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American Diplomacy
Opinion and Op-Ed

May 2013

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Bombing suspects

 

What should we learn from the bombing in Boston?
by Sam Holliday

We can only hope that the two brothers will give our political elite—and specifically the Obama administration—a more accurate understanding of the threat America faces from the Third Jihad. Two ethnic Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26 who had lived in the US for ten years made and detonated the bombs used in Boston. The Chechen revolt was originally a fight for independence from Russia, but has been changed into a fight for justice—and for these two brothers this clearly required an attack on America. Why did they think this way when the USA had given them so many opportunities to live a better life?

Our leaders have to stop thinking on the operational and tactical levels and start thinking on the strategic and ideological levels. It is not just those connected to al Qaeda and those who openly advocate violence against the U.S. that are the threat—or even all of those who bow to Allah five times a day. The threat is from a world wide movement that seeks to weaken and destroy America. And all Muslims are not part of the Third Jihad--only the Islamists who believe in the outer jihad advocated by Muhammad. The Boston bombing can be a good learning lesson.

When the younger of the two brothers was asked by a friend about terrorism, his rely was: "It is not terrorism if the cause is just." This is what we face in this ideological conflict. If someone is seeking social justice, international justice, economic justice, life style justice, or any other form of justice can any means necessary be used to achieve utopia? We must think beyond the rule of law. We must think about identity, strategic communication, ideological conflict, and Irregular Warfare.

Success in ideological conflict does not require submission to some religious doctrine, acceptance of some social-political way of life, dedication to some “group think,” or loyalty to some charismatic leader. It requires inner compasses in individuals that are strong enough to allow them to make decisions in time of danger, confusion, and horror. It requires a shared identity based on long standing myths, legends, customs and traditions, which provides a bond stronger than personal interests and desires. It requires effectiveness in strategic communication. It requires understanding how Irregular Warfare differs from both Peace and conventional War.

Ideological conflict is fought on the battlefields of beliefs, customs, traditions, and civic virtues. Sacred Authority defines good and bad behavior in morality, ethics, and religion transmitted by customs and tradition. Sacred Authority rewards that which is good with respect, honor, status, and economic benefit. Sacred Authority does not punish—it only denies rewards by designating behavior that is tacky, uncouth, untoward, and unacceptable; it does prescribe behavior to be avoided, isolated and shunned; it does justify outrage against that which is unacceptable. Sacred Authority requires people to be judgmental—to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong. West Point's code of Duty, Honor, Country was an excellent example of what is needed in Sacred Authority—before it was changed to meet the secular requirements of our legal system. What was the Sacred Authority that shaped the inner compass of the two brothers who carried out the Boston bombing?

Success in ideological conflict goes to those who do not freeze or flee when they face danger; they have inner compasses that allow them to cope with reality by making judgments that will insure survival, growth, mental health, and satisfaction. It requires much more than Secular Authority (the rules, regulations and laws of government) and excellent in the skills of conventional War. Unfortunately most of our political elite—and most of the senior leadership in the military—think only in terms of Secular, not Sacred, Authority.

When will our political leaders realize that we are in an ideological struggle and start taking the step that must be taken to defend America from the Third Jihad? When will they realize that we cannot wait until those who want to weaken or destroy America commit a crime—as defined by our laws? When will we realize that we are dealing with enemy warriors—not peacetime criminals?bluestar

The views expressed by the author are his own.

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.

author Sam C. Holliday is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, a former director of Stability Studies at the Army War College, and a retired army colonel. He earned a master's in public affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in international relations from the University of South Carolina.

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