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Jihadists and Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Growing Threat by Gary Ackerman (Editor), Jeremy Tamsett (CRC)  Written for professionals, academics, and policymakers working at the forefront of counterterrorism efforts, Jihadists and Weapons of Mass Destruction is an authoritative and comprehensive work addressing the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands ofjihadists, both historically and looking toward the future threat environment. Providing insight on one of the foremost security issues of the 21st century, this seminal resource effectively:

  • Documents current trends in the ideology, strategy, and tactics of jihadists as these relate to WMD
  • Includes a section devoted to jihadist involvement with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons
  • Explores the role of intelligence, law enforcement, and policymakers in anticipating, deterring, and mitigating WMD attacks
  • Provides an overview of nonproliferation policies designed to keep WMD out of the hands of jihadists
  • Conducts a groundbreaking quantitative empirical analysis of jihadist behavior Elicits leading experts' estimates of the future WMD threat from jihadists

Leading international experts clearly differentiate between peaceful Muslims and jihadists, exploring how jihadists translate their extreme and violent ideology into strategy. They also focus on WMD target selection and the spread of WMD knowledge in jihadist communities. Devoid of sensationalism, this multidimensional evaluation adds a heightened level of sophistication to our understanding of the prospects for and nature of jihadist WMD terrorism.

Gary Ackerman is Research Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security national Center of Excellence based at the University of Maryland. His research work focuses on. threat assessment and terrorism involving unconventional weapons.

Jeremy Tamsett is a consultant for Henley-Putnam University and an analyst at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), a research center dedicated to identifying, better comprehending, and accurately assessing the present and future security threats stemming from a variety of violence-prone extremists and their enablers. He has served as Project Manager for the U.S. Government funded Critical Infrastructure Terrorist Attack database and Global Terrorism Database (GTD).

Ali pulled the pick-up over onto the dirt strip that bordered the road. The small rise where he parked the truck overlooked much of the city and he could see the thousands of lights twinkling below him like multi-colored stars. He would have considered them beautiful were it not for the fact that he knew what those lights were busy shining on this very moment. Gambling. Fornication. Businesses whose profits would go to the Zionist alliance to be used to oppress and kill the Faithful. Clean-shaven and dressed in a simple T-shirt and jeans, Ali looked to the outside world like any other modern young man interested in parties and girls and sports. But Ali was different. He was making sure that his life would mean something. The day he had made his bayat and swore to follow the Shaykh on the path of jihad, he had been told that he was special, that he had a great destiny—to be the loftiest of all shuhadah. What he was preparing to do would bring honor to his family and hope to the entire Ummah. It was the only way to once and for all make the infidels cease their intrusions and bring them to their knees. And he would be rewarded in heaven by sitting at the right hand of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Ali got out and walked around to the truck bed, where he began to unfasten one of the bungee cords that held the tarpaulin covering "al-Nagoori." Everything had been placed in readiness before his journey—all that remained was for him to disable the safety mechanism and check that the green light was flashing, which meant that the components were still properly aligned. He took a deep breath. The months of hard training could not stop his hand from shaking a little. He recited the verses as he had been instructed: "Then when one blast is sounded on the Trumpet, And the earth is moved, and its mountains, and they are crushed to powder at one stroke, On that Day shall the Great Event come to pass."1 He immediately felt better, more relaxed, and even a little joyful as he completed his preparations. The next few seconds would change everything, would right all the wrongs. Ali placed his hand on the switch and looked around one last time at the sleeping suburb and the vista below. He closed his eyes and loudly proclaimed the shahada. Then he pressed the switch...A microsecond later the high explosive in the device detonated, releasing gases that propelled a plug of 30 percent highly enriched uranium at a speed of 5,000 meters per second down a short tube. When the plug reached the end of tube, it slammed into a similar hemisphere of uranium, causing the combined mass to become supercritical and releasing the most devastating energy known to mankind. Before the destructive blast wave had crested the hill, Ali had been proven right—the world would never be the same again.

The above passage is fictional, to be sure, with more than a little license taken in several of its assumptions. Far from seeking to arouse alarm, since there has been more than enough of that already, this hypothetical scenario is presented with a single purpose—namely, to highlight the change in popular thinking that has occurred with respect to the likelihood of terrorists successfully employing weapons of mass destruction. Just two decades ago, the description of Ali and his bomb would have been dismissed as mere fantasy by the vast majority of both policymakers and the general public the world over. Today, such a frightening scenario sounds an eerie ring of plausibility for many within and outside of government. Much of the change in threat perception can be linked to the rise of a global jihadist movement bent on converting, subordinating, or punishing all those it regards as unbelievers. This has been accompanied by profuse hype about the insidious motives and apocalyptic capabilities of these newly prominent actors. The task remains, however, to explore how much of the assessment of this threat is based on sober analysis and how much has been influenced by unfounded fears and political exigencies; hence the need for a thorough evaluation of the likelihood of jihadists using the ultimate weapons.

This volume focuses on the nexus between two of the most prominent themes in cur-rent articulations of threats to international security, a nexus formed where malevolent actors meet malignant means. The first component bound up in this pernicious union is the global jihadist movement, which consists of a loose ideational network of violent actors whose actions are usually terroristic in nature. Jihadists, at least in the minds of many Western governments and academics, are presently the most dangerous nonstate actors worldwide, and are expected to remain so for some time to come. For example, a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the highest level product published by the U.S. intelligence community, states that "The main threat [to the U.S. homeland] comes from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, especially al-Qa`ida, driven by their undiminished intent to attack the Homeland and a continued effort by these terrorist groups to adapt and improve their capabilities,"2 while the British MI5 security service asserts on its public Web site that, "The most significant terrorist threat comes from Al Qaida [sic] and associated networks."'

There are several reasons why the current crop of violent Islamic extremists might be painted with such a frighteningly negative brush. The most obvious is their recent track record. Jihadists have demonstrated both a willingness and ability to launch sophisticated attacks that have caused numbers of civilian casualties almost unparalleled in the annals of acts of nonstate violence. They have also proven themselves to be quintessential asymmetric opponents, using relatively meager physical and financial resources to circumvent the vaunted defensive capabilities of the developed world and strike at the heart of the countries of the West (and elsewhere). Not only have jihadists employed wily and adaptive behavior on the offensive, but the movement has also shown a surprising robustness in the face of sustained international counterterrorist efforts. This is reflected in the ability of the al-Qa`ida central command to regroup and ensconce itself in ungoverned spaces in Pakistan's northwest provinces after their Taliban hosts were routed in Afghanistan.'

