The Quranic Concept of War



Absolutely essential reading if you want to understand what motivates the enemy of humanity: 

The universalism of Islam, in its all-embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political, if not strictly military. . . . The Jihad, accordingly, may be stated as a doctrine of a permanent state of war, not continuous fighting.”2
                                                           — Majid Khadduri

* Take your time for this lengthy but very rewarding essay that puts the Islamic juggernaut in context. Educational!


Political and military leaders are notoriously averse to theory, but if there is a theorist about war who matters, it remains Carl von Clausewitz, whose Vom Kriege(On War) has shaped Western views about war since the middle of the nineteenth century.”3 Both points are likely true and problematic since we find ourselves engaged in war with people not solely imbued with western ideas and values or followers of western military theorists. The Hoover Institution’s Paul Sperry recently stated, “Four years into the war on terror, US intelligence officials tell me there are no baseline studies of the Muslim prophet Muhammad or his ideological or military doctrine found at either the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency, or even the war colleges.”4

Would this be surprising? When it comes to warfighting military audiences tend to focus on the military and power aspects of warfare; the tangibles of terrain, enemy, weather, leadership, and troops; quantifiables such as the number of tanks and artillery tubes—the correlation of forces. Analysts steer toward the familiar rather than the unfamiliar; people tend to think in their comfort zones. The study of ideology or philosophy is often brushed aside, it’s not the “stuff of muddy boots;” it is more cerebral than physical and not action oriented. Planners do not assess the “correlation of ideas.” The practitioners are too busy.

Dr. Antulio Echevarria recently argued the US military does not have a doctrine for war as much as it has a doctrine for operations and battles.5 The military has a deficit of strategic, and, one could add, philosophic thinking. In the war against Islamist terrorism, how many have heard of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Project”?6Is the political philosophy of Ayatollah Khomeini, who was in fact well-grounded in western political theory and rigorously rejected it, studied in our military schools? Are there any implications to his statement in 1981 that “Iran . . . is determined to propagate Islam to the whole world”?7


To understand war, one has to study its philosophy; the grammar and logic of your opponent. Only then are you approaching strategic comprehension. To understand the war against Islamist terrorism one must begin to understand the Islamic way of war, its philosophy and doctrine, the meanings of jihad in Islam—and one needs to understand that those meanings are highly varied and utilitarian depending on the source.

With respect to the war against the global jihad and its associated terror groups, individual terrorists, and clandestine adherents, one should ask if there is a unique method or attitude to their approach to war. Is there a philosophy, or treatise such as Clausewitz’s On War that attempts to form their thinking about war? Is there a document that can be reviewed and understood in such a manner that we may begin to think strategically about our opponent. There is one work that stands out from the many.

The Quranic Concept of War

The Quranic Concept of War, by Brigadier General S. K. Malik of the Pakistani Army provides readers with unequalled insight. Originally published in Pakistan in 1979, most available copies are found in India, or in small non-descript Muslim bookstores.8 One major point to ponder, when thinking about The Quranic Concept of War, is the title itself. The Quran is presumed to be the revealed word of God as spoken through his chosen prophet, Mohammed. According to Malik, the Quran places warfighting doctrine and its theory in a much different category than western thinkers are accustomed to, because it is not a theory of war derived by man, but of God. This is God’s warfighting principles and commandments revealed. Malik’s attempts to distill God’s doctrine for war through the examples of the Prophet. By contrast, the closest that Clausewitz comes to divine presentation is in his discussion of the trinity: the people, the state, and the military. In the Islamic context, the discussion of war is at the level of revealed truth and example, well above theory—God has no need to theorize. Malik notes, “As a complete Code of Life, the Holy Quran gives us a philosophy of war as well. . . . This divine philosophy is an integral part of the total Quranic ideology.”9


In The Quranic Concept of War, Malik seeks to instruct readers in the uniquely important doctrinal aspects of Quranic warfare. The Quranic approach to war is “infinitely supreme and effective . . . [and] points towards the realization of universal peace and justice . . . and makes maximum allowance to its adversaries to co-operate [with Islam] in a combined search for a just and peaceful order.”10 For purposes of this review, the term “doctrine” refers to both religious and broad strategic approaches, not methods and procedures. Malik’s work is a treatise with historical, political, legalistic, and moralistic ramifications on Islamic warfare. It seemingly is without parallel in the western sense of warfare since the “Quran is a source of eternal guidance for mankind.”11

The approach is not new to Islamists and other jihad theorists fighting according to the “Method of Mohammed” or hadith. The lessons learned are recorded


and form an important part of Quranic surah and jihadist’s scholarship.12 Islamic scholars both Muslim and non-Muslim will find much to debate in terms of Malik’s view of jihad doctrine and Quranic warfare. Malik’s work is essentially modern scholarship; although he does acknowledge the classical views of jihad in many respects.13

Malik’s arguments are clearly parochial, often more editorial than scholarly, and his tone is decidedly confident and occasionally supremacist. The reach and influence of the author’s work is not clear although one might believe that given the idealism of his treatise, his approaches to warfare, and the role and ends of “terror” his text may resonate with extremist and radicals prone to use terroristic violence to accomplish their ends. For that reason alone, the book is worth studying.


The preface by Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi, the former Pakistani ambassador to India, offers important insights into Malik’s exposition. In fact, Brohi’s 13-page preface lays the foundation for the books ten chapters. Malik places Quranic warfare in an academic context relative to that used by western theorists. He analyzes the causes and objects of war, as well as war’s nature and dimensions. He then turns attention to the ethics and strategy of warfare. Toward the end of the book he reviews the exercise of Quranic warfare based on the examples of the Prophet Mohammed’s military campaigns and concludes with summary observations. There are important jus en bellum and jus ad bellum implications in the author’s writings, as well as in his controversial ideas related to the means and objectives of war. It is these concepts that warrant the attention of planners and strategist.

Zia-Ul-Haq (1924-88), the former President of Pakistan and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff, opens the book by focusing on the concept of jihad within Islam and explaining it is not simply the domain of the military:

Jehad fi sabilallah is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone.

