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A critical but missing piece: educating our professional military on the history of Islam.

If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development. (1)



To someone familiar with the history of Ancient Greece, the story will seem at first quite recognizable. In a bipolar world, the two great superpowers of the day wage a decades-long struggle to establish complete hegemony over the other. The conflict ebbs and flows for years, with one side occasionally gaining the upper hand, only to relinquish it later. The belligerents include allies beholden to one superpower or the other, and a great amphibious expedition helps determine the war's outcome. When the fighting finally ends, both superpowers are so depleted by battlefield losses, plague, and spent treasure that neither is prepared to confront a burgeoning superpower emerging on their periphery. This new force quickly expands across thousands of miles, creating a colossal empire and bringing with it sweeping cultural changes that still profoundly shape the world today.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the tale of the Peloponnesian War and the ensuing rise of Macedon. Rather, it is the story of the last great war of antiquity, the late sixth and early seventh century struggle between the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires. (2) More notably, it is the story of the great Arab conquests that followed in that war's aftermath, and the remarkable creation of an Islamic empire that soon stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Chinese frontier. Thucydides' celebrated history and Alexander's epochal expansion of the Hellenic world certainly merit the close study they receive. (3) Because of its pertinence to our own time, the early history of Islam deserves equal, if not more, attention, ideally in our nation's high schools and colleges. A more acute problem--and one that could be readily tackled--is the absence of this

immensely important period from war college syllabi. If the United States is to ensure its future policy makers and senior joint force leaders are adequately prepared to perform their duties effectively, Joint Professional Military Education needs to incorporate an objectively focused block of instruction on the formative period in Islamic history, beginning with the birth of the Prophet Mohammed in 570, and ending with collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258.

In advocating for this course, it is first helpful to recall the exacting price too often paid when strategists fail to consider--or understand-- historical matters of context in their planning. A brief assessment of what the proposed block of instruction ought to include demonstrates how this record of past failures can be improved. Understanding Islam's early history is an essential foundation for anyone confronting the Middle East's most-enduring challenges, such as the Sunni-Shiite struggle, the future of the Saudi regime, and the dispute over Jerusalem. A review of the proposed curricula also helps explain how a proper appreciation of Islam's first centuries helps undercut essentialist, anti-Muslim narratives, thereby inhibiting misguided assumptions. Of course, teaching Islamic history could invite controversy; indeed there is an intense debate among academics about how to approach the subject. Nonetheless, the potential for disagreement cannot become an excuse for avoiding it, even if it does call for an important note of caution.

We Know What We Don't Know

Justifiably, Americans are often criticized for their short memories, (4) and their regrettable indifference towards the subject of history. (5) In the field of foreign affairs, the failure of US leaders to sufficiently appreciate the history of other nations is an all too common lament. (6) An appalling misconstruction of Vietnam's history--in particular its ancient, troubled affiliation with China--helped cause the United States to approach that war with an unwinnable strategy. (7) When the Eisenhower administration used the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to overthrow Iran's government in 1953, it gave no heed to that country's proud past, and planted the seed for the "first wave" of Islamic revolutions twenty-five years later. (8) In part because they lacked a most basic understanding of the distinction between Shiites and Sunnis, the entire American intelligence apparatus in 1979 failed to realize that the so-called Siege of Mecca that year marked the birth of radical Sunni terrorism. (9) As a result, Washington went blindly forward, arming the same Arab Mujahideen who metastasized into al Qaeda. (10) Astonishingly, some American officials still refer to the attack as "the Shiite assault on the sacred Ka'ba." (11) More recently, the failure of American planners to grasp the history of Iraq led to major planning mistakes, (12) errors so egregious that by 2005, the United States was on the verge of losing the Iraq War. (13) Then there is the unending war in Afghanistan. Like the Soviets 22 years earlier, the United States seemingly entered this conflict without due consideration of the fact that no external power has ever departed in victory. (14) In matters related to the Middle East in particular, Americans behave like "serial amnesiacs." (15)

All of these disheartening examples reflect what American leaders have known for over a generation; the United States' approach to teaching history is not working. (16) Although at least one late night talk show host routinely jokes about the country's ignorance of the past, scholarship dating back to the 1980s demonstrates--empirically--that the country's lack of historical education is also dangerous. (17) Even where military institutions are concerned, the just- cited miscalculations in strategic planning support a belief that history is "treated as a marginal embellishment instead of a core of military education." (18) The importance of the Middle East to American security is enduring. Therefore, until the United States' secondary and collegiate educational systems are fixed, the nation's future policy makers and senior joint force leaders need to receive appropriate instruction about the region's history elsewhere. This obligation should be fulfilled by the country's war colleges, lest it not otherwise occur. Fortunately, envisioning what the requisite block of instruction would entail is quite practicable.

