Can You Lift And Separate In A Braless World?

Eric Martin has a post up at American Footprints that’s definitely worth reading – especially for hawks like me who are looking for a path through the issue of Islamist terror that doesn’t involve a choice between surrender and the mass killing of Muslims.

The post is titled – amusingly – ‘Lift And Separate‘ and it expands on an article by George Packer in the New Yorker.

Now Eric’s post – and it appears the Packer article (I’ve just scanned it tonight – still working!) are interesting, thoughtful suggestions about separating the committed terrorists from the populations they operate within, and about exploiting the fissures between groups of terrorists.

It’s a good read, and food for thought – but I think I disagree. But it’s a damn useful article because it helped me clarify my disagreement, and I want to quickly sketch it out (with the usual promise to try and develop it better soon – I’m still kinda chasing people and mosques in Baghdad).

The nub of the argument Packer and Martin make is here, and it’s based on the counterinsurgency theory of Australian Captain David Kilcullen:

“After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency – a local separatist movement with mystical leanings – had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.

The problem here is really an epistic one; if I look at the actions of an individual (and all human actions are done, after all, by individuals) I can understand those actions by – reviewing the psychological background of the individual (as above) – or by looking at economic motivations (vide Marx) – or by looking at their cultural history – or by looking at the political organization of the cultures to which they belong.

Each of these constructions is, in a sense, true.

The question is – are they useful?

Because what we’re trying to do is applied social science – not just to study what people do with and to each other, but how best to effect it.

So the question becomes at what point in the hierarchy from personal psychology to political theory can we have the best and most direct impact – impact that will change the rate at which people become hardened terrorists?

The issue between my beliefs and Eric’s is, in my mind, straightforward.

First, that this model undervalues the role of state actors both in making terrorist groups more effective – in using terrorist groups in service of traditional state interests – and in improving the soil for terrorist recruitment by – for example – steeping the state-supported educational systems with literature that supports terrorist ideologies and beliefs (Jews are evil, the West must be destroyed, death in battle is to be welcomed).

Second, that the modern terrorist groups are more of a network and less isolated pockets of motivated individuals, This network effect is both by virtue of a common and powerful ideology and belief system, because the supporters of terrorism – both within terrorist groups and states that support terrorism publicly or tacitly – see the advantage in a network effect in which IRA trainers improve the skills of Columbian guerrillas or Saudi members of Al Quieda share techniques with Hizbollah fighters.

The validity of those two assertions is in my mind the key to choosing a military or a more ‘law enforcement’ model of counterinsurgency. Having said that, the specific points about understanding the individual groups, looking for fissures and local advantage and exploiting them as a part of a kind of ‘Imperial Grunts’ strategy makes a world of sense to me.

But I’ll bet we’re already doing much of it in places like Columbia.

Lots more to discuss on this, obviously but I wanted to get the party started.

72 thoughts on “Can You Lift And Separate In A Braless World?”

  1. I don’t see how Kilcullen can talk about a global counterinsurgency when there is no global insurgency, or anything like it.

    We dignify the “insurgents” in Iraq with that name, even though they have no coherent political program, no possibility of evolving into a conventional army, no ability to control territory, and have failed to represent themselves as an alternative authority to the government of Iraq. What they can do is kill people and blow up things, which is terrorism, not a successful strategy of insurgency. Their success is purely political, and in an entirely negative sense. They cannot build anything of their own, nor do many of their admirers wish them to do so, but they can provide vicarious satisfaction to a variety of malcontents who lack a strong vision of their own.

    Between military and law enforcement approaches to terrorism, I prefer military, but both are inadequate to a struggle that is overwhelmingly political and ideological.

  2. AL

    Kilcullen gets a lot of play in Oz precisely because he is Australian; I doubt many have assessed his thinking more deeply than that. Like you, I’m working on other stuff, so haven’t read either piece, but I have read other material of Kilcullen’s. You mention Columbia: Manwaring in his 2003 SSI paper “Nonstate actors in Columbia: Threat and Response” makes a useful observation concerning the mutually reinforcing and ultimately negative trinity of drugs, insugency and paramilitary. I suspect that were you to substitute religion for drugs and sectarian warfare for the paramilitary, you might find a similar trinity in Iraq, etc. On reading Manwaring, it struck me how social networks act to reinforce each part of the trinity–for an understanding of how that might work, I suggest the work of another Australian, Duncan Watts (specifically “Small Worlds”). Duncan found that small world networks are highly robust–their clustering can be self-reinforcing–and highly effective transmitters (of information, disease, jihadic memes etc). Breaking them, or at least loosening them, involved breaking internal links or building additional links to external nodes…but even then, with a relatively high proportion of external links, the properties of a small world still hold true. And Columbia has proven resistant to many efforts to resolve its problems. To me the personal ‘social worlds’ of individuals is but part of the puzzle; there’s another layer to do with network dynamics, and the drivers of attractors such as those identified by Manwaring, that need to be addressed. Neither police work or military effort alone serves; each has a role in changing different parts of the whole.

    cheers

    qoz

  3. Everything in the post may have an objective ‘truth’ to it, but I dont know that dwelling on it helps our cause any more than microanalyzing the purchant of SS officers to be latent sadomasochists would have helped Roosevelt win WW2. Paralysis by analysis, as they say.

    It’s important to understand your enemy, certainly. But not at the expense of initiative. In other words, its less important to know why your enemies do the things they do than to identify and neutralize them. With the state of the West these days, psychoanylsis is liable to just lead to trying to send these clowns to therapy and give them a hug.

    Its rather against the aesthetics of the West these days, but it is important to hate your enemies.

  4. We dignify the “insurgents” in Iraq with that name, even though they have no coherent political program, no possibility of evolving into a conventional army, no ability to control territory, and have failed to represent themselves as an alternative authority to the government of Iraq.

    Most of your premises here are faulty…

    The original insurgency consisted of Baathists who wanted to regain control of Iraq. The “Sunni insurgency” we see now has evolved from that — and still has much the same goal of restoring Sunni control over Iraq.

    And to suggest that the militias forming in the Sunni community can’t form a “conventional” army (especially under former Republican Guard leadership) is completely ridiculous. Simply because the insurgents realize that the best tactics to employ against the occupation forces is guerilla warfare does not make them incapable of forming an army once the US leaves. (The same can be said for the Shiite militias, especially al-Sadr’s.)

    Finally, the Sunni insurgency is controlling territory in much of Baghdad and Anbar province, as well as the Sunni triangle.

