Art of War on Terror
Moorthy Muthuswamy, July 2004
The ongoing war on terror took an intense turn starting Sept. 11, 2001, bringing
the full attention, resources and the might of the United States of America,
easily the most powerful nation in existence. The United States will determine
the course of the war on terror for years to come. I discuss here the strategies
adopted by America and what changes it needs to make to win the war on terror
quickly and with less cost. This has implications for other nations that too are
targeted by jihadi forces: India, Israel, the Philippines or Russia.
It appears that an alternate analysis of the war on terror is badly needed, as
experts with humanities/journalism background mostly dominate this very
important area of research. Typically, during their younger days these
individuals have shown less ability in mastering complexities, pattern
recognition and logic as presented in science or math. If “best” minds are
said to gravitate toward these fields, it is time such minds too study the
problem of Islamic fundamentalism – in the words of the current American
President, “the defining problem of our generation”. Internet has opened up
this area for outsiders by making previously specialized information, news and
analysis easily available.
Although trained as a nuclear physicist, I have published extensively on Islamic
fundamentalism since 1998. Even before Sept. 11, 2001, I was among the few to
uniquely identify the roots of Islamic terrorism and Muslim backwardness, and
suggest remedial measures (http://www.pakistanlink.com/Letters/2001/May/11/04.html).
A more complete list of my publications can be found at the following location: http://www.saveindia.com/mutpage.htm.
adopted by America
America has become an extraordinarily capable nation for one main reason: its
ability as a nation to identify, analyze and solve problems. Nevertheless, the
events of Sept. 11, 2001 and now, the emerging nuclear proliferation from
Pakistan shows that America has been slow in realizing the implications of
Islamic fundamentalism. An unprepared America suddenly thrust into the
war-theater in 2001 was going to take time to figure out effective strategies to
win the war on terror. This is further compounded by a dearth of American
experts on this new phenomenon.
America’s immediate military response was in Afghanistan, the staging post of
jihadist Al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden. A far superior American military
quickly overran Al-Qaeda and its Taliban supporters. This victory has reduced
the possibility of a mass attack on America, of the kind witnessed on Sept. 11,
2001, at least on a short-term basis.
The central piece of America’s long-term policy to win the war on terror was
to invade Iraq and bring democracy there, and then expand democracy to the rest
of the Middle East. America sees democracy as the real solution to Islamic
fundamentalism that is at the root of the war on terror. It now appears that
American efforts in Iraq are failing. This failure was due to the American
inability to identify why Iraq or even most of the Muslim nations are under
dictatorships. This is due to shortcomings in Islamic ideology. The proper
approach should have been first to help reform Islam and then guide Muslim
countries towards democracy, and not the other way around.
jihadists continue to be created unhindered around the world. It has now become
clear that the ideological aspect of America’s war on terror is not only weak,
but can be even seen as unwittingly aiding the enemy (more, later). What America
needs at this stage of the war on terror is a strategy that addresses the root
cause of the conflict – the deficiencies in Islam – that are creating terror
With the primary sponsor of Islamic terror, Pakistan, firmly under the
ideological influence of Al-Qaeda, a nuclear threat looms on the United States.
What is also notable is the extent of jihadization of the Pakistani society. All
available indications are that jihad is the primary focus of the Pakistani
nation. Its acquiring of nuclear weapons and even spreading of the technology
was for a “higher cause” – taken to mean jihad, admitted so by none other
than Qadeer Khan himself.
America does face tricky policy options vis-ŕ-vis Pakistan. But it has allowed
Pakistan to dictate terms by playing the victim card, when it is Pakistan that
has victimized America through its sponsorship of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Pakistan also has a long track record of victimizing its neighbors as well (New
Ideas for a New War).
Musharraf’s track record shows him reluctant to take on Islam’s power
structure -- consisting of clerics. Without weakening this power structure,
jihadization of Pakistan or its threat to the United States is not reversible.
It is no over statement to say that many Muslim clergies have become the
generals of the war waged on civilization. The backbone of this jihad is the
bankrolling by Muslim countries from the Middle East. Since the early 80s Saudi
Arabian government alone is supposed to have spent at least 170 billion dollars
on spreading its version of Wahhabi
Islam -- a retrogressive, non-performing, expansionist, fascist and hateful
ideology. Wealthy private individuals from the Middle East too have contributed
immensely to the same cause.
clerics form the power structure in Islam. They wield enormous influence across
the spectrum of the population. The indoctrination by jihad-oriented clerics
occurring from a young age also involves discovering “grievances” against
non-Muslims, while saying nothing about Muslim atrocities on non-Muslims. This
creates an absolute sense of anger on the part of Muslims and conviction, and an
overwhelming desire to take revenge. If one Muslim can be indoctrinated to
conduct evil acts on non-Muslims, so can a large section of the community and
most of the rest giving a passive support. Such a scenario has developed in many
Muslim communities around the world.
India's own Kashmir insurgency is one such an example. The aspiration of
Kashmiri jihadis, in reality, has turned out to be nothing less than
marginalizing non-Muslims and expanding Islam’s frontiers.
For a nation founded on religious freedom, American society and its constitution
values and respects religion/faith immensely. It has not only become hard for
Americans to digest the fact that a religion, by and far, has been hijacked by
extremists, -- but it has also led to paralysis at the legislature and
policy-making levels. This has resulted in America not being able to make rapid
progress in the war on terror.
The primary purpose of a religion is to define a code of conduct for its
adherents to function within the framework of a society. Hence a religion must
be capable of preaching tolerance and allow its adherents to acquire new
knowledge, compete and create wealth to survive. Any religion that doesn’t
follow these requirements will lose out to other religions and that is the law
of nature. This may be seen as the basis for American public’s faith in an
The inherited oil wealth in many Islamic countries, and especially in Saudi
Arabia, “the citadel of Islam”, has changed these requirements. This
unearned wealth meant that old rules of a “good religion” no longer apply.