The movement's resilience is perhaps even more apparent in the "disaggregation" of the larger movement into small, ephemeral groups of plotters, often linked by not much more than a common worldview and a virtual, Internet-based connection to the wider community of likeminded jihadists. The aspect of jihadism (that is to say, the pursuit of violent jihad) that is perhaps most alarming to many is its rapid growth. By capitalizing on widespread dissatisfaction of the status quo within Muslim communities throughout the world—especially among youth—and utilizing a sophisticated and seemingly successful global propaganda campaign' through a variety of media, their message of violent opposition to both the West and extant Muslim regimes is spreading.6 It is thus little surprise that the 9/11 Commission decried that "The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is.. .the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the al Qaeda [sic] network, its affiliates, and its ideology"7 (emphasis in original).

The second theme present in the threat nexus is that of so-called weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While the precise nature of these weapons will be discussed below, the dual-core conceptualization of WMD entails their potentially catastrophic effects and their consummate utility as asymmetric weapons that, for all intents and purposes, act as "force multipliers." These features of WMD make them at least nominally attractive to those actors that lack the ability to challenge their enemies on the conventional military battlefield. WMD and their proliferation to new state or nonstate actors have thus been identified as cardinal dangers to global security in the post–Cold War world. For instance, in a February 5, 2008 statement to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mike McConnell, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, conceded that, "The time when only a few states had access to the most dangerous technologies has been over for many years."'

The possibility of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists or other violent non-state actors (as well as their capacity to produce WMD) has ostensibly elicited particular concern among policymakers, and is often presented, at least in the United States and the United Kingdom, as one of the major security threats (if not the single gravest threat) to national or international security.9 Concern for this eventuality was encapsulated in U.S. President George W. Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy'° and has been reinforced several times since, most notably in the 2006 U.S. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, which contends that "Our greatest and gravest concern.. .is WMD in the hands of terrorists. Preventing their acquisition and the dire consequences of their use is a key priority of this strategy."

Based on the prominence of both of the above topics within national security discourse in several countries, even in the absence of any tangible evidence of jihadist involvement with WMD, it would be natural that the potential nexus between jihadists and WMD would be a topic of more than passing relevance. Add to this the wealth of information, available even in open sources, of jihadist interest in and attempts to acquire WMD and their constituent materials and it is little wonder that the prospect of jihadist-inspired WMD terrorism has gained considerable traction in both intelligence and law enforcement circles. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate goes so far as to assert that, "al-Qa`ida [sic] will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability." Such sentiments are not confined to officialdom—in a survey conducted on behalf of this volume and presented herein, the overwhelming majority of expert participants viewed Sunni jihadists as the most pressing short- to medium-term threat vis-à-vis WMD." All this attention provides at least prima facie justification for examining the unique characteristics of the jihadist–WMD nexus more closely.

Unfortunately, while the official assertions are bold and the news reports alarming, there is rarely substantial (read: sufficient) depth to many of their arguments, at least not in the way they are presented in the public sphere. For instance, we need to incorporate more subtlety and discrimination in our analyses than presuming that because our enemies hate us, they will blindly pursue WMD and would use them as soon as they succeeded in acquiring them. For a detailed approach to such issues, we usually rely on scholars, as represented in both institutions of higher learning and what are popularly referred to as "think tanks" or policy institutes. It is to previous work on the current topic that has emerged from this quarter that we now turn.


The March 1995 sarin nerve agent attack on the Tokyo subway by the Japanese "dooms-day" cult Aum Shinrikyo served as a catalyst for the rapid growth not only of sensationalist media reports on "WMD terrorism" and new government policies to combat the use of WMD by nonstate actors,14 but also of a host of academic and policy-oriented studies and commentaries on what previously had been a largely under-researched topic." This corpus, which we will refer to for convenience as the "WMD terrorism literature," contained few explicit references to jihadists in the context of WMD between 1995 and 2001. Nevertheless, the burgeoning activities of Islamic extremists and the implications of what was then sometimes referred to as the "New Terrorism" were implicit in much of the discussion at the time, which yielded several useful insights, particularly with respect to the links between religious ideologies and the use of unconventional weapons.

One of the pivotal contributions in this regard is the understanding that since the worldview of a terrorist group or individual demarcates allies and enemies and forms the basis for deciding between legitimate and illegitimate targets and tactics, an actor's ideology is likely to be a prominent factor in any decision to resort to the use of WMD. Another important conclusion, widely accepted by terrorism experts in this original tranche of publications, is that groups motivated by religion, which are focused on cosmic as opposed to this-worldly concerns, are far more willing to engage in attacks involving mass casualties and, hence, would be more prone to use WMD." As Jeffrey M. Bale (author of the first chapter in this volume) has observed, "to the extent that violent extremist groups are absolutely convinced that they are doing God's bidding, virtually any action that they decide to undertake can be justified, no matter how heinous, since the 'divine' ends are thought to justify the means."19 According to this line of reasoning, the resurgence in religiously inspired terrorism in recent decades implies that there is now a greater possibility of terrorists seeking to use weapons of mass destruction.

Although some scholars have questioned the logic of this relationship altogether,2° it is more likely that the connection between religion and WMD exists, but is more complex and nuanced than initially presented. First, not all religious terrorists are equally likely to pursue mass destruction—many religiously motivated terrorist organizations have political components, represent constituencies that are well-defined geographically (and thus are subject to retribution), or depend for financial or logistical support on state parties or diaspora communities whose views may not be quite as radical as their own. Second, it is the theological and cultural content of the particular strand of religious belief that is of greatest significance, rather than the mere fact that a group has a religious predilection. It has been asserted that the ideologies that are the most conducive to the pursuit of catastrophic violence are those that simultaneously reflect an apocalyptic millenarian character, in which an irremediably corrupt world must be purged to make way for a utopian future, and those that emphasize the capacity for purification from sins through sacrificial acts of violence. It is interesting to note straightaway that at least some strains of jihadists, with their desire for a universal Caliphate (and occasionally also the advent of the Mandi) together with the glorification of martyrdom through suicide attacks, fit quite neatly into these categories. Third, Jessica Stern has also suggested that religious terrorists might embrace WMD as a means of "emulat[ing] God." Thus, while possessing an ideology with a religious characteristic is by no means determinative, it is likely to be a contributing factor to any desire to engage in WMD terrorism. In any event, it must be borne in mind that in this volume we are not making any assertions about correlations between religion and WMD in general, but we are instead focusing in particular on one set of actors representing the modern manifestation of jihadism. Nonetheless, the early WMD terrorism literature is certainly suggestive of what might be expected from jihadists with respect to WMD.

