Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Strategy Of Errors

Richard Fernandez describes the latest Islamist "strategy" in his most recent Pajamas Media article, Plan C. In the end, he correctly observes:

Somehow I don’t think so. Personally, I think al Qaeda should resort to enumerating their plans along the real number line, so that they will never run out designations for their successive and hare brained bloodthirsty schemes. Plan C will fail, along with all the rest because it is fundamentally the same plan as the first two. Terror, fanaticism and stupidity can be combined in exactly 3! ways, though the fact may escape them. Sooner or later, after all the combinations of mayhem have been endlessly repeated, either an exasperated world of infidels or sane members of the Muslim community will ask the obvious question: what can you do to us that we can’t do to you?

There really are a very limited number of options to select from once a specific means to an objective has been determined upon. Organisations like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizb 'Allah and their numerous local off-shoots have peremptorily insisted upon pursuit of a combative engagement with their ideological competition. That being the case, they limit their options as Wretchard observes.

There is one additional component to the formula, which Robert Avrech examines at his blog Seraphic Secret:

For the first time in my life I can foresee the end of the Jewish state, not through war, but through incremental steps toward voluntary slavery.

In a notable departure from past al Qaeda strategy, Naji recommends "countless small operations" that render daily life unbearable, rather than a few spectacular attacks such as 9/11: The "infidel," leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he'll return in the evening.

Naji recommends kidnappings, the holding of hostages, the use of women and children as human shields, exhibition killings to terrorize the enemy, suicide bombings and countless gestures that make normal life impossible for the "infidel" and Muslim collaborators.

Once parallel societies are established throughout the world, they would exert pressure on non-Muslims to submit. Naji believes that, subjected to constant intimidation and fear of death, most non-Muslims (especially in the West) would submit: "The West has no stomach for a long fight."

For the complete article, please click here.

What Robert refers to of course is often summed up as "political will", the intellectual/emotional strength to continue to carry out an action that others, not operating under the same circumstances, provocatively condemn as "extreme" or "harsh". In practice, the phrase "political will" serves to restrict the acceptable options to those permissible to a political entity, a nation state or a corporation for example, and is thus a strategic limitation on possible response to provocation.

The Islamist terrorism strategy seeks to engage in the options available to an individual or small group (limited mainly by means and opportunity) while manipulating the constrained circumstances (in classic strategic terms, the climate) imposed upon nation states and other comparable societal entities by their pre-existing agreements and commitments that regulate their relations amongst themselves. This has been likened to the (possibly apocryphal) Chinese torture, "the death of a thousand cuts". I think such a characterisation lends more organisation and structure to the Islamist's efforts than history would support, but it does provide vivid illustration of the manner of altercation the Islamists claim they now seek to engage in. As opposed to being limited to (by the same resources and opportunity) as has been the case up to now.

Needless to say, this is not any form of "new strategy" being discussed, only a repackaging of previous faults as opportunities. Good marketing, I suppose, and as such deserving of an effective counter-propaganda campaign. Maybe the official effort will at least appear relevant this time.

The challenge of combating terrorism, as in criminal behavior generally, is that the best opportunity for counter action almost always lies in the hands of the individuals who happen to be present in the moments immediately prior to initiation of action. On the other hand, premptively authorising individuals to that extreme of behavior runs counter to every presumption and precept of government, whether elective or corporate. The Long War is both title and commentary, I'm afraid.

The greatest danger imposed by this state of affairs is that, eventually, some country will believe it's continued existence to be sufficiently threatened it will feel compelled to answer Wretchard's question. The survivors of that are always profoundly changed by the experience.

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