Al Qaeda’s Global Insurgency: Build the Mosque in New York Already!

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts,” she wrote. “Pls reject it in interest of healing.” Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin on Twitter, July 2010

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. Former House Speaker Newt Gringrich,, July 21, 2010

These statements relating to a Muslim facility being built near the former twin towers may hinder any potential global counter-insurgent effort targeting Al Qaeda. Anyone with access to the internet and/or cable television can easily see there is a “crisis of confidence” within the Muslim community regarding US intentions internationally (especially in the Middle East). When first reading these statements above taken out of context; they are damaging. In context, there is loose justification for the comments given that Cordoba was once considered a site of Muslim conquest over Christianity (name of the facility being built). Regardless, loose is not good enough, there is little or no justification for agitating the entire Muslim world given that we need their support to combat Al Qaeda globally.

In order to understand why such statements are counter-productive, one must recognize Al Qaeda as a global insurgency. More specifically, Al Qaeda is a transnational, non-state, Wahhabist, insurgent organization. Wahhabism is essentially an extreme, traditional form of Islam. An insurgency is in essence a group that seeks to overthrow a constituted authority. One could argue that the US is a globally constituted authority given its presences across the world especially in the Middle East. In addition, Al Qaeda exists throughout the world and does have some minimal support from certain segments of the Muslim population (both passive and active), mostly the Wahhabist sect. The Wahhabists have prominence throughout the Muslim world due to the vast amount of oil in Saudi Arabia, arguably the capital of Wahhabist thought. Saudi Arabia has been exporting Wahhabist thought for generations with its peak during the 1970s; providing funding to Wahhabist facilities (including mosques) across the world especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If one considers Al Qaeda a global insurgency, wars such as Afghanistan and Iraq could be considered mere battles such as Vietnam was considered (by some) to be a mere battle in a much larger war (The Cold War).

After one defines Al Qaeda as a global insurgency, one must decide how to respond to that insurgency, one could reason, a global counter-insurgent effort. Translating traditional counter-insurgent tactics to global counter-insurgent efforts is difficult and daunting. In a traditional counter-insurgent context, that means developing a relationship with the local populace while providing critical governmental functions. In a sense, counter-insurgent warfare is a competition between counter-insurgents and the insurgents; the local populace will decide who can govern them (either through cooperation with the insurgent or counterinsurgent). On a larger scale, especially counter-Al Qaeda efforts, the global counter-insurgent effort requires a similar competition between ideologies, tolerance versus intolerance. This effort requires national governments reaching out to Muslim communities through political, economic, social, and military actions (not an all-inclusive list). The US must take actions that may be politically, costly such as closing Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay and realigning relations with Israel, once again, not an all inclusive list. Al Qaeda seeks to make the US out to be crusaders. By making necessary concessions to the Muslim community while curbing our oil dependency (Saudi Arabia), these actions could prove lucrative in the long-term garnering Muslim sympathy internationally.

In turn, with this leverage, the US cannot afford to lump the entire Muslim population in with the Wahhabist puritans, isolating potential allies, moderate Muslims. French Lieutenant Colonel David Galula said it best in his masterpiece ‘Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,’ “The insurgent has to appeal to the whole, and a cause is necessary for that…the general cause will most probably be a negative one, something like “throw the rascals out.” Making controversial statements about Islam only further creates such a ’cause.’ According to the puritan elements, by-and-large, the Americans are hostile to the Islamic way of life and must be evicted from Muslim lands, Afghanistan and Iraq; given our ongoing efforts in these countries, not a good mix. More concerning, Newt Gringrich fails to acknowledge that there is a vast divide between Islamic, radicals (puritans) and the rest of Islam (silent majority). Saudi Arabia is not the entirety of Islam, but a Wahhabist element. Al Qaeda is attempting to persuade Muslims that the US is an ignorant, intolerant, country that seeks to embark on a new ‘Crusade.’ Comments such as the above, without a doubt, can further galvanize their base or at least garner some sympathy for the puritan cause (given Islam is being persecuted). Sarah Palin tells “Peace-seeking Muslims” that it “is [an] UNNECESSARY provocation.” I fail to understand why given that the US is a country based largely on freedom of religious thought, first amendment; except, for whatever reason, you are a Muslim (another potentially damning assertion).

In conclusion, is the Muslim facility (with a Mosque inside) controversial? In short, yes, but could be one way (among many) to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the Christian west. If the Mosque is being built for peaceful purposes and doesn’t have links to puritan elements, why shouldn’t the facility be built? Both Gringrich and Palin are making statements winning cheap political points at the expense of our international standing and safety. Much more importantly, building such a facility sends a resounding statement internationally, that regardless of the tragedy that took place on September 11, 2001, we are still a country based on tolerance and goodwill; a sentiment that very much coincides with the counter-insurgent philosophy; build the Mosque!

*All information contained in this article is unclassified and not sensitive. These opinions are my own and do not reflect another entity or organization. The information contained in this email is not considered privileged and I reserve the right publish this information in any appropriate forum.*
— Matthew J. Fecteau
Captain, US Army

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