military means. The only way to truly destroy Al Qaeda and similar jihadist organizations is through education of the masses about the true meaning of Islam.