    **************

    One of the biggest reasons that the US “can’t win” in Iraq is that we aren’t dealing with a single anti-occupation group, but several.

    the al Qaeda inspired foreign fighters aren’t “anti-occupation” per se, they are there to “defend Islam against the Great Satan”. These are the people who, if we withdraw, will “follow us home”. (actually, they’ll probably wind up going to their own homes to forment trouble, or to fight in Afghanistan.)

    Then there is “al Qaeda in Iraq”, which does not seem to have much “popular” support but may be growing — their notoriety is based on their methods, not their size. They will remain a problem that will have to be dealt with after the US leaves, but are unlikely to be able to “raise an army” as such.

    Then there is the Baathist inspired insurgency. They can probably be negotiated with once the US is gone, as long as they have security guarantees from Syria and Iran.

    Then there are the Shia militia which fall into three primary categories — the Dawa militias, whose leadership has very close ties with Iran, the SCIRI militias (the Badr corps) whose leadership is aligned with Iran but not as closely as Dawa, and the Sadrists (Mahdi Army) which is primarily nationalist, and wants little to do with Iran.

    Once the US leaves, a partitioned Iraq would prevent an all out civil war provided security guarantees were provided by Syria and Iran. An Islamic Republic would be created, modelled on Iran’s, with Sistani in the Khatami rolie — but it will be lead politically by a Sadrist.

    The question is not “if” the US withdraws, and Iraq is partitioned, it is whether the US will continue to act as a catalyst for continued sectarian violence, or whether it will facilitate the transition of Iraq in a way that minimizes sectarian violence.

  5. Mark B.

    You may be right that thoughtful anlaysis of our enemy’s psychological and social origins (& A.L.’s account is certainly a thoughtful analysis) may not help us figure out how to defeat that enemy. (Your SS ananolgy is apt.).

    However, it certainly doesn’t hinder it and, therefore, shouldn’t be discouraged. After all, we all, individuals & gov’t alike, devote an abundant amount of time & resources to activies other than fighting terrorism in the course of a day.

    I would add, too, that while such analysis might not help defeat the current crop of enemies, it certainly may aid us in finding a way to stop the movement from growing, which, I think, is our biggest challenge.

    The amount of people around the world willing to use their own bodies as a weapon is alarming. I would guess that the number is growing. Anything we can do to stop the growth would be of enormous benefit. The first step would be finding out what makes a human bomb tick.

  6. Apparently the opposition must be one of only two types: a terrorist, “a kook on the room” with no popular support; or an insurgent, with popular support that must be amenable to our actions, so that it’s really up to us what happens. It’s a forced binary choice.

    This is just an effort to make implausible assumptions right by definition.

    And that Islam can use and historically often does use what I call “masks” such as Socialism and Pan-Arab Nationalism does not show that there is nothing distinctive about the jihad game that is being played out century after century, wherever Islam is a strong cultural influence.

  7. Its rather against the aesthetics of the West these days, but it is important to hate your enemies.

    Osama couldn’t have said it better himself.

    It is this imperative to “hate the enemy” that is the crux of al Qaeda. bin Laden literally demononizes his enemies (The Great Satan) and then collectivizes it — “you’re either for the Great Satan, or you’re against it.”
    And since its “the Great Satan”, acts like 9-11 are “justified”…..

    What Packer is telling us is first and foremost, we must identify and define the enemy. “Militant Islam” isn’t good enough — its the same things as “The Great Satan”. (and we can see a multitude of the ‘bin Laden’ mindset at this blog.)

    The fact that they are “networked” does not make them monolithic, and seeing the threat as this massive network misses the whole point — and will inevitably lead to failure. “Winning” in Iraq itself won’t have a significant positive impact on want is happening in Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Southern Lebanon. “Losing” in Iraq itself won’t have a significant negative impact in those countries either.

    Withdrawing in an orderly fashion in a way that minimizes violence could, however, have a positive impact, because it demonstrates to the world that results can be achieved through negotiation rather than violence.

  8. Luka,

    I was with you up to the last paragraph.

    Orderly withdrawal (which I am all for) will not have any positive impact, only a less negative impact than staying.

    Idealists of both stripes err in believing our actions (perceived as either strong or week) have an instructive value to others. We really must stop trying to judge our actions by the “messages” they will supposedly send to others.

    Your belief that orderly withdrawal will teach the world a lesson about violence & negotiation is just a different version of Bush’s view that a democratic Iraq will be an example to other nations.

  9. The first step would be finding out what makes a human bomb tick.

    probably the easiest way to understand it is to visit your local university, and observe ROTC in action.

    Joe likes to feature American heroes on this site — people who do stuff like throw their bodies onto grenades to protect their peers. And an American soldier in a tank is a “human bomb”….if you are on the other side of a tank round.

    The psychology is the same — the willingness to kill, or to die for, what you believe in.

    Now, it seems to me that what you are really asking is “what makes someone attack civilian targets.” I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet it has to do with first “dehumanizing” the enemy… after all, if the target isn’t “civilians” but “minions of the Great Satan”, its got to be a lot easier to convince someone to kill them.

  10. Your belief that orderly withdrawal will teach the world a lesson about violence & negotiation is just a different version of Bush’s view that a democratic Iraq will be an example to other nations.

    I didn’t say “will teach”, I used the word “could.”

    One of the places it could have an impact is in the Israel/Palestine problem. I’m not saying it will have an impact, but it could :)

    Oh, btw, a “democratic Iraq” would be an example to other nations. So would a “democratic Kuwait.” The issue isn’t the effectiveness of an example, its whether you can achieve that example, and how you go about achieving it.

  11. Showing our enemies how nicely we retreat and sue for mercy- yeh, thats the way to their hearts. This is exactly what im talking about. In the real world weakness is not respected, it is preyed upon. Self-introspection is not respected in and of itself, it is exploited.

    You are right, OBL does indeed think that way. Its his strength. How much time do you think AQ spends soul searching and agonizing over strategy? The only reason they arent cleaning our clocks is they dont have anything near the resources. What they do have is commitment and resolve, which goes a long way in war. Its something we are sorely lacking.

    So yes, we should certainly hate the people that have made it their sole purpose to destroy our way of life and enslave us to everything we have rejected and fought against for hundreds of years.

  12. Luka, when contemplating the nature of an enemy, it is no bad thing to recognize that which the enemy is doing correctly.

    bin Laden (and the jihadists in general) are absolutely correct (from their worldview) to demonize the Enlightenment West. It is their worst nightmare, in that it represents the greatest threat to the continued existence of a medievalist socioeconomic power structure.

