Please join me on this kaleidoscopic tour behind the frontlines of the battle of ideas in the Islamic world. For five years since my first book, Al Qaeda's Great Escape: the Military and the Media on Terror's Trail, I've traveled through the Holy Land, Sahelian Africa, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Indonesia on a quest to understand what Muslims think about America and to discover what motivates young men and women to take up arms against my own nation. This short documentary complements my second book My Brother, My Enemy and represents a window into my efforts to look past blanket suspicions and conspiracy theories.
I've broken down the journey into a three part series of about eight minutes each. (Please click the HD 720 p on the bottom right control and stream the video briefly on pause to view in the very best quality.)
In Part 1, President Barack Obama addresses the "Long Gray Line" at West Point, announcing a new American strategy for the long struggle ahead.
As analysts -- including the University of Maryland's Dr. Steven Kull -- suggest, al Qaeda and like-minded global jihadists are crafting their own narrative to embrace misperceptions and conspiracy theories.
Omar Abbas -- a media executive in Dubai and the son of the notorious Palestinian militant Abu Abbas (Achille Lauro Incident) -- expresses his view that Osama bin Laden still maintains a "Robin Hood"-like appeal among many young and disenfranchised Muslims.
In Part II, entitled "This Land is My Land", we travel to the Holy Land where we meet Arabs and Jews who doubt that a two-state peace deal for Israel and Palestine is even possible. But Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat and Jewish author, Akiva Eldar, (Lords of the Land,) agree that a deal is essential not only for regional peace but for America's own security. We travel with Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers, to the West Bank to witness the situation first hand.
Young Palestinians, frustrated by unmet promises are increasingly siding with the militancy of Hamas, whose senior leader, Khaled Meshal, we meet in Damascus, Syria. The crisis in the Holy Land has become emblematic of a greater struggle across the Islamic world, says Jewish-American anthropologist, Jeff Halper.
Finally, in Part III, entitled, "Osama's Ghost", we travel to Pakistan's northwestern frontier where efforts to eradicate the Taliban's sanctuaries remain stalled. Schooled by Taliban fighters, young jihadists prepare for more war against the United States.
In neighboring Afghanistan, we witness some of the efforts of American soldiers and sailors on the front lines of a battle for Afghan hearts. Misperceptions still abound in this conflict on which President Obama has staked his success as commander-in-chief. Afghan terrorism expert and governor, Lutfullah Mashal, explains how Afghan Taliban leaders have created deep alliances with a global jihadist movement led by al Qaeda.
Finally, British author and politician Rory Stewart (Places in Between) warns us that Pashtun tribesmen often see NATO forces -- despite their good intentions -- as "occupiers." The alliance's effort to project "soft power" while using adequate military might, he insists, can be a self-defeating proposition.