The Proposed Course--One Vision

Although the proposed course should address a significant period of time--roughly 700 years--instruction can be efficiently covered in four sections. They include the life of the Prophet Mohammed; the almost equally formative 40-year period that followed; the early empire period; and the "Golden Age." Several books, some of them quite recent, cover these periods succinctly but effectively, demonstrating that constrained classroom time need not be a limiting factor. (19) In addition, examining several of the possible themes each section might cover provides a preliminary framework for developing the proposed course, while further emphasizing the relevance of Islam's early history to current and future American strategists.

The Life of Prophet Mohammed--Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem

Both Christian and Muslim historians agree that the Prophet Mohammed's life and accomplishments, beginning with his birth in Mecca around 570 AD, are the foundation of the entire Muslim epoch. (20) His experiences and achievements shape the "spiritual, political and ethical vision of Muslims" today, (21) and constitute a "metaphor illuminating the meaning of existence itself." (22) More than any other facet of Muslim history, the specific events and circumstances of the Prophet's life merit attention, making the late sixth century the appropriate point of departure for the projected block of instruction. Indeed, the Prophet's 62-year life presents an excellent initial framework for understanding today's Middle East in a historical context, to include the reasons behind many of its toughest challenges.

For example, the Muslim world's great attachment to Jerusalem stems from events that occurred when Mohammed was about 50. Those shaping US Middle East policy should be aware that Jerusalem's famous golden "Dome of the Rock" stands atop the site where Muslims historically believe that, in 621,

Mohammed experienced his "Night Journey" where he traveled to Jerusalem and stood on top of the Rock of Abraham. (23) From there, he ascended to heaven, received some of Islam's most formative revelations, and returned to Mecca. (24) Thus, Jerusalem--known in Arabic as al Quds, "the Holy"--has significance for Muslims surpassed only by Mecca and Medina. (25) In a more secular sense, Jerusalem is historically critical for Muslims because the famous golden dome atop the Temple Mount was Islam's first great edifice, and is the physical manifestation of Muslim society's initial "emergence as a new polity." (26) Of almost equal importance is the mosque adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, which was known in Mohammed's time as "the farthest mosque"--in Arabic "al Aqsa Masjid." (27) During his early life, the al Aqsa mosque played a deeply symbolic role for Mohammed's first followers, and the site remains highly revered by Muslims everywhere. (28) These are just two of the reasons why Jerusalem is such a contentious issue in the Middle East. They help explain--for example--the significance of Iran's decision to name one of its most elite military units the "al Quds Force," (29) and why some Palestinian militants branded their organization the "Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade." (30)

Consider also that by studying the Prophet's life, students will attain a fundamentally better understanding of Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia. (31) Although students will doubtless already know that Mecca and Medina are important, the proposed course would explain why. For example, the shrouded black edifice at the center of Mecca's Great Mosque, known as the Ka'ba, is the most revered site in Islam. (32) In pre-Islamic, Arab historical tradition, Adam originally built the Ka'ba and his son Seth subsequently rebuilt it. Later, Abraham and his son Ismail rebuilt it again. (33) The Ka'ba thus played a major role in the lives of Arabs even before the Prophet's birth, and an annual festive pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca pre-dated the Prophet by several centuries. (34) Nearby, in 610, the Prophet received his first message from God, delivered by an angel who told him to "recite"; the Arabic word for "recitation" being "Qur'an." (35) Originally, Mohammed directed his followers to pray towards the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem; only later in his ministry did he direct they face the Ka'ba and Mecca, a highly symbolic decision reflecting Islam's break from Judaism and Christianity--and one of the most pivotal moments in Islam's historic development. (36) Later, when Mohammed cleared the Ka'ba of its pagan idols, it represented his final triumph in securing Islam's dominance in Arabia. (37) Today, when millions of Muslims visit Mecca during the Hajj, they are marking these seminal events in their shared history. (38)