    In other words, bin Laden and his ilk would see me — and you, at a guess — as willing minions of the forces of evil. Personally, I’m very good with that perception, understanding the predicates upon which it is based.

    Personally, I really hate the idea of living under Sharia. bin Laden and his cohorts would force that upon me. I really hate the debasement of women. The jihadists would force that upon us. I really hate the suppression of open discussion; the Imams would define acceptable speech. I really hate the idea of submitting to a God in whom I do not believe. That, of course, would get me beheaded in the Islamist’s perfect world.

    bin Laden (dead and buried in Tora Bora, but alive for those who need him to be) was absolutely correct to hate the West in general. We in the West, if we are to be true to the freedoms which we claim to hold dear, should be equally passionate in return.

    If you think I’m wrong, please explain my error.

    I can understand believing that going to war in Iraq was not the best way to fight the jihadists. What I don’t get is this idea that we shouldn’t find their ideology repellent, and that we shouldn’t confront them at all.

    Final point: if we “withdraw in an orderly fashion”, in exactly what way does that demonstrate that negotiation works better than violence, at least from the “insurgents'” point of view? Because pardon me, I get the feeling Sadr in particular would be feeling pretty damn good about the efficacy of violence….

  13. _”One of the places it could have an impact is in the Israel/Palestine problem. I’m not saying it will have an impact, but it could :)”_

    Which is always what it seems to come back to with you. Lets cut and run in Iraq to show the Arabs how we’re willing to cut and run on our Israeli allies. Have you thought this through to its logical conclusion? What happens when our enemies make their next demand after Israel is evaporated? What happens when they demand Spain? Is there some particular point where you are ready to stop surrendering, or are you counting on our good example of groveling to inspire reasonableness and fairness in Islamic Fascists?

  14. Mark B.

    It seems a huge mistake to confuse Palestinians calling for the West Bank (and the Arabs who support that call) with Islamic Fundamentalists and Ismalic Jihadists who call for Spain or re-establishment of a Caliphate. If we in the US cannot live up to our own standards of believing in the right of self-determination on behalf of Palestinians, we will never gain the necessary credibility among Arabs to enlist their much needed help to fight the fundamentalists and jihadists.

    Defending (& allowing) Israel’s occupation of the West Bank because they are our ally at the expense of our own value system is a decision that continues to cause us much grief. It’s a kind of “original sin” we cannot escape.

    Thomas Friedman, who worked many years in the Mid East, has a good column in todays NYT’s about the centrality of this issue in the region.

  15. luka – you couldn’t be more wrong about the U.S. military. No one there wants to die for any cause – they are willing to. Jihadis actively seek death, because it fulfills their religious/ spiritual imperitive. If you misunderstand the jihadi mindset that badly, it certainly calls a lot of what you say into question.

    Not to mention that a) it’s a phenomenal example of moral equivalence (remember the bumper sticker of the Israeli soldier standing in front of the woman and infant while the Palestinian fighter kneels behind women and children?); b) the moral equivalence issue also makes sense in assuming that we’re just one actor with no greater moral authority than – say – Iran. Where they hang gays and stone raped women to death.

    A.L.

  16. Withdrawing in an orderly fashion in a way that minimizes violence could, however, have a positive impact, because it demonstrates to the world that results can be achieved through negotiation rather than violence.

    More like: it demonstrates that the US is just as weak as bin Laden has always said. A little bit of violence (and, in relative terms we have suffered only a little bit: far fewer US troops killed than jihadis killed by our troops; far fewer troops than in almost any war of comparable duration and achievements; no real impact on the average citizen) and we run away.

    The insurgents won’t have talked us out luka, they will have defeated us on the battlefield. That’s a great lesson to teach. And of course our pro-freedom/democracy and anti-terror allies in Iraq will be slaughtered, giving fewer people in Somalia or Afghanistan or Lebannon any reason to take our side.

    The United States: no better enemy, no worse friend.

  17. Rob,

    Yes, 3000 troops is a relatively small number of troops killed, but then…relative to what? It is the same number of those killed on 9/11. If 3000 is such a small number of dead, why did 9/11 initiate such an enormous reaction.

    If 3000 dead is enough to lead us to war, why isn’t 3000 dead enough to give us pause about the effectiveness of our strategy. How many dead are worth preventing (or avenging) 3000 dead?

    Should we sacrafice another 5000 to prevent another 3000?

    When does rationality kick in?

  18. mark – do you really think this is as simple as vengeance for the 3000 dead on 9/11? That’s a view that makes us pathetic and bloodthirsty.

    9/11 was a signal that the enemies we have allowed to grow – have even fostered in many ways – aren’t going to stay over there and kill each other. They intend to attack and damage us. Destroy and conquer us if they can.

    And we have real vulnerabilities to them; their intentions aren’t mapped to their capabilities, but they have enough capabilities both here and abroad that we ought to be worried.

    So no, the matter isn’t ‘rational’ in the way that you suggest, and can’t be solved based on some calculus of death or harm.

    A.L.

  19. _”It seems a huge mistake to confuse Palestinians calling for the West Bank (and the Arabs who support that call) with Islamic Fundamentalists and Ismalic Jihadists who call for Spain or re-establishment of a Caliphate.”_

    Agreed. But there are precious few Arabs calling strictly for the Israelis to evacuate the Occupied Territories. The acknowledged Arab strategy vis-a-vis Israel is to negotiate them into weakness (and hopefully self-destruction) and then finish off the Jewish State militarilly. Its not even a secret, Arab leaders talk about it all the time. The one nonnegotiable demand has been the Right of Return, which is the most obvious poison pill in the history of diplomacy.

    “_If we in the US cannot live up to our own standards of believing in the right of self-determination on behalf of Palestinians, we will never gain the necessary credibility among Arabs to enlist their much needed help to fight the fundamentalists and jihadists._”

    The flip side is nobody has done more to establish Palestinian self-determination than the US while the Arabs continually errode it by supporting groups like Hamas. Ignoring the hypocracy is not a game we should play. The only forces the can help us against the jihadis are the fascists that run Egypt, Syria, SA, Jordan etc… and their committment to the self-determination of the palestinian people is pretty rightly questionable.

    “_Defending (& allowing) Israel’s occupation of the West Bank because they are our ally at the expense of our own value system is a decision that continues to cause us much grief. It’s a kind of “original sin” we cannot escape._”

    Its a red herring is what it is. There is a fundamental lunacy in trying to grapple with what our enemy has put forward as _pretext._ The idea that should we resolve the pretexts for all this madness, the madness will suddenly abate.. well its just untenable. Do the people of Syria or the nobles in Saudi really give a rats ass about a few acres of scrub brush in Judea? To some degree, sure. But enough to strap dynamite to their bodies etc? Its absurd.

