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More Books Arrived….

Doing some heavy duty research…..Amazon will be doing well this year on my dime:


Architect of Global Jihad by Brynjar Lia

A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad by Jim Lacey

Modern Strategy by Colin Gray

18 Responses to “More Books Arrived….”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Ah, Zen. 
    Does the arrival of those two books in particular have anything to do with your recent visit to the National Security Seminar, I wonder?  I think of Musab al-Suri as a major strategist — perhaps teh strategist — of jihad, with special emphasis on individual actions.
    Very timely, in any case.
    I reviewed the Lacey for the Air Force Research Institute, and mentioned the Lia there, too.  I’m still eager to learn what’s in those last hundred "apocalyptic" pages of Musab al-Suri’s work, but even J-P Filiu doesn’t give us much detail…
    I hope we’ll hear more from you on these books…

  2. seydlitz89 Says:

    Recommend Modern Strategy.  As to the rest, Global Jihad?  Is there such a thing, or more just the local/general responses to our own not-very-well-thought-out military interventions/adventures? 

    Also given what we know now about OBL’s last years, the basic question as to how much Al Qaida was in reality more of a state-sponsored entity has to be raised, not of course that you’ll hear that on Fox. 

    Still as strategic theorists/those interested in military strategy/concerned citizens the question is unavoidable.  

    Finally, would add "Clausewitzian" to the terms listed . . .

  3. Purpleslog Says:

    Sey. Al Suri is a 4GW theorist (and practitioner). Wait…does anybody write "4GW" anymore? Anyways… Hopefully he currently resides in a secret US prison somewhere.

  4. Chuckleberry Says:

    "Wait…does anybody write "4GW" anymore?"  Are you implying that 4GW is somehow discredited or no longer relevant? 

  5. Lexington Green Says:

    I read the biography.  It looks like Al Suri is the default winner in the doctrinal struggle.  Jihad will have to be decentralized, franchised, and connected only by ideas and ideology.  The AQ model does not look too healthy these days.    

  6. zen Says:

    Excellent comments!
    Here’s my two cents:
    Agree, "Clausewitz" tag needed here. Seydlitz, have you read Gray’s brand new book? I have not seen a copy yet.
    al-Suri is reportedly in Syrian hands and if so he is likely dead (or having an unpleasant time of it). He is the only first rate professional strategist the jihadis have ever produced, except maybe for Abu al-Masri ( Charles can comment on al-Masri, perhaps) and seems to have been influenced generally by Maoist insurgency, the 4GW school and the broad western military canon in varying degrees, picking what ways were suited to the means of his audience. I will know more after reading.
    Charles, Lacey’s book is only a very abridged English version al-Suri’s 1600 page strategic and tactical tome. Think Lacey is working n the rest in chunks.
    4GW is relevant for that which it is most good for, low intensity conflict with many actors where the real end is securing a dominant political or moral position in society through violence and a freedom of action vis-a-vis the state or competing groups. It works better than standard COIN thinking because most insurgencies are not really structured and fighting along Maoist theoretical lines (ex. al Qaida, Lord’s Resistance army, Zetas), though some still are ( ex- Communists in Nepal and Philippines)).  I see 4GW broadly in terms of theorizing about irregular conflict and find it useful, not rigidly as a fully constructed general theory of war, which it isn’t.
    Can we use Clausewitz for analysis of "political" irregular conflicts? Of course! But not many seem to use him that way. Colin Gray does. Echevarria does. Seydlitz does. A lot of active duty clausewitzians though seem hung up on a seeing war from a tactical and operational perspective, possibly because the strategic and broad policy aspects of war are "above their pay grade" and the political gets weirdly compartmentalized from the military in a very un-clausewitzian way. 

  7. Chuckleberry Says:

    Zen, I would suggest reading "Decoding Clausewitz" by Tetsuro Sumida.  I heard him speak at a book promotion the other week and the man knows his Clausewitz better than perhaps anyone else living today. 

  8. morgan Says:

    al-Suri touches on "leaderless resistance" which was cooked up by an American racists, Louis Beam. I guess you could say al-Suri borrowed from the "Great Satan."

  9. Charles Cameron Says:

    It has been a while since I read Brynjar Lia, and I don’t have Lacey’s book to hand, but I wonder whether "leaderless resistance" is an artefact of translation or a term consciously  chosen by Musab al-Suri.    Lia has no reference to the term in his index, which seems to be an index of names only, and I haven’t re-skimmed the whole book — but he writes (eg):

    Al-Suri’s ability to present operational doctrines is appreciated, as are his writings about ‘individual terrorism’ by loners or self-sustained independent cells.
    Lia, p.11.

    I suspect "individual terrorism" may be Lia’s version of whatever phrase in Arabic can also be understood as corresponding to Beam’s "leaderless resistance".

