Saturday, July 30, 2005

Modern Epidemiology

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I’m re-reading Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain”, and as always I am impressed with Crichton’s ability to explain the force of events, not always in our control.

The Andromeda Strain” dealt with the unexpected arrival of a strain of a previously unknown organism, one which killed rapidly, and seemed to represent a grave and unstoppable threat. With respect to the plot as Crichton wrote it, I could not help but see the present world political condition in that light. On the one hand, Global Terrorism is a virulent threat to every nation in contact with it, and puts all nations at risk by its nature. To that, the W Doctrine is an antibody (and the Democratic Party is the guy who wants to avoid going to the doctor). On the other, the obviously beneficial effects of free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq are like the reinforcement of an Immune system, making the W Doctrine like a Symbiotic organism which generates healthy blood (as in Free Trade) and cell regeneration (as in the development of democracy-friendly policies in Middle East countries). The people most famous for trying to prevent that healthy existence (Mcdermott, Penn, Moore, Dean, Kennedy, as obvious examples), may best be compared in function to, well, germs.

I wonder how Michael Crichton would write up the next Presidential Elections?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Terrorists Are Morons


OK, it felt good to make that statement. But I put it up there as the title, because it is unfortunately necessary to state so basic a fact as that, since certain people (I will be nice and not say which particular ones) have managed to muddy the picture quite a bit:

”We have to work to understand their anger”

“American has to face its responsibility for these attacks”

“George W. Bush has declared War on Islam”

Uhhhh, no, no, annnnnnd no. We need to kill terrorists and capture them, not play psychiatry games. America has generally done a credible job of advancing human rights and promoting peace and fair play throughout the world, certainly more than any other nation, so blaming us for terrorism aimed at innocents is distinctly obscene and false. And George W. Bush is attacking a few thousand fascist terrorists, not the hundreds of millions of innocent Muslims. But I digress…

Terrorists generally seem to come from two groups; the very rich who have taken up Jihad as a personal pursuit, in many cases as a way to make their name, and the very poor, who are enticed by groups like Hamas with promises that their family will be looked after and they will be given entry directly into Paradise. Fools on both ends. Sure, they’re technically proficient and able to pull off some sophisticated tricks, but that just makes them the Evil version of ‘Rainman’. And they don’t have Hoffman’s charisma, anyway.

Want proof? Let’s look at the scorecard. Let’s start with the poor kids who are suckered into joining up. Do that, and your personal career ends in death or life in prison. Yeah, that’s a plan. And their families? Just look at the refugee camps and the slums in terrorist-controlled regions. The families get a subsistence from the thuggish terror cells, but they are no better off without their young men, than they would have been if they had their child with them to build a future for himself and them. There is a firm history of emigrants who get education and an opportunity, who then are able to come back and help their parents. Not so if junior dies in a flaming car bomb, for which the family gets a small check and a slogan. It’s an obscene lie told to people unable in most cases to find out they’re being fooled into giving up their most precious hope. There is not a single family whose future was made better by having their son murder innocents for a useless political cause.

As for the “leadership” of these groups? Well, you got your choices there, as well. Some choose the heroic martyr route, which is to say they carry out bold and ruthless missions until they get killed themselves, at which time the Cause simply finds another puppet to preach their bile and vomit. Or they play for power and privilege. Looking at the roster of recent terrorists in the news, here’s what we see:

Abu Abbas – captured
Khalid Shiekh Mohammed – captured
Ansar-al-Islam - largely captured
Abu Farraj Al-Libbi , Al Qaeda 3rd-in-Command - captured
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani - captured
Abu Nidal - captured, now dead
Mullah Mahdi, Deputy to Al-Zarqawi - captured
Abu Anas al-Shami, Deputy to Al-Zarqawi - killed
Husem al-Yemeni, Deputy to Al-Zarqawi - captured
Abu Alghadiya, Al Qaeda official - killed
Khaled al-Harbi, Al Qaeda mission planner - captured
Mohammed Atef, bin Laden lieutenant - killed
Hassan Ghul, bin Laden lieutenant - captured
Abu Zubaydah, bin Laden lieutenant - captured

75% of Al Qaeda’s operatives and leadership - captured or killed

I could go on, but the lesson is clear. Speaking of lessons, here's another datum:

27 Battalions of the new native Iraqi Army - Now fully operational

As for Al-Zarqawi and bin Laden themselves? If they are still alive (which is under debate), they are in hiding and living on the run, never staying in one place too long. At best, they are eating and sleeping poorly, aware that everyone they considered a close associate or friend a few years ago is either dead or in Coalition hands. Sound like a winning plan to you? Fools, all of them.

