Elaine Sciolino and Eric Schmitt of NYT report that an epic battle has ensued between two formidably wise men, Bruce Hoffman and Marc Sageman, over the state of al-Qaeda. The row started after Hoffman published a scathing review of Sageman’s Leaderless Jihad in Foreign Affairs, and has degenerated into a verbal scuffle with schoolboy arguments like “you’re just jealous ’cause everybody likes me”.
I’ve read both men but wasn’t aware of the scholarly infighting. Thankfully, Jihadica provides an excellent overview:
There’s a lot more agreement between Sageman and Hoffman than the Times piece portrays. Both men accept that there are grassroots Jihadi groups popping up without any operational connection to AQ and both men believe that AQ Central (Bin Laden, Zawahiri, et al) is alive and well in the FATA region of Pakistan.
Dr. McCants doesn’t care much about Sageman’s antics:
As for Sageman’s why-me? posture in the Times article, puh-lease. In his books, Sageman dismisses entire fields of study with a flick of the pen, excoriating colleagues for their lack of scientific rigor. His fulminations would be tolerable if his own scientific practice were rigorous, but it’s not–his datasets are not easy to obtain, his coding of the data is idiosyncratic, and some of his strongest conclusions rest on weak evidence. This is what Hoffman is reacting to in his review of Sageman’s latest book and it is long overdue.