Zarqawi the Innovationist

Reaping What It Sowed,” by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 4 May 2005,

As I blogged before, Zarqawi does know better. He is not crazy and he is not insane. He has a specific program for the people Iraq that he wants to implement. He is using classic 4GW (fourth generation war) techniques to do this. The odds are against him, and he knows this. But the odds were against Lennin, Mao, and Pol Pot too. And like these men, he is not stupid. He lives in a danerous country were men with guns are trying to kill him. If he was dumb he would be dead.

Also, Zarqawi is a rationalist. Zarqawi wants to reorder society on rational Islamist lines. He does not like the way “things have always been” and he has a clear, articulated system for the new things should be. That he basis his dream on his view of what Mohammed’s friends in the 7th century did no more makes him a “traditionalist” than Lenin’s belief of primitive communism made that revolutionary a “traditionalist.”

Therefore, Thomas L. Friedman is wrong when he writes

In the modern incarnation of each of these struggles, members of the Sunni-Traditionalist-jihadist minority are losing. And the more that becomes evident, the more violent they will become – because their whole vision is in danger of being repudiated by fellow Arabs and Muslims.


Having lost the argument with their own community, and unable to offer any program, the Sunni-Traditionalist-jihadists seem to have become totally unhinged, with people becoming suicide bombers at the rate of three and four a day.

Now if there is a rationalist-traditionalist debate in Islam…

But these bombings are also signs of the deeper struggle that the U.S. attempt to erect democracy in Iraq has touched off. My friend Raymond Stock, the biographer and translator of Naguib Mahfouz and a longtime resident of Cairo, argues that we are seeing in Baghdad, Cairo and Riyadh the modern incarnation of several deeply rooted and interlocking wars. These are, he said, the war within Islam between Traditionalists and Rationalists, which dates back to Baghdad in the ninth century; the struggle between ardent Sunnis and Shiites, which dates back to succession battles in early Islam; and the confrontation between Islam and the West, which dates back to the Arab conquests of the seventh century and the Crusades.

… then Zarqawi is a fellow traveler to the feminists, Muslim arab nationalists, and allthe other innovationists.

It is dangerous to underestimate our enemies, or to simplify their motives. Friedman’s column does just that.

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