This book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of military force within the context of the totality that is JEHAD. The professional soldier in a Muslim army, pursuing the goals of a Muslim state, cannot become ‘professional’ if in all his activities he does not take the ‘colour of Allah,’ The nonmilitary citizen of a Muslin state must, likewise, be aware of the kind of soldier that his country must produce and the only pattern of war that his country’s armed forces may wage.14

General Zia states that all Muslims play a role in jihad, a mainstream concept of the Quran, that jihad in terms of warfare is a collective responsibility of the Muslim ummah, and is not restricted to soldiers. General Zia emphasizes how the concept of Islamic military professionalism requires “godly character” in order to be fully achieved. Zia then endorses Malik’s thesis as the “only pattern of war,” or approach to war that an Islamic state may wage.t;/p>


Battling Counter-initiatory Forces

In the preface Ambassador Brohi details what might be startling to many readers. He states that Malik has made “a valuable contribution to Islamic jurisprudence” or Islamic law, and an “analytic restatement of the Quranic wisdom on the subject of war and peace.” Brohi implies that Malik’s discussion, though a valuable new version, is an approach to a theme already well developed.15

Brohi then defines jihad, “The most glorious word in the Vocabulary of Islam is Jehad, a word which is untranslatable in English but, broadly speaking, means ‘striving’, ‘struggling’, ‘trying’ to advance the Divine causes or purposes.” He introduces a somewhat cryptic concept when he explains man’s role in a “Quranic setting” as energetically combating forces of evil or what may be called, “counter-initiatory” forces which are at war with the harmony and the purpose of life on earth.16 For the true Muslin the harmony and purpose in life are only possible through man’s ultimate submission to God’s will, that all will come to know, recognize, and profess Mohammed as the Prophet of God. Man must recognize the last days and acknowledge tawhid, the oneness of God.17

Brohi recounts the classic dualisms of Islamic theology; that the world is a place of struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong, between Haq andNa-Haq (truth and untruth), and between halal and haram (legitimate and forbidden). According to Brohi, it is the duty of man to opt for goodness and reject evil. Brohi appeals to the “greater jihad,” a post-classical jihad doctrine developed by the mystical Sufi order and other Shia scholars.18

Brohi places jihad in the context of communal if not imperial obligation; both controversial formulations:

When a believer sees that someone is trying to obstruct another believer from traveling the road that leads to God, spirit of Jehad requires that such a man who is imposing obstacles should be prevented from doing so and the obstacles placed by him should also be removed, so that mankind may be freely able to negotiate its own path that leads to Heaven.” To do otherwise, “by not striving to clear or straighten the path we [Muslims] become passive spectators of the counter-initiatory forces imposing a blockade in the way of those who mean to keep their faith with God.19

This viewpoint appears to reflect the classic, collective duty within jihad doctrine, to defend the Islamic community from threats—the concept of defensive jihad. Brohi is saying much more than that; however, he is attempting to delineate the duty—the proactive duty—to clear the path for Islam. It is necessary not only to defend the individual believer if he is being hindered in his faith, but also to remove the obstacles of those counter-initiatory forces hindering his Islamic development. This begs the question of what is actually meant by the initiatory forces. The answer is clear to Brohi; the force of initiative is Islam and its Muslim members. “It is the duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled as a matter of defense, to retaliate.”20


This formulation would appear to turn the concept of defense on its head. To the extent that a Muslim may proclaim Islam and proselytize, or Islam, as a faith, seeks to extend its invitation and reach—initiate its advance—but is unable to do so, then that represents an overt threat justifying—a defensive jihad. According to Brohi, this does not result in the “ordinary wars which mankind has been fighting for the sake of either revenge or for securing . . . more land or more booty . . . [this] striving must be [is] for the sake of God. Wars in the theory of Islam are . . . to advance God’s purposes on earth, and invariably they are defensive in character.” In other words, everywhere the message of God and Islam is or can be hindered from expansion, resisted or opposed by some “obstruction” (a term not clearly defined) Islam is intrinsically entitled to defend its manifest destiny.21

While his logic is controversial, Brohi is not unique in his extrapolation. His theory in fact reflects the argument of Rashid Rida, a conservative disciple of the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh. In 1913 Abduh published an article evaluating Islam’s early military campaigns and determined that Islam’s early neighbors “prevented the proclamation of truth” engendering the defense of Islam. “Our religion is not like others that defend themselves . . . but our defense of our religion is the proclamation of truth and the removal of distortion and misrepresentation of it.”22

No Nation is Sovereign

The exegesis of the term jihad is often debated. Some apologists make clear that nowhere in the Quran does the term “Holy War” exist; that is true, but it is also irrelevant. War in Islam is either just or unjust and that justness depends on the ends of war. Brohi, and later Malik, make clear that the ends of war in Islam orjihad are to fulfill God’s divine purpose. Not only should that be a holy purpose, it must be a just war in order to be “Holy War.”23

The next dualism Brohi presents is that of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, the house of submission and the house of war. He describes the latter, as “perpetuating defiance of the Lord.” While explaining that conditions for war in Islam are limited (a constrained set of circumstances) he notes that “in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind.”24 Brohi quotes the Quranic manuscript Surah, al-Tawba:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.25

Acknowledging western critics who believe that Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle with the non-Islamic world, Brohi counters in a clearly dismissive tone by explaining that man is the slave to God, and defying God is treason under Islamic law. Those who defy God should be removed from humanity like a cancerous growth. Islam requires believers “to invite non-believers to the fold of Islam” by using “persuasion” and “beautiful methods.” He continues, “the first duty” of a Muslim


is dawa, a proclamation to conversion by “handsome ways.” It is only after refusing dawa and the invitation to Islam that “believers have no option but in self-defense to wage a war against those threatening aggression.”

Obviously, much turns on how threats and aggression are characterized. It is difficult to understand, however, based on the structure of his argument, that Brohi views non-believers and their states as requiring conversion over time by peaceful means; and when that fails, by force. He is echoing the doctrine of Abd al-Salam Faraj, author of Al-Farida al-Ghaibah, better known as The Neglected Duty, a work that is widely read throughout the Muslim world.26

Finally, Brohi examines the concept of the ummah and the international system. “The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realized within the framework of territorial states.” This is a consistent view that underpins many works on the concept of the Islamic state.27 For Muslims, theummah is a transcendent religious and cultural society united and reflecting the unity (tawhid) of Islam; the idea of one God, indivisible, one community, one belief, and one duty to live and become godly. According to the Prophet, “Ummah participates in this heritage by a set pattern of thought, belief and practice . . . and supplies the spiritual principle of integration of mankind—a principle which is supra-national, supra-racial, supra-linguistic and supra-territorial.”28

