Home » Events » How to Identify Jihadi-Salafists Through Their Ideology, Practices, and Methodology

How to Identify Jihadi-Salafists Through Their Ideology, Practices, and Methodology

Watch her speaker playlist here

Dr. Mary Habeck lectures on al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as on military strategy and history, at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Georgetown University, and American University.

Her recent monograph for the Heritage Foundation is titled, “The U.S. Must Identify Jihadi-Salafists through Their Ideology, Practices, and Methodology-and Isolate Them.”

She is the author of Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (Yale, 2005) and three forthcoming sequels, Attacking America: Al-Qa’ida’s Grand Strategy; Managing Savagery: Al-Qa’ida’s Military and Political Strategies; and Fighting the Enemy: The U.S. and its War against al-Qa’ida.

She is also a Senior Fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. From 2005-2013 she was an Associate Professor in Strategic Studies at SAIS, teaching courses on extremism, military history, and strategic thought.

Before moving to SAIS, Dr. Habeck taught American and European military history in Yale’s history department, 1994-2005. She received her PhD in history from Yale in 1996, an MA in international relations from Yale in 1989, and a BA in international studies, Russian, and Spanish from Ohio State in 1987.

Dr. Habeck was appointed by President Bush to the Council on the Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities (2006-2013), and in 2008-2009 she was the Special Advisor for Strategic Planning on the National Security Council staff.

Her other books include Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919-1939 (2003), Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, co-editor (2001) and The Great War and the Twentieth Century, co-editor (2000).

For more on the nature of jihad, see Robert Spencer’s Westminster talk, The History of Jihad.


Robert R. Reilly:

Well, our speaker tonight is Dr. Mary Habeck who lectures on Al Qaeda and ISIS as well as military strategy and history [at] Johns Hopkins, SAIS, George Washington University, American University.

Her recent monograph for the Heritage Foundation has the title of the subject of which she will be speaking tonight: The U.S. Must Identify Jihadi-Salafists through their Ideology, Practices, Methodology and Isolate Them. I encourage you, you can go to the Heritage Foundation website and get Mary’s excellent monograph.

Now, I first encountered her renowned name when she wasn’t quite as famous as she is now when she first published her book, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology in the War on Terror, and your having sequels to those?

Mary Habeck:

Yeah, I actually have one of them.

Robert R. Reilly:

One of them is finished, great. Would that be “Attacking America: Al Qaeda’s Grand Strategy?”

Mary Habeck:

It is.

Robert R. Reilly:


Dr. Habeck has taught American and European Military History in Yale’s History Department. I mentioned that she has taught at SAIS here in Washington. Her PhD in history is from Yale as is her Master’s in international relations.

Between 2008 and 2009, Dr. Habeck was the special advisor for strategic planning in the National Security Council staff. As a former armor officer I was particularly attracted by the title of one of your books, Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Habeck.

Mary Habeck:

Tonight what I’m hoping to do is to give you an additional way for understanding the problems that we’re confronting in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, a huge problem that did not start with 9/11 but that was pretty sharply brought to our attention by the events of 9/11.

I was a professor at Yale University at that point, teaching military history, military and strategic history, and I had however, spent the two years before 9/11, learning about Islam, ordinary Islam, not the extremists at all.

And when the attack occurred, I immediately started reading everything I could get my hands on about the extremists in order to understand the people who had carried out that horrific attack.

And what I learned was that for many of my colleagues the problem was not one out there. The problem was in fact one in America. Immediately after 9/11, there was a teach-in held at Yale University in which the brightest minds in the history and political science departments and the law department concluded that the problem we were having and the horrific events of 9/11 were caused by America’s foreign policy and that what had to change was our relationship with the world, that we in some ways deserved what happened.

I had however been reading about ordinary Islam as I mentioned in the 1990s and I recognized the language that was being used by the attackers and I understood the sorts of tropes, the appeals that they were making with this language.

So I started to read very closely the sources for ideology and what I discovered was that we were dealing with a death cult, a cult that has somewhere around .0167% of the Muslim world behind them, but one that is convinced that they can take over the entire religion and convince other Muslims to follow them and if they won’t follow them willingly, they’ll be forced to do it through violence.

So we’ve seen some of that in the Middle East. Every once in a while we hear stories about ISIS, carrying out horrific attacks or massacres. Most of what we focus on is attacks against Americans or our allies. We focus on attacks against Christians or the persecuted, the Yazidis or others.

But in fact, the vast majority of the people being killed by the extremists are other Muslims.

See the rest of her talk…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email