Cracks in the Jihad

Rid, T. (2010) "Cracks in the Jihad" The Wilson Quarterly 34/1 Winter, p. 40-48

“Get ready for all Muslims to join the holy war against you,” the jihadi leader Abd el-Kader warned his Western enemies. The year was 1839, and nine years into France’s occupation of Algeria the resistance had grown self-confident. Only weeks earlier, Arab fighters had wiped out a convoy of 30 French soldiers en route from Boufarik to Oued-el-Alèg. Insurgent attacks on the slow-moving French columns were steadily increasing, and the army’s fortified blockhouses in the Atlas Mountains were under frequent assault.


Later that year, a well-known military thinker from Prussia traveled to Algeria to observe Bugeaud’s new approach. Major General Carl von Decker, who had taught under the famed Carl von Clausewitz at the War Academy in Berlin, was more forthright than his French counterpart. The fight against fanatical tribal warriors, he foresaw, “will throw all European theory of war into the trash heap.”

One hundred and seventy years later, jihad is again a major threat—and Decker’s dire analysis more relevant than ever. War, in Clausewitz’s eminent theory, was a clash of collective wills, “a continuation of politics by other means.” When states went to war, the adversary was a political entity with the ability to act as one body, able to end hostilities by declaring victory or admitting defeat. Even Abd el-Kader eventually capitulated. But jihad in the 21st century, especially during the past few years, has fundamentally changed its anatomy: Al Qaeda is no longer a collective political actor. It is no longer an adversary that can articulate a will, capitulate, and be defeated. But the jihad’s new weakness is also its new strength: Because of its transformation, Islamist militancy is politically impaired yet fitter to survive its present crisis.

In the years since late 2001, when U.S. and coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime and all but destroyed Al Qaeda’s core organization in Afghan istan, the bin Laden brand has been bleeding popularity across the Muslim world. The global jihad, as a result, has been torn by mounting internal tensions. Today, the holy war is set to slip into three distinct ideological and organizational niches. The U.S. surge in Afghanistan, whether successful or not, is likely to affect this development only marginally.

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War 2.0

Rid, T. and M. Hecker War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age Westport: Praeger (2009) 280p

New: War 2.0 in Chinese by the People’s Liberation Army Press, as “战争2.0

War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age, co-authored with Marc Hecker, argues that two intimately connected trends are putting modern armies under huge pressure to adapt: the rise of insurgencies and the rise of the Web. Both in cyberspace and in warfare, a public dimension has assumed increasing importance in recent years. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Web 2.0 rose from the ashes. This newly interactive and participatory form of the Web promotes and enables offline action. Similarly, after an attempt to transform the U.S. military into a lean, lethal, computerized force faltered in Iraq in 2003, counterinsurgency rose from the ashes. Counterinsurgency is a social form of war — indeed, the U.S. Army calls it “armed social work” — in which the local population becomes the center of gravity and public opinion at home the critical vulnerability.

War 2.0 traces the contrasting ways in which insurgents and counterinsurgents have adapted irregular conflict. It examines the public affairs policies of the U.S. land forces, the British Army, and the Israel Defense Forces. Then it compares the media-related counterinsurgency methods of these conventional armies to the more diverse methods devised by their asymmetric adversaries, showing how such organizations as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezbollah use the Web not merely to advertise their political agenda and influence public opinion, but to mobilize a following and put insurgent operations into action. But the same technology that tends to level the operational playing field in irregular warfare also incurs heavy costs on terrorists and insurgents. (hardback)

Thematically rich and masterfully constructed, this book shows how our wired-up world has changed the operational environment, making both war and insurgency more complex, decentralised, and bottom-up. Few other books have grasped so effectively the seismic change in the character of war. War 2.0 is Clausewitz rebooted for the 21st century.
Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations, The London School of Economics, author of Humane Warfare

War, flowing from society as a whole, is constantly evolving. Winning wars requires understanding the changing environment and adapting faster than the enemy. Rid and Hecker provide powerful case studies on how our primary enemies have understood and adapted to the changes Web 2.0 is driving. It would behoove professionals to read and understand this remarkable book.
T.X. Hammes, Colonel (Ret), U.S. Marine Corps, author of The Sling and the Stone

High-tech revolutions are rocking the military and the media, toppling hierarchies, and upending traditional players. Until now, no one has shown how these twin upheavals are linked–and feeding one an-other. War 2.0 reveals how the old ways of war and communications are coming apart, and what the chaotic, self-organizing, networked future is likely to be.
Noah Shachtman, Wired magazine, editor of Danger Room, a security blog

The public, more than ever before, has become the center of gravity in irregular warfare. Sharp and testing, War 2.0 probes the burgeoning impact of the new media.
Gérard Chaliand, author of History of Terrorism. From Antiquity to Al Qaida.

For review copies, contact


Jem Thomas, Media, War, and Conflict, Vol 3; Iss 1, 2010, p. 114-115 (.pdf)

George Michael, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol 22, 2 April 2010, 332-334

Robert Cassidy, “War in the Information Age,” Parameters, winter 2009/2010, 117-122 (.pdf).

A. C. Tuttle, Choice (Association of College & Research Libraries), February 2010

Stéphane Taillat, Revue Française de Sciences Politiques, No 6, Vol 59, Décembre 2009 (.pdf)

Défense et Sécurité Internationale, No 51, décembre 2009, p. 98 (.pdf)

Jacques Perriault, Hermès, No 55, décembre 2009