Blood, Sweat and Tears
The most seductive images of "liberation" are conjured up by Paris
in 1944 or the Velvet
Revolution in Czechoslovakia, 1989 -- cheering crowds, strewn flowers and
famous writers meeting long-lost friends in wine cellars. The second and truer
image is that of a Korean infantryman crouching at the bottom of a freezing
trenchline in 1952 on the first step of a long road that eventually built a
nation which today manufactures supertankers, consumer goods and automobiles.
The adage that the "best is the enemy of the good" applies to images
as well; the beautiful often drives out the true.
A French reader points out a fascinating Guardian
article which describes the depth of the Islamist offensive against the West.
European secret services are close to despair at the persistence and spread of Jihadist
groups on the old continent, from Madrid to Oslo, catalyzed by Saudi Arabia: "the
key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups".
Previously seen as a relative backwater in the war on terror, Europe is
now in the frontline. 'It's trench warfare,' said one security expert. 'We
keep taking them out. They keep coming at us. And every time they are coming
at us harder.' ...
Britain is still playing a central logistical role for the militants,
with extremists, including the alleged mastermind of last year's bombings in
Morocco, and a leader of an al-Qaeda cell, regularly using the UK as a place
to hide. Other radical activists are using Britain for fundraising, massive
credit card fraud, the manufacture of false documents and planning.
Recruitment is also continuing. In one bugged conversation, a senior militant
describes London as 'the nerve centre' and says that his group has 'Albanians,
Swiss [and] British' recruits. He needs people who are 'intelligent and highly
educated', he says and implies that the UK can, and does, supply them. Islamic
terror cells are spreading eastwards into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the
Czech Republic for the first time, prompting fears of a new battleground in
countries with weak authorities, powerful criminal gangs and endemic
corruption in the years to come. Austria has become a central communications
hub for Muslim extremists; France has become a key recruiting ground for
fighters in Chechnya; and German groups, who often have extensive
international links, are developing contacts with Balkan mafia gangs to
Islamism in the West derives much of its power from the nature of the parent
societies. In Follow
the Money the Belmont Club described how early Islam's brilliant
concept of co-opting marauding societies created a powerful engine of expansion.
Keegan put it:
The Arabs were horse-riding raiders before Mohammed. His religion,
Islam, inspired the raiding Arabs to become conquerors of terrifying power,
able to overthrow the ancient empires both of Byzantium and Persia and to take
possession of huge areas of Asia, Africa and Europe. It was only very
gradually that the historic settled people, the Chinese, the Western
Europeans, learnt the military methods necessary to overcome the nomads. They
were the methods of the Greeks, above all drill and discipline. The last
exponents of nomadic warfare, the Turks, were not turned back from the
frontiers of Europe until the 17th century.
The role of ancient horse riding raiders is occupied in modern society by
criminal syndicates and gangs: gangs which have established themselves in the
unassimilatable Muslim enclaves of Europe. The jihadi are the latest in
the line of missionaries sent against the West, and these proselytizers, as the
European secret services have learned to their cost, ride upon the wings of a
larger storm. The Al Qaeda recruit in jails not in desperation but out of
Major John Nagle, an operations officer with a First Infantry Division
battalion and an Oxford PhD understands that it is a society not an army
that he is up against. A brilliant article by Peter Maas in the New
York Times Magazine (registration required) describes the topsy-turvy world
of the Sunni triangle, a place where people blame Americans for Ba'ath
atrocities and cooperate obsequiously when they are threatened. It is a world
where conspiracy theories, the default mode of thinking in the criminal world,
is the normal type of cogitation. After a police station bombing, the crowd
didn't seem angry at the insurgents responsible for the carnage. Instead
many of them blamed the G.I.'s. The mother of a dead policeman, who was
allowed inside the hastily formed perimeter, shouted insults at the Americans
until an Iraqi police officer escorted her out. A rumor swept through the
crowd that it wasn't a car bomb that had caused the blast but a missile fired
by the Americans, who were angry, so the rumor went, because the police were
not supporting the occupation.
Nagle learned the language.
Soon after arriving at Camp Manhattan, Nagl's battalion was the target
of mortar attacks by an insurgent who was nicknamed ''the mad mortarman.'' The
soldiers were unable to catch him in the act, but counterbattery radars
pinpointed the field he was operating from, and Nagl's troops fired artillery
and mortars at it one night. When American soldiers went to the scene the next
morning, local civilians, who hadn't enjoyed the experience of having American
shells landing by their homes, told the Americans who had been firing the
mortars; four men were detained later that day. According to the American
troops, there were no complaints from local men and women about the American
shelling; nobody was injured, and the locals apparently understood it was not
an indiscriminate assault but a targeted response to targeted attacks. Nagl
says he believes that makes a difference, and he points to declining attacks
to support his case. ''Direct-fire attacks on us have dropped dramatically,''
he told me. ''We have a pretty clear message. If you shoot at us we will do
our damnedest to kill you, and most of the time we will. And if you live in a
neighborhood and you know there are bad people and you don't want Americans to
return heavy fire into your neighborhood, endangering your families, you need
to turn in the bad guys. That message is being received.''
Winning in the Sunni triangle, in Nagle's view, required "total
war", not indiscriminate violence, nor even violence for military ends, but
violence for social change.
''Total war means you use all the elements of national power,'' he told
me recently. ''It's at the grass-roots level that you're trying to win. You
can kill enemy soldiers -- that's not the only issue. You also need to dry up
their support. You can't just use the military. It's got to be a constant din
of propaganda; it's got to be economic support; it's got to be elections. As
long as you only go after the guy with the weapon, you're missing the most
The best way to achieve that was not by the infusion of more American troops
but Iraquization: the recruitment of a cadre who could remold the society on
constructive terms. Nagle recalled that ''Vietnamization,'' when it finally
came along in 1969, was too little, too late. ''There are lots of reasons why
Iraqis are going to be better at it than we are,'' he said. ''They know who is
supposed to be where and what they are supposed to be doing. They can see
patterns of behavior that are irregular in a way that our untrained eye cannot.
They can talk to everybody in a way that we cannot.''
Friedman of the New York Times has argued that America must join the
"forces of moderation" in Islamic society "because ultimately
this is a struggle within the Arab-Muslim world, and we have to help our allies
there, just as we did in World Wars I and II". Nagle's battle and the
efforts of European police are it's face. Not the liberation of Paris in 1944,
but the slow dismantling of encrusted hate and dysfunction; the patient work of
years. The challenge will be not simply to reform Islamic society, but to avoid destroying
it in order to save it.