With respect to the “law of war and peace in Islam” Brohi writes it “is as old as the Quran itself. . . . ” In his analysis of the law of nations and their international dealings, he emphasizes that in “Islamic international law this conduct [war and peace] is, strictly speaking, regulated between Muslims and non-Muslims, there being, from Islamic perspective, no other nation. . . . ” In other words, war is between Muslims and non-Muslims and not in actuality between states. It is transnational. He adds, “In Islam, of course, no nation is sovereign since Allah alone is the only sovereign in Whom all authority vests.”29 Here Brohi is echoing what Islamic scholars such as Majid Khadduri have described as the “dualism of the universal religion and universal state that is Islam.”30

The Divine Philosophy on War

General Malik begins by categorizing human beings into three archetypes: those who fear Allah and profess the Faith; those who reject the Faith; and those who profess, but are treacherous in their hearts. Examples of the Prophet and the instructions to him by God in his early campaigns should be studied to fully understand these three examples in practice. The author highlights the fact that the “divine philosophy on war” was revealed gradually over a 12 year period, its earliest guidance dealing with the causes and objects of war, while later guidance focused on Quranic strategy, the conduct of war, and the ethical dimensions of warfare.31

In Chapter Three, Malik reviews several key thoughts espoused by western scholars related to the causes of war. He examines the ideologies of Lenin, Geoffery Blainey, Quincy Wright, and Frederick H. Hartman each of whom spoke about war in a historical or material context with respect to the nature of the state system. Malik finds these explanations wanting and turns to the Quran for explanation, “war could only be


waged for the sake of justice, truth, law, and preservation of human society. . . . The central theme behind the causes of war . . . [in] the Holy Quran, was the cause of Allah.”32

The author recounts the progression of revelations by God to the Prophet that “granted the Muslims the permission to fight . . . .” Ultimately, God would compel and command Muslims to fight: “Fight in the cause of Allah.” In his analysis of this surah Malik highlights the fact that “new elements” were added to the causes of war: that in order to fight, Muslims must be “fought first;” Muslims are not to “transgress God’s limits” in the conduct of war; and everyone should understand that God views “tumult and oppression” of Muslims as “worse than slaughter.”33 This oppression was exemplified by the denial of Muslim’s right to worship at the Sacred Mosque by the early Arab Koraish, people of Mecca. Malik describes the situation in detail, “. . . the tiny Muslim community in Mecca was the object of the Koraish tyranny and oppression since the proclamation of Islam. . . . The enemy repression reached its zenith when the Koraish denied the Muslims access to the Sacred Mosque (the Ka’aba) to fulfill their religious obligations. This sacrilegious act amounted to an open declaration of war upon Islam. These actions eventually compelling the Muslims to migrate to Medina twelve years later, in 622 AD. . . .”34

Malik argues that the pagan Koraish tribe had no reason to prohibit Muslim worship, since the Muslims did not impede their form of worship. This historical example helps to further define the concept that “tumult and oppression is worse than slaughter” and as the Quran repeats, “graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Malik also notes the Quran distinguishes those who fight “in the cause of Allah and those who reject Faith and fight in the cause of evil.”35 In terms of Quranic just war theory, war must be waged “only to fight the forces of tyranny and oppression.”36

Challenging Clausewitz’s notion that “policy” provides the context and boundary of war; Malik says it is the reverse, “‘war’ forced policy to define and determine its own parameters” and since that discussion focuses on parochial issues such as national interests, and the vagaries of state to state relations it is a lesser perspective. In the divine context of the Quran war orients on the spread of “justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere.” According to the author war is to be fought aggressively, slaughter is not the worst evil. In the course of war every opportunity for peace should be pursued and reciprocated. That is every remonstrance of peace by the enemies of Islam, but only as prescribed by the Quran’s “clear-cut philosophy and methodology” for preserving peace.37

Understanding the context in which the Quran describes and defines “justice and peace” is important. Malik refers the reader to the battle of Badr to elucidate these principles. There is peace with those pagans who cease hostilities, and war continues with those who refuse. He cites the following surah, “as long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them, for Allah doth love the righteous.”38 Referring to the precedent setting Hodaibayya treaty in the ninth year of the hijra, or pilgrimages to Mecca, Malik outlines how Allah and the Prophet abrogated those treaties with the pagan Meccans.


Pagans who accepted terms voluntarily without a treaty were respected. Those who refused, the Quran directed, were to be slain wherever found. This precedent and “revelations commanded the Muslims to fulfill their treaty commitments for the contracted period but put them under no obligations to renew them.”39 It also established the precedent that Muslims may conclude treaties with non-believers, but only for a temporary period.40 Commenting on western approaches to peace, Malik views such approaches as not standing the “test of time” with no worthwhile role to play even in the future.41 The author’s point is that peace between states has only secular, not divine ends; and peace in an Islamic context is achieved only for the promotion of Islam.

As the Prophet gained control of Mecca he decreed that non-believers could assemble or watch over the Sacred Mosque. He later consolidated power over Arabia and many who had not yet accepted Islam, “including Christians and Jew, [they] were given the option to choose between war and submission.” These non-believers were required to pay a poll-tax or jizya and accept the status of dhimmitude [servitude to Islam] in order to continue practicing their faith. According to Malik the taxes were merely symbolic and insignificant. In summarizing this relationship the author states, “the object of war is to obtain conditions of peace, justice, and faith. To do so it is essential to destroy the forces of oppression and persecution.”42 This view is in keeping with that outlined by Khadduri, “Thejihad, it will be recalled, regarded war as Islam’s instrument to transform the dar al-harb into dar al-Islam . . . in Islamic legal theory, the ultimate objective of Islam is not war per se, but the ultimate establishment of peace.”43

The Nature of War

Malik argues that the “nature and dimension of war” is the greatest single characteristic of Quranic warfare and distinguishes it from all other doctrines. He acknowledges Clausewitz’s contribution to the understanding of warfare in its moral and spiritual context. The moral forces of war, as Clausewitz declared, are perhaps the most important aspects in war. Reiterating that Muslims are required to wage war “with the spirit of religious duty and obligation,” the author makes it clear that in return for fighting in the way of Allah, divine, angelic assistance will be rendered to jihad warriors and armies. At this point The Quranic Concept of War moves beyond the metaphysical to the supernatural element, unlike anything found in western doctrine. Malik highlights the fact that divine assistance requires “divine standards” on the part of the warrior mujahideen for the promise of Allah’s aid to be met.44

The author then builds upon the jihad warrior’s role in the realms of divine cause, purpose, and support, to argue that in order for the Muslim warrior to be unmatched, to be the bravest and the most fearless; he can only do so through the correct spiritual preparation, beginning with total submission to God’s will. TheQuran reveals that the moral forces are the “real issues involved in the planning and conduct of war.”45 Malik quotes the Quran: “Fighting is prescribed for you . . . and ye dislike a thing which is good for you and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

