National Security

Islamic Extremism: Two Lessons Learned

By Brandon Blackburn:

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of what could be argued as the initial call for war against the west by Islamic extremists. The strategy behind it has served as the playbook for violent and repressive jihadists—and the groups under which they unite—to overtake our civilization and establish a worldwide caliphate. A review of the tactics, techniques, and procedures reveals that when it comes to achieving its strategic plan, the United States’ most dangerous adversary is winning.

For those who are willing to analyze the data, there is certainly a lot to learn from their activities over the last quarter of a century. But there are two lessons that are most important, and should be heeded if the United States is serious about correcting course and ridding the world of this evil once and for all. Islamic extremists were serious when they promulgated their intentions to expand their oppressive ways throughout the world. This is no joke, and should not be taken lightly simply because you don’t see its tentacles in your own backyard. And to achieve success, they will adapt in a way that will have us always playing from behind.

It started with a document designated as an exploratory memorandum titled “On The General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” That group? The Muslim Brotherhood. Though it describes itself as a political organization, the Muslim Brotherhood currently stands in the on-deck circle awaiting designation as a terrorist organization by the United States government. Hiding under a political moniker, much of the group’s mantra has long served as the inspiration for the Bin Ladens and al-Baghdadis of this world—a mantra centered around its stated goal of establishing an Islamic state as the basis of human civilization.

And not through peaceful means, whereby people will be exposed to any of the good preached in Islam so they can choose the life for themselves, mind you.

It was in 1991 that they moved toward qualifying these plans further via 18 pages with a five-phase approach to infiltrate, expand, and dominate. Each step building on the last, the plan comprises (1) secretly establishing a leadership cadre, (2) expanding a presence in the public eye via infiltrating government at all levels and garnering public support and sympathy, (3) increasing public exposure through various acts that generate mass media attention, (4) escalating public confrontations and preparing via training for “zero-hour,” and finally, (5) the seizure of power to establish an Islamic nation.

As westerners, and even more so as Americans, we need to recognize that the timeframe under which they are operating is one that covers a much longer calendar than what our instant gratification society has grown accustomed to. And with that, we can see that over 25 years, this ideology is progressing up the ladder. It is vital to our way of life that we remind ourselves, with each rung, that they are on the march. That they have laid out what’s to come.

Their success in getting to this point is unfortunate, as we’ve had the playbook for so long, yet have let them pit us against each other and against the peaceful followers of their religion. This is all part of the plan, by the way—most notably, phases two and four. It should not be a surprise, then, as to what their intentions are and what lies in wait. Unfortunately, our failure at key points in history to make the right and difficult decisions to stem their growth does not reflect the only boost to their success. Credit them for not only building upon the success of previous phases, but also for developing new tactics and adapting to our countermeasures.

Have to take off your shoes going through security at the airport? No problem for Mr. Would-be Suicide Bomber. He’ll just drop some explosives down his trousers. Driving a truck through a crowd of people to mow down innocent civilians? The concept itself is nothing new, but the way in which it was executed showed their recognition of blockade measures. And now, just this week, we have reports that ISIS is entering the drone space as a countermeasure. Just a few short years ago, that notion was laughable.

In the sense that it means we lack the barbarism and disregard for human life that they thrive on, we should be proud we cannot fathom all of the horrific lows to which they’ll stoop to spread their evil. But this also serves to be a handicap in this war.

Despite these vulnerabilities that come from our good-hearted nature, however, it is still a war that can be won. However, it is also a war that we should have seen coming. After all, we can’t say they didn’t tell us so.

Brandon Blackburn is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former CIA Counterterrorism Officer with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA with a concentration in International Business. During his time with the CIA, Brandon served multiple tours in the Middle East, to include Iraq and Jordan, and in Afghanistan. Brandon consults with businesses and media on national security related issues with his consulting firm B4B Enterprises.  He can be followed on Twitter @Bran_Blackburn.

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