Jul 16, 2008

Effwits Outta' da' Forest

The "Global War on Terror" has conjured the image of terrorists behind every bush, the bushes themselves burning and an angry god inciting its faithful to religious war. We have been called to arms, built fences, and compromised our laws and the practices that define us as a nation. The administration has focused on pursuing terrorists and countering an imminent and terrifying threat.

The inclination to trust our leaders when they warn of danger is compelling, particularly when the specters of mushroom clouds and jihadists haunt every debate.

We rightly honor as heroes those, who serve our nation and offer their lives to protect ours. We all "support the troops." Yet the first step for any commander is to understand the enemy. The next commander in chief should base his counterterrorism policies on the following realities:

We do not face a global jihadist "movement" but a series of disparate ethnic and religious conflicts involving Muslim populations, each of which remains fundamentally regional in nature and almost all of which long predate the existence of al-Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden and his disciples are small men and secondary threats whose shadows are made large by our fears. Al-Qaeda is the only global jihadist organization and is the only Islamic terrorist organization that targets the U.S. homeland. Al-Qaeda remains capable of striking here and is plotting from its redoubt in Waziristan, Pakistan. The organization, however, has only a handful of individuals capable of planning, organizing and leading a terrorist operation. Al-Qaeda threatens to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, but its capabilities are far inferior to its desires. Even the "loose nuke" threat, whose consequences would be horrific, has a very low probability. For the medium term, any attack is overwhelmingly likely to consist of creative uses of conventional explosives

No other Islamic-based terrorist organization, from Mindanao to the Bekaa Valley to the Sahel, targets the U.S. homeland, is part of a "global jihadist movement" or has more than passing contact with al-Qaeda. These groups do and will, however, identify themselves with global jihadist rhetoric and may bandy the bogey-phrase of "al-Qaeda." They are motivated by hostility toward the West and fear of the irresistible changes that education, trade, and economic and social development are causing in their cultures. These regional terrorist organizations may target U.S. interests or persons in the groups' historic areas of interest and operations. None of these groups is likely to succeed in seizing power or in destabilizing the societies they attack, though they may succeed in killing numerous people through sporadic attacks such as the Madrid train bombings.

There are and will continue to be small numbers of Muslims in certain Western countries -- in the dozens, perhaps -- who seek to commit terrorist acts, along the lines of the British citizens behind the 2005 London bus bombings. Some may have irregular contact with al-Qaeda central in Waziristan; more will act as free agents for their imagined cause. They represent an Islamic-tinged version of the anarchists of the late 19th century: dupes of "true belief," the flotsam of revolutionary cultural change and destruction in Islam, and of personal anomie. We need to catch and neutralize these people. But they do not represent a global movement or a global threat.

The threat from Islamic terrorism is no larger now than it was before Sept. 11, 2001. Islamic societies the world over are in turmoil and will continue for years to produce small numbers of dedicated killers, whom we must stop. U.S. and allied intelligence do a good job at that; these efforts, however, will never succeed in neutralizing every terrorist, everywhere.

Why are these views so starkly at odds with what the Bush administration has said since the beginning of the "Global War on Terror"? This administration has heard what it has wished to hear, pressured the intelligence community to verify preconceptions, undermined or sidetracked opposing voices, and both instituted and been victim of procedures that guaranteed that the slightest terrorist threat reporting would receive disproportionate weight -- thereby comforting the administration's preconceptions and policy inclinations.

We must not delude ourselves about the nature of the terrorist threat to our country. We must not take fright at the specter our leaders have exaggerated. In fact, we must see jihadists for the small, lethal, disjointed and miserable opponents that they are.

(I gotta stop bloggin' when sloshed)


deichmans said...


Perhaps our fear of terrorism stems from our collective disdain for inconvenience? For instance, a nitwit tries to light a fuse in his shoe and all of a sudden we're satisfying TSA foot fetishes for every airline trip in the land. And when a few blokes in the UK decide they're going to play Beakman in the BaƱo and mix up some "spew" over the Atlantic, I lose my $5 tube of hair gel (alcohol free, mind you, so it won't flake :-) because it's 0.5 fl. oz. over the 3 fl. oz. capacity limit.

We Yanks are an impetuous lot, ain't we?

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

He spent 23 years in the CIA, and actually seems to think that gives him some credibility.

theBhc said...

None of these groups is likely to succeed in seizing power

How do the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia figure into this scenario? While certainly Islamic, they did seize power, much to the chagrin of the White House, and seemed to have calmed things down there for some months before, you know, we had to go in and save Somalia from communi... uh, I mean, Islamism. Are they Taliban-esque? and speaking of, how do the Taliban figure into this? Do you not consider them within the spectrum of these other less capable groups?

theBhc said...

Oh, and one more thing.

The inclination to trust our leaders when they warn of danger is compelling

Whew! That's a stinky one.

Sorry. I find no compelling reason to "trust our leaders." And especially so after eight years of these assholes lying through their teeth and implementing policies that do nothing but make their own exaggerated threats even worse.

subadei said...