The Quran instructs the jihad warrior “to fight . . . with total devotion and never contemplate a flight from the battlefield for fear of death.” The jihad warrior,


who dies in the way of Allah, does not really die but lives on in heaven. Malik emphasizes this in several Quranic verses. “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. . . . Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the Presence of the Lord.” Malik also notes that “Not equal are those Believers . . . Allah has granted a higher grade to those who strive and fight . . . .”46

The Quranic dimensions of war are “revolutionary,” conferring on the jihad warrior a “personality so strong and overbearing as to prove themselves equal to, indeed dominate, every contingency in war.”47 This theme of spiritual preparation and pure belief has appeared in the prolific jihad writings of Usaman Dan Fodio in the early 1800s and repeated by the Saudi writer Abdallah al-Qadiri in 1992, both emphasizing the role of the “greater jihad.” Becoming a purer and more disciplined Muslim serves the cause of Islam better in peace and war.48

Malik, like Brohi, acknowledges critics who say that Islam has been “spread by the sword,” but he responds that Islam is spread through restraint in war and in “the use of force [that] have no parallel.” He then argues that restraint in warfare is a “two-sided affair.” Where the enemy (not defined) fails to exercise restraints and commits “excesses” (not defined) then “the very injunction of preserving and promoting peace and justice demands the use of limited force . . . . Islam permits the use of the sword for such purpose.”49 Since Malik is speaking in the context of active war and response to the “excesses of war” it is unclear what he means by “limited force” or response.

The author expands on the earlier ideas that moral and spiritual forces are predominate in war. He contrasts Islamic strategic approaches with western theories of warfare oriented toward the application of force, primarily in the military domain, as opposed to Islam where the focus is on a broader application of power. Power in Malik’s context is the power of jihad, which is total, both in the conduct of total war and in its supporting strategy; referred to as “total or grand strategy.” Malik provides the following definition, “Jehad is a continuous and never-ending struggle waged on all fronts including political, economic, social, psychological, domestic, moral and spiritual to attain the objectives of policy.”50 The power of jihad brings with it the power of God.

The Quranic concept of strategy is therefore divine theory. The examples and lessons to be derived from it may be found in the study of the classics, inspired by such events as the battles of the Prophet, e.g., Badr, Khandaq, Tabuk, and Hudaibiyya. Malik again references the divine assistance of Allah and the aid of angelic hosts. He refers to the battles of Hunain and Ohad as instances where seeming defeat was reversed and Allah “sent down Tranquility into the hearts of believers, that they may add Faith to their Faith.” Malik argues that divine providence steels the jihadi in war, “strengthens the hearts of Believers.” Calmness of faith, “assurance, hope, and tranquility” in the face of danger is the divine standard.51

Strike Terror into their Hearts

Malik uses examples to demonstrate that Allah will strike “terror into the hearts of Unbelievers.”52 At this point he begins to develop his most controversial and conjectural Quranic theory related to warfare—the role of terror. Readers need to understand that the author is thinking and writing in strategic terms, not in the vernacular


of battles or engagements. Malik continues, “when God wishes to impose His will on his enemies, He chooses to do so by casting terror into their hearts.”53 He cites another verse, “against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts) of the enemies of Allah . . . .” Malik’s strategic synthesis is specific: “the Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, known or hidden, while guarding ourselves from being terror-stricken by the enemy.”54 Terror is an effect; the end-state.

Malik identifies the center of gravity in war as the “human heart, [man’s] soul, spirit, and Faith.” Note that Faith is capitalized, meaning more than simple moral courage or fortitude. Faith in this sense is in the domain of religious and spiritual faith; this is the center of gravity in war. The main weapon against this Islamic concept of center of gravity is “the strength of our own souls . . . [keeping] terror away from our own hearts.” In terms of achieving decisive and direct decisions preparing for this type of battlefield first requires “creating a wholesome respect for our Cause”—the cause of Islam. This “respect” must be seeded in advance of war and conflict in the minds of the enemies. Malik then introduces the informational, psychological, or perception management concepts of warfare. Echoing Sun Tzu, he states, that if properly prepared, the “war of muscle,” the physical war, will already be won by “the war of will.”55 “Respect” therefore is achieved psychologically by, as Brohi suggested earlier, “beautiful” and “handsome ways” or by the strategic application of terror.

When examining the theme of the preparatory stage of war, Malik talks of the “war of preparation being waged . . . in peace,” meaning that peacetime preparatory activities are in fact part of any war and “vastly more important than the active war.” This statement should not be taken lightly, it essentially means that Islam is in a perpetual state of war while peace can only be defined as the absence of active war. Malik argues that peace-time training efforts should be oriented on the active war(s) to come, in order to develop the Quranic and divine “Will” in the mujahid. When armies and soldiers find limited physical resources they should continue and emphasize the development of the “spiritual resources” as these are complimentary factors and create synergy for future military action.

Malik’s most controversial dictum is summarized in the following manner: in war, “the point where the means and the end meet” is in terror. He formulates terror as an objective principal of war; once terror is achieved the enemy reaches his culminating point. “Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose . . . .” Malik’s divine principal of Islamic warfare may be restated as “strike terror; never feel terror.” The ultimate objective of this form of warfare “revolves around the human heart, [the enemies] soul, spirit, and Faith.”56 Terror “can be instilled only if the opponent’s Faith is destroyed . . . . It is essential in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate [the enemies] Faith.” Those who are firm in their religious conviction are immune to terror, “a weak Faith offers inroads to terror.” Therefore, as part of preparations for jihad, actions will be oriented on weakening the non-Islamic’s “Faith,” while strengthening the Islamic’s. What that weakening or “dislocation” entails in practice remains ambiguous. Malik concludes, “Psychological dislocation is temporary; spiritual dislocation is permanent.” The soul of man can only be touched by terror.57


Malik then moves to a more academic discussion of ten general categories inherent in the conduct of Islamic warfare. These categories are easily translatable and recognizable to most western theorists; planning, organization, and conduct of military operations. In this regard, the author offers no unique insight. His last chapter is used to restate his major conclusions, stressing that “The Holy Quran lays the highest emphasis on the preparation for war. It wants us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost. The test . . . lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of our enemies.”58

Evaluation of The Quranic Concept of War

While the extent and reach of Malik’s thesis cannot be confirmed in the Islamic world neither can it be discounted. Though controversial, his citations are accurately drawn from Islamic sources and consistent with classical Islamic jurisprudence.59 As Malik notes, “Quranic military thought is an integral and inseparable part of the total Quranic message.”60 Policy planners and strategists striving to understand the nature of the “Long War” should consider Malik’s writings in that light.

