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Book Launch: The Thistle & the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam

, Abramson Family Founders Room, SIS Building

Updated 2/14/13

The United States declared war on terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. More than ten years later, the results are still decidedly mixed. In The Thistle and the Drone, world-renowned author, diplomat, and scholar Akbar Ahmed reveals a tremendously important yet largely unrecognized effect of this campaign: in many nations, it has exacerbated the already-broken relationship between central governments and the tribal societies on their periphery. Ahmed tells us, "The center and the periphery are engaged in a mutually destructive civil war across the globe that has been intensified by the war on terror."
Current conflict in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere is not an inevitable eruption of a "clash of civilizations" between the West and Islam, as many in America would believe. This study demonstrates that the conflict between the center and the periphery, combined with the involvement of the United States, is fueling and spreading those fires, turning the war on terror into a global war on tribal Islam. No one is immune to this violence—neither school children nor congregations of worship. Battered by military or drone strikes one day and suicide bombers the next, tribes on the periphery say, "Every day is like 9/11 for us."

This is the groundbreaking third volume of Ahmed's trilogy examining relations between America and the Muslim world, following Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007) and Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010). Here, Ahmed draws on forty case studies, representing the global span of Islam, where the United States has become directly or indirectly involved in these societies. He provides the social and historical context necessary for understanding how both central governments and the tribal societies on their peripheries have become embroiled in America's war. Beginning with Waziristan and expanding to tribal societies in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere, Ahmed offers a fresh approach to this problem, presenting an unprecedented paradigm for understanding and winning the war on terror.

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. He was the former Pakistani high commissioner to the United Kingdom, the first Distinguished Chair of Middle East Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Among his previous books are Journey into Islam and Journey into America, both published by Brookings, and he is also a published poet and playwright.
School of International Service
Aja Anderson

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