The bhc,

The Taliban, while radically fundamental, are also both as based in nationalism or the want for a collective identity and control. The journey of Hamas from loose network of guerrilla's offshot from the Muslim Brotherhood to actual practitioners of governance may be a real world analogy to this. Consider as well the Taliban directly after the Soviet pull out, the Taliban ten years later and lastly the Taliban after 9/11. I've read most Taliban clerics wanted bin Laden's ass out of country because they feared his rhetoric and actions would bring about... exactly what it brought about. The destruction of their regime and a fall from not only grace but control. It was only due to Mullah Omar's insistence that he stayed. And so the popular notion that the Taliban (by and whole) shared both the nihilism and wild fantasy of global Sharia dominance has it's limits. Like the Bearded Sages of Iran, the Taliban clerics could talk a good talk but when it came to game time their own hides and positions of consolidated power outweigh their Islamic "utopian" visions. This, as M1 deftly points out here, is something our policy makers had better start figuring out if this "Long War" is to be won.

At any rate, before this comment becomes a sermon, M1 an outstanding post identifying what I've previously called a homogeneous term.

Pretty damn hard to exact an effective policy when half the time your tilting at windmills.

theBhc said...

Agreed. I doubt that the Taliban ever had globalist caliphate visions, nor do the ICU in Somalia, I expect. It seems entirely the case that, apart from various, lunatic "al Qaeda" visionaries, most militant muslim movements are directed at the "near enemy," which in many cases are just rival regional tribes. But not always. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have moved into the political realm in their respective regions and not because they are in a global movement but in response to what they see as corrupt governments too much in alliance with western interests.

Of course, one can believe that the Bush administration is making a "mistake" in pursuing the GWOT based on an "all for one" model of Islamist movements. But this is not a mistake on their part, at least not as far as they are concerned. They have created the envelope precisely because they think it allows them infinite leeway to pursue troublesome Muslims anywhere, for any reason, and especially when they achieve political power. Hence, Somalia.

subadei said...

"Both Hamas and Hezbollah have moved into the political realm in their respective regions and not because they are in a global movement but in response to what they see as corrupt governments too much in alliance with western interests."

I disagree. Hamas gained political power through ideology but, moreso, because they provided basic infrastructure where Fatah failed to do so. Hamas maintained a very savvy and effective system of social welfare that provided in light of Yassar Arafats obvious corruption and failure to establish an effective social framework.

Hezbollah's rise to political power has been growing for a decade or more but the final push was Israel's ill fated 2006 war that reduced Lebanese population centers (Beruit, Tripoli, etc.) to an economic and literal shambles and essentially hamstrung the Saniora government. Who picked up the pieces? In essence, Hezbollah, with a very grassroots effort at disaster relief. You remember the guy that helped you rebuild your home, and fed your family when government relief was nowhere in sight. (Recall the Indonesia distaster relief. I'd opine; much less about saving lives a bit more on ensuring the fed/clothed look up and see USAF star on the bottom of that relief helicopter.)
People flock to a semblance of social order and sustenance before they flock to naked ideology. Does ideology play a part? Certainly. But, remember, there's plenty of plumbers, carpenters and other blue collar types in both Lebanon and Palestine that couldn't give a shit about much of anything beyond their own family and well being. And God love 'em for it.

As to the second part of your comment, it's an interesting hypothesis and fits, to a degree, within the "less than transparent" policies of the Bush admin. But, on the whole, such indictments, at this point are more historical reflections than policy worries as far as I'm concerned, given the limited time the current administration has left.

Meatball One said...

Diech - U poetic f*ck. Nicely put.

Cannon-Cocker: shame on that Effer (btw, good to catch up with Ye again)

thebhc (apropo 3rd comment): R U me - or but my hairiest of lovers; took some wee yet mighty words right outta Me distended ol´mouth.


We gotta start following your writngs deeper than hitherto. U be a most poignant Effer. Thanks 4 affording Us yo time so as to Us align.

...because they provided basic infrastructure where Fatah failed to do so. Hamas maintained a very savvy and effective system of social welfare that's the kinda commentary that nudges blogs into our `Short Bus´ list. "Bravo"

Meatball One said...

The inclination to trust our leaders when they warn of danger is compelling

Don't underestimate the will to believe of our brethern - that would be worrisome sign of East coast haughtiness.

theBhc said...

Oh yeah. Forgot that.

theBhc said...


I'm not sure what it is you're disagreeing with there. Are you saying that Hamas and Hezbollah do have global ambitions? I doubt you are saying that, but not sure what you are arguing against. Certainly the groups have ideology in hand, but it is one that sees a global caliphate.

Of course, at this point, I'm talking out of my ass. I've never actually spoken to a member of Hamas, so I don't really know what their imagined endgame could be.

Anonymous said...

There are 2 -3 million jihadis, actively supported by 100 million Muslims. There have been Islamic attacks in 28 countries.

Nothing to worry about there.

Not Available

M1 said...

And a beak-nosed Rothschild is scheming in his Gothic Euroskankian castle. Yeah, right Dude. (Haven't you heard: Musselman has been dumped for a better enemy. Prada and Jihadi is so...last year.Get on the fashion train, Cowboy!)