Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher (Conclusion)

The fact that it has taken six articles to cover the highlights of Global Terrorism as it exists today, helps illustrate why so few people seem to understand the threat or its resolution. In this conclusion, then, I intend not only to wrap up the review of how we got here, but also what is necessary for us to win.

The collective impetus of 1961-2001 led men like Osama bin Laden to consider the United States just like any previous empire, fat and soft and not willing to fight for anything that was too far, too long, or too difficult. “Paper Tiger” was a phrase used often by the self-proclaimed elite in the Western Media, Academia, and groups like the U.S. Democratic Party, used to justify non-resistance to the violence brought on by the terrorists. Small wonder the terrorists believed it was true.

The success of the Palestine Liberation Organization as an independent group with both capability and volition made Terrorism desirable as a career choice for some. Abu Nidal, Carlos the Jackal, and of course Yassir Arafat are obvious examples of men who spoke for their “cause”, but in fact lined their own pockets ahead of anything else. There is strong reason to believe that the top men in Al Qaeda hoped for the same benefits, made more attractive by blessings from the Wahhabist oligarchy. While State-sponsored terrorism had become unpalatable because of the American presence, there remained a large number of patrons ready to fund a group privately, especially in the hope of chasing Americans away, as they had seen in Beirut, Somalia, and the Sudan.

By the late 1990s, there were essentially four classes of discernable terrorist groups. State-sponsored terrorism (Iran, Iraq, Libya, as examples) had turned some prominent terrorist leaders into politicians and their “cause” into a corporate image. Other groups were reduced to suicide raids, unable to mount a significant military threat (for all the appalling carnage from such raids, suicide attacks consistently fail to change the course of governance and public acclamation for change, whether one counts the Kamikaze attacks on U.S. warships by the Japanese in late World War 2, or such tactics as the IRA used in Belfast or Hamas has used in Israel, or even the Black Hand bombings of the early 1920’s or the Underground movements in the U.S. during the 1960s). Still others enjoyed a measure of success, but only in their locality and specific condition. None of these local groups stood up to any sizable organized force, especially from the U.S. or the U.K. The new lot were the Jihadists, who were much better prepared and motivated to carry out terrorist attacks, especially on targets they considered to be in “their” territory. I say “their” in quotations, because an early trait of the Jihadists was operation in a nation not their homeland, most probably due to a combination of secrecy from the authorities in the target country, and absolute control over the Jihadist’s environment. The Jihadists worked to coordinate the other three groups to support their campaigns. They learned the keys to success for the few terrorists who had managed to survive and flourish; they planned for a series of attacks intended to achieve true unbalancing of the target nation (as worked in Afghanistan), and they began to contact and coordinate with various local groups to mutual goals.

There are six salient elements for a successful international Jihadist group. They are:

1. Money
2. Madrassahs
3. Methodology
4. Munitions
5. Media, and
6. Malice

The early success for Osama bin Laden lay in his ability to arrange and coordinate those six elements. The attacks of September 11, the Bali attacks in 2002, the train bombing in Madrid, the school massacre in Beslan, and the bombings in London were all very well planned and executed, tactically. Yet they were also, on the strategic plane, incredible blunders. Consider these significant events following the attacks:

[] There were no follow-up terrorist attacks after September 11th, March 11th, or July 7th, even though there is clear evidence that Al Qaeda planned such attacks.
[] None of Al Qaeda’s attacks led to a militarily significant change in conditions in AQ’s favor. The 9/11 attacks led to the loss of Afghanistan for the terrorists and their Taliban hosts, and further to the loss of Iraq to the Coalition and pro-democratic forces. The Bali attacks and London bombings hardened British and U.K. resolve to win the fight. And while Spain withdrew their forces from Iraq following the train bombings, this led to no significant change in Coalition strength or success.
[] Al Qaeda was unable to protect their money lines, and most of their most important patrons refused to support them any longer.
[] The U.S.-led Coalition handled the Media far better than Al Qaeda ever expected, enough so that despite constant attempts to portray the U.S. and President Bush in negative light, the Coalition in general and U.S. Marines in particular, are well-respected in the regions under Coalition control. It is not coincidence that almost all Iraqi forces which once opposed the Coalition, have either stopped their opposition to the new Iraqi government, or have actually allied their groups with the new Iraqi police and army in training. Even Al Jazeera has toned down their rhetoric, so that the harshest Anti-American rhetoric regarding the Middle East is usually heard from Vermont and Massachusetts politicians.
[] Public resolution regarding the mission to eradicate Al Qaeda and Global Terrorism is firm, as evidenced not only by the last two American elections, but also by response to the Afghan and Iraqi elections. It is significant that even the most rabid Bush-hater in Washington is forced to concede that U.S. troops should stay in Iraq and “finish the job”. Further, changes in attitudes towards the United States in places like Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and even Iran, demonstrate that in the eyes of the men most aware of the events and their significance, the Americans are clearly winning.
[] Mullahs who once decried the U.S. presence in Iraq, have in large number switched to denouncing Jihadism in Middle East countries, even denouncing the deaths of innocents in the name of Islam. Three years ago, this would have been unthinkable.

