Summary: Jeremy Harding at the LRB looks at the next big step by jihadists, and the amazing oddity of the West’s response.
Modern jihad has gone through several phases, each stronger and more virulent than the predecessor. First came Afghanistan’s Mujahideen, who burned out in internecine conflict (defeated by the Tailiban). Al Qaeda came next, destroyed in the years after 9/11. Then came ISIS, now being destroyed after its premature shift to phase three insurgent operations (per Mao’s schema: holding territory and waging conventional warfare). Now jihad takes a new step, resuming phase two operations (terrorism) — but expanding their operations into Europe.
We can only guess at what form this will take, and what jihadists learned from their previous failures. Here Jeremy Harding explains this stage in jihad’s evolution, and the great oddity of the West’s response. Red emphasis added.
By Jeremy Harding. Excerpt from London Review of Books. 15 July 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.
“Gilles Kepel, a specialist on ‘Islam and the Arab world’, wrote last year in Terreur dans l’Hexagone – a study of French jihadism – that the Charlie Hebdo killings were ‘a sort of cultural 9/11’. The jihadism that we’re now confronted with, he argued, is a third wave phenomenon, superseding the mujahidin in Afghanistan (the first) and emerging in the long twilight of al-Qaida (the second).
“The latest wave is specifically targeted at Europe, with its significant Muslim population (about 20 million in EU countries): the approach is ‘horizontal’, favouring networks rather than cells; disruption, fear and division are the tactics; the radical awakening of European Muslims, many already disaffected and marginal, is the immediate objective. The murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the kosher store in Paris brought the third wave ‘to a paroxysm’, in Kepel’s view, just as 9/11 brought the second ‘to its pinnacle’. At the time of writing, no one has laid claim to the atrocity in Nice: more than 80 dead, 50 hospitalised (‘between life and death’, in President Hollande’s words, earlier today).