    We need to resolve the Pal/Israeli context, yes. But we most certainly shouldnt do it with the idea that its going to solve so much as a fingers worth of trouble outside those two nations. That mindset is dangerous as well as foolish. If we actually believe it will solve or mitigate our problems in the rest of the region we will be in for a nasty surprise. Possibly a very damaging surprise if we hitch our wagons to this fallacy as Luka strongly urges.

  20. Glen —

    “We dignify the “insurgents” in Iraq with that name, even though they have no coherent political program, no possibility of evolving into a conventional army, no ability to control territory, and have failed to represent themselves as an alternative authority to the government of Iraq. What they can do is kill people and blow up things, which is terrorism, not a successful strategy of insurgency. Their success is purely political, and in an entirely negative sense. They cannot build anything of their own, nor do many of their admirers wish them to do so, but they can provide vicarious satisfaction to a variety of malcontents who lack a strong vision of their own.”

    I believe this is a mis-characterization of our present situation.

    Islamists aka Muslims control: Pakistan, Iran, great parts of Western Europe’s cities/suburbs, most of the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. They have a coherent political program: ISLAM. Their aim is to rule the world with a Caliph in function and name. We are fighting the SAME PEOPLE in the now nuclear Iran (so says Ahmadinejad). And in Iraq. And in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in various terrorist threats foiled at home.

    Ahmadinejad says Iran can now build it’s nuclear powers completely without outside help. He has further said that the US, Israel, and the West will “vanish” like the Pharoahs and in it’s place will rise the Caliphate. Osama, and various other Islamists all have the same dream.

    We have a Muslim problem: they want to conquer, rule, and enslave non-Muslims (that’s us) in the name of Islam.

    Our solution is not imperial grunts nor limited military action nor police work.

    It is whacking them with the biggest military hammers we can find until they are dissuaded from the massive pain on their plans for conquering the world. This worked with Germans and Japanese and I’m certain we will get down to it sooner or later.

    Luka is living in a dream world. From slaughtering Theo Van Gogh or pursuing Salman Rushdie and Danish Cartoonists to their deaths, to de-facto Sharia law in Europe’s great cities, Muslims have only one message: convert or die. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Only fight for your freedom to be a non-Muslim or convert to Islam as Allah’s slave.

    Well, Chamberlain and his fellow peaceniks / pacifists (as well as the Left in general) thought “we can do business with Mr. Hitler.”

  21. _Defending (& allowing) Israel’s occupation of the West Bank because they are our ally at the expense of our own value system is a decision that continues to cause us much grief. It’s a kind of “original sin” we cannot escape._

    That’s simply ludicrous. If the U.S. is irrevocably damaged by policy decisions concerning a foreign conflict, then why do anything? IF Adam’s stain (or LBJ’s, Nixon’s, etc.) will forever mark America as an enemy to Arabs, then I guess we’ll have to kill them all.

  22. Showing our enemies how nicely we retreat and sue for mercy- yeh, thats the way to their hearts. This is exactly what im talking about. In the real world weakness is not respected, it is preyed upon. Self-introspection is not respected in and of itself, it is exploited.

    It seems to me that you (and lots of others here) are obsessed with how we are perceived by “the enemy.”

    I’m much more concerned with how we are perceived by the rest of the world because quite frankly, “our enemies” don’t represent an existential threat to the United States — and we cannot defeat this “enemy” militarily.

    We can only win this battle if the rest of the world sees us as responsible, sane, and smart, because we need the co-operation of as many governments and people to identify potential threats, and to deal with them effectively.

    “Our enemy” is not going to be discouraged by a “show of strength” in Iraq — these jihadists already perceive us as The Great Satan, and therefore a force with enormous power. These are “holy warriors” convinced of the righteousness of their cause, and shows of “strength” or “weakness” will merely result in tactical changes, and not change their minds.

    If “the enemy” was an actual competing empire (like the USSR), “weakness” might make a difference. But that is not the nature of “the enemy” — its primary weapon is not military power, but psychological power — the power to convince people that the US is “The Great Satan”, and must be destroyed.

    And as long as we continue to act in ways that reinforce the extremely negative image of the United States, “the enemy” will continue to gain strength….

  23. A.L.

    Precisely my point. I think you missed the irony of my post. I was responding to the notion that 3,000 was a small number that we could afford to lose.

    I certainly don’t think it is simple vengence for 9/11 that brings us to Iraq. (I didn’t say that, btw, I suggested vengence and fear of another combined play a role); However, I do think that, at the same time, it would be hard to make the argument that had 9/11 not occured we would still have gone to Iraq. Clearly, 9/11 is deeply connected to our presence in Iraq.

    I know it is easier to argue against an idea if you reduce that idea to an absurdity. But it is helpful to the cause of your own argument, if you give the opposing idea its full breadth and depth.

  24. From Eric Martin’s post: _“They’re so committed you’ve got to destroy them,” Kilcullen said. *“But you’ve got to do it in such a way that you don’t create new terrorists.”* In what has become a distressingly familiar scenario, we have sound advice from seasoned experts that could greatly assist our efforts in the global counterinsurgency against violent extremism. *Sadly – inevitably – this advice will be ignored by the Bush administration* for its failure to reinforce the wrongheaded, counterproductive policies employed to date._

    I think the Bush administration needs to bring in “this guy:”:http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/executive/rumsfeld-memo.htm

    bq. *Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?*

  25. _”It seems to me that you (and lots of others here) are obsessed with how we are perceived by “the enemy.”_

    War is about morale and morale is about perception. Of course i’m concerned with how the enemy perceives us. Sun Tzu might have had something or other to say on that matter.

    _”I’m much more concerned with how we are perceived by the rest of the world because quite frankly, “our enemies” don’t represent an existential threat to the United States — and we cannot defeat this “enemy” militarily.”_

    I disagree with everything in this paragraph. Security is not a popularity contest. If Belgium isnt happy with the way we do things, that is probably less important to our interests than how easily your average Syrian thinks it is to blow up an American embassy. And i wont keep having this stupid debate about how American cities going up in flames live on CNN isnt that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

    The way you talk, im not even sure we have an enemy. Its this ridiculous idea that if we just embrace peace love and kumbaya the European way all our troubles will be gone and the age of aquarius can begin. Somehow i dont think Ahmadinejad is on board that particular farce.