There is equal value in examining the history of Medina, even if only briefly. For instance, US policy makers ought to know that twelve years after receiving his first revelations, Mohammed hastily emigrated north from Mecca to a town called Yathrib. (39) This event is known as the Hijra, and the year it occurred (622) marks the start of the Muslim calendar. (40) In Yathrib, Mohammed established a mosque (masjid) and built a model society to be emulated by Muslims from then on. (41) As a result, Yathrib's name was eventually changed to Medina, the Arabic word for "city," and historically all Muslims "regard Medina as the model of Islamic perfection." (42) Mohammed is buried there, helping to make Medina Islam's second holiest site after Mecca. Together, Mecca and Medina are so historically significant that the Saudi Monarch's official title is neither "King" nor "Sultan," but "Keeper of the Two Mosques." (43)

As these short examples illustrate, policy makers versed on the basic historic events of the Prophet Mohammed's life will be better equipped to develop Middle East strategy than would otherwise be the case.

Lessons of the Great Arab Conquests

An adequate understanding of the region's historical context cannot end with the Prophet's death in 632, because the next forty years are of near-equal importance. (44) Sunni Muslims, who make up the vast majority of the faith, (45) know the Prophet's four successors khalifa in Arabic--as "the Rightly Guided Ones." (46) Together, they comprise the Rashidun who, along with the Prophet, form the core of Islam's founding movements. (47) Their experiences and achievements between 632 and 661 were recorded contemporaneously, (48) meaning the Rashidun exist squarely within the realm of history, not legend.

As significant as the Rashidun are for Muslims, their accomplishments continue to have a tremendous impact upon much of the rest of the world as well. Because the great Arab conquests occurred under their rule, it is here that the proposed course can deliver some of its most valuable lessons. Between 630 and 750, Muslim generals conducted brilliant military campaigns, capturing territory extending 7,000 kilometers. (49) Just as Alexander spread Hellenism to the known world in the fourth century B.C., (50) Muslim conquerors extended Arab culture a thousand years later. (51) Indeed, the parallels between Alexander's accomplishments and those of the early Muslims merit study. The Arabs' two enemies, the Byzantines and Sassanids, had just exhausted themselves in what was referred to earlier as "the last great war of antiquity." (52) Indeed, their fatigue proved to be "the essential prerequisite for success of Muslim arms." (53) In the decades just prior to Mohammed's death in 632, the Sassanids had conquered most of the Levant, only to have it retaken by the great Byzantine general, Heraclious. Heraclious saved Byzantium from total defeat by conducting a well-conceived invasion behind Sassanid lines, cutting the Persian heartland off from its army. (54) In their famous collective work on military history, the Dupuys go so far as to write that Heraclious is worthy of being ranked in military history alongside "Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar." (55) Thanks to Heraclious, the two superpowers' borders returned to the status quo ante, but when the great Islamic conquests began, the Muslims found themselves filling a power vacuum much like the Macedonians did after the Peloponnesian War. (56) In this regard, the story of the early Muslim victories can be used to reinforce some of the key lessons about war and statecraft traditionally taught through the study of Sparta and Athens.

To comprehend the geographic, ethnic, and cultural fault lines in today's Middle East, strategists also need to be aware of other key facets of Islam's tremendous expansion during this period. (57) For instance, when the Arabs successfully conquered Byzantine territory to their west, they not only expanded their faith, but Arab language and culture as well. Therefore, Egypt and the Levant, which were Greek (or etymologically Greek) speaking areas of principally Christian faith in 632, became almost entirely "Arabized." By comparison, to the area east of the Zagros Mountains, where the Sassanid Empire lost all of its power and most of its Zoroastrian faith to Islam, Persian language and culture nonetheless managed to survive. (58) As a result, Iran never became Arab either culturally or linguistically, and Iran's frontier with the Arab world has been one of the world's great fault lines ever since. To be clear, the contemporary Persian-Arab divide that is so central to events in the region today can only be fully appreciated if the historical reasons behind it are understood.

The Sunni-Shiite Divide

The third period meriting close examination follows the death of the last "Rightly Guided Caliph" in 661 and continues to the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750. Although many key developments occurred in this era, the most acutely relevant to our own time is the Sunni-Shiite split. (59) Of course, many future policy makers have seen evidence of this sectarian division in violent form. Case in point, the well-known Askariya Shrine bombing in February, 2006, a seminal event of the Iraq conflict, brought the Sunni-Shiite struggle to the verge of full scale civil war. (60) A course on the early history of Islam is needed to explain the key seventh century events that underlie the bloodshed.

