Pat Proctor of Kansas State University was published in the peer-Reviewed Journal of Strategic Security in 2012.
The point of this article is not so much posing a question but presenting a proposal. The proposal is directed at the United States, suggesting in strong terms how the United States (and presumably its allies) could and should engage in "…mass politics" which Proctor calls "war without violence" (Proctor, 2012, 47). The theme of the article is the remarkable transformation that has taken place in Arab countries (called the "Arab Spring") such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The hypothesis / thesis and central argument is very clearly stated in this piece. The thesis is that the United States needs a new strategy for persuading the Muslim world "…to reject the salafist jihadism idea" without further exacerbating the tensions that already exist between the West and the Muslim world (Proctor, 48). This thesis is based on the fact that subsequent to September 11, 2001, the United States (under the administration of George W. Bush) launched a "War on Terror" and yet ten years later the "war" has not been won, and in fact albeit the U.S. has killed a number of leaders in the jihadist movement (including bin Laden), American can't kill every radical Islamic militant that wants to bring death to the West.
"The United States has failed to eradicate the threat of salafist jihadism," Proctor explains on page 48. Notwithstanding the West's rhetoric against terrorism, it would be impossible for the U.S. To "…kill its way to victory in this war" because there is "…simply no government to force to capitulate"; e.g., the terrorists are mobile and not affiliated with any state, per se (Proctor, 48).
In defining what the "Salafist Jihadism" is, Proctor actually gives some good examples of why many Muslims are angry at the West, in particular younger men that are perhaps struggling to make a good living and are influenced by the radical, hateful rhetoric of Islamic radicals. On page 49 Proctor explains that the "…great powers of Europe ultimately carved up and colonized the Arab world" in the late 19th century and into the 20th century. During the British domination of Sudan in the late 19th century the word "ista'mar" emerged among Muslims; it meant "to colonize" or "to exploit" (Proctor, 49).
After World War I the West seized and exploited Arab territories (Iran, Iraq, among others) and that bitterness continues today against the West. Many young Muslims have rebelled against their governments (this relates to the Arab Spring) because they see their governments are backed by Western power, military weapons and money. And when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the "salafism" continued under bin Laden. What is salafism? Proctor writes (51) that it is an ideology, "…an idea that has mobilized a global movement," a movement the U.S. cannot defeat because "…an idea can only be defeated by another idea," not by weapons, whether they be drone aircraft shooting missiles or automatic rifles carried by soldiers in Afghanistan (Proctor, 51).
Jihadism and the Salafi Jihad
Professor David Cook with Rice University (writing in the peer-reviewed Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions) explains the Jihad as having three categories, based on the original definitions in the Qur'an. There is the jihad of the hand (or the sword), "…which is military in nature," Cook explains (Cook, 2009, p. 178). There is jihad "..of the tongue, which involved the reproof of an unjust ruler or corrupt society"; and the third jihad was jihad "…of the soul, developed mostly by the Sufis"; this jihad involved waging an "internal struggle against one's lower soul" (Cook, 178). In time jihad has become used by militants to describe the targets they wish to kill; jihad can mean "…beheading, kidnapping and the mutilation of bodies" (Cook, 185). So basically extremist Muslims have grabbed a phrase from the Qur'an and turned it into a phrase that identifies enemies to be attacked and killed -- like the U.S. And the UK.
As to Salafi Jihad, Assaf Moghadam explains in a blog on the Harvard University website that it is an "ideology" (Proctor calls it an "idea") (Moghadam, 2008, p. 1). The Salafi Jihad "…identifies the alleged source of the Muslims' conundrum in the persistent attacks and humiliation of Muslims" that took place during the Crusades (Moghadam, p. 1). Moreover, Moghadam explains that Salafi Jihadists "…present a program of action, namely jihad, which is understood in military terms" (p. 2).
Salafi jihadists believe that jihad will "…reverse the tide of history and redeem adherents of Salafi-Jihadist ideology from their misery" and martyrdom is held up high as the "…ultimate way in which jihad can be waged" and hence the justification for the bloody suicide attacks against the West. Salafi jihadists also "…openly justify the killing of civilians, including Muslims, under a logic of the ends justifying the means" (Moghadam, p. 3).
FOUR: Is what the author (Proctor) has presented worthy narrative and believable? Yes Proctor has hit the nail on the head when it comes to a strategy that would work better for the United States than trying to identify the leaders of militant Islam and try to kill them. For example on pages 51-52 the author points out that the regimes that have been overthrown in the Arab Spring offers an opportunity "…to build national anti-salafist jihadist movements -- with influence -- within the government, the media, and the people of their respective countries."
The U.S. government could help foster these new national movements in the countries where dictators have been thrown out of office. In Egypt, or Tunisia, or Libya, Proctor continues (52), the U.S. could use diplomatic and intelligence to identify and contact the individuals who are leading anti-salafist jihadist movements. And once contacted, the U.S. could use "…a combination of money and preferred access to U.S. representatives and business opportunities" in order to empower these people (Proctor, 52). Actually, the U.S. intelligence community may well already be doing what Proctor suggests albeit that is not known publicly right now.
FIVE: The study is not unique other than it is very recent and it embraces the problem that the U.S. And the West faces vis-a-vis the "war on terror" which is unwinnable. There are myriad scholarly articles available that relate to the West and the angst felt by Muslims due to the history of the repression that Muslim countries have endured because of the West.
SIX: the main points in this article are: a) the U.S. cannot "…kill its way to victory in the war on terrorism"; b) the Arab Spring has shown that Muslim citizens by the millions have risen up against oppressive regimes -- against horrific odds in some cases -- and forced political changes; c) the real enemy that the West defines as "terrorist" is related to salafist jihadism; it is an idea, or an ideology, depending on which author defines it, but it will not be easy to kill because you can't kill an idea with weapons and violence; d) understanding salafist jihadism is the first step to coming to terms with it, and many in the West have no clue what salafist jihadism really represents; and e) there are ways that the West could infiltrate these Arab Spring nations and find anti-salafist jihadism leaders, support them, encourage them and show them that the U.S. basically has good intentions.
SEVEN: Proctor does not reference literature to any great degree. He references the Qur'an and a book ("Signposts along the Road") by Sayyid Qutb, but basically he presents Middle Eastern history and the history of the Islamic radicalism that pertains to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. And other Western nations.
EIGHT: The author in this article does a fine job of presenting the material; it is more narrative-based than based on data but he deftly explains the realities in the Middle East in terms of the total failure of the U.S. To bring an end to the terrorism. There will always be new young militant leaders to rise up when the American drone planes kill existing militants in leadership position. So the point is, win the war without violence; that is, the U.S. should see the opportunity now to become friendly and supportive with the citizens in Egypt, Libya and other nations where the Arab Spring took place; especially the citizens that are opposed to the continuing use of violence, suicide attacks and are interested in an anti-salafist jihad movement.
NINE: There are variables discussed in Proctor's article. For example the salafist jihadism is not a regional problem, rather it is an "…international political problem" specifically because: a) it "…empowers the movement, al-Qaeda, to act as a destructive independent, non-state actor on the international stage"; b) it provokes a "violent response from the West. Salafist Jihadism is a "social problem" because "…it fosters a violent, nihilistic, clandestine subculture that threatens social order both inside and outside the Muslim world" (Proctor,…