A lot of the credit has to be placed in the ledger for George W. Bush. His enemies who once insisted he was mad, a puppet, or incredibly stupid, now say he was able to coast on the work of skilled subordinates (although they fail to note that Bush chose and defended them), that he was playing for political points, mixing a popular war in Afghanistan with the war he wanted in Iraq, or that he was incredibly lucky. In fact, Bush chose to take the Taliban out of Afghanistan in spite of stiff protests and political games by the Left, and he decided to remove Saddam on the evidence, not in the belief that it would be popular, as the polls at the time made it clear that to pursue Saddam would be to put his chances of re-election at risk. Bush chose the difficult road, and on the evidence chose far more wisely than any President in generations. And Al Qaeda has become an unwilling testament to that wisdom, declining from a truly legitimate strategic threat to the United States in 2001 to a force barely able to blow up buses and cars by tricking young men into thinking they are on a reconnaissance mission. The evidence is further supported by the fact that car bombers in the Middle East have been found chained to their steering wheel. The old rhetoric not working, and it’s hard to take the hit knowing it won’t change anything. Kinda makes a young man doubt the promise of all those virgins waiting in Paradise, I’d say.

I mentioned in the first article, that when a threat is understood to be launched against the very foundation of the nation, there is common purpose and resolve in defeating it. Dubya understood that, perhaps at a level less mature people do not develop, but men in the mold of Truman and Churchill do. That said, there is still the question of what needs to be done to win the war. Simply having the upper hand is not nearly enough.

The road, fortunately, has been cleared of many obstacles. The need to stabilize Iraq is obvious, and enjoys a broad consensus. Iran and North Korea will be troublesome at the least, and possibly a genuine crisis for the next Administration. Also, as Al Qaeda begins to understand that it cannot win in its present incarnation, they will be very likely to try to dissolve the organization as it presently exists; this is no surprise, as the existing Al Qaeda was little more than a nameplate for a loose confederation of cells. Rock bands change names with greater impact.

The real issue is what form of reorganization the Jihadist movement will take. The loss of two, going on three, countries to Democracy (and worse, truly Secular government!) is going to sting them badly. Also, the knowledge that Al Qaeda failed in every strategic objective it held is going to make it hard for ObL to get a receptive audience; if he has not been killed already, I should not be surprised if someone arranged a little event in order to make him a martyr for the Jihadist cause – he certainly did not work out well as a general.

The Jihadists are not at all likely to admit they were wrong. Expect them to organize a Khomeini-style rebellion in Saudi Arabia, probably between 2006 and 2008. Kuwait and Egypt are also prime targets for the same sort of action, though with far less assurance of success. The true test will come when young Arab men will have to decide between becoming the next Iraq or the next Iran, with either a dead battleground or a thriving economy to make the difference. Remember that this time, there is no USSR to prevent American assistance if it is requested, and there is no SAVAK to show the SA regime as evil, though they are admittedly corrupt, and the influence of the Madrassahs will help the Jihadists immensely. Also, if the next President is unwilling to take the necessary risks, or lacks the vision of GWB, there is a real possibility that the promise planted now will fail in the heat of an imported civil war. Accordingly, what is needed most is Resolve and clear unwavering support for the U.S. mission, along with full provision for campaigns to bring the Iraqi and Afghan economies up to speed. What else is needed is a Counter-Terror Command, which will coordinate military actions where they are needed, with appropriate requests and reports to the President and the Congress, and which will remain immune from political consideration. Both Republicans and Democrats must agree to a 'hands-off' policy where this Command is concerned. The slot for the CINC-CTCOM should be 4-star, with full authority over the Counter-Terrorism Center for the acquisition, direction, and employment of Intelligence regarding terrorists. Congress should expect semi-annual reports from the CTCOM on progress, obstacles, and costs. The State Department must pursue recruitment into an international Anti-Terrorism Treaty Organization (ATTO), which would replace the old NATO/SEATO-style groups both physically and in direction. The Justice Department needs to develop specific and consistent rules of control to address the custody and treatment of terrorists captured. And not only the Bush Administration, but at least the next three Administrations following his must make clear that the eradication of Global Terrorism is not going to fade away with the change to a new President, regardless of whether the campaign is going well or badly at the time the new POTUS takes office.

There will always be terrorists, make no mistake, just as there are still gangs, carjackings, and murders. But there was a time when Slavery was the normal course in the Western World. No more. There was a time when any ship sailing across an ocean had to fear interception by pirates. No more. There was a time when being non-white or non-male in America meant you couldn’t expect full rights. No more. There was a time when men rode in gangs and burned down houses to intimidate voters and minorities in America. No more. There was a time when terrorists in the Middle East could plan to kill Americans and Europeans by the thousands in hopes of advancing a Jihad. God willing, no more of that, either.

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