To begin, war college graduates should be aware that today's religious discord began as an entirely political succession dispute. (61) When Mohammed died in 632, he left neither a male heir nor a will. Shortly before his death, he pointed to his cousin and son-in-law, All, and stated, "Whoever has me as a master has him as a master." (62) A minority of the Prophet's followers interpreted this as an anointment, and declared themselves "Shi'atu All" or "Shiites," meaning Ali's partisans. (63) As a result, the first three khalifa are not recognized as "Rightly Guided" by Shiites, although all Muslims do accept All as the legitimate fourth and final Rashidun. (64) After Ali's assassination in 661, the dispute continued and, nineteen years later, Ali's son Hussein confronted a much larger Sunni army at Karbala in modern Iraq. (65) When promised reinforcements failed to arrive, the Sunni forces annihilated Hussein and most of his family. (66)

All Muslims consider Hussein's death a tragedy, but for Shiites it represents the ultimate act of martyrdom. (67) In their view, Hussein died in a noble effort to salvage Islam from its errant practices, making the Karbala massacre the most formative event in Shia history since 661. (68) For them, the failure of Hussein's allies to assist him was an unforgivable sin to be passed from generation to generation. (69) Not long after the battle, Shiites began mourning their perceived collective failure by worshiping Hussein and many of his descendents as saints, and by participating in what eventually evolved into the highly ritualized (and occasionally brutal) festival of Ashura. (70) It is this religious attachment to Hussein that fundamentally separates Sunnis from Shiites, and the reason why Sunnis see Shiism as a heresy. (71) A sizeable portion of the discord and violence across the Middle East today is rooted in these transformational events. Absent an understanding of this historical backdrop, future American strategists' ability to understand current Sunni-Shiite hostility will be jeopardized.

Islam's Golden Age, the Mongol Tragedy, and the Roots of Islamic Extremism

A fourth and final era deserving attention is the reign of the Abbasid Caliphs, which stretched from 750 to 1258. In particular, two aspects of this rarely covered period warrant instruction. (72) Because it represents the apogee of the Arab Empire's accomplishments, the "Golden Age" of Islamic civilization needs to be appreciated by American strategists. (73) In the words of the West's leading scholar on the Middle East, Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis, (74) this period marked the "apex of human achievement" to that point in history. (75) Under Abbasid patronage, Muslims of the Golden Age invented the algorithm and algebra, and created the science of chemistry, musical notation, and the fundamentals of astronomy. (76) Through their work as translators, Muslims produced the "entire corpus" of the "recovered ancient learning" of Greek antiquity that humanity possesses today. (77) It is little wonder that President Obama remarked during his June 2009 speech in Cairo that, "It was Islam ... that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance." (78) For purposes of public diplomacy, senior policy makers should be able to speak intelligently about the myriad Muslim contributions to human society this great age produced. This is especially so when US officials engage with their Muslim counterparts.

Even more critically, future strategists need to acquire some understanding of the thirteenth century cataclysm that destroyed vast swaths of the Muslim world. Though often overlooked, in every sense these invasions constituted a "holocaust." (79) In 1258, Mongol armies razed Baghdad, destroying virtually every building in the city and killing between 800,000 and 2 million inhabitants. (80) The Mongols also permanently devastated countless other cities, and may have murdered as many as 18 million people across the region. (81) The city of Merv in Khorasan, Iran, suffered between 700,000 and 1.3 million deaths, (82) while similarly horrific massacres occurred in Naishapur (1.74 million killed), and Herat (1.6 to 2.4 million killed). (83) As one historian noted, the region around the central lands of Islam "never recovered from the Mongols. Never." (84) Because of its continuing impact on the world view of Middle East peoples today, this piece of Islamic history needs to be considered when formulating strategic approaches to the region. This is especially so with regard to Iran, where the Mongol invasions "planted in the collective memory of Iranians an abiding fear of foreign invasion ... effects [that] linger to this day." (85)

The historical and philosophical roots of 21st century Islamist terrorism are also directly traceable to the devastation that accompanied the Mongol hordes. The ubiquitously recognized "Godfather of Islamic Terrorism," (86) Ahmad ibn Taymiyya, lived in the immediate aftermath of the conquests, and the Mongol occupation profoundly shaped his philosophical tenets. (87) Taymiyya is credited with turning the concept of jihad from its traditionally defensive posture into an offensive weapon, and devising the theory of Salafism. (88) He thus remains the principal guiding philosopher of the globalized, violent jihadist movements of the last 20 years. (89) Policy makers confronting Islamic extremism must be versed in this period of history because, in the words of one Muslim writer, "it all started here, in the shadow of the Mongol holocaust." (90)