In the wake of the spectacular jihadist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the WMD terrorism literature began to focus more directly on the particular brand of extremism behind these attacks, together with its organizational adherents. While we continue to see many works on the more general aspects of WMD terrorism, it has now become rare indeed that a report or book does not make at least a passing reference to al-Qa`ida or the broader community of jihadists. There have also been several monographs dealing with one or the other particular weapon type (CBRN—chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) that allude to jihadists to varying extents. Significantly, for the first time, several articles and book chapters have been published that specifically address the topic of jihadists and WMD.

These latter publications, in particular, have sought to introduce a greater degree of nuance and refinement into the analyses. First, commentators have emphasized the importance to jihadists of theological legitimacy for their actions. We must therefore remain cognizant of ideological developments like the lengthy 2003 fatwa by a radical Saudi cleric legitimizing the use of WMD against the West. Second, several authors have also highlighted the distinction between the WMD potential of different components of the jihadist movement. For example, while al-Qa`ida central might seek to inflict mass casualties brought about by sophisticated WMD, smaller groupings of self-radicalized jihadists are argued to be more likely to resort to smaller scale CBRN attacks that have mainly psychological and economic effects. Even jihadist groups within the same context might approach the question of WMD differently, such as when interviews with members of Izz a-Din al-Qassam (the military wing of Hamas) revealed enthusiastic support for the use of WMD, while Palestinian Islamic Jihad members expressed concern over their use. Third, this new literature has engaged areas of analysis that have only recently come to the fore, such as the role played by virtual communities of jihadists on the Internet in the dissemination of instructional and ideological information on WMD. Last, recent scholarly publications seem to appreciate far better the inherent dynamism and nonlinearity of the relationship between jihadists and WMD. For example, although al-Qa`ida initially seemed to view WMD in primarily defensive terms as a means of deterrence, it is now recognized that a shift has occurred wherein WMD is currently perceived by many jihadists as a legitimate first strike weapon that can be used for offensive purposes.35 Even skeptics who have pointed to the relative dearth of discussion of CBRN weapons in jihadist writings (when compared to the volume of other tactical subjects), admit that the threat space is extremely fluid, and that the emergence of better-educated jihadists from Western nations, as well as new strategic approaches such as those espoused in the treatises of Abu Musab al-Suri, may be tipping the jihadists' equation in favor of WMD use.

For all its welcome contributions, however, this incipient literature exploring the nexus between jihadists and WMD is piecemeal, with no single source taking a comprehensive look at the topic from multiple vantage points. Moreover, the approach to analyzing the subject has remained largely within the purview of traditional scholars of terrorism, who mostly represent the academic disciplines of history, qualitative political science, and international relations. We believe that a topic of such obvious complexity, one that demands an understanding of a diverse set of issues ranging from Islamic theology

to the technical requirements for creating a nuclear weapon, would benefit from the theories and methods of several other academic disciplines. This is made all the more vital when one considers the difficulties surrounding the data that are available to researchers, which includes a lot of uncorroborated reports and thus requires careful analysis from a variety of contexts. To paraphrase Brad Roberts, one of the contributors to this volume: "Experts interested in jihadism have devoted only a tiny fraction of their time and effort to thinking about weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, experts on weapons of mass destruction have devoted little time and effort to thinking about jihadism."

We have conceived of the current effort as a more holistic treatment of the nexus between jihadists and WMD and, therefore, gathered a multi-disciplinary group of contributors, who number among them not only historians and qualitative political scientists, but also a psychologist, a quantitative political scientist, a public policy scholar, a physicist, and a biologist. We have attempted to take a structured approach to exploring the threat of jihadists acquiring WMD from a multitude of perspectives, while simultaneously applying a range of methodologies to analyzing the problem.


Thus far we have referred to the key concepts of this volume in a general sense, but since none of the terms involved are devoid of either complexity or controversy, we will now proceed to specifically define how each of the major terms in the book will be used. While we concede that the existing terminology might be deficient in several respects, we feel that the substitution of terms that have obtained purchase in popular descriptions by completely new (albeit technically more accurate) constructions may serve only to muddy the definitional waters further and make the discussion somewhat removed from the current discourse. Therefore, we have retained such references as "weapons of mass destruction," with the proviso that they are to be understood (at least in the context of this volume) solely as we define them below.

The Jihadists

In this volume, we are focusing in particular on the motives and behavior of jihadists, which we define to be Islamist actors who employ violence in order to further their goals."

In order for this definition to be of practical use to many readers, we will need to briefly explore the concept of Islamism. However, since this book is not centered on Islamism per se and there are many excellent texts devoted to this and related subjects," we will limit our discussion to those aspects of Islamism necessary to provide definitional clarity.


At the outset, we should clear up some common misinterpretations of the term Islamism. First, and most basically, Islamism (and its Islamist adherents) must be clearly distin-guished from the broader term Islam, which is a neutral reference to the religion that originated in the Arabian Peninsula with the teachings of the prophet Muhammad (ca. 570-632) and has become one of the three major monotheistic faiths (Christianity and Judaism being the other two). We henceforth take pains in this volume to draw a solid line between general followers of the Islamic faith (Muslims) and the strain of violent extremists currently espousing a set of radical interpretations of Islam (jihadists). Islamism should also not be equated with the locution of Muslim fundamentalism, which more generally describes various attempts throughout Islamic history to return to what its proponents perceive as the unadulterated foundations of the faith. Like other forms of religious fundamentalism, Muslim fundamentalism usually involves literal interpretations and strict constructions of Islam's sacred texts, primarily the Qur'an and the hadith (the collected sayings and actions of Muhammad). Because not all Muslim fundamentalist movements seek to actively change the existing social and political order, Islamism is best viewed as merely a subset of Muslim fundamentalism. Neither is Islamism the same thing as political Islam. The latter is a more expansive term covering a whole range of movements seeking to place Islam at the core of their political agendas, and includes such diverse movements as pan-Islam (al-wanda al-islamiyya), Ottomanism (Osmancilik), Islamic "Socialism," and moderate reformist Islam. Islamism is, therefore, only one strain of "political Islam." Figure 1 attempts to illustrate how Islamism and, as we shall see, jihadists are situated within the broader Islamic milieu.

