Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

The Far Enemy, or al-Adou al-Baeed, is a term used by jihadis to refer to the United States and its Western allies. This book tells the story of the internationalization of jihad (armed struggle) and how and why in the late 1990s jihadis – who since the 1970s had focused their fight against the “near enemy,� or al-Adou al-Qareeb (Muslim regimes) – shifted gears and called for a new global jihad against the far enemy. Jihadis (they invented the term and refer to themselves as such) are militant activists who feel estranged from the secular social and political order at home and intrinsically threatened by globalization and westernization. Unlike mainstream Islamists who have given up on the use of force, since the 1970s jihadis have utilized violence in the name of religion and have sought to seize power and Islamize society by autocratic fiat from the top down. But their revolt is directed not only against the secular status quo, which they perceive as morally abhorrent, but also against the religious authority and the established canon of Islamic jurisprudence, scholarship, and history that they view as being subverted by corrupting Western influences. In a sense, jihadis are practicing taqleed (emulating tradition) and are engaged in ijtihad (an effort of interpretation of the sacred texts) at the same time.

My study focuses on doctrinaire jihadis who have used violence against both their own governments (the near enemy) and Western targets (the far enemy); the most important of these jihadis are the Egyptian al-Jama’a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) and Tanzim al-Jihad (Islamic Jihad); the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which now seems to be defunct and replaced by the Salafist Group for Dawa and Combat; Al Qaeda; al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, led by the militant Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; and other smaller fringe groups.

But I do not examine the so-called irredentist jihadis, who struggle to redeem land considered to be part of dar al-islam (House of Islam) from non-Muslim rule or occupation, like Palestinian Hamas and Jihad, Lebanon’s Hizbollah or Party of God, and other groups in Kashmir, Chechnya, Mindanao, and elsewhere. Irredentist jihadism is sometimes the object of rivalry between nationalist forces, who may not conceive of it as jihad, and Islamists, and, within the latter, between local and global elements, as between the Afghan mujahedeen (Islamic fighters) and the “Afghan Arabs� who joined their struggle in the 1980s; similar nuances have been discernible in other irredentist conflicts, notably in Bosnia from 1992 to 1996, in Mindanao, and now in Iraq. There exist major differences among these three distinct strands of jihadism – internal, global, and irredentist – in terms of diversity of objectives, strategy, and tactics. For example, an important distinction is between the resort to armed struggle that is primarily determined by the context (foreign rule or military occupation) and that which arises primarily out of a radical doctrine expressing a preference for violence over nonviolent strategies despite the possibility of engaging in the latter: “Irredentist struggles are not as a rule the work of doctrinaire jihadis, whereas both internal and global jihads typically are.�

Another critical distinction is that my book does not deal with mainstream Islamists, that is, with Muslim Brothers and other politically independent activists who now accept the rules of the political game and emphatically embrace democratic principles and elements of a modernist outlook, although many observers still question their real commitment to democracy.
    -EXCERPT: Prologue from The Far Enemy

Fawaz Gerges here gives us an enormously useful history of the jihadi movement, one that benefits greatly from his facility with Arabic sources and his access to many jihadis for interviews. Of greatest importance though is the analysis he provides of the terrorist threat. While some hawks have argued that Mr. Gerges has historically had a tendency to minimize that threat, events seem to bear out his argument that:
The September 11 attacks were not just a product of the civil war within the House of Islam but a direct result of the civil war within the jihadist movement itself. In this sense, the United States was a secondary, not a primary, target of jihadis' military escalation, and the bulk of jihadis (religious nationalists) remained on the sidelines and did not join the onslaught by their transnationalist counterparts. If my thesis holds, then Al Qaeda represents more of a national security problem to the United States than a strategic threat, as the conventional wisdom in the American foreign policy establishment has it.

Therefore, it is critical to highlight the internal turmoil among jihadis because it brought about dramatic shifts in their thinking and action and caused further splits in their ranks.
It is certainly the case that the 9-11 attacks have been disastrous for the most anti-Western extremists, provoking the U.S. into actions that have decimated al Qaeda, brought democracy to Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, liberalization to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc., and hastened settlements between the Israelis and Palestinians and Pakistan and India. The irony for al Qaeda is that in striking a secondary target they inflicted on themselves strategic defeat.


Grade: (B+)


Fawaz Gerges Links:

