Michael Vlahos, a principal analyst at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., offers a view of the 9/11 war that illuminates how violent conflicts connect to a group's "sacred" ritual celebration of identity in "Fighting Identity—Sacred War and World Change" (Praeger Security International, 2008).
"When globalization tears down old ways of life, the demand for a new identity runs high," Vlahos explains. "Non-state communities and movements fight passionately to realize identity, and it is here that war becomes sacred, its narrative entwined at the root of new human belonging." The "non-state actor" can have great power—combat power, and Vlahos proposes that this is the force of world change, of history; a force that can take on and take down even great nations.
The United States has confronted resistant non-state identity as a global threat, and in "Fighting Identity," Vlahos shows how this approach is suppressing world change. Vlahos argues that America's untiring efforts against non-state communities and movements only accelerate the very change we most fear. "Like Rome we become a critical participant in the next human transformation," he says. He offers a way ahead for the U.S., "a path that is not rooted in counterinsurgency and will not weaken us."
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, says "Fighting Identity," is "another important and original contribution in helping Americans to understand how their conscious and unconscious national beliefs affect their strengths, vulnerabilities, and possibilities in meeting this era's threats." Antonio Echevarria, the U.S. Army War College's director of research, says that Vlahos' analysis is, "a powerful study of the generative force of narrative in armed conflict. It might well change the way we look at warfare and the communities that engage in it."
Vlahos is a National Security Studies Fellow in APL's National Security Analysis Department, which conducts strategic assessments for the Department of Defense to inform government leaders. He is the guest of honor at a private reception celebrating the book on Feb. 5, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. For more on the book visit: www.greenwood.com/catalog/C34845.aspx.