But what do Islamists believe that makes them distinct from other Islamic movements? Their basic ideological outlook entails the belief that Muslims have been corrupted by secular ideologies from the West—including capitalism, communism, atheism, modernism, and materialism—which has in turn enabled the infidels (nonbelievers) in Western nations to dominate and exploit the Muslim world. Islamists believe that the solution to this problem consists of returning to a puritanical interpretation and application of Qur'anic precepts, Islamic tradition (ahadith), and Islamic law (shari`a), creating a truly Islamic state modeled on these principles, and thereby expunging Western social and cultural influences from Islam. This is accompanied by hostility toward those Muslims who are perceived as less pious or committed, with particular ire directed toward current rulers of Muslim lands who are often denounced as apostates and portrayed as traitors and puppets of the Western imperialist powers. Islamists always draw a marked distinction between the dar-al-Islam (the Abode of Islam) and the dar-al-harb (the Abode of War, a reference to the non-Islamic world), treating the latter and all it contains with contempt.'" Indeed, many Islamists express the belief that Islam is locked in an eternal struggle with the evil forces of jahiliyya ("ignorance" or "barbarism"), which is presently represented by the West and most egregiously by the United States. Islamism, with its objective of overthrowing the existing political order in Muslim lands and elsewhere, is an inherently radical ideology and one that contains both revivalist and revolutionary elements.

Despite sharing certain elements with previous Islamic reform movements, Islamism (in its present incarnation) is a relatively recent political phenomenon. While heavily influenced by earlier movements such as Wahhabism, Salafism, and even some Sufi move-ments (all of which called for a return to the earliest Islamic practices and a cleansing of the Muslim world42), Islamism also reflects several characteristics of the mass revo-lutionary movements that dominated Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. So, while Islamists refer to some relatively early Islamic scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), for inspiration, much of their worldview is based on the writings and teachings of Islamic thinkers of more recent vintage, to a large degree the Egyptians Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), and the Pakistani Mawlana Mawdudi (1903-1979). Islamism is also not restricted solely to the Sunni branch of Islam, but has Shi`ite variants, such as that espoused by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran.

While sharing most of the same ultimate goals for radical societal change, not all variants of Islamism are necessarily inherently violent. Some Islamist groups have adopted a strategy of gradual "Islamization from below," which is reflected in an "accommodationist" approach to the existing political order, and usually consists of proselytizing to the Muslim masses and providing social services to encourage a return to what the Islamists believe to be the true path of Islam. This approach is to be contrasted with that of the jihadists, who are those Islamists who believe that waging armed struggle against unbelievers (jihad bi-al-sayf, i.e., "jihad of the sword") is the only path to victory over the forces of "unbelief." Many of the current groups of jihadists, especially al-Qa`ida, further characterizes the current jihad against the West as "defensive" rather than "offensive," which under Islamic law arguably allows its members a greater latitude in terms of recruitment and tactics.

It must also be noted that even the jihadist movement itself is not monolithic—while subscribing to the same general tenets, and thus constituting a "community" in a fairly loose sense of the word, there are several groupings that differ in terms of cultural background, tactical and strategic priorities, and mechanisms of control and organization. In organizational terms, the movement consists, at one end of the scale, of fairly hierarchical, centralized, transnational establishments led by dedicated ideologues such as the so-called "al-Qa`ida central" thought to currently reside somewhere along the Afghan–Pakistani border and, at the other end of the scale, of small cells of disparate, self-radicalized extremists with no formal training or direct connections to outside logistical assistance. The most important division within the jihadist movement, however, is based on the strategic focus of the actors, with national or regionally focused groups (such as HAMAS and Hizb'allah) directing the bulk of their energies to defeating the "near enemy" (the apostate or "occupying" regimes in their parts of the Muslim world), while the more transnational-focused groups, exemplified by the al-Qa`ida movement, believing that it is first necessary to "cut the head off of the snake" and defeat the "far enemy" (led by the United States) before it will be possible to instill shari`a in the Muslim world. As these two types of orientations have become increasingly networked in recent years, however, the distinction has in practice become increasingly blurred in several areas of the world.

One final aspect of the use of the term jihadist needs to be addressed. Some commentators have argued that since most Muslims regard jihad (whether internal or external) as a religious duty, and since the jihadists themselves often enthusiastically embrace the label, the use of the term jihadist serves to lend some degree of legitimacy to these actors and their violent behaviors. Alternative, more derogatory appellations, such as Qutbists referring to the aforementioned Islamist Sayyed Qutb have been posted (thus associating the jihadists with a mortal source rather than a divine one). However, jihadism as we have described it is a delineative label for a particular set of actors that does not necessarily imply legitimacy and, consequently, we feel it is more accessible to a general reading audience than the more erudite alternatives.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Unlike jihadism, the use of the phraseology weapons of mass destruction in popular discourse is not so much confusing as it is controversial and, at times, even counterproductive. Each element of the term is subject to some degree of dispute, but the primary controversy surrounds the identification of which weapons are included (and, by extension, which are excluded) from the definition.'" Although the roots of the expression have been traced back as far as descriptions of the aerial bombardment of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, it was only after the U.S. use of nuclear weapons during World War II that the usage of the term became widespread. Thus, from the outset, nuclear weapons—in other words, weapons that employ an atomic fission or fusion reaction for their explosive power—were unequivocally regarded as WMD because of the singular scale of destruction they cause. During the Cold War era, the WMD label was applied, both by the United States Department of Defense and the United Nations, to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, with radiological weapons added intermittently."

After the Cold War, however, the treatment of the term became far murkier, at least in the United States, when its domestic criminal code (enacted by Congress) expanded the use of WMD to cover a much wider range of weapons, including conventional explosives, incendiary charges, missiles, and mines (18 U.S.C. 52332a). For example, Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the conspirators involved with the September 11, 2001 attacks, was indicted and tried for attempting to use an airplane as a weapon of mass destruction.45 The U.S. military has done little to clarify matters; instead it has arguably added to the confusion by adopting a similarly broad, yet in some ways also an overly restrictive approach to WMD, which it currently defines as Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and/or of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people. Weapons of mass destruction can be high-yield explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological weapons, but exclude the means of transporting or propelling the weapon where such means is a separable and divisible part of the weapon.

In addition to the inclusion of high explosives, the above definition excludes, for instance, missiles that contain nuclear warheads or artillery tubes that launch chemical shells. This usage is unfortunate in that it obscures a fundamental aspect of WMD—namely, that chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) agents must not only be capable of inflicting harm, but must also be deliverable to their intended target before they can qualify as practical weapons, let alone WMD." Indeed, except for nuclear weapons, the efficacy and, hence, utility of WMD depends almost entirely on delivery." The scale of the effects of many of these weapons thus depends very much on how they are used."

