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Are Lone Wolf Jihadis Islamikazes?

There is a debate afoot about what to call Salafist Jihadi perpetrators of such recent spectacular murders that we have graphically seen in Ottawa, Montreal, New York, and Oklahoma.   Counterterrorism officials have called them lone wolves to emphasize that they are not affiliated with known foreign sponsors of Islamist terrorism.  They may be ‘self-actualized’  by the jihadist doctrinal aspects of their new found faith espoused by  Salafist preachers  and the social media of  terrorist groups Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and most prominently the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.

According to Dr. Rich Swier, publisher of the eponymous e-Magazine, noted U.S. counter terrorism expert, Patrick Poole has suggested calling them “known wolves”.  “Cowboy”, a former CIA covert officer and counterterrorism consultant wrote us after we posted on “The Danger of Lone Wolf Jihadists Among Us,” saying, “we still perpetuate the false myth of Islamic lone wolf terrorists. If the counter-terrorists can’t even get their story straight, how can anyone else?”

islamikaziThat led me to ponder both Poole’s and Cowboy’s remarks. I thought it over and reached out to someone I know in Israel. That is Islamic and Eastern Studies scholar, former Hebrew University professor and author, Raphael Israeli. You may recall our New English Review interview with him about the  lecture he gave in January 2012 at B’nai Israel Synagogue in Pensacola, Florida, Islam, Democracy and the Arab Spring: An Interview with Raphael Israeli. He and his wife Margalit were passing through from a trip to New Orleans and we prevailed upon him to set the record straight about Islamic doctrine.

We had first encountered Professor Israeli during a sabbatical term he spent in 2003 at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He was substituting for a member of the faculty Dr. Vera Schwarcz, who, like Israeli,  is a specialist in East Asian studies. I encountered Israeli in Schwarz’s office at Wesleyan in the midst of compiling footnotes for his latest book at the time, Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic MartyrologyThe focus of Islamikaze was on what motivated Muslim suicide bombers in the Middle East and the 19 perpetrators of 9/11. The term Islamikaze was modeled on the Japanese suicide Kamikaze (meaning divine wind) pilots of World War II. They, not unlike the Islamikaze, were motivated by the bushido doctrine of self sacrifice and death without surrender exemplified by the Samurai that was adopted by the Japanese militarists.

These questions raised by counterterrorism consultants about what to call the Salafist Jihadis prompted me to write Professor Israeli in Jerusalem and ask him if these lone wolf jihadis weren’t one and the same as Islamikazes.

Here is Professor Israeli’s response:

Of course they are Islamikaze.  Because even if in these cases  they acted  alone, they must have been indoctrinated and motivated, or shown the example by someone. No lone wolf just gets up in the morning and decides to murder human beings. Besides, Islamikaze has an element of  self-sacrifice. A common murderer would do it for personal gain of some sort. Here, in both Canadian  and US cases, they committed the murder, being aware  of the danger of risking their lives, and they were not deterred.

So, perhaps instead of calling the Salafist perpetrators of  Islamic terrorist attacks, lone wolves, Islamikaze may be what they really are. Given these Islamic terrorist developments here in America, this may prompt Professor Israeli and his publisher to update and re-issue, Islamikaze.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

War as a Fact of Life

Younger generations can be forgiven if all they know of war is what they have learned in school or seen dramatized on film and television. For most Americans, the Civil War, the two World Wars, and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam are events that occurred “a long time ago.” For my generation, born just prior to or during World War Two, wars have been a constant element of our lives.

Anyone with an interest in U.S. history knows that America was born out of a long war (1775-1783) with Great Britain which eventually led to the writing of the Constitution in 1787 whose ratification became official in June 1788. A year later George Washington, the wartime general, became the first President and, thereafter, nearly every President has had to dispatch U.S. naval, land and air forces in combat. This is why the Founders concluded that the President also had to be Commander-in-Chief in order to respond to threats to the nation whether near or far.

Not all Americans were eager to engage in various conflicts and most of the larger ones have had to address a fair measure of opposition. Even the Revolution was resisted by those who felt being a colony was a wiser choice than being independent.

Cover - Worth of WarIn the greater world, wars have been constant somewhere, a shaper of history, and, according to Benjamin Ginsberg, a prolific historian and director of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University, it has some beneficial aspects. His latest book, “The Worth of War”, explores this aspect of history.

“Organized warfare is among the most common and persistent of human activities,” says Prof. Ginsberg. “As terrible as it is, war and the possibility of war exert considerable pressure upon societies to think and plan logistically in order to protect their security interests and, sometimes, their very existence.”

“In the decades since World War II, of course, the United States has been at war on a continual basis. The nation has fought large engagements in Korea, Indo-China, and the Middle East, as well as numerous smaller conflicts throughout the world.” Americans are now debating having to return to the Middle East a third time since the Persian Gulf War 1990-1991 to undertake the vital mission of destroying the newly declared Islamic State that threatens the region and, should it grow more powerful, the West.

It may strike the reader as odd to think of war as a good thing, but Prof. Ginsberg points out that “Bureaucracies developed from war. Once built, they expanded the scope of their operations to handle purely civilian tasks as well. War also required societies to learn the rudiments of fiscal policy” because “armies and war are expensive.”

Much of the technology we take for granted emerged from the need to succeed in warfare. “Europe’s lead in military technology widened sharply with the European industrial revolution of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (and) with their weapons, their ships, and their tactics, European armies conquered the Americans, Africa, portions of Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.” In the process, the Europeans exported their technological advances to those they conquered, spreading knowledge.

The concept of being a “citizen soldier” developed out of war. “During the medieval and early modern eras, wars were fought by small feudal levies and professional or mercenary armies” but “beginning with the French revolution and Napoleonic eras, the size of national military forces began to increase substantially.” Not only did war become very expensive, a nation’s people had to be given a reason to feel they were defending or expanding the interests of the nation, having loyalty to the state. They had to be paid; funding had to be raised via taxes and bonds and, beyond conscription, others had to feel inspired to participate in making the instruments of war.

“In the modern world, military success requires a strong economic base to support the armies, weapons, training, and logistics need to prevail in serious or protracted combat.” Indeed, “the level of economic development is the single most important variable explaining military outcomes over the past century or so.”

The United States has enjoyed the greatest, thriving economy since the end of World War II, but public opinion has played a significant role, via Congress, elections, and public displays of support or resistance to whether the U.S. has entered a war or relinquished combat. The role of the President to encourage participation or resist combat is the other significant factor.

President Obama, who was elected twice on the promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, now faces the decision whether to employ military power to attack the Islamic State. Failing to retain our troops in Iraq or to engage jihadists in Syria is credited with its emergence and its threat.

The images of Islamic State barbarity, as well as its deliberate slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, is tending public opinion to the need to destroy it before it exports its violence to the U.S.

As Prof. Ginsberg points out, “Tolerant, politically liberal individuals shrink from using violence under almost any circumstance” but “in the international realm, by opposing war and violence they are effectively condemning many peoples to live under tyranny.”

At home, “America is a country whose citizens are connected to one another and to their government less by the blood in their veins than the blood they have shed—their own and that of others.” We honor our veterans. We have national holidays to celebrate our past victories.

We need a victory in the Middle East. We had one in Iraq until President Obama militarily abandoned it. We have troops in Afghanistan that are the only thing between its modernization or a return to the oppression of the jihad.

One way or the other, whether we respond to the current threat or not, wars will be fought, won or lost.

© Alan Caruba, 2014