    There are bad people in the world who want nothing but bad things for us. Some of them rule nations, and how sweet and loving we are to the Palestinians (at the expense of Israeli lives of course) is simply not impactful on their sentiment. Belgium cant help us, and our fascist allies in Jordan and Pakistan arent likely to be swayed by our supposedly noble efforts. So who exactly are we performing this farce for and why?

  26. Mark B.

    Let me be clearer about my views then, as you raise excellent points.

    I do not mean to suggest that resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will necessarily improve things in the middle east. I am not at all sure that the confict can be resolved.

    My arguement has 2 components:

    1) On a stricly moral level, we should not support or aid the occupation of gaza or the west bank because it is wrong in and of itself. We would never support such a situation in a country that was not an ally. You are quite right about the complete and absolute hypocracy on the part of Syrian, Egyptian, Saudi,Jordanian, etc., regimes on this issue. But we should not let the hypocracy of other states execuse our own.

    2) On a practical level, regardless of the eventual resolution or outcome of the conflict, our support of the west bank occupation inhibits our ability to deal with other mideast issues that are of more direct concern to us. It erodes our credibility In this sense, it doesn’t matter if arab grievences are genuine or legitimate. They exist. They are real. They have an effect. They may be a pretext for international negotiations, but they are not a pretext for an anti-western mindset which is gaining ground around the world, a mindset which creates severe problems for us.

  27. We need to resolve the Pal/Israeli context, yes. But we most certainly shouldnt do it with the idea that its going to solve so much as a fingers worth of trouble outside those two nations. That mindset is dangerous as well as foolish. If we actually believe it will solve or mitigate our problems in the rest of the region we will be in for a nasty surprise. Possibly a very damaging surprise if we hitch our wagons to this fallacy as Luka strongly urges.

    I would agree that resolving the Palestinian issue TODAY would not solve all of our problems. Indeed, it could actually exacerbate them, insofar as many of the governments in the middle-east that are friendly to the US use the Palestinian issue as a distraction from the failures of their own governments.

    We really do need to deal with our Iraq problem first — and do so in a way that makes it possible for the US to act as an “honest broker” in negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

    But once the Palestinian issue is resolved, we’ll have to deal with the “hard-liners” throughout the Arab world who object to recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Anwar Sadat was assassinated because he made peace with Israel — and the repercussions of a regional peace accord will be similar throughout the region.

    Its not going to be easy — and six years of Bush’s mismanagement of mid-east policy made it much harded than it needed to be. But we need to start as soon as possible — and that means a “graceful exit” from Iraq.

  28. Hey PD, how did Rumsfeld answer the question posed to himself?

    With a shrug of his shoulders. How did his Pentagon treat the counterinsurgency experts’ advice before, during and after the invasion of Iraq?

    With scorn, ridicule and disregard.

    The sage advice Kilcullen gives isn’t that we need ask those questions alone, it is that we must also craft policies to achieve the desired ends.

    Mostly the response in this thread impose some reductio ad absurdum standard to counterinsurgency doctrine, such that if you seek to understand your enemy on multiple levels, or pursue political solutions that might defuse, tensions the result would be advocacy of a therapists couch, group hugs and across the board retreat in the face of all aggression.

    This ignores serious thinking on this matter though, and reveals an unwillingness to grapple with these concepts. Read what Kilcullen actually advises, instead of some convenient caricature that you can use as a prophylactic for cognitive dissonance.

  29. I disagree with everything in this paragraph. Security is not a popularity contest. If Belgium isnt happy with the way we do things, that is probably less important to our interests than how easily your average Syrian thinks it is to blow up an American embassy.

    Someone contemplating blowing up an embassy doesn’t give a damn about US military strength. He’s fighting an asymmetrical war — he’s blowing up a US embassey to show that the “mighty US military” can’t protect Americans, regardless of how many Iraqis they slaughter.

    And our reputation with Belgium is crucial if we are going to prevent further terrorist attacks on the US. Lets say we find out that a know terrorist has travelled through Belgium on a fake passport. How Belgium reacts — how much co-operation it gives the US — could well make the difference between a “city on fire” and the prevention of a terrorist attack.

  30. Eric, I think you’re being a little ungenerous in your interpretation of the thread.

    Yes, absolutely we should pursue all mechanisms we can to defuse, disaggregate, and dis-arm groups that may otherwise become terrorists.

    But as I note, this isn’t a purely psychological phenomenon, and there are state- and network-level politics involved as well…

    Somewhere in the intersection of those two models lies a set of useful policies, I’d think.

    A.L.

  31. Mark B.

    An approptiatly small point about Belgium. NATO forces (& funds) are now bearing the brunt of the Afghan war, ableit not in a terribly effective way. And, while US forces do still operate in that theater, due to our committement in Iraq, NATO forces are vital at the moment in Afghanistan. In these regard, Belgium’s opinion is important to our security. And while security is not a popularity contest, I would say that being well-liked certainly couldn’t hurt security. If popularity means more friends and fewer enemies, then that might be a course worth looking into.

  32. Yes, but I can’t seem to locate where Kilcullen said that there weren’t “state- and network-level politics involved as well.”

    Where did he say it was “purely psychological”?

    On the contrary, his acknowledgement of the networking possibilities makes him a stronger advocate for disaggregation. Me too.

    The last thing we want to do is reinforce whatever limited network exists – transforming it from one of 4th gen shared tactics, know-how and technologies, to one of common cause.

    As far as state level politics goes, I think Kilcullen’s experience in Indonesia specifically contemplate this dimension.

  33. “_Someone contemplating blowing up an embassy doesn’t give a damn about US military strength.”_

    He might care that his actions will result in US Tomahawks taking out the local powerplant and/or GIs kicking in the door of the local mosque/armory. Deterrence is important. If it becomes obvious that we dont have the stones to get after terrorists where-ever in the world we hide, you dont think that will affect these people actions?

    “_How Belgium reacts — how much co-operation it gives the US — could well make the difference between a “city on fire” and the prevention of a terrorist attack.”_

    Belgium has plenty of self-interest in acting in such a situation. The idea that they are going to stand by and do nothing _strictly_ to spite the US is fantastic. Now Belgium may well allow itself to become rampant with terrorist due to its own lack of moral fiber, suicidal embrace of Transnational Progressivism to a fault, and simple 21st century malaise, but nothing we can do either way is going to influence that.

  34. C’mon Eric, that wasn’t an accusation I made. I said that these were important issues, and that on a reading of your post, and a scan of the Packer article, there was something interesting here.

    I then said that making that the central focus of our counterterror efforts was problematic because of the state and network effects, and that the emphasis you placed on those probably was a good razor separating the ‘military’ vs. ‘law enforcement’ folks out in the world.