So, some say, what about “the Cause”? OK, let’s look at that. How has the terrorist way fared in the past, say 50 years?

IRA – Ireland still under the same government, IRA largely wiped out, what’s left is now a political party with complete rejection of terrorist violence.

Hamas, PLO, Hizbollah – Still around, but then so is Israel, no less likely to continue existing or to defend itself than when this all started.

Iraq – Dictatorship removed, support for terrorist groups abolished. Under self-rule and moving towards self-defense.

Afghanistan – Taliban removed, support for terrorist groups abolished. Under self-rule and moving towards self-defense.

Lebanon – Vocal in demanding self-rule and end to occupation by Syrian forces, and also to ending support for terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia – Held minor elections, could lead to greater effect in democratization.

Iran - Forced to deny its nuclear weapons program and scale back operations. Increasing pressure from young generation for democracy.

Across the board, the terrorist cause and message is being rejected. Flatly, without exception. Only a moron could miss it. And only a moron could defend them instead of backing the Marines and the President, whose resolution is identical and unwavering on this question.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I was asked what I thought about Hell...


I don’t like writing about Hell, for two basic reasons. First, Hell exists as an Absolute existence, a place and condition which is assigned by God Almighty after a Final Judgment; by definition a mortal being like myself cannot comprehend all there is to know about Hell and the resolution of souls, that would lead to such a consignment. Secondly, I have always found that the focus of a person’s attention can influence their thoughts, words, and actions. In that light, too much attention on Hell is not desirable. That said, there is reason to sort out the question of what Hell is and is not, and to prepare ourselves for what is to come.

While it is never completely wise to generalize, there seem to be four basic views of Hell, to my mind none of them quite satisfactory. The first version comes from the mostly Humanist perspective, to the argument that there is no Hell at all, that Hell comes from misunderstanding or the war against one’s self, and such contentions. To me, that position is faulty for a number of reasons. First, as a person who believes the Bible to be true, the many references to Hell and warnings to guard against ending there are hardly only moral stories or metaphors. Hell is real, and is to be avoided. But for those who do not accept the Bible, there is also the double whammy of consequences and of balance. What I mean is, for good to be rewarded, evil must be punished and vice versa. Therefore, there must be a Hell of some sort for evil doers. Also, it follows that if deeds have meaning, as I contend they do, then there is a consequence for them. If morality is true at all, then there is a consequence for evil, and that means that even if someone suffers no ill effects during their life, something is yet waiting for them. I cannot agree to the claim that there is no Hell.

The second contention is the opposite pole; that Hell is an eternal and terrible place, with no hope of end or solace. Granted, we’re talking about Absolutes, and if Heaven is a place of unending joy and peace and happiness, then Hell must fall to the dregs of existence, but again there are conflicts which must be considered. Revelation, not usually considered a happy book for sinners, notes that Hell itself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, which certainly seems to indicate an end to the torment. Also, we again come to a question of consequence and balance. Many have questioned the justice in eternal punishment for finite acts, and deliberate torment for what is in many cases unintentional offense. What’s more, it is common sense to many people that if a man kills one person but then refrains from killing again, he is better than the man who kills and kills again. If the punishment for both men was identical, it could hardly be said to be just. I cannot, after thinking it through, accept that this second contention holds up to inspection.

So we move to the third and fourth contentions. The third basically accepts that hell is eternal, but grants differing punishments to those condemned. This is the stuff of Dante’s ‘Inferno’, but it is not really to be found in Scripture. Also, it gets really tricky trying on the one hand to be consistent, yet on the other to say that we should give different people different punishment for what appears to be the same sin. Difficult to accept that one, especially since we are left to sort out why a lighter punishment should be considered the product of a Merciful God, or a Just one, if it is eternal and allows no hope of reconciliation.

That brings me to the fourth case, which is like the third, except that there Hell exists only temporarily. The problem there is again Scriptural; while Revelation says Hell will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, it never says the sinners get out from hell first. And Daniel says, as does Matthew, that the shame and torment will be forever. Ow.

Then there’s the biggy for me. I’ve gotten to know lots of people in my life. Lots of mean, selfish people, but only a few really evil ones. And I’ve gotten to know some good folks, and some are amazingly good, clearly in line with the Lord. But I’ve never yet met anyone who I would say was completely Good, or completely Evil. We all have sins in our lives, though some are small and few, and we all have good in our hearts, so some have tried to bury it. I do not believe that God condones evil, or will allow it into Heaven, or that He will ignore or punish Good. So here’s what I think:

God will separate us, Good from Bad. Not saying the mostly-good people get in with the Good, and the mostly-bad in with the Bad, but that our Good and our Bad will be separated. And we choose which part we want to keep.