Anti-Muslim Narratives

In addition to providing an essential historic framework, an instruction block on Islam's first seven centuries will shed much-needed light on a particularly dark aspect of American political discourse. In the decades following World War II, Americans tended to look at Arabs as a "backwards" people, though they did so without much animus. (91) After 9/11, however, a battery of American pundits, high-profile Evangelicals among them, started promoting a virulently anti-Islamic narrative that often cited supposedly historic examples in support of their arguments. (92) Indeed, one of the best-selling books on Islam in the United States, Robert Spencer's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades')," (93) maintains that Islam is a religion of war that sanctions lying, theft, and killing. (94) These sources present a starkly "essentialist" (95) view of Islam, one that lacks genuine scholarship. Because such arguments place ideology ahead of history, they risk spreading a "pathology" of false assumptions. (96) Teaching future policy makers about the Golden Age of Islam in particular will help prospective strategists recognize and counter assumptions that are rooted in anti-Muslim rhetoric, instead of historical fact.

Recognizing the reasons underlying the sustained success of Arab armies during the great conquests would similarly help refute anti-Muslim polemicists. For instance, the Arabs' achievements largely stemmed from their ability to operate at night, with no supply line, under commanders appointed on merit. (97) They left local governing institutions in place, avoided quartering their forces among the local populace, and did not forcibly convert local populations to Islam. (98) The conquered peoples had to recognize Arab control, but the latest research strongly suggests this was accepted by many local inhabitants anxious to escape oppressive Byzantine rule. (99) Conquered populations paid a poll tax (jizya) in exchange for protection from outside threats (so-called dhimmi status), but were exempted from military service. (100) Ultimately, the Arabs' success stemmed from their relatively benign treatment of newly conquered populaces as much as anything else. Evidence of this approach is readily seen, for example, in the Arabs' decision to let Jews and Christians maintain their synagogues and churches. (101) In short, teaching the history of the great

Arab conquests would refute counterproductive and misleading arguments that Islam is a religion premised on forced conversion, brutality, and violence.

An Important Caution

Establishing a course on Islam's early history requires consideration of the topic's controversial historiography. Beginning about thirty years ago, an often acrimonious debate emerged over the treatment of Islam's past by European and American scholars. (102) The first protagonist in this dispute was the late Edward Said who, in his famous work Orientalism, argued that Western historians generally harbored a cultural bias impairing their empiricism irrevocably. (103) One of his chief targets was Bernard Lewis, who responded several years later by refuting Said's arguments rather effectively. (104) However, as the post-9/11 anti-Muslim narrative demonstrates, Said's premise still holds merit. In recent years, pundits and new historians have continued the debate, (105) and collectively they provide an important caution about the need to pursue objectivity with determined vigilance. While almost any course benefits from a dialectic approach, course directors and instructors should take care to avoid three areas of prospective contention.

First, the proposed block of instruction needs to focus on Islam in a strictly historical context, and not devolve into a class on comparative religion. Although the "religious" aspect of the Middle East may be of cultural interest and have a contextual role in planning, it should not be allowed to undermine the course's historical agenda. Regrettably, religious comparisons can lead to unhelpful, essentialist "anti-other" narratives like those fostered by Spencer and his supporters. (106) Furthermore, religion's traditionally presumptive role as the primary cause of friction in the Middle East is actually starting to come into question. For instance, Graham E. Fuller, a former Vice-Chair of the National Intelligence Council and a senior Middle East expert at the RAND Corporation, (107) recently wrote that Islam, as a faith, matters so little to events in the region that American strategists should "act as if Islam did not exist in formulating policies in the Middle East." (108) This may be an overstatement, but it nonetheless supports the rationality of keeping the course's focus exclusively on matters of historical import.

Second, events of the last nine years demonstrate why the subject of cultural anthropology should also be carefully avoided. In this regard, Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind serves as a valuable warning. (109) For years after its publication in 1973, Patai's book received favorable treatment. In the 1990s, a CIA review even described it as a "significant scholarly contribution" to "social science research involving the topics of 'national character' or 'personality and culture.'" (110) Ostensibly, the twin purposes of such research were "(1) the prediction of the type of character that a given society is likely to produce, based upon the sum total of its culture and social structure and (2) the demonstration of how character or personality, in turn, impacts upon the very culture and social structure which has shaped it." (111)

The positive reviews came to an abrupt halt shortly after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. Investigative journalists uncovered that US personnel developed the harsh interrogation techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by relying on Patai's book and its cultural/anthropological conclusions. (112) The press revelations spurred significant soul-searching in the American anthropologist community, and caused one leading academic to note, "It is high time we ask ourselves searching questions. Although Patai's book may not have been used as a torture 'handbook' at Abu Ghraib, it evidently provided an important component in the necessary stereotyping and distancing that underlies this 'culture of abuse'." (113)

Although perhaps not as perilous as Patai's cultural determinism, matters touching on the subject of epistemology should also be left out of the curriculum. A recent book by former Voice of America Director Robert R. Reilly argues that many of the problems in Muslim society today stem from the historic suppression of Hellenic, rationalist thought by Muslim traditionalists and dogmatists. (114) The argument has merit, but would invite a level of controversy potentially counterproductive to the proposed course's goal of providing students with a useful historical framework for the Middle East.

Fortunately, avoiding all of these distractions is eminently achievable. So long as the assigned readings and lecture presentations remain focused on the region's historical context, the subject of Islam's early history can be imparted in a clear, empirical, uncontroversial manner. That said, instructors can no doubt still look forward to lively student debate.


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1800.01D mandates that Professional Military Education build officers who understand the strategic implications of their decisions, while the nation's war colleges in particular are charged with ensuring America's future leaders possess the skills they need to assume positions of strategic leadership across the interagency. (115) To meet these requirements, war college curricula must be enhanced. No senior leader in the US national security establishment shaping strategy in the Middle East should lack a basic understanding of the key events that form the historical narrative of early Islam. When Muslims are asked what the West should do to improve relations, one of their top suggestions is to exhibit a better understanding of Islam. (116) America's war colleges should oblige; ignorance of the region's past is a poor and dangerous alternative to expending the time necessary to teach the history of Islam's first seven centuries. A block of instruction covering the life of the Prophet Mohammed and his four successors, the key events of the early Arab conquests, the original sources of the Sunni-Shiite divide, and both the Golden Age of Islam and the reasons for its brutal demise, should be a prerequisite for anyone who may someday help craft American foreign policy. Once equipped with this historic framework, American strategists will be far more capable of assessing the innumerable Middle East challenges that are certain to emerge in the coming years, whether political, economic, social, or military. Indeed, those challenges will only be resolved if they are carefully, and meaningfully analyzed through the lens of history.


(1.) Amanda H. Podany, "Why Study History? A View from the Past," The History Summit I, California State University Dominguez Hills (May 29, 2001) 2,, %20Why%20Study%20History%20Handout.pdf (accessed March 22, 2011).

(2.) Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the Worm We Live In (Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2007), 368; Christopher Catherwood, A Brief History of the Middle East: From Abraham to Arafat (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006), 68.

(3.) Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, editor Robert B. Strassler and translator Richard Crawley (New York: Free Press, 1996); Anthony Pagden, Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle between East and West (New York: Random House, 2008), 41-68.

(4.) See, e.g., "US Trying its Old Tricks again," Gulf News, June 23, 2007, http://proquest.umi. com/pqdweb?did=1293611401&Fmt=7&clienfld=3921&RQT=309&VName=PQD&cfc=1; Frank Rich, "How Fleeting is Infamy," New York Times, May 6, 2000, ?did=53519704&Fmt=7&clientId=3921&RQT=309&VName=PQD; Richard B. Woodward, "In the Fray: One 9/11 Picture, Thousands of Words: Rorschach of Meanings," Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2006, QT=309&VName=PQD. (All articles accessed March 22, 2011).

(5.) Diane Ravitch, "Decline and Fall of Teaching History," New York Times, November 17, 1985, me=PQD (accessed March 15, 2011).

(6.) M. Dunn, "Editor's Note," The Middle East Journal 62, no. 4 (Autumn 2008), 565, http:// cfc=l (accessed March 13, 2011).

(7.) Harry G. Summers Jr., Vietnam WarAlmanac (New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985), 3-12.

(8.) Kenneth C. Davis, Don't Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History but Never Learned (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), xiv.

(9.) Yaroslav Trofimov, The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 243.

(10.) Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Knopf, 2006), 171.

(11.) Trofimov, The Siege of Mecca, 243.

(12.) Muean Aljabiry, "How do You Say Clueless?" The Washington Post, March 19, 2006, http:// (accessed March 13,2011).

(13.) Thomas E. Ricks, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (New York: Penguin Press, 2009), 8.

(14.) Gregory Feifer, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan (New York: Harper, 2009), 4.

(15.) Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), xxi

(16.) Davis, Don't Know Much about History xii.

(17.) Ibid.

(18.) Milan Vego, "Military History and the Study of Operational Art," Joint Forces Quarterly 57 (2d Quarter 2010): 124, 57/JFQ57.pdf(accessed March 13, 2011).

(19.) Several of these books are cited in the endnotes of this paper.

(20.) Reza Aslan, No god but God." The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (New York: Random House, 2005), xviii.

(21.) Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, Modern Library Chronicles (New York: Modern Library, 2000), 20.

(22.) Mir Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted." A History of the World through Islamic Eyes (New York: Public Affairs, 2009), 33.

(23.) Reza Asian, How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror (New York: Random House, 2009), 36.

(24.) Cyril Glasse and Huston Smith, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam: Revised Edition (London: Stacey International Publishers, 2001), 344; see also Hershel Shanks, Jerusalem's Temple Mount." From Solomon to the Golden Dome (New York: Continuum, 2007), 14-20.

(25.) Glasse and Smith, The Concise Encyclopaedia, 239.

(26.) Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years (New York: Scribner, 1995), 68.

(27.) Ibid.

(28.) Greg Noakes, "Mosque a Vital Part of Islamic Life," The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs XI, no. 4 (Oct 31, 1992), 60, ntId=3921&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed April 8, 2011).

(29.) Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 35.

(30.) Holly Fletcher, "Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," Washington Post, April 2, 2008, http://www. (accessed March 22, 2011).

(31.) John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 3rd ed. (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 223.

(32.) Glasse and Smith, The Concise Encyclopaedia, 245.

(33.) Ibid.

(34.) Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 3.

(35.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 4.

(36.) Ibid., 10, 15.

(37.) Asian, No god but God, 106.

(38.) Ibid., 148-50.

(39.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 4.

(40.) Aslan, No god but God, 52.

(41.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 12.

(42.) Aslan, No god but God, 53-54.

(43.) Richard A. Clarke, Against all Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror (New York: Free Press, 2004), 281.

(44.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 21.

(45.) The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook estimates that Sunnis comprise at least 75% of the world's Muslims. Shiites make up between 10% and 20%. library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html (accessed March 19, 2011 ).

(46.) Ansary, Destiny Disrupted, 33-35.

(47.) Ibid. 33.

(48.) Ibid., 33-35.

(49.) Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, 368.

(50.) Thomas R. Martin, Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 174.

(51.) Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, 368.

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) Ibid., 70.

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500B.C. to the Present, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 214.

(56.) Thomas R. Martin, Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 174.

(57.) Peter Mansfield and Nicolas Pelham, A History of the Middle East, 2nd ed. revised and updated by Nicolas Pelham (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 14.

(58.) Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, 199.

(59.) Thomas L. Friedman, "The New Cold War," New York Times, May 14, 2008. 3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1300574965& clientId=3921 (last accessed Mar 19, 2011); Michael Bimbaum, "Familiar Divisions Sharpen in Bahrain: Protest Movement Flags Amid Sunni-Shiite Tensions," Washington Post, March 20, 2011, A 15.

(60.) Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future (New York: Norton, 2006), 197.

(61.) Hourani, 22.

(62.) Nasr, The Shia Revival. 37-38.

(63.) Lewis, The Middle East, 64; Nasr, The Shia Revival, 38.

(64.) Lewis, The Middle East, 64; see also Heinz Halm, The Shiites: A Short History, 2nd ed., (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2007), 3-7.

(65.) Halm, The Shiites: A Short History, 9-16.

(66.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 37; Halm, The Shiites: A Short History, 15-66; Lewis, The Middle East, 67.

(67.) Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, 37; Nasr, The Shia Revival, 57.

(68.) Nasr, The Shia Revival, 59.

(69.) Halm, The Shiites: A Short History, 42; Nasr, 4 The Shia Revival, 4, 48.

(70.) Halm, The Shiites: A Short History, 42.

(71.) Asian, No god but God, 181.

(72.) John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think (New York: Gallup Press, 2007), 24.

(73.) Esposito and Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam, 24-25.

(74.) Bail Weiss, "The Tyrannies Are Doomed," Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2011.

(75.) Lewis, The Middle East, 269.

(76.) Michael Hamilton Morgan, Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007), 56, 57, 210- 29, 161, 241.

(77.) David L. Lewis, God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), 368-70.

(78.) Yameen Rasheed, "The Bright Stars of Islam," Minivan News, January 22, 2011, (accessed March 10, 2011).

(79.) Ansary, Destiny Disrupted. 159, 163.

(80.) Edwin Black, Banking on Baghdad." Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit and Conflict (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2004), 47.

(81.) Asian, How to Win a Cosmic War, 106, 107.

(82.) Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 100-02.

(83.) Ansary, Destiny Disrupted, 153, 156.

(84.) Black, Banking on Baghdad, 48.

(85.) William R. Polk, Understanding Iran (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), 30.

(86.) Charles Allen, God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006), 46-68, 300.

(87.) Asian, How to Win a Cosmic War, 109.

(88.) Wright, The Looming Tower, 174-75; Ansary, Destiny Disrupted, 163.

(89.) Wright, The Looming Tower, 174-75.

(90.) Ansary, Destiny Disrupted, 163.

(91.) Davis, Don "t Know Much about History, 507.

(92.) See, e.g., Teresa Watanabe, "Islam Fatally Flawed, Says Voice from Corona Via Al Jazeera; Wafa Sultan, Who Tells a Tale of Terror from Syria, Draws Lots of Western Media Attention but Not as Much from Muslims." Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2006, eb?index=1&did=1001714971&SrchMode=5&Fret=3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType =PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1298218198&clientId=3921 (accessed March 10, 2011); Alan Cooperman, "Robertson Calls Islam a Religion of Violence, Mayhem," The Washington Post, February 22, 2002, t=3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1298218198 &clientId=3921 (accessed March 10, 2011).

(93.) Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005). Amazon lists The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam as its 14th best selling book on Islam, (accessed March 10, 2011).

(94.) Ibid., 33-45, 79-84.

(95.) Karl R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 166.

(96.) Terry L. Deibel, Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 118.

(97.) Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, 372.

(98.) Ibid., 57, 97, 373.

(99.) Ibid., 68, 369; Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 38.

(100.) Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, 210-212; see also, Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 38.

(101.) Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, 272.

(102.) Catherwood, A Brief History of the Middle East, 145-53.

(103.) Edward W. Said, Orientalism, 1st Vintage Books ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 368.

(104.) Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 99-118.

(105.) See, e.g., Robert Irwin, Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2006); see also SrchMode=5&Fmt=3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD &TS=1300223669&clientld=3921 (accessed March 15, 2011), and Jane Adas "Columbia University Honors Edward Said With Conference on Orientalism," The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 28, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 44-45, 9691&SrchMode=2&sid=1&Fmt=3&Vlnst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS =1300238092&clientId=3921 (accessed Mar 15, 2011).

(106.) Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam; see also Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2006); "Maybe Now is the Time to Talk Honestly about Islam," Wall Street Journal, Dec 15, 2009, 3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS= 1298218444&clientId=3921 (accessed March 10, 2011); "Wars of Religion: Author Deals with Islam through the Ages," Women's Health Law Weekly (September 21, 2008), 24, 1552 741691&SrchMode=5&Fmt=3&retrieveGroup=0&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VNa me=PQD&TS=1298218623&clientId=3921 (accessed March 10, 2011).

(107.) J. Samai Mair, "Is the West ready for Graham E. Fuller's forthcoming book 'A World Without Islam?," Baltimore Exminer.Com (July 23, 2010), for-graham-e-fuller-s-forthcoming-book-a-world-without_islam (accessed April 5, 2011).

(108.) Graham E. Fuller, A World Without Islam (New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2010), 328.

(109.) Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind (New York: Scribner, 1973).

(110.) Lloyd F. Jordan, "The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai: Book Review, CIA Historical Review Program, (July 2, 1996), intelligence/kent-csi/ voll8no3/html/vl8i3a06p_0001.htm (accessed March 21, 2011).

(111.) Ibid.

(112.) Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 167-68.

(113.) Roberto J. Gonzalez, "Patai and Abu Ghraib," Anthropology Today 23, no. 5 (October 2007): 23, hid=14&sid=383f70bb-3b7a4d04-af08-1bfe6a74539b%40sessionmgr15&vid=2 (accessed Mar 22, 2011).

(114.) Robert R. Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2010).

(115.) US Department of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1900. OID, Officer Professional Military Education Policy (Washington DC: US Department of Defense, July 15, 2009), 2, A-A-5.

(116.) Esposito and Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam?, 61.

Colonel Adam Oler is an Air Force Judge Advocate and a distinguished graduate of the National War College.
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