Malik makes clear that the Quran provides the doctrine, guidance, and examples for the conduct of Quranic or Islamic warfare. “It gives a strategy of war that penetrates deep down to destroy the opponents’ faith and render his physical and mental faculties totally ineffective.”61 Malik’s thesis focuses on the fact that the primary reason for studying the Quran is to gain a greater understanding of these concepts and insights. The Prophet Mohammed, as the Quran attests, changed the intent and objective of war—raising the sphere of war to a Godly plane and purpose; the global proclamation and spread of Islam. This obviously rejects the Clausewitizian politics and policy dyad: that war is simply policy of the state.

Quranic warfare is “just war.” It is jus en bellum and jus ad bellum if fought “in the way of Allah” for divine purposes and the ends of Islam. This contradicts the western philosophy of just war theory. Another important connotation is that jihad is a continuum, across peace and war. It is a constant and covers the spectrum from grand strategy to tactical; collective to the individual; from the preparatory to the execution phases of war.

Malik highlights the fact that the preservation of life is not the ultimate end or greatest good in Quranic warfare. Ending “tumult and oppression,” achieving the war aims of Islam through jihad is the desired end. Dying in this cause brings direct reward in heaven for the mujahid, sacrifice is sacred. It naturally follows that death is not feared in Quranic warfare; indeed, “tranquility” invites God’s divine aid and assistance. The “Base” of the Quranic military strategy is spiritual preparation and “guarding ourselves against terror.”62 Readers may surmise that the training camps of al Qaeda (The Base) were designed as much for spiritual preparation as military. One needs only to recall the example of Mohammed Atta’s “last night” preparations.63

The battleground of Quranic war is the human soul—it is religious warfare. The object of war is to dislocate and destroy the [religious] “Faith” of the enemy. These principals are consistent with objectives of al Qaeda and other radical Islamic organizations. “Wars in the theory of Islam are . . . to advance God’s purposes on earth, and invariably they are defensive in character.”64 Peace treaties in theory are


temporary, pragmatic protocols. This treatise acknowledges Islam’s manifest destiny and the approach to achieving it.

General Malik’s thesis in The Quranic Concept of War can be fundamentally described as “Islam is the answer.” He makes a case for war and the revitalization of Islam. This is a martial exegesis of the Quran. Malik like other modern Islamists are, at root, romantics. They focus on the Quran for jihad a doctrine that harkens back to the time of the Prophet and the classical-jihadist period when Islam enjoyed its most successful military campaigns and rapid growth.

The book’s metaphysical content borders on the supernatural and renders “assured expectations” that cannot be evaluated or tested in the arena of military experience. Incorporating “divine intervention” into military campaigns, while possibly advantageous, cannot be calculated as an overt force multiplier. Critics may also point to the ahistorical aspect of Malik’s thesis; that Islam is in a state of constant struggle with the non-Islamic world. There are examples of Muslim armies serving side by side with Christian armies in combat and campaigns are numerous, with Iraq being but a recent example.65

Malik’s appraisal of the Quran as a source of divine revelation for victory in war can likewise be criticized by historical example. Were it fully true and operationalized then the 1,400 years of Islamic military history might demonstrate something beyond its present state. War and peace in Islam has ebbed and flowed as has the conduct of war across all civilizations, ancient and modern. Islam as an independent military force has been in recession since 1492, although the latest jihadist’s threat of terror against the international system is, at least in part, a possible reaction to this long recession. Malik’s thesis essentially recognizes this historical pattern; indeed, Malik’s book may be an attempt to reverse this trend. The events of 9/11 may be seen as a validation of Malik’s thesis regarding the spiritual preparation and the use of terror. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were intended to seed “respect” (fear) in the minds of Islam’s enemies. These acts were not only directed at Western non-believers, but also the Muslim leaders who “profess the faith but are treacherous in their hearts” (allies and supporters of the United States). The barbarity of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and others in Iraq reflect a focus on extreme terror designed to wilt the will of Islam’s enemies.

Malik and Brohi both emphasize the defensive nature of jihad in Islam, but this position appears to be more a defense of a manifest destiny inevitably resulting in conflict. In their rendering of jihad both, not surprisingly, owe an intellectual debt to the Pakistani Islamist theorist, Abu al-Ala al-Mawdudi. Al-Mawdudi is an important intellectual precursor to the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, and other modern Islamic revivalists. As al-Mawdudi notes, “Islamic jihad is both offensive and defensive” oriented on liberating man from humanistic tyranny.66

The author’s most controversial and, perhaps, most noteworthy assertion, is the distinction of “terror” as an ends rather than as a means to an end. The soul can only be touched by terror. Malik’s divine principal of war may be summarized in the dictum “strike terror; never feel terror.” Yet, he does not describe any specific method of delivering terror into the heart of Islam’s enemies. His view of terror seems to conflict with his earlier, limited, discussion of the concept of restraint in warfare and what actually


constitutes “excesses” on the part of an enemy. It also conflicts with the character and nature of response that the author says is demanded. Malik leaves many of these pertinent issues undefined under a veneer of legitimating theory.

In spite of certain ambiguities and theoretical weaknesses, this work should be studied and valued for its insight and analysis relate to jihadists’ concepts and the asymmetric approach to war that radical Muslims may adapt and execute. With respect to global jihad terrorism, as the events of 9/11 so vividly demonstrated, there are those who believe and will exercise the tenets of The Quranic Concept of War.


1. Brigadier S. K. Malik, The Quranic Concept of War (Lahore, Pakistan: Associated Printers, 1979). Quranic War or Quranic Warfare refers to Malik’s treatment in his book.

2. Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins Press, 1955), p. 64.

3. R. D. Hooker, “Beyond Vom Kriege: The Character and Conduct of Modern War,” Parameters, 35 (Summer 2005), 4.

4. Paul Sperry, “The Pentagon Breaks the Islam Taboo,” FrontPage Magazine, 14 December 2005,

5. Antulio Echevarria, Towards an American Way of War (Carlisle, Pa.: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, March 2004).

6. Patrick Poole, “The Muslim Brotherhood ‘Project,’” FrontPage Magazine, 11 May 2006,

7. Farhand Rajaee, Islamic Values and World View: Khomeyni on Man the State and International Politics,” (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1983), p 71.