  10. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Zen:
    As I noted in my review of Lacey, Brynja Lia calls Musab al-Suri’s 1600-word treatise "the most significant written source in the strategic studies literature on al-Qa’ida."  Lacey – whose work I appreciate, btw – sets out to give us its essence, yet omits all but the most fleeting reference to the Mahdist theology with which the book closes – and which Filiu terms a "hundred-page apocalyptic tract".  Effectively, if I might quote you with a twist, that means that in Lacey’s version, Musab al-Suri’s end-times theology "gets weirdly compartmentalized from the military in a very un-clausewitzian way".
    But I don’t imagine end times theology is Lacey’s forte in any case – the two scholars who’d be best suited to that analysis are J-P Filiu – whose book devotes four or five pages to the topic, enough for an overview but not the detail one might like to see – and David Cook, whose paper (still "forthcoming"?) on "Abu Musa`b al-Suri and Abu Musa`b al-Zarqawi: The Apocalyptic Theorist and the Apocalyptic Practitioner" will likely be the definitive treatment.
    I won’t repeat the links to my reviews of Lacey and Filiu, since I gave them in my first comment, and posting multiple links apparently causes posts to "await moderation" – but if you missed that first post of mine for that reason, it’s up at the top, and you can find the links there…
    As for Abu Walid al-Masri, his CTC bio says he "has been a leading strategic thinker for al-Qa’ida since its earliest beginnings and has also been its fiercest and most prolific internal critic" and also that he "gained a reputation as a skilled and pragmatic strategist and battlefield tactician, and in his writings he quotes and refers to important works on guerrilla warfare, ranging from Mao and Lenin to Sun Tzu" – but while he has published accounts of early jihadist history — an 80-page account of the 1990 attack on Khost airstrip based on his diaries, for instance –I don’t believe he has formulated a strategic program the way Musab al-Suri did in his Global Islamic Resistance Call. 

  11. seydlitz89 Says:


    Have not read Gray’s latest, although have seen it advertised.  Really liked Modern Strategy, but his more recent stuff has been not up to par. 

    Sumida’s "DC"?  Read it and he’s pretty mainstream.  All the "new approach" stuff is dust cover publishers’ hype imo. 

    Sumida’s a naval historian.  Svechin would see "operations"! 

    On the other hand, any critique of Raymond Aron has to be taken very carefully.  I for one would never attempt to assume that I had a firm understanding of what someone like Raymond Aron was saying (or trying to say) about Clausewitz.  Aron was also a Weber scholar, not to mention of Marx, Pareto and others as well, so he understood much of the context of the times and the culture(s) involved.  Can Sumida claim the same? Once again we are talking about a naval historian here . . .

    A more general historian – Hew Stachan – would have a different view of Clausewitz, as would a theorist (Andreas Herberg-Rothe), as would a historian/methodologist (Echevarria), as would a political psychologist (Richard Ned Lebow), as would a professor of law (David Kennedy)  . . . . yet all speak the same "language".  That’s the beauty of the whole body of Clausewitzian thought.  There don’t seem to be any boundaries in terms of social science theory/praxis/follow through . . .

    Admiral J.C. Wylie would point out I think that an operational theory cannot be at odds with a general theory, or even that two operational level theories that contradict each other cannot exist side by side.  One more or less works, the other is better discarded. 

    Have a nice day.   

  12. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Seydlitz, I’m working my way through Wylie’s Military Strategy (I’m an old sailor just discovering his work–shame on me), so your remark touched a cord. The Gray title will probably make it on to my list this year, but the other two, I’m not so sure—though they appear interesting, I don’t have the time. Wylie is a keeper and how his short book escaped my notice all these years means I wasn’t paying close enough attention:))

  13. onparkstreet Says:

    Third, the history of al-Qaeda has been narrowly approached through Arabic sources, as if the development of al-Qaeda was solely an Arab phenomenon. Less attention has been paid to Pashto and Urdu language material produced by Afghan and Pakistani insurgent groups, much of which provides insights into the local context of al-Qaeda’s trajectory and is ripe for study. 
    Is this so?.
    Well, that explains a thing or two. LOL.
    Oh, wait. It’s totally not funny if true.
    – Madhu
    Naturally referring to the West Point CTC paper that everyone is talking about. No wonder my understanding of "afpak" is so different from the DC /NATO party line….

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    LOL, Madhu:
    And so we’re cutting the funds that encourage people to learn such obscure and useless languages:

    International-education advocates are raising objections to reductions in programs authorized under two federal laws, Title VI of the Higher Education Act and the Fulbright-Hays Act. The budget deal, which would finance federal agencies until the end of September, would slash funds for these Department of Education programs by 40 percent, or $50-million, reducing their allocation to $76-million. "A cut of that magnitude to such small programs really has a huge impact," says Miriam A. Kazanjian, a consultant with the Coalition for International Education. "It would be devastating." In particular, she says the teaching of "critical" foreign languages, like Arabic and Farsi, and studies of various regions of the world would suffer, hurting America’s national security and competitiveness in the global economy.http://chronicle.com/article/Language-and/127122/

    Never mind, eh?  It’s politics.

  15. seydlitz89 Says:


    Wylie is amazing.  So many ideas in such a small book!  He misread Clausewitz and overrated Liddell Hart – which are probably connected, but overall?  He comes up with some very basic ideas about strategic theory which are ever sooooo useful.  I’ve re-read his small book several times and always come up with something that either I’d forgotten or that I had missed earlier.  Wylie’s basic approach to theory is as a practitioner, not as an academic, much like Clausewitz before him.

  16. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Seydlitz, As I’m learning. I was telling someone today that I was a bit embarrassed when reading his Cliff’s Notes version of Mao—I read Mao many years ago, but the snippets he provided brought it all back, albeit with a different context. I suspect, Wylie’s little volume will remain close by, as he provides a pretty compelling and common sense approach to strategy–for just about any endeavor. He is without ego, and admits when he doesn’t know, or thinks an area/idea is open for further investigation. Best book of the year for me, thus far. 

  17. Purpleslog Says:

    Morgan: Instead of Beam, you could look to "The Starfish and the Spider" for the leaderless organization idea without any taint of an evil author.

  18. Wylie’s Military Strategy | USNI Blog Says:

    […] “substance and validity, and practicality.” As Seydlitz89 said in a recent comment thread here: “Wylie is amazing.  So many ideas in such a small book!  He misread Clausewitz and overrated […]

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