Not a perfect answer, but that’s what I think.

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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher Part 5

The world has changed so drastically in the past generation, yet many people have failed to grasp the meaning of these changes.

The Soviet Union not only no longer controls approximately half the world’s nations, but itself has been dissolved and the Kremlin’s method of governance decried by the very men who now rule Russia.

In 1973, the United States and the Soviet Union came close to using nuclear weapons over Israel. In 1984, an accident in the Soviet Union almost provoked a nuclear launch. Since then, there has not been an incident, even September 11th, which has brought the United States to the threshold of nuclear war.

In 1991, Coalition ground forces, led and commanded by American tank and officers, retook Kuwait in only 3 days of ground operations. In a Politburo meeting in March, a shaken Defense Minister Yazov warned the Kremlin that the Soviet Union had nothing that could possibly match the rebuilt American military.

In the 1994 mid-term elections, Democrats lost 56 House and 8 Senate seats to the Republicans, effectively losing control of Congress for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration, and in the context of the next five elections the GOP continued to gain control in U.S. Government to a point not held since before the 1929 Stock Market Crash.

With the explosion of home computer and internet access has come the rise of blogs, along with Talk Radio and Cable News, collectively known as New Media, and generally acknowledged to be a legitimate political force, sufficient to counter the extant political influence of the Old or Mainstream Media of network television and print news conglomerates.

And in the Middle East, it had slowly begun to dawn on Muslims in general, that A)Israel was not going to be pushed into the Mediterranean Sea anytime soon, and B)No-one was seriously protecting the rights of Palestinians, but rather using their suffering as a pretext for whatever they felt like pursuing.

Not a happy time to be a terrorist, the early Nineties, with all this change in the air, and the terrorist groups of note either fading into a fat retirement like the PLO, or flaming out gloriously like the Islamic Jihad. Fortunately for Global Terrorism, and badly for the world, there came three significant forces into play, symbolized by their figureheads: Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and Osama bin Laden.

None of these three men was at all the powerful leader he represented himself to be, but in each case the system was already in place for him to play to his advantage. In respect to Terrorism, Bill Clinton treated it as no more than a nuisance, not even bothering to visit the site of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and although Clinton deployed the military dozens of times during his two terms, none of them resulted in regime change of a nation or leader hostile to American ideals, or removed a single terrorist group from operation. Kofi Annan was the architect of the now-infamous U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, which paid bribes to hundreds of United Nations and European officials, while allowing Saddam Hussein access to billions of dollars to use as he pleased, and in its course starving tens of thousands of needy Iraqis, for which Hussein and Annan cruelly and falsely blamed the U.S. Embargo on Iraq. As for bin Laden, his early career in Afghanistan was essentially as a supply source for the mujahadeen, which made him respected but not revered. Needing to feed his ego, bin Laden (rather like Hussein) used Islam for his own purpose, building a group around Taliban and ex-mujahadeen who wanted a new fight once the Russians left. Some went to Chechnya, but bin Laden took others with him back to Saudi Arabia, where they looked to the next natural target: America. Bin Laden didn’t want Israel, because too many other groups were already attacking Israel, and in any case the Israelis were clearly tough and ready. Al Qaeda made its name on soft targets, kidnapping businessmen and bombing movie theaters if Arabs dared to go to the cinema instead of a mosque on Friday. Al Qaeda was suceesful also, because it had learned tactical tricks from other groups. The PLO, for example, had become an umbrella for a number of groups, allowing the organization’s leaders to claim or deny knowledge of actions with complete veracity. Al Qaeda was not one firm organization, but a collective name taken at convenience for actions, and sometimes acting with no claim at all, to practice technique and instill a general unease in a population. Further, as terrorists continued to be treated as criminals, they needed only to provide legal cover to avoid serious repercussions for their actions. When the Khobar barracks blew, as well as the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, bin Laden was sending a test message to the United States. The silence from the White House told him his enemy in Washington was going to be just like his enemy in Moscow had been (bin Laden giving himself an inordinate amount of credit for the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan). Even before the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, then, bin Laden planned to make a name for his umbrella organization, and (he hoped) explode the Western World into chaos and a true Jihad.

(to be concluded in the next article)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher Part 4

The Middle East loved the Eighties. Or I should say, the terrorists loved the Eighties. Iran and Iraq were at war with each other, yet both supported terrorist groups. Syria also played the game, as did Libya. It became quite the fashion to send bombers in training to Lebanon, then Southern Europe, especially Italy and Bavaria, the most effective to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the most daring to a short mission in Israel. Along the way they built madrassahs everywhere, to recruit and indoctrinate the next generation of sociopaths.