8. Irfan Yusuf, “Theories on Islamic Books You Wouldn’t Read About,” Canberra Times, 21 July 2005, opinion&story_id=410105&y=2005&m=7.

9. Malik, pp. I-ii.

10. Ibid., p. 1.

11. Ibid., pp. I-ii.

12. See for example the discussion by Dr. Mary R. Habeck, “Jihadist Strategies in the War on Terrorism,” The Heritage Foundation, 8 November 2004,

13. David Cook, Understanding Jihad, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2005). There is approximately 1,400 years of jihad scholarship beginning with Mohammed and his military campaigns. Classical approaches to jihad as described by Mohammed’s successors, Abu Bakr for example, and the challenges presented by the struggles of succession to Mohammed.

14. Malik “Forward.”

15. Ibid., “Preface,” p. I.

16. Ibid., p. I. Note the Christian concept of the Trinity contained in the Nicene Creed is considered polytheistic according to Islam. The Trinity is not tawhid.

17. John Esposito, Islam, the Straight Path (3d ed.; New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 12-14, 89.

18. Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 72; Khadduri, pp. 65, 70-72; Cook, Understanding Jihad, pp. 35-39.

19. Brohi, “Preface,” p. ii.

20. Ibid., p. iii.

21. Ibid., p. iii.

22. Cook, pp. 95-96. Cook places these concepts of jihad doctrine in the lineage of contemporary and radical theory.

23. The indexed term for jihad is redirected to the term “Holy War” in this classic book of Islamic law or sharia by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller, ed. and trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Beltsville, Md.: Amana Publication, 1997).

24. Malik, “Preface,” p. v.

25. Ibid., p. vii.

26. Cook, p. 107; Christoper Henzel, “The Origins of al Qaeda’s Ideology: Implications for US Strategy,” Parameters, 35 (Spring 2005), 69-80.

27. Ishtiaq Ahmed, The Concept of an Islamic State: An Analysis of the Ideological Controversy in Pakistan (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).


28. Malik, “Preface,” p. x. While in the Western tradition the state is viewed as a territorial and political body, based on “temporal elements such as shared memory, language, race, or the mere choice of its members.” Khomeini rejected this view, seeing the secular, political state and nationalism as Western constructs of imperialistic design to damage the cohesion of the ummah and impede the “advancement of Islam.” Rajaee, pp. 7, 67-71.

29. Ibid., p. x.

30. Khadduri, p. 63.

31. Malik, p. 6.

32. Ibid., p. 20.

33. Ibid., pp. 20-21. (Baqara: 190).

34. Malik, p. 11.

35. Ibid., p. 22. (Baqara: 217) and (Nissaa: 76).

36. Ibid., p. 23.

37. Ibid., p. 29.

38. Malik, p. 29. (Tauba: 7).

39. Ibid., p. 31.

40. Khadduri, p. 212. Jurists disagree on the allowable duration of treaties, the operative concept is that the dar al-Harb must be reduced to dar al-Islam over time.

41. Malik, p. 27.

42. Ibid., pp. 33-34.

43. Khadduri, p. 141.

44. Malik, p. 40

45. Ibid., pp. 37-38. (Baqara: 216).

46. Ibid., pp. 42-44. (Al-I-Imran: 169-70) and (Nissa: 95).

47. Ibid., pp. 42-44.

48. Cook, pp. 77, 124.

49. Malik, p. 49.

50. Ibid., p. 54.

51. Ibid., p. 57.

52. Malik, p. 57.

53. Ibid., p. 57.

54. Ibid., p. 58.

55. Ibid., p. 58.

56. Ibid., pp. 58-59.

57. Ibid., p. 60.

58. Ibid., p. 144.

59. Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Weiner Publishers, 1996), pp. 44-51, 128.

60. Malik, p. 3.

61. Ibid., p. 146.

62. Ibid., p.58.

63. “In Hijacker’s Bags, a Call to Planning, Prayer and Death,” Washington Post, 28 September 2001.

64. Malik, “Preface,” p. iii.

65. Four notable examples are the Crimean War where French, British and Ottoman Forces allied against the Russians; Fuad Pasha of the Ottoman Army served as a coalition partner with French Army during the 1860 Rebellion in Syria; more recently Muslim Arab and Kabyle soldiers served in the Harkis of the French Army in the French-Algerian War; and, of course, today in Iraq. Malik would address some of these events as alliances of convenience serving Islam’s interests in accord with the Quran and Sharia Law, others as takfir or treason.

66. Cook, pp. 99-103. Peters, p. 130.

The Reviewer: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Myers is the Senior Army Advisor to the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. A graduate of the US Military Academy he holds a Master of Arts from Tulane University. In 2004 he completed a Senior Army Fellowship at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. Previous assignments include Army Section Chief, US Military Group, Argentina. He also served as Chief of the South America Division and Senior Military Analyst for Colombia at the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Review Essay

 Nuclear Dilemma


These two books, in very different ways, are of great value for anyone who wishes to sort out the complexities of the nuclear confrontations in Asia. Arpit Rajain’s hefty monograph, Nuclear Deterrence in Southern Asia: China, India, and Pakistan, amounts to an Indian scholar’s skeptical questioning of the “mantra” one hears so very often from most Indian and Pakistani strategists (often phrased in virtually identical terms), that South Asian mutual nuclear deterrence can work every bit as well as deterrence between Washington and Moscow. Drawing on a very extensive range of literature, Rajain compares India-Pakistani crisis behavior since the 1998 nuclear tests with the Cuban missile crisis, and with the Sino-Soviet crisis on the Ussuri in 1969, arguing the minimal nuclear deterrence is not at all guaranteed to hold each side to the constraints of limited war.

On such issues of the viability of deterrence, there has always been a debate between the analysts who attach great importance to the ethnic and historical peculiarities of each of the nuclear powers, and those who argued that the nuclear problem basically had to be seen the same way in Moscow and Beijing as in Washington (with the important difference being that the communist dictatorships could pretend to see things differently), and then must again be seen the same way in Delhi or Islamabad.

By the latter view, every serious state has to be aware of the enormous destruction that nuclear weapons could inflict (the “counter-value” impact), and also aware of the possibility that nuclear weapons might under some circumstances facilitate a military victory (the “counterforce” effect). By the former view, one must first read all the statements on strategy issued by any other nuclear power, before concluding that such a power sees things in at all the same way that we do.