    Let’s have an argument based on what’s actually said, OK?

    A.L.

  35. luka – the individual terrorist may not, but the state sponsor who (in part) funds him, helps arm him, turns a blind eye to his travels and lets him establish training camps may care a whole lot.

    And since one of my claims (albeit one that needs to be set out and proved, I’ll admit) is that there is a large difference between the quantity and quality of terrorist acts committted by random individuals as opposed to state-supported terrorists, throttling this back could well be seen as A Good Thing.

    A.L.

  36. makes it possible for the US to act as an “honest broker” in negotiations between Israel and Hamas

    And here we part ways irrevocably. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and murder all the Jews living there. We ought to take sides in the “murder all the Jews v. don’t murder all the Jews” conflict. There is no reason on Earth to be an “honest broker” between a terrorist death cult and a (very flawed) democratic nation.

    As for our enemies (and friends’) perceptions of us, I have long since given up on being loved. I traveled and lived in Europe during the Clinton administration. We were widely hated then in nonsensical ways; Bill Clinton committed war crimes by intervening in Bosnia; Bill Clinton committed war crimes by not intervening in Rwanda. Maybe it’s worse now, but to be frank there wasn’t a ton of room for it to get worse. Nor do I really believe Sept. 11 changed anything; even the “We are all Americans” headline was on that very day qualified by the now-famous “yes, but…”

    The best we can hope for is to be feared. If Syria fears us enough, they’ll keep a lid on the terrorists in their territories. If they think we’re weak and feckless (which apparently we are), then they’ll ignore them or fund them just to annoy us and puff up their regional status. Right now, nobody has any reason to fear us meaningfully. Partly, that’s Bush’s fault (He wants to be loved, too, so he went for democracy instead of a simple Saddam-whacking followed by immediate withdrawal), but it’s also the fault of those who urge withdrawal as though it has no negative consequences and will be looked on as a great success of “talk” over “violence.”

    (And countries all over the world provide excellent anti-terror cooperation even today; the Belgians and French and Germans bitch a lot in public about Guantanamo, but their cops don’t like murderers any more than ours do)

  37. AL,

    You said:

    But as I note, this isn’t a purely psychological phenomenon, and there are state- and network-level politics involved as well…

    You stating these facts in such a manner implies that the author took the opposite position. I may have misintrepted you, and obviously we write our comments hastily so I don’t mean to hold you any strict standard, but it was a good faith misunderstanding.

    Still, I don’t understand what use it is to say that this isn’t “purely psychological phenomenon” if nobody is arguing that it is. Seems a bit tautological, but I’ve committed worse sins.

    Nevertheless, we agree that if anyone were to make that claim (and Kilcullen, McFate and myelf do not), then that hypothetical person would be wrong.

  38. If Belgium does not cooperate with us in some future terrorist intelligence operation, it will not be because of a disagreement over the kinds of things that concern luka. It will be because they’ve already been burned by the NYT publishing leaks of covert operations like the SWIFT monitoring, leaks by partisan opponents of the Bush administration and applauded by luka.

  39. He might care that his actions will result in US Tomahawks taking out the local powerplant and/or GIs kicking in the door of the local mosque/armory. Deterrence is important.

    Yes, he would care. In fact, he would be delighted if that happened, because such actions would only enhance recruitment efforts, as the US retaliates against people who had nothing to do with the actual embassy bombing.

    Belgium has plenty of self-interest in acting in such a situation. The idea that they are going to stand by and do nothing strictly to spite the US is fantastic.

    why don’t you respond to WHAT I ACTUALLY WRITE rather than creating these pathetically fantastic strawmen to knock down. I did not say that Belgium would “do nothing”…. I said

    “How Belgium reacts — how much co-operation it gives the US — could well make the difference…”

  40. Rob,

    Hamas’s “belief” or “claim” that Israel has no right to exist should be taken for what it is: a bargaining position.

    Israel wants acknowledgement of its right to exist as a precondition for negotiations. Hamas wants it to be the conclusion of a negotiation. Hamas doesn’t want to give it away prior to negotiation. They want to exchange it for something in return.

    The same is true of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and of the occupation itself.

  41. Eric – now I’ll contradict myself and say that OTOH I think it’s important that we understand and exploit whatever we can find out about the psychology of terrorism, and that the key precursor of success – one that I think we’ll both agree on – is the isolation of terrorists from both the population of people who may potentially become terrorists and from the agencies of states that may be inclines to nurture and use them.

    How’s that?

    A.L.

  42. _”Yes, he would care. In fact, he would be delighted if that happened, because such actions would only enhance recruitment efforts, as the US retaliates against people who had nothing to do with the actual embassy bombing._”

    A.thats a nice theory. Different if its your family at risk.
    B.Nothing to do with? Didnt we already define the subject in question as a terrorist haven? Again… do we have any enemies or is terrorism closer to a natural disaster as the far left would have us think?

    _”How Belgium reacts — how much co-operation it gives the US — could well make the difference…”_

    You’ll have to forgive me for not responding to your vague (yet dire) scenarios with vague responses.

  43. The problem, mark, is that Hamas has built it’s power in no small part by indoctrinating a generation that Israel must be destroyed. It’s not like it’s a cynical or casual position that can be readily traded away. In some sense the leadership in Hamas is captive to the successful community of belief that it has built.

    A much more complex climbdown, wouldn’t you say?

    A.L.

  44. _”Hamas’s “belief” or “claim” that Israel has no right to exist should be taken for what it is: a bargaining position.”_

    Thats easy for us to say. I tend to think if somebody waves a gun in my face and tells me they are going to kill me, i’d take them at their word even if it might well be a bargaining position.

    _”Israel wants acknowledgement of its right to exist as a precondition for negotiations. Hamas wants it to be the conclusion of a negotiation.”_

    You’re reading into the situation what you want to be true. Hamas wants to conclude the negotiations with the destruction of Israel. That is their manifesto, that is their reason for being. Its not a secret. Believing anything else is simply wishful thinking.

    Everything else aside, it is an absudity to expect Israel to negotiate with someone who doesnt acknowledge their right to exist. I dont care if it really is a negotiating ploy. It immediately and irrevocably shows one side is acting in bad faith even before the size of the table is broached. That isnt a negotiation. It’s crazy.

  45. A.L.,

    Absolutely. However, an exchange for territory and self-autonomy might go along way in that descent. After all, the ease with which Hamas could indoctinate such a view is a result of the conditions under which the Palestinians are living their lives. Hatred is more easily come by if your life is not your own but controlled by someone else.

