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    11 August 2007

    Seven Rules for Countering Terrorism

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    This comes from a post at National Security Intelligence by Tom Quiggin (his work was celebrated here) and Sir Richard Dearlove. The post was the first in a pair that argue that secrecy, while necessary in certain circumstances, can in fact hinder the counter terrorism process, among other things... I'll leave interested readers free to read the posts but want to archive the "rules" here and comment. They write...

    Louise Richardson, author of The Roots of Terrorism, spells out six rules for countering terrorism to which we can add a seventh. They are:

    • Have a defensible and achievable goal;

    • Live by your principles – don’t be goaded by the terrorist into behaving differently;

    • Know your enemy, intimately;

    • Isolate terrorists within their own communities;

    • Engage others in countering terrorism with you;

    • Have patience and keep your perspective – be prepared for the long-term;

    • Build a process which is unambiguous and can function strategically and operationally and in is open-ended.

    In order of appearance... I don't think eradicating terrorism is a "defensible" goal. Limiting it and starving it of sustenance is better. President Bush seemed to be on the verge of getting this in his recent press conference when he said "[i]t matters to the security of people here at home if we don't work to change the conditions that cause 19 kids to be lured onto airplanes to come and murder our citizens." He was speaking of Iraq here so he still hasn't comprehended the fact that Iraq is precisely the condition he is referring to.

    "Live by you principles." Good God we have lost that round. PATRIOT ACT, FISA, unilateralism, torture, habeas corpus...

    "Know your enemy." What is the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? And a Kurd? What is the difference al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and al Qaeda of 9/11 and all the other al Qaeda outfits. The difference between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and a Baathist insurgent? They are not all the same and saying they are is lowest common denominator drivel for the masses and does nothing for the war and much for propaganda.

    Isolate to terrorists. That's hard to do, especially when your actions facilitate there survival. They are everywhere, anywhere; but at the same time nowhere.

    Accept the help of others. Mixed bag. We went into Afghanistan with the international community, although some (Rummy and Cheney) wanted otherwise. Those two won the argument as we went into Iraq (with little genuine international support). Now we're begging for a larger UN presence. And you know what? We're lucky for it. If the UN had the belligerence of some in the Bush Administration they'd ignore us. Furthermore, we skip opportunities to try to incorporate enemies (Syria and Iran) into our effort. Without exploring this avenue we not only dump the precedent of talking to our enemies we leave a stone unturned.

    Prepare for the long-term. Meaning don't use (the threat of) terrorism for politics. Short-term gains against terrorism often give terrorist a rhetorical card to use in the long-term (justification for actions and recruitment). It should be clear that the "long war" will not be won with a military. Especially without a viable political track. Iraq is making that painfully clear.

    Open-endedness. best covered by Quiggin: "This will require training and practice exercises, as well as scenario planning and building capacity. Little point exists for working in stove pipes which merely come together, if at all, at the top level. Stated another way, we need to escape from the tyranny of the tactical and advance to a strategic, whole-of-government approach."

    Posted by Geoff

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    10 August 2007

    Is the military track working against the political track in Iraq?

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    Thats the feeling I got from reading Dr. Lind's piece Tuesday at the website Defense and the National Interest entitled "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back".

    Marc Lynch expands on this today and muses:
    When the Crocker-Petraeus report comes in, questions should be raised not only be about the reality of the military progress (though there are many questions there to be asked) or about the stalled political process (though those should definitely be pushed hard). I would like to see more fundamental questions raised than quibbling over how to evaluate progress in this city or that province. Does this military strategy lead to the political outcome to which we are publicly committed? If the goal is to create a functional, inclusive Iraqi state, then are these tactics furthering that goal or undermining it? Or has the US changed its goals without acknowledging the change, giving up on a multi-ethnic centralized state and paving the way to soft partition?

    Is the strategic trajectory we are currently on beneficial to the political track? The political outcome being the decisive component of the "surge" and a necessity to stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Here's what Lynch has stumbled upon in short form (but read the whole post here).