Drawing in a lot of Cold War history, Rajain somewhat straddles this kind of debate, noting various arguments that have been made about how Chinese traditions and “strategic culture” might affect Chinese nuclear strategy, but also noting the hard realities of nuclear weapons that Beijing might inevitably have to accept. For anyone wishing a wide-ranging review of the history of nuclear confrontations, as the backdrop for the India-Pakistan standoff, this book amounts to a well-researched and well-written introduction.

The book is intended to cover China as well as South Asia, but one comes away from the book with the impression that Indian policy is not at all fixated on a nuclear confrontation with Beijing (even if the Chinese nuclear arsenal was always the official Indian excuse for moving to the bomb), but instead on the confrontation with Pakistan. While China may have cooperated with Pakistani nuclear development,


Beijing has been surprisingly detached and neutral in recent crises in South Asia, and has markedly improved its relations with India.

Given that China is one of the countries featured in the book, it is surprising that no attention is given to possible nuclear crisis scenarios involving confrontations with the United States over Taiwan, or confrontations arising out of the nuclear plans of North Korea.

China’s Nuclear Future is a collection of papers delivered at a conference convened by the Air Force Institute for National Security Studies in 2003, and it offers the deepest publicly-available analysis of Chinese strategic thinking and nuclear program evolution. While a number of the chapters again introduce some of the old assumptions that Chinese thinking might somehow be culturally different, along the lines of the early Maoist statements dismissing the importance of nuclear weapons, the authors move ahead fairly rapidly to demonstrate how nuclear weapons are indeed taken very seriously in Beijing, and the variety of ways that they might be taken seriously. Appropriate note is taken of the possibility that American developments of missile defenses might frighten China into a substantial augmentation of its nuclear forces, and several of the authors closely examine how Chinese nuclear weapons might play a role in a crisis involving Taiwan.

The chapter by Evan Medeiros interestingly shows how the general liberalization and loosening of the regime in China has made a more open discussion of military matters possible, including even suggestions of a deviation from China’s long-standing “no-first-use” policy. Yet, setting aside this kind of wider and more open discussion regarding possible “battlefield” uses of nuclear weapons (much of it mirroring decades of similar discussions in the United States), Medeiros concludes that Beijing’s policy has not yet moved away from no-first-use.

The final chapter by Brad Roberts offers a very nuanced analysis of some alternatives for the evolution of the Chinese nuclear arsenal, with the choices to an important degree being shaped by what the United States does.

The book was published in 2006, but has relatively little discussion of how China sees the North Korean nuclear program, or of how China might have to adjust to all the outside world moves that may come in response to that program. Does Beijing welcome Pyongyang’s nuclear program as a distraction and embarrassment for the United States? Or does it fear the unpredictability of Kim Jong-il’s decisions almost as much as the rest of the world, and does it have to fear the possibility that North Korea’s actions will lead to further nuclear proliferation in East Asia?

Leaving aside our current distraction with North Korea, the China’s Nuclear Future collection is extremely valuable for all the arguments it pulls together. Compared to the Rajain book which, reaching over four decades into the past, more broadly and abstractly discusses grand triangles of nuclear confrontation, this collection of very expert authors specifically addresses recent developments in Chinese nuclear choices, offering evidence for both optimism and pessimism.

Both books are valuable for the extensive literature they draw on and cite. And they nicely complement each other in their differences of perspective, not just Indian versus American, but macroscopic versus more microscopic.



Bolt, Paul J., and Albert S. Willner, eds. China’s Nuclear Future. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005.

Rajain, Arpit. Nuclear Deterrence in Southern Asia: China, India, and Pakistan. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2005.

The Reviewer: Dr. George H. Quester is a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. He is a graduate of Columbia College, MIT, and Harvard (M.A., Ph.D.). Dr. Quester  has taught at Cornell, Harvard, UCLA, the National War College, and the US Naval Academy.

Review Essay

 China and Taiwan’s Differences


Of all the “flashpoints” in today’s world, none poses more of a direct threat to international peace than the Taiwan Strait.  The plethora of challenges facing Taiwan-China relations are splendidly assessed in two recent additions to the world of books; Richard C. Bush’s Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait and Bernard D. Cole’s Taiwan Security: History and Prospects.

These books are excellent companion volumes that should be read together by serious students of the political and security dynamics of relations between Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, and the United States. Both authors are established experts in their fields and neither brings partisan or ideological bias to the treatment of the subject.

Richard Bush has devoted a career in policy, law-making, and academic study to the political dynamics among the three countries. He served as a member of a Congressional staff on the House International Relations Committee, studied in Taiwan, served on the National Intelligence Council and Congressional Research Service (NIC/CRS), and was the director of the American Institute in Taiwan. The latter organization is the unofficial representative of US interests in Taiwan established by Congress in 1979, in a bi-partisan reaction to President Carter terminating US relations with the Republic of China (ROC) over Taiwan.

Bud Cole is a career Navy officer with a Ph.D. in security issues who spent much of his career in the Asia-Pacific region. Cole served on Taiwan, has been in the middle of the sometimes tense standoff in the Taiwan Strait on-board US Navy ships, and possesses plenty of experience in military and security relations with the PRC.

As the review will explain in more detail, neither book is really capable of standing alone. They each have enough weaknesses that they should be read together. If the reader is deeply immersed in Taiwan politics and understands the secu-


rity issues well, perhaps Bush’s book, Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait should be read first. It is packed with detail on domestic politics related to Taiwan and provides a detailed explanation of the genesis of the political challenges in that democracy. For the reader with a more general understanding of the political and security situation, or who wants a handy primer on the issues, it is best to start with Cole’s book.

Bush begins by reminding the reader of an important fact: “People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are socially and culturally the same.” The “green” political alliance on Taiwan, made up of current President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and former President Lee Teng-hui’s Taiwan Solidarity Union (TRU) at times tend to identify “Taiwanese” culture as unique and different from that of mainland China. They have both advocated the idea of an “independent Taiwan identity” as a factor in domestic politics. Of course, if one travels to Taipei, many of the original treasures of successive Chinese dynasties are sitting in the re-created “Palace Museum.” Nationalist President Chiang Kai-shek took these things with him when he fled the mainland in 1949, setting up the capitol of the Republic of China in Taipei after the Communists won the civil war. Cynics (and this reviewer is among them) might ask why the articles have not been shipped back to the mainland if the culture and identity of the people on Taiwan is so different and unique.