The most comprehensive analysis of the term WMD has been undertaken by W. Seth Carus, who prefers limiting WMD to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but is—somewhat begrudgingly—willing to include radiological weapons, in line with inter-national treaty usage. At the same time, he emphatically rejects the inclusion of large-scale conventional weapons despite their ability to wreak massive destruction. Carus, however, reaches his conclusion partially based on what would be most serviceable for the U.S. Department of Defense, which is not one of the decision criteria that concern us here, so we need a further reason if we seek to exclude conventional weapons from our definition.

The factor that differentiates CBRN from conventional weapons does not lie in the asymmetric nature of CBRN weapons. After all, as the September 11 attacks amply demonstrated, conventional means can also be used in an asymmetric fashion to cause massive damage and loss of life. Rather, the most obvious argument in favor of plac-ing CBRN weapons into a category of their own is that, at least in the case of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, there is the potential (in principle) to cause a greater scale of casualties (on the order of tens of thousands to millions) than any conceivable conventional explosive weapon.

Since in practice this potential is almost never realized and the scale of damage from terrorists using conventional weapons has historically dwarfed the effects achieved through chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, why should CBRN be elevated above conventional weapons on the basis of theoretical potential alone? The answer lies in a less tangible direction. In addition to their tremendous mass casualty poten-tial, CBRN weapons possess an arguably even more important distinguishing char-acteristic—the inordinate psychological and social impact of these weapons. In other words, CBRN weapons are inherently more frightening than guns and bombs. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including the invasiveness of many agents, particularly biological organisms, and a natural human fear of contamination. Perhaps the most important anxiety-provoking factor is the intangible nature of most of these agents (take, for example, radiation, which cannot be seen, smelled, or felt) that can lead to both gnawing doubt over whether or not one has been exposed and a sense of powerlessness against an unseen hazard. For instance, the 1995 Tokyo subway attack involving the chemical agent sarin killed 12 people, but over 4,400 of the 5,510 ostensible casualties who reported to medical facilities showed no symptoms of nerve agent exposure and were classified as "worried well."" That same year, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people and injured more than 500. Yet there were no "worried well" in the latter case, which is one indication of the greater psychological impact of WMD compared to conventional weapons.

The notion of "mass" in weapons of mass destruction also presents some difficulties. Exactly how much destruction or how many casualties must a weapon cause before it qualifies as WMD? The answer to this question is largely subjective, making attempts at specific quantification seem arbitrary. While some CBRN weapons (such as nuclear weapons or aerosolized Bacillus anthracis spores) are likely to cause thousands of casual-ties and, therefore, undoubtedly qualify as WMD, smaller scale terrorist attacks using other CBR materials (for example, an assassination using ricin or sarin) do not. When the news media or public officials conflate these two very different types of attacks and use the more dramatic moniker of "WMD" to describe any CBRN incident, public anxiety regarding CBRN might actually increase. Paradoxically, this could make even small-scale CBRN attacks increasingly attractive to terrorists, which consequently compounds the problem. When used inappropriately, then, the term WMD can be counterproductive in our efforts to prevent the use of CBRN weapons. One method that has been used to provide a reference point for the scale required to constitute a genuine WMD is an attack where the effects exceed the capabilities of local responders. This solution is problematic since the same weapon could then be regarded as a WMD if used in one locale with meager response resources, but would not qualify as such in a second locale with abundant emergency services. The best solution is perhaps to refrain from precisely enumerating the measurement of "mass" and instead to specify that, in the context of terrorism, in order for a weapon to qualify, its effects, whether physical or otherwise, should be at least on the order of those experienced in the largest conventional terrorist attacks, such as the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The last component of the formulation WMD, namely, the term destruction, presents problems of its own. Destruction traditionally connotes annihilation and physical ruin, and its use as an umbrella term for CBRN weapons can obscure important differences between the various agents and the effects they cause. For example, a release of Bacillus anthraces in downtown New York City, unlike a nuclear weapon, would not leave a large crater where skyscrapers once stood. Moreover, while CBRN weapons do have some characteristics in common—particularly the singular levels of anxiety they invariably will provoke in target populations—there are significant differences between chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons in terms of the capabilities required for terrorists to acquire and deploy them. Therefore, if one is not careful, the use of the homogenous label of WMD can lead to generalized and erroneous statements about a very diverse set of weapons. For instance, while the terrorist detonation of a nuclear weapon is generally regarded by many commentators as a "low-probability, high-consequence" event, it would be a mistake to ascribe a similar characterization to a rudimentary attack using toxic chemicals.

Another problem with the "destruction" component is that it is often not the physical destruction or even the casualties caused by these weapons that exerts the bulk of their effects on target societies, but rather the far-reaching disruption they cause. Both the physical and psychosocial consequences of using CBRN can jeopardize the functioning of critical infrastructures and services. Just two examples suffice: A chemical weapons attack using a persistent agent would immediately contaminate an area and hinder the functioning of essential services, while the use of a contagious biological agent may provoke mass evacuations and necessitate socially and economically disruptive quarantines.

One way to avoid the complications surrounding the term weapons of mass destruction is to refrain from using it altogether and to substitute a more well-defined descriptor. Several alternatives have been proposed, among the most promising of which are "weapons of mass effect" and "weapons of mass disruption" (the latter term has the added advantage of retaining the same acronym). This is not, however, as satisfactory a resolution as it might at first seem. First, while these substitutes may address some of the deficiencies discussed above by more accurately describing the consequences of these weapons, they do nothing to address such core concerns as which weapons are included or the scale of "mass," making them only partial solutions at best. Moreover, just as chemical and biological weapons might not cause destruction per se, stating that nuclear weapons cause disruption is more than a little euphemistic and merely flips the initial problem on its head. Second, the term weapons of mass destruction is used ubiq-uitously52 and, despite being derided in several quarters,53 it is still used by scholars and practitioners as well as in national and international legal instruments and, thus, cannot be easily jettisoned. We will, therefore, retain the term weapons of mass destruction in this volume, with the important stipulation that we will be careful and explicit in how we define and use the term.

In light of the above discussion, we have chosen in this volume to restrict the tern weapons of mass destruction and its acronym WMD to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons that, if used, would inflict catastrophic casualties, widespread social disruption, or devastating economic consequences greater than those brought about by the largest conventional attacks carried out thus far. This usage can include both CBRN54 agents that are specifically designed for use in a military context (e.g. nuclear warheads or VX nerve agent) and materials developed for nonmilitary purpose that can be misused in ways that cause significant harm (e.g., pesticides, or radioactive isotopes used for industry or research). Each author in this work was supplied with the above definition and was also requested to make a clear distinction in their analysis between smaller scale CBRN attacks and genuine WMD attacks as we have define( them, with the focus of the book lying squarely on WMD.

