Robert Spencer in his Emory Wheel commentary does NOT know about what he's talking. He does not KNOW Islam or JIHAD. He only knows to look through Muslim literature in order to find inflammatory, controversial, and polemic topics.
Citing Muslim scholars doesn't present a context or explanation for Jihad. Nor does it establish the conceptual foundation upon which JIHAD exists in Islam. Why doesn't Spencer do this?
Imam Taqidin an Nabhani (rha), the grandson of sheikhul Islam Yusuf an Nabhani (rha) and a prominent and preminent Islamic legal scholar and leader, provided groundbreaking legal scholarship on the matters of Islamic governance, politics, Islamic constitutionalism, etc. in the latter 1/2 of the 20th century CE. He explained the meaning of jihad from its doctrinal origin and conceptual foundation in today's reality.
Allah (SWT) fulfilled his promise to mankind by providing a final messenger and a book of revelation which would be preserved indefinitely. The final messenger of Allah, Muhammad (saaw), successfully completed his mission of carrying the message of God to mankind through the Muslim people. Now the onus is upon the Muslim people to carry the message of God to the rest of mankind indefinitely. It can be carried individually. Yet it is best carried with the assets, resources, and protection of a society and state.
During the time of Muhammad (saaw), Muhammad (saaw) established treaties with nonMuslims which stipulated the permission of Muslims to explain Islam to people. Many nonMuslim tribes and kingdoms permitted it and they were not fought (Christian Abysinnia, Jewish Yemen, Oman region, etc.) But other tribes and kingdoms signed treaties but thereafter killed Muslim preachers in violation of their treaties. Still others simply killed the original diplomatic emissaries such as the Christian Ghassani king and their ally the Roman empire; or expelled the diplomatic emissaries in disgrace as in the Persia empire. After these openly violent violations of established relations in specific political circumstances, these various military conflicts resulted in warfare. Warfare was the last option after basic diplomacy was openly violated. This is where warfare comes in regarding the Muslim world: as part of a state's necessary response or preemption to open warfare and conflict.
But Jihad does not mean warfare. The arabic word for fighting is: qitala, and the word for war is: harb. Jihad means exertion, striving, maximum effort. (Incidently, does America actually wage "war" on illiteracy, or "war" on cancer, or "war" on poverty? )
Jihad is directly tied to carrying the message of Islam: called da'wah of Islam. Jihad is the effort required to remove the obsticals that impede the message and dawah of Islam. That effort can be financial, diplomatic, intellectual, political, and material. Material effort does not necessarily require combat. It can simply be an arms build up, or military maneuvers as the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) carried out several times. Or it can be marches, protests, media campaigns, etc.
This concept of Jihad renders it essential to Islam.
As for the warfare aspect of jihad, it is a disciplined, calculated effort based on the highest moral and ethical standards. It is not a melee or orgy of violence and destruction.
Ironically, or perhaps not surprisingly, the more ritewing bigots such as Robert Spencer and Michael Savage repress Muslims, spread lies and slander, attack mosques and assault Muslim women ( because they're too cowardice to attack men), support internment and torture of 1000s Muslims, call for killing millions of Muslims indiscriminately, and even call for lynching Muslims, the more they resemble the historical circumstances of the Persians, Romans, and Ghassanis. Conversely, its the good Americans of all races and religions that stand up for the right of Muslims to be Muslims and to explain Islam that insure peaceful relations and mutual compassion.