It’s telling to see that the terrorists preferred Soviet or Israeli targets when they wanted to feel effective, and American businessmen when they just wanted a little press. It’s not clear what the Americans did when military forces were attacked, but the world changed when a bomber drove a munition-laden truck into the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, which event caused the U.S. to effectively cede Lebanon to the thugs. From there, terrorists felt that their claims had been proven true; the Americans were just like the Soviets, weak when put to the test, and they rejoiced at the opportunity to establish their control throughout the Mediterranean basin. The timid response from the West German, Italian, and French governments only reinforced this impression.

The air strikes ordered at various times by President Reagan made American military targets relatively less desirable than other options. The terrorists made a pattern clear by choosing softer targets, but ones just as spectacular, as evidenced by the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Literally dozens of terrorist groups sprang up, and with easy pickings in Europe, International operations became popular, especially with sponsor governments playing the Americans and Soviets against each other.

The focus for the terrorists changed with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in Moscow. The wily bureaucrat understood that to play the predictable East vs. West game would be disastrous, especially for the East, with rising tensions just to the South of the Soviet borders. Accordingly, Gorbachev did his best to persuade American assistance in the Middle East, which also suited Reagan’s intentions for the region. Israel received quiet but significant assistance from both the USA and USSR, not for its political stance but as an island of stability in the region. Jordan’s King Hussein, ever savvy, also jumped at the chance to be seen as a force for peace, and the terrorists abruptly saw their welcome revoked in many places, at least publicly.

(to be continued in further articles)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher Part 3

After seizing the OPEC conference in 1974, the Palestine Liberation Organization actually began to fade from prominence in terrorist actions. By the end of the Carter Administration, the shape and texture of the Middle East had evolved into something else entirely, though not in a good way. The “wipe out Israel” supergoal of Arab states had been proven all-but-impossible by the stunning results of the 1967 “Six-Day” War, and the chaotic events in the 1973 “Yom Kippur” War. The backlash from the 1972 Olympics massacre had forced most Arab nations to publicly disavow violence as a policy. As a result, new groups sprung up, initially under private sponsorship from influential patrons. This caused concern in the Politburo, as groups which once welcomed Soviet support now voiced an independence of mind the Communists found unsettling. Unsettling enough to approve the invasion of Soviet-leaning Afghanistan in 1979. And unsettling enough in the Middle East, to spur on dissident groups in places like Iran and Iraq, leading to the rise of both Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein.

Into this mix arrived President Reagan, a man of clear vision and firm ideals, the sort of man to hate murderers of any stripe. And the Soviets freaked. 1981 featured the attempted assassination of President Reagan, which does not appear to have any sort of Soviet connection, but also the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, which certainly did have Soviet involvement. It was at this time that dozens of new terrorist groups sprang up, operating in both the Middle East and Europe. It’s impossible to say which specific groups were created, trained, and supplied by the Soviets, but KGB documents produced after the fall of the USSR show the effort was coordinated in Moscow. That proved to be a poor investment, indeed.

While many on the Left seek every opportunity to connect the United States with support for terrorists, the truth is that most Islamic terrorists initially got help from the Kremlin. What happened to throw things awry for the Reds, was that these groups quickly learned they were not bound by their word to the Soviets, and many Soviet client states simply took what they got from Moscow, and handed it over to cells that ran operations as a sort of shadow war. The case of Osama bin Laden is a good example; When Osama became angry at the Soviets' occupation of Afghanistan, he began to coordinate delivery of weapons and logistical support to bands of mujahadeen in the hills. This included material acquired (by various means) from the Sudan, Egypt, and Iraq, as well as purchased on the black market (which itself found Soviet small arms and ammunition in good supply). Because his action was not government-sponsored, it had the additional advantage of strong security - only the members knew the connections, and very few indeed understood the cell structure well enough to attack it. The combination of tight control with the use of his enemies' tools against them became the forte' of OBL plans, but they have a limit that bin Laden does not understand. This is a trump card in the hand of Coalition forces, but not the only one.

For here, it's important to understand that bin Laden the religious fascist predated Al Qaeda the religious fascist organization, and that initially, bin Laden and Al Qaeda followed the established road of attacking known targets in known locations, where the enemy was at a severe disadvantage. Even the attack on the U.S.S. Cole fell into that category. The significance of Global Terrorism comes from Media and the Internet.

(to be continued in further articles)