  46. Mark, we must simply disagree on this point. I don’t think that young men blow themselves up because of a “bargaining position.” I think they do it because they want kill Jews and belive that doing so will lead them to Paradise.

    For that reason, I think Hamas means exactly what they say. Which is why I see nothing wrong with Israel demanding that they abandon that particular position before negotiations begin. There is no sense in offering someone something of value in exchange for his promising to abandon his goal of killing you; that’s just paying Danegeld, after which of course you can never get rid of the Dane.

    And of course the Israelis, unlike Hamas did give up some of their “bargaining positions” unilaterally, withdrawing from Southern Lebannon and kicking settlers out of Gaza hoping that it would buy them some goodwill. The results are now in, and they got less than nothing for it. So I don’t hold it against them for sticking to their guns in the West Bank, nor do I regard Hamas or Fatah as negotiating in good faith.

  47. Mark B.

    The status quo is an absurdity.

    Israel has two choices: Continue to exits as it is, under constant threat OR try to negotiate a solution. It’s up to them. They can take your attitude, feel that they are in the right, and going on living for decades more under seige in an anxiety-filled existence.

    I guess they have a 3rd choice. Try to wipe the Palestians off the map and hope the problem goes away.

    But refusal to talk to your enemy because he is your enemy (which is essentially Israel’s position) is to condemn yourself to a life of strife.

    Talking doesn’t hurt. It may not help. But it doesn’t hurt.

  48. Rob,

    Your point is well made. But I would argue that there is a distinction between the leadership of Hamas who use the right of existence as a bargaining position and the rank & file who, under orders of the leadership, are guillible (sp?) pawns being used–despicably, I might add–by that leadership to further their cause. It was to the leadership I was referring in my earlier argument, not to the soldiers/bombers who kill, themselves included.

  49. mark, the problem is that the conmditions under hwich palestinians are leading their lives are the responsibility of the Arab world – who won’t let them immigrate – and the kleptocratic PA leadership (Arafat). Between money from the West, the Arab world, and Israel, the OT could be thriving…if they had been governed differently.

    But not governing them differently suited everyone’s interests – except israel’s.

    A.L.

  50. _”Israel has two choices: Continue to exits as it is, under constant threat OR try to negotiate a solution.”_

    I disagree. The best choice is to unilaterally impose a solution as Sharon intended.

    Israel should withdraw to the Greenline and hence be in compliance with the supposed international consensus, and then build the biggest walls they can around Israel and tell the Palestinians good luck to you.. oh and if so much as a rock flies over this wall we will defend our soveriegnty with overwhelming retaliation in the form of artillery barrages. Just as any nation being fired at would.

    _”Talking doesn’t hurt. It may not help. But it doesn’t hurt.”_

    Talking is fruitless because the people you are talking to are invested in continuing the conflict. Talking creates inertia, it doesnt cure it. Again, you dont sit down to negotiate with someone who is _telling you_ they are negotiating in bad faith.

  51. A.L.

    Since the O.T. (I am assuming that stand for Occupied Territories) is effectively governed by Israel and has been since 1967, I am unable to make sense of your claim that it has suited everyone’s interest but Israel’s.

    The PA no more governs the O.T than did Vichy govern France under the Nazi Occupation.

  52. Mark B.

    I smell a consensus forming. I almost agree with you. If Israel were to withdraw to 67 boundaries and build a big wall and say to everyone on the other side (including Israeli settler who wished to live on biblical land) good luck to you over there and if so much as a rock is thrown over it, we will respond with proportional and appropriate force just as every other civilzed nation would, I would find it an equitable, unilateral decision I could applaud with vigour.

  53. Mark, that sounds equitable to me. Of course the devil is in the details- proportional force is a recipe for unending war. Conflicts are resolved with overwhelming force. The sad truth is that Israelis value their citizens lives more. Palestinians would gladly sacrifice their civilians on a 1 to 1 basis with the Israelis, just out of pure spite (wrapped up in whatever post-withdrawal pretexts they develop for why israel still needs to be wiped out, of course).

  54. Mark B.
    Well I am hesitant to get into the possible motives for potential future actions of people I don’t know, so I’m not sure about the spite comment.

    Hmmmmm, are conflicts resolved with overwhelming force? That’s an odd statement. Was the conflict in South Africa resolved that way? The peace between Egypt and Isreal seems to be holding up. The Libya/Chad conflict got settled. It seems to me the that centuries long struggle between England and France went away eventually without either side overwhelming the other. I would say that even the birth of our nation occured at the end of a conflict that peetered out. After Yorktown, the British remained the pre-iment power in the world. They had many other armies beyond the one the surrendered. But they kind of said, “Oh Fuck it. Be independent if you want to so bloody badly. It’s not worth it.” But overwhelming force, no, I don’t think it ever came to that.

    Just idle thoughts.

  55. Mark (#53), so you’d you like Israel’s little response to rockets being fired from Lebanon? Did you applaud with vigor?

  56. Kirk, No I did not. First of all, the rocket attacks themselves are acts to be unconditionally condemned. Politically, it may have been a brilliant tactic by Hezbolah, (in that the subsequent skirmish greatly enhanced their clout) but it was a morally reprehensible act of terror. Israel’s response was not much better either morally or politically. Israel killed far too many innocent people for the response to be considered proportional. Further, the response strengthened those it was meant to weaken.

  57. _”Mark (#53), so you’d you like Israel’s little response to rockets being fired from Lebanon? Did you applaud with vigor?”_

    You can view my response in realtime “achived”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008873.php#comments on this very site. I was immedaitely critical of nearly everything Israel did. Not because it was ‘wrong’ but because it was ineffective and predictably disasterous. Not to toot my own horn too hard, but i had a pretty good handle on everything Israel was doing and how it would turn out for them ultimately.

    I could spend a day explaining all the blunders of that particular campaign, but to boil it down to its simplest form- Israel’s response needed to hurt Hezbollah and their supporters more than Hezbollah hurt Israel. That is what deterrance is about. Since Hezbollah cares so little for its soldiers or their civilian shields, the best way to accomplish this was to either punch into Southern Lebanon and cordon it off while combing through destroying military emplacements and killing/capturing miltitants, or else punish Syria and Iran directly and ‘run the table’.

    Instead Israel peaked their heads across the border timidly on the ground, bombed empty Hezbollah buildings after warning their leadership, and aliented Lebannon by pointlessly destroying ‘infastructure’ when a man in a pickup truck can deliver all the ordance from Syria a terror cell needs to stay in the rock business for a week.