Terrorism and WMD Terrorism

We focus in this volume on jihadists as a distinct set of nonstate actors and thus are no directly concerned with whether it is proper to label a specific group of jihadists as terrorists or not. Nonetheless, we cannot completely avoid the use of the term "terrorism' throughout the various chapters and, therefore, we engage in a brief discussion here, with the proviso that we are seeking only a usable definition for the purposes of the current text and do not aspire to stake any claims in the broader definitional fray.

The first thing to realize about terrorism is that there is no broad consensus (either among governments or academics) on what a terrorist is, leading to a host of divergent definitions." Since an objective definition of terrorism has proven elusive, the subject ha become prone to subjective manipulation by political actors, leading to the aphorism that "one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." What almost everyone can agree on however, is that the word "terrorist" carries a negative connotation and that it continue to be politically expedient to label any opponent as a terrorist, a predilection that can sometimes lead to almost farcical results.

Several observers who do acknowledge the definitional morass surrounding terror ism sometimes—out of exasperation or laxity—seek to avoid the issue entirely by appealing to an alleged intuitive "terrorism radar," that is, "we'll know terrorism when we se it." The only problem with this approach is that in the case of terrorism, by the time w see it, it is generally too late to do anything about it. In other words, the importance of the loss of meaning of the concept of a terrorist group transcends mere academic nitpicking—the official definition of terrorism often forms the basis of the political, legal or military response to it.

We offer a definition that attempts to differentiate between terrorism and other form of violence (such as guerilla warfare), while capturing what many believe are the distill disguising elements of terrorism, namely, an intention on the part of the perpetrator n have a broader psychological impact and the noncombatant status of the victims. WI therefore define terrorism to be the intentional use or threatened use of violence, directed against noncombatant victims selected for their symbolic or representative value, as a means of instilling anxiety in, transmitting one or more messages to, and thereby manipulating the attitudes and behavior of a wider target audience or audiences.

An actor can be termed a terrorist, then, if the majority of his or her violent activities can be classed as terrorism. In this volume, we further restrict the usage of the term to nonstate actors, at the same time acknowledging that terrorism committed by states is often the most egregious type. It follows that the term "WMD terrorism" refers to acts of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, as we have defined them previously.

While offering the above definition of terrorism in order to provide clarity to the discussion, we take heed of the words of J. Bowyer Bell, who stated that, "no matter what tools of analysis a scholar carries into the terrorist thicket, rarely is the venture begun or ended disinterestedly" and acknowledge that our definition may not be suitable for all. Therefore, we have allowed the various authors in this volume to depart from the above definition if they wish, so long as they do so explicitly.


Beyond the basic goal of more comprehensively exploring a topic of substantial significance to international security, we have endeavored to provide more structure to our inquiry by orienting the discussion around a set of four central questions. While the authors in this volume were not explicitly required to address these questions in any formulaic way, they are implicit in the work as a whole. By listing the questions that frame the discourse at the outset, we will hopefully aid the reader in understanding each chapter in the context of the larger topic of the potential use by jihadists of weapons of mass destruction.

How Serious Is the Threat of Jihadists Using WMD, Really?

While the threat, or at least the potential threat, of jihadists obtaining and using WMD might seem obvious to some, there are several skeptics who argue that the threat is far lower than it is popularly believed to be and further that it has been exaggerated, either unwittingly or by design, by politicians, journalists, and the so-called homeland security industry" (which is posited as a somewhat updated incarnation of Eisenhower's military—industrial complex). Rather than ignoring such views, we must pay them careful consideration, lest we open this enterprise up to accusations of hyping the threat in order to justify our own or our authors' academic existence or to secure a place at the trough of government funding. Therefore, the most basic question we will pose in this volume is whether there exists a genuine threat in the first place. The fundamental elements in assessing such a threat consist of establishing whether the potential perpetrator(s) possess both the motivation to cause a particular type of harm and the capability to successfully do so. In the case of assessing motivation, we will consider whether there is a sufficiently  strong ideological, strategic, or tactical basis for jihadists to use WMD, which culminates in the question, "Are they really trying?" To get at the extent of jihadist capabilities with respect to WMD we will endeavor to answer the question: "How close are they to succeeding?" By subsequently combining current levels of jihadist motivation and capability, we will seek to establish a minimum level of objective threat that may at least dampen (though doubtfully silence) any accusations of threat exaggeration.

Which Aspects of the WMD Terrorism Problem Are Specific, and Consequentially So, to Jihadists?

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of WMD terrorism and perhaps even more on recent explorations of radical Islamic movements. Part of the rationale behind the current volume is that there are at least some salient features occurring at the nexus of jihadism and WMD that merit deeper exploration and which could add to the current discourse on both subjects. The chapters in this volume are therefore structured to identify elements in the behavioral progression from ideology to strategy and thence to operations and tactics that are particular to jihadists and would, therefore, translate into unique manifestations of WMD pursuit or use in the jihadist context. This could include such considerations as which weapon type (of CBRN) would be most likely to be pursued by jihadists, how this would be justified to the jihadists' perceived constituency, as well as the probable scale and sophistication of any jihadist WMD attacks.

Which Measures Are Likely to Be Effective in Countering or Preventing WMD Attacks by Jihadists and Which Are Not? How Do These Relate to Current Counterterrorism Tools and Practices?

Moving beyond characterization of the threat itself, this volume also investigates which methods are needed to address the unique threat elements identified in answering the previous question. The methods that will be considered range from preventative measures such as early interdiction of plots and hardening of targets, to prompt detection of a CBRN attack and consequence management efforts for mitigating post-attack effects. Presuming that the threat has been verified and that it possesses distinct features, the primary question in this regard becomes: Will general CBRN countermeasures be adequate to deal with the particular manifestation of the threat likely to emanate from the jihadist quarter, or will extant approaches need to be tweaked, or perhaps even reformulated wholesale? Once the requirements for effective means to combat the jihadist WMD threat have been established, a preliminary evaluation of the extent to which counterterrorist practitioners at all levels are incorporating these requirements into their standard operating procedures can be undertaken.

What Does the Future Hold for the Prospects of WMD Use by Jihadists?

Terrorism and technology are inherently dynamic phenomena. Jihadist terrorism and the technologies underlying WMD have proven themselves to be doubly so. A static picture of the WMD jihadist threat is therefore likely to be of extremely limited utility as both the actors involved and the availability of the weapons they seek constantly evolve. Each author was therefore instructed to give some thought to future developments as these pertained to their individual facets of the overall issue. Furthermore, the last part of the book is devoted to an explicit consideration of how the threat might develop in the coming decades.