When this free money is mixed with the idea of Islamic conquest started by
Prophet Mohammed, it resulted in Islamic terrorism to convert the entire world
under the banner of Islam -- also known as jihad in many Muslim countries (Islam’s
Weakness). It is no stretch to say that oil wealth has corrupted Islam and
has resulted in the war on terror.
no American leader of any standing has been able to articulate this to the
American public or to the world at large – that a religion/faith under special
circumstances can get corrupted.
already won an ideological warfare before with the then Soviet Union. America
portrayed its democratic system as one based upon liberty and freedom that also
made wealth creation possible. At the same time America launched a propaganda
portraying the Soviet Communist ideology as lacking in liberty and freedom, that
keeps its people poor and deprived. The Soviet Communist system finally
collapsed from within because the reality of the American propaganda got
through. While the atheistic communist system was easier to discredit for a
religious America, the American establishment has thus far, surprisingly, failed
to play by this winning strategy vis-ŕ-vis Islamic ideology.
a solution to a problem lies in correctly identifying it. As the first step an
American President should declare along these lines: Islam has been violently
corrupted by extremist elements and it needs to be reformed.
The above statement does not call all Muslims as terrorists, but puts the blame
squarely on where it should be. Such identification makes it possible for
America to gain the moral high-ground over the Islamic fundamentalists and their
supporters and even give a shot in the arm of reform-minded Muslims. It will
basically put the onus on Muslims to make sure that they reform. Only such a
statement from an American President can initiate public relations campaign and
policy decisions leading to an American victory, similar to the one over the
This need to be contrasted with a statement consistently delivered by a top
American leader describing Islam as a “religion of peace". He is implying
that there is no major violent component to Islam -- a sheer fallacy on his part
and he is yielding, undeservedly, the high-ground to terrorists and
fundamentalists that puts the United States in an ideologically defensive mode
– no way to win a war!
This top American leader has further created a great deal of concern by calling
for Turkey’s inclusion in the European Union. As I have argued this goes
against the very essence of the war on terror – will lead to a “peaceful”
extension of Islam’s frontiers into Europe at the expense of the Europeans (Soft
Borders with Pakistan: A Certain Suicide).
All of the above and the debacle in Iraq raise serious questions about
America’s preparedness to win the war on terror.
Besides the military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, American efforts
toward the war on terror have been focused on cutting off financial support to
terror groups and toward reforming educational curriculum in terror-base
countries such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. This effort, while essential, is
taking long time to yield results. Also, in some of the Muslim countries
extremist clergy are so well-entrenched that reforming the curriculum becomes
hard to implement. This is particularly true in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
complement these efforts, the American efforts should be directed toward
destroying Islam’s power structures proven to engage in jihad directed at
America. America should treat the extremist clergy as enemy combatants and treat
their religious institutions as military installations -- deemed for
These religious institutions also act as a base for terrorist gatherings,
logistics, and even arms storage. This proposal doesn’t call for a large-scale
Iraq-like military deployment, but instead calls for surgical and mostly,
executable air strikes.
Many of these clerics are also too powerful for local governments to take on,
even if they want to – an essential reason for requiring American military
response. This approach goes under the current policy of presumption and the
right to retaliate. In the short run such American strikes will inflame the
situation. But in the long run seeing their extremist leaders and their
institutions taken out one by one will convince the population base the
emptiness of the extremist rhetoric and the futility of confronting America.
This contrasts with the current situation where only the foot soldiers of jihad
are dying and the generals free to continue their indoctrination.
Besides, these clerics use freedom to indoctrinate innocent young minds toward
destroying Americans or other “infidels”. The actual force or the threat of
it should put them on the run, and should take away most of their ability to
indoctrinate. Most of these lead clerics have taken decades to rise to
prominence, their removal or anyone else taking their place would mean that
Muslim masses will find it difficult to identify with their replacement.
Destruction of jihad-teaching institutions too weakens militant Islam -- by
vastly reducing the fundamentalists’ ability to mobilize masses. It is worth
pointing out that outside of religious gatherings, Muslim populations in general
are highly disorganized, and mostly worry about their day-to-day existence. Conclusion:
It is important to realize that Islamic fundamentalism/militant Islam is a
one-trick pony. That one trick happens to be the jihad-teaching institutions. If
these institutions are neutralized, it is all over.
This military component, together with a propaganda that focuses on Islam’s
deficiencies in comparison with America’s successes (not carried out until
now, as I discussed earlier), should gradually lead to a marginalization of
militant Islam and a flowering of reformed versions of Islam. Neutralizing
militant Islam should also make it possible for Muslim masses to convert to
other faiths – yet another way of winning the war on terror.
I have no doubt in my mind that a capable America will eventually “solve”
the problem of Islamic terrorism. But at question here, given the lack of a
vision displayed so far, is the cost America incurs. China has managed Islamic
fundamentalism well and has kept the costs of battling it to a low level.
America sees for the first time a real threat in China as a civilizational
leader, given China’s phenomenal economic growth and its size. To maintain an
edge over China, America needs to invest in the future of its children, but
instead it is wasting away many hundreds of billions per year in the war on
terror -- with no end in sight. If this money is invested in America itself, it
should lead to better educated and prepared American children and an
infrastructure that would create more intellectual property – a true measure
of civilizational edge and prosperity.
Unless a capable American leadership soon emerges, the war on terror may have
already initiated the eventual replacement of America as the dominant