    -Fawaz A. Gerges - Faculty - Sarah Lawrence College
    -BOOK SITE: The Far Enemy (Cambridge University Press)
    -BOOK SITE: The Far Enemy (Written Voices)
    -EXCERPT: Prologue from The Far Enemy
    -ESSAY: The Iraq War: Planting the Seeds of Al Qaeda�s Second Generation (Fawaz Gerges)
    -ESSAY: Let Iraq's Sunnis chase Al Qaeda out (Fawaz A. Gerges, 12/15/05, CS Monitor)
    -ESSAY: Buried in Amman's Rubble: Zarqawi's Support (Fawaz Gerges, December 4, 2005, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: Al Qaeda's Golden Opportunity: The continued occupation of Iraq has been a godsend for the otherwise troubled terrorist network (Fawaz A. Gerges, October 11, 2005, AlterNet)
    -ESSAY: Is Democracy in the Middle East a Pipedream?: Amidst the first signs of change, longing competes with mistrust of Western democracy (Fawaz Gerges, 25 April 2005, YaleGlobal)
    -ESSAY: Dismantling al-Qaida (Fawaz A. Gerges, November 23, 2003, Baltimore Sun)
    -ESSAY: Democracy in the Middle East: Disentangling Myth from Reality (Dr. Fawaz Gerges, ISPU)
    -ESSAY: What's Behind the New Arab Momentum (Fawaz Gerges, March 15, 2002, NY Times)
    -LECTURE: Fawaz Gerges on the Iraq war in Arab and American Media: The keynote speech delivered by Fawaz Gerges at the conference "New Media and New Teaching for the Middle East and North Africa" in June 2004
    -CHAT: "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global": Fawaz Gerges (Washington Post, October 10, 2005)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: New Look at Islam (OnPoint, May 10, 2005)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Jordan Says Bombings Point to Al Qaeda (All Things Considered, November 12, 2005)
    -DISCUSSION: War against Radical Islamists (CNNfn: Lou Dobbs Moneyline, June 13, 2002)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Fawaz Gerges (CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS, August 9, 2003)
    -INTERVIEW: Young, Muslim, and French: with Fawaz Gerges (WideAngle, August 26, 2004, PBS)
    -INTERVIEW: A change of Arab hearts and minds: Amid gloom, a scholar glimpses signs of democratic awakening: Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East and international affairs at Sarah Lawrence College, has traveled the Arab world during the past five years, researching social and political movements. Behind what is seen from the West as a violent caldron of anti-American Islamism, Dr. Gerges sees signs of a nascent era of civic opening in the Middle East. If cultivated wisely by the US, he says, this movement could actually become something genuinely democratic. Monitor editors interviewed Gerges last week - excerpts follow (CS Monitor, 2/04/04)
    -CHAT: War in Iraq: With Fawaz Gerges (Washington Post, April 3, 2003)
    -INTERVIEW: One on One with Saddam (On the Media, February 7, 2003, NPR)
    -INTERVIEW: Global Q & A: A New Arab Consensus ?: Interview with Dr. Fawaz Gerges (FPA, March 25, 2002)
    -ARCHIVES: "fawaz gerges" (NPR)
    -ESSAY: [Middle East Scholars:] Getting it Wrong in the Middle East (Daniel Pipes, November 5, 2001, New York Post)
    -PROFILE: Who Is Fawaz Gerges?: Another problem Mideast scholar. (Jonathan Calt Harris, July 21, 2003, National Review)
Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, has emerged as a foremost media interpreter of the Middle East. He is a frequent guest of Paula Zahn on CNN, has appeared recently on The Charlie Rose Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is now a regular Middle East analyst for ABC News.

Gerges is typical of his field: He's yet another Middle East specialist who minimizes the threat of militant Islam while presenting the United States as a sinister force. Let's look at his thinking on four key issues. [...]

Militant Islam. Gerges consistently downplays the threat of militant Islam in general and Osama bin Laden in particular. One year before 9/11, he found that Osama bin Laden was "exceptionally isolated," and "preoccupied mainly with survival, not attacking American targets." He also ridiculed "exaggerated rhetoric" in Washington about the Bin Laden threat. Al Qaeda was no longer more than a "shadow of its former self," Gerges had the misfortune of writing, as bin Laden was "confined to Afghanistan, constantly on the run," and, "hemmed in by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt." Not just that, but his "resources are depleting rapidly." Gerges drew the bizarre conclusion that the U.S. government must have its reasons for "inflating his importance." Six months before 9/11, Gerges publicly ridiculed what he called "the terror industry" � his term for specialists voicing concerns about militant Islam � for fomenting an "irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on far-fetched horrible scenarios."

    -ESSAY: Terror's Academic Sympathizers (Leslie Carbone, December 9, 2002,
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global By Fawaz A. Gerges (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy (Jordan Michael Smith, Embassy)
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy ()
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy ()
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy ()
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy ()
    -REVIEW: of The Far Enemy (Pete Blackwell, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests? by Fawaz A. Gerges (Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests? (Nadia Abou El-Magd, Al-Ahram)
    -REVIEW: of America and Political Islam (JAVED ALI, Milli Gazette)
    -REVIEW: of The Superpowers and the Middle East: Regional and International Politics, 1955-1967 by Fawaz A. Gerges (Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: A transnational umma: reality or myth?: The notion of a global jihad animating a universal, boundary-dissolving Islamic community is compelling to many. Fred Halliday assesses its truth. (Fred Halliday, 7 - 10 - 2005, OpenDemocracy)
    Terror tactics turning away former al-Qaida supporters (Hannah Allam, 11/22/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)
    -ESSAY: Misreading Islam: The disastrous war in Iraq is the consequence of a fundamental misunderstanding of Islam and its strong relationship to democracy in the Middle East (Michael Hirsh, November 12, 2004, Washington Monthly)
    -ESSAY: Militants at the Crossroads (Ari Z. Weisbard, April 24, 2003, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: The New Bolsheviks: Understanding Al Qaeda : Victory in war, and particularly in counterinsurgency wars, requires knowing one�s enemy. This simple truth, first stated by Sun Tsu more than two millennia ago, is no less important in the war on terrorism today. It has become almost common wisdom, however, that America today faces an enemy of a new kind, using unprecedented techniques and pursuing incomprehensible goals. But this enemy is not novel. Once the peculiar rhetoric is stripped away, the enemy America faces is a familiar one indeed. The revolutionary vision that undergirds al Qaeda�s ideology, the strategy it is pursuing, and the strategic debates occurring within that organization are similar to those of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism at various periods. What�s more, the methods that led to the defeat of that ideology can be adapted and successfully used against this religious revival of it. (Frederick W. Kagan, November 16, 2005, NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLOOK)