In This Review

The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global
The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global
By Fawaz A. Gerges
Cambridge University Press, 2005, 376 pp

Radical jihad has not been global for long. Even the "Afghan Arabs" who fought the Soviets in the 1980s generally saw themselves as training to confront enemy regimes back home. It was not until the mid-1990s that Osama bin Laden launched the globalist strategy of giving priority to attacking the "far enemy" in the West. Later still, Ayman al-Zawahiri reversed his long-standing concentration on the "near enemy" (the Egyptian regime), joined forces with bin Laden, and became number two in the al Qaeda hierarchy. Still, not all jihadists went global. Many, especially in Egypt, the principal case studied in this book, deplored the move, fearing that taking on the American superpower would jeopardize their very existence. Others, beaten down by the Egyptian regime, were simply prepared to close down their violent resistance. Al Qaeda has never had the support that many observers in the West believe it has, and it may well have been en route to even greater marginalization but for the new opportunity offered by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. This book makes surely the most extensive use of Arabic sources on the subject to be found in any Western-language book, plus includes numerous interviews. The overall interpretation presented is often persuasive (sometimes not quite) and always well informed.