The Jihadist Threat (Book) Review
by Command_doh, ARRSE
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Author: Paul Moorcraft
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I requested this book because the subject matter is of great interest to myself and is an extremely high profile topic that will not be going away any time soon.
I've read upwards of 20 books on the subject, so with that in mind I was wondering whether this book would be one of the “we're doomed!”, panic - stricken tomes or a more considered, analytical account, and happily it is the latter. The author never strays into the 'Islam is a wicked religion/all Muslims are really terrorists in secret' trap that many other books on the subject imply or insinuate.
Pen and Sword Books have a sterling reputation for the sheer volume and quality of the books they produce in the genres of Military and Military history. I've read a few of them myself, and haven't been let down before. Upon receiving the book, I was slightly surprised to see how short it was, pages wise. It weighs in at only 166 pages, with maps and a Jihadist timeline as a preface. Pen and Sword do use small typesetting though, and so there is a lot of text packed into a small book.
Professor Paul Moorcraft is the the Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, is a former Civil Servant, government advisor, instructor at Sandhurst, and security and foreign policy advisor amongst other things. I think it is safe to say, his credentials in the subjects of Jihad, Islamism and radicalisation are solid, and that he is an authority on such subjects.
The book looks at the origins, history and modern application of Jihad (“struggle”) in Islam (“submission/surrender”). Islam is a religion that spread at the point of the sword, but in that sense it is not very different from historical Christianity. Where they differ is that over time, Christianity has “evolved”, or been re-interpreted to accommodate the changing world and re-examine things in a more relevant context.
Islam has not done this, as the Quran is deemed the literal word of God and cannot be changed, altered or re-interpreted unless by Mohammed himself – something he did frequently later in his life. In this sense, Moorcraft points out that Jihadists are merely being 'good' Muslims by adhering to God's will and fighting the unbeliever in the defence of Islam, be it in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, worldwide or here at home. Frequent global examples are cited, and many will be familiar to the reader.
Moorcraft's analysis of the main funders and promoters of global Jihad are not surprising to most of us, but is is satisfying to read his criticism of U.S., British and Western foreign policy and incessant meddling in Middle Eastern Geopolitics and the hatred it has spawned both overseas and here in the United Kingdom. Our policies of consistently backing the 'wrong horse' and encouraging insurgency and Jihadi tourism in countries such as Libya and Syria have only led to the increased domestic threat from returning fighters.
The “Arab Spring” was never the democratic awakening of the Middle East and North Africa the West perceived it to be, and the resulting turmoil has let to mass emigration from (mainly) Muslim lands to Europe and beyond. The potential for Jiahdi's to enter the EU as 'sleepers' is likely, indeed this has already been cited as happening with the Paris attacks in November 2015 (after the book was written). Moorcraft accurately states that a politically and financially weakened EU poses extreme risks to the United Kingdom as any number of Jihadist with made – up identities will obtain EU member state citizenship over time and then have unfettered access to Britain due to EU laws on freedom of movement. The EU's focus is on keeping itself together and looking towards Russia with scorn, but the author argues that we should be working openly with Putin and instead be more suspicious of our supposed allies in the region.
Particularly relevant to Arrse readers is his assessment that British military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria has utterly failed, and its contribution to the current (before Parliament voted for air strikes in Syria) air 'War' is miniscule, and our using of antiquated jets contributes just 5% of the overall military might deployed. He is critical of the Governments promise to increase U.K. Special Forces numbers when the overall standing Army has been reduced to 80,000, the lowest in 200 years, and is right when saying that quality S.F. recruitment benefits from a larger pool to draw from.
I enjoyed reading Paul Moorcraft's summary of the current global and domestic Jihadist threat. It serves as a great overview of the current Islamic – terrorism threat picture at home by looking at the motivation of Jihadi's juxtaposed against the continued idiocy of Western attempts to enforce 'democracy' (an anathema in conservative Salafist Islamism) on nations where the concept is completely alien and perhaps more relevantly, unwanted. The West's meddling has only served to increase the threat of terrorism and 'Jihad' at home. I recommend this book to seasoned Islamism and Jihadi – interest readers and the casual reader also. It serves as an accompaniment to a collection or a good overview of the Islamist terrorist problem the world is facing today.
Of further interest...
Paris Atrocities – beginning of the end for the Jihadists?Tue 1st December
Professor Paul Moorcraft, Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, London, comments on the recent atrocities in Paris and the implications for the Islamic State. Read article...
Greenhill Books RelaunchWed 9th November
Greenhill Books and Pen and Sword Books have announced a joint project to relaunch the Greenhill Books list. Read article...
Richard Mead tells all about The Men Behind MontyTue 12th April
Richard Mead explains how he came to write The Men Behind Monty – The Staff and HQs of Eighth Army and 21st Army Group, which has been shortlisted for the British Army Military Book of the Year. Read article...