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Book Review - Fighting The Ideological War

June 26, 2012

Review - Fighting the Ideological War

Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism; collected essays by Patrick Sookhdeo, Stephen Ulph, John H. Moore, John Lenczowski, Robert R. Reilly, Thomas Joscelyn and Sebastian L. Gorka; edited by Katherine Gorka and Patrick Sookhdeo; pp. 240; 2012 Westminster Institute; Isaac Publishing.

As reviewed by WILLIAM MAYER

June 26, 2012 - San Francisco, CA - - This just released work is an important and timely contribution to current thinking regarding the modern resurgence of Islamism. More precisely, in the relatively short span of 240 pages, the book offers an intriguing perspective on how the Western democracies can develop a comprehensive methodology to combat Islamic expansionism in all of its forms, both violent as well as nominally peaceful [which relies heavily on da'wa, Muslim proselytization].

Demonstrative of the anthology's currency, it is reflective of a post bin-Laden world. While the subject matter will necessarily be of most interest to those already working within the field [or students thereof], it might well have broader appeal to those interested generally in national security matters, comparative political theory, ideological trends and taking the offensive in a multi-front asymmetrical war. Though there is a fairly large preexisting knowledge base in these combined areas of study much of the subject material is by nature, dense and therefore primarily of interest to academicians. Fighting the Ideological War is the type of work that would be appropriate as a basis for further exploration in the field, though it certainly stands as a powerful achievement in its own right.

The book is organized around seven essays, grouped under three subheadings, Identifying the Enemy After the Death of Bin-Laden, Learning from the Past and Winning the Ideological War, which logically connect the major points:

  • Defining the enemy's nature.
  • Identifying successful historical examples of dealing with such challenges.
  • Developing an overall enemy threat doctrine and presenting a template for winning the war of ideas.

    The first section makes clear that the nature of this threat is not, as the politically timid are wont to think, borne singularly upon the shoulders of the jihadist warriors, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and their co-religionist brethren.

    More broadly, the authors forcefully argue that Islamism is an identifiable ideology with a substantial religious component and rather than being the "new kid on the block," there are many similarities between it and previous totalitarian ideologies. This basic commonality, the authors note, was understood early in the 20th century by such disparate intellectuals as philosopher Bertrand Russell and iconoclastic psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who surprisingly make similar observations.

    Russell - "Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam...Marx has taught that Communism is fatally predestined to come about; this produces a state of mind not unlike that of the early successors of Mahommet...what Mohammedanism did for the Arabs, Bolshevism may do for the Russians." [source, pg. 46]

    Jung - "We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam...He is already on the way; he is like Mohammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic, warlike...They are all drunk with a wild man." [source, pg. 46]

    It becomes clear under this analysis, that despite important distinctions between Mussolini's Fascism, Hitler's Fascist National Socialism, Marxism and Islamism, they are all at their core "isms," ideologies of domination, triumphalism and aggressive expansionism.

    Therefore engaging the Islamist enemy can and must be simultaneously carried out not only on battlefields when necessary, but in the world of ideas. Victory in the latter arena could greatly damage the ideology's appeal to Muslims because it will have been laid bare and substantially discredited. Thus the 2005 analogy put forth by G.W. Bush, identifying the enemy as Islamic fascism, though less than elegantly crafted and almost instantaneously dropped [declared a forbidden zone because it conflicts with the West's extant atmosphere of a perverse and self defeating form of multiculturalism] the statement was clear and evocative, at least putting us on the offensive and the correct side of the ideological ledger, however briefly.

    Section two develops the key point that in a war sharing the aforementioned common features, we can derive inspiration from the near 50 year long repository of successful pushback against the Russian Marxist state, the Cold War. Additionally the authors maintain that the Soviets were vanquished not only through military means, [finding form in proxy confrontations i.e., "wars of national liberation"] but by forcing them to compete in the areas of technology, strategic nuclear weaponry and industrial production. Importantly this foe was met head on by a West which was relatively united within the intellectual realm, allowing it to use techniques designed to discredit the movement's ideological foundation and fracture its many coalitions.

    Lenczowski's essay, Political-Ideological Warfare, in Integrated Strategy, and its Basis in an Assessment of Soviet Reality, provides an example of how the Soviet support base within the United States was cleverly damaged during Ronald Reagan's second term.

    "Another tactic that the Administration supported was an effort to split the "peace" movement. Most of this movement was composed of innocent citizens concerned about nuclear war and not committed to the communist ideological agenda...the majority of these people were naive about the degree to which their movement had been communists and the leaders of Soviet front organizations...One initiative to achieve this objective was undertaken in Los Angeles County by Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovski...with the Administration's support...[it] involved putting a referendum measure on the June 1984 ballot for approval by County voters...the measure [called upon both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to sign] the Helsinki International observe the Accord's provisions of freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and emigration for all of their citizens..." [source pg. 136-137]

    The measure was passed despite the efforts of, "the communist and Soviet front leadership of the peace movement." The revelation that the peace movement's leadership refused to support bedrock American ideals, created fissures, ultimately raising the consciousness of the movement's rank and file as to the hidden anti-democratic agenda their leaders were pursuing behind their backs.

    On a disturbing note, these essays hint at a dangerous post modernist Western societal trend, on display at the fraying edges of the culture. This civilizational fault line finds expression in a loss of cultural confidence, the lack of a cohesive identity, an unwillingness to defend Western values and hence a general loss of vitality. This problem assumes critical proportions as contrasted against an enemy which imagines itself riding a historical wave of preordained dominance.

    In the concluding section, Joscelyn and S. Gorka, bring it full circle, knitting all three themes into a well grounded enemy threat doctrine, [with exclamation points provided by the Islamist's most influential theoreticians, the Muslim Brotherhood's Sayyid Qutb's seminal Milestones and in Pakistan's heavyweight, S.K. Malik's, The Quranic Concept of Power whom the authors label as important a military thinker - within the Islamist discipline - as was Clausewitz] then offering techniques through which it can be defeated intellectually - here the import of George Kennan's 1946 opus, The Sources of Soviet Conduct, loom large.

    Thus emerges the totality of the enemy which they identify under the heading of Al-Qaeda and its Associated Movements [AQAM]. AQAM is comprised of co-dependent and reinforcing elements, a violent global jihadist wing waging kinetic warfare and its intellectual arm, prominently engaged in cultural jihadism [conquest/subsumption of non-Muslim nations1.] and represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk. These allies then are comingled, representing a dual-headed challenge

    It follows then that in order to triumph within such a paradigm, both aspects of Islamism must be defeated, with Fighting the Ideological War offering a reasonable winning strategic vision based upon historical fact, rather than the current policy which heavily relies upon gestures rooted in appeasement and willful ignorance.


    1. Islamist/jihadist theory holds that even Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which to Western eyes appear to be genuinely Islamic, will not be exempt from the jihad. The revolutionary Muslims maintain that these states are not "authentically" Muslim, declaring them apostate entities which do not adhere to the jihadists strict definition of what constitutes "true Islam," and must therefore be "purified." Interestingly, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab put forth the same doctrine in 18th century Arabia and used it - after substantial military conflict - to forge an agreement with the House of Saud, establishing a large territory governed under an uncompromising and expansionist Shari'a.

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