Bush also reminds the reader that the main problem between the Communists on the mainland and the political parties on Taiwan is the absence of a direct dialogue, which only aggravates mutual suspicion. Today the main parties on Taiwan are the DPP and TSU, generally categorized as favoring a more independent stance or “pro-independence” (from China), described above; the People’s First Party (PFP) and the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party (KMT), the two parties that generally favor some future unification or confederation with the mainland; and the New Party, which generally supports the idea that China and Taiwan are one country and should reunite.

Bush’s target audience is United States’ decisionmakers, whom he believes must understand why the Taiwan situation is so intractable. Ironically, in his 1947 personal statement as Special Representative of the President (Truman) to the negotiations between the Nationalists and the Communists after WWII, General George C. Marshall summed up the situation in much the same manner as Bush. Marshall opined, “The greatest obstacle to peace has been the complete, almost overwhelming suspicion with which the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang regard each other.”

Bush’s explanation of the basis for this mistrust is the nature of politics on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. In the mainland, “policy is refracted through a personalized leadership system in which the principal officeholders must build a consensus for their initiatives.” In Taiwan, the democracy that developed after the brutal dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek is torn by arguments over how Taiwan’s sovereignty should be recognized and a deep rift between Chinese who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries and those who arrived with Chiang and the Nationalists after 1947. Bush provides an excellent account of the history of this process. The author believes, “The political enmity between these two groups is so deep that young Taiwanese, the descendants of the people who got there in the 16th and 17th centuries, refer


to the post-World War Two KMT regime and the newly arrived mainland Chinese as colonial rulers.”

Bush examines all of the policy documents and initiatives that are the topic of discussion between China, Taiwan, and the United States. He mentions the “Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 (TRA), the “Three Communiqués’ (between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, when each side outlined its views, and President Reagan’s “Six Assurances” to Taiwan about arms sales and US support for the island. He covers the policy proposals between China and Taiwan, like the “1992 Consensus in Singapore” and Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s “Eight Points.” Unfortunately, the author does not provide these policy utterances in an appendix. Thus, the reader who is not intimately familiar with the history of the region is lost. In addition, although Bush mentions the missile crisis of 1995 and 1996, when the US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups off Taiwan, there is no detailed follow-up regarding the security situation.

His recommendations for US policy are realistic, even if they are not encouraging. Bush suggests that the United State has only a limited role to play in the political dynamic related to the Taiwan Strait. He discourages attempts to act as an intermediary and argues that, at best, Washington can be an “intellectual facilitator” by “privately describing for one side the views of the other.” Here, this reviewer believes Bush has reached too far. Both sides have regular contacts at the official and unofficial levels, such as government-sponsored academic institutions, think tanks, and trade and cultural organizations. All of which can explain themselves adequately, in their own language.

At the beginning of his work, Cole includes some of the key wording found in communiqués and bilateral statements between governments. He has a concise description of the Taiwan Relations Act, even if the legislation is not there, and includes Reagan’s “Six Assurances to Taiwan” on arms sales from 1982, and Jiang Zemin’s “Eight Conditions” for unification from 1995. The book started out as a National Defense University monograph, so it is relatively short. Nonetheless, it provides a comprehensive assessment of the military forces on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Unfortunately, it is a bleak assessment that catalogues significant improvements in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with the accompanying problems for United States forces and for the armed forces of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Regarding naval forces, Cole concludes, “PLA Navy planners are almost certainly planning to overcome not just . . . the Taiwan military but the United States Navy” with a robust submarine force, to which China keeps adding new boats. In his analysis of surface warfare, Cole thinks that the PLA Navy would be effective against Taiwan’s forces, even if the United States were to intervene. However, Cole has serious reservations about the PLA Navy’s ability to counter enemy air power. The author concludes that the maritime balance of power in the Taiwan Strait in 2005 “rests with the PRC.”

As for China’s force projection capability, Cole’s judgment is that the PLA Navy has not built a robust “underway replenishment” force. It is therefore not a true force projection Navy. Instead, it has secured some potential port facilities in places that could support operations along the Indian Ocean and west of the Malacca Strait.


The author believes it is positioning itself to be able to protect China’s major sea lanes of communication, in an effort to support its energy needs.

In terms of air power, Cole’s analysis indicates that the PLA Air Force has made steady improvement over the past decade and, probably, has eroded Taiwan’s air advantage. As is the case with naval forces, he concludes, “Geography, force modernization, and force size favor mainland airpower.” Much of China’s recent improvement related to aircraft has been with Russian help, but weapons, avionics, and fire control systems have come from America’s European allies.

Despite these advantages, Cole believes “China’s ground forces face a significant problem when arriving on the battlefield against Taiwan’s Army.” Ground combat against Taiwan would require a major amphibious invasion supported by special operation and airborne forces. The author concludes that any ground combat against Taiwan “would be expensive” should Taiwan’s forces put up a determined defense.

Unfortunately, Cole is not sanguine about the likelihood of Taiwan’s Army and Marine Corps putting up that “determined defense.” He raises questions about Taiwan’s integration of its forces into a joint organization (something China is currently mastering). The author sees various weaknesses in joint planning and operations on Taiwan. In addition, Cole reports of “low morale throughout Taiwan’s military” and a significant reluctance in the civil population to support military spending. He concludes his assessment with the warning that Taiwan’s military capability is declining and there is not much popular will for a stronger deterrent force. The author gives the reader an excellent “time-distance” factor chart to show why, even if the United States were to lend assistance, without a much stronger joint-force, Taiwan would be in trouble.

Cole’s prescription for Taiwan is to “reverse the decline in its military spending, increase the professional skill of its military, and shore up the will of its civilian government and people.”

These are excellent books and they provide the reader with a grasp of the historical, political, and security issues impacting the Taiwan Strait. They are perhaps the best two books this reviewer has seen in a decade. Any American military leader or politician should read both before he or she tries to tackle the many diverse and convoluted issues impacting the region. In addition, as Marshall advised, the two sides must trust each other. It is also critical to remember that the United States should not try to be an intermediary.


Bush, Richard C. Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2005.

Cole, Bernard D. Taiwan’s Security: History and Prospects. New York: Routledge, 2006.

The Reviewer: Colonel Larry M. Wortzel, USA Ret., served his last military position as Director of the Strategic Studies Institute at the US Army War College. He served two tours of duty as a military attaché at the US Embassy in China. Following retirement he was Director, Asian Studies Center and later Vice President for Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Colonel Wortzel has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Hawaii and is a graduate of the Army War College. He resides in Williamsburg, Virginia, and continues to consult on a variety of security issues related to China and Asia.

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