    Basically, Ambassador Ryan Crocker is working from the top down on a national Iraqi government. This is the goal in Iraq; a strong, friendly (or at least neutral) central government. One the military track, General David Petraeus has been working locally. Providing arms and other aid to local clans so they can do what a typical government would do: provide security. Petraeus has had a little success, but there has been much less for Crocker. But the question is: Why would the Shiite central government reconcile with local Sunni's who are being armed and supported by the US? One obvious conclusion surfaces for Lynch, "Petraeus's military 'successes' and local initiatives come at the expense of the national political track, not in support of it." Maybe they expect to meet in the middle. That, of course, wouldn't be the ends were sold earlier this year.

    Let's hope some members of Congress and and the media comprehend this point and ask tough questions of the pair in their mid-September briefing.

    Posted by Geoff

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    A conservative said this?

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    Conservative columnist Stu Bykofsky.

    What would sew us back together?

    Another 9/11 attack.

    The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda.

    Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again?

    If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.

    You can read to whole piece here and it's clear that his point isn't an invitation for terrorism but a greater cause perhaps worthy of discussion. I, however, could think of a few better ways to so...

    But who wants to think about anything other than 9/11 when it has done so much to operationalize ones ideology? It's a shame that numerous Americans go to sleep dreaming and wake up thinking of 9/11's.

    A conservative said this, why am I not surprised...

    (h/t Atrios)

    Posted by Geoff


    09 August 2007

    The Surge of Optimism

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    I kind of stumped at the establishments hyperventilating over military successes in Iraq. It's as if they have learned nothing. Our military is big and bad, they are more than adequately funded, they are well trained and sometimes well led. Of course more of them in the streets of Iraq will make a difference. Just like General Shinseki said way back before this fiasco in Iraq started.

    However, all this means nothing in the larger scheme of things. The surge was described as a tactic to allow the Iraqi government to stand up politically and military. The Iraqis have done little if anything in either regard. In fact in Anthony Cordesman's latest assessment he concedes that military successes are accompanied by political backsliding. The tactic settled upon by the White House was to clear, hold and build; with increased Iraqi participation. We've cleared, we've held, we're trying to build; yet the Iraqis have done--for the most part--nothing. The tactic was to create space for the Iraqi government to unify and legislate. They have done neither.

    So it seems that 3 choices await us next month.
    1) We begin to pullout and redeploy our troops so they can be used to fight for ends based in reality in this "war on terror". Some want to pull out immediately. Taken literally this is impossible and irresponsible.

    2) We continue the surge for another 6 months or so. A Friedman Unit if you will and the same rhetoric that numerous pundits, scholars, and politicians from both parties have used since before the war in Iraq started.

    3) We increase the surge to match the recommendations in the counterinsurgency manual. As I said in February, "...I believe that if we could muster enough man power to match the recommendations of the counterinsurgency manual, then we would be looking at a statistical chance of military success; at least one worth looking into provided we reassess what the final result in Iraq will look like and lose the rose-colored glasses)... ." But, "[t]he fundamental problem is that no level of military successes will ever win this war. There has to be political progress and the likelihood of that happening is slim, even with zero or a million troops in Iraq.

    There are obvious problems here. Both #2 and #3 are unpopular all the way around. The public realizes that one of the side effects of the surge--and future surges--are more US service members dying. No one wants that. If we sustain the surge (as is) we have till mid-2008 until the military passes a foreseen breaking point. Therefore a reduction is forced at this point assuming drastic measures aren't invoked to sustain the surge. This--like this war--would be unacceptable the the American body politic. The public wants us out of Iraq soon.

    #3 is an impossible short- to mid-term plan due to the reasons stated above. We're stretched too thin and the new political establishment in Iraq is not with us.

    So basically we can prop up and wait out the Iraqi government, thereby fulfilling the dreams of al Qaeda (this will the legacy of the neocons and their supporters, along with being labeled as the architects of the worst foreign policy decision in decades). Or we can reset and refocus on other priorities. The British expect this to be the plan after the September reports.

    There is a legitimate case to be made that as we reassess the situation in the real fight against terrorism the regional actors will begin to play ball in Iraq. This, of course, could be beneficial or detrimental. Provided we act reasonably and diplomatically we can coax this transition in a beneficial way. In this process we can easily retain the capability to attack al Qaeda and likely aid the Iraqis as they reject them. Additionally we can still keep tabs on and provide a check to Iranian influence. All this will prod the Shiite led "unity" government to actually unify or face failure and possibly mass death.

    The only problem is, that going forward with a plan like this would soil the reputation of many politicians, analysts and armchair know-it-alls. To them I ask: What's more important? Your pride or the lives of our soldiers? Your political party or the future of the population of Iraq? Your ill-conceived ideology or the starving of al Qaeda's premier recruitment and training tool?

    I think the answer is obvious.

    Posted by Geoff

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    08 August 2007

    Nahh... apology not accepted Mr. Graham!

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    Sorry Mr. Graham. You can't apologize your way out of this.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    In fact, if your so right about Iraq, then why apologize? Probably because your digging for the pony with your buddy McCain and your slowly finding that there isn't a pony in Iraq...

    (h/t ThinkProgress)

    Posted by Geoff


    Terrorism expert Tom Quiggin has himself a blog

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    So, via Crooked Timber, I've learned that terrorism expert Tom Quiggin has started blogging. His first few posts are must reads--though most seem to be op-eds. His voice will be of great benefit to this blog and others. I've already added a few of his posts to the side bar on the left there as Del.icio.us links (note: this new feature may be moved to the right hand side as my redesign continues). I'm going to share a few points from a Monday post about being moral versus moral clarity in the context of the war on terrorism:
    Terrorism and other forms of political violence can be defeated. The approach needed must quickly transcend the typical military responses that follow an attack and must include an ideological, cultural and social response that undermines the terrorist groups’ moral positions. The situation since 9/11 is decidedly mixed, even worsening. The moral high ground has been ceded to the jihadists and they have been quick to use it in their propaganda. The attack on Iraq is seen for what is was, an attack to support regional domination. The prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, itself nearing its fifth year of notoriety, may have had some short-term utility or justification as an emergency response. Now it stands out as the symbol of loss. The photos out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were a dream come true for the jihadi propagandists. Civilian casualties resulting from the Israeli attack on Lebanon give them further ammunition.

    We now appear to be living in an Age of Fear, with many governments exploiting this to carry out agendas that have little to do with terrorism. Ironically, the United States is living with most of this fear. Fear, like terrorism, cannot be defeated with power. Why are we not getting the knowledge and capability that we need to prevail in the struggle against terrorism?

    One key problem is there is little to no public debate about the root causes of terrorism or how to battle it. Most public discussion is so overly simplistic as to be ridiculous. The terrorists, we are told, hate us because they hate our freedom. Yet Bin Laden himself has mocked this. If he really hated freedom, he has said, “Why did we not attack Sweden?” The press and many academics also pursue stories to determine whether an attack such as the July 7, 2005, bombings in London were directed by al-Qaeda. Yet rarely do we see intelligent debate on how or why home-grown jihadists have become radicalized and how this varies from state to state, independent of any direct recruiting by al-Qaeda.

    Governments and intelligence agencies need to regain the moral high ground in the struggle against political violence and terrorism. Only then will the terrorists be undermined and the agencies of the governments be able to attract agents within the terrorist communities to aid them. If the high ground is not regained, then the best policy for governments is to develop a tolerance for further disasters.

    Good stuff.

    Just to clarify I'm not advocating a "wait them out" strategy here...

    Posted by Geoff

    07 August 2007


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    Minnesota Monitor: The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plans to stage protests at funerals of victims of the 35W bridge collapse to state that God made the bridge fall because he hates America, and especially Minnesota, because of its tolerance of homosexuality.

    The church and its pastor, the Rev. Fred Phelps, have become notorious over recent years for their claim that the attack of 9/11 was an act of God's vengeance and their determination to make that case at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq.

    (h/t ThinkProgress)

    Posted by Geoff

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    05 August 2007

    The X Article and the War on Terror

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    Nick Thompson wrote a great Op-Ed in the NY Times early last week that I've just now had a chance to blog about (I was on vacation). It basically explores a strategy meant for the Cold War that would be a useful contribution to our current War on Terrorism. Many of its declarations are a common topic of discussion here at American Entropy. Some background first. The X article was a foreign policy prescription from the late 40s. It appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs and was later accredited to George Kennan (aka "X"). Kennan was the State Department’s policy planning chief at the time and wrote anonymously. Kennan's article was obfuscated and distorted from his intended meaning. Alas, he was incorrectly recognized as the father of the containment strategy; a title he denied. His basic argument was that the Soviet Union and its form of oppressive communist ideology was self-defeating; it offered nothing but oppression. Therefore, the United States could simply outlast it. Kennan warned that engaging the USSR and Communism, especially militarily, would offer nothing more than short-term political backslapping in the best case scenario. However, the mid- to long-term consequences were actually benefiting the USSR. An early version of blowback. Obviously our foreign policy in the post-X article years went awry as we escalated tensions with the USSR and Communism: Arms race, Vietnam, Latin America, etc... With that point I hope you see where this all comes together in the current context (the WoT).

    Here is a cliping of Nick's NYT piece:
    Today we face vastly different challenges from those the nation confronted right after World War II. Our enemy is dispersed; there’s a constant threat of suicide attacks; nuclear weapons can be hidden in suitcases instead of dropped from airplanes. Still, when it comes to overarching strategy, Kennan’s desired but never executed policy from 60 years ago offers profound wisdom for today.

    Kennan’s insight was that a long-term, complex struggle wasn’t best judged in terms of winning or losing. Communism wasn’t something we could immediately conquer. The same holds true for Al Qaeda, a movement that, like Soviet communism, offers its subjects oppression and poverty. Time is on our side — particularly if we act in a way that doesn’t inflame our enemies’ pride and anger and win them new recruits.

    Kennan’s insistence on a political strategy, rather than a military one, makes more sense now than it did when he published his essay. Applied today, that advice would entail spending more time and money building up our Muslim allies. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that only about $900 million of the $10 billion we’ve given Pakistan since 2002 has gone to health, education and democracy promotion. Most of the rest has gone to the military. The Bush administration has recently taken steps to change this ratio. But Kennan, one of the authors of the Marshall Plan, would have wanted the numbers to be closer to the reverse.

    A 21st-century rendering of X’s vision of containment would involve the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, an unambiguous renunciation of torture and an abandonment of the notion that our legal and moral norms don’t apply to the current struggle. Kennan believed we gave our opponents a propaganda victory each time we acted in a manner unfitting of our ideals.

    “To avoid destruction,” Kennan concluded the X article, “the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

    We can’t know for sure how his recommended, wholly political version of containment would have fared in the cold war. But we do know that a militant foreign policy didn’t lead to nuclear war and did, eventually, help bring about the collapse of Soviet communism. We also know that a strong offensive policy has yet to succeed against Al Qaeda.

    Kennan died two years ago at the age of 101. One of his last public statements was a critique, in 2002, of the looming Iraq invasion. War, he said, was too unpredictable, and this one wasn’t worth it. As he wrote to Lippmann six decades ago, “Let us find health and vigor and hope, and the diseased portion of the earth will fall behind of its own doing. For that we need no aggressive strategic plans, no provocation of military hostilities, no showdowns.”

    [UPDATE] I'm not really prescribing a "wait them out" strategy (and I don't know why it was quoted that way, those words don't appear in the post!) but a less confrontational strategy. More targeted special ops work, and less (unilateral) invasions and belligerence.

    We were successful in Afghanistan using the Int'l Community, regional connections (including Iran) and special forces. In Iraq, we threw that success out the window and did exactly the opposite (though minor special forces were used). And now we are paying dearly for it.

    Radical militant Islam has less to offer than Communism did. But we enable the spread of it with arrogant foreign policy and misguided doctrines. Had we sat back and/or used the Afghanistan model who knows where we would be today. Maybe (likely) not it Iraq and/or not in a worse position than we were in after 9/11.

    Posted by Geoff

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