Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The Arena

Phil Carter is predicting that Al Qaeda will attempt a major attack against American targets in Iraq, "because terrorism is theater"  and because the media are in Baghdad. That, in it's way is good news. Carter has noticed, along with other denizens of the blogosphere, that the objectives of a major Al Qaeda attack have been downgraded from September 11, 2001 from a threat to revert the planet to the 8th century to a simple assertion of its continued existence. Al Qaeda is still dangerous in the same way as a wounded predator in its death throes. It roars no longer to terrify it's pray, but as a pathetic attempt to deter the hunter from dealing out the coup de grace.

Carter is the best, and all I'd like to do is fill in on a few points he may have overlooked: Al Qaeda isn't the only one readying a punch. The United States' war on terrorism is in one of those deceptively quiet phases in which the fruits of intelligence gleaned from the recent victory in Iraq are being used to prepare for a new offensive. The apparent lack of tactical exploitation arising from the capture of Iraqi  intelligence officers raises the possibility that America going for the big kahuna. It is preparating a major operation of its own. Considering the history and style of American tradecraft, they are likely to target the remaining sources of Al Qaeda funding  and its surviving operational center -- but with a twist.

The best method for destroying a terrorist organization isn't to execute its cadres and burn their safehouses, but to take it over from within. To keep it ticking over, but only just; and to start its long, slow slide into oblivion. Hundreds and thousands of Red Cells, terror brigades and units of death were created in the 1970s and 80s, but only a handful survive today, and many are just names.


One of the Red Cells of the late 1960s was the Communist Party of the Philippines. It's last hope for military victory probably ended in 1980 and it has only managed to maintain itself on the margins since. It would not be surprising if, half a century hence, historians were to learn that Communist Party leader Jose Maria Sison and his coterie have been secretly maintained in position by the Directorate of Operations of US Central Intelligence, who saw in the continued leadership of a guaranteed loser an infallible way to ensure that the Philippines would never become a Communist country. Cool, ain't it?