It is the nature, and indeed one of the strengths, of any edited volume that a diversity of approaches and opinions is presented. At the same time, one of the objectives of this volume is to ensure that the topic is examined as thoroughly as possible and in greater depth than has previously been the case. In designing the structure of the book, our task as editors was thus to attempt to strike a balance between encouraging multiple perspectives and breadths of interpretation, while at the same time creating a cogent text with minimal redundancies. Thanks to a set of very attentive and enthusiastic contributing authors, the resulting text exceeded our expectations in this regard. Nevertheless, the reader should not be surprised if the conclusions of some of the authors differ, or if some elements of the analysis receive more attention than others, since this reflects the latitude given to each author to pursue his or her own analysis as he or she feels fit.

Section I of the book examines the jihadists themselves and their orientation toward WMD. It is focused primarily on the motivational element, but also includes references to generic jihadist capabilities. Jeffrey M. Bale begins the section by discussing how jihadist ideology translates into strategy in the context of the archetypical transnational jihadist organization—al-Qa`ida—and how ideological and strategic exigencies relate specifically to the employment of WMD. Bale's chapter is followed by Mark Dechesne's psychologically inspired approach to understanding the jihadist relationship to weapons selection and WMD, built around a model of the jihadist "lifespace." Moving from a focus on the broader jihadist worldview, James Forest and Sammy Salama investigate how this might translate into the use of WMD at the tactical level, with a particular focus on jihadist target selection were they to employ WMD. Sammy Salama and Edith Bursac round out the first section with the chapter on the methods by which WMD knowledge is disseminated by jihadists using the World Wide Web and the extent to which this might augment jihadist capabilities to successfully deploy WMD.

Section II takes a closer look at the weapons themselves. Since the availability and the degree of difficulty involved in acquiring and using each of the four CBRN weapon types differ in several important respects, a separate chapter is devoted to each type of WMD. Each chapter follows a similar structure, beginning with a brief introduction to the weapon type and how it causes harm and then tracing the obstacles jihadists would face in obtaining or using the weapon. This is followed by a description of previous jihadist activities involving the type of weapon under consideration, accompanied by an analysis of the progress jihadists have made toward employing the weapon on the scale of a WMD attack. Markus Binder and Michael Moodie explore the jihadist use of chemical weapons, including the looming threat of toxic industrial chemicals. This is followed by Cheryl Loeb's survey of jihadist involvement with biological and toxin weapons. Charles P. Blair provides a detailed description of the potential for jihadists to detonate a nuclear explosive in a fission or fusion reaction. Charles D. Ferguson discusses the prospect of massive disruption brought about by jihadists dispersing radiological materials.

Having painted a detailed picture of the threat of jihadists using WMD, the discussion in Section III turns to various aspects of countering or defending against the threat. Randall S. Murch and Jeremy Tamsett explore the role of intelligence and law enforcement in anticipating and interdicting WMD terrorist attacks by jihadists, while Brad Roberts discusses the complexities surrounding attempts to deter jihadists from going down the WMD path. An important element in the prevention of WMD terrorism is denying would-be perpetrators access to the requisite raw materials with which WMD

are constructed; thereupon, Brian Finlay and Jeremy Tamsett provide an overview of nonproliferation policies as well as an analysis of the efficacy of so-called "supply-side" efforts to limit the availability of WMD materials to jihadists. When the layers of preven-tion and protection fail, consequence mitigation comes to the fore and Patrick S. Roberts describes the strategic aspects of robust responses to WMD attacks.

Section IV of the book is forward looking in that it considers the extent to which we can anticipate future developments concerning jihadists and WMD. Victor H. Asal and R. Karl Rethemeyer conduct a groundbreaking quantitative empirical analysis of historical jihadist behavior in an attempt to identify a set of characteristics of jihadist groups that might serve as future indicators of an intent and capability to use, or at least pursue, CBRN weapons. This is followed by Gary Ackerman's chapter, in which he discusses the difficulties of anticipating behavioral trends and conducts a forecasting exercise to examine the future likelihood of jihadists using WMD over an extended time period.

The conclusion provides a summary of the book's major findings and recommendations and attempts to develop a response to the framing questions posed in this introduction. The first appendix includes a list of open-source reports of plots or other activities involving al-Qa`ida and CBRN materiel. The second reference appendix is a substantial compilation of statements and discussions of WMD attributed to jihadists and drawn from the open sources.

Two more preliminary notes are warranted. First, although the focus of this book is on the jihadist movement more generally, which includes both Sunni and Shi`i variants of Islamism, many of the authors chose to focus primarily on Sunni groups, no doubt reflecting the greater amount of activity by these groups with respect to WMD, and the fact that Shi`i involvement with WMD seems to center around the activities of a state actor, Iran, and its radical leader, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, as opposed to the nonstate groups that are the focus of this book. Nonetheless, it should be recognized that Shi`i-based jihadist groups also have the potential to pursue WMD, as can be seen in some of the references in the text to Shi`i groups such as Hizb'allah. Second, certain authors chose to conduct their analysis by highlighting the dynamics of a particular jihadist organization, the al-Qa`ida network. This is also hardly surprising when one considers that al-Qa`ida is currently both the primary jihadist antagonist and has been involved in one way or another with the majority of jihadist activities involving WMD.

Having thus laid out the structure and context of the book, we can now proceed to the analysis of the nexus between jihadists and WMD. It is here where the reader will be exposed to a number of different perspectives regarding the threat and hopefully propelled to a greater understanding of what is one of the key security issues of the first part of the twenty-first century.

Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves by Brian Michael Jenkins (RAND Corporation) On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Brian Jenkins, one of the world's leading experts on terrorism and counterterrorism strategies, presents a concise and compelling overview of where we are today in the struggle against terrorism. He offers personal reflections on how some of our recent approaches to counterterrorism have been counterproductive. He presents an overview of the jihadists, particularly al Qaeda, and their operational code. He proposes strategies to counteract this adversary and to avoid reinforcing it further. Finally, he clarifies the American and Western values that we must strive to uphold, as well as ways that we might do so today and in the future.

Excerpt: The reader will find strong personal opinions on these pages. There is much concerning the conduct of the war on terror' that I agree with: the muscular initial response to 9/11, the removal of the Taliban gov­ernment in Afghanistan, the relentless pursuit of al Qaeda's leaders and planners, the increasingly sophisticated approach to homeland security, and, although I have deep reservations about the invasion of Iraq, President Bush's determination to avoid an arbitrary timetable for withdrawal.

