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Strategic Culture and Strategic Studies: An Alternative Framework for Assessing al-Qaeda and the Global Jihad Movement

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More than a decade after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda and a year after the death of Osama bin Laden, Dr. Richard Shultz offers an innovative analysis of that organization s strategic culture. His analysis upends the conventional wisdom that only nation-states can have a strategic culture, an internal process through which issues of strategic significance and intent are discussed, debated, refined, and executed. In many ways the U.S. national security establishment was unprepared for this attack and the global conflict that followed. Despite the end of the Cold War the United States remained militarily postured primarily to engage with other nation-states. Al-Qaeda as a non-state actor with global reach posed a decidedly new challenge. In this monograph Dr. Shultz advances our understanding of this non-traditional adversary through an analysis of the shared beliefs, assumptions, and modes of behavior that comprise the al-Qaeda strategic culture. Through a strategic culture framework he identifies and assesses the factors and developments that have shaped al- Qaeda s evolution and behavior over nearly two decades. The resurgence of Salafi Islam in the early 20th century is at the core of al-Qaeda s identity and forms the basis for its vision and a justification for the group s self-declared role. Though many Muslims who adhere to the Salifi interpretation are peaceful, al-Qaeda established a transnational armed movement that ultimately sought to foster regime change locally in apostate Muslim states and serve as the vanguard of a larger global religious, political, and social movement. Dr. Shultz traces the internal debates and strategic-level decision making amongst al-Qaeda factions following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the subsequent strategic reassessment as the mujahidin were sent to other geographical areas to pursue operations against both a near and far enemy.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Unconventional Warfare

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