    In other words, Israel response was anything but overwhelming.

  58. _”Further, the response strengthened those it was meant to weaken.”_

    This is the only thing that counts. Porportionately is completely foriegn to the idea of war. Japan killed 5000 Americans at Pearl Harbor and the war ended up costing them maybe 3 million killed. Was that proportional?

    The point is if you accept that war is the most terrible of conditions (which is why everyone is trying to stop them all the time) then obviously it is _immoral_ once engaged in war not to press every advantage to the utmost to end the war as decisively and quickly as possible. Is there a flaw in that logic? Sparing lives now in the misguided attempt to limit war is extremely likely to cost many more lives in the future by prolonging the conflict. That was always the Sherman/Grant thought process certainly.

  59. Eric – now I’ll contradict myself and say that OTOH I think it’s important that we understand and exploit whatever we can find out about the psychology of terrorism, and that the key precursor of success – one that I think we’ll both agree on – is the isolation of terrorists from both the population of people who may potentially become terrorists and from the agencies of states that may be inclines to nurture and use them.

    How’s that?

    See, I knew I could pull you over to the dark side ;)

  60. …looks around…

    Pretty well, actually. Embassies blown up? Nope. Barracks blown up? Nope. Planes flown into buiildings? nope.

    Do you think the train bombings in Spain and the UK represent a step forward or backward in AQ’s capabilities?

    A.L.

  61. Wait, AL, are you seriously saying that invading Iraq hurt al-Qaeda’s capabilities?

    Now I agree that the Afghanistan invasion (and the extensive law enforcement activity in the aftermath in terms of tracking down AQ ops) was a good thing in terms of making life harder on AQ, but Iraq? Really? How?

    (also, you should probably add Morrocco, Amman, Sharm al-Sheik Egypt and, depending on the level of coordination one wants to argue with JI in Indonesia, the Bali bombings)

  62. _”but Iraq? Really? How?”_

    Anybody heard for Zarqawi lately?

    Of course Iraq drained Iraqi resources. We’ve intercepted intelligence that demonstrates it again and again. Iraq is a must-win for AQ, theyve devoted a great many resources there that would have been used elsewhere.

  63. Yes, Iraq provided the impetus for a marriage of convenience between al-Qaeda’s leadership and Zarqawi. They were hostile to each other prior to the evolution of the Iraq conflict despite Zarq’s passage through some of the Afghan infrastructure. Zarq was considered a loose cannon, and generally too untrustworthy.

    Even during Zarq’s operations in Iraq, al-Qaeda leadership was (at least initially) less than pleased with Zarq’s brutal, indiscriminate killing. That, and AQ did not want to alienate Shiites early on, and Zarq was a relentless sectarian. Only later did AQ decide to start backing the plan to foment all out sectarian conflict.

    So to say that Iraq cost al-Qaeda the services of Zarqawi is a bit rich since the alliance was built out of the invasion of Iraq in the first place.

    Also, you should consider that Iraq is draining our resource a lot quicker than it’s draining AQ’s – resources that we could have used elsewhere.

    Remember, Osama expected us to get bogged down in Afghanistan. He wanted this so that he could tie up our military, drain billions/trillions of dollars from our treasury, and greatly tarnish our image in the world (while rallying more Muslims to his cause).

    We mostly avoided his trap in Afghanistan. But then gave him a gift in Iraq.

  64. “_They were hostile to each other prior to the evolution of the Iraq conflict despite Zarq’s passage through some of the Afghan infrastructure. _”

    In other words, aside from the fact that Zarqawi fled Afhanistan and was harbored in Baghdad, they were hostile to each other. Whether and when Zarqawi attached full blown allegiance to AQ is trivia- the man was equally dangerous to Western intersts either way. Remember this isnt a war purely against card carrying Al Qaeda members. International terrorism is far murkier and more dynamic than that.

    _”So to say that Iraq cost al-Qaeda the services of Zarqawi is a bit rich since the alliance was built out of the invasion of Iraq in the first place.”_

    Which begs the question of what he was doing in Afghanistan fighting Americans to begin with.

    _”Also, you should consider that Iraq is draining our resource a lot quicker than it’s draining AQ’s – resources that we could have used elsewhere.”_

    Thats the million dollar question. But American forces still strike all over the world, while AQ hasnt had many noteable successes in quite some time (aside from sheer survival).

    But that truly is the question. We’ve killed _a lot_ of foriegn jihadis in Iraq. These arent the kinds of people that were peaceably raising goats in Syria and decided to go blow up a school in Najaf one day. They were a network, some AQ, some not, and sooner or later they would have acted somewhere.

    We have drained the swamp somewhat in the greater middle east. But like I said, the million dollar question is whether jihadis can make good those losses with ‘victory’ in Iraq… ie a failed terrorist state the US runs away from. That is why we need to win so badly. If we can help create any kind of stable, relatively peaceful Iraq in the long term, all those jihadis will have died for nothing. If we can make a just peace not many Sunni militants will be signing up to replace the ranks of border crossing terrorists. If not, all bets are off.

  65. This has gotten long, and I’ve already lost track of who said what when…

    Someone earlier mentioned the knowing psychology of SS and that they were sadomassichist doesn’t help in WWII. Well, yes that’s techincally true, people have learned alot about human psychology by looking at how SS officers came to the extroadinary(I mean this in the worst possible sense) actions they made.

    Besides, if we have to look at this through a WW2 metaphor, I would prefer to choose the whole image: Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. In many ways, these groups had similar goals and agenda’s, but the differences in the leadership and populations dramatically affected how the allies conquered these nations. If americans had known that Russians were extremely nervous about the germans keeping their alliance, we may have been able to tilt Russia to the allies sooner, potentially splitting Germanies forces earlier. As allies pressed into Italy, they were able to use Nazi resentment to remove mussolini from leadership.

    The current battles we have in the ME feature a larger number of countries (afhanistan, Iran, Egypt, Palestine, Lebannon, Syria, Pakistan, gaza strip), major secretarian divisions (sunni, shite) and literally hundreds of different terrorist organizations, each with their own different goals and ambitions (although, each probably has ‘death to israel’ on a byline somewhere). I think investigating and exploiting the drive for each group (and also understanding why the population supports them, and how to undermine that support) could go a long way. I noticed that Michael Totten also inferred as much (especially the civilian issue) during his trips in Lebannon and Iraq.

    The problem: We have had a notoriously hard time placing spies and informants inside of these groups. This used to be what the CIA was good at, but is not doing very well now. Successful counterinsurgency operations require strong intelligence in order to nail specific targets with surgical percision.

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