The list of things with which I do not agree is longer. As ex­plained in this book, these aspects of the war on terror have, if any­thing, undermined our campaign: the needless bravado, the arrogant attitude toward essential allies, the exploitation of fear, the exagger­ated claims of progress, the persistence of a wanted-poster approach while the broader ideological struggle is ignored, the rush to invade Iraq, the failure to deploy sufficient troops there despite the advice of senior military leaders and the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the cavalier dismissal of treaties governing the conduct of war, the mistreatment of prisoners, the unimaginable public defense of torture, the use of homeland security funding for political pork barrel spending, and the failure to educate and involve citizens.

This book is not intended to serve any political agenda. Its sole objective is to reckon how America can defeat its terrorist foes while preserving its own liberty. Throughout the Cold War, Americans maintained a rough consensus on defense matters, despite substantive disagreements. Unity did not require the suspension of honest differ­ences or of civilized political debate. But today's fierce partisanship has reduced national politics to a gang war. The constant maneuver­ing for narrow political advantage, the rejection of criticism as disloy­alty, the pursuit by interest groups of their own exclusive agendas, and the radio, television, newspaper, and Internet debates that thrive on provocation and partisan zeal provide a poor platform for the difficult and sustained effort that America faces. All of these trends imperil the sense of community required to withstand the struggle ahead. We don't need unanimity. We do need unity. Democracy is our strength. Partisanship is our weakness.

The book is not without uncertainties and even some apparent contradictions. Ideology is easy. Reality is messy. Well into the fifth year of the campaign against al Qaeda and the jihadist enterprise, and in the fourth year of fighting in Iraq, the future trajectories of these contests simply are not yet clear. There may be long lulls that tempt us into dangerous complacency interspersed with spectacular terrorist attacks that cause us to question any claims of progress. It is our foe's doctrine to attack when we are inattentive. As in all long wars, we can expect surprises.

Chapter Two provides a sober assessment of the current situation. It concludes that while the United States has made progress in degrad­ing the jihadists' operational capabilities, it has failed to dent their determination or halt their recruiting. Meanwhile, a tenacious armed resistance continues in Iraq. Nothing indicates that it will end soon. Insurgents cannot defeat U.S. forces in open battle, but we cannot stop the violence. The insurgents' strategy is to make our situation untenable, to drain our resolve. Opinions in America differ sharply, with some claiming that military pressure and political progress will eventually reduce the Iraqi insurgency to manageable brigandage and others arguing that the continued U.S. presence further fuels the fighting.

Dismissing terrorists as crazy fanatics and consigning them to the realm of evil have discouraged a deeper understanding of our foes and have restricted discussions of counterterrorist strategy. But un­derstanding how they view the world, warfighting, and operations opens up new ways of thinking about counterterrorist strategy. Chap­ter Three explores the terrorist camp—the thinking of terrorist lead­ers, the appeal of their ideology, their indoctrination and recruiting methods, and their operational code. The chapter concludes with a hypothetical briefing that might be given to Osama bin Laden.

Chapter Four offers a new set of strategic principles to guide our conduct. It argues that the recasting of counterterrorism as "war" immediately following 9/11 was a good idea but that the "global war on terror" conflated too many threats and lumped together too many missions. The focus should be on the destruction of the jihadist en­terprise, where the United States has made progress but risks losing support and momentum as a consequence of growing complacency and the controversial war in Iraq. American efforts understandably have focused almost exclusively on thwarting operations and capturing terrorists—the visible tip of the iceberg. We now have to expand that strategy to impede recruiting and encourage rehabilitation. Meanwhile, there is no easy solution to Iraq. Staying the course until victory is achieved is not a strategy, but neither is a timetable for withdrawal, and withdrawal itself is dangerous, especially if it leaves behind a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. Continuing American involvement in Iraq while we figure out how to do it better may be our best approach. Whatever the outcome in Iraq, there is no near-term prospect that the fight against the jihadists will end there.

Chapter Five addresses how we can strengthen ourselves. Homeland security should move beyond gates and guards and be­come the impetus for rebuilding America's decaying infrastructure. We need to adopt a realistic approach to acceptable risk and to get a lot smarter about security. Instead of stoking fear, we need to build upon American traditions of determination and self-reliance and be­gin firing up citizen participation in preparedness and response.

Above all, we need to preserve our commitment to American values. Counterterrorism is not simply technique. It confronts us with dilemmas that often have a moral dimension. Whatever we do must be consistent with our fundamental values. This is no mere matter of morality, it is a strategic calculation, and here we have at times miscalculated.

God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult And the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad by Charles Allen (Da Capo Press) An important study of the little-known history of the Wahhabi, a fundamentalist Islamic tribe whose teachings influence today's extreme Islamic terrorists, including the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

In today's post-9/11 world, the everyday news shows us images of fanatic fighters and suicide bombers willing to die in holy war, martyrs for jihad. But what are the roots of this militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in the eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers--the Wahhabi--who sought the restoration of Islamic purity and declared violent jihad on all who opposed them, Moslems and pagans alike.

As the Wahhabi teaching spread in the nineteenth century, first, to the Arabian peninsula, and then, to the region around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, their followers brought with them a vicious brand of political ideology and militant conflict. The Wahhabi deeply influenced the rulers of modern Saudi Arabia and their establishment of a strict Islamic code. A more militant expression of Wahhabism took root in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where fierce tribes have waged holy war for almost two hundred years. The ranks of the Taliban and al-Qaeda today are filled with young men who were taught the Wahhabi theology of Islamic purity while rifles were pressed into their hands for the sake of jihad.

God's Terrorists sheds shocking light on the historical roots of modern terrorism and shows how this dangerous theology lives on today.

From Publishers Weekly: British author Allen (Soldier Sahibs) argues persuasively that violent Islamic extremism isn't as new as we might think, but unfortunately, his book doesn't do much to explain the phenomenon. Carefully drawing distinctions between mainstream Islam and the fanaticism that spawned al-Qaeda (which he calls "as much a threat to Islam as to the West"), Allen goes back to the 18th-century founding of Wahhabism, a strain of Islam fostered in the Arabian desert that now serves as the Saudi state religion. Fixated on removing any hint of deviation from their interpretation of Muhammad's teachings, violent Wahhabists have traditionally killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. A Central Asia expert, Allen focuses on the form of Wahhabism that developed against the backdrop of waning British imperialism in that area, gradually leading up to Osama bin Laden's arrival. But his rapid-fire account is littered with names and battles, explaining little about how an ideology always rejected by most Muslims, and whose proponents were nearly annihilated on many occasions, managed to survive so spectacularly. Nor does he explain why Wahhabists' anger has shifted from supposed infidels in their midst to citizens of the West.  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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