Sunday, April 03, 2005

Professor: Islamic militants have highly sophisticated organization

By: David Campbell , Staff Writer

"Grand strategy" for Al Qaeda outlined.
Militant radical Islam will not be defeated solely by bringing democracy to the Middle East, Princeton Professor Michael Doran said during a lecture Monday at Princeton University.
Nor is the jihad being waged by ever-more-sophisticated organizations like Al Qaeda an insurgency against the United States provoked by unpopular U.S. policies abroad, he said.
Professor Doran is an assistant professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton. He presented his talk, titled "Al Qaeda's Grand Strategy (And Ours Too)" at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs' Robertson Hall.
During his address, he described the terror network as a highly sophisticated organization that has developed a formidable strategy through analysis and reinterpretation of its own history — both of Islam's origins and of the radical Jihad movement's failures in recent decades.
Professor Doran said Al Qaeda doesn't consider itself a revolutionary movement; that is, he said, its members understand that it will not be their generation — or even the one that follows — that will reap the political and religious fruits they wish to take root in the Middle East.
Further, he said, the network has learned to capitalize on its fragmented nature, and it fully recognizes the great importance of public perception of its actions — in the Middle East, not in the West. He said Al Qaeda tailors its propaganda to the complex regional interests and grievances within each Arab state. It is not so much a global insurgency against the United States provoked by its policies that have been deemed reprehensible, but is at its core a struggle for a new order in the Middle East, he said.
"It's about relations between Muslims first and foremost, and we are secondary," Professor Doran said. "This is not simply an ideological fight." He added: "I can't see this thing burning itself out any time soon. I hope I'm wrong."
The Princeton Professor said Al Qaeda plays on the "fears and resentments" in the region and said it will probably continue to do so for the next several years. He said American-style democracy won't solve the economic and social problems in these areas — problems he said Al Qaeda is adept at manipulating and capitalizing upon. He said its members are in effect skilled politicians, disseminating a universal message while speaking to the specific concerns of individual constituencies.
He said the terror network believes it is in a period in the history of its violent movement of "vexation and exhaustion," one that precedes the eventual so-called Islamic revolution in the Middle East.
The goal is to force the power of the United States and modern Islamic states — enemies he said the Islamists view together as "one continuous complex" — to contract and thus create pockets in Muslim societies where their radical notions can flourish.
With regard to the United States, he said, vexation and exhaustion involve making it expend money to fight the war on terror; spread its forces thin around the globe; and polarize Arabs through non-precision strikes in those societies. Out of such polarization, Professor Doran said, the terror organization hopes to "radicalize" young Arabs — typically men.
However, the professor said, he believes Al Qaeda will ultimately lose.
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