The Far Enemy, by Fawaz A. Gerges|
Mark Lamendola, author of over 5,000 articles.
When any book has 60-some pages of citations and
notes, you know it's a serious work.
These days, it seems everyone is an armchair expert
with a "factual" opinion on the global Jihad situation. Because I receive
phone calls from US soldiers and civilians serving or working in
Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, I have a bit of insight into this
situation. What most people spew as fact is merely rewarmed televised
propaganda with little or no basis in reality.
Thus, it was refreshing to read Gerges'
well-researched book. Gerges is authoritative, not opinionated. This is
evident in his extensive use of letters written by various key players in
the global jihad psychodrama.
One of the points he discussed was how the Muslim
mainstream has rejected Osama bin Laden--and why. Through my volunteer
work in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), I
have been interacting with Muslims for many years--long before September
11. My opinion of these people has nothing to do with their religion. I
have found them to be intelligent, hard-working, considerate, and giving.
Not at all the characterization we find being put forth by our more
"insulated" fellow citizens. Being of Sicilian decent myself, I know a
thing or two about being "suspected"--as many innocent Muslims are today.
The situation in the Middle East is not one of a
monolithic Muslim culture waging war against the so-called "Christian"
nations. In France, Muslims outnumber Catholics and Protestants combined.
Any time I read a book or article about Jihad, I know the author has
stepped into "stupidland" as soon as there's mention of "the Middle East
Muslims still fighting the Crusades against Europe."
Yes, in the minds of a few zealot Muslims, the
Crusade thing is true. But let's not forget we have zealot "Christians" in
the USA running around in bed sheets and lighting crosses on people's
front lawns. In both cases, religious leaders have declared the zealots as
acting in violation of their respective scriptures. Broad generalizations
based on special cases may be normal for American mainstream media, but
that doesn't make them correct or useful.
Gerges doesn't make any generalizations. In fact, I
had to stop reading at a few points to wonder what point he was trying to
make. When I did that, I realized it wasn't about selling his point to the
reader. At those few points where I had to stop to digest the material
before moving on, Gerges was going in-depth and making me out together a
structure of points. The global Jihad isn't a linear thing, or something
you can boil down to a few trite statements. It was great to see someone
treat this complex subject with the in-depth examination and evidence it
So, what can you expect to find in this book that I
like so much? Gerges starts out with a lengthy introduction that gives
perspective on September 11. Then he addresses the Afghan War (U.S.-backed
Taliban against the U.S.S.R.) and how that sowed the seeds of
transnational Jihad. It's worthwhile to read that twice.
Then, he takes the reader through various writing
and testimony showing the tension between various groups and alliances,
and how Osama bin Laden forced the issue of international Jihad. Osama bin
Laden wanted to "attack the head of the snake," meaning the USA. Gerges
doesn't mention this, but I find it interesting that it was US troops who
saved thousands of Muslim men, women, and children in the Balkans in the
1990s while Osama bin Laden did nothing for them.
But Gerges does take many sharp jabs at bin Laden,
and he is not alone. With his hatred and his "glorious" attacks of
September 11, bin Laden did immense damage to his own movement. This
caused a split in the Jihadis, which Gerges discusses in depth.
This book offers much more, which I won't go into
here. If you want to understand what's been driving these fanatics, this
book will help you enormously. Positive change is occurring, and our
leaders will have to be careful not to tip things back the other
Understanding what is going on can help us cope with
the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that are compounded by the biased
reporting and sensationalist news coverage that poison public opinion. But
I think it's also important that we in the West don't succumb to the same
narrow-minded hatred that fueled this whole global Jihad to begin with.
Form is important, as it dictates readability.
Fortunately, this book scored very well on substance and on form.
This book actually uses Standard Written English (SWE). This was a
refreshing change from the Pidgin English that so many of today's authors
slop onto our reading palettes. The care taken in writing this book shows